Friday, July 10, 2015

Monday on Temple Square

Upon hearing that my kids and I were going to be heading west, Auntie Arlene decided to head east (from California), dragging her granddaughter Lexi along to meet us all. That meant that my mom, her brother (who recently returned with his wife from a mission in Mauritius), and one sister would be together, so my mom sent a message to her other sister to coax her down from Canada. She took the bait.

But it gets better because upon hearing that I, my kids, and our aunts would be here, my cousin Elizabeth decided she'd come down from Idaho with her little girl. And so my cousin Mindy (also from California) decided she may as well fly out with her children, too.

So while Andrew's mom's been slaving away planning this family reunion for months and months—we had this trip our calendar since before I fell pregnant with Zoë—my family has been having spontaneous reunions all week long. The food, activities, and accommodation were all a little less well planned and executed than the Anderson reunion will be this weekend, I'm sure, but the people were just as great.

All of that is to say that on Monday afternoon we were hoping to go to Salt Lake to meet up with Arlene and Lexi after their flight came in. We'd planned on touring around Temple Square for a bit. Unfortunately, Lexi got ill on the plane with what we've jokingly referred to as "The Conrad Curse" in our family. I suppose it's really the Hancock curse, though my daughters will likely come to call it "The Layton Curse." The downside of the curse is that you're sicker than anything for a week every month (cramps so bad you vomit from the pain, so much blood loss that you end up crawling across the floor due to anemia, and so forth). The upside is that childbirth ends up feeling relatively mild, so there's that. (I'm not even kidding).

All of that is to say that we ended up not meeting Lexi and Arlene on Monday and instead wandered around Temple Square with "just" my mom, which was lovely.

Our first stop was Gilgal Gardens, which isn't technically part of Temple Square at all. Rather it's  some man's personal testimony of the gospel etched into stone. He made all sorts of statues to represent his favourite scriptures and so forth and they're all very interesting. It's kind of a strange place.

While the kids were busy exploring Joseph-Smith-as-a-sphinx I looked over at my mom holding Zoë. They were so beautiful that I decided to take a picture, but in the split second it took for me to raise the camera Zoë started choking (she gets a little reflux every now and always tries to swallow it; choking ensues) and my mom turned all mother-bear trying to get Zoë to breath again. It would have been a beautiful picture otherwise; the colors and lighting were lovely.

The kids all loved the statue of the books (probably meant to be different books of scripture: The Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price). And Benjamin is obviously standing under a keystone...

These two girls have been BFFs this summer; it's been great! They've been playing so nicely together, inventing secret languages, creating entire worlds, playing soccer and bubbles and chalk and dollhouse and racetrack without (hardly) fighting, and when Zoë's screaming her head off in the van they've been singing duets and rounds to help her be happy. It's been amazing and wonderful to watch their relationship blossom.

I decided to nurse Zoë while we were exploring this tucked-away garden in part because it was quiet and secluded and in part because she'd been screaming her head off and was beginning to believe I was trying to starve her to death even though I'd just fed her less than an hour before. Of course the minute I decide to feed her was the minute our solitude was interrupted. Another family joined us in the garden. A family wearing pioneer-style dresses and bouffants, suspenders and long-sleeved shirts.

A group of three girls first stared at me. Then they came over to talk to me.

"Can we see your baby?" the eldest asked.

"Sure," I held her up for them to see.

"She's beautiful, simply darling!" the eldest sighed. "May I hold her?"

"Sure," I said, passing her over. And then my mind went a little crazy.

"I just handed my baby over to a stranger!" I thought. "Not just any stranger—a polygamist. I just handed my baby over to a polygamist. She's probably not even vaccinated. What if she has whooping cough?! What was I thinking!?"

What I said was, "Where are you from?"

"Hildale," the girl responded, confirming suspicions that they were a polygamist family.

I started nattering about being from North Carolina until Zoë started fussing.

"I need to feed her," I said.

"Thanks for letting us see her," the eldest polygamist daughter said.

"You're welcome," I said, and they left.

Andrew rushed up to me and said, "So, the polygamists wanted to hold our baby? That's cool. Did you take a picture?"

No, I did not take a picture. I was too busy thinking thoughts like "Do they vaccinate?" and "Are they Amish or polygamists? They certainly aren't Hutterites..."

What I said though, of course, was, "Did you take a picture?"

"No," Andrew said. "Their dad was watching me the whole time. I felt really awkward."

I guess we're both kind of curious about each other. While we're thinking about those strange non-Mormon polygamists they're wondering about us—those strange non-polygamist Mormons.

At any rate, it's certainly true that Zoë is a simply darling baby.

I can't tell if that picture turned out or not on this screen. Some brilliant person (me) stuck the camera on macro and forgot about it entirely until...when...I can't remember when I realized it. I think it was after we'd taken the picture of us on top of the Conference Center. So if they seem like nothing's in focus that might be why.

Anyway, our next stop was the Conference Center at Temple Square. I think we all have been inside on more than one occasion (at least the grown ups had) but I don't think any of us have ever done a tour (though Andrew may have done one in his youth; he can't remember quite). You have to do the tour because the building is gargantuan and if you wandered around inside by yourself you'd probably be lost forever, which is interesting because the Conference Center holds something like 20,000 people and when there's an event the building empties so smoothly at the conclusion. People just stream out of it. I suppose, though, that there are (many, many) ushers at any given event and that probably helps move traffic along.

All the artwork in the Conference Center is original and they have some excellent pieces there, including all the original paintings for the pictures that are in the Book of Mormon. I can't remember who painted them (we're camping right now and I don't have an internet connection so I can't look anything up) but there they are, just hanging on the walls.

This picture isn't from the Book of Mormon, but I think it's by the same artist who did that beautiful picture of the nativity that I just love:

(Oh, I think I figured out why the pictures look so terrible. It's because I don't have an internet connection! I'm changing them and the computer can't really do it because the pictures are stored on the internet so it makes them all fuzzy. I'd better move this into word or something before I lose everything I type.)

Here's the ceiling at one part of the Conference Center (above the fountain); it's a skylight:

And here's Benjamin standing by a fountain—I think it's the one under the skylight:

Here's my mom with Miriam, looking out at the organ:

The view from the roof is spectacular. Our guide told us that we could do a quick tour, but she didn't like the looks of the weather. The roof is closed during thunder storms and this storm turned thundery rather quickly so we only got a short tour. We've had storms every day this past week, it seems! I do like a good, angry sky though.

Here's my little family with my mom on top of the Conference Center with the Salt Lake Temple behind us:

And here's the Salt Lake temple from the ground:

By this time we'd already used up most of the afternoon. I really don't know where time has been disappearing to lately. Oh, wait...yes, I do! It's been disappearing to diaper changes and nursing and pumping and things like that. And it's been disappearing far too quickly!

I was talking to Emily today (because we're at a family reunion right now) and she said that she worried that she hasn't really been able to enjoy Maren because Maren's proving to be a much more difficult baby than Gavin. Emily felt like she really enjoyed Gavin, but right now she's in what Andrew and I call "survival mode." And I totally get that because I almost feel like that's where I am, too—wishing I could slow things down to enjoy this baby, but knowing I just have to take each day as it comes. Sometimes I can't even take each day so I just take things each feeding at a time and still time is passing too quickly.

I don't know how much of that is "difficult" baby and how much of that is "multiple children to look after." Rachel was a difficult baby so she made Miriam seem like a dream child. I think that was a more merciful order to get children in because I was pleasantly surprised by my second baby, whereas Emily's kind of shell-shocked with her second after the easy time she had with Gavin.

Truthfully, though I don't fully subscribe to the "easy/hard baby" school of thought. Babies simply are how they are and they can't help it. Looking back I can see that Rachel was so fussy because she had reflux. She screamed a lot when she felt overstimulated because she's an introvert. We had feeding problems due to my biology (I drowned her with milk) and those problems made her feel gassy all the time so she'd scream because of that, too. She spent her entire babyhood screaming her head off 24/7 and I was so tired and she was so tired and basically neither of us had any idea what we were doing.

And the funny thing is that that can happen with any child because each child is a unique person, a unique puzzle. Some puzzles I understand immediately and can solve without much effort. Other puzzles make me feel like beating my head against the wall. Parenting is the same way and it doesn't really matter whether it's child number one, two, three, four, etc. Every child has a lot to teach me; my hope is that I can teach them a little bit, too, while relaxing enough to enjoy it.

(And I think I did enjoy Rachel in spite of the screaming (I wouldn't want to go back in history to repeat her babyhood, necessarily, but I can honestly say, in retrospect, that I enjoyed myself at times)).

Anyway, my lovely Aunt Sara made an impromptu dinner and invited us over so we could visit with Auntie Arlene and Lexi and Uncle Bruce and, of course, Sara herself. To Benjamin's utter elation we took the train!!! Uncle Bruce and Aunt Sara own a few pieces of property. Some are filled with children, some are filled with renters, and it just so happened that their downtown Salt Lake property was available for them to live in when they returned from their mission to Mauritius. They live in the "no fare" zone so we were able to take the train for free from Temple Square.

Here's Uncle Bruce meeting Zoë (picture isn't focused well but it will have to do):

He's an avid reader of my blog (it was nice to hear how many family members actually still follow this blog quietly—thanks for reading so we can stay close (it means a lot even if you don't comment often)) and was laughing about how unparalleled (his term) our relationship is. He feels like he knows my children rather well; they treated him like the stranger he is to them. Benjamin and I saw him at Kelli's wedding a couple years ago but I'm not sure when the girls saw him last. It's been years!

It was so nice of Sara to host such a large crew for dinner on such short notice; we had a lovely visit.

When it was time to go home Uncle Bruce and Auntie Arlene accompanied us back to Temple Square on the train so that Auntie Arlene would know how to take Lexi there the following day. Here we are waiting on the platform (Benjamin's super excited we get to ride the train again):

And here he is, sitting on his own seat on the train:

It was a lovely afternoon even if it didn't quite happen as planned, but nothing in life ever really does, does it?


  1. Such lovely thoughts. So true, what you wrote about babies. I wish all parents understood and could therefore enjoy their babies more!

  2. I enjoyed reading this and seeing the pictures. Cute one of Benjamin on the train seat by himself!