Monday, December 31, 2018

End of the Line

With our impending move back to the south on my mind, I've been spending a lot of time climbing around my paternal grandmother's side of my family tree. I should have done a lot more of that when we lived in North Carolina (or, you know, ever) but I've always just thought of my grandmother's line as being from Florida so I didn't really think of it. But before they were from Florida they were from Georgia and before they were from Georgia they were from North Carolina (and before that they were from Germany/France/Ireland/England).

There are a lot of dead ends in my grandma's line; even the names that I do have are faceless, story-less figures. I wish I knew more about them, but I fear they will forever remain a mystery.

My great-great-grandfather, Charles (Patty) O'Neal, stole away across the ocean on a ship. There is no record of his transit, but on census reports he has claimed to have immigrated from France. Our family stories say he is from Ireland (and I don't doubt that's what he told people) but his other family (scalawag up and abandoned my great-great-grandmother shortly after childbirth) believes he is French. So who knows about him?

Mary Duggar (my great-great-grandmother, who was married to Mr. O'Neal) has a much more significant family tree (and by significant I mean...it exists (there is a record of it) whereas Charles O'Neal left us no clues about his family line). That said, her line soon fizzles out as well.


I spent a lot of time looking at the Futch line because, well, that's the one that is there, but even that one leaves a lot of questions.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

New Year and Church Changes


It isn't the best picture, but we finally got a picture of our family in front of the Christmas tree. Just in time for the New Year, which will bring a lot of changes for our family. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Show time

My parents treated our family to a trip to the movies this afternoon. We haven't all been to the movies since the very beginning of the year when we accidentally had the kids skip school so that we could go to Coco. That's because going to the movies as a family is both (a) expensive and (b) hard

Actually, the four oldest kids were all super well behaved. It was just Alexander being a handful—and, boy, was he ever a handful!

I watched 95% of the movie from the little entrance hallway thing, which was fine. After 2+ hours of wrangling Alexander, however, I was about wiped out! 

We saw the new Mary Poppins movie, which was charming. In Durham we once checked out all of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins books and I read them out loud to the children. I think it was because we had watched Saving Mr. Banks and then because of that we introduced the kids to Mary Poppins, both on the screen and on the page.

It was fun background knowledge to have because I could say (to myself, and later to Andrew), "Yes, yes. The bowl incident. That happened in one of the books." 

A lot of things in the movie happened also in the books, which was nice. And it was nice that it wasn't simply a scene-by-scene remake of the original Mary Poppins but was, instead, a continuation of the story (similar to how the books work) with new music and adventures. 

I think we all enjoyed it, though I may have enjoyed it more if Alexander had truly been free to crawl around and make a nuisance of himself (he was determined that we would not sit in our seats). 

After the movie we headed over to my parents' house for a pizza dinner and the kids had fun exploring the big box of stuffed animals in the basement (mostly Josie's (though the troll is mine—haha)). 

When we got home, as if we hadn't had our fill of screen time, Andrew and the three oldest kids watched Two Towers while I put babies to bed and then looked at houses. 

I have no idea how to buy a house, guys, and it's kind of stressing me out.

Dress ups

Our friends James and April lent us their baby's Halloween costume so that we could dress Alexander up like Jack Jack for Auntie Josie. So we put him in the costume (finally) and snapped a few pictures, but he wasn't feeling very Jack-Jack-like when we took the pictures and just sat there and stared at us. He hasn't been feeling 100% so that's probably why he was exuding a lack of energy he entire photo shoot.


Christmastime Stuff

Christmas Adam we had sacrament meeting at church, and that is all, which felt odd. We came home wanting lunch even though it was only 10:00 in the morning. Rachel and I sang with the choir and everything felt bland. The way that we are—this numbness—is a coping mechanism, I think, because the alternative to not feeling anything is feeling everything. So I sang the songs and I felt very little until I looked down and saw a sister in our ward openly bawling and then everything inside of me broke, too, and I spent the last little bit of the song mouthing the words instead of singing them because I was crying. 

Mild he lays his glory by, 
Born that man no more may die: 
Born to raise the son of earth, 
Born to give them second birth. 
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King !"

A couple in the ward adopted two little girls from Ukraine, so I went up to talk with them. They speak no English and seemed rather relieved to speak with someone who could communicate with them a little easier. In the evening my friend Gulnaz (who is from Russia) brought dinner to their family and the girls and I met her at their house to sing В лесу родилась ёлочка to the girls. They seemed to really enjoy it; we were happy to give them a little bit of the familiar to them when their life is rather turned upside down. 

My sister and mom came over for latkes and stew, prepared by Andrew, and then we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, which Zoë found enrapturing. She was terrified and mesmerized in all the right places. Afterwards we gathered around the piano/organ for some singing. We sang a few carols that Miriam played and then entertained Zoë by singing whatever words she told us to (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) while she played nonsense on the piano.

"Sing, 'Alex, no! Alex, no!'" she'd demand. "Now sing, "Mommy, yes! Mommy, yes!'"


Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Lights at Temple Square

We thought we'd beat the Christmas rush—or, rather, out-wait the Christmas rush—by heading to Temple Square on Boxing Day. Alas, we seemed to hit Temple Square with all the other procrastinators because Temple Square was packed.

It took us about ten minutes just to use the elevator at the parking garage, which should have been a sign, and we were shuffling through crowds the whole night! 

When we finally made it off the elevator, which spat us off in the middle of the mall, we ran into our friends—the Enslows—from our Durham days! That was fun! They live in Idaho now but were down for Christmas (obviously). How funny to bump into them at Temple Square (I realize the world is small and the world within the church especially so, but still).

Although our Christmas was dry as a bone—with not a flake of snow in sight (Zoë declared her Christmas "ruined" at dinner because it wasn't a white Christmas—we woke up to a winter wonderland this morning, so the trees at Temple Square were covered in both lights and snow and it was dazzling.


Into the crib

Christmas is coming.

Rather, Christmas has come and Christmas has past It's the stories of Christmas that will soon be coming. 

For now, enjoy these pictures of my babies playing together in the crib. Zoë has been climbing into the crib with Alexander forever so it's not entirely surprising to see them both in there. This particular day, however, I know that when I left them they were outside of the crib, which means that somehow Zoë got Alexander into the crib. I'm not sure I want to know how they accomplished that feat.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Jammies, Christmas Tantrums, Christmas Carrots

We don't do Christmas jammies.

In fact, my children tend to choose their most hideous bedclothes to wear to bed on Christmas Eve so that when we open gifts in the morning they look downright terrifying (the hideous bedclothes, of course, being accompanied by some wicked bedhead).

Similar to the idea of coordinating Halloween costumes, the idea of coordinating pyjamas—for the entire family—seems entirely outside my sphere of control. Sometimes, from the look of social media (and this is when social media turns into a bad thing, I guess, because I shouldn't be comparing traditions but literally every post in my entire feed is about Christmas pyjamas). I feel like we're maybe missing out on something. But how am I supposed to (a) convince the entire family to wear the same style of pyjama or (b) surprise everyone with cute pyjamas to wear that they'll each be thrilled to pieces about wearing?

How do families pull this trick off?

Guaranteed if I tried it the results would be disastrous. Someone would cry or refuse to wear their pyjamas—probably both. Also, someone would manage to stain their pyjamas before I would manage to take the coveted Christmas Pyjama Picture.

I'm fine with that usually. I mean, they're pyjamas, which don't really matter at all until it's pyjama day at school and you realize all your tween ever wears to bed are Grandma's old t-shirts. Those aren't so cute to wear to school...sorry about that, Rachel.

Ahem. Anyway...

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Miracles

As my mom and I were wrapping up a conversation this evening she said, "I'd better let you go so you can blog so I can read it in the morning." No pressure.

We didn't do much today. Some grocery shopping, some ornament making, some movie watching, some napping. I am feeling a lot better today, though I fear we'll spend the rest of the break passing this virus around. Alexander is running a fever now and several other children went to bed complaining of feeling ill. 

While we were watching (and painting, for those of us without the attention span for Lord of the Rings), the doorbell rang. We opened it to discover three big boxes filled to bursting with presents. A little sleuthing revealed—or very nearly revealed—our benefactors (who still remain very much anonymous but at the very least we can thank the organization who played Santa to us). 

Andrew and I numbly unloaded the boxes, filling the empty cavity below our tree. 

Everything seems a little numb and empty these days. 

It's not that we weren't grateful for the gifts; we were (and I'm sure it will be fun to see the children's faces on Christmas morning (in fact, maybe even tomorrow morning because none of them noticed any gifts appear under the tree)), but emotions are complicated and messy. 

We didn't need Christmas delivered to our door, not in the physical sense. We aren't lacking financially (finally; and it's a wonderful feeling!) and we've got Christmas presents stowed away waiting to be wrapped. There are others who could have used these gifts more than we could, in that sense. But our house feels poor in another sense—in the lonely, heartache, missing-something (missing someone) sense—and if a few toys can cause a ray of Christmas joy to break through our pall, then I suppose it will have been well worth it.

So we didn't need this. But we did.

(Plus, I've more or less talked myself into accepting them in a pay-it-forward scenario.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

In sickness and in health

We went out for our anniversary last night (to the Payson temple to do an endowment session and then to dinner at Cubby's) even though we're still both a little under the weather. While we were out I mentioned a time long ago when someone warned us that we would regret getting married so close to finals week, but we scoffed at them. That would surely only matter until we were finished with our degrees (which I was and which Andrew had immediate plans to finish) and then we'd be free and clear.

Thirteen meandering years later (hi there, grad school) and we're still running into issues with our anniversary and finals week (and probably will forevermore). And I'm pretty okay with that.

What I'm less okay with is how often we're sick on our anniversary. 'Tis the season, I guess.

While I was mostly alright before we went to the temple, I started sneezing at the temple. And things went downhill from there (which was annoying because I thought I was getting better, not worse). I was a drippy, drippy mess by the time we got home, but I still felt alright.

By the time we went to bed, however, I did not feel alright at all. I could not get warm. Eventually I fell asleep, however, and by the time I woke up at 4:00 in the morning (thanks, Alexander) I was downright miserable. I had a raging fever and could hardly get out of bed. After I nursed the baby I messaged a few people to find a substitute for Benjamin's class party today (which I really didn't want to miss but...oh, well). And then I went back to bed.

Andrew took Miriam to her orthodontist appointment and Rachel to her orchestra party early in the morning. I got Benjamin off to school and then once Andrew was home went back to bed (for, like, four hours). I slept more in the afternoon.

Good thing I had so many helpers at home today! (Andrew didn't go into campus and the kids got out of school at noon).

At dinner time I said to Andrew, "You know what the dumbest part is? I don't even really feel sick. I mean, besides the fever and the headache and the runny nose and the full body ache and the burning eyes, I don't even feel sick!"

"Okay. You literally just described sickness," he said. "That's like saying we don't have any kids—besides Rachel, Miriam, Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander. But, I mean, other than that we have absolutely no kids."

Fine. I'm sick.

But I'm hoping to feel better soon because I'd really like to do something fun with the kids during their ridiculously short Christmas break (Atlanta's school district appears to get a full two weeks off, which I'm looking forward to because I obviously haven't been able to wrap my head around this one-week of Christmas break thing (we sure do miss the year-round calendar)).

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sing Around the Tree

On Monday morning the little ones and I went to the elementary school for "Sing Around the Tree." Each grade files into the auditorium to sing their parents one song before filing back out again, so some parents (like me) needed to be there from start to finish. Others only needed to be there for a couple of songs at the beginning or a couple of songs at the end. And the gym is somehow always packed.

Last year we were running late and were lucky to get a seat at the very back of the auditorium (after a few families had left). We were still standing in the hallway when Benjamin's class finished singing! And—boy!—was I ever grateful for that chair by the time I snagged one (I had a new baby and a toddler with me; and the chair I found just happened to be beside my friend Necia, who pulled Zoë onto her lap for a snuggle).

I just skimmed through a diatribe of a blog post a friend shared about how rude it is of parents to leave a concert after their child has finished performing, and I suppose it technically isn't good concert etiquette, but I'm totally cool it when it comes to an elementary showcase.

Parents whose children are in the older grades know to show up a little late if they can't commit to a whole hour of singing time and parents whose children are in the younger grades know to be there early if they want a good seat. Allowing the audience to ebb and flow like this means that even if you were at the very back of the gym (or the hallway) for your first child's song, you might have a decent seat by your oldest child's song.

I see no need to shame parents for leaving early (or arriving late, as the author of the blog admits to having done in the first place (which is equally rude)), but you're also free to stay for the whole concert if you want to. I'm cool with that, too. I love Christmas music! And this particular concert is a pretty relaxed atmosphere.

Benjamin's in grade one this year so his class was very near the beginning. I could see him staring out into the sea of faces, trying to find mine. "I can't see my mom!" he mouthed to his friend Holly (aptly named for this occasion). I stood up and waved to him and his face lit up (sometimes being a mom is glamorous).

He's in a white shirt on the second row from the back

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Saturday is a special day

Emily came down again this Friday. We're beginning to joke that Fridays are just our day with her—she's been down so much the past couple of months! I'm sure she's getting sick of making the drive, but we do love seeing her. 

This time her sweet family came down to attend her sister-in-law's wedding so they were only at our house overnight, but it was fun to get a little bit of cousin time in. 

On Saturday my sister Kelli stopped by with Christmas presents for my kids. She is such a good gifter (I am not good at giving presents and have to work really hard at it, but it just seems to come naturally to her). 

She got Alexander a car mat and when she laid it out on the floor him and said, "This is for you!" he crawled over as fast as he could and then threw himself down on the carpet where he stayed happily for quite some time. It was pretty funny.


Heiss Holiday Humbug 2018

I mostly finished this poem and then sat and waited, wondering whether or not we'd hear back from Georgia (or Italy, but that's another story) in time to include it in the newsletter. Finally we decided to publish it without knowing (after all, we've ended every other poem with a big ol' question mark about our future) but as soon as we'd decided that we got the call from Georgia offering us a position!

So then I decided to work it into the newsletter after all, which meant I had to wait another week while the offer was finalized. Andrew signed all the paperwork yesterday so it's officially official—we'll be moving to Georgia next year (after we finish up the school year here)! 

Hold onto your hats, folks, because this poem ended up being significantly longer than in years past. It's been a doozy of a year, though, so that's completely justifiable (right?).

You can download the full-size version here, or read the text below the jump:


Infinity

Several weeks ago, back when we were planning on going to Mexico with Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas (a humanitarian trip), Rachel and Miriam started working on "knifty knitter" hats to take with us so they could give them away. Seeing the girls work on their hats (which I don't think either of them have finished because life got crazy) reminded Grandma of a little set of kitting looms she once was working on. 

She also hadn't finished her project—a scarf—which she started before she got married and then spent the next 3+ decades carting around!

She did, however, know right where her looms were, so she got them out and told the girls they were welcome to try to finish the scarf she'd started and could have the looms. And then she died. 

Continuing her project seemed too daunting to the girls so I decided I would take it up. 

After all, I was the one to finish the baby blanket Grandma Sharon had been working on (for Gavin, I believe) before she passed away. I probably didn't finish it quite like she would have, but I studied it and figured out what pattern I thought she was using and finished it off. 

To finish Grandma's scarf I had to watch a little tutorial and then use a little trial and error (I'd only ever worked a loom in the round before) and by the time I was getting the hang of things I noticed that my stitches didn't match Karen's stitches at all!

My stitches are on the top, Karen's stitches are on the bottom.
You can definitely tell where one woman left off in the 1980s and the other began in 2018!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Ice breaker

We hosted dinner this evening for the family that Andrew and Reid minister to (because they're ministering companions now; also Andrew was called to replace his mom as organist today and he's super excited about it) and just as we'd gathered everyone around the table Benjamin thought he'd address the elephant in the room.

He loudly proclaimed, "OUR GRANDMA IS DEAD!!"

"Welcome to our happy home," I apologized with a forced smile.

" Don't worry," Brother O. responded to Benjamin, in an equally jovial manner. "So is mine. In fact, both of my grandmas are dead."

As far as ice breakers go, I guess this wasn't a bad one. At any rate, the only way the conversation could go from there was up, so we'll consider it a win!


Friday, December 14, 2018

Making Christmas

Christmas preparations are in full swing at our house. Whatever that means. It certainly feels more like going through the motions of getting ready for Christmas than anything else. I hope the children are at least feeling some spark of magic and anticipation because the grown ups are all feeling rather...meh.

Alexander at 14 months

Today is my dad's birthday as well as the day Alexander turns 14 months old! 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Rachel's Orchestra Concert

This evening was Rachel's first orchestra concert. She's really been enjoying orchestra this past semester, was thrilled at the challenge of learning a new clef, and even willingly practices! 

Here she is before her concert with most of her school's orchestra. Her teacher works with more than one elementary school and this was a combined concert. Rachel was a little nervous to play with an entire orchestra she'd never played with before, but they all did just fine.

Rachel is in the second row from the top, third from the right

Miriam's Organ Recital

Miriam's organ recital was on Tuesday and she pulled quite the crowd! Aunt Linda drove up to BYU with us (okay—she drove up to BYU for us, which was so nice of her) and we met Auntie Josie, Naanii, and Uncle Bruce on campus. The kids wanted to sit on the very front row and we ended up filling it more than capacity. With Alexander on my lap and Zoë on Auntie Josie's we just barely fit (the front row was an accessible row, so there were gaps left in the row to accommodate wheelchairs; we didn't take up a whole row, just the whole section of chairs).

And then I remembered that Andrew would be coming, too, so we ended up being very squished in our section.

He taught a class from 4–4:50 on Tuesdays this semester so he was running a little behind schedule. We even held off starting the concert until he arrived since Miriam was, once again, the first player (because she's the only one short enough to require the pedal extender they had it ready to go for her and then removed it for the rest of the kids to play). 

Here's the very first Organ First class together on the stage (except for Miriam's friend Annaliese who wasn't able to be there and who is also short enough to need the pedal extender (so was slated to play second)).

Miriam is sitting on the bench (green dress, purple leggings, white sweater); TAs Dennis (on the far left) and Skylee (I think that's her name) back row on the right) and teacher Nora Hess (far right in yellow)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Choir concerts

This week shall hereby be known as The Week of Concerts. 

Last night we had our stake Christmas choir concert. My mom and Josie came to watch it with us and—surprise!—participate with us. We sang a beautiful arrangement of What Child is This? by Dave Fackrell and somehow I ended up being one of two altos in the choir which made me feel incredibly nervous. I'm a somewhat timid alto because I always sang soprano when I was younger. But I enjoy the challenge of learning the other parts, and besides...somebody's got to do it. 

Never have I been in a ward choir with such a dearth of altos!

The only other alto wasn't sure she would be able to make and told me that if she could she would definitely be late. You can imagine my horror when I looked at the program and saw that we were the very first number (that's what we get for being in the 1st ward)! So I asked my mom if she'd go up with me and then gave her a quick tutorial on the music, humming it quietly in our pew, before we went up to sing.

The other alto did, in fact, make it. Andrew said she walked in right before we went up. Phew!

So we had three altos to fourteen soporanos and I don't even know how many men (our choir has been oddly heavy in the bass clef recently, which is a wonderful problem to have). Those were much better odds.

I should add that we also had Rachel with us. She's been learning to sing alto as well, though she (self-admittedly) tends to flit back to the melody if she's not careful. It does take some ear training to get used to singing a different part. 

Anyway, it went well and I was grateful for my mom's support (for coming and for singing) and for Josie for watching the little ones on our bench and for Andrew for pacing the halls with a screaming Alexander while our choir was up. 

This evening was Miriam's school choir concert.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Christmas at the Riverwoods

Last night we went out for dinner as a family (the kids all brought home coupons for free kids meals), making it our second annual eat-at-Brick-Oven-and-then-visit-Riverwoods-for-Christmas-lights outing. We're just that good at traditions.*

The kids' meals came out promptly but the food for the grown ups took forever because somehow between filling the order for the kids' meals and finally filling the order for our meals, our "ticket got lost" so they just didn't ever make our food.** We waited for about an hour after the kids ate. 

Alexander was getting so hungry that he started eating crayons.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Old snow

Last year we only got snow a handful of times and although a few of those times were significant snowfalls, I don't recall it sticking around for very long. Not long enough to be old snow, at any rate. This season has been much snowier so far (which is a good thing for our reservoirs, I'm sure). 

It snowed on Sunday and the kids went sledding because they simply couldn't resist the snowy hill calling their name, even on the Sabbath day. Rachel even broke out the phrases, "bonding time" and "wholesome recreational activity," and volunteered to take Benjamin and Zoë to the hill by herself. So, yes, we let them go sledding on a Sunday.

And then we started our busy week and the snow sat and sat and sat, freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing but never quite melting because it didn't get warm enough for that this week. 

On Thursday we decided to go sledding again and the kids were pleasantly surprised at how awesome "old snow" is for sledding. They've never experienced "old snow" before. It's much more slippery than new snow, which makes sledding a much more slippery experience. 

They loved the going down parts of sledding. They did not like trying to climb back up the icy slope. Poor Zoë couldn't even manage it while carrying her sled so Rachel had to carry both their sleds up every time.

I didn't go sledding this time because I had Alexander strapped to my front and I didn't want to risk falling off a sled with him ("old snow" is much less forgiving in a fall than "new snow"). He was happy to watch with me.

Xander and Zo

We have a lot of long, sleepless nights over here (still) so it was so nice one morning this week (was it Thursday?)* when Andrew was able to get the kids off to school so that Alexander and I could sleep for a while. Those two things—Andrew being able to stay late enough to send the kids to school and Alexander sleeping in—happen so rarely together.

He'd settled Zoë in the basement, watching Frozen, so Alexander and I had to go hunting around the house for her when we woke up (shortly before 9:00). When we found her, Alexander squawked out in his baby language that he wanted to snuggle with her, so I put him down and he climbed up onto her lap and she held him. She was excited to "get a turn holding him," a privilege the older children have taken turns vying for since his birth, but which I've more or less loss control of because he has a mind of his own. Still, they always ask me, "Can I hold Alexander?"

"Ask him," I have to remind them because I can't just pass him off to anybody against his wishes (especially not in the middle of sacrament meeting) like I used to be able to do when he was a teeny weeny thing. 

Anyway, the stars aligned for these two yesterday (it was, in fact, just yesterday and apparently stars were aligning all over the place because I got to sleep in) and he wanted her to hold him and she wanted to hold him back.

Here are a few pictures of them snuggling while Frozen was finishing up:

 

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Lunchtime oomph

"Let's have prayer, shall we?" I said, carrying lunch over to the table.

Alexander quickly folded his arms. He's so good at getting ready for prayer that we've started asking some anonymous sibling of his to follow his example (which is embarrassing for any of them, though I will just let you guess which sibling in particular I'm referring to).

"I'll say it!" Zoë volunteered, because she always volunteers (because she never gets to say the prayer, according to her, even though she probably gets to say the most prayers).

Then she said, "I prayed for Grandma to not die."

"You did," I said.

"But then she did. She died all the way."

"I know," I said, stroking her hair.

"That's sad," she said.

"It is," I agreed. "It is so sad."

"Why did Heavenly Father do that when I prayed for her to not die?"

"Well, because sometimes when we pray the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no. Heavenly Father has a special plan for Grandma and a special plan for you. I guess part of his plan for Grandma was that he needed her home right away, and that's hard for us, but Heavenly Father will help us to be happy even though Grandma is gone because he loves us and he loves her and he knows that she loves us, too."

"But Heavenly Father is not here either!" she objected.

"But his love is," I assured her.

Someone described grief as an ebb and flow and I thought that was a wonderful depiction. I guess today Zoë's is flowing.


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Lacking senses

Last night we sang Away in a Manger at the beginning of Family Night. Zoë decided that she needed to accompany us so she went over to the (electric) piano, turned it on, put on the headphones, and pounded away while we all sang.

When she was finished she came back to us all looking rather proud of herself.

"That was wonderful, thank you," I said.

Andrew, Rachel, and Miriam also offered their compliments.

"Very nicely done."

"Great playing."

"I loved it!"

Zoë beamed with pride.

Benjamin, however, started to cry.

"I didn't hear her play!" he whined. "I didn't hear anything."

"That's because only little boys who behave can hear the piano," Rachel quickly (and savagely) answered.

The first Monday of December

Trigger warning: This post discusses a recent suicide attempt on BYU campus.

"Thank goodness November is over! That was an awful month. December," Andrew declared, "will be calm and relaxing and normal. We've got this."

And with that he finished scraping off his car (because although he declared December calm, relaxing, and normal he couldn't exactly put a moratorium on the cold) and headed off into the world for the first workday of December.

I was surprised, about twenty minutes later, when I heard the garage door open.

"Forgot this!" he said, picking up his briefcase and waving it in the air. "So much for a good start to December. I'm supposed to meet with a student in ten minutes but I'm definitely going to be late for that appointment!"

And with that he was off again, chuckling to himself about how he had been the one to upset the calm, relaxing, normal beginning to December.

Little did we know, a calm, relaxing, normal December was not at all in the cards.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Miriam plays the organ at the tabernacle (and a not-so-false alarm)

Miriam has loved her organ class this semester. She loves her teacher, her TAs, her classmates. She loves practicing, she loves performing, and she's loved their field trips. It's been a wonderful experience for her. 

On Saturday we schlepped all the kids (and my mom) up to Salt Lake for Miriam's class field trip to the tabernacle. We were asked that no children under the age of eight come, which rather ruined our plans. So we decided that the little kids would wander around Temple Square with Daddy (looking at the nativities, checking out the visitors centers, and so forth) and my mom and I would accompany Miriam (Rachel stayed home with Grandpa so that she would be sure to make it to a birthday party she'd been invited to). 

I didn't understand why Andrew couldn't bring the kids in to listen to their sister play since the tabernacle is typically open to visitors, but we were told no kids so we listened. As it turns out, they totally could have come through the main doors to hear her play; we got to go up through the back entrance into the choir seats (which I'm assuming is particularly where they didn't want children).

It ended up not mattering because there wasn't any way we were going to bring the kids to a concert Saturday morning, anyway.

We woke them up around 6:30 so we could get ready to go. Zoë was out of sorts because she's not used to waking up quite that early. It was still dark out. That meant it was still night. What were we doing dragging her out of bed?! She yelled about her clothes. She yelled about breakfast. She yelled about getting buckled up in the car. Eventually she settled down, but she was still a grumpy little tyrant. 

"Daddy, don't drive too fast!" she ordered from her car seat throne. "Can't Mommy drive? I want Mommy to drive. Mommy never drives too fast."

"We're on the freeway, baby," Andrew told her. "I have to go fast."

"Can you not go so wobbly then? You're driving fast and wobbly and it's making my tummy hurt."

Friday, November 30, 2018

Paint night

Tonight was the school's mother/daughter night. I'm glad they moved it because it was originally on the schedule for earlier in November when we had so many unforeseen conflicts pop up on our calendar and probably wouldn't have been up for a paint night. I'm not sure we were feeling entirely up for it tonight either (and by "up for it" I mean "ready to socialize") but we went and we had a good time. 

They were running low on supplies so instituted a "one canvas per group" rule, which they then retracted but we didn't get the message about more canvases being available so we worked together to create our masterpiece.

Rachel painted the dark blue portion of the background, Miriam did the light blue(ish/greenish) part and I added some white in. And then we each painted one flower: mine is the middle, Rachel's is to the right of mine, and Miriam's is to the left.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Coming in threes

We survived Thursday, or just about have at any rate. Andrew's on his way home from Georgia and Grandpa's on the way to the airport to pick him up. Miriam got to organ class. I attended all three SEPs (student educational plans (or something like that)) for my school kids with my preschool kids in tow. I also met with a member of the bishopric.

I was so worried they were going to give me another calling (I have two) but when I got there they flooded me with questions about how we are doing and how they can support us more and that took up a good ten minutes or so. So I thought, "Phew! This was just a checking-in-with-y'all meeting!"

"I want to let you get back to your family," he said and I almost stood up to leave, but before I could he slipped in, "But before you go I wanted to extend another calling to you."

And I was like, "Oh..."

I tried to explain that my Wednesdays next semester are going to be rather busy since that's the night Andrew will have an evening class. But everything I said slid right off of that man like he'd been coated with Teflon.

So now I have three callings, I guess.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

I day

Just before Halloween I took the kids to story time at the library and we played a cute little game that I decided I wanted to recreate in our preschool co-op. They had several paper pumpkins, each a different colour, as well as a little ghost. The librarian would hide the ghost behind a pumpkin and then after saying a rhyme ("Little ghost, little ghost! Which pumpkin do you like most?") she called on a child to pick a pumpkin to look behind.

It went over with the kids really well.

My next lesson was a Thanksgiving one and I was trying and trying to come up with a variation of this game to play with the kids. But I couldn't come up with anything. Pilgrim doesn't rhyme with much. Turkey? Pie? Still couldn't think of anything.

It ended up not mattering because I didn't end up handling the week before Thanksgiving break.

So today was my next teaching day.

I was in charge of teaching about the letter /I/.

If it were up to me, we wouldn't have a letter of the week because (A) the kids are only three years old, (B) teaching the letters in isolation means the children learn them "without connection to meaningful reading and writing," which means that (C) they have trouble "transfer[ing] this knowledge to literacy tasks later, so basically (D) it's a "serious disadvantage" compared to a more whole language approach.

Good Grief

Rachel has been texting Grandma's phone to tell her that she loves and misses her. Andrew was tempted to text back to Rachel from one of Grandma's old devices, just to mess with her. But he decided to just let her have that connection for a little while longer.

******

Tonight at dinner Grandpa was asking about Thursday plans (because Thursdays are the worst; everyone's always going on about Mondays but Thursdays are miserable at our house (at least this semester)) and said that he could take Miriam to her organ class.

"Grandma offered to take me to organ on days like tomorrow," Miriam said solemnly.

"She did," I agreed.

The table was quiet for a minute and then Miriam burst out, "Well, I guess she got out of that!"

I think she might have a bit of a nervous humour.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

False alarm

Last night was not a good night for Alexander, with wake up calls for me at 2:30, 3:30, and 6:00 prior to everyone else getting up between 7:00 and 7:30 (after going to bed at midnight). That alone would have left me feeling rather exhausted this morning, but then we get to add into the mix Zoë, who woke us up around 5:00 this morning when she burst into our room, sobbing, to tell us that she had thrown up.

Andrew rolled out of bed and headed to her room to survey the scene.

Monday, November 26, 2018

He speaks

Around 2:00 every morning Alexander wakes up to scream. More recently he has begun screaming rather specifically:

"AMPA! AMPA! AMMMMMMPAAAAAA!"

I'm not sure why he's taken to screaming for Grandpa in the middle of the night because Grandpa has gotten him from bed exactly one time, but call for Grandpa he does. It makes us laugh because it's just further evidence of how opinionated this baby can be.

Hopefully now that he's starting to add words we'll have less screaming at our house.

Mama was first.
Hello was second.
Grandpa was third.

He also says "ball" and will sign "milk" and "all done." He refuses to sign the word "more" and instead will just grunt and shove his plate at me.

Tonight he finally attempted to say "dada" and it was hilarious. His face got all red and tense as he geared up for that plosive /d/. It would be great if saying dada meant that he would let his dada hold him, but he's solidly a momma's boy (or a grandpa's boy).

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mute

Along with the many other global tragedies so often on my mind (wildfires, starving children, refugees, that sort of thing), I'm feeling rather distressed by what's going on at our very own border today.

I have no words. None. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

First snow of the season

Alexander and I were the first ones awake this morning, which means we got to be the first ones to see the first good snowfall of the season. Technically it already snowed here once—on November 4th, fast Sunday, when Karen was still here—but it melted before we got out of church so that hardly counts. This morning's snowfall was generous enough that the kids could hardly eat breakfast for wanting to go outside so badly. 

So we bundled up and headed outside. Alexander enjoyed the snow much more than he did his first romp in the snow:

November 24, 2018
Alexander has done quite a bit of growing up this year, though he still wears that little sleep sac to bed. 

February 19, 2018
Looking at the timing of these pictures is giving me a little bit of anxiety about how long winter can last, but I'll try to push that aside for now because snow can be fun (in moderation).

Friday, November 23, 2018

Hand and Foot

We played Hand and Foot tonight—Rachel, Miriam, Emily, Andrew, and I—and we had a nice time. We were loud and silly and ruthless.

When Miriam did the "reading of the score," a Heiss family tradition that I've come to accept even though it flies in the face of everything I learned as a child, she revealed what Andrew and I already knew: we did not do well.

"Dad's in last place with 155. Then Mom with 300," she said.

"But," Rachel interjected, "You're supposed to add them up before you read them."

"I did add them up," Miriam replied saucily. "That's all they got."

"Ouch," Emily said.

"Sick burn," I said.

Her burn was made even more effective because Rachel wasn't trying to insult our scores at all. She genuinely didn't believe they could possibly be so low (but they were). Everyone else scored well over 1000.

I couldn't help but think how much Karen would have enjoyed playing Hand and Foot with us this evening and joining in the conversation and laughter (we're still capable of laughter) and ribbing going on. I'm probably not alone in thinking so. It was her favourite game.

Rachel and Miriam have been slowly aging into Hand and Foot (starting with playing "just one round"), so I hope they'll remember the few times they got to play with Grandma—in Durham, the hotel in Idaho, at Grover, and here (and probably a few other places as well). I wish they could play a thousand more rounds with her but instead they'll have to play with us...which is good news for them because, if tonight's game is any indication, apparently Andrew and I are not very good players!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving happened. 

Aunt Stacey came to our house on Wednesday to make stuffing and prep the turkey. Here she is letting Benjamin help her mix the egg into the bread (Aunt Stacey is a terrific chef and enjoys having little sous chefs around to help; she was giving Benjamin all sorts of jobs):


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

He had one job

Andrew was given the job of burning a CD of the funeral service so we can mail it to his sister Sarah. The only problem is that CDs are so antiquated that none of our computers have CD drives (let alone burners). He had to check out an external CD drive from the library on campus in order to burn one.

He also had to buy a disc (for a dollar—the guy working the counter was super intrigued; "You really want to buy a CD? No one ever buys these!") even though I knew his mom had several stacks of blank CDs in her office closet (and told him this). He felt sheepish enough about that when we were going through her office supplies deciding what we might actually use and found about six spindles of CDs, but then...

We were upstairs finishing up a few things before bed when he thought to pull out the CD he had burned on campus so that he could label it and give it to his dad. So he pulled out a permanent marker, uncapped it, and opened up the CD case to reveal...

Nothing.

The case was empty.

And then he felt really sheepish.

The disc of Karen's funeral is inside an external drive sitting in the HBLL somewhere.

I suppose he can go check to see if his disc was found (and/or returned), but he'll probably end up having to go through the entire process again (less buying a CD because we have loads of those).


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Alexander's standing!

Last night Alexander was playing around during scriptures and he used a little drum of his to balance on and then got really brave and stood up, picking the drum up at the same time. He stood for a minute while we all stared at him, amazed, and then he lost his balance and pitched forward. His face went from proud to panicked as he realized his hands were both full of drum, leaving him nothing to catch himself with. He careened over the drum and landed flat on his face and started sobbing. He was so upset that he didn't even try to pick himself up; he just waited for me to peel him off the floor.

So I was impressed when he started playing around in the same way today, my brave little boy! (The doctor said that it seemed to him that Alexander's unwillingness to stand or walk was more of a "confidence issue" than anything because he has strong legs and good balance he just...won't...do...it. Until today!)



I think we taught him that standing up is the coolest trick in the book. Doesn't he look awfully proud of himself for having (kinda, sorta) figured it out?



I love how he can't quite do it on his own and keeps falling over instead.

We're happy to see this progress, though! It's about time he stood on his own.

He's only 13 months and 1 week old!

Monday, November 19, 2018

The day the music died

The day Grandma died, we didn't send the kids to school. Emily and Grandpa went to the mortuary early so they could call the prison and have the mortuary confirm that Karen had in fact died, a rather grisly chore. The rest of us got up and sat around before trying to get working on our ever growing list of things to do. It was difficult because we didn't really know what to do. 

Grandpa says he just plugs into every resource he can (and typically people try to make death as easy on the living as possible). Turns out death certificates take a while to get and you can't do much without one so we put the to-do list aside and headed to Cowboy Donuts. Grandpa declared the day akin to Christmas morning and nothing was off limits. 

So some of us traipsed off to the doughnut shop wearing rainbow jammies, a rainbow sweater, a crown, and Sunday shoes. And that was fine. Because nobody can tell you how to dress on Christmas.

"No pictures, please."

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Trees and trains

Last year we stopped by to visit Grandpa Frank on Boxing Day (that's the day after Christmas for anyone not in the know) and he showed the kids his Christmas train, which was the only Christmas decoration he had up. He loves that thing. He let the kids press the buttons on it to make Santa say, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" or "All aboard!" and things like that.

It was fun, but his voice got a faraway quality as he told us about his Christmas traditions since Grandma Sharon passed away. Christmas was always her thing, you see. She put up the tree, she put out the garland, she dug out the recordings of Christmas music.

So I came home and I wrote this poem (of sorts):

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Karen's Memorial Service

We're still at the point where every day seems like a milestone of sorts. Today's milestone was, of course, Karen's memorial service, which was a difficult but beautiful day.

Katharine read the life sketch that Reid wrote, which prompted both tears and laughter from those in attendance, and then Rachel got up to read a poem that Sarah wrote. It was really quite a lovely poem and I wished a thousand wishes that Sarah could have expressed those tender feelings to her mother while she was still alive, not so much for Karen's sake but for Sarah's sake.

That's not to say that Karen would not have benefitted from hearing those words while she was alive because I think she would have. But she still got to hear those words.

Rather, I wish for Sarah that she could have approached her mother with the same tone that she did in her poem while her mother was still alive because I think it's a lot harder for those in our earthly sphere to wait than it is for those on the other side. And I think Sarah needs to know that her mom loved her so much it hurt. It will take awhile before Sarah can hear those words (but perhaps she will learn to feel them).

Somehow it will all work out.

Speaking of Sarah, we recorded the service for her. The prison wouldn't let her video-call into the service, nor would they allow us to send in a taped service, but they did say we could send her an audio recording, so that's what we did.

Andrew and Emily played a beautiful duet on the piano and cello (respectively) of Karen's favourite hymn: I Stand All Amazed.

We had three musical numbers and it was quite comical because everyone remembered that Karen's favourite hymn was I Stand All Amazed, so Emily brought down the sheet music for Andrew to learn when she came down last week. Reid and Karen's BYU ward put together a choir and announced that they had selected a piece—I Stand All Amazed. And then Miriam wanted to play and organ piece since Grandma has consistently been ward organist for about 45 years and had been helping Miriam with her organ studies. Miriam chose...I Stand All Amazed.

We joked about having it be the opening and closing song, too, and making an announcement about everyone opening up to hymn number 193 and then just leaving their books open because it was the only song we'd be singing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Funeral Eve

One week.

We've somehow managed to stumble through one week.

This evening we had dinner at Aunt Linda's house with so many aunts and uncles and cousins we haven't seen in years. It was good to get to visit with them again.

We left the children at home with a slew of babysitters (Naanii, Aunt Josie, my mom's coworker and friend, Janet, and a trio of eleven-year-olds (Rachel and two friends); my dad was there for a while as well), and it was a good thing we did because they ended up babysitting ten of the Heiss cousins (our five plus Emily's four and Jacob's one (though I suppose since Rachel was one of the babysitters she wasn't really being babysat)).

It was nice, but weird, to not have to worry about feeding any little people. Apparently we need to get out more.

My sister Kelli supplied pizza for those who stayed at home, which was so sweet of her.

Tomorrow will be Karen's memorial service, which she was adamant would be a celebration of her life, not a sad affair at all. So we'll do our best to celebrate even though we are sad. I mean, of course we were all so happy to have had her in our lives. But this sadness is heavy. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fall Arts Festival

Life right now is rather painfully marked by before and after. It hasn't quite been a week.

We went through the leftovers in the fridge—was this meal from before or after she died? 

The shower door was scheduled to be installed today—by her, before she died.

I recently found a random handout from when Grandma and Grandpa were substitutes for Benjamin's primary class just a few weeks ago. Somehow it's strange to me that his paper (listing one of his talents as "I draw pictures for Grandma!") is still kicking around the house but Grandma is not.

Rachel wrote and submitted a story to the school's art festival before Grandma died as well.

My girls have been enjoying WWII era historical fiction and for Miriam's birthday Grandma gave her a whole stack of books that Rachel had helped her pick out, including several about WWII. Grandma, who was always a little bit about the pomp and circumstance—the presentation—handed them to Miriam, unwrapped

Perhaps that should have been a clue of how horribly she was feeling. Not wrapping presents, I mean.

I keep looking back for clues, for something—anything—that we could have picked up on or done differently. I should probably stop, but it's where my mind keeps drifting so it must be part of the grieving process.

Anyway, Rachel submitted this story to the school's art festival (before Grandma died) and on Tuesday (after Grandma died), we went to the award evening at the school where we found Rachel had been awarded first place in the literature category for grades five and six.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Grandma's Eulogy by Miriam

Miriam wrote this on Friday morning last week. She's a sweetheart.

******

Thank you for coming to this mortal life.  We all love you!!

Grandma’s eulogy

Some things that grandma did for me is love me so, so, so, so, so, so, so, much. I love her and will miss her very much. I cannot wait to see her soon! I know that I will be able to see her after this death & life. I love her so much and will miss her so much.

One reason why I love grandma is that she is very kind to herself and others. She loves almost everyone she meets. She loves all of her grandchildren very much. One thing I remember that was kind is when she took us to Las Vegas and we went to lots of places like the M&M Factory, Hoover Dam, The Strip, and the Coca Cola Factory.



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Footie pyjamas, with the feet cut off...

I took a nap today. I went down when I finally got Alexander down (he skipped his morning nap so it wasn't until the late afternoon) and planned to wake up around the time the kids should get home. By the time I rolled out of bed, Miriam was home, snuggled with Zoë on the couch, watching a show.

"Where are Benjamin and Rachel?" I asked.

"I dunno," she said. "I came home right away because it's an organ day and I have stuff to do."

"You're just sitting on the couch watching TV..." I pointed out.

"Yeah, but..." she started.

I waited around for a few minutes to see if Rachel and Benjamin would show up. They didn't.

"But really," I said. "Where are they? Like, they should definitely be home by now."

I pride myself on being a bit of a renegade in this generation of helicopter parenting, choosing to embrace a more free-range style of parenting, but I'm also feeling a little paranoid recently and I wanted to know where my kids were.

I checked my phone and there was a missed call from the school (but no voicemail (children: leave a message)).

"Oh, no!" I recalled. "Rachel said she was going to go to a friend's house to finish a project after school. Why didn't you wait for Benjamin? We talked about this at FHE last night when we went over the calendar!"

"I didn't remember!" Miriam objected. "It's not my fault!"

"No, no. It's not your fault. I just wish you would have remembered. I wish I would have thought to check my phone sooner. I wish a lot of things!"

I called the school back but Benjamin wasn't there.

"Maybe he's trying out for the school play," the secretary suggested.

"He's in grade one," I said (the play is only open to grades five and six).

"Oh, then he's not trying out for the school play," the secretary said, now sounding as worried about this situation as I did. "He's just a little guy. Okay. I can do a school-wide page for him."

With my burrito

Author's note: I started this post before everything with Karen happened. We had been planning on joining her on a humanitarian trip to Mexico, which was just another reason to learn Latin American Christmas music. We aren't going to Mexico anymore, but when I was humming Los peces en el río, Karen said she recognized the song from something. I told her it was a Spanish Christmas song and she insisted it was from a movie or something but later decided it was from an old Christmas record of hers. It was a little early for Christmas music but she didn't mind that I couldn't get it out of my head and she laughed and laughed when I told her about mi burrito sabanero.

Now that Ruth's in the family (my brother David's new wife) we've felt a little more motivation to learn Spanish (she's from Argentina) so as I've been putting together Christmas music for our little ukulele group I've found myself focusing on music from Latin America. I could probably just ask Ruth what songs she sang at Christmastime as a child, but I've actually been having a lot of fun finding songs on my own.

Los peces en el río, for example, seemed like a rather odd song to me at first. It's a great song for learning the verb "to drink" because the chorus goes, "pero mira como beben los peces en el rio, pero mira como beben por ver a Dios nacido. Beben y beben y vuelven a beber! Los peces en el rio por ver a Dios nacer."

I was like, "Why fish?"

But they're just watching the Virgin Mary go about her work, tending to her sweet baby, from the river. They keep coming back to watch because they just love watching her and that baby, which is a rather sweet sentiment.

Also, the song has her washing diapers and I love that!

I had never thought about Mary washing diapers before but I'm sure she spent plenty of time doing menial tasks like that. Life can't be awash with halos all the time.

The song is sacred, but also fun.

I've also been learning Mi burrito sabanero, another fun song (that makes rather repetitive use of the verb "to go," so it's another great song for hammering in those conjugations).

When I was first reading over the lyrics, however, I stupidly* wondered, "Why a burrito?"

But then I realized that the better question was, "Why not a burrito?"

I mean, we sing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, figgy pudding, and wassail. Who am I to draw the line at burritos? Burritos are yummy and they are a traditional Christmas food in Andrew's family, anyway.** Maybe a sabanero is a special Christmassy burrito sauce that evoked all sorts of warm childhood memories for people...

And then I read the English translation: the song is about a little donkey!

Duh.

Now, I knew that burrito meant 'little donkey,' but the picture that pops into my mind when you say the word burrito is not a little donkey. When you say burrito, all I see is a snuggly-wrapped bean-filled tortilla of joy.

But a donkey makes sense. I mean, if you're going to Bethlehem you'd probably want to take a donkey rather than a burrito, right? But, honestly—why not take both? Is it even up for debate? Do we really even need a taco about this?

* This is a post about Christmas music so I thought throwing in a Christmas word would be appropriate.

** Karen's family grew up having burritos (fried burritos) for Christmas and she continued the tradition with her family and we have tried to continue it with ours. Andrew told me that his grandparents often called them "burros" rather than "burritos," so I said, "Why? Couldn't they find any small tortillas?" I think I'm so funny.

Object permanence

They bring us food, I think, to remind us we're alive,
And a hug to remind us we are loved.

Coaxing us out of our numb stupor
They fill us with comfort, inside and out.

And we take it eagerly,
Greedily. Like a tired infant

Who needs his mother's arms around him
and his mother's milk inside him.

His thirst unquenchable
As he discovers temporal object permanence

Our hole unfathomable
As we navigate celestial object permanence.




Monday, November 12, 2018

Unintentional Poetry

Zoë's Bedtime Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father
My grandma was sick
And now she is dead
We are so sad
In the name of Jesus Christ
Amen


A Week of Google Searches (from Andrew's phone)

spanish fork hospital
payson hospital not ihc insurance
payson hospital address
sepsis symptoms
sepsis mortality
sepsis prognosis
how to fold wheelchair
kidney failure signs
liver failure signs
ammonia in blood
sepsis causes
sepsis contagious
quality of life after sepsis
reduce ammonia in blood
when was dialysis invented
how does dialyzer work
ammonia too long brain damage
medical exemptions run red light or speeding
heart rate when dying
agonal breathing
scientific name for death rattle
how to write an obituary

A week  of Google Searches (from Nancy's computer)

what the living do
causes of pneumonia
lucid
blood sugar 162
cold sepsis
septic shock
escalated
sepsis death rate
dare to be up and doing
sepsis mortality rate
sepsis deaths
how long to recover from sepsis
fhe preparing for death
sepsis patient wake up
sepsis unconscious four days
preparing children for death
prepare children for live-in grandparent to die
comatose
bereaved
crust club
potassium effect on heart
breathing just before death
cheyne-stokes
breathing pattern before death
agonal breathing
what is a wake
losing a parent as a young adult
never suppress a generous thought
how to write an obituary

Miriam's Worry (and the answer)

I can't remember
The last thing
She said to me.

Whatever it was,
It meant
I love you.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

My cup runneth over

Today was the primary children's sacrament meeting presentation so we packed a fistful of Kleenex and headed to church. Auntie Emily was still here so she came with us and my mom and Auntie Josie showed up as well, so our bench didn't feel any less squishy than it would ordinarily be. But, oh, every last thing seemed to bring me to the brink of tears.

I started sniffling when they announced Karen's passing over the pulpit but I didn't really start crying until the middle of the opening hymn (yes, I lasted all the way until the opening hymn) and my mom started bawling right beside me.

We sang Teach Me to Walk in the Light and who knew it was such a tear jerker!?

Come, little child, and together we'll learn
Of his commandments, that we may return
Home to his presence, to live in his sight—
Always, always to walk in the light.

Both my mom and I were crying by the time we reached the third line.

I guess that's what the Plan of Salvation—the Plan of Happiness—is all about: preparing to return home to live with Heavenly Father. I wish saying goodbye wasn't so difficult to do, but it just is—even though we know there is "help and happiness ahead," and even though we've been flooded with tender mercies. It's still just hard.

But we can do hard things.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I had one job

My job on Thursday was to be home for hospice deliveries.

First came her pain-management medication.

Then came her box of hygiene supplies.

Finally the bed and oxygen arrived.

I had to sign for it all and learn how to use it all and the very idea of having to do any of it filled me with trepidation. I've seen hospice equipment before and I know children care for their ailing parents all the time. I just felt woefully unprepared to be caring for an ailing parent.

Karen was just up and talking to me last week, I thought. I should not be preparing her death bed today. 

But life is funny that way.

Reid had asked if I would make up the bed for her, with a mattress pad and some sheets and blankets. They don't have any twin sheets any more. In fact, we have all their old twin sheets. So I said that wouldn't be a problem.

But then I went upstairs to retrieve sheets and realized that all the ones I had on hand were plastered with characters from Blue's Clues or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The fitted sheets we'd gotten from Reid and Karen had worn out long ago (and now that I was staring into a drawer dancing with cartoon characters I distinctly remembered tossing the plain pink sheets and the flowered sheets because they'd split right down the middle and I all I had left of those sets were the flat sheets). I had some plainer sheets on a couple of the kids' beds, but I'd have to peel them off and wash them in order to have them ready and I just didn't think I could deal with that.

Besides, I didn't think the kids would really want their favourite set of sheets to be the sheets that Grandma died on (this is assuming they had a favourite set of sheets at all, but sometimes they're choosy about which sheets end up on their beds so...that sounds like favoritism to me).

So I texted my friend Kara to ask if she had anything a little more dignified than Blue's Clues sheets on hand. She said that she did and she would bring some over when she dropped off a freezer meal for us later that afternoon. Soon Kara was at my door with a frozen lasagna, frozen rolls, a bag of salad, and some cinnamon rolls. Oh, and a set of sheets.

I thanked her, Tetris-ed her meal into our freezer, and then pulled out the sheets.

They were...black.

Beautiful things

The past couple of days have been quite the bouquet of emotions. Our front door has been a revolving door with people coming and going all day long, staying only for a brief hug or to drop off a meal, or staying to chat for hours and clean our microwave. It's been exhausting (especially so for Reid) to tell the story over and over again but at the same time it's been healing (she said sagely after two days of grieving (I'm sure more grief is coming)).

We probably had a hundred people stop by yesterday (and that's no exaggeration).

My favourite vignettes from the past couple of days are:

Thursday night and Grandma's passing

When Reid and Emily arrived home from the hospital last night they were somewhat somber.

Shortly before they were about to leave the nurse informed them that Karen's potassium levels were causing her heart to beat arrhythmically again (they had managed to get her potassium levels under control when she was first admitted), which was a sign that she was preparing to pass on. Reid asked if he should stay, but the nurse told him to go home to get some rest. She would call if things seemed to be getting close to the end.

Josie asked my mom if they could stop by to see her before going home and before we knew it, Miriam (who at 9:30 was just coming downstairs to brush her teeth, the little bedtime evader), Josie, my mom and I were heading to the hospital.

When the nurse came to see what business we had at the ICU so late at night, I explained that Reid had sent us to say goodbye to Karen. "Oh, by all means," she said and then bent down to reassure Miriam, who was staring with panic at the sign that said 'no visitors under the age of 12.' "We make exceptions for children under these circumstances."

These circumstances.

I hadn't seen Karen since Saturday night when she was awake and talking (somewhat) and still looked like herself more or less. When I saw her last night the change was jarring. She didn't look like herself at all, but we bravely filed into the room anyway to say goodbye.

"Hi Karen," I...blurted.

I don't know that blurted is the right word. It was a blurt and a choke and a sob all rolled into one.