Friday, November 30, 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.

Thursday, November 29, 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.

He speaks

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


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).

Monday, November 26, 2018


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. 

Sunday, November 25, 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).

Saturday, November 24, 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!

Friday, November 23, 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...


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).

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' 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!

Tuesday, November 20, 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."

Monday, November 19, 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):

Sunday, November 18, 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.

Saturday, November 17, 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.

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.

Wednesday, November 14, 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!


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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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

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
blood sugar 162
cold sepsis
septic shock
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
crust club
potassium effect on heart
breathing just before death
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.

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.

Sunday, November 11, 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.


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:

Saturday, November 10, 2018

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.

Telling the children

When Reid told me that Karen had fallen in the wee hours of the morning on November 1st, I had a distinct impression in my mind: "This is how we lose her."

That thought caught in my heart and I worried and worried until finally Karen emerged from her bedroom, calling out to Zoë and Alexander to come see her, just has she had done every morning for the past year.

"Where's my baby? Alexander!" she'll call and he'll take off like a rocket from wherever he is, trying to get to her as fast as he can. Zoë is no different and as soon as she hears Grandma calling will quickly drop whatever she's doing to greet her.

"Oh!" I said in surprise when I saw her face. "That's actually not quite as bad as I was expecting, though I'm sure the bruises will darken over time."

Inside I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

What had those words meant? That one day we'd lose Grandma after a fall.

But not this day. This day she was fine. She was up and at 'em. She was cuddling her grandbabies.

Her pain, however, intensified throughout the day and she finally decided she had better get checked out. I offered to drive her to the InstaCare, but she said she'd have Reid take her and it's a good thing, too, because they were sent from the InstaCare to the ER, which is where they found the pneumonia.

A small case of pneumonia. Nothing to worry about...until she couldn't wake up and this whole nightmare started.

Those words have been running through my mind all week.

This is how we lose her. This is how we lose her. This is how we lose her.

I denied those words; how silly they seemed. I think I even used a Christmas word on them and accused them of being stupid. She fell. I get it. But she's not going to die. Don't be ridiculous!

I bargained with those words. Fine, she would die of sepsis at some point but not this time because this time she was going to be alright. This time she was going to come back to us. Later on, years down the road, a similar event would happen and then she would go. Just not today. Please not now. Don't take her away yet.

But as the hours and days dragged on, I accepted those words. Oh. I see.

This. Is. How. We. Lose. Her.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Alone together

I have many heavy things to write about so first I will write about some lighter matters. Actually, it will probably be a mix of heavy and light because I tried to jump right to the funny bits but I couldn't do it. I'm so, so deeply sad. I was grasping at words for this sadness—it's bereavement, isn't it? That's the only word that encompasses these feelings.

I am so ridiculous that I made Andrew keep a light on when we went to bed last night because I just needed the light on whenever I opened my eyes. But also I can't sleep with the lights on so I wore a sleeping mask so that it would be dark enough to sleep, but so that all I had to do to be in the light again was to lift the mask.

I'm not a complicated person at all. Why do you ask?

Tears seem unstoppable in the dark.

I'm so very lonely, you see. The house is so quiet, so very empty. I'm not used to being the only adult around. I'm used to chatting with Karen during the day. I'm used to setting Alexander down to accomplish a task (laundry, cooking, dishes, whatever) and having him crawl off to find Grandma because—lucky boy that he is—he knew that if Momma wouldn't hold him that Grandma would. It was very helpful for me and those two were as thick as thieves, Alexander and Grandma.

The house has felt like it's swallowing me so I've been grateful for people who've stopped by to make me less alone. Sister Fenn came by yesterday just to chat with me, and then I took the kids to visit Aunt Linda, and then we went to a baby shower just so we didn't have to be home alone.

Today Uncle Jacob, Aunt Shayla, and Carter came over so that they didn't have to feel alone alone and the kids and I didn't have to feel alone alone. They came so we could feel alone together.

Jacob helped me clean the bathrooms and floors and get ready for the open house we have planned for Grandma. Miraculously, Alexander let Jacob hold him. Shayla has been a low-ranking member of the short list of people Alexander permits to hold him. Jacob has been a high-ranking member of the long list of people Alexander screams about whenever they enter the room.

But not today.

Today Jacob just went over and picked Alexander up and Alexander let him do it.

Jacob and Shayla even took Alexander downstairs to play (Alexander was napping when they arrived and Carter was not-so-patiently waiting to play with Baby Xander) without me.

It was amazing!

Thursday, November 08, 2018

It seems like yesterday...

In the entry way to our house stand four spooky gingerbread houses.

Grandma constructed the houses, carefully carving each piece from a graham cracker and pasting them together with royal frosting. Then she patiently helped the kids decorate their houses.

I have no pictures of this because it was the Tuesday before Halloween and I had taken Miriam to BYU for her organ lesson (and then went to gamelan). I had left Zoë, Benjamin, and Rachel behind with Grandma—just for a little while—even though she wasn't feeling great because that was literally the only time we had left to decorate gingerbread houses before Halloween. Andrew left campus around the same time that Miriam and I arrived, so she wasn't alone with them for very long. Just long enough to finish decorating their houses by the time Andrew got home.

Since Miriam had missed out on decorating her house, she rushed home from school last Wednesday and asked permission to do her house. Grandma helped her set all the candy out again and warmed up some frosting for her to use and then left her to it.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

I don't want this sadness

I have watched Death creep inch... 
Until, finally, 
It makes its move,
Bringing grief, 
But also relief.

I have seen Death rob
Cradles, wombs, wedding beds.
Striking randomly, 
It leaves in its wake
Anguish, sorrow,
Pain-filled tomorrows.

I have known Death from afar,
As a fact of life, as clinical.
It has taken—family, 
Friends, strangers—
Slowly and sudden, 
This angel unbidden.

I hear Death knocking
At my door—not for me—
For one I love.

I don't want this sadness.

It's time to learn, Death says.

Come in.

My mom is doing NaBloPoMo this month, which has been great because she's already shared so many wonderfully interesting stories. Today she said that it was amazing to her how writing daily has spurred ideas in her mind. 

I haven't committed to NaBloPoMo publicly (until now), but I did so privately. Unfortunately, I'm having the opposite experience. Though I have a lot to write about my words are seizing up inside of me, instead of flowing out in a verbose river of prose, they're leaking out in poetry, quite unsure of themselves (and whether they'll be able to stay the flood of emotions behind them).

I am not a poet, but words are good for my soul (so I'll keep trying to write something every day).

For an update on Karen, see here.

(Is that link a TLDR link? Let me sum up: her status as not changed. She is critically ill but in stable condition.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Halloween 2018

Wednesday was a rather busy day and with orchestra in the morning I didn't have time to snap a picture of Rachel before school. I also didn't get around to snapping a picture of Zoë before her preschool Halloween party because she was in such a sour mood that we were running late by the time I'd convinced her to put on her costume and head out the door.

But I did manage to take pictures of the other three! 

Here's Benjamin dressed up as Neville Longbottom—notice the earmuffs and the mandrake:

Alexander's first words!

Alexander, still not walking, has at least finally started talking. He mostly communicates by grunting and pointing. He will occasionally say "momma" (or variations on that theme). But other than that—nothing. 

When he had his check up not too long ago, the doctor asked what words, if any, he was using consistently (other than "mama" and "dada," which should be a given (but which really aren't for Alexander)). I was like, "Yeah, none, so..." 

But on Sunday when we were leaving to go to church, with half our brood because half of us were too sick to go, Alexander both waved goodbye and said bye-bye.

I wouldn't define it as "clear as a bell." Rather it was a garbled, "Bluh-bluh," but we'll take it!

And then this morning he was playing on a toy cell phone and he put it up to his ear and said, "Eh-o?" which I can only assume was his attempt at, "Hello?"

Good news: Benjamin found his lunchbox

Want to see what a bagel topped with cream cheese looks like after several weeks of neglect?

I'm curious about where this lunchbox was hiding because I know it was not in the lost and found when we first looked. And Benjamin swears it wasn't in any of the lunchbox buckets (each class has a big bin to carry lunchboxes around in). It just...turned up one day looking like this.

We're glad to have it back, anyway.

Usually I (try to) make him finish his leftover lunch as part of his after school snack. In this case I did not.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Dare to be up and doing

There is a line that runs through my mind occasionally, but I don't know where it comes from, at least not precisely. Part of me wants to attribute it to my Grandpa C because I know that he recited poetry often (according to his personal history he was a Tennyson man), though I don't recall him ever reciting poetry to me (of course, I only knew him after his stroke, so...). It is a line from a poem, but it is also a line of scripture, so perhaps that's why it pops into my mind occasionally, though in my mind it is wrong.

"Dare to be up and doing" is the line.

It doesn't quite come from Longfellow's A Psalm of Life (1838), which states, "Let us, then, be up and doing," nor is it quite from Alma 60:24 (translated in 1829), which states, "begin to be up and doing."

Perhaps it's just my mind smashing a bunch of well-known and oft-quoted lines together?

I don't know where it came from, but I like it.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

A guest post from Reid (to appease the masses)

I totally stole this from his blog, which can be found here.


When I got back to my computer screen Sunday morning, the website for the Mountain View Hospital in Payson, Utah's was still displaying. It was right where I left in, at the bottom of the Contact Us page showing the phone number of the hospital.

I called that number less than 24 hours ago and just now got back to my computer.

I called on behalf of Karen, my wife. But to understand why we need to go back in time a few days.

Sunday, October 28

Karen had been burdened with an infrequent cough and mild muscle aches. It is the beginning of flu season had she had recently received her flu shot, so she thought it was just a persistent cold that would go away on its own.

So she declared that she was sick.

We all pitched in to minimize what she needed to do for the next couple of days. Nancy, our daughter-in-law, did all she could to remind the five grandchildren to “leave grandma alone so she can rest.”

While such instructions worked well with Rachel and Miriam, who are older, Benjamin, Zoe, and Alexander didn't quite understand the concept of “leave grandma alone.” So Karen did not have the most peaceful of recovery time, but how can resist a visit from a grandchild?

Wednesday, October 31

There was no demonstrable improvement in her health Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday evening we had tickets to see a live show of Lore, a podcast of spooky, semi-historical stories at BYU. She was concerned she was not going to be able to make it to the show. She really wanted to go. So she pumped up on non-drowsy medicines and had a purse-full of cough drops.  We went to the show. She was fine during the performance but I could tell the event had drained her strength so I was glad to get her home as soon as possible

For the past few months, she has struggled going to sleep. Her biggest fear was to lay in bed and not be able to sleep. Part of her sleeping problem stemmed from the constant pain she suffered in both her feet from diabetes. A while back, she was prescribed a painkiller for her feet that has the uncanny ability to put her to sleep in a matter of minutes.

This has created a series of comical sleeping experience. On many occasions, I have found her sleeping on her keyboard in her office. When she was up late making birthday cakes for three of the grandchildren, she fell asleep at the kitchen table. So, on several occasions, I would roam the house looking for where she had fallen asleep.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, she took a cough medicine to help settle her lungs before she went to bed. This cough medicine included a powerful sleeping agent. Now she was taking two sleeping agents at the same time. This significantly decreased the time it took for her to fall asleep and greatly improved her quality of sleep.

Do you or I or anyone know?

I still need to write about Halloween (let's be honest—I still need to write about a lot of things! I still have a list of things to write about from summer break!) but Halloween festivities seem rather trivial in light of recent events.

Though I can't find any evidence of it, I seem to recall my mom's cousin Mary repeating the adage "Life is fragile!" on Facebook (several times). Usually I just smile a little as I look at the hearts and flowers surrounding her reminder. It's true. Death, it seems, is almost as common as birth.

Somehow, even though my brain knows this, I sometimes feel like I'm still in that super-human phase of life—that phase where I'm untouchable. Like, sure, pain and death exist for other people but not for me.

My friend's brother passed away the day before Halloween from an accidental heroin overdose. She had just moved her little family, nine days before, to China. So as you can imagine, she's feeling all sorts of ripped apart right now. My heart broke for her as she described her sorrow.

Life, as they say, is fragile.

When death is for others it feels so matter-of-fact.

When death is knocking at your door it gets personal. It feels like blinking in and out of consciousness. It feels like chaos and like peace. It feels like forever and all at once.

And that is only for the living.

My grieving friend, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, who writes beautiful serious poetry shared a beautiful poem about grieving called What the Living Do by Marie Howe. Rachel has been alluding to this poem as she shares going through the actions of, for example, getting her children dressed in their Halloween costumes while drowning in agony.

As a somewhat sassy poet of an entirely different genre, my thoughts turned to the traditional English/American folk song Oats and Beans and Barley Grow. It goes like this:

Oats and beans and barley grow
Oats and beans and barley grow
Do you or I or anyone know
How oats and beans and barley grow?

But my mind wasn't on oats and beans and the only words screaming in my mind were: "Do you or I or anyone know?!?!?!!!"

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Stories upon stories upon stories...

How does someone come up with so many beautiful words?

I just finished Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson and it was simply beautiful. I started reading it while I was lying on the floor beside the crib while Alexander was taking forever to fall asleep and I had to grab a paper from Miriam's floor ('twas easy because her room is a bit of a mess) to use as a bookmark for a passage that stuck out to me because of something my mom said to me this week (she said that I need to write, not that she was nagging me to write, just that she was telling a truth about me):

"My uncle says that when you tell stories, it's like letting out all the scared inside of you.... It's like you help stuff make sense" p. 41.

But then I couldn't stop marking passages. It's a book that explains so eloquently that we're all a little bit broken and which illustrates the ideas (if not a little too obviously) that we can be someone's safe harbour. There were so many words I wanted to remember forever.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Retweeted by a past-PM

The day before Halloween, Andrew texted me to say, "I just had a former Canadian PM retweet me."

"I hope it's not Kim Campbell," I thought to myself. 

But it was Kim Campbell, which is fine, I suppose. She simply wasn't very well-liked as Prime Minister (in fact she very often ranks dead last). But, like, whatever. It's still cool. 

She falls on the conservative end of the spectrum but scrolling through her twitter feed to find this retweet (the Right Honourable Kim Campbell retweets a lot of stuff which almost makes the fact that she retweeted Andrew less amazing, but not really) revealed that I agree with her on quite a bit, which, I told Andrew, just goes to show how liberal conservative Canadians are!

Thursday, November 01, 2018


Term one report cards were sent home this Monday (all three kids are doing just fine) and I was anxiously awaiting them when the kids got home because earlier in the day I had gotten the following email from Miriam's typing teacher (or "keyboarding" instructor):

I read that and I just about died.