Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Valentine's Day

"Mom, will tomorrow be special?" Benjamin asked me before bed last night. "Or will it be just an ordinary school day?"

"Well," I told him honestly, "Valentine's Day is always just an ordinary day. It's not, like, a federal holiday or anything like that where we get time off, so everyone will be going to work and school and..."

"No, I mean, like will we be exchanging valentines or getting candy or anything like that?"

"Did you make valentines to exchange?" I asked. 

"Well, no...but..."

"Then we'll see. For now, good night."

Now, I already knew that Andrew had picked up some candy from the store. And I had collected a few items from our Buy Nothing group to give to the little kids. I even splurged and got a set of books on bushcraft for Benjamin. I set all these things out before I went to bed, along with some poems I wrote for each person in the family, which is a sometimes-tradition for me. 

My friend Kathy introduced me to the idea of sometimes-traditions (Kathy was a linguistics major with me at BYU (at any rate we took multiple linguistics courses together) and she ended up marrying one of Andrew's friends (they'd served missions in Italy together); she's also an author). Anyway, she posted pictures of some gorgeous gingerbread she and her girls created this Christmas of Hogwarts Castle and the Hogwarts Express was truly phenomenal. I think technically they did it in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. 

But she explained in her post that it's only a sometimes-tradition because it isn't possible to pull of a stunt like that every year. Making gingerbread from scratch, agonizing over templates, piecing everything together, spending the time to decorate it just so. It's a lot of work! 

So some years they do that. Other years they just throw some graham cracker houses together (that was us this year). Other years they forego gingerbread houses altogether. 

And I think that's just fine. Some traditions are rather complicated and if you need to take a step back for whatever reason in order to simplify your life, well, that's just fine. 

Writing poems for everyone is a sometimes-tradition for me. And last night I decided I'd attempt it—like Santa Claus—all in one night (because there were many things I meant to do the first two weeks in February that simply did not get done...on account of COVID...and you'd think perhaps poem writing was something that I could have accomplish, being stuck at home, but you'd be wrong because mostly I just slept and slept and slept whenever I got a spare moment; I also submitted five sonnets and three other poems for publication at various places, so it's not like I did nothing (though admittedly I didn't write all those poems in the last two weeks)). 

Anyway, I set out the treats (including some yummy strawberry Lindt chocolates my mom mailed to us) and the books and things on the table. I printed out my poems, painted them, and hung them up on the wall. I wrote "Happy Valentine's Day!" on the board and put up the velcro-toss game my mom sent. 

And then I tried to go to bed, but didn't end up doing that until 3:00 am because Phoebe decided to get up and throw a party...a very grumpy party. She was so awful! I tried lying down beside her, but she kept kicking me and choking me and pulling my hair. But she'd cry if I tried going further away. She drank from her water bottle. She went potty. She was tucked in with every single stuffed animal she asked for. I sang to her. I read to her. I rubbed her back. 

After about two hours of this, I snapped and dragged her out of her bed.

"Fine!" I said, standing her up in the middle of her bedroom floor. "If you don't want to go to bed, just stand here!"

I went away to do a couple of things and when I returned to check on her I saw she was back in her bed (still screaming).

So I...went and pulled her out of bed again. 

"I don't think so!" I said. "If I can't go to bed, then you can't go to bed. You stand here."

I left to do a couple of things and when I came back I saw she was back in her bed...still screaming.

"Absolutely not," I said, dragging her out of bed once more. "If you're going to be awake and screaming and keeping everybody up, you can stand in the middle of your floor to do it. DO NOT GET BACK IN THAT BED!"

I left to do a couple of things and when I came back she was...standing in the middle of her room screaming. 

"What's wrong?" I asked her. 

"ME SO TIRED!" she screamed. 

"Well, what should we do about that?" I asked her. 

"I WANT GO TO BED!" she screamed. 

"Don't we all?!" I agreed.

"I get in mine bed now?" she sniffled. 

"Sure, honey," I said. "You can get in your bed if you're going to lie down and be quiet and still. And I can stay by you while you fall asleep if you'd like, need to be quiet and still."

So she climbed into bed, I tucked her in, and 10 (maybe 15) minutes later, she was sawing logs. By this point in the day (3:00 am) I was completely worn out. I had clearly overdone it over the day. I was sore, my head was pounding, my throat was on fire. I felt so miserable that I was worried my COVID test had lied. There was no way I could be negative and feel this awful (but the COVID test was accurate; I'd merely overdone things). 

When Phoebe woke up in the morning, around 8:30, Zoë intercepted her (like an angel!) and convinced her to go downstairs instead of waking up Mommy, which I really appreciated because I woke up feeling just as bad, if not worse, than when I had finally gone to bed. By the time I went downstairs (around 9:00 or so), Phoebe was dressed and Zoë had even put her hair into a cute little ponytail. 

The kids had all had breakfast and were sitting around the table doing their "sustained silent reading."

All those treats that I set up on the table and they got into nothing

They had opened the books (since those were labeled with their names) and were diligently reading, but they had not touched one morsel of candy. They had not split a single package of the little valentine cakes Andrew had picked up at the store (just Hostess or Little Debbie or something). 

They were just reading and staring at the candy...I was shocked. 

As soon as reading time was over they dove in, though!

A little later in the day Grandpa rang the doorbell and delivered a box of doughtnuts because not only is today Valentine's Day, it's also Grandma's birthday! Grandpa took everybody out for doughnuts the morning after Grandma passed away and we've used doughnuts to help us celebrate her ever since. 

I had told Grandpa about how the kids hadn't gotten into any of their Valentine's Day treats and he (jokingly) said something about what a disciplinarian I was. And then he left. And because we'd only just eaten some of our valentine treats, I told the kids that we's save the doughnuts until after lunch. 

I got distracted with helping kids with math, but walked past the table just in time to catch Phoebe helping herself to a plateful of doughnuts!

They weren't quite fancy enough, in her opinion, so she was decorating a plain one with some conversation hearts, which bought me some time to stop her before she licked everything:

I took some pictures and sent them to Grandpa to show that my kids sometimes don't listen very well (but only sometimes). Phoebe was not happy about having those doughnuts taken away from her, but we managed to distract her with other activities (and she to eat a doughnut later).

The activity of choice was painting valentines, which was a messy but successful project.

After we finished painting and had some lunch and doughnuts, the kids selected a documentary (honestly they only way I've survived "homeschooling" through this illness—"Go see what the television can teach you, children.") and I went to take a nap (and woke up feeling 100 times better).

And that was, more or less, our Valentine's Day! I made Andrew a calendar for his office, which I do every year...usually for Christmas...but I missed the boat this year. I also made him some custom post-it notes for his office. He got me some candy and some blueberry bushes to plant in the yard, which I'll plant when I feel like digging holes (which was not today). 

You can see the valentines I made on the wall behind Zoë and Benjamin. I'll include my poems below, some of which are touching, some of which are silly, some of which are only half-baked ideas...but that's what happens when I try to write seven poems in one evening.

For Phoebe, a haiku:

A surprise with curls,
     Autumnalis cherry blossom
  cherubic encore

For Alexander, an acrostic:

Absolutely one of the most
Loved boys in the world. He’s
Exceptionally generous, 
eXceptionally kind. He 
Always seems to know when I
Need something to be done.
Everybody thinks he’s great. He’s
Really a good kid! I’m so grateful that              
                    he’s mine and really glad I’m his!

For Zoë, some free verse:

Watch her run, her hair
chasing after her, wild,
untamed. Child—didn’t
anyone tell you about pony-
tales? Of course, you are 
familiar with unicorns. They,
too, are beautiful and hard
to catch. But so, so magical
to watch, to guard from afar.

For Benjamin, some free verse (with a back story):

Always looking for the gold-
en lining, you pitch your 

tent to the west, hoping to see 
the sunrise. I am disappointed

to never see the sun
set over the Atlantic,

knowing the mornings break
too soon for me, you just shrug—

“That’s sad, but now I can sleep
in.” Your miscalculation

gleams with joy, and you 
embrace the world.

Story time! Last night Benjamin read my post about bushcraft. He was a little offended that I hadn't given thought to which direction his fort should face because evidently he had given it some thought. 

He had positioned it facing due west (and, for real, it's due west, like I got a compass out to check and everything) so that the sunrise would "be a natural alarm clock."

"Sun rises in the east, my dude," I told him.

"Oh. Ok. That's sad but now...I can sleep in!!!!"

He is such a funny—and optimistic—kid. Most things bring him joy. And I think that's a great way to be! Let's see...

For Miriam, this silly little rhyme to remind her that she's more than all her awesome talents (I always default to being amazed by her musical skills, her beautiful kit and crochet creations, but she's so kind and beautiful and thoughtful and funny and just a great human):

You are more than music,
you are more than yarn,
you are more than sunshine,
you are more than song,
you are more than apple
pie, than daffodils, than corn*
because you’re you—the you-iest
of all the yous I’ve born!

*For me, I really like corn!

For Rachel the line "it's the peeling away" keeps coming to mind as I think about the loomingness of her adulthood, and I've been trying to write a poem about it. This is...not the poem (I can tell); it's just a bunch of silliness, but that's okay:

It’s the peeling away
of a bandaid, so slow
you can’t quite believe it’s not there
anymore. This thing that once felt so much
a part of you, now dangling by a single sticky
strand. But more beautiful than that—

it’s a banana 

ing in perfectly straight lines, no
jagged edges, everything happening 
just the way it should be—revealing
an entire uncharted future. I just 


                                I don’t 


                               on your way out the door.

Remember when you won
everything, each and every
award and the floor
was full of people
applauding you—your
mind, your kind-
ness, your talent
and your strength?

My heart beat in time
with my hands and I
don’t think it’s ever
stopped clapping
for you.

What is Valentine's Day for, if not the opportunity to wax a little sentimental, to awkwardly share your laugh over bad puns and to have candy after breakfast and doughnuts after lunch?

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