Thursday, October 31, 2013

Awake. Again.

It is no surprise to me that I fell in love with Adam when we were writing letters to each other.  I fall in love with him all over again whenever I read something he's written.  For my last story in this month of 31 stories, I am posting something Adam wrote and posted on his own blog on March 9, 2011.  It's probably my favorite thing he's ever written.  It encapsulates everything wonderful about Adam.  Adam is a man with a creative soul.  He is a terrific father who learned from the best, his own terrific father.  He is a man with a deep strength--and not just the piano moving variety, though he has that too.  Adam is my anchor in the world.

And his writing makes my heart sing.

I arrived home from work with just enough daylight and just enough Spring to mow the lawn.  Braeden and I reveled in the straight lines and greening blades.  "It's the awakening," he said.



I sat in the temple and smiled at the sight of Emma and Braeden sitting side by side, quiet and content.  Outside the temple, we stared up at the stained glass, the angel, the glowing walls.  I asked Emma how she felt.  "Light and airy," she replied.



Driving home from the airport, I listened to my mother describe her trip to Disneyland with Megan, Talia and Jackson.  "If your dad were still alive..." she began to say.  For the first time, I smiled and laughed instead of fighting back tears.



Awake.

Light.

Laugh.

Alive.

Again.



Everyone is asleep.  I sit down to write.  I don't cry.  I don't turn away.  It's a change.  I can write again, at last.  But it's not the same as Before.  Everything seems different now that I live in After.

Eighteen months since he left.  My father.  There was a last goodbye.  A last hug and kiss.  A last "thank you" from him, though it should have been from me.  I did not know until a few hours later that they would be the last.

I did not know until he was gone that part of what I thought was me, was really him.  I didn't know how much I relied on him.  How much he lifted me.

He wasn't really gone, though, was he?  No.  I didn't have to search for the answer.  There was no crisis.  No need to wonder, to question.  That part of me remained.  The part that is assured.  The part that loves and longs.  The part that knows.  The part that sees me through After and waits for Again.



"It's the awakening," he said.

Again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A miracle


I think I was always convinced my children were the best and brightest children alive.  Probably because I had seen them when they couldn't even hold their heads up and they grew and changed in leaps and bounds.  They would do things like clap their hands and I would think, "This baby is a genius!"  Also, I love them so much, I couldn't imagine them as anything but fabulous.

As they've grown, I've seen weaknesses.  I've seen ways they aren't quite perfect (perhaps most irritating are the ways where their imperfections mirror my own).  I've even seen learning disabilities.

Confronting Braeden's learning disability was one of the hardest things that has happened to me as a parent so far.  It may seem like small potatoes but maybe my capacity is sort of small potatoes.  For me, it was really tough to accept.  Here I had this golden boy who was sweet and bright and had big dreams.  I tried to reconcile that with his stark inability to express himself in writing and it was devastating.  Everything he wanted to be when he grew up was absolutely impossible without the ability to write.  I was determined to "fix" him.  There had to be a cure, a solution, a formula to follow.  Except there wasn't.  Talking to my brother Tabor, who also has learning disabilities, was the best thing I could have done.  With Tabor's wise counsel, I slowly came to grips with reality.  I determined that instead of changing Braeden, I would help him cope.  One thing I wanted to try was teaching him to type.  It was another item on a long list of strategies I had employed but I wasn't about to give up just because nothing else had helped.

Then my mom stepped in.

My mom is a force to be reckoned with.  There's no way I can characterize her stamina and determination and ability to make things happen.  If I could buy some of her resolve in pill form I would take two a day.  My mom offered to teach Braeden to type.  She sent detailed lesson plans to her reluctant student.  She was a stickler and 800 miles away, she exacted his best.

And the boy learned to type.

I believe in miracles.  I believe in a Heavenly Father who loves us and blesses us with miracles.  There have been times when I wanted a miracle--had it all mapped out in my mind.  I knew exactly what I wanted and I could see how wonderful it would be and the miracle...didn't happen.

I guess that's why when a miracle does happen, it is stunning.

This time a miracle happened.  Braeden, who had been writing well below his ability or grade level, could suddenly write.  Typing unlocked his expression.  His English teachers scoff at me when I mention his learning disability.  I insist it's there so they'll let him type.  Then I feel swells of gratitude that sometimes leak out of my eyes. My golden boy, the sweet boy who is bright and filled with big dreams, is no longer held back.

I was already indebted to my mother for all the typical mother things she's always done for me.  Now she's had her part in my miracle.

In primary at church we have been talking about how we know God knows and loves us.  Here's how I know:  He gave me my mom.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All the world's a stage

Adam wrote this in London on October 18, 2008.  I love it (and him). 

Maida Vale | 7:20 PM
I've decided not to sit around the hotel for the evening. I received a phone call from work not long after returning from the launderette. After 30 minutes or so talking on the phone and answering email, it was starting to feel too much like just another weekday. I need a break.

Kilburn Park Park Underground Station | 7:30 PM
I'm surrounded by people speaking Eastern European languages. Maybe it's Polish. There's a news dispenser outside the tube station for the Polska Gazeta. The promotional sign reads "Polish language only. Don't bother if you can't read Polish." I won't bother. It was nice of the publishers to spare me the trouble. In any case, I have all eight pages of the London Weekend Hotel Edition of the USA Today to help pass the time on the tube. It's supposed to contain the best stuff from USA Today over the past week. I'm impressed they were able to find eight pages. Interestingly, it contains nothing about the upcoming election.

Embankment Underground Station | 7:45 PM
I'm transferring from the Bakerloo Line to the District Line. What kind of name is Bakerloo anyway? The line includes stops at Baker Street (for Sherlock Holmes fans) and Waterloo Station (the UK's largest rail station). It must be a contraction. I shouldn't poke fun. I come from a region that calls its airport Sea-Tac. What would we call it if Tacoma were bigger than Seattle?

At least Bakerloo has a good ring to it. It's fun to say. The same can't be said of the train I'm catching. It's the District Line train to Barking. Fortunately, I'll get off the train before Barking. I feel silly just writing that.

Blackfriars Bridge | 8:10 PM
I'm standing on the south bank of the Thames staring at the empty colonnades of the old Blackfriars bridge. The marble columns are all that remain of the original bridge that opened in 1769. Tonight a series of green lasers shoot across the span of the river, reconstructing a ghostly image of the missing bridge.

Tate Modern Art Museum | 8:20 PM
The walls of the Level 2 Gallery are coated in blue carbon copy paper. Burned tires are scattered about the room. Chemicals splashed against the walls have settled in puddles of color at the base of the walls. They've left behind what look almost like the shadows of people. I'm standing in the middle of the phantom crowd. The room is empty and silent, but I feel like someone should be shouting.

The display is called For Each Stencil a Revolution. It commemorates the protests of 1960s France when radicals used carbon paper to replicate their pamphlets and manifestos.

The adjoining room, where Fantasia is on display, is dressed entirely in white. Clusters of empty flagpoles jet out of the walls toward the center of the room. I'm drawn toward an upturned crate. I want to stand on it, but the flagpole canopy is too low. I feel pressed upon, so I move to one corner of the room where I'm free of the obstructions overhead. Safely on the outside now, there is a strange sensation that I've somehow given up.

Tate Modern Art Museum | 8:50 PM
My eyes are closed. The sound of rain is all about me. I'm leaning against a set of empty bunk-beds--one of many pairs neatly arranged across the floors of the great turbine room. They serve as drying racks for wet and weathered books. A collection of giant outdoor sculptures is pushed to one end of the room. Cables extend downward from the massive 115 foot ceiling in order to support their weight.

I've taken shelter in a darkened corner under a stairway to ponder the world the artist has created. TH.2058 is London 50 years from now. It rains without ceasing. Everything is wet either from the rain or the humidity. People, art and culture all seek protection.

At first overwhelming, the more I listen to the rain the less I hear it. It's the thunder that is clear and deep. Eventually, I hear voices. I can't tell whether they are part of the exhibit or just the sound of other patrons. The voices somehow change everything. The thunder sounds more like hurried wheels rolling across the floor above me. It's as though something is happening somewhere and I'm missing out. The sound of rain is replaced by the sound of garden fountains or waterfalls.

I raise my head from off my arms, but I can't (or perhaps won't) open my eyes. A film is being displayed at the far end of the hall. What light manages to get past my eyelids is piercing and strobe-like. I turn my back to it before opening my eyes. Whatever people I heard are no longer there. No activity. No hurrying. It's just dark. And I can hear the rain.

Millennium Bridge | 9:00 PM
The Tate Modern is to my back as I cross the Millennium Bridge. St. Paul's is before me. It's bells are tolling the time. Nine deep tones float across the river and pass me by only to bounce off the walls behind me and return.

Millennium Bridge | 9:05 PM
An artist has discretely installed speakers on the bridge. They're broadcasting the sounds of a day at the beach: waves crashing, children laughing, seagulls crying as they fly by. The sounds mingle with the natural sounds of the river's own waves and gulls and people.

I'm standing a few yards beyond the speakers as though I'm just one of many people looking out across the river, but I'm watching people's faces. Some pass through the sounds and take no notice. Most begin to smile and then look confused or startled. If they're walking quickly, you can tell they're not quite sure what just happened. Slower pokes begin to look around or do a double-take at the ground they've covered.

I'm mesmerized by the reactions. It's hard for me to keep a straight face. Some notice me watching them and return an accusing glance as if I had some hand in what just happened. I notice that the illuminated Globe Theatre is the backdrop for my spectacle.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
(As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, 139–143)
An alleyway under the train tracks | 9:20 PM
I can tell that I'm still on the official river path because of the signs behind me and the breadcrumb path of blue lights before me. The alleyway is filled with the vented heat from some machinery somewhere. On the left of me a barefoot man is unrolling his sleeping bag on a bed of cardboard. His boots and socks are placed neatly to one side. He takes no notice as I pass. Up ahead on the right another man is arranging his cardboard into a walled nest. The cardboard is clean and new. He still has on his heavy coat and sizable backpack. He says something to me as I approach. I can't make it out through the accent, the industrial humming and my own surprise. Whatever it was, it sounded friendly. I smile, nod and press on.

London Bridge | 9:30 PM
It's a good thing I was prepared for this. Looking over the northwest railing of London Bridge, I can make out the form of an underwater creature coming close to the surface of the river and then disappearing again into the depths. I read about it online, so I know it's just a video projected onto the surface of the river. From above or below, I don't know. It's striking how real it appears. What if it were real? I'm watching what now appears to be a mother and child circling each other in the water. People are passing me. No one else even notices.

Tooley Street | 9:45 PM
St. Olaf, King of Norway, is watching me eat a chicken sandwich. I don't know when he lived or why his statue is on the corner of this building, but he just keeps staring. It kind of creeps me out. I just want to eat my pathetic meal in peace.

Kilburn Park Underground Station | 10:50 PM
Finally, I am off the tube and just a few blocks from my hotel. It took me longer to get here than I wanted. The Jubilee Line, my fast ticket away from London Bridge, was closed. I still have my USA Today. I've managed to choke down five pages. That's all I can take. Now I just need a garbage can (or rubbish bin as they say here) to toss it in. I should have just left it on the floor of the tube like everyone else. There are still very few places to deposit trash in the underground for fear of bombs.

There's classical music playing as I leave the station. That's a nice touch.

Monday, October 28, 2013

One of the most magical things that ever happened to me

Several years ago, Adam went to London often.  I didn't like having him gone.  I thought it was because our children were so young and it was hard to physically be the only parent on the continent.  Then a little over a week ago he went to London (and Berlin--he's branching out!) and it was really hard to have him gone.  Even though our kids aren't physically as taxing...they are pretty self-sufficient...I missed Adam.  A lot.  Everything is better when there's an Adam around.

This isn't about Adam though (so sorry about the tangent Olivia--she hates tangents).  It is about London.  A huge upside (besides the chocolate Adam always brings from London) were the trips I got to take to London.  I went one summer and then a year later I flew with Braeden and Emma and met Adam in London.  (Mark wasn't ready for London--or vice versa.)

It was a memorable flight with Braeden and Emma.

First, Emma had forgotten ever flying before and once she saw a plane take off at the airport, she was dead set against it.  She adamantly refused to get on the plane.  Emma has the potential to get irrationally freaked out. (I'm not sure where she gets it from...)  Adam, Calmer-in-Chief that he is, wasn't there so I had to do my best to convince her to get on the plane.  She finally agreed, boarded the plane and clutched her stuffed cat Sally in a death grip.  (Emma didn't ever go anywhere without Sally back then.)  After take-off, she was delighted and declared it was fun and she wanted to do it again.

The second memorable event occurred in Vancouver where we were transferring planes.  We had to go through customs and the official thought I was possibly kidnapping my children and he quizzed them heavily about where we were going and why and where their dad was.  He didn't talk to me at all. They had just turned 11 and 9 and they handled the unexpected interrogation pretty well.  He let us go.

The best thing happened partway through the long cross-Atlantic flight.  I was miserable.  It was late and I couldn't sleep despite how much I wanted to be asleep.  Braeden was asleep and Emma was wide awake.  She was happily holding Sally and writing in her notebook and staring dreamily out the airplane window at the night sky.  Suddenly she turned to me and said, "Look, Mom."

I leaned over her and looked out the window and there were the Northern Lights.  It was the most incredible sight I've ever seen.  The entire window was filled with blue and green and yellow light leaping across the sky.  I looked around and as far as I could tell, Emma and I were the only ones awake (besides the pilots...I'm assuming they were awake).  It felt like the Northern Lights were putting on a show just for us.  I looked at Emma and her face filled with wonder and I thought, "I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life."

It was pure magic.  I am glad I wasn't asleep.  I would have missed the whole thing.

I love this picture of Emma.  It was taken at Disneyland (in Smallworld) but it was around the same age as the London trip and the look on her face reminds me of the night we saw the Northern Lights.


And then a couple of London shots for good measure:

Deep in conversation on the Underground...they seemed like such big kids at the time.  They were babies.  Sniff.
At Trafalgar Square

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Some more low points

Perhaps to be a mother is to feel guilty. I try to be a good mother but sometimes I miss the mark.  There are just so many ways that you can possibly mess up raising children that it's bound to happen.

Here are some things that I wish had gone differently.

Braeden:

When he was nearing two years old and I was quite pregnant with Emma, he decided to jump out of his crib.  We had hardwood floors in our apartment and he had bruises all over his head from falling/jumping out of bed.

Adam and I didn't know what to do so we talked to our parents.  I don't know who was the original source of the idea but someone among them told us to spank him.  They all seemed to agree.  So Adam and I decided that we should spank Braeden to teach him not to jump out of bed.  Telling him not to jump out of bed was not really working.

We hadn't spanked him before but this seemed like a high stakes situation.  I particularly remember a bruise on his little ear.  We had to save our baby from himself!  Adam and I psyched ourselves up for the ordeal.  We decided we'd take turns.  If Braeden jumped out of bed, one of us would go in his room, spank him and put him back in his bed.

So we put Braeden to bed.

We left the room.

He jumped out of bed with a terrific crash.

One of us went in to spank him and put him back into his crib.

Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

It went on for about 45 minutes.  45 really terrible minutes.  Braeden has always been pretty even keeled and pleasant and he was acting like a lunatic, hurling himself to the ground.  It was horrible.  Finally, my pregnant self couldn't take it any more.  I was exhausted because Braeden was heavy.  I told Adam I was done.  I went and lay on our bed and cried.  I think Adam felt a little like I'd deserted the army.  Finally he brought Braeden to me though.  Braeden lay next to me, snuggled in and fell asleep.

The next day our friend Mindy loaned us one of those tents that goes over cribs and Braeden never jumped out of his crib again.

Emma:

I had mono when Emma was an infant.  (I can perhaps blame the mono.) When Emma was nine months old I took her to her well baby doctor visit.  I can't remember our doctor's name but I really liked her.  She was not very warm and fuzzy.  She rather eyed my babies sharply and didn't seem to miss a thing.  I had a lot of confidence in her.  On this particular visit, she told me that I was starving Emma.  (See, she was not one to mince words.)  She showed me Emma's growth chart.  She had all but stopped growing.  Her head was still growing a little.  "That's what happens when a baby starves," the doctor said, "All the nutrients go to the brain."

To say that I was reeling would be a huge understatement.  I. Was. Starving. My. Baby.  I'd had no idea.  She was a happy little cherub.  I was mostly breastfeeding her but was introducing some solids.  She was starving?!?

The doctor told me to buy formula which is exactly what I did on the way home.  I was in a surreal haze.  Over and over I kept rolling my doctor's words over in my mind.  I was starving her.

Compared to my boys, it was really easy to get Emma to take a bottle...

Mark:

The year Mark was born, I was homeschooling Braeden kindergarten.  So Mark's whole life has had the backdrop of homeschooling.  When he was a toddler, the boy wouldn't watch TV like a normal American toddler.  No interest.  It was a lot more fun to get eggs out of the fridge and break them on the carpet, to climb the rocking chair and knock it over and break it, to fill the toilet with Lego bricks and to get up on the school room table and dance across the school work.

Was this all a cry for attention?

Yes.  Yes, it was.

But I was homeschooling.  And still trying to give him attention.  It was crazy town.  If I hadn't been so determined to home school I am sure I would have given up.  I bought a gate, the type you put at the top of the stairs to keep your little one from tumbling down.  I put the gate in Mark's bedroom door though.  His bedroom was off the school room.  I would put him in Mark jail while I gave the other two assignments, then I would climb over the gate and go visit Mark in Mark jail.  Every single day I would berate myself for locking my red headed darling up.  What kind of mother was I?  As for Mark, he started playing with Legos and hasn't really ever stopped.


 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mama Grizzly: part 3

OK.  This is by far the worst one.  It still humiliates me to think about.  The other two can sort of be blamed on hormones.

This one is just me being irrational.

At the end of last school year, we got a nice letter in the mail informing us that Emma would be getting an award at the awards ceremony at her school.

We'd received the same letter when Braeden was in 8th grade.  We went to the awards ceremony and sat through a lifetime of boring-ness for his name to be mentioned.  (But unfortunately that didn't mean we didn't have to go for Emma too.)

I went to Emma's ceremony with Janet.  Our girls sat on one of the many chairs on the gym floor with the other kids and we sat in the bleachers.  It was long.  And boring.  Every time a teacher got up to give an award, it was not to Emma.  Soon all that was left was the National Junior Honors Society. Emma however, was not part of the National Junior Honors Society.  She could not be bothered to fill out the paperwork.  (Sometimes I wonder why my kids aren't more ambitious and then I remember who their mother is.  Oh.  OK.  Anyway.)

Since I knew Emma wasn't part of the National Junior Honor's Society, I was annoyed that we had come to the event for naught.  Worse, Emma seemed to sink lower in her chair the whole time.  In my mind I imagined her humiliation, and it made me mad.

At the very end, the principal told all the kids who'd received an award to stand up so we could clap for them one more time.  The several hundred kids all stood up, except Emma.   Something inside of me snapped.  I went from mildly annoyed to quite indignant.  Fine, waste my time.  Do NOT humiliate my daughter (says the Mama Grizzly with teeth bared). Freja, who was sitting next to Emma, grabbed her arm and had her stand up too but it was too late.  I had already ventured to the dark side.

I didn't stay by Janet's side.  (Why not?  She may have talked me down...)

I didn't call Adam who was out of town on a business trip.  (Why not?  He certainly would have talked me down...)

No.

I marched straight up to the principal.  I told her in no uncertain terms that I was NOT HAPPY.  And then, the worst happened.

I started to cry.  Even now I want to go back in time and gently lead my crazy self out of the crowded gym before I could mortify myself.

But no, I was crying.  To the principal because she didn't give my daughter an award?!?  It was the worst possible version of myself.  On display.

The next day, they called Emma into the office and gave her an apology and her award.

Later, Emma told me that she didn't really care that much.  She hadn't been embarrassed.  I think she could have lied to me and thrown herself down on the floor in despair, just to make me feel better.

I'm pretty sure I'm on some list.  I'm on the list of unbalanced women whose children get awards from now on whether they deserve them or not because they don't want the unbalanced women to fall apart in a public setting.

Also, when Mark goes to school there I'm going to get some dark sunglasses and possibly a fake mustache to wear.

I can't believe I just admitted all that.

I'll understand if you don't want to associate with me any longer...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mama Grizzly: part 2

While I didn't have full blown postpartum depression after giving birth to Emma and Mark, I did have at least one episode of emotional craziness.  Just after having a baby?  That's not the time to mess with a mother and her emotions.

It's also not a great time to walk through a crime scene.

My mom was staying with us for a few days, helping me stay afloat after Mark arrived.  I had to take him to the hospital for a PKU test.  He was just a few days old.  Adam was at work and Braeden and Emma were home with my mom.  I don't know if I would have been able to handle the errand alone with Braeden when he was a newborn so I really was in a much better state.

That is, until I left the hospital.

I wanted to get Mark home.  He was screaming because he didn't enjoy having his heel pricked for the PKU test.  I walked out of the hospital, carrying Mark.  Right outside the door, there was a man spread eagle against the wall of the building.  Several police officers had their guns trained on him and were yelling at him.

And there I was with my newborn.  On the inside, I was freaking out.  I didn't like drawn guns being in the same world as my precious newborn, let alone in the same parking lot.  I hurried to our van and got Mark all strapped in.  I climbed in my own seat, ready to flee when a police car pulled up behind me, lights flashing.

He was there for whatever other events were happening in the parking lot, he had just happened to leave his car right in my way.

A rational person may have laid low in this situation?  Stay out of the policemen's way?

Well.

I got out of the van, indignant. "Get back in your vehicle, Ma'am," the policeman said to me.

So I started crying.  (Because remember?  I was crazy.)  I told the policeman that he had to move his car because I had to get my baby home.  (Have you ever told an armed policeman what he "had" to do?  This was sort of a first for me.)  He asked me what was wrong and if my baby was OK.  I said that he was fine but I wanted to leave.

The policeman moved his car.

It all hit me as I was driving home.  What had I done?  Who was this person that scolded policemen for getting in her way?  Mama Grizzly strikes again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mama Grizzly: part 1

I have this problem and it's called temporary insanity.  It happens when one of my cubs appears to be wronged or in danger.  I am sure there is a certain amount of value to the instinct of a mother protecting her young.

I'm also pretty sure that I sometimes go too far.  I get a little crazier than is strictly necessary.  I don't do it on purpose.  I wish that I would act differently.  Perhaps the really unsettling part of it all is that it is completely contrary to my nature.  Sure I get cranky, but I rarely assert myself to strangers, particularly on my own behalf.  I don't like to display too much emotion in public.  I don't like to talk to strangers.  I would wander around a store looking for something for a long time before I would ask a store employee for help.  I am, at my core, shy.

So it's alarming when I have these out of body experiences that result in me acting in uninhibited ways to protect my young.

The first time it happened, we were living in Connecticut, in our student apartment.  We lived on the second floor and the apartments were in groupings of four with a shared front and back staircase and hallways shared between us.  Adam was gone somewhere for the evening and I was home with Braeden who was one year old.  I was also newly pregnant with Emma.

Our downstairs neighbor was, I think, from Pakistan.  I can't remember.  We weren't friends.  He was single and had little furniture so his footsteps would echo when he walked around late at night.  (Gosh, I miss apartment living!)  Also, he smoked.  He smoked really nasty unfiltered Pakistani cigarettes that smelled terrible.  If our windows were open, the smoke would drift in.  Even if our windows weren't open, the smoke would enter our apartment underneath our front door.  On this particular night, I could see the smoke entering my apartment.  It was that thick.  If I had been the only one home and not pregnant, I would have been annoyed.  I may have left the apartment.  I wouldn't have done what I did.

I scooped up Braeden and with him firmly planted on my hip, I marched downstairs.  Without pausing to think, "What are you doing Thelma?!?" I knocked boldly on his front door.

He answered, cigarette in hand, his black hair wild and his face unfriendly.  I proceeded to lecture him.  I railed against his smoking because I have a baby here Mr. Nasty Cigarettes plus I am pregnant so stop smoking!  OK, I don't think I said that exactly.  I can't remember what I said (because remember, I was having an out of body experience?) but I know that up to that point in my life, I had never ever done anything like that.

I wish I could say it never happened again...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

April Foolery

Our children are far too suspicious and cynical now but back when they were young and innocent, we played some pret-ty good tricks on them. 

(Maybe that's why they're far too suspicious and cynical now.)

One year on April Fool's day, I made some carrot bread in a loaf pan.  I dyed some whipped cream slightly yellow so it looked like mashed potatoes.  I had caramel "gravy."

I had also made a meat loaf and "frosted" it with mashed potatoes.

I arranged the carrot bread and whipped cream to look like meat loaf and potatoes and I called everyone to dinner.  Braeden was probably five.  He came racing in, excited about the meat loaf.  He took a bite of the carrot bread and his face crumpled and he burst into tears.

"But I thought it was meat loaf!" he wailed.

I brought the frosted meat loaf cake from the kitchen to show him that all wasn't lost. (I hadn't anticipated the tears!)

Perhaps we should have hung up our April Fool's hats, but we didn't.  The next year we put our children to bed hours early.

"We haven't had dinner," they said.

"Yes we did," we said.

We argued awhile back and forth and we told them to go to bed.  They were little so they complied.  They were about this age so I feel a little guilty about tricking them but like I said, they got too smart when they were older...


So we put our protesting cherubs to bed and then I made pancakes and eggs and sausage and all their favorite breakfast food.

Adam went to "wake them up" for breakfast.

Braeden said, "We were praying you would come and get us."

The next year I told them that since I was homeschooling them, they needed to get shots.  I told them that shots were part of school.

They were fidgety and nervous and not wanting shots.  I took them to "the doctor" but "the doctor" ended up being The Children's Museum.

I think that was about the time it was getting harder and harder to trick them.  We involved them in the tricks after that.

We made grilled cheese sandwiches that were really pound cake, toasted with orange frosting in between.

The next year we made chicken not pies.  Inside a baked pie shell we put vanilla pudding with Starburst candy shaped to look like vegetables and bananas sliced to look like chicken.

Another year we gave them each a menu and they had to pick items that may or may not work together.

For example, jell-o and green beans and no utensils.


We haven't really done many tricks lately.  It could be because we're busy or too tired to come up with anything clever.

It could be that it's really not as much fun when you can no longer torture trick your children.


I would like to point out that I was not home when Adam did that to Mark with the unsettling milk jug turned bottle.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The spice of life

Something has been missing from these stories so I'm going to have to fast forward a bit to get to Mark.  Nothing is complete without Mark.  Once Braeden was looking at photo albums and he told me that I was a lot prettier after Mark was born.

"I think he completed you," Braeden said.

I think he's right.

He aggravates me, tries my patience, delights me, entertains me, keeps me company, and completely completes me.

He also adds spice to everything.

Maybe it's the red hair.


My children got more intense as they arrived.  For example, Braeden became really mellow and quiet when he was tired as a baby.  Emma would get fussy when she was tired.  Mark would get hyper.  (Hyper-er?)

Once when Mark was just a baby we went to Canada to the Vancouver Aquarium to see the beluga whales.  (Emma had a thing for beluga whales and wanted a baby beluga for Christmas.)  We may or may not have made some surreptitious purchases in the Vancouver Aquarium gift shop.  It was Thanksgiving weekend so the border crossing was busy.  Adam and I watched with a certain amount of dread as the car ahead of us was at the checkpoint.  The guards opened the trunk of the car and were rifling through everything.  We had Christmas presents in our van and we didn't want our little ones to see what we had bought.  It seemed like they were searching all the cars though.

When it was our turn, Adam handed over all the documents to the guard.  It was dark and he shined a flashlight in the back of the van.  Braeden and Emma knew to keep their mouths shut and Mark was asleep.  It was only a year or two after September 11 and crossing back into the United States was not to be taken lightly.  We were going to just get done with this and get home.  Then the guard asked if he could look in the van.  He flung the door open behind Adam.  Mark was asleep in his carseat on the other side of the door.  When the cold air hit and a strange man was standing over him, Mark woke up and started screaming bloody murder like only a wronged red head can manage.  I've never seen one of those border guards, whose sole purpose in life is to intimidate, so intimidated.  He quickly shut the van door and sent us on our way.

Smugglers everywhere need a Mark.  Even if it's just Christmas presents you're smuggling from your own children's view.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Change of plans

Everything was going along swimmingly in San Francisco.  Adam liked his job.  We'd made good friends in our apartment complex.  We'd started saving to buy a house.  My only complaint in life was that I had been sort of spoiled by our close proximity to Yale campus and now Adam had a forty minute commute (each way) and I wished I could see him more.

All that changed when one day in January, Adam came home and told me that his company was closing their San Francisco office.  No more job.

That, of course, was a blow.

Adam parents generously offered that we could move in with them.  Adam and I appreciated the offer but we were sure he would find something quickly and that would be unnecessary.  While we were praying that Adam would find a job, Braeden prayed that he wouldn't find a job so we could move in with Grandma and Grandpa.

Well, guess whose prayers were answered?

Braeden's.

We moved to Washington on Valentine's Day, a few days before Emma's second birthday.  For as long as I live I will be grateful to Adam's parents for their hospitality.  It was truly a blessing to be with them.  They were welcoming and helped us feel normal when everything was upside down.  Also, it was fabulous for our children to be around their grandparents.

Pumpkin carving with Grandpa Linn

Emma was "helping" Grandpa fix some plumbing.
Grandma Geri, Emma and me on a hike
After months of Adam searching unsuccessfully for a job, I'd think back to how sorry I sometimes felt for myself when Adam was gone all day at work.  I would have given anything to go back to that time.

It was a hard time.  But just like every other hard time in my life, it was also a time of learning. We survived it and I'd like to think we became better people as a result.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

When we moved back West

One night Adam was playing basketball with some friends.  One of them, Jared, was getting a joint Yale-Harvard degree.  (You know, one of those unambitious type people...)  Jared's friend from Harvard was there playing too and he and Adam talked.

He invited Adam to Boston for a job interview.

So Adam went.

Adam called me from Boston after the interview.  He said that he'd been offered a job.  In San Francisco.  Starting in a few weeks.

I was sitting on the floor, in my pajamas, talking on the phone and I felt like my head was going to explode.

Moving to the West was what we wanted.  We wanted to be closer to family.  We wanted a real job.  But moving across the country?  In a few weeks?

After I got off the phone, I did what I do.  I made a list.

I wrote down everything I could think of that needed to be thought about.  When Adam got home he saw me toiling away at my list.  "I love you," he said.

(Which I distinctly remember because it's nice to have positive proof that sometimes my manic list making is endearing.)

From there, life was a blur for awhile.  Adam flew to San Francisco and found us an apartment.  I stayed home and found us a moving company that could move us with such short notice.  (Some moving companies just laughed at me.)  I packed and arranged and said tearful good-byes to our dear friends.

It turned out I was really sad to leave Connecticut.  A lot had happened there.  It was the refiner's fire and we'd come out stronger.  I loved the pretty place and we'd made spectacular friends.  I was also happy to be leaving though.  It was giddy to be moving on to what felt like real life.

We sent our belongings on with the less than scrupulous moving company (turns out there was a reason they were the only ones available at such late notice).  We got in the Saturn--two parents in front, two kids in carseats in the back--and we were off!

A pivotal part of the journey was when we ate at Cracker Barrel in Iowa (the beginning of a beautiful friendship) and people were really friendly.  The West!  We were getting closer!  It's not that people weren't kind and good on the East coast.  They were.  It was just different, especially in any sort of customer service capacity.  For example, once we were in Boston on a shockingly cold day.  We were walking the Freedom Trail (because when you're poor like we were, it doesn't matter how cold it is, you are doing the free stuff).   We needed to change Braeden's diaper so we went into a public library.  You had to get a key from the desk to use the bathroom.  Adam asked for the key.  The woman eyed him suspiciously and said, "You're not changing your baby in the bathroom."

She refused to give him the key.

Adam said, "I can change his diaper here on your desk or in the bathroom.  You decide."

(Because we had sort of learned to fend for ourselves by that point.)

She gave him the key.

Besides the curiosity people showed towards our children in New Haven, strangers wouldn't smile and nod at you in a friendly way like they do in the rest of the country.  At Cracker Barrel someone held the door for us and there were all sorts of unsolicited hellos and smiles.

We saw lots of country as we drove.  We were in terrific mid-western thunderstorms and saw plenty of amber waves of grain.  It was wonderful.  You can't beat a good road trip.

Since our belongings weren't going to be in California for another week, the kids and I stayed in Nevada with my parents and Adam went on alone to San Francisco.  Then we found out it was going to still be several more weeks for our stuff to arrive. Grrrr.

Adam and I decided we'd rather be together than apart and we would rather live in our empty apartment than stay in a hotel.  So we went to California too.

Our apartment was in Pittsburg.  I didn't know there was a Pittsburg.  I knew about Pittsburgh which is the Pennsylvania variety.  I'd never heard of the California variety. 

The woman I called to have our telephone service hooked up had never heard of Pittsburg either.  She said, "I don't think we service there..."

I told her it was in East Bay, Between Antioch and Concord, by Bay Point?

"Oh," she said.  "OK."

We bought some lawn chairs, some little kid table and chairs and an air mattress and moved in.

here's hoping Emma learns how to hold a baby before my grandchildren are born...

When our ineffective moving company finally delivered our belongings, things were missing and broken.  Luckily, we didn't have too much of value to start with.

Right when I discovered a box of dishes that sounded like crumbs (I didn't even open it--I didn't want to see the damage), Marianne called.  I sat on the floor to talk to her and I started crying, like you do when you're talking to your older sister and your dishes are broken.

Braeden brought me his favorite blanket and handed it to me.

It helped.

Once the boxes came, Braeden and Emma instated these boxes as their furniture.  They called them their snuggle boxes.  They're in TV trances for this picture.
This picture is several months after we moved in.  I love those brown-eyed beauties.




Saturday, October 19, 2013

Come fly with me

Since we lived in Connecticut and our families were in Nevada and Seattle, we had to fly to see them.  Thankfully we had those free Southwest passes to use sometimes.  Other times we saved our pennies and bought tickets.  It was always an adventure flying with babies.

We went west for Braeden's first Christmas.  We flew to Seattle to spend time with Adam's parents then to Salt Lake City where my family picked us up and drove us to Nevada.  It was long.  We were flying Southwest so stopping in every airport in the middle of the country it seemed.  I recorded the itinerary because it was so insane.  We flew from Providence to Chicago to Omaha to Phoenix to Los Angeles to Oakland to Seattle to Salt Lake City to Kansas City to Chicago (again) to St. Louis to Indianapolis and finally back to Providence.  Sometimes I think parents don't remember their children truthfully and they think their little darlings were perfect when it isn't really true.

I think I am accurate when I say that Braeden was incredibly pleasant on these trips.  (Mark would have been a different matter entirely...)

Sometimes his ears would hurt on take-offs and landings but otherwise he was happy.  After that marathon Christmas trip, when we went to church in New Haven there was a couple who was new.  They had been on one of the many flights and they remembered Braeden.  They said, "We noticed him on the plane!  He was so cute!"  I think it was his big bald head and happy smile.

this was not the Christmas trip but you get the idea...
Flying with Emma complicated things.  This may come as a surprise to you but two babies are harder than one.  At least we could tag team and each of us would take care of one child.  Luckily in these pre-September 11 days, we could stand at the front of the plane and bounce a baby.

A few times I flew alone with the two of them.  One time was after Enoch and Jennifer's wedding, which was in Spokane, WA.  The four of us had flown to Seattle.  We drove to the wedding with Adam's parents then Adam flew home early to get back to school or maybe just work at that point and I stayed on a few days in Seattle.

I mustered all my courage and boarded the plane when it was time to go.  I had a diaper bag filled with every trick I could think up.  I had a stroller, two car seats, a baby and a toddler.

And I had to change planes twice.

Once was in Cincinnati.  I had a leash for Braeden (go ahead and judge me--everyone else did too and I didn't care because he was precious and I wasn't going to lose him).  I'd attach it to his belt loop in the back because he could figure out how to get it off his wrist.  I had Emma in the stroller, the diaper bag was a backpack and I pushed the stroller with one arm and carried the two carseats with the other.

I must have been quite a sight.

We made our connection and I don't remember much about the actual flights but we survived them.  Our next connection was in Houston.  It was a close call whether or not I'd make the connecting flight so they gave me a ride on one of those golf cart type things which I thought, after the Cincinnati experience, to be the best thing that ever happened to me.  We made it home to Adam.  I never wanted to see the inside of an airport or airplane again.  But I got over it.

A while ago Adam was setting up a meeting in Phoenix.  One of his coworkers was on vacation with his family in Mexico.  He said he'd come back early for the meeting.  Adam said, "Your wife will fly home alone with your baby?"

He said, "Yes."

Adam said, "No.  Don't do that.  You can't do that."

And I was glad.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Baby in New Haven

Adam joked that because of affirmative action, he was the White Mormon Male With a Wife and Baby in his International Relations program at Yale.  (There was a White Mormon Male in the year ahead of him too.)  No one else had a spouse or children.

For the first social activity, we went with his classmates to a pizza restaurant in downtown New Haven.  Used to Pizza Hut type fare available in the West, we were sort of mystified by the choices.  We opted for a broccoli pizza, just because.

To keep 7 month Braeden happy, I handed him a sippy cup full of water to chew on.  Braeden would periodically throw the cup because he was bored and it was fun to watch me pick it back up.  (I am a devoted follower of the five-second rule.)  The man seated across the table from us was a student in the International Relations program with Adam.  He was from China.  We’d been talking with him and he’d been watching Braeden with a certain degree of curiosity and concern.  Finally after I’d picked up the cup off the floor and handed it to Braeden for about the tenth time, the man took it out of my hands.

“It’s not clean,” he said, “It’s been on the floor.  You can’t just keep handing it back to him.”

Oh. 

That was my first realization that unlike in Provo, where babies are a dime a dozen, in New Haven they were a rarity.  And everyone was watching.

Months later, Adam was on an intramural team.  The men in his program had formed a basketball team.  They were playing against a team from the law school one Saturday morning.  In Provo, we’d gone to watch intramural games.  The girlfriends and wives chatted on the sidelines of ultimate Frisbee and tried to pay attention in case our menfolk wanted to talk to us about the game later.

I strapped Braeden into an umbrella stroller and we went to watch the game.

We were the only spectators.  All the other players, from both teams, looked at us curiously. Apparently going to watch the intramural games was not something anyone did.

I wheeled Braeden over against the side of the gym.  I found a chair to sit on and left Braeden in his stroller.  There was barely room for the chair and stroller along the sidelines.  Braeden was his usual amiable self.  We could take that boy anywhere--and did.  Somewhere along the way, I pulled out a little container of Cheerios to feed Braeden.  I had the container in one hand and I would take them one at a time and give them to him.  At one point, a loose ball came flying our way, heading directly for Braeden.  Instinctively, I raised my arm to block the ball from hitting my baby.  Any mother in the world would have done the exact same thing.

Except the hand I blocked the ball with was holding a little container of Cheerios.  The impact shot Cheerios into an arc reminiscent of fireworks.  Cheerios skittered across the gym floor, halting the game until I could pick them all up.

It was the last intramural basketball game Braeden and I attended.

This picture was taken well after the above stories.  It's just for my own enjoyment...
 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

When we moved to Connecticut

We decided Adam would go to graduate school at Yale.  When some of our friends found out we were going there, they said things like, "I didn't know Adam was smart!"  That always made me laugh.  He's a chameleon that one.

Adam's dad flew to Utah and we packed up our meager belongings into a U-haul which Adam and his dad drove across the country.  Braeden and I went to Nevada to visit while they drove, then we flew to join them.

There were a whole lot of firsts going on.

That week in Nevada was the first time I'd spent the night without Adam since we'd been married.  Moving to Connecticut would be the first time I ever lived more than 4 hours away from my parents and the first time I would ever be on the East coast.  It was the first time I flew alone with a baby. 

It was scary.

And it was exciting.

And it was tearful.

Here's Braeden and me at the Salt Lake airport, saying good-bye:


Marianne wasn't there in time to say good-bye before we got on the plane.  This was before September 11, of course.  Braeden and I boarded the plane and were getting settled in when a flight attendant brought a very distraught Marianne onto the plane.  She had convinced them to let her on to say good-bye.

More tears ensued.

Then Marianne got off the plane and Braeden and I were off on our adventure to be reunited with our Adam who, believe it or not, is smart. 

The flights were fairly uneventful--we had several.  We were flying Southwest airlines on free passes from my aunt that worked for Southwest and there were no direct flights.  Even then, Braeden was a very pleasant traveler.  We traveled on the same day Princess Diana died. It was on every TV in every airport.

We met Adam in the airport in Providence airport and I felt like a stranger in a strange land.  Everything about our new home was foreign.  The butter was even shaped differently.  And the cheddar cheese was white.  There were no mountains for navigating.  And we didn't know a soul.

I was lonely and homesick and then, quite gradually, I grew up.  It was painful at times but I became less shy and more adventurous (which to the untrained eye still didn't look very adventurous but for me it was huge).

One of my favorite stories from our first days in New Haven happened at a K-mart.  Adam and I were perusing the aisles looking for supplies for our new apartment.  A man stopped us and asked us if his wife could look at Braeden.  She was pregnant and they'd been observing our little bald headed prince and wanted to investigate closer.  He said neither of them had ever been around babies before.

Adam and I said sure and gave each other a, "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" look.

That began our career as being almost celebrities in Connecticut because we had babies.  We were stopped many times because people wanted to see our babies.  They were just sort of rare around there.

When we went to pay for our stuff, I tried the debit card first on the off chance that the student loan I had mailed to our bank in Seattle had made it there yet.

Nope.

Debit card denied.

I tried the credit card on the off chance that would work.

Nope.

Credit card denied.

I asked if I could write a check.  The bored store clerk said yes.  It was the fastest check I've ever written.  I wanted to hurry and get out of there before it occurred to her that maybe she shouldn't take my check.

The check didn't bounce though.  That was back in the stone age when everything took a long time and the student loan check did eventually get to our bank.




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The time Adam tackled a guy

I was thinking about this story and at first I thought that Braeden had already been born but now I am doubting if that's true.  I would ask Adam but he's in London and I lack the ambition to figure out what time it is there and if I should text him...

So.

Braeden either was or was not born yet.

We were shopping at Shopko in Provo.  Adam doesn't like lines.  He always wanders off when it's the purchasing portion of the shopping trip.  I used to think that he was just being sweet and taking our kids on a walk or to the car so they wouldn't get impatient in the line.  Later I realized Adam was the impatient one.

I was in line making our purchases and Adam had wandered off.

There was some sort of announcement made that Adam recognized as code for a shoplifter.  (In high school Adam worked in grocery stores.)  Adam saw a guy flee the store with some stolen shoes.  So Adam followed him.

And tackled him.

The guy's getaway car drove away.  So that wasn't helpful for the shoplifter...

A woman who was a store employee, and confused, grabbed Adam's arm and tried to twist it behind his back.  I didn't see it because I was inside, making my purchases, but I can imagine Adam patiently pointing out to her that he was not the shoplifter, the shoplifter was underneath him.

The reason I think maybe Braeden was there is because this whole incident made me mad.  I told Adam it was not smart to tackle random shoplifters who may or may not be armed.  I remember being indignant on behalf of Braeden who presumably could have been left fatherless over a pair of shoes.

Maybe I was just pregnant and indignant?

Despite my disapproval of Adam's actions, I do sort of like this story.  It illustrates a key part of his personality, something he inherited from both of his parents.  When he sees a need, he jumps in to help.  Even if it means tackling someone.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Not a happy story

It must be pretty obvious that I don't mind sharing stories with the world on my blog.  I don't.  This one is harder for me to write though.  It's about postpartum depression.  I don't even really want to write about it because sixteen plus years later, I still remember its awfulness.  I do want to record it though.  I want Emma to know.  I want my boys to know, in case.  I want my wonderful nieces and nephews who I love to know.  This is real.  It's OK.  We can talk about it.

Because I didn't know it was real, didn't know it was OK, and didn't know I could talk about it.

(It just seemed like I was crazy and weak.)

When I was pregnant with Braeden, Olivia read an article about postpartum depression.  She told me that she worried I would have it.  I told her I wouldn't.  I said, "Even if I do, what's the worst that can happen?  I'll cry."

I really had no idea.

Looking back I should be in no way surprised that I struggled.

1) I don't do well without adequate sleep.

2) When my routine is changed, it throws me for a loop.

3) When I have things I'm worried about, it can spiral into an anxiety tornado that isn't pretty.

And I'd just had a baby.  He was an incredibly cute baby who I loved intensely.  He also wanted to nurse every 15 minutes--at least.  My mom was staying with me the first few days.  She said she'd never seen anything like it and she'd had six babies of her own.  So I didn't sleep nearly enough or have any semblance of a routine.  Also, Adam had graduated from BYU with his undergraduate degree, was trying to decide which graduate school to go to, working unreliable hours at his temp job and we had money worries.

Oh, and I needed surgery.

So I was a mess.

I cried a lot.  Way more than I'd cavalierly told Olivia I would cry.  None of the regular tools I had for helping myself feel better worked--praying, writing, reading my scriptures, talking to Adam, talking to my parents, talking to Marianne (Olivia was serving her mission to Poland then).  Try as I might, I couldn't just get over it--which is what it seemed like I should be able to do.  I felt panic every day when Adam went to work.  I wanted to scream out after him, "Don't leave me here!"  I was constantly worried about Braeden.  I had a recurring dream that he drowned.  It was such a dark time that it makes me sad now to even remember.  I didn't know that I had postpartum depression.  I thought I was just a really terrible mother.

Adam didn't know what to make of it all either.  On maybe the very worst day I overheard him (in our tiny apartment) talking on the phone to his mom.  He was pouring out his worry to her about me.  I felt humiliated.  My whole life I had wanted to become a mother and now that it had happened, I was the world's worst mother.  Taking Braeden anywhere completely overwhelmed me.  Staying home with Braeden completely overwhelmed me.

Below is a picture taken when Braeden was less than a month old.  I am sitting between my mom and grandma...a good place to be.  Maybe I'm just projecting how I remember feeling but I look pale and shell shocked.



So what did I do for myself?  To help myself?  Nothing.  Because I had no idea what I could do.

A few months after Braeden was born, I had surgery.  I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to take care of him after but I did OK.  That was one less worry looming over me and I felt slightly better.  We decided which graduate school to attend and that was one less worry.   Adam got a temp job that was more like a permanent job and we felt more stable.  One memorable day I talked to Marianne on the phone and she mentioned that she had made banana bread.  Clarissa had been born 9 months before Braeden.  It was inconceivable that I would be able to do anything as complex as make banana bread but it was a lifeline.  Maybe in 9 months time, I would be able to make banana bread too!  It was the first time that I thought maybe things would change for the better.

Gradually my mental state improved.  There was a day when we were going over to Marianne and Robert's house for Sunday dinner and I loaded up the diaper bag and Braeden and I thought, "I can do this!" 

Slowly but surely I recovered.  I felt a gathering of competence in my mothering.  I started to not just survive it but enjoy it.  I remember the day I taught Braeden to grab his rattle.  I remember sitting on the front porch when it was almost time for Adam to come home.  I would talk to Braeden about every color of car that drove past.  He would look at me wisely with his chocolate eyes and I knew that here was my place in the world, what I was meant to do.

I mean look how cute this baby was:

those chubby arms!


When I was pregnant with Emma a few years later, I talked to my doctor before she was born.  I told her that I'd had postpartum depression before and I wondered what I should do.  She gave me a list of doctors that I could consult in case I needed them.  It turned out that I didn't need them.  Having a newborn is never a picnic, it's hard exhausting work.  I was different though.  I was OK.  I think it was empowering to have that list of mental health doctors I could call if I needed them.  I didn't realize until I was well again how dark I had felt and I was never going to go there again without a fight.

Yesterday Adam told me I should have put a link to the new writing blog.  I'll try again. There's a bit I wrote there today.  http://6chickswriting.weebly.com/



Monday, October 14, 2013

Moving on up

One day when Adam and I were sitting in our tiny little basement apartment, one of us noticed something unusual in the corner, over by the little closet that housed the water heater.  Upon closer inspection, it was a mushroom.  It was growing out of our carpet!  The water heater leaked and the mud brown carpet near it was wet.  (Obviously we didn't go in that corner often.)

We later learned that years earlier, our apartment had flooded.  The carpet had been taken up, dried and then laid back down on fertile (apparently) soil left behind from the flood.

And you thought your first apartment was pathetic.

Good news though!  We were getting new carpet.  It was a pretty Berber.  Adam took the opportunity to give the walls a fresh coat of paint before the new carpet was installed.  (Looking back, it surprises me I didn't help him.  I'd grown up in a log house and didn't know anything about painting walls.  Now I'm the one that paints.  Weird.)

Here's a before shot of the carpet.  One Saturday while Adam was watching a football game, I painted a picture on our middle school cast off table.  Adam thought it was weird.  (If I could go back in time, I would say, "Get used to it," to that fresh faced young husband of mine.)

"What a lovely shade of carpet," said no one, ever.
With the new carpet and paint, our little apartment was suddenly a lot nicer.

Also, I was pregnant with Braeden and sick.  Miserably sick.  You know those people that are hardly phased by pregnancy?  I was not one of them.  I threw up multiple times every day.  I was a lot of fun to be around.

When I was just coming out of the worst of it, we went on a camping trip on the Oregon coast with Adam's family.  My hunger had returned with a vengeance.  When Geri offered me whatever I wanted in the cooler to eat, I took her up on it.  I felt great.  It was lovely to be hungry again.  I felt more energy.  Life was lovely!

Then when we were driving back to Provo, I started thinking about our apartment.  I started feeling sick.  Adam thought I was crazy.  (If I could go back in time, I would say, "Get used to it," to that fresh faced young husband of mine.)

I told him that the thought of going back to our apartment made me sick.  When we got home, I ate a bowl of Cheerios to settle my roiling stomach and promptly threw up.

Then I told Adam we had to move.

(Remember how we had brand new carpet and Adam had painted our entire apartment?  It was tiny, but still.)

Adam tried to convince me we could stay put.

I found out about an apartment two floors up in the same building.  I was convinced I wouldn't be sick there and I finally cajoled him into moving.

Adam painted the upstairs apartment before we moved in.

Because he is awesome, that's why.

The upstairs apartment was slightly (very slightly) larger and it had a lot more light and I was not sick there.

That year at the American Heritage Christmas party, some of the motherly teachers were talking to Adam and me about their pregnancies.  One of the teachers confessed that when she was pregnant, the color mustard made her violently ill.  Then Adam realized I wasn't crazy, or maybe he just realized I wasn't the only one.

When I became pregnant with Emma, Adam wearily asked me if we would have to move again.  I said, "Of course not."

What a strange idea for him to have...


My writing group has launched a blog!  It can be found at 6chickswriting.weebly.com.  I would love for you to read it!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The corndog incident

After Adam and I got married, I was a school teacher while he finished his undergraduate degree.  I taught at American Heritage School, a private school in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  It is fancier now than it was then, but I loved and adored teaching at that school.  I loved and adored my principal and my charming class of third graders.  (What was less lovable was my salary...there wasn't enough of it to love.)  Adam and I were poor and happy in our tiny basement apartment with a table and wobbly chairs that were cast off from a middle school that my mom's cousin Larry knew about.  We had a cheap bed and two circa 1960s chairs we were borrowing from my grandma's basement and that was it.

The other teachers at American Heritage were all about the age of my mother and they were motherly towards me.  (When I was pregnant with Braeden someone told me daily how adorable I was.  I wasn't adorable but they were very kind.)  Most of them taught as more of a hobby and didn't really need the money.

We did.

We had a fall carnival for school.  Corndogs were served.  There's something about corndogs and me.  They are the most repulsive food I can imagine.  I can't stand the sight of them or the smell of them, forget the taste of them.  I would have to be really, really hungry before a corndog passed my lips.

They are the worst.

The sweet and motherly teachers I worked with were of course aware of our impoverished state.  After the carnival, they offered us a plate of leftover corndogs.  Adam accepted!  (Was he trying to kill me?)  We climbed in our little Saturn and since there was no way I was touching the plate, Adam put it in a little indentation on the dashboard.  As he turned a corner, the plate came sliding toward me.  (Adam delights in this story.) I shrieked and batted the corndogs away from me.  They were coming right at me!  Again, was he trying to kill me?

The corndogs flew the other direction across the car.  They smeared a nasty greasy trail across the windshield.  I'm not sure if Adam was able to salvage any of them.

I can't remember.

I think I've blocked it out.

Post traumatic stress.

Just for fun, here are some pictures I found of my darling third graders.  They are all older by now than I was back then which boggles my little mind.

I loved this light filled classroom.  It was my happy place.

I don't know who took this picture--because I'm in it--but it makes me laugh.  I am sitting calmly at my desk and meanwhile there is all this bedlam going on.  Maybe Adam had visited the classroom? They all loved Adam.  They called him Adam and me Mrs. Davis.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Courage

The best thing that ever happened to me was that Adam asked me to marry him.

Here's a story he wrote about calling my dad:

As I recall, it was the Sunday afternoon of March 5, 1995: the single most nerve-racking day of my life.  Thelma will tell you that I've never been more nervous than on the morning of our wedding.  That day doesn't come close.  My cold, shaky hands then--the subject of another story, perhaps--don't begin to rival the feelings that overwhelmed me that Sunday afternoon when I called Mark to ask for Thelma's hand in marriage.

Mark can be intimidating.  It's not his stature or the knife sheathed on his belt.  It's the unruffled expression on his face masked by the mustache and occasional hat brim.  To the untrained eye, his face reveals nothing of what he might be thinking or feeling.  During my first visit as his daughter's nervous, upstart boyfriend, it wasn't hard to look at him from across the length of the dining table and imagine that his equable countenance was mere facade for any number of inner disappointments with her choice.  "Did he just look at me? Am I laughing too loud? Am I talking too much?  Is that gun over the mantle loaded?  How far to the highway?"

As I contemplated calling Mark that March afternoon in Provo, I had very little idea what to expect.  I was only convinced of a single thing based on my prior observations.  Mark would not answer the phone.  that was the one sure bet.  I had seen him unflappably go about eating lunch or dinner next to the ringing phone while Coralee or one of the children rushed to answer the call.  Whatever nerves were afflicting me, I could work them out with a little small talk when someone else picked up the other end of the line.

It could have been anyone, really.  I was prepared ahead of time with talking points.  I knelt down next to my bed, prayed for courage and picked up the phone.  I dialed.  I waited.  I waited.  Mark answered.

"Hi, this is Adam.  I'm calling because I...I was...I mean Adam Davis."

What a dope!  "Hi, this is Adam."  It was too casual, too cavalier!  By the time I realized how it sounded, my ill-timed attempt at a correction made it worse.  My mind checked out of my body entirely.  On one end of the line I could almost make out my own words stumbling over each other.  At the other end of the line I imagined Mark with an astonished look in his eyes and a desperate hope that I wouldn't be operating heavy machinery or handling sharp objects near his daughter.  A long pause finally made me aware that I had stopped talking.

"Well..."

Another pause.

"Coralee and I have talked about it..."

I don't remember a lot of what was said after that.  It was if someone had released a circle of rabid flying squirrels in my mind.  Somehow I came to know that Mark approved--or was at least acquiescent--to the idea of my marrying Thelma.  I managed to get something out about him making the wedding ring, probably made a bad joke, hung up the phone and collapsed to the floor.

It is said that the truly great athletes can get into a "zone" where the conscious mind gives way to the subconscious, action is fueled by adrenaline and their focus is single minded.  My unconscious mind had me crawling at lightning speed out of my room, down the hall and into the kitchen where I commenced chugging a gallon of milk before leaning up against the stove to pant in emotional exhaustion.

It all seems so silly now looking back on it.  What did I have to be afraid of?  Mark is kind.  He's tolerant.  He is a great conversationalist when he's inclined...Whatever he says, it will be interesting and worth the while.

Kind of like being part of the Dahl family.  I'm glad I asked.

I'm glad you asked too, Adam.  

Here's our engagement picture.  Were we really that young?  Braeden asked if it was taken on a set.  It was taken at an office building campus in south Provo. 
 

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