Saturday, January 31, 2015

Where The Heart Leads

That's what I've been trying to do this past month--listen to my heart, and follow where it leads.

I had days where I didn't hear anything. Not because there was nothing to hear, but because I don't always know exactly how to listen.

I had days where I listened closely and I could hear the whispers. A quick text or phone call. A hug for a child. A prayer answered in an unexpected way.

I've spent much of the month pondering this question:

"How does God speak to me?" 

I came to the conclusion that He speaks to each of us differently, and learning to hear is one of life's greatest quests. It takes practice. It takes work. And most of all, it takes time.

That's what my heart needs--a little more training time. I'll keep working on it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Little Bag of Dreams, Part 2

If you missed part 1 of the story, click here.

So, what was I to do with this little bag of mine?

Just so you know, I am the farthest thing from a hoarder (unless you count books, but that's a library, right?). My personal philosophy of organization is that I would rather buy a new . . . anything . . . tomorrow than store it for a day. I'm usually ruthless in what I keep and what I toss.

Something about my diaper bag wouldn't allow me to let it go.

It sat on my laundry room counter for a few days, daring me to find a use for it that would justify me keeping it.

Then, it came to me.

I knew exactly what my favorite diaper bag could now be trusted with--my most precious memories of my babies' babyhood.

(Heidi took her box of baby stuff to Idaho with her, including her blessing dress this past summer. I was sad that I didn't have it home so I could include it with all of the rest.)

Little tiny beautiful clothes for each of my little tiny beautiful babies.**

Heidi--March 1991. She was three months old before we could bless her, since she spent 65 days in the NICU. Her soft blessing dress was intended to be short on a normal-sized baby, but she was about sixteen inches long and weighed only five pounds at the time. On her miniature frame, it looked like a long, grand gown.

Tucker Christian--July 1992. His legs were so fat that the crotch snaps barely held and his head was too big for the hat. I fell in love with the pintucks immediately.

Benjamin Andrew--June 1996. His was the first white ensemble made by my mother. It hadn't occurred to me to even ask her when Heidi and Tucker were born, and in hindsight, I wish she had made all of them. She pays such careful attention to detail and makes each outfit personal for the baby, and she tries to make it exactly as the mama wishes. His little head kept disappearing in the sailor collar that day.

Lily Jane--May 2000. When Mom came to help me after her birth, we spent quite a while at the store measuring lace and trim. I wanted this blessing dress to be perfect. And it was, down to the hand-sewn pearls and the lace trim on the slip that only Mom and I knew about. Lily's cousin Emma, born a few months later, has an almost identical gown.

Micah Thatcher--July 2004. The little baby boy with the twisted leg who healed a mother's broken heart. Grandma picked a shimmery soft fabric for him. I begged her to make him a hat to match, but it was so big that it was never worn. His outfit is the tiniest of the boys, which is good, because he was the tiniest of my boys, by a long shot.

Hyrum Kimball--May 2007. Something with Hyrum made me want to break out of the all-white box. Mom found this soft, textured baby blue fabric, and I knew this was the right one for him. She added the teeny blue buttons and hand-stitched detail to the collar and pockets, and I love how different it is from his brothers'. Six months later, when my friend was blessing her triplets, she borrowed Ben's and Hyrum's outfits for her boys. They are the only outfits to have been worn more than once.

And Eve Diana--November 2009. My final baby and I knew it. Named after my beautiful mother, I wanted her gown to be an extra special link to her grandmother, a dress like those of a hundred years ago. Her dress, a simple cotton, has all the details of a true artist--inlaid lace panels, cutout trim, and dozens of pintucks on the skirt. After her blessing, a friend's husband told me that it was the most beautiful blessing gown he'd ever seen. I agree. It's my favorite.

I knew this would be the perfect place to store these precious memories of mine. After gathering them from different closets and boxes in the house, I looked at them all and knew something was missing. There was one more thing I knew needed to be in that bag as well.

My Grandma Olsen crocheted this "baby afghan" (her words) when Heidi was born, and each of my children used it on their blessing days. Made of a rough acrylic yarn, it was spit up on, dropped in dirty parking lots, then washed and tucked away until the next baby's special day, good as new. It belongs with their clothes.

So many memories of special days and perfect babies.
Now they have a place where they can all be clean and safe and protected and together--a place where I can pull them out on occasion to shed some happy tears and be wrapped in my memories.
And they all fit inside as if the bag had been designed for this purpose all along.

**(If you would like to read my children's birth stories, they are recorded on my blog. Click here to find them.)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Little Bag of Dreams, Part 1

I opened the forgotten but so familir bag I found hidden on the top shelf of the mudroom closet. I knew what I would find inside.

Half-filled notebooks. Broken pencils and unwrapped crayons. Two Book of Mormon picture books. A package of ancient fruit snacks, now hard and inedible. A pink princess pull-up. No-longer-wet baby wipes in a Ziploc bag. A sacrament meeting program wadded up and scribbled on, dated January 20, 2013. 

January 20, 2013 was the last Sunday I took a diaper bag to Church with me. 

January 20, 2013 was Evie's third Sunday in Primary--her third Sunday as a Sunbeam. (For a brief story on Primary and Sunbeams, click here.) I had told her that now she was a Sunbeam, she was a big girl and I didn't need to bring the diaper bag to Church any more. And I didn't. Just like that. I brought it home, returned it to its shelf in the closet, and never took it out again.

Funny how just the sight of this bag flooded me with memories and a few unexpected happy tears. Memories of the mom I used to be. A mom of tiny kids who ate snacks and drank from sippy cups in Church. A mom of tiny kids who still wore pull-ups and needed help wiping their bums.

It wasn't just a diaper bag to me. This bag needed to have lots of compartments and pockets and be washable and not be covered in pastel baby bunnies or be gender-specific. (Those requirements may seem weird today, but it was extremely difficult to find one that was neutral and not hideous way back then.) I remember looking through catalogs (in the prehistoric days before online shopping) and deciding to order a Lands' End diaper bag** because it had everything I wanted and was guaranteed to never wear out.
That was 1999.

It lasted through thirteen years of being hauled to and from church, the park, the movies, the store, Grandma's house, and it even once traveled across the ocean to Japan when Lily was tiny.

It contained juice box spills and Goldfish schools. It kept kid treasures (contraband gum or Matchbox cars) safe when I confiscated them until we got home on Sunday afternoon.

It never wore out, even though it was abused and stuffed beyond its recommended weight requirements. It bears a few stains from melted crayons and uncapped pens and a Skittle left undiscovered for who knows how long. It was thrown into the wash occasionally, and it always came out looking almost new again.

Hours and hours this bag and I fought together in the trenches. It became such a part of my Sunday attire that when Brad left it in the chapel one week, a friend of mine recognized it immediately and brought it to me, because it was the only diaper bag I owned. The only one I ever needed.
I hadn't seen it or even thought about it in years, and now that it had served with valor in harsh conditions with no recognition--I was going to simply . . . throw it away to or take it to the thrift store?

How could I do that to my unfailing partner through more than a decade of dedicated mothering?

I couldn't.

I threw it in the wash. Good as new. Just like always.

I texted Heidi to see if she needed another diaper bag--one tried and Mother-tested to withstand anything a kid could throw at it. (Or throw up in it--yes, that did happen once. Yes, it was in Church.) She politely declined, but she kindly added, "I'll take it if you want someone you love to have it." No, I didn't need to clutter up her life with my memories.

What was I going to do with "the diaper bag"?

It took me a few days, but I came up with the perfect solution . . .

**I wanted to see if this diaper bag is still available. I found this bag, which I think is the most recent model, but it doesn't look like it's currently available. Reviews from 12/14 show it was sold not too long ago. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I am undeniably in a stage. Not the tantrum two stage or the teenage angst stage.

I'm 45 years old. If I'm lucky enough to live until I'm 90, then I'm definitely middle aged.

I'm middle aged?

When it's phrased like that, why does it sound so old?

Why does that sound like I have so little time left?

I know that sounds dramatic and strange, but that's how I've been feeling lately.
I feel like I'm facing my mortality. I no longer live under the youthful delusion that I will live forever. I know my time here is limited, and that the Fates have measured my life's string carefully. My days will end.

Questions flood my mind:

  • How many years do I have left to make my stamp on this world?
  • Have I done enough with my life so far? 
  • What more do I have to do? Am I working toward accomplishing my life's calling? What is my life's calling exactly? Am I on the right path?
  • Where do I want to be in 15 years when all of my kids are grown? What do I want to do with my time? Am I investing my precious time each day in the right things?
  • What will my children remember about me? My grandchildren? Am I living and doing and acting in ways that I want them to remember?
  • How many really productive years do I have left? If I'm healthy and stay sane, can I count on 25 more great years? What if I need 30? or 35? to accomplish all I want to do. Can I continue on through my eighties? Will my body succumb to disease or will my mind deteriorate to a point where I won't recognize my children when they visit me?
  • Should I make a bucket list? What would be on that list? What have I crossed off? Will a list make me accomplish more or make my mortality even more finite?
  • Will the world ever even know I was here? Does that matter?

Stop it. These are things old people think about.

That's right, dearie. You're middle aged now.

You are that old.

It's time to find a great notebook and make that list . . .

Monday, January 26, 2015

Visiting the Land of Make Believe

I love watching imagination in action.
These boys spent a long time digging through the "dress up" box to find all of the manly and tough capes, helmets, belts, and weapons.
They often play games centered on bows, arrows, nerf guns, etc., but this game was different.
They built a "fortress" (NOT a fort) and informed me that they weren't warriors, but "mercenaries."
Where do they come up with this stuff?

Then, a minute later, I heard Hyrum tell his friend, "You're a mercenary. You fight for money, but I fight for JUSTICE!" He must have abandoned his mercenary identity for some crime-fighting superhero.

I think Evie was the huntsman and her friend Red Riding Hood this day.
They were eating popcorn and engaged in a deep conversation about it. Eve must have been in charge.
Beautiful late-afternoon light doesn't hurt when you're living in the land of make believe.
I don't want these days of imagination and pretend to ever end, and I know I'm in the twilight of them. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Farewell, Christmas Cheer

Can you find yours?
I walk by this spot multiple times a day. I often stop and look at the faces of the people I love ,and that short moment makes me smile. Kids will come to play and find their picture on the door, and they know they are an important part of our lives.

So many people don't send Christmas cards any more--Facebook, email, busy-ness all have contributed to the decline. I want you to know that we savor every single one we get. Exclamations of "Wow, their kids are big!" and "They moved this year." and "I remember them!" fill our home each Christmas season. Thanks for taking the time to send these to us. We love them, and we love you!

It's time to take down the Christmas cards. Until next year.

Friday, January 23, 2015

UPS Brought Me Something I Didn't Order . . .

The UPS delivery people in our neighborhood know me by name. Between building the cabin, Christmas shopping for a family of 15, and Amazon Prime free shipping, they stop at my door often during the week. I've gotten to the point that if the doorbell rings between 1-3, I'm pretty sure it's UPS and I don't spring up to answer it.

Two days ago, the doorbell rang while I was snuggling a feverish little blond girl I love. Didn't think much of it and didn't move from the couch. It could wait. An hour later, when Eve wasn't quite as clingy, I opened the door to see what had been left on my doorstep. (Admittedly, this part is a little like Christmas and one reason I love shopping online.)

It was an unfamiliar white box with red lettering, gently propped up in the shadiest corner of my 65-degree porch, the bold letters PERISHABLE printed on the side. What was this?

And it had been sent from . . .

. . . Hawaii?

I don't know anyone in Hawaii.

I brought the box to the counter and carefully opened it. On top was a card.

"Thanks for Christmas. Love, Greg and Janie."

Brad's parents have a timeshare in Hawaii . . .  Oh . . .  now the pieces were fitting together.

I unwrapped each layer of the damp shredded newspaper, and among the pieces I found the most beautiful and unusual of the earth's flowers.

I've never been to Hawaii, but the only flower I even recognized was the red lily. Every other one is novel and exquisite.

They smell so good--unlike anything I've ever smelled before.

Micah is studying microorganisms, bacteria, and teeny things in science right now. He begged me to let him take one of the blooms to look at under the microscope.
Lucky for him, one of the flowers was broken from its stem in transit, so I agreed.
I wish I were in fifth grade today. I can't wait to hear what they saw.

Thanks for thinking of me, Greg. I love the flowers. Maybe one day we'll make it to Hawaii to see some of them ourselves.