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

Mortality

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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Latest Installment of "Mean Mom"

Brad analyzes the restocked pantry after every trip to Costco.

"I NEVER had crap like this in the house when I was growing up. NEVER."

By crap, he means granola bars, fruit snacks, and individually packaged chips and treats.

"Neither did I, but that's all for kids' lunches," I always reply. But that's not quite true. They break through the back door at the end of school each day claiming they're STARVING, and although I try to have a snack ready for them each day, that habit has been difficult to maintain while I've been in school myself. The three of them find their places at the desk, homework on the table and backpacks, lunchboxes, and shoes and socks scattered on the floor around their chairs. One of them, usually Hyrum, will kindly and quietly ask, "Mom, can I have a school snack?" More often than I should, I acquiesce. In that moment, all three of them bolt from their places and head for the pantry, returning to the table laden with Doritos and Nutter Butters instead of cucumbers and sliced apples.

I've let it slide more and more often over the past four semesters. I've let it slide so many times that I usually don't hesitate when they ask, and I rarely think about the healthy snacks I used to make them each day.

Until last week.

I spent my Tuesday morning wandering the aisles of Sam's Club (closer than Costco but not exactly the same), picking up bulk milk and bread, apples and spinach, cereal and pasta. And a few cases of snacks for "school lunches." I carefully unpacked the cases, with fruit snacks in one basket, granola bars in another, and chips and cookies in another. Brad came home for a quick PB and J while I was unpacking, and he repeated his annoyance: "I NEVER had crap like this in the house. NEVER." I hardly hear it any more. I kept discarding boxes and organizing all the "crap."

Kids came home a few hours later--same routine, different day. Little crinkly bags and wrappers littered the table as they did their homework before heading out to play. I didn't think anything of it.

Friday night, Brad and I came home from our date just before 9 pm. The little kids were in the family room, piled in blankets watching "Star Wars Rebels." I heard some quick scuffling as Micah called out, "You're home!" Brad hurried them upstairs while I turned off the TV and picked up blankets and pillows . . . and dozens of little crinkly bags and wrappers hurriedly hidden from parental view at the sound of the opening back door. Wrappers shoved under the coffee table and under the TV. Wrappers discarded in blankets and on top of pillows. I was annoyed. There would have to be consequences, I thought. Instead, I headed to bed.

Early Saturday morning, chores were in full swing. Lily and I wanted to watch "American Idol" while we cleaned the kitchen, so I returned to the mostly straight family room to look for the remote. Did I find the remote? Eventually, but only after discovering EVEN MORE little crinkly bags and wrappers shoved under couch cushions and in chairs. The annoyance from the night before was becoming something a little more intense. I headed downstairs to see if the remote had somehow accidentally ended up down there, and what do you think I found down there? EVEN MORE little crinkly bags and wrappers (and two apple cores and some discarded orange peels). We have very strict rules around here--no eating in the family room (which does get broken occasionally but is still enforced) and absolutely NO food in the basement. I wish I'd counted all of them, but if I were to guess, the estimate would be somewhere between 20 and 30. THIRTY????

That was it. Instead of exploding in a rage as I might have a tendency to do, I waited until all of the kids were busy and elsewhere, and I found the biggest garbage bag we have.

Notice anything unusual in the pantry?
Maybe you need me to zoom in a little.
No fruit snacks. No granola bars. No chips or treats or little crinkly bags or wrappers. None.

Micah walked by as I was working. Concerned, he asked, "Is that all garbage?" I had hoped to accomplish my task in solitude, but I was caught. I honestly answered, "I don't know, but they're all getting put away for a while." I walked him over to the crinkly pile on the kitchen counter, and without a word from me, I watched understanding and a touch of shame creep across his face.

Two weeks, I told them. It was all gone for two weeks.

Their lunches have been much the same:
A juice pouch, a sandwich, a fruit, a vegetable, and instead of a treat, a few Goldfish or pretzels or a little trail mix.

I thought there might be frustration when kids came home each day, what with no treats in their lunchboxes and no treats in the pantry. There have been no complaints, which really surprised this "mean mom." I haven't missed the wrappers everywhere, and I can reapportion the "treat" real estate in the pantry easily.

We may become that household of Brad's and my youth--that house without the crap. This may be just what I needed to refocus some energy on good after-school snacks, and the rest of that crap can go back to what it's supposed to be--a treat, which, by definition, means "an item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure."

Not something that Mom finds hidden in the crevices of the family room furniture on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sick

In case you were wondering, I chose the second option yesterday. I biked, I wore my sassy pants and ankle boots, and I felt like I had the world on a string. I did feel better after that.

Today is Evie's turn. She woke up begging for her daddy and her silky. When I volunteered in her classroom yesterday, six kids were absent. There is a nasty thing creeping through the neighborhood, and I think it's her turn.
It's been months since she's snuggled down on the couch to watch Sesame Street after the "big" kids have gone. I've missed having her around.

Yet, it seems weird and somehow wrong. She doesn't enjoy "her shows" as much as she used to. She asked me for a pile of books to read while she watched TV. She asked me if she would feel better in time to go to Library. She wondered if her teacher would be back after being gone yesterday.

She's a big kindergarten girl now, and we both know that. She will be better soon, and back to school she'll go, leaving me home alone again with everything back to normal.

This new normal? It's grown on me.

And it's good.