Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30

I held Heather's soft body in her dark bedroom, rocking her small self back and forth.  Her eyes grew heavy from the motion and the sound of my voice whispering lullabies.

Tears streamed down my face.

For me, this story, this day, will always start the same way.  We were on our way out the door to go to church when the phone rang.

Any other day I would have just let the phone ring, let the machine take a message, and worry about whatever the caller wanted later.  That day a small voice in my heart said that this time, I should turn around and answer it.

I will never forget that conversation with my brother.  I will never forget the new tones in his voice, the way he tried to comfort me when I broke down.

It was obvious I could not go to church, and I managed to tell Devin that I needed him to take me somewhere beautiful, the most beautiful place he could think of.

We got in the car and drove.

I have gone back to that same park every year, and I have sat in the same bench every year.

The girls know that when we get there, Mommy will become a little slower, a little softer, a little sadder.  They know that this change will come over me, but it doesn't slow them down.

I watch my girls running and whooping, delighting in the crisp autumn air.  The walkways are open to explore, bursting with flowers on all sides.  In their faces you can see the exultation in the near limitless energy of their young legs.

I look at the flowers with their brilliant colors. I look at the towering trees fully crowned in their autumnal, majestic glory.

I think of change and decay, permanence and eternity.  I think of beauty and sadness.

Light.  Love.  Loss.  Laughter.  Life.

I think of bright eyes with a smile that never ends, but goes on and on. That smile so innocent and sweet that charmed the hearts of all who were lucky enough to hold her, tickle her, snuggle her.

I only got to meet Tabitha twice, but I think of that smile, and how even though we don't get to enjoy it beaming at us beneath those sparkling eyes right here, right now, it is
there still.  She is smiling still.  This, I know.

We get up to leave the park.  Driving away, Hanna says, "Mommy, you were thinking about Tabitha.  But, are you done thinking about her now?"

"No, Hanna. I am not done thinking about her."

There is silence in the car, a rare thing.

"Mommy, I miss her." Hallie softly says.

"I do too."  Hanna chimes in.

I do too.  I do too.

If you want to read Rachel's beautiful words about her sweet Tabitha, go here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A trip to California

This summer we went to California to visit Devin's family.

Of course it was a great trip, the making of many good memories, all of which were recorded as photos to be treasured for all time.

Except, of course, most of those pictures were on Devin's dad's camera, not ours.  We got a copy of those pictures, except that Devin doesn't know what happened to them, so I've never actually seen any of them.

On our camera, we had many photos also. That Hallie took.

And so, please enjoy a photo-mentary of our trip to California.  If you've been wondering what California looks like from the backseat of a van, through the eyes of a five year old, your wait is over.


 I did not repeat any photos.  So yes, that happened that many times.

I don't know who that lady is.

Alright, that about wraps it up.  Grab your popcorn, a buddy to snuggle, and hit the play button.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Pumpkin Run

And now for some pictures of Hallie at the Pumpkin Run.  It was a mile, and while I know she could have gone much faster if Devin had been running with her, we were so proud of her for wanting to do it on her own.  She finished at exactly 14 minutes.  Way to go Hallie!

 Before the race. Hallie was a little cold.

 The starting line. This is the last heat of the day, the kindergarteners from the "big" schools.  I think there were 10 heats throughout the day. I'm glad Hallie's was last.
 She finally came around the bend, so I was able to postpone my panic attack for another day.
 Devin always gets so excited by her form when she is running.

 A picnic after the race.
 It was so great that the run was while my parents were in town. Thanks for visiting, it had really been too long!

Letters from Hallie

Hallie has really embraced kindergarten.  She comes home from school every day and writes all afternoon until dinnertime.  She writes stories, and letters, and draws maps and illustrations.

That's actually what she told me she wants to be when she grows up, an illustrator.  I fully support that dream.

Last week she wrote a letter to each person in the family.  I include them here, with her own spelling.  For a long time she wouldn't write because she didn't know how to spell each word and would get so frustrated.  Finally Devin and I sat her down and told her just to try.  Maybe she wouldn't spell it right, but if she tried her best we would probably be able to read what it said.  She didn't believe us at first, but now when I can almost always read what she has written, there is no stopping her.

Der Mom,
I like yoor food. It is yami! Hallie  (Dear Mom, I like your food. It is yummy.)

I like wen yoo mak pasta plan Mom.  Hallie  (I like when you make pasta plain Mom.)

Der Dad,
I like wen yoo tell me wat sapthing is.  Hallie (Dear Dad, I like when you tell me what something is.)

Der Hanna
I like too pla weth yoo!  yoor sistr Hallie. (Dear Hanna, I like too play with you! Your sister Hallie)

Der Heather
I can help Heather too stop kring with a bodl!! Yoor sister Hallie (Dear Heather, I can help Heather to stop crying with a bottle!! Your sister Hallie)

More recently she has been writing letters to cousins, who may seem them someday if I ever get them in the mailbox.  It's so hard, making that walk down the driveway. I'm not sure why.


Hallie and Confidence

When Hallie was between the ages of 18 months and 3 or so we would go to parks and zoos and children's museums, like you do when you are a stay at home mom with little kids to entertain.  Hallie would sit on my lap and watch the kids play.  Nothing I did could get her to move from my side.

I had mixed feelings about this.  I was happy that my little girl liked me and trusted me and wanted to be near me.  I worried that she would be like me, and always be afraid of people and have a hard time making friends, and would need some extreme life change like moving to Brasil to get her to come out of it like I did.  I wanted to encourage her to explore, I wanted to push her to be brave, but I also didn't want her to think that it wasn't ok to be who she was... basically I was always worried that I was ruining her.

I still remember how sick I felt the morning of her first swimming lesson last summer.  At a pool we had never been to, surrounded by children and adults we had never seen before, about to do something she had never done before.  A triple threat.  As a child I would have curled up into a tiny  ball on my mother's lap and turned into stone.  That's kind of what I wanted to do on that morning too.  But I am a grown woman now, and I have learned a few tricks about navigating life, so I pointed Hallie to her class, and told her that we would be waiting for her to finish at the little baby pool off to the side. She went and sat with them, looking at me only once or twice.  She loved swimming lessons so much, and her teacher so much, that Dana became the hero of all of her games for a year or longer.

Same thing with starting school.  She marched into that classroom and her confidence soared to new heights.  It made my heart so proud to see my little girl be so brave, to not have the fears of the world that crippled her mother for so many years.

Then there was the Pumpkin Run.  All of the Lincoln elementary school students are invited to participate, and so naturally, being who we are, Hallie was immediately signed up for it.  She was all pumped up and excited, and even though parents are allowed to run with their children, Hallie was determined to do it by herself.  We get to the park where the event is hosted, and there are people everywhere. Swarms of mobs of legions of people.  The first thing I heard was the announcer say that there were 3,359 participants running that day.  That's just the kids actually signed up to run, not including all family that came to watch.  It was madness, and I felt that old familiar cramping in my stomach.  "Hallie can't run this alone.  She'll be too scared.  You'll have to run it with her Devin." was my mantra to him as we walked toward the starting area.  Hallie was with my parents, and when we met up with them, she declared that she would still run alone.

I could not believe my ears.  I was about to throw up with fear, and she still thought she could do it alone.  Whose child is this, anyway?

She did.  She ran it alone.  At one point we were waiting at a curve where the runners came around and you could cheer and take pictures as they made their way to the finish, and she wasn't coming. All these kids streamed past us but no Hallie.  I told Devin if she didn't come soon there was going to be some real serious panicking.  He turned to me and said, "I think this is harder for you than it is for Hallie."

I repeat: my daughter is so brave.  She is willing to experience life, to try it on her own, to see what she is capable of doing.

I was going to post some pictures and other things with this thought, but it has kind of turned into a thing all by itself, so I'll save those for another post.  Also I think maybe a mouse is chewing on my computer cord?

Devin wanted me to come back and add a video.  And so, without further ado, Hallie at the finish line.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I had just taken dinner out of the oven when the phone rang.

The name and number on the caller id was not one I recognized.  I answered anyway because Devin gets a lot of calls from people I don't know who need his help with some thing or another.

The words I heard after I said hello were so shocking to me, I couldn't believe I had heard right. "Excuse me?" I responded, wondering who I was talking to.  She repeated the same phrase again, then immediately hung up.

I stood, stunned, with the oven door still open.  As soon as my head cleared I ran to every door and window checking to make sure each was locked and bolted.

Then I called my mother.

"Mommy..." I said, but I didn't know how to explain what had happened.  Words of violence do not come easily out of my mouth, and I did not know how to repeat what the voice on the phone had said she would do to me.

"I need you to tell me it was a joke, some sort of really sick prank phone call." I told her after I had finally squeaked the whole thing out.

My mother would not tell me it was a joke.  She forced me to call the police, an act which scared me almost as much as considering that this threat could be real.  Who am I to bother the police with something like this?  But... what if it is real?

The lady that answered the 911 call was so kind and understanding that I started crying, and once begun could not stop.  I was told that someone would be on their way to check things out.

I herded the girls upstairs to the kitchen and made them sit down to eat the now cold dinner.  They sat at the table and watched me.  I stood in the kitchen where I could see out the windows by the front door and watched the porch.  It had occurred to me that a knock at the door could be the police coming to check on me, or it could be the owner of the voice on the phone.

"Mommy, why do you keep staring out the window like that?"  Hallie asked me every two minutes.

"Mommy, why does your voice sound strange like that?" Hanna asked me every three minutes.

Heather ate her dinner.

"Girls, mommy is expecting someone to come and knock on the door.  When you hear the knock I want you to sit very quietly and not shout and jump and run to the door.  Mommy is going to go quietly to the door and maybe open it, maybe not.  Can you do that?"

"But why, mommy?"  How do you explain threats of violence to innocent children who know nothing of that kind of thing?

I stood and I watched and I considered that this person had my landline phone number and could be hiding in my bushes that very moment.  She could be watching me watching her out the window.  I felt like a very tiny bug under a very bright microscope.

I thought about my life.  I forced myself to consider the possibility that this threat was real and she could be successful in doing what she said she would do to me.

I decided.  I am satisfied with my life.  I am happy with what I have given, with what I have made, with what I have done.  I am pleased with my work, with what I have given to the world in the thirty years I've been around.

Not that I look forward to dying, or wanted to in that moment, and certainly not in any violent way.  And if she intended to harm my girls as well as me there is no word strong enough to express how not ok I was with that.

But there are some things you can control, and some things you can't control.  This was one of those moments where control was the last thing I had over the situation.  But I fed my girls and I talked to my mom and I prayed and I knew that we would be ok, come what may.

The police came and I cried again because they were, again, so kind and understanding.  They took my statement and promised to look into the situation.  She has called me twice more since then, and I have talked with the police officers twice since then.

I still don't have all of the details of who she is, or why she was calling me, or what was going on, but I no longer hear her voice echoing in my head all night as I try to sleep.  I no longer jump at the shadows in my own home.  I no longer cringe when I hear the girls get up at night to go to the bathroom.

I do keep dreaming about owning a dog, however.
And now that I feel safe again, I also feel grateful that I live in circumstances that allow me to be shocked by words of violence, that I am not in any abusive relationships, or area of the world where violence is common.  And I hope that woman gets the help she needs, whoever she is.  And last, but not least, I hope she never calls me again.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lumpy Frosting Memories

I sat at the kitchen table with my mother.  We chatted as I made graham cracker sandwiches to enjoy for dessert after dinner.

Are you familiar with the graham cracker sandwich?  It is simple. Just a graham cracker, frosting, then another graham cracker.

We were enjoying cream cheese frosting that evening, the store bought kind, because it was on sale and as much as I wish I were the kind of person that always had cream cheese in her fridge, I am not.*

Perhaps this will be one of my life's big regrets someday, but for now I accept it.

And this brings me back to my mother and I, sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying those last few minutes of the day before the circus in my living room shuts down for the night and becomes once more just a room with a couch and toys on the floor.

"Mom, do you remember we used to make these to leave out for Santa every Christmas?" I asked my mom. 

Of course she remembered. 

"Did you know that they were my favorite treat?  I especially loved the way your home made cream cheese frosting had lumps in it.  Those lumps were my very favorite part."

For a long time I couldn't figure out why I didn't like other cream cheese frostings as much, and I couldn't figure out why they didn't look right.  And then one day, I realized. They were missing the lumps.

I don't remember exactly how my mom responded to my confession that the lumps were my favorite, but I do remember she said something about how if she had been a perfect mother there would not have been lumps, but that she settled for good enough and so our frosting was lumpy.

I protested, "but I didn't want perfect, I wanted lumpy frosting!"

I've thought about that a lot since that night, since my mother has gone home and it is back to being just me on the frontline with my little adorably energetic and sweetly destructive army.

We are told to be the best we can be, to settle not for good, or better, but only for best.  There was a talk given a while ago, about Mothers Who Know, and it terrified me.  I was supposed to do all that? I was being compared to mothers who walked for miles in dusty roads, barefoot, but when they got to church with their children they were all perfectly presentable with their "daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts"?

I can't do that.  We barely have everyone's hair brushed as we make our way out the door for the 15 minute drive to church.  Ok, I take it back. I probably could do that, if I put other things aside.

But I think about lumpy frosting, and how I didn't want to wait and wait while my mom gave her best to mix and mix and bring to the table nothing but perfectly creamy and smooth cream cheese frosting.  I wanted lumps, and I wanted to enjoy it with my mother sitting next to me and my brothers and sister.

So maybe there are times to give your best and be perfect, like teaching your children road safety, and about hot ovens, and about how wild animals might have rabies.

And then maybe there are some things that my kids just want me to be "good enough" for, that they care more that I am just there, doing and laughing and being with them, than sweating to make sure it all happens with perfection.

Maybe someday I will have the strength and energy to be a Mother Who Knows.  But right now, pregnant with three small children running circles around me, chaos in my head and in my home, I will try to just be "good enough".  I will try to be a mother who makes lumpy frosting memories with her children.

*Because I am the only one who eats cream cheese, aside from frosting, and we just don't eat that much frosting around here for me to keep making it.  So whenever I do buy it, it sits in the fridge and gets moldy and then I am sad.  Cheesecake, you and I will be together again someday however, let's not give up.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

She Put the Music In Me

I listened to this song on repeat for over an hour the other day.  And then again the next day.

You really have to listen to it to appreciate it, but I typed up the words so I could more fully appreciate how clever they are.  I am almost positive that this is the most cleverly written song I've ever listened to, but possibly that is just because as the Primary Music Leader I know every one of the songs she is pulling lines from.

Thanks for putting the music in me, Mom.

(you can listen to it on youtube while you read the lyrics, if you'd like)

It started with rockabye
Comforting when I’d cry
All in her own style

Then popcorn before my eyes
Turning frowns upside down
Into smiles

With songs of the birds up high
Looking at the blue blue skies
The wind as it rushes by

Then leading me
Guiding me
Walking beside me
She helped me to walk in the light

And she built my house on a rock
And she lives all that she taught

And she is all that a woman should be
She put the music in me

I knew He was really there
He heard my child’s prayer
Answering from up above
She gave like a little stream
I was her sunbeam
And I felt my Savior’s love
I saw her kneel and pray
With our family every day
Listening to each whispered word

Gentle in deed and thought
All the things Jesus taught
Following promptings she heard

And she lives to
Search ponder pray
And she gives every day
So her thanks
Will always be thanks indeed

She put the music in me
Every tiny wings
Each little bird that sings
In the leafy treetops up high
And all creatures great and small
I know God made them all
Because of her sweet lullabies

And she’s like a star shining bright
And helps me to choose the right
And she gives me the hope of a life yet to be
She put the music in me

She is so good to me
Heavenly Father sent her to me
And she taught me to lift up my voice and sing
She put the music in me
She put the music in me

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Apples.  Caramel apples. Apple pie.  Apple Cider.  Apples crunchy and sweet, crisp and tart.

Did you know October is National Apple Month?

It is.  To celebrate, we've been singing apple songs around these parts.

My favorites:

Ring Around the Apple Tree
(tune: Ring Around the Rosies)

Ring around the apple tree
All full of apples
Shake it!
Shake it!
They all fall down.

10 Little Apples
(tune: 10 Little Indians)

1 little, 2 little, 3 little apples
4 little, 5 little, 6 little apples
7 little, 8 little, 9 little apples
on my apple tree.

Munch little, munch little, munch little apples!
Crunch little, crunch little, crunch little apples!
Bunch of little, bunch of little, bunch of little apples,
Good for you and me!

Five Little Apples
(tune: Five Little Monkeys)

Five little apples hanging in a tree
teasing Mr. Crawling Ant can't eat me
Along comes Mr. Crawling Ant quiet as can be
and he CHEWED that apple right out of that tree.
(continue with 4, 3, 2, 1 apples)

Apples Juicy and Round
(tune: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)

Apples juicy, apples round
On the trees and on the ground
Apples yellow, apples red
Apple juice or pie or bread
Apples crunch, apples sweet
Apples are so good to eat.

Enjoy the apples everybody!