Feels Like Home

It’s 5:03 am, and the kicking, flopping, gently snoring boy who crawled in bed with me shortly after the witching-hour has finally driven me out and up. My eyes sting in the pre-dawn dark while I feel around for some socks, and I pad down the hallway to steal a fluffy blanket from Jeffrey’s bed. The boys have haphazardly draped a string of colored Christmas lights around their window and over their desk, and the room is bathed in a soft, low rainbow- it reminds me of the Christmas bath, and I am glad- I will string those lights around the bathroom later today.

Warm air pours from the floor vents as the heater kicks on quietly somewhere under my stocking feet. Standing idly in the kitchen, dragging Jeffrey’s blanket and holding my laptop, I click on my star light in the kitchen window. My mind is slow and groggy still, the the tiny golden stars the lamp throws over the walls and ceiling decorate everything in the room-including me- with a quiet calm.  Blue flames beautifully ignite with the turn of a knob, and soon my teakettle is humming and I am grateful firewood and stoking cast iron are not part of this sub-zero morning for me.

If I let myself, the weight of the day could settle on my shoulders- there are always things that need my attention- too many things. Yet I have found an odd and surprising balance in faith. If I tabulate and correlate and focus on all the things that I cannot get to or ever get done, the entire focus of my life is on where I am falling short. Surely some things require attention- but I am finding the things that are actually important are far fewer than one imagines. Shelter, love, food, direction and faith. I’ve got that covered– in spades. Most months, I have no idea how we are going to make it- but the last year has taught me that somehow, every month, we do. And so I have stopped worrying so fiercely- because it always works out. It’s like standing on a ball-  if I think about it too much, I will fall. Faith colors my gratitude with familiarity.

My teakettle rumbles importantly to itself brings me back to my kitchen. A cloud of seam billows up as the peppermint and chamomile mix with the drizzle of honey in the bottom of my favorite Japanese teacup. Cradling my cup in my hands, I click the tree lights on with the button on the floor, and the living room is drenched in rainbow lights and comfort. The kids were right to replace The Faker’s classy white lights with this gentle rainbow. It feels good. It feels like home.

The Halls Be Decked, Babies

Fakey Fakerson was hauled up from the basement by two very enthusiastic boys, and after Mama fought with the now four-year old fritzy pre-lighting, I took the wire clippers to the dang thing and just cut them off. The kids talked me into colored lights since we were revamping anyway, et voila, FF stands tall and multi-colored.

A harbinger of things to come, Jeffrey spent most of our decorating time on the phone with a friend, and then was disgruntled when his brother and sister hit up all the best ornaments, leaving him with the stuffed Santas and candy canes.

Speaking of- this is what Bean and Abby considered fine decorating. Yes, those are ornaments hanging on other ornaments and Abby thought each hook should have at least three ornaments for spectacular shine and glamour.

After everyone was in bed, I may or may not have moved a few things around. I admit nothing.

While the Dandelion lamp might be out of  my current grasp, this fantabulous star lamp was a gift and I am loving it hanging over my kitchen sink. It makes me simply happy, for no reason in particular.

Jeffrey snapped this picture of Bean, and I love it because he’s actually looking at the camera AND allowing me to hug him… Happy decking everyone!

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful…

This is what our Thanksgiving looked like here in the stormy, snowy northwest. I know- crazy huh? In a vain attempt to find Bean one of the many times I lost him today in my friend’s fantastic house (basketball court in the basement, anyone?) I climbed a few staircases and found this charming dormer window out of which I snapped this photograph. It stayed in the teens almost all day, and never stopped snowing- Bean was so excited to sled down that mountain that he never ate anything all day. Which I’m sure by now you can imagine how that ended up for us… We got home safe and sound, and are now happily onto thinking about Christmas. And by the way, my friends fixed a prime rib for dinner, and I am of the humble opinion that it kicks turkey’s butt. There are no pictures of Jeff or Bean, as they were involved in an all-day long game of basket-dodge ball, but here is Abby, set and ready for dinner about an hour before anyone else:

Gracious Plenty

Today my children will be zipping down a friend’s mountain on luge-like sledding trails, while I share cooking duties in a warm steamy kitchen with my dear friends who’ve gathered us into their homes and lives. The children will come in with rosy cheeks and frozen fingers, and there will be a pile of sodden snowy parkas in the mudroom, while we warm little hands with mugs of cocoa and giggles fill the house. We are baking more than a turkey with these time-honored rituals and feasting of thanks- we are sharing our lives, creating a communion of souls that does as much to bind us as a people and family as the sacred ordinances of our holy houses.

I am grateful for hearts so immensely capable of love, and I am grateful for the hope of forgiveness and divinity found therein. I am grateful for the community in which I live and for the online community and friends that I have come to love- because both enrich my life in uncountable and entirely real ways.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you… Blessings upon you and yours today.




Wintery Brain Dump

My head is spinning- how is it possible that Thanksgiving is only a day away? When I ran to the market today, I found myself standing before giant picked-over racks of traditional Turkey-day fare, and was stunned to realized that I didn’t still have weeks to prepare. Usually by Thanksgiving, I’ve already got the Christmas music out (although it must wait until after dinner is over and the dishes are being done to be played) and am chomping at the bit to put the tree up. This year? Complete blank.

It’s really the end of November already. Wow. I look idly out my frost-laced front window at the drifts of powdery snow accumulating around the swing-set, all evidence of winter. Is it really supposed to snow this much before Thanksgiving? It’s crazy cold, and I realized today, as I watched my really nice neighbor take his snow-blower to my driveway, that I don’t think I even have a shovel to dig out. X took all the garage stuff and tools- everything. At the market, instead of buying stuffing and can-shaped cranberry sauce (gross!), I picked up a bag of ice-melt for the walkway. It was the typical nightmare in the market with Bean, and we got out of there as soon as humanly possible.

I let each of the kids pick a treat- Bean and Jeffrey both opted for a doughnut. Chocolate old-fashioned, if you’re keeping score. Abby? My darling daughter, instead of a doughnut, chose a wedge of Boursin cheese and some water crackers. I kid you not. I was so proud. Only now she smells to high heaven like garlicky French cheese and she wants to sit in my lap while I read my homework. We may have to have a talk about moderation in all things…

Finals are coming up- I think I’m well prepared- my grades have been better than good, and other than spacing one discussion during parent/teacher conference week (that’s this week, because no one has anything else to do right before Thanksgiving, right?) I’m right on target to repeat summer’s grades.

My brother is coming up to visit this weekend with his new girlfriend and her small son. It’s been too long since I’ve had any real time with my brother, and I miss him like crazy. The kids don’t know yet, just in case the insane blizzardy the northwest derails his plans. Also- shhhhhh!- but not only is Auntie Heather (yay!) coming up in two weeks, but she just got engaged to a terrific guy. We are so insanely happy for her, and are doing a happy dance about seeing her radiant face.

Harry Potter has completely taken over all spare synapses in my children’s brains. They cut apart the shock-poles to our tent the other night because the segments looked like wands. What could I do? Wigging out just seemed like a waste of energy, so I cut apart the other one and gave them all spare wands, too. They chase each other around the house in billowing black capes and Abby tells everyone her name is Professor McGonagall. Jeffrey, of course, is the house Prefect. Bean runs around being as much trouble to everyone as he can possibly muster.

We’ve been invited to a lot of people’s homes for Thanksgiving… once again, my ward is stellar and amazing, and we are never without hands reaching out to love us.  We’re opting to drive to some friends how live up the mountain, and the kids are really hoping they can hit the crazy sledding trails on their property. It’s not supposed to get above freezing this week, so betting on snow and sledding is an easy win. Then we have another invitation for dessert that I hope we can make later in the evening. Should be a full day. But I sure do miss my family. And Mo. This is the first Thanksgiving we’ve not had together since we met.

Going to read yet another chapter in Harry Potter, send the kids to dreamland, and finish a paper I’ve been chipping away at all day. Maybe I’ll see if I can find the Christmas music tomorrow…

Sunday Gratitude

My ward is the best ward on the planet. The people who surround me and my children are honestly some of the best human beings I’ve ever known- they are kind, thoughtful, helpful and consistently wonderful to us. My children are never forgotten in activities and chaos, and there are a multitude of people who simply stop in to offer love and help- every time I turn around. It actually astounds me and leaves me a little breathless with awe when I stop and think about how well we are watched over.

The women I visit-teach are willing to come to my house when my child care falls through yet again, and my own visiting teachers are kind and generous and are happy to take a kid to scouts, grab Abby for me, or just come by and hang out around my kitchen table with me. It seems like every time I turn around there is someone wonderful at my door with some gift or note or just a smile and a hug. I am grateful beyond measure.

Today at church, my Relief Society president stopped me in the hall, and leaned in and said “Tracy!” she grinned, “You… are… smokin’!” I was alternately embarrassed and completely flattered- I mean really, what woman doesn’t want to hear that at some point in her life?? It was a small thing, but a compliment is a compliment and  it totally made my day.

I got pulled out of Relief Society because Bean was utterly out of control in primary- but even that was done with such love. He has teachers who strive to understand him and deal with him with love and compassion.

When I got home from church to find a message from X canceling his visitation in an hour, there was also a message from my Home Teachers, saying they would be by tonight, not only to fix a draft in the backdoor, but to watch my kids because there is a (gulp!) Single Adult fireside tonight. The kids didn’t even bat an eye- on either message. They are fine and secure in the love of so many people. And, I guess I’m getting pushed out of the nest, ready or not, and am going to attend my first single adult night at church.  Wish me luck!

I know there is nothing on Earth we could have done to deserve such amazing love, and I am grateful for the vastness of the human heart and its infinite ability to chose to love. So thank you, my ward family, for being examples in every way. There is still no way for me to even begin to pay it forward but the examples I have of what true love and service look like are abundant and real.

Medusa’s Heart

Most of the time lately, I cruise along just fine. Better than fine, actually. It feels like so much hard stuff is behind me now- and while I still have hard stuff in front, it’s hard stuff of my choosing, and not someone else’s mess anymore. I’m not foolish enough to think it’s all smooth sailing from here, but I’ve been in such a hard season for so long, and I know seasons change- so it can’t stay this way forever.

I’m in school. As a matter of fact, I’m killing it at school- I have a grad program picked out and a better than fair shot of getting admitted. There is even a potential plan post grad school, in two short years, about which I am reservedly excited. My kids are doing pretty well- I mean, they act like regular kids, which is a good thing, right? We have Little House, and a paid-for working, decent car. The roof doesn’t leak and we live in the best ward in the entire world. My kids have great teachers and wonderful friends, and I do too. I have intellectual pursuits and grown-up stuff that brings me happiness and satisfaction.

So how come, sometimes, when I have a difficult day, do I still feel like I have failed? Tonight, I was talking with a good friend, and he gently pointed out- the way only a good friend can- that I needed to stop beating myself up for marrying David. It stopped me short and suddenly my eyes were swimming with hot tears. Because he was right. There is a tiny part of me that secretly feels if only I had done more, tried harder, been better… that somehow, I would not have lost everything. There is a tiny part that feels I should have known better when I chose whom I married- like I should have seen and heeded signs that I missed. And I blame myself.  Intellectually, I understand the folly of that thinking- I understand and recall all too well how not true reality makes that idea. And yet it’s still there,  like a rusty, forgotten bucket that I trip on in the dark.

I don’t know how to fix this. If I know what needs doing, I am unflinching and fearless about tackling it. But this? Here? I have no idea how heal that part of my heart.  Bitterness has mercifully been absent from me for most of this process-  a fact for which I am profoundly grateful. I don’t want bitterness within a country mile of my heart… but how do I cull the seeds of rust from that old bucket and keep my heart supple and open? How do I keep my heart from turning to stone? How do I forgive myself?

The Reality of Snowfall and Children

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination — Next stop, the Twilight Zone.

Here is how the morning should have gone:

We got our first dusting of snow last night, so when the kids woke up and pulled aside the drapes, they were instantly in a race to pull on their boots and caps and see who could hurl the first snowball. Standing at the kitchen window, pancakes on the griddle behind me, I watch dreamily as my children laugh and roll in the snow- snow hardly deep enough for a angel, but they try anyway, and the green blades of fall grass punctuate their efforts. Then they trotted happily off to school, and I continued on with my well-planned and full day…

Here is how the morning actually went:

“Hey MOM! Look! It snowed!!!” Bean yanked aside the curtain, and immediately burst into ridiculously huge tears- in the snow outside the window was his peacock feather he planted earlier this summer in hopes of growing a peacock. (we clearly need further light and knowledge in biology) The bright iridescent feather was soggy and flopped down into the mulch of the flower bed, and Bean’s cries were gaining in strength and giant tears rolled down his face to accompany his howls. I’m still in my pajamas, but the feather must be rescued, or this is going to get a whole lot worse.

The feather now pressed between paper towels and lying over a heater vent, the boys scarf their breakfast and ready to run outside. Only no one can find anything- no coats, no hats, no gloves. My numbskull first son actually goes outside barefoot while I am crawling through their closet searching for boots, and Bean runs out in his pajamas. As I’m digging around for their boots and mittens, the pancakes, forgotten and neglected, fry on the griddle and the smoke alarm’s shrill scream yanks me backwards out of the closet.

I rip the pan from the stove and watch the plume of sizzling steam as I turn the faucet on- and realize the heater is on and the front door is wide open. The boys are pelting each other with sloppy snowballs, and are still not dressed properly. I may have muttered something unseemly. Abby is walking around with one boot on, a pair of leggings and a t-shirt with a tiara and a Darth Vader cape.  Yelling for the boys to get here before I commit infanticide, I send Abby in search of her other boot.

The boys tumble in the door, laughing, soaked and dripping all over the kitchen. I mopped the floor last night of course, and now puddles of melting snow mixed with mulch and grass clippings form a trail from the front door, through the kitchen, down the hall and into their bedroom. They are giddy and oblivious, and I’m dangerously close to saying some naughty and choice words.

Abby is keening  and wailing dramatically from her bedroom to add her voice to the cacophony- she cannot find her boot, and is devastated that she has missed the slushy fun. Breakfast is burned, the smoke alarm has finally stopped, and the boys are pulling on their school clothes.- shorts and t-shirts seem like a good idea to their pea brains, and I send them back to try again, while I pop leftovers in the microwave for Jeff and Abby’s breakfast and another English muffin in the toaster for Bean.

I stepped in a puddle of melted snow with my sock-feet.

Jeffrey cannot find his new jacket. The one we got yesterday. He thinks he left it at school, and Bean’s backpack is utterly missing. Going into their room, I start to riffle through stuff, looking under the bed- oh my hell. THAT’s where all the socks are! And granola bar wrappers, and a banana- really guys? a banana?!!- and about five million Lego pieces.  I do find a stocking cap.  Sitting cross-cross on their floor, I look around: It’s clear Bean was looking for some reading material, because every single book on the bookshelf is on the floor in a dog-eared heap. The desk in covered- literally covered in Lego pieces of art- each of which is precious and irreplaceable. Jeffrey had emptied his dresser drawer looking for a certain shirt and his bed was strewn with his cast-offs, which would inevitably now be mixed in with the dirty laundry.

Abby is still wandering around in one boot, only now the Vader cape is replaced with a white fur vest and the tiara with a glitter headband.

Their ride honks in the driveway, and chaotic gaggle of boy-children roll towards the back door, missing coats and gloves, backpacks unzipped and leaving a swath of destruction behind them.  I shut the door and lean against it, looking up a the ceiling, and reach over and throw the deadbolt.

I still can’t find Abby’s boot.