Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weary Mother's Prayer

The last few months have been challenging for me. I have struggled to be the mother my kids deserve.  But you know what's sort of amazing about kids?  They love me anyway.  They still would rather be next to me than anywhere else in the world most of the time.

I pray that they'll remember the nights we sat and read our scriptures and said a prayer together and had lots of hugs before bed, and let the memories of the nights I sent them to bed abruptly, without any of that, fade away.

I pray that they'll remember making Christmas fudge and personal Valentines, and the favorite dinners on the days I had a little more time, and not cling to the too many nights lately that I've relied on grilled cheese sandwiches and frozen burritos to fill everyones' tummies.

Let them remember the handmade Halloween costumes that took hours to sew, not the week after week of "Sorry, I'll patch them next week" when they pulled out a favorite pair of jeans in the morning, only to realize they still had a big hole in the knee.

Let them remember the quiet moments at the table working through a challenging homework problem together, or the moments that I sat down and read them a favorite book, more clearly than they remember the moments I snapped at them to just get it done already, I'm so tired.

May they take more from the days we do chores together with patience and success than from the days that we impatiently snap and criticize over what's not done, or how its been done.

May they always believe me when I wrap my arms around them and tell them I love them, even though we all know there are times when I am less than great at showing it.

May I keep myself mindful of the fact that Mother Guilt makes me view my own failures and insufficiencies as being both more severe and more frequent than they really are, and that when I kneel down to pray,  the Lord reassures me that I'm doing better than I think I am.  Discouragement and unnecessary self-criticism are the enemies of productivity and cheerfulness.

Remember that the scars you bare from giving your children mortal life mirror the scars the Savior bares from bringing them immortal life.  He is always with you to assist you in the powerful work you do as a mother to these developing souls.  When you spend the night restless with worry or fear over your kids, remember that the Savior spent a anguished night alone, while all those who loved him slept,  pleading with our Father to take the pain away, if possible.  But the greatest works in the universe--those that bring the greatest joys--come with the exercise of agency, and so cannot be completed without pain.  But remember that his pain can swallow yours up, his fatigue was overcome so that he might succor you in yours, and you are loved more than you can imagine.  You are never alone in this tremendous work, and you are doing better than you think.

Monday, June 23, 2014


My mom has been saying for some time
that she will be "old"
when these babies turn 30:
We will hit that milestone
later this week.
I have a hard time seeing my mom as old.
I wish I were going to be hanging out with these two
on Wednesday.
At any rate,
I was just thinking today what good fortune it is
that these are the first two people I knew in this world.
30 years after arriving here
They're still two of my favorite people
and definitely two of the people
that have loved me most
and best.
Whenever I hear the line
"We all come into this world alone"
I smile
and think to myself,
"I didn't"
I'm tremendously grateful for that.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Papa and Grandma are up for a visit. . .

Doug's dad and step-mom got here this afternoon.
It didn't take the little girls very long
to make themselves comfortable.
They're both big believers in the virtues of cuddling.
Papa was happy to oblige them.

We decided to head just over the hill to Phillipsburg,
where there is a giant candy store
called The Sweet Palace.
It is well named.
The kids each got a bag.
There are 1100 different kinds of candy in the store
(counting all the different flavors
of made-on-location
taffy, fudge and caramels).
I told them each to pick 10. 

Whoever coined the phrase
"Happy as a kid in a candy store"
probably had something like this in mind.

The kids helped Papa and Dad pick out some "grown up" candy.
Truffles.  The good stuff.
I got an orange cream and a lemon cream.
I haven't eaten the orange yet.
The lemon was practically perfect.
The little chunk of rocky road was pretty awesome, too.

Its been quite a good day,
and it sounds like we're off to Great Falls in the morning,
for a visit to the Lewis and Clark interpretive center,
and maybe CM Russell gallery
and Giant Springs.
Lots of visiting.
More tomorrow.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shifting Focus

I'm at the laundromat (again) engaged in a study of human behavior, and why wars break out when resources are scarce.  Not really. Well, sort of.  Our washer has been on the fritz for about 6 weeks, and I am not terribly mechanically inclined (which wouldn't be a big deal except that I can't find an owner's manual, either in our house or online, and since I am not terribly mechanically inclined, I need diagrams and drawings for such thing), and Doug hasn't fixed it yet, so I'm trying to get the laundry done before another busy weekend.  But to do all the laundry for six people (and it hasn't even been a full week yet) I need five washing machines, minimum.  Another woman got here at the same time as me and promptly filled up four of them.  Two are broken.  That leaves me with three.  Which means that in order to get all my laundry done tonight, I'm going to have to stay here twice as long as I planned.  And even though logically I know better, some part of me was convinced that she must be a horrible, horrible human being and I wanted to throw all her wet laundry on the floor and take her washers for myself.  Not really.  Well, sort of.  Just a teeny, tiny part of me.  It might've gotten bigger when I realized two of her loads were on a pre-soak.

I'm tired.  A couple of the kids had check ups and shots this morning at 8, and then story/craft time at the library at 10:30, then home for lunch and chores, and then a couple of hours at the pool, where of course I got sunburned.  It was only 65* and partly cloudy, so I forgot to put sunscreen on everyone.  Rookie mistake, Becky.  You know better.  Then home to make dinner and do a few more chores, then off the the laundromat, which I find terribly annoying.  And, well, to be frank, its just been a long damn year.  The longness and the damnedness of it has sort of all settled on me this week:  I've found myself lethargic and demotivated.  And when I'm lethargic and demotivated, it tends to make me angry.  I don't do well with low-productivity, at least as I define it.  Today brought more fun news.  I'm tired.

So I realized, just about the time the washing-maching-stealing-lady left--LEFT--while her clothes were washing and I had a golden opportunity to throw her wet clothes on the folding table and claim the washers for Clarkdom, that maybe my focus is a little off.

Today, there has been much to be grateful for.  After a week of cold rain, the big blue skies full of impossibly white cumulus clouds--the sky I missed so much during our years in California--was back to its full glory, and the house was warm again. We met the pediatrician at the office we go to for the first time this morning (we usually see the NP), and he was a great fit for Dylan.  My kids are ridiculously healthy, and have delightfully boring personal and family health histories.  They all handle shots like CIA agents who've been trained to withstand Chinese interrogations.  The library in our little town puts together a wonderful summer reading program for the kids.  Despite the fact that some of them are paid very little and the rest of them aren't paid at all, they seem to genuinely love reading to and interacting with the kids and planning the activities.  We got to spend a couple of hours playing in a heated pool, with the older kids going down slides and off the diving board, and the little girls hanging out with me, jumping and trying to swim.  Everybody laughed a lot.

And then when I got here, as I was making my way toward the steps and the door with three loads of laundry in my arms, an older man standing outside the bar next door put down his cigarette and jogged over to open the door for me. With a great big smile.  He didn't have to do that.  A lot of people wouldn't have even noticed.  Or maybe a lot of them would.  I think that sometimes we don't give our fellow human beings enough credit.  I really think most people try to be good and decent.  I think people would probably smile more if I looked them in the eye more.

Its been really quite a wonderful day.  I wish I had noticed sooner. I've had a lot of really wonderful days, and parts of days, and moments this year.  I need to be better at writing them down.

Because gratitude gives me peace and makes me happy.  Gratitude and service are the only successful antidotes I've ever found to frustration, impatience, or--God forbid--self pity.

I'm sitting next to a wall of picture windows.  The sun is shining, the sky is a perfect baby blue, and I'm alone, all quiet save for the hum of washing machines.  That's not such a bad way to spend an evening, after all.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


My sister took this photo of our dad last year, but if I dug around long enough, I'm sure I could find dozens of other versions of it from over the years, including several I've taken.  This is the image that always comes to mind when I think of my dad:  lying on his side in the grass, notebook and/or camera near by, and children playing somewhere close, just out of frame.  Though I didn't consciously realize it while growing up, he did a wonderful job teaching me to see, and, by noticing what was around me, to think about those things which were important but not immediately visible.  He taught me to love quiet and observation, and to love making conscious sense of those things around me which were good and beautiful, why they mattered, and to record them.  Those are some of the skills I now cherish most in my life.

I always think of my dad as a quiet man.  Once, when we were teenagers, an adult acquaintance asked my twin brother and I if our dad ever talked, and we both immediately laughed in response.  We had often heard Dad talk at tremendous length about all kinds of interesting things.  But he only speaks if he has something to say.  He seems to approach words the same way that my grandmother saw food:  it was good to eat well each day, and to feast occasionally; but it was sinful to waste and throw away that which could be used to nourish and sustain.

Dad has always had a somewhat subversive sense of humor.  He believes in a higher order, in rules governed by Goodness, but has never hesitated to oppose the pettiness of bureaucrats and political administrators.  He taught me that it was OK to laugh at authority when that authority was, in fact, ridiculous.  As a little girl who was naturally inclined to please and tended to fear upsetting the adults in my life, that is perhaps one of the most important lessons he imparted to me in my childhood.  A few months ago, I thought of him when my little Kylie had a nightmare.  She came to me with tears and explained that we were with Strawberry Shortcake and everyone had to follow the evil Pie Man's mean orders.  I asked, "We did?" and her little face got firm and brave through her tears and she said, "Well, everyone else did, but we didn't.  We didn't follow his mean orders."  And I thought to myself, "Ok, we're passing on the right lessons.  Papa would be proud."

I always knew I could count on Dad with the big stuff.  When I ran a car off an icy road in December, I called him and not only was he not upset, he showed up in his truck, with a smile on his face, and pulled me out of the ditch and then followed me home to make sure I made it back alright.  When I applied to several very expensive universities my senior year of high school, he enthusiastically encouraged me to attend any one of them that I wanted, assuring me that we'd figure out how to make the financial end work if that's what I wanted to do.  But he's been good at a lot of the little stuff, too.  Often, I've mentioned a book I was interested in, or some tool I needed for the house, and a few days later an amazon package would arrive.  When we lived with my parents, sometimes one of my kids would wander into his office late at night, and he'd share his snacks and let them talk with him.  I think every one of my kids has planted flowers with him at some point, and learned some of the names of his thousands of beautiful flowers, and some of the birds that hang around all those flowers and trees.

My kids are too little yet to understand how much work goes in to making Papa's yard so beautiful, but I'm not.  As I watch my kids and my nieces and nephews run around the gardens and climb the trees, pick flowers in the spring and apples in the fall, and create day after day of happy memories in the little Eden he has created around and for them, I'm grateful to have a father who loves his family, who has shown us all that, no matter how beautiful the place you've found in this world is, you can do much to improve on its beauty.  I'm grateful for all the he has done to make the lone and dreary world much less lone and far less dreary for his tribe.  Its much easier to create beauty as an adult if you are taught to recognize it as a child.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


That's right, we've hit double digits, people!  
This wonderful little girl is 10 today:

Keilana is giggles and jumping,
novel-reading and card-making.
She's a bit of a scrub at heart,
preferring sweats to real pants,
unbrushed hair to fixed hair,
and doesn't mind a bit of dirt so much.
But that's mostly because she loves adventure,
and outside play,
and one must be comfortable for such pursuits,
after all.
She's full of spontaneity and wanderlust,
and when Daddy asks,
"Who wants to go for a drive?"
Keilana is always IN.
She loves the water and is a bit of a fish,
usually having to be dragged out when its time to go.
She loves to be outside,
whether in sunshine or snow.
She came into the world anxious
to see and experience all of it,
seemingly concerned she might miss out on something.
She's a treasure collector,
with little stashes of stuff-and-things
in the drawers of her desk,
the corners of her bed,
the shelves of her clothing,
the cubbies in her locker.
She's tender-hearted, sensitive,
but resilient.
She has a great desire to do good
and isn't afraid to speak up about what's important to her.
She is the oldest child in the family,
and she takes the responsibility seriously,
looking out for her baby sisters,
and helping them with tasks their littler hands struggle with.
She's outgoing and friendly,
with a tremendous love for people
and a desire to please.
She's always scribbling in notebooks
and laughing way too loud.
We wouldn't have her any other way.