Friday, December 24, 2010

Still, Still, Still

Ahhhh. I feel like I'm reacquainting myself with an old friend tonight. I hear the ticking of the clock on the wall to my right, gently telling me I should get some sleep, yet I remain curled up on the couch. I've dimmed down the computer screen monitor as far as it will go to make my eyes more comfortable. It's been a while since I've had the house to myself. It's so quiet. It's so still. It's so peaceful.

I remember, a few years ago, how uneasy I felt when Brian would work through nights at the hospital. It was a bit scary to be left alone to talk sense into myself when the house would creak and the squirrels would dance on the dark rooftop. I acclimatized, however, and began to enjoy the quiet nights. I often found myself sitting...just like this. Silently sifting through cluttered thoughts, filing them away into organized mind folders - many times the content of which would end up on this blog - and reflecting on the beautiful, and not so beautiful, aspects of my life.

Over the past three months, Brian's call schedule has lightened considerably. He is home practically every night, and it has been a wonderful adjustment to have to make. Because he's spent relatively few hours at home over the past many years, we have become quite good at spending time together. When he is home, he is by my side...doing dishes, making dinner, watching a movie, playing a game, sleeping. And, while this has been the center of my happiness, it has become fatal to my quiet nights alone.

He went to bed early tonight - a sure sign he must be fighting some bug - and I found myself sitting here. Surrounded by Christmas lights, smelling the hint of cinnamon in the air, reflecting on Christ, and feeling grateful enough for Him that I didn't stop the tear that rolled down my cheek.

What a perfect night to be quiet. On this silent night...this holy night. I silently celebrate my Savior.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Goodbye Autumn

Well, they did it. You'd think that after seeing the leaves change on the trees 28 years in a row, I could get through a fall season without being moved to tears by the beauty of it. But they get me, every year. This year it happened as I was driving down the road on my way to church a couple of weeks ago. I think the term 'breathtaking' must have been coined by someone driving down that North Carolina road during autumn. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, and I found myself wiping a tear as I pulled into the church parking lot. After church, I couldn't help from pulling the camera out in the beautiful autumn light and pointing it at my handsome baby.

The rain and wind are taking their toll on the straggling leaves. The vibrant beauty is gone. Only whispets of color remain. It's cold and it's drizzling.

Winter is coming.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lessons in my Cupboards

Six and a half years ago, I stood in front of our open kitchen cupboards and began unloading the precarious pile of clean, mismatched bowls and plates into open cardboard boxes. The remaining 10 pieces of breakable dishware were carefully wrapped so they would make it safely across the country and the rest of the plastic hodge-podge was piled around them. The green clearance bowls from Target (that had been microwaved so much they almost looked white), the two gigantic purple cups, the free little cups that came with a child's meal from Red Robin, the tiny blue juice cup... My life was simple, though I didn't know it at the time; I was happy and optimistic about the future; I had a bright, handsome husband and a new baby girl. I was excited that the new apartment we would be moving into had a dishwasher. (Our nice drinking glasses were on the verge of extinction because Brian's large hand was too much for the thin glass walls as he pushed the soapy rag to the bottom.) The thought of not having to wash sinks full of dirty, mismatched dishes by hand was liberating.


A few nights ago, the phone rang at 10:10. A worried friend on the other end told me that her husband was four hours late and wasn't answering his cell phone. She was frightened that something had happened to him as he was riding his bike home through the shady part of town and asked if I could come sit at her apartment with the sleeping baby so she could go out looking for him. I arrived 25 minutes later, gave her a hug, and sent her out the door. I turned around to survey the apartment and actually smiled when I saw the sink full to the brim with dirty dishes. Dirty, mismatched dishes. It wasn't long before I plunged my hands into warm, soapy water and my mind filled with the memories of who I was six and a half years ago.


The kitchen cupboards in my new apartment looked much like the cupboards in my old apartment. And the dishwasher was everything I had hoped for! I unloaded the cardboard boxes into the open kitchen cupboards and smiled as I placed the last mug with the other mugs, glasses, and plastic cups. Someday, I thought, maybe I'd like to get matching dishes.

Brian and I have been through much during these years in North Carolina. So much, in fact, that the number six and a half seems small and unrepresentative. Three pregnancies, friendships flourishing, our personalities and relationship solidifying, two newborns and the loss and burial of a third, the purchase and renovating of a house, friends leaving, changes in Brian's schedule from month to month, year to year... and all the while, learning more about ourselves and each other as we grow closer and closer to becoming one. I hardly remember the girl I was when I walked into our apartment that first Friday night in North Carolina.


My friend called as I was drying the last of the dishes. She had found her husband, asleep in the library, surrounded by textbooks. We laughed in relief and she promised to be home in a few minutes. I stacked the last plastic bowl on top of the others and smiled at the precarious pile. And, as I slid the last glass onto the shelf with the other cups, mugs and glasses, I paused and thought fondly on the time in my life when my cupboards looked the same.

When I got home, I opened my own cupboard. Over the six and a half years, my stacks of dishes have been refined. The lonely cups have been replaced, and the microwaved plastic thrown away. Now, everything has a defined place. Now, everything fits. The children section of the cupboard is tidy, colorful and fun. The grown-up section is classic, white and glass.
I paused and thought fondly on this time in my life.

Of course, I'm not saying that a kitchen cupboard and it's contents are representative of one's progression. (In fact, I sometimes envy you whose personalities are unruffled by a bit of disorder, and have even tried to become one of you. But, alas, I must be honest and admit that I thrive much better when my world is stacked in nice rows and columns.) But, for me, the transition of my cupboards strangely parallels the transition of myself. I am growing. I am being refined.

It's just sometimes hard to see when it's only one plastic cup at a time...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Knights save Princesses from Dragons...

I know, I know...sorry! I've been cornered by three of you so far about Halloween pictures, and you'll be happy to know that I chose today to post them. :)

I actually have a great reason why these photos are a bit belated. One of my best friends, Melissa, is an excellent photographer (in addition to being kind, generous and thoughtful) when she heard that a dear family in our ward was trying to raise money for a heart transplant for the father, she jumped in and volunteered to spend an evening doing mini photo shoots for anyone interested and donated 100% of the proceeds to the family in need. I signed up for one of the sessions 2.6 seconds after I read about it and took my kids to a gorgeous field the evening after Halloween to get some 'real' pictures of them in their Halloween glory. Yesterday, Melissa handed me a CD full of the most amazing pictures.

(I did crop this one because I thought the boys faces were just so precious...I hope you don't mind, Melissa!)

(Oh! I LOVE this one! Totally Carson. Totally.)

(I can't say I have a favorite - - - but this one might be it...)

(As we were watching the slideshow of these pictures as a family, McKenzie saw this one and said, "Oh! That's it!" She thinks she looks absolutely beautiful in this picture. I agree, and hope with everything I have that she can keep a little of that image confidence as she gets older.)

So you see, I had no motivation to post my own Halloween pictures of the kids when I knew these were coming. :) Anyway - if any of you are looking for a photographer in the area, I would highly recommend her! She's spunky, fun, and (obviously) very talented. She took a wandering 16 month old, a distractable 4 year old, and a I-can't-give-you-a-real-smile-because-I'm-concentrating-so-hard-on-this-fake-one 6 year old and turned out these beautiful pictures. :) Check her out!

These silly kids came up with this theme all on their own. I thought it was brilliant in light of their personalities and after a couple of borrowed costumes and a sheer curtain turned into a flowing cape, this Halloween was the easiest one yet! And DEFINITELY the most fun, as my parents were in town for it. Here we are, carving pumpkins:

(Carson, putting the 'puzzle' back together...)

We all went trick-or-treating on Saturday night, and then had a candy party on Sunday while we waited for the other trick-or-treaters to come to the door.

We laughed all night long...especially when I opened my tootsie-roll to find this....

Until next year! Happy Halloween. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lessons, Learning, and Camping

Put me in a tent in the middle of the forest, surrounded by hiking trails and bright stars, and I will always expect to have a good time. There's something about the outdoors that has always tugged on my soul, and I've listened to it with varying levels of attentiveness over the years. Dating back to my childhood days of making mud-pies and catching grasshoppers with my best friend, Tony, I have almost always preferred to be outside. Sitting inside to play Barbies with my sister, Michelle = pure torture. I always imagined my future family to be quite outdoorsy.

Well, here I am - in the middle of my future family - and we're not even close to what I imagined in this regard. Sometimes I mourn this imaginary family... this hiking, biking, camping, running, swimming family I thought I would be a part of. This past July, as I was giving poor Brian an (another) earful about how I would love it if he would take us camping more often, and suggest family hikes on Saturday mornings, and get himself a bike so we could hitch up the baby trailer, and teach McKenzie to ride on two wheels, I started to listen to myself talk...and it was ugly. I realized that it was completely and totally unfair of me to expect him to fulfill my dream of being an active, outdoorsy family.

So, I took it into my own hands. If I wanted to be outdoorsy, then I needed to make it happen. The kids and I started hiking down to the river a couple times a week. I went to Target and bought a bike pump for my tires, assembled and vacuumed out the bike trailer (which had accumulated quite a few spiders and bug carcasses in it's long hibernation in our storage shed), and we went on bike rides together almost every afternoon. We took walks in the late afternoon as we waited for our dinner to finish cooking, and for Daddy to get home from work. I learned to ignore the sweat rings forming beneath my arms and to embrace the sweaty sock smell once we returned to the house. Being outside so much was beautifully refreshing!

Already on an outdoors high, I was thrilled to learn that the mountains were the same distance from our house as from the Aldriches new house in Atlanta. It was the perfect excuse to plan a camping trip out there to meet our favorite people! I'd never planned a camping trip before, so it didn't go off without a hitch...but it was lovely, and we've decided to make it an annual tradition. (And, that's where all of these pictures are coming from...)

I've learned a few things over the course of these few months...
*McKenzie has amazing willpower, even in the face of peer pressure. If she does not want to get entirely wet in the freezing cold lake, then she won't. Case closed. She was the only child who didn't even attempt to get wet much above her knees.

LOVE the kids faces in this one! Most of them had just come out of the water on a
dunking dare...and that water was so, so freezing!

*Carson, though uncomfortable, will succumb to the least partially.

*You should never, EVER, ask me to eat another brussel sprout.

*I should not practice on a walking toddler with my camera on the full manual setting. I'm not that quick...

*And most importantly, I cannot, and should not, expect others to fulfill my dreams. I'm not exactly sure why I had the notion that the man of the house should be in charge of family outdoor outings...maybe because that's how it worked in the environment I grew up in...but I have been much happier since I've let him off the hook and taken charge of my own desires. Plus, I've seen that when I'm not focused on the things I want him to do, it's much easier for me to see all the helpful, wonderful things he already is doing. He's terrific at making sure the dishes don't pile up, and he happily puts the kids to bed every night...

Here's to many more fun, outdoor activities!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Phantom Feelings

I read somewhere that you can hold your breath longer if you make yourself hyperventilate right before taking in the last breath. So even though I may have looked strange standing on the curb breathing in and out as fast as possible, I did have a purpose. The baby inside of me was changing my body and my emotions in many uncomfortable, unfamiliar ways - and the one way I grew to hate the most was the nausea. I found it cruel that pregnancy heightened my sense of smell to a nauseous level, and the last thing I wanted to do was vomit on campus. But there was that building. That one big, beautiful business building with the mystery smell that churned my stomach every time I got close...and my choir class was inside it.

So, I hyperventilated. And just as I drew in my last breath I made my way quickly across the street, into the foyer, down the stairs, across the atrium and through the double doors into my choir class where the clean air in my lungs gushed out, and my breathing pattern resumed to normal with the smelly air. The smell wasn't quite strong enough - once I was deep into the classroom - to make me vomit anymore, but I could count on being miserably nauseated those 5 hours every week. The thing I didn't count on, however, was being nauseated by that building every time I got close for the rest of my BYU education. Even after my sweet baby girl was born and growing, I still couldn't get near that smell without wrinkling up my nose in response to a stomach churn. I suspect it would still be the same today.

This is weird to me.

The other day I was finishing up my scrapbook for 2008 (which is why I've been missing in action on the blogger front). I was just finishing up December - in which I was almost done with my first trimester with Miles - and by the time I was done scrapbooking, I felt terrible! I had come across a few pictures that reminded me of just how awful pregnancy is.

Christmas eve, while the rest of my family had a princess tea party, I put my head down on the table and pretended to be involved.

And, we have a total of 7 pictures of Christmas Day. This is one of them. Let me tell you that it is NOT in my personality to be comfortable sleeping in the middle of the day - ever - and especially surrounded by such a mess!

Blech. I'm starting to feel ill again - how weird! It's got to be mental by this point, so how come I can't control it? Is this normal? Do any of you feel the same way sometimes? Maybe next time I start feeling baby-hungry, I should just look at these pictures again...the sick feeling is strong enough to make me think logically about the whole situation!

Anyway - even though my scrapbook ended on a terrible note, it's done and on it's way to my house as I type this. So my blogging should return to normal now. . . . because you care, right?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Kid

You are beautiful. Inside...outside...everything-in-between side. As your sixth tooth fell out this morning, my heart started accepting the fact that you're really not a little kid anymore. Somewhere in the business of life, you dropped the 'little' and started encompassing the 'kid'. I get it now. I get that soon you'll be a big kid...and sooner you'll be a tween...and soonest you'll be a teenager.

But, for today, you're a kid.

My kid.

I love this you. This starting-to-understand-real-life you. You approached me this morning while I was in a meeting and quietly waited by my side until I finished what I was saying to the other ladies around the table. "Excuse me," you said, "may I have a chip?" I didn't realize you had been listening the thousands of times I asked you not to interrupt me...

We went shopping the other day, and I sincerely took your fashion advice. You had adult-like reasons for your choices...and, besides, I think we both have just as much sense as the other when it comes to fashion. I had fun, McKenzie. Real fun with you.

But, by far, the experience that has touched me the most about your personality lately was watching your pure, innocent joy as your brother learned to ride his two-wheeler bike. Not 24 hours after you took your own training wheels off, you were right by Carson's side with praise and encouragement. I watched with mild discomfort as the neighbors gushed over Carson's accomplishment in your presence - worried that you would feel the thunder behind your own accomplishment stolen away. But you never hung your head. You never looked angry. Instead of feeling jealous, you felt pride and happiness for your little brother. Days later, I watched you run to a friend and exclaim, "Guess what my brother can do?!"... and it touched me to tears. Well, worked hard to be able to ride on two wheels, too! I'm proud of you for that. But I'm mostly proud of you for the heartfelt support you gave your brother in what could have been a frustrating time for you.

This may be the best phase (though I admittedly say that about every new phase you enter). Your independence is strengthening, your mind is hungering for and swelling with knowledge, your greatest desire is to make me happy, you delight in the time we spend together. We play house (even though I mostly insist on being the maid who needs to get the dishes done), and learn the piano together. We paint our fingernails and toenails while listening to Junie B. Jones in the CD player. And when I laugh at a funny part, that makes you laugh even harder. There are moments of calm sadness when I think of the cute little snippets of you that have been left behind...but I genuinely relish in your growth.

I am so proud of who you are.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Anyone else see a resemblance?

I think he fits right in.....

Friday, September 10, 2010

I can't find it...

...but it's there. It's certainly there. Making itself known every time I step into the entryway; greeting every visitor who comes inside.

The smell.

The smell of death and dying and decomposing and disgusting.

I can't find it...but it's there.

I spent two hours (two hours) yesterday moving couches, tearing apart closets, emptying baskets, pulling up rugs, washing fabric. And it's still...THERE!

What IS it? WHERE is it? Brian says the crawl-space is clear and free from any rotting carcasses; it doesn't seem to be coming in through the vents; that leaves the attic...something might be dead up there - - - but we can't get up there without a long ladder, which we don't have. And then, what if that ends up being clear? What's the next step? Ripping down the walls?

Oh dear.

My olfactory system and I are not happy right now. *sniff*

Any ideas?