Saturday, October 31, 2015

Remember the good, and be happy

Mmmmmmm... my kids.  Whenever we move I feel grounded amidst the chaos of New come the first June 11 in that new city.  I can't put my finger on exactly why...

I mean, I'm sure it has much to do with remembering our little stillborn son and pulling out my faith, in full view, of the sealing powers of the temple.  It follows me everywhere, that faith.  And those sealing bonds that will keep my family together simply exist, always, unchanged, never faltering or fluctuating in their strength as my own emotions get thrashed about on the washboard of change.

For the past several years, we've all piled into the car on June 11th and headed to the nearest temple.  We bring a dinner and picnic on the lawn while I read excerpts from the journal that I kept during those weeks we were losing Jess, and in the months and years after.  This journal is one of my most prized possessions.  It captures many of the moments that I hold dearest to my heart, many of the feelings that have shaped me into who I am today, and many of the details of a painful, beautiful, and cherished growth spurt of faith.

I still see Jess in my mind's eye and wonder, sometimes, about who he is and in what ways he would have changed the dynamics of our family if he were still with us.  That's one of the hardest things for me, actually... losing Jess before we even got to know him. It leaves so many unanswered questions.

But I'm grateful to have a little link to the heavens.  It's taken me ten long years to get to this point, but, this year, our day was filled with Happy.

This family is my everything, of course.  I'm sure most of you feel the same way about your own.

I just couldn't imagine a heaven that would be anything like heaven without them in my life.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Locked In

*Here's the deal with this post... 
I wrote it a long time ago 
(Like... a year and a half ago), 
and somehow it never got posted. 
Turns out my Post List needs a deep cleaning every once in a while, too. 
Anyway, it's a great story, and rather timeless. 
Disclaimer over.

I know.  It's hard to know what you're looking at above, so let me help you out.  It's a picture of a police car in a small, Miami parking garage (my small, Miami parking garage) taken through the seats of a mini-van (my mini-van) with its lights on Full. Stinkin'. Blast (I know cop lights don't actually have different levels of 'blast', but it seems more dramatic to say Full Blast, and they were terribly annoying and so warrant such dramatic phrasing), that had come in response to someone dialing 911 (I dialed 911) because their infant was locked in the car (it was Timothy).

Brian wanted me to write this story months ago (since it happened months ago), but I had just changed the title of my blog to Harvest Beauty, you see, and I was set on recording only those things that I found beautiful.  Or at least good.  And this whole experience of Timothy getting locked in the car just made me angry and frustrated and kind of made me cry.  So, I refused to type it out.  But... time has done it's magical thing and removed me from the situation so, there it is.  Beauty!  I see it now.  It really can be seen as a beautiful, remarkable, and tender tale, we just have to get through the angry stuff, too.

First of all, let me mention that this whole Locking The Infant In The Car thing has happened before.  I, personally, was not directly responsible for either instance, let's be clear - but no need to point fingers at my other children... like Miles.  Or Carson.  Ahem.  Also, okay.  IguessIshouldn'tleavemykeysinthecarwhenIstepoutforasecond.

Anyway, this Time Before that I'm talking about, toddler Miles happened to lock himself in the car when we were living in North Carolina and after a quick call to the police, the officer came up the road with his lights flashing and siren blipping and jumped out of his car with his handy slim-jim. The whole thing was taken care of (relatively) quickly and (almost) painlessly and I learned that in cases where there is a child in the car, the police will break into the car free of charge.

So I didn't panic this Present Time when infant Timothy was locked in the car because, experience.  But then I did panic because I realized that I was in a parking garage this time, and that my phone was in the locked car along with the garage gate opener (which is relevant to this story because, although you can get out of the garage without the garage gate opener, you cannot get back in to the garage without the garage gate opener (so, you see, I didn't dare leave the garage to look for a phone because I would then be locked outside, away from the baby, you know)).  I circled around the car a couple of times and muttered to myself 'Um. I don't actually know what to do...' before I turned the corner of the garage and found the good news that it was garbage day! (which is relevant to this story because on garbage day the garage gates stay open for the whole morning) and there were a couple of men pushing the building's giant garbage cans through the gates and up a small hill.  I ran to them.

"Excuse me! Hi, do you speak English?" I asked one of the men.  Always a good first question to ask in Miami.
"No..." but then he pointed to his partner and so I directed my question to him.
"Hi.  Do you speak English?"  He nodded, but said, "Si," so I knew right away that his English was going to be limited (it was).  I explained my situation as best I could and ended up just using my hand as a phone and repeating the phrase "Phone?  Can I use your phone?  Please?"


I dialed 911 (because, who has the police number memorized?) and within 1 minute a police car came barreling up the street, lights and siren blaring.

One good thing about Miami: there is always a policeman close by.

He pulled into the parking garage behind my van and, thankfully, turned his sirens off but, unthankfully, left the red and blue lights on to bounce along the walls and low ceiling as a sort of sickening strobe.  The young officer stepped out of his vehicle and assessed the situation.  He pulled on all of the handles (tried that), and watched Timothy (who was not happy) for 5-10 seconds.  I was patiently waiting for him to grab his slim-jim and get this whole process over with.

"Well, ma'am," he concluded, "the only option I have here is to break a window."

Shocked silence came from my face and then, "What?!"  Clearly I had made a bad decision in calling 911.

"The doors are all locked, and this is an infant situation," he informed me.  Well, I hadn't realized...

"Surely there must be another option," I said.  "Do you not have a slim-jim or something else that can help you unlock a car door?"

"No ma'am," he replied.

"Well, how about I call a locksmith instead, then," I decided.

"That is not in the child's best interest, ma'am.  Even if I called in a speed order to the nearest locksmith, it would take him over half an hour to get here because of traffic."  Curse Miami.  "I have called in reinforcements, so another police officer should be here in a minute."  Reinforcements?  For a child locked in a mini-van in a covered parking garage?

"Does he have a slim-jim?" I asked.

"No," he replied.  Well then how in the world is he going to help? I wanted to ask.  But, respect, so I didn't.  The reinforcing officer pulled into the garage (leaving his own swirling lights on to add to the ambiance) and came to assess the situation.  He pulled on all the door handles (tried that) and watched Timothy (who was still not happy) for 5-10 seconds.  He was slightly older than the first officer, but both were younger than me (when did I get so old?!).

The younger officer briefed the older one 'infant has been in the car for approximately 5 minutes, so I'm going to break the window.'  'Alright,' the older officer said, 'but when you do, break this one here, furthest from the baby.'

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," I interjected.  "I do NOT want to break this window."  By this time, we had attracted the attention of a couple of the maintenance guys who worked in our building.  None spoke English (of course), but they figured out the situation pretty quickly and communicated to us that they knew someone who had a slim-jim.  The phones came out, the calls were made, and we waited for their friend across the street to come.

"Ma'am," the young officer said, "the infant has been in the car for 10 minutes now.  I am going to have to break this window."

"Just wait a minute," I replied.  "Let's see if these guys can help us another way."

"Well, but this is an infant situation, ma'am---"

"I know," I interrupted with a little snark in my voice, "the infant's name is Timothy, and I'm pretty sure I care about Timothy's well-being even more than you do.  Give us a minute."  In a rather ironic gesture, the officer put his hands up by his ears, raised his eyebrows, and backed away.  I wasn't sure how long I could keep him from shattering that window... which, while solving one problem, would create a whole slew of other problems.  To make matters worse, Timothy was unhappy.  And I kept seeing a little red halo of curls sticking out from behind various support pillars - Miles was scared. 

In no time, we had a team of four maintenance men working together on one side of the van to pop the lock, and two police officers pacing impatiently behind it - rather too excited about the prospect of breaking a window, in my opinion.

The maintenance men did not, in fact, end up having a slim-jim, but they had a whole bunch of crude, hand-made tools that looked promising.  After a few minutes, however, it became glaringly clear that the tools were not. working.  Not even coming close.  I started to lose hope that we would get out of this situation without a broken window and felt my shoulders sag.

"Carson," I called across the garage, "come here, bud."  He trotted over and I took him behind the other side of the van, stared into his eyes and slowly whispered some instructions.  "Will you please go find McKenzie and Miles and take them behind the elevators over there, kneel down, and say a prayer that we can get Timothy out of this car without breaking the window?"

I was caught in Carson's eyes for a moment... such a deep, rich blue... I watched them light up with a quiet excitement, a small smile played on his lips, and he started softly bouncing up on his toes as he whispered slowly back, "we already did."  His soft words washed over me and I fought the wall of hot tears that threatened to spill out.

"You did?" I said with a warm, proud smile.  He nodded vigorously and a little giggle escaped his throat when he saw the emotion in my face. "Thank. You." I impressed, and wrapped him in a giant hug.  We try to teach about the power of prayer and the love and mercy of God, but mostly we wonder if anything we say is getting through.  But my kids thought to pray before I did.  Later I felt a little chastised (in a helpful way), but in the moment I was just. so. touched and proud of them.

"Ma'am?" Great.  Here we go again.  "The infant has been in the car for 20 minutes now.  Is the reason you don't want to break the window because of the cost of the replacement?"

"Well," I thought.  Not really.  It's mostly because of the pain-in-the-butt process I will have to go through to get the window replaced.  I homeschool four children and, I don't know if you've noticed, but getting anything done in Miami is an insanely complicated process.  It would take me a full day, my husband is not around to help, so I would have to keep four children entertained, by myself, in the crowds and abrasiveness of Miami, in the process.  Frankly, it sounds like a nightmare.  And, I know you're concerned about Timothy's stress level at the current moment, but I assure you that 15 minutes after we get him out of the car, he will be calm and fast asleep in his crib, and when he wakes up he will have no lasting effects from this.  Trust me that his stress from crying in the car for 20 minutes is nothing compared to the stress he'll go through if he is dragged around for an entire day, missing both of his naps, and being wrestled to the bone because he can't get down on the dirty mechanics shop floor since he can't walk yet. But I couldn't say all of that because the thoughts weren't actually coherent words, so I just said, "yes... and just the hassle of getting it done," which was the wrong thing to say because the look he gave me was clearly a look of 'you would put 'hassle' above the well-being of your child?'

"But Ma'am," he said raising his eyebrows judgmentally, "the infant---" he pointed though the windows of the car.

"Don't," I interrupted with a finger in his face.  "Don't you say that I'm a bad mother." Okay, so I was getting a little heated.  Maybe it was the blaring lights.

"I didn't say that," he defended.

"But you were thinking it.  I can read your eyes.  I am Timothy's mother, yes, and I am concerned for him and am watching him very closely, but I am also McKenzie's mother and Carson's mother and Miles's mother, and I have to act in the best interest of the entire family.  Trust me that breaking that window is not in our best interest yet.  If Timothy starts looking bad, then circumstances will change but, aside from being upset, he looks fine right now."  Hooray for words that come out right!  But then I could tell I had overstepped my line and that I had played my last card.  He was getting irritated with me and I decided it was now in my best interest to be cooperative - respecting the officers and handcuffs and all....  I had made my position clear.

Meanwhile, the maintenance guys had not given up.  They were trying all sorts of things to get that door open!  They had hangers and large plastic thing-a-ma-jigs and chisels and towels and wire cutters and wrenches... they were pulling out all the stops and I was so entirely grateful for their willingness to drop everything else they had been doing to help my family.  It was just that... they weren't really even getting very close. 

"Alright, Ma'am," the officer said.  He used his 'officer voice' this time which made a slight chill run up my spine (which I'm sure was the intended effect), "It has been 25 minutes.  In 5 minutes, I am going to break this window."

"Okay," I cooperated.

Carson stood by with his fingernails in his mouth and McKenzie stood next to Hiding Miles trying to soothe him.

"Please, Heavenly Father," I whispered for the hundredth time.  The maintenance men were turning frantic.  They hummed about and threw tools and bent wire with renewed vigor.

"2 minutes."

Timothy was screaming, I was almost in tears, the maintenance men were scrambling.

"1 minute."

The lights were blaring.

"30 seconds."

I'm totally not even joking.  The officer was literally staring at his watch and counting down the seconds for us.

"10 seconds. 9... 8... 7..."

It was like the ending to an intense basketball game.  The clock was ticking, the team down by 1 has the ball.  The maintenance man in charge of the wire at this point knew he had one last shot.  He pulled up at the lock with a force that rubbed a gorge into the door frame and just as the officer said,

"2 seconds,"

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  The lights of the mini-van started flashing with the officers' lights and the noise of the horn blasted in our eardrums.  The anti-theft system!  They had popped the lock!  The kids, the four maintenance men, and I jumped in the air with a triumphant yell while the two officers dropped their shoulders.  You guys.  It sounds like a movie scene but I am not. even. joking.  They dropped their shoulders in disappointment!

There were hugs for the maintenance men and handshakes for the officers, and then I had to stick around for a minute longer while Fire and Rescue came to 'assess the infant'.  Timothy stopped crying almost immediately after I picked him up, and his oxygenation levels were perfect. 

So.  Lessons.

#1 - DO NOT CALL THE POLICE if your infant is locked in the car in Miami.  I guess Miami cops are used to high-intensity situations, so they might blow it totally out of proportion. 

#2 - It was the prayer and the faith of my children.  I believe it.  I watched those maintenance men struggle and stumble and fumble with that lock for 20 full minutes and, trust me, it wasn't ever very close to popping.  So, what are the odds that the latch would take and the lock would pop at the very. last. second?  I think the last second trick was Heavenly Father's way of letting us know that his hand was in this one.  If He had helped the lock pop early on it would have been easy to just dismiss it as a good, rigged tool.  But it wasn't.  They were clumsy, rigged tools and they just weren't working.  I think we would have figured it out eventually, but time was out.  And herein lies the beauty.  How lucky we are to know that there is a God who cares about our situations.  Who watches out for us and who hears and answers our prayers.  How lucky I am for the faith of my children, because honestly, mine was lacking.  I had resigned myself to a broken window - but those kids held on to their faith that God would help.

And He did.

And, just as predicted, Timothy was calm and napping 15 minutes later and doesn't remember a thing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Way You Grow

I can't even tell you how much this kid makes my heart sing.  The older he gets, the more I fall in love with him.  He is such an interesting person - full of sweetness to melt your heart, and a temper to raise your eyebrows.

He thrived in Kindergarten last year.  And made some awesome friends along the way.

Graduation day was kind of hard for him.  It was hard for me, too.  Geez, you'd think they'd remember a mama's heart when they chose Taylor Swift's song Never Grow Up to have these little guys do their graduation walk to.  Have you heard it?  Google it.  You will cry.  At least through the first bit.

I never figured out exactly why Miles struggled through it, but he spent the whole day with a stoic look on his face that just looked sad to me.

Maybe he was tired.  Maybe he was picking up my 'Change is Hard' vibe even though I was trying to present the 'Happy Graduation Day!' vibe.  

I'm not sure.  But regardless of the reasons for our melancholy state, we made it through with a few extra hugs.  And even managed some genuine smiles along the way.

Change is hard, no matter how you look at it.  But the good thing about change in relation to Miles is that I am so darn excited to see who he grows up to be.  I think it will be powerful.

Carson was easy this year.  No graduation ceremony, just another awesome year in the middle of elementary school.  He grew so much during second grade - not really in stature, but in ability.  His reading took off like a rocket, and it was so fun to see him find even more confidence in himself.  I absolutely love this boy.

Halfway through the year he decided he wanted to cut his beautiful, long, blonde hair.  I swear he grew two years over that night.    

He worked hard and made it on the A-B Honor roll - we were so proud of him!  He was fake-exhausted by the end of the year, though.

What a great kid - sensitive and so kind... 

And McKenzie.  My McKenzie.  She broke my heart too, growin' up and graduating from elementary school and all.

The night before her graduation, she asked if we could curl her hair.  And she was so, so excited when it unrolled the next morning like this.

I hope she always, always feels as beautiful as she does right now.
Because she is such a beautiful person.

Do you remember that feeling as a kid that came as you were searching crowds for your mom?

And then you spotted her, and all the sudden your heart relaxed and you felt ready and confident for whatever it was you were there for?  I do.  And now, here I am, somehow in my own mother's position... and oh how I love to be that anchor of comfort.

She did a fabulous job of walking up on the stage to receive her awards.  She didn't trip or anything. She's one smart cookie, you know.  Straight A's and the highest reading score in the entire school.  By a lot.  Basically, she's amazing.

Amazing, and beautiful, and responsible, and a hard worker.  This girl is going to go far in life... she really, really is.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Scrambled Thoughts XIV

*A reader is born from the tears

You don't even know how huge this is. Helping Carson find a love of reading has been enormously complicated and difficult, but after hundreds of book suggestions, thousands of hours, and supreme patience, the spark has finally caught.  I wouldn't say we're at the bonfire level, but at least there is a sustainable fire going.  He was one of only a handful of 2nd graders that won a trophy for reading the most (and by 'win a trophy' what they meant was 'get your name put on the paper trophy on the wall'.  A rather disappointing realization at the end of the year when no physical trophy came. He had to work blastedly hard for it, and if ever a thing deserved a trophy... anyway).

McKenzie has an unquenchable love for reading and was heads and shoulders above the second place kid in the entire school with her score.  She'll pick up anything.  Novels, magazines, picture books, cereal boxes... if it has words, she'll read them and soak in them like a hot bath.

Carson doesn't understand this.  "Why do you always have a book, Kenzie?" he asked one afternoon when he wanted to chat with her during snack time.  "Because I like them," she replied.
"Carson, you're starting to like books too now, right?" I plugged
"Yeah - but not all the time.  If I read all the time I get really bored."  That's where the look above came from.

*It's not every day you step into your bedroom to grab a laundry basket and find yourself standing in a puddle of water.

And it's quite disheartening to turn your head and realize that the puddle you're standing in goes on, and on, and on.  Upon further investigation, I found that Teek had tried to flush an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet.  But not down the toilet in the bathroom pictured above... no, it was from the toilet that is behind where I'm standing, around the corner, and down the hall a bit.  There was so. much. water.  This kid has brought new meaning to the phrase 'terrible twos' for me.

*Plus, he believes that he is capable of doing all the things that ever there were.

He can do many of them, I admit.  It just takes a long time, and a lot of patience.  "Nomee," he says five thousand three hundred and twenty seven times.  No me.  I want to do it.  "nomee, nomee, nomee."

*His head strong and insistent personality made potty training at 2 years and 3 months a snap.

I was nowhere close to potty training him (he was barely 2, and we were getting ready to move, for heaven's sake!), but he started showing such interest, and my wise mother-in-law pointed out one afternoon that, given his head strong nature, if I missed this window of opportunity he was giving me, I might not get another one until he was five years old.  I let this stew for a few days and saw her point.  If Timothy didn't want to be potty trained, there would be no convincing him of it.  And so, we gave it a try.  And three days later I was shocked at how easy it had been.  Hooray for no diapers!

*Turns out that the desert knows how to do spring if you look for it.

*But then, you turn around and realize that Target is selling little pots of grass as a SuperFun thing.  

Look kids!  Buy this and you can watch something grow!

*The three-day rainy season was fun this year.

Though, Teek didn't really understand the idea behind the umbrella we gave him.

Happy Miles.

*As much as I would have liked the spring to stick around for a bit longer, summer did come.

And we tote the waterbottles around all day every day to prove it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wizard of Oz

"Mama! Mama! They're doing a drama club at school and I really want to do it!"

So that is how we ended up with front row tickets to the elementary school's production of The Wizard of Oz.

She was so incredible.  Really, truly!  She was!  I mean, really, I knew she would be because she's McKenzie and is really great in almost everything... but she surprised me with just how incredible she was.  Can you guess her character?

She danced around on that stage like she owned the place and got some pretty hearty laughs in the process.  Her solo was absolutely delightful to watch... which was a good thing because after having the blasted thing stuck on repeat in our brains for more than a month, I worried that that would not be the case.

While she was choreographing the dance one night to her solo (all by her little 5th grade self), she mentioned to me that she was going to slide on her knees with jazz hands splayed at the end of the song.  In my head I thought it was a bad idea because it seemed a little too dramatic.  So I tried to talk her out of it.  But she would not be swayed.

And she was entirely right.  That was one of the best parts of the whole show and caught the audience by just enough surprise that they laughed - - - every time.

There was something about watching her up there... she seemed so grown-up.  I watched her through the months of practice work on her own to develop this character.  She invested a lot of herself into it, and it meant something to her.  So, then, to see her up there feeling accomplished and proud of herself was one of the best parenting moments I've had yet.  She felt so successful.  She was successful - - - and it made my heart almost break with happiness.

Grandma flew down just to see her.  She always wanted a theatrical or musical family... but her own kids were much more passionate about sports.  So she has a lot of hope in McKenzie.

This next picture is so symbolic to me.  Each main character was double cast, since there were so many kids interested in performing.  One cast acted through act one, and the other cast acted through act two.  McKenzie is the Scarecrow in the Shadows, furthest on the left, in the dark. See her?

For some reason, I love this picture.  McKenzie shined like a star while the spotlight was on her, but when it came to fighting her way to center stage for the curtain call, she was completely satisfied hanging on the outskirts and letting the other characters have the limelight.  She's like that in lots of areas of her life - and is awesome that way.

A week after the show had closed, I happened to walk by our wall of backpacks and this sight caught my heart in my throat.

I know this will go down in McKenzie's archives as one of the happiest memories of her childhood.  She worked so hard, she nailed it, and she had so. much. fun. In fact, she just came in to bring me a glass of water, five months after the performances, saw one of the pictures in this post and left the room skipping, with her arms extended out to her sides, and singing all the way down the stairs,

"And my head I'd be scratchin'
while my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I onlyyyyyyyyyyyy HAD A BRAAAAAAAAIN!"