Mar 21, 2014

Words of Wisdom

This is another post about my mom. Sorry. I'm not a very fun blogger these days. Sucks to be you! But I promise this will be the last post about death for awhile! (maybe.)

My mom died at 12:18 a.m. on March 21st, 2013.  We thought maybe she held out for 18 minutes because she wanted to die on the first day of spring.  (Sometimes you try to find solace and meaning in the meaningless when terrible things happen.)  Unfortunately, the first day of Spring last year came early.  It was March 20th.  Some weird calendar anomaly. She missed it by 18 minutes.

Also, I want to note that she did not die with a smile on her face, nor did she make a rainbow appear over her house the day she died. It was just a normal, stupid, ugly, cold, gray, Utah winter day. (Months before she died, I demanded she make a rainbow appear for me since she subjected me to the depressing song "I'll Build You a Rainbow" multiple times throughout my childhood. Alas, no rainbow.)

Her death was not pretty. It wasn't quick. It wasn't painless. It wasn't quiet or peaceful.  It wasn't easy on her. Or us. And it wasn't (at least for me) a spiritual experience.  It was just terrible. The days leading up to it?  Pretty terrible too.  Everything that came after?  Terrible.  I'm just going to go ahead and emphasize again that it sucked and we don't even say "suck" in our family.  (Okay, fine.  I do.)

FORTUNATELY, when I think of my mom, I don't (usually) think of her death.  Fortunately, I have many more pleasant things to remember her by.  Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the 'words of wisdom' she left implanted in my brain.  These are a few of her common sayings that come readily to mind:

"Everything looks brighter in the morning."
I spent many nights as a kid curled up in her bed crying my eyes out about the injustices of the world.  She would listen patiently, try to get me to calm down, and remind me that everything always looks brighter in the morning.  She was (usually) right.

"Waste not, want not"
Her parents lived through the depression and she absorbed their thrifty habits and fear of debt.  I remember her cleaning out jars of food with a spatula so as not to waste a drop.  She told us how her dad would add a little bit of water to the ketchup bottle to get all of it out.  And I don't think she ever threw away a butter wrapper (on the rare occasions we had real butter) without first scraping it off with a butter knife.  (Oh, and she always ate her sandwich crusts.  Gross.)

Okay, this one doesn't actually fit into the "Words of Wisdom" category. I just heard it A LOT.  But I could never take her seriously, because she was always half-laughing while chastising me!  P.S.  My sister Jenny started calling her Fae in High School--I was just following her example.

"It takes two to fight"
She said this to me each and every time I tattled on Jenny. So I probably heard it 10,000 times.

"The cure for despair is action!"
She got this one from Dr. Laura, and repeated it to me often when I was a teenager. I firmly believe that SOMETIMES, the cure for despair is a nap.  Just my opinion though...

"I love you the most!"
When I was little she'd hold her fingers close together and say "I love you this much!" while slowly spreading them out until her arms were outstretched.  Then she'd give me a hug and let me know that she would always, ALWAYS love me the most.

"Say three nice things!!!"
My mom was a huge proponent of healthy self-esteem.  If she ever caught you insulting someone, she demanded you immediately say three nice things about the person "to repair the damage to their psyche".  (Brandon always avoided this consequence by muttering insults to me just under her hearing level.  She was pretty deaf...!)  She was such a great person.

{It makes me think of what I repeat to my kids:
"Quit being obnoxious!"
"Stop wrestling!"
"Quit being annoying!!!"
Is this what I want them to hear when they think of me?  Absolutely not. Clearly, I have some work to do if I'm going to live up to her standard. }

I know there are a bunch more of her sayings that I'm forgetting, but these are some of the classics.
And there are things she didn't have to say that I just knew about her.  She had great faith and loved her Savior.  She was constantly serving people. And she loved, LOVED her kids and grandkids and husband more than anything.

Love you Mommy!  You're my idol and I miss you every day!
I need to go say three nice things to my boys now.

Mar 17, 2014

Book Review: Montmorency by Eleanor Updale

Back in 2012, Max got a recommendation from our librarian to check out a book called "Montmorency" by Eleanor Updale.  It was the first in a series and he read it and loved it.  

Max loved it so much he convinced Doug to read it, Doug loved it and told me to read it.  
We were all hooked.  
We subsequently checked out the next three books in the series only to discover Book 4, "Montmorency's Revenge" ended in a major cliff-hanger, and (horror!) there was no fifth book.  In desperation, I wrote this e-mail:

Hello Ms. Updale!
My husband, 10-year-old son and I recently discovered and read your Montmorency series.  We're big fans and after the cliff-hanger at the end of book four, went straight to the Internet to find out when book 5 will be published.  Please tell me there will be a book 5?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  You can't leave Montmorency...(edited to prevent spoilers)!  How about a short story?  A novella?  A single chapter?  A blog post?  We'll take anything we can get!!!

Emily Warner and Maxwell 

Amazingly, SHE WROTE BACK and let me know she was having problems with the publisher but was working on getting book five out!

A few weeks ago, we heard from her again--this time with exciting news!!

Well, at last it’s out.  The fifth Montmorency book, Montmorency Returns is now available to buy as an ebook or as a paperback, but only from Amazon.  The good news is that the paperback has better paper and better print than any of the previous editions, and all the previous books are available in a similar format, so it is possible to buy the whole series in a matching edition.
Thank you so much for your patience.  The delay in publication has been as annoying for me as it was for you, and I do hope that your love of Montmorency has not gone off the boil in the meantime.
You can buy the ebook here,
And the paperback here:
I’d be really grateful if you could spread the word about the new book.  You can find out more about it on my website
Very best wishes,
Eleanor Updale
I love that there are authors out there who take the time to connect with their fans! I went straight to Amazon and am now the proud owner of the complete series in a matching set. I love matching sets!  

If you're looking for a fun adventure set in England, this is the series for you.  Although Max read these when he was 10, I would probably recommend them for 12+.  But you can read them first and be the judge of whether you want your (younger) kids to read them.  I remember them being very clean, but it's been a few years.

Here's a description from the author's website:
Montmorency is set between 1875 and 1880. This is the story of a small-time crook whose life is transformed after an accident that nearly kills him. An ambitious doctor (Robert Farcett) takes on the task of rebuilding his body, and shows him off at meetings of a scientific society. At those meetings, Montmorency learns about the new underground network of sewers under London. In prison, he plans a new life, stealing things all over London, and getting away through the smelly underground passageways. When he is released, he takes on two identities: Scarper in the Dark underground world, and Montmorency in high society. The book is all about his struggle to prevent each of his identities spoiling everything for the other.


Feb 5, 2014

Lots of Love

My e-mail in-box is out of control. It's constantly full of junk and spam and stuff I think I'll get to later.  It desperately needs to be cleaned out--but, since I have slight hoarder tendencies, I have a hard time throwing things away.  Even virtual things.
(What if I need that 20%-off-at-Michaels coupon for a craft I'm going to start next month but not complete until October 2017?!?! WHAT IF???)

Tonight I opened g-mail to see yet another ad from Old Navy.  Didn't I just get one, like, yesterday???
I typed "Old Navy" into my search box, checked "select all" and deleted 20 Old Navy e-mails.  Safe to say I wont need any of those in the future. I did it again and again until they were all gone.  I thought of what else might be eating up my allotment of Cloud and searched for  I clicked "select all" but noticed one of the e-mails wasn't from Target.  It was from my mom.  I clicked it open.

It was my mom responding to a blog post written just before I left Japan. (Somewhere in the post I had mentioned my excessive use of while overseas.)  We went back and forth talking about my family and my excitement and anxiety surrounding coming back to The States. She praised my writing. She said she was excited to see me again. She reassured me. And she chided me for bagging on my family in the blog post.  ;)

I could hear her voice saying the words. It was like she was still here.
Just on the other end of an e-mail.  Just separated by a plane ride.
She signed the e-mails the same way she always did:
"Lots of Love, Mom xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo"
{One of her Aunties signed letters "Lots of Love" so my mom did too.}

I wonder how many e-mails I have from her?  I want to check.  But I can't check.
Not yet.  Cause then I'll have to read 'em.  And I'm not ready to read 'em.

But it's nice to remember they're there.  With all those x's and o's.
Some things are worth keeping.

Lots of Love Mommy!  Lots and lots and lots of love!

P.S.  This is the post she was responding too--if you're curious:

Jan 15, 2014

For Aunt Jenny...

Because she's not on Instagram. #LinkyPie

Evil Minion for Halloween 
"Helping" Mommy 

Max happy to be home from 6th grade camp
Sammy reading "You Are My Sunshine"

Date with Mom and Dad

Sunday Nap
Best Christmas Present
Trying to become a thumb sucker
Meeting Santa
Blessing Day
Aunt Laura loves Linc

Midnight antics
Add caption 

Christmas Eve

Dec 31, 2013

Questions for My Mom

Every day I think of something I want to ask my mom.  Every single day.  Sometimes the questions are specific to what I'm doing.  A lot of times they're totally random.  And for just a moment, I have a pang of regret that I didn't ask when I had the chance.  But then, usually, I force myself to think of something else and move on with my day.

I've decided to start writing some of my questions down.  I don't know why.  These aren't even memories of her...just things I wish I knew.  And frankly, I can probably get some of the answers from my dad or her siblings.  None-the-less, I wish I could ask HER.

Sometimes, if I do dwell on thoughts of my mom, I'll have a dream about her that night.  And then it's as if I get to spend a little more time with her.  It's hard to wake up from those dreams.

(Starting November 22, 2013)

  • What did your mom (Joann) do again?  She was a nurse or training to be a nurse?  Did she work after your mom and dad got married?
  • Can you come for Thanksgiving?
  • Can't you please just make the Peanut Butter Pies for me this year?
  • What did you do when I (the youngest) went to preschool?  What did you do with your time during the day?  How did your life change?
  • How did you, a night person, manage to get out of bed before all of us and make a hot breakfast every day?  
  • Did you buy/use red or white wheat for your whole wheat bread?
  • Where is your chicken noodle soup recipe?
  • How did you manage our household so well?  With the exception of the "Art Room" (alternately known as the junk room), it was always pretty darn clean, plus you cooked great healthy meals, plus you clipped coupons, plus you hardly ever yelled.  How did you do it?!?  Why can't I be more like you?!?!?!?
  • How did you handle the laundry?  (I remember she would occasionally "go on-strike" if we were throwing too many clean clothes in the hamper--and then we'd have to do our own laundry for a few weeks--but generally she took care of it all.  I do remember I had to fold the wash-cloths when I was very little.)
  • Where did you hide the Christmas presents???  (I never found them!)
  • How did you determine a Christmas budget for kid gifts?
  • What was the best Christmas gift you ever got?
  • What was your favorite Christmas?
  • How did you keep track of kid presents and who was getting what?  Did you worry about giving the kids equal numbers?  Did we count our gifts like my kids do?  (I do remember there were occasionally gifts that got lost and those I got for my birthday (in February) or if they were really lost, for Easter--like the brass doll cradle! :)
  • Why didn't you decorate for Christmas the last few years?!?
That's all I have written down, but I'm sure in the coming days and weeks, I'll have another long list.

This year I bought a small fake Christmas tree and decorated it with all the angel ornaments I own in honor of my Mom.  She collected angels and would have loved it.  (A lot of the ornaments were given to me by my sweet mother-in-law so it reminds me of her too and what an angel SHE is.)  

My favorite new ornament is from Gray's preschool teacher.  It's a photograph of him standing with his hands steepled.  He's cut out and pasted in between two giant foam wings covered in silver glitter with a gold pipe-cleaner halo on top.  The first thing I thought when I saw it was how much my mom would have loved it and that she probably would have stolen it to hang in her house.  

If she were still alive, I would have made an angel of every single one of her grandkids and forced her to get a tree to display all 25--all looking angelic with white foam wings.  (I sure wish she could have met my little angel #25!)  She used to joke when one of the grandkids was being naughty that their halo was slipping a little bit.  Gray's little pipe-cleaner is slipping a LOT.  That would have made her laugh. 

Anyway, the holidays have been hard, and New Year's Eve and Valentines Day wont be any better.  However, I'm grateful for all the happy memories I do have and that I got to have her for 35 years.  I'm grateful for the questions I do have answers to.  
Enough of that though--I promise my next post will be filled with cute pictures of Baby! 

Let me just end with this: if you have any questions for your parent(s), why don't you just go ahead and pick up the phone already!  You wont regret it.  :)  
Happy holidays!!!
Meeting Baby Gray when we visited from Japan

On her (second) wedding day

Meeting Baby Gabe

Swimming with Baby Max at her condo in Springville

Cape Cod with Gabey-Baby--When she visited us in Rhode Island

Grandma Fae LOVED giving babies a bath--Happy Baby Sammy

Nov 5, 2013

Irrational (or are they SO rational...) Baby-Related Fears

I think I've been spending too much time alone in my recliner with the baby because I'm getting a little crazy.  Here's what I've been worrying about lately...
I should be worrying he'll fall out of a book case...but I'm not.
  • What if I get in a car accident because I'm so tired I'm not paying close enough attention so I pull in front of a car and it slams right into me killing me instantly and leaving my children motherless?  (That's a normal worry, right?)
  • What if the little bump on Baby's forehead isn't a harmless cyst?  What if it never goes away?   What if kids tease him about it in elementary school 'cause kids are bratty? What if it's cancer?
  • What if the fact that Baby still hasn't made eye contact with me means he's autistic?  Sure, call me crazy (Doug has) but if in seven years we find out I'm right, I'll refer you all back to this post.
  • What if after four healthy kids, this is the one who ends up with childhood leukemia?
  • What if I slip at the top of the stairs when I'm holding the baby?  Will I be able to hold him up out of harms way even as I plummet downward and land in a crumpled heap at the bottom?  (I think about this pretty much every time I'm at the top of the stairs holding the baby.)
  • Is he too attached to the binky?  Is it causing nipple confusion?  Is it messing with his appetite?  (Sub worry:  Is writing "nipple" on my blog going to attract a bunch of weirdos?)
  • What if he stops taking the binky and STARTS SUCKING HIS THUMB!  Doug will never forgive him!  (This might be a slight exaggeration, but Doug definitely wouldn't like it.)
  • Am I feeding him too much?  Not enough?  Too on-demand?  Not on-demand enough?  Am I ruining his chances of ever sleeping through the night?
  • Am I neglecting him because I look at electronics too much while I nurse?  I mean, I give him a lot of attention, I kiss him a LOT, and hold him pretty much non-stop, but am I still too distracted?  I'm inside my own head too much.  I need to talk and sing to him more.
  • Is the laptop giving off electromagnetic rays that will give him cancer?
  • Is my poor diet making it so he'll never love vegetables?  I read that I should be drinking carrot juice to give him a taste for carrots.  But I hate carrot juice!  Instead I eat chocolate every day.  He'll definitely have a taste for chocolate.
  • I should watch fewer sit-coms like The Goldbergs, and more L.D.S. church talks so he grows up to be a prophet instead of a stand-up comedian.
I love this picture though Doug wasn't thrilled with his receding hair line.
  • Am I completely neglecting Max, Sam and Gabe?
  • Am I spoiling Gray because I'm giving in to him so much because I don't want him to resent Baby?
  • Do all of these irrational fears making me completely crazy?  
Do they???

At least I'm not worried vending machines will become the dominant race.  I have that going for me.  (See Dr. Doofenshmirtz below...)

"I've been alone all these years, with my irrational fears..."

Oct 19, 2013

Older Sibling Blues

3.5 weeks later:
Tonight I am upset, (at the big boys)
overwhelmed, (by the noise and messy house)
physically exhausted (bone-weary),
fighting off baby blues...

...and then I bury my face in his neck, and smell his perfect smell, and feel his silky smooth skin and wonder how I got lucky enough to be holding a tiny new person in my arms...

...and it's all worth it.
The miserable pregnancy.
The painful delivery.
All of it.
Of course, all that other stuff is still there today--but for a second, none of it matters.  Just him and the perfect folds in his neck.

I love you Baby Lincoln!  
I'm glad you're finally here!!

(Turns out, I was having similar feelings after the arrival of baby Gray and wrote about it here.  I'm actually doing much better this time and give the weather 95% of the credit.)