Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cousin to Certitude

Often, when our family is gathered close – everyone piled in the living room watching a show, reading books, etc. – Jesse comments contentedly, “I really like our family being all together”.

Regularly  he mentions how happy he is that I didn’t make various bad choices that might have precluded me from being his mother.

“I’m glad you didn’t drink a lot of beer and alcohol and stuff so you couldn’t be my mom,” he’ll tell me as he’s eating his lunch.

“I’m glad you didn’t do bad things so you wouldn’t get to have me,” he’ll comment as I’m buckling him in his car seat.

He says these things offhandedly, and they often make me chuckle (as he details the ways I might have gone astray), but, sometimes, they strike a chord – causing me to catch and pause. Occasionally they feel . . . like his spirit remembering something that his mind has temporarily forgotten. Namely: that we’ve already endured a spell of separation; that poor life choices on my part might have altered things – might have lost me the privilege of raising him. Worries he may have actually already felt. Peace and relief in having things as he’d hoped.

The veil – that “border between mortality and eternity” (as Neal A. Maxwell calls it) does a pretty darn good job of covering our memories and shrouding us in forgetfulness. And, of course, that’s absolutely necessary. Without the veil  we could never truly learn to walk by faith; we could never experience the full power of our agency.

Still, I often feel my spirit aching and longing to remember – I feel it reaching out, grasping ahold of the things that feel the most familiar. At times, I think it almost does remember; that it recognizes truths when it hears them, that it recalls who I am now and then, that it tells my heart and mind things that, for no earthly reason, they should be able to know.

These close brushes with the veil inevitably seem to produce feelings of peace and certainty. In fact,  Neal Maxwell commented that the “inner serenity” that comes from those brushes is “cousin to certitude”.

I love that. “Cousin to certitude”. More and more of late, I’ve felt that. I’ve felt things that started as a small spark in my soul, grow and expand until . . . if they are not certainty itself, they are certainly its cousin.

Five years ago -- shortly after giving birth to my fifth child (and, while I was out for a run) --  I began to offer a prayer regarding my little family – what size it should be, how many more children I should have. That question has never been simple for me. It has never just been a question thrown into a void. Always, it has been a question with a real individual tied to the end of it. Still, friends and family were wrapping up their little families and, I wondered. . . .

But, before the question got far, and, at an exact spot about a half mile from here that I remember well, I felt an obvious, “You already know you can’t be done yet. You still have your little Summer out there.” Summer had been a name I’d considered briefly as we welcomed our other girls, but it wasn’t until that moment that I felt quite clearly that she already existed, that our “Summer” was yet to come. Only, it didn’t feel like new knowledge. It felt like . . . “Oh yah. Silly me. Why would I have even wondered if I was done.”

I didn’t feel strongly that she would be our next (and she wasn’t), and not necessarily that she would be our last, just a little . . . reminder . . . a little flicker of something not yet done, of hopes and promises not yet fulfilled.

I’ve had various other experiences (before and since) – both in regards to her and my other children that have reminded me of that Neal A. Maxwell quote I’ve shared before, “Whereas the bird is at home in the air, we are clearly not at home in time – because we belong to eternity!” – Experiences that have made me more certain that, while our mortal minds may have forgotten things, our spirits maybe never fully have; that ties and connections and feelings are too eternally a part of their makeup to be forgotten.

More and more I feel an anxiousness – almost like those last few minutes at the airport – waiting for one of my siblings returning from a mission – for Summer to be here. More and more I feel an awareness of . . . my separation from her: a desire for that separation to end. It’s as if knowledge of her coming has created a small hole that memories – no, not memories, but feelings, keep slipping through. I seem to recognizes that we’ve been apart. I have an abnormal amount of anxiety about this reunion being cut short. Almost as if, now that we are finally being reunited, I simply can’t bear another separation – such as the temporary one associated with death – for a long long time.

When I called my sister Shannon to tell her the news about Summer, the first thing I said when she answered was, “Guess who’s coming!” The feelings that I had were: excitement, yes. Anticipation, yes. But, mostly, an overwhelming relief. That word is the best I can use to describe how I’ve continued to feel. Relief that I have somehow – stumbling along, seeing things through a shroud – managed to make it to this point; that I have somehow managed to reconnect myself with the people I had to part from when I came here. And, through the sealing power available in the temple, that I’ve been able to make our connection one that is more secure, certain, and eternal than it ever was before.

I don’t know how it all works. I absolutely believe that we fully own our agency here. And, if so; if we have choice and make decisions, and follow our own paths – and others are free to as well, then painting life as some series of fated events bringing everyone and everything together in some predestined fashion is utterly false

But I also believe that coming to this earth was the bravest, hardest, scariest and most faith-filled thing we ever chose to do. And, I believe that our Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly, would certainly do everything in his power to help us carve paths that would lead us to the things we most hoped for – the things we most wanted. And what things could have been higher on that list than being bound here to those we loved and cared for the most already?

There is a quote from Thoreau that I love. What he calls “Nature”, I would argue is the Light of Christ, and, further, the whispering guidance of the Holy Ghost, but our ideas mesh. He says, “I believe there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we yield to . . . will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way. . . .

Often we don’t take that right way. Often, I’m sure, we choose wrong paths and have to wind our way back around through twists and turns and obstacles to right ones. We grasp onto the atonement and secure ourselves to its power as we try again and again. We may lose some opportunities along the way, but, I am certain a loving Father constantly provides us with new and, wherever possible, equally wonderful ones.

I still don’t understand things perfectly, but, until I do, I am going to keep noting the (as Maxwell says) “poignant and frequent reminders of the veil” that add to my sense of being “close but still outside”.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ask Questions and You Might Get Answers . . .

“Mom,” Jesse asks, “Do fish go poops?”

“Yes,” I reply. “They do.”

“Whaaat?” (Incredulity) “How?”

I reach into the corners of my mind – grasping for some small bit of knowledge that might provide the answer he is after -- but the whole of my fish-bodily-functions experience is limited to cleaning the fish bowl of the one or two short-lived goldfish I had as a kid.

Still. I do my best to give a coherent answer.

When I finish, rather than express appreciation for my efforts, he groans, clutches his stomach, and moans, “Ooooh. You shouldn’t have told me that! Now I’m going to have terrible nightmares.”

I shall try to preface future explanations of that nature with a “There are some questions better left unasked, Jesse”.

But I know him. He won’t settle for that. He’ll keep asking -- dooming himself to the nightmares that accompany too much knowing!
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It’s early morning. Kids are rushing about, brushing hair, gathering back-packs and trying to get breakfast in their little bellies. I turn from the toaster in time to notice Penny, who is seated at the counter, hair disheveled and school clothes not yet on, lift her cup and plant a big kiss on its side.

“Penny? Did you just kiss your drink of water?” I ask – amused.

“Yes,” she admits. “I also kissed my bagel earlier because it was so good. (Pause.) I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”
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Also, I’ve answered a lot of questions about planets lately. I’ve stumbled my way through multiple explanations as to why the planets don’t simply come crashing into the sun, how they stay going around the sun, what might happen if they DID crash into the sun, and why we would or wouldn’t want them to crash into the sun. But, so help me if I get asked one more time, “But why do we NEED the planets?” I might bang my head into a wall – repeatedly – and start sobbing.

It’s really hard to answer. Give it a shot. I keep trying to explain things about how we probably don’t actually need them – or at least I don’t think we do – would their absence somehow throw our own rotation or pleasant/life-sustaining distance from the sun off? I don’t know, but I’ve tried to tell him how it’s not that we need them, but that they are caught in the suns gravitational pull – strong enough to keep them circling around, but no no, don’t worry, not strong enough to pull them in to “sun crashing” situations. I must not be answering satisfactorily though because . . . every few days I get a new: “But, wait? Mom? Why do we need the planets?”

He doesn’t even understand the concepts needed to explain any of this (nor do I to be honest). It’s utterly exhausting. And kind of awesome. I love that he is my son.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

The Thing About Typically Doing Nothing is . . .

Almost anything becomes an incredible adventure!
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In fact, I don’t even know why we bothered to go to “Baby Animal Days”. As you can see from Penny’s face in the picture below, the shuttle bus from the parking lot over to the Heritage Farm was . . . well . . . clearly MAGICAL. We could have just ridden the shuttle bus and filled our adventure quota for the month. Maybe the whole year!
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Baby Animal Days

My mom’s emailed comment to me after my last post about having “nothing” planned for our spring break summed up well how I often feel:

“The great thing about Nothing days is that they are so full of magical potential.

Even the best appointments tie us back to earth and hedge us with time limits. Somehow Free Agency is best appreciated  in NOTHING days!”

Yes. They can be . . . strictly nothing. Or, of a sudden, they can become something.

“Magical potential”.

On Thursday (in the late morning) Mike called from work to say he was taking the rest of the day off so we could take the kids to a fun local(ish) event: Baby Animal Days.

The weather was a little chilly and it was rather crowded, but the kids were mostly good sports. And, the times that were less “sporting”? When sifting back through our little trove of family memories, those parts always seem to burn off like the haze of early mornings on a warm day.
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The crowds died down enough at the end that Penny got to ride the ponies a second time, lucky girl. Goldie might have joined her, but she took advantage of the pony-riding delay in our departure to dash off and see the piglets one last time.

Before driving the 45 minutes back home, we went to scope out a local river where Mike will be taking the scouts canoeing later this month. On our way there, we drove past some land Mike’s parents own but don’t actually live on (“Grandpa’s Farm”). Weren’t we surprised to find that “Grandpa” was there! (Perhaps doing something or other with the bee hives?)

Naturally we stopped to chat, throw a few stones in the canal . . . and have at least one child fall up to their knees in canal water and sludge.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Like Five Posts All Thrown Willie Nillie into One

“Mom?” Penny calls to me, “What colors are pandas . . . mostly?”

“Mostly? Well, I think they’re just mostly black and white.”

“OK,” she replies as she runs off, “’Cause I’m writing a paper of facts about pandas; and I don’t actually know too many facts.”

It would seem so.
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For months, my weekly pregnancy updates have compared the size of my growing baby to various produce. Suddenly, several weeks ago (shortly after Summer reached the impressive size of a banana) and with no real warning, the comparisons simply stopped. Now, she’s just . . . inches. I’d been imaging delivering a watermelon, or, perhaps, a giant Hubbard squash. I hardly know what to prepare for now!
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But, perhaps, something similar to one of these?
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Speaking of pregnancy. I went for a run yesterday. My shirt seemed to fit over my bulging belly just fine . . . initially, however, something about the motion of running (along with the way the shirt was tugged on by my outer sweatshirt) caused it to repeatedly migrate upward so that I spent the duration of my run battling a pooh bear like appearance.

As if that wasn’t enough to contend with, the gray skies I left under gathered their gray little darkness even closer and began a pelting rain. As I tugged my shirt awkwardly back into place (for the hundredth time) and mumbled something defiant like, “Rain shmain. I’ve lived and run in the Pacific Northwest,” the clouds raised their haughty little eyebrows in an “Oh really?” fashion and erupted in a full hail storm. Ouch.

One sweet elderly couple did add to my cheer over the state of humanity by stopping to offer me a ride. I didn’t accept (though I thanked them profusely for their kind offer – assuring them I was nearly home . . . even though that “nearly” was a bit of stretch . . . ), but I get the opportunity to be out rarely enough that, when I do, I must take it – come “hail” or high water. Hahahoho. That was a good one. ‘Cause, you know, it’s not supposed to be that kind of hail only, it was that kind of hail. Get it? Funny? Hahaha . . . Oh never mind.
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It’s spring break. The weather has been atrocious (remember the hail?), but I don’t mind. Sometimes big plans are fun, but I also am quite fond of NO big plans. We’re staying in pajamas long into the day. I’m reading Watership Down to the older kids. We’re making cupcakes. Maybe going to the library, or to Michaels for a few crafty things for the kids. Mike might take them to the new Muppets movie after work one night. Mostly just nothing.

Nothing. Nothing on the agenda. Nothing planned. I’ve always loved when nothing is on the horizon, but, especially now, as my family has grown and become more involved in various activities, and more needing to be certain places at certain times. Most days are, of necessity, filled with lots of somethings. I adore nothing.
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Though . . . not completely nothing. One of the things I love the very most about having older kids is that, when they feel like it, they happily take my “nothing” and turn it into a “something”.

For example, I’ve never done much with April Fools’ Day, but I woke up yesterday to kids laughing and giggling because Abe had woken up early and covered the girls’ door completely with streamers, moved all our couches, covered the TV with camping pads, dumped various balls all over the living room, set out several lovely plates of plastic food for breakfast, and taped string from wall to wall through out the house so that you couldn’t move more than a few feet without climbing, ducking or limbo-ing.
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Anywho, that’s the end of all of that I suppose. I’m off to do more nothing. (Oh, all right, not exactly. Some kids need baths. . . . And, also, Penny just threatened to “punch” someone “in the face.” Oh my.  It can’t really ever be all “nothing”.)
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(Yah. Go ahead and try to make Anders stand somewhere else. Go ahead and try to make him let someone hold him even. Go ahead and try to get everyone looking at the camera at the same time as nobody is doing something like Abe is doing. It’s really not even worth trying. Sigh.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

And then . . .

after we all filled ourselves with after-church snacks; and Abe, Penny and I played one rousing hand of SkipBo; and half of us passed out for afternoon naps throughout various parts of the house (in beds, cribs and couches); and after we’d eaten (and even cleaned up) a lovely Sunday dinner -- complete with mashed potatoes and gravy (you know we’re serious about it being a Sunday dinner when we go to all the trouble of peeling and mashing); we went on a Sunday walk.
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And everyone was totally happy . . . except for Penny for a minute when we told her she couldn’t run on the steep, jagged rocks she’d climbed up . . . and everyone for a minute when I made us leave the exciting new trail we’d found to go back the way we’d come to find the lens cap I’d dropped . . . and Anders when he got overwhelmed by trying to come down too-steep hills he’d followed siblings up . . . and Anders when we ever tried to put him in the stroller to hurry things along . . . and Anders when he dropped “Ducky” in the dirt and got him all dirty. But other than that? Totally happy. Or, at least, totally happy enough.

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