Tomato Sauce on the Carpet

Well, I got paged right before Sacrament meeting, naturally.  I was grateful I had gotten all the kids bathed, and grateful I had gotten myself cleaned up.  I left for the hospital as Nathan was loading up kids for church.  When I got there, I was able to get done what I needed to do and run to the church for sacrament while I waited on another hospital to do their part.  That’s too much chaos for a Sunday.

Nathan had to leave, too, for a community service thing he was doing.  He wrestled long and hard about whether to do it or not, since it was on Sunday, but landed on the service side of things and on the bridge-building-testifying side of things.  That’s how it came to be that we abandoned all our children in the middle of church, on a Sunday, for us to go back to “work” (well, mine was work, but Nathan’s was not).

Sigh.

It’s a hard thing, when it’s my turn to cover the ER, or when Nathan has a show in production and one of those shows is on Sunday (this week was not a show, but there is one coming up – and he asked not to be paid for that show, but he still has to be there).  I know that legalism is not what the Sabbath is about, but we really do take the Sabbath seriously and so very much appreciate the experience of it and the blessing from it.  So if sometimes it is just required of us, then how else can we keep the Sabbath as a family when right now we are not always free to do so in a legalistic way?

I wrestle with that, and struggle with that.

Some things I should know, like at work in my downtime reading talks or lessons instead of doing homework.  Or wearing a dress to help me remember it’s the Sabbath, even if I am going to be at the hospital all day.  Or by focusing on time with Nathan and the children, instead of doing my own thing.

One way we to focus on the children is by making all the kids cry.  That’s always nice.  There is not much meaner even than screaming NOOOOOO!!!! in slow motion as the kids step in the pizza… other than making a big giant pan of eggs and sausage in the morning, letting them watch you roll them into burritos, and then wrapping them in paper and sticking them in the fridge for another day.  It’s the sure fire way to be an awesome mom, cooking a nice hot breakfast that no one can actually eat on Fast Sunday (the kids made cereal again, of course, this time all over the floor, but that’s another story).

While I was still at the hospital, Nathan talked to the kids about the Sabbath, and about why we do not work on the Sabbath, and how it is hard on days that we have to – and how other helping professionals must, like firemen or police officers.  He talked to them about how the Sabbath is for resting, for remembering what God did, for family history work, for family time together, and for helping others.  They decided they wanted to do service, then, and so to surprise me before I came home, everyone cleaned someone else’s room.  How sweet is that?  Those sillies, and what a funny example of not being legalistic, since the cleaning could be work!  Their sweet spirits, though, were so tender, and they really worked hard at helping each other, and I am proud of them for trying to learn.

One step at a time.

I did not get out of the ER until after 5, but was grateful to be home and present before the children went to bed.  We are working on a children’s book series about the prophets.  There is a book for each prophet of this dispensation, and after we finish a book then we watch the “Living Scripture” movie about that prophet.  Right now we are working our way through the Joseph Smith book, and tonight read the story about Moroni coming to tell him about the plates buried in the hill.

And I wondered, “How did Moroni know English?”

Now, I know that this is a silly question, and that my theology does not hang in the balance over it.  I am just curious.  He was there as a person, and really visiting him, not just a vision, so was their talking actual talking?  Or did Joseph understand by the Spirit?  Or was it revelation, like spirit-to-spirit?  I am just curious.  It’s not actually any of my business.  But when your home is full of preschoolers, this is the kind of thing that comes up.

We had cookies and milk tonight, thanks to Nathan’s sweet gesture last night, and it was lovely to just sit at the table visiting with the children.  They are all growing and changing so fast, and Toddler is with us now in the evenings when she used to already be asleep.  I can’t believe she is turning into a real child!  She really is!  We said prayers together, and tucked each of them in with a story and a song and their individual prayers, and then I went to play cello while they fell asleep.

Ah, my cello.

It’s another example of the Sabbath, because if it were just me, in my own little legalistic monastery where I lived all by myself, I would never practice cello on a Sunday.

But now, on a Sunday, play hymns for my children to fall asleep to?  Yes.  I think it’s beautiful.  It’s a connection for us, something I can give them, something that lets them know I am really home tonight, something they will always remember.  That is of God.

Our home teachers came, then, and talked to us about the Atonement.  I grew up knowing about the cross and Jesus dying and the resurrection, about forgiveness, and about eternal life.  It wasn’t until I converted to LDS that I learned about the suffering in the Garden and its direct impact on forgiveness, or about the increased capacity to obey and serve that we get from the atonement.  And it wasn’t until this Ensign, or this lesson, that I learned comfort was a part of that.

Assurance, he said.

Well, of course, my head knows this.

But for a quick moment, my spirit got it, finally.

In the article, President Uchtdorf says:

Though none of us will ever have to experience the depth of what our Lord suffered, we each will have our own dark and bitter hours—times when our sorrow and grief may appear to be greater than we can bear. There will be times when the weight and remorse of our sins will press mercilessly upon us.

Even so, if we will lift our hearts to the Lord during those times, surely He will know and understand. He who suffered so selflessly for us in the garden and on the cross will not leave us comfortless now. He will strengthen, encourage, and bless us. He will encircle us in His gentle arms.

I needed this.

It is new for me, this idea of the atonement offering comfort.  I know the Holy Spirit is the “Comfort-er”, and obviously having the atonement is a great comfort because I would be lost without it.  But the idea of the atonement itself offering me comfort directly is brand-spanking-new to me, and is going to take some time to settle in.  I need to wrestle with it for awhile.

I remember a talk from General Conference once that included instruction about keeping the Spirit as part of the Sabbath, and that the rules for Sundays are not meant to oppress, and especially not to make children miserable on Sundays.  I couldn’t find the talk to link to it, so please leave it in a comment if anyone remembers when or which one it was.  But I didn’t have kids then, I don’t think, or maybe it was right after I got them.  I wondered about the comment then, and how the audience laughed at it like it was funny but also they were guilty, and I wondered what it would be like for me.  I understand now that Sundays are hard as one more day to get up early to get kids out the door on time, or on years like this one when our rotation is in the afternoon, it is painful endurance as we step out to church just as naptime should be starting. I understand the trying to get kids clean some time between playing hard all day on Saturday and arriving in the pew on Sunday.  I understand the disgusting display of snot and gummied crackers that get wiped on my “best” clothes, the urgency at which a mom has to move to get so many kids out the door on time, and the temper tantrums that come at the last minute, delaying everyone, and probably caused by my change with the urgency instead of the gentle persuasion I can use when I am in a spirit-place instead of a we-have-to-leave-now place.  I understand what it means to lay prostrate on the floor in my bedroom to cry repentance, covered with blankets because there are no rocks under which to hide, while all the children are crying in time out on the other side of the door.  I understand what it means to land in the pew, begging for sacrament because I yelled at the kids for running through their pizza, and feeling terrible because it was my own voice that chased away the spirit in our home.  I understand what it means not to want to take my babies to nursery because two hours together is precious, but battling them all the way because it is good and healthy and right for them even though I’d rather just sit and cuddle with them all day while I can.  I understand what it means to slump into my chair in Sunday school, just to breathe for a moment without children pawing at me, wondering when I will ever get better at this, and if I will figure it out before they are gone.  I understand what it means to look at a new baby in her mother’s arms, and wonder what it is like to give birth to a baby who lives, and I almost-very-soon will understand what it means for a judge to say kids can stay for keepsies, for the temple to say eternity is possible, for me to determine not to yell about the pizza next time because eternity is more important than tomato sauce on the carpet.

I don’t know very much, but I know to keep trying.  I know that the atonement covers me like my repentance blanket, and somehow makes it okay for me to still approach my Father-in-Heaven the way I hold those babies when they finish their two minutes or six minutes in time out.  I know that the atonement increases my capacity, far more than what I can do on my own, and that the only time I really fail is when I get lost in what I want instead of what He wants.  I know that while I would love a weekend of being nourished by General Conference, the most important thing will be creatively making a positive General Conference experience for the children, so that one day they will want to be there, will want to pay attention, and will want to follow the prophet.  I know that pulling that off will mostly mean me trying hard not to yell about tomato sauce on the carpet, and instead focus on how funny pizza feels between your toes.  I know that my home teachers promised me that the atonement brings comfort, too, and that if I pray about that and think about that and study about that, it means I will learn more about it and start to know that, too.

Even if the only time I actually get to hear General Conference is at 4 in the morning, on my way to chaplain before work.

And maybe, just maybe, that leads to a greater understanding than if I yelled about pizza long enough to make every child quiet enough for me to hear every single word as it was said while conference was happening live.

Blast.

Sister Oscarson said:

“We should ‘make our homes’ places of order, refuge, holiness and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.”

We have work to do.

In Nathan’s writing work, one of his favorite things and best skills (besides the crafting of words) is creative placemaking.  This is when the play or musical or whatever it is becomes a part of the space in which the audience actually is, rather than only on the stage.  It uses the environment itself as part of the creative experience, and it’s an amazing and powerful thing.

I think that’s what we need to do at home, maybe, besides just following rules.

How do we create our home into a place where the Spirit is felt in “rich abundance”, and where our primary goal in every moment is one of defending our home as a holy place?  While that does require the rules that comes with covenants we have made and the lifestyle that is our religious culture, it is actually very Spirit based.  It takes a different kind of parenting, one that focuses on where the children are and what they need, rather than what my agenda is that day.

That makes me think of chaplaincy, and it makes me wonder if that is part of why I got called to this, because I really need to learn it for my children.

That gives me something to think about today, besides tomato sauce on the carpet… or how it was me who put the pizza on the floor, anyway, while the kids had a picnic and I was trying to feed a baby and braid Six’s hair and assuming everyone would just walk around it rather than in and through it.

Silly mama.

 

Breakfast Ready

While I was in Muskogee, my friend taught me this:

 

It is turkey sausage, eggs, and cheese wrapped in tortillas for homemade breakfast burritos.  Then I wrapped them in freezer paper, making little packets easy to grab on the go.  Now when I am in a hurry, I can still get a protein breakfast without waking the kids, and Nathan has a protein snack to grab this week as we keep trying to be healthy.  Each one heats in the microwave for 45 seconds, and we are good to go!

  

Baby Carrots

This weekend was marvelous, let me say, and so good for me, for us.  Being away even only for a few days feels like ages, and I was so glad to be home.  I don’t know how Nathan does it when he has to go for a week or two all the way to New York.  He did great with the kids while I was gone, though we got lots of help from his parents and the Bayles family, with the Vivians on call for backup for rides just in case, because he was in rehearsal every night.  It was a strange week, both of us being gone, and not something that happens often.  We are grateful for those who are our “extended family” who “lend support when needed” (Family Proclamation).

That said, it is a great weight lifted off us to know that we do not need to move right now, and to know that the residency is not an option for us.  We are still playing with the pieces of the actual internship itself.  I submitted a possible schedule, and we will see if the Muskogee hospital accepts it.  There are two other alternatives: taking the Saturday shift consistently, which would mean I could only take the ER pager on the Sunday shifts for the summer, but that would be better than being gone every Sunday to Muskogee; or, to simply wait until next summer to do the internship, if they would keep me in the program that long, so that the new baby would be one instead of newborn.

The good news, though, is that I did find out from Salt Lake that I only am required one unit at the Muskogee to get the certification they are asking of me.  With my other education and clinical experience, I can “clep out” basically, being certified by that organization for one unit based on experience.  That still leaves two more units at the hospital in Tulsa, but we have found that manageable.  Most nights I get enough sleep to do okay the next day, and having one overnight count as a shift saves me my work days and time with the kids.  So having that in the schedule is rough, but we are getting through it okay.  It’s just the unit in Muskogee that is tricky, since it is just far enough away to be difficult, and no night shift, so meaning two days there.  We will figure it out a piece at a time.

Yesterday was a big day in the world of the Sixes.  They made breakfast all by themselves!  Because of lack of exposure, they are a little delayed in some of these basic skills.  We have been working hard on it, and yesterday I announced that the day had come!  When you are ready for your cereal (no matter what we offer to cook, they almost always just want cheerios), go make your own bowl of cereal.  It was the perfect day I had been waiting for, for the milk to be only a quarter gallon or so, making it possible for them to pick it up and pour it easily.  I had been waiting for just such a Saturday!  They used a chair to get down bowls for themselves and the Toddler and Baby, passed out spoons, got out and poured the cereal, got out and poured the milk, and delivered the bowls to the table.  They had so much fun and were so proud of themselves!  When they finished, they put their bowls and cups and spoons in the dishwasher, put away the milk and cereal, and wiped down the table and counter.  Then they swept the floor, which is their favorite game of moving the chairs and tables around, using the big brooms and using their little play brooms, and taking turns with dust pans.  They did great!  I was so proud!  They were so excited!  It was so much fun!

We spent a little time, then, making thank you cards for the family that hosted us on our vacation.  Six, for the first time, drew herself brown.  This is a big deal.  Her mother insists she is white, even though she is very brown, and Six is old enough now to recognize this is just not consistent with reality.  After several months of discussing the colors in our rainbow family, and how we are all the same and how we are all different, she did for the first time color herself brown.  I was so thrilled that I cried and hugged her up and told her she is beautiful.

She replied with, “even if I can’t hear with my brown ears because they don’t work.”

I said, “that is exactly right,” and tapped her on her little brown nose.

Then she came out with her first ever disclosure, after all these months, “did you know that I can’t hear because my mom and dad hit me in the head and knock me down too many times?”

“Yes,” I said softly back to her, and kissed her on the head.

“Well, when I grow up and my ears get better, then I won’t need hearing aids anymore.”

That stopped me in my tracks.  I turned back to her, got down on my knees so my face was even with her face, and took her hands in mine.  Sometimes we have to say hard things out loud.  I said, “(Six), your ears are not getting better.  Your ears are going away.  Your ears do not work, just like mine did not work, and they are going to stop working all together, very soon.  Very soon even hearing aids will not help anymore.  Even hearing aids will not work, not at all.  This is why you MUST learn to talk with your hands, and this is why we are seeing the doctor about cochlear implants.”

“Oh,” she said quietly.

I still don’t know if she understands.  We have had this conversation so many times.  It isn’t sinking in, and she doesn’t understand, and I don’t know how else to tell her.

She is making progress.  She was locked away so far inside herself that it has been a very slow process pulling her out, but she is in there, and she is starting to emerge.  She is working hard with her therapist, finally, seriously working through real stuff and actually starting to process some of her trauma.  Her speech is regressing since 13 stole her hearing aid, and I hope they give her something soon.  She has an appointment this week with the doctor about the cochlear implants, and I don’t know if they are going to move forward quickly with that or if they are going to get her a replacement hearing aid or both.  But she is starting to bond with us, or trying at least, and she is following the family rules and responds to redirection now.  She is signing more, asking for help more, and when she gets upset is able to intervene in her own behalf, calm down, and return to the group to play again.  I am really proud of her.

She also recognized a pattern, legitimately, between her name and my mother’s name and Nathan’s mother’s name, and from this derived her own name that she wants when she gets adopted.  This is amazing and incredible all at the same time, while also being entirely off limits for conversation before rights are actually terminated.  It’s a tricky spot, while Five and Toddler are about to be adopted but she is just starting the termination process.  Even if everyone expects it and says so, while she still has visits and before termination happens, it’s not something we actually have a lot of freedom to talk about very much.  In the meantime, she has picked out her name, which makes me very happy, and she and Five also renamed the Baby for her adoption.  It makes me laugh, but we must be cautious and cannot actually talk about it more until it is appropriate timing for that and we have permission.  I did write it all down, though, just to be sure we don’t forget, in case the whole process takes another year.  I don’t think we will forget, though, because it’s the kind of thing that just gets written on your heart, as true as if it always has been.  The names make sense, and seem like they have always been their names.  What a journey we are on!

I am on call for the local ER today, and woke up grateful the pager never went off last night.  I got really good sleep, and woke refreshed and rested.  Yesterday was an easy day, and so we feel caught up at home instead of overwhelmed or behind.  We got laundry done, the house clean, and plenty of play time in – though I did finish the adoption videos instead of working in the garage, but at least those are done and ready to be posted and shared when it is time.  I have a plan for food preparation today, if the pager doesn’t go off, and that will make this week a little easier for me during work and for Nathan when I am gone.  Five and Toddler have their temple outfits ready, court outfits ready, and the song prepared that they want to sing for the judge – we will see if they are really so brave once we are there!  I can’t believe it’s almost time!

Last night was the Women’s Meeting for General Conference this Spring, and I loved it!  I loved watching it with Six, except for the moment I fussed at the kids for running in and actually stepping in the pizza because they weren’t watching where they were going (TWICE).  That was during the part where they were talking about keeping the Spirit in the home at all times, so that felt like a fail but I will keep trying.  I loved the emphasis on the Family Proclamation!  I need it so much, both to correct ways I grew up and to use strengths also, as well as to have a good model and image for what we are striving for, with guidelines that keep us focused and principles that teach us why and how.  The Family Proclamation was the scripture I memorized after getting baptized, so it has always held a special place in my heart.

Besides how to create and care for and maintain a family, the Family Proclamation helps me a great deal with caring for my Self as well.  Sister Esplin said last night, “The answers to our prayers may not come dramatically, but we must find quiet moments to seek greater light and truth. And when we receive it, it is our responsibility to live it, to share it and to defend it.”  This has been critical this year, with so much that could have us “busy” and distracted.  I have loved, though, the conscious planning of quiet time and self-care, and noted what a difference it makes when it is absent.  I have boundaries for myself that help, like using the time in the car for only conference talks or hymns and praise music; quiet time built into my structure away, like long hours in the silent chapel praying and listening and receiving revelation and guidance, instead of just waiting for the pager to go off while watching television or wasting time; priorities to reinforce how I structure my day, like using away time for as much homework I can get done as possible, so my time at home is really very present time; and knowing that every moment with the children counts – and utilizing the time with them in such a way to keep it interactive based, so that we are growing and learning together as much as possible.  I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

Sister Oscarson said last night that “[We] are very aware that not all women are experiencing what the proclamation describes. It is still important to understand and teach the Lord’s pattern and strive for the realization of that pattern the best we can.”  I thought of this for myself, in that I do not in this season get to be a stay at home mom, or that Nathan and I got six weeks of bliss before the last two years of intensity happened to us, or of how long we waited to find each other.  Except the thing is that we did find each other, we did get through the last two years, and we are still blissfully and disgustingly sappy.  I also thought of friends I have whose husbands are not like Nathan, who don’t help their wives, or who aren’t kind, or who are not faithful or gentle or good or so hard working as he is.  I think it is one reason we ladies need each other, why we meet twice a year for this meeting and more often for other local meetings, because we can help each other through these experiences and draw strength from each other.  I am so very grateful, and once again reminded that “salvation” is not always just an individual matter.

Sister Stephens said:

“Sisters, we belong; we are loved; we are needed; we have a divine purpose, work, place, and role in the Church and kingdom of God and in His eternal family. Do you know deep in your heart that your Heavenly Father loves you and desires you and those you love to be with Him? Just as ‘Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ are perfect …, their hopes for us are perfect’ (“Let Us Think Straight,” BYU Education Week, August 2013). Their plan for us is perfect, and Their promises are sure.”

I needed this because I know from the last conference we focused on how being “perfect” is being “whole”, not just perfect as in finished or mistake-free.  I have worked hard, even this crazy semester, and in my professional goal at work, to do better self-care to be sure I was “whole”.  I love my cello, I love the sunshine, I love eating well and moving to make me strong, and I love time with my family.  It has been a wonderful experience to go through these months focused on these things, and learning how much they help me in body and in spirit.  I have seen how losing these pieces makes me not as well, and how focusing on these pieces keeps me stronger regardless of circumstances.  I love learning that I am loved, even when that is still hard for me, and knowing that I am needed – not in some gross co-dependent way, but in a mutual edification kind of way, in a having a purpose kind of way, in a having something to offer kind of way.  I love choosing work that is holy, and striving (wrestling) to make my work more holy.  I love the eternal safety and security of my role, while getting to play and live and experience the wide array of what that means.  These lessons have made me more myself, even though I still need to practice them more.

Part of this learning has included starting to understand that I am not alone, not abandoned, not on my own to accomplish so much.  One of my greatest experiences from having cancer was having to completely and entirely rely on the help from others, and to realize that I was still safe and still provided for and cared for and okay.  It was so scary, but so good for me.  President Eyring spoke of the Atonement last night, “The burden of sin can be taken away, but the trials of mortal life for good people can still be heavy burdens.”  I feel like the last three years were heavy burdens!  Or more!  Yet we are doing just fine, healthy and well and happy, because so many people have helped us and loved us so well.  I am so, so grateful.  I really, really am.  He also said, “That is why you have a feeling to want to help a person struggling to move forward under a load of grief and difficulty… You promised that you would help the Lord make their burdens light and be comforted. You were given the power to help lighten those loads when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  As he said these words, I had tears with visions of those who have done so much to help me and my family.  I was filled with love and peace and comfort in a way that only comes from God, except also a knowledge that it came to me through God’s people.  I was so filled with gratitude, and so hope that someday in some way, even a little at a time, I can help those around me the way so many have helped me.

Sometimes it really is the small things, like hurrying this morning to get the roast in the crockpot just in case the pager goes off at any minute.  Not all of us have degrees in doilies, and so some of us have to start small.  Small like baby carrots kind of small.

But at least it’s a start.

Even if this isn’t the year that the carrots are from my own garden, since last year was the year of cancer. Seasons, right? So still, despite cancer, my crockpot is full of carrots. Everything is going to be okay.

  

Criss Cross Braids

This took me four hours.

She wants beads on the end, but we can’t do that until after she has her visit with her mother this week.

We are learning each other, her and I, and it’s about more than just hair.

   

           

Grassy Dog

Toddler and the Baby spent three hours this afternoon repeatedly covering Neitzsche in grass, and then laughing hysterically when he walked off with it still on him before shaking it off.  I probably won’t even have to mow now!