Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

We have a lot of nicknames in our house.  Matt christens us all, routinely, with something new to answer to.

A few examples:

Jessica, Jae, JaeReg, Reg, Reggie, Jethro, Jethrodesia

Caroline, Carlo, Carlotta, Carlotta Kumquata, Kumquat

Jonah, Yonut, Fro-nut, Yonus Fro, Donkey Nut, Donut, Bon-oh-me-oh, Bon-oh-mc-me-oh

Cecily . . . she says hers is Cecil

Ewan, Bald-e-wan,  Brick Density

Obviously the nick names are not necessarily an effort to shorten a name, or even associated with the given name in any way.  Matthew's mind works in mysterious ways.

Another obvious is that Cecily is strangely lacking any nicknames.  None have ever stuck to her.  Which is odd considering that 'Bon-oh-me-oh' sounds just like 'Jonah' to my ears.  Where is the connection?  Nowhere.  It is Matt's gift of persistence that stitches a name to a person.  But like Peter Pan's elusive shadow, no nicknames have settled on Cecily long enough to start sewing.

Jonah and Caroline are, evidently, adopting their Dad's practice.  Yesterday Caroline declared "Jonah, I'm going to call you Phoebe."  To which Jonah responded, "I'm going to call you Carton-of-Jurassic-Buttermilk."

We'll see if those stick.

That would be Phoebe on the left, JaeReg in the middle, and Carton-of-Jurassic-Buttermilk on the right.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Giving Up Governance of a Door


Sarah has always been at the heart of me . . . the center of friends that come to you without sharing the blood of you.

We grew up in different homes.  She says the door was governed on her home.  It opened at the will of the parent, deciding who to let in and when.  She says the door at my house barely had hinges, barely had a door - it opened before it was knocked.  There were always people in and out with the blessing of whatever parent may or may not be home.

Sarah syas she wanted her grown up house to be like my childhood house.  And strangely, at the time she told me that only a few years ago, my grown up house was more like her childhood house.  When it came to the neighborhood children, Sarah invited and I deliberated.

Not so much anymore.  We have children on our street.  They eat at my table, they play on my porch, they wait at the french doors for Jonah and Caroline to finish math, they build huts in the woods at the end of the road, they play behind our garage, they build villages with Jonah's legos, they parade in the girl's dress up clothes, they make cookies with us, they dance in our kitchen, they leave their toys at our house.  They gather in our driveway for a warm walk at the end of October in Virginia.

We have four doors on this house, and they all seem to open easily.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Grasping at Grandpa

A recent conversation with Cecily ::

Cecily: What happens if Grandpa gets hit by a car?

Me:  Which Grandpa?

C:  Tickle Grandpa.

M:  He can't.  He already died.

C:  But what if he gets hit after he comes alive again?

M:  He can only die once.  When we are resurrected we live forever.

C:  But we will die.

M:  Yes, because we're still mortal.  We will die and then we will be resurrected and we will live forever.  We'll never die again.

C:  Oh, it's like Rapunzel's hair.

May I comment on this exchange with some degree of earnestness?

I believe what I told Cecily.  My God, My Eternal Father in the Heavens above is real.  He gave me my own Father here in this life - the divine gift of family, because family has always been the very illuminated center of the vastly encompassing and simple plan of all our existence.  The man who is my earthly father is also a child to our spiritual Father.  My Dad and I - we are father and daughter - we are brother and sister.   Both recipients of the resurrection that Jesus Christ purchased for us.  The ALL us.  The every-human-being-who-has-ever-lived us.

In my life this is not a fantastical, wish-it-were-true fairy tale.  This is the truth by which I make every choice.

God speaks to his children.  Of whom, I am one who is listening.  Sometimes.

Cecily is fixated with the death of her Tickle Grandpa.  She is three, so her mind harbors the experience in a way I am still trying to understand.  The entirety of her conscious life has been dominated by . . . change? . . . upheaval?  I'm not sure what to call her experience.  At two she was trying to grasp the new, abstract absence of her beloved Tickle Grandpa.  Shortly thereafter she was pulled from her bed and her home to escape a flood that defined our exit from Salt Lake City itself.  From January 28th of 2011 to present she has been without a stability of spirit.

In the midst of all this the constant has been her fixation with Grandpa.  It manifests itself in strange places.  Cecily's sadness, anger, and delight can all find a voice in Tickle Grandpa.

She watches me open a pomegranate and slowly extract the arils into a bowl for all of the children to eat unhindered by the leathery skin and difficult pith.  In the motions of it I see my Dad's hands that have countless times done this same thing.  He was born to the desert, eating pomegranates from beginning to end.
Cecily interrupts my thoughts with her own.  "When he comes back alive, I think Tickle Grandpa will like to have pomegranate seeds for a snack."
"I'm sure he will, Cecily.  Tickle Grandpa loves pomegranates."
Let's just hope that he is not gobbling them up in the afterlife making himself prisoner to the dark one like poor Persephone.


Cecily comes to me in the morning, still rubbing sleep from her eyes, holding a little Boppy.  "Mom, I feel like I'm dreaming out of my Grandpa."


Cecily prays incessantly.  She is in a stage of defying everyone else in the house the opportunity to pray because she owns it.  And in every prayer is the same request, "Please bless my Tickle Grandpa to come back alive."


She requests stories over and over that feature baby Cecily and Tickle Grandpa.  Her favorite is simply this:
Baby Cecily and Tickle Grandpa were sooo tired.  Grandpa laid down on the couch, put Cecily right  on his chest and they both fell asleep.


I find Cecily at the computer looking at the screen of all our Skype Contacts.  She looks at me with terrible disappointment and says "I skyped Tickle Grandpa, but he wasn't alive."


In the midst of a tearful, screaming argument with Caroline, Cecily shouts, "STOP CAROLINE! You're making my Grandpa not come back alive!"

It is this declaration that has given me the most insight into her experience.  She interprets all hurt through the lens of Grandpa being dead.  The more she hurts, for whatever reason, the farther away is the reality or memory of Grandpa.  And where there is peace there is also the greater possibility of his return.

I had a dream the other night in which my Dad visited me.  When my eyes met his I refused to look away, knowing that I was dreaming, knowing that he was really with me, knowing that in the moment I looked away he would be gone.  I miss him.  I didn't want him to go.  I touched his arm and we both began to float slowly away, into the sky.  All the while I would not let go of his eyes.  He smiled and touched my hand that was on his arm, "It's ok Jess.  You can stay here.  It's ok. I'm ok."

So if any of you have been wondering - he says he's ok.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When The Cat's Away . . .


We knew he was gifted . . . just not x-men gifted.

Hoping we don't have a Jack-Jack on our hands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cecily's Sword

Who said it was 2?
Terrible Two has never been To-The-Pain for me.  It has always been 3.
Right smack dab in the middle of Cecily's current psyche.

She speaketh like the piercings of a sword with disturbing alacrity.  All smiles, or pursed lips that seem to be holding at bay her desire to laugh in the face of all my motherly frustration.  Frustration might be a gentle word for it . . . perhaps motherly rage is more accurate.

With that piercing sword she strikes ruthlessly To-The-Pain, but never, sparingly, To-The-Death.
I'll explain, and in true Westley-an (Princess Bride) fashion "I'll use small words so you'll be sure to understand," but I'll stop short of calling you a warthog-faced-bafoon.  A friendly gesture.  I'm not three anymore.  Not like some people I know.

"You're a mean mama." She takes a foot.

"I don't like your face." A hand.

"You have a big, chubby tummy, Mommy."  Both eyes and a nose.

"Go away from me."  But not the ears.

The ears I get to keep so I can hear, with perfect clarity, every innocent slur Cecily and the next three-year-old has to wound me with.  Leaving me to "wallow in freakish misery forever."

Or not quite forever.  There are glimpses of light.  Because three eventually turns into four, turns into five . . .and occasionally even Cecily tests the waters of sweetness in which she used to swim freely.

Cecily making her way down our hallway that is so long we can run a  hundred yard dash from one end to the other.  She is wearing my leather dress boots.  The boots come to my knee.  The boots come to her hips, only because her body won't let them go any higher.  Her hundred yard dash form my room to the kitchen is an awkward, lurching affair that she seems pleased with.

Cecily opens the refrigerator and while browsing for something good to eat she looks at me and gesturing towards the boots says "Look Mom, I'm made of you."

Yes.  By the luck of the draw.
And even, sometimes, by choice.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Electronic Toys By Any Other Name . . .

. . . still feel like sandpaper on my principled sensibilities.

I got out of bed at 12 minutes past 6:00 this morning - only twelve minutes later than yesterday.  And it wasn't that long ago as it is now only 7:28 am.  Strangely, four out of four children are still in bed.  Sleeping with heaps of blankets over their little warm bodies keeping out the ridiculous cold of an upstairs that is not connected to our furnace/cooler system.

I have spoken too soon - I hear footsteps - one minute while I hug the body that goes with them . . .

Jonah.  Mmmmm.  Jonah.

Matt and I taught our first Institute class together last night.  As he described it to the students, it is a leap of faith for us.  He teaches the gospel for a living, I teach our children how to identify and label a right angle.  Different spheres.  But it was great fun being with Matt and sharing in the experience of teaching "Preparing for Eternal Marriage" in a class with more than 30 young adults, including five or six couples who are engaged to be married.

We are only able to do this because our dear little friend Chelsea - an SVU freshman from Alaska - is willing to come watch our children every Thursday evening for the next fifteen weeks.  She loves our kids and we love her.  She brought them Christmas gifts last night that she had purchased in Alaska while home during the Christmas break.  Venturing out into the - 40 deg F just to git gifties for my babies.  That's NEGATIVE 40 degrees.  Inhospitable is a raging understatement.  It's a wonder there is life on a planet that can reach such temperatures, and a wonder indeed that humans choose to live where the sun is a fleeting guest.

Anyway, Chelsea put on her parka and trudged through the frozen, dark tundra to get something to bring back for each of our children.  Cecily ended up with the electronic Toddler Text and Letter Learning toy. Marketed as educational my suspicion is that the cellular phone companies produce these as means of establishing a guaranteed customer base very early.

Everything in me wanted to make the thing disappear before it really had time to appear.  Cecily turned into a brute charging up the stairs with her new chiming fandangly thing as she clutched it to her bosom while she yelled at me, "No, it's mine.  It's my OWN ipod.  I'm putting it in my toy box and you can't touch it."

How is it that batteries make instant monsters of sweet children?

So I waited until she was asleep, stole into the cold room, pulled her plastic toy bin out from under her bed and found, way at the back, accompanied by not one other toy, the new electronic fandangly thing.   With a mother's "righteous" insolence I pulled it out and hid it in a shoebox deep in my closet.


But not.

It didn't feel right.

When I got out of bed this morning at twelve minutes past 6:00 it was because I knew I had to put the electronic fandangly thing back in her toy bin before she woke up.  Somehow this one respect for the fledgling autonomy of my three-year-old was critical to our long term relationship.

I was right.  She showed up shortly after Jonah with the toy in hand, already chiming.  She and I have spent the last thirty minutes on the couch playing with it together.  The toy is put away now - under a peaceable governance - so we can do other things with the day.

I am sure I preserved something between her and me that would have been lost if I had acted as brazenly as I nearly did.

What a blind business is parenting.