Me *suppressing the “I haven’t heard this one before” look*: Yep.
Man: Are they all yours??
Me *Suppressing harder*: Yep.
Man: Are you a Mormon?
Me *actually surprised this time*: Yeah!
Man: Are you from the Midwest?
Me: Yeah! (Former beehive in the Nauvoo Stake. Heck yes I’m midwestern!)
Man: So you’re from Utah?
Me *Disappointed with man’s abysmal geography*: Nope.
Man *disppointed with my lack of authentic Mormonness*: Oh. I have some friends who are Mormons. They all live out on a nice commune in Missourah. They go to Florida every winter. Why do you go to Florida every winter?
Me: We don’t.
Man *a little more disappointed*: Oh. Anyway, they brought me some great pasta back from their commune in Florida.
Me: Oh. OK.
Man: So you’re a polyga–
Man *Disappointed*: Oh. OK.
And that’s when we parted ways, me to teach the children about Greco-Roman civilization at Fancypants University Art Gallery, and the man, a little bewildered, to presumably go home and eat Polygamy Pasta.
Over the course of our marriage, we’ve passed through several seasons of calm and chaos. The last six months of 2016 were insane, between moving twice, having a baby, and husband preparing for his qualifying exams, gallivanting off to physics conferences as part of his program, and breaking both his arms. Yes, his arms. BOTH of them.
Since the new year, however, things have settled down and we’ve been able to resume some old routines that make life so, so much smoother. You’d think that running your life on a list (and lists of lists) on your phone would be constraining, but the structure (particularly following a season of chaos) is actually enormously freeing. Things get done. Checking off checkboxes fires endorphins. Books and blogs get written. And adventures continue apace with less running late and fewer crises of household.
This is approximately how our little family of seven has been puttering through 2017:
6:45: Wake up to hungry baby. Nurse baby. Read scriptures (or, if not on a social media fast, check Facebook and feel vaguely guilty about it.)
7:05: Put sleeping baby back down and go downstairs to start list. I have this magical list of 15 things I need to do each morning before breakfast and school. It appears on my phone at 6 am, and when those are done, my house is mysteriously cleaner, and my brain is ready for children’s school and life in general. There are a lot of enormously basic things on the list like “brush teeth” and “say prayers” and “read scriptures.” You’d think after a decade or two of doing those things, they’d happen without thought. Not so. Doubly not so when a child wakes up vomiting, a basement is flooded, or, you know, I get horribly distracted by an internet thread that I should not have been reading prior to scriptures. Ergo, I have a list to remind me what I still need to do after managing some unexpected crisis (or non-crisis).
8:00-Finish list. The kids are waking up, and need kisses and good mornings and reminders about room tidying, clothes wearing, prayer saying. Kitchen duty child is reminded to put away last night’s dishes. Jane the Austen does Katherine the Great’s hair. Because she’s awesome like that.
8:10-Breakfast. Oatmeal and grapefruit, the standard fare.
8:30-School Starts. Kitchen duty child spends first twenty minutes or so of school doing dishes. Some children are much faster dish doers than others. I have a list of 21 things that need to happen during school. If I don’t have and use it, I will wake up at 11:30 pm thinking, “Jane the Austen did not diagram a single sentence today. Clive the staples did no spelling exercises. I am neglecting their education.” I don’t know about you, but diagramming sentences is not what I want to be thinking about at 11:30 pm.
Noon-ish-School finishes. Here’s when I start my (shorter) list of 8 things I need to do in the afternoon. We’re so very lucky at this point in life that husband can come home for lunch nearly every day. This is when lots of the “what did you learn at school today?” conversation happens. It’s very gratifying to hear what they have remembered, internalized, or found notable about what we covered in the last few hours.
The most treasured and precious item on the noon list, besides our family lunch, is WRITE. The children have 1-2 glorious hours in the afternoon wherein they play, have friends over, run around like insane little heathens, nap, etc. I write amidst the chaos. And we’re all the happier for it.
Late Afternoon-pretty much every weekday afternoon is taken up with afterschool extracurriculars, running errands, helping out immigrant and refugee friends, or all of the above, in the case of Jane the Austen, who helps out in an afterschool program for her refugee and immigrant peers.
Evening-We come stumbling home from our adventures, exhausted, with me reminding the kids a million times to help bring in library books and groceries, because I am carrying in the smallest child or two, who almost always fall asleep on the way home. Generally speaking, they also need reminding to go close the door of the van. Otherwise, our wonderfully conscientious neighbor will come remind us. Enthusiastically.
6 pm-Husband comes home again, and we have dinner. I set about my short (6-item) evening list, which I rarely complete. Post dinner, kitchen duty child and husband or I do the dishes, we read scriptures and pray as a family, husband takes the kids upstairs for bedtime stories, and I do yoga. And write. And prepare to do it again the next day.
The children are in bed asleep, the finest of husbands is doing laundry, and I am soaking the first chilblains of my life in an old sitz bath in the bathroom. Because around here, that’s how we roll.
One purpose of this blog is to review the many lovely books we read. This particular one inspired Clive the Staples to sit at the living room window, staring out reflectively in between bouts of jotting down freeform poetry for approximately 20 minutes. If you knew Clive the Staples, you’d understand that this is extraordinary indeed.
Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess is beautifully written, tenderly illustrated, and sprinkled E. E.’s language and vivacity.
In our book, it gets five stars for whetting poetic appetites.
In the spirit of things, here is my favorite E. E. Cummings poem, one I memorized in college whilst engaged to my Beloved:
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Because across decades of following (and not following) the advice of the leadership of my church, I have learned that there truly is merit to their invitations. In fact, no other council has ever been as consistently helpful.
Actual reason 1b:
My body, my choice. I choose this standard because it feels right.
Because my body is a shameful thing.
Actual reason 2:
Because my body is friggin’ awesome. It has birthed five babies and fed them, carried me around two continents, climbed mountains, passed lifeguard training, progresses daily in various asanas,and I really do love it. It deserves respectful presentation, not exhibitionism. One can argue all day long about what is tasteful and what is not, at which point, please see Actual Reason 1. When choosing a standard, why not consider the input of people with hundreds of years of combined experience, who have proven themselves again and again?
Because I don’t want to be “walking porn,” because I’m responsible for the thoughts of others, etc.
Actual reason 3:
Because there is a whole population of people recovering from/battling pornography addiction and sex addiction. While I cannot control their thoughts, and am in no way responsible for the caprices of their triggers, I will never forget hearing one struggling soul lament how much s/he hates summer–when being surrounded by exposed bodies is like being a recovering alcoholic in a bar. Out of respect and love and solidarity for those quietly fighting their personal battles, I will opt for knee length over cheeky.
Because I don’t want to be attacked/catcalled/raped.
Actual Reason 4:
Once again, I’m not responsible for other’s actions. In a perfect world, we would all look at one another and see each other’s souls/ personhood/ infinite value, and behave accordingly. But we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a fallen world, wherein people can and will treat us differently according to how we look. Fair? No. True? Yes. Don’t believe me? Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. I dare you.
How I dress communicates more about myself than most people have the time or patience to hear or read. Ergo, I choose to communicate through modesty.
Because I was brought up to. Because I was told to. Because my community expects me to.
Actual Reason 5:
Because I love God, and this is a sign between Him and me. It’s representative of many things, both sacred and profane, both explainable and beyond words, that exist in my relationship to the Divine. It’s an expression of my personal initiative and commitment in this most precious relationship. My choice of clothing is sacred, and how I cover myself is as real, personal, and sacred. Hijab for some, tichel for some, mantilla for some, sleeved shirts for some. It’s sacred and belongs between the self and God.
Actual Reason 5b:
Because I want to. And even if there were times and places when I don’t feel like it, see Reason 5. All relationships matter more than clothing choice, but this relationship matters infinitely more. I can already hear some saying, “if your God would cast you off for something as shallow as how you dress, he’s not worth worshipping!”
My dress is not about God’s love for me. It’s about my love for God. Which is small and imperfect and deserves every outlet of expression I can find for it.
Lucy the Maude was 11 days old, and we spent the night in various levels of semi conscious nursing. Drifting in an out of sleep, but never really resting, because there’s a baby attached to me. Lucy the Maude is very, very attached.
My alarm went off at 6 am. I had set it the day before the election so I could get to the polls before the lines, so I could be home on time to care for my brood of 5, plus my friend’s brood of 5*, on that adventurous election day. Election day had been preceded by good sleep and early morning.
The early morning post election…was less than welcome.
Husband got up to silence my alarm, and crawled back into bed with my phone. He’s not the lie-around-in-bed-with-a-phone type, but this is the morning after election.
So I asked him. “Who won?”
“Trump took it.”
And then I felt sick. And a little panicked. And then sick some more.
Those three words still make me cringe. I didn’t realize how badly I didn’t want him to win until he won. I hadn’t given enough serious consideration to the possibility.
All morning, sound clips and footage I’d seen of Trump kept running through my head. And my husband’s three words, “Trump took it.” And it’s possible I cried, but I’m not admitting to that. Or I’ll blame it on being 11 days postpartum.
I looked at my daughters–newborn, toddler, preadolescent–and it was hard.
I looked at my sons–grade schoolers–and it was hard.
I thought of my new american friends, recently arrived from Africa and the middle east–mostly muslim–and it was hard.
I thought of my years on the US-Mexico border in Texas and New Mexico, of all the people there–and it was hard.
At the end of the day, it was still hard. But at the end of the day, I was no longer in a state of panic.
Because at at the end of the day, this is what I had:
a text from my husband, expressing his love for me and referring me to 2 Kings 6:16.
My five beautiful children, safe and sound and growing.
Health insurance that made Mr. the Roger’s dermatology appointment possible
A date with Mr. the Rogers for a post-dermatology donut
A text conversation with some dear (Muslim, immigrant) friends. They were frank about their disappointment, but that was dwarfed by their gratitude to live in a democracy, by their patriotism, by their support of the parts of Trump they agreed with. Their pragmatism, optimism, and confidence was an example and a blessing to me.
Speeches from Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump expressing graciousness towards one another and belief in the peaceful transition of power. That they were saying these things instead of inciting violence is so rare in the course of human events that I feel blessed to witness it.
Trust in God’s love for me, you, that orange haired man, and the people he doesn’t understand***
Am I happy with the outcome of the election? No.
Do I worry about what sort of damage may be done? Yes…but..
He is one man.
He is (blessedly) not my husband. Or your husband, probably.
He is a child of God. And so are the people who voted for him. And they, like the hypothetical immigrant terrorists he fears, like me, like you, can all grow.
Contrary to every pop song ever, we can choose how we feel. It’s hard, it takes practice, but it’s possible.
I can choose to love instead of fear. I can choose to love** at all times, and in all things and in all places.
Because, unlike the outcome of this election, this is something I can control.
God bless those who voted, and those who did not. God bless the president, even if he must be the orange haired man, to make wise and good choices. God bless us to not freak out and hate our neighbors and countrymen over their various feelings about the orange-haired man, or because of their fears. God bless us to choose love over fear, to choose acting over being acted upon.
God bless America.
*Yes, at 10 days postpartum, we spent the day with 10 kids. It’s less daunting than it sounds. Friend’s kids are ridiculously well behaved children. Also, I had my mother in law and brother in law with me, helping with cooking and cleaning and kitchen window replacement. They’re remarkable humans. Also, I had salt and vinegar chips, and lunchmeat and a plethora of other delicious, easy things to eat, also courtesy of friend. Election day was a good day. It was the last day I could fantasize over having my favorite candidate elected against all odds.
Because of this, it would appear that I cannot donate blood. You know, in the off chance that I contracted Mad Cow disease as an infant.*
This is a tragedy, since I believe strongly in blood donation. It saves lives.
We’re all about life around here, most specifically the honoring, caring for, and keeping of life.**
Husband and I are the fortunate caretakers of five lovely offspring:
Jane the Austin, born in the Mountain West, is a violinist, avid knitter, and prolific reader. She aspires to be a violinist-astronaut-Mom, and return to her ancestral home of Northern Alaska to teach elementary school, not unlike Miss Agnes.
Clive the Staples, born in the South, is also somewhat musical, but prefers playing chess and running around with swords to reading. He has a very deeply rooted sense of justice. He aspires to serve a mission and be a Dad.
Mr. the Rogers, also born in the South, loves swordfighting with Clive Staples, reading with Jane Austin, warring (and occasionally peace-ing, or conspiring) with Katherine the Great, and eating pickled herring. He aspires to be a firefighter.
Katherine the Great, born in the Pacific Northwest, sings better than the rest of the tribe, but does little in the way of speaking. She manages to get her points across anyway. She is affectionately referred to by her older siblings as the Miniature Dictator. She aspires to eat all the cheese.***
Lucy the Maude (or, The Nursling), is our first New England born child. She loves to nurse, sleep, poop, and make faces and grunting noises that delight the rest of us. She is growing accustomed to our antics. She aspires to live in my arms all her waking and sleeping hours, but fortunately will also tolerate Husband, Jane Austin, and Clive Staples when nature calls.****
Besides our adventures with offspring, we’ve also fostered cats (for days on end), and neighborhood children (for days to years on end, depending on the child.).
At the commencement of this blog, we find ourselves in the urban wilds of New England, where we have adventures in cultural exchange with immigrant and refugee friends, play music with music friends, attend church with church friends, do fancypants stuff with university friends, and haunt the auspicious halls of Fancypants University***** (where Husband aspires to become a physicist).
We educate the offspring at home, which means despite having siblings, church friends, international friends, music friends, fancypants university friends, and neighborhood friends, my children’s social and emotional development is highly suspect, and must come under the most austere scrutiny and judgement you can muster.******
We generally cause mayhem by virtue of our fecundity and appalling lack of skinny jeans. We are not the millennials you read about in the Washington Post, despite husband’s HAWT black rimmed glasses and my sordid history of growing organic kale.
I aspire to write things, from grocery lists to blogs to novels.
Consider yourself warned.
*Just ask my children when we’re on a bad day. The jury is definitely out on this one.
**Intentional and unintentional. I’m looking at you, moldy leftovers.
***This is actually characteristic of all the offpspring, but most especially so for K the G.
**** There may be bathroom humor in this blog. I am going to blame it all on Clive Staples’ influence, and/or the approximate 12,000+ diapers Husband and I have changed in the last decade.
*****FU for short. Is that too much? Maybe it’s too much.
******Because, you know, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to become a well balanced human being unless you spend the first 12 years of life raising your hand to ask permission to pee and voting for which of your peers most deserves to wear a crown and be applauded for…crown wearing. However, I digress.