Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween and Clover

Tonight was a pretty standard trick-or-treat night at first. At one house an elderly gentleman was giving out candy. Oskar, Clover, and Annabel had said trick-or-treat, taken candy, and turned to go when Clover turned back and said, "I have a song for you." Then she launched into "This is Halloween, this is Halloween, pumpkins scream in the dead of night." She was pitch perfect and darling. The elderly gentleman was totally smitten with her. After that, both little girls (but mostly Clover) sang at most of the houses at which we stopped. They were so darling. Clover's gift is to spread joy wherever she goes.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Nests and Johann's trip to the doctor

We started back into school today after our two-week sickness induced hiatus.  It went about how you would expect.  The little girls were fussy so Emeline built them a nest.  Then everyone needed a nest. Their own nests.  It was a lot of nests.  It worked out beautifully because we did language arts work together and then everyone retreated to their own nests for scripture reading and Civil War books reading.  It is always so awesome to start again in that routine is good for everyone, but hard also because it takes so much effort the first few days to get back into the swing of the routine.  Still, in all, a good day.

Johann and I made some progress tonight after he received a complete overhaul from a luthier in our area who tuned him up for free.  I can't even remember all the things Grover did to make Johann better and easier to play.  He shortened the sound peg, filed down the grooves where the strings enter the fingerboard, carved the bottom of the bridge so it sat flush on the cello instead of having lots of gaps, tuned up the pegs so they stayed tighter, added a plastic covering to the end of the endpin, restrung everything, and then showed me how to hold my bow.  I was really worried by the end that I shouldn't have trusted the man from whom I bought Johann, but, fortunately, Grover said that I got a good deal.  The cello is really nice and I did get a good price, but the seller was not a very good Luthier so the set-up wasn't great.  Thanks to Grover, that is no longer a problem!  Now I need to figure out first position and I'll be on my way.

Sunday, March 3, 2019


I bought a cello and named him Johann.  It feels appropriate.  Then I spent over an hour tonight trying to figure out how to tune Johann and how to hold him properly and how to hold the bow properly, and which string is which note.  Despite my ability to read music, this, sadly, isn't going to be all roses and butterflies.  However, I am still thrilled by my new baby.  Thrilled!  I have wanted to play the cello since I was in the sixth grade, when I actually took lessons.  I loved playing the cello and was making good progress--if my memory is correct--but then my baby sister, Lindsay, sat on the cello and broke the neck off the body and my career ended.  At least, that is how the story has been told since then so if the truth is different, it is lost to history.  I promised myself way back then that someday I would learn the cello.

Why the cello?  I don't know--I think it is my spirit instrument.  In much the same way that Miriam looked at a harp and said, "That is for me!" and Eli had the same immediate reaction to the violin and Emeline to the bass.  Miriam hasn't learned to play the harp yet (oldest child problems), but I think the piano is a close second for her anyway.  I just really love the cello.

Why now?  That is a trickier question.  There is a lot that went into this decision, but it started as a gut feeling.  I was watching Emeline and Eli play their instruments together, having a grand time, and I thought, "I want to play with them.  If I wait any longer, they will be too good and I will never catch up."  I told Timothy that night that I wanted a cello and started looking for cheap ones on ksl classifieds.

It wasn't that simple.  I started second guessing myself almost immediately.  A few weeks earlier my family had a heated discussion on WhatsApp about following your dreams.  I was irritated with my baby brothers for stating that you can make any dream happen if you work hard enough.  I believed that BEFORE I started having kids, and made most of my before babies dreams happen.  Then the reality of morning sickness and exhaustion and sacrificing money to make sure babies had what they needed took over.  I wanted to yell at my brothers, "You are MEN and you don't understand how to sacrifice like MOTHERS do.  You just selfishly spend time and resources on yourself whenever you want and your wives pick up the slack."  That's not really fair to my brothers or my husband, but I was angry that they wouldn't admit that there are times when some dreams get sacrificed for the greater good, or you make new dreams, or your husband and you want polar opposite things and somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.  It isn't as simple as "work hard and make it happen."

I still think that.  I want a dog, my husband doesn't.  No amount of work or effort will change that one of us will always be the loser in following our dreams in that scenario.  But . . . during the baby making years I was following my dreams--my very vital dream of creating a large, happy family so that my kids would have a support network for the rest of their lives.  That dream was the focus of everything we did for 14 years.  So maybe my dream took over my husband's dreams?  Maybe I'm the selfish one?  But what about revelation and being obedient?  I don't know.  It is complicated.

The bottom line is that I was thinking about this discussion a lot and it certainly had an effect on my decision to get a cello now to pursue a dream I had set aside for a long time.

The final factor was that my aunt was just diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Another aunt.  My dad's younger sister died from cancer last year.  My cousin's son, Hyrum, died in a car accident the Thanksgiving before last.  He was 17.  I've been thinking about life and death more in the last 18 months than I have in the whole rest of my life.  There are just no guarantees that I'll be around to learn the cello ten years from now.

So I bought a cello.  When I started thinking about what dreams I had that had gone to the wayside when I started intense reproduction, there were only two that I could come up with that didn't involve my children.  I wanted to learn the cello (though that kind of involves my children, because I want to play with them), and write more.  Or, rather, write again, since I've basically stopped all forms of writing except grocery lists.  My irritation with my brothers made me evaluate where I could fit cello and writing into my life.  I spent one of Eli's violin lessons writing out different schedules.  Half the time I was muttering under my breath, "Sure, you can follow your dreams!  You don't have to worry about finding childcare while you are 'following your dream' because your wives stay home with the kids."  The other half the time I was thinking things like, "If Cowen made lunch every day and Emeline made breakfast, I could help Harriet and Eli practice their piano before lunch, so I could finish school an hour earlier in the day . . .."  Schedules look so beautiful and possible on paper.

Then Timothy got an unexpected bonus at work and I threw caution to the wind and bought a pretty decent cello.  I also looked into teaching English to Chinese children (still in the application mode for that one--I had to figure out where my diplomas were located, etc.) to fund a real vacation this summer as one of my goals--that involves my children--is to go a few places before Miriam moves out.  I have 2.5 years to do that.  Time is a wasting.  We also put our house on airbnb to help cover the cost of vacationing.  I re-read the novel I wrote with my sister and wrote out character sketches as one of our main problems in the novel is that we had no idea what we were doing when we started.  We wrote it playing the letter game so we didn't discuss the book until we were halfway done.  Some of the characters need a little work.  So does the plot.  Ha.  I wrote out the character sketches and sent them to my sister so we can start discussing what we want the characters to actually be like.  It turns out, when you really start trying to figure out how to make things happen, you can find solutions.

The lurking question for me is do I really want to achieve all my goals?  Stay skinny, get in shape, spend more time outdoors, learn the cello, start writing consistently and get the novel whipped into shape, eat healthier, study the scriptures, keep the house tidy, make sure the laundry gets done, be kinder, etc.  Do I have the energy to do all that?  Maybe the real reason I haven't worked on "extra" goals like the cello and writing is because I can barely keep my head above water with the basic, always there, goals like scripture reading.

I don't know.  But I do know that I still have no idea how to hold a cello bow after watching 32 (3) youtube videos on the subject so more money will be spent on my cello goal as I scheduled three lessons with an actual cello player.

I wish I knew if I was entering a new, exciting, chapter of my life wherein I don't have infants so my time is more flexible, or a more disappointing chapter wherein I bite off more than I can chew and waste time, energy, and resources that could have been better used somewhere else.

One way or the other, Johann and I are in this together.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


I happened upon Emeline while she was sitting, staring into space.  I said, "What are you doing, Emeline Bea?"

She said, "My book ended unsatisfactorily so I am sitting here imagining a satisfactory ending."

Me, "You're my kind of girl, Emeline."

Also, Emeline will turn 12 while we are on our crazy trip.  It was very noticeable as she goes from a youth ticket to adult ticket to almost every venue.  Rude.  For her birthday, we're going on a lobster boat tour where they take you into the ocean and pull up lobster nets (boxes?) and show you what is in them and then let you hold whatever is in them, which can include things like sea cucumbers.  Weird.  Then you go watch seals play on an island.  I figure I have enough of a jolly-people-along ability to get the whole tour to sing her the birthday song.  She'll like it.  Happy birthday, Bea!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Me: "Clover, what is your favorite thing to do?"

Clover: "Fold my clothes."

Me: "Annabel, what is your favorite thing to do?"

Annabel: "Go Grandma's house!"

Now that, Annabel, is an answer that makes sense.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


I recently took my kids to visit my mom. When we got there, Mom went through the ritual of kissing everyone and exclaiming over them and tickling/harassing/loving on them. Later, we got in our car to drive up the canyon to eat some hot dogs. Mom was still getting some stuff in the house and I was buckling in children.

Clover said to me, "I love coming to Grandma's house because Grandma likes me!"

A sermon in a sentence.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What the kids have been saying

Cowen made my whole life yesterday. We were talking about our lives being an unfolding story or something (Miriam started the discussion) and Cowen said, "Let's turn our minds to end of the Prydain Chronicles when . . .." He expounded about Taran's life and the discussion continued.

My happy heart. "Let's turn our minds to" is awesome, and then referencing the best book series ever written! Cowen, thank you. I feel like I have succeeded as a mom because my children have learned their vital life lessons from Lloyd Alexander.

I heard other interesting conversations today.

Miriam to Eli, "You were selfish and mean!"

Eli to Miriam, "No I wasn't. I was greedy."

Miriam, "That's what selfish and mean is!"

Eli, "No, it isn't."

Miriam, full volume, "Somebody get the dictionary!"

Last night Clover was trying to delay bedtime. I put her to bed and was walking away when she yelled out, "I need to say another prayer! My first prayer broke!"

Nice try, Clover.