Signals

A line of light from the kitchen streams beneath our bedroom door: someone is up early.

The pantry door squeaks: the boys are hungry.

No sounds from the basement bedroom: someone has slept in.

The rumble of the garage door: someone is returning or leaving.

The squeal of pipes through the wall: someone is in the shower.

The floor shakes with muted explosive sounds: someone is watching a Star Wars movie with surround sound in the basement.

Ding! A message from Richard or Paige

Bing! A message from Timothy

Chime! A message from Daniel

Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap Yap: the dog needs to come back inside.

“Here’s to the Fools who Dream…”: I am doing dishes or mopping.

Sniff, sniff beneath the door: the dog is looking for Richard.

Bwa ha ha ha: Mark is watching YouTube videos.

Scratchety scratch scratch: the dog is cold and needs to come inside.

Clickety clickety clickety clickety: Daniel is typing.

Long, sullen pauses and no eye contact: oh, boy, am I in trouble.

Crinkle, crinkle: I turn the pages of my scriptures.

Beeeeeeep, beeeeeeep: the chicken is cooked.

Blat blat blat: trombone practice

Toot toot toot: trumpet practice

Brrrrrruuum, diddly dum: a son practices piano.

Ping, pingy ping: Paige is playing the piano.

Lawrence Welk is on: it’s haircut time.

The hallway floor creaks: someone is looking for me.

Light streams beneath our bedroom door: someone is up late.

Longer stretches of silence each day: the kids are growing up and leaving.

 

Last Week

Last week was a wrestle. I wrestled with church dilemmas, the clock, illnesses, and expectations. But there was a three-tiered cake one night, and clean surfaces everywhere, evidence that when I am doing mental work, physical work goes right along with it.

Last week,  there was so much calling me to stay home with the family. They needed my skills, my advice, my health, my early mornings, late nights, afternoon errands, and my touch.

Last week’s lessons:

  • Don’t bury concerns. Express them.
  • BYU application essay editing is a good way to spend a LOT of time with your senior. BYU requires six, people. Six!
  • You can’t wash your hands too often during flu season.
  • The boost in morale will come.
  • It’s ok to choose the less time-consuming option.
  • Conversations happen away from screens.
  • I experienced a miracle.
  • Everyone’s faith is a little different, even within the same church, and that is ok.
  • God knows ahead of time when I will fail to act, whether from laziness or pulls from different directions. He prepared a contingency plan or two last week so people were still cared for.
  • Life is long. I don’t have to do it all at once.
  • To write is to be vulnerable.
  • The sacrament is so precious to me.

Hellooooo!

Helloooo regular life. (My niece says it best.)

The house is empty for the first time since December 20th. There is a stray candy cane leftover from Christmas, and one caramel remaining in the kitchen. I wash towels and wipe down counter tops, pull old food from the refrigerator, and mail the thank you notes. I feel the silence. I light my candles and begin a new week. Mondays are the best. And Christmas 2017 was over much too quickly.

But helloooo, it’s going to be a great year.

 

Senior Christmas Performances

We have heard a lot of beautiful music at Temple Square and the high school in the past seven days. Here is a sample of Daniel playing piano at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building today.

I love these concerts because they give us time to sit and reflect at Christmas time.

We stopped at the vending machines where you can donate livestock, food, water, and first aid supplies last week. Today my mom came, too. The vending machine had to be restocked as we stood in line. Chickens and goats are very popular items.

 

Memoir Project: Books!

The words I read to our children are part of our collective memory, and helped forge our identity as a family. Can you name the books that inspired the style of writing in this piece?

Austin, TX; Sahuarita, AZ; Sandy, UT 1997-2017

Books!

Four little children went for a walk in a wide, wide world. Through the house they clambered, down the hall, to the bookshelf, and to the couch. When they got to the couch, they counted themselves: one, two, three, four. There were no poky little children when it was time to read aloud at the Ross house.

In the great tan family room there was a television and a red broom. There were picture books about dog parties, kittens with mittens, a toy house, and Chrysanthemum the mouse. There was a brush (often unused) and bowl full of goldfish.

The kids took their places

With giggles, motions, and kicks,

And with hops and big thumps,

The kids chose their picks.

And I thought,

I love how they come near

To hear these old stories

Whispered softly in their ears.

If my mother could see this,

She would give a great cheer.

“Oh, you are not my mother…You are a Snort!” My thoughts are interrupted by laughter. And later, “Fire, fire!” The big trucks scream from the firehouse. Years go by, as we chant, “Oh, Mother dear, see here, see here, our mittens we have found!” and learn about the “no-no fruit.” What does the owl say? “Whooo. Whooo.”

One year, two years, fun years, short years pass. “Do you like my hat?” is replaced with, “Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” and Hobbit riddles in the dark with Gollum.

Then suddenly it was quiet. Slowly, dust settled on the picture books on the shelves. The smoke and steam cleared away, and there were four children all grown. Four children, neat and tall; four sets of legs, long and strong. And Mom and her books were left in the house. Hooray! Shouted the people! Hooray! Just look at the children grown! The time she spent reading to them felt like a very short day. Perhaps her girl and boys will have another good idea, “Why don’t we read just like this to our children someday?” So, it was decided, and everybody was happy. Now when you go to the Ross house, be sure to go down in the basement. There they’ll be, Mom and the books, she, sitting in her chair, with her books right beside her to welcome you back.

That’s the kind of house we lived in. And I hope you remember when you leave it.

 

 

 

(Creative license and/or quotes taken from The Poky Little Puppy, Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss, Are You My Mother?, Fire! Fire!, Three Little Kittens, My Baby and Me Story Bible, My First Book of Sounds, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Go Dog. Go! Treasure Island, The Hobbit, Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel, and There’s a Wocket in my Pocket.)

Memoir Project: Sweet Timothy

Sahuarita, AZ; Sandy, UT, 2005-2015

Sweet Timothy

Timothy sat down to play at the grand piano in his pajamas. At age 4, he wasn’t taking lessons yet, but his siblings had taught him to play the tune that Big Ben chimes and the opening notes of “Jingle Bells.” It was the night of the filming of the annual Christmas video and we asked him to play his songs for us. We could tell that he wanted to because he was nervous at the thought of doing it. “I only know how to play the first part,” he said, twirling the hair near the crown of his head with his fingers. With our encouragement, he played for the camera, and when he finished, he quickly slid off the bench, trying to hide his smile of triumph and began twisting his hair again, nervously.

Timothy’s challenge while growing up is to reconcile his natural sweet disposition with his desire to be independent. Of all the children, Timothy gives himself up to joy and humor and love the easiest. But to smile is to be vulnerable, so when he was little, he would jam his tongue into his cheek to suppress it if he thought he was the only one smiling. Sometimes, even now, I will catch him doing it again, hoping to avoid detection. He’ll tell me something funny with tight lips to keep himself from giving up the joke too soon.

He was best friends with the girl across the street in Arizona who had some developmental delays. She was 4 years older, but their matching sweetness, humor, and open hearts made them close friends. He played with Littlest Pet Shop animals with this girl for 6 years, even though he preferred Legos and other games. He never teased her. He never asked her why she didn’t play with the girls in Paige’s room. I saw a degree of strength in Timothy as he dealt with her, but it wasn’t an effort for him. He just loved and played and enjoyed his time with her. One day he realized that she was growing older, but didn’t act like other girls her age and he mentioned it to me. As I explained that she just grew at a different rate, I felt foolish. He wasn’t looking for an explanation. He was just making an observation and it didn’t matter to him that she was different. I suspect that Timothy will have many people in his life that will be drawn to him because he provides a safe place.

When he was in fourth grade, I met Timothy and Mark after school each day to walk with them. Without fail, Timothy gave me the biggest smile and a hug every day when he saw me, right in front of his friends, even if they were talking to him. Without words, he said, “Excuse me, but I see my mom and I always give her a hug. Your story will have to wait until tomorrow.” With these hugs, all of his attention shifted from his friends to me and Mark and we walked down the hill together. This touched my heart each day.

In February of his sixth-grade year, he hinted to me meekly that he was playing his trombone in a band concert during school. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to be there so I asked him on a scale from one to ten, how much he would like me to come, helping him avoid having to say the awkward, “Please don’t come, Mom.” To my surprise, he said, “8 or 9.” So, I went, and I was one of four guests, three of whom were grandparents. In other words, I was one of the privileged few. He even let me take a picture.

He is growing up, but he still lets me be in love with him. I am glad when his sweetness wins out over his independence. It’s a strength that will make a difference for others.

Memoir project: Daughter

I haven’t been able to write here for a while, but here is something I am working on:

August 1996

Daughter

I lay awake in my room at the hospital, and watched our new baby Paige as I wrote in my journal. I watched her facial expressions, and made note that her hair was the same color as mine. For a time, she lay in the crib, calmly looking about with wide eyes, and I wondered what she was experiencing. I saw Richard’s eyes and nose in her features, but claimed her mouth to be like mine. Her round face is imprinted in my memory. Clichés and effusive expressions about Paige and Richard were all that I could write to mark the day. I was twenty-one years old, and had gained a new title of Mother. I have spent the rest of my life since, trying to master the words to describe what this role means.

Paige was the anticipated first grandchild for my parents. My mom, who left me with a kiss on the cheek, and later, my brother Paul came by the hospital during my labor. Paige was born on a Tuesday afternoon, after several nights of little sleep and false alarms. I felt Richard’s concern for me in the days before she was born, and needed his support at her birth.

Richard went with the nurse to give Paige her first bath and was gone for a while. My room was near the nursery, and I peeked in to find him watching her, intently. When he returned to my room to check on me, he smelled of Johnson’s Baby Wash after holding her for so long, a smell that will always evoke images of our babies.

We named our daughter Paige, after one of my Young Women leaders. This leader was educated, beautiful, and a dancer. The name Paige means “young helper,” and I knew she would be a help to our family.

That night I thought about where her spirit had been before she arrived. Richard’s maternal grandmother passed away just before Paige was born. My Great-grandmother Spencer passed away earlier that year. I wonder if there was a crossing of paths, with hugs, a cheer, and encouragements for Paige from these women as she made her journey to us. It takes courage, I think, to choose to be born, to choose to become a parent, and to choose to embrace the role of women. Yes, I am sure we need the strength and goodness of those on the other side of this journey, and they are with us, not just at the crossroads, but steadily through our days.

Sometimes

Sometimes when there is a special sunrise or sunset, eclipse or meteor shower, I figure it is Heavenly Father reminding us he is there.

Sometimes the word, “remember” is important, because when we are in the moment, we can’t see where we are. Only as we look back can we make sense of things.

Sometimes I see how much I have changed since the children were young. I speak a lot less, but really think about my words when I do.

Sometimes I walk through the toy aisles because one of my violin students wants to talk about Shopkins each week, so I do my research.

Sometimes when Paige is home, I forget that she ever left us, until she leaves again, and I wish we had gone out to lunch together or spent more time talking while she was home.

Sometimes I am surprised when I am practicing the violin and Daniel walks in to accompany me on the piano. I will miss our impromptu concerts.

Sometimes I watch Timothy during the funny parts of movies, because he gives himself to delight so easily.

Sometimes Mark is all I need in the world to be happy. He asks me about my day, offers empathetic encouragement, and makes me laugh. I look at his profile and can’t find the little boy he used to be.

Sometimes Richard and I feel old together, whether it is complaining about aches after working, stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for the Excedrin, or choosing to watch documentaries.

Sometimes I remember that this is the last day, holiday, or season with Daniel home, but I put those thoughts away quickly. I learned with Paige that the parade of lasts can be painful, but this just means the parade of firsts will begin soon.

Sometimes I see so many needs in my circle of influence that I spend a day writing letters to people, since there is no way I can visit everyone.

Sometimes when I run into someone I know out in public, I remind myself that just like the sunrise and sunset, they are a reminder that Heavenly Father is there, and he thinks we should talk. Today at the store I saw a young mother in my ward and another Relief Society president in my stake. Thank you, Heavenly Father. It was important to talk to each of these women today.

Impart

Thanksgiving guests

The line from scripture that stays in my head lately is, “learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.” (D&C 88:123)

To impart is to “make known or communicate.”

I don’t think I have much to impart lately. Perhaps the lessons I need in order to be effective are still making their way into my heart. I hope that it is enough to post a scripture on social media or to reach out gently to someone.


I hope the extra hours pouring my heart and energy into our home and celebrations instead of my usual hours of study and writing will impart love, or whatever God wants someone to understand.

I am only beginning to trust that there are many ways to impart gospel principles. Many don’t require the knowledge I am continually chasing, but they always require a healthy portion of self.

Last roses of the season

I cut the last roses from the bushes this morning. They were a little frost-bitten, and I wonder if the warm house will encourage the buds to open. Sometimes a little shock is all we need in order to bloom.

I continue to feel the shock of new experiences in motherhood. This weekend I watched a son get injured at an athletic tournament, and saw his hopes of playing taken in his first minutes on the field. I haven’t felt that disappointment and sadness before. One night last week, I tried to wait up for a son, only to awaken at 4:00 am on the couch, stiff and incredibly sad. I had missed his homecoming. Fatigue is happening, but I hope the accompanying display of my heart is like these roses, showing their struggle in blooming, vibrant array. I may not be beautiful, curled up on a sofa or sitting bundled on the sidelines, but they are exercises in blooming, and they mean, “I love you.”