The day she was born, as per hospital safety regulations, I sent her to the prenatal nursery for safe keeping while I took a shower. The water had barely turned hot before I heard my room door open and close once again. I peeked my head out of the bathroom in surprise, as I hadn't really expected visitors.
The nurse had returned with baby in hand.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Linford," she said politely, "But the minute we left your room, she hit the hall wailing and was in such a tizzy by the time we reached the nursery. There was nothing we could do to calm her and the head nurse down there said 'Take this one back to her mother' ".
And I should have known she'd be trouble from the start.
But when she leaves my nest, they'll be a little less sunlight in my day to day.
She's a best friend and sister like none other.
Couldn't be happier to have such a girl. It was a happy birthday the day she was born.
The night before my tenth birthday, my entire family got food poisoning from a church picnic.
The next morning was a Saturday and my church class in primary was scheduled for a trip to the zoo for fun. It was supposed to be the best birthday ever. But ... with the whole family sick and I, the oldest daughter unaffected .... well, let's say I remember my worn out mother pitifully offering me a five dollar bill to clean up after the others so that she could return to her own sickbed.
Rather than the zoo, washing a laundry room-load of icky sheets was where I spent my tenth.
And so I say to ten year olds everywhere ... and I say it every tenth birthday of each ten year old I know ... it could always be worse.
So don't go poutin' over that goldfish you didn't get :)
Cuz our lunch escape and our party-ing made for a great, full day.
And I'm nearly sure a full house beats a flush every time.
Once upon a time when we made the decision to give up all activities that tore us in different directions weekend after weekend, I worried about what would be given up by way of our children's individual talent development.
If I could travel backward in time and give my younger self a piece of advice, I'd make myself see that little boys don't need sports the minute they can stand on two legs. Ballet shoes in toddler sizes are cute, but savoring littleness just a bit longer would mean so much more in the end. Though I'm sure I was filling my time in those days, these days are filled more than I'd like.
A friend reminded me recently that I live where it's easier to gather my children with so much to naturally see and do without external replacement activities.
She had a point. It's not a luxury often afforded and I get (and am grateful for) that. Downsizing activities isn't for everyone.
I can't say I don't still feel a guilty twinge on occasion, when the kids come to me and say they'd really like to try baseball ... or school plays ... or tennis ... or roller hockey ... or ....
And, we've deliberated, feeling a particular need here and there (like track for Annie), but mostly we've stuck with our family plan.
Then weekends come along being mostly our own and I feel I would never look back as I enjoy time with the kids from the "biggest" one down.
Here's a few recent weekend memories of hanging with our favorite big kid of all .. our dad.
We're easily entertained by getting to clean the church bathrooms belonging to opposite genders. I don't know why. We're simple minded.
A neat little find hiding in a warehouse not far from here.
Fun for big kids and little kids.
And proof that the man's still got it ... I guess. That guy in first place was a "career carter" I was told ;)
And pickle in the sad-excuse-for-a-what's-supposed-to-be-spring-time yard spied out my bedroom window. Yes, we sometimes wander around in our pjs and boots out there but at least we have some sort of clothes on.
Each not overshadowed by a schedule, for which I am grateful.
Emotions run high during pregnancy and for some reason, these months have turn me into a train wreck at times.
Movies, commercials, crazy nothingness ... I get no warning, just the threat of bursting flood gates. Celia and I stayed up late one night last weekend, watching Chariots of Fire and she laughed as I bawled my fool head off to the ending. See?
Annie really, really wanted to join the track team season with her friends here at the end of school. I tried to put her off because I know her, and running's really not her strong suit, and her asthma doesn't help.
But the magnetic pull of friends can drag us into things that we wouldn't otherwise dare to try ... for bad or for good ... so I let her.
She was excited. I felt that tug for a middle child needing to do something notable as well as fear for a sixth grader trying to make it among piles of 7th and 8th kids. It's a trial run at the school this year, to add the younger class to the older one's sporting events so, sign up she did.
First day of practice last week, I picked her up and she looked itty bitty running across the field to my car. She came home discouraged. She said she'd come in last from the warm up run which embarrassed her. Then the coaches hadn't been very nice in reminding 6th graders that they were representing the entire school and needed to pull their weight on the team.
But, she'd committed and as moms do, I assured her I knew that she could do this.
The first meet loomed and having tried out for every event, the coaches posted their selected event assignments. She dove into my car exhausted Monday and I asked excitedly what she event she'd be in.
Long jump? Shot put? A short distance run?
No, mom, she said visibly upset .... They put me in the 800, that's twice around the track.
Why? I flustered. In my head, I kept going over a mother's worries. They're supposed to know she's asthmatic and not super fast. It's in her doctor's physical report. Was no one paying attention? Were they not observing her practice struggles? Did she draw the short straw? Or were they just deliberately trying to discourage her into quiting?
I was angry and ready to call a coach but then Newel said, "Don't helicopter parent. It might not be pretty, but she can do it."
And Annie fretted all evening into the night about what the next day held.
And the older kids who'd done track in the past, whispered in my ear that she was going to die.
And then I worried both of us into the next morning, filling her full of advice like, "Slow and steady wins the race!" and "Don't try to compete, just keep your legs moving in a jog and don't stop or starting up again will be so much harder." and "Pace yourself from the start, forget about who's ahead or behind." and "Remember the tortoise and the hare, right?"
I thought about her all day yesterday until time to meet her at the track with the entire family cheering her on. When we got there, we learned her race was the very last event.
So we waited anxiously.
The time came, the runners took marks, and Celia and I positioned ourselves at different sides of the track to encourage her steady pace.
At the gun, Annie took off laboring all the way around that track but she never stopped those legs from trotting a run. Even a half track's length behind the pack, she pushed. At one point an EMT paced her, then yelled to me waiting in the middle of the field, to have her inhaler ready.
She pushed down the final stretch, the last gal in, and the crowd of parents and waiting students clapped and loudly cheered encouragement along with her name. People I didn't even know knew her, or us and I felt the flood gate bursting. The strength of that moment, watching my girl do something that I alone, knew was so difficult for her, so out of her comfort zone, as complete strangers helped push her through the end -- turned me into the weepy, crazy, pregnant lady, choking on her own encouragement at the finish line.
Thank heavens for dark glasses.
And darn that Chariots of Fire.
Both of us trying to recover ourselves, me tearfully shooting her up with the inhaler, she tearfully clutching her chest and trying to slow her racing heart ... she gasped that it was probably the hardest thing she'd ever done in her life so far.
But she did it. And lived to walk home a winner, if only to me.
Not just today, but tomorrow and the next one too,
Because yesterday ...
Though always notable to us, she proved to herself, her friends and everyone else, that she is a girl who can do hard things.
The day begins as usual. Supervised lunch making, hot breakfast served, personal spaces cleaned and straightened, homework evaluated, planners signed, chauffeuring done, kisses and encouragement given.
The remainder is quiet but full of general cleaning, doctor appointments kept and more piled on the planner, health insurance cares managed, some early childhood learning and entertainment of a toddler, church service needs fulfilled, and a healthful dinner in the making.
The newly arrived children stand around my kitchen vying for an opportunity to share their day. Little Grant continually interjects excitedly, "Wanna know what happened today??" Just a minute, someone else is talking, wait your turn ... and finally he, and the others, drifted off to homework.
Dinner comes and we sit bonding over companionable conversation. "NOW can I tell what happened today??"
"Yes Grant! Do tell us," I say, trying not to sound like he'd been forgotten in the hub.
"Megan Hinton threw up on the bus and it came out herNOSE!!!"
Some giggles, a mother's pinched smile, plates push aside, appetites subsided, all move into the clean up and family devotional. It's a valued time set aside each evening for our family to read scripture, share a spiritual thought and pray together before heading off to bed.
Not always the pretty day as often a monkey wrench is thrown into the juggle.
I leave Christian home to wait for the younger kids to come off the bus while I run to retrieve Annie from track practice. The weather's nice and the walk from the bus is good exercise. They'll be fine.
Christian calls my cell, "Mom ... Grant threw up on the bus. I drove the tractor to the stop to get him. He's pretty messed up."
"Strip him down and put him in the bath... I'll be home in minute to take it over."
The three phone messages from Mike the Bus Driver tell the sordid tale. And all the while, I'm out of pocket.
Urgent, "Hi, this is Mike, Grant's not feeling good, can you meet me at stop one?"
Dejected, "Hi .... this is Mike ... Grant threw up on my bus .... I'm at the top of your road."
Irritated, "Hi,this is Mike, bottom of your road, cleaning the bus, come get Grant."
That's when Christian finally hears the message machine blaring because my children don't answer the phone. That assignment's left to me. Thankfully, he responds and rescues Grant from his embarrassing fate.
Janie's home and full of the story. Grant lost it right before getting down the steps off the bus.
Everyone teases the deathly pale boy, incredulously, "Two steps to go, TWO STEPS to go? .... Run, don't walk, Man! But whatever you do get off that bus!!!" accompanied by sympathetic laughter and "But, did it come out your nose?"
Poor Grant. Poor Mike.
Amid the usual chores, I bake rolls the next day and gather the best of a still warm dozen, a pint jar of honey and a note expressing my gratitude to a man with a thankless job willing to be present when I just can't be everywhere I'm needed to be.
And then I hide in the car behind dark glasses as kids make the delivery, unable to face Mike directly ... yet.
Christian gives me a run for my money all week, like managing a difficult employee. I fluster at him a time or two and then remember his care for his brother ... even with the incessant teasing, and try to encourage a more positive result.
I recall a recent Sunday lesson given and feelings expressed over young men helping our ward's special needs boys fulfill their duties. I know Christian to be one of those who has taken a couple of these precious boys under his wing to help, be a friend and advocate of. Sometime I forget, when his teasing reaches great heights, that really he is soaking up at least some of what we are teaching at home. That he is becoming just like I am trying to become and sometimes it takes another's reminder for a blind mother to see.
Every time I get into the car with Celia as the driver, I feel like I'm putting my life on the line. Bless her heart. She's so analytical about trying to focus on her hands and braking and car functions and feet and road rules and cars behind and beside and approaching.
I might be able to say that life felt a little easier when cares were of band aids on her knees rather then if she might kill or be killed, today.
In spite of her driving fears, she's gotten so good at going into the grocery store with my debit card and my list, getting exactly what I need and sticking to our pre-determined budget. It'll just take time to conquer "Driving Miss Daisy" so I pull out extra patience. Because after all, she's learning life skills and some of them are hard.
During the week, we hit the grocery store during rush hour. I know it's stressful on her but it's necessary to learn. Time to merge into very busy traffic where it's all moving so fast. I talk to her calmly and she steels her nerves to make a move.
A fellow waits behind us, allows irritation to take over and lays on the horn. Not a simple lay on the horn, but the kind that keeps a continuous stream of siren going until shouting, he angrily buzzes past us, scarring her teenage life. Usually unaffected, over protection kicks in and I explode right back, directing words at him through the window at the stop light ahead holding both our cars captive.
He ignores my assault. Rude. All the way home I expound on the indecency of road rage. Then spend the evening's entire routine, feeling like a prime example.
My legs are stinging with blown out veins. Growing another human is both amazing and amazingly hard. My doctor gapes at this month's jump in baby growth. Guess that explains why everyone I pass has something smart to say about my size. And we still have months to go.
I ask him if our due date is off and he replies, nonchalantly upon thumbing through my chart, perhaps five or six days in my favor but for now, we'll keep things as they are.
Clearly he's never given birth to know how much five or six 24 hour periods of time will mean in the long haul. And the hard continues.
Eliza has taken to singing just one line of her favorite song over and over again. In the shower, into the wind of the rolled down car window, as she continually changes her own pull-up diapers. "At home, at school, at play ; At home, at school, at play". It sticks with me always, the gratitude to have such a job, to be present for the little things ... and note to self ... time to potty train.
That sweet disposition can have a fierce underside, however, and the weekly church night routine of trying to haul the last youth out of the building ... mine ... leaves her completely strung out at a much too late hour by the time we reach home.
I'm tired, I'm done, I'm alone and the only pajamas just aren't the right pajamas.
Is this a typical week at the office?
Time to close the books on this day. With no reconciliation in sight, I sit her on the top step leading to the basement bedroom and close the door to her cries. Leaning against the backside of the closed door, I breathe deep knowing I can't end it like this and then hear on the other side, the gentle voices of Annie and Janie coaxing her into dressing, wiping the tears, a tickle to get a smile and a hoist for a piggy-back down to the waiting bed.
And my shoulders sag under gratitude for a the development of such an incredible team.
This general manager of Linford & Company wonders if she can clock out now. Probably not. There's a teenager waiting quizzing for a test so I take my tired body to my bed and help from a less weight bearing position. And then that same child carries on with conversation about the day's experiences, needing a listening hear till later than late, not necessarily a solution ... this time.
And then it's dark. And it's silent. And I think on the career of raising children. Educated, well rounded, socially adjusted, independently prepared, servers of their community and family, full of faith and individual worth. A rising generation.
General management of the motherhood profession, one that women everywhere are in together. Some having one job. Some managing two. We develop our talents differently. Using them to assist in a family income or using them to build a family economy inside the home ... sometimes ever working to bring balance to both.
Regardless, it's quite a responsibility ... an irreplaceable job full of rewarding experience and lots of room for growth. The career title of Mother. One with bonuses as hugs, heart swells for raises, board meetings around a dinner table, messes to manage, effective oversight of delegation, fulfillment the only payoff and, perhaps a pension plan of a future well taught generation. The importance of which, not to be forgotten by any who work this field.
And then I wait breathlessly for my Senior Managing Partner to return from his latest business engagement.
A man's work is from sun to sun, but a mother's work is never done.
We still love the fluff stuff. Even if we packed it in early.
Thursday, I lamented to my bestie on the phone over how much I dislike Easter baskets. I didn't grow up with them. I come from practicality and would fill them with shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper ... all short shelf life things around here ... if I could. Besides, on the heels of Christmas and a spring clean de-junk, I can live without one more thing to kick into a pile for kids to retrieve.
But marriage blends traditions. And so I indulge. Cuz he loves the basket.
How 'bout I just gather up the crud off the floor of their bedrooms and dump it in a dolled up laundry basket? I asked. I'll even hide it and they can hunt for it for a few days. We'll just say it needed to be resurrected.
No one laughed at my sacrilege.
So, I caved to flip flops (which will be useful soon), bubbles to keep the kids outside, gum that gets quickly reclaimed if anyone leaves it down even for a second. And, of course, Peeps which some of us carried around all day like new "pets in a box" 'til they were so icky I slipped them in the garbage.
After the basket finding, Newel took us all for breakfast to our favorite little restaurant at the four-way stop in town. I never think of us as a crowd until I see us like this.
Having a breakfast-mess-free kitchen to return to, we dove right into egg dying. Growing up we had a mass hunt with a dozen eggs colored by each child. Yeah, multiply that: 9 x 12. That's a lot of hard boileds and his turn to eye roll at my traditions. But six just leaves folk's creativity wanting and so, like it or not, we carry the torch .... and make it 6 dozen artistically dyed hard boiled eggs and a bunch of plastics with a couple of M&M's in each. After all, I'm the party planning committee (insert knowing smile).
All fun and games 'til someone's rolled off the table and got hurt.
It's the hunt that matters most, after all. They could've cared less what they were hunting for. The smell of competition was enough to turn this thing all Hunger Games.
Then Newel reminded them there might still be eggs hidden in the coop. Some weren't thrilled to be tricked into doing another's chores to collect the real eggs.
And I put my feet up and lounged in the sunshine enjoying the last of Newel's company before leaving to the airport. All while Grant sat beside me turning my growing stomach into a green hill for his "pet" chick.
I no longer have any personal boundaries.
And at least no one was asking for anything else.
What do you do with 6 dozen hard boiled eggs? Well, here in the backwoods, we sit in our camping chairs on the driveway, eating them one after the other, huckin' the shells into the scrub oak.
But then we have deviled eggs, potato salad, grits with eggs, and egg salad sandwiches 'til we're sick.