What is there to say?

The time for Eloise to have a Nissen fundoplication has come. Her recent passing out "blue spells" have caused us to spend hours and hours consulting (expensive!) specialists, and preparing for an enormous, entirely necessary surgery. It will entail five or six hours in the OR, and a 7-14 day stay in the hospital. We had it scheduled for November 24, and all arrangements were made. Only to have Primary's cancel it at the proverbial last minute. I have mentioned before how much I loathe talking on the phone. This cancellation required me to spend HOURS talking on the phone. I would rather have been tasked with detangling a grizzly bear's fur whilst smelling of fresh fish. 

It has all been a roller coaster of apprehension, anxiety, optimism, furious anger, resignation and emptiness. That is all I want to write about it, because now it looks like I will spend another Christmas in an ICU, and what is there to say?


original designs

I shall abstain from making overarching generalities about America's public school system, but from my observations in the last two months, it is clear that American culture prizes conformity and obedience in a child. I get it - both of those qualities are socially responsible. But thinking out of the box, creativity, even a little wildness are not rewarded.
Last week, Eloise had an esophageal dilation. What started as a routine procedure turned into a nightmare in post-op. She had a Code Blue (she completely quit breathing), with 2 spasms. The next day I left her for five minutes to take the trash out. I returned to find her passed out and purple on the floor, not breathing.
No parent should have to live with death hovering over their child like this, it is too heavy a responsibility. It can make one...cagey.

Needless to say, after a week like that, I was feeling vulnerable and tired, and definitely not ready for parent-teacher conferences. The teacher mostly wanted to talk about Josephine, because Amelia is excelling past her grade in almost everything. But Jo...she's a dreamer, creative and lives in her imagination. I left the meeting in tears.

This was Jo this afternoon. You may be puzzled, as I was, about her clothing, the look on her face, and wondering why she has my good sewing shears. Josephine explained, "I'm designing mermaid clothes." She cut holes in her leopard scarf for her hands, and did an elaborate knot in the back. Obviously, a mermaid leopard-shell-bra to match her leopard fin/pants. That's what you get from having a mother who sews - Jo sees all fabric and clothing as a chance for a creative enterprise. When I asked her if I could take her picture, this is the face she gave me:
When I asked her to smile, she said "No, this is my designer face." Awesome

For homework today, she had to 'write' a story, dictated to her teacher, and I think I will keep it forever:
How could anyone look at a child like that and not see limitless potential? Since when should we boil down a child's abilities to a series of numbers? How is any of that okay?!

I guess that's why we have mothers, to spin tales about India, to pick pears in the garden, provide the sewing shears for original designs, and completely believe in that limitless potential. 


what fast sundays mean to me

I love that my Josephine has a genuine interest in all things Indian. She loves visiting the Hare Krishna temple in Spanish Fork, she adores saris, she loves the music. She especially loves it when I show her pictures of me when I was traveling in India, and asks me a lot of questions. I'm all too happy to answer, but I leave out half of what I experienced. I don't know if I'll ever tell her in detail the poverty I witnessed, or tell her how I could not eat while I was there and gave my meals to the beggars. I don't know how old Jo will be when I tell her about the late night train I took from Delhi to Chennai, and the young boy with elephantiasis engulfing his feet.
I will tell her how deeply I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ to care for the poor. Elder Jeffrey Holland in this last General Conference wrote,
"Down through history, poverty has been one of humankind’s greatest and most widespread challenges. Its obvious toll is usually physical, but the spiritual and emotional damage it can bring may be even more debilitating. In any case, the great Redeemer has issued no more persistent call than for us to join Him in lifting this burden from the people. As Jehovah, He said He would judge the house of Israel harshly because “the spoil of the [needy] is in your houses.”
I am forever grateful for the bounteous and extraordinary temporal blessings I have always had, which is why I rejoice on the first Sunday of each month to pay tithing and fast offerings. I am also reminded that I am surrounded with my own little 'needies,' especially my youngest, who requires all of me. There are times when I just plain wear out. The task of raising this little girl who needs so much is daunting, and I'm not ashamed to admit there have been times when I've shaken my fist to the heavens, Why did you actually think I could do this?!
Today I am reminded it is the same work as the Savior's. I am giving my all to those in need, and Eloise has so many needs.

A few months ago one of my all-time favorite people, Margy, said to me, "Some people are blessed with peace, others have the gift of restlessness." It doesn't feel like a gift, because my mind is always curious, and my wanderlust feels insatiable. I want to read and read and read, which is about the only thing I really can't do with so many young children. It leaves me feeling soul-hungry. The truth is, day in and day out I am serving these little needy people in my life. But it doesn't satisfy me in the ways I crave, because I don't think it can. I can tell am being compensated in other ways, for example my confidence has increased, as has my patience and love. My understanding of the world and humanity has deepened. I am really good at housekeeping, organizing, and I am obsessed with perfecting my French baking skills.
But my heart longs to write a dissertation, to be on a campus again, to be in more art museums, to travel in France. For more sophistication in my daily life. I am grateful for the monthly reminders each Fast Sunday of Christ giving to the poor. Caring for children, especially those with special needs, is God's own work, and by gum, I'm going to rock it.


Month of Misery

After multiple changes in costume, last night's Trick or Treating looked like this:
Eloise as Rapunzel, Daina as a lovely deer, Josephine as Laachi (no one knew who she was), Amelia as Snow White, and Hazel as Baby Toothless (the Dragon).
As a child, teenager and even young adult I enjoyed Halloween. But as a mother, I have started to hate it. Loathe. Detest. In fact in my own mind, the whole month of October has been relabeled "Month of Misery for Mothers of Multiples." The costumes alone cause so much uproar, the holiday's colors are so ugly (orange, black, purple, green? Its like a perpetual Ensor painting), and don't get me started on the candy. More than a 3/4 the candy goes straight in the trash. Halloween used to be a one-night event, but has morphed into this tedious, month-long American holiday. Yet one more reason I wish I was on the other side of the Atlantic....*sigh.* Between the costume parades at school, the candy at school, Trevor's work party, the ward's Trunk or Treat, and actual trick or treating, I just about lost it this year. 
So, I thought...Halloween has given the children so much joy at my expense, they can suffer just a moment of misery for my own amusement, right? So we did the Jimmy Kimmel prank this morning...
Their reactions are so indicative of their personalities. Hazel slowly dissolves into silent tears, Josephine is trying to explain it, and Amelia is monitoring her sisters' reactions. If you aren't familiar with the Jimmy Kimmel tradition, oh you're in for a treat.
My reward tonight for surviving the Month of Misery is a fresh baguette with brie and strawberry fig jam, with a visit from my brother Spencer!


Seaside adventure

A few months ago, my folks bought an Airstream trailer. It's a thirty-foot, silver sleek dream. If you pressed your ear to its cool aluminum walls, you would hear the call of the road. "Adventure awaits...the open road...new vistas...take me!" I have been so anxious to try it out, so when my parents mentioned last week they were taking the Airstream to the beach at San Clemente state park, I groaned, "Oh I wish I could go too!" So my dad asked, why not? We could take the girls and all go. And we did. Right now I am driving in the passenger seat in the truck hauling the Airstream going home, and we are all tired, sandy and a little sunburned. And happy, so happy. 
The drive to California was a nightmare - Eloise had not two but three spasms. She stopped breathing, turned purple and went limp and all that. We even had to use the ambubag to resuscitate her while I was trying to pull over. I was in tears by the first evening, sure I had made a mistake taking her when she is still so fragile. What was I thinking? Eloise can't go anywhere!
The next morning however, she was right as rain and pink and chirping, and I didn't want to go home. Onward to the ocean! I'll never forget Hazel when she saw the endless blue sea for the first time in her life, her eyes were almost as wide and almost as blue! "That ocean never ends Hazel, it wraps around the entire earth!" 
That evening after we settled the Airstream in the dusty state campsite, we nearly sprinted to the beach. If I had to choose two words to describe the girls' experience: Fierce joy. They embraced playing at the seaside with a childlike gusto that left me sitting there with a big goofy smile on my face. It really didn't matter that the water was cold because the sun was shining. Eloise loved the sand, and to my horror loved to chew on the washed up seaweed. We all played for hours. 
(Spencer came!!!)
The next morning I went on a run on the beach by myself. There wasn't another soul in sight, not a boat on the water, and not a cloud in the sky. It was exactly what I needed. 
I reflected on where I was at the same day and time last year. In the Utah Valley NICU, waiting for an esophagus to grow, hoping the surgeon would stop and talk about plans. I was trying to love on my baby and help her through her life in the hospital. Running on the beach, I was so grateful to no longer be where we were. I never thought I would physically feel this great ever again. I was so grateful to have my baby home, listening to the waves crash on the shore. I was so grateful for healing. 
Mexican marketplace + a little but of inner New York City + thousands and thousands of bolts of fabric of every shade, weight and texture = The LA Fashion District. It's full of characters, from fresh Algerian emigrants, Hollywood costume designers, fashionistas, hip hop artists, and we even saw a teeny tiny eight-month-old blue, purple and pink poodle named Nugget. The girls thought it was THE COOLEST dog they had EVER seen. I only had an hour and a half to explore miles of fabric, but I knew what I was looking for, so I was a lady on a mission. Sewing clothes is an extremely relaxing, zen practice for me, it slows me down because I use my mind and body to create something lovely. Utah has but one place to find quality clothing fabric, so the LA Fashion District is like Candyland!
I ended up with a gorgeous, mid-weight aqua sateen, a double-knit print with large roses on it, and a coral colored jersey knit. I had Eloise and the twins with me, and again I was surprised by how much they enjoyed it. Josephine was running around finding all the shimmery blue or Indian fabric, and Millie kept shouting at intervals: "A passion for fashion!!!" She was pretty hysterical. 

My dad and I brought Eloise to The Getty Center. I really wanted to see an exhibit they had highlighting illuminated manuscripts from their permanent collection. I wasn't disappointed, the manuscripts were extraordinary. What was even more extraordinary was Eloise. She loved all of it! She was so happy, chirping at all the docents and looking at all the art. I don't know if she was picking up on happy-mama vibes or if she genuinely enjoyed the museum, but she certainly was happy. It was deeply restorative to be in a world-class art museum again. Some of my favorite pieces from this trip:
A 16th century book about chess strategy. The gold pieces belong to the reader, the red to the opponent. 
I was extremely excited to see this one, because I read this text for my thesis in graduate school!
After some more time at the beach playing in the water, collecting seashells, building sandcastles, and going on long walks, we are headed home. Lessons learned:
I have undergone many changes in my heart and mind in the last two years. But there are bedrock aspects that never change: 
I still love the ocean entirely. 
My spirit of adventure hasn't been completely smushed, in fact it is alive and well despite the crushing responsibilities I live with. 

Eloise loves art museums. 

Traveling in a trailer is THE BEST way to go with little children. So, easy, and so fun. 

You have to create opportunities to have perfect moments, and you can't miss them. Like watching Josephine sing and dance in the water, like no one was watching. If you tenaciously hold onto old hurts, heartaches and anxiety and refuse to let go and appreciate those magical moments, you will miss them. 
Eloise lives with a lot of medical problems. She is a complicated case, even unique. I have to work hard to keep it from consuming all of me. But the effort is worth it. 
My favorite lines from the trip came from Millie. She asked me why we have to leave the beach, and I told her "Well honey, we don't actually live here." Her response? "We would if we just didn't leave!" Wouldn't you miss daddy? She said she would, but "we could see him after work, and then come back!"

I hope we do go back, because now the Airstream whispers, "Freedom even with Eloise!"


7 reasons to leave facebook

I left The Facebook something like 6 months ago. I can tell you without hesitation it has been a positive thing. In the spirit of reflection, here are the best reasons why you should depart Facebook too:

  1. You spend less time online. This was certainly true for me. A few days ago I calculated how much time I spent in front of a screen - any screen at all - and it was less than 2 hours a day. I believe I am doing more productive things with my time, but what's more it sets an example for my children. I don't want them growing up thinking its okay to be consumed by electronics; to be seated at the dinner table and be looking at your phone instead of each other.
  2. You have better feelings towards humanity in general. If you're not on FB, you don't see the inflammatory political statements, inane comments, ridiculous selfies, or general stupidity that seems to congregate on the FB. You don't become embroiled in arbitrary 'discussions,' in which there is no accountability or satisfaction. Your opinion about the population improves.
  3. You can be genuinely surprised when you see your old college pal walking down the street. You went on a service mission to Botswana?! You don't have to act like you didn't already see all their pictures online. 
  4. Parental judgement. No one can make comments (positive or negative) about your parenting decisions, and you aren't comparing your children to anyone else's. What?! Their kid just wrote a letter to the Nobel Peace prize winner? What's my kid doing right now? Oh yeah, in the corner acting like a wounded panda
  5. Being present. Your mind is not silently distracted by something incendiary or pointless you read on Facebook. It allows you to be more present in the moment.
  6. You are not tempted to cyber stalk an old flame/lover/hater/arch enemy. We have all done it, yo. 
  7. More mental real estate. Do you really need to know what your old neighbor's favorite band is? Or what your sister's best friend's hair cut was in 1998? Nope. And that information is taking up space in your brain.

That being said, I have noticed two downfalls of being a non-FB participant. Firstly, I don't have any connection to my friends from Semester at Sea, or old friends from childhood. That does make me sad. The truth is, once that connection is severed, its not like you make up for it in any meaningful way. Secondly, I am routinely behind on pop culture. Did I see that video that went VIRAL a few weeks ago? Nope. But somehow...I am just alright with that.


Roast beef au jus

My favorite sandwich is a roast beef on baguette au jus. I order it wherever it is served, but I am forever let down with a Platonistic disappointment. I just know there is a better au jus sandwich out there. 
I was craving one the other day, and decided to make it myself. Researched recipes, bought the correct and excellent ingredients, and tried it for dinner last night. 
The baguette was not a "true" baguette, but it was flavorful and delicious. The roast beef turned out beautifully, and the au jus filled our house with delicious aromas. Instead of the traditional Swiss cheese, I used muenster. Who could resist, I mean it's muenster!
My children gobbled it up. I was finally fulfilled - I had created the Platonic perfection of a roast beef au jus sandwich in my very own kitchen!