4/13/16

here's to the light

This post should naturally be about my trip to England three months ago. In my experience, people write about their trips on blogs for three reasons:
1. To record what happened so they don't forget
2. To share their pictures with family and friends
3. Because they learned something that needs to be expressed
I don't feel the need to do any of those things, because I know I won't forget anything that happened. We had a marvelous trip, and I loved every single minute.

What I want to write about is what happened last weekend. We took my parent's Airstream to Green River with the kids, with the plan to let them play on the river bank, and visit Goblin Valley the next morning. When we arrived at the chilly banks of Green River and let the kids out, they all immediately ran into the water. It was cold, so they stayed where it was only about a foot deep. I was following Eloise as she explored, when she suddenly turned and headed toward the deeper part of the river. There was an invisible shelf that dropped off to a deep, quick current. She fell face first into the water, and the current was quickly sweeping her away. I was only a few feet away from her, and was able to keep one foot on the shallow bank and lunged into the neck-deep water and snagged Eloise. She came up spluttering, but no harm done.
The grown-ups were aflutter. "She could have drowned!" A stranger even approached me, soggy and tired on the bank consoling a crying Eloise, and told me what a heroic save that was.

Here's the thing. It didn't even make my adrenaline flow. It didn't make my heart race. It was not a big deal. This child has been so much closer to death, and I've pulled her back from the precipice so many times now. I smiled and thanked the woman graciously, but inside was I thinking, That is probably the fourteenth or fifteenth time I've saved this girl's life.

In my darker moments, I wonder what it is all for. In all likelihood, she is going to grow up, marry a Mormon boy, become a mother, and lead a normal life. In my lighter moments, I am encouraged by all she has yet to experience - making new friends, riding a bike, warm baguettes, sunny summer afternoons. She gets to read Harry Potter for the first time, go to Disneyland, grow and play with her wonderful sisters. She'll fall in love, magical moonlight kisses, learn what it means to love selflessly. There are so many marvelous parts of this world I wouldn't want her to miss. So here's to the light.

2/3/16

A trip

You know what would be balm to the soul, breath to my lungs and a dream come true right now? A vacation. Preferably somewhere I long to go. But there is just no way Trevor and I can afford that right now, what with medical costs, groceries, bills....

What is that you say? Did my dad just offer us two free plane tickets with his Delta Sky Miles? And wait - my parents offered to watch all my children and our house for a week so Trevor and I could get away??!

Well its true - sometimes vacations come miraculously right when you need them. I'm pretty sure from now on I should just refer to my parents as "FGP," Fairy God Parents. Until the last few days I haven't actually believed this was going to happen. Inevitably some medical emergency would deter any plans, or something horrible would come up. Because I'm pretty sure our family has a higher rate of medical emergencies and something horrible happening than most families do. But we are only days away now from departure, and I'm working hard to make everything as easy as is feasibly possible for my FGPs to watch this madhouse...

Oh, have I neglected to mention where are we going? Hmm....only LONDON. Yeah, that's right! Not London, Ohio or London, Kentucky. London, ENGLAND. Please play "God Save the Queen" in your minds right now.

Trevor has hardly been home this week due to excessive work loads. In fact, he has been home maybe 10 hours total, and a lot of that has been sleeping. Yes, poor Trevor. But also poor me because I've been cooped up in this tiny house with ALL THESE CHILDREN. Oh my word the snow won't let up and neither will the kids' energy. Despite any and all of my valiant attempts to remain patient and loving and kind to these dear hearts, I end up hearing myself shout, "Oh my word - how have you not already brushed your teeth?!!"

So a trip could not be better timed. Or more appreciated. Truly, my gratitude knows no bounds. I know my kids will be alright, but I do worry about the FGP. I am afraid a whole week with my children and the house will trespass too greatly on their kindness.

But I know what you want to know, dear reader, and if you have indeed been a dear reader for a long time you will not be surprised by a single item on the itinerary. Nor will you be surprised that I've researched all of it and know the history and my excitement is limitless. However, as my friends Margy and Roger say, a vacation isn't a vacation if you don't make time to sit on a park bench and relax. Therefore the itinerary is not inflexible, but I do intend to make the most of every single minute there, even the minutes sleeping (without Eloise's feeding bag or throwing up or diapers every two hours!)

The (tentative) schedule:

Monday: We arrive around 10 am, and our hotel is down the street from the Victoria and Albert Museum. We are actually meeting my brother Andy and his wife because it's their last day in Europe. Then the V&A in the afternoon. Later that night we are going on a 'silent tour' of the Dennis Severs House (!!!!) That will be as close as I can get to experiencing 18th century London. Gah!!!

Tuesday: Saint Paul's Cathedral in the morning, and the Museum of London in the afternoon. I want to see the section of the original Roman Wall still standing there. At night we are getting a 'ghost tour' of the closed-to-public sections of London's docks.  

Wednesday: National Gallery in the morning, and a tour of West Highgate Cemetery in the afternoon. Highgate Cemetery is the place that inspired the setting for Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book.' I have read that book more times than I actually remember, but I've never been able to picture the graveyard very well because I've never been anywhere like it. So in essence I am going to enrich my reading experience. What does say of me?

Thursday: British Museum. Because yes, it needs a whole day. Also hunting for some classic fish & chips. 

Friday: We are renting a car and driving to Glastonbury!!! We will see Glastonbury Abbey where Arthur and Guinevere were buried, the Holy Thorn Tree, and the Chalice Well. Just typing that sentence makes me euphoric. 20+ years of Arthurian fixation will be satiated in a pilgrimage to Glastonbury! 

Saturday: I want to go to Cath Kidston's flagship store on Picaddilly! Then Hamley's to find toys for the girls. We want to go to a Bollywood movie at an Indian Theatre and find some amazing curry. 

Sunday: Home! Cheerio, England! I will always wonder why I was born on the wrong side of the Atlantic! 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧

Pictures to follow sometime soon, I hope!

1/25/16

Williams Menagerie

We are officially the Williams Menagerie, because we brought home another animal over the weekend. Bilbo, a six-week-old pygmy hedgehog, full of prickly adorableness. We are like a zoo with wild children but domesticated animals. I think my siblings are slightly worried that this animal collecting is a sign of madness or something, so I thought I'd elaborate here.

Reasons we have Many Animals:

  1. It is fun. I spend most of my day at home, and Eloise is difficult to bring places both because she has a G-tube and also because of her schedule. Therefore we spend 90% of the time at home. Its a perfect environment to socialize an animal, with lots of children, adults and an enormous yard.  Besides, it just makes everything more fun if you have a ferret, birds and a hedgehog. 
  2. I did not have interesting animals growing up because we were a military family. So this is all new to me, and I love it. I love learning about the animals with the children, bonding with them, training them, etc. (Both the children AND the animals!)
  3. It gives the girls greater empathic powers. Caring for something so tiny and helpless empowers the children, and gives them the chance to imagine what it must be like to be a brand-new baby hedgehog in this enormous world. 
  4. Responsibility - you know it was getting here eventually. It gives the kids responsibilities and tasks they can actually do and feel proud of. 
So yeah, I might be a wee bit crazy, but I started down that road when I saw two baby heads in my first ultrasound!

1/14/16

balance

A four-year-old little boy in the same state program with Eloise recently passed away. We inherited all of his feeding supplies. We now have at least two dozen boxes of supplies downstairs, his name written on every single one. I didn't know this little boy, and I don't know what his disabilities were, but I was sad that his short life was mostly filled with difficulties, and he hardly was able to enjoy the better parts. I also see the other side, all the turmoil and strife he missed. He may have missed the fun, but he also missed the ugliness in the world. However his mother is still suffering. I know how life-consuming having a child with such problems is, and all her hard work and love ended with a painful departure. I feel much more pain and empathy for her than for her son.

I wish I wasn't compelled to use the supplies out of necessity. I wish I could throw it all out. I am weary of being part of this medical world, with wild-eyed mothers and miserable children. I am tired of feeling so strapped in every department - financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically. I get so restless. I often envy my younger self, my naivety and ignorance.

I was telling my mother just last night that I feel like I've lived a fairly extraordinary life thus far. I have done incredible things, like circumnavigated the globe, got an undergraduate and master's degree in 5 years, traveled extensively, felt immense joy and passion, and also have experienced the opposite. I've been physically trapped, my mind has been absolutely commandeered by mundanity and routine and diapers and feeding bags. I wonder if there are always opposites, if every life is ultimately balanced. I wonder if the mother of that little boy will find her own balance, if all the medical intervention was worth it to prolong such a difficult life?

1/9/16

Joie de vivre

Today I asked my friend if she had made any New Year's resolutions. Immediately she answered, "Well, I know I should eat better." It struck me that it was as if I asked if she were starting a diet. Like
New Years Resolution = New Diet. Our culture is really, really preoccupied with this. But here's the thing - we all indulge over the holidays. That's why they are called 'holidays.' Its a treat. Then January rolls around and its all Juice Cleanses and Shedding Holiday Weight madness. What if instead of cursing ourselves for indulgence, we celebrate it, because it is only for one part of the year? Eating is a big part of celebrating together, and I don't think we should feel like it is a bad thing. There are so many real things to be miserable about, holiday indulgence is SO not one of them.
She is the third person in the past week I've given similar advice to: Increase the joie de vivre in life. Instead of thinking how we 'should' be disciplining and altering ourselves, how can we explore pleasure? How can we maximize our enjoyment in daily living? How can we expand our minds in the coming year? What new music is waiting to be discovered? What new food? What new books or stories?

I recognize it is easy for me to look at someone else's life and tell them to relax and enjoy it, because I come from a strange perspective. I have a two-year-old who eats through a feeding tube, throws up most day and night, and occasionally quits breathing and needs my intervention to preserve her life. Living with the real knowledge of death's proximity has definitely changed the way I see things. I feel like the world needs to relax, eliminate the noisy chatter, and connect with divinity through beauty and pleasure. More mindfulness. More joie de vivre.

1/4/16

Arthur lovin'

I am hardly spending any time online these days. Maybe 20 minutes daily, sometimes none at all! It's because I'm really entirely absorbed in keeping this household running. I feel like I spend all day in the kitchen, either preparing or cleaning up a meal, or doing homework with the kids. So my writing time is practically non-existent these days. 
I have also been absorbed with our newest animal, Arthur. He is really the sweetest thing I've ever met. Eloise has been so rough with him, but he hasn't bitten her once (even though I kind of wish he would so she would quit picking him up). He follows me around the house, sit in my apron pocket, or wiggle between my feet. He's just adorable. I mean, look at this face:
And honestly, what's not to love about this:

12/19/15

Star Wars Awakens

This year, Christmas came early for Trevor, in the form of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.' He hasn't stopped talking about it for weeks. He knew all the character names before we even saw the movie, most of the plot line, and I've even been treated to Jar Jar Binks - Sith Lord conspiracy theories. I have been looking forward to the movie also, but I haven't been excited. At least, not compared to Trevor. As we sat in the theater last night and those famous yellow title letters came scrolling across the giant screen, I realized why.

Star Wars for me is Saturday mornings watching the original three on VHS with my brothers on the sofa. Its searching thrift stores for the original Kenner action figures for Ben's collection. Its hanging out with my brothers while they play Star Wars nintendo games. Or listening to the radio dramas as we fall asleep on a road trip. Essentially, Star Wars equals good times with my siblings.

I was so happy to be with three of my siblings last night cheering on the new Star Wars. I miss my brother Ben, several states away. I lucked out with my brothers and sister. It won't get any easier for all of us to be in the same place in years to come. But I'll tell you one thing, Rey is the jedi I want my own girls to watch together on Saturday mornings!