7/6/16

My goodness....

.....I haven't written in a long time. Since this is the only place I write about what goes on with my kids, it's such a shame. But the reason could not make me happier - there is a good chance I'll get to teach Art History at BYU! Just one class - I couldn't keep this household running and everyone healthy and do more. But I will oh-so gladly take teaching one class. In every single spare minute of my day, I've been reading and writing Art History. It feels amazing. I'm gratefully surprised I haven't lost more information in my brain in the last 7 years. Sometimes I was afraid I've had to learn and store so much medical information about Eloise it would crowd out the art.
Speaking of Eloise, that little lady turns 3 in a month. People act so surprised, because I think in their mind she's this tiny sick NICU baby forever. But I have so lived and felt every single day of those three years. There are many mornings I wake up and am glad we are all alive!
I also have another European adventure on the horizon, with my fabulous dad. Its too far out to start counting down the days, but I am so thrilled.
Hazel starts kindergarten in August, and the twins start their French program (!). All good things. We are enjoying the summer in the meantime.

6/15/16

crystal kittens

Sometimes in life you plan on making something magical, and it just doesn't work. And then sometimes, it really, really does. The twins turned seven last Friday, and they had the best birthday. Everyday for months and months (and months), they have been obsessed with crystal kittens. Rightfully so, because they are awesome. Also rightfully so, they are expensive, because each is a hand-painted work of art. At the beginning I dismissed the possibility of buying them for the girls out of hand, thinking the obsession would die out of natural causes. Uncharacteristically the obsession did NOT die, and in fact ballooned into an entire imaginary world the children inhabited at some point every day, and even extended an invitation to several of their school friends.
So after some deliberation, scrimping and jostling the budget, we decided we should give them crystal kittens for their birthday. Because in just a handful of years we will be spending the same amount of money on car insurance for them, and that is a whole lot less gratifying and fun to buy. And can I add, I haven't regretted it for a moment? Here is a sampling of their reactions:
There are so few chances on earth to give someone you love something they really really want, and it was such a joy. I think in the last five days Josephine has let her crystal kitten out of her hand only to take a shower. She has fallen asleep holding it every night. It has been, well, magical.

6/5/16

Antidote

I have had to compose a list of ways to cope with Trump-itus. Everywhere seems to be infected with it. I've been timing how long I can listen to NPR before his name is mentioned. It's usually less that 10 minutes! Any news related to him gives me an involuntary visceral reaction; my stomach twists and my chest does this muscle tensing thing that I'm sure is bad for my health. None of it is good, and therefore, I present my list of "Ways to Survive Election Season":
  1. Radio Silence Weekend. Starting Friday night, I do not listen to the radio, watch or read the news. Complete radio silence. This is really effective, because it gives me enough of a break to face Monday again. 
  2. Watch political satires. Laughing at the situation relieves tension. Stephen Colbert is always  favorite.  
  3. Get involved with refugee efforts. Give to charity, give your time, get involved with things like World Refugee Day. Not only will you feel a little less stress about the anti-immigrant nonsense coming from the Trump carnival, you will meet interesting people from all around the world who probably feel like you do.
  4. Yoga. Of course I believe yoga could solve huge amounts of the world's problems, and I can attest to its personal healing capabilities. I am almost certain Donald Trump could not practice yoga - not just the bendy parts, but the quiet meditation. He doesn't strike me as someone capable of much self reflection or quiet pondering. 
  5. Indulge in some Trudeau-gazing. Good grief that man. 
  6. Watch foreign films. They provide a mini escape from American politics. And you can be sure Donald Trump hasn't seen it. 
  7. Enjoy summer! Enjoy summertime like there is no election in the fall! Spend time outside in the garden, leave your windows open at night to hear the crickets. 
  8. Watch this a few times:
  9. I hope this list is helpful to you, because no kidding, we are in this together.  

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?