Friday, November 25, 2011

Remodeling from the Crawlspace Up

This has been an unusually confusing week:  Sunday evening the main floor bathroom started flooding repeatedly.  After we'd tried to mop up with every towel I own, Star made an anxious call to our friendly neighborhood plumber.  He'd just visited the day before to remove a plastic cup from the master bathroom toilet, and seemed in remarkably good spirits for a Sunday evening (we'd rather not imagine the stories that he brings home from his many trips to the Hall bathrooms over the last several years).  He was quick to assess the situation and asked to check the crawl space for any leak.  Now that area of the house is only accessible  by way of a little door in the floor of a cozy closet we lovingly call "the Harry Potter room." And it fills up with any stray toy that escapes the playroom. To empty it, the Hall children formed an assembly line and took 65 million urgent trips with plastic grocery bags. The homemaker @ the Hall home regularly requires that the space be cleared, but each time our plumber has visited, we look as though we have real organizational issues...

The root of the problem was recognizable in short order when the pipe exploded, and our friendly plumber suggested we call in Rescue Rooter. It was a long evening for Star, Zach, and the professionals down in that crawlspace.  I was sent to Aunt Mieka's in SLC for dinner and distraction for the children.  By the end of the evening it was discovered that our new-fangled-top-of-the-line potties, with extra large drainage holes (installed last November in order to reduce that flooding phase we'd endured for a season with help from our 2yr. old) had encouraged the creativity of our now 3 yr old.  He'd flushed a bra and several pairs of underwear, along with some baby wipes, and they seemed to be holding things up a bit along the pipeline.

Our house has been exposed to so many repairmen over the last week, that I sense it feels violated.  The carpet we installed last March was cut out, sheet rock and tile torn out, and anti-bacterial potions applied.  The amazingly loud fans were finally shut off today, and then while I was out, my entire kitchen floor was removed, leaving a very thick and sticky residue that makes it impossible to walk on.  After the workmen left, we heard back from the flooring place: they should have our order in by mid-next week (Oh boy).  The homeowners insurance will cover much of the reconstruction (of walls, vanity, paint, carpet, and vinyl) after we've met our deductible...  But I guess I won't pull out the Christmas decor for a while.

Since we returned from our hotel stay (where Max tried valiantly to flush a plastic "Do Not Disturb" sign down the toilet) that creative child has force fed the sink his corn dog, and used the toilet brush to smash up his waste.  I'm afraid I lost my patience at that point, and used my "outside voice."  The bathrooms are now locked each day, all day, and I carry a long nail in my pocket in order to access those areas.  I understand that this may slow down the unremarkable progress we are making in our potty-training efforts, but I can better afford more pull-ups, than more re-modeling.

Because of the tougher week, Star suggested I go to WalMart this afternoon --to see what Black Friday was all about, while he did some projects around the place.  I had a nice time, found a few bargains, and had just started the van when a woman rapped at the passenger window and shouted, "You have a very flat tire."  I didn't roll down the window to thank her (that window no longer rolls down) I just smiled and nodded -- why not, right?

Did you know that if you've purchased new sets of tires for each of your tired vehicles in less than a year's time, they'll take really good care of you at Discount Tires?

Yes, sir --just ask me about budgeting, effective parenting, or being full of faith, hope, and charity..."I'm master of all I survey..."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My has how many corners?

I feel as though my responsibilities, my duties and concerns are endless.  They probably are.  Today as I moved some things into my new "craft/office/homeschooling room" I have stewed about how to organize it all physically -- but I have realized in the process that finding everything "it's place" is such an emotional and spiritual task as well.

On the one side of the shelves where my Mother Goose books, diapers in cute baskets, and baby blankets were once housed-- are fabrics and sewing notions that have been boxed up since we moved into this house 6 years ago.  On the other side are trays of bills to be filed, coupons to clip, scrap booking supplies (also packed away for 6 years) and Ensigns filled with my notes in the margins (I just can't let go of them yet).  My old kitchen table serves as the new desk space, but already it is littered with books entitled Happy Homeschooling,  Life Skills for Kids, The LDS Mother's Almanac, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Repair, Gospel Principles,  and Working with Fractions.  Where do I think I will set up my sewing machine and cutting board?

In between keeping Sam and Max on task I try to keep my laundry tools hard at work, but by the time I get around to folding my day's successes, it has been dark for many hours.

I have heard that women often feel they have many "hats" or roles they must play in their journeyings.  I think mine is just one hat (if there were many I'd most likely misplace some) but it's corners... how can I give each of them enough exposure to the Sun when the Moon seems to be in such a hurry?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"March"ing Onward, Ever Onward

It is Sunday. But Daddy has not been at the church since the wee hours of the morning.

Today he is resting.
The two Sundays before he made enormous breakfasts.
After 5 plus years of looking down on us from the stand, he now sits with some children on his lap and arms around others, his hand in mine.

From the screen I hear the sounds of a rag tag group of little athletes warming up for a pre-season game.  All the baseball equipment we've accumulated over the years is covering the back lawn.  It is cold enough that the "team" is all in jackets and coats (Max in his cowboy boots), but the sound of their voices and laughter is worth keeping the door open and the heat on inside.  I sit trying to read my book about Norwegian Saints --lovely and lyrical.  It has been a long time since I have written. I will do some catch-up.

In an effort to choose better from good, we have encouraged Zach to forgo his Karate lessons for a soccer season.  He is hard at work and reminding me of my brothers with weekly games and practices and details of post game play-by-play descriptions.

Abbie, after another ill-fated experiment with me and hair color, has a complex color-corrected head of hair with highlights (offered free by a well-meaning ward member).  She has been struggling with the topic of WWII and the holocaust in school and is deepening in her understanding of the human condition.

Millie recently performed in her little first grade patriotic program at school.  She was chosen to sing a solo of "This is My Country."  And her eager, repeated practice of the song has planted those lyrics indelibly in our minds.  Her excitement with school and homework has yet to wane; she loves to be busy. She has now been given the time to take a rec. center dance class and is in heaven for that Tues. hour.

Max and Sam and I spend our days together at home. It was a difficult decision --to take up homeschooling with him, but there are moments every day that are rewarding and confirm that it was a guided choice.  We are learning together about ancient Rome and current events in Egypt and Japan. Our geometry skills are vastly improving.  Our morning devotionals have frequently become meaningful conversations about our purpose and God's plan for us as unique individuals.  It seems to bring some peace to his soul.  There are definite challenges and changes in keeping up with household chores, but overall it has been fulfilling for all of us.

Star continues to work in St. George, but his traveling has let up some, and because he had spent so many months away, it feels like a gift of time when he is able to be here with us.  He is diligent and determined--his tenacity provides for our family of mixed ages and interests.

The backyard athletes have moved on to soccer.  I hate to round them up for baths and

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Holiday Season as an Adult

Happy Max with Santa

'Tis the night after Christmas and all through the house.... there are messes and disorder ---I feel like a louse. I plan every year with efficiency and care-- in hopes that when St. Nicholas takes to the air --that I will be snuggled down deep in my bed, and visions of peace will fill my head.

But it seems I move slower as evening wears on and I've just shut my eyes when Christmas morn dawns. I smile as they gasp with surprise and tear into packages of bargain buys, but I'm weary and I wonder how Mother carried out---seamless events without room for doubt --Santa was real, he was very consistent, but in our home even Tooth Fairy is resistant... to discipline and order, traditions galore --what if I can't pull off two decades more?

Santa brought Millie a Cabbage Patch doll, Sam a new "Rusty"dog better than all---the stuffed pets he cares for--and he's got plenty. He mentioned in fact that they numbered beyond twenty! Max loves his new cars, puzzles, and Jammie's --Abbie is crafting, changing outfits and hamming-- it up in front of the mirror, and Zach's decked out in all BYU gear.

Christmas Eve Jammies

So why more toys and clothing and such? Why give more when we've already so much?

I guess because children grow out of their clothes, and toys wear out and dolls lose their bows. Maybe the real reason we give --is so that each of these people we're raising will live --knowing they're loved, knowing we care... even if their parents are showing the wear... of sixteen Christmases come and gone, of sleepless nights and post-worry dawns.

It's different as Mama than it was as the child. I miss the suspense and being exiled---from areas of Mom's secret wrapping, the freedom from budget and energy-zapping---shopping and planning, stewing and fretting; Each Christmas I plan to do less forgetting --of where I've hidden this bag and that, and yet every year I do just that...

Cast picture at Joseph Smith's Birthday Party @ Grandma Wells'

But when I let Christmas' magic sink in...I'm grateful for the miracle of these kids and kin --glad that I have them, glad to be married, glad to be busy and often carried ---over rough spots, trials and cares--for they are proof that Christ is ever there---to lift and to lighten, to teach and release --- all grown-up burdens, for He is real PEACE.

Our Christmas box

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Finding Contentment

I was lucky to attend a small private school for my Jr. high years. I was lucky because (in addition to other things) Louisa Dalton had few friends to choose from --and spent much of her time with me. Louisa was her Daddy's girl and much like him. She was quiet and thoughtful. She was concise in speech and writing. Her patience was a spiritual gift, but it benefited me.
There were days I remember feeling emotional and restless. Louisa would sit outside with me at lunch and let me ramble on about my "larger-than-life-drama" and smile...not a knowing smile, or even a "you're so silly" smile --just a "I'm pleased to be with you" kind of smile. As I finished she'd adjust her glasses with her shoulder and point out the colors on the Y mountain so close in front of us.

When I received my patriarchal blessing on my 16th birthday, I was promised contentment if I was willing to follow all the programs and principles established by the Lord for His children. In just that one word I knew that God knew me and my heart.

I now have a dramatic middle-schooler of my own. I also mother four others who vary in their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs every day. There are times I still feel restless. Sometimes it's when I daily gather five pairs of dirty socks from around the main floor. Sometimes it's while bleaching the tub for the third time in 30 minutes after three rounds of "shark-infested waters" courtesy of my youngest. Sometimes it's while struggling to stay alert while reading my scriptures (it doesn't matter what time of day it is). But the disquiet is different than it used to be. I am learning to "adjust my glasses" and change my focus.

When I allow my limited perspective to be altered through Christ's view of me, and my worth as a mother and wife, His grace(His gift) (just like Louisa's did all those years ago) can soften my nature and soothe my soul.

And for just a few minutes I Know what charity feels like... (until I wander into the master bathroom to find a box of cereal dumped on the floor and a some large piece of a broken light fixture set nicely on the counter by an anonymous friend --for me to find after they have gone to school).

It's crazy to recognize once again the blessing of a name. The little daughter whom I named Louisa Grace--before knowing why it would be such an imperative and lasting reminder to my heart to keep striving for peace.

For those hoping to do some reflecting on the topic --I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

If he was looking for signs...

One week ago today the family was in pre-carpool-hurry-mode as Zach gave a powerful devotional about the theme for seminary: "Doubt not, fear not." He closed by telling his sleepy sibs that reading scriptures was really cool, and that this "doubt not, fear not" idea could apply to everything in life. He grabbed Dad's racing bike, secured his shoes into the stirrups, and called over his shoulder, "Doubt not, fear not!" -- like some "Hurrah for Israel" battle cry.

30 minutes later as I looked with disdain at the last two large bowls of peaches waiting to be bottled, the phone rang. It was the Vice Principal at Maeser. He told me that Zach was in his office after being hit by a car while riding to school. My heart began racing. Mr. Marshall informed me it had been a hit and run, and that Zach had some bruises and road rash, but that he was alright. He wondered if I'd give the school permission to get the police involved. Through my tears I asked if I should come to bring Zach home. I was told he wanted to stay.

I called Star and he answered (2nd miracle) . He told me he'd leave for Maeser immediately. By the time I reached my parents and they arrived to cover Max (he was still asleep and stayed asleep until I came back an hour later (3rd miracle)) the police were leaving. Star met me in the parking lot, took one look at my puffy eyes and wild hair and said with a smile, "You are an emotional Mama." My feisty-mother-bear-ness retorted, "Yes! I AM! I need to see him." Just then Zach came out the door wearing his PE clothes. He saw me and came over saying in a really pleasant way, "Mom, hey-- thanks for coming." I hugged him to me hard and asked if I could take him home. He kindly refused --explaining that they were on their way to an ultimate Frisbee game...

The adrenaline wore off after a couple of hours. He called and needed some ibuprofen. When he hobbled out to the car, I convinced him to come home and let me get some neo-sporin on his scrapes and cuts (all on the outside of his hands and arms). We talked while driving, and as the details of the accident unraveled I marveled again that he'd not been more hurt. He said he'd been going full speed and noticed a car was pulling out from a business driveway on State street. In a matter of nano-seconds he thought "pull your feet out of the stirrups", and then his mind began going through the steps of a karate trick he'd just perfected Tues. night; his bike hit the car, he smoothly flew across the hood, then tucked and rolled --his head never touching the ground. He lay there dazed, then realized the car had continued driving, and decided he'd better get up --he didn't want to be late for school.

It was a day full of mixed emotions, and it took it's toll physically, but I kept recalling him say with confident conviction, "Doubt not, fear not." If any of us were looking for some sort of sign that God knows who we are and that we can be given the companionship of the Spirit -- this could count I think.

I cannot verbalize my gratitude.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

You know I'm Mellowing When...

...I come upon a chewed-up, spit-out piece of gum on the landing just outside my bedroom door --and I feel GRATEFUL --grateful that it hasn't yet been stepped on so that it's mushed into the carpet. I grab it and toss it into the garbage (My newly purchased package of trident gum was empty in my purse --so I knew the gum was bound to turn up somewhere).

...I find an entire roll of toilet paper --unraveled on the bathroom floor--and I feel really FORTUNATE--fortunate that it wasn't emptied into the toilet. (I don't bother to ask who did it, I just pick it up and put it on the back of the potty for future use.)

...My 8 year old tells me that he ordered the Deseret News (he seems a little surprised and guilty when he carries it in off the driveway to explain)--I just pay the bill when it comes (it's less trouble than calling and getting them to cancel (we've tried that before).

...My Millie takes every toy she owns (practically) from house to house or out on the lawn in grocery bags---and I feel RELIEVED--relieved that I don't feel a compelling need to organize and sort them into cute containers anymore.

...My 14 year old receives a calling from the Stake Presidency to serve as a youth advisor in the area Special Needs Mutual--and I feel JOYFUL--joyful that he can be trusted, joyful that he's excited and humbled by it, joyful that I have the chance to be a mom (even though it will add another layer of scheduling and driving to my weeks).

So maybe I'm not consistently easy-going and flexible, but I'm coming along and mellowing --line upon line --right?