Monday, September 27, 2010

Timpanogos Cave - Hike #1

I am not a hot weather person at all. I loathe it and generally stay inside in front of the A/C all summer long. I would have made a miserable pioneer. However, as soon as that fall tang hits the air, I want to be outside enjoying it. There are several hikes I have been planning on taking the boys on as soon as the cool weather hit and last friday, we hit the first of the three: Timpanogos Cave. I thought I would ease the boys into the idea of climbing a mountain by promising them a cave at the top. I grew up in Heber Valley in the shadow of the (in my humble opinion) more beautiful side of Timpanogos. While I have hiked both sides, it has been at least 15 years since I made it up to the caves. The last time I went up, we were among some of the few hikers stuck on the trail during a freak micro-burst complete with hail, rain, lightning, falling rocks and tree branches. When we finally got to the bottom, some people were unlucky enough to have tree branches fall on their cars. Poor suckers :-)
This trip was both more fun and less eventful although it was a constant battle to keep kids from wandering off the precipices all the way up (I don't remember so many drop offs. Mak, Dave, EJ, Birdie and Baby Butter joined us.

None of the kids wanted water. They did, however, want to pick all the MnM's out of the trail mix I brought on every break. I became the mean mom/aunt who made them eat the nuts and raisins too (and drink water).

Butter (2 months) rode in the backpack the whole way and was a champ. That's not a bad way to "hike."

We all made it to the top and the boys did a little rock climbing while we waited for the cave tour.

Our guide got an 'A' for perkiness and about a 'B' for sounding like the tour operators on the Storybook Land ride at Disneyland.

Either way, the kids were impressed.

Junior would have made this face in every picture if I had let him. I did let a few slide. In the background is the 'heart' of Timpanogos. We had to request a telling of the legend since the National Park Service doesn't include it as part of the tour anymore since it is "not true." Really? There is no God of Timpanogos who shaped the mountain to look like a sleeping Indian maiden? I would never have guessed!

Despite Junior looking up at the long trail and telling me he was tired before we even left the parking lot, the boys both did surprisingly well for a first hike. No complaints until we were on our way down and their toes hurt from going downhill. They don't know that their reward for doing so well is to do ANOTHER hike as soon as I can arrange to ditch Sis again :-) They will thank me someday, I'm sure!

Then we can hibernate again until next fall!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

School for Bubba

Bubba started preschool last week in what ended up being kind of a last minute decision. I was so tempted to keep him home with me for just this last year before he starts Kindergarten next year. In the end, my more practical mommy side and the constant begging on Bubba's part to go to school like Junior ultimately prevailed. The city teamed up with fate and offered a preschool opportunity in which a bus comes and picks Bubba up and drops him off again right in front of our house. I just couldn't resist that. I had no excuses not to. Its free and its door to door bus service. Every day, the bus driver comments on my lack of shoes when I walk Bubba to the bus steps. pfft! Who needs shoes when you are walking seven steps out the front door? I might not put shoes on in winter just to prove a point. Front door service baby!

As day one drew near, it seemed to occur to Bubba that he would be attending school all by himself and it put a little bit of a damper on his initial excitement. He tried playing sick (and has every morning since) and he has tried to bargain. He doesn't get on the bus kicking and screaming by any means, but is very reluctant. I wanted him to be in preschool in the hopes that it would aid my efforts to give him a schedule he can count on. Life feels like a lot of running around these days. I wanted him to bond with other adults who will be consistent in his life. I wanted him to get used to the rules and regulations of a classroom. I wanted him to enjoy it as much as his brother did. We picked out a backpack and an outfit and I took the pictures and told him how proud I was of him. Despite having a son already go through that first day, I wasn't quite prepared for how I would feel when I saw that bus drive away with my baby boy, who had never gone anywhere or done anything without the security of one of his family members. And yes, I got a little weepy (seriously, are you surprised?) It's just so hard not to think of him as my baby boy still. Preschool today, college tomorrow.

You can just about see his embarrassed smile of pride at the completion of his first day and first round trip bus ride. I was a little disappointed, but not really surprised, when he "couldn't remember" one single thing about his day at school. He has been carrying a love note from me in his pocket to school over the last few days to help him be brave when he rides the bus and when he misses me. He leaves me one too. And he wants me to wave at him until the bus turns the corner as well as reassure him every 10 minutes or so beforehand that I will be there to meet him when he gets home. I'm just going to fold up the memory of all that and tuck it away in my pocket for when he is a snarky teenager who makes me drop him off a block away from school so no one sees him with his dorky mom. I'm pretty sure I will still be seeing my baby boy then too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

our day's labor...

On Labor Day, I enlisted my own personal child labor team to help me make jam. This isn't as much of a rip off as it sounds since the job involved both knives (butter knives, but still knives...) and smashing bowls of berries. Junior even stirred the pot while it cooked.

Meanwhile, the mouse ran away with the cheese...

The fruits of our Labor Day labors turned out delicious!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Last of The Firsts

Made it. The year that felt like a million. A year ago today, I woke up horrified, terrified, hopeless and so much more devastated than I ever dreamed possible after crying for most of the night. I was truly a single mom for the first time.

"Please don't do this to me. To us." I said (heart blatantly on my sleeve and pride firmly in my pocket.) "I know what I should do, but I don't have the desire to take those steps" were J's words right before he walked out our front door for the last time a year ago yesterday. The following days and weeks were a series of moments that I barely remember. The sinking feeling that I would get when he would knock on his own front door when he came to collect the kids. Thinking of things about the kids and current events and life in general that my first impulse was to tell him and remembering with a jolt that he was no longer either my friend or my companion. Doing laundry and finding his clothes and finally getting to the point where I had to box up his stuff from our closet and put it in the basement. I made meals for the kids regularly and with a false cheerfulness, but I felt like a zombie. I took a lot of naps, hid in my house and only sometimes let Britny drag me out to take all the kids to McDonald's playland. I talked on the phone to Bek a lot so she could counteract my constant attacks on myself, my character and my defects as a wife that would make my husband want to leave. I cuddled my little sunshine who had barely turned three months old and I still dared to hope. I dared to hope that he would recognize that he didn't want to be away from his boys and his brand new baby daughter. I hoped that he would realize that the schedule we all had to be under because of him was not the way our family should have to function. I hoped that despite the tangle he had put our relationship in in his mind, that he might remember some of our past the way I did. He might remember his best friend. I hoped that he would miss us or that he would belatedly realize that we and our family were important enough to "take steps" for.

This year has been a long series of 'keeping it together' episodes. I have been weak and the kids have seen me cry before, especially in the early days. I remember vividly the morning that Bubba crawled into my lap, took my face in his hands, peered into my eyes and gravely told me that "my eyes were not sad" (i.e. I wasn't crying for a change.) From then on, I tried harder but I knew the year would be full of pitfalls that I wished I could just sleep through or ignore. The first Christmas alone, his birthday, my birthday, Valentine's day and on and on. Each high or holiday that passed, I was tortured to remember the previous one when our family was together. I also dreaded the coming days that would remind me of my current shattering. Even Bubba's birthday this year reminded me that on that day the previous year, we had attended our sham therapy session in which he told me lots of horrible things, but still not the truth that would have helped us heal. I returned home and tried to discreetly slip past the houseful of (unaware) family members who were with us for the week to lock myself in our room and sob into a pillow for five minutes before I cleaned up and emerged to engineer a birthday party and pretend nothing was wrong.

I have worked hard this year to make every special day still special regardless of how low I felt or how much I wanted to brush it off. I am proud of myself for being able to do that. It was no small thing for me. As of today, I have officially reached my last first. He has been officially gone a year today and after this, I never want to mark this day again. There are a few exceptions (i.e. our Disneyland trip coming up next month) but as a whole, I have done all my first anniversaries of crappy days and my first special days alone. We even got our first dad-less vacation out of the way. There is some relief in that. We kept all of our traditions and even when it wasn't always fun for me, I hope I have laid the ground work in keeping things normal and maybe even fun for this year.

Life is still complicated. Probably more so than at this time last year. I have more to worry about, I have more complex feelings to sift through and I have demons to contend with that I would not have expected to ever have to confront. But this is my last first. I have been through a year of hell and I know that part isn't over (more clearly with every day and every choice we still have to be party to) but I am standing. Sometimes because I am strong and sometimes because I have no choice, but I have no regrets yet about how I have chosen to handle this trial. I am still standing because I am blessed with wonderful family and friends. I am still standing because of your prayers. I am still standing because I can't fall. I am still standing because God loves my family and wants us to make it. My pillow will still see tears but I can do hard things. I have three beams of pure sunshine that count on me and among all the doubts, I know that we are at least pointed in the right direction. I can do anything because I know that.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Bubba starts preschool next week. It's all the way across town and as a result, he gets to have a bus pick him up (Junior is really jealous.) Today we went to meet his teacher and see his classroom.

"Dad will be there too!" I told him. He turned an eager face to me and asked "Does that mean Dad is going to come back to live in our house?"

"No babe, remember Dad has his own house now?"

"Yeah" he said and then turned his attention back to the Peter Pan game I had interrupted.

I don't often question my kids unless they bring something up first, but this time I was curious. J moved out a year ago on Saturday and the year he has been gone is 1/4 of Bubba's life.

"Do you remember Dad living in our house, Bubba?"

He thought for a minute and said "Nope"

"You don't remember when he would make breakfast for you guys or when he was here for prayers or when we would ride scooters over at the park or going to Disneyland?"


Junior has memories of all of us together and I know that Bubba has some because occasionally he will bring something up that I would never have thought he would remember. He had just barely turned three this time last year though and I don't know if those memories will stick around. It also occurred to me the other day that I have very few memories of J interacting with Sis. I know he did because he was always very hands on with the kids and I know he must have loved on her the way he did the boys while he was still home, but those few months before he left were such an intense fog of misery that I don't remember many details from that time other than keeping it together. I know he is still hands on with all the kids when he has them, but it still makes me sad to be missing it. I loved cooking dinner and hearing the squealing and wrestling from the living room. I loved seeing the mad rush to the door when he came home from work. I loved sharing those certain looks of pride or love or exasperation that parents only give to regarding their beloved children. I know he loves them. I just miss seeing it and being a part of it. I love being a mother, but J still remains the person I wish I could talk to about the kids without the conversation being loaded. I had hoped that even with the dissolution of our marital relationship, I wouldn't be left emotionally alone to parent when all was said and done. No one will ever love my kids like their mom and dad and it is lonely to be eclipsed from the one person I want to share them with. He doesn't need me as their mom and I am no longer allowed to need him as their father.

"It's not fair" says the little voice that always pops into my head, sometimes in a scream, sometimes in a whisper, but always there and always something I fight these days. J and I used to joke about my overdeveloped sense of fairness. Realistically, I know that life isn't fair. Ask the people who are getting gunned down by militants in Africa, or the millions who died in concentration camps during WWII. Ask any of the other wives like me who have been left to mother alone. Ask any of those who would love to be married and have a family and haven't yet had the opportunity and may not. We live in a world where terrible things are allowed to happen, but the perspective of my faith is that we are also granted the opportunity to grow from our challenges. But sometimes, when you look around you at everyone living the life you want and sometimes taking it for granted or knowing what you are missing, that little "it's just not fair" voice is a hard one to silence. It is often strengthened by remembering that the one who I thought had my back, stabbed me in it in the end.

This year I have learned that faith is multi-faceted. I have never in my life had a doubt that the church is true. I have never doubted the Joseph Smith story. Simply believing has always come fairly easily to me and I don't really know why but was grateful for it. I just believe. The angle of faith that I am having a much harder time with is the idea that although God doesn't always make things fair, he compensates. He heals, He changes hearts and minds if you are obedient. He compensates. I have heard it a hundred times from a dozen people in the last year, I have read it in the General Authorities talks and I still struggle to believe it. Many days, I go through my routine of cooking and cleaning and work and laundry and putting the kids to bed. I fight the loneliness and try not to recognize that this might be it. I may be doing all this on my own for many years, if not the rest of my life. I am still young and so are my children, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of dating or remarriage, but I also spend a lot of time wondering if I even want to bring someone else into this little life of ours. I hate the idea of my kids feeling divided or like they are loved less by a step-parent. I don't know if I could handle seeing anyone else discipline them. Many people assume that my age means I will easily find someone and marry again. But it is just not that easy and most definitely not on the radar for awhile yet, if ever. Unfortunately, not being ready to move on in that arena doesn't mean it's not still lonely or that I am ok with being on my own. I know what I am missing. I just don't think it can ever be replicated and it is not a step I will take if I don't feel like it is the best one for my kids.

So, I am having a mid-life crisis of faith after all. I still believe, I just struggle to believe that things will work for me on a personal level and that I won't always be in this mire. I want to really believe that as long as I am making the best decisions for me and my kids and being obedient, I can be blessed with peace no matter where I am at or what I am doing. I see tender mercies everywhere that remind me that I am watched over but even those who saw angels learned to doubt and I am by no means a paragon of strength. Time and obedience will be the true test of this personal crisis, but I want to believe that I can come back this time next year or in five years or ten and be able to say that I know without a doubt that He compensates. He heals. This time last year, I asked J to put this method to the test for the sake of our family and he couldn't get his mind around the idea and took his own road. I am slowly realizing how difficult making the choice to believe in something can be and then to follow up. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I fully believed it would work for him and I want to believe it will work for me. It's a start, right?