Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Brothers

I have five brothers.  This has been a source of both pride and disappointment throughout my life.  I have always enjoyed telling people that I have five brothers and no sisters.  That automatically paints me as someone who is pretty tough and also someone who has people watching her back.  I do wish that I had sisters, and that is where the disappointment lies, but that is another story for another day.  I fall in the middle with two older and three younger.

This picture was taken four days before my oldest brother Jordan was killed in a car accident.  There aren't a whole lot of pictures of just me and my brothers, especially since we all grew up.  I insisted on having this picture taken at our recent family reunion.  I'm very glad I did.

My relationship with each of my brothers is very unique.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love all my brothers though.  I have often told people stories of what it was like growing up with five boys.  I have often shared, with pride, the accomplishments of my brothers.  They are all, indeed, great men.  I admire each of them for different reasons. 

But of all my brothers, the only one who ever expressed this same kind of appreciation to me by telling me of his appreciation and sharing his admiration of me with others was Jordan.  Not one of my other brothers ever told me that I looked beautiful, but Jordan did.  Not one of them (to my knowledge) ever told anyone about me with pride that I was his sister, but Jordan did.  I didn't even realize he did as often as he did until after his death.  I have had many, many people that knew him, but not me, tell me how he spoke of me often and how he admired me.

When I was in first grade, Jordan was in fourth grade.  We had recess at the same time.  He introduced me to some of the girls in his class.  Those girls continued to be kind to me, even into high school.  I remember how nervous I was the night before starting junior high school (7th grade).  He was starting 10th grade that year, which was at the high school.  I was so afraid I would get lost in the hallways and not be able to find my classes.  He sat down with me and went over my class schedule and mapped it all out for me.  I remember going to many stake dances with him and his group of friends once I had turned fourteen.  I have a lot of these kinds of memories with Jordan that I don't have with most of my other brothers.

In the last few years, we hadn't talked as much as we used to.  When we were both in college, we talked often on the phone.  After college and when real life started, we still talked a few times a month on the phone.  But as his life got complicated and difficult, we didn't talk as often.  Oh, how I wish I would have been better about calling him.  It had only been in the recent two to three months that we began talking on the phone more often again.

I will miss Jordan tremendously.  I will miss his friendship.  Yes, friendship.  His phone calls, his Facebook comments, his comments on my blog posts, random emails and instant messaging and texts.  It wasn't often, but it was more often than I communicate with some of my other brothers.  I guess now I know what I need to work on with my other brothers.

Jordan, I love you.  You really were a good brother to me.  And even though when we were little, you sometimes teased me, you were never really mean.  I hope and pray you are in a happy place.  I know the last few years of your life you had an immense struggle.  I hope you passed your test.  I love you, my brother.

Friday, July 11, 2014


It was the afternoon of Wednesday, July 9th, and I had spent the morning visiting with friends at playgroup and then having lunch with my sister-in-law in American Fork.  My husband was gone to meeting at work and the four older kids were at a park nearby playing with each other.  The younger two had just woken up from naps and were playing in the living room with me while I wrote up a blog post about watching my children grow up.  I finished my blog post and then got my memory card out of my digital camera to start uploading the pictures and videos I took at the family reunion we had with my side of the family over the weekend.

That's when it happened.  The home phone rang.  I rarely get calls on the home phone.  It's usually either my parents or a solicitor.  Being that it was 4:30 p.m., my parents don't usually call at that time, so I figured solicitor.  But I went and got it anyway and saw on the caller i.d. it was coming from my dad's line at the house.  "I wonder why he is calling at 4:30 on a Wednesday, so soon after we just spent a weekend with each other," I thought, frowning, as I answer the phone.

My dad's voice came through on the line.  He was on speaker phone.  He told me that my mother was on the phone too (she said hello) and that they had some news.  My stomach sank.  This couldn't be good.  He didn't say they had good news.  Only that it was news, which is code for "bad news."  I instantly had thoughts flash in my head of someone in the family dying, perhaps a cousin, aunt or uncle.  Perhaps it wasn't a death, but an accident and someone was in a hospital.  I was not ready for what came next.

I was told that my oldest brother had been in a car accident early in the morning and had passed away.

"No!  That can't be right!" I said.  I said that into the phone more than once, with my parents assuring me that it was and that it was real.  They asked where my husband was and whether they wanted me to call him.  I told them he was in a meeting and wouldn't answer his phone, even if it was them calling.  They said they still had others to call and would talk to me more later.  The call ended.

I burst into tears, screaming and crying.  My two little ones looked at me. I got them into the car to pick up my other kids.  As I was buckling my 1-year-old into her car seat, I screamed, "Why, Heavenly Father, why?  Why now?"  I couldn't stop the tears.  I picked up my kids and told them why I was upset.  They all screamed with upset too, some even cried a little.

They didn't know my brother very well.  In the last decade, we have only seen him about once a year, sometimes less.   The reunion we'd just had over the weekend was the first time I had seen him since Thanksgiving of 2012.  It had been twenty months, nearly two years, since my husband, the kids, or I had seen him.

We came home, I called and called my husband's phone.  Eventually he called me back to see what was going on, since I don't usually bother him during meetings.  He came home right away when I told him.

I wanted to write all this down so I can accurately remember what happened and how I felt the day I found out my oldest brother had been killed in a car accident.  It was the most horrifying, awful day of my life, second only to the day his ex-wife called me the previous April (2013) to tell me they were getting a divorce.  I have cried so much in the two days since (has it really only been two days because it feels like normalcy was a lifetime ago) that my eyes are constantly hurting and my head and neck and throat hurt.

I alternate between calmness with acceptance of this change and downright, distraught, deep, deep heartache demonstrated with wrenching sobs and endless tears.  I don't know how to handle this.  I don't know what to think or to feel.

I know the rhetoric.  I even believe it.  It is comforting to have a knowledge of eternal families.  It is comforting to know of Heavenly Father's merciful plan.  It is helpful to recall all of the tender mercies that have been happening surrounding this tragic event.

It is still so very, very painful and I feel so very, very raw.  I do appreciate people's suggestions for scriptures or hymns or temple visits or priesthood blessings.  They are helpful and comforting.  But they don't stop the pain.  My heart aches deeply.  I didn't know it could hurt this badly and not have an actual physical ailment.  It is a constant, deep ache.  My stomach is upset and I am having trouble eating.  I can't sit still.  My mind and its ramblings are ceaseless.

I will probably be talking more about this in future posts.  I feel it will help me grieve, not only to write it down, but to share it.

I will miss my brother tremendously.  I cannot believe that he is gone from this mortal existence. 

This is my brother playing with one of our other nephews at our family reunion.  
His little daughter (one of six kids) is the blondie right next to them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


My oldest child turned eleven two months ago and my youngest has been one for four months.  Eight more months, which will fly right by, and she will be two years old, no longer really a baby.  I remember my oldest when he was this age.  Of course, I was expecting his brother already, due in a few months (they are seventeen months apart).  With each little step my little one makes in her development, I think back to when her older siblings hit those milestones.  She just figured out how to climb onto the kitchen chairs.  Next will be the crib.  One of her brothers climbed out of the crib at sixteen months.  She is fifteen months, almost sixteen months.  She is so quickly moving away from the baby stage.  And it makes me sad.

But I am also happy to watch my kids grow up.  It's wonderful watching them develop into who they will become.  I love that my oldest child is a fantastic artist who can whip out amazing drawings at request.  He is also able to play the piano by ear, which then he will figure out the music for his trumpet also.  He has even written some of his own music.  I love that my second oldest can fold any paper into any shape or design you want him to.  My third child is very athletic and strong and it is fun to watch him play and do any sport.  My fourth child loves to sing and dance and has natural ability there.  My fifth child is good with his hands and it will be fun to see what he does with his talents (he is only three).  I have no idea what my baby's strengths are yet, but it will be such fun to find out.

It is still sad that they are growing up so quickly.  The innocence of their faces and the sweetness of their questions is disappearing so much more quickly than I imagined.  I remember when my oldest was a newborn, I thought about him being in elementary school, second grade specifically (I had been a second grade teacher before he was born), and how far away that seemed.  Now he is going to be starting middle school and in a few short years, high school, and then he'll be gone.  And the kids following him will just be even more speedy.

Watching your kids grow up is a bittersweet experience, indeed.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Let Them Play Alone

There is a lot of pressure today to do everything with your kids.  You are criticized if you choose to sit back and watch them instead of get down and play with them.  Now, I fully believe that parents should play with their kids often.  I believe in the power of play, and one form of that play includes playing with a parent or other adult.

Tonight I was at the pool with my four older kids.  All this last week, there has been a post (a great post, to be sure) going around about how you should not worry about what you look like in a swimsuit and just get in the pool and play with your kids.  How I look in a swimsuit isn't something that concerns me when I am at the pool.  I don't believe either that people sit around and look at you and think about how you shouldn't be in a swimsuit.  I think most peopled are too self-absorbed to notice or think about how anyone else looks at the pool.

I love to swim and always take my kids swimming in the summer.  Sometimes, though, I just don't want to get in the water.  Sometimes, I just don't want to be wet.  Sometimes, the pool water is just too cold for me.  Tonight, the air was cool (high 70s) and even though it was hot all day, it wasn't warm enough for me to get in the water.  I didn't even want to put my feet in because the air was so comfortable.  So I watched from a chair on the side.  I didn't even bring my phone or something to read.  My four older kids can all swim just fine.  They had brought super spraying water guns to play with and were really going at it with each other.

I started to feel guilty for not getting in the water with them even though they asked several times.  The whole idea of not missing out on sharing a moment with them made me feel like I was doing something wrong.

But then I realized that they were playing together really well.  They played with those water guns for a good thirty to forty minutes, happy, laughing, swimming together.  They were getting along without me having to intervene every few minutes and remind them to be nice and share and blah, blah, blah.  Why should I interrupt that?  As great as it is to play with your kids and swim with them and do all these activities with them, it's also really good for them to play with each other without adult intervention or inclusion.  Sometimes, kids just need to play with other kids and work things out on their own without us.

So, even though it's great to get down and play with them and include yourself in their activities, it's also just fine to sit back and watch and not be part of it.  It helps them bond with each other and build friendships with each other.  After all, when I'm gone, they will have each other, and that will be a hundred times better if they are also friends.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Free Entertainment and Summer Fun

This summer, it is my goal to have as much fun as possible without spending any more money.  I bought a family pool pass for the summer, which was way too much money, in my opinion, given the hours the pool is open and how often it's closed due to thunderstorms, but beyond that, I have no intention of spending any more money.

That means no trips to Thanksgiving Point (a local attraction that consists of a few museums, beautiful gardens, an agricultural learning area, a movie theater, and lots of shops), no trips to the zoo, no trips to the aquarium.  That means no taking any summer classes beyond the private trumpet/trombone lessons I signed the boys up for to keep them practicing over the summer for band.  It means no lunches out and even no stopping at the snow cone shack for a cold treat on a hot day. It also means no road trips to visit family or friends.  What it means is only doing activities that cost no money at all.

What on earth does that leave to do?  In society's eyes, probably not a lot.  I've noticed that the fun most people post on Facebook that they have tend to be activities that cost money.  Not that any of that is bad; it's not.  But I have taken a good look around and realized that there is so much to do that can be done for free, or even really cheap.

Here is a my list of things to do so far:

--BYU has several museums that are free: The Museum of Art, The Monte L. Bean Science Museum, and a natural history museum. 

--There are lots of places to hike in the mountains around here (most of which I still have to discover because I don't know where kid-friendly hikes are)

--Blackridge Reservoir, which is a small man-made lake that we can swim in

--Many biking trails in our city

--Many new parks to explore

--Downtown SLC--Temple Square and some adjacent areas, like the Church History Museum and hiking up to Promontory Point.

--Free concerts/movies in the park hosted by the city

--Free parades, fairs and firework events throughout the summer

Then, of course, there is good, old-fashioned playing in a field: baseball, soccer, tag, etc. and other outdoor activities that can be done with a group of kids (six siblings and a mom count!), like chalk drawing, four square, basketball, bike games, setting up a lemonade/snow cone/other cold treat stand, and many, many more.

When I was growing up, we used to keep ourselves pretty well entertained in the summers without our parents carting us around to museums, aquariums, and zoos and other venues.  Somehow, we all  managed to come out of it okay and not bored.  Somehow we kept busy and out of trouble and had a lot of fun. 

So I'm going to focus this summer on a throwback to old times.  I'm not even doing my usual "summer learning" .  My kids have been in school since last July and they need a real break.  Aside from 30 minutes of daily reading and instrument practicing, they are free to play to their hearts content.

Ah, summer.  Good times!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Then and Now Kids

When I was a kid, my family joined a community club pool.  At that club, kids could go alone, without their parents, if they were eight years old or older and could pass a swim test.  The swim test involved swimming several laps, treading water for one minute and then retrieving something on the bottom of the pool.  My brothers and I passed that swim test easily and then spent the whole summer at the pool all day.   We would get there when they opened at 10 am and stay until lunch.  After heading home for lunch, we would go back to the pool until dinner time.  Often my mom would come with us in the afternoons.  Sometimes we would go back after dinner with my dad too.  When we weren't swimming there, they had sand volleyball, tetherball, and a video game room.  All of our friends did the same thing.  It was such a great place!
I was telling my kids about this awesomeness and one of them said, "Man, I wished I grew up when you did and lived in that place!"

I decided to look up that old community club pool to see if it was still there.  Sure enough, it's there.  So I decided to see if my kids could have the awesome summers now that I had when I was a kid if we lived in that place.  I was disappointed to learn that all of the things about the pool remained mostly the same except a few key differences.  They upped the age of attending without a parent to TWELVE!  My oldest, who is an awesome swimmer and the same age I was my first summer at the pool, wouldn't be able to attend without an accompanying adult even though he could easily pass the swim test.  The same swim test that I took at age eleven, mind you.

Why did we trust an eight-year-old in 1989 with doing something that today we wouldn't let an eleven-year-old do?  What changed?  Did they have one or more children unaccompanied by a parent drown in that pool between 1994 and 2014?  If they did, that would be terribly tragic, of course, but other than that, I can't see any reason why they should change the age if it was working then.

About eight years ago, a seven-year-old from Mesa, Arizona swam across San Fransisco Bay.  By himself.  It was to support campaigns to teach kids to swim to prevent childhood drownings.  Why do pools have rules that wouldn't even allow this seven-year-old, obviously an accomplished swimmer, attend the pool without being accompanied by a parent?

My own seven-year-old could pass that swim test.  I am seriously bugged by the notion that kids are not capable and need to be protected all the time.  The best times I had were the times I was given the freedom to do things as a child.  My younger brothers and I had a lot of fun times and a lot of them were at that pool.  I have the fondest memories of that place.

I don't know what the pool rules are at my current pool of choice regarding unaccompanied kids, simply because it is far enough away without any sort of bus service that my kids will have to always go with me.  Fortunately, they have a mama who loves to swim too (thanks to my childhood and spending those days at that pool), so we will go as often as possible.  But I won't be standing next to them nor will I force them to wear a life jacket all the time.  How can they learn to swim if they are always wearing a life jacket?

Somehow, kids have become incapable of doing things they could do on their own twenty years ago.  Parents have helicoptered and hovered and overprotected to the point that kids no longer can do the same things at the same ages as they could in the past.  They simply aren't ever allowed to try so they never develop the skill and are therefore not capable because we don't let them become capable. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I do have six kids...

This week I had a conversation with another mom.  She said something like this, "You moms with lots of kids amaze me.  I only have a few and it's insane at my house sometimes!"

Honey, it's insane at my house pretty much all the time.  In fact, more often than not it is complete chaos.  People seem to think I have everything under control with my six kids.  It's true that I am an organized person.  I thrive on discipline and routine.  I like things to be clean.  Not just hide-the-clutter-because-a-guest-is-coming-over clean.  I like it white glove clean.  I like the closets, under the beds, the spice cabinet, the medicine cabinet, and all those other hidden places to be organized and clean too.  (Note: my house is not always this clean but I would love it to be this clean and strive to keep it as clean as I can.)

I scrubbed my baseboards, doors and door frames today because the little dark marks that are left by too many hands and feet were bothering me.  After I was done, I felt I had accomplished something fantastic.  Most likely, nobody will even notice anything is different, but it made me feel different to have it done.  I felt cleaner, more organized, and more in control of my world.

I love the Bill Cosby routine where he talks about parents and justice.  He talks about a crying child coming to a parent about a sibling taking a toy and how unfair it is.  He says, "We don't care about justice!  We just want quiet!"  That is the story of my life.

I am nervous that you admire me.  I want you to know, that as amazing as I may seem because I am juggling six kids, I am not all that amazing.  I yell way too much.  I sometimes hide in my closet.

I realize you probably look at me in awe because you struggle with your one, two or three.  I struggled when I had one, two, and three.  Parenting is grueling, exhausting, thanklessly difficult work that many people take for granted.  Everyone has a parent.  Many people who have never been a parent look back on their own parents and probably don't realize how taxing of a job it was.  Maybe their parents made it look easy or made it look like the parenting aspect of everything they did was a side thing.  I know I had such thoughts before I was a parent.  Now, with my six, I admire my mom even more for all she did for us.  I certainly didn't appreciate her at the time.  But now I recognize that she probably gave up sleep, spent many nights and days worrying about us, gave up money by having more kids, and many, many other things.

I have six kids.  That doesn't make me a parenting genius.  The only thing that I am genius at is realizing how hard parenting is and how hard we sometimes make it for each other.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to parenting.  Maybe some people don't keep a spotless house but some do.  I have read articles pointing fingers at moms who do keep houses clean and implying that they must not be focused enough on their kids because their houses are so clean.  If they're like me, they can't focus until the house is clean.  Then they are much more relaxed and better at their job.  Maybe some people keep a spotless house and can't understand how one can function in a home that's not clean.  I know several moms who don't keep a clean house but they do amazing things with their kids and are much more relaxed about certain things than I am.

We are all different.  We need to stop making parenting a competition and a war.  Yes, we all should strive to do the best job possible, but my best job might look different than your best job.

So, mom with less than six kids, I may make it look easy because you struggle with three, and right now, three would be easier for me, but when I had three, I struggled with that too.  We are on the same road.  Let's help each other out along the way.


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