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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

I get out the lamb roast I've been saving for the Christmas season. We like to commemorate Christ's birth by eating Middle Eastern food. As I start to carve it up, John runs into the kitchen. "I wanna hep you!" he shouts, and pushes a chair up to the counter (ignoring the stool that waits to be used). He studies the meat. "Is that a tokey?" No, it's a lamb. He brightens. "Oh! A wam-tokey. Can I eat the bwain?"
     Ruth bounces in. "Can I have some oranges?" she asks, grinning affably. Sure! I've got a whole case. She gets two oranges and promptly throws them onto the tile floor. I jump and look at her with concern. "This helps them be juicier, right?" The light goes on and I'm transported 12 years back, to one of endless bleary mornings when I was awakened by a little blond head bobbing by my bed, tugging on my covers and stating in a high, cute voice, "A't ojie juice." Ruth throws and squeezes the oranges until they split, then rips them in half and juices them. At least she can get her own ojie juice now.
     Rachel appears, smiling proudly. On her head is an owl hat--all the rage now but far too expensive to buy. She made the pattern and after only two tries has succeeded in creating her own, for FREE! I compliment her, then ask how my craft room looks now that she's done with it. She looks chagrined and goes back downstairs. Even though she's nearly 15, I know I'll still have to clean up after she cleans up. Sigh!
     The house shakes and a BOOM echoes from the living room. Blake!!! I yell, No backflips in the living room! He grudgingly goes down into the family room. After a while his head pops up over the stair ledge. "Mom! Come see what I learned how to do from YouTube!" Oh, boy. Maybe we should block YouTube after all. I go downstairs and he runs up the wall and flips backward, sticking the landing. I clap, smiling despite my horror, and tell him to please use cushions next time. I decide we need to find some good used tumbling mats before he breaks his head open.
     I head upstairs and find James on his way down. He turns and smiles up at me, his lopsided teeth showing. I chase him back up and he squeals, trying to get away, then turning to make sure I'm still following. At the top of the stairs, he grabs onto my pantleg and stands up, then won't let go. So I slowly make my way to my room, James toddling along beside me. He finally lets go as I settle into my chair to check e-mail. I am quickly absorbed until I hear a splash from my bathroom. James has unrolled most of the toilet paper and is now happily splashing one hand in the toilet, the toilet brush in the other.
     I clean the baby up and set him toddling down the hall, then stop in surprise at Brigham's room. He is sitting in the middle of an explosion of clothes, toys, and junk, obliviously playing with action figures. I pointedly close all three of his dresser drawers, and try to draw his attention to the mess. He sighs and half-heartedly puts a stuffed animal on his bed. I quickly outline a bedroom-cleaning game plan, then run to head off James at the hall bathroom. Twenty minutes later I look up from whatever caught my attention and remember Brigham. Sure enough, he is still playing in the middle of his explosion. We play this game a few more times before I resignedly plop down in the middle of the mess and tell him point by point what to do. After about ten minutes he gets the vision and I can stop threatening to throw stuff away if he doesn't start cleaning.
   A wonderful smell brings me into the kitchen. Rachel and Ruth are cooking. Rachel has just finished an omelette and Ruth is working on a new recipe. She asks my advice on a few ingredients, then gives me a taste: quite good! "We should open a restaurant together, mom." I smile, but I tell her she should probably just open it on her own. I'm definitely not organized enough to handle a restaurant!
     Joe walks in from the garage and sets his lunchpail down by the fridge. James toddles up to him and looks up expectantly. Joe picks him up and James tries to poke his finger into Joe's mouth. I get a kiss and then start to make a salad to go with Ruth's pasta creation. Soon, I notice that Joe is making a sandwich. I cock an eyebrow at him and motion to my preparations. He stops, sandwich mid-bite, and says, "I didn't take a lunchbreak today. Don't worry, I'll still eat dinner."
     When I lay my head down on my pillow, I wonder if anything productive happened today. But before I can second-guess myself into discouragement, I try to count my blessings: 6 healthy kids who are creative and imaginative; a loving husband with a good job; a comfortable home and plenty of stuff to make a mess.
     Everything seems to be right with our picture.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Open and Shut

I feel a draft coming from somewhere. The window is closed, so I head down the hall to the kitchen. The sliding glass door is open, only the screen shut against the chilly fall air. Blake is out on the trampoline, doing backflips and aerials. "Blake! Don't leave the door open, it's too cold!" I shout. He backflips onto the ground and yells, "Sorry!" Someday I need to sit him down and explain the definition of 'sorry'. I shut the glass door and pick up the baby, who has toddled up to cling to my legs.
     It's his naptime, so I carefully close the hall door and his bedroom door and---there's a muted rattling and a small voice yelling. I sigh as the baby slobbers on my shirt and tries to bite me, a sure sign he's ready to nurse, and go back through the hall to the kitchen. John is at the top of the stairs, trapped by the baby gate. He rattles it fiercely, calling at the top of his lungs, "I--WANT--TO COME--UP!!"
     I open the gate and John slams it shut again. "We can leave it open now because I'm putting James to bed," I explain as I open the gate again. I get him a snack and he runs outside with Blake, leaving the glass door open. I shut it and go back to naptime prep.
     The doors are shut and I settle into my nursing chair. Both of us doze in the quiet, then someone opens the hall door and it bangs against the doorstop. James twitches in his sleep, then resumes nursing, but I hear rummaging in the next room, then footsteps pound down the hall, and someone has left the hall door open.
     For the next several minutes I listen to the voices in the kitchen, the dishes clonking and feet pounding, the noise traveling unhampered into the back hallway. Luckily, James is too out to notice, and I'm able to place him into his crib--just as John opens the door.
     I turn quickly but carefully--"Shhh." John stops, then tiptoes up to me. "I'm hungwy for a dwink," he whispers. At least he is one of my children who knows how to be quiet. We shut the door behind us, close the hall door too, and I get him a drink. He settles in front of the computer and his favorite game and I start to make dinner.
     I call the kids in to set the table and they come in arguing, leaving the glass door open again. I tell the last one in to shut it and they close the screen. "Close the glass door!" They grumble, "It's not that cold." I start to explain that the furnace will heat anything below 70 degrees and do they want to pay to heat the whole outside? Someone slams the gate shut and dishes clatter onto the counter. We manage get the table set and then I realize that the hall door is open again. How do they do it? I was right here all the time and I didn't notice.
     After dinner, the baby is awake and kids are playing, so I have some quiet time. I sit on my bed and read a book. Soon enough, someone comes in to ask something, then they leave and close the door. "You can leave it open--I want it open!" But they're gone.
     I get up and open the door.

About the size of it

I double check my list as I head from my car into Walmart, barely remembering to push the lock button on my keychain. I listen for the beep, then speed up, hoping to get through the store in under an hour this time. I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. Without them, I couldn't stretch my dollars so far but because of them, I have a lot of stuff I really don't need (I am a clearance addict).
     I stop in the shampoo aisle and am confronted with fourteen different brands and three different sizes. I narrow down my choice to the brand I want, but which size will suit my needs? It's easy to see which is the better bargain: the small size is 11.5 oz., the large size is 23 oz. I just split the larger size's price in half. Phew! I don't carry a calculator as I take small pride in my ability to do equations in my head.
     I do the rounds toward the baby section, looking for diapers. The jumbo pack has 34 diapers, but we'll go through that too fast. The mega pack has 60--wait a minute. That's not quite double the jumbo. What happened here? I check the club box and am confronted with 96. Ummm, looks like the diaper powers that be can't add. So I stand there in the aisle, squinting at the prices, trying to divide 68 into the price of a little less than 2/3 of 96. Maybe I should carry a calculator.
     I grab the club box and head for the food. I'm looking for Quik (now called Nesquik, though I don't see why they had to change it). There are only two sizes, but I grumble when I see that 38 servings in not half of 72. Why can't they make it easy for us moms? Why do we have to figure out which one is the better deal? Is it that hard for them to find cartons that are exactly double or triple the original size?
     I look at the helpful price tag and see the price per ounce: $1.25. My brain is not so tired as to see that THAT's not right. Thanks, helpful price tag. So I squint at the items again, rounding 72 up to 76 and figuring a little less than half. This time the little one wins.
     The ice cream aisle ropes me in with a great deal on special edition flavors of Dreyer's ice cream. I scan the flavors, wishing I had enough freezer space (and a higher metabolism) for all of them. I grab our two favorites and notice something strange--the container is squattier than normal. I check the ounces and sure enough, they've nocked off 8 more. I shake my head. It's just like them. First they shave off 8 little ounces just to make a buck, then when we've become accustomed to that, they shave off another 8. Pretty soon a half gallon of ice cream will be a quart. But they don't care!
     Or maybe they didn't notice that they shaved off the 8 ounces. Maybe they're just in cahoots with the diaper guys and the Quik guys. Maybe they just can't add.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I wake up on Saturday morning, canning behind me, and decide this is going to be a relaxing day. I wander from room to room, playing with a child here, reading a magazine there. The hardest thing I do is gather raspberries and make breakfast. We have leftovers for lunch.
   At a quiet moment in the day, I head to my bedroom. I pull down the package of Oreos I've hidden in my closet and take out three. I turn on my computer to check e-mail and get caught up in an unexpectedly urgent one. I have to consult my spouse on this and I leave to find him, the Oreos forgotten.
   My daughter is making muffins in the kitchen. She asks me to put the batter in the cups because I am better at it. My statement that I am better because I have practiced is lost on her, so I agree to the job. John comes bounding in. "You back, Mom?" Back from where? "Dad said you dispapeawd." Yes, I am back from disappearing.
  "What you makin?" Muffins. His eyes light up. "Can I hep you?" He happily pushes his chair right into my spot, clambering up. "I wannoo cwack da eggs." Sorry, bud, no eggs. Stormclouds threaten. But you can stir in blueberries! Ah! Danger averted. He stirs while I place the paper cups in the muffin tin. "I'll wu-pwap dem in the pan, Mom." You'll what? "I wanna wu-pwap dem!" he repeats, holding a sloppy spoonful of batter up. Oh! Wu-pwap! How 'bout I wu-pwap the batter in the cups and you can lick the spoon? He pouts but it's ok.
  Muffins safely in the oven, I return to my room and the pending e-mail. I'm wrapping it up when I notice one Oreo left next to my computer. Hmm. Weren't there three? I grimace. I get two more and open up the game I play sometimes when I don't want to do anything else. Suddenly Blake and John are at my elbow. They spot the Oreos like hawks after a mouse.
   "Can I have a cookie?" they chorus. I sigh. Yes, you can have a cookie. The third goes to the baby who has finally awoken from his nap. I finish my game and rise to get yet another set of cookies when Brigham runs into the room. "Where's my cookie?" Your cookie? I am imperious. "Yeah! We get a cookie every day!" I don't know where you got that one. We've only had Oreos one day this week. He is undeterred. "So can I have a cookie, and one for Sam, too?" The friend. I deposit the cookies from my hand into his.
  One left. I shake the package and find one more. My husband strolls in. "Oh, we're having Oreos?" I smile weakly and give him a cookie. Then I eat mine before anyone else can call it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The things that last

Five years ago I had an idea that blossomed into a dream--an impossible dream. For me, anyway. It involved hard, heavy labor that I simply could not give. I dreamed about having a hobbit hole under a hill in our back yard. Definitely a big undertaking. But I couldn't give it up. So I kept hoping it would happen.
  Well, I've been blessed with a wonderful spouse who tends to take up my projects and finish them for me. We had already agreed on putting a hill in our back yard, and even started it with the dirt from our trampoline pit and sandbox. So when I mentioned how cool it would be to have a hobbit hole in the hill, it only took him a couple of months to get on board.
  He planned and I planned. Between the two of us we dug up a 1/2 price large diameter pipe (delivered by crane into our yard) for the hobbit hole and enough dirt to make the hill. Then I became pregnant. So I watched from the kitchen window while washing dishes and sweeping floors as Joe sweated and hauled and built and refined.
  He was determined that the hobbit hole would last as long as we would. After two years of working against weather, time constraints, human error, and other odds, he finally got the pipe ends fitted to his satisfaction, guaranteed against the elements, and began working on the hill.
  Today Joe and the kids laid sod over the hobbit hole hill. I watched through the kitchen window as I alternated between canning peaches and entertaining the baby. By evening, Joe was still working, so I took the rest of the kids to the community fair. When we came back, I stepped out into the backyard to take in the vision I had dreamed almost four years ago. A hobbit hole was in my back yard.

  Tears sprang to my eyes as I gazed at this wonder, the fulfillment of my dream by my beloved husband, my champion. And it wasn't just the quality of his work or the beauty of the finished product; it was the underlying strength of his devotion to me and to our children that moved me.
  That is the thing that lasts.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I don't like animals much. I think they're cute and I can appreciate a sweet pet, but I just don't have time for animals myself. This must stem from my allergy to cat and rodent dander that went undiagnosed until I was fourteen. It finally clicked what was wrong when I spent the night in our barn under the stars and woke up surrounded by our four cats and choking for breath. It took an entire week to overcome that particular asthma attack, and I have barely pet a cat since.
  That didn't keep us from getting two outdoor cats when we moved into our first real (free-standing) home six years ago. We found a pretty black long hair we named Panther and the sweetest orange Persian we named Pumpkin. Panther is a typical PMS-ing female who loves you one minute and streaks away the next. Pumpkin, on the other hand, was the first cat I really fell in love with in almost twenty years. He adored without being obnoxious, was companionable without being needy, was playful without intensity or injury, and was intelligent without haughtiness. Our little ones pulled him and pushed him, chased him and teased him, laid on him and carted him, and he never once retaliated or even complained. The worst he would do was occasionally trot away when a toddler came around.
  So of course he had to go. A car hit him when he was barely a year old. Losing him nearly killed us too. I still can't give my heart to another animal.
  Which makes things hard when your kids love animals. Ruth wants a new animal almost daily. She and Rachel begged and pleaded for hamsters until we finally gave in when they kept their room clean for a month. After two months, they were tired of the things not wanting to be held, so they sold them and begged for guinea pigs. "They're bigger and will let us hold them!" So we tried guinea pigs. They made too much mess, and I was finding that I couldn't come within ten feet of their room without my throat choking up and itching. So they wanted a lizard, then changed their minds and wanted a Degu, then decided that was too fragile. When they settled on a hedgehog, I told them to wait a whole month and if they still wanted it, and could pay for it, they could have it.
  Well, they got it, and it's a really cute pet. But guess what? Ruth wants a snake. She wants a snake so badly that when Blake found a little one at a family reunion, she cajoled my husband into letting her bring it home. They put it into our old aquarium with sand and branches and water and a few worms. They played with it for a few days, holding it while doing homework or hanging out with friends. Then, slowly, the fervor died down and the snake got less attention. Until it escaped.
  We have no idea how a twelve inch snake could get out of a twelve-inch high tank with a fitted metal cover. But it did. Which is why I didn't want a snake in the first place. So now there was a snake loose in the house and we had no idea where it could be. Again, we spent a lot of time looking for a couple of days, then gave up and forgot about the snake. Until I was folding clothes.
  The laundry had been washed and was waiting in the hampers to be folded. I dumped out a hamper and was about to sit down to fold when the snake slithered panic-stricken from the pile. I yelled for the Blake to come get his snake and tried to head it off from the deep-darkness of under the couch. All three of the big kids converged on the poor thing and had it firmly held, head angling back for a desperate attack on a thumb, in a matter of seconds. It went back into the tank. And it had a lot of attention for the rest of the day.
  After another week of not hearing about or seeing the snake, I decided it would probably starve with all the attention it was getting. But I'm busy and I didn't remember it myself after that. Until I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  I walked blearily into the bathroom and swept aside the black shoelace I saw crumpled at the base of the toilet with my foot. But when it started madly slithering toward the shadows under the vanity, I yelled for my husband to come get the stupid snake that somehow got out again. It ended up obligingly slithering straight into the cup I put down in front of it and we decided to take it straight back to the great outdoors.
  The kids weren't too sad. They figured he'd be happier in his natural habitat anyway, since he got out twice. Besides, Ruth wants a bigger snake anyway.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Little Birds

With the bigger kids in school, I've realized just how little I've gotten out to enjoy our yard this summer. So in the mornings I try to get out with John and James and just soak in the peace and warmth.
  "Mom!! I wanna swing weal high!" John yells, beelining for the swings. We put in a new commercial-grade metal playset last month, and oh, do the kids love it!
  I put James down by the slide and he happily pulls up and pats it, "abuh-"ing to the beat. John has hoisted himself into the lowest swing and grins expectantly. I push him a bit to get him going.
  "No, Mom! I wanna swing wee-wee-WEE high!"
  "I just have to get you going, buddy, then I'll give you an underdog!"
  He giggles in anticipation. "One," push, "two," push, "THREE!" I run behind him, then push him high and go under. He squeals as the swing twists a little on send off.
  James has found a stick and is happily sucking on it. Within a minute, John is begging to go "wee-wee-WEE high" again.
  After about 10 underdogs, I'm able to distract John enough to go forage for raspberries. Our everbearers are gearing up now and there's usually about a cup a day. I come back and push John again, then sit on the tri-swing and coax James over for some berries. John immediately notices.
  "I want some be-wies!" Everything he says (and does) is exclamatory.
  He's still swinging, so I try to get one into his hand but keep missing. Finally, I stand in front of him and tell him to open his mouth. He swings toward me and I pop a berry in. He giggles so hard he nearly falls out of his swing. This is the funniest thing he's done all day!
  James has crawled to me and is clinging to my knee, bouncing up and down for more. I put a berry into his mouth and he sucks it in, considering as he chews. So I feed my little birds, one flying and giggling his head off, the other bouncing to the "mamamam" beat. Every once in a while we get a berry that's almost an inch in diameter.
  "Wookit the honkin' hooge be-wy, Mom!" John says. "I wannit!" Am I surprised?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Late Nights and Long Days

   "Can I have a late night with Kyrsten?" Ruth asks as she bounds into our room.
   I hate late nights. But I pause before I answer. I am treading on dangerous ground here. "You had a late night already this week."
   Her pout starts. "But I haven't gotten to do anything today!"
   Whatever! I guess I dreamed that I took you shopping and you had your friend over all morning and I let you watch a movie while you cleaned your room. I decide I won't even go there. "You have flags in the morning."
   "I can get up, I promise!" She flashes a huge grin, braces winking. "Pleeeeeeease! It's summer!"
  Yeah, and life doesn't stop for summer. I have a late night every night and boy, has it gotten old. If I were young again, no cares, no responsibilities... "Ruth, you don't need to stay up late every night--" I start, but I can tell my tone has softened. She gets a hopeful look in her eye and jumps onto my bed.
   "We'll be quiet, too. We won't bother you." She shimmies closer to me. "You won't even know we're there."
   I sigh and close my eyes. I can't really think of a good argument anyway. I just don't want her to have a late night. Just the thought of late nights makes me tired. "OK."
   "Thank you!" She rushes to the door, then turns back. "Can we play night games in the back?"
   I sit up again. "Ruth! You said you'd be quiet!"
   "I know! We will! You won't be able to hear us!"
   "I don't want you to bother the neighbors."
   "But we really want to play night games. We won't be loud. Just until 10?"
   I roll my eyes. Someone told me teenagers are mind-numbing. The battle is lost and I should cut out while I have anything left.
   Way too late, I remember that I can't go to sleep until everyone is at least headed to bed.  At 4:45 a.m. James wakes up and I feed him, dozing in the armchair next to his crib. I wake with a start to feel him squirming toward the floor. I squint at the clock: 5:20. I turn the baby toward me and gaze blearily into his bright blue eyes. "You're not really awake, are you?" He says, "Dah!" and reaches for my cheeks.
   I take him into the living room, turning on the hall light so he can see without being overly stimulated, put a few toys next to him, and flop down onto the couch. He crawls around and I doze again until he pulls up right next to me and whines, sucking on my arm. I pick him up and squint at the clock again: 5:54. He finally drifts back to sleep and I go back to bed as the morning light filters through the blinds.
   The door bangs open at 7:30 a.m. and John waits in the doorway. I turn and say, "Hi, John." He tiptoes right up to the edge of the bed. "Mom," he whispers, "I need hot chocca miwk. Ca'yew giddit fo me?" I'm tempted to say no, but you try not to say no to John in the morning if you want others (like the baby) to remain asleep. The shower is running, so I know Joe is out of the picture, and I push myself up and out of bed. Here goes the day.
   This is why I hate late nights.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

That Fresh Mountain Air

   As the white clouds gather on a Saturday afternoon, my husband decides it's high time our family went on a hike together. He rounds up the kids. "Hey, guys, lets get in the car! We're going hiking!"
   "Why do we have to go on a hike?" whines Ruth as we drag her away from YouTube. Blake glares at her."Hikes are awesome, idiot!" "We goin' on a hike!" chants John, and runs to find his shoes. "Can we go swimming instead?" our Brigham pleads.
   I grab snacks and drinks and backpacks and the baby carrier while my husband encourages everyone to eat something. "We'll be gone for a while!"
   "What!!! I want to hang out with my friends tonight!" Rachel whines. "I wanna sammich!" yells John, dragging a kitchen chair up to the counter. "I'm not hungry," grumbles Ruth. I decide to nurse the baby.
   We finally assemble in the car and pull out. It's a 45 minute drive up the canyon to the trailhead. Ten minutes into the drive a cry issues from the back seat. "I need to use the bathroom!" I knew I forgot something! We need gas too, so we stop for both. I steer my two big boys through the maze of treats and snacks and drinks to the bathroom at the back of the store. Brigham is curious about everything in the back room, jumping when the drink carbonator hisses suddenly. Blake stares mournfully at all the sodas stacked by the bathroom door. "You're torturing me, mom!"
   Back on the road, everyone starts to grumble. "I'm hungry!" "I'm starving!" "Did we bring anything to eat?"
I fish in the backpacks for our trail snacks and soon everyone is happily munching. The John shares his chips with the baby. Luckily I notice.
   John starts to get antsy wondering when we'll get there. Joe points out a waterfall. "Look, John. We go to the waterfall, then the tunnel, then the windy road. Waterfall, tunnel, windy road! Waterfall, tunnel, windy road!" John giggles. "What's next, John" "Tunno!" is the triumphant response. He plays Dora for the rest of the ride.
   At the trailhead I have to double back to the car to get wipes. "This'll take forEVer!" huffs Ruth. The cloudcover keeps things cool, but the first quarter of the trail is all uphill. I find that I'm still pretty out of shape. While the boys eagerly look for odd fungus, Ruth gets a stick and smacks everything she can to show how dumb this expedition is. Blake tries to help a leaning tree fall down and John nearly falls off the trail as he looks everywhere but in front of him. His running commentary doesn't stop as I take his hand, but he pulls away. "I pwomise to not fall off the twail. I pwomise to walk back and foth." That's what I'm afraid of.
   We pass an older couple who smile fondly on our entourage. They comment to me, "That's just how it was with us--six little kids! You'll make it!" Later I'll appreciate the sentiment, but at the moment I'm too emotionally overwhelmed to really believe it.
   John is taking forever so I take the baby in the backpack and my husband hoists our little boy on his shoulders. I begin to wonder just how long this hike is. I sigh, and as I do I take in a deep breath of the fresh pine air, mingled with floral and green. Well, it's a really nice hike anyway.
   "This is the stupidest hike ever!" from Ruth. "I think it's cool," chimes Blake.
   By the time I realize it is four miles round trip, we are up in the aspens and the trail has leveled out somewhat. The bigger kids have decided to just hike as fast as they can, but the baby has decided he is hungry. Blake starts feeding him goldfish crackers, which help some, but as we reach the high mountain meadow, the baby is wailing nonstop.
   Now I am officially not having fun. I have to stop and nurse the baby while the rest of the family keeps hiking. As hiker after hiker passes me, startling to see a lady sitting in the bushes, or asking if I am alright, I am grateful that the baby is wide awake and will finish nursing quickly. I finally ask some returning hikers how much farther it is to the waterfall. "You're almost there!" is their cheerful reply.
   I hike the rest of the way alone, passing no one. The baby gets a little bored and starts to pull my hair. I feed him more goldfish crackers over my shoulder. Finally I hear water, then I can see the waterfall, but it takes a full 15 minutes more to get to it. My kids are glad to see me. My pack has the water.
   We enjoy the cool mist coming off the 200 foot high waterfall and throw rocks in the water. Rachel sketches the falls and Blake finds the most dangerous way up the cliff by the water. Even Ruth has decided it's ok. "But it wasn't worth it," she mumbles.
   Suddenly John looks uncomfortable and gives me a panicked look. I take him down the trail, looking for a secluded place to do his business. Thick bushes come right up to the trail and time is running out. I finally just look to see no one is coming and let him go off the side of the trail. I hope this isn't illegal or something! Just as he is finishing, a whole troup of young single adults marches up the trail. The first two stop in concern. "Are you ok?" I open my mouth to explain, struggling to get John's pants back up, but they see enough to clue in. "Oh! Keep going!" they call, and six or eight more push by.
    We're finally ready to head back. "It'll take forEVer!" wails Ruth. I tell her we'll just go fast. I forgot it was all downhill for the last 15 minutes to the waterfall, so now it's all uphill and I have the baby in the backpack again. Boy am I out of shape!
   Blake stays back and encourages me while Rachel walks in front and plays peek-a-boo with the baby. I'm hungry and grumpy and do not want to walk uphill anymore. "I would've stunk as a pioneer," I huff. "Yeah, but they were used to this kind of stuff," Blake remarks. "This is a really long hike." "Yeah, but it's so nice," Blake says. I smile.
   I look around. We have reached the top of the hill and the view opens up to the valley below. The trees are swaying gently and the grass is green. Cabin rooftops peek out here and there and craggy rocks break from the pines near the top of the mountains. Wildflowers cover the meadow and aspens shiver in the breeze. The air smells cool and earthy.
   Rachel stops to admire the view too. "Why didn't I see this on the way up?" Yeah, why didn't I? "I guess that's why you have to go there and back again, so you get a second chance to see it all," I offer. We enjoy the view, then start off again, gaining momentum on the almost level path. I find myself almost cheerful as I realize it's all downhill from here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Benefits of Motherhood

Most people at least raise their eyebrows when I tell them I have six kids. One woman even had the kindness to tell me that I must have started very young. But most recognize that six is a handful. I agree. Sometimes it's a handful and two armfuls and my toes are curled around something as well. I keep wondering when I'll have enough experience that I'm going to react like all those know-it-all moms in the magazines. It seems like I have to apologize to my kids a lot. But my mother (who bore 11 children) once said that you lose twenty percent of your brain cells with every pregnancy, so after 5 you're unnacountable. I take great comfort in that.