Tidbits From the Tundra (Not Really the Actual Tundra, Just the Snowy Parts of the U.S., but What Sort of Title Is That??)

Dear Millie,

Happy New Year!  I hope your travels have been marvelous and that you have plenty of stories to share!  I’ve missed you!

I don’t have a real theme for this letter, just some short fun things.  You know, like children.  In this case, they’re my children.

Aspirations: We were talking about goals, and I mentioned to Kyle that one of his new friends used to swim competitively and that maybe they could do that together.  Kyle responded that he doesn’t want to because he doesn’t want to shave his pits.  He wants to grow out his armpit hair and braid it.

If Kyle has braidable armpit hair at age 10, I don’t think I’ll stand in his way.

Fat pants: I took the kids to run some errands after sledding New Years Eve and one of those was to pick up a movie at the movie store (is ours the only one left in the country?).  I’d called ahead to make sure they had Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events now that we’ve finished the third book.  Since they were holding it for me, I asked if one of the boys would run in and get pick it up.  Kyle said he didn’t want to go in because he was wearing his snow pants.  I noted that lots of people around town were wearing snow pants.  Certainly not a big deal.  He responded, “But they make my legs look fat!”

Holidays: Vanessa was talking about “a holiday you celebrate and you get candles and you light them aaaaand you get to make your own presents.  And play games.  That’s all about Halmonica.”

Later, she told me, “That’s what Halmonica is about: presents, food, and chopsticks.”

During a festive dinner, Vanessa pulled out another slice of turkey, held it up and said, “THIS is my destiny!”

Of course I had a few grandma moments as well.  I was driving a couple of the kids’ friends home and they were in the very back seat since the middle row is full of carseats.  Two of us were having a great chat (although we had to holler back and forth, given the distance between us), and the other boy, attempting to join in, yelled, “Hey Mom!  Uhhh, I mean, Grandma!  I mean, not my grandma, but anyway…”.

The Y has hired someone to oversee events for the aging population–I had seen it in the newspaper and later that week, I got my very own personal invitation to join the senior group!  They’ve got SilverSneakers, day trips, socials, and workshops covering topics like technology and aging well!  I wonder if they provide daycare?

What’s new in your neck of the woods?  By the way, I told the kids we have to clean out the extra bedroom (it’s become the room we stash everything in a hurry!) (Having that particular room as a stash room is a terrible idea.  It’s door opens wide to the front door’s view, and Lucy and Vanessa are always venturing in there to see what treasures they can find.  If I don’t remember to lock it, they always run in there to find something to present to our visitors!).  They asked why, and I said that I’d like to have it ready for company.  They excitedly asked who was coming, and I said, “I don’t know, maybe Jake and Cara, your grandparents, or hey, maybe Aunt Millie and Uncle Abe!”  They vetoed your coming, I’m afraid.  It’s too snowy to jump on the trampoline with Uncle Abe, and a visit without that is simply unacceptable.  Here’s to spring!

Love,

Grace

 

 

Grace

Dear Millie,

Sometimes life is messy and complicated.  It’s hard and painful.  Recently, I was helping a lady who was about to have a baby.  I was there as she was in labor, and I was there soon after she delivered a tiny, wide-eyed baby girl.  I was there when she cried over having had to do it alone…she’d left an abusive relationship with her older teenage daughter and son.  She mourned the relationship she thought she’d had, and the future she faced as a single mom.  Again.  She was frustrated to find herself here, having failed a third relationship that included yet another child.

I didn’t know what to say.  What could I say?

She agonized over whether she should place her baby for adoption.  Fears of the father re-entering their lives were a major concern.  He’d had another of his baby mamas declared an unfit mother and her children were taken from her.  Would keeping her new, sweet baby jeopardize her older children?  The father had moved on and was already with (possibly married to?) another woman.  Was keeping the baby a gamble worth risking?

At the same time, she is her baby.  Her precious daughter.  How could she possibly give her up?

She was tormented by the decision she was forced to make.  How would she possibly care for her children, let alone her newborn daughter?  Yet how could she possibly let her go?  Her son was terrified the abusive man would return if they kept the baby.  Her daughter didn’t look up from Facebook as her mom begged validation, “You want me to keep her, don’t you?”

“Sure.”

It was gut-wrenching to watch from the sidelines.  The father was notified of his daughter’s birth by Social Services and responded that he was not interested in pursuing custody. The mother choked back a sob as she told me, “He doesn’t even want to meet her.”

She brought her home.  Donations were made and the little dark-haired darling has a bed and clothes and diapers and food.  We talked about plans for the future and making things work.  We talked about love, repentance, and forgiveness.  We laughed and cried and hugged and prayed.  The overwhelming feeling was hopeful for the future–that somehow, things would be made right.  This baby is here for a reason.

 

 

She named her baby Grace.

 

Christmas Eve

Dear Millie,

Happy Christmas Eve!  We just got back from sledding with neighbor friends and old friends and new friends.  It was a lot of fun watching the kids go screaming down the hill.  I usually go a few times (and I definitely scream the whole way down), but I got caught up in some fun conversations.  One of those was about holiday traditions.  I’m looking forward to New Years Eve…one of my friends has a tradition where they make gourmet waffles all night and have games going and friends come and go (or stay) all evening.  Her husband is an amazing cook, too!  If I’m going to wrap up this year of stuffing myself silly, I think Waffle Night is a good way to go.

I’d better get back to Christmasing.  I hope your Christmas prepping is going well!  I’d love to know what you ended up doing in the way of goodie plates!  Have a wonderful evening and Merry Christmas tomorrow!

Lots of love,

Grace

Nose Pegs

Dear Millie,

I love when you write!  I wish you could write to me for a living.  Thank you for your sweet words yesterday!  And also for the cookie recipe…I like my peanut butter cookies just so, and yours are killer!

We let the kids sleep by the Christmas tree last night.  Kind of.  We have the Christmas tree on the wood floor, so we set out all the cushions from the couches and sheeted them together and put a mattress pad on top for good measure.  Everyone was comfy and cozy (except for Lucy, whose nightly migrations take a couple of hours before settling).  Around 1am, Paul woke Gordon up (good boy!) to tell him he’d thrown up.  I’ll spare you details, but everyone spent the rest of the night in their respective beds (except Lucy, who ended up on the mat in our bedroom, and Paul, who informed me this morning that he’d slept on the landing midway down the stairs).  It would be naive of me to think that this was a fluke and that Paul will be the only sickie, but I hope we experience a Christmas miracle and that Paul’s episode will be the extent of it.

I was making breakfast and Paul was sitting on a stool behind me in the kitchen.  I noticed that he had some skin flaking off his nose, and Truman walked in as I was brushing it off.  Truman asked, “Was that a peg on his nose?”  I was completely confused.  I was informed that nose pegs are common (I was conjuring up images of Pinnochio), though they can be anywhere, really, and that if you don’t take care of your skin, they can be black dots, or red bumps.  Teenagers get them a lot.  Pegs!  I love it.

For the last couple of days, I had a sign on the basement door letting the kids know that the basement was off limits until further notice.  I was wrapping presents down there yesterday and there is a large one that I hadn’t gotten to yet.  Lucy was with me so that I could keep a better eye on her, and Vanessa was supposed to be upstairs playing with play dough.  I got a phone call and was trying to keep Lucy occupied while I talked.  When I hung up, I noticed Vanessa was right next to us, riding the swivel car thingie (similar to this, not that it matters, but if/when there’s a Little Adams, you should get one!  Only, find it for half off or something because that’s kinda pricey)!  WHAT.  I hollered at her Beast-style to get out of the basement (“GET OUUUUUUUUT!”) (okay, it probably wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t sweet, that’s for sure).  She ran upstairs and I felt terrible (sounds like Stephanie Nielsen had a similar experience)!  I apologized to her and gave her a hug.  I still felt bad about it, but last night, Vanessa walked up to me and said, “Mom, I forgive you for getting mad at me when I was in the basement.”

Because Vanessa is awesome, I’ll leave you with this gem from about two seconds ago: “Mom, guess what happens when you come to a girl slumber party?”

“Umm, I don’t know, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to one.”

“You have to spend the rest of your life eating cake in the bathroom!  Bye, Mom!”

Maybe we should have a slumber party?

Love,

Grace

Merry Fail

Dear Millie,

I just read Mumsie’s email about the passing of her dear friend.  It seems Heaven is filling up with the best people!  I am so sad for Mumsie to be losing so many sweet friends.  Selfishly, I’m so sad that Mumsie’s sweet friends won’t be there to light up and excitedly hug me whenever I’m in Hometown.  I love them too!

 

I told Mumsie and Pops we should go to Hawaii next year to celebrate our anniversaries.  She said, “Oh, fun!  You guys should all go and I’ll watch the kids!”  Ha ha!  Always sacrificing.  We may have to figure out how to take all the kids so that she’ll come.

I dragged the family to another holiday concert last night at a different high school.  I just love things like that (even the cringeworthy fermatas and muddled passages), though I think I may be ruining chances of watching my children perform in the future!  When we had piled into the car afterward, I said, “Wasn’t that wonderful?”  The back seat responded without hesitation, “NO!”  “It was so looooong!”  “I hope I never have to be in a concert.”  And Vanessa responded, “NO.  It was the worst.  I HATED it.  And I was trying to tell you all along.  That’s why I kept getting up.  Mom, it was awful.”  Gordon and I looked at each other and laughed and blasted the radio versions of what was played at the concert.  The concert was a bust (Gordon won that bet), but the drive home with blaring music and meandering through Christmasy neighborhoods was just right.  Mostly because the girls fell asleep, but I’ll take it.

May your days be merry and bright (since your Christmases, unless spent with me, will most likely not be white!)

Treat Day

Dear Millie,

I just got back from a high school choir Christmas concert!  I may go to another high schools’ tomorrow, because I need music.  I kind of wish I was on my way to Hometown and could stop off at the cathedral and sing with the choir.  I do think you and I should take them up on their invitation next time we’re in the area!

The concert tonight included a sing-along Hallelujah Chorus.  I didn’t go up and sing because someone had to be the audience, and I realized that while I’ve played it a bajillion times (and still love it), I only really know the violin part!  Maybe I should’ve gone up and proudly played air violin or something.

OH!  We started the tradition copying Mumsie’s Relief Society’s–(this being the Sunday before Christmas) we had a nice spread of treats/snacks for the women at church and it turned out great.  I was missing Mumsie while I made her recipes.  By the time I finished preparing her recipes, they didn’t taste anything like hers.  I decided that way, the women could also miss her!  Ha ha.  There were li’l smokies and fruit and veggie platters, and I made fudge, peanut butter fudge, dipped pretzel caramel thingies, cheeseballs, and Pops’ horse doovers.

(I also burned a batch of caramel that was supposed to be for my friend who doesn’t like chocolate [I KNOW] [I don’t think she really cares for food at all, to be honest, which makes me wonder how we’re even friends.  How can she know I love her if I can’t stuff her full of food?].  Oh, and I tried to make almond joy truffles which turned out tasting delicious but looked so terribly unappetizing, I “forgot” them at home.)

But!  The women were surprised and delighted and I was so delighted they were delighted!  I’m already scheming for next year (finger sandwiches?  Tortilla pinwheels?  It seemed we were short on food food) and I would love your input.  Better yet, I’d love for you to join me next year to help make it all!

This last week, I’ve been noticing little things that people do to help others.  It’s been amazing to see the goodness out there.  This week, I’m determined to focus my love, service, and attention on the ones who live with me.  I haven’t been doing so well including them in my #LIGHTtheWORLD doings, and while I love serving in my community, sometimes I need to remember that serving in my home lights the world too!

I’m off to make dinner!  Have a lovely evening and write me back sooooon!

Love,

Grace

Yahoo!

Dear Millie,
Happy Friday!  This is it for you, right?  Well, not it, like your life is OVER, but you know, the last day before your break?
I was just going through some old videos and got to watch you and your dance team win state!  That was fun.  Also a long time ago.  Do you still dance like that?
Did I tell you about how they did the limbo at our ward Christmas party and I was standing there on the sideline seriously considering showing everyone up because you KNOW I can still limbo like I did in high school/college/pre-children.  Wouldn’t that surprise everyone!  The woman who has a hard time sausaging herself into her two remaining pairs of non-yoga pants anymore and may not be able to button her coat (but MAYBE she just isn’t cold enough?  You never know!)…yeah.  THAT woman would show everyone!
Kind of like how I dreamed of showing up for cheer tryouts in college and surprising everyone that I could do handsprings and such and then telling them that never mind, I’d rather play drums in the stands.  I actually would rather play drums in the stands, but I still thought it’d be funny if I made the squad.  I know, I know, HILARIOUS!  I have a special sense of humor.
In the end, I think it’s a good thing no one spiked the punch at the church party, and therefore saved me (and everyone else from fremdschämen).  Doesn’t fremdschämen make you think of ‘friend shaming’?  It does for me.  Huh!.
Not saying anything in particular here, I just saw this and thought you’d enjoy some Fantasia:
My favorite biddy was telling me last night about a problem she had with her bank getting her mixed up with someone else with the same name.  In the end, she told them, “I don’t want any more crap from yous!”
‘Yous’!  I love it.  I feel kind of bad that I laugh when she’s being serious, but she has some of the best expressions.  She adds “yet” to the end of sentences and I’ve started noticing other locals do, too.  Kinda fun, yet!  (I probably misused that.  I don’t know what the rule is on it.  Yet.  Har!)
It’s not so cold today.  Snowing (we’re expecting a foot between today and tomorrow), but above zero.  The wind chill had put it at -4 when I realized Gordon had forgotten the plate of fudge I’d prepared for one of the secretaries separately from the peanut butter fudge (don’t you think peanut allergies are tragic?  I do.).  I ran out to catch him in my yoga peddle pushers, flip flops, and pushed-up-sleeves hoodie.  I thought I’d freeze to death and would surely regret not jumping into some boots, but it wasn’t cold at all and I stood out in the snow in my flip flops talking with him before sauntering back into the house.  It was a bit weird!

Lucy recently started running with her fists clenched and her arms bent and shoulders raised, and it reminds me of this:

Well, except it’s cute and not creepy (why are they running with their arms like that?  And why are their arms so short?).  Maybe I’ll just have to get video of Lucy doing it.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!  Happy Friday!
Love,
Grace

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Dear Millie,

Okay, fine.  I’m cold.  I sent the boys to the bus stop and it was -4 degrees.  Windchill was -29.  The wind whips over the ground and picks up loose snow and swirls like a dust storm.  My backyard looks like a white Sahara.

I dreamed last night that Gordon took a job in Utah.  UTAH, of all places.  I was devastated because I love it here, and for the whole dream I was begging him to promise we’d visit frequently and maybe have a second home here (and maybe he could just visit me and the kids here on the weekends?).  Then I thought about all the perks of living in Utah (family is so much closer!  That’s about it…just kidding.  There’s Hires too.) and I felt marginally better.  I can’t believe I live here in the crazy cold and that I mostly even like that (maybe because I have a crazy insulated house and can enjoy the picturesque view while in my cozy yoga pants and hoodies).

Last week when I was helping clean that house (not my house!  Psh.  Who would do that?), I was running stuff in and out of the house and it was 20 degrees and I was so glad I was wearing short sleeves.  So weird.

Paul woke me up wanting to know whether they had canceled school.  Nope.  I rolled over and went back to sleep.  Truman woke me up and wanted me to take his temperature.  Normal.  At breakfast, Kyle and Truman were complaining that they hadn’t canceled school and Paul sat there with a wry smile on his face.  I asked what was up and he said, “Well, I know why they didn’t cancel.  Last night, I prayed that they wouldn’t!”  I thought his brothers would pummel him.

How’s the weather in the Great Southwest?

Love,

Grace