Sunday, December 30, 2012

christmas day 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

here comes pshantvah

 Kids these days have no respect for you'd better watch out, you'd better not cry...words that used to inspire fear and compliance.  Christmas eve at the Raines home saw an even higher than usual degree of bickering and contention, probably because I was trying to force everyone to clean. 

But first this...
Along with Bethany in the Grinch hat, these pictures of Kyle (or so we suspect) and Sophie iconisize the Raines family 2012 Christmas season. I had mentioned before that I had these still packaged Santa costumes left over from Guangzhou, and I was ready for them to take life...well Kyle (or so we suspect) ran with that.  Throughout the month of December we had repeated visits from a character who called himself Pshantvah Klausen and claimed to be the Santa of the Oceanic. Sophie was quite taken by him, as you can see.

And back to Wednesday, December 19, in the evening we enjoyed Grant and William's Christmas presentation at the preschool.

 We celebrated the beginning of Christmas break at one of our favorite places, Pizza Pie Cafe.Then we drove down to the kids banjo, violin, guitar, and cello Christmas performances.  Their teacher, Jessica Knight, held the recital at The Barn in Mapleton, right up against the mountains.  We stepped out of the van and were immediately in awe at the myriad of bright stars we could count above the foothills--glowing white against the blue-black night sky.  The Barn was a wonderful venue-- cozy,comfortable, child friendly, and festive with the fire in the hearth. 

Thursday we were on to Christnas shopping. Bethany had her own agenda for me at Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Friday more shopping--this time Olivia was my partner. It was wonderful to spend time together. The kids were extremely helpful, giving me great ideas about what to get for their siblings.
Sunday morning and Christmas dress.
Sunday afternoon Grandma Martha came over to help us make crafts and decorate gingerbread men and houses. We were grateful to have a visit from Aunt Miriam, Uncle Bryan, and the cousins.
This was Christmas eve. We are blessed with generous neighbors. Christmastime brings a lot of yummy surprises to our door. Monday was last minute stops and blizzard conditions. Grandma Martha invited the little kids over and we got the house ready for Christmas day.  In the evening we all went to the dollar store together to pick out sibling exchange gifts...a great source of humor as hair extentions were in this year for the sisters and brothers.  

I hope you have a wonderful, Merry Christmas too.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

love-loss-festivity-and ordinary days

And just when I think I might have opened a chapter called moving forward--I arrive again at Christmastime. The children's intense anticipation, the familiar music, the lights--blue and white against deep, dark, snowy nights, are at one moment a completely wonderful source of joy, and the next an almost unbearable source of melancholy. Here I am balancing and managing the magic with the to-do's as a single parent for the third year, hoping that I can keep that childlike love for this time of year alive in them, in spite of my inadequacies and exhaustion. 

Have you ever prayed so earnestly just to ask God, "If I can't have what I want now, could you please just let me know what You want."  

"And if that is too much to ask could you just please let me know that You are there?"

 Friday December 14, I took the little ones to preschool and started my Christmas shopping. By noon I had picked them up, returned home, and heard the first of the tragic news from Connecticut.  Prayer is long distance compassion, charity in thought and deed, opening up your heart in an attempt to share the burden of another person's pain that would be otherwise unbearable.  I saw the flags in mourning around town by evening, and they reminded me to pray.

 Saturday morning the children and I walked over to the church for the ward Christmas breakfast.

Little pumpkin.
 The primary children performed a few Christmas carols. Not hard to pick out Bethany.

Saturday was a busy day, so I was grateful that our friends from the ward brought over a mountainous pan of pancakes, and filled our kitchen counter with trays of leftover fruit and ham--which kept the kids fed all day as I shuttled the girls back and forth, through the snow--which I was grateful was atmospheric but light, to their dance dress rehearsals.  

In the evening...the long awaited performance. The girls were in several numbers. Bethany's ballet class danced to Ave Maria.

Saturday I went to bed with a great sense of accomplishment, having survived the dance recital super Saturday.  I am sure the girls did as well. I don't know why that mood has to be so fleeting...might have had something to do with the Sunday morning rush to church, for which I was no match that day. William and I arrived after my Sunday school class was due to start and the kids had already been separated in to other classes, and I remembered that prayer.

"Are You there?"
"Are You watching this?"
"Could You please give me a little insight into just where this is headed?"

Sunday evening I was playing Christmas carols on the piano and the bishop stopped by with an envelope. Said someone had given it to him to pass to me.  I remembered that prayer again.

"Just let me know that You are there."

We have been blessed every Christmas of our life as parents by huge generosity from others. One year, when we were just students with two little boys, a whole clan adopted us and filled our home with decorations, and food, and gifts. I was pregnant that Christmas, but in January I miscarried.  I was devastated, but one thing stayed in the back of my mind. It was the love that I knew God had for us, because he had sent that family to us in December. I knew that He was there.  Sunday I was overwhelmed again. And humbled that I had wondered to begin with.

 It snowed again last week. 

 Grant was proud of his work, as he should be. I was too weather wimpy to go out and help.

Wednesday was the last day of school for the week, a half day.  I went to the elementary school in the morning to help out with the Christmas festivities in Caitlin's class.  Ava's mom brought Rudolph Sandwiches. I passed out pretzels, and wiped up peanut butter, and snitched M&Ms. As I walked through the halls I could hear the buzz of excitement from the classrooms, and felt humbled by a huge sense of gratitude for peace and safety in our school that morning.  For some reason, it brought to mind my this clip of concentration camp survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein...and her words 

"I am no better... than those who never lived to know the magic of a boring evening at home," 

and I thought what a blessing it is to have another day to celebrate... holidays and ordinary days. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

monday and snow

The snow we anticipated Saturday afternoon really didn't arrive until Sunday, December 9th. It was an odd snow. I noticed as soon as I opened the windows in the morning that it had accumulated on the roads but not the grass.  Little John John remarked about it during Sunday school class, and said he thought it was due to recent "strange weather patterns." Far be it for me to be discussing something as controversial as climate change with the nine year-olds at church. It just kind of came up.

Monday morning I had to wake up the unwilling.  Sam didn't make it to the bus and Bethany was late enough to give up the effort.  I decided it would be more convenient for me to drive her and my eleventh dependent--her cello, in one trip. I pulled up to the elementary school to let Bethany out, and couldn't resist nudging Sam, whose legs were sprawled out across the dash to the point of sure discomfort, in attempt at feigned sleep, and protest against the cruelty of high school related sleep deprivation torture.

  I was pleased that, in spite of Sam's suffering, he was able to enjoy watching Bethany walk up to the front door, confidently carrying her cello, more than half her size, dressed in a mini skirt, bright colored leggings, a green Alpaca coat from Ecuador, and the enormous Grinch hat that Ben wore in the middle school musical.
"She's taking the Wes Anderson thing to an extreme." He said. 

I do worry at times that she connected with Moon Rise Kingdom disturbing well for a ten year-old.  But where is my Bruce Willis?

Monday morning the snow came in earnest.  The roads were slippery, but I felt more confident than I have in years past.  I drove the boys to preschool next, then Sophie to Grandma's, then went back to Lindon Nursery,  for irises, in honor of my Bethany...who at one point insisted she would change her name to Iris, as soon as legally possible.  She will always remember the beautiful field of irises that we used to wait to see in full bloom every spring in Beijing.  
I bought a couple of cups of hot chocolate for the boys at the 7/11 after preschool.  As they sipped, and I drove towards Grandma's slowly through the snow, the classical station played a gorgeous choral rendition of  Good King Wenceslas, and Granty said,

 "This is a wonderful day!"

 I do love Mondays.  It usually means lunch at Grandma Martha's house then I get to go to Caitlin's classroom to help out the teacher for an hour.  This often means I get to cut and staple, even use crayons and gluestick if I am lucky, and help the kids with their writing and math.  It is highly therapeutic, and no psychoanalysis is involved. 

Monday afternoons I pick up the girls from school, and we stop for a treat on the way to dance.  There is the hat again.  In the evenings Jessica comes to our house for music lessons.  Having her come to us has been a huge blessing. 

It has been a busy two weeks, filled with concerts and recitals and not without emotion.  This was the Wednesday morning sky.  I was back at the school for the Christmas orchestra, band, and choral concert that we had tried to go to the week before, but had arrived ten minutes late and missed the orchestra all together.  It was a classic moment of parental failure.  Wednesday Grandma Martha and I went to great lengths to arrive at the daytime performance an hour early. It's all about redemption.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

involving hope

One morning in November, I heard a man on the van radio say, "Planting anything always involves hope." I was impressed by the simplicity of that thought, and how I felt that he had been speaking directly to me, and I started to cry. I thought about it Saturday, and felt sorry that I didn't remember who had said it.

Saturday was the coldest day of last week, the second week in December. We had enjoyed several perfect days of light jackets. Lindon Nursery was selling flower bulbs at forty percent off Wednesday. I used some of my birthday cash from Grandma Martha to buy Spring...daffodils, tullips, and irises.  Saturday snow was predicted by noon, so I went out first thing to get the bulbs in the ground before it arrived.
I let the rabbits help me. They were upset about my pulling out the old annuals and dead heading the perennials, which I don't think I did a very good job of.  They probably won't be back.
Here are Wes and I together. I think there is a bit of resemblance. It is true that Sam named one of our rabbits after the director of Moon Rise Kingdom.  
 I am not sure that there is anything more inspiring than a bulb, with its amazing potential to produce, divide, withstand, repeat. 

 Just as I was sweeping up the pulled out weeds and scattered soil and crunchy old leaves the wind started to blow in and what looked like the predicted storm started to arrive.  I can't remember the last time I was outside when snow started to fall, little gentle flakes.  It was lovely to look up at the heavy clouds covering the mountains and imagine what drama was going on up there as I stood below, in the valley, looking at my garden and thinking about Spring.  In summer I looked toward winter with dread, knowing my yard would be bleak again.  But this, year, because I have planted so many bulbs, it will not feel abandoned, but rather, cultivated. It will know I am waiting.  The rabbits are waiting too, but they aren't going to play here once my flowers come up. They can poop there all winter long, however. 

 I am like this: wherever I am I miss the rest of the world.  It is my challenge in life to be patient with the present, because I always miss it intensely when it is gone.  This was my Saturday evening. Looks like rubble. I am buried underneath the figuring out of many things, but this one happens to be what to do with too many girls in one room. 

One day this will not be the present, and I suppose I will feel an intense longing for this view from the mess upward. And for everything that surrounds me... blankets, dirty socks, pencil stubs and candy wrappers, gloriously rescued misplaced shoes, and maybe I will even miss the figuring out, which some days feels like it will crush me, like rubble would, or maybe even like soil, but my hope is that it won't.