Thursday, May 27, 2010

When He walks in

During our marriage my husband has traveled. A lot. I remember him leaving for a business trip to the East Coast when we were newly married. They wouldn't let him rent a car, he was so young then. He arrived home at some unearthly hour and I was at the airport to greet him. Both of us exhausted, we walked into our apartment but didn't go to sleep until the wee wee hours of the morning.

When Mason was only weeks old, John was sent to Europe. He walked through Belgium as I stayed up all night with a newborn babe. People invited me to stay in their home, but I couldn't bare to be away from mine, because we were a family and a family belongs at home. John arrived home and cried literal tears because he could see that our new baby boy had grown while he was away.

As time has passed we've gotten more used to the separation of him from us. Last year he traveled so much that it was routine in our lives not to see him from Sunday night until Friday night. I became brutally independent. People thought I was so strong. And I was so strong-I can do hard things. John missed us, and we longed to be together but we knew we could not change the circumstances on our own. We adjusted, we "dealt with it". And we dealt with it pretty well.

I had a handyman who came and fixed things when they broke.
We hired a cleaning lady to help me keep our Pacer way house looking "show ready" at any moment.
I didn't exercise much, no time to be away from the kids. Reading stories to them at night became critical, an elixir for the loneliness they felt with the absence of a parent they love. And I would visit the Temple in Dallas, and beg God to strengthen me. And He did. He helped me know what to say to which child, when to have cereal for dinner so i wouldn't go over the edge, and He'd comfort me in my many worries and concerns. And John felt strengthened too. He was lonely without us, but productive. He worked hard and did all he could to make his absence something that was not a part of our lives in vain. He called in the early mornings to join us via speaker phone for our daily Scripture time. He wrote letters with old fashioned stamps and sent them to me and the kids. We adored him and he adored us. From a distance though it was, it was sincere and sweet.

We'd usually make it great until about Thursday, but by then something would set off the house. Tears over what was for dinner, or who touched who, or which outfit was clean to wear to school the next day. The tears were never really over those things, they were over the stress and sadness of not having dad around. They were probably brought on more often than not by the stress that just wreaked from my body over being responsible for 6 lives independent of a partner in the flesh. John dealt with guilt. we dealt with loss, but we managed really well, and we were happy in our lot.

Then and now, I notice there is one natural phenomena that takes place whenever John returns home. Often he comes in after the children are in bed. Within minutes, I can feel my body literally relax, the tension and stress of the parental responsibilities I shoulder in his absence being lifted and placed in his care.

Last night, late, John came home again. It was the same as always, with the house sleeping accept for me. After a "hello kiss" I scurry off to keep working on whatever my adrenaline filled body has me occupied with.

Then, the release. I realize he is home. I'm not "on my own" any more. My mind relaxes, and my body reacts.

The knots in my back begin to untie, and I feel utter exhaustion. Now, after nights filled with tasks that could not be done while mothering my large brood, I can stop to rest. I fall (sometimes pretty literally) into John's arms. Sleep can come. Deep good sleep. And I dream for the first time since the night that he went away.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

maybe I am addicted...

This photo has nothing to do with this post. But John has traveled more in the month of May than he has any month of this year, and I miss him. Lots.

So I haven't actually NOT used the computer since I told Porter I'd be happy to go a week without. I spent an entire day just printing the pages for the kids' summer journals, then another day re-formatting and printing the pages for Porter's baptism book (pics of both of these to come when they are assembled!). Then I had to spend another day creating and printing flyers for the 6th Grade promotion party, Porter's birthday late-night and the summer chore list. Email checks and replies for those emails which could not be responded to with my pointer fingers on my iphone. Also looked up and printed copies of some of these for the kids' summer quiet minutes.

So, aside from not blogging, I've used the computer mostly as I usually do.
I even went online to check out the sale items at REI this week.

Maybe Porter's right. Maybe I am addicted... I guess the last week of school and the first week of summer are not time to really find out.

I'll have to curb the addiction come summer vacation!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

John's favorite posts

Since Katie's taking the week off to prove to Porter she's not addicted, I get to be a guest contributor. I don't know that Katie realized that reading her blog is an addiction for some of us, and she's forcing us into our own little detox by proving her point.

I've struggled to know what to write that would be interesting. I decided that I should share my favorite Katie posts along with a little commentary on each. Whether you find these or that interesting is another question only you will be able to answer.

Here are some of my favorite posts, in no particular order:

This is where it all began. I love that Katie decided to be a copious journalist as we spent our time in Vietnam, bringing Lucy home. I love that because of blogging we have a pretty good record of that momentous event in our family's history.

I love this page because we are introduced to Lucy for the first time. The looks we got as Katie carried Lucy around in that little peanut carrier through the streets of Saigon will forever be imprinted on my mind's eye. So will the look on Mason's face when Karaoke Ron came in and lay down next to him in nothing but his undies, stone cold drunk.

This post shared another enormous piece of news from our family - that Molly would become a Graham. She's named Molly and Elizabeth, two women that were unsinkable. We think Molly is too.

And our final adoption. I don't think Katie mentioned that I spent the first 13.5 years of my marriage adamantly against getting a dog. I love dogs, but I had several very good reasons we shouldn't get a dog. Turns out I was right, dead right. However, I still love Cooper and he loves me. I saw a sticker today that I liked. It said - I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am.

This post is my evidence whenever Katie feels like she's anything less than the greatest mom. Sheer wonderful, mothering genius. These kids are so lucky I'm not the one that stays home with them.

Because it describes my Katie. Enough said.

This smile is what I live for. That's the look Katie shows when she feels loved, which by the way if often when she receives a gift from someone she loves. She had the same look tonight when I gave her a bolt of green ribbon from the Wisteria outlet. She gets the same look when you send her a new G.

This reminded me of the only time I was suspended from school - for sliding on the school lawn in the rain and making a big mess.

Here here.

I could go on and on. I won't. As Katie tends to say, peaceful thoughts here - a talk that inspires me to live the way Katie lives.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Porter is Convinced...

Porter snapped this picture one afternoon last October

Porter's Activity list for a Family Night full of fun for everyone...

Porter is convinced that I am "addicted" to our computer. Last Fall he took a photo of me sitting infront of it (posting to this blog, as you can see). Then, for family night activity, Porter left me a list of all the things we could do to have fun, and "stuff on the computer" was what I could do. So Last night I asked Porter what the meaning of "addicted" is to him. He told me it means that its the thing you wish you could do all the time. That helped me understand why he is convinced that he is addicted to the Wii even though he plays Wii probably 45 minutes per week-on Fridays after school only!

I tried to teach Porter that addiction means that you can't give up something. That if you don't have that thing your physical body reacts negatively. People are addicted to cafiene. People are addicted to Alcohol or chocolate.

I am not addicted to the computer.

And it kind of cracks me up, because while he sees me sit at the computer for some amount of time most days, to check email or blog or get a recipe etc. I by far spend more time doing other things. Why doesn't Porter think that I'm addicted to folding laundry? Or rinsing dishes? Or weeding the flower beds? Or why doesn't he think I'm addicted to running or biking or swimming (spending lots more time doing those things lately, for better or for worse)

Ah Ha...

Perhaps addiction, to Porter, isn't about what you do for generous amounts of time. Perhaps it has more to do with what brings you more satisfaction no matter how much time you give if I could learn to be satisfied with folding laundry or doing dishes or even riding my bike long distances perhaps he would shift his ideas of what my addictions are.

Just to prove to Porter that I'm not addicted, I took on a challenge. No computer for a week. I'll check email from my phone-and I'll ask the kids to help me if I need to print a photo or check a recipe. But, sorry to say it, I don't think I will be blogging. Unless I have one of the kids do that for me too.

what a great idea! Look for posts from the kids starting Tomorrow, and all through the next 7 days. Maybe a guest post from John as well. You'll get to know what's going on in their heads the last weeks of school, and I'll enjoy having their thoughts and ideas right here in my own little space. Like love notes from the ones I love the most in this world.

I'm happy to go without this screen. It doesn't bother me one bit. I know I'll miss reading comments from you, and I'm sure I'll wonder what's going on in the world (no news via internet) and wishing for a chance to facebook with some friends from Joburg who I just connected with. But its all worth it to go without the computer for Porter, just so he knows...

I am not addicted :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Committed (Crazy, but committed)

My first Ragnar Relay

I had decided when we moved from Texas that it was time to lay aside some old bad habits like:

*No more staying up until the middle of the night and then staying in bed through work out time. This became an easy habit because my husband traveled 4-5 nights per week. Having to be the go-to parent during the 12 hours of the day my kids were awake, I often used time when they were asleep to do those things necessary to keep our home functioning; dishes, laundry and toilet bowl cleaning. I'm sure you can get the picture!

*No more believing that because I have a lot to do I don't have to pay attention to what I eat. My attitude in TX was pretty much "eat what you want, you don't have time to think too much about it". This was a poor choice of lifestyle to be sure, as trips to Subway or Panini bakery became more common and the use of leafy green vegatables or anything that required peeling, chopping or general preparation became less.

I've decided to now pick up some old good habits. Like:

*choose a race or two and train to compete to my personal best. At John's insistance, I've registered for and am working towards completing the RUSH triathlon in Rexburg ID this coming August. At my buddy Erin's urging I am registered for and working to not embarrass myself as a member of a 12 woman team for the Ragnar Wasatch Back Relay. At the invitation of my sisters I am trying to be ready to ride in the Little Red Riding Hood 60 mile cycling experience the first weekend of June. I'm finding that none of these races are particularly convenient. Training for anything with 6 kids to teach and nurture is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Trying to train for 3 different events that take place in a 12 week period (the bike race and the relay are only 2 weeks apart!) is more like insane selfishness at best. But I've made the commitments, so I'll work to follow through and I'll hope I can perform beyond my expectation.

*Learn how to eat in a healthy way, and choose to leave sweets and sugar behind. I set this goal about every 8 weeks. I do great for 4-5 weeks, lose a couple of pounds and start to feel like I've got a handle on it all-then I spend the next 4 or so weeks slowly slipping back to the days when chocolate chip cookies and late night ice cream seems justifiable in some ludicrous way. This may be my eternal challenge. Learning to feel satisfied when a really good brownie is not going to be part of my daily routine....

so my summer will be full of swim, cycle, run (and run and cycle and run) in the early morning hours while John is here to stand watch. And I'll be licking fruit only popcicles while my kids dig in to whatever the guy in the ice cream truck has for sale. Think I can do it? I hope so. After years of being on the sidelines I'm intrepid at best to jump back in.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Growing again...

This is the first year John has really dug in to the planning and planting of the garden. He even took a day off from work to get it in. He built the lattice work, and he purchased the needed soil to give our plants a healthy start.

many of our plantings are from seed this year. We soak the seeds for at least an hour prior to placing them in the ground. the brown seeds you see on the left came from our wonderful friend Evans, the beans from his Texas garden will be growing here in Utah this year!

A view of our planted garden. I've never used the lattice to mark our "square feet" before, but it will be interesting to see how it helps us get a better yield from the space that we have.
Thanks to our good friend Matt for helping us BUILD the boxes. He spent an entire Saturday nailing and measuring. His help was the kick start we needed to finally start gardening again.

I can't help but put marigolds in my vegatable gardens. My great grandma taught me that they keep the bugs away. I plant them in her honor-never thought of them as "pretty" but I think of Grandma Carter and her wonderful "green thumb" whenever I see them!

tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, strawberries, cucumber, rosemary, cilantro
Pole beans, bush beans, red and yellow beets. Two rows of corn, dahlias and marigolds. Zucchini and squash, and a little lettuce just for good measure...

When we moved from Texas to Boise, many years ago, I had my first successful garden. With every move I've had to leave my tomatoes on the vine. Our last round in Texas never saw a garden on our property, something I bitterly regretted. Now, at the Spruces, we are growing again. It was exhilarating to put plants in the ground and with a new twist; John at my side and even more enthusiastic than me! I can't wait to weed and water, and enjoy working with my kids in this place. Happy Spring!

Friday, May 14, 2010


trying to capture the engraving on the back of my shuffle, I caught the dining room's reflection instead

a little love note just for me, written right where I would find it

Madi found the writing first, as I was compiling a playlist for my work outs.
John gave me the shuffle clear last Christmas, and I haven't taken it out of the box until this week.
It titles the shuffle for me "Sweet Kate" and leaves my phone number in case the mini music player somehow goes missing.
John has more than one nick name for me. This is my favorite one. Especially since he still calls me "sweet" even when he has seen me act (and BE) sour.

Its loaded and charged, ready to take me for miles long bike rides and help me endure longer and longer runs.

Thank you for such a sweet gift John. I love it. I hope I can be sweet to you until the bitter end.

Monday, May 10, 2010

'Tis the Season

Molly was the star of two different pre school class performances. Her teacher actually had to ask her to "sing medium" instead of "sing big" because Molly's "Big" is HUGE

Lucy is "snapping at a turtle" as she sings her way into the hearts of family and strangers alike.

Tis the season for end of the season things. Like recitals and programs. We've had piano recitals, pre school programs and end of the year book publishing parties. Dance recitals are still to come as well as end of the Rugby season festivities and end of year parties and graduations.

May is the busiest month. The busiest for sure.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Some thoughts in the middle of "one of those weeks"

A random crazy photo to match my random crazy thoughts...thanks Sprout!

I have some random thoughts to share in the middle of a week that has become a bit surreal to me:

*I have had little sleep in the last three nights, and that's not going to change before naptime on Sunday. And every few hours I recall that Mother's Day is this Sunday. And I love to honor my own mothers, but to be honest I really don't feel it an honor to be honored on Mother's day, so I am happy to use some of that day in sleep and rest-oblivious to the fact that it is a day I am supposed to be revered and adored though I don't feel worthy of any adoration at all.

*We have some plumbing issues that are going to cost us big. The funny thing? with all we have going on right now I was more excited today when the plumber said he could fix it without making a big huge mess than I was when he handed me the price quote and it was less than the quote he'd given me verbally. I didn't care about saving money, I cared that I wouldn't have to have drywall cut into or, worse, leaked on to.

*All my lights are on upstairs even though I am the only one awake at 11:30 or so at night. This even though Porter came down into the DARK basement the other morning when we were ALL down there getting people ready for church and methodically turned out every light in the place. "To save the Earth" he said as he flipped switches. I guess he didn't learn to save the Earth from me.

*I should be compiling, editing and receiving revelation concerning the remarks I've been asked to make at Grandma's funeral this Saturday. I am procrastinating. Because whenever I go to compile and edit I become tearful and humble and sentimental. I keep thinking just one more hour will make my constitution such that I will be able to wade through the tender thoughts of my extended family and wittle down a lifetime of goodness into a 10 minute or less presentation. After I finish this post, I will go into my room and pray again for the Lord to help me know what He wants others to know about this choice spirit that is my Grandma. And somehow I think that before Saturday comes around He'll help me and things will work out.

*I didn't get to exercise today. Two races in June-one cycling and one running-and no running, cycling or swimming done today. But at least I downed two Great Harvest Chocolate Chip cookies. That should make up for lack of exercise, don't you think?

*Finally, I just read a post by a very popular blogger about how she is managing life with as a mother of two. And I gotta tell ya, its all about perspective. She is exactly valid in her overwhelmed feelings. They are genuine and real and worthy. But boy, I think my overwhelmed trumps hers, simply by the fact that it is multiplied by 3 times the kids and 2 times the teenagers. That line in the scriptures about knowledge being added "line upon line"? I think strength is also added "child upon child". It must be, because I remember feeling overwhelmed with two. But now I know I am overwhelmed-with Six.

Residue of Emergency Preparedness

It is always of interest to me what comes out of the pockets of my family's clothes before I put them in the washer. Recently we have been (JOHN has been, with my cheerful support!) updating our emergency preparedness supplies. A 72 hour kit, complete with nasty foods eaten from cans and silver aluminum foil looking blankets, has just been rotated, meaning that old canned food has been replaced by new canned food. The kids have LOVED the result...

capri sun in their lunches for several days (We NEVER buy this syrup drink).
Ravioli on sunday after church (another NEVER buy).
Quaker granola bars (full of EVIL high fructose corn syrup) for snack after school.


pockets full of jolley rancher wrappers and starburst packaging.

Ironically, I also found the receipt from John's trip to the grocery store to buy new capri sun, ravioli, quaker granola bars and jolley ranchers.

Our kids can't wait for an emergency!

p.s. though I know all the items listed above will probably be cancer causing and certainly diabetes inducing, in an earthquake they would also be lifesaving, so go figure ;)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Comings and Goings

We sing "happy birthday" to Mason before he opens his gifts

These past few days I've pondered deeply the way we come and go in and out of this life.

My sister in Law and Brother down in Sunny California welcomed their second child, a beautiful bouncing (8 lb. 10 oz.) baby boy. Mom and baby are doing well. My mothering instincts were so overwhelming that I considered a mad dash to their home to hold that baby so fresh from God. And to help them as they juggle the eye opening reality of raising TWO. The pressing responsibilities of raising the SIX I have here at home keep me from running away to Newport to nest and nuzzle that family I love so much. But my heart was so with them as they celebrated this most exciting birthday.

My oldest child celebrated an exciting birthday of his own. Boasting 15 years on this earth, Mason was showered with gifts and praise as he takes another step forward in his life. We spent much of the weekend adoring him; attending his rugby game and taking him to pick out new bedroom furniture-then assembling that furniture and sharing cake and ice cream with cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles. I thought so much about his coming. About holding him in my arms for the very first few hours, the realization that I had been entrusted with his soul melting deep into my heart. Now, he is the navigator, but I still hard try to be a guide for him as he captains the choices ahead. I ponder how to help steer him in directions that will bring him spiritual safety and peace. I want to raise a good boy, and its hard to be a good boy in this world sometimes. But I think overall he is doing it. I feel worry and pride all at once over him. And I hope as this next year of life unfolds I am the right influence at the right times in the right ways.

And then, last night, I stood at the bedside of my father's mother, my grandma. Surrounded by her family, children and grandchildren, she was showered with love and appreciation. Tenderness and concern. All of us feeling grateful for her life, well lived, and wanting her to know that we will miss her when she's gone. I stayed a long while, feeling quiet inside and feeling love for my heritage and for those who I share that heritage with. Standing around her bed I asked my cousins about their families. Their children and their circumstances. I felt happy for Grandma to hear us connecting with each other; for those connections meant a great deal to her. I most tenderly felt love for my father, and realized as I watched crocodile tears roll down his face that it doesn't matter when you lose your mother, her passing is a difficult and grief filled experience. And seeing him want to care for her, to be sure he and his sisters were doing right by her, it was a testament to the way she had raised them. For no man, no matter how good, is not influenced immensely by the ways of his mother. She did well by her family and did well before God. I'm trying to be like her in so many ways.

After I left the hospital, Grandma left too. She peacefully passed the end of her days, going to greet the God who matters more than anything to her.

Comings and goings, that is what this first week of May has been about for me. It is a privilege to see the plan of the universe in so full effect before me. We come, so new and needing, so ready to progress through this life. We go forward, passing birthdays and milestones, working toward becoming wise and worthy. There are bumps and bruises, and sometimes collisions with temptation and terrible choices. There are mothers to help guide and direct-and fathers to protect and provide. And then we become those mothers and fathers, and we try to do for those we love what was done so well for us. And then those duties fade; never to end but to change. And life becomes something we watch more and participate in less. And then, one day, we are through. Called home to the place where we'd come from. To remember and realize that time here was never meant to be permanent.

Happy birth to our new little nephew. Happy Birthday to my oldest son. Happy passing to my beloved Grandma Hadfield. Happy comings and goings for us all.