Sunday, September 15, 2013

One Year Later

"You know what tomorrow is right?", my sister asked at the end of our phone conversation.
"It's Friday," I answered knowing full well what she meant.
"Brandi. It's been a year since..."
"I know."
"Oh. OK."

What I didn't let her finish saying was that it has been a year since our grandmother passed away. It has been a sometimes good, sometimes bad year. We were busy. We were broke. The kids kept growing. We kept on living. But I didn't have Gramma.

I wish that I could fully convey how much Gramma Ellene was loved by us and how much she loved us in return. Part of it was in her actions. I remember being very small and "helping" in one of her gardens. Helping usually meant that she tended to the garden and I dug in the dirt and played with worms. One time we were outside working for so long that she was just too tired to cook. So she opened one of her jars (as in she canned it herself) of corn and we ate that. Actually, I was too tired to even feed myself so she did it. She taught us to like vegetables. A penny a bite for anything we hadn't tried before and 5 pennies if we cleaned our plate. She kept a box of clothes that she collected from garage sales for us to play dress-up. She kept a toy room for the grandchildren, nieces, nephews and then the great grandchildren, great nieces and nephews. She took the time to teach me to crochet and sew and cook and make clocks. She read to us. She made us clothes. Before my mother went into rehab for alcohol addiction, she was my stability. As I recall, she was instrumental in getting Mom into the treatment center.

Even more than that (and all that is just a tiny bit) I knew that she not only loved me she accepted me as I was. I did not have to be anything special or prove that I was worthy of her love. I just was. I could make mistakes. I could make decisions that she didn't like. It didn't matter. She accepted who I was. That is not to say she wouldn't voice her disapproval, but she kept on loving you.

I loved my Gramma. I miss her terribly. I wish she was still here. But I've been grieving all year. I've had all year to wish I could share the quilt I finished with her. Or to tell her about her great grandson being selected for the honors classes after struggling to learn to read because of his dyslexia. I want to tell her how her great granddaughter that I named for her did in her track meet and that she is now taller than me. I want to tell her about all the little things that my kids are doing. I want to talk to her about my chickens. I especially want to hear her laugh and to hold her wrinkly hand and to smell the rose lotion she would sometimes wear.  I want to hear her say "I love you, Brandi-girl."

We buried my sister-in-law last week. It occurred to me that I am at an age where funerals would become more frequent. Dying is the easy part. It's living on without the person you love that is tricky. So, I will do just that. I live in a way that Gramma would be proud. I will see her again. And Pa-paw. And Aunt Beverly. And Granny Ruth and Granddad Dink. And all those that will move on until it is my turn.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Can That Rule Not Apply to Me?

"Go to bed." I say to my oldest.
"But I'm not tired," he replies.
"The rules are stay in bed and be quiet. Being tired is not a concern" I counter.
"Can that rule not apply to me?"

This is the conversation I had with my 16-year-old. It is almost the conversation I've had with all my children only the younger ones haven't verbalized it in quite that way (or at all). Usually they just get up a bazillion times. Stay in bed and be quiet. That's all we need to know. Short, simple and sweet. You don't have to sleep. You can keep a light on unless it disturbs someone else in the room. You can read a book or play quietly, just stay in your bed.

Actually what struck me this time was not yet another attempt to stay up past bedtime. It was that last comment. "Can that rule not apply to me?"

I've thought about that. We (people) do that. We understand the rules be they are physical, social or spiritual in nature. We accept the rules. We even accept that some rules are good. When you have to live with other human beings certain rules make that easier. But we often want the rule to not apply to us. Or more accurately we don't want the consequences to apply to us. I want to eat that bucket of chicken, that entire chocolate cake or whatever is the preferred food indulgence without the extra weight gain or heart attack. We want the police to ignore us as we drive 10, 15, 20 miles over the speed limit. We expect blessings but we don't want to keep the Sabbath or pay a full tithing or whatever.

My middle son is often telling me that he can do whatever he wants. It's a free country. He can make his own choices. I tell him that he is right. He can choose his own direction. He can make his own choices. However, he does not get to pick the consequences. The consequences good, bad or indifferent come despite what we think or feel about them. I can choose to eat a plate of warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies. They will taste divine and I will love them and afterwards I will feel like warmed over blah. That is the rule. Eat LOTS of cookies and feel like poo.

So. The answer to my 16-yr-old is the rule applies to you. Someday you will get to make your own bedtime rule. But that day is not today, my son.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day Three

Today is the third day of school. This is the third day that I am home alone without any child. All day. Actually I can't say that this is the third day home alone. I haven't really been alone yet. Monday I spent the day with my brother. I'm not sure that was good for him. He needed to get work done and I was a great big distraction. This was the first chance I had to just talk to him without children around. Yesterday afternoon I went to visit a friend of mine. She is older and doesn't get out of the house much. I realized that I hadn't seen her in a bit and decided that it was a good time. We thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. Today will be visiting teaching in the morning and then doctor appointment for Hannah in the afternoon. Days have been full. I haven't really and truly been alone all day.

I don't know what that will feel like. Each day I send the kids off with feelings of excitement and trepidation. They are doing well and seem happy. Even my youngest, who is very shy, seems to like school. They are rowdy and tempers are a bit short when they get home. Still they are adjusting. I worry when they leave and I worry about them during the day. I don't worry ALL day. But I think about them. I enjoy the quiet in the morning. There are times when I miss the noise. When you have six kids there is a constant hum in the house. If the house is quiet it means something is wrong. So there are times in my quiet house when I start to feel uneasy. I know it is because I am trained to look for the disaster that usually follows such silence.

I enjoy the peace. I like that I can get to some of those projects (like writing) that I have been putting off. I greatly appreciate that I don't have to keep telling my older boys "Get OFF the computer/PS3!"

I miss working together. I miss listening to them. I love to sit and listen to them play and interact together. Some of their conversations are fascinating. Some of the stories they come up with (especially the youngest two) as they imagine play are fantastic.

I do think I appreciate them more. My children are wonderful

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Only Constant

Tomorrow is the first day of school. Tomorrow is the first day that ALL six of my children will be at school. I'm not sure I think or how I feel about this. In the first place I feel so many seemingly conflicting things.

On the one hand I am excited. I'm excited for them and the opportunities that a new year can bring. My one shy child will start kindergarten. Maybe, just maybe, he'll decide to talk to his teacher before the year is out. He had the same teacher when he was in nursery and then as a Sunbeam in Primary. It was about two years before he would talk to her. About the time he decided he would talk to her, the class got a new teacher. He didn't want to go anymore. He does not like change. The oldest has a fairly heavy schedule. It will definitely be a challenging year for him. I'm encouraged after meeting their teachers. I think it will be a good year.

For myself, I'm looking forward to some alone time. Quiet time. Although I don't know how quiet it will be. I have quite a bit of work planned. I'm working on dresses for a wedding that happens in the middle of October. I have projects that I haven't gotten to finish. I've got Christmas projects. Seminary lessons to prepare. Garden and outdoor ideas that I've wanted to work on. I think I'll be busy enough.

On the other hand, I will miss my kids. When we were homeschooling I thought we would always homeschool. I thought I would have more time with them. I like the people that my children are becoming. I like the diversity of their personalities. I like watching them. I suspect there will be times that I miss the chaos. Well, maybe not too much.

I will worry about them. I will worry that I haven't done enough or that I haven't adequately prepared them for the day or for life. Will they miss me? Will my kindergarten boy cry? How will my middle son navigate middle school? How will the oldest two navigate high school and junior high? For the most part I believe that they can handle themselves. Mostly I think they will be fine. However, there is always that one tiny bit that can't quite let go of the fact that these are my babies. These are the once little ones that I held and loved and cared for. Not that I don't still love and care for them. That doesn't go away but the nature of the caring changes and the love deepens. Love means there comes a point when you turn your children loose on the world and hope for the best.

Tomorrow is the first day of school for the Monzingo clan. Tomorrow is the first day in a long time that I will be on my own. Soon enough my tomorrow will include saying a good-bye as my oldest and then the next one and so on leave for missions and college and life. I don't know what will happen then. It will be a constant flow of change. I don't know how I will react. I hope gracefully. I think we all of us will be OK. Well. Mostly.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

As I walked past my little garden this morning, I noticed a large, beautiful bloom on the squash. It filled me with such joy. I am admittedly not the best gardener in the world. Plants come here to die. One of my problems is that I am overly ambitious. I have a grand design in my head. I try to do more than I can and it all dies. Although enough of them live that I keep trying. Eventually, something will thrive. Eventually, I will have the garden paradise that I dream about. Eventually.

It is understandable then how my hope soars when I see a bloom on my garden plants. Something is going to grow. Something will live. It is wonderful and miraculous. Not only is the squash growing, but the tomatoes are looking healthy. Tasty tomatoes fresh from the garden. My mouth is watering in anticipation. Please, please, please don't die.

Do you know how many synonyms there are for 'hope'? Each one conveys a different message. Utopia, pipe dream, achievement, expectation, faith. These are just a few. Those who know my gardening disability may say that my dream of a garden paradise is a fool's fancy. But I tend to look at it with optimism. It is an aspiration.

Hope can be devastating. But only when it seems unfulfilled. Maybe hope is not to blame, but our impatience for the desired outcome. I reflect on a conference talk by Henry B. Eyring. He reminded us that the Lord's time is not our time.

"Although His time is not our time, we can be sure that the Lord keeps His promises."

I hold on to that when I feel anxious over the smaller things, like success in my garden or larger things, like when is Kermit going to finally get enough work. Most importantly, I realize that the Lord is eager to bless us. Those blessings just don't always come in the way or the time that we expect. I do have hope for the future. I know that everything will be OK in the present. In the meantime, I'll just keep watering and weeding.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bluebonnets, Monkeys and Ambien, Oh My!

My mother has been visiting. We've been looking forward to this for quit some time. Now she is here. I had forgotten that she was going to be bringing a few of Gramma's things. When she arrived she was enthusiastically greeted by the children and the dogs. Sarah ran inside to report after she saw all that was loaded into the vehicle.

"Mommy! Franny is moving in. She brought her furniture!"

In reality she only brought three pieces: a small sewing table, a vanity and a jewelry cabinet. I supposed that could look like a lot to a 7-year-old. I've found just the right spot for the jewelry cabinet. I'm fairly certain I know where the sewing table will go. The vanity table is creating more problems. Of course, all the girls want it. It's just been hanging out in the living room the past couple of days. Sarah and Elizabeth both spend time primping. Sarah might spend just a little bit more time. I don't know where it is going to go, but I better figure it out soon or there is going to be some contention.

We spent most of Saturday at the Ft. Worth Zoo. The younger two had never been to the zoo. This, of course, is a check in my 'bad mom' column. I have no idea how it is that I've never taken those two little ones to the zoo. Everyone of the kids had an idea of what they wanted to see right then, right now. This meant that we had about six different opinions on which way to go and no one was going to be happy until we got to their desired spot. This also means that we did a considerable amount of criss-crossing. (Is that a word?) I'm not sure how far we actually walked but it felt like about 50 million miles. I was so tired. Everybody was tired. And slightly cranky. Not TOO cranky. We did after all have a fun day at the zoo. It was a good tired.

After watching the animals all day we got to watch my mother after taking Ambien. I've heard stories about how people act after Ambien. She's very lucid. She doesn't say anything crazy. But she does eat. And eat. And eat. It certainly explains her smaller appetite during the day.

This evening we spent some time finding just the right patch of bluebonnets for pictures. It hasn't been a banner year for bluebonnets, but we were able to find a fairly nice spot. Poor Kermit was not too excited. He never is about pictures. I so appreciate that he puts up with the hoopla. It is important to get family pictures.The kids are not always cooperative, but this time they did well. It may have been the novelty of crawling through a barbed wire fence to take pictures. They felt sneaky. I felt sneaky. I kept expecting to get kicked out or surprised by a cow.

Tomorrow she leaves for her home in Arkansas. The weekend has been too short. Living a state away from family I realize now how very lucky my siblings and I were to have grandparents that were close by. I spent a lot of time at my gramma's house. It was one of my favorite things. She was one of my favorite people. I miss that for my kids. That day to day interaction. I thought just about everything my gramma did was special and wonderful. Although the relationship is different, I think my kids feel the same way about their grandparents. There is always an abundance of enthusiasm when any of them visit.