Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Color of Blood

I sat behind the curtain watching blood seep across the folds of Jesse hand. The redness looked unnaturally bright against his pale skin. He had found an x-acto knife in a drawer, grabbed it in his fist, and waved it around until it sliced, neat and deep, into the pad of his index finger. A short drive down the road and competent medical staff cleaned it up and made three little black stitches.

I hadn't taken a child to an emergency room for more than three years--a miracle, all things considered--but this little incident made me see anew how precious to me is each drop of blood, each bit of skin of my children. It's amazing that the infinity of Jesse--his personality, his spirit, his potential--is housed in that little body of skin and bone, and how one wrong move could let all those things come spilling, irretrievably, out.

P.S. -- The nurses found it noteworthy that I stood next to Jesse while he screamed through his stitches. They said some moms hide in the waiting room, too cowardly to watch their children suffer. Ladies--if you haven't got the backbone to look your baby in the eyes during his time of need you may need to reconsider your profession.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to enjoy 11 kids at once

Last night it became apparent that today would be one of those days. The six Allred kids were coming over so Allison could pack for their huge trip. Any chance to spend time with the Allreds is happy news, but it meant a grand total of 11 kids. And I had a lot of work. And during the night, a mysterious stomach ailment spread further through our family, including me.

We finally retrieved poor Logan from Jessica's. He was supposed to be keeping her children occupied but actually spent two days in bed and in the bathroom. He came home white and pasty with sunken, gray eyes--not unlike his Halloween costume. All day I've been nursing him back to life, plying him with sips of cold water and bits of toast and banana.

Meanwhile, Levi is falling into sickness. At one point he announced that he felt okay only when his head was covered. So he wrapped blankets around his head and fell asleep in his chair. Finally, I uncurled him and carried him to my bed, where he's sleeping to the sound of crashing waves from Jesse's noise machine.

Games of Twister, Connect 4, Monopoly, Gladiator, and who knows what else have run all day long with different subsets of cousins. The TV has been on way too much, but actually I think no one kid has watched all that much of it. Emma and I made two plates of sandwiches--the square ones were meat and the triangle ones were peanut butter and honey--and people served themselves whenever their games had reached an end.

Thankfully for all, we had Grandpa in our back pocket. He dispatched to the farm to get Logan, then later to bring us milk and apple juice and pizzas.


Last night the kids and I drove out to see Mom's office building for the first time. I hadn't fully realized that The Meadows is a fabulous archive of mid-century modern design. Rocket booster light fixtures, bubbly carpet and wallpaper, chrome-accent furniture. By the time we left, I was craving geometric shapes.
We especially loved the fountains in the huge courtyard. Sadly, no camera accompanied us on the trip, but the kids had a fabulous exploration of design and function. No lights, no buttons, no cartoon characters. Just water flowing over stone. The kids were totally absorbed.
Speaking of design, we then had a delightful visit to Cousin Cat's little cottage gem.

The Hero Returns...for a Second

On Friday morning, Mark arrived. The kids were beyond ecstatic. We hadn't seen our Daddy for a full month, and it's making us all feel a little unhinged. Then on Sunday he left. Two more weeks of dissertation blitz before we go back home and resume life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Playing Cards with Grandma

Here is my Grandma Benac.

She lives in a little apartment built onto the side of Mom and Dad's house. Whenever one of the kids needs a bit of Grandma lovin', they just knock on her door and are welcomed with crackers, Butterfingers, and extravagant compliments. My favorite is when Haley goes in to "fluffle" Grandma's cards with her fancy shuffle machine.

Grandma and Grandpa were major forces in my childhood. They definitely knew how to establish their expectation of righteousness in their grandchildren. When I was in college, Grandma would give me 800 numbers to call her (back in the days before cell phones) and then call to scold me if I didn't use them enough. I have always known that my Grandma loves me and is praying for me, and sometimes that really means a lot.

These days Grandma isn't as sharp as she used to be. But she still knew "Bono" was the crossword solution for "Lead singer of U2." And she still plays a mean game of Hand and Foot, a crazy game involving 262 cards.

When it started to appear I would give Grandma a run for her money, she shouted gleefully, "I love you!" According to this book, in which she records the scores of all her games, she hadn't been beat for two weeks!

Look at the size of this book! Maybe a hundred pages of game scores, and that's only for this year! Grandma has always claimed her card games and crossword puzzles keep her sharp, and who's to argue?

Our Hand and Foot game was made possible by Jack, of the always-delightful Allred clan. Jack kept Roscoe and Levi happily occupied all the day long. Lord of the Rings Monopoly, Bionicles, and boyish chitchat.

Meanwhile, Jesse trotted around in his shoes and hat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Various and Sundry = $165

Today my entourage of five and I ventured to WalMart. Aren't you amazed at the diversity of things that end up on your list? A selection:

~ 2 t-shirts from those discount tables near the aisle. $2.50 each. Size 6/7. Striped.

~ Bananas, green onions, cantaloupe, big carrots, little carrots, frozen spinach, fresh spinach.

~ Mozarella cheese, black beans, chicken broth, sour cream, milk, feta.

~ Sunday shoes for Logan. At least 1 full size too big. Oughta last til he gets his deacon's suit. (This is the sixth pair of shoes I've bought since arriving in Dallas three weeks ago. And Roscoe says he'll need some soon as well.)

~ 1 SpeedRacer backpack for Levi.

~ 1 backpack for Logan, who lost his during the last week of school.

~ 1 Mission to Mars Lego set for Roscoe, who was spending some of the money he's earning working for his Grandpa.

~ 1 mini Bionicle and 1 Sweet Secret doll. Consolation prizes for Levi and Haley, who don't get paid for their work.

Roscoe spent his time heaving pained sighs as he walked along beside me. And Logan complained that chatty Levi was embarrassing him. Oh the pain of appearing in public with family! So on the way home, I pointed out to the kids that there's nothing embarrassing about our family--unless some of us are radiating bad attitude. Grumpy, bickering, surly kids--now that's embarrassing. Plus, I said, people who see us are likely to suspect we're Mormons, so we have a missionary obligation to appear harmonious.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Favorites & Survivors

We are a family with no ancestral homeland. My family moved every couple years--at least!--throughout my childhood. The home my parents and siblings connect with most is one I lived in only for two summer breaks in college. Plus my snazzy Mom is constantly redecorating and purging and updating. So it's rare to encounter a blast-from-the-past object from my youth.

Childhood Favorites:
I think my Grandma A. gave this to my mom. Today Mom is basking in a house chock-full of pretty tskotkes. Back in the day, they were impractical and unaffordable. This little vase is pearlized, and I remember gazing at all the pretty colors swirled in it.

My Grandma A. was also an avid oil painter. Our house was full of her pieces: deer, rivers, mountains, flowers. I think thiswas my favorite. It's a pretty little oval, only about eight inches across.

"Oh my gosh, you still have this?":
A woven-pattern wooden salad bowl. This has been here forever.

A thin canvas blanket in pea green. It's huge. Apparently indestructable. Carted to untold picnics and campouts. What was it originally meant to be?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

365 degrees

Most of the bloggers in our family are in one place, attending the same events, and blogging about them!

~ To hear Jessica's take on our three-hour hot yoga class, in which I did things I've never done before, go here.

~ Learn about how to bring 12 children to church from Nancy here.

~ Joe and Jessica's farm is a must-see on the kids' vacation lists. Here Joe describes how they're keeping their visitors busy.

~ Logan wrote a nice long blog post about our drive and his fun with cousins. Contains some liberties with fact.

Ruthie? Dad? Where are your accounts?

Sadly, Ruthie and Kelly have left us. And Kelly had the gall to take Roko with her! Roko was definitely a hit with his cousins. Silly Mark kept fretting his baby could never be as cute as his cousins (and it's true we've set the bar pretty high). So he was blessed with one of the most angelically beautific babies ever.

Kelly sportingly plays a board game with a bunch of little ones.

Pretty little Roko relaxes with Grandpa.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Roscoe Is a Teenager

Itinerary for Roscoe's 13th birthday:

1. Pick up Allred cousins.
2. Go to nickel arcade. Spend hundreds of nickels.
3. Return to Grandma's house.
4. Greet an amazing host of relatives, including Aunt Nancy, Isaiah, Asher, Naomi, Joe and Jessica's family, the remaining Allreds, Aunt Ruthie, Aunt Kelly and Roko, Grandma Benac, Christopher W.
5. Eat pizza, pop, and--again--dirt pudding crawling with gummy worms.
6. Open presents, including Lord of the Rings Monopoly and Lord of the Rings Stratego.
7. Go home with Allreds and commence three-day Lord of Rings fest. Watch LOTR movies, break for LOTR games, repeat.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Guns and Cards

Right now Logan is having a happy Nana Upstairs moment playing Uno with Greatgrandma Benac, who little apartment is connected to Mom's house. Roscoe and Logan love being able to sneak in there where it's quiet and there's a Grandma ready to give them some attention.

In the whirlwind of happy extended family parties (which I won't even attempt to catalog), here's a highlight: Levi's top goal for the summer was to shoot a gun. Grandpa made his wish come true with his little kid-sized rifle. In the background you can see some of the landscape of Joe and Jessica's farm.

My Dad is great at teaching boys to shoot safely.

Logan got pretty good, and by the end of the night could hit a three-inch bull's eye.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Home is where Mommy is

We arrived! In record time! My parents welcomed us with very endearing enthusiasm--it takes a special breed to be quite so excited about opening one's beautiful house to a horde of ill-mannered grandkids.

I put the kids to bed last night just a few hours after we had arrived, but I realized my parents had invested some beautiful quality time with each one, giving each one the type of activity they would most appreciate: A heart-to-heart with Roscoe about the challenges and blessings of a large family. A tea party with Haley. Snuggles with Jesse. A bit of illicit movie-watching with Logan. Bionicle talk with Levi. I kept looking around and seeing everyone getting attention and loving instruction and mentoring from multiple sources! Ahhh.