Monday, December 26, 2011


 Grumpy angel from our Nativity.
 Dramatic wise man.
 Holy family (Ken, Joshua, and Arianna) with visiting shepherds (Roscoe and Vanessa)
 Mrs. and Mr. Claus have finished their work and can go to bed.
 Miss Elizabeth's first candy cane.
 She was a fan.
 Sisters in matching dresses from Grandma.
Just Dance on wii.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nineteen Years

It was a bit of a night.

Poor Haley paid many visits to Dr. Ralph in the dramatic way that is her specialty. You see the obvious implications there. Miss Bits woke with a diaper load. By early morning, Jesse was snuggled up with the wet wipes package in Mark's vacated spot in the bed.

I shuffled downstairs with a squirming baby in one hand, a redhead trailing behind. And there on the counter was a CD from Mark. I grinned in recognition. Because it was our anniversary, and Mark--'80s boy as he is--is an aficionado of the commemorative mixed tape (or CD as they call them these days).

Our long row of stockings makes me feel proud of what we've built together.
I grinned all morning as I listened to each song. I've been the recipient of enough of these CDs to know that in Mark's highly ordered mind there's a reason for each song and its place in the playlist. I could identify the phrase, band back-story, or prior conversation that merited each song's inclusion. At one point--during The Smith's There Is a Light That Never Goes Out--Haley asked me, "What are you laughing about?" Morrissey wailed "Take me out, toniiight."

"Dad is sending me a secret message," I said.

So take him out that night I did. We saw the new Mission Impossible movie. (Our review: meh.) I love watching movies with Mark. We can make inside jokes to each other about improbable plot twists or gagworthy acting with just a glance or a hand squeeze.

When I was at BYU I took a New Testament class from Wilfred Griggs, the scriptorian and Egyptologist who says the GR notes with Greek translations in your LDS scriptures really stand for "Griggs." One day in class he hit a tangent and told us about driving to work that morning with his wife and having some conversation that involved perfect understanding and love. He told us that while he and wife thought they knew each other and loved each other as newlyweds, that was nothing compared with the understanding and resulting deeper love they enjoyed after years of marriage.
I agree. Mark and I loved each other deeply in those early days. But after nineteen years, I know Mark. I know his dreams and fears and inner workings. So even the parts that drive me batty--I see how those fit into the whole package of the man that I love, even more now than before.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Haley Turns 8

Last week Little Miss Haley hosted a party to celebrate her eighth birthday. We made felt flower hair clips and beaded bracelets.

I wanted the girls to take their time and create pretty bracelets rather than just quickly stringing random beads together. My sister Nancy gave me this great idea to draw a little paper template to help each girl select her beads and plan how they'd look together. After they chose their main beads, I helped them choose spacers or tiny beads to flesh out their design.

There was cake with lavender frosting flowers, curled hair, jewelry, dolls, craft kits, wrapping paper, candles, singing, pink bows--the whole bit. But the hard-to-speak truth is this: When it was all over, Mark and I could remember only one real smile, one moment of genuine joy from Haley. 

People never like it when I talk about the damage Haley sustained in her first few years of life. They are right to point out all the ways she is lovely, sweet, strong, thriving, and normal. And all of that is true. But it's also true that my love for Haley has never been the same easy-as-breathing variety I have for my other children. Not less, but certainly different. And her love for me is much more fraught as well.

I think every mother learns that the Hallmark version of love disintegrates in the face of real in-the-trenches parenting. True love isn't perfect. It includes anger, disappointment, frustration. Our children never are exactly as perfect as we'd like them to be, and we are never the ideal parents we would like them to have.

I feel I've learned a lot about true love from being Haley's mother. Our Haley is a holey bucket. The love and attention we pour into her often seems to flow right out the bottom, leaving her no more full than she was before. 

But in some ways, the more imperfect is my relationship with Haley, the more dented our love, the more fiercely I love her. No matter if she idealizes her birth mother and fantasizes about her "real" home and remembers only my failings and rails against me as a mean mom. I will love her and try to fill her and teach her and throw her pretty parties over and over and over again. And I hope that one day she will see that the love we gave her was enough. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Little People Christmas

Our Little People nativity is one of my favoritest things ever.
Every child of mine has enjoyed lining Little People in a row on the edge of a table.
One of Mark's colleagues once came up to me after Christmas and asked me if any of my kids got something from Fisher-Price for Christmas. "It's a sad day when no one gets something from Fisher-Price," he told me.