Month: December 2015

Applying for Passports

It turns out that if you arrive at the passport office and the nice lady discovers that the name on your driver’s license is misspelled (which no one noticed at any point in the past four years), that the wisest course of action is to put applying for a passport on hold and instead apply to have the driver’s license corrected. The nice passport lady explained that the conflict of spellings might upset the passport people so much that they would begin to question the validity of all provided documents and we would then be digging around for “proofs of identity” such as yearbook photos. (Apparently this is the reason that I’ve been shelling out money for kids yearbooks all these years. Who knew? Also, I may end up regretting throwing mine out. Though since my passport is already acquired I’m probably okay.)

Since Kiki’s identification was the one misspelled, we dropped all the other family members back at the house. Then Kiki and I went on a ninety minute adventure at the DMV which was exactly like sitting in a chair and being bored for ninety minutes. We did have the entertainment of a young woman behind us who kept declaring that she felt bad about some relationship thing that was going on in her life. I couldn’t hear her mother’s replies. I wasn’t trying to hear the young woman either, but she so clearly enunciated and projected every word that I couldn’t help it. Eventually they left before their number was called. Presumably to go apologize to the boy in question. After that the only entertainment available was reading the looped slideshow about the value of organ donation, or playing games on our phones. Eventually Kiki’s number was called. Two minutes of paperwork was done. And now we get to wait four weeks for Kiki’s new license to show up. So that we can apply for her passport and then wait six weeks for that to arrive.

In the meantime the passports for the other kids should show up in about six weeks. Unless they’re rejected for some minor error, like the fact that Gleek wore her glasses in the photo. The passport lady said it was probably fine and she’s pretty expert at her job, so: fingers crossed.

All of this documentation effort is so that we can take the kids with us on a cruise next fall. Also, I like the idea of my kids having passports so that if we were to decide to take some other trip out of the country, we could just go.

Now it is 3pm and I really should be settling in and getting some work done, but my brain is tired from everything above. I might nap a bit instead.


I met my friend for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other for several months and both of us had many things to tell. Over the next three hours we talked. I ended up taking home most of my food because talking was more important than eating. As I spoke I was surprised to realize how much good news I had to share. Somehow in the past few months many of my things have become incrementally better. There have been no major transformations, just an accumulation of days and choices that trended in good directions. I hadn’t quite realized this until I listened to myself talk to her.

Of course I also spilled my frustrations over the things that are still hard. This included the new, and still ongoing, situation with one of my kids. Yet even there the only real source of discouragement is that between where I am now and the point where it will all be fine again are an unknown number of emotionally charged conversations. I will have to navigate it all carefully and the thought makes me tired.

There are only a few more days between me and the launch of a new year. For me the year truly begins next Monday when we resume our regular school and work schedule. I’ve already mapped out the things I will be doing on the days in between. Those days will pass quickly. I’ll be taking them one by one, because that method has worked the last few months. And maybe somewhere up ahead of me is another moment when I can look back and see how much better things are.

Triforce Heroes

One of the games which made an appearance on Christmas was three copies of Triforce Heroes. This is a Zelda game for 3DS which is best enjoyed with three players who are sitting in the same room with their three devices. At first it was Kiki, Link, and Patch, but over time Patch lost interest and went off to play other games. This left Kiki and Link in need of a third player. They drafted me.

I’m not a particularly experienced player of video games. I played Nintendo 64 quite a bit when the kids were young because they liked to watch. Recently I picked up the new version of Majora’s Mask and have been playing through that. But I don’t have the practice or twitch speed that my two kids have. This is fine. My job is to follow along, not get hit by the bad guys and to assist in the solving of puzzles. I like not being in charge. I like moving through a world where the kids are the experts and they look out for me. “Mom you just stay up there until I kill all the skeletons.” “If you run close to the middle when it shoots, you won’t get hit by the laser.” Occasionally I show unexpected expertise and then I get a “Way to go Mom!”

Of course the game sometimes gets frustrating. There are times where I lose track of which little person I’m piloting on the screen and I accidentally run off the edge. Or none of us know how to beat a monster and it kills us over and over again. I may have said things like “Agh! I’m no good at this!” and it is possible that I stomped my feet on the floor in frustration. Then I looked up to see my kids looking at me with wide eyes. “Mom, do we need to take a break?” No. I was fine. The frustration was momentary. It comes and goes in the intensity of the moment. They just aren’t used to seeing me distressed in that particular way. So we all took a deep breath and agreed we’d give the frustrating monster one more try. We made a plan for who would take which role in the attack. And then we beat the thing. Together.

Triforce Heroes is a brilliant game for getting three people to practice team work. We try things and they don’t work, so we try different things. We talk about what we’re seeing, because it is impossible to complete the game unless we cooperate. I’m having a great time playing with my kids. I needed the challenge, the cathartic frustration, and the uproarious laughter. I kind of hope that Patch stays uninterested so I can finish the story with the others.

Anxious Thoughts

One of my least favorite forms of anxiety is when there is an incident involving one of my kids and an adult from outside my house. The incident spawns a half dozen emotionally charged conversations which range between damage control and emotional processing. I then spend the next two days and nights with every spare cycle in my brain attempting to re-write it all. Could I have prevented it? I should have been more confrontational. I should have been more conciliatory. I should not have said that. Yes I should have, I should have said it stronger. Here is a thing I should have said, but didn’t. Here is a thing I think and feel, but didn’t say because it wasn’t constructive. Except maybe I should have said it. Here is another thing I should have made clear. Except I already tried to make it clear, didn’t I? Can I be blamed if the other party is incapable of hearing what my child and I are saying? I blame me anyway. Except I don’t because logic tells me that the incident occurred because the other adult overstepped bounds. Not our fault. But I should have handled it better.

And then there is the time that my brain spends trying to script out what I should say and do for imagined future conflicts. Because this isn’t over. More conversations will need to be had. And I dread them. Because I don’t expect them to go well. And I have to figure out how to stay focused on the important goals and not on venting feelings. My brain is really good at making up terrible scenarios where everything goes wrong from here and relationships crash and burn. It plays these scenarios out in the spaces between thoughts of conversational re-scripts. While I’m trying to be asleep.

The good news is that everyone inside my house is in accord about what happened. Conflict does not dwell inside my house. The other good news is that my child is more loving and Christ-like than I am in this. I may have to follow my child’s lead, which is right in line with scriptural instruction. More good news is that I have spoken to other adults in my child’s life and they are allies to my goals. I have not asked them to step into battle, but they will make sure that they take extra care to love and accept my child in the next few weeks. My child will need that.

Now if I can just get the noise in my brain to quiet down enough so that I can think clearly, that would be nice. I need clear thoughts to hear inspiration and guidance before I have any more conversations or take any actions.

The Day After Christmas

On the day after Christmas I spend time trying to remember what I was doing before the holiday took over all my available project-focused energy. I also spend time reading and playing a game with my kids. Howard is more focused than I am, he’s back at the drawing table, ready to get the work done. I feel guilt that I’ve not been a better business partner in the past few weeks. I would like to be able to match his creative drive instead of feeling like I’ve been a drag on the entire system.

In just one week we’ll have a new year. I don’t know how I feel about that. I wish that I did. I wish I could have a clear emotion of optimism and excitement, though I suppose I’m glad not to be mired in dread. I guess I feel much as I did last December. Though we’re all in a better place now than we were then. I still can’t see a clear path ahead, but the trail isn’t so dark and we have more maps than we had before.

On the first day of 2015 I said “Maybe at the end of the year I’ll be able to look back and tell a story about how it went.” I find myself as reluctant to formalize that story now as I was to predict it last January. The year was what it needed to be. Some of the hard things were necessary. I suspect that some of them were not. This next year will have hard things in it, but I hope it will have more triumphal moments, times where we stand in a good place disbelieving that we managed to arrive there. I would like one of those for each of my children who have been struggling. Bonus if Howard and I get one as well.

The path to those moments are paved with hard work, so I suppose I should get to it.

Gifts of Food


On first glance it is just a box of chocolates, a nice gift. But this box was not purchased, every chocolate in that box was hand made by a great-grandmother assisted by her children and grand children. There are 55 different kinds of chocolates in that box. Creating them is a project that spans from September through December. Or so the note that came with the box tells me. This box came as a gift from a neighbor who knows we’ve been having a rough time. I feel honored that he chose to include us in what is obviously a treasured family tradition.

This is not the only gift that has come to our door in the past few days. We have kind and generous neighbors so there have been all sorts of snacks and treats. I am grateful for them all. Each is evidence of the goodness of people. They took time to think of us. I am especially grateful because other than writing a few Christmas cards, I haven’t had energy to think of Christmas beyond the walls of my house.

I look at these gifts and I’m once again astonished at the many forms that people use to express their creativity, gratitude, and love. Many of these people would be surprised that I use the word creativity in reference to their cookies or roll of wrapping paper. Yet even a hastily purchased candy bar with a note slapped on it is a creation. It seeks to create a feeling of connection and remembrance. It seeks to strengthen a friendship. The thoughts really do count for a lot.



It was not the outcome that anyone intended, yet somehow we ended up with shards of something that used to be whole. The shards were sharp, able to do more harm if they were not handled carefully. This is the story of many of my days these past couple of years. It is the story of yesterday when a person came to my house to talk to me about behavioral issues with one of my kids. The person departed and I was left with shards, not even sure where I fit in the metaphor. Am I the broken thing? Or am I the one who has to figure out how to clean up? Feels like both.

I went to my room and cried for a while. Then I talked with my child and we both cried for even longer, because harm has been done and needs to be made right. My child is both harmed and the one at fault. I have to spend energy preventing my mind from trying to analyze all of the moments that led up to the one where things were smashed. As if I could alter the outcome by finding decision points that led to alternate timelines. My mind also tells me that I’m blowing it all out of proportion. It is, after all, only a small broken thing. Clean up will be quick and we’ll move onward.

Except that I end up smashed (or cleaning up after smash) so often lately. Those tiny shards scatter themselves and sometimes I find my self bleeding because of shrapnel from something I thought I cleaned up long ago.

This too is part of the holiday. The house is filled with beauty, but also with things that are more prone to breaking. The pressure to make sure the moments are glowing and meaningful, also means that some of the fragile things will crack. I may be one of the fragile things. I am to be my best self, but that is difficult in a season which increases the demands on my limited resources. Even the articles, speeches, and pleas to simplify are commandments with which I must struggle to comply. Thus I find myself contemplating the shards of an ornament on the floor of the front room. Thinking about all the ways in which Christmas breaks people.

And also the ways that it heals people. And how sometimes things must be broken before they can become something else. And how the metaphor begins to fall apart before I’ve found my way through to an epiphany. I would like to have an epiphany. I would like to have a shining moment where I can clearly see that all the smashed days were necessary, part of a grand plan designed to help me and mine grow. I’m certain that some of them were critical. Perhaps yesterday was one of them. I’m also certain that some of them were just the result of human beings clumsily bumping into each other and accidentally doing harm. It would be nice to be able to see which days were which.

Or maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe I’m better off treating all the smashed up days as if they were important. Maybe it is only in trying to find meaning in the shards of something broken that the brokenness gains any meaning at all. I do believe there is a plan, and it begins with me fetching a broom. We learn by doing, struggling, smashing, cleaning up, and moving on.

Impulse Purchase

We were only in the store because there was a birthday party. It started soon and Gleek needed a gift for her cousin. The store was bustling with Holiday energy and Gleek found many things that made her squee. We had gift in hand and were headed for the front of the store, when a cover caught my eye. I’d been moving so quickly that I had to backtrack three steps in order to take a closer look. I picked it up, glanced at a couple of pages, falling in love with the little round idea in its pages. I need this book. I felt it with certainty, so I did what I rarely do, I just added it to the stack and kept moving.

The check out line was, naturally, bracketed by items ready to be impulse bought. That was where we saw the 642 books. Again: I need this book. This time I considered longer. I had time since Gleek had to deliberate whether she wanted a 642 book or a craft book for herself. My rational mind had arguments against extra purchasing, but for once I listened to the child desire. More than child desire, it was as if a piece of me recognized itself and leaving the books at the store would be wrong. They came home with me.


My instinct was not wrong. What Do You Do With an Idea? is charming in all the right ways. The 642 book will help me on the days when it feels like I have nothing to say. Not that I’ll use ideas from it for the blog, but that it will help me practice writing regularly again, which has been harder this past year.

Acquiring a new picture book made me remember the other picture books I have that hold a special place in my heart. I’ve collected them together on the shelf. I went to run my fingers over the spines and I remembered how much fun it was to read them aloud to my children. I miss the nightly snack and story time. I miss putting inflection into my words and watching young faces react to the story. I’m certain that story times will come to me again. There will be young children in my life in years to come. For now I’ll just treasure the stories and read them to myself.

Listening to Silence


I’ll admit that a photo of a buffalo standing in the snow doesn’t immediately make me think of Christmas, but then I didn’t promise that all my photos and stories would be holiday themed.

I suppose I should have spent this final Saturday before Christmas in preparing for that celebration. Certainly every store clerk thinks it should be the focus of my life. “Are you ready for Christmas?” they all ask. I answer “No.” because that is much shorter than launching into a speech about how complicated that question is. I’ve written about being ready for Christmas. It isn’t something that I do. There is never a moment where I sigh and think “Now I’m ready.” I always arrive at the holiday unprepared in one way or another.

Which brings me back to the buffalo. Instead of spending today with lists and shopping in an effort to be prepared, I spent the day visiting. Mostly I visited people, but since I was in the neighborhood, I also drove out to visit the animals and silence on Antelope Island. As I drove across the causeway I thought how nice it would be if I could get a picture of a “Christmas” buffalo in the snow so I could write about it. I didn’t expect that. Usually I only see the buffalo from afar, but this one was standing right by the road.

I also saw several dozen jack rabbits.
They were less obliging about posing for photos.

I stood for a while outside my car and just listened. It is so silent on the island that I can hear the flap of birds’ wings from a hundred yards away. I heard a coyote crying out from over on the mountain. Sometimes a car would drive by, ripping through the silence with machine noise, but the silence came back and filled me. With nothing around me but the sounds of far off animals, my thoughts slow and still. I find calmness inside that I often forget is there when I’m surrounded by my comforts and their attached responsibilities.

Wild places have no expectations of me. They just are. When I’m in one I’m more able to just let myself be as well. I wish that Antelope Island were closer to me than a 90 minute drive. I would sneak away there more often.