Through The Months Of Our Lives
by Ruth Blacker Waite
January and I get along reasonably well, considering that we're such opposing personalities. I like the feeling of waking up on January 1st, clutching my list of New Year's Resolutions to me like some kind of brave banner, ready to do battle with the whole year. Little does it matter that the list is reminiscent of, if not identical to last year's list, dutifully filed ala Daryl Hoole, whom most younger people have never heard of. In fact, some years, all I have had to do was change the date at the top of the previous year's list. It's very disheartening to realize that I've made so many great beginnings and accomplished so few solid endings. If nothing else, I have proven to be a reliable beginner.
My resolutions run pretty heavily toward:
Read the scriptures daily.
Don't raise your voice at the kids. (Once I went for three days!)
Lose twenty pounds (Each year I have had to add five pounds to that).
Have Family Home Evening faithfully each week.
Stay within the budget. (Snort!)
Write in my journal regularly.
Learn five new hymns on the piano.
Attend the temple monthly.
Do a good deed daily for someone outside the family.
Stick to the Housekeeping File Schedule. (Which necessitates my actually finding the Housekeeping File Schedule.)
So it is that every January 1st, I annually resolve to be a better person than I currently am. I will do more than I have done before, and will rise above my mediocrity. I am filled with a sense of urgency to begin because I have so much to accomplish! Some years have had so many tough things going on, that we are glad to see them go and be over with. On December 31st of those kinds of years, we might say, "Begone, and don't let the door hit you on the way out!"
January is an anniversary of beginnings in that our first child was born then. Come to think of it, our sixth child was also born in January, which was in a sense another beginning, as she was the first sixth child I had ever had.
It was during this month while our first expected was almost due, that I began worrying that (can you believe this?) it might be born while I was asleep and would, unbeknown to me, suffocate beneath the blankets! The appointed birthday came and went uneventfully and my mother began phoning daily to inquire whether or not anything was "happening." To my negative reply, she would query, "Are you sure?" I was, indeed not sure, (I was the one who was afraid I'd have the baby in my sleep, remember?) but I was not overly concerned, as I had just read Grantly Dick Read's book, "Childbirth Without Fear", which was the pre Lamaze authority to read and trust implicitly, never mind that he let me down terribly.
This was also the great Natural Childbirth Era...no epidurals for us, just deliver the baby cold turkey, with maybe a little whiff of gas at the end. That was when women were women!
Thus began our great adventure into PARENTHOOD, and the appearance of the first cracks in my philosophy of "No Child of Mine Will Ever"... One of the first assaults was on my determination that no child of mine would ever use a pacifier. This was a stout, sturdy, resounding statement of the woefully uninitiated, that was gradually chipped away with bouts of severe colic and sleepless nights, until it become a quivering, whimpering, pitiful thing. We should have bought stock in the Binky Company! When you have children, you find out everything that's wrong with you.
The day after New Year's Day, our Christmas tree usually comes down with a feeling of sadness, as we dispose of something that has brought us so much joy. I usually stand it up outside as a sort of placating gesture of goodwill, rather than just toss it out as if it never mattered. Have you noticed that however carefully you clean up the Christmas debris, that during the year you still come across a silvery icicle or some pine needles stuffed away under the couch cushions like little ghosts of who knows how many Christmases past?
Once the decorations are put away, there's something about viewing your home in the thin, pale and watery light of January that is a sobering thing. Without the brightness and color of Christmas, the home looks dull, dreary and drab; and I see a shabbiness that wasn't so apparent before. We needed to do something to fix up the place.
A list was made of the improvements that I felt were needed during the 1982 January. Included in this list was:
The replacing of the kitchen curtain
Painting the outside doors
Fixing the garage door that our "then" dog, Cochise, had chewed his way out of
Patching the living room carpet, which meant cutting out pieces from under various pieces of furniture, and then stapling them into carefully trimmed worn spots. This rather drastic measure prevented any rearranging of a single piece of furniture.
Repair the Bosch mixer
Replace the broken drapery rod in the dining room
Put up rain gutters
Repair the boys' bunk beds (lecture about jumping on beds)
Paint Jennifer's night stand and dresser
Put up a clothesline
Fix the gold couch's webbing
Fix the roof of our "now" dog, Homer's house
Glue the broken living room lamp
Re-cover the dining room chairs
Build a bedroom in the basement
Fix the light fixture in the middle boys' bedroom (lecture about jumping on beds)
Build bookshelves in the basement
Paint the unfinished family room
Put sheet rock on the basement ceiling
Transplant iris and tulips
Plow and replant the pasture
Haul manure and till the garden
Plant a small tree by the front steps
Fill the holes in the driveway...again
Fix the piano bench
Put new curtains in two bedrooms
Since my husband was teaching regular school, plus community education computer classes, and was also the bishop of our ward, and laying carpet for stores in the area; I realized that those items on the list would of necessity, have to be accomplished by myself, with the help of whichever surly offspring I could browbeat into helping me. The particular browbeaten one chosen to help with the first project, was then seventeen-year-old Adin. Together, we began with great trepidation, to build a basement bedroom. We carefully drew up the plans, painstakingly measured, and judiciously bought the lumber. Then we even more painstakingly re-measured and bought additional lumber. I was always a schmuck when it came to measuring.
Adin and I managed to knock together a pathetic, wobbly wall. Laron came downstairs to inspect our work before leaving for a meeting.. He gazed on our efforts for a while, then sighed, looked at his watch, took my hammer and started the wall anew. Maybe I was not such a schmuck after all! A neighbor, who was a contractor, heard of our project, and offered to finish our bedroom in exchange for having Laron lay his carpet. The bedroom project was gratefully crossed off the list.
As afore mentioned, Chelsea, our sixth child, was born during January. She was the easiest baby, born after fearful and faithful practice of the Lamaze technique. My dear friend, Barbara had loaned me her Lamaze book about three hours before our fifth baby, Ryan, was born. I had feverishly poured over parts of the book, searching desperately for a quick fix, but none was forthcoming. With Chelsea, however, the powers that were at the hospital, had given Barbara permission to be in the labor room to coach me. Laron was also in attendance, to rub my back. While rubbing, he was eating a hamburger and reading Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy. (could I make that up?) Alas, with subsequent births, the magic was gone, along with Barbara, Irving and the hamburger. The agony, however, and the ecstasy when it was over, remained. Each time a new baby arrived, we were so grateful that they were well and strong. Having watched in sorrow the deaths of two little
nephews, the fear of going through something similar was always there.
Though they had gone for miles and miles beneath their mothers' hearts, never once did their tiny feet touch this present earth, nor their little hands reach out to touch those who yearned for them, nor bring their mamas dandelions mashed in their little, brave fists, sticky with jam and streaked with little cats' scratches.
Never once would they run and play and squabble with brothers and sisters, nor sleep under their fathers' roofs, nor eat a meal at their mothers' tables, though they would cook thousands.
Never once till the last Morning dawns will their precious voices be heard or their sweet faces washed and kissed.
To David: Your tiny blue casket holding your mother's and father's little, cold baby boy was left behind in tears and rain, as they in sorrow drove away. Your father's sister stayed behind for a little longer so that you wouldn't be left so suddenly alone. Never will she forget your father's face framed in the car window, looking back for as long as he could see. We took a few flowers from your casket and pressed them in a book for your Grandpa and Grandma Blacker serving their mission so far away in England.
To Mark: You had tried so hard to live, but life was too much burden for your tiny shoulders, and slipped away from you and set you free. We saw your too small body dressed in blue that a grandmother had sewn. We saw your little sweet face, so like those of your siblings. Your mother's arms were around your sister Kimberly as she sobbed for her baby brother. We stood in the snow and watched your mother and father carry your tiny casket, their tears falling for the loss of you.
Two little boys whom their parents had held and kissed and buried.
Never once did those little ears hear angry, hurting words or the profanity of a wicked world.
Never once did those sweet, pure mouths curse, nor tell a lie, nor murmur hurtful wrongs against anyone.
Never once did those two little cousins willfully cause sorrow to their parents or break a loved one's heart through sinful acts.
Two little boy treasures laid up in heaven until that glorious Morning when their fathers reach into those little caskets, and by the power of their holy priesthood, bring them forth bright and warm, and place them into the eager, outstretched arms of their mothers, to fill forever an empty place.
Let's see... January was also the month for the Great Pinewood Derby. The theory is that dads and Cubs bond together while building a sleek racing car for the competition at the January Pack Meeting. Since our boys' dad was so busy, the bonding fell to Mom and whichever boy was the current Cub. How I hated the building of those cars. the carving, sanding, the placing of weights, the losing of wheels, the trips to the butcher's scales at the store, in order to stay within the required weight limit, the losing of more wheels, efforts to find graphite, paint and the detailing, and all the countless tasks that went into the building of seven boys' Derby cars. Besides, another family of boys from the ward (the Baileys) won year after year as their father (Dee) was an excellent car builder! That fact alone put a wet blanket on the entire effort. We had lost the race even before it was run!
What Are They Doing Now?
As I record this, somebody is downstairs screaming horribly, the sound of which scours inside my head like shrapnel. Adin is helping a neighbor lay carpet. Jennifer is working at Red Steer Drive-In. Amy is on her paper route. Ethan is folding his papers prior to doing his route. Ryan, who turned his route over to Chelsea, is taking out the garbage. Chelsea has just returned from her inherited route and will soon start asking to watch Little House on the Prairie. Megan, as Ryan's assistant in garbage removal, is emptying waste baskets into a large plastic bag. Jarom is doing as little as possible as loudly as possible. The screamer, unsurprisingly, turns out to be Caleb, contending with Morgan for the $10.00 re-painted Wonder Horse (Deseret Industries). Morgan, who has been known to let loose a scream or too when provoked, has taken up the gauntlet and is adding to the din. The father of them all has escaped to the sanctity and sanity of the Bishop's office at the church.
I stare at this page trying to think of something witty to sum up this last paragraph, but nothing much seems to come to mind.
Did you know that if one child gets to cut up the brownies, candy bar, or whatever, and the other child gets to choose a piece first, that there will be absolutely no arguing about who gets the biggest piece?
Ethan: Amy, you have bad manners!
Amy: Efan, I don't HAVE manners.
February is Megan's month. Though she must share the shortest, but most miserable month with measles, mumps, presidents' birthdays (will the real Washington's birthday please stand up?) and flu, Megan overcomes it all triumphantly! She was our one and only black-haired baby, and joined her oldest brother, whose hair has turned almost black over the years, in contrast with four redheads, one blond, and three brownettes. (Will the real Blacker/Waite genes please stand up?)
I have always cut everybody's hair due to financial reasons, and many Saturday evenings, most of the guys, including Laron, and often the girls, needed to have haircuts in order to look nice for church the next day. It would take a long time to do so many heads, and when finished, because of the afore-mentioned various shades of hair, the floor would be a carpet of all those colors.
Getting the younger ones to sit still for a haircut was an awful task, with someone in front of the child frantically trying to cajole them into holding still, while I tried to not cut huge gouges into their hair or chunks of flesh from their ears, as they wiggled around. Once, I had to wait until Cameron fell asleep on the floor in the living room, before I could cut one half of his head at a time, kneeling on the floor beside him.
I'm trying to remember if it was after Megan's birth that I finally did in my pink poodle maternity dress, or was it after Jarom's (our eighth). I really think it was after Jarom, but since I've brought it up, I may as well keep on. Years before, my sister Beth, also expecting, and I both made matching maternity dresses from the some fabric we bought on sale. It was also cheaper to use the same pattern, not because we wanted to look like twins, but it didn't matter as we lived in different towns and ran in different circles. The fabric was bright pink with little, white poodles scattered all over it. Little did I know at the time, that my pink poodle maternity dress would sustain me through six babies. Did I become absolutely, deathly tired of it? YES! Did I give it away, burn it, fold, staple, mutilate or spindle it? NO! Aside from the fact that we were poor, with Laron attending Boise State University, and teaching his first year of school, I was, and still am so tight with money that I squeak; it was a perfectly good, comfortable dress, so I wore it lo! those many months. After several babies, and many washings, it shrunk, so I cut off some poodles, hemmed it and wore it through one or two more pregnancies as a maternity top. It was either after Jarom, or Caleb, our ninth, that I mercifully put it out of our collective misery. Somewhere we have a photo of Megan wearing a blouse made from the cut-off part of the dress. Waste not, want not!
February is one of those months when we seem to crack down a little harder on children's chores. I expect we have tried nearly every chore chart, rotation, token-ecomony reward, point system, punishment, threat and plea ever devised, and we have finally worked out a system that we limp by with. Each child is to make his or her bed and straighten the bedroom occupied, upon getting up in the morning. They are then to dress and begin on their assigned chores, which are rotated weekly. As I write, Jennifer and Megan are bathrooms; Amy is living room; Ethan is hall, hall closet and stairs; Chelsea is family room; and Ryan is laundry, which consists of hauling four hampers downstairs and sorting the clothes into three bins. Our second-hand washer, if it were a car, would have had its speedometer turned back to zero, or if it were a horse, shot, is so crotchety and easily offended if not loaded just right; that I do the actual loading and washing. We have a dryer, but whenever possible, I hang clothes out on the line, or on some lines strung up in the family or store room.
Oh, yes...the chores. We have two teams of three, or three teams of two depending on whether or not school is in session. During school days, one team of three does morning dishes, which consists of just clearing the table and stacking the dishes because of lack of time. The other team does evening dishes. They switch weekly. Our oldest son, Adin, helped with the dishes until we obtained a cow that needed milked morning and night, and then he did that. Our cow was a pretty, little Jersey, who answered to the old-fashioned feminine name of Alma. Her first calf, a little black and white boy, became known as Alma the Younger... what else in an LDS home? That pretty well covers the basic chores, though I forgot to add that our dishwasher quit on us about six or seven years ago, so now all the dishes are done by hand.
As can be seen, both boys and girls share equally in the chores. I recall a friend whose boys never made their beds because she "didn't want them to do woman's work." Our children were taught that "work is work" and our girls are expected to help with outdoor chores, as much as much as our boys are expected to help with housework. I didn't say they had to like it.
One of the ways we tried to inspire kids to do their chores, was to write poems such as this one:
See that man in jail? He's in there without bail.
That means he can't pay money to get out.
He's in there for a reason, for more than just one season...
Let me tell you what his story's all about.
You see, he broke the rules; he was tossed out of all the schools.
Oh, what a sorry life he's always led.
But once, he was a child, so good and meek and mild
But he simply refused to make his bed!
So avoid a life of crime, and make your bed each time,
And Mom will be the happiest of mothers.
Just heed this little warning and make your bed each morning,
Or the next day, you'll make yours …and all the others!
Laron's and my wedding anniversary comes at the end of February. Our biggest and only mistake about getting married was that at the end of a month, we were always broke, and couldn't afford to celebrate. Come to think of it, we never thought of it! When two people are in love, who thinks about school teachers getting paid only once per month? How would we know there would never be any money left at the end of it?
Speaking of February being a month for mumps... I had them a few years ago, along with three or four children. Me, a grown woman, with a childhood disease, proving that I wasn't as old as I looked! I lay miserably in bed one evening with my face all swollen up, listening to the rest of the family pitch in to fix a dinner of hot dogs and french fries, and I actually transcribed what I heard:
Laron: Who's turn is it to set the table?
Ethan: It's the boys' turn.
Jenny: No sir! It's the girls' turn! It's Monday and we trade on Monday.
Ethan: I want it to be the boys' turn. You can wash the dishes.
Laron: (Shouting to me) Honey.? How long do you cook french fries? Hey, you kids make Chelsea sit down before she breaks her neck. (Chelsea preferred standing up backward in her high chair.)
Ethan: (Coming into the bedroom) Mom, how long do you cook french fries?
Amy: Daddy! The oven door fell off!
Laron: That's because you guys were fooling around with it. Honey, how can we tell when these french fries are done?
Jenny: Is this enough sauce (mayo and catsup) for the french fries, Dad?
Laron: It's enough for now.
Ryan: Amy diddy, Dad.
Laron: Here, put this on the table.
Ryan: Amy diddy, Dad!
Laron: Here, put this on the table, Amy.
Ethan: ( Increasingly aggitated ) Daddy!
Ryan: Amy gagba diddy, Dad!
Laron: I'm sure glad it's not my turn to do the dishes tonight.
Everyone: Sure glad it's not MY turn to do dishes.
Laron: What? Honey, are you going to come out and eat with us? Amy, go ask Mom if she's going to come out and eat with us. Somebody make Chelsea sit down, before she breaks her neck!
The touchy oven door, which would come off its hinges, was restored, the family got fed, never mind about nutrition, nobody burned the Kool-Aid, and Ryan was trying to tell his dad that it was Amy's fault that the oven door fell off. We never did find out what Ethan wanted.
Did you know that a child will take an article of clothing that is clean and after wearing it for half an hour, will throw it in the dirty clothes hamper because that is easier than hanging it up? I guess we should be thankful when it gets into the hamper, rather than being dropped on the floor! Even though we strongly encourage our children to pin their socks together at the toes before putting into the laundry, we end up with a huge pile of single socks, as if we had a bunch of one-legged kids. Dry clothes are folded into individual baskets on two shelves in the laundry room, with each person being responsible for taking their clothes to their drawers, but just try and catch them at it! You would think that with all those safety pins that go missing, along with all the combs, and pencils we keep buying, that sooner or later, we would be knee-deep in them.
Speaking of socks, in those days, if a sock got a hole in either the toe or the heel, we would darn them with special darning thread, and a darning egg. The egg would be ceramic and would fit under the space where the hole was, and then with a needle and darning thread, using special stitches, one would stitch and weave the thread and close up the hole. The egg would hold the sock in place and give a smooth surface to work on. I never had a darning egg, but used any somewhat rounded object to darn the darn socks! It was a time consuming job, especially with so many socks and so many holes. Since the kids wore a lot of tube socks that went almost to their knees, and got a hole in the toe; it was quicker to cut off the sock's toe along with the hole, and then stitch up the entire toe area on the sewing machine. That way, the heel area didn't get holes so easily, as it was no longer a heel, but part of the bottom of the sock. Eventually, after cutting off enough of the toe and sewing it shut, the original tube sock was shortened into a regular length crew sock!
What Are They Doing Now? Adin is over at Bro. Taylor's polishing stones for some jewelry he's making. Jennifer is writing a skit for an MIA program. Amy is making molasses sugar cookies. Ethan is drawing a picture of his dream ranch. Ryan, Chelsea and Megan are playing a rousing game of something or other downstairs in the family room, along with Jarom, who is riding his trike down there. Caleb has fallen asleep on the living room floor, thoughtfully covered by someone with Grandma's afghan. Morgan is having a nap also, but in his crib. Laron is paying bills and making muttering noises.
Did you know that if you buy five toothbrushes of various colors, five children will argue as to who gets the red one? If you buy five red toothbrushes to avoid that argument, and put different colors on the handles for identity purposes, then they will argue over who gets which identifying color?
Jenny: What songs did you sing in Primary, Caleb?
Caleb: We sang, "I Know My Daddy Lives" and "Jesus Once Was a Little Guy".
As I am listening to the sound of tennis shoes galloping and galloping for endless miles downstairs in the dryer, I see that it's nearly time to get something started for supper, and my mind refuses to rise to the challenge as to what to fix. I have been known in my better moments to have planned menus for a month ahead, but am currently going through a series of lesser moments and am operating on the hope that if I don't go around making supper noises, nobody will think about it, and will just quietly go to bed. I could look through my recipes and cookbooks trying to get a glimmer of inspiration, but I did that yesterday and nothing glimmed. As nearly as I can tell, many of those recipes call for canned condensed soup, and here I am soupless. Can't the average American housewife cook a meal without canned condensed soup? There's even a recipe for tomato soup cake! Our ancestors' diets must have really been stark while they waited around hoping somebody would invent canned soup! (Since then, I have learned to make sauces that substitute for canned soup)
Morgan arrived on the scene on the fifth of this month He was the baby whom the doctor thought was two, until an ultasound cancelled out his supposed twin. What was thought to be two heartbeats turned out to be one with an echo. The wool was also pulled over his daddy's eyes, when he turned out to be a boy, dashing Laron's carefully computed formula of our children's birth order, which had worked out accurately until Morgan blew it.
Laron's sinuses are acting up again and this weather isn't helping. I read somewhere that sinuses are a few holes in the head we could do without.
It's 3:28 pm, and any second now the yellow school bus will come around the corner and down our road. We home-based ones watch its comings and goings with care. This morning its going was watched with relief, after the clamor of getting ready excelled its usual loud level until it was wonderful to see the clamorees leave. Most of them had assembled in the living room, and as usual had posted a "little kid" to stand on the couch in front of the big window, and watch for the bus, while last-minute goings-on went on. These goings-on included Ethan's practicing of his trumpet with his music propped up against the TV. Amy was rehearsing her flute music in preparation for an upcoming challenge for first chair in the band, with her music leaning against the back of the couch. Jennifer was playing the piano and singing from the only appropriately placed music. Megan and the little girl from next door, who comes over to eat breakfast, have me fix her hair, and walk down the lane with our kids, were comparing Show and Tell articles, and finding it necessary to do so in voices raised loudly enough to be heard over the musical din. Chelsea was hurrying to finish a report entitled, "How to Ride a Horse", and Ryan was hollering something about some "dumb" person whose name I couldn't catch, who had deliberately "got into my closet where I put my shoes last night, and hid them!" The sentinel perched on the couch took delight in yelling, "Here comes the buz----ard!" which even though done almost daily, still produces instant mass hysteria, to the said sentinel's delight and everyone else's disgust.
Soon indeed, the flashing red lights could be seen at the stop previous to ours, and "The bus is coming!" was shouted in earnest, and an instant replay of aforesaid hysteria re-occurred. Books and homework were gathered, coats grabbed; Chelsea began shouting, "Where's my excuse?" (yesterday she was home sick) It suddenly dawned on Ethan, who had finished practice and had been sitting on the couch contemplating his left sock, that he also just might need his shoes. It never ceases to amaze me at the incredulity of a child who has left for school daily for several years of his life, and it suddenly occurs to them that the bus is actually going to appear and indeed, is doing so at that very moment!
As the mass, looking like a cast of thousands from some old movie, clattered out the door and down the steps; one of the "little kids" ran to shut the door after them. He was nearly trampled as Ethan surged pop-eyed back through the entrance, to rip his music from the TV set and steamed back out the door! There was a sudden, startling moment of silence as "us guys who stay home" realized the others were actually and blessedly gone one more time. Then the clear, sweet voice of one of the "little kids" at the door was heard calling, "Remember who you are!" For years, these words have been called out to those departing, first from their mother, and then from various siblings in the hope that those words might somehow help and bolster during a moment of trial. They mean, "Remember that you are a child of God, and of this family, and that you have been taught to act in certain ways, and you are expected to act thusly. Once in a while, a confused "little kid" will say, "Don't forget your name!", and we will laugh, but after all, it means the same thing. Don't forget your name as a Latter-Day Saint. Don't forget you are a Waite, and that your actions will reflect on that name. I imagine that as we slipped through the veil leaving our spiritual home, Heavenly Father, or Mother, or a concerned brother or sister called out to us, "Remember who you are!" "Don't forget your name!" One of the more humorous aspects of having the surname of "Waite", is how most of our kids have referred to themselves with the rhyming tag of "Great". Adin Waite, the Great". Jenny Waite the Great!" We have often wondered what they would call themselves if our surname was Pope...Ryan Pope the Dope? What about Howard...Cameron Howard the Coward? Then there is Cupid...Megan Cupid the......? See what I mean?
I did something today I shouldn't have done. I thought that if I "girded my lions" about me, and faced it without sniveling, I would be a better woman for it; but I'll be the first to admit my error. Did I really labor under the delusion, frail coward that I am, that I could actually face a task that would make women weep and strong men shudder? It was so unbelievable, that I actually sat down afterward and with shaking hand, recorded each and every item I found when I gulped, steeled myself and dared to open Ethan's top drawer!
In that drawer, designed to contain only socks, underwear and pajamas, was the following: A Webelos book, three paint-by-number pictures of horses, two combs, one pencil and two pens, the following books: "Mighty Mouse Favorite Jokes and Riddles", "By the Shores of Silver Lake", Richard Simmons' "Never Say Diet" book, "Studies in Reading" copyright 1912, "Stories for Young Latter-Day Saints", "The Defenders", "White Fang", "Through Forest and Stream", Wilderness Family", and "How to Draw Dogs". There was also: one of Amy's socks, one pair of shorts, a smashed puzzle box, one transistor radio minus innards, innards, six horse pictures cut from National Geographics, two "Combination References" by Eldon Ricks, one lengthy piece of string, approximately two dozen rubber bands (paper route), one blue ceramic turtle, two red checkers, a wooden block, a broken pocket knife, a set of water color paints, a drawing tablet, two watch bands, one fossilized snail shell from his dad's rock collection, a Cub Scout patch, two unused 1979 appointment books, wrappers from Peppermint Life Savers, his paper route list, fifteen tickets to the Scout-o-Rama 60th anniversary, to have been sold or returned two weeks ago, the A, O, Y from the Scrabble game, two burned-out light bulbs, a tithing receipt, a cassette tape of Adam and Eve from the Bible tapes, a quart jar containing three cents, a calendar of Scout events, a hand drawn map of his dream ranch, a large, rolled up drawing of a cowboy drawn by himself, an excuse note from me to have been given to the principal last week, a note saying, "Can we ride the horse, Yes, No? " to have been answered apparently by a parent on the phone, and checked "NO".
Remember, the top drawer was for socks, underclothes and pajamas, with little outlines drawn on the bottom of the drawer, so he would know what went where. Needless to say, the remaining drawers were left unopened until some future day when I have recovered sufficiently.
It's been rattling around in my brain (rattlebrain?) that this is the year we were going to get our garden planted early. Of course, every year we determine to do so in a feeble attempt to follow the examples of those hardy folk who have their peas and potatoes in by March. We must make arrangements for hauling and spreading manure, or "scattering sunshine" as Adin calls it. Then we need to call Casper Lee to schedule us along with many in the neighborhood to come with his small tractor to till up the soil.
We'll probably be hit up pretty soon for kites, which I greet with the same enthusiasm reserved for Pinewood Derby cars. Out kites often don't get off the ground, but usually get dragged to death like large, injured birds behind children running all wild-eyed at full blast. Once someone came in howling because Cochise, our dog the size of a pony, ran over their kite and broke it. In a few minutes, someone else came in howling, not because they couldn't get their kite off the ground, but amazingly had, only to have the kite literally take the string in its teeth, snap it and sail triumphantly away. Most years, there is the rotting carcass of a kite hanging from the cable lines going into the house. Any kites that manage to survive are scrunched under beds, where the string and tail intertwine hideously with odd socks, somebody's apple core, two or three wire clothes hangers, and dust bunnies directly descended from, and who can trace their blood lines clear back to those behind the piano.
Did you know the quickest way to get kids out of your hair is to say, "Who's turn is it to do the dishes" and they'll disappear for an hour and a half.
Ryan: Mama, Chelsea spit on me!
Chelsea: I didn't spit on him. My mouf spit on him.
Our third baby, and second red-headed daughter, Amy, was born the 9th of this month. She was due the 3rd, but none of our babies were ever born on their due date. All went over, though Morgan went over the shortest time, with being only three days late.
"Oh to be in England, now that April's here!" Having English blood in my veins, and having served a mission in Scotland, I am a confirmed Anglophile. I love many things British, and long to be able to return someday, and be there in April, when the daffodils are blooming everywhere. Instead, I am sitting in my bedroom in our old swivel chair that tips precariously to one side, the result of our offspring spinning it around and around trying to make each other dizzy. "You kids stop spinning that chair around, or you will wear out the bearings, and make it tip to one side!" I have even locked the door in an effort to read quietly for a few minutes. Any minute, I expect one of the endless notes to be shoved under the door, pleading, "Can we make brownies?" Can we go to the neighbors?" "Can the neighbors come here?" Flurries of notes with the inevitable little boxes labeled, "Yes" or "No", which the parent under siege is supposed to check and slide back under the door.
I should have known something was up this morning when the morning dish crew cleared the table without being asked, or when one of the boys came into the kitchen and asked if he could do something to help. I clearly missed the boat when I overheard one daughter say to another, "You ask her. I did it last time." before both falling eerily silent at my entrance.
I have the feeling that around the house there are clumps of children plotting as to which parent might be the most vulnerable, before the said clumps begin their campaign to win over that parent to whatever it is lurking in their minds. I have reached the uncomfortable conclusion that I am that parent, and so I have retreated to my room to brace myself for the oncoming onslaught.
My poor shamrock plant sitting in my windowsill is looking somewhat unwell. My mother grows pots and pots of the lovely plants, which smile, grow lush foliage and put forth delicate, pinkish blooms. She has time and time again given me starts, and they stop smiling, start to whine. sulk and die. She accuses me of breathing death on them, but they just won't grow for me. Usually, I have good luck with plants, and my home is full of them. I say, usually, because my sister once gave me an idiot plant, so named by her, because they are so tough and easy to grow, that as she smugly stated, "Any idiot could grow one." My idiot plant died.
If I stood up and looked out the window, I would be able to see our garden spot looking remarkably like it looked a month ago. We really need to haul manure and call Casper Lee to come and till it. Some people's potatoes and peas are already up and thriving, but then, some people's idiot plants never die.
Easter and April Conference have come and gone. At our house, by special arrangements with the Easter Bunny, we signed up for his LDS special which guarantees delivery of Easter baskets Friday night, thus giving us all day Saturday to do the fun things of Easter.
One Friday night, the Easter Bunny's teenaged helper, hid his brother Jarom's basket on the roof of the house. After a very long search, it was discovered, and Jarom, via a ladder precariously leaned against the house, climbed up to fetch it down. Figuring that descending the ladder with the basket would be tricky, he opted instead to jump from the roof onto the trampoline below. He obviously failed in his calculations to compute the additional weight of the basket combined with the weight and velocity of his hurtling body, so upon his descent, and to the shock and awe of his astonished siblings, ripped right through the tramp! I don't remember if any damage was done to his basket and candy. He wasn't hurt, and Peeps are indestructible, as we are told they are two molecules short of being styrofoam.
What is it in the dim, inner workings of toddlers' brains that urges them to pick up their dyed Easter eggs, and chomp them whole, complete with shells and no salt or pepper? Our "then" dog, Cochise, would do the same, happily chomping down the eggs while they were being hidden outside for a hunt, regardless of the protesting screams and cries of both hiders and seekers. At times, when the eggs were hidden inside, due to bad weather, some were never found, until the eggs were smashed and moldy under a couch cushion. "Who hid this Easter egg here?" "Plobly da Easta Bunny."
On Sunday, we concentrate on the real reason for the celebration, that of Christ's resurrection from the grave. We don't even fuss about Easter clothes anymore, as that also seems to detract from the holiness of Easter.
As for Conference, all of us listen together, with even the youngest being expected to play quietly in front of the TV. They may not understand what is being said, but they gain a feeling that their mom and dad knew listening to the prophets was important. We often gather papers and pencils together, though finding enough pencils in our house is no small task. We write certain key words on the papers, and when children hear that word during a talk, they put a mark by it, and see who can listen best to each speaker. Also, we ask the older children to formulate a question or two from each speaker, which we answer or talk about later. We have had for years, pictures of the General Authorities on the wall in the dining room, so that their faces are familiar to each of us. I remember when Adin was a "little kid" that he named his orange cat, "General Authority", thinking he was naming it after a military hero. By the way, Jennifer named her orange cat, "Now Mabel", after her Grandpa Blacker's familiar saying when correcting Grandma. I'm not sure which cat was the one that when permitted to be briefly in the house, chewed off the nipple of Amy's bottle, and lapped up the milk. Once, when she was several months old, I saw Amy, with her similarly-colored hair, crawling across the floor, with both cats walking next to her on opposite sides, each with their smiling faces pressed to her little face
I have had the opportunity to have almost always had a Church job, since I was in my teens, as in those days, Primary was often staffed with Mutual age girls. All of my callings have been valuable to my development and spiritual growth, however, as time went on and our family grew larger, that it was with increasing difficulty that I carried out my assignments. Since being active in both Primary and Relief Society, before the block program came into existence, that meant two, usually consecutive days of getting three, four or maybe five little ones dressed, plus lessons, music, handouts, visual aids, diaper bag, and hauling everything and everybody down to the church, and carrying everything up the nine or ten steps into our Heyburn building. It often took more than one trip, so just getting there in time for the prayer meetings we would hold fifteen minutes before the actual meeting began, was a tough job. We did that week in and week out, year upon year for many years.
In April 1975, I had recorded the events of getting to a Relief Society meeting, when it was pouring rain (April showers bring May flowers, you know) and we were living four miles outside of Emmett in our brand new house. Chelsea had been born in January and Ryan was still small. I needed the car, so I had to drive Laron to school, so Adin and Jenny didn't catch the bus, but rode with us. Laron carried Ryan, and I carried Chelsea, and with the two school kids, plus Ethan and Amy, hurried out into the pouring rain to the car, which thankfully, was parked at the top of the hill next to the house, and not down at the bottom of the hill where we parked if the driveway was too slick or muddy. After dropping the school people off, we stay-at-home folks drove back home, and I carried two babies and herded Amy and Ethan back inside the house. We got ready for Relief Society which started at 10:00. Then we headed back out into the rain with two babies, Amy and Ethan, a high chair (for the luncheon) and a big box with a kitten inside. Back the four miles into town, where at the church, we repeated the procedure, but added to the drama with Ryan falling out of the car and landing on the wet pavement on his back. Checked him out and comforted him as best I could, then proceeded to get everybody, high chair and kitten-in-the-box, through the still pouring rain and into the church. Since the nursery for Amy, Ethan and Ryan was up one flight of stairs to a landing, and then up another flight, we clattered up, along with the kitten who had been requested for the nursery lesson. Back downstairs, Chelsea and I had a wonderful lesson and lunch, and then gathered everybody and drove the four miles back home, arriving about 1:00. After releasing the stunned, but grateful kitten, we all hauled into the house, where I did the laundry, and then an hour later, we all trooped sans chair and kitten, back out in the rain to pick up the school people.
The following is copied from my journal describing two more of those days, but we had moved from Emmett to Heyburn. "Tuesday, October 9, 1979 Fixed breakfast, made school lunches, got the older kids and Laron off to school after nagging them to clear the table while I washed my hair. I did the dishes. I was in charge of the luncheon for the monthly Relief Society Homemaking Day. Two of the sisters assigned make cakes, were going to drop them off here on their way to their jobs. One cake didn't show up, so hurriedly I made one from scratch, wondering where in the world I was going to get powdered sugar to make frosting. I made a big pan of scalloped potatoes, and during it all, Jarom was hanging on my leg bawling. Chelsea was bawling for a lost nickel. Megan got cereal in her hair and she was bawling. Shirley Williams brought over her cake, still hot from the oven, along with a bowl of frosting for when the cake cooled. I washed, dried and curled Megan's hair and made sack lunches of peanut butter and jelly for the kids in the nursery. It used to be that the nursery teachers would provide a lunch of peanut butter and jelly for their little charges; but one mother complained that this not-so-nutritious lunch served just once per month would probably glue her children's little insides shut, so now we have to furnish our own lunches. I picked tomatoes from the garden to slice up for the luncheon. I frosted Sis. William's cake and lo and behold, there was enough frosting for my cake as well!
Amy called from the school to tell me that Ryan was sick. I told her I'd come when I could. I hurried to get all of us dressed and ready to go. Chelsea found her nickel, but started whining about the color of her socks. I carried the rolls I made yesterday, the tomatoes, two cakes and the scalloped potatoes out to the car. I grabbed the diaper bag, picked up Jarom and herded the others out the door. Megan fell off the steps and was howling. I remembered I hadn't made a bottle for Jarom, so dumped him in the car, tore into the house and made one. On the way out, I met Megan coming in, still crying. I comforted her as best I could, and we got back into the car. Somebody had scooped up some frosting and sampled it, but when questioned, nobody knew nothing! I was just grateful that nobody had stepped into the cakes or potatoes, as during a previous trip, that very thing had happened, as somebody stepped into a pan of stew! (in those days, kids were loose in the car, as child seats were not required)
Were expecting another baby in about four months. So it's getting hard to get around easily, besides lifting little people in and out of cars.
Sunday, August 16, 1981 I Should Have Known
I lifted my head from out of the toilet bowl and said, “What's a nice girl like me doing in a place like this? I really should have known what was coming after all these years. Certainly this isn't the first time, and I did have plenty of warnings. I should have known when:
The lemon-scented detergent I have always loved, started to give off bilious fumes.
When my stomach muscles contracted violently from a whiff Laron's after-shave cologne.
When I realized three days had gone by without a longing for chocolate milk.
When Laron started complaining about soda cracker crumbs in the bed.
When I realized I was sorting the dirty laundry with bated breath and clenched teeth.
When I started feeling I was walking in slow motion through gray, thick, gelatinous fog.
I can't say I wasn't warned. Maybe I didn't recognize the signals because my mind and body refused to accept the inevitable. My mind recoiled and said, “How many times do you expect me to teach, “Feel the little hand go pat, pat, pat. Hear the little heart go love, love, love”? “Isn't it enough that I've taught nine little kids to tie their shoes by saying, 'Make a loop for the rabbit's ear....” or when exhausted, thought, “If one more kid makes one more sound, I'll scream!”
My body rebelled and said, “You've hung that pink poodle maternity dress on me for the last seven pregnancies. Either it goes, or I do!” or “Do you know how long it has been since you put a dress with a belt on me?” and “You're not getting me up on that delivery table ever again!”
At any rate, finally the warning signals began to sink in, and my mind and body began to realize this was indeed the real thing, and well...maybe...maybe, we could do it just this once more. Besides they began to recall the wonderful things...like feeling the first tiny cotton ball “ping” of a new life. Like having Laron fall asleep after waiting in vain to feel those first pings. Like hearing the first quavery little cry, and seeing Laron's face as he looked down at a new son or daughter. Like the absolutely inexpressible feeling of relief that's it's finally over and everything is all right. Like the incredible softness of a minute's-old face as you kiss it for the first time. Like the joy and excitement on the faces of the brothers and sisters at their first sight of the new baby.
I really should have known that the many wonderful, joyous things outweigh the bad.
We arrived at the church half an hour late at 10:30. It took four trips up and down those ten steps to get inside. I took the kids and their lunches to the nursery downstairs...more steps, and then went up those stairs and down the front steps to drive the two blocks to the school to get Ryan. As I backed out of the parking lot at the church, I bumped into Wanda McCombs' car, knocking off her license plate. I picked up Ryan and we went back to the church, up the steps again, and deposited him on the bench in the foyer. Then I joined the two other sisters who were helping with the luncheon. About half an hour before lunch, I got word from the nursery that one of my children needed me in the woman's bathroom. Oh my goodness, did she need me! She had an accident that resulted in wet panties and pants. Obviously, peanut butter and jelly hadn't clogged up her inner workings! In a tear, I grabbed Jarom, and took the sopping wet daughter, and boiled home for a change of clothing, arriving back at the church just in time to help set the food on the table.
It quickly became apparent that Ryan wasn't sick at all. After the luncheon, which turned out remarkably well, and why shouldn't it since I nearly killed myself with worry and work over it; we cleared the tables and did the dishes, as those who had been assigned to the clean-up crew never showed up. We dragged home about 2:30 to get ready for Jenny's birthday. I had to hurry to town and get a few presents. After we ate, Laron, Adin and Jenny went to MIA, and the rest of the kids and I did the dishes. It seemed to take forever to get the kids to bed. I AM SO TIRED!!!!!"
The next day, from my journal."October 10, 1979, we had breakfast. Thank goodness for my four-slice toaster, even if it has part of a Wonder Bread bag with its little yellow, red and blue balls melted for eternity along one side. We had our scripture reading, made four lunches and got the kids out the door for school. Laron has lunch duty this week, so gets a free meal. After the dishes were finished, I hurried and started the four dozen rolls I was assigned to bake for a funeral today. I used two of my precious eggs. As I waited for the dough to rise, I started laundry and dressed the kids, remembering that I had to take Adin's payment for his paper route insurance in to the newspaper office by noon. Today was absolutely the last day! It's three more days until payday (remember teachers only get paid once a month). While I was downstairs doing laundry, it happened.....the rolls burned! Four dozen beautiful rolls burned black! I was sick! That meant I'd have to use my last two eggs to mix up another batch and have them at the church in one and a half hours, which meant I couldn't get to the newspaper office before the deadline! What did I do? I cried! Then I made a new batch of rolls, hurrying them as fast as I dared, and got them to the church barely in time. Then I dashed over to the newspaper office, where there was no one visible, and left the payment on an empty desk with an explanatory note.
Back home, it was a rush to feed the kids their lunch and get them down for naps, so I could get things ready for Primary at 3:30. I had my scripture ready for prayer meeting, and got Chelsea and Megan up, who started crying because they didn't want to go. Their crying woke Jarom and he started crying because he was afraid he wouldn't go. I ran around trying to find socks, since the laundry wasn't finished, and found a few dry diapers (cloth) for the diaper bag. Out to the car and to the church, as the inevitable process of lifting kids in and out and up the stairs began anew. Primary was held Wednesday afternoons after school, and the students walked the couple of blocks arriving in time to start.
After teaching my extremely lively CTR B class, we rounded everybody, plus two or three of the neighbor kids, and started for home. One of the neighbors had run over to the little store near the church and bought some huge jawbreakers, which he'd distributed to a few others, who now were sitting with mouths half open, drooling, and threatening to choke to death if they inhaled. Those who didn't get candy were crying and whining about it. I was trying to think what we could have for supper, with our cupboards nearly bare at home (certainly nothing that required eggs) and when I made it to the first stop sign, I nearly put my head down on the steering wheel and sobbed!
After throwing together a meager meal, we did the dishes. Laron had a meeting, and Amy and Jenny started whining to make fudge over my dead body. Amy mistakenly used one quart of milk instead of one and a half cups, and being unable to think of how to salvage it, without using up way too much sugar, cocoa and butter, I made her pour the whole mess down the drain. Megan wanted her night bottle, but all the milk was down the drain, so I tried to fool her with powdered. She would have none of it and pulled off the nipple and all the milk ran down her nightgown. By then I was so tired that I let her run around loose until her dad came home so we could go after milk."
Those two journal entries sum up my feelings about my many church assignments, and so when on Feb. 2, 1980 found me kneading bread, and a news bulletin came over the KSL radio station that the Church had adopted the block program, I immediately knelt down on the kitchen floor with flour and sticky dough all over my hands, and thanked my Heavenly Father with all my heart!
Ryan: Mama, if you don't buy us Ding-dongs, you will need to be punished.
In a couple of days I will be one year older. So far I've never been this old! I can't help wondering how I got to be so old while feeling so young. At least I'm old enough to have children who can bake my birthday cake for me, instead of having to bake my own! They say life begins at forty, so all that day I waited around for something to happen and it did. Somehow though, having the septic tank back up was hardly what I had in mind. Life did begin at forty-two, when our tenth baby, Morgan, was born, our second redheaded boy. What a joyous occasion!
For several years now, Laron and I've been in the situation of being older parents with very young children. My friends who are young mothers with young children, are full of energy and enthusiasm, and talk about child development, feedings, toilet training, teething, all of which I know a thing or two about and don't find so exciting to discuss anymore. My friends who are my age have mostly finished raising their children, have gone back to work, and in some cases, have grandchildren. When we talk about babies, our babies are a generation apart! My husband is currently the only bishop in the stake with very young children, and on more than one occasion, has sat in meetings with auguste, gravitasy brethren, and had done so with a baby corsage deposited on the shoulder of his suit. Our babies tend to spit up a lot. It's not much comfort to him when I remind him I have often had a spit-up deposit on my shoulder, though it is the opposite shoulder. He's a Latter-Day-Lefty, while I'm an Orthodox Right. We just have to try harder to check our wardrobes as we dress.
Mother's Day came and went. I'd be a great mother if I weren't so busy raising kids. Amy woke up Sunday morning and promptly announced she wasn't going to do her part on the Mother's Day program, and she didn't, either. She just sat there on the stage with tears rolling silently down her cheeks, and when it was her turn, shook her head negatively for all to see. Her part, which she had memorized and quoted confidently around the house for weeks, until even her little siblings could recite it, alas, went unspoken. Glancing down at the floor in discomfort for both of us, I saw that my legs still wore the tread marks halfway up to my knees, from my husband's socks that I had worn before church to keep my feet warm. How many people had noticed my stripey legs as I had entered the church not long before, full of confidence that I at least had no baby corsage on my shoulder, and that I had, like a good mother, taught my daughter to recite her part on the program?
To top off the program, the last speaker reminded us all (year after year, for Pete's sake!!! and I notice it's always a man who says it) how President McKay's mother had never raised her voice to her children. I could feel my children, who never actually looked at me, send out subliminal messages, "We hope you're listening, Mom." I wanted to signal back, "Then how did the poor kids know when she really MEANT it?"
Mercifully the music and talks about perfect mothers, that made me feel so guilty, ended, and the Laurel girls passed out the traditional petunias, the one handed to me being a little sad, pale, trembly one with one white blossom, when I had my eye on a pretty, big, purple one with several blossoms.
If I were to stand up and look out my bedroom window, which I won't, I would see that the garden has at long last been fertilized and tilled and is awaiting planting. We have made progress!
The school kids can't wait for school to be out for the summer. I trot out my yearly spiel that this summer, they will be kept so busy that they will wish they were back in school (ad nauseum I'm sure) The kids roll their eyes at each other and think, "There she goes again with that same song and dance!"
Adin will graduate from high school and seminary this month, and the thought saddens us. This is the beginning of the end of an era in our lives.
The end of school is busy as we attend end of year concerts, field trips, field days, and school programs, graduations from both school and seminary. Jennifer and Adin both sang in an elite high school choir. Amy and Ethan played flute and trumpet in the Jr. High band program. Ryan sang some solos in his choir, and all in all, I developed quite a case of maternal bighead. We are very proud of our children's accomplishments, and try to let them know that we are proud of them. Every child should have someone who thinks they are the smartest, best-looking and most talented child their parents know. Life knocks us down soon enough!
For the last six years, our children have handled the paper route in this corner of the world for about sixty customers, spread out over a large area. Our oldest son first had the route for about three years, and then advanced onto other types of work, bequeathing the route to younger siblings, who, eventually split the big route into two or three smaller ones. When the newspapers are dropped off at our house after school, they need to assemble the different sections, roll up the papers and fasten them with rubber bands, before putting them into canvas bags they either wear over their shoulders, or draped over the handlebars of a bike. This has been a great job for nearly all of our children over the last six years.
The worst problems that come with paper routes, are bad weather and bad dogs. There are some dogs, who no matter how many years the carrier has delivered the paper at the same time each day, year and year out, still resort to hysterical barking as if they have never seen a carrier before. What goes on in their dim, little doggy-foggy brains, one wonders. As to the weather, when it is pouring rain or blizzarding, the carriers are driven in the car.
Barking dogs are one of my pet (pardon the pun) peeves. How can their owners sit in their homes, or sleep in their beds while their dogs are barking their empty heads off hour after hour in their yards? How can they justify getting a dog that is supposed to bark a warning that someone is breaking into the place, but when the dog barks for hours on end, the owners never seem to hear it?
One of our neighbors in Emmett had a dog that would start barking loudly about 9:00 at night, and continue non-stop until early morning, after disturbing our sleep night after night. To add to the irritation, she barked in a repetitive, obsessed pattern of three barks, a long pause and then a single bark, over and over again. One night, after being up for hours, I screwed up my courage and called their phone number. When the owner answered, doubtlessly panicked over who would be calling at 2:00, I said with what I hoped was a disguised voice, "Your dog is barking." and hastily and cowardly hung up. In seconds, the lights went on..."Shut up!" was yelled at the dog as she was dragged inside, probably to prevent another phone call, and finally we were able to sleep. This was in the days when there were no cell phones that might show the caller's name.
We started using a fan in our bedroom as white noise to cover up the sound of various night-barking dogs over the years, and found it worked to keep little ones sleeping during the sounds of not only dogs, but of older siblings, who had later bedtimes. The only problem, much to the consternation of our children's spouses, is that most of us can't sleep now without a fan running!
Laron: That was a good prayer, but you said that last part way too fast.
Morgan: That's 'cause I know that part really good.
Summer vacation began on a Monday this year. At first everyone pitched into our new schedule with vigor and enthusiasm. A change is as good as a rest, we are told, and it must be true. Goodwill, and cooperation were rampant. Everybody willingly did their chores with little or no whining. I was cheered that this summer, things were going to go swimmingly well. Then came Tuesday! Back into our ruts we slipped. Kids started squabbling, "You're not my boss!" and "I'm gonna tell!" I was teetering on the edge of trying to get my children to do their chores, by using the verbal approach...YELLING! What would Sis. McKay think? In defense of raising one's voice, or nagging, it must be remembered that nagging is the repetition of requests that should have been taken care of the first time they were mentioned. I was trying to use my words and not yell, but I was certainly not using my inside voice. I know, I know...raising your voice is like honking the horn when trying to stop your car.
While trying to teach the kids manners, we hung this on the wall:
Listen, what's that sound we hear that fills us with dread and alarm?
It's growing louder and louder, I fear we're in for great harm.
It sounds like the munching and terrible crunching of thousands of gringlegrump jaws.
It sounds like the scrunching and grunching and smunching of monsters with great clutching claws!
Whatever it is, we're completely surrounded, we'll never escape with our lives!
The sound is so loud, we're amazed and astounded, like thousands of bees in a hive.
Wait! Don't be afraid! Now the mysteries clear.........we' would never have guessed, would you?
It's only our kids, the ones we hold dear, who don't close their mouths when they chew!
Laron has one week of freedom after regular school before summer school starts, which because of economic necessity, he has to do. This requires him to teach remedial classes half a day for six weeks.
We did manage to get the garden planted during the last two weeks of May, so it is up and thriving, and we can hold our heads up high. That's what our children must be doing as they hoe or pull the weeds; holding their heads up high, I mean, because they miss so many weeds! Some of the younger ones are put to work earning a penny each for every potato or tomato bug they catch, and drop into their little cans. Once Laron was out with the kids doing some kind of garden or yard work, but Morgan, who would have been six or seven years of age, oozed away from the group and ended inside the house. Pretty soon, Jarom was sent in to fetch him..."Morgan, Dad said you're supposed to come outside. He's going to count to ten! Morgan, still reluctant to return asked, "How fast is he counting?"
We've had a rash of opportunities this last couple of weeks, to improve our speaking qualities. Amy has given two talks in Sunday School, Ethan gave one. Laron spoke in our sacrament meeting, and he and I spoke in another ward. Jennifer spoke on Father's Day and at a pre-camp clinic, and some of the Primary children have had talks too. The word must be out that we need practice.
If I only knew what to fix for meals! Surely I'm not the only one who runs out of either ideas or ingredients or money for ingredients. Do I need to tell you how tiring it is to hear the nasal whine of "I don't like it", spoken by at least one person at every meal?
"Yuck! What's that stuff?"
"It's sour cream scalloped potatoes."
"I don't like it."
"You've never tasted it before."
"It looks yucky. I hate it. I've always hated it!"
"How can you hate it when you've never had it?"
"I can tell by the looks."
"This is a new recipe I got from Sister Carnahan. She says her kids love it!"
"I hate it! You never make Jennifer eat things she hates.
Howcum I have to eat things I hate?" (Kid starts to make ghastly gagging sounds.)
We finally came up with "You don't have to like it; you just have to eat it!" The gagger will thoughtfully ponder the enormity of that statement, but it hasn't done a whole lot to improve his or her eating habits. Most, however, would eat pancakes, waffles and crepes for nearly every meal. Waffles and crepes have become affectionately known as "awfuls" and "creeps", but everybody loves them.
One of our picky eaters cleverly (he thinks) hides food he doesn't like under napkins, plates, dropped onto the floor, or sneaked onto another kid's plate. (Hey! I thought I ate that!) He has hidden things in his milk, or anywhere else within reach, sort of a now you see it, now you don't (quite) (I hope) approach.
Daylight Savings Time makes the already difficult task of getting children to bed, almost impossible. "I forgot my prayers." "I need a drink" "I fink dere's a monsta under my bed." "We heard a scary noise!" "I forgot to do my homework!" "MOM! Megan's lookin' at me!" "Howcum Jennifer never has to go to bed?" MOM, Adin's telling us scary stories again!" "I hafta go to da bafroom!" "MOM! Somebody's locked in da bafroom, and us kids are out here wettin' our pants to deaf!" "MOM! Ryan won't turn out the light!" "MOM! I'm scared and Amy won't turn the light on!" "MOM! Megan's growling at me!" "MOM! You forgot to sing to us!" "MOM! Efan's asleep and I'm supposed to go to sleep first! I'm scared to be all alone." Laron is usually at some meeting or other, so it is usually my name being taken in vain.
Only an idiot would put up with that stuff at bedtime, and I've been doing it for nineteen years! Oh, we've tried all those slick suggestions you read in magazines while waiting in doctor's offices. Things like..."Do you want to go to bed in fifteen minutes or right now?" "You have to go to bed at 8:30, but you don't have to go to sleep. You can read, sing, or play with a toy in bed." Those are good ideas to get them into bed, but our problem is that that once we manage to actually get them to bed, they keep oozing, leaking and seeping out around the edges.
One interesting phenomenon that transpires in our house occurs in written form. Our children seem to be wordier than most, and can often be heard all talking to each other at once, but not listening all that much. Much of the communication those onslaughts of words alone can't cover, is done by writing notes. We have intercepted, collected, confiscated and cracked up over countless notes of which these are some of our favorites:
"Deer ryan meat me downstares love Megan"
"chelsea waite hates scool."
"Ryan is a rat."
"I am sorry, Mama. I repented and I'll try not to do it again. Form your son, Ethan"
"Jennifer Waite has liver lips, that's true."
"Keep out! No grils allowed this means YOU"
"Dear Mom and Dad. Can we rent a video? (followed by the eternal little boxes for Yes, No) You are the best parents in the whole world because you are our MOM and DAD. You are nise and wonderful. Love, your children"
"Dear Laron and Ruth Waite You are invited to your breakfast right now. Please come dressed. Love, your cooks."
"Dear MOM and DAD
It is better for one person to perish than have a nation to dwindle in unbelieve. It is not because of you that I am leaving, but it is because of some of the other kids. PS I think that if I leave you will have a better life. I love you very much."
"My dad techas scool. He wheres a soot"
"Warning..Keep Out...If anyone looks at our secret stuff or uses it in court against us without written permission by us they will be subject to imprisonment for 7 years or a 10,000 dollar fine."
"Ryan Waite is dumb and a stupid person. Do you know you are weard? Thats true Singed by Chelsea Waite the Great That's true"
wen I grow up im go0ing to be a grate indian worrier
"IOU $1.00 and you owe me 50 cents"
The borrowing of money that goes on in our house is astounding, not in the amounts, but rather in the elaborateness of the transactions. Jenny owes Adin $5.00 to pay him back for the money he loaned her to buy a boutonniere for the Harvest Ball. He borrowed a dollar from Ethan for hot lunch and will pay it back when Jenny pays him. Ethan owes Adin for some hay they bought for their calf raising project. Amy bought some dog food as a treat for Homer; and Ethan, Ryan and Chelsea promised to chip in for that. (Homer usually gets table scraps) Amy loaned Jenny some money to help buy shoes, and Jenny will pay her back when Ryan reimburses her the $3.00 he borrowed to buy a tire for Ethan's bike which he ruined, while Megan owes Chelsea a quarter for popcorn purchased at school, and Chelsea owes Ryan a quarter for the same purpose, but from a previous popcorn sale. Amy owes Chelsea 50 cents, but can't pay her until Chelsea, Ethan and Ryan pay her back for Homer's dog food. Ryan owes money he borrowed from Ethan to buy a rabbit, and Laron loaned him the full amount, then set up a payment chart so Ryan can earn five cents a row for weeding corn, and fifteen cents to weed the raspberries. It is truly wondrous and awesome to behold!
At one point, Cameron was set up in business by his dad, in order for him to earn some money. Laron got a small stock of candy for him to sell to his siblings. He took his candy store very seriously, fixing up a cardboard box as a desk, and sitting behind it in the little green, wooden rocker we had for many years. He usually wore his superman cape, and gradually built up his business. His siblings were more than willing to shell out a dime or a quarter for some candy, and he became quite prosperous. Later, he branched out as an art dealer, grinding out tons of colored pictures, which he would fasten to the walls of the blue bedroom.er.gallery. At one point, not able to keep up with the demand, he hired his older brother, Morgan, to help in the mass production of pictures. On the little cardboard desk were the words, "ARTS R US". The partnership flourished for a while, until Morgan did something to upset Cameron, with the result that Morgan was fired, and the business name became "ARTS R ME".
Did you know that even very small children can learn to help with simple chores, such as folding washcloth, dishtowels, putting away spoons, etc. They can put away their own laundry, if there are pictures drawn on the bottom of their drawers of socks, pjs, underwear or whatever?
Adin: What's that you're cooking, Mom?
Me: It's cheese fondue for when Walnums come to supper tonight.
Adin: I don't like fondue.
Me: I know.That's why I'm making spaghetti for you kids.
Adin: Spaghetti? Howcum we have to have spaghetti? Why can't us kids have fondue?
I can tell its July, because I'm drinking from a plastic measuring cup because there are no clean drinking glasses or dry towels. I wonder how other families handle the problem of drinking glasses when everybody is home for the summer? Our problem is that each time someone needs a drink, they think they need a clean glass. We could use paper cups, but I am too stingy to spend money on cups that just get thrown away after each use. We could write each person's name on a paper cup and expect them to use it for the entire day, but that would mean ten, eleven or twelve paper cups taking up space on the counter. I have limited counter space as it is. We could all use the same glass to drink from, but I can already hear the whines about drinking somebody else's germs, slobbers, sinkies or swimmies.
Where have all the towels gone? They are wadded up in corners of bedrooms, all wet and smelly from kids running in the sprinklers, having water fights, or swimming down at the river; or providing padding on the cement on the patio for pale, skinny bodies trying to get a tan; or draped around swimmers coming home from the river, shivering so hard they vibrate. And where did the pink towel with "Danny" appliqued on it come from? There's no Danny I know of either at our house or at any of the neighboring houses. We don't even know a Danny!
Right now, as I am writing this, I can hear a clutch of our boys downstairs making tribal sounds. Girls don't make tribal sounds. Boys and girls are different. Two boys cannot pass in a hallway, without punching each other. Girls can. One of our boys' favorite activities is the Orange Game. They made it up themselves. As Cameron tells the story, the rules are simple. All you need are two idiots, a floor and an orange. He means an ORANGE, not those little "Cuties" you can peel with your thumb and swallow with one bite. Both idiots lie on the floor with their shoulders touching. Idiot #1 will then toss the orange into the air, sufficiently high so that the descending speed increases substantially. It is tossed approximately six inches away from Idiot #1, so that it hopefully lands somewhere on Idiot #2. Idiot #2 cannot move, cringe, flinch, nor make any defensive motions. Arms must remain still alongside the body. Eyes can be closed, and as the orange approaches, there is usually a noticeable increase of breathing amplified through clenched teeth, accompanied by subtle whimpering sounds. Idiot #1 obtains great satisfaction if the orange happens to land somewhere near the Adam's apple or on the face. Then, Idiot #2, often with tears running down into ears, gets his turn to toss the orange. The game continues until the orange becomes too pulpy, an astonished parent intercedes, or an idiot is sufficiently injured to require medical attention, at which point, the game is over. I have never seen two girls lying on the floor with shoulders touching in the vicinity of an orange. Girls, however, dance around a lot, which boys ordinarily don't. After watching a ballet on TV, Jenny at age four said, "You have to have special toes to do that."
Our garden can often reduce me to tears. The original enthusiasm of the hired hands to work diligently doing garden work as opposed to going to school, lasted about half way down the first row, and the fact that the hired hands don't actually get paid, doesn't endear them to the task either. All the cutesy little enthusiasm builders, such as: "Pretend you're on a search and destroy mission!" "Work until you've pulled one hundred weeds." or "See who can pull the most weeds in ten minutes" have palled. Since we irrigate with canal water, a new crop of weeds springs up after each watering. In our battle against the miserable things, we resort to drastic measures and I find myself developing rather violent feelings, for such a nice person as myself, and discover I don't want to just kill the darned weeds...I actually want them to suffer!
It's nearly time for the first canning to start, as the early transparent apples will soon be ready for applesauce and pie filling. When I was a young girl, a friend of my mother remarked that we work like dogs all summer, so we can eat like hogs all winter. That homey phrase pretty well sums up gardening and canning as nicely as anything else I've heard.
We were thrilled when Adin was chosen to work at the Hill Cumorah Pageant in New York. We drove him the forty-five or so miles to the airport in Twin Falls early one morning. I read once that parenthood is a long series of firsts, all of them requiring great acts of faith. Putting a first son on a first flight to travel all alone across the United States required great faith. We watched as he flew away on two wings and many prayers, if you'll pardon my messing about with that famous old slogan.
As a child leaves home, parents wonder if they've done enough to prepare them to be out on their own, and if all they've tried to teach a child has "taken". Could we have done more? Would he remember how to iron a shirt and sew on a button? He had been so reliable and dependable that we felt we hadn't done too badly. Take, for instance, the parents in those old Grimm fairy tales, those who's children's lives were really grimm indeed! Those parents were rotten. They beat their kids, lost them in forests, fed them on black bread and water, traded them to dwarves for gold and those kids turned out alright. They all ended up becoming filthy rich, becoming the mayor of London, marrying queens, kings or princes, and living happily ever after!
I do remember an experience that gave me pause as to what sort of parenting job I had done. The teacher's quorum had invited the mothers to a lovely Mothers and Sons dinner. The young men helped serve the meal to their mothers and after we had finished eating, one of the after-dinner activities required the boys to tell five things they appreciated about their mothers. Listen to this...my son...for whom I had gone into the valley of death... couldn't think of even ONE! NOT. EVEN. ONE!!! I went home a broken woman.
In addition to teaching summer school, Laron has been asked to teach computer programming to a young man paralyzed by a football injury from the neck down. He uses a rod held in his mouth to operate the keyboard. What a challenge for this brave young man!
For our family reunion, each family was to prepare a motto to be painted onto quilt blocks with fabric paint. Ours showed twelve of us all rolled up into a ball, wrapped with together with ropes tied in a bow on top, and entitled, "Family Togetherness". To illustrate what lengths to which we travel for such unity, a few nights ago, at 2:30 in the morning, four of us staggered into the bathrooms at the same time to be sick, which wasn't easy, as we have only two bathrooms. Laron called it a coincidence, but I called it food poisoning. Years ago, Laron and I split up two of the less desirable tasks of parenting. My assignment was to change the dirty diapers, while his was to clean up after the sick and afflicted. I know, I know...the odds are against me, but at least I don't have to do both.
With Adin at the pageant with plans to attend BYU this fall, we are enduring another episode of the great bedroom shuffle, which occurs sporadically with no little trauma. Jenny is moving out of a crowded bedroom into a temporarily vacant, though very small one, with room for only one person. Now we have to endure, "Howcum SHE gets to have a room of her own?" from some of her un-emancipated sisters. The move helped loosen the belt, so to speak, allowing crowded siblings to spread out a little. Now the most occupying a room is three, not four. Morgan's crib was moved out of our room and into the little boys', which Jenny had previously shared with two little brothers. Amy seldom stays in the room she shares with two little sisters, and often ends up sleeping on the floor of the little boys' room. The middle boys stay put for now. Depending on whom might be having a bad dream, or hearing "weard" noises; the various and assorted will fall asleep on the living room floor, resembling the haunting scenes of a Civil War battlefield.
We usually try to go camping at least once during the summer, now that Laron has served his summer school stint. I hope nobody thinks that I am laboring under the delusion that we are going for a restful vacation. Having to do all the work a big family requires in the home, only doing it under primitive conditions is not for the faint at heart. Remember "Family Togetherness"? Picture jamming twelve people into a station wagon along with camping gear, food, clothing and bedding (I put my foot down about the dog). Before leaving, I check out the little kids' backpacks and find they've smuggled in as many books and stuffed animals or articles of clothing they could. A mile and a half down the road, and we have to stop for somebody to use "da bafroom". Somebody else is griping because they never get to sit by a window or in the front seat. "You kids stop arguing about sitting by a window, or we'll turn right around and go home, and by golly you can each sit by a window for the rest of the day!" Thank goodness, we had our children before infant or booster seats were required. We would never have been able to go in one car. As it is, we stack little kids on the laps of the bigger ones, and one or two crowd in behind the back seat of the station wagon along with the baggage. We were blessed to have stackable kids!
Whenever we travel, we sing what seems to be hundreds of songs. We even know the words to most of them. We can and do sing for hours; mostly old fashioned songs, western songs and Scottish folk songs from my mission. Our kids might be the only kids left in the world who know the words to "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" or "There's an Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor". We may not be good, but we're loud!"
Did you know that if you leave home the toys and Cheerios you usually take to church to help your children pass the time in Sacrament Meeting, that they will be even more reverent?
Me: What's that you're taking outside?
Ryan: It's a hammer. Now I need to find something to ham on."
Anyone who thinks a small child doesn't have a very long attention span has never taken a two-year-old shopping while they beg for a gum ball for an hour and a half without stopping! We have always taught our children that being in a store is no place for chasing around, or throwing temper tantrums, but we can vouch for the scientific fact that children can actually increase their weight by fifteen pounds by throwing himself onto the floor while crying for a toy that they want you to purchase. Go ahead, you can prove it to yourself, by trying to pick up children who obstinately press their little bodies into the floor resisting your efforts to pick them up.
When we went shopping with children, though, they did have to behave and stay near me in order to get a small treat for good behavior after we got into the car to go home. Not having a lot of money, the treat was often half a small bag of M&Ms. We would just take a small bag of M&Ms and sort of flatten it out, and tear it carefully in half, giving two kids each a tiny bag of candy.
I see the yard is teeming with what seems like dozens of children and am somewhat taken aback to realize most of them are ours! The neighborhood children flock to our place to play, as there is usually one of our children the same age as one of them. At times, we have had to deal with neighbors who show up first thing in the morning, and seem to hang around until late at night. We had three small windows going up one side of our front door. One set of neighborhood children from across the way, would ring the doorbell, then smoosh their noses up to the window while cupping their hands around their faces, peering in to see who was home and where we were. Covering the little windows cured them of that.
Since our own children had chores to do during the day, we didn't welcome company early in the mornings, or when we were working outside. Some parents, eager to palm off their kids as early as possible, would suggests that their children help ours with the chores so they could play sooner. We knew, however, that it was hard enough to have more than one of our own boys weed the garden without tossing clods at each other, without adding another clod-chucker to the mix.
We finally came up with a yellow flag that we would put out on the lamp post by the front door. If the flag was up, no neighbor kids were to come over. It worked pretty well.
August is the month of the twin's birthday. Ethan and Jarom aren't really twins, but they were born on August 11th, albeit seven years apart, and were even sent to the same LDS mission seven years apart. I think they were supposed to be twins, but one didn't get in gear in time We always thought that Ethan and his brother, Ryan, were supposed to be twins, but the same problem with gears happened again.
When we only had two children and were living in Emmett, Laron had been teaching early morning Seminary classes to supplement our earnings, but it became too much for him to keep up with, as he was called to be stake executive secretary. I was asked to finish out the year in his place, and though being a couple of months pregnant for the fourth time, and deathly sick, we decided I would try. Laron would take care of the three children and get ready for school, while I would go to the church at 6:30 and teach the Book of Mormon course. It was difficult, but enjoyable. However, at one conference for teachers being held in Boise, twenty-eight miles from Emmett, I quickly realized I was in trouble, and ended up in an emergency room, threatening to miscarry. The class was turned over to another person, as I had to go on bed rest for several weeks. Finally, my doctor decided that I had been expecting fraternal twins, and had lost one, but remarkably, the other had survived, and turned out to be Ethan. In addition to losing that baby, we sadly lost the next pregnancy a year or so later. Eventually, Ryan was born, and he and Ethan were such extremely close brothers, that we decided it had been Ryan all along that had been trying to be born, but never quite got in gear, as previously mentioned, but now had finally made it. They would sometimes walk around the house with their arms around each other's shoulders, saying, "We are buddies. special, special buddies!"
With so many children, we once calculated that counting my three to four months of morning sickness, which lasted twenty-four hours, not just mornings, I had spent over three years worshipping at the great white throne, throwing up! Some days I could barely make it through the day and felt like I could just sit in a casket and wait to die, but no such luck. Somehow or other we made it through.
Our offspring often talk the smallest kid on the dishwashing totum pole into doing the washing. The inducted feels he or she is being given a great honor, and eagerly begs to be allowed to do so. "Hey, Cameron! Guess what? YOU get to wash the dishes today!" Height-challenged, they require a chair to stand upon, and the task drags on and on, as spindly, little arms and small hands dutifully struggle on, until the dishwater becomes cold, gray and greasy, and the fronts of the little laborers are soaked. Often, somebody failed to scrape the plates, so added to the slop are four green beans, several limp pieces of lettuce and a glob or two of tuna casserole, floating listlessly about in the bilge water, until becoming something akin to a horrid, cold, vegetable soup. The waiting dryers drift in and out of the kitchen, mostly more out than in, and assume expressions of righteous hurt when reminded to get in there and finish drying. "But there's nothing to dry!" Why they would put all of us through that misery, rather than just jumping in and getting the dishes finished in the first place is a mystery.
As the month winds toward its end, it is time for the county fair, and getting ready for another school year. For many years, Laron was in charge of the school art display at the fair, which involved being in the hot, hot building the entire week. By then, our garden was producing madly, and I was struggling to keep up with the canning and freezing. The table would be piled with green beans, with the kids sitting around it snapping them. Outside, we would have wheelbarrow loads of corn, which they helped husk before freezing. Applesauce and apricots would already be canned, and the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, chard, and squash would be ready to be processed. About a thousand jars of fruits vegetables and pickles would be canned, in addition to the items frozen. We often had a calf raised to be butchered for meat, which also went into the freezer.
The older children often had jobs hoeing sugar beets, milking cows, babysitting, moving hand lines, or hauling hay, as well as the paper route, in order to earn money for school clothes, and I sewed a lot of the T-shirts and girls' pants as well. We would buy boxes of the cheap gold covered notebooks from a local store, Kings, even though they wished to have some with cartoon characters of Smurfs, Superman, or Taz on the fronts We managed to get everybody at least a couple of new outfits and a pair of new shoes for school.
In 1979, I recorded, "Jarom is such a sweet, cute, little guy. He crawls all over the house and says a few words...."Mama, Dada, bu (bus), dog-dog, and ti" for kitty. Megan is a holy terror! She comes on like gangbusters, and talks a blue streak. She has a terrible habit that's driving me up the wall. She dresses herself in ANYBODY's clothes, shoes and changes a dozen times a day. She ends up looking like Tugboat Annie. Chelsea is still shy, quiet and reserved everywhere but at home. It seems she's either crying or singing. I hear her sweet, high, little voice singing many times during a day. She doesn't want to get married, because "I don't want a boy kissin' me!" Ryan is s stubborn little guy who wants to look like a "star". I told him many stars aren't very good people, and many of them drink and smoke, but he said he "wants to be like Donnie Osmond, because he just drinks milk and water and is an ordinary person just like us." Ethan read more library books than anyone else in his 2nd grade class, so his teacher gave him two books. He's such a cute, enthusiastic seven-year-old with his front teeth missing. He has fifteen papers on his paper route and earns about $10 a month. He's very unselfish...and when he buys himself something, he usually gets Ryan the same thing. He bought each of them a baseball mitt this month. Amy is just as she looks...a skinny, freckled red-head. She's fun to be with and stands up for her rights. She's doing quite well on the piano, but struggles with long division. Jenny is twelve and really growing up. She made her first pies yesterday. She sewed an apron, and many mornings gets breakfast and fixes other meals as well. Adin is really growing up, but still kids around constantly. He's a really dependable boy and lots of fun. He still has his paper route, with fifty-seven customers.
During this time, our dog-dog was a huge, yellow half lab, half St. Bernard named Cochise. He was really gentle with the kids, but it was almost impossible to keep him home. He would break chains, collars, pens, and once, when locked in the garage for several hours, tried to chew his way out of the wooden garage door, damaging it beyond repair. One day we saw him comming for our neighbors, the Rathes, carrying in his mouth an unopened 25 pound bag of dogfood from their garage. Needless to say Cochise was not a favorite of the neighbors. Once, he got loose and bit a Cottom kid, whom we figured deserved it because he was teasing him. But one morning, Max Fowler called and said Cochise broken loose had just hurt their little dog, and bitten him. We went out and hollered for Cochise and saw him sneaking up Cottom's road, which he always did after he got loose. We worried about what we had to do and decided we would have to have him put to sleep, because he was getting so we couldn't keep him enclosed. About 10:00, we told the kids and got ready to put him into the back of Shivering Elizabeth. What a sad, sad time! The kids were crying and begging their daddy to not to take him, and beautiful, unsuspecting Cochise was walking around "smiling" at everyone, and wagging his tail. He eagerly hopped into the car with Laron and Adin, and the rest of the kids absolutely fell apart. They cried and cried, and Ethan sobbed, "I feel so bad, Mama, I know I'll never feel good again." I called Fowlers to check on their poodle and was told it had a blood clot and a heart murmer We offered to pay the vet bills, but they wouldn't let us, and felt bad that we had decided to get rid of Cochise.
Did you know that if you put old stockings on little children's' hands, and tell them that if they dust the furniture really, really well, that they will be happy? If they dust well, they will find dimes you have previously placed on furniture to be dusted.
Jenny: Mama, guess what?
Jenny: You can't walk forever on one leg.
Two babies were welcomed into our home during this month, first Ryan, the 25th of September, 1973 and then seven years later, came our first red-headed boy, Caleb, who was born September 23, 1980. After we had our first baby, I thought I could never love another one that much, but I learned the mathmatics of having children. Love doesn't divide; love multiplies so there is more than enough to go around.
As I stand at the sink in our kitchen, I can look out to the basketball standard next to the cement patio right behind our house. At the top of the heavy, wooden post supporting the basketball net, is a wooden sign, with these words painted on it. "World Headquarters for the Waite Warriors". Countless games of basketball, pig and horse, have been played out there, and now and then, I have been recruited to even up one of the sides. What I like, is that everybody gets to play, even the little ones, who will be hoisted up by an older sibling, in order to "dunk" the basketball. The echoes of the shouts, cheers and thuds of the dribbled ball must have been absorbed by that heavy post over the many, many years, and maybe if you put your ear closely up to it, you would be able to hear them again. Sometimes, I just pat that old post as I walk by.
Many times, when the ball hit the back of the house where the kitchen and dining room are, the impact would knock one of my potted plants from the windowsill into the sink, where it would wait resignedly face down for me to pick it up, recover it's little toes with spilled dirt, and be reinstalled in its place. Once or twice, the ball hit the house so hard, the red clock was knocked from the wall.
Many other games would be played, Annie-eye-over, hide and seek, flashlight wars, and the famous flippers.
Mabel Blacker and Bryce Chugg playing flippers at our home in Heyburn
The flipper game is unique to the Waite family. We have not found anyone else anywhere who knows what it is. Grandpa Rodney Waite played as a youth in Bunkerville, Nevada. The flippers are made from strips of inner tubes, which are becoming increasingly hard to come by. The inner tube is cut into circuler strips about an inch wide. A knot is tied in the center of each strip. Then two strips are tied together. Players are divided into two teams and each player is armed with two flippers. The object is to shoot the opposing team members with a well-aimed flipper. If hit the worthy opponent is "dead" and must sit on the ground as proof that they are out of the game. When a player shoots a flipper he/she can pick up one from the ground, but can never have more than two in hand. The play continues until all of the members of one team are dead. Then through a rapid resurrection process, the brutality continues. Do not underestimate the power of a well-shot flipper. The impact can be very painful. Yelps of pain are not exaggerated, and it's all fun and games until someone losses an eye. Kids brought up playing flippers are made of sterner stuff than usual, and able to meet many of lifes challenges without whimpering or sniveling. Months and sometimes years later, lost flippers have turned up in trees, bushes and flower beds. Flippers are not for the faint of heart. Click here to see part of a flipper game in 2011.
I have always been grateful that Laron was very much involved with the games, and spent many, many hours playing with the kids, when he could have spent doing his own things. He would also play lots of brain games with them, some of which required days of thinking about. If the weather was bad, or during the winter, there were inside sock wars, checkers, chess, Monopoly, etc. With limited finances, we mostly made our own fun.
Kids can have as much fun with simple, homemade play things, as with more expensive ones. Empty boxes can be all sorts of things. A bread pan with a narrow rim filled with clothespins that can be clipped all around the pan helps strengthen little fingers. An egg carton for a dozen eggs helps them learn to count. With a marker, number from one to twelve in the bottom of the carton, and provide some dry beans. One bean goes into the number one cup, two beans into the number two cup, and so forth. Put a towel on the table, and let children pour water back and forth into small pitchers, pans, etc. Coloring the water makes it more fun. One advantage of washing dishes by hand, is that Mom can swish up the suds, and scoop a pile into little cupped hands. The little person will come back time and again for more, spreading them around on all sorts of things, often noses, chins, heads, etc. The bubbles don't drip enough to cause a problem.
Our children seemed to have had a propensity to play so intensely that they were often injured. If there was anything to fall over, under, behind, into or out of, it was done royally. If an air-born projectile was hurtling, be it a rock, ball, clod, arrow, BB, etc., its momentum would not be wasted if someone could hurl some part of their anatomy into its path and intercept it. This seemed to become a much desired art form, resulting in many trips to the emergency room. More often, it wasn't one of our kids that was hurt or broken, but some inanimate object. Once we had taken the long stair rail going down into the basement, off the wall to be painted. It had been taken out to the patio, whereupon Morgan and Cameron, seeing it lying there, saw not a stair rail, but a weapon whose purpose was going to waste. Depending on who tells the story, one of them picked it up and swung it at the other. At that point the facts get murky as to whom did what to whom, but Morgan eventually picked up the stair rail and started to chase Cameron around the back of the house toward the front. As they rounded the front corner, Morgan in pursuit and holding the rail horizontally in front with both hands, suddenly came upon the narrow space between the white birch tree on one side and the thick shrubbery on the other. He, being the body in motion that tends to stay in motion, stayed in motion whilst the rail came to an abrupt stop. Morgan continued forward crashing completely through the now two halves of the rail, not unlike a runner breaking through the tape at the end of the race! Time will not permit for the telling of rest of the story. No one was seriously injured this time, but I have stopped recording and keeping count of the emergency trips we racked up after we reached forty These follow in no particular order:
Jenny - stitches for finger cut on tin can lid
Amy - stitches on nose, cheek and eyelid cut falling from bed onto our cranberry-red Early American glass lamp
Ethan - hospitalized for pneumonitis with temp of 106
Chelsea - swallowed nail polish remover - treated with Ipecac
Ryan - cut cornea with steak knife
Ethan - stitches in leg after horse fell on him
Ethan - stitches in chin after fall in bathtub
Morgan- hospitalized with severe croup
Amy - broken collar bone after being pushed at school
Caleb - collar bone broken during birth - not noticed til later
Megan - severe intestinal infection
Laron - unable to breath
Laron - stiff hip - cortisone injection
Laron - kidney infection
Ryan - hit in river by water skier - concussion
Ethan/Ryan - Peterson's truck rolled down mountain - Scouts
Ethan/Ryan - car hit by hit and run guy - glass in foreheads
Cameron - severe croup - hospitalized
Ryan - sprained ankle requiring brace
Caleb - cut tendon in finger while chopping frozen fruit- stitches
Jarom - diagnosed with Legg-Calf- Perthes- traction, hospitalization
Ryan - severe pain in side - undiagnosed
Morgan - broken thumb
Ethan - tore fingernail off on Barry Peterson's gate
Jenny - tore ligament and broke ankle - several visits and surgery
Amy - myo-fascia - many times
Jenny - severe nosebleeds - bleeding from eyes - cauterization
Adin - fluid drawn off knee - crutches
Adin - Richter's Syndrome
Ryan - terrible burn on back of neck from hot grease
Ryan - bad heart - many visits - catheterization
Amy - Nicky bucked her off onto lawn mower
Amy - Spondolesthesis - eventual fusion of lumbar vertebraes
Jenny - bit through lower lip falling of jungle gym
Megan - back hurt at church softball game - ambulance
Caleb - badly cut upper lip from rock used as a ball on 50 mile Scout trip, scout leader hiked him out for stitches
Morgan - Jeremy Fowler hit him in nose with baseball
Ethan - Spooky kicked him in head - stitches
Jarom - fell on ice while sliding on river - ten stitches in eyebrow
Jarom - torn ligament at church basketball
Ethan - tonsils removed
In August of 1982, Jarom walked into the house and casually announced, "Nicky tried to jump the fence!" I thought nothing about it until he added, "...and he and Ethan fell down." Running to the front door, I was horrified to see both Ethan and Nicky on the ground. After managing to get Ethan out from under the horse, I realized that Nicky was being strangled by a rope tight around his throat, with the other end tied to the fence. Blood was coming from his nostrils, and he couldn't breathe. He was lying on his side with all four feet trapped in the barbed wire. I screamed for a knife, and when someone brought one, I managed to cut the rope from the fence, and loosen it from around his neck. His legs were still caught in the wire, but he started thrashing until he managed to get them free, cutting himself up, but was able to stand up with blood running from his cuts. The kids were hysterical and screaming, "Nicky's going to die! Nicky's going to die!" I yelled at them to stop screaming and run and call Taylors to come and help. I took Ethan into the house, where he kept saying his leg hurt. I pulled up his pant leg, and pulled down his brand new socks, which were torn, and nearly fainted at the sight of two deep cuts; then noticed he had some cuts on the back of his head as well. We headed to Dr. Petersen's office, where it took eighteen stitches to put Ethan right again. Taylors checked on Nicky, and thought he would heal and left some spray for his cuts. Laron was blissfully unaware down at the bishop's office.
Back on September 10, 1979, we loaded up the kids after school and chores for a picnic in the hills about half an hour's drive from home. The birch bark-looking canoe was tied on top, and we had a very nice time at Lake Cleveland. The next day as the scholars were getting ready to catch the bus, Ethan nearly missed it while trying to find his language book, and had to leave all upset because he couldn't. I start canning peaches, tomatoes and cucumbers that were dead ripe. Amidst the mess and clutter, Ethan called from the school, still upset, asking if I could please find his book and take it to the school? I hated to leave the canning mess, but after looking and looking, the book was found, and upon loading little ones, we started off with the canoe still strapped to the top of the car. We had only gone a short distance when it started to slip to one side, requiring a stop by the side of the road to slide it back on along with a feeble attempt to tighten the ropes. Not long after, at the stop sign, it again slid almost off, and even once again at the railroad tracks. At the school, I left Ethan's book with Mr. Miller, as well as leaving a notebook of Amy's I thought she might need, and repeated the nerve-wracking adventure of the slipping canoe all the way back home. This evening, after canning twenty-six quarts of peaches, twenty-one of tomatoes, and twenty-one quarts of dill pickles, I asked Ethan......"Aren't I a wonderful mother to go to all that trouble to take your language book to school?" He answered, "Huh? We didn't even HAVE language today!"
Adin: Caleb, you're only five years old, and you already have some white hairs. How come?
Jennifer was born in October, and during that month in 1993 at 8:44 pm, this is what we were doing: "Ethan and Ryan went into Rupert to visit G and G Blacker. Chelsea is at the Homecoming game. Megan is at work at Dairy Queen. Jarom, Caleb and Morgan are playing a tense game of Monopoly, with Morgan about ready to burst into tears. On the table is a vase of roses from my mother's bushes. On the wall above the table are ghosts, witches and pumpkins made by Cameron and glued there, probably permanently with super glue.
Near the western town wall hanging is an orange sign, printed by Cameron, "Welcome to the house of the wretched." The creator, age seven, is sound asleep on the living room floor, face down and surrounded by the blue GI Joe lunchbox, two toy guns and a homemade light saber fashioned from an old curling iron. Only a few moments ago, he was battling one of his imaginary foes and either fell asleep, or was struck down by that worthy opponent. On the wall by the sliding patio door is an orange pumpkin made by Megan, and labeled "Halloween Countdown" with a paper chain hanging down. Above this are the General authorities, the clock and the bulletin board on which are various photos, the chore chart, a crocheted butterfly of G-ma Waite's, a Faith in God award card being worked on by either Caleb or Morgan. There is also a picture cut from the National Geographic of a little boy remarkably resembling Cameron. Morgan has been sobbing openly for several minutes, and is obviously losing the game."
We ought to talk about the vehicles that have hauled us hither and thither over many miles. Some of them we have even laughingly called "cars". When Laron and I were married, we had no car, and borrowed a bluish-green International Harvester pickup from his parents, which we appreciated, except for the speedometer, which would often squeal horribly. Once, it started its awful, loud, high pitched screeching, which lasted for miles and miles, until Laron driven nearly insane, started pounding on the glass above the dial, which made no appreciable difference. I could cover both my ears with my hands, but he could only cover one, until he was so desperate that he finally kicked at the panel with his foot, breaking the glass, but failing to stop the racket.
Our first car was a grey Volkswagon we bought from his brother, Rick, which did us for two or three children, until we upgraded to a pretty-colored blue Volks station wagon, which eventually died. A vicious, ugly, nasty, untrustworthy bluey-gray Nash beast was out next car, which we named Brainfever, for good reason. On two occasions, she refused to stop when the brakes were applied. The first time, I had lots of room and was able to simply coast slowly to a stop. The second time, I had to suddenly yank the steering wheel to the right, and crash into the curb to avoid rolling through a red light at the main intersection in downtown Emmett. Luckily, except for those two times, the brakes worked, though the starter didn't, and Brainfever wouldn't respond unless her hood was lifted up, and a screwdriver poked into the solenoid located in her innards up close behind the steering wheel. There she would slouch. sullen, surly and slack-jawed, glaring at us in defiance and daring us to do something about it. This was highly embarrassing as no matter where we were, we had to go through this song and dance. Since I was expecting again, it was awkward to stoop to unlatch and lift the heavy hood, prop it up, then waddle back to the solenoid; try to lean over both unborn baby and Brainfever in order to find the exact angle for the screwdriver to connect it to whatever doohinkey it required being connected to. I knew how to do it, but didn't really understand the particulars, nor did I ever want to. Already off-balanced, it would have been easy for me fall into the engine, pink poodles, unborn baby, screwdriver and all, and then, where would we be?
Our next car was a black Mercury purchased from our friends, the Walnums. While a very comfortable vehicle, it didn't come without some baggage of its own. On each front door panel, was a big white and silver seal that resembled those on the doors of police cars. Our car's seals embarrassingly stated, "Official American Taxpayer" which Laron got a kick out of, but which I was humiliated to be seen driving. We named her Black Mariah, after the big, black vans British police use to transport criminals and thugs. The rear window, above the trunk would roll down, which feature we hardly noticed, until one evening as we were driving through a residential neighborhood at 35 mph, we noticed that some older "thug" had rolled down the window to get a breeze, and Chelsea, about two, had climbed through it and was indeed at that exact moment, sitting outside on the trunk! Panicked, Laron managed to slow to a stop very carefully, until shaking with fright, we were able to jump out and safely retrieve her.
Shivering Elizabeth came next, a big yellow and white GMC suburban, so named for her tendency to vibrate at certain speeds, but which faithfully served us for many years, in spite of the fact that the front seat lost its support system, thus falling into the back seat. Laron installed a metal cable, covered with blue plastic, which with great ingenuity was wrapped around the seat pulling it up into place, and only required minimal maneuvering to get around.
A white Chevy station wagon with red interior hauled us many a mile, and into our lives also came a green Ford Torino, a small dark green pickup, a tan Ford pickup with a camper shell which we used when we undertook delivering Amway products for a couple of years; a couple of small yellow cars, one gifted to Jenny by G and G Waite, and the other, a little, nearly useless thing palmed off on us by Gary Masoner, who didn't realize how awful it was. A nice-looking blue Dodge sedan came and went, as a second car, and then Rick located for us a wonderful tan Ford Explorer which we drove for nearly 360,000 miles and then our dark blue Explorer we now drive, was gratefully received from Amy and Rick.
All of these cars were used, and most were dinged, dented, scratched or screeched probably by each of us. I think every child added their mark, especially as backing down our small hill was tricky. We either hit the Russian olives on the left, the pine tree on the right, or the pasture fence at the bottom, if we failed to negotiate a sharp turn.
Since money was always very tight with such a big family, we tried many things over the years to supplement our income. Finances, or lack of, were probably the biggest problem we faced through the years. Gratefully, our children were generally obedient and well-behaved, and we seldom had the problems that plague some families. We so often heard, "Just wait until they're teenagers!", but we mostly found that even when we had five teenagers at the same time, there were no huge problems.
We usually took on whatever extra jobs we could, in order to improve our financial situation. A couple of summers, the kids and I would hoe beets, once trying to earn enough money to send Ethan on his mission. Amy would run things at home, Laron was teaching summer school. One day, I was out hoeing alone and the beets were so terribly weedy that I didn't see how I could keep going. I had made it down to the bottom of the field, and felt so tired and hopeless that I started to cry. I turned around to start back up the rows, and there, way down the field came Ethan, hoeing down the row to help me. He and Ryan were working very hard moving pipe all day, but he had come out to help. We were probably at one of our lowest ebbs when Ethan left on his mission to Venezuela. We didn't even have enough money to buy him a suit, so I fixed up one of Laron's, by letting down the length of the pants, and sleeves. Money people donated from the ward, helped get the other things he needed. He went with his Dad's watch and a ring of his great-grandfather Blacker, and almost literally took a step into the darkness with great faith.
We were offered a job cleaning the Cassia County Courthouse, which we did for three years, splitting the week's work with the McCombs family. When they decided to quit, we did it for five days a week for about $350 per month. We would go in each evening for three to four hours, depending on how big a crew we could muster. We cleaned four floors with twenty-eight offices, four large restrooms with multiple toilets and sinks, many halls staircases and foyers. It was a big job, and Laron was bishop, so he wasn't able to help all the time.
Under the judge's desk in one of the courtrooms, was a button that could be pushed by the judge in the case a prisoner became unruly. The bell connected to one in the police department next door. There was an underground hallway that connected the police and the courthouse, in which the prisoners were led back and forth away from the public. We won't forget the night when Ryan pushed the button, which brought two police officers rushing into the courthouse where we were cleaning. Pretty exciting!
One day in June of 1992, a gentleman knocked on our door and said he was going from house to house, asking for people who might be interested in delivering products once a week over about a forty-mile area, for a trucking company (DSI) for $140 a month. I hurriedly called Laron at school, and we decided to take the job. However, with our miserable car, we would need to get a better vehicle, so we purchased a tan Ford pickup and a camper shell, so we could do the route, so we could pay for the tan ford pickup and camper shell. The freight would be dropped off at a storage unit down by the tracks in Heyburn on Sunday, and on Monday mornings, we would pick it up in our tan pickup with the camper shell, and deliver it all over the area, to stores, businesses and Amway dealers. The route took about two to three hours, so we would get up at 4:00 with a crew; fill up the pickup with boxes, then hurry to get them all delivered in time to get back home, have breakfast, then get ready for school. The year before we decided that I needed to get a job to help with the finances. My teaching certificate had expired so when I applied to the Cassia County School District I wasn't qualified as a teacher, but was hired as a teacher's aide in the Resource Department in Declo Elementary, which turned into twelve-year job. Anyhow, The Route, as it became to be known was a big part of our lives for a couple of years. Often, being unable to get all the deliveries finished before school, we would have to finish up that evening. The worst part for me was that with my total lack of a sense of direction, I would waste time getting lost.
During one of our Octobers, we had a rash of breakdowns. Shivering Elizabeth,to the tune of $150...Amy knocked my iron off the ironing board and broke the handle to smithereens, never to go again. Adin jumped on our bed and broke the box springs. The oven cleaner ate through the element, to the tune of $20. Then the washing machine broke to the tune of $90 (we have very musical breakdowns). The day after being fixed, it flooded the basement, and I mean flooded the whole thing a couple of inches deep! I spent the next week washing boxes of our stored clothes, and we had to put the carpet up on sawhorses to dry.
It was in October of 1980 that Laron was called to be bishop.
Me: Megan, why are you crying?
Megan: 'Cause Daddy's been made bishop and we won't have him anymore.
Our eleventh and last, Cameron, was born Nov 29 of 1985. Adin was serving a mission and never saw him until he was three months old. Adin walked off the plane, met us all, and was introduced to his new little brother. His comment after seeing Mexican babies for two years, was, "He's so white!"
Cameron was born a year to the day of his Grandpa Waite's funeral, so had never known him. However, one day, when he was about three, he pointed to the picture of Grandpa and Grandma Waite and said, "He brought me." He never remembered saying that when he was older. The other three grandparents were still living.
Our washer broke down about two month ago, and we did the laundry by hand, which took about two hours after getting home from teaching school. Many times, I would fill the bathtub, and have Morgan and Cameron tromp on the clothes. Wringing out jeans by hand was the worst, but gratefully, the dryer worked, though to save electricity, we rigged up some clotheslines in the store room, and after partially drying the clothes in the dryer would hang them down there, with a fan to help finish drying them.
My journal entry for Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1992 reads as follows..."Really a busy day! We're going to Loa for Thanksgiving. (Adin and Eve were married and the parents of Mariah and Camden) the logistics are overwhelming. Megan has to work and can't go. I need to make arrangements for her to get to work with no car. The blue Dodge is still at Doug's Repair, and see if she can spend some time at G and G's in Rupert. I need to get food for her. Adin's calves that he left here when they moved, need to be hauled down. He's arranged for us to borrow Todd's trailer, but we need to go to Twin to get it. I have a Relief Society Board Meeting. Tonight, plus I need to finish the DSI route, with some stuff needing to go to Oakley. We need to pick up a new back door from the lumber yard. Megan has to be driven to work. Adin's calves need to have a brand inspector check his calves, then be hauled to a vet for shots and papers in order to cross the state line. Jarom has a basketball game tonight. Jenny and Craig have kindly offered to come clear up here (from Provo) to help with transportation. (Later) When I got home from school, I got some laundry going, then left to take the packages to Oakley. Caleb went with me as they were really heavy, and I was glad for his help. On the way home, we went to Starr's Ferry Lumber to pick up hardware for the back door...a threshhold and hinges. Then Chelsea and Ethan left for Twin to get the trailer, and Jenny and Craig arrived. My meeting was canceled, thank goodness!
"Next morning, had to drive Megan and Chelsea to early morning Testimony Mtg. at Seminary, in Craig's and Jenny's car. It was frightfully cold, and the speedometer squealed most of the way. Dad had one car and the pickup was hitched up to Todd's trailer. Hurried to school, and when I arrived home (I ride to school and back with another teacher) discovered that Craig and Ethan had put up the back door. And while catching the calves, Craig had been dragged; Ethan had taken the calves to the vet for shots, but papers were not ready; Dad needed Chelsea to help enter grades, so she took Jenny's and Craig's car and we were afoot. The pickup was hooked to the trailer, with calves who had no water since morning; the ten foot laundry hose hadn't been drained, so it was frozen and had to be dragged into the house and down into the basement to thaw; I had to haul water from the kitchen down to the calves, spilling it on myself while trying to lift it up to them; hurried to pack clothes; and have Caleb help me lift three bags of grain into the trailer. Laron finally came home and we loaded up and left with the two vehicles. Chelsea decided to stay home with Megan. Horrible trip with the boys nearly freezing in the back of the camper shell. We had to have them take turns coming up into the cab through the connecting sliding windows to warm up. We arrived in Loa about 1:00 in the morning. Had a great Thanksgiving. All the guys went "deering" that night, trying to rope deer from the pickup. A herd would gather in the fields near the dairy at night, some bright-eyed-wonder came up with the idea of roping one. I think Craig, posted behind some bushes to head the deer a certain direction, nearly got run over in the stampede."
In 1992, I took the four youngest boys, whom we called the War Department to Kings to spend the money they earned cleaning out the garage. Jarom picked out a square, yellow bank with a combination. Caleb chose a sword that lights up and changes colors, and Morgan and Cameron each bought a bucket of one hundred-forty little green soldiers, which means two hundred-eighty little green, crunchy bodies to step on while barefoot.
When Megan was about five, she put a button up her nose. Don't ask why.
It was sometime during October or November that we used to hold the Harvest Social in the Heyburn Ward, or was it the Bishop's Bazaar? In any respect, the Relief Society would work all year on things to sell, such as quilts, afghans, dishtowels, pillowcases, and the inevitable baked goods. One sister, who had made some item or other, was upset that she had worked so hard on it, only to have it priced way too low, that she refused to let it go to the person who wanted to buy it.
What's wrong with picture? I had embroidered a pair of pillow cases, helped with the quilts through the year, made loaves of bread for the baked goods sale and a cake for the cakewalk, and after hauling it all over to the church, went back home with my nose out of joint because we didn't have the $10.00 required per family to attend.
Back in 1981, after the usual hectic rush to get everybody off to school, the house was suddenly, stunningly quiet for a moment and we found we were all alone...all five of us...a stay-at-home-mom and four-stay-at-home kids, plus one interloper. Adin, Jennifer, Amy and Ethan are in school after nearly missing the bus. Ryan is home after missing the bus and in order to placate Mom, has made three beds and washed the breakfast dishes, all without being asked. Jarom and Megan, after sliding down a board propped up against the old, gold couch are downstairs hollering at each other. (I'm afraid to go see why) Chelsea has been hauling Caleb around most of the morning, changing his diapers and talking to him, "You have the sweetest little head!" He is currently lying on a blanket on the floor, watching Amy's fish, one of which apparently jumped out of the aquarium during the night and has utterly vanished. Laron is at school after waiting patiently while I hurriedly ironed a shirt, and waiting not so patiently, with Gary Masoner, his principal and transportation, waiting outside, while I even more hurriedly hurled together a fried egg sandwich for his lunch. Strangely, the fish was found dead, under one of the couch cushions next morning. Go figure!
I'd been slaving over a 5 ft x 8 ft charcoal drawing of the Hill Cumorah that one of my friends asked me to draw for her lesson at Stake Relief Society Inservice meeting. It had taken me hours and hours, and I, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, thought it looked great! Sadly, while attending the meeting in another capacity, I looked in on Marybeth's department, and noticed that her class consisted of seven or eight sisters, and while my Cumorah still looked great, I couldn't believe I had worked so hard for such a small group. Now, what am I going to do with a used, very large folded-up charcoal drawing of the Hill Cumorah?
Both Laron and I have always held positions in the Church, and have probably served in almost every possible position there is. At least for me, that means just about every position that didn't require the priesthood. In addition, I've done ward newsletters, plays, skits, posters, roadshows and both of us have tried to faithfully serve wherever called. We've tried to be good parents, and since we have both worked in education, we tried to use those skills in the home.
We've always tried to have kneeling family prayer twice a day, to have Family Home Evenings, and to read scriptures as a family. The latter entailed having a large stack of mostly paperback blue or maroon Books of Mormon on the bottom shelf of the end table. There was even a Spanish version, which one of the little ones who couldn't read, would use. Each person would read five verses, and when it was the turn for a non-reader, he or she would repeat their verses a few words at a time. It didn't matter that their Spanish book might or might not be upside down at the time. We even learned a few things about the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, when one of my pages in 2nd Nephi was stuck shut with jam, and I can't read a sealed book either, Prof. Anthon! A couple of our kids learned how to read as we tried to follow the prophet's advice to read scriptures as a family.
Me: Adin, you were such a polite boy to let me come downstairs first.
Adin: I was afraid you'd step on me if I went down first.
With Christmas when the kids were younger, lots of presents were home sewn, knitted or crocheted. One year I made four pair of pajamas, two dresses, two blouses, two dark blue girl's bathrobes, two boys' shirts, a cowboy outfit of chaps, and vest. I knitted six pair of slippers and sewed four pairs of pants. Also, over the years, I made several kinds of dolls, dinosaurs, etc., to the point where we wondered about building an additional wing onto the toy box.
One year, Laron made a little blue cradle for Jenny, another time, a little yellow stove with a sink, and when I tried to borrow Wanda McComb's pattern for a big Indian teepee, she instead loaned us theirs, as they had no room for it. It was about six feet tall, and our kids loved it for years.
Somebody's been using my lipstick to play Indians, and I'm reduced to using a Q tip to get enough out of the bottom of the tube for myself.
Two of our very scary experiences happened in December, though two years apart. One happened about a week before Christmas of 1978 and involved Ryan. He was trying to cut some cardboard with a steak knife at the dining room table, and the knife flipped, hitting him in his open eye. When he told me the knife had stabbed his eye, I can't describe the horror I felt I looked into that eye and saw what had happened. It looked as if clear jello had been sliced. Laron and Adin were laying carpet some distance away. My hands were shaking so badly I could hardly dial the phone. All the time I was praying, "Heavenly Father, please help my little boy!" Laron said to get help from somebody closer as it would take too long for him to get home. I called Carnahans and asked for help. She said, "I'll come right now. She and Carlos came within minutes. The emergency room doctor said Ryan's cornea had a very deep cut, and a call went out to Dr. Cutler, an eye specialist. It was difficult to find him, as it was a Saturday, and he was attending a school basketball game. He finally came and after checking Ryan said, "He's a very lucky boy...a VERY lucky boy." He treated the eye with medication and bandaged it, and gave him a tetanus shot, saying he needed to see him the next morning (Sunday) in his office. That night, Laron and Daddy gave him a blessing. Early the next morning, after examining Ryan, Dr. Cutler said, "Well...it's sealed over as clear as a bell." He had told Ryan he would have to wear a patch over his eye for several days, but now said he didn't need to wear any more. Later one of the emergency nurses we knew said that Dr. Cutler later told her when he had checked Ryan that Sunday morning, he at first thought he was looking in the wrong eye, and couldn't believe it had healed that fast, considering how serious the cut was. The other emergency nurses told her that it couldn't have healed that fast, because they had seen how deep it was. Heavenly Father really blessed Ryan in answer to our fervent prayers. Ryan never had any problem with that eye.
The other December crisis happened two years earlier on December 22, 1976 while we were living in Emmett. That evening, Laron and I had taken Amy, Ethan, and Ryan to do some shopping, and we had finished and returned to where our car was parked on the main street. Laron wanted to go into a jewelers store to price a watch for Adin, but since I was expecting in two months, decided to wait in the car with the kids. By then most of the stores were closed, and the street was pretty well deserted. The kids started fussing about needing to go to the bathroom, so I told Amy to take Ethan across the street, to the jewelry store where Laron was and see if they had a restroom. I told them to look for cars, and I looked as well, so after they stood at the back of the car, I told them to go ahead, but had the thought, "What would you do if they got hit?", but I didn't do anything about it. Just then, the car parked just across the street started and backed up, knocking Ethan down. Amy started screaming, "Mama! Mama!" I got out of the car and ran across the street and saw the most horrible thing. Ethan was under the back left wheel of that car! I could look across the back of the trunk and see Laron in his blue coat, talking to the clerk in the front of the jewelry store. I screamed for him, but he didn't hear me. I ran to the front of the car and tried to get the driver to move forward. He obviously didn't know what had happened, but must have heard the screaming and had stopped. He just sat there and looked at me with blank, uncomprehending black eyes. I kept screaming and motioning for him to move forward, and finally he did. Ethan got up before I could get back to him and said, "I'm alright, I'm alright" I don't remember if I carried him or if he walked, but we hurried into the jewelry store where Laron was still completely unaware of the entire crisis, and sobbed out what had happened. We could tell by the tread marks on Ethan's coat sleeve and arm, that the wheel had indeed been on his arm, but gratefully not on his body. He cried for a few minutes when he realized that the Hersey bar his dad had bought for him earlier, was smashed. We shakily started back to the car, and found that the driver of the other other vehicle had fled. Poor Ryan, overlooked in the panic and left all alone in our car was crying, "Mama, I was so scared!" By then, I started crying and cried all the way home, and couldn't stop. When arriving home, after kneeling in gratitude that Heavenly Father had blessed us, we saw Ethan's arm was still red, but by morning, there wasn't a mark on it.
Snow was a mixed blessing in our lives, as with everyone. Lots of fun with snow angels, Fox and Geese, snowmen, snow forts and snowball fights. An old fashioned round metal garbage can lid makes a great shield. What can kids scavenge for shields with the modern-day garbage cans?
The down side, is of course, the endless onslaught of wet boots, mittens, coats, caps and children crying with chilblains. Wrestling boots and mittens onto little kids, whose ankles and wrists seem to turn to rubber, is no fun. Then in five minutes they come back inside tattling because somebody hit them with a snowball, or they need to go to the bathroom, or because they are cold. One thing that helped with getting mittens on little hands that seem to sprout twenty fingers on each hand, is to have them hold a penny, or a button in their hand. Little fists go into a mitten lots easier than splayed-out fingers.
Our long circular driveway brought lots of problems when the snow drifted so that we had trouble getting out. To add to the difficulty, the driveway went up a small hill, which required great care to maneuver up and down without sliding into the pine tree on one side. Worse yet, was when the only way down the hill was to put the car into a free fall, and pray you could make that hard turn at the bottom, so that you didn't slide right into the pasture fence. Many a time, we were all recruited to help push a vehicle stuck in the snow, and if the snow was particularly bad, we would park down at the end of the lane for days, and walk to the house, carrying groceries and little kids, requiring more than one trip.
During December, we were busy writing, directing, or performing in Church and school programs, skits, and concerts. The annual search for sheets and tinsel for little-kid angels, bathrobes and towels for shepherds, occasionally costumes for Mary and Joseph if one of ours was so honored, or rich-looking robes, turbans and fancy bottles or vases for the wise-men. Once we had to find a long black wig, for Ryan, who was Samuel the Lamanite. At times, we would be busy painting scenery, such as the stable, dome-shaped buildings which proper Jewish families must surely have lived in. Then came the cows, a donkey and sheep, and worst of all, long-legged camels. Then at the end of the ward program, Santa Claus would come and the Scouts would haul in boxes of brown-paper bags filled with mostly peanuts, an orange, a candy cane and hopefully more candy, filled by the Mutual kids earlier that week. As some of ours were terrified of Santa Claus and refused to even go near him, older siblings had to get a bag for them.
Christmas Eve was busy, having a traditional supper of cheese fondue, reading the Christmas story, and then Dad and I would shut the door to our room and pile all the Santa Claus gifts on our bed and worry over them, making sure that each child would have approximately the same amount of gifts to open. Kids were sure to leave a treat for Santa Clause and listen to the radio broadcast reports from the Air Force or weather bureau as they tracked a mysterious blob on radar coming from the North Pole. It was hard to get kids to bed, when they worried about leaving a treat for Santa Claus. We told them to not get up too early, because we would have to get up each morning at that same time for the rest of the year. That was before we started making reindeer food, which we did in later years for the grandchildren to sprinkle outside for those hungry animals. Sadly, those faithful beasts went hungry when our kids were little.
Christmas morning, everybody assembled in our bedroom, trying hard to not look at the tree as they passed by it from the basement. Everybody was so excited as Dad went out to turn on the lights and see if Santa had really been there, adding to the anxiety by stating that he couldn't really tell yet. Then we would all go into the living room where the light tree with all the wonderful toys and presents. We would take turns opening our presents, so everybody could see what everybody else received, and to draw out that wonderful time as long as we could. Wonderful, wonderful memories!
As we would sing Christmas carols together, our children who had an Aunt Mary and an Uncle Bryce would innocently sing..."Bells are ringing, children singing, all is Mary and Bryce. So jump in bed and cover up your head, 'cause Santa Claus comes tonight."