Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Road to Heaven by Unknown Chinese Author

The Road to Heaven

My Child, hurry
Hold hold tightly to your Mother's hand.
The road to heaven
Is too dark
Mother is afraid
That you hit your head
Hold hold tightly to your Mother's hand
Let Mother walk with you

I am afraid
The road to heaven
Is too dark
I cannot see your hand
The wall collapsed
And snatched the sunlight away
I cannot see
The loving expression in your eyes again

My Child
You can go on ahead
The road before you
Has no sorrow anymore
It holds neither endless homework
Nor your father’s fist
You have to remember
My face and your father’s face
We want to walk this road together in our next life

Don't worry
The road to heaven is very crowded
But here are my classmates and friends
We all say
Don’t cry
Every mother is our mother as well
Every child, is our child as well
In the days without me
Give your love to the children who live

Don’t cry
Tears cannot light up the road
Our road
Let us walk slowly, Mother
I will remember your face and father’s face
I also want to walk this road together in our next life
--By Unknown Chinese Author, Translation adapted from Alex Tang and Blue Sky Tony

I wanted to post something about the earthquake we had today here in California. It was a 5.8 on the Richter scale, and pretty exciting and a little scary. There is no damage to our homes, and everyone is safe.

As I was searching for an earthquake poem, I stumbled across this one written by somebody in China after the SiChuan earthquake. I couldn't find an attribution (and neither could the New York Times). The best I can tell, it was first posted in English on this blog. The New York Times had a different translation, and since I fix awkward language in translations for a living, I thought it would be okay for me to cobble the best parts of the two together into my own version.

I hesitated about posting it, because it is so terribly sad. It's almost unbearable to think about the parents frantically trying to dig through the rubble of the schools where their only child was buried (and it's made even worse by knowing that almost all children in China are only children). At the same time, it's a beautiful poem. One brief moment in time capturing all the emotion, the regret, the hope, and the grief. This is what poetry is about. This is what it's for. This is why I love it so much.

On a lighter note, I thought that a good way to share our experience of the earthquake would be to share my answers to the Did You Feel It? questionnaire on the USGS site. I really like that site because the computers that are monitoring the seismographs post information (like location and magnitude) about the Earthquake immediately, so you don't have to wait for news outlets to find the information and write a story. I also like how they have a map of the intensity ratings that the internet survey gives them. For a quake like this, they can have several hundred thousand surveys filled out, submitted and analyzed within hours of the event. Each survey also has a space for personal stories that can be read later. I think this is a FABULOUS way to get scientific data from the people directly affected immediately after an event happens when the experience is most clear in their minds. I wonder if there's a way to take this model and apply it to other events (like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, rock concerts, News stories like 9-11 etc).

Anyway, here's the survey and my answers:
Your location when the earthquake occurred:
Street Address: 8882 Bainford Dr
Nearest Cross Street: Magnolia and Adams
City: Huntington Beach
County: Orange
State/Possession: California
Country: United States
*Zip code: 92646

While answering all these questions is optional, we encourage you to fill out as many as possible so we can provide a more accurate intensity estimate.

What was your situation during the earthquake?
No answer
X Inside
In stopped vehicle
In moving vehicle

If you were inside please select the type of building or structure:
No building
X Single Family Home or Duplex
Apartment Building
Office Building/School
Mobile Home with Permanent Foundation
Trailer or Recr. Vehicle with No Foundation
If other, please describe:

Were you asleep during the earthquake?
X No
Slept through it
Woke up

Did you feel the earthquake? (If you were asleep, did the earthquake wake you up?)
X Yes

Did others nearby feel the earthquake?
No answer/Don't know/Nobody else nearby
No others felt it
Some felt it, but most did not
Most others felt it, but some did not
X Everyone or almost everyone felt it

Your experience of the earthquake:

How would you best describe the ground shaking?
No description
Not felt
X Strong

About how many seconds did the shaking last?

How would you best describe your reaction?
No answer/Don't remember
No reaction/Not felt
Very little reaction
X Somewhat frightened
Very frightened
Extremely frightened

How did you respond? (Select one)
No answer/Don't remember
XTook no action
Moved to doorway
Dropped and covered
Ran outside
If other, please describe:

Was it difficult to stand or walk?
X No answer/Did not try

Earthquake effects:

Did you notice the swinging/swaying of doors or hanging objects?
No answer/Did not look
X Yes, slight swinging
Yes, violent swinging

Did you notice creaking or other noises?
No answer/Did not pay attention
Yes, slight noise
X Yes, loud noise

Did objects rattle, topple over, or fall off shelves?
No answer/No shelves
Rattled slightly
X Rattled loudly
A few toppled or fell off
Many fell off
Nearly everything fell off

Did pictures on walls move or get knocked askew?
No answer/No pictures
X Yes, but did not fall
Yes, and some fell

Did any furniture or appliances slide, tip over, or become displaced?
No answer/No furniture
X No

Was a heavy appliance (refrigerator or range) affected?
No answer/No heavy appliance
X No
Yes, some contents fell out
Yes, shifted by inches
Yes, shifted by a foot or more
Yes, overturned

Were free-standing walls or fences damaged?
No answer/No walls
X No
Yes, some were cracked
Yes, some partially fell
Yes, some fell completely

If you were inside, was there any damage to the building? Check all that apply.
X No damage
Hairline cracks in walls
A few large cracks in walls
Many large cracks in walls
Ceiling tiles or lighting fixtures fell
Cracks in chimney
One or several cracked windows
Many windows cracked or some broken out
Masonry fell from block or brick wall(s)
Old chimney, major damage or fell down
Modern chimney, major damage or fell down
Outside wall(s) tilted over or collapsed completely
Separation of porch, balcony, or other addition from building
Building permanently shifted over foundation

If you know the type of building (wood, brick, etc.) and/or your location (which story, basement, penthouse, etc.) please indicate here:
ground floor of frame house

Additional Comments:

I heard what sounded like loud wind coming from the east side of the house, and expected a tiny shake when the gust hit the house and chimney, only, it wasn't wind. The whole house shook in a generally east to west pattern for a long time -- like we kept getting hit by ripples in a pond. I was worried that things would fall off the shelves, but Grandpa had secured the more precious nick-nacks long ago. His model airplanes that hang from the ceiling swayed violently, and the pendulum on the cuckoo clock and Grandfather Clock stopped ticking (I had to restart them when the earthquake was over. Grandma was dozing off, but woke up and was a little frightened. We were surprised at how long it lasted, and had time to comment to each other about that while it was still happening. We thought about taking cover, but since standing is so tough for Grandma, we just stayed put. We had time to comment on how long it was lasting a couple of times. My baby looked a bit confused while it was happening, but quickly forgot about it once it was over.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Bed is a Boat by Robert Louis Stevenson

My Bed is a Boat

My bed is like a little boat;
Nurse helps me in when I embark;
She girds me in my sailor's coat
And starts me in the dark.

At night I go on board and say
Good-night to all my friends on shore;
I shut my eyes and sail away
And see and hear no more.

And sometimes things to bed I take,
As prudent sailors have to do;
Perhaps a slice of wedding-cake,
Perhaps a toy or two.

All night across the dark we steer;
But when the day returns at last,
Safe in my room beside the pier,
I find my vessel fast.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

I posted another bunch of pictures of Elizabeth on Picasa recently. After the glut of pics and stress in June, I got almost none taken in the first half of July till I realized that it was her 6 month birthday, and I ought to take a picture (those are the ones in the stroller). Anyway, when I let people in the family know they were there, I got a bunch of comments and questions, and as I was responding to them, I realized I had the makings of a good blog post, so here it is. First, the comments I'm responding to:

thank karen,
Elizabeth looks super cute. And her hair is still strawberry. I love your pictures.

Thanks for the pictures of Elizabeth! She is sitting up very well, and looks so cute in her sailor's suit, and the other two too! I think Redbeard looks good too:) Have a great day!

So cute! She's getting big!

Oh how cute. such good smiles. I like the matching hat and how she plays with it. And the sailor themed photos are a cute idea.
Thanks for sending those.
--Love mom

Look! I'm a sailor! I'm sailing! Ahoy!

And now my response:

Yeah, her hair is still red, but it seems a lot thinner than it used to be. I guess there's more head now for it to cover, but I've also found bits that have fallen out (like in the hood of the penguin outfit. On the back of her head, there's an almost bald strip where it seems to have rubbed off where her head touches the mattress, and then below that where her skull recedes into her neck, there's a band of very thick hair (comparatively). It's kind of funny.

The sailor suit is one of the outfits I got at the children's resale shop that I took some used stuff to for store credit. They had some VERY high end VERY cute outfits, and I got several for the junk that I was gonna dump at the Goodwill. Most of them were frilly with lots of poofy skirts and lace and smocking, but this was just such an elegant line on the sailor suit that I just couldn't pass it up.

I did a themed sailor toys shoot before, but she really wasn't interested in picking things up at that point, so this one was a lot cuter. Notice how she's totally uninterested:

The ones with the hat were fun -- she's sitting in her crib -- which is actually a Pack N Play with a little "bassinet" that's really just a hanging platform that attaches to the top bars. When Elizabeth gets excited, she wiggles, which made the whole platform wiggle, which she thought was fun, so she wiggled some more. I tried to get video of it, but missed the best shots.

Elizabeth is really focused right now on learning to crawl. She can roll from front to back or back to front without any problem, and can go from sitting to her belly without bumping her nose about 75% of the time. She can pivot while lying on her belly to reach toys around her, and she can sometimes manage to stretch and grab something that's out of her reach. She tries really hard to use her legs and feet to push herself forward, and in the past week or so has started getting up on her hands and knees with her belly off the floor. Once she's there though, she doesn't know what to do, and generally rocks backwards back onto her belly. She will repeat this until she backs up into a wall or other obstacle -- sometimes several feet away. It's deeply frustrating to her since she wants to go FORWARD to get whatever toy is so tantalizing, and she just keeps getting further away.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Someone Keeps Moving My Chair by They Might Be Giants

Someone Keeps Moving My Chair

Mr. Horrible
Mr. Horrible
Telephone call for Mr. Horrible
But before he can talk to the ugliness men
There's some horrible business left
For him to attend to
Something unpleasant has spilled on his brain
As he sponges it off they say

"Is this Horrible?
Is this Horrible?
It's the ugliness men, Mr. Horrible
We're just trying to bug you
We thought that our dreadfulness
Might be a thing to annoy you with"

But Mr. Horrible says, "I don't mind
The thing that bothers me is
Someone keeps moving my chair"

"Would you mind if we balance this glass of milk
Where your visiting friend accidentally was killed?
Would it be okay with you if we wrote a reminder
Of things we'll forget to do today otherwise,
Using a green magic marker, if it's alright
On the back of your head?"

Mr. Horrible
Mr. Horrible
We're not done with you yet Mr. Horrible
You have to try on these pants so the Ugliness Men
Can decide if they're just as embarrassing as we think
We have to be sure about this

But Mr. Horrible says, "I don't mind
The thing that bothers me is
Someone keeps moving my chair"

Someone keeps moving my chair

Mr. Horrible says, "I don't mind
The thing that bothers me is
Someone keeps moving my chair"
--They Might Be Giants

Ok, I know I'm not the only one who was reminded of this song by Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, but I thought it was an appropriate lead in lyric for my review anyway. Peter asked me what I thought just after we watched part three, and I had several one-sentence thoughts that were all competing for the position of "what I thought" so I thought I'd just list them out in no particular order, with a bit of elaboration, but without any connecting segues or anything like that. I'll put in a spoiler warning, but if you're silly enough to read my review without watching the show (which will be taken down at midnight on the 20th), it's your own fault.

  • I really enjoyed this little film overall.
  • I thought the acting was GREAT, and probably the directing as well. Every moment every facial expression was packed with spoken and unspoken meaning. They didn't waste a frame.
  • I thought the songs were fun. As a fan of musicals in general, I know that I often have to listen to a soundtrack seven or eight times before I'm really sure what I think of it, and I liked these songs well enough to want to spend that much time deciding which are really good songs, and which just worked for their scene in the show.
  • I was annoyed at the couple of really tasteless sexual remarks Captain Hammer made. I thought that they were unnecessary -- that we got the idea without him having to actually say it -- though it left no room for doubt in your mind that Hammer is a real jerk. At the same time, that appalling last song of his, was more than enough for me.
  • I was honestly shocked at the ending. I totally didn't expect the horrible shocking thing to happen, and then I didn't expect it to just end -- I mean we had another minute or five on the progress bar -- it can't all be credits can it?

On that note, I will leave you with this very funny little GIF that somebody was using as their avatar on a Joss Whedon messageboard. Note, if it doesn't move, please click on it to get the full experience.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Frustration by Dorothy Parker


If I had a shiny gun,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folk who give me pains;

Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments pass
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love.

But I have no lethal weapon-
Thus does Fate our pleasure step on!
So they still are quick and well
Who should be, by rights, in hell.
--Dorothy Parker

This poem is a bit over the top, but evidently, so was Dorothy Parker. It certainly puts into words something that we've all felt at one time or another. I think it's healthy to vent this sort of rage, especially in a silly way like this, so that we don't actually get to the point of actually thinking about considering acting on those feelings.

Elizabeth had her six month birthday on Monday. We celebrated it by watching a house get knocked down. Evidently, the mobile home across the street from us was so old and decrepit that they couldn't GIVE it away, and had to pay somebody to demolish it. It was kind of sad. Also it was VERY noisy, and kept Elizabeth from sleeping at all that day, so we didn't get any decent pictures till we took a walk in the evening.

Speaking of selling mobile homes, we've had zero interest in our house. I can't even tell that our realtor is advertising it. Sigh...

We had another frustrating day for Elizabeth yesterday. The cardiologist wanted to follow up with her at 6 months old to see how the holes in her heart are doing. You'll remember that she has three small defects in her heart which they thought would close on their own. Well, they wanted to be sure, so they had us come back for another look.

This is a very poorly run practice. It seems that they give everybody the same appointment time in the morning, then hope they see them all by noon. They routinely keep people waiting for hours in a room with only 8 chairs, and about twice that many people wanting to sit in them. I arrived on time for our 9:45 appointment and they didn't even call Elizabeth's name to weigh and measure her till 11:15. She was pretty sleepy when we left home -- if we hadn't had the appointment, I would have put her in bed for a nap -- and I had just given her a bath because she had a major diaper blowout. I thought this would be perfect because when she's at that stage of tiredness and contentment, she's usually pretty docile. But of course, she wasn't in that stage of tiredness and contentment after an hour and a half in that waiting room. She was overtired, wired, and grumpy because she couldn't eat the beads from the one toy they had (it was one of those tables with lots of wiggly wires that you push beads around and through. She enjoyed standing next to the table (she can hold herself up without any help from me these days) but she was annoyed that the beads wouldn't come off no matter how hard she pulled).

When we went in for the EKG (ECG?), they put about a gazillion stickers all over her belly, and one on each of her arms and legs. Then the nurse attached an alligator clip with a wire to each one.

Here's a picture of another baby getting it done. I didn't get a photo of Elizabeth for reasons that will become obvious. Elizabeth knows all about wires. They're "those fascinating things connected to Mom and Dad's fancy electronic stuff that they won't let me eat." So when she got lots of them presented to her on a platter so to speak, she went crazy trying to grab and chew on as many as she could. To make things worse, the baby oil I slathered her with after her bath made it so the stickers wouldn't stay stuck. Every time the nurse got one attached, another would fall off. I had only two hands to hold her arms, legs, head and arching back still, and the bottle of milk I brought with me to distract her during this test (see photo) was long gone. Eventually, by using rubbing alcohol to get the oil off, and tape to hold the leg stickers on, we got that test done.

Next, we waited for another half an hour for the Echocardiogram. We got to spend part of that time in an exam room, so I was able to feed her, but as soon as she took the edge off her hunger she got distracted by all the neat things she wasn't allowed to eat in that room. Elizabeth was much more cooperative for the Echo, which confused me until I saw where she was looking. We were in a dark room, and the only thing that stood out was the computer monitor that was showing the Echo and making nice soothing heartbeat sounds. Elizabeth was fascinated. Below is a youtube video that shows what it looked like. It turns out that all three holes are still there. One seems to be shrinking, but the other two are about the same. The doctor says that they may still close, but even if they don't, they're not big enough to bother with surgery for.

It was after noon when we left that Doctor's office, and Elizabeth still hadn't slept yet (She's usually had two naps by that time of day). We had another appointment at 1:00, so I grabbed some fast food, and quickly stopped at one store before going to the Pediatrician. You may say it's my own fault for scheduling two appointments for her on the same day, but we really don't know what, if any, insurance coverage we'll have next month, so I had to push the Cardiologist visit into July, and this was the only day they could give me. We're switching insurance because COBRA is SOOOOO expensive, and the company that's administering it is shady at best. When Peter was laid off, they gave him an invoice for over six hundred dollars a month to continue on our old plan. I went online and paid that amount for July since I didn't have time in June to research health insurance plans. Then I got a call from our Doctor asking for my new insurance information since the old one was terminated. I went online to check that the payment had been made, and it showed that we owed seven-hundred-something per month and since my six-something payment was seventy-three dollars short, they cancelled our coverage! I called to complain, and after putting me off for a few days, they finally said, "Oh yeah, the invoice was wrong. You owe the seven hundred figure." At this point I had no choice but to pay it, but I was SOOOOO mad! I've put in applications for replacement insurance that will cost less than half that.

Anyway, at the Pediatrician’s, Elizabeth was so tired and hungry and upset, that she started wailing the minute the doctor came in the room. We talked a little about height and weight percentiles and feeding, but the doctor didn't spend much time examining my poor little sweet thing. Then the nurses came in and gave her four shots in her little legs, and that was the last straw. After they left, I let her nurse a little and she went straight to sleep even though we were in such a strange place. We went home and she slept all afternoon.

Peter's been frustrated too. The Unemployment Insurance people assumed that since he made more than $400 the week he did a freelance copyedit, that he was fully employed, so they stopped sending him claim forms. He went online to get another, and found that you can't get them that way, they have to be mailed to you, and the only way to request one is to call. Well, for some reason, their phone system won't put anyone on hold -- if all the operators are busy, it'll just say, "Call back later, goodbye!" and hang up on you. He called them something like thirty times a day for three days before getting through. Then, they sent him a form with one of the weeks XXXXXX'd out. Peter thinks that they've started a new claim, instead of continuing the old one, and that they may make him go through another waiting period before getting benefits. So it's been more than a month since he got laid off, and they haven't sent us a single check.

He posted his resume on several websites, and applied at a couple of Temp agencies. There was a LOT of typing and filling out forms, and redundancy in these, and it's hard not to feel like it's an exercise in futility. The people at the Temp agencies were impressed that he'd been with a single company for four whole years, and that he was a college graduate. He took their online computer skills tests, and got really good scores on them too. Then we waited, and waited, and waited, and today somebody finally called and offered him a possible assignment. It's essentially glorified Data Entry, updating a phone contact list for a hotel chain, but it's a job, and it pays well for temp work, so he'll put in his application and we'll see what happens.

On the mental health front, I've been doing pretty well, considering, but when every day is one frustration after another, it's tough to keep a stiff upper lip. I really appreciate the words and other generous gestures of encouragement that we've been getting from family and friends. Please keep praying for us.

By the way, if you're wondering what the baby duck picture has to do with anything, the answer is NOTHING. I just found it while doing my searches today, and I thought this post could use a little dose of cuteness since it's mostly just a grumpy rant.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

If by Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
--Rudyard Kipling

I decided at the start of this year that I would write down spiritual experiences when I had them. As you know, I’ve been very upset by the events of the past month, and when it really sank in that we’re in bad financial trouble, and I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next few months, I started having serious anxiety attacks. It started with waves of nausea that would wash over me at random times, then escalated to full on fight or flight response. I wiped myself out with cleaning and weeding for a few days, but after a while, with nowhere to go and nothing to fight, I got kind of paralyzed, and found that I couldn’t make any decision -- even one as small as whether to get up and do the laundry or not. I can fight off a panic attack if I sit and breathe and tell myself it’s going to be OK and I can relax and so forth, but when it got to the point of trying to fight of a hundred a day, I knew I was in bad shape.

For various reasons, going back to my last therapist isn’t a convenient option, and though I was beginning the search for somebody local, it got cut short by the flood of events in June. I saw myself spiraling out of control and losing even the ability to do anything about it.

While Mom was here, she borrowed a random book off our shelf. It’s called To Him that Believeth - Claiming Heaven’s Blessings by Frederick and June Babbel. Evidently, Peter’s mom had given us this book, and I had never noticed it before on our shelves. When my mom gave it back, she mentioned that Daddy had really been impressed by hearing the author speak about his experiences in Europe after WWII touring with President Benson. I thought I’d give the book a try, and read the first chapter. It talked a lot about how having faith can bring miracles, especially miracles of healing. It stressed that if we have faith to be healed and expect to be healed, we truly can expect a miracle.

Well, last night I told Heavenly Father that I NEEDED to be healed. I KNEW He could take the panic attacks away, and I BELIEVED that He would. He knew that I would be substitute teaching in Sunday School, and also had to take care of Elizabeth, and I really couldn’t do either if I couldn’t sit still at church (like last week). Nothing else changed between last night and this morning. I still don’t know what’s going to happen, but I was remarkably calm today. I taught a really good lesson, and made it through church without having to go hide in the Mother’s room.

I truly believe that this was a direct answer to my prayers. Heavenly Father knows what I’m going through, and He’s going to take care of me. It’s still scary, but we’re gonna get the support we need, and we’re gonna make it through this tough time. He’s gonna bless us with a new opportunity for Peter, and we’re gonna be okay again. I experienced one of the tender mercies of Heaven today.

While I was looking for poems for my two posts Friday (since I don’t have a therapist at the moment, blogging is my therapy. You’re just lucky enough to be along for the ride), I saw this poem on my list of possibilities, and thought, “Yeah, right, IF only! The way I’m handling this crisis I’ll never ‘be a man, my son!’” Today I feel differently. I still don’t feel like I quite measure up to this ideal, but I’m closer today than I was yesterday. Keeping my head is the big problem for me. I’ve also had trouble with sounding ‘too wise.’ It’s good to be reminded that disaster is an imposter -- it’s not the end of the world. I’ve started over before. I’ve been in worse debt (at least worse than we are at the moment). The difference is that now I have Peter and Elizabeth, and nobody’s gonna take them away from me. I’m not in this alone, and I have enough support from them and other family members that I don’t have to resort to living on will power alone as I have in the past. One bad month does not mean that I have to end up with a nervous breakdown that’ll take me a year or two to recover from (which has been one of my paralyzing fears).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mairzy Doats by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston

Mairzy Doats

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear,
A little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing "Mares eat oats and does eat oats
And little lambs eat ivy."
--Milton Drake, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston

I picked this poem today because it's about not understanding the way someone talks (read on to see how that's relevant). It's actually a song, one my Dad used to sing to us all the time. This one often went with the "Oats Peas Beans and Barley Grow" song.

Interestingly, one of the people I had the most fun interacting with was Peter’s sister Kirsten. She has special needs, and because of the shape of her mouth among other things, she has trouble talking. This will come as no surprise to those that know and love her, but as I spend more time with her, I can interpret more of the sounds she makes as words (much as immediate family can interpret their own child’s baby talk), and by putting those words into the context of the conversation, they become thoughts and sentences that show that she has a good sense of humor, that she sees and hears and understands most of what’s going on around her, and wants to be included and make her own contribution.

It was honestly a little daunting when I first met her, but I knew that Peter loved her, and I loved him, so I smiled shyly at her and asked for interpretation when she tried to say something to me. I’ve gotten better at understanding over time, but on this trip though, things started to really click. I figured out that “Me too!” can have all sorts of meanings like, “It’s time for you to take my picture now.” or “I want to wear a crown made of a chain of clovers and be called a princess just like Elizabeth.” She had no trouble indicating that she was hungry and wanted to eat a banana RIGHT NOW each time she came into the house, or how funny it was when she ate the last one and there were “No Nanas” left. A single word, “Pink,” with some guesswork on our part, could communicate that she was upset that she didn’t have any pink socks. I, fortunately, DID have pink socks that I was willing to part with, and she was thrilled to be allowed to take the ruffled Strawberry Shortcake socks I offered, as well as the ones with Candy Corn that she also saw in the drawer. She wanted the rainbow socks with Cookie Monster too, but when I explained that they were my favorites, she understood, and said it was okay if I wanted to keep them.

I think my favorite moment with Kirsten was the day when we were sitting on the couch and Peter gave Elizabeth a squeaky kiss, which makes her laugh. Kirsten leaned over and gave Elizabeth a kiss, which made her laugh, and that made Kirsten laugh. So then for about five minutes, Kirsten kept giving Elizabeth kisses, and the two of them laughed. It was so sweet, I called everybody with a camera over to take pictures, and we got some really good ones.

At the Sea-Side by Robert Louis Stevenson

At the Sea-Side

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.

My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up,
Till it could come no more.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

I thought about this poem while we were at the beach with family, and some cousins dug a big hole for a sand castle. Also, when the tide came up so high there was standing water, not only in the holes, but across large flat areas of beach. I've said it before, but I really love how RLS captures the essence of childhood experience.

I worry, reading yesterday’s post, that people will think that I didn’t enjoy having my family come to visit -- especially the Ahlstroms where I focus on how tired and grumpy Elizabeth got at night. Honestly, that post was meant to show just how many stressful things happened last month, and explain (if only to myself) why I’m so frazzled now. I’ve had a busy month, and I deserve to be.

Elizabeth was very nearly the best baby you could hope to have during a month like that, but even the best baby gets tired and grumpy when she doesn’t have naps or familiar surroundings most of the time. I doubt that most of my relatives even noticed it except for a few times. For the most part she smiled obligingly at every new face, laughed and giggled at songs and games people played with her, got held by one stranger after another without batting an eye, submitted to the loving ministrations of her young cousins, and generally flirted and cooed made herself pleasant.

It was mostly me who had to deal with the “poop dishes” as Peter calls the clothes that I sometimes leave in the sink to soak after a major diaper blowout (She had outgrown the stage 2 diapers, and they just couldn’t contain the volume, no matter how much I wanted to save money by using them up). It was mostly me who listened to her cry and had her fight me when I was trying to feed and soothe her in a strange house, with 50 or so strange people, without air conditioning, in the middle of a heat wave. Other people could hear her through the closed door, but it’s just not the same. It was mostly me who held and comforted and fed her in noisy restaurants when she’s been kept up far past her bedtime. I didn’t get much to eat while trying to juggle the baby and thaw a bottle in a teacup that’s so full it overflows and gets water all over the table (why don’t waitresses see that if I ask for hot water to thaw a bottle, I might want to put the bottle INTO the hot water?). Most other people at the table didn’t notice because it was so noisy in the first place, and because I did a good job keeping her quiet, which doesn’t mean either of us were particularly relaxed.

She did like the beach. She’s not a big fan of the sunglasses I bought, but her sunhats and swimsuits are adorable, and she submits to the sunscreen. Sand is interesting enough, but all she wants to do is eat it, and that just makes her mouth gritty (not to mention her diapers for the next week). One time, we got to the beach just after a blowout, and just took all her clothes off and put her under the fresh water showers, which she thought was pretty fun too. It’s hot out there, and she’s not happy about that, but she thinks water is great fun. There’s lots of fun splashing and letting the cool waves wash over her feet and the wind blow in her face. Grandma and Grandpa Stay spent a lot of time in an uncomfortable crouch so she could be down in the water, but quickly be lifted to safety if a big wave came. Once she started turning purple and shivering, she happily latched on and did the best eating she did all week, filling up with nice warm milk, getting her energy back, and snuggling with Mama.

Cousins were fun too. My aunt Dalita had just had another baby, so her other kids (some as young as 6 or 8) thought that they were baby experts and would try to pick up Elizabeth and carry her around when she was upset the few times I tried to let her cry it out in an upstairs bedroom. Elizabeth’s four-year-old cousin Martin was particularly solicitous. One day, he read her a book about big cats (“Actually, I’m not reading, I’m just showing her the pictures.” he said.) It was so cute to see him holding the big book in front of him and turning the pages like a Kindergarten teacher so she could see the pictures. Elizabeth just wanted to eat the book, but she was entertained trying to grab the pages as they went by. He was also kind to her when he was sitting next to her in an overpacked station wagon. He made sure the sun wasn’t in her eyes, and he held her bottle for her till it was gone, then put in her pacifier, and sang a song to help her relax and try to sleep. His brother Aidan asked me at every opportunity if he could hold “Baby Elizabeth” or push her stroller. It would be really nice if they could all grow up close to each other. Kate, on the other hand, was almost totally uninterested in her young cousin, as you can see from the pictures we convinced her to take for my book of relatives holding Elizabeth.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Grandfather's Clock by Henry Clay Work

My Grandfather's Clock

My grandfather's clock
Was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half
Than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn
Of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

In watching its pendulum
Swing to and fro,
Many hours had he spent while a boy;
And in childhood and manhood
The clock seemed to know,
And to share both his grief and his joy.
For it struck twenty-four
When he entered at the door,
With a blooming and beautiful bride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

My grandfather said
That of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time,
And had but one desire,
At the close of each week to be wound.
And it kept in its place,
Not a frown upon its face,
And its hand never hung by its side.
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

It rang an alarm
In the dead of the night,
An alarm that for years had been dumb;
And we knew that his spirit
Was pluming for flight,
That his hour of departure had come.
Still the clock kept the time,
With a soft and muffled chime,
As we silently stood by his side.
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.
--Henry Clay Work

This song was written in 1876 after the author heard a local legend about a clock that stopped working after its owners died. It seems to be generally accepted that this song is the origin of the term Grandfather Clock -- before, they were known as “long case clocks.” I’m happy to say that Grandpa’s Grandfather clock and Cuckoo clock are ticking again in his house in Huntington Beach. It makes it feel like he’s still there somehow.

OK, on the subject of time, let’s recap this month:
  • May 28th - my birthday didn’t start out like I wanted :( but I made a cake and threw myself a party, and it was better :).
  • June 2nd - My friend Traci died :(. It looked like it might have been suicide, but then again maybe not.
  • June 3rd - Peter goes to work to find out that half the company, including him has lost their jobs :(.
  • June 5th - My Sister in Law, Miriam, flies in to town :) for the funeral :(.
  • June 6th - We get to spend some time together :) as we drive to Riverside through horrible traffic :(, to see old friends :), some of whom are making bad decisions :(.
  • June 7th - Miriam’s friend/roommate Holly comes over to visit :). Miriam and I tie the quilt I’ve been working on :).
  • June 9th - Drive to Riverside again, this time traffic is better :), but we’re there for the funeral :(. Elizabeth lets us know that she’s DONE with driving :(.

  • June 10th - Miriam goes home :(. I try to get some work done on my Manga, but I can’t concentrate :(. I teach a class on origami at enrichment :).
  • June 11th - I write a blog post :), but it’s about Traci’s death, and the process is emotionally draining :(.
  • June 12th - I write a blog post :), but it’s about Peter getting laid off, and it’s emotionally draining :(. I go to see Grandma and Grandpa Stay :). Grandpa is shockingly worse than I’ve seen him :( -- he fell sometime during the last week and went to the hospital for a day or two, but he’s home now and everybody says he’s looking better :).
  • June 13th - I try to get a handle on my life now that it’s calmed down some :). But with Elizabeth not sleeping well :(, and the Manga that I just can’t make myself work on :(, and the housework that has been piling up :(, and sheer exhaustion setting in :(, I feel like I’ll never get anything done :(. A friend offers to take Elizabeth for a few hours so I can work and sleep :), but before I can get her over there, I get a call saying that Grandpa doesn’t have long to live, and I should go down and say goodbye :(.

  • June 14th - I do a marathon tidy and deep clean so everything will be nice when the in-laws come :). I’m exhausted :(.
  • June 15th - Father’s day :). Peter is sad that I didn’t make French toast for breakfast before church :( (I thought he wanted it for lunch after church). I teach a primary class about reverence :), but there is a little boy with special needs who is anything but for much of the class :(, though Elizabeth was especially good. Peter likes the cards Elizabeth and I made for him :).

  • June 16th - Peter’s family arrives :) later than planned :(, and we go out to dinner :), but Elizabeth is tired and grumpy :(.
  • June 17th - Grandpa Jesse died :(. I get a blog post written before Peter’s family arrives from the hotel :). I also finish the quilt :). We spend the day relaxing at our house :), and the afternoon at the beach :). We go out to dinner again that night :), but Elizabeth is tired and grumpy :(.

  • June 18th - We get started too late in the day to go to the zoo :(, but we go to the Tar Pits instead :). Afterwards, I convince people that it’s be easier for me to make dinner for everybody than to take a tired and grumpy Elizabeth to another restaurant :).

  • June 19th - We go kayaking :). Elizabeth really needs to be able to nap without distraction, and is tired and grumpy while we’re there :(. We have fun :), but get sunburned :(. We take some great family photos at the park :). We try two restaurants without any luck :( before getting a table at the third :).

  • June 20th - I realize that half of my dad’s side of the family will be in town :) for the funeral :( this weekend, but they’ll almost all go away again :( by Monday to be back in Utah for the interment. I decide to take Elizabeth and visit with the Stays rather than the Ahlstroms today. They’re very understanding about it :), but it’s hard saying goodbye that morning :(. With the Stays, we talk :), eat :) and go to the beach :), just like Grandpa would’ve wanted, and our only regret was that he wasn’t there to ride the waves with us :(. Elizabeth thinks the beach is fun :), but tiring :(.

  • June 21st - Grandpa’s funeral :(. He was a great man :). We’ll miss him :(. More talking with family :). Elizabeth still can’t get her naps in the heat and distraction :(. Mom comes home with us to spend the night :). Elizabeth is happy to snuggle down with her own rainbow blanket :) and green blanket :) and Elephant music box :) and pacifier :) in her own bed :) in a quiet familiar room :) and SLEEPS :).

  • June 22nd - We go to church, and then relax at home :) with Mom :). My washing machine decides to start making horrible squeaking noises like it’s about to fall apart :(.
  • June 23rd - Back to Grandma’s to spend the day with Mike and family :). We go to a science museum, which is fun :) but also noisy and distracting for you-know-who :(. I’m totally beat, and have another plugged milk duct :(. Even though her cousins (especially Martin) are kind and helpful to her :), by the time we get home to Grandma’s, Elizabeth is hot :( and overtired :(, and screams like something possessed for a solid hour or more :(. I’m so tired I could literally fall over :(. Mike and family head home to Mt. View :(. Mom and Dad take me home :). Daddy thinks a single spring is loose on the washer :). Mom does some mending for me :). I sleep.

  • June 24th to 26th - Daddy fixes the washing machine :). I get the housework caught up :). I do some weeding in the back yard :). Mom makes a Queen Elizabeth dress for Elizabeth :).

  • June 27th - One last day at the beach :) before Mom and Dad leave on Monday :(. It was BEAUTIFUL :)! The water was perfect :), the tide was high :), the heat wave had broken :), the sand crabs were out :), and Daddy found a bullet proof vest in the sand :)!

  • June 28th - I stay up far too late :( sorting pictures and decluttering :). I can’t get to sleep until I take some Benadryl at 1:30 am.
  • June 29th - I think I have to teach a lesson in Sunday School, so I forget to bring a bottle for Elizabeth. We both have a rough Sacrament Meeting, so when I find out I don’t have to teach till next week, I decide to head off a panic attack and just go to Grandma’s for one last day with Mom and Dad. We have a good meal :) and a good talk :) and take some good pictures :), before saying goodbye :(.

  • June 30th - Mom and Dad leave for Mike’s house :(.
  • July 1st - I work on my Manga and weeding :). Anxiety level is up and it’s hard to eat :(.
  • July 2nd - I do weeding all day long :). Peter takes care of Elizabeth :). When he comes to tell me she’s hungry at about 6pm, I’ve reached the back of the house, and have rocks and flagstones over plastic to keep the weeds from coming back :). There’s another hour or so of work to get it completely done, but I’ve been working on this project for a year now, and it’s finally done :)!!!! I stop working realizing that I’m light headed, all my muscles are shaking, and I’ve got a sunburn :(.
  • July 3rd - Today I’ve got my Manga done :), so I met my goal of two last month, but they say there won’t be more for next month, so that’s more money that won’t be coming in :(. Elizabeth was getting back on a nap schedule :), but today she just won’t fall asleep :(. Life is getting sort of back to normal again :), but there are still so many unknowns :(. I’m working hard to fight off another breakdown. I just hope I can find ways to let the stress from this last month go so I can focus on the future. I love my family, and I love being with them, but it’s hard when you don’t know what’s going to be happening fifteen minutes from now let alone a day, week, or month in the future. I’m tired. I’m emotionally and physically worn out, and I don’t really know how to recuperate. Do I try to relax? Or should I work hard? Should I get a part time job? Or would that just make it hard for Elizabeth? Will we be able to pay the bills? Will we be able to sell our home for what we owe? If we do, where do we go next? Will Peter find a job? I just don’t have any answers, and I don’t have any hope that they’ll appear anytime soon. I’m tired.