On Sunday I spent most of the day in bed. On Saturday night Mary climbed into bed with us around 1am, and I spent the next five and a half hours wide awake. I spent a lot of time pondering all of my blessings and felt so grateful for my life.

Finally, I went downstairs for some cereal, and my favorite kind was out. I went down to the basement food storage to get some replacement, and my jaw dropped open when I reached our storage. Before her trip, my mom worked for days organizing the basement food storage, and now it basically looks like we have two grocery stores downstairs. It’s incredible. I took the new cereal and came upstairs marveling at our blessings. God blesses us every day with food so that our family never goes hungry, and the store looked to me like an overabundance of heavenly–and maternal love.  Thanks, Mom, for that gift!

Abe survived Sacrament with all of the kids.  He fed them all of their meals, cooked us a curry and rice for dinner, cleaned everything up, gave me two massages, studied his scriptures and even meditated. He is my hero. I am so lucky.

This is a picture Abe took earlier this week that I forgot to post. I have loved all the time I have had recently to cuddle my kids. They are so snuggly.

Lagoon, a MI pic, and Clarissa’s new blanket

Today Abe, the kids, and Abe’s dad and Suzanne all went to Lagoon, a theme park by Ogden. They had so much fun! Abe is lying on the bed right now talking about how much fun he has being a dad.

I can just hear Ammon screaming one of his favorite words, “DUCK!!”

Mary covering her ears on the Puff the Magic Dragon ride. She was scared of all the rides and had to be convinced to ride each one.

Mary couldn’t fit her mouth around her Subway, so she nibbled the edges.

My mom also sent me this beautiful picture of the fun she is having in Michigan.

Aunt Pam, Aunt Dee, and my mom.

I had one goal for the day at home, and that was to sew a blanket I bought fabric for a couple months ago. After hours of relearning how to use my sewing machine, I finally did it! I was so proud of myself. If you look closely, there are a million mistakes, but I’m counting on Clarissa to not look too closely (for a while at least).

Nana’s Michigan vacation

My mom sent me a lot of pictures of her Michigan vacation. Thank goodness, because I did not take any pictures and am too tired to blog about my day!

My pretty mom.

Aunt Pam and Uncle Steve.

This is my Aunt Dee.

Aunt Dee in her kitchen

Domesticity and the true story of how Mary got her name

Before I forget, a picture! I finally remembered to send myself this picture instead of just Instagramming it and forgetting it.

The girls ask me every day to crochet them granny squares. These are some of the granny squares I crocheted together for Mary yesterday. During Ammon’s nap, Mary talks to me and putters by my chair while I crochet. Her behavior has improved dramatically ever since we started this routine. I think she feels listened to and loved, and I have reveled in the opportunity to just enjoy her.

On Wednesday the girls were unusually well-behaved. I think this can be at least partly attributed to my mom. My mom is in Michigan enjoying a sibling reunion and has been praying a lot that things would go well while she is gone. Thanks, Mom, for your prayers!

I also enjoyed a quick visit with Liem and Phuong, who swung by to pick up their bear spray en route to the Tetons. It was great to see them.

Oh, and I guess Abe and I got the kids to bed on time and spent the rest of the night talking. I practiced knitting while we discussed our spiritual lives, his work, our kids, and our desires for our kids. I am constantly thinking and working toward the end goal with my children, but Abe always has great insights that broaden my vision. The end goals I see, which I repeat in my mind like a mantra, are to equip the kids with skills. I want them to leave this home knowing how to use their bodies, to climb, ski, swim, skate, dance, and to find joy in their physicality. I want them to be excellent musicians, to use their hands to create peaceful things, to be curious and interested in the world, and to enjoy learning. When Abe talked about our dreams for the kids, he said this to me (in his own words, which I can’t recall exactly–but this is what I heard):

“When I think of what we most want for our kids, I imagine Lydia in a happy marriage, and going through life with great joie-de-vivre. I want her to be happyDo I really care where she goes to school or if she is wildly professionally successful? No, not really. All that matters to me is that she grows up to be happy, to experience the joys that we have found in our marriage and in our faith.”

That really helped me get perspective. I forget the emotional goals sometimes because I am so focused on outfitting the kids with skills. Of course, I feel exactly the same as Abe; in the end, I could honestly care less about what the girls’ resumes look like as long as they are happy (in the truest sense of the word) and have faith (because faith, in my experience, is deeply connected to happiness).

This week of bed rest has been so educational for me. I have had a steep increase in pain, and even a little stress brings on contractions, so I have been letting the girls enjoy a looser schedule without their music practice. While I don’t plan on doing this indefinitely (because I feel the long-term benefits of disciplined practice will actually add to their capacity for joy and happiness in life later), the reprieve has been so wonderful. For the past couple days I have been able to focus just on being more loving, spending quality time with the kids, and searching for ways to affirm them. Anyways, affirming and loving my kids during peaceful moments is practically my favorite thing about being a mom–though the long stretches we can go without peaceful moments mean my kids probably have no idea that this is indeed my favorite thing about parenting.

Anyway, that was such a long aside!!! What I meant to do when I sat down to type was to transcribe the wonderful memoir extract of one of my ancestors. My mom left this with me before she left for Michigan, and I finally read it this morning. I can not even describe what I felt while reading this memoir. While reading this, my soul literally reverberated with immediate recognition, connection, illumination, and love. I draw daily upon my experiences in my grandmother’s home as I try to create my own patterns of domesticity, and I recognized some of these patterns in this memoir. My grandmother, like Great-great-great-great-great grandmother Mary, also had gooseberry bushes, and these memoirs tasted like gooseberry pie to me. I don’t know how else to describe them.

But now I am running out of steam, and I am pretty sure the memoir extract (which is quite lengthy) is attached to our electronic family history tree. If I have energy later, I will transcribe it in a separate post.

The long and short of it is that my ancestral parents, Henry James Clark and Mary Lewis Mansfield Clark, voluntarily liberated their slaves, left behind their comforts and wealth, and made a new life in the wilderness of Illinois. They entertained Abraham Lincoln regularly before he was famous, and they were known for their goodness. Grandfather Clark was a man of “unusual liberality of opinion” and was often called to settle disputes informally to avert legal complications. He was a vital force in the community’s religious life.

But most of the memoir focuses on Grandmother Mary, who, out of that wilderness, created a breathtakingly beautiful domestic life for her family. The memories of her granddaughter took my breath away. The comforts of the lush flower gardens, the fresh fruit and berries from their farm, the quiet comfort that comes from spinning, weaving, and working with the hands, the pastoral peacefulness of rural Illinois–all of these things worked to create the most gorgeous routines and memories. Thank you, ancestors, for your legacy. I love you.

Also, the true story of how my Mary got her name.

Shortly after I had Lydia, I felt Mary’s presence and spirit repeatedly. In fact, Abe and I had a very sacred encounter with her spirit before she was born. So I got pregnant six months after Lydia was born, experienced a miscarriage, and got pregnant again–with Mary–shortly after that. While I was wondering what name could possibly be as special or meaningful to me as Lydia, I wandered over to the family tree chart hanging on my mother’s wall.

On the family tree chart, I saw so many Marys! I am sure that is the case with many people who have Catholic ancestors, but as I looked at all of the Marys, including the Mary who was described in this morning’s memoir, I also thought about the Marys in the Bible, and I knew I had found my name.

Only a few months after that, I was reading one of my Aunt Lydia’s letters, and I discovered that when she became a Carmelite nun, her new convent name was Mary. Therefore, Lydia, Mary, and I share a common bond (Lily was Aunt Lydia’s nickname).

This post is already too long, so maybe tomorrow I will write about the hopes and meaning behind Clarissa Vicenta’s name.

the most ridiculous love language ever

So I’ve read either one or two of the love languages books (I know I’ve read the one about decoding your child’s love language–but I can’t remember if I’ve read the adult one!); anyhoo, in the process of reading, I discovered I speak the lamest, most ridiculous love language out there.

What language is that, might you ask? Gifts. I speak the love language of gifts. Against all of my anti-materialistic aspirations and my whole-hearted desire to forsake things for a deeper spiritual life, I face the bleak reality that my love language is rooted in things. It’s ironic, sad, and expensive.

But today I decided to speak my love language to Clarissa. It is sort of convenient because after Ammon, Abe and I thought we were done with kids, and so I gave away every single baby-girl item I owned. Every onesie, dress, pajama, cloth diaper, changing table, bassinet, newborn Halloween costume…everything. I have almost nothing for Clarissa.

Or had. After today, I have a lot of stuff! And I hope Clarissa feels the love. I tried to send her love messages in between online ordering clicks. You are loved. You are wanted. I want to meet you. I know you belong in this family. I love you. That sort of thing. I guess I also speak the words of affirmation language. It’s so much cheaper, and I sincerely wish it were my primary language.

Also, I have gotten so lazy about pictures. I have resolved to do better tomorrow. The thing is, I have started Instagramming all of my pictures as soon as I take them, and at the end of the day it is such a hassle to try to get the pics on the blog too.

The pictures I am sad I haven’t posted relate to the following things:

  1. Abe has been teaching Lydia to ride a bike! He was a superstar Saturday. After making the kids one of his signature breakfasts, he brought them to the pool, taught Lydia how to ride a bike, helped clean the house, helped my mom make dinner and a million other things.
  2. This is a picture I wish I had taken and will ask Abe to take tomorrow. Ammon can ride a scooter all by himself!!!! We are astonished. Our daughters have been…challenged…in the physical coordination department. Meanwhile, one year old Ammon is scootering all around the block and up and down everyone’s driveways. We will get a picture soon.
  3. I have some pictures of all the crocheting I have been doing. I studied the afghan my great-grandmother made, and I have been practicing her granny square pattern with all of my cheap acrylic yarn in preparation to imitate hers with wool yarn. After all of the money I spent today, I am going to try to hold out for a minute before going and buying more yarn. But I have been loving crocheting–and knitting again, finally!!– on bedrest. This activity makes me feel connected with my maternal line. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother are terrific with the domestic arts. My mother knitted and embroidered beautifully  (much better than I ever have or could) when younger, my grandmother did everything to perfection, and my great-grandmother made the most beautiful blankets and quilts. I also feel connected to my Aunt Lydia, who made the most beautiful embroidery I have ever seen. The first time I encountered her work, I thought I was looking at a painting–her stitches were that fine! I love participating in these traditions and passing them down to my kids. It all feels very meaningful, cozy and familial.



Focusing on Clarissa

Yesterday night I did not blog because I thought I was going into labor. You would think I could figure that out by now, but with this groin issue, I guess my sense of what is what might be off.

Anyway, Abe gave me a beautiful blessing right before bed, and I was reminded to cherish this last pregnancy. God will send me more babies, but Clarissa is the last one I am going to carry in my body, and I should be preparing for her. I have been so focused on how I am going to have the babies after her–about adopting (I already have names) Enoch Belmonte and Theadora. “E.B.” would be his nickname and references the prophet walking with God in the beautiful mountains. Belmonte is a family name on my side and means “beautiful mountains,”–and it is also the hyphenated second part of my brother’s name, “Clark-Belmonte.”  And of course, Enoch is the prophet that walked with God.

Theadora, or “Thea” is a nickname derived another family name, “Theodore,” on my side and means “God’s gift.” My uncle and deceased brother, Teddy, were Theodores. Abe’s great-great grandmother was also a Dorothea, which is the name of my favorite literary heroine of all time from Middlemarch. Abe thinks Dorothea is a clunker, but I had a flash of inspiration and remembered that we could get to the same place with Theadora! Her middle name is unknown because I am considering adopting a sex-trafficked girl from Asia and she will already have a name–anyway–see what I mean??? I am so focused on this that I keep forgetting I am having Clarissa now

Well, not now. I thought I was having her last night, but that didn’t happen. Back to crocheting and reading today–and thinking about Clarissa until she comes!!

doctor visit summary

On Monday I spent hours upon hours setting up this new blog site, and then I think I felt burnt out for the rest of the week and did not blog. Oh, the irony.

In summation, this was a good week for all of the adults in our family. Abe had a great week at work, my mom, as usual, got a lot accomplished, and I continue to enjoy bed rest. The kids, on the other hand…struggled. Abe thinks that they are getting out of control because they are taking advantage of how nice all of their babysitters are, and they just tend to be more wild after running around the neighborhood with their friends for hours on end. I was really, really impatient and mean with Lydia this week, so I spent all of yesterday trying hard to be patient and kind.

My mom drove me to my OBYGYN appointment on Friday, and the doctor told me the following pieces of information.

  1. I need to listen to my body. If I feel pain, STOP. It just so happened I had overdone it on Friday morning trying to not waste one of our overgrown zucchinis by hacking it down so I could bake zucchini bread. By the time I was done baking, I was sweating and shaking and had to lie down for an hour. That was dumb.
  2. If I ever get pregnant again, he anticipates the pain I feel will be worse. (!!!!) I immediately informed him that this is not going to happen. Abe is getting a vasectomy for his birthday this year.  🙂
  3. I have only gained THREE POUNDS in the past seven weeks!!! Considering I gained fifteen while on vacation for the month of May, I was pretty thrilled with this. 
  4. I am getting induced on August 18!!! I have never been induced, and I am so excited. This means Abe only needs to take off one day for the birth because I can plan to have the baby on a Friday, and he can be back to work on Monday. So ideal! I have also been terrified that I would not get an epidural in time before I push. If what I have is a pelvic instead of groin issue, everything I’ve read says that the baby basically drops right out when it comes time to labor. I have no desire, no desire, to experience a baby coming out without the help of an epidural. Every pregnancy has been a nail-biter in the epidural department because of my weird vein condition. The nurses always spend over an hour trying to get the IV in, and by that time I usually have transitioned–or close to it. I have gotten really good at transitioning quietly because I am so desperate not to feel the pushing that I just want them to get the epidural in before that happens. If I am induced, surely this won’t be a problem. Also: I can plan ahead! I can get a pedicure, or a massage, a blow-out, or a facial as compensatory pre-birth prep. Heck, I could spend the whole day before at the spa. My first reaction to this thought is that it sounds extravagant. My second is: I AM GOING TO BE PUSHING A HUMAN BEING OUT OF MY BODY.  I KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE THAT THIS IS NOT PLEASANT. I can probably spend the day before at the spa.

therapy resolve

On Monday during nap time, Lydia and I started out by living my dream! She crocheted while I read out loud to her.

Then it devolved from there. At her request, I tried to teach her how to crochet a flower. We spent the next hour fending off Lydia’s screams as she writhed on the floor. I guess it’s hard learning a new skill.

As soon as I am physically back on track again, I am going to find a great therapist. I had a friend post a wonderful post about how she finally admitted her anxiety was causing her to yell at her kids. After therapy, she has only yelled at her kids twice in the last two years, and those were conscious decisions (inside she was calm as a summer’s day). I had never connected anxiety to the way I relate to my kids before, but after reading her post, I feel very motivated to address whatever issues cause Lydia and I to have such massive mutual meltdowns.

On a green note, this is what our garden looks like right now.


CGH story and the girls get lost

This morning I was still having trouble calming down after last night. While everyone was at church, I tried to pray and open my scriptures, but I felt too upset and drained to focus.

I ended up googling my favorite YouTube channel, Cute Girls Hairstyles. I have felt very drawn to their videos lately. Normally I stop the videos as soon as the hairstyle is complete, but recently I let the video roll on, and imagine my shock when home videos popped up at the end showing Mindy’s black baby girl crawling. I had no idea she had adopted children!

Since I have been feeling that I want to adopt a black son next, I searched her website and found her nine-post series on her adoption journey. Mindy is LDS, and I was so moved by the spiritual components to her story. To be honest, I spent most of her story bawling my eyes out and feeling deeply touched by everything she wrote.  My testimony that God’s hand is in all of our lives was strengthened by her words.

I also learned a LOT about adopting in Utah. We are so lucky because is is practically the best place in the U.S. to adopt, and women fly to this state all the time (or are flown in by adoption agencies/prospective parents) to give birth. Whereas in most states the birth mother must wait for five-seven days to sign away her child, here she can sign after twenty-four hours, making the process a lot less agonizing for everyone involved. (Apparently, if she changes her mind at the last minute, the prospective parents will not only experience heartbreak, but can lose thousands of dollars in the process.)

I learned some pretty messed up things too. For example, it is most expensive to adopt a white child, less expensive to adopt a hispanic child, and cheapest to adopt an African American child (because they are the least wanted and in most plentiful supply!!!!).

Anyway, after reading about her experience and researching the difficulties of international adoption (particularly from Nigeria, which is the country that I find most personally compelling), I have had a complete change of heart and feel very open to adopting in the country.

On a different note entirely, the girls almost got lost today. I had told them that under no circumstances were they to make a mess without cleaning it up. During nap time, they made a big milk mess, and then they decided that the only way to clean it up was to get their dad, who they thought was at church. (He was actually making house visits.)

At any rate, I saw them scooter around the corner and heard Lydia say they were going to church, but I didn’t think she could possibly be serious. I thought they were playing pretend. Finally, after they didn’t reappear for five minutes, I called Abe and had him pick up the girls. He found them, sure enough, en route to church. They had bumped into their Primary teacher on the way, and he was just starting to walk them home. Phew.

Sometimes I take our neighborhood for granted, but there is something serious to be said for knowing all of your neighbors. I remember being flabbergasted when my neighbor gave me a tour of all of the nearby cul-de-sacs and told me the life stories of every single family, plus the families in between. But now I could probably do the same thing. When my children got lost today, I panicked, but I would have panicked a lot more had I not known that we know almost all of the families between here and church, and someone was bound to see them and rescue them.

Ammon can’t sit through Sacrament, so Abe took this picture of him outside.