Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

We Almost Died in Twin Falls

It was a lovely, easy hike along the bottom of the beautiful Snake River canyon.  Not another human being in sight.  Abe and I walked along, happy, relaxed, talking and joking.

We passed a waterfall.  We admired the layers of geological time etched on the walls of the canyon. We held each other and watched the green waters of the river roll quietly by.  We quarreled about whether the song "Shenandoah" was about the river or the valley.  We passed under the famous Perrine Bridge.  There was a trail leading up to its base and we could see maintenance ladders lacing the framework.  We wondered if we could climb around on the ladders but, assuming that was probably strictly prohibited and enforced by heavy fines, decided to move onward.    

We figured the trail would lead us up out of the canyon eventually and we would be able to follow the paved canyon rim trail back to the parking lot.  After we'd passed under the bridge, we found ourselves in the spot where the Twin Falls BASE jumpers landed when they did their thing, so we assumed there would be an easy way for them to get back out.  But when the trail petered off and eventually became impassable, we were left scratching our heads about how we could quickly get ourselves out of the canyon.   We really didn't want to retrace our steps, spending two hours hiking on the same pathway we'd just traversed, so Abe pulled out his phone to see if he could find any information online about how the BASE jumpers got out of the canyon.  Finally he found a website with some information.  "This guy says that there are three ways to get out of here: hike back the way we came, take a boat across the river, or climb up a trail right under the bridge."

"There's a trail under the bridge leading out of the canyon?" I asked.  I hadn't seen one.

"Yeah," Abe said.  "I guess it's that trail that leads up to the bottom of the bridge, the one we were thinking about climbing up anyway."

So we walked back to the bridge and began climbing up the mountain.

It was a steep path of dirt and loose rocks leading up to a path of heavy boulders and cliff wall.  From where we were, I really couldn't see the part of a trail that would allow us to easily walk out of the canyon.

"This would make a great gospel analogy," I told Abe as we climbed up the path.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," I said.  "Here we are, heading down a pathway that doesn't appear to lead out of the canyon at all.  We have to have faith in this guy who says that it is the way."

"I see," said Abraham.  "And we've got the testimonies of others who have passed this way before.  We trust in their words and we take a step forward into the darkness."  He hiked a little longer.  "I hate gospel analogies."

"Me too," I said.  "But my brain comes up with them all the time."

Abe laughed and we continued climbing up the path.

Finally the trail seemed to disappear, leaving us at the base of some large, heavy rocks.  It became clear we were going to have to do some bouldering.  I suddenly became keenly and dizzyingly aware of how high we had climbed.  "Oh well," I thought.  "We'll get past these big rocks and that will put us on the trail."  Abe climbed up first, to find a safe trail.  "It looks a little better up here," he told me.  So I followed, very carefully choosing each foot and hand hold.

When I reached Abraham and looked up, I groaned.  It did not look any better up there.  It looked equally steep and rocky.  But at this point it was nearly impossible to go back down, so we just kept climbing.  The climb went on forever, up a rock wall without a harness.  I silently, fervently asked God to get us out of here alive so we could go home to our babies.

In one particularly difficult section, someone had secured a knotted rope to a tree sticking out of the canyon wall.  Its presence reassured us that we were, indeed, on the trail that some idiot on the internet had failed to describe as being a potentially difficult trail to climb.  Abe gave me a hand up in the particularly rough spots and we both clung as tightly to the rocks as we could.    

Finally we reached the top.  "We're alive!"  I shouted.  "We are, indeed, alive," said Abe, looking pleased.  Then he smiled at me.  "Gee, honey," he said.  "Sorry I almost killed you on our tenth anniversary."

See the cliff under the left side of the bridge?  There is no trail on that thing.  It is a sheer rock wall that you will be forced to climb at the peril of your life.  The internet lies.  Do not put your faith in it.  

Friday, March 07, 2014

On Vomit and Motherly Love

I awoke to the sound of crying and glanced at my clock: 4 AM.  What could be wrong?  I jumped out of bed and opened up the door of my bedroom.  A foul stench rushed in through the door, and there in a pool of diarrhea stood my littlest one, sobbing.  "Poop on my bed!" he wailed.  "Poop on my jammies!"

"Shhh, shhh," I told him, guiding him into the bathroom, where I carefully rolled off his spoiled clothing and helped him climb onto the toilet.  "Poop on my legs!" he wept, gesturing from his throne, still heartbroken over waking up in such an undignified and uncomfortable way.  

"It's okay," I told him, kissing his cheeks, and ran warm water onto a washcloth to wipe off his legs.  I scrubbed the floor, the toilet, his jammies, some blankets. I ran downstairs and started a load of wash.   By now he had calmed down. I finished helping him get cleaned up, changed him into one of my t-shirts, and made him a little bed on the recliner.  I wrapped him up in a blanket and rocked him for a while, burying my nose into the fuzzy hair on his head.  It smelled of warm skin and wind.  "I wuv you, Mommy," he said, his head resting under my chin.  "I love you, too, angel," I told him.  We rocked until he was nearly asleep, then I slid him onto the chair, put a metal bowl next to him (just in case), and headed back to bed.

I hadn't relaxed enough to fall back to sleep when he started to cry again.  I climbed back out of bed and ran to the front room, where he was throwing up on his blankies.  I put the bowl under his face and rubbed his back while he gagged and retched and cried.  When it was over, I warmed another wash cloth to wipe his face, got him a small drink of water, added the blanket to the laundry.  "I wuv you, Mommy," he said again, standing in the bathroom doorway as I bleached the bowl.  "I love you too, precious."  We rocked and cuddled some more and by then it was 5:30.  There was no point in going back to bed now, so I commenced my morning routines.  There was more vomiting and back rubbing and bleaching and diarrhea and a half dozen loads of laundry, but by mid-afternoon, he was all better, better enough to be running around outside, climbing on piles of dirt, proudly declaring, "I'm a big boy."        

The next morning, before the sun rose, Soren woke me up.  "Mommy, I'm going to throw up," he told me.  I rolled out of bed and found the metal bowl.  I settled him onto the couch and curled myself into the recliner.  But soon I was rubbing his narrow, bony back while his body violently expelled its contents.  Soon there was another load of laundry spinning in the washing machine. Soon he was wrapped in a blanket, curled up on my lap.

I was tired.  But in the middle of my fatigue was a profound calm, and a swelling gratitude for the privilege of caring for these two little human beings, for the blessing of being able to be a comfort to them, of bearing the name they call when they are afraid, of being the warmth that comforts them when they are hurt, of owning the hands that quietly wipe away the stains of their suffering.  I am so thankful that these moments allow me to show them how loved they are, how precious they are.  I am so thankful for my motherhood.  In no other vocation does one have a more perfect opportunity to "lift up the hands which hang down" and to experience the overwhelming love comes from doing so.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

If I Had a Million Dollars...


I generally don't contemplate this question because it seems pointless to think about things that ain't never gonna happen, but for some reason, as I lay trying to sleep last night, I unleashed my avarice and had a full-on fantasy about what I would do if I made a million dollars a year.  

This is what I decided:

First, we would buy an amazing piece of land that included a hill for sledding and lots of big trees for climbing and building tree-houses.  We would build a beautiful Victorian-style home with a wraparound porch AND a sunny guest house that could be used as an suite for aging parents or a beginning home for young marrieds.  The main house wouldn't be big-- but I would want it to have four bedrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, fireplaces, and a master bathroom with a giant Jacuzzi bathtub.  It would also have a library with lots of windows and comfy furniture.  I would hire someone with amazing taste to decorate it for me.

The property would include a barn and a fully-equipped wood shop.  We would buy horses and goats and chickens and a cow and grow a huge garden and an orchard.  We would all work together as a family, building fences and chicken coops, weeding and harvesting the garden, and making sure the cow got milked every morning.

We would buy Abe a Smart Car, because he loves Smart Cars.  I would get a SUV with four-wheel drive.

Every year we would visit Abe's family in New Hampshire and also take a big family vacation somewhere else exciting-- the Galapagos Islands, the Grand Canyon, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Hawaii....

I would hire someone to do all the shopping, including picking out wardrobes for everyone in the family.  This person would also be responsible for making sure our hair generally looked decent.

After buying our house and our cars, we would live off $130,000/year (including vacation expenses and the cost of keeping a professional shopper) and donate the rest of our money to amazing causes, like helping women in underdeveloped countries (particularly those with obstetric fistula) and sponsoring international adoptions.

What would YOU do with a million dollars a year?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Random Pictures

Cousins.

My Mom and Dad's Halloween costumes.  Aren't they adorable?

Abe went hiking up in Palisades with two of his sisters.  



Abe and I went to the Policeman's Ball.  Aren't we hawt?  

Abe and I went shooting one fine date night.  Here, I'm exhibiting proper shooting form.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Christmas 2013

On Christmas Eve, Soren sat down after breakfast and wrote out the day's itinerary in pictures.


First, we would go to the Christmas Museum.  Then the Temple Visitor's Center.

Afterwards, we would go sledding.  

And then it would finally be time to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house for some Christmas Eve pizza.  

Then back home...

...where we would leave treats for Santa and sprinkle magic reindeer food on the lawn.

And this was Soren's favorite part: BED!  All he wanted all day long was to go to bed so Christmas would come sooner.




Some Christmas highlights:  

Santa asked Liam what he wanted for Christmas.  Since Santa was holding a candy cane, Liam said "Candy cane!"  Wish immediately granted.  

Soren, who had a Christmas wish list as long as the line at Best Buy on Black Friday, drew a blank in the critical moment and told Santa he would have to talk to me about what he wanted for Christmas.  

Gingerbread cookies were a must.  Liam went pretty heavy on the marshmallows.  
 

The Christmas Museum!  


The boys dragged me at break-neck speeds through the Christmas display and headed straight to the kids' room-- which has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas-- where they played happily for an hour.

Christmas morning!

Why yes, Briar and I DO have matching robes.  





 

The Christmas Song Soren wrote me for Christmas.  For those who can't read this very well, the transcription is: "Ooooooo dot be noty uneless u wil git no pressis  no! no! no! no!  Thas RIT!  no! no! no! no! no! no! no! no! PRESIS!!!!!!! OK!!!!"  (Translation: Oooooh....don't be naughty or else you will get no presents!  That's right!  No, no, no, no!  That's Right!  No no no no no no no no no PRESENTS!  Okay!?")

After Christmas we were surprised by a few days' visit from Uncle Caleb, one of Daddy's brothers.
Uncle Caleb is loads of fun and the boys begged him to stay longer, but alas, the military is not understanding about such things.



Friday, January 24, 2014

Brothers: January 2014



"The boys sat on my lap this morning in the rocker/recliner.  They didn't fight or shove or hit or anything!  On the contrary!  They wrapped their cute little arms around each other and told each other-- repeatedly-- "I love you."  (From my "Happies" book...October 24.)

S: I love you, Liam
L: No!
S: Makes threatening gesture.
L: Okay, Soren!  You love me!

Liam: I kiss you?
Soren: Um....too disgusting!
Liam: Okay!

"Liam, while you're having a bath, I'm going to make you a present.  It might take a while, so...enjoy your eight hour long bath." -Soren

L: I won!
S: No, Liam.  It wasn't a race.  If I win, it was a race.  If you win, it wasn't a race.

L:  Mommy, look!  It's moon time!
S: "Hi, moon!"
L: NO!  LIAM TALKING TO MOON!

One morning the boys made up a "dance" that consisted of running around the kitchen island in opposite directions and hugging every time they met.

In their Halloween costumes.  Soren is a necromancer; Liam is the red Power Ranger. 



This is how we paint here in the Skousen household.    

Crafting gingerbread houses on the first snowy day of the year.  



Snowman fun!  

Stretching their IQs with a rousing game of Cranium.
We are a very "clothes optional" kind of family.
  


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Liam Update: January 2014

Liam is our snuggly sweet whiny stubborn wild relaxed little redhead.  I just want to eat him, he's so cute. 

Some highlights from the past three months

*When you are in Liam's good graces, he will frequently and spontaneously proclaim, "You besfwend!  You my besfwend!"  Sometimes (to me) he'll say, "I love you, Mommy.  You my mother."  But if he's upset, he'll take it back.  "You not my mother!"  


*One morning the boys were taking a bath and I heard a sudden splash, followed by Liam screaming, followed by more vigorous splashing.  I (correctly) figured Soren had clonked Liam and was now flailing around in a rage, and I didn't really want to wrestle a wet, angry Soren out of the bath, so I took my time moseying over to the bathroom to check out the situation.  When I finally arrived, I was horrified to see lots-- LOTS-- of blood dripping off Liam's head, flowing down his scrunched up, screaming face, and streaming in little rivers down his chest and belly.  "Soren!" I screamed in shock.  "What did you do?"  Soren, who hithertofore had been covering his head and kicking water, stopped long enough to look at his brother.  Then he joined in the screaming.  "WHAT HAVE I DONE?" he screamed.  "ABE!"  I called.  Soren started crying hysterically.  "What have I done?  WHAT HAVE I DONE?"  Abe came stumbling into the bathroom in his untied robe and removed Soren--still screaming-- from the tub. ("IS HE GOING TO DIE??  DID I KILL HIM?") I laid Liam down in the water to clean his head wound.  The bath water turned red, making it look like I was bathing him in a pool of blood.   It turns out there was just a tiny little ding on his head.  I'd always heard that head wounds bled a lot.  Now I know.  I think it took longer to calm Soren down than it did to calm Liam down.  While I cuddled Liam in his towel, Soren kept bringing peace offerings.  


*One evening for his chore Liam got out the hand vac and spent probably 30 minutes finding individual things to suck up off the living room floor.  When he was done, Briar asked him to put the vacuum away.  You would have thought she had asked him to throw his teddy bear away.  He wept and cried as though the wound had cut so deeply it would never heal.  "Briar told me put away chore!"  he wailed to me, over and over again.  

*Liam calls boiled eggs "roll eggs," because of the way I roll them around to peel the shell.  


...because while clothes may be optional for breakfast, a baseball helmet definitely is not.
*During primary one Sunday Liam noticed a wound on his finger.  I was sitting with another class, behind his, so I watched as he showed it to his teacher.  "How did you get that?" the teacher asked.  "A man killed me!" Liam told him, then added gun noises:  "Pshew!  Pshew!"  Then he changed his mind.  "A lion got me!" he said.  "Raaawwwwwrr!"
Playing in the clean laundry.
*Mr. Independent got his own hot pads out of a kitchen drawer in order to be able to get his own hot food from the microwave, which he could only reach by pushing a chair over to climb on.  

*When he's annoyed with something or someone, Liam will say, in an exasperated tone, "Jeepers!"

*Sometimes he'll also adorably say, "Whew! That was a close one!"

*Liam has a habit of disappearing at the end of our block of church meetings.  He thinks it's hilarious to disappear in the crowd of people, laughing and looking back to make sure he's being pursued.  Usually we'll find him in the gym, running around with his belly pooched out, giggling like he's in an asylum.  One Sunday, however, I couldn't find him anywhere.  Not in the gym.  Not in any of the classrooms.  Finally a teen from our ward noticed my frantic searching and pointed at the chapel doors.  "He went in there a while ago," she said.  Dear Lord.  There was another ward in there trying to hold sacrament meeting.  I peeked into the closed-off overflow section in the back, hoping she had meant he'd gone in there.  Nope.  Finally I took a deep breath and opened the chapel doors.  There was a lady up front, saying a prayer.  Several people looked up at me judgmentally from behind bowed heads and half-closed eyes.  And there was Liam, running back and forth.  He saw me, starting giggling (read: belly laughing), and shot up an aisle.  He ran all the way up onto the stand, past the organ (where the organist tried unsuccessfully to snag him), and into the choir seats.  I was mortified.  What could I do?  I couldn't go charging up there myself.  The lady finally finished her prayer and I held up one threatening finger.  Liam giggled and ducked behind a wall.  I held up a second finger.  He stopped smiling.  I held up a third finger--and mercifully he began walking back towards me.  "Thank you," I prayed silently.  I put a firm hand under his armpit and marched him out to the car, vowing never to show my face in the church again.   

*Liam ran in the Tater Tot Trot.  It was adorable.  He chugged all the way around the track at his own determined little pace.  He didn't win-- but he didn't lose, either.  :)   


Santa brought Liam a headlamp and he wore it nonstop for about 72 hours.  Apparently it is comfortable sleepwear.
*On Mondays, my sister watches my boys.  It's good bonding time for Liam and his auntie.  Because he doesn't have preschool on Mondays he and Collette will go to the cute coffee shop in town that her friend owns.  They'll drink hot cocoa together.  Afterwards, she'll buy him a toy at the thrift store.  One day I came to pick up the boys and Liam and Collette had just awoken from a shared nap.  They came out of her bedroom together, all sleepy-faced and fuzzy-haired.  Adorable.  

*Liam is the best nap buddy.  He's very snuggly and will pretty much sleep for as long as I want to sleep.  I love to curl up with him in bed on a sunny afternoon before Soren comes up from school.  

*Liam has become obsessed with the color red.  It's his most favorite color in the world.  I suspect this may be because it's the only color he can identify consistently.  

*For Halloween, Liam was a Power Ranger.  Cutest little Power Ranger there ever was.  I even got him to sing, "Go, go power rangers!"  

*Liam sometimes gags on something, then coughs a lot, then throws up.  He does this on ordinary days, when he is otherwise well.  He'll cry for about 10 seconds and then move on.  He'll often thank me for cleaning up his barfy mess.   


Thankful for his morning applesauce and pancakes.  
*A favorite thing:  Liam's sweet face beaming beautifully from the window of the preschool bus, turning to look at me as it goes 'round the corner.  Little chubby hand waving and blowing a kiss.  One morning (at bus time) I got this text from Abe:  "That little blown kiss just kills me."  It kills me too.   

*From my Happies Journal:  "Right now Liam-- who had a late nap-- is sitting by me, drawing (very cheerfully) a picture of a giant Liam with sharp, jaggedy teeth who is eating Mommy, Daddy, and Soren.  He is narrating this all with wide eyes and enthusiastic gestures.

*In preschool, Liam learned about stop and go.  He likes to run up ahead of us on walks and then point his palm out: "Stop!"  Then he'll put it down with a flourish.  "Go!"   We spend a lot of time stopping.  

*New word: disappeared.   
   "Mommy?  Where's my ball?"

   "I don't know, sweetie."  
   "Huh!  It's 'appeared!"  Hands out/up in a shrug


*New word: disgusting.  (Pointing at the food he's been served for dinner:  "That's usgussting!")  

*The boys and I helped our neighbor friend Kacie move a few things into her new apartment.  Liam would carry something in, set it down, pant a lot, and say "whew!" ostentatiously before heading back out to the car for another load.   

*A conversation: 

Mommy (after kissing Liam all over his cute fuzzy head) "Oh, you are just so delicious!"
Liam: No, Mommy!  I not food!
Mommy: Oh, you're not food?  
Liam: No!  I Liam!
Mommy: Well, can I still just eat a little tiny bit of you?  Pleeaaase?
Liam: Ooookaaaaay.  

*Sometimes Liam will play a game where he crawls around and alternates between pretending to be a dog, a cat, and a baby.  The dog is my favorite because he will bring me a ball in his mouth and we can play fetch.  


Like so.  Footwear on all four limbs is optional.
*Liam is a very easy person to travel with.  Abe and I brought him along with us while we ran some errands and he happily talked to himself the whole time we were driving around.  He would make weird sounds, have conversations in varying voices, and vibrate his lips.  

*A joke, by Liam:  "Poop!  Ehhhhhhh!"   (imagine the "Ehhhh" as a Sesame Street Bert type laugh.)  

*Liam says "airplane" "nowplane."  


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