On Being a Blanchet

young-charlesblanchetLast week, as I weeded my garden, a memory floated into my mind.  It was a memory of my grandfather in his garden.  In my mind, he is standing on the hillside, one foot in front of the other, working in his garden.  I like to think I got my love for growing plants from him.  I suppose I really got it from my mother, who got it from her father, who got it from his mother, and so on.  It’s a legacy.

I am too young to remember anyone helping Grandpa in the garden, but I am old enough to remember him wandering to the mailbox, and through the garden, up the hill to the flower garden behind the bright turquoise sheds, on to check the bees, over to the chickens, and back. In my mind I am 10, and he is reading the newspaper while eating a soft-boiled or poached egg and a piece of toast.  On another day, I am reading near the kitchen window and he walks through the room singing Sinatra’s “Mona Lisa” as he tells me to get outside.  I remember the way he looked at Grandma.  It was a look that said that he was in love with her as much in her eighties as he was when she was in her twenties.

These are the things I remember, but last week, as I carried on the tradition of gardening, I began wondering.  I am now the mother of 8 sons.  They are 20 years apart.  My grandfather had 7 sons and 5 daughters in 25 years.  What did he think about in that garden?  Did he think about his parents or his siblings?  Did he miss Uncle Gibby and worry about his brother’s widow?  Did he think about Grandma and the vegetables that she craved in pregnancy?  Did he think about his children, running down the line in his mind, and wishing, as every parent does, that he could protect them from the heartaches they would face?  Did he relive the horrors of war and the worries that face every young father?  Was he ever proud of all of us?

These thoughts have stayed with me this week.  I have missed him more than I thought I would, since he has passed away.  I lived so far away, that I thought the loss would be dulled somehow.  Instead, I find myself wishing that I could sit with him on the porch swing just one more time.  I wish I had recorded his stories word by precious word.  I want to watch him chuckle.  I want to watch him put his mammoth hand on the table and lean back, or watch him puttering around wearing dress socks, plaid shorts and a striped shirt.

Legacy.  That is what he gave us, and that is what I am left with.  I have known since I was a little girl that I was part of something magical.  I was a Blanchet.  I had uncles and aunts who loved me simply because I was family.  My relatives have been my heroes and their lives have been a touchstone of sorts.  I have been in this unique spot that, in some ways, crossed generations.  The Blanchet grandkids span a few generations, and I am part of the first.  I remember Uncle David and Uncle Felix as young fathers.  I have memories of Aunt Linda in a nurse’s uniform, Aunt Pam driving up on an Easter Sunday, Uncle Art coming back from the Merchant Marines, and Uncle Greg helping my mother create a basement room in a little house in South Troy.   Aunt Mary Lee taught me how to do the side stroke, substituted in my art class at School 12, and had a little apartment that bordered Emma Willard.  I remember the worry over Uncle Danny’s broken back, and I remember how he seemed like a giant–a wonderful giant who loved his nieces and nephews.  I am old enough to have been teased by Mark and Charlie who were uncles almost from birth, and to have played people toys and badminton with an aunt–LorrieAnn–who is closer to my age than most of my own sisters.

Family.  That is the legacy I was given.  I learned loyalty to family.  I learned that no matter what, family sticks together.  I learned that in a family you put aside your differences and figure it out, because family matters more than anything.  Even in the midst of heated emotion and terrible loss, there were threads that bound this group.  I learned to love this huge group because I was part of the Blanchet family.

As I grow my garden, I am also growing a large family of boys.  They carry first and middle names like David, Daniel, and Joseph.  Names that I hope will remind them of where they come from.  I hope they grow up to be kind, talented, strong, tall, family men like my uncles.  I hope that they meet and marry powerful, amazing, capable women like my mother and my aunts. May they be stubborn, opinionated, and strong-willed, but also persistent, principled, and determined enough to work things out. The world needs people–men and women–of character, who can put aside their pride and need to be right, in order to preserve ties to imperfect legacies. May they carry on this legacy passed from my grandfather to his children and to their children.  

Summer 2015





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Love and Wisdom

renabell-davis-obit-photoTwenty-one years ago, I met one of the most amazing women I have known in my life.    We had moved into new houses in a new, bursting at the seams ward, and the RS president asked if I would drive Sis. Davis to homemaking.  Little did I know that this would become one of my dearest friends.

I think we went over to her house about every day back then, and she regaled us with thousands of stories, rootbeer and cookies.  We peppered her with constant questions.  I have often wondered if she just shook her head, and wondered why I didn’t have any sense at all.  She taught me a little about making bread, and gave me a love for plants and life, in general.   Brother Davis was the agronomist with a PhD in plants, but Sis. Davis just knew plants like she just understood people.  She knew that sometimes, you have to let the weeds grow a little in the spring, because you never knew what treasured plant might have voluntarily sprouted.  If you were too quick to make sure your garden was perfect, you’d miss out.  She knew that plants do better if you share parts of them, like people do better when they serve, that sometimes a plant would do better if it was planted in different soil, and she had a patience for watching them grow, as she did for the people around her.  She even tolerated all the helpers that came and tore up her plants along with the weeds.  We used to joke about the plant that I gave her three times.  Each time someone pulled it up, I gave her a new one.

Over the years, as more boys joined our family, I carried days old babies across the street to meet my friend.  Sis. Davis was like a Grandma to them.  More than once, I have sent a boy over to help or ask for something, and wondered, hours later, where that child could have gone.  He would come home, and I would ask,”Where have you been?”  The matter-of-fact reply was always–talking to Sis. Davis, of course.  They loved her stories.  They loved her.

I suppose I could think of a hundred stories, but there is one that happened a year ago, that epitomized Sis. Davis for me.  One day as I was talking to her, I asked her a question about rolls.  I think that it had something to do with how far in advance you could make them, or something silly like that.  In passing I told her that I had signed up to make some for the ward Christmas party.  On a very busy morning, on the day before the party, when my baby was crying, and I was trying to get to a meeting, and the list for the day seemed pretty impossible I got a phone call.  It was Sis. Davis.  Here was this 93 yo woman, who was having her own tough days, who had given up making bread because her hands hurt too much, who would have insisted that she wasn’t helping anyone in her life anymore.  As always, she had caught everything I’d said even in passing.  She knew from my simple question days before that I was worried about making those rolls, so she was just calling to see if she could help me by making them for me.  I told her that I was running out the door, but asked if I could come over later and have her help me make them.  She said, no, you’re so busy, and I feel good now, so I’ll just do it.  I never could express to her that day, and she wouldn’t really hear me later, that she was an angel that day.  She told me later, that she had been praying to know who she could help that day, and she just thought of me and those rolls.  To the end of her life, she was generous, thoughtful, and christlike.

I am not sure why I have been so blessed to associate with such an elect lady.  I am not sure where I will go for that particular brand of wisdom and peace.  It never seemed appropriate to drop your problems and frustrations at her feet, but she always knew exactly how to succor all of us.  I am a better person because of her, and I’m excited for the day, when I meet her again.

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Of Wakeful Nights and Restless Sleep

Sometimes, in the dark of the middle of the night, I watch him.  His breathing is steady and peaceful.  A baby cries, and, while I should jump up and handle it, I just keep watching.  He rolls over, sits up gently because that back of his is always sore, and slowly stands up.  With eyes sealed closed with fatigue, he unsteadily walks into the baby’s room finds the binky, the blanket, and sometimes the milk cup and picks up our latest model.  Instantly, usually, the crying stops, and baby and daddy fall back into bed.

Sometimes, the baby keeps crying.  In his delirium he will try comforting that little one, and often I will wake to find them cuddled up together, breathing in syncopated rhythm.  Other times, the baby tosses and turns, trying to get comfortable in the vast middle of the bed, while his father moves silently to the very edge and sleeps the uncomfortable sleep of a man that has been sentenced to six inches of space.  There is always a head or two little feet shoved into that wonderful man’s back as the baby maintains connection even in the deepest of sleep.

My husband doesn’t really complain about these midnight adventures.  When I ask him if he wishes for a different existence, he is adamant that this is the best life.  Even though he falls asleep everywhere, because he has been waking up in the middle of the night for 20 years, he insists that he wouldn’t change a thing.  I am amazed by his selflessness.  I am amazed by his steadiness.

I love that man.  His hair is losing its blackness.  Often he looks so very tired, and I wish that I could find more strength to give him.  He is, truly, better than I am.  He is gentle, loving, calm and steady, and content.  He asks for very little and gives all.

It is in the darkest of night that I am reminded of these things.  In the busyness of our lives, I am prone to forget, but in those quiet hours, as I listen to their breathing, I am grateful.

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“ Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.”
– Marc Brown

A few months ago, I heard something happen in the basement. My six year old, my sixth boy, started down the path. I knew where this was going. This little guy cries hysterically whether he has broken both his arms–which he has–or hit his head on a pillow. It is all the same, so, as his mother, I have to filter. Yes, that means roll my eyes and groan.

This time was different. The cry all of a sudden got serious, and I knew there would be blood. Sure enough, he ran up the stairs with a head wound. Did you know that any wound on the head bleeds like crazy? He had a gash right near his eyebrow. Of course, son #7 had inflicted it. A perfectly thrown wooden block had turned mid-air, its corner slicing a half inch gash.

What’s a weary mother to do? You can’t have blood everywhere. So, I grabbed son #5 to hold a cloth to the head wound while I ran for a bandage.

If you aren’t paying attention to the beauty around you, it is so easy to miss amidst the chaos. For once, I caught it. I came back to one confident older brother leaning on a stool with his little brother in front of him. He had his arms around the front of that little guy,and he was taking care of him. That older brother was holding the cloth on his scared sibling’s head and talking quietly to him. Josh had calmed the whole situation by quietly distracting that hysterical, wounded kid. He just talked and supported, and I was awed.

They amaze me, they really do. It is hard to see through the the fights, the yelling, the messes and the chaos, but, sometimes, when I pay attention, I am awed by how much they love each other.


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Perception–What I Believe is True For Me

If we are used to measuring the glass half empty, can we develop a talent for seeing it half full?

A year ago I woke up in the morning feeling rested.   That is a rarity when you are pregnant and have seven other boys.  My first clear thought was,”You need to blog more, and you need to blog about the ordinary but positive things in your life.”  It was such a strange thought, that I can only say that it was inspiration.

Later that week, David A. Bednar, one of the twelve apostles of my faith, spoke at Education Week at Brigham Young University.  He spoke of the #sharegoodness campaign, and encouraged his listeners to use social media to “positively influence others.”  Coincidence? Perhaps, but over the last year, I have been nudged over and over again, so I give in.  It’s time to quit making excuses, and try this experiment.

We have all read about, learned about and heard about those amazing individuals who are able to look at the world in a positive way, and change their reality.  They are able to look past war, death, disease, natural disasters and seemingly daunting trials and see God’s love.  That outlook changes them.  It impels them to do amazing things, to have courage in the face of adversity, and to trust God when the answers don’t come.

My life with 8 boys (9 if you count the hubby) is not really that glamorous.  It is not really what I dreamed of as a child, and sometimes (alright regularly) overwhelming.  There is mess, yelling, fighting, noise, chaos, crying, constant movement, dirt, laundry, too much to do in a day, more mess,  falling, growling, and sometimes lots of laughter, building, creating, thinking, talking, loving, hugging, cheering, and growth.  I don’t really think it will interest anyone, but looking at it differently may change me.  That’s my goal.  If I can begin to see the good, the simple, the ordinary moments and record them, I may start to see the glass half full, and that, dear reader, may simply be to save me.

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In Dreams

“Joshua, time to get up for scriptures.”

“Wait, I gotta eat the crocodile.”


“Yeah, his teeth are made of walnuts, his body’s made of bread, and he’s covered in spinach.  That’s what makes him green.”

“Okay, sorry I woke you up from your dream.”

“It’s not a dream.  Those are the ingredients!”

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The Best Things that People say to this Mother of a Big Family

Gotta love all the stripes

Gotta love all the stripes

Last week I shared a post on Facebook. It was entitled “Ten Things you should Never Say to a Mom of a Big Family.” I added my own snarky comment, and then enjoyed additional anecdotes from other mothers. Then, one mother–a wiser mother who has raised her own very large family– commented.

She said,”Just smile and say thank you! They don’t understand and most are only trying to be kind.” That one comment made me think (and feel a little guilty) about my attitude. So, I’ve decided to focus on the positive. Below is my list of ten things that people say or have said that stick with me. They are things that help me keep going, make me smile, and remind me of how lucky I am. I’d love to hear yours as well.

1. “Are they all yours? That’s amazing!” Now normally, I only pay attention to the “Are they all yours?” part. But, it is amazing. I started this group. Wow! I grew up in a big family and hated when people would stare at us. Let’s face it, though. Heads turn. We are noticed.

2. “You must be so organized.” I wish, but it was pretty smart of me to schedule all 7 dentist appointments at the same time. That way we can take over all five chairs at the dentist’s office and be done in an hour and a half. The office gets blasted with our chaos, but they only see us for a couple of hours a year. It works.

3. “Look how cute they’re dressed.” Really? You sure you don’t see the mismatched socks? That four year-old is wearing rain boots in the heat of July. I am so glad the vagabond look works for him.

4. “You should go to Vegas.” Okay, that was odd and a little funny. I had to think about it. Exactly what are the chances of having 7 healthy boys in a row? This might be a real talent!

5. “How many boys do you have??!?! I’ll pray for you.” Thank you. Thank you so much. I feel like a wreck and we have only just gotten out of the car to go into the store. What was I thinking? I need some prayers today–and maybe every day.

6. “Are you having a party?” No, this is normal for me at the grocery store, but I guess we have a built in party everyday. The fun never stops, and I guess the kids think everyday should be a party. Maybe I’m doing something right. My boys love to be together, and sometimes I think they are their own little community. I hope they always have that connection.

7. “You’re fifth child. His name is….right?” Thank you for knowing my kids’ names. I know there are a lot of them, but I am so grateful that you know them individually. I am sure they appreciate it, too, since their own mother often has to run down the whole list a few times before she calls out the right name.

8. “I was watching your oldest son with the younger ones. He is so good with them. It was so sweet.” I needed that reminder. Sometimes those big kids are kind of surly. Thanks for reminding me that they are loving and sweet. I’m also secretly proud of the fact that he knows how to deal with little kids. He will be a good dad.

9. “We need to have 6 more kids.” This one is one my boys frequently say. They also say wouldn’t it be cool if we each had 7 kids of our own? It always takes me by surprise. First, I remind them that their wives might have definite opinions about that. I worry about what they miss out on by being in a big family, and what they will be resentful about when they get older. In reality, they love their siblings. They like having built in friends. They have learned that family matters. If that is my legacy, I am lucky.

10. “I always wanted more children.” Thank you for reminding me that people never get to the end of their lives and feel like they should have had fewer kids. Thank you for that expression on your face that makes me want to cry and reminds me of the treasure I have. Thank you for giving me perspective.

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