I felt the tooth crack, and then shatter like a stone in the garden. Salt Lake’s finest and oldest buildings are formed from Rocky Mountain granite and yet one quick blow from my shovel fractures the rock into tiny grey and white crystals.

Spitting the fragments into my palm my tongue probes the hollow– how will I pay for this? what have I done wrong? why didn’t I go to my last check-up?– and then the next tooth crumbles and the next and the next, I’m coughing out shards and grief as I shake myself into wakefulness.

Dampened with sweat, I pull myself away from Mary’s curved form and tuck in blankets to replace my warmth. Erik is out of town and my bedroom is a minefield of toys and small bodies who love to play slumber party when daddy is gone. Tripping to the bathroom and a glass of water, I examine my teeth– imperfect, several cavities and a root canal for each baby– but clearly intact.

I’ve read that dreams about losing teeth symbolize a fear of losing your children. This rings true to me. Like every mother, I make a mental roll call several times a day. I’ve had my scares of Mary crawling back into the bath tub when I thought she was safely settled on the couch and calling the police to describe Hans at age 6: slim as a reed, white-blonde hair, mischievous blue eyes and a Superman tee shirt.

And I have the holocaust nightmares. Panicked vignettes where I’m scrambling to secure my children in an earthquake, a fire, a bomb, from masked enemies… Where is Gabriel? Stefan? I can’t find Ben! These dreams need no interpretation.

Frustratingly awake, I wander into the office where I’ve recently moved my computer. We’ve always kept the computer out in the family room free and open for everyone. But I’ve been writing and taking enough photos that I wanted a retreat– a place away from the chaos(and um, I didn’t enjoy explaining the treaddesk to every visitor). At night, the room is cloaked in darkness, the drapes pulled, the only light emanates from my computer screen. Opening my blog account, I click through aimlessly and visit YouTube to watch a lampoon of Sesame Street.

And there it is: video reponses– the best of Playboy, Maxim, Hustler– rated X. My computer has every porn block possible but it’s still right there. Pornography is discussed openly and often in the Mormon church, naming it “more addictive than heroin; more destructive than war” and I’ve seen the ugly up-close details of two marriages devastated by the obsession.

But my boys, my boys are sweet and obedient; they are offended when the media implies that all teenage boys are interested in a perverted model of womanhood. Yet, in the dark hush of the office, I knew I was being a fool. Do I trust my boys? Yes. Do I trust my little ones at the beach? Yes. But I watch to make sure the riptides don’t carry them away.

I’m learning that motherhood is about endurance, longevity. I’ve been mothering for 17 years now and I’ll admit that I’m weary of crafts and playdoh and the endless question of what to make for dinner. In the past year I’ve been able to spread my wings a bit, renew old talents and taste morsels of praise. But my work at home is far from done. My older children need me just as much as my little ones. Not to pound the drum of my will, but as constant ever present background music.

Literally gnawing on these thoughts and a sugar-free caramel Nip(I need these when I’m stressed); I bite down hard.

Out come two tiny shards of my tooth.

Cautious now, my tongue appraises the sharp new edge and I begin dismantling my computer and moving it back to the kitchen. Dawn spills through the house, alarms ring upstairs and we begin the 2 hour process of showers, practicing, signing planners and making lunches as the boys leave at various times(7:15, 7:30 and 9 a.m.). Xander prays and I collect good-bye kisses as the three little boys race out the door.

Silence reigns for just a moment until I hear Mary’s voice. Kneeling on my bed, fairylike, surrounded by white comforters and pillows, she reaches for me, “You know what I would wish if wishing wells were real and if I had a real wishing well?

I brush away the cloud of fine hair veiling her eyes, “What would you wish, Pinky?”

“That your only job was to be my mommy.”

She folds into my arms as we plan our morning— paint nails, fold laundry, mix up sugar cookie dough and an episode of “Word Girl” before preschool. And then two hours where my time is my own. I DO have time to pursue my interests, but it must be carefully carved and chiseled to the contours of my family.

I need to call the dentist– and soon– but for now I’m indebted to this razor-edged reminder of all that remains.



  1. Cheryl

    February 13, 2009

    I have no words. This was beautiful, Michelle. I could feel everything you were describing –in fact, I had to read it twice (it was that good!).

    So much to think about. Thank you for this…

  2. Heather

    February 13, 2009

    Wow. I have tears in my eyes. Sorry about your tooth. I’m cheering for you moving the computer back to a public place. What a great reminder that sometimes as moms doing what is best for our kids isn’t the most convenient for us.

  3. martha corinna

    February 13, 2009

    That was incredibly beautiful.

    I would have always assumed that pornography addiction belonged to the perverse and seedy type. Then I had an innocent, adored younger brother fall victim. I am much more aware these days(hopefully). It’s a good thing we have family to teach us.

    I have those teeth dreams at least once a week. Someone told me the interpretation was vanity. That always made me feel bad because I didn’t think I was that vain. I like your interpretation better, I do have them more often now that I have children.

  4. Melinda

    February 13, 2009

    I love you as a mother, a writer, a teacher, a concerned parent, a regular woman dealing with normal life things, an artist and one who is devoted to her faith. I love your writing Michelle but deeper than that is the content of what you write, you really are facinating!

  5. m_and_m

    February 13, 2009

    Holy cow, friend, this was powerful.

    I’m a few years behind you, but oh, how I have felt this reality so strongly this year:

    My older children need me just as much as my little ones.

    And in some ways, they need more of me. For me, finding ways to distract little ones and keep them busy was a lot easier than the mental and emotional needs my kids have as they grow.

    This was a stunning post, on many levels. Thank you.

  6. Linn

    February 13, 2009

    That was magnificent! No words. Just tears. Thank you.

  7. Melissa

    February 13, 2009

    Beautiful and haunting, Michelle. I worry about this with my boys too, because it is so destructive in many ways. Hopefully by sharing experiences we can help each other navigate these frightening waters.

  8. Nina

    February 13, 2009

    your words were very evocative…thanks for sharing…

  9. Jeanelle

    February 13, 2009

    Michelle, you seriously kill me (in the best possible way!) You are so gifted and I am overwhelmed by your talents! I loved the part about being “constant as ever present background music.” That’s why that besides all of your obvious, outward, creative talents, you are an amazing mother. I just know it even with never having met you – yet! p.s. I can’t write until I’m happy but I’m getting closer to where I need to be. Thanks for being patient with me!

  10. Christie

    February 13, 2009

    You have a gift, my friend. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  11. Tracy

    February 13, 2009

    Power, deep and so true…and if I can be a bit shallow – we are HUGE Word Girl fans here! xoxo,t

  12. Michelle

    February 13, 2009

    Thanks, that was so neat…and neat is too small of a word…But Thanks, I am glad for the BLOG world so I could find you.

  13. Claudia

    February 14, 2009

    The Lord speaks to us mommies. I have no doubt it. But did you really have to chip a tooth in the process?

    I can’t imagine your computer anywhere but where you have it now. That’s how we get glimpses of current photo projects, you know.

    Beautiful writing Michelle! Absolutely beautiful.

  14. Sharlee

    February 15, 2009

    This was beautiful, Michelle. As you know, I’m not really a reader of blogs, but I can’t stay away from yours! Seriously, yours is one of two or three blogs I read with any degree of regularity.

    I loved this. I, too, have been blessed on occasion with these moments of grace–gentle whisperings to my mother’s heart on behalf of my children.

  15. b.

    February 15, 2009

    This was just incredibly amazing…made me hold my breath for a little while.

    Thanks to my friend for sharing it.

    You’re really a lovely writer!

  16. Queen Scarlett

    February 16, 2009


  17. Brooke

    February 18, 2009

    michelle. that. was. beautiful!

  18. Kristin

    February 25, 2009

    i have always read in dream books that loosing teeth in dreams means you have knowledge that you are not using.

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