Thursday, December 18, 2014

Letter to Malachi, Age 7

Dear Malachi,

We were snuggling in my bed the other morning, as we do so many mornings, and I was telling you about when you were born. We first discussed your chubby cheeks, as we always do. You were the chubbiest, cheekiest baby! After the breathtaking suddenness of your arrival, and after the nurses at the hospital finally finished WHAPPING you on the back (I still don't really know what they were doing, but you cried and cried), they handed you to me and I really wondered if they'd brought me the wrong child. You (your cheeks, mostly!) looked like some fat Polynesian baby, not like one of my own little wisps! But as soon as I kissed those round cheeks, I realized they were all I'd ever wanted in a baby. So soft! So squishable! I couldn't stop kissing you.
You were so full of light, right from the start. I suppose lots of people think their babies are little angels, and Daddy and I chose your name's meaning, My messenger, deliberately, but I never really saw you as the gauzy-robes-and-stardust type. If you were an angel, you'd be more along the lines of a clear-as-the-sun-fair-as-the-moon-and-terrible-as-an-army-with-banners sort of vision; more like John the Revelator's fierce and powerful angels than something from Precious Moments: "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." I've always loved our Restoration hymn "I saw a mighty angel fly," and the message your baby-self brought was more like that angel's: "Truth is the message which he bears…To calm our doubts, to chase our fears/And make our joys abound." 

I don't know exactly how you've managed to bear that message, young as you are. I guess you've just always seemed wise beyond your years. I don't mean that quite how it might sound—I've heard people say their kids are "precocious," or "six-going-on-twenty-five," and it doesn't feel quite like a compliment—but I don't mean you're manipulative, or over-serious, or jaded. There's just something about you. A depth, a calmness. It can be startling when it comes out in full force. Like when I was nearly due with Marigold. You came up to me out of the blue, laid your hand on my belly, and said with complete confidence, "Soon you'll be having some of those 'compressions,' Mommy. Just be brave and remember that at the end of it all, you'll be holding a sweet new baby." The strangest thing about it wasn't even your grown-up tone, but the way you looked at me so clear-sightedly, like some oracle of ancient wisdom. Not to make too much of it—remember, you also told me with complete confidence that you KNEW I was having a boy, and were so positive about it that I thought for sure you had some insight from beyond the veil. Well, we all know how that turned out!—but really, there is sometimes something otherworldly about you. Like you haven't quite shaken off the last silvery strands from those clouds of glory you were trailing when you came. Daddy and I used to remark on it even when you were just a baby. "Too good for this world," we'd say, shaking our heads at each other darkly as you cooed and gurgled and beamed your beatific, chubby smiles toward us like rays of sunlight. We were mostly joking, but I think it was a bit of a relief for both of us when you started whining and fighting with your brothers occasionally, making yourself safe from immediate translation.
Abe was quite pleased with you from the beginning.
And then there's the way you are with babies. You've told me several times that you would like to be a midwife, and while it's not the most standard profession for a boy, after feeling for myself the force of your quiet presence, I don't doubt you could manage it admirably. You've always loved babies, and I can't help thinking you have some sort of link with the infinite. Our dear midwife Cathy always lets you help out with applying gel, strapping on blood pressure cuffs, and all the other little tasks of a prenatal appointment, and as I lie there and watch your serious face listening to baby's heartbeat, I can almost imagine you communing spirit-to-spirit, some other life still fresh in your mind. 
If that sounds too metaphysical, I suppose I should also remind you of what you said recently while we were discussing the vastness of the universe and the mysteriousness of it all: "Mommy, I literally hate infinity." (You had to add that "literally" in there, as "hate" isn't a word you use lightly—"That's a strong word, Daisy!" I hear you saying reprovingly to your sister every time she says it—but this time you felt it was justified.) Of course you aren't some gauzy, fluttery spirit, gazing off into the ether through your crystals as Enya plays in the background. You're solid, grounded, and you love the solid facts of earth: rocks and volcanos and ice storms. You stumble around moaning "I die! I die!" like a character from Shakespeare when you get 'killed' in a duel. You make faces at yourself in the mirror. You're funny and silly and BOYish.
You tease your sisters; you wail like a police siren when you fall down the stairs; you love digging holes and hammering things with your rock hammer (not always with authorization). Still—every once in a while there's a clarity, a perceptiveness, that sort of beams out from you, and it envelops everyone around you. Even when we're not consciously thinking about it, we feel it, and are unexplainably reassured.

Like I do with all my kids, I love to write down the funny, surprising little things you say, but half of what makes them so cute is your particular tone, which is sort of indescribable. Still, to give it a shot, I'd say: sober, adult-like, matter-of-fact, and with a little twinkle of self-awareness that makes me think you must know how impressed everyone's going to be with your precociousness, but you're not taking yourself too seriously all the same. You recounted a conversation with your little friend Natalie the other day that was the perfect example. You'd made her a tiny, stapled-together book, full of facts and little sayings and pictures of things in her favorite colors. You gave it to her at church, and when you told us about it later, Sebastian asked you, "Did you tell her what it said? Because she probably couldn't read all your writing." (That was true, you know—your current vocabulary far exceeds your ability to spell it, and you're still working on things like making your 6's and 9's face the right way—not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Now, in the retelling, you said to us, "Yes, I read it to her so she'd know what the words said. And then Natalie told me, 'It's okay, I'm still kind of learning to write too.' And then I said to her,"
—(here you inserted the most effortlessly casual of shrugs)—"'Yeah, six-year-olds aren't professional writers!'"

Of course you aren't, and we love you for saying so, little Ky-guy. You're not some mini-adult, you're a sweet little just-turned-seven-year-old boy, and that's quite enough! You've never been the slightest bit conceited or smug, with all your "wise-beyond-your-years"-ness. If you don't understand something, you say so without self-consciousness, and if you suspect obfuscation in someone else, you ferret that out too, with your usual forthrightness. 
"How's being seven?" I asked you the other day.
"Exactly the same as being six—since I don't seem to have received any more privileges," you replied, twinkling your eyes a bit, but with some severity in your tone. 
"What privileges were you thinking you'd get?" I said, laughing back. 
"Oh—I don't know—probably a later bedtime, at least," you said. 
"What about that mango lassi you ordered when you went out to dinner with Daddy?" I asked (getting a drink with a meal is kind of an unheard-of privilege, and you'd been telling me about it with a mixture of delight and awe earlier in the conversation). 
"Well—" you shot back, with some eyebrow action—"I DID like that mango lassi quite a lot—but—you know, Mommy, that had nothing to do with my being seven." 
Here you are with a branch poking right into your head. "Just take the picture; I've grown to quite like it here by now," you told me, when I told you to lean away.
I had to admit you were right. But in spite of not having new "privileges," you know, we have been treating you as one of the big kids for a long time now, probably longer than you really deserved. It's that emanating wisdom again. For a long time, when you did something more little-kid-ish, like pouting or hiding the truth or crying over something small, Daddy and I would realize suddenly and wonderingly as we discussed it, "Well…he IS only five!" We mostly expected you to act like your older brothers because you so often DID act like your older brothers, being responsible and competent and interested in things far beyond what someone would expect of a boy your age. So it's good when you truly "act your age" a bit—it reminds us to be patient and appreciate all the funny little things about your little-kid self. 

Still, on the whole, your maturity is pretty impressive. In your baby blessing, Daddy blessed you with—I can't remember the exact words—but something like, that you would be "comfortable with complexity." And I've never seen someone for whom that's been more true. When we talk about scriptural symbols, you have absolutely no hesitation in putting forth your own interpretations of what they mean. You understand metaphor. And you ask the most perceptive questions! When we read Macbeth, you asked about Lady Macbeth: "Do you think she still saw blood on her hands after she killed herself?" Whether you approach it through the sciences or through the arts, I can't help but think you're going to navigate the world, in all its complexity, remarkably well.

So, I wonder who you'll be when you grow up, Ky-guy? I'm always telling myself not to read too much into my kids' "profession choices" at such young ages. There are so many things ahead of you, so many experiences and potentially life-altering realizations, so many twists and turns and new interests to find. I love how wide-open your future still is, and I hope you have many adventures and surprises as you explore the friendly road ahead. Having once wanted to be an astronaut myself (and having read statistics about how many boys think they might be NBA players someday, for example), I know that for most of us, our vague views of our vague futures are often fuzzy or unfounded or easily-swayed. "You can do anything you dream of!" isn't a phrase you'd often find me saying, practical-minded person that I am.
But—but—I just can't help looking at what you love now, and seeing something true in it—something about you that MEANS something, whether or not it has anything to do with the nuts and bolts and practicality of your future life.

Here's what you love as a seven-year-old, Ky. (It's not ALL you love—heavens no! You are a boy of many and varied interests, drawn to all kinds of people and all kinds of things!—but these things are your enduring loves, the ones that seem to go on year after year.) You love birds. Have loved them, ever since you were a tiny little bird yourself. I sometimes wonder if we ought to have given you "Robin" as a middle name, but your namesake Leslie Norris loved birds himself, and saw the natural world more keenly and lovingly than most, so I think that connection is still apt. Ah, but there was that stuffed bird we gave you when you were just a baby, so perhaps it's not anything intrinsic to you, but simply a quirk of fate. 
You love space and the universe and you say you want to be an astronaut, but again, it's a common-enough wish, of little boys who love the thought of exploring new worlds and who know nothing, yet, of the study required and the unlikelihood of this chance, among so many. And then there's the midwife thing: perfectly understandable that you should be drawn to the idea, with so many babies around, and with Cathy so friendly and competent and willing to let you help her. Love babies? Of course you do—sensitive, kind little guy that you are. You see, I have to cover my bases a bit, Malachi, so that when you read this as a (probably very rational-minded) adult, you don't dismiss me as an entirely sentimental being, blinded by my fond, motherly emotions. And, okay, I admit that when it comes to my children, I can be as fond and unreasonably emotional as the next person, so perhaps your caution will be warranted. But I believe in a mother's insight, too, so I'm going to say this anyway, despite the horrifyingly wind-beneath-my-wings-ish sound of it, and if need be we can laugh about it together when I'm old and grey.

So this is what I think, sentiment and all: you are drawn perpetually upward, Ky, because that's where you belong. You want to fly, you want to touch other worlds. Your spirit is reaching beyonduptoward—and maybe you don't even know what you're reaching for, but I feel that whatever it is, it's closer for you than for some people. I feel like, unlike some of us, when you reach heavenward, you're reaching up to touch something you never fully lost, and when you connect with it, you'll be tapping into something that you've always deeply known. And I just can't wait to see where that upward reach takes you, and how it will transform the rest of us—looking up, and watching you, and marveling.
So glad we have you, little messenger-Malachi. So proud of who you are, and who you're growing to be!

I love you,

Little Lucia

Daisy just loves Santa Lucia Day. Next year maybe she won't fit the dress anymore and Junie will have to do the honors, but for now, Daisy gets the privilege of taking the saffron buns to her Daddy on a tray. (Here she is last year and the year before.)
You can tell she's a bit nervous about dropping them. :)

If you haven't made Lussekatter, you should get yourself some saffron and try them! They're the perfect holiday bread. You can find the recipe here. The saffron is expensive, but we only make these once a year!

Sam and I always comment on how very European their taste is---not extremely sweet, but so tender and delicate and surprising. They just get better and better the more of them you eat! We served them with Parisian Hot Chocolate this year and it was a perfect combination.
Such a beautiful, cheerful, golden yellow color! 
I am also very partial to foods that are cute. I just love these little spirals!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Red and Gold

To our great surprise, the girls (well, two of them anyway) still fit their Christmas dresses from last year! Perhaps there is a little more knee showing, but we can overlook that. Goldie's dress isn't making its first appearance either. She does, however, have a tiny ponytail!
Junie has a very difficult time NOT feeling that her foremost duty during a picture is to supervise Goldie, with the result that it's Junie who is never facing the right way.
Wow. These faces!
And here are some lovely gold skies, just for good measure.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Random Thoughts, Thanksgiving Edition

There are so many things that happen around here that I don't understand. I accept them, but I don't understand them. Like this baby in this bucket, for example. Or when someone says something like, "Malachi is making holes in the finger!" I usually just say, "Oh, hmm." Occasionally something becomes clear: I'll find a foam finger with a neat three-hole-punch out of it, perhaps—but really, most comprehension simply passes me by altogether. I'm just getting used to it.

I hate that you're not supposed to capitalize the seasons. In fact, I hereby reject that rule. Fall, especially, benefits from the capital letter which I will unflinchingly continue to give it.

I had the pastry blender out tonight, cutting shortening into flour, and I thought, "How many women are there across the country, doing this exact same thing at this exact same moment?" Then I thought, "How many women have done it over the years?" It made me feel like I was One with the Ages. Just one of the many benefits of making pie!

Due to illness one week and Sam being out of town the next, we didn't hold our traditional Pre-Thanksgiving Run-Through this year. Next year in Jerusalem, friends! Without that run-through for fortification, I'm only making things I've made lots of times before: my rolls, this pie, and this carrot soufflé. I'm also remembering this pie and this pie with fondness. If we were having a bigger crowd tomorrow I'd make them too!

The other day Malachi told me, "Mommy, I literally hate infinity." He also said, darkly, after we somehow got sidetracked into talking about Schrödinger's cat and the two-slit experiment during school, "You never should have told us ANY of that!" Poor little lamb.
Nutmeg went to be a model in Sam's Gesture Drawing class at BYU one day. Daisy went too, to take care of Nutmeg. She was SO excited I thought she would explode. Afterwards she told me, "We went to the Creamery for lunch, and guess what I got there? ICE CREAM!"
There was some snow in the yard. Daisy used all of it to make this snowman, little Snowy. How she loved him!
Poor Snowy. His life was short, but it affected all of us. Out, out, brief candle!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Someone was telling me how stressful Halloween always is for them, and I was wondering why it hasn't been so for me. Then I realized it's probably because I've never made any of my kids' costumes. My mom is an amazing seamstress, and she's made us so many costumes over the years that now we pretty much just get them out of the box and see who fits what. It's great! It's also great that the costumes she makes are sturdy and washable, so the kids wear them all year long for dress-up, and I never worry about them getting ruined.

This year, as in 2012, we had two monkeys. Junie went up to the middle-sized monkey, and Goldie fit the smaller one. Man, these monkeys have been around forever!
This monkey looks just a little scary. She appears to be rubbing her hands with glee.
Way back in January, Ky saved up his birthday money and bought this astronaut suit (to go with the astronaut helmet he got for Christmas). He's been wearing it all year, but he was happy to wear it again for Halloween.
Okay, I guess I've made exactly ONE costume in all these years: this Rubik's Cube. Abe helped me. It was the easiest thing ever, (and no sewing involved, of course), so I don't think it really counts. He looked so cute though! For his last year of trick-or-treating.
Seb wanted to be a Revolutionary War Soldier of some kind. When we went to D.I. to get a soldier coat for him, he found this red coat (his favorite color), so he decided to fight for the British. "That's why I'm scary!" as he told people who asked why he was on the wrong side. :) We made the tricorne hat and the canteen/ammunition pouch straps when we were studying the Revolutionary War earlier this year.
He tried to look appropriately solider-y (serious/mad face), and after I told him to smile for one of the pictures, he muttered, "Now I'm probably going to get court-martialed!"
There were a couple costumes we had that could have fit Daisy, but she really wanted to be a penguin, so my mom came through again, with this adorable penguin suit. Daisy was SO happy. She's been wearing it nonstop. I love how furry and comfortable it is!
Eeek! So cute.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Nine bears in the bed

While Sam was teaching a workshop in California a few years ago, the three boys and Daisy and I went to the Getty Museum together. We were riding the tram up the hill to the museum, and Abe and Seb were flitting around from strap to strap, and Ky was jabbering to me, as he does, and Daisy was falling off the bench and making her lip bleed, and so forth, when a lady sitting nearby (stylishly dressed, impeccable fingernails) said, "My goodness! Are they all yours? You're not planning to have any more, are you?"

Now, let me interrupt myself to say that although I hear of people saying things like this, and I know that many people feel this way, I haven't actually encountered it that often. People are usually so nice to us! And I have heard people with few or no kids say they have felt "judged" for that as well, so I know we all feel insecure or defensive about our situations sometimes. And I understand that kids can be chaotic and especially when they're other people's, they can seem extra annoying, so I don't really blame anyone for being overwhelmed when we're around. I get it. I can usually laugh about it and joke with Sam about how our family's presence is reminding those around us to have a serious discussion about family planning. So this isn't a story to talk about how bad that lady was.

But anyway, her tone was awful. She was disdainful. Kind of disgusted by us, I would say. And I felt so embarrassed. So I said, apologetically, "Oh, no . . . I don't think we'll have any more."

And meanwhile, I was AT THAT MOMENT pregnant with Baby Junie.

And then I felt so, so ashamed of myself.

As soon as we got off the tram I think I started crying. I wondered why I cared what that lady thought of us. What did she know, anyway? Intellectually, I knew she didn't matter to us. But emotionally, I wanted to be approved of. I spent that whole night lying awake, alternating between thinking about what I should have said, and feeling cowardly, and apologizing to the baby inside me…I was afraid the baby would know, and feel rejected. I felt like I had denied something important, like when Peter denied Christ, and it made me miserable.

But I think that experience was kind of a turning point for me. I thought about our life, and how much I love it; how much I love being a mother and how much I enjoy our kids. And I decided I wasn't ever going to be apologetic or embarrassed about it again. We're crowded, we're noisy, we're crazy sometimes. When we all snuggle together in our queen-size bed, it's true, someone inevitably falls out! But I feel just like Nancy in this post: my husband is my favorite person, we make absolutely charming and delightful babies together, and if someone thinks I should apologize for that—well, I'm not going to! They should thank ME, for bringing such splendid specimens of humanity into the world! :)

So two babies on, and here I am expecting again. Number seven this time. And I find myself thinking about that lady sometimes, kind of laughing at how horrified she'd be if she could see us now! (Like the birth control lady in Cheaper By the Dozen.) I think I'm braver than I used to be, and maybe if I could go back in time and let her ask me that same question, I'd straighten up and look her in the eye and say, "Why yes, I'm glad you asked! We ARE planning to have more. Thousands of them, if possible!" Ha! That would show her. :)  I was talking about this incident with the kids earlier this week, reminding them (by my negative example) how we don't ever need to let others make us ashamed of our beliefs. And I realized that I just feel sorry for that lady now. Maybe she had a happy family; I hope she did. But by narrowing her conception of what was "the right way" to have (or not have) a family, she is missing out on so much potential happiness! I think that's what drove me to write this poem; not at all the sense that "big families are best for everyone," but just—how narrow, how joyless, if we were all the same. How arrogant to think we should be! How much abundance of joy can be ours, if we will let it come pouring in. And how the mindset of "there is enough, and to spare" can overflow from our own families of any size, and we will want to—indeed, be driven to—share our love in ever-widening circles with those around us.

Because really! How to imagine our lives without this little puss-in-boots?
Or this funny Goldie-clapper?
What if we hadn't had these two monkeys? I shudder to think of it!
And aren't we lucky, to have enough of us to play with a parachute in the backyard?

I feel like we are the luckiest ones alive.
And I'd tell that lady so, if she asked me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bunnies and Young Children

Although I do seem to have acquired the nicest, most friendly bunny on the planet; still, I have never thought one should press one's thoughts about one's bunny on others, or boast about him in everyday conversation…just as one should not do with one's children…but it is quite difficult not to just mention what a good bunny he is every now and then. Except I am now going to do more than that. Feel free to make a graceful exit now. It's just that I feel a solemn duty to counter some of the information you might find online about bunnies. I do not claim to be the world's leading expert on bunnies (that would be boastful) (and I was not, till recently, a bunny owner), but I have loved them for many years, you know, and I have studied them quite a lot since getting one.

This is the trouble with what some people say about bunnies: it's wrong. Because I read many, many sources that said: "You should NOT have a bunny as a pet if you have young children." This is written by bunny-lovers who, presumably, imagine a harrowing life of fear and suffering for a bunny at the hands of these hypothetical young monsters. "Perhaps you might consider getting a bunny for one calm, responsible, older child (10 and up), with constant adult supervision. But NOT if there are young children around. Certainly not if there is MORE than one child! If you have more than one child, consider getting a fish. A bunny is not for you!" they say. (I'm not entirely sure they approve of even HAVING multiple young children at all, these people. The very idea seems to hold a kind of horror for them. If they had known we were getting a bunny to come live with us and our six children, they probably would have gone down in sorrow to their graves. And then turned over in them.)

I understand. They want to protect bunnies (as do I). They want bunnies to have happy, stable lives (as do I). But in their well-meaning-ness, I'm afraid they give the wrong idea. They make it sound like the very existence of bunnies and small children in the same room is asking for total disaster. When in reality, kindness and love and gentleness can be taught to young children with bunnies—just as it can to young children with babies. Of course it takes effort and time. And of course I wouldn't turn the entire care of a bunny over to a four-year-old. But a loved, well-cared-for bunny is not only good for children—but they are also good for him! Our Nutmeg loves the children. He plays with them and hops around them and snuggles in happily when they pet him, and he misses them when they're gone. He likes his big family! 
How do I know he's happy with us? Well, he does all the things a happy bunny does. He comes running to greet us after we've been gone. He hops around and around our feet in circles and follows us around until we trip over him. He leaps straight up in the air and turns sideways while he's leaping. He bounds around the room and then boings up next to us onto the couch and bops under our hands with his nose until we pet him. I honestly can't imagine a happier bunny.
And now that we have had him all these months, I sort of feel like I need to evangelize for pet bunnies. They are such delightful, good pets. I feel bad that in years past they were mostly just thought of as the boring kind of animal you put outside in a hutch and forget about, because they can be so curious, and loving, and playful. I know I've only had one of them, but one is enough for me to see these things.

And in saying this, I understand that some people get tired of their pets and don't treat them with love and just give them away when they're tired of them, and maybe for crabs and lizards that's okay, I don't know. I feel instinctively that that would be wrong for a bunny, but I know pets don't always fit their owners. I'm not an expert on the morality of animal ownership, and I never really wanted other pets anyway, because it would be one more thing to do. And I don't want anyone to have a bunny who won't take good care of him, of course, but I'm afraid that maybe people are being scared off by these "NO-BUNNIES-AROUND-CHILDREN" sources when they could be enjoying and loving a sweet bunny of their own. So let me tell you some things that are good about bunnies. And why you (and your young children!) could love one.

First of all, they are clean. They are SO easy to litterbox train and they LOVE to be clean. It's my favorite thing to see Nutmeg washing his little face and paws and ears.
Also, they are so quiet. They do make some tiny noises, we've discovered (tiny squeaks and little teeth-grinding sounds like purring when they're happy) but they will never keep you up at night yowling or barking. Thank goodness. But at the same time, Nutmeg, at least, seems to tolerate our general bustle and noisiness quite well. If there is a LOT of running around he will retreat to his little bed or withdraw into one of his cardboard boxes (he loves boxes), but then he will happily curl up and sleep there without being bothered at all. Even when the blender goes on, he usually just perks up his ears a bit and then settles back down. Maybe because he has been getting used to us from the time he was a baby.
And as far as the children scaring him? Ha! He is made of sterner stuff. He will run easily away from them if he wants to escape their tender ministrations—but more often HE is the one hopping toward them curiously, hoping they might have something interesting to sniff, or good to eat, for him.
And they do love to give him a carrot or a sprig of mint or an apple—though Goldie usually has to be talked out of eating it herself first.
And you know, when a bunny lies on his side like this, that he feels safe and happy. They don't let their guard down enough to sleep so…languidly? unless they are sure there will be no hawks (or scary, toddling babies!) coming to get them anytime soon.

I suppose I should mention, for fairness' sake, that bunnies can like to nibble things. It's in their little bunny natures! So you have to watch them when they're out and about, to make sure there are no cords and things for them to nibble. Nutmeg will sometimes get nibbling our carpet and if he gets very absorbed in what he's doing he'll start wanting to yank out the long fibers, and we have to become very stern and stop him. But he does that much less now than he did when he was new, and if you give him lots of things he CAN nibble (phone books, wood toys, boxes, etc) then he is mostly content with those. Some bunnies are worse than others about this, I guess. But it's really not such a VERY bad thing, and he won't tear apart your whole house like a dog might. There. See how fair-minded and balanced I am? :)
Another face-washing picture. I can't get enough.

Also, another of my favorite things, besides paw-and-face-washing, is the way he settles in when we pet him. He LOVES to be petted, which is right and just, since his soft, velvety fur is obviously MADE to be petted. He is the softest thing in the world. Really.
He has these stages he goes through when you start to pet him: first he looks like a little bunny loaf, and then he sort of scootches his front and back feet out slightly so he gets even lower to the ground, and then, if he's VERY calm and happy he will lie all the way down with his feet back and out to the side—only—since bunnies can't really lie down normally because their back legs are so long and their front legs are so short (which is the same reason they have to hop instead of walk!)—he CAN'T just gracefully lie down, so he has to just flop himself over all at once. It looks like he's falling sideways off a chair or something. It is the funniest and cutest thing to watch. Sometimes he's so excited about being petted that he flops immediately, and we all love it and take it as a great compliment when that happens. Sometimes a particularly enthusiastic or sudden flop will make him roll all the way over to his back so that his white tummy shows…after which he usually seems a little bit sheepish and tries to convey an extra sense of dignity as he rolls back the correct way to be petted again.
Flopped=relaxed and happy. I especially like it when he puts his chin down on the floor like that.

Another thing we like is when Nutmeg plays what we call "The Tree Game" with us—I don't know why "The Tree Game" except that it sort of seems like he thinks you are a tree or a maypole to hop around. How it works is, you stand somewhere, and then Nutmeg comes and hops around you in circles like a madman—first clockwise, then turning around and going counter-clockwise, then skidding to a stop and going clockwise again, then going through your legs in figure-eights for a change of pace, then skidding around in circles again. And then you sort of quickly step over to a new location and he careens after you until you hold still, and once you're in place he starts hopping around you again. He especially likes it if you move from place to place very fast—he seems to consider this an exciting challenge and sometimes gets so enthusiastic in following you that he runs right into a wall or a chair—or gets under your feet instead of next to them—after which he sometimes flips his ears and shakes himself a bit as if to say "What? I didn't feel anything." He will also play this game with two people at once: weaving in and out between you and making eights around both sets of legs (or, if you stand right next to each other, going in a bigger circle around both of you at once) until you get dizzy just watching him! After a rousing round of The Tree Game he is often totally tired out and he'll nibble at your ankles until you pet him and he flops by your feet. We tried to read about what this behavior means, and all we could find was someone suggesting it was "mating behavior," but he was neutered several months ago and he still does it all the time, so I think it's just exactly what it looks like: a happy bunny playing with his family. I always knew I liked bunnies but I never knew they could be so FUN!
He loves soft things and seems to think they are all his little bunny friends. Abe made this impressive citadel of bears the other day and immediately Nutmeg hopped up on top and started licking, licking, licking. Just snuggling in and grooming them like it was the most natural thing in the world. (Can you even find him in this picture?)
This grooming behavior is pretty sweet when it's with stuffed bears, but when he starts doing it to Sam, I just can't stand the cuteness! It's like he thinks Sam is another bunny. When Sam lies down on the floor, Nutmeg will sit and nuzzle Sam's hair and lick his forehead and sniff his nose for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and it's SO funny! Sometimes Nutmeg does this to me or to one of the kids too, but usually when the kids are around he's more playful and wants to run around rather than sitting there grooming.
Well. I have probably said more than you ever wanted to hear about bunnies. But, O Future Google-er of "bunnies and small children?," take heart! Such a thing is possible—and could, indeed, bring you great joy. Just remember what it says in the book Marshmallow:
A bunny's a delightful habit
No home's complete without a rabbit!