Hot Showers

I was in a hurry because I had somewhere to be. I handed my baby off to one of my older children and jumped in the shower. My hair was full of shampoo when the water turned cold. Oh, no, I thought. Something’s wrong with the water boiler.

Lucky for me, my sisterwife Melissa has a separate water heater. I knew that even tho I had no hot water in my own shower, I had easy access to hot water just by going across the house to her apartment.

I threw on a robe, gathered up my showering supplies, and headed to my sisterwife’s section of our big, built-for-polygamists house. All I had to do was walk thru the door that connects my great room to her kitchen and say, “Hey, Melissa, may I finish my shower in your bathroom?”

She didn’t ask any questions. She just said, “Yes, of course.”

I went downstairs to her guest bathroom and finished my shower with only that few minutes’ delay.

When we were talking with Kody Brown about the possibility of buying this house from him and his wives, Kody bragged about the water boiler that would be providing my hot water. He told me he loves taking long showers — sometimes lasting 2 or 2 1/2 hours! — and that this water boiler never failed to keep up with his marathon uses of the hot water.

No wonder he never showered in Janelle’s boondocked RV in season 17 of Sister Wives!

Oh, that reminds me to tell you: it’s no longer the case that I’ve never watched Sister Wives, like I mentioned in a previous post. Melissa and I are watching the current season.

Anyway, back to the idea of marathon hot showers. This possibility used to be completely foreign to me. I grew up in a house with its plumbing geography so intricately connected that if I was in the shower and someone flushed a toilet somewhere, the shower would temporarily turn ice cold. The water heater also had a tank so small and turned to such a moderate temperature that it’s temperature turned down so much we had to keep our showers under 10 minutes, and multiple people couldn’t take hot showers back-to-back. It was best to space our family members’ showers out by at least half a day if no one wanted a cold shower.

Even the house we lived in before this one had enough people sharing its 2 bathrooms and 1 water heater that we had to coordinate our schedule in order to avoid problems. Having limited hot water has always been normal to me.

But Kody was right about this water boiler: in the 6+ years since buying this house from the Browns, I haven’t once had to give a second thought to whether anyone else in the house was washing dishes, flushing a toilet, or even showering in another bathroom; it’s been paradise.

Okay, a quick explanation of the layout of this house is in order.

As you saw if you watched the glory days of Sister Wives (i.e., when they were all in one big house in Lehi, Utah), the house I live in is broken into 3 separate apartments connected on the inside: the top right was Meri’s (and is now mine); the bottom right was Christine’s (and is now occupied by some of our monogamous extended family); and both the upstairs and downstairs of the lefthand side was Janelle’s (and is now my sisterwife Melissa’s).

The righthand side of the house is original; this house was built for a plural family with just 2 wives. The lefhand side was added on later. Once you know that, it makes sense that both apartments of the righthand side share the electric wiring (1 breaker box) and the plumbing (including 1 shared water boiler), but the lefthand side of the house got added on later and has separate electric and plumbing. In fact, the lefthand side has forced air heating (rather than the radiant heat of the righthand side) and central air conditioning (instead of an evaporative cooler). My sisterwife Melissa has her own breaker box and utility room separate from my utilities. Each of the 3 apartments has its own thermostat.

Even before the interrupted shower I told about at the beginning of this post, Melissa and I having separate plumbing has been convenient at other times as well.

Right after she had her last baby and she was freshly postpartum and needing extra trips to the bathroom, her side of the house had plumbing problems and she had to come over to my part of the house for a few days whenever she needed to use the toilet or shower. It obviously wasn’t as convenient as having a master bathroom, but it was better than any alternative.

Similarly, I have had to use her plumbing before. A few weeks ago our husband Joshua had shut off the water to my side of the house and was in the middle of a repair when he arrived at the hardware store 5 minutes after it closed. Since he had to go to work in the morning before the hardware store opened, I was without water for another 24 hours. It sure was nice to just carry my dirty dishes thru the connecting door in order to do my dishes in my sisterwife’s kitchen. I also had the option to use her laundry room, but it ended up not being necessary.

One thing that strikes me as interesting and, in my opinion, pretty smart about this house is: Each of the 3 apartments is very different from the others. It lets us each have a house with our own personality and without as many comparisons. I’m sure Melissa and I could sit and list out the pros and cons of the various apartments. None of them is obviously superior or inferior to the others.

As an example, in a previous season of Sister Wives, Christine said that in the Lehi house, Kody wouldn’t shower in her house because Meri had a better shower.

I would have to agree. Meri had a way better shower. The apartment that was Christine’s has only 1 full bathroom, and that’s the communal/hall bathroom. There is a second bathroom off the master bedroom, but it is only a half-bath; the master bathroom doesn’t have a shower! It’s so weird! So unless Kody wanted to take his shower in the bathroom shared with all the children, you betcha Meri’s shower was better.

Here’s where Kody Brown and my husband Joshua are so different (and Melissa and I both respect Joshua so much that we could talk all day about this). If Joshua was in Kody’s shoes, with a wife in Christine’s old apartment, I guarantee he would shower down there. Just because another wife’s shower is better or cooking is better or company is preferred, doesn’t mean the husband has the privilege of just taking the best all the time. It is important to normal women to get treated reasonably equally. I don’t blame Christine at all for being upset, and it is insensitive and, frankly, foolish, to hear a wife express her insecurities for years and for the plural husband not to heed her requests.

In the clip above, Christine also complains that her entrance was in the back, so Kody wouldn’t enter the house thru it. Joshua makes a point of going thru the front door of the wife he’ll be with that night.

At times it’s awkward and even unnatural for him, like the other night, when he got home from work while my parents were over and Melissa and her children were already in my house visiting with us. He literally walked right past my front door and into Melissa’s front door, and came into my front room thru the interior connecting door. He does that on purpose, very deliberately and thoughtfully. He wants to send all the signals that he loves each of us and treats us each as a wife.

Kody seems to have things backwards from how Joshua thinks about them. Kody worries a lot about his wives taking care of his needs; Joshua worries a lot about taking care of the needs of his wives. Kody seems to hang out with the wife who is currently easiest to get along with; Joshua has always had a schedule he stuck to, even if he has a moody wife. If Christine doesn’t want Kody in his bed, he goes to Robyn’s house, even tho Robyn discourages it.

If Joshua and I couldn’t get along and we didn’t want to share a bedroom, there’s no way he would just go sleep with Melissa instead. He would sleep in another room in my house, perhaps, — or maybe if I’m angry with him, I should be the one sleeping on the couch. After all, it’s his bedroom too — but he would even go to a hotel first before he’d go to another wife. Maybe I should’t speak for him. But I’m telling you that there are different ways to handle things than how Kody handles them on the TV show. It seems like Christine put up with a lot and that Melissa and I have nothing to complain about in comparison.

Here’s a fun bonus video clip for you. I actually remember the day this was filmed. We were hanging out in the vacant house with some of the Browns and a few mutual friends, and the Browns made all of us leave because TLC was coming so that they could film.

I watched this while preparing this blog post, and my teenage son was kind of looking over my shoulder. It was weird seeing our empty house just as it was when we moved in, kind of eery writing this post while in the very room shown on the screen, and funny listening to the 3 of them discuss what to do with the property,

My son said, “Spoiler alert: You’re going to sell it to us.”

An evening with a polygamous family

Have you ever wondered what an evening in a polygamist’s house looks like?

Allow me to tell you what it’s like around here between Joshua’s arrival from work and bedtime.

Our husband Joshua typically gets home from work between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. His sleeping schedule right now is simply alternating nights with each of his two wives. (We had a more complicated schedule when we lived in separate houses.)

If it’s Joshua’s night with my sisterwife Melissa, he enters our house using her front door, eats the dinner she’s prepared for him, and then comes to say Hello to the rest of the family (if we haven’t already gone over to Melissa’s kitchen to greet him). If it’s his night with me, he does it the other way around.

A note about meals: On Friday nights we always have dinner together, as well as the rest of our Shabbat festivities. For other meals, Melissa is responsible for feeding her children, and I’m responsible for feeding mine. But there’s a lot of crossover. Her preschooler loves to eat in my kitchen with his older siblings, as long as I don’t serve him beans. 😁 If Melissa makes popcorn, you can bet we’ll all be over in her kitchen unapologetically stuffing our faces. When Melissa hears my juicer running, she comes over to get her morning glass of celery juice. So basically we do whatever is most convenient, freely sharing, but not feeling obligated to eat what the other wife is making.

What happens after dinner?

About half of us, including Joshua, are taking an online course in Biblical Hebrew. If there’s time after he finishes eating dinner, we’ll do a lesson together. We’ve been studying Biblical Hebrew for more than a year now, and I have learned so much about both Hebrew and the Hebrew Bible.

Then, at roughly 8:00 p.m., our oldest son will double-check that Melissa and I are ready for family time, and then he will blow one of the shofars in our collection (usually our kudu shofar).

our kudu shofar

The blowing of the shofar is the official signal to everyone in the household to stop what they’re doing and gather for some family time. Because we use a shofar and everyone gets a turn to show-and-tell, we fondly call this time “Shofar & Tell”.

How do I prepare for Shofar & Tell?

I have several things I like to do regularly, so my Shofar & Tell preparations are somewhat extensive. Far in advance, I plan and purchase gifts. At the beginning of each week, I post the spelling words, and each day make sure my gradeschool-aged children learn them. Each day I use a photo app to go thru our old photos-from-this-day-in-history and decide which ones I’m going to show on the big screen. I also go thru old journals and family Happy Books to choose the entries I’m going to share with everyone. I also select a dance song (or oversee the selection — any child who finishes their list gets the privilege of choosing), wrap a gift (if I’m giving one that night), choose a hymn to sing (or have my daughter choose, if she’s going to accompany us on the piano), and of course make sure I’ve nursed the baby, I have diapers and water bottles and the other things needed for small children, and everything has used the bathroom, so no one has to leave during the time we’ll be together.

By the time I arrive at Shofar & Tell, I’m loaded down with 2-3 bags of things.

On the days when Shofar & Tell will be in my living room, I make sure the room is clean. I typically vacuum on those days, and I’ve made sure to have enough comfortable seats for our large family. I have a standing desk on which I lay out all the things I need, so I can access them and still alternate chasing after a toddler and holding him on my hip. (I’ve just found this works better for me than trying to get comfortable on the couch.)

Where do we gather?

We have Shofar & Tell in the living room of the wife Joshua will be with that night. My living space and Melissa’s are on the same floor of the house, connected with a door, so the children will simply ask, “What side is it on?” and then they know where to go.

It takes a few minutes to get all 10 family members ready and situated, so I usually play a fun song (on my phone or the TV) and we dance while waiting for everyone to arrive and get settled.

Once we’re ready to start, one of the children is chosen, and the shofar gets handed to them. As long as they’re the person holding the shofar, it’s their turn.

What does everyone do for their turn with the shofar?

The basic idea is to share an interesting thing or two about your day. Occasionally Joshua will declare a theme for the evening: “Say something you’re grateful for.” Or maybe “Roses and Thorns” (Roses and Thorns is when everyone says something good about their day — their “rose” — and something bad about their day — their “thorn”).

But more often, we each say or do whatever we want. We can show, or we can tell, and we’re holding the shofar when it’s our turn, hence the name “Shofar & Tell”.

My daughter will often perform a piano piece she’s been working on. My older children like to teach us something they read in a book or on Wikipedia. Our preschooler shows us a toy he’s been playing with that day or perhaps he tells us where he went. My son might recite a poem he wrote or memorized. Melissa might show us a cute photo or video of her baby or her grown children. Joshua often gives a gospel lesson or shares a scriptural insight or teaches us something.

My turn is the arguably the most complicated.

A few years ago when we stopped celebrating Christmas, I started giving gifts at Shofar & Tell, giving each family member a gift roughly once a month.

I also have a spelling-word-of-the-day. I have a list of the 150 most commonly misspelled words, and I hand out paper and pens and quiz everyone; then we discuss how to spell it, as well as different forms of the same word and similar words. I make judicious use of the technology the Chromecast gives me to cast my Google Doc of spelling words onto the big screen.

Next, I like to show photos from This Day in (our family’s) History. Then, I read entries from This Day in one or more of the volumes of the Family Happy Book I write in regularly. (This can be time-consuming, so it’s the first thing I skip if we’re pressed for time, for whatever reason.) Finally, if there’s time, we’ll sing a hymn we’re learning.

When they’re done with their turn, they pass the shofar to another child. The last child to have their turn gives the shofar “to one of the mamas”, and once the mamas have both had their turn, Joshua goes last. Finally, we kneel and have family prayer together.

Who runs the meeting?

My son has the job of noticing it’s close to 8:00 p.m. and checking to make sure all 3 parents are ready for him to blow the shofar, but my husband Joshua really runs Shofar & Tell. He enforces the rules: The person holding the shofar is the person whose turn it is; all conversation should focus on whatever they’re saying. No side conversations. No leaving unless necessary. Snacks are fine if you brought them with you and if the hostess-mama is fine with the food being eaten in the living room.

What if we have guests?

If you happen to be at our house at 7:00 p.m., we will probably skip our Hebrew lesson in favor of hanging out with you. But if you’re here at 8:00 p.m., we will simply invite you to join us for Shofar & Tell. I love when we get to have friends at Shofar & Tell with us! I invariably write about it in the Family Happy Book.

How many of us know how to play the shofar?

All of us can play, all the way down to our 6-year-old, but some of us play better than others.

Here’s a photo of me playing our kudu shofar on a camping trip.

me playing our kudu shofar

We have about 10 shofars, but our kudu one is my favorite for several reasons: It’s beautiful, the mouthpiece is a comfortable size, I can get several pitches out of it, and the pitches are the right intervals to play bugle songs such as “Taps” and “Reveille”.

What are some other things we’ve done at Shofar & Tell?

We’re not currently doing these things, but in the past, we’ve:

  • Done pushups, situps, and squats in preparation for our biennial backpacking trip.
  • Read from a rich chapter book such as The Chronicles of Narnia series.
  • Told a scripture story using the Gospel Art Kit for a picture.
  • We used to study Hebrew on our own and then later discussing what we learned at Shofar & Tell, but now we study Hebrew together before S&T starts.

Shofar & Tell is an important time in our family culture. It’s the bulk of the time we spend all together, and we all love it. All of us (particularly Melissa and I) have voluntarily given up the activities that take us out of the home in the evening, in favor of never (or rarely) missing this time together.

What happens after Shofar & Tell?

Shofar & Tell lasts until about 9:30 p.m., give-or-take half an hour. After everyone has had their turn, always ending with Joshua, we kneel and pray together. Then everyone says good night and we disperse. The children go to bed and the adults have their personal time. And that wraps up the evening in this polygamous household.