Who do you think you are?

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I went to the temple with some friends this week. While we were there family history came up and I asked my friend if she could teach me how to do my own family history.

Every time I pulled up my information on Family Search I felt lost. Half my family was missing. My own father didn’t even show up until he died. Talk about holes in my family! What names I did have attached to me had inaccurate information. My grandma was shown as living when all my aunts and uncles said she passed away in 2012. Things were not right and I had no idea how to fix anything.

Elizabeth came over today to help. Our kids ran around like savages playing while she walked me through a lot of the capabilities of the site. She helped me merge duplicates into one person which filled in my chart so nicely. Both my grandparents had duplicates and my dad also had duplicates. We fixed it all. We also fixed a strange misunderstanding.

My great grandfather had some duplicates. Each duplicate name of his had him married to a different woman. Three different women! Who was the right wife? Two census records were available and that’s how we determined one mistake. One of his names had him married to a Millie. Another had him married to a Nelly. The census records showed his wife’s name handwritten as you would expect from a census. One clearly said Millie while the other could easily be interpreted as Nelly but the letters were all there. It was a little sloppy but her name was Millie.

Somehow another duplicate of my great grandfather’s name had him married to his daughter. Once we fixed the Millie and Nelly issue then his daughter went back to being his daughter. I felt better knowing who my grandmother’s family was and that the information was complete and correct.

My aunt was right though. All the temple work has been done. What few names I have found needing temple work done are already reserved. Another family member is planning on doing the work. I know I have the option of asking the one who reserved the information to release it so I can do it. But it’s work for my grandpa’s siblings’ families or something like that. Nothing in my direct line and not too many generations away from me either. I think I need to “find cousins” further back than that.

It was definitely an exciting day. I love just seeing the names and seeing a full fan. The lopsided one was making me sad. As Elizabeth walked me through different steps I would see a picture with the name. She was happy that I had so many pictures because she doesn’t have many pictures of her family on the site. I would pull up a name and see the picture and say, “Yep, that’s him!” or “That’s her!” I would tell a few stories about the person. After a while Elizabeth told me I should add those stories so other people could read them.

Some of the stories I told her were things I had heard told to me as a kid. I don’t have a written record of it. That makes me feel a little wary of sharing it online as if it’s fact. I would have to check with someone first to make sure I told the story correctly. But my aunt gave me a binder full of family information for my dad’s side of the family. I figure anything typed in there is fair to enter on Family Search. I have a written record of it.

My favorite story is that the E at the end of Clarke was dropped for a period of time and then the church leaders asked my great grandpa to reinstate it. One of his children never did. I wish I knew more but that is a pretty cool story. Elizabeth pointed out that that story would clarify the information attached to that great uncle. Some sources say Clark while others say Clarke. The story would help someone know for sure that yes, it is the same man.

I have scrolled through my family and it looks like the first names I need to find occur in the 16 and 1700’s. That could be interesting to try to figure out who the missing parents are. Besides putting in any stories or pictures I have that may be all I can do. Find missing parent names from hundreds of years ago. In the meantime I’m sure Elizabeth would welcome my help in doing the temple work for her ancestors. I have already helped her once with that.

There is something so satisfying about feeling connected to someone. The celebrities on the show Who Do You Think You Are? get very emotional when they learn about their families. Many of them get emotional just seeing a pedigree chart laid out. It is so fulfilling to see how a family fits together. I just wish I could go on the same type of journey those celebrities get to go on. Instead my journey will take much longer since I have to do all the legwork myself. Family history is fascinating stuff.

In my happy place

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I have been absent lately because I have been in my happy place. I heart my outdoor living space. Just to make my happy place that much happier I pulled out a book. I think I deserve some serious credit for not only reading a novel in one day but doing it without ignoring my family. Much.

I read in the morning and throughout the day when I had the chance between running errands and whatnot. Then I finished when we got home in the evening. The sun started to set and I wasn’t finished reading yet. The gazebo lights weren’t bright enough and it wasn’t dark enough for the lights to be more effective. So I went inside and finished reading. I love that book and I really enjoyed reading it outside. I felt like I deserved the break from reality.

An email brought me back to the present. At some point I had to come back. My help was needed for Primary. I thought it was weird the counselor asked me for the monthly scripture because she didn’t have her book. Why wouldn’t she have her book? I gave her the scripture and went to bed.

This morning she thanked me and told me I was wonderful and that she would miss working with me. That’s what I thought. The new Primary Presidency was being put in. Everyone changed but me. I will stay on as the secretary. I didn’t expect the reaction I had. Lots and lots of tears. Only it’s not what you think but that’s all I will say. I look forward to working with the new presidency.

Gwen earned her grand prize from the library reading program. She picked out a book about unicorns. It’s a non-fiction book that she was so excited about. I skimmed it a little when we got home. Later I made sure to tell her that unicorns are not real despite what the book claims to the contrary. The book talks about myths and legends about unicorns. That’s fine. It’s the Biblical references that made me uncomfortable. Gwen is at a very impressionable age and she believes anything that mentions God or any of His Old Testament prophets must be true. With a grain of salt, sweetheart, with a grain of salt.

Parker didn’t have enough hours to get his third prize but he was able to claim the second prize. Gwen wanted more books to check out. Parker was fine with not checking anything out. They are both happy to read whenever they feel like it without having to watch a clock. Gwen is still a bookworm. At least the pressure to read for prizes is gone.

And we had a couple Say Whats last night.

Parker: Do you know what the number one killer is?
Heath and Me: I don’t know, what?
Parker: It’s thinking. I must be dying because I am having quite the conversation in my head!

He’s hysterical. Although I think there is some truth to what he said. As the Kongos say in their song Come With Me Now, “I’ve wasted time I’ve wasted breath I think I’ve thought myself to death.”

Heath: You were the one who ordered the Big Borderito.
Gavin: I didn’t know it would be so big. I thought the picture was just exaggerating.

Then tonight

Gavin: I think I’m finally full. It’s kind of weird.

Finally! We filled Gavin up! He must have been going through a growth spurt because that kid would finish his extra large helping of food then beg for more. This went on for weeks. We went out for Italian one night. He ate an adult entre of spaghetti. He was still hungry so he finished Gwen’s pasta that she had maybe five small bites of. Then he had a piece of Parker’s pizza.

My brother said that running does that to boys. Then he said that he eats as if he’s still on the cross country team and wonders why his clothes are getting too small. That made me laugh. I love my brother.

I can’t think of anything else noteworthy that has happened lately. It’s a fairly boring post with a mishmash of stories but what do you expect when I’ve been in my happy place all week.

Working from the Gazebo

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All I ever wanted was to have a cozy outdoor space. An extension of the comforts from home right in my backyard.

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Ta da!

Is it wrong to be jealous of myself? Or to covet my own stuff? That makes me sound like a spoiled brat. I guess in some ways I am. But a spoiled brat would want more and more and more and never feel satisfied. Whereas I keep pinching myself to see if my own life is real.

It’s a simple space that is not very big. It is incredible how comfortable and peaceful it is. I love it! It’s all I ever wanted that space to be. I wanted an outdoor living room and now I have it.

I’m grateful things worked out the crazy way that they did because I can see now that we don’t need a coffee table. There’s no room for one. I’m also grateful we could only afford the pieces we got because I needed to see those pieces in the space. Now we can really think through what last piece of furniture we want, if we want anything else at all. I would like another ottoman at least.

So the story is we went to a store that exclusively sells patio furniture. We went there first. I fell in love with a set. Parker tried to convince me I loved another set but I didn’t. The cushions felt like sinking into a dreamy cloud but other than that I loved nothing about the set. The set I fell in love with also had luxurious cushions plus the beautiful color and frames.

I was ready to drop all my money right then and there. Heath is not a very impulsive shopper. He likes to research everything. It’s one reason why I don’t like to buy him gifts. I’m afraid I won’t get the right thing. I just tell him what I want him to have and tell him to get it. That way he can enjoy the process of researching and anticipating the item. Anyway, Heath told me it was the first store and we should shop around.

The saleswoman who was helping us had written up the sizes of every piece in the set along with the prices. We planned on taking the paper home and visualizing with masking tape. I had sticker shock with the prices but she did say she could work with us and we could probably get a deal based on what we chose.

We went to home improvement stores and Sears looking at their patio furniture. Nothing felt right. I felt like I was settling with every set. Nothing was quite right and if I’m going to make a major purchase I better like what I’m getting. I was feeling discouraged but Heath had one more trick up his sleeve. We looked at the myriad of choices on Costco.com. I learned what I preferred and eventually narrowed down my loves to one set.

Heath ordered the furniture and I floated around the house for a couple days imagining my new furniture. Costco burst my bubble when they let us know via email there was an issue with the order. We jumped through their hoops trying to reach someone to fix whatever the problem was. We didn’t even really know. They were not as proactive in responding. No one ever got back to us. The order showed it had been cancelled.

So we started all over. Again there was an issue. Heath suspected it was because we have a daily limit on our debit card. Costco won’t take credit cards. The weird thing was our daily limit was higher than the purchase price, including tax and fees. Once again the order mysteriously cancelled. Fine! There would be no third time charm. I was mad and wanted to spend my money on furniture. If Costco didn’t want it they weren’t going to get it!

Heath took me back to the first patio store. We did a loop around the store just to be sure. The more I looked the more I knew I loved that first set. There was a second set that tempted me for a minute but I was able to quickly talk myself out of it. I can’t even remember what it was I didn’t like as much as the first set. I just knew that first set was it.

We decided which pieces we wanted and the same saleslady put together the price. We had a magic number in mind but the total was much higher. To save a significant amount of money we told her to scratch the second action rocker chair. The total was under our magic number. To make the deal even sweeter, she said the furniture would be delivered in about a week to ten days! I was thrilled. But she said they were behind and it may take up to two weeks for delivery. Ten days later I got my furniture.

I don’t know why things worked out the way they did. It worked out for the best. I could not be happier.

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The ottoman roves. At one point today three of us used it at the same time.

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In preparation for our dream furniture, Heath bought me these lantern lights. He spotted them at Lowe’s and said, “Those are so Tristan!”

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Last Saturday we moved the rope lighting to the center of the gazebo and hung the lanterns around the edge. It’s surprising how much light there is in that gazebo at night. It’s quite nice.

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The side tables were on sale at the patio store. I love them. They have ice buckets in the center for Diet Coke and other soft drinks (since we don’t drink alcohol). The ice buckets weren’t a selling point for me though. I just love the tables. They are gorgeous. They are made of the same aluminum as the furniture frames. Lightweight but sturdy and oh so beautiful.

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My other favorite feature in the gazebo is this lantern. It’s actually a blue-tooth speaker. Lowe’s had one displayed on a patio table. We asked an employee where we could find one. Since it’s the end of the season they only had two left in the store. One was the display in our hands and the other was on the doorbell and outdoor lighting aisle.

We looked exactly where the computer said it was located but it wasn’t there. I wandered up toward the decorative lanterns just to see. That’s when I spotted the last box sitting on a shelf in the wrong place. We snatched it up and replaced the display.

The lantern is awesome. I play Pandora on my phone and the sound comes out in beautifully rich tones from the speaker. I can hear the music from the pool which is so cool. I’m glad I haven’t bought any lanterns at Hobby Lobby. Lanterns seem to be all the rage right now. I love the look but wasn’t sure what to do with an expensive candle holder. This speaker was cheaper than the lanterns at Hobby Lobby and it plays music while looking fancy. I love it!

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We decided to put this sling back chair in the corner for extra seating. Heath keeps telling me that I need to get pillows and while I’m at it I should get some cushions for this chair so it matches and is just as comfortable to sit in. I put a body pillow on it today just for the fun of it.

The whole space is perfect. I have the drapes, the rug, the wonderful seating, gorgeous tables, and my lovely floral display. Not to mention the extra shade from the lattice. I love this whole space. I have enjoyed a cool beverage. I started reading The Secret Garden to Gwen. I even napped a little. It’s lovely in my outdoor living space. *sigh* Does it get any better than this?

Heath worked from home today and will again tomorrow. He says he may have to take his laptop out to the gazebo.

Locked Out

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So many stories, so little time. Yesterday was a day. Today was a day. Then today ended in a situation I will find funny later. Right now, not so much.

I have been looking forward to new patio furniture for weeks. Actually months. Really I have been wanting new patio furniture for years. All that waiting found its happy ending in new furniture being delivered today!

It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I had hoped. I felt lost. I wanted to sit and enjoy it but I had laundry to do and a playdate this afternoon. Crap! I just realized I haven’t even sent out my Primary reminder emails yet. It’s been a day.

Finally the day was done. Heath was home, dinner had been consumed, and we were outside sitting and talking in our lovely gazebo. The conversation was cut short when Heath had to take Gavin to his youth activity. I thought we all should go together but I didn’t say anything. I should have known that Heath would take a long time talking to people. It was a five ward youth activity at a nearby park. I should have known he would find people to talk to if not join the games himself.

Parker, Gwen and I were sitting outside enjoying the new furniture. I finished my Diet Coke. Parker wanted to watch Psych together. This is something we have been doing lately on Wednesday evenings while Gavin is away. Gwen walked over with knee pads on. She wanted to ride her scooter but she couldn’t get to her helmet. It was locked in the garage.

Why the garage door was shut is beyond me. It was another 105 degree day and I had the door open with the rolling garage door open a crack to vent the oven otherwise known as our garage. Not only was the door shut but it was locked. What? Gwen couldn’t open the sliding glass door. The door is tricky to open and the kids sometimes need help. Parker got up to help her but he couldn’t get the door to budge either. I tried it and found it was locked.

We were locked out.

Gwen realized she needed to use the bathroom. I could have used some relief myself. We patiently waited for Heath to come home.

7:15
7:20
7:25
Still no Heath.

We were in the front yard hoping he would round the corner any minute to let us in. Parker wanted to walk up the street to wave him down. I tried to explain that it wouldn’t matter if he hadn’t left the park yet. Parker tried to shimmy his way under the crack in the garage door. The crack wasn’t big enough. Gwen tried. Her head was ever so slightly too big to fit the crack.

We were locked out.

All the windows were shut and locked. The front door was shut and locked. I am neurotic about locking things. We may live in a very nice neighborhood but I’m not stupid.

I wanted to be mad at Heath but I blame Gavin. I got after him for leaving doors wide open. When we got home from the water park this afternoon he had left the doors from the garage into the laundry room and house wide open. I was bringing in garbage cans and didn’t notice until I was done. I didn’t even yell at him. I just told him that next time he should remember to shut the doors because open doors let all the cool air outside and it’s a waste of energy. He seemed to understand.

When he was ready to go to his activity Heath walked in the sliding door first. Gavin followed leaving it wide open. I jokingly asked if anyone was going to shut the door and then I said that Gavin has had a habit of leaving doors open lately. He sure showed me! Heath shut the sliding glass door and must have locked it out of habit. I still don’t know why the back door to the garage was shut at all much less locked.

At 7:30 I considered walking my kids to the park to use the bathroom. The only problem was I was the only one with shoes on. What was I going to do let them take turns wearing my shoes into the bathroom while I waited outside? And how was I supposed to relieve my full bladder? Let my kids stand outside the restroom waiting for me? Shoeless?

We decided to see if our neighbors were home. The next door neighbors were gone of course. They asked us to water their plants for them. Our other friends didn’t look like they were home based on the cars in their driveway. It was worth a shot. We walked over and Margo answered the door. I told her we were locked out and I asked if we could use her phone.

Heath laughed when I told him our predicament. I guess it is funny when it’s not you. He said he would come home right away. Of course we stayed inside to talk to our friends. It would be weird not to. She kept asking if we needed dinner or anything. I told her we were fine but it was just annoying being locked out when some of us needed to use the bathroom. Gwen used their facilities. I should have but I waited.

When Heath got home we weren’t there. He didn’t know where we were. He assumed I had called from those neighbors’ phone but he wasn’t sure. He redialed the number I called from and had the confirmation he needed as to which house we were at.

Heath: Say this out loud. Parker you have something in the mail from Woot.
Ron: Uh … Parker you have something in the mail from Woot.

Ron didn’t even finish before Parker’s face lit up like the lights at a stadium and he took off running with Gwen on his heels. Margo just looked at me with a what just happened look on her face. I explained that Parker wanted to spend his birthday money on a Woot shirt. Gwen walked back in and said it was all a trick. The shirt was really her dad’s. Then Heath came over to show off the new shirt fresh out of the package. We talked some more because it would be weird not to. We love Ron and Margo.

Finally we were done talking with our friends. Heath wanted to change out of his work clothes. I said I needed to finish laundry. Which was true but my floating teeth were more of a concern.

I love my new furniture. It’s awesome and I will write the post I have been drafting in my head when I get the chance. New furniture kind of loses its appeal when the choice to leave it is taken away. When you can’t get in the house nothing else seems to matter. I heart my indoor furniture too. And my bathroom!

Cramming

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I told Gwen and Parker that this is the last week of the summer reading program. The program ends on Sunday but my cutoff for redeeming prizes is Friday. Whatever they are going to earn would have to be done by Friday. The house seemed extra quiet this morning.

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I came downstairs and saw Parker reading on the couch with two stacks of books in front of him. Gwen was in the other room with her own stack of books. Then I found out they had been reading for an hour already! Color me impressed.

Gwen quit reading after an hour and a half. Parker kept his nose buried in books for three and a half hours. I am not even making that up. He finally quit to eat lunch. He was a man on a mission, cramming in as much reading as if he was about to take his finals.

He wants the prizes and I don’t blame him. He’s just not that interested in reading. Also understandable. Reading doesn’t make the earth shake for everyone. When we read our scriptures together as a family, Parker is an excellent reader. He can read. He just doesn’t really have the attention span for it. He bores easily with chapter books unless it’s literary garbage like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He enjoys having chapter books read to him. I think he’ll be like his dad and prefer books on CD so he can multitask.

One day I told him he should read the picture books we have. They’re books he enjoyed having me read to him as a kid. Books with wonderful pictures and engaging stories but the reading level is too high for young children. When I catch him reading he’s usually reading a picture book. We have some fun stories with so much text the book can take a decent amount of time to read.

Gwen is the book worm of the family. She devours books. She is also the most well-rounded person I know. She doesn’t seem to obsess over any one thing for long before she moves on to the next thing. I was impressed she would read a pile of books for 90 minutes but there were toys to play with and songs to make up and pictures to draw.

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I tried to get Parker to stop reading. His eyes lit up when I told him how many spaces he could mark on his chart. That number only fueled his fire. He was going to read until he finished his pile of books or his eyes fell out of his head. Whichever came first. I’m sure he would love to earn the grand prize. It’s a free paperback book. It would be bragging rights for him. Gwen wants to earn the book because she has put in the time little by little all summer long. And she would devour the book as soon as she got it home.

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Gavin even got in on the action. He read his picture books out loud. Not loud enough to bug Parker but loud enough I could pick out lines from the stories as I scrapbooked. It was fun listening to him.

After lunch the kids asked if I would read to them. The book we are currently reading is so boring. I can barely get half an hour out before my eyes close out of self defense and I start snoring. It is my least favorite book I have ever agreed to read aloud. The kids are sweet about my narcolepsy. They continue quietly doing what they’re doing while I sleep in a chair for a while. Only 100 more pages to go …

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Eventually the reading spell was broken and the decimated bottom shelf of picture books was restored to order. Friday will be a big day at the library indeed.

Summer Walks

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Summers were never complete without long walks. When my mom had the day off she would take me on a “walk around the world.” That’s what I called those long walks. We would see plenty of cows and horses in pastures along the borders of our town. I loved the cows. Mom and I would talk about anything and everything while we trekked all morning.

I remember my mom taking all three of us on long walks to gather cans on the side of the road. At home we would step on the cans to smash them. When we had several garbage bags full we would recycle them for cash. I’m sure it wasn’t much money but to three young kids it was like winning the lottery.

My mom had taught us how to weave our way through the neighborhoods toward busy 3500 South. We weaved east to catch a bus to the mall. We weaved west to peruse the library or get a free kiddie cone from Arctic Circle. A kitchen cupboard was full of cardboard circles redeemable for free kiddie cones. I remember so many summer days when we would either raid the cupboard, or dump our coins on my sister’s bed to see if we had enough for bus fair and a dollar movie at the mall.

When Heath was a kid he would walk to the 7-11 for Slurpees. The 7-11 was maybe a block away from where he lived. I had to walk at least a mile to get to civilization! Walking and summer treats were just how we grew up.

I have already walked with the kids to Mr. Pickles. On the hottest day ever! My other idea was to walk to 7-11 for Slurpees. Today was the perfect day. Sunny, breezy, and highs in the upper 70’s. I was looking forward to an adventure on the trail behind our house. The best benefit to the trail is we would only have to cross one major intersection. Unfortunately, the trail opening was closed.

The city sent a couple letters about construction on the trail. The latest letter made it sound like construction wouldn’t affect the trail just behind our house. I didn’t think it would affect the entrance we use. Huge piles of cement blocks and equipment were on the other side of the fence along with a couple porta potties. I didn’t know what to think. I hear people walking, biking, and running behind our house every morning. There were no workers in sight but I wasn’t going to hope the entrance was still open to walk past all that construction.

The kids decided to walk through the park instead. Halfway through I decided we picked the right way since we were shaded in the park. Walking on the street was a straighter shot but it was in full sun. We did have to cross the busy street three times at two lights each way. I hated it. It’s a seven lane road. Three lanes each direction with a protected left turn light for the lane in the middle. There was also construction in the right lane a few yards in front of the 7-11. I was afraid the sidewalk would be closed and the whole plan would be a bust. Luckily we were able to walk past all the men working with no problems at all.

I fulfilled the kids predictions by getting a Big Gulp of Diet Coke instead of a Slurpee. We all happily sipped away as we walked back, with the aid of three lights, to the park. Without saying a word Gavin walked toward one of the playgrounds. The other two decided that was a brilliant idea so we all stopped to play. The kids came up with some very creative games and imaginings for over an hour.

On the way home Parker asked me if I would create a bucket list if someone told me I was going to die soon. I told him it would depend. If I was old I wouldn’t. But if someone gave me a year to live from right now maybe I would come up with a bucket list. Then I told him that if we just live each day to its fullest it doesn’t matter when we die. We won’t have any regrets.

Gavin chimed in: In a couple weeks I will be upset that I didn’t live my summer to its fullest!
Me: Whose fault is that?
Gavin: Yours. You never took us anywhere!

Despite my son’s faulty short term memory, it’s been a great summer. I can cross off walking to 7-11 from my bucket list. I would love to do it again when the trail opens. The busy street did make me feel very nervous with my little ducklings. We still need to go on another fairy walk. It’s been a while since we have gone on that walk. Summer isn’t complete without fun walks.

Wakeup Call–Mother Nature Calling

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I finished the first pair of three pajama shorts for Gwen just in time for bed. They are adorably bright pink with sparkly pink polka dots. She also chose a black and white spotted animal print and large ladybugs flying across a pink background.

Gwen: Who knew Hobby Lobby had cute fabric too?

She’s too funny. We looked at the Crayola aisle for a new coloring book. Gwen wanted to spend her money and didn’t find anything great at Target. Once again disappointed with the selection, we continued to browse. Gwen found some books she liked. They were classic stories abridged for young readers. She chose The Secret Garden and The Wind in the Willows.

Reading has taken over this girl’s mind. She reads any second she can. Especially at night. She loves to read herself to sleep. I love it too but it does make it hard to convince her to turn off her light. She has gotten into the habit of “needing” her light on. I have gotten out of the habit of turning it off when I go to bed. Half the time I open her door and she looks up from a book wondering why I’m opening her door.

Her light bulb had burned out so Heath replaced it for her when she went to bed. We want to get her some sort of lamp or other light source she can keep closer to her bed to make things easier. Until then we tried to convince her to turn her light off when she finished reading.

I think her light was off when we went up to bed. We turned in earlier than usual. As we shut off all the house lights Gwen got upset. Her door was opened a crack. This is one way she agrees to a dark room because she finds comfort in the lights from the rest of the house. Darkness was her new companion much sooner than she was ready for. Silently I flipped her light on and shut her door. We could try again another night.

In the wee hours of the morning I awoke to my bed vibrating. We have a Tempur-pedic bed. It came with two remotes that can adjust the head and feet. The remotes also offer a vibrating feature. We never use it because it’s weird. I feel like it’s more noisy than soothing. I don’t know what I’m supposed to get out of the feature. I just think it’s weird.

Once or twice our bed has started vibrating on its own. It shakes the chandelier in the kitchen. When I have gone up to investigate I see that something is pushing on that button on the remote. Kind of strange but what are you going to do?

Waking up at 2:00 am to a vibrating bed was strange indeed. I reached over to Heath to wake him and say something about the remotes. He reached out to me and grabbed my hand. The vibrating stopped and the bed started shaking in waves distinctive to an earthquake. I knew exactly what was happening. My hand squeezed Heath’s hard.

Heath: It’s okay, it’s just an earthquake.
Me: I know but I’m scared for the kids.

As soon as we finished this brief conversation, the earthquake was over. Still I was bracing myself for somebody’s cries. Heath immediately jumped out of bed and went down the hall to the kids’ rooms. He opened Gwen’s door first. She was sitting bolt upright in her bed with a surprised and confused look on her face. Heath asked if she was okay and she said her headboard was hitting the wall. I put on a cheery voice and told her it was an earthquake, exclamation point. As if it was the coolest thing in the world. Then I told her to go back to sleep.

We checked on the boys. Gavin knew it was an earthquake and was fine. Parker continued to sleep. He had no idea this morning! I think he was a little bummed he missed out. Heath and I climbed back into bed our hearts still pounding. Never before have I been so grateful for Gwen having her light on all night. Of all the nights to keep it on, that was a night I believe she deserved to have it on. She never cried but went right back to sleep.

By 7:00 this morning there had been thirteen aftershocks. We only felt two of them. The earthquake was downgraded from a 4.2 to a 4.0 magnitude. Not a big earthquake but enough to be felt. The aftershocks were very small. Mostly 1’s and 2’s. We felt the 2.something magnitude aftershocks. The news reporter said she hadn’t felt anything and she had been on scene at the epicenter since 4:00 am. That’s how small a 1.0 magnitude aftershock is.

It took a while for us to find sleep again. Our parental protective instincts were on full alert. Heath said the second he woke up his first thought was how could he protect his family. My first thought after realizing it wasn’t something wrong with the bed was to comfort my babies.

While it wasn’t a large earthquake at all I had this sense of finality. As if this could be it. The world may end. I found it interesting that many people on the news had the same reaction. There was no reported damage. The people interviewed said it made them want to make sure they had their emergency food in place.

One guy said he ran in to check on his 2 year old grandson. Apparently the toddler slept through the entire thing. Absolutely no idea even though they were near the epicenter. It reminded me of something I said to Heath while we were trying to calm down enough to sleep again.

Me: Curse motherhood for making me a light sleeper and so aware of any sound!

I kept hearing popping sounds as if the alarm clock was about to come on. I even told Heath that it seemed like I could hear things outside even though I knew it was just the constant whir of the fan. We had no windows open. The nighttime low was too high for that. Heath fell asleep before I did. He was comforted by not hearing any sirens.

Nothing happened and earthquakes are common in the Bay Area. It was a very interesting wakeup call. Looking at Gwen’s new pajama shorts reminded me of the night’s adventures. For some reason it affected me to think she wore those new shorts to bed on such a crazy night.

Me: How were your new shorts last night?
Gwen: They were great.
Me: Did they give you sparkly fairy dreams?
Gwen: Yes! Maybe the animal ones will make me dream about pets and the ladybug shorts will make me dream about ladybugs!

No lasting mental damage from the night’s events. When you’re 7 years old you should be able to have sparkly fairy dreams and a short memory for the scary events in the world.

Say What

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While driving we stopped in front of a crosswalk to let two women pushing baby strollers cross the street.

Heath: It’s always good to stop for pedestrians.
Gwen: Don’t call the babies pedestrians!
Heath: You’re right. The babies are passengers. The women are pedestrians.
Gwen: Don’t call people pedestrians.
Heath: Anytime you walk you’re a pedestrian.
Gwen: Even on the sidewalk??????

Gwen: What did we learn from this story?
Family lists several things, including silly ideas.
Gwen: No, being thankful is the only thing we learned from that story!

Rules

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“I’m sorry, Frog.”

This was Parker’s apology to me for making me read a tearjerker of a book out loud. Rules was an excellent book. I kept the tears at bay for much longer when I finished reading it to the kids. Yesterday was a different story. I wanted to keep reading even if our hour was over. While the kids played I sobbed through the rest of the book. Rinse, lather, repeat today.

Rules is a book about a 12 year old girl who babysits her younger brother with autism. The author wrote the book because she has a son with autism. When her daughter asked why there weren’t any stories about families like theirs, she knew she needed to just write one. It was her first novel and it deserved the literary awards it received.

It wasn’t the aspect of children with special needs that touched me as much as Catherine needing her parents too. That was what turned on the water works for me. She was trying so hard to fit in but felt caught between two worlds, not really fitting into either. It ripped my heart out.

Ever since I finished the book, the first time, I keep thinking about my own experiences with children who have special needs. As an elementary student, I had the unique opportunity to be asked to work with younger students who were struggling academically. Maybe that was the beginning. I have always rooted for the underdog. And I love unlocking someone’s potential by simply having faith in them.

I remember sitting in my required Intro to Special Ed class in college and feeling the hair on my arms raise. It was as if I had found my mission in life. That was when I decided I was majoring in Special Education. I would feel bad that I didn’t do much with that degree. I only taught one year as a mild/moderate Resource teacher. My entire teaching career lasted three years before I chose to stay home to have children. My Special Education degree was best put to use when I was a Regular Ed teacher. There are of course plenty of memories of times in my life when my Christlike love for everyone, disability or otherwise, has blessed both our lives.

I have had other people tell me that they know someone who has quit, or is thinking of quitting a job with troubled youth. It angers me. How can anyone be afraid of someone who clearly is in need of love? Look past the rough exterior to see the needs underneath. That’s all it takes. Are we not all beggars?

I have seen people hold those with special needs to a higher standard. It’s noble and I understand where their heart is. But it’s also completely unfair. In an effort to treat everyone the same and overlook the challenges some face, what people are actually doing is giving the able minded a free pass to do whatever they want while expecting those with special needs to follow the rules to a T. It’s unfair and it angers me. The spirit of the law is just as important as the letter of the law. I would give an example but it’s best I keep it to myself right now.

It’s not even a case of unfairly treating those with a medical diagnosis of imperfectness. We do this to people we consider “normal” who may be struggling mentally for one reason or another. Just because someone is taking things harder than we have in a similar situation does not mean they are wrong. It doesn’t mean we should hold them to that higher standard thinking they just need to buck up and getter over it. Having a hard time is having a hard time. Treat others with love and compassion.

I try not to judge others. I have seen students pass standardized tests because I have asked them to show me what they know rather than join the list of adults who expect them to fail. I go out of my way to love the prickly people of the world. I try not to judge. I do though. I’m judging those who can’t appreciate the gifts the “ungifted” can offer. I’m judging those who have pretended all was well with me, forcing me to work that much harder, when they knew not all was well. I need to move past it but I am holding onto the hurt which inevitably only hurts me more.

Rules has brought up so many feelings.

My heart reaches out to families touched by special needs. At the same time I don’t understand why it’s becoming en vogue to want a child with special needs. I will never forget the day my principal quietly chastised me for telling a mother her daughter may not be pulled for Resource. Wasn’t it great! was my attitude. This mother didn’t care that her daughter was more academically advanced than any first grader, possibly even an incoming second grader. All she cared about was that her daughter had autism and she expected special treatment for her daughter. I don’t get that but I also don’t have the challenge of parenting such a child.

I can’t save the world but I believe we all can make a small difference. I also believe we have moments when we see clearly how to do that. I believe Catherine found her purpose in life through her brother David and her unlikely friendship with Jason. Stories about special needs or underdogs light a fire in me. Loving the unloved is my calling in life.

In the meantime Parker has a strange fascination with books that make me cry. When I asked which book I should read next he sheepishly said, “A sad one? Maybe Where the Red Fern Grows?” That would be a good one. I will probably blubber again if I read it out loud. It’s fine though. Some of these books hold many important lessons like “no toys in the fish tank” and “if you need to borrow words, Arnold Lobel wrote some good ones.”

“What are you laughing at, Frog?”
“I am laughing at you, Toad,” said Frog, “because you do look funny in your bathing suit.”
“Of course I do,” said Toad. Then he picked up his clothes and went home.”
The end.

Best Birthday Ever!

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Excitement had been building for days. Eleven days to be exact. The day before Parker’s birthday his heart nearly exploded. The positive anxiety was killing him! I love that about Parker. His emotions run so high. It makes birthday and Christmas celebrations so much fun.

It also makes Parker so easy to tease. My kids know the standard answer to any questions regarding gifts is big purple underwear. We all have fun with that inside joke. The other standard answer is that we have canceled all celebrations this year. The kids know it’s not true but they still react and it’s so much fun!

My mom used to tell us we couldn’t celebrate our birthdays until the time of day we were born. I use that line on my kids too. They are obsessed with the time of day they were born.

Gavin: 8:31 pm
Parker: 8:46 pm
Gwen: 8:03 am

I was thrilled to see the time when my doctor and I decided to give up and just do the surgery already to get Parker out. I would have loved for him to be born at the same time as Gavin. They were both born on Saturdays, two years, eleven days, and fifteen minutes apart!

And the anticipation was killing Parker. His birthday can never come fast enough. For years we would do a lot of combined gifts and celebrations. July turned into birthday month. Parker was insistent this year that his birthday be separate from Gavin’s. I can respect his wishes. They are not twins and should not be treated as such. This isn’t to say that the wait was any easier. Those eleven days can be torturous to an excited young man.

Parker asked if his dad could work from home on his birthday. I pretended like I wished that was a great idea but wasn’t it so sad that it may not happen. Heath got home from work a little late on Wednesday. He managed to get Gavin to Scouts on time but he was rushed.

Just before Heath walked in the door Parker said he couldn’t wait to open his presents. He couldn’t wait to see what toys he got. I teased him that maybe he wasn’t getting any toys. Maybe he was getting cleaning supplies. His wild eyes relaxed then narrowed to angry eyes. Heath walked in and Parker grumped that he was no longer looking forward to his birthday. You may think I’m mean but it was hysterical. I love that boy! He is so fun to tease!

Heath looked at me and whispered, “When should we tell him?”
Me: Not now.

Parker knew something special was up but he also knew he couldn’t find out yet. I wasn’t going to blow the best surprise to cheer him up after he thought he might get cleaning supplies! Please.

The next morning Parker walked in my room at 6:30. His patience must have given out since he let us sleep in for a whole twenty minutes! He had announced the night before that he would not be sleeping. He was too excited. Heath pretended like he was late for work and then quickly sighed that he should just work from home. The announcement didn’t bring the punch I was expecting but Parker was thrilled. We told him he could open his presents as soon as Gavin was up. Gwen had already followed on Parker’s heels and was chilling on our bed with him.

Parker-birthday-2015-008Luckily all the happy talking and the electric buzz of energy in the air woke Gavin up a few minutes later. Heath brought all the gifts upstairs and Parker opened them on our bedroom floor.

I love how thoughtful Gwen was with this gift. She really wanted to buy Parker a Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver from the mall. It’s hard to buy stuff with only a couple bucks. Her next idea was to make Parker a bracelet that said Doctor Who and Parker. She also filled it with tons of charms I get from Fitness Finders.

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I love this picture. I pray this boy never loses his enthusiasm for life.

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Parker was hoping he would get one Doctor Who action figure. Imagine Parker’s uncontainable joy when the biggest present, the one that had been tempting him for hours, was full of the first eleven doctors.

Gwen and Gavin started a couple squabbles in the morning because they were jealous of Parker and the attention he was getting. It didn’t last long before all three of them found a way to happily play together all day. They ran around the house from activity to activity. Parker was in heaven.

This morning I went to shut the sliding glass door. Gwen and Parker were outside playing with action figures in the grass. It was one of those proud mother moments. It warms my heart so much to catch my kids lost in their own imaginations together. Those are my favorite mental snapshots and memories of my kids.

We went to a late afternoon showing of Minions. When the movie was over Parker turned to me and said, “Best movie ever!” I’m glad he liked it. That’s what he wanted and lucky for him we watched on his birthday and not two days later. After dinner we had dinner at OTB our favorite Mexican restaurant. Then we picked up an ice cream cake from Cold Stone.

It’s a good thing it’s summer because we all hung out watching Boom, a new game show, before we got around to eating cake at 9:00. We were full from dinner and needed some time for it all to settle.

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It was the perfect end to “the best birthday ever!” I love that Parker had a great day. I feel ten years older and can’t believe Parker is in the double digits now. But it was a great day.

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