Just Do It!

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It’s a new year full of new possibilities. With each new year people like to make resolutions. In Japan, the people often make New Year’s wishes by purchasing a daruma doll. It’s an egg shaped doll, according to my second grader. At least that was how her class made their daruma dolls. It has no arms or legs and a heavy bottom.

If the doll gets pushed over it pops back up. This serves as a reminder to never give up. When a wish is made one eye is drawn on the doll. When the wish comes true, the second eye is drawn. Then you keep the doll until the end of the year. It actually sounds like a cool tradition.

Here is Gwen’s fill in the blank wish, spelling errors and all.

My wish for the year “of 2016” is “I can be better at foot boll.” One way I can help make my wish come true is “a can go out sidand play.” Another way to help my wish come true is “to play maden.”

This girl makes me laugh. While the rest of us are adopting healthier lifestyle choices or taking on new hobbies, Gwen is going to improve her football skills by playing outside and playing Madden videogames with her brother. Not a lot of 7 year old girls would even want to have football skills much less improve them! Gwen idolizes her brothers and hates that Gavin is “assessed” with football. I guess this is her way of bonding with him.

In the words of Shia LaBeouf, “Just do it!”

This video is a family favorite. Heath played it on his phone one night while we were playing a fun dice game we got for Christmas. The game is largely a game of chance. There is some strategy involved – knowing when to quit. We were talking each other into taking more risks by quoting the video. It’s also my new way of motivating my kids.

Give me flack when I tell them to bathe or shower – Just do it!
Whining when I say clean up – Just do it! Yesterday you said tomorrow!

Make your dreams come true! Nothing is impossible.

Another Funny Gwen Story

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Gwen picked out some S’mores cereal and was bummed there wasn’t an empty container. My rule is they can’t open new cereal until they have finished the old cereal first. They emptied a container yesterday. Today was going to be a very special day.

The bag was not resealable. I poured as much as I could into the container. I poured a bowl for Parker from the bag. Gwen came down a little later and watched me pour her bowl from the last of the cereal in the bag. I dumped the last little bit into Parker’s nearly empty bowl. Gwen’s enthusiasm for the new cereal quickly faded.

Gwen: There’s not any more for Gavin! That’s not very fair to him!

Parker held his finger to his lips with a mischievous look in his eye. He mouthed the words, “Sh, don’t tell her!” I smothered a smile and went along with the evil plan. Honestly I thought she would figure it out. Gavin came down and I poured his cereal from the container.

Gwen: You tricked me! I thought there wasn’t any more cereal!

It still makes me laugh! Clearly she is still 7 years old and in the pre-operational stage.

So many books, so little time

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Gwen is a voracious reader with an unquenchable thirst for books. Almost every time I see that girl she is reading something. Sometimes she takes a break to run off excess energy leaving a path of destruction in her wake. How one tiny little person can cause so much mess I will never know. Books seem to always be included in her swirling tornado.

The rule is only one book in her bedroom at a time. I only allow that much because she loves to read herself to sleep at night. She has to put the book away in the morning. It often looks like a month’s worth of nightly reading has accumulated in her bed, on the dresser, on the floor, on every horizontal surface in the room. She likes to play school and read to her class of stuffed animals and dolls. Putting books away is not part of the curriculum.

Another rule is only one book out at a time. The bookshelves are often nearly bare. Their contents on the floor in sloppy stacks, or scattered throughout the house. Gwen is a rebel with a book fetish and complete disregard for rules and order.

I do love how much she reads. The problem is when she takes a reading break. Library books are due

and this is her reaction to turning them in.

“But I didn’t finish! Can’t you just renew it for me?”

It happened during Thanksgiving Break and again during Christmas Break. I renewed the Thanksgiving Break books and she managed to finish half of what I renewed. Despite her protests I took them all back. She got over it quickly enough because she had a couple American Girl books from the school library. Suddenly the week was up and she needed to return the books.

“But I didn’t finish! Can I just renew it?”

She renewed one of the books. It should have gone back to school the week before Christmas Break but her class library day was canceled or something. I encouraged Gwen to finish reading her books before Christmas.

“You know you’re getting new books for Christmas. You should finish your school books first.”

In one ear and out the other. Whenever she was bored she perused our family books for the millionth time. Christmas came with new books. The school library books were soon a distant memory.

The best thing that came from Christmas was my new Kindle. It meant Gwen would inherit my old Kindle. Heath and the boys looked for a Gwen cover at Best Buy while the two of us girls shopped at Dress Barn. No luck on the Kindle covers. When all the boys came in to the clothing store to check on us Parker was very uncomfortable.

“Can we just get out of here Dad? This is a girl’s store!”

On one of our many trips to Office Depot Max we looked for a Gwen Kindle cover. Apparently there aren’t as many choices for Kindle covers anymore. Gwen was prepared to settle on a bright purple cover. So not her color. Then we found it. A beacon of light shone down from the heavens while the Hallelujah Chorus emanated out of thin air.

A pink, fuzzy, leopard print Kindle cover.

She has been reading the original version of The Secret Garden in her spare time ever since. Best re-gift ever! Oh, and did I mention her teacher gave all the students in class a book and a reading light for Christmas? Could Gwen be any more in literature heaven?

With all the new books and fancy ways of reading them the school library books collected dust on a shelf. Library day came

along with this face.

Gwen: But I didn’t finish! Can –
Me: No! You will not renew those books! Return them and start fresh with two new books. Those books will still be there later if you ever decide to try to read them again.

This time she listened.

Holiday Say What

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Christmas Eve
Parker: I’m tired. I’m tired! (patented growly voice) I’M TIRED!!!
Much jumping up and down. We have video of this but he’s wearing a school shirt so I decided not to upload the video. He was so excited about Christmas he wasn’t sure he could ever sleep. The realization that he was tired was a big deal.

After trying on new pajamas made by Grandma
Gavin: Am I wearing this shirt right? It’s a little revealing. I would rather just take my shirt off.
As you can see above, the shirts are a V-neck scrub top shape. Silly boy.

Note the look on Gavin’s face in the video. The other two are unashamedly excited about Christmas. Gavin’s mouth was twitching as he attempted to play it cool and not look excited. I love that kid!

Gwen: Boots? Boots! BOOTS! Gavin you saved my life!
And those boots stayed on the whole rest of the day. Whether she was wearing her new unicorn nightgown or her new costumes, she wore the boots. They looked good with her costumes. We still need to get pictures of her dressed up. She looked very Anne of Green Gables with the boots and her fancy dress. She was the perfect pirate with the boots, dress, well placed scarves, and a swashbuckling sword.

Parker gave Gavin an old fashioned handheld football video game a la 1970’s. Parker and I wrapped it in the MiniLink box my new CGM sensors came in. I don’t know what Gavin thought but he didn’t open the box right away! Once he saw what he really got was a fun football game, he played the whole rest of the day.

Ah, brotherly love. Gavin had the opportunity to go to a youth dance on New Year’s Eve. When we asked if he wanted to go, Parker quickly told him to stay home with us. Gavin was indecisive. I could see value in any decision he made. Heath and I were prepared to do whatever it took if he decided to go. In the end Parker got his wish. Heath and I started not feeling well no New Year’s Adam. We had to cancel our plans of making several dips instead of dinner. It was painful enough grocery shopping for medicine and a couple meals so the kids wouldn’t die.

By New Year’s Eve we were able to push through any discomfort to keep working on Primary projects – Cricuting iron-on class names for the seat covers. Whatever plague had threatened to pass through had passed. We ate a good home cooked meal for dinner. Then we cleared off the table to finish our game of Phase 10 from Christmas Eve.

Pandora was playing loudly in the background. We were laughing and having a good time while we played games. I was mouthing the words to nearly every song. Gwen would mouth along with me on a lot of the songs. The boys acted like I was annoying or something. That made for some laughs.

Parker to Heath: How do you sleep with this woman!

While we were playing Phase 10
Gavin to Heath: You need a time out, mister!
Heath: No, you do!
and he plunked down a skip card. Which produced gales of laughter over the perfect timing.

We laughed and screeched and yelled and had so much fun Gwen was afraid the neighbors would hear us and be upset. Who cares? It was New Year’s Eve and we were having a blast together as a family. While it would have been great for Gavin to go to a dance with his friends, we were all very grateful he spent the night with us.

The two week break felt like two months. We did so much and anticipated so much and played so hard together. It was a great break. Lots of great memories.

Finally Finished

The to-do list is mostly to-done. There is one last item – sewing Gwen’s cape. We had grand plans for doing that yesterday. I finished organizing the desk while she played with her dolls.

Now that it’s finished, I love the desk even more. I was able to get all the craft stuff down to the two chests you see on the right. Gwen’s scrapbooking stuff is sitting on top. She’s not ready to keep it in her room and there wasn’t room in the cupboards.

On one of our many trips to JoAnn’s, Heath decided he liked the decorative boxes better than baskets. Twist my arm! I love boxes. Secretly we didn’t know if five of these boxes would fit across the top shelf. They fit like a glove. It looks like we meant to do that! I love how much they are able to hold while looking nothing like storage. I think I emptied two large chest drawers into one box.

The process of organizing and purging was very beneficial. I felt awesome loading up the van with more things to donate. It was the second time we took a load to the DI trailer in the last two weeks.

I found Gwen’s tithing box that she made in Primary. I forgot that she insisted on using only that box to hold her tithing. It’s possible we paid tithing in Gwen’s name that really belonged to one of her boys. She also told the bishop at Tithing Settlement that she was a full tithe payer and that once she found the box she could pay the rest! I didn’t think there was anything in the box. There is a decent amount in there actually.

We found a backup disk that got us all excited that maybe we could recover the pictures we lost in the robbery. There were four pictures on the disk. Bittersweet triumph. Yesterday our miracle came. While I was sorting through plastic drawer after plastic drawer of scrapbooking supplies I found two backup disks from 2004. Heath has backed up pictures to the cloud all the way through 2009. These two backup disks I found are a huge relief. I think we have the missing years’ pictures backed up on another hard drive. I hope so.

Now that the house is clean I can relax. Maybe I can actually catch up on writing about our merry holiday adventures. My family has come second to Primary for months and months and I really resent it. We did schedule in some time for family fun. I just haven’t had time to write about it yet.

Just in Case …

What’s wrong with this picture? Look carefully. Something is a tiny bit off. It’s a minor detail but it conjures up a lot of negative emotion in me every time I see it.

Give up? It’s the pillowcases. They used to be blue until that fateful day Heath decided to go into work, despite his boss texting that she was working from home, and I decided to buy one more thing for Christmas.

I get why someone would steal a pillowcase. It held all the loot the burglars got away with. I’m embarrassed to admit that my bed was not made that day. My nightstand had been dumped upside down on the bed in an effort to get to the fire safe underneath. I felt sick to my stomach restoring proper order to my things. In the process of doing so I noticed my pillowcase was gone.

I had more reaction to the stupid pillowcase than anything else. As my neighbor put it, that’s where I sleep! Talk about violation of privacy. Besides that, the pillowcases no longer matched. I had to grab one from the cupboard. A cream colored pillowcase my mom bought me for Christmas one year when I was in high school.

Heath bought me the whole bedding set soon after my dad died. The warmer tones in the bench I got from my dad’s house didn’t match the cool silver bedspread we had. I was a walking zombie more often than not and Heath is a fixer. It was hard on him to not how to help me through the experience of losing a parent I had been estranged from for so long. Retail therapy was a good start.

I remember how much time we spent looking for the right sheets. Suddenly there they were. The perfect shade of blue to go with the bedspread we had fallen in love with. And oh so soft. I was relieved to find the replacement pillowcases. The same brand as our sheets sold pillowcases separately. Who knew? We bought the queen size since our sleeping pillows are not king size. It’s nice to not have so much extra fabric to tuck somewhere.

I don’t feel whole yet. It’s frustrating trying to replace things that took years to accumulate. At least with a matching set of pillowcases it’s easier to forget the nightmare.

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic

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The math is simple. The more I read the less I write. That’s my excuse for the last few days anyway.

I was given the gift of reading for Christmas. It was awesome. Not only did I get a new, fancier Kindle, but I got a Kindle gift card. Wahoo! I also got two physical books, including Stephanie Black’s new book, Played for a Fool. Heath regretted not thinking of having her sign it for me before Christmas. It’s okay. We know where she lives. Heath is pretty tight with her husband being his executive secretary and all.

While the kids played their new Disney Infinity and Madden games with their dad, I read. All day long on Christmas I read. I never changed out of my pajamas. I never showered. I read until I fell asleep. (I had maybe two hours of sleep Christmas Eve) When I woke up I read some more. It was blissful.

I read the first chapter of Played for a Fool and decided I better reread Fool Me Twice. Enough time had passed since I read it that I needed a refresher on the characters and details before diving into the sequel.

The book was awesome again. It did make me a little extra wary about things. Heath had taken Parker to Best Buy on Saturday to spend his gift card money from Grandma C. He called to ask if he should bring something home for lunch. Yes please!

I had been having this strange panicky moment all morning thinking that our house would be broken into again if we left for lunch. Security Sal did not ease my fears. Even with alarms blaring and cops on their way, someone could have easily scooped up all the new Xbox One equipment and games. It’s like we hadn’t fully cleaned up our Christmas loot. It’s hard for the kids to listen to me when I’m ignoring them for a book!

Last night I struggled to stay awake through Tomorrowland. At one point I snored so loudly I woke myself up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Gwen giving me a weird look. I said, “I heard it. Shut up.” Everyone laughed. That little power nap was my undoing.

When we all headed to bed – the kids are really going to have a hard time going back to school after staying up till nearly 10:00 every night watching a movie – I pulled out my new Stephanie Black book. Heath researched camera equipment next to me for a while. Then he got tired and went to sleep. I kept the light on reading until 3:30 am. Much to his dismay I’m sure. I was up at 8:00 to finish.

Books are my weakness. Stephanie Black books feed that weakness. Her suspense novels are too good to put down. As usual, this continued story did not disappoint. The first book was interesting in that as a reader you try to figure out what in the world is going on. Who dunnit? The pieces stitch together at the end and you say Bravo! Well done.

The sequel sets up the evil masterminds right from the start. You know exactly who is doing what and why. Oh the why. That was my favorite part of these stories. If I were to explain the plot in a couple sentences you would think the characters are crazy. But Stephanie develops the characters in such a way that you understand how even the vilest of villains came to their wretched conclusions. You almost feel bad for them.

The mental illness, shall we say, in every character is the most intriguing part of the why. Knowing who is doing it and why sets you up to sit back and enjoy the ride. You read to see how it all plays out. How will it end? It’s a fun way to read suspense. She has used the technique before and I like it.

Her descriptions are vivid. I read a couple paragraphs out loud to Heath because I was so impressed with her descriptions. The first paragraph of the book is the best. I read that out loud and said, “There you go. Scene set. And right away we’re in the middle of the story!” It reminds me of my fourth grade teacher. She always wanted us to start our stories in the middle of the action. When we balked she said we could have two sentences of setup. Even then I think it was too much.

Stephanie puts her readers right there in the middle of the action. No setup necessary. The reader is right there and better keep up because she weaves the backstory into the plot. Her sequels are not stand alone stories. If you didn’t read the first book you will be lost. Guaranteed.

When I finish a book, the only problem is I’m caught between worlds. I get so involved in what I’m reading that it is difficult to resurface in reality. I think I may be back now. Next stop … The Martian. Or maybe I will hang out with my family. After losing the whole week before Christmas to gout and Primary, we have a lot of playing to do this last week before school resumes.

Our New Christmas Tradition, Overcoming Adversity

Christmas miracles happen every year. My family’s miracles seem to be overcoming adversity. In a way it’s almost comical to think of the obstacles thrown in our path at Christmastime.

Car accident, burglary, gout. The list goes on. If it’s not one thing it’s another.

The rain has poured down three inches in a 24 hour period of time. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. The insurance claim adjuster has spotted us extra money. So much in fact that we called back to verify the pricing. I think she went to Jared to price out my jewelry! Maybe we are undervaluing our own stuff.

Three more days until Christmas. Can we make it? Gwen and Parker have found joy in the Lego train set. Parker tried to say there were too many presents under the tree. The train tracks kept bumping up against wrapped packages. When I suggested we could give the stuff away, they both assured me they were fine with the number of gifts under the tree!

Yesterday Parker was wild eyed and red faced he was so excited about Christmas. Heath asked how Parker would feel if Santa didn’t bring Disney Infinity. Parker’s face soured as he said, “Santa will be dead to me!” Bold words for a little boy who still has time to be transferred to the naughty list.

It’s been fun teasing the kids that we will sleep in. Heath said we should have a big, heavy turkey dinner on Christmas Eve so the kids can sleep easier, and won’t notice when we sleep till noon. Parker volunteered to get us Diet Coke so we can’t sleep!

They have counted every gift under the tree. I wasn’t happy about that at first but after the Grinch broke in to steal Christmas, I was happy the kids knew we hadn’t lost any presents under the tree. Just the stuff already wrapped and ready to ship to family. Not that I’m bitter or anything. The kids have carefully shaken gifts and scrutinized size and shape to guess what is inside. If they can pass through childhood unscathed by our nearly annual Christmas adversity, that will be miracle enough.

Magic is still in the air. Hope is still alive. And Christmas will still be merry.

White Flag

Written Sunday December 20, 2015

Star Wars movies are blasting from the family room. It’s in preparation for watching the new Star Wars movie. What’s it called? The Empire Wakes Up Again? I don’t know and I don’t really care. I’m not invited to the party which is just fine with me. I do think it’s important for Heath to take his boys to watch it. Gwen and I can have a girls morning.

I could go into my room to watch whatever I find relaxing after a long Sunday. I thought I would try blogging instead. Unfortunately I only have partial ideas. Somewhere in the middle I get bored. Emotional constipation takes care of the rest. It’s draining trying to live up to others’ ideals. Especially when I have always used this blog as my outlet.

So much life has happened in the last two years and I am so mentally exhausted. Heath and I have talked about it. I feel like people take advantage of my sense of responsibility. It also feels like people think of me as some sort of superhero. It’s flattering to be treated as if life changing experiences that would bring anyone else to their knees, are no big deal for me. The flattery wears off quickly though. And my pant legs have holes in the knees.

I’m not flattered.
I’m frazzled.

If I can’t catch a break dealing with three deaths in one year, I’m waving my white flag now. So my house was burglarized. Big deal, right? I didn’t lose much but the sense of loss is still there. I need a minute to catch my breath.

For the first time ever I finally learned what it feels like to not care. I don’t care anymore. One of Gavin’s teachers got a little snippy with me via email when it slipped my mind to send in some form for a field trip. I got snippy right back. I told her what happened on Monday and basically said that some things have slid down the totem pole of importance. She was very sympathetic.

Last week felt liberating. Things I normally lose sleep over no longer were a priority in my mind. I don’t care. I don’t intend to be flaky but if I am so what? Monday’s experience hasn’t gotten the best of me. I have my moments when I worry where I didn’t before but the newly installed security system has calmed those thoughts.

I don’t feel like I really had permission to mourn my dad’s death. He would have been 62 today. People seem to be able to relate more to my most recent life changing event. It didn’t destroy me. I’m not riddled with fear. But I am using it as an excuse to say, “Stop the world, I’d like to get off.” I’m sick of being treated like a superhero. It’s too much pressure.

Funny thing is, it feels like so many people think I should be upset about being robbed. I am but largely I’m not. It is a great excuse to whip out the checklist if someone wants to add insult to injury.

“I know you have a no soliciting sign but …”
” I know you lost all your cameras but …”

No. I’m done.

Breakfast and a Heart Attack

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Nothing is back to normal yet. That’s to be expected. We are on high alert. It makes me think of a couple Friends scenes. One I just watched last night where the guys go on a ride along with Phoebe’s cop boyfriend. A car backfires and they all think it’s a gunshot. Joey reaches for his sandwich but it looks like he is trying to protect Ross. Chandler is put out by the situation.

Gary: We could use a guy like you on the force!
Chandler: Yes, a guy who jumps at loud noises.

That’s us. We jump at the slightest sounds. While I was at my Primary presidency meeting yesterday, Heath said he was sensitive to every sound he heard. Some of them made him jump out of his skin a little. The wind has been blowing pretty hard lately and it creates really scary sounds. Gwen was freaked out by the wind before our lives were turned upside down. We all sympathize with her.

Yesterday Heath was on a call when there was a loud knock on the door. Heath gave me a puzzled look and looked out the window over the banister. He told me to grab the phone and get ready to call 911. My heart started racing. Heath opened the door to a security system salesman. I stood in the upstairs hallway, phone in my hand, glaring at the guy. He bugged the crap out of me.

He was loud and obnoxious as he said he could see our no soliciting sign. (It’s so big no one can miss it!) But he decided to ignore the sign to let us know he was aware of a break-in in our neighborhood. Did we want to buy a home security system from him on our front porch?

Alarms were going off in my head. He fit the exact profile the police gave me of jerks who dress up as salesmen looking for empty houses to loot. It still burns me up to think of that guy. Even if he was legit I was in no mood to talk to a door to door salesman the day after being robbed. Go away creep! It took some time for our hearts to resume a normal pace.

A friend wanted to help us out any way she could. I had mentioned at our presidency meeting that Gwen had trouble going to sleep because she was scared. Marianne told me about a bell she had that was a motion detector. She and her husband used it when their kids were small. They would put it in the room with all the Christmas presents. The kids were not allowed in that room without the whole family being escorted in Christmas morning with Mom and Dad. The bell actually caught kids a couple of times.

Last night she dropped it off at my house. She thought it would give us peace of mind or we could put it outside Gwen’s door to help her feel better. It looks like a large Christmas ornament. It plays Christmas music when it detects movement. It’s not an alarm, it’s one of those decorations that plays music when it senses movement and eventually stops. If you wave your hands or whatever, it starts playing again.

I think we put it in our bedroom. I don’t remember because I was really tired. After two non-consecutive hours of sleep I was ready to hit the hay early. Heath decided to stop watching TV but he switched over to Pandora. He was going to leave it on the holiday station overnight. He thought maybe we wouldn’t notice as many house settling noises and could sleep a little easier. I wasn’t aware of his plans.

The first Christmas song came on and I sat bolt upright out of a dead sleep. Heath said I looked like Dracula sitting up in his coffin when someone suggested he eat steak for dinner.

Heath: What’s wrong!
Me: The bell! It went off!
Heath: It’s still in the bag over there. We haven’t even turned it on yet!

He then explained his thought process with the music while laughing at me. It is pretty funny. I’m telling you, we are on high alert. Don’t mess with us.

This morning I got up to grab my morning shake. I went downstairs in the dark. When I got to the edge of the wall into the kitchen, I heard a sound. My eyes immediately looked up at the blinds covering the boarded up hole where the sliding glass door used to be. There was no movement. I told myself it was just the wind or the house settling or some logical explanation. No one was in the house, I told myself. Still I immediately flipped on the kitchen lights ready to confront whatever made the noise, criminal or not.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement under the table. I focused and saw it was Parker hiding under the table.

Me: What are you doing? What in the *naughty word* are you doing under there?
Parker: I was looking for something.
Me: in the dark? Don’t do that ever again! My heart cannot take any more!

It reminded me of the Friends scene where Ross walked in and everyone yelled surprise.

Ross: What are you doing, you scared the crap out of me!
Phoebe: Oh you brought the cake? What kind of cake did you get?
Ross: It’s a lemon smoosh.

My heart was thumping a mile a minute while I chugged my breakfast shake. I remembered Parker as a toddler lurking. He has always been like that. He stealthily wanders through the house late at night or in the wee hours of the morning to watch TV is the best guess we can come up with.

A few weeks ago I went down for my morning shake and I saw the TV blink over to the no signal screen. This happens when we first turn on it on if we haven’t used another remote to turn on the receiver first. Not a soul was in the room. I looked. When I told Heath about it he said that he has seen Parker run to the bathroom and hide behind the door. The kid is quick and silent. I had no idea.

I had to get after Parker a bit for making me have a heart attack for breakfast. I told Heath the story and he laughed and laughed remembering me sitting up in bed thinking the bell sensor went off. Then he brought the bell down. We hung it up in the kitchen chandelier. It was soon turned off when it kept singing due to the changing images on the TV. Very sensitive little decoration!

If you can’t laugh, what can you do?

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