It’s Who We Are

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Last night we watched Cool Runnings. I love that movie. It’s very inspiring. It reminds me of growing up watching the Olympics. They were the only sports my family ever really watched on TV.

The movie also reminds me of my brother. He was a runner and I had great respect for him. Not only for being able to run but for enjoying it. I know that if I ever get in a situation where running may save my life, I will die. I have already made my peace with it.

I love the scene in the movie where Yul Brenner gives Junior a pep talk. My brother used to quote that scene to me when I needed a pep talk. “I see pride. I see power. I see a bad … mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!” Good memories.

Something about that movie is dusty though. Heath and I both had dust in our eyes making them water! It happens every time I watch it. Strange.

This time the part that stood out to me most was near the end when Sanka tells Derice he didn’t go to the Olympics to forget who he was or where he came from. He says if he looks, talks, acts, and is Jamaican he better bobsled Jamaican. I like that. No matter what you do in life, make it your own.

I am the Piquant Storyteller and I do things my way.

I hate traditions yet I have my own traditions. I guess I don’t really hate traditions. I would rather make my own with my own family. I don’t really like doing things simply because they have always been done that way. I like forging my own way. My aunt Barb used to always say that if you do something and it doesn’t work it was an adventure. If you do something and it succeeds it’s a tradition. Within reason, I would add.

Heath and I have created a few traditions. We always have to have Diet Coke in the fridge if he’s going to be home. When he works from home we enjoy one together at some point in the day. We also have to go out for lunch together. He says it’s cheaper to pay for the two of us to eat at a pricier restaurant than it is for him to commute to work and have a cheap lunch in the city. I love the easy date so I don’t suggest we save money by eating at home. He IM’s his coworkers and says things like, “I’m taking my wife to lunch now.” It makes me feel like a celebrity. I don’t know why.

Last night Gwen was a little jealous that we went to her favorite restaurant again while she was at school. I reminded her that she used to join us on our dates last year when she was done with kindergarten. Before she started school we used to meet Heath for lunch and then go to Costco together before he had to go back to work. That was when he worked closer to where we live. Sometimes traditions evolve.

On Thursday night Heath asked, “What’s my excuse for working from home tomorrow?”

You don’t want to go into the office.
You usually work from home on Fridays.
We need our weekly lunch date.
There are two Diet Cokes left in the fridge that we could drink tonight or better enjoy tomorrow.

I don’t know what he ended up telling his team. But I loved having him home. This next Friday he is taking the day off. He has plans to use several of his vacation days like that throughout the year. We can go to the temple together for one thing. It’s closed for two weeks this time though. Since he’s taking the day off he will take the kids to school so I can have a morning off. Bliss. I’m looking forward to it!

Simple family traditions are my favorite. Those little things that you always do but rarely give a second thought to. They are what make my family what it is. It’s who we are. We like movies, eating out, BYU sports, and Diet Coke. Just to name a few of our traditions.

Geography Bees, New Digs, and Other Accomplishments

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My house smells like fresh taco soup linens. Dishes litter the countertops. Clean laundry sits in baskets waiting to be folded, and I need to put my sewing away. But I don’t care. You know why? Because I actually finished a sewing project!

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You gotta love how Gwen is not only wearing a school shirt I had to Photoshop, but a school shirt she inherited from Gavin all the way from 2012! I knew she had a Fun Run shirt on today. I just never noticed the year until I took the pictures. She said she put it on by accident. It may have been mixed up with her regular t-shirts and not her pajamas. Oops.

Back to my major accomplishment! Let’s see, I bought the fabric before Thanksgiving. Sometime in December I tried to cut it out. I sewed the bottom ruffle of lace on the bottom of the skirt while Gwen was at school. When she got home I had her try on the beginnings of her skirt. It was too long. Way too long.

I unpicked the lace ready to cut off the excess from the bottom. When I was finished the thought occurred to me that I could actually skip the extra fabric casing and make one from the top of the skirt, thus shortening the length. Days later I sewed the lace back on.

The first ruffle was trickier than I expected. The fabric is a very lightweight denim and it grabbed the thread like nobody’s business. I did manage to gather the top of the ruffle. It just took a lot of time and patience. The second ruffle happened the next day. Sometime this week. What day is it today? The thread immediately broke when I tried to pull it to gather the ruffle. I went to the second line of basted stitches. The stitches simply pulled out as soon as I tugged on the thread. Nice.

Wisely I stepped away from the sewing machine. Abigail taught me that if you start to make a lot of mistakes it’s time to take a break from sewing. After a day off I tried again. And I finished! It’s only taken forever but I got it done!

It’s kind of a big deal because I haven’t been inspired to do anything lately. It’s even painful for me to scrapbook with Gwen. I just don’t care. My usual crafts seem like too much effort. Writer’s block smacks me in the face every time I sit at the keys with no names. Nothing sounds good to me. So to actually complete a project is a really big deal. Yesterday I even used my Cricut all by myself (for the first time) and made a card for a friend. Seriously, I’m on fire!

So are the kids. Gavin walked in the door on Monday and announced he was chosen to be in the Geography Bee. I had to sign his permission slip today. It said he was an alternate. But Gavin said the other kid dropped out and told the teacher. We’re assuming Gavin is actually on for the Geography Bee on Friday.

He’s a little nervous because he wasn’t given anything to study. The class Bee was held on Monday and Gavin was one of two students chosen. This teacher has proven herself to be pretty disorganized throughout the year. I just told Gavin to expect the same types of questions that he heard on Monday. He’s going to study a map of the United States and do his best. Friday is the big day so wish him luck. I love that kid. He’s a smart guy. It’s nice that his intelligence is finally being recognized in middle school.

Parker was a little grumpy this afternoon. He finally told me what was up. He’s friends with a kid nobody else seems to like. They think he’s disgusting though Parker doesn’t know why. He thinks the other kids are just mean to anyone who is new.

I don’t understand the story but I told him he’s doing the right thing. What would Jesus do? He would be friends with the unpopular kid. I wonder if in time the other kids will change their minds. I don’t think this is the undoing of Parker’s popularity. I’ve been telling him that all along. “You are already popular. Everyone thinks you’re cool. Just keep being you and the other kids will start to behave better because they want to be like you!” We’ll see. In the meantime, Parker is just awesome because he is always thinking of others. He’s a real sweetheart.

Gwen will go to her best friend’s birthday party on Saturday. It’s at a dance studio and the girls will learn a dance there. She is so excited. We’re also ready to pull the trigger on paying for dance lessons for her. She is a born dancer. She just needs some guidance.

I just don’t know what to do for a gift. Gwen wants to give her the two repeat Junie B. Jones books she got for Christmas. She thought of that on Christmas Day. She set the two new copies aside to keep them nice for her friend.

I love the thought involved. I just worry that we should do more than regift books for her best friend. After all Lauren went to Disneyland and came home with a Best Friends necklace for Gwen. I don’t know what to do. Maybe clean my house now that I finally created something.

Turn Around

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With each quickening step she started to wonder why she was storming off. So he made an idiotic comment. So what? It didn’t make him an idiot.

She was at the top of the overpass. What was she doing? How was this going to end? She didn’t even know where she was going. Impulsive anger drove her feet to move. Her body simply followed.

He was several paces behind unbeknownst to her. Bewildered by the sudden turn of events, he hung back trying to think.

“First of all, this woman is crazy. You say one little thing and suddenly she accuses you of being a chocolate lover and takes off. Who does that? Or did she call me a chocolate cake? Suddenly my French isn’t so good. Either way, what does she think she was doing? She must be mad because she won’t turn around. She has to know I’m following her. Like I would go to the family get together without her! Please! I’m not even part of the family yet. And trust me, after this little outburst I don’t how much I even want to be anymore. The engagement is off!”

Still he followed. She still remained oblivious to his presence.

Loud slaps on the pavement broke into her thoughts. Her footsteps veered to the right allowing the speed walker to pass on the left. The slapping continued at the same distance behind her. She slowed. So did the slapping.

“Pass me already,” she growled in her mind.

Nothing.

Angry thought after angry thought drove her feet all around the lake. She had almost talked herself into forgiving him. Almost.

Her legs were sore and her steps were becoming labored. Her house was in sight. As she crossed the driveway to the door she glanced behind her. Was that him? He followed her? All the way around the lake?

He walked closer and it was obvious he had followed her silently. Her anger rekindled and she firmly shut the door behind her.

“She looked right at me! Then walked into the house! Fine. I will just have to go for a drive. This woman is insane.”

He made it to a local gas station. His phone rang but he refused to answer. Two can play at this game.

He picked out some candy. Chocolate. It only reminded him of her accusations. He searched desperately in the back of his mind for a translation. The phone rang again before his mind could land on anything.

“Chocolate lover or chocolate cake? Why did it matter so much? It’s not like I said she couldn’t like vanilla. Of course she took it that way. Then stomped around the lake ignoring me. Turn around woman!”

Her heart was not racing from the impromptu hike. The more she thought of how she stared right at him walking toward her house before shutting the door in his face basically, the more she regretted it.

“So he likes chocolate. It’s not a deal breaker. I’ve destroyed everything. He won’t answer the phone. What have I done?”

The swelling tones of a mysterious soundtrack grew louder.

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you’re never coming round
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears (answer your phone!)
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by (we’ve only dated a couple of months and this is our first fight but I still think the best of all our years have gone by)
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes (why did I shut the door?)
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit restless and I dream of something wild
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit helpless and I’m lying like a child in your arms
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit angry and I know I’ve got to get out and cry (or walk around a lake)
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit terrified but then I see the look in your eyes
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you’ll only hold me tight
We’ll be holding on forever
And we’ll only be making it right
Cause we’ll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark
We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever’s gonna start tonight
Forever’s gonna start tonight

“Hello?”

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I’m only falling apart
There’s nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there’s only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart

He finally answered the phone. In low guarded tones they apologized and made up. She asked if she could see him again. He came right over. They hugged it out.

They married on schedule. And neither remember what the fight was about. Maybe she called him a chocolate lover and maybe she called him a chocolate cake. The details don’t matter. Now they laugh about their first fight. They learned to communicate better. And she learned to turn around.

Years later their youngest child heard Bonnie Tyler’s song on the radio. She asked, “Is this even a real song?”

Yes honey, not only is it a real song but it reminds us of a real story. Now we laugh about it.

Our Song

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Every time we get in the van the same song comes on. We have made fun of this song and even came up with our own parody lyrics. The song gets stuck in our heads. No matter what, the song comes on every single time we go anywhere as a family. It’s our song.

The song is called Rude by Magic! Before I heard the song all the way through I kind of liked it. At least I liked the sound. It’s called reggae fusion by some Canadian band. As soon as I heard that piece of information and actually heard the whole song, I started thinking the guy was pretty pathetic. Canadian reggae fusion? There’s your first problem! What in the world could the Canadians possibly know about reggae? Critics describe the song as banal with regards to the musical genre and lyrics.

The first couple times I heard the song I only heard the ending. What was the backstory? Then I heard it beginning to the end. Huh. What is the backstory? Or is this guy really that much of a loser? Here are they lyrics. You be the judge.

Saturday morning jumped out of bed and put on my best suit
Got in my car and raced like a jet, all the way to you
Knocked on your door with heart in my hand
To ask you a question
‘Cause I know that you’re an old fashioned man yeah yeah

Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? (Say yes, say yes)
‘Cause I need to know
You say I’ll never get your blessing till the day I die
Tough luck my friend but the answer is no!

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too
Why you gotta be so rude
I’m gonna marry her anyway
(Marry that girl) Marry her anyway
(Marry that girl) Yeah no matter what you say
(Marry that girl) And we’ll be a family
Why you gotta be so rude

I hate to do this, you leave no choice
I can’t live without her
Love me or hate me we will be boys
Standing at that alter
Or we will run away
To another galaxy you know
You know she’s in love with me
She will go anywhere I go

Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? (Say yes, say yes)
‘Cause I need to know
You say I’ll never get your blessing till the day I die
Tough luck my friend cause the answer’s still no!

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too
Why you gotta be so rude
I’m gonna marry her anyway
(Marry that girl) Marry her anyway
(Marry that girl) Yeah no matter what you say
(Marry that girl) And we’ll be a family
Why you gotta be so rude?
Rude

(the chorus just keeps repeating)

Songwriters: ATWEH, NASRI / MESSINGER, ADAM / PELLIZZER, MARK / TANASIJCZUK, ALEXANDER / SPIVAK, BEN
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

Lock up your daughters right? It’s not that he’s a bad influence as much as he’s just a straight up loser with a capital L. He needs to work on his maturity level before he can even imagine marrying some girl. And what kind of idiot keeps on asking the same question over and over? He must have heard some saying about not taking no for an answer. Guess what buddy, this ain’t it!

We have such strong feelings about this song. It is pretty funny that it keeps playing when we’re together as a family. Today I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to know what the backstory was. So I looked up the lyrics and then found my answer on Wikipedia.

Apparently the song was based on a true story. All sorts of respect points lost. The story was as short and stupid as the song. They were going through a phase where they were being rude to each other. Then something about how they turned the concept around and suddenly he was asking her father for her hand in marriage. I didn’t understand if that meant they flipped the story for the song or if that really happened. Either way it’s totally lame. Heath gives the marriage six months, but only because annulments take time.

The article also eluded to the fact that her father was controlling. I don’t get that vibe from the song at all. I think the father said no because the boyfriend was an immature, whiny baby. Who would want their daughter engaged to that?

In order to keep our tempers under control we all sing the lyrics Parker came up with. “Why don’t you eat your food? Don’t you know it’s good for you?” We make up rhymes for the other lines on the spot. They change every time.

I found the following video on YouTube. There are many parodies of this song. This video uses the original song but they created their own video. It is too cute. The mom said her young son loves the young women in his ward and had fun acting for the video. She put it together for a ward talent show. So cute.

Don’t bother trying to watch the original video. It is pa-the-tic! The guy and girl look like little kids playing dress up. Neither one of them look mature enough for marriage. That’s the problem. Too many immature people get married only to divorce right away. Getting back at Dad is not a valid reason to get hitched. Just saying.

I prefer the earwig songs of Megan Trainor – All About That Bass and Taylor Swift – Shake It Off. At least those songs have a decent message.

Review of a Do-over Year

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Video games allow characters to start over. If the character makes enough mistakes and dies they just regenerate. Start over, pretend it never happened. Try try again. If only life could be so kind.

Every so often I have a day where I want to go back to bed and hit the restart button on the day. I’m starting to feel that way about this year. The year started with me feeling so enthusiastic about the possibilities that lay before me. Who knew what 2014 would bring? Bring it on was my attitude.

What could possibly go wrong?
How could I not end the year with the same level of positive enthusiasm I greeted it with?
How indeed.

January – I saw life lessons in jigsaw puzzles and craft projects. I set spiritual goals for myself like spending one hour a day praying, reading scriptures, and reading other spiritually uplifting material.

February – Gavin and I bonded while he stayed home all week from Outdoor Ed. It was exactly what we both needed and I don’t regret for a second letting him stay home. We threw a birthday party for Gwen and I swear we will never do it again! Parker and Gwen got really good at riding their bikes. I started taking them on daily bike rides through the park.

March – Every lesson I taught as a Ward Missionary seemed to revolve around the themes of Christlike love and The Plan of Salvation. I was obsessed with watching Turning Point on BYU TV. My heart was constantly overflowing with love for others. My testimony was so strong I never thought anything could ever shatter it.

April – I lost a dear friend to the sheer inability to keep in touch. Few things have hurt more than not knowing what happened with him. The good news is I did hear from him in December.

I had my worst case of vertigo. Every doctor I saw blamed it on something another doctor could fix. I still don’t know why it was happening. My doctor reluctantly agreed to let me go off the cholesterol pills. I was tired of taking medication just because diabetes puts me at a higher risk for other issues like heart problems. I also wanted to only put into my body the bare minimum of drugs needed to keep me alive. I was sick of side effects.

After nearly two years I was released as a Ward Missionary and called as Primary Secretary. I have never felt so overwhelmed or inadequate.

May – We bought an above ground pool that saved the summer. The kids were involved in a lot of performances at school. I helped the kids create a hideout under the stairs. I shooed a lizard out of my house. That was probably my favorite memory of the year!

June – My dad died. Some people were supportive. Others not so much. Some people acted like it was no big deal and expected me to keep going as if nothing happened. I’m still angry about that last group of people. How dare anyone judge someone for their response to tragedy?

July – We went on a two week vacation to the Northwest with Heath’s family. I may have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t retreating into my own head.

August – I flew home for the second time in two months. Depression set in. Real depression. The barely-can-function kind of depression. I finished reading the Book of Mormon again and was so depressed I never wrote about it. My daily hour with the Lord was the only thing keeping my head above water.

September – The kids went back to school which only added to my stress level. Heath went out of town on business. I was on auto-pilot for every aspect of my life.

October – I flew home again to bury my dad and grandpa the same day. I flew back that same night to sacrifice my husband and his time with us to his new church position as Ward Executive Secretary. His new position became official the next day. As I struggled more and more with my job as Primary Secretary I spent less and less time on my spiritual goals. Heath jokes that by the third death in my family in a year, I finally gave up on spiritual things. Sad but true.

November – Heath’s parents visited for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I have hit my limit of people and social situations so I was not good company.

December – I became bitter and angry. When I got to a point that I couldn’t even stand being around myself anymore I asked Heath for a priesthood blessing. I learned that the Lord understands what I’m going through and He doesn’t want me to quit because He has lessons in these challenges that I need to learn. My endocrinologist also prescribed me more cholesterol pills after I asked for them. I told him my dad had a heart attack and I know I need to take care of myself.

My umbrella is up. It was once down and the blessings could pour all over me. Over time I stopped trusting myself and the Lord and I put my umbrella up. I have fortified my walls so no one can reach me, including the Lord. I have learned that I am a very rebellious soul. I fight everything. I’m trying to learn how to stop.

When I take a step back from all the stress and anxiety of the last six months, I realize the blessings. I may have lost my dad but I got him back. And I got his family back. The family history my aunt gave to me is a tangible miracle. It reminds me that families are eternal. It reminds me of how it felt to see my aunts and uncles again after twenty some odd years away from them. I will never forget the look on my uncle’s face the first time I saw him in June. I saw my dad in his eyes, apologizing and accepting my apologies for lost time.

I am grateful for the life lessons I wrote at the beginning of the year. My testimony was being strengthened in good times so I wouldn’t lose it when things became unbearably hard. I would have given up completely if it weren’t for the lessons I learned that last year as a Ward Missionary.

I have become quite selfish and self-centered lately. A lot of personal growth was required of me this year. Sometimes growing really hurts. I’m always grateful for blogging and blog books. They remind me that there was happiness in the storm. Speaking of storms, we have had some pretty awesome rainstorms this year. Prayers really are answered!

My kids are happy and healthy. We have a lot of fun together. They amaze me with how much they are growing. The top of Gavin’s head reaches my nose. Maybe he’s up to my eyes now. They are all smart and funny.

Heath is my rock. If it weren’t for his patience I would have been committed to a loony bin by now. He allows me to be who I am while gently nudging me in the right direction. I can’t believe how much I have changed for the better since meeting him.

The Lord has also blessed me with wise Bishops and their counsel. He has blessed me with angels in friends and family. He has blessed me with simple every day moments so personal in nature I can’t doubt where they come from.

So as much as I want to throw away the year, pretend like it never happened, I can’t. I can’t forget. There were lessons there, blessings, and miracles. Life is not a video game. I can’t regenerate and start over. All I can do is move forward where I am. I have made a million mistakes and it’s hard to move past them. But I realize now that a recurring lesson this year was that the Lord accepts us as we are. We don’t have to reach any level of perfection before we can approach Him.

I don’t look forward to 2015 with stars in my eyes. But it can’t be all bad right? Things can’t get much worse than they already are, right? Well, let’s be honest. Things can get worse. I hope they don’t. I have to believe that I have the power to view my circumstances more positively and things can only improve from here! Only time will tell.

Resolutions aren’t really my thing, but I would like to resolve to find that one hour a day again for the Lord. I was never mad at Him. I just lost my way momentarily and forgot I don’t have to do things on my own. If I have learned anything in my life it’s that the blessings are equal or more wonderful than the trial was difficult. I have forgotten that lately.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto

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The kids have been counting down to Christmas next year. This was accurate until I started boxing up decorations. I love that they were using one of Gavin’s Dungeons and Dragons die he got for Christmas to help count down till next year! Silly kids.

Yesterday I was so busy putting Christmas away. Gwen helped a lot while the boys kept asking if they could go to the park. I should have just let them go sooner. Sometime around 4:00 I told them they could go. They took a walkie talkie with them. The other day we let them go to the park alone. We had three rules.

  1. Stay together
  2. Don’t fight
  3. Don’t use the bathroom at the park. Come home!

Maybe we weren’t clear enough with the rules. Gwen came home first. Parker radioed in her intentions. We told him she had to stay but she had already left at that point. A little bit later Parker decided he was done and walked himself home leaving Gavin alone at the park. We gave a stern lecture on why they needed to all come home together. I used kidnapping and brains oozing on sidewalks as potential issues we wouldn’t know about since they couldn’t follow the first rule.

Parker laughed but I think he started to understand the safety issues involved with breaking the first rule. So I let them go again yesterday. I called them home at 5:00 and all three quickly obeyed. I was impressed.

Today I was hoping they could go to the park again. It has turned cold the last few days and I don’t want to be outside. I’m glad they are old enough they can be outside without me. The wind has been angrily whistling all day long. It just looks miserable outside. So I told the kids they were not going to the park.

They were disappointed until they ran out into the backyard to retrieve items blown all over the yard, like buckets. They decided it was cold enough staying home would be fine. The wind has been howling and blowing so hard it’s made Gwen a little nervous. I assured her the house will not blow away.

We played some games together. First we played Ticket to Ride. Gwen and I teamed up, which meant she played with the train cars while I actually strategized and played the game. The boys were on their own. Every time I have played with Parker he wins. I did not hold back just because he’s a kid and also a bit of a sore loser. I’m pretty competitive too and would not lose to my 9 year old again!

Gavin was doing really well for most of the game. He was racking up the points as he kept laying down six cars at a time. The largest routes are six cars and equal 15 points. Each time. He did it three or four times in a row! I had to pull out the trash talking. All three kids laughed hysterically.

Parker could not sit in his chair. He had so much nervous energy he kept bouncing around. He also seemed to be rushing more and more which made me feel like the game was ending soon and that boy would not beat me again if I had anything to say about it! He laid down his last three cars and luckily I had the cards to lay down my last three cars too.

Gavin didn’t finish a ticket so he lost 20 points. I felt bad for him but I already let him cheat. He decided on another turn that he wanted to give two tickets back. You can’t do that! But I let him because sometimes I’m nice when I play games.

Parker’s marker was out in front and he was feeling fine. Then I came along with my stack of completed tickets. My marker moved halfway around the board beyond his. I didn’t feel too bad that he got 10 points for the longest train. I was close to lapping him! Not really but I won by a long shot. He handled it well. He was still laughing about me yelling at the cards towards the end of the game.

We put away Ticket to Ride and pulled out Telestrations. Tyson and Deanna gave us that game for Christmas with two puzzles. It’s a really fun game. It’s like Telephone meets Pictionary. Gwen can’t read or spell as well as the rest of us so things get weird fast. She loves the game and does her best.

The game is more fun with more people. We learned that when it’s just the four of us we have to write the secret word then draw our own secret word before passing the book. The next person guesses the word based on the drawing then the next person draws that word. The last person guesses the word based on the last drawing and then the game is over.

Tyson said the game has a tendency to make players incontinent when they laugh too hard. We had a moment like that early on. I don’t remember what the word was but Gavin and Parker were near tears they were laughing so hard.

At one point I pulled out my Ghirardelli mini squares from my stocking. I shared with the kids. (The ones I don’t like) Gwen asked for a dark chocolate one. No problem. Then she told us that her chocolate was dark because it cooked longer than ours!

After games we all read for a while. Parker loves the book he got from Grandma W for Christmas. Gavin had started reading Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black before Christmas. It’s my pet peeve that he starts books but doesn’t finish them. So I’m making him finish this one before he can read anything else. He likes the book so that’s good.

On Sunday Heath was watching a boring movie on TV so I pulled out a book. Parker bought me For Elise by Sarah M. Eden. I absolutely loved it. It was a little predictable and I wasn’t surprised by much but I loved every second of the story. It was just so well written and the characters seemed real. I loved them all. Parker was so cute. He would come by to check my progress and get all excited.

“Mom is already halfway done! She likes my present!”

I finished the book that night shortly after midnight. I have never read a novel all in one day. I rather enjoyed it and I really loved the story. Eden wrote just enough that you could keep up but held enough back that you had to find out what happened. Definitely a page turner.

Heath made it home. It only took him two hours to get home on BART. There was a lot of debris on the tracks from the crazy wind. He’s home the rest of the week. Time to put his muscles to work. I need Christmas put away. I boxed it all up but I’m a tiny little woman. I can’t lift three 30 lb. boxes of decorations onto shelves way above my head. That’s what husbands are for.

A Christmas Story

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Bedtime was fast approaching and the kids could not be happier about it. They look forward to bedtime on Christmas Eve. We have our bedtime traditions and they want to go to bed so Santa can visit.

I remember one year as a kid that my dad kept coming up with things to do late into the night. He thought it would be nice for us to stay up late. Maybe he thought if we were tired enough we would fall asleep faster. Maybe he thought morning would come faster for us that way. All I remember was wishing I could just go to bed already.

One Christmas Eve was a late one for my own kids. I could see myself in them. They wanted nothing more than to just go to bed. It’s part of the routine. Why mess with it?

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It’s always a joy to open the Christmas pajamas Grandma makes every year. I love the picture of Gwen. She is sharing her enthusiasm with her fairy.

This year Grandma wrapped the pajamas in Christmas pillowcases with each child’s name embroidered on the side. Sugarplums were definitely dancing in heads this Christmas Eve.

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Gwen got another nightgown. Could life be any better? Gwen loves any garment with a large opening in the bottom for both her legs to fit through. Dresses, skirts, nightgowns. It doesn’t matter. As long as it is made for girls she is all over it. Ah but this nightgown was truly special. It’s silky and shiny with ruffles on the sleeves!

“It’s so beautiful! It makes me feel like a princess! I’m going to find my crown to wear with my princess pajamas!”

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And she did.

The boys felt manly in green camouflage and Gwen felt like a beautiful princess. Everyone showered before putting on their new pajamas. Then I read the last chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We completely forgot to put out cookies and milk for Santa before the kids happily skipped off to bed. They were reminded of our number one rule: No getting up before Mom and Dad. If you have to pee, don’t peek over the railing.

I really wished I could just go to bed too. I was exhausted but there was too much to do. Gwen’s gifts were already wrapped but they needed a special tag from Santa. The boys needed a special envelope to hold their crisp $100 bills Santa was giving them for bikes.

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They turned out great. While Heath was finishing up with the envelopes I stuffed stockings with the Monterey Bay Aquarium stuff Santa left with us. He must have been as tired as I was because he only took off one price tag! Sometimes I think Santa is a pretty lazy guy. Today we went to a sporting goods store to look at bikes. Heath called Santa a cheapskate for only giving each boy $100. Santa really needs to plan ahead next year!

Regardless of my exhaustion level, I still couldn’t sleep. I got a couple hours in before I woke up at 2:30 and never completely went back to sleep. Just before 6:00 am I heard a door squeak. Reflexes kicked in and thoughts came later. I smacked Heath and told him to get up because the kids were up. I didn’t see anyone when I walked by our door. Gwen’s light was still off so I knew it wasn’t her.

I went into the bathroom to put on enough clothes and arrange my bedhead well enough to not crack the camera lens should I happen to be photographed.

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At least I changed out of my free Victoria’s Secret sparkly t-shirt from 2011. I would hate to have that peeking through my robe making me look bad. (heavy sarcasm)

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As soon as we opened the boys door Parker sat right up ready to go. He admitted he was the one who broke the number one rule. After Gavin said that Parker woke him up suggesting they wake up Mom and Dad. Hmm. Parker claimed he only went to the bathroom and did not peek. All we can do is trust him. Gwen on the other hand, was not easy to wake up. She was too happy sleeping. As soon as Heath said that Santa came she shot up like a rocket.

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Tantalizing tensions mounted. Gavin always tries to play it cool. He even went so far as to say he didn’t feel excited at all on Christmas Eve. But you can see it in his eyes. He was excited. Even for someone who Gwen claims is “almost a man!”

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Normally Santa gifts are opened last. Since the boys had envelopes on either side of the plate of cookies I remembered to set out for Santa, we let the kids open Santa gifts first. Parker was pretty stoked about the money.

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Gwen got a ton of scrapbook supplies. She squealed with delight while jumping up and down. She is the queen of paper crafts and Santa knew she deserved some nicer paper.

My last day volunteering before winter break, the first graders were rotating through classrooms for different activities. In one class they did a writing activity. First they were discussing New Year’s Resolutions and how to set measurable goals for themselves. The teacher had the kids share some ideas before turning them loose to write. Gwen rose her hand and said she wanted to be better at art.

Mrs. H: How can you be a better artist? What art skills do you want to improve?
Gwen: I’m good with paper crafts. I can ask Santa for more paper.

It was a cute response even though it didn’t really answer how Gwen could improve. Mrs. H helped her understand that practicing cutting and gluing and stuff would help her improve those skills. I just loved the unfiltered faith that Santa would bring more paper if she only asked.

And this has nothing to do with anything but Mrs. H was visibly surprised to see me walk into her classroom. She co-taught with Mrs. M when Gavin was in first grade and she remembered me! We talked about Gavin later and how he is loving middle school. I also pointed out that Gwen is mine. I think she was a little sad that she didn’t get to teach Parker. Mrs. M taught all my kids but Mrs. H only taught Gavin.

The next day I freaked Mrs. H out again. She didn’t realize I know her student teacher Eric T. When I asked how his kids were doing her head flipped back so fast I thought she might get whiplash! She thought we were just having a polite conversation until I named his kids specifically. “How do you two know each other?” We both told her we met at church. I didn’t tell her I have pictures of his family at their baptism.

Anyway, back to Christmas. Gwen loved the scrapbooking supplies. All the kids were excited to get their favorite items from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in their stockings.

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The only toys, not counting Lego sets, came from the boys. They both knew Gwen wanted a Ken doll. Parker said he couldn’t decide between Ken or a Barbie car. We suggested the boys work together and get both. We found this Mini Cooper Barbie car that came with not only Ken but Barbie too. Gwen screeched her head off and gave many hugs. Her first scrapbook page was about her favorite gift from her boys.

Two gifts were not delivered in time for Christmas. One was Parker’s gift to his dad. The other was Gavin’s gift to me. We have no idea why my gift was late since it was shipped to Oakland and sat there for two days! Today both gifts came. Heath got a Dr. Who t-shirt. Parker is obsessed with Dr. Who right now. The shirt has a picture of the tartus with the words “wibbly wobbly timey wimey bits” surrounding it. It’s a line from one of the episodes.

Gavin gave me a book called The Family Tree Problem Solver. I was pleasantly surprised. As soon as I said a sincere thank you I realized this book puts a lot of pressure on me to actually work on my family history. So I had to say a sarcastic thank you. No, I’m excited. It’s just a little scary. It was so much easier to say I wanted to fill out the Clarke side of my family fan but I didn’t know the names. Now I have a binder full of information that has helped me feel connected to my family. What a blessing but now I have to do something about it. And Gavin took away even more excuses with his gift!

We had a fun Christmas playing, building, scrapbooking, and laughing together as a family. And true to tradition, three of us never changed out of our pajamas all day long.

Countdown to Christmas

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Christmas is not the day. It’s the whole month for me. I love every second of counting down to Christmas. I especially love watching my kids lose their minds with excitement.

This year was different. I felt like I was watching everything behind glass. Somehow I could not fully jump into the Christmas Spirit. My kids were so excited and despite being with them physically, I wasn’t there mentally. There were legitimate reasons why I didn’t care more. Even then I feel guilty about it. I want to believe they still had fun with the activities we did do.

We did a lot of activities for the first time this year. One was attending the Youth Bell Choir Performance at our church. In the past I haven’t wanted to. I always thought the kids were too young to sit through more church. More than anything I didn’t want to deal with the crowds. Even when I’m in a good mood Sundays can be long and draining with all the people.

The Bishop had several interviews that required Heath’s presence. So we had an early dinner and practically had our pick of seats. The boys brought their Kindles to play on. Gwen drew pictures in a notebook. I sat and listened to the youth practice. We arrived about 90 minutes before show time! The kids put everything away when the performance started. They were good but I don’t think they loved the performance. Parker really wanted to go home. He melted down pretty quickly when afterwards we chatted with our neighbors that we had invited.

I thought it was a really nice show and I’m glad we went. I’m especially grateful we got there as early as we did. The room filled up gradually enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed. Heath was really hoping that would happen.

The last week of school was brutal. School was not the problem. There were days I was desperate for Friday. All I wanted was my kids home. Heath took some time off of work too and I couldn’t wait to just have my family home. I didn’t care if we ever did anything. I just needed them home. We enjoyed our time together over the weekend and by the time Primary was over on Sunday I felt like I could finally breathe again.

On a whim Heath bought a box of marzipan. He did it because Gwen was shopping with us and Marzipan is her favorite Home Star Runner character. My eyes lit up as memories washed over me. Marzipan is my favorite treat. I remember so many Christmases with sculpted marzipan treats in my stocking. The “candy” is a lot like me – German and nutty. I love it!

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The kids could not wait to play with it. I told them it was like Play-do you can eat. We put out a couple rolls of butcher paper, gave the kids paper plates and a thick slice of Marzipan, then told them to have fun.

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Gavin and Parker wasted no time with the creative process. Gwen seemed a little more apprehensive at first. She had filled a notebook page with marzipan instructions ahead of time, and brought it to the table.

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Parker kept building different creations and eating little bits of each one until he was out of marzipan. Gwen also ate up all of hers in the course of an hour playing with it. Gavin was the only one who didn’t finish eating his. They all had a lot of fun playing with it though.

It wasn’t quite the activity I had envisioned. I had hopes and dreams of the kids connecting with their German heritage. I didn’t really share any stories other than saying I usually had marzipan in my Christmas stocking.

The almond flavor also reminded me of my Grandma’s Christmas sugar cookies. When I finally had the time to make the cookies I was no longer inspired to do so. One day I will ask for the recipe though. Almond extract trumps vanilla extract in sugar cookies any day!

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At some point we finally found the time to get a family portrait in for Christmas cards. In the end we only had time to email it out to a handful of people. Heath and I meant to turn it into a card to mail out. And there just was not enough time. Yet again my family has no school pictures of my kids. I’m thinking Groundhog Day cards this year. One email bounced back since that person no longer has that email account. That was a little frustrating. Many aspects of this month were very frustrating. After a while I had to let it all go. I’m not Superwoman. My cape is still at the cleaners.

It took us a long time to get out to see the lights this year. We did start the adventure at Starbucks for some hot chocolate and caramel apple spice. Heath drove through the neighborhoods near the elementary school. Then we drove through some of the richer neighborhoods on the way to the church. I needed to deliver some banana bread to a couple who both work in the Primary and didn’t get a loaf on Sunday.

Heath turned into a neighborhood by the church and we found an amazing house. This guy goes all out on his light display. He’s won awards and is part of a website for similar homes. My friend has been telling me about this house for years. We have never made it over there until this year.

We got out and walked all around his yard. The kids were in heaven. They loved the lights and the lawn characters. A snowman blew soap bubbles into his hands that looked like snow. Santa conducted music in the window. There was a whole elf display in the garage. While Heath was making a cash donation, the homeowner was giving the kids candy canes and light sticks. He hooked two sticks together to make a halo. It was a magical experience for the kids.

We wound our way through a couple more neighborhoods then worked our way downtown to Candy Cane Lane. The whole time we drove around we listened to our Christmas CD’s. That was Monday night.

On Tuesday we went to the movie and out to eat. Wednesday was Christmas Eve. We watched a lot of shows together but the kids were getting antsy. It had rained just enough that we couldn’t send them outside to burn off extra energy. Heath had plans to take everyone to the church so we could bounce the basketballs. Gavin had so much fun he kept singing that it should be a new Christmas Eve tradition.

Heath played PIG with the boys. Somehow they talked me into joining them for a regular basketball game later. It was parents against boys. Gwen didn’t want to play. The first team to 5 points won. Parents won! I made 3 of those points I might add. I would have blocked better but I wasn’t planning on actually playing. I had on my ballet flats with the felt soles. I blame the shoes. Heath, Gavin, and I tossed the football around too. Gwen and Parker slid around the stage in their socks pretending they were ice skating. It was really quite fun.

Before I knew it the day was nearly over. The kids were dying because when you’re young Christmas Eve is the longest day ever. When you’re an adult, particularly a parent, the time flies. The countdown was nearly complete but the Christmas adventure was just beginning.

Waiting, waiting, waiting

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The older the kids get the harder it is to wait for Christmas. Their nervous energy ramps up exponentially every year. This year they are so excited they run, bounce, and joyously growl. Anything to release the anxious excitement. They talk nonstop about nothing in particular. Any thought that comes into their heads is immediately voiced.

We knocked off most of the day by going to the movies. We saw Penguins of Madagascar. Well, everyone else saw it. I slept through most of it. It was an expensive nap but it was lovely all the same. After dinner we headed over to a new restaurant near the theaters for an early dinner.

The kids have only been to this restaurant once before. Heath and I have been a few times on our own for lunch dates. Gwen asked how we sit on dates.

Gwen: Do you sit across from each other? Or do you sit next to each other so you can kiss because you’re so in love?
Heath: Mom sits on my lap.

The timing of his deadpan delivery was spot on. He had everyone laughing. My family is crazy.

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Gavin now eats from the adult menu every time we go out. Partly because he’s still starving after eating children’s portions. Partly because he loves ribs. This boy gets involved with his ribs. It’s disgusting.

He uses his fingers to tear the ribs apart before bathing in the sauce. It’s amazing how messy he can get eating ribs. I try not to gag watching him. Actually I have learned to just not watch him eat. He loves every second of his carnivorous meal.

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It takes wipe after wipe after wipe to clean up. When he’s not too bad I send him into the bathroom for a thorough hand washing. He may have an adult appetite but he sure gets messy like a little kid.

The last time he had ribs he still had barbecue sauce on his face when we left the restaurant. We went back to Grandma and Grandpa’s hotel room for some hot chocolate and our final goodbyes. We told Gavin to go into the bathroom to wash his face.

Gavin: Mom gives me special soap for my face.
Me: But you can still use water to wash off your face.

He looked confused but went into the bathroom anyway.

Gavin: I scrubbed but the pimple is still on my nose.
We all busted up laughing. Eventually we regained composure to tell him to wipe off the extra sauce. The Say Whats are still alive!

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Parker is about to explode with excitement over Christmas. I can’t believe we still have an entire day to kill before Christmas. Heath and I were talking about how hard it was to wait for Christmas even as teenagers.

I remember the year my mom started the tradition of reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We were a year or two into the tradition of going out to see a movie on Christmas Eve. We got home late enough we could have called it a night. But my mom was so excited. She poured some egg nog and pulled out the book. Then she read the entire story that night. Candi and I could barely keep our eyes open. We still got up early the next morning because it’s Christmas!

Heath always teases me because he can easily fall asleep on Christmas Eve but I can’t. When I do fall asleep I wake up often. I cannot wait to wake up the kids and see them tear into their presents. I love Christmas!

I think we received all our deliveries and have wrapped every present. Now all that’s left to do is wait …

Keeping the Magic Alive

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My holiday guilty pleasure is watching cheesy Hallmark movies about Christmas. The couple finally gets over their misunderstanding and they lean in for a kiss …

Gwen: That’s so dramatic! (eye roll) Why do you like these dramatic movies so much?

*sigh* The movies lose a bit of the magic when I watch with my family of mood killers! It’s ok. I still like to watch the movies.

A common theme among these movie plots is a kid getting his letter to Santa answered. Every time I see a story like that I get a little Grinchy as I think how unrealistic it is. Nobody really responds to those letters do they? That’s only for the movies.

Parker is getting to that age. He’s about the age that Gavin was when he found out about Santa. I still feel bad so let’s not talk about it.

I don’t know what Parker thinks about the guy in red. He did read Superfudge on his own. When I read it out loud to the kids I wisely skipped the Santa unveiling part. But Parker read it. He never said anything to me. I’m sure he has friends at school who talk. I did at that age.

Between my friends’ theories and seeing gifts from my parents wrapped in the previous years “Santa paper,” I more or less figured it out. I don’t know what Parker believes. Enough evidence supports Santa’s unveiling for Parker but he wrote a letter to the man in red anyway.

I didn’t want him to send it. I don’t believe the postal service does anything more than chuck those letters in with the paper recycling. But Parker insisted on taking his letter in the sealed envelope out to the mailbox. I tried to blow him off about a stamp. Heath told him he could have a stamp and I was out of excuses. At least he put our return address on the envelope. I expected to see the letter return in a couple days with “Return to Sender” or “Undeliverable” stamped across it.

Even if there is truth to the movies, who would respond to a child with a long list of toys they want? I would imagine if anyone responds to those letters they would only answer the pleas for their parents jobs or possibly diseases to be eradicated. Not a long list of toys.

Gwen is Parker’s rival and could not be outdone by her brother. She also wrote a letter to Santa. She sealed it in an envelope and completely botched our return address. Heath was preoccupied when Parker put the letter in the mailbox. I’m not sure he realized Parker did that until Gwen proudly handed him her own letter to Santa. Heath furtively handed it to me later and told me to hide it. He doesn’t believe in the goodness of the postal service either.

Last night we came home after running some errands. Heath went out to check the mail and came back in with a couple envelopes. One was a festive green envelope addressed to Parker.

Santa had responded.

It was lighthearted talking about how Santa is excited about Christmas too. Santa liked the pictures Parker drew in the margins of the letter. Inside the envelope was a pencil and a Santa head eraser.

Parker was thrilled. It was just the miracle he needed. I think he may have sent the letter as a last ditch effort to find out for himself what the truth about Santa really is. And Santa responded. Or at least some elves in Oakland whose job is to keep children’s hope alive.

Gwen’s letter is still sealed in an envelope in the top of my closet. She wondered where her letter from Santa was last night. Today she has forgotten. She doesn’t need a miracle this year. She’s not quite 7 years old yet and her belief in Santa is iron clad.

But Parker needed to know.
And for another year the magic is still alive.

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