When the Thought Counts

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Tyson: Christmas is next month. Time flies. I am looking for ideas for gifts for your families. Let me know some ideas or I will buy your family a puppy.

The text terrified me. My mind always goes blank the second someone asks me what I want for my birthday or for Christmas. I try to come up with ideas ahead of time so I can be prepared for the questions. I never am. The threat of a puppy I didn’t want was nervewracking!

Candi answered first.

Candi: Our family is interested in classic books for our library. We were thinking of the Chronicles of Narnia series or any other classic book you think our family might like.

That was enlightening. I was so grateful my brother asked my sister and me in a group text what we wanted. I talked to him later about books. He got the most beautiful books for Candi and Ed. He showed me pictures that took my breath away. We decided to get the Chronicles of Narnia. I learned later that Talon loves those books. Just before Christmas he begged for his mom to get them from the library again. She picked up the first book to reread. Imagine his delight to open the boxed set on Christmas.

I thought and thought and thought about gift ideas I wanted. The only thing that seemed to stick out in my mind was that we are still trying to make this house our own. How can I ask my family for those types of things? Good thing I wondered that aloud to Heath. He reminded me that we wanted pictures for our bonus room. I was so excited to pull up the posters we wanted online. I sent my brother and sister the links.

Tyson said he was inspired by the links but got us something different. He hoped we would love it. The anticipation was about to kill me! What would he have chosen? The links I shared were for a Moulin Rouge poster and another for a Friends poster filled with iconic lines from the show. Where could those ideas spin off to?

I love that Parker immediately suggested we hang it in the bonus room. Gwen quickly came back with, “No, it’s Mom’s!” She knows my taste. The picture is perfect. It’s not your typical Alice in Wonderland piece of art. I love the steam punk touches. Some of the characters remind me of Parker’s cartoon drawings with the big circle eyes.

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My brother told me that he chose it because first of all, it looks cool. Second, he chose it because my kids would relate to different parts of it. Sometimes they may feel too small for something or too big for something else. The Cheshire cat reminds us that it doesn’t matter what direction you choose if you don’t know where you’re going. It’s a piece of art that makes you think. I love it!

We hung it up in the bonus room. I think we need to come up with a better name for that room! It’s our media room. Right now the picture hangs over the movie shelves. Those will be moving very soon. One shelf was compromised in the move to this house. We already had plans for better storage so we bound up the shelf’s wounds. It is bravely holding movies until our plan comes together.

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Steve and my mom didn’t know they were going to help us build a cabinet and shelving to deal with all this clutter. My mom asked what we wanted for Christmas. My mind went blank as usual. I told her we just wanted cash. She likes giving cash because it’s easy. Then she says we have to tell her what she bought us. Well, so far the money has gone to lumber for this project. The plan is to make a floating box about where the cords come out of the wall. Then we will build shelves on either side of the TV that will go up to the ceiling. This is where the movies will go along with other fun décor like the signed mini helmet and possibly the signed football. The pets will sit on the floor underneath the box. It will be awesome!

One last gift I want to talk about was Parker’s gift to me. He bought me The Muppets Most Wanted. When I opened it he told me he bought it for me because he remembered it was a movie I wanted to see. But the day we were supposed to see it I got sick. Heath left me home with the toilet while he took the kids out for pizza and the movie. That was a couple years ago. I can’t believe Parker remembered that and so lovingly bought me the movie so I could enjoy it in the luxury of my own home. That was a super sweet gift.

Some gifts become even more special when you learn the thought that went into it.

Drinking the Punch

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American Girl dolls are all the rage. The American Girl Doll franchise takes advantage of this fact. There are knockoff dolls available at JoAnn’s so little girls can feel special for a much cheaper price. Gwen owns two of these dolls.

They come with a short backstory printed on the back of the box. Some American Girl dolls have several paperback books worth of backstory! JoAnn’s offers cute clothes, shoes, and accessories at an affordable price. Around Christmas time you can sometimes find other things for your dolls like beds or even a vanity.

The nice part is the dolls, JoAnn’s or American Girl, are 18″ dolls. Apparently someone was thinking ahead and decided that all 18″ dolls would be made with the same dimensions so the clothes are interchangeable. Buy your clothes from Target if you want. Target also sells similar historical backstoried dolls with clothes, pets, and anything else American Girl sells.

Well, almost anything. American Girl has literally thought of everything. There are select locations throughout the country where you can book a tea party with your doll, or a spa day. You can have your dolls ears professionally pierced to the tune of $16. My mom pierced my dolls ears with hat pins. Barbie got straight pins after they were shortened with wire cutters.

You can take your American Girl doll in to have her nails done. There is a doll hospital to fix any issues from something broken to tangled hair. True story! They sell bald dolls for girls who have lost their own hair to cancer treatments or Alopecia. They sell hearing aids, medical alert bracelets (and stickers for food allergies – every type of food is included along with a cloud for air allergies!), wheel chairs, you name it they have it for sell. The store can be a bit overwhelming with all the possibilities. I wanted to be annoyed by all the special needs you can assign a doll. I said something like, “I bet they don’t have diabetic dolls though.” Guess what? They sell doll insulin pumps! The mind boggles at the American Girl Doll industry.

Nothing is cheap either. The good news is nothing is cheaply made. I heard that an American Girl doll is an investment for sure. Each doll costs around $100. I know! I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw off the floor. But I heard that it’s worth it.

The doll hair alone is worth the cost. Gwen’s knockoff dolls have been sporting frizzy unbrushable hair since the beginning. I thought maybe because she was too young to properly care for their hair. After the second doll’s hair suddenly gave up on the silky brushable dream, I was frustrated. And people kept raving over American Girl Doll hair. Maybe it was worth the investment.

I have weighed the pros and cons over this major life changing decision for about a year now. In the end, Heath and I decided maybe Gwen could put some skin in the deal. We got her a $50 gift card so she could save her allowance and do extra chores to earn the rest of the money for a doll. She was pretty excited to open that present.

Santa full on drank the punch.

He got her a doll. He chose one of the Truly Me dolls. It was really fun seeing how excited Gwen was to get a doll that looks just like her – brown wavy hair, hazel eyes, and freckles. He also stuffed her stocking with American Girl Doll hair accessories. The underwear he got for Gwen included a pair of 18″ doll panties complete with the Fruit of the Loom logo and everything! Gwen was dying she was so excited.

A picture that will forever remain in my heart, since no camera captured this moment, was of Gwen and her doll. Gwen was still in her silky hot pink nightgown. Her hair was a mass of waves flowing over her shoulders and down her back. Her doll was standing next to her as she sat in a chair with the goofiest deliriously happy smile on her face. Sometimes Santa knows best.

Gwen is convinced he got her the doll because he heard us talking about the hair. I am excited about the hair because this is a great opportunity for Gwen to practice different hairstyles. We have been arguing a lot lately about Gwen doing her own hair. Truth be told, my mom did my hair for me until I was 11 or 12 years old. She did fancy braids or put it up in curlers so my poker straight fine hair would be completely transformed.

I have compromised with Gwen. Sort of. I let her do her own hair on Saturdays. She’s not that good at it! She doesn’t even brush it well. When she’s done washing her hair she will insist on combing it. But she refuses to listen to my advice. Long hair has to be combed starting at the bottom. Brushing is the same way when it’s dry. She gets too enthusiastic and will spray water on her hair before brushing it. I have told her time and time again that I only spray it with water when I’m ready to style it. The water keeps the flyaways down. She thinks the water helps get the tangles out. It doesn’t. It makes any tangles worse.

My hat is off to Santa. He found a way for Gwen to learn valuable life lessons, like taking care of her own hair. People think I’m some sort of hair genius. I’m not. I grew up with lots and lots of dolls and a mom who insisted I always look my best. My mom taught me how to braid my dolls’ hair. Eventually I was able to visualize the stranding as I braided my own hair. Having a patient daughter has been a lot of fun. I watch YouTube videos and practice on my live model.

Now Gwen can learn too. Maybe by next school year I will be able to relinquish a little more control. If she could create a ponytail that didn’t come out five minutes later I would be less anxious about her hairstyling! She will learn.

The gift card has been a great learning tool as well. Gwen spent over an hour pricing out different scenarios of things to buy at the American Girl Doll store. It was a good math lesson as well as a chance for her to really decide where she wanted her money to go. Something she always thought was a complete must have was a dog. She decided it wasn’t worth the price when she has a stuffed dog that works perfectly with her new doll she named McKenzie. Economic lessons aren’t a bad side effect of Santa’s punch drinking either. Thank you Santa. Gwen considers this the best Christmas ever!

Christmas Traditions Old and New

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Our first Christmas in Washington was not in this house. It feels like it happened a million years ago in another lifetime. In reality, it happened in 2003 when Gavin was a teeny little guy celebrating his very first Christmas. We participated in Heath’s family traditions which was a new experience for me. Christmas day was gray and rainy and really seemed strange compared to the white Christmases I was used to in Utah.

We did go home to plenty of snow. So much, in fact, that our car got stuck in the driveway. Heath made me gun the accelerator while he pushed the car from behind. After a couple tries we managed to get the car over the crusty ice and into the garage.

So technically this was our second Washington Christmas. It was different as we tried to merge our traditions with Heath’s family’s traditions. One thing I got very used to living in California, away from any family, was staying in my pajamas all day long on Christmas day. I kind of like that tradition!

We celebrated Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandma Holmes joined us along with the missionaries. We had a lovely ham and cheese potatoes dinner with homemade rolls, asparagus (Heath couldn’t have any because it’s a gout trigger for him), fruit salad, and sweet potatoes (because Grandma wanted more after Thanksgiving so she made a small batch!)

Heath and I got a special Christmas present when a dear friend of ours called. We haven’t talked to Chris in a long time so that was very cool to catch up with him again. I couldn’t help but remember how our friendship began under similar circumstances. Grandma and Grandpa were visiting us for Thanksgiving. We had the sister missionaries over. I can’t remember if they came for dinner or just dessert. I know Chris came for dessert. His unexpected phone call was a pleasant surprise.

I think opening presents was Grandma’s favorite part. She was able to see my kids’ reactions live. No video required. The kids were excited to open their traditional Grandma made pajamas. By the way, the year we visited with Baby Gavin was also the one and only year Grandma did not make pajamas. She was so upset that she had to buy them that year. Since it was my first baby’s first Christmas I had no idea how important this tradition was to her. I remember wondering what the big deal was. His fleece sleeper was darling with colorful little airplanes flying across a blue sky.

Kirk was asking me about our Christmas decorations. My mom also asked many of the same questions when we talked on Christmas day. It’s funny that I took pictures of our decorations expecting to post them but I never got around to it until now. I have to say I love this house. The decorations enhance it without cluttering it to the point of claustrophobia. I would get so sick of the decorations in California that I often took it all down the day after Christmas just so I could breathe! The plan this year is to keep them up till New Year’s.

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Q: How do you decorate your tree? Do you have a theme or is it a hodge podge of ornaments? Where did you put your tree?
A: We have two trees. My tree is the main tree. A couple years ago I broke down and bought the kids their own tree because the table tree I used in college was too small for all the ornaments they keep collecting from school, church, and grandmas. I use the same decorations I have used for years. They are fancy and gold and only look good with the white lights on our pre-lit tree. Heath likes to tease me by changing to the colored lights because he knows how much I hate colored lights on trees. My tree always goes in the front room. The curve in our staircase seems to have been created to cradle a tree. I have been looking forward to putting up the tree since we moved in!

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The kids’ tree used to go on the landing between the two sets of stairs. I had my heart set on doing that here especially since there are actually two landings between the stairs. There is no outlet near the stairs so I had to come up with something else. The snowman collection lives on the lower landing.

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The kids’ tree is in the family room between the bookshelf and the fireplace. The Christmas books and CD’s are on the bookshelf. I propped the JOY letters in front of some books on a higher shelf because I didn’t know where else to put them!

Since our TV sits on the mantel I put the stockings around the bookshelf. Gwen’s stocking is around the corner. She was concerned that Santa wouldn’t see it to fill it! I told her that he was a smart guy and would figure it out. He stuffs the stockings so full that they are never hanging up after he comes.

This time they were in a row on the floor propped in front of large packages of underwear and socks. I think it’s weird that people consider these necessities a sign that they were on the naughty list! Santa’s tradition to our family is to give socks and underwear, toothbrushes, and other fun items. This year the kids got gloves, deodorant, body wash, and candy books in addition to the toothbrushes, socks, and underwear.

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I grew up with these little guys. My dad always put them on the stairs like this and we were not allowed to touch them. My kids were much more interested in these a couple years ago when I inherited them from my dad. They went along the catwalk part of the railing and the kids were asked to put them back when they were finished. That rarely happened! I was pretty excited to see that they fit perfectly on the curved part of the railing. I know they have moved ever so slightly but I have never seen any of my kids actually take them down to play with.

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These are new decorations to go with a new house. Mickey is from last year when Heath took pictures at the Ward Christmas Party. We needed something to help the little ones look at the camera and smile. Heath bought me the hanging poinsettia decoration from Costco. I love it and it looks like the stairs were made for it to go there!

The big poinsettia plants sit in the niche windows. Those niche windows were calling out for something like poinsettia plants. That was another thing I planned way back in the summer! Gwen, in all her friendliness, invited a friend to peddle her school fundraiser goods at our house. Thanks Gwen. I can’t remember how much I paid for the plants. I remember thinking it was overpriced. Then the girl delivered them. My jaw dropped. Those things were so much bigger, fuller, and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. They perfectly fill the space in the niche. I am even more impressed that I have managed to keep them alive all this time.

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There isn’t much to say about this. I love this table and I love the Christmas decorations on it. It’s really pretty.

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One of my childhood dreams was always to own a Christmas train. I don’t know why. We have had a Lego Christmas village for many years now and for many years the kids have not been interested in putting it together. Heath put it together that first year and then nothing ever since. It didn’t help that we really had nowhere to put it in our last house. A couple years ago we got a Lego train that was a lot of fun to have running around the living room. This year I told the kids that they could not play with the train unless they put together the Christmas village. Parker did it all himself with too much “help” from Gwen. Gavin avoided all the conflict by staying out of the room.

Our living room is the smallest room in the house. We put all the presents under the tree in the living room. I wasn’t sure how Christmas morning was going to work with the five of us in there with a big tree, lots of presents, and a train. On Christmas Eve we moved the train to the family room. Heath created the dog bone shape again with the track so it would go around the tree and in front of the fire place. I was happy we didn’t have to prematurely put it away and we all fit just fine in the living room. Kids on the floor and parents in the chairs.

As per tradition, I didn’t sleep much on Christmas Eve. I went to bed around midnight, woke up at 2:30, slept for another hour and realized my blood sugar was low. That seems to be another Christmas tradition besides being my new norm. Three nights in a row at 3:30 am I wake up to low blood sugar. Ugh. The problem is I eat and can’t go back to sleep. So I basically woke up at 3:30 am on Christmas morning. We got the kids up at 6:00.

A new tradition fail was letting the kids have a slumber party in the bonus room. I wanted Gavin upstairs so we could see them all come down together. Plus, his room is too close to all the Santa action being downstairs. I thought they would love camping out together. Um no. They hated it.

I thought I heard them at one point. In my mind they were making memories talking and generally being too excited to sleep. Come to find out, Gwen had woken up and couldn’t get back to sleep so she was crying and pitching a fit hoping to get her parents attention. Meanwhile I’m the only parent awake and I think they’re just happily talking in the next room. *sigh*

Gavin hated sleeping on the floor and hated sleeping with his infantile brother and sister. Parker insisted on having his Tartis alarm clock with him. The other two insisted he not set the alarm! Gwen is just Gwen and has never been able to successfully sleep in the same room as other people. So now I’m back to the creative drawing board. They may all sleep in their own rooms next year. It just makes more sense.

Although this is how we normally look on Christmas morning. I come down with the kids while Heath gets video and pictures of it.

I got Christmas day to myself. We went to church for an hour of sacrament meeting at noon. It was really nice. A very uplifting and spiritual meeting punctuated with beautiful music. The girl (teenager) who played Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel for the ward choir was amazing. I was nearly in tears over how gorgeous her piano playing was. She played all the songs for the choir but that one was my favorite.

We didn’t go anywhere on Christmas after church. We came home and put our pajamas back on to fall asleep in front of our new movies. Today we had family come over for a game day. That was a lot of fun.

It was a year of new traditions and finding ways to incorporate our old traditions in our new home. We even sort of had a white Christmas. The family joke is that Gwen must have some connection with the weatherman or the weather gods because every time she has begged for snow she has received it. She got her snow day from school. Then she was all upset wishing for a white Christmas. On Friday we never warmed up as forecasted, so all the rain came down as snow all day long. Gwen was in heaven! It melted off the sidewalks but was still on the grass for Christmas. Perfect!

The Jalapeño Contest

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Me: Tonight at dinner we are going to play a game.

My children’s eyes widened in rapt attention.

Parker: What kind of game?
Me: It can be like a contest. It’s a contest to see who can be the cleanest at dinner. Don’t leave any messes. If you spill …
Gwen: You die?
Me: No, not this time. You can spill but it has to land on your plate. I don’t want anything dropped on the floor or the table and definitely keep your placemat clean!
Gavin: I don’t know about this. I’m tired.
Heath: Yeah and Mom is tired of cleaning! This should be a challenge since we’re having tacos for dinner.

The kids were very excited about this proposed plan that started out as a plea veiled in heavy sarcasm.

Gwen: What happens if you win?
Me: If everyone can keep things clean then we can have popcorn with our movie, and there are bottles of Sprite in the fridge that you can have too.
Parker: And if you lose?
Heath: The loser has to eat this jalapeño from tip to stem.

With game on expressions, we prayed and commenced building tacos. I have never seen the kids eat so carefully. I figured at some point they would realize I didn’t really mean for it to be a game. That was just the attention getter statement. But they took it all extremely seriously. I have good kids!

Parker: Mom, I was the last one to finish eating so will you come check the table? Oh I hope I’m the winner!

I checked and saw a virtually perfect table. Not a speck marring the table. Not a crumb on a single placemat. Gwen already had to sweep up her lunch crumbs so no crumbs made it to the floor after dinner.

Gwen saw the offending pieces first. She had spilled three tiny turkey crumbs on her placemat. I told her I would pretend I didn’t see it if she could just take care of it. She yelled loudly as she picked up the crumbs to dump in the trash. It’s like they are all very excited about Christmas or something! Then she walked into the kitchen and picked up the jalapeño.

Gwen: Do I really have to eat the whole thing?

Again, I totally thought they would get that we were kidding. I even told her that I would ignore her transgression! Yet she fully believed that she had to eat the jalapeño! Heath stopped her before the pepper got to her mouth. The movie came with popcorn for everybody too.

I know I am neurotic. This is not news. I love my kids and how they handle their crazy mother. Yes we really do have the rule that if you spill you die. That started when our dining room was carpeted. So far no one has spilled anything that couldn’t easily be vacuumed or swept up. Therefore they are all still alive … for now! I have learned that jalapeños are an excellent incentive as well.

The Long and Short of It

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They say you pick your battles. I have picked the wardrobe battle. It’s important enough to me to wage war against my 13 year old. I don’t micromanage my kids but I will engage in a power struggle over clothing. Being the mom, I win every time. Bwah ha ha ha!

This morning Gavin opened the front door to check the outside temperature. Unfortunately the alarm was still set so he had to quickly disarm it. He put on a pair of denim shorts and told his dad

Gavin: It’s supposed to get to 46 degrees today. It seems like shorts weather to me!
Heath: Nope. Go put on long pants.

Long pants were being worn but these negotiations started.

Gavin: I will give you this $20 bill if I can wear shorts the rest of my life.
Heath: No.
Gavin after pulling out another $20 bill: How about $40 for today?
Heath: No.
Gavin: I have to get some more money.
And he walked out of the room.

He came back with $80 and tried again.
Heath: No.

Desperation set in. Gavin started trying to pawn off perceived experiences and any possession he had in exchange for his leg hair freedom. By the way, when Gavin mentioned last night how much he hates long pants Parker said, “Nobody wants to see your monkey legs, man.” The timing along with his deadpan delivery was hysterical.

Gavin: How about $80 and the lion will never be annoying to you again?
(the lion is his stuffed toy he likes to waggle in people’s faces)
Heath: No.
Gavin: Okay, how about I add in my jacket?
Heath: The jacket won’t fit me.
Gavin: Then you can do with it as you see fit.
Heath: No.

I came in late to the failed negotiations. Actually, I didn’t know about the hilarious lengths Gavin was going to in order to get what he wanted. I just knew he was very upset we were making him wear jeans in winter. The nerve of some disconnected parents!

I finally looked at my son and pulled out the white flag. As I started to wave it I asked him if he could put everything away and get into a pair of shorts in two minutes. “It’s time to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”

There are only two instances that Gavin will move with any speed faster than that of an aging sloth.

  1. When he is running.
  2. When he is properly motivated.

Allowing him a day to wear shorts was plenty motivation. He even had a big grin spread across his face as he tied his shoes under his happy, hairy legs.

Me: I will give in on days off from school. But you will wear long pants to school. It is winter! Put on a sweatshirt at least!

I’m sure my acquiescence was in one ear and out the other. That boy got what he wanted so who cares about the future? It will come later. For now … arid bliss.

Christmas should come with a few pleasant surprises for Gavin. I made him two pair of pajama shorts and I even told Grandma that Gavin hates long pants of any kind. He will get a shorter version of the pajama pants she is making for her grandsons.

I think Gavin just runs hotter than the average kid. I understand. I used to be like that myself. Not to the extremes he claims. I wore weather appropriate clothing without complaint. But then again it could be one million degrees outside and my school would not allow shorts. The only day we could wear shorts to school was on Field Day. We would roll up our jeans to our knees to make weird capris in order to beat the heat.

Gavin may have won this round, but school will start back up soon enough and I will be ready. He will wear long pants and wear a dang winter coat if I have anything to say about it. Although I think if Heath knew I was going to give in today, he would have taken the $80 bucks! Ah, the price of freedom.

The Blame Game

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broomAn abandoned broom and dustpan litter the floor along with a few more crumbs Gwen didn’t pick up with her fingers.

I blame Heath.

Backstory: I noticed my slippers were crunching with nearly every step I took between the kitchen and dining room. I mentioned something about needing to sweep again. Heath suggested that most of the crunchiness was probably concentrated in front of the dishwasher. That’s where Gwen was keeping the graham cracker house she made at her friend’s birthday party yesterday. She has been slowly decimating the house one piece of frosting glued on candy at a time.

Gwen went to the closet. I thought she was going in there to pout so I had a mini freak out. I honestly can’t remember if we hid any Christmas treasures in there. I think we only thought about it. Nevertheless, I have loudly told two of my kids to stay out until after Christmas!

Gwen emerged with the broom and dustpan. My freak out turned to loud praises. Heath finished dishing up stroganoff and I finished delivering drinks and plates to the dining room. I sat down with the boys and Heath started in on Gwen who was literally on her hands and knees hand picking up crumbs to place in the dustpan!

Heath: It doesn’t have to be perfect! Why don’t we just eat right now?

Unfortunately she never returned to her “sweeping.” The girl who has never before touched a broom for anything other than to ride it around the house as a pretend witch, finally used the broom for its intended purpose. The allure of dinner distracted her and the broom was left on the floor. In his defense, Heath did finish the job for her. She told her dad that it’s on her to-do list for tomorrow – to finish sweeping after she does all the rest of her chores. She plans to finish it all by noon so she can play with friends.

Lately I have been upset about my squishy body. I have been riding a stationary bike every morning in an effort to better control my blood sugars and to increase my heart health. Secretly I want to lose weight too but I can barely get through the shortest prescribed workout. That’s another story for another day.

My legs, my nicest body asset, look awesome! What’s on top of those legs can only be described as leftover pizza dough spilling over. I am the very definition of muffin top. Nothing like checking the box for body type: Gru from Despicable Me. When I first noticed that the bike was really only stellarizing my legs, I decided to finish each morning workout with my cartoon Wii trainer, Devon.

I popped in the disk and attached myself to all the Wii-motes and sensor bands. Only nothing was happening. The little finger on the screen wouldn’t move no matter how much I danced around the room pointing and clicking. That’s when I looked at the top of the screen and realized what was happening.

I blame Steven’s eyes.

Somehow Steven’s eyes (the Wii sensor bar) had fallen down behind the TV. They stayed on their dark and dusty vacation for a period of time more lengthy than I care to admit to. Heath became a contortionist for me in order to get those blasted eyes back in place. It was not easy! Now I guess I’m out of excuses. Tomorrow morning’s leg burning workout will be topped off with some upper body work as well. I think …

Last story.
I got an email about Gavin’s online activity over the last week. These emails used to come weekly for all three kids but now they come sporadically for Gavin. The other two don’t do anything online anymore. I blame the death of the homework laptop.

Anyway, the email always shows some of the recent search terms. This time the list was quite interesting. There were two separate searches for “is Santa real?” and one for “did pigs fly when the Cubs won the World Series?”

Gavin happened to come out right when I was laughing at the email. I asked what he learned about the reality of Santa. He was confused at first. Heath explained it and asked if pigs flew when the Cubs won the World Series. Gavin said that no pigs flew.

Then he blamed Parker.

He said that Parker convinced him to type the searches. Which only makes me laugh that much harder. My kids are crazy.

I blame their parents.

He Does Exist

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At one time of year everyone agrees. During this four to six week period of time, people look out for one another. We spread joy through acts of service big and small. With the children in mind, we spark a twinkle in their eyes through magic. I can think of no greater piece of universal cooperation. Christian or not, religious or not – the adults of Western Civilization have agreed to keep the magic of Santa alive for every child.

I believe in Christmas miracles and I believe in Santa Clause. He exists in the hearts of mankind. On the news this morning there was a story about the annual toy drive Les Schwab Tires orchestrates. They were saying that people were not just bringing in one or two toys. They were bringing in toys by the box load. The warehouse looked like the set of the Nutcracker. Volunteers seemingly danced around larger than life boxes filled with toys. Bikes in every size stood in rows like soldiers waiting to make a child’s Christmas special.

That is the magic of Christmas.
That is the magic of Santa.

This is my favorite part of the holiday season. People paying it forward. People who do everything in their power to make sure no child is left out on Christmas morning. Because it’s not the child’s fault that Mom and Dad are filing for unemployment. The child still finds faith in the one person who can bring a moment of happiness – Santa. Who are we to have it all and not bring magic into the lives of others?

There may not be a person dressed in red who is the CEO of a toy production company run by little people. There may not be one person who singlehandedly delivers joy to the world in one night. But he does exist. He exists in the goodness of others. He exists in our quest for peace and goodwill toward men.

Santa is reminiscent of our Savior Jesus Christ. Neither one are physically on earth to bless the lives of others. Jesus expects His followers to be His hands. I see it every day but particularly during the holiday season when so many people retell His humble birth story and sing carols all about Him.

He does exist.

Nice Shelves

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I always find it interesting how many couples cannot handle DIY projects or home improvements. Painting should not equal divorce threats. Pulling out an assortment of handy dandy tools is not also an invitation to pull out the sharp words. But what do I know? Heath and I love home improvement. We always have. It’s a lot more fun when we own a home. The improvements are much more permanent that way.

We did leave the gazebo and platform we built at our last house. It wasn’t worth the time, money, or effort to tear it down. The landlord paid us our full security deposit so I really could not care less what anyone thinks of that gazebo. I liked it. I think it improved the value of the home but it is now no longer my problem.

Before we left we gave away a ton of stuff. People thought we were crazy! “You really want to give away bookshelves? These are so nice!” I reassured everyone that we did want to give away our stuff, including the bookshelves. We had plans for built ins. It saved us space on the moving truck. Now that we have our new bookshelves, we realize the old bookshelves were insufficient for our needs.

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This was the first project. Floor to ceiling built in bookshelves. Is it wrong to covet your own stuff? I LOVE this bookshelf. We have games in the bottom cabinets. The project isn’t finished yet. I still need to paint but I just couldn’t wait to pull out the books. Plus, I wanted to get rid of some more moving boxes. Hopefully over Christmas break, when Heath has a few days off, he can sand and I will paint. That’s our secret! He hates painting and I don’t mind. Compromise achieved.

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Speaking of compromise, this bookshelf took some creative thought. Originally we wanted built ins again for the office. We went so far as to buy more kitchen cabinets to match the ones we built the desk out of. I was going to paint the bookshelf to match the desk too. We decided to hang the cabinets in the garage for more storage there.

Heath kept changing his mind about how he wanted to make a bookshelf in the office. As a result, he started looking online to just buy a pre-made shelving system. Only it’s hello expensive for low quality materials. It wouldn’t be big enough to house the millions of books we own. The shelves would definitely not be deep enough for the scrapbooks so those would be homeless again.

What to do? What to do? Heath had this brilliant idea for an open shelf. He tried to explain it but I am not a good visualizer so I told him to do whatever he wanted. I would support him. So he bought a few things from Lowe’s. By the way, it was significantly cheaper than buying a bookshelf online. Parker helped him put the track on the walls and voila! Bookshelves! We got rid of 14 more moving boxes. Well not really since apparently weather is an excuse not to pick up garbage. Please don’t let it snow on Friday! We need our garbage picked up at least. We have to wait until the 23rd for recycling to be picked up. That’s not ridiculous at all. It makes perfect sense to expect people to save the planet by not picking up recycling as often as the garbage is picked up!

These open bookshelves are perfect. It allows light to come in. We were concerned that a traditional bookshelf would be big and dark. We were able to have a variety of shelf depths to accommodate my scrapbooks. I loved that feature enough that the only scrapbooks on the “floor shelf” are standard 3-ring binders I scrapbooked 8 1/2 x 11 sized pages. The 12 x 12 books have spent enough time stacked on the floor. I also like the autographed football on the top shelf. So cool!

I love having access to the church books. Unfortunately we won’t be asked to speak again in church for a while. Our turn won’t come around again right away. I don’t need the books quite as much for substitute teaching. At least the next time I’m only given two days notice for these big assignments, I will know where to turn for inspiration.

Heath still has plans for making built in cabinets in the bonus room with shelves on either side that go up to the ceiling for movie storage. The cabinets will hold electronic equipment and he will make them float above the floor. The pets will be displayed underneath. I love it! Our house is coming together.

It’s been fun working on these projects. The process is slow. It’s like Heath has to work or something! But it has been really fun to make things again. We like dreaming together and then making those dreams come true … with the help of his parents and their tools.

Hallelujah

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It’s been nearly one full year since the robbery. My mind naturally goes there the closer to the 14th I get. I think of it when I look at the desk we built and every time I put on a pair of earrings.

On Saturday afternoon, a neighbor’s house was broken into. Smashed back slider. All too familiar. Another neighbor’s security alarm was triggered when they were at a party. They had to leave early.

I never expected a move to solve my fears. Obviously it doesn’t matter where a person lives. Crime still exists. I just never expected to revisit my fears with a repeat performance doors away. I’m surprised that anyone would risk this type of selfish crime in this neighborhood with the houses so tightly packed. No one can look outside without having a perfect view of five other houses. There is no easy getaway like our last house.

The depravity of stealing sickens me. Thieves, thugs, and burglars are not doing it because they are desperate for cash. They do it because they have no respect for property or anyone else in the world. Bad things supposedly happen in threes. Here are three instances of stealing in one week.

  1. At Costco – several boxes of Ritz crackers were opened and missing only one sleeve of crackers. There is no understanding for that kind of blatant disregard for moral decency. If you’re that hungry just walk around the corner! They give out free samples at Costco everywhere!
  2. At Lowes – two young men walked into the store and swiped stuff from the nearest counter and then ran outside. A middle aged man chased after them. He came back inside with a look of obvious frustration in his eyes. He didn’t catch them but he was willing to do whatever he could for the employees.
  3. In my neighborhood – not only did someone successfully break into a neighbor’s house but a picture is being circulated on social media with a clear view of a would be thief just before he broke the back slider glass of another home. The alarm was triggered and the police were summoned. The family was home but no one was hurt and nothing was taken.

I don’t want to live in fear. I can’t give in to this type of terrorism. I have my security system and security cameras. Our neighborhood is organizing a neighborhood watch system with the help of the local police department. There isn’t much else to do besides live life.

At church yesterday I realized I was too focused on these neighborhood issues. I felt as nervous as I did that first Sunday after our robbery. So I prayed. I prayed that I could let go of things I cannot control and redirect my focus to the peace found through worship services. At first it was like trying to fall asleep and constantly thinking about not being able to fall asleep! Eventually I listened more than I worried. Soon I felt calm and peaceful.

I can’t control other people or the choices they make. I can only control my reaction. I still have moments of worry and anxiety. I have learned that the more I focus on being present in my own life over worrying about the what ifs I can’t control, the more peaceful I feel. So Heath and I locked ourselves inside after the kids left for school. We piped Christmas music throughout the house and I organized books on the new bookshelf we built in the office.

Life moves on. My enthusiasm for this Christmas season will not be snuffed. I’m not sure why Pentatonix’ cover of Hallelujah is a Christmas song. The song has always made me want to cry. Their version is very powerful and I did cry when it came on today. Not out of fear or sadness or anything other than how powerfully beautiful the song is. At the end of the day, my faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ is all that matters. With that faith I am able to move forward beyond the memory of my worst nightmare, the affects of other’s choices, and any Grinchy response to my favorite time of year. I choose the happiness and peace found through my Savior Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

Snow Day

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Isn’t this a lovely picture?

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It’s not a framed poster, it’s a window!

Wally Weatherman has made it sound like we would see real snow starting on Thursday. By Thursday morning the storm timeline was pushed out later and it really didn’t seem like anything significant would happen.

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Overnight the snow fell. There was probably about three inches that accumulated. I was ripped out of a deep sleep by the phone ringing. School was canceled for the day. Stay warm and safe.

Ten minutes later when Heath’s 6:00 am alarm went off, we went in to tell the boys. You would think it was Christmas morning. It was so early in the morning but we were so excited to be alive! Soon we couldn’t wait any longer. We had to get Gwen up.

It wasn’t even 7:00 am yet and the five of us were outside enjoying the snow day.

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Gwen made snow angels. When I saw the picture I didn’t know Gwen had done this. I asked where it happened and Heath said, “To the left of the freeway.” Then he realized his mistake! We had a good laugh over that one. Driveway, freeway … what’s the difference?

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A snowman was made and decorated in our front yard. Parker named him Greg. Too bad we didn’t have any carrots or other food appropriate to make a face. Later in the morning I saw that Greg’s head had been amputated. I don’t know if it fell off on its own or if it was hit by a snowball or what. The scarf was at the top and the head and hat were on the ground nearby. I saw kids, including my boys, building snowmen in the green space and then diving into them for an extra soft landing.

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There were lots of friendly snowball fights. The kids had been outside for quite some time playing in the early morning twilight. I kept shushing them because I was afraid the neighbors would be annoyed by the California kids playing in the snow. By the time I couldn’t stand being outside in the cold anymore, I went in. I was wearing a coat over my pajamas and had slippers on my bare feet. I looked out the windows at my still playing kids and noticed Parker’s friend had come out to join the snowball fight.

Then I saw that my friend up the street posted pictures on Facebook and said her girls were excited about the rare snow day. I told her to send them on down to play. It didn’t take long before the neighborhood kids were trickling outside to join the festivities. Bradley is a high school freshman who is so cute with the little kids. I saw him pulling kids around on a sled. Gwen loved it. She squealed as she toppled over into a snowdrift.

Heath and I could not stop running to the windows to watch kids play. He told me about his first snowstorm here. He was a high school sophomore and had only been in town for a couple months. School let out for the day and the kids ran outside so excited. Teenagers were acting like kindergarteners at the sight of snow. Since it was nearly winter break, school was canceled until the New Year. The snow didn’t last long but the memories remained.

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We didn’t photograph the neighborhood playing outside. We did get these amazing views. A little bit to the left of the edge of this picture is where I saw a bunch of kids sledding down a hill. They learned the street doesn’t slope as much as it was imagined to in the summer. Parents were already planning on kids starting at the top of the street and sledding down toward our house with the first snowfall. The kids found some steeper hills among the trees in the natural growth area.

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This is the view from Heath’s office in the back of the house. So amazing right? It’s such a beautiful day.

Gwen came in first after 90 minutes, to warm up and eat breakfast. Then she was back out because I told her about inviting her friends down via Facebook. Parker came in next after two hours. He stayed in for a long time watching TV in front of the toasty fireplace. When I told him Grant and Tucker were outside, Parker decided to rejoin the fun. Grant is his age.

Gavin was outside for four or more hours before he decided he was too wet and cold to enjoy being out there anymore. I told him he missed a phone call from a friend. So he came in and showered to warm up. Parker showered before we could stop him this morning. I laugh to think I blow dried his hair before letting him out to play. The boys had sopping wet hair when they came in!

Gavin called his friend to find out he was invited to a hilly field nearby. He climbed back into his shoes and coat so Heath could take him. There were lots of boys from school and church so I know Gavin will have fun. I just wonder how long he will stay out there. This gives me hope for the summer. My boys were too shy to go out and meet anyone. Now they realize they can have a lot of fun with boys in this neighborhood and close by.

Gwen has been thawing out at a friend’s house for a while now. The timing on that was a little weird. She has a friend who lives just behind our street. Her mom called me to see if Gwen wanted to play. They have a big front yard but all the kids were hanging out in the cul de sac by our house. The mom sent her first grade daughter and younger son into our neighborhood while she stayed home with the twin boy that was sick. By the time they got here Gwen was heading inside with friends.

So I babysat from the window! There were enough parents outside I knew the kids were safe. And they found plenty of kids to play with. I saw them heading home and was relieved when their mom texted that they made it home.

I saw a dad pulling a kid in a sled with each hand. They were yelling, “Faster Daddy! Faster!” Heath opened the window to encourage him. The dad called up that they are California kids. We yelled back that ours are too! I don’t know that I have ever enjoyed snow so much. I guess it’s more magical when it’s so rare.

It really does feel like Christmas. I haven’t even showered yet! Best snow day ever!