Monday, March 9, 2015

That's Bush League

As we were just leaving the restaurant where we had dinner (thank you, Chad and Kim for the gift certificate!),  Brian and Skip (who just turned FOUR, if you remember) had the following conversation:

B:  "Ha ha.  You just walked into a tree."

S: "No I didn't!  That's not a tree!"

B:  "What is it?"

S:  "It's a bush!"

B:  "You're a bush."

S:  "Your mom's a bush!"


Don't take it personally, though, Becky.  Sigh.....

Skippy's Dream

Lately, Skip has made a habit of telling me his dreams every morning.  Today, he related the following:

Mom.  Last night in my dream we were at Dona's house.  And it was a good dream.  And we were standing in the pool.  And I was there and Daddy was there and Camp was there and Weslie was there and Riggs was there and Reesee was there and Mackee was there.....  (he names just about everyone, including my siblings.  He can't remember Sarah's name, but refers to her as "their mom".   Sorry, Sarah.  :) )  And there was a board that you jump on.  And there was a big splash....  

Oh, really?  I say.

For Real.  Yeah.  He says.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Christmas Story

(I actually wrote this post a couple weeks ago but didn't finish it until tonight.  It's just not the same now that I'm posting it this much after the fact, but oh well.  At least it will now be included in my history.  :) )
............

I've decided that the difference between an amazing story and an ordinary one lies just in the telling of it----that, or the music playing in the background.  Unfortunately for me, I am not an amazing story teller, nor do I have any impactful, touching music to accompany this post.  But this story is wonderful--or it certainly could be with the right telling or the right music.

My kids have been awful this year.  They've grown progressively worse.  I take that back.  They are amazing and wonderful kids and my love for them only continues to grow.  But this year, their behavior has grown progressively worse than it has ever been (for the most part).  They talk back and say horrible things to me and to each other, and they fight. like. crazy.  As has happened for the last couple years, I spent a considerable part of December marveling about the irony that our little elf, Peppy, who watches us all month in order to report back to Santa--is the best evidence that there is definitely no Santa.   Because if there were a Santa, and Peppy were really reporting our behavior to him, there would absolutely be no presents or stockings on Christmas morning.

So over the week before Christmas, I had actually begun feeling guilty about the prospect of delivering gifts and goodies on Christmas morning when our kids had been so, so undeserving.  What would I be teaching them by doing so?  So I had started mulling over the idea of postponing Christmas.  Could I do it?  I knew there was no way I would ever be hard-core enough to withhold the gifts and stuff all-together---after all, I get as excited as the kids do about it--but maybe I could postpone the whole thing until the kids' behavior improved.  I really felt like we had to do something. 

I approached Brian about it.  He obvioulsy doesn't witness as much of what goes on around here as I do, and if he hadn't seen enough to completely understand the weight of the matter,  he would experience a representative snapshot in full high-definition soon enough.

A couple days later, on the Sunday before Christmas, a small squabble between two of our angels--ahem--developed at the end of church.  Brian took immediate (and possibly excessive) action to put out the fire by ordering each kid to remain silent on the car ride home and then go directly to his/her room upon arriving there.  Like I said--retrospectively, he may have been overreacting--but the fact is, when you have seen many a smoldering little ember quickly grow into a blazing fire, you begin to grab the firehouse upon noticing the spark.  Much to the detriment of our kids, we have become somewhat conditioned in this way.  But anyway... one of the kids was so frustrated at having been overly reprimanded that he/she (I'm trying to respect and protect the innocent guilty) gradually became more and more enraged and a battle soon erupted.  I'll spare you the (very) ugly details, and suffice it to say that it culminated in that child (only partially dressed, even) being literally shoved out onto our front lawn in the cold rain, screaming at full volume, and then being chased into the forest (is that what you'd call it) beyond our back yard.  It was horrible.    I remember standing there in the kitchen, thinking, "What is wrong with our family?"

 .......

An hour or so later, I walked into our bedroom to grab some scissors and saw Brian kneeling in prayer at our bedside.  He had spent a considerable amount of time pondering the state of our family and was drafting an interview, of sorts, for each of the kids.  Later he would call each of them into our room, one by one, to ask them the following questions:

What do you think the 'Spirit of Christmas' is?

Do you think that Spirit has been in our home?

What can I (Dad) do to help?  Mom?  You?

Should Christmas (i.e. presents) come if the Spirit isn't here?

That evening, we participated in our own intervention.  Brian talked at length about our situation and about what had (has) obviously gone wrong.  (In case you're interested, my opinion is that I have allowed the kids to get away with too much for too long--to the point where bad behavior ( i.e. name calling, criticizing, back-talking, hitting, disrespect, intolerance, rudeness, etc.) had just become the norm. Oh, and I may have set a bad example.)  He talked about the Spirit of Christmas being the Spirit of Christ--about unselfishness and thinking of others.  Then he reviewed the kids' answers to the questions he had asked them earlier.  I chimed in to ask them,  "If Peppy were real, what would he report to Santa?"  Janey was honest: We'd been horrible.

Brian told the kids I had suggested to him that we postpone Christmas until the Spirit of Christmas had returned.  The kids froze with concern.  Could we be serious?  Oh, yes.  Dead serious.  Brian proposed that we be on trial, of sorts, over the next several days to see if we could make a complete 180 in time to have Christmas still come.  He suggested that on Christmas morning, instead of unloading stockings and tearing through gifts, we would have breakfast and then head out for a service project.  Gulp.  This even made me a little panicky.  It's one thing to postpone Christmas until we have earned it, but it's entirely another to start messing with tradition.  At this point, the kids were far too afraid to breathe a word of complaint.  Brian looked at me and asked me what I thought.  I calmly responded that I had a few concerns that I would like to talk to him about later in private.     Brian talked for a long time, and when we had said all there was to say (and there was a lot to say) we said prayers and started getting ready for bed, the kids having one thought in their heads--We had better be good.  

Janey pulled me to the side a few minutes later with trembling in her voice to say,
"Mom, we always get up early and open stockings and presents before breakfast.  How are we gonna eat breakfast when we can see everything? How are we gonna keep Skip away from everything?"
 I told her I would talk to Dad.  Later, I approached Brian and asked him if there was a specific purpose in doing everything differently on Christmas morning, assuming we were successful in doing a 180 and earning back the privilege to have it come at all.  He said he just thought it might be nice to do things a little differently.  I told him me and the kids really enjoy our current traditions and that if we were going to need to postpone Christmas, fine--but if not, maybe we could just keep things the way they've been.    He agreed to that and we also agreed on another thing: we would do service on Christmas--this year and every year hereafter.  Perfect.

So guess what?  The next several days were incredible.  Incredible.  I cannot remember the last time there was so much tolerance and self-control demonstrated in our home (probably because there wasn't a last time).  Oh, man.  Those few days were so wonderful.  We had earned Christmas back!

On Christmas Eve,  I sped around the house getting ready for our Christmas dinner to which we had invited a hundred (like 20) other people.  I was getting stressed.  Brian reminded me to keep things in perspective and reassured me that it wouldn't kill anyone if things weren't totally ready when our guests arrived and they had to help with setting up chairs and putting rolls on the tables, etc.  True.  I would live.  Deep breath.  We left the ham and potatoes in the oven and drove over to the Florence Christian Church to join them in their Christmas Eve service.  We went last year and decided then to make it part of our own tradition.  We sang carols and lit candles and were given a Christmas message--just what we I needed to slow down and feel the magic of the season.  We then slinked out the side door and headed back home to welcome our guests to dinner.  They did have to help me set up tables and chairs and put rolls out and fill glasses, etc., but they were happy to help and I was happy to have it.  Dinner was wonderful.

The next morning, Christmas did come, and we enjoyed it in peace.    Late in the afternoon, we put on our shoes, loaded up our tools and headed out around the circle to clean up our neighbors' driveways.  It was a wonderful day.  It is a wonderful life.




Christmas Letter 2014

(A copy of the Christmas Letter I sent out this year--because it's tradition to keep a copy of it on the blog.)

December 12, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

So guess what. You may not be as surprised as I was to find out that stores are no longer carrying Christmas stationary. You know--like the kind you print Christmas letters on. Correction: the kind used to print Christmas letters on. It seems that Christmas letters have gone out of style. I know, I know. They went out of style a long time ago. But you know what? I still like them. I look forward to writing to you every year because it makes me feel close to you. Because words are my thing. Remember? Anyway....
A few hours ago, I sat down at my computer and read the Christmas letters I sent out over the last few years in hopes of getting my Christmas-letter juices flowing. So here’s an update: Brian has once again loaded up his green back pack with socks and weird energy chewy things in preparation for another chilly half-marathon (plus a couple miles). True to my word in last year’s letter (and for the first time ever), I put my Christmas trees up before Thanksgiving (and I’m so glad I did). Yesterday, I had a huge blow-up with a couple of the kids, during which I told them it was an ever growing possibility that they would be getting nothing for Christmas. Aaaannnddd my eyelashes are actually making an appearance on the big screen face. Have you ever heard of that RapidLash stuff? Good news, people. It works.
And this Christmas season has already brought a number of sweet experiences that have warmed my heart and soothed my soul. After a super sleep-deprived first week of December working my fanny off with Becky to get my house spruced up for the season (cause that’s important, right?), we went over to the church for the Nativity Festival. Becky and I sat in the second pew from the back and listened to the Presbyterian Choir from Reedsport perform a medley of Christmas songs. As the buzzing of my frazzled nerves slowed, I glanced behind me periodically to check on the kids. And you know what they were doing? They were being angels. They were coloring, and enjoying cookies, and admiring nativities and dressing up in nativity costumes--as angels. The music was beautiful, and the whole thing was just such a gift to me.
The next day, Brian invited us all to join him in putting up the Christmas lights of our favorite neighbors who were out of town. We gathered in their yard as the sun went down and all busied ourselves with a different section of lights. Camp was Brian’s wing man up on the roof, Becky and I were replacing bulbs and lighting bushes, Jane and Danin took control of the snowman lights, and Skip pedaled around the street on his Radio Flyer tricycle in a short sleeve shirt and elf hat yelling, “Merry Christmas!”
Tomorrow, Brian will run his race and the kids and I will attend the library’s annual family Christmas party; and then later we will all hike to The Lighthouse with friends and enjoy a campfire with hot chocolate....

Life is good, and I am sooooo grateful for mine. I love you all so much. Seriously. If you are getting this letter, you have contributed significantly to the happiness of my life and I owe you....a Christmas letter. :)
Merry, merry Christmas. Love,
Ann 











 






Friday, December 19, 2014

Deck the Halls 2014

I've decided something.  Next year for Christmas, (or maybe in February for Brian's and my anniversary!),  I am going to ask for a nice camera that can take good decorating pictures.  My phone just isn't cutting it anymore, and I feel totally left out of the decorate-your-house-and-then-take-awesome-pictures-with-your-nice-camera world.  But anyway, my halls are decked.  What do you think of my outdoor banner?  I made it with corrugated plastic and foam that I glittered (although you can't tell from the pictures, of course...grrrrrrrr).  I was pretty proud of myself because I've never seen a banner outside before.  :)


























Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Girl, Gain Goo

I'm recording this here for fear of otherwise having it lost forever in the past.

Last night Janey got into my our bed to read because Danin's music was distracting her.  After she fell asleep and I moved her back into her own bed, I noticed  I had accidentally left a few small Christmas gifs on my bedroom floor that she had likely seen.  So tonight I pulled her aside and asked her if she had seen the gifts.  I asked her to be honest with me.  She said she had not seen them.  But when I went into my bedroom later, I found the following note from her on my floor:

Mom when I was reading in your bed I did see some presents but I forgot what it was, I promise.  I said I hadn't seen any because I thought you would get mad at me    please forgive me  love, Jane.

Oh, man, was my heart swelling.   I went and got a note card of my own and responded:

Gain Goo!
I got your note.  I am so proud of you for telling me the truth!  That is a very hard thing to do!  I am not angry at all.  I just feel so proud and grateful to have such a wonderful daughter.  I love you.  Love,  Mom.   

I will put the note in her lunch box for tomorrow.  Probably with a treat.  Because I really couldn't be more proud.  Love that girl.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Let's Make a Deal

I'm getting older.

I've already ranted and raved about how many wrinkles I have, right?  No joke--I really do have more wrinkles than any other girl (my age) I know.  And this can seriously cause me a lot of stress if I think about it too much.  However, not long ago, I realized something.  Even if I were to look younger, I would obviously still be the same age.  So WHAT if people think I am older than I am when they first meet me?  I've realized that as soon as you know someone, you really loose objectivity about how old or attractive she looks.  You then know how old she is and knowing her makes her beautiful.  Right?   So what real advantage does a younger-looking person really have?  None that I can see.   Unless the person is a single middle-aged women (or older) who looks younger and who is on the hunt for a husband.  Maybe looking young would help her.  But who knows?  Anyway, I can't worry about it.  My granny has a lot of wrinkles and she is awesome.

But it's not just my wrinkles that provide evidence of the swift passage of my lifetime.  There are other signs.  I  go to the grocery store and forget that I am wearing my slippers.  My head starts to pound if I cheer too loud at a sporting event or I try to do a cart wheel.  I have to put garlic and onions in everything.  I have long scraggly hairs on my big toes.  I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.  I like nuts... and berries...in my cookies.  I thought I'd never see the day.

Sigh.

There are some wonderful things that come with the years passing, though.  My getting older means that my children are also getting older.  I am physically free.  For the most part, I do not have to carry, or nurse, or change, or feed, or chase, or wash my children.  They do it themselves, and I LOVE it.  They run and play on their own and I sit and enjoy myself.  It's wonderful.  And actually, I didn't mind my children's physical dependency.  I loved nursing and cuddling and cooing and rocking, and stuff.  But I gotta say--nowadays, when I am at a gathering where someone has a baby they are caring for, and my kids are off playing by themselves--I think,   This is niiiiiicce.

I feel like I want to freeze my kids how they are right. now.  Camp and Jane and Danin are young enough to make me laugh and entertain me, and old enough to be helpful.    And Skip is still just darling.  I'm coming to the realization that he is growing up, too, but for now--he's still little, and I'm terrified of not having a little kid anymore.  It's been ok--even good--for my kids to be growing up as long as I've got one that's still little, but what about when Skip's not little either?  I'll mourn.

I fear forgetting my kids when they were little.  I feel SO grateful to be able to watch home videos that remind me of everything that was so wonderful and individual about each of my babies.   I've decided that when I get to Heaven, I will ask Heavenly Father to give me the chance to visit the child version of each of my children again.  Does that make sense?  I want the little child version of each of my children to be available whenever I want to experience them again at that age.  And I think Heavenly Father can do that.  Because he can do anything that will bring us joy.  Who knows.  Maybe by then, being with my grandkids will fill that need for me....

I've wanted to document what my life is like right now with Skip being the only kid at home with me.

Every morning (ok.  Lots of mornings), Skip goes with me to the gym.  He plays in the play room--the lone ranger in a room full of  princess-dress adorned little girls--while I exercise.  Sometimes, he bites a little girl--one of his best friends--who is playing with the toy he wants, and he leaves a bite mark on her arm, and she starts wailing ( I can't blame her), and is taken to her mom who comes and shows me what Skip has done.  But mostly, he plays nice and enjoys himself.  And when we get home, we take a shower.  I have often times wet my pants while on the treadmill and have had to sit on my sweatshirt all the way home so as to not get urine on my seat.  I am soaking wet with sweat at the very least.  So I start the shower and Skip asks if it is cold.  He means hot.  He gets opposites mixed up.   (I'll tell him he needs to do something, and he'll ask me why not instead of why.)  I tell him it is hot and we step in.  He asks, "It's ok I go potty in the shower, Mom?"  And I say, "Yes, Bip."  I tell him to aim low and to not get potty germs on the soap.   He plays with his cars on the floor of the shower and asks me not to drip Shampoo on his head.  After about 15 minutes, I get out and Skip tells me he'll stay in for a little bit longer, and then he'll get out.  "OK, Mom?"

He loves to see me my hair look all crazy after I have bent over and towel dried it and then shaken it out.

We go into his room and I hold open his underwear, and then his pants, for him to step into.  He puts his arms around my neck for balance and he smashes his lips against mine, so that his eyes blur into one, and I say--out of the corner of my mouth--"Wow.  That's a big kiss."

I've realized how much I talk out loud to myself because he responds to me every time I do.  I get frustrated and groan, or say crap!, or dang it!, or whatever, and he'll say, "What, Mom?"  And I'll have to give him an explanation.  It will make me laugh, and he'll say, "What, Mom?" again.

I hope I don't forget.

........

Danin's 7th birthday was yesterday.   Man, that girl.    I agreed to let her have a party this year since she didn't have one last year and we sat down to write out a list of invitees.  I drew the line at 13.  13!  The girl's got more friends than any other little girl I have ever seen.  And all thirteen of those kids are children Danin plays with on a regular basis.  And I swear half of them would tell you Danin is their best friend.  I can't blame them.  They know a fun girl when they meet her.

She is playing soccer.  She moaned and groaned and told me she did NOT want to play soccer again.  Whenever Danin gets in a mood and starts complaining about something, she goes into a monologue of everything in her life that she doesn't like.  And she always mentions how I call her nicknames in front of other people and it embarrasses her.  I can't convince her that my giving her nicknames is a show of my love.  Anyway....Ultimately, Erin was able to talk her into playing soccer and being on Camden's team.   So in last week's game, while my parents were visiting, I did my best to cheer for Danin, instead of for Shugee, and it was hard.  Afterward,  she told me she guessed it would be OK if I yelled, Go, Shugee    This week, I saw her score her first goal ever.    I also saw her glance over at me as I was yelling, "Way to go, Shugee!  Giiiirrrlll!"  She did her best to suppress her smile.  She was thrilled at her goal, and hopefully at my cheering for her, too.

And it turns out that Jane is quite the athlete.  For whatever reason, I had though it would be Danin that would be big into sports--but it's turned out to be Jane.  She has been one of the best players on her team for the last several seasons, and it has been so fun to see her turn into a legitimate soccer player.  You know what I mean?  When we play with adults and kids, we don't have to go easy on her.  She more than holds her own.
She is one of the two-member "homework police" in her class at school.  She finishes her homework everyday on the way home from school and then hands it to me to sign and put a star on.  It doesn't challenge her yet.  She still has a lisp and is unable to say her own name--or any other word with the j, sh, or ch sounds--correctly.  She produces these sounds entirely through her nose, so when she plugs her nose, she cannot pronounce them at all.  I am a little concerned about this.  Her speech teacher told me she (the speech teacher) has done everything she knows how, to help Jane, and that she may need to see another kind of specialist.  I need to look into that some more.
For Danin's birthday party, Jane and her best friend were in charge of overseeing the games.  There could be nothing more down Jane's alley than overseeing something.  She loves it.   Win, win.

Camp.  My boy has grown up so. much.  And I feel so proud and delighted by who he is becoming.   He gets in trouble at school from time to time for being distracted or distracting others, but that same quality in him is one of the things that makes him so neat.  He always has interesting things going on in his head.  His wheels are absolutely always turning.
He is mature, and so helpful.  He'll do anything I ask of him.   And he always makes an effort to compliment what I've made for dinner.  Maybe someday he'll even eat it!  :)  I mentioned last time how much he is loving football.  LOVING it.  And guess what?  He plays.  In the games, he plays.  And his contribution is significant.  And I cheer, and I am so proud.  Recently, Brian texted Camp's coach to tell him how much Camp was enjoying football, and this was his coach's response:
...Camp was killing it on defense today!  He was everywhere at linebacker, covering both sides of the field from right outside linebacker.  He is becoming an animal!  I especially appreciated his desire at the end of practice on our angle drills.  I called practice and he asked if he could run one more...I value desire and commitment so I let him.  He wanted to have a chance at Elijah... He took the right angle and made a beautiful tackle on him.  I appreciate Camp.  He works hard every play...
He works hard every play.  Could there be a greater compliment?  Not in Brian's eyes.  And not in mine, either.
For family night recently, we watched  Rudy for the kids' first time.   Camp watched it again this morning as a pre-game pump-you-up.
I got shirts made for the rest of us with Camp's number (number 12) on them.  Brian's and the kids' have Lacouture on the back of theirs, but the back of mine says Homie.  :)

.........

I've told you--in my last Christmas letter, at least--that I struggle with my words.  Sometimes I say too many of them and I overwhelm people.  Sometimes I say really mean ones, or the wrong ones,  to Brian and the kids, and I hurt them.  But no one will ever be able to say that I didn't use my words to show love, either.  I use words to show my love often.  I've realized that for me, my words are my greatest strength and my greatest vice.

I have been worried about being able to say the right words when I talk to Camp and Jane ( and eventually Danin and Skip) about things that are really important--like sex, and pornography, and love, and temptation, and being like Jesus.   I so desperately want to say the right words--the words that will explain and empower and encourage and give hope and show love.

And then this morning, while I was cleaning the dental office and listening to This American Life, I had an idea.  It's been a long time since I've made a deal with God.  But I have another deal to make.  I will promise to put forth an extra effort to keep from saying hurtful words to my kids when I am angry, if he will promise to bless me with the right words to say during those conversations with my kids that will really matter.  I realize it doesn't sound super kosher to make deals with God, but I'll tell you what:  it's been my experience that whenever I have committed to God to put forth a little extra effort in some area of my life, he has always been consistent in throwing in a few extra needed blessings in return.  He really will always take any opportunity I give Him...to bless me.  :)  So I'll make the deal.  Tonight.