Dec 24, 2013

Ready or Not Here I Come!

I've learned a valuable lesson this year.
Christ came for those who were waiting and ready for him to arrive and for those who were not.
This advent season, I have been one of those "not".
Perhaps like many Israelites long ago, in the back of my mind I knew Christmas was coming but I didn't spend much of my time preparing.
Christmas will come whether I shared an advent story with my family each night, whether gifts arrive on time or not, whether my heart is ready or not, Christmas will come.
The joy of Christ is that his blessings are not only bestowed on those who were watching and waiting, they are bestowed on all who receive.
My advent didn't quite go as planned but it doesn't matter, Christ came ready or not.

Please enjoy this video and listen to the lyrics.

"A Hallelujah Christmas" By Cloverton

Merry Christmas.

Nov 21, 2013

Little Known Facts

To lighten the mood a little I thought I would share some little facts about myself that you may not know.

1.  When the dishwasher is full I wash "hand wash" dishes and leave the "dishwasher safe" dishes that didn't fit in the dishwasher in the sink for another load because I'm that lazy.
2.  I increased my coat count by two this month.
3.  I've accepted that Matt is retiring in three years, but I am still holding out hope that he'll get a job in Europe so we can go back.
4.  When Gabe gets in trouble at school for things like running to the bus and talking in line on the way to lunch, I couldn't care less.
5.  I sent my kid to school today without a coat.  It was 30 degrees this morning.  He has two awesomely warm winter coats in the closet but I refused to let him wear one to school as punishment for leaving his school coat on the bus.  Thankfully, he found his other coat and will get to wear a coat to school tomorrow.
6.  I stole the cookie from the cookie jar.  Yes me.  That's who.
7.  I wouldn't trade a single day of my life for someone else's.  I feel super blessed to live each day under the grace God has given me, the love of my family and friends, and the adventures that seem to never end.
8. I voted for Obama in the Primaries in 2008.  However!!!!  I voted for McCain in the general.
9.  I believe the greatest gift I can give each of my students is a fresh start each day.  I will not hold the decisions of yesterday against them today.  Grace is my gift to them, math skills are a bonus.
10.  I do not want to be kept on life support if I'm a vegetable.
11.  My decision to follow Christ has nothing to do with heaven.
12.  I don't know why but I like hostess orange cupcakes, chocolate fudge pop tarts, and entemans glazed donuts.
13.  I struggle with judging people who are not independent.
14.  I haven't been checking my kids' homework.

Nov 19, 2013

Die as you live.

After asking a lot of questions of one of the hospice nurses the other day, she finally directed me to a pamphlet that I could read if I was interested.  It is called "What do Expect as a Loved One's Death Draws Near".  I opened the little booklet and the first phrase that popped out at me was this:

"Dying is a unique process.  How one dies often echoes how one has lived"

I think this message is supposed to be for for those who have a loved one dying (as the title of the pamphlet suggests).  It is important for them to expect many of the same personality traits in death as was existing in life.  If someone loves being surrounded by family, enjoys music or humor, they will want these things in their last days.  For those who prefer to hide their pain and suffering, they may not want ever present guests at their bedside.  Worriers in life will likely be worriers in death, complainers in life - complainers in death, strong and brave in life - the same in death.

I didn't initially read the pamphlet and understand that this statement was directed to those who are living about those who are dying.  I interpreted it a little different.
My first thought was that it was speaking to the one dying.  As in "be careful how you live because that is how you are going to die".

I think my interpretation could be correct to, though not the point of the pamphlet.

Maybe if you are full of life, love, joy and peace, your death will echo that.  If you are angry, conflicted, and nasty then your death will be that way too.  I'm not suggesting that if you are a good person your death will be painless, but I wonder if through the pain and fear of death a person who has always found joy and peace in their life with also find it in their death.  Those who are calm in life will have a "calm" death, those who are embattled in life with have a battle with death.

If my supposition is true, I'm going to have a really awesomely exciting death because my life is pretty fun.  Or maybe it will be spontaneous - I'm spontaneous.  I hope I laugh and cry, I hope I say ridiculously funny things whether on purpose or just because I lost my mind- because that too is how I live my life.  I do hope my death echoes my life...and I hope that for most of the people I know as well.

Live well, die well.  Is that a bumper sticker?

Nov 17, 2013

Sie haben Manna?

I drove up to Bellingham Friday night after work and spent most of the day Saturday with my grandma and grandpa.

It was a good day, an emotionally draining day, but good.

My grandpa and I had a short conversation that I'll never forget.

He told us he didn't know where he was or where he was going.
My aunt told him he was going to heaven.

He looked over at me and asked me "will you be there?"
I told him I would be, one day.
He then asked me "have you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?"
I told him yes I did, then I asked if he did.
He said "yes I have trusted him for many many years"

I started to talk to him a little about what we'll do in heaven.  I suggested that maybe we would dance and sing.  I asked him to save me a dance.

He looked at me and asked "are we speaking English?"

It is those moments of absurdity intermixed with clarity that make tough moments a little lighter.  One moment we were talking about seeing each other in heaven and the next my grandpa and I were speaking to each other in German.

Since we both have a limited vocabulary in German, the conversation quickly turned to me asking in German where the toilet was, to which he responded in English that he didn't think we would need to worry about it in heaven.   Then I was telling him I'd like some fries, again in German, to which he responded in English "we haven't got any, only manna".  I asked if my manna could be fried and he simply smiled.

The sweet moment ended about as quickly as it began.  He spoke to a few other people in the room and on the phone and then his moments for the day were done.  He began to get very confused and upset, and with the help of a few nurses and an injection of something powerful, he slipped back into a quiet calm.

As I said good bye to him a few moments later I told him I loved him and kissed him on the forehead.

I don't expect that I'll see him again on this earth, but I am confident he'll save me some manna in heaven.

Nov 15, 2013

For My Boys

I've been praying a lot for my boys.  I've always prayed for them and with them but I have found that lately I've praying for them more.  More frequently and with more fervor.  I pray for Gabe as I drop him off at school, I pray for Eli as I leave him in the morning.  I find myself thinking about them often during the day and I just say a prayer for them.
My prayers are super eloquent.
Here are a few examples:

"Dear God (pause) Gabe.  Amen"

Sometimes I don't even know what to say, I just offer up that child to Him and trust that God knows my heart.  Other times, I get a little more detailed with my requests:

"Dear God...protect Eli. Protect his mind, his body, and his innocence...stop by Safeway and grab some eggs and gas up before my reward points expire...oh wait....and God bring a good friend into his life, give him joy, 
and let him know he is loved"

OK so maybe not so noteworthy but that's what I've got at the time.

A few years ago I found this prayer by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. His words are simply beautiful.  In a much more eloquent and focused way, he expresses what I desire for my boys. I'm going to start praying these words over my boys.

General Douglas MacArthur

"Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee….Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

Nov 13, 2013

This past weekend I went up north a bit to spend some time with my grandma and grandpa.  Gramps was sent to a hospice house on Friday.  His home hospice nurses had some idea that he was going to die soon and he was no longer able to be cared for at home so they opted for hospice care.  Someone came, loaded him up, and delivered him to a beautiful place where he could spend his last days on earth.
I went up to hang out with Grams because I knew it would be completely bizarre for her to be alone for the first time in...maybe over a decade or longer...and of coarse it would be painful for her role as caretaker to be gone, in an instant.
Grams is 92.  Holy cow we have some strong jeans in this family.  She cares for herself and, up until this past Friday, has been the primary care provider for her husband.  She has some help, thankfully family lives nearby, but she is there for the day in and day out, nitty gritty care-taking of her husband.
When I first saw her Saturday morning her eyes were puffy and red.  Who knows how many tears have fallen since Gramps left home.  She is confused about what her role is now, where she wants to be, what she wants to do, and I think how she is supposed to feel.  It is truly heart breaking to see her at moments, and then other moments inspiring.
My cousin and I snatched her up and headed down to the home. Now, a hospice house is probably supposed to be solemn and quiet, but hospice houses are probably not used to my family showing up.  We brought a little crazy with us and I'm quite proud of that.
My boys and their cousin were playing card games in the waiting area while sitting at a table and chairs intended for two year olds and sipping on hot cocoa.  My cousin and I were sitting with my Gramps and Gram in his room....laughing our heads off.  My grandparents are two of the most sarcastic people I know and don't let a little thing called a hospice house get in the way of that.
Gram seemed to want to test Gramps, to see if he still had his whits about him, so she asked him "who am I?" He responded "Mrs. Clause".  Then he said "ask me a stupid question and I'll give you a stupid answer".  Yep.  He's still got his whits.
Although there were very difficult moments, there were so many that were simply comical.  My grams can't hear what my gramps is saying, so she is answering questions he is asking with the most ridiculous answers.  My cousin and I are scared to death of seeing parts of Gramps we would rather not, so we are hiding every time he gets a little rowdy and starts kicking off his sheets.  The man thinks he needs to poo.  This is sad, but I'm telling you, when an 80 something year old man emphatically claims "I need to sh&t".  Its funny.  My favorite moment was when Grams started telling Gramps the names of all the people they know who had recently died.  I'm pretty sure she was trying to peer pressure him into dying.  Out in the hall my cousin and I made a deal that we wouldn't force the other to poo in our beds, we'll just push that morphine button as many times as required to keep the other knocked out and crapping our beds unconsciously.
My gramps didn't remember me most of the time I was there.  In fact, he told me that he saw me so little that he must treat me like a stranger.  Uh thanks?  It is true, since we lived out of state I wasn't around that much as a kid, and we haven't been back much for a visit as adults.  He kept saying he didn't know me.  It stung a little, but I just told him it didn't matter if he knows me or not, all he needs to know is I love him.
As I sat at the end of the bed I watched as Gramps took labored breaths and I was actually praying that I would witness the last one.  Nobody wants to die like that.  A prisoner in a body that won't move.  Spending your days and nights in a strange place...hoping that your time on earth would just come to an end.
This weekend was set up for sadness but it proved to be pretty darn entertaining.  My Grams got all wrapped up in her seatbelt and bust out with an "oh blimey" which made me laugh hysterically.  I was all warm and fuzzy from sampling every variety of apple liquor known to man at a local distillery....and ended up hopping on board an adult sized rocking horse and riding off into the sunset (or just rocking back and forth and realizing how fun rocking horses are) and I spent these tough days with one of the people I love most in this cousin Rhonda.  Nothing brightens a dark day like sipping coffee and chatting with someone you love...even in a hospice house.
So Gramps didn't die.  He had a free 5 day stay at the hospice house but it looks like he may outstay his welcome.  He is heading to a rest home in the coming days.  I'll visit as much as I can, and pray that his days on earth are over soon.

Nov 7, 2013

November 7

Forgive me if I've told this story before.
I relive it every year, at least a few times.
Ten years ago today my morning started early with a phone call from a panicked spouse.  At the time I was one of the FRG leaders for our unit and so my number was associated with information.  If people had questions about just about anything they would call me or one of the other leaders.
However, at 6:30 that morning I had no information.
The woman on the other end of the phone line told me a Blackhawk had been shot down in Tikrit and it was ours.
I was confused.
Our unit was running operations in Mosul not Tikrit. Why did she think it was our unit?
She said the news was reporting the aircraft belonged to 101st airborne.  Although there were over 200 aircraft in  theatre that belonged to the Screaming Eagles, I knew she was right, it was our company, it was one of us.  The 101st was operating out of Mosul, but our company, B. Co. Lancers, were rotating in and out of Tikrit to assist with another ground unit there.
Eli was just a little over a year old.  For some reason that day he was unbelievably good.  I can picture a million images in my mind from that day, but not a single one includes him.
Hours passed. I watched every single minute of every news report possible.  Waiting.  Praying.  Hoping.
By noon nobody had knocked on my door in uniform.
I finally decided it was safe to take a shower.
I decided it couldn't be Matt, too much time had passed without notification.  I thought that maybe the news was wrong, I hadn't heard a thing yet so maybe it wasn't our company.
I called the woman back who had awakened me earlier.  I wanted to let her know that I still didn't know anything and that was why I hadn't called back yet.
The phone rang a few times.
She answered.
I apologized for not calling back until now and explained that I still didn't know anything.
Her words shoot through my heart to this day.
"It's mine".
"What? What are you talking about?"
"They are here right now"
She passed the phone over to a mutual friend who told me the names of those who died that day.
I called Mika, who had been over earlier waiting with me, and another friend of mine Sara.  Both arrived at my house moments later.
I was asked to go to the house of another deceased soldier and wait with his girlfriend and son.
Everything after that is kind of a blur.  There were tears, a lot of tears.
Hours later I returned home, Mika and Sara were still there.  I shared the information I had gathered through the day, and we sat there numbly taking in the events.
Mika stayed with Eli and I that night.  Neither of us knew what to do with ourselves.
Early the next morning my phone rang...the voice on the other end was my husband.
It was by far the most difficult conversation he and I have ever had.
After a few minutes Tom got on the phone and I had a chance to talk with him for a few seconds before handing the phone off to Mika.
The sweetness of hearing the voice of a loved one in a difficult time is immeasurable.
Over the next few days I had the opportunity to visit each of the widows.  There were a lot of tears, and there was a lot of love and support.  We each shared our stories.
Through those difficult days we were all bonded together like never before and not again since.  We celebrated life, mourned the death, and prayed that the rest of the soldiers would soon return home.
A year later we gathered at the memorial dedication for the crew of the aircraft that was shot down.  We looked into the faces of spouses, children, and parents.  We gathered together and laughed and cried.  We remembered those few who gave their lives and cherished those who survived.
November 7th is a day I'll never forget.  Today is a day that Matt relives every year.  The names of those crew members, Scott, Kyran, Ben, and Paul, will never erase from our memory.
Today Matt and I will open up an old treasured bottle of Jack Daniels reserved for just this occasion, raise a glass to the fallen, say a prayer for the survivors, and take a moment to remember these few who paid the ultimate sacrifice for this nation.
All gave some, some gave all.  431.  Gone but not forgotten. Prost.

Nov 6, 2013

This is 37

Yesterday I spent hours making copies at work....and enjoyed it.  Not because I thoroughly enjoy standing by the copy machine for hours and hours but because I set a goal to do something ridiculous (make all the copies of student's worksheets I need for my 1-3 grade students for the rest of the year!) and I finished it!  It took hours and hours of pulling together all the materials, making packets by module and then making copies.  But woo hoo, task completed.
After that task was completed  I called my insurance company to chat about life insurance.  So many options and factors to consider.  Once Matt got home we rehashed everything and bammo made a decision we both feel good about.  So over the next month or so, we'll become the proud new owners of additional life insurance.  I'm keeping it a secret who our beneficiaries are.  I don't want anyone to get to excited about offing us in order to collect the kajillion dollars in insurance.  Whilst chatting with the insurance agent she asked how much I wanted to insure myself for.  I said "well that is up to my husband.  What do I care?  I'll be dead".  She wasn't amused and decided I was only worth about $250,000.  I'm such a bargain.
So, copies made, insurance plan underway, what's next to polish off my day of excitement?  I swear I'll make you one of my beneficiaries on my policy if you guessed this one correctly!  That's right Kirby salesman.  This sweet, perky, fun girl came to my door asking if she can clean my carpet.  I say sure.  I know it is a sales pitch, but I spilled a half gallon of white primer on Eli's carpet about 6 months ago and quite frankly I had nothing better to do last night, so I was willing to listen to her pitch if she could  try and get it out.  She said she'd be back in 10 minutes, and it would only take about 10 minutes.  Ha!  An hour later a dude shows up.  He was neither perky or fun and he was there to do the pitch.  Off we go up to Eli's room for the cleaning.  I lied and said I owned a Kirby before (Mika owned a Kirby so I was really just pretending I was her and answering questions as if I were Mika).  I know the Kirby works well but I sold it because it was too heavy.  (This really is Mika's answer).   I hoped since "I" was a previous owner of  Kirby he would lay off the pitch.  He didn't.  He vacuumed the floor, floor boards, cleaned the window, vacuumed the bed and finally got around to dry foam cleaning the carpet.  Long story short: my house is dirty either a: because I don't own a Kirby or b: because I don't clean enough.  I'm going with b, which is actually more embarrassing than option a, but it is the truth.  Matt came upstairs and told the guy he had to leave because the kids needed to go to bed (totally true, it was almost 9pm now which is way beyond a reasonable hour for a strange man to be in my house).
9pm.  Eli's room is looking quite clean, the carpet is a little better but not much, but now it smells like a wet dog.  Thankfully, Eli has a stuffy nose and couldn't breathe anyway so he was fine.  I kept coughing.  The guy asked me if I had allergies.  I said "no, your Kirby foam is killing me".  He doesn't respond.
He packs up the machine.  I tell him it took us 6 months to decide on what TV to buy so I surely am not going to make a decision over something that costs 3 times as much in a mere 2 hours.  He said "well that's a TV, its cheap and not important".  I said "uh that's my point dude.  If it takes 6 months to decide how to spend $1000 for something as meaningless as a TV how much more time will it take for us to decide on a vacuum that cost $3000."
He still didn't get it.  I suppose that is why he is cleaning carpets for free.  Not a mathematical equation that makes sense.
I kicked him to the curb, turned off the porch light, and headed in for a glass of wine.
It was a pretty good day.
Copies, life insurance and free painted carpet cleaning.  This is 37.

Oh I just reminded myself...big plans for Saturday: learn to knit.

Oct 30, 2013

So Mad I Could Spit

What does that even mean?
I've heard it before.
Does that mean I'm so mad I want to spit on you?
Or I'm so mad I am going to spit on the ground in protest?

I'm not sure what it's originators meant, but I know what it meant tonight in my house.
I was so mad at my eldest son that whilst barking at him, spittle came flying out of my mouth.  No kidding I saw it fly through the air.
I think that means that I was talking so fast and so furiously that I didn't take time to swallow.
Not pretty.

But real.

I was in the bedroom when the boys started bickering about something.  Then I heard Eli in Gabe's room, and Gabe telling him to leave.  Then Eli insisting on playing with the keyboard in Gabe's room.  I was changing in my room, and after a very long day I decided I was going to pretend I didn't hear them arguing and just go on about my business.
The walls are thin in this house and despite my best efforts to ignore the kids' little scuffle I heard enough.
I did take a deep cleansing breath but it seemed to do no good.

I opened my door to find Eli sitting in the hall badgering his brother.  Gabe wasn't in Eli's room.  Gabe was in his own room, in his own bed, and like a big bully, Eli was going into Gabe's "safe space" and then sitting in the haul just taunting him from afar.  Like Goliath shouting at David from the hills.

The last words Eli said tonight were " aren't gifted or talented why did they let you in?"
That was preceded by a lengthy, one sided conversation, that consisted of Eli telling Gabe how he was going to tell the neighbor friend not to play with Gabe anymore.  Eli has been known to tell Gabe things like "go get my sweatshirt.  If you don't, I won't let you play with me".  Fury.

I am pretty low key when it comes to the kids arguing.  I don't get my feathers ruffled too easy.  They are kids, they are brothers, they are going to bicker and I'm not going to intervene every single time.
However, nothing fires me up more than when I hear kids being manipulative and hurtful and mean just for the sake of being those things.

Eli was being hurtful and mean.  I don't know why and quite frankly I don't care.
I love this boy.  He is so sweet and respectful, kind and funny unless the moon is aligned with orion's belt (this happens like once a week) and he isn't happy with Gabe, then he is super evil and mean.

There is rarely a time when I look at Eli and think "you are not my child".  But when Eli acts like this, I shake my head and squint my eyes, start breathing heavily and consider denying his birthright.  Ok, so there isn't a birthright but I want to smack him.  Or as I did tonight, go on such a crazy rant that I spit.

I'm not suggesting that my response was appropriate.  OK fine it probably didn't do any good at all, other than let Eli know how disgusted I am with that behavior.

I have met mean, manipulative adults and kids before and I hated them.  So naturally, God gave me one sweet boy who regularly has a psychotic moment and spews pure nastiness out of his mouth.

It is heartbreaking to see kids being mean to other kids, it is particularly heartbreaking to see best friends do it to each other.  They may not admit it freely but these boys love each other, and love playing together.  They just forget sometimes.
Oh dear Lord, help Eli get control of this little part of him that wants to manipulate and be mean!  Otherwise, I'll probably spit on him again.

Oct 28, 2013

Patchwork Quilt

My life is like a patchwork quilt made of different fabrics.
For the most part those fabrics are exclusive of each other.  Each fabric making up its own pattern and block.  There are a few threads that intertwine throughout the quilt, but for the most part, each fabric tells its own story. My stories.  Each divided by the place that I lived and the life I was living.

Friday night as Matt and I were coming home from a work function I suddenly started to sing an old song that used to be a favorite over 14 years ago.  It is a little ditty by David Allan Coe called "You never even call me by my name".  There is nothing particularly remarkable about the song, other than it is funny and it takes me back to a group of friends hanging out on the lanai of a friend's house in Hawaii.  It was the place where we always went on a Friday night after work.  For a few moments we were silent in the car as we allowed our minds to take us back to that place, to be in that story for just a moment.  It was a good time, Hawaii.  We were barefoot and on the beach a lot and I owned 25 sundresses and 3 pair of sandals.  At night you could see every single star in the sky.  The smell of plumerias makes me want to cry to this day.  It is the smell of freshness, vibrance and beauty.  We embraced the Aloha spirit there, not a care in the world.  I was in college and Matt worked crazy long hours, but on the weekends we ate the world's freshest seafood, incorporated sand into our skincare treatments and soaked up every drop of sun that shone on the island and in our lives.  It was a good time.

We are approaching the 10 year anniversary of the loss of four members of our Lancer family.  A decade ago on November 7th aircraft 431 was shot down over Tikrit, Iraq killing all passengers and crew.  If you knew me back then, you probably remember this day.  It was the darkest day.  In honor of the anniversary, there is a reunion at Fort Campbell next weekend.  With the reunion just days away the Lancer Facebook page is exploding with old photos of the first Lancer deployment.  Today I perused hundreds of photos on the page, recognizing faces I haven't seen in so long.  I laughed as I realized how much younger we were all back then and wondered how everyone's lives have changed. I cried as I looked through photos of the difficult living conditions over there, saw pictures of people who have since died, and remembered how tough that year was.  Building up to that deployment was scary.  Everything was unknown.  Relationships developed quickly as we all knew we were going to need each other soon.  And we did, need each other.  The bond of the first deployment will remain although our lives have all changed so much.  I barely recognize myself from those days.  I was either pregnant or had a child under a year old the entire time we lived there.  It was a growing time, both in our family and individually.  I treasure the people who helped me get through those uncertain times.

Oh Germany.  I loved living there so much, but I love the people there even more.  I was so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing friends.  I doubt I ever laughed so hard, so often, and lived life fuller than when we were in Germany.  Now that we have been here over a year, those times are further and further away.  I miss the people, our time together, and closeness we all shared.  We saw so much.  I'm still often astounded at how many places we travelled to when we lived there, and how many amazing sights we saw.  Was it a dream?  How is it possible that I shared so many great memories with so many simply incredible people in such a compact span of time?

My life is a quilt.  Neatly packaged into different fabrics telling the story of my different lives.  Each section so special for very different reasons.  At any given moment I would willingly jump through the frame of the quilt and spend one more day in that story.  Some, I would like to stay for days and days, but others I'd gladly jump right on back to present day after a quick visit.

Today I sit wondering if I will see all the truly special people from each of my lives again.  It is shocking how often I am able to bump in to a person or two from another life, but I long to sing David Allan Coe during a hurricane warning again, eat dessert on Mondays with my Virginia peeps, hang out at a fest with members of the 214th,  play games during a tornado in Alabama, enjoy the longest breakfast in the world with my girls from Grant circle, celebrate the return of our soldiers with my Lancer family, bump in to one of my best friends at the marina, and embrace each of the beautiful people who have been plopped right down in my life at different times and different places....the people who my my quilt colorful, rich, and warm.

Oct 24, 2013

Pep Talk

My husband often gets irritated with me when I try to engage in a deep, meaningful, conversation with my eldest son about some behavioral issue.  The husband basically tells me to quit trying to "talk about it" and just tell the child what he needs to do or not do.  He thinks the only response needed when the boys ask why is "because I said so".
He has a point.  Sometimes I just need to give instruction and not answer the "why".
But I really do want the kids to understand what in the heck I'm thinking when I make decisions and I want to open myself up to their questions.
I feel that if I explain why wearing shoes in the house is a problem or why they need to come in the house 20 minutes before dinner, or why they need to take a shower, they will understand where I am coming from and maybe even see the value it my decision.
Matt thinks if I give explanations, I am weakening the foundation of first time obedience.  He may be right in some cases, and quite honestly sometimes my valiant effort to help the kids understand blows up in my face.

Eli calls these deep, meaningful, conversations "pep talks".  I have no idea why, there is really nothing peppy about them.

Last night on the way home from church Eli and I engaged in a pep talk about being physically rough with one of his friends.  These two boys are two peas in a pod.  They love rip-sticks, all things playing outside, and they seem to not get enough of playing with each other.  However, they are both pretty physical in their play and it is a bit concerning for a parent.
My concern is for two reasons.  Jeans have been ripped, flesh has been torn, and there has been blood spilled as a result of their games, so my main concern is their health and safety.  A typical game for these guys is something that looks like rip-stick soccer with an added twist of roller derby.
The second reason why I am concerned about their physical play is that kids their age are typically too immature to handle "play" pushing, hitting, or wrestling. One minute everyone is laughing and the next minute someone is hitting back for real, no "play" about it.

In the last few days there have been a few instances where Eli was playing around with his friends and the joking around on his part turned to legitimate anger and thrown blows from the friend.  They still like each other and look forward to afternoon play in the neighborhood, but I worry that one of these days their friendship won't recover.

So during our pep talk I was explaining to Eli why I think it would be a good idea for him to keep his hands to himself with his buddy, even if he is just joking around.  I yammered on a bit and then gave Eli the chance to comment.
This is usually the time when he starts crying and throwing a fit about how I don't understand, and he doesn't get why I think the way I do, and so on.
He started off with his "I'm saying 'yes mom' with my lips but in my head I'm poking your eyes out" defensive attitude, but then his tone changed and started to talk to me.  He told me that he has noticed that his friend tends to get violent, more serious than joking, whenever people around him are playing around hitting or pushing each other.  He agreed that maybe his friend can't handle that kind of rough play, and to preserve the friendship he should avoid it with that friend.

I pulled in to the driveway and took a deep breath.  
This is why I have those irritating pep talks with the boy.  Because I wan't to prepare him to make these type of observations on his own.  I want him to see how I think and apply similar problem solving or decision making skills to his own life.

We don't always get to know the "why" in decisions others make that impact us, and that is not what it is about.  It is about teaching him to think about what he knows to be good and true and use it as a measuring stick for the actions he is considering in his life.

As we got out of the van I pulled Eli to my side and told him how proud I am that he was able to make this decision to lay off rough housing.  And when I looked into his big browns, my heart melted a little. Oh my sweet boy (who has intermittent bouts of insanity) I love you so and just know that you will be a problem solver, a thoughtful being, and amazing young man one day.  I pray I can continue to push you in that general direction.

Oct 23, 2013

Mind Blowing Dinner Idea

Tonight for dinner I let nothing stand in the way from producing a simply fabulous meal for my precious ones.
I stopped by Costco on the way home from work to pick up one of their $5 rotisserie chicken masterpieces.
G asked if it was for homemade chicken and dumplings soup.
Nope.  Just chicken.
He said "oh you mean no celery or carrots?"
No I mean just chicken.
"Just chicken and dumplings?"
No.  No soup.  No dumplings.  Just chicken!

I often use that rotisserie chicken for soups because it is so easy and the chicken is so yummy. But tonight wasn't a soup night.
I had Matt pull apart the whole chicken and then I set to work making some side dishes.

Then I looked at the clock, looked back at the pantry, looked back at the clock, looked in the fridge, and then I went where no mother has ever gone very low.

Ladies and gentlemen please direct your attention to the dinner plate in front of you....

Your eyes are not deceiving you, this is in fact chicken leg and thigh with olives.....on a paper plate.

Oct 21, 2013

I got a call from Matt today asking if we could get a babysitter for this Friday night.  He has a work function and has requested my presence.
Normally, I quite enjoy getting a babysitter and heading out on the town but today I rolled my eyes, grumbled, and said "do I really need to go with you?"
My regular, perfectly sweet and yet stern babysitter is not available this Friday night and until Matt's call today, I refused to put put forth any effort to find another sitter.
I texted my untested back-up sitter and it turns out she is available.  Great.
Then I immediately texted my superstar sitter and asked if she can watch the kids for the Seahawks game in mid-November.  I assumed she would.  I was wrong.  Someone with season tickets to the Seahawks game contracted her for every single game until the end of time.  So disappointed.
Not only do I not get her this Friday, I don't get her for the game and to add insult to injury she told me she was decommissioning herself for the rest of the year.  WHAT???
I am not happy.
Turns out she is taking all AP and Honors classes and has a bunch of projects and homework that are dragging her down.  Why couldn't she just be a regular high school student?  Why honors? Sub-par or barely passing would be fine with me.  I don't need her to be super smart and get a million scholarships to her school of choice in Texas!  No, I need her to stay around and have no life other than babysit for my rascally boys.
I sat down with some afternoon coffee all grumpy and irritated.
Then my brain flashed back to 8:35 this morning.
That was the time when someone informed me that two of the students I see everyday are technically homeless.
Home. Less.  Without a home.
One lives in an RV with two other families that is parked somewhere around town. The other is camping at a campground.
I have a friend who is currently living in a 5th wheel in a campground in Colorado...while waiting on her house to close escrow.  Different story.  These kids are not waiting for their new home to be ready, they are in their home.  Be it a tent or motor home, it is their home.
I'm pretty sure they are not living in one of those fancy Airstream RV's either.  My guess is that it is similar to the one that parks by my local Safeway.  It looks like it barely runs, it is dirty, the uncovered windows reveal an old tattered interior with junk piled high.  And outside the front door sits two or three kids playing on the Safeway sidewalk...also known as their front yard.  The RV can't park there for too long, so it usually disappears for a day or two and returns later maybe parked a little closer to Lowe's this time.
30% of the students in my school district are homeless.  For district purposes that means, living in a hotel, campground, shelter, abandoned building, or staying at a friend or relative's home due to lack of housing.

So kudos to their parents, who despite some obvious difficult circumstances, get their kids to school most of the time.
Shame on me, for getting wrapped up in my big "problem" of not having my favorite babysitter for the upcoming days I'll be going on a date with my husband...who happens to be both my baby's daddy, a guy who holds a job, and has never been incarcerated for drugs, murder, or assault.

I challenge you to do something you may have never considered before.  Head down to your local school, or a school in a less fortunate area of town and ask the secretary if that school has any kids who need warm coats, or food for the weekend.
Sure you can sell your old coats and sweaters, old shoes and jeans... but what if you could directly impact the life of a local student in your school?  How much more valuable would that be than the buck or two you get  from some old jeans?
Schools in our district offer coats to kids in need and through a cooperation with the local food bank provide food for students to take home on Fridays.  Food for the weekend for fear they will not eat if they don't have it.
Today one of those homeless girls came in to my classroom with a t-shirt and jeans on.  It was 42 degrees outside.  I had on a sweater, coat, and gloves.  And now I wonder....does she have a coat?
I had no idea that children in my school and in my kids' schools were homeless and hungry.  But they are, and chances are there are some children near you who are too.

Oct 20, 2013

I am pleased to announce that I have come up with an advent idea that does not include, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, roots, or anything else traditionally Christmas!
I have to admit that on Sunday mornings when the pastor comes onto the stage and starts talking about something, I tune him out for the first 5 minutes.
I usually spend that time reading my bulletin, or thinking about random things.  It isn't until he asks us to "turn in your Bible to...." that I snap out of my thoughts and engage in the message.
Today, those few minutes of ignoring the pastor actually proved to be used wisely!  It was in those moments that the idea of how to spend Advent this season came to me.
I wasn't actually thinking too hard about how to celebrate advent this year.  I was only half-heartedly concerned with granting Gabriel his wish.  I mean really?  Who doesn't love the story of the wise men following the star?  Or the shepherds getting the news in the field?  I love to talk about those things.  I want that to be our advent lesson!
But today, as I sat there reading about a few mission trips coming up, the fundraising efforts from the glow run last weekend, and other tid-bits, it hit me.  Why do I spend the time preparing for advent for my family?  Because I want them to know Jesus.  I want them to know the story of the one who came to save us.  But perhaps it is time for them, not to focus on HOW this Jesus came to be our Savior but WHO Jesus is to us.  So, this year we will not talk very much about the "Christmas Story" but spend 25 days talking about who Jesus is.
I'm starting my "lesson plan" now, seeking versus that proclaim who Jesus is and what promises are given to us through him.  It isn't as important for the boys to know how and why Jesus was that baby in a manger as it is for them to truly know Jesus.
Have a promise you want to contribute?  Please share!

Oct 8, 2013

Something New

Today on the way home from school Gabriel told me he wanted to talk about the upcoming holidays.  He told me he wanted to trick or treat this year on Halloween, he wanted HAM not turkey for Thanksgiving, and this year for Christmas he doesn't want to learn about Mary and Joseph AGAIN!

I told him I thought he could trick or treat in our neighborhood this year, now that we have neighbors and I've met most of them.  I'm not sure about the ham situation for Thanksgiving, but I'll happily consider it.  But when I got to the Christmas request, I asked "now what do you mean you don't want to hear about Mary and Joseph?

Since I do advent differently each year, I thought maybe he was just saying he didn't want to learn about Christmas through songs again or read different verses each night.  I needed clarification.

He said "I've heard about Mary and Joseph for 8 years now, I want to learn something new".
"Oh, and another thing, I don't want to hear about Jesse's root either!"

I was laughing so hard inside, I chose to stay silent for a few minutes rather than let on that I was super entertained by his request.

I finally gathered myself and asked what he would like to learn about instead.
He replied "something new".
"Like what?"
"I don't know, just something new".

The thing of it is there is nothing new.
People may create new Christmas traditions and write new Christmas movies, we can come up with  new ways of celebrating, decorating, and gift giving, but THE Christmas story is unchanging.

It is thousands of years old.  There are no new characters or wild twists.
The only possible thing that can change, is the way you hear it.

Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem on a donkey, gave birth to a baby in a stable, and named his Jesus.   Shepherds who were not to far away in a field were greeted by an angel announcing the birth of a king and wise men, those who sought answers in the sky, located a star that settled where this king was.  The boy pretty much disappeared from the pages of history until one day he rode a donkey into Jerusalem and the stage was set for Jesus to be crucified, die, and raise again in order to atone for the sins of the world.

You may hear this story and consider setting up a nativity next to your Santa's workshop display and your Christmas tree.
Or you may hear this story and be amazed the God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but live forever.
You may hear the story and be impressed that the events surrounding this one man were prophesied hundreds of years in advance and proven true through his birth, death, and resurrection.
You may hear this story and be amazed that a man, who is God, suffered and died because your sins are so many and so frequent that you can't possibly make a sufficient sacrifice on your own.
You may hear this story and be astounded that God's grace is so great, that He gives you each new day despite of the way you used up yesterday or the day before.

After thinking about it for a bit,  I think I may have been wrong.  I guess there are new characters and new twists.  Sure its the same Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Angels, but new characters do come along in the form of people who hear and choose to believe, and the new twists come when they choose to follow.

Oct 2, 2013

Whoa Wednesday.

Today was a ridiculously busy day.
I knew it was going to be hectic.  Had 10-15 minutes between 5 different activities that took place on every possible side of town.  I've known for awhile this day was going to be hectic.  So much so that I even prayed last night for God to help me make it to all my meetings on time.
I woke up this morning to the sound of the alarm.  Hopped in the shower.  Hopped out of the shower and headed to the closet to get dressed and noticed that I had just experienced time travel.
It was 7:17.
So weird.
I got up at 6:30 and took a shower.  I didn't even wash my hair or shave my legs, and yet when I got out of the shower it was 7:17.
I raced Gabe through his morning, yelled up to Eli to wake up, threw yogurt, a banana and a bunch of grapes in a bag and called it "lunch" and raced out the door.
Of course I was late to school.  2nd time with week.  Both times my own fault.
It wasn't until I settled in at work and pondered my morning time warp that I realized my 6:30am alarm hadn't been turned on for the day.  I woke up at 7am.
No time warp.  Just operator error on my alarm.
The day pretty much flew by until 1:20.  At such time I was finishing off my work day by loading kids on the buses.  Everything was looking great for my own on-time departure at 1:25 until the worse thing ever happened.  Jesus's face blew off.
No kidding.  A little girl in line for the bus dropped her statue of Jesus and not only did his body break in half but his entire face basically disintegrated into the asphalt.
The little girl erupted into tears.
Whaling would be a good word to describe the noises coming out of her mouth.
I offered to put all Jesus' pieces in her backpack with hope of mom gluing him back together but she refused.
Throwing him away didn't seem appropriate.
I looked down at broken Jesus and prayed for a miracle.
Thankfully, the 1st grader got a word from the holy spirit or something and she offered a solution.  She asked if I could please put all of Jesus in a ziplock bag for her.
So, as it happened on Good Friday so many years ago, I tucked Jesus into a little tomb and tucked him away in the student's classroom.  We'll see if my little porcelain Jesus can make the same recovery and rise again in a few days.
I needed to be at Eli's school at 1:40 to pick him up for a 2pm ortho appointment, that was allegedly going to last one hour.  Then home to drop the kids off, babysitter arrives and out the door to head back across town for a training meeting.  On the way, I drove through Starbucks and while I had my window down to order, I realized my car was making the most ridiculous sound ever.  Note: car dying, make appointment to fix brakes, wheels, axel, engine or whatever is about the keel over.
Made it to the meeting, hopped back in the car and had 8 minutes at home to use the powder room, grap 2 pieces of salami and make a PBJ for my dinner and head back out.  I had 3 minutes to get to our friend's house to pick him up and 15 minutes to get all kids and myself to church.
I made it.
I now have laundry, cleaning of the bathrooms and getting stuff prepped for dinner tomorrow in addition to stressing about getting all the final details together for Matt's promotion ceremony on Friday.
Holy Cow it has been an insanely hectic, busy, and semi-stressful day.
However, the orthodontist said Eli's teeth are fine, he should only need one phase of braces much later in his little life and I can check back in once a year for a free follow up visit to make sure no early intervention such as spacers or pulling of teeth is needed.  Bam!
In a way, I just saved myself a few thousand dollars.  Dollars that I can now put toward that irritating noise the van in making.

Sep 29, 2013

Family Photographs

Last weekend we managed  to squeeze in a family photo session just before winter swooped in to Washington.  We spent about 45 minutes taking photos and then the wind started to blow, the gray clouds rolled in and the sky dumped rain in buckets.  We didn't get in as much as we wanted, but we got enough to document our family for the year.

The trend in family photos is moving away from studio shots and now are regularly shot on location.  The photographs take advantage of natural light, beautiful backgrounds, and the subjects are not restricted by studio size.  There is another trend in family photos . . . everyone is a photographer.

True, everyone with a camera can take a picture.  But there is a huge difference between someone simply taking a picture, a good photographer, and a talented photographer!  Especially, when it comes to family photography.

With auto-focus, photo-shop and pretty backgrounds, so many people think they can buy a fancy looking camera, start a facebook page and call themselves a photographer.  I guess they can call themselves anything but that doesn't make it true.  
Someone may be able to capture beautiful images of their child or landscapes or romantic couples but that doesn't mean that they can do the same with families.  It is easy to get a beautiful picture of a child. Children are cute!  It is probably even easier to get a great photo of an older child who can follow directions and pose beautifully against a tree or by a lake.  
But family photos bring a whole new dimension into photography.  There is a big issue of posing and also making sure that everyone in the photo is doing what they should be doing.
People that simply take pictures don't work out the details of how to make sure everyone looks good individually as well as as a group.  People that simply take pictures don't notice that feet sticking out in front of a body make the foot look larger than the head.  They don't know to tell clients not to all wear the same color pants and shirt because then the whole group looks like a four-headed monster.  They simply take someone to a pretty place, stand them in a group and take pictures...and charge for it!

A good photographer knows how to pose people, tries to catch things like floating fingers and awkward stances.  A good photographer will tell a subject to move this way or that, tuck in your fingers, move your elbow to the right, back away from someone else's face... whatever needs to be done.  A good photographer sees a thousand details in the lens before the photo is ever taken and tries to direct the clients to do what needs to be done to produce a great image.  A good photographer has a million ideas before coming to the photo shoot.  A good photographer is always trying new poses, and new locations so that all her/his clients aren't doing the same exact thing.  

If you are paying for family photography you should definitely use at least a good photographer!  Don't be enamored with a photographer's senior portraits, wedding shots, or little adorable baby shots.  Make sure you see family photo sessions before committing to paying someone for this service.

Every once in awhile you come across that last category of family photographers.  The true artist.  The photographer that was born to take pictures.  The talented photographer who isn't satisfied with lining people up in front of a water fountain and calling it good.  Nope.  This photographer pushes family photos over to the category of art.  This photographer takes photos from different angles, she/he lays on the ground, climbs trees, dangles on the edge of a cliff in order to capture beautiful images of the subject.  
I had the extremely awesome opportunity to know and be photographed by a truly awesomely talented photographer.  The good thing, is we have some really fabulous photographs from our time with her, the bad is the bar is high and so far, has not been met by another.

While I am satisfied with the photographs we had done last weekend, I was a little bummed that there were not any cool artsy shots.  In my photographer's defense I didn't specify "please climb on the roof so that you can get a super cool picture of us" or "I'm totally ok with my kids being out of focus so you can capture a really pretty romantic shot of my hubs and I".  And while she caught a lot of things to make sure the photos were great, there were a few that she missed.  Gabe's head should have been an inch or so back so that he didn't block Matt's face, or Matt's hand is around my waist but only his fingers show or the placement of my hand on my leg is weird.  Stuff like that.  Someone else may not notice but I know Angela would have!

If you are on the hunt for a family photographer do this:
Decide what you want.  Do you like traditionally posed photos?  Or are you looking to star in your very own art piece? 
Search through a million photographer's portfolios of family shots.  Don't look at weddings and babies at all.  Look at your friend's photos, get referrals.
When you narrow down your potential photographers, tell them exactly what you are looking for and ask if she/he feels they can provide it.

I told my photographer I wanted a disc with the rights so I could order Christmas cards, canvas prints, make photo albums or whatever else I wanted to do with the pictures.  I told her I wanted on location family photos somewhere unique.  I also told her I wanted some fun poses.
I should have given her more specifics of what my idea of fun poses would be.  If I would have, I know she would have been able to follow through. At the photo shoot she asked me to be specific about what I meant by "fun".  I hadn't thought it through and really wasn't able to really answer her.  In hindsight, I should have told her that I meant non-traditional poses.  Thankfully, she already had some of her own, so we got a little fun.

Tis the season for family photos.  Do your homework, don't settle, and make sure you send me one!!

Sep 28, 2013

There is a little girl in second grade at our school who is falling behind academically.
She was one of my students last year.  She came out to the learning center for extra help in math and reading.  She is slow.  Not developmentally, but as in her general speed is slow motion.  It takes her twice as long to walk out to my room, twice as long to do a math problem, and twice as long to write her name.  She takes so long - not because she cannot go faster but because she moves like molasses.  Super slow.
She has a sweet smile and dark eyes.  
I think she is definitely capable of learning and really knows quite a bit, she just chooses to move at a considerably slower pace than everyone else.
She misses breakfast sometimes because it takes her so long to walk the 100 feet from her bus to the cafeteria, she has missed her bus and is regularly late coming in from recess because she is so darn slow.
She's a dilly dallier and despite prodding her along, she continues to move at her own, very slow pace.

Before I knew her name I referred to her by her most dominate physical attribute.  
Her running nose.

I met her in May last year and inquired about her snotty nose.  The teachers I work with said she had a running nose all year.  In fact, the classroom rules for her were to blow her nose and sanitize her hands every single time she walked in the door.  Her running nose is that bad.
I know this is gross, but I feel I must share, her face always has dried snot on it.  
It is disgusting.  
And baffling.

This year as she started coming out to see us for extra help again, I asked the classroom teacher if anyone has ever addressed this nose issue.  I wondered if she has allergies.  Perhaps she can't breath well or isn't getting good sleep because of this sinus issue and that could effect her learning.

The teacher said she would ask at a coming meeting regarding the student.

Today the teacher told me what she found out.

The girl with the running nose is a foster child, in an over-full foster home and is not receiving much attention, let alone medical treatment.

As soon as the words fell upon my ears my heart began to break.

I've heard of foster kids, but I have never met one.
I've heard of kids with nobody to look out for them, love them, care for them, nurture them, protect them and encourage them, but I've never met one.
I've met kids who live with aunties or grandparents.  
But I didn't know that I knew any kids who were living among strangers.
As I picture this girl's face, with her nose all snotty and her smile covered in silver caps, I can't imagine what life is like for her.
And I realize that she is one of many.
One of thousands of kids who, for one reason or another, do not have a mommy, daddy, uncle, aunty, grandpa or grandma to snuggle up with at night.

I have room.
I could take care of her.
I know it isn't that simple, but I wish it were.
I think I may have just snatched her up today and changed the course of her life if it were that easy.

She is clothed, fed, educated, and housed - but she is missing the thing that a child needs more than any of that.  She is missing a person to love her.

And for that my heart breaks.

I can't get her off of my mind or my heart.
All I can do at this point is pray fervently for her, love on her when I can, and hope that one day she will know love, joy, and receive the attention that every little year old girl desires.

Sep 27, 2013

At this time I am pleased to announce that I have almost survived September without dying.  After all these death posts and then a long absence, I'm sure some may have started thinking that I may have in fact shot straight up to heaven.  Not true.  I'm still here.

I'm alive and mostly well, working, doing homework with kids, falling in love with and taking care of our neighbor's dog, not effectively making dinner on a regular basis and watching laundry pile up.  Things are great!  Sure I could be more on top of things but as long as the kids have one more pair of clean unders and weather appropriate clothes for school, I'm not stressing about the dust on the window ledges and pile of shoes in the hall.

A few nights ago at dinner I said to the boys " we have a pretty cool family don't you think?"  They both said "yes".  Eli laughed and said we were "funny, loving, and authentic".  I was giddy at his description of us.  I asked what do you think makes us authentic?  He said "I don't really know what authentic means, it just sounded good".  Darn.  I loved that description and I hope it is always true!

Sep 10, 2013

Death Lingers

So we are still on the topic of death around here.  By "we" I mean Gabe.  And because Gabe is on the topic, I'm having nightmares about me dying.

Leaving church on Sunday Gabe said "I'm sure excited about going to heaven".  He rambled on for a bit about why.  He is looking forward to meeting the angel Gabriel.  If the angel Gabriel is a boy, Gabe wants to become best friends.  If it is a girl... he never come up with a use for her.
After chatting all about heaven Gabe said "I'm not afraid to die.  When I die, I'm going to have a big ol smile on my face because I know I'm on my way to heaven".

As I lay in bed the other night I found my mind occupied with the thought of me dying.  Have I taught them enough?  Do they know how much I love them?  Does Matt have the passwords to all of our on-line accounts?  I pictured my boys home alone without a parent, because I was dead.  I pictured Gabe so sad that I wasn't here.  Eli wasn't so bothered about my absence because he's a big boy and dad is his favorite.
I found myself in tears.  I'm not ready to die.  I know I should be happy about going to heaven like Gabe, but the thought of me dying and leaving the boys without their mom, was crushing me.

In the wee morning hours I tried to bring rationale to my spinning brain.  I'm not sick, I'm not dying any time soon, it will be ok.  Then I thought about a car accident killing me or strike of lightening, burglar, school shooter, healthy person freak aneurism. There are so many causes of death that could strike at any time.
Back to rationale, well my 70 year old great grandma got hit by a bus and didn't die.  My grandma is 91. I have good old genes.  I'm going to be around longer than I want to be.

After sorting through all the ways I could die within the next 24 hours and trying to tell myself there was no reason to dwell on this, I decided I just needed to pray.

I asked God to please please not take me away from my kids until they are older.  I want them to have a mom at home until they are grown boys who don't really think they need me anymore.

Again I was crying.

Then a quiet thought came to me.  Perhaps my prayer should be that the boys be ready when it is time for me to die, or for something else bad to happen in their lives.
Not keep me alive until they are ready, but help them be ready for any adversity they may face.
And help me to live each moment with them the way I want them to remember me.  Help me to be the very best mom to them I can be for as long as they call me mom - which will hopefully be for quite a while longer.

I'm thinking of banishing all death talk.

In other news.  Today Gabe told me he is planning on his restaurant "Blue" only being open a few days a week because he wants to spend the rest of the week designing roller coasters.

Sep 5, 2013

Re: My Demise

Apparently my people think more about my death than I thought they did.

During our great clean sweep of '13 a few weeks ago, I came across the slippers I wore at our wedding.   I opted for flats given the height differential between Matt and I.  Is there a more comfortable "flat" than slippers?  I think not.  I bought a pair of white satin slippers with a little pearly business on the toe and was probably the most comfortable person on stage!  My little secret...until now.  Oops.
I figured there was no use for keeping these slippers in a box so I wore them that night.
Matt noticed them and said "you can't wear those"
To which I replied "why?"
His answer: "Because when you die I want something to remember you by."

So is he suggesting that without his dead wife's slippers he won't remember me?  Photo albums, digital pictures, memories, life experiences are lost if he doesn't have these slippers?
I put them in his closet.  I'd hate for him to forget me.

Gabe is not worried about forgetting me, but strategically planning his future around my death.

Gabe wants to live with me forever (as long as I buy him a bigger bed) and he wants me to give him my house when he dies.  His reasoning is not just because he wants to hang with his mama forever or get a free house, but because he wants to make sure he can find me in heaven when I die.

He explained that when you die you go "straight up" to heaven.
He doesn't want to live or work very far away from me because he wants to make sure when he dies, and goes straight up, he isn't very far from me.  He wants to ensure our entry points are close by so that he doesn't have to walk very far to reach me.

As we were driving home from school he picked out a plot of land that is about 2 miles from our house.  He decided he could buy that land to build his restaurant, called "Blue" because he loves the color blue, since it was still pretty close to my house.

That boys loves me so much!  He tells me so, in so many different ways!

Sep 3, 2013


I walked in to church last Sunday, pulled out my bulletin and noticed that thing that I hate to notice...a guest speaker.  Some guest speakers are great, others...not so much.
This guy is the community group pastor at our church and he was actually good.  He threw in some history lessons, some paraphrases for the really complicated Old Testament stuff, and delivered a message that everyone needs to hear!
The message was "make your comeback be greater than your setback".  For those evangelicals I expect to hear a little "amen" for those more conservative types a simple nod and "mm" is good here.

I think this phrase is so powerful because it simplifies the complicated issue of grace.  The reality is, we will all have setbacks, screw-ups, or huge mistakes, but we don't have to stay there, we can comeback and that comeback story may be far more powerful than the story of our setback.

I was reading a story the other day about a guy who was the bass drummer for two different rock bands in the 90's.  He was fired from each of the bands just before the band hit it big.  His former bands went on to make millions while he was left with a very sad story.  He decided not to stay stuck in that story of failure or setback and headed down to his local recruiter's office and joined the Army.  He became an Army Ranger, then became a member of the Special Forces.  He fought in battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Asia.  He was honorably discharged after 12 years of service.  Upon the completion of his military service he was accepted into Columbia University and used his GI Bill toward earning his BA in Philosophy.  I don't know the man, I don't know his character but I can say this: I think his comeback was far greater than his setback.  He may have had more money if he had worked out the rockstar thing but I do believe he is a wealthier man today.

Grace means you don't have to live in the past, you can change your direction, you can have a comeback.  It is so easy to get frustrated with ourselves when we fail.  It is easy to convince ourselves that we can't do it, we can't reach it, we can't move on.  It takes courage and tenacity to make that change, but it also takes grace.  It takes forgiving ourselves for the mistakes of the past in order to move on and make a great comeback.

Sometimes I think it is a good idea to lose weight.  Ha!  I'll figure out what type of plan I want to pursue and then go for it.  I'll be fabulous at sticking to that plan for a few days, then I eat a piece of cake and don't make time to run.  Plan failure.
Sometimes, I move on.  I start over the next day.
Other times, I eat a second slice of cake.

Don't eat the second slice of cake.  Start tomorrow new.

Aug 28, 2013

Sweet Words...

I found an old anniversary card from my dear husband today.  The first few lines of his hand written note read:

"I have had the best journey with my best friend!  Sometimes I want to push you down the stairs, but then I know I would just pick you up."


One day when my boys come to me and ask "mom what is the secret to your long and happy marriage to dad?"  I'll respond "well son, your dad didn't push me down the stairs".

We love and respect each other, we are really good communicators, we typically agree on issues regarding finances, raising the kids and how to spend our weekends and vacations.  We have similar goals for our life together and we support the other when it comes to chasing after dreams and achieving personal goals.  We allow each other "me time" and we truly enjoy being together.  However, despite all of that, sometimes it just comes down to choosing not to push the other down the stairs.  

More generally speaking, for those who don't have stairs or violent tendencies, I'm talking about restraint.  Choosing not to do something that you may really want to do, for the sake of your marriage.  Giving up a fight, conceding, dealing with irritating habits, having grace for mistakes, forgiving without holding a grudge.

When it all comes down to it, sometimes it is the things you choose NOT to do that allow your marriage to endure.  Not giving up when it gets tough, not checking out when it would be so easy, not letting the pressures and lures of life distract you from the promise you made to love until the end of time.

Aug 27, 2013

The Latest News

  • Last Thursday the boys and I were out front when I noticed a kid riding a ripstick out in front of our house.  I didn't recognize him, so I asked Eli if he knew him.  He didn't.  So he walked over, introduced himself and started chatting.  Turns out he just moved in around the corner, arrived here from Germany, he is going into the 6th grade, at the same middle school as Eli.  Eli asked how he was going to school, the friend said "walking", they decided to walk together.
  • Today I had a meeting with the principal of my school.  I needed to ask her to adjust my schedule a little to allow for me to drop G off in the morning.  I was nervous because I really didn't know what I would do if she said "no".  I went in to her office, chatted a bit about summer and then dropped the bomb shell on her.  I need to work from 8:10-3:10 in order to drop my son off at school.  As I spoke I was trying to read her reaction.  What happened was so unexpected, my mind was blown.  She said "thank you!" quite loudly.  Then she hollered to her secretary who sits outside her office and said "good news, she isn't quitting".  They were all so ecstatic that I wasn't quitting, I think I could have asked for a raise and been granted one.  After the excitement died down she said "what did you work last year?"  We had a conversation about what my schedule was last year and what would need to be different this year.  In the end she was not only glad I wasn't quitting, but she was happy to adjust my schedule to 8:15-3:15 so that I could help monitor student release.  I guess a few employees notified her at the last minute that they were not returning for this school year.  This sent her into a panic to start interviewing and hire before next week!  She told me that she had been stressing over this meeting today since the day before when she heard I was coming in to see her.  She said she was hoping that I was pregnant, not quitting.  I made a deal with her: she won't hope I am pregnant ever again and I promise I will never quit a week before school starts.
  • While I was in the office with the principal who was giddy that I am still going to work there, I decided it was a perfect time to tell her that G would be taking the TAG shuttle to the school and would be waiting there for me to bring him home.  She shrugged it off, commented how he will be sitting there with the other shuttle kids and said he would be supervised with everyone else.
  • Eli needs to see an orthodontist for some preventative/phase 1 corrective work.  I love my dentist and really trust his opinion.  Shocking for me.  I usually hate and largely distrust dentists.  So I was super happy when my dentist recommended an orthodontist who accepts Matt's insurance.  I was doubly happy when I found out today that I have my own dental/orthodontist insurance and therefore will likely be able to dramatically decrease out of pocket fees for his teeth issues.
Loose ends, minor concerns, little pieces to the puzzle all have come together quite nicely in the last few days.  There have been a few moments this summer that I questioned whether I should be working.  I hate that I can't be at every school event, field trip, or just pop in for lunch with the kids.  I hate that Eli is not going to be dropped off at school by Matt or I.  I dislike that my responsibility has shifted from only the home and all that comes with that, to home and work.  On the other hand, before I started working I was feeling like I was a wee bit useless.  All day while the kids were at school I sat at home feeling like I lost my purpose.
As the little pieces have come together I feel more and more confident that I am where I should be, where God has carved out a little place for me.  The benefits from working are far greater than pay and dental insurance.  I feel challenged.  It is a challenge for me to do my job at work and then come home, cook dinner and make time to hang out with my boys.  I am challenged to make better use of my time, because there is less of it.  I am challenged to be the teacheresque person who shows these little rascals love and understanding and encourages them to press on when it gets tough.  I am challenged to show my boys that we are a team, we are all working together for the good of our family.  With my job comes some sacrifice and teamwork, but there will also be rewards - like we may actually, some day, decide it is worth the money to go to Great Wolf Lodge.  Probably not anytime soon, but some day.

Aug 25, 2013

Clean Sweep

Our clean sweep was quite successful today.
We cleaned out the closet and dresser in our room and went through all of Matt's Army gear and junk boxes.
We got rid of about 3 bins of old stuff we don't use, have 2 1/2 bins ready for Matt to turn in, a few items to try and sell, and only two piles of junk left in the middle of the garage waiting for attention.
We still have one shelf that we need to go through in the garage.  By we, I mean mostly Matt.  But it was clear he reached his limit and it was best not to attempt the shelves.

I thought this day would be hard on Matt because he hates doing this kind of thing, as it turns out, it was harder on me.

With each bin that he opened and each set of uniforms he pulled out came floods of memories and unexpected emotions.  His uniform has changed about 7 times in his Army career - maybe more - so it is easy to match where we were in our lives with the uniform he is holding in his hands.
Infantry gear, his first flight suit, his desert uniforms, his uniforms from Korea... all represented different monumental events in our lives.
Each set of uniforms bore a different rank and unit insignia.
Most displayed his combat patch from service in Iraq.

Then there were the boots.
Matt has also worn a few different styles of boots in his time in the Army.  Now they wear ugly brown ones but when he first joined he wore black ones called "jump boots".  They were dull black except for the toes which are shiny.  He pulled out the boots and I felt my throat seize up and tears build up in my eyes.  Something about those boots.

Sifting through all these uniforms was like watching 18 years fly by in front of your face.
18 years of an excellent career.

Then came the letters.

Matt saves every single letter ever mailed to him.
Today we went through every letter sent to him while he was in Iraq.  (We didn't even attempt to tackle the ones from Basic, AIT, Ranger School, WOC school, or Korea.)  I'm not gonna lie, there were many, many letters that brought me to tears.

I forgot how many people were faithfully supporting him while he was deployed.  We read dozens of letters from strangers.  We read letters that referred to care packages that were sent and hundreds filled with words of encouragement, support, and prayers.

Matt has over 30 letters written on American flag notecards, the envelopes all bedazzled with American flags, from my Grandma P.  She wrote every letter on Sunday, started with a brief run down of the day, updated him on the family and the weather, and then prayed over him.  Then there was a series of letters from my cousin Rhonda referring to a very elusive Gameboy game they were trying to hunt down for Matt.  I was cracking up as I read about a dozen letters each referring to that game that apparently never came out.  There were sweet letters thanking Matt for his service, a lot of updates on family, a fun little note my my niece that said something about the world being a big place and you can do all sorts of things in it.  She told Matt that she likes to read and hoped one day to read to him.  A few items were particularly hard to look over: the last letters Matt received from his grandfathers before they died, photos of friends who died, and letters from people who rarely sent anything but shared their heart when they did.
It was hard to watch Matt look at the pictures of Eli, knowing that those pictures were the only thing he had at the time to watch his little guy grow up.

At the end of the day, my hands were dirty, my head was sneezy, and my heart was so full.  Full of pride for Matt's career, full of gratitude for those who supported him and love us, and just thankful that we got through all those tough times and have a great story to share.

Aug 23, 2013

The Most Exciting Piece of Paper....Ever!

Matt came home with a very important sheet of paper.  Actually it is a few pages long.  It has me all giddy and excited.
New PCS orders?  No way.  We've only been here a year and are planning to be here for three more.
Pay stub?  Nope.  Nothing new happening there yet.
Deed to the house?  Heck no.  We still have 29 years to go on that one.

It was none other than.....Matt's list of his AIC. (Army Issued Crap).
That's right.  There are three pages of items listed there.  Three pages of stuff that is currently hanging out in our garage.  Some items on the list are highlighted which means he can turn them in now - out of my garage.  Other items are not highlighted and those are the items he still needs and can turn in when he leaves Fort Lewis - still in the garage but actually going to be used.  And finally there are items not listed on these papers.  Those items are the things that we do not need to keep or turn in therefore we can toss (more realistically donate to a thrift shop)!

Our garage is a sty and I've been working on getting rid of stuff that we don't need.  Old beds, tables, desks, random pieces of wood for projects that failed, old computers and a whole bunch of random stuff that has no place in our lives anymore. There are about 6 large bins of Matt's military stuff and some other bins labeled "Matt's Crap".  I can't sort through these without his input and he has been waiting this list in order to start the sorting process.

I should note that this list is readily available at any time and he chose to wait to get it and start the garage sort until it felt right.  Please see my previous post.

So tomorrow is the big day!  We have the list, we have a vehicle to load crap into, we have a garbage can that is 75% empty with trash day on Monday....we are ready!

I can't believe this day is finally here.  Literally, half of the storage bins have been just waiting for me to get my purging hands on them, and I get to do it Saturday!

Matt is a hoarder which makes it fun to go through stuff that he thought he needed to keep for ages.  Last time I got him to sort out boxes it was 2012 and we found a Fantasy Football draft guide for 2006. I think the player on the cover had retired by then and I'm pretty sure all the stats were way off.  What in the world would inspire a person to keep a magazine that was only relevant for a season?

The downside of Matt being a hoarder is that I often have to fight him on getting rid of stuff.  I'll hold up a cord and say "keep or toss"?  He looks at it, doesn't know what it is for and decides to keep it.  Then comes the inquisition.  Why do we keep a cord that we have no idea what appliance, computer component or device it should go with?  We currently have an entire set of international plugs for a Blackberry.  We don't own a Blackberry.  See the problem?

Hopefully, my visions of a useful and semi-organized garage come to fruition tomorrow!

Aug 21, 2013

"You're doing that now?"

My family hates the smell of vinegar, so they are particularly irritated that I have switched to pure vinegar to clean the bathrooms, windows, mirrors and sinks in the house.
They always complain.  When they do, I think to myself "like clorox bleach smells any better?"

Last night around 9pm I was cleaning the downstairs powder room toilet with the vinegar that they all hate so much.
Matt walked by and said "you're doing that now??"

Hmm.  Is there a better time?  When is it a fun time to clean the toilet?  Perhaps that has been my problem all these years, I have been mistakingly cleaning at the un-fun time.

I walked in to the bathroom, noticed urine on the seat and cleaned the bathroom.  It seems like a very appropriate time to me.

This my friends is the underlying issue of about 75% of the arguments Matt and I have.  I see no better time than the present, Matt thinks putting it off until tomorrow makes more sense.  So I do it now, or want it done now, and Matt doesn't want to do it until it feels right.  The problem is most things never feel right and then he forgets what he is waiting to do when it does feel right.

Newsflash bucko: cleaning the toilet never really feels right.
Changing diapers? Never a good time.
Making dreaded phone calls?  Never
Cleaning out the garage?  Mowing the lawn?  Unloading the dishwasher?

There are just some tasks that are never fun, so I figure I may as well do it when a) I notice it needs done b) when I have time or c) when guests are scheduled to come over.  C is used sparingly for cases such as dusting, making the guest bed, and hanging pictures that have been sitting in the hall for 6 months...or a year.

So yes, yes honey, I am cleaning the urine spackled toilet at 9pm so that I don't forget to do it, and so I don't accidentally sit on urine spackled toilet before cleaning it and end up with urine spackled butt.

Aug 20, 2013


About 6 years ago Matt and I were on a Mexican Riviera cruise with our best friends.  It was a good time.  One morning our friend called our room and we started to talk about what our plans were for the day.  I picked up the daily patter and said "let's see....Tuesberry..."
For some unknown reason I exchanged the word "Tuesday" for my own version "Tuesberry".
I giggle to this day when I think about Tuesberry.
So, it is a good thing today is Tuesday and I can giggle about something as simple and silly as a mispronunciation of the day, because quite frankly I am grumpy and I need a little Tuesberry giggle to cheer me up.

Why am I grumpy?

My cat got out last night and got his paws all muddy, which I didn't know about until this morning when I got up and saw his muddy paw prints all over.  Because he got out, he ate grass which is what my cat does when he escapes, and when my cat eats grass, he pukes grass.  Muddy paw prints and grass puke.  Good morning.

I'm also still grumpy over Matt getting a ticket the other day.  Not because of the fine, it is about $200 which stinks, but because we truly feel like he shouldn't have been ticketed.  Since we are fighting the ticket in court the situation is unfinished business.  I absolutely hate unfinished business.  Honestly, I think I would feel better if we just paid the ticket, because it would be solved and over!  (But maybe not because I still don't think he deserved a ticket.)  My brain doesn't stop when there is unfinished business!  It just keeps pulling out details and and replaying events.  It really is quite ridiculous to allow a silly ticket to occupy so much of my brain time.  I have a hard time letting go of things that haven't been wrapped up all neat and tidy.  Perhaps I'm more grumpy at myself for still thinking about the ticket than I am about the ticket?

While I'm at's a tip. When you live in the same town as someone and you miss them, you can invite them over for dinner, that's nice.  When you live more than a few hours away, you shouldn't assume that because you miss someone they should be the ones to travel to see you.  My time and dollars are just as important to me as yours are to you, so if you don't have the time or money to come see me, please don't assume I have the time or money to see you. I love it when people ask if I can come visit, it makes me feel special and loved.  I do not like it when people get mad if I don't, it makes me really grumpy.

And finally, there is a moment in a long distance relationship when you realize that perhaps that distance is too great.  It happens.  Often it is no fault of either party, but just because life is busy and full and long distance relationships get pushed to the back burner.  It is not necessarily a bad thing, living in the present is far better than clinging to the past, but it is still a little sad when I find that months or half a year has passed since I last had a meaningful conversation with someone I love.  As a person who has moved 7 times in about 16 years, I've left a lot of friends, I've held on to a lot of them, and many have slipped away.  Each time I feel one get just a bit too far to reach, it is a little loss.

Tuesberry.  Such a funny, funny word.

So the moral of the story is don't get a cat or a ticket, don't expect others to always come to you, and love your friends deeply even if they slip away.

Aug 16, 2013

ONE Mile

As we prepare for school to start I am checking off boxes on my mental list.
I've done a little inventory of clothes, shoes, school supplies, lunch boxes, umbrellas and rain boots.  I have my list of things I need and things I keep buying and absolutely do not need any more of.  I have played out the way our mornings will go, things to account for now with our different schedules and I am feeling pretty good about how it is all going to shake out.
Until five minutes ago.
I just found out that our neighborhood is now listed as a "safe walking route" for Eli to school.  In some ways, I suppose walking may be safer than riding on a bus with a bus of crazy middle school kids, but I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around my little E walking a whole mile to school.  It will be great exercise but it rains here, a lot.  Poor kid.  He's going to be a little rain soaked puppy walking to school.
Since there is no way I can stomach him going at it alone, it is time to roam through the neighborhood in search of a middle school kid that I can either carpool with (I can bring the kids home) or that Eli can at least walk to school with.
There is a boy in our neighborhood that took the bus to school last year, so I intend to seek his mother out ASAP and see if we can strike a deal.  I asked Eli where the kid lives and he said he didn't know.  I guess I'm door knocking for middle schoolers?
And of coarse praying for divine intervention.

Aug 14, 2013

Wind Blown

Yesterday I took the ferry to Victoria BC from Port Angeles and returned.  Thankfully, the waters were calm and I was able to enjoy the ride from the deck of the vessel instead of from the stalls of the latrine. On our way over to the island the sun was shining, there was not a cloud in the sky, and I laid down on the upper deck and took a snooze.  The ride would have been perfect if only there were sun beds out there.  Instead of chilling on a lounger I had to contort my body across three seats using Matt's lap as my pillow.
The sun was setting on our return trip and it was too cold to just sit out on the deck, but it made for great walking weather.  I roamed around the decks taking in the sights of the Olympics ahead and the little island behind.  It wasn't cold, but the wind was blowing as the ship sailed across the Strait.  As I made my way around the deck the wind would catch hold of my hair and toss it around.  Initially, I tried to fight the wind by holding my hair, swooping it back behind my ears and tucking it in my coat.  After a round one of the match, I gave in.  I just let the wind tackle my hair.  It blew across my face, straight up in the air, around my neck.  It was a mess.
It was freeing.
Once I stopped fighting it, I enjoyed the feeling of just being blown around.
I felt a little rebellious.
Most everyone else was inside the ship, protected against the wind and cold, but me and a few others were roaming around outside getting blown away.
It smelled fresh and felt free.
I need to walk in the wind more, let my hair get all messy, and embrace the gusts of fresh air.

Aug 9, 2013


It has been quite warm here in the Pacific Northwest this summer.  Pretty much since school got out it has been at least 80 degrees every day.  This is nothing to those who endure temperatures over 100 in places like Texas, Arizona, and parts of California.
The really awesome thing about our warm days, is that it cools down dramatically at night.  Every night.  You can be sweating your face off during the day but I guarantee it will be cool by 7 or 8pm and perhaps chilly by 9 or 10.
UNLESS you are in my bedroom, in which case it is tolerable until 4pm and then becomes stifling hot by 6pm and sweat your butt off by 10pm.
No kidding the house is warm, but bearable until you walk down the hall and cross the threshold of our bedroom, then a brick wall of cookie baking heat slams you in the face.
It is like an oven.
Outside the oven, not bad, inside the oven, death.

We have a ceiling fan which is awesome and the only thing that has kept us in the room this summer.  If we didn't have the fan pressing cool air down on us we would have evacuated the master bedroom and opted for the guest room.

We also have a box fan.  Nothing fancy.  Just a box blowing cool-er air on us.  It cost $20 at the PX.  It sounds like a small jet is taking off and when it gets knocked over by the cat in the middle of the night it makes a noise that is so scary it will wake the dead.

When Matt brought the fan home I noted two important things.  First it was pretty skinny and second our window sills are pretty fat.  Skinny fan + Fat window sill = window fan.  Right?

Nope.  You might assume that is a good idea, I sure did, but you would be wrong.
My darling husband didn't want the fan in the window because it would be blowing pollen and other outside dirtiness into our faces.

So, we have put that fan in 10 different places in the room.  We have tried opening the garage a few inches at night (which is right below our room) to let the hot air escape, we have opened windows in the day, closed them in the day, closed our double think curtains to block the sun, opened the bathroom window, closed the bathroom windows and all sorts of other combinations.  We have also tried turning the box fan around so that it will suck the hot air from our room into the hall, relieving our room of the horrid stuffy hotness.

Nothing worked.

Until yesterday.  I turned that fan into something amazing.

I threw caution to the wind and, against my husband's desire, put that darn fan in the window when the sun when down and turned it on full blast.

I can only say changing.

Yep.  That is right.  Because the only logical place to put a fan is where it can pull COOLER air into a place that needs it.

And I feel like a fool for sweating in my bed for the past month because the fan was on the floor instead of in the window.