Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Use Your Words

I came across this advice from another Mommy blogger today, and found it simple and brilliant. I intend to put it to use in my own life, as well as have that conversation with my kids. Soak it up:

http://momastery.com/blog/2014/06/11/conversation-save-teens-life-and-own/

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Days After Christmas

We had a wonderful, glorious Christmas, and wish the same to all of your families! We spent Christmas Eve with Todd's family and Christmas Day with mine, as is our tradition. We missed wishing Todd's dad a "Merry Christmas" and the ache will fester when we do not celebrate New Year's Day with him and his wife. But with the sadness is joy.

And lots and lots of mess.

The day after Christmas and the next few to follow are always among my favorites of the year. Nothing is scheduled; nothing is accomplished. We figure out all the new toys and eat up all the old leftovers. This year, we have lived up to our post-Christmas standards.





Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Little Christmas Eve

spent most of the day at the kids' school, volunteering with various Christmas parties. 
Madeline and Benjamin with Father Christmas, also known as Mr. Gilmer (the phy. ed. teacher and dean of students)

Maddy decorating her gingerbread house

Ben after his group presentation on church spaces and symbols 

In the middle of the day, I squeezed in a holiday brunch with friends-- just so we could catch our breath and compare notes. It was all fun, fun, fun... But there was still so much to do!

Grandma took the little ones to a Christmas story time this evening. So, I threatened the big ones to keep the house picked up and I dashed out to run the last (hopefully) of the shopping errands. While crowds and traffic were horrendous, I actually completed my mission quickly and successfully. This led to a bit of peace of mind, the kind that is much needed on December 23. 

Upon arriving home, I announced, "Kids, come quickly! I just remembered an important Christmas tradition we have not upheld this year!" They all came running. "Put on your pajamas and brush your teeth. Grab your blankies and meet me in the den."

Now, we are watching "Elf."
Happy Little Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Prayers for Natalie

It's always difficult to sleep when my child is ill, or hurting, or upset. But it turns out that Mommy Love extends to all children. Please take a moment or many to pray for our friend and Benjamin's classmate as she has neurosurgery on Monday: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/natalieflynn







Saturday, December 20, 2014

Greeting the King in Play

Daddy took three kids shopping, and the one kid who did not want to shop is home with me. She generally plays very well by herself, but has been a little bouncy all afternoon, interrupting, begging to help, telling stories, asking to play games, pounding on the piano, doing flips over the sofa backs. I thought it would be a nice change of pace, after being stuck with a sick boy all week, but, frankly, she was kind of getting on my nerves, too.

I did what I could, but also brushed her off more than I should have. Eventually, she found something to do and got quiet. I just sat down to regroup, before taking on my next task, and began eavesdropping on her nativity scene play.
One wise man just approached the manger, saying, "Uh, excuse me, but we actually walked a long, long way and we basically have these precious gifts for the baby." So, then, Mary, at Jesus' side, said, "Hey! Great! Thanks!" Joseph chimed in, "That will really come in handy!" The other wise men are perched atop the palm trees.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rambo the Banana

This evening, I witnessed a full conversation between the five-year-old and a banana she dubbed "Rambo." It has been a long week for all of us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Loss of Life

As is already well established on this blog-- and anywhere, any time I open my trap-- there is one main issue about which I feel passionate, on which I base moral decisions, that influences my voting, that acts as my guide and ruling force: protecting the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. And, even though it makes me unpopular with many, that is the reason I cannot accept the death penalty. This story is the perfect example of why I cannot accept the death penalty:

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/exonerated-after-execution-judge-tosses-teens-murder-conviction-n270176

Sick Days, Quota Reached

This is the third day Benjamin has been out sick from school. He's run a fever and had a cough. There have been other unpleasant symptoms, but they are not worth mentioning. I suspect influenza, actually, but I didn't take him to the doctor, and I am not a doctor, so we may never know.

I've enjoyed all this quality time with my son. Truly, I have. We wrapped the gifts and cleaned his bedroom and did his homework and watched movies. But now he is crying (and coughing) because he locked himself out of his iPad by creating a passcode and then promptly forgetting it. 

I need him to go back to school. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

In the Kitchen with Mom

I came across this today and thought, True, so true.
And then I thought, Wait-- I wonder if this is what Mom thought about baking with me and my siblings last week!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Losers

'Tis the season when my mommy friends are flooding the social media feeds with photos straight out of a hardware catalog-- that is, team photos of grinning, sweaty kids with medals from winning first place, second place, third place, consolation, or any other of a variety of "wins." I do it, too. But it has me thinking, not only about the current, regular practices of Kid Worship and Everyone Gets a Medal... But also about how we respond to defeat and how we teach kids to cope.

Amanda is playing for the first time on a traveling basketball league. Her team has now competed in three tournaments so far this season. The social media coverage is telling.

 In the first, they came in first... And two other team moms had tagged me in their posts and shares before we even got home from the gym. In the second tournament, the girls lost one of the games they played, to a tough, aggressive team, by just one point.  No mention on social media. This past weekend, our team got schooled. They were out-strategized and just, plain outplayed, not to mention under-tall in comparison to their opponents. The team lost every game they played, by 20 or more points. They even lost their final game in the "Friendship Bracket."

They tried. They played hard. They made mistakes. They just didn't win. Not even close. But, is there not value in losing?


That's our #3, center right. (And, to completely defy the point of this post, I must mention for posterity that Amanda scored for the first time this season in a game. A bright spot in a trying couple of days.)


There she is again, center, saying "Good game" to opponents following a game that clearly wasn't.

Coincidentally-- or not-- last night, after yesterday's losses, Todd and I sat down to watch the movie "When the Game Stands Tall." It's a true story of a highly successful high school football team and its coach. As the story unfolds, the coach repeats again and again his expectations for his team, which are more about being good people and less about being good players. His mantra is not to be perfect, but to ALWAYS GIVE A PERFECT EFFORT. Seems right.


I don't have any answers as to how these kinds of situations should be handled, celebrated or ignored. But I do know I am more interested in raising real winners. Basketball is just a game.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

When Small Annoyances Are Much More

As I Christmas shop online... buy baking goods in-store... shell out cash for admission and concessions at basketball tournaments... schedule hair appointments... and fill yet another tank of gas... I think about this. All of this. So much of this.

A week-and-a-half ago, my husband was in a car crash. Did I already blog about this? I cannot remember. Probably, I did not, because it is really not my story to tell. The headline is: No person was hurt, but his car is likely totaled. I say likely because we still do not know. We are awaiting final word from our insurance company and then we will decide what to do next. In the meantime, we had a third car for which we had been putting off repairs. Our insurance company covered the cost of a rental for a couple days, and we had the reserves to pay for towing, parts and repairs on that previously idle vehicle. So, that is what my husband is driving, at least for now. With the crash and the surrounding "hassle," he only missed one day of work, for which he still did some work from home and still got paid. I did some extra running carting around his butt, but the kids made all their activities and the entire situation was really just an annoying inconvenience.

I have been blessed beyond measure to first be raised by privileged, educated, money-minded parents, and to later marry someone cut from that same cloth. I honor that every day, and I certainly never forget how different things could be. And, for those for whom things are different, well, I honor them, too:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/12/linda_tirado_on_the_realities_of_living_in_bootstrap_america_daily_annoyances.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_bot

Another blogger who excerpted and reposted this gave the following challenge: During the holidays, whenever you shop, for whatever you shop, buy two-- one for your family, and one to donate. Of everything. Food for thought.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Baked

Today we made all the Christmas cookies and candies.

We even counted them... And kind of made a list of the ingredients we used, to hopefully cut out some of the guesswork for next year.


Now, we are so tired.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Every Breath She Takes

A few weeks ago, after Amanda was having increasing episodes of shortness of breath while playing basketball, we got her in for an "emergency" appointment at the allergy and asthma clinic. The specialist brought up a concept he had mentioned once before: If good asthma medications, taken as directed, we're not controlling Amanda's exercise-induced asthma, then maybe she didn't actually have exercise-induced asthma; it was looking more like a less common, similarly presenting condition called Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD.)

I began a blog entry about this at the time, but never got around to writing out the details, I guess. There is a hospital in Colorado that is kind of the Mecca for research and treatment of this condition. Her is what National Jewish says about VCD:

It's scary when your child is gasping for breath, no matter the reason. It's frustrating to take her to respected specialists and have her condition undetected or misdiagnosed for an extended period of time. However, it's also kind of exciting to now be getting some answers. It's even more exciting to find out the treatment for VCD is therapeutic, not pharmaceutical. Basically, Amanda has to retrain her brain to tell her respiratory system to breathe correctly, and instill new muscle memories.

Unfortunately, very few speech pathologists specialize in this relatively new condition, so we had to wait for an appointment and travel quite a distance to begin her breathing therapy. Fortunately, we have a car that runs well, a flexible schedule, and other people to help with the other kids. So, today, we went. Amanda's speech pathologist spent a lot of time teaching her very specific techniques and gave her a detailed road map for how and when to use each one. I looked online for a decent video to show you what I'm talking about, but I couldn't find any good ones. The closest is this list and description of exercises:


It is exciting that Amanda has these new tools. We know, if practiced and applied correctly, Amanda can, basically, cure herself of vocal cord dysfunction. The scary part is handing the power over to her and waiting to see if she actually does it!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tales of Two Clerks

I had the pleasure of speaking today with some of my favorite middle school students and helping to guide them in a project on one of my favorite subjects: broadcast journalism. We talked about how being a journalist is really being a storyteller... And how to be an effective storyteller one must first be a good listener... And how-- if one can stop the natural compulsion to constantly flap one's own gums-- listening is actually really easy and entertaining.

Everybody has a story.  We can all learn from one another.  Plus, life is just more fun when we really make an effort to get to know the people with whom we share the atmosphere.

I showed some examples of solid storytelling in broadcast journalism, and shared some anecdotes of extraordinary things I've learned and others have learned by just listening to the other person engaged in conversation. But, I also flipped the conversation coin a few too many times and ended up talking a lot and running out of time. There are so many more things I wanted to share-- not wild or outrageous things, but interesting, everyday things that create and enrich relationships with each other.

Take, for example, the Tales of Two Convenience Store Clerks.

My addiction to diet fountain soda is well known and widely documented. It's pretty much standard to see me around town, slurping a straw stuck into the depths of a big, plastic cup. Save your lectures. I know how awful it is... But we all have our stuff. Where I purchase my daily poison depends on what other errands I have to run, whether I am in a bargain-hunting mood (prices on these things really vary, I tell you) and whether I need a particular soda/syrup mix.

Basically, there are two convenience stores I most often frequent on weekday mornings, and each store has a regular clerk. They recognize me, I am sure, from my repeat visits, but I do not know either woman from anywhere or anything outside of the posts in their respective gas stations. Yet, for whatever reason, within the past week, both women have initiated powerful exchanges with me, and, because I was listening, I heard their stories; I remember what they told me and I believe they enrich my life.

In the first situation, the clerk asked me what I was going to do for the day and I said I was going home to clean because it's always easier to do that when the kids are in school, didn't she agree? The woman told me that her 19-year-old son had a special area in the basement of their home where he could go to "chill out" whenever he needed. She went on to explain, "I got married really young and had three children. Then, when my son was 10 years old, my husband got sick and died." 

The clerk told me she soon married again, because she knew how important it was for her children to have a father but then the pressure became too great and that man abandoned the family. Now, the woman is married for a third time and said her husband is a good man, and he has to be, to be so patient with her oldest child. "Even though he's 19, sometimes he still throws tantrums like a little boy, and we have to put him in a timeout, and my husband has to tell my son, 'Knock it off and calm down, because, no matter what, I'M NOT LEAVING!'" I replied, "Then you know you have a good man there," and I walked out. All this happened in the time it took me to approach the counter, set down my cup, pay $1.27, receive my change and leave. 

My life is better for knowing this... And now yours is, too.

Just a day or two later, I was in line to get my soda at a different convenience store when the clerk behind the counter began talking about a new project she was starting-- painting milk cans. I had previously seen hand-painted items on display in the store, and I guessed they had come from someone who either owned or was affiliated with the shop. It turns out these masterpieces were the handiwork of the woman scanning my rewards card. When another customer complimented her and asked how long the milk can project would take to complete, she estimated, "Two weeks-- but that's nothing compared to what the buffalo took me."

There are life-sized buffalo statues placed around our town of the same name, and many of the places that own and house these animals have also commissioned artists to decorate them in themes that celebrate different aspects of town, different causes and organizations, or just the businesses where they are located. I looked out the window and admired the elaborately painted buffalo standing at the entrance to the drive. "How long did it take to create the buffalo?" She said, "1500 hours." In her spare time. In a cold garage. With bad knees.

I will never see that buffalo the same way again, nor will I ever see a convenience store clerk the same way again.

We all have stories... And, if you think it's fun to tell your own, you should try listening to someone else's.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How to Play the Game of Life

Disclaimer: This is not a board game tutorial.

I am trying to prepare (at least a little bit) to speak with a group of young people tomorrow on my former profession. As far as compelling storytelling, I intend to show them the following stories. They are stories I have also shared with my young people, not to instruct them on how to tell good tales, but, rather, on how to live good lives:

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/student-with-terminal-cancer-plays-college-basketball-with-team


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Giving Without Expectation

I keep relaying in my mind a social media exchange I had this morning, because it makes me sad... for all us peoples.  Do you understand we are put here to help one another, to understand one another, to love one another? We can do better.

It began as a benign enough thing (and, incidentally, it will end well, too, so I'm not going all Chicken Little here) when a young woman posted on one of the community pages to which I belong on Facebook.  This one is a "Pay It Forward"-type site, where people offer up stuff they want to give away or ask for stuff they need but do not want to purchase.  Consider it, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.  Anyway, the woman described herself as a young, single mother who was struggling a bit with funds as the holidays approached.  She asked whether anyone had any Christmas decorations they would be willing to donate so she could spruce up her little home for the holidays.  The woman typed, "I'll take anything."  A couple days went by, and no one really commented on her plea.  Then, one other member said she had an artificial Christmas tree she wanted to get rid of because it was too big and would the young family be interested?  The woman who posted the request responded excitedly and, in the thread, they made plans to meet up and exchange the tree.

I was just wrapping up getting our home set for the holidays, and I was thinking about how I always have at least double the amount of stuff I actually use.  I sent the woman a message, offering up strings of lights, throw rugs, hand towels, an extra nativity set, etc.  She again excitedly responded that she would love the things, but would I mind holding them over the weekend, because she was scheduled to work 12-hour shifts both today and tomorrow.  I said I would be fine meeting up with her on Monday-- It would give me time to sort and pack and see what else I could find.  Soon, she sent me another message:

Also, I will say this, simply because one lady denied me any help because of it(she said she thought I was lying to get free stuff. I do have a brand new car, that I got back in februaury when I had a really good paying job, lost that job and have been fighting to keep my car.
 
I wrote back that I didn't care, and was happy that someone else could use the decorations I wouldn't be using.  But the message bugged me...  It bugged me that someone else rescinded an offer of help after deciding on her own, based on a appearance, that help wasn't needed.
 
Is this girl making all the same decisions I would make if I was in her situation?  I don't know.  I'm not in her situation.  And I'm not a young girl.  But I can give her a little help, and a little support.  She asked for Christmas ornaments, not drugs or cash.  And if I didn't want to give them, or didn't have them to give, I needn't have responded. 
 
Why do people muck things up by being jerks?  And where does that get anyone?
 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Meme Game

Have you seen this social media "game" where you go to a search engine, type in your name and meme (a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied-- often with slight variations-- and spread rapidly by Internet users) and the post the first image that comes up? Well, I was looking for a laugh today, so, I thought, Why not?

This is the first image that came up:


I don't really get it... But I'm guessing it refers to some popular television show I do not watch. But, as the search continued, things looked more promising:


And, then, not. These memes started to hit a little too close to home:








Then, things looked up a bit. He's not exactly my thing, but I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth:


And, finally, a HOME RUN:


Even POTUS agrees.












Monday, December 1, 2014

Unscrambled

You know, I worried about sending our youngest child to school. It's not that she's particularly immature or unintelligent... I just-- worried. She somehow didn't seem ready. But, then, I convinced myself that I was the one who was not ready. I sent her off, and she seemed to be doing fine in all-day kindergarten. Today, I got proof.

Our little genius brought home two, identical, perfectly completed word scramble worksheets:
Nailed it!