Dec 31, 2013

Flying monkeys

I have mentioned complained about how much work I have been doing for my new calling in the Primary organization.  I have been pretty overwhelmed with it all, but I think that I am nearly finished with functional paperwork and 2014 preparation.  The last step for the new year was decorating our ward's Primary bulletin board.  The whole thing has been a comedy (or tragedy, since I am dramatic) of errors, including today when I left my adhesive putty at someone else's house and then locked myself out of the church building.  But today it is finally done, and I feel like several large and crazy monkeys have flown off my back.  Now I can just do regular secretary stuff and sit in the back row at church.

With all of the work I've done in the last two months, next December should be a breeze, right? Generally I keep a calling for less than a year, so we'll see....

Traditions new and old

We had the happiest of Christmases, which makes my heart all warm and gooey.  I admit that Mrs. Claus panicked a little around 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  Were the gifts right? Fair? Too much or too little?  This time it all rolled out {almost} perfectly.

Our tradition on Christmas Eve is to eat lasagna for dinner and give the kids one special gift.  We have experimented with ornaments, pajamas, and books.  This year I made "magical pillowcases" for each of the kids, presented on a brand new pillow.  The kids were way more excited about this than I expected. Apparently a new pillow is a great gift, especially if it is cute.

We watched a really stupid movie that I regret showing, but we ended on a high note: Candy Cane Oreos (thanks, Melissa!) (I have great friends.) and milk.  YUM.  The kids were really surprised that I shared.

We tried some new things on Christmas Day.  Last year was fun (despite our series of unfortunate events) but we discovered that less=more in the gift department.  So this year we gave less and played more, and we had a great time. This will definitely become a tradition.

In previous years, gift opening began before 6:00 a.m.  Kids set alarms and shook us out of bed and we were all cranky and exhausted by 8:00.  I'm sure the kids were still up before dawn this time, but we didn't let them come upstairs until 7:30.  We all got dressed first (I showered! so lovely!), then turned the kids loose to discover the joys of their stockings and the one present Santa left for each of them.  The kids opened and enjoyed what Santa brought, which never happened in the past.  Gavin tipped and tottered on his Wobble Board.  Lexi zipped around on her scooter.  Kate danced around in her dress-ups.  Tyler set up his r/c car and drove it around the entire main level of the house.  Zach exercised his muscles.  Garry and I savored our candy before breakfast.

Then we moved to the kitchen, where the table was set for a feast.  We enjoyed breakfast casseroles that Garry made--pumpkin French toast and cheesy potatoes--and orange juice.  We discovered that the tablecloth is liquid resistant when a cup of juice spilled.  We all opened Great-Grandma Dent's envelopes with cash inside.  After breakfast Garry and I cleaned up while the kids ran back to their toys.

Next we moved downstairs, where presents from the grandparents and cousins were laid out (which I had done just before going down).  The kids took turns opening and enjoying those gifts as well.  Kate's reaction to a box of princess dress-up shoes was priceless!  She was beyond thrilled.  Two-year-olds are fun on Christmas Day!  After enjoying that segment of gifts, we goofed around with a "photo booth" and silly props that I found online.  The kids didn't really get it.  Maybe next year?  I thought it was a fun idea...

After that we went back up to the living room, where presents from Mom and Dad were under the tree.  The kids each had three--something to wear, something fun, and a movie (which I had purchased for a few bucks each).  We gave Kate a scooter, Gavin a back pack, Tyler a sandwich maker, Zach a how-to-draw-cars book, and Lexi a Rapunzel costume.  Woohoo!  The kids loved their gifts.  We have some priceless pictures locked away on our nice camera because we don't have a card reader for that one anymore (oops).

Our last destination was Mom and Dad's bed.  We sat in a circle with the gifts the kids gave each other in the middle. Garry's and my gifts to each other were in the pile, too.  We each took turns drawing from the pile.  The sibling gifts were small and cheap but the kids were all happy with socks and markers and costume jewelry.  Garry surprised me with the promise of new bedding in our room, and I got him some electronics, which are generally a hit.  So we were all spoiled.

In the afternoon we played Christmas Bingo and watched movies.  I read a book (an amazingly rare luxury) and napped a little. Garry fixed a dinner feast that we all enjoyed.  I have a pile of Christmas themed games and activities that I had planned to use today, but will instead spread holiday cheer for days to come.

All in all, I was very pleased with our day.  Extending gift giving for a few hours was so much better than the usual blitz attack.  I loved how much family time we enjoyed.  I guess I like structure better than chaos, even when it comes to Christmas, but when Mrs. Claus is happy, everyone else can be, too.

Dec 28, 2013

"I wanna sweep wif you."

It turns out I'm a real pushover after midnight.

Kate has been having nightmares about dogs and trains and sharks and snakes "coming to get her" in the middle of the night.  She shrieks hysterically until I arrive at her bedside.  Even when we turn on the lights to see that nothing is there, she quakes in fear.  Most nights she lands in my bed at least once, often for the entire night.  I have trouble getting back to sleep if I'm awake too long after 11:00, so I'd rather have less real estate in the bed than be awake for hours.  This is getting to be a bad habit.

On Christmas Eve Kate woke up before I went to bed, so we cuddled under my blankets and tried to sleep at the same time.  She was clearly giddy about this arrangement, and as she nestled her darling little head into my pillow she sighed and said, "I just love this comfy bed."

Nice, Kate.  Now get back in your own!

Dec 26, 2013

What I Did Right

When I look back at 2013, my natural instinct is to see all the ways I fell short.  I didn't do this and I meant to do that and I was a total failure in these 500 ways.  This is my knee-jerk life view: the glass is mostly empty, and I am just not good enough.

I was thinking about this as I vacuumed the floor at about 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  We had just watched a "family classic" Christmas movie that turned out to be really inappropriate, despite its PG rating, and I felt it had ruined the spirit of the evening.  I was mad at myself for sharing with the family a movie I had not screened, and then not turning it off when it wasn't a good thing to watch.  I was negligent in the first place and then a poor example to my kids.  Lame, lame, lame, lame.

But then a voice came into my head: It's OK. You haven't ruined your kids' lives.  You didn't even ruin the evening. They loved dinner and they loved the pillowcases you made for them, and they loved that you shared your precious Candy Cane Oreos with them, and they loved the Christmas songs you sang as you tucked them into bed.  I realized that despite my mistakes, I had also made some great choices, both that night and throughout the year.  I had done some things right.

With this perspective, I look back on this year and offer a list of 13 Things I Did Right in 2013.  It was really hard for me to come up with this list, but here it is for all the world my blog readers to see.  I know that in the future I will need a reminder of my successes this year.  So, in no particular order....

1. I completed (or will, in the next few days), a daily journal. I only wrote a sentence or two each day, but I already treasure the snapshot of my life.  I'm look forward to daily entries for the next four years, all in the same book.

2. I shared my love of the LDS Church with friends.  My testimony of Jesus Christ is something near and dear to me, and I always love the chance to share the joy I feel in the gospel.

3. I tried my best to be a good Young Women leader.  Despite some difficult setbacks in my own life, I think I was always "there" for my girls and my fellow leaders.  I learned a lot as a teacher and made some treasured friends.  I look back fondly on my year of service in that organization, and I miss my girls.

4. I advocated for myself in a number of ways.  It's so easy for me to just do what people tell me, especially medical professionals and people at church, but I am learning to set boundaries and be brave enough to quit or change something that just isn't working for me.  That's a skill set I hope to keep developing.

5.  I blogged a LOT.  I'm happy that I am keeping a good record of our family life, both the good and the not-so-good. I love the therapy that blogging gives me and the validation I get from all of you that I'm not alone in this crazy world.  And it helps me find humor in everyday situations.

6.  I nurtured my marriage.  Garry and I have been on more dates this year and attended the temple together more often than in years past, and finally took a trip together.  I tried to connect with him more and put his needs first.  I'm certainly not great at any of this, but effort counts for something.

7. I tried to make new friends.  Is it normal for this to be hard for someone my age?  Well, it is for me, but I worked on it a lot, and I am pleased to report some improvements.  I learned that friendships come and go, that some people just don't fit well together, and that it's usually not personal when someone else just walks away.

8. I wrote a song and arranged a couple of others.  I like experimenting with this new, creative part of my mind.

9. I completed full 72-hour kits for each member of my family.  It's time to update them again, but still...

10.  I did fun things for holidays and birthdays with my kids. I often refer to this as earning "cool mom points," but really it's more about making happy memories together.

11. I spent some of my time serving others, which is and always will be one of my favorite things.  I plan to make a tradition of doing random acts of kindness on my birthday.

12. I realized that my limitations don't have to define me.  I recently learned that someone I love has a heartache I know all too well.  I look at her and see how fantastic she is and all that she can be and do, despite her struggles.  That made me realize that when people say positive and encouraging things about me, they are true.

13. I read The Book of Mormon twice.  I listened to dozens of sessions of General Conference while I worked out at the Y. Feeding my soul with the good word of God is one of my top priorities, so it definitely needs to make this list.

In my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Calvin complains to his father about being cold in the house one winter.  His dad explains the cost of running the furnace, which Calvin thoughtfully considers and accepts.  Then, as Calvin walks away, his father says, "...and being cold builds character."  Ha!  Of course there is always an uncomfortable lesson in every cold part of our lives.

I'd be mixing my metaphors to talk about under-performing furnaces and half-empty glasses, so I'll just end with this: Here's to a warm and full 2014!  

Dec 23, 2013

Pictured...and Not.

This post could also be called "Why I am Exhausted."  Haha.

These pictures just show our family living our regular life and in no way represent the frenetic pace that has dictated our my existence this month.  It's probably good that I don't have too many of that kind of photo, actually.  They certainly wouldn't be flattering of me.

Pictured below: A carefree little girl on the kindergarten playground. Not pictured: The chill in the air, and also a very frazzled mommy who spent her "day off" in sweats, thinking about all the things that needed doing, but not having the capacity to do them.

Pictured: A silly boy who made a marshmallow snowman with elephantitis.

Pictured: The remnants of a candy raid, the contents of which were intended for Christmas stockings.  Not pictured: The naughty children who performed it, and the rest of the bed belonging to ME.  Did they think I wouldn't find the wrappers under MY pillow? 

Pictured: Christmas gifts for elementary school teachers.  Not pictured: The Starbucks gift cards we bought for the middle school teachers, and the smile on my face when this project was done.

Pictured: Garry hanging new Christmas lights on the house. Not pictured: The 19-degree mark on the thermometer.

Pictured: A sample of spectacular light displays in Colorado Springs.  Not pictured: The screaming, fighting children who clearly did not appreciate their parents' attempt at holiday cheer.

Pictured: Cute stuff I found online for Primary binders and the bulletin board.  Not pictured: Hours and hours and hours and hours of making all kinds of rosters and tables and documents for Primary teachers and leaders next year. Hours and hours, I tell you.  Next year will be so much easier.

Pictured: Frozen fog.  Not pictured: The sixth-grader who asked me to venture out in such weather to bring him another container of frosting for his gingerbread house extravaganza at school.

Pictured: The yummiest Oreos EVER.  Not pictured: The 14(ish) stores Garry haunted trying to find them for me, and my darling friend April, who found them for me first. (They're a Target exclusive, in case you were wondering.  Go. Now.)

Pictured: A door full of happy Christmas greetings from around the country (and a couple international ones, too!). Not pictured: Excellent memories with each person on the door.

Pictured: A near-empty spool of thread.  Not pictured: The pillowcases I finished making with just a few feet of thread left.

Pictured: A gallon of milk with a Christmas Day expiration date.  Not pictured: Its three companions, which were all consumed within the week.

Pictured: Some dishes I'd love to have.  Not pictured: The perfectly good set in my kitchen cupboards.

Pictured: One laughing husband covered in powdered gym sock (aka parmesan cheese).  Not pictured: The table, floor, and other children he covered with said powder when the lid spontaneously popped off while he was shaking it.

Pictured: A small someone refusing to be an angel (hahaha!) in the ward's nativity reenactment. Not pictured: Tyler pulling the tablecloth at breakfast and simultaneously overturning four cups of hot chocolate.  Also not pictured: The slideshow Garry and I created for said party. If you so desire, you can download the file here.  It's fun, although most of you won't recognize anyone but us.

Pictured: The remnants of a gift wrapping session on my bedroom floor.  Not pictured: My Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of gifts.

Pictured: The stash of wrapped gifts in the attic.  Not pictured: Me, gingerly walking along the rafters, making sure all gifts are present and accounted for (they are).

Pictured: One and a half measures of "O Holy Night," upon which I was penciling in a tenor part.  Not pictured: The cute couple I want to sing it.

Pictured: A beautiful sunrise, as seen from the park across the street.  Not pictured: The two little girls asleep in my bed, whose thrashing feet kicked me out.

Merry Christmas to us!  And if you made to the end of this very long post, Merry Christmas to you, too.

Da Bears

Garry has been Tyler's Bear Den leader for about a month, and they are having a lot of fun together.  Last week we hosted a Christmas party for the boys (there are only three Bears right now).  They built marshmallow snowmen, drew pictures with their heads, and had a snowball fight with crunched-up paper.  Garry made a little video from the pictures he took.  It really captures the fun they had that night.

Tyler is excited that Garry will be his Primary teacher next year, as well as his Den leader until February (when Tyler advances to Webelos).  The father/son bonding will be great for both of them!

Dec 22, 2013

The band, the ball, and the boy

Mr. Do-it-All has had some milestones lately: the end of basketball season, his first band concert, his first time speaking in church, and his last paper route of the year.  We duly documented them all.

Band: Zach played a number of percussion instruments and had a grand time.  He loves the band.  Side note: The boy next to him in the picture below is also in the 6th grade!  Side side note: Zach is wearing his late Grandpa Dent's tie.

Basketball: He played on a strange team this year with a losing record and that we didn't love. Zach is finding his niche as the outside man (there is probably a technical name for this) that makes the long shots and three-pointers.  He hasn't nailed a shot at the buzzer or even sunk an outside shot, but he clearly has a natural ability he'd like to nurture.  We're hoping that the winter season with the Y is more productive.

Zach spoke in church a couple of weeks ago, which is a rite of passage after turning 12.  The bishopric caught Zach right away!  He wrote his own talk, which included parts of a special family story.  When my dad was 12, his house burned down three weeks before Christmas.  Grandma Dixon recorded all of the kindness, generosity, and support that their community offered in the aftermath of their tragedy.  Zach shared pieces of the story that were important to him (like how my dad's Deacons quorum bought him a white shirt, tie, and dress pants for church) and related that to the true meaning of Christmas.  Incidentally, I shared the same story in Primary today.  The kids and leaders alike were spellbound.

Zach has dutifully been completing his paper route each week, although not in the time frame I would prefer.  Last week I told him if he wasn't ready to throw the papers by 5:00 he had to walk them along his route.  He hurried right up yesterday.  Ha.  Hopefully 2014 will bring greater efficiency in Zach's employment.

Life with a 12-year-old is pretty rocky at this house, but we're grateful for the good in his life and try to focus on that.

The girls

Lexi and Kate are so cute together.  I have captured a few of their sisterly moments lately and want to remember them.

They have been holding hands a lot lately, especially when we are out and about.  Here they are walking to Lexi's ballet class, picking up Gavin from school, and visiting the dermatologist.

The girls both love dolls, but Kate might love them more than Lexi.  Regardless, they both have sweet nurturing instincts. On this day they were singing songs to their babies and tucking them into bed.  Kate also likes to treat Bunny as a baby.  She even painted Bunny's toenails (that don't exist) a sparkly purple.  Yay.

They even fall asleep in the car at the same time.  

I love dressing the girls the same, although it generally only happens on Easter and Christmas.  I thought they looked darling this morning.  Not pictured: the scramble to find Kate's socks and her sparkly silver shoes that match Lexi's (we obviously found neither). Also: fixing the girls' hair in the church bathroom (like we do every week).

These girls...gotta love 'em.

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