"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Actions of the Secret Service

Monday night at family home evening, we kicked off a new family tradition.

We're evolving our tradition of the Valentine fairy ... who used to doorbell ditch a surprise for each child on Valentine's Day evening ... which everyone is getting just a little too big for ... into something a little more substantial.

We drew names. Then tossed them into the fireplace to keep our secret person safe.

And introduced 14 days of  Valentine Mission: Secret Service. (They were so excited, we jump started a little early to get the ball rolling. A little extra secretive serving never hurt anybody, right?). We are encouraging one act a day.

The signature indicating that their Secret "Agent" has sprung can be any sort of calling card they'd like to leave sprinkled by three hearts from our jar on the counter.

It's has caught on like wild fire around here and been great fun to see the unfolding results.

They've had to think outside the box a little bit and be sneaky by getting someone else to hand write notes and such, just to throw the trail off.

Anything from laundry help, made beds, happy notes in lunch boxes, chores, newspapers put by breakfast plates (for Dad) and full/clean/matched sock drawers (also a Dad favorite).

Each night when I've come down from my goodnight rounds, I've found the kitchen in perfect order with any left over dish remnants done to completion and a small pile of hearts on the counter over the dishwasher ... with it running.

I sure am loving my Secret Service Agent :)

Each member of the Secret Service gets to conclude the fourteen days of serving by giving a $3 to $5, self funded, Valentine's gift to reveal themselves any way they choose.

A fun, new twist in celebration of a month of love.

Monday, January 28, 2013

in my own little corner, in my own little chair

How do you know a girl's got older siblings in the drama department?

Friday ... while finally taking down that darn Christmas tree ... Eliza was playfully carrying on a private conversation between two ornaments over in the corner. I came to a stopping point and announced nap time.
If looks could kill. "Do not interrupt my monologue!" she tells me crossly.

She waited her little heart out to meet Santa Claus at a Wednesday night youth activity over the holiday. Her question from the darkened back seat of the car on the way, "Santa likes little kids, right?" told me she was having second thoughts. That jolly ole elf entered the cultural hall sending her fight or flight reflex into high gear in rival of a Grand Mal seizure.

Not very long after, on an evening out and about town, an errand had us swinging by to pick up teenage kids from the Denver LDS temple. 

"It's the Lord's house!" her voice sang once again from the rearward darkness of the car. Pulling into the parking lot, the protests began small. "Jesus isn't going to come out of His house and say hi to me, is He ??" turning to inconsolable hysterics.

I couldn't really blame her.

I might, indeed, find myself in the same state had Jesus seen fit to come on out for a greet and gossip through my driver's side window.

A friend approached me about pre-school plans for Eliza over the weekend. Some kids I sent. Some kids I didn't. I know there's good socialization to be had.  I'm aware of the loads of benefits. I've seen them in action. And yes, she'd seem a candidate in need. 

But boy, am I loathe to stare that monster in the face.

I don't even want to think about it. Not one little bit. They go away forever, much too quickly. And I like my days with her in them. And I love watching my two littlest girls together.

So, please excuse me if I choose to ignore. I just can't do it. Not this time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

factual friday

Fact is, it's been awhile since I've had time for one of these.

Wanna hear something horrible? The Christmas tree was just taken down this morning.

Actually... that's not entirely true. I'm pre-writing this to post tomorrow ... to save time... so my real self can really take down that darn tree in the morning rather than getting distracted.

And by golly, the future me had better be doing so rather than letting her squirrelly brain jump to other lesser important things.

Because this me is ready to throw the whole thing to the corner.

So that above sentence ... "the Christmas tree was just taken down this morning" ... is more of a definitive declaration of intent than a statement of truth.

Problem? We left town. Got sick. Left town again.

And I can't put away the tree decorations until I've dejunked and organized the Christmas boxes.

And I can't organize the boxes until I've cleared out the corner of the basement in which they are stored.

And I can't clear out the corner in the basement until I've moved a stack of children's books awaiting a shelf to be put together.

And I can't put the shelf together until the kids have made space in their room ....

And so it goes. And there's a baby in the picture who is only happy with 100% undivided attention.

She is just barely doing this as long as she doesn't know there's no one holding her up. 
Boy, doesn't that sitting position make her more content, thought it kills me for her to already be shaking off bits of infant babiness.

See my squirrel brain? Organizationally speaking, the knee bone's connected to the hipbone.

Speaking of bones. The last minute of the last run of the last day of our post-Christmas ski trip, Christian got run over by an out of control skier breaking his collar bone on impact.

He's recovering. For awhile there, he wasn't strong enough to take out the trash or water the chickens but had no problems racing the go cart with the neighbor boys ... or shooting hoops with the guys at youth night ... or delving out noogies with the fellas at school.



I kept him home the first few days of his injury because I was concerned about the school hall jostle and antics of friends that might exasperate the break. He said that those three days home with me were worth the trouble and he'd break his collar bone again for that time alone.

Is that sad or what.

I don't know whether to feel flattered or terrible that that is what it takes.

Last weekend, Newel, Charlotte and I took a quick trip to Charleston, SC for my beautiful cousin's wedding with an added bonus of seeing some long missed family.

It was a whirlwind but I enjoyed Newel. Charlotte enjoyed me. The kids enjoyed the sitter. The sitter enjoyed the pay. Everybody won.

Sorry, she and I were having a moment there.

That city is stunning in it's old cobble stoned glory and fabulous dining. I came home with many a chef's specialty to attempt duplication.

Southern style lemonade street vendors. So darn cute, I could not resist.

I even got excited about the tapas box served on the airplane and the chicken wrap wolfed down in an airport layover. So much so ... I revamped school lunches this week to recreate tapas boxes and chicken wraps in lieu of our boring pb&j usual.

As a seasoned world traveler, Newel laughs at my attention to such minor details as indulgences but doggonit, I'm a gal who soaks up every minute in the batter's box so's she can head back in the game ready to attempt a home run.

The wedding was a formal affair so I whipped up a dress to wear. I know it's been far too long since I've sewn when the feel of the fabric pieces coming together to create something beautiful sends a ripple of satisfaction through my soul.

Doesn't that sound poetic?

It was until Charlotte blurped moo juice down the front of it halfway through the reception.

Newel brought me flowers just because this week. Or as he put it "Without even being in trouble." I can't help loving a guy like that. He won't like me gushing this up, but he just knows what I need when I need it and I hope he knows how much I appreciate that.

He helps me get through the darkness of winter with laughter that sometimes hurts, it's that good. He keeps me focused and a little less squirrelly. And he says nothing about a Christmas tree still standing in the corner on the 25th of January.

And that's the facts.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

every day-ness

Shuffling some tissues and ribbons, I uncovered a small video cassette that had fallen between the drawers of my desk. It set me to wondering how many others I had randomly laying unprotected. A quick search rounded a few more.

I don't even know how you watch these without some transfer help in a progressing digital world. Thank heavens for fourteen year old boys, cables and old cameras.

That's how I found myself cuddled up with my people watching their childhood antics.

I listened to my voice interviewing with intent questions. I must have been calmer then. At least I sounded so. Still I cringed. I don't like the sound of my own voice on tape.

Reaching over that bit of vanity, I watched them give their little answers to my inquires, soaking up the attention of an absolutely present mom. Digging interest into their every day. Asking about favorites, feelings, hobbies, surroundings. Being theirs as they were mine.

Sometimes silliness ensued. When it escalated, I'd cut the filming. I remember thinking in the moment, no posterity would want to see inane insanity. I was wrong. Today's audience wanted more of that reality.

Over all, the course of the tapes ran with lengths of ballet and violin recitals, school programs and graduations. After momentary viewing, we'd fast forward to the short clips of every day simplicity.

Birthday interviews.
Protests of the current baby in the background.
Nuttiness from the boys.
Living room dance party competitions.
A cross face and nudge revealing some still current characteristics :)
Ignored insults thrown at the film maker's back.
Slammed doors.
Theatrical play creations.
Best friendships.

We laughed until our sides hurt over the little bits and pieces of our lives. Life that in the moment I considered mighty hard as I juggled multiple rounds of diapers, crazy school morning send offs and after school activities.

I cursed myself for not capturing more. In those small bits of time, I did not know how much I'd miss the here and now.

Days later, I rushed teenagers to the bus stop in zero degree temperatures. We sat huddled again, this time waiting for the car heater to kick in. My mind dwelt on the day's schedule and looming calendar until laughter broke into my mental agenda.

They were companionably chattering away. Seconds later, hopping out of my car off and away. Yet another piece I'd somehow glazed my way through never to return, to my suddenly awakened dismay. Another small bit as notable as any video preserved one.

The silent ride home led me to think on the every day-ness that supersedes the staged accomplishments of childhood. We go from event to event. Performances, sporting games, rehearsals, programs. ... and think them important enough to record, give full attention, provide accolades.

My tapes were full of such, peppered with bits of life.

And yet ...

As the view unfolded in the watching just days before, the staged achievements held little interest.

The nativities gone awry, cake covered one year olds, companionable snowman making, little boy high jinks, bathtubs full of bubble sculpted hairdo's and playful sibling banter ... we could not get enough of.

That was were we wanted to be.

When I stand in a crowded kitchen navigating dinner, homework help and hilarity, do I realize that this very moment will one day be more notable than any Star Spangled concert? That I'll wish more than anything to revisit the sound of their voices, the look in their eyes, their relation to one another, the personalities, the humor, the every day. Do I give it full due? Treat it as noteworthy?

That is where I will want to be.
In the stuff that life is made of.
The every day-ness of things.
Unfiltered and unglazed.

Now to appoint a family videographer ...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

be the change you wish to see

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. 
To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. 
To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."
--- Henry David Thoreau

We spent our last week of vacation skiing in Vail.

When it comes to ski rentals, we go day by day with Eliza's feet because we never know what her participation level will be.

That girl talks of nothing but getting "little skis and little boots" each and every time. And she gets attached to them which makes the return process awfully hard.

I'm right there with ya sister ... but then .. I have an affinity for all things tiny and cute. Little four year old Celia eeking out Twinkle Twinkle on that adorable pint sized violin years ago is the only reason I didn't gouge my eardrums out. And who doesn't adore those miniature shopping carts available at some stores for little folks to push around beside Mom? Setting the fact that an irresponsibly driver is suddenly free to roam aside.

But I totally digress because that's not really what this is about.

With ski boots strapped on, Newel, Eliza and the gang headed off for the slope. Newel tells me that she walked about halfway across the square before plopping down next to the village center fountain refusing to budge.

Carrying both of their gear, he reached for a parenting trick from his pocket in the form of a dime to distract her impatience. With a smile, he offered it as a "wish" to toss in the fountain. She squeezed her eyes shut, kissed it and threw, then gathered herself up and followed once again with those anvil-like ski boots making every step a painful drag.

Not far, she fell into yet another heap.

Once again, he bent, reaching for distraction. "What did you wish for back there?" he asked in hopes of perking her up.

"That I could get a little further with these boots on my feet," she said from the ground, "But I need help."

Wish granted, he sighed and carried her and the gear the rest of the way.

"I guess her wish only got her so far." he laughed with me later. "Yeah, I think she's brilliant," I said, "... because it actually did get her further than you think!"

I've been thinking since the year flipped from '12 to '13 about resolutions, as just about everybody else has.

I always make some sort of goals for the year. But a year feels so big. Somehow the motivation gets lost or forgotten in that vastness. Breaking it down, I do feel like I celebrate two fresh start beginnings within that great void. January at the beginning and August as kids head back to school. The semesterly approach does make the doing feel a little more accomplishable but still seemingly lofty for my weak resolve.

This year I feel like I'm full of "little wishes". Change I want to see in my self. Accomplishment I'd like to achieve. A path I hope to take my family down. Maybe with each little wish, I can get started just a little ways in the right direction and then motivation will inspire the folks around me to jump in and help with the rest of the journey.

At least I'm wishing it so.

Thus far, my wish for help in getting decluttered and organized has lead to each child feeling so much happier about a free-er space with very little grumbling .... surprisingly.

Wishing not to be suffering from yet another winter cold has revamped our diet and brought me through one dessert free week. I may be lingering just a little longer over that marvelous trace of toothpaste glycerine, but by golly, at least the shakes for sugar have stopped ... and did I mention I made it 1 week.

And now I'm wishing for a fussy baby to improve her sleep patterns ....

But that's the start of it.

"Be What You Wish To Seem"
--- Socrates