Monday, December 30, 2013

Out with the old, hope I don't crap up the new one.

If you live in Colorado and haven't appreciated our state in a number of ways in the last week, then you should really just pack up and head out.  Right now.  Go.  I mean it.  Seriously, between our weather, the Broncos, and compassion of the people that live here, is this not just the best place to live?

Christmas is over, and my honey baked ham is finally almost gone.  She was a good ham, except that every night as I slept, my swollen, throbbing hands reminded me I enjoyed the salty leftovers a little too much.  Billy can't judge me though, because he also enjoyed the Christmas fare, namely pies.  I hope he never has to choose between me or pie, because I know where I stand. 

I always hate when the stash of goodies on my counters dwindles down to nothing but a stale cinnamon roll after the holidays.  I generally need closure in most areas of my life, but saying goodbye to all the sugared joy leaves me feeling a little sad.  We've appreciated so many yummy treats, which not only tasted good, but helped to numb any unresolved issues.  Now that the food is gone, Billy says he's "gonna have to start feeling his feelings". 

Taking down the decorations had a similar effect on our youngest child Will.  On Saturday after Christmas, I told the boys to get up off their butts and help me put this holiday stuff away. (unfortunately that's exactly how I said it) I softened up quickly when I noticed how sad Will was every time he turned around and  something else was gone, such as stockings or the Christmas tree.  His shoulders would slump down as he sighed with a heaviness that about broke my heart.  I tried to remind him that "as believers, Christmas is in our hearts every day"…and blah blah.  I'm pretty sure my sage wisdom was lost on his 8 year old brain that knows his biggest day for gifts is over 360 days away. 

And now we sit here, in what I like to call "the in-between".  The kids are a bit stir crazy, having had several days at home to play with their new things, and the tension levels ramp up every day about 4:00 pm when we've had a lot of "together time".  Like the rest of the world, Billy and I have to get back to real life, working, laundry, and heaven forbid, cooking dinner.  The New Year is only a couple days away, and yet Christmas feels like a distant memory.  I want to sit and ponder the whole year, but instead I'm breaking up fights, and trying to work off a few pounds of gingerbread cookies and white chocolate peppermint bark. 

2013—a whole year has passed and what do I have to show for it?  There are broken relationships, a pulled hamstring, and three kids who have problems that aren't simple and easy to fix with a bandaid and a popsicle.   There are library fines and school loans that don't seem to go away. I learned that being a stay at home mom is hard to balance with being a working mom.  Billy learned that he can't please everyone, and sometimes you have to stick to your convictions even when it doesn't make sense.  There are more miles on our old cars, and even more miles on our aging bodies.  On the flip side, there's a lot of good this past year brought too.  I took my boards and became a registered nurse.  Jack made the honor roll.  Will tried football.  Faith excelled at everything.  And Billy spent almost every morning on his knees praying for us, as we learn to take life one day at a time. 

The time has come to look ahead.  Time to set new goals.  Time to choose to see the positive instead of the negative.  Time to pray our children don't hear about any school shootings.  Time to pray that people can survive natural disasters that have the power to destroy whole cities.  Time to pray our nation finds reconciliation as we all wrestle with topics that make us squirm. 

For me personally, I have goals to be a better wife and mother.  This goal will require me shutting my mouth.  Lofty?  Yes, but possible.  I am going to strive to seek truth in God's Word, not so I appear holy and pious, but so I can continue to daily let go of my old self and evolve into the woman God wants me to become.  In 2014, I am going to "feel my feelings" rather than turn to shopping or cookies.  I will ask my neighbors how they are doing, with sincerity rather than out of obligation.  I will not brag about my pretty feet, and I'll try not to care about my wrinkles.  I will climb a 14er.  I will try very hard to not yell at my dog.  I will ask forgiveness. I will love well. 


Happy New Year. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Merry Christmas Neighbor!

Hey Peeps—

The house is completely silent, with the exception of Billy's loud breathing about 12 feet away from me.  Everyone in the house was dead tired.  It's only Tuesday but after a crazy weekend that did not recharge anyone's batteries, all 3 kids and Billy, hit the hay before 9:00pm.  I'm not too far behind, but when the house is this still, sometimes I feel I must take advantage of the silence for a minute to listen to nothing, and think about everything.   

Christmas is in the air, isn't it?  Well, maybe not if you go to Costco on a Saturday.  Then I'd say there's less Christmas, and more like rage in the air.  Lucky for us, most of the gifts have been bought and my shopping list is finally dwindling down to nothing more than a Honey Baked Ham.  And we've already had a little holiday party with our neighbors.  Now don't go assuming I'm bragging about it—I didn't want to have the party in the first place and if I wasn't "strong armed" by certain members in our church, it may never have happened.

This December our church had to skip our annual Living Nativity due to lack of funds, and an abundance of folks who were too overwhelmed to put it on this year.  Instead they decided to make us all have neighborhood parties to show the gift of Jesus' birth since we don't have any camels to pet. Billy and I were reluctant to have the neighbors over, as they've heard us yelling at the kids in the backyard for years now.  I figured no one would be brave enough to show up at the house full of crazy people, so I agreed to host a get together, secretly knowing we'd end up watching Shark Tank while drinking egg nog by the gallons. 

By Monday I was sitting pretty.  Billy and the kids had delivered all the invitations right after Thanksgiving to all the mailboxes lining our street.  I had a list of desserts to make, and even if no one was RSVP'ing, I was obedient and planned a party.  On Tuesday night the phone rang.  It was a guy down the street who had to decline.  PHEW!  Close call!  We had a nice little exchange and he was very sorry they had to miss, but  "just thrilled you guys were having a party for our street".   Then on Wednesday the phone rang again.  Twice.  Yep, you guessed it.  The party was on for real now, and all my hopes and dreams of a nice quiet night was shattered with two "yes's, we'd love to come".

On Thursday I decided to make a couple desserts ahead of time to be sure I'd have  food to share with our guests.  Even if my attitude wasn't exactly merry and bright, I was going to serve them good food, darn it all.  So I made some lemon bars.  Who doesn't love holiday lemon bars, sprinkled with powdered sugar?  Well, you wouldn't if you had eaten mine.  They looked like cat vomit.  I attempted a pecan pie, homemade crust and all.  I couldn't get the crust to sit in the pan right, and all the edges looked like a Corgi had stuck his paws into it.  Right about the time I was going to throw the pie pan at Billy, my friend Grace came in the door.  She fixed it all up and the end result was a pretty pie! 

By Friday night, the kids were buzzing with excitement as Billy and I sat by the tree discussing what kinds of people might come to the party.  We've lived in our neighborhood many years, and although we love to have folks over, we had to admit, we've never really engaged with our closest neighbors.  Billy came up with some icebreakers (who likes those? No one right? I thought so).  Even though icebreakers are lame, we needed to have some games ready in case there was a lull.  Awkward silences are hard for me, so it was best to be prepared.  We had a game plan, topics for conversation, and food ready to be eaten with merriment and good cheer. 

You will be happy to know the night went off without a hitch!  The neighbors talked nonstop!  There was no need for awkward icebreakers, and I didn't even put my foot in my mouth, which is rare.   Will and Faith entertained the crowd by swapping clothes, and even though it may seem to the neighbors that we are raising "cross-dressers", they enjoyed the kids and laughed at their antics.  One couple stayed way past 10:00 and we loved sitting in our kitchen listening to their stories and how our neighborhood has changed over the years. 


As we cleaned up the kitchen that night, Billy and I decided it was a hit.  We had fun, showed a little hospitality, and a few people living on our street know each other just a little better.  Next spring, when everyone emerges from their cold dark houses into the Colorado warmth, we will greet each other the ways friends say hello.  We will talk about our fun night back in December, and about how our families have survived the cold winter.  We will connect this spring, like we have never done before because relationships were forged.  There's always a lesson isn't there? For me it was realizing how all it took was just one night to reach out of a warm, safe little bubble and be a friend.  Thanks church.  I'm glad you bossed us around. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gratitude

Hey Peeps—

There's nothing better than a real fire in a fireplace.  My 8 year old son Will was enjoying ours the other day—the first real cold day we've had this month.  As he was mesmerized by the flames he said to no one in particular,  "You know what I like to do with fire?".  I decided to cut him off right there.  I feel like there are some things you don't let your kid verbalize.  Cause once they say it, they feel the need to do it. 

I'm so glad it's Thanksgiving break.  I have a houseful of boys, and one man, who are  all incapacitated to some degree.  Will's wearing a walking boot, Jack's icing a particularly painful pulled muscle, and Billy's finally medicated for a nasty cough that's kept him sleeping alone on the couch for almost two weeks.  And there is nothing better than recovering at home during a little Thanksgiving break. 

Of all three of the males in our home, Will's injury has been the most serious.  And expensive, not that I'm adding it all up or obsessing about the new couch I will never buy.  We are actually just very thankful he's only in a walking boot, and on the road to recovery. Initially I had no idea of how bad Will's foot injury was.  I picked him up from school the day it happened and he limped his way into the car, complaining of how bad he hurt his ankle while getting into line after recess. 

My reaction was, "Will, please don't overreact.  You tend to make a bigger deal out of these kinds of things than they really are".

I continued to ignore Will most of the evening due to the fact that from 4-7pm every night, a variety of catastrophes usually happen.  Mothers everywhere know what I'm talking about…Getting dinner on the table, Jack's homework, Faith's piano lessons, my own selfish drama… By bedtime, I realized for the first time that my kid was in serious pain.  And it was not an overreaction.  He was suffering.  His ankle was swollen and he could not bear any weight on it at all.  I felt terrible as I finally looked at his foot.  I listened to him, really listened for the first time, about how it happened and how he was feeling.  (cue the sad music ) He had huge crocodile tears, and I did too.  I told him I was so sorry that I didn't take him seriously. 

And the MOTHER OF THE YEAR award goes to….Not me.

We are ten days post injury, and Will loves his boot.  The doctor said it was a bit "Darth Vader-ish" which obviously earned big points in our little family of Star Wars nerds.  I love his boot due to the fact he doesn't need crutches any longer.  Young boys are a hazard in crutches, to themselves, and to my walls.   The doctor reassured us we are on our way to healing, and Will's going to be better in no time!

I'm so thankful.  And not just because that's the right thing to say this time of year.    Tonight our family spent the evening with my aunt who is facing surgery in a week for cancer.  Aunt Sharon isn't pretending she's not afraid of facing her illness head on.  She's scared and has moments of shear panic.  But she knows God has every hair on her head numbered, so He must know about some stupid cancer cells too.  So she faces it with boldness and courage, and trusts in God.  I am watching her now, as I have watched my mom, my Grandma, my aunts, and my sister all trust Him as life throws us curveballs.   Sometimes the curveballs are sprained ankles and a nasty cough that keeps you awake for two weeks.  Sometimes it's raising four children you met less than six months ago.  Sometimes it's cancer.  No matter the curveball, we are not alone in this life.  For this, and so many things I am thankful. 


My life isn't perfect.  People don't like me.  I have horrible hair. I am not rich.  I'm a jerk to Billy.  My kids say "shut up".  I put myself before the needs of my own children sometimes.  I blow it all the time.   And yet I am covered in grace and forgiveness.  I will come to the table on Thursday with gratitude.  And I will bring rolls. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

What's your Jordan River?

Hey Peeps—

Did you know the phrase "me time" is in the actual dictionary?  Well, maybe not the actual Webster's dictionary, but you can Google the phrase "me time" and learn all kinds of ways to pamper yourself, contributing to what the internet calls, "your happiness quotient" and you, therefore, will end up not committing any crimes. 

I'm so happy for a bit of "me time" this afternoon, while Faith is taking her piano lesson.  I needed this hour today, as I have been running around since 8:00 am.  The first event of the day, besides the always chaotic joy of sending my children to school was to go and listen to my sister teach at a church in Boulder.  Now I know there are some folks out there who:  A. think Boulder is full of tree-hugging hipsters, B. think women should not be allowed to teach the Bible.  If you believe either A or B, or both, then I think you might be an idiot.  Boulder is full of crazies, yes, but there are people who love God in that town, and I met a few of them just this morning.  And when I say my sister brought a word from God to us at Bible study, I mean she brought a WORD. 

The gist of my sister's message today came from a book in the Bible called 1 Kings. The passage was about a king who had leprosy and wanted to be cured of it with a lot of pomp and circumstance.  I can just see a reality show today about it called, "The Healing" and the prophet that performs the most fancy, dramatic healing ends up winning the million dollars, and will be on the Today show the next day to get his giant check from Al Roker.  However, there was no t.v. back in Bible times and they had only Facebook and Twitter to rely on for social media.  Anyway, as it turned out God allowed this king to have healing through a rather monotonous and humbling process, instead of with fancy fireworks.   Simply put, all Naaman had to do was go under in the Jordan River 7 times.  At first he was all up in a "rage" about it, because there were much more resplendent rivers around, but no, God wanted him to dip in the boring, old, dirty Jordan. 

Naaman's servant's knew if he didn't dip, the only other option was death.  So they took him aside and said, "Listen, don't be an idiot, your Highness.  If you don't obey this prophet, you're toast".  Eventually he got the message, dipped in the river, and was healed. 

I loved this message so much, as my sister brought its relevance to us.  "What is your Jordan river"? she asked.  What is God asking you to do, in order to bring healing to your own life?  Are you waiting for some dramatic circumstance to bring about change and POOF, you are finally the person you've always dreamed you could be?  My sister went on to say, that healing usually comes in the mundane, ordinary stuff of life.   Choosing to do the dishes with a smile, rather than complaining.  Driving your kids to and from activities, in traffic, and singing along with them, rather than telling them all the things you still had to do that day.  Helping your 8th grader do pre-algebra with encouraging words, instead of getting frustrated and speaking to him with a harsh tone.  Or how about being a loving and forgiving wife even when your husband leaves his yogurt covered spoon sitting on the carpet for six hours.  Just today at the grocery store, I saw someone I used to know.  She hadn't always been kind to me, and at first when I saw her, I felt my heart race, and remembered how I'd been hurt.  Then I reminded myself that if God can forgive me, I can forgive her, move on, and let it go.  That's healing. 


I needed that message and to hear the gentle reminder that in order to become the kind of person I want to become, the changes are going to happen within the walls of my home.  And inside my car.  And at my church.  The true test of my lesson today will be when I get home to a house full of hungry people, who need baths, have homework, and sometimes forget to put their spoons in the dishwasher.  I hope I don't blow it.  Oh Lord, have mercy on this idiot. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Morning and Night--when does the fun stop?

Hey Peeps—

Billy just told me that any idiot can get their own show in Vegas.  I don't know how or where Billy gets his information, but I'm pretty excited about this news.  I haven't figured out what my "talent" is, but if they are giving shows out like Halloween candy, I'm totally gonna get one. 

Speaking of Halloween, it's here again, and I hope you've got your candy ready.  I bought some and had to hide it, so it wouldn't be all gone by the time Thursday rolled around.  I did buy some pre-holiday candy corn, to get me geared up and ready for the massive amounts of candy that will soon be in my pantry/armoire, and I'm not afraid to tell you I've been known to hoard it.  

Beside the excitement of candy and costumes, Billy and I spent a morning downtown this week.  We felt very cosmopolitan and chic.   I had an early morning job at a flu clinic, and begged Billy to drive me downtown since I always get flustered amongst the tall buildings.  Once I can no longer see the mountains I panic.  I drive the wrong direction on one-way streets, and I get in turn lanes when I don't want to turn.  There are downtown rules and they confuse me.  Naturally Billy agreed to drive me, and I told him I would let him, only if he agreed to call me Miss Daisy all the way to and from the job site.  Which he did. 

Driving downtown at 7:00 am did create a bit of a problem for me.  We have 3 kids that had to get to school around 8:00 am so I worked my motherly charms and pawned them off on my sweet friend Mona.  The kids were very excited to go to Mona's house at 7 am.  We had one of our smoothest mornings ever. Nobody even yelled at each other for not flushing.  And when Mona greeted us at the door, I knew their day was only going to get better as she said, "Hello Repenning children!"  (it was a bit sing songy and I think there were chirping birds flying over her head)  Then she said, "Would you like some coffee cake?  I made it for you!" They didn't even say goodbye to me, as they walked into a world of rainbows and unicorns. 

Billy spent his morning geeked out at the Tattered Cover, using their wifi, and enjoying the ambiance.  As I worked, I happily imagined Billy fitting right in with the hipsters and liberals.  He can pretty much blend in anywhere.  I told him to be careful because if anyone was making a commercial called, "I am Colorado", they might ask him to star in it.  He was wearing his rugged vest, with his graying hair spiked up all sassy-like, in his sneakers and North Face backpack, which of course was carrying his Apple laptop.  He just fits in the Colorado lifestyle with ease.  I was proud to be walking the streets of downtown with him.  I carried my sharps container, and he carried the cool factor. 

We were almost giddy when we met up around noon, and it was time to get Miss Daisy home.  Both of us spoke excitedly about our unique morning.  There was nothing dramatic that happened to either of us, but being away from our average and ordinary routine was a sweet gift during a rather hard week.  Instead of being confined to a cold, smelly basement, Billy was surrounded by a little culture.  And I enjoyed a break from laundry, foot care, and letting someone else drive me around for a change. 

Tomorrow night will be a whirlwind of crazy here as the kids scramble to find last minute accessories to their Zombie, Nerd, and Batman costumes.  Most likely there will be a few tense moments as they have to get it all just right before hitting the streets.  Jack will need his hair just right, and Faith is going to need me to help with her pigtails.  Will's cape will need safety pins, and his mask is going to hurt his nose before we even get to the end of our street.  


 By the end of the night, we will be cold and tired, and all 3 kids will need to dump their loot out on the kitchen table to assess their plunder.  Billy and I will supervise the candy intake, while I fight the urge to hoard it all.  This kind of night is extraordinary for our kids.  They have a diversion from a monotonous night of homework and piano practice for a night of running around outside gathering candy.  There's nothing redeemable in tricks and treats, except for the simple joy we find in being together, meeting our neighbors, and escaping real life for a couple hours to have fun.  No doubt by bedtime 3 tummies will ache, but in the end, we will have made a few more sweet memories of a night on the town.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fostering Love

Hey Peeps—

I'm terribly sorry to give you a visual of me at the moment, but I feel you should know that I am currently wearing long underwear.  I tried to be brave and pretended Indian Summer was still a reality. But the second I put cold, stiff denim next to my bare skin, I was done.  It was a wise decision in the end, as we had a soccer game to attend this afternoon, where I'm pretty sure it was about 32 below.  Billy said it was actually 53 degrees, but I think he was just trying to put a positive spin on the fact that winter is here and it's time to layer up.

Sometimes Billy really irritates me, like when he makes me face realities such as winter is cold or the fact that we have mold in our crawl space.  But then again, there are times when I really like the guy too.  Just last night when Will announced at dinner, "I need to build a Roman Forum and take it to school tomorrow", and Billy came to my rescue.  I think he noticed I started taking shallow breaths and then my eyes began to roll back in my head while Will described his project in detail.  Billy saw this and knew it was time to act, rather than reprimand.  In between taking Jack to and from soccer practice, my two peas in a pod worked in the garage with blocks, glue, and a hammer.  Faith and I sat inside watching The Voice, and hoped no one would need us to hold nails in place or give advice. 

For some reason Billy just knows how to go with the flow.  Like when I called him up at work about five years ago and said, "I'm gonna start Nursing school soon".  And his response was, "Okay.  I think that's great".  Or like when I thought African water frogs would be neat for the boys, he loaded them up, went to the pet store, and got everything they needed.  (This turned less successful than Nursing school, as frogs require care.  And food.  Or they die.  Which they did) Billy's just up for the adventure of life, and he believes our family is capable of changing the world. 

Recently we started training to get certified with the state of Colorado to become foster parents.  Oddly enough I don't know whose idea this was…I don't think it was mine.  And I don't think it was Billy's either.  Honestly, when you live life surrounded by people who want to make a difference in the world, it's contagious.  For example, we've experienced life with my sister and her family as they adopt four young kids who need a mom and dad.  We've seen our church take trips to Kenya and Uganda and serve folks who live in absolute poverty.  We've seen our friends visit the elderly at a nursing home on a regular basis, and others we know drive homeless people every weekend to a shelter when the temperature actually drops below 32 degrees.  God has put amazing people in our lives who advocate for others and invite us to live out the Great Commission as a calling rather than a deed. 

Are we scared to open our home?  Are we afraid we might mess a kid up worse than they were before they came to live with us?  Isn't quality time with our own kids already limited with school and activities?  Will we be devastated to have to say goodbye when it's time for them to go?  To all of these we say "yes".   Neither Billy nor I feel proficient to give a foster kid everything they need.  Heck, if you know us, you know we are about as goofy as they come.  We are impatient.  We speak with a tone.  We argue about stupid stuff like what channel The Voice is on.  We go to school wearing the same underwear we've worn for 3 days.  We reward ourselves with Dairy Queen and television when we've had a bad day. We talk about Bob and Jillian as if they are our actual friends. We are wildly imperfect, but we are willing to take a chance. 


If you ask our kids how they feel about having foster kids, you won't get a whole lot of information.  Believe me, I've tried.  Like Billy and I, they are uncertain and anxious about all the unknowns.  But they are cautiously open to the invitation, even if it means they have to share their stuff.  Thankfully our family has a leader who rolls with the punches, and goes with the flow.  Life is an adventure isn't it?  Time to layer up and live out loud! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Perspective

Hey Peeps—

Can I offer you just a small piece of advice?  Never, ever, go to Costco when you are hungry and tired.  And maybe a tad bit hormonal.  I thought, in my exhausted and slightly hormonal state of mind, I should run to Costco tonight while Faith was at her piano lesson.  I had one hour to get what we needed, including dinner, and be back in time to pick up Faith and head home.  It all made perfect sense as I was driving to the big box store, making the list up in my head.  And as it often does, I came home with items I don't understand.  Like I'm ever gonna use a 20 lb. bag of potatoes.  I certainly have no idea what Quinoa is, although I own quite a bit of it now.  Do you eat it?  Do you plant it? Is it a nut or a grain?  People, what is happening to me?

I'll tell you what's happening.  It's called being a wife, mother, and nurse.  I've never worn so many hats, and at my last count, that's only 3.  I have no idea how you other women do such things as: work full time, serve on the PTO, run Girl Scouts, save the whales, and have perfectly highlighted hair.  Besides my daily duties as wife and mother, my job has also been particularly busy the last couple of weeks.   I wish I could say I was part of a team of nurses developing a cure for cancer, however that would be a lie.  My official title, "Wellness RN" means I do things like flu shots, footcare (yes, it's a real thing), and educate folks on a variety of topics related to their changing health issues.  There's nothing fancy about what I do, but I sure get to meet a lot of interesting people and listen to their stories.

Every now and then I lose my perspective and need to be reminded that what I am in doing in my job is important, even if not glamorous.  Just today, after I complained to a fellow nurse that I am not gaining very many new skills in my current position, she decided to give me what I like to call a "come to Jesus".  She pulled me aside, while eating her sandwich in the hallway next to the bathroom, and told me, "Listen, what you are doing is getting a big picture of the patient, from head to toe.   It's not a high intensity job, but that's okay.  You leave here and you still have time to get groceries, go pick up your kids from school, and get home to make dinner for your husband so he won't divorce you".  I almost laughed at the part about where my making dinner will help Billy not divorce me, because I am a horrible cook. And it's not my food that's keeping him around.  My friend's point was that she's seen many women come into nursing, pour their lives into a job, and then end up losing her family in the process of gaining a career.  She reminded me today that I was exactly where I needed to be.  She was 100% right.  Sometimes you just need someone to say it again, am I right?

And even though dinner was a microwavable pasta dish from the refrigerated section at Costco, our family ate a meal together, just like we do almost every night.  When homework was done, we gathered around to watch a new show about super heroes that Jack keeps calling "sick", which oddly enough means it's good.   When that was over, all the kids ended up in my room to listen to me read aloud.  I don’t do funny voices, and I yawn about every minute or so, but the kids know it's a special time for us because we are together. 

When I can absolutely read no more, they are off to brush teeth and get in bed.  For years that process was hard and chaotic, with sticky toothpaste trailing down the hall, and cries over losing Pooh Bear, or someone's favorite "holey blankey".  Now my babies are growing up, and they know the routine very well.  Minimal supervision is still required for a variety of reasons, like when one of our kids forgets we have rules ands streaks up and down the hallway in all his glory.

Once they are settled in bed, I visit their rooms to say prayers.  Faith always makes sure to ask God to have a good week, and remembers our whole family in her requests.  Jack always asks God for a good day at school tomorrow, and thanks Him for the good things in our lives.  Will's prayers are filled with gratitude for the way we can rely on God, and for the ways He provides in our lives.  The sincerity in their voices as they acknowledge their Heavenly Father fills my heart with joy.  Hugs and kisses are given and received.  As I turn out the lights, I tell them once more how special they are.

I head to bed, my perspective in tact, weary from the day, but content.  I have more than I need.  I have more than I deserve.  I have potatoes and quinoa.  And I have three sweet kids who teach me every day how to appreciate the life I've been given. 



Monday, September 23, 2013

Time for a Work Party!

Hey Peeps—

I know it seems all I ever talk about is the glamorous life we lead, what with frozen pizza, Billy's custom tee shirts, and weekend trips to Cheyenne, WY.  Once again, if you've got nothing better to do, I'd like to share what a recent Saturday looked like at our house. The morning was spent with some young friends of ours, in love, and moving in the direction of marital bliss.  Over muffins and scones, we asked them questions about what it means to be committed, and how they resolve conflict.  Billy was discreetly taking notes, so we could work on some of our own issues, as I peppered them with the same stuff people asked us before we got married 17 years ago. 

The kids were in heaven while our friends were visiting, for it meant no Saturday morning chores.  And then our friends left.  The children looked at each other startled and dazed, like the time our cat Nacho proudly brought them a dead bunny. Unfortunately their "free day bubble" was about to burst abruptly, spurting angry little faces all over our house that were going to be cleaned up with a "work party".  Not everyone knows what a "work party" is, in fact, I bet no one besides my family of origin does, considering my dad is the one who coined the phrase, and while it was catchy in the 80's, it never seemed to take off anywhere else but in his head. 

Billy and I enthusiastically laid out the chore list, and told the kids to get gloves from the garage, and put on sneakers.  This was going to be a real workday, not one of those Saturdays where all you do is clean the sliding glass door and throw away dead frogs from your aquarium.  Nope, we had a lot to do, and there was going to be no room for complaining.  The mandate of "no complaining" would prove to be difficult for Jack as he'd gone to bed at 4:30 am, because someone (rhymes with Milly) let Jack and his buddy Ben, play Halo 4 all night long in our living room.  No complaining would also test the merit of our daughter Faith, as she believes wholeheartedly girls were not created to do manual labor. 

We gathered supplies and set about our tasks.  Billy went straight to the garage, as that's been on his list since 2007.  The kids and I tackled the side of the house, breaking up sticks to burn in the fireplace on cold winter nights. After that task was done, we took on the weeds.  While Jack was going on and on, talking about what we were going to have to do next, I noticed Faith moving rather slowly.  After speaking a little too harshly about being faster, she asked for a drink of water.  It was hot out, and she is prone to faint, so naturally I told her to go get a water bottle.  Billy found her in the kitchen ten minutes later with neither water, nor a bottle.  At this point she enjoyed an impromptu lecture given by Billy called, "Moving with purpose".  I so wished I'd known he was speaking on that topic, because I would have sent Jack in from the backyard to listen.  His stream of consciousness may have impressed Freud, but it was about to drive me crazy. 

Right about the time Jack was asking me why weeds grow, I moved to another part of the yard with my youngest child Will.  He and I took on the task of filling a garbage bag full of dead branches from our lilac bushes.  We worked quickly, and while Will is chatty like his brother Jack, he somehow seems to have mastered working WHILE talking.  And what's more surprising is Will likes to work.  He always has.  The child is most content when he has a job to do.  At one point I swear to you he said, "Thanks mom for letting us work today".  I so wished I had an acre of land he could toil.  We'd never have to buy tomatoes again. 


There may not seem to be anything noteworthy about a day of chores with our children.  It was pretty much what you'd expect: complaints about being hot and tired, and eventually watching them function together to get a job done. We believe there's value in learning how to contribute to the world, and our hope is as they grow up with a work ethic they'll develop ambition to go and do something great with their lives. Getting past the initial grumbling tested my integrity as a mother. This kind of day isn't easy, but it's the kind of day that builds character not only in our kids, but in us parents as well. And by the end of the day, there was laughing and enthusiasm for what was next, and all three kids carried themselves with a sense of accomplishment.  The weed-free grass and clean garage may not last for long, but learning how to help carry each other's burden, well, that might just be eternal.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wingin' It

Hey Peeps—

Some of you are very judgmental.  Some of you are going to think I am a horrible mother.  Others of you have already decided I am horrible based on past disclosures.  Whatever.  The point is I fed my children frozen pizza last night for dinner.  With plain old NON organic milk.  To my credit, I also put out some carrots. I was pleased with myself until Will reminded me he couldn't eat raw carrots due to his new braces.  What can I say?  During the craziness of weeknights, we are doing good to remember dinner at all.  ( Please don't ask Faith about last Wednesday.  I really don't need anyone reminding her that I forgot to feed her).

While the three children ate dinner, Jack said to me, "Mom, you could totally be a single parent.  You make the frozen pizza just right.  Dad could never be a single dad.  His frozen pizza always tastes weird".  I was surprised for two reasons.  1. I didn’t know it was possible to mess up frozen pizza 2. I hadn't known I was being observed for my single parenting skills.   Next time I'm being watched I might just tidy up my hair a bit more, or throw on a bra. 

I guess the kids were just impressed that I was able to bring home the bacon, pick them up from school, stop by Target on the way home for groceries, and then fry it up in a pan, while reading Monday folders, and checking homework.  It's official.  I am a working mother.  And this week, Billy's at a nerd convention so I'm sort of winging it on my own. 

The kids aren't used to only one parent bossing them around, as Billy generally works from home.  We're pretty much bossing all three of them around together all the time.  Sometimes though, when I really need to, I kick Billy out, and make him go to his office.  This always takes the children aback when they come home from school and he's not home too. They'll ask, "Mom, did you make daddy go to the office?  Was he not wearing pants in the basement again?"  That's one reason, but normally, if I kick him out, it's only because I need a little alone time, now that I work outside the home.  So this week is an adjustment for all of us, not having Billy here to make my coffee and ruin the kids frozen pizza. 

I'm not sure what Billy's been doing for four days down in Denver, but he told me it had something to do with apps.  Before he came home the first night, I was impatiently looking forward to him bringing home a variety of treats from his long day.   I'd misunderstood him, and thought "apps" was short for appetizers.  Turns out, "apps" is something you do on a phone or mobile device.  I don't have apps on my phone, much to his chagrin, but he likes them and uses them, and I guess he's even written a few of them himself.  And for a few days, a bunch of guys who we like to call "mouth breathers" have gathered in Denver to talk about apps all day long.  Honestly, I can't imagine anything worse.  Except maybe watching a hairless cat throw up a wad of grass.  

Billy and I are so different.  He was practically giddy about what sessions he was going to attend all week. He couldn't decide which instructors he would try to meet, and on the third morning, he proudly wore the new tee shirt he'd received from day 2 of the convention.  It said, "Nerd Power" or something like that, and had a picture of a keyboard on the front.  It was so wrong, it almost made me wish he'd worn his Mr. T tee shirt instead.  But the point is Billy loves to learn and enlighten himself, while I'd rather paint a room, or organize the basement.  Billy considers this kind of a week one of the highlights of his life, while I look at being forced to learn more like going to prison for several hours a day.  And not the good kind of prison either, where they watch t.v. and sit outside in the sun all day. 


I'm a strong believer in God, and when I think of how God placed Billy and I together, it only confirms His intelligent Design. If our kids only had me, they'd turn out obsessive compulsive, with no exposure to the arts or any cultures outside of Colorado.  If our kids only had Billy, our children would grow up in a petri dish of filth, and possibly become immune to disease.  Also, while they'd be creative, musical, and artistic, there's a strong likelihood they'd be cynical about reality t.v. and have no organizational skills whatsoever.  The bottom line is God saw fit help a couple idiots fall in love, and this girl is beyond thankful.   I salute you single parents who face each day with tenacity and grace.  Your resolute determination to raise your children well, inspires me to persevere.  Hold fast, keep your faith.  And don't feel bad when all you can muster up is some frozen pizza.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Brace yourself--we're on a spending freeze

Hey Peeps—

This morning I came downstairs to find a note on the kitchen table that my daughter had left for the Tooth Fairy.  The note was sitting on top of the little box holding her tooth, and it said, "Dear Tooth Fairy.  I want money". I tried to explain to Faith that in our family, there have been over 30 teeth lost the last 13 years. So sometimes the Tooth Fairy is an idiot and doesn't remember to put the quarter under her pillow anymore.  And to make matters worse, apparently teeth are going for a high price these days, what with the new fancy Tooth Fairy app and the propagating rate of inflation.   After breakfast I saw Billy slip her a dollar.  He's a sucker and clearly doesn't know we are on a spending freeze. 

Speaking of teeth and our current spending freeze, Will is the proud wearer of new braces.  While he pretended to be mad about having to get them, he couldn't stop smiling.  He sat in that orthodontist chair happy as a clam, as I spent all of Jack's "8th Grade Trip to Washington DC" money on Will's braces.  After the braces were glued on, I thought it would be best if I watched him try to eat lunch at home to be sure he didn't choke.  Boy did I regret that.  Normally I don't like watching my kids eat even on a good day, but throw in braces, as well as a huge expander on the roof of a kid's mouth and I dare you to try and watch him eat salami without gagging.  As soon as he was done, I took him back to school where he promptly ran away from me on the playground to show all his friends his new look. 

As I was standing on the playground, forlorn and dejected, wishing Will cared I was there, my sweet daughter Faith came running up to me.  I was so pleased that one of my children needed their mother!  Turns out she just wanted to see Will's new braces, and didn't much care to talk with me about her day.  As I walked alone to my car, I wondered why my children were so well adjusted to their school environment.  I mean it's not like I haven't tried to make them codependent.  And don't even get me started on Billy's poor parenting methods.

But since you asked, let me tell you how Billy woke our oldest son up recently.  He went in to Jack's room as usual and said, "Time to get up pal", and walked out, just like he does every day.  Billy realized his usual tactics were not working, and he was going to have to take it to the next level.  He grabbed a mask off the top of the fridge that has been sitting there for months, and placed it over his face.  This mask is white, and resembles something a hockey player might wear.  And is eerily similar to the kind worn in the Friday the 13th movies from the 1980's.  Because Billy's 45 year old, his eyes aren't perfect, so he put his glasses on over the mask and walked back into Jack's room.  Jack opened his eyes, quite startled, and he yelled, "Dude, what the crap is wrong with you?" 

Once again, I will add another line item to "topics we need to discuss when we can afford to get the kids in therapy".  Poor Jack's list seems to grow longer each day.

Thankfully I've managed to keep myself busy now that the kids are back in school.  Besides having an actual job, I have a few projects to get done.  Just today, Billy and I dropped the kids off at school and headed to our friend Grace's house.  I needed Billy for approximately 2 seconds of heavy lifting, and then his main job was to not annoy me while he wrote apps, or pretended to work. But I'm pretty sure all he did was watch Grace's cable.  While Billy stayed busy, my job was to antique a table, and then seal it with a polyurethane.  I had no idea what I was doing, so it was good to practice on someone else's furniture, rather than my own.  If you see an old farm table, recently antiqued, posted on craigslist, you could probably assume Grace hated it. 

And that's how the month of August is wrapping up over here.  Busy, fast, expensive, and even disturbing surprises first thing in the morning.  There's nothing boring about life with three kids, and even in the midst of the pandemonium and stress, we still manage to make memories.  Some of them will require processing with a professional, and some of them make us laugh till we cry.  But by the grace of God, we will not just muddle through the hard days.  We will participate.  We will contribute.  And we will always thank God for this sweet life.    


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Choosing to enjoy the ride, even if it's going at warp speed

Hey Peeps—

Has anyone ever done a home repair with only one trip to Home Depot?  If you have, I'd really like to know your secrets of success.  Whenever we have anything in the house that needs fixing, Billy has, at a minimum, 3 trips to gather supplies.  Last Saturday our microwave just stopped working.  At eight years old, she decided it was time to cross over to the other side.  She gave her best effort as we tried to pop that second bag of popcorn, but in the end, all she could give us was hot kernels.  The children were thrilled to learn my main method of cooking was down, as it meant several trips to Chick-fil-a this final week of summer.  Who can blame me? Those blasted chicken sandwiches are ridiculously addictive. 

And yes, for those of you who aren't spending over $8000.00 on school supplies this time of year, be aware: summer is over.  We've made several trips to Staples, Target, and other various office supply chains to find that "azure blue, 13 pocket folder, that buttons (no snaps please), waterproof, and is made from 100% recycled organic materials".  I may have exaggerated, but I probably didn't.  Like idiots, we forget to budget for school supplies every year, and then it always hits us: we are idiots.  And you would not believe how lucky we are this particular August.  Will has been diagnosed with a cross bite, and requires braces.  Too bad the microwave is broken, or we could celebrate the good news with some popcorn. 

This Fall marks another beginning.  A fresh start.  A clean slate.  All three of our kids feel the same about school starting…they love to see their friends, and they enjoy many aspects of school, however, getting back into a routine and having homework is just plain depressing.  And being the proactive, take-charge kind of parents we are, this year we've forced our three children to branch out and try some new things.  Each of them are quietly resenting us in their own way, except for Jack.  His resentment is not quiet at all.  More like the sound of a cat trapped in a refrigerator.  And trust me.  It's quite bothersome.  

It all started with our youngest son Will.  He asked to play football this Fall, so we gladly signed him up.  We want our kids to be active, what with all the Chick-fil-a waffle fries, and figured running around a bit would be good for him.  Because Will was expanding his skills, we felt Jack and Faith would also want to do so, rather than be left behind sitting on the couch watching Duck Dynasty.   Driving along one day, we asked, "Hey kids, since Will's trying football, what kind of activity do you think you'd like to do?"  Jack said, "Watch Duck Dynasty".  Faith responded with, "Get a manicure."  Those options weren't really on the table, so instead Jack is playing soccer and Faith will be taking piano lessons this year. 

Will has begun football, and we've learned it's not just a bit of running around.  It's a huge commitment of three nights a week, and having to endure him showing us he's got his "cup" securely placed.  Jack has had one night of soccer practice so far, and if it wasn't for Coach Maurice, he might need to add this to his list of things to talk about with a therapist at a later date.  Jack enjoys socializing more than running laps, and the concepts of soccer have not fully sunk in.  But Coach said he "had great potential" and those words made Jack so excited, I think he may have even said he's not mad at me for making him play.  And sweet Faith, with all her musical potential, is ready to begin her year of piano lessons.  She and I went to our friend Suzanne's house to learn expectations, and by the end of thirty minutes, Faith was grinning from ear to ear.  I feel real good about this one. 

Billy and I are buckling in, and holding on tight for the busy, crazy ride that this year promises to be.  We know we aren't alone, as each one of the kids' friends are all doing at least as much, if not more.  We are parents who want our kids to learn skills, and be active, while finding endeavors that might actually bring them joy along the way.  We know there's more to a day than getting up, going to work, and coming home to watch television.  We aren't asking our kids to become experts, we just want them to practice the adventure of life.  And we'll be sitting on the sidelines at every chance we get, cheering them on to become the best they can.  We'll cry with their defeats, and rejoice with victory.  We will hold their hands and watch them thrive.  And every day, we continue to thank God for the blessing of being a family. 





  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Great Outdoors! (except for the rash)

Hey Peeps—

Billy just walked into the bathroom and asked me if I wanted to check him for ticks.  My curt and immediate reply was "No thank you".  He began the age-old argument, "but you're a nurse…"  I explained to him that I'd already done enough nursing care tonight as Will has a nasty rash that needed my attending with a heavy dose of anti-itching crème.  I hesitate to share the exact location with you, for fear of being too graphic, however, I hate keeping you in the dark.  How about all I say is that it's on the back of his body in a place that rhymes with "mutt". 

The aforementioned "conditions" don't normally happen on an every day basis around here,  but when you spend two nights in the great outdoors, you are bound to come home with at least a couple consequences of camping.  Some people love to camp, and some people hate to camp.  We are neither.  But because we live in the great state of Colorado, we are compelled to get out there and enjoy the beauty just like the pioneers did.

This year we decided to try camping somewhere completely new and ended up in Pike National Forrest at Painted Rocks Campground.  The big draw to me was that they said there were many rock formations to climb on and around.  Our kids love to scramble so that was enough to get me to reserve a spot.  The only downside was the potty on site was the NON flushable kind.  Faith and I really hate when we can't flush, so we had to remind ourselves that getting dehydrated just because we didn't want to go into the "bathroom" was not healthy.

We arrived in the early evening, with just enough sunlight to set up camp.  The kids were thrilled at our site location—it was right in the middle of the campground, and if any bears came around, they'd most likely fill up on other campers before coming to eat us.  While Billy set up the tent, the kids began running around like crazy checking the place out.  Will instantly asked to have his pocket knife so he could begin whittling. And for about the next 36 hours, he whittled several sticks into sharp, pointy implements.  If we said it once, we said it a thousand times, "Will, please don't harpoon your siblings". 

Our first night was fun, as our friend Mark came along with a couple Japanese students who are staying in Colorado in an exchange program.  They had never camped before, and so we tried to show them how it's done.  The two students stood by the fire, shivering a bit, as we explained how to make a s'more.  I feel there was more than a language barrier at this point, and most likely we just looked like idiots.  One of them learned the hard way that when you catch your marshmallow on fire, you really need to blow it out rather than fan it back and forth vigorously.  But alls well that ends well, and they seemed to enjoy the American experience.   

The next day we spent a couple hours at Manitou Lake which is only about ½ mile from the campground.  The kids were very excited to use their fishing poles! Billy was in charge of baiting the line, which seemed like a lot of work, so I pretended Spencer (our dog) was being naughty and I had to sit and hold on to his leash to keep him calm.  Will made the first catch, a crayfish, which made us all scream.  Faith caught one too, and oddly enough, it elicited another round of screams.  Once off the hooks, the creepy little spider-like crabs swam back to freedom, while I tried to hide the dry heaves.  After the excitement of the two catches were over, the kids got bored, and Will quickly tangled up his line.  We figured it was better than getting the hook stuck someone's eye, so we chalked it up to a successful outing.  We had a picnic, then a nice leisurely walk around the lake and headed back to the campground to hang out. 

Back at Painted Rocks, almost all the other campers had checked out and gone home.  We were basically alone.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  We grabbed a blanket from the car and spread it on the ground.  Billy laid down and rested his poor broken foot, and I laid down and rested my lazy, tired body.  Will whittled, while Jack and Faith played with legos.  Billy and I slept right there in the middle of the forest, with the breeze and sunshine in perfect balance.  After an hour of pure respite, we woke up.  Billy said he felt like it was a "soul nap".  I felt exactly the same way.  It was the perfect way to celebrate our 17th Anniversary. 


The evening was spent holed up in the tent while we listened to the rain fall.   We laughed and played games, and teased each other and laughed some more.  As the rain slowly eased up, we began to get sleepy, and when Billy gave the word, we all crawled to our respective bags and drifted to sleep.   The memory of this quiet, special day will bring me many smiles.  And maybe a few tears, as I know these days are precious, and only happen when we force ourselves to slow down.  What a gift to be together, surrounded by love, in the warmth of the sun, knowing we aren't alone.  I am blessed.  And God is good.