Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dear Carson,

"Arrrrrrrrr. Arrrrrrrrrr. Rrrrrrrrr." I watch my wooden spoon as it slowly stirs the bubbling Alfredo sauce and lose myself in the quiet sounds of your playing. Though the sounds drift from another room, my minds eye easily fills in the visual to accompany them and I see you, quietly practicing your 'r' sounds as you slide around on your knees building your train track. An emergency flares up in your game and you start to warn the other trains, "Oh no! Watch out! Dangeuh! Dangeuh! Dange...rrrrrr. Dangerrrr!" The sound of crashing trains takes over for a moment, and then all is silent. I stop listening and start paying closer attention to dinner; time to boil the noodles, warm up the green beans and set the table.

"Mom, listen!" you call, seconds later. "Cahrrrr-sn, Cahrrrrrr-sn. Am I doing it?!"
"You are!" I answer. "Great job, buddy!" The forced excitement in my voice fools you... inside, my heart is breaking a little.

I know it has to happen. Soft 'r' sounds aren't nearly so endearing on a 16 year old as they are on a 3 year old. But I happen to still find them heart-melting coming from you. *Sigh* No one told me how much it could hurt to watch your kid grow up perfectly...


You and I stood together in front of our church congregation on a Sunday morning two weeks ago. I listened to the hum of the congregation and silently nodded to our accompanist to begin playing. As the beautiful arrangement of Silent Night began, I grabbed your little hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze... out of the corner of my eye, I saw your face wrinkle in a smile and would later hear that that smile made a sweet impression to many of those watching.

I've been impressed with the sweetness in your singing voice since before you could talk - long before you could string words together, you would hum simple melodies with such clarity that it was easy to recognize the song in your head. Mostly it was 'Hot Cross Buns' (which McKenzie was learning to play on the piano... it was stuck in all of our heads!), but occasionally you would mix it up with a rendition of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' or 'I am a Child of God'. As your vocabulary grew, words started sprinkling throughout your melodies... now, rhythm has started to beat itself from your hands... snippets of made-up melodies play under your fingers from the keys of our piano... and it has become ever more clear that you have a talent - a gift - in music.

When I was asked to sing a few weeks ago, I gladly accepted, and knew I wanted you to sing with me. But when I approached you with the idea, you were sure you did not want to do it. "Nah," you said, shaking your head. "I don't weally want to."
"Please, buddy? I was thinking we could sing your very favorite song, Silent Night."
"Is there another song you'd like to sing? Anything you want..."
It was clear I was getting no closer, so I dropped it for the night. The next day, I decided to come at it from a different angle.
"What do you want?"

The bribing angle.

"What would you want me to get for you if you sing with me."
Your eyes narrowed, chin dropped, and I could see the wheels turning in your head. You had me begging, and knew you could get away with some pretty high demands. Finally you put out your decision; your voice was sneaky and serious, "Three packs of gum."
I smiled, "Done," I said.

Through the next week we practiced, singing it through once or twice a day between games of tag and house. We practiced through Skype to Grandma. And then again for Nana and Poppy. I watched through the computer monitor as you made Nana cry with your piercingly clear high notes... then she asked if you'd sing it again so she could record it on her phone. I needed just as much practicing as you did... singing my own verse after you had sung yours was almost impossible through the lump you kept bringing to my throat. And then, after we discovered that you could hold your melody line just fine if I jumped to sing alto alongside you, I couldn't stop laughing in amazement every time we'd diverge into different parts.

The big morning came and you looked so sharp in your navy blue, pinstripe suit. You and I wandered off just before the meeting started and found an empty room. Sneaking inside and closing the door behind us, I let you in on my little secret: before every performance, I always find a quiet place to sink to my knees and thank Heavenly Father for my singing voice. I asked if you wanted to pray with me that morning, and together we thanked our God. We asked him to please help us remember our notes and our words and to, most importantly, let his Spirit pour out through our voices and touch those who heard us.

As the final notes of the introduction finished playing, I looked out over the congregation again and watched... you squeezed my hand in response to my own squeeze, and drew in your breath. "Si - lent Night," you sang. The rumbling hum of the congregation quieted into silence as every ear and face quickly turned to you. "Ho - ly Night," perfect. Your high notes were simple, effortless and beautiful... Through it all, you nervously twisted my ring around and around my finger, but it didn't show in your sweet voice, and by the end of your verse I saw many hands in the congregation wiping tears from their eyes. A nervous twitch pricked inside me as I realized I needed to sing next and a silent prayer shot from my heart 'please don't let me kill this feeling Carson has created.' A warm feeling filled me to my toes and took the nerves away as I drew in my own breath. You stood still next to me as I sang my verse - a small miracle for your wiggly muscles - and when you came back in to join me on the third verse, you hit every note of the melody while I sang the alto in your ear.

It was, in a word, perfect. You touched people to their inner core - and I received compliment after compliment in your behalf. I'm sitting here, almost three weeks later, fighting back the tears just remembering it. I. Am so. Proud of you.

We have tried time and time again to replicate it in our living room in front of the camera, but it's never been quite the same. And now we've reached a point where you just refuse to sing it again. But I have little snippets of greatness recorded - and some full recordings where you're a bit distracted, but I suppose that's all as it should be. We were truly helped by the Spirit that Sunday morning; I guess it's fitting that we're not able to perform it quite as well on our own. Perhaps that's why I feel to try and memorialize it in words...

I can't help but feel overwhelmed with thankfulness that we were able to do it this year... because I have a feeling that if we'd done it next year, the tender memory I have of your little voice forming those words might not be quite so precious. I hope to always be able to hear that sweet phrase in my mind the way you sang it from the pulpit...

"Awll is calm... Awll is bwight."

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Found this picture here.

I remember the first cell phone my dad brought home. It was literally the size of a brick but somehow managed to look quite chic in it's black case hanging off of his braided belt. When it rang, he would unclip it and gently raise the antenna before speaking. This antenna-pulling is a faint memory of mine... so faint that it prompted a text to my dad to make sure, "Didn't you have to pull an antenna up on your first cell phone? Am I remembering that right?" His response, "Yes. The first two or three of them." Now my cell phone is small enough it consistently disappears inside my purse, causing slight chaos and frustration when I can hear it ringing, but can't seem to grab on to it... and many times, in my search, my finger brushes the touch-screen just right, answering the phone before I even know exactly where it is...


Miles and I were scrolling through the pictures on my blog today, pausing at each one for him to exclaim "Teh-nee! Cahsn! Mie-yuls!" Going through pictures is one of his favorite activities, and I can generally get a lot of work done in the ways of sifting through, deleting, and renaming pictures while Miles sits on my lap for the slide-show. It doesn't bother him if I go back through the same pictures 47 times while trying to decide which ones will end up in the recycle bin. (PS - does anyone else find it odd that the garbage area on a computer is labeled a 'recycle bin'? Really? How, exactly, is my computer going to re-use my thousands of picture files?) Today I didn't have much time to sit in front of the computer, however, so after scrolling down my blog page once, I plopped him down on the swivel chair and showed him how to use the mouse to scroll through the pictures himself. I busied myself by picking up the endless scraps of paper littered throughout the office from one of McKenzie's unfinished craft ideas (which seem to be silently taking over our lives...). Moments later, I looked at him and was shocked, for the millionth time in my life, at how much things have changed since I was a kid... it really hasn't been that long, you know. But, there my baby was, propped up on his knees, face inches away from the computer screen, scrolling away through digital pictures with his pudgy 2-year-old hand.


"Mrs. Alder, do you know how to use the Nook?" I was sitting at the back table of McKenzie's second grade classroom grading papers last Tuesday. I looked up at Ms. M. who was busy with a crowd of kids around her to see her eyes waiting for my response. Her classroom has 5 color Nooks - Barnes and Noble's popular version of a Kindle - and the children seem to enjoy reading from them. I glanced over at the Nook table and noticed there was a bit of commotion; it seemed a few of the children were confused and the assistant, Mrs. R., had just straightened up and shrugged her shoulders in helplessness. "Well, I haven't actually ever seen one before, but I think I can figure it out," I responded. Taking the first color Nook in my hand, I gently ran my finger along the screen to help the first child select a book to read. "Oh my," said Mrs. R. over my shoulder, "you just touch the screen, huh?"
"Yeah, pretty crazy, isn't it?" I said back.
"My, oh, my." She walked away shaking her head in disbelief.

I know where she's coming from. It seems a little futuristic to me, too. But many of those kids held the Nooks with no fear, navigating them with ease. One little girl even made reference to her own Nook at home, and taught me how to get back to the library page. You won't ever see a child of today shake his head in disbelief at a touch screen.


The days of cell phone antennas were limited from the beginning... Could the days of the computer mouse be approaching the same fate? To me, seeing my 2-year-old's hand guiding it around the mouse pad seemed a sign of how far things had come... But for him, maybe someday he'll look back on a faint memory and ask,

"Wait, didn't we used to use a mouse to guide ourselves around the screen? Am I remembering that right?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dear Miles,

We walked into Costco today together - just you and me. It seems a simple thing, really... and yet, the sound of your stomping feet and the feel of your little hand wrapped inside my own caused a tightening in my throat. Your soul is strong. Independent. And, to you, holding my hand is a sign of weakness and inferiority to which you are often unwilling to submit. We have a getting-into-the-store routine when we go shopping. A routine that has become more habitual than anything else. You begin to struggle to free yourself from the top buckle in your car seat the moment the engine switches off. You've gotten faster at it over the months... and I admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable that you're able to do it at all. By the time I open your side door, you've almost done it, and I slowly unlatch the bottom as you finish. "I jump?" you ask. You don't really mean it as a question - more as a reminder that I am not to help you out of the car. As your shoes hit the pavement you hear a familiar phrase from me as I extend my hand, "You hold my hand, or I hold you."
"No hand," you say. You turn your shoulder to me and wait for my standard response.
"Then I will hold you." I move to pick you up, but you stomp your foot in frustration.
"I walk!"
"Then hold my hand."
"No hand."
Surprisingly, it usually ends smoothly. You turn your back to me, yes, but by the time you are propped on my hip, you have already surrendered to your fate and resume your normal conversation topics: "Daddy at wuhk?" (Yes, Daddy is at work) 'Cahsn at tool?' (Yes, Carson is at school) 'Teh-nee bus?' (No, Kenzie got off the bus and now she is at school, too) 'Oh. Teh-nee at tool?' (Yes, Kenzie's at school) 'Oh.' You know the routine. You know how it will end. But that doesn't stop you from trying to walk in on your own. Every. Single. Time.

But today when I stretched my hand out to you, you took it. You took it without thought, as if this had been the routine all along. We turned our feet toward the store and began the walk across the large parking lot. Your fingers curled around the outside edge of my hand and a smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. When did this little hand get so big? I thought as I squeezed it tighter. I wonder when I stopped holding out one finger for you to grasp...

And now, as I type this, you come in to see me... skin cool and damp from your evening bath; hair smelling of coconut in soft, wet curls; so proud of your Buzz Lightyear pajamas; and asking me to 'lizzen' to your song. An adorable combination of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and I Am a Child of God...

little star.
How I wonder what
Him someday."

So, I leave this post relatively unfinished - lacking in pictures and editing - because my heart is being called for by your sweet plea.

I will 'lizzen' to you - for as many days and years as you'll let me... and forever after that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scrambled Thoughts

Well, I can't help but notice that there seems to be quite a correlation between the increased amount of time Brian spends at home and the decreased frequency of my blogging. While I do enjoy spending so many free moments with him, I do not enjoy watching so many weeks go by leaving nothing more for you to read than my boring old travel logs. We're going to have to work on a solution for this! But, in the meantime, here are a few scrambled thoughts for to give you a picture of what has been going on in my head lately:

1. Winter Laundry is Back

Poo on winter laundry! (Actually, let's not use that phrase...) Hooray to me for finding such a tall and handsome man to marry but, frankly, his jeans take up a third of the washing machine. Add a few sweaters and the coat that my child spilled hot chocolate on and I've got a full load, my friend. A frustrating concept if you live with a septic tank and have to carefully monitor the amount of water that exits your house in a day to prevent unpleasant odors swirling around your backyard... Blankets, coats, sweaters, jeans and long-sleeved t-shirts... it's a bit challenging to get it all done when you can only do 1-2 loads of laundry per day. And, I've got to keep all those little toes warm - ten wiggly feet that need new socks every day - so that by the end of the week there is a daunting pile of 70 lone socks that need to be matched. The countdown begins now for laundry baskets filled with shorts and t-shirts again. :)

2. Black Friday is for Crazies

And, call me crazy, I joined the masses this year. My favorite purchase: this lovely pre-lit Christmas tree. How did I not know the wondrous blessing of a Christmas tree that has been strung with Christmas lights for you? My life has changed for good... This year as we plugged the Christmas tree in, I couldn't help but feel like something was missing - and then I realized... yes ... it was the HOURS of untangling Christmas lights and winding them around those itchy branches while convincing my children (for all those hours) that 'I'm almost done and that, soon, we can start decorating the tree with all of those lovely ornaments tantalizing you...' Never again, folks. Never again. We are a plug-and-done family now.

3. Christ Centered Christmas

Last Christmas I came away feeling a bit empty. We had partied hard and counted down the days with the best of the crowd. We sang our hearts out in carols and thought long about gifts. We started some new, loved traditions and laughed and played and kept the 'jolly' alive... but we kind of missed bringing Christ into the center of our celebrations. And, after the celebrations were over, my heart didn't feel swollen with love and gratitude for my Savior. I decided I didn't much like that, and vowed that this year would be different. And so it is! We have taken a page (or a hundred pages) out of the book 'A Christ Centered Christmas' and it has, so far, transformed our way of celebrating. Through the month, we are slowly assembling the nativity scene... taking a full night (or sometimes a group of nights) to talk about each of the figures that played a part in that miraculous night. Each figure in the nativity has its own tradition that accompanies it and we have found the first two traditions, surrounding Mary and then Joseph, very meaningful and have high hopes for the rest of our month. Tomorrow we talk about the wisemen - and in honor of their search for Christ, we will attend a Christmas concert with the children and search for His name in the words of the songs, and search for His spirit in our hearts as we let the music fill us. And, at the end of the night, we will place the wisemen in our little homemade nativity set.

4. Feeling the Homesick Bug

Boo to feeling homesick. I've celebrated Thanksgiving happily in North Carolina for many years... but Thanksgiving morning this year found my heart feeling the miles of mountains and plains that separate me from my family. One phone call to my mom's cell and a few tears later, I felt better. But is there any way we could keep the integrity of this beautiful state and nudge it a bit west?

5. We are officially a four-gallons-of-milk-per-week family

I went out grocery shopping by myself this evening. I rarely do this... like, rarely, rarely ... I find the stores much too crowded in the evenings after work hours are over. But, today it couldn't be helped, so I left my angel kiddos home with Brian and ventured out by myself to pick up the weekly groceries. As I was loading my four gallons of milk onto the checkout counter (along with my 6 boxes of cream cheese, 1/2 gallon of cream, 6 heads of lettuce, 2 bunches of bananas, 5lbs of cheese...) I attracted the attention of, not one, but two friendly strangers who were brave enough to comment that 'I must have a large family!'

Well, I suppose I do. And sometime this week, I'll catch you up on those three little beauties that drink so much milk and take up so much of my life. :) Here's a little sneak peek:

"Mom, I have a great idea. I put these on to protect my eyes just in case the ball hits my face."

"Mom - watch my eyes. Am I doing it?"

What did I expect after I told Miles he could lick the bowl?