Monday, February 20, 2012

Scrambled Thoughts II

1. I'm a terrible wife.

I cut this little heart out of scrapbooking paper, rolled a piece of tape for the back and slapped it on the mirror the night before Valentines Day. I smiled to myself, half awake, when I heard Brian discover it the next morning. He laughed and rummaged around in the drawers for something to check his answer with before he ran out the door for work... I'm pretty sure he used my eyeliner. I drifted back to sleep and woke a half an hour later to start getting the kids ready for school. We prayed, dressed and did our chores before we sauntered into the kitchen for breakfast.

The lights were low, and the island was topped with this candy bouquet that he made... I'm saying he bought a styrofoam ball, folks. And wooden skewers. And little pink hearts. In addition to all of my favorite candy bars. It still makes me smile to think of him working with the tissue paper... and let's not let the paper underneath the vase go unnoticed, either. From my wonderful, Details Aren't Important husband, this spoke volumes of love. (You may have noticed the few empty skewers... I couldn't help it... they were my favorites.)

The kids had character balloons and small boxes of chocolate on their stools, too, and you can imagine the delight.

Little heart stuck on the mirror? Lame.

2. Do you see it?

Do you see it? I missed the focus a bit, but DO. YOU. SEE. IT?! My first reaction was one of shock and a bit of appall. This is a rude, rude welcome into turning 30 next month, I thought. The saddest thing was that this was not actually the first one I spotted. I found one a few weeks ago and decided the best thing to do was to pluck it out and ignore that it even happened. McKenzie saw me pull it however, so she was in on the secret. When she saw me staring at this beauty in the mirror she said, "Oh! Is that a gray one?"
"Yesssssss......" I admitted
"You had one of those before."
Thanks, Kenz.
I took about 15 pictures trying to get my head and my face in the picture at the same time, but my frame was just too tight, my arm was just too short, and I was just too lazy to go get the tri-pod or to change my lens, so it never happened.

An interesting thing happened while I was sifting through the pictures, however. I stumbled upon this one above and realized that, while I thought this face was portraying what I was feeling inside (and it did at that moment) I actually don't feel this way. I made a bit of peace with that little gray hair sprawling out like it owned the place. I kind of love it, actually. I wish I would have made peace with it before I plucked it out...

Next one I see, I just might let stay.

3. We have a problem.

(Source - I'm too lazy to go take my own picture today. ... I can't help but notice how beautiful those wisps of silver hair are in his tail...)

We have a squirrel problem. It's called: they're in our attic.

I'm a little indifferent to the whole situation. I'm a bit fond of the little rodents scampering across the power lines and chasing each other around in the trees. I'm willing to share my space with them. I've learned to be accepting of the ants that come around ever summer... why not let in the squirrels, too? Yes, I know they can cause damage, but they don't seem to be. We've gone up periodically to check on the state of things (and by 'we' I, of course, mean Brian... I enjoy watching the squirrels from a far, but the thought of being accidentally trapped in the same attic with one is a bit terrifying to me). We've never been able to figure out how they're getting in... but everything seems to be in order. They're getting more comfortable up there, however, and we're hearing them more often than we used to.

It's getting unacceptable for Brian and he's made it his personal mission to eliminate the problem. So he took a full Saturday and organized his own little stake out. He and Carson snapped on their head lights and spent the whole afternoon sitting up there waiting for an unsuspecting squirrel to divulge his secret entrance. Success.

He spent the next week patching the hole and re-patching the hole with stronger material and re-re-patching the hole with even stronger material. Each time we'd eventually hear sawing sounds (no idea) and crashing sounds as they'd break their way through. Seems these squirrels are not easily deterred. Three days of this, and Brian was slowly losing his mind. Out of sheer desperation, he took to screaming and running at the squirrels like an outraged gorilla every time he saw them crawling across the power lines to our roof... He'd beat the underside of the roof with a broom in an effort to 'frighten' the squirrels into never coming back... He kept the ladder close to the attic entrance and flew up there whenever he heard scuffling above... He finally took a few old blankets up there and shoved them in the hole, tightly, and we haven't heard them since. I think they're probably using the blankets as soft nesting material, but Brian thinks the problem is temporarily cured and seems to be secretly hoping they'll feel the hostility in the air and choose somewhere else to go. We shall see.

One day during the height of it all, I came home and saw this little ball of insulation sitting on our back doorstep:

When Brian came home from work, he did not take it well.

"Linds!" He said storming in the house. "Linds! Did you see what they left on our steps?! It's a death threat!"

He may not survive this.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Dear McKenzie,

I say it every year, and every year I mean it: I think this phase that you're going through is my favorite. Early on it was simple to understand why I loved each phase: the fire and excitement of reaching new milestones was continually being stoked and, because you're my oldest, each new milestone you reached was also a new milestone for me. A simple smile... your first giggle... crawling... walking... talking... joking... reading... thinking... how fun it's all been! Things have changed quite a bit over the past couple of years, though. 'Milestones' have become less of a topic and 'phases' seem to be taking their place. A happy phase here... a challenging phase there... a sweet phase... a helpful phase... an independent phase. My challenge has been to figure out when a new phase is beginning and to then work around it.

As we work these phases out together, I've felt the powers of my guidance over you slowly softening... your ears are starting to distinguish opinions from facts, and you recognize that a 'no' answer from me might be changeable if you present the right argument. (Carson is actually a master at this and I think you're learning from him.) I love this. I love to hear you develop your own compromises. I forget that I love it sometimes... I can get frustrated when you keep coming back with the seemingly same request... but I'm trying to remember to be patient.

I love that you're starting to recognize your talents now and are starting to settle into many of them. You love to read... at the breakfast table, as you're doing your chores, after you've been tucked into bed, as you're walking home from the bus... I'm surprised you haven't tried reading in the shower. (Please don't try reading in the shower.) When you're helpful, you're so helpful, and when you're loving, you're so loving. You are frequently trying to foster the love between your brothers and yourself. You rally your brothers around you and try to make cleaning the playroom fun for them. You remember your chores every morning without a prompt and hardly ever cut corners (even when your nose is buried in your book.) You are fun to talk to and discuss things with. You're fun to joke with, you're fun to be with. Yes, this part of your life is a favorite of mine. I enjoy, so much, watching you discover who you are.

Mood swings have made an appearance, however, and it's been interesting to watch you battle them... slamming doors, stomping feet, tearful outbursts, teasing behaviors and hurtful words have recently increased the color in our home and have given us something interesting to work with, but it's absolutely priceless when I watch you try to work it out in yourself. I've been told by the pediatritian that the hormones start at around age 8. We're seeing them...

One morning you woke up crabby. You went along the morning with a scowl on your face and couldn't help but menacingly tease anyone that happened to cross your path. There were lots of tears from all three of you, and we could trace the tears, almost exclusively, back to you. You were eventually sent to your room with the task to read for a while until you felt like you were happy enough to join the rest of the family. You came out a half an hour later and it was unclear from your facial expression whether or not your mood had changed, but we welcomed you back into the family life with happy smiles and open arms. Soon, you were helping me unload the dishwasher, and then skipped downstairs to help the boys clean the playroom. I heard laughter and happiness while you were down there and once it was clean you skipped back up the stairs and said, "What else can I do to help, Mom?" Before I could check myself, my shocked response came flying out of my mouth.
You smiled. "Yeah. I guess I've turned back into my helpful side."
"How did you do it?"
"I don't know. But I'm gonna try to do it again next time I'm on my angry side."
See? I love this. I get it... I so get it.

Your birthday this year will probably dance around in my memory forever. You were so beautiful. You stood proud and tall in your beautiful white dress... but I think the greatest beauty came shining through your eyes. Such happy eyes.

You were thrilled with your gifts this year,

and that made me happy. The scriptures have been used nightly, and we've had such fun with the recipe box filled with recipes you can make yourself:

I see lots of cooking in our future.

I love you, Kenz! Thanks for making my life so completely wonderful.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Three Words Wednesday

A Father's Patience

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mama Drama

I was pushing the shopping cart along the cereal aisle of Kroger this afternoon - which, if I'm being honest, is really rarely a good experience. For one thing, I have this unspoken rule that I can't buy a box of cereal for more than $2.00 (...does this mean the rule is spoken now?) so, since I don't buy the cheap sugar cereals anymore, I either come out of the aisle empty handed, or overflowing with 34 boxes stacked up to my chin. For another thing, the opposite side of the aisle is stocked with romance novels, self-help books, and showy magazines displaying the faces (and other body parts) of airbrushed models posing behind bold words that promise your life can be happier with the one secret contained behind that very cover. By the time I reach the end of the aisle I feel like I've been bombarded by singing jeers from the cereal side (You Can't Afford Us, Neener, Neener, Neener!) and laser messages coming from the other side (Your Life Isn't Good Enough, We Have All The Secrets!). Plus... it's a crowded aisle.

And it's the homeless cart hangout.

Today was a little bit different, though. The setting was the same, of course. Crowded. It was a Leave Empty Handed day, so I turned around and started making my way to the back of the store and got stuck behind an elderly gentleman trying to decide which type of bran to buy. As I was quietly waiting, I noticed a self-help book sitting on top of the abandoned shopping cart I had stopped next to. The title intrigued me, Mama Drama, so I picked it up and read the long sub-title. Making Peace with the One Woman Who Can Push Your Buttons, Make You Cry, and Drive You Crazy. I thumbed through the pages for a few seconds. Words like 'conflict', 'guilt trip', 'resentment', and 'hopelessness' jumped from every page. And when the old man pushed on, I threw the book back into the cart with a smile on my face.

Well. I don't have that problem, I thought. If I wrote a book titled Mama Drama it would be all about how I don't get to see my Mama enough.

My parents came out for McKenzie's baptism and, though it had only been a few months, it had been far too long since I'd seen them. We all need a little confidence boost sometimes, right?, and they always fill that role to overflowing when they're around. I've just recently realized that this is not something to be taken for granted, and I appreciate how good they are at making me feel good about myself and the work I've done so far in raising my family. They think my kids are wonderful, they think my husband is the perfect catch, they love us all dearly, and I appreciate how good they are at showing that to me. Yes, they are my parents, so they might be biased, but it's enough for me.

And the kids? Well... the kids can't get enough of them. Poppy was battling bone spurs in his shoulder, patiently waiting for surgery, and still found the strength to play a few games of dodge ball,

play with Carson on the swing,

and watch a Duke basketball game with the kids.

Watching basketball (or football) is a true treat for my kids. Especially when they know they'll be able to stay up a little past bedtime to finish the first half. I think Miles is just in for the popcorn.

Nana spent her time playing along with Miles and his Bunny,

and helping me finish up the apron I was making for McKenzie's birthday. The heart pocket? Her stroke of genius to hold measuring spoons.

She was also an invaluable player in getting all the food ready for McKenzie's baptism... but that will be saved for the post all about McKenzie's birthday.

But before I write that post (and to end this one), you must hear two funny stories (actually, both of them could be classified as 'a bit sad' too... but let's go with funny):

Growing up, my dad was not really known for his silent sleeping. On the contrary, my siblings and I would catch ourselves giggling at the snores of his sleep if he happened to doze off any time before us. So when the rumblings started floating from the guest bedroom during a quick late-morning nap last week, I thought Miles would enjoy laughing at them with Nana and me. We all quieted down to silence and Miles's eyes started widening.
"What is that?" Nana asked him. Miles shot a wide-eyed glance in Nana's direction just as another snore broke loose. Nana followed his lead and opened her eyes wide as well. "Is it a bear?" she asked. "I think there might be a bear in the house." Miles barely moved as his little brain tried to figure out how to process the information. He then decided that this was a real force to be reckoned with.
"Eff-a-nunt," he whispered.
"You think it's an elephant?" I asked.
He slowly nodded his head and started instructing us all to get our feet off the floor and, at his insistence, we scrambled to rearrange our positions. We sat for a moment in silence, feet propped underneath us, listening to the snores, watching Miles and waiting for his lead. "Eff-a-nunt," he repeated. His little hands went up to his ears as he whimpered, 'I sared'.
"You're scared?" I repeated.

After his nod, I broke the game and picked him up to peek in on Poppy and see that there was nothing to be afraid of. We spied on him for a second and then went into Miles's room to read a book. He was not completely trusting and made sure the door was completely closed before we sat down in the rocking chair and read, The Bear Feels Scared.

This little guy seems to have a few real fears (well, if you classify elephants as real fears) and has mentioned that he feels scared multiple times in his life. The other day I walked into his room when I heard his after-nap calls and found him huddled in the corner of his crib whimpering. Upon further investigation, he said he felt 'sared' and pointed over to the curtains. I still don't know exactly what was going on, but we may be in for some real monster fighting with this one...

Second story:

McKenzie came tromping off the bus on Friday afternoon and informed us that she had a small problem.

She had slipped this giant bolt on her ring finger while she was packing up to come home and was having trouble getting it off. Brian worked on it for the better part of two hours. Pulling. Twisting. Soap and water. Crisco. Dental floss tied around the biggest part of her finger to compress the skin. Thankfully the bolt had plenty of room to slide around underneath her knuckle (so we weren't worried about circulation), but that poor knuckle ended up swelling and was very sore before he decided the next best thing to do was to let it sit for a while to let the swelling go down. I gave her a little Ibuprofen, Nana gave her her very own can of Root Beer and, per her request, we left her alone downstairs to read books until dinner time. You can imagine how distraught she was... "My very last day of being a seven year old, and I have to have this bolt on my finger," she said fighting tears.

A half an hour later, just before eating, Kenz and I knelt down and quietly said a prayer. We asked Heavenly Father to help us know what to do about the bolt, and we asked him to help McKenzie be happy in the meantime while we figured it out. He answered the second part of that prayer immediately and her spirits improved. Around the dinner table we all talked about the options we had. InstaCare? A small hacksaw? We finally settled on lots of Crisco and trying to slide some small, flat, plastic toothpicks underneath the bolt to hopefully provide a sort of track for the bolt to use, and maybe some compression for the swollen part of her finger. Fail. Next idea was to cut a straw lengthwise and try to wrap that around her finger and stick it under the bolt. Fail.

Up till this point I had left the pulling and coaxing up to the men, but decided that I should take a turn. I gently twisted and pulled and then pulled and twisted a little harder. For some reason, I looked up at my dad and mouthed the words, 'I'm going to pull.' He nodded and hugged McKenzie a little closer. Brian started rubbing her back and I began to put much, much more pressure on that poor knuckle. She started screaming, and I wanted to stop...but I strangely didn't feel able to. I twisted around and around and pulled with as much force as I felt was safe without ripping her finger out of the socket. I started noticing some progression after about 10 seconds (which is a long time...think about it) and it fueled me to keep going. "It's almost there, Kenz!" I shouted. 10 more seconds and I felt the last of the swollen skin slide under the bolt that was now resting in the palm of my clutched hand. I wrapped McKenzie up in a huge hug and praised her for getting through it.

"Linds! Linds!" Brian said. "Good job, Linds!" His relief was so intense it lasted the rest of the day (he even continued making comments into the following day) . He turned his attention to McKenzie and said, "It's off, Kenz! I thought we were going to have to baptize you tomorrow with a bolt on your finger!" She chuckled a little through her tears and said, "Me too."

I had some thanks to say in my prayers that night. It's not really in my nature to 'just pull', especially if I know it's causing my own kid pain. But I got the idea and the strength from somewhere... Phew.

Well, anyway, hooray for wonderful parents. And hooray for no real Mama Drama. We're so glad you guys came to celebrate McKenzie's special day!

We love you!

(PS - speaking of drama - sorry to all of you Google Readers out there! I posted this one with the date wrong, so I tried to re-post it and accidentally posted the draft to the beginning of McKenzie's birthday post instead! Anyway, then I finally got it right on the third try... sorry! And, you can consider yourself lucky that you got a sneak peak of McKenzie's birthday post.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being Baptized

(I do realize that, in an ideal world, this invitation would have gone up on the blog before the actual baptism... but I abandoned the idea of an ideal world long ago. I felt happy to just get a handful printed out and delivered to a few neighbors and teachers!)

I have two very short memories from my own baptism day... in one of them I am sitting on the front bench in the chapel, dressed in my clean, white jumpsuit, trying to keep still next to several other kids dressed the same... ... ... And in the next memory, I'm standing in the girls' bathroom with my mom. My hair has been towel-dried, my wet jumpsuit replaced with my beautiful baptism dress. My mom knelt down just in front of me and locked my eyes in hers. "I'm so proud of you," she said. She held up a necklace... a golden heart swung from a tiny gold chain. The words I Am a Child of God wrapped around my very own birthstone and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

I was so excited when it was time for my little sister to be baptized. In my all-knowing 10 year old wisdom, I repeatedly told her how special it was. It's so fun was my catch phrase. I sat as close to the font as I could while my dad immersed her in the water, and as she came up I whispered, "Well?! Wasn't that fun?!" She looked at me and wrinkled her dripping eyebrows. "That was boring," she whispered back.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Two years later I went to the temple with my Young Women's group for the first time to perform baptisms for the dead. As I walked down into the warm water, I felt my jumpsuit stick to my legs and remembered that that had happened at my own baptism. As I was immersed into the waters of baptism for the second time in my life, I couldn't help but think, I wish I could do this for myself again. I felt I could do a better job at keeping the commandments now that I was four years older and I wanted a fresh slate to try again. In my all-knowing 12 year old wisdom, I felt sure that 12-years was a much better age of accountability than was 8.

. . . . . . . . . . .

It's been 17 years since I went to the temple that first time ... and I have my own 8 year old. Now, through my mothering eyes and in my far-from-all-knowing 29 year old wisdom, I see how perfect that 8-year old mark is... at least for McKenzie. She has been taught since birth about the reality of God. Up to now, she has believed all we say because she hasn't yet been introduced to real doubt. If I say God is real, then He is. If I believe in Santa, so does she. When I say it's going to rain today, she prepares for rain.

But things are changing. I notice her pausing to think about the things I say. Analyzing them in her own mind to see if they make sense in her growing understanding of reality. One day during the Christmas season this year she asked,

"Mom, will I always believe in God?"

I could only answer, "Well, I hope so, but only you can answer that for yourself. I do."

How wise to catch her at this time of changing. Young enough to still have an overwhelmingly strong desire to please her parents (of course she will want to be baptized), yet old enough in her own reality to feel like she's fully in charge of a large decision in her life.

. . . . . . . . . . .

I wrapped the towel around McKenzie's shivering body as she came out of the font. I kissed her wet head and told her how much I loved her. Together we worked to get her into her beautiful baptism dress and as she was shivering into it, I asked her how she felt. She could only reply, "I'm!" I was curious to know if she felt any warm feelings from the Holy Ghost but I didn't press the issue any further. It was clear that the only word she was thinking was 'freezing'. Later that night I asked her how she felt as she received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Her answer, "I was really itchy the whole time and kept thinking hurry up prayer! I need to scratch!"

I don't know what she'll remember from this day. Boring? Maybe. Freezing? Probably. Itchy? Possible. Nothing? Perhaps. She is only 8, after all. 21 years later, I don't recall what I thought as I stepped down into the warm water with my dad. I don't remember how I felt as I was immersed in the water. I don't have any memories of being confirmed and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost... if I felt the Spirit warmly testifying of truth at any point, I certainly didn't recognize it. But, those details don't matter. The details that matter are that the baptism was performed, and that the Holy Ghost was given. I'm sure the Lord wasn't planning on many intensely spiritual experiences to accompany those sweet, pure 8-year-olds. From the ages of 8-18 I could probably count on one hand the number of times I consciously felt the Spirit... but in the last 10 years he has truly become my constant companion. Leading, prompting, comforting, enlightening... how excited I am for McKenzie to grow and develop in this way. But lets focus on recognizing him, first.

. . . . . . . . . . .

My sweet McKenzie, you have such a strong desire to do what is right. You think hard and seriously when we ask you questions about the gospel, and your heart is tender in all the right places. I worry sometimes about what curve balls the world will throw at you and fully realize that your 8-year-old baptism surely doesn't signify your conversion... not at all. But I can't think of a better way to start this new, independent and exploratory phase of your life. Your baptism opened up that first locked gate on the path back to your Heavenly Father, placed your feet squarely in the middle of that path, and gave you a gentle nudge to Start. Walking. The Holy Ghost was given to you to help you along your way... and oh, McKenzie, he will help you if you ask. Conversion will come later, if you desire (and I hope you desire), but now you're old enough to support your own weight and put one foot in front of the other. Thankfully the beginning of the path is still heavily protected for you. Dad and I are committed to serve as bumpers for as long as we can while you learn to recognize the promptings of the Spirit. And, eventually, I hope you'll want to keep going on your own.

We love you, Kenz. And we're proud of you. We're proud of your sweetness, of your helpfulness, and of your desire to do what is good and right. May you always keep that as we start this new journey together...