Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My McKenzie

My McKenzie.  My sweet, pre-teen McKenzie.  The older you get, the more and more I realize how lucky we are to have you.  And to have you as our first.  I was telling someone just today how lucky I feel to have had you set the tone for our family.  You came in sweet, loving, nurturing, calm, thoughtful, observant, and smart... and while your strength in these areas waxes and wanes with the tides of life and challenges, you influence all of us with their purity - especially your younger brothers.

They love you, your brothers.  In fact, you guys are best friends, and I think that largely has to do with how you have treated them throughout the years.  They know you love them.  And I want you to know that I credit a large portion of the unity in our family to you and your example.

Along with being pleased with the example you're setting, I'm also happy that you're my first because of your strength in yourself.  Ever since you were tiny, we knew you had a strong sense of self.  You rarely care whether others will judge your actions, and you choose your path based on what you feel inside.  Your spirits are not easily broken and your strength in yourself never is.

This is good for you.  Because you have a mother who feels like a rough stone rolling down a smooth hill... when I'm still, the path seems easy enough, but when I start moving, I find myself catching all my corners - mistake after mistake - and I bounce, ungracefully, and rather out of control along it.

I'm afraid, my love, that in being my oldest, many of my roughest edges are catching on you.  And I feel guilty and grateful to tears sometimes as I watch you and realize that you. can. handle. it.

I love you.  So very much.  Being a pre-teen can be so hard.  You're fighting with new emotions and I see the frustration in your face when you can't explain how you're feeling or why you're angry.

But you have a safe place here.  You can stomp and eye-roll and slam all the doors you want while you figure it out, and still feel confident that my love is with you, surrounding you all the way through it and carrying you to the other side.

Me, and the rest of the team.

Of course, there will be corrections and lessons, disciplines and advice given to you from time to time because part of my job as a mother is to help you grow into a spectacular adult, and you may have noticed that spectacular adults don't stomp and eye-roll and slam all the doors they want.

But I hope that, before the discipline, you'll feel the support.  That before you hear the lessons, you'll feel the love.

Because we so love you.

Happy 11th birthday, my love!

Birthday Face

Hey!  Did you guys hear that I turned two?!

I know what you're thinking... You're thinking, Teek, will you please show us more of your face? Because you are just too adorable.

So here's me looking excited:

And my 'Deer in Headlights' impression:

This is how I fake smile:

And how I look amused.

But back to my birthday.  It was mostly about the cake for me.  Mom let me lick the spatula --

And then she threw a bunch of sprinkles and Oreos on a box cake.  I overhead her saying that she didn't much care to invest a lot of time into my cake because I wouldn't 'appreciate' it...

But, I don't know about that.  I sure appreciated the whole thing as it was swirling around in my mouth.

The night also included presents, and push-ups, and talking to Grandma and Grandpa on the phone.

Yeah, I said push-ups... why?  I'm pretty good at them actually.  And I'm just going to get better as time goes on.  I can almost win when mom and I fight over whether or not I have to sit in the shopping cart, or into the carseat, or into the stroller, or into the crib, or anywhere else that straps or traps me in.  A few more push-ups and I just might have free reign of this whole household...

Terrible twos?  Please.  I've been playing the game for a while now.  And I'm already a pro.

Happy Birthday to me!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

February Harvest - Moments Edition

*We sit in the sand, Katie and I, and talk about life - the struggles, the triumphs, the fears and the dreams.  The breeze blows by and it closes my eyes; I smell the salt, I hear the wind, I feel the breeze when it kisses my cheeks and plays in my hair.  We sit in the sand and I dig my fingers in and swirl them around, making shapes, making patterns, making textures, all the while not thinking about the sand, but of life, as one like me does when they sit in the sand.

We watch the waves, Katie and I, and talk about life. Walls of water crash into each other, one from the left and one from the right, then another from the left and another from the right, creating frothy water and dancing spray and tunnels of water as they overlap. We watch the waves and point at the waves, all the while not really thinking about the waves, but of life, as one like me does when they watch the waves.

We watch the surfers, Katie and I, and talk about life.  We laugh when they fall and cheer when they stand, and I think to myself wouldn't it be nice if I could laugh when I fall and cheer when I stand?  Because that, simplistically, is life.

*I love Miles's hair - always.  Even right now, when it looks frizzy and unruly.  It just bounced with him down the stairs and he absentmindedly pushed it away from his eyes with the back of his hand. He smiled at me when he caught me staring at him, unaware that I was wondering about the future of that hair... hoping that he will love it through his life as I do.

*Green, rolling hills jutted out and away from the freeway like a song, and I wanted to sing it.  The van was moving too fast to roll the windows down, but if the law would have permitted me to slow down on that road and savor my way across the fields of California, I would have, with a lowered window to let in the fresh breeze that carried the scent of green life.  But even without the lowered window, the moment captured me.

*Brian smiled at me from across the dinner table.  His elbows were propped up on the dark wood, and his face rested asymmetrically on his hands.  Something about his upturned sleeves pulled at me and made me smile back.  Relaxed? Handsome? Friendly?  He is all of those things... the upturned sleeves reminded me so.

*I didn't wash these sheets, but they are clean.  I didn't fluff these pillows, but they are plump.  I didn't buy this comforter, but it is soft and warm.  I am sinking into the softness and drifting into sleep with my husband next to me and my children snuggled together in the bed two feet to my right. Sometimes hotel nights can be beautiful.

*The world looks warm and soft now.  I smile as I pull the price tag off my new sunglasses.  It was a necessary purchase as my old ones were so scratched up that I'm afraid it was a hazard to drive in them.  But I like new sunglasses... I always buy them with the brown tinted lenses, so for a little while, before they get scratched up from my misuse again, the world looks crisp and clean, warm and inviting, and soft through the lenses.

*I'm feeling cold while we wait outside for our dinner table to be ready.  I wrap my sweater tighter around my shoulders and step backwards into my husbands arms. But it's the moment just before we touch that grabs me. I feel his warmth in that brief moment, and in that moment, I feel no cold. He is living, and warm. I sink into him and he wraps his arms around me.  And I know I am blessed.

*I know that mom and child sitting on the library floor across the room from the small patch of carpet that holds Timothy and me.  Not well, because six months is not enough time to know someone well when you see them only on occasion.  But I do know them.  I know them well enough to know that I want to know them better, after all.  They are bouncing and clapping to the silly song playing from the CD player to my left.  Timothy and I are, too.  But for just this moment, I'm not thinking about Timothy - though he competes fiercely with his own adorable bouncing and clapping - because I'm watching that mom and her child.  She throws her head back and laughs with her son, and then sweeps him up close to her face for a powerful hug. He squeals with laughter... and so does she.  And I thought, there is a mom who loves being with her children.  Her example painted the whole rest of my day and made me treasure all the moments.   

*Homemade music fills the room.  That boy, there, holds a beautiful, blue guitar and strums the song that you hear. Some people might look at the scene and say that the music is coming from the beautiful guitar.  But they would be wrong.  The music is coming from the boy.

'Carson,' the mother says, 'that sounds really beautiful.'  The boy, never breaking his rhythm, looks up to receive the compliment but as quickly as his eyes meet his mother's, his head drops to hide the smile that breaks on his lips.

He thinks he's done it... hidden his smile.  But the mother knows.  She sees it in the way his head bobs a little more sprightly, she hears it in his slightly faster tempo, but most of all, being his mother, she feels it in the invisible bonds that connect her to her son.

*Soft and shiny, her hair brushed against her cheeks when she smiled.  My McKenzie.

*I wave as they approach the car.  McKenzie sees me and breaks into a full-faced smile and a run.  I open the sliding door with the button on my left and roll down the passenger-side window at the same time.  I have a feeling she has something to tell me.  "I got a solo, Mom!" she blurts out before the window is halfway down.  I see excitement tears dancing in her eyes and my heart swells for her.  She has landed the role of Scarecrow in the elementary production of The Wizard of Oz and will sing If I Only Had a Brain.  I squeal appropriately and clap my hands together for her.  I feel warm and happy and full and I notice that her success feels even better to me than my own ever did.

*Popcorn Trees. They live at the library.  In February.  I take note for future years and I am happy.

*My fingertips touch the wall and I begin to curl my legs underneath me.  I feel the current I've created in the water pushing me forward, ever so gently, and it urges me to hurry. In one moment, I tuck and turn and place my feet, legs cocked, against the wall where my fingertips had been.  I still feel the current, and now I can see it, too... tiny air bubbles racing through the water towards my goggled eyes.  Extending my legs in a powerful kick, I soar through the current and feel its added resistance.  This is my favorite part.  The water feels thick for no more than a second, but I look forward to that second and know that it will come again, if I hurry, when my fingertips touch the next wall.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Scrambled Thoughts XII

1. It was a mixture of Proud Mommy Moment and Motherhood Fail when Miles asked me if 24601 was our phone number.

On the one hand, the fact that Jean Valjean's prison number is floating around in his head made me want to kiss that little freckled nose.  On the other hand, him not knowing our phone number is probably not something to be super proud of.

McKenzie knew the difference, though.  So, redeemed!

2. There is no such thing as delicately eating a hamburger as big as your face.

Really. There's not.  But that didn't stop me from trying.   It took three full bites to get a little taste of everything.  I looked like a little caterpillar eating a leaf - nibble, nibble, nibble - up and down, back and forth, and eventually the burger was conquered.

3. He may look cute and harmless...

...but the thoughts were spinning in his head in this moment something like, "I'm not entirely sure how mom is going to react to seeing me just now, since she stuck me in my crib 45 seconds ago, and she doesn't actually know I can crawl out of it.  Heck, I didn't know I could crawl out of it until 45 seconds ago!  Anyway, here goes nothing... Hi, mom."

And the thoughts were spinning in my head in this moment something like, "Oh, crap."

And then they resigned themselves to the situation and continued, "Well, I guess I'd better document this."  So I grabbed my phone, carried him back up the stairs, put him into his crib, walked out of the room, closed the door, dropped to my knees, smashed my cheek into the carpet so my eyeball could peer through the crack underneath his door, watched his feet leave the mattress and, at just the right moment, opened the door to snap this picture.

Also, just for the record, he has refused to keep his pants on for a while now.  I've given up that battle.

4. Mostly, I just can't fight that battle because he creates other battles that require more of my attention.

Such as emptying an entire bottle of Costco fabric softener and watching it settle behind and under the washer and dryer.

5. Or insisting that I ditch the cart and pull him around in this rubber basket he found in The Container Store.

I even found myself saying, "I'm sorry Teek. While I agree that the rubber bin you found is incredibly awesome, I will not pull you around the store in it.  We have a cart for that.  With wheels."

Did you hear where we were, by the way?  The Container Store... it's a real place.  And it gives me a slightly magical feeling every time I step inside.  Containers for everything.  Even children, apparently.

6. We have a smartypants in the house.

Actually, we have lots of them... but let's just talk about this one for a second. Straight A certificate, Citizenship certificate (which, what does that even mean?), and a medal for reading so many dang books.  She felt proud of all of her work, and I certainly did, too.

7. Also, she won the Favorite Child stamp the day I unpacked this from my suitcase.

Isn't she just the best?

8. Get an 'A', get a doughnut.  Krispy Kreme rewards good grades with sugar highs.

I told you we had a lot of smartypants in the house. The Larson parents took a quick trip up to Oregon and let their five children join our crazy house for three days and three nights.  You would think, since each of the big kids came home from Krispy Kreme with six doughnuts a piece, that we would have had doughnuts for their entire stay...  but the sugary sweetness was all gone just hours after it crossed the threshold.

So, we had to turn to other methods to entertain nine children.

9. Quick trips to Utah are much easier now that I live within Quick Trip Distance.

So when my little sister dons a black wig and lights up a stage, I'm there.  The Mystery of Edwin Drood had me buckled in such intense laughter that my rib muscles were markedly sore the next day.  (Not sure whether that attests more to the hilariousness of the show, or the patheticness of my muscles... but anyway...) She is absolutely amazing up on that stage.

10.  A little sunroof action in February... Vegas winters are awesome

As is Miles.  Miles sticks his head out the sunroof every afternoon that we pick up the big kids from school, and then begins waving violently when he sees them exit the building.

McKenzie and Carson smile every time.  And I so love that they're all happy to see each other at the end of the long, tiring school days.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Something Smells Fishy...

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have to balance my weight on two, spindly legs.

Actually, I never wonder that. I just wondered it for the first time looking at that picture above.


We took a little family drive out to Lake Mead and, under orders from the lady who cuts my hair, stopped by the grocery store on our way out to get a dollar loaf of bread for each member of the family.  After getting lost a couple of times, we finally drove our car into the sprawling, empty parking area that claimed to be 'The Spot' and almost turned right back around to go home because it looked much more like a desert wasteland than the hopping harbor that had somehow seeped into our expectations (I'll blame Miami for that).  But, six loaves of bread, remember? So I swallowed the lump in my throat, blinked back the threatening tears, opened the car door, and determined to find some beauty.

It was one of my finer decisions as of late.  We ended up having a wonderful time!  I was surprised to see that the water, for a lake, was clean and clear, and that the sun was shining on it just right for it to be a nice color somewhere between green and blue.  We walked the length of the walkway all the way to the end of the pier where we'd heard there were hundreds of fish and ducks and seagulls just waiting to be fed.

Well, I don't know about hundreds, but there certainly were many.  Teek wasted no time getting up close and personal.

In fact, he wasn't shy at all.

I was a little anxious and grossed out, however, because most of the time, the water looked like this:

While Teek was busy feeding the fish that were close enough to touch, the other kids were busy throwing bread out as far as they could.  Sometimes the seagulls would swoop in and snatch the bread out of the air before it even had a chance to touch the water.

Other times, the ducks got a chance to fight for it.

Until the seagulls would come and dominate again.

We went through all six loaves of bread without even trying.  Of course, much of the time whole slices would end up slipping from little hands...

(Ever feel like you're just missing something?)

By the second minute, I was glad we'd stayed.  The weather was nice, the kids had fun, and Brian and I managed to keep everyone dry.  One of the best moments of the afternoon was asking Teek after it was all over, "TK?  What does a fish say?" and watching him open his eyes as wide as they would go before dropping his jaw, circling his lips, and silently opening and closing his mouth.  What a cute kid.
Thanks for a fun time, Lake Mead!  See you soon.  I have a feeling we're going to love you this summer when there's not much to do outside but to be in water.