Monday, December 22, 2014

The random beauty of Christmas memories

On Sunday we drove into Denver after church to spend the day with my mom and Keith. We had brunch, made and decorated sugar cookies, celebrated their December birthdays, and visited the Denver Botanic Gardens for the stunning and magical light display. It was a really terrific day and I am thrilled to live about 50 minutes from my mom to share more of the day to day parts of life together.
Making nana's famous sugar cookies

learning the technique of rolling the dough

zombie face to match his zombie cookie

time to frost the cookies

Audrey and I share our masterpieces

Celebrating Nana and Babu's December birthdays
walking through Denver Botanic Gardens

Special memories made with mom/nana

I just love this one-everyone doing their thing.

We left the Gardens at about 7 for the drive back to Evergreen. It was 45 degrees when we left the city and started the gorgeous drive up the mountain to our little town. By the time we hit Evergreen it was 31 degrees and snowing and we were, once again, so thrilled with our decision to live in this little mountain town we are growing to love so much.

Here's the thing about a 45 minute drive with our children. The three oldest kids can handle hours upon hours in the car with nary a peep. On the other hand, if Asher is in the car for over five minutes, or sometimes five seconds, he wants entertainment. And by entertainment he means music. And by music he means his mama singing. If I am singing, he is quiet. If it stop, even just to take a prolonged breath or grab a sip of water to wet my whistle, I hear the persistent chirp of, "mama, mama, mama" until I resume singing. The radio, CD, book on tape doesn't cut it. He wants human voice.

So, I sing. And I often have a lovely little chorus joining me. They know that singing is better than the noisy alternative.

We drove home from Denver last night and Asher requested music. We took turns choosing Christmas songs and belted them out, sometimes in tune, sometimes operatic, sometimes giggly, always fun. Well, except for when we started to sing "Let It Go," which is akin to Elliot's cryptonite. He picked a different song and all was well.

We realized we know very few words to Frosty the Snowman, but we really excel at thumpety thump thump-ing. We bring it for that part. We all enjoy a nice falsetto voice while Jim brings the bass. We love a big finish, including jazz hands. We were reminded that laughter is lovely accompaniment to any song.

Asher conducted us from his carseat, twirling his arms and bobbing his head. Happy. Quiet. Joyful. Loved and loving.

It is my favorite memory of the season so far. And really, nothing happened. But everything happened. I just love how life does that.

Happy, Gentle, Beautiful, Memory-making Christmas to you. What's your favorite memory so far?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

She is my daughter

Last night we were sitting around the dinner table discussing books in general and chapter books shared before bedtime, in particular. Each of the big kids reads one chapter from a book with a grown up before bedtime. Currently Isaac and I are reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Audrey and I are reading Anne of Windy Poplars, and Elliot and I are reading Trumpet of the Swan. It is one of my favorite parts of each day, even when I have to try really hard to keep my eyes open by the time I get to Isaac's book. Although I don't know if that will be such a problem with Isaac's current book. Jim, Isaac, and I are riveted and we're only a few chapters in. That Harry Potter is so good!

Audrey has a long list of things she'd like to read with me, including, but not limited to, finishing the Anne of Green Gables series, starting The Chronicles of Narnia books, and starting Harry Potter. She looked down at her plate and said, "I don't know how I'll decide. There are so many good books to read." I nodded my head in appreciation of her true words and Jim said, "Welcome to your mama's world." I said, "Oh, Audrey. I know just what you mean. The world is full of so many great books waiting to be read and instead I have to do the dishes. It's just impossible." She smiled and we organized book reading strategies for the family. It was just the best.

Here's how it'll go. She and I will finish up the entire Anne series while Elliot reads Trumpet of the Swan, then Charlotte's Web, with a Ramona book thrown in there if he finishes early. Then Audrey, Elliot, and I will read The Chronicles of Narnia together. Drat. I just remembered we wanted to read The Little House on the Prairie books soon, too. Now you see what Audrey was talking about, don't you? So many books. So little time.
Yep. That's my daughter. The apple didn't fall far from the tree. We're cut from the same cloth. Even though she loves crafts and going to Michael's gives me hives. Even though she loves planning elaborate parties with themes and color schemes and my idea of a party involves, "Hey, could you pass the queso and top off this margarita? Gracias."

She's my daughter. A little piece of me out in the world. We speak with our hands and wear our emotions on our sleeves. We love getting lost in books. We can't help but sing loud and proud to show tunes. We bake and she makes sure I follow the directions. We are the girls in a family of boys and although I know there are days she wishes she weren't so very outnumbered, I relish the special quality our relationship has and will continue to have throughout the years.

She's my daughter. I love her. So very much.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Oh Hey, Friday-Colorado edition

I'm linking up with The Farmer's Wife and September Farm to bring you this week's edition of "Oh Hey, Friday." 

Which is appropriate, since Friday really did sneak up on me. I just looked at the calendar and realized that next week is a two day school week for us and then it's Christmas break. I cannot figure out how that happened, but I'm going to go with it. Happily, in fact.

Today I'm going to tell you five reasons I love living in Colorado. We've been here for a little over one month now. We're in this limbo where nothing really feels like home. I know Minnesota isn't home anymore, but Colorado doesn't quite feel like it either. Sometimes I write about loneliness or missing Minnesota, well, the people in Minnesota, and all of that is true. But what's also true is that I love it here. As weird as it sounds, I have never felt so at home in a place. I've also never felt so out of sorts.

Which, at face value, makes absolutely no sense.

I have never felt so at home in a place. I feel like I was meant to live here. My body and soul have longed for these mountains, these hikes, these runs that take my breath away for both their beauty and their lack of oxygen that everyone assures me I'll get used to. I fit here. It's a town with a community feel to it. There is a booming homeschool community. The style of clothes, the lifestyle, the personality of the town fit me. With time, I see myself settling in and feeling right at home here. It has all of the fixings of home, I just need to give it a little time to find our way and "our tribe."

I've never felt so out of sorts. We haven't found a church or joined sports teams or lessons yet. The homeschool group we're joining starts at the end of January. We live at the top of a mountain with no kids in the immediate vicinity. Running isn't as easy as slipping clothes on and running out the door before Jim goes to work because of the lovely mountain we live on and the cougars and bears that were here first. We don't have friends here. . . yet.

But, we love it. And here are five major reasons:

Oh hey. Colorado Rocks!
1: The hiking

We live mere minutes from many fantastic hiking spots. And I mean LOTS! And hiking is one of my favorite things in the world. We are going to fill a jar with the names of local hikes and pull one out every time we want a hiking adventure. Which will be often!

2: The skiing

We live 50 minutes to an hour and a half from some of the best skiing in the world. Or so I've been told. All of the pictures and videos I've seen are stupendous. Jim and the big three have been skiing five times in our short time here and will hit the slopes many more times over the winter. I will go when I have someone to watch Asher who doesn't mind hearing a very happy and persistent 15-month-old ask for mama and milk 1,306 times in one day when you are not mama and you cannot provide milk. My mom is first up for the job when we go over Christmas break. I am so excited to see how much the kids have learned and to NOT tear my ACL. Yep, it's on my mind. My cousin's words of advice in 2012 were, "If you fall, just fall." Well, I fell exactly once the entire day and I tore my ACL. Not cool. I guess I fall wrong and I am taking pointers on proper falling technique. Call me.

Winter Park

3: The sun/the weather

Minnesota is pretty sunny, as far as winter goes. If you don't believe me, just ask Michigan. Colorado takes it to a whole new level. Your sunglasses must always be on your person. You need sunscreen year round. It is a thing of beauty.

And don't even get me started on the weather. Ok. I'm started. It's 60 one day and you're hiking outside in shorts and a t-shirt and dining outside and then the next day it snows four inches. And then the sun comes back out. We are out of Denver a bit so it's a little cooler here, but the weather is just the cat's meow.

4: The library

Libraries matter to me and our library has it going on. They have a plethora of unique opportunities to foster people of all ages digging into books and to get to know people, two of my favorite things. They have book club for 8-11 year olds, teens, and adults. Lego Club, monthly family movies, periodic puppet shows, story times for kids of all ages many times throughout the week, and an attentive staff. The library is our home away from home and we feel fortunate to have a great spot right down the hill from us.

5: The people

So far we have found the people here to be welcoming, kind, laid-back, and quick to help. How's that for a nice combination? The people that flock to CO come here for the things I've mentioned above. OK. Not the library. I'm kind of weird about that. But, being outdoors is huge for people who live here, so I automatically have something in common with lots of people here, whether they love to run, hike, ski, snowshoe, or whatever. 
This is a gift basket that our neighbor brought over. She and her husband then proceeded to shovel our driveway. It was just the nicest welcome I could have asked for and is indicative of the kindness I've felt here. 

**Colorado also gets bonus points for proximity to my mom and her husband. I haven't lived in the same state as my mom since 1996, so it is a major treat for our family and such a joy to see them interact with my kids much more often.

I'm not home just yet. I mean, I'm here. At home. I just need to give it the time to feel like home. It takes time to build relationships and remember which light switch turns on which light. It takes time to find a church home and have friends who get that do actually have the ability to text, but you don't actually ever know where your phone is. 

So, I'm giving it time. I'm remembering the reasons we moved here. I'm remembering the things we love about being here. That's pretty darn easy to do!

Tell me about your hometown. What do you love about it? What makes it home?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Today I'm here and some highlights

I'm not here today. Instead you can find me blogging over at The Girl in the Red Shoes. Stop on over and say howdy.

If you're new here, welcome, hi, and thanks for reading. Here are a few older posts to read to get acquainted. If you have a blog, please leave a link to it in the comments so I can check it out. Thanks!

Where it all began: dreams

Body image (oh the joy): Fessing up. Insecurity and body image.

Thoughts on the holidays: keeping Christmas joyful

On being where you say you are: This is your life. Be here. Say yes.

The recipe that makes everyone happy: Because I love you. And I want you to be happy. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When the holidays don't feel so happy

Maybe your family can't shake the flu. Your mom has cancer. Your dog died. Your lay-off came at the worst possible time. Your marriage is hanging on by a thread. Your kid is acting out in ways you don't know how to handle.

Life isn't what you expected.

And then the holidays come around and we're supposed to be happy. Except more than happy even, joyous and full of spirit and spreading it like pine needles along the living room floor.
Meet Anthony, our tree, spreading joy and pine needles throughout the land
But it isn't always easy. So what do we do then?

I'm in a funk. We didn't Christmas carol with our friends. The kids weren't part of a holiday piano recital or the church Christmas program. All of my Christmas cards are sent out and the vast majority of them carried lots of love to Minnesota, where most of my favorite people and memories reside.

I'm in a place I love with the people I love, but without the connections I crave and that's hard for me any time of the year, but I'm finding it particularly difficult in December.

So I'm thinking of families who are celebrating for the first time since losing a family member, or maybe even the thirtieth time,but the loss still takes their breath away. I'm thinking of families where money is tight and there will be no Christmas dreams come true, even if those dreams were really tiny. I'm thinking of people around the country and the world who survive day in and day out without having their basic needs met. They are hungry and thirsty and tired and overworked and underpaid and unappreciated.

And I know my sadness is but a drop in the bucket, but it's still my sadness.

What's your sadness?

And how do you handle it all year long, but especially in December when it's Peace and Joy and Love and Glitter everywhere?

Our local library has a kids' book club for 8- to 11-year-olds that meets monthly. (Cool, huh?!) I brought Isaac and Audrey yesterday and as part of the discussion a boy said he liked the book, but not the ending. He likes it "when all of the questions have answers."

I wanted to hug that kid. What a profound statement. I mean really. Can you imagine living in a world where all of the questions have answers?

Questions about family illness, from the baby's ear infection to the aunt's cancer, work, money, relationships, parenting.

What if we knew how it would all turn out?

In many ways we have no idea how it'll turn out. Life is one big mystery. While there are time it's a Choose Your Own Adventure, like I loved reading so much as a kid, there are other times it feels like one of those really messed up Stephen King or Gillian Flynn book where it's one surprise after the other and we're left reeling. We're left gasping for breath at the shock. We're left shaking at the impact of one thing after another.

In other ways we know how it'll turn out. Sadness will one day become joy again. Grief will give a little and we'll laugh easily again. We'll keep putting one foot in front of the other and, with the help of family and friends and faith we'll get through the hardest parts of life, cry some tears, learn some lessons, and appreciate the beauty on the other side of all that pain. The sun will keep shining and people will keep showing up to remind us that we are loved and that life is grand, even when it's really hard.

I really hope you have those people in your life. The ones who show up. And I really hope that you are one of those people in someone's life. The one who shows up with a hug and a smile and says it's going to be alright.

I know not all of my readers are Christian, but I would be remiss if I didn't say that there are some days I just straight up cling to my faith and Christ's promise that I am loved and cared for and chosen. That I never walk alone and that the path before me has beauty and promise, forgiveness and love.

God never says it will be easy. The bible is full of broken, angry, sad people being used by God to create wholeness and joy and love. I want to be that kind of person. I want to be secure in that faith. And some days I am. And other days I'm about 1,432 miles away.

So I just want to say it's okay if you're kind of blah and down and not overflowing with holiday cheer like that hilarious Will Ferrell in Elf.
I also want to say there's a whole lot to be happy and thankful and cheerful about. In spite of all of life's questions and uncertainties.

I want you to know that and I want me to know that.

So throw out the notion of perfect, sublime holidays and just stick with Happy Holidays.
And find your piece of happy in this terrible, beautiful world and hang on for dear life.
my happy Christmas elf dancing to Oh Tannenbaum on this musical Christmas tree-
he's grabbing onto some happy!
What's weighing you down today? What are you celebrating?I hope there is more celebration than sadness for you. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

flashback to 12/13/12

Over the weekend there was plenty of talk about Saturday's fun date: 12/13/14. Jim was gone for work, but the kids and I celebrated by baking some Christmas cookies and taking a hike at one of my new favorite spots.

But I also spent a fair portion of the day thinking back two years to 12/13/12, a day everything changed for our family.

The day my friend smuggled a pregnancy test over to my house because I couldn't think of a way to explain that purchase to my posse, then ages 4, 6, and 8.

The day I had a really strange conversation with my four-year-old.

The day the test was positive.

The day I told my husband.

The day I first knew, really knew, about a baby called Cuatro who would grow to be Asher who we would all love so very much.

I wrote my thoughts out that day. Here's where my head was: 12/13/12

In truth, my head was spinning craziness, but my heart was happy and full and ready.

In two years, I guess not much has changed. I'm still spinning craziness. My heart is still happy and full and ready.

I love you, choochie face!

P.S. I'm taking part in a fantastic giveaway over at The Farmer's Wife today. Think $170 cold, hard cash plus some extra fun stuff. Check it out here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Forgiveness: Seventy times seven

A few nights ago a child misbehaved and while attempting to work through the situation I kind of didn't handle it well. As in I handled it the opposite of how I wanted to handle it. Take one normal childhood misbehavior, and have the mama add in a heaping cup of misplaced anger, a dollop of raised voice, and a sprinkle of rudeness and you have the recipe for a parental fail.

Not my best moment. Not by a long shot.

Does that ever happen to you?

It started out so simple and escalated because I forgot how to behave as the grown up in the situation. I hate when that happens.
uh-oh. that isn't always good news.
I wanted to sulk to my bedroom and hide for a few days, but since I was the only grown up home that wasn't an option. The kid finished setting/banging the table and went upstairs, forgoing dinner, which was not my idea.

The rest of us ate dinner, with lots of quiet and sideways glances. They were probably wondering why everything was so weird and I was stewing and thinking and feeling horrible as a parent. I was thinking about irreparable damage to a relationship and not being the parent I want to be when things get tough and really beating myself up.

Then I thought about Christmas. Not the part of Christmas you can buy in stores. The part of Christmas wrapped in a manger. The part of Christmas that came to earth as a baby to teach us about love and forgiveness. The baby who loves and forgives us knuckleheads on earth and commands us to love and forgive one another. And knowing the full extent of our knuckleheadedness, he commands us to love and forgive one another over and over again. He said we should forgive each other 70 times seven times, which is just another way of saying a boatload of forgiveness. Because we're going to mess up a boatload of times.

As parents and children and spouses and co-workers and friends and neighbors and library patrons and car drivers and siblings and humans, we are going to mess up. And we're going to hope there is forgiveness on the other side of our mistake. We're going to hope there is grace and love on the other side of our mistake.

I certainly felt those things toward my kid who made a mistake and I prayed that the kid would feel the same things for me.

We finished up dinner, the three remaining kids and the utterly repentant mama. We cleaned up the table. I walked up the stairs.

"I am so sorry. I saw that you were getting frustrated and I didn't do the right thing. This is what I should have said: 'Hey, you look like you're getting upset. What's going on?' Or 'What can I do to make this transition easier for you?' But I didn't do that and I'm sorry. During dinner I was thinking about Christmas and the gift of Jesus and how we have such a good teacher on love and forgiveness. Jesus is so good at it and sometimes it's hard for me. But I love you so much and I forgive you for what you did. And I really hope that you love me and will forgive me for what I did."

As I spoke, the kid's chin moved away from the chest and up until finally we were looking face to face. The kid's countenance changed from shame and anger to a wary openness.

"Unless we talk to each other, we can't know what the other person wants and needs. If you'd have told me what was really bothering you or if I had asked what was bothering you, this wouldn't have happened. So, let's both do a better job of talking to each other and asking questions. Do you think we can do that?"


"I love you so much. Do you forgive me?"

"Yes. I forgive you. I love you, too. I'm sorry." 

The night went on. Board books and Christmas books and chapter books were read before bed. Lullabies were sung and prayers were prayed and kisses and hugs were given and received. I forgave my child and moved on, but I kept thinking about my behavior. I am a recovering grudge holder, master level, but I remain an unnecessary stewer over things, particularly parenting things. But even I know that I can't undo what's been done. I can only move forward.

So that's what I'm doing.

I tell myself that it's okay, maybe even good, for my kids to see me make mistakes and then admit them and ask for forgiveness. I hope I'm right.

It's messy. It's relationship. It's real life. It's grace and love after mistakes and anger.

I really wish I didn't require so much dang forgiveness. But I'm glad it's there waiting for me on the other side of my mistakes and I'm glad I have such patient teachers in my lovely children and in Jesus.


Does this happen to anyone else? How do you handle your relationship mistakes?