Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How you spell cute: C-A-M and H-A-R-E

My two kindergarteners are very interested in spelling, as I've mentioned before. They have their cache of words they spell instead of say: Y-E-S, N-O (or N to the O), S-T-O-P, G-O, and a few others including their older brother's and sister's names.

One day Cameron and Harrison were looking at a cool picture of a dirt bike on the computer. Cameron looked over at me and said, quietly to his twin, "M-O-M is not very good at dirt bikes."

Apparently they have started spelling in front of me.

They're outsmarting me by the day! It will be a hard thing to give up, talking in code around them.

I guess my only ace in the hole is my fluency in Pig Latin. Oh-nay id-kay an-kay ak-cray at-thay, ite-ray?

ah-hay ah-hay

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Break

Mary's most-wanted Christmas present was to have her room redecorated. She picked out new bedding and today we're painting. The color is Sonic Lime, which looks bright enough to glow in the dark. And citrus-y enough to eat.

Just kidding.

Ugh, I am not the fan of painting I thought I was. None of us are professionals, let's put it that way. But her room was so atrocious to begin with (Bryce and Mare must have spackled 500 holes) that I hope a little dripping and uneven paint slapped on the walls will still be an improvement.

I am taking a break. The little boys are playing Lego Batman on the (new!) xBox 360 and Tyce is with friends. Bryce is taking his painting shift now. Mary is surprisingly averse to having paint-crusted hands and has taken two showers already. I think she's more of a big-picture kind of person--design over duty, if you know what I mean.

Okay, I'm going back up to help. This time I'm shielding my eyes from the blinding green sheen by wearing my sunglasses.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

Yesterday I took just Mary to do her Christmas shopping. Every year we draw names for the kids to give to each other, so she only had one; however, she wanted to buy for all three kids. But when we were on our way to Target she changed her mind about her older brother. She said, "He doesn't even like me. He's pulling away from the family. Even when he's nice to me he's aggressive. So I don't want to get him a present."

"Well, Mary," I said, "It's hard to be a 14-year-old boy. He needs to feel love from the family so he'll want to be close to us. If you treat him well then he'll rise to your expectation." These are the things I say to myself on a daily basis.

"Yeah, I don't know," she replied. "I've tried it and it doesn't work."

"You know, if you lined up 100 boys his age, most of them would be a lot like your brother. So you probably have less trouble with Tyce than you do with him being a teenage boy. You need to accept him for who he is and how he is right now, just like we do with you," I said.

"You're a parent though. You're obligated to be responsible about that," she grumped.

I laughed. Then I said, "Jesus loved the unlovable. He loves us, even when we don't deserve it. He would want us to love everyone, particularly our family members, especially when we feel they don't deserve it." I looked over to see how she was taking my sermon. "But the choice is yours. You don't have to get him anything."

She looked relieved to be off the hook.

We went to Target and the dollar store. I stayed with her most of the time but she enjoyed the freedom of strolling the aisles alone. On the way home she said, "Why did we draw names anyway if I didn't have to get anything for Tyce?"

"You did if that was the name you drew. Wait, did you draw his name?" I asked, eyebrow raised. She confirmed that she had. "Then you really should have gotten something for him," I sighed. Dang. I tried to think of a way to turn this around. Did I have anything already at home she could sign her name to? Was there any candy in the treat closet?

But before I could come up with a plan, she declared, "It's okay. I did get him something."

"You did?" I was surprised.

"Well, he is my brother," she said, "even if he is hard to deal with."

"Yes, he is," I said. "Thank you."

Later that day I cried. Tears for how hard things can be. Tears of gratitude for understanding hearts. Tears of love for my Savior--who came to the earth, descended below all things, lived a perfect life, and died so that we can be forgiven of our sins and live forever.

Love. I felt love.

Love for others. Love for my family. Love for the Son of God. And love for myself--because I know I am loved, even when I don't deserve it.

I hope I never forget. I hope that you never forget. You are loved--loved for who you are, and in spite of who you are.

I saw that love manifest in a 10-year-old sister for her punch-you-in-the-arm, tell-you-to-go-away teenage brother.

And that is the true miracle of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas is Close

This week the kids are off school. It's been pretty good so far, though yesterday the twins had two friends over, and Mary and Tyce each had one. And they all stayed for dinner! One of the little friends said that if she ate the soup I made she would throw up. Good thing I make a killer grilled cheese sandwich.

Every morning I've been having a Christmas devotional with the kids. I read a scripture and then a story from a book called "Sharing Christmas: Stories for the Season". Yesterday I flipped through and settled on "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Anderson. I forgot how sad that story was! The older kids both said, "That was horrible! First no one loves her and then she dies!"

So I decided to read another one, called "Bryan's Gift" by Alma J. Yates. I scanned it and saw it was about two boys; it was probably good for our group.

I read about best friends with dreams of playing in the NFL. It was nice. And then: "Ever since Bryan had told me about the cancer in his left leg, I had prayed for him."

The kids cried, "Mom! Stop reading! Wait . . . well, I guess you can finish."

It was about a healthy boy, Randy, who knows he's getting an expensive football for Christmas. He has a great idea about what to give Bryan in the hospital--Randy's own unwrapped football. Randy reasoned that it would cheer him up and give him something to look forward to.

By the end I was sobbing and reading at the same time. Bryan, the boy with the amputated leg, gives the football back to his best friend. I'm surprised the kids could understand me choking through the last part, but I'm pretty sure they were crying too:

"But if I take your ball, that will mean I didn't give you anything good."

"Oh, but you did, Randy. You gave me the best gift of all, just by coming." Bryan smiled. "I waited all day. I didn't even sleep. I just lay here and looked out the window. I knew you'd come because you're my friend, the best friend in the world, and having a friend like you is the very best Christmas present of all."

Oh my goodness. There was enough sniffing and tear-wiping to keep the Kleenex company in business for a year. I had to read "The Texas Night Before Christmas" to balance the mood or we'd be bawling all morning.

Later that day Mary and her friend Taylor wanted to make cupcakes from a mix. I suggested they put their egg shells in the box, since it would all end up in the trash anyway. I played LIFE with Harrison while they mixed. Then I heard,"Ohhhhh....did you say to put the egg shells in the box?" They had cracked the eggs into the box! It was an easy fix (though not very sanitary) to dump the eggs into the mixing bowl. But people ate the finished product and we're all still alive.

I am almost ready for Christmas. But I think our outside lights might be on the fritz because of all this rain. That would be a little lame, to go dark a few days before Christmas. I think we might have gone a little overboard with the gifts, even though each kid only gets three (and one from Santa). They are pretty great presents, I must say. I will tell you what they got after Christmas, in case any prying eyes read this (which is highly unlikely, haha).

We watched Mr. Krueger's Christmas for FHE. We also watched it in Young Women for our Christmas lesson last Sunday. Next Sunday the ward choir is singing and I am excited to be in a quartet for one number. 

For Christmas Eve dinner this year we are having roast pork loin, roasted potatoes, spinach salad, and Dutch apple pie. I just bought the pies. I will probably make it through my entire life never making a pie from scratch. You may remember that we eat by candlelight and then have a special program, which Bryce is in charge of and is always the highlight of the entire Christmas season. I am really looking forward to that.

So that's what's going on with us. Busy, and with mostly good things. Hohoho.

Friday, December 10, 2010

When You Haven't Seen Someone Since 8th Grade.... get to take stroll down Memory Lane.

Bryce and his friend Patrick Huang were both on the middle school basketball team together--looking good in their short shorts and knee socks, no doubt. Bryce told our kids, "If you've ever felt like you don't fit in, imagine being the only Chinese kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma."

Well, Bryce moved away but Patrick stayed around. They reconnected through Facebook. A few weeks ago Patrick was in Las Vegas for a convention. He stayed the night at our house before his convention started, the first time they'd seen each other since middle school!

Before: Ruling the school in 8th grade.

After: Handsome professionals 25 years later

It was fun to hear them talk about middle school--which kids were still around, who married whom, what teachers they liked, and what they remembered about each others' families. Apparently Bryce's older sister, Kim, made a strong impression on Patrick--one day she answered the door wearing only a towel! And that's how Kim became Patrick's first crush.

Our kids really enjoyed Patrick's company and competed for his attention, but he didn't seem to mind. He said they reminded him of his nieces and nephews.

It was great to have him over! He's a really nice guy and I can see why he and Bryce were--and are--friends.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pictures from the Cooks' Visit

We went to Red Rock, had a dinner by campfire (with plenty of marshmallows for dessert), and the next day strolled around Lake Las Vegas. I loved having them visit!

Maya (4), Cambria (6), and Xochi (20 months). It was so bright I told the girls to open their eyes at the last second for this photo.

Bryce and Cameron.

The Cook family: my brother David, his wife Brooklyn, and their three beauties.

Tyce, the gangster cowboy.

Tyce stayed with Cameron while everyone else explored. Cam was not a fan of the changing elevations.


Tyce climbed onto this rock....

....and then jumped off.

There were lots of cool places to climb and neat things to look at.

Maya and Mary were hiking pals. They are both very sure-footed but it did make me nervous.

Because this shot shows the whole picture! Are your knees weak just looking at it?

How nice of nature to stack these rocks--the perfect playground for climbing kids.

Xochi was a little monkey--agile and not afraid of anything!

We sure are lucky to have Brooklyn in our family--she is a great mom and a wonderful aunt to our kids.

Tower of kids.

More climbing.

Bryce and I. Me. Myself.

Mary pretended to be a mountain lion.

Cute girls in a cave!

I took about 20 of these pictures.

Harrison and Cameron! Harrison was independent and a bit of a punk.

We got a campsite so we could have our gourmet cook-out of hotdogs and s'mores.

It was cold but it was fun!

Glowing with the love of family. And fire.

After church we ate our Indian feast. Then we went to Lake Las Vegas.

Cameron and Maya.

The kids loved throwing rocks into the lake.

Mary in the afternoon light.

Harrison loved throwing rocks and whatever else he could find.

It was a beautiful afternoon.

And it turned into a beautiful night! Dave, Brooklyn, Tyce, and Bryce had a stone-skipping contest. They were all good but Tyce out-threw them all.

We love you, Cook family! We need to get together again soon.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Some things have been better than expected; some things have been worse. I'm beginning to think that the best strategy is to plan for chaos, because if things do work neatly and tidily it will be a pleasant surprise.

Bonus for you: You didn't expect pictures, and you got one anyway! See how this all works out?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catch up

What's the blogging hold-up, I'm sure you're all wondering. Well, I want to download pictures. And I have misplaced the camera, so here's another photo-less post in the meantime.

1) The visit from my brother's family was really great. I love them so much. Their girls are so amazingly sweet and lovely that the mere thought of them can bring a tear to my eyes. They played to well with Mary and the twins. It warmed my heart when Maya wanted to hold my hand as we strolled the sidewalks in Lake Las Vegas. I was so glad to get to know them better this trip.

I loved the time spent with Dave and Brooklyn late at night talking. Many conversations were thought-provoking (politics, parenting, and education), and all were worth the limited sleep. It was wonderful to have them here and I wish we lived closer.

If my parents had been able to come we would have had an early Thanksgiving dinner together. But as it was, we had Indian food on Sunday afternoon and was a feast-worthy spread.

2) Thanksgiving day was filled with friends and good food. The missionaries and the Anderson family joined us for dinner. They have a foreign exchange student from China named Kassia, who is in Tyce's Spanish class. Their other two daughters McKenna and Marielle are roughly the ages of our other kids and so it seemed that the kids had a good time. We used our fancy dishes and Mary set the tables (her specialty) and it looked really pretty. Bryce's homemade crescent rolls were especially delicious this year.

The kids have been gathering acorns at school. I'd say that Harrison has about 300 in a bag. After dinner the kids tried using chopsticks to pick up an acorn, and then pass it to another person's chopsticks without dropping it. It was hard to keep that round ball from rolling but Kassia was a pro with those chopsticks!

3) The wards of the Lake Mead stake were reorganized; we lost some dear members and gained quite a few more. Our new bishop is Jim Shapiro, formerly of the Newport ward (our whole development is in one ward now); Bryce is the 1st counselor again; and Aaron Hafen is the 2nd counselor, formerly of the Fairview ward. I don't know how the ward auxiliaries will shake out; we have a lot of new people who are willing and capable to fill in wherever they're needed. I am really thankful for that. I have loved my time in Young Women and I hope I am able to stay--however, I am ready to move on if the bishopric wants a change. Those girls will always be special to me regardless of my calling. And while we did lose four lovely young ladies, we gained 8 new ones! Tonight is our first activity all together and I look forward to getting to know them.

4) Mary still wants me to home school her. I am still on the fence. More of the same. Here headaches are getting under control--I think--but I'm not sure. They're still fairly regular but she hasn't missed as many days in a row as she did before seeing the neurologist. In other news, she recently got an iPod and listens to Taylor Swift almost constantly. When it's not T.S. it's Weird Al, The Lion King, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmarron, Sarah McLaughlin, or Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. But mostly Taylor Swift. She loves to belt out those songs anytime, anywhere.

5) Tyce is working with the special ed kids in choir. He cut his hair again to comply with ROTC and it looks sharp. He and the neighbor boys watched the new Robin Hood movie at our house last night. Since my microwave doesn't have many functional buttons left (now the 2 and all the specialty buttons are defunct) it was quite the experiment to get a bag of popcorn to cook right. And you could smell that some of them got, well, overdone. Haha. I guess the lemonade and chocolate chip cookies helped soften the blow.

6) Cameron spells everything right now. "S-T-O-P spells stop," he'll say. Or, "Can I have some L-S-P-M-D?" which means "lemonade." He constantly says letters and ask what it spells; we ask, "What are you trying to spell?" and he's usually hit the first and last sound of a word. He's very cute and curious when it comes to spelling.

7) Harrison has had fun collecting acorns and then sorting them by size. In school he's proposed to nearly half of the girls in his class. The little red-haired girl is *so* last September. He's very social and loves to play. Both he and Cam are very good in class (most days) and consistently earn a green light (Harrison) or a stamp (Cam) in their daily folders.

8) I have enjoyed volunteering in the kids' classes; the twins on some Wednesdays and Mary's two Fridays a month. It seems like every time I come in, that's the one day a child doesn't bring their folder to school and I feel like the biggest lame-o parent alive. The kids' teachers are all really great and I'm glad to get to know them.

9) Christmas! House is decorated, tree is up, and now I just have to get the rest of my act in order.

And that's all for now.