Friday, February 29, 2008

Pinky Tuscadero Has Nothing On Laura But Her Name

Through the years, I've had various experiences with trying to get myself dressed every day. Early in my life, my Mom had three classifications for my clothing: Church, school and play. Items purchased for one moved down to the next when it was no longer 'good enough' for its intended purchase. These guidelines were strictly enforced with not only my clothes, but my shoes. In other words, new tennies were NOT to be worn to play in. When you got home and headed out to play, you changed from head to toe ensuring your clothing would last longer in its nice state. When I became a Mom, this is how I classified the boys clothing. Hey, it works!

When I was old enough to start making my own decisions about my clothing, I had my own style based on just a few cherished pieces of clothing. Some of my fondest memories are wrapped up in a few specific outfits - the brown corduroy hip hugging pants with the plaid shirt, the denim skirt with the yellow shirt and of course my prized blue checked hip hugging bell bottoms that my Mom so carefully repaired for years so would last another season, paired with white t-shirts of various kinds. Yeah, I was a girl of simple tastes.

When I was pregnant with Laura and discovered through ultrasound that she would be a girl, I began to gleefully plan wardrobes full of pink, pink and more pink with a few dots of other colors just to balance out the palette. Hair ribbons, head bands, and barrettes danced in my dreams along with lacy socks and tights of all colors. I was actually going to get to shop for a girl instead of buy just the basics often offered for boys. I couldn't wait!

The night before I was due to deliver, my Mom took a picture of Laura's closet. Needless to say, it was all pink. Honestly. Two rows of nothing but pink. Well, there was some white and a bit of yellow and light blue in there, but honestly it was hard to see amidst all of the pink. Her room was pink (by default because that's how the previous owners had painted it so it worked!), her accessories so thoughtfully provided by friends were all pink, and her blankets, sheets and such were even pink! Yes, pink ruled the day. And I didn't mind. Apparently, neither did Laura!

Yes, pink is her color. When we look at hair accessories, shoes, tights, clothing, sleep sacks, toys, stuffed animals, babies, sleeping bags, and even food - if it is pink, she wants it. Totally. She is in love with pink from the bottom of her toes to the very tip top of the highest hair on her head. And sometimes, that can be so frustrating!

Let's take our usual morning routine. It goes something like this:
Me: Laura! It's time to get dressed. What do you think you'd like to wear today?
Laura: Pink.
Me: I know pink - but what? A dress? (If possible this is generally a given but pink winter dresses are hard to come by so when it is cold out, we have to compromise or do a light run daily. We compromise...)
I continue: Or how about a pair of jeans and a shirt?
Laura: Just pink, Mom.
Me: I know you want to wear pink. But what? A dress or pants? (I figure if I narrow it down, I can get somewhere)
Laura: Pink.
Me: *sigh* Okay, how about this outfit (holding up a comfy, warm one) or this outfit? (holding up another comfy, warm one)
Laura: No. I want Pink.
Me: Your pink ones are dirty. Do you want to wear this or this? Look, this one has some pink flowers up here on the shirt. How about that one?
Laura, looking over at her closet and plotting: No. I want to wear Pink. How about that one? (pointing to an outfit designated "to wear out" not "play")
Me: This or this.
Laura: Hmmmm... (still looking at her closet) How about the pink jeans? (for the record, they are in the wash)
Me, moving in to her line of vision so she can't see the closet: This or this
Laura, silent for a moment and then: JONATHAN! Can you come here for a minute?

Yes, she's plotted to get around me. She's calling for someone to save her from Mommy's choices. As I get her dressed in my pick for the day while she fusses, I realize I either need to quit leaving the closet door opened or I need to get more pink items for her to choose from.

Pink. Around here, it is more than just a color. It is a category of clothing all to itself. It is a lifestyle. It is... Laura.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fort SnowBound

After shoveling the snow for the second time today, the boys decided to build themselves some snow forts. As you can see from the picture above, the driveway is a wonderful place to have a good snowball fight. No windows are near and the piles from shoveling all of that snow off the driveway will make a great start. So they took advantage of a good thing when they saw it. Soon, several friends showed up to help but had to leave before the fun started. Here are their forts:

Jonathan finishing his 'Lower Bunk'.

Jonathan's Double Fort System complete with slide between them for quick getaways.

Matthew's Fort equipped for trench warfare.

The Trench system in all its glory.

I can only hope that I'll be tucked in to my favorite chair, watching a good movie with Laura and Don while cross stitching when the fun starts. Then again, I think they have plans for Dad... :)

Warehouse Storage At Work

When we implemented a new Lego storage system for the boys mini Lego warehouse, I had high hopes but wasn't sure it would work. Here's proof it does! The boys take out the drawers containing the bricks they want to use, build what they want and then put the drawers back. No little pieces laying all over, no half finished projects as those just go in their own drawer until they are done. And the best part about it all is that I haven't done the 'Lego dance' for weeks. :) Score one for Mom!

Here is Matthew expressing his joy at having his picture taken once again. He'll learn soon enough that those long eyelashes and sweet smile photograph well. Meanwhile, I'll just keep on trying to catch him off guard.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

In keeping with the joys of living where we do, snow is just a part of winter here. I firmly believe that snow should only fall on December 24th and then disappear by December 26th, but alas the weathermen don't find my philosophy workable and continue to put snow in the forecast through April most of the time. This year, at least until the past two weeks, we were actually under our normal snowfall amounts and I was thrilled, hoping that it might mean an early spring. I was even contemplating the idea of baking some cookies for those normally obnoxious weathermen as a thank you. But then they had to go and blow it all.

Our local weathermen/women are a unique bunch. On one channel they are so laid back it is hard to tell that they even care about the weather although their weekend weather woman has a nice personality even if she has a size minus 2 waist. Then we have the channel where the weatherman has been there so long he's more of a fixture at the station than the bricks. And he's one of those laid back, don't get your feathers all in a bunch, kind of guys. To make matters even worse, he has all kinds of weird sayings that make you just want to roll your eyes when you watch him. Then there is what we fondly refer to as the 'jumping weatherman' on another channel. He usually forgoes his suit jacket, rolls up his sleeves and even removes his tie so it doesn't get in the way of his jumping, stooping and dancing in front of the green screen as he dodges weather fronts. Yeah, he's unique. And finally, we have the gleeful weatherman. The one that only really gets excited when the weather is at its worst. He loves to forecast the worst case scenarios, and gets a thrill from all of the headaches such a thing will cause. I am sure he even sleeps at the station when the biggies are coming in just because he likes them so much he doesn't want to miss it. And, he tends to interrupt regular programming when anything out of the ordinary happens. I think he might be a bit hyper. But he's lovable just the same so he's generally our pick to watch. We just take his forecasts down a notch or two and we know we're probably right on the money.

Last week, our excitable weatherman was in his element. We had several days of snow, the most so far this season, and he was gleefully rubbing his hands together as he shared what he thought would be the worst storm of the season. Uh... he was wrong. He should have waited a week. Over the weekend everyone started reporting that some snow was coming but they really didn't know how much. As Monday neared, a winter storm warning was called and we were told to expect 4 - 8 inches overall. By Tuesday morning, we were well on our way to that and today, it is still falling. And falling. And falling some more. Even he missed it by a mile. If HE can't even get it right when he exaggerates it, what is the world coming to???

But our house is not full of a bunch of curmudgeons. No, just two. The two who have to get out and get to work or run errands in it all. The rest of the household LOVES the snow. Gets great joy out of it, even. Laura, who has only been able to watch from afar because she was either medically fragile or unable to play in the snow due to casts and so on, found that she was in just the right place at just the right time to experience her first snow fall. The boys on the other hand find this type of heavy snowfall great for building forts, snowboarding down the slope of the yard, and in general having wonderfully cold fun. So, with a nod to those who tolerate the snow, the kids headed out to explore. Here are some pictures from the past two days.

Laura exploring the snow for the first time - ever!

Her first snow angel!!

Matthew, the Muscle Man clearing the driveway.

Jonathan helping do his part.

The boys, taking a break in the snow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lego Saves The Day, Or At Least An Hour Or Two

There is something wonderful about having a son who willingly finds all sorts of creative things to do with his much younger sister. I imagine most ten year old boys can find many ways to avoid all of the girlie things that come with little sisters and Jonathan is no different. What he's done instead amazes me with its ingenuity. It is pure genius. He's gotten her to believe that little Lego men are just miniature dudes, er dolls. Dudes, er dolls that don't play house but protect it instead. And furthermore, they must practice and practice that protection just in case something ever happens and their small Lego abode must be defended from the evil ones, whoever they are.

Last week I needed to get things done and asked Jonathan to keep Laura busy. We offered her several options, but she could have cared less until I mentioned that perhaps they could go 'take some pictures'. Oh how she jumped on that. My budding photographer Jonathan is teaching his sister how to set up shots, too. Although his shots generally include toys instead of people, he does capture family memories regularly that I fail to see. Last week, he opted to make do with Legos as his subject matter. And in the midst of it all, the Lego dudes got to re-enact several possible attack scenarios. Ah, Legos. What would our house be without them?

Here's some pictures, taken by Jonathan, of the fun they had that day. Creative, isn't he? Oh, and the last one is my favorite. She stayed out of his way just as long as she could manage. Jonathan took it all in stride. And finally let her have the camera. I'd share those pictures but alas all of them are unidentifiable. I think I'm glad about that. I'm sure some of them included me and lots of dirty laundry!

Doing battle:

Laura preparing to bomb the entire thing in order to stop the invaders. She has yet to learn diplomacy...

Oh how she wants to rearrange them! But with great restraint she's waiting until Jonathan takes another picture.

And finally, she just had to see what Jonathan was seeing, didn't she? :)

Laura's New 'Friend'

The last time I went in to my favorite thrift store, I scored what I have come to realize was one of my best deals. Yes, it was cheap and that sure is a nice bonus. But what was really wonderful was how much Laura enjoys her new 'friend'. Yes, Strawberry Shortcake has come to live with us. This version is just a few inches shorter than Laura and she loves to cuddle with her.

Here she is the first afternoon Strawberry arrived. And the bond of friendship necessitating constant companionship has only grown. But that's not so bad. Strawberry is a very amiable friend. She's never demanding, can accept being tossed aside for another, albeit smaller version of herself, and she is always waiting right where you put her for you to return and play once again. Yes, Strawberry is a great 'friend'. At least Laura thinks so! :)

Four Legged Entertainment

Recently, we were privileged to welcome Murph in to our home for the day. Mom and Dad were heading out for some rest and relaxation together and didn't want to leave Murph home alone too long. The boys were thrilled to have him all to themselves for the day and I was thrilled that we could do something for Mom and Dad. After all, they give Don and I some rest and relaxation one night a month so it was the least we could do!

Anyway, Murph was well rested when he arrived and the boys took advantage of it. As you can see from the following, Murph and Matthew had a wonderful time playing tug of war. So wonderful, in fact, that Murph was tuckered out after awhile and preferred to just sit and chew a bit on his own. Poor thing. He'll have to go home and rest up for a few days. He's not used to dealing with the testosterone of a growing teenager any longer!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Choo Choo Trains?

Laura, more than any of the others in the household, has the ability to "see" something fun in almost everything. She can make toys out of nothing and uses unique items for everyday things if she can't find the 'real' one. For instance, she uses anything long and thin for a baby bottle, turns anything - literally - in to a baby as long as she can wrap it up in something that might vaguely resemble a blanket, and she thinks anything or anyone is a 'friend' even if it isn't alive or she's never met them. Yes, she's creative and she likes it that way. Secretly, I do, too!

The other day I got out the beads and the shoelaces, hoping to work on her fine motor skills as well as her attention span. Sometimes it can be compared to that of a gnats. Anyway, as soon as we'd gotten about half way done with our beads, she jumped off the couch and started yelling "Choo Choo! Choo Choo!" while dragging them behind her. Cracked me up. By the time five minutes had passed, she'd created a whole story about who was on the trains, where they were going, and how long they could stay there before they had to turn around and head back home.

Where does she get that???

Valentine's Day Delights

I had planned to make Valentine's Day special. Not just for the most wonderful Hubby in the world but for the kids, too. I wanted to make a nice dinner, eat by candlelight in a clean house, and make a Valentine's cake I knew they'd all love for dessert. I didn't share my plans with anyone so I shouldn't have been surprised when Don had some of his own.

Yesterday, each of us came down to find a wonderful box of chocolates on our desks. Mine had a love note and card attached to it from Don, and the kids each had their own box with a love note on it signed "Love Mom and Dad". As I looked at the joy on the boys faces I thought it was important for them to know that it wasn't Mom and Dad that had done that, but Dad. All on his own. Without any help from me. Without even a hint of a push, even. It was all him. When I shared that, I could tell it meant even more to them. Dad, not the normal gift buyer/take care of things person had gone out of his way to buy them something special and then hide it until the appropriate time came. I smiled with the joy of knowing I'd done just one more little thing to draw the 'men' in the family closer together.

Then, when all was quiet and relatively clean, I headed out to get the last minute things I needed to make the dinner special. I so wanted to find a meaningful gift for Don but alas that's difficult at best when you are on a budget. I've done things like coupons and such in the past, and we've got enough romance helpers to keep us enjoying that realm for years. So what to do?

I headed to Kohl's. Turns out they were having a wonderful clearance sale on robes. What better way to let him know that he is wrapped in my love than to give him a new, soft, cozy robe! Yes!!! Success! And on sale, sale, sale!!! Then it was off to Marc's for cards and something special for the kids. They needed no more chocolate so I thought I'd get them some nuts. They all love nuts and we can't seem to keep them in stock here because as soon as they are discovered, they are gone. Everyone got their own can/jar/whatever of their favorites. And since we're all a little nutty, it seemed to fit. :)

Later during dinner as we all sat together enjoying our steaks, I asked everyone to share something they appreciated about all of the others sitting at the table. And then I went first to kind of help them understand what I meant. I started with Jonathan. He's my bashful one and he tried to brush off my praise of his willingness to help and his ability to read others quietly and realize when they just need a hug. But I persisted. I think it was a good thing. He got quiet so I know he knew I meant it. I praised Matthew for his growing maturity and my pleasure with the young man he was becoming. And I thanked Laura for bringing such joy in to my life. I told Don how much I appreciated his loyalty and his love. And I thanked him for getting up every morning before the sun and heading off to work so I can stay home with the kids and take care of the family.

Then it was Jonathan's turn, followed by Matthew and then finally Don. I think the thing that was so evident was just how much the boys appreciate what Don does for them, how they really do get that we may not have a ton of material things but we have a great family that supports each other, and that he really does love them very much. Matthew also mentioned how much he loves it when Don shows him how to fix things and works with him on projects in the garage. I watched Don's face at that one. I know he was surprised at all that they said and I hope it helps him have more confidence at being a Dad even though he didn't start out with them from the beginning.

And through it all, I learned that they really do appreciate having clean laundry and relatively good meals. :) It is nice to know that they see the value of having a Mom who stays home with them and enjoys teaching them over the latest gadgets and 'stuff' that, in the long run, has little to no meaning later in life. Yes, it was a good day. A day to reflect on what is important about those we love and a time to tell them so. I'm so glad the Lord gave me Don. Through him, I have a new identity in life. That of a stay at home Mom. I can't think of a better place to be.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Stupid Cold

Michelle has taught us many things on her annual visits here. I've learned much from watching her be a good Mom to her children, and she's shared a few family recipes that live on long after she's gone. She's also taught me about a thing or two about making life fun even when it isn't and she's taught me much about walking with the Lord and living in peace while stress rages around you. She has also taught or reinforced some things with the boys that live on long after she and her wonderful family leave us for a time. Things like respecting your elders, the value of daily prayer time shown by someone other than their mother and so on certainly have an impact in their lives. But perhaps the most enduring thing she leaves behind is just how 'stupid cold' it can get here. And I think she has absolutely no idea just how 'stupid cold' it can get!

As I type this we've already endured 24 hours of wind gusts over 50 MPH, a steady wind chill of up to 20 degrees below zero, and several inches of snow blowing all over the place. Over 500 schools, child care centers and other facilites have closed for the day because of the dangerously cold temps due to the high winds. I actually laughed when the snow plows came through our development yesterday. After all, whatever was left on the road for them to plow off would be almost instantly blown back on as soon as they passed. Or perhaps blown across the road and up against something else for awhile before being whipped aloft for a flight to another road for another snow plow to start the whole thing all over again.

Given the way our house sits, the wind periodically sounds like a freight train coming through and keeps the kids awake long after they should be sleeping. And we won't even mention how the cold just seems to seep in to every crack and crevice of the house. Especially one heated by a heat pump. Like there is some 'warmth' left in the air outside for it to extract and return to our house. Yeah, I'm buying that. NOT. It's pretty sad when going to the basement to do the laundry means you might actually feel a bit warmer because there is no sound of whipping wind to make you feel like you are living in an arctic wonderland. Needless to say, I finished processing Mount Dirty Duds yesterday and even scoured the house for more things to wash just for an excuse to escape the whirling winds on the first floor. Wow. Who knew?

Today we're expecting the highs here to actually get in to the teens. But for now, the temp is a whole 3 degrees, the wind chill is -19, and we're all in for the duration. And by tomorrow, we might add up to 8 inches of snow to the whole mess. But life goes on. Schooling at home means we can do what we want to do regarding school, wrapped up on our cozy blankets, playing math games and reading some good books. And periodically, we look out the window at our barren landscape of a neighborhood and say "Stupid cold! It's just stupid cold!". And we remember just how much we'd like to see Michelle and the kids again because we enjoy their company. And perhaps because we want to share with them just what 'stupid cold' really is. Yes, THIS is what stupid cold really is. What we wouldn't give to be able to share it with them. :)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Mommy, What Do You Dream About?

In what I thought was just one of those 'passing' conversations with Laura yesterday, she was rambling on about something that she either watched or listened to as we read it to her. I was unsure as I wasn't paying much attention given I was doing something else at the time. But then she said "...that's what he dreamed about, Mommy. What do you dream about, Mommy? What?" Needless to say, I stopped and was very still for a moment. Immediately, I began to wonder just what it was I dreamed about. I didn't want to tell her about all of the thoughts I have, laying in bed during the night, planning to get things done tomorrow that didn't get done today. Or that I wake up wondering how long the house will say quiet before everyone wakes up and another day starts. No, that's not what she wanted to hear so instead, I asked her "What do you dream about, Laura?"

Her answer both surprised me and made me smile all at the same time. Given the number of times I am called down the hall by her in the middle of the night because she 'had a bad dream' or 'saw a monster', I figured it would be something ucky. But that isn't at all what she was going to say. Instead, she cocked her head, put her hand on my shoulder and said "I dream about Nana and Honey and Mommy and Daddy. They all love me so that's what I dream about." I smiled to hide the tears and just hugged her, reassuring her that indeed all of those people loved her very much. It was enough for her and she bounced off to find something else to occupy her mind. Changing subjects wasn't so easy for me.

I sat there for awhile, not moving, wondering first of all how someone so small comes to be so smart and so full of unconditional love herself. And then I began to wonder just what it is that I do dream about. I honestly don't remember very many of my dreams and know that those that happen in my half awake state have much more to do with trying to solve my everyday problems and declutter my life than having any deep meaning. But I know that I have dreams. Big dreams. Even at my age. :)

I dream of raising healthy, happy children who lead successful lives while dropping their perfect grandchildren off for an afternoon of crafting with grandma. I dream of decluttering my home and getting rid of things that have no meaning to us so we can enjoy life more without having to 'clean up' first. I dream of cooking more meals from scratch and ridding our house of HFCS as much as possible in order to make us healthier, happier people. I dream of spring, of walking again around the block, of gardening and trying once again to beat the rabbits to our growing vegetables. I dream of the day that Laura's feet are straight and stay that way. I dream of writing and being published. Of having a novel crack the top ten best sellers some week or writing a children's book that brings smiles to hundreds of small faces. I dream of being thin again. I dream of a new kitchen floor. I dream of redecorating our kitchen to better meet the needs of our family while putting in cabinets that aren't made of particle board. I dream of making a difference in my children's lives for the better. I dream of being the best wife I can be. I dream of being a wonderfully vibrant person.

Yes, I dream big. And some of those dreams have come true or are in process, and some have yet to be realized. But the important thing is that I dream. And then take one step at a time towards realizing those dreams. For now, raising my children to be the best they can be takes up much of my time and effort so the rest will just come along as we can fit it in. But someday, those dreams will all come to fruition in some way, or be changed to have more meaning in my life at that time. And I pray that someday, my daughter will dream big dreams, too. And that I'll be there to help her see them come true. She has plenty of time to dream. And plenty of wonderful dreams to develop. But for now, dreaming of Nana and Honey and Mommy and Daddy is enough. At least for the two of us. :)

Age Is Only A Number, Right?

I have discovered that aging isn't all it is cracked up to be. Really. And if I had my druthers, I'd prefer to gain the wisdom of experience another way. But it seems that's not exactly an option. We're stuck with birthdays, such as they are. So despite the fact that in my mind I'm still a young, vibrant 25, I know that my body and my experiences tell me I'm much, much older. And getting older, in general, isn't very pleasant.

So, in my ongoing efforts to play the "Glad" game and find something wonderful in everything, I've decided to put my experiences to work. I'm going to overlook the new sags, aches and pains, and the impact all of that has on how I feel about my body, that seem to come weekly in my ever-aging self. I'm going to look past the pages on the calendar that tell me, without flinching or even caring, that I'm a year older. I'm going to forget that I've been through a few personal wars and back that seem to have added even more years to my life, and I'm going to conveniently disassociate myself from the realities of heading towards the half-century mark that means I'm really no longer 'young' but only perhaps 'young at heart'. Instead, I'm going to concentrate on figuring out the good in aging. After all, there has to be some, right?

So let's see... what might those be? I smile as I realize that one of the most wonderful things about aging is that you really realize just how much the small things that annoy us really don't matter in the great scheme of things. You are able to pick and choose your battles with much more clarity as we realize that we no longer need to prove anything to anyone but ourselves. You can let the little things just roll right off your back and know that it really won't matter next week, tomorrow or even by nightfall today. This, in and of itself, is a wonderfully freeing thing. If only we could learn this much earlier in our lives. Perhaps our children would come out differently. And perhaps our lives might have been a bit less bumpy along the way.

I have also come to realize that the wisdom that comes with having lived more life than your younger contemporaries means that you just know more about people, life and how things work in general. It means you can pick and choose your friends much more easily because you know more about people and how their personalities, both shown and hidden, may impact your life enabling you to pick those people who will add a joyful dimension rather than hinder it. And that those friends who do have meaning in your life are some of the most precious parts of your life. It means you can say "No" more often, knowing that your life will be more peaceful without having to live up to the expectation of others. It means that you can smile when other folks try to tell you how to live your life knowing that they really have no idea what your dreams and goals are, and that's okay. You can just walk away without the guilt of wondering if you're doing something right or wrong according to them following you home. It means that you can put your time and effort in to things that really count for you and your family, and not feel guilty about it because you realize that raising a stable, loving family who knows that the Lord is the core of their being and that you love them no matter what, makes a bigger contribution to the 'greater good' than anything else you can do. And you realize that all of these things mean more than recapturing your youth ever could.

Yes, aging definitely has some value. And today, as I move forward in the numbers game one more year, I'm going to work hard to remember that all of the good things that have come with aging means so much more to me as a person than being 25, even if it is only in my mind. :)

Happy Birthday to the older, much wiser Me!!!

Mount Dirty Duds

Once again it seems I spent seven blissful days without peering in to the interior of my washing machine. Seven days without even peeking to see if something was left there, alone, to wonder where it's mate was. Seven days without even opening the dryer to discover the last load of towels from last week were sitting there, all alone. Cold and unloved. Seven days of clean smelling clothing found just where it they were supposed to be without wondering what might be waiting for me downstairs in the laundry room. And now, it seems I have seven days, or more, to wonder what in the world I was thinking!

It all started innocently enough. Really it did. After a successful night of shopping at my favorite thrift store along with a windfall of jeans Mom located for a buck somewhere in her travels for Jonathan, I knew the boys had enough jeans for a few days so a daily trip to the washing machine was not necessary. And certainly Laura's closet was full enough now that we no longer have to worry about having pants that will stretch over casts, so why would I need to throw a run of her clothing in? Surely my hubby has enough white shirts to go a week or more without washing, and we all have enough of those unmentionables to last a week or so, so why would laundry need to cross my mind??? Uhhhh... Needless to say, it didn't. Not even a flicker. Not a thread of thought. Not a sudsy blip on the ol' mental radar dared cross my laundry-free mind. And then reality hit.

Yesterday, after realizing that perhaps a bit too much time had passed since I'd had an intimate look inside my washer, I casually mentioned to Jonathan that I needed the laundry gathered and taken to the basement. He complied with my request without an ounce of protest. That should have been a clue. A clue that perhaps he'd been waiting with baited breath for a clean pair of jeans to hit his laundry pile. That perhaps he was tired of wearing sweats everywhere and actually was changing out of his dirty clothing more than once every two days creating an actual need for clean laundry that was so new none of us had yet realized it. Could it be that he was growing up and I failed to notice? Could it be that I had been lulled in to a quiet sense of security because for weeks I'd kept up on the laundry? Could it be that doing the laundry regularly for awhile, including folding and putting it away, had been so much easier that I'd failed to notice the change in everyone's attitude? I would certainly contemplate all of these issues an more as I rounded the corner in the basement and saw Mount Dirty Duds.

Yes. It's true. My week off was not such a good idea. I stopped dead in my tracks and peered at the mounds of laundry in front of me, my jaw hanging to my knees, wondering where it had all come from. As I walked ever more closely to the pile, a feeling of dread began to grow. How in the world was I going to conquer Mount Dirty Duds? Couldn't I just throw some of it away and pretend like the washer ate it? In my state of disbelief, I think I might have sobbed for a few minutes. And if I really think about it, I think I even saw the pile shudder in sympathy, reaching it's dirty arms out to embrace me as I slumped down on the stool wondering how long it would take me to finish. After all, before I got my act together and started doing the laundry on a regular basis, Mount Dirty Duds was a regular part of our life. And it was well acquainted with the flinging of clothing in to large, tippy piles and bins where those items unlucky enough to land in the bottom of the pile might not see the light of day for weeks. It was going to be a big job, but somehow I had to accomplish it.

Quietly, I opened the washer and peered in to its large capacity cavity. I imagined it giddy with excitement as it prepared to be the workhorse that it must be to keep us all in clean clothing, happy to once again be of service. I talked quietly to it, encouraging it to do the job quickly, making it a partner in my ambition to once again conquer Mount Dirty Duds. I think it might have winked. Oh wait, that was just the lid slamming down on my finger. None the less, we began again. Renewed partners in one of the biggest jobs in our household. I poured in the soap and started up the washer. She jiggled a moment as the cold water began to flow and then settled down, open-mouthed, ready to receive her next load. After filling her, I reached over to her partner in crime and started up the dryer to fluff the towels, removing a weeks worth of wrinkles and heating them up once again. Hot air filled the dryer once again as he came to life, willing to enter our alliance as was his duty. Yes, they are life partners. She and He. Standing together to support and assist us as needed. I'm sure the Kenmore family is very proud.

Slowly our joint efforts have had an impact. This morning Mount Dirty Duds is more like a small hill. The washer, dryer and I have formed an alliance of sorts. We have agreed that as long as I throw the dirty laundry in, they will give back clean, sweet smelling clothes to give and live for another day of hugging our bodies in an effort to keep us warm and socially acceptable. They will do their duty, as promised by Kenmore, and produce as much as I ask. And I, in turn, realize that I am the captain of my own expedition. And I'd rather walk up a hill than climb a mountain. I guess letting my 'partners in clean' go a week without me won't happen again any time soon. I've learned that partnerships only work if both sides are contributing. And I'm willing to do my part once again.

No, I'll no longer go a week without getting intimately close to my washer. And I think, deep down Matthew and Jonathan will quietly thank me. Some day. :)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Celebrating Birthdays from Four to Eighty-Two

Yesterday we gathered together for another "Classic Family Sunday". Aside from the fact that we hadn't gotten together since Christmas due to our St. Louis fly bys, it was time to celebrate a few birthdays. Jan turned 82 at the end of last year, Laura was celebrating her 4th and I, well... I'll turn another year older, wiser and a bit more laid back this Friday. So we celebrated 'the girls' birthdays all together. We also took the time to catch up on life as we know it, see how much Libby has grown, and spend more time together just being a family.

Here are a few pictures from our day together:

Diane, Laura and Jonathan just before opening presents.

Don talking with his Mom.

Mom, Mikayla, Jarryd and Murph were talking in the background as well.

Laura loved her new baby and long sought after Kitty, now named 'Baby Sammie Kitty' lest we forget she is a cat.

And Libby. My how she's grown! She and Laura had a blast playing with paper. Wrapping paper, tissue paper and paper towels all kept Libby busy for quite awhile. And Laura had a good time, too.

My Baby Turns Four

Laura turned four this weekend. Four. My baby is four. Four years old. Wow. Where does the time go?

I find it hard to believe that she's four and really not a 'baby' any longer. Hasn't been for a long time but still... she's so young. And then again, she's not. It seems like just yesterday when she came in to this world a little thing that 'mewed' more than cried. A medically fragile infant that wasn't supposed to make it past the first week, let alone four years. An infant that was supposed to need intensive interventions for the rest of her life born to parents that needed to face reality.

This year, as I think about my daughter, none of those things were really important any more. She's survived. We celebrated that when she turned two. She's now thriving. A true four year old going on 14 with Daddy wrapped around her little finger and Mommy trying hard to hold the line while training Daddy, too.

So what did I think about this year when evaluating my precious little gift? I thought about joy and laughter. I thought about love and comfort. I thought about the end of the growth of our family being the one who would test us the most and yet balance that with a quiet, patient personality wrapped up in a package so cute you just want to hug it. I thought about what her life has meant to all of us and how it has changed the boys for the better. I thought about how she's taught us all to perservere and continue to matter what the cost because you know it is the right thing to do. I thought about how much she is like her Daddy and yet, she's so much like me sometimes it scares me. And I thought about her smile and how it warms my heart.

My baby. She's four. She's been such a blessing. And she's going to be just fine. Here are a few pictures from her life so far. Going down memory lane just reminded me of how far she's really come.

Her g-tube was such a part of her for two years. Now it is hard to remember it at all.

One of her many sets of casts kept her feet at odd angles as we worked to recorrect her clubfeet.

More of her casts are shown here as she wishes she were outside instead of in.

The first time she dressed herself - almost without help. :)

Check out the socks... it was her ingenious way of carrying her things from room to room.

She LOVES to read.

Her first "big girl" braids.

The first time Jonathan dressed her while letting her pick out what she wanted to wear.

Our Princess... she is wearing casts under that gown. But she had a blast anyway. :)

And finally, her birthday. Can you tell what kind of cake she had for her birthday???

Look closer... Yes, it was indeed chocolate!