Saturday, December 3, 2016

A story I tell my little family

Once upon a time there were two grown-up people who loved each other so, so very much.  They were so happy with so much love.

 One day those grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."
So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  He had no hair, and no teeth, and blue eyes, and they named him Z.  And all three people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the Z.  The Z loved the mommy.  AND the Z loved the daddy.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the Z grew and grew.  Soon he had hair, and teeth, and lots of words.  And he still had blue eyes!  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  She had no hair, and no teeth, and brown eyes, and they named her V.  And all four people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The mommy loved the V.  The daddy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the V.  The Z loved the mommy.  The Z loved the daddy.  The Z loved the V.  The V loved the mommy.  The V loved the daddy.  AAAAND the V loved the Z.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the V grew and grew.  Soon she had hair, and teeth, and too many words, and she still had brown eyes.  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  He had no hair, and no teeth, and blue eyes, and they named him L.  And all five people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The mommy loved the V.  The mommy loved the L.  The daddy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the V.  The daddy loved the L.  The Z loved the mommy.  The Z loved the daddy.  The Z loved the V.  The Z loved the L.  The V loved the mommy.  The V loved the daddy.  The V loved the Z.  The V loved the L.  The L loved the V.  The L loved the Z.  The L loved the mommy.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAND the L loved the daddy.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the L grew and grew.  Soon he had hair, and teeth, and very loud words, and he still had blue eyes.  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people called DCFS and said, "If there's a person who needs some love, our family has a lot, and we'd like to share it."

Since every time we share our love, the love just grows and grows, let's see who we can grow more love with next.

Friday, November 25, 2016

NOT Liking Things

I talked a while ago about liking things, and made it quite clear that I fully endorse liking all manner of stuff, and liking it in whatever way feels appealing to you.

Today I want to talk about disliking things.  I can't really say exactly that I endorse disliking, but I also have no strong objections to disliking.  Basically, your feelings belong to you, and you're entitled to have whatever feelings you have.

Let me be 100% clear about this, though: if you do not like something, your dislike belongs to you.  All of your feelings belong to you.  The good feelings, the bad ones, and the in-between feelings are all yours, and yours alone.  The rest of the world exists as it is, and events occur as they do, but your feelings about all of that do not belong to those external things.

If you do not like sushi, your dislike is yours, and it is not sushi's problem.  If you do not like Justin Beiber's music, that's yours, too, and he can go on making formulaic, over-produced songs with total impunity.

Even if your dislike is based on qualities possessed of the things you don't like, while the qualities belong to the things, your dislike does not.  If you think beef tendon is gross because it's super chewy or the beach is awful because it's covered in sand, your preference against beef tendon and the beach are yours.

Even if the things you dislike are objectively harmful, dangerous, or destructive, your feelings about them are yours.  You are perfectly welcome to talk about the objective harmful qualities of a thing, and you are also allowed to talk about your feelings towards a thing.  Both may be valid points in a conversation.  But nothing makes your feelings become an objective quality of the thing you have feelings about.

You own your dislike.

This topic feels particularly pertinent to me today because 1) we just had a super ugly election here in the US, which left just about everyone feeling miserable at least some of the time, and many people feeling long-term miserable and 2) it's Thanksgiving week, which is the first in what often seems like a long line of seasonal obligatory-family-togetherness type holidays.  It's really easy, in the face of tense circumstances, to act like our feelings about Presidential candidates or our in-laws are the same thing as facts about those people.  They just aren't, though.  The only thing our feelings prove is our feelings.

My husband tells me I'm bad at writing the ends of blog posts.  My husband is a pastor, and he likes to give a couple of nice clear application points at the end of every message.  He says my posts so often feel like they're leading up to something, like at the end I'm going to tell people what to do, and then I just don't.

I don't know what to say to that critique.  I'm not going to tell you what to do, in large part because I don't know what you should do.  Clearly I'm not saying, "Don't feel your feelings."  I'm also not saying, "Don't talk about your negative feelings."  Bad feelings are just as valid as good ones.  Feel them, talk about them, even act on them.

I am simply requesting that each of us own our feelings.  Own them, and don't pretend they belong to someone else.  Your feelings: your decisions.  They belong to you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bad Santa

Today during lunch, V told me all about "Bad Santa."  Apparently he comes at Christmas time to wreck havoc on the good children.  A few choice details that V shared about Bad Santa:

"While you're sleeping he smacks you in the head."

"On Christmas, when the kids are supposed to be having fun, he stabs out their eyes."

"He takes all the good kids away, and he leaves the bad kids behind to destroy the world."

"While everyone is asleep, he crashes the reindeer into their houses."

"If you take a nap, he chops off your ears."

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Activities for Advent (the Master List)

I love doing an activity Advent calendar.  Ours isn't super fancy, but it makes me so happy to have one special treat for every day of December leading up to Christmas.  The trouble is coming up with a special treat for every day during the crunch of the holidays.

First things first: I assume that everyone's got some holiday traditions they love.  I assume everyone's got a Christmas party or two to enjoy.  And I assume everyone's got a list of holiday foods they're already going to indulge in eating.  However, I'm guessing that most people don't have 24 special Christmas traditions to fill up all of the days in an activity Advent calendar, and most people also have probably got a few busy weeknights, where fitting in one-more-fun-thing between dinner, homework, and bedtime sounds overwhelming.  With those assumptions and understandings, I have created a list of ideas to fill in those days of December which still need an activity.  The following activities all fit 5 arbitrary guidelines:
  1. They do not involve sugar treats.
  2. They only require 10 extra minutes on the day you do them.
  3. They can be done within a 100 foot radius of most families' homes.
  4. The advance preparation for each activity can be completed in 10 minutes or less.
  5. The cost of each activity is less than $5 (with a preference for free, although many activities assume you have certain items on hand).
Without further ado, Activities for Advent

  1. Count down from 10 and plug in Christmas lights for the first time
  2. Play with homemade peppermint playdough (or store-bought playdough with peppermint extract added)
  3. Have Christmas for animals (some possibilities: strew birdseed on the lawn, smear pine cones with peanut butter and hang them on trees with ribbons, give a new toy to a pet, etc.)
  4. Eat dinner by candle light
  5. Play "Reindeer games" by enjoying any game together (some possibilities: board game, card game, guessing game, word game)
  6. Play a new "Reindeer game" online or on your phone
  7. Use fancy dishes (or Christmas themed paper plates)
  8. Write notes for the stockings of people in your home
  9. Make a Christmas card for a friend, teacher, or neighbor
  10. Make or decorate gift tags for presents
  11. Do a tiny decorating project (some possibilities: set up a nativity set, decorate a doorway, hang a garland, hang a wreath, hang up stockings, etc.)
  12. Kiss under the mistletoe
  13. Have a Christmas lights bath (some possibilities: string lights in the bathroom, put glow-sticks in the tub, use extra bubbles or peppermint soap, dye the water green with food coloring, etc.)
  14. Dress fancy (some possibilities: put on costumes, wear antlers, paint nails, put on makeup, glitter everyone's hair, wear matching outfits, wear Christmas sweaters, wear paper crowns, etc.)
  15. Stay in pajamas all day
  16. Read a Christmas story
  17. Tell Christmas jokes
  18. Ask Christmas trivia questions
  19. Have a sing-along (some possibilities: load karaoke tracks on youtube or spotify, play instruments, sing a capella, etc.)
  20. Make snowman pancakes
  21. Have a snowball fight (some possibilities: actual snow, crumpled tissue paper, cotton balls, etc.)
  22. Have a dance party
  23. Watch Christmas videos (some possibilities: Pentatonix, Sesame Streetfamily video Christmas cards, or Christmas with a Baby.)
  24. Have a tea party (some possibilities: use real china cups, cut regular breakfast/lunch foods into tiny shapes, serve a baked good, etc.)
  25. Sing a Christmas carol for somebody else (some possibilities: go knock on the door of a neighbor you know, skype Grandma, call Uncle Bill, sing in the lobby of your apartment building, etc.)
  26. Make a Christmas themed art or craft project (some possibilities: paper snowflakes, wax resist with white crayon and watercolor paint, glitter pine cones, green construction paper wreaths with stickers, red and white paint, paint with a piece of an evergreen branch, ornament shapes with stickers or glitter and glue, paper chains for the tree, beads on pipe cleaners to make jewelry or ornaments, etc.)
  27. Color a Christmas themed coloring page
  28. Play "name that tune" with Christmas songs
  29. Play catch or keep away with jingle bells or a plastic ornament
  30. Search online for the most outrageous or ridiculous Christmas gift 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

In which V gets a nasty ouch

 V crashed her bike a week ago.

  We were taking advantage of the nice weather to do a family walk in the evening.  It was starting to get dim, but we were aiming to be home before dark.  She hit a bump hard and went over.  Her mouth hit the handlebars, and her helmeted head hit the ground hard.

  She was bleeding profusely from her mouth and lip, and it was pretty clear a couple of her teeth were pretty mangled.  Hubby handed her his handkerchief, which is somewhat nostalgically charming in retrospect, and we hustled her home in the stroller.

  My go-to medical adviser, was out of the country, so I spent ten minutes on the internet to find the phone number for our insurance's nurse hotline.  Then I spent ten minutes on the phone explaining to three separate people what had happened.  The third person advised us that yes, she should go to the emergency room, and no, we did not need any kind of pre-authorization for the insurance to cover that ER visit.  Good to know.

  Four and a half hours later, she was back with two stitches in her lip and a visit to the oral surgeon scheduled for the next morning.

  The oral surgeon gave us the good news that she hadn't damaged anything permanent, but she did need two teeth pulled.  She did not cope well with the needle for numbing her mouth, or with the extraction itself, despite the nitrous oxide.  I don't do well with medical procedures, so I was trying to manage curious three-year-old L and comfort screaming, crying V all while feeling progressively more light-headed.  My poor daughter was freaking out, and all three staff people in the room were looking at me, because of how white I had become.

  V couldn't pronounce half of her words for three days, because her lip was so swollen, so she was embarrassed to talk at all.  She couldn't look at herself in the mirror, either.  Anytime she went to a mirror intentionally, she'd hold her hand over her eyes so she couldn't see her face, and when she walked past and glanced at one accidentally, she'd jump and turn away.

  There were bright sides, though.

  Beyond the obvious fact that her injury was only a couple of stitches and two baby teeth, and not something worse, I was keenly aware of how blessed we are to have access to modern medical care.  We have an ER and an oral surgeon to go to, insurance to help us pay for them, and money to cover what insurance won't.

  She's recovered so nicely, with no additional complications, and is now quite happy with her gap-toothed grin.

  I also loved having the opportunity to see Z demonstrate compassion.  The morning after her accident, while V was still sleeping, Z and I were chatting over breakfast.  He was mulling over some ideas about to help her feel better, and came up with giving her a note from the tooth fairy.  He wondered if he could give her money, too, and I told him that the ER nurse had told V to eat popsicles to help her swelling.  So Z wrote a note and gave V one of his hard-earned dollars.

V caught him sneaking in to put the envelope under her pillow.  When she came downstairs she reported, "Z was trying to look at the note the tooth fairy gave me, but I saw him, so he said 'shoot' and put the note back under my pillow."

 Also, today she got back on her bike.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lovie Dovie all the time

There are very few times I've joined in on the trend of bragging about how much I love my spouse on social media.  There are a couple of reasons for that.

First of all, it seems kind of fake to put on such an ostentatiously public display of affection.  Surely our spouses know we love them.  Surely we show and tell them in many ways in real life.  Also, how many of the spouses lauded in these posts are themselves regular users of the platforms?  An e-mail would accomplish the same communication to your love, without dragging in hundreds of bystanders.  And those bystanders are going to, what?  "Like" your declaration of undying affection?  That's a little weird.

Second, so much of what makes my relationship with my husband beautiful doesn't translate well to public formats.  I recognize that the richness of our history together gives context and meaning to things that sound unremarkable.  I've been entangled with Hubby for longer than I was alive before I met him, so there are layers and layers of stories wrapping everything that happens between the two of us.

It's almost as if every interaction we have is based on an inside joke.  You know how it goes when you're laughing with someone, and you turn to another friend in the circle and say, "You had to have been there."  You could explain what just happened or describe the context of the original event, but it still wouldn't be funny.

I keep wanting to talk about things Hubby does or says that make my heart swell because of the joy they bring me.  I often don't, though, because after I re-read them, I know nobody will understand.  The one time I did publish a story, I cringed about it sounding all wrong.

I love my husband so very much.  He knows me, and he understands me in the deep way that only long history and hard work can bring about.  I'm exceptionally grateful that our life experiences have brought us closer together, rather than driving us apart.  I'm humbled and thankful that the ways we've both changed have made us more compatible, rather than less.

None of that, however, distills very well into a Facebook post, an Instagram photo, or a tweet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In which I brag about V's musical abilities

Now I may be totally biased, but I think V is quite the budding musician. After hearing a song only once, she can often sing multiple verses days or even weeks later. She also loves to improvise songs, and her improvisations not only make sense melodically, but generally include recurring musical themes and rhyming lyrics, and often have a repeating chorus as well.

Today, V was swinging in the yard and singing about how much she loves the members of her family and why each of them is special. I only wrote down one verse of her song, so I can't tell you exactly what she said in each verse, but they were all followed an ABCB rhyme scheme and scanned to the tune she had created. There were at least six verses. The one I wrote down includes the two syllable diminutive of Z's name, so you'll have to fill that in for yourself:
Z-e causes climbing.
Z-e causes fun.
Z-e causes wrestling,
But Mommy shines the sun.

How can I not eat that up? It's a rhyming, scanning, musically adept compliment to me, that includes praise for another one of my delightful children. Seriously awesome.