Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Acronyms at Bedtime

Last night, as I was tucking the kids into bed, Donovan was talking about asthma and how if you pronounced it asz-thma it sounded weird. I shrugged and told him he could group the s and the t and call it ast-hma. His eyebrows shot up and said, "It sounds like you're saying...YOU know." Which prompted me to regale him with some recent current events. I began by explaining how, when a Supreme Court Justice dies, often a building or college is named for them. Except, I said, these really smart people who run a college made a small mistake. See if you can spot it.

"His name was Antonin Scalia," I said.
"What? Was that the mistake?"
"No. Stick with me. Just like colleges are abbreviated by their initials, sometimes they actually spell out words, so they are known AS those words."
"So think along with me, while I tell you the name."
He's nodding at this point, eyes slightly narrowed in concentration.
"They initially wanted to call it the Antonin Scalia School Of Law."
His quiet, shallow breathing tells me he's on the verge of giggles.
"Wait, say it again."
"Ok, the Antonin Scalia School Of Law. What does that spell?"
"Worse, Dono. A-S-S-O-L. Assol."
His eyes squeeze shut a second before his hands fly up to cover them as he erupts into giggles. He pauses a moment, opens his eyes to look at my face, as if to verify, then falls back into his body-shaking laughter.

Meanwhile, Ainsleigh is in the bathroom washing her face, but steps out as I'm exiting Donovan's room, saying, "I want to know what's so funny!"

So I go through the whole thing again with her. As I get to the part where I ask her what it spells, from behind me, in the dark, a voice an octave or two higher than usual squeaks, "Assol!" Cue more giggles.

Ainsleigh's eyebrows shot up in disbelief. And then she joined in the all-consuming giggles.

I did clarify that the name has since been changed to a less unfortunate acronym. Still, having these kinds of moments with my kids is weirdly awesome. So thank you, world, for giving us that little mother/child bonding session. And apologies, all my friends' kids, who are now going to hear the story.
Monday, April 4, 2016

Oh boys.

Joel: If we're going to play 1-on-1 then we need your tiny soccer ball. 

Donovan: Yeah, it's in the basement. 

Joel: I thought I saw it in the backyard. 

Donovan: I have two tiny balls. 

Me (pointedly): YEAH...I KNOW. 

*minuscule pause while it sinks in*
*cue uncontrollable giggles*

I love having a boy and being irreverent.
Monday, March 28, 2016

Gemma explains it all.

Last night we were watching a tv show and a character made reference to a panic attack.

Donovan: What's a panic attack?
Gemma (before any of us had a chance to respond): It's when there's panic (waves arms furiously in circles in front of her), like all around you, and then...it...attacks (now waving arms furiously toward her) you. A panic attack.
Donovan (after a brief pause): That is the worst explanation for something anybody has ever given.

This had me giggling all night. First, Gemma's weird, albeit true in some respects, description. She has, of late, begun to offer (mostly unsolicited) advice or help. I know she's getting older and learning more and would like to exercise this newfound knowledge, but it's like she thinks we're all at the same level now, education-wise. Second, Donovan's immediate dismissal. It was like he took the briefest moment to weigh her words and found her lacking. I've never suffered fools gladly and it seems this has rubbed off on him as well. I'd like to think I'm a little more sensitive, but the reality is I'm probably not. I say this because Gemma didn't get defensive or upset. Rather, she shrugged and said, "Ok, well, I tried."

I think trying will get her through a lot of things. Maybe even the eventual impending panic attack.
Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dear Donovan,

I know I usually do these at Christmas, but this year we were a bit busier than usual. The annual Christmas frenzy was added upon as our sweet friend Kailee endured day after day in the PICU while the doctors tried to figure out what was happening and why. It was a good two weeks after Christmas when I realized I had failed to write you kids your annual letters. So I decided to put it off until your birthday since I knew that was coming up and, realistically, I wouldn't get to it before then.

Every year I say, "This was a big year for you," and mean it. Will I ever say, "This year was forgettable," or, "same old, same old"? With you, probably not. And I like it that way. 

I did something a little out of character for me at the end of 2014. Of course I think all of my children are fantastic and I've always suspected you had athletic ability. But I was frustrated with how your soccer coaching was going. I don't necessarily think you'll play professionally some day, but I did (and do) think you're capable of playing at a much higher level. So I contacted the guy in charge of the competitive league and expressed my concerns. He invited you to a practice with one of these competitive teams (you were previously on a recreational team) to gauge your ability and I took you there. As I sat in my chair I was incredibly proud of how well you did just in that one practice, and afterward the guy (who had come to observe) agreed with me that you had a place there or even on a higher team. So in the spring, when it came time to register, I contacted him again (as he had advised), thinking he'd put you on the feeder team. Nope - he leapfrogged you from rec straight onto that competitive team. Playing with kids who also play at a higher level only lit a match under you. And when it came time for tryouts for the next season's teams, you leapfrogged, again, to an even higher team. 

Your current coach can be hard on you boys. And yet, he doesn't seem to be too hard on you. Maybe it's because he sees something in the way you play, and gave you the nickname "Scholes" after one of the best players of all time (and, since it is pronounced "skulls" or he calls you skull-zee, it sounds like it refers to your headers, which isn't completely off base either). Maybe it's because when he gives you an assignment to do at home (workouts, watch videos of a particular player, etc., you do them, and report back). Or maybe it's because after every practice you go up to him on your own, thank him for coaching, and ask what you should be working on.

I would say that watching you play soccer is among my top 5 favorite things to do. You are determined, relentless, and polite. You play a clean game and you don't tire very easily. Your throw-ins are phenomenal. Even the parents on our team, who are accustomed to watching you, still remark on how far and fast you throw. It's another delight entirely to hear parents from the other team gasp. 

You've done well in tournaments and recently had your first "business trip," as we liked to call it. You flew with your team and a few chaperones (neither of your parents, though) to Phoenix where you played, slept, and ate soccer. And you loved it. I was sad to send you away and to miss your games for the first time in my life. But I'm glad you had fun.

Last year, a week before your birthday, Dad and I kept you home from school to take you on a parent-kid ski day. I went on my first black diamond run and did fine until the very end where I had an epic wipeout - it wasn't painful (in fact it was quite lovely), but the ensuing powderstorm I kicked up had you exploding with laughter. It's one of my most favorite sounds. The next week, dad took you up with friends to spend the night and ski (on your birthday) and you sent me this text from Dad's phone:

You're a good kid. You make me want to be a better mom.

Every year Dad and I put some kind of surprise in your bedroom the night before your birthday. Sometimes it's streamers and balloons, sometimes it's glow sticks spelling out a message, last year it was a ninja punching bag. A couple years ago you hung up streamers for me, and I thought it was adorable. Last year - holy cow I can hardly even type it without getting teary - last year you came up with an idea, you called stores to see if they carried this idea, and then you had Dad drive you to the one that did, bought it with your own money, and then came home and practiced. You thought it would be awesome to make me a balloon-animal-style bike and crown (for "Queen of the Mountain" since that's a thing in cycling). And so I get it when people are like, "You're emotional over balloon animals?" But it's so much more than that - you spent time thinking about it, you CALLED STORES, and you orchestrated the whole operation. I just love everything about this, even your stories of how many balloons you ruined as you practiced.

sweet ninja moves

We took a fun family trip down to Durango to see southern Colorado and stay with my Aunt Mary Kaye and Uncle Terry. It was like another set of grandparents for you, but this set had guns and 4-wheelers! What a great time we had, exploring Mesa Verde, Telluride, a ghost town and those beautiful mountain passes (via ATVs). I hope you always remember the ridiculous number of sheep clogging one of those roads - remember that we drove for about an hour at 5-10mph through thousands and thousands of them. 

Last year you also went up to Grandpa Hill's for a week of fun. This is something he has done for other grandsons when they turn 10, but those grandsons also lived closer. I was incredibly nervous to be so far away from you, for you to be out in the middle of nowhere, to not be able to tuck you in at night. Those feelings were unfounded, though. You, of course, had the time of your life. Your Grandpa is very devoted to you and made sure you had a great time. You came home with good memories of time with your dad and grandpa.

Your Whitley cousins road-tripped out here and you proclaimed that the greatest week of your life. You and Emaline played and played and played and then ate and then played some more.

Ok, this is getting lengthy. So just a couple more things:

-I think I've established that you are thoughtful. Here are a couple more examples. This summer you and Tyson had a blast riding your bikes every which way and buying lunch and then riding some more. One day I gave you money to go to Chick-Fil-A. I went off on some errands, and I came home to these:

You only had a few dollars, but when you asked the woman what you could buy for your amount and that you wanted to get them for your mom, she was so touched she marked these down to match your price. I especially love your choice (or, rather, your non-choice) of card. The flowers eventually died, but I took a picture so I'll always remember.

-At Thanksgiving you asked how you could help. I was busy and so just said, "You could do the pie crust," not really expecting you to follow through. But I should've known better - you aren't one to shy away from a task, especially one that involves food. You not only followed instructions, but when I said you had to show your sisters how, you totally did.

-You are still obsessed with squirrels, especially flying squirrels. I've actually looked into seeing how we could find one (not to keep) for you, but they're impossible to find around here. Something about legality or environment or whatever. 
This kind of sums up your life.
-Yesterday we went to the grocery store to get your cake mix and birthday treats. Along the way I pulled over to a vacant parking lot and told you it was time to start learning how to drive. You were giddy and nervous all at once. It was fun to have that little moment with you. As we walked into the grocery store a few minutes later, you confided that you were feeling shaky and happy. I love that you are open and liberal with your feelings.

So this is mostly recapping your year, but I want you to know this: I love love love love love being your mom. I am so proud of you and proud to be your mom. I love that you ask me to lie next to you at night before you go to sleep so we can talk. I love that you hug me about 10 times a day. I love that you say, "I love you, Mommy," it a contented voice as if that is all that matters. I love that you still run as soon as you see me after school to throw your arms around me. I love that you run and play and bike and are loud and cackle wildly, but that you also want to just sit next to me. I love that when I am sad, you go out of your way to make me happy. And when I'm really sad, your eyes get red-rimmed and you rub your fists against them and ask why, if I am sad it makes you want to cry.

We've joked for a while now that someday your hands will be big enough that instead of holding my hand, I will hold your hand. I think that day is fast approaching. You're getting taller, faster and more grown up by the day. Part of me is sad that you're not that small Dono any more. But only a small part, because I love having a front-row seat that is the ever-entertaining Donovan show.
Happy 11th birthday, buddy. You're the best son a mother could ask for. I feel sorry for all the other people out there who don't get to be your mom. Now let's go play video games.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A letter to my friends.

An open letter to Natalee and Bryan Gibson:

There is a particular tunnel I sometimes ride through on my bike that always gives me pause. It is probably about 50 yards long, and Joel and I joke that the city must have agreed on the absolute minimum number of lights such a stretch would require, then subtracted 2, then didn't bother to replace bulbs as they burned out. It's dark. It's creepy. It's long. In the direction I ride, it's also a little bit uphill. It usually has shallow puddles scattered throughout, and in the winter months those puddles freeze. And as the water seeps down from the overhead freeway, ice stalagmites grow. I feel better when I have someone with me in that suspense-movie-inspired concrete hall. I feel even better when I choose a different route. But that route is also part of a bigger route which is incredibly beautiful, so it can be worth it.

From outside the tunnel, you can see what is in the tunnel. It doesn't look that scary. It doesn't even look that long. Once I enter the tunnel, however, the darkness engulfs me. The first couple times, I found this incredibly disorienting. I began to panic. I doubted what I had seen just a few yards back. I second guessed myself (was there a body in here? did I miss the pit of snakes?). And as I did, I began to wobble. The first time, I went down. Luckily, the only damage was to my pride. But being so disoriented, I walked my bike out of the tunnel. I was sure that there were secret side tunnels harboring killer rats and cartoon villains. As I emerged on the other side, I realized that, had I trusted what I saw at the opening of the tunnel, I would have been just fine.

A couple months later, after the winter months had set in, I encountered my first ice speedbump. Before entering the tunnel I could see a couple rows of ice. But I could also see a small channel down the middle, paved by previous riders. I sucked in my core and pedaled faster. I hit the first one just a little off center and started to feel myself slide. NO, I told myself, you know the way. I pedaled harder, eyes fixed ahead. I came out the other side wiser, prouder, content.

Since then, I've thought a lot about the tunnel and the light and the second guessing and the pitfalls. A couple years ago, as you know, I was struggling with depression. I was in this weird place where it felt very dark around me. I was accustomed to barreling full speed through life's tunnels, or skipping them entirely (something I actually prefer, generally speaking), and now suddenly I was walking through one. The tunnel seemed long and cold. But you know what? I wasn't alone. I had family and friends who were loving and patient, who let me take my time and let me sit down and then walked the distance with me. I could see the light and I knew the way, but some days my legs just couldn't propel me forward. But still I looked - at the light, at the people whose examples I admired, at my family and friends. You example has always been a huge motivator to me. That tunnel was hard, but it has led me to a more beautiful appreciation for life, for faith.

I write all of this today not because I think you need a parable or lesson or anything. I share this because I often feel guilty, breezing in and out of the PICU, dropping jokes and laughing it up, being disgusted by a doctor's grammar (irregardless is NOT A WORD) or the idiocy of the other parents (NO SMOKING on this floor or ANY FLOOR OR HOSPITAL OR EVER). I see the worry and fear etched on your faces. I've hugged you as you've cried and I've felt scared and inadequate. When Kailee tries to cough while on the ventilator or starts another seizure, my instinct is to cry or worry or yell NO or all of it. But then I remember that Joel told me on day three, as I cried while we drove to the hospital, "Get your crying out now. You can cry before and after the hospital, but your job is to be happy and light. Do your job." And, as you well know, I take any job I may have quite seriously.

So while I bring in stupid entertainment gossip and references to washed up 90s bands, when I tease Bryan and praise Natalee, when I demand you eat the food I bring and tell inappropriate stories, please know my perceived flippancy is a mask for deep concern, great sadness and the unsettling (and rather uncommon) feeling of not knowing what to do. What I do know is that before I leave the parking garage, I say a prayer, pleading that the tunnel will get shorter, that we will remember what is ahead, that I can keep my eyes forward and follow you there. You blaze a beautiful trail, Gibsons. I will be forever grateful to call you friends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Donovan's Christmas list

Over the last few months, Donovan has asked me to cuddle with him before he goes to sleep. This isn't so much cuddling, as it is me lying next to him, listening to him talk and occasionally answering questions. Here, I have heard about who he likes at school, what he enjoys learning about, and things that make him sad or worried. Here, I have also given him advice, reassured him, and explained things, like what is a menstrual cycle. Whenever he asks if I will cuddle with him, despite how tired I am or how many other things I think I need to finish before I go to sleep, I try to remember that there will come a time in the not-too-distant future that this won't even be an option. And if I pass it by tonight, will he ask tomorrow. But sometimes he's already getting to bed late. And sometimes he has been a pill, and I don't feel like cuddling a pill.

Yesterday, Dono wasn't his usual easy-going self as he plowed through his math homework. I use the word "plowed" deliberately, as that really is the only way to describe how his pencil flies around the paper, nearly illegible until I make him fix it, barreling through problems, often skipping the instructions to "estimate" and just figuring it out. "Who cares about estimating when I can know the exact answer?" he asks, derisively. As I warned him that his attitude and tone wasn't setting himself up for cuddling before bed, he shot back as he marched up to the solitude of his bedroom, "I don't care - it's not like you're going to cuddle with me anyway. It's been like three weeks. You're NEVER going to cuddle me." *slamming door*

Now, it doesn't take a degree in psychology (good, because I don't have one) to understand that this kid was asking for my attention. It hadn't been even a full week, but if this kid wanted to spend a few minutes with me, then what else was I doing with my time. I flashed back to dropping him off in kindergarten and observing another mom dropping off her 6th grader, demanding he hug her goodbye. After he sullenly did so and then walked off, I asked her at what age they stop letting their moms kiss them goodbye. "Last year," she said, sadly. Then I flashed back to being a teenager at my aunt and uncle's home for family dinners. They had four boys and I watched how they treated their mom, with teasing and affection, and I had thought, "I want that someday." So I knew I needed to make these evening sessions ritual once more.

Last night, I laid down and said, "You've got five minutes - go." That's his cue to start talking. (I'd told him in the past he needed to come up with conversation or I was leaving.) So of course Christmas was the main topic and pretty soon I was saying that it was better to ask for a bunch of things because you're more likely to get a couple that you want, then if you were to ask for one impossible thing.

"Oh yes," he said. "I made a list."

Now, other people might think this a bit presumptive or selfish, but I actually encourage my kids to make lists. Of course we talk about what they can give others, but I love what they write down since it is often fueled by imagination. It's like a peek into their brains. A mini journal entry. (Except that now I'm making it an actual journal entry.)

He pulled out his list and handed it to me. First, I love that he titled it. Excellent.

"Should I turn on my desk light?" he asked.
"No, the Christmas lights are fine," I reassured him. (I always put up a string in their room during the Christmas season.)
"Ok. I don't want all of these things," he said. "Just like maybe three. But I was just writing stuff down."
"I love a good brainstorm," I said. "Let's see: remote control ferrari. Hoverboard...hmm."
"Yeah I just think they're cool," he said, laughing.
"A bike," I said. "Well maybe in the spring since there's snow out." (I had to throw him off the scent.)
I read on: a new rock or gem, yeah that sounds about right. And then this:
"A drone?" I asked. "What are you going to do with a drone?"
"Well, you know, take video from above," he said, smiling. "Like when we're sliding down the stairs or whatever."
"Hmm...ok that's probably not going to happen," I said. Except that I had actually already looked at some.
"Yeah, I know," he agreed. "I just thought of it, so I wrote it down."
I read on. Electric toothbrush? What kid asks for an electric toothbrush? Mental note: buy those this year. I was beginning to giggle at these.
"Instagram?" I asked, a little incredulously. "Nope."
"It would work on my iPad!" He reassured me, as if that was the issue.
"Not going to happen."
"Rats," he whispered, then added, "And I don't actually want a 3DS. I should erase that."
I am 100% sure if he got a 3DS, he'd love it. BUT, he recently saw how much they cost and since he also takes into consideration how much soccer costs, he decided he didn't want it. I'm ok with that.

But then this:
"A robotic squirrel? What's that?"
"I don't know - I was just thinking a robotic squirrel could be cool." Cue both of us giggling.
When I read dart board, he started to explain to me what a dart board actually was.
"Yeah, dude. I know what a dart board is."
"Oh. Ok." 
I had told him we could read by the Christmas lights, but when I read #16, I thought it said Rob.

"Rob? What's Rob?" I asked.
He burst out laughing. Then, gasping for breath, he said, "Rob! Not Rob! Rolo!" Cue more laughter as I told him I wasn't sure if I was supposed to get him a kid named Rob or one Rolo, and I wasn't sure which was a worse gift. One Rolo? If you don't pluralize that, you're getting just one. And I'll make it a mini.

And then the list got even better. When I read "Fixed Skateboard," my first thought was that it meant fixed-wheel or it was a type of skateboard. He clarified that he just wanted his existing skateboard fixed (which means new wheels/bearings since he washed his over the summer, not realizing that ruins the wheels). All right, that sounds reasonable.

Then, cardboard for pillowboarding, a sport they've invented which involves putting giant pieces of cardboard on the stairs and then sliding down on their pillows. They were doing it on our short stairs until yours truly pulled out an enormous piece and challenged them to go down the big section of stair and land in a folded-up memory foam mattress topper. I'm a bit of a genius that way. Over time, the cardboard wears down, so he wants more. More cardboard.

And then, the piece de resistance, number 20: 

"New pillow," I read, a little confused at first. My eyes jumped ahead of my voice and I remembered that his current pillow, the one our heads were resting on, had a rip along one of the edges. And then the ridiculousness of the request hit me. And I couldn't even talk as the hysterical laughter washed over me. I sounded like I was crying as I gasped out, "Not...ripped!" And then fell back into the uncontrollable giggles.

Donovan was giggling right with me and after about a minute of this he said, "I'll admit, I don't even know what you're laughing about, but I'm laughing at you because you're laughing so hard."

That made me laugh harder - he was being serious about the pillow. Tears were streaming from my eyes into my ears. I haven't laugh-cried like that in a long time. It felt more cleansing than a good sneeze.

"First of all," I explained, "That you're asking for something as practical as a pillow. Like, your parents won't just give you a pillow - you have to ask for it to be gifted to you. That's funny to me. Second, that you've specified 'not ripped.' As if someone was going to give you a pillow and then they took a second look at your list and then thought, 'Oh wait, he said NOT ripped.' Shoot. Now what?! Guess I'll give him a Rolo instead."

And then I couldn't stop giggling. This wonderful, thoughtful, hilarious, creative, loving boy of mine wants a pillow for Christmas. Part of me wanted to go get him a pillow from the linen closet right then because WE HAVE LIKE FIVE IN THERE, and part of me thought I should wait until Christmas to give him a glorious un-ripped pillow. Through the tears I tried to read the next one but my vision was blurry so I only read "pooper scooper (for me)" and the laughter washed back over me. Dono quickly pointed out he had written, "Jk - for Albus." 

As I left his room and walked down the hall, I could still hear him giggling in his room - that giggle of pride knowing you've scored a major comedic win by making your parent laugh so hard they cried, or their voice went super high, or they were gasping for breath. I still view that as the holy grail of conversations with my parents. 

The kid has asked for some legit things, knowing full-well he may only get one. But he has also asked for things like a new rock, an electric toothbrush, a fixed skateboard and a new pillow. Nothing will make me happier than to grant him these things. 

But not the Robotic Squirrel. Apparently the government funded one a couple years ago and it cost $325,000. I'm not really sure who had that idea, but I'm sure Donovan would like to take a meeting with that guy.
Thursday, November 12, 2015

some realizations

I've been mulling over some thoughts lately, most of which hardly merit recognition on their own. But perhaps together they'll mean something. Or spur me to consider words on a more regular basis than bi-annually. Or at least fill space.

1. I've decided I don't like any savory dishes involving squash. Not in the same way I feel about clam chowder (or any fish-broth-based soup) which is that I would rather starve than eat it. But, rather, in a largely unimpressed and disappointed way. I basically have two reactions to squash: 1)"Wow, I can barely taste it!" and 2) thinking, "How much longer do I have to eat this so I don't look like a toddler refusing food?" Bring on the pumpkin pie/cookies/cake/muffins/etc. But if you try to put it in pasta, top it with marshmallows, convince me it's just like spaghetti, or hide it in soup, I'll choke it down and say it tasted lovely, and I will be lying.

2. Donovan asked me if Santa was a real person or if it was Joel and me. It was just last summer that I told Ainsleigh about Santa, but part of that stemmed from my belief that Donovan would soon be asking and I wanted her to have one Christmas where just she knew. Also, I had to TELL Ainsleigh, where as Donovan asked. I sat quietly for a moment and then asked if he wanted to know the truth. He slowly nodded and said, "That's what I thought." I teared up, remembering my own disappointment and sadness over learning the truth, and thinking about how this baby boy of mine was now old enough to know Santa wasn't real. I teared up, thinking about this and because of my tears, he began to get teary. Then he said, "This makes my iPad all the more special, knowing that you and daddy bought it for me. And all the other stuff - you gave it to us and didn't get the credit." How does he do that - make me love him even more for his thoughtful consideration of the situation. Here I was, thinking he'd be sad and feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he immediately went to gratitude. I love this kid so much. I need to remember that because tonight I was super annoyed with him. While he can be wonderful, he can also be a major pill.
3. Gemma got some test results back at school and Joel, after seeing them, said, "Wow. Gemma's really smart." I mean, we kind of knew this, but also her flair for the, ahem, dramatics can sometimes overpower her cleverness. But she has a pretty sharp mind that is nicely tempered by a good sense of humor. Tonight the younger two were taking too long to eat their dinner. Ainsleigh was finishing a project that demanded all of her attention. So I told the younger two they were not allowed to speak in the kitchen/family room. Anytime they did resulted in a 5 minute penalty on the nights already-earlier-than-usual bedtime. They both incurred a couple penalties before they decided to acquiesce. A little while later as I was finishing up washing the dishes, I saw Gemma exit the room and go around the corner into the entry. Right as I started to ask, "Gemma, where are you going?" I heard a little voice say, "I'm full, can I be done?" She was following the rules: She was speaking from a DIFFERENT room so as not to receive another penalty. Of course I burst out laughing and Joel and I slow-clapped as she peered around the corner. Well played, ladybug, well played.
4. Also, we got family portraits. Since we will probably be using them in Christmas cards, I'm going to post one three. We'll use others for the card. I think. Maybe we'll do something else.

5. Lastly, while I rarely get on a soapbox, I'm going to about this whole Starbucks red cup thing. Here's my beef - I don't care what color the cups are. My problem, quite frankly, is the over-commercialization of Christmas. Every time something is "taken away" from Christmas, I applaud it. Let's make it less in-your-face and more in-your-heart and in-your-hands. Oh I'll still say Merry Christmas to people and I'll still celebrate Jesus, but I'm also going to delight in someone wishing me a Happy Hannukah or Diwali or whatever else. The end.

Monday, August 10, 2015

And just like that, a ton of time has passed.

Well summer break didn't take long. In the wise words of Phineas & Ferb, "There's 104 days of summer vacation, And school comes along just to end it, So the annual problem for our generation Is finding a good way to spend it..." Except that Joel and I agreed this morning on our walk to school that we did a pretty good job at filling the summer. I think this was the first time I thought, "Summer break is exhausting!" Over and over and I would look around the house at the basic cleaning that had gone neglected, and then I'd say, "Who wants to go to the pool/park/movies/anywhere else?!" I kept telling myself I'll clean when they're back in school. Now they're back in school and I'm just sitting at my computer. I'll clean tomorrow. Or go for a bike ride. But then I'll definitely clean after that.

First, though, I should probably document that earlier this year I got LASIK. I have to say that my only regret is that I waited this long to pursue it. Holy cow, let me just say this is amazing. I had horrible vision before and was convinced that they wouldn't be able to fix me. The procedure itself only took about 6 minutes - crazy! And they did an incredible job of prepping me so I knew exactly what to expect. Once they stood me up afterward, my eyes were kind of fogged over (they told me this would happen) but I could tell immediately that I could already see better than before. And of course I cried.

They had given me a lovely sedative so I don't remember a lot about the way home except suddenly asking for a sandwich and then I came home to take a 3-hour nap. As soon as I opened my eyes after that, everything was clear. It was beautiful. And then I was supposed to take it easy for the rest of the day. Which I totally did by throwing Joel a surprise birthday party.

It was awesome. I had already talked to the people at the LASIK place to ask if they thought I'd be able to do both the surgery and the party the same day. I arranged to have 12 of Joel's friends (and some wives who wanted to watch) ring our doorbell at about 6:30pm. Joel had no idea. I had booked a space at a local indoor obstacle/gladiator place called Xtreme Challenge. There the boys took part in all sorts of adventures/combat. It was like watching a bunch of kids play around. I think a bunch of them were pretty sore the next day. One guy came dressed as a Nacho Libre fighter. He stayed in costume the entire time. What a friend!

The Warriors.

The ladies, behind the safety net.

Let's get ready to rumble!

Boys know what to do.

The whole gang. What a fun night!

After that, we went for milkshakes (Nacho Libre still in costume) and then a bunch of the men went to go see a movie. I had someone drive me home where I took my last sedative and fell happily asleep. I wanted to give Joel a memorable experience for his birthday and I succeeded. And I can see!

Monday, March 9, 2015

a day with donovan

Friday morning, Donovan woke up to find his long underwear and ski socks laid out on his bedroom floor. He emerged from his room, that bleary-eyed just-woke-up look on his face. With one eye closed, winking against the hall light, eyebrows knit together in confusion, he asked, "Are we going skiing today or something?"

I grinned at him, finished telling Ainsleigh I was heading downstairs to make her breakfast, and turned back to him, "Not all of us. How about just you, me and Dad go skiing today, as an early birthday present?"

Both of his eyes flew wide open, a grin lit up his whole face in sheer delight, "Really?!" Then he clutched both hands to his chest and began jumping up and down.

I went downstairs to start the morning routine of making breakfast and lunch for the kids and Donovan came down a little while later with some questions. What were the girls going to do? How would they get home? Were they mad? What would I tell the school?

Haha, little buddy didn't think I'd already arranged everything. We were lucky that the weather had taken a turn for the better so Ainsleigh could easily walk home, swinging by the elementary school to pick up Gemma. No, they weren't mad because they knew it was his birthday present. And I told the school the truth, because that's always the best option.

It was the perfect ski day. A beautiful cloudless sky, loads of snow, 38-degrees. Actually, I would have been fine with it being cooler. My hands were sweating in my gloves. I had told Joel that if he and Donovan wanted to hit some black diamonds, they could do that and I was happy to do a run or two by myself. So we hit a few blues and I was feeling great, even after I tried to help a guy who had dropped a pole and, not realizing how fast I was going, ended up totally wiping out. I think Joel got it on video, so I hope it looks as good as I think it does. Then they coaxed me into skiing through some trees and it popped us out onto an ungroomed/mogul black run.

I absolutely, positively LOATHE moguls. UGH. I was so annoyed. And slow. But my sweet Donovan stood at the bottom, clapping his poles together, grinning broadly, and cheering me on. "You're doing so great, Mom!"

So after that, I decided a groomed black run couldn't be much worse. It was FUN! Even at the end when it kind of drops off and some snowboarder (not Joel) went in front of me, spraying up a ton of snow, and it cleared just in time for me to see I was about to hit a gate. So I tried to stop, only succeeding in kicking up a massive wave of snow onto myself and falling over. Another skier looked at me, lying in the snow and said, "Well that looked fun." I just replied, "That's how you're supposed to stop, right?"

Donovan skied up, howling with laughter, "MOM! THAT! WAS! AWESOME!" And he fell down next to me as we laughed and laughed and laughed. Because although it wasn't graceful and although it was a fall, it was one of those things that just feels funny. Unfortunately, Joel missed the whole thing. But Donovan considers it one of the best things that happened that day, so you're welcome, son. He was so cute and loving the whole day, skiing next to me, sometimes spraying me with his hockey stop, always smiling and telling me I was doing a good job.

We had lunch outside and just loved spending time together. Donovan kept proclaiming it the best ski day ever. I have to agree. I love my girls, but we can move so much faster without Gemma. Hopefully next year she'll be able to pick up the pace. Plus, on a Friday the crowds were less so we were able to easily do about 10 runs. We met a couple from Michigan on the gondola who said their biggest hills were like a 500-foot drop. They said here in Colorado, they were exhausted after one run (the altitude plays a factor there, too). Anyway, it made me feel ok about being completely wiped out as we drove home.

On the way home, Donovan thoughtfully said, "I would like to make this a tradition, if that's ok."

I smiled and nodded, "I think that can be arranged."

Friday, February 13, 2015

I have no title. But I redid my kitchen last year, so there's that.

Whoa - what happened?! Work, that's what. I've had the distinct honor of conducting a bunch of interviews (like, I'm up to 26 - each of those has been at least half an hour, and most of them more than that) for some articles I'm writing and have met some really cool people. For the first time in a long time, I actually almost started hyperventilating before a call. Once we get talking, though, I'm fine. And, as it turns out, people who have risen just about as far as they can within their industry can still be incredibly gracious, humble and fun to talk to, not to mention that they are inspiring. This whole experience even motivated me to create a LinkedIn profile - I'm so serious about my career now. Also, look forward to obnoxious name-dropping as the opportunity presents itself.

But actually what I wanted to document was the kitchen remodel we orchestrated last fall. Joel and I talked about doing granite in the kitchen when we bought the house. And then we blinked and it was seven years later! It's fun to have grand plans and pin all sorts of great ideas but, turns out, it actually takes money to make those plans a reality.

Over the summer, probably on one of our long bike rides, Joel and I talked about things we'd like to do around the house. When he said, "Well, I think doing the kitchen counters is going to be the best investment," my heart beat a little faster (not just because we were probably climbing) and I had to tell myself be cool, Sarah, be cooooool, before saying, "Oh yeah? You think we could?" like I wasn't also sort of holding my breath and mentally demolishing our island.

I decided to do NO research until the kids went back to school, but the day after that, off I went to the granite fabricators with my mom in tow (she just happened to be in town and has done her own kitchen remodel, so she's kind of an expert). People who know me well know that I love a good research project, comparing and contrasting companies, their offerings and customer reviews. Soon I had a lovely spreadsheet and all sorts of appointments booked. As anyone with a home improvement project knows, simply replacing the countertops quickly ballooned into leveling our island (requiring moving some electrical); replacing the ovens, dishwasher and cooktop; piping and venting for gas; painting the cabinets; replacing our light fixture; and, of course, replacing the countertops. (sidenote: I hired most of this work out - I know my limits as a diy-er and I also know that such a high-traffic area requires professional work)

It was a whirlwind of activity and I loved it. I also really really really love my new kitchen. We knew we wanted to do a lighter granite with darker cabinets and I'm so glad we did. As my friend said, "This granite is great - it hides all sorts of things. Just think of all the time you're saving by not wiping them down eight times a day." Wait, was that passive aggressive? I just got that...

But seriously, I'm in love with my gas cooktop, I'm in love with my new ovens, my counters are so fun to use (and they're BIGGER now that I don't have that stupid raised non-functional bar part) and my dishwasher actually *GASP* cleans my dishes. It's a miracle.

Friends have asked me who my general contractor was and I have to laugh because, ahem, have you MET ME? Type A personality, I'll be my own GC thankyouverymuch. I arranged for everyone and most of the work took place within a week and a half. Also, I wired the pendant myself because I neglected to notice, when ordering it, that it plugged in. Who makes a pendant that PLUGS in? For future reference, check that out. Unless you like to narrow your eyes, purse your lips, and vow to go all Bob Vila on the thing. Which I did. Is there anything that makes you feel like more of a rebel than pulling out wire cutters and, literally, cutting the cord?! Probably. But still, this was about as mutinous as I get.

Let's get to my super high-quality phone pictures. From the side, you see the dumb raised bar area which isn't really usable. Also, whoever thought edging the counters in wood should get the architectural equivalent of a Razzie. Or at least lifelong mockery. I can see no purpose for it.

Ahhhh - this is so much better, right? It's so smooth and calming. I like to pet it. Also, the sink is so nice and deep. See that tiny little faucet next to the actual faucet? No, it's not a soap dispenser. It's an instant hot water dispenser! Hot chocolate, teas or, my new favorite, brewing chocolate at the touch of a button/lever. It's beautiful. Oh yeah, I also installed that. For anyone who claims they can't get help at Home Depot, I know the key: do your hair and makeup, then walk into the store holding two pieces of plumbing (washers, copper tubing, a wrench, take your pick!) with a giant look of confusion on your face (not difficult, given the location). I'm all for advancing the rights of women, and I'm all for using womanliness to get what I want.

From the family room, so much wood-colored wood:

Ahh. See my pedant? I love the soft light it emits.

From my computer corner, why does Albus look guilty?
I think he's embarrassed by how shaggy he's become.

Since we took out the built-in microwave to install a legitimate hood, we had to put the microwave somewhere. We chose the corner counter that collected junk. It's working out nicely. The flat island really opens up the kitchen into the family room. Please disregard how messy the fridge and bookshelves are - this is the house of a family. And we LIVE in it.
Also, rest assured that these pictures were taken after I had cleaned the kitchen. It is rarely this clean. In fact, I think the sinks are actually full of dishes waiting to be washed, and I probably went to bed deciding to do it in the morning.

So that was my fall project. I'd love to do something in my bathrooms but since that also takes, you know, money, that will have to wait. Plus, I've got more interviews to conduct and articles to write.