Monday, December 24, 2012

This Is What it Looks Like

This time of year makes me feel particularly financially poor sometimes.  I wish I could give what I want to give to everyone, but I can't.  I'm sure that's how many feel at the moment.  I feel more than compensated though when I think of the wonderful wealth of family, friends and love I have in my life.  My family always gives me nicer gifts than I can give to them.  Someday I'd like to be able to change that.  Though I'd like to give them nicer gifts my family knows the love and thought that goes into the gifts that I do give and they always seem pleased with what I give them.

Yesterday our family went in to tithing settlement, which is when we officially say if we gave a full 10% to the Lord to our local church leader.  (If anyone wants to know more then ask.)  We also talked about our fast offerings, which is money we give to our church to help people here locally make ends meet.  (Again, if there are any questions please ask.)  Our bishop thanked us for giving a generous fast offering and then something that shocked me and opened my eyes.  He said that our congregation typically gives about twice what is needed so the extra goes to other congregations in the area.  The Rochester area as a whole though is still needing more than what it is getting.  Then he said (and this was the eye opening part to me) that we were fortunate to live in a relatively affluent ward.  

Affluent?

Now our congregation does have a few fully fledged doctors and a few seemingly successful professionals, but the vast majority of our ward consists of families just like ours.  Residents, or people just starting out in professional careers.  Lots of little mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and minds to educate.  Families that a trip to the grocery store brings a bit of stress because you can easily spend so much more than you have allowed.  Families that do without the things they want because they just have enough to cover the needs.  People who feel like I do, tight in the budget.

Affluent?

YES.  Our family has everything, everything they need.  Yes, we have a cold house so as to pay less for heating and we don't eat out and we have found countless other ways to not spend money.  But even with that, Dan has a job.  A steady job that we can 100% count on.  Right now we can afford a few extras even. I had been silently asking myself what it would look like when we finally "made it" earlier last week.  And thanks to my bishop now I know.  This is what it looks like.  I sat in church after talking with the bishop, listening to the choir sing and was filled with joy to rejoicing my heart full of gratitude.  For now, for today we've made it.

That knowledge was my greatest Christmas gift this year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Speaking of Traditions

Charlotte asked me about Hanukkah a few days ago.  Actually she was surprised that school doesn't teach about Christmas.  Her preschool was run by non-denominational Christians and so they were all over that stuff.  So then we had a discussion about how not everybody believes in the same things and not everybody celebrates the same things.  That's part of what makes our country great.  And I shared with her the 11th article of faith for our church which states that we believe in worshiping what we want and we give everyone else that same privilege.

Why do these questions happen at the oddest times?

So then she asked me about what other people celebrate.  I told her that Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah.  I admit to not being terribly clear on the story of Hanukkah.  The salient details that I shared was a group of Jewish people who believed in God were trapped by an army.  They only had enough light to last one night but they prayed and asked God to help them and they had a lot of faith and God answered their prayers so they could see for a whole week and it was a miracle.

Charlotte, "Mom, why don't we celebrate that miracle?"

Hmm...I hope my answer about our faith in the miracle of the Savior and celebrating that supreme gift this time of year made sense.  I'm not sure it did though because after my best attempts to answer that she said, "Mom, what to British people celebrate?"

In other deep questions in life, I guess Greg must be surveying everyone about death and resurrection.  I heard him asking his dad about it last night.


Now I want them to go back to asking the easy questions.  Ones like, "Who invented motorcycles?"

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Melding of "Traditions"

This count down to Christmas calendar is making for some great stories.  Today Charlotte and Greg opened their doors and Greg said, "Its!  Its!  What is it?"  Charlotte said, "It's silver and gold..........and Frankenstein."  She said it with so much surety I couldn't correct her.  I also had to breathe hard through my nose not to laugh out loud at her.  Poor girl there's just so many things to keep straight this time of year.  I'm pretty sure that Halloween monsters weren't ever part of the Christmas tradition.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Things You Learn

Growing up I never dreamed of living in Missouri or Minnesota, but here we are!  And I am amazed at the things you learn by living in different places.  St. Louis taught me the truthfulness of the statement that, "it's not the heat that will get you, it's the humidity."  That place felt like living in my mom's chicken soup for the entire month of August.  In the summer you never really cared what the temperature was.  You cared about the heat index.  Well, Minnesota has taught me about the importance of wind chill factor.  Last night/this morning we had blizzard conditions.  For some reason I never really thought much about what it means to be in a blizzard until now.  It doesn't actually take a lot of snow.  It takes a lot of wind.  Wind wind wind.  That is the story of living in Minnesota.  Wind in the spring.  Wind in the summer.  Wind in the fall.  Wind in the winter.  My neighbor's tree grows sideways because of the constant wind.  Rochester is the 11th (or 4th) windiest city in the US.  I tried to shovel our driveway and before I was half way through I looked back and you couldn't even tell where I started.  I gave up.  I think the city had the same idea about snow because although there's not a whole lot of snow, we had our first snow day of the school year.  Charlotte was thrilled.  I'm not sure why because she only has half day kindergarten.  It might be because I told her she didn't have to change out of her pajamas.  Here are some photos of our snow day.

Greg, trying to help me shovel the snow.  The wind kept getting in his face and he didn't like it.
 Charlotte decided to climb the fence for the first time today.  
 I did take Lee out in the snow in his snow suit and he actually tolerated it fairly well for the first 45 minutes or so.  Then we came inside and he had a first as well.  First time pulling out all the baby wipes while Mom isn't looking.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Somewhat like Santa

This morning Greg found some really old silly bandz that Aunt Katie gave to Charlotte.  In a feeling of good will Charlotte gave them to Greg.  Then a conversation about Aunt Katie ensued in which Charlotte said, "Aunt Katie is good because she always knows what you're gonna like."  That made me chuckle.

In other news, I decided to phase out nursing of my smallest.  In my continuing lesson on things never go how you planned and also every kid is different I'm stopping nursing surprisingly early this time.  I nursed Charlotte for 10 months and Greg for 13 so it feels a little odd stopping at 8 with Lee, but he is totally ready for it.  Nursing was like a wrestling match every time and I wasn't convinced he was actually getting anything to drink.  He often had diapers that showed lack of fluid intake.  So on Monday I gave him a bottle and lo and behold there was rejoicing on his part.  He LOVES bottles and I no longer have to pin him down to stay on my lap for food.  I do still nurse him first thing in the morning because he likes to cuddle me right when he gets up so it's a win win for everyone.  I feel so free!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Filled with Love and Light

My voice is small and my reaction not earth moving, but I can't think about last Friday without tears.  Not that tears are a big deal around these parts.  It seems that since becoming Mom I cry at the drop of a hat. One thing that did blindside me was that pit in my stomach, the spot that all the sudden ached and hurt and I couldn't shake it.  I just couldn't.  I guess that's what happens when you're a mom and you are supposed to be keeping your kids safe and loved and protected and, and, and.  And then you realize that you can't do it all no matter how hard you try. 

Did you know that Charlotte's school had a bomb threat earlier in the week last week?  

And also one of the precious souls that died on Friday was named Charlotte?

And also that dropping my Charlotte off to school Friday morning wasn't our greatest moments?

I haven't told my kids about it, any of it.  And I don't plan to.  

Here's what I did with my kids instead:



 We made 3D train rice krispie treats because they've been wanting to and I have been putting it off.  What do you do with the baby while helping the other two and try not to consume your weight in sugar?  Turns out that for one day you don't worry about sugar consumption.  You let the baby try licorice and everyone is happy and loved.  Later that night, after putting Lee to bed, I let my kids stay up late to watch Christmas shows on TV.  My kids, who go to bed at 7:30 every night without exception, stayed up and snuggled me until 9.  I was the momma hen and they were my chicks and we soaked up the love all under the same quilt that grandma made for us.

This picture went straight to the fridge to remind all of us how much we love each other and how lucky we are to have time to show that to each other.
Charlotte brought this home from school on Friday.  She didn't have time to draw Lee before her teacher said she needed to stop.  In case you need translation it says, "Love is floating in the air."  And it has our family.
Then on Saturday, when Daddy got home, he was properly welcomed.  I think a few members of the family have been missing him a lot.
 We weren't sure what we were going to do on Saturday.  Dan told me he was, "up for anything" I wanted.  Then five minutes after starting an early dinner I turned around and saw this:
 I let him sleep until dinner was ready.  After dinner the kids got in their jammies and we took them to the Bluff valley light display.  We drove through slowly and let the kids have a turn to sit on Dad's lap and "drive" the van. 


 When we got home I discovered two new "ornaments" were on our tree:


We tried our very best to fill our weekend with family and love.  Because in the end that's the most important message I can ever send to my kids.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Time Rolls By

I went through my photos today of Christmases past.  It's fun to see how things have changed.
Christmas 2007:
Charlotte walking at 9 months
 Oddly enough I can't find any photos of Christmas 2008.  Probably because I wasn't feeling well as I was pregnant with this one.  Christmas 2009:
Look how fat that sweetie is!  Greg at 7 months.
 Christmas 2010:
Greg "helping" Charlotte "cook."
 Christmas 2011:
Us hiking at Quarry Hill.
 Christmas 2012:
Charlotte with our new little addition Lee.  That kid loves slides.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Inspiring

Today Charlotte had her ice skating lessons.  I find it inspiring that she went from knowing absolutely nothing about ice skating to doing this.  That she was willing to admit not knowing anything and falling and failure and because she was willing to just try she is now able to do this:
video
And also today they taught her how to skate backwards.  Before today she had never done that before and now she can do it.  She's obviously not great at it as the total crash at the end of the video can attest, but she got herself back up and tried again after this video.  
video
I find that attitude inspiring.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shocking Realization

I was talking to my mom on the phone yesterday when I realized something that totally shocked me.  I was raised by two feminists!  How could that have happened without me knowing it?!  It did though.  I just thought we were normal, but I think now I might have been wrong.  Not once growing up did I ever think that girls couldn't be as smart as boys, that they couldn't grow up and do anything they wanted to, that girls were in any way inferior to boys.  My parents never tried to tell me that boys and girls were the same but I always got the message that they were equal.  Because that idea makes total sense to me I guess I just took it for granted that everyone thinks this.

My dad once said to me, "The best thing I could ever do for my kids was to marry a smart woman."  (You can tell that one stuck with me.)  And he did just that.  And I think both of my parents in their own way worked toward shaping my sister and I into smart, capable women as well.

I don't know what Dan's home was like growing up.  In many ways vastly different than mine I'm sure.  I don't know if I could say what his parents taught their children on the topic of gender relations or women's rights, but I do see the fruit of their labors.  They have two daughters who are fiercely independent.  And both at one time or another work/ed to support their families.  There had to be some teaching about the strength, and intellect of women going on in that home to produce that.

 Now, though, I am realizing that not everyone thinks this.  Equality and respect can be talked about and taught, but kids are smart and they may pick up on attitudes around them without anyone even saying anything.  That, in fact, boys and girls learn ideas radically different from equality and respect and I wonder where the ideas are coming from.  I don't want any of my children to think this.  I want them to reject the negative examples they may see.  I never want my children to think that I stay home because I can't do anything else.  I stay home because that is what I want to do.  And also that this work I'm doing right now is something I value just as much as I value the work that their dad does in healing people and providing income for our family.  My marriage looks very different than what I saw in my parent's marriage growing up, but I don't think that means that we can't show our children that we are both equally responsible for raising them, and keeping our home together headed in a direction of love and respect.

And I don't think that should be shocking to anyone.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas

Yesterday it snowed.  The first real snow of the season and it's going to stick.  Today the high should be in the low teens.  And it's snowing again right now.

A good time to be cozy inside.  Which is what I plan on being for the rest of the day.  I had to go out this morning for groceries (note to self: Try to avoid having to take all three kids to the grocery store.  They are helpful, but also know what sort of snack to quietly add to the cart.  It makes for an expensive trip.) but this afternoon we have nothing on the must get done list.

If I get ambitious this afternoon I might take the three of them out to sled or color the snow in our backyard, but for now I feel cozy and just right cleaning the house.

Speaking of the house, and decorating (because we were talking about that right?) I was thinking about a few random Christmas decorations that we have at our house handed down from my family.  I doubt they'd get popular because they are out of style at the moment, but nothing says Christmas to me like seeing those decorations that I've looked at my whole life.  Here's one:


Rosie the reindeer.  After I got her I had to fix her eyelashes because a mouse had eaten them at some point, but after that I proudly hung her on our wall.  I know others might think her sort of strange, but I don't mind having to walk to the side of the hallway so that I can avoid her long face sticking out.  She welcomes Christmas into our house quite nicely.

Do any of you have Christmas decorations like that?  Old, but not old enough to be "vintage," but that doesn't matter to you.  Or am I the only one happily putting up my parent's cast off goods?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sacrifice and Love

I don't think anything can prepare a person, wife, or family for what it means to be an intern or have one in the family.  It's like when people try to describe what life is like with your first newborn.  You will never fully be prepared because you can't until you've done it before.   For the uninitiated the first year of a medical residency is called the intern year.  It was horrible.  I think the hard part about it is that, as a wife and mother, you do everything alone.  Everything.  Even though you are alone, your spouse is still physically there one some level.  And you have to get used to it.  You adapt and you figure out how to do it alone, but then he's there and you figure that means he'll be able to function in the role he used to have in the family.  He can't.  He's too tired.  Tired doesn't even seem the right word for the exhaustion I saw in my husband at times last year.  But whatever it is, he's not there.  And when that realization hits you it sort of feels like the rug that you are carefully treading is pulled out from under you and the family sort of falls apart.  So in order to avoid that feeling you stop expecting anything, but because you stop expecting anything you stop offering anything either.  You quietly pull away a tiny bit.  Walls can be built up so easily in silence during intern year.

I think every relationship, marriage, and family has struggles and challenges that they have to work out and that was ours last year.  We worked at it though.  We worked hard to occasionally break down those walls that were built so we could make it through.

And we made it.  I am so glad we made it through last year.  I feel we are stronger now that I ever though we could be.  We are a team and each does what needs doing to keep "us" together.

That's why when he has to get up at 3:30 every morning and isn't home until after 8 each night (like the entire past week) it somehow doesn't seem that hard this time around.  I am prepared to do it on my own, to share with him what he missed that will keep him with us, and to leave out those parts that he doesn't need.

And there is one other amazing thing about not being an intern. This year he occasionally gets weekends!  Not every weekend, and not on every rotation, but occasionally, like last weekend, he has an entire two days off.  It feels like such a luxury to have him around for two days in a row.  And he jokes, and makes me laugh and plays in the snow with the kids and the whole family is a bit tipsy on the happiness that comes from having our whole family together.

So here's something that I 100% appreciate and hope to never take for granted about my husband.  Since the beginning of medical school and to an even greater extent in residency he has cut out activities that aren't essential that take him away from his family.  He has told me that his work takes him away from us so much that he doesn't want to take more time away.  Yes, it is a sacrifice for him, but he does it because he loves us, he loves me.  I think that focus he has is a great part of why we managed to grow together through the year last year.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Christmas Funnies

From Charlotte:

We have a count down to Christmas calendar for each of the kids.  You know the kind that you open a window each day and a minuscule sized chocolate is behind it?  That's what we've got.  They love opening the flaps and seeing what design the chocolate was molded into.  Today Charlotte opened the flap and said, "I got a Christmas Aardvark!"  She was thrilled.  I looked at it and had to admit that what I assume was supposed to be a reindeer head did in fact look like an aardvark. Nothing says Merry Christmas like an aardvark.

From Greg:

This morning or neighbor was over waiting to walk to school with us.  She was drawing a picture of Santa when she asked Greg, "Greg, do you believe in Santa?"  Greg said, "NO!  I believe in monster trucks."  She replied, "You have to believe in Santa.  If you don't then you don't get any presents."  Greg, "Oh, all right, I guess I believe in Santa.....but I really believe in monster trucks."

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Crappy Day

Was going to post some Christmas love here today.  Then I ran out of time and energy.  Why?  You may be asking.  Well, I'll tell you.

I think Lee caught some sort of GI bug.  He is usually a prolific pooper, but it has been every hour for the last couple of days.  Today he was very cute in the tub.  And then he pooped in the tub.  And then we were late dropping Greg off for preschool so I figured I'd do it when I got back.

I got back when Charlotte got home from Kindergarten and wailed that she "NEVER gets to have friends over!"  Which is sort of true for the last week or so.  I decided to invite our neighbors over.  It's an easy out in that situation.

I started cleaning the dried on poop in the tub when the neighbor girl came running upstairs telling me that there was dog poop in the basement.

It wasn't just dog poop.  One big plop of poop is gross, but I can handle that.

The kids had been playing outside and the two youngest (Greg and the neighbor's little sister) stepped in dog poop up and around their shoes.  They had no idea because they came inside and then

wait for it

wait for the awful

jumped on my new sofa.  You can't even make this sort of horrible up.  I was interrupted from cleaning up someone else's poop in the tub so that I could clean up dog poop on my sofa.

Sometimes kids are so gross.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Doctor's Kids

So this is funny.  The kids of doctors aren't normal.  They are exposed to the human body in ways normal children aren't at a very young age.  Yesterday I walked in on this scene:



PS. Those aren't real bones just so you know.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Golden Afternoon

On December 3rd in Minnesota at was a warm day.  To say that is rare is an understatement.  I couldn't waste it.  When Charlotte got home from school we ate lunch and then headed to the zoo.  It had been foggy/windy/overcast for a few days before and in the morning, but when we got to the zoo the clouds parted and we saw the sun.  We watched the otters, and ran with the wolves.  We saw the new cougar/big cat exhibit and laughed at the funny totally green sod that is in the enclosures.  Then we saw the farm animals.  Charlotte says this horse has hair the same color as Aunt Katie's.
 After our walk through the zoo we took a trail to the play area.  Here Lee and I are on the path.
 After swinging on the big toy the kids wanted to climb in the only tree small enough for them to climb.  I helped them into it and then took some photos.


Monday, December 03, 2012

On Our Walk Home

We live close enough to the elementary school that my kids don't get a bus.  So we walk.  Technically we could drive and I could drop them off, but honestly I think that if the school thinks its too close to use a bus then I figure it's probably too close to use my car.  I have driven Charlotte a few times when we're running late and I'm sure when it gets too cold and windy I'll drive her, but we have yet to reach that day.  

On the way home from dropping Charlotte off at the crosswalk Greg and I walk together and talk.  Mostly though I just listen and he tells me about life according to him.  I think the walk home is magic.  Here is an excerpt from our walk home today:

Me: Ooh!  It's a windy rainy day!
Greg: Yeah.
Me: It feels like the wind is pushing us back.
Greg: Good thing we have legs and feet.  
Me: (silence because I have no idea what he means) Hmm...
Greg: That way we can't get blown away.  But cars don't have legs and feet so they could get blown away.  What is that beautiful sound?
Me: Our neighbor has wind chimes.
Greg: What are wind chimes.
Me (pointing): Those things over there making that sound in the wind.
Greg: Maybe we could make wind chimes the next time we go to The Home Depot.  And then we could paint them and make them beautiful and we could have a beautiful sound at our house when it is windy.  Where is my shooter buncgo?
Me: Here.
Greg: I don't want to loose that.  It's important.

Nothing amazing, but you can see why I prefer to walk with my kids than to drive them.  I don't want to cut this part out of my day.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Smiles

My children teach me every day.  I've been trying very hard to bring peace into my home and to teach that to my kids.  I truly believe happiness comes only when we are at peace with ourselves and with those people we interact with.  Since I interact with my children more than all others that's where I have begun.  I've told my kids that I'm working on this trait and that they can help me.  If they see me using an unkind tone of voice all they need to say is "1-2-3" which is the first half of the saying we came up with together. "1-2-3 let it be." If I see them in need of reminding that's what I tell them too.  It reminds us to take a breath step back and see if we are acting like peacemakers.

Tonight Charlotte was unhappy because I told her she couldn't stay up late to watch a Christmas show.  She was mad and more than a little tired when she decided to pound her fist into her chair.  I said nothing so she decided to shove her chair back into the wall.  I'm pretty sure she didn't mean to dent the wall, but she did and then I got mad and yelled at her to go to bed directly.  She stomped and screamed and wailed.  I waited a minute then followed her.  I knew I needed to talk to her about her behavior, but I also knew I should have calmed down more before talking to her.  We were in the middle of a confrontation when Greg quietly walked up and tapped me on the arm.  He said, "1-2-3 Mom.  1-2-3."  

He was right, of course.  I told him so.  I walked away took a breath and came back.  I told Charlotte I was sorry for yelling and calmly explained that it's OK to be disappointed, but it isn't OK to hit and stomp and damage walls.  We ended with a hug, kiss, and cuddles while reading stories.  My son, the peacemaker.

Also, remember when I broke the tub the day I got home from the hospital after delivering Lee?  We temporarily fixed the upstairs tub.  Here are some photos of Lee in the inaugural bath time.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Unexpected

On Monday afternoon I was working when I suddenly noticed that all the children were quiet.  And not close.  Usually cause for concern I searched them out.  Charlotte and Greg (with Charlotte's help) wrote letters to Santa.  Here they are.

Greg's:
 Exact transcription:
Dear Santa
I haveint bin prficd bt I have bin godt I wot u gren asrom
Translation:
Dear Santa,
I haven't been perfect but I have been good.  I want a green transformer. From Greg (That part was on the back)

Charlotte's:
Exact Transcription:
Dear Santa
I wot for crismis urocer pone and u athrob and u sliprs and umecin grl dol and sorisis
Frum Charlotte
Translation:
Dear Santa,
I want for Christmas a (I have no idea what urocer pone is) and a bathrobe and slippers and an american girl doll and surprises.
From, Charlotte

Though these are awesome.  I think I'm going to sit down with them and help Charlotte to spell things correctly.  So there you have it.  Greg wants transformers (though about 90% of the time when you ask he actually says "A Monster Truck that Jumps.") and Charlotte wants surprises.