Saturday, December 26, 2009

Surviving Christmas

A lot of people wouldn't be able to handle the way we celebrate Christmas around here. Not because the kids get up too early or because of the complete greedy mayhem. Nope. Around here, Christmas is all about the anticipation. 

The kind of anticipation that can kill you if you're not brave enough or strong enough. For me, the anticipation is the best part. But, I'm strong. Or crazy. Or both. 

There's no waking up at the crack of dawn (or earlier!) around here. No rushing in to rip the wrappings to shreds, everyone opening at once, desperate to see what was given. Nope. At this place we take things at a more leisurely pace. Less like a 100 yard dash and more like a stroll through the neighborhood, with plenty of pauses to enjoy the scenery, look at crawling bugs and smell the flowers. 

There are rules, you know. 

The first rule is that everyone must sleep in. Until at least 8 o'clock. Big is still working on this one, but this year he made it until 7:40. The key is, you see, to never let them know that waking up at 4 am is an option. Because it isn't.

The second rule is that everyone must be dressed, teeth and hair brushed, rooms cleaned before any of the festivities can start. The kids are usually smart and do most of the cleaning in the few days before Christmas arrives, but the morning of is perfect for last minute touch-ups. All of this usually occurs while I am whipping up our traditional breakfast of bran muffins (they rock, I swear) and cheesy scrambled eggs.

Oh, did I forget to mention that breakfast has to be eaten before we can even think of entertaining thoughts of present opening? It's important to give all of that Christmas candy a good solid base, you know. We're looking for staying power here. The fact that we get regularity, too, is just a bonus. At least I'm not super hardcore like my mom is-- she serves a big bowl of frozen peaches to each family member. Try eating those quickly in your rush to get things moving! 

It might seem like we're ready to start now, but we're not. There are still the breakfast dishes to be washed, table to be wiped clean, leftovers to be put away... even the floor must be swept. It's amazing how willingly the kids pitch in when there's a goal in sight.

Ahhh. Now we're ready. Line up and get ready to go...

Even the grandparents in Armenia joined us for a bit. It looks like they're excited to see what Santa brought. 

Once we get into the living room, the kids are free to open the stockings and gifts brought by Santa with some semblance of wild abandon, but they still take time to show others what they've been given and appreciate what others have received. It's a must, you know.

After all of Santa's gifts have been opened, it's time to open the stuff under the tree. Time for patience to once again be tested. We take turns opening gifts, youngest to oldest, over and over again until the presents are gone. It's nice to see what everyone received, to feel gratified when your gift seems appreciated and they take the time to tell you so, instead of just tossing it quickly aside after a glance so they can rip open the next thing with their name on it. It's nice. Relaxing, even (knowing that I don't have a pile of dishes waiting for me to do when we're done? Relaxing and priceless!).

When the presents were all opened this year, Rophone and I unveiled the final Santa gift. It was kept under wraps until the very end, with thoughts that once the boys saw it we'd have a hard time getting them to do other things. 

We were right.

I know that a lot of the time growing up I thought that doing Christmas this way was torture, but I reveled in every minute of it. I'm sure that my kids feel the same way. I have come to learn as a parent, though, that celebrating the way we do isn't just a means to successfully torture the kids (I'm always trying to figure out ways to do that!)-- it's also a way to help them realize that what they get isn't really what Christmas is all about. The traditions, the spending time with family.... heck, even doing the breakfast dishes is more important than the gifts they receive. The only Christmas gift that really matters is the birth of our Savior and the gift of his example and life. 

Anyway, this Christmas was just fabulous. The kids were all appropriately appreciative, no tantrums or meltdowns (I tell ya the bran muffins really do rock!) and, for once, every single gift was perfect for its intended recipient. There was none of the usual regret over a present that just didn't go over the way we thought it would. The amount of time we've been able to just hang as a family has been fantastic. Really, really great. We not only survived Christmas, we did it in grand style!

I can't wait to bring on the torture again next year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Celebrating Fifteen

Rophone and I were married fifteen years ago today. Fifteen years! It's so weird how time is-- on one hand it feels like just the other day, but on the other hand it feels like we've been married forever (in a good way). I can't seem to remember my life without him. My life has certainly been better because of him.

I know that I am better because of him. Rophone has boosted my self-confidence beyond measure over the past 15 years. It still has a ways to go, but he has made me believe that I can do things. Be things. That I already am things. And I love him for that.

Happy Anniversary, Rophone! Can't wait for the next gazillion plus years!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Abominable Big

Big and I went to Ginger's Christmas program yesterday while Bud was at school. It was difficult to make it through. Big isn't really cut out to sit still for that sort of thing-- not without providing his own entertainment, that is.

Today we had to do it again for Pen's program. It was long. Interminably long. You see, each day we watched half of the kindergarten perform (either morning or afternoon) and then half of the grades perform. It just so happens that my kids were in the highest grade of each program, so therefore performed last. Not only that, but for Pen's program today they also added in the two upper grade choirs. Long with a two year old, I tell you. Especially a two year old like Big.

About 3/4 of the way through today's program, Big, standing on his chair, started plugging his ears with a grand gesture, elbows sticking out. After a few minutes of this, he suddenly lowered his arms and shouted at the top of his lungs, "I am the Abominable Snow Monster! I live in a cave! And I like to eat reindeer!"

Then he looked over at my arm draped over the back of his chair and said slyly, "And who is this in my cave?.... Ah! It's a reindeer! I am going to eat you up!!!"

He proceeded to pretend to eat me, nibbling me all over. I just about died laughing. 

A few minutes later I mentioned to Big that he needs a haircut, to which he responded, "No, I don't. I live in a cave."

Clearly, he was still in character.

The best part of the program, by far. (But you were really good, too, Pen!)

Monday, December 14, 2009


The snow that fell this weekend was perfect for making snowpeople (snowpersons?), so I decided to take the kids outside to make some yesterday. Besides being a fun activity to do together, there was the added benefit of the cold air helping out Big with his croup. Croup sucks, by the way. 

Anyway, here are two snowpeople I helped the kids create. After I went inside, they made a plethora of snowkids for the couple, which I neglected to photograph. Sorry, snowkids!

This is Pop. The mom snowperson. Bud and I created her together, and it was seeing her that prompted Pen and Ginger to want to make their own. 

Even though Pop has buck teeth, her husband, Bugly, still finds her to be beautiful. It may be that when he gazes into her brussels sprout eyes that he sees the moon and stars and forgets all else.

This is Bugly. The daddy snowperson. Pen, Ginger and I made him, with some heavy lifting help from Bud. Thanks, Bud!

Pop thinks he's really sweet. I'm not sure if she is referring to his disposition, or how he tastes when she gives him a smooch on his sweet pickle lips (Of course they kiss! They're married! They have snowkids! They are a very seriously committed snowcouple!).

Thanks kids (and snowpeople) for the great time!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mannequin Pals

Rophone had the day off yesterday, so we took the boys to the mall while the girls were in school. Like we usually do, we entered the mall through Nordstrom so the boys could look at the fish in the children's department.  

As we were leaving that store to enter the main part of the mall, Big, who wasn't watching where he was going, just about bumped into a mannequin. He looked up at the mannequin, gave him a head nod, and said, "Hey, man." Then he noticed it was actually a group of mannequins and said, "Oh. Hey guys."

In another store a few minutes later, Big reached out as he was passing a seated little girl mannequin and patted her on the knee saying, "Hi there, cutie!"   

He didn't even seem to mind that she didn't have a head. 

It's nice to know I've got a boy who'll look beyond outward beauty.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Talking to Big

Big and I talked and talked this afternoon. He really enjoys the time we have alone while Bud's in school. Part of today's lunchtime conversation made me laugh. 

Big: "What do rabbits eat, Mom?"

Me: "They eat lettuce, carrots, radishes, and things like that. They love raw vegetables."

Big: "Ewww! That stuff is yucky!"

Me: "Well, rabbits like it."

Big: "What do donkeys eat?"

Me (answering as Big gets distracted by something): "They eat hay and oats and stuff like horses do."

Big (in complete shock): "They eat horses?!?"

I clarified, which made him feel better. 

Big: "What about goats? What do they eat?"

Me: "They eat pretty much anything."

Big: "Anything?"

Me: "Yeah. You know, they like grass, garbage, even hats."

Big: "Of course they like hats. They like to put them on their heads."

Talking to Big is always fun. 

Then he started calling me Gordon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

All They Want

We have a Christmas tradition of asking the kids to write out (or dictate to others) a list of things they would like for Christmas. One might argue that it is just encouraging the greediness of the season, but we find it a helpful means to find out what they really want without being obvious about asking. Plus, the things they write down can often be hilarious. 

And revealing. 

And scary. 

And optimistically ridiculous. 

I scanned and took photos (when the scanner decided to act wonky) of the kids' lists this year and I thought I'd share them with you.  

This is Big's list, as dictated to me:

It is easy to see from this list what Big is obsessed with at the moment. I think he's rather greedy to want a second pool table, but I guess he just wants one of his own. We currently only allow him to use the top half of a pool stick-- it seems that number 4 on the list is letting us know what he thinks he should be using. 

And you can tell from #3 and #6 that he really, really wants his own drum set. In black, he says. But, I'd have to say that after hearing the awfully terrible sound of Big hitting Bud on the top of his head with a drumstick tonight.... yeah, that's not happening any time soon.

The next list is Bud's. I find it to be so revealing of the way his mind works. I love it.

I really kind of hope he gets #11, I can't wait to put him to work. And I'm not quite sure how Bud decided on the design of the notepad for #12, but that's what I love about him-- you never know what will come out of his mouth. I suppose he's going to use #18 to spruce up his room a bit, but doesn't want the upkeep of a real plant. He'll have enough to do with that kind of stuff if he gets #13.

Ginger's list is a little hard to read, but let's just say that some of it falls into the "optimistically ridiculous" category. That's probably why she included the note at the end that reads, "If you can't bring me these things bring what you think would be best for me." She's a smart girl. Hmmm... maybe there's some psychological play going on here.

It was so thoughtful of her to request a cedar wood play set without swings (since there's already an old school swing set in the backyard). That should save a few bucks. The play set, along with numbers 2 and 10, the trampoline and swimming pool--medium (she explained that a large swimming pool would be unrealistic to ask for), should fit just fine in Santa's sleigh, but might put a bit of a strain on the available space in the backyard. Just a tad. 

Oh, and I love that Ginger requested a Geo Trax train with a girl driver. Girl power!

Pen's list illustrates how completely she is straddling the line between being a young girl and a teen. 

Should Santa bring Pen the American Girl Doll and the Build-a-Bear, knowing she will outgrow them before she realizes? Or should Santa bring her a laptop, knowing she will be doing more research and typing of papers when she enters middle school next year? 

Pen received an Easy Bake Oven from Santa 3 years ago, but it had to be returned due to a recall. Then, we somehow managed to misplace the voucher for a replacement. She hasn't given up asking for a new one. It's been on her list for the past 2 years, but now she's upped the stakes and added cake mixes and a chef's hat to the request. Is this the year it will be fulfilled?

What should Santa do? Such a dilemma. I sure am glad I don't have his job!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pretend Fighting

I played pretend catch with Big this morning. You know, with a pretend ball. Big pretends I throw it fast sometimes. Other times he pretends that I threw it slowly, or that I threw it way up in the air and he has to wait for it to come down as he looks skyward. 

The best part of playing pretend catch is that no one ever throws it wildly or misses the catch. Unless you pretend it, that is. The possibilities are endless. 

Anyway, Big and I were playing and having a grand time-- until Bud decided he wanted to join in on the fun. It must have looked like we were having such a ball that he decided he wanted to be part of it. Big told Bud "no" when he asked if he could play, and no amount of persuading on my part could get him to throw the pretend ball Bud's way. 

Well, Bud started pretend catching the "ball" anyway, making Big feel as though his  extremely accurate fake toss was actually errant in its path, and possibly making Big feel as though his pretending personal space was being encroached upon. He yelled at Bud, "I told you you can't play catch with us!" But, Bud continued on in his provoking ways, once again catching the "ball" that Big threw.

Big then leapt upon Bud and beat the crap out of him to retrieve the "ball". I found myself laughing in disbelief that my boys were physically fighting over ownership of something that didn't truly exist, gripping one another's hands, pulling back and forth, trying to wrest a non-existent ball from the other's grasp. It was surreal. 

After it happened more than once, and no amount of rational talk would get the boys to stop, I copped the excuse that all mothers everywhere use when they need some space--

"I have to go to the bathroom."

The diversion worked. They started playing pretend catch with their dad while I was gone. All three of them. 

Hmmm. Maybe it wasn't the "ball" that they didn't want to share, but their Mommy. 

Awwww. They love me!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Can You Barfle?

At the dinner table tonight, Ginger began to gargle her water and Bud hollered at her, "Don't barfle it!!" 

We corrected Bud, but it didn't stop Big from saying, "Can I barfle it? .... Oh, I can't. It's hard." and "Can you barfle it, Daddy?" and, once informed of what's proper, "We don't barfle at the table. It's rude!" We laughed every time. By the end of dinner Big had corrected it to "gargle", but I wouldn't be surprised if our family continues to call it barfling. It's way more fun.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Funnies

I don't have a single photo to post from Thanksgiving. Nope. Not a one. The meal was fantastic, though, if I do say so myself. I especially liked the cauliflower brussels sprout gratin that I made. Brussels sprouts are Rophone's favorite vegetable, so I was trying to find a way for him to get his favorite, but yet have him not be the only one to eat them. It was a fantastic dish. You can find the recipe here if you're interested. 

Oh, I guess I did take this picture on Thanksgiving day, but it's not of anything Thanksgiving-y.

But it's still kind of nice. 

As usual, my kids provided ample entertainment. The day after Thanksgiving we were enjoying lunch as a family, having a great time, when suddenly Big looks at me and says, "Hey, Mom! Ask me, 'So, Big, how are your Cheetos?'" Apparently he was feeling left out of the mealtime conversation. Sorry, Big!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, his Cheetos are good.

Then I stumbled across this doodle of Ginger's. 

Bud thinks that it's a Martian in a dress. That's why abstract art is so great. It can be interpreted in so many different ways! Yup. Just because I only see one thing doesn't mean that someone else can't see something completely different!

Big is really into role playing these days. He pretends to be Grizzly Ted the school bus driver from The Berenstain Bears while he drives me around in our love seat. He pretends to be Cousin Freddie when he plays catch and Brother Bear when he plays baseball. (Can you guess what his favorite show is?) But, his favorite role to play is that of his daddy. He becomes Daddy and Rophone becomes Big.

The thing that is amazing about when Big does his role playing is his ability to stay in character-- for hours on end sometimes. He gets so frustrated with my inability to remember to call him by the proper name. He just continues to remind me, and I try to get it right. 

Today at lunch, Big (playing the role of Daddy) volunteered to say the prayer. It went something like this--

"....We're grateful for this day. Please bless that Daddy will drive home safely..."

(Then, as an aside to himself)-- "Oh, wait, that's me!"

"...Please bless that I will drive home safely..."

Praying that Rophone will drive home safely is something that Big always does, even if Rophone is with us as he was today. It's just hilarious that he stayed in character even while he prayed! 

No one ever said he was a normal 2-year-old, most certainly not me. Man, I love that kid!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sing It!

I have complained in the past of feeling like I am parroting my mother when it comes to parenting my children. I have begun to change my mind about that as of late. Now that I am living in my folks' house, I no longer feel like I am parroting her-- I am channeling her!!! I swear that I am becoming my mother in her absence. 

It's not that I don't love her, mind you. I would just rather be myself. My own person. And maybe, just maybe, the characteristics and sayings I find myself mirroring are the ones that drove me a tad crazy in my youth. To hear myself saying the same phrases and doing those same things.... Ack! Talk about a shock to the system!

One of the things that I found slightly embarrassing and annoying as a youth was my mom's penchant for breaking into song. It's all about keyword triggers, you see. Mention the state of Oklahoma in a sentence? Be ready to hear the theme song from "Oklahoma!".  Mention the word "sugar" as you bake cookies together? All of the sudden you're baking with Mary Poppins! (At least she has a good singing voice! My mom, I mean. Well, and Mary does too, of course.)

I, too, break into song on occasion because of a keyword trigger. I have siblings who do it. And now, I have children who do it. Were we born to do it? Or have we been conditioned to do so? Nature or Nurture? Maybe it's not my mom's fault! Maybe it's in the genes!

The other day, Rophone and I were talking about how different his body looks since his abdomen has been "cleaned out", as it were-- both because of antibiotics and the preparations for his colonoscopy. 

As Rophone probed his belly, he remarked on how much less firm it is. The second the word "firm" was out of his mouth, Bud piped up in his clear, beautiful voice with "How Firm a Foundation..."-- a hymn from church! Thus pairing talk of constipation and clean colons with spiritual song!

It was then that I decided it surely can't be helped. 

P.S. I love you, Mom! ; )

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Typical Work Day

This morning the boys were playing nicely in Bud's room as Rophone was getting ready for work. Big put on Bud's cowboy hat and I heard him say, "Well, I guess I'd better head to work." He headed out of the room and walked down the hall as Bud waved to him from the doorway like some dutiful wife and called out, "Have a great day in the Wild West!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Just a Smattering

So, I thought I'd post just a smattering of the new photos I've taken as of late. 

Okay, a big smattering. But I'm allowed. My arm hurts. Plus, I have a twitch in my butt that makes me afraid it's growing-- only on one side. So, no complaining.

Most of these I used for The Challenge, but there are a few strays that I didn't. You'll like them anyway.

Again, apologies to my friends on that other website, as you've seen all of these before. These are for the other people. 

Buckle up! Here we go:

Take a deep breath. Go get a snack if you need one. But come back. 

Okay, you're free to go about your business. You're welcome. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The 12 Year Sick

Rophone is often sick. He hasn't really felt well for about the last 12 years-- sometimes worse than others. Believe it or not, although he's a typical male, he's even been to the doctor. Many times. But, they've never been able to tell him what is wrong.

Yep. Rophone hasn't felt well for the majority of our almost 15 year marriage. Not many people really knew-- I mean, a lot of the symptoms he suffers from aren't the kind you want to shout from the rooftops or have dinnertime conversation about. So, not knowing he's sick a lot, perhaps people may have made assumptions about him because of the length of our lawn, or the fact that I was out shoveling the snow instead of him.  

Honestly, a lot of the past 12 years, especially the last few, have not been fun for Rophone. To put it simply-- they've sucked for him. And, by association, they've sucked a little for me too. 

A few days before we celebrated Ulnar Nerve Un-Entrapment Day, Rophone started feeling less than stellar. I asked him if he wanted me to re-schedule my surgery, but he insisted I go ahead, saying he would be fine. Well, the first week he was fine. He was able to push through feeling gross and do my job pretty well. He was even keeping up with the laundry! The next week... well.....

The next week, it truly became evident that all was not well in Rophone-land. He became less and less able to do things, so I stepped in and took up the slack. (It's amazing how many things I could actually do one-handed, but I was even more amazed over the things that hadn't even occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to do-- like opening a stubborn ziploc, or pull the trash bag out of the can... frustrating!). By Friday, Rophone ended up in the hospital, truly miserable. He stayed there for the weekend. 

People in the neighborhood knew I had surgery, but they also knew that Rophone was taking 2 weeks off to care for me and the kids. So, I'm sure they thought things were going swimmingly. We most certainly hadn't told them otherwise. 

But, it's amazing what showing up to church with your arm in a sling and 4 kids in tow will do to cause people to throw themselves into action. It most certainly didn't hurt, either, that both the lesson in our women's meeting and one of the talks in the main meeting were on service and looking for opportunities to serve. 

By the time the second message came around, and I'm sure word of our plight had gotten around, I could feel peoples' eyes boring into me. There I sat, struggling one-handed with an ornery two-year-old, husband absent, clearly the poster child for service opportunities. I had a target on my back. And a blinking neon sign over my head. And, quite likely, a panicked look in my eyes (it just so happens that my red-headed daughter's pre-teen hormones decided to come a ragin' that same weekend.... Woah!)

I really was doing fine. I told people. Really. I was managing. Rophone came home that night, and could at least reprimand the kids from the couch. We didn't really need help. I told people that a person can really do a lot one handed. You'd be amazed. It wasn't until I heard myself explaining to someone my plan to push the full laundry basket with my feet to the laundry room, where I would load and unload one-handed, and then kick the basket of clean laundry over to Rophone on the couch where he could fold it with his two hands, that I realized just how pitiful our situation sounded. 

Okay. We'll take some dinners, thanks.

It was so nice at the end of the day, with my arm aching, not to have to worry about making a meal. Even once my sling and bandages disappeared earlier in the week, it was still nice. One less thing to have to manage. Thanks neighbors.

Oh, and you're probably wondering about Rophone. Well, the doctors he encountered at the hospital can't believe he's never been diagnosed. We're still waiting on the definitive results from this week's  colonoscopy, but they are 99.9% sure he has Crohn's. He's got classic symptoms, I guess. Even a surgery he had 10 years ago was for a classic symptom of the disease. Who knows why no one ever put 2 and 22 together, but now we've got a diagnosis. 

It's funny how people react. As though this is some new and shocking development in our lives. As though it will disrupt our existence and make things hard. What people forget, is that we've already been dealing with it for a loooong time. It has already been disruptive and difficult.

We are excited, actually. Optimistic for the future. Crohn's isn't curable, but it is treatable. Now that he's been diagnosed, Rophone has the chance to be better off than he has been in years. 

We can't wait.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Meal Ticket

The other day, Rophone and I took the boys outside to play some hoops and some baseball. Those of you who have been following my blog know that Big rocks at basketball. What you may not know is that Bud also rocks at baseball. The hitting part anyway. He regularly hits 7 of 10 balls we pitch to him. 

As we were playing with the boys, I began to have visions of a future meal ticket in my head. The wheels were turning. Excitement was starting to mount. I said to Rophone--

"Just think... when the boys are older... Bud will be in the Majors... and Big will be starring in the NBA..."

Then Bud pipes in with--

"...And you'll be all alone..."

Hilarious. But true. And glorious. Think of all the time we'll have to travel around the country going to all their games!