And man, did these kids have a good time putting together a birthday party for their dad yesterday. As you get older, your needs just seem to get smaller and they had a ball wrapping his favorites, fruit stripe gum and vanillaroma car fresheners. He got a coupon book for back rubs and newspaper retrievals, and a made bed with a ginormous card:
His favorite homemade ice cream cake of all time (which turned at better than ever, I might add, thank you very much):
Another year older and wiser, here are the reasons we think he's the best:
Mom: He works really hard to take care of our family. Nobody works harder and we mean nobody. And yet, as often as he can, he arranges schedules to be available for all of our "events" and to help out with getting our family where we need to be.
Annie: He's the funniest and funnest guy we know. He's like a big kid who likes to play Nerf guns, monopoly, Lego's, helicopters and other games with us.
Celia: I like our daddy/daughter outings to breakfast and when we go one on one to church activities.
Janie: I love that Dad is always willing to sit and listen to our plays. He always makes sure to come in and say goodnight to me. He makes time for us.
Christian: He and I get to go on an annual backpacking trip that is really cool. It's fun and we have a great time fishing and hanging out together. He comes to my ball games and yells. I know he's interested in what I'm doing.
Grant: I love shared tractor rides, and he shared his birthday presents. He shares everything he has with me!
And as for Eliza, I love to watch him take care of her. He's great at it. He might not feel manly as I gush over his ability to make our baby happy, but she adores him, reaches for him, and lights up when he enters the room.
Last Friday we got to go see Celia in the middle school production of "Annie". She sure comes alive on stage, that one.
She sang "Hard Knock Life" as though she had connected with her inner orphan. It was as like she knew the true meaning of every word. Weird.
And Sunday, I was getting ready for church and could faintly hear the strains of "Hard Knock" being sung by teeny tiny voices. I stepped from the bathroom wondering where the music was coming from. There sat our dad, with headphones on, finalizing his lesson for church whilst listening to orphans sing about no one caring a smidge. Love it. Guess it's our new anthem around here -- at least until the next musical.
This tattered and worn out book on one of my parents many book shelves
and if you look really carefully at the group of boys white water rafting, that goofy looking kid in the yellow helmet obviously having the time of his life is none other than my brother Josh, boy scout extrodinare.
Fabulous sisters who inspire me to come home and be better at so many things
This page from a very old ensign that has been framed and hung on my parent's wall for as long as I can remember. I even love the water damage to the upper corner.
Spring chicks. We've done it a few years so you'd think we'd be pros by now. Yet, today has been a real roller coaster ride.
It began with a 7am phone call from Frank at the Franktown Post Office. That's what I said -- Frank of Franktown, but he could have been Santa Claus for as fast as these folks scrambled out of bed and into their clothes on the first day of spring break to get down there at break neck speed.
Carton opened and huddled crush of chicks dispersed, we discovered that one little guy hadn't survived the trip. And it broke my hardened eleven year old boy into pieces. It was hard to watch and the trip home was much more solemn than the jovial journey to collect our new arrivals had been. Once home, Christian disappeared to the woods and shortly returned ashen faced and my heart just ached but at the same time loved that he was touched so deeply by the circle of life.
Excitement once again mounted as we unloaded our new babies into their warm bed of pine shavings, taught them how to eat and drink and bantered over names to give each. And then again, one tiny one started to fail. Bebe, Annie had dubbed her. Try as I might, I could not revive the little thing and as evening came, she took her last breaths. I'd shooed the kids out to play as I did my best to make her comfortable but had to admit when they quietly re-entered, that Bebe's little body hadn't been able to sustain the strain of a mail order migration.
I turned off the heat lamp and gingerly closed the box. Annie's tear stained face turned to mine and asked to take it. I allowed her and once outside, I observed through the window as she turn to her siblings to speak words I could not decipher. I watched as older brother grabbed a shovel and older sister took hands of younger siblings and all followed my blond girl to the woods edge as the sun set over the trees.
And I broke. What lessons to learn today. That I never want to see my children full of pain. That they can bear one another's burdens. That life is packed with disappointment. That with good things come hard challenges. That if, today they can handle such an unseemingly small hurt, perhaps tomorrow they can pick themselves up after an even bigger one.
Not too long ago, I learned something about chicks as they hatch. It's a time consuming process in which the little bird struggles to emerge and then rests for a time over and over again until it is ready to meet the waiting world. The process is strengthening to it's little body and enables it to stand on legs that have worked to gain their own stability. Assistance from an external source results in weakness and an inability to fight for life which inevitably leads to death.
My children must face their challenges in order to be the people I want and need them to be. I can hug, advise, guide and love, but I can't fix or make the load any easier or they might not be strong enough. We all must struggle bit by bit. We all must find our own inner strength. Only when we are forced to stretch do we become the beings we were sent here to be.
Who knew all of that would come from a crate of chicks in the post today. Your short life did not go unnoticed, Bebe. Thank you for sharing your struggles.
The things I say get lost in translation. For some reason when I announce "time for bed", these peeps must hear "party time before bed". Don't know why that is.
I know gals who just love that time of day. The time they get to assist their beloved little ones with teeth brushing and face washing. All gathering to soak in a story by a mom whose voice lovingly lulls tiny tots to sleepy town. A precious moment on bended knee as each delivers a heartfelt prayer. Tucking every munchkin in with a kiss, a song and a quizzical "what was your favorite part of today?"
It stings to know that my experience is oh so much different. I wonder at the thoughts that must rush through my children's minds at the moment those fateful words are uttered -- "It's time for Bed". "Wonder if she meant it?", "I forgot to wrestle today but this is my chance", "Do you think she can catch us?" I've tried all manner of things to enhance the experience and still, the end result is never pretty. And I, the mother, close the door of my room just wondering if the darkness and the threat of fixtures minus light bulbs should they be illuminated once again, is enough to quite the seemingly endless dance party, USA.
One evening last weekend after the madness had finally settled, I took the priceless opportunity to elicit advice from my parents as I was visiting their home. I sat in their living room relaying my dilema, pleading for an answer and insisting that what I most desire is to climb into bed feeling fulfilled and not as the shrew-like Harpy of most nights. As I unfolded my circumstance, I watched their intent faces just knowing that after raising nine children a solution made of liquid gold would pour forth and bless my emptiness.
The moment of silence following my delivery seemed endless .. and then came the laughter. The gut wrenching, wet your pants, wipe your eyes laughter of two people so, so, SO delighted to see a child receive their comeuppance. And holding one another up because walking was just plain painful with such side splitting gaiety, choking and sputtering, they patted my head and headed to the peace and solitude of their own darkened bedroom. As I sat there in stunned silence, I could still hear guffaws behind that closed door as I sat pondering my answer-less solitude.
The next day brought my sisters and with them surplus amounts of boisterous merriment. We laughed till we cried, we retold stories still hilarious only to us, we choked on our own tomfoolery. It was as though our party picked up right were we had left off from our last farewell. That's when the thought occurred to me. I want my people to be like this. I want them to long for one another's company. I want them to love the party that their togetherness brings.
I could suppress them. I could curb their enthusiasm with harshness. I could quench their thirst for frivolity. But would that eternally kill the soiree? Would they loose their lust for life, their hankering for hilarity? One day would they visit my quiet and empty house and demurely visit politely on my couch?
I loved watching my mother soak in the party before her as if it was only there for the moment. It would disappear soon enough and leave her with it's memory to chuckle over in quiet moments long after we'd each returned to our homes. I knew that she would silently wait for the riot to return again.
And so I will continue to chase these little people around and call "Girils, GURILS .." up my stairs into the wee evening hours because that is where the relationships are made. That is where the party is and in this moment, I am lucky enough to be a part of it. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
Happy St. Patrick's day. Though our adjustment to the time change isn't quite what it should be and the traditional green eggs and ham breakfast became a quick cold cereal with green milk, the sea of St. Patrick's day kids waiting to enter the school gave a festive start to our day.
Hooray for crazy made up holidays to make the end of winter pass by quickly! ... And hooray for cheesy grins.
This past weekend, I just needed a laugh. The kind that makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I could be on my way to developing a six pack if only for a second. The best way to do that is to take a trip to my mother's and let all my sisters and brothers in the vicinity know I'm bringing my crew. It's usually a spontaneous act and only brings out a few sibs but being tired of winter's end, it was the antidote. The husband was on a business trip, the timing just seemed right and so I pulled the kids from school Thursday, loaded the wagon and ventured out on our eight hour round-trip mini-vaca.
I don't have problems pulling my kids from school for a single day on occasion. After all, it's only going to get harder as we get hooked more and more into high school sports and events, teenage jobs and the like. School is important and lasts a long time, but childhood is short and memories are for a lifetime. So, what's one day going to hurt? I'm not fond of deceit so rather than excusing ourselves for illness, I sent notes with the kids that we would be going out of town. Boy, did that rock the boat. Apparently the school would rather you said your children didn't "feel well".
It was ever so pleasant. I really enjoyed the visit and I'll write more thoughts on that later. But, I have to say that for the first time ever, my kids traveled well. Most of my road trips result in suppressing and urge to leave the backseat wrestle mania on the side of the road in remote Wyoming. Maybe they're getting older, but this time conversations were great, the jokes less disgusting and the older ones were semi-helpful -- even if they think it's funny to assure that everyone is back in the car following a bathroom break when they actually are not.
Who says road trips aren't educational? Things we learned on the journey:
Where cloudy days come from
And windy ones (thanks Grant for both insights)
That we love fields of cantaloupe (thank you Annie and Janie)
And that though we have racked our brains for a name to give our little haven in the woods (because our dad thinks it would be cool), we are just as glad not to be a part of the Butt family... because we would have to live at the Butt ranch.... with the rest of the Buttes. (Thank you Celia and Christian)
Apparently a formal education is more valuable than I thought.
Yesterday, I started cleaning the house with a pocket full of M&Ms I found hidden, and hopefully forgotten, by someone at the very back of the spice cabinet. M&Ms inhaled, motivation drained, and today I'm back to cleaning, except with empty pockets. Wonder if cleaning under the kids beds will uncover leftover Valentine chocolate.
My kids claim they are the last kids on the planet without cell phones. I'm betting this isn't true but they go to great lengths to convince me it is so.
Recently, in an effort to prove their worthiness, they all took empty caprisun pouches and turned them into cell phones. Numbers and screens drawn on the front, straw extended for good reception. They carried them around for days trying to convince us that they were responsible enough to deserve this.
While talking to one of my children, she said, "Hang on, I've got to get this" and pulled her caprisun/cell phone from her back pocket, pretended to abbriviate an otherwise lengthy call and then turned back to me. HUH?
On the way to an activity, another child poked a head up in the back seat and exclaimed "I forgot my cell phone, we've got to turn around!" YEAH.
And yesterday, my seven year old called me at 4:30, a time when I knew she was on the bus headed for home, to ask if she could get off at a random stop with a girl I've never met. "How are you calling me???" I asked. "I'm borrowing my friend so-and-so's cell phone." comes the little voice through the noise of a busload of kids finally free for the day. "Give her the phone back and stick with the plan." WHAT!?!
Why is it that I will make sure that my kids are the last kids on the planet with cell phones?
Thanks kids, for proving what I already knew, that you should stay kids for as long as you can.
There's craziness at my house. I'll admit it. There's a pile of laundry on my couch that would make a Goodwill clothing sorter run. Syrup coats everything in the kitchen more often than not. Schedules necessitate dinner on the run some nights and the result is a car that the detailer gave up on. My garage is littered with bikes, skateboards and currently, sleds. There's a party every night that commences the moment I announce bedtime. Don't know why but it almost always escalates into a frenzy that leads to tears because no one under thirteen wants it to end. My children have lovingly dubbed us "the Late Linfords" because our disclaimer up front is that we can't be on time to anything. But despite all of this, I really can count on only one hand plus an extra thumb, how many times I've forgotten and left a child stranded.
And yet, Annie says no less than twice a week, "I can't wait to be a mom". She's the best at making me feel like everything is so worthwhile.
She looks pretty as a picture. But with that upright posture, comes a realization that we might be breaking up. And there's a whole lot of frustration, especially on her part, that comes with this new found knowledge. Coupled with some teething that has turned this darling into a bit of a deception, our true identity is starting to show and I'd really like to have my happy baby back.
I do so love the feeling of spring in the air. And since this is my forum for things that I want to remember, there's nothing like watching a bunch of little children convince their dad to take them on a Saturday picnic (pay no attention to the still snowy shadows).
I stayed at the house with a sleeping baby while this group took off for the woods. But a good tele-zoom function on a camera can put you into the action even from a great distance. I do so love that way up in the woods, we still have a blessing on our food.
And that a semi-picky Dad would actually eat a peanut butter, honey and walnut sandwich made for him by a crew of kids.
Yesterday, Grant pleaded for a picnic and with the rare spring-like weather we were experiencing, I could hardly say no. With the sun warming our shoulders, we headed out and somewhere in our woodsy wanderings, we came across this little discovery:
Let me illuminate you. This would be a drill bit sticking out of a random split log, securely wedged and for no apparent reason. My father used to say, "You can have tools, or you can have boys, but you can't have both". I mused over this saying of his as a teen, not completely aware of it's true meaning. And I really only understood it's prophetic truth once I had boys and a husband who had tools.
See, my husband is a man among men. He loves his tools with a devotion unsurpassed. Socket wrenches, rotary tools, screw driver sets, we have metal boxes full of such treasures. And to a little boy, that's exactly what they seem. So I wasn't extremely surprised the first time I found a Robogrip in the grass of the yard. Then came the necessary lock down. Pad locks, key locks, big grey storage cabinets with combination locks. Still no Fort Knox for two boys. The tools vanish, disappearing into an unseen abyss and I hear my father's words. Yes, boys and tools cannot coexist in the same space.
One day, not so long ago, my husband spent an entire day looking for his hammer. His frustration boiled over when evening approached and he remained empty handed. Following a good night's sleep and hearty breakfast, his only words as he left to work for the day were "Have that boy find my hammer after kindergarten today". I figured he meant for me to have the boy find the hammer after kindergarten that day.
Home from school and backpack still on his back, I asked Grant where Dad's hammer was and watched as he wrinkled his brow and squinted his eyes in deep thought. "I know where it is. It's up on the hill" he said. And I replied, "Lead the way".
Off we set up the deer path between the hill to the back of our house and the one to the side, his eyes skimming the ground ever so carefully for a glimmer of metal. I followed expectantly. As the path narrowed to an end, he stopped and said "No, it's not here but I went this way." and he pointed up the rolling incline at the foot of the hill. Again, I followed suit, certain that we would catch that orange and silver tell-tail glint that meant the lost hammer was found.
Winding our way across the hill, inching closer to the summit, we scanned and looked though nothing was materializing. We came upon a clearing where branches had been leaned against a tree. "I'm tired Mom." Grant said propping himself on a fallen tree, legs swinging over the edge. I sat beside him and in our silence, listened to the wind come through the pines. After a time I ventured, "You don't know where the hammer is, do you?"
His deep sigh told me what I needed to know. "I don't", he admitted "But..." he hopped off the fallen tree, swung his backpack to ground, stooped to unzip it and poured out a full set of screw drivers and all the Allen wrenches of the world, "Since you're here, would you help me build this fort?"
I get it now, Dad. I still don't have don't have a hammer. But I do have my boy.
And I guess today we're going on a drill bit hunt.
I know birthdays are traditionally for the one celebrating their birth day. We come bearing gifts, cake and congratulatory exclamations on another year of life passed. She grins and gets excited, feels special, feels loved.
But as the mother, I think I could probably chance to say, that I'm the only one who really remembers how momentous an occasion it was thirteen years ago. Yes, one minute she was in the dark, completely unaware and the next, struck by a barrage of overwhelming sensation. Sounds never heard before, light never seen, touch never experienced and emotions not yet expressed.
But somehow, I'd been in the dark too. I also had no idea how the sound of childhood laughter, a smile illuminating an entire face, a hug warming from the inside out, or soothing the pain of an unseen hurt would change me. I think that's the magic of a first born child. Her firsts were my firsts. I learned as she learned. The minute I held her in my outstretched arms, how little did I know that my life would never again be the same.
And so we celebrate Celia's 13 years in our family with all the pomp and circumstance of a gal reaching a ripe ole age. With a line of song stuck in my head, "Time flies on wings of lightning, one cannot call it back", my heart aches for the days to slow. And in my silent reverie, I celebrate my own special day to remember thirteen years ago. The day she made me what I always dreamed of being. The day I became her mother.