Old soul

June, my darling, difficult little June Bug has surprised me so much lately. It’s like the dragon scales are all falling away and I’m realizing there’s a really lovely little unicorn under there.

She was baptized over Christmas and I don’t think I’ve ever known a child to take it so intensely and feel the effect so completely.

She’s no angel but boy, the girl gets it.

Her first fast Sunday was December. We Mormons fast on the first Sunday of each month. I always remember fast Sunday and in our house it’s a forced fast once you’re baptized because we believe starvation is good for the soul. It always comes with a gentle lecture and a monthly family discussion on what we’re each going to fast about.

Rex absolutely hates it.

I don’t make the littles go for a full day, just until 2 pm. That’s a long time when you’re a kid but they’re pretty good about it, even Rex.

For whatever reason I totally spaced June’s first fast Sunday last month. “Mom,” she said waking me up at 7 am. “I’ve decided what I’m fasting for today!” I was mostly asleep but slowly realized that we had totally forgotten to start a fast the night before.

“I want to fast that our family can have more peace this week, and that my friend’s dad can get a job.”

“Oh,” I said with eyes still closed. “That’s nice, I’ll fast with you. Go ahead and say a prayer for us…” then I promptly went back to sleep like a good mother.

We got home from church sometime after 2 pm and June was an absolute monsters. Gone was the bright little angel from earlier, she was hangry (hungry+angry). “June,” I said as she sat at the table and did her really loud open-mouthed wail, “You need to eat.” I threw some egos into the toaster and said a quick prayer with/for her, explaining that she’d done great and it was time to break her fast.

She would not. Stop. Crying. It wasn’t a sweet whimper, it was a full-blown yowl. By this time it was nearly three o’clock. I syrupped the waffles and tried to put a bite in her mouth. I watched as she sat there with her maw open and let the sticky food drop down her chin and into her lap, her not silent refusal to take the offered food.

So I did what any wise mother would do, I took her by the elbow and firmly steered her upstairs to her room where I really firmly shoved her onto her top bunk. Honestly, the fact that I didn’t lose my cool in my own hangry state was a miracle.

“Look,” I said, “You are welcome back to the kitchen as soon as you’re calm and ready to eat something. You’re past hungry and you may not sit downstairs and cry because it’s really upsetting the rest of us.” Then I left.

Traditionally we break our fast as a family at four o’clock. At four June came down the stairs calmly and approached me at the couch. I was hungry and irritable but allowed her to enter my space with only a little glare.

“Mom,” she said, “I know why I was so upset earlier.”

This was a change of pace. I looked up, “Really? Please, tell me why you were so upset.” It was snarky, I didn’t care too much about what she was going to say.

“When I went up to my room I prayed about it and the Holy Ghost helped me know why I was crying and didn’t want to eat. It’s because our family really needs peace, and my friend’s dad really needs a job, so the Holy Ghost was trying to tell me that I needed to not eat and do a full fast with you and Dad…That’s why.”

It was the last thing I expected to hear from her and it humbled me. Kids, they teach us so much.

 

 

Because our kids tell their teachers everything

So yesterday was Rex’s annual IEP meeting with both of his teachers (classroom and resource) and the school speech therapist.

We’ve been doing this now for the past four years and no matter how good I know it will go, no matter how nonchalantly I walk into the conference room, as soon as we get down to brass taxes and Rex’s teachers start to talk about his performance–good or bad–I need to weep.

Heck, I don’t even know what I got all teary about yesterday. His amazing speech therapist went first, reading her prepared report and gushing about Rex’s wonderfulness. I could barely hold myself together, I used Georgia sitting on my lap to hide most of my face and made some excuse to lean down and mess in my purse so I could rake the tears from my eyes. I’d like to say that they were tears of joy but honestly, joy and sadness had nothing to do with my annual IEP emotional water show.

I feel so…much for this child. My emotions with all of our children obviously run strong, like I-will-emotionally-decapitate-you-if-you-make-her-cry kind of strong, but with Rex my feelings  are so raw and exposed that when his teachers talk about him I break into pieces. It’s like I need an emotional root canal.

I got over the initial wall and then it was good. In fact, it was so good that we’ve determined that next year (5th grade) Rex will be full-time in the classroom with only a little possible support on assignments. His reading and writing is up to grade level and so is his math (outside of the testing room). He’s horrified at this news, going to resource is his favorite part of the day.

There was that little piece of concern from his teacher that makes me cringe every time I think of it.

“You know,” she said gently, “I know EVERYTHING about your family…”

“Hahaha, I’m sure you do,” I replied.

“No really,” she said, “If Rex doesn’t tell it to me then your girls tell me when I take them to the bus. You should know, anything you don’t want me to know, they are going to tell me.”

“Oh,” I said, “I’m sure it’s not that bad…”

“Well, sometimes he starts talking about your husband’s job and it really makes me nervous. I really worry about some of the things he knows. Plus, family things…”

At this point I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable. I couldn’t think of anything she’d need to call CPS over, and besides what do you do? We finished the conversation and I headed home, stewing about what she might be hearing from the kids.

Then it hit me.

We (I) like to warn the children on a regular basis about the apocalypse, you know, casually. I frequently throw it into conversation just to make sure that if the grid does go down they’re mentally prepared for it. I don’t want any pansies who can’t pee in the desert, you know?

In fact, I’m sure she’s heard all about TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it), casually sprinkled into her conversations with my children. Like, “Guess what? My mommy got me new boots for when we gotsta live in the woods,” or “My dad got a new gun for Christmas so he can kill animals when we live in the woods,” or horror of horrors, “Our mom says I’m going to starve in the woods if I don’t learn to eat oatmeal.”

Yep, she knows. We are certifiable and it’s no longer a secret. I don’t even want to think about what ELSE she knows…

 

 

Run to the Manger

It can’t be December 9th, it just can’t. We’re never home, I’ve only read the kids one story all month, the decorations are cluttering up my life and my house, and I can’t stay out of the Kit Kats I bought for their teacher gifts.

Stupid Kit Kats.

Tonight was our Relief Society (lady group) Christmas party at church. I threw in my hat at the last minute to help my dear friend in charge and offered to sing.

I don’t sing here in Las Vegas. Up to this point flying under the radar has worked–I was planning to do it until we move (if…when…) but I think Heavenly Father wanted me to step away from the bushel and participate. How am I going to grow if I don’t use what I’ve got? Use it or lose it.

The song I sang was a simple Sally DeFord Christmas number that a friend in Germany had pointed me toward a few years back, “Shepherd, Leave Thy Sheep.” It was part of a lovely little program, one of many Christmas songs to carry the night.

The song is simple. So simple that today while I was praying about it, I couldn’t think of how a little repetitive song consisting of an invitation to the shepherds could really add much to the night. It’s no battle hymn or even a stirring lullaby, it asks the same thing over and over, for the shepherds to leave their sheep and go to Bethlehem to see the baby.

And as I took my concern to the Lord I was so struck by the simplicity of the words. “Shepherd, leave thy sheep, and hasten to Bethlehem to see the baby…Leave them while they sleep, come hasten to Bethlehem to see the baby. Leave them on the hill, they will fear no ill…come, and see the wondrous child of whom the Angel spake…”

Totally missed it the first seventeen times I sang through those lines. Shepherd? I’m the shepherd they’re talking about. I’m the one who frequently hesitates to remember the Savior because I have sheep that need attention–sheep who need to be bathed and brushed, who forget to do their homework if I don’t threaten, who frequently get the stomach flu and hate to make their beds.

I have been so carried away in keeping my sheep in clean underwear these last two weeks that I’ve failed to lead them to the baby. I haven’t even talked about Him yet, we have completely forgotten this miracle. Too much wool over my eyes to find the manger.

Has it really been that long since I sat in Shepherd’s Field and held that little lamb while those sweet, dirty little Bedouin children waited anxiously for a few shekels? Some memories are burned in my mind, that is one of them. I haven’t even thought of it until now.

Bethlehem, 1998. I was so disappointed when we first got Shepherd’s Field. It was…unpleasant. It was rocky and uneven, no grass to settle on and the sun was sinking fast leaving us with a cold desert chill and me without a good coat.

I wanted to feel the Spirit, I wanted it to be magical. I had dreamed my entire life of a green hill and a blazing star and sweet white sheep nestled close to wise, gentle shepherds.

What we got was a rocky landscape scattered with prickly thorns and really cold rocks to sit on.

When my turn came to hold the newborn lamb being passed around our group, I was really hoping it would warm me up more than anything. And then I looked into the hopeful eyes of those dirty little Bedouin children and in an instant, I saw what the Savior wanted me to see.

They were skinny and scraggly, wearing clothes both too big and too small and obviously rarely laundered, some of them in T-shirts and sandals out in the cold winter air.

They were first. No kings, no royalty, no gentry or well respected countrymen. Not even a rabbi. It was the shepherds, taking the cold night watch and probably thinking they’d rather be back at the tent.

Tonight shed a new light on this old story for me. The Lord has made me a shepherd, but I need to set aside those duties sometimes and run back to the manger, embrace the miracle of Jesus Christ, and drag my little Bedouins there with me.

Tomorrow we will visit the baby. Christmas is here and I remember why.

 

How to ruin your day in three digits or more

I feel the need to document some really poor parenting.

For the past week or four I have noticed that my kids frequently yell at each other. They are short, angry, stomp around, accuse, and to be quite frank, have exhibited some very poor family togetherness.

Wonder where it comes from.

(For the sake of honesty and to ensure that I don’t paint them as hopeless riffraff, I will say they also like to play hide and seek and build reverence forts together on Sunday. But that’s about 20% of our family time.)

So last night for FHE I printed off some questions and taped them to the back door. Things like, “Was I kind? Was I patient? Did I speak with Love?” etc. etc. For FHE we role played getting along and talked about asking ourselves these questions when we talk to one another in anger.

This is the part where I freely admit that these children have learned this behavior from me. Me me me me me. I am the one who is short and sharp and irritable and stompy and rude. I’m the one who blows her top when they don’t jump to my command or forget to take a water in their lunch. I’m the one who chases them out the door throwing a coat at them instead of lovingly calling them back in to remember.

Part of my problem right now is finding balance. I’m working four or five days a week subbing at the schools (which BTW feels like seven days a week) and it’s taken a toll on my patience level. I can be so kind at school to the little kids but when I get home my hair frizzes, my mascara starts to sweat and I become Seriously Stressed-out Mother.

Back to last night’s wonderful FHE. All weekend I’ve been thinking about this lesson and working on these skills in order to prepare for Monday night. I felt a difference, I felt more loving, I noticed my actions and tempered my manners.

And then this morning I woke up and made the classic motherhood mistake. Ready for it?

I stepped. On. The. Scale.

And just like that my day was ruined. I couldn’t think of a nice thing to say to anyone. I was instantly obsessed with the fact that I had snarfed down six (count ’em) chocolate chip cookies yesterday afternoon, after a weekend of pizza and sugar, and the results were not good.

And just like that, all I could do was yell.

On my behalf, I will say that the bombing in Paris really upset me–follow my logic here–and on Friday I began to think that for all we know America is next, and what if they take out the pizza places first? What if I can’t get chocolate chips and butter? What if life as we know it changes and I’m forced to grind up my wheat and mix it with a little toothpaste just to get a sugar fix?

So you can see that the scale wasn’t wrong and the folly of my not-so-logical weekend eating binge kind of all caught up to me all at once.

Enter yelling at my kids.

They left half an hour ago and all I can do is sit here wondering how in the world I can ever apologize to them.

But this requires more than an apology. This will require more than celery sticks and chicken broth and learning to abhor carbs again.

This reminds me of Moses, when he talked with God and learned a bunch of great stuff, and then God left him and Satan came tempting him? My sister Koni used to talk about this idea of a circle of light that comes through learning and then testing to see if we can keep the light we’ve gained.

Today Satan came tempting me after a weekend of feeling that light, knowing that I can help my little family use loving words and it will bring a feeling of happy to our home. Satan came and jumped on my shoulder and I piggy backed him around all morning. I should have stopped to pray. I should have taken a moment to ask  for help.

I didn’t.

But I will. I will be a better mother today. And tomorrow. And forever. They need me to give them a safe place and words of love and darn it, cookies or no cookies, I will do it.

 

Here for a spanking…

Jason’s been out of town the past few weekends and I’ve been hoofing it with the kids on my own. I’d whine a little but let’s face it, they’re older and nicer and mostly more obedient.

Mostly.

Bedtime, however is it’s own beast. When I say beast what I really mean is Georgia. Since the start of kindergarten, her edges have been stretched to breaking–by Thursday afternoon she’s reduced to a weepy pile of stringy hair, completely inconsolable on every level. Whoever invented all day kindergarten is one part genius and two parts sadistic tormenter of small children.

So Thursday night was especially trying. For whatever reason my girls sailed past their 8 pm lights out and we found ourselves stuck on the get-me-a-drink-I-need-to-pee merry-go-round at 9. This is almost unheard of in my life. It’s a well known fact that mothers turn into raging lunatics if 9 pm rolls around and little voices can still be heard in the house.

I keep Melatonin chewables in my kitchen for nights when the girls are giving me grief. I consider it an emergency plan to ensure that I don’t kick anyone out of the family for getting out of bed. It works like a charm and is a real life saver.

However, I am also a firm believer that kids who are tired need to know how to close their eyes and fall asleep. I don’t want them to think they need a chewable sleeping pill to drift off.

By 9 pm Thursday we’d read a full chapter of Betsy Tacy, done homework, cleaned bedrooms, and the girls had been officially put to bed three times.

“You listen to me,” I said as I once again loomed in their doorway like a monster mother on the rampage, “If I see or hear from either of you again tonight you’re gonna get a spanking. I mean it, I’ll really do it!”

“But Mama,” Georgia said, “We need Melatonin! We’re not sleepy at all!!”

“Oh yes you are, you girls go to sleep RIGHT NOW!”

I tromped downstairs satisfied that bedtime would hold.

Ten minutes later I sat watching the news and suddenly, a little figure emerged from around the corner, tiptoeing into the family room with her hands clasped tightly in front of her.

“What are you–” My blood pressure shot through the roof. What? I thought, Enough is enough! I am so tired of–

“Mom,” Georgia said, shuffling into the room in her silky nightgown with her two little post-bath bedtime buns perched neatly on top of her head, looking for all the world like a little angel. “I jutht came down for two thingth. Firtht I need a thpanking, and thecond, some Melatonin cuz June and me can’t thleep.”

Just try to spank that. I dare you.

Friends, meet our future Russian ambassador. The girl would make a great politician.

 

Gospel trivia with Rex

My little Rex is so very interesting. For starters, he’s not so little. He’s ten and tall and crazy handsome with his blond hair and golden skin and all those dimples. But hey, looks don’t get you into Heaven.

We have found that when it comes to our daily family scripture study, Rex has a hard time conceptualizing gospel concepts. He’s super high functioning with his Autism but this is one of the areas that really stumps him. For instance, you can say, “Rex fill in the blank. ‘I am a child of _____.” He will say, “Uh…God?” then you’ll give him a high five.

But if you say, “Rex, fill in the blank. ‘Before we came to Earth we lived in…” he will say, “Uh…God?”

He’s got one, sometimes two answers for everything. Mostly it’s going to be ‘God.’ We try to word things so that he feels successful at scripture study. Like, “Rex, who do we pray to?” or “Rex, who loves you the most?” or “Rex, who’s name should we never say in vain?” That way his standard answer is always the right one.

Anything else kind of sails past him.

This past week during morning devotional we’ve been talking about the Godhead, how it’s made up of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, and how they’re three different people. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…Each day we reviewed scriptures and went around so the kids could tell us this very basic tenant of the Gospel.

“Harry,” Jason said on Wednesday, “Who’s in the Godhead?”

“Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.”

“Good,” he moved on. “June, who’s in the Godhead?”

“Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.”

“Awesome!” Jason looked at Georgia, “Georgia? Who’s in the Godhead?”

“Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.”

Jason looked at me and I crossed my fingers. “Rex?” he said, “Who are the three people in the Godhead?”

“Uh…” I watched him as he tried to unravel this question. “God?”

“Yes! That’s one,” Jason said, “Who else?” We all sat waiting and I quickly shushed Georgia and June before they jumped in and talked over him.

“Oh…uh…Jesus?” Yes! Two for two, so fantastic. I know this is easy for so many kids but for Rex, keeping him focussed sometimes is a challenge.

“One more, Rex,” Jason said. “Who’s the last person?”

“Oh, uh,” He said, his little blond brow furrowed.”Hmm…let’s see here. How about…”

I sat on the edge of my seat, literally crossing my fingers–

“Satan?”

Satan. And there it is. Teaching the Gospel to Rex. He is honestly the most delightful, most tender person I’ve ever known. Bless his darling little heart. At least he knows who loves him.

 

On being a teacher

Apparently I’ve missed my calling in life; I should have taught kindergarten.

When my first sub request came early this week I was so excited–then I heard it was for a kindergarten class in Georgia’s school.

Right when I finally get away from them I’m dragged back into the sticky-fingered gang one pant leg at a time. I had a mini-anxiety attack that morning doing my lipstick, no thanks to Jason’s mockery and horrific delight that I was going to spend the day with a bunch of Georgia’s. I kind of wanted to jam my eyelash curler up his nose.

The first day on the job–any job–is nerve wracking. My only consolation came from the fact that the only people I had to win over were a bunch of mini-children. Can we say bubbles, anyone? A silly hat and some Sesame Street songs and we were good as gold.

For someone who routinely stomps around and threatens to squash her own children, I was rather surprised at what a gooey heart I’ve got for other people’s kids. I kind of fell in love with this class of babies, we had a fabulous time and it was so good that I went back the next day and did it all over again.

Speaking of children, my kids are fantastic this year. Despite the heat and my green pool (terrible property management company) we’ve figured out how to live here without melting. Kind of.

Harry was unexpectedly invited to join Jazz band (trumpet) and was bumped up to the 8th grade Advanced band because he’s so absolutely brilliant. That’s right, tooting my boy and his horn for all to hear. After wading painfully through his entire 6th grade year of school with nothing but loneliness and heat rash, he really needed something like this to come back to. He’s playing football again and–not getting our hopes up–I think he loves it.

Yesterday he said, “Mom, I think I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

Considering the fact that I’ve heard this phrase from him a dozen times and it’s included everything from a pilot to a Satyr I wasn’t listening too hard.

“A teacher,” he said, “I think I want to be a teacher.”

What? A teacher? Why, this was an unexpected turn of maturity. I looked at him across the room and suddenly, my heart swelled with joy. There was my son, talking about a life filled with teacherish goals. Of course he wants to be a teacher, I thought. He’s wonderful.

“Not just a teacher,” he went on, oblivious to all the joyful laser beams I was shooting in his direction. “I want to be like, a college teacher, a professor.”

A professor! How delightful! I could see him there in a lecture hall, in his tweed coat and trousers, shirt cuffs rolled up with chalk in his hands, prepared to enlighten young minds and teach the truth of the–

“And I’ll teach greek mythology.”

Greek myth…oh well, at least he’s lifting others to a higher level of thinking. The Greeks were super smart–

“That way I can read Percy Jackson every day!”

And there it was. My son wants to grow up and teach Percy Jackson on a college level.

Yep, still a seventh grader.

Absolute freedom…at least until 3:47 when the bus comes back

Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

I have been a stay at home mother for more than 12 years. I have play dated and play doughed and played babysitter and nurse maid and every single other motherish role on the planet. I have first breakfasted and second breakfasted and snack timed and cranked out lunches, I have made more boxes of mac-n-cheese and microwaved more hot dogs than I care to admit. I’ve sucked down diet coke like my life depended on it and folded the same pair of stained neighborhood undies that somehow keeps getting worn despite my efforts to put them in the give-back box.

I have had a decade of sewing and quilting and nursing and weaning and sippy cupping and laundry laundry laundry and…you get the idea. It’s been wildly monotonous.

This morning I dropped my little almost-five-year-old off to the world’s most incredible kindergarten teacher and let me tell you, that child didn’t even look back. The moment she stepped through that door my name was Mud.

We didn’t shed a single tear between the two of us.

Maybe it’s the little devil on my shoulder winning out today but I kind of wanted to kick my heels all the way to the car.

I suppose this sounds callus. I know that not every mom is gifted with the chance to spend the first five years with her babies before putting them into The Institution. I have been so very blessed and it’s been so very hard. I guess that’s why the blessings have felt so potent, because they came at a hard won price.

There have been moments when I’ve felt like nothing more than a prisoner to nap schedules and tantrums. I have discovered that I do, in fact, have some crazy in me and it’s not buried quite as deeply as I used to think. I thought I was a pretty great person until kid number three hit the scene and I lost control of my life. But I wouldn’t give up a second of it, even the bad moments. Oh the pep talks I would give myself heading into the store with a four-year-old in the back of the cart, a two-year-old in the front of the cart and a newborn strapped to my chest.

We didn’t always make it to the check out stand.

Today I went to the grocery store alone…twice. There was no one waiting anxiously at home for my return, no hurried race to finish my list and get back before it all went to heck in the family room, no mess being made and mostly there was no one tagging along and begging for a treat. I was so delighted that we bought ourself a little something just to celebrate.

I did, however, seriously miscalculate how long the kids would be gone. In my mind it was going to be long enough to put up 10 pints of strawberry jam, 18 pints of pressure cooked chicken, five loads of laundry, start a quilt, iron seven shirts, work out at the gym, hit Sam’s Club and Smith’s, and reorganize my master bathroom.

I finished the chicken and have four loads of laundry to fold.

But what a marvelous day I had. Knowing that I did my part with my babies and that Georgia couldn’t be happier to move into this next phase of her life gives me a feeling of tranquility and peace. I feel like it’s okay for me to let this happen, to be joyful about it and not regret and not feel guilt and not act like I should miss having my littles around me 24/7.

As mothers, we need to give ourselves permission to move right along in life with our children. They stretch and we stretch. They grow and we grow. They get more independent and likewise, so do we. It’s circle of life kind of thing, this putting kids on the bus.

To all the mothers out there who are still in round one, stick it out because when it’s done it’s so darn done. There’s still loads of parenting to be had, noses to wipe and lunches to make, but it’s different. More intense but not as constant.

There is one downside: less hugging. I will miss all the hugging and kissing that comes with chubby cheeks.

Of course, I just got hired on as a substitute for the school district because, you know, I can’t really leave them alone. Someone’s got to keep an eye on The Institution.

Remembering Sheriff

When we moved to Germany I didn’t want a dog. We planned to travel, my kids were little and dogs are an expensive hobby.

Then one day I woke up and knew: someone was missing. I’d say I was baby hungry but I definitely didn’t want to do that again. Jason and the kids had been talking about getting another dog and I knew it was time. The knowledge…irritated me.

Like a good steward I began the research process and after nearly a month we brought home our big, fluffy, curly brown puppy–a five-month-old Flatdoodle named “Sharif” (shar-eef) Jason took one look at his darling brown mustache and renamed him Sheriff because, “He’s going to be an American dog now.” It was…love. For all of us. At five months he was house trained, leash trained, and instinctively ready to step into his role and manage the children. That was in March of 2012.

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Meeting Sheriff, 16 weeks

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First day home

I remember when he was about a year old and still sleeping in a crate in the boys room. One time in the middle of the night he started barking like mad. I was so tired and irritated I came down and yelled at him. Before heading back I stopped over at the boys…Rex was burning up with fever. Sheriff knew.

He was the Nana to my John and Michael. Babies, puppies, guinea pigs–babysitting was his favorite thing to do.

Our children loved this dog. Georgia has spent most of her life with Puppy at her side. The hours–HOURS–the girls have spent crawling and riding and climbing and playing with that dog. Georgia went through a biting phase (for like a year and a half) where she’d jump on him when he was sleeping and bite him. He never flinched. Total honesty? I still catch her biting him sometimes and she’s almost five. He loves her, she’s his baby and he’s her “little brother.”

Moving to Las Vegas last year was difficult. Actually it was one of the toughest things we’ve done. We came to a new house and spent six weeks without furniture or household goods, Jason left us for a four month work assignment, and my kids had no friends.

Except Sheriff. Always Sheriff. Always ready to wear a princess tutu or take an early morning walk with Harrison in the lonely Nevada fall weather, always at my side or laying on my feet (or my laundry piles) or silently lurking in the kitchen for a little snack. If the kids started to fight, he was right in the middle to break them up. If I started to yell and lose my temper, he’d get right in my face, jump up with his massive paws on my shoulders, and tell me to cool it. You’ve never seen anything like it. In total honesty, he’s probably the reason I didn’t spank kids, Sheriff never would have allowed it. cuddle sheriff2 cuddle sheriff1 sheriff family6 sheriff1 IMG_3646 IMG_3645

 

Nights were the hardest last fall without Jason but I never felt frightened. My boy slept at the top of the stairs and frequently prowled the house at night. On more than one occasion I woke to the sound of his deep, rip-your-throat-out growling, stationed at the front door and ready to kill whatever or whoever dared to linger too long on the sidewalk in front of our house. When we first moved in we had a number of repairmen come through to work on appliances. He was friendly to almost all of them, except one. One fellow had been here nearly an hour (seemed perfectly normal) and came in to talk to me. Sheriff sat stiffly pressed against my legs and halfway through the conversation he launched himself at the man and almost bit the dude’s hand before I pulled him back.

Dogs know. They always know.

Watching Harrison struggle through sixth grade without a single school friend last year was brutal, but on his hardest days he’d run into the house to his dog, and the two of them would disappear into his room during homework, inseparable. Once Jason returned Sheriff resumed his sleeping place back on the end of Harrison’s bed. Boys and dogs. And not just Harry, Rex’s teachers know more about Sheriff than they do about Rex. sheriff family5 sheriff family4

Last week we took our family to Texas for a wonderful week of cousin fun with two of Jason’s sisters and their families. Sheriff stayed with one of his sisters–they have a new little dog named Daisy. Cousins for everyone.

Not everyone likes dogs. My brother-in-law isn’t a dog fan and hasn’t liked their dog at all. In fact, she sleeps in a crate in the back room. Sheriff moved in for a week and the moment he saw Philip he loved him. Always sat by him, slept next to his side of the bed, quietly by his side…no one can resist Sheriff’s affection. It’s non-invasive and gentle and totally unconditional.

photo-4Our last day in Texas was Rex’s birthday party. That silly dog wore a party hat around the house for half an hour for Rex. We decided spur of the moment to head to the water park. –I’m sorry, I have to write about it. I have to say it out loud. — We were just in a rush…he jumped in one of the cars…no one knew he was in the back and we left for the water park. It was too hot…I can’t. I can’t say it.

A few weeks ago a little boy here in Henderson died really tragically. It was a Mormon family and Jason felt really strongly like we needed to take all our kids and attend the services. We kept asking ourselves, what’s going to happen? Who are we going to lose? Why are we so compelled to do this and teach this right now? I am so thankful that our family was prepared for this.

We felt immediately like this was, indeed, part of a much larger plan. The night of the accident, my sweet brother in law went into his home after we got back from the Vet and he took down that dog crate. Their dog will never be shut out of their family again.

Sheriff always had that kind of impact, people who don’t like dogs wanted to keep him forever.

I want you to know that I have incredible angels. I have been stopped time and again with reminders to turn off a stove, or get a kid out of a car seat, things that would have brought about tragic results if unattended to. Both Jason and I feel like Sheriff came to our family for a reason. He got us through this move, he saved my sweet boy from total loneliness, he protected us when Jason was gone, he loved us constantly and quietly and with no strings attached.

In the wake of this tragic loss we were (divinely?) led to what is about to become the new baby of our family. Duchess is a St. Berdoodle and will be coming home to stay on July 11th. We drove from Albuquerque to Riverside, CA in one day so we could pick her out as a family.

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To those of you who don’t want to get a dog because they’re too much work or you’ll get too attached or they shed (ours didn’t), I hope you change your mind. A dog is the glue that keeps a family together. It’s the one member who always loves everyone else all the time.

We have found great comfort and peace in our knowledge that Heaven is for real. As crazy at it sounds, we’ve seen huge blessings in our life the past few days and felt honored to have loved this noble animal. Heavenly Father must have needed him home pretty badly to take him from our arms. We’re hoping there’s a boy up there who could really use a dog to love.

Don’t rest Sheriff, play and swim and we’ll see you on the other side. IMG_3395

 

Because I’m basically a felon

We drove to Texas over the weekend. That means 22 hours in Big Green with four kids and the dog, slowing down only long enough to let kids pee by the side of the road.

We’ve been making long runs with children for over a decade. As young parents we frequently drove all night–through the snowy pass–on our way home for the holidays without batting a single sleepy eye. But this trip we learned an unfortunate truth called, “We Are Not Young Parents Anymore.”

I blame Jason for turning 40. Then there’s also the little remnant of PTSD I have of semis at night time due to that unfortunate autobahn accident, which has completely removed me from the helpful night driver equation. About nine Jason asked me to drive so he could sleep and push through to Texas.

I lasted a total of 45 minutes, passing semi after semi before I thought my heart was going to explode and my sweaty hands were gripping the steering like it alone could save us from The Ring.

We finally rolled into Tucumcari, New Mexico about 1:00 am (pitiful). We were both exhausted, blowing cold air on our faces and listening to a station broadcasting local UFO sitings (I’m not making that up) just to get to the next town.

The room rate was $39.99. In hindsight it wouldn’t have been a big deal to get two rooms but at one in the morning you’re not thinking straight. So like the mastermind we apparently are, we hatched a plan based on the following situation assessment.

1. We did not budget a room for the night in our cash vacation plan.

2. We can’t leave the dog in the car but he never barks or sheds (much), so he doesn’t really count as a dog.

3. We have four kids but we all know that four kids awake is comparable to two kids asleep, they’re really more like a bunch of corpses who can sleep anywhere that we can move and revive when the sun comes up.

4. We always always always pay the annoying extra fee for crowding our little children into a room. At 1 in the morning at a janky Motel 6 in New Mexico we just didn’t want to do it.

So, like the pair of guilty felons we apparently are, we drove quietly around to the back side of the motel, whispering our naughty plan like a couple of dim witted burglars who forget that you can talk in a regular voice in the car.

“Okay, I’m going to quietly carry the kids and you wait here in the car with the dog. After we’ve been in for five minutes, sneak him up the back stairs and I’ll leave the door cracked…”

My heart was pounding out of my chest as Jason and the boys and our two corpse children slunk off to our assigned room. I sat in the car with the dog, who I’m pretty sure knew we were doing something illegal.

It was the longest five minutes of my week.

Finally I got the dog out of the car, let him mark our territory (lest anyone else roll in before morning and try to pee there), and the two of us stealthily floated up to our room without disturbing the air. This was because I failed to breathe. Obviously when you’re breaking the law you should refrain from breathing as much as possible. Self-inflicted death penalty.

For the record, I then experienced the worst night of sleep I’ve had in years. It was guilty sleep, if anyone moved or any sound came from the outdoor walkway I jumped up, ready to admit that yes, we snuck in two extra kids and a dog and it was me, all me! I did this! I forced my family into this illegal act!!

I finally slept the last three hours. When the sun came up we woke to the sound of dogs outside and kids running along the outdoor railing.

Somehow I got the feeling we weren’t alone.