Back to school

Crazy crazy whirlwind week.

One year ago I was a stay-at-home mom with no actual plans for a future outside of my laundry room. I’m serious, I really hadn’t thought past putting Georgia into school. Somewhere in my mind I knew I would come up with something for My Life but I really didn’t foresee anything solid. My ideas flowed like spilled milk. They’d spill out, I’d recognize them as a mess and mop them up.

On Monday I met with the principal and head administrator for David O. McKay Academy here in Henderson opening this fall. By Wednesday I was sending in my application to enroll in graduate school and nailing down a program that will help me get my Nevada ARL–Alternative Route to Licensure–by August, a program that will let me teach while getting my masters degree.

As of now, I’ve been accepted into Sierra Nevada College’s Masters in the Art of Teaching (MAT) program, I’m registered for classes starting May 31st, and I have a job lined up to teach High School at DOMA this fall.

That’s a really busy week.

Today I pulled up the test prep for the Praxis, a big ugly test I have to take before I can get my temporary license. The English and reading sections aren’t a problem. It’s the math.

Math.

I hate math.

I don’t even trust myself to substitute teach 6th graders working on fractions. Fractions might be my nemesis, closely followed by algebra, geometry and the mother of all horrors, statistics.

I hate statistics.

I got a D in my upper level statistics course in college and had to get a special waiver just to graduate because even with tutors and the help lab, statistics is like a ball of yarn leftover from a cat birthday party. It can’t be unraveled, all knots.

Today I sat in class working on my Praxis math prep work and kept needing to use bathroom because it’s giving me a stomach ache (this could also be due to my diet and the mass quantities of water I’m consuming). Good thing I’ve got Jason who thinks fractions and percentages and graphs are the funnest thing to do on a Friday night. Every night will be date night for the next two months, it’s like trying to prime a desert pump in here.

I guess the reason I feel like I can do all this is that my kids and I will all be at the same school together, on the same schedule, and I’ll be available to them despite all the crazy that’s about to become my life. That’s my first priority, finding ways to be a working/schooling mother–mother being the key word here.

Bye bye home cooked dinner and mopping in general. We’re going to hit survival mode hard core.

Maybe we can find a house to move to before everything kicks into gear, something with better floors.

Old-fashioned rail journey?

Do you ever look around you at your life and think, “How in the world did I get here? This wasn’t the plan, I don’t love this. And why can’t we go to Disneyland more often?”

Here’s the thing. Our ticket out of Las Vegas is almost non-existent. Jason, in his awesomeness, has specialized himself right into a career corner. There aren’t very many people who do what he does, so there aren’t very many places for those people to move.

We’ve had this Big Dream of moving home to Washington for a really long time. Five years ago we literally bought the farm and every once in a while we make a trip back there so we can drive out onto our beautiful dream property and envision a life of rainy days and chicken coops and horses and grandma only six minutes away.

It sounds too good to be true. It feels like it as well.

There’s this quote by Gordon B. Hinckley, one of our dearly departed Mormon prophets. I really detest this quote and when I was a young 18-year-old and first heard it I thought it was bunk. Not because I didn’t believe it but because I couldn’t bear the thought that it was true. Rose colored glasses, right here. He quoted this in a talk to young single adults (worth the read, it’s an amazing talk).

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed.

“[The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. …

“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

This rubbed me wrong. It was 1997, I was young, I still had 7 Up running through my veins, I was sure life was going to be all vistas, all romance, all thrilling high adventure.

I’ve been humbled over the years. All our high adventures in Europe were 80% delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, and the vistas went by so quickly sometimes I missed them.

In hindsight we laugh about the time Harry ran into a post in Marseilles and almost broke his nose, or the time Jason split his head open the night before we were supposed to board a cruise ship. Now we think it was funny that our tire blew out on the side of a mountain and we missed half our scheduled day trip to Konigssee waiting for a tow truck, or that we spent our week in London racing from WC to WC because everyone had a stomach bug.

But even so, there were vistas. I miss them. I’ve been feeling like I don’t have very many these days. Cinders and jolts, life has ceased to be very fun.

On Tuesdays I take Rex to Sport Social, a recreation center for Autistic kids. He’s adamant that the girls don’t ride with us and has claimed it as his “time with Mom.” We make the 15 minute car ride while he tells me all the details about his week, about school, about art and PE and music class.

I had been thinking about cinders and lack of joy when he got in the car.

“Mom, today we got to sing a song about birds in music class,” he started to tell me. “I got chosen to be one of the birds! There were four birds and we flew around the room while the class sang.”

This made me smile. Rex loves birds. Loves them like he’s memorized all the state birds and can recite to you which bird goes to which state and why. Last night at FHE he did a bird game and we had to guess the bird.

“Rex,” I said, “I bet you loved that. Did you fly?”

“Oh…oh yes,” he said, “I flapped my wings nice…and…slowly.”

The happy hit me really hard when he said that. Boom. Vista. Right there. My 15 minutes in the car with Rex every week is a built-in vista.

From now on we’re taking the back road and leaving a little earlier on Tuesdays.

 

I guess I’ll settle for throw pillows

So we’ve decided it’s probably time to consider buying a house here.

I know that sounds super permanent and trust me, permanent and Las Vegas should never be in the same sentence when it refers to my life, but renting is the absolute pits. This house we picked was temporary. One-third of our household goods are packed away in the garage because the cottage can’t hold it all. We have a lovely view of the backside of the freeway–please don’t throw your apple core out the window while you’re flying down the 215 because it’ll probably hit our cars parked out front…the same cars that won’t fit in the garage because the garage is full of German antiques that don’t fit in our house.

So we’ve decided it’s probably time to consider buying a house here.

We’ve been looking for a month. I’m sorry, but what is happening to all those people out there buying and selling homes? Did we learn nothing from the tumbling markets of 2008? The lamest houses are ridiculously overpriced and people are practically peeing their pants to get a shot at living in one of these cement, nothing-like-Neverland neighborhoods. Ridiculous.

There was one, ONE, house we found that would have worked. It was so us. Circa 1980, on an acre of dirt (not an exaggeration, just dirt), totally walled with a huge pool and a casita on site to rent out. The price was right, and we stalked it for over two months waiting for the Spirit to give us the “all clear.”

If you’ve ever been to one of my houses you know what I mean when I say we have a house type. This house looked like it was sitting there waiting for my family to come and mess it up with parties and big Sunday dinners. Like it was built and seasoned just for us, right now, in Vegas.

But as we got in the car, Jason and I heard a solid negative from the Spirit.

So we watched, and the price dropped. Someone put an offer on it. It fell through. We bit our nails and prayed and fasted and prayed some more and finally, the price dropped again. Maybe this was our answer? Yes. This definitely felt like an answer…

We made an appointment to see it right after the price dropped. It was time, we were going to offer, this must be the place.

Is it any surprise that an hour before our scheduled showing the owner accepted a new offer on the house? If that’s not a big old Heavenly “no” I don’t know what is.

That was six weeks ago. It’s probably closed by now and despite hours of searching and numerous showings we haven’t found anything else that felt even remotely right.

In lieu of the never-mind-moving decision we decided last week that if we aren’t supposed to buy a house, then it’s time for a new couch. We have two couches that are going on ten years of wear and tear and frankly, they’re flat out embarrassing. If I have to hand stitch one more rip on the family room couch I’m going to scream.(The puppy loves to get in and pull the stuffing out and it makes me crazy.)

We have searched high and low, from the Goodwill to Pottery Barn, every consignment store and outlet and retailer known to the greater Las Vegas area and still, the perfect couch for the perfect price has evaded us.

Until today.

Today as we circled through the crowded pre-staging room of a big consignment store I saw, turned sideways, our perfect couch. Gently used, the lady guessed about $300, real leather…boom. Done. There was just one glitch, it had no tag.

Long, sad story short, the lady who dropped it off this week is now having seller’s remorse and wants it back.

No house, no couch, no nothing.

So I did the only thing a girl in that situation can do. I went out and bought new throw pillows. Sitting here, I feel significantly better.

Throw pillows, they really cheer a girl up.

 

Just let go of the french fries, Annie

I am too busy. Too busy to eat anything but Sausage Egg McMuffins from McDonald’s.

That’s really only a half truth. Yes, I’m too busy and yes, it’s always easier to swing in and get all-day breakfast and a dollar Diet Coke from the clown than it is go home and gnaw on the wilted celery in my fridge.

But the other half…the other half of my dirty food phase must be acknowledged out loud.

I start out every single day with the same mentality. Today. Today I am going to have a protein shake and take salad or an apple and celery and roasted turkey for lunch. I will then have a healthy afternoon snack, a sensible dinner and voila. Skinny by June.

So I do. I have a protein shake. I take a sensible lunch. In fact, even when I forget said lunch I spend the $3.25 to buy a sensible lunch from the cafeteria at whatever school I’m babysitting for.

But when the bell rings something goes off in my brain. Something that says, “You need cookies. Or french fries. You deserve them. You work so hard, you’re at the gym every other day, you’ve got the calories to spare. It will make you happy…”

Still, my resolve holds. Still, I don’t get into the upcoming turn lane on the drive home, the path that takes me past those golden, glowing arches. And then…

“You know, when the zombies come you will never have McDonald’s again…” and just like that my blinker is on, I’m swerving to merge and frantically racing to the drive through. Like I owe it to myself to have one more apple pie.

It’s funny, I’m so busy that the prepper inside me hasn’t had any time the last two months to work on toilet cloth or canning. There’s no time and I feel like my list of goals is pretty much finished (except the Hike a Mountain and Learn to Build a Fire in the Rain While the Children Cry goals, but I feel like they’re more in the category of OTJ training).

And so for the past few months I have thwarted every step forward by treating myself to food, glorious food. I’m gluttonous. I’m miserable. I hate myself 12 minutes after I’m done eating that hot fudge sunday and wondering what in the heck is the matter with me? And of course, once you break hearts with sugar the day is done. Free falling, all the way until bedtime.

So, thanks to wonderful, supportive sisters and really awesome girlfriends, not to mention my lovely mama, I’m hitting it HARD tomorrow. This is planned. I’ve got my food prepped and portioned, guzzled my last Diet Coke for the next two months, and come sunup this girl is going to find herself free of guilt and free of McDonald’s.

I’m hungry for hungry. Is that even a thing? I’m declaring it. It’s a thing. Sure, someday when my wheat runs out I’m going to look back at this stupid summer and roll my eyes that I worried about eating too much food. But I don’t care, the eating is making me miserable.

Because in actuality, food is temporal. This silly, insignificant fear is playing me like a fiddle and I’m eating out of the palm of its hand. All this eating is fogging up my radar and keeping me from seeing the bigger picture that has nothing to do with what size my jeans are, and everything to do with letting go of things like Jack in the Box potato wedges and Frosty’s. No more stuffed crust pizza from Little Caesars, not for me.

The world will come or go, one more large fry isn’t going to make it more tolerable.

For once, it’s not about a number on the scale or how many bra fat rolls I can count this week (okay, the bra chub is bugging me just a little), it’s really about letting go of this nonsensical urge to Eat Stupid Food Before I Die.

And I will succeed. My determination is like steel when I get to this point (approximately once every 2.4 years) and I can’t wait to dust off my self-discipline and dig into a big, lovely bag of celery sticks.

No Ranch necessary.

Putting our kids in private school and other news

So I know we planned to be far far away from Las Vegas about six months ago, but it seems that the Lord really likes us here. I have discovered a few desert blooms in my life during the past few months that make living here a little less prickly.

First, I’m teaching musical theater at Hollywood Kids Academy here in Henderson. We’re doing Seussical and I’m working with 8-10 years olds directing and absolutely loving it. Harry, June and Georgia are all in different productions there. This is delightful and so much fun for our family.

Second, we have officially enrolled our kids in the new private David O. McKay Academy opening two campus’ here in Las Vegas this fall. Our kids are slated for the Henderson campus and all four will be at the same school. It’s an LDS-based learning program but is open to any and all, and thanks to Nevada the state will give us vouchers to cover most of the tuition costs. If I can get lucky I’ll be able to work there and spend all day long with my children, which sounds sarcastic in my head but in reality I enjoy working in their schools as much as I can.

Third…hmm. Um, oh! I got Lasik surgery last week and I am a see-er! I am not big on exclamation points but I feel like I’ve had a miracle. Those of you who have experienced the magic of Lasik know what I’m talking about here. Not even 24 hours after my surgery I was seeing 20/15 which is better than 20/20. This is a game changer. True, it’s the first time I’ve gone without mascara since I was 11 and yes, people keep asking me if I’m “sick” because with my white eye lashes my eyes basically disappear into my head without makeup, but I don’t even care (Jason is really ready for me to put my face back on though, I think he’s a little disconcerted by the whole no-eye-makeup wife bit).

I was driving down the road a few weeks ago, praying to myself, and asking Father why he loves the desert so much? I’ve done the Middle East, Sinai, Israel, it all looks like Las Vegas. Why not Washington or Oregon where there’s water and people don’t die if they stand outside in July?

It was kind of a hypothetical question but I was at a stop light and had a pretty good view of the barren mountains in the distant. I pondered while waiting and right before the light turned green I heard my head say, “Because in the desert, you need me more. In the desert, you remember me…”

It’s true. I need faith to live here in the desert, and not faith that we’ll move away, faith that we can live. Here. This place. Maybe for five years, maybe forever, but faith that He will place us in the best place for our family to learn what we’ve got to learn to get home to that non-desert in the sky.

I really hope there are lots of trees in Heaven.

Family Cloth? Really Annie?

I love planning for the Zombie apocalypse. It’s become my fourth favorite hobby (right after eating, sleeping and sewing). And just when I think I’ve got every scenario nailed down and have heard every suggestion for TEOTWAWKI, something new crops up.

Enter Family Cloth. Worst name for reusable toilet paper ever. Thank you, Pinterest.

The idea is simple. Sam’s Club has been looted, the power grid is zapped, some magical nuclear blast has shorted all our electrical components destroying them for-e-ver and suddenly…you need to go number two. I don’t know about you, but upsetting situations tend to have that effect on me.

And that’s when it hits you: You’re on your last roll of toilet paper. Not only are you out of TP but you’ve thrown the last nine years of phone books away because Google supposedly had your back. The hard truth is plainly evident: Google is not going to have your back at this moment.

This is where Family Cloth–henceforth and forever referred to as Toilet Cloth in my world, or TC–gently swoops in to save the day.

Toilet cloth is a set of double ply fabric, preferably double knit cottons like T-shirts, that you can use again and again and again to keep that backside clean.

I’ve stressed about this bathroom dilemma and even gone so far as to print out how-to-dig-a-septic-system for my Apocolypse Now binder. But short of ordering a set of the squeezy bottles to hose down with I haven’t been able to fix the immediate problem of keeping’ it clean in my mind.

But TC (see how easily it just rolls off the tongue?) fixes this problem permanently. One box of pool shock will give you about 10 years of TC water, bye bye ecoli and other fatal diseases that come from poor wiping habits after the power shuts down and the toilets stop flushing.

And if you think I’m crazy, do a little research. Not only is there a literal movement (bad pun, I know) of people–like at least nine families–who are already using this method in their homes, but apparently other countries don’t all share our Charmin toilet paper customs. There are some pretty interesting toilet paper-free methods out there when you get down to the nitty gritty.

In all honesty, no I have not tried this out nor do I intend to unless the need actually arrises. However, having 70+ double knit double ply pieces of toilet cloth sewn and stashed away in the garage, along side a box of pool shock, gives me serious peace of Apocolypse mind.

I have a six month supply of the paper stuff but my backyard is simply not big enough to bury it if there’s ever a disaster here in the Las Vegas cement wilderness. We will be happy to have something refreshing and reusable, believe me.

Toilet Cloth. It’s a thing.

 

PS – I’m no longer on FB. It started as a name problem but after a two month break from my account I logged back in and disabled it completely. It’s a bit of a pain sometimes but for the most part, I feel kind of free. So if you’ve looked for me there in the past few months I’m not dead, not MIA, just…done. If you still want to keep up with me, put your email into the box up to your right and my monthly blog posts (that’s about how often I write these days) will come straight to your archaic email account. You can also share them on FB if you feel so inclined and we have mutual friends who might care. Not that I’ll ever know…

 

semi-athletic snowboarding

I like to think of myself as coordinated. I danced enough, played just enough sports, and rode around in the back of a pickup throwing hay to the cattle for enough years that in my mind, I’m totally semi-athletic. So when Jason said we were taking the kids up to Brian Head a few weeks ago to sled and let Harry snowboard, I naturally volunteered to learn to snowboard with him.

Because I’m semi-athletic.

I spent some time visualizing it in my brain, making sure that first, I could snowboard in my mind. How much different can it be from skiing? I can semi-ski with the best of them. Sure it’s been 18 years since I was last on the ski slope, and sure I might have blown my knee out and hated every minute of it back in the 90’s, but time changes things. It’s a new century. That was another lifetime (a slightly more athletic lifetime but whatever). When I added my semi-skiing and my semi-athleticism, it obviously equaled completely qualified to learn to snowboard.

Obviously.

We loaded up the kids with the full array of winter wonder wear, complete with their polar base layers and this year’s Goodwill snow boots.

Note to you all: never buy snow boots at the Goodwill unless you check to make sure they aren’t cracked on the bottom. Poor Georgia.

From the moment we got to the slopes we were…uncomfortable. First off it was totally cold. Never saw that coming. Hey, we live in the desert now, somehow in the last year I forgot what wind and snow actually felt like. Way less desirable and romantic than I remembered.

We got everyone in their layers and stood around the car staring at each other. Somehow in my preparations I had forgotten about the element of necks and faces. My poor babies, five minutes in the freezing whip of the wind and we were all cheek chapped.

We headed for the lodge to gear up and split up. In retrospect, the foreshadowing was all there. They just happened to be out of the right bindings for my boots and had to “make do” with something a little too small.

Bad sign.

I kissed Jason and he and the kids went up to the overlook to watch us meet our class and instructor.

“Hey!” said super-young-snowboard-instructor-guy. “Awesome seeing you here, let’s introduce ourselves!”

Our class consisted of myself, Harrison, and three other 13-year-old boys with their athletic (not semi-athletic) father.

“So I just want you all to strap your right foot in, click it in, there you go.”

I looked down at my right foot and the bindings and tried to put said foot into the allotted space. Unfortunately my back isn’t so great and my boobs are too big and I couldn’t see the bindings unless I bent over. Ouch.

“Um, do you think you could help me out here? I’m not sure how to…” enter super-young-snowboard-instructor-guy. He got my foot strapped in and started the lesson.

“So, I just want you to like, push off with your left foot and slide to the right, that’s it, great job guys! Lookin’ good! You’re naturals!” I watched all the tweens float along on their boards, easy peasy.

Looking down at my feet I felt a momentary sense of absolute panic. For starters, my foot was bound to this board. As in, it didn’t come off. The board was totally stuck to my foot. For seconds, when I “pushed” off toward the little dip, the board moved. With my foot. I had no choice but to follow.

Instant claustrophobia. Obviously it had nothing to do with my semi-athletic ability, it was simply a matter of feeling constricted.

But I’m a good sport and so I followed the board and my foot two feet, then another two feet, until we finally made it to the top of the mountain. Perhaps “mountain” is a tad bit exageration-istic. Two foot drop is closer, actually I guess it was more of a two foot gradual descent. It’s all semantics, really.

It was the hardest two foot gradual descent of my entire life. I was almost paralyzed with fear, not even exageration-ing over here. I froze and watched all the kids smoothly glide down the into the little dip and come up the other side, no trouble.

So I took a breath and I let the board take my foot over. The edge. Of the cliff.

Not exhilarating, not exciting, just binding and terrifying and totally out of my control. Five feet and I fell flat on my semi-athletic back.

At this point I had two choices. Pick myself up and figure out how to get to the group without having to ride on the death board, or pick myself up and figure out how to get to the group without having to ride on the death board.

I obviously did what any logical, semi-athletic, thirty-something mother of four with a bad back would have done.

“Um…excuse me? Can you please help me get this thing off my foot?”

(My 12-year-old really likes to tell this story, by the way. That’s his favorite part.)

Jason was furious. Like, seriously ticked off at me. But, with a little weaseling and begging I convinced the equipment rental manager to let Jason and I trade places so he could spend the day on his rump and maybe be a little less judgmental. Since the above episode had only taken seven minutes, they were happy to trade us out.

I’m happy to say that Jason hated every minute of his four hour snowboarding foray, he’s a skier down to his long underwear and isn’t big on change. Harrison was a natural.

Thank goodness he got his father’s athleticism.

 

 

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.