The best Christmas idea ever

My gout is flaring up tonight. I was at the gym (oh shut your mouth already) doing my hour on the elliptical (yes she did) when a number of things started happening down in my right shoe that had nothing to do with getting skinnier. First, my toes went numb. Second, piggies #3 and #4 started to get that “I think we’re broken” feeling that only comes when those idiot little uric acid crystals settle in my joints.

On one hand maybe this is a good sign. My gout only flares when I’m eating healthy and losing weight, although I wouldn’t know about the weight part because I’m too afraid of my scale to even use the toilet in my master bathroom. I might bump it or trip and stumble upon it and who knows what kind of an accidental number might flash at me.

I was on Pinterest tonight pinning Things I’ll Never Actually Incorporate Into My Real Life when I thought of a brilliant idea. Wouldn’t it be amazing during December to make a different Christmas cookie 25 days in a row? I see so many fantastical recipes that don’t get enough attention, just think of the good I could do the universe if I baked Christmas cookies for a month straight.

Then again I’d probably have to add elastic waistband extensions into my already elastic waist-banded wardrobe. Maybe I’ll do a weekend cookie baking marathon followed by a tall glass of contaminated water early on in the season…

Today I discovered the best thing ever that more people should do starting in October: Christmas Layaway. I remember my mom putting our winter coats on Layaway at Penny’s when I was a kid. At Walmart today I saw two of my big ticket items on sale, and I know those prices are only going to roll right back up in the next few months. I snatched my stuff and trotted back to layaway so I can pay for them without having to store them at my house or use my credit card (we have Christmas budgeted into the next three month’s of pay periods).

Why doesn’t everyone offer layaway?? I’m going to google a list so I can give them my business.

(I just checked, Kmart, Sears, ToysR’ Us, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls, TJ Maxx plus a few elayaway suggestions.)

I’m sorely missing my husband this week and thinking about Christmas makes me think of him. We’re only a month away from the end of this extended summer of miserable separation and every day I sew more furiously and write for longer hours and try to fill my time to make the days fly by.

Then I stay up until 2 am because I’m afraid of the dark and can’t sleep in this scary town without him.

My life would be so much easier if I would just go to bed at 8 o’clock with the children. Think of the hours apart that we would cut back on if I could get four more hours sleep every single night, we’re looking at like 500 hours saved on loneliness in general.

My best advice? If your husband ever goes away and leaves you with your little children alone in Sin City, get yourself a dog with a really big bark. I think the entire neighborhood hears Sheriff when someone comes to my door. And now and then I’ll wake up at night only to look toward my bedroom door and see him standing at attention at the top of the stairs, ready to make his midnight rounds.

He’s probably better to have for safety than Jason, but Jason’s more fun to sleep with.

 

 

 

Daughter warfare

Sometimes I’m a really horrible mother.

I get a lot of the Big List things checked off these days. Piano gets practiced, homework is always on time, the kids take healthy home lunches and everyone changes their underwear almost every day. With Jason gone I’ve been so determined to keep things running smoothly that I’ve ignored the number one rule in mommy warfare:

Soothe first.

My Junie girl. She’s 6-years-old going on 23 and is so blasted strong-willed sometimes. She’ll push me and push me and I’ll push back and stand firm and cross my arms and she’ll toss shoes around and knock chairs over and storm from the room and I’ll glare and put her to bed 30 minutes early and take away her dessert and she’ll on and on and on.

We’re in this horrible merry-go-round of discord.

But in the morning when we sit and do piano together things are amazing. At night when she does her homework with me and reads it’s all good. But the moment the word Bedtime comes into play up go the fists and the dance begins.

And the worst part is that after an exhausting day of highs and lows she wants me to climb up on her bunk bed and snuggle her.

I’d rather snuggle a cactus.

But tonight after she finally fell asleep I remembered a story I’d read about a mom who laid down with her daughter each night and listened to her girl’s meandering monologue about the day and her friends and her teacher and I realized…I haven’t done that with June at all lately. She needs me. Girls need their mothers to listen, and while  I’m being a fair caretaker, I’m sure a lousy listener.

For the next week I’m going to put her to be after Georgia falls asleep and invite her into my room to talk about her day. I promise that under no circumstances will I threaten to take this away from her if she misbehaves, no way. I have got to throw this baby girl a lifeline and I’m only sorry it took me this many weeks of frustration to see how much she needs it.

 

He came, he hugged, he went

I’m amazed at how many couples make it through 50 years of marriage with nary a long-distance separation. My own parents have rarely spent more than 10 days apart and by the 8th day all my mother can do is wax poetic about my 80-year-old father’s hair.

I’ve been in the military community for six years now and during that time I have spent my own fair share of lonely nights away from my warrior. Shall I mention again that he missed an added total of five out of the nine months I was pregnant with Georgia, including the last two of bed rest? By the time he came home I had the Whaambulance on speed dial.

I know so many women with husbands in the Air Force and the Army and especially the Navy who have sent their men off for 6, 9, 12 and even 18 month deployments. Some of them are alone, some have six or seven children. And sure, most of us go through our crazy at one point or another but there comes a time where you just have to dig a stupid trench and settle in for the long fight.

Jason came home for the weekend on Friday to a shouting, barking chorus from our family and more than one happy tear from yours truly. I realized that while he’s technically only been gone since August we haven’t been together on a regular basis since April. It’s been a week gone here, a month there, a move overseas without him, trying to catch up for a few days in one state or another.

We haven’t had normal for six months and this weekend I remembered what normal was like. We were finally settled into our house with all of our things unpacked and a schedule to follow. And for the first time since we got to this barren desert it finally felt right. 72 hours of absolutely wonderful. Only a month and a half to go, we got this

Daddy’s home.

 

 

 

The last time I saw Heaven

This is my favorite day. Christmas, Valentine’s, my anniversary, none of them beat today. I think my birthday is the one I love the most.

Not because of the gifts, I rarely remember them from one year to the next. Not because of the cake, we had chocolate chip cookies last night instead and I’m planning to pass on the calories. Not because of the wonderful FB wishes or the phone calls from my sisters or the loving words from our parents.

No. Today is my favorite day because this year especially, I can feel Heaven.

I woke with the primary song, “Where is Heaven?” on my lips. I’m pretty sure Heaven is kind of amazing. Before I came to Earth I probably ate a lot of calorie free cake and coordinated all the bon voyage parties for family members making the jump. I’m sure I planned out my life and hoped and dreamed about things like kissing and ice cream. You gotta get a body to really appreciate that stuff.

When I look back at my 29+ years on Earth it blows my mind to consider the things I’ve learned and experienced, and not just the kissing. I’m a mother, I have a mate, I can cook and sew and write and sing and play the piano kind of, I can still play a scale on the trumpet and shuffle off to Buffalo with a pair of tap shoes. I have tasted and seen and loved and–

I need to interrupt this program for an important Birthday Update. Jason just called me.

Let’s be honest, there is really only one thing I want for my birthday: Five minutes to make out with my sweetheart (who is, unfortunately, very very far away until Thanksgiving).

Honestly, as soon as he called I felt my birthday happiness start to flicker out a little. The phone is so one dimensional, I’d rather not even–

“Anne,” he said, “I have something to give you today for your birthday.” I couldn’t help it, hearing his voice today made me all weepy around the lashes.

“Honey,” I said, “Don’t. I can’t think of a single thing you can give me that will make me happy so just save your money–”

“I’m coming home.”

How can I…there’s no way to express…some emotions are too fantastic to put down in words.

This very morning one of the guys Jason works with casually mentioned that he’s using his sky miles to head home for the long weekend. Sky Miles? Jason thought, I wonder if I have any sky miles left.

48000 to be exact, and it only took 40000 to fly home.

I thought my birthday was perfect this morning when my kids all came in with my gift, a perfectly wrapped container holding one homemade card.  June drew the picture, Georgia decorated the back, and Harrison wrote the letter. Rex…well Rex was upset that there were no balloons.

“Dear Mom,

We all thank you for your hard work and love. And how old are you 29 or 35?? Oh well. But anyway today we all promise to do whatever you need, so just sit back and do whatever! And again, Happy Birthday!

With lots and lots of love,

Harrison, Rex, June and Georgia”

Yes, I probably miss Heaven a little. But like the last line of that song says,

“I’ve a feeling that it’s not so far,

When you’re with the ones you love

it’s right where you are.”

15 years down, Forever to go.

This week Jason and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary (15 + Eternity = Awesomeness). I miss hugging my handsome friend so much. Best hugger ever.

I had to send Jason a box last week with things he needed from home. I dropped it at the post office and sent him a text. Our conversation looked like this, I’m in blue.

photo

 

Little things like this still give me that electric shock to the sternum. Sometimes fifteen years feels like five seconds.

I went to the store last week to buy an anniversary card and got stuck in the section for romantic rejects. You know the one, all the cards say the things you can’t think to write even if you write professionally. I pulled a card labeled Missing You, beautiful. Then I pulled one for Anniversary and ah! it was amazing. The tears pooled in my eyes and ran down my cheeks as I read through card after card until I had about six all expressing my rainbow of passion, how could I choose?

Because I know Jason, I quickly realized he would be really irritated if I blew $25 for six pieces of paper. So I dried my face and put them all back, deciding to take a break and look for something lighter before settling on just one.

I turned around and found this blank card.

photo 3

 

Can we say self portrait?

It was a pretty easy choice after that. I wrote him my own love letter that was unfortunately pocked with scribbles and spelling errors. But the fact remains that this is, quite simply, Me without Him.

Fifteen years is nothing, I want forever.

Getting by one sewing project at a time

Oh it’s so hard to write.

Jason has been gone for over six weeks and I am feeling it, people. So many small and memorable things have happened these past few weeks, but have I written about them? No. Cause my man is far away and my fingers are listless and uninspired.

And I’m not the only person in the family who’s missing Dad. Rex wandered into the kitchen this week with his sweet, worried little Mickey Mouse voice. “Oh, Mom?” he said, “I, uh, I was just thinking’. I was thinkin’ that maybe…maybe Dad shouldn’t have gone…oh, uh, so far away all by himself. I think he’s really missin’ me. I think…I think I probably should have gone with him so he wouldn’t be so lonely.” And this weekend when we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for family movie night Rex watched the parts where the Dad was playing with his kids and sat in the corner quietly saying, “Oh, I think I really miss my dad…”

Gah. Kill me now.

Aside from the sinking hole in my chest, the kids and Mother are doing surprisingly awesome. I give total credit to our routine of faithful morning and evening prayer and daily (sometimes twice) family scripture study.

Also the three month supply of Wellbutrin my medical practitioner (my big sister Kerry) prescribed to me after Jason left us here in the desert to fend for ourselves. Just keeping it real, people. I don’t think I could get through this without that kind of help right now, my kids deserve a super healthy mama and it has made an incredible difference.

But the thing that has really been the biggest life saver is Harold. Harold is my new babysitter. He looks mostly exactly like Harrison with the addition of wide rimmed glasses and a bushy black mustache. Harrison has never met Harrold, Harry is always gone when Harold comes to babysit.

Rex says Harold is “Just like Harrison…uh…only nicer.”

Harold is the sweetest, most patient babysitter I have ever had. He dotes on the kids and always has everyone happily tucked in bed by 8:00 pm, even on weekend nights.

Plus he’s super affordable.

When Harold first knocked on the door and came inside he gave us all a peace sign and said, “Namaste,” in his super deep voice. Georgia about peed her pants. I think it was the bushy black mustache, as soon as I suggested leaving her with him she burst into tears and attached herself to my leg. He might have whispered something in her ear and tipped his glasses down so she could see that maybe he wasn’t a terrorist and did, in fact, look exactly like her favorite brother Harrison.

photo 4

 

In the meantime I’ve been busy trying to”make it home” around here. My sewing machine is getting some serious action, unlike someone else in this house. I finished my living room curtains, the ones I bought at the Goodwill. I cut off the rod tabs and sewed the chiffon transom tops to extend them. I’m pretty happy with the result. Four panels for $22. Nice.

photo 2

 

 

 

 

I bought this dresser for $50 off Craigslist and decided to chalk paint it. I read and researched and got all hyped up to make my own cheap chalk paint. Then I tried to find Calcium Citrate at three different health food stores (supposedly the best mix in). It was 111 degrees outside, there was no air conditioning in my car, and I finally threw in the paint stick and went home to paint the darn thing with plain old Latex. Whatever. Harry finally has a dresser and it looks pretty darn good to me.

photo 1 photo 5

 

I have a stack of Halloween costumes to work on this month that include mermaids and satyrs and insects, plus a handful of throw pillows to recover and anything else I can think of to pass the time. In other words, THIS IS TAKING FOREVER.

Eight weeks and he’s mine again. Tick tock.

Lying and the ugly truth

I hate lying and crying. And dying. Dying doesn’t really have anything to do with the other two, except for the fact that sometimes I want to inflict it.

Here’s the thing about parenting. I would love to be one of those parents who just…doesn’t care. You want to lie to me? Go ahead, I don’t care. If it doesn’t hurt me why should I try to fix it?

Yesterday I picked Harry up from Middle School and we did our usual breakdown. How was your day, how was your lunch, did you make any friends, do you like any girls, and DO YOU HAVE ANY HOMEWORK?

“Yeah, a little, I have to practice my trumpet…” and then we talked band until pulling into the driveway. Harry gets home an hour and a half before the other kids so he has plenty of quiet time to be productive.

He was productive for about 20 minutes–10 of which were spent oiling his horn.

“So, can I watch TV?” he says coming out of his room.

“No, it’s a school night.”

“Can Jackson come over?”

“No, it’s a school night. Hey, are you done with everything, did you finish your math?”

Note that this was a double question. “Yeah, so can I have some free time?”

Free time/non-screen/non-friend time was invoked.

Then at 9:30 last night he comes into my bedroom and I catch him trying to sneak off with my laptop. “Where are you going with that? You’re not allowed to use my new laptop, you can use the regular computer. Besides, it’s bedtime–”

“I have three pages from computers to finish! I have to use it!”

What? “What?” I said. He sheepishly informed me that he still had half an hour’s work of computer homework to complete.

“Then you can get up half an hour early tomorrow and finish it,” and that’s exactly what he did.

But on our way to school I brought up the subject of his deceitfulness and told him that I don’t want him to lie about this homework, he doesn’t have to. I’ll help him–

“I didn’t lie to you!!” he yelled.

“Excuse me? What do you think that was yesterday, you led me to believe…” and then we had a four-minute fight (yeah, go me, I know) on what constitutes a lie and what weekend restriction is going to look like before he got out of the Excursion, slammed the door shut and yelled that he hated me.

See what I mean? I could have totally let the lie go. He got his homework done, lost half an hour of morning sleep as his consequence, what was the big deal? The big deal wasn’t the homework, it was his refusal to acknowledge his own darn lie.

So today after school I explained it to him. I have a responsibility–a sacred responsibility–to hold him accountable for his actions. If I don’t teach him that God sees everything then who will? More than that, I will have to stand before my Heavenly Father someday and I can tell you right now, nothing worries me more than hearing something like, “Remember that day you found those really cute boots on Zulilly and got so wrapped up in your shipping information that you totally ignored your kid while he was lying to you? That was one of the moments that could have kept him from becoming a lie head. Too bad you totally missed it and he spent 25 years in jail.”

I go after it because I care about their salvation. I care about their citizenship. I care about their own sense of self-worth because I know that nothing makes a person feel more worthless than habitual sin. I was a kid, I remember my lying phase.

I’ll never forget the night my mom sent me to bed without dinner during daylight hours because I got caught in a lie. I was probably about nine or ten, old enough to know better plus a few years. She came upstairs after I’d spent two hours staring at (peeling) my wallpaper, and she sat on the edge of the bed really quietly. It was just us and the muted glow from my little lamp, I can see it so clearly still.

She proceeded to tell me the story of a woman she knew who was in prison, and how all of that lady’s problems began with little piles of lies. Lies that she got comfortable telling when she was a kid. Little, harmless lies that led to more lies and more lies. And all those lies? They eventually caught up to her and she lost her family, her home, her job and her life.

I’ve never felt so repentant in my entire life. It nipped a very damaging habit in the bud at a critical time in my youth.

Parenting these days in my world is a different kind of hard than it was four years ago. Back then it was all potty talk and nap times and constant messes (okay that hasn’t changed) and feeling overrun. Now I mostly want them know where to turn when they’re having a problem, be it lost homework or a lying habit.

Okay, I also want them to change their underwear and rinse out their dishes already. But you get my drift.

The birth of a Repurmentalist

Remember that episode from Arrested Development?

Tobias: Okay, Lindsay, are you forgetting that I was a professional twice over— an analyst and a therapist. The world’s first analrapist. (uh-NAHL-ruh-pist)

Lindsay: Yes, and you were almost arrested for those business cards.

Tobias: Yes. No, it did not look good on paper but I didn’t stop because of the police inquiries, I stopped to raise our little daughter.

Seeing that I’m from Washington state and descend from a long line of past and present loggers–Valentine Logging etc.–I am by no means an environmentalist. I love trees and I love them even more when they’ve been made into something delightful like a super lovely armoire (arm-WAHR according to the internet).

However, after spending a few years in a place where new furniture is expensive and old European pieces are frequently cheaper and cooler, I’ve mostly stopped buying things new.

I’m also impressively cheap.

But this morning I realized that the reason I chase all over town sifting through Goodwills for all my bedskirt/lamp/organizational needs isn’t really because I’m cheap. It’s something much deeper, a depth that I didn’t actually know I possessed. I have dug into a personal level of earthy appreciation that has bloomed into a desire to save the planet one repurposed lunch box at a time. 

I’m a repurpose environmentalist–a repurmentalist. I can’t stand to buy new stuff anymore.

Maybe I’m just preparing myself for the Zombie takeover when Walmart will be nothing but a pillaged husk and locked filing cabinets will be used to hoard chocolate chips, not insurance statements. Whatever the reason it is working well for me.

In the past two weeks I have purchased:

6 beautiful mustard panels of Pottery Barn curtains in perfect condition…$4.99 a panel plus 25% off for Military Monday.

6 yards of fabric for the girl’s curtains…$3.99 for the whole ream, enough for 2 long curtains and part of a quilt top for Georgia.

Curtains for Rex’s room, bedskirts in perfect shape $2 a piece, a shower curtain that has never been used $1.99 (kid’s bath, don’t freak out) plus drawer and cupboard organizers for 99 cents a piece, etc.

And the best part? I actually feel like a good citizen, a good repurmentalist. Today I picked up an old dresser for Harry’s room for $50 and I plan to Chalk Paint it (homemade chalk paint, under $15) and end up with a super chic dresser for under $100.

To all my fellow repurmentalists out there, you’re not just cheap. You’re saving the planet and our land fills one gently used piece of previously loved junk at a time. Good on ya.

 

Life is like a football game…hard when you’re only 11

So many, many good things to report.

My niece Kelly is coming this weekend to help me unpack my boxes–the ones that aren’t here yet. I can’t tell you how sad I’ve been about missing out on her mad organizational skills. The kids and I started praying last week that our things would get here by Friday so her trip wouldn’t be wasted by the pool (not that a pool trip is ever a waste). Unfortunately our cargo has been held up for the past few weeks in customs with no ETA in sight.

Yesterday morning as I was talking to my mom a call came through from the midwest. Sure enough, Danny and Ruthann were calling to tell me that my things have arrived in Las Vegas, and could they deliver them on Friday?

Then Jason called this afternoon. It looks like I’m catching an early flight to LAX tomorrow so I can rescue Big Green from the clutches of the ever incompetent IAL, the government’s new auto shipping company. My poor baby, I can’t wait to give him a little diesel and bring him on home. Everything is coming up roses and I feel so very blessed.

Miracles, people. They’re everywhere.

But of course, every silver lining has it’s rain cloud.

Tonight I picked Harrison up from football practice and watched as he slumped into the front seat next to me, slamming the door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I hate football. I’m horrible at this! I can’t catch the ball, I can’t throw the ball, everyone laughs at me…”

And then he started to cry. My wonderful, sweet not-so-little-anymore 11-year-old who’s dad is far away and can’t help him with football this year, started to cry. And it wasn’t little kid fit crying, it was…real crying.

His words and his tears landed on my heart like a pile of bricks. I didn’t even know what to say. Part of me wanted to put my arms around him and tell him he never has to go back, that he doesn’t have to do this hard thing and that football is stupid.

The other part of me wanted to give him the old pep talk about not being a quitter. I’m a mother, I know that if I let him quit just because it’s hard then he’ll never experience the feeling of accomplishment you get when you do something right during a game. It’s such a well-earned adrenaline rush for a kid.

The third part of me wanted to stop and buy him chicken nuggets because he didn’t eat his dinner and being hungry makes everything worse.

I cooed a little at him and fed him some food, then took him home. On a whim I texted my sister Jenny who has a bunch of football crazed boys. I needed some advice, I can’t be the first mother to experience this, right?

She did one better. She had Liam, her big strong 15-year-old football star call Harrison.

When the call came through Harry was so embarrassed that his cousin had found out he was bombing at football that he ran and sat in the closet. I took him the call and put it on speaker phone then left to give them a little privacy.

Only a little privacy, I didn’t want to miss any of Liam’s sage advice.

I listened as Liam told Harrison how it had taken him three years to learn football. In fact, he made Harry promise to stick with it for three years until it got fun. They talked about keeping your chin up when you drop a pass, and Harrison’s current position as rusher on defense.

Then Liam, bless his heart, went one step further.

“Now Harry,” he said, “Do you pay your tithing?”

“Uh, yeah…” Harry said.

“Good. How about fasting? Do you fast on fast Sunday? Are you praying about this every day? ‘Cause you should probably start praying about this tonight, it will really help you.”

I can tell my kid all these same things until I’m blue in the face, but they wouldn’t have 1/10 the impact they had coming from his amazing cousin.

My Harry. He’s got good people looking out for him.

 

Something is happening…almost

Why is it I am always so surprised when life is hard? What, like I don’t expect it to challenge me or something? I’ve got to stop playing all these Disney movies for my kids, they need to watch Where the Red Fern Grows a few more times (worst movie ever).

This has been my least favorite week of the summer and very possibly one of my least favorite weeks of my life. I have felt so unfortunately helpless, everything is out of my control. We are still living out of suitcases so the only thing we have is laundry and of course, my dryer has remained broken (a gas leak?!) for two weeks straight. They finally sent two different repairmen out yesterday.

It was a five minute fix.

The good news is that as of yesterday things are finally starting to unkink. First the dryer, then the ice machine got fixed. And miracle of miracles it looks like my car made it to Seattle this week and they are shipping it to LA. I’ll have to fly in, taxi to the shipping yard and Excursion my way home as fast as I can to try and do it in one day. Six weeks late is better than never.

Lucky for me we seem to be in a phenomenal ward. Honestly, what a huge blessing. I love these people, to all my girlfriends who insisted that Vegas has the best Mormons I have to say hat’s off, you are right. So many friendly calls and offers to help with kids.

We are already running all over town with fall activities. Harry started his first season of flag football and it is giving me hives. I can’t stand to watch the practices because we all know that I’m a closet side liner who secretly wants to coach–in heels. But he’s kind of struggling. He’s in a 6-7th grade league and he’s not only the youngest on his team but the only kid who hasn’t played before. These guys take their football seriously too.

I have to give the kid credit. He invented a “routine” that he wants to do to get in shape for football. He takes the dog for a 20 minute jog every morning and then does 10 push ups, 10 sit ups,  10 seconds of wall sits and 10 burpees. We have also started going to the park and running drills while the little kids play in the splash pad. I feel like Mick trying to get Rocky to run suicides. Thank you, Newell boys, for making sure I could throw a football and understand the game. I had no idea that I would actually need this knowledge. I think it’s going to save my boy this season, with his Dad gone I’m The One.

Last night I finally made myself talk to the coach after practice to see how he was doing. It gave me so much mommy anxiety. This is Jason’s area and I don’t like to talk to coaches, period. It was okay, his coach is apparently the top coach in the entire league, I’ve heard that a lot of parents have tried to get their kids on his team because this guy is so good. I can see it in practice, there is absolutely nothing juvenile about this league.

I appreciate that he didn’t mince words. He said Harry is getting there but he needs to take practice more seriously.  He will learn a big lesson this year working with this team. It’s just about time for him to realize that if you want to be good at something you have to work at it outside of practice, and practice isn’t social hour.

Ah, raising kids is so exhausting.