Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Memory: A Year of Mondays

I haven't been consistent this year with a lot of things. I didn't log as many miles running as I'd planned, nor did I break up the tacos-spaghetti-soup dinner routine we've been comfortable with. But I did crank out a memory every single Monday of 2013, and I'm kind of proud of that. Granted, some were short and sweet, but every week there was something recalled and written.

I've enjoyed this weekly walk down memory lane, and even compiled some of my favorites into a book I just gave my Mom and Dad for Christmas, but I know my limits and I know what I can and cannot do, and with a new baby, I'm not going to commit to weekly postings in 2014. (It's a funny coincidence how my due date lines up so nicely with the calendar, isn't it?) However, I still have stories to share and pictures to scan, so I'm shooting for at least one per month. I still want to tell you about 4-H sewing, the awesome rigs I drove in high school, making a game out of locking my brother and sister in the horse trailer, and dance class, so this series is far from over - it's just slowing down while our family adjusts to our sweet new addition.

I did think it was important to list and catalog all the post from 2013 in one place, and sort them by category. So, If you've missed a few, or want to recall a favorite, here you go:

-My Last Livestock Show
-Cousins and Pigs
-Logan the Dog
-My First (and Second) Pig
-Bottle Babies

School and Sports
-The time I got sent to the Principal's office
-"That Place"
-The Baseball Years
-I was a High School Cheerleader
-High School Cross Country
-I'm with the Band
-I Used to Play Basketball
-First Day of School
-Another First Day Pic

Family and Traditions
-Christmas at Grandmas
-Advent Calendars
-The Time my Sister got Hit by a Car
-Trick-or-treating and Taxes
-Grandpa Bud
-Washington DC
-Baby Sister
-Kids at Christmas and Lost Memories
-Poster Children for the late '80s
-My Blue Brother
-Birthday parties
-Henry's Lake
-Our Mother's Day Tradition
-Nearly 4 years of Motherhood
-Billy Bob Teeth
-Sausage Makin'
-Incarcerated Kids
-Kiddie Pool in May
-Pie Eating Contest

-Hospital Stay at Christmas
-Cinnamon Toast Crunch and our Wedding
-The Silly Hat
-Dress Shopping
-The Lid Drawer
-Happy 4th of July
-Epic Cake Smash
-Bad Hair Days 2
-My Last 1st Date
-Bad Hair Days 1
-Scenes from the Children's Museum
-Little Girls in Blue Dresses
-Wild Waters

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Memory: Christmas at Grandma's

Christmas is in TWO DAYS! Yep, if you haven't bought it or cooked it yet, your time is limited, so get busy.

However, I don't want to write about the hectic and crazy Christmases that we experience now as adults, I want to hearken back to a simpler time, a time when Christmas just magically appeared. You know, those awesome Christmases when I was a kid.

On my Dad's side, I have 10 cousins, making 13 of us in total. And pretty much every year until I was 12 (when our nuclear family moved 500 miles away) we'd all spend Christmas evening at my Grandma Carol's house. This meant a horde of children would convene in my Grandma's living room and tear open package after package after package. The wood floor would become covered in discarded paper and bows. One year when my younger cousin Joel was only a few-month-old rolling baby, we actually lost him under the sea of wrapping paper. I remember an aunt or grandmother stopping the chaos so we could find the lost baby. Joel was, of course, fine, although he had rolled farther than we figured he could. I saw pictures of last year's Christmas at Grandma Carol's, and I was so very happy to see the joyful mess continues.
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you take a minute or two to remember the carefree Christmas times of your childhood and do your part to create those same types of memories for your kids. As I am learning, they really do grow up so fast, and they will never be this little again.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Memory: Hospital stay for Christmas

Christmas is only (gasp!) NINE days away. I still have shopping to do, a menu to plan, and oh yeah, a baby that could come at any time. I'm not stressing all that stuff though, because all that is peanuts and of little consequence. After the scare we had last week (car accident - I'll write about it later) I am grateful for the health and safety of my family and everything else shadows in comparison to that.

I am also reminded of a Christmas 28 years ago. I was only six years old and can't remember much about it, but I do know my wee, 4-month old baby brother spent it in an incubator in a local hospital.
(This is my baby brother, Kasey, being held by our Grandma Carol. He must have been on the mend when this picture was taken because for the first couple of days he pretty much had to stay in the plastic bubble.)

Shortly before Christmas Kasey came down with a horrible cough that turned into full-blown pneumonia. It's scary enough in adults, but downright terrifying in infants and small children. Kasey's case must have been bad, because I remember my mom taking him to the local doctor, and then directly to the hospital. I remember my mom and dad talking in hushed and hurried voices, probably trying to hide their fears from their six- and three-year old daughters.

I think I only got to visit Kasey in the hospital once, on Christmas Eve. I was a little scared to see my baby brother enclosed in clear plastic, but cheered to see his little crib festively decorated for Christmas. My mom explained that some of the nurses and volunteers had gone through and put up ribbons and bows on all the baby's incubators and Santa Claus came through and gave gifts to all the kids spending Christmas in the hospital.

Kasey was released from the hospital a little after Christmas, his lungs fully recovered. As far as I know, his Christmastime hospitalization had no permanent effects on his health. It does, however, serve as an important reminder that when we're asking for gifts, or writing out our wish lists, we should never fail to be thankful for our healthy and safe families.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Memory: The time I got sent to the Principal's office

(Again, sorry for another Monday Memory with no picture. Not what I envisioned when I began this series, but this story is important and needs to be told. I trust you all to use your imaginations to fill in the visual details.)

Did I ever tell you about the time in middle school I was sent to the Principal's office for fighting?
I didn't think so.

When you think of me, as an adult, or as an adolescent, you probably don't picture me as a fighter. And really, I'm not. I appreciate being able to de-escalate situations and conflicts with calm and rational discussions, but well, sometimes that just doesn't happen.

I've previously written about my dislike of middle school band, and this story isn't about band, but occurred on the way to band class. The music building was actually located across the street from the main school building. The elementary grades were escorted over by a teacher, but middle- and high-schoolers were trusted to walk over by themselves. (Looking back on it now, how more altercations didn't occur, is a small miracle. Antsy middle schoolers + no supervision = disasters waiting to happen.)

The boys in my class were going through a "phase" (some call it a phase, I call it being jerks) where they thought it was soooooo funny to walk up behind a girl and snap her back bra strap. Many of the girls in my class were going through a "phase" (some call it a phase, I call it being ditzy) where they would pretend to be horrified, and then laugh and flirt with the boy who snapped their bra strap. I found the entire ritual to be disturbing and inappropriate. (Yeah, I was most assuredly NOT popular in middle school.)

While walking over to band one afternoon, I heard one particularly annoying boy rush up behind me. I quickly turned around and told him if he ever touched me or snapped my bra, I would hit him in the face. He laughed and said some degrading and inappropriate comment about me not even needing to wear a bra, so there wouldn't be anything to snap anyway. The entire class laughed at that and I felt pretty embarrassed and belittled.

We got to the band room and another, younger class was coming out. The annoying boy chose that moment to pull my back bra strap and snap it, so hard that the back clasp actually broke. I didn't think and just reacted by turning around and slapping him across the face, hard. The slap was audible and loud. The teacher escorting the other class out saw me slap the annoying boy and marched us both to the Principal's office. None of us said anything, and I really thought I was going to be in the biggest trouble of my short life.

I think I was called in to talk to the Principal first. I knew, I knew that I was right to be mad that a boy had touched me in a way I was not okay with, but I didn't know if the Principal would believe me or not, and I was sure I would be in trouble for fighting, even if the cause was just. The Principal just listened to me describe what happened and then sent me back to class. I passed by the annoying boy on my way out and noticed a perfect hand-shaped welt on his left cheek. I was silently proud of myself for hitting him that hard. He did not come back to class, that day, or for the next three days.

That evening at home I was gathering my courage to tell my mom and dad what happened, when they got a phone call. The Principal was calling to tell them what happened, but not to get me in trouble. Instead he was calling to assure them that he was taking this matter very seriously and that the annoying boy would not be bothering me any more, and all the boys in my class, would be getting a special "talking to" about their behavior. I think my parents were a little confused at first because I hadn't yet told them about what happened. When I did tell them, they weren't mad at all. They agreed that slapping someone shouldn't be my go-to conflict resolution strategy, but that this particular situation demanded it. They were also proud that I stood up for myself even though is was not the popular thing to do. I was instructed to let them know if anything like that ever happened again, because it was not okay, it was not funny, and it should not continue.

Well, my righteous indignation earned me zero popularity points in the school the next day. The annoying boy had been suspended for three days and all the boys were put off that they had to meet with the Principal about their behavior. I was pretty much blamed for ruining years and years of normal middle school fun. What I didn't understand then, or even now, is how this behavior had gone unchecked for so long? How had girls been putting up with this, laughing it off for all this time? Surely I wasn't the first who felt violated and uncomfortable when her bra was snapped by a gross boy. I couldn't have been the only girl in my class who wanted to walk to class and not be assaulted.

I didn't figure out the answers then, and I haven't now. I am grateful that our Principal saw the situation as more than girl-slaps-boy and really worked to get to the root of the problem. I know many schools (for good reasons) have a zero tolerance policy for fighting, suspending all involved regardless of the reasons behind the involvement, and I suppose I would have been punished alongside annoying boy if our school had that policy. But I like to think I would have done it anyway.

Lana Jean (and baby girl), if you're reading this now, know this; If you're ever in a situation that makes you uncomfortable and diplomacy fails, and your authorities are failing, handle it how it needs to be handled. If that means slapping a boy to get his gross hands off you, then slap him with all the strength you've got. Maybe just go ahead and punch him while you're at it. Yes, your school probably has a zero tolerance policy for fighting, but you let Daddy and I worry about that. If they think a sweet girl slapping a boy is a bother, just wait until they deal with that sweet girl's parents.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Memory: Advent Calendars

It was a tradition growing up that my mom would buy us three kids these paperboard advent calendars. Each little square was labelled with a date, and on that date, you were allowed to open it up and eat the little chocolate piece inside. Of course, we would eat our chocolate first thing in the morning, because at Christmastime, chocolate for breakfast is completely acceptable, right?

I don't know if the same was true for my siblings, but my mom even sent me one each year when I was away in college. It was really nice having this little piece of home to open up while getting ready for class in my dorm room.

Well, when I saw this particular advent calendar in the grocery store this evening, I just had to buy it for Lana. It's time she got to enjoy chocolate with her breakfast in the days leading up to Christmas just like her mommy did years and years ago.
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Memory: Glasses

Lana got glasses last week. Dan got them when he was 8 and I got glasses at 7, so we expected this sometime for our daughter. It's tough for a care-free 4 year old to deal with the responsibility of wearing glasses, but that was far outweighed by our desire for her to see well. So far, so good. Lana's taken to wearing them daily and we haven't yet had any mishaps.

This got Dan and I talking about each of our glasses-wearing experiences. I think I've already shown my history to be none-too-pretty.

My first set was obtained when I was seven years old. We re-arranged seats in the second grade, and while sitting near the back of the classroom, I had a hard time seeing the chalkboard and that was that. These oversized blue plastic numbers (with the super cool transitions lenses that darkened not only in sunlight, but in florescent lights and also with camera flashes) were my signature for about 4 years.

Partway through 5th grade, my blue plastic glasses needed to be retired, and I got these ones. Still oversized, still not right for my face shape, but a definite improvement.

In 8th grade the brown glasses literally fell apart (duct tape and glue only held them together for so long) so I got silver wire-framed ones. Again, not entirely suitable, but a vast improvement. (Is anyone else seeing a trend here? The older I get the better glasses-choosing decisions I make.)
Fortunately, as a high school junior, I moved on to contacts full-time. Thank you contact lenses, you made one dorky and awkward girl at least look less the part. 

Dan wore glasses too and his can't-see-the-chalkboard story happened in 3rd grade. I couldn't find any pictures of him as a grade schooler, but I've been told his glasses style remained fairly constant. Here he is in high school:
Don't you just think Danny Lenssen was the cutest? Dan got magical laser eye surgery as an adult and has not worn specs since.

Well, now it's Lana's turn. Due to the poor eyewear choices of my past, Dan and I had a discussion about what was and was not okay for our baby girl. Nothing oversized, no transitions lenses, and nothing too bright or overwhelming. Well, in the end, Lana chose out her own glasses (after Mommy narrowed it down to three selections) and I think she did a fabulous job.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Memory: The time my sister got hit by a car (and ruined my party).

(When I started this Monday Memory series nearly a year ago, I thought it was important that every post have an accompanying photograph. I've really liked have a picture to go with every story and give me a visual reminder of the event I'm sharing. However, this story needs to be told, and no picture can be found. I trust you'll all use your imaginations.) 

The 4th grade at our elementary school marked the change from being a "little kid" to being a "big kid." Fourth graders sometimes got to serve lunch in the cafeteria, had less-supervised recesses, and (most exciting of all for us little nerds) had an Honor Roll displayed in the hallway after grades came out every quarter. It should come as a shock to no one that getting my name on that Honor Roll was a challenge I took very seriously. Not only did high marks get you bragging rights in the hall, but all Honor Roll members were also invited to stay after school one day for pizza, ice cream, and roller skating in the school's multipurpose room. All of these things were the ultimate treat for a sorta-dorky 9 year-old and I was so, so very excited to go.

The party was everything I'd hoped it would be. Plenty of room for showing off my mad skating skills, tri-colored ice cream sandwiches (the best kind), and two pieces of cardboard pizza. My bliss was suddenly and rudely interrupted when one of the teachers pulled me aside. He was usually one of the friendlier, jokier teachers, but at this point he was very serious. He explained to me that he'd just gotten a call and that my little sister, Jen, had been hit by a car. After witnessing my shock, he must have figured I needed more information, and finally told me that although she'd been in a accident, she was just fine. (Lesson learned people. When telling serious stuff to kids, get to the point and give the ending first.) I wanted to leave and walk home immediately, but the teacher told me I was instructed to stay for the rest of the party and someone would come and get me. I couldn't believe it; not only had I been given very crappy and confusing news about my family, but I couldn't even leave to see them and make sure everyone was okay. I had to keep skating around in a circle to cheesy music with all these happy dorks and pretend nothing was wrong. I don't remember how long the party was scheduled to last, but it certainly felt like days passed by before my grandma picked me up.

Just like the teacher told me earlier, Jen turned out to be fine. I learned that she wasn't hit by a car so much as a very slow-moving car ran over her foot as she walked across the street while blatantly not paying attention. I don't know how anyone (even my 6-year old sister) could be so incredibly distracted that they completely miss a car driving by slowly, but somehow Jen accomplished this feat. (We later found out the driver of the car was equally distracted and driving so slowly because she was lost and looking down at directions in her lap.)

Jen didn't break anything and wasn't really hurt. The car did knock her over and her foot still has scars from some friction burns from the tire. Emergency personnel had been called in and EMTs checked her out and transported her to the hospital. When she came home later, her foot was wrapped in a giant bandage. She didn't even need a cast or a boot or anything. I suppose as far as my-sister-got-hit-by-a-car stories go, this one is pretty tame and has a happy ending. Sadly, most don't end this way.

Because Jen got hit by a car during my 4th grade Honor Roll party, no one really asked me about the party that night, or really, ever. Well family, in case you've been wondering for 25 years, the party was really great, ya know, up until the point it was ruined because my sister got hit by a car, then it pretty much sucked.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Memory: Tinkerbell

This is my little sister, Jen, in 7th or 8th grade, and that adorable Holstein calf is Tinkerbell, her pet heifer for several months. Yep, most kids have pets that are cats or dogs, but Jen had a pet heifer. Tinkerbell was born a tiny twin calf and probably weighed 45 pounds when Jen adopted her from the local dairy. Odds were not in the little calf's favor, but Jen dutifully and faithfully bottle-fed Tinkerbell and she ended up thriving and doing quite well.
As Tinkerbell grew, it was obvious she wasn't going to be bothered with acting like a regular cow. She couldn't be pushed or corralled, and instead, when we needed her to move to a different pen or load on the trailer, Jen would simply walk up to her, tell her what to do, and then show her where to move and the heifer would do as she was told. It was really quite funny and amazing to see. Tinkerbell put up with the rest of the family, but she knew she belonged to Jen and had a clear favorite.

Due to Tinkerbell's status as a free-martin (heifer calf with a bull twin, usually infertile and does not have typical dairy-type characteristics)she did not show well at our local livestock shows and fairs. She led perfectly and Jen could get her to do anything in showmanship classes, but it was obvious Tinkerbell was never going to develop into even an average milking cow. So, when Tinkerbell was to butchering weight, our dad decided she should be our freezer beef for the year. Jen adamantly refused to have her calf be the one in our freezer. She fully understood that Tinkerbell couldn't live a long and full life on a dairy, but she also was not going to eat her all winter either. Dad gave into his daughter's emotional pleas and instead of butchering Tinkerbell, he picked another calf for our freezer and took Tinkerbell to the livestock auction with some other calves.

Jen raised other calves after Tinkerbell, and one Holstein heifer actually entered a milking herd and did quite well, being a top milker and producer of quality heifers, but none of them would ever come close to pulling at Jen's heartstrings like little Tinkerbell.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Memory: My Last Livestock Show

My brother and sister and I all showed livestock in 4-H and FFA. Usually we competed in 3 shows per year and showed beef cattle, sheep, or pigs. The last summer I showed was the summer before I left for college. As the schedule turned out, my very last show was the day before I needed to report for freshman orientation. My parents knew we'd be cutting it close, but decided to let me show anyway.
(My last show was the only one where all three of us, me, Kasey, and Jen, were in the same class. I think our steers weighed in within 20 pounds of each other, making this photograph possible.)

For this show, not only did I need to have my steer as ready as possible, I needed to have my mom's car packed with everything I needed for college. I remember the day before the show alternating between packing the cattle show tack box and packing boxes with dorm supplies. I'm sure my little brother and sister got stuck with most of the show prep work as my mind was more in college-land and less in livestock-land that day.

The Pendleton Junior Livestock Show is a single-day event. All animals are judged, and kids' showing abilities are judged on the same day, and that evening is the livestock auction. Other shows spread all these events out over three or four days, so this single day is long and exhausting. My steer placed near the middle of his market class, but I had my best showmanship day ever. Apparently being nervous about college made me less nervous about showing and I did really well, winning the senior division and (finally, finally, finally) winning Grand Champion Steer Showman. Even though it turned a long day into an even longer one, I was grateful and relieved to finally have reached a goal I'd wanted since my first show as a freshman.

My celebration couldn't last long though. After my steer was auctioned off and led onto the livestock trailer, my mom and I had to leave in order to get to Logan, Utah in time for the next morning's freshman orientation. There was no time for tears or drawn-out goodbyes. My dad, brother, and sister, all got quick hugs and Mom and I left. I didn't even take my awards with me, figuring (rightly) that my dorm room was going to be small, and I wouldn't have a lot of room for ribbons and plaques. We drove all night, surprising ourselves with how good we were doing despite the tiring day we'd just had. We actually pulled into the parking garage on campus about two hours before registration opened and took a nap in the car. I reported that morning still wearing my black jeans, boots, and starched white shirt from the show the day before. It wasn't until a few boxes got unpacked in my new room that I had access to fresh clothes and could change.

I don't recommend anyone cram as much into two days as we did that weekend. However, I'm really glad I got to do it, and the money earned from that steer surely went towards a future tuition payment.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Memory: Trick-or-Treating and Taxes

Thursday is Halloween, and you can bet we'll be taking Lana trick-or-treating through a sidewalk-lined, well-lighted section of town. She'll dutifully march from house to house, ringing bells and enthusiastically shouting "Trick or Treat!" and being rewarded with a piece of candy. It's the same for kids all across the country and it was the same for my family years ago.

However, in our family, the lesson was not just all about a night of free candy. Nope, our dad wanted to sprinkle a bit of real-world learning into what we can all admit is kind of a frivolous tradition. So when we got home from our night of candy-grabbing, we had to pay taxes and our dad was the taxman.
That meant we were expected to fork over about 25% of the candy we brought it. I remember my first few Halloweens with taxes and my dad explaining that just because I walked from house to house collecting candy did not mean I got to keep it all because blah blah blah blah. I'm sure Dad spewed a good speech, but all I heard was, "I'm taking some of your candy and you don't have to be happy about it, but you have to give it to me anyway." By the time my brother and sister were old enough to join in the trick-or-treating festivities, taxes were a well-known part of the evening and no one really complained (out loud at least). 

One year, either my brother or sister tried to hide some of their candy before reporting their bag to Dad for inspection. He suspected foul play and taught us a new lesson about taxes. If you misreport earnings, you have to pay the regular tax rate, plus a penalty fee. I think someone lost a lot of fun-sized candy bars for that error, and the other two of us immediately discarded all plans of hiding assets in the future. 

As adults, we can laugh about Halloween Taxes now, but as kids we took them quite seriously. Lana isn't old enough to really understand, and she only gets a piece or two of Halloween candy per day anyway, but when she's old enough to monitor her own candy stash, Dan has already called dibs on the role of taxman.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Memory: Our Wedding and Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal

On Sunday we celebrated our 6-year wedding anniversary. Yep, six years ago Dan didn't wise up/chicken out and head for the hills, and instead we got married amidst the smiles and well wishes of our lovely family and friends.

As part of the wedding ceremony, Dan and I planned on sharing Holy Communion together after we'd said our vows. The pastor who was officiating agreed and also didn't object when I requested we switch the red wine or grape juice with water, to prevent a stained wedding dress in the event my nervous and shaky hands spilled the cup. What we overlooked, however, was the bread. We usually have communion bread that's simply torn pieces of a regular loaf of bread, or small cracker-like wafers - either would have been fine had we remembered them.

Enter nephew Grant. Little Grant was almost two at our wedding, and getting through the pre-wedding photo-shoot with the help of patient parents, and a baggie of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
I know, I know, breakfast cereal isn't typically what you'd think of when you think about the elements of Holy Communion, but at that moment, it meant all of our requirements, meaning it was available right then. Our pastor didn't object and actually chuckled at the idea. I'm not sure Grant was overly excited to give up two pieces of his cereal, but he did anyway.

After both of us had properly said "I do" we shared communion while music played softly. I remember wishing the violinist would play louder because if I started laughing at the thought of Cinnamon Toast Crunch being Holy, it might disrupt the contemplative and serene scene we were going for. Fortunately, neither one of us laughed, and actually, it was probably the tastiest communion either of us ever had.
Despite a few unconventional elements, Dan and I ended up just as married as anyone else. Although I've never looked at Cinnamon Toast Crunch the same since. Even now, six years later, whenever I have that cereal for breakfast, I do think of it as being a bit more Holy than Cheerios or Raisin Bran.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What I Did on My Mandatory Furlough Vacation

Remember in elementary school when you'd return from summer vacation and your teacher wanted to see how much of your composition skills you'd lost over three months and assigned a "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" essay? Yeah, I feel like I just got back to real life after a surprise 16 day vacation and now want to reflect back on that time.

First off, I am not a teacher, nor a homeschooler. I always certainly respected those who chose to go down those particular paths, but never though it was for me. After attempting it for two weeks, I can most assuredly say it's not for me, but my respect and admiration for those who do has risen exponentially.

(The very decorated wall in our office. Art project time, both planned and spontaneous, was mandatory every day. Even though "regular life" has returned, the decorated wall has stayed up, and in fact, more projects are being taped up right now.)

I tried to have a plan for each day that would be both educational and entertaining for Lana. She's a fabulous kid and infinitely curious and I wanted to play to her curiosity. I also wanted her to be a kid and have fun. I wanted limit TV viewing. I wanted to tackle some home projects. And I wanted my house to be clean.  We also had to do some things out of the house or we'd both go crazy.

Guess what I learned and guess what items on the above list did not get done?

Yup, in those 16 days, my house was no cleaner that it would have been had I been leaving for work every day. In fact, I think sometimes Dan got home from work in the evenings and wondered if we'd been robbed or if a small, freak tornado came blowing through the dining room and office area. I also didn't make near as much progress on any of my house projects.

But guess what we were good at doing?

Spending time together. Lana and I snuggled together while reading books for hours and hours. We worked on big art projects together. I learned that for her, the dragon scene in Sleeping Beauty is not scary at all, but the mob scene in Beauty and the Beast is drive-you-to-weeping awful.

Pinterest became my friend not just for recipes and funny e-cards, but for preschool ideas. And then most of those ideas were promptly forgotten. No, our outdoor rec time did not consist of elaborate scavenger hunts or ginormous chalk-painted hopscotch boards, but instead we did yard work and went apple picking. (Hey, the result was a dirty, happy, and tired girl who ate a great lunch and then took an afternoon nap, so my lack of creativity should be forgiven.)
(Apple picking during one of our outdoor rec times. Lana took a great nap later and I made applesauce. Win-win!)

I also introduced Lana to some fun activities I enjoyed as a kid. Leaf rubbing was always cool to me and I liked seeing how different leaves would create different patterns on the paper. We went to a local park that had a variety of great leafy trees and Lana collected quite the assortment. Then she spent over an hour happily making her own leaf art.

And because I thought it really would be a waste to let all this together time go by without focusing some time on an academic challenge, we worked on sight words together. Many parents of kindergartners and first graders have told me how difficult it can be to teach kids their sight words, so I thought we'd get a head start.
I tried to make it a fun game, but as  it turn out, repetition is the key. We went over these twenty words several times a day. It wasn't necessarily fun, but we did it anyway. I guess in Mom's Homeschool, you learn that not everything is fun, but you sometimes have to do it anyway.

We went back to regular life last Thursday. Lana was happy to see her friends and teacher at preschool and complete the planned Halloween and fall-themed projects and activities. However, when I picked her up on Friday afternoon, she asked, "When can we have another Mommy and Lana day?"

It turns out she enjoyed our time together as much as I did.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Memory: "That Place"

This is my brother, Kasey, as an 8th grade basketball player. The story I want to share today has nothing to do with him on the 8th grade, but I couldn't find a picture of him playing 7th grade basketball, so this one will have to do.
Like all of us kids, Kasey played basketball in middle school. He was probably better than both of his sisters, but mostly played because it was a small school and the team needed the bodies. Kasey was never suspended from playing because of poor grades and always worked hard and hustled, so he became a key member of his team.

I got the chance to watch him play one weekend when I came home from college for a break. His team was entered in a tournament in a town called Heppner, about an hour-and-a-half away from home. Due to grades and illness, I think Kasey's team was down to six or seven guys, so everyone was going to get to play a lot. Despite their few players, the team played well and kept advancing in the tournament.

The final game was against the hometown Heppner Ponies. I remembered from high school that Heppner had a reputation for playing dirty, and apparently this style of play began in middle school, because these boys were snakes. (Okay, so maybe they weren't actually that bad, we just thought they were sneaky snakes because they were a good team who liked to knock our guys down.)

By that point in the tournament, Kasey's team was exhausted. All the guys had played hard for multiple games, but they knew this last one would be the toughest. They just didn't know it was going to be tough due to missed calls, and flat-out wrong and fabricated calls by the officials. Our guys got hacked at the hoop repeatedly with no foul calls, and that was more than a little frustrating. But the enraging part of the poor officiating came in the second half when one of our players was called for a shooting foul and he was no where near the ball. That particular player already had a few fouls under his belt and we all knew he'd have to completely relax his level of play to stay in the game. I think at that moment, all of us sitting in the visitor's bleachers realized the officials were simply not going to let the Ponies lose this game.

Despite this, the game remained close, although the blood pressure from the visitor's side increased exponentially. At one point, there was another bad call (I think it was when Kasey got knocked down hard and he was called for the foul, not the offending Heppner player) and I stood up, shaking my fist and shouting across the gym, "That's bullsh*t, bullsh*t, bullsh*t." When I realized what I'd done. I sat down quickly and hoped no one noticed. How I didn't get thrown out of the game, I still don't know.

Heppner ended up winning the game. As we waited for Kasey to come out of the locker room, I saw one of the referees walk down the hallway, his arm around the dirtiest of the snakey Heppner players. He mentioned something to the boy about playing well, and said they'd all go out for ice cream. I couldn't believe it. The player's father was a referee, and it was crystal clear that this dad cheated and lied to make his son's team win the tournament. I wanted to call bullsh*t again.

For years after that game, we didn't talk about the town of Heppner. We referred to it as "That Place." As in, you know. "That Place" we want to blow up. Or "That Place" with the dirty cheats. My dad would even get a bit of a growl in his voice when we mentioned "That Place."

It's probably been 15 years since that basketball tournament, and I haven't been back to "That Place" since. Obviously, I've grown and matured and moved past the silliness from that day. But still I haven't been back. I have no reason to visit that dirty, rummy town, or do business with any of its lying cheaters.
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Memory: Grandpa Bud

Dan pretty much leaves the blog in my hands. Generally, I choose the topics and photos and he puts up with my random stories and the occasional embarrassing picture. But a couple of weeks ago he made a simple request that I can't refuse. "Wifey, maybe the second week of October you could write about my dad?" Okay Dear, for you, I can do that.

On October 9th, Dan's father, Byron Lenssen (known lovingly as Grandpa Bud) will have been gone from us for seven years. He died a year before Dan and I got married, and about two-and-a-half years before Lana was born. On both occasions, the very real hole left by a lost loved one was so evident it was almost physically tangible for Dan.

I only knew Bud for a few months before he died, so unfortunately my memories are brief and scattered. I remember how his grandchildren gave him sweet hugs and kisses when they'd see him. I remember him puttering around the yard and garden. I remember that he lovingly took care of the beautiful gladiolas in the flower beds.

Even though I wasn't technically "family" yet, I was invited to join all the Lenssens for a Labor Day Weekend get-together a little over a month before Bud died. Two of Dan's brothers and their families, along with Bud and Sue, made the trip to Post Falls, Idaho for a weekend of togetherness in the woods. This is the photo of the whole group from that weekend.

It is grainy, we're all a bit woodsy, and no one would say they look their best, but it is the last photo Dan has of his dad, and it will hang on our wall as long as Dan wants it to.

Bud wasn't feeling well most of that weekend and got around the camp with the help of a golf cart. By that time the cancer had stolen much of his energy and vibrancy, but hadn't taken his spark or affection for his family. The four grandkids that made the trip got plenty of snuggles and loves from their Grandpa Bud. I'm sure the youngest two don't remember, but I hope these two nieces remember at least bits and pieces of their time with their grandpa.

Sunday morning of that weekend, we had a unique church service on the bank of the river. We sat in a circle on benches and sang hymns and listened to a short sermon. I don't remember the songs or the talk, but I remember watching Bud. He held tightly on to his wife's hand as they worshiped together. I wonder if he knew that in a little over a month's time he would be worshiping with the angels? As he listened to the word of God being preached, I wonder if he was looking forward to soon hearing the voice of the author Himself?

It's been seven years. I think for Dan, there are parts of those seven years that have been easier than others. Dan is confident of his dad's eternity, but some days just really, really misses him. A certain amount of healing has occurred, but there will always be a unique dad-shaped hole on his heart that will never be completely filled with anything else.

Because I only knew him a short time, my memories of Bud are few and limited. I would love to know what others remember. Feel free to share. Comment here, on Facebook, or write us an email. I would love to know more about this man, and I'm sure Dan would appreciate recalling happy memories.
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Sunday, October 6, 2013

September was.......

Canning veggies from our garden.
Here we have salsa and green beans. We canned even more green beans and some other kinds of salsa and also some spaghetti sauce. Our garden is done now, but we'll enjoy the bounty the whole rest of the year.

First Down Friday.
This WSU Cougar party was a huge hit with Lana. The marching band played, she got to dance with Butch T. Cougar and the cheerleaders, and jumped in a bounce-house. What 4-year old wouldn't love this?

Dentist appointments.
I seriously will have to video record this next time. Lana is so ticklish, that a routine teeth cleaning sends her into fits of laughter. I felt bad for the dental hygienist who did her cleaning, but it was so entertaining.

Puppy Love!
The pups are all gone now, but we enjoyed their cuteness and sweet puppy energy for more than two months.

VeggieTales Live!
As excited as Lana was to watch this show, you'd think these giant vegetables were the Beatles or Justin Bieber. The show was ridiculous and cheesy and worth every penny.

September just flew by. I wonder what October holds for us?
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Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Memory: The Baseball Years

My younger brother, Kasey, played baseball every year he was able. He started with T-ball, and graduated from high school as a captain of the varsity team. I'm sure he could fill several books and blogs with years and years worth of memories, but those are his stories to tell, and I'm sure I don't remember any of them accurately anyway.

What I do remember though are the years when it seemed that when Kasey played baseball, our whole family played baseball. When Kasey graduated from Pee-Wee to organized and sanctioned Little League, our baseball world got serious. There were actual try-outs and team drafts. There were uniforms that needed washed and pressed, and a concession stand schedule that needed filled. My dad spent a few of those years an as assistant coach, and my mom spent several years in charge of the concession stand.

(Kasey's first year in Little League. Wasn't he the cutest?) 

Our springtime evenings were filled with figuring out who was going home to do all the chores, and who was going to Kasey's game or practice. Crock-pot, or leftover dinners were quite common on busy nights. On game nights, especially if my mom was manning the concession stand, we'd all just eat dinner at the baseball field. Inevitably, someone would have flaked on their scheduled concession stand shift, so I'd get volunteered by my mom to work. I have a very specific memory of reading through college catalogs my senior year in between serving hotdogs and pumping squirts of bright orange nacho cheese on to handfulls of tortilla chips.

I also watched a lot of baseball during those years. I was always impressed that my brother was one of the few players who could bat both left- and right-handed. I got frustrated along with others in the stands when the kid who went through numerous hit-the-cutoff-man drills in practice, continually failed to do so in a game situation. I always knew enough about the players on my brother's teams to know when to expect a strike-out, and when to expect a line drive or a long ball.

Baseball was such a huge part of our family's springtimes, that even after Kasey graduated and went to college, my parents still went over to watch the games. I think it was just a part of their routine, and well, they probably missed it more that they cared to admit.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Memory: Washington DC

When I was a senior in high school my family took a long anticipated, much prepared for trip to Washington DC. Typically, our family didn't take big and expensive vacations, usually we'd go camping or drive a day to visit family, so this big cross-country vacation was a really big deal for all of us. Once plane tickets had been purchased, we all dug into books and brochures to research all the things we wanted to see. (Remember, these were the days before Googling it.)

We all wanted to see certain monuments and memorials, such as the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. We also wanted to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and tour Arlington National Cemetery. My parents knew this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip for all of us, so they let each of us kids select a place we wanted to go, and as a family, we would - no complaining allowed. I chose the National Gallery, a large art museum. Kasey chose the Air and Space Museum, and I can't remember what Jen chose. I remember liking the National Gallery well enough, but I remember thinking the Air and Space Museum was by far the better choice. I guess sometimes the 11-year old brother is alright.

After reading about the newly-opened Holocaust Memorial and Museum, my parents decided our family could handle it. Looking back, they did a really good job of preparing us for the museum, telling us it was a very serious and somber place, but also very important. It was definitely all of those things. I think it took us most of an afternoon to get through it and at the end we were all just emotionally and mentally exhausted. There was no talking, no joking, and no smiling that afternoon. There was a lot of reading and watching, and experiencing, and hopefully,  not forgetting. I think that exhibit did exactly what it was set up and designed to do.

One place we visited as almost an afterthought turned out to be one of my favorites. The National Archives is just a small building on the National Mall that doesn't seem all that grand and important from the outside. However, inside, we saw documents that literally changed the world. As a writer, I like to think occasionally I put something out that makes someone think or laugh or view something in a different light. The writers of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights were writing documents that set up a nation. Their words are recited by school children and debated in courts around the country even today. To see their words on crinkled parchment, pressed under light-protective glass, is a humbling, and almost holy experience.

If your family is contemplating a trip to our nation's capitol, I can't recommend it highly enough. I know we fully enjoyed our trip and hope in the future, when our girls are old enough to better understand, to go again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Memory: I Was a High School Cheerleader

Yes, you read that correctly. I was a high school cheerleader.

Bookish, indie film loving, fashion uncaring me was a high school cheerleader.

And let this fact sink in: I LOVED IT!!!!

As a freshman, I started my high school career in a super-small school. I think there were 10 kids in my class, maybe 40 in the whole high school and we had a cheer squad of two. Yup, two of us proudly donned the green, black, and white and rooted for the basketball team. I doubt we were loud or very good, but we made up for it in enthusiasm.
(Freshman Shelle in my Griswold High School Grizzlies cheer uniform. I was drowning in that way too big sweater and quite dorky in my wire-rimmed glasses and frizzy hair. Despite those setbacks, I cheered as if every point depended on me spelling out correctly the words to B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!)

Our family moved to a different school district that was considerably larger than our previous one. (Gasp! 40 kids in my class and nearly 200 in the whole school.) This school had actual perform-in-front-of-the-whole-school tryouts and mandatory pre-tryout practices. I went to a few of the practices, but just didn't feel like I fit in at all with the other girls, so I didn't try out.

Fast forward two years. I was still a dork, but not a complete dork. I'd made friends, even with some of the school's cheerleaders, and I learned they weren't all snobs. I knew the cheer advisor quite well and she pulled me aside after school one day and encouraged me to try out for the team. Well, I did, and I made the Varsity Cheer Squad for basketball.

Again, I loved it. I (clearly) had a lot to learn about make-up and hair, and it wasn't until college when I learned how to properly tame eyebrows, but I loved it. Being a part of a team whose sole job was to boost and encourage others was awesome. Don't get me wrong - we worked hard, sometimes really hard. We practiced dance routines and basket tosses until we were exhausted. We worked on jumps and cheers for hours on end. We painted signs and decorated lockers until our hands felt permanently stained red. But dang, we had a ton of fun.

We cheered at dozens of games (both the girls and boys basketball games) and cheered on our teams to district, regionals, and even state. We danced a half-time performance in the State Tournament and were in the running for the award of best cheer squad. We didn't come home from the tournament with that particular trophy, but I assure you, it wasn't from lack of effort or enthusiasm.

(Side note: I also learned some important life skills while cheerleading, notably, dealing with difficult people and staying cool when surrounded by drama. (There are some cliches that are totally true, a group of high school girls creating drama is certainly one of them.) In college and beyond, I attended several leadership courses and none of them taught me more about dealing with people than one season on the cheer squad.)

Cheerleading today is often described as too sexy, with girls wearing uniforms that are suggestive and too revealing. I don't disagree with those accusations. I know that's not what our squad was about (as evidenced by pictures), and hope one day if Lana wants to be a cheerleader, her cheer advisor and team is just as old-school as mine was.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Memory: Baby Sister

Our house is preparing for the arrival of girl #2 in late December. Lana will be four-and-a-half when the baby arrives and so far she is nothing but thrilled at the prospect of having a baby sister. She's so cute and excited and I think she believes this baby will be a real-life baby doll for her to play with.

Sorry Lana, if history is any indicator at all, you are about to be disappointed.

I speak from personal experience. In the summer of 1982 my parents were preparing for a new baby. I was 3 years old and I knew a new baby would be coming to our house. My mom talked to me a lot about how I needed to be her big helper once the baby came and that I would be the big sister and get to teach my little sister all the things she would need to know. My visiting grandmother also filled me with stories about how fun it would be to have a sister to play with. I was an only child and don't remember having any close neighbors with children, so the idea of a live-in friend to play with was rather attractive.

When an eight pound dark-headed pink bundle arrived, I just didn't understand everyone's excitement. This baby was supposed to be sweet and cute and all she did was sleep and cry. I was supposed to be the big helper, but I was not allowed to even touch her without my mother's permission. This baby was supposed to be my best friend and playtime companion, instead she was a lump who couldn't pass a ball, play dollies, or sing songs. She was most certainly not what I had been led to believe she'd be. 

Of course babies grow, and big sisters learn to adjust their expectations. But even now, all these 30+ years later, I distinctly remember being disappointed with my baby sister. I think we'll need to have some extra talks with Lana to lower her expectations, and encourage her to be patient and know that her baby sister will one day indeed be a fun friend to play with, just not at first.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where did August go?

Some how, some way, August flew by and left us and now it is September. I was certain we'd simply skipped the month all together until I looked back at all the photographic evidence to the contrary. I think the month flew by because it was so packed.

Wheat harvest started and was in full swing. Lana got to ride in the truck with Daddy and the combine with Uncle Dwayne. Of course she needed to dance in the stubble.

Lana ran (rode) the Lentil Festival 5k with me. It was slow going, but a lot of fun.

Of course we got in lots of puppy time.

And we found out our coming-in-December baby is a girl. No one was more excited than Lana, after all, for her, a baby sister is simply a real-life baby doll.

One weekend while Dan was working, Lana and I traveled to Boise to visit my cousin, Cody, While touring the Boise farmer's market, Lana somehow charmed a large-scale painter into handing over his paint brush. Brave man and a talented painted. One of his prints came home with us.

Cousin Cody even hooked Lana up with a new best friend for the day. These two blondies bonded immediately and were so cute together.

While we were there, Lana even got her first haircut!

Another Boise highlight was our day at the Boise Zoo. It was a surprisingly great zoo and perfect for little kids.

Lana has been slightly obsessed with convertibles lately, so a ride with cousin Cody was a requirement.

Then when we got back home, we had to get to work. I canned our garden's bounty.....

....and Lana played with the puppies,

and splashed in the kiddie pool.

Yup, I guess that's where August went. Here's hoping September can slow down a bit.