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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