Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"We Need A Little Christmas" 2014

Here is our annual family Christmas movie. The kids had a lot of fun doing it. Merry Christmas!

Garth Books Sings "Mom"

I heard Garth Brooks sing this song on Ellen not too long ago. I was moved to tears. Listen to the song and read my thoughts about it here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I remember being in one of my college classes discussing new YA books that kids in high schools were reading. Speak came up. I had not read it and so could not contribute to the conversation. However, I do remember it being controversial. Class members took different stands on it and I remained fairly opinionless about the exact book. All I knew was that it involved rape. 

Just recently some friends of mine didn't want their 8th graders to read this book in their class. They felt it was too graphic and felt their children were too young to read it. Without reading the book beforehand, I supported their desire to have another book read. I suggested asking for an alternate book or asking that certain pages be passed over. As a high school English teacher myself, these were both very realistic and easy accommodations for a teacher to make. Is the book too graphic? I couldn't say. But what I did know was that it had been a point of discussions 10 years ago in my college class, and I also knew that these parents were concerned. Whether I agree that the book shouldn't be read or not, I 100% believe that parents should have a say in their children's education and that if they are uncomfortable with something, that a teacher should be able to figure out a way to accommodate them. (This topic of parent rights in a classroom could go on, but for now, I'll leave it there.)

So yes, I supported my friends and gave suggestions of how I felt they could appropriately handle the situation.

And I bought the book and read it.

And I loved it.

1) Subject Matter Speak addresses a very real issue that is a part of our children's lives. Rape isn't only happening to older kids or those running, listening to head phones, on a dark night along an ally. Rape is happening all. the. time. And I believe it's happening at younger ages as well. So, I actually loved how the author approached the topic. I completely related with the character and felt that her thoughts had been mine at one point in my life. It's a topic that needs to be handled with care, and I think the author writes about it in a way that brings reality to the picture...fear, sadness, guilt...these emotions were clear.

2) Writing  Anderson's writing is so good. So good. She's such a talented author. I've only read 2 of her books so far, but I have loved her writing in both. She has a way of really grabbing her reader and I always thoroughly enjoying reading her books...but more than that...I try to find time in my day just to read her writing. She's a very talented author.

3) Age Appropriate  hmm  The topic matter is age appropriate, but should it be taught in an 8th grade class? I taught high school. I could see using this book with my 11th graders. But I don't know if I would with an 8th grade class. It wasn't as graphic as I thought at all. It was tense. For sure. Emotion was strong and I felt afraid for her, but there wasn't anything explicit that I remember reading. I can't remember any details that made me uncomfortable. But I'm 34. I think for an 8th grader to read the book...perhaps it is too intense. Should we not teach the topic? I think if a teacher wants to discuss these social issues, it can be done in so many other ways. But if I had more than 3 parents who were concerned about a book, I would re-examine my strategy, choose other literature, and go from there. There's on shortage of literature in our world. A teacher can find other short stories, essays, books, articles, and songs to discuss any given theme. 

8th grade? This may be too young. Junior or senior in high school? It's probably worth a read if you feel your kids can handle the issue. Or, maybe especially if you think they can't handle the issue...perhaps it's a good book to introduce to them and discuss so they can develop their own opinions and action plans for if something like this were to happen to them or someone they know.

How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children by Gerald Newmark, PhD

I admit, when I started reading this book, I thought I was reading How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children, but it wasn't until I was nearly done that I realized I was reading something else. Nevertheless, I really did like the book and felt like it gave some really good insight. (I still need to read the other one though).

In the very beginning, he states  his thesis:

There are five critical needs each child (and adult) has in order to develop and/or maintain emotional health. Those five needs are to feel respected, important, accepted, included, and secure.

You know what I love about books like this? They tell me stuff that I already know, but in a different way. What Dr. Newmark did for me was tell me what I know, but by classifying it into these 5 needs did something for me as a parent. If you notice, LOVE isn't one of the five needs. He doesn't explain it until later on in the book, but honestly, love didn't need to be there for me to understand that it's not a "need" for a child. Because if a child feels respected, important, accepted, included, and secure, don't they feel loved? Feeling loved is a natural positive consequence from creating an environment where there is security, acceptance, respect, inclusion, and a feeling a importance and value.

What I most appreciated in the book was the appendix where there are lists of ideas of activities and games to do as a family. I have felt a little bit in a rut lately, so having pages of ideas was great. It gave me a fresh view on family time.

We really try to do the right thing, to listen to our children and not push them away in annoyance, to explain things instead of just saying "because we're in charge," etc. But it was a good book to validate our actions and encourage us to continue on. It's a really good book.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

ER Visit #2

Tonight Micah took his second trip to the ER. The first time was last April with a dislocated elbow. He and Callie just played too hard.

Tonight, while being chased and probably laughing hysterically, he tripped over a rug at Grammy and Grandpa's and hit the coffee table. He was just playing too hard, yet again.

Both times, I was not present when the incident happened. Lesson: NEVER leave Micah alone under any other supervision.

He was a trooper. When they pulled the bandage off, I was surprised at how deep the gash was. It was deep deep deep. Luckily they were able to wash it out and glue it together. He wasn't happy, but all he did was cry. He didn't try to wiggle away or push them away. Like I said, trooper.

Grandpa kept him distracted with his Kindle and I gave him the comfort he needed when he was sad. It all worked out well and we were in and out probably within and hour. And now he's soundly sleeping off the trauma. He's the cutest little boy. Even in his pain, I mean come on...look at that face. What a cutie. And hopefully, he'll have a very very small, thin scar...if any.

A Night with Santa

We had our annual Christmas Party at church a couple weeks ago. It was a great evening, of course. But by the time we actually got up to Santa, Sammy was tired and hungry (upset), Micah was antsy (upset), and Callie was sick of waiting and wanted to just be with friends (upset). So these are our stellar pictures. We started with one on one. Callie got her time with Santa, and then I jumped in and asked if we could just get a group shot. I think I surprised Santa. I mean, what mom will take the Santa experience away from her children?

This mama, that's who.

We needed to get some dinner, and quite frankly, my kids aren't super excited about Santa Claus anyway. So, there you have it.

 Later that evening, the Primary children were asked to come up and sing. Callie sat next to Sammy on the stage, and it was pretty adorable to see them up there, I have to say.

Each year the Primary kids generally participate in a small nativity. This year, a video was prepared, and it was pretty cute. The kids were able to choose their favorite person in the nativity and why. They dressed up as that person and a picture was taken. All those pictures were then put into a video set to music. It was pretty cute.

Callie chose Mary "because she was righteous."

Sammy chose to be a shepherd "because they were humble."

Micah also chose to be a shepherd, because "I get to hold a stick."
(He really said that.)

Then they finished the night with another song.

It was a really nice evening, and this year, being that our Christmas party was so early in the month, it was really nice. I wasn't yet in the rush of things and we were able to just sit back, relax, have fun, talk to friends, have a great dinner, and hear about the Savior through the innocence of our children.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Keep the Door Open...

This is something I'm increasingly thinking about as Callie gets older. We don't technically have a closed adoption, but we have lost contact with her birth mother. And Callie is talking about her more and more. Just yesterday we were talking about family and she began rattling off names of family members...then she said, "And Latice. She's in our family." Of course she's a part of our family, but we never see her, talk to her, or even know where she is. And it breaks my heart for me, for Callie, for Latice.

So what do I do for Callie? How do I keep that door open when it's been closed...against our own desires? I wrote about some of those thoughts here. 

Sammy's Christmas Party

Micah and I were able to go to Sammy's class and enjoy their holiday party. It was really nice to be there. I feel like this year I've been doing a lot in Callie's classroom, and today, it was all about Sammy. From the moment we walked in, Sammy's excitement was heard! She was screaming so much. It wasn't pleasant to the ears. At all. But it was rather cute. She was happy we were there.

Micah had fun running around the classroom while we sung songs. He wasn't interested in playing along, he wanted to do his own thing. And that was ok. It's a small class -- not too many kids -- and there are plenty of toys! 

When Sammy reached a certain age, I heard a lot of others talk about how I'd need to advocate for Sammy's needs in the classroom and fight for such and such. I'm not sure why, but I haven't had to do any of that yet. For whatever reason, we've always been blessed with incredible schools and teachers and aides who adore her and all the kids in the classroom. When I pop in unexpectedly, they are all happily working with the kids. Everyone is happy. It takes very special people to work with kids who require such intense care, and I am so grateful that those special people are working with my special daughter.

Callie used to LOVE going to Sammy's classroom for their parties and activities. Now that she's in first grade, she can't do that anymore since she's in school all day. Looks like it's Micah's turn and he's all in. He loves being there with Sammy, giving her hugs, being in the room and doing all they have planned. I love it too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happiness Is...

I love seeing how we've grown...and I'm not just talking about the circumference of my face. I'm talking about these adorable kidlets who make our lives fuller, funnier, and fabulous. One by one they come and one by one they have molded us into better people.

I'm not sure when our next family photo will be...probably not too soon since we just did them in July. But, I can't help but hope that in our next family picture, there'll be one more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Operation Christmas Child

This year as a family we filled shoe boxes with gifts for Operation Christmas Child
"Operation Christmas Child? What's that?" you say.

The concept is this: Share the love of Christ through these boxes filled with gifts. It sounds kind of simplistic, but guess what? I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ is actually pretty simple in its teachings. And if I can help a child feel that love, even for a moment, a box I will send.

Callie had a ridiculous amount of fun picking out items for the girl box and boy box. She was giddy, but also very careful about her selections. She'd pick something up at the store and then say, "No, that's for a little kid. This girl is six like me." And she'd keep looking. I loved every moment of it. We packed the boxes, wrapped the boxes (which was trickier than I thought it would be), and walked down the street to the local church that was participating in Operation Christmas Child.

I think we have a new tradition.

Santa 2014

By the time we got to Santa, Sammy's smiles were gone, Callie was ulta-antsy wanting to run aroudn with friends, and Micah was...a 2 year old. We skipped the individuals and went with the best all-kid shot we could get. This will do.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Life's Plans

My life has definitely not turned out how I imagined. Life doesn't seem to ever turn out just like we plan it...but, maybe that's a good thing. I have learned so much through Samantha and adoption that has led me to believe my plans are just ideas, but that my life Plan is really up to someone else. And I will put my faith in that. 

Read my article here

Friday, December 5, 2014

Heavy Heart

When was the last time you cried? I mean...cried. When it just poured out from you uncontrollably. I did yesterday morning, and it happens periodically since I got the news.

For the past few weeks my uncle has been in the hospital. He's sick. Very sick. Infection is all throughout his body and he's not getting better. He's been confined to a wheelchair for the past 20-some-odd years. He's had a pretty full life all considering. But it's his time to go, I guess. And this morning they will remove the ventilator and he will hopefully pass on.

I talked to Dad yesterday morning. It was emotional and migraine-inducing. My uncle is a good man. A great man. And as he laid in his hospital bed, my dad, his sister and my cousins went and had lunch in the hospital cafeteria. There they discussed funeral plans.

Dad told me if there was anything I wanted to tell Uncle Roy I could write him a letter and they'd read it. In many ways, it's unfair to have time to sit and write down your thoughts and have someone else read it. There was so much more I was able to say because I wasn't saying it. The truth is, my uncle is an amazing person. I know we all think that about family members. And there's truth in all of us being wonderful. My Uncle Roy is amazing. Amazing. I'll include the letter I wrote because I want to have that forever. It explains a little bit why I think he's so great. But it doesn't explain it all.

I'm tired. I'm so tired. I wish I were there. Last night I was completely emotionally spent. I had such a busy day that got thrown out the window. All of a sudden not much that's sitting there on your calendar matters when you're talking about losing someone. I was supposed to go up to Mountain View to see some friends who I've recently met. I've met them once. I call them my friends. We don't hang out weekly, but I love them. I sent them a message telling them I may not make it and explained what was going on. They didn't say, "Oh I get it. Just stay home and sleep." Instead, they encouraged me to come and said we'd all cry together. They made it clear they wanted me there no matter what condition I was in. Last night I drove up to Mountain View and stayed far too long. I didn't cry. I had a lot of fun. We talked about my uncle. We talked about adoption. We talked about music. It was so refreshing.

When I got home, Micah woke up at 2am. He seemed really upset so I went in and held him, and as I did, I thought of Uncle Roy and a huge peace flooded my body. My heart didn't ache anymore.

I woke up to a text my sister sent telling me she had read my letter...barely making it through...and that it was hard to be in the room there. I'm grateful so many others are there with him. My sister and parents left and now, he's being sedated and his family waits there with him.

My heart is heavy again with sadness. And deep love. Such a difficult and sacred time. My mind is really foggy right now. And I can't help imagining myself being there. Which is making me cry even more. But it's ok. These tears are worth it. I love him. I love my family. And in just a few short minutes...he'll be reunited with so many loved ones and we'll wait for our turn to see him again. It'll all be ok, but it doesn't make it easy.


Uncle Roy,

Where do I begin? Truly, where do I begin? 

I love you. That's a good start. You're my birthday buddy. May 20. I've always thought of it as our day. I have so many good memories of coming over your house, playing with Sadie, having Bonnie apply press-on nails to my little bitty hands! Good times! I remember your warm smile...and that mustache. :)  Classic Uncle Roy.

My family isn't good at keeping in touch. We just aren't. It's a problem, a flaw. But now, it is what it is. So, of course I wish I had flown out to Michigan more, emailed you and Aunt Geri regularly, etc etc. But even though I didn't (and sorry about that), I want you to know that when I think of childhood memories with my extended family, it's you I think about. It's Aunt Geri getting food ready in her kitchen. I remember spending the night a few times when I was really little while my parents went out of town. You;re the uncle I spent the most time with, really. And, I love you. 

For a large part of my life you have been confined to a wheelchair. You, Uncle Roy, have taught me so much about life through your quiet and humble example. About pain and about joy. About perseverance, never giving up, that life is good...finding beauty that surrounds us. Did you always feel happy? No. Who is? But that's how I saw you. And it changed me. The truth is, you were always just my uncle...and you happened to be in a wheelchair. But as I got older, I realized how much that changed your life and what that meant. Without me even knowing it, you taught me. I mean, once a teacher always a teacher right? 

I learned that physical limitations were only that...physical. And that what was limitless was the influence of our spirits and the love we had to share. In a very real way, you prepared me for one of my greatest gifts and blessings...for Samantha. I think her birth and life could have been so much harder if I hadn't seen how "normal" life can be when things don't seem so "normal." How life isn't about what we can't do...but what we can do. And there's so so much we can do. You taught me that and nestled hope in my heart that I didn't even know was there until I needed it. Thank you. 

So, I have a request. I believe with my whole heart that when we leave our bodies behind, we greeted by those we love...people who have loved us and have been watching out for us from the other side. Some are family members, others are those who just feel like family to us. I'd like you on my team to watch over Sammy. And maybe when it's her turn, you'll be there to welcome her home...especially if I'm not there to do it myself. I'd like you there.

I love you. I wish I were there to do it myself, but Aunt Geri is going to give you a big hug and kiss from me now. And if life is eternal, which I believe it is, this here on Earth goes by pretty fast. 

I guess I'll see you soon.

Love you always,


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