November 19, 2014

When His Light Shines …

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Christopher was inducted into the National Honor Society last night in a candle lighting ceremony. He participated in a rigorous application process that gave us an eerie feeling college applications are right around the corner. Two thirds of the kids who applied did not get accepted. But he did and it is because he does amazing things in his life like serve and lead.

The NHS is different at his school than it was at my school. The kids are expected to do thirty-six hours of service throughout the school year. I’m excited for the opportunities it will afford my boy. It is another chance to keep the bar raised to a high standard.

He is turning into a really wonderful young man. Don’t get me wrong. He annoys his siblings, on purpose, on a daily basis. He talks back to his Dad and to me. He misses curfew, rolls his eyes at us and basically thinks we are lame parents. He is a total slob when it comes to keeping up his bedroom. And his feet smell.  But in the essentials, he is stellar!

A few weeks ago we went to the Cross Country end of season banquet where they handed out letters and awards to the runners. Chris had a so-so season. He ran with the Varsity and lettered, but he never came away from a race feeling like he’d really killed it. To him that was disappointing. As different awards were given, we sat, listening happily to the accomplishments of others. Then towards the end the coach gave what he calls the “Right Arm Award”. He said this award was for the athlete who was always offering to help others. He carried the team tent. He carried water coolers. He would stand at the finish line of every race and cheer on his teammates whether they were the fastest kid on the team or the very slowest. In essence, this award was for the athlete who would give his right arm for anyone of his teammates. And the award was for my son, Christopher.

I was so happy! I turned to my Hubby and whispered, “I would so much rather he get that award than an award for being fast. This award is about his character.”

Daily I am reminded that time is rushing by me and this boy of mine whom I’ve loved fiercely for almost seventeen years will not be mine much longer. Of course he will always be mine, but he will leave us sooner than we’d like and go out into the world to teach and learn and live by the principles we’ve engrained in him his whole life.

It is a beautiful, painful realization. His light is so bright. He makes me a proud momma. I love him very much and am grateful God gave him to me to raise. Plus, he ties his own bowties.

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Chris with one of his best friends, Catherine.

November 10, 2014

What Family Pictures Are Like …

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This weekend I dragged my people to a local historic site to get a picture for our Christmas card. As usual, it was a complete circus.

Before hand I spent too much time ironing other people’s clothes and doing other people’s hair, so I was behind on my own clothes and hair. Cue me running out to the car with half my make up on and a navy blue coat covered in white fuzz. Nothing like reality in a picture.

For the second year in a row we have planned our family picture on a day when it was just too cold. Below fifty-five degrees is too cold. On this day it was about forty-two. Every body was happy for approximately 2.3 minutes and then the complaining started. You can see in the photo above that being cold makes Chris tired. He’s weird like that.

I do not suggest ever setting your camera on a tripod and then walking away while the self timer goes off. If you do, you will get a picture of your bum and then you will be depressed and recommitted to exercising like a fanatic . . . after you go home and eat handfuls of Halloween candy because your bum is not cute. Here I am fixing hair and collars and attitudes with my bum. Sigh. At least the back of my hair does look cute.

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Here’s another suggestion for family photos. Hire a professional. Because if you do it yourself and forget your camera remote like I did, you will spend an hour running back and forth from the tripod to your family. And you will look tired and your cute hair will be messed up and your left eye will water incessantly.

Last suggestion. Don’t let your teenaged boy be in the pictures. Because he will ruin them. On purpose. If I was a really mean mom (and I am) I would just go ahead and use this picture for the Christmas card. But I won’t because Owlie looks like it is torturous to be a part of our family and I did get one other shot where he is smiling like a happy fool.

Pictures. Done. And overrated.

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PS. Hubby, Hannah and RedDog, thank you for being perfect in every single photo. You are super models!

October 29, 2014

In The Thick Of It …

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I never thought I would be forty-one years old and completely overwhelmed by my life with four kids. That sounds dramatic, and it is. Just bear with me because I’m hormonal and really emotional and need to put my thoughts to words.

My Hubby was talking to his mom the other day on the phone and she made a comment after hearing all that we’ve got happening something to the effect of, “Oh you are in the thick of your lives right now. I remember that time. It was crazy!”

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And that is pretty much how it is. Two high schoolers, a middle schooler, a preschooler, a Hubby, a Dragonfly,  a Church, extended family and a community have made our lives very, very full. And we wouldn’t trade it for the world. But sometimes it feels like a lot to juggle.

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What that means is every night of the week has something or multiple somethings happening. Believe me when I say that I am a huge proponent of not over scheduling a family. I wish that were our problem. It isn’t. We are just doing our lives and trying to please God. Times six.

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There are many nights when The Hubby and I laugh a little as we both plunk our worn out aging bodies on the couch after everyone has gone to bed. We need two minutes together to decompress, fill each other in on the day’s happenings, laugh at the Big Bang Theory and wonder how we got to this crazy juncture. There’s no one else I’d rather be crazy with than him!

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What it has meant for me recently is less time doing some of the things I love, like writing here or taking endless pictures with my camera. I think over and over, I should write about that, or I need to catch that with the camera, but then when it comes to the end of the day, the energy is gone and it hasn’t happened.

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But feeding my family has happened. And cleaning their clothes has happened. And visiting a woman in my church who just had surgery has happened. And going to see my parents has happened. And watching my kids run races has happened. And cleaning toilets has happened.

See, so many good things are happening while we are in the thick of it.

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Off and on over the past two months, I have had my camera with me in the hopes that I could capture something beautiful to share on my blog. This post is an accumulation of what God has given me to work with in what I am feeling is The Most Perfect Fall Ever In Our Virginia Family History.

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These pictures are what I look at when I am feeling overwhelmed and tired and old. They are what remind me that God is aware of me. They are what tell me He continues to bless my life with His beauty and glory because He knows that I need a full moon or a sunset or a perfect pumpkin or a golden sunlit tree or a tiny flower or a few ducks in a pond in order to feel loved and to remember that He will always be with me. Even in the thick of it.

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October 24, 2014

Help For The Reluctant Learner …

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That face.

That is the face he makes every day when I say, “Let’s do some learning!” Some days he lays down on the floor and kicks and screams. Other days he yells out, “I don’t want to learn! I’m nver going to Kindergarten!”

It is a struggle every single day.

One of the reasons we didn’t put Owlie in Kindergarten this year was because he is a reluctant learner. He has little to no desire to learn letters, read sight words, count to twenty or try to rhyme. It’s a little frustrating, honestly.  It’s hard to tell whether or not he is truly struggling with the learning process or just being the most stubborn five year old on the planet. Often when he finally relents and works with me, we have fun and he does great, taking pleasure in his accomplishment.

I’m putting out a call for help today. Do you have any fun ways to help small children learn? What has worked for you with your kids. Retaining information seems to be a problem for my boy. Any thoughts or tricks you have to help us would be appreciated.

October 23, 2014

The Night Time Hair Dresser …

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You can always tell when Owlie has had a very, very good night’s sleep because he’ll wake up with a new do from the Night Time Hairdresser. This morning he caught this backhawk in the shadows in his room. He couldn’t figure out why his hair was sticking up so severely. Finally he came to the conclusion that one of his stuffed puppies must have licked his hair while he was sleeping.

While he was eating breakfast I broke out the camera because I wanted to capture his new do. I got a few shots from behind, but when he saw that I was photographing him, he wasn’t pleased with me and kept hiding his head. I finally told him, “DO NOT look at me!” That did the trick! He was giggling and happy to look right at me because he knew I didn’t want him to.

Yep, I’m a smart momma! Awesome hair day!

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October 20, 2014

What A Difference A Year Makes …

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You may remember a year ago when I went off on a little rant about the High School’s Homecoming dance. If not, you can read that here.

I floated an idea for a “ComingHome” dance as a possibility to a friend who has a leadership position in our church community in Loudoun County after last year’s experience. She was in complete agreement with me that there was a need for an alternative activity for our kids who don’t want to attend the school dances because they’ve gotten so bad.

It’s been a year in the making and I am so happy to write today that this weekend my kids attended the first Mormon Homecoming Dance in our county and they had a BLAST! The dance, which started out as Coming Home, quickly earned the nick name MoHoCo. Kids at school started asking, “Are you going to MoHoCo?”.

We challenged Hannah and Chris to invite some of their school friends who don’t go to our church because we knew they would also have a great time at a dance that was, simply put, a better, cleaner environment than what the school offers. They took us up on the challenge, inviting groups of friends.

It is not an easy task for a girl to come to a dance like this because there was a dress standard that was enforced. Dresses had to go to the knee and cover the back and shoulders. Does that sound like an old fashioned standard to you? Not to me! It was completely refreshing to see so many girls in dresses that were age appropriate. I am so sick of seeing teenaged cleavage and thighs! I looked at these girls and couldn’t help but think how beautiful they were, not because they were showing off their bodies, but because we could see their true beauty! It was refreshing.

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One of the friends Hannah invited was our neighbor Alex. These two have been buddies since Kindergarten. He showed up completely dapper in a suit and bow tie. It was AWESOME! We had fun shooting some silly pictures in front of our house before heading over to our Bishop’s house where I helped host a dinner for thirty-five kids before the dance.

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Chris took a darling girl from the Cross Country team to the dance. I was so impressed when her mom called us to double check on the dress standard. She had found one dress, but it didn’t meet the standard, so she found another one which was really beautiful. Chris has taught himself to hand tie a bow tie, and insisted on finding one to match her dress. Pretty cute, that kid of mine.

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He also invited two other friends from the Cross Country team. None of these kids go to our church. All of them had a fantastic time at the dance and said it was better than any school dance. Chris felt an especially great amount of pride since he was in charge of the music for the dance. He has worked for weeks to find music that is good to dance to and also has clean lyrics. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do? Several people told the DJ that it was the best music they’d heard at a dance (church or otherwise) in a long time.

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There were about two hundred kids at the dance. I think next year it will be held in a bigger venue and more kids will come because they are going to hear how great it was from the kids that went this year. I am so relieved that my kids have a place to go with their friends for Homecoming and that they never have to step foot in a school dance again.

Yay for Mormon Homecoming! Yay for kids who have high standards! And yay that last week is over because it was one of the busiest and most stressful I have had in a long, long time.