Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Beyond the Image

What do you see when you look at this picture? 

To the general observer, you'd see a family (we have enough facial similarities it looks like we are related) - willing to pose in a festive environment.  We're snuggled together, so we are at least close enough to fake it.  We look, more or less, pretty much like we are pulling off this family Christmas thing.

When I look at it, I immediately notice myself first.  Do I like that dark of lipstick on my lips?  How bad is the forehead crease (caused by many nights of neck/back discomfort grooving the grimace line even deeper).  I wonder if the filter eradicated the zits on my chin - THAT NEVER GO AWAY!  I like the hair color, recently done by Christi - having to be done more often these days because the gray is invading faster... and the new part to the other side, which more than one person has commented makes me look more like Michele.  But, I also look at how I'm posing, to make sure that I don't have multiple chins, frequently seen in photos where I'm not personally in charge of the photo taking because I don't have enough self discipline to lose the 10-15 pounds that would have me really looking like my twin sister (I'm not competitive or anything....).  

I see Brayden - NOT smiling with his eyes, pulling on his jacket because he can't keep his hands from pestering with someone when posing - even at 16 and a half.  I also notice he looks very tall in this picture.  He has exceeded John, measuring in at about 5'9" these days, but not as much as it looks in this pic.

Mikayla - is also NOT smiling with her eyes.  In fact, if you were to see the next image, she was the first to be done with the posing and had already started walking away with an eye roll.  She's growing too, past 5 feet now - but still a ways to go. 

John, actually looks like he's genuinely smiling.  He's smiling because he's happy I am, and is doing all he can to make me happy. 

A while ago, a random comment was made to someone about our family.  It was one of those, "What do they really mean by that?" comments, which had me scratching my head for several days in concern that what they were saying is that we appear to come off as better than we are - or having it all together.    Seriously?!   It had me wondering if I needed to start a hastag like #MondayMiseries or #WhyWe'reNotPerfectWednesdays on Social Media - but, eventually, I came to the conclusion, that the people that I care the most about definitely know who we are, because I'm a rambler, and an open book.  I generally feel like the easiest way to make a friendship closer is to be vulnerable to my own pitfalls, open the grace gates wide open - and hope they do the same (or generally, the friendship won't continue). 

But, perhaps it doesn't always come across that way in my blog, or on Instagram, or Facebook.  So, I've been trying to do more #keepingitreal hashtags and this above picture was one of them.

To set the scene, we'd just arrived at a local festive shopping area that holds a candy store where our Countdown Calendar activity for the day had indicated we'd visit and pick out candy.  It was the last day of school for our kids of 2015, I'd had a nice, quiet day wrapping on my own - and it should have been a celebratory experience.

Instead, I let a few things sour my attitude prior to leaving - and turned rabid on my family in the car.  I unleashed on all the little things I'd let pile up - "I'M PRETTY SURE I'M THE ONLY PERSON IN THIS FAMILY THAT HAS WATERED EITHER OF THE TREES - WITHOUT ME, THEY'D BOTH BE TOTALLY DEAD BY NOW!!!!"  - among other comments chock full of grace and loving-kindness.  Both kids quickly uttered a solemn one-word "Sorry", while John decided to engage and let me know I wasn't the only one having to work hard in the family.  I'm not sure which irritated me more - the kids, for not expanding on all the reasons they were sorry, or John, for being right. 

So, there you go - moments after leaving the car from above-described car ride, this picture was taken, at my request - and the kids were most likely terrorized to do anything but comply.  John was just happy to get over me in that kind of mood....

I LOVE CHRISTMAS!  Truly, I do.  It is like an annual vacation every year.  But, just like a vacation, the expectations and build up become astronomical.  Friday was the day where the damn broke and I had to get back to "Ground Zero" at my level of disappointment for not being where I wanted to be - or getting the kind of help I wanted to get - or even the kind of responses for all of my efforts from everyone. 

Thankfully, there's enough memes, Instagrams, and Facebook confessions out there to make me feel like I'm not alone - and keep me laughing.  I'm also surrounded by people in similar scenarios that aren't afraid to shoot straight either. 

So, let it be known, this family does not have their act together.  We are all quite self-centered.  We all struggle with our own feelings being most important, and tend to lash out first before pausing to pray about it.  We all love this season, but each of us gets too caught up in it, to the point that if its not painted exactly as we envisioned, we are disappointed.

It's ridiculous then, and oh-so-humbling, that as I profess to be a Christian -that I have yet to even acknowledge that yet in this post about Christmas.  Because, on that very first Christmas, I'm gonna go out on a limb that Mary didn't get all of her expectations met for what it would be like to have her very first child.  Or even to tell her future husband that she was pregnant.  Or where she got to spend the very first Christmas.  And, yet, she did what God called her to, and for that reason, we all have hope - and unconditional love - and the gift of eternity to spend with God. 

It's almost a cozy picture you'd envision - the one so many artists have painted of what the very first Christmas family picture would look like.  Mary, all glowy, after having just labored and delivered a baby, Joseph, looking proud and adoring, Jesus, sitting in his beautiful clean, white cloths, swaddled in harmonious sleep - with baby lambs and calves nuzzling in.  But, I'm going to guess that picture we envision is even further off base than the one I debunked above. 

I know it's a little late, but I'd really like to try to focus a little bit more on that image - and its reality and truth, than my own this Christmas season. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Getting Away from It all in Sunriver

As has happened for the past three years, Sunriver Resort has offered a free night's stay with the purchase of gift certificate.  Since the gift certificate is around the same price as what we spend every year for our spa services, it is so worth it.  This year, they extended the time you could use the free night for a full year, so we chose the fall to have a get-away that really was a get-away (and not a fast there and back roadtrip with no R&R involved).  

I look forward to our Sunriver big vacations at Christmas so much, but tend to underestimate the restoring effects this place will have on my soul for these shorter weekend visits.  Even just checking into the lodge was magical on Friday night.

The two story condo units have been renovated since our last visit.  A bit more of a modern feel, but still uber cozy. 

On Saturday morning, Brayden slept in, while John and Mikayla made a trip into Bend to visit a former Dutch Bros employee they'd made friends with over the summer.  I had tweaked my back really bad on Friday - and while I was thankful it didn't lead to a headache, I was very glad for this hot tub to ease the discomfort.  As I'm typing this on Sunday morning, the pain is gone, so I think this did the trick. 

John took this from our back porch on Sunday morning - kind of a good sense of the view from both directions given the reflections. 

I asked if we could take a family pic on the way to walking to the lodge for breakfast this morning.  Brayden had only packed sweats - nice that we could hide that.  =)

 Mikayla is pointing out that we are, indeed, "lodge guests". 

Where we sat on the back of the lodge patio had a large Jenga game.  Brayden was just bragging how good he was at this...

And, yes, the next moment that leaning tower tumbled!

I have no idea what was going on with these two - but that was kind of the story with them all weekend.  It was like a 50% "so thankful that they love each other so much that they want to be in each others' company" and then 50% "so annoyed that each others' company constantly led to squeals, arguing, and chasing after each other".   I know, I know - this time like this as a family is fleeting and I should embrace every moment of their interaction - but, seriously, their antics are SO NOT PROMOTING A TRANQUILITY ATMOSPHERE.  I was thinking about it yesterday morning, when did it change that my vacations as a family are now with the thought in mind that we don't cater to the kids and expect them to act more like adult friends of ours than our own children?  They aren't there yet, let's just say that.  But, and I emphasize this vehemently, I am so glad they both had fun and interacted.  Our entire family needed this time together in a big way.

I wrote a little Instagram at my dissatisfaction at the Resort's extortion in prices for food that was good, but not worth a $60 bill for our family of four.  Seriously?!  I noticed that the two new restaurants they opened inside the lodge are both at one star for largely this reason on Yelp.  Not cool, Sunriver, not cool.  (But, given we had the extra gift certificates, it was a little easier for us to swallow.)  

A final parting pic of John and I by their iconic front entry waterfall.  Again, we so needed this.  The weight of Sydney's situation (she is lovingly being taken care of by the Whites this weekend), the recent purchases and sales of large money items to make things work for our family, helping Brayden navigate his junior year in academics, changes within the sales structure at John's work....yes - we needed a get-away.  Thank you Sunriver for being the perfect fit for us!

Friday, October 23, 2015


Overwhelming.  That's how I'm feeling about this blog these days.  I literally have several dozen posts to put up - maybe close to 50.  I have these file folders on my Desktop that ended up having to be compressed as they overtook the whole screen of pictures from events yet to be blogged. 

I told myself I'd do one at night.  But, after Whitley's picked up and I get my opportunity for "just me" time to have dinner and watch tv with John (which, let me just say, this has been one of the best 'new shows' seasons ever), I am in no mood to do more work. 

And so it keeps piling up.  Because Whitley is amazing and I can't stop taking pictures of her.  Because we go to all sorts of exciting places - with friends in tow, VERY worthy of taking pictures of.  Because my kids are growing up way too fast and there's no way I'm not going to be documenting their lives.  Because life is sometimes hard and sometimes thrilling and I want to be able to write about it and chronicle it. 

All reasons why I can't give this up.  I can't just stop trying to record our life stories and creating a place for all the pictures to find a home.  But, I feel very much buried under all of this. 

Bottom line, if you are someone who still takes a moment every now and then to check in on this blog - thank you.  And, my apologies for lack of entries.  And for those that I'm going to make an effort to write, I apologize that they'll probably be all over the map based on which post seems to be the least intimidating to check off the list.  Hopefully, I'll emerge from under this heap. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Very Tearful Tuesday

On Monday night, we started seeing some signs of distress from Sydney that had us really believing her to be in pain, and potentially the end to be near in terms of her fight with cancer.  We could feel bumps down the side of left leg (tumor spreading) that seemed to be unstable in terms of holding her weight when getting up. She also paced constantly to try to find a comfortable place to lay down and stay there to sleep. 

John texted our vet to get his opinion, and honestly, we went to bed wondering if it would be Sydney's last night with us.  

The next morning, she still appeared uncomfortable and a little out of it trying to move.  I kept telling myself the mornings and evenings are the worst, and just a few days earlier, she'd taken off after a squirrel or chased around with Whitley.  But, the idea that this cancer isn't going away, and we don't want her suffering weighed heavy on all of our hearts as we set up a 3pm visit to see the vet.  Honestly, we all believed he'd feel like the humane decision would be to put her to sleep, so we spent Tuesday thinking it was our last with her.

Brayden was stoic and didn't want to talk about it, but spent tender moments loving on Sydney.

Mikayla cried over and over throughout the morning before going to school.

John went to work and started crying during his team meeting, after explaining what would be happening that afternoon.

And, I - well, I started out strong - but, once the tear floodgates opened...I couldn't stop.  I ended up calling Mom and Dad to let them know (crying as I tried to get the words out), cried with Mikayla, and then both Mikayla and I greeted Whitley and Stephie with tears in our eyes that only escalated when Steph hugged me tight. 

I was debating skipping Bible Study, but after already missing two to headaches - and most especially, Whitley's enthusiasm to "play with her friends in the classroom" - I thought it would be best if I go. 

It's hard to keep crying when this is going on...  (She likes to pretend any chance she gets to be the driver at "Wildlife Safari".  At times, after picking her up, Steph and her will spend ten minutes or longer in our driveway for her to pretend...so cute).  

And, knowing what might transpire, I was up for doing whatever would make this dog happy for the day.  Riding in my car and knowing she's going someplace is huge for her.  So, off to Bible Study we all went. 

And, then, I got there, and cried again.  Dawn gave me this big hug, (having already been texted regarding my state of mind) and I lost it.  Then, when the rest of the group came, she shared it as a prayer request and I choked back more tears.  (Another member had to leave the room crying, I found out later she's taking her dog in for tumor biopsies the following week). 

Later, before the video started, I ended up crying down by the bathrooms after reading Julie's text about it all and responding.  Sheesh.  SO MANY TEARS!

Immediately following Bible Study, Dawn had me come over to do paw prints of Sydney in clay to be fired and painted into a frame.  Later, when its done, I'll add the pic - such an amazing thing for Dawn to do for us. 

Meanwhile, Sydney just kept doing what she does on every other day - which meant she was acting normal.  When Whitley wanted to take a walk around the block, Sydney seemed to want to too, and though by the end, she was showing favoritism to that one leg, she was still leading us. 

(Well, it looks like Whitley is the leader here, which her first born tendencies seem to set as a very high value in any group, but when Sydney passed her up, I had to explain that she was our human leader while Sydney was the dog leader....)

This was taken later as we went to McDonald's.  When we are dieting on Atkins and Sydney's been in the car with us, she's been able to score the buns from the protein we are eating (and would otherwise discard).  On this occasion, I got Sydney her very own cheeseburger.  She was a happy dog.

So, all this led to so much inner conflict over whether or not we would be making the right decision if we were ok to have her put down.  Was I just ok with it because I didn't want to keep hurting, or was it really about her not hurting?  I think a little of both.

I took this pic on the way to the vet.  The whole family was in the car.  Brayden was not interested in going in for the evaluation, but just in case a good-bye was needed, we wanted him available.  

And, in a scenario eerily familiar to the time I took Sierra to the vet thinking I would be saying good-bye (only to learn that her liver was overtaxed from being fed countless hot dogs and hamburger patties at a family party - and she would recover), the vet gave us no reason to consider saying "good-bye" today.  He said her color still looked good, her tail was wagging, she was moving fine...  He said he couldn't tell us if it would be in one week or one month in which we would need to bring her in for that reason, but today was not the day. 

So, we went back home with our beloved canine family member - with all of our broken hearts partially restored knowing we still had her with us.  We also came home with doggy painkiller (a kind that wouldn't mess with her senses too much) and an anti-anxiety/sedative for the evening to help her sleep and loosen the discomfort she might be feeling.

Indeed she did relax...and on that latter medicine, was kind of dopey...   (Don't you love how she crosses her leg.  It's always been something she's done, but now it's constant...)

I know we didn't buy a lot of time today, but just for it not to be the end is huge.  Knowing we are putting off more heartbreak is indeed worth it.  Thank You God.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thistledown Farms with Hailey and The Girls

Now that Emery's a little older, Christi made the decision to return to Mondays working at Bello.  However, with her mom and dad no longer living next door, she was struggling with what to do and who to turn to for childcare for the five hours she'd be working.  I gave her some names of some people I'd recommend, and then, when they weren't available, they passed on the name of a super sweet gal I knew from Trinity, and sure enough, Hailey's schedule was a perfect fit for watching the kids on Mondays.  

After the first Monday, everyone seemed thrilled - so she came back again the following Monday and I asked if she'd want to spend some of that time with Whitley and I.  She was happy with that idea, so off we went to Thistledown Farms to check out their harvest offerings.

The weather forecast had told us it wouldn't rain until noon, but even as I pulled into Christi's house at 9:30, it was starting to pour.  We were all wearing durable jackets and rain boots, so I figured, why not.  I sure didn't have any back up plans, and Elsie was ecstatic to hit another "punkin patch with Whitwee" - so we couldn't disappoint her.

Fortunately, there weren't a lot of exhibits to see and much of it was undercover.  Including this goat area which we were actually allowed to go in to with them.  New adventure!

Emery wanted to see them too.

We checked out the adjoining chickens, roosters, turkey, rabbits, and very vocal geese.  The girls also pulled around these wagons.

They had a covered hay bale maze area with a few slides.  It took a lot of effort for me to follow them inside, but I wasn't going to suggest that Hailey with Emery in the Ergo do it instead!

After a mad dash for tickets when we started to see the wagon load up, we got on board the pumpkin wagon and took a trip out to the patch for some more unneeded pumpkins.  

It was still pouring down rain, but the girls didn't mind a bit.

Whitley was trying to catch the raindrops with her mouth.

Happy girl!

Good choice for foot apparel of the day.  Later on, I ended up cleaning Whitley and I's boots in our waterfall!

Oh yes please, do bring that mud into my van on the way home!

Ahhhh, cuddles with sissy!

As the farm visit didn't kill a ton of time, we opted to treat the girls to some Dutch Bros hot cocoa and drive the extra long way back to Christi's.  Another pumpkin patch visited, and most of the morning occupied...rain or not, we'll take it!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

First Day of Gymnastics

Earlier in the year, I'd seen a "Living Social" deal for 4 weeks of gymnastics classes.  Often, when I find something like that, I'm bummed because Whitley and Elsie, being 18 months apart, wouldn't be put in the same class.  But, for this one, there was a class that would accommodate them both.  Christi loved the idea - and in fact, we extended the offer to some other friends with small kids and pretty soon we were over half the class.  

We opted to start our 4 week stretch on October 15th - and Thursday was the day.  Whitley seemed pretty eager to jump into the fun - and happy to show off her new leotard.

I was a little concerned with how the class started, as we had each kid jump on the trampoline one at a time with kids aged 15 months to 3 years expected to sit patiently for their turn.  Um, hello?  Maybe not the best way to start a class...but, it worked out and soon we were doing warm ups and following the teacher's instructions in an obstacle course.  It's a parent (or aunt!) involvement class - I like how the three adults in this scene or doing what they are supposed to and none of the kids are...

It's super great to have them learn to sit and listen - but, they are all still new to it - however I did snap a pic of one moment of greatness!

The beam work...good balance Whitley!

She's supposed to use the ring to try to steer down the beam, I love the tongue sticking out concentration!

On a higher beam, the teacher gave one on one attention as they attempted to point their leg out. 

Ali and Joey...

And Christi, Emery, and Elsie

And, no surprise with a trampoline at home, Whitley was a champ on the tramp track.

Elsie LOVES the bars....well done, kiddo!

A solid first day.  (Kind of surprise after a disastrous pre-class trip to Target with Elsie and Whitley....!)  It's always a great thing to see kids with red faces from playing hard and bright smiles of enthusiasm at the end.  I don't think we have any Shawn Johnsons in this group's future, but they still looked good! =)