Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tree of Thanks: 2014

I read recently that creating - and then maintaining - traditions is one of the most important things parents can do for their children.  With that timely reminder, I dug out the clay pot embellished with a fall ribbon, hunted down a pair of spindly tree branches, and set to work with my glue gun to firmly root our Tree of Thanks.  I put the kids to work cutting out simple leaves, and in the end, I felt more grateful than ever before for this ritual, this tradition.  It wasn't so much in what they wrote - though there were some poignant and perfect gratitudes - but more in that I felt joyful and gratified in that they knew the drill, knew what to do, knew the tradition. Indeed, it felt like important work.

Our leaves:
I am thankful for brotherhood.   (Leo)
I love going to school, and playing outside.  (Pax)
I am thankful for big books.  (Aidan)
All the books! (Leo)
I am so thankful for "extras" like 2 cars, iphones, Internet service, beer, and wine... (Anne)
I am thankful for God (Pax)
I am thankful for my friend, Gregory.  (Pax)
The convenience of the fridge, dishwasher, microwave, washer, and dryer. (Anne)
I am thankful for gymnastics!  (Pax)
I am thankful for lots and lots of love.  (Aidan)
I am thankful for my BFFs!  (Leo)
Dinners over at Grandma and Grandpa's house and the fun times we share with them (Anne)
Our county.  (Leo)
Excellent health care, especially ENT; dentistry; physical and mental wellness. (Anne)
I am thankful for LIFE!  (Leo)
My bed. (Leo)
Aidan loves band and middle school; Leo is stress-less at school and has fewer headaches; Pax has the best preschool teacher EVER. (Anne)
My school (Leo)
Seatbelts.  (Leo)
Helpful and caring bystanders.  (Anne)
I am thankful for Pax and his cute stories and his hugs and snuggles.  (Jeff)
I am thankful for our thankful tree.  (Pax)
I am thankful for friends and teachers. (Aidan)
My closest friends:  Emily, Clancy, Nicole. (Anne)
I am thankful for the beauty of sunsets.  (Jeff)
I am thankful for a gym I enjoy and friends I can exercise with. (Anne)
I am thankful for church.  (Leo)
I am thankful for the time I got to spend coaching Leo's soccer team.  (Jeff)
I am thankful for HOME.  (Anne)
Cooking and sharing good food with Aidan, Leo, and Pax.  (Anne)
I am thankful for a warm safe environment and house.  (Aidan)
Our family - especially our now-official Aunt Linsey. (Anne)
I am thankful for being able to practice my trumpet with Aidan, and the things he does to help us.  (Jeff)
I am thankful for my home and my food.  (Leo)
My mom and dad (Anne)
Good friends to talk about beer with (Jeff)
I am thankful for friends and teachers.  (Aidan)
Having "enough."  And more.  (Anne)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Although I am squirmy and uncomfortable about how our schools teach the whole "let's celebrate the Native Americans and all the contributions they brought to our culture" before we raped and pillaged them bit, I will admit that I still find these little Native American-inspired shirts so, so cute. Round 3 of these shirts seems somehow cuter than ever before - perhaps because I know how quickly these days are coming to an end. Pax kicked off our Thanksgiving celebration with singing and a display of the crafts he's made, followed by a lunch-feast.    
Showing off his Turkey of Thanks
Sharing a secret with his Best Bud, G.
One last show of all his goods at home!

Thanksgiving day itself was lovely.  We missed sharing the day with our extended family, yet it was still festive, joyful -- and delicious.  We have so much to be grateful for.

Hostess gift:  Tom Turkey, complete with hands from each of us, listing the many reasons for which we are thankful for Grandma and Grandpa
Afternoon Cocktails.  Because Grape Soda is *always* better in a plastic martini glass
Game On!

Ping Pong champions
Carving the turkey.  First order of business:  hydrate the carver!
Best. Meal. Ever!!!

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

-Melody Beattie

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Say What?

At dinner the other night, we were talking about books.  Leo asked if I thought the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series would be a just-right fit for his reading level, and I suggested saving those books for a little longer, that he would enjoy them more in a few years.  He paused, then asked, "What IS a diary, anyway?"  I explained that it was like a journal, a place where someone writes down his own thoughts and ideas, and that it was usually not something that was shared with others.  He contemplated that explanation, then looked at me and said, "So there are two kinds of diaries, right?"  "What do you mean?" I replied.
"Well," he said, thinking - not a hint of funny in his face - "There's the diary where you write stuff down, like a journal.  And then there's the diary where you accidentally poop your pants."

Aidan has a big project he is working on for his math class. It's real-life application of math skills he's learning:  researching his projected salary, cost of housing, insurance, groceries, and recreation.  After gently explaining that earning a salary of $85K as a scientist with an undergraduate degree was pretty unrealistic, Aidan decided that a $26K stipend as a PhD candidate was more likely.  He'll be riding a bike instead of driving a car, and eating ramen noodles (presumably on the days he doesn't come to Mom's to cook her dinner in exchange for access to free groceries) but he was pretty set on the $900/mo rent on a cute apartment he found in town.  I worried aloud about the high price of his rent, but he said, "Oh, don't worry, Mom, it comes with toiletries."  I paused.  "Toiletries?" I asked.  "Yeah!  You know, like a toothbrush," he said.
"Your apartment comes with a toothbrush?" I asked again.
"Yes!" he insisted.  "A toothbrush, toothpaste, you know..." he trailed off.
"Okay," I said, "do you mean utilities?  Your apartment comes with utilities?"
"YES!" he said. "That's what I meant. Utilities.  A toothbrush."

Finally, my giggling subsided enough to explain what utilities are.  He seemed a little disappointed about the heat and the electricity.  Bummer about those tiny bars of soap, neatly folded-down corners of toilet paper, and the free toothbrush....  but I can totally sympathize with him.  I myself was similarly disappointed to learn that at brothels, they don't, in fact, serve nice warm bowls of soup in a cozy nook....

To diaries, toiletries, and bowls of soup--

Saturday, November 15, 2014

to have and to hold

Last month, we attended the wedding ceremony of my brother and his long-time partner.  It was joyous, affirming, and important in the lives of our family, collective.
But in our little Carter family, there was an ugly event, one that marred an otherwise wonderful weekend.  There was anger, fear, frustration, disbelief, and embarrassment.  And yet, during the ugliness, there was love, support, friendship, faith, and respect.  In time, there is forgiveness and healing.

Looking back on the weekend as a whole, and as we continue to forgive and heal, the word that keeps coming to my mind is that our time with our family was affirming.  Listening to the vows that were shared affirmed the very most important components of a relationship, including mutual respect, unwavering love, commitment, humor, and friendship.  Gazing around the circle of witnesses to the marriage affirmed the feelings of gratitude for the many ways in which each of us, individually and as couples, have forged ourselves into family.  And the way in which the Carters were loved and cared for, even during the darkest of our days, affirmed the concept of Family in a way I'd never imagined. In our circle, I saw loss coupled with joy; struggle coupled with perseverance; commitment, devotion, and unconditional love:  it was all present, each of us bearing witness to it all.  And to each other.

To Love.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Halloween 2014

Best. Year. Yet!!!  But I say that every year.  Even though we were more 11th hour than ever before on the costumes, even though I was more skeptical than ever before that we'd pull it off, even though I was hating the fact that I didn't just pony up the money for stress-free store boughts... this was the best Halloween yet.

We carved pumpkins a few days ahead....

I mustache you a question... but I'll shave it for later (Aidan)

(Pax:  classic and cute)

(Leo: winking and trying to look fierce, but mostly looking cute)
 ...and sent our EPIC Super User off to work.

A witch and her husband joined us for dinner that night.  Most kids got candy; ours got apples.

Darth Vader showed up in full force

The Ewok wanted to snuggle.

and the Jedi wowed us with his Light Saber moves.

We all enjoyed a night of sweets and treats...
...and great fun was had by all!