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Look carefully...at the seemingly small moments...in the constant shaping of souls.- Neal A.Maxwell
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Snow Day
It seldom snows where we live so waking up to 3" of snow on the ground and more falling from the sky was a rare and welcome treat.  17 year old J's first thought was "cutting cookies" ("doing donuts" in my vernacular).  A snowball fight was first on 9 year old B's list.  Sleeping in was the desire of 13 year old C.  I leaned toward C's line of thinking but the enthusiasm of the other two was impossible for either C or me to ignore.

Our house backs up to the school's driveway/frisbee golf course/cross-country trail.  J wanted us to look out the back window so he could show us how well he could cut cookies.  There indeed in the snow on the school driveway was a series of tight circles and standing in my kitchen a beaming teenage face.  I know he was thinking, "That was so fun."  I was thinking, "Hey mom, look, I purposely let my car spin at the risk of damaging property, my car and possibly myself."  I was also thinking, "He's a teenager, he's telling you what he did and he chose a relatively safe spot."  I complimented the tight turning radius of the car.  I commented how fun it must have been.  I listened to him go into detail about how well his car handles and how much he likes rear-wheel drive.  And then...I reminded him about when he was little and we watched some teenagers cutting cookies and ending up in the field, stuck in the mud, unable to get out.  The police came.  A tow truck came.  The field was damaged.  I asked if he understood that I would not pay for a tow truck.  I would not pay for any insurance increase and I would not pay to repair property - his or the school's.

It is funny - I sat down to write of a wonderful day, thus far the reading of it does not convey such - but it really was a wonderful day.  J acknowledged his understanding of what I had said and we moved on.  J and C dressed in snow clothes and went out.  I was reading the newspaper when I noticed a large number of robins in my neighbor's Russian Olive tree.

The sight made me wonder what else my camera and I would find out in the snow.  I headed for the cross-country trail.  The path goes through field and trees.  I was surprised at how little snow was in some areas and how much was in others.

Heading into a second field I had another surprise.  There J and C were with ropes around their waists pulling a large snowball across the field.

We chatted for a minute and I continued on my path.  Headed home I saw J and C in our backyard building a fort!  How they beat me is beyond me but beat me they did.  They had jumped the chain-link fence, I chose to walk around.  Out front B had finished his snowball fight and was just headed in.  I told him "the brothers" were out back so out back he went.

After changing into dry clothes I looked out back and was surprised to see B on the school side of the fence.  J and C told me they were out of snow on our side and needed more for the fort.  The snowball they had been dragging in the field was intended for our yard but had gotten too heavy to move any further.  B was rolling smaller balls, handing them over the fence to J who would then hand them to C to add to the fort.

This was Thursday.  By Friday the snow was mostly gone.  Saturday C had me type an essay he had written for his Language Arts class - it was about his snow day.  The snow may be gone but the memory will last.

Wish I had saved that one.
My then 15 year old was drawing caricatures of each family member.  We joke that B, the youngest, was born with a v-back and six-pack because he is so strong and muscley - J drew him as an Olympian weight lifter.  C loves to run and has great endurance - J drew him running a cross-country race with a big smile on his face and a duck in a near-by pond smiling up at him.  D was a counselor in our church's bishopric - J drew him in a suit and tie smiling behind a pulpit. Me?  He drew me with frizzy hair, baggy eyes, talking on the phone with my pointer finger up signaling "Just a minute."  I mentioned to J that he made me look haggy.  He smiled and said, "I know.  Did you notice the frizzy hair and lines under your eyes?"  I steered the conversation to compliments about the other pictures.  When I was alone I threw the picture of me away.  Later that week I mentioned the pictures to my good friend.  She said that it may sound odd but J was showing his love for me with that picture.  I did not understand.  She explained that when she was a teenager she had drawn a very similar picture of her mother talking on the phone with messy hair, feet on the heater and a carton of ice-cream in her lap.  She said that she drew the picture to make her mother laugh - that sharing humor was a way for her to show love.  My friend's statement hit me like a bolt of lightening.

For years when I had had a hard day - physically or emotionally - J would intentionally start "pushing my buttons", and he is very good at knowing what buttons to push.  On those same days B would be extra affectionate with hugs and C would be extra helpful around the house.  The button pushing - especially in contrast to the actions of the other two boys - would escalate until 9 times out of 10 I would be laughing out of the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation.  For years I did not understand why J would "kick me while I was down".  My friend's explanation of the haggy picture explained it all.

When I was expecting B I was very sick.  I spent a lot of time doing not much more than lay on the couch.  One day we rented "George of the Jungle".  I was lying on the couch not really paying attention to the movie when suddenly its humor caught my funny bone and I started laughing.  I soon realized that J was watching me, not the movie.   

J values laughter.  I believe that to him, if there is laughter all is well.  If pushing my buttons will make me laugh 9 times out of 10 - then nine times out of ten he is making things better.  J is not kicking me when I am down he is extending his hand to help me back up.  I wish I had saved that haggy picture - I cherish it now.
Visual Acuity
"You have been blessed with gift of precise visual acuity," my optometrist informed me during an eye exam a few years ago.  "Exactly what does that mean?" I asked.  He proceeded to explain that in the majority of people the brain corrects or compensates for a certain degree of lack of crispness in lines but in a minority of people, me included, that compensation does not occur.  I could see a number of instances where this lack of compensation was a detriment but could not immediately see where it was a benefit.  When I mentioned this to the Dr., he smiled and said something like, "With all gifts there are prices to be paid.  Likewise when you have a challenge if you look you will find a gift there."

My neighbor was telling me about her strong-willed 3 year old great-grandson.  I told her that her stories reminded me so much of when my now 13 year old, C, was a toddler.  Her obvious surprise reminded me of my eye doctor's nugget of wisdom of looking for the gifts where there are challenges.  Wisdom I wish I had more fully realized when my boys were toddlers. 

C was a very determined little boy.  More than once after being told, "If you do x then y will happen," he would tilt his head, look at me and say, "I'll take the consequence." He would then proceed to do x after which he would willing submit to y (time out, early bed, etc.)  At 18 months he was very sick and needed antibiotics but he would spit out the amoxicillin when I would squeeze it into his mouth with a medicine dropper.  The Dr. told me to pinch his cheeks, put the dropper way back between his cheek and teeth and squeeze slowly.  This technique made it so the medicine went down but it also made for a very upset little boy.  Finally I realized it was the force not the medicine - when I handed the dropper to him C willingly put it in his own mouth and swallowed.  If C was drawing or building and someone said, "Nice job," while he was working he would say, "I'm not done yet!"  Trying to stay one step ahead of him could be mentally exhausting at times.  Flash forward to now - C, an honor student and track MVP,  thinks through what he wants and what the consequence will be.  After making an informed decision he takes full accountability for his actions.  When there is a job to be done - he does it.  He does not want other people to do for him what he can do for himself and once he starts something he finishes it.

Ten years from now I won't be surprised when my neighbor's great-grandson is receiving academic and athletic recognition  because of his perseverance and follow through.
Dinosaur eggs and ball hoops.

A few days ago I purchased two bare-root blueberry bushes and two large planters to put them in.  Subsequently I learned that the blueberry bushes would do much better in the ground than in the pots. The bushes went into the ground, the pots went into the house to wait for me to decide what I was going to do with them.  I have not decided for sure what I am going to do with them but my three boys have come up with plenty of uses for the them.  The nine year old sits in one while he plays games or reads.  He plays "dinosaur egg" by sitting in one and being covered with the other.  The thirteen year old sets one on each end of the living room so he and his younger brother can play "full court" "basketball".  Last night the seventeen year old experimented with how well he could make sound carry by talking into a pot held at various distances and angles.  At one point he put one planter over his head and angled the second planter at various distances beneath it while he talked.  The effect was interesting and hilarious.  The three of them bounce super-balls off the interior of the front door and score points if a ball lands in a planter.  The oldest stands at the far end of the hall behind one pot, the youngest stands in the living room behind the second pot - as far from his brother as possible.  They try to block balls from entering their own pots while trying to get balls into the other's pot.

I find their creativity and ingenuity impressive.  Even more impressive is the care they take while playing.  Recently we had a Realtor come through our home with the thought of selling.  Her statement that the house was "turn-key ready as is" reaffirmed that you can rough-house without roughing-up-the-house.

Pass the cornflakes please

Eyeing the purchases from Costco my son saw two 19"h x 22'w planters - "Thanks for the new cereal bowls!" he said.

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