Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve minutes for twelve things on 12/12/12

silly little trinkets and treats compiled for 12.12.12

 My dear girlfriend and I were sitting in our daughters' ballet demonstrations when one of the other mothers raved about the amazing production her mom put on for all the grand kids on 12/12/12. Twelve activities, food with 12 ingredients, treats that start with 'T'. My friend, mother of 7, and I looked at each other. We had thought of nothing to take note of the day- only how we would get our kids to piano or ballet and still see our high school seniors perform in their Christmas concert. We were thinking of homework routines, college scholarship applications and what we what we would feed our families for dinner.

But it was a good idea to acknowledge the uniqueness of the day. I distinctly remember my own mom celebrating 8/8/88. We had 8 people in our family growing up, it was a good idea to celebrate! 8 ingredients were put in the stir fry, 8 flowers placed on the table for a centerpiece (rarely did we 'set table' growing up). All 8 of us came for dinner, which was rare, because daddy was always at work during dinner. 
The memory remains sweet and clear long since the calendar said '88.

I had a 30 minute window after the last daughter's ballet demonstration and before her Sugar Plum Fairy party had ended in order to find my way to celebrate. I dragged Lucy to the drug store. We scoured the aisles-or I scoured the aisles while Lucy protested. She wanted to know the purpose of the errand, but before long she was resigned to our outing. The woman at the check out stand said 'We don't get a basket that full very often.' I smiled and paid, and Lucy helped carry out the groceries. She sat in the car while I used the back cargo hold to sort out my 12 items, put them in cellophane and tie them with a tag and bow. Silly little things; chap stick, a pencil and pen, a comb for the boys and some hair ties for the girls. Nothing memorable. Like the ingredients to mom's stir fry 24 years ago I knew these items would be forgotten. It wasn't the tokens but their compilation on the day that mattered.

12 minutes of goodness in our library on 12.12.12
Once all the kids were home for the night (after the little one's bedtime, but oh well) we gathered in the library. They saw the bags with bubble gum and toothbrushes and figured out our little celebration.

I set a timer for 12 minutes. On this day of 12 I wanted twelve minutes to pass by with us all gathered together. And I wanted it to be 12 minutes filled with good words and not criticism. Encouragement instead of sarcasm. Kindness instead of cutting.

We listed 12 reasons why its good to be a Graham. I gave no suggestions. Madi was our scribe. I promised we would end when the timer rang and our 12 minutes had ended.
This was the list:

12. We have cool cousins
11. We are healthy
10. We are musical, we like music
9. We're funny
8. Being a Graham is never boring
7. We play together
6. Grahams are nice
5. We know how to serve
4. We like to learn
3. We take care of each other
2. Grahams are extraordinary
1. We strive to follow Jesus and His Father

The timer went off, and the kids kept going. The good feeling in our library lingered. The little kids hugged me before heading to bed. The big ones talked my ear off about this and that. I sat. I listened. They were kind to one another. They were even kind to me (this is a challenge for tween aged girls, mind you). I wished more than anything that John was there to hear it, to see it and to feel it with me. The reason we are doing everything we do; that feeling is the reason why we persist on all the other calendar days to be the things that the kids called out on the list. That feeling is our purpose, and our hope and our goal. To have that feeling every day. To invite it for eternity. It was sweet to let it shower us for a little while late at night on the 12th day of December.

The things in those little bags, the bow, the tag; those things don't matter at all. I will find them scattered and strewn through the house in days to come.
But those 12 minutes, and those 12 statements, those matter a lot, and I'm so glad for 12/12/12 and the mother at ballet who somehow instigated 12 minutes of heaven in our home. Those minutes will matter for a long time to come, even until the calendar reads 12/12/12 again and beyond that; even forever.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

An End of Year Update from the Grahams

 Blogging has become such a novelty in my life, but I wanted to take the time during 'Christmas card season' to document how our kids are doing and what we are up to as a family. As you can see, the kids are growing, faster it seems, than ever. Mason is a Senior in High School this year. As of this writing he has applied to 4 universities/colleges and is frantically studying for AP classes and making it to singing 'gigs' with the High School Ensemble. He is most 'on his game' when he is busy, and it has been a pleasure to see him fill his time with worthwhile activities and good friends. Mason is involved in our LDS seminary council, on his school ensemble (singing-beautiful bass voice) and is also taking 4 AP classes. Instead of Rugby Mason has picked up Ultimate Frisbee and is having a blast with a competition team from his High School. He has decided to 'hasten' his LDS mission service and will apply to serve beginning in June or July of the new year. We, as his parents, are very proud of his eagerness and worthiness to serve in this way. Mason will be a force for good in all his endeavors. The best word I can think of to describe this young man is EARNEST. He truly desires to do what is right.

Bryn is enjoying a lot of fun experiences and challenges this year. She was selected to be a cheerleader at her school and she is very involved in dance. Bryn is an excellent student, and aspires to have a full ride scholarship when she graduates High School. And Bryn is nice. That's what I want the world to know most about her; she is pleasant, she is generally positive and she is kind. Last week she and her younger siblings made a mess of the front room cutting out strips for a 'Christmas Countdown' paper chain. Without our knowing, and without promt, Bryn encouraged her siblings to write one nice thing they could do for someone else on each ring of their chain. And Bryn did the same. Our home has been a happier place as the kids have acted on these invitations. Bryn is like that. And I love her for it. One of Bryn's most impressive accomplishments has been her accompanying her seminary class when they sing church hymns. This girl who for a decade has hated piano is now using it to serve. Its awesome

Porter is enjoying 5th grade this year and has a lot of new experiences. His teacher is new to our school and she is fantastic. He has a lot of kids in his class who he hasn't had as classmates before, and these new friends share more of his interests (Harry Potter and the Avengers!) and are a very new 'mix' kids (friends who are girls? Who knew?!). Porter also took on a new sport this fall, leaving football to take a stab at LaCrosse. he had a great season of growth as he learned how to handle the stick and run the field and even scored in a few of his games. We are very proud of his effort in trying all of these new things. Porter is looking forward to a fun winter, and he would like to learn how to snowboard this year-another new attempt. He has also had the opportunity to take piano from a new teacher, and Porter's abilities have really improved. He competed in our area's piano federation in November, and he did very well. Porter is sincere. He wants to be loved and understood. He is kind at heart, and we are working to help him feel that he can keep that heart open to showing that kindness more and more.

Molly has had a big year, turning 8 and choosing to be baptized a member of our church. She is now in 2nd grade and it has been fun to see her confidence in reading increase this year. We are so GRATEFUL for her school teacher, who has shown an interest in helping Molly in many ways. This year we have learned that Molly will always have to work extra hard to keep herself on task, and it is a challenge at home for mom and dad to learn new parenting strategies to help Molly and our whole family. We are all learning and growing, and that is of course a good thing. Molly's prayers are the sweetest I know. She shows gratitude for lovely unique things like the color of the sky and 'the love of the family'. Molly has tried soccer this fall and she is taking Ballet this year; she has truly enjoyed both of these activites. Molly is also looking forward to skiing. She loves to spend time alone with her parents, and she loves to be alone with her toys (she could spend hours playing with dolls or stuffed animals). It is a pleasure to be Molly's parents, and the uniqueness of her needs will become a blessing as John and I learn how to sharpen our parenting skills!

Lucy goes to school all day long! This is something she is very proud of, and she does very well in class. Lucy is an amazing reader, plays the piano well, and is a graceful ballerina. I personally love the tenderness of Lucy's hugs and all the 'gushy love' she showers upon me. It is nice to still have little hugs and hands to hold! Lucy has also tried soccer this year and liked the game as long as her friends were in attendance on her team. Lu wants others to be happy. It is often the case that we find her helping a sibling who is sad or doing something nice for someone to cheer them up. Her compassion is so appreciated in our bustling house!

Look at Madi's beautiful smile! Madi had her braces removed just before the start of 7th grade, and she shines those pearly whites as often as she can. Madi is taking a challenging class load at the Jr. High and is fitting in well on the Jr. High scene. Everyone loves Madi; she is funny and smart. She enjoys all types of kids and she can relate to anyone. Madi is oozing with so many talents, she is just realizing some of them and is working hard to enjoy them all! She has a great voice and is ALWAYS using it at home. Madi's beautiful soprano sounds are in the car, in the bathroom, in her bedroom, and at the piano bench. She recently tried out for the school talent show and her teacher told her she had made the cut but they had to give her spot to the older 9th graders. Madi is a wizbang piano player as well, receiving all 'Superior' marks at her recent piano competition. Madi has also really picked up her soccer game, and is now playing on a competition team. She is learning about self discipline and the challenge of self improvement and we are so proud of her effort. Her love for music and laughter are my favorite things about her right now, and her empathy. Madi can put herself in your shoes, and she can show love in amazing ways.
We are currently pressing forward with plans for a new home. The hole is dug, the building permit is issued and now we work hard to see our ideas become reality. It is hard to believe we would CHOOSE to move, but we are excited about 'the Homestead' and should be sending our Christmas cards from a new address (still in our High School boundary but not in our zip code) next year.
John and I are learning a lot this year about being partners and parents. We thought we had both down solid, but it seems that parenting teens a lot different than parenting toddlers! And with little kids and big kids crawling over each other at the Spruces, it is definitely a two parent full time job. John's work at keeps him challenged and busy. In this uncertain economy we are so grateful for employment, and feel blessed to have employment that brings challenge and growth. I am learning the ropes as a mom of kids who are not 'underfoot' during school hours. I'm also learning a lot about foundations, windows, appliances and all the other components of 'new construction'. John is an incredible partner in all of this process and has trusted a lot of 'the Homesteading' to me. It has been so neat to LEARN again, and to put my mind and ideas to work. I appreciate the education more than I can say. I hope I can apply the lessons I'm learning the making the whole world a better place once our family has this place that we've envisioned to live in and grow in.        

At this Christmas season I want to express my love for my family and for Jesus Christ. I know He lives, and that He knows each of us and desires us to come to Him. He waits to receive us not just at this time, but at any time, and when we give our hearts to Him He shows us love, mercy, confidence and a perspective of this life that motivates us towards better things. I'm most grateful for this humble understanding and hope I live up to what I know is true in the coming year.

Thanks to all of you who make our lives full and happy. Friendships and family are the treasure we enjoy most! At this time of gifts and giving we know we have already received the greatest gifts of all; love, encouragement, friendship and acceptance. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!