"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Winter of Our Discontent?

So January is almost over, and I haven’t stopped drinking coffee, lost any weight, or managed to put any money into savings.

I like to think we’ve simplified our lives somewhat, but then again, it seems like more items keep entering the house than manage to exit it. And I keep thinking of things I want to sign Ryley up for…ice skating lessons, horseback riding, children’s choir, and fencing. Yes, fencing. These are all her ideas, her requests. Silly girl. But they all take money. And time. And money. And time. And well, it doesn’t matter because we have neither. :-)

So we’re doing swimming again, because at the end of the day, she loves it most.

And always piano. Because it’s wonderful. And because it’s free. :-)

I am constantly amazed at what her friends are doing. One friend does group piano lessons, soccer, ice skating, and Odyssey of the Mind. Another does Suzuki violin lessons and horseback riding. Huge time commitments. When these moms tell me what their kids are doing, I feel like my eyes bug out a little bit. They’re seven. Sure, I was an overachiever in high school and enjoyed being involved in activities that would expand my knowledge and enjoyment of the world. But when I was seven, I played “house” in my bedroom and picked the dandelions on the soccer field, completely ignoring the ball if it came my way. So with Ryley, why do I feel behind?

I read an excerpt from Amy Chua’s new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and I found it fascinating. There’s some good wisdom there about the fact that we can certainly expect more from our kids than we currently do. But I just don’t know.

In recent weeks, we had some trouble with Ryley and her homework. Her language/spelling homework was taking more than an hour each night, and most nights it was becoming a battle that ended in tears. This was in addition to the math and reading homework she was also bringing home each night. It was ridiculous. It wasn’t that the homework was hard; it was simply that there was too much. And because she knew it would take awhile, she didn’t even want to start on it. And when she finally did, she was so overwhelmed by it that she was rushing through and not learning what she was supposed to learn. So then she wouldn’t do well on the test the next day, and as a result, she would earn even more homework for that night.  She was caught in a vicious cycle, and we hated what the situation was doing to her love for school.

So Ryan and I did something that was very hard for the competitive spirit within both of us. We asked Ryley’s teachers to move her back a level. This was difficult because we don’t like to admit defeat… and because we know that Ryley is bright. Even so, we could see that she was overwhelmed, and we didn’t want her to start hating school in the 2nd grade.

But the teachers had a meeting and decided that Ryley shouldn’t be moved back; they determined she was correctly placed in the right group and that she would be bored in the group below hers. They would, however, change her homework requirements so that there wouldn’t be so much take-home work.

It’s two weeks later, and what a difference this small change has made! Giving Ryley less homework has changed the entire situation. She has been doing better on her tests because she is able to focus on the work being tested on the next day instead of being punished for the poor test results of the present day. It’s cyclical. She still has about 20 minutes of language/spelling, in addition to math and reading, but she has much more confidence and is much more cheerful about everything.

Anyhow, I don’t know if that proves a point or not. It’s just a story. :-)

If anything, we are learning what works for our individual daughter. We are learning what she needs. And at this time in her life, when she’s still the sweet age of seven -- with an active and interested mind, no doubt -- we’re learning that less is more.


On the flipside, I find that I need projects in order to stay focused and driven. Maybe I haven’t made any life changes or achieved any real goals within the last month, but I have finished two of the three big editing projects that have been hanging over my head since August. And that is a big deal for me.

For five months I have felt guilty any time I am watching TV or doing something frivolous.

“You could be editing,” the little voice tells me. “You are such a procrastinator!”

“But I’m not!” I respond defensively. “I work full-time. I am a wife and mother. I deserve the chance to chill out for a little while.”

The war within me wages on.

What’s worse, I can’t (in good conscience) edit unless the house is clean and the laundry done, so I spend all of Saturday trying to clean so that Sunday I can edit. But then Sunday comes, and I just want to rest. After all, God did, right? Ha ha. But in reality, the house didn’t get finished on Saturday, so I still have some housework to do anyway. And then with what remaining time I have, I get sucked into Facebook. And then suddenly it’s Monday morning.

I feel guilty all the time, no matter what I’m doing.

So last weekend I spend 12 hours finishing up one project, and though it felt great, I never really felt like I got a weekend because of it. Then I finished another project on Wednesday. So now I am, in good conscience, taking a few days of reprieve before diving into the next project, which is also due a lot of work. And when that one’s done, I think I’ll be done for awhile.

The interesting thing is that with only one project hanging over my head, I feel much more excited about editing in general. Truthfully, I love editing, and this upcoming project is going to be fun. And without all the guilt and pressure of additional projects looming before me, I expect that I will have more confidence and motivation to get it done in a timely manner. I pray so.

Plus spring is in the air, don’t you think? We’re past the “winter of our discontent.” We’re learning more and more about ourselves, and we’re learning more about the ones we love. We are stretching and growing.

Only good things can lie ahead.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Mile a Minute…

For about a week now, I have been “collecting” certain statements of Ryley’s. I guess, because this is my journal of sorts (albeit a public one),  I want to make sure I adequately document this very entertaining part of her personality while it lasts. :-)

Ryley is just so incredibly talkative – a trait which definitely comes from her daddy, am I right? But in every conversation and situation, she feels the need to re-state what was just said and then go one step further, whether it is to create a “fact” or blanket statement that lumps all similar situations with this same conclusion, or to vividly imagine and re-create the circumstances that caused this conclusion. That’s what inspired our “Jump to Conclusions Mat” back at Christmas.

For instance:

Tonight she and I were discussing where we should place our mugs of hot chocolate so that they would be out of reach of Juliet. I had suggested the end table.

“Mommy, we can’t put the mugs on top of the Bible. Nothing ever gets put on top of the Bible. If you have a stack of books, stack everything else first, then leave the Bible for last so you can put the Bible on top. Otherwise leave the Bible alone. Unless you’re reading it, of course.”

I don’t know if she just craves rules? She is always looking for patterns and consistency within the universe. “This always does this.” Very scientific.

Or maybe it’s just that she has such a big imagination. If you tell her The Titanic sank, she will start talking about the ship’s captain and what he must have thought or what he must have been doing when the ship struck the iceberg. She wants to know why. And if she can’t know why, she will create the why.

Here are some more:


"You are so cuddly, Mommy. I love cuddling with you. Some mommies don't like to cuddle with their kids, and they spank them all the time instead, and they are bad parents."


The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn” comes on my iTunes and….

“Oh, I know this song. There’s a time for everything. There’s a time for my microscope, and there’s a time for homework. There’s a time for winter and a time for spring. There’s a time to get glasses because most people get glasses at some time in their life. Some people are young when they get glasses, and some people are old. You got glasses when you were young. Did your friends make fun of you the first time they saw you with your glasses?”

And a minute later…

“There’s a time for me to get married and a time for me to have babies. There’s a time in your life for everything. Some time in your life you will have time for something that you never had time to do. Some time in your life you will have time to read this book you bought.”

“I have read that book,” I retorted.

“No, I didn’t mean you and that book. I just meant….”

“In general?”



We were watching the Red Carpet for the Golden Globes, and Ryley admired Nicole Kidman’s accent.

“She’s from Australia,” I told her.

“So they're all from Australia,” she responded, matter-of-factly.


We were watching the Miss America pageant, and they showed footage of all the contestants hanging out at Disneyland.

“Oh, they did lots of activities so they could get used to one another."

And when somebody yelled out and cheered loudly in the crowd after a contestant performed her talent: “Oh, I think that was her mother that was screaming.”

And when she saw last year’s Miss America: “Oh, she is beautiful! No wonder she was Miss America! And she visited the army in the hospitals in Germany, and they were glad to see her because she represented their country!”

And when the runners up were walked off the stage: “They don't want to be runner up, but at least they get flowers!”

And when Miss Nebraska was being crowned: “The crown is so sticky that it won't fall off your head, so you can put your head back like this.” (And she tilted her head back to demonstrate)


We were talking about how, as Christians, our light overcomes the darkness. I asked her, “If you put a candle in a dark room, will the candle stay lit?”

“Yes, unless it's windy,” she answered. “Or if there's no air.”


She completely fascinates us. All the time. It’s exhausting because we are constantly having to correct her assumptions and come up with hypothetical alternatives to the conclusions she’s jumped to. Sometimes I want to say, “Ryley! No! That’s not how it always is. Relax. Life isn’t that cut and dry. You have to roll with the punches!” But at the same time, I have to appreciate her desire for order in the universe.

Like I said, I don’t know how long this phase will last. It’s been at least six months so far. It’s just a quirky part of her personality.

Here are some more Ryley Stories:


Ryley is discovering the power of Google.

Unbeknownst to us, on Christmas Eve, she helped herself to our computer and typed into the browser, “Where is Santa?” What she got was a link to the NORAD page. She came running down the stairs telling us she found out Santa was in Asia.

The other day she asked me what she can do to make her hair grow longer. I told her we’d have to Google it. So she did. Ten minutes later, armed with a water bottle, she was outside playing on her swing-set and running around the yard with Juliet. Curious, I stopped by the computer to see what it said: Drink plenty of water and get lots of exercise.

She’s gotten a little too comfortable with the computer, and we have had to have a talk about only using it with Mommy and Daddy. :-)


In the last couple of weeks, Ryley has been taking it upon herself to check the expiration date of everything in our fridge, as she uses it.

“Ughhh! 2010! Mommy, this Ranch dressing is old! Gross!”

“Oh, good. August 2011. So this one’s still good.”

I asked her why she was suddenly interested in checking expiration dates.

“It’s a new year, and I thought it would be a good thing to do,” she answered. “Just make sure everything says 2011.”


Ryley is fascinated by people being “drawn” to Jesus. She said, “When someone comes to Jesus, it's like Jesus is fishing in a lake, and the person is like a fish, and He catches the fish and puts it in His boat with the other fish, which are like other Christians.”


She has expressed more and more interest in football (or at least she tries to because she wants Ryan to feel good! :-) ), and the other day she saw a picture of Tom Brady when Ryan was reading a story on the Internet.

“Mommy thinks he’s good-looking. Do you think he is?” Ryan asked her.

“He’s just trying to be good-looking,” she answered, slightly disgusted. And then she imitated Tom Brady’s smoldering, “sexy” look. Silly girl.


I know this is a long post. I had Ryan read it, and I asked him if all the stories about Ryley are too much. He said, “Well, it’s our life. Our lives are too much.” :-)

She is lovely and quirky, and we love her to pieces. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for her life…how He will choose to use her and her very, very unique and beautiful personality.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dear Ryan,

I wish to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for not believing you last night regarding the definition of "asinine." You were completely right in your off-the-cuff answer that "asinine" means "of or like an ass." How you knew that I will never know. You were right, and I was wrong.

Not coincidentally, it is your affinity for words and your wry, witty intelligence that made me fall in love with you in the first place 15 years ago. Just do me a favor, and don't let this victory go to your head. You wouldn't want to become, say, "asinine."


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Festivities

I am finally getting around to posting about our delightful Christmas weekend with my parents! Ryan had to work every day except for Christmas Day, which was sad. But even so, we had a really nice time together. :-)

After a full day of shopping and cooking and play, Pappaw and Ryley cleaned up their trains and Legos on Christmas Eve so we would have a clean living room when Santa came!


But as Ryley predicted, Santa left his goodies in the family room by the fireplace instead:


And he left her the American Girl doll she wanted: Elizabeth. I tried and tried, but I could not get a picture of Ryley with her eyes open! Ha ha!


Ryley was so excited to give her daddy a “jump to conclusions” mat, which is a little joke within our family, courtesy of Office Space.


Ryley is always interrupting us and jumping to conclusions, and Ryan has been teasing her that he’s going to get her a mat. But Ryley and I found one online and got it for him instead. :-)


Ryley didn’t get out of her PJs all day on Christmas…not even to play with the microscope Mammaw and Pappaw gave her.



It really was a perfect day. And she just changed into different PJs at the end of the night!


On the 26th, we headed to the Broncos/Texans game! It was sooooo fun. Here we are at the lightrail station.







It started out warm, but it got chilly later on. But we were prepared!



We got to witness Tim Tebow’s first NFL win, and the crowd was going nuts! Yay! It was an unforgettable experience, and Ryley cuddled with me and asked me nonstop questions about the game of football. I didn’t mind. :-)

My parents took Ryley to visit my grandma in Nebraska the next day, and Ryan and I celebrated our 12th anniversary a day early with a date downtown. Then they returned home on Tuesday for game night, which Elizabeth and Buttercup the horse were, of course, a part of. :-)


We were sad to bid farewell to my parents on Wednesday morning, and Ryley came to work with me.


Elizabeth came along, with changes of clothes. :-)


After work, we had to stop by the American Girl store so Ryley could spend her Christmas money, allowance money, and report card money, which she has been diligently saving for “accessories.”



She made good choices. :-)

So now it is Sunday, and Ryley and I have literally not left our property since Thursday night. We’ve had snow and sub-zero temperatures. Ryan had three days off, which was wonderful. We’ve been doing housecleaning and “simplifying” and de-Christmasing. The house looks good, but the pile for our trash service  is huge!!!

And then yesterday Ryley came down with a stomach bug, so we’ve just continued to lay low. She’s finally on the mend.

I don’t want to go back to work tomorrow, but I suppose that if we don’t work, then we can’t afford weeks like we just had, right? God is good, and we are thankful for His provisions, our loving family, our beautiful daughter, 12 incredible years together, and so much more.

I think I’ll build a fire in the fireplace, start dinner on the stove, and see if Tebow can pull out a win here…. Happy New Year!