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The Shepherds in the field, the Wise Men coming from the East, the newborn babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger, the angelic announcement that this was the Son of God…do I believe it all happened as the Bible says it did?

Yes I do.

Merry Christmas one and all!

So far, on this trip to Hawaii, I have learned…

*Milk is $9.00 a gallon in Hawaii!!!

*When getting driving directions from a member of the hotel staff, make sure to ask enough questions.  Otherwise, a very important turn-off might be omitted from the driving directions, and you will then end up on the “wrong” side of the island.

*You can always stop at a 7-11 and ask the very nice lady behind the counter for the correct driving directions.

*Fresh lei’s smell good!

*The dude that climbs the coconut trees in the Samoan Village at Polynesian Cultural Center will pose for pictures.

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*An authentic luau consists, not only of a pig cooked in the ground and fresh fruit, but also raw fish, purple taro rolls, poi, and purple sweet potatoes.

Poor roasted pig!

Poor roasted pig!

Authentic Hawaiian food.

Authentic Hawaiian food.

*I don’t like the taste or texture of purple sweet potatoes!

*Mack doesn’t like the taste or texture of purple sweet potatoes or poi!

*I can be taught how to weave a fish out of coconut leaves.

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*I cannot pronounce the names of places and streets here!  And my daughters get a kick out of listening to me attempt the pronunciations.

*You have to watch a nine minute video before the “people in charge” at Hanauma Bay will let you go snorkeling there.

*The LDS Temple in Laie is in the middle of 1 1/2 years of renovations.  The windows are boarded up, but it still looks pretty from a distance.

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*Our hotel swimming pool looks pretty cool from our balcony.

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*Mack is positive she keeps seeing “Deceptacon” cars all over Hawaii.

*There is a bird guy who brings his birds to International Marketplace and allows people to hold the birds and take pictures.

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*There are lots of pigeons here.  Some like to hang out on our balconies.

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*And the very most recent thing I’ve learned is that Mack is ready to hit the beach.  Time to go!

Aloha!

If even one of the circumstances hadn’t been in place, it never would have happened. 

A few months ago, the host brother of one of Juju’s foreign exchange friends was dropping her off at our house when he saw my daughter, Huh, come out and get into our car to go somewhere.  He liked what he saw.  Unknown to me, he inquired around and found out Huh’s cell phone number and started texting her.  He is 21.  She was 17.  They decided to meet.  Because Huh knew that I would be very wary of her dating a 21-year-old, she made the choice to keep it all secret from me.  They managed to meet secretly, Huh even sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night a few times, for about two and a half weeks before I caught them and the whole truth came out.  Trust was gone and privileges were taken away.  Shortly after that, the guy dumped her.

Huh has had to work hard to regain my trust.  She was still working to regain it this past weekend.  Friday night began as normally as normal can be in our busy household.  The teens all had various plans.  Yawlin had a couple of friends over for a “late-night” and Shroom had two friends sleeping over.  Those who were out all returned by curfew and we were able to settle in to bed at a fairly decent hour. 

At 4:30 a.m. Huh came into my room and woke me up.  “Mom, Patrick just called and says he needs to talk to me.  Can he come get me?”  Patrick is the 21 year old.

I sat up in bed and said, “At four thirty in the morning?  Absolutely not!”

“Mom, he says it’s important.”

“There is nothing so important that it can’t wait until a decent time of day.”

“What if I just talk to him on the front porch?”

“No.”  I pointed to the empty spot next to me in bed.  “Hub is obviously not sleeping well.  When he can’t sleep he goes down to the couch to try to sleep so that he doesn’t keep me awake.  It’s possible he is finally sleeping and I don’t want you waking him up by opening the front door.”

Huh looked at me for awhile and then said, “Okay.  I’ll tell him it can wait.”  She left my room and I remained sitting up in bed.  Now I couldn’t sleep.  What if she tried to sneak out?  I tried reading, with one ear listening for the squeak of Huh’s bedroom door.  Finally, at 6:30 I put my book down and dozed off.  At 6:50 my eyes flew open as I heard the front door quietly open and close.

I jumped out of bed and peeked out my bedroom blinds.  I could see the back of a figure with a black hoodie over their head going down the steps of our front porch.  At that moment a black SUV pulled around the corner and stopped in front of our house.  That is when the She-Bear mom instinct kicked in.  I pounded down the steps to the front door, threw it open, and yelled my daughter’s name at the top of my voice.  The black SUV stopped and I continued to yell.  “YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO LEAVE!”

The passenger window rolled down and the driver leaned forward.  I heard a male voice say, “What?”

“SHE DOES NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO LEAVE!”

Again I heard, “What?” And then I saw a flash of silver braces on the passenger’s teeth.  Huh does not have braces.  That is when I became totally mortified.  That wasn’t my daughter.  It was one of Shroom’s friends who had slept over.  Oh how I wished for a hole I could crawl into.  Embarrassment doesn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling.

I jogged down the porch steps and over to the waiting SUV, nervously laughing as I went.  As soon as I got to the window I put my hand on Zach’s knee and said, “I am so sorry.  I thought you were someone else.”

Zach leaned back in his seat and said, “I just have a track meet.”

I laughed and said again, “I am so sorry.”  I looked at Zach’s mom, the driver.  “I have had problems with a daughter sneaking out.  I thought Zach was her sneaking out again.  I am so sorry.”

She laughed and said, “It’s okay, I would have done the same thing.”  After wishing Zach luck at his track meet and apologizing again, I went into the house and they drove away.

Hub was sitting up on the couch, no longer asleep.  Huh was standing at the top of the stairs.  “Why did you yell my name?” asked Huh.

“Oh, uh, did you hear that?”

“Geez, I thought someone was dying.  It scared me to death.”  I laughed and Huh spun on her heal and went back into her room.

I walked over to Hub on the couch and plopped down beside him.  “Well, I just made a complete fool of myself.”  Hub laughed and rubbed my back.  I relayed the happenings of what had led up to my outburst to him and then put my head in my hands and groaned, “Oh, what must the neighbors think?”  Hub really laughed hard at that.  “And what must poor Zach and his mom be thinking?”

 Later, as the kids all started to wake up, the story was told to them.  Over and over the story got repeated, and I got to endure much teasing.  I looked at Shroom and asked, “What if Zach never wants to come over here again?”

Shroom laughed and said, “Well, who could blame him.  My crazy stepmom yelled at him.  Told him that he didn’t have permission to leave.”

Huh recounted how she’d been sound asleep when she heard me yell her name.  She instantly thought something was wrong and was tripping over all of her clothes to get to her door when she heard the second part of my yell about not having permission to leave.  Oh mom, she thought.  She moved to the stairs knowing that eventually I would discover that it wasn’t her that I was yelling at.

We had a family baptism later that morning.  As they called our group to leave the chapel to go into the room where the baptismal font is located Squid turned to me and asked, “Do we have permission to walk downt the hall?”  All of the kids laughed.  Needless to say, I endured a lot of teasing that day.

If there hadn’t been the past history of Huh sneaking out, it never would have happened.

If Patrick hadn’t called and wanted to talk to Huh at 4:30 in the morning, it never would have happened.

If Zach hadn’t had his hood on and I’d been able to see his hair and face, it never would have happened.

If Zach hadn’t been so darned quiet about opening and closing the door, it never would have happened.

I try to comfort myself.  At least Huh really was in her bed, where she was supposed to be.  At least Zach’s mom seemed to understand and even said she would have done the same thing.  And now Huh knows that I have no fear of making a scene in front of the neighbors if I ever catch her trying to sneak out.

But even with all of that…

…I am sooooo embarrassed!

I loved this illustration at Paul Schmid’s blog.  I’m sure we can all think of things our kids do better than we do.  Right now I can think of areas each of my kids and step kids are more talented in or are more capable of accomplishing than me.  One daughter is infinitely more patient than I am.  I have another daughter who has an outstanding sense of humor.  She always makes me laugh.  My son notices details in things that I miss.  One of my daughters has an artistic talent that, if she develops it in the right way, will make her money one day.  My oldest step son is an optimist by heart and can pull me out of a bad mood almost immediately.  My step daughter sees the good in everyone she meets and is far less judgemental than I am.  And my youngest step son will always be a better athlete than any of the rest of us in the family.

I’ve listed only one talent for each of my kids.  I can think of many more for each of them.  Unfortunately, they don’t always hear it from me.  I need to work on verbalizing the good things I notice about them.

A challenge for today:  Take the time to tell each of your kids one thing you’ve noticed about them that they do better than you.  I guarantee it will be a boost to their self-esteem like no other!

I have to admit, I was skeptical at first.  When my daughter told me the plan that she and her friends had hatched, my natural inclination was to protect her.  After all, I’ve been “burned” plenty of times in my life.  I know what it’s like to be hurt and I like to think I can spot a scam and manipulation from a mile away.

The history:

My daughter, Mack, really struggled for the first few months at her new school.  Changing schools while a teenager can be devastating.  She felt alone and friendless, hated the teachers, and had no interest in excelling at anything.  She stuck it out (she had no choice) and began to make friends.  Once friends were in place, her attitude about school changed.  Her confidence returned.  She began to like the teachers and once again get good grades.  Seventy-four kids showed up to her birthday party.  (I had given permission for twenty).  On a social level things are going well for Mack.

Enter Hannah.  (To protect privacy, all names in this post have been changed).

I first became aware of Hannah when Mack mentioned a girl at school who always seemed sad.  She reported that the girl talked suicide and that she was worried about her.  The girl didn’t have many friends.  In fact, most of the kids at school considered her strange.  We didn’t know the girl’s family so I advised Mack to tell the school counselor about Hannah’s comments and encouraged her to be her friend.  I didn’t hear much more about Hannah except for the occasional report that she still seemed sad.

Then last week Mack announced that she and three of her friends, Nikki, Lisa, and Becca, had decided to take Hannah shopping at the mall.  They felt that a few new clothes might cheer Hannah up.  Hannah had mentioned that her mother couldn’t afford to buy her new clothes and so she always wore hand-me-downs.  Each of the girls planned to donate her own money to the shopping trip.

I was worried.  I didn’t know Hannah or her history.  What if it was all an act?  Fueling my skepticism were recent news reports about panhandling in our area by teenagers who claim to be homeless but really aren’t.  Many people have bought into their sob story and have given them money.  Mack has to earn the money she receives by babysitting and doing extra chores, she doesn’t have an endless supply of the green stuff.  Was she about to throw her hard earned cash away on a lie?  Manipulation?  A scam? 

I know my daughter’s heart.  She genuinely cares about other people.  In grade school she stood up repeatedly for an autistic boy who was the butt of many cruel jokes.  Because Mack knows what it feels like to be alone and without friends, she has empathy for anyone in the same situation.  She truly seemed concerned for Hannah.

Still, the mother instinct to protect was in place.  “How do you know she can’t afford new clothes?”

For Mack the issue wasn’t the clothes or the money.  “Mom, she is so excited that we are doing this.  She even put on her MySpace page that some friends are taking her shopping.  Some of the kids at school are teasing us for doing this.  They think Hannah is weird.  But we don’t care.  We are going to do it anyway.”  The issue for Mack was that someone desperately needed some friends.

On Saturday the girls all met at Lisa’s house then walked together to Hannah’s house.  Lisa’s mom provided the transportation to the mall.  While at the mall they decided to let Hannah have a mini makeover.  In order for the makeover to be “free” they had to make a purchase.  Mack bought Hannah some eye shadow.  Then they visited some of their favorite stores.  Nikki and Becca pooled money in one store for a new outfit for Hannah, and then Mack and Lisa did the same in another store.

Mack was excited when she returned home from the outing.  “Hannah was sooooo happy!  She kept thanking us over and over.”

Hannah wore the new clothes to school on Monday and Tuesday.  Mack says that whenever Hannah sees any of the girls in the hall she runs up and gives them a hug and claims they are her new best friends.  I asked Mack if the other kids at school were still teasing and making fun of Mack and the others for taking Hannah shopping.  Mack says she hasn’t heard any negative comments.  She also says that she feels happier inside after having served Hannah.

I am so proud of my daughter and her friends and I am glad I didn’t stand in their way.  A new friend has been made, compassion has been developed, and a girl has been cheered.  The girls exhibited courage by not backing down to peer pressure to forget serving Hannah.  Not only was a good example set for the kids at school, a good example was set for me. 

The lessons I learned:  Don’t judge.  Serve anyway.  And don’t stand in the way of your kids if they are showing courage and taking the initiative to show compassion and empathy to someone else.

Lessons learned.  Lessons lived. 

It only takes a few seconds if you are good at it.  If you are a newbie it might take a few minutes.  But, taking the time to send an occasional text to your kids can help you maintain a positive relationship with them.

It took me awhile to join the texting craze.  “Why spend the time to punch in a message when it would be easier and quicker to talk to the person on the phone?”  I always asked.  My kids would just roll their eyes and tell me that I just didn’t “get it.”  Part of my reluctance, I readily admit, was because I simply didn’t know how to text.

One day my daughters sat me down and gave me a texting lesson.  I was very s-l-o-w, but I learned the basics.  The excitement of my daughters at having taught Mom how to text was enough to keep me trying.  I had to endure much teasing and laughing at my expense though, as I tried to master the mysterious technological world of texting. 

My daughter and her softball team, unknown to me, watched me at a softball tournament as I was trying to send a text to another daughter at home.  They thought it quite funny that I only use one hand to text, which really slows one down.  I didn’t catch on that they were watching me until my daughter hollered, “Hey Mom, whatcha doin’?”  When I looked up they all waved and laughed. 

I waved the phone and proudly said, “Texting!”

I made mistakes in the beginning.  Once, my daughter sent me a text that she thought quite funny.  I attempted to send the word “Dork” back (a term of endearment in our family), but my phone was set in the word recognition mode and wouldn’t recognize the word dork.  It kept showing Fork everytime I tried to punch in Dork.  I didn’t know how to go into the spell mode so I finally gave up and sent “Fork” knowing my daughter would know what I meant. 

She tells me she laughed out loud when she received that text.  She quickly sent her reply, “Spoon!” 

It has now become a joke in our family.  Whenever someone does something silly we call them a fork.  I did finally learn how to put my phone in spell mode, but I still haven’t learned how to get it out of ALL CAPS when I am spelling a word the phone doesn’t recognize.  My kids tell me that they can always tell when I have had to spell a new word because the text YELLS at them!

I’ve gotten comfortable enough with texting that I now send occasional random texts to my kids.  Sometimes a stupid joke, “What kind of bedding do gingerbread men use?  Cookie sheets!  Ha ha ha!”  Or I use a text to check up on my kids, like the time I asked two of my daugthers, “How’s your shirt?”  because they’d each left to school in shirts that had the potential to be immodest if not kept pulled up.   Sometimes I send a simple, “I love you!”

I didn’t know if my efforts were having any effect until I overheard my daughters talking with someone else.  They had mentioned that I had sent a text that day.  “Your mom sends you texts?”

“Yeah, every once in awhile she will send something totally random.”  There was silence.

Then Mack said, “Sometimes it makes my day.”

“Yeah,” said Huh.  “I like that my mom sends texts.”

A simple action, and alot of teasing endured, but it has been worth it.  “Send yr teen a txt.”  It just might make their day!

“Notice my socks.”  Grandpa stuck out his right foot so I could see that his sock had been cut down to the ankle.  “I did that so I can scratch my leg better.”   Only one leg itched, so only one sock had been cut down.

The quirky sock comment is one of the main things that sticks out in my mind about my visit with my 86 year old grandfather in January.  The other thing that I remember most about that visit is how lonely Grandpa seemed to feel.  Grandma died 2 1/2 years ago after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for a few years.  Though he tries to go about his daily life by doing such things as working in his yard or visiting with family, Grandpa seems as though he’s only going through the motions.  He said several times during our visit how much he misses Grandma.

For Christmas I decided to give Grandpa the gift of time–my time.  I bought him a game of Skip-Bo, wrapped it up, and taped a note to the top of the package stating that I would be visiting him once a month to play games with him.  When he talked to my mom a little later about the gift I had given him he said, “She doesn’t have to do that.  And besides, I don’t know any games to play.”  But that is just Grandpa.  He doesn’t want to be a bother.

The first time I visited in January we never got around to playing any games.  He just talked.  And I listened.  I nodded.  I smiled.  Not only did I hear about his socks and how much he missed Grandma, I also heard the schedule of the t.v. shows he watches, how his dog, Nikita, protects him, and how he is sure he comes from Tower of Babel times, because he can no longer understand what people are saying in church (said with a wink and a chuckle).  I enjoyed the visit and left feeling excited for February’s visit.

In February I took advantage of the President’s Day holiday and took my kids with me since there was no school.  I want the four of them to connect with their “Grandpa Great.”  We pulled the kitchen table out and placed Uno Attack on it.  Grandpa eyed the game warily and asked, “What is that?  I’ve never seen that before.”

“It’s a game, Grandpa.  You’ll learn it.”

The first time the game spit a bunch of cards out Grandpa laughed hard.  When he caught on that it would happen randomly throughout the game he sat forward and watched intently whenever one of us had to press the button.  We played several hands, Grandpa playfully accusing anyone that won a hand of cheating.  “Hoob”, who was sitting next to Grandpa, got into the act and started dishing him out Draw cards whenever she got the chance.  Grandpa had a good time retaliating.  “Huh” had brought along her guy pal, “Brass.”  At one point in the game Grandpa looked at “Brass” and asked what was wrong with him since “Brass” couldn’t seem to win a hand.

Unfortunately, “Brass” had to be home early, so we were only able to play the game with Grandpa for an hour.  As we were walking out the door the kids all commented that they had had fun.  “Mack” even asked me a few days later when we could do it again.

Yesterday “Yawlin” got out of school early so I took him with me for the March visit.  This time we brought the game Sorry.  Again, Grandpa looked at the game warily and asked, “What is that?”

And again the answer, “It’s a game, Grandpa.  You’ll learn.”

My second cousin “A”, who lives in the back portion of Grandpa’s house, was there when we arrived so we invited him to play.  Grandpa quickly replaced the batteries in his hearing aids so that he could hear us better and we began the game.  “Yawlin” was quick to give Grandpa pointers and moved Grandpa’s pawns for him whenever they were too far away for Grandpa to reach.  “A” ended up winning the game.  But, since it had ended sooner than any of us wanted, we continued to play to see who would come in second.  “Yawlin” got that honor. 

Grandpa and I looked at each other and in unison said, “Who gets third?”  The game continued. 

Now “A” and “Yawlin” were totally against me and rooting for Grandpa to win.  It came down to both of us needing a One card to get our final pawn into Home.  Back and forth we went drawing cards, the boys cheering whenever I drew a card that I couldn’t use and groaning when Grandpa did the same.  When Grandpa finally drew the coveted One card the boys were ecstatic.  And so was Grandpa.  He thanked me several times for coming.

My Mom told me that whenever she tells Grandpa I’m on my way he always says, “She doesn’t have to come all year long.”  But then Mom says, “I think he secretly likes it.”  I do too.

I thanked “Yawlin” for coming with me yesterday.  He grinned and told me he’d had fun.  I think there might be a connection forming between “Yawlin” and Grandpa Great.  I look forward to the April visit.  Maybe we’ll be able to play the Skip-Bo game that I originally bought when I decided to give time to Grandpa.

I had hoped my first post on my very first blog would be clever, inspirational, and uplifting, or at the very least, useful to those who happened to stumble upon it.  Instead, I find myself dashing off a post at 9:19 p.m. at the exact same time “Huh” is trying to pick my brain for ideas on how she can present a family history assignment for her Price of Prejudice class.  I give her a suggestion, then type a few words; give another suggestion, and type a little more.   It’s a little frustrating for both of us.  She doesn’t have my full attention and I know I’m failing at typing the magnificent post I had envisioned.  I guess it’s all part of being “Mom.”  And after a day just being Mom–housework, planning cubscouts, shopping for softball equipment, getting children to various destinations–I suppose it is a fitting end that I only have time to type a few quick words.  Being Mom takes alot of time.  My family is my top priority and therefore many of my days consist of just being Mom.  It is time to give my daughter 100% of my attention and then check on “Yawlin” to make sure he has finished copying his spelling words.  Here comes Mom.