Jan 16, 2017


1/16/2017 — cori

We've been watching the same group of boys play basketball together since they were in 4th grade. We have never been the winners. We've always been the losers. We got very good at losing. We never seemed to find our stride, get our groove, learn how to play as a team. There were a few games that stood out as highlights where all the stars aligned and the boys played like a team, but for the most part, it always seemed to be 5 kids on a court all trying to get a basket.

But this has been the year everything changed. The boys are all in 9th grade now. These same boys I've known since they were 9 are all taller, sweatier, and more muscular. But the one thing they have now that they've never had is teamwork. Gone are the days of each kid wanting to play the hero. These boys have learned to play unselfishly. Wow! A good coach makes all the difference! This coach pushes them beyond their limits. He trains them hard. He follows through on threats. He pulls kids out when they do it wrong. He's taught these kids the benefits of playing as a team.

And as a reward for all their dedication and hard work, we are now undefeated in our bracket. These awesome kids are on an 8-0 streak! We've never experienced anything like this. They win big too - most games are won by over 20 points. The boys have learned how to respect each other instead of feel jealous or competitive against their teammate. They've learned to see and admire the skill the other has and how best to use it to the team's advantage during time on the court. Their confidence in their skills and what they bring to the team has increased dramatically.

As a parent this is a beautiful lesson to see your kids learn. This has been a long, hard road. I love the way the coach speaks into their lives and all they learn from him. I don't want Bennett to be a superstar, I want him to be a team player on and off the court. This year and this coach are enforcing this beautiful life lesson in him. Winning is just a nice added bonus.

Jan 12, 2017

A Reflection on 18 Years of Gavin

1/12/2017 — cori

Eighteen years ago
There was no way to fully know
How completely you would steal my heart
On this journey we would start
Together as a new family
When your birth now made us three.

We couldn't imagine what you'd be like
this new human, keeping us up at night.
Making it through the first few weeks
Definitely brought us to our knees
Learning humility, sacrifice, and responsibility
Of caring for you during your fragility.

Together we learned and grew
Wanting to understand what made you, you.
Intense, active, determined and kind
Wishing we could read your mind.
Always eager to learn new things
Excited about what each day brings.

Imaginative beyond compare
In your brain, many worlds lodged there.
The books we would always read
Sparked your deep curiosity
For how the world around you worked
Keeping you always on alert
To learn as much as you possibly could
And share it with me once you understood.

The way you smile with your eyes
Brightens up all our lives.
Your smile is genuine, big, and bright
An outward show of your inner light.
You laugh at yourself with grace and ease
This my friend, makes you free.
Your humble, gentle, sensitive heart
Is the very thing that sets you apart.

Loyal, considerate, smart, and wise
There's so much lurking behind those eyes
The person you are evolving to be
Has left a deep impact on me
With you I learn new points of view
I watch you listen and think things through.
All of life's mysteries I see you ponder
Oh, the depths that your mind does wander.

Logic, math, languages too
These things always came naturally to you.
You learn these skills all by yourself
By watching someone or from a book on your shelf.
There is nothing you will not know
Because your drive and intensity push you so.
The joy of learning was evident in you from the start
You follow your passion straight from the heart.

You showed me how to me a mom,
You've been my teacher all along.
 Listening to your mind and heart
I'm thankful to play a very small part
In raising you to be a humble man
Willing to reach out and give others a hand.
Patient, gentle, cautious too
These are traits I cherish in you.

Always sensitive, polite and kind
Filtering new ideas through your mind
Until they sit upon your heart
As you meditate and do your part
To help those around you know
How they can also learn and grow
And participate in the circle of life
Doing their part to make things right.

Your convictions are the deepest part of you
They're what you contemplate and decide to do
Pursue your dreams with all your might
Yet always remember to never loose sight
Of who you are and where you stand
In this beautiful circle of man
This life is more than just about you
Please remember the outcasts and marginal few
Because when they do well, so do we all.
Do your part, no matter how small.

Being your mom has been my life's joy
Watching you grow to a man from a boy
You've always stayed true to who you are
That is the most important knowledge by far.
Staying true to yourself in this journey of life
Will cause you less stress, fear and strife.
When people tell you what you do is grand
Remember it's on the shoulders of giants you stand.

Jan 6, 2017

Tea Kettle Magic

1/06/2017 — cori

We're used to snow and cold up here in the arctic circle (I jest, we're 1,493 miles from the actual circle...I googled it, just to make sure because some days I'm not so sure we are). What we're not used to is ice. This past Monday, we were expecting a snowstorm. Instead, we received an ice storm. It was very unwelcome. It was accompanied by a lot of wind and the polar vortex. In the course of a day we dropped over 30 degrees. This was the beginning of that day.

This happened to be the first day back to school after a glorious, restful winter break. Bennett usually goes out to warm up the car before getting ready for school. During this time of winter it takes a good 20-30 minutes to get the car inhabitable by humans and workable. However, on this fine day, we were still unaware of the previous night's ice storm until Bennett headed outside to do his typical morning routine. He came back in stating that there was no way he was going to get into the car, the doors were stuck shut with ice. 

Hmmm...that is quite a conundrum. But what am I supposed to do about it? I'm just the mom. I'm not equipped to solve problems of this nature...usually. The "call a friend" option was out because Chuck was not available. Darn. Now I really have to start thinking of a solution. Then a little light bulb went off inside my head *ping* heat up the tea kettle and pour boiling water over the ice. It felt like a message from heaven. I was rescued and could now rescue my poor, befuddled children.

I got my trusty tea kettle filled to the brim and set it to boiling. In the mean time, Donald Duck (aka: Gavin) wakes up and is all in a huff because the car is not on or ready and they are going to be late now. Good thing he woke up 10 minutes before he had to be out the door. I say that to explain the duress I was forced to work under. I had to stay extra calm because everyone around me (Gavin) was falling to pieces, if not literally, at least mentally. The worst possible scenario for him is to be late. Unfortunately, we were all working under a time crunch...I was also late to work.

Do you see the black driveway I'm standing on? That is a sheet of ice. I had Bennett go salt the driveway so I wouldn't fall down while carrying boiling hot water out to the car. In hindsight, that wasn't my best decision. The kid who just busted his thumb, broke his pinky and has a basketball game that night is the one I send out onto an inclined driveway covered in black ice. Like anything good can come from that. But I was laser focused on getting the car doors unstuck - I was liable to make some errors in judgement. Remember, I work best under perfect conditions and these were less than ideal.

I slip and slide my way outside (forgetting my coat), while holding boiling water in my very full tea kettle (after all, I needed enough water to pour over both doors). After only a few seconds, we found that my method was indeed successful. What do you know, I actually can problem solve while under stress. I learn something new everyday.

Unfortunately, that was not to be the end of our problems. Bennett was able to get in and get the car started, but they were still late and still needed time to warm up the car. And then there was the little matter of a windshield covered in a sheet of ice that was not going to defrost in less than 20 minutes. We didn't have that kind of time people. Our collective ETAs were negative 10 minutes. We were working on borrowed time. 

So I figured I could just repeat the tea kettle magic on the windshield. There was no time to think through this. Donald Duck was not happy. He didn't even give me enough time to bring the water to a full boil. I skimmed back across the ice a second time to pour my magic water over the frozen windshield and watched as the ice disappeared. The boys were off as soon as they could see through the glass.

I have to admit, I was rather proud of this moment of clarity and ingenuity. This doesn't happen often for me. I like to bask in success when I get it. I'm normally "learning from my mistakes" and "putting my foot in my mouth". I'm not usually lucky enough to save any days or solve any of life's bigger problems. But this one put me on the map....until I told Chuck.

It was then that I find out what apparently everyone else already knew....you're not supposed to put boiling water on a frozen windshield because it could 'supposedly' crack the glass. It was at that point that I became grateful for a flustered Donald Duck hovering over me and not giving me time to bring the water to a boil. Apparently my water was warm enough to melt the ice, but not too hot to crack the window. Whew! Disaster averted. I didn't even know I was about to cause a disaster. Things could have gone a lot worse this morning had my water gotten to a full boil. Then things would have been out of the scope of my ability to fix. As it was, I think we averted disaster effectively, if not only out of sheer luck. What I previously thought of as an ingenious plan where 'desperate times call for desperate measures' was actually another case of me "learning from my mistakes" again. If I haven't learned humility by now, I never will.

Jan 1, 2017

Walking On Water

1/01/2017 — cori

You know you live in Minnesota when....you hear yourself saying, "It's going to be warm today guys (30 degrees), we should go do something outside." I cannot believe I actually uttered those words. Back when we lived in Texas, we were donning our winter coats in 50 degree weather. Now, living up north, coats are optional in 30 degree weather. It actually never got to 30 degrees today, that was just what was forecasted. I think it was around the 22 degree mark when we decided to take a little family jaunt to the lake to check on the ice thickness.

I'm always a tad bit leery of walking out on that lake. It's hard to know how many inches of ice are between me and the bitter cold water lurking just underneath my feet. Caution is a good thing in these matters. But when you live with a pack of risk-taking boys, you learn to meet risky adventures head-on. In the above picture, I'm still standing on solid ground, while my crew are already risking life and limb 5 feet out onto the ice.  Since no one fell in yet, I deemed it safe enough to traverse. However, I stayed very close to the edge of the lake, you know, just in case.

Even Ninja got in on the fun. She LOVES this weather; it seems to invigorate her. She would have found the one part of the lake that hadn't yet frozen over and found her way through it, thus, the leash. None of us were in the mood for a sub-zero water rescue mission today.

And here is proof that we all made it onto the ice and lived to tell about it. I have no idea why Chuck is wearing a monkey hat. This was a fine way to spend the first day of the new year. It's nice to be outside during the winter whenever we get the chance. 

Dec 31, 2016

Injury Prone

12/31/2016 — cori

The other day after basketball practice Bennett came walking out holding onto a bag of ice. Oh no! I thought, I hope he didn't break his pinky again! Bennett slides in the car, sees my questioning eyes and explains that he dropped a 45 pound free-weight on his thumb right at the end of practice. 

Deep sigh.

Poor kid. He is so injury prone. He is always the one to get hurt. We have banned him from trampolines for this very reason. At 7 he already twisted his knee and ankle while jumping on the trampoline. While hiking, he's the one who trips over roots and scrapes an entire side of his body. While canoeing, he's the one who gets a leech attached to leg after swimming in the river. After wrestling with Chuck, he's the one who gets a tooth knocked out. While playing hide and seek in the woods, he's the one who gets poison ivy over his entire body. Luck is not on his side. 

The scary thing was, the wound wouldn't stop bleeding for an entire day. He had ice on it most of the day; had it above his heart, and had pressure applied. Still, the bleeding wouldn't stop. We went through an entire box of gauze. Finally, by day two the bleeding subsided and the swelling went down a bit, but the throbbing and pain persisted. 

Bennett learned two valuable lessons from this experience: 1) always take safety precautions when moving free weights - don't be in a hurry and 2) never take opposable thumbs for granted - they are awesome and life is hard without the use of them.

Dec 30, 2016

Reading Together

12/30/2016 — cori

This Christmas Gavin bestowed upon me the gift of books. He knows me. He loves me. He understands me. He even went so far as to check what books I had waiting for future purchase on my Amazon Wish List. That's devotion right there. But he didn't get me any of those books. Instead, he got me two of his personal favorites, Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby.

I must confess, I never read those books in high school nor for personal pleasure. I applaud Gavin's English Literature teacher for making such old, difficult books appealing and applicable to his age and era. Good literature usually is. 

Ever since the kids were born, I've been a huge believer in reading aloud with them. It's as natural to us to sit down and read a book aloud together as it is to watch tv together. So I asked Gavin if he wouldn't mind reading aloud the books he gave me. Can I just say how awesome it is to be the one read to instead of the one reading aloud?! I just love hearing him read and letting my imagination wander to wherever the story is taking me. No wonder the kids have loved it all these years. I also love that the tables are turned and Gavin is doing the reading. I only have 9 months left with him living with me. This is special time together. Time listening to my sweet boy's voice calms my soul. 

He admits he also enjoys the experience because it helps him better understand things that slipped by him on his first reading. Reading aloud also brings the characters to life. You read slower when you read aloud and are forced to work through harder passages that you might have easily skipped or skimmed through if reading to yourself. 

Whatever the reason, Gavin is speaking my love language right now and I am basking in the love!

Dec 28, 2016

Growing Up In The 70s

12/28/2016 — cori

Tonight at dinner we were reminiscing about the 70s. Why? I have no idea. For the life of me I can't figure out how our conversation digressed to that period of history. My only positive connection to that era is that I was born in it and had to play with the toys available to me at the time. And yellow was the decade's favorite color (apparently avocado green as well).

I was telling the children of my very favorite show: Buck Rogers. I had never seen Star Wars and had no idea it was a copycat of that show. I remember being outside playing with my friends but when it was time for Wonder Woman and Buck Rogers shows on TV, I would sprint home and sit in front of our fuzzy, rabbit-eared tv that only had 3 channels with eager anticipation. I even had Wonder Woman underroos. If they had Buck Rogers underroos for girls, I so would have had those too.

Then I got to thinking about my Holly Hobbie oven. I remember sitting in my room stirring a packet of mix and water with a little plastic spoon into a teeny, tiny pan and shoving it in my "oven" so that the mixture could cook from the heat of a light bulb.

This brings up a multitude of questions. First of all, why in the world would my parents allow me to have an oven in my room? Second, how can anything legally be cooked using a light bulb? Why was this my introduction to cooking? I was doomed to failure from the start. No wonder it is so hard for me now-a-days - I began this whole cooking adventure using miniature kitchen tools, in my room, with an electric oven that "cooked" food (cakes and pizzas) using a 60 watt bulb. Whose genius idea was this? Everybody knows real cooks cook with gas.

My failure as a home cook can be traced back to this lame "oven". I remember thinking even at the tender age of 6 and 7 that this couldn't possibly work. It just didn't seem right to me. I was infinitely more interested in my Barbie townhouse.

No, this isn't a picture of me, but it may as well have been. I spent so much time with this amazing toy honing my inner interior designer. My Bapchie even crotched rugs for every room in the townhouse for me. I decorated it to the 9s. The only down side was that when my brother (4 years younger than me) played with me and insisted on using his Tonka Truck men, it was a little embarrassing. That's cuz those guys were like 3 inches shorter than Barbie. Granted, he willingly spoke the narrative I explicitly told him to say word for word so the relational interactions would make sense, but it was just awkward with the height difference.

I spent most of my time outside, however, playing until the sun went down. When I wasn't riding my bigwheel, I was roller skating right down the middle of the street, or jumping off of swings, or making floorplans of houses with grass clippings, or laying in the grass watching the clouds roll by, or playing school in my friend's basement, or playing at the park. None of this happened with a single parent around. A ragady group of kids would just roam the neighborhood. Everybody's mom was your mom. You could get in trouble with any of them and they would spank you too! Everybody's mom could also kiss your boo-boos and adhere necessary band-aids. Everybody's mom would also feed you and tell you to put your coat on so you don't catch a cold.

It's funny the few memories that actually stick from childhood. I wonder what my kids will remember from their childhoods? I'm sure it will be different from my memories, but that's the beauty of it. We all see the same things from different perspectives. This makes the world a more beautiful place. It rounds out all of our memories for the better.

Dec 14, 2016

What Love Looks Like

12/14/2016 — cori

Today was the last day of class with my Somali students before winter break. I have such a faithful group of students. A student/teacher relationship grows through-out the school year and often becomes very personal. The students grow to trust you, depend on you, and show their vulnerabilities. You open yourself up to each other and often-times a great bond/attachment is formed. 

This is the case with several of my students. One student in particular, Habiba, showed her great affection for me by braving the -17 degree temperature today. Halfway through class we have a 15 minute break. In that timeframe, she bundled up and walked a block away to the Somali Market to buy me this delicious sambusa. It is a pastry filled with meat and spices. She got back to class and presented me with a warm bag. I asked her what it was. She couldn't stop smiling. She said, "For you good teacher, sambusa. Eat." I had 6 students today and they all told me, "We will wait while you eat. Enjoy." It was as if all of my students shared in the giving of this precious gift to show their deepest gratitude. I tried to share them with the class, but they would have none of that. 

I was overwhelmed and so very grateful. It is a universal human trait to give what we have (or value) to those we love and appreciate . It just so happens, my students love me enough to give me one of their favorite foods. I am honored. I have received many unique gifts and trinkets from multiple foreign countries through-out my years of teaching. But this simple, loving gesture humbled me the most.

Dec 4, 2016

Christmas Palindrome

12/04/2016 — cori

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care....
because of the way Gavin put them there
He taped and taped so they wouldn't fall down,
secure in their spot so the parents wouldn't frown.
When asked why they spelled JOYOJ, Gavin replied,
"It's a Christmas palindrome" with a sparkle in his eye.

Caroling in the Bathroom

12/04/2016 — cori
Chloe had a friend spend the night this weekend. After spending their evening making chocolate covered pretzels and chicken tacos to serve to the fam (and in the process making the largest mess possible!) these two got all dolled up. They spent hours doing each other's hair and make-up. My bathroom shares a wall with Chloe's bathroom. As I'm in the tub last night, I hear the faint sound of Christmas carols coming through the wall. Hmmm, that's odd, I think to myself. Why would the girls be singing Christmas carols? I go check on them and this is what I see:

Chloe is actually looking up the lyrics to different songs so they can sing them in their entirety. Never mind that it's 10:30 at night. Never mind that they are doing their hair only to go to bed in a matter of minutes. 

They are 12 year old girls and blissfully happy. This is what 12 year old girls do - they sing Christmas carols in the bathroom late at night while doing hair and make-up. Oh to be 12 again.

Nov 28, 2016

A Colorado Thanksgiving

11/28/2016 — cori

Thanksgiving is usually the one time of year we get to visit Chuck's brother, John and his sweet family. Their family increased by one this year. Mason was born just 5 weeks ago, thus giving us a great reason to traverse across the country to spend Thanksgiving at their house. We had a wonderful time doing some family photo shoots during our time there. This was one of my favorites. However, before we arrived in Parker, we spent a few days in northern Colorado hiking, exploring, and college shopping.

Believe it or not, we accidentally found this amazing hike. We were up in Estes Park. It was a cold day with the forecast predicting snow. We didn't want to get stuck up at Rocky Mountain National Park, so we just found ourselves meandering through the town of Estes. We were on Devil's Gulch Road when all of the sudden we found ourselves right next to a park sign. We apparently took a back entrance into RMNP unknowingly and ended up at Lumpy Ridge - I kid you not. I couldn't make up a trail name that great if I had ample time to think. It was so amazing and so cool and so empty. We only passed 2 other people the entire time. 

It was our kind of hike: a little chilly, tons of rocks to climb, a little off the beaten-path, a little dangerous, quiet and full of serene views. So many of our favorite times have happened on accident or because we got lost. I'm so thankful for these special, unplanned times.

We even found cool photo op spots. How can you not on these gorgeous mountains?

I think this rock formation inspired the name Lumpy Ridge

Of course, what kind of hike would this be without a little daring and adventure? It doesn't look that far across in the picture, but Chuck would tell you otherwise. He was kind of stuck that way for a while. He risked life and limb trying to get one side of his body to the other, he just wasn't sure which side it was going to be until it happened.

As we were leaving Estes we caught a glimpse of a bunch of elk in the Estes Lake. We were speechless. We quickly pulled into the parking lot and got out to stare in awe at these gorgeous creatures as they were embarking on their fall migration. 

How lucky were we? The atmosphere was one of awe and wonderment. We felt as if we were witnessing something we shouldn't be allowed to see. These animals were mostly peaceful (a few bulls were wrestling with their horns but it ended as quickly as it started). The sounds they make don't seem big enough for their massive bodies.

Bennett has shown a lot of interest in Colorado State University. Since we were in Fort Collins, we took a morning and walked around the campus. Being there only made him more excited for college.

We visited Devil's Backbone in Loveland. We'd been there once before, but this time we saw a whole other part that we hadn't yet explored.

Yes, we walked much of the length of that.

As we were leaving Loveland, we spotted this gorgeous lake. Come to find out is was Lake Loveland. The water was like glass. The view was that gorgeous. It took my breath away. I just stood there staring in amazement. 

We got the chance to tour CU Boulder. It is a beautiful campus. Gavin really liked it.

And then finally, we made it to John and Karen's house. I got to spend a lot time with this sweet boy. Oh how I love babies! I was in heaven.

Chloe was amazing with Logan. They spent tons of time together. She was even able to put him down for his nap twice - no small feat for a 2 year old.

The brothers got to spend lots of quality time together, usually with a little one on or around them.

Even Bennett got in on the baby holding action. As long as Mason wasn't crying, he was happy to hold him.

We got to watch a lot of "Paw Patrol" before bed time. As you can tell, Gavin and Bennett are enthralled.

And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without our annual game of Guesstures. 

There are just too  many opportunities for crazy pictures. We like to call this one, "I don't!", Logan's current favorite saying.

We discovered the hilarity of the Dictionary Game. Try to keep a straight face reading Bennett and Chloe's definitions. It doesn't happen. The giggles are so much fun. Believe it or not, we didn't get one picture on Thanksgiving day. We were so caught up in getting everything done. John invited a second cousin and his family who were in town to join us. So we had a nice sized group. They had a little 1 year old named, Lilly. For whatever reason, Lilly really liked Gavin. Gavin managed to go most of the visit without touching a small child (his preference). But not Lilly. She would march right up to Gavin and put out her hand so he would have to take it and she would lead him somewhere or she would put her arms out and he had no choice but to pick her up. He was sweet and gentle with her ,albeit out of his element. I think he was secretly honored to be chosen by this sweet little girl.

I'm kind of thankful we didn't get any pictures of the actual Thanksgiving day because I kind of made a little mess. I was trying to be helpful, honestly. I was doing my assigned task (John made a list of each task and who was to do what at what time). I was mashing the acorn squash. I went to get the salt that was in a small bowl with a lid. As I opened the lid, something went terribly wrong and salt went everywhere. It looked like I took the bowl and just dumped it upside down. John had a mini heart attack. Of course this would happen when you least want it to. It took several of us to get the salt off me and vacuumed up off the floor. Thankfully, I didn't spill it in any food, right? That could have been disastrous. I've learned that you never know when I'm going to mess up big time. It usually happens at the most inopportune time, however. 

So, that was Thanksgiving in a nutshell. Already looking forward to next year.

I Wonder What He's Thinking?

11/28/2016 — cori

How many more ways can I say I love this kid?! There is NEVER a dull moment with Bennett around. Here we are taking selfies on the sofa bed at the hotel during our latest road trip. I know, I was dangerously close to his pit (I was holding my breath).

Seriously, all he has to do is turn and wink at me and I crack up like a middle-school girl.  See what I mean? He can cut any mood with his humor. He is a perpetual optimist, just like his father. He's always looking for the bright side.

But that doesn't mean he's always focused. That takes a little more effort. He zones out a lot and we don't know where he goes during those times. However, I think we found out. During our last road trip he was sitting in the very back seat in the third row (it's about as comfortable as sitting in lotus position for 5 hours straight). I turned around to check on him. I asked, "How are you doing honey?" He looked up with a blank look on his face and responded, "Basketball."

I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Of course that's what he's thinking. That's all he's ever thinking about. He's like a dog, or at least our dog. All Ninja ever thinks about is food. She thinks everything we say to her is about food or how we're going to get her food. The same is true for our sweet Bennett boy. One big basketball covers that brain of his. One more reason to love him so.

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