Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Review

Oh, my goodness.  I have missed my blog more than I realized!  My second post in all of December!  Whoa!  Yet partially purposeful.  I have enjoyed this month so much, in part because I removed all I could from my plate, put no pressure on myself, and just stayed in the moment!  I thought about blogging a couple times, but just didn't want to take the time.  So now I'm way behind.  I have some fun things to recap in the near future, but for now I need to think about ending 2012.

I love to end a year with a little reflection.  It's good for the soul.  But in a more light-hearted way, I like to reflect on the highlights of the year, so here we go!

Me in 2012:

1.  What did you do in 2012 that you had never done before?

I went to Washington D.C. for the first time:

I got into the world of Instagram:

I entered myself into the county fair:

And won second place for my cupcakes!

2.  Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, not this year! Although Brenna did get to experience her 24 hours with "Baby Think It Over".  It was a little bit like having a newborn in the house!

3.  Did anyone close to you die?

Our sweet pup Archie.  That was one of a sad, sad goodbye for all of us.

4.  What dates in 2012 will stay etched in your memory?

I think I will pick moments rather than dates:

Being blissfully stuck at home in the midst of our big snow dump and power outage:

Watching my son accomplish great things: 1st in State, Solo at Washington Center, among many:

Sitting with our sweet dog as we all said our goodbyes and he took his last breath.  A very tough and tender moment:

Watching Brenna run her way onto the varsity cross country team and go all the way to state!

Watching my baby girl collapse to her knees sobbing when she met our new puppy Lucy.

Having the privilege to watch this lovely couple get married:

Watching sunsets that defy description in Hawaii:

All the simple moments of holding my man's hand throughout another year together.  So blessed.

5.  Did you suffer any injury or illness in 2012?

Well, I spent the first month of 2012 recovering from my nasty slam of anxiety that started in December.  I am so thankful that was then and this is now.  I've reflected about that time a lot during this Christmas break.  The scariness and darkness of that time was intense, and what a difference a year can make.

6.  What was the best thing you bought?

Probably I'd have to say the plane tickets to Hawaii.  I'm not a big "thing" girl, so buying the "thing" that took my family on that great adventure ranks at the top.

Wait...does food count??  Because I loooooved the pancakes we bought in Maui.  That could easily be my best thing.

7.  Where did most of your money go?

Oh my.  I can name that song in three notes:  Alex, Brenna, Beth.

8.  What song will most remind you of 2012?

"10,000 Reasons" is high on the list.  I love the simplicity of that song.  "Bless the Lord, oh my soul..."  Yes, soul...bless Him indeed.

And I would be remiss to not include "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"...our cheer dance this year.  I listened to that song this Fall enough to fill my lifetime quota.  And yours too, actually.

But these girls rocked that routine and took first place, so well worth that song ringing in my ears!

9.  What do you wish you'd done more of/less of?

I wish I'd taken more action and done less pondering.  That's coming soon.

10.  What was your favorite t.v. program?

I'm a consistent girl.  I still love Amazing Race.  The Middle just cracks me up, and makes me feel better about the wackiness in my own peeps.  And very recently I've discovered Downton Abbey, and I LOVE it.


11.  What was the best book you read?

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  Hard to read in parts, but so worth it.  I finished it on the plane back from Hawaii, and I literally gasped outloud when I got to a very meaningful part, batted away tears and wanted to grab my seatmate and say, "You won't believe this!!!"  (Fortunately for someone, my seatmate was Brad.)

12.  What was your favorite movie this year?

I really don't see gobs of movies, so this is always tough.  But I just saw Lincoln and I loved it very much.  Very much.

13. What did you do on your birthday?  How old were you?

Let's see, I turned 43 in September.  I worked and then had a magnificent evening with my family.  Chipotle for dinner, yum yum.  And truth be told, I had to ask my girls what we did for my birthday this year because it seems so long ago!  That's what happens when you are 43 I guess.  Brad got me a new watch that I love, love, love...I do remember that.  And I still haven't had it fit to my wrist almost 4 months later.  Maybe I'll do that for my 44th birthday!

14.  Did you travel anywhere this year?

Oh, yes.  A big travel year for us!  We went with the whole family to Washington D.C. in June.

In September Brad and I got away for 2 nights for our anniversary...Cannon Beach, our favorite local get-away.

And for Thanksgiving, we all went to Hawaii...such an special blessing.   I need to blog about that was spectacular.

15.  What national event stirred you the most this year?

I was beyond moved by the mass shooting in Connecticut, as we all were.

16.  A valuable life lesson you learned this year?

Hmm.  I think I had lots of lessons re-taught to me.  I had a massive refreshing of the power of Hope.  The depths that rough times take us into are sometimes the only places we can experience the power of Hope.  I felt it, lived it, learned it.  Now I live by it in a new and fresh way.

And I am learning a lot lately about surrendering.  I choose often not to worry, but it's an efforted choice.  But when I truly surrender something, the worry fall off.  And I'm truly loving the freedom in surrender.

HAPPY New Year.  I am praying it is one of peace, hope, and JOY!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thoughts From the Mother of A Tall Daughter

I am full of thoughts.  I have had these thoughts for a loooong time, and lately they have surfaced to the front of my mind again.  I have to share, for myself more than for any other.  Getting these thoughts out helps me order them.  Helps me process them.  Helps me sort them so I can share them with the one who most needs to hear them.

I am the mother of a tall daughter.  A tall daughter in middle school...those years that are such a mixed bag of social adventures.  The middle school years contain moments of angst and confusion for most.

My precious girl is about 3 years ahead in her growth.  She has been the "tallest" since age 6.  Add to that growth spurts and growing pains (physical and emotional) and awkwardness of a new school and feeling like you "stand out" when you so badly want to blend in...yikes.

This girl is beautiful.  BEAUTIFUL.  Bright, bold blue eyes.  Blond hair: the color many women invest a lot of money and time trying to achieve.  A jolly belly laugh, sweet smile...I could go on and on.  With all these things, she looks in the mirror and sees...TALL.

As an adult, I know tall is a beautiful thing...but it's hard to be tall when you are 12.  She's 12 in every way, yet 15 in her height.  She's 12 in her emotions, 12 in her maturity, 12 in her life experience and knowledge.  Yet many people look at her and expect her to be her height.

Nearly every day, she hears "You are so tall!"  She is so sick of having this pointed out.  And I get it.  For the last few years, we've encouraged her to say a happy thank you when someone says that to her.  But now I'm sick of it too.  And adults are the worst of the bunch.  With no malicious intent, one after another comments on her height.  And it's not, "I LOVE how tall you are!"  It's "You are so tall!"  Duh.  It's such a neutral statement.  It's like looking at someone and saying "You have brown hair."  How should someone respond to that?  Sarcasm rises up, and it is so hard to resist.  And with a girl who is self-conscious about her height, it is completely pointing out her insecurity.  Over and over and over again.  And she is worn down.  It happens with her peers.  It happens with adults.

Whatever your insecurity is, imagine that every day someone pointed it out to you.  It really is like a dart being thrown, and hitting the bulls eye, over and over again.  Tough stuff.

And last night, she wept about it.  And it breaks my heart.

Because I look at my beautiful girl and see how wonderfully she is made.  I know none of us are our bodies.  Who we are is not, or shouldn't be, defined by tall, short, thin, thick, blond, brunette, "pretty" or not.  Someone of average height, at the perfect weight....more valuable than another?  Obviously no.  But boy do we judge and define people by the outside.  And boy am I tired of it.

If I could grow 10 inches overnight and tower over my daughter, I would in a heartbeat.  If I could shrink her 5 inches overnight and make her more comfortable in her own skin, I would do that in a heartbeat.  But I know we are who we are by design.  And we all have our "thing" that raise our insecurity, so if it wasn't her height I'm sure there would be something else.

I tell her often that everyone - everyone - has something, some are just more obvious than others.  Again, hard to believe when you are 12.

I don't know if her height will peak soon and her peers will catch up, or if she'll always be on the tall side.  I don't know if she will learn to love and appreciate it sooner or later.  But I do know that it does not define her.  Her beauty lies in who she IS, not what she looks like, even thought her outside is truly beautiful.  So I will do my part in encouraging and mothering my baby girl, praying that a hedge of protection surrounds her and that the hurtful comments will not penetrate that hedge.  I know these comments aren't meant to be hurtful, I know.  But they are.

And I hope that all of us will be careful with the words we speak to young hearts.  They are so impressionable.  They believe what we say about them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve Eve

Well, it's Thanksgiving Eve Eve.  So very much to be thankful for:

A loving God who forgives and loves and leads
My husband who loves so well, works so hard, and give so much
My 3 kids, who make me laugh, make me nutty, make me grow, make me better
Friends who make my life so fun and full and real
A warm, cozy, safe house...a home
All my needs supplied
A life full to the brim of love...both given and received

So much more, there is no way to express my thankfulness fully and completely.  On this Thanksgiving my heart is full, my gratitude deep.  Being thankful, counting your blessings, makes your heart happy.  And so many blessings to count...

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Picture upload experiment underway, thus the irrelevant picture at the top of this post!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts on This Season

I'm learning so much lately about how to be a good parent to my teenage son.  And we are mere months away from sending him off to...Baltimore?  New York?  Seattle?  Eugene?  Tempe?  Wherever we send him, it will not be here.  That's so the way it goes with raising kids.  Just when you think you are getting a handle on a season, the season changes.  

I've always been one to soak up knowledge about parenting...I've sought out the parents of kids I like and asked them lots of questions.  I've surrounded myself with women who are both in my same season and who are a few steps ahead of me.  I watch, I listen, I observe actions way more than I listen to words.  And I've picked up such valuable wisdom along the way.  Why reinvent the wheel, right?  If I see someone getting results that I like, I figure out what they are doing that I could do.  Some of the most valuable lessons have been observing results I don't want, and figuring out how not to emulate that.

I've also prayed a lot, listened to the One who has all the wisdom.  Keeping the Biblical perspective of why I'm doing what I'm doing and what I want in the end has been so integral in sorting out the advice, the instincts, the questions.

The instincts?  Sometimes accurate, sometimes not.  It can be dangerous to let your feelings steer your actions.  That is sure true in parenting.  The gut feeling that is the nudge of The Lord?  Always accurate.  Having discernment for which you are feeling?  A journey.

So here I am, entering the end of one season of parenting and preparing for another.  Some days I could easily weep at the thought of sending him off to the East Coast.  Last night?  I would have driven him to the airport, hugged him tightly, and wished him well navigating his life while he knows it all.  If you've been there, you know.

I know the reality is I will miss him like crazy.  He is a joy in our home (most days).  His energy is both energizing and exhausting to me.  I'll cry buckets of tears when he leaves.  I'll wonder if I did enough.  I'll wonder if I prepared him for all the things I'm responsible for preparing him for.  I'll wonder if I got enough right amongst all the things I got wrong.

The deadlines and due dates and commitments are overwhelming right now.  I'm stressed for him.  I'm helping in the ways I can, but so much of this is on him.  We are past the point of micro-managing.  I have had to bite my tongue (or put chocolate in my mouth) to keep from managing his schedule and making "suggestions" that aren't welcome.  This is a great time to learn to manage his own stuff, in a safe place.  And yet there are so many crucial things that are big deals and can't be overlooked.  So I keep an eye peeled.  I breathe deeply.  I cry.  I pray.  I encourage.  I blow it and vent my frustration.  Then I cry again.  And pray again.  And breathe deeply again.

I've been warned that parenting a senior is not for wimps.  How true that is.  Money here, money there.  Essays here, essays there.   Applications here, applications there.  Auditions here, auditions there.  Ugh.  It's overwhelming.  Cap and gown ordered, tears shed.

And here's what I know for sure:

1.  Teenagers are exhausting.  I remember being exhausted with my little ones, feeling like that 8:00 bedtime was barely reachable.  Not to undermine that kind of tired, this is just a different tired.

2.  Teenagers like to talk late at night.  Their engines rev up right when mine goes into neutral.  It's so hard for me to be engaged late at night, but good connections have been made then.

3.  Teenagers like to be talked to logical and respectfully.  It's good to explain to them that their brains are just not fully developed yet.  They are wired to be more emotional and it's not their fault that the frontal lobe is just not on full throttle.

4.  Teenagers need affecton.  They need assurances.  They need encouragement.  They need forgiveness.

Now I'm typing blindly, becasue my iPad screen will no longer how me the end of the screen.  I'm sure there's a way to fix that, but I'm not too handy with gadgets.  So it's a good place to end....

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Technology Allows Me To Update and Prevents Pictures

Oh dear.  Intentions are grand, are they not?  Well, I have had the best of intentions to be better about blogging, but it frankly has been swallowed up in the to-do lists of life.  So now I will resort to a list, mostly to make myself feel as if I'm getting a grip on all the scattered pieces of things I intend to get done.

And I'm doing this blog post right from my iPad, sitting on my couch with my puppy.  Hey, it's a big deal for me!  One reason blogging has become so difficult is the access to my computer.  Two of the three munckins are computer-dependent for homework.  And it is a little shallow to ban them from doing there homework so I can blog.  And by the time they are done and I can use the computer, I'm just too tired.

Yesterday, my favorite son told me he was going to give me my Christmas present early, and that I would understand why when I opened it.  This evening, he gave me my present...wrapped in Safeway bags, as is becoming his signature wrapping.  And the present is the coolest iPad case that has a keyboard attached.  I didn't even know this existed, but it does and it is so fun!  It turns my iPad into a little laptop!  He said that now I can blog without waiting for the computer!  After I hugged him and assured him of his ongoing status of my favorite son, I told him he could have saved this for Christmas.  His response, "Well, then you wouldn't have been able to help me with my college essays as easily.  Christmas would be too late for that."  Ah-ha.  Truth revealed.  Well, whatever.  I love his thoughtfulness and generosity.

So much has been happening:

1. Brenna ran an outrageous District meet, helping her team qualify for State!  The little miss dazzled us this season, running varsity the entire season.  The team took 14th at State, with their top runner taking 4th place!  Brenna also was given the Freshman Award at the banquet, given to an outside freshman who is "one to watch".  Yep, agreed.  Yet again, that girl has proven that a strong work ethic can take you far!

2.  Beth had her 12th Birthday!  I can hardly swallow the fact that my BABY is 12 years old!  One more year of a pre-teenager.  What a blessing this girl's life is.  I'm so thankful for her and her life.  The birthday itself was a FUN event.  We had her party at one of the gymnastics centers in town, and it was one of the best parties we've had.  Those girls hopped, jumped, flipped, twirled and bounced themselves silly for two and a half hours.  They were red-faced and sweaty and thoroughly worn out when we were done.  Even Beth admitted to being worn out on the way home.  And that girl does not wear out easily.

3.  We had our cheer banquet to officially end the season!  It was a great evening of celebrating 3 months of hard work (and fun) for the girls.  I cried, of course.  It's really amazing to watch these girls turning into young ladies.  Some of them have been with me for the last 5 years, and I am so blessed to be a part of their lives.

4.  Alex had the opportunity to perform his Mozart bassoon solo at the Washington Center.  It was chill-bump amazing.  So proud of his accomplishments, and it is fun to watch the upcoming opportunities begin to play out.

5.  Sweet Lucy continues to keep us laughing and on our toes.  She is such a good puppy, and we are all completely smitten with her.  She had her big spay surgery on Friday, so the current challenge is to keep her from being too keyed-up while her belly heals.  This is an 18-pound pup that can chew threw steel mesh to escape her crate and jump our short fence to get over to visit the neighbors.  She is smart as can be, and we are working to use that intelligence for good and not evil.

6.  I have a kindergarten friend who is quite the ladies man.  Holding hands with one girl for  about a week, and then switching to another this last week.  On  Wednesday, they walked up to me at recess, holding hands, and announced that they were getting married someday. "wow!"  The little lady announced that "J" was going to change all the diapers.  "Oh!"  "J" said that was because she was the one who had to "have her stomach cut off to have the baby, so I'll do the diapers." Now that's some advance planning.  The next day, they came walking up to me, holding hands, and "J" said, with a big smile on his face, "Hey Mrs. Caw-son, do you know a good place around here that we could hide to practice kissing?"  I thanked "J" profusely for asking me first, then had alittle conversation about not kissing at school. Love those little ones so much.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Champs Again!

Ahhh!  Time...where are you going?  I meant to write this up on Monday, and now it's Saturday.  Well, all the more time to savor the fun of this in my mind!

Last Sunday was the girls' big cheer competition of the year!  This year was a bit different than others.  Their routine came together much later than any year I've coached.  A little too late for comfort, but it came together.  The girls had so much fun learning this routine, and they performed it with JOY!  It was so much fun to watch.  There was some very tough competition, and all the rumors were abounding that it was between us and one other team.  When the final decision came down?  It was US!  Woo-Hoo!  They have now won 4 of the last 5 years!  Wowzers!  Love these girls so much, and so proud of the way they worked as a team and pushed themselves!

waiting for the judges results!
happy girls!
my sweet them so much!
showing off their prize!
our sweet fans!
matching hair: cuteness on top of cuteness!
Congratulations to a hard-working, joyful bunch of Bears!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Running #4

Oh, my blog.  I have missed spending any time here.  Life has thrown some extra measures of crazy lately, sucking up any free time or energy to put sensible thoughts together.  But I must get back on track.  The moments I want to document are piling up, and at this rate I'll forget them before I write them.  So here we go:

First up is a recap of my sweet little runner's accomplishments.

Miss Brenna has wowed herself and her coach with her running wonders!  Her season has been great from the start, and her times have been steadily improving.  And this last week was the big League Championship meet.  She ran with the varsity girls as runner #8 on her team.  By the end of the race, little miss speedy was runner #4 on her team!  She flew through the course, setting a personal record and scoring points for her team!  (Cross country is a confusing sport to me.  Certain running placements score points for the team while other placers displace runners from other teams, ultimately giving more points to the other team in a sport where less points is better.  Clearly I do not understand it.  I'm sure that's not even remotely close.)  All I know is Brenna ran fast enough to score for her team, qualifying them to move on to the District Meet this weekend!  So it was basically a fantastic run.  Her coach was pretty thrilled.

Off and running, pony tail flyin"!
First mile - 6.19!
Entering the finish lane.
Love this picture - both feet off the ground!
Finishing her 5K in 20.55!
 Sweet running friends.  A special treat:  the girl to Brenna's left is the daughter of her pre-school teacher!
The girls of the 2012 Cross Country Team!
Coach giving a congratulation huddle after their 3rd place announcement!
And I must end with this picture:
This lady was leaning so hard into the tape that she almost pulled the stake right out of the ground!  Can you say "boundary pusher"?  Sheesh! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pictures of the Pictures and Microwave Caramel Corn

We had a fun time this weekend watching Alex get his senior pictures taken.  And family pictures.  It was a typical family picture day:  kids bickering while they got ready, rushing out the door at the last minute, then lots of laughs once we got there.

My beautiful friend Shannon did the deed, and it was so relaxed and casual and fun.  I think we got some great pictures of my little boy!

Here's the behind the scenes shots:

While this scene was playing out, Beth had a scene of her own going on:  in true Beth-form, she found all sorts of creatures to keep her busy.  At one point, she had 14 fuzzy-woolies. 

We got a couple with just the old folks and young man in our Oly Blue:
He makes Brad look short! 

And these two just warm my heart:

As does this sweet one, who toted around 2 grasshoppers:

My beautiful girls...

After all was done and Brad headed back to work, we went out to lunch at Dairy Queen.  Just a simple, sweet, fun day.  On the way home, I got all teary-eyed, just enjoying them so much and realizing how quickly these days are passing.  Alex said, "Why are you going to cry?"  I told him I was just going to miss this.  He then said, "Miss what??  Going to lunch at Dairy Queen?  How often do we really go to lunch at Dairy Queen anyway??  There's really not much to miss about that!"  Tender moment squelched.  Thanks, son.

Anyway, time for a recipe that is perfect for the calendar turning to October!  I have loved making this caramel corn for years and years.  It is so very easy, tastes so very yummy, and is so very perfect for the arriving Fall weather!  Caramel Corn made in the microwave?  Yep, it's true.  And it's buttery and fabulous!

Microwave Caramel Corn

1 bag microwave popcorn, popped and all the unpopped kernels removed
3/4 cup dry roasted peanuts (I use unsalted)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
2 TBSP light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Place popcorn and peanuts in large, microwave safe bowl.  In a smaller microwave safe bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Cover and microwave for 1 minute; stir.  Microwave for an additional 2 minutes.  Stir in vanilla and baking soda, mix well.  Pour over popcorn/peanut mixture; stir to coat.

Microwave, uncovered, for 3 minutes, stirring a couple times.  Spread onto a large cookie sheet to cool.  Break apart and store in an air-tight container, if there is anything left to store after you start munching.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Finally...a chance to introduce Lucy!  It will be one week tomorrow that we brought her home, and I'm just now giving this girl her proper introduction?

First the whole story:  we had slowly been having snippets of conversations about getting another dog.  Slowly, mind you.  We though maybe in the Spring we'd talk about it.  Nothing serious.  I was pinning puppy pictures, so the puppy fever was burning, for sure.  I just miss that fuzzy little creature in our home.

On Saturday, I get a message from a friend that she has something she really thinks I need to see.  After a bunch of fumbling with technology, we finally got it together enough for me to see a picture of the sweetest little puppy that was looking for a home.  Relatives that got into a puppy situation and realized it was not the right time for them t have a puppy, and that the puppy needed a family.

Let's just say I fell very quickly for this puppy's face.  Brad too, and we set up a time to go see her that afternoon, without telling the kids anything.

And seeing her in person?  Hook, line and sinker...fell for this girl hard.  She is a miniature Goldendoodle, with much more Golden than Doodle.  So she'll be more of a miniature Golden Retriever.  Right now she's 4 months old and weighs 14 pounds, won't get much bigger than 25 pounds.

And she is the loveliest little lady.  Has a precious face, and a temperament to match.

She's had quite the week as a Carlson...trips to the park, a cross-country meet, went to visit a 1st-grade classroom, to the vet, to the pet store...we are one step away from a little sweater and a stroller for her.  I kid.  Believe me, I kid.  If I ever cross that line...please step forward and set me straight.  But I do love her a lot.

Here are some random We Love Lucy shots:

The girls meeting Lucy for the first time.  A sweet moment I will remember forever...Beth literally fell to her knees and wept, hugging her.  She is an animal lover to her core, and saying goodbye to Archie left a big hole in her heart.  Lucy's helping to fill that.
Beth trying to get a picture to send to her friends.
Brenna and Lucy!
Alex was extraordinarily surprised to get home that night and find Lucy waiting for him!
Walking in the park
I'm not sure what was happening, but this laughter on Brenna's face pretty much sums up the joy this little fur ball has brought them!
She was so worn out from the trip to the park, she fell asleep sitting up!
This is what Edgar thinks of it all.
Really now, what a cutie!
She came to us crate-trained and potty-trained.  She hasn't (knock on wood) had a single accident in the house.  She goes to the back door when she needs to go out.  She is crazy-hyper during her wild times, and loves to run.  Brad and Brenna took her for a short run this evening, Brenna has high-hopes of her being her running buddy!
So that is our Lucy story!  We are so happy to have her in our family!