Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of the Year Review

I reviewed  my posts of 2011 and chose the bits that made me laugh.


  1. And besides, I love doing these sort of projects. Unlike parenting, it was fast, uncomplicated, and I did a pretty good job.
  2. Best laid plans of mice and moms…and all that.
  3. I swear my kids have to start off brilliant because the best we can hope for is that by the time they are school age, they will be down to normal intelligence.
  4. We don’t raise no cowards here at the ranch. Not much in way of manners, either, but no fear.
  5. If I ever get a Facebook Page, which will happen about the same time I stop self-medicating with dark chocolate, my status will continually read:

Cleaning the Kitchen

  1. But then they stopped cold turkey, like “clean up” was a drug they needed to purge
  2. So it was about 3 o’clock or so, after giving up on Wesley’s fifth naptime attempt that I screamed—within 10 feet of all three children, not behind closed doors—“This day SUCKS!!!” This is not a word I want to input into their vocabularies, but occasionally I like to share feelings with my children. It helps them remember I am not just a robot slave programmed for their convenience.
  3. St. Dwayne eventually came home with Valentine’s gifts for us all and the day finally ended, as all days are wont to do if you give them enough time. 24 hours, to be exact.
  4. One of the (ahem, few) advantages of young children is that they don’t follow the calendar
  5. “Fixing” looks similar to “breaking” in the Need household….
  6. Wesley and Stephen are learning that sand is not just for eating. They are considering the ramifications of such an idea.
  7. He got his pants soaked through the first minute he was near the water. My brothers might uncharitably, but truthfully, mutter under their breaths “just like his mother.”
  8. (Did the fearless gene completely override the intelligence gene? Yes. Yes, it did.)
  9. If I can take a moment to say that, currently, Piper’s endearing habits are much fewer than her infuriating ones. That’s neither here nor there for you, the reader, but it’s making a big difference in the pleasantness of my days.
  10. Once he has had his lunch, Daddisaurus needs dessert, preferably a plant-eater.
  11. But November isn’t all about waiting for plants to die.
  12. Let it not be said that our home is quiet, or that our children are smart enough to do 3-man wrestling on a carpeted surface. Because neither would be true.

Ending Well

We had been looking forward to an NYE party at a friend’s house, but with Piper and Wesley just finishing the croup, Wesley half-way through medications for a severe ear infection, Piper on the first day of medication for a similar infection, and Kyla vomiting a few times over a few days—in addition to the runny noses they’ve all had—we ended up spending the last evening of the year a little more quietly and solitary than we had wanted.

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My beloved knew I was disappointed, so he made a plan to cheer me up by making a very special dinner. For us, he made lobster tail, Kyla asked for and received steak and peas, Piper shrimp and corn. We had crème brulee and dark chocolate truffles for dessert.

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Okay, it cheered me up perfectly.

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We did get out of the house a bit.  Bellevue Square had a special New Year’s edition of Snow Flake Lane.  The SnowStorm is a new addition this year. They know exactly how cool they are!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Break at the Zoo

To celebrate the last day I can go across the 520 bridge without tolls, I took the kids to the zoo today.  The warm rain kept crowds away, and we had an excellent time! 


The Willawong Station was open and I had exactly $3 to buy three 12-28 zoo 10seed sticks.  I love this and it’s even more fun to see my kids so excited—and simultaneously terrified—to feed the birds.

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(This is the peppermint candy scarf I made for Piper.)

I came up with a new game that the girls got into.  On a notepad, I wrote the letters A-Z.  Then we tried to find as many animals with corresponding letters as possible.  We were only there a few hours, so only got about half the letters, but we’ll bring it next time, too.  Hopefully the zoo has an X-ray fish somewhere!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Kyla hasn’t pulled this since she was two, but she took almost everything from her bedroom, brought in things from out of her bedroom, and in one hour, managed to do this:12-27 Kyla's Messy room

She said she had made a fort and was decorating it.  Although I hung up the dresses for her, she had to clean up the rest of it herself.  It took her two hours.

New Clothes

The girls got some new clothes from Christmas and they are so darn cute how they were them.  Kyla’s favorite color is purple, in case you didn’t catch that.

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(Kyla started the scarf project by wanting me to knit her a scarf.  She chose purple, of course.)

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Wesley got some 2T clothes (which is wonderful!), but even though he will be two in 23 days, he won’t be big enough for these for a long, long time.  But his scarf fits!

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Good morning, Santa!

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Kyla got a doll that is more like a baby, and will be Dolly’s sister.

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Piper was excited about everything in her stocking!

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This was Wesley’s first time getting presents that he could actually open himself!  (Wesley’s first birthday was 11 months ago.) He really likes the scarf I knitted him, the balls he got, and his RC car which doesn’t actually work. 

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The rest of the day was family, friends, and fun.  We turned on the Kinect (the X-box accessory that allows you to play full-body without controllers) which is so fun for everyone Piper’s age to Grandpa’s age (and I’m sure he creamed my in bowling!)


Aunt Julie made these superhero capes herself.  It’s the sort of homemade that is far superior to store bought.  Wesley has one, too.

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I loved how Kyla and Piper dressed up for the big day!

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I just love this shot of the cousins playing!

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

Annual Christmas Letter

December 12-14 , 2011
#1Dear Friends,
Merry Christmas! I hope this letter finds you in good cheer in this jolliest of seasons. In our home, the magic of Christmas still comes with spilled milk, soiled diapers, stinky laundry, and spotted carpets, but somehow it all looks a little better under Christmas lights.
L.M. Montgomery wrote, and I paraphrase, that “every baby is a new chance for perfection.” My babies were all such perfect newborns and remained so for about a year. Now we are all one year further away from that earlier perfection. Kyla, at five, has almost four years of accumulated flaws (but Dwayne and I have 37 years, so she’s looks good in comparison). Piper is a bit of an overachiever and, at 3 ¾, is trying to get as many flaws as Kyla. Wesley is very verbal almost-two year old who was trying to keep up with his sisters, but now has branched out into creating original flaws. His latest is being able to get into the goodies we hide on top of the refrigerator. I’ve returned to the kitchen to find Wesley with powdered sugar on his shirt and funny breath. The kid ATE MY RUMBALLS! Seriously flawed indeed, you will agree.
But being a Christmas letter, I am supposed to brag a bit more about my family. Let’s see what I can come up with.
Kyla spent most of 2011 as Kylasaurus (a misunderstanding of ankylosaurus). Unfortunately, a kylasaurus is a plant eater and frequently comes under attack by Daddisaurus, a notorious carnivore. This year, she achieved a lifelong dream by catching her first fish. Not only that, but Kyla learned to ride a two-wheel bike and swim unassisted, though neither completely without danger to herself or others! My favorite quotation of hers this year is, “I must be a really brave girl to have all those owies!” I’ve said it before— I swear my kids have to start off brilliant because the best we can hope for is that by the time they are school age, they will be down to normal intelligence. As it is, at preschool, our, um, future valedictorian likes recess and snack best. During our daily reading lessons—because I can’t help myself—she’d rather sit on her head than her bottom—because she can’t help herself. She makes me laugh a lot, though usually a day or so afterward.
I used to think that Piper never whines, but I listened closely one day and realized that, yes, Piper can also be whiney. It’s just often drowned out by her sister’s impossible-to-miss wails. Piper embraces all things animal. There is a kids’ show called “Diego” that is about a young boy who is an animal rescue ranger. Every time she watches it, she comes up and says, “I am a baby [anaconda, okapi, chinchilla, armadillo] and you are my mama.” Tonight, her entire dinner was protein sap, broccoli sap, and noodle sap because marmosets eat, well, I bet you can guess. Last year, I wrote that Piper is basically unpunishable. That is still true, but is seems more that she really just has her own agenda and is unaffected by others’ attempts to have a different agenda. It is a cliché, but she is her own drummer and she might be using lollipops instead of drumsticks. She is the kid that I wish I had been. . . and my mother is probably thanking God that I was not.
Wesley, who will be two in January, doesn’t know how much he is messing with my up-to-date and researched ideas on gender differences. My old theory is that thoughtful parenting should all but neutralize culturally and commercially construed biases. My new clip_image001theory is that Wesley is a boy. My tomboys’ first words were “uh-oh.” Wesley’s was “ball”. His second was “my ball”. He seemed to instinctively know the rules for sword-fighting with other boys. Rule 1: Hit swords, not people. Rule 2: Almost anything can be a sword. As you can see from our card, he is still a habitual finger-sucker (and hand-holder). He’s as physical as his sisters and was able to do pretty amazing things on the trampoline before he was ever weaned. That’s a bit of a family joke, because everything he can do now is something he’s done before being weaned. When he comes up with those big blue eyes and quite clearly says, “Mama, nurse,” he’s not asking for medical attention. I keep telling myself that I am going to nurse him out of his asthma. (He’s our only one with wheezing problems, but with the Need-Kruger genes, we’re lucky we only have one!) But my real reason for having a nursing baby is that Dwayne hasn’t taken me away to a tropical locale for a week sans children. We hope to remedy that in 2012. (Anyone want to join us? We are thinking late February.)
Dwayne has had an up and down year at work. Ten years ago, he began work for a project called WPF. Dwayne’s position increased as the size of the team decreased and he began this year as the head of the 14 person team. That team is now at four and one more is being reassigned soon. WPF is not going to be around much longer so Dwayne, after much consideration, will be starting a new team at Microsoft this January. I was hoping he would accept the X-Box offer, because when people ask me what he does, I could tell them with some authority. Alas, he is taking a position on the Systems Center team, and if you want to know what that is, you will have to ask him yourself. But, as frustrating as work was at times, Dwayne continually cheered himself by building more walls and stair sets in our backyard. As he still has pallets of building block left from his paternity leave when Piper was born (2008), I suspect he will spend plenty more May-Octobers quite cheerfully.
I am still working hard on my thesis “No Good Parenting Goes Unpunished”, coming out sometime 2025. Field research includes baking with my children, teaching them to clean up after themselves, and cooking them healthy meals. This is my fourth year volunteering to read to kids in a shelter a few nights a month. I’m in a book club, and our playgroup has slowly morphed into a moms’ night out drinking club. We started off with coffee, but have moved to wine now that the kids are older. [What will we be drinking when they are teens?] I spent hundreds of hours in our front yard moving rocks, cleaning them, then moving them back again. Few things made me happier, but that is a subject for a longer letter.
It was when I ran out of rocks that I discovered the true secret to happiness: afternoon preschool. I didn’t realize how quickly my grasp on sanity was slipping, having all three kids for ten hours a day, until September came. Kyla and Piper started Montessori preschool four afternoons a week. Wesley, God bless him, falls asleep in the car after we drop off the girls and naps until it is time to pick his sisters up again. I can tell you how much happiness costs—preschool tuition for two. It’s about the same as therapy and I can clean my house!
Whenever life seems to be getting a little too easy (defined as just under control), I habitually throw another ball into the air. We’ve had housemates for most of the year, including of friend of mine who had shared custody of a daughter who is about Kyla’s age, so we have a good sense of what having a fourth child would be like. We also babysat overnight for a few kids, sometimes temporarily bringing our household up to six kids under six. Good practice for getting our foster license again. In fact, we’ve submitted all the paperwork, which means we are about a tenth of the way there. We started this so that we could do respite (temporary overnight care) for some friends of ours who are currently fostering. We will probably have the license the day after they are no longer foster parents.
In other news, even though we don’t have any new kids, I do have a new sister! Brian married a practically perfect young lady in April. Though neither practical nor perfect myself, I adore Sandi and appreciate how happy she has made my brother. Keith and Julie have their darling young boy, my nephew Parker. He clearly has no Need genes, which is why at 15 months, he is still perfect himself. As our kids all get older, it will be fun to tease out the differences in genetics between cousins.
Our kids may not look like him, but they all got the “never boring” gene that may be Dwayne’s only dominate one. It was that trait that made this year’s family vacation even more enjoyable. We met up with Dwayne’s parents and oldest brother’s family in Sunriver, OR. The twelve of us shared a cabin—and lives—for a week in July. All week, we biked, caroused, and ate together. I was a little wary of how great a vacation with young kids—who sleep best in their own beds at home—would be, but I’m now a believer and loved the quantity of quality time with loved ones.
Speaking of quantity, it seems I’ve gone a little overboard in this year’s letter. Since it would take me another full night to pare it down to a page, you are just going to get the whole thing. Think of it as coal in your stocking….or an extra gift under the tree, depending upon how much it entertained you.
Dwayne and I send you our love and prayers for a meaningful Christmas, a time when every baby is a small remembrance of the Christ child.
Denise, for Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, and Wesley

* * * * *
You can email Denise at or follow our family blog at Or you can choose not to and likely still have a fulfilling life.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gingerbread House

Let’s be Frank.  (Or whatever your name is.)

Gingerbread houses have very little to do with ginger and everything to do with candy, Candy, CANDY.  Even the frosting is just a glue for all the sweets. 

One tradition I can say is all mine is doing candy houses on Christmas Eve day.  We deliberately chose to do this during Wesley’s nap.  Can you guess why?

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Spirit

We live at the end of a private cul de sac, with approximately three neighbors who drive past our house on a regular basis.  But it is important to decorate because I like it.  12-24 Wes and Piper outside lights 6

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Since I’m still glowing from this summer’s dry creek bed/bridge project, I thought that the project should glow as well.  I have white lights on the bridge, and blue lights coming under and pooling near the reindeer.  The deer was a tangle of lights in my neighbor’s attic and she happily gave him to me if I wanted to sort it out.  Three hundred lights later (and a few nights in front of the TV), he shines again.12-24 Wes and Piper outside lights 4


The same neighbor decorated the tree for daytime beauty.  12-24 Wes and Piper outside lights 8


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Mostly, I take these pictures so I can review next year and do the same thing more easily.  And perhaps to cheer myself up in January and February.  If I ever take the lights down. 

Reindeer Festival

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Dwayne’s parents live in Brasil and can’t exactly “pop” over for the holidays.  But they sent us some money to get gifts for the kids.  I thought a Santa train experience would be perfect, as did everyone else, which is why all three in the Puget Sound area were completely sold out long before I even considered looking.  Then we found the Reindeer Festival at Cougar Mountain Zoo, where Santa’s reindeer actually live year round! 

We learned that Rudolph, the youngest reindeer, is only about 1500 12-23 Reindeer Fesitival 036years old.  He has a red nose, but in this age of energy conservation, he only uses it at night during the training flights so the reindeer can see.  He (but actually she, as the females usually keep theirs longer) has an impressive set of antlers and the kids feed him/her and teammates apple pieces.

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I think this old warrior is Blitzen.  He’s the oldest buck whose rack is so mature that it actually forms what are called eye guards—pieces to protect his eyes during the reindeer games.  (Cupid was down to one set of antlers, as she didn’t come off so well in said games.)

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Santa welcomed visitors at the top of Reindeer Peak.

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Hey, kids, is this exciting?!

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In Santa’s workshop, kids could write letters to Santa and put it in the mailbox right there, or just draw him a picture. 

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The rest of the zoo included Bengal tigers, emus, lemurs, cranes, and some alpacas and mule deer.  It’s a small zoo, but they add an “Enchanted Forest” of animal statues to stretch in the entertainment.

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All the animals got to explain how they help Santa get ready for the big day.  The tigers share their stripes to make candy canes, and the alpacas are the reindeer for the Southern Hemisphere. 

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Say cheese, Pipes!

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Aw, shucks.  12-23 Reindeer Fesitival 057


I want this sign in our house.

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Piper and Wesley feed the alpacas until our quarters ran out.  Kyla thought it would be better to keep her fingers than give these animals more treats.

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All gone!

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It’s never a complete trip until we all stick our heads in the alligator’s jaws.

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Our ’appy family!

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Thanks for the fantastic family adventure, Grandma and Grandpa!  We loved it and love you!

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The End.