Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Letter

I love writing my Christmas letter, and clearly do it for my, myself, and I, as well as my children’s future enjoyment.  But I like to force others to read it as well. 


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December 14-19, 2013

Dear Loved Ones,

If you are looking forward to a cheerful Christmas letter chockfull of darling children and heart-warming family moments, well, my friend, start a fire with this and move on to the next on your pile.  It’s not anything particular about 2013; it’s more that it’s Year Seven of being a stay-at-home, which is probably two years longer than I should have signed up for.  However, with the help of a voodoo doctor, a few revelations, and a little Peace & Quiet, this year has shaped up just fine. 

My mother says that I’ll forget about all the trouble Wesley causes someday. I reply, “Blog.” And then we both laugh, because his antics made good copy but lousy daily life. Perhaps you remember my failed attempts to sell Wesley when he was two. He was off the market for most of his third year, but recently I’ve considered putting him back up.  In a physically affectionate family, he is the most snuggly and huggly; he can also throw the biggest, loudest, longest, and least provoked tantrums (and this is with Piper as his competition!).  As I scratch my head to find something nice to write about the kid who has given me lots of writing material, I can at least brag that he learned to ride a two-wheeled bike last spring, totally rocked a Mohawk this summer (like Daddy!), and he is excited to learn to read (I think he wants to learn bomb-making on the internet).  He turns four in a month and will spend next year in as many preschools as I can schedule. 

Piper added to her childhood legend by choosing to spend her first day of kindergarten sitting in the office instead of cooperating in class. (Day 2 was much better.)  She still doesn’t really care what anyone thinks of her, and if she wants something, she figures out pretty ingenious ways of accomplishing her objective.  Piper is not so much manipulative as she simply doesn’t recognize obstacles.  “Obstacle? What obstacle?  I don’t see any obstacles,” she says as she trods all over them. She is going to make an awesome and effective adult, I keep reminding myself as I try to help us both survive her childhood.  Her passion is animals and babies, and she loves being the keeper of our two new kittens.  She spent much of her 5th year watching babies—of all species—being born through the wonders of youtube.com.  I can’t even predict what she’ll pursue as a six-year-old.

Kyla, now seven, has been through the biggest changes this year.  She had some really challenging behaviors that, coming from Kyla and not her siblings, raised some red flags.  We ended up at a nutritionist (aka voodoo doctor) and found she had a sensitivity to wheat, corn, and nightshade vegetables—basically all the common GMO foods. (And just as I perfected my bread recipe!) Then she went from acing Kindergarten to really struggling by the end of the year.  Turns out she is dyslexic, something I didn’t know very much about even though I have a BA in Education/English, a MA in Special Education, and have mostly finished my Reading Specialist endorsement.  Kyla has been my best course work yet and I provide her private tutoring in addition to her regular schooling. 

Dyslexia does some odd things.  Primarily, it means that the super-highway Piper and I (and most likely you, dear reader) have between the parts in our brain that connect letters to sounds and sounds to words is, for Kyla, more like a bunch of back country roads she has to build herself.  This lack of a super-highway actually has some compensations. The right hemisphere of a dyslexic is about 10% bigger than a non-dyslexic and they are often unconventional thinkers.   For me, bibliophile that I am, it has meant embracing “ear-reading” as just as valid as “eye-reading”.  The books that Kyla can eye-read are pretty tedious, so she spends hours a day devouring audio books that I didn’t read until I was much, much older.  So now she’s this odd mix of being a really well-read 1st grader who can barely read; her vocabulary is off the charts and her spelling is atrocious. After weeks of daily practice, she still often misspells “of”, but she can rattle off the causes and effects of the Great Stock Market Crash (thank you, American Girl books!).   School is going to be quite the adventure for many, many years.

Dwayne is continually and inexplicably charmed by all of our children.  A much more generous person would see that as a positive sign of parental love; I prefer to think that he doesn’t spend enough time with them.  (Seven years, my friends!)   While he wants them to stay this age forever, he can see advantages of them all being big enough to help him build The Great Walls of N.  Every pharaoh needs a slave force, but I suspect that since every block he uses weighs more than any of our children, he may have a long wait.  I am still understandably charmed by my husband, and his conversation and cooking abilities are only part of his appeal. Oh, yes, Dwayne is still happily at Microsoft and is looking forward to Santa bringing him an XBOX One.  I’m hoping Santa brings him one as well, because the stores are sold out. 

Me?  Once I got over the shock that my child—my child—has a reading disability, I became zealous about learning everything I could about, well, everything related to literacy. We’ll see if I open up my own charter school someday.  I’m realizing that my theme this year has been turning from frustration into fascination.  Kyla’s issues were very, very frustrating to me until we got a better grasp on them, and since, I’ve been fascinated with dyslexia and now desire to be an agent of change up to the state legislative level.  I’ve become awed by Piper’s capabilities and potential, and I have some hope that even Wesley may become less aggravating.  Eventually.

The kittens?  Well, this house already has enough “cute” in it that I certainly didn’t need any more.  But, as we’ve already established, Dwayne seems to be enchanted by Cute Things That Poop. So we have two kittens now that are going to be tossed out on their adorable, stinky bottoms as soon as they are big enough to outrun raccoons.

My happy place this year, besides anywhere Quiet, is the cabin, christened “Heartsease”. The kids are old enough to not drown when we play for hours at the beach, so I can read between uttering, “But we just had lunch” to each kid. I am taking a few more graduate courses, volunteering heaps, and will begin tutoring again in the new year. I’ve read more than fifty books this year, most surprisingly intellectual (someone recommend some good smut, STAT!). I actually clean the kitchen far more often than I read, but I don’t like to dwell on that.

We have a Bethlehem Star on our back porch, brightening the dark street below us. I don’t want to imply in any way that the Christ Child lives here, per se, but our prayer is that you, too, find what you seek.


Denise, for Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, and Wes

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