December 13-15, 2014
Dear Loved Ones*,
2014 has been fantastic—I haven’t been personally responsible for a $4000 water leak this year, and I’ve increased my “winning” streak of buying non-working appliance to 5 in a row. I’m calling Guinness when I get to six. Dwayne and I both celebrated fortieth birthdays this year--a good excuse for the gray we both sport. My cellulite has hungrily attacked all my “give-a-damn” cells, which is an especially fine trade off. The kids make good case studies and writing material, and the place in my head is a diverting spot to be.
Do you remember the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Calvin and Susie get into a terrorist-level snowball fight, and the last panel leaves Calvin soggy, groggy, and convinced that Santa “is going to skip this block for years”? He was also in his element and seemingly content with his lot in life. I’m pretty sure at least half the Need household is getting coal this year, but maybe on the whole, it was worth it.
Kyla could be one of those rigorously scheduled kids with practices and clubs every day. Except substitute extracurricular activities for vision therapy and reading tutoring and that pretty much fills up her days. Kyla’s school career has added far more to my résumé than all my post-grad work combined. I didn’t know a kid with 20/20 eyesight wouldn’t have the visual acuity to read. But vision screening just measures how well you can see something 20 feet away, not if you can focus on the page 12 inches from you…as she and I have learned. She’s still quite dyslexic, but her eyes are getting strong enough to sustain a reading lesson. With her persistence and confidence, she’s the right kid to have such learning disabilities, even when my heart aches for her struggles. She’s been fortunate to have a teacher who not only reads kid writing and spelling, but can actually read Kyla writing and spelling. It is a true super power!
Of course, Kyla is far more than a kid with dyslexia. She sounds like a book when she speaks. Correction, she sounds like a long book when she speaks. Most recently, she’s started to refer to herself in the third person. I’m always hearing what a sweet girl she is. I often think so, but with Piper and Wesley as her foils, it’s hard to be objective. But her wheat-free diet really seems to have helped and she’s back to being a darling who wants to do her part to contribute to her family and the world. I love that she (ear-) reads more than I do and that she fiercely loves her ragdoll, her little brother and even Piper, against Piper’s objections.
Thanks to BBC’s Sherlock, we all know the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. Fortunately, Piper is merely the latter. Piper desperately wants to be an only child. Instead of spending her nearly 7 years on Earth acclimating to being a second-born, she seems to be actively maladjusting. She draws family pictures that “don’t have enough room on the paper” for Kyla and Wesley. She’s plenty bright, and occasionally uses her literacy skills to write hate mail to her siblings, which thankfully they can’t yet read. But I have spies and she has been caught holding Kyla’s hand as they walk home from school together and she sometimes reads Marvel comics to Wesley instead of hitting him. When a cat goes streaking from a forbidden part of the house wearing a pink doll skirt, I know to shout “PIIIIIIIIII-PER”. But I can’t fully write off a child who stays up way too late reading books after lights-out, much like her own mother used to do and still does. Her fierce streak of independence suits my style of parenting. I don’t waste too much time banging my head against the brick wall she likes to climb, and we’re both happier for it.
As threatened, I enrolled Wesley in as many preschools as I could schedule. The promised land is still a year and a half away, when Wesley is in school full time. I often forget that he’s a good looking kid, which may have to be his future meal ticket, since he has no brains to speak of. This year’s acronym, NOB, was inspired by our son, who usually wins the daily “Not Our Brightest” award. When Kyla began vision therapy last spring, we gave Wesley some of the same exercises, and he immediately covered his eyes and hid. Now he, too, is in therapy. The good news is that he will complete the program before he starts Kindergarten. Last year, he rocked the two wheel bike. This year, as a 4 year old, he taught himself to roller blade, ice skate, skate board and pogo stick, sometimes simultaneously. I’m just waiting for him to add knife-throwing to the mix. He wears shorts every day that is technically above freezing (Mama’s rule) and is becoming a fairly innovative superhero. He found 6 long sticks, changed into a long-sleeve shirt (on purpose!) and stuck 3 into each sleeve for Wolverine claws. The kid makes me wheeze from laughter, but not always in the moment.
Dwayne’s exciting news is that he has been granted an 8 week sabbatical at work. Stay tuned in about five years for when we actually take advantage of it. Dwayne also handily wins Lover of the Year award for surprising me with a river cruise on the Danube from Germany through Austria to Hungary this summer. (The inspiration for a year abroad…it’s for the children, I swear!) The kids stayed with my parents while we ran around palaces and cathedrals. There were several times I wished Kyla had been there knowing she would love the history and artifacts as much as I did, but I did spent more time writing that one week than I have all autumn.
I continue my usual recommended therapy of dark chocolate and projects. The day before school started, Dwayne and I took a sledge hammer to Kyla’s room and began a quick remodel that lasted into October. I caught my breath and then started converting part of the garage into a mudroom, which ironically, is now one of the nicer rooms in the house. Then a quick master bedroom update. But my stay-at-home status should be updated to stay-at-school since that’s where I spend most of the school days doing everything I can to be on staff without the paycheck…or the responsibilities.
The cookies are calling, so I’m going to break a personal rule and conclude in the same way I did last year.
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.
With heaps of love,
Denise, for Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, and Wes
*I told myself I can eat all the rum balls I want as soon as I finish our Christmas letter. To make this fair, perhaps you should read this with a plateful of cookies. Or a shot of rum. [Dwayne: Why it is always either/or for you? “And” is a conjunction, too!]