Sunday, December 30, 2012

And the Ugliest Outfit Goes To. . .

Quite uncharacteristically, my son challenged his wife to a Christmas contest of sorts.  In place of a traditional gift exchange, they would buy each other "the ugliest outfit" possible to be worn on Christmas Eve.  As you can see, they both succeeded!  It is still up in the air who won, but Josh wore his "light up, homemade, complete with jingle bell" sweater to the Agler Christmas Eve get together.  Amanda, on the other hand, (who, I might add is the unofficial family stylist) was very reluctant to keep her Goodwill, baggy shift and mismatched outfit on for more than a few minutes.  They both were good sports about it and gave us all a great laugh and lots of good memories.  Which outfit would you vote for as the "ugliest"?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time to Move On

Jessica and Scott enjoying some music and entertainment at a wedding recently. 
I have not blogged since I wrote the post on the Sandy Hook tragedy.  It is time to move on and get back to the day to day living posts. 
I took very few photos this year during the holidays.  Having said that, I can report that we had a very nice holiday week full of family, food and fun.  Jim and Joanne came for a visit from California.  The kids had a very nice Christmas and received an electric scooter, remote control helicopter, new bike and nook color (Mason).  Maddie got a "Look Like Me" doll with accessories, a new bike, nook color and tickets to see Taylor Swift this summer.  We spent quite a bit of time around the table playing Hand and Foot, which is a card game similar to Canasta.  Randy ended up having to work some, as did Amanda and Jessica, but most of us are enjoying a week of vacation. (Okay, Josh and I are!).   What I am NOT looking forward to is getting back to work and the grind next Wednesday.  One sure gets spoiled by having time off.  My side of the family is planning a lake retreat in February to celebrate a winter holiday (belated Christmas!)  So we won't really be finished with the festivities until Valentine's Day.  I hope your season was fun, healthy and full of family.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No Answers

I apologize in advance for veering off my usual format of family activities and events.  One of the reasons I enjoy writing and posting to this blog is because I use writing as a sort of therapy for my life.  I have always found comfort and healing in writing about events that matter to me, that move me, that mystify me.  This post will not be a pleasant one to write, but I find it necessary to try to use this medium to organize my thoughts.
It was with shock that I learned about the Connecticut Elementary School shootings yesterday.  While still at work, I saw an early news feed about a shooting in an elementary school where they reported that one person was dead. I said a little prayer for the families involved, but I have to admit I didn't give it too much thought.  There have been so many shootings around our country this year, it seemed like a tragic, isolated event.   Later, at a department store in Columbia, Jessica called to ask me if I had heard the news.  The death count at that point was in the 20's.  Standing in the store looking at all the Christmas decorations and watching the crowd bustle around, the scene was almost surreal.  Suddenly shopping for the perfect Christmas gift didn't seem so important.  As I made my way to check out, I overheard several conversations, some by shoppers on their cell phone.  People were angry, people were sad, people kept asking questions such as "How did he get in the school?", "Why would anyone want to kill those small children?"  "Did they get him?" And then the question that I have heard many times in the last 12 hours, "What is this world coming to?"
There seemed to be a buzz in the air at the store, and not the usual shopping before the holiday, I have to get this done today buzz.  People were visibly upset.  I shortened my shopping trip and headed home.  I had lost my desire and drive to buy anything.
How could this be?  How is it possible that anyone could take powerful weapons and unload on innocent children?  And go to the children's safe place of learning and friendship and destroy the trust and innocence of all those children?  At the top of this blog, I posted a recent photo of my favorite little people, taken shortly after the school year started.  Maddison is a second grader at a school in our small town.  Mason is a kindergartner in the same school.   The school  keeps the doors locked and uses a buzzer system to screen people before they enter.  Mason, who now wears the cutest little glasses you have ever seen, is learning site words and "holiday" songs.  He has a Superhero lunchbox and backpack, which he hangs on a hook every day, right under his name.  He has a girlfriend, but won't share her name with us.  He gets sad when his friends get "think sheets", and even more sad when he sometimes gets one.  He beams from cute little ear to cute little ear when he brings home an award or a good note from his teacher.  He looks forward to seeing his friends every day, to playing at recess, to painting at art and to learning all he can to keep up with his big sister.  In the hall, as is the school rule, he uses his pointer finger as a Mr. Wiggle to greet his friends so the school halls will stay quiet.
Maddison is the "senior" at the same school.  She will move on to a new school next year, but this year she is in 2nd grade (and she whispered to me the other day that she has loved all her teachers, but she REALLY loves her teacher this year).  She takes care of her little brother the best she can.  She tried her hardest to prepare him for life at this school, but he sometimes wanders away from her advice.  She works very hard to catch up with a certain little boy in "rocket math".  She comes in second to him each week, but she is still very proud each time she reaches a new level.  She has gotten awards for excellence in art, good behavior and reading.  She just performed with the bell choir, and had to handle two hand bells and sheet music because several children were ill the day of the performance.  She loves to show her family around the school and point out her artwork on the walls.

I sometimes have the pleasure to pick up the kids after school.  Four school staff take GREAT care in making sure each child gets in the car they are supposed to.  Last week I was reflecting on how different this process is than when my children were in elementary school.  My children went to elementary school before Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Newtown.  The bell would ring and out would pour the 300 children.  Some to buses, some walking, some getting in with their parents or caregivers.  Those simple, innocent days are gone.  What hasn't changed is the broad smiles and the loaded backpacks that greet me when I arrive at the school.  The rush to share the day's events, both good and bad.  I remember similar conversations when Jessica and Josh were attending East Park School.

Maddison and Mason are like the millions of other elementary children in our country.  They go to school every day.  They have their routines, their joys, their sorrows.  They expect to be cared for, treated fairly and allowed to enjoy their lunch.  They know they will have assignments to do, but that there will also be time for friendship and fun.  They feel safe.  They don't worry about someone hurting them or the teachers they love.

This morning as I write this, I have questions burning in my mind.  First, I wonder and worry if what happened in Newtown will forever change the landscape of our schools for our youngest children?  How is it possible to keep our children safe when someone loaded with fire power is determined to kill them?  Randy and I discussed ways the schools could tighten security, but each way seemed very breach-able.  Even if the schools are locked down, the children still go out for recess.  Will all the schools have to put up privacy fences?
But the question I can't stop asking is how can anyone go into a school, where the walls are lined with drawings of rainbows and butterflies, where the hooks are filled with colorful backpacks and lunchboxes, where the little desks and tables are filled with children who raise their hands to be line leaders and open fire on them with loaded guns?  Could the shooter not see the pink bows in the little girls hair and the Spiderman ring on the little boys fingers?  Couldn't he tell that the children had on their school shoes so they could run the fastest at recess?  Didn't he know that the class would be working on site words or practicing rocket math?  How could he close his eyes to the children, their trusting faces and their bright futures.  How?
I pray for those families and for all the children in our country. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kitchen Explosion 2012

 Amanda and Jessica and I decided to have a cookie baking day recently.  The ingredients for all the cookies spilled over to the dining room table.  It was indeed a family affair, and all 8 of my immediate family participated in some way.  It was such a wonderful day.
 Okay, when I say "participated", I might add that at least one person thought their only role was taste tester.  He shall remain nameless.
 And the cookies began to pile up quickly.  The plan was for Amanda and Jessica to bake while I did the clean up.  At times I had trouble keeping up!
Josh and the little ones worked on a jigsaw puzzle while the women cooked.  It was such a nice way to spend a Sunday.  With all of our schedules, it is rare to have a whole day where all of us can be together.  The girls packed up most of the cookies and were planning to share them with co-workers and friends.  This was definitely a day for the memory books!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What a Week this Was!

 Maddison was awarded the Kiwanis Good Kid award at a school assembly.
 Papa turned 57 years old!  We celebrated with a small ooey gooey butter cake (purchased, not homemade, sigh!)
Maddison turned 8. . . with a lunch at a local restaurant.  She didn't want to be sung to, until she found out that with the music comes ice cream!

We also lost my sweet Aunt Connie, attended a big wedding celebration and had a baking day.  More pictures to come in the near future!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Looking for the Bright Spot

This has been a rotten week in my life journey.  Work has been difficult with long and tedious days, coworker frustrations and some serious multi-tasking to do.  We got word that my aunt was dying and that my sister was in the ER with accute stomach pains.  It turns out that my sister had a very bad gall bladder, which they removed and then my aunt passed away.  I pride myself on looking for the positives in life, so when I saw what Maddison had drawn on the easel, it just really lifted my spirits.  How can you not love a little girl who leaves these sort of messages around for you to find?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Room Renovation Maddison Style!

 After some hard work, the room is ready for the big reveal!
 Maddison was truely surprised by the "new room".

A very happy little girl!

Last weekend we spent the day helping redo Maddison's room.  She had outgrown her princess room and a new style was in order for the soon to be 8 year old.  Maddison loves horses, so Amanda decided to go with a horse themed room.  The green was a little extreme, but Maddie loves it and it does pull out the green in the horse comforter.  Amanda and Josh had secretly painted furniture and accessories prior to the room painting day.  Aunt Bea kept Maddison out for the day while the room was being redone.  The painting above her bed was Amanda's creation, along with some technical help from Josh.  Maddison's reaction was cute. . . she was a little overwhelmed as 7 of us watched her and snapped photos.  She is a modest little one and doesn't like a lot of attention focused on her.  She reported to me later that she LOVES her new room and the bed sleeps very well!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Horsing Around

We have been enjoying some lovely weather of late.  Last week we had the kids and decided to go visiting with some 4 legged neighbors.  I had just made some apple crisp, so I had a bag full of apple peels.  We took a short drive to the family farm and soon had a hungry horse come our way.  More than anything in the world, Maddison would like to have a horse of her very own.  For now she has to settle on an occasional visit and ride.  It was a lovely way to spend a few minutes with the kids.  I hope you are having a great weekend and enjoying some extra warm weather!