Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's the Prep Work...

I love to cook. It's not something I grew up doing. My mom got a little stressed out while in the kitchen, so there aren't many fond memories of standing by her elbow or licking the spoon. Usually I stayed away while she worried over whatever she was making not being perfect or not looking like it did in the cookbook. She was a good person, but a wee bit of a perfectionist.

However, I married a man who enjoys cooking and even more than that, he supports me in the things I try to do. I learned to cook when I moved out and married him. Now we have turf wars in the kitchen..husband and wife sparring over who gets the spatula. ;) (In a good-natured way, of course. :) )

This morning I was dicing onions and celery for potato salad and macaroni salad. (In honor of the spring weather, we're grilling and I had a taste for those side dishes of my childhood.) It was so incredibly relaxing to be slicing and dicing while potatoes and macaroni were bubbling away on the stove. It felt right and good.

I enjoy cooking things "from scratch". I get such a huge sense of accomplishment from these "homey" tasks. Gathering the ingredients, chopping, measuring, stirring..creating. The time it takes doesn't bother me, neither do the bowls (although the Husband is very helpful with the dishes too...he's a good guy.). I enjoy the prep work of the meal because I like to see how the pieces fit together to combine a dish.

Our whole life is prep work isn't it? We prepare for the steps we're taking (usually) and even if we don't prepare for a specific step, we are constantly growing toward a future, making choices and learning how to cope with whatever the outcome of our choices and the choices of others might be.

Our faith, our families and our friends, they're the ingredients that make our lives so delicious. Sometimes we might not like the way the dish turns out, but we get to choose how we react to we keep eating the same pasty, flavorless dish, do we spit it out and refuse to take one more bite, or do we tweak our recipe and give it another shot? I believe that we have to tweak the recipe, because maybe the little tweak (and a lot of faith) is all we need.

For the record..I have given birth to world's most finicky children so I tweak my recipes...A LOT!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Cannot Believe It...

No. Seriously. I really can't.

Yesterday I went for my regular OB appointment. He decided to keep my due date at August 25th instead of moving to 9/2 as indicated by the ultrasound I had a few weeks ago, because he said it's "only seven days..we'll play it by ear." Fine.

Then he got out the Doppler to hear the heartbeat. And he tried and tried and finally he said, "There, do you hear it?" "No, but if you say so." (Mind you I was biting my lip and trying not to cry, because I most certainly did not hear it and I was a more than a little bit freaked out.) He said he did hear it but my heartbeat was so loud it made it difficult to distinguish it so he would send me next door for an ultrasound so I could hear it and he could get a better idea of heart rate.

The receptionist got them to "squeeze me in" an hour and a half later..a very long hour and a half. I was the only person there so I wonder if I was cutting into the lunch hour? the heartbeat right away and she said the baby was moving around so much it would explain why the heartbeat was difficult to get on the Doppler. Tears of relief, let me tell you! So she looked around and I don't remember her exact words but she said something that led me to believe she could tell the gender. I quickly told her that if she could tell, please write it down so the Husband and I could find out together. She said, "OK." and moved on.

She then did lots of looking around, measuring and such. She asked if I was scheduled for a Level II U/S. She said that most patients of AMA (Advanced Maternal Age) get one and they are done at the hospital. My OB hadn't mentioned it...yet. She spent a lot of time measuring the head and even more time looking at the heart. She said the baby was moving around so much it was difficult to get good images...and I hope I'm just being a nervous Nellie, but I wasn't convinced she didn't see "something" that wasn't right.

We finished up and she said she'd leave my envelope at the desk. I called the Husband, told him we had a heartbeat and an envelope and headed home.

After 5 boys, I must tell you that I unfolded the paper saying, "You know it's going to say boy." It said, "It's a Girl!" with a smiley face. Shock and awe...that is an accurate description.

I want to call her and ask, "How sure are you?" (At my 15 week ultrasound she said she wasn't convinced it was a boy but she also said she will not say unless she's sure....) I am still not convinced. :) I don't have any pictures for "proof" and I just cannot believe it.

The boys were surprised. *E* is very excited because he has been saying he wanted a sister. He told me he "knew it was a girl." The other boys are happy, but *C* keeps saying, "What if we buy girl stuff and it's really a boy?" That's crossed my mind too.

That and, what if there's something wrong? She said she was sending the report over stat and I didn't hear from the Dr. yesterday but maybe I wouldn't? I'm not inviting trouble and I'm doing my best not to worry about problems that may not exist.

I am thankful that right now, we appear to have a healthy baby girl. I was a very girly girl. I still prefer wearing skirts and dresses and Oh My Gosh..I'm going to get to buy dresses and those cute patterned tights..and pink things. And I am scared too...because I understand being a mom to boys and I love my boys...and this girl thing is new. And she doesn't have a name yet because we'd only picked a name for a boy and we're having trouble agreeing. And maybe I'm afraid it's not a girl and I don't want to get my heart set on having a daughter.

Because you see, I'd really gotten used to the idea that I was going to be a mom of all boys (which is one of those conversation stoppers/starters ;) ) and hoped for daughters-in law that liked me and maybe some granddaughters to spoil..Someday. In the very. Distant. Future.

Thank you God, for blessing us with this precious baby, a gift from You. My heart overflows with love for these children. It is truly a privilege and an honor to be their mom.


Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm Available...

Last night I was helping *I* fall asleep. This involves helping him stay in bed. I lie next to him with my arm around him, tightly enough that he can't get up but loosely enough that he can roll around and get comfortable. If I sit on the floor next to the bed, it looks (and feels) more like I'm tending goal, trying to keep him in the bed.

He lies staring at the top bunk, listening to the occupant turn pages in his book, get in and out of bed ("I have to go to the bathroom."), rustle papers because he's doing Origami ("Stop with the paper," I whisper forcefully.)

*I's* eyes are wide open. I'm not sure he even blinks. I try to be patient and use the time to think, pray, meditate...not get annoyed at how long it's taking him to fall asleep. I remember that this is only a season in his life, that eventually he won't want me snuggling him to sleep.

Last night I thought of a phrase in the book Real Moms...Real Jesus by Jill savage founder of Hearts at Home. "Ministry of Availability" is ministering to the people right in front of you; spouse, children, friends, the person in the checkout line....I was in ministry last night to my children.

It was helpful to remember that when *C* opened the door (providing much excitement to *I* who popped up to see who was joining the party.) I had heard him go downstairs looking for the Husband but he was out picking up *J*. *C* asked, "Mom, what's sex?" (In my head I'm screaming, "WHAT!!!!") Me: "What do you mean?" C: "Like in Humpback whales mating." Me: "That's how they have babies." C: "OK." (In case you're wondering, he was watching "Life" on The Discovery Channel.) I'm glad I was available and could answer his question in a way that both of us were comfortable with. (Mostly ;) )

It was also helpful to remember this as *I's* eyelids got heavy and I was starting to plan my departure. (TV remote and dessert here I come!) The top bunk occupant dropped his book on the floor. THUD. *I's* eyes fly wide open. I grind my teeth because speaking to the offender will only make more noise...instead my laser beam eyes are burning holes right through the offender's pillow. ;)

Five minutes later, *I* is sound asleep. I get up, wave and blow a kiss to top bunk man. I am off duty but should the need arise, I will be available...bad dreams or round 1,364 of the stomach flu (it's been a rough season) I'll be there. And I'm OK with that.


Friday, March 26, 2010

I don't know the answer...

There are cultures where answering "I don't know" is considered the epitome of rudeness. Some consider admitting a lack of knowledge an unacceptable blow to their pride. But, when my kids ask me a question and I don't know the answer, I admit my ignorance. I also offer to help them find the answer.

Pondering questions and finding answers is something I enjoy. Nothing like doing research to jump start my brain and get the synapses firing.

But there are some questions and issue which don't have a simple answer. The issues are complex and the opinions...well, they're all over the map.

I don't enjoy discussing politics because I prefer to avoid confrontation. I consider myself a moderate. I try to look at the different sides, weigh pros and cons, and think things through. I like to research the issues and find the biases. (I have yet to find a media source that doesn't have bias...when I was taking journalism classes in college, bias was supposed to be a no no but things have apparently changed. ;) )

Because I really do try to be informed and think about things, it makes me a little nuts when people say something to the effect of...if you disagree with me, you're obviously not thinking. I am not quite sure what makes the person with the opposing viewpoint believe that they have better cognitive skills than I do, but I assure you, I am capable of fairly complex, rational thought.

I do not claim to have answers to the ills of the world. But I do know this day and is unconscionable to me that people go hungry and cannot afford adequate medical care. I do believe that people should be contributing members of society, that hard work should lead to success and that people should be able to keep what they earn. But it's not always that simple..ethical practices aren't always rewarded and life isn't always fair. Sometimes bad things happen to good people (and good things happen to people who maybe aren't so good.)

My mother used to shake her head and tell me "You can't save the world." But I know that my mother was prone to random acts of kindness and generosity toward strangers. (I've got some good stories. :) ) I think that's why I feel like need should be addressed and it's not just about being "deserving" or whether "I" got through it so you should do it's about compassion and generosity and hospitality.

There are plenty of Biblical examples for reaching out...Matthew 22:37 NIV "Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 25:40 NIV "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

So no, I do not know the answer to the ills of the world. I don't know the best way to fix the health care crisis, or how to feed all of the hungry or end poverty. But I do believe we are called to care for our neighbor, whether or not we deem them worthy.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm Not All That...

My life isn't that hectic. My life isn't that busy. I really don't find myself stretched that thin.
Please, don't assume that because I have 5 kids I have that much more on my plate. I really don't feel as though I do.

Lots of people talk about how busy they are but I guess I'm just a slacker. My kids aren't involved with tons of activities so it limits the amount of running around I need to do. We do a lot of things together on weekends or evenings, but as far as lots of activities...they are often once or twice a month and I don't think it's my duty as a parent to get every kid involved in something every season. I just don't roll that way. Three of them are playing baseball this spring so I imagine we'll have a few tense days if they each have a game at a different field in different parts of town at the same time...we'll manage, I'm sure. life is just not that funny. I just don't have tons of "laugh 'til milk (or other beverage of choice) comes out your nose" moments. Is it funny that *I* is in a "naturist" phase and was dancing on the table yesterday until I could catch him? (The boy is fast and the table is big.) I thought it was funny, but really, how many times does anyone want to hear about the free-spirited exploits of a not-quite three-year-old?

We also don't have lots of crises. For that I am more grateful than you can ever know. Last year we had two in one day...*I* climbed out of the cart at Target and earned a not-so-free ride to the hospital . Yes, he was strapped in. Yes, I was right there..clearly he wanted the Hannah Montana toothbrush more than I realized. ;) He didn't have a scratch on him...However, I aged several years. Later that day *N* was straightening his blankets on the top bunk in a rather bouncy manner (he's just like a puppy, remember) and what he thought was bed, was only blanket with nothing underneath and he went headfirst down the ladder. That got him a nice scratch on his face but no other injuries. I aged several years then too.

Don't you think it's amazing that I've never had even one gray hair? I guess that is one good gene I got from my mom. :) (I'm not sure it makes up for the high cholesterol gene or the vertically challenged gene can dye your hair, but really the cholesterol thing and the height thing...not such an easy fix.)

So, I'm not all that busy or funny and I consider my life rather drama-free. No soap operas here folks!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

They Feed My Soul...

The women. The girlfriends and acquaintances from all walks of life. Some with kids, some without.

This weekend I had many opportunities to come in contact with women I know to various degrees. Some I've known a lot longer than others. Some are far away and we've chatted via e-mail and telephone. Some I haven't seen in months, others I see pretty regularly.

It really doesn't matter. It's not about the length or depth of the discussion, or even how many deep dark secrets we've shared. (Some probably don't even have dark secrets to share. ;) ) The relationships, the support, kind words, compassion and camaraderie we share...they give me strength and refuge, they soothe me when I'm frazzled and I gain strength and confidence from them. These women empathize even when they may not understand, accept even when they may not agree and are amazing examples of God's love.

These women...they nurture me with a smile. A hug. An offering of friendship. They might not even realize how their acts of kindness, acceptance and understanding give me strength and happiness. They make me laugh out loud, they make me think. They encourage me to realize my potential, and realize when I am stretching myself too thin.

I am so very thankful to be surrounded by such an amazing group of women.


Kids do funny things...

*N* is the middle child, for now. He is cheerful and bright and I often describe his personality like that of a puppy..happy, bouncy and eager to please. He's 8, in 3rd grade, requires very little sleep and is always busy. He loves to argue his point of view (The Husband thinks perhaps he has a future as an attorney..or maybe he will be a politician and filibuster for amazing amounts of time. ;) )

This morning *N* came downstairs with his Webkinz bat balanced on his head. I was a little tired and distracted by making breakfast...
Me: "Why is that bat on your head?"
*N*: "I just feel like balancing it."
Me: "OK."

A little while later, *N* is sitting on the couch wearing a blanket like a shawl and up over his head..he's clutching it under his chin. He often wraps up in this blanket in the morning, but this kerchief-type thing was new.

Finally...*N* says, "Umm, Mom. I have some stik-tak in my hair."
"Stik-tak. It's stuck in my hair...can you use the scissors to cut it out?"

Mind you, we're leaving for church in less than an hour and the Husband is sick and I'm trying to figure out how to clone myself so I can be in two places at once.
It wasn't just a little but of stik-tak was a HUGE hunk.
I wanted to take a picture but he said no and I didn't have the heart to..because I know he's embarrassed. (So I'll just write about it here.)
Evidently, he had put this stik-tak on the rail of his bed and it fell off and got stuck in his hair overnight.
I was able to get most of it out and only had to cut his hair a little bit..and it doesn't show... too much.

After my stint as barber, I went upstairs to tell the Husband..I didn't laugh until I was describing it to him..and then I just couldn't help it..from the bat to the blanket to *N's* was so comical. (I guess you had to be there...or maybe I just laugh at lame things.)
The Husband dragged himself down the stairs to say,"So I hear you had a little problem with the stik-tak? Now I have to say I told you so." (Because evidently the Husband really did warn of this possibility.)

I love my life. It's never dull or quiet. It's fun and funny, loud and unpredictable. It's all good.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Be Content.

This morning I was having a fit of hopelessness. The little realities of life are wearing me down. The van brakes are making noises and it seems like every year we're replacing them (OK, the Husband tells me we don't replace them all each year.) I really don't want to throw more money into that pit..the AC went and we know we're going to need to replace it relatively soon because we're outgrowing it. Boo Hoo. Right? :)

So the frustration of not being able to catch up, let alone get ahead brought me to tears today. Big tears...I want things fixed perfectly, the way I want them fixed RIGHT NOW tears. It wasn't pretty or my most graceful, gracious moment.

Until the brakes started making unpleasant noises, I was perfectly content with waiting for the van to be replaced, even if it meant we wouldn't all fit in one vehicle for a while. But spending more money on this van with no AC (I do not live in a particularly warm climate but still..I might be uncomfortable.) Waaah. Are you crying me a river yet?

In the midst of my pity party..I heard a voice (don't run to your DSM-IV TR..I'm not "hearing voices" like that). The voice said..."Be Content." (No it did not sound like Morgan Freeman.)

Be Content. Reality check...things aren't perfect but we've got everything we need and much of what we want. I am thankful for the blessings I do have. I will work much harder to be content where I am, to bloom where I'm planted, to make the best of it, because that's what I would like my kids to do and what I know should be doing.

Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear....26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" NIV


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Do What?!

I was reading an article about hospitality from a Biblical perspective...don't invite those who can repay but those who do not have the means. The author spoke of inviting strangers in need into their home for a meal, maybe even a shower. Could you do it? Would you do it? It's what God calls us to do, but it feels so unsafe and risky.

We had a friend at seminary who would routinely give rides, cash and yes, even the shirt off his back to people who came knocking on his door for aid. I remember thinking he was a fault. I mean, what if he drove off with one of these people and never returned?! It scared me. But I think it also convicted me...because I knew I would not do the same. I covered my shame and my own selfishness with excuses.

In Luke 6:30, Jesus says, "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back." Not really the modern viewpoint, is it? Pretty radical way to live life today...but I imagine it would be freeing. If I could get over the fear of what might happen tomorrow or next week or next year...if I didn't worry about storing up my treasures here on Earth for a rainy day and stay safe in my antiseptic little bubble.

I think the first step is stepping out of my comfort zone and looking outside myself, my fears, worries and needs. It doesn't have to be as big as inviting a stranger in for a shower. Maybe it's a kind or supportive word to a harried stranger in the store, maybe it's paying for the person behind me in line, maybe it's donating shoes for Haiti...maybe it's anything that would show care for another's well-being.

It's another opportunity to take baby steps in the right direction...toward a kinder, gentler and more loving world. Whether that kindness comes back is really not the point, is it? That's what our friend taught me.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It Was Very Quiet..

You know when people say they don't worry about the kids when they hear them yelling and fighting, it's when they get quiet that they become suspicious? Yeah, well...let me tell you about it.

Six of us were enjoying Jeopardy. *I* was not turning off the TV or standing in front of it, so we considered it lucky. He was playing quietly in the kitchen and I wasn't about to look that gift horse in the mouth. He likes to play with his trains in there and I didn't hear any drawers opening so I knew he wasn't using the pizza cutter. Gift horse...remember?

After a few minutes of quiet, I called him, "*I* what are you doing?" Silence. "*I* come see Mommy." In ran my little munchkin, proudly waving his hands...covered in beautiful black marker squiggles, lines and circles. EEK!

The husband swept him up and into the bathroom to get cleaned up and I ran to the kitchen to find a.) the marker and b.) what other damage had been done. First I found the marker, not the Sharpie I feared but a dry erase marker...then I saw it and gasped loud enough that all the brothers came running to see what horror their brother had done (and probably to gloat over the fact that he had done something naughty and they had not..this time.)
The marker came off the beastie with ease. The wall..not even Magic Eraser worked. The husband painted the looks perfect now. :)
Usually the markers (and all writing utensils) are well out of his reach. He has a "history". I have no idea how he got this one. I am thankful he didn't get hurt. And, I will probably check on him a lot more quickly when he's very, very quiet...Lesson learned, for me. For *I* probably not so much.

Is It Easy Being Green? Not For Me.

Today, if I had been able to go to MOPS I would have joined a discussion about the ways we each try to be green in daily life. If *E*'s stomach ache hadn't turned into a real issue, poor kid. Now he's happily hanging out on the couch watching The Adventures of Clutch Powers. (Thank you, Netflix and Mary who mentioned her son watching it at his Birthday is cute and clever.)

So what do I do to be green? Not as much as I should or could, I know that.

At home we use cloth napkins (paper is for lunchboxes), we rarely use paper towels, using dishcloths and towels instead. We have switched over to compact fluorescents as the light bulbs go. I use vinegar and baking soda for most cleaning. The babies get cloth diapers until they are about two. (After age two they just pee too much all at one time and I cannot get a good balance between staying dry and not having too much bulk.) The husband uses shaving soap in the bar with a brush instead of the foam from a can (A Bill Nye show turned him off the canned stuff.) We buy recycled printer paper. The boys wear hand-me downs so we recycle that way and our papers and magazines go to a paper drop off that earns money for a food pantry.

I wish we bought 100% organic food, but it's just not in the budget. So if I can buy less processed foods, I do. I don't buy as much recycled as I could, I just cannot afford to pay that much for a box of facial tissue or aluminum foil. We do use reusable storage containers instead of baggies, plastic wrap and foil as much we are able. My biggest shame is that we don't recycle as much as we could. We need to figure that out.

I know that we need to care for our planet. It's what we are called to do. Having dominion over something doesn't mean to run roughshod over it and neglecting it. It means caring for it, nurturing it.

But it's not always easy to do what's right. It's not always convenient and my laundry isn't as sparkly, the bathroom smells cleaner with those added chemical scents and when it's windy (all the time here) it blows my recycling bin into the middle of a 4 lane road.

Tough toenails, Toots!

I resolve to make more of the tough choices for a better world, for now and the future, for my children and my children's children and so on and so on. "Give me my spots on the apples just leave me the birds and the bees" (Bob Dylan)


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I am not an expert...

I don't claim to be one and I don't play one on TV, but I do have common sense and a certain degree of practical experience that comes from raising 5 kids. I do not have a degree in psychology, only a Masters in Theology and a bunch of credits toward a Masters in Counseling which I will eventually finish..we moved to a new state and I have to get back in the swing, OK? :)

You know what I've learned from having 5 kids? I do not know everything about raising kids BECAUSE each one is different. Unique. an Individual. The same tactics, methods and yes, even bribes, are not effective with each child. I am not an expert and I will not claim my kids are perfect. They make mistakes and do foolish things and I shake my head and wonder where that came from. (It's all about being human and having free will.)

I very rarely, if ever give unsolicited advice regarding children or child rearing. Maybe once in a great while if I am talking to a close friend I will stick my little toe into that murky pool and risk it. If someone asks my opinion, I am as diplomatic as I can be.

Maybe, just maybe I should stick my neck out there more. Seriously.

What got me started? I was reading a popular parenting-type magazine and someone wrote asking whether their 5 yo was ready to see a movie in the theater. (If you're reading, I'm not trying to hurt your feelings but please take this little bit of wisdom into your heart and your head.)

Only you can know your child...the "expert" reading your note has no idea of your child's temperament or personality. They have no idea what type of movie or theater you're going to. YOU do! If you think little Johnny would enjoy the movie, wants to see the movie, can sit still, it is at a time that is appropriate for him to see it and you are fully prepared to eat the price of tickets should Johnny be disruptive and disturb others..then go. But you don't need an expert or little ol' me to tell you that. This is common sense.

And another thing...telling your child "NO" will not stunt their creativity or make them afraid to do new things. (Yes, I read this from another magazine "expert".) Sometimes those two little letters need to be put together and spoken to the little darlings because they must learn to understand the word. If you have a daughter, I'm sure you want her date to understand that word. If your child is facing peer pressure to try drugs, drink, smoke and other risky behaviors, I'm sure you want them to be comfortable with saying, and meaning the word "no".

Furthermore, before taking the advice of experts, find out where their expertise lies. I read some parenting books which I felt had terrific points. The author does a great deal of public speaking on child-focused topics. I read his bio looking for what his background was in..mental health, education? I found nothing so I emailed the author. The background..journalism. He is an expert at packaging his research in a digestible and interesting way... and this has qualified him to give thousands of people advice on the best way to raise their children. He's making buckets of money presenting you and me with research we could do ourselves. This does not mean I think educators and mental health professionals are more qualified, sometimes yes and sometimes no but not everybody who is writing a book is an expert in the way we may think. They are giving you their opinion of how the data works out. (According to a statistician I know, statistics are in the eye of the beholder.) Maybe they're giving you their opinion of how they think things should be. Whatever the case, it's not guaranteed to work or be appropriate with your child in every particular situation, just like not all medicines work well to treat the same illness on all people.

Love your kids. Teach them right from wrong. Use your common sense. Most importantly, pray. You probably won't mess them up..too much.

(But if you need to ask an expert whether bringing your toddler into a bar is a good idea, and I don't mean the restaurant with a bar..we need to have a sit-down. I'm not a teetotaller, but there are places children do not belong..a 21+ bar is one of them, also on the list the adult bookstore and the local exotic dancing establishment..go ahead call me judgemental.)


Monday, March 15, 2010

Baby Steps...

No, gardening is not my thing. I leave it to the husband. Our last year at seminary we had a great should have seen the corn! Until the squirrels ate it. Ever seen a squirrel hang sideways off a brick wall to eat the corn right off the cob? We tried to chase them off but they were persistent buggers and the children weren't keen on standing guard. We had great cucumbers, beans and snap peas though. :)

I have been keeping my eye on a piece of property about 35 miles north of where we live now. 28.8 acres. Two gardens. A barn. Pond. It's been on Craigslist for months. We drove by on Saturday. *J* was adamant that he was not changing schools again. I assured him that is not the plan, but that this sustainable lifestyle is a little dream I have. The passion wasn't easily ignited in the 15 yo.

For now, I need to be content with baby steps. One of the steps I can take is trying to cook more things from scratch. It's a fine balance and there are some things that just cannot be re-created...nor should they be...cheese shouldn't be day-glo orange. So instead of buying dinner rolls yesterday, I made easy with the Kitchen Aid mixer. :) <3 that appliance.

It's good to know what is in our food. I recently read a blurb from a family far larger than my own who said they don't bake their own bread because they can get it cheaper from the bread outlet and it's not worth the time and mess. That's their choice. I don't think it's apples to apples comparison. Yes I can get white bread full of "stuff" from the grocery store for 99 cents a loaf, but it's got lots of "stuff" in it. (I still buy it because the boys want "store bread" to bring their sandwiches to school, but at home they eat slices of homemade bread for a snack. :).) The bread I make has flour, butter (the recipes with shortening don't taste as good as those with butter, in my humble opinion) yeast, salt, milk and water. I can pronounce everything and I know what it all is. The mess is a couple of bowls and a pan and the time is negligible in the grand scheme of things. The taste, texture and the way the house smells...a regular extravaganza of mouth-watering scrumptiousness.

Cooking and baking from scratch as I am able...that is a baby step I can take right now toward a more sustainable (and more healthful) existence. I might not have 28.8 acres and I might be lucky to grow some cooking herbs on my counter but any step I take toward that goal is a step in the right direction.


Friday, March 12, 2010

It's My Mother's Fault

She would love that. She got got riled whenever some "expert" blamed someone's shortcomings on their mother and their upbringing.

But honestly, if I think about it...this current issue I'm having must be her fault.

Lately I have been thinking A LOT about how wonderful it would be to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Homesteading sounds like a wonderful way to raise our family. I imagine the big garden, the wide open spaces. Canning and cooking and freezing. Maybe get some animals...chickens or some sheep or alpaca (ooh could spin my own yarn.)

That would be a terrific lifestyle for the boys and being more self-reliant...sounds great.

But oh reality, bring me back before I jump in with both feet. I am not a gardener. I want to be. I just am not terrible good at it (or with the creatures you find while least I no longer shriek when one of the boys brings me a worm...that's progress.) I don't know the first thing about canning. Animals...yeah ummm do they bite or peck at me. Because I'm pretty sure I'd be chicken of the chicken. It's an embarrassment really.

But growing up my mom always had these gorgeous magazines called things like (and I might be wrong about the exact titles) Country Woman and Farm Woman. I saw these incredible images of a lifestyle that looks so appealing and right. And it's my mom's fault because....she bought the magazines and put the thought into my dainty, wimpy mind. It's not like she ever lived that life. She grew up in a city know for it's mills in an orphanage with Nuns. (This is clearly where my mother's rigid housekeeping ideas developed..and my own lackadaisical housekeeping rituals are also mom's fault..because I was forced to rebel.) My parents never had a garden. I think once when I was growing up we had one (yes one) tomato plant. Maybe mom was living vicariously through the pages.

So now, I research and dream and read all these incredible blogs about people living a lifestyle that looks so wonderfully amazing...because my mother brought home these magazines when I was an impressionable kid...and now I want to live on a farm and grow things and be a modern homesteader...or maybe I will forever live vicariously through the amazing blogs I read while the husband plants some cucumbers, beans and peas...did I mention I don't have a green thumb..not even a little bit?


Thursday, March 11, 2010

If I'm being fair...

I need to write about a child other than #1 or #5. While life isn't fair...if my 'textbook' middle child discovered the inequity of the situation...I'd hear about it loudly and for an unpleasant amount of time.

That does not, however, mean that he will get a nod this time.

No. Today will be about my super-talkative #2 son, *C*.

He chatters non-stop. Seriously. He can tell you more than you might ever care to know about Pokemon, Bakugan or anything else he is currently passionate about. He has an amazing mind for facts and tidbits of information and loves to research things. And Legos..oh how he loves to build with Legos...which reminds me, at least once a week he will say, "If I shrunk to the size of a Lego guy..."

The non-stop chatter is something that I need to remember to be very VERY thankful for. *C* had extremely delayed in no language at all by age 2 1/2. When he turned 14 months old, he got a raging ear infection that just would. not. go. away. He ended up going for a series of shots of some strong anti-biotic and then we visited an ENT who discovered he had at least 30% hearing loss. He got tubes the following week and although his hearing improved...his speech did not. It was scary and sad and incredibly frustrating for him.

*C* received speech therapy twice a week and then hen he turned 2 1/2 he began a full-day pre-school program with the most amazing teachers...and Oh the progress he made. This program provided busing. I cried when I put him on the bus that first morning...more than *C* did. It just seemed wrong in my heart. The bus driver told his teacher and the teacher phoned me to tell me *C* was there safe and happy. Now that's communication! It was a wonderful year for *C*, full of happy memories, new experiences and great personal growth. He was such a resilient and positive boy and I do believe he caught those traits from his incredible teachers and aids at BOCES.

We joke about suing his teacher, Steve. Sometimes I tell *C* to give his lips a rest. ;) I need to remember those days when communication was such a struggle for him. I need to be always thankful for his gift of speech, even when I cannot hear myself think.

It's funny how we can spend a great deal of time and energy praying for and working toward something, and then when we receive that gift, we take it for granted. I it part of being human? I know that there has been a lot of talk of gratitude journals lately...and judging by how many things I forget to be thankful for each day...I need to find a way to mark those things for which I am grateful and remember that there isn't anything in life I should take for granted.

Like a sweet, funny. creative boy who can talk your ear off..."If I shrunk to the size of a Lego guy...When we go to the beach...When I'm a scientist...(fill in the blank with the name of a Bakugan) has xyz power..."


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The road to....

You know that saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions...yeah well...

Today was *I*'s first night in the big boy bed. My plan was that he would get tucked in, snuggle under his new favorite blanket and I would read to the boys. I expected him to get up a few times, maybe make some noise...I was so not expecting the evening we had...the roomies (8 and 5) were in and out of bed, talking away while I am trying to stop *I* from climbing the ladder, crawl under the bed, climb the gate at the door...not much reading got done. I tried lying next to him, saying The Lord's Prayer and singing Jesus Loves Me, our usual nightly routine. He was covering my mouth while I was singing...I'm no Nichole Nordeman, but I'm not that bad. When the big boys started bouncing around and hanging off their beds and when the 10 yo came out of his room to say "Mom, I know what to do..." I admit it...I raised my voice..OK, I yelled. While this is new territory for the 2 1/2 yo, the routine is old hat for the big boys so pipe down, stay in bed and just let us be.

I apologized for yelling (hate yelling, especially at bedtime), then I gave up, let the other boys get some sleep and took the beastie downstairs where he whined to go back to bed. Within 5 minutes he fell asleep standing up with his head on the couch. He's in bed now, snuggled under his Thomas blanket, lovies within reach. And he looks so very do the other sleeping boys.

I feel badly. I didn't have totally unrealistic expectations, but I am sure I could have handled it better. My intentions and plans for the way the night would go were good...but I felt like I was know...

For tomorrow, I need to find a better plan. Or a better way to get *I*'s cooperation. He's definitely in a strong-willed phase. I know that if I yell during this battle of wills between a 2 yo and me (even if I'm not yelling at him, but at the interrupters)..well I'm clearly not showing control or confidence. Sigh. Mommy fail.

I think about the kind of parent God is... He is pretty clear and strong in his reactions (There are some pretty extreme examples of his displeasure when people don't follow his directions in the Bible.) Jesus talks about asking and giving forgiveness. I asked my kids for forgiveness when I yelled tonight and I asked God to forgive me as well, because I certainly wasn't being His hands and feet when I was feeling flustered and frustrated and just plain ticked.

Tomorrow is a new day. We will try again with the big boy bed and eventually, *I* will get it...and so will I.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010


When last I wrote, I was feeling the weight of every decision made and the judgement that goes with them. It was not a good feeling...but I found joy in the sweetness of my kids. These children are amazing blessings, all 5 of them..and the one on the way too. While it might not make sense to have 6 children, it obviously makes perfect sense to God. I am thankful and grateful, even though I get weighed down by the enormity of my life and the choices and the realities of dollars and cents, time and energy, space and peace.

Reality hit us this weekend...the stomach flu arrived and we did receive some mercy..the husband and I were not sick at the same time. (mildly gross to follow ;) ) It started mildly enough...*N* got sick Friday night, it was mild and the big issue didn't last long. At 1 am Sunday, *C* had one violent episode and then he was in recovery mode. Sunday I got a call while grocery shopping, "another one is down." *I* was sick and being 2, he didn't get the concept of where to place his "deposit". While this is going on, the husband and *J* are putting together the new bunk beds so that *I* can transition into his big boy bed. After dinner, I was struck by this bug and then at 8, *E* went down. The husband was running between *I* and *E* and trying to keep up with laundry. (Thankful for the washing machine.) The boys stayed home from school yesterday, I felt mildly human in the afternoon, *E* is still home today because he's still having issues and now the husband is down. The only one who has (knock wood) not succumbed is 15 yo *J*.

We are hopeful that tonight will be *I* 's first night in his big boy bed. I got him a Thomas the Tank Engine blanket and Thomas sheets..he was hugging the sheets and is already very possessive of his blanket. :) He is a train fanatic, just like his older brothers.

I feel like my existence is one big"Life is what happens when we're making other plans". We make plans for things that should, in all logical understanding, work out. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sometimes we can pick up the pieces on our own, and sometimes we need to ask for help. Through everything, I am confident that God is with me. For that I am thankful.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Truth Hurts

Today I feel a little bit like Snoopy after he fell out of that tree. Hearing the truth of the situation and that my own choices have caused some of my problem is painful and incredibly (almost unbearably) humbling. Kind of like falling out of a tree, it knocked the wind out of me.

Sometimes it feels like no choice is right or good, like being stuck in a maze and never finding a way out. But, I see other people finding their way and I wonder, "Why the heck can't I?" Seriously?! Am I feeling incredibly sorry for myself right now. You bet your sweet bippy! (What's a bippy?!)

But in the midst of it all, I hugged and kissed my sweet 2 yo. That was a little taste of sweet grace.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2 years 5 months give or take...

That is how long it will be before the oldest boy leaves for college. He will get his learner's permit to learn to drive (gasp) in just over 6 months. It's a strange and sickening feeling. He is a pretty responsible, reliable kid, sometimes he has "foot in mouth" disease...but I'm pretty sure that's genetic...not from me though. ;)

His leaving for college didn't bother me much until recently. We have several good educational opportunities nearby and he'd been talking about going to a local university and commuting. (Hear the angels singing, the birds chirping, the sun shining...he's close and I can be sure he's safe and fed.) But, sometime back in January he decided that his first choices are in (foreboding duhn duhn duhn, clouds roll in) The Big City several hours away. It wouldn't be so bad if his grandfather hadn't just moved out of The Big City, but he did. I know that J knows his way around from his many visits and his amazing ability to follow maps and subways (seriously I need no GPS if I have this boy with me, even if he's never been there, he knows which way to go.)

What drove it home..this reality of my biggest leaving the nest? The husband. (The nerve!) He was talking with J about being sure he knew how to do laundry, how much detergent to use. I got this image of buying J his own box of Tide, and I got sick to my stomach. (Maybe it was because I know there are more eco-friendly alternatives? Yeah ,that's it!)

THEN...I was driving home from the grocery store and a Macy Gray song came on the radio "I try to say good bye and I choke I try to walk away and I stumble Though I try to hide it it's clear My world crumbles when you are not near." I got home in tears, the husband came out to carry in groceries and wondered what could have possibly happened. (I blame it on hormones.)

I know my world will not crumble when he's gone, that he must leave our cozy little nest (key word there is cozy, there are 7 of us right now ;) ). I understand and accept that he is growing up, will eventually move away (not too far, I hope), marry (a nice girl, crossing fingers ,who likes her MIL), and that he has a very bright future ahead of him. But, I'm going to miss the one word answers, the rolling eyes..I'm going to miss seeing him every night at the dinner table (mostly..he is a very picky eater).

My hope and prayer for him is that just as he knows how to get where's he's going around town, he will follow the right path to be where he needs to be spiritually and emotionally. When he leaves for college and is no longer living with us...that will be the true test of whether we've trained him up in the way he should go (Prov 22:6). (And yes, I do know, that regardless he might still make bad choices...just hopefully not catastrophic.)

And I will need to get a GPS.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Trees and Ladders and Grace..Oh My!

The husband said he knew the sermon was going to be interesting when we walked into church and saw a REALLY tall ladder gracing the alter. He was right.

Our pastor began his sermon by describing a Peanuts cartoon that goes something like this: Lucy asks Linus why he's up in a tree. Linus responds that he and Snoopy are up there to get something. Lucy states that Beagles can't climb trees. Snoopy falls out of tree. Lucy calls him a stupid Beagle (I'm fuzzy on whether she tells him he should have known better) and the strip ends with Snoopy thinking that all he wanted was a hug.

Our pastor went on to relate this to grace..he also climbed up to the very top of the ladder where I'm certain there is a "Warning: do not climb above or sit on this step" sign and sat there talking. I averted my eyes because I am so afraid of heights that watching him sit up there made me nauseous. (This is where you wonder how I survive with 5 boys. ;) ) He discussed how we show grace as Jesus did when we reach out to those people and love them when they're in the trees not walking away because we believe they got themselves into the tree so it serves them right.

Oh, how this message resonates with me. (Could you tell?)

There are many times I felt like Snoopy. Woe is me. We've all been there, had someone tell us we should have thought of X before Y because they would have. Naysayers and Monday morning quarterbacks. Yes, reality and practicality are important. Sometimes the results are inevitable so we should have known better. Some people say this with gentleness and love and really hope to help you through the fall-out. Others say they're "speaking the truth in love" while they beat you over the head with their list of what you should have done and how wrong you were.

I am no better. I know I can be just as judgemental as the next human. I hope that I keep the negative thoughts to myself, not to be phony but because no one needs to be kicked while they're down. But, I'm sure they've slipped out while I'm being "helpful".

During this Lenten season I hope I can respond in a more grace-filled manner. Love people where they're at. Hate the sin but love the sinner. And, if someone falls out of the tree, I hope I help them up, dust them off and maybe even give them a hug instead of stomping off in disgust because they took a risk.