Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Love You More

Every night, the same.  My 7-year-old starts the following sequence, in rapid-fire succession:

K:  Love you more than you love me!
me: Impossible!
K: Possible!
K: Love you more than Sprite!
me:  Love you more than coke (zero)!
both of us together: PLUNGE (with an exploding hand motion)
K: Love you more than hearts!
me: Love you more than stars!
K: Love you to the moon and farther!
me: Ditto!

Then we hug and kiss and then blow kisses and hugs at the door and finally part for the night.  Every night.  Sometimes it's rote to me, and sometimes I even feel impatient -- I have a long list of things to do still - can we hurry things along a bit?

But when I'm not feeling so rushed or tired, I relish these moments.  All of the "one more hug, mom" (from all three of my youngest kids), "sleep with me for just a minute" and "I love you so much, mommy" - this is the good stuff.  I may have a long list to finish downstairs every night, but nothing is more important than those moments at bedtime with my sweet babes.

I recently read a quote by C.S. Lewis -- "Children are not a distraction from more important work.  They are the most important work."  Yes!  Yes!  How often we forget the work God assigned to us in the gifts of our children.  How often I put other things I think are important in front of playing with, talking to or even cuddling with my children.

Laundry, dishes, cleaning, work. . .it'll all be there tomorrow and the next day.  But little ones who want to cuddle and have a love fest will grow up before I know it (I know this from experience - my two older ones aren't inclined to sit on my lap anymore!).  I think I'll make a renewed effort to remember my most important work - loving my children.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bits and Pieces #16

School is out for me and my grade schoolers, and my high schoolers have just one day left of finals tomorrow.  Woohoo!  Being at home so much has been AWE. SOME.  We have had some family in town and have been visiting, wrapping, baking and shopping.  It's been great so far and I can't wait to enjoy the rest of our two weeks with a slower pace!  

  • I have been playing a game of Toilet Paper Russian Roulette this week.  I noticed we were perilously low about two days ago, then forgot for about maybe 12 hours, then remembered again.  I quickly got onto Amazon and upped my subscribe and save shipment (what - you don't use subscribe and save?  Give it a whirl!  I use it for all sorts of sundry items!), and was informed it would arrive on Thursday.  Could I make it until then without buying any more?  I wanted to gamble, but thought I should buy just a small package today while at Walmart.  But as luck would have it, just as I was about to steer my two boys down the TP aisle, they noticed the Lunchables, asked for one for lunch, and I promptly forgot about our urgent need.  Tonight I have assessed that we have one half-ish roll per bathroom.  The delivery will not be here until Thursday.  We have seven people in our house (and will have two overnight guests tomorrow night).  I fear the odds are not with me. 
  • Two nights ago, I was in a gift wrapping frenzy.  Santa brings three gifts per child to our house and we give three gifts, and that equals a lot of wrapping.  But I was on a roll and knocking out this dreaded delightful job.  I remembered I should get out a gift my in-laws are giving our kids but that I had purchased for them.  It is a relatively expensive gift, since they are buying it for all the boys (but it was purchased on Black Friday with multiple discounts at Kohls, so it was practically like we stole it).  Anyway, it is kind of a big deal gift and I wanted to give it to my in-laws so they could take it home and wrap it. Aaaaannndd - I couldn't find it.  For about an hour, I looked in the basement, my room, the dining room. . .I retraced my steps and walked through the day I got it. . .and couldn't find it.  I forced myself to stop thinking about it, knowing I would find it eventually.  About half an hour later, I went to the basement again for another check and this time found it.  Whew!  I am so good at hiding gifts!  I could hide my own presents from myself - skillz!
  • I recently bought a wood sign with the words "Do small things with great love".  I believe it was Mother Theresa who first said this phrase, and I have loved it ever since I heard it.  Oh the number of small things I do in our house -- often without great love and instead with great grumbling.  What a wonderful reminder that loving others needn't always involve a grand gesture, but instead can be many small things added together.  And as I handle the minutiae of family life, I need to be reminded of that sentiment often.  What a gift it is to be able to serve the people in my home!
  • The kids have been watching old Christmas video clips on the computer and they are fabulous.  I adore watching the kids open their presents and remembering how sweet and little they used to be!  We all are oohing and ahing over how cute they all were.  Watching them is such a good reminder of the value of pictures and videos!  These will be treasured for years to come!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Laundry with a Side of Awesome

Last Saturday, after all of our Thanksgiving company left, the belt on our dryer broke.  I was standing amid a laundry room full of sheets, towels and general clothing, and no dryer to make it all disappear.  I was frustrated and tired from the weekend and not really wanting a major expense/hassle/pain in the rear broken dryer.

Enter my husband.  He also did not want any of those things, but regardless, began youtubing (is that a word?) how to replace the dryer belt.  He ordered the belt on Amazon (and new roller thingies and another part too) and over the weekend commenced to taking the whole thing apart (and down from on top of the washer) in preparation for repairing it when the new parts came in.

Let me tell you some things about my husband.  He is not the kind of person who grew up taking things apart and fixing things.  He doesn't have a "natural" inclination to repair items.  He also has little to no free time.  But -- he is very smart and has a let's-get-it-done-attitude, and is not afraid of a challenge.  He has an ability to look at a task and break it down to get it figured out.  And of course, he has youtube!

So that's what he did.  I emptied the laundry room into the dining room (it was a good time to clean the laundry room anyway), and he took the whole dryer apart.  When the parts came in from Amazon, they were not all the correct ones, so we had to make another order from a local place.  By Wednesday night (after Advent worship), he had all the pieces he needed, and by midnight, he had it all put together and had cleaned out the dryer vent in the basement.  By Thursday morning, I was back in the laundry business.

The upside to not doing laundry for seven people all week is not doing laundry all week, but the downside is the ginormous amounts of laundry awaiting me.  I started the laundry on Thursday, but by Thursday night wasn't feeling well and ended up staying home sick on Friday, and doing no laundry whatsoever until today.  Therefore, I have done very little laundry in a week (save a few loads I air-dried and a few loads I ran to the laundromat to dry on Sunday).  When I don't do laundry for that long, my kitchen island looks like this:

So.  We all have clean clothes now and will not be scantily clad this week.  And I have a husband who is awesome, and once again saved the day.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top Ten Thankfulness List

In no particular order:

  • IKEA.  Oh. my.  I was driving through Chicago on Sunday and the interstate I was on went literally right by an IKEA store. As in, I could have thrown a rock at it from my fast moving vehicle.  But instead of defacing such an amazing store, I decided rather to enter into its glorious walls and give them my money.  I spent only an hour there (are you impressed, dear reader?) and got many a fabulous deal.  That store is the best.  Ten out of ten would recommend, as my 16-year-old daughter would say.  
  • Old friends.  And by old friends, I don't mean old friends, but simply long-time friends.  I got together with my college girlfriends for our 13 annual Girls' Weekend, and it was wonderful.  Lots of laughs, memories, rest and good catching up.  It did my heart good.
  • Staff meetings.  Does that sound like a strange thing to be thankful for? Well, I actually mean the part directly after our meetings, where we gather in the church to pray Evening Prayer together.  We sing the litany and the Magnificat, and it wows me every time.  To be surrounded by my coworkers, all singing together to our God is nothing short of an immense blessing which I take for granted far too often.  
  • Grandparent's Day.  Both my high schoolers and my grade schoolers have Grandparent's Day this week, and all four grandparents are here and able to attend!  Another blessing I often take for granted.  Praise God for amazing parents who are so very involved in their grandchildren's lives!
  • Peanut clusters.  I make them in the crock pot every Thanksgiving and Christmas and they're the best.  We hide them from ourselves in the freezer, but we are super smart and find them anyway and eat them frozen.
  • Fall scents.  I adore all the cinnamon, apple, spice and holiday scents from Bath and Body Works, Yankee and the like.  My house smells like I'm baking something amazing all the time, when in reality the oven is empty.  Delicious smells don't have any calories! (of course, peanut clusters do, see above. . .)
  • My bathroom-cleaning husband.  I've probably blogged about this before, but when I went back to teaching 2 years ago, my husband asked me how he could help shoulder some of my household burden (as he doesn't have enough on his plate already - the man is busy 24/7).  He suggested he take over the bathroom cleaning chore, and for the past 2.5 years, I have barely cleaned a bathroom.  He faithfully cleans them thoroughly each week without complaint.  I am so grateful for his loving heart.
  • Older siblings.  My younger children are so blessed to have their older siblings.  They help each other with their homework (especially the harder math - score for mommy!), they explain how to navigate high school and create excitement for when they get there, they read Harry Potter (so I don't have to - blech!) and help me decide when their siblings are old enough to read each book, and they have shown their younger siblings how to grow up gracefully.  I am thankful for each stage of growing I have enjoyed with my kids, and the older years have not failed to disappoint!
  • Doggies.  Shadow often is the fodder for my blogging, but truly, I love him.  No one gets more excited at my arrival home each day than that puppy.  It's nice to be loved!
  • Faith and family.  What a blessing to worship with my children (and husband from afar) this holiday season.  Every day is a gift from God - precious and worthy of thanks.  Thank you God, for your many gifts to us! 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Spin Master

Have you ever seen a video of a performer spinning plates?  The person is moving constantly, keeping the plates spinning on top of the little poles.  If he is good at the act, the plates never come crashing to the floor:

Dear reader, sometimes I am this guy.  Sometimes, I am rocking the plate spinning.  Sometimes it is my jam and I'm all like, "Look at me world!  I have 3,495 details to remember today, and I am remembering them all.  I have delivered all the people on time to all the places, I signed all the forms, remembered all the payments, picked up all my kids on time, answered all the emails, prepared for teaching, fed my family, and washed all their laundry!"  -- and the list goes on.  I recently told my husband, during one of these I'm-rocking-the plate-spinning-moments, that I think I needed a medal for all the details I was taking care of.

My friends, I should never have said that.  Apparently I momentarily forgot that the majority of the time, all my plates are wobbling, dangerously close to falling off their little poles.  And that often, very often, fall off they do.  And when they fall off, they fall off with a thunderous crash.  In the last three weeks, I have: attempted to pick a child up at the wrong time (and had to return an hour later), forgotten to pick a child up completely (don't worry, he was fine), neglected to answer an email to a friend in a timely manner, and signed up to take a meal to a new mother, but registered the wrong day in my brain, thereby causing confusion.

Man, I hate forgetting details and dropping the ball on things.  I really can't stand missing things or letting people down.  But you know what I've noticed when I can't spin all the plates all the time?  The world actually keeps on spinning.  My errors might cause a blip in my life (and sometimes others' lives), but the world doesn't end. And people usually give me grace.  No one seems to hate me when I don't do all of the things.  It's a lesson learned in humility and accepting the kindness of others.

One of my favorite (though overused) quotes is "Life is what happens when you're making other plans".  Spinning all the plates is my season of life right now, and I don't want to wish it away.  Life is super full, but it's also very, very good.

And a falling plate now and then isn't going to ruin it all.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

On Growing Up

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been trying to sort through/clean out our basement playroom and our storage room.  I've been trying to squeeze in a few minutes here and there whenever I have time, and today I asked my husband and older sons to help me haul out some large items for a large trash pick up on Monday.

My husband and sons first carried up a big chest freezer that is at least 35 years old (I remember it when I was pretty young at my parents' house).  The freezer hasn't worked in several years and I have been using it for Christmas present storage (note to self - figure out a new plan this year!) and it needed to go.  

Next, they started hauling up multiple crib parts.  Since our first two kids were only 18 months apart, we had two cribs. I was never in any hurry to move my kids out of their cribs (I might have been a control freak about that!).  Two cribs have lots of parts when disassembled!  So my large sons began making treks up and down the stairs carrying the very cribs they had spent the first three years of their lives sleeping in. I was in utilitarian mode - getting rid of stuff feels great and I was super pumped to get all that space free in the back of the storage room.  

Until I rounded the corner to grab a load myself and found my husband moving a crib rail with two musical stuffed animal pull toys firmly tied to the top.  And I rather lost it.  Suddenly I was teary, with absolutely no warning.  Obviously I had to pull the tails of the animals and hear the lullabies, making me weep with more fervor.  How could my baby years be past already?  How could those strapping boys be the same babies who pulled those tails to hear night-night songs?  How could those days, which often felt so long, be past tense already?  How could my oldest child be leaving the house in 1 1/2 years?

The family years are passing at an alarming speed.  Just this morning, my daughter and I were talking about how many children she might have.  With heartfelt zeal, I told her how glorious it was for me to be mom to her and her siblings.  How when I look at our family pictures, my heart bursts with joy at what God has given us.  God has called us to be parents to these five children and I love it.  Moments like tonight remind me how much I miss those early years, but moments like the one with my daughter this morning underscore the beauty parenting older children brings as well. 

The passage of time and accepting change has never been my strong suit.  But after I had my little cry in the basement, I came upstairs and within minutes was laughing with a teenager, talking in a goofy accent and discussing the etiquette of opposite-gender texting.  And in a few minutes I'm going to play a game with a grade-schooler, and then tell them all to shower (on their own) and say prayers and give blessings and kiss them all good night.

While it's not quite the same as tucking babies into cribs, it's equally awesome.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bits and Pieces #15

  • The other day after naptime in my classroom, we were putting away the children's nap things, and I found a lone sock by the sink.  I asked all the kids of they were missing a sock.  Everyone appeared to examine their feet and reported that all was fine; no socks were missing.  I was puzzled.  I gave it the sniff test (this sniff test has burned me in the past in my own laundry room, yet I continue to use it). I determined via the sniff test that it had been worn, but since no one said they were missing a sock, I thought perhaps it had somehow resurfaced from another class that uses our room.  I put it aside to handle later.  A few minutes later, we sat down on the circle rug to sing some songs and close out the day.  I sat on the rug next to one of my students and looked down to notice that he had on tennis shoes. . .with no socks.  I asked him where his socks were, and he reported he did not know.  I got up and grabbed the sock I had found, and he said it was indeed his, but he didn't know where the other one was.  I looked in his nap bin and the area where he had napped, but no sock.  About this time, I hear him, still sitting at the circle, sort of quietly saying, ". . .pants. . .pants. . .maybe, it might be in my pants. . ." And then he reached behind his back and pulled his sock out of the back of his pants!  This.  This is among the many reasons I love teaching preschool. 
  • I was prepping for my Mommy and Me class the other night, and several of my kids were in the room with me.  They all get annoyed when I start surfing Pinterest for new songs to sing, which only makes me want to sing them louder and more often.  This is what makes me a great mom!  But this time, one of my kids was standing right next to me, listening.  After a few moments of joining in a bit and remembering songs he sang when he was little, my son said, "I don't want to listen to these songs anymore, Mom!  They're gonna make me cry!"  My heart ached a bit.  I understood my boy.  Sometimes those memories are so fond, so dear that the passage of time just feels painful.  I gave him a big squeeze and kiss and soaked up the moment with him, knowing in several years I would remember that very moment with a fond pang as well.  
  • Dear readers, I don't know how to prepare you for the picture below.  I'm sure you've glanced at it already, and you see how terrifying it is.  Yes, that is a bamboo skewer sticking out from the nerf dart.  I discovered this archaic torture weapon last night and rethought my parenting strategies.  I disassembled it carefully so as not to harm myself or others, and then asked my boys about it this morning.  I had a suspect in mind as the creator, but I was wrong.  And the boy who made it felt it was perfectly acceptable to be in our home. He even told me that "dad was right there when I made it!". When I gently said that there must be a mistake, and dad would not indeed want our children to be maimed via a souped-up nerf bow and arrow and that I never wanted to see such a weapon again, he responded with, "But it was dad!  And he's the head of the household!".  As we circled up for morning prayer before everyone went their separate ways, I asked my husband about the weapon.  As I suspected, he was completely misrepresented, and shockingly, did not in fact think a skewer being shot through our house was a good idea.  Your takeaway here:  Never accept an invitation to have a nerf war in my house (or maybe you can now, since we have intercepted this near-miss).