Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Most Devoted Family Member

"He likes me!  He really, really likes me!"

I hope you read that in your best euphoric Sally Field voice.  Who is "he", you might wonder?  Yep - you guessed it!  The dog!

I have never seen such devotion in another being!  This dog is happy to simply be in my presence.  Why he is so happy to be with me is unclear, but it is rather sweet.  Two examples:

Yesterday I brought home the crew after school (minus one daughter, plus a son's friend).  I pulled into the driveway, then headed down to get the mail.  As I approached the bottom of the driveway, I saw a bag laying on the ground.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a tied grocery bag, full of dog poo.  That is how we live now, people.  Bags of dog poo tied off in our driveway.  After a moment, I saw my husband and eldest daughter rounding the bend on a walk with the dog and realized the dog poo bag was not to be a permanent fixture, thankfully.  As my husband approached with Shadow, he (the dog, not my husband) began pulling at the leash, going crazy to get to me.  He jumped up and loved me in his best doggie way (snowy, wet paws and all).  After a few moments, my husband wanted to continue his walk, but poor Shadow really, really wanted to come inside with me. Since the dog needed the exercise, my husband kept walking him.  He pulled and strained at the leash, desperate to come back to me.  All the way around the block, my husband reported later, Shadow pulled and pulled to get home.

This morning, Saturday, all three boys were up slightly before 6 am.  On a school day, two of these boys don't want to get out of bed at 6:30. But on a Saturday?  Please!  They might miss something if they don't get up ASAP!  I certainly don't need to get up with them anymore, but even though they were quiet, my husband and I, and the dog, heard them get up.  Having much work to do today, my husband got up soon after, and the dog eventually followed him down, hoping for breakfast.  In an effort to let me sleep in a bit, my husband shut the gate at the top of the stairs (a remnant from our baby/toddler days - sniff!), and placed a gate also at the bottom of the stairs.  After some time, I drifted off for a few minutes, only to be awakened by persistent whining and whimpering at the bottom of the stairs.  I finally admitted defeated, got up, and opened the top gate.  My daughter opened the bottom gate and the dog bounded up the stairs, hysterical with joy just to be near me!  I'm telling you - not even my children are this happy to see me!  I petted him and told him what a good dog he was etc. etc., and then decided maybe I would just lay down for a moment longer, to put off the cleaning I must do this morning.  Shadow happily licked my hand and lay down next to me on the floor, content.

Is this normal?  Does everyone's dog have one person they are so attached to?  It's equal parts hilarious and endearing.  He's a mamma's boy!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sing Along

Not long ago, I blogged about movies that I cannot watch.  Not because they are naughty, or full of bad words, but because they are too sad.  They make me weep, cry and even sob.  You can read about them here.

After writing that, I started thinking about songs that throw me over the edge.  Not surprisingly, given my penchant for falling apart at the smallest thing, the list has several entries.  So, I give you -

Songs I Cannot Listen To Without Embarrassing Myself:

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman? (obviously)
Untitled Hymn (by Chris Rice - beautiful, beautiful!  But oh-so-emotional!)
Come For Me (by Charlie Hall - also beautiful, and was sung at a funeral of a dear friend)
That Christmas Shoes Song (the mom is going to DIE? Really??)
Various hymns that touch my heart
Tommy and Laura Were Lovers (at least, that's the beginning of the heartbreaking song my dad used to sing)
The Best of Friends (from Fox and The Hound)
What a Wonderful World (played at our reception - good memories!  But teary, often!)
Baby Mine (from Dumbo)

I'm sure there are many more that cause me to lose all control and sob, but these are the ones I can call to mind right now.  Of course, the songs that are spiritually emotional have great value.  But the rest?  I'll pass!

On the flip side, many songs make me smile and laugh - and who wouldn't prefer that?  Why would I want my insides ripped out and stomped on?  So, I present you:

Songs That Make Me Smile and Dance With Joy:

Happy - by Pharrell Williams (of course!)
The Gambler (I can't explain why, but knowing when to hold 'em just makes me happy)
Danny's Song by Kenny Loggins (". . .now I see a family, where there once was none. . .")
Walking on Sunshine
Basically anything by ABBA, The Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel
Put Your Records On
Brown-Eyed Girl
I've Got You Babe
I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)

I'm sure there are many, many more.  Thankfully, there are many more songs that make me happy!  What songs make you cry?  Please tell me I'm not alone!  And which songs make you happy??

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Doggone it!

You might have heard we adopted a dog about a month ago.  Shadow, a four-year-old labradoodle/cocker spaniel mix, has been getting used to life at our house. And he's getting pretty comfortable around here, judging by his actions.

In the aww, that's so cute category:

He is really attached to me.  No matter where I go in the house, he is a few steps behind.  He will only sleep in our room, preferably on the floor next to my side of the bed (though he tried in the beginning to sleep on our bed, which got a rapid nix).  When I go upstairs, he goes upstairs.  When I walk into the next room, he quickly springs up and comes too.  He's truly my Shadow.

He barks and paws at us when he wants to play.  This is mostly cute, but sometimes challenging.  He finds family devotions booooring, and likes to bark at us to try to break it all up.  He also barks at me when he decides I should get up in the morning.  This is only an issue if we are sleeping in (which we've gotten to do often lately, due to the snow days).  After the kids have been downstairs for awhile, he is quite certain that I need to get up too. And he will bark and howl at me until I do just that.

When he lays down at night, or just next to you on the floor or couch, he groans a little.  I find it very endearing.  And also reassuring, knowing that he is not roaming the house up to no good.

Which brings me to the next category -


This dog has a serious oral fixation.  He wants everything in his mouth, truly.  Just today, here is a list of what he has snatched when our guards were down:

Capri Sun Straw (he was very stubborn about letting go of it)
Lego (he was chomping on it, as if it was a tasty bit of kibble)
Washcloth (which he put a hole in)
Stuffed animal Chewbacca (thankfully he put it down when asked)
Check stub (he chewed up the end and spit out all the pieces on the carpet)
Beanie Baby dog (he very generously removed the tail for us)
Bathroom trash (ewwwww)
Pancake (of course, he can't be blamed for this one)

So seriously.  Dog people.  Is this normal?  It's making me crazy! He grabs socks, gloves, hats, whatever is on the floor.  We are trying very hard to keep things off the floor, but re: five kids over here.  We encourage him to play with his toys, but when he doesn't want to give something up, it all has to become a Big Deal.  He pounces and jumps and runs away, trying to play with us.  It's quite frustrating.

Ohh, but he's soft and cuddly and very good natured.  The kids love him and I am rather fond of him as well.  He really has become part of our family!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Chair Full of Memories

Sixteen years ago, we moved into our house.  Its 2100 square feet seemed voluminous to us, and I wondered how we would ever fill all those rooms.  Of course, that was crazy thinking, because now we are bursting at the seams!  But back then. . .things were different!  No children yet, meager belongings, and a lot of empty space.

A member at our church was moving away, and suggested we come over and take any of the furniture they would no longer need.  I was thrilled!  On a snowy January day, we acquired several new-to-us items.  Among them were a table and chairs, an enormous desk, a dresser, and a recliner.  Sixteen years later, I am sitting at my kitchen island, a mere few feet away from the hand-me-down recliner.

It's not really much to look at, I'll admit.  It's comfortable, though, and more importantly to me, it has been with us since the beginning.

In this recliner, I:

  • have rocked all my babies.  I even blogged about it here and here  I recall rocking my second son, firmly and quickly, tucking him to my side to get him to sleep.  I recall rocking my daughter, my eyes heavy, hers alert, praying futilely for some rest for my weary self.  I nursed them all in that chair, boppy tucked snugly around my waist, until mamma and babe drifted off to sleep.
  • received the news that my beloved grandma had died.  It was New Year's Day 2000, and I was sitting in the recliner, heavily pregnant, watching a movie with my husband.  I knew before I heard my mom's words on the phone.  I rocked and cried and mourned her there.
  • recovered from my back injury last year.  I sat, immobilized, for days in that chair, watching endless episodes of Law and Order.  
  • fed my third child via his feeding tube. It was a tricky business, feeding our son through his tube.  He had to be distracted and happy (or asleep!), or the formula would come back out the syringe, causing a mess and basically mass hysteria.  He couldn't grab at the tube and syringe, which he was wont to do, or we would also have a mess.  So the recliner was the best choice as he got older.  I would hold him in my lap, rocking gently, whilst balancing the formula-filled syringe and offering him a toy to play with.  Praise God he now enjoys steak and apples and sitting comfortably at the table.
  • sat, teary, as I processed the news that we were pregnant with our fourth child.  Don't misunderstand - this child was not a surprise, and was very much wanted!  But I recall feeling overwhelmed when I realized I was going to be the mother of four children. . .when I still felt like I was about 18 years old!  I rocked and prayed, and my anxious heart was soothed.  
  • averted disaster.  While I was playing with my young son, I held him up above my head to kiss his tummy.  The recliner's center of gravity shifted, and the baby and I tipped over backward.  I held to him fast and thankfully we both avoided injury.  He thought the whole thing was hilarious!
None of the furniture in this room is new.  Everything is used and well-loved by five kids, two adults, and now one dog.  The recliner fits right in.  If we ever decide we can get new furniture in the family room, it will be pretty hard for me to let it go.  A new one might be pretty, but this one speaks volumes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Happiness Is. . .

Picking up my son from basketball at 6 pm and it is NOT DARK, when it has been dark the whole season at that time.  It might snowy and freezing and messy, but it is not fully dark.

The faces of my students.  I simply adore their hugs, smiles, laughter (I have two students who laugh with such joy and mirth that I can't help but join in).  Hearing them sing praises to Jesus and begin to grasp His great love for them. . .glorious!

Telling my daughter that a $100 North Face sweatshirt is insanity, bordering on criminal, and having her agree that it is cray cray, even though she wants one badly!  (For the record, to those of you who think I'm mean and awful for choosing to pay the electric bill instead of paying for one item of clothing for my child, I did offer to pay what I felt was a reasonable amount for a sweatshirt, and she was welcome to fund the rest).

Rock retrieval.  As nap began at school today, I had a student inform me that he had a rock up his nose and could I please get it out?!  With mild panic bubbling up, I continued to remind him not to sniff, don't sniff, don't sniff!  When questioned, he answered (with a logic unique to all three-year-olds) one moment that he didn't stick a rock in his nose, and the next minute, that he did indeed stick one up there at recess. After some moments of envisioning a stressful call to mom and dad and a trip to the ER, our classroom aide was able to get him to blow it out.  Whew!  I've never been so happy to see a snot-encrusted-pebble in my life!

A black doggie named Shadow jumping up to greet us each day as we come home.  His love and excitement makes our homecomings a little more wonderful - and coming home was already a lovely event!

Playing game after game and doing puzzle after puzzle with my little K.  She is tireless with her requests, and each game is followed by a giant hug and proclamation of love, punctuated with kisses.

A nose that is not broken.  What is it with noses today?  I was summoned from my classroom at lunchtime today with the words, "Please come down to the cafeteria and look at A's nose.  We are pretty sure it is not broken, but we want you to check."  Yikes! I power walked down there lickety split, and found my son, seemingly all in one piece.  Apparently two children in a small space moving full speed causes injury.  Who knew!

And finally, Happiness is . . . a warm gun.  That was the first thing I thought of when I wrote the title. I have no idea the lyrics of that song, or what the heck it's about, but I had to include it here.  Gotta love the Beatles!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dog Daze

Perhaps you have heard already that yesterday we added a new furry member to our family. Shadow, a black labradoodle/cocker spaniel mix was adopted into his furrever family (all the shelters and websites use that nifty spelling).  We drove two hours to meet him, decided he was indeed a good match for our family, so we adopted him and brought him home.

He was great in Petsmart and great on the way home, and he has been a sweet, gentle and loving dog in the 24 + hours we have had him home.  We didn't even hear him bark until this morning, and he has been very patient with all the overtures of love my children are bestowing upon him.  All in all, I think he has a great personality and will be a wonderful addition to our family.

But, as usual in these situations, there is a transition period.  And my dear friends, as I might have mentioned before many times, change is not my forte.  This is a major adjustment to our household - it feels like I have a baby again (and thank goodness our rule of "we might get a dog when we have no babies in the house" was kept; I'm not sure I could handle a new doggie and a little one at the same time).  Everything I wrote above about Shadow is true.  He is a fabulous dog with a great personality. And also some diarrhea.  Yep, the poor thing is either traumatized by the last two tumultuous weeks of his life, or he ate some different food at his foster house.  Either way, the guy is having some poopy problems.  On my (newish) carpet.  I know what you're thinking - why did you let him on it?  Don't you know dogs will do that?  We know, we know.  I expect accidents - he's an animal.  But it has made his first day with us a little more challenging, for sure.  He has been accident free since three am (last night also resembled a night with a newborn. . .I had forgotten how hard it is to operate on four hours of sleep!), so we're hoping he's getting more settled.  The boys give me a play-by-play of his poop consistency every time he goes outside, so try not to be jealous.  I have heard "mashed potatoes!" and "oatmeal" and "cream of chicken soup".  One of the boys is predicting solid poop by Wednesday.  We can only hope it will be sooner.

The love from child to dog is a beauty to behold.  They LOVE this doggie, and I love to watch it.  They are also probably driving him crazy, but I digress - suffice it to say he is very patient.  "Man's best friend!", and "He is the best dog in the world!", and "I love you so much, Shadow!" are constant phrases I've heard in the last day.

We had to leave him in the laundry room (barking) this morning for church (he WILL NOT go in the crate we borrowed - thinking he either has never used one, or has had a bad experience with one), and I was pretty anxious that he would be really upset for the three hours we would be gone.  On the way to church, my eldest son suddenly turned down the radio and started praying aloud.  A prayer of thankfulness that Shadow was in our family, and then a prayer that Shadow would be calmed and soothed and feel safe knowing that we would return.  As you might imagine, I was weepy.  I had been praying for God's hand in this transition as well, and his eloquent words calmed my anxious heart.

As we drove home from the distant Petsmart yesterday, I looked in my rearview mirror several times. My 13-year-old son was sitting in the back of the burb with our new doggie, looking serene and blissful.  It made me think of a Norman Rockwell painting, as the phrase "A boy and his dog" flitted through my mind.  It made me smile numerous times.

I am very happy we have Shadow in our family.  I would like to fast forward a week or two to know everything will be worked out, house training-wise, but I suppose that would be the easy way out.  We shall walk this walk as a family and figure it out together.  I just hope the journey involves less poop and more cuddles.

Friday, January 16, 2015

On Letting It Go

I recently read an article on Facebook about parenting three kids versus four kids.  The gist of the article was that parents of three kids are far more stressed than parents of four kids.  The article talked about several things, most of which involved the basic ideal:  Parents of many have to Let It Go.

I can't really speak well to what it is like to be a mom of three kids.  I was only a mom to three for 2 years.  We had our fourth child almost exactly two years after our third, and those two years are a bit of a blur.  In addition, our third child had many, many medical issues that caused us to be in/out of the hospital for the first year of his life.  So, I don't know that my experience as a mom of three is too valid.  Plus I barely remember yesterday, much less ten years ago.

So - I can't really compare three kids to four (or in my case, 5), but I can speak to having four and five.  And I'm telling you, this article was pretty spot on.  Here are some of the basic points it made:

Perfectionism becomes a thing of the past.  Ummm, yeah.  The kitchen floor isn't spotless?  Please.  I am hoping that the children are clean enough to be presentable to the general public.  Knowing all your children's homework dates/projects/assignments?  No way.  I don't micro manage, unless the child is struggling in school.  They learn (sometimes via sink or swim!), how to figure it out on their own. I am here to help, when needed, but it they need to come to me if they are stuck.  And they do.

The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting.  I can't say I'm always confident, but I do feel more comfortable in who I am, and how I parent.  I'm not as concerned about what everyone else thinks now.  I know what works for our family, and I feel more confident with how I discipline and parent my younger children than I did the first two.  The article also says you have to just let things go the more kids you have, and that is truth.  I don't have time to analyze why little Johnny is crying, because look, big sister Sarah just learned how to tie her shoes!  After praising Sarah for a moment, I turn back to Johnny, who has miraculously gotten over his issue and is happily pulling all the tupperware out of the cabinet drawers.

Having more kids teaches you to find ways to unwind by yourself.  I don't know if I have this mastered, but I do know that I understand how necessary it is to step back at times, and realize that if I leave the room for a moment, all will not be lost.  The kids better learn to fend for themselves and figure out how to manage without mamma hovering.  The article referenced letting go of making the perfect lunch for your kids, and going on a walk instead. I don't know how many walks I scoot out the door for, but I do know that I don't make my kids' lunches.  Even my five-year-old makes the bulk of hers.  Before you think I'm up for Loser Mom of the Year, don't fret - I am in the room and guiding their choices as they pack their lunches.  But it's their job, not mine.

Allowing only one extracurricular activity per child.    We are definitely in this camp, and have been for years.  The kids can play a sport or do an activity each season (and play an instrument or take music lessons), but they cannot do more than one at a time.  Travel teams are completely off the table (for many reasons), and the kids know it.  They are welcome to try just about any sport/activity they want, one at a time, in our community.  And I don't feel like they're lacking because of this rule.

The household is always exciting.  Er, that's one way to put it!  It's always loud, busy, in the throes of a project/game/dance party/fight etc.  There is always something going on.  And the kids always have playmates nearby.  And if they get annoyed with one sib? No problem!  There's always another one nearby who is willing to play.

When my first two kids were born, I read book after book about how to parent (full disclosure: I still read parenting books, albeit the nature of these books has changed over the years).  One method I fully subscribed to was nursing on a schedule, which was not the popular practice at the time.  My first two nursed every three hours, pretty much on the nose.  I LOVED the rhythm and schedule (that is my personality, even now), and I fully believed and they would thrive. And they did!  They both did just great on that schedule.  My third child was on a rigid hospital-mandated feeding schedule, so there was no room for my opinion in feeding him.  But by the time my fourth and fifth children were born, the feeding schedule was out the window.  If the baby cried, I didn't have time to try the swing, then the paci, then tummy-time, then the swing again.  If the baby cried, I nursed him.  Period. I remember vividly nursing my fourth while listening to my first grader read aloud her book of the day.  Have you ever listening to a first grader read aloud?  It is laborious.  There was no way I could have pacified the baby and listened at the same time.  So nurse him I did, and everyone was a winner, and there was peace in all of the land.  For about 10 minutes, anyway.

Parenting five children has taught me much about myself.  What is truly important to me in the way of parenting has risen to the surface.  My 7th grader went to school today with no coat, and one of my younger boys confessed to recently wearing the same socks for three days in a row over the snow days.  I have learned to pick my battles.  I want my children to be loving, caring, honest, compassionate and Christ-like people.  We are a work in progress.  Everything else is cake.