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).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pregnancy Loss Day

A few days ago was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day.  I didn't realize there was an official day to commemorate babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss.  But when I read there was such a day, it caused me to ponder again the two babies we lost to miscarriage.

I remember so vividly finding out that we lost our first baby -- our first pregnancy, our first child.  I had had some spotting and so had to go in for an ultrasound.  The tech did indeed find a heartbeat, so we were greatly reassured, went home and thought all was well.  But about a week later, while I was at work, I got a call that a follow up ultrasound had been ordered.  No one I spoke to sounded terribly concerned, and not knowing any better, we were not worried.  I don't remember the details prior to that appointment, but my husband wasn't able to go to it with me (I'm sure that wasn't a concern to me, because we thought nothing was wrong and this was just protocol).

So there I was, alone with the tech in the ultrasound room, when I got the news.  There was no heartbeat, and the baby had passed away.  I recall changing back into my regular clothes (I can picture the very shirt and jeans I had on) and looking at my neck and face - red and splotchy, like I had broken out in hives.  I was trying to hold it together to tell my husband, and struggling to do so.  I remember going to his office and waiting for him there, and then trying to find the words to tell him.  I remember sobbing with him later that night, feeling so bereft and heartbroken -- and scared.  Not only was I grieving the very real loss of this child, but I was also afraid that maybe I wouldn't be able to carry a child to term at all.

This all happened almost 18 years ago, which is hard to believe.  Much of that time is still etched in my mind, but a lot of those emotions and details are lost to me now.  I had a friend who had just miscarried ask me once, "Were you able to move on eventually?  Do you ever have days when you aren't thinking about it?".

I told her yes.  That I hurt a very long time, and I still ache for those children at times now, but I was able to move on.   I met a gal several years ago while we were on vacation in the Tetons.  She and her husband were devout Catholics and were aching for more children.  They had one beautiful daughter, and had suffered many, many miscarriages.  Her pain was deep, real, and raw.  Yet her faith amazed me.  Among many things she said, this thought has stuck with me all this time: "Isn't our primary prayer for our children that they live with their Savior in heaven?  My miscarried children are in heaven with Jesus", she said.  "That's ultimately what we want for them! These souls we have created have experienced little to no suffering and are now in the presence of God."

Wow, I thought.  Yes -- I do want my children in heaven.  As parents, that's our first and foremost prayer for our children.  We want them to have the gift of eternal life.  We pray for that, we live our lives and shape theirs to reflect that -- it is our end goal!

But oh-- when our timing is not the same as God's!  How hard it is!  This isn't what I meant God - not yet, not now.  I know this pain to a small degree through miscarriage.  I cannot imagine the pain of a stillborn birth, or a child who died in infancy or childhood.  My prayer at the times of my miscarriages was simply for strength to go on, and for peace in the knowledge that God would work all things (even these terribly hard and painful times) for good.

When I think of my two babies in heaven, I find such comfort in knowing they are with their Savior.  When I lost our babies, I heard many well-meaning comments.  But the one which truly comforted me the most was that our baby was in the arms of Jesus. I wanted my baby to be in in my arms, but oh, how much solace it gave me that my baby was instead in his or her Savior's arms.  That my prayer for my child had been answered already.

Someday, my husband and I will be reunited with the two babies we lost.  Our children here on earth know about their siblings and think a heavenly introduction will be nothing short of amazing.  So though here on earth we are a family of seven, truly, we are a family of nine.  Two of our family members are just living in their heavenly home.  And that knowledge brings me such hope and joy.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bits and Pieces #14

  • Out of the mouths of my preschoolers:     Teacher:  Which animals didn't actually have to get on the ark when the earth flooded?  Preschoolers:  Pitbulls?  Unicorns?

  • Out of the mouths of (one of my) babes:   "I know why God gave us two legs!!  So our underwear would fit!"

  • "I'm super good at eavesdropping!" sayeth one of my children, rather nonchalantly.  "Seriously!  I should teach Eavesdropping 101!"  Note to self:  Speak softly and watch out for hovering children.

  • Today was superhero day at school.  I decided to take this opportunity to dress as I normally would and be the best super hero ever. . .a mom!  My youngest son dressed up like Harry Potter (though he told me was in fact, NOT Harry, but a random heroic Griffindor character -- I have no idea, having no desire to read the books), and my little daughter dressed up as 'KK! -- to the rescue!'  My husband has been saying this phrase to my daughter since she was little.  Last night when we started to think about costumes (you didn't think we thought about this sort of thing in advance, did you, dear reader?), I suggested a T shirt in her closet. . .bing, bang, done.  I'm the practical sort of lame super hero mommy.  But Daddy thought of KK!, and proceeded to help her find a leotard, leggings, and then make a shield which said KK!.  We pinned it to her leotard and KK!- to the rescue was ready for action. Daddy for the win!

  • I have noticed something about myself:  When we are getting ready to leave the house, I tend to walk through the house yelling out the remaining time until our departure, rather like a town crier.  "25 minutes!", I yell to anyone within earshot.  "15 minutes till we leave!", I bellow as I tie a shoe, finish packing a lunch, flush a random toilet.  I continue this way until the urgency increases and it's down to: "1 minute! We need to be ready to go now!".  I turn off enough lights to put the electric company employees' children through college, pet the dog and say in a morose voice,"Mommy go bye-bye" to send him packing up to my bed, and then hustle all the children out the door, continuing to shout out various directives to various people.  I feel fairly certain no one in our house would be capable of leaving without my town crier efforts.  I could be wrong, but I'm too afraid to risk it by stopping.