Thursday, December 19, 2013

Away in a Manger

Tis the season. . .for Christmas Programs!

My family and I have gone to three in the last three days, and I love it!  Monday night we got to watch our 1st grader sing praises to baby Jesus and our 3rd grader perform as Joseph in the nativity play.  Wednesday morning our preschooler journeyed to Bethlehem with her classmates and spoke and sang the story of Jesus' birth.  And our middle schoolers praised God at Advent worship last night with their voices and instruments.

Wow.  What a blessing - to live in a place where our children can praise God at the top of their voices.  They are at a school where they learn about Him and what Christmas really means.  It does not escape me that not all children know about Him or have the freedom to praise Him in public places.  

And as I've thought about these last three days of programs, it caused me to reminisce a bit (I know, I know!  I can't help myself - everything causes me to reminisce!).  And I recalled two other Christmas program memories - if you're interested, you can read about them here and here.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

For the Love of the Couch

15 years ago next month, my husband and I moved into our house.  Our first house, our only house thus far.  We had so many rooms, and so little furniture to put in it.  So we bought our first real furniture, a living room set from Value City.  It was just right - a couch, a love seat and three tables - all perfectly coordinating with our desirable burgundy carpet.

Fast forward to last week.  I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post from a friend offering her lovely (and oh-so-neutral) couch for FREEEEE.  "Quick!"  I said to my husband.  "We must say we'll take it and use it in the living room!"  Bing-bang-boom.  As of Friday, the couch was ours.

And the other couch and love seat?  I called for large trash pick up for today.  Both couches were literally bursting at the seams, spewing foam filling all over the floor whenever the children hopped over them like gymnastics equipment (which I'm sorry to report was often).  My mom had sewn the ripped seams the last time she visited, but to no avail.  I wanted to take them to Goodwill, but we feared they were just past their time.

So today, they sat on the snowy curb, and a large truck rumbled to our house.  We all watched as an enormous crane grabbed our couches and dropped them into the truck.  Two pillows and a cushion had fallen to the ground and before I knew it, my son had dashed out into the driveway and was retrieving them.  I quickly followed, worried about him near the large equipment.  He was holding the pillows as the driver tossed the cushion into the truck.

"We need to keep the pillows, mom!", he said with fervor.

Tonight at bedtime, this same little son was having trouble going to sleep.  My husband was upstairs helping him settle in.  With tears in his eyes, our son said, "Dad, every time I close my eyes, I think of the couches!"

He was genuinely upset that the couches were gone.  "I only saved two pillows!  I should have saved three!  I should have saved a cushion!  We've had them so long - why couldn't we fix them?"

Oh, my heart!  This is my boy!  I was the little girl who cried when we rearranged the living room furniture or sold a car.  This little boy, who has the corner on crazy wild, has such a tender, soft heart.

He is currently cuddled in bed with the two couch pillows.  I am very glad we kept them - they will remind of us what used to be, and also of the sweet little boy who couldn't let go of a piece of his childhood.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Word of the Day

Note to self:

When praying in the morning with one's children (including several grade school boys), the word "duties" regarding the family's various jobs and activities is not the best word choice.

Hilarity will ensue, which does not foster the reverent attitude one is trying to cultivate.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Giving thanks this month for the following:

The Smell of Burning Leaves.  I know, some of you may hate this smell, but I adore it!  It brings back vivid memories of standing in the yard of my childhood home, watching my dad burn our (many) leaves at the curb.  We live within city limits here, and we are wonderfully able to blow them to the curb and the city workers magically (re: paid for by our tax dollars) remove them, so we don't burn them ourselves.  But whenever I drive by someone burning theirs, I am transported back in time.

Modern Medicine.  One of our kids recently had a procedure done that will be huge for him.  If we lived fifty years ago, it wouldn't have been possible.  What a blessing it is to have doctors and research and medicine!  Praise God!

Days Home Alone.  I have three full days this year, sans children.  I am rarely unscheduled for any of them, but every now and then the stars align and I am home all by myself.  Today was one of those days, and I got several things done and enjoyed the peace and solitude (and Christmas music and Law and Order reruns).

Extended Family.  We will be seeing ALL the cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles for Thanksgiving and everyone is beyond excited.  That will be thirteen children and ten adults in one house for the afternoon.  It will be loud, crazy, wild and not a bit boring.  This is the stuff childhood memories are made of!

Old Friends.  And by old, I don't mean old. . .I mean long-established and time-honored.  I am getting together with my college girl friends this weekend and I can't wait!  We will spend time catching up, shopping, eating and generally enjoying each other's company.  We started this tradition about ten years ago, and it is something we all look forward to each year.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Good Night Nurse!

As I have previously written, putting the kids to bed is not my best work as a mother.  I get crabby, short and tired.  No one seems to listen, there is bickering, horseplay (did I just write horseplay?  How old am I??) and general naughtiness.

Falling into bed is one of the best parts of my day!  How can the children not see the pure joy in resting one's head on the pillow and stretching out luxuriously, knowing 10-12 hours of slumber await? It is a true mystery to me.

There are glimpses of beauty, though, in this routine that challenges me.  The children who are quick to apologize for their behavior, the sweet kisses good night and the urgent requests to cuddle.  And the blessings from my youngest daughter each night.

We give the children a blessing each night, and my little four year old has taken to blessing me every night as well.  She makes the sign of the cross on my forehead and says a little prayer that melts my heart each time.  It usually starts with "Dear Jesus, Please help Muthuh. . ." and goes on to request some sort of creature comfort for me, or pray for my general safety and happiness.  One night she made the sign of the cross on my head and recited the entire Pledge to the Cross as my blessing!

For tonight, Daddy is finishing up, and I am typing in the dark quiet of the living room.  I hear sounds from upstairs as the children settle in, Daddy moving from room to room.  Soon our house will be still and silent and bedtime chaos forgotten.  All's well that ends well, yes?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Loads of Fun!

I do laundry every Monday and Thursday, almost without fail.  I fold everything and have the laundry ready for the kids to put away as one of their after school chores.  I adore rhythms and while I don't exactly love the laundry, it is my least disliked chore (how's that for passive aggressive?).  However, there are days when I wonder, even with seven clothed people, how this occurred:

Did everyone wear layers every. minute. of the last four days?  Did people change two to three times a day?  What's up with this kind of volume?  I am glad my family doesn't walk around naked, but really people.  Less is more.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This and That

Once again, blogging in bullet form.  I'm pathetic.  Love me or leave baby.  Well, please don't leave - just try to get over my lack of ability to form a full coherent blog theme.

  • The token behavior plan is working. . .if one wants to say that the children never getting screens again the rest of their natural-born lives is considered working!  The boys earned some tokens early on and received screen time. But the last couple of days have been bone dry in the screen department.  No tokens being earned, and whole days being taken away for the first offense seen.  It may be weeks, months, before these children ever play with their beloved electronics again.  And I'm not complaining.  And actually neither are they!  They seem to realize that getting to use them is in their hands, but they aren't trying very hard to behave.  I'm hoping that eventually they will realize what needs to be done to restore order to our house get their precious screens back.
  • I was thinking about the Elf on the Shelf the other day, and how he is going to make a comeback in just a few short weeks.  And the mere thought of him drained me.
  • Out of the mouths of babes:
    • "Spy would be a perfect job for me because I have white hair. " (pause) "And that is the exact opposite of the color that they have to wear!"
  • I'm working on updating all of the kids'  pictures for our portrait wall in the family room.  I have two kids done so far.  How is this so hard?  I am just taking them to JCP or Target due to the Freedom Budget (I am free to make choices!  Free to choose (usually) sub-par photography options!), but finding the time is proving quite challenging!  The thought of taking all the  kids to a studio for one of the kids' pictures sounds a bit exhausting.  I'm relatively certain tokens would not be earned, if you get what I'm saying.  At least I have two done (though one of those is actually cheating - it is one of his confirmation pictures from last spring - I call that being resourceful).  Three to go.  By the time I get those three done, the first ones will be outdated.  Sigh.
  • I am very much enjoying the phrase "for realsies".  I am using it in place of the prosaic phrase "That's true" or the slightly more hip "for real".  I have taken it up a notch.  "For realsies" makes me sound like a cool mom - my kids love it when I say it, especially around their friends.  My husband often tells me how he wishes I would say it much more often.  Basically, everyone thinks my vocabulary is off the charts.  I even got my small group saying it!  For realsies!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Come on! I could live to be 90!

Redheads are going to be extinct in 2060.

My son's reaction to that news:

"They are?!?  Aw, mom!  Well at least you'll he dead by then."

Followed by a huge smile and a bear hug.

I love this kid!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rainy days and Thursdays. . .

Rainy, rainy Halloween here this year.  All day it has drizzled and sprinkled and misted.  And I had to run errands rapido because the kids got out of school at one o'clock today.  So little K and I were in and out, in and out of many a store in less-than-stellar shopping conditions.

And quicker than you could say bad hair day, my hair looked as if I had stuck my finger in a light socket.  It was crazy large, frizzy and wavy.  I had skimped on the straightening time this morning, though it wouldn't have mattered.  The humidity would have made quick work of my efforts anyway.  I began entering doorways sideways.  I think I could have easily starred in a horror movie.

Now we're home and we're into day one of token usage.  So far I have removed two tokens from naughty boys. . .but the day is still young.  My hair is back in a (giant) ponytail and I am getting ready to get down to business.  The business of dressing children in Halloween costumes to go beg for candy from the neighbors.  We will be debuting a garden gnome, a Pokemon trainer (in a costume I find rather lacking), a football player and some sort of Kingdom Hearts character.  My oldest is hanging out with a friend, because soliciting neighbors for candy feels a bit too juvenile for a 13 year old.  We are planning to use umbrellas to ward off the deluge and then just hope for the best.  It's warm, the kids are young, and hey - free candy is taking a bit more effort this year.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Starting tomorrow, my husband and I are hoping to see better behavior in our boys.  How, you ask?  Well, here is our plan:

Years ago when my children took naps and Dr. Phil made cameos on Oprah, I heard him talk about currency.  As in "What is your child's currency?  What is most important to your child?"  And I'm sorry to report, around here, all three of our boys' currency is screens.  TV, DS, Wii, computer, my iPhone, iPad, iPod. . .you get the idea.  Using some sort of electronic device is almost always what they would choose to do with their free time.  In the summer our guidelines were pretty strict, but since school has started, mommy hasn't been policing it well enough and sometimes the screen usage is a wee bit more than I'd like to admit in writing.  

SO!  Screens are the currency, and tokens are the ticket.  We have decided to allow the boys to earn tokens (each worth a half hour of screen time) by showing good behavior.  They can use up to one hour a day (after their lists are finished after school) and save extras for the future.  If they are not behaving, we will take a token away.  

We are hoping to a) encourage the boys to be kinder to each other, b) nip bad behavior in the bud, c) scale way back on screen time, which often contributes to their bad behavior in the first place, and d) keep a shred of our sanity.  

I'd really like to accomplish a-d, but if pressed, I would be happy to settle for d.  If I indeed do not lose my mind, I'll try to post preliminary results of this new disciplinary plan.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Horrors

I am not a fan of Halloween.

I said it.  Does that make me un-American?  Anti-kid?  Against creativity and mindless chocolate eating?

Well, sue me.  I am not a fan.  Except about the mindless chocolate consumption.  I am a big fan of that.  

But the rest of it?  No thanks.

A few reasons to back up my statement:

Costumes, oh the costumes.  Need I say more?  I am cheap and unbelievably uncreative, so helping my children decide what to wear for Halloween taxes every aspect of my personality.  They tend to want store bought costumes, which I hate and refuse to spring $15-20 apiece for, so we have to come up with something ourselves.  Except I am not crafty or creative, so this is a big hurdle.  I suggest the easiest things I see on Pinterest, but the kids are not interested.  They want to wear all black and be a ninja.  Or flip their hair a lot and be a rock star.  This translates into a pack of kids walking around the neighborhood basically looking like they have no costumes at all, and begging for candy.  The neighbors love us.

The pumpkins.  Carving pumpkins is messy, disgusting, smelly and dangerous.  And did I mention messy?  The kids come up with crazy intricate ideas for their pumpkins, and I'm all like "How about triangle eyes and a circle nose?".  But no. . .they want extremely specific characters.  Luckily, my husband comes through with all the artistic skills I lack and helps the kids create jack-o-lanterns like these:

Jack Skellington, a flower, a traditional jack-o-lantern,
a Pokemon character and Sonic the Hedgehog

So while I am jamming the knife into my youngest daughter's pumpkin (who was the only one who allowed me to carve hers - she is too young to know how wretched I am at this) and yelling for all the kids to keep their distance lest I fling the knife out and hurt someone, my husband is calmly carving Sonic the Hedgehog and a Pokemon character.  Sigh. 

And creepy spiders and ghosts and ghouls decorating my house?  No thanks.  I'll stick to happy fall decor, like pumpkins and gourds and leaves and all manner of orange things.  

Last but not least, the Halloween candy.  Finally, this miserable holiday redeems itself.  Enormous bowl-fuls of chocolate on my counter?  This is a tradition I can support.

Perhaps Halloween isn't all bad, after all.   

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Why is it that blog posts in bullet form are becoming the norm for me?  Am I not able to produce a singe-focus post these days?  Apparently not, because here comes anotha one, in short-attention-span bullet points:

  • We bought a new car!  (read:  an '08, with 100,000 miles on it).  But we all love it!  It's a red suburban, with 9 seats and a DVD player!  The kids were beside themselves with joy and I had to put the kibosh on watching a movie every. single. time. we are in the car.  They got over their letdown and now are content in fighting over who sits in which seat.  I, on the other hand, am getting over my severe qualms about driving the huge thing.  It is wider than the (already big) Astro, and longer too, so it is an adjustment.  I think I have perfected the 16-point-parking-space-exit, with hopes to soon be able to enter a parking garage.  Baby steps.  
  • My eldest daughter and one of my sons were in our local production of Annie Get Your Gun over the weekend.  It was a great show, with lots of talent and spectacular sets and costumes.  My daughter was a socialite, complete with a dance number and line and mic!  She looked beautiful and did a fabulous job.  My son was adorable as a cowboy (I might be prejudiced about the good looks of my children - don't judge!) and tried his very hardest to do his best.  That being said, he was the most active cowboy on the stage.  He wandered around the group of cowboys, vying for a better view of Annie and Frank during the shootout scenes.  He spent several moments reaching out and touching Sitting Bull's elaborate headdress.  Dear reader, my heart was pounding every time he was on the stage!  I was so worried he would cause a scene, pull the headdress off the chief, get into a scuffle with another cowboy, you name it!  At one point when he was reaching out to touch the headdress, I actually said his name quietly (from the upstairs mezzanine).  It was involuntary!  I was desperate to redirect him and tell him to stand still.  Our family thought it was hilarious, but I must admit, I just found it terrifying!  Thankfully, the show ended without incident and both daughter and son had a wonderful time.  And my heart began beating normally again.  
  • My littlest K got a game of Old Maid (full disclosure: as a kids' meal toy from Chick-fil-A) the other day and she and I and various family members have enjoyed playing it with her.  For probably the first 10 games, though, every time she got stuck with the Old Maid at the end, she would say, "I got the Old Navy!".  I abdicate all responsibility in that.  
  • My husband will not be home for dinner tonight and the children are super excited.  Not because they don't love their father, but because if Daddy isn't home, they think they will get a "fake dinner".  As in, Mommy won't really cook (because apparently that is a horrible prospect!) and they can have macaroni or cereal or chicken nuggets.  And you know what?  Tonight they're right!
  • We have converted from the Budgetary Smackdown to what I am fondly calling the Freedom Budget.  The kids think my names for things are super cool by the way (do you believe that?).  We are entering a building project at church and are participating in the campaign, so we are actually operating with less, but I feel like we have more!  I remind the children we are free to choose what we spend our money on.  We are free to make smart decisions and the like.  The kids are not really buying it, because to them it boils down to:  fewer McDonald's trips (actually none so far) and not getting what they want whenever they want it (which they have never experienced anyway!).  However, we feel good about our new budget, and I hope the kids will someday see it was a good experience.

I must end this post now and begin preparing our fake dinner!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Seven things I'm lovin' right now

In no particular order:

Little K's delight over her new days-of-the-week undies.  She is loving choosing the right undies for the right day.  Bonus - she's learning and stylish at the same time!

The cooler weather.  Fall seems to have finally arrived! Now if only winter wouldn't follow. . .

My 12 year old's handsome face.  We got his confirmation pictures back finally (because I was incredibly slow in getting them ordered) and I love them.   I may or may not have hugged him too exuberantly when I was looking at them.

Children without fevers.  Little K seems to be on the upswing today, thankfully!

Aldi-brand Velveeta.  Gird yourselves, readers.  Some of you may cringe at what you're about to read.  Yes, I had to buy some Velveeta (so of course I bought Aldi's version) for a recipe last week, and yes, last night I enjoyed some salsa-cheesy goodness with tortilla chips.  If eating it was wrong, I don't wanna be right!

Budgets!  We have tweaked ours and it is a beautiful thing!  I know it sounds crazy, but I love the freedom it gives me, and the challenge to make it all work each pay period.

Our church family.  We are embarking on a new church building campaign, and I have been amazingly inspired by so many people as we all reflect on how our church is our family.  What a blessing to be here, in this place, at this time!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Smile

I looked down this morning during coffee and donut hour (which is, in fact, not the most important part of Sunday mornings, we often have to remind our sugar-lovin' children) at my son's feet.

And got a nice view of two different flip flops.

Yep.  My son wore mismatched flip flops to church.  You win some, you lose some.  I didn't happen to remember to check his feet before we left for church, but, on the bright side, I did remember to bring him and all his siblings.

Big picture, people.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Overheard yesterday:

"I hate piano!" says one boy.

"I'm with ya brother!" says another boy.

Sigh.  I wish for solidarity between my boys.  Must it come at the expense of my favorite instrument?

Yesterday was Old Navy's stuff and save sale.  That means the whole store was 40% off.  Do you know how much I spent?  $2.

Yes, you read that right.  I showed impressive restraint and bought one item.  Of course, that one item was valued at $30, was on sale, then the 40% off, then I had a five dollar coupon.  BUT STILL!  I passed by so many things, dear reader, that would have been fabulous deals.  Items that really wanted to take up residence in my closet.  But we are still in a modified budgetary smackdown, and while I seriously wanted many things, I didn't need any of them.  I left with my $2 top and immediately texted my husband, suggesting I receive a medal for my self-control.  I'm still waiting.

I showed the kids the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake hashtag clip on youtube yesterday morning.  That may or may not have been a mistake.  The rest of breakfast was spent saying hashtag before almost every word or phrase spoken.  #moretoastplease  #he'slookingatme  #where'smybackpack  #makehimstopmom  #brushyourteeth  #isittimeforschoolyet?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Organized Chaos

Since the start of school this year, I have had several mom friends ask me how I keep up with school and paperwork and homework and sports and lessons without losing my mind.

The quick answer - I don't!  My mind feels lost a good portion of the time, and I'm sure the kids will agree that mom is usually a few cards short of a full deck at any given point in time.

But - the long(er) answer is that I do have some procedures in place to keep that wee bit of sanity I have left intact.  Here's how I keep us afloat:

I have lists.  Every person, every day, every event, everywhere are lists!  I have a personal one with my chores/agenda listed, and the kids each have a list on the fridge with every day of the week listed and what they must accomplish each day after school.  When they get home from school (if nothing else is going on (ha!), they have about 45 minutes to unwind, watch TV, have a snack etc.  Then mom busts out the lists from the fridge and fun begins!  Their lists include the following:  laundry, homework, memory work, reading, practice instrument, take out trash, wipe down bathroom, make lunch for school etc.  They don't have all these chores every day, but if I don't write it down, it doesn't happen.  So each day is unique to each child.  This keeps me from nagging about individual chores.  I just point to the list and make sure everything is getting crossed off while I start dinner.  On a side note:  from about 3-8 pm each day, you can always find me IN THE KITCHEN.  Our kitchen and family room are one big room, so I can supervise much of what's going on while making dinner, assisting in lunch packing (in case a child gets a wild hair and tries to pack all desserts or something) or doing dishes.  Once the kids' lists are done, back on the fridge they go, and they can play outside or whatever they'd like until dinner and bedtime routine.

We also have morning lists.  I have a bunch of pre-printed slips of paper on the side of the fridge with all the things we need every morning (like sports clothes, instrument, snack etc.).  The first person to make his/her lunch after school usually gets one down.  Then the kids can make notes about what might need to be added to his/her lunch in the morning (hot item, frozen gogurt) or cross things off that will not be needed the next day.  I can also make notes on it about what might additionally need to be remembered in the morning (for instance, this morning some fundraising money had to be turned in).

Whew!  It sounds nice and organized, doesn't it??  Usually it works well, but it's not always perfect!  I still somehow miss things or send a child to school without something he/she needs, but it definitely helps free my mind of all those little details.  So that I can fill it with more important things.  I'm not sure what those things are.  But my mind is nice and open and ready, whenever I figure it out.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Breathing the breath

At our contemporary worship on Sunday morning, I was caught off guard by a song during the offertory.  It is a beloved one in our house, by Matt Redman.  If you've never heard it, I encourage you to look it up on youtube and listen.  Matt Redman is one of our favorite Christian artists, and if you don't know of him already, get thee to itunes and check him out.  You can thank me later.  Here are the lyrics:

We have nothing to give
That didn't first come from Your hands
We have nothing to offer You
Which You did not provide
Every good, perfect gift comes from
Your kind and gracious heart
And all we do is give back to You
What always has been Yours
Lord, we're breathing the breath
That You gave us to breathe
To worship You, to worship You
And we're singing these songs
With the very same breath
To worship You, to worship You
Who has given to You
That it should be paid back to him?
Who has given to You
As if You needed anything?
From You, and to You, and through You
Come all things, O Lord
And all we do is give back to You
What always has been Yours
We are breathing the breath
That You gave us to breathe

This song was our breath 9 years ago.  When our third son was born, not breathing and later rushed to the children's hospital three hours away, breath and the gift of it had never been more  significant to us.  As we watched his little chest respond to the machine breathing for him, we prayed this song.  In the car on the way to the hospital, we played it.  God, thank you - for this child and for everything we have and are - all are simply gifts from you.  We have nothing that didn't first come from you!

And oh how it comforted!  This precious baby was a gift from God; ours for awhile, His for eternity.  Every breath we take is a gift from Him.

So back to the present . . . we haven't sung this song in worship in many years and I was somewhat surprised by my reaction to it.  I had my arm around my boy (who loves to hug and lean in during worship anyway), my eyes closed, and my heart and voice praying these words.  Tears were on my cheeks as I recalled those days, and another day a few months later.  We reaffirmed our little baby's baptism (my husband had already baptized him the day he was born) in that very place and we had sung this very song.  I recall so vividly exactly where we sat for that service, and I also remember clearly holding my little baby, hooked up still to tubes and monitors tucked into the stroller.  I swayed him, as I always do with my babies, as I sang this same song, thanking God for the breath and life He had given this child in my arms.  Just as I did this past Sunday - held my arm around this boy who is almost as tall as I am, leaning in and loving me.  All those breaths we have taken since he was born. . .each a beautiful gift from our Maker.

Every good, perfect gift comes from Your kind and gracious heart, and all we do is give back to you what always has been Yours. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy birthday, son!

12 years ago today, at 11:23 a.m., our second child was born.  Just 18 months after our first, his arrival made our lives busier, without a doubt, but so joyful at the same time.  He was such a good baby, happy most of the time, and learned the go-with-the-flow lifestyle that was helpful at the time and indispensable in our house now.  I am so proud of the young man he is becoming and we are so enjoying watching his personality mature and deepen as he gets older.

12 years ago yesterday I was admitted into the hospital to be induced.  It was a tiring business, his delivery.  I celebrated yesterday by doing some tiring activities in commemoration:

I subbed in 4th grade at our Lutheran grade school.  I have never subbed, and haven't taught in 15 years.  But the kids were great and I enjoyed it a lot!  So many memories of my own teaching days came back to me, though things have changed quite a bit!  The poor children had to do things the "old-fashioned" way, because I couldn't run the smart board that they are accustomed to.  And by old-fashioned, I mean the white board (which in fact, I never had when I taught - we only had chalkboards!).

The fact that it went well, however, does not erase that fact that it was exhausting.  Afterward, I felt like I did my first day of teaching, way back in 1995 - tired.  Except in 1995 I had no children or husband and was able to go back to my little apartment in St Louis and crash on my hand-me-down couch.  This time, I had a meeting after school with one of my children's teachers, then headed to a cross country meet to watch my almost-twelve year old run a 2K.

After the meet, we headed home, regrouped for a few minutes, then welcomed 7 sixth grade boys into our home.  To spend the night (I know, I know!).  We had pizza and a light saber cake, with a side helping of serious volume.    These boys are CRAZY loud, and I'm no newbie to loud!  They played Beyblades and Pokemon and Capture the Flag (sorry, neighbors!) and Rock Band and Wii.  But really, I can't complain - they all had good manners and played well together.  What did we expect with eight 12 year olds in our (mostly hardwood-floor) house?  Peace and quiet while they played Checkers and discussed their favorite classic novel while listening to Mozart?  Not gonna happen.

So today I am washing bed linens and picking up random electronic chargers and Beyblades and listening to happy boys sing and play "Final Countdown".  It's not quiet, but it's good.  And a certain resident 12 year old boy is having a very happy birthday.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I was washing the dishes last night from dinner (you know, the many that don't fit in the dishwasher each day - sometimes I wish we had an industrial-sized monster from a school cafeteria kitchen) and got to my stainless steel pan.

Let me take a moment to digress about stainless steel cookware.  I know they are best and won't leech harmful chemicals into our food like that naughty Teflon is reported to do (I admit I have never really researched this matter), but by golly, Teflon washes like a dream, and stainless steel like a certified nightmare.  And the worst offender to clean off is eggs.  Which is what I was cleaning off last night.  With as much elbow grease as my puny little arms could provide.

So - back to the point of this post, if you can call it that.  I was scrubbing my little heart out when I looked into the hollow handle of the pan.  And I saw something inside.  Upon further inspection, and verification from nearby family members, I determined it was a rock.  Inside the handle of my skillet.  After some poking and pushing, my husband managed to dislodge it into the soapy water.

How, I ask you, did a rock get into my skillet handle?  The answer is that I have no idea, although I have a few good guesses as to who might have been involved.  But seriously!  A rock in the handle of a pan?  When was there opportunity?  What was the motivation?  How long has it been in there?

Many questions.  Few answers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Precious Moments

Feel drawn to savor moments today:

An unexpected quiet conversation with my husband this afternoon in the school parking lot.  Nothing earth shattering discussed, but was not expecting to see him and was pleasantly surprised to catch a moment to ourselves to talk about our day together.

Playing with my youngest daughter this morning.  Tossing her around on the bed, tickling her tummy and giving her kisses.  Saying more than once today, "I love you, sweet girl!"

Having a rare moment of quiet and introspection with my eldest son on the way home from his soccer game (at which he scored the only goal!).  Hearing his take on "war games" and bad language - love his black and white approach to what is right and pure.  Praying it stays with him as the years make it more challenging.

Laughing hysterically with my eldest daughter as she procrastinated bedtime for the 603rd night in a row.  Loving our relationship as she ages and it deepens.

Being hugged by my 9 year old son just before bedtime and hearing him tell me how much me loves me, and I him.

And coming to the soccer game late and scanning the playground for my youngest son.  He saw me and came flying over, a white-haired, gap-toothed dynamo, arms wild, and crashed into my belly in a huge hug.  

Precious moments, indeed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Things a five year old would say (seven year old version)

About a year ago,  I blogged about one of my favorite childhood game shows (and there were many!), $25,000 Pyramid!  Do you remember it?  It was fab - Dick Clark led celebrities paired up with "normal" people to the winner's circle, where they could go for the Big Money.  It was game show heaven to a certain redheaded 11 year old.  As I blogged last time, there was a category called "Things a __________ Would Say".  Below, my take on the category, with many thanks to my seven year old for his creativity.

"This might come out of my butt you know!  Eventually it will." (said with a shrug)

"It's spicy. . . (mouth full). . .and delicious!"

Waitress:  "You have some blond hair!"  Seven year old: "It's like the whitest in the world I think!"

"If poop never comes out, will you die?"

"Sugar Rush is offensive to Jesus!"  Why?  "Because there was no candy in Jesus' time!"

Don't change that channel!  Give him another year and I bet we'll be back in the winner's circle!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Family Devotions.  Each night after dinner.  All seven of us.  The Bible, the piano, a hymn and two readings.  Prayers together.

Sounds peaceful and pious and devout, yes?

Well. . .not exactly, and not all the time.  Wonderful?  Yes.  Important?  Yes.  Blessed?  Yes.

But peaceful?  Not so much.

One night recently, we settled into the living room to have our devotions as a family, and the kids missed the "settle in" part.  People were having trouble winding down, we had a child with balloons in hand, kids wiggling in laps of others, a child with a pen being used as a weapon, giggling fits from get the idea.  General chaos with little attention to worship.  We redirected, disciplined, encouraged, and persevered.

And then we all stood and headed around the piano.  And this, dear reader, is where family devotions get me every time.  Because no matter how bumpy or beautiful the prior ten minutes were, something happens around that piano each night that makes my heart sing along with my voice.  I sit and play, with my husband and children surrounding me.  I hear my husband's booming voice in my ear, and my older three children's voices sweetly singing with all they have in stereo around me.  And my younger two, bouncing a bit around the group, singing the parts they have learned.  My older daughter often patiently shows my seven-year-old early reader how to follow along, and all these parts add up to beautiful.  I imagine heaven - full of singing and praise and worship and parts coming together, exalting our God.

Our devotions aren't perfect.  Far, far from it.  They're full of crazy and naughty and wiggles.  But they're also full of praise and grace and most of all, Christ.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bedtime Stories

Oh bedtime.  Why must you torture me so?

I come in from outside and tell the children to head up to bed.  No response.  I know they can hear me. I guarantee if I said I had free puppies in the garage, every last one of them would have run to me lickety split.

I say it again, go about my business in the kitchen.  I hear Beyblades zinging in the living room, and NO MOVEMENT toward the stairs.

I walk into the living room and tell them a third time to go upstairs and do potty-teeth-and-jammies.  Finally, since I am standing over them, I get a weak response saying they wanted to finish just this battle and then they would go up.

Sigh.  I reminded them (for what is probably the 7947th time of my parenting career) that they need to ask me, not inform me if they would like a moment or two longer to play before heading up.  I am a reasonable person!  I might be happy to oblige when asked first!

Once upstairs, there is a crazy lot of banging and laughing and door locking and silliness, mixed in with precious little oral hygiene and clothes-changing.  I see one child's toothbrush in his bedroom and inquire about it.  "Did you brush your teeth tonight?"  "Yes", says he.  "With what?" I ask.  "My finger", he replies, thinking in all honesty that that is acceptable.  He is quickly informed that it is indeed not and scurries to the bathroom, proper spinbrush in hand.  I hang on to my patience with a tenuous grip and tell them once again that I don't enjoy putting them to bed angry and would they please-oh-please-oh-please get down to business and getintheirbeds!

Finally they settle and Daddy comes home, saving me a bit by divvying up the parenting duties.  He is less frustrated than I since he just came up, and perhaps also because he has more patience.

Bedtime has always been a challenge for me, I'm not gonna lie.  I'm weary and so is everyone else, though the kids "are not sleepy even a bit!".  I don't have as much fortitude when I'm tired and I lose my cool a wee bit more easily.   But by golly, how hard is it to simply get changed and ready for bed?

For a child, it's really hard.  Transitions are a sticky business with kids, I've learned.  We always do a bedtime Bible story and prayers at night, which calms everyone's hearts, most certainly including mine. We've also started blessing the children individually at bed, and I'll tell ya what, dear reader, it is hard to stay angry at your children when your hand is on his head, making the sign of the cross and blessing him.

It is now 8:38 and all's quiet on the western front.  I hear nothing from upstairs, so I'm hopeful they have settled down into sweet slumber.  Soon I'll head up to bed myself and look at their peaceful faces. I'll touch their cheeks and watch their chests rise and fall.  And I'll think how sweet they look and how angelic.  And I will have forgotten all about the discord at bedtime.  Thankfully.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

All By Myself

Today I was alone.

All day, alone.

My littlest one started all day preschool today, and that means mamma was home by herself.  Sans children.  Zilcho in the kiddo department.

It was really weird.

I had this heavy weight on my shoulders (self-imposed, I admit) that I mustn't waste the day.  I have this fear that I will spend all my alone days reading, watching Law and Order (I have a severe addiction to that show), eating chips and growing lazier and fatter by the semester.

Okay, that seems unlikely, even to me, but I really want to be productive on these days.  Not that I won't rest and relax some (and shop, a past time near and dear to my heart), but I really want to accomplish things too.  After thirteen years of having little ones underfoot allthetime, that is no longer the case.  Therefore, there is no excuse for my house being a wreck . . .or not going to the Y. . .or not having dinner ready. . .  Anyway, I feel my standards must move up a notch.  And I'm not sure how I feel about that!  Because I seriously still HATE cleaning the bathrooms, no matter who is or isn't in my house, you know what I'm saying??

I'm in uncharted territory now.  Navigating new waters.  I have spent the last thirteen years being a stay-at-home mommy.  And while I still have that job, the terrain is changing.  And I've never been a fan of change!

Still, it was nice to have quiet when I wanted it, and be able to blast my 80's cardio station on Pandora when I wanted that.  So it's all good. . .just different and new.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What ever happened to Charlotte's Web?

"Mommy!"  says my 4 year old while playing on my iPhone in the van.  "This is a good movie!  It's called Babies Come Out of Pigs' Tummies!"

Reason #495 to own an iPhone:  It entertains children, albeit with questionable children's programming.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Little Moments

As the school year rapidly approaches, I am finding myself surprisingly wishing summer break would last just a bit longer.  A couple of weeks ago, as we unwound and unpacked from vacation, the start of the year sounded mighty fine, mighty fine indeed.  But now, as things have settled back down, I have been able to take note of the little moments surrounding me, and I am enjoying the flexibility that summer affords.  Just a little over a week until I share these little (and not-so little) people with school.  I'll miss moments such as these:

Every morning, my husband gets up for work at a reasonable hour, and, well, I don't.  That is, I might wake up at a mostly reasonable time, but then I loll around in bed, reading, looking at Facebook, checking out Pinterest, just relishing those moments before my feet hit the floor and I must go downstairs and face the music (er, the breakfast mess on the island).  And almost without fail, one or two or even three little ones will crawl into bed with me.  We cuddle, we chat, and sometimes a child or two even goes back to sleep!  These moments will disappear when school starts and the alarm dictates my waking hour.

My oldest daughter is a lovely girl, if I might say so myself.  She is always willing to watch the kids for us (with or without payment - we pay her for certain things and not for others) and that has afforded us some quiet time together this summer.  Whether it's going out for a date or taking a walk, she can hold down the fort for us while we're gone - and as my pediatrician says, that means "we've arrived"!

On my back-to-school Mommy's Nights,  I have enjoyed precious solo time with each of my kids.  On my very last evening out, my 9 year old son, sporting his brand new braces, turned to me and said "My Mommy!  My beautiful Mommy!"  I don't know how many more years my sons will call me beautiful, so I cherish his exuberance and love.

My littlest daughter loves to ride her bike around the block and is constantly asking us to take her.  I should oblige far more often than I do, because it is a win-win for both of us.  She gets to ride, which brings her great happiness, and I, I get the far better deal.  I get to walk behind her and watch her ride.  My heart is full as I watch her little brown legs pedal as fast as they can, her white-blonde hair poking out from under her helmet and blowing in the wind.  Her tiny body sways back and forth as she pedals, and every now and then, on her own timetable, she lets go of one of the handlebars and twists her little bell.  Just following her brings me great joy.

The three oldest kids have all attended camp this summer and they all had an unbelievable time.  No one wanted to leave, which I take as the best possible scenario.  They made new friends, were mentored by their counselors, grew in their faith, learned new skills and played crazy games.  I never went to camp because I was always too homesick - I am so very glad my kids are not hesitant like I was - they jump right in and enjoy it all.

These are only little moments, but they define my life here.  My children, my husband, our faith - these little moments add up and are really the big ones.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mommy's Nights!

School starts two weeks from tomorrow!  Around here, that can only mean one thing - Mom's about to lose her mind!

Just kidding (mostly).  It means Mommy's Nights are in full swing!

Every year, I take each of the kids in school (which is all of them now, sniff sniff) out to dinner and to buy their school supplies.  The kids and I talk about these nights all year long and as they approach, they start deciding which restaurant they want to go to and who gets to go first and which folders and notebooks are the best.

And I get to eat well for a couple weeks!

Though that is certainly true, I love these nights for the one-on-one time that is hard to come by in a family our size.  We always work hard to carve out time with each of the kids and this is one of those great times to really get to spend quality time together.  In short, they're a highlight of my summer.

I have taken three of the kids so far, with the other two this week.  We are in a Budgetary Smackdown (perhaps I'll write about that later) which basically means we have put the kibosh on extraneous spending for a bit.  So I was in a quandary about what to do with these dinners out.  But my husband and I both realized that they are too important to skip, so we went forth with scheduling them all.  And I'm so glad we did!  We can scrimp on other things for a bit - this tradition is too important!

My eldest son went first, and we went to Golden Corral.  My husband calls these all-you-can-eat buffets "troughs" and he's basically right.  We ate too much and felt slightly miserable as we shopped for pencils and calculators, but we had a great time nonetheless.  My son said something to the effect of "I think I need to rethink my tradition of going to the dessert bar twice!"

Next was my littlest gal, K.  We had a Mommy's Afternoon, due to scheduling trauma.  We went to Walmart for her few supplies and had ice cream in the McDonald's there.  It might sound less exciting, but nothing with that girl is boring!  She smiled and hugged and loved me the whole time.  It was fabulous.

Tonight was my night with my seven year old guy.  He cracks me up at every turn, and tonight was no exception!  He chose a local Chinese place and begged me for Mountain Dew.  Because he has a very cute smile and it is Mommy's Night, after all, I let him have it.  I kid you not when I tell you that the child burped no less than ten times during our dinner, each one more hilarious than the one before (to him!).  It's 9:00 and I haven't attempted bedtime yet.  I may seriously regret letting him Do the Dew.

I have two more dates on the calendar and I can't wait.  These times together - talking, laughing, joking, burping - are fleeting!  I am soaking it all in.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When it Rains it Pours

Hot, cool, rainy, sunny, stormy, windy. . .you name it, we experienced it on vacation.  We wore sweatshirts, swimsuits, and rain gear, sometimes on the same day.  We saw it all.

One night in the UP of Michigan, rain was predicted.  We had wifi at this campground, so we checked the radar, looked at the sky above the lake and discussed what might be coming in the night.  Then we went to bed.

In our pop-up on the beach.  And when I say on the beach, I mean just a 2 second hop to Lake Superior.  

About 12:30, the rain started.  It was nothing to be concerned about at first, and we have certainly weathered many a storm in the camper.  We both laid awake, listening to the rain.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the wind began.  My husband quickly sat up and looked out the window.  "It's going!" he said, referring to our freestanding canopy over the picnic table.  I bolted up and over the bed next to me, probably squishing two girls' legs in the process.  Moving too quickly to get my shoes on, I ran outside barefoot and grabbed onto the canopy with all my puny little might, holding it against the wind until my husband made it out of the camper.  As I was holding it, I prayed, "Thank you Lord, that the rain has momentarily subsided.  Maybe we can get this down without getting too wet."


Quite soon after my little prayer, my husband came out to help me start taking the canopy down.  And then the skies let loose and poured.  We were almost instantly soaked as we tried to collapse the poles and disassemble the canopy enough to keep it from catching the wind.  Finally, exhausted and freezing, we had it on the ground and weighted down enough till morning.

We turned to assess the rest of the campsite and as we did, woosh! The canopy on the camper flew up and over the top of the camper, taking with it all the poles and towels that were drying on it.  The poles were clanging and we feared for the van behind the camper, but the van was unharmed.  I threw open the camper door, yelled over the wind to the kids, "We're fine!!!  Just trying to fix the canopies!!  Don't be scared!!" and slammed the door shut.  I'm sure they were quite reassured.

I honestly can't recall exactly how we got the canopy off the roof, but somehow we did.  As we were pulling the towels down and getting the poles apart, we heard singing in the camper.  We looked at each other, puzzled, finished our job and went into the camper, shivering.  

As we entered the pop-up, we heard the kids singing praise songs.  Our oldest son had organized the scared younger ones (and possibly himself) and he and our oldest daughter were leading them in singing praise songs to calm their fears about the storm.  

We settled everyone back down, turned the heater on, changed our clothes and headed back to bed.  Two of the five children announced they needed to go potty.  Sigh.  I asked them to weigh how much they had to go against the rain that was still pouring outside.  Both opted to wait until morning.

Note to self:  Never, ever persuade a child not to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Regret will surely follow.

After 30 or more minutes of settling down another child who was still wound up and unable to sleep, I finally drifted off.  About 4:30, one of the "I-can-wait-till-morning" children woke me up and told me that his/her earlier statement was, in fact, untrue.  And that it was too late.  More sighing (I should probably stop doing that) and frustration with myself that I hadn't taken the children to bathroom in the first place.  After some makeshift bed rearranging, we slept the scant rest of the night without incident.

Vacationing with our family is nothing if not an adventure.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lunch Lady

It happens every summer, every extended school break.

The day is going along swimmingly - me going about my various thrilling chores around the house, the kids playing outside or reading or arguing about super duper important stuff - when SCREECH!!!  Everything comes to a halt.

The kids want lunch.

Lunch, I tell you, is the bane of my existence.  I can have dinner planned or chugging along in the crock pot, and the breakfast dishes all rinsed and in the dishwasher, but lunch!  Lunch gets me every time.

Why must they eat it?  Inquiring minds want to know.  I attempt to be quasi-creative with my lunch choices, but it usually boils down to a sandwich, fruit and chips, with the occasional mac and cheese or leftovers.  Even I could skip it, and I am a fan of meals.  And basically eating in general.

So here I am, cleaning up the lunch dishes (that most of the kids remembered to clear, at least), thinking there must be a better way.  What is it, dear reader??  I'm assuming DCFS would not approve of me skipping the entire meal, so what's a mom to do?  How do you keep 12:00 fresh and exciting?

Monday, July 29, 2013

We're baaaaaack!

Yes, as my earlier post mentioned, we have returned home from our three week sojourn into the wilds of northern Michigan and Canada.  We camped, we hiked, we swam, we drove, we explored, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape.  Oh, and we used pit toilets.  Waaay too many times.

The seven of us spent almost three weeks in our little pop-up camper, (mostly) enjoying each other's company.  Here are a few highlights, and I may tell a specific story or two in later posts.

  • The last many family trips we have taken, we have returned with a theme song or two.  This year, our Epic Music was from the RobinHood soundtrack (Prisoner of the Crusades).  It is also the background music from some Disney promotions, so you would recognize it I'll bet.  We listened to it many, many times in Canada.  The boys requested it every other song.  Our other Epic Music was the soundtrack to Little Women, a fave of my husband's and mine, and now our older daughter as well.  A certain boy was not pleased to share the Epic Music title with such a girly movie soundtrack.  He'll have to get over it.
  • We must have passed 25 or more billboards advertising the Pictured Rocks Coastline both on our way up and on our way back.  My husband unfailingly pointed each one out to my oldest son.  It got to be a joke and he always got a laugh from the vanful of kids.
  • We celebrated two birthdays while away - our youngest son is now seven, and our littlest one is now four.  Each child happened to receive a gift from a campsite neighbor (at two different campgrounds) - a testament to how friendly campers are to one another.  Each child got his/her own number candle and cupcakes to share as we sang Happy Birthday, and opened presents that had made the trip with us. 
  • We had been to the UP of Michigan many years ago, but had never really been to Canada (outside of just crossing the border for a few hours).  We were stunned by Canada's beauty.  Rolling hills (almost mountains) offset by gorgeous Lake Superior made for amazing views.  We hiked to many places and enjoyed others simply by driving through the Provincial Park.  
  • Our first week of camping was spent with my whole family.  The kids had a blast playing with their cousins, the beach was a very short walk away, and camping is a lot easier with six adults helping!  My parents celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this year, so my sister and I came up with a Family Trivia Game that we played one evening by the campfire.  Filled with trivia questions spanning 60 years, we laughed and reminisced for a good long time. 
  • Pictures!  My husband gave his iphone a workout during our trip, and he was able to capture lots of beautiful scenery, family pictures and memories.  We will enjoy them for years to come.
Now that my oldest is safely off to camp for the week, the laundry is caught up and the camper is cleaned and closed back up, I feel officially back to regular life.  The kids are back to their lists and outside playing with neighbor friends.  We are settled back into routine, albeit only for the next three weeks, when school starts!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

They Will Know We Are Lutherans By Our Donuts

Just got back late last night from vacation.  I am swimming in laundry, gear, camping dishes that need a thorough wash, and kids who can't seem to remember how to entertain themselves in their own house.  I will blog soon about our adventures, but for now I am treading water and can leave you only with this little tidbit:

In our last campground, we were in the middle of nowhere; the nearest town at least an hour away.  We decided to do our own service at the beach near our campsite.  As we were discussing songs, readings etc., we told the kids the plan.  We would have family church on a blanket by the beautiful lake.

My little daughter, now age 4, says to me quite seriously, "Will there be donuts there?"

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th!

Things continue to hop around here at the house o' mammamilk.  We are jumping from one activity to the next and my hair quite possibly might be on fire.  As my mom said to me the other day, "This is how you like life, right?"  Well. . .yes in general, but perhaps a bit less cray cray would also be acceptable.  Not going to complain though (or am I doing that now?), since everything that is keeping us busy is all good stuff!  Family reunion, multiple trips to see family, visits from friends, visits to friends. . .it's all good!  So what if the house looks like a tornado hit it?  What's more important here, peeps?

I was awakened last night by a child who thought it was time to get up (at 4:30 - I straightened him out quickety quick!) because the clock radio in his room was unplugged.  As I got back into bed after our little tete a tete, I pondered my own clock situation.  Last week we had a power outage and I had to reset my bedside clock radio.  I spent several frustrated minutes with it, only to resign myself to the fact that the hour button refused to comply.  This radio might possibly be as old as my marriage, and apparently not nearly as hardy.  After reviewing my options - a:  buy new clock, b: steal borrow one of my children's clocks, c: mentally adjust the time each time I read the time, d: sigh in frustration - I chose c and d.  This means that in the middle of the night or early morning, I must awaken, look at the clock and subtract three hours to determine the accurate time.  I know you think I am super smart and really on the ball, but this takes quite a bit of mental acuity.  Which I really don't have.  So sorry to disappoint you, dear reader.  But I'm working on it!  Gotta keep my brain sharp somehow - might as well work on it day and night!

I'd like to blog more, but I have seven children in my house/on my deck and they are rather demanding.  Several are playing the wii and others are on the deck making water "recipes" with measuring cups.  My children promised with all their little hearts that if I let them play inside with their neighborhood friends they would clean up any and all messes that might mysteriously materialize.  I'll let ya know how that turns out. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bits and pieces

Wow, so blogging in the summer is taking a back seat to our crazy summer schedule!  We have had something going every day and night for the last couple weeks.  My house is a wreck (more so than I can normally tolerate), and our schedule is out of whack.  Eek.  Tomorrow is kid swap, which means we are going to shuffle kids between grandparents and aunts and uncles.  All the kids are super pumped  to be with their cousins/grandparents.  This time it is my turn to give away everyone but my 11 year old and take in a 14 year old.  As in, I will only have two children in my house for the next 48 hours.  Wow.  I'm thinking that, in between a few fun activities for two busy young men, I am going to whip this house back into shape.  I'll let ya know how that turns out.

Today marks the ninth birthday of my "monkey in the middle" child.  Nine years ago he entered our lives in a big way!  Emergency C-section, three hour ambulance ride to the nearest children's hospital, ventilator, tubes, anxiety, fear, family, friends and faith.  This sweet child, with the happy go-lucky, laid back personality that we prayed for, has brought us untold joy.  His ready smile, his cheeks that beg to be pinched, his cuddly, loving way -- this child is a gift directly from God.  Praise God that He saw fit to give him to us!

For my son's birthday dinner, he requested popcorn chicken and mac n cheese (I made homemade to make the meal at least partly grown-up).  The boys decided to enhance our celebration by making rude armpit noises.  The youngest boy got up quickly on his chair and began shaking his tushie in the air.  Usually this behavior causes my husband and I to rapidly squelch any and all boyish fun.  Tonight, we only looked at each other and laughed.  I had tears in my eyes.  These children!  This life!  Sometimes I just have to laugh - otherwise I'll cry!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summertime, and the living is easy

Today is the first "real" day of summer.  As in, nothing going on, most of the kids home, and reality kicking in.  That's code for:  Mommy's summer plan.  Chore lists, restricted time on screens, required reading, you get the idea.

Despite much grumbling during its approach, the kids did well today.  I fully believe they thrive in a structured setting, and I know for certain that I do.  A few willy-nilly days here and there are fine, but a free-for-all all summer would do all of us in.  We have always had a summer plan, but I felt I needed to give ours a bit of a shot in the arm this year.

What's a mama to do?  Go to Facebook of course and ask all of my 701 friends what they do with their kids during the summer.  Bingo-blammo - and a schedule is born!  How on earth did I ever parent without Facebook?

So here is the plan:

Each day, the kids have a list of things that must be completed.  They are used to lists, since they have a list every day during the school year.  Each day, they must do most of the following (the chores rotate daily, so not all chores are every day of course).

Play with a sibling for 30 minutes
Exercise for 30 minutes
Read for 30 minutes
Practice their instrument
Make their bed
Straighten their room
Put away their laundry
Clean the bathroom
Vacuum a room

After lunch, if we are home and not running errands, we will have some sort of quiet/reading time (mama's favorite!).  After that, and if their list is completed, they may have two hours of screen time to be used however/whenever they want for the rest of the day.

My oldest son, the most screen-obsessed one of all, actually did not use all of his screen time today.  I was shocked!  He is attending a handbell camp at school and had to be gone this evening, cutting his screen hours short.  And he chose to play outside with water balloons and the hose this afternoon instead of being glued to the computer or Wii.  So, perhaps this is a tentative success?  A child choosing outside over electronics?  I'll keep ya posted.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Quiet hours

My house has been quiet lately.  Seriously quiet.  I have had only two children, girls to boot, home since Saturday.  My three boys went in two different directions with friends and family, causing our family to dwindle to four for a period of about 48 hours.

It has been really weird.  And easy!  And quiet.  Wait - did I mention that already?

My girls and I have enjoyed some much needed girl time while the boys have been gone.  We went shopping, we watched Little Women, we ate lunch out and and enjoyed late(-ish) night snacks.  I really soaked in the time we had together for talking and laughing and loving.

But I'll tell you what.  All that quiet aside, I really miss my boys!  One of my boys came home tonight and the other two will arrive tomorrow, and I am anxious to have our family together again.  Soon our house will be overflowing with noise, stuff, fighting and hugs.  And I can't wait.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No one ever said it would be easy

PG-13 movies +  boys of varying ages who want to watch some of them  +  parents who think the ones in question (Iron Man trilogy) are too violent  =  disappointed boys

Sigh.  We had to have the talk with the boys about Iron Man in particular tonight, but parental discretion in general.  One boy was especially distressed that he could not watch these movies (and if you know my boys, you may not necessarily pick the correct boy in this scenario).  We read the reviews and found they were terribly violent.  Innocent people killed in terrorist-type situations, people being tortured, high body counts. . .are we alone in thinking this isn't appropriate for our young boys?

Why, oh why, must Hollywood make movies about super heroes that young boys would be interested in, just to make them inappropriate?

After much discussion during which we tried to explain our position to the one persistent boy, he seemed to relent and even understand to a degree.  We had to remind them that we will often have to make decisions for their own good that they will not enjoy.  I told the boys later that this is only the beginning - they may be in the unpopular minority often when it comes to what is allowed and what isn't.  We aren't looking to be cool parents.  To be our kids' friends or to let them do something "because everyone else is".  We have to do everything we possibly can to raise Godly young men (and women), who know right from wrong and stand firm in what they believe is right.

And you know what?  It's hard.  It feels like we are making mistakes left and right.  But still we pray and try to stay vigilant.  Teaching our kids to be in the world but not of the world.  Praise God we are not alone in this task - He is with us at every (challenging) turn.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Musings

All the kids are outside playing (and one is not home), my husband is outside doing odd jobs to keep our humble abode looking its best. . .and I am inside, doing my normal Sunday chores.  I've been working on the laundry (since tomorrow will be too busy), and dinner, grocery list, calendar etc.  I also decided to pick up the few kids' toys that were scattered instead of calling the kids in to do it.  I was enjoying the quiet too much to disrupt it, even if it is their job.

After I got all the toys up, I was momentarily distracted by a Facebook notification, and scanned through the updates for a moment.  And I saw a picture of someone's living room.  Someone's toy-free, random-shoe-free, backpack-free, guitar-free, Wii-accessory-free and library-book-free living room.

I thought to myself - someday that will be my family room!  Someday I won't be constantly nagging the kids to pick up their stuff, or picking it up for them, because it won't be here!  When the kids were all very little, one of my favorite mantras was "the days are long, but the years are short".  The years are passing by - so quickly!  Next year is my oldest's last year in our parochial grade school, and this year, my fourth little one graduated from kindergarten.  At his program, I had a flash forward of him graduating from college.  I am afraid in the blink of an eye that day will be upon me.

Lord, help me slow down and enjoy all these all-too-fleeting days.  Thank you for the gift of these children, this husband, this life.  Help me never forget all you have given me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Summer Session

The kids have 4 and a half days left of school.  That sounds like a long time still to them - to me, it sounds imminent!  Here are some things I am looking forward to about summer, and a few things that have me shaking in my boots:

No alarm clocks!  Love the "sleeping in" till 7ish now that the kids are older.  They can go downstairs and amuse themselves while I catch some more beauty sleep.  Because I can seriously use it.

Freedom and flexibility!  Summer brings the chance to do some spur of the moment fun activities, without worry over homework and early bedtimes.

Messy house.  Boo to the hoo on this one.  No matter how I try, the house never feels very put together when all the kids are home all the time.  They each have their daily chore lists, including cleaning, but it still never quite feels picked up.

Fewer socks in the laundry!  I feel liberated when the kids start wearing flip flops daily - my twice-weekly laundry folding goes much more quickly!

Dirtier floors.  While the above joy over fewer socks is valid, those flip-flop wearing kids get some seriously filthy feet.  Which of course transfers to my hardwood floors.

Vacation, camp, family reunions!  Endless possibilities for family time lies in front of us each summer.  We are looking forward to camping, sleep away camp for the older kids, VBS, swimming lessons. . .the list of fun activities goes on and on.

Sibling Rivalry.  Our boys seem to have a penchant for riling each other up.  In the summer, with fewer periods apart, the brothers can really get at each other.  Cue mommy with distractions and disciplinary action . . .if she's on her game.  If not, well, it can get ugly.

Mommy's Nights.  When summer is drawing to a close, I take each child out to buy his/her school supplies.  We each get our own night together - we get dinner or ice cream and buy all the fresh, new supplies for the new school year.  The kids talk about Mommy's night throughout the whole year.  I adore these nights and soak in the one-on-one time with each of my children.

Sunscreen.  While it is seriously important and we never fail (my husband is the sunscreen king!) to use it, I really, really don't like putting it on the kids.  Especially at the beach.  The mess, the fussing, the stickiness.  Ick.

Togetherness.  We might have our moments (who doesn't?), but it is wonderful to be together and spend time as a family.  Bring it on, summer!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Biblical analysis

I read the kids the story of Gideon's army tonight at bedtime.  If you're not familiar with it, our little Bible story book basically said Gideon and his army of only 300 stood outside the enemy camp and blew their trumpets and broke clay jars.  The enemy thought Gideon's army was huge and they fled.  (The biblical account is a little more detailed).

When I finished the story, my son said, "That, my friends, is an old-school bluff".

Friday, May 17, 2013

If it looks like poop, but doesn't smell like poop, it's probably not poop

I came in this afternoon to spy this on my counter:

It's a rock. But I'm not gonna lie.  I was concerned it was something else.  On my counter.

I actually entertained the thought, briefly, that it could be a pile of poo on my kitchen counter.

How did I get to this place?  I grew up in a female-dominated home where such indelicate things would never have even been discussed!  Somehow I have morphed into a woman who, though such an atrocity has never occurred in her home, thought it possible, for the briefest of seconds, to have excrement on her counter.

My boys are sometimes naughty, always busy, and very creative.  But none of them would do such a thing.  Yet it entered. my. mind.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A day in the life

My day thus far has consisted of the following, in no particular order:

  • 10 minutes of running on the treadmill.  10!  If you've followed my fitness journey, you will understand my serious excitement about this number.  It's sad, I know.  But it made me so happy!
  • Lunch with a dear friend and thought-provoking, heartfelt conversation.
  • Listening to my son and his neighbor friend playing "manufacturing".  This is the basketball game of "horse" but with a longer, more challenging spelling word.  Spelling and physical activity!  Pinterest ain't got nuthin' on my boy's imagination!
  • Various chores and household errands, including, but not limited to:  cleaning the bathroom, making dinner, grocery shopping, putting yesterday's laundry away, dishes, trip to the library. . .you get the idea.  Boresville.
  • Listening to the boys and little K make a music video to TobyMac songs.  Lots of crazy and loud and singing from the living room.
  • Found a naked Baby Alive doll in my dish drainer.
  • Shopping at Aldi to find they had rearranged the store's layout.  Extra brainpower was required, since I write items on my list in the order they are in the store.
  • Convincing a boy that he does, indeed, need a shower, since he is actually dripping with sweat, and no, no a little face washing isn't gonna cut it.
And it's only 7:46!  Who knows what else the day has in store?  I'm hoping for some quiet soon and perhaps a glass of wine. . .

Monday, May 13, 2013

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

We gave all the kids electric toothbrushes for Christmas this year (we're fun like that!).  The kids were all happy to have them and they have made brushing more fun and exciting (was it fun before? is it even possible to have fun brushing one's teeth?).

However, storing them was a disaster.  They were constantly getting knocked onto the floor, in the sink, dripping all over the counter. . .you get the idea.  I looked online for electric toothbrush holders, and they were a wee bit expensive when one has to buy a holder that will accommodate five hefty brushes.  So I put my thinking cap on.

And came up with this:

And I have to tell you, dear reader, that I am inordinately pleased with myself.  Every time I walk by this bathroom (which is in serious need of a total overhaul and my least favorite room in the house), I feel a little better about it.  No toothbrushes strewn across the toothpaste-caked countertop.  At least a small part of this less-than-lovely bathroom looks clean and organized.  And it makes me happy. 

I got the idea from the boys' primary science kit.  It has a two-slot test-tube holder included which I thought would work perfectly.  Except we have five kids.  So I went to the teacher supply store with my $10 off coupon in hand (this is me, remember!) and lo and behold, this item of beauty awaited me.  For $15.99.  Subtract my coupon and it was mine for $6.  Yippee!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Doctor, Doctor

It seems the last week has been full of medical creativity at the ol' house of mammamilk.  We have had trips to the doctor (near and far),  pneumonia, severe allergies and super high fevers, just to name a few!  

Last night, sweet little K had a high fever.  Amazingly, with all the medical experience we've gained over the years, high, high fever has not been something we've dealt with.  So it was a little disconcerting.  Not to worry, said the doctor on call.  If the fever comes down with pain relievers and she's acting okay, then all will be fine.   And she was!  But it was a couple of hours of close watching, cuddling and cradling.  Today she's fine, no fever whatsoever!  I can't figure it out, but I am hoping we are on the upswing around here!

Here's to Spring - may it be filled with healthy children!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

True love

Yesterday I blogged about my experience over my 40th birthday weekend.  It was amazing, to say the least.  That post was focused on being intentional with my words and actions, as my friends and family were to me.

This post is about my husband.

As my 40th birthday approached, he asked me, "What would you like to do for you birthday?"  In my usual fashion, I deferred slightly, saying something along the lines of "I don't know", or "what do you think?"  He, in his usual fashion, took the reigns and wowed me.

Our children were in a production of Sleeping Beauty on Saturday, my birthday, so almost all of our family had decided to come up to watch the kids perform, as well as celebrate our birthdays.  Did I mention my husband's birthday is the day before mine?  So - we had a house full of people coming on Saturday morning, as well as a small gathering of friends coming Sunday night.

Obviously, the house needed a good clean.  I had done much of the cleaning and food prep during the week, but some things simply must be left to the last minute (such as bathrooms - I have THREE boys. If I cleaned the bathroom two minutes before guests arrived it wouldn't be last minute enough).  I had planned on doing a lot of the heavier cleaning on Thursday, leaving Friday open to hang out with my husband on his 41st birthday.  But I woke up on Thursday with a fever and sore throat, rendering me worthless for any of the chores I had planned.

So yep - you guessed it!  My husband spent his birthday scrubbing toilets and showers, mopping floors and cleaning windows.  All while I lied on the couch, feeling guilty (a certain specialty of mine).   He ordered me to remain there and get well so Saturday wouldn't be ruined by illness.  I took it as easily as I could.  It was very hard to watch him do those icky jobs on his birthday.

I felt well enough to go out to dinner with him Friday night to celebrate his birthday, and it was wonderful.  A little wine with my Tylenol turned out okay after all.

Saturday morning I was greeted by smiling children with breakfast in bed.  I was also given an agenda for the day.  My first stop was a massage that set the tone for the day beautifully.  Mellow and relaxed, I headed for parts unknown (save the address) and ended up at a restaurant with my parents and sister.  It was reminiscent of the past as the four of us had lunch together and laughed.

After lunch was the show, and then off to dinner at a local family style restaurant.  My husband toasted me with lovely words that warmed my heart.  I was surrounded by our family and it was perfect.

And as you read, Sunday night was the gathering of friends, and their lovely words of affirmation.

My husband could have given me a pair of diamond earrings.  Or a trip with a girlfriend to a day spa. But he knew me well enough to give me what would mean the most to me:  time with my family and friends, and words to lift me up.  He planned in great detail ways for me to feel pampered, loved and cherished.  He took time and effort to prepare a weekend for me that would remain in my memory for days, months and years to come.  He showed me his love for me in his words as well as his actions.  Thank you is a pitiful return for what he gave me that weekend.  I give thanks to God for His gift of this man in my life.  He has blessed me beyond my comprehension.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If you have something good to say, say it!

Last weekend for my birthday, I was showered with love.  Family and friends took the time to love me through their actions and words.  Some might have stepped out of their comfort zones to express how they feel.  All took a moment to think about me, and our relationship.

It was humbling, to say the least.   My husband created an opportunity for some friends to tell me what they appreciate about me.  In front of all the people gathered.  It was equal parts moving, terrifying, hilarious and touching.  My first inclination at almost every turn was to say "No, no, no!  That isn't true!  I'm not a good mom, wife, singer etc.  (except for deal finder - I AM good at that!).  It was incredibly hard for me to just say thank you and not refute all their loving words.  It was a spectacular experience for me.

And it made me realize - I need to be more intentional with my words and actions.  If I notice something nice about a friend, family member, Walmart cashier, I need to say it!  When I think to myself, "I should get together with so-and-so", I need to arrange it!  If I value a personalty trait in someone, I need to tell that person that I do.

Life is speeding along (re: my 40th birthday) and time is too short to just keep sailing along.  I truly want to emulate the actions of my friends that birthday party night and seize the moment to build someone up.  I can't adequately express how the words from friends and family buoyed my spirit.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sleep Study

"I don't know how to go to sleep!  I never learned how!" my six-year-old son has said at numerous bedtimes.
"Ha!" I would think to myself, "Not know how to go to sleep?  That's so easy!  Lay down and in 2.5 seconds you're out!  Or drive a car for long distances!  Or read a boring book - or any book for that matter!  The options are endless!  Not know how to go to sleep?  I've never heard anything so crazy!"

Um, this kid speaketh the truth.  He apparently has some issues with going to sleep.

And his issues hit about midnight last night.  I see him inches from my face as I try to pull out of my sleepy stupor.  He is bemoaning his inability to go to sleep and suggesting he sleep at the foot of our bed, where our feet are currently residing.  I gently tell him to go back to his room, turn on his dreamlight (best $30 spent evah!), say a prayer and drift off into la-la land.

I roll back over and drift immediately back to sleep (re: my amazing ability to fall asleep just about anywheres).  Moments later he returns.  I suggest he might be having trouble sleeping because he is currently standing in my bedroom, but he is unhelpable.  This goes back and forth several times until he suggests I sleep with him, and out of exhaustion, I acquiesce.

This is never a good idea, and you think I would know this by now!  I curl up next to him and close my eyes, portraying what sleep looks like (I am an actress now, remember?).  After a few moments I open one eye to check his status.  He is staring back at me.  I sigh and try to get comfortable, though I am lying on several stuffed animals and I am pretty sure the sheet has popped off the top corner, meaning I am sleeping on bare mattress.  After quite awhile he is still and I am freezing, since there were apparently not enough covers for dear old mom.  I sneak off the bed as quietly and gently as one can do when in bed with a child and a zoo full of stuffed animals.  He immediately sits up and reports he is still awake.

After soothing him some more, I finally head back to my bed and slip under the glorious grown up covers, completely free of all teddy bears and hedgehogs.  A few minutes later I hear my dear son hit up his father on the other side of the bed.  Maybe he'll have more luck with daddy?

Daddy made an effort to comfort him as well, while I stayed snuggled in, waiting.  I'm pretty sure my husband said something like "I am dying a slow and painful death", but that could have been my own thoughts - everything is fuzzy.

A little before 3 my youngest daughter comes in, probably having awakened during all the non-sleeping goings on.  As I tucked her back in, I noticed my son was still half sitting up in his bed. I didn't hear from him anymore after that, though, so I am hopeful he finally drifted off.

He has school today, so I am sure he is doing great!  Attentive, get the idea.  Something tells me he might not have any trouble falling asleep tonight - I hope!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I was at the sink, washing my hands, when BAM!  I was suddenly swept back to 2004.  Without a warning, memories came flooding back.

I had been standing in a public restroom at the children's hospital where our third child spent the first seven weeks of his life.  I was there with him for a routine visit, one of many we make each year.  I was thinking of finishing up, driving home and picking up my other kids from after school care.

But suddenly, my thoughts were hijacked to another time, another era in our lives.  The recollections were strong and intense:

The fear of losing our son.

The joy of being surrounded by our family.

The drone of the breast pump.

The intense respect for and confidence we had in our son's doctors.

Our son's sweet, chubby face - the biggest baby in the NICU.

The warm summer air and walks outside with my husband.

The sounds of our other two children, clamoring to get a peek of him - at his bedside or through the NICU window.

The ventilator, oxygen, feeding tube, IV. . .the older children called him our cord baby - we called him our miracle child.

The incredibly skilled nurses, who always wore their rings on a necklace to keep their hands free of any harmful germs.

The beeps and whines and alarms of all the monitors.

The scent of the soap, as we washed our hands time and again each day.

It was a scary time, no doubt about it.  It was filled with joy and peace too, but my goodness, it was scary.  Yet my memories of that summer are always and only positive and happy.  We were surrounded by family daily, hourly and knew our son was in good hands, both the doctors' and his heavenly Father's.  Our son is now a healthy, happy, almost-nine-year old, and looking back to that time only makes me smile.  God answered our desperate prayers to watch over our son, and as He is wont to do, He answered them more generously than we could have ever imagined.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gross Margin

Whilst discussing math topics at dinner this evening, my daughter said to the table:

"I'll bet no one knows what number a gross is!"

Surprising myself (and probably my husband as well), I answered correctly.

But this did not sit well with a certain boy at the table.

"I think it's 2", said he, "because number 2 stands for poop and that's gross!"