Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Vacation

Today is our first official day of Christmas break.  With me working this year and sickness in our house last week, it's been a lil bit crazy over here.  Here's a snippet of stuff that's going on - hold on to your hats, it's supes exciting (that's teenagese for super exciting in case you're not hip like me):

  • Last night I power-shopped for 6.5 hours.  I am a LOVER OF SHOPPING, but even for me, it was ridiculous!  People everywhere, parking lots full, long lines. . .eeek!  While I was walking to my suburban at Target, two men yelled angrily at me as they sped past.  That was fun!  And then at Walmart I noticed a little girl about 15 months or so, wandering around at the checkout lanes.  I followed her across the entire front end of the store, waiting to see who would be panicking (no one seemed to even notice she was missing).  After several minutes and involvement of the Walmart employees, the girl's older siblings panicked at a register and told mom, who panicked too.  I was glad she was safely returned to her family.
  • All five of my children are (or have been) on Tamiflu.  Three because they've been sick, and two as a preventative measure.  As of yesterday, everyone seems well, which I pray continues.  My 8-year-old took his temperature on Saturday, and came to me wailing, "Does the F on the thermometer mean Fever??!!"
  • I found my 10-year-old son's suit that he wore to his Christmas program all wrinkled at the bottom of the laundry basket.  Sigh.  Dry clean only, of course, and he wore it for about 1.5 hours.
  • My eldest daughter and I had a marathon wrapping session in my room Saturday, with the door firmly locked.  Children were banging on the door the entire time, hoping to gain admittance, which I firmly denied.  We watched "You've Got Mail", one of my all-time-faves.  My husband wandered through at one point and did his usual trash-talking: "Which Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie is this?  They have identical plots!"
  • My youngest two children have been making lots of those little melty-bead crafts. We've seen hedgehogs and hearts - all super cute!  But I have to tell you, friends, when I get out the iron to melt them, it is literally the only time my college-era iron leaves the cabinet.  Don't judge.
  • My eldest son has a book project due when he returns to school.  The public-library book he was using was supes overdue (remember I talk like a teenager), so I returned it.  Then the library was closed all weekend, and he was unable to recheck it out and do the massive reading/project work he has put off most of the quarter.  We will check it out today, but his frustration with the situation caused me to bust out my ever-loved phrase, "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
  • My youngest daughter neighs.  ALL THE TIME.   LOUDLY.  It's equal parts endearing and ear-splitting.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Random Brain Things

Things are running at full tilt over here, and I feel a bit like I'm on The Dragster (my kids tell me this is the fastest coaster in all of the land), waving to please, please let me off!  I don't wear this busyness as a medal of honor, in fact, I realize it means I am not concentrating on what's important!  But busy we are, at least for a time, and I must persevere.  4 of the kids and I are in our community theater's Christmas show, and it's great fun!  Very rewarding!  But also very exhausting.  The shows are this weekend, so life will slow down after that.  Somewhat.  Then I'll have to pick up the slack of all I've been putting off. . .finishing shopping, baking, wrapping. . .

One of my kids has the flu, and another was sent home this afternoon too.  I'm fervently praying we don't all succumb to it.  I didn't have anyone get the flu shot this year (mostly because this is how it went down the last time I did it), and also because we hardly ever get the flu.  But this one has certainly contracted it now.  The other seems totally fine, and I'm not sure he's really sick.  I'm hoping the kids who are in the show will still be able to perform.  

In other random news, lit up Christmas trees make me happy.  Really and truly.  I smile each and every time I see one.  On the flip side, nothing is sadder than a dark, unlit Christmas tree!  And many people in my house seem to be oblivious to our trees and carry on with life amidst a dark, horrible tree!  It's very disappointing.  

Amidst all this busyness, I struggle as I always do with finding time to contemplate the mysteries and beauty of this season.  But this year I have had some wonderful moments to come to the manger and reflect.  The first is, ironically, during this Christmas show I'm in that is taking up all my time.  I sing in a small group behind the manger scene, and we are to look adoringly at Mary and Joseph and the manger.  And I get chills every time!  I think of the true scene so many years ago and I am simply moved as I worship that child in the manger.

I am also finding it so rewarding to teach my little students about Jesus' birth.  As they help me tell and retell the story, I soak it all in.  They are so young and like little sponges - absorbing all of the good news of Christ's birth.  It is such a joy, and so, so glorious to have this privilege.  

May your Advent be filled with less busyness and more Hope, Peace, Joy and Love!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Overheard, over here:

Me, to my 8 year old:  "I love you, baby!"
8 year old, seriously:  "I think we've established that."

On Thanksgiving morning:  I suggested to the children that they all wear jeans and a decent shirt.  You'd think I had asked some of them to systematically rip out all of their eyelashes.  I basically did not want them to look like bums at our family's Thanksgiving get together, but it was not received as such.  Instead, I was thought to be issuing a cruel and unusual punishment.  Their commentary:

"Why are you being so mean to me?  And on a HOLIDAY!"  moan, groan, flop on the floor in horror.

To my husband, while he and the child were sitting on the couch doing devotions before we departed:
"This is the worst Thanksgiving ever", said the child morosely.
"Why?", said my husband, having no idea the horrific sentence I'd placed upon the poor children.
"Mom's never made me wear jeans before!"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bad iphone

The scene:  My kitchen island, 9:30 p.m.  I was sitting at the computer in my jammies, hair in a haphazard ponytail, working on lesson plans and texting back and forth with my colleague.

The sitch:  Whilst texting my friend, I noticed that there is a little camera icon next to the texting bar.  Realizing it must be new since I had done the most recent upgrade, I decided to check it out.

Bad idea.

For you see, my friends, that innocent-looking little camera icon, is actually Up To No Good.  Not knowing this, of course, I touched the icon and within in seconds, a picture was snapped of me and was being texted to my friend.


I squealed in horror as I saw the hideous picture of me being sent into cyberspace.  "No!" I said, scanning the screen in a desperate and futile effort to stop the text.  I soon realized it had already been received on her end, so I switched to damage control.

I sent off several texts in rapid-fire succession, to the effect of:  "Delete that picture immediately! Don't ever touch the camera icon - it takes a picture WITHOUT YOUR APPROVAL!!  Look at my weird face and double chin!"

After many agonizing minutes, I received a text that said she trashed the picture and was cracking up.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and decided then and there to pass this information on to you, dear reader, as a Public Service Announcement, for your safety and well-being:

Do not ever, ever, hold down the camera icon whilst texting on your iPhone.  Unless you are a movie star and all pictures taken of you look like Audrey Hepburn, you will live to regret it.  Now that I have suggested you not touch the icon, many of you have an overwhelming urge to in fact touch that icon and touch it right now.  If you fall into that category, I suggest you try touching it only in a text thread with your mother.  She will love you no matter what your picture looks like.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

For freeeeee!

How to score a $59 purse from Kohl's for nada:

The short answer is:  be a loyal Kohl's customer.

The slightly longer answer is:

Go to Kohl's with a cheerful heart, embracing your love of shopping (this is optional, but it is oh-so-much more fun to shop happily, don't you agree?)

Peruse the purse section and decide on the perfect one to hold all your daily needs.

Look at the price tag.  Read $59 and think "That is way too much for a purse.  That does not fit in our budget."

Remember you are at Kohl's, where of course the price tag is never, I repeat never, what you end up paying.

Smile to yourself and and walk with a spring in your step up to the checkout.

Present the purse to the cashier, along with two paper coupons and two email rewards on your phone.

Hear the cashier exclaim what a deal you just scored, and inform you that you still have $5 left on your phone reward.

Exit the store on a money-saving high.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How Not To Have A Restful Evening

If a peaceful, relaxing evening sounds pleasant, please do not mimic the following:

4:00 Enter home after a busy day of teaching preschoolers
4:15 Wrangle children into doing their lists of chores/homework, whilst making dinner
4:30 Discipline children repeatedly due to their inability to focus/get along/keep hands to themselves
5:15 Serve dinner to family.  Hear compliments from some, shouts of horror from others
5:45 Bid husband farewell as he departs for meeting
6:00 Bring laundry down/sort/start a load
6:45 Prepare to take eldest to a rehearsal, reminding second eldest to please, please, please be responsible with younger children until Daddy gets home
7:00 Leave with eldest, praying the children don't burn the house down
7:30 Arrive at high school, drop off daughter
7:30:10 Dash to Aldi and fly through store, following carefully prepared list of the week's needs
7:36 Receive text that husband is home and feel relieved
8:00  Arrive to pick up daughter from (super-fast!) rehearsal
8:30 Arrive home, go to switch laundry from washer to dryer, only to realize washer is locked
8:30:05 Read flashing error code with a sinking feeling
8:31 Grab laptop and stand in laundry room, googling
8:32 Wonder aloud how people EVER lived without the internet
8:33 Diagnose problem and feel smart
8:34 Watch a youtube video on how to fix clogged drain
8:35 Feel alarmed at how much water is gushing out of the youtube video's pipe thingy
8:50 Finish prepping the room and prepare to take off the clogged drain thingy with husband
8:51 Realize there is no way we can keep the water from going everywhere
8:55 Frantically try to mop up water mess that is all over floor
9:00 Head downstairs to assess basement and discover the flood has indeed gone through the floorboards
9:15 Pitch pieces of insulation and aim fans on both areas
9:30 Continue cleaning up mess
10:00 Finally flop into bed, only to sleep restlessly because the fan I am so dependent on for white noise is in the basement

Next morning:  Discover everything has dried nicely and no damage is done.  Feel thankful the washer just had a clog and nothing that needed a professional fix; go about the business of finishing the laundry

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Location, Location, Location

Awhile ago, I saw a link on Facebook about couples who decided to get married in the same place that they met their spouses.  All sorts of funny stories and pictures were included of people getting married at Target and the like.  It made me think back to where I met my husband.

We had known of each of other for several years in college, but we had never really spoken until a dance the fall of my senior year.  He had already graduated and was at the seminary.  I was not at the dance officially, just crashing in jeans and a sweater (crashing a dance - doesn't that sound just like me?).  We ended up in a common group of friends and realized we grew up relatively near each other and had attended a Lutheran grade school basketball tournament at the same time in junior high.  It was a completely benign conversation, with nothing earth-shattering or of importance in any way. But it must have made an impression on me, because later that night I was waxing eloquent to a good friend about how much I'd love to marry a guy just like him.  I don't recall this conversation, but when my husband and I started dating, she was quick to remind me what I had said.  Several months later, he called out of the blue and we started calling long distance (remember when that cost a lot of money and one had to budget for the fluctuating phone bill?), and as they say, the rest is history.  We were married a year and a half later.

I'm glad we decided to get married in the church I grew up in, but if we had changed our minds, next to the fireplaces in the basement of KCC would have been a memorable choice.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Say again?

I realize I am a boring dresser.  I prefer black and brown and gray over most everything else.  I am exceedingly practical (and frugal!), so I like to buy things in neutrals so they can coordinate with lots of other pieces.  I'm not one for splashy prints, big jewelry or bright colors.

So when I walked downstairs this morning wearing this top,

my ten-year-old son said, "Mom!  You're not going to wear that to school are you?"

"Where should I wear it?", I asked.

Without missing a beat, he said seriously, "The casino!"

Instead of take his advice, I chose to teach preschool instead of gamble.  But if I ever decide to try out a casino, I know what to wear.

And while teaching preschool in lieu of gambling, this occurred:

My husband came down to visit the preschool classrooms (this is such a joy in my life - that my husband and 4/5 of my children are all in the building with me and I see them every now and again).  He ended up walking outside with me and my class briefly.  As he headed back in, one of my students asked why he had come out with us.

"Because he's my . . . ", I said to her, hoping she would say husband.

Instead, she cheerfully said, "Grandpa?"


I decided to hashtag because I think that hashtags are underused.  We need more exercises in word separation these days.  We need to spend more time sounding out unintelligible run-on words.  You're welcome.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Not feeling the love

And I gave birth to these people.

The other night we were at a very cold football game.  My 5-year-old daughter dressed herself and chose two pairs of pants - smart girl!  While we were in the bathroom at the game, she said, "Mommy, what if I wore 64 pairs of underwear?"

I replied, "64 pairs of undies would make your bottom awfully big!"

"Yes!" she said cheerfully.  "Just like yours!"

This morning as the kids and I got into the Suburban, my eldest daughter asked if she could back it out the garage.

"No way!", I said.  "I never could have done that at your age!"

From the back of the burb, I hear my 13-year-old son pipe up: "You can barely do it now!"

I asked my 14-year-old daughter how her day was.

With a smile, she replied, "Duller than a bag of yous!"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Movie Madness

Today, my children conspired to ruin me.  With their sneaky ways, they set out to upset my delicate emotional balance.

They watched The Fox and The Hound on Netflix.

For realsies.  I tried to suggest another movie, to no avail.  They had never seen this one, and it's a classic! "But Mommy will cry," I said.  "Mommy can't handle this movie."  "Don't watch it, Mom! " they said blithely.  As if.  I tried, truly I did, to do my chores with my ears closed.  But seriously!  Who can handle hearing "Best of Friends" and not fall apart?  Not this girl.  

After I had my weepy moment, I brainstormed a list:

Movies I Cannot Watch Without Bawling My Eyes Out:

Titanic (I have never seen this one - GASP!  Am I the only one on earth who hasn't?)
Steel Magnolias
Toy Story 3 (and 1 and 2 too)
My Girl
Lion King
Schindler's List
The Fox and the Hound
Little Women
The Fault In Our Stars (I, of course, have not watched this and will NEVER watch it)
Les Miserables
The Help
The Perfect Storm

And I'm sure there are many, many more that have scarred me but I can't call to mind at this moment. Most, if not all, of these movies will cause me to have a Big Ugly Cry.  Sad, but true.  I've always been a crier, but it's really gotten out of control with each passing year.  It's pretty ridiculous.

Since I know this about myself, and try to fastidiously avoid movies that rip out my insides, I like to replace them with happy, feel-good movies.  Movies that make you smile, skip and sing a song.
So I bring you another list:

Movies That Make Me Happy:

You've Got Mail
Sound of Music
Catch Me If You Can
Goodwill Hunting
Sleepless in Seattle
Miracle on 34th Street
Princess Bride
Wedding Singer
White Christmas
Meet Me In St. Louis

This is just a small sample of movies that indeed do not cause me to weep, but to laugh!  And smile!  And twirl about the room (don't judge).  And really - who wouldn't prefer those things to all that gut-wrenching sadness?  

Which ones can you add to the lists?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sound bites

If you were a fly on the wall, this is what you'd hear at our house:

Child, staring at the open fridge, aghast:  "MOM!  This is a food graveyard!"

Child, looking at his grades:  "I'm getting 'B's, Mom!  I'm an A+ man!"

"If Papa hadn't played for the White Sox, I wouldn't be standing right here before you!"  True statement.

Boy, when prompted to say something kind about his brother (said seriously with no hint of irony):  "Well, he threatens to hit me with his sword, but he never does!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Facebook

Facebook.  If you're not a teenager, you might have a love/hate relationship with it.  If you're a teenager, you basically hate it, because it is just for old people.  I am an old people, so I fall into the first category.

On the one hand, it's great.  It connects you with old friends, family members, people you see on a daily basis, people you haven't seen since high school, and people you never knew much or cared about in high school anyway. You get to see pictures of everyone's kids and grandkids, dogs and cats.   It also keeps you abreast of the teensiest detailed news from basically everyone you've ever known (who clipped her toenails today?  got it.  who is really ticked off that The Bachelor is not actually in love with the girl of his dreams? check.)

But on the flip side, it is a total time drain, it promotes drama and inflammatory statements and comments, it lends itself to gossip, and it might make you feel superior or inferior to your friends.

It also presents you with all sorts of tricky situations.  Friend or unfriend the person who is flooding your feed with cat videos  - that is the question.  Tis nobler to block all posts from the neighbor of a former coworker you spoke to for 5 minutes once at a party.   And what about that persistent friend who constantly invites you play FarmVille or Candy Saga or Criminal Case?  Is is acceptable to block all such requests??

And then there are the many links that you know cannot possibly be true.  Has your friend ever heard of snopes?  Should you be the one to inform her of its existence?

Or how about - "Name a city without the letter "a" in it" Truly?  And the post already has 58 comments?  Why oh why would I fall into that black hole?

And my personal favorite kind of post:  "Repost if you love Jesus.  Ignore if you don't" (and all variations of the sort "Repost this prayer and God will rain blessings upon you in 18.5 minutes").  Really.  Really??  If I repost it, God will wait 18.5 minutes and then shower me with blessings?  Is my love for God dependent on my Facebook postings?  I know I love Jesus. I don't need to repost something to prove it to myself or God (or all my friends).  And are God's blessings so finite that he might not deign to bless me unless I repost?  How demeaning to the God of the universe!

So why oh why, do we continue to post and read?  I use Facebook because I do like to see pictures of my friend's kids, and hear their big news announcements (we're pregnant!  we're moving!).  I smile when I read about an answered prayer and I pray when I read about a tough situation a friend is facing.  And I even like to hear about the little things.  Thanks for sharing your life with me!  I like to know!  I can skip the drama and Farmville, but your baby rolled over?  Yes!  I'm celebrating with you!

Cheers, Facebook friends!  I'm so glad the internets keep us connected! :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oh, how the years go by!

Two teenagers in the hooooouuuse!  My second-born child turned thirteen today.  It's hard to believe it has been 13 years since his birth.  I brought him home to an 18-month-old daughter and life was crazy.  It was good and sweet, but full.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  Now he sounds like a man and is taller than me.  He is on the threshold of young man, and it was just yesterday that he was a babe-in-arms.  Oh how the years go by!  We had a birthday dinner for him today, and nary a birthday can pass without this story being brought up (click on the link if you'd like to read about it).  

This weekend has been busy.  I've been home (which I've come to treasure now that I'm working), but busy doing all the chores I can't seem to find time to during the week.  How ever do moms work full time?  I truly think they are super-women!  I am working to find the balance of working three days and taking care of my family.  I'm finding my way with it, with the help of my husband and kids.  This evening, as I was pondering my oldest son's birthday and entrance into the teens, I lay down and cuddled with my youngest.  She, who turned five this summer, still enjoys a cuddle and a back rub.  So there I lay with her, listening to the greatest lullaby CD ever made (click here to purchase any of the three volumes - you will not be disappointed, whether or not you have children), rubbing her still- tiny back and curled up next to her, overwhelmed with the changing times.  I am easily overwhelmed, you know dear reader, but truly!  Here she is, the last of my babes, already a big girl at five, and I have two teenagers now,  on the cusp of being young adults.  And oh!  My heart was heavy!  Life is good, and this older-child stage is actually quite fabulous!  But - the babies!  Those years of having little ones underfoot have passed by so quickly.  It didn't feel so at the time, but the saying "The days are long but the years are short" is so very accurate.  

And the years continue to fly by.  We're going to blink and the kids will be traipsing off to college.  Life is changing every moment, and if you know me, you know change is a wee bit (read: incredibly) hard for me.  But I take comfort in the fact that these children, given to us for a short time, are their Father in heaven's.  That He loves them more than I do (that seems near impossible!), and cares for them in every stage.  We are raising these children with the chief goal of getting them into heaven.  And though my heart sometimes has trouble catching up with the rapid pace of their growth, I know that with each day they are growing stronger in their faith and closer to their Savior.  And how can I be mournful when I remember that?

Saturday, September 20, 2014


"I love the sweet smell of hot peanut butter!"

"Take the plum out of your shirt, please."  (You can guess who said this - it could be cross-blogged under the title "Phrases I never thought I'd utter)

"I don't need to take a shower!  I took one two days ago!"

One of my boys was struggling with some friend issues. While we were driving home from school,  he was lamenting about how this friend wasn't being nice to him.   I was listening to him pour his heart out, when I heard my 5-year-old daughter pipe up with "Maybe you should just draw him a picture!".  Repeatedly, she happily chirped her sage advice as he continued his lament.  Finally, I gently suggested that drawing a picture might not solve this particular dilemma.  But I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try!


I saw someone wearing a banana clip the other day.  I felt like you all needed to know this.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy Fall, Ya'll!

Fall is here!  There is a bite in the air, football is on the TV, apples are 58 cents a pound, and I wore leggings, boots and a sweater over the weekend.  I love the crisp air and smell of burning wood when I step outside.  If only winter didn't follow it, Fall would be perfect!

This weekend we made a whirlwind trip to the city where my middle son spent time in the NICU.  Every year they have a NICU reunion, and this was his 10 year reunion.  We haven't been in five years, so it was wonderful to go back.  All the kids enjoyed the bouncy houses, the carnival games, the fair food, and the free sno cones and cotton candy.  It was a kid's dream come true.  And it was all free to us!  We spoke to one of his nurses while we there (though we never crossed paths with his neonatologist, unfortunately), and I couldn't help but ponder how different things were just 10 years ago.  My son had just come home from the NICU after a seven-week stint there.  He was on oxygen, with a feeding tube and an apnea monitor.  Life was scary and challenging.  But this weekend -  I watched my son run and jump and laugh.  He is a healthy boy now - not fully without medical issues, but healthy and strong.  And oh-so-happy.  I wish I could have had a glimpse back then of the boy he is now!

Unrelated to Fall:

This morning at church, our pastor referenced Constantine (the Emperor) in his sermon.  I was holding a certain little boy who heard the name and whipped his head up and looked at me.
"No", I whispered.  "He is not talking about the scary Muppet Frog."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On (or near) this day in history

Sept. 8, 1995:  I vividly remember it was a beautiful day in St. Louis.  I recall swinging at recess with my fourth graders, enjoying the start of my first year of teaching.  And later that night, I went out to dinner with my boyfriend, who, a few short hours later,  became my fiancé.  I was so giddy with delight when he proposed that I neglected to answer his question right away!  But here we are, 19 years later, and I still say "Yes!"

Sept. 11, 2001:  I was very pregnant with child #2.  I had an 18 month old toddling around the family room as I sat riveted in front of the TV, weeping and praying.  I was praying for the victims, the families of the victims, and those responding to the disaster.  And I was also praying, selfishly, that my baby would not be born that day (he waited 10 more days).  What a sin-filled world we live in.  Come, Lord Jesus!

Sept. 11, 2014:  Today.  Today, I met with a dear woman, a veteran early childhood teacher, a generous and kind soul. Before school started, I had reached out to her, asking her to share any wisdom and tips she might have to offer.  She invited me over today, and we had a lovely afternoon together.  She had made me a beautiful basket, filled with items she collected and bought - items I will undoubtedly use time and time again in my classroom.  She is a wonderful mentor, and I am blessed by her knowledge and friendship!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hairy Situation

Last week, I chopped off 12-ish inches of my hair.  Well, I didn't do it, because that would have been disastrous.  I can barely style my hair, much less cut it.  My wonderful, talented friend and stylist cut it.  I had decided to donate it to Locks of Love, so my friend gave me the ponytail when she was finished.  

I ran several errands after my cut, so I just took it with me to Meijer and sent it off while there.  Before I put it in the envelope, I took a picture:

Horrifying, isn't it?  I texted the picture to my husband, who promptly told me it looked like a dead animal.  I fully agreed!  It was creepy and weird (and full of hideous split ends!).  And it felt very strange to mail it off - kind of like I was sending a part of me away.  I hope the people at Locks of Love are able to snip off those wretched ends, pull out the numerous grays and make something of worth with what is left.

And within in two days, the other females in my house got their new 'dos as well.  My little daughter has a short bob she loves (almost as much as I do, due to the significantly fewer tangles she has now.  Did I ever tell you, dear reader, about the rat's nest she acquired in her hair while we were in Yellowstone?  I thought not.  It could have warranted its own zip code). My older daughter cut several inches off and had bangs cut.  She looks so much older, which I have mixed feelings about!  They both look beautiful, in my largely unbiased opinion.

All three of us are feeling much more carefree with fewer tresses.  Less is more!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Little R & R

My husband and I just returned from a glorious long weekend away, just the two of us.  Our time was filled with beach lounging, reading, visiting wineries, eating (too) well, shopping, and general fab-u-loso relaxation and enjoyment.  It was wonderful.  I love the time with just my husband - time to finish our thoughts and sentences, time to sleep in with no alarms rousing us too early, and time to simply enjoy each other's company.  I rather like my husband's company, so it was perfect.

It would be easy to want to remain in that world forever.  Except - I also missed the children!  So it was also glorious to return home to our brood (and trusty and generous grandparents) and be squeezed and kissed and hugged and loved.  Our children are so dear - to see their faces after being away for a long weekend warmed my heart immensely.  It was oh-so-wonderful to be away with my husband, and it was oh-so-wonderful to return home to our sweet babies.  Life is good.

In other news, I just found out that September 5-7 is Redhead Days.  I have no idea what this means, but I'm thinking a parade and cake are in order.  Yes?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My cup runneth over

Things are hoppin' over here, but I must stop and count my blessings.  Among them:

My husband.  As I've adjusted to teaching again, and working for the first time since having children, he has been a rock.  Listening to me, encouraging me, picking up (the many) chores I am juggling around the house as I get used to my new schedule, and loving me through my adjustment phase.  God has blessed me beyond words with this man.  He is my safe place, my cheerleader and my sounding board.

My children.  While I never thought too much about leaving my children at school all day, I have to say it is incredibly wonderful to be in the same building with four of them three days a week.  I get the occasional glimpse or hug from one of them in the hall, and it makes me smile every time.  My eldest daughter is enjoying her new high school career, and we are very happy with her school.  

Clean bathrooms.  My husband has taken over cleaning the bathrooms every week, in an effort to ease some of my workload.  Oh. my. goodness.  I detest cleaning the bathrooms (that is not an exaggeration - we have three boys, at least some of whom seem to have aiming issues unless they are playing with Nerf guns and a brother is involved - in which case they are always dead-on), and I can't tell you how blissful it is to have bathrooms that are clean. . . without cleaning them myself.  Fabulous.

My little students.  I am loving getting to know their personalities.  They warm my heart with their hugs, funny comments and sweet little smiles.  I like teaching them about their God and how much He loves them.  On a side note, I have also noticed that I am starting to call everyone "friends" or "boys and girls". . .

Summer thunderstorms.  It has been wicked humid the last several days, and my hair has been the size of Texas.  This morning we had a loud thunderstorm and I loved it.  There is something so peaceful and soothing about a summer storm.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Change is not a four-letter-word!

I just put my 14-year-old daughter on the bus to head to her first full day of high school.  Just before we left the house to head to the bus stop, my husband asked if I'd cry.  "No!"  I blithely replied.  "I really think I'll be just fine!"

Weeeeellll. . .I was wrong.

I couldn't help it!  As she got out of the car, a few little tears slipped out unbidden.  She is ready for this change.  It is time.  She will be fine - and more than that - she will succeed!  But is this mamma ready for the change?  The jury is out.

Change has never been my favorite word (as evidenced here and here).  And this year marks many changes in our household.  For 11 years, our whole life has revolved around our Lutheran school, our church, or our home.  All of my family was in one of those three places, either with me or my husband, or with teachers I knew oh-so-well.  And now!  Now she is headed to a school where I know precious few teachers or students, in an unfamiliar building, 25 minutes away.

Our other big change is that I am teaching preschool this year!  I am going to have the three-year olds for three days a week.  I am so looking forward to spending time with those little ones, singing songs, reading, playing and telling them about Jesus!  It has been a few years, though, since I've worked (read 14.5), so this will be an adjustment for me and for all of us.  Many suggestions have been given to me to amp up the children's chores (they totally love this idea), so we'll have to figure out a method of organization that work for our family.

I have confidence in my daughter and our family (and me, mostly!), that we will adjust to these exciting changes and be better for them!  Change is good actually, this I know in my head, even if my heart is slow to catch up sometimes.  I have loved our life to this point!  But I wouldn't want it to remain as it has been forever.  The future is wide open, with so many memories to be made.  A new family to meet at our daughter's school.  New children for me to meet, teach and love.  New opportunities for our kids to learn better how a family works together.  New chances for God to show us His love and blessings and provision.

So change - it's actually not a four-letter word.  It's a six-letter word.  Which reminds of another six-letter word:  thrive.  I pray that as our seasons change here, we thrive.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

On Growing Up

My oldest son is almost a teenager.  And apparently his body got the memo, because suddenly, he has grown up.  Seemingly overnight, his voice sounds more like Barry White's and less like Alvin the Chipmunk's.  (Though every now and then I do get to hear some voice-changing-Peter Brady moments.)  I hear the rumble of his voice from the other room and think my husband is speaking, only to find that it is my "little" boy.  He is also taller than I am now.  I have to look up to my son.  I knew the day was coming, but it seems to have happened when my back was turned.

Along with all of those changes, I am also seeing a deepening maturity in his behavior and actions toward others.  He is becoming more respectful, thoughtful and selfless.  He is gentler with his siblings and helps out more without being asked.  We are also able to have those deeper discussions with him that we've enjoyed with our daughter for awhile now.  He gets sarcasm and subtle humor.  It's fun to connect with him on this level.

But he's not quite on the verge of adulthood just yet.  He still loves to make up crazy names for his siblings, speak in his own dialect of the English language (or sometimes in his raging Frenchman accent), blast out 80's music from his spotify list (he is my son, after all!), play video games and make stop-motion movies, and wield his sword during battles in the yard with his brothers.

I'd say this is a good age for my boy.  One foot in little-boy, the other in teenager.  He's able to be mature one minute and silly the next.  I am anxious to see the young man of whom we are getting glimpses begin to emerge over the coming years!

"Between the innocence of babyhood and the dignity of manhood, 
we find the delightful creature of a boy"

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Epic Western Adventure, Part Two

A few more highlights of our trip out west, if you are so inclined to read about them.  If not, grab a pint of ice cream or a glass of wine and watch TV.  I won't be offended.

  • We made a rare appearance in a hotel on the way out and the way back.  On the way there, we were able to take advantage of a discount we discovered, which enabled us to have two rooms for a total of $50!  If you know me at all, you know how very euphoric I was.  
  • Perhaps because our family is giant and loud, or perhaps because we just look unbelievably approachable (you know which one is more likely here), we tend to meet people everywhere we go, and this vacation was no different.  We made several new friends, and even discovered that two of the families live only a couple hours away!  Camping tends to make every chatty, and we really enjoyed getting to know (and in some cases, become Facebook friends) so many great people!
  • We hit Wall Drug while en route.  It's possible you've seen one of the many signs across the country for this giant complex. It is an institution, and we had to stop.  The couple who founded the store in the 30s had an inspiring story.  We had a pleasant two hours there and I enjoyed one of my last fountain cokes (little did I know we were embarking on a fountain-coke wasteland).
  • In Custer State Park we camped next to The Silent Family.  They had two kids and I never heard a PEEP from their campsite.  As you can imagine, we made up for their silence in spades.  We are the absolute antitheses of The Silent Family.  We are The Incredibly, Painfully Loud Family.  What can I say?  The truth hurts.
  • We had little to no data on our phones most of the time, so I had to use a map.  Yes, a map.  I had to juggle the bendy, foldy pages in my lap and try to figure out what all the swirly lines meant.  They made my head swim!  Worst of all, I had to determine where we were, without a blue dot bobbing along.  As you can imagine, it was a challenge.  I recall doing this very thing only a few years ago, but somehow I have lost my touch, if I ever had one.  Feel free to pity me (If you think I'm a big baby, don't tell me.  Judge me to yourself).
  • In Yellowstone, I had issues with Old Faithful.  Once I called it Old Yeller, and another time I called it Old Geyser.  Regardless, we got to see it, and it was pretty incredible!  My newly-minted-8-year-old enjoyed singing "We all live in a Yellowstone Submarine" while we were there, and also renaming areas of the park.  We were staying in the West Thumb area of Yellowstone, causing my funny guy to ask daily if we would be traveling to the East Pinkie of Yellowstone.  Sadly, the East Pinkie remained elusive.
  • The evening lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore was incredibly moving.  At the end of a video, they asked all the service men/women present to come to the front of the amphitheater.  Our eyes were bright as we all clapped fervently for their service to our country.  One of my children was not overly impressed with giant mountain carvings, however.  "This is not really as big as I thought it would be."  Apparently many of the children had watched a Phineas and Ferb episode about Mt. Rushmore and were basing their expectations on that.  Oy.
It was a great trip, full of memories, mosquito bites, souvenirs (a certain white-headed-wonder wanted to hit every general store we saw) and God's wonders beheld.  Now back to real life! 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Epic Western Adventure, Part One

By the numbers, details of our trip west:

4    State/National Parks visited (Badlands, Custer, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons)

7    states visited or passed through

50+  times I wiped my little one's rear end, who was plagued with poopy problems the day we left and following

4   hand signals my poopy-plagued-daughter invented to tell me when she was done on the toilet.  Every time.

4376.4  miles driven on the trip

6  number of those miles driven by yours truly

48  degrees (with rain) upon entry of Yellowstone at 7:30 p.m.

50  miles from Yellowstone entrance to our campground

58  degrees (without rain) by the time we arrived at our campsite an hour later.  Hallelujah!

32  predicted degrees one night at Yellowstone, where we were camping without electricity (thankfully it did not get down that low and the snow the children were certain would occur did not materialize)

6  miles we covered to reach Inspiration Point high above Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons (I joked that my husband and I would have to smooch up there, but no one got it)

1427  wild animals we saw (estimate), including coyotes, bears, bison, snakes, elk, deer, wild horses, pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and two pet piglets from California

0  fountain Cokes consumed by this girl while in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons (causing me deep sadness and possibly withdrawal symptoms)

10+  fountain Pepsi machines sighted (causing me a deep bitterness toward Pepsi and the west in general)

18+ times we packed all the food and scented items (basically everything except chairs) into the Suburban at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons due to the high bear population (camping is a lot of work already, and this added to it quite a bit!  Thankfully we only saw bears when safely ensconced in the burb)

And countless memories made, beautiful sights seen,  and experiences shared (and also countless hours in the car!)

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

I finally know what I want to be when I grow up, take two.

A paint/nail polish color- and hand soap/lotion/candle scent-namer.

Is that a thing?

It has to be.  Someone has to be shut up in a cubicle somewhere churning out winners like these:

Drab (nothing says 'homey retreat' like drab)
Almond Toast (I'm pretty sure my entire downstairs is some version of this color)
Insect Wing (ew!)
Frog Belly 
Mistletoe Kiss (stolen kisses have a color?  who knew?)
Arsenic (who wouldn't want walls reminiscent of poison?)
Jessie  (??? The gal in the cubicle finally got to name one after herself?)
Scarlett O'Hara (well fiddle-dee-dee)
Popcorn, Biscuit, Candy Box (I think Jessie was getting hungry now)

And nail polish colors!  I think the gal naming these must be sunning herself on the beach, drinking, with a tall handsome man nearby. . .

Show me the ring
Guilty Pleasures
Jamaica me Crazy (I say this all the time to the children - true story)
Fish-net Stockings
Mojito Madness
Smooth Sailing
Lady Godiva (this one just makes me want chocolate)

And several I can't even mention, since children read this blog!  I rarely wear nail polish - I had no idea how how much the "sex sells" campaign was at work in this industry!

And finally my personal favorites, soap/lotion/candle scents.  The gal naming these, I envision, must be sipping fruity wines amidst a floral garden whilst baking snickerdoodles.

Mango Madarin  (mmmm)
Lavendar Camomille
Wild Passionflower (can't ya just smell it?)
Brown Sugar and Fig
Frosted Cupcake (what the gal is baking next)
Citrus Sunshine
Sundrenched Vineyard (the "office" for the gal writing these)
Pear Blossom Air

Now these names make me happy.  They're pretty creative, but they elicit warm fuzzies, and also make me hungry.  

So!  Who wants to hire me?  I am certain I can come up with names just as good as the ones above.  Let me try a few:

Totes Adorbs Teal

Glowing Halo 
Church-pew-brown (I'll try to clean up the nail-polish-naming industry)

Lilac Loveliness
Citrus Simplicity

Yes!!  I think they're awesome!!  I'm sure I'm a shoo-in.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On Why I Often Have a Headache

I recently read a little blurb about how many questions young children ask per day.  Any guesses?  Here is the shocking (or maybe not-so-shocking!) answer:

About 300!!

Does that make your head swim?  When I first read it, I thought, "No way!"  But then I did a little five minute count and realized it might be right after all.  The study went on to say that four-year-old girls top the charts at almost 400 questions per day.

Know what?  I have a four-year-old girl.  And I think this study has credence.

Just now, as I am typing this, my sweet four-year-old girl came by and fired off these:

"Can I ride my bike?"
"Are these shoes on the right feet?"
"Can you imagine if I walked all the way to the Y?"
"Can you take me to ride my bike?" (asked of her brother)
Repeat above question
"When you're done mowing can you take me?" (asked of bro again)

That's seven.  In about a one-minute time frame.  She may exceed the average.  I always knew she was above par.

The other day we were driving in the car and she was chatting away and asking questions about her birth (but nothing too stressful!).  I told her she was born via C-section and briefly how that worked.  She followed up with, "Did they use a sewing machine when they sewed you up, Mommy?"

And the last question I'll share with you today from this adorable white-haired over-achiever:  "Mommy?  Doesn't your mouth ever get tired of talking?  Mine does!"

Monday, June 30, 2014

Random Musings from my Frenetic Mind

Summer's in full swing, which means the cray cray is at full tilt.  So jumbled bits and pieces are all I can handle currently.  A few of those, below.

My youngest son and I have a ritual that goes something like this:

Me:  "I love you!"

Him:  "I love you more!"

Me:  "I love you most!"

Him:  "I love you more than you love me!"

Me:  "Impossible!"

Him:  "Possible!"

Every time, the same.  Usually followed by a giant kiss and hug.  It doesn't get much better than that.

My "monkey in the middle" son turned ten last week.  We've enjoyed a whole decade of that awesome kid, and I know I'm better for it!  It's hard to believe it has been so long since that tumultous time.  Sometimes I look at him in wonder, recalling the fragile baby he was.  He's incredibly strong and healthy and active, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and generous.  He's a true blessing to our family!

On a much different note, I LOVE my paddle attachment for my kitchen aid mixer.  (I warned you this post contained random musings!!)  Just a few minutes ago, I used it to shred chicken I had in the crock pot all day, and it was bliss.  I am not even being dramatic.  Dare I say that the whole mixer was worth it, just for this ability?  Does that go too far?  I'm not sure.  Shredding meat with two forks was the bane of my existence.  But the paddle attachment?  Glorious.

I have diagnosed my self with Plantar Fasciitis.  I have used the inter-nets to do this.  I am certain this is what ails me, since I read it on the inter-nets.   My daughter is not so sure that my methods are sound, but I think I'm on the money.  The symptoms all line up, and did I mention I read it online?  Anyway, my right foot hurts quite a lot, especially when I have been resting it for a long time (such as in the morning or if I get up in the night).  I am trying to stretch it often (guess where I got the idea to do that?), and wear good shoes as much as possible.  There is a possibility I should see an actual physician soon about it, instead of just WebMD.  Maybe.

Must finish this über-thrilling post now, to serve dinner (consisting of shredded chicken) that probably 3/5 of my offspring will complain about.  Such is life!

Monday, June 16, 2014


We do a Bible story, prayers and blessings together with the four youngest kids each night.  Often, it is a focused time and the kids are really listening and intently praying.  Other times. . .not so much.  A few recent prayer-time moments:

One of my older children was praying that the Russian takeover of the Ukraine (how on EARTH he knew about this is a mystery, since my current events knowledge is abysmal) would stop.  My youngest son leaned into me and whispered, quite seriously, "But I want Russia to take over!"  I'm guessing he also has no idea what is happening in Russia, but for some reason, he's really pulling for Russia here.

Another night, someone was praying and said "Everybody. . ." and then paused to finish his thought.  Without missing a beat, my youngest son (him again!), stage whispered into my ear  ". . .dance now!"

And yet another night, someone was in the midst of earnest prayer, only to be interrupted by (you guessed it!) my youngest son's Burping Pumbaa stuffed animal.  During the child's prayer, we suddenly hear "Slimy, yet satisfying!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Home Run!

Since it has been a week since I last posted (that is due to children!  in the house!  every second!  and neighborhood friends!  and messes everywhere I turn! and massive hunger all the time!), and all my recent posts have been me boo-hooing over all the changes we're experiencing over here, I'll deviate this time. Slightly.

To baseball.

Yes, dear reader, to the sport that is taking over the world.  Wait, what?  It's not taking over your world?  Hhhmm.  Well, we are eating, breathing and oozing baseball at our house.  We're practicing (at the fields, in the yard, in the local parks), we're going to games, we're washing uniforms (and of course by we, I mean me, but you knew that, didn't you?) we're packing snacks (see the previous explanation of who we refers to), we're cheering, we're making new friends. . .

And we're enjoying it.

The schedule is still a bit rigorous, I admit, and rainouts (like we've been given tonight) are a welcome respite to the 5/6-day-a-week program we are getting used to.  But still.  It's fun.  Last Saturday, one boy got to pitch for an inning.  And I was so very proud.  His form was a thing of beauty to my mamma's eye, and he did quite well for his first effort.  And another son had a couple of solid hits and made two runs during one game and I was so very proud.  And the third boy, who is still learning it all, made a triple the other day and got the game ball!  And I was so very proud.

And more than once, you'll not be surprised to hear, their performance on the ball field has caused me to tear up.  I cannot seem to help myself.  Thank goodness it is sunglasses season and hopefully no one notices.  I told my mother-in-law during one such emotional moment, "When my children do reasonably well at something, I feel I might explode with happiness!  What if one of them becomes a star athlete or singer or mathematician?  I might lose all ability to control myself."

Sitting on the bleachers for hours on end is turning out to be a thing of beauty.  Cheering for my dudes is bringing me immense happiness.  Hearing their coaches tell me they appreciate my boys' attitudes, or natural talent or humor makes my heart swell.

When I first started receiving texts and emails and phone calls about the boys' practices, I wondered what on earth we had signed up for.  But the boys are growing and challenging themselves and learning to give something all they've got.  And I'm enjoying watching them do all of the above.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Changing Lanes

Yesterday was 8th grade Baccalaureate and Graduation, though my daughter still has two days of school left.  What a beautiful day it was.  Surrounded by her extended family, she received a few awards and her diploma.  I am so very proud of the young lady she has become.


Since preschool ended last week, one of my kids realized that last Friday was the last day all my kids will be at our Lutheran school together.


Oh my, oh my.  I do not, have never done change well.  So many years has this school and church been almost our entire life!  My husband works there, the children go there. . .that building has been our go-to for most everything.  And now, we are branching out.  We are sending our daughter to a nearby Catholic high school, and I'm excited about it.  Truly I am.  I think we are going to enjoy very much becoming part of the family there.

But still.  My heart is aching for the passing of an era.  Where all our kids are together.  My view in the rearview mirror of the Suburban - all my kids on the way to/from school together.  These days are very nearly over.  And my heart hurts for it.

At the same time, I am able to see past my tears and at the exciting days that are ahead.  Not long ago, I was putting a cart away at Target (why that is relevant, I can't tell you), and suddenly I was overwhelmed with the joy that is to come in our lives.  High school, college, marriage, new homes, grandchildren, careers, travel - and much more that I can't even imagine, Lord willing.  So many changes are on the horizon, and I know so many wonderful experiences are ahead.

When I graduated from high school myself, I had many of these same feelings (I told you I never handled change well - I used to cry when my parents changed the living room furniture around!).  A good friend comforted me with this verse:  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)  These words soothed my ragged emotions then, and they soothe them today as well.  No matter the changes we are experiencing, I can take solace in the fact that Christ is a beautiful constant.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reflections on my 8th grader

My daughter is graduating from our Lutheran School this weekend.  Sniff, sniff!  I have many emotions about that, as you might assume. . .but I'll save those for another post. For now, I want to share what I wrote to her 8th grade teacher last fall.  Her teacher requested from all the parents any information that would help her better understand her students.  I loved reflecting on my girl, and bragging about her at times, like all parents do!  Below are some excerpts of what I wrote.  

A was born on St. Patrick's Day, 2000.  After a long labor, she finally made her way into the world and stole our hearts.  Our lives have never been the same!

From the time she was very little, A has always liked to keep the peace.  When she was a toddler/preschooler and was asked to do something she didn't want to do, she would do it - begrudgingly, saying "Da-da-da-da!  I'm doing it!"  She was incredibly frustrated, but couldn't bear to be naughty enough not to obey.   As our family has grown, she continues to play the peacemaker in our home.  She smooths ruffled sibling feathers, intervenes when siblings are arguing and even tries to cheer us up when we're down - even if her comments are ridiculous and far-fetched!  A will step aside to let her brothers or sister have something that she has (sometimes to a fault and I have to correct her and remind her not to be a doormat!).

A loves spending hours in her room, both because she needs space from our busy house (read: loud brothers) and because she loves her room!  She sews, crafts, sings and reads.  She, however, is not so hip on cleaning her room.  We have seen some improvement in this area in the last year or so, though. . .marginally.  

Going to bed early is not A's thing!  She can't seem to wind down until much later than a 13 year old should!  She is always resurfacing in the family room after we have told her to head to bed.  She takes after her father in this area!  I have told her more sleep usually leads to better grades - and since she already does well, if she gets 12 hours of sleep she might be a child prodigy!

A is wonderful with her siblings, and very helpful to me.  She is usually kind and considerate if I need help with something around the house, and she always babysits for the kids (sometimes we pay, sometimes not, depending on the situation).  She is her littlest brother's buddy, and loves doing girlie things with K, the sister she longed for as we had all the boys!  They all love her and she gets along with everyone.

Every night, she and Daddy do "Bible Story" together (usually around 10:00!), which isn't really a story anymore, but a passage, discussion and prayer.  They have done this for years and it is time-treasured by both of them.  When he isn't home I fill in, but it isn't the same.   I love their relationship.

The older she gets, the more we laugh together.  She reminds me of my mom and sister, since we can laugh ridiculously about inane things that strike us as funny.  I look forward to that only deepening as the years pass - which they are doing, all too quickly. 

I have been spending some time reflecting about my daughter, her past in grade school, and her future in high school.  And I imagine as each of my children reach this milestone, I will have the pleasure of doing it with each of them.  

What a blessing this child (and all our children!) is to us!  How wonderful it is to think of her unique personality at age 13/14.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for her in the coming years.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

So close. . .

There are five-and-a-half school days left this year, and peeps, I'm not ashamed to say that we're limping to the finish line over here.

Getting up early, making lunches, nightly reading, speeches, projects. . .I'm having a little trouble getting into it all at this point.

Isn't it summer already?

That being said, summer brings its own unique set of challenges, as I've blogged about here and here.  The kids are, well, home, which makes our house a wee bit crazier.  The kids being around every day makes grocery shopping and errand-running more like an Olympic sport instead of the peaceful respite it is during the school year.

But wow - no more homework and projects and alarm clocks.  Instead, vacations, camp and camping!  Beach and pool and bike rides.  I'll take it.  If I can manage to limp the rest of the way there.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Because I'm Happy. . .

It's Spring!  And Spring means happy!  So here are few things that are making me smile these days:

My son made the picture below of birds on a wire.  And I LOVE it.  I see a lot of art come through the doors around here, and it's all fabulous, (because my kiddos made it of course) but for some reason, this one really struck my fancy.  It just makes me smile. Look at their tiny little legs!!

The word amalgamated.  I can't really tell you why.  But I love saying it.

Bunny rabbits.  Every time my husband and I are on a walk and we see one hop-hopping across somebody's yard, I stop our conversation to exclaim something along the lines of "Look at the bunny!  Bunnies make me so happy!"  My husband is used to me doing weird things like this and just humors me.

My little daughter on her bike, with her hair flying, her little legs pumping, and her little bell ringing whenever the mood strikes her.  I adore following her around the block.

The smell of play dough.  Who doesn't love that smell?  There's just something about it. . .perhaps a bit of childhood happiness all wrapped up in it.

And. . .baseball.  Gasp!  The schedule is in-tense, there's no denying that, but I'm kinda loving watching the boys play and soaking up all the sunshine (most of the time).  I am really enjoying it far more than I thought I might.  Woo to the hoo!

The song Happy by Pharrell Williams.  Obvi! (That's hipster for obviously, for all of you out there without teenagers or tweens)  Can't help but feel my spirits lift when I hear it.

". . .Clap along it you feel like a room without a roof. .. !"

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

485 Years and Still Going Strong

After I graduated from college, I took my first teaching job, about 4 hours away from the town where I grew up.  My parents helped me get settled in and then left, and I realized I was truly on my own.  Not like college, where I was surrounded by a gaggle of girls, but alone.  And it was scary.  I was homesick, but also actually afraid of living completely by myself.  I wasn't sleeping well, certain someone was going to break in the second I closed my eyes.  A friend reminded me of the following prayer, one I had memorized years before in grade school:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen  (Luther's Evening Prayer)

And after the prayer, Luther's Small Catechism instructed me to "go to sleep, promptly and cheerfully."

You know what?  I did!  I found this prayer so very comforting.  While it still wasn't the easiest for me to live alone, I began sleeping better and having peace at night.  

In the same vein, Luther's Morning Prayer:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen

Just as we did before them, our children have memorized both of these prayers at their Lutheran school.  And we have incorporated both into our daily lives - the morning prayer before we all part ways in the morning, and the evening prayer after bible story each bedtime.  

The rhythm of these prayers in our life brings such peace and comfort to me.  Commending myself into His hands, asking for forgiveness, praying to be kept from sin and every evil, and finally that the evil foe may have no power over me.  

Since these times of prayer I'm writing about involve the children, they are not always somber, quiet affairs.  But I pray that our children are comforted and encouraged by these prayers as I was all those years ago, and continue to be today.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Super Important Stuff

A few little snippets of Super Important Stuff:

All my kids' birthdays are in the spring/summer/fall, causing me to need to schedule all their well visits in the summer sometime.  My doctor prefers (as do I), that I take them one at a time so each one can get individualized attention.  I called the office the other day to schedule them all.  I was very proud of myself that I rattled off all of their birthdays with no hesitation.  Even the three June/July ones didn't trip me up!  Go me!  After about 20 minutes, the scheduling process was over and we hung up.  I'm sure the office just loooooves when I call.

I only buy a certain number of juice cartons per week. The kids are allowed juice with breakfast and a cup with snack after school.  The children would prefer to drink juice every time a drink was needed, or actually, just get an IV drip and be done with it.  So I must constantly monitor everyone's juice intake - hey, it's a super fun, and it's not like I have anything else to do!  One of my children suggested I buy five juice containers per week and label them for each child, and when you run out, the gig's up.  It's actually not a bad idea, except we wouldn't have space for any actual food in our fridge if I did that.  And since our garage fridge bit the dust and we are flying solo, I guess we're gonna have to keep on sharing.  Life's tough in the big city.

Overheard last weekend on the way to church:  "My favorite part about church is. . .Sunday school and donuts!" Of course!

My older three children rotate turns in the front seat of the suburban, and therefore control over the radio (of course I had to explain that the driver always has ultimate veto powers, which I often exercise).  So each week we get a vastly different music genre.  80s, The Blend, Billy Joel Channel, The Message, Kidz Bop, . . .it kinda makes my head spin.

I have noticed that I am spending more and more time in front of my four year's closet trying to steer her toward more conservative clothing options.  (After pondering this, I remembered that she has always had fashion opinions, as blogged about here.)  In fact, I am spending more time in front of her closet than I am spending in front of my own.  You can deduce what you will from that.

One of my children marched up to the computer today and said "Can I google the world's biggest butt?"

Monday, May 12, 2014


As you might have noticed, Mother's Day brought out a lot of commercials from the likes of Kleenex and Hallmark and Johnson and Johnson.  Tear-inducing commercials.  Cute kids with no front teeth making endearing commentaries about their mothers.  I watch every one that comes up on my Facebook feed, boo-hooing my way through them all.  But as I watched one this year, a phrase caught my attention, and I latched onto it:

You are enough.

And it made me think.  How many times do we as mothers feel we fail our children?  For me, it is daily, hourly, sometimes by the minute!  I do too much of this, too little of that, and ultimately, I feel like I've failed my children.  From what I've heard, I'm not alone.  How often we compare ourselves to the mother in our playgroup, in the pew in front of us, at the grocery store - and come up woefully short.

Maybe you didn't have the natural childbirth you'd so lovingly planned.  Maybe you were screaming for drugs after 10 hours of labor and no birth on the immediate horizon.  Maybe you had to have a C-section!

You are enough.

Maybe you didn't breastfeed for a whole year.  Maybe you didn't breastfeed at all!  Maybe you fed your baby solids at three months when your pediatrician suggested you wait.  Maybe you slept with your baby - or didn't, and let him cry it out, crying along with him outside his room.

You are enough.

Maybe you didn't read to her every day, or give her tummy time often enough.  Maybe you felt the teensiest bit frustrated when she wouldn't stop crying, and maybe you had to leave the room to preserve some sanity.  Maybe all you wanted each day was just a few minutes to yourself - and this after wanting a baby so badly!

You are enough.

Maybe you didn't throw Pinterest-inspired parties for his birthdays.  Maybe you didn't bake cookies after school every day or serve vegetables each night fresh from the garden.  Maybe you let him watch waaaay too much TV so you could have a few moments of peace.

You are enough.

Maybe you lost your temper - a lot.  Maybe you yelled more than you wanted to.  Maybe you didn't follow through when you disciplined.  Maybe you were lazy sometimes and looked the other way when your child misbehaved.

You are enough.

Here is what you have done, and continue to do:

You love your children.  You love them so fiercely you are sometimes taken aback with the intensity of your love.

You feed your children - healthy food most of the time.  You bathe them - carefully and with a watchful eye.  You kiss their boo-boos, squeeze them tight when they're sad, and defend them when necessary. You tuck them in at night and say prayers and kiss their foreheads.  You tell them you love them to the moon and back.  You sing them songs and laugh with them and listen to their stories.  You drive them to their activities and watch all their recitals, games and programs.  You help with homework, you teach them manners, and you guide their decisions.

You give them what they desperately need more than anything - yourself.

No one can be a better mother to your children than the girl you see when you look in the mirror.  God gave you your children - not the mother down the street whose birthday parties are to die for.  Not the lady in the grocery picking out the organic fruits to puree into baby food.  Not the gal from your play group whose child speaks fluent French at age three.

No, God gave your children to you.  And He doesn't make mistakes.  He knows no one can raise them better than you.  Our God entrusted them to you.

You are enough.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mamma's Day!

My son made me a beautiful corsage for Mother's Day.  He was very excited for me to wear it all the time, most especially to church this morning.  I happily obliged.  Here is my arm, sporting it:

As you can see, it is not exactly diminutive.  I am one who prefers to blend in a bit and not call attention to myself, so it was a bit louder than my usual taste calls for.  But this beautiful corsage got lots of compliments, and my son was ever so thrilled that I was wearing it.  And that made me so happy.

We just had dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant, a rare treat these days (a sit-down dinner for seven isn't often included in the Freedom Budget).  The food was fabulous, as was the conversation.  My husband prompted the kids to say what they appreciate or like about me, and he also contributed.  What lovely things I heard (and also some weird things too, I gotta admit) from everyone.  It was both humbling and encouraging.

And now bedtime and showers and Bible story and teeth-brushing.  What a privilege to be a mother to these children! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

On lessons learned

Yesterday, as the kids piled into the suburban at 3:00, one child said "We need to go to Walmart right now!".

"That doesn't seem especially likely", I replied.

Turns out, the child had an assignment due the next day, that required a Kleenex box.  "When exactly did you hear of this assignment?", I asked.

Tuesday was the answer.  Sigh.  "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part", I said, quoting a sign I had seen in my college library 20 years ago.   I am not a micro-manager, so I don't look online to find out about all their assignments.   The result - hard lessons are learned.

We were in and out for the entire evening, four of the five kids with activities, causing me to be a taxi driver, a job I am quickly becoming accustomed to.  I told the child that at some point during the afternoon, I would run into Walgreens and buy a box of Kleenex.  The child was thankful and appreciative.  I assumed the Kleenex box situation was resolved and the child would take it to school to work on it there.

Fast forward to 9:00.  We tumble into the house, after a 2.5 hour baseball game and two baseball practices (one child was not yet home from another event).   I urge everyone upstairs, calling out our customary "Potty-teeth-jammies" chant.  People were slow, my patience was waning. . .and the child with the Kleenex box situation was melting down.  In fact, the project had to be completed tonight, and our printer was out of color ink.  Anger and blame and finally sadness set in.  The child wanted to get a good grade and was finding out the hard way that procrastinating doesn't usually pay off.  It was a tough lesson to learn.  The child completed the project with the materials at hand, and we finally had some good conversation about it all.

At 10:34, all the children were upstairs and I let out a sigh.  All's well that end's well, yes?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Secret Skill

Since the inception of Facebook, I've noticed a strange phenomenon:

I know all my married Facebook friends' full names.

First name, maiden name, married name.  If I knew her pre-marriage, I now know her married name.  If I knew her only post-marriage, I now know her maiden name.  And when I think of her on Facebook, I think of her whole name.  Not just Jenny Johnson.  Now I know her as Jenny Smith Johnson.  And vice versa.

And, truth be told, sometimes when I see people in real life, I think of their full Facebook name.  There's something wrong with me, yes?  My best friend from 4th grade is no longer Amy Dobson.  Now she's Amy Dobson O'Neil.  

It's possible I need to seek help.  But I'm just sayin', if there was a contest for knowing someone's full name, I would kick some tushie.  I'm not sure who would be able to administer this test to me, except perhaps my sister.  And why spending any amount of time on this hypothetical test would be worth poo, I don't know. . .except, I would clobber the competition.  If there was any competition.  

So next time you run into me and I refer to you by your Facebook name, don't be alarmed.  I'm just training for my exam.  

**Names were changed to protect the innocent**

Sunday, May 4, 2014


My 8th grade daughter and I just returned from a four day trip to Washington DC with her class.  It was fabulous - we saw about a million historical sites and learned more than this old girl could absorb.  Our tour guide was a 65-year-old dynamo who walked faster than most of us and was comical,  yet demanded respect at the same time.  It was an amazing trip, full of memories and information.  None of us will ever forget it.

But all that time with 8th graders begins to change a person.  Take for instance, a fun word some of the boys like to use:  noob.  For reasons that are impossible for me to explain to you, I find this word HILARIOUS.  Every time I heard it, I cracked up.  I couldn't help myself.  While watching Frozen on the long bus ride to DC, one of the boys responded to the (über-emotional) line "Do you wanna build a snowman?"  with:  "She doesn't want to build a snowman with you, you noob!!".  Insert near-hysteria from mom.  My daughter was probably humiliated multiple times.

So at home, it is possible I have inserted this word a few times since our homecoming yesterday.  And since all these little children near me look to me as a role model, you can imagine what has occurred.  A wild influx of the word, especially with my 4-year-old daughter.  It is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious to me, coming out of her sweet little mouth.   Instead of reprimanding her, as I most certainly ought, I am laughing so hard I am in tears.  This cannot be a good example of quality parenting.

I'll probably have to blog next week about the drastic measures I am taking to eradicate the word from our vocabulary.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Musical Lament

Kids have it so easy these days.

Way back when, we listened to cassette tapes.  We had to wait for them to rewind, fast forward and had to flip them over manually.  If the tape got pulled out, we had to use a pencil to wind it all back together.  And to this day, I still sing a section of Billy Joel's Pressure all wonky - the tape had twisted in one section and played a warped version of the flip side.

When my kids want to hear a song they like, they pull it up on Spotify.  No waiting for a parent to drive them to Camelot Music to spend their hard earned pennies on a new cassette!  They look for about two seconds, then listen to whatever they want, for free. 

And does anyone remember taping songs off the radio?  You kept your blank cassette in the deck, (with record and pause both pushed), waiting for the moment the DJ would play your latest fave.  Then as soon as you heard the coveted strains, you released the pause so it would start recording. Then you hoped no one would enter your bedroom and talk and ruin it all.  Or worse yet, the DJ come on at the end, jabbering over the last chorus.  Lucky were the kids who had a dual-cassette deck player - they didn't have to worry about parents coming in and messing up the recording.

Remember the days of listening intently to catch that garbled lyric?  Now we can just google the lyrics and be rewarded instantaneously.  Or use SoundHound to find out who the group is - or push info on the Sirius!  Gone are the days of calling the radio station to ask who sang the last song.

And one last thought to my rant:  Storage!  Now our music is in the palm of our hands.  Our iPhone, iPod or equivalent holds it all.  Gone are the days of special cassette-tape-storage boxes.  When you go to college, you don't have to make choices such as this: "Do I take my extensive cassette collection, or do I take my clothes?".  Kids nowadays can have both!

Sheesh.  If only they realized how good they've got it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

For the Love of the Game

I found myself at a 4-way stop this afternoon, belting out Whitney Houston.  After several seconds of sitting at the stop sign, I realized I did not, in fact, have to continue sitting there indefinitely.  I don't know if I was waiting for the (nonexistent) light to change or what, but I was definitely distracted, and not by the stellar Whitney lyrics.  Do you know what had my mind so pre-occupied, dear reader?

Baseball socks.

Yessir, baseball socks.  My three boys are playing Little League this year, and let me tell you, it's an experience heretofore unmatched by any other.  And we've only had one week of practices!

First, let me tell you about the practice schedule.  Between the three boys, we have 8 practices a week, plus extra voluntary ones for my oldest son.  Thankfully, a couple overlap, so we haven't had to take a sleeping bag and build a shelter.  Yet.  When the games start, I am told the older boys have 30 games or so EACH.  I am not sure how many my youngest son will have, but if it's more than one, it's gonna be cray-cray.  But I was given this reassuring piece of news:  The older boys' games are "only 2.5 hours long".  That is an actual direct quote.  I wouldn't kid around here.  For realsies.

Secondly, there is a whole lotta paraphernalia involved in America's Pastime.  At their first practices, the boys came home with a laundry list of uniform items they needed, ranging from socks (re: my mental engrossment at the stop sign) to cleats to belts to pants to all manner of protective accoutrement (I shall leave it at that, so as not to alarm any of my more delicate readers).  It was enough to make a girl run for the hills.  Instead, I ran to Facebook to poll all of my 771 closest friends on where I could find the cheapest cleats.  And also ask - what the heck is the difference between soccer cleats and baseball cleats?  Because we got a bunch of soccer cleats around this joint.  I was informed, however, that those will not do.  They are missing a little cleat on the toe that would render a baseball player useless were he to attempt to play without it.  I was, however, informed by my dear Facebook family that I could find some used ones at a store nearby.  Home run!

The boys and I also had to sign a code of conduct.  It seems that there are some people who play baseball (or parent children who do), who don't play well with others!  We had to agree to respect the coaches, not swear or drink in the park, not yell at the umps and several other things that seem like common sense, but are apparently NOT.  What is the world coming to?

Ok, so this sounds like a whine fest, doesn't it?   It all is a bit. . .daunting, I admit, but the upside is that the boys are really enjoying so far.  And while sitting at the ballpark for basically the entire months of May and June doesn't sound as good as say, sitting on the beach, I am looking forward to watching my boys play and improve.  And I am oh-so-happy with all three of their coaches.  Each boy has a coach who is encouraging and challenging, as well as understanding of our family's other commitments.  Last week was Holy Week, so the boys had to miss a couple practices for church.  One of my son's coaches even said "faith before baseball" when I told him we had to miss practice.

It's going to be a crazy couple months, but we're ready to step up to the plate and take it one base at a time.  I know, I know!  But did you know there is a whole glossary full of baseball idioms?  Seriously, the internet has everything!  I had to use a couple of them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Large Family Checklist

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times.

 "How do you do it?" 

Five kids seems to constitute a huge family in today's world (though it's really not - I know many, many families with more children than our little five). 

So here's a few things we can't live without, in no particular order:

A tabletop griddle.  Grilled cheese, pancakes, french toast, bacon. . .When there are seven people waiting hungrily for a meal, a measly stovetop square griddle just ain't gonna cut it.

A well-running dishwasher.  I must say, we are hanging on by a thread with this one.  Ours is 14 years old, and I fear she may not be long for this world.  But she stills churns out a load every night after dinner, without fail.  If the kids are home all day (as in weekends, summer break etc.), then it is usually run twice a day.  Most pans and large items still have to be hand washed every night. But remember - we have five kids, so that doesn't mean I'm doing all that washing.

4-slot toaster.  Breakfast is so very much more pleasant when I can pop out four pieces at a time.  With seconds on toast, I only have to run it about three times a morning.

Bunk beds and lofts.  We have two lofts and one set of bunk beds. They make our average-sized bedrooms seem roomy (as does a large set of utility shelving in lieu of dressers in the boys' room - huge spacesaver).

Front loading washer/dryer.  Seven people wear a lot of clothes.  A lot of clothes.  I do laundry twice a week and our large washer/dryer set make the whole process go much more quickly.

A van/suburban.  We currently have both.  Older models, but in good shape.  Our van is not a looker, but it's paid for and utilitarian (two things I love in a vehicle).  The suburban is a thing of beauty to me, and it's plenty spacious.  

And now I'll tell you a few things that are not needed to have a large family.

A lot of money.  Yes, some money is essential.  But kids don't need to be involved in every expensive sport offered.  They don't need to have the latest Uggs and iPhone.  They don't need to have birthday parties with astronomical price tags.  They don't need trips to Mexico and Florida two to three times a year.  Are these things nice?  Absolutely.  And if you can afford to give them to your kids, great!  But they're not necessary to a person's childhood.  

Superhuman patience.  Five kids can really tax my sanity, not gonna lie.  The volume, the fighting, the constant activity and scheduling can be a lot.  But I don't have any more patience than the next person (and quite possibly less than the next person) and somehow we manage.  

Lots of spare time.  People always ask "How do you find enough time to spend with all the kids one-on-one?"  It is a challenge, but it can be done.  We are creative with carving out time with each of the kids.  This doesn't have to mean major events.  Just quality time talking or throwing a baseball or going to the grocery can be wonderful opportunities to connect.  

A huge house.  As we kept having children, people would ask "Are you going to have to move into a larger house?"  My answer continued to be "No".  Our house is 2100 square feet, with four bedrooms  and a partial basement, and it is just fine.  Sure, if a huge house were to fall into our lap, that would be great.  But who's going to clean it?  Kids can share bedrooms.  It doesn't kill them.  It might teach compromise (we're working on that).  And here's a strange phenomenon I've noticed over here.  It doesn't matter the size of your house -  your kids are going to be in the same room you are in 90% of the time anyway.  When our kids were a little younger, that meant our master bathroom.  Smallest room in the house, and everyone seemed to congregate there when we were trying to get ready in the mornings.  True story.  These days it's the family room/kitchen.  Most of the time, all of us are there, doing our various activities.  Why have all those other rooms to clean?  Might as well keep it to a minimum.  Bonus - I know what's going on when everyone is within earshot.

Okay, true confession.  We don't need all those items I listed above.  They make life easier, for sure, but we could certainly get along without them (but man!  I would miss that dishwasher!).  What we really need is love.  And grace.  And the love just grows with each child.  There never seems to be a shortage.  Being surrounded by your children (whether it's one child or nineteen) has to be one of God's greatest gifts, don't you agree?