Thursday, March 5, 2015

Some Alphabetical Ideas Would be Great.

I'm taking a risk.

It's not a big one, but it is a risk nonetheless.

I am going to do the A-Z Challenge in April.

A post every day of the week except Sundays.

Each of the 26 posts is assigned a letter of the alphabet, and the post must revolve around it somehow.

I did this challenge a couple of years ago, and while it took a lot of time, it was a lot of fun. Plus, I met a lot of bloggers, some of whom I consider good friends now.

This time, though, I'm going with a theme to make it easier.

I think I'm going to go with a theme.

I threw out "Phrases that Are Getting Old and Bug the Poo Out of Me" for a variety of reasons.

While I do wish people would stop saying "taking it to the next level" when talking about absolutely everything, it seemed like a whole lot of negativity crammed into one month.

Speaking of poo, I could probably come up with 26 different encounters with poo, but that's just too much poo for one month. Although, the titles could be fun.

I thought of doing something bizarre that's never been done before, like 26 uses for an old umbrella, but that would take work. Our broken umbrellas really only have one use. They pretend to be fully-functioning umbrellas until it rains and I take one out of the trunk and get soaked because one arm is broken in half.

26 Ways to Embarrass or Annoy Teens could be fun, but the kids would end up hating me by the end of April.

Between raising 6 kids and teaching and coaching and leading teen groups and taking photos of kids and volunteering in a wide variety of places with kids, I've learned a thing or two. But since giving unsolicited advice in person is a bad idea, I never get to share my hard-earned wisdom.

There is no such rule against giving advice and sharing wisdom on one's own blog.



So, in the spirit of doing what people on the internet do, I'm going to go with "Tips and Tricks and Ideas to Make Working with and Taking Care of Kids Easier". 

Perhaps someone will find something useful.

Yes, I realize half (if not more than) my readers aren't taking care of kids on a daily basis.

For you, I will be putting stories in with the tips and tricks and ideas to keep it interesting. AND I ask that you stick around and give advice and ideas in the comments pertaining to each day's topic.

So... I've been coming up with a list in my head about the topics I'll cover. Based on the alphabet. I've hit a few snags.

I could use some help.

To my readers who have kids, little or big, do you have something which is giving you headaches? Is there an area in which you could use some ideas?

Perhaps something that starts with Q? Or K? Or U?

Please let me know. 

We'll see how this all shakes out.

Have a lovely day!


Saturday, February 28, 2015

View from the Driver's Seat, Photo Blogging Challenge

This month, PJ assigned us the task of posting 5 photos with the theme of Winter.

Since we've been having a very mild winter snow-wise this winter, I couldn't count on snow providing me with pretty photos to take. I decided to get a little creative.

I shall dub this photo series "View from the Driver's Seat".

NOTE: Every photo I took for this series was while my van was stopped. I live in the country, in the middle of sparsely traveled roads, so it is perfectly safe to stop in the middle of the road to snap a photo. All photos were taken with my phone while I was heading yet another place with the children. I have not used a filter or touched up any of the photographs.




With early sunsets and late practices, we frequently get home well after dark.



We did get plenty of mornings that started with ice on the windshield.



Winter always means filthy cars, thanks to the salt and slush. Trips to the car wash are more frequent.






We finally got snow later in the month. Day one was ridiculously windy and cold, and completely unpredictable. The above photo was taken less than 20 minutes before this one:



 I love the look of snow blowing across the road or forming mini tornadoes in the field.

And then 2 days later,


snow.

Lots of it.



After brushing, before wind-shield wiping.

I spend a lot of time in the car driving kids hither and yon. I normally just take a little mental photo of the pretty things I see. I am grateful for this month's theme, as it forced me to slow down and really look at the scene unfolding outside my windshield.

If you would like to join in this month, head over to PJ's to link up.

If you would like some notice for next month's theme, join the Facebook group.

And with that, I hereby call for an end to winter!

Have a nice day!

Friday, February 27, 2015

We've Had Some Visitors. Some Stuck Around Longer Than Others. TToT #89

A little music for you to enjoy while you read.


My almost 2 year old nephew is staying with us for a week while his parents are out gallivanting around Hawaii. If it weren't for his obsessive need to slam every door in the house and his penchant for waking before the rooster, he'd be the perfect guest. The thankfuls:

     1. The big kids are enthralled with Nephew. They are having a ball playing with him when they come home from school.

Turken wants to hold his hand whenever we go somewhere.

      2. Cuckoo is getting a turn to be the "big brother". Our world doesn't stop just because a two year old is in the house waking up at 5:00 in the morning. Cuckoo has been invaluable in helping to keep Nephew occupied while I run down to the basement or out to the chicken coop for a minute.

     3. Nephew falls asleep on his own without a lot of fanfare. I'm not one for fanfare at bedtime.

     4. This experience had helped me get over that "I want another baby" mood I was in. Yeah, I'm getting too old for chasing a toddler all day and night. I can be patient and wait for the grandkids to come.

Other non-Nephew thankfuls...

5. We've had quite a bit of sunshine. The cold is really, really cold, but it doesn't seem so bad when the van is warmed by the sun before we get in it. Sitting on the hardwood floor to play a game is actually pleasant when I get to sit in the ray of sun coming through the window.

6. I have a few events this spring which will require wearing a dress, including our school's 50th Anniversary Dinner this weekend. I managed to find one, even with Nephew in tow.

7. The library is open and has things to keep kids occupied when we have time to kill before picking someone up from practice.

8. When I was in Ohio helping Grandma move, I would find myself wandering around the house, looking at everything I've known since I was born. I kept asking myself, "What should I take? Grandma will give me just about anything I want." I wanted it all, and I wanted nothing. It was a very strange, overwhelming thought. I left Ohio with nothing but memories.

And then my mom came to drop Nephew off. She came with a van full of boxes of things Grandma wanted me to have. (Long, boring story about how my mom came to have them. Just go with it.) There were toys from the basement toy closet. There was the flier from my induction into the National Honor Society from 1988. There were baking dishes of all sizes. All of the photos of my family (including my senior photo) from her wall of grandkids were in there, too. The best, though, were the pots.

When my oldest aunt was 9 months old and my grandpa was making all of $2/day, my grandma made (what I think is) the only splurge purchase she'd ever made in her life. She paid $100 for a set of pots.

I used one of them to make dinner Thursday night.

The beginnings of Shepherd's Pie
9. I do like Shepherd's Pie, and some of the kids do, too.

10. Oh, the song from the beginning? It may or may not apply. Time will tell. It just popped into my head when this happened:

Short story: A grandma asked me to take a couple of cats. I was clear that cats do not last long at our house. They either get eaten or our dogs scare them away. She said she was OK with that. The cats were 2 of 6 strays someone took in but now needed to get rid of. I can't say no to a grandma apparently, because on Thursday I brought 2 cats home from preschool.

I took the carrier out to the barn and opened the door to it. One cat immediately took off like a shot, darting outside and off into the trees. The other took time to sniff around, including around the door to the chickens. I went out to see if I could catch a glimpse of the first cat. When I returned 45 seconds later, the first cat was gone.

We haven't seen them since.

They haven't been back to eat the food we left with the carrier.

It's been a high of 14 degrees, so I'm not going to sit outside and try to find them.

I don't really know if we have cats or not.

The thankful?

They are the easiest animals to take care of here on the farm!

UPDATE: One cat did stick around and is living in the barn. I just saw it sunbathing up against the wall.

So, what do you have to be thankful for this week?  Be a dear and let me know in the comments or by linking up!




Ten Things of Thankful


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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not Gonna Let Him Hide Under a Bushel

It isn't easy being Cuckoo's brother. That boy demands to be the center of attention, and people don't mind leaving him there. He's outgoing. He's loud. He's hilarious. He is always surrounded by a gaggle of people.

Turken, on the other hand, is quiet. He's reserved. He doesn't have any interest in being the center of any crowd. He's hilarious, too, but one must be quiet and patient and observant to see it.

Today, I'm gonna let you get to know Turken a bit better.

******** 1 ********

The boy is keeping a journal. Every day when we get in the car, he immediately gets out his notebook and starts writing about his day. After about a week of this, I asked him if I could read it.

LIZZI!! Ask WonderAunty if she recognizes the pen!

He replied, "No. When I'm done I'm going to charge people a dollar to read it."

Last week he had a day with an extra long entry and ran a special sneak preview. Buttercup got to read it, but it cost her a quarter.

So basically, he's made more with his writing than I have in four years of writing a blog.

*********** 2 **********

This is his comfort...thing?


It is named Blankyhead.

'Cause it's the head off of his baby blanket.

Minus the stuffing.

Blankyhead frequently travels with us, but we never know when or where or how.

He's hitched a ride in Turken's pocket in order to go to church. He's been tucked in the cuff of Turken's sleeve, just like grandmas carry their tissues.

When we went to Chicago, he spent the entire first day in Turken's sock.

I don't know how it hasn't been lost these many years. Hopefully, it never will be. I'm thinking it will be pretty darn difficult to find one that matches exactly.

******* 3 ********

He's lost a tooth or four.



There's one more loose one he is wiggling tirelessly.  Apparently he isn't a fan of actually biting into his food.

That, or he really likes the special treatment of all apples, pears, carrots, and other crunchy food items being cut into bites or strips.

(FYI: I have applied the proper amount of Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream (It's not just for hands!) to that chapped face of his to cure the ring around the mouth.)

*********** 4 **********

He came home with this in his Friday folder.


Unfortunately, I didn't think to take the photo until after I made him redo the paper.

Have you ever heard the critique about standardized tests that some kids get questions wrong because they don't have the experiences to completely understand the question?

Well, when Turken was trying to redo #3, he just couldn't find a word that fit. It seemed obvious to me, but he was absolutely flummoxed.

Me (grabbing a pen and holding it up): Which of those words can I do with a pen?
Him: OOOOHHH!!! I thought it was a pen like the chicken pen!!

Missing that question meant the whole page was jacked up.

So, yeah, it's not only possible, but very likely that kids who grow up in different circumstances just may have trouble figuring out what the question on a national standardized test was asking.

******** 5 **********

He can conquer monkey bars...



like a BOSS!

I've never in my life been able to do the monkey bars, so...color me impressed.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

We Are in Some Deep, Deep, Deep, Deep Snoooooooow. (Compared to Florida, not Boston) TToT #87

The last week of February, and we finally got our big dose of snow. I knew it was only a matter of time. We have been too lucky all winter long.

There's been snow to the north.

There's been snow to the south.

But until this week, we barely had a dusting.

This week...

On Thursday there was bitter cold, wind, and snow.

He chose to do this completely unproductive chore. The wind blew that snow right back onto the path within minutes.


Friday night and all through Saturday we just got snow.



Lots of it.


This is how we park when we know there will be lots of snow.  Halfway down the driveway, on top of the hill, facing the direction we need to go. Turken was nice enough to shovel that pathway to the van for me before I had to take Buttercup to her Confirmation retreat. (1)

I made it to church and back without much trouble, despite the snow-covered roads. (2)

All soccer and volleyball practices were canceled, though, so I didn't have to run around all over town, debating who and when and how to work the logistics. (3)

Bryan made it home last night and back to work before the sun came up this morning safe and sound. This is his one gigantic work weekend for the year, which usually lasts three days. Fortunately, they are finishing earlier (as in by 11:00 tonight) and he won't have to go in tomorrow. (4)

It is warm enough for the boys to actually go outside and play in the snow today. Not one of them even whined when I kicked them out of the house. (5)


He's having fun, I swear.

Football is always more fun in the snow.


He didn't dare.
Enough weather-related thankfulness, already...

We had a great book club meeting last night. Everyone was able to make it, including the one currently living in Japan. She was on facetime with us for 2 hours. (6) (For those wondering, we read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. It's a story is from the point of view of the boy with autism. Three of us loved it (including me), 1 liked it, 2 liked that it kept their interest but it wasn't their favorite book by any means.)

I'm going to brag on a kid for just one thankful. I don't normally like to do this much, but I'm just so happy about how well Phoenix is doing this year since he got the ADD diagnosis. We received an email from Phoenix's Geometry teacher, which always scares us a bit, but this was a good one. He is one of only two teens in the nation to get a perfect score on a national Catholic schools geometry test. (7)

I was able to help someone during a difficult time this week. When I offered to do what I wanted to do, I didn't even know how badly it was needed. (How's that for convoluted and vague?) (8)


On Wednesday I was all ready to go toe-to-toe with LAFitness about the poor service I was receiving. They promoted the guy who had been helping me get my knee back to normal, which meant if I wanted to continue with him, I had to pay extra. I only have a month left, so I said no, I would just switch to a new trainer. Only problem was, the trainers they had available only worked on nights and weekends. I was getting quite the run-around and was told I would get a call, but a week later, on Wednesday, I still hadn't heard from them. I was ready to let them have it. Bryan was cheering me on with cries of, "Take down the institution!" I went in, saw the guy in charge, and said, "You didn't call." He got a panicked look on his face, sat at the computer and didn't speak for a minute. And then he said, "I will train you today for free. Next week will be a problem, but we have a new trainer starting on March 1 who will be able to take you at the time you normally come in." Just so happens, next week is the one week I can't train anyway, so it worked out perfectly. (9)

I called Bryan, asking him who needed a tongue-lashing, 'cause I had all sorts of pent-up irritation and no place to put it.

As I typed this last sentence, the dogs caught my attention by barking. I glanced up and saw our neighbor. He is in his tractor, plowing the snow out of our driveway. (10)

And he didn't read a single one of the 1,000 posts on compassion that flooded the internet yesterday. Including mine.

There are some great people in this world.

So, what unexpected surprises are you thankful for this week?

Have a lovely day!


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

One of 1,000 Voices Speaking for Compassion

I have been trying to write this post for a month now.

I was going for something deep.

Something super thoughtful that would leave everyone ugly-crying.

In the end I realized two things.

1. I am not a deep, ugly-cry-inducing kind of thinker, let alone writer.

2. This is not a deep, complicated topic. It's quite simple really.

In theory.

In practice, it is a bit (and a lot!) more difficult, but something we are all called to be.

Compassionate.

It is simple when a child breaks a leg playing in a soccer game.

All his friends carry things for him and parents go out of their way to make his life easier.

It is simple when we hear about a man who passed away, leaving a young wife and children. Everyone jumps on board to help in any way possible. We all feel horribly sorry for the family and want to do something to help ease the suffering.

These are natural feelings. Of course we want to help.

It isn't so cut and dry when we see a guy speeding and cutting cars off as he goes.

It's hard when we see a parent lose her temper in the middle of the store.

It is downright practically impossible when we hear of a teenager who went into a school with a gun, intent on injuring or killing as many people as possible.

But we're supposed to.

We are called to have compassion for all people, simply because they are people.

Compassion doesn't mean we condone the behavior.

Compassion doesn't mean we let it continue.

But it does mean we try to put ourselves in that person's shoes.

It does mean we try to imagine what had to happen in that person's life to bring about that behavior.

It does mean we humble ourselves to see things differently from the way we would based on our own lives and experiences.

It does mean we try to figure out a way to help.

Even if the only thing we can do is pray.

Today, more than 1,000 bloggers are writing about compassion.

It started with two bloggers and an idea to dedicate one day to it.  They asked their friends to join in.  It only took a couple of weeks for 1,000 people to say Yes.  Yes, I want to add my voice to help make this world a better, more compassionate place.

The writing is done.

The posts are posted.

Now it's time to really dig in and do the hard work.

We aren't flying blind here. Jesus came to Earth to show us how to show compassion. When he came across thieves and adulterers, he didn't shun them. He didn't give them dirty looks. He spoke with them. He didn't condone their behaviors, but he did sit down to share meals with them. He gave us the perfect example of what we are to strive to be and do.

It is time to actually show compassion, even and especially when it is the most difficult.

There are so many ways and places to do it.

As I tell my children on a regular basis (usually after I break up a fight), in every situation, we have a choice to make the situation better or to make it worse.

Compassion is how we make a situation better.

Who knows why that mom is at the end of her rope or why her child is throwing a tantrum on the floor? I have a choice. Will I make the situation better or worse? A dirty look certainly won't. Muttering about bad parenting most certainly won't. A kind word of solidarity as I walk by could give that mom renewed energy to calmly deal with the situation.

When someone says something unkind to me or about me or writes a negative comment on a post of mine, I have a choice. I can get offended and angry, replying in kind, or I can take a step back. I can try to see her point of view and her intent. Who knows why she did such a thing? Perhaps something happened in her past and something I said triggered strong feelings. Perhaps she was having a really bad day and spoke in a way she normally wouldn't have. Or she isn't the nicest of people on a regular basis and enjoys irritating people. I have no idea, but I can choose to make the situation better. I can either reply kindly or not reply at all.

When someone cuts me off in traffic, who knows why he did it? He could have been thinking of his sick child and didn't realize where he was. My car could have been in his blind spot, and he just didn't see me. He could be a terrible driver who doesn't care about other people on the road. It doesn't matter. I have a choice. Am I going to get angry and honk my horn and yell at him, or am I going to let it go, giving him the benefit of the doubt? Only one answer is compassionate. Only one response makes the situation better.

Besides the everyday, small ways we can show compassion, there are plenty of ways to go all out and make a commitment to be compassionate to the most in need of it.

Homeless shelters.

Food banks.

Prisons.

Crisis pregnancy centers.

Inner-city schools.

Nursing homes.

Hospitals.

There are endless places which are in dire need of volunteers.

Places that have more people who need help than people to do the helping.

To share a meal.

To provide an ear.

To show some kindness.

Without judgement or shame.

See?

Simple.

In theory.

What are we going to do now that we have written and read?

How are we going to be the compassionate people God called us to be?

I can't wait to see.

If you would like to join in with the 1000 Voices for Compassion, we'd love to have you.

There is a Facebook group.  Folks who tweet can use #1000Speak.  Link a post through one of several hosts, including Lizzi and Yvonne, the two bloggers who started this whole thing in the first place.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Memory Monday Is Back!

A short little "Lenten" story about my oldest today, seeing as how the start of Lent, and discussions about our sins, is on tap this week.



The dental hygienist came out to the waiting room, a 4 year old Phoenix following, to say, "I have got to tell you what happened back there."

Words that every mother fears.

I was wincing as she began the story.

Teeth were counted. Plaque was removed. The hygienist was preparing to brush Phoenix's teeth and asked what flavor he would like.

Phoenix chose strawberry.

She opened up that teeny tiny container of toothpaste, and as she was about to scoop it out with the whirly brush, Phoenix piped up, "Wait! I asked for strawberry!"

DH: "This is strawberry."
P: "But strawberries are red. That is pink."
DH: "I know. But it's strawberry. I promise."

*She begins to scoop the paste.*

*Phoenix paused, but looked quite panicked."

When the hygienist told him to open his mouth, he yelped.

P: "Wait! I forgot! I gave strawberries up for Lent!"

It was June.

Months past Lent.

A Lent in which he most certainly did not give up strawberries.

But the kind hygienist laughed in her head, then said, "Well, I can't argue with religious reasons!"

His teeth were brushed with mint that day.

And every day after that.

Have a lovely day!