Monday, April 30, 2012

God Bless Good Doctors

My baby girl's heart is broken.


We went to her yearly check-up on Tuesday last week.  I had to pick her up from school early to get there on time, and she asked why we need to get these check-ups anyway.

I threw over my shoulder, "To see just how tall you've gotten.  And to make sure you are healthy."

We found out just how important those check-ups are.

The doctor found Buttercup's heart was skipping.  Not just once, but several times in a very short amount of time. 

"It is probably nothing, but we'll get an EKG done to make sure."

36 hours after the EKG, on Friday afternoon, I got a message from the doctor on our answering machine.  She left her cell phone number.

Let's just say that it is never a good sign when the doctor leaves her cell phone number.

The EKG picked up the irregular heartbeat.  Troubling, as an EKG only measures about 30 seconds.  More troubling is the fact that it was skipping in the lower half of her heart. 

Since, at the time, we didn't think Buttercup had any other symptoms, she was cleared to play in her game over the weekend.

I talked to her coach to let him know, and he said that over the last two weeks, Buttercup has been getting winded at practice.  She never balks at any drill he dishes out, but lately she has been uncharacteristically tired.

That's when I could have used an EKG.

Before we told Buttercup of the results, I asked her how she's been feeling at practices.  She said that she can't catch her breath and she doesn't know why.

That would be considered a VERY BAD SIGN.

Buttercup is done with soccer, gym class, recess, swimming at the birthday pool party she was invited to, playing Just Dance on the Wii, and anything else remotely strenuous until we get this all figured out.

It was a rough weekend.

Before it all sunk in, Buttercup's first response was, "Does an echocardiogram mean I'm getting a shot?"

She hates shots.

But over the day, things began to sink in for all of us. 

She realized that if we wouldn't have gone to that appointment, she likely would have been one of those kids that collapses on the soccer field after having a heart attack.

We had some crying to do.  Sitting on the side of the pool while her classmates swam and had a great time was not easy.  Especially since only three people actually knew why she was sitting out.

But we had time to laugh, in a twisted sort of way.  Like when she and Star were getting into an argument.  We heard her tell him, "Don't you be getting my heart worked up.  You'd feel terrible if something happened!"

We had time to be normal.  Luckily, we had already planned on taking Buttercup and two friends to a movie.  It ended up being several hours at our house, a movie, dinner, and straight to the pool party.  She was able to talk about things with her friends, joke around, and just be her 12 year old self for a while.

As with most things, you just go through your day to day until something very unusual happens.  And you are slapped into reality that life is fragile, things do happen, and you will have to deal with them.

We have one of the best children's hospitals in the nation just a short drive away.  Buttercup will be fine.  Whatever is actually causing this skipping will be fixed. 

That doesn't mean that we aren't all scared.  Anxious to get these tests done to see how good or bad the news will be.  So we can stop crying and move on to the next step.  So we don't have to constantly be wondering if she's doing too much.

I just wanted to keep her home with me today, nice and safe on the couch. 

But I just couldn't do it.  All we would be doing is thinking through the what ifs all day long.

Today will not be an easy day at school.  Word will spread like wildfire, as all news does in a close-knit Catholic school.  She's going to hate all of the attention, pitiful looks, and discussions.  Of course, she has gym class today, so that will alert everyone to the fact that she is not normal today.  Which we all know is a horrible curse in middle school.

The teachers and administrators are fantastic, though.  They will be watching like a hawk, but in a way that the kids won't see.  And they will swoop in and get her out of any situation that overwhelms her. 

Two weeks ago, Buttercup got a new piano book full of songs from popular movies.  On Saturday, as I was typing an e-mail to friends about the situation, Buttercup started playing a song she has been working on ever since she got the book, well before the discovery of the skipping. 

She didn't realize what song it was unitl I started sobbing.

She was playing, "My Heart Will Go On" from the Titanic movie.  And she played it beautifully.

We are praying that we will find something simple, like a potassium imbalance that can be treated with some medicine.

But we know that whatever happens, God is watching over us.  He will get us through this. 

And she will be fine.

Stronger, even, for having gone through it.

Go hug your babies.

Then make sure you schedule their annual check-ups.

Have a lovely day.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Need to Step Up My Game

If my family were on Survivor, my torch would currently be getting extinguished and I'd be taking the walk of shame off the island.

Cuckoo would be winning the million dollars.

I have totally been outwitted and outplayed by my 2 year old.

Since the day he started wearing shoes at the age of 13 months, he has taken them off every time we get into the car.  Every day.  Every time.  Socks too.  If he's in an extra naughty mood, those socks and shoes will be sent flying through the car.

It is to the point that we don't even bother bringing his shoes back into the house.  We just put his shoes on when we get to wherever we are going.  It isn't a perfect strategy.  One shoe was lost when a child was being dropped off somewhere.  A veritable mountain of little socks accumulates in the van.  And if he is going to play outside, we need to run out and get his shoes out of the van, as he only owns one pair of shoes at a time.

Errand days are the worst.  Hunt down the shoes in the van when we get to Stop 1.  Do the errand.  Go to Stop 2.  Hunt down socks and shoes.  Do the errand.  Go to Stop 3.  Hunt down socks and shoes...  Even if point A and point B are only 3 minutes apart, the shoes and socks come off.

Today, I thought I had him.  It was time to get him some new shoes.  As we were heading into the store, we came to an understanding.  He would get to keep his new shoes, only as long as he kept them on in the car.  If he took them off, I would take the shoes, and he would have to wear the old ones.

He was thrilled to find some shoes that had a football, soccer ball, and baseball on each of them.  The size and price were right, so we bought them.  (He did not wear them home, as the security tag needed to be removed by the teller.)

When it was time to get the big kids from school, he raced to put on the new shoes.  He was even more excited to find that the shoes lit up when he walked.  Joy of joys.

I reminded him that he needed to keep the shoes on while we drove to school.  He eagerly agreed.

Thirty seconds into the drive, I started getting jolted by the child sitting right behind me. 

"Cuckoo, can you please stop kicking my seat?"

"I'm making my shoes light up!"

Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp.

The entire 20 minute ride to school. 

And we got to celebrate when we got to school that he had kept those shoes on the whole ride.

For the first several minutes of the drive home, the kicking was full-force.  See, he had to show the big kids his new, awesome shoes.

Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick.

Although it was extremely difficult, I chose to ignore the kicking, believing that he would get tired of it and stop. 

OK, I couldn't ignore it.  I just kept pleading, "Please Baby Jesus, make this boy stop!"

And have mercy, I was right.  He did stop.

But I completely underestimated him.

When we got home, this is what I found:

And a look that said, "Don't mess with me.  You know this is better than the kicking."

Cuckoo: 1, Mom: 0

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oh Yeah. I Have Six Kids.

I have totally gotten off track with this blog.  I'm supposed to be writing things down that I don't want to forget about my kids.  So today is a little journal for the children.

Cuckoo has hit the extaordinary ornery stage.  He finds it hilarious to do the exact opposite of what he should be doing.  For example, I sent him in to the bathroom to wash his hands for lunch.  Something he has done many, many times.  He was taking a bit long, so I went to check on him.  I found the brand-spankin' new toilet paper unrolled all over the floor, the plunger in the toilet, and him acting like he's trying to unclog it.  Water absolutely everywhere.  (I of course took a photo of him grinning from ear to ear amidst his disaster, but I can't find it anywhere.) 

He is beginning to use his imagination to explain things that are going on around here.  Yesterday, when I told him to bring his socks and shoes to me, he came back with two socks and one shoe.  When I asked where the other one was, he replied, "I couldn't find it.  Christmas took it."  In his mind, anything that has to do with Christmas is called Christmas.  What he meant to say was, "Santa Claus took it."  I have no idea why, in his mind, Santa would come and take his shoe.

He has started biting his nails a bit.  The other day, he tore one down to where it bled.  He came running in to tell me of his boo-boo, so we put a Band-Aid on it.  It must have been a VERY long time ago that he got his last Band-Aid.  He could not have been more excited about it.

He had to show everyone.

And he kept his thumb sticking up in the air until that Band-Aid fell of the next day.

Turken had his four year check-up yesterday.  He is right on that 50th percentile line for height and weight.   The perfect size to climb trees like the big kids.

Yeah, we were going to cut that branch off anyway.
Poor kid has extremely dry skin.  At his appointment, we found out that the things we thought were bug bites and excema patches were in fact a bunch of little infections in his pores.  He now has to get an anti-bacterial lotion rubbed on, and Eucerin from head to toe twice a day.  Let's just say he's not a fan.
This one is really getting his comedic timing down.  He's always had the quiet dry humor, but now he's really working on perfecting it.

His soccer coach is one of the best coaches we have ever had.  Each week he sends an e-mail with a run-down of the coming week.  He doesn't just say, "We're going to be short a few players this week."  He says, "We've got a hitch in our giddy-up."  In this email he also includes links of soccer videos for the kids to watch, usually about pros doing cool moves or great goals.  Last week he sent one about a team that has elaborate, funny victory skits each time they score.  You can see them here

In Saturday's game, Giant scored, which is normal.  Whenever he does, he grins, then heads back to the line for the restart of the game.  However, this time, the little comedian came out, encouraged by the videos.  Instead of the grin and line-up, he waited for everyone to settle down, and he Tebowed right there on the field.  The kids and the folks on the sidelines cracked up.  His coach was so proud that he mentioned it in the next week's newsletter.

 Star had a rough game this weekend, but I was very proud of the way he handled it.

As usual, Star played keeper (goalie) for the first half of the game.  At one point, someone on the opposing team tried to score.  It was a high ball, so Star went to jump for it.  As soon as he was stretched as far as he could get himself, but before he jumped, a kid twice his size on the other team crashed right into him.  Full body.  Star went down, and the ball went in.  It really should have been a foul on the kid, but the ref didn't make the call.  Parents on the sideline were going crazy, but Star simply brushed himself off and got ready for play to resume.  He didn't say one word to the ref.

One minute before the end of the game, Star was playing offense.  Someone crossed the ball to the middle, it bounced off of a defender a couple of feet in front of the goal, and Star kicked it in to score.  Everyone was cheering and happy, for it put us in the lead.  Until the ref called it back, saying Star was off-sides.  Now the parents really went crazy.  (I could do a whole post on crazy soccer parents that make me crazy.)  I was so pleased to see that not one child on that field said a thing to the refs.  (Their coach for the day, who happened to be Giant's coach, is the most positive person I've ever seen on the field.  Even he was irate and had a few words with the ref.) 

The game ended in a tie, 1-1.  Afterwards, as the boys and parents were meeting up, Star had tears in his eyes.  Two boys on the team were with him, trying to make him feel better.  One looked at me and said, "Make sure he knows that none of what happened was his fault.  He did exactly as he should have."  Sweet boys.

I am so glad that he knows how to be a good sport.  That even when he gets hurt, he can pick himself up, literally dust himself off, and move on.  No arguing, no pouting, no drama.

Baby girl is a party planner.  She can't just play.  She must turn everything into an event.  A show.  A special occasion.  Recently, she put together some fun for the boys.

It started with a scavenger hunt in the yard.  For about 15 minutes the boys raced to bring back items such as 10 dandelions and 5 clovers.

Then part two of the activities began.  Off to the races they went.

She had put up flags at either end of the field, and the strip that I had mowed made the side boundaries.  She had those boys racing in every way possible.  They ran backwards, they army crawled, they hopped on one foot, they crab-crawled.  The favorite was running with their eyes closed. 

She's gonna be a good mama someday.

Phoenix broke out of his quiet little box and tried out for the middle school musical.  Not play.  Musical. 
I love our school's music teacher.  She can get just about every child in the building to sing a solo in front of his class.  She has students begging to be the cantors at the weekly school mass.  In short, she's amazing.
She chose the musical "School House Rock" for the kids to perform this year, and Phoenix landed a speaking role.  Not a solo.  (As the teacher says, "The songs aren't quite right for your voice."  Did I mention that I love her?)
The kids put in hours and hours of work starting way back in February, and last week they performed in the high school auditorium.  It was fun to hear all of those Saturday morning songs again.  My foot was tapping the whole way through.
And since Phoenix is one of the tallest kids in middle school, we never had trouble seeing him.  He sang and danced his little heart out.  When he wasn't nervous as all get out.

Have to say, though, it was a little uncomfortable seeing him and all of the other kids in major performance make-up.  And this picture was taken after the wrap party!

It makes my heart happy to see him have so much fun doing something new and uncharacteristic.

He's already trying to talk Buttercup into performing with him next year.

And thus concludes our post on the children update.  Tomorrow we can go back to talking all about me.

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

So Glad We Haven't Redone the Kitchen Yet

Looks like Buttercup got my "Surely I can do that craft without looking up intstructions" gene.  And she didn't learn from my failed egg craft with the boys, either.  It makes me love her even more.

Each year the sixth grade students complete a huge country project.  The first deadline for it was today.  The kids had to make a poster-size version of the flags of their countries.  The assignment said it was to be creative.  Anyone using markers, colored pencils, or crayons would get a zero and have to redo it.  Since Buttercup is doing her project on Bermuda, she decided to make hers out of sand.  I highly encouraged it.

I encouraged it because I didn't think it through.  I simply thought, "Bermuda is surrounded by pink sand.  Perfect idea!"

I didn't think of the consequences.

My independent little girl decided to do the flag with no help.  For about 20 minutes.  That's when she came in very frustrated that it didn't work.

So I gave her a few tips.  Wisdom I have gained in my many years of flung-together crafts.  Little tips like, "At least cover the entire surface with glue.  That would help."

She started over, using thinned glue and a steadier hand.

And instead of simply dumping a pile of sand on the glue, then spreading it with the wet brush, we got out the strainer-thing to lightly dust the surface.

Ok, so the holes of the strainer were too big, so there was no light dusting, but it at least caught any gluey clumps.

In order to keep the other colors from mixing with the red, she cut out the shapes she needed, covered them in sand, then glued them onto the posterboard.

This is what the actual flag of Bermuda looks like:

This is what her finished flag looks like:

Shall we play "Find the 5 Differences Between the Two Photos"?

Buttercup is crossing her fingers that her teacher doesn't know 1.) That the part in the corner is supposed to be the flag of Great Britain and 2.) That she doesn't know what that flag actually looks like.

By the time she realized that two of the stripes were going the wrong way, the glue had dried.  We didn't have any more red sand, and it was 10:00 at night. 

So, she's going with it. 

As for the crest, it's supposed to be a red lion holding a shield with a sunken ship on it.  But I didn't need to tell you that.  It's obvious.  If you squint your eyes and look really fast between the two pictures.  Maybe?

I was happy with her for starting over and sticking with the project.

But here we come to the part I didn't think through. 

The messiest child in the world brought pounds of red sand into my kitchen and sprinkled, dumped and glued it. 

Lucky for her, the plumber came earlier in the day.  He cut a bigger hole in the ceiling and unleashed over a hundred years of dirt, plaster, wood, and trash bags.  Honestly, I have no idea why there were plastic grocery bags hidden in my kitchen ceiling.

Yes, I have a pink kitchen floor, multi-colored dust on every surface, and exposed bathroom pipes in the ceiling. 

But for the first time in four months I have a master bathroom that I can actually use.

And a tween daughter who actually wanted some advice.

As I scrub absolutely every single square inch of my kitchen, I will chant, "She needs me, and I can pee in peace.  She needs me, and I can pee in peace..."

Have a lovely day!

Monday, April 23, 2012


I don't even recognize myself anymore.

The whole redneck thing was surprise enough.  (And it's getting worse.  Anytime we pull in the driveway now, knowing that Cuckoo needs to go to the bathroom, I just pull his pants down right there in the grass and have him pee.  We don't even take the time to find a tree.)

This morning's activities just plain shock me.

Today I tackled a 95 pound dog.

An odd start to a day for most people, I'm sure.  For me, it was unthinkable.
When I was five years old or so, our family got our first puppy.  It was the cutest bundle of fur you ever did see.  His name was Zack.  (Every dog my dad has owned has been named Zack.  It was supposed to be my name, but it just didn't fit when I turned out to be a girl.)  Unfortunately, the puppy wasn't as fond of us as we were of him.  He bit three of us before my parents finally found a new home for him.  I was the lucky one.  He only put a gash in my hand.  He also got my sister's ear and my brother's eyebrow.

That experience made me nervous about dogs, but the dogs that lived across the street from us when we were growing up made me terrified.  They were two vicious dogs that were tied up outside the garage.  Anytime someone walked by the house, they would stretch their chains as far as they could and snarl, growl, and bark at the person.  As a first grader, instead of going to the bus stop just on the other side of them, I chose to walk the almost mile to get to the next stop.  A couple of times, these dogs got loose, and they tore across the street after us.  My mom once fought them off with a broom while we scurried into the garage.  Another time, my dad was coming home from his job as a policeman when the dogs got loose.  He actually fired his gun to keep them from attacking. 

So with those two lovely first encounters with dogs, I was terrified for life.  I would be able to handle myself at someone's house if a dog was there, but if I met a strange dog on the street, I'd lose it.  Stand completely still, tears streaming down my face, praying the dog wouldn't come near me.  Awful.  This actually happened only 8 years ago.

When we bought this house, we decided that we had to have a dog.  A big dog to keep coyotes at bay.  We researched the types of dogs that would be good for us, but we didn't know that our circumstances would change.  We didn't know that we would be embracing this farm life and need a dog to protect the animals.  We simply looked for a dog that would be good to our kids and all the visitors to our home.  We found Roy through the Humane Society.  He was found walking along the river and was living at a foster home.  He was an outside dog and very friendly.  The foster owner had only good things to say about him.  So, we got the dog.  I was scared to death, but we did it anyway.  For the kids.

And this morning I tackled that 95 pound dog.  Perfect shoulder to the midsection tackle.  Got him in a headlock.  And held him for a minute or so.  All on my own.

Why, you ask, would I actually need to tackle a dog?

Because the pigs are here!

And Roy lost his ever-lovin' mind.

As Hubby and the farmer were unloading the pigs, a terrible squeeling racket was made.  I ws just arriving on the scene, camera in hand, to get some pictures of the new additions to the farm.  Roy was barking his full head off.  He seems to be getting bolder in his old age, because out of nowhere he took off and ran into the barn. 

I followed, saw him getting right up into the pig's face, barking and snarling.  I didn't wait to see what he would do next.  I dashed around Hubby, who had a squeeler in his grasp, hurdled the two scared pigs already in the barn, and took that dog out.  And I did it with a camera wrapped around my neck.  Saved the day, if not my knees. 

Looks like I am no longer afraid of dogs.  Who knew?

After it was all over, I was totally kicking myself for not handing the camera off to one of the kids before I jumped into the fracas.  It would have been an awesome picture. 

When Hubby recounted the incident, he said that all he saw was a blur, followed by another, taller blur.  The next thing he knew, he had to save the dog from my death-grip.

Roy is safely tied up, and has been howling most of the time.  While I was out feeding and watering the pigs, I let Roy off his leash to see what he'd do.  He was digging and searching for any possible opening into that pen.  Even tried to pull a little tree out of the ground.  Basically, we have got ourselves a situation. 

For now, he's tied up again.  And he'll have to stay that way unless we are outside with him. We need to make sure that pen is sealed up tight.  Then he'll be getting a shave and a new shock collar, which should solve everything.  (Cross your fingers.  We don't have a Plan B.)

No way I'm letting him get into the pen with those pigs.

A friend came over today and had fun visiting with the pigs.  These hogs certainly aren't shy!

Yikes.  Anyone seen Charlotte's Web recently?  We have.  This looks way too much like Wilbur breaking into song. 

We won't be naming these hogs like we did the first year we raised hogs.  They were named Pork Chop, Applesauce, and Leftovers.  We wanted to make sure the kids knew that these pigs were going to eventually be eaten.  It worked, except for Giant thinking that applesauce came from a pig.  (That's when I realized that the kids have never seen The Brady Bunch.  A shame, really.)

Ten years ago, I never would have guessed that I would own a dog, let alone be brave enough to tackle one in a pig-crazed mind-loss.

I have always said that adventures and learning new things are wonderful.  I just hope that the next thing I have to learn doesn't come with bruises and a mouth full of dog hair.

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

And So I Pray

For a few weeks now, one little boy has been on my mind quite a bit.  I don't know why.  Nothing has happened that I know of to make me wonder.  But there he is.  In my thoughts and prayers.

Almost 20 years ago, when I was student teaching in a third grade classroom, I worked with a troubled little boy.  At the age of eight, he already had a reputation.  No kids wanted to play with him.  No teacher wanted him in her class.  He had spent all but a handful of recesses in the principal's office.  I am the first to admit, he was beyond a handful.

He was put in the room where I was teaching, because the woman I was working under ran a tight ship.  The administration thought it would be good for him to have a lot of structure.

Within the first week, he was into all sorts of trouble.  Spitting on kids, yelling at adults, throwing things across the room, refusing to do any work.  It was a bad situation.

I noticed that one of the big places for trouble was walking in the halls.  Anytime we would walk to the restrooms or lunch or specials, he would start something with the kids around him.

So I made a new rule.  Anytime he left the room, he had to hold my hand. 

At first, he fought it, and he fought it hard.  Crying, pulling away, refusing to do it.  I would just hold his wrist and walk with him.  I'd talk to him and ask questions, whether he responded or not. (I'm guessing that these days, I wouldn't have been allowed to do such a thing.)

But after a few days, he stopped fighting.  He started answering questions.  He started talking.

He started asking to hold my hand, and we became friends.

Something drastic happened.  I saw it, but I wasn't sure others did until another third grader came to me and asked what had happened to this little boy.  She said that he doesn't hit or spit anymore, that he is actually fun on the playground, and he is a nice boy.  I almost cried when she said this.  I certainly let him know that people were liking the change.

Parent-teacher conference time came around.  Just before his conference, I found out that the male teacher in the building was going to be sitting in the hall outside of our room, listening in case we needed help.  I found out that this boy's mom had a boyfriend, which the little boy called "Dad".  A boyfriend that beat her, had spent time in jail, and had been known to be quite aggressive and intimidating at past conferences.

Not ideal, but I wasn't worried.  For the first time in this boy's life, his teachers were going to be singing his praises.  Not only was he doing his work, but he was taking pride in doing it well.  As I expected, his mom was thrilled, and the boyfriend behaved himself.

One day the boy came in to school and was back to his old self.  By 10:00 he had hit and spit on 4 kids and was downright defiant with the teacher and me.

After the fourth attack on a child, I pulled him into an empty room and asked him what was going on.  After a minute of telling me, "Nothing," he broke down into horrible sobs.  He couldn't talk for a good long time.  He just cried and cried.  All I could do was hug him and clean the snot of his face.  Finally he managed to tell me.  His dad was missing.  Something about a fight, police and the hospital were involved.  I found out later that his mom's boyfriend wasn't missing, but was in jail.

After our talk he was better, and a few days later he happily reported that Dad was back home.  He was back to being friendly and hard-working.
When the semester ended, so did my time in that classroom.

It physically hurt to have to leave that little boy.  I knew that once I left, things were going to go downhill.  The teacher I worked with, while being a good person, just didn't see that he needed love and positive attention, not structure.

I came back to visit the kids several times.  The last time I was there, this boy had been moved to the classroom with the male teacher.  He was back to his old ways.

I wonder what has become of him.  I still wonder if there is any way I could have done more.  I wonder why in the world I was put there to help him, when I was just going to be leaving after three months.  I became just another person to abandon him and let him down.

But I never forgot him, and I never forgot what I learned from him.  And I applied it to all other children that I taught over the years.  In every classroom, there is at least one child that needs something different.  Something outside of the box.  I did my best to help those kids.

But then I started my own family and gave up my (paid) teaching career.  And I'll never go back.  Not because I didn't love my job, but because I could never be a good mom and a good teacher at the same time.  I know my limits.

However, that doesn't mean I won't be of some use to children like that little boy from that third grade classroom.

Watching my children grow makes me so very sad.  As I write this, I am listening to Turken and Cuckoo chatting in their beds.  Quietly, until someone gets excited and blurts out, "THAT'S how you count" or some other such declaration.  There is no sound in this world that I love more than the squeaky, high-pitched talk of a toddler.

But their growing also means I'm getting closer to being in a classroom again.  And I'm so excited for it.

I'm not going to spend much time in my kids' school.  They have fabulous teachers and very involved parents.  No, I'm going to get into those rooms that really need help.  With fabulous teachers that have little boys and girls with needs that can't be written into an IEP, but not enough time or resources to help them all.

Two days ago, when I actually started writing this post, Buttercup told me that she got Bermuda for her country report.  I can't tell you how excited I am that she will be writing about the place where Hubby and I spent our first year of marriage.  I immediately started digging in our "Really Old Photos That I Will Organize Some Day in the Far Distant Future," and one of the first pictures that got pulled out was this one:

That's him there in the middle.  Reading with a classmate.  Happy and friendly and engaged.  I didn't even know I had this picture.  And I teared up when I saw it.

I don't know why he has been on my mind lately.  All I know is that I need to pray for him.

Oh I pray that I get to see him in heaven someday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Worst Job Ever

Well, another tax deadline has come and gone.

By now we've all done our celebrating for checks received, or moaned over the checks we had to write.

It leaves me with only one question (besides "What does the government actually DO with all of that money?).

What happens to the Liberty Tax Statue of Liberties and Uncle Sams on April 16?

Is there a race every year to New York City, where they each grab a milk crate and try their luck at being real statues?  Where they must stand completely still while silly tourists take their pictures and try to get them to laugh?

Even though I appreciate what the Liberty Tax folks do, (especially on days when the 20 minute drive home from school proves to be too much for the bickering, unhappy children, and the statue is a bright smiling face who is happy to see me as I wave enthusiastically from the driver's seat) I cannot think of a worse job for me.

But if the guitar playing, dancing, singing, smiling, and waving are any indication, these folks do enjoy their jobs.  Even on cold, wet days.

It is not for me.

I've had some jobs in the past that others may find awful.

Like the summer I worked for the Ohio Department of Transportation.  My job for the entire summer was to pound rust off of the plows and trucks to prepare them for painting.  I loved that job!  Oh, the joy of finding a large, deep area of rust to destroy with a hammer. 

When I was 15 I worked at our insurance agent's office.  At first my job was to put all of the info from the files into the brand new computer system.  That was a huge deal!  No one had computers in their houses, and I got to use one every day I worked.

But then a new responsibility was added to my list.  Sucked the fun right out of working there.

There I sat, too young to even drive, calling people to let them know that if their premiums were not paid, their insurance was going to be dropped.   Didn't really get to talk to very many nice, happy people with that job.

The worst day, when I swore I would never make one of those calls again, was the day I called the dead lady.

I dialed the number, and a man answered.  I told him who I was and asked if I could speak to Miss Late Payment.

He replied, "She died three months ago."

I managed a quick, "I'm so sorry!" before I slammed the phone down.  (Remember when you could slam a phone?  Pushing an off button just doesn't have the same effect.)

 When I hung up, I turned to one of the agents in the office and told him what happened.

His response, "Well, where's the car?  It still needs insurance."

Since I was only making $2.50/ hour, quite a bit below minimum wage, I could actually refuse to make any more of those calls. 

Recently, a friend told me about her worst job ever.

She drew blood from birds all around Indianapolis.

Early in the morning, she would go out and set up nets.  She then sat and waited until a bird got caught in the trap. 

They weren't catching birds in lovely, park-like settings.

She had to wait in rats-the-size-of-a-cat-infested warehouse districts.

And once the bird was trapped, she had to grab it, take some blood to test, and release it.

Over and over and over.

That's a bad job.

Hubby had a terrible job when I was first dating him.

He worked in a meat-packing plant.  And oh did he stink at the end of his shift.  I had to pick him up from work a couple of times, and my car was never the same, despite having the windows rolled down the entire drive.

There is a reason God made each person on the planet to be different.

If we were all the same, so many jobs wouldn't get done.

If everyone were like me, for instance, there would be no septic tank emptiers, no dog groomers, no exterminators, no bee keepers, no attorneys.

As far as I'm concerned, those are nasty jobs.

Thankfully, not everyone is like me.

Some people actually like doing those jobs, or at least don't mind them.

I sometimes wonder what awful jobs my kids will have as they get older.  What will they even define as awful?

What was the worst job you ever had?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not So Fast, Mister

For dinner tonight we had lasagna and a salad.  It was a normal dinnertime.  Everyone eating while we all discussed our day.

Until Cuckoo asked for seconds of lasagna.

We have a rule in the house that you can't have seconds of your favorite part of the meal until you eat the other items on your plate.

Cuckoo is a stubbornly picky eater.  So when he asked for more lasagna, we braced ourselves.  He hadn't had a nap today, so a meltdown when we told him he had to eat his salad first was inevitable.

Hubby carefully put one leaf of lettuce on Cuckoo's plate.

Cuckoo announced, "I'm a big kid now!" and put the lettuce in his mouth.

We all stared open-mouthed, sure he would spit it out.  No way was the picky eating going to be broken this easily.

But it was.

Not only did he eat it, but he asked for a whole bunch more.

Hubby loaded up the plate.

Cuckoo had a hard time picking it up with his fork.  Now he'll give it up, right? 

Nope.  He asked Buttercup to help him.

He ate a whole big bunch of salad.

And I cried.

Babies are not supposed to become big kids with a snap of the fingers.

It takes time.

I need time to adjust.

Especially when that baby is the last one I'll ever have.

And you know I told him so.

As he ate that blasted salad, I did the fake, dramatic cry, telling him he was my baby and not allowed to grow up.

Did he listen?  Did he consider my feelings?


He came right over to my chair, looked up into my eyes, and said, "Can you please help me put my salad on my fork?  I'm a big kid."

Lucky for me, he's short.  10th percentile.  Won't be able to climb out of that crib for years.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You Know What Happens When You Assume...

After church on Sunday we took the kids to a local park to play some tennis.

Racquets, tennis balls, and a court were involved.

Sadly, tennis was not.

I assumed that if I gave my kids racquets and balls they would naturally be able to at least hit a ball back and forth a bit.

It was painfully obvious that my assumptions were wrong.

I started to get frustrated, unable to see why they kept slamming the ball into the other court and bickering over who was supposed to have gotten the ball.

What made me think that knowing how to swing at a tennis ball was something they were born with?  That tennis ettiquette was passed through the umbilical cord?

It made me stop and wonder how many other times I assume that they know things, then get annoyed when they don't.

Did I ever actually show them how to organize a dresser before I told them to get their junk in line?  I don't remember doing so.

Did I go through what the expectations are and how to fulfill them before I gave them the chore of doing their own laundry?  Once or twice, maybe, but not enough to actually teach them.

But did I get annoyed when they didn't do these tasks the right way?  You betcha.

Babies are born knowing very few things.  How to breathe, how to eat, how to cry, how to spit up.  If we're lucky, how to sleep.

Everything else in the world must be learned.

Some things are easy for me to teach.  Like how to eat with a spoon, how to count to ten, how to scrub the kitchen floor.

Some things are not.  Like how to be patient, how to budget money, how to pray, how to deal with someone who isn't being very nice.

And deciding how to teach these things can be just as rough.  Some things need to be laid right out there, step by step, like how to plant seeds in the garden.  Some things are better learned through trial and error, like how to make a block tower taller and steadier.  Some things could use a combination of the two, like how to swim the backstroke.

I'm constantly getting blindsided by things that we haven't taught the children yet.  It all can get quite overwhelming.   I just have to remind myself that it is not my job to teach them absolutely everything they need to know before they leave my house.  Gotta check my ego at the door.

I must pick the things I most want them to know, and make sure they know them.

On Sunday, I wanted them to know how to play tennis.

I stopped the madness on the court,  took Giant to a court alone, and gave him a little tutorial on how to hit a tennis ball.  He swung many, many times before he started to get the hang of it, but he did eventually get it.

I then did the same thing with Star.

Do they know how to play tennis?  Most certainly not.  Are we all frustrated that no one can actually get the ball over the net and into play?  Not anymore. 

We all learned that playing tennis is a skill that is learned.  And a skill that needs practice. 

Lots and lots of practice.

So the racquets are in the car, ready to be pulled out anytime we have a few spare minutes to get some swings in.

And we're moving on to the next thing that needs to be learned.

How to give Mommy a much-needed foot massage.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Part 2

Never before in our lives have we found ourselves in a city far from home with absolutely no reason to be there.  A wide-open, rainy day with no plan whatsoever. 

Basically, a day we have always dreamed of.  A day to drive home, but stop whenever the fancy strikes.

Since we pulled out of the hotel parking lot at 11:59, the first thing to do was get some grub.  We are not fast-food people, so we drove east on I-70 until we found something.  Let me just say that there isn't alot of food that isn't fast off of I-70.

We finally came across a billboard advertising foot-high pies. 

Say no more.

It was a little mom and pop place, where actual foot-high pies greet you at the door.  Where the decor looks just like it did on opening day many a year ago.  A place that doesn't take credit or debit cards.  A place that serves homemade meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, and fried walleye.  We feasted on it all, with a whole lemon meringue pie for dessert.

Next stop, Vandalia, Illinois.

In Vandalia we found the state's oldest state capitol building.  It is where Abe Lincoln got his start in politics.  Where spitoons graced every corner.  Where original Ben Franklin stoves kept the rooms warm.    A nice, quick stop right off of the freeway.  After our token photo, 

we clamored back into the vehicles for the next leg of the journey.

About 20 miles before the Indiana border we saw a sign for the Lincoln Log Cabin.  No, not a giant cabin made of Lincoln Logs (which we totally would have stopped for, too!),  but a cabin made of logs owned by Abe Lincoln's father.

We took the exit and followed signs WAY off the beaten path for about 15 miles until we came to the Lincoln Log Cabin Park.  It confirmed our strong belief that when possible, you should visit landmarks/attractions at an off time.

Saturday was an extremely off-time.

We were the only people in the entire park. 

We began in the visitor's center, where we watched a little intro movie and explored the museum.

Then we went out to see the grounds.  There were actually two working farms.  On one side, Lincoln's father's farm, where his goal was to simply sustain his family.  On the other, a neighbor's farm, where his goal was to make as much money as he could.  Normally, there are interpreters all over the farms pretending it is the year 1854.  They are working the fields, tending the animals, cooking, making candles, and all else people of the time would do.

The interpreters weren't there, but we were told that we should feel free to look in the windows of the houses.

We wandered around the barn, chatted with the sheep that were in there, and were exploring around the outside of Lincoln's house when the groundskeeper of the park showed up.  He unlocked the house and gave us a mini tour.  He pulled things off of the shelves to show us, let the kids climb up to the loft, hold and work some of the tools, and basically do everything we wouldn't have been allowed to do if the interepreters were there.

As we left the house, the heaven's opened up and the rain came down.  It poured.  Cats and dogs.  We raced to the barn, but could go no further without getting soaked.  Sure, there should be dry clothes in the van.  But after that willy-nilly, hasty packing, I had no idea where they were or what we could dig out.  So, Hubby took one for the team and ran out to get all of the umbrellas.

Before we could even get all of the umbrellas up, the rain stopped and the sun came out to say hello.

So, we went on around to the other, profitable farm.

Once again, our guide unlocked the house and let us loose in it.  It was a bigger, richer house, with many more rooms and a few amenities, like a much nicer chamber pot.  (Thankfully no one took the opportunity to try that!)   

In the yard, the kids found a little frog.  Phoenix, the expert frog catcher, caught it for Turken to hold.

Cuckoo was all about holding it.  In theory.  The moment Phoenix tried to give it to him, though, he hollered and ran.

And then, the best part.  The visitor's center lady had told us that a lamb was born just the night before.  Unfortunately, it was locked up in the barn with the mama and out of sight.

Well, when you become BFFs with the groundskeeper, nothing is off limits.  Without a mention of it from us, he opened the gate and motioned us in.  He swung open the barn door, and there they were.  Just two feet in front of us.

All of 16 hours old. 

We profusely thanked our guide and headed to the cars.  Stopping long enough for a last family photo, of course.

We talked to several families today about what they did after the tournament was cancelled.  Every single family simply headed straight home.  The main reason people had was that it was raining.  Can't do anything in the rain.

Oh, contrair monfrair.

Some of the best experiences can be had in the rain.

Because with rain, there is so oftentimes a rainbow. 

In this case, a complete rainbow.  We could see that rainbow from one end all the way to the other.

I opened the sunroof of the car and had Buttercup reach through with the camera to randomly shoot photos, hoping to get a good one.  In the very bottom, center, you can see our van, heading right under that beautiful arch.

Beautiful day to not play soccer.

Have a lovely, surprisingly fun day!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Our Weekend, Part 1

No one can pack a van for a trip like I can.

I live for it.

It is the only time that I can have complete order.

When someone can ask me, "Where is ___?" and I can pull the requested object out before he finishes the question.

No one, including Hubby, is to assist in packing without getting permission.

This trip to St. Louis for the soccer tournament put my packing skills to the test.  It was a trip in which we had to take two cars. (The games were going to be at 5 different facilities all around St. Louis throughout the weekend, so we needed two cars.)  Hubby was going to arrive at the hotel with the five youngest kids at around 9:30pm Friday night, while I would arrive at 11:00 with Phoenix.  The non-stop games were more than likely going to be played in a lot of rain.  There was no free breakfast buffet at the restaurant, and no time to go to a restaurant for lunch.  There was no fridge at the hotel.

Here is what and how I packed (The kids help pack by retrieving the items I call for):

4 soccer bags, each holding an away uniform, a home uniform, cleats, shin gaurds, two pairs of uniform socks, water bottle, plastic bag for wet clothes/shoes, sandals to wear between games

Portable crib

Healthy snacks/breakfast food to feed everyone two breakfast, lunches, and snacks.  Things like peanut butter, cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, fruit leather, granola bars, raisins, fruit cups, bagels, yogurt, pretzels.

Clearly marked bag to leave in van holding a complete set of clothes (top, shorts, underwear, socks) for each person in case we get drenched and need to change at the field.

Clearly marked bag to leave in car holding a complete set of clothes, because we won't know who will be with which vehicle when the rain hits. 

Bag with change of shoes for little boys, Hubby, and me.  Plus newspaper to stuff in wet shoes to speed the dry time.

Bag with PJ's for all kids, crib sheets, and baby blankies since Hubby will be arriving at the hotel way past bedtime without me.  He won't have to unload the entire van before he puts the kids to bed.

Overnight bag with toothbrushes and paste, brush, ponytail holder for Buttercup, sunscreen, Band-aids, etc.

Suitcase with two complete sets of clothes for little boys, Hubby, and me.  One set for soccer kids.  One pair of sweats for each person.  Extra PJs and diapers for little boys to sleep in.  Bathing suits for all to swim at the hotel. 

Rain gear consisting of every umbrella, poncho, raincoat in the house.

Balls, games, etc. for little boys to play with at the fields.

Chairs for the games.

One bag of library books for each child.

Little bag of toys for each little boy to play with in the car, iPods for big kids.

Directions to get to the hotel from home, to get to each of the five fields from the hotel.

Schedule of the games.

Chargers for phones, ipods.

Sandwiches for dinner for the ride to St. Louis.

Blankets to sit on or wrap self in at games.

Everything was packed perfectly in the van and car to maximize efficiency and decrease chaos/digging through the trunks/shifting during driving. 

At 4:30 on Friday afternoon, I met Hubby near the interstate.  He got the loaded van, I got his car and Phoenix. 

The trip began.

Everything went as planned. 

Hubby got to the hotel, grabbed the two bags and the bed with no trouble, and got those kids in bed with no trouble.

Phoenix and I arrived on schedule, we finished unloading the vehicles, set the alarm for 5:45 am, and went to bed.

At 6:00, we sent Phoenix off with a teammate to his game 45 minutes away.  It had stormed the night before, but was not raining at the time.

At 7:00 Phoenix got to his field, where they were told that because of the storms, their game would be postponed until 10:00.

At 7:40, Hubby took Buttercup and Star to their field.

At 8:10, it started pouring down rain.

Their games were delayed by some lightening, but were going to start 20 minutes late.

I headed to the field to watch Star, with Giant, Turken, and Cuckoo in tow.

At 9:15, Buttercup's and Star's games started, soggy rain and all.

Star's game was on turf, so although it was raining, they could still play without much trouble,

Buttercup's team was not so lucky.

Her field was covered in water.  A girl would kick the ball as hard as she could, yet it would only go a couple of feet, landing in a huge splash of water.  Drowned rats is the best way to describe those girls.  (Unfortunately, Hubby didn't think to take a photo.  He was severely scolded for it.)


The fields all over town were starting to flood, so no soccer was to be played.

Let the chaos begin.

We had until 12:00 to get ourselves checked out of the hotel to avoid being charged for the second night.  The entire hotel was filled with soccer families.  We ALL had until 12:00 to get out of the hotel. 

So much for all of my careful packing.

Both Buttercup's and Star's teams decided to go ahead and finish their games.  They were already wet, might as well finish the only game they were to play that weekend.  Hubby stayed with them.

I tried racing back to the hotel with the youngest three kids.  I was dictating to Giant, so he could text to folks that we needed to alert to the situation.  In all of the commotion, I went right by our exit and went 15 minutes out of our way.

We had one hour to get Phoenix back from our friend, let the two players get showers to warm up, and pack up both cars. 

It was complete and utter chaos.

The little boys were totally confused with the turn of events, and kept complaining/asking me all sorts of questions.

"I wanted to watch soccer!"

"When will we get to eat all of the food in the van?"

"Can you read a book to me?"

All I could screech was, "We can't, I don't know, and Are you kidding me?"

God bless Turken.  He is actually one of the two kids who loves order as much as me.  He was checking under beds, in dressers and bathrooms without me even asking him to.

The way we threw everything together made us both a little sad.

Throwing clothes into whatever bag or suitcase was handy.

Tossing clean clothes in with dirty clothes.

Wet clothes with dry clothes.

Then people started asking me where things were. 

"Where are my dry shoes?"

"What should I put on after my shower?"

"I want my blankie!"

All we had packed kept getting upturned when people looked for needed items, then thrown back in as a bigger mess.

And all kept being interrupted by phone calls and emails from people from all four teams, trying to figure things out.  (Hubby is the manager for two of the teams, so we are always the ones people call.)

Everything got thrown into the car and van all willy-nilly. 

Then Hubby and I finally had a moment to look at each other and say, "Now what?"

Out of everything that happened, I was most upset that I had had to spend hour upon hour for days packing so meticulously for this trip. 

And it all was washed away with the rain.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you the answer to the "Now what?"


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Debbie Downer For a Day

Today I feel melencholy. 

Although, just using that word puts a smile on my face.

Have you ever felt like the world is out to get you?  You're simply minding your own business and people start making decisions and forming policies that really just make you mad?  When not just one, but a bunch of people seem to throw common courtesy and thoughfulness right out the window?

It doesn't help that a bit of a Lupus flare popped up yesterday.

I am always the person that finds humor in just about any situation.  I have found that there are few times that one can't find something funny.  And here I sit.  I can't even muster a giggle.

I just want to lay on the couch and have a bit of a pity party for me. 

In my head, between all of the rants I want to scream at these people, I am telling myself all of the things I tell the kids. 

"You can't control another person's actions.  All you can control is your reaction to them."

"You can actually choose not to be miserable."

"How is simply being angry going to change anything?"

I hate it when I have to do as I say and be a good example.

So here is my plan:

1.  Stop complaining.
2.  Address the parties that have irritated me in a calm, rational, appropriate manner.
3.  Go outside, smell the fresh-cut grass, feel the sun on my face, smile.
4.  Move on.

Starting... NOW!

I won't be writing anything new for a few days.  Don't think it's because I'm wallowing.  I'm most definitely not a wallower. 

It's because in the next three days the four big kids will have no less than 13 soccer games.  In a city four hours away from here.  A city that has a 70% chance of rain and storms both Saturday and Sunday. 

Good thing I love watching soccer games!

Have a lovely, humor-filled day!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When we moved to this house, on this plot of land, I knew I would enjoy the fresh air.  I knew I would enjoy being out by ourselves where only noises of nature (and an occasional train) can be heard.  I knew I would enjoy the big, beautiful trees and the wide open areas for the kids to play.

I never could have predicted the freedom it would give me to be my true self.  Because apparently I am a closet redneck.

If my yard has more weeds than grass, and those weeds are over a foot tall,

does that make me a redneck?

If I "hide" a van that doesn't run in the corner of our property and leave it there for over a year,

am I considered a redneck?

If I back my van up to the front porch to unload groceries in a hail storm and accidentally run into the step, then leave it like that for two years,

would the term "redneck" fit me?

If my washing machine stops spinning and leaves my clothes sopping wet, so it takes my dryer over an hour to dry the clothes, but I keep washing them, thus creating a back-up, which I solve by stringing rope across the front porch on which I hang the wet clothes to dry,

how redneck am I?

And lastly, if we get a new leak in the same bathroom that has a toilet that hasn't been able to be used for six months, and our solution is to put a bowl in the middle of the floor which isn't actually big enough to catch all of the drips, and keeps getting kicked over by kids anyway,

am I a redneck?

Of course, I may just be a lazy procrastinator.

One of the two.

But, have no fear, Dad, I am on it.  I have finally gotten to the point that, to quote one of my favorite movies growing up, "I can't stands no more!"

The van goes to the shop tomorrow night.

The plumber comes Thursday morning.

A new washer comes from our friend's house whenever we get the chance to pick it up.

The lawn mower should be back from the shop today or tomorrow.

The step will stay.

I don't have a Guy to call for that one.

Have a lovely, productive day!