Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Look at the Backside

My favorite photos are those that lead to a story.  The posed head shots are cute and all, and yes they have a place on my mantel, but those are not the ones I will remember forever.  Inside the kids' albums is where you will find all of the photos that tell the stories of their lives.  It is where you will find their personalities, their interests, their accomplishments, and their mix-ups.  Much to my children's dismay, I always take a picture when they do something I find funny before I console them or help them.  This is the day my daughter got her hair all tangled in the tree swing:

She stood there for five mintues while I got the camera ready.  Her friend is just out of the shot, half laughing, half horrified.

My kids, or at least my grandkids, will thank me someday.

Lately I have found the two youngest to be most adorable from a different point of view.  I realized that for some reason I have taken quite a few pictures of them from behind.  Can't see their cute little faces, but I love them anyway. 

I took the two youngest to the local zoo and gardens.  The three year old felt responsible for the two year old's well being all day.

For my nine year old's Halloween costume we needed to get a wig.  The little boys claimed it and looked hilarious running around the house, curls bouncing all around their heads.

A few days ago, the two year old figured out how to take his clothes off all by himself.  And of course, with a two year old, if you can, you must.  Every time I turned around, the child had every stitch of clothing off.  He didn't stop there.  He managed to get the diaper off, too.

Yes, that is his diaper in his left hand.  Six kids and I've never had a streaker before.  Cute, but glad the phase only lasted one day.

As for their albums, I do not have the time, energy, money, or desire to scrapbook.  I do have albums for each of them.  I always buy the albums that have a memo area to write the story that goes with the picture. 

A little tip that works wonders:  When a child goes in to the doctor for his 4/5 year old shots, I always take one of his earlier albums.  While the nurse does her thing, the child and I go through the album, and I tell him all of the stories.  He hardly notices the shots going in.

Have a lovely, photo-op day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Truly Are Pitiful Gardeners

A few posts ago I talked about my pepper discovery in the garden.  When I finally remembered to tell my hubby about it a few days later, he said, "How did the lettuce look?"  The blank stare I gave him prompted him to continue.  "I planted some spinach and lettuce a few weeks ago."  Huh.  Glad to hear it.  It rained the next four days, then we were way busy for the next few days.  Today I finally went out to the garden to see how the lettuce was doing.  Here is what I found:

How 'bout that.  Lettuce.  With what looks to be some itty bitty carrots growing in it. 

Then the boys and I played a little game.  You can play it, too.   Can you find the spinach?

Looks like we have some weeding to do!

Before we could get started, the two year old looked across the rows and saw this:
Heaven forbid we see a pepper and not pick it immediately, so off we went to see what we could gather.  This is how we get produce to the house when we forget to bring a bowl or basket:

When we got to the house, I told the boys to play outside while I got the peppers put away.  When I came back out, this is where I found the three year old:

Apparantly he couldn't take it anymore.  He had to weed the flowerbed in front of the house.  As you can tell by the size of the weed he pulled, we aren't any better about our landscaping than we are about the garden.  It kinda drives our two children with OCD tendencies nuts. 

Have no fear, though.  Not all of our kids are neat-freaks, as proven by the two year old.  While the three year old was weeding, this is what the two year old was doing:

There's my normal boy.  Perhaps you can see the huge puddle of bubbles behind him.  He is now trying to shake out the chalk he dropped into the bottle last week.

I'm really going to go weed now.  Unless, of course, I find something better to do on the way there.

Have a lovely, weed-free day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday Boys

In my time off from the computer, four of my boys turned another year older.   Our "rule" is that the birthday child has a choice to make.  The first option is to take one friend to something fun around town, then come back to our house for a sleepover.  Or he can have a bunch of kids over for a three hour party.  All three big boys chose parties.  The now two year old celebrated with the extended family over Labor Day.

The now ten year old discovered his new favorite movie a few weeks before his birthday, so we had a Monty Python and the Holy Grail party.  Luckily all of the guests had seen the movie before, so no explanations were necessary.  Upon arrival, each boy was given a foam sword and two blocks to hit together, as cocunuts are hard to come by here in Indiana.  We then acted out favorite scenes from the movie.  I had the most fun watching the boys "ride" their horses from station to station.  This is a photo from the bridge scene.  My oldest was the black knight, who suffered "merely flesh wounds".

My oldest turned into a full-fledged teenager this year, so we let him have a bigger celebration.  All of his friends came over to camp out on our property.  There was a water balloon fight, a campfire, and a few games of capture the flag before retiring to their tent.  I was a bit worried about how late they were going to be out and about, getting into trouble.  Thankfully, this is a great group of boys.  Without being told, they got into the tent at 10:30 and were all asleep by midnight.  It was the easiest party ever!

Oh, and they hung out on the barn roof.  Always a favorite thing for city-folk to do!

Lastly, we had a little one turn nine.  Unfortunately for him, his birthday lands smack in the middle of soccer season.  There isn't a single weekend near his birthday that has room for a party.  We have our family celebration on his actual day, but he has to wait weeks and weeks for his friends to enjoy it.  We try to make it worth the wait.
This weekend we had his party, only 6 weeks belated.  It was a sports extravaganza, where everyone was to dress as his favorite athlete.  The boys played football and kickball, then an impromptu sword battle broke out.  As with most parties, the unplanned activity is the one that everyone will remember the most.  They spent 45 minutes charging the forts and running all over the 7 acres. 
In my previous life I was a cake decorator for Kroger, so I always make birthday cakes for the kids.  This year, the nine year old had a simple one to make, but he loved it.  All I did was make the cake look like a soccer field.  I made it special by cutting out a photo of him playing in a game, putting it on a toothpick, and positioning it in front of the goal.  He and his friends loved it. And it only took me 10 minutes!
(I took the photo of the cake out, since it had too much personal info on it.)
Even though it makes me a little sad to see them grow, it is so exciting to see the kinds of young men they are becoming. 

Do you have a favorite party you have thrown for your child?

Have a lovely, celebratory day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thoughts on Stewardship

Our church calls it stewardship, but the word is becoming overused and misunderstood.  People are starting to forget what it means or how we are supposed to live it.   It has been linked to tithing to church and nothing else, when that is exactly what stewardship is not.  I've been thinking on it a lot the last few days, about what I see it to be, and how I am supposed to live my life the way God wants me to.

Everything we have has been given to us by God to use and share the best way we can.  Nothing we have is actually ours to keep.  If it were, we wouldn't leave this earthly world the same way we came in.  We would get to take our wealth, our health, our talents, and our loved ones with us.  We don't.  I can only conclude that He wants me to use and take care of all that I have to glorify Him and be Him for others.

I see people being generous all of the time.  When someone suddenly becomes ill, people line up to help.  When tragedy strikes, people freely donate money to those in need.  A woman has a baby, women organize meals for her family.  It is a wonderful way to use God's gifts, but I don't see that as stewardship.  God challenges us to use that same desire to help others every day of our lives.  We need to listen, observe, and act in many more creative ways.

Today I was at the grocery store.  Halfway through my trip, a woman pushing two carts came from the other direction.  A baby was in his car seat in one cart, and her toddler and preschooler were following behind her.  The two little girls were whining, and it was obvious that the woman was not having the best day.  She was being patient with the girls, but she was worn out.  How many times have I been in those shoes?

I didn't see her again until check-out.  I finished paying and headed her direction.  I saw her pulling wadded up cash out of her pockets to pay.  Here was an opportunity to do what God wants. I walked over to her (actually, I accidentally startled her) and handed her a gift card to help pay for the groceries.  (Our school has a fundraiser where we buy gift cards and the school keeps a percentage.  I always have some for this particular store.)  She looked at the card, then looked at me and said, "Are you serious?"  I nodded and walked away.  She was in a bit of shock, and all I heard her say was, "I'm going to cry."  I almost did, too.

A mother at my children's school was having a rough few weeks.  She has four children, she had gone back to working half time, was working on getting her masters, and her husband had been traveling quite a bit for work.  She didn't complain, she wasn't cranky, but she was seriously tired.  My kids were bugging me to make their favorite meal of stuffed shells for a while, so I chose a day to make them.  (Have you ever made them?  Not hard, but time consuming)  I made an extra large batch, called this mother, and told her that I had dinner for her that night.  When I dropped them off to her that afternoon, she asked me, "How did you know that today was a day that I really needed this?"  I didn't, but God did. 

I was driving a couple of my kids to soccer practice, when I saw a sign saying that a dog was lost.  It happens quite frequently around here, so I didn't pay much attention to it.  Two hours later, I was headed back to pick those soccer kids up when I saw a black lab run by.  I had never seen this dog in this area before, so drove the little distance to the sign I had glanced at earlier.  Lo and behold, it was a black lab that was lost.  I called the number and let the man know.  He was new to the area, and didn't know the streets very well.  I pulled over, stayed on the phone with him to direct him to our location, all while keeping and eye on where the dog was walking.  When the man got to the point where he could see the dog, we hung up.  I continued on my way, and was only a little bit late to pick-up.  The man called me back, crying, thanking me for helping with the dog.  He had only been in town a few months, but in that time he lost his job and his girlfriend died in a terrible car accident.  He had been searching for hours and hours for that dog, and just wanted me to know that he was grateful. 

I don't always look for the ways that I can help.  I don't always help when I know that I can.  But every morning I pray for God to help me see the ways that I can use what I've been given to be a blessing to others.  And then I pray for the desire and courage to follow through with it.

I am not the only one who does this.  What do you do with the gifts you have been given? 

Have a lovely, blessings-filled day!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Our house is most definitely haunted

A few years ago, my book club read a book about psychics, and we had one come to our meeting to give us all readings.  In the middle of the conversation, the psychic stopped abruptly and asked which one of us had a really old house.  Everyone, of course, looked to me.  She then said that we had a spirit living with us.  He must like us, she said, since he hasn't done anything to make himself known. 
Well, we must have done something to irritate him.  Things are going downhill around here. 

Our washing machine started making an unbelieveably loud noise at the end of the rinse cycle.  It is so loud that our two year old jumps up and runs to me crying when it happens.

Our kitchen sink is leaking like a sieve from at least three different places.

Our refrigerator has asthma.  It wants to make ice.  I know it does.  I hear it trying to catch its breath, all to no avail.

But the most convincing argument is our leaky toilet.   We noticed the ceiling in the kitchen getting a wet spot.  We had a plumber come out, who opened the ceiling up and fixed the problem.  We left the whole in the ceiling, since we will be getting our kitchen redone soon.  (Also why said plumber didn't fix the leak in the sink.)  Two weeks later, whenever someone flushed the toilet in our master bathroom, the toiled leaked into the kitchen.  Woe to the person looking in the fridge when that happened!

Naturally, we had a different plumber come in to fix the problem.  He fixed it, and we could get items out of the fridge without fear, at least for a couple of weeks.  A few days ago, the hubby was getting ready for work while the kids and I had breakfast.  He flushed the toilet, and drip, drip, drip.  A puddle on the kitchen floor. 
Any of these things, taken individually, are annoying but manageable.  When they all happen at once, concern sets in.  I'm getting paranoid about paranormals.  We have a spirit.  And he's in our water pipes.

Have a lovely, ghost-free day!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Taking care of (pepper) business

Did I mention that my gardening skills are somewhat less than advanced?  In the last 6 years they have improved dramatically, but are still nowhere near stellar.  In actuality, they are so bad that apparantly the garden can do better without me.
A week before Labor Day I canned my last jar of salsa and froze my last bag of bell peppers.  I did a little happy dance as I took the canning supplies to the basement.  On Labor Day I went to the garden to get the last of the watermelon, and I hadn't been back since, until this afternoon.
All of the big kids went with my hubby to a college soccer game after school, so that left me and the little kids to do all of the chores.  As I was walking to the compost pile, I had to walk by the garden.  Much to my surprise there were tomatoes ripening on every single plant.  Mouth hanging open, I waded through the weeds to get a better look.  Yup, at least 50 tomatoes ranging from green to beautiful red.  And that doesn't count the ones that were ripe many days ago.  A little farther down the row, I saw that there were green peppers everywhere.  Each plant had at least five peppers hanging off of it.  Huh.  Who knew veggie plants had second winds?
Well, since I was off-line through all of gardening season, this is my opportunity to note how to freeze peppers.

First, obviously, pick the peppers.  My kids prefer green peppers, so we pick most of them before they turn red. 
Secondly, cut the peppers the way you will be using them.  We use most of our peppers in fajitas, so I slice ours into strips.  The kids do like peppers in their breakfast burritos, so I chop a few, too.  Put the cut peppers on cookie sheets and stick in the freezer.

Don't be surprised if some of those peppers get "lost" on the way to the freezer.

Once the pepper strips are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.  My romantic hubby gave me a Vacu-Seal for Christmas last year, and it does make things easier.  However, a regular freezer bag will work, too. Zip it mostly closed, then use a straw to suck out the last of the air. 

Throw it in the freezer, and thaw as needed.
Have a lovely day full of wonderful surprises!

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Favorite Sport

We are an athletic family.  Between us, we have tried just about every sport out there.  Swimming, football, volleyball, ice skating, baseball, triathalons, skiing, soccer, basketball, and track all checked off of our list.  We are by no means good at all of them.  I beat a total of 3 people in the triathalon I did, and that is only because I managed to pass three men over the age of 70 in the run portion.  My 10 year old was the lightest person on the football team and was tossed to the ground every time he stepped foot on the field.  We have never had a child on anything but the C team in basketball.  Our goal is to have fun, learn something new, and try as many things as we can with the bodies and time that God gave us.

Of all of the sports, there is one that I love above all others for my children.  Why do I love cross country?

Partly, it is because any age can participate and feel included.  Our little ones ran at every practice, not because I told them to, but because the "big kids" made them feel special.  The coach even gave them their own uniforms.  When I had to break it to the three year old that for safety reasons he couldn't actually start with the team when they raced, he was quite perturbed.  He wailed, "If I don't start with them, I can't win!" 
Here is the 2 year old sporting his uniform at the city meet this past weekend.  The white you see at his knees is the bottom of the shirt.

  Perhaps I like this sport because I love the look of my boys' scrawniness in their tanks.  It was an unusually warm 85 degrees on Saturday, so the kids went for the least number of layers.

It may be because I get more excercise on meet days than the kids do.  I am not the kind of parent to stand at the start/finish line.  I ask my kids where the hardest parts of the courses are, and go there to cheer the team on, running around like a chicken to cheer each child in as many spots as possible.  At the city meet, each of my four children was in a different race, based on age and gender.  I think I logged about 10 miles when they each only ran 1.8.

It is true that cross country meets beat all other sports by far in scenery.  My favorite courses have some woods to run through.

I most certainly love that fact that it is just a positive sport all around.  The courses are always lined with runners from all teams cheering on other racers.  I have seen kids competing against each other stop to check on a fellow racer who suddenly stops in pain.  And I have never seen a parent berate a competitor or a race marshall.  Since everyone runs the same distance, there are no rules except to follow the course, and  there is no physical contact between runners, there is no reason for parents to lose their cool. 

But my biggest reason for my love affair with cross country is that all kids can succeed.  It doesn't matter how fast you are compared to other runners.  Even the child who comes in last place every single race can be successful.  I absolutely love the look on a runner's face when she realizes she beat her time from the previous week by 30 seconds.  I had a discussion with two fourth graders at the meet on Saturday.  Neither of them had ever run a yard in her life before joining the team.  The girls were so proud of the progress they had made. Both of them had walked at least a portion of the first race of the season.  Lots of kids did.  But as the season went on, they walked less, ran faster, and felt better about themselves.  And they had a blast doing it. 
My little girl was one that saw huge drops in her time.  She used to think she wasn't a runner, since her brothers always ran so well.  She was pleased as punch to learn that she ran 2 minutes faster than her first race.  And at least 15 people told her how much stronger she looked doing it.  Granted, she doesn't look so strong here, but this was 400 yards from the finish.  She said she was trying not to throw up.

What is not to love about this sport?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Peril of Having Children When I Am Old

I knew having babies in my late 30's would be different than having babies in my late 20's.  I was prepared for the increased exhaustion.  I was prepared for the more frequent aches.  I was even prepared for the younger children to live differently than the older ones did, being that the older ones lived in a bubble I could not recreate for the younger ones.  In the back of my head I knew that the little kids' friends would have parents younger than me, but that is not the same as being prepared. 
A new Bible study for mothers started recently at our church.  The meetings were to be during the day and children were welcome to come, so I signed up immediately.  We had our first meeting last week, and the fact of my "advanced maternal age" hit me harder than a ball thrown at my face by the two year old.
Since it is a Bible study about marriage, we began by introducing ourselves and a bit of our marital histories.  All I heard was, "We've been married for 5 years, blah blah blah."  Then, "We've been married for 6 years, our oldest is 4, blah, blah, blah."  Again and again.  Then it's my turn.  "We've been married for 17 years, and our oldest is 13."  And then silence.  Mouths hung open.  Babies stopped crying.  Even the toddlers, seeing that their mothers had stopped moving, dropped their toys and stared.  My own two were going right along with them, not wanting to admit that they came with me.  Finally one sweet woman came to her senses and squeeled, "That is wonderful!" 
I have now become both the Ghost of Everything Past as well as the Ghost of Children Future.  What's the school policy on students skipping grades?  Well, let me tell you!   Why doesn't the church have a crying room?  Well, back in the day.....  Will my child still have friends in middle school if I don't let him watch the Disney Channel now?  In my experience... Will I ever stop feeling guilty for staying home and not bringing money into the family budget?  Well, over the years....
It has really made me step back and think about my parenting a decade ago versus my parenting now. Some things I've consciously changed, some I have changed out of necessity, and some I won't change for any reason. 
In the end, I am choosing to embrace my role.  Unlike my teen and preteens who don't usually think I'm all that wise, these ladies actually listen to me. And as with being struck with a ball right on the nose, it only stung for a little while.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Easter was how long ago?

I gave the computer up for Lent.  It's true.  A person can change habits in 30 days.