Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just Slap Me!

Friends are essential to living. 

They are people with whom you can collaborate and find all sorts of fun things to do.

They are people you trust with your most personal and private thoughts.

They help you celebrate all the events of your life, both big and small.

They encourage you when you try something new.

They listen when you have a need to spill your guts, but want no advice.

They take care of you when you are not feeling your best.

And they really should be there to put you in your place when you are smack dab in the middle of a huge delusional moment.

I wish I had a friend like that.

While in Chicago, the ladies were asking for a Lupus update.  While telling them, I mentioned that I really should be trying some focused movement class, like tai chi.

One friend spoke up (We'll call her Swemp for today.  It stands for "She Who Enjoys My Pain") and said that she does yoga every Monday and that I should join her.  Perfect. 

So Monday night I head out to her yoga studio.  I got there a bit early, so I went in to do the bit of paperwork.  The instructor asked if I knew anything about Ashtanga yoga.  Nope.  I just know that I'm supposed to do some type of yoga for my condition, and Swemp said this would be good for me.

He got a funny look on his face, then began to explain it.  Ashtanga is one of the more challenging types of yoga.  It focuses on breathing and core strength. Those who are good at it complete approximately 35 different poses, each held for five breaths,  with no rest between. Instead of resting you do "transition moves".  For beginners, that transition could be to simply sit with your legs crossed.

He asked if I had ever done any type of breathing excercises.

Yes, I gave birth to 6 children.  I am a pro at controlled breathing.

Any core strength exercises? 

Plenty.  I was a college athlete for crying out loud.

(Can you see my delusion showing?)

Alrighty then.  Sign here, stating that we are not responsible for anything that may happen to you.

This is about the time that Swemp showed up, all excited that I was joining her.

We got our mats and water set up, and the class began.

I have to say, the instructor was very good.  He always gave variations on the positions we were doing, so if something was too difficult for the newer folks, we could cater it to our needs.  He was very encouraging, constantly reminding us that we are looking for little bits of progress, not perfection from the get-go.  My philosophy exactly!

I know this about myself:  I am very competitive.  Put me in a group of people doing something, I am going to do my darndest to not get shown up.

I believe this about myself:  I am just as athletic and flexible as I was when I was 29.

And it all showed during this hour and a half of yoga.

Pose after pose I did the hardest position.  If my body can do it, why shouldn't I?  Look around.  Lots of other people are doing it, too.

I twisted myself into all sorts of pretzel poses like this one:

I didn't simply sit with my legs crossed for transitions.  I was hopping in and out of downward dog each and every time. 

I was most excited when I did the big move near the end of class:

Yes, a back-bend, that only 10 year old gymnasts should do.  Hold for five breaths, transition, then do it again for five more breaths.

(A little thank you shout out to Turken and Cuckoo for taking the photo reenactments for me!)

By the end of class, I was feeling great.  My muscles were a little tired, just as they were supposed to be.  I immediately signed up for five more classes.

While Swemp looked on with a smile on her face. 

As we walked to our cars, she mentioned that she is usually a bit sore on Tuesdays.  A good sore.  Nothing to worry about.  I expected this.  You're always sore when you try a new athletic activity.

Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling great.  No soreness.  No unusual pain. 

Around 9:00 I talked to my brother on the phone.  During our conversation, my arm started to hurt.  With each passing minute, my arm hurt more and more.  After 20 minutes I had to get off the phone.  My arm and shoulder were in terrific pain, all from holding a phone up to my ear.  Not a good sign. 

As the day went on, both arms started hurting more and more.  I was mixing pancake batter for dinner and thought my arm was going to fall off.  My legs began to feel sore, as well.  That lactic acid was building up fast!

By 8:00 last night, I was a hot mess. "A bit sore" my butt!  (Actually, I think that is the ONLY thing that isn't sore.)   And in case you didn't know, Day 2 is always worse than Day 1. 

Swemp is on my list.

And I'm going to let her have it, as soon as I can move myself enough to track her down.

She needs to know that, as my friend, she needs to speak up.  When I am very actively denying my 40 years, she needs to speak up and put a quick stop to it.

Something like, "Hey, Hotshot.  Go look at yourself in the mirror.  You ain't no spring chicken." would have been immensely helpful.

A swift move to kick me out of the downward dog may have knocked some sense into me.

But no.

She just sat back and watched me position my way into immobilization.

And I have already paid for five more classes.

A non-delusional person would see me as having two choices:  skip the sessions and lose the money, or go but take it easy.

You know I'll go.  And because I am who I am,  you know I'll do exactly the same thing, thinking, "My body is used to it now.  It won't hurt nearly so much this time." 

And we all know that it most certainly will hurt just as much.

But I'll do it anyway.

Because I am an athletic, flexible, 29 year old.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hopefully, I'll Be Going Through a Lot of Candy

The time has come.  We knew it was coming.  All the signs were there.  But it just wasn't the right time...until now. 

Cuckoo Maran, my little man, you are sitting on the potty.

Back in the old days, we had long, lazy days at home.  Potty training wasn't fun, but it was easier.  We could stay home and get it done in a relatively short amount of time.

The three oldest kids were completely out of diapers by two and a half.  Giant wasn't, but it wasn't because he didn't want to.

Hubby wanted to go to Disney the moment Phoenix was born.  He went most years of his childhood, and he couldn't wait to start taking our kids. 

I, on the other hand, wanted to wait until the youngest was five.  All four kids would be great ages to go. 

So we compromised.  We agreed that we would book the trip when Giant was completely potty trained, with no fear of accidents.

I am not kidding when I tell you that Giant went to his three year check-up in a diaper.  The doctor noticed, and asked, "Why is Giant still in a diaper?  Your kids are always trained well before now."

I mumbled, "I don't want to go to Disney World."

She pushed for clarification.  "Did you just say that he is not potty trained because you don't want to go to Disney World?"

"Um, yes."

She actually scolded me.  "That is pathetic.  You get him in some underwear as soon as you get home."

Giant was trained in one day.  He had one accident, and that was the end of that.  We were off to Disney soon after.

With Turken, I came to all-out hate potty training.  It wasn't really his fault.  It's just next to impossible to learn to use the restroom when you are picking kids up from school and hauling them around to and from soccer.  A bathroom isn't always readily available.

And even when we were at the park or some other fun place, there were five other kids who didn't want to stop playing so we could all trudge to the restroom.

I finally resorted to taking a potty around in the van for emergencies, and will probably do the same this time around.

All I know is that I must avoid this

at all costs.  We were driving home from school one day, and Turken tells me that he peed in his carseat.  OK, I can handle that.

When we got home, I sent him upstairs with the words, "Go up to the bathroom and get undressed while I get the baby settled.  I'll be up in a minute to help you."

Good boy that he is, he followed my directions.

As I was still settling Cuckoo, Buttercup comes in the room with a pale, horrified look on her face, and says I may want to stop what I'm doing to go help Turken.

I hand the baby off, and find Turken in the position you saw above.

Besides the entire length of his leg, poo covered his gloves, the cupboard, his dry-clean only coat, his hat, the wall, his socks, his shoes, the stool he was sitting on, and the floor.

And yet, there he sat, with his pants around his ankles, all a mess, with the biggest grin you've ever seen plastered on his face. 

It's one of those parenting moments when you have a choice.  Go nuts because of the complete disaster you have just encountered, or return that big ol' grin and tell the boy how proud you are that he followed directions.  Thankfully I was in a laughing mood that day, so he got a big grin.

Back to Cuckoo.

Brother turned two and a half while I was in Chicago.  So old enough, check.
A month with no out of town trips planned.  Check.
A week without soccer practices.  Check.
A few days with no appointments.  Check.

It's as good as we're going to get.

Brother's wearin' underwear.

He wasn't thrilled at first.  But when I explained to him that he would get an M&M every time he told me he had to go or went when I told him to, he was much more willing.

Yesterday, we had a lot of this:

The funny little penguin waddle to the bathroom with wet pants.

Not once did he actually go while sitting on the toilet. 

Today, so far, one wet pair of pants down, but he did figure out how to actually make his body pee when he wanted it to.  Score TWO M&Ms for that one!

So the journey begins.  I won't bore you with the daily, dirty details.

But I'm sure there will be a horror story to report one of these days.  You'll be the first to hear it.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Blessing of a Loving Dad

On the way home from Chicago, I called home and spoke to Phoenix.  Hubby was out with Buttercup and Cuckoo, so the boys were happy.  (When Phoenix is in charge, we let them watch TV.  It assures us that nothing will get broken and no fights will break out in our absence.)  I jokingly told Phoenix that I would be home between 5:30 and 6:00, so he better have dinner on the table for me.

At 5:10 I got a phone call.  Hubby was in a tizzy, frantically searching the freezer and pantry, looking for something to cook.  See, Phoenix is a stereotypical male who cannot read or exhibit expressions or emotions.  He heard "have dinner ready", so Dad was told that dinner better be ready.  Phoenix got this trait from his father, so husband didn't question Phoenix.  If he would have, he would have found out that in reality, I was completely kidding. 

So, after I calmed Hubby down, we agreed to meet at a restaurant.  A flurry of stories was thrown at me in between kisses and hugs, and I soaked up every minute of it.  It had been a busy weekend.  So busy, that Cuckoo hadn't gotten much sleep, and actually fell asleep before the food came, and didn't wake up until we put him in the carseat. 

It's fun to go away, but it's so nice to come home.

Hubby is such a good dad.  Despite the fact that he can be overwhelmed with 3 and a half days alone with the kids, everyone was fed (some healthy food even!), happy, and uninjured.  He even reminded them to do a few loads of laundry.  Score!

It was a perfect example of a conversation my book club had.

Each book club trip, one friend has a question or two that is meant as a "get to know you and make you think" conversation starter.  This year she asked, "Did you marry your father?"  It was a great question, and took us off into all sorts of areas.  My answer to it was as follows:

While my dad and Hubby are both smart men who are very good with finances and enjoy history, I didn't marry my father.  Where Dad is outgoing and impulsive, Hubby is an introvert and never makes a move without a detailed, thought-out plan.  (For example, my parents married after knowing each other for two weeks.  Hubby and I dated for 7 years before we tied the knot.)

They are very different people, but there is one thing that they both do well.  They both love me completely and let me know it.

My parents divorced when I was about 8 years old, but my dad never lived more than 2 miles from us.  He never missed a single weekend that he was to have us.  He took us roller skating on Wednesday nights (back when roller skating was all the rage)    He did fun things with us, like a day trip to Niagrara Falls.  When we would go to the pool, he didn't sit on the deck with the adults.  He jumped in and played with us.  We would go to the local park to roll down the huge hill and feed the ducks.  Our childhood was certainly not a breeze, but even through the rocky times, I always knew that my dad loved me more than anything.

So when it was time for me to head out on my own, I knew what it was like to feel loved.  I knew that I shouldn't settle for someone who merely said he loved me.  I was to look for someone who showed it.  Lived it.  I knew.

Many people have said that I was lucky to find Hubby.  Luck had nothing to do with it.

My dad made the choice to be there for his children.  To let us know that he loved us.  And when God led Hubby and me together, I was able to recognize it.  I was able to see that the way Hubby treated me was love.  A good, healthy, enduring kind of love that needed to be held on to.

And I did.

And now, that husband who loves me so, is showing our daughter what to look for. 

To find someone who loves her.  She'll know that love when God sends it her way.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So Exciting!

Each year Hubby buys season tickets to the Pacers games with a few other families, which means we get tickets for five or six games.  It's his way of scheduling individual dates with the kids.

And finally, after almost four years of waiting, Turken was finally old enough to go.  Sakes alive, it was the best day of his life. 

He is normally a shy kid, but he couldn't hold it in yesterday.  He had to tell everyone, "I'm going to Daddy's office, and a restaurant, and a Colt's game."

Yes, a Colt's game.  Hot on the heels of football season, he was a bit confused, having never seen a Pacer's game on TV, let alone hear about who they are or what they do.

After piano lessons, we headed downtown.  He didn't stop talking the entire way there. 

"I'm going to help Daddy work.  What do you do at Daddy's office?  I'm going to have macaroni and cheese.  And ice cream.  I'm going to his office, and a restaurant, and a game.  I'm not going home.  We're going downtown so I can go with Daddy all by myself."  and on and on and on. 

The big kids thought it was cute.  At first.  By the time we got to Daddy, they were ready to see him go.

I didn't even get a wave good-bye.  He was so focused on getting into that office. 

At 9:45 I finally got a text telling me that the game went into overtime, and they would be getting home late. 

The kid is three.  We were way past late already.

Finally, at 10:45 they rolled in.  Turken did not sleep one wink the whole way home.  He couldn't stop talking. 

This is what he looked like when he walked in the door:

I took the photo this morning, when there was some light, and I could get him to stop talking.

You know you've had fun when you come home with a ginormous alien balloon hat and a Pacers bag full of stuff.

And your face painted to boot.

At 10:45 he unloaded his bag to tell me the story of everything in it.  How he spun a wheel to get the magnet.  How he was tall enough to reach the bag, so he got to keep it.  And of course, how the woman made his hat.

We finally got him to bed, and as Hubby closed the door, he was heard loud-whispering, "Hey, Cuckoo!" wanting to wake up his little brother to tell him all about it.

Five minutes later, he jumped out of bed, opened his door, and hollered, "Mom!  I had ice cream at the game!"

Apparantly, he didn't stop talking for the entire 6 hours he was with Hubby. 

At the office, he started out by examining Hubby's desk.  He needed to know what each and every thing was.  When he came to the business cards, Hubby told him that they were cards with his name on them.  Turken paused (for the first time that day) and then said, "But I don't see a D on it!"  (For Daddy.  He doesn't know Hubby's real name.)

He then stood at the big window, looking out over the city, and remarked on everything he saw.  At one point Hubby's secretary yelled in, "I hope you weren't planning on getting any work done this afternoon!"

He woke up at 7:25 this morning, Pacers on the brain.  We went through all of his goodies again, since Cuckoo hadn't seen them yet. 

He told us about Boomer (the mascot) falling off the ceiling, but on a swing so he didn't get hurt.  And it was dark, because they turned the lights off.   He didn't know why.

He told us about Boomer making slam dunks.  He told us about the greeen team winning most of the game, but blue won the game in the end.  And on and on and on.

And when I pick up Giant and Star from school at 3:00, we'll go through it all again.

And when we pick up Phoenix from play practice at 3:45, we'll go through it all again.

And when we pick Buttercup up from volleyball practice at 4:30, we'll go through it all yet again.

Even then, I don't think I'll be tired of hearing him tell of his evening.  His cute little voice telling his version of the highlights of the whole experience just makes me smile.  It is amazing how one little date with his dad can be the most exciting event he has ever experienced.

This is why we do individual dates with our children. 

Now, for my own fun experience.  Tomorrow I leave for the annual book club trip.  This year we are keeping it closer to home and heading to Chicago.   The itinerary, as far as I know, includes:

     - an evening at an improv show
     - a dessert tour of the city, with a sample at every stop
     - dinners at lovely places, as it is their "Taste of Chicago" week
     - a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's home, as a few months ago we read the book Loving Frank
     - a bit of shopping if there is time

It's "as far as  I kow" because I didn't have to plan any of it.  I love my friends.  They don't mind letting me tag along to all of the fun things they worked hard to find and plan.

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Hubby and I used to be terrible eaters.  We were young, healthy, childless, broke, and clueless about how to feed ourselves.  We would go to the Hostess thrift store and stock up on old white bread, Twinkies, Susy-Qs, and the like.  We would drink Coke by the caseful, because it was forever on super sale prices.  We had a bowl of candy-filled ice cream every night before bed.  We ate a ton of canned soup and frozen salisbury steak.

Today, we eat home-cooked meals every day.  Salisbury steak is a bad word around here. We eat ice cream at birthdays, but rarely anytime else.  I don't know the last time I've eaten a Twinkie.  I only drink water and milk, except when we eat out.  Then I get a Sprite.  We only eat whole wheat.

We didn't get here overnight.

It was a whole bunch of little steps over the last 17 years.  Take ice cream.

A huge bowl of Chocolate Moose Tracks ice cream every single night before bed.  At some point I realized that I was getting older, not the athletic hottie that I used to be.  I decided to change the ice cream.  I went to plain chocolate or vanilla ice cream with fruit on top.  Bananas, strawberries, and raisins were my new candy.  (Yes, raisins.  It makes Hubby gag to even contemplate, but I love them on ice cream.  Don't judge until you've tried it!)

For a few years, that is how things went.

One year for Lent I gave up all snacking after dinner.  I lost 5 pounds in one week.  Not good.  (For me, at that time, it wasn't.) 

So, I put snacking back on the menu, but left out the ice cream.  Throughout Lent, I had grapes or a nectarine.  After Lent I would have microwave popcorn or peanut M&Ms.

Then I got this pre-Lupus thing.  My activity level dropped off, and I realized I was having an after-dinner snack out of habit.  I wasn't even hungry.  I stopped eating after dinner.  I haven't lost a pound, but I haven't gained any, either. 

So, I went from eating a huge bowl of calorie- and fat-filled ice cream every night to not eating any snacks at all.  Sure, it took many, many years.  But here I am.  And I don't feel deprived in the least.

Baby steps.

It is wonderful to have large, long-range goals.  But in order to reach them, you must have small, attainable, measurable goals. 

I'm all about baby steps.  Seeing progress and being happy with it.

Learning not the whole alphabet, but the first letter of your name.

Learning not the entire addition chart, but that 4+1=5. 

Not being outgoing, but having the courage to purchase a gallon of milk all alone.

Not mowing the whole yard, but being brave enough to take care of the flat field on the side of the house.

Not swimming a lap of the pool, but putting your head under water to blow bubbles.

Not being the neatest person in the world, but remembering to put your soccer cleats where they go.

Not having the cleanest house, but having a beautiful-looking linen closet.
Last week's project.  Totally makes me happy!

Not knowing how to grow and keep every vegetable known to man, but learning how to can green beans.

Progress.  Baby steps towards that big goal.  Moments to celebrate and be happy with what you've done and learned. 

Helloooooo wood grain!  Nice to finally meet you!  Not done, but after going through 6 steel wool pads, one can of mineral spirits, a fourth of a can of stripper, a pair of industrial gloves, and several hours of work, we are seeing what our door may look like in the end.  The other four doors, two windows, and baseboards will get done.  But for now, I'm happy.  Progress.

Baby steps.  Celebration.  Happiness.  Contentment.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Game Anyone?

This is the result of a frustrated mama.  Every game and puzzle we own is out on the floor of the game room.  And the boy with the toes you see has been given the task of loading it all back into the closet.  (That ugly closet that I told you about yesterday)

24 hours ago:
We played Boggle.  Things went as usual.  Red Star came up with some very amusing, misspelled words.  Turken took his job of timekeeper quite seriously.

Cuckoo carefully wrote his own words.

And Phoenix managed to beat me once out of the five rounds we played.  But he was happy to pull out the victory dance.

When the game was finished, the kids packed up the game, and I went to put it in the closet.  I had to do some serious rearranging in order to get it to fit.

20 hours ago:
Hubby and Giant were at the Pacers game, and the little kids were in bed.  The other three kdis and I played a riotous game of Who-nu.  Lots of laughing and good cheer.  We packed up the game, and one of the kids put it away.  I did not like the sounds coming from the general vicinity of the closet, but I was too tired to investigate.

6 hours ago:
Red Star and Buttercup began playing Spongebob Monopoly in the fort they built in Buttercup's room.  When they got the game out of the closet, I heard an awful crash, an "Uh, oh", and a request for help in cleaning up.  Cuckoo offered to help, so I avoided the area.

5 hours ago:
Turken tells me, "I want to play a game."

Me:  "You always want to play a game."

Turken: "No I don't."

Me:  "Tell me one time you did not want to play a game."

Turken: "When we went to the zoo.  There are no games at the zoo and I didn't want to play one."

Me:  "Touche.  What game would you like to play?"

We had a nail-biting game of Sorry.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a full set of markers, so I was blue, with three blue markers and one red marker.  Turken was green, with three green markers and one yellow marker.

4 1/2 hours ago:
Turken convinced Phoenix to play Monopoly Jr. with him

while I played Candy Land with Cuckoo.  Unfortunately, we were missing half of the cards.  While I was quite OK with the missing gingerbread card (It irks me to no end when someone is just about to win when he pulls the gingerbread card.  I usually stack the deck so it shows up early in the game.), I was not happy about the also-missing, game-accelerating ice cream card.

After the game, I called Buttercup in to empty the closet and put every last piece back with the game it came from.

Giant is my best organizer, so he was given the task of putting everything back into the closet.  Unfortunately, he was still finishing his science fair project, and the closet had to wait a while.

3 hours ago:
Cuckoo saw the closet contents as an opportunity.  He made a bigger mess by sneaking game after game to his box fort.

 Turken was out of luck. He had to play a game by himself.   I love how he always plays for himself and an invisible opponent.  The best part is when Turken does a victory cheer when he beats his invisible opponent.  Poor invisible opponent.  I don't think he has ever won a single game.

So now, finally, Giant has finished his project and is organizing the game closet. 

Good thing the kids got a lot of games in over the last two days, 'cause no one will be allowed near that closet for a long time.  I don't give up an organized space very easily.

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cover Your Ears, Children

Despite the cold, this is a good time of year.  Basketball is over.  Soccer games haven't started.   Our weekends are ours to do with as we please.

We usually please to get some home renovations done. 

I was hoping for a new kitchen, but that just won't be in the budget this year.  So, we're on to the next thing on the list.

Most of our house is filled with beautiful, original wood.  From the staircase

to the fireplace

gorgeous wood is everywhere.

Until you come to the room we call the game room.  There you will find an ugly, open nook

and a barely functional, ugly closet.

We decided to tackle this room next.

We have done plenty of "skin deep" renovations in the past.  We are pro painters and have taken down enough wallpaper to cover half of Indiana.  We have also hung wallpaper.

NOTE:  Let me just say that a couple should never attempt to wallpaper a room unless they are very solid and confident in their marriage.  Especially if the chosen room is the entryway with a 15 foot ceiling and uneven walls and you are trying to hang a paper with vertical stripes on it and one or both of you just happens to be a perfectionist.    Separate vacations may be in order by the time that type of project is done.

For this room project, we once again had to strip wallpaper off of the wall.  Fortunately, it only went halfway up the wall.  We had it done in 24 hours.  

Unfortunately, there was also a chair rail.  And, as we should have expected, it was not simply nailed up. 

Every single thing we have done around here has come with surprises.  When we got a new roof, we found that there were four layers of shingles that needed to come off.  Plus, the little roof over the back porch was actually built AROUND an old roof, gutter and all.

When the house was inspected, the guy told us that everything was to code, but it was most certainly done by the homeowner, who did things his own way.  Did he ever.

So, the chair rail was glued to the wall.  He didn't even have the decency to glue it to the wallpaper.  Just slapped it onto the plaster wall.  A lot of sanding is in our future.

And then there is all of the painted wood.  Painted an awful chocolate brown.

Two windows and five doors in this room.  Not doorways.  Doors.  Not including the ugly closet seen earlier. 

We've never stripped paint off of wood before.  We have read about it.  We have heard about what a pain it is.  But we are crazy optimists who are sick and tired of looking at the ugly brown.  And painting them just wouldn't go with the rest of the house.  So we're stripping.

We applied the non-toxic gel that is supposed to take the paint off.  We left it for an hour.

Then Hubby began scraping.

I followed behind with the mineral spirits and steel wool.

Buttercup asked if she could help.  Why certainly, dear daughter!

After three hours, we have done two doors and the baseboard of one wall.  Although, "done" is a strong word.  Some of the paint has come off.  In some places, a lot of it has.  We will certainly be needing to reapply the paint stripper and give it another go. 

And I am happy to say that not one cuss word has popped out of our mouths.  Yet.  We have a long, long way to go, though.  I'm not ruling it out.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Lot Can Happen in Only One Week!

That was mighty rude, wasn't it?  I write a post about how awful I'm feeling, then disappear with no explanation for a week and a half.  So sorry.

First, thank you to all who offered help and well wishes.  The cold managed to settle into my face this week, so I am on antibiotics.  Should be feeling my old self very soon.

Wednesday last week I turned on my computer, and imagine my dismay when all I got was warning after warning telling me that my hard drive was inaccessible.  According to my computer, it had 14 things wrong with it, and only five could be fixed.  Not what I wanted to hear.

Certainly not what my kids wanted to hear.  As soon as it was announced that the computer was dead, the panic began.

"But I have to type my research paper!"
"But I have my science fair project due next week!"

"I have to do some research for social studies class!"

"What happened to my stories that were on there?"
Selfish buggers.  What about my blog???

All is well.  We got the new computer up and running last night.  It is a very different beast from my old laptop.  This one is a desktop with wireless mouse, keyboard, and screen.  I have a lot to learn.

Buttercup offered to help me break it in, but I told her no. Being that I have 30 years on her, I could figure it out on my own, thank you very much.

I turned it on, but I couldn't type anything.  After letting me flounder for a minute or so, she came over all haughty-like, picked up the keyboard, flipped it over, and moved the switch to "ON". 

I knew that.  Totally.  It was exactly what I was about to do.

I won't go through every single thing that you missed this week.  You don't need to hear about the soccer practices the kids had or the awesome chicken and noodles I made.  I won't bore you with the details of my little Turken being famous and all when his face graced the front page of the Living section of the newspaper.  But I will let you in on two fun days that we had this week.

First, we got our first accumulating snow.  Sure it was only an inch or so, but it was perfect to play in.  The temperature was 30 degrees, so we didn't freeze our hind ends off, and the snow was superbly pack-able.  The little boys and I were outside for a couple of hours while the big kids were at school.  It was the first time that Cuckoo ever played in snow.  Last year, we had way too much for him to play in (can't really play in snow that is 13 inches deep when you are only 24 inches tall!), so it was extra fun.

We went sledding on our hill.

And made our first snow orangutan.

It was supposed to be a snowman, but the head fell off and Turken picked out unusually large sticks for arms.  Orangutan it is.  And yes, it has two carrot eyes that were supposed to be one carrot nose.

Too bad for the big kids.  The snow was melted by the time they got home from school.

The biggest thing that happened last week makes me crazy happy.   After three years, my brother and his kids finally moved back from Hawaii.  They moved in with my mom in Kentucky for now, so last weekend we headed down to welcome them home.  We hadn't seen them since they came back for a visit two years ago, when my niece was two and my nephew was seven.

Before they moved to Hawaii, my nephew would come to stay with us for up to two weeks each summer.  He is such a sweet kid, and I loved having him.  And he loved to come.  Having no siblings, he was thrilled to have a house full of instant playmates.  I cried when they moved soon after his little sister was born.

On Sunday we pulled into my mom's driveway, and I was the last one out of the van, as I was in charge of unbuckling Cuckoo.  All of a sudden, I hear a little boy tearing around the van, screaming, "I'm so excited, I'm so excited!"  Then I was hit from behind by said boy, whose arms immediately clamped around me.  Joy of joys.   All day long, every hour or so, I was grabbed into a huge hug by that awesome little guy. 

And his sister was just as happy.  Being that half of her life was spent away from us, I was worried about how she would react to a house full of relatives she didn't know.  Never should have worried.  We had a ball. 

She and I played outside for a good long time.  She grew up on the beach, so the winter coat/gloves thing was new.  I got to show her the fine art of making and throwing snowballs in the little bit of snow that managed to survive in the shadows.

On our next visit we'll discuss the whole "how to wear a tutu in the snow" thing.

My sister and other brother also brought their kids over, so we had a great, loud day.  Time to cuddle with the cousins.

Time to play catch (with a little bit of wrestling and tackling thrown in) for the boys and their uncles.

  And as an added bonus, time to play with the adorable puppies my sister had gotten the day before.

They are called Schnoodles.  Cutest little bundles of fur you ever did see.

Crazy happy to have them back.  To have all the cousins within a two hour drive.

Their parents, too.  But mostly the kids.  I just love them to pieces.

Now consider yourself all caught up. 

I'm off to figure out this new-fangled contraption.  Oh Buttercup... where are you???

Have a lovely day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hey Kids! You Get to Watch TV Today!

I have a cold. 

Poor me.

Three years ago, a cold was no big deal.  I would just carry on as usual, with a few stops for nose blowing and extra hand washing.

Not so anymore.

Two years ago, I started having weird sensations near my left temple.  With no warning, it would feel like a dam was opened in my head.  It would last for a few seconds, then go away.  It would happen once every few months, but then it started happening every week.   Hubby got concerned and guilted me into going to the doctor.  An MRI later, there was nothing to see.  But, my routine blood work was flagged.  My red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets were low.  I was told to get them checked again in a couple months.

I was also having some major fatigue, but chalked it up to recently giving birth to my sixth child.  Who wouldn't be exhausted?

As the two months went along, Cuckoo was weaned, I was getting sleep, but the exhaustion was still there.  And pain started creeping up.  I first became alarmed when one day I was feeding Cuckoo a jar of baby food.  By the end of that one jar, I could barely lift my arm it hurt so much.  And it kept getting worse.  My wrists hurt so bad that pushing a stroller was torture.  By 9:30 in the morning, I was too worn out to climb one set of stairs.  Joints were hurting, muscles were hurting.  But I was so busy with the kids and all that comes with them, that I wasn't able to figure out a pattern or triggers for any of it.

The two months passed and I went back for the blood test and check-up.  Numbers still low, and with all of the pain (and swelling she felt in my wrists), I was sent to a rheumatologist. 

I think he diagnosed me before he even examined me.  Although, I wasn't the best patient.  I wasn't able to explain what I felt or when I felt it.  He started poking different spots on my body, and asked if they hurt.  Yes, yes, and yes.  He then told me that I had fibromyalgia.  I guess the one question he didn't ask, and the answer I should have given was, "Those spots all hurt, but no more than here, here, here, and here."  A big indicator of fibro is pressure points.  If a person has pain in 11 of certain 18 spots, fibro is a leading suspect. 

He put me on a low dose of gabapentin and sent me on my way.  This particular drug is for people with seizures, but it took away the pain for many fibro sufferers.  It also had a bit that helped me sleep, as the pain woke me up most nights, and I was getting very little sleep.

I was happy with the diagnosis, as it meant I wasn't going to die.  My nerves were just over-sensitive.  So even if I was in some pain, I could ignore it and move on.  I wasn't hurting myself by doing so.  I went to college on a track scholarship and I gave birth six times, and the last three were without pain meds.  I know how to work through/ignore pain.

For several months, I felt much better.  I, of course, attributed it to the medicine.  There was pain, but not nearly as bad as it was. 

Then warmer weather came along, and the medicine wasn't cutting it.  I was in more and more pain.  Another trip to the rheumatologist, another set of blood tests, and an increase in my meds.

I took the higher dose for a few weeks, but had to stop.  They made my brain completely fuzzy.  I couldn't focus on a thought for more than a few seconds.  I was forgetting things, like names of people I have known for years.  I went back to the lower dose.

When the blood tests came back, it revealed that the red cells were back up, but the white cells and the platelets were still down.  Oh, and I was positive for a clotting disorder.

Off to the hematologist I go.

She and I spent a few minutes in the room together, and she came up with a diagnosis of perhaps early Lupus.  That knocked me for a loop.  I couldn't even ask questions, I was so dumbfounded.  Like I said, I am an awful patient.  I was to start taking baby aspirin every day, so as not to die of a pulmonary embolism, and get my blood tested every month.

I went out to the parking lot, called my husband, and scared him half to death, because all I could do was cry.  I managed to splutter something about Lupus, but I was just so overwhelmed and tired and confused that I just needed to cry.

My life became a series of doctor visits and needle sticks.  By this time, the medicine wasn't taking away any pain at all, so at my next appointment, he gave me a perscription for an anti-depressant.  I never took it, I stopped taking the gabapentin, and I stopped going to see him. 

I have finally started to take control of the situation.

I have figured out that sunshine is a trigger.  That's why the meds seemed to be working.  It was winter when I was on them.  I am now the crazy lady under an umbrella at all soccer games.  I try to garden only in the early morning or late afternoon.  When outside with the kids, I look for the shady spots. 

Anything repetitve or prolonged makes it hurt.  Scrubbing, vaccuuming, holding a book to read, going up steps.  I even had a hard time balancing the checkbook and paying bills last month.  The writing about killed my arm.

I make myself sit down during nap time (thus the blog).  If I don't, I am useless by 6:00. 

And a cold.  When I get a cold, there is nothing that makes me feel better.  My hips hurt when I sit, my calves hurt if I stand, my thighs and shoulders hurt when I lay down.  The easiest things become a problem.  Shoot, my wrists hurt right now from typing. 

Hubby helps by giving me massages, although he hates to do it.  I used to love a deep tissue massage.  They would hurt, but at the end I felt so much better.  A massage now means he softly rubs my legs while I curse him out in my head.  Sometimes tears streaming down my face.  But I know, that when he's done, my legs will feel better.  And he knows that, too.  So he does it.

Through six months of blood tests, my numbers stayed low, but not dangerously low.  I am done with the hematologist, and just need to go to my primary care doc once a year to get the blood checked. 

I'm still not satisfied with the lack of a true diagnosis, but I'm taking a break from doctors for a while.  I am basically in the same place I was two years ago, except that I am taking aspirin.  I'll go to a different rheumatologist, and I'll be armed with a better understanding of what is going on.  Hopefully we'll figure something out.

Now, enough of my pity party.  Being sick put this front and center in my mind.  Normally it's not.  I have way too many other, better things to stay focused on.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Be Ready Belly. Dad's in the Kitchen.

We love a good tradition around here, be they big or small.  For example, every Friday is Milkshake Day.  On the way home from school, we stop at Steak-n-Shake for milkshake hapy hour.  It is our way to celebrate the end of another school week and get the weekend party started. 

Another tradition is our Super Bowl party.   Since the Super Bowl doesn't start until 6:30, and our kids had an 8:00 bedtime when they were younger, we never went to parties.  We created one at home, just us.  We have a whole mess of appetizers, and it is the one day of the year when we eat dinner in front of the TV. 
In years past, I was in charge of cooking.  Just because it is game-day appetizers, doesn't mean we can't put some healthy food into our bellies.  I would make home-made chicken nuggets, quesadillas, sliced apples with caramel dip, spinach and artichoke dip, peanut butter celery sticks, cheese and crackers, and the like.  I would throw in a bag of chips and some M&M's as a treat.

Each year, Hubby tried to get more and more junk into the menu.  And this year, he was in charge.  I was working at church while he took the kids to the store to buy the party food.  I can't say "ingredients" because all he bought was premade items.  At 5:30 the chef got to work putting everything into the oven.

He didn't go to Ohio State, so he doesn't mind that this look doesn't do much for their image.
This is the fruit of his labor:

As a nod to me, he did put some carrots, celery, cheese and crackers out there with the frozen buffalo chicken nuggets, frozen $2 pizza, frozen mini tacos, frozen jalepeno poppers, frozen pretzel bites, frozen pizza rolls, chips, and Doritos.

Have at it kids!

Yeah!  Giant took some carrots!

And out to the TV room to chow down and watch some football.

The game was a lot more fun with it being just down the way from us.  Every time they showed a shot of downtown, the little ones were excited to point out Daddy's office.

The finishing touch for the tradition is cutting into the cake Hubby and the current scout made for the Cub Scout Cake Auction.  (We always get our cake back, even when the price is jacked up by other mischeivous bidders.)  Red Star and Hubby tweeked their design from last year's cake, and made some adjustments.  Much better!

Too bad the picture stinks.  In the forefront is the trophy he won.  Grand champion cake! 

Every year we are asked if we are going to the school's Super Bowl party.  Every year, we say, "Not a chance."  We love this little tradition.  Except next year, I'll be cooking. 

Did you do anything fun for the big game?

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Do I Need a Reason for Wanting my House Clean?

It is bad enough that the dog is on to me.

Now it's the kids.

Perhaps I went a bit too far with my breakfast speech.

"Not one rear end will touch a chair, couch, or bed until this house is clean.  No complaints.  No whines of hunger.  No dilly-dallying.  If you finish a job, come to me to get the next one.  Good things will not come to those who need to be hunted down."

I then handed out the first round of chores. 

After Giant was done cleaning his room, he asked, "Are we cleaning because we have people coming over for dinner?" 

As if.  We are cleaning because the stars have aligned with our schedule, and we have a (mostly) full day at home for the first time in three months.

After Phoenix finished scrubbing the TV room floor, he asked, "Are we cleaning because we have people coming over for dinner?" 

Whatever.  You are cleaning because you love me and want to make my dream of a clean house come true.

After Buttercup finished dusting the downstairs, she asked, "Are we cleaning because we have people coming over for dinner?"

She simply got an eye-roll that I have perfected from watching her.

In my heart, I am an obsessive neat-freak.  I love clean.  When Phoenix was a baby, I scrubbed the kitchen floor, on my hands and knees, every single day.  With the birth of each child, the purchase of the farm, and the onset of my ailments, I have had to give up on some of my compulsiveness or go crazy.  After my sixth child, my goal is to have a house that's not gross.

It's not all up to me.  Hubby is very good about doing the dishes every night.  The kids have been doing chores since they were itty-bitty.  All of the big kids know how to scrub, wash, and clean most things in the house.  The little kids have jobs they can do, too.  It is very important for kids to have chores, to learn how to take care of a house, to have some ownership in the running of the household. 

Throughout each day, the kids are expected to clean up after themselves; make their beds, squeegie the shower door, clean up the games they play, etc.

They each have at least one outside chore:

Phoenix takes out the compost and collects eggs.
Buttercup feeds and waters the chickens.
Star is in charge of collecting and taking out the trash each day.
Giant waters the dogs and takes out the recycling.
Turken feeds the dogs.
Cuckoo puts the eggs in the cartons.

Plus, they need to do any random thing I need, like set the table, watch a little boy, sweep the floor.

All told, they spend about 15-20 minutes on chores each day.

Oh, and the three oldest have to do their own laundry.  But only because I got tired of finding clean clothes in the dirty laundry basket. 

Real cleaning either gets done by me during the weekdays, or by the kids when we are actually at home on the weekend.

All very reasonable.  Although, several mothers have told me that they use us as an example/threat for their own kids.  When their kids moan about having to do chores, the mother comes back with, "Be glad you live with us and not on the farm with them!  Those kids do real chores!"  Not sure how I feel about that.  I'm leaning toward not liking it so much. 

As for yesterday's massive clean, heck yes we were cleaning because we had friends coming over for dinner!  Do you think I would be wasting spending my one day off taking the stove apart if we DIDN'T?

We don't "entertain" like people on House Hunters always claim they do.  ("Oh, this would/would not be a great space for entertaining."  Who actually says that when they are buying a house?)  The cleaning and cooking takes it all out of me.  I expect our guests to entertain me.

I invite people to our house to ensure that my house gets clean.  End of story.

And the kids can just be glad it isn't Grandma coming over.  Then there would be some REAL cleaning going on! 

 Have a lovely day!

Friday, February 3, 2012

This Time, It Is NOT My Fault

The dog is onto me.

He has become a weatherman/timekeeper of sorts.  He can predict the exact day and time that he will be getting tied up in order for me to let the chickens loose.  So he hides.  Luckily for me, he hides worse than a two year old.

Yesterday I opened the van door and told the little boys to jump in while I let the chickens loose.  That threw Roy the Wonder Dog way off.  Usually, an open van door means I'm getting in, too, and driving off.  When I got out of the van, he panicked.  Literally lost his mind and jumped into the van!  Once he got in there, he was trapped.  No place to turn around, human in the doorway, and two little boys screaming their little heads off.  I could almost hear Roy berating himself, "Well that was just brilliant.  Great move.  Go to the one place where you are sure to get caught.  Stupid, stupid, stupid."

You may think, perfect, just grab him and pull him out.  I say hold that thought.  He is a 95 pound dog, trapped face first into the aisle of a van.  He's several feet off of the ground, and I have two little boys about to do some serious injury to themselves in their hysterical scramble to get away from the dog.  Not that easy, but I am Super Farmer Mom.  I whipped out the cape, used my super-human strength to wrestle him out, got the kids calmed, drug him to the back of the house, and got him all squared away.

Finally I was able to open the coop. 

And I wasn't even late to pick the big kids up at school. 

When we got home, we took advantage of the weather.  When it is sunny and near 60 degrees on Feb. 2, you do not waste your time on homework, laundry, cleaning, or cooking.

Turken decided to go chase some chickens who were getting way to close to the porch.

As I got closer, I could see something in that field you see behind the tree.  It was black and white, and looked a whole lot like a pile of feathers.

Upon closer inspection,

that's exactly what it was!   AAAAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!  I checked.  Roy was tied up.  It can only mean one thing. 

I looked to the woods on the other side of the field, covered Turken's ears,

and cussed out those blasted coyotes living there.

I have never pretended to be the world's best farmer.  Not even the world's most so-so farmer. 
We were very good at closing up the coop every night with the flock of chickens that came with the house.  (Yes, they all died from a variety of other things, but it was not because of the coop being open all night!)  The second batch didn't get locked up, because they never went into the coop.  They much preferred sleeping in the tree outside.  So we got lazy.  We never closed the coop again.  Until last year, when we had the worst case of coyote problem.  I actually saw one jump out of the chicken coop in the middle of the day.  We did start closing up the coop then.  To no avail.  Every one of our chickens was taken.  Oh, and one of our pigs, too.  But that's a different story. 

So with this flock, we have been the perfect little chicken farmers.  We secured the fence so nothing could get in the run.  We tie Roy up, so he hasn't had a single chicken dinner.  We only let the chickens out for the afternoons, and we have closed up the coop every single night.  Blast those stinkin' coyotes.

It is time to call in the big guns.  Literally.

A man from church/school and his brother actually hunt coyote.  I had no idea it was even a possible hobby until they heard of our problem last year.  We had them come out over the winter, and though they found lots of tracks, the coyote didn't respond to the call.  (Hunters can't go into the field or woods, as it isn't our property.)  Looks like they are going to have to pay another visit.

I'd call him today, except he'll be at the hospital.  Apparantly Coyote Hunter's son swallowed a piece of his braces that broke off at school yesterday.  He's having to have a procedure (don't know the exact procedure, 'cause 13 year old boys don't go for details) done in order for the doctors to get the pieces out.  Really.  That never would have happened with the enormous metal contraption that passed for braces that I wore!   Anyway, he probably won't have much time for coyotes today.

But, all was not lost.

We took advantage of the weather and got a little mower maintenance done.

Even got to mow a bit.

Some sunset basketball rounded out the night.

Honestly.  Shorts in the middle of the winter.  Certainly makes up for last year's 4 month freeze!

And, have mercy, we had leftovers in the fridge for dinner.

Have a lovely coyote-free day!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Love Letter

This is what I want to say to my daughter:

My Dearest Buttercup,

I have loved you from your very first heartbeat. 

I have loved you through your first toothless smiles for me.
And through your first little pouts.

I have loved you through your first steps in my direction.
And through your first run away from me.

I have loved you through your pleas for help in getting your shoes tied.
And through your declarations of "I can do it myself!"

I have loved you through your wobbly, desparate first attempts to ride a bike.
And through your first ride around the neighborhood without me.

I have loved you through your clings to my leg, afraid to be left alone at school.
And through the half-hearted waves of good-bye.

I am no longer the center of your world.

I knew this day would come.  I have been preparing us for it.  It is the way it is supposed to be.  You can't grow and love and live your life unless you break away from me a bit.

Things may get rocky for a while.  You won't like the rules.  You won't like the chores.  You probably won't like me sometimes.  But in the end, it will all work out. 

I have loved you from your first heartbeat, and every single one since then.

As your heart beats now, I love you.

And know, through all of our missteps and misunderstandings, I will be praying.  And God will love both of us through it.

No matter how much you grow, you will always be my baby.

I love you.

And yet, when the eye-rolling, muttering, defiance, or blame-shifting begins, I lose my mind.  Why can't I just hug her and say, "I love you"?  Why do I get stubborn right back at her?  Why do I have to prove my point?  Did I learn nothing from my own preteen/teen years? 

Sometimes I can be calm.  Sometimes I can let it go.  Sometimes it takes awhile.  Sometimes, when she says I never listen to her, she's right.  I really don't want to listen to her. 

Surely one of these days, one of us will grow up.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Preserving the Past

Is it only Feb. 1?  We took advantage of the unseasonably beautiful weather and headed outside to play.  Got in a bit of boccie ball

and hung out on the porch.

Being that it is Student Appreciation Day at school, I hope the teachers showed their appreciation by letting the big kids have extra recess time!

While outside, we found that we weren't the only ones to be fooled into thinking that spring had arrived.

That can't be good.

I also saw (and heard) lots of geese heading north.  I love that sound.  Not a fan of those Canada geese on the ground, but in the air they look and sound beautiful.

As I've mentioned in my first post, we didn't just buy a house when we moved to this property. 

The most impressive building, besides the house, is the main barn.

The boys finished up their boccie ball and headed there to play.  Kids love to explore this grand piece of history.  While they played, I just walked around, remembered, and took photos.

Our nine puppies were born and raised inside.

I love this door. 
Rule #1 on the farm:  Do not climb any of the ladders.  They are sturdy, but the upper level is not.

A reminder of the hours and hours spent turning the back rooms into a playhouse before our best friends moved away.

Back when the barn was built in 1901, they never could have conceived of the things that would someday be stored in it.
Unfortunately, this barn won't last forever.  It may not last 2 more years.  When we bought the property, the barn had already shifted off of its foundation.

A lot of the wood had already been eaten or rotted away.

The silo is certainly never going to be used again.

If the barn could even be repaired, it would cost an absolute fortune.  The only other idea we have is to tear it down, use as much wood as we can ourselves, and sell the rest. 

I hate the thought of tearing it down.  So much history.  So much beautiful handiwork.  But, it has already shifted more this past summer.  We certainly don't want to wait for it to fall on its own. 

If you have any great ideas on what we can do with all of this gorgeous old wood, let me know! 

Have a lovely day!