Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hot Dog, It's Summertime!

Before I had kids, I prayed that God would give me nerds.  Nerds are much easier to raise than the cool, popular kids.  (Dear family, you can stop laughing.  I am aware that the chances of Hubby and I conceiving a cool, popular kid are slim to none.)  My prayers have been answered in spades.

Today is the first full day of summer break for my kids.  Yesterday they spent the day swimming at their friends' houses.  (Did you know a law has been passed that if you have a pool you must have a pool party on the last day of school?  I spent over an hour picking my kids up all over town at their different parties.)  Today we, meaning me, decided to stay home.  A day to relax, play, read, enjoy the fabulous weather.  You'll never guess what my kids chose to do.

For almost every minute since breakfast they have been playing school.  Still are, actually.  It's almost nine o'clock at night, and they are in the basement taking a test.
The sad thing is, I knew it was going to happen.  They have done this every single year since Buttercup started school.  (Phoenix didn't come up with it when he started school.  He's not really the leader type.  And so you all know, because he would be just a bit irritated if I didn't let you know, he stopped playing school a couple of years ago.)

Buttercup is always the teacher, which isn't surprising.  She's always the boss/ringleader of every organized activity they do. 

A few minutes ago, when Hubby interrupted their play to tidy up the house, Buttercup informed me that they weren't doing real school.  They weren't doing worksheets or anything like that.  They are doing brain teaser type things.  A totally different, more fun version of school.

Yeah, still nerdy.

I'm good with it, though.  Thrilled even.  My day could not be easier.  Buttercup even takes care of lunch.  At 12:30 she became the lunch lady, making their grilled cheese "hot lunch" option. 

During Religion/Music class she put in a CD of a children's bible.  They listened to the stories and sang the songs when it was time.

Turken is loving school the most, seeing as he's never been to school.  He is ridiculously excited to start preschool in the fall, and is trying hard to catch up to the big kids.  At one point today, he took the lead and "read" his new magazine to Cuckoo.

It was one of the cutest things I ever saw.  (Notice the Cars lined up next to Cuckoo?  He was reading to them as well.)  A few times he stopped to quiz Cuckoo.  "Do you know what kind of feather this is?" he asked.  Cuckoo would answer, "A black one."  "No, it's a helicopter.  Do you know what this is?"  "No."  "Me either." 

Have no fear, this won't last long.  By tomorrow afternoon school will close for the summer.  Besides the fact that we have a huge soccer tournament this weekend, with 15 games in the next three days, we put together a long list of things they want to do this summer.

At breakfast I asked them what we should do with our last, real summer break.  Once Phoenix heads to high school, summers won't be the same.  Here is what they want to do:

build a fort
play Hunger Games
geocache, with and without friends
get together with our friends that moved away
one-day road trip
find a pioneer camp
find a place to do an obstacle course
play tennis
play baseball
have a pajama day
have a waterballoon/watergun fight
play tag in the dark
see a meteor shower
camp out
go to the zoo
go to a zoo besides ours
have a craft day
go to a lake
day trip with our old neighbors

Because I have teens now, who would sleep until noon every day and thus prevent us from doing most of these things, we, meaning me, came up with our new routine.  The plan is in place to make sure we do everything on the list, but also to make sure our chores get done and the house continues to stand.

Each day I will make sure everyone is out of bed by 9:00.  We will eat breakfast, do our normal bed-making, teeth-brushing, room-tidying, dress-getting, then do the chore of my choice.  Some days they will each have an individual chore, like clean a bathroom.  Some days it will be a group job, say working in the garden for an hour.   Once the chores are done, the day is free to do as we wish, be it something on the list or just hang out at home.

The days of having all of my kids with me, wanting to do things with me, are numbered.  High school sports, activities, and friends are just around the corner.  (Phoenix is going to be in eighth grade in the fall!!)  I am going to take advantage of every single day we have.

Because nerds are my kind of people.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

To prepare for the three full, hot days we were going to have at home, I stocked up on sunscreen, popscicles, and ice cream cones, and I warned the kids that it was going to be a working weekend with a bit of fun thrown in. 

We spent a good number of hours getting personal with weeds.  In the garden.  In the flower beds.  Circling the walls of the house and outbuildings.  Weeds of all shapes and sizes.  Every once in a while, a child could be heard to say, "Is this a weed or a plant?"  To which Turken, the expert in all things garden, would run over shouting, "I know what the plants are!  I'll tell you!" 

Buttercup and I spent a good chunk of time on the Dixie Chopper, which resulted in plenty of grass clippings.  As a family, we raked, collected, hauled, and laid those clippings in the newly weeded garden.

Beans, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cucumbers, asparagus, and sweet potatoes are all doing well.  So far, it is only the watermelon that seem to be having trouble coming up.

Several hours were also spent on trees.  Cutting down little trees popping up where they shouldn't be.  Grinding up fallen branches.  Dragging large branches to the burn pile.  Hauling the new mulch to the newly weeded flower beds in the back of the house.  (Where, within minutes, Roy the Wonder Dog dug up and claimed the lovely areas as his cooling-off spots.) 

At one point Giant did ask, "Why is it that we picked the one weekend where it hits 95 degrees every day as the weekend to do all of the outside work?"  And Buttercup did mention that her class discussed chores at school last week, and some kids in her class don't have to do anything more than get the mail out of the mailbox each day.  But pull out the popscicles and the minor complaining abruptly comes to an end.

Can you see the dirt on his hands and in his fingernails?  How about the sweat dripping off of that long hair?  My kids worked their tails off this weekend.

Memorial Day Weekend in Indianapolis means the Indy 500.  Phoenix and Star went with the Boy Scouts to set up and work the parade on Saturday, then on Sunday we had our annual family Race Day tradition.  One of the kids cuts the driver bios out of the paper and puts them in a hat.  We each draw names until they are gone.  During the race, prizes are given out for different milestones.  For example, at lap 50, whoever has the lead driver gets a Tootsie Pop.  At the end, the winner gets to be the first to choose a prize from the prize pile.   This year, Giant was the big winner, and he chose the big bag of Twizzlers.  When it came to Cuckoo, he decided that the Whoopee Cushion was calling his name.  He has been playing with that blasted thing ever since.

I'm just glad he figured out how to blow it up on his own after only a few tries!

To end the weekend of hard labor, Hubby set up the baby pool and slip-n-slide for the kids to cool off and have some fun.

When is the last time you saw this many ribs in one place?  I do feed them.  Really I do.

I pulled out the ice cream, because nothing says summer like a drippy ice cream cone.

We realized as we were dishing them out that it was Cuckoo's first ice cream cone ever.  He had no trouble figuring out how it worked.

Hubby has been talking for a while about wanting to put in a pool.  Although it works, I don't think this is what he had in mind.

Just when we thought that the weekend was coming to an end, and I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, a strange truck pulled into the driveway.  We assumed it was one of the many people who were simply turning around (because people actually do get lost, then drive all the way up our 1/4 mile drive, just to turn around) until it actually parked.  It took us a few seconds to realize that in that truck was our favorite family in this whole wide world.  Our very best friends that moved away three years ago.  The friends that we haven't set eyes on since I surprised Buttercup for her birthday over a year ago.  They were in the area for a party with people from their old church, couldn't reach us since we were outside all day, and decided to just stop by in case we really were home.

The kids piled out of the truck, hugs were exchanged left and right, and we all fell into our normal, like no time had passed at all.  Cuckoo, who was an itty, bitty baby the last time we got together, jumped right into Miss A's lap and never left.  The other kids ran off to the barn to check on the "house" they built all those years ago.  They climbed trees, played Capture the Flag and tag, talked, laughed, and ate strawberries till their hearts' content.

While out weeding, I had the thought of inviting some friends over for a cook-out.  My idea came to a halt when I came inside for something and saw the state of the inside of my house.  Grass, dirt, hats, sunscreen bottles, water jugs, and miscellaneous stuff was everywhere.  No way was I going to invite anyone over to this sty.

And then my bestest friend drops in with her family.  And the mess didn't matter.  They didn't bat an eye as they stepped over and worked around the disaster.  We have seen each other at our worst and our best, and there is no judgement.  No shame.  Just friends enjoying the rare treat of spending time together.

As I sit here trying not to scratch the amazing amount of poison ivy rash I picked up this weekend, I can't help but smile.  As Buttercup said during one of our water breaks, "We're doing a lot of work, but we sure are having fun while we do it." 

You said it, sister.

With sweat pouring down our backs and dripping off our noses, we were telling stories.  While blisters were forming on our hands, we joked and played around.  As our muscles burned through all of the bending and lifting, we all chuckled at the way the little boys helped. 

Yes, my kids do have more chores than anyone else they know.  They don't always have smiles on their faces, but they still work hard.  They are learning that hard work does not equal drudgery and unhappiness.  Fun can be found even in the hardest of jobs.  It's all a matter of what attitude you choose.  This weekend we chose happy, positive attitudes.

And it was wonderful.

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The End of an Era

Today, I cried just a little.

My "seventh" son hopped out of our van, smiled, and said, "Bye" and "Thanks" for the last time.

He grinned all the way up to the house as shouts (screams really) of goodbyes followed him.

I'm gonna miss that kid.

Three years ago his parents were in a pickle.  I barely knew the family, but I heard that they were going to have to pull their youngest out of our school because they couldn't find a ride home for him each day.  (Our school doesn't have bus service, and aftercare only allows kids up to fifth grade.)  I discovered that their house was just a hop and a skip (not even a jump) off of our route home, so I offered to take him home each day.

I have taken him home almost every day since. 

With a busy family like ours, we don't go directly home every day.  One day a week Buttercup (and later Giant) have piano.  Some days we have a few errands to run.  This boy came with us everywhere we went.  The grocery store, the library, the playground, the post office.  I thought I got looks from strangers before, but man, when a person walks through an establishment with six boys in tow (this boy looks a heck of a lot like my own kids), heads will turn and comments will fly.

I've told my kids in jest that this boy was the nicest one that I had.  Not once did he get into a bickering match with anyone in the car.  Not once did he get snippy with me.  He laughed when I said something funny.  And he didn't hit me very hard when he saw a VW slug bug.

He read books to the little boys.  He played tag, kickball, and basketball with everyone.  He gave Phoenix a heads up about teachers and assignments he would get the following year in school.  (He is only one year older that Phoenix.) 

As a soccer player himself, he and the kids would always have a game roundup on Monday afternoons.  Many times he actually reffed Giant's games.  After the first time it happened, we had to tell Giant that it probably wasn't a good idea to go give the ref a high five and have a laugh during half time.

We really knew that this boy was part of our family when last year's Christmas program came along.  The entire middle school paraded onto stage, including both Buttercup and Phoenix.  Cuckoo jumped up and started hollering, "There's my other brother!  Look, there he is!"  He didn't even keep looking for his actual siblings.

Every Friday I take the kids for Happy Hour milkshakes at Steak-n-Shake for an end of the school week celebration.  Every Friday this boy gets a chocolate shake without toppings.  And enjoys it thoroughly. 

Today was the last day that I will get to take this boy home.   (I did warn him, though, that I may just show up at his high school next year at pick-up time with all six kids hanging out the doors and windows yelling for him to get into the van.  Just 'cause I'll miss him.)  I decided to move our Friday celebration up a day and have an extra-special treat.  I surprised them with a trip to Cold Stone Creamery. 

Everyone placed their orders and dug in.

Buttercup had a bit of chocolate heaven.

Turken tried some mint.

Notice the kid in the middle and what he got. 

The boy we've been taking home for three years ordered a milk shake. 

Because he doesn't like ice cream.

Yup, we really got to know each other well.

Hope you all enjoy this graduation season!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust

This post is in memory of a fluffy-headed chicken that has passed on to safer pastures today.
June 6, 2011-May 22, 2012

Today, we're going to talk chicken.  As I've mentioned, chickens came with our house when we bought it.  The first time we set eyes on a real live chicken was the day we took our first look at the house.  We have learned a lot about chickens since then, usually the hard way.  For all you city folk reading this blog, learn.  For the one or two country folk visiting, feel free to shake your head and mutter.

1.  Chickens have heart attacks.

2.  A farmer doesn't need to have a rooster to have eggs.  Hens will always lay eggs.  However, in order to get chicks in those eggs, a rooster must be present.  Don't worry, you're not the only one wondering how that chick gets into that egg.  Some people are embarrassed to ask the question, but everyone is thinking it.  So I'll show you.  I happened to be taking pictures of the chickens when the rooster "had to have some needs met."  No hens were harmed, and the act only lasts for roughly  5 seconds.  Cover your children's eyes now.

As long as you collect the eggs every day, you'll never know which eggs were fertilized.  However, if you let the kids be in charge of collecting eggs, you may not know that a chicken has been sitting in a certain nest when the kids collect eggs, so some eggs weren't collected.  But then one day a couple weeks later, that hen happens to be getting a drink when the kids are out there, so the kids get the eggs.  You finally learn these things when you go to make an omelet, crack the egg, and a dead chick lands in the bowl.

3.  The phrase "pecking order" really does refer to chickens.  There is a definite hierarchy in a flock of chickens.  Certain ones get to eat first.  They retire for the evening in a certain order.  If a chicken gets brave and tries to go out of line, she will quickly be put in her place with some well-placed pecks.  In our first year in the house, when we were completely new to this and chickens were dying almost daily, there was some serious chain of command confusion.  One day we found a chicken pecked to death. 

4.  Day old chicks can be ordered from a catalogue and mailed.  After those first 14 chickens died, we decided that we would try again with a whole new flock.  We chose the breeds we wanted and put in the order.  A few weeks later, we got a call from the post office on a Sunday morning.  The faint sound of cheeping could be heard in the background.  We had two hours before the post office lady went home and our 25 chicks were locked in the office until Monday, where they would have likely died, because...

5.  Chicks need heat to survive, usually provided by a hanging heat lamp.  We got the chicks a couple of weeks before Easter, as I was a photographer at the time.  Our coop does not have electricity, so we just kept them in our basement.  We put them in an empty plastic baby pool walled with two foot high chicken wire.  All day long we could hear the cheeping through the vent in the family room.  They were adorable, but man, did they stink.  I cleaned out their bedding several times a day, and the stench could still be smelled throughout the house.

6.  Chickens can fly, and they fly early.  That two foot high chicken wire wall held those birds for all of two weeks.  They started hopping out, so we put them in a tall box.  A couple of weeks later, they were flying out.  (As I type this, I wonder why we didn't put a lid on the makeshift cage.)  With all of the photo shoots I was doing at the house that spring, lots of people were getting to see our chicken-filled basement.  Two families actually figured out that they went to the same photographer when they discussed the situation.  Between the stench and the flying, I was ready to kick the birds to the coop regardless of how cold it got at night.  I was sent over the edge when one of the kids ran up the stairs hollering, "There's a chicken in the playroom!"  The chicks were in the coop the next day.  (After that year, we never had Easter chick photos again.  We refused to order them before June, when they wouldn't need a heat lamp and could go straight to the coop.)

7.  However, roosters don't fly.  While the hens go out and find mulberries, compost ingredients, and garden goodies, the rooster waits all alone in the run, unable to fly over the fence or squeeze under the gate like his harem.  Which is unfortunate for the hens, because ...

8.  A rooster has big ol' hooks on the backs of his legs.   He uses these talon things to do some serious damage to his victim.  He'll lean back on his tail and kick and scratch.  We've had a couple of testy roosters in the past, and one came after Buttercup.  It ripped through her jeans and gave her a nasty gash on her leg.  But, when chickens fly out of the run (#6) and the rooster can't (#7), those talons aren't doing anyone any good.  Which leads to the story of the fluffy-headed chicken death.  And the fact that...

9  Chickens are the dumbest animals on this entire planet.  Granted, it's not their fault.  Have you ever noticed just how tiny a chicken's head is?

But honestly, when there is a 95 pound dog stalking you every single day, without even trying to hide it by the way, you'd think a chicken would take notice.  You'd think that those chickens would choose to go to the back field, where no dog can get to them.  Or at least, if they do venture onto the dogs' side, they would stay close to the fence for an easy getaway. 

But, no.  They don't.  I have two theories as to why they continue to basically go right on up to the dogs.  One, they are like that Dory fish from Nemo.  Each day they have to relearn the boundaries.  One might watch her best friend get snatched up and taken away, but the very next day, in her best Dory voice, she'd go up to that dog and say, "Hi!  Have we met?  I'm out looking for some berries.  Would you happen to know where they are?"

Or, theory two, it's like me when I take an inner tube out into the lake, get lulled into closing my eyes, and, when I awake, realize that I'm half a mile from where I started.  Perhaps they are so into all the scratching and pecking, scratching and pecking, excited for each new bug they uncover, that at some point they look up and realize, just before the teeth come down on them, "Oh #*&@, I'm in the dogs' area!"

Either way, one dumb bird wandered too far into the yard.  We are down to 18 hens.  Winner, winner, Roy had some chicken dinner.

Have you noticed that I haven't told you a name for this chicken?  Since that first year, we don't name chickens.  See, we've learned.  If we make it through summer with a third of these chickens alive, we'll call it a successful year.   As much as we've learned, they have learned absolutely nothing.  There's a reason Pavlov used dogs!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fodder for the Blog

My husband comes from a long line of folks who like to keep things.  Items that have sentimental value are kept on a shelf, in a curio, on ceiling beams, or on a wall.  Items that may be needed at a later date are saved in a box, in the basement, the closet of a spare bedroom, or the garage. 

above the kitchen cabinets at his grandparent's house

His grandparents even kept an entire barn and transformed it to become their house.

On the surface, a person would think that Hubby has broken the family habit.  He can't stand clutter.  He doesn't hesitate when tossing any and all of the kids' toys into the Goodwill box. 

But family traits are hard to break, and Hubby does have parts of his family in him.

On Friday we had a walk down memory lane. 

Through his T-shirt drawer.

Buttercup is doing a project on Bermuda, which makes me so happy.  That is where Hubby and I lived for seven months after we were first married.  For her presentation, she wants to wear a Bermuda shirt.  I haven't kept any of mine, but Hubby said that he might have one in his T-shirt drawer.

Have mercy.

We found the jersey from when he played basketball in middle school.

We found the shirts from every Turkey Trot in which he has run (which numbers seven in the last seven years).

A paper-thin undershirt stamped with a camp logo was also in the drawer.

If the '87 didn't give away the age of the shirt, the tag certainly did.

When is the last time you saw instructions to wash a garment in hot water?  Or a tag that didn't have details such as the temperature of the tumble dry or pictures telling you not to iron it?  Where are the instructions for people who don't speak English?  Lastly, what is Forirei Polyester? 

We also got to share memories of Hubby's alma mater. We found lots of T-shirts resembling this one.

Well, maybe not the "champions" part.  More the Purdue part.

My favorite of his keepsakes, the one that made me laugh the hardest, is the shirt from the high school track state meet.

This is the shirt from the regional meet, where he ran but didn't place.  I also had this shirt, as I ran in the meet as well.  (We started dating in high school.) I won and qualified for the final state meet in four events, but I got rid of my shirt long ago.

In the end, we had a mountain of shirts.  All from one overly-stuffed drawer.

All these shirts from that one top drawer!

Unfortunately, not one was a Bermuda shirt. 

The next day, Hubby came inside after working in the garden.  I immediately asked if I could take a picture of him.

His response, "I am not simply fodder for your blog."

But he posed for a picture anyway.

This is a shirt that I haven't seen in at least five years.  I asked him why he was wearing it. 

He answered, "If I don't start wearing those shirts, you'll make me throw them away." 

When we married 17 years ago, I knew he would have a tendency to hold onto some things.  He also knew that I come from a family of unsentimental get rid of it neat freaks.  We had the choice to either embrace the differences or bicker and argue about them for the rest of our lives.   Changing the other person was never an option, as we are mere mortals.  Not a chance in the world we could change generations of ingrained behavior. 

Since our backgrounds helped us become the people were are, we chose to embrace the other's opposite tendencies.  Over the years it has also helped us keep our own tendencies in check.

I don't just start tossing things out whenever the fancy strikes, and he keeps his collections to a minimum.  Usually stuffed in a drawer.

So when he said that I was going to make him throw the shirts away, he was just kidding.  He knows that I would never make him.  I may tease him mercilessly until he chooses to get rid of a few, but I won't make him do anything.

As we were getting ready for bed that night, we were joking about the pile of T-shirts still on the bed.  With a grin, Hubby opened the second drawer and said, "Luckily, my best shirts are kept in here."

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Power of One Little Book

As Cuckoo was running upstairs to get ready for bed, he hollered, "Do we get to read a book tonight?"  (They didn't last night because they pitched a fit when it was time to go to bed.  Tantrum at bedtime means no book.)

Giant heard him and said to me, "Man, he really likes it when people read books."

"Oh, so did you once upon a time.  All day long you would ask me to read to you.  And as soon as I sat down to do so, three other little ones came running, each with his own book to give me."

"I remember when you read the Narnia books to us at bedtime."

That's when Phoenix jumped into the conversation.  "I remember the book, The Seven Silly Eaters.  I was the one that liked milk served warm."

That sparked Giant.  "Buttercup liked pink lemonade.  And Star was applesauce."

"And you were oatmeal with no lumps."

Giant went and tracked down the book.  Well, what's left of it.  Over these many years it has been well-used.  The cover is gone.  One page is all the way out, simply placed in the spot where it should be. 

But I grabbed it and ran upstairs.  I couldn't let one more night go by without reading it to the little boys.

See, it is practically a history of our family. 

We discovered it on a routine trip to the library back when the big kids were wee little ones.  We brought it home and fell in love with the story and the pictures.  So much of it was a spitting image of our life.

We had to buy the book.

It is a great story of a family that adds a new child every year, and each child has a certain food that he prefers.  In the beginning, the mom is thrilled to heat her firstborn son's milk to just the right temperature.

With each child she gets a little more weary, making each special food from scratch every day.

The order of the kids followed ours.  Boy, girl, boy, boy.  One born each year just like mine.

What made the book even better are the fabulous illustrations.  The detail.  The color.  It was my house.  The kids in the book were doing the exact same thing you would catch mine doing.  The toys in the pictures were the toys my kids played with.  With each child, the house got messier and messier, just like mine.  And with each child, the look of the mom became more and more frazzled, just like me.

As the kids would cuddle up around me, I'd read the book. (all in rhyme by the way)

With the turn of each page, yells of, "That's me!" would start up.  They'd point out the naughty things "Star" was doing.  The book "Phoenix" was reading.  The orders "Buttercup" was issuing.  The shy observing "Giant" was doing.

We read that book millions of times.

And each time we would find new interesting details.  The way their pile of clutter resembled ours.  The bouncy chair that looked a whole lot like ours.  The way Dad was calmly portrayed on every page.

I haven't read it to them in over five years.  But they remember it. 

On days like today.

A day when I thought I was going to write a post titled, "Lupus won't kill me.  Raising teenagers will."

You've heard time and again that you should read to your child.  I couldn't agree more.  However, there are lots of ways to read to your child(ren).  I used to think that reading to a child was simple.  I had no idea that reading aloud was a skill until I heard Hubby read to Phoenix for the first time.  If you'd like some ideas on how to read to your kids and help them learn to read, I wrote some tips here.

Find a book to which your kids can relate that you enjoy reading.  Read it often.

Years from now, memories of that book may just change your whole day.

Excuse me while I go order a new copy of Seven Silly Eaters.  The kids and I are going to be walking down memory lane.  And I'll need a copy to read to the grandkids someday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing

As I listened to my children's chatter at breakfast this morning, I came to a terrible realization.

Take a peek into my stream of conscience conscienceness  thoughts:

Is it so bad to serve cereal for breakfast three days in a row? 

Heavens to Betsy, only two more weeks of school left.  Then I can feed them real meals at a decent hour.

Today's schedule: take paperwork to preschool, show Turken around the building he will go to next year, 10:15 is Star's mini-musical at school, 11:00 soccer for the little ones, home for lunch and a quick rest, back to school for Buttercup's mini-musical at 1:30, meeting to discuss my role as room parent coordinator, 2:45 pick-up from school, home for chores/homework/snack/chaos, break up the inevitable argument between two children who need to type up school assignments (something that they've known about for weeks but are deciding to type the day before it's due), get Star and Giant to soccer at 5:30, pick them up at 7:00, eat dinner, get everyone to bed, collapse on the couch.

Am I the only one that notices that the floor could have used a good sweep up/scrub days ago? 

I'll get to it after the little boys eat/spill their food all over the floor.

Why in the world is May so busy? 

Next year it will be even worse.  Phoenix will be in eighth grade.  With a graduation.  (Let me pause to tell you that our school has grades K-8.  After nine years in the school, 8th grade, and graduation, are a very big deal.  Now, back to my thoughts.)

The next year will be bad, too, as Buttercup will graduate.

And then Star.

Finally Giant..

then a break.

But wait, no there won't. 

As soon as Giant graduates from eighth grade, Phoenix will be graduating from high schoool.

Then Buttercup.

#*$%, if everyone goes to college, I'm going to have someone graduating from somewhere for the next 12 years straight. 

And at some point, both Turken and Cuckoo will have first communions in May.  Two weeks before a sibling's graduation.  Family will not be happy if they have to make the drive twice in one month.

And two of those years will be double graduations, as Turken and Cuckoo will start their graduations in 10 years.

At that point, my brain simply froze up.

I may have screamed. 

You'll have to ask the kids.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Learning on the Job

All sorts of things happening around here this week, so I thought I'd join up with Julie for a concise way of sharing it.

What I Learned This Week:

1.  Buttercup is going to be much more helpful with the mowing than Phoenix ever was.  When Phoenix turned 12, I taught him how to work the Dixie Chopper.  Poor kid was a nervous wreck.  After that, I would ask him if he would like to keep an eye on the little boys while I mow, or mow himself.  Not once has he chosen to mow.  Buttercup is now 12, so this weekend I taught her.  Yeah, she'll choose to mow.

2. Taste of Home is the best magazine ever.

3.  I was making a cheesecake with a new recipe (refer to #2) that required chocolate wafer crumbs for the crust.  Couldn't find any plain chocolate wafers, so I bought the beloved Oreo.  I decided to take the cream out and use the cookie part for the recipe.  The kids were all over helping on that step.

Giant, Buttercup, and Phoenix would scrape the icing out and put the icing on the plate.

Turken licked the plate.

and his face.

while Cuckoo cleaned the knife (at the end!  no double dipping!)

3.  Phoenix is growing.  I knew he had grown quite a bit, but I found out just how much at his appointment yesterday.  Since January of last year, he has grown five inches taller and gained almost 20 pounds.  He is 5ft. 6 in tall.  Half an inch shorter than me.  When I asked at what age he would probably stop growing, she said that he just started.  He will end up being at least 6ft. tall.  (I kind of figured that.  His feet are already size 11.) 

4.  I'm not ready for my boy to be bigger than me.  I have always loved the image of a grown up son wrapping his much smaller mom up in a big ol' hug.  I always looked forward to having my boys hug me like that.  Now that the time is approaching, I have changed my mind.  I would like to hold him on my lap, please.

5.  A sausage calzone (see #2) tastes alot like biscuits and gravy.  Most of my kids love biscuits and gravy.

We ate up two of these things.

Well, one kid who likes bisuits and gravy didn't like the looks of the broccoli in it.  He just at the bread.
6.  Homegrown strawberries are the best.  Turken has figured this out.  Every day I find him sitting by one of the strawberry patches eating every single ripe berry he can find.

Last night was the first time we had enough to feed everyone for dinner.  Three kids asked if they were ones from the garden. (As anyone with multiple kids knows, they don't listen to each other's questions, even when sitting at the same table.  Of course I had to answer the same question three times.) They are true country, fresh-food snobs.  Only one of the six didn't gobble up every strawberry he could get.

He actually covers his mouth and says, "I don't like them." when we offer him a bite.  Does he actually think we are going to cram it down his throat?

7.  Hubby is falling apart.  He finally went to the doctor for the first time since we've been married.  When he called me after his appointment, his first comment was, "That's why I haven't gone to the doctor.  All they do is find something wrong."  Like high blood pressure.  Sleep apnea.  Deviated septum.  Bum knee.  He came home with a whole list of things to do, appointments to go to, medicine to take.  And he thought I was the sick one.

8.  Kids are very dangerous beings.  The doctor asked Hubby when he broke his nose.  He's never broken his nose as far he knew.  But since the horrible snoring and breathing trouble started only a few years ago, that septum was broken sometime in the last few years.  Perhaps one of the hundreds of times when a child jumped and threw his overly large noggin into Hubby's nose?

9.  When four women must sit and watch a soccer game at 8:00 on the morning of Mother's Day, they can get quite obnoxious.  And hilarious.  We spent the entire hour laughing harder than any of us have laughed in a long time.  It all started with one of the women telling us that her sister's dog was given only two years to live.

A dog.  Given two years to live.  That struck us as all sorts of funny.

We all agreed that it was one of the best Mother's Days ever.

10.  I thrive on lists.  When I make a list, my brain gets organized.  I will get so much more done, mostly because I won't forget what I am supposed to be doing.  Otherwise, I simply bumble around the house, doing bits of things here and there, without ever finishing a task.  (This is actually not a learn, but a relearn.  I knew this about myself, but I never wrote it down, so I forgot.)

11.  I need to make lists more often.

What have you learned this week?

Monday, May 14, 2012

As Usual, God Did Know What He Was Doing

This is for all the moms who are in the middle of raising an extremely difficult little one (or two). 

For the mom who has had to do the walk of shame out of every store she's ever been in, dragging a screaming and kicking toddler to the car, many times without buying a thing.

For the mom who has had both relatives and friends tell her that they will not watch her not-so-adorable, strong-willed child.

For the mom whose stomach is in knots every time she leaves the house, worried about when (not if) she will have to pull her preschooler off of a sibling because the preschooler, in his own eyes that only see black and white, was slighted by the other.

For the mom who has felt the glares of judgement being directed completely on her for raising such an ill-behaved child.

For the mom who is scared to pieces about what this little boy will be like when he is older, bigger, and stronger, when she will be unable to pull him off of a sibling.

For the mom who cries at least a few times a week, if not daily, because she feels inadequate, frustrated, helpless, and scared, sure that God has given her the wrong child.

I have been there. 

And Giant, that child who caused me so many tears, headaches, shame, and confusion once again proved to me that it was all worth it.

Knowing that he, Phoenix, and I would be leaving at 6:00 in the morning on Sunday for a soccer tournament, Giant came into my room at 5:00am.

I heard him bumping into things on his way to my bed, and I asked if he had had a bad dream.

His little voice answered, "Are you ready for your breakfast in bed?"

That little nine-year old boy had gotten up at 4:00 to get my breakfast ready.

And it wasn't just a bowl of cereal.

He got out my Betty Crocker cookbook, found the pancake recipe I use, and made me some pancakes.

He was worried that they wouldn't taste good, so he added chocolate chips to the batter.

And he didn't just bring them up to me.  He presented them.

I am so glad that I let him live past the age of five.

Giant rarely shows signs of his younger, volatile self.  These days he is happy, compassionate, hard-working, and so very loving.  He is welcome in any home. 

It took a whole heck of a lot of work to get here. 

For those of you in the situation we were in a few years ago, keep praying and working hard to teach your little one.  To learn his triggers, his preferences, and his needs.  It will get better.  It took us years to claw our way out of the pit of self-doubt, but we made it.  You will, too.  In the meantime, here are some of the things that worked for us.

1.  At the age of three and a half, I gave him a watch.  It was the best thing I ever did for us.   It ended the tantrums each and every day over what time he was going to do things. 

Our new routine started with me asking something like, "We will be putting shoes on to leave the house at 8:35 today.  What time will you be getting dressed?"

He would usually say 8:00.  I then left him alone.  At 8:00 he would go upstairs and get dressed.  He picked out his own clothes, because that is a battle I had no desire to fight.  Mismatched clothes are cute on a three year old, right?

At 8:35, he put on his shoes and we were out the door.

2.  If he was having an especially bad day, the "punishment" would be that he had to be by my side the rest of the day, helping me with whatever I was doing.  Even though it sounds like torture for both of us, (and for the first half hour it was) it really worked, and for a variety of areas. 

I was able to keep an eye on him, which meant his siblings were safe from his outbursts.

He got the individual attention that he so desperately wanted while I got to have time to learn more about him.

He happly learned how to do all sorts of things (like how to cook and make my breakfast!)

He got his mind off of whatever was bothering him and calmed down.  The end of these days were always good ones for him.

3.  Being consistent is imperative.  A rule is a rule is a rule. Today, tomorrow, next week, and next month. Consequences will always follow the behavior, GOOD OR BAD!  It didn't matter if I was worn out and completely not in the mood, I had to suck it up and follow through., both when he broke a rule, or when he did something well that got him a good reward.  Which leads me to...

4.  Focus on positive behavior.  If I saw him say, get up and walk away in a situation where he would normally scream and hit his brother, I hopped all over it.  Told him how proud I was for handling the situation correctly. 

5.  Let him cool off.  Almost without fail, he would feel terrible after he threw one of his out-of-control tantrums.  He just needed the time and distance to cool off and think about things.  When he was in the midst of his craziness, he honestly didn't know what he was doing.  He couldn't remember what he had done.  So instead of getting in his face to try and help him calm down, I would send him to his room.  He wasn't happy about it, and the calming down took some time, but it would happen.  Eventually (over years) he got very good at removing himself from the situation.  Even in public.  He would get all worked up at a park and take off running and hide behind a tree.  In the early days, I would go after him and he would get into trouble for running away from me.  Once I figured out what he was doing, I let him go.  I'd watch him like a hawk, but I'd let him go.  Five minutes or so later, he would come back to the group, calm and ready to talk about what happened.  Which leads me to...

6.  Talk about what happened when he is calm.  We discussed what made him mad, what his options were, both good and bad, and what the consequences of each option would be.  I cannot tell you how many millions of times we had the same conversation.

7.  Patience is key, both in the immediate situation (don't raise my voice and get angry with him) and over time.  He did not learn better behavior overnight.  It took years of talking, disciplining, loving, and praying for both of us. 

If you find yourself in the midst of an incredibly loud and embarrassing tantrum out in public, know that not everyone is judging you.  Some of us are feeling your pain and saying a prayer for you.

We'll end with some pictures of one of the flower beds the other kids cleaned up all by themselves.  Hubby was working in the garden while Buttercup, Star, Turken, and Cuckoo weeded and planted all of the new flowers they picked out. 

Yes, I had a great Mother's Day.

Have a lovely day!