Saturday, February 28, 2015

View from the Driver's Seat, Photo Blogging Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then 2 days later,


Lots of it.

After brushing, before wind-shield wiping.

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

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

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

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

Have a nice day!

Friday, February 27, 2015

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

A little music for you to enjoy while you read.

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

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

Turken wants to hold his hand whenever we go somewhere.

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

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

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

Other non-Nephew thankfuls...

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

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

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

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

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

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

I used one of them to make dinner Thursday night.

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

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

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

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

We haven't seen them since.

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

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

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

The thankful?

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

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

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

Ten Things of Thankful

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not Gonna Let Him Hide Under a Bushel

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

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

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

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

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

LIZZI!! Ask WonderAunty if she recognizes the pen!

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

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

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

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

This is his comfort...thing?

It is named Blankyhead.

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

Minus the stuffing.

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

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

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

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

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

He's lost a tooth or four.

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

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

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

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

He came home with this in his Friday folder.

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

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

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

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

Missing that question meant the whole page was jacked up.

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

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

He can conquer monkey bars...

like a BOSS!

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

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

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

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

There's been snow to the north.

There's been snow to the south.

But until this week, we barely had a dusting.

This week...

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

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

Friday night and all through Saturday we just got snow.

Lots of it.

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

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

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

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

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

He's having fun, I swear.

Football is always more fun in the snow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are some great people in this world.

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

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

One of 1,000 Voices Speaking for Compassion

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

I was going for something deep.

Something super thoughtful that would leave everyone ugly-crying.

In the end I realized two things.

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

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

In theory.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we're supposed to.

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

Compassion doesn't mean we condone the behavior.

Compassion doesn't mean we let it continue.

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

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

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

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

Even if the only thing we can do is pray.

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

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

The writing is done.

The posts are posted.

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

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

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

There are so many ways and places to do it.

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

Compassion is how we make a situation better.

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

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

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

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

Homeless shelters.

Food banks.


Crisis pregnancy centers.

Inner-city schools.

Nursing homes.


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

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

To share a meal.

To provide an ear.

To show some kindness.

Without judgement or shame.



In theory.

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

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

I can't wait to see.

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

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

Have a lovely day!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Memory Monday Is Back!

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

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

Words that every mother fears.

I was wincing as she began the story.

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

Phoenix chose strawberry.

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

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

*She begins to scoop the paste.*

*Phoenix paused, but looked quite panicked."

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

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

It was June.

Months past Lent.

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

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

His teeth were brushed with mint that day.

And every day after that.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

20 Lessons in 20 Years

Happy World Marriage Week and a Happy St. Valentine's Day to you all!

Earlier this week, Mary asked on a FB group if anyone would be interested in doing a link up all about what we've learned in our years of marriage. I instantly replied in the affirmative, momentarily forgetting that I've been married for 20 years (Honestly, didn't we just get married??) and that this would be one ginormous undertaking.

In the end, it was a wonderful post to do. It forced me to slow down and reflect on our marriage and how far we've come. Even though we dated for 7 years, 5 of those years was long-distance. Despite the fact we are both the oldest children in divorced families, thus making us mature before our time, we were still young. We still had plenty to learn. And learn we did.


Bryan planned our honeymoon from start to finish. He went all out (for us) and booked a week in Key West in a hotel with valet parking and a private beach. He had tickets and maps and directions all organized and ready to fly out the morning after the wedding ceremony.  I forgot my purse at his mom's house and had to go the entire week without it.

Bryan is by far the better vacation planner. He's planned every trip we've ever taken.


Halfway through our 7 months of Bermuda living, I crashed while driving our scooter. The entire left side of my body was torn to pieces. Bryan became my caretaker, including washing my hair and helping me go to the bathroom. We are not the kind of couple that shares a bathroom even to brush our teeth in the morning.

"In sickness and in health" is so much more beautiful and humbling that we could have imagined. The sick spouse really must humble herself in order to allow the healthy spouse to serve her.


Bryan's LSAT scores were about to expire. He had to go to law school then or never. Bryan could not see himself programming computers his entire life, so, even though it meant leaving the lap of luxury for poverty and uncertainty, we headed to Indiana.

The amount of money in our bank account will not dictate our ability to have fun and enjoy our marriage.


On December 10, I had my first miscarriage. I was in so much pain, both physically and mentally, that I didn't realize how painful it was for Bryan. He was so strong, letting me sob all over him, alternated with distance in the moments when I didn't want him anywhere near me as I worked on a puzzle (I just wanted something to do to calm me down. Looking back, what the heck??), practically doubled over in pain. It wasn't until the doctor appointment confirming the loss, when we saw that there was no heart beat in the ultrasound, that his pain became real to me. He turned white as a ghost and started wobbling. The doctor made him lie down on the floor and ran to get him juice to drink. Later, we talked about what happened. He had been so upset with worry. For the baby, of course, but more for me. He was terrified that something was going to happen to me, and it all came crashing down during the doctor appointment.

We said we loved each other all the time. We knew deep down that we loved each other beyond reason. It wasn't until something was wrong, and thoughts of death and pain entered our thoughts, that we honestly knew just how gigantic that love was. While we had helped each other through some terrible experiences before, this was the first time we suffered a loss together. We discovered the depths of our feelings and we figured out a way to support each other through our suffering.


Phoenix was born, and I celebrated my birthday 2 months later.  Bryan gave me a bathroom scale for a birthday present.

While his heart is always in the right place (He knew I was losing some of the 40 pounds I had gained during pregnancy and thought I would be excited to know how much.), his thought process in gift-buying is frequently flawed. 


We moved to Indy when I was 8 months pregnant, not knowing a single person in the entire state. Phoenix was not an easy baby (to say the least!) and I was having a rough go of it. When Phoenix was 5 months old, Bryan said, "You know, you can leave us alone and go out and do something." I melted down like I hadn't melted before in sobs of, "If I had someplace to go and someone to go with, I would have done it!"

We both learned that 1.) I need friends to stay sane and 2.) Bryan needs to tread lightly when I'm on the brink.


We bought our first house, and it needed a lot of work.

Our marriage needs to be in a very good place before hanging wallpaper on a 15-ft high wall. It needs to be in a perfect place if that wallpaper has stripes.

(Update: We have since learned that painting is the way to go in all situations.)


While Bryan always went to church on Sundays, he held himself back. Things happened in his past that left him suspicious and guarded. Then out of the blue, he decided to go on a retreat at church. He came back a different person, completely happy and all in with his faith and Catholicism again. As a result, our marriage and our parenting became even better.

God is always with us, and when we acknowledge it and look for Him and His guidance, our lives will be better than we could have imagined.


When Bryan sets a goal, it's pretty much a guarantee that it will happen. He decided that he wanted to do an Ironman triathalon. That meant a lot of training. It meant a lot of races leading up to it (over several years). Seeing him doing what it took to reach his goal made me want to do something, too. I did a sprint triathalon this year.

When one of us makes positive changes and goals, it encourages the other to do the same. And when one reaches his goal, the other is just as happy and excited that he made it. 


We had our 4th child exactly 4 years 8 days after our first child. I was just a bit overwhelmed some days, and especially as the day got closer to dinner time. Even though he usually got home within a 30 minute time range, I asked Bryan to call the house every day before he left the office. He would let the phone ring once, and it was my signal that he was coming. I'd get some physical help with the kids 20 minutes from that phone ring, and it made all the difference in my attitude.

Acts that seem small and insignificant to one of us can mean a world of difference to the other.


When the kids were little, we had a routine at bedtime. We'd stick all of them in the tub, Bryan would wash them, I would dry and dress them. As they got older, and Buttercup's hair got longer, I noticed she would leave the tub with more and more tangles. I finally asked Bryan what he was doing to her. He was using a washcloth to wash her past-shoulder-length hair.

We came to the marriage with different skills and different knowledge. We can't blame each other for what we don't know. We just need to teach and encourage each other as things come up.


We were outgrowing our house and began a search for a new one. We ended up buying the only house we looked at, because we loved it. The only problem was, the house came with chickens. We had both lived in quiet neighborhoods on small plots of land our entire lives, never having laid eyes on a real live chicken before. Then suddenly, we were chicken farmers, with barns and land and a completely new life.

There is no way we can ever predict what turns our lives will take. We just need to go with it.


The farm came with plagues. Namely mice and bats. I jump, squeal, and scream when I see a mouse. Bryan dives to the floor and hides under a blanket when a bat flies through the house.

We both have irrational fears. Love means taking care of the things which scare all sense out of the other, and only once the vermin is gone can the laughing begin.


We hadn't left the kids to take any sort of overnight by ourselves in a long while. It's just so much extra work on my part to prepare to leave 4 little kids. Bryan was pushing for it this year, so I agreed to a couple of days away while my mom watched the kids. Once we were in the car and on our way, I relaxed about it all and we had a marvelous time.

It is imperative to put our marriage first, regardless of how much work and preparation it takes. 


Just when the kids were getting easier and we could catch our breath, Baby #5 arrived! It wasn't planned (We had given all of our baby stuff away!), but we were thrilled to have him.

We were getting pretty good at going with the surprises thrown at us.

(FYI: This may or may not have something to do with the lesson learned in 2007.)


(This one is really a lesson learned over time with many different scenarios, but I'm throwing one example in here.)

I cook dinner, and Bryan does the dishes. We've had this system since the day we got back from our honeymoon. I have never, ever liked the way he does the dishes. He doesn't clean out the sink completely when he's done. He doesn't see cleaning the stove as part of the doing the dishes chore.

I have, on occasion, mentioned to him that if he cleaned out the sink when he was done, it would be easier to clean later. I've pointed out a couple of times, in a nice, calm way, that it's a lot easier to clean the stove when he already has soapy water handy and the food isn't dried on yet.

He listened. He sometimes remembered. But not often.

I make dinners that I like. I will sometimes ask for suggestions, but not often. Bryan has mentioned a few dinners that he doesn't particularly care for, but I still make them every once in a while.

The two of us have had choices to make.

One option is to get angry. We can let our frustration with the way the other does things get the best of us. Or, option two, is to let it go. We can simply appreciate the fact that the other is doing a job, even if it isn't being done the way we would choose to do it. Only one of those options will keep our marriage intact. Some issues will never go away, and we have to be OK with it.


The economy started to tank this year, and since many of Bryan's clients are construction businesses and banks, his workload started to lighten. And then lighten some more. He was getting mighty worried but didn't tell me anything. It showed in his behavior at home, though. It all came tumbling out the night I made him sit down and tell me what was wrong.

In the hustle and bustle of our daily routine, I must not forget the pressure Bryan feels to be the only one supporting our family financially. And he realized holding his worry inside only makes things worse.


On the very same day in March, Bryan and I both received phone calls from our mothers. Both of our mothers called to let us know they had cancer. His mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, just like several of her family members had battled. My mom had cervical cancer, made more difficult by the fact she had two heart stents put in a short 3 months previously.

Throughout the entire treatment and recovery, we learned to lean on each other. We figured out how to best support each other. We discussed and agreed that we drop everything when a family member needs help.


It was a big year with the pigs. First, a pig drowned itself in the pig waterer overnight. Bryan had already left for work by the time I found it. Since it was in the middle of a ridiculously hot drought, I had to dispose of it without the assistance of another adult. Later, when it was time to load the pigs up to take to the butcher, Bryan and the farmer with the trailer were having a hard time getting the pig corralled. I jumped in to help. Sure, the pig got between my legs and I rode it backwards for a while, but once I managed to get off, I am the one who finally got the job done.

I am way more capable than I thought, and Bryan can count on me to take care of even the nastiest of chores.

(Wow, 20 years is a long time. Can you tell I was stretching for that one?)

Our kids were starting to turn into real teens with real problems. A couple of the problems caused some very real tension and horrible feelings in our home. I was overwhelmed and uncertain and felt like I was tackling these issues all by myself. Bryan and I were farther apart than we'd been in a long time. One night I let him have it (as much as we ever let each other have it. We've never once raised our voices, but I was tempted to this time.), telling him I needed him to be involved. He was just as mad, furious that I would even accuse him of not being present for his kids.

I learned that if I'm feeling such things, there is a good chance he is, too. Instead of attacking and accusing him, I need to approach him with a mind of solidarity and support. I need to continue to remember the fact that he is a great father and husband who gets frustrated and overwhelmed and scared just as much as I do.


It was by far the busiest year we've ever had, made so much harder by my traumatized knee. Teens have late practices. Young kids wake up early and want to eat. Every moment of the day, from 6:00 am to 10:30 pm is taken up by kids. There has been precious little time for the two of us to simply be together.

We have learned to grab the moments when we can. Goodbye hugs in the morning lasting a little longer than usual. Calls in the middle of the day to swap funny stories. Holding hands in church on the rare days a child or 4 aren't sitting between us. Seizing opportunities to take a long weekend away, to heck with the obligations. The kids will be leaving home someday, and for most of them that day will be sooner rather than later. These stolen moments will help ensure that we still have a wonderful marriage when this nest is empty.

Written down like this, twenty years seems like a very long time, but it honestly feels like the blink of an eye. So much has happened, but there are so many big things hovering on the horizon. We've learned a lot, but I know there are plenty more lessons to learn.

Whatever lies ahead, I know that God will lead us and that we will figure it out together.

What have you learned in your years of marriage? I'd love to hear in the comments, or even better, make your own list and link it up over at Mary's!

Have a lovely day!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Last Grandma Update and Other Things, TToT Week 87

Jumping into the list this week...

1. We are getting 12-15 eggs per day out of the chickens, and we have enough customers to buy them thanks to the lovely ladies in my new Bible study.

2. I'm ready for Lent. One thing I did was sign up for an eight week Bible study. The youngest woman there has kids my age. It's quite the nice balance to my days with the moms with first graders who are all at least 10 years younger than me.

3. Beside the Bible study, I've joined up with Dynamic Catholic to do their Best Lent Ever series. I have used materials from them before (most recently, their Confirmation preparation) and have nothing but good things to say about them.

4. The high schoolers are involved in the Mock Trial team. Who knew the Mock Trial team could take so much time? If you did, why didn't you warn us?!?! The finale is this weekend, so we can switch this item from their to-do list to their never-do-this-again list.

5. Phoenix also had volleyball tryouts for the high school this week. I heard from a few people that he did very well, but we won't know until Monday how it will all shake out. I'm just glad he is taking full advantage of the opportunities to try new things throughout high school.

6. My grandma's house sold. It took less than a week. Grandma can now completely relax, as that was the only worry she still had.

7. Grandma is doing well in the independent living facility. I talked to her earlier this week, and she was having some fun. And she figured out how to work the modern washing machine. All is well with her. The rest of the family, on the other hand, is now in an all-out hurry to get the house cleaned out in the next couple of weeks.

8. The preschool Valentine's Day party, of which I was in charge, went well. The kids had fun and I didn't leave with a headache.

9. Did you see Cuckoo's and Turken's Valentine cards on Instagram? They were the best ones we've ever made. I'm so glad I tucked the idea in my brain when I saw it last year and was actually able to retrieve it when I needed it this year.

10. CVS had a special running on printing photos and I took advantage. I not only printed them, but organized them in the appropriate albums, too. Go me. If it were July of 2012, I'd be all caught up!

Did you notice that I kind of flew through this post? It's because I'm working on quite the post for tomorrow. I'm joining up with some other lovely women who are celebrating Valentine's Day by posting about things we've learned in our years of marriage. Since I've been married 20 years, this sucker is taking a while.  You're welcome to join us if you'd like!

So, how has your week gone? What made you say thank you?

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Stuffed Peppers As a Discipline Tool?

We are in the middle of one major picky-eating epidemic in this house.

Children who used to eat just about anything now have long lists of things they no longer deem palatable.

I have actually had the following conversations with my children:

Waitress: Would you like anything on your burger?
Phoenix: lettuce and tomato
(after the waitress leaves) Me: Just two days ago you complained about tomatoes in soup and picked the tomatoes out of the soup I made.
Phoenix: I don't like tomatoes that are cut up and soft in soup. I like them on burgers.

Me: Why are you throwing those raisins away? You chose to eat raisins.
Buttercup: These are the sour ones.
Me: Ummmm...come again?
Buttercup: I can tell by looking at them which ones are sour. I don't like the sour ones.

Me: What do you want for lunch?
Cuckoo: Do we have bagels?
Me: Yes.
Cuckoo: OK, I'll have a peanut butter bagel. I like peanut butter on bagels but not peanut butter sandwiches.

Thus far I have managed to avoid bringing up the starving children in Africa, but just barely.

They are pushing my patience to the limit.

No joke. If I see one more person take 45 minutes to eat an itty bitty clementine because he must dissect it in order to remove every single speck of white bit THAT ISN'T THE RIND AND WON'T KILL YOU IF YOU EAT IT! I just might go over the edge.

Since yelling at them or having ridiculous power struggles with them is pointless, I decided to passively-aggressively punish them by making all of their least favorite dinners.

On the menu this week:

Stuffed peppers

aka Something for everyone to hate all in one meal.

Zucchini! Onions! Mushrooms! Oh My!

Back when my sister-in-law was still my sister-in-law she introduced me to this lovely dish. It can easily be made without the meat for all my vegetarian friends.


(I don't measure anything, so good luck with that.)

bell peppers
shredded zucchini
chopped onion
chopped mushrooms
ground meat (I use pork, because...what else would a pig farmer use?)
cooked rice
tomato sauce
salt and pepper and whatever other spices sound good
shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown the meat. I throw the onions in to cook with the meat.

While the meat cooks, I wash and prepare the peppers. I hear that some people blanch their peppers first, but I don't. I prefer my peppers on the crunchier side and see the blanching as a waste of time and one more pot to clean.

Once the meat is cooked, drain it and throw the rest of the ingredients into the pan.

(I forgot to take a photo after the sauce was added.)

Mix it all up and warm it for a bit.

Finally, fill the peppers. I put a sprinkle of the mozzarella cheese in the bottom of the peppers before stuffing them with the meat mixture.

I always have more stuffing than peppers, seeing as how that is the best part. I just fill in the baking dish around the peppers with the overflow.

Put them in the oven for about 30 minutes on 350. I add cheese to the top for the last 5 minutes or so.

Feeds 2 adults, one kid who almost likes the meal, 1 kid who doesn't mind it too terribly much, 1 kid who will choke it down, and three kids who will turn their noses up and just move the food around their plates.  There will be plenty of leftovers for the 2 adults who appreciate a wide variety of good, healthy food.

As an aside, a couple of the kids saw me working on this post and read it. The comments included, "Phoenix ordered tomato on his burger?! After that fuss about the tomatoes in the soup?!?" and "Is that why you're making all of those bad dinners lately?"

Yes, Child. Yes, it is. There will be groaning no matter what I make, so I might as well make things that I like.

How do you deal with picky eating? And if you don't have picky eaters, I don't think I want to hear about it.

Unrelatedly, there is no question about it. A culinary blog this will never be.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Fastest TToT Post Ever! And also, Ever Heard of PACS1? TToT #86

I've decided I need to work on my speed writing skills. It takes me far too long to write posts. So today, we're going to practice. As the boys would say, "Time me!"

1. Most computer issues can be fixed simply by turning the thing off and back on again. Brilliant.

2. Despite Eunice jinxing my vacuum with all of her "Dysons are the worst" talk last week, I was able to get my vacuum to full suction after it suddenly stopped sucking up the dirt. I cleaned the filter and the roller, but I'm pretty sure the biggest problem was the colored pencil someone had sucked up with it.

3. Every time we sit down for dinner these days, Cuckoo immediately asks the big kids to tell stories about when they were younger. I am loving every minute of it. And no, I did not pay him to do it.

4. I've been meeting some new friends on the internet through a Catholic bloggers group. Amelia, who writes at One Catholic Mama, is one of them. We have so much in common! She has lots of kids, her husband is a lawyer, and she knows a thing or two about farm animals. (As it says in her "About Me" page, she "used to take ultrasound pictures of bovine ovaries".) It's always fun getting to know someone new. One of her posts I really liked is about how posting what she wore each Sunday healed her.

5. I finally convinced Bryan that Phoenix would never get 50 hours if he didn't help. Now that Phoenix is getting more comfortable behind the wheel, Bryan is feeling more comfortable with the idea of being his licensed passenger.

6. This behemoth

is almost gone. This is the cake the family brought home from the Cub Scout cake auction while I was in Ohio. I want my beautiful island back.

7. If you ever want to get teenagers to loosen up and quit being grouchy, put on the Frozen CD. Cuckoo asked to bring it in the van so we could listen to it at pickup on Thursday. It's been playing on repeat ever since, and every single one of us still sings every song at the top of our lungs. Star is currently the one walking that line of curmudgeon and omnipotent, but when that CD comes on, he is smiling and singing and laughing and having a great time. He even turns the volume up on certain songs.

8. Friday was a half day at the younger kids' school, so we had a nice long afternoon to relax and play some games. Bonus for the day was the Boy Scout dinner Friday night. The relaxing and playing time was lengthened since I didn't have to worry about fixing dinner.

9. We've still managed to avoid snow. The blizzard stayed to the north of us, and I made it home from Ohio last week without incident. (I was quite worried for a while. It was snowing hard in my hometown, with people sliding off the road all over the place. 30 minutes outside of town, though, the temps were high enough that I had nothing but rain for the rest of the way.)

10. Many months ago, I began reading a blog called "Undiagnosed, but Okay". The author has a daughter with many medical issues which no one could find a reason for. After years of trying to find answers, she finally found a lead and the courage to drive far away to see a new doctor. Tests were done, and a mutation was found. She is one of only 20 kids in the world who have been diagnosed with PACS1.

Kerri renamed the blog "Diagnosed and still Okay". Because they are. While her daughter still has the same medical issues, they now know why, and it's made a world of difference. Kerri has been able to get in touch with the other families who have the same diagnosis. The similarities between the kids is remarkable.

From now on, February 7 will be known as PASC1 Awareness Day. They aren't looking to raise money. They simply want people to be aware so other families can benefit from diagnosis. Kerri and her family wouldn't have known to ask for the test if it weren't for someone who had read her blog and given her the name of the doctor. She hopes others can get the same help she did.

Do me a favor and click on over to Kerri's. Read some of their story. Have a look at the photos. Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone talking about medical issues in her child that they just can't figure out.

Ooh, almost forgot to mention the thankful for this last bullet point/number. I'm so glad that Kerri was given the lead to help her find the answers she was looking for.

So, how was your week? Let me know about the smiles and thankfuls either in the comments or in a post you link up.

Have a lovely day!

PS. Did you count? How long did it take?

Ten Things of Thankful

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Friday, February 6, 2015

I'm In!

Val and Lisa were kind enough to think of me when they needed to come up with names of people to indoctrinate into the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers. I have never understood the name of this nor where it began, but I'm going with it anyways. Each lovely lady requested that I answer some questions, so here it goes...

(Despite the fact it took me 5 hours to write this, I answered the questions quickly. First answer that popped into my head. I was interrupted a lot.)

1.  Talk about your favorite kind of music.
Basically, I like anything that gets me dancing, unless the lyrics are awful. Then I am glad that there is someone named Weird Al on the planet to write appropriate ones. 

2.  What’s the hardest thing about being you?
Dead animals. Specifically, the fact that I have to dispose of dead animals.
3.  Describe a typical family get-together at your house.
There hasn't been a full family get-together at our house for a long time. They are always in either Kentucky or Ohio, since all of our families are in one of those two places. It's usually just my brother and his family or some nieces and nephews visiting. When any of them are here, it's just a whole bunch of playing outside, alternated with eating a whole bunch of food. A competitive game of football or kickball is always a part of the festivities.
4.  What do you consider your biggest accomplishment so far?
Well, so far, the raising of the kids seems to be going pretty well, but I'm not doing that on my own. God, Bryan, and the kids themselves have a good bit to do with it. I don't really have any one big accomplishment, but lots and lots of little ones. I get excited any time I do anything right or successfully.
5.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My propensity to procrastinate. (Although, many might say my addiction to alliteration and parenthesis.)
6.  If you could spend time with a book character or historical figure, who would it be?
Lulu in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. That woman makes me laugh out loud.
7.  What is your favorite vacation memory?
Ack! I'm horrible with favorites!  I cannot in a million years pick one! Every vacation memory is my favorite when it is happening. 
8.  What would you like to receive as a present?
A time machine so I could go back and revisit all the fun times in the past without losing the life I have now.
9. What’s one thing on your bucket list?
After seeing my friend's photos from Iceland, I want to go there. I know. Shocking. There is snow and ice and cold.  Three things I despise. But her photos...
10.  One thing that few people know about me is . . . . . . .
I can jump in the air kind of sideways and click my heels together, then resume walking normally upon landing. (I have a blog. There isn't much you all don't know. I had to stretch to think of anything!)
1. What is one of your favorite habits you have?

Showering every day. I may put my PJs right back on after that shower, but by golly, I'm clean.

2. Would you prefer to travel by plane, train, or automobile? Why?

I prefer an automobile, as I like to stop and see the sights along the way. However, flying lets me go to places farther away and over bodies of water, and I certainly prefer that sometimes.

3. What's the first thing you notice about people?

What they are doing.

4. If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?

I have no idea. This question is taking me way too long to answer. I want to throw one full of people who could really use a smile and some fun in their lives. I picture something like from the Bible. A big party where I don't invite my friends and "important" people, but pull in strangers off the streets. Lots of good food, dancing, and laughing. Perhaps I'd have two. One for adults and one for kids.

5. What is the first thing you bought with your own money?

I have no idea. I babysat starting at age 11, and my first job was at the age of 14. I always had a bit of money, but I didn't do much with it. I'm a saver. I did use a big chunk of it to buy a car when I was 17.

6. What was your favorite activity in gym class?

I liked just about anything we did in gym class. Sports are fun! I remember really enjoying the gymnastics we did most years. We even had a balance beam. In 7th grade we spent a few weeks doing aerobics, and we worked out to one of Madonna's songs. OH! OH! My favorite gym class was when I was teaching 5th grade in Bloomington. The PE teacher was a trapeze performer and actually brought a trapeze to school for the middle school to learn. I was the only teacher in the school who tried it and participated in the show at the end of the week. THAT was fun!

7. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

Stay out of debt. If you are in debt, get out of debt. Debt is bad. And dangerous.

8. What's your favorite part about today so far?

Well, it's only 7:45, so not much has happened. I guess the fact that Cuckoo is finally sleeping in for the first day in many, giving me a full hour of peace and quiet to get my shower, breakfast, and this post done is pretty good.

(UPDATE: At 7:49 he woke up. It took me another 5 hours to get the rest of this post done.)

9. If you were a type of animal, what would you be and why?

A dolphin. Who doesn't love a dolphin? They are friendly, they are quick, they can do "tricks", and they can explore the great big beautiful ocean!

10. What story does your family always tell about you?

My brother likes to retell the time he went with me to the store when I was learning how to drive a stick shift. I got stuck on a hill at a red light. The car behind us pulled up way too close, and I lost my mind, scared that I would roll back into it. I swore. Bad words I've never said before or since. I yelled at my brother to get out and tell the person behind me to back up. He refused. It was ugly.

The next step in the Sisterhood process is to ask 10 more people questions. I don't have time to do that today, so...sorry. It's early dismissal day!

When I read these types of posts with a lot of questions, answers pop into my head as if I were actually answering them. Did that happen to you?  If so, let me know in the comments your answers to any of the questions I answered. I'd love to hear them!

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

You May Think Less of Us After Reading This, But I Don't Care. My Weekend at Grandma's

An entire series of books can be written based solely on the storage units of the residents of an independent living facility.

Not saying that I am the one to write that series, but I can spot good material when I see it.

I spent all of Saturday morning and on into the afternoon helping my aunt and uncle and grandma haul, unpack, wash, and organize my grandma's possessions as she moved from the house she has lived in for over 50 years to the independent living facility she is now calling home. Going through all of the things she's accumulated over the years (and none of it junk. I come from one OCD family who does not hold on to junk.), deciding what was going and what was staying took an emotional toll.

Not one photo will be going on her new walls, despite the fact that photographs cover the walls in her finished basement. She decided that she can't fit them all, and if she can't fit them all, none will be going.

My grandma is on the left.

She's big on not showing favoritism, even though we all know who the favorites are.

This guy is numero uno.

She still has the statue from Grandpa's funeral.

It didn't make the cut.

Although 16 wine glasses, 16 drinking glasses, and a variety of other specialty glasses did.

For when she has people over.

At one point we were at the house regrouping, standing in the front family room. She handed me some papers and asked me to put them on the table. As I turned to do what she asked, it hit us both.  There is no table in the family room anymore. That was the table she chose to take as her kitchen table at the new place. We chuckled a bit, but it was more an uncomfortable "shoot, this is really happening" moment.

Grandma and Grandpa

We had decided that we were not going to fuss or argue with my grandma about what she wanted to move. If she wanted to bring 6 lamps, we'd pack them up and take them, even though we knew they wouldn't fit. She hates clutter and would figure out on her own that there was a problem. She could decide which ones needed to be taken back to the house.

Grandma with three of her four kids celebrating New Years Eve. My dad is on the far right.

In the midst of all the unpacking, my aunt, grandma and I went to have a look at her storage area.

Basically, there is one gigantic room broken up into smaller areas with wood and chicken wire. Everyone on her floor has her own chicken wire storage unit.

It started innocently enough with my aunt saying, "Oh, look at the shelves this person has.  That would be a great way to organize your things."

And then one of us mentioned, "This woman hangs her out-of-season clothing in her storage unit. That's a good idea."

But then we started noticing specific things people chose to keep.

Christmas decorations.

A boot one would wear after breaking one's foot.

A small carpet remnant.


When we were up to our elbows in decision making on what stays and what goes. When Grandma is having to choose which of her beloved books can move with her. When holding our emotions in was becoming harder and harder, the situation became ridiculous.

We were trying not to judge.

We were trying to be polite.

But when we saw that someone had not only kept a bed pan (with a "tube" attachment to make it easier for men to use), but had it front and center in his unit, we couldn't hold it in any longer.

We laughed.

Oh did we laugh.

We laughed so hard the tears were running down our cheeks and our legs (if you know what I mean).

We took note of the room number and told Grandma to watch out for that guy.

To be fair, through our unmuffled laughter, we tried to come up with a logical explanation for such a situation.

We pictured a man who had spend some time in the hospital, restricted to his bed.

We figured it cost quite a bit of money to be in that situation.

We assumed the guy was not happy about being laid up for so long for so much money.

We decided that when he was finally discharged from the hospital, he was mighty grumpy.

In a fit of anger, he grabbed the bed pan and declared, "I paid $300 for this thing.  I'm keeping it!"

When he got home, he (or a relative) just tossed it into the storage unit.

Where it stayed for us to see.

It was the perfect distraction and a great way to release some of the tension of the day.

We left the storage unit grateful to the guy in unit ***.

Third from the right is Grandma. My aunt helping us is standing in front of her. My grandpa is kneeling with my uncle on his knee. My dad is standing in front of Grandpa, looking at his brother. My great-grandma is smack in the middle. Great-grandpa is to her right.

We continued with our work of sorting and organizing and hauling.

Every time we left the room, friendly people spoke with Grandma.

Early in the day, a woman stopped to chat.

After my grandma shared her name, the woman said, "I know you! You used to be my hairdresser!"

That makes five people my grandma knows from days gone by who are living in this facility.

Grandma, Grandpa, my siblings and me. Based on this post, I bet you can guess which one is me.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well the moving went. None of us broke down. Grandma was her normal self. We played cards and enjoyed ourselves, despite the thoughts of "This is the last time we'll play cards here." that was in the back of all of our minds.

Grandma figured out the layout of the facility.

She knows where the dining room is in relation to her room.

She knows where the elevator and the laundry room and the mail room are.

She has a lot of her things.

She has people whom she knows.

She will be OK.

She will have fun.

We will all worry less.

Grandma at her 80th birthday party.  10 years ago.

Close to the end of my stay, I went to get the car while Grandma stayed in the facility's entryway. When I got back, she had a look of delight mixed with mischief on her face. She was bursting to tell me the story.

As she waited for me to get the car, a fellow resident struck up a conversation with her. Just like when we moved into the dorm back in college, the important information to exchange includes your name, where you are from, and in which room you currently reside.

"Chris, she lives in room ***!" The bedpan guy is married!

Yes.  I'm pretty sure she'll be fine.

My last look at Grandma's house before I fled town. The blizzard had begun!