Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's Crazy Around Here, Man

I don't really have any time to write blog posts right now. It would be crazy enough around here with just school preparations (you have no idea how many forms I have sitting in front of me to fill out!) and me starting a new exercise routine, but add in the fact that the house we own and rent out flooded.  There was 5 feet of water in the basement. That was two weeks ago. There is still some water in the basement.

So, I fill out forms, work out, talk to insurance adjusters, fill out more forms, make more phone calls, oh yeah, and take care of four kids everyday (so much food preparation and clean up!). At the end of each day I am left feeling like I've been doing so.many.things. but there isn't really anything to show for it.

I'm stuck somewhere between desperately wanting school to start already, and trying to hold on to a little more summer fun.

Looking for fish

Hello world!
Ben and his cousin/best friend checking out the water

This is Violet. She's going to be so sad when school starts.

There really isn't a point to this post, except to let you know that school is coming. I'm losing my marbles, and our dog is cute. Also, I hate floods. And paperwork. And exercise.

Happy Wednesday to all!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Birthday Wishes From Our (almost) 5 Year Old

My baby is going to be 5 in a week and a half. I'm having some trouble with this because, well, see the "my baby" part.

Now, let's wander down memory lane, shall we?

You see, he used to look like this

Then this!

Then this!

Then this!

Then this! (Don't you sometimes just wake up and say, "Today I'll be a Robot Ballerina!"?)

Then this!

Then this!

And now he looks like this.
It's just that he's so BIG now. And he starts Kindergarten the day after his birthday. And he's my baby.

Okay, now that we've covered the ins and out of why I'm turning into a ball of mush, here are 5 birthday wishes Ben has made repeatedly:

1.  A plain, brown, terrycloth bathrobe. (Yes, he is this specific, every time. Also, yes I too think he is an 80 year old man trapped in a child's body. And why, every time I picture him in this bathrobe, do I imagine him with a mustache?)

2.  A lot of gum. (At our house you can't chew gum until you are 5. We call it "The Gum Birthday")

4.  The song, Best Day of My Life by American Authors put on Mom's ipod so he can listen to it anytime in the car. (Because, "It's a good song and I think when I turn 5 it will be the best day of my life. At least I think.")

5.  A machine gun. A real one. But he promises he'll be very careful with it and "only point it at trees and leaves and stuff." (It's the "stuff" that makes me the most hesitant.)

He's a peculiar child, isn't he?  I'm pretty sure he'll get some of the things on the list. I might have as much difficulty finding a plain brown bathrobe as I would a real child-sized machine gun. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Weird Post In Which I Mention Potassium Permanganate and Overuse Asterisks

Ben represents me and how I feel about life's
annoyances, While Natalie is representing
 life (being annoying).  Or something.
There are a million little things that are stressing me out. For instance, we can't figure out, even after way too much time spent researching, how much potassium permanganate to put into our iron filter*. I promised myself that I wouldn't let the dumb little things get to me anymore, but it is a lot harder to put that into practice than I thought. Just because things aren't the most stressful I've ever felt in my life doesn't mean I can just shrug and say, "oh well."

But that is who I'd like to be. I'd like to be someone who has such a firm grasp on what's important and what's not that scraping the side of my van against a pole at the bank** would just cause me to say, "Well, that's annoying, but nobody's hurt so it will be fine." and go on with my day.

But the truth is, I am very much a work in progress. And the world doesn't stop with the minor annoyances to let me grieve in peace. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn't. I'd sure like it if some friend or employee of God could stand up there with a checklist and say, "She's had enough for awhile, let's make sure she doesn't have to deal with putting a new pump in her well this year***."

I am in need of a break from the minor junk. Earlier today I sent Frank this text message, "I need you to bring home some good news today, even if you have to make it up."

And this here is a picture of Ben, asleep for the night in his
room, under an overturned chair. I don't know why.
But here's some good news we don't need to make up:

I have had four people contact me about their decision to give blood in response to my request and that makes me so happy. One of them is someone who has never given blood before. The Red Cross website says each donation can help up to three people, so my lovely blog readers have helped/are about to help twelve people! That might not seem like a big deal, but I bet if we could talk to the families of those twelve people, they would think it is a very big deal.  Thanks for this.

So sometimes the good news is there if you go looking for it. I will keep working toward being that person I want to be. Just think, maybe someday when someone (I won't name names) spills a crap-load of red kool-aid all over the kitchen, I'll just say, "Okay, no big deal!" and clean it up.****

Thanks for reading this blog post. Because you hung in there and read all my gobbledy-gook, you will now be rewarded with a video of Ben in a hula skirt, trying to hula.  But instead of hula-ing he gets his skirt destroyed and nearly knocked over by our dog (while his family laughs at him).  Have a great Tuesday!

*If you know this, could you make my life easier and tell me?  Thanks.
**I did this, even though I told my newly driver's licensed nephew that I was going to make him take the heat for it. Just needed to get that out.
***This isn't a metaphor for anything. We had to get a new pump put in our well last week. It wasn't my favorite.
****I will never be this person. Red Kool-Aid is the bane of my existence.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making Cookies

The clattering pans and spoons, the chatter, the occasional yell of "Ooops!" coming from the kitchen gives me a mix of emotions.  On one hand, I want to run in there and take over, making sure the kids know that this and not that is the right way to make the cookies. After all, I've been there, I've done this stuff before and know how.

Three bakers, hard at work
On the other hand, I know how important it is to let them have this, to let them make the cookies all by themselves. I could see how excited they looked when I told them that they could make the cookies from scratch and I would just stay completely out of it. They need to have room to find their own ways to do it, even if it means making mistakes and messes.

They want my help too.  They yell into the living room, "Which of these is the half teaspoon?"  It takes a lot of motherly restraint for me to just yell back, "You guys can figure it out, I'm sure of it!" and they do.

They are growing up so much lately, and I think more and more about these people they are becoming. I think about the fact that one day, not too very long from now, they will each pack up their belongings and leave my house. Will I have given them everything they need?

Someday my role will be to always be in the living room as they attempt new things, make mistakes, and figure out their own paths over in the kitchen.  That sometimes they might call to me from their kitchen-lives, "Is this right?" and how I'll answer back, "You can figure that out, I'm sure of it!"

I just want to make sure they understand that I will always be there for them.  I'll be just over in the living room, ready to give them encouragement, and maybe advice, but not solve their problems for them.

I am confident they will find their own ways to make the cookies.

I consider it an honor to be able to watch it happen.
They were delicious!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stepping into Uncertainty

When I was in 5th grade I was invited to a horseback riding party by a friend from school.  What I remember most about it was the drive there.  We drove down a road I had passed all my life, but never knew where it led. As we pulled into the parking lot of the horse sable, my brain quickly drew a new line and destination onto my mental map.  Before that day, it showed a dead end on that street, just blank space. There was actually something spectacular just beyond what I had been able to comprehend before.

This upcoming fall feels to me like that road I would pass all the time.  I just simply have no concept of what might be there for me to discover.

Once school starts, I'm not sure who I'm going to be.  I have been at home with an infant, baby, toddler, or preschooler for the last 13 years.  I am anticipating something completely foreign to me: an empty house for many hours each weekday.

I don't know what this will be like.  I'm not sure what I want to do.  I'm just not sure what the near future holds for me.

Three of my four kids will be starting new schools in the fall.  Joe will be going into junior high, Natalie will start at the middle school, and Ben will begin his elementary school years in kindergarten.  I won't be the only one stepping into something completely new.

I have always been a planner, and have spent a lot of time trying to imagine what will fill my days.  I am not really interested in getting a job right now (and am fortunate enough to have the choice), but that doesn't mean I never will.  I know I want to take this first year to try to figure out my role, both here at home, and in our community, church, and the kids' schools.  Maybe I will spend some time renewing my teaching certificate.  Maybe I will join the group of Deacons at church who host funeral luncheons and after-church coffee hours.  Maybe I will spend time painting room after room in our house.  Maybe I'll volunteer at my kids' schools.

Uncertainty makes me nervous. But I can also feel an excitement building that there will be so many possibilities.

I have to keep myself from trying to fill it up with something familiar before I even get there.  Often I think something like "I'll go back to school in the fall!  That's perfect!".  But when I step back and really consider it, I realize that I am just wanting to go to school because I already know what that is like. Having no real plan scares me.

I was supposed to be celebrating my empty house by visiting with Sue.  We had plans to meet for lunches, shop for kids' clothes together, do whatever we felt like doing.  When it became apparent that she was getting very sick, I had planned to help take care of her while my kids were all in school.  I could bring her lunch and we could still spend time together.  Now all of my plans involving her are gone. Navigating this change alone was not what I wanted.

I am working on surrendering to the unknown.

The fall is a blank slate for me, I'm nervous.  But I can also see that there just may be a hidden treasure at the end of this uncharted road.

I have linked this post to Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary (a blog I love!) who has a weekly segment on her blog called, "Just Write", in which she encourages other bloggers to sit down and write about what is on their mind right that minute, without over-thinking or editing.  I'm happy to join in!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

As My Kids Would Say, "Could You Do Me A Solid?" (Or Maybe Two?)

On June 17th, Sue's Birthday, I wrote this post, which I ended with the line, "Today I'm just not sure what to do."

Later that day an idea came to me, and I knew exactly what I should do.

For almost 8 years prior to her death, Sue was on immunoglobulin therapy, an intravenous treatment derived from the blood supply.  It's purpose was to boost her immune system by injecting her with little bits of the immune systems of thousands of people.

Sue and her little girl at a family reunion in 2007
Every Friday night, Sue would get herself comfortable in bed, and set up the IV system, which involved a pump and 5 needles that she would insert into her stomach.  Then she would watch a movie, knit, or talk on the phone while the medicine slowly entered her system.  It would take a few hours.

This was not something that cured her, or even kept her from continuing to get sick, but I do think it drastically slowed her illness.  Her bouts with pneumonia decreased dramatically.

Sister Kate and I had gotten in the habit of donating blood every six weeks.  I would tell Sue, "Don't worry, we are pouring our blood right back into the system for you!"  She would chuckle and say, "Thanks, on behalf of myself and all the other sickies!"

But life got very hectic. As Sue's illness progressed we needed to be by her side. As a result, our blood donation routine fell off the schedule.

On her birthday I didn't just want to sit around crying about her. (I did a fair amount of that anyway though, trust me.)  I wanted to find something to do that would honor her memory.  Blood donation was the perfect "something".

As I sat in the chair with that needle in my arm, all I could think was, "This could keep somebody else's sister alive."  I thought about how fortunate we all were that because of our community blood supply, Sue's quality of life was better.  We had her for longer than we would have without it.

As I left the blood donation center on Saturday, I made my next appointment.  I am committed to keeping up with my every 6 week schedule now.

What do ya say?  Will you do our Mom a solid?
So, here's the favor:  would you consider donating blood in memory of my sister?  It would mean a lot to me (and to the sisters of the people whose lives you save or prolong!).  There is a current shortfall in the blood supply, you can click here to find a place near you to donate.  Tell your friends!  Let's save somebody's best friend, mom, daughter, dad, favorite cousin, grandpa, boyfriend, fun neighbor, or SISTER!

There are some of you who can't donate for various reasons (hello pregnant cousin!) but you can still help! You could help by sharing, tweeting, whatever-ing this post to other people you know who CAN donate! (You could also just tell people.  Or, and here's a great idea, you could make an appointment for a friend, then tell them you are taking them to get a Slurpee, but take them to give blood instead!  Just kidding, don't do that, your friend will probably be mad.  But I'm sure you have other creative ideas in that head of yours.)

And then, (yes I'm asking for a favor on top of my favor) could you just leave me a comment or call me (I'm just assuming that everyone who reads this blog has my phone number.) and let me know that you did it?  It would seriously make my day, or my week, or my year!  If you live close by, I might even bring you some cookies for doing something so nice.  Now that's all the favors I'm going to ask.  For now.

I'd like to thank you all in advance, on behalf of the sickies!  (And sisters of sickies)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Just Write: Bed Time

I finished reading the last page of Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day, closed the book, and kissed the soft, spikey top of Ben's head goodnight.

Sometimes we just really miss Auntie Sue
"Mommy, I need to tell you something about your sister, the one who died.  My Auntie Sue. I remember her.  I remember we went to her house and we brought her lunch.  She smiled at me and we had strawberry smoothies that day, remember? We brought one for her too. It was a fun day."  He paused, and caught his breath.

"My cousins, their mom died.  And remember when you were sitting on the stairs and you were crying and I was so sad because I am sad when you cry and I don't like it."

I took a deep breath and pulled him into a hug, "Yes, I remember that day we brought her lunch. You are right, it was a fun day. And yes, your cousins have lost their mom. It is sad, and that's why I cry sometimes. I know you don't like when I cry, but I need to cry so I can get better. But it is not your job to worry about me. I am okay and I love you."

We finished our good nights, and he rolled over, stuffed bear in his arms.

I sat down and thought again about how I wish we all didn't have this hurt on our hearts.  But what a gift we have in our memories of happy lunches, smiles, and strawberry smoothies.

I have linked this post to Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary (a blog I love!) who has a weekly segment on her blog called, "Just Write", in which she encourages other bloggers to sit down and write about what is on their mind right that minute, without over-thinking or editing.  I'm happy to join in!

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Sue Memory: "Regular"

"You're saying that wrong, and it's driving me crazy." Sue told me.

"Saying what wrong?"

"The word 'regular'.  You say 'reg-lee-ur' but it should be 'reg-u-lar'"

They sounded the same to me.  I started repeating it over and over, "reg-lee-ur, reg-lee-ur..."

"That's IT!" she said, coming at me, "I am going to fix this."

See that sister on the left? She has just noticed that the sister on the right
talks like a baby, and she's going to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Don't
worry, middle sister, your Barbie Doll Cake is safe.
"How are you going to..." but she was already on top of me, my arms pinned on either side of my ears. I lifted my hips trying to throw her off, but she was STRONG. I was pinned in tickle-torture position. This would be bad.

Sue was skinny, but so strong it seemed superhuman.  She would pin me to the floor, tickle me until I couldn't breathe, then do it some more. And now, apparently, she was going to tickle me into a state of correct pronunciation.

"Here's how this is going to go. Say it right, or you're not getting up."

"REG-LEE-UR"  I struggled, kicking my legs.  Occasionally I could turn and give a good kick that would  land somewhere on her thigh or lower back. This didn't stop her, but sometimes distracted her enough for me to catch my breath.

"Repeat after me:  REG"


We went over and over it. I repeated each syllable correctly, then pronounced the word wrong. She told me I was never going to get up. The struggle continued.

Somehow, after the 50th or so incorrect pronunciation, the stars aligned, heaven opened up and a chorus of angels began to sing:  I said it.  I said, "REGULAR". Something clicked and I could finally hear the difference between what she was saying and what I had been saying.

Sue smiled.  She said, "Say it again."
"Regular." I responded.

Sue got up, and pulled me up with her.

"Now don't say it wrong again. It makes you sound like a baby. Come on, I'll make you some Kool-Aid.

I seriously never pronounced that word incorrectly ever again. Sue knew how to get results.