Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hanging around

We are (hanging around, that is), and so is this bug/allergies/virus/whatever-combination-of-nastiness-it-is.

(Both photos courtesy of the 9- and 11-yr. olds.)

We even went and got the baby swing out of the attic for Ada. I remembered another child who was sick at this age that would only be comforted in the swing. Ada seems to be soothed in it as well.

But, alas, everyone else is really too big for the swing. So we've had to fight for positions on the couches. Some of us have even been known to stretch out on the floor.

Ethan was down with it over the weekend ... a difficult thing for a preacher who must preach! But the Lord supplied him strength on Sunday; and while it was not an easy day for him, he did survive through his Sunday School teaching and the morning and evening services.

I stayed home with the kids. We survived, too.

Yesterday was an odd one for me. I woke up feeling groggy and detached and unwilling to participate in any of the day's activities. I went ahead and did school and laundry and meals, but in between I laid around and mumbled for children to *please* be quiet and go find something to clean.

They were merciful to me and even deep-cleaned the kitchen after dinner. I owe them a huge one for that!

Ethan likes to say I'm "invincible" after the first three months of pregnancy. It's really not true -- I can remember a few times when I have been down with a bug and pregnant -- but it does seem that the Lord offers strength and immunity! I'm not sure whether yesterday's malaise was a bit of the bug or due to the fact that I didn't drink nearly enough water (as in, probably 12 oz. all day--EEEEK!!! I usually drink anywhere from a half gallon to a gallon!), I didn't start my day with diluted orange juice (I have a theory that my blood sugar needs this), I didn't eat until late in the morning, I didn't take any apple cider vinegar, I got to bed late and was up with baby early, etc., etc., etc.

And so here we are. We are all functioning at about 70%. Wait. 100% for me is probably about 70%. So maybe I should say we're functioning at about 50%.


Am I making any sense?


Do I ever?

Well. Whichever it is, I'm off to drink a big glass of water and find something to clean.


Monday, April 15, 2013


I've been thinking about 11-year old boys lately.

Probably because I have one.

And I've never had one before this one.

I'm thinking that they thrive on routine (and everyone who has ever read a parenting book, go ahead and say "Duh" altogether now...).

And I'm thinking that this is the age I taught and loved in "real school." This is one of the Golden Years, one of the few years when they are actually competent enough to be truly helpful and still eager enough to want my approval and praise. 

Also, I think they like to have a say in things. This is really tricky:

1) I don't always want an 11-year old opinion;
2) I don't always have/make time to hear an 11-year old opinion;
3) I don't know how to succumb to an 11-year old opinion.

But I'm realizing that part of this transitioning from little kid to older kid to independent person is going to involve my letting him make some decisions, correctly express those decisions, and act on those decisions. And the decisions are going to have to be bigger than what he will wear today (and to be fair, even his 3-yr. old brother gets to make that decision for himself).

No answers, just questions and ponderings and realizing that being one of the ones in control means I am going to have to occasionally loosen my grip.

(And I welcome advice!)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Night Notes

Our four boys share a room with two bunk beds. Benjamin (11) and Abraham (7) have the top bunks, and Jonathan (4) and Gideon (3) have the bottom bunks.

Bottom bunkers go to bed at 7:00 (in theory). Top bunkers go to bed at 8:00. Typically, none of the bottom bunkers are asleep by the time the top bunkers get there, and we have strict "no talking" rules to cut down on the ensuing mayhem. The top bunkers have reading lights and may read for a bit.

Or, as I discovered during our Bedroom Clean, they may write and throw paper airplane notes for a bit.


This does bring to my attention that perhaps we need to stress pronunciation with the 7-yr. old. His brother's name, for instance, is "Ben," not "Ban." And we usually "tell" someone something, not "tall" them something. And the opposite of "no" is "yes," not "yas." Although, if you're a Southerner...


Abe: "Ben, I'm going to tell if we can watch a movie."
Ben: "Tomorrow?"
Abe: "Yes, tomorrow. Hope you sleep well."
Ben: "I hope we have cereal for breakfast."

((next airplane))

Abe: "I hope we have sandwich for supper."
Ben: "I hope we have dessert maybe candy or ice cream."
Abe: "Let's stop talking about food, OK?"
Ben: "What do you want to talk about?"

And from there I found no more airplanes. By my count, that's at least eight successful throws across the room that needed to happen to continue the conversation.

I know their aim is not that good.

Which explains the multiple thumpings we hear each night...boys retrieving message planes.

And I can't decide if we should rewrite our Night Rules or quietly collect the planes for menu planning...

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I had forgotten how absolutely, absolutely, absolutely blissful air conditioning can be.

It is a marvelous invention.

For this one brief moment, I would like to pause and say, "Bravo, Technology!"


Every year we debate getting central air conditioning. But 1) the hefty price and 2) our conviction that a vacation (even of the most primitive sort) is a definite necessity for our sanity, mean that every year we (read: Ethan) lug the window units out of the shed and install them into our windows. Four upstairs, one mega-one downstairs. Truly, it makes me sweat to watch him.

And yesterday's installation was especially cumbersome. Two of the units needed a thorough cleaning, the sort that involves unscrewing everything and getting out the shop vac and the heavy-duty cleaner and the vibrating toothbrush.

At least, I think that's what was involved. It was hard to see from my position behind the screen door. I didn't want my popsicle to drip on the unit.

And my poor husband, with his burning eyes and stinging throat and tickling cough, he man-handled those units and got them in order and installed.

(Lest you think I was doing nothing, let me assure you that I was fighting my own fight. I absolutely could not get the tins of tuna fish opened, and it turned out that it was not my incompetence that was the problem. When I had Ethan pause his back-breaking labor to join in mine, he pointed out that the can opener was bent and would not be, in fact, opening any cans. So see? We all have our battlegrounds.)

When I got back from my trek to the local pizza carry-out (Never fear! When the tuna will not open, Mama has a plan!), precariously balancing three boxes of pizza over my not-boxed-shape belly, I found that the first unit was cleaned and ready to go. "Hurrah!" I cheered. (Or maybe it was more like, "Why are you starting with that unit? I thought you would start with the other unit?" because I am so quick to think and speak and be helpful like that.)

But by the end of the evening, all five units were installed. Ethan showered upstairs to get the blood, sweat, and tears (but no popsicle stains!) off of him, and I showered downstairs to get the pizza sauce off of me.

And oh, the bliss. I love me my air conditioning. As much of an eyesore as I suppose they are, to me those units are beautiful. There is something so solid and ever-present about the plastic and ???steel??? (Is that steel?) taking up the lower half of the window. "I am here! I am blowing! I am cool air!"

I like the noise that comes with it. It's a steady blowing. You hear the coolness as much as feel it.

I'd forgotten how it slightly changes the dynamics of the house. Children the next room over seem quieter, more at ease. The din seems dimmer under the hum of The Machine.

It's so delicious. I'm almost grateful we don't have central air. First of all, I notice and appreciate the air so much more when there's the whole rigamarole to getting it put in; and second of all, there's something so totally nostalgic about it. It takes me back to being seven years old and coming in from a swimming lesson with my damp suit on and plopping in front of the air conditioner until I was frozen.

BUT! On to today's {Pretty, Funny, Happy, Real} post.


Well, admittedly, this is a blurry, weird-angle picture. But these two yellow chairs, bought second-hand from a friend who is downsizing, bring me so much happiness. First, I've been discovering over the last few years that yellow is a favorite color of mine. And second, two chairs that go together? Is this MY house? That's pretty!


Ada, enjoying a popsicle yesterday. It's funny only because she is so clueless about how to eat the thing. She gums the plastic at the top to death, hollers at me to push the popsicle up, then grabs the tip that comes up and breaks it off and shoves it in her mouth.

(She does seem to have made a full recovery from earlier this week. Yeah!)


A peek into the family room, where half of the children don't notice me (this is nothing new). Ignore ugly pillow. That came with ugly (but so comfortable!) couch and loveseat, which we slipcovered. But we keep the pillows to remind us of how far they came (or because we're too lazy to do anything else with them).


Well, it's all "real," because I know nothing else, but here's a picture of "unwanted," which I suppose is the true meaning of "real."

This is what I saw and heard this morning as I was out the door to have coffee with a friend. This is our septic pump electrical box. This is our septic pump box saying, "Uh-oh. See me not work. See me not run. See you not flushing nor draining nor doing laundry nor washing dishes."

I silenced the alarm, yelled, "ETHAN!" then went to check the outside box and see what needed to be done (Keys? Check. Phone? Check. Wallet, sunglasses, lip gloss? Check.). Ethan also headed to the outside box to see what needed to be done (he had a screwdriver). I called my friend to tell her I was running late, and then asked if he needed my help. "My specialties are air conditioners and septic tanks," I offered.

"Go have your coffee," he prodded. (Or maybe "grumbled" would technically be the better word.)

"Anything to help!" I lightly sang out and made sure to carefully back the car down the driveway, so as not to hit the pump. (I'm all helpful like that, too.)

And on the way to the bakery, I pondered the pump. Was it all the laundry I did in the last two days? All the sick laundry? All the regular laundry? The winter coats? The diapers? Was it the extra showers at night? Did I do this? That would be bad.

When I got back, he had decided to try installing a new switch. He installed it only to find it still not working. Fortunately, a tiny, 1/8" piece of curved metal on the ground caught his eye. He wrapped that around one of the wires, and ... VOILA!!! ... our pump is running and happy, and we are flushing and draining and laundering and dishwashing and happy.

And it's not my fault.

And the air is cool.

And I suppose that's not my fault, either.

And I sit here, in this yellow chair, with the air blasting and the children quietly doing whatever they are doing the next room over, and it's all just very, very good.

For more photos of everyday life, visit


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Arming Ourselves

We survived yesterday.

More than survived it, really.

We got school done (actually, it was the highlight of the day! Love that!) and chores done and napping done.

Since the day was going to be...unpleasant, at best, already, with a sick baby and no sleep, I decided to say "Yes!" when the other children asked if we could please switch out their clothing. The seasonal clothing switch is something I tend to dread, although it's never as bad as I anticipate. My oldest two offered to get the bins from the attic, and then everyone helped bring drawers downstairs and sort clothing and collect two large trash bags' worth to go to Goodwill.

And since the laundry was already going nonstop, we went ahead and washed the winter coats to get them stored away. It feels so good to have those out of here!

All of this ended up being done not a moment too soon. Today is in the upper 80's, which might as well be 180* when you handle warm, humid weather as well as we do (ahem). The combination of excessive heat and everyone's allergies kicking in due to the open windows means that hopefully tonight the A/C window units will be put in.

And no one has ralphed today!

I AM being militant about making all of the sniffly, sneezy, wheezy, hacking ones (that would be nine children, their father, their mother, and the dog) drink water water water. Everyone has a water bottle. We have races to see who can finish theirs first. So far, I am not winning.

We've tried the Benadryl route, which proved only minimally helpful. So now we're gathering other ammunition: Vitamin C and cod liver oil and probiotics, and I hope to pick up some dried elderberries to make elderberry syrup.

But even with all the, well, runniness around here, no one is slowing down. School was done by 10:30 this morning. The kitchen floor was mopped! Diapers were washed! Stories were read!

I need to remember this as we go to clean the bedrooms this afternoon. I need to remember that something did get accomplished today. Because of all the chores, BEDROOMS is the most defeating for me. I look at the mess, and I think, "Where did all this come from? Didn't we just deal with all of this last week? What did we get rid of last week? How can you possibly still have stuff that makes a mess?"

Although, I must admit, the hour after their rooms are cleaned is a sweet one. They play happily and contentedly on the clear floor, sounding like characters from someone else's story: "Yes, Sister, I would love to have you at my tea party!"

"Certainly, Brother, I have spare weapons over here!"

Only, I guess, sometimes this is part of our story, too. We work hard, we fight harder, and in the end we say, "Pull up a chair. I'll pour you a drink, and help yourself to a sword."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stomaching Today

Today I will need to exercise an extra measure of grace.

It started much too early, today did. As I write, it's 5:30AM. I have been up for an hour and a half.

I know there are those for whom this is normal, this rising before the sun. It is not normal, nor welcome, for me.

Today started with the sound of our littlest one retching in her crib. I went to her room, picked her up, told my husband I needed a bowl for her, changed her diaper. Ten minutes later she was retching in our bed and on me. Bath for her, change my pajamas, listen to her jibber-jabber. Ten minutes later...rinse and repeat. Ad nauseum. Finally I just gave up and now she and I are set up in the family room. She was rocking with me but now seems happier on a towel on a folded-up quilt on the floor.

It's hard when someone this little (12 mos.) is sick. They don't give the usual signs that an older child gives, giving you time to grab the bowl. Her sign is very subtle right now -- she moves her head. I know that she's on a ten-minute cycle, so when I see that head move at ten minutes, I grab the bowl and sit her up.

I'm debating whether to give her some activated charcoal. Probably the answer is yes, but that involves finding it, and can I do that in ten minutes' time?

I've already moved the laundry over. There are her sheets to wash, and two changes of pajamas for me, and our sheets. There will be extra towels. And there's the regular laundry. I had grand plans of hanging clothes out to dry in the gorgeous spring weather we're finally having, but now I'm especially thankful for the dryer. I know I won't have the energy for hanging.

And that's where the extra measure of grace will need to come in. I tend to be overly critical of...everything...when I'm exhausted. The littlest messes set me off. And today being a Tuesday, which follows a Monday (Piano Day and Try-to-Recover-from-the-Weekend Day) in which we had other things to get done besides righting the house, there are already little messes. So as I can, after I rinse Ada's bowl every ten minutes and get her situated back on the quilt, I'm straightening those and trying to get things back in order for when the other kids get up.

I'll need to remember to speak softly and smile often over today's schoolwork. I know I very much set the tone for the children's day, and quite honestly I don't feel like doing much of any school. But I know there will be more mayhem and chaos if I don't, so we will do what we can and rest in that.

The gorgeous spring blossoms have brought with them their spring pollen. We have several here, my husband included, who are sneezing and coughing and wheezing their way through the day with blurry eyes. I'll need to be kind to them and gentle with their crankiness.

In the end, I think it's best to be honest with myself. Today will be a challenge. I handle things so poorly when I am exhausted. I need to acknowledge that up front and then move forward, slowly and carefully, leaning on the Lord's strength and letting His grace shine in my weakness.

I'm so very glad for Susanna's reminder on an online forum a few weeks ago. She knows I love a good hymn, and she reminded me of the words of "Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment." The children and I have been memorizing it. Every day I hear bits and pieces of it from some child's mouth, often intermingled with "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "Holy, Holy, Holy." It's a great song to have running through your head, especially on days like today:

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best --
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

And now, as I write this, Ada has been sleeping peacefully for forty-five minutes. Things are already looking up!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Variety Show

Last Friday was our church's annual Variety Show. Our children begged us (literally for months) to let them participate. And then, days before the event, they fretted and fumed and feigned blindness and frantically tried to find a way out.

But in the end, they performed and loved it.

And so did we.

First up was a surprise to us. Gideon and Salem (3) and the part of their Sunday School class that made it to the show sang songs. We had no idea they were going to do this. Why is it that the only secrets they can keep are from their parents?

(There are several videos embedded in this post. E-mail subscribers may need to click over.) And also, fair warning: all of these videos are of the quality that accompanies a 12-mo. old sharing a lap with a 25-week old baby bump and a Mama trying to hold a camera steady while both babies kick and squirm. 

Gideon is on the left, Salem is in the middle, and their friend Aaron is on the right. Their Sunday School teachers are in front of them.

Abraham and Miriam (7) were the next up. They performed "Don't Suck Your Thumb," a poem.

Benjamin (11), played two selections:

Lily (9) played two selections:

And finally, Eden (6) performed "Cartwheels: A Series of Three."

The surprise performance of Gideon and Salem meant that Jonathan (4) was the only child (excepting Ada, and 4-year olds do. not. count. the baby) who didn't perform. He was duly miffed. So when we got home, he showed Grandpa and Grandma how he can scale the doorways and hang from the top of the door frame.

Next year, we will be sure to include him.

The rest of the show was fantastic. We heard trumpet, saxophone, guitar, accomplished piano, comedy routines, storytelling, memory recitation, singing, yodeling, and more. We sat there and digested the best meal we'd had all week (a BBQ hosted before the show by one of the families...and I mean completely hosted...brisket, rolls, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, two different kinds of cole slaw, cookies, cobbler...).

It was a slice of small valley church life, and it was a scrumptious slice. We're already talking about what to do next year (but not yet inventing the illnesses to get out of it).

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Ninth First Birthday

Ada turned one a couple of weeks ago. Traditionally, for our children's first birthdays, we try to guess how much of their actual party they will be awake for. One-year olds can only take so much excitement, and typically that's the dessert and the candle and one present. And then naptime beckons.

Naptime beckoned early for her, helped immensely by the fact that we traveled four hours the day before (and late into the night) to party with extended family.

We sang our Family Birthday Song: "It's my party; I can cry if I want to..."

But pie helped some with that. (We are overwhelmingly pie people. Occasionally a child will request an ice-cream cake, but we always have leftovers that get thrown out weeks later. There is never any pie left.)

Ada requested rhubarb pie. Her elocution is quite advanced.

Then came time for the presents. There were two on her actual birthday: one from Grandma Allison and one from us.

But first, manners dictate that she open Grandma's card...

... and take the time to truly read it.

But what's this? Is that gift for moi?

A pot! A singing, talking pot!!! How did you know, Grandma? How did you know that this is what my mother needed to be constantly played with in her kitchen? You always find the BEST presents!!!

Oh, Mama. Do I have to open another? I am overwhelmed by the first! I just really want to finish your pie.

WAIT!!!! That looks like a BABY!!!! I need that BABY!!!!


Gimmee that Baby. Hurry. Hurry.

And then we cleaned them both up and sent them straight to bed.

Ada is a wonderful baby. We're quite sure that she may possibly be the silliest one we've had yet. She can walk, although it's a highly guarded secret that she will not willingly share. She loves to do these baby hyperventilations where she coos, "Oooh, ooh, ooooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh" in a desperate, frantic way whenever a baby or puppy (or Mama's coffee) is around. She greets Ethan every morning and every evening with a cheerful, happy "Hi! HI! HI!!!"

We're so glad she's here. And now she's one, and now she's a toddler (only don't tell her I said so), and our family is better and happier because of her.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Oh, bother

I was talking to a friend a while back who was sure she would never learn any of the handicrafts. "Sure you will!" I consoled. "You're just too young. I didn't start crocheting until after college. And I never seriously knitted until I was 30. And sewing? Sewing is a breeze when you have a decent machine!"

I gravely misspoke.

Sewing shirts, and baby pants, and small children's nonessentials is a breeze. An enjoyable, refreshing breeze.

Other things are a major pain in the neck.

Take the curtains for the boys' room. No, don't. They're finally done and they're going to hang in that room until we move.

But those things have been a real booger to put together. Part of it is the fact that I decided to do lined curtains, and part of it is that the two fabrics I decided to use have different stretch to them, and part is that I decided to do two panels per window (meaning each panel needs to match the others in width and length, and supposedly this should be more than just in theory), and part of it (I just figured out, having finally finished the last panel) is that I'm working at a desk that is too tall to use as a sewing table.

My shoulders and back do not thank me.

But in the end, it was the sight of the ironing board in the living room for the eighteenth??? day on end that finally pushed me over the edge. The ironing board was only there because I was too lazy to constantly move it back (save for company coming) when I knew I'd need it to finish those ridiculous curtain panels.

So they're finished. The first two are decent and have been hanging in the boys' room for a couple of weeks. The panels for the second window are ... indecent ... and will be strategically hung to hide their many flaws.

These were a true test of persistence or, to put it more to the point, in putting an end to procrastination. I felt hot just thinking about them, the kind of hot you get after a page of math or five minutes of piano practice.

And to my friend, who may never learn handicrafts? You may be a wiser, happier person for it!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Life as I know it...

It's that Magical Hour...the hour when the Littles are in bed, exhausted from today's deliberate lack of a nap, the Olders have finished their work and are being rewarded with an episode of "The Munsters," and Ethan is leading a prayer meeting at the church and is not here to be a sounding board for my Daily Register of Complaints.

What things look like at this Magical Hour

It has honestly been a good day, helped immensely by the constant dose of sunlight and flowers almost in bloom, holding the promise that Spring is indeed on her way. We managed to spend time outside, away from the house; and then we ventured farther away on a trip for Frosties (thanks to this excellent blog post) to reward everyone for finding 100 items to drop off at the Goodwill (or "Goodwheel," as the 3-yr. old set around here says it). They've already started a second box of items. Miriam (7) is the official counter, and long-neglected toys and shirts and coffee mugs have vacated prime real estate locations. And, you know, decluttering ALWAYS makes me happy.

And then there's school. For years, as long as we've homeschooled (what is that? something like 7 years? are you kidding me???), I've always piece-mealed our curriculum, choosing the cream of the crop for each subject and snubbing my nose at the rest. Only...somewhere along the line, babies started coming and meals started dragging and laundry started piling and my stress level started mounting. Everything was fast, and I was furious. And then, in a glorious stroke of mercy, my husband agreed that perhaps it was time to give myself a break and pick something that would help and reduce the planning for me.

So we picked, and it came, and I LOVE it. We've only been at it a week, but I feel it's a considerable blessing to be able to say that our first days in have been a breeze. There has been no Overwhelming Overload, no Buyer's Remorse, no Disenchantment, no Stress. There have only been Excitement, and Anticipation, and Eagerly Awaiting the Next Lesson, and Productive Learning. It honestly matches our previous style (Charlotte-ish Mason-ish), only it accomplishes it so much better than I was.

Big. Sigh. Of. Relief.

I don't even care that it's not in focus. I love this Baby, and I love this Man.
And I know what they both look like!
And then there's the food. I was following an excellent menu plan...elaborate and delicious and impressive. Only then I wasn't, because I'm old and pregnant and tire easily, and Ethan pointed out that perhaps simple would be better. Two nights in a row of pasta that the kids gobbled up, sans gagging, would seem to prove him right. So we're going back to simple, only maybe some more fruits and veggies thrown in because we love them so.

And that's been life this week. There have also been sickness and kids in our bed and next to our bed and nights that are far too long and sleep that's far too short and mornings that come much too quickly.

But I think that's all really just part of life, and a boring part at that.

So as Ethan is due back any time now, I'm off to make some vanilla caramel tea, catch up on the latest episode that I slept through, and then settle in next to my Man for the next episode for which I will try desperately to stay awake.

At least through the opener...

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Detection Tool