Sunday, February 22, 2015

This...

Today was an extremely uneventful day in our house.  One might argue that is the best kind of day.  I concur.  The day was full of wrestling matches, clan wars, friends, Legos, book reading, laundry folding, tickling, and electronics.  Church was ultimately canceled today because of the early morning slick roads, which allowed us a late start to the day.  Two of the children never even got dressed.  It was a pajama lounging type of day.

It was also a day of that quiet affirmation that is sometimes hard to hear.  The small, still voice that assures your entire soul that the path you are on is the right one.  The job that you are doing, the struggles you are fighting, are being done well.  It was a day that "just being the momma" was akin to being adorned in the Crown Jewels.  

Before she went off to read tonight before bed, my eldest daughter and I stood side by side in front of a mirror.  She wanted to see our height difference (I still win... for now).  I took the time to take in our semi-matching faces.  Her beautiful golden hair against my dark mane. Our matching blue eyes and freckles.  I looked at this person, and simply the act of seeing her face reflected in a mirror made my heart happy.  

This is what it is all about.  This was the job I wanted.  On the days it gets tough, I want to remember today.  The "uneventful" one.  The one I want to repeat a million times over.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Full On Narcissist

The other day I was stewing a bit over a made up scenario in my head involving a friend.  Mind you, it wasn't even a real scenario, but I was getting indignant anyway.  I just knew I was right, and that Friend A had done something nice for Friend B; something that neither had ever even offered to do for me...

Again, imaginary scenario that I decided must have happened that day based on shoddy evidence I had gathered.  I was basically back in jr. high school in my head (and maturity level).  It was a tad pathetic.

Have you ever been there?  Decided that just because someone did not do something that you would have done, they must be snubbing you?  Did it hurt?

It occurred to me right that very minute that perhaps the act of service I was stewing about (again, alleged) was not even an act of service that Friend B would have ever thought about offering.  After all, we all are not created to serve in the same way.  It wasn't even something I have ever needed, yet I felt slighted not getting it?  No wonder we need Christ's humility as an example.  I was in full on narcissism mode.  Wince.

I have friends that would move heaven and earth to help me figure out logistics in my day.  I have others who are great listeners.  I have some who love me enough to tell me when I am being too snarky, silly, or sensitive.  I even have one that will cover all those bases.  I can't even fill all those roles for someone else myself, but my friends take me for what I can offer.  They love me where I am.

So perhaps the next time that cheeky, immature, bratty version of me gets indignant over what someone else doesn't do, she will instead be grateful for all the other things they have done and will do, and humble herself a little. And love them right where they are.  Isn't that what Christ did for us?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reveling in the Little Things

Mr. Clean was out of town last night with work, and I had big big plans.  I was going to rendezvous with a couple men I haven't seen in a while.  I figured that I could alternate my time and attention between Mr. Selfridge and Doc Martin, but those pesky children of mine had other plans.

The three youngest wanted a sleepover.  In my room.  I am certainly cultured enough to know one simply does not have men in her room when the children are about, so I changed my plans and let the kids camp out on my floor.  

I thought about how cool it was that I still had kids that wanted to spend time with me.  Wanted to just be in the same room I was for the night.  Even if it meant having to decide who got Daddy's side, and who had to grab a spot on the floor.  It was heartwarming.  So I put up with the whispering (I'm not sure how they forgot that I have the power of hearing), the sporadic snoring, the flip-flopping next to me, and the sleeping bodies blocking the path to the bathroom, to just revel in the fact that I had some of my babies super close for the night. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Well (Here's Praying Anyway!)

This is my eldest son's last year before high school begins.  The big leagues.  When, as he would put it, "school starts to count".  Insert big sigh, since school has been "counting" since the womb, or I would not have read, "Go, Dog. Go!" exactly 8,932 times when he was a toddler. Well, give or take a time or two.

So tonight, I got to sit and chat with an amazing mentor, and one of my son's teachers/partners in his educational journey.  We were talking about the future of his education and the scary high school years, since they apparently "count".  In the homeschool world, this can be even a bit more intimidating.  You simply do not want to goof this up.

While gleaning from her and her eldest daughter (also an awesome teacher; I am soooo buttering these two up as much as I can in preparation for the next four years, but their reputation and skill precede them, so while buttering I am still speaking the truth...), she shared with me something my son said to her.  She had commented on his skill and talent at drawing and asked him if he loved doing it a lot.  

He responded (and I am paraphrasing the both of them here, I am the 40 year old mother of five, therefore my brain capacity is limited, at best) that he did not necessarily like it, simply because he was very good at it.  Another friend and fellow writer was also in the room, and we all got a good chuckle at his sage fourteen year old insight, and that it would make for great blog fodder.

I thought about that on the way home.  This fact that seemed so obvious to him, was an eye opener for me.  However, it took a different turn.  For the most part I love having my kids home for their education.  I enjoy teaching them (save Jr. High math; it should be outlawed).  My astute nine year old commented today how I learn with them.  He is so right.  It's probably a dead give away, granted the number of times I say, "That is so cool, I didn't know that!"  

When push comes to shove, I can be good at coordinating curriculum, modifying it to what I want it to look like for my kids learning styles, organizing work, and envisioning projects and trips.  But there are many days, I don't like doing any of it.  I want to sit on my duff and just read a good book.  Educating kids at home can be hard work. Just like my wise old son, I want it to be easy.  But as the saying goes, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort..."

If my kiddo graduates remembering nothing else this entire crew backing him has taught him, if he simply remembers that, he will do just fine.  As for me?  I still want to do some serious duff sitting with that book.  Something about old dogs and new tricks, or the like...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Monday or Bust!

I don't usually like Mondays.  Sundays are nice; we worship with our church family, head home for some serious goof off time, and generally relax.  But Monday's shadow always starts to creep in on Sunday evening when I start to think of Mr. Clean heading to the office the next day, or out into the field to see clients (some of which might require an overnight trip).  School gears back up and I think about how much we didn't accomplish off of the carefully charted spreadsheet the week before.  I think about the obligations on the calendar.  I start thinking too much.  It's burdensome.

Tonight was different. We were invited by a very special brand new seven year old to come and share birthday cake with him and his family this evening.  He is my dear friend's son, my own seven year old's partner in crime, and a member of a larger family that I long ago adopted as my faux family here in PA.  Whether or not they know this isn't relevant.  I love this family and like a good barnacle I have attached myself. Fortunately, they have yet to see me as a nuisance and scrape me off the haul.

So tonight we happily went to this sweet boy's house, and sat around the table with his grandparents, parents, aunts, uncle, and cousins, while eating cake and ice cream.  Presents were opened, a cup or two of tea was ingested, stories were told, and laughter was abundant.  

And ironically, it changed my perspective on Monday.  Mr. Clean has to travel, we are expecting a couple inches of snow, and we are still behind on that school spreadsheet.  None of it ranks high on my "fun factor", but tonight reminded me that just as a simple birthday get together can either be the highlight of the day or just another thing on the calendar, Mondays will be exactly as I choose for them to be.  A chore or a chance to enjoy the day.  

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  Have a wonderful Monday!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Trendy and Tiny, But Seriously?

Have you heard of the tiny house movement?  Does it intrigue you?  I am humored by it, because it seems as if it is now trendy enough to be extremely popular amongst the upper middle class.  If you haven't heard of it, it is fairly self explanatory.  People are giving up larger homes, purging the majority of their possessions, and moving into what can only be described as circus travel trailers from the early 1900's. Some of these are under 200 square feet. 

Don't get me wrong, it's a quaint idea.  Mr. Clean and I owned a travel trailer for several years and loved taking off in it with the kiddos on weekend trips and vacations.  It had a kitchen, small bathroom with a tub/shower combo and a bunk house.  We loved it.  Even the dogs enjoyed it.  But living in it full time?  We could do it, but it would take some serious patience.

Seeing this trend explode humors me because this extreme living is a cool idea, but why so extreme in the first place?  Why not backtrack sixty or seventy years when a family of four could do just fine in a spacious 600 square foot house?  With only one bathroom.  And feel like they had a mansion.  It's all perspective.

I am, quite frankly, guilty of it myself.  Our first home was a town house with about 1000 square feet. We fit quite comfortably in it. When we bought our next home, it was enormous to me.  At 2400 feet (not even counting the basement) we more than doubled what we had been in before.  I wasn't sure how to even use all of the space, and we considered downsizing after just a couple of years.  Fast forward eleven years later, and I have used every inch of space.  My basement is a scary place to me.  I own everything down there.  I caught myself mumbling the other today that if I simply had more storage space...  I quickly glanced around to make sure no one caught that statement.  It was an, "ah-ha" moment.  I was being absurd.  Completely ridiculous.

It's is time to start purging this lot of mine; taking inventory and sharing with others the bounty over which I grumble about not having space to store.  We are in no position to move, nor do we really want  to, but maybe we should just start thinking about the grandeur we live in compared to the simple but wonderful houses of our grandparents from a few decades back.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Nature vs. Nurture

The other day I was scrolling through a social media site and happened upon a question posed to a large group. The question was simply, "How many kids do you have, and are they adopted or biological?".  Now, this question was not put out there with any malice whatsoever.  I got the intent.  I have five kiddos.  Three of them spent 40+ weeks using my womb as a jungle gym, while the other two were adopted, sparing my body more labor yet filling my heart with even more momma joy.  I am proud of all of them, and the way they found their way to our family dynamic.  The author of the question was probably an adoptive mother herself, and we like to know others who have similar experiences.  But this question got under my skin a tad.

It's an innocent question, and bear with me here because I promise I am NOT going to post one of those, "Ten Things You Never Say to an Adoptive Parent" blog posts (they kind of drive me nuts), but it got my attention anyway.  And the wheels in my brain started to turn, as observations of my kidlets started to emerge.


Mr. Clean and my babies

In my house are five uniquely different kids, simply because they were created that way.  However, a few of them have some distinct similarities that has absolutely nothing to do with the level of melanin in their skin, nor their genetic make up.  I find this fascinating, and quite cool.  My eldest daughter and my middle son have the same learning style, get easily frustrated over the same things, and are quick to please.  If you are happy, they are happy.  My eldest daughter and my eldest son on the other hand, look alike, but have absolutely nothing in common at this point in their lives.

My youngest daughter and middle son are like twins.  Except one looks like me, and the other is the spitting image of their biological father.  We even call them, "the twins" despite being 21 months apart in age.  They naturally gravitate to one another to play.  They can even finish one another's sentences.  Yet, they share no matching DNA.

My baby and my oldest sons have a fire in them that is infectious.  They are busy all the time.  They hate having nothing to do and love being physically active.  They are quick witted and can be terribly snarky at times.  They are also the first to dispense hugs to the momma, and help without being asked.  They wrestle with each other and enjoy one another, despite the almost eight year age difference.  One proudly sports a fair face full of freckles, while the other has the smooth, caramel, Carribean skin of a boricua.

All of my children have different and unique relationships with one another.  They share similar facial expressions, display emotions "just like so and so", and have inflections in their voices that match each other.  They are all wonderfully made and unique as well, but there is no denying that they have been raised together as siblings.  The origins of their bloodlines DO matter, but not in the everyday interactions within the family.  Quite honestly, to me the biological vs. adopted question is irrelevant.  I don't mind sharing the story of our journey at all, but it does not divide my kiddos into categories.  Ever.

So, I didn't answer the query, even though the writer of that question was simply excited to share her family dynamic, and find others that are similar.  I like finding that as well, but this time I decided to keep our family's differences close to the cuff and simply marvel over how very alike they are.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How Could I Refuse?

I have a full plate.  I don't say that to complain, just to let all the other moms reading this know we are all at a similar starting place in life at the present.  It's a blessing and a curse all at the same time.  Mostly because it is mainly my doing.  I say, "yes" a little too often. The things I do however, I genuinely enjoy doing, or I just really like helping out if there is a need.

Unfortunately the flip-side has little room for the other things.  The, "you only get one shot here" things that come up.  Usually I have to decline due to another obligation, work, or a kid appointment.  Squeezing things into the calendar can get tricky.  But there are times when the silly things seem extra important.  Those that involve the kids, I try and grab as often as I can, but the ones that involve the world outside of the immediate Mr. Clean family biosphere can often get missed.  I. Hate. That.

Today I am taking a trip.  For just over 12 hours, and it will involve over four hours of driving, arrangements for my kids, and skipping our weekly small group Bible study (that Mr. Clean leads... wince!).  But waiting for me will be an evening of fun, music, family, and friends.  Who could turn that down?

So in a few hours I am off to Maryland to have dinner and to see a Big Band and Swing musical review; one of my all time favorite styles of music.  Someone I love and who knows that I would hate to miss this chance decided to just ask.  She knows I live in the middle of semi-controlled chaos.  She knows that I homeschool.  She knows it's a Wednesday.  She also knows I would love, love, love this show.  So, how can I refuse?  Sometimes these little things, are the big things.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dreams and Drywall

I love architecture. I love good bones on a house, and lots of moulding.  I love history and personality in a property.  When I was six years old, my mother and step-father bought a really cool over-sized Cape Cod that was built in the the late 30's to early 40's.  They took this gem and shined it up.  They painted, remodeled, and decorated top to bottom.  It was gorgeous.

When my husband was a kid, his parents' first house was an older house a block or so from Long Island Sound, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.  They did the same thing to their house that my parents did to theirs.  Both Mr. Clean and I grew up with a love of all things construction.  We could discuss plum lines, window glazing, and drywall tape.  I can walk into almost any building and find the original lines vs. the remodeled ones.  Quite often I can even peg the decade the building was constructed.  The sight of a purple chalk line just makes me happy.  We both wanted all that for our future first home.

When the time came to house hunt, Mr. Clean decided that ease of living while building up his career was a tad more crucial than being coated in drywall dust.  Any house with oil heat was out.  I was heartbroken.  I wanted radiators and picture moulding.  Squeaky hardwood floors, and hand carved newel posts were the top of my list.  Easy to maintain became his desire.  I saw his logic, but my heart still wanted a house with a story.  We bought our first home in 2000; it was a great little townhouse with nice hardwood floors, but not much more personality (unless you count our original, off-white, 80's style fridge and dishwasher).

Fast forward nineteen years and we are living in a cookie cutter, traditional, builder grade home, in a really great neighborhood.  My house is a mere fourteen years old, with carpet covered plywood subflooring and standard, big box store issued, round newel posts.  I am extremely grateful for my house, and loved imagining our future when we first looked at it, but my childhood love of architecture is still alive and kicking.  I have a laundry list of what I want to change in this house.  And each project requires serious power tools and lots of drywall and moulding.  Oh, and cash.

Tonight I left the home of a friend. I adore the friend, and her seriously killer log cabin home that was probably frequented by Daniel Boone, back in the day.  That house has some major personality.  I drove home in the bitter cold, pulled into my garage, and walked into my family room with the builder grade, fourteen year old carpeting and oddly placed soffits (I hate soffits).  

There, sitting on the couch were all five of my kids, next to Mr. Clean in the recliner.  There, were my babies, kept cozy and warm by the modern upgraded heating system in my house.  There, were the six pieces of my heart that make my house a phenomenal home.  I sat down on the couch cuddled between two of my offspring and found my happy place.  And it had nothing to do with newel posts and moulding.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hoping to Obtain Maturity

I might as well get it out of the way right now; I am a conservative.  I always have been.  I idolized Reagan when I was a kid, and turned my nose up at the thought of anyone choosing to be a Democrat.  Silly peasants.

I am also very conservative in my beliefs.  My faith is top priority.  However in my younger adult years,  my socially conservative views would often trump my religious views.  With the exception of my best friend whom I adored (and, well, my parents), my friends were very conservative Jews, Muslims, and other like minded Christians.  I would have rather spent time with an extremely conservative atheist than a "fuzzy" Christian. Self-righteousness reigned supreme over actual Christ-like love in my life.  I didn't hang out with my Jewish, Muslim, or atheist friends because I cared about their salvation, but because they thought like I did on all worldy and political matters.  I liked them, some I even loved, but the fact that they thought like I did was the most important part of our friendship.

Even just typing all that out and re-reading it makes me cringe.

Fast forward quite a few years.  I am still a conservative in my political and religious views (although there has never been a politician to replace my "Gipper", and I have matured enough to know that it isn't all so cut and dry), but the person I described above annoys me to no end.  I would not be able to hang out with her for more than a few minutes before the rhetoric and propaganda just plain wore me out.  And it was my own rhetoric for years.  

There are still certain subjects over which I will not budge.  What they are doesn't matter anymore.  The Lord knows where my heart stands, right or wrong, and He will deal with me on it if I need convicting.  My God is that big.  I am not smushy in my faith; I am interested simply in the Gospel, biblical truth, and showing Christ's love, but it is no longer necessary for me to bash others over the head with it.

And those Jewish and Muslim friends?  I love them even more now, but it has nothing to do with my pharisaical moralist approach to life anymore, but a deep love of people.  Even if we come from differing points of view.




Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 11 - Technology Fail

I just typed up a post on Blogger's handy dandy IOS app.  I went to look up the proper spelling of a word, went back to the app, and poof... gone.  I was wrapping up the post, and it was. just. gone.  To say I was frustrated is an understatement.  It was almost like being thrown back to the early days of word processing, before "auto-save".  The thought of starting the post from scratch was scowl inducing.  Why couldn't Blogger design an app that would instantly save your work when you went to the home screen?  Where is the logic?  Where is the justice?  Am I really this ridiculously shallow?

This was probably the biggest inconvenience of my day.  The lack of auto-save.  And I was grousing over it.  And now publicly admitting it.  Kind of absurd, aye?  

I work part time with people who are separated from their children. Quite possibly forever.  I turn on a faucet and water magically flows out, while people in other countries fight over clean water.  I have to creatively find ways to fit food in my pantry because it is too full, while mommas around the world watch their babies starve.  And I have to resist the urge to not throw my iPad across the room because an app didn't save my words?  

Humility hits hard. Very hard. And I am so very glad it does; especially on the days I grumble about the things that really do not matter whatsoever.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Just Keep Breathing...

I am one of those annoying people who can belt out a song for any situation.  It can be VeggieTales or Phantom of the Opera, it doesn't matter.  I love music.  

I come from a musical family. My grandmother was an amazing pianist who loved hymns.  My grandfather blasted big band at every given opportunity.  My mother had music playing constantly; anywhere from Al Jarreau and Lena Horne to The Monkees.  We had it all.  I started singing young and loved it.  I sang in church, school, choirs, choruses, plays, anywhere. It was my therapy.  

I still believe the best therapy for me is to drive somewhere alone and sing until my stress is gone.  I did that today.  It was a rough school day for one of my offspring, and I was simply drained by the evening.  I found myself at one point alone in my Momma mobile while running errands, listening to music.  

And then Plumb came on.  Tears welled up a little and I felt the stress leave me as the words bounced around in my heart and my head.  This is my current homeschool anthem right now for one of my beloved kiddos...


Well, everybody's got a story to tell
And everybody's got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there's beauty here
'Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can't let go, I can't move on
I want to believe there's meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out
"God please take this"?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn't plan
Wondering how I got to where I am
I'm trying to hear that still small voice
I'm trying to hear above the noise



What an amazing God we serve.  He knows what we need and exactly when we need it. I am so thankful for that.


I will sing to the Lord all my life;
 I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 104:33




Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fruit Pies and Polyester

Have you ever eaten something simply due to nostalgia?  Something you probably wouldn't touch with a twenty foot pole if it were not for history?  I did that the other day, and was swept right back to being a five year old who had stars in her eyes for her daddy.  I was food shopping and my eye caught a fruit pie.  The kind that is individually wrapped and looks like a flat misshapen football.  I couldn't resist, so I bought it.  I didn't eat it right away; I actually forgot about it for a while and rediscovered it later when I put the groceries away.

Polyester chic 1978/79
The first bite swept me back to the late seventies.  I was immediately clad in plaid polyester pants and a halter top (I was a very stylin' five year old), with my equally cool young father with his jeans and t-shirt, always complete with a pack of smokes in the pocket or rolled in his sleeve (in the 70's smoking apparently couldn't kill you, so thankfully he quit before it could).

My mom refused to buy me junk food.  She was always feeding me things like couscous or salmon from a can.  Pies in a "paper/plastic/I have no clue what material it actually was" wrapper did not pass muster.  But my daddy... he was the one to sweet talk.  My father didn't eat junk food either.  Actually my father rarely ever ate much during the day.  He started off with coffee, drank more coffee, had coffee for lunch, and then ate as if it was his last meal at dinner. I however, had the power to con my father (while I was still young and cute) into letting me eat all the nonsense he wouldn't touch, and Hostess fruit pies were on the top of that list.


So zoom back to 2015, a time when smoking AND wearing polyester is hazardous to your health, and I am eating the pie.  Frankly, it's kind of gross.  I am kind of understanding exactly why my dad wouldn't touch them back then.  Maybe I should go grab some salmon instead.  Canned, of course.