Thursday, March 19, 2015

365 Busted

You want me to build you a birdhouse?  Okay!  It may not be level, and it may look like a crooked little squatter's den but I'll do it.  How about knotting a fleece blanket?  Sure!  They may not be exactly even squares, but it will keep you warm.  Let's go bake a pie!  That crust may burn a little, but it will be edible.  Why not?  Let's do it.

I will do a hundred things I am not so great at, and have no personal attachment or commitment to at the drop of a hat.  If I goof them up, no worries.  It won't bother me a bit.  But something that I love and enjoy doing?  If I can't make it sound the way I want it to, look the way I want it to, or read the way I want it to, I avoid it like the plague.  I hate that part of my personality.

I revamped writing here a little bit ago.  I committed to 365 days of writing; preferably in a row.  I have not been quite keeping up my end of that commitment however, and I'm frustrated.  I will write in my head at night and love the ideas.  When I start to type the next day, the flash of inspiration from the night before, or even hours before in the shower or while brushing my teeth, just doesn't land.  It doesn't sound right.  It doesn't have that feeling I felt when I was writing in my head.  It just... doesn't.  So, I abandon it.  And then I get annoyed with myself.

So it's time to get off of my self imagined high horse and just do it.  Get thoughts typed even if they do not match what I had originally conjured.  Let them take their own twists and turns, even if sometimes, I am not sure where they will end.  Like today.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Want A Do Over

This week has been one for the record books.  On Wednesday we had a gorgeous day here in PA.  The weather was mild and warm for the first time in a while.  On the way home from our homeschool co-op we had the windows rolled down and took our time getting home.  It was wonderful.

Later that afternoon, I discovered that our wee gerbil Sally finally lost her battle.  C'sa was busy jumping on the trampoline and playing outside, so I brought Sally into my room, found a box for her and decided that the knowledge of her death could wait in the kids' world.

Breaking the news to C'sa was hard.  I knew she would take it badly, and she did.  She loves deep, so loss cuts deep.  For the next couple of days she would break into intermittent sobs.  It broke my heart to have to try and soothe those wounds.

Friday afternoon her wounds became tangible.  While jumping on the trampoline with my oldest son, they accidentally collided and fell into a heap on the trampoline's canvas.  Her glasses broke, and so did her clavicle. She was in immense pain.  

We took her to an urgent care facility and had x-rays done. They trussed her up in a harness and a sling, and sent her home with a prescription for pain and instructions to follow up in a week with an orthopedist.  After 24 hours hours post break, I doubt she can last a week.  She is still in serious pain and can barely move.  Prayers are coveted, an immediate Monday morning appointment craved.

We will grow from this week, we will heal; but I wish it was one we could just try again, with much different results.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Well, I'll Be...

Yesterday it appeared that one of our little gerbils was ready for that Big Gerbil Wheel in the sky.  I promised my sobbing daughter on Sunday that I would make an appointment for her with the vet if she made it through the night on Sunday.  She did, but I could not get an appointment until today.  I knew I wasn't going to have to keep that appointment.  I prepared my girls for the inevitable last night.  We have experienced a gerbil death before, and the signs were all there.  Except she decided to hang out another night last night.

I got up early to go check on her, fully anticipating that I would need to remove her body so the girls would not wake up to that scene.  I snuck into their room with my flashlight and checked the tank.  Not a gerbil in sight.  Our sick little one, Sally, had been lethargically living her last days on a bed of cotton we had put down for her, and hadn't been budging, yet now she was nowhere.  I couldn't even find her sister, Lucy.  Panicking a little and imagining a lifeless Sally buried somewhere amongst the pine shavings and paper pulp, I shined my flashlight into the wooden house that dominates the glass tank.  Two very annoyed and tired eyes reflected the light back at me.  I think I jumped three feet into the air.  Sally, looking at me a tad perplexed as to why I was shining a light in her eyes, turned away and rested her head back down.  I breathed a little sigh of relief that she had lasted the night.

Later this morning, she had taken refuge once again on her cotton palette and was looking worse.  Her labored breathing had slowed way down to shallow gulps.  I was ready to call the vet and cancel the one o'clock afternoon appointment I was pretty confident she would not live to see.

Zoom ahead eight hours, and I am wrestling my wee friend to try and stick a syringe full of antibiotics between her teeth.  She is not happy with me, whatsoever.  The vet is hoping that she simply has an infection.  I never imagined I would actually have to keep a vet appointment for a gerbil.  In the last few hours, the sweet docile Sally girl has bitten one vet and one vet assistant necessitating a bandage for both, ran around her tank inspecting it for change while she had been gone at the evil aforementioned vet's office, completely demolished, by chewing her way through, the cardboard of a toilet paper roll, and dug so furiously, had she been in actual dirt, she may have made it to China.  She is now asleep, and I am exhausted.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring for our girl, but I can bet it won't be what I plan for. In either direction.

Monday, March 2, 2015

For His Eye Is On the Sparrow...

Three years ago my girls got three little rodent sisters as pets.  Although not my first pick for a pet, gerbils seemed like a good salve to put on my eldest daugher Xena's heart after our cat died.  We didn't want another cat, so after four or five years of her mourning him and begging for another feline, we decided to put her focus on something else with fur.  Welcome our little desert rodents.

I must admit I fell in love with them right away.  I could often be caught staring at the gerbil tank, just watching them play, dig tunnels, and scurry around their home.  I even would take them out to croon at them in that silly voice reserved for babies and puppies.  Last summer we had to deal with one of the sweethearts getting sick and dying.  It was Xena's gerbil that died and it was a tough time for her.  She was heartsick.  I asked her if she would take over the care of "my" gerbil Lucy.  She gladly accepted, and life kept moving on, in that way it tends to do.  Life, is once again gearing up to give us another blow.

In gerbil years, three is considered elderly.  C'sa's little gerbil friend Sally is fighting the good fight, but I fear she is going to lose that fight very soon, if not tonight.  I have spent the last day and a half stalking their tank, checking her breathing, hand feeding and watering her, and just stopping to gaze.  I have tried to brace my tender hearted girl for the stark reality of what is coming, but this evening it became too much.  My baby girl was in a puddle of tears at the simple thought of her gerbil dying.  

This is what love looks like.

I reminded her that the Lord created every living thing and cares for all of them.  His care extends to the lilies of the valley, the sparrows, and the little desert rodents.  As much as she loves Sally, Christ loves C'sa a gazillion times more.  So much that He sacrificed His life for hers.  A God that big wouldn't forget His smallest creatures.

I hope I reassured my girls that their little friends were loved by the One who created them.  They can trust Him to see to every detail, even the furry ones...

I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
For His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

Sunday, February 22, 2015


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.