Thursday, October 22, 2009

"The Huge Huge Trip" (Jeff's title)

We just had a grand vacation...Brandon wrote his version about it...only including some minor fictional points. The itinerary was Wed- drive to Ohio and stop to see Niagara Falls in the middle, Thursday- see the Creation museum and then drive 14 hours straight through the night to Oklahoma where Roy and Bekah were getting married. We arrived Friday morning. Rehersal was that evening and as Rachel was part of that, we went. Went to dinner afterwards and had some yummy catfish and saw my cousin Christine- which I haven't seen in ages! Saturday we went to a park in the morning where the kids played while I cleaned out the van of all the car food, then that evening was the wedding- it was beautiful and short!:-) reception followed as usual and we relaxed and visited with people. Saturday evening we packed up and then Sunday morning we drove to Dallas to drop Jane and Amy off at the airport and meet up with Melissa Brown for a lil' visit. We chanced to be there during the Texas state fair and walked around that a bit and checked out another "free" science museum (thanks to some cool membership pass we have) Had some good smokehouse BBQ for dinner and then drove to Longview and spent the night in a small hotel room. Monday we drove all day to Alabama and the highlight of that day was the gas station that we stopped at in some small town in Mississippi that had several men standing around "shootin' the breeze" and after listening to them for a least 5 minutes or so, I realized that their Southern Accent was so heavy that I couldn't really understand a word they were saying! Sorry Dixie...I've been away too long indeed! The beach was our home from Monday evening until Saturday morning. We had a blast- the waves were perfect for our inexperienced-in-the-water kids. The pool was 3-5 ft deep and that gave the boys the courage to try all sorts of things. We also took a trip to Mobile one day on an auto ferry, saw the USS Alabama battleship, and the USS Drum submarine and a smattering of planes.
Saturday we drove to Georgia and parked at "Dani's house" as Rachel declared it. Most people would consider it "Joe and Alouette's". That week was primarily to prepare for the Georgia reception for Bekah and Roy. I had lots of fun and was pretty exhausted by the end, but Fritha and I had a blast! We had a good time visiting with plenty of friends, family, and generally trying to relax in between cooking efforts. Saturday was the reception and went really well. I think we had almost 150 people come over the course of the day. That was really exciting! Sunday we packed up AGAIN and after church and a nice "covered dish dinner" and went to South Carolina where we stopped to see our new little Aldrich neices Aeralind and Bronwyn. Cute little girls! Rachel and Joseph had a grand time with them and we enjoyed visiting with Derek and Melissa for a bit. We stayed overnight in a hotel nearby and then drove the other 16 hours home on Monday. That was a long day, but my favorite part was the very end when it was after 9pm, the kids were all sleeping in the van, Brandon was driving, there was quiet music playing and I got out of my seat, scooted over onto the cooler and we had some quiet time talking and enjoying a couple of precious hours of time- just the two of us. We got home around 12:30am and went directly to bed.

Tuesday afternoon I went to a followup for kidney stone analysis and discovered that my whole problem in the past is that I've been basically dehydrated long term and that everything in all the tests points to the fact that if I just doubled my urine volume it would be almost impossible for me to create stones. Good to know, easy fix, inexpensive, and I think I'll try it. Wednesday we got unpacked, Thursday I had my back fixed at the chiropractor from all those long hours of driving.

There you go...that's it. For the first time in our family's life we had a completely uneventful trip! No disasters, to big car problems, no sick kids...I kept waiting for the bomb to drop and it didn't! Praise the Lord! we had TONS of happy moments, plenty of fun with the kids, and lots of relaxing time. Hooray.

And now for those of you who feel like you got jipped out of a good's a top ten list to pacify your addiction.

Top Ten Favorite Memories from our Vacation

10. At the beach, Renna was asleep on a T-shirt and rolled over and did a face plant in the sand getting it in her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. I rinsed her off for several minutes before I discovered that the entire time a jelly fish was bumping into my leg and I had almost rinsed her with it!

9. Trying to eat dinner at the condo- spaghetti- while watching Animal Planet- specifically a show on some giant stupid snake having eaten a crocodile and was now rupturing...I requested a channel change even though the kids (and Brandon) were completely fascinated.

8. Dani hearing Renna awake in our room and going to check on her. I found her leaned over Renna patting her back in her little bed. :-)

7. Eating the fish that the boys caught at the "Fishing Grandpa's" house and listening to fun stories which included such phrases as "that was so good I could eat it in my sleep"!

6. Having a chance to talk to Frank about his vision for work after school and being completely amazed at his goals and cool ideas and ideal job...I want a smart house! And I really LOVED seeing him.

5. Having plenty of late night talks, and early morning talks, and middle of the day talks with Fritha. And spending 30 minutes just explaining ourselves back and forth and no one was irritated about it...well no one who was involved in the conversaion. :-) My guess is that there was a bit of amused eye rolling behind our backs. :-)

4. The Andersons sleep number bed and awesome big cozy tub...ultimate comfort and relaxation.

3. James coming down in the middle of the night and the conversation went like this:
mama: James, what do you need?
James: Um...I'm...just looking...for...a bed.
Mama: Oh, well, ok. Do you need to go to the bathroom?
James: No.
mama: DO you want me to walk you back to bed?
James: No.
mama: Do you need anything else?
James: No.
mama: Ok, well, goodnight again.
James: Mmhm. (and walked back to bed)

2. Listening to the children laugh while listening to Bill Cosby, then later hearing one of the kids quote him, "But Dad! We can't go to sleep unless we've had a good beating!"

1. Watching Brandon give the kids baths by sitting in the tub in his swimsuit and play with rubber sharks with them for a while before bathing them down. Super sweet!

So there you go.

The very small nutshell of the very huge, huge trip.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dr. Visits Galore

This week was all about things medical. It began Sunday evening with Jonathon needing a trip to the Emergency Room for a technical problem - He couldn't pee. He was able to drip some out, but that was it. Since I don't like 3 of the 4 urologists at the local band aid station- I mean, hospital, I decided to take him up to Dartmouth where there is a pediatric urology team. You might think I'm just picky, and maybe I am, but of the ones I don't like, one seems gay, one is REALLY cocky, and the other has no appreciation for the patient wanting to maintain modesty during an office visit. I've never met #4, but it seemed pretty risky to go and expect to get them.

Anyway, I'm glad I drove an hour and a half to the other place so I could get in with the pediatric team anyway. They are so much more sensitive to the overall needs of the child. Both the medical side and the emotional side. They did a great job of trying to make Jonathon comfortable and happy as well as take care of the actual problem.

So, yes, I spent the hours of 10:30pm to 4:30am in the emergency department and then we were transferred to a room in the peds wing. The ER was a little frustrating because the drs there weren't very sensitive at all to the emotional side of things with Jonathon. They just wanted to jab, poke, and everybody take a look. At one point I decided that if someone else wanted to "take a peek" then they were going to have to come up with a pretty good reason why they too needed to see the problem. It's not the same as some cut on your arm- really! And I wish that people in the ER would recognize that and be a little more sensitive that it is a very private area of the body and Jonathon likes to keep it that way.

They also tried to insert a catheter at one point- which is a nightmare for a little boy on a good day, but he was stopped up, so to do that REALLY hurt and bled and kind of freaked him out. To top it off, when it wouldn't go in, they wrote on his chart that he did fine with trying to have it inserted, so later a dr. came in wanting to try again soon and wasn't willing to sedate him before doing so. I was really irritated. First off, Jonathon was obedient and did willingly try the first one. He also didn't cry until the end when it was really hurting, but the poor kid didn't know what to expect and was trusting us to be honest with him about what was going to happen. They did give him a couple of drugs to make him a little loopy, but I'm not convinced that they waited long enough for them to actually be very effective. The other thing the nurse made the mistake of doing was she told him that they wouldn't do it that way again. Then the dr. came in and said the exact opposite. I was MAD. Watch mama bear roar! Ok, I didn't roar, but I was pretty ticked and I let them know it. He's 8 for crying out loud, and you want to just go stuffing tubes up his little thing and then expect him to be ok with it- especially after someone just told him that they wouldn't do it. Hmph!

I knew he was hurting more than he let on because after the attempt failed to get the catheter in, Jonathon went to the bathroom and cried his little heart out. "Please can I just die and be in heaven right now?", he said. "I just want to be in heaven now." I almost melted in to a little puddle right there on the floor. After I finished explaining that he couldn't go to heaven right then, we went back into the room and waited for EVER to be transferred upstairs to a room. Jonathon mercifully went to sleep. I mercifully paced the hall most of the time. They had a very lovely rocking chair/glider thing in the room, but I'm convinced no one had ever bothered to sit in it before it was purchased because it's obvious why no one sits in it now. Note to self: to keep furniture looking nice, pick things that no one would want to sit on. If they would rather stand, it won't get dirty! I've never come across a straight back rocking chair, but that's what it was. Straight up and down from tailbone to the top of my head. I attempted to sit there and rock Renna- who was just along for the ride...well...and the food. I tried a number of slouchy positions and in the end determined that all my efforts were just adding to my chiropractor bill and doing nothing for me in the restful department. I was SO glad when we got moved.

Up to floor 5 they wheeled us. Jonathon in his bed asleep, Renna also on his bed asleep and I just walked along beside anticipating what wonderful chair was waiting for me in the next room. I was pleasantly surprised. When we walked into his room, he climbed into bed and I did too. There was a fold out bed already made up for me to lay down. Renna and I took that spot and we all crashed for about an hour before people came poking and prodding.

In the end, the first attempt to catheter opened things up enough for him to pee on his own and the dr. left him like that to observe if it would continue. So we stayed at the hospital for an ultra sound and couple of urine tests and watched a Sponge Bob marathon, played the Wii, ate peanut butter and fluff sandwich for lunch, and generally had some good mother son bonding time. Jonathon and I have never played the Wii before and I've decided that my coordination skills are severely flawed. Some Mario Brothers game had you using two controls at once and that was more than either of us could handle. So, he jumped and I moved around. We were a great team. In fact in 1 hour we managed to catch all three bunnies. (I think this was just one of those bonus areas in a world, but oh well...we were good!) I got home on Monday at 6pm and was ready to collapse.

Tuesday I spent on the phone making calls about all things dr. related. I also threw in some family vacation planning phone calls too since phone calls were the theme of the day. I tried to make every single phone call I could think of. Get em all out of my system in one fell swoop. Then later that day I took Joseph to his scheduled dermatologist apt. He has an excema problem on his hands and feet and has had it since birth. Recently it's been getting bad enough that it needs some more attention and I was starting to thing he might have some serious allergy or something. We did find out he's allergic to dust, but I don't really think that's why he has the trouble he does. And besides, DUST??? Do you really think I can, as a mother of 6 young dirty rascals really keep a dust free house! HAHA! Get real...and spin the wheel again. Pick a different allergy! Seriously though, the symptoms don't seem to coincide with that allergy very well. We did encase his mattress in plastic and his pillow too. He cried when we took his other pillow away and gave him a new one. The new one is too poofy. And I don't blame him, I would think it was too poofy too. So, we saw the dr. and he gave us some antifungal cream to use and some extra thick grease to moisturize with and an oral steroid. It always takes me a while to remember that oral steroids make my family VERY cranky. I remembered yesterday after Joseph had been taking it for three days and I was ready to kill (figuratively) the kid! We'll see how he goes for the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday we had no dr. appointments, but Jeff managed to add a medical thing in there anyway by bashing his head open on the tractor. Based on the story Rachel told, Jeff was either standing on the tractor and fell and hit his head on the steering wheel, or he was standing on the steering wheel and fell and hit his head on the tractor. Based on the nature of the person, I am tempted to guess the later story. Whatever it was, there was blood everywhere, and he now has a little larger than an inch slit in his head just behind his right ear- which he doesn't have. My daddy raise me well, however and I was able to pull out all my first aid knowledge and determine that I was pretty sure he didn't pass out, his eyes were the same size and not dialated, and he had a nice goose egg, so probably no concussion inside. And once I shaved the hair away from the wound, washed it, iced it and got it to stop pouring blood everywhere, I determined that I could just close it with a couple of butterfly band aids and avoid taking him to the hospital for stitches. So, that's what we did. I love those little butterfly things. They have helped us avoid stitches a number of times. Later that night we got to clean him up again because he picked at it and the blood faucet went full swing again, but thankfully the band aids were still intact. Later someone suggested to me that I could just put a knit hat on him to help him leave it alone. So, I'll tuck that one away for the next head wound I deal with.

Then Thursday I went to the chiropractor where she made me feel like a new woman. One place in my bad was so tight that for the first time, and adjustment REALLY hurt. She said it was aggravated by slouchy nursing and would I please only do 5 things while I fed the baby instead of 8. I thought that was pretty realistic advice, so I took it. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have nursed and cooked before. I have nursed, cooked and talked on the phone before. I have nursed, cooked, talked on the phone, and zipped up the toddlers pants before. And one time I remember nursing, cooking, taking someone to the bathroom, talking on the phone and answering the door bell pretty much all at once. So, bottom line, it was good advice to cut three tasks out somewhere. I also took Jonathon to his follow up visit with the urologist that day. We discovered that things were going along ok. He has a good stream right now and doesn't need immediate surgery. So we'll go back in a month and see where things stand then.

Friday was vacation day from the doctors. No visits, no ER, no head wounds. Just clean up around the house, gardening, laundry, and good times listening to cute country music songs with my husband that evening. Whew! What a week.

This next week is going to be all about school prep. We are planning to start on August 4th and the week before that it a little family vacation time, so, this is the week to prepare for the school year! Here we go again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Foggy Day

Seems like my titles lately relate more to nature and the weather and less to real life. Perhaps that's because the weather seems to be invading my personal comfort level these days. Actually, I don't mind WEEKS of rain on a personal level, but my children are going to die soon if it doesn't stop. (Just kidding- don't go reporting me- it really is a joke!) Anyway, they are restless. We've been outside every day we can and the kids have been out on plenty of the rainy days too. They come back in sopping wet from stomping in puddles- which I don't mind really until the fourth time they change clothes in a 2 hour period- then I mind.

So, it's wet again today. The kids are desperate for fun and have more energy than I could get out of 10 cups of coffee! We did the painting thing this morning- paint with water, that is- on those preprinted paint sheets. They wanted to do all of them this morning, but I cut them off at two a piece thinking I might need some back up for the next three days when it's supposed to be raining some more. We've read, rearranged furniture, done housework, colored every Cinderella picture you can find online for free, used charcoal to draw with- that was MESSY (and I don't recommend it unless you just have a strong desire to torture yourself with the massive clean up involved), and a host of other things. We dug Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land out of the attic. The kids played that until they realized that the older kids play with "rules" and that doesn't "let" the younger kids win, so they don't want to play that way. We've pushed the baby stroller in the rain, pilfered the umbrellas- all 2 of them that actually work. (I might go snag them before we are down to 0 that function.)

So, what else do you do? Besides plop them in front of a movie? I tell ya, I even have a list of things to do with kids on rainy days (you'll find it in my new book soon) and I've gone through the list. Well, it's been 2 weeks and then list wasn't really designed to keep kids busy for that length of time.

I don't think Renna likes the rain either. She seems more fussy when it's gloomy outside. It doesn't allow for bright, shining, sun in the house. It makes things inside feel damp and cold- like wet fish. AND MY HAIR WON'T DO A THING IN THIS WEATHER!!!!!! I think I'm missing my happy feelings I get from plenty of sunlight as well.

Don't get me wrong, things are going well, but I'm stuck in a cycle of procrastination, looking out the window, checking my inbox, coming up with something for the kids to do, cleaning up the previous activity, and thinking of ways to spend money, then remembering I have none to spend, then coming up with a different idea that involves no money, but involves time and effort and that's not appealing- so I scrap it- all to come back to procrastinating and looking out the window at the rain...and sometimes the fighting children.

I think I'll sign off here and go get a cup of coffee. Then maybe the kids and I will do some more house work. After that, I may have to cave in for a movie for them for lack of another brilliant idea!

Here's to the concept, "The Sun will come out...tomorrow..."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Pleasant Whirlwind

What a day! What a week! Lately, things have been going really well. I'm so glad God gives us times of joy and relaxation to offset the hardships. Of course, not everything is perfect, but lots of things are great and I am rejoicing in his goodness.

Jonathon (8) and James (6 1/2) are really growing up. Today they worked really hard for me helping clean up the house. We started having "30-min clean up time" a while back and recently I've realized that if I'm enthusiastic about it, the kids really will work hard, with Jonathon carrying the pack. James is right there with him usually, both having a good attitude after the initial discovery that they have to work. So, in a very short time this afternoon we got the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, entryway, and school room cleaned up. We also got some garbage emptied, the toilets and counters washed in the bathrooms, and Rachel watched Renna. All in 30 min. The only thing I did was sweep the floor under the counter and then spent the rest of the time keeping everyone else busy. They did a great job!

Then, this evening, we went out into the garden for a little "forced family fun" (as one friend called it this evening :-) and weeding. I hoed around a bunch of the plants and Jonathon worked on his garden- pulling weeds. He has corn and okra. I sure hope that okra grows! I wanna eat some. Anyway, he worked on his plants and James weeded around the pumpkins. Then the two of them went to town on their weeding. They had little cultivators and they ran them up and down next to most of the corn rows, and cleaned out the weeds in the broccoli! Most of that time I was ignoring them. Only when they asked, "What do we do next, Mama?" did I have to pay attention. Rachel happily pulled out little grass slivers all over the place. Jeff worked on the carrots (that's "his" garden) and Joseph got by with only stepping on a few plants. We spread old grass clippings around the tomatoes and peppers and then the boys helped Brandon- when he came home from working elsewhere- with fertilizer. They were especially eager to help because we were spreading "Dried Blood" around- which is apparently a nitrogen source. They thought it was cool that we were feeding our plants "BLOOD!!!!" Anyway, by the end of about 1 hour, the entire garden had been hoed or weeded, the fertilizer was down, the grass clippings all spread, and the children good and dirty.

To top it all off, they salvaged the treasure chest from the broken fish tank and buried it in an unplanted part of the garden with grand plans to come back tomorrow dressed as pirates and dig it up! Now if that isn't fun, I don't know what is!!!

I had a good dentist appointment today- so thankful for good teeth! Much of it has nothing to do with my faithfulness to brushing and flossing- it's just genes! But I'm glad for that!

I also got my workout in this afternoon. I'm really enjoying this new workout. There's a different workout for every day of the week, so it changes up a lot! I've worked muscle groups in the last 3 days that I had forgotten I had! But it feels good. Right after the workout I feel like a blob of Jell-o wobbling around. But I've discovered that if I drink a glass of Emergen-C with electrolytes in it, the shaky stuff goes away pretty quick. I can't explain how good it feels to be sore and sweaty, but it's awesome. I'm super tired, and yet at the same time I have energy from somewhere. I think it's helping me sleep better, eat less, and be more productive overall. I forget every time how much it helps until I'm in the groove again and then I can't imagine why I let it go. So, it's pretty awesome.

Been working on a book- a list book. I've been working on it off and on for about 6 years now and I'm finally close to printing. Today I worked on some illustrations that I've had in mind for a while. The text is off for editing and I'm going to work on chapter arrangement and pricing issues while it's gone. I'm super excited to be getting it out. I hope it will help other people as well!

I love that the kids are loving Renna, by the way. She's 1 month old now and up to 8.2 lbs. I'm glad she is starting to look like she has something besides skin and bones! The last couple of nights she has been sleeping better too. She sleeps in her cradle half the night and then in our bed for the other half. We're working on getting her to go back to her cradle, but she just loves our bed. Sometimes I feel a little trapped. No matter how I position her, she always manages to squirm her way back over to me and for reasons unknown, nuzzles her head up under my arm and seems to sleep best with her face almost in my armpit! I shove her over to the middle of the bed time and time again and she just quietly wiggles back to her spot. Sometimes I've found myself almost falling off the bed in the morning! But she's happy.

Back to the kids thing- they take great care of her. All of them except Joseph can carry her without making my heart stop. Joseph has gotten her and brought her to me, but I'm not sure I like it too much. He's cute with her and so far hasn't dropped her, but she's almost as tall as he is and I think he's just a bit unstable when he's lugging her around. Rachel is just the little mama. She holds her, rocks her, sleeps next to her, carries her, walks her around while patting her on the back. She just has a brand new doll, only a live one. The older boys are great too. The best part about their help is that James LIKES changing her diaper and Jonathon can feed her a bottle unassisted! Jeff is good at getting her from her bed and bringing her to me in the living room. Ah...I LOVE having kids old enough to DO SOMETHING!!!!!!

It's just been great...
-this past week we discovered that they like baked beans for dinner!!! Bring em on- they're cheap!
-Jonathon and James have been working on their math- just to keep it fresh- and doing well.
-Jonathon is writing thank-you notes for his birthday gifts for the first time this year. He's got 2 to mail and 2 left to write. I'm so proud of him. One friend gave him a little set of notes that have a picture to color and the words, "Dear _____, Thank you for the ______. I like it a lot! Love, ________" I LOVE IT! It's perfect for him! He can write the important parts, color the picture and not be overwhelmed about doing 8 of them! What a great thing to help a little kid be successful with showing gratefulness!
- Jeff loves to cook. He's helped me make a number of things lately and one of the things he does best- better than his older brothers- is crack eggs. In fact, most of the time he can get less shell than me. He's really careful. He loves to stir things on the stove and does it so well that I can leave him stirring something and work on something else and know it won't burn. We haven't gotten into chopping yet, but he can peel vegetables. He has peeled his finger, too, but only once.

Joseph is a MESS. That's a southern "mess". He is frequently "messy", but most of the time he is just a "mess"! (You say it like "mae'-yus") Anyway, he makes us laugh all the time. He scares visitors when they come too- and we laugh cause we know better. He has a little chair to eat in that is attached to the counter and he loves to stand up in it, turn around, curl his toes around the seat cushion and lean over the back upside-down! We know he can do it. He has fallen on his head a couple of times, but apparently it's hard enough that it doesn't phase him a bit- he just keeps right on doing it. He hasn't fallen anytime recently, so we just ignore it, but it makes others' hearts stop! :-)

I wish you could have seen him the day he made mud puddles in the front of the house and then poured the muddy water all over his super blonde hair. He was grinning from ear to ear and was pleased with his dirty self. He loves to go fast on his trike. I've never seen a kid go so fast on a cheap trike that I thought didn't actually move. The plastic wheels are so tight they hardly turn, or so I thought until he made it go! He just careens down the driveway like there is no tomorrow and then down the road around the corner and down the church sidewalk. He's make it all the way past the main house, down the hill, past the garage and to the golf course if I would let him. It's down hill the whole way and a child's dream for a trike ride. Brandon was out with the tractor and trailer today and came home with no less than 5 riding toys in the trailer from various children riding down the hill. (Who wants to ride up?) I have no idea what we'll do with our kids when people come and our family has to act like the rest of civilization and avoid running over old men and pregnant women. Just beware of that little blonde headed two-year old. HE STOPS FOR NO ONE....except machinery...he always stops for that. It's WAY cooler than a trip down hill!

Brandon is just staying in his usual rut. He likes it there. Every once in a while I did him out of it for something like a movie, or going out to eat, but ruts are his vacation. He's still bookkeeping, mowing lawns, paying bills, rough housing with the kids, working in the garden, and helping me out with the laundry and dishes frequently. Did I mention that he MAKES BREAKFAST 6 days a week!!!!! I LOVE HIM!!! And, he regularly keeps up with the laundry. If I could just fold it and get it put away! He's been riding his bike more this summer. I'm glad- he really does a lot around here and gets out very little. I'm glad he's getting the exercise, the time away, and the awesome brother Jeff gave him his old Ipod and he's been loving having something to listen to for his rides and while he works. He seems pretty happy and I like that.

Well...that's us and the kids and us lately.
Yeah...kind of gag-reflex happy, but then I'm not complaining about it!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Rambling Rose Colored Glasses

It's been gorgeous outside- both yesterday and today. Plenty of sunshine, comfortably warm temperatures and not as many flies and mosquitoes as in the weeks before. I love being outside. It calls me out even when everything inside is screaming for help...well the children only scream occasionally- I really meant the housework screams. Anyway, I've been playing in the garden some this week. I never thought I could get addicted to pulling weeds, but I'm coming close to such an addiction. We've gotten our garden in- complete with corn, tomatoes- Roma and big ones (I forget the name), cucumber seeds, zucchini and summer squash (we hardly ever plant enough- the kids love it!), bell peppers, winter squash, carrots, broccoli, turnips, pumpkins, and plenty of grass. I also planted a host of Zinnias right along the road and if I win the grass war they should look beautiful in the middle of the summer. Jonathon insisted on having his own garden and he spent his own money to by his own corn and okra seeds and has his little plot as well. Right in the middle of the garden we planted some sunflower seeds to make a sunflower fort and as soon as they come up we're going to plant some morning glories around them to climb up the sunflower stalks. I think the kids will like it. We are also going to plant some green beans in a couple of weeks. We got some blue lake green beans and some Turner special variety that we are going to try this year as well. I've had a jolly good time getting dirty, pulling grass weeds, mixing in manure (who'd have thought that was fun!), and just generally relaxing in the sun. It's so enjoyable. I wish I could spend all day out there.

But then there is my homeschool stuff that just recently arrived and I am torn between the fun of being outside and the fun of being inside at my desk pouring over our new books for next year. It's ridiculous how excited I am about school stuff. This year was such a success- I have expectations that next year will be just as fun if not better. We are learning all about world geography this coming year- continents, countries, cultures, various people groups, ecosystems, animals,'s gonna be great. I went with My Father's World for our curriculum last year and LOVED it, so we decided to try it again. In short- I could sell this stuff I love it so much. I would be a great person to be up there saying, "Hey, this is the best stuff for school on the planet and you should buy it right now- even if you don't have kids, cause you might know a kid somewhere and..."'s really awesome- so much information and really good books and resources combined with a Biblically based worldview for all of it AND written for homeschoolers who need age integrated materials. If you can imagine a three year old wiggling in his seat from the excitement of merely anticipating eating his birthday cake or the last two minutes before the six year old gets to run into the water at the beach- that's me and this school stuff. Love it, love it, love it!
K...and then there's the baby...having a blast watching her study her world. She's so alert and awake much of the time. She is dainty and looks so thoughtful. She folds her hands in front of her and looks as though she's 50 and politely listening to the conversation with her ankles crossed and knees together and a little smile on her face all the while nodding to let you know you have her attention. She doesn't do all that of course, but she makes me think she would be if she only knew how to sit up. She's giving me some rough nights wanting to be awake at 2 am and such, but that's the way it is with babies and part of me secretly loves the fact that she doesn't want to be in her bed, but instead is content to lay awake snuggled in my arm which after 2 hours can't move from that position anymore because the joints and muscles just froze that way. It hurts so much, and yet I wouldn't trade it for the world, cause she's so happy. Of course, there are plenty of times I wish I could just roll over onto my stomach and sleep for a good 12 hours straight, but she's so precious and it just makes my heart melt to have her there and happy- sleep deprivation and all.
Then there is exercise...glorious exercise! I worked in the garden and felt sore later and was thrilled. I went for a walk and got my heart rate up and it felt so GOOD and energizing. I've been trying to eat better- mostly counting calories and trying to figure out how to eat the most food for the least amount of calories- which usually involves having mostly healthy choices (like who wants to waste 140 calories on 2 TBSP of mayo when you can have half a sandwich with mustard, pita, turkey, lettuce, and tomato for about the same amount???) I'm learning alot about how many calories I put in my body every day and I am shocked at how many I was consuming! I had no idea! Anyway, trying to make it a healthy amount for me and baby and the weight is gradually coming off. I know it helps to be nursing to, so I figure- use the edge while I have it. For all you worry warts out there, don't think I am "dieting". This is just an attempt and eating what I really need and stopping there- I'm not starving myself or my little girl- or coming anywhere close. I also got ChaLEAN Extreme thanks to a wonderful person who helped us afford it. I have friends who seem to love it and have had good success with it and I am looking forward to starting it when I'm all safe from baby to workout again! So, right now, just focusing on the food side and getting some form of exercise- walks, or stretching, or just working up a little sweat and can't wait to get to the next step!

So, things are going well. Mom happy, children happy, Daddy back to work most of the time. Oh...and I'm loving my freezer meals. We packaged some up before the baby all on one day- 21 meals. They weren't all completely made, but they are just prepped. But none of them are high fat casseroles. They are all fairly healthy with whole grains, good cuts of meat, healthy lower fat sauces, plenty of veggies, and taste good. So I just pull out a bag at the beginning of the day and most of the work is all ready done. It's just throw it in the skillet or crock pot or whatever and add a potato or salad or veggie on the side. So easy...part of me wishes I did this all year round...I might consider it. I still make some meals, but these take the stress out of meal preparations! I know I have a healthy easy option for when I don't feel like cooking up a storm or when I just need to be focused on something else.

You know, writing this all down makes me think of David and his Psalms- partly because of what someone said to me once about my posts sounding real, but this is one of those that's just overflowing with thankfulness to God for his goodness. I've had some of those that just cry "WHY" and are pretty distressing, but this is just the opposite. I feel VERY blessed and as much time as I spend telling Jesus my problems, I want to Him to know how much I appreciate it when I feel His bountiful goodness pouring out all over me and around. And I suppose, since I'm writing this publicly, I'd like you to know too! God bless your Friday and upcoming weekend.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Help in the Mommy Department

(This is REALLY long- beware!!)
Just thought I would jot down a few ideas that have worked in our home for other mothers with young children out there. Let me begin with a disclaimer, however. Many of these things work in our home because Brandon began implementing them, not me. I now have the easy part of just carrying on what he started, but he was the one that got them going. So please don’t mark these down under my list of things I do right, these points definitely belong to him or others that I have stolen ideas from. Second, these ideas work, but it doesn’t mean that I’m consistent with them always. Please don’t think that just because I mention something that we do it every day like this. I should be- it’s much more calm and orderly and happy around here, but much like eating junk food when you know you’re on a diet- it seems better sometimes to cheat or take the easy road in the short term and in reality it’s more work, more trouble, and more sanity starving. I wish I would quit that!
So now that I have a disclaimer almost the length of any legitimate legal document, I’ll proceed with ideas and helpful tips. This is just as much for a mind jogger for myself in this new phase of 6 kids as I hope it will be helpful for others.

1. The kids CAN work. I just have to break it down into small enough portions and make it regular so they remember what to do. Other children might can do more or less, but these are things my children help out with and it makes a big difference. One awesome friend of mine, a mom of 11 children said, “The youngest child that can do the job gets that job for a chore.” It’s been helpful on many occasions. I find myself depending on the older ones so much and it’s good to always be in mind of spread the work out to the most people that can do it. Ok, so here’s a list:
Jonathon (8)- hauls wood in the winter, helps put food away from meals, can empty the dishwasher completely (including breakable things and things stored high up, can clean out the sinks and toilets, takes out the trash, sweeps the floor, changes the laundry over and vacuums pretty well. He can cook simple things like spaghetti and canned sauce while I direct him from the couch and he can also do the things the younger kids can do as well.
James (6)- also hauls wood- though not as much, puts riding toys away, can put toys away in a sorted fashion, can sort and put his own clean laundry away in the right drawers, can empty trash cans, wipes off the table, can unload almost everything in the dishwasher, can rinse dishes off and load them into the dishwasher, retrieve the laundry from the dryer and put it where it can be folded, help Joseph get in his high chair, can put the school supplies away and get them out when needed, can babysit for a short period of time
Jeff (5) helps peel vegetables, mix things, stir gravy, makes his bed and can clean up his room when told to, can brush his own teeth, can swish the toilet out (with no cleanser), can clean up sections of toys in other rooms, can take the dirty dishes from the table to the sink, can dustbust the stairs, can put his clothes away in the right drawers if I sort them for him
Rachel (4) can retrieve all sorts of things for me if I give her specific enough instructions, can take things to the right room, can put a small, sorted pile of clothes away in the right drawers, or do it in sections if it’s a large pile, can pair socks and match other things like shoes and gloves and such when cleaning up, can fold up rags and dishcloths, wipes off light switches and doorknobs, flushes toilets (we have boys that NEVER do), and can put single items away.
Joseph (2) can throw trash away for me, can get his own water from the outside of the fridge, can take his (nonbreakable) plate from the table to the dishwasher, can pick up toys and put them away while I supervise, can carry in groceries from the car in small amounts, can carry his clean clothes to his room.

It’s good to remember how much they can do and make the effort to let them do it. In the long run they will get better at it and be more and more helpful.

2. Think in 30 minutes at a time. Many times when I feel overwhelmed it’s because I’m not only trying to get something done and the kids are “in the way”, but also the place is usually a disaster. So, we started having clean up times. When I first started this, we would only do 5 minutes or 10, but once they were familiar with the idea, we moved to 30 minutes. I pretty much have stayed at 30 minutes because that’s about all the time it takes. On Fridays afternoons, when we are cleaning up for the Sabbath and trying to get every place in the house at least somewhat tidy, sometimes it takes an hour, but that’s about it. During this 30 minutes, I DON’T CLEAN UP ANYTHING MYSELF! I spend the entire time telling them what to do. And it works. I tell them it’s “30 minute clean up time” and set a timer. Then we start in the living room and I very particularly tell them jobs to do- Jonathon vacuum the room, James put the books away, Jeff pick up all the cars, Rachel put the pillows back on the couch, Joseph, pick up that little toy man and put him in the toy box. Each child gets jobs according to their level to carry them out, and usually a little under their level. This is a time to get it done rather than trying to teach them lots of new things. I want them to be successful with it, not exasperated AND usually during 30 min. times I’m already flustered, so it’s not a good time to set the kid up to fail cause if they do, they’re REALLY gonna get it- and mainly because I’m stressed out and that’s not fair. As far as not cleaning up myself, my Project Manager Dad always says, “If you have 4 or more people working for you, there must be a non working foreman.” That means the person in charge only tells the others what to do. If I try to work while I’m directing the children, I usually end up irritated that I can’t get my job done and frustrated that they aren’t doing theirs too. So, it’s much better if I lower my expectations about what will get done, tell them what to do and stay on top of it, and then be happy with the results they get. Later, if there are jobs that are too difficult for them that I really want done I can do them while they are playing or have one child “help” me. Last on this point, one place this has worked great is the counter next to the phone where everything piles up and there are 50 things that all go in a different spot. I stand at the counter and the kids line up and I give them each one or two things to put away in the right spot or at least in the right room. They run put it there and come back for the next item. Sometimes things end up not quite where I wanted them, but it’s usually close and generally close enough it takes very little time for me then to put it away.
3. Make the kitchen kid friendly. Some people can’t do this, but if you can it’s a life saver! Put the dishes that regularly go through the dishwasher in the bottom cabinets and in drawers. Put the things you hand wash in the upper cabinets. This way the kids can unload the dishes and put them away for you easily. Even Joseph (2) can put plates and cups away in our house because they are on his level- and he’s still young enough to think it’s cool and fun to do it! If you need more specific ideas, put any plastic stackable cups in a drawer instead of an upper cabinet, put plates and bowls in a bottom cabinet and move the pots to an upper cabinet. Put pantry items in an upper cupboard so the lower one can be used for dishwasher safe mixing bowls, casserole dishes, or whatever. And let the kids sort and put away the silverware- just teach them they can’t lick each one before putting it in the drawer 
4. If the kids are going crazy or getting into things that they shouldn’t- they usually need more structure or more supervision, are bored, or all of the above. Many times it’s because I’m distracted- on the phone, on the computer, wanting to sleep, wanting to do a project that doesn’t involve them, etc. I have to remember that they come first and plan for them. Either plan for them to help, or plan for them to be doing something else, or plan to do my thing another time, or plan to spend less time on my “thing” so they don’t get bored.

When the children are chaotic, Brandon always stops them and makes them clean up the living room- almost everytime. The atmosphere does a lot to hype them up or calm them down. The more toys that are out, the less they play with them constructively. The messier it is, the louder and more wild it gets. I try to remember to do this also, but I forget. It does help though.

If I have to make a phone call or do something when they are crazy, I try to settle them down to something interesting first- coloring, a toy they haven’t seen in a while, sit on the couch and read books, or for a lengthy thing, I pull out the movie. If I need a nap, I use the movie and try to sleep on the couch in the same room. (If I’m really tired enough I can rest this way) If they are up earlier than I can stand in the morning, I get up, do the movie, and then try to go back to sleep on the couch. If they have seen a movie and I still need a nap, or if I am just so exhausted I’m having a hard time coping and I’ve maxed out my ideas- I pray for help, resist the devil, drink coffee, and sit down and read them a book until I can’t keep my eyelids open or we all get up and do something like take a walk together, blow bubbles, or lay in the grass outside. Bath time works well for an escape time too sometimes. They bath and I sit on the toilet and read a book or something.

If they are being destructive, they get disciplined, but I also try to figure out why they are resorting to destruction rather than normal play. Many times it’s because I’m being selfish in how I spend my time rather than making sure I’m actively involving them in my day or at least adequately keeping them busy.

5. Sometimes the kids are just plain full of energy without a good outlet to burn it off. Here’s what works for those times:
#1. Daddy rough housing and wrestling on the floor with them. Pillow fights, tickling, playful punches, throwing them on the couch. This can get intense, but it wears them out and they love it. Lots of smiling and laughing is heard and it’s one of their favorite times. Usually when the rough housing ends he calms them down by reading them a book. When I’m not in “just had a baby” mode, I can wrestle on the floor with the little ones. The bigger boys will beat me up, so I don’t get into it with them.
#2. One of those sessions of cleaning off the counter helps. They put things away, run as fast as they can back and forth, and that helps them and me and the same time. It works even better if you don’t group things up, but instead only give them one thing at time.
#3. We also incorporate running around the house. If they like this, then it can work great. If it’s hard for them, sometimes I get out there and run with them. I don’t love it, but it’s good exercise for me too and then we all come in a little better off than we started. Last summer we got to where the younger kids could do about 5 laps and the older ones did about 10. I was somewhere in the middle. That was enough to settle them down inside for a while. BTW, I don’t make this a punishment usually- it’s generally only for displays of excessive energy.
#4. Everybody does a workout video together. This is another one that I haven’t done in a while just because of being pregnant and then postpartum, but it works great. Get some workout in and let those little ones burn off some energy at the same time. They are super cute attempting jumping jacks, or just watch them try power yoga stances or something- it’s great. I don’t always get as good a workout when they are “participating”, but I figure the long term benefits are better: they are happy, they are entertained, they are learning about good exercise, I know where they are and what they are doing, we are all doing something together- which always scores points with them, and I might actually be getting some good exercise in the process. When we lift weights I give them cans from the pantry- even the little ones can use something like tomato paste cans for weights. They feel strong and big.
#5. For school times, things always go better when they all have something to do. As many subjects as can be combined for everyone I do that way. During Bible times they can color a picture of what we are reading, If Jonathon and James are doing history, I give the younger ones a history page to write on too. When we do a science experiment, I try to have enough stuff for the younger ones to be involved too. When the older ones are doing math, I pull out things for the younger ones that are their “school things”. Jeff and Rachel each have their own workbook of things to do, they’ve done mazes, they have coloring books, and then I have a host of hands on activities for them to work at (one thing at a time) like lacing cubes or lacing cards, playdough, puzzles, little boxes of things to sort like buttons or beads. We also have this cool thing called School in a Box with a variety of little items in it like different color square tiles, various pieces of money, things that are magnetic and a magnet, beads for patterning, and a pile of little animals, shapes, different texture strings, and objects for making up stories- like a snowflake, flipflop, fish, rocket, heart, etc. All of it is in a little craft box about 5” x 8” and one child can play with it very easily. I got the box from a homeschool convention, but it would be fairly easy to make a box from little things in your home probably.
#6. When the kids are out somewhere and going crazy or about to or you think they might…keep a bag in the car of little toys. It sounds silly, but I carry pigs in my purse. One time I bought these little plastic rubber pigs for 10 cents each and got 10 of them. I keep them in a little container in my purse and when we go somewhere and a child needs something to distract them I pull out the pigs. Times that they have worked great are- at a restaurant waiting for food, waiting in the car somewhere, the ER!- a LIFE SAVER!, and various other times when the kids just has to wait for a while. I also have a bag of little things (I got this idea from my mom) that I keep in the car. It has a mini etch-a-sketch, some little tops, a bag of plastic miscellaneous animals and snakes and bugs, army men, and a few other things in it. One day I went through the toys and just pulled out a bunch of things that either the kids didn’t really play with or groups of things that tend to get lost and then they don’t use. I put them in a bag and now when I need something to entertain them, I have it. Whether it’s waiting for food at a restaurant, or discovering that I am at a party with toddlers and there is NOTHING for them to do- for hours!!! I pull out the bag and it usually keeps them happy as well as any other poor child there in the same circumstance. Plus, that’s the only time those toys come out, so they are always interesting and keep the children happy. Sometimes they ask to play with those toys at home, but I say “NO” just so the toys won’t loose their interest when I need them. So, the pigs work for short times- 5-10 min. or for one kid. The bag works for when it’s long periods of time- like ½ and hour or more and multiple children need something fun. What I do have to be careful to avoid is getting out too many items. It’s better to just stick with the pigs- each child with 2 each, than to pull out 5 bags of toys, and have them dumped all over a room.
#7. Lower my expectations. I have 6 children. There is no way I can keep them all safe, clean, fed, in a tidy house, school them, dress them, wash their clothes, wash their dishes, doctored, dentisted, vaccinated, dermatologisted, churched, well disciplined, and happy all by myself. It’s not physically possible. So, I have to continually remember to lower my standards of what I get done at home, the awesome meals I want to cook, just how clean the bathroom gets, whether they have ironed clothes or not, etc. I focus on safe, tolerable hygiene, well disciplined, and happy. Everything else comes second or third or fourth in matters of priority. Some things don’t get on the list at all sometimes- and I have to be ok with that or I’ll go insane! I have to communicate my needs to Brandon- before I’m ready to blow up. I have to let others know when they can help if they’ve offered and how they can. I have to be willing to humble myself and ask for help when I need it. It’s nothing but pride that makes me think I can and should be able to do it myself and avoid asking for help from others. And try not to wait until I’m ready to fall apart before I look for a solution. And if I am ready to fall apart, first pray, then do a 30 min. clean up, then look and see if I still need to recruit help. Most of the time I’m ok then.
#8. Remember the vision- my goal is to raise Godly men and women who will have good character, people will enjoy being around and will raise Godly children themselves. They will get older. They won’t need to be potty trained in high school- even if I’m lazy about teaching them when they are 3 or 4. And the older they get, the more they can contribute to the family. Focus on the vision, believe that it will get easier, rely on Jesus daily- hourly…well by the second really sometimes, and don’t try to do it all yourself!

Ok, there’s my spouting for the day. Hope it was helpful to someone besides me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cute Kid Pics

Here are the youngest three in all their cuteness:

Rachel (almost 4) being a good big sister and feeding her baby:

Joseph (2) looking on while Rachel feeds Renna a bottle. He tried to help, but by the time he tried she was full and didn't want anymore. He was very gentle and put forth a good effort though.

And here's a special request picture from Rachel. "Let's take a picture of my baby and your baby together in Renna's bed, Mama." here it is. I had no idea just how similar in size they would be...shocking.

And a very happy day to you all :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

More Cakes, More Babies

So here is what I've been up to lately:

Renna Faith was born on May 14th. Here she is 4 days later in her most peaceful state:
I'll try to get some more shots soon. She's a sweet little girl. Already she turns towards my voice and gets quiet when I hold her tight and talk to her. She's eating well and getting better at sleeping at night. I'm recovering pretty good too. I am looking forward to a visit to the chiropractor to straighten out some issues in my neck and back, but other than that, postpartum is going well. The other children have been gone to their wonderful grandparents' this weekend and I enjoyed the peace and quiet of an almost empty house. Brandon did stick around and I've seen him pop in and out in between things he's had to do this weekend. A couple of evenings we've been able to spend some quality time together, but my favorite times have been eating breakfast (that he cooked) in our bedroom together. Nice conversation, laid back, relaxed, and yummy food! The peaceful bliss is about to come to a grinding halt however- the kids are due back in the next hour or so and the house will once again vibrate with the pounding little (and not so little) feet of our children. I will be happy to see them...perhaps I could find some earplugs though. :-)


Now back to the baby. For those who are interested in more details, this was just a different as every other baby delivery. They never seem to happen the same way twice. It actually started on the 7th (a Wed.) when I thought I was in labor for about 3 hours and called the midwife. She packed her bags and got ready to come, but after that 3 hours of regular contractions- at about 9:30 at night, things died down and I had a restless sleep that night. The next day when I woke up, they started up again. Having just felt really stupid for calling the day before, I refused to call the midwife until they got harder and as a result, I had regular mild contractions every 5 min. all day long until about 9:30pm that night again when they died away. Friday I had NOTHING. Saturday was an off and on day. We had Jonathon's party that day with the cake I put up earlier and that kept me distracted for the most part- which was good.

Sunday I awoke from another rough night of attempting to sleep to a delightful Mother's Day breakfast from the kids and Brandon, and then went to church. I tell you, I was looking for every reason in the book to avoid church that day! I just was tired and ready to avoid people for a while. Plus, all you mothers out there will probably relate to the feeling of not wanting to wear that one maternity dress or outfit- not one more time. But I went anyway. Church, then taught Sunday School (I teach the 4 yr old- 8 yr. old class which has 8 boys and 1 girl in it) and as it was Mother's Day had most of the afternoon off. So I took a walk with my friend Ellen thinking that it might possibly help my body make up its mind about this baby coming, but if not I was in desperate need of getting out for some exercise anyway. Came home, didn't have to make dinner either, and took it easy that evening.

Monday- I made some decorations for the Fairwood Graduation cake that needed to be done in advance, saw my midwife and had a generally normal day with the children. I also didn't have much in the way of labor.

Tuesday morning at 8:30 sharp I began having contractions again. I decided to catch up on laundry and cleaning up around the house and around 1pm, the midwife came to check me out and see how things were going....1cm. Ugh! You can't be in labor and be much further back than that! So we went for a walk- 2 miles- to the lake and back. Then, Brandon and I had plans to go out that night for dinner and since things were taking their jolly time- at the recommendation of the midwife, we went anyway. Off to Olive Garden, thanks to a babysitting offer from Sharon, we trucked. I got some sort of Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo stuff- yum and Brandon got the tour of Italy which had lasagna, manicotti and something else I think. At the end of the meal I was having hard enough contractions that I was ready to go home, so we got dessert in a to-go box and left. Stop at the grocery store and the movie store and then home again where I discovered that I was infact, still at 1 cm. WHAT IS THE PROBLEM!!!!!!! Actually, I know it takes me FOREVER to have babies, this just seemed longer than the others. And in fact it was! So, off to bed I slunk in discouragement to have those silly 5 min. apart contractions all night long. My midwife and her assistant stayed overnight in case things changed quickly, but at 7am the next morning, I awoke to find myself much in the same situation. Around 10 am I was out walking again in circles around the church and wishing that things would either get moving or go away. I prayed, I talked on the phone to distract myself, I finished folding laundry, I prayed, hmm....what else...oh...and some natural things that I won't mention to move things along possibly (but no castor oil). By three in the afternoon it seemed like they were coming a little harder and I discovered that I was at a whopping 3cm. But from there things finally began to pick up...and the back pain began. With every contraction, my back began to ache and just got worse and worse until, frankly, near the end of it all I was crying from the back pain and couldn't focus well on working with the contractions. At around 8:30 I was in a good deal of discomfort and really having to focus on relaxing. It seemed closer, but when I was checked, I was at a mere 5cm. Just agonizingly long. It was at this point that I started questioning just how big of a wimp was I if I was only 5cm and my water wasn't broken, and it hurt so bad! Things moved a little quicker from then on though and in spite of another 4 hours, I did progress all the way to 10 eventually. My water never broke, for which I'm thankful- I have no idea how I could have managed the pain if it had. Near the end the contractions seemed like nothing compared to all that back pain. I found myself desperately trying to get into a position that was less pressure on my back. With the others, I always felt best in a kneeling position, but that wasn't working. So inbetween contractions I tried various different things to aleviate the pain and basically ended up in the classic birth position because that happened to be the one I tried on the contraction when suddenly I was ready to push. It took three pushes to get her out and then, there she was. Beautiful, crying, healthy, and I was totally relieved that suddenly my back wasn't screaming at me anymore. Most of the kids have come out to me saying something endearing like, "Oh, I'm so happy you are here, you are beautiful! I'm your mama. Welcome to our family!" Unfortunately Renna's first comment from me was, "It took you a REALLY long time to get here!" But then I proceeded with the gushiness. Brandon said he thought the cord was really close to her head because it came out at about the same time and he wondered if it was close to being wrapped around her neck. But all was well. Oh, and my water did finally break when her head was coming out. Everything about her was ok. She was alert and quickly pink. She cried long enough to let the midwife know she could and then settled down in a contented sigh on my chest to listen to all the new sounds around her.

So at 6 lbs. 8 oz. and 19 in. long, she is a tiny little bundle of joy, but well worth the effort of getting her here.


Sarah Adams was my legs for the decorating process. I decorated it Friday- about 36 hours after the birth. I'm glad that was the only thing I had to do this weekend, but as the kids were gone while I was decorating and I had Sarah to run around for me, it ended up being a peaceful and kind of relaxing process.
Above is the top of the cake and below is some close up of some detail. Loads of fun to make.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Jonathon and Cake

Happy Birthday Jonathon!!! Today he is 8 years old! I can't believe I have an 8 year old.'s the cake he requested for his birthday:

While extremely time consuming, it was a lot of fun to put together!

And for cake lover details- it's apricot nectar cake with a lemon buttercream frosting (entirely too torturous to work with when it gets hot, but super yummy!) The towers are made of cardboard tubes rolled in icing and then topped with cake cones stuffed with marshmallows and M&Ms, and then a sugar cone turned upside down, stuffed with marshmallows and then frosted. The giant cupcake is all cake and frosting, just sculpted from two cakes baked in bowls. Lollipops are make from Candy melts and then have frosting people put on them. The doors and windows I premade from frosting on plastic wrap and then just placed them on the cake when dry. The "grass" is tinted coconut. And the pops are standing in foam board affixed to the cardboard base with icing.

This is definately not a cake I would transport anywhere- including 2 inches away on the same table, but it sure was fun. For any die hard cake decorators out there- I discovered a love for Viva brand paper towels- made by Kleenex. Once I put the coat of frosting on the cake and let it sit for about 30-45 min, you can use those paper towels to make it SUPER smooth! You just lay the towel on the cake, rub and smooth out the bumps and wrinkles, and then pull the towel away- Wala! The towel doesn't stick and the bumps are gone. There's so much on this cake it's hard to see how smooth the yellow frosting was, but believe me it worked like a charm- hooray for tips on You Tube! By the way, if you try this and it sticks, just let the icing sit a little longer on the cake.

There you go! Jonathon was thrilled! We'll see if it lasts until his party tomorrow! At least I got pictures!

Here's the back:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On to Bigger and Better

Well...things are better than they were in January. I am no longer under siege with kidney stones. The large giant thing was blasted, removed, and then the stint was removed a week later and I have recovered mostly from that. My energy level is better and I am thankful to be off of bed rest. Of course about 2 days after the stint came out I had a day that I really felt great. Then I came down with a nasty flu virus. That lasted for about a week- feeling miserable and blowing my nose and such. It's always extra hard when pregnant or nursing to deal with sinus stuff because there is really nothing much that I can take for it that is safe for the baby. Just good ole steam and plenty of warm drinks. After a couple of weeks, I was back to normal and the rest of the family was recovering as well. Everyone but Rachel and Brandon got that one and had fevers, sniffles, good solid snot, and other gross stuff that goes along with the flu. We got over that and I had a week where in we caught up on school and then on Friday I cleaned like mad trying to get the house in order after such a long episode of sickness. We scrubbed and mopped, and laundered and everything we could possibly do in one day. The kids helped and we actually got most of the house cleaned up. The Sabbath was great- so relaxing.
Then Monday came. And Brandon woke up and threw up. He had managed to catch a stomach virus and thus the rounds began again. Tuesday night, Joseph threw up. And again on Wednesday. Thursday night Rachel threw up. I think God gave us a respite Friday night. Then Joseph threw up again Saturday morning. Jonathon covered Saturday night for us. Now it's Sunday night and every time I hear someone cough I have a hard time resisting the urge to sprint to their room with a bowl or a bucket. In fact several times I have not resisted and found myself holding a plastic container of some sort, hovering over a child that wishes they could just go back to sleep since all they did was sneeze or something. We've managed to stay away from most other people so far and I don't think we've shared it...yet. In the meanwhile, I didn't really figure on spending all of January and February dealing with sickness.

Interestingly enough I've had another bout of belief struggle with this. I wrote about how it was hard to trust God and be postive when such discouragement was my life in January and lately I've been hit from a different angle. You see, everynight I pray over the children before bed. We'll either Brandon or I do. Anyway, Tuesday night for some reason I prayed over them, but Joseph was the only one that I specifically said, "Keep him healthy God." and he was the one that got sick hours later. Thursday night, the same thing happened. I prayed with the children, but without thinking about it until later, Rachel was the only one that I specifically prayed for good health for...and she was the one who threw up 2 hours later. So then I found myself struggling against the idea that if I prayed for my children's health it would, in fact, make them sick.

I know it sounds silly, but when you are sleep deprived, changing bedding 2-3 times in the night, desperately tired of sickness in general, and wondering occasionally "what am I doing wrong?" or "did I cause this?" it makes you wonder. I found myself starting to really question other prayers. For instance, if I prayed for protection on the road, would that ensure and accident? Or if I prayed for a good day in school would that guarantee a miserable day? I've really fought this quite a bit. Not only that, but in my general prayer life, I've lately found myself praying for things, over and over, that seem pretty important to me and yet feel like God isn't answering or perhaps (the scary part) he's saying "NO".

Don't worry, I'm convinced that I am not powerful enough to cause my children to get sick just by praying for their healing. I don't really believe it, but it has made me stop and think. It has also make me realize that I'm not dependant on how I pray or even that I pray. I depend on a God powerful enough to stop a thing if He chooses. No matter what I pray, I can believe that he will take care of the problem. I think I just get worried that he might choose to take care of the problem in a way that I don't really feel comfortable with. I think to some extent that's where I am right now. God's taking care of the problem, meeting the needs, and answering my prayers, but it isn't happening the way I would want it to, or on my time table, or in the "amazing way" I can imagine. Sometimes He answers in miraculous immediate interventions. Those are cool and I tend to want those everytime. This time he's choosing a slow, patient, grueling, learning path to answer and I'm not sure how long it's going to take, but I just know that it's not pleasant and I sqirm at every turn. I will continue to trust him, but ugh........

It reminds me of a kid's song that said, "I can't wait to have patience." I want God's best- even if it's the slow painful answer, but can't it come right now and get this over with???

So, we're doing ok. School is caught up- right this second, the baby is doing well- 14 weeks to go, I'm caught up on laundry- thanks to all the require washing the stomach flu has caused, and while I keep feeling like I'm going to throw up right along with the kids, so far I'm ok. Hmm...maybe now I will really be sick since I said I wasn't....'s thinking like that that can kill a person or just drive them insane! God help me to believe you and not the lies in my head!

And on to the battle of tomorrow- come what may. I hope it will be a good morning of school, no vomit, a healthy dinner, and plenty of cheerfulness both on the part of my kids and myself!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Do you Ever Wish....

Do you ever wish that you could be different?

- Feel better?
- Look like you are awake on a morning you want to stay in bed?
- Be able to instantly organize all those piles that seem to get bigger?
- Avoid sounding irritated when really you are just trying to get something done?
- Be successful at the job you're supposed to be doing?
- Ugh....

Well...this is one of those honest to the core of the ones that isn't really especially cheery or peppy or the THING to read to encourage you in a better day. This is that down to earth, here I am, it really stinks, and I'd like to get over it please sort of posts. Just warning ya'.

I am 22 weeks pregnant (not a bad thing) with a little baby girl inside of me that I am very much looking forward to meeting sometime near the end of May. I also am having another bout of kidney stone issues these past couple of weeks and it has left me feeling helpless, like a failure, questioning what I'm doing that's wrong, crying out to God to make it better, crying to God that he's putting too much on my husband to handle, wishing that I were the one taking casseroles to someone else for a change, or maybe cleaning their gross toilet, and desperately wishing that I felt good enough to get out of bed and do half a million things around the house so I can be that better, more organized, more effective, happier, collected, fun mom and wife that I envision is the perfect me. Somewhere in there I'll throw in frugal, in shape, healthy eating, and regularly remembering birthdays and thank you notes. I'll get my husband's mending done, keep up with the chores, train and discipline the children correctly, patiently, and with a smile. I'll never hear the phone and groan that I might not make it in time. I'll never roll over in bed and think, how can I be on bed rest and still be supermom. I'll never have to worry about getting it all done because I'll feel great and thus be able to accomplish everything I set out to do. I'll be running on all 8 cylinders (as my family says) and perhaps every once in a while I'll find a 9th one to kick in and spring for an extra "wow" blessing for someone else.

I suppose I'm no different from thousands of other mothers who want the best for their family and want to be able to have it all and do it all, and never loose their temper. Yet it seems like every time I get close to feeling like I'm on top of it all something happens to make me utterly dependant on everyone else for even some of my most basic needs.

"Will you please put my shoes on my feet because I can't reach down there without it being extremely painful?"
"Can you bring me some more water?"
"I'm not sure I can walk that far by myself."
"Um, I don't know where the kid's church clothes'll just have to look...I'm sorry."
"I'm so glad you came to visit me, but actually could you spend your entire vacation waiting on me hand and foot, because I actually can't even change my own child's diaper much less play hostess to you- even though you just spent a pile of money on plane tickets?"
"I'm sorry.....(a thousand times)."

It's a tough spot to be in really. In some ways the kidney stones seem minor compared to how I feel on the inside, struggling with how to just accept that everyone else has to fend for themselves and do for me when some of them (Brandon, especially) have been doing this for a very long time it seems. It feels wrong. It feels glutinously lazy. And if feels depressing.

My family has taught me that I'm supposed to look for what God might be teaching me in each and every situation that I go through- looking for what I can get out of it, you know. Finding the positive- the silver lining, the great truth and testimony for later of how God met me. While I can do a great job of finding all sorts of positive things that can come out of this experience, nothing really changes the fact that it's just plain hard, humbling, discouraging, and a whole lot of suffering.

You don't think I can come up with positives?? You're that optimistic creature that thinks I'm just saying that and that really I could look at the bright side a little more? OK, well- here's you're positives:
-My children are taking on more responsibility as a result of mom being decommisioned.
-My husband can do every chore in the house as good as I can and makes for great tag team efforts during other crisis.
- I have gotten more sleep than I ever imagined possible for a mom of 5.
- I'm getting some really bad physical problems taken care of and hopefully will be able to prevent them in the future.
- I'm allowing others to be blessed by God in ministering to our family (not that I go looking for ways for others to help me regularly)
- I can better relate to others who are suffering with similar difficulties.
- I have plenty of time to research various topics that I want to improve on.
- This increases my opportunities to have one on one time with my children- when I can use it.

So...the list could go on. Now all of those positives are out there on the table and it sounds like a grand learning experience that I can benefit from. I can be joyful and encouraged. Anyone want to sign up for this duty now? Didn't think so.

See, no matter how much I think of to be encouraged, it's still unpleasant, hurts, and I want out.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. It's just a place of communicating that I don't think it's wrong to want out sometimes. I don't want to stay in a place where I'm going to go down in a downward spiral that ends in self absorption, depression, and suicide, but to stay on that level of "oh, I'm glad God is doing a great work in my life" seems really fake to me right now.

So right now, I feel icky. There isn't a button to push and fix it and I'm not even sure what is the most helpful for people to say when they call or come to encourage me. Sometimes, just staying completely off the subject seems best, and yet sometimes it's nice to hear someone say they care and are praying. I don't know what I want, how to get it, or when it will all be over.

I do know this: I'm ready to be done. I want out. Show me the exit from this particular "learning experience" and I'll take it!