Monday, December 29, 2014

"The Baby Experts"

Tonight I am taking supper to some sweet friends who just had their fourth baby. That combined with a screen saver full of baby pictures got me reminiscing about when our babies were actually that: babies.

We swore having kids would not change us. We would be the parents who tuck the kid into the Baby Bjorn and go spelunking when it's six weeks old. We would still stay up late because we would train our baby to sleep in until 10 am. We would teach our children to be able to sleep anywhere, in any environment so that we would never have to make special arrangements. They would not need any special equipment, blankets, or stuffed animals. They would go to sleep in the middle of an NBA game or in Tootsie's on New Year's Eve if that is what we, the parents, wanted them to do. After all, you just need to take charge. Don't let the baby rule you. (I laughed out loud typing that sentence.)

Oh, the sweetness.

Within the first twelve hours of her life it had already been determined our baby would be of the "high maintenance" breed of women. She had to come into the world via emergency C-section. About 2 hours after that it was determined she was allergic to the dyes and perfumes in the detergent used to wash the blanket in which she was swaddled up. (I think they figured this out by the fact that her eyes were swollen to the size of her daddy’s fist, and when she wasn’t crying she was sneezing. She was scaring the other babies in the nursery.) Also she only wanted to be minimally swaddled; her arms had to be left free of the blanket so she could scratch her face with her sharp-as-knives fingernails, or she would punish you by screaming. But she would scream when she inevitably scratched herself, so either way you were screwed. 

The unsympathetic doctors sent us home from the hospital two days after the baby was born. (Who in their right mind thinks that is a long enough hospital stay? I was hoping they would at least get me through the first month.) Got a car seat? We will give you a baby. And good luck with it.

All three girls came home in this outfit, as did I.

It always startled my mom to see one of the girls in it. 

She thinks it should still fit me.

First night at home. Preston was determined none of our children would sleep in with us. And not just not in our bed but not in our room at all. I had thought that would be hard and something I would fight for after the baby arrived, but after meeting this screaming babe, I did not object. Still, I heard every move, grunt, and whimper through the monitor. No sleep was had. At all.

She found her thumb and determined it was delicious and must be sucked on continuously for the next four years, prompting her dentist to inform us on more than one occasion to "go ahead and start putting money aside for braces! (evil laugh)." Grandma had bought her the softest blanket ever made which we solely used to swaddle her in her own special way since it had been washed in free and clear detergent and did not cause her to break out in hives. That miraculous blanket seemed to keep her from wailing, so we swaddled her in that blanket and that blanket alone for the next 6 months, causing an attachment that will be broken only when her husband forces her to choose between him or her blanket. It will be a tough choice for her.

Night one at home and pretty much everything we thought about how we would parent was out the window.  

During the next six weeks, any resolutions we had left would fly out. She slept better with a little noise, so we played a CD on constant repeat. It was the recorded sound of a dryer running. The CD got a scratch on it, and I completely panicked, ordering another one and burning it to my computer’s hard drive so we would never have to be without our dryer sounds again. (In retrospect, I should have just put the crib in the laundry room.) She would only sleep in her own crib. No pack and play, car seat, swing or alternate crib would do. This meant we were home at 7 pm every night instead of out living it up as we had sworn we would be doing, and I was home for all the various nap times, which were totally unpredictable, so I pretty much never left the house. She screamed in her car seat unless we were singing “Jesus Loves Me” so we sang loudly and lustily. Over and over and over. She loved watching Baby Einstein videos and would watch them beginning to end, so we had one on a loop in the living room. (Which could count as educational programming since it played classical music while simultaneously showing ridiculous baby toys…right?)  

We fed her eggs and peanut butter long before we should have because she liked them and would eat them; we laid her on her stomach to sleep because she slept better that way. Never mind about all the "sleep on back" PSAs hanging around the pediatrician's office. I fed her whenever she cried (formula...not organic or soy... and from a bottle!) instead of only at times I prescheduled as had been the plan. I let her chew on car keys if it made her happy; not plastic ones designed for that, but real keys to the car. She ate ice cream at her cousin's birthday party when she was less than four months old. She had horrible reflux and would spit up whole feedings if she didn't have her prescription medicine, so we paid big bucks to make sure we never ran out of the stuff. She changed our lives and our plan in EVERY way possible. Not one thing went the way I expected it to. The verse from Proverbs 16:9 might as well have read "The heart of Martha plans the way of the baby, but the Lord will let the baby establish Martha's steps."

Some people love this baby stage and thrive during it. We just wanted to survive. And we did. And then we survived two more times of it. And each time got easier. Honestly, I'm scared for how little attention a fourth child might get from us.

Now I love to hold teeny babies and hear their sweet little cries and coos....and then I love to pass them back and go home and sleep through the night.

The days of 3 babies. I'm not sure how 

old they were here. I was so tired I

can't believe I could stand upright and 

take this picture.

If you are in the midst of these days, I pray you are loving them and able to let things go without guilt. Mistakes will be made. Daily. And for the life of me, I cannot understand why it was so important to organize the toys into cute color coordinated bins. Or cook every single meal entirely from scratch...even down to the bread. Or squeeze in a workout during naptime to lose those last 15 pounds of baby weight. (This one still appears to be unimportant to me!) If you have the energy to wash the dishes, by all means do the dishes. But if they don't get what? They will still be there. And you will still be able to wash them. If I had those baby years to do over again, I would let those things go sometimes and instead play more, nap when the baby napped, invite people in even when there were more crumbs visible than floor. 

We never did go spelunking. Maybe when the babies go to college. (Please, please let these people go to college someday, Lord!)

Grace and naptime for today,

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Smell of Yuletide

Cinnamon Roll Factory

So I've posted about the cinnamon rolls we spent two days making, and judging by this picture, I bet you are thinking that is what this will be about. Nope. Although they are a big part of this story.

I've also blogged all about the cedar tree/bush we cut down and decorate which fills the house with the scent of Christmas. Also not what I am going to write about.

Additionally this is not about the smell of apple cider simmering on the stove or a warm mulled wine, but by the end of the story you will want a glass of wine.

Here goes:

A few days before Christmas, it is our tradition to deliver a treat around to a few friends and neighbors. This year, we went to our short list since we made so many pans of rolls for All The People In Fairview, so we were only going to make three stops bearing smallish pans of cinnamon rolls. One of which was our neighbors we hadn't met. (Not on the relatives side of the house - we know them.)

We pulled up their long driveway and parked right out front. They had two big decorative blow ups which now haunt my nightmares, I think one was Santa and one was Snoopy, kind of blocking the sidewalk to the front door. We don't know them, so we felt our first interaction should be of the front door variety, but had to get around the blow ups. I'm not really sure how I thought those things stood up, but I wasn't expecting a criss-crossing of wires and strings to rival the laser scene from Ocean's Eleven. (or Twelve. Or Thirteen. I think they all have that scene.) They were anchored down with enough string to withstand an F5 tornado which was good, since four of the five of us tripped in the treacherous wire maze. No one went all the way down which was the only mercy of the night. 

By this time we could hear a dog barking and going nuts behind the closed front door. I should add, the woman who lives there is a police officer, and I was quite sure we were making enough noise to justify an arrest for disturbing the peace and were technically trespassing, so she could have gotten us on at least two counts. Her patrol car was right there; it would have been really simple to haul us all in, which honestly by that point would have given me a nice little break from all the peace and joy of Christmas.

We made it to the door, wary of the dog craziness we heard happening, which really escalated when we had the audacity to knock, but then the sweetest woman and little girl slipped out onto the porch, saving us from the savage beast inside, and we exchanged niceties and rolls and decided we would really like the neighbors, despite their attempt to kill us with their Christmas decorations. 

We headed to our next delivery, which was kind of on the other side of town, so we took a little detour to see some Christmas lights about a mile up the road from our house. As we were slowly cruising the neighborhood, the girls started complaining about a stench. Preston and I couldn't smell anything, so we weren't concerned, plus no one had complained about it when we first got in the van, and our kids tend to complain all the time, so we pretty much ignore everything except for gushing blood, bones sticking through skin, and throw up. But the complaining continued and got louder. One girl decided it was the dollar store reindeer antlers she had on her head so she threw them one foot away to the back of the van as if that would get rid of the smell. That did not solve the problem.

All of a sudden, it dawned on me, even without being able to smell anything....yet. 

"Did someone step in dog poop?" 

Light switched on, girls examine shoes. Two girls deny presence of dog poop on their shoes. Girl who was the only one who wore her BRAND NEW shoes says, "No, but I have a ton of mud on the bottom of mine."  I unbuckle and scramble to the back to investigate. Um, no. Not mud. That is dog poop. Commence crying. The girl cried, too. 

Comments from unsympathetic sisters:
"Is the van going to smell like this forever?!" 
"Why would you step in dog poop? How is it not her fault? No one put dog poop on her shoes! SHE stepped in it!"

We determine that we cannot drive across town in this smell so we let those people know there will be no Christmas delivery this year. I'm sure they breathed a huge sigh of relief to know we would not be descending on their house with our crazy even though I didn't gross them out with the real reason.

We decide to go ahead and make the one last delivery to friends across the street from our house. When we get there, Preston crawls to the back of the van to remove the dog poop shoes from the now indignant girl. We realize she has trailed dog poop right up through the middle of the van to the far back where she was seated; she has propped her feet up on the seat in front of her; at one point she must have been sitting with her feet on the seat beside her as is evident from the chunks beside her, and probably even criss-cross because her legs are smeared with dog poop. You can practically see steam pouring from Preston's ears into the cool Christmas air. He immediately makes a new rule, "No one is allowed to put their feet on anything but the floor EVER!" Sisters continue to complain and now blame the new rule on the sister who should have been able to see dog poop in the dark of night while avoiding the Christmas lawn blow ups that were attacking us.

Preston rubs the shoes back and forth in the lawn of the lucky people who are about to be blessed with our presence, and I use a wipe to get the dog doo off the girl's legs. We make our delivery and even stay a half hour with these friends whom we love so much we know we can bring our dog poop covered children into their beautiful new home, and they will still be our friends. We hope.  

And that would be enough for a blog post. But it doesn't end there.
When we get home, Preston starts to get everyone showered and do the whole bedtime mess, and I start to clean the van. We have all hardwood floors in our new house, so when I used the last of the carpet cleaning spray, I did not see the need to replace it. I haul the floor mats out of the van and grab a bottle of 409. For some reason, it isn't spraying, so I open the nozzle and in the dark I fumble and drop the bottle of 409 onto the floor mats. Oh, well. More efficient than the crappy spray nozzle had been anyway. I grab the scrub brush and use what spilled to scrub around in the dark hopeful I am hitting the right spots. I leave the mats on the porch to dry thinking I probably got all the poop off, but the next morning this is what I found:

I was very confused. I didn't think 409 would do this, but as is obvious from the picture, we needed new mats anyways. Oh, well. No big loss. 

Fast forward a couple days to Christmas, and I am telling this story to my siblings and parents. Preston interrupts to clarify that I had in fact used 409? The 409 from the cleaning caddy? The caddy we make the girls get and use when cleaning their all white bathroom? (which, by the way, was the biggest mistake of my ENTIRE life) Yes, that 409. He reveals that the last time we cleaned the bathroom he had poured out the 409 and replaced it with...bleach. And didn't write that on the bottle. Or warn anyone. I guess he thought since we only clean every Saturday. Every other Saturday. Every month. once a year no one would ever touch the 409 bottle again.  

So for New Year's I am getting new floor mats for the 10 year old van. And my resolution will be to never make cinnamon rolls again.

Grace and more grace for today,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Lunch Conundrum


That one word will make me sigh with exhaustion. Just by uttering it, I feel tired and helpless. To quote a hilarious friend, "Why must they eat? Every. Single. Day?" 

When our oldest went off to PreK three days a week, I was so excited to pack her cute little lunchbox. We went to Target and picked it out. It was pink and glittery and showed multiple Disney princesses. I couldn't wait to fill it up with little goodies like organic cheese cut out with star cookie cutters, nitrate-free ham rolled up and stuck onto a fancy little toothpick, whole-grain-sugar-free-but-still-amazingly-delicious homemade muffins, and write sweet love notes every day on her napkin. (Why I did this I am not sure. She couldn't read until 1st grade.) I would fill her thermos with homemade noodle soup - homemade broth AND homemade noodles. I read blogs about packing lunches and how to make them fun. I looked at pictures of lunches other amazing moms packed. I researched the best leak proof containers. I made sure I had her favorite items and the healthiest granola bars. We practiced lunch. I mean, I packed her lunch to eat at home, made sure she could open all the leak-proof containers and unzip the BPA free baggies I packed. 

Then the first lunch came and went.

She came home sad because she had not had time to eat all of her lunch. She had forgotten to grab her $20 water bottle from her cubby. (How many plastic bottles of water could I have packed her for $20? I know, I know...the environment!) A boy had kicked her lunchbox from where she had dutifully placed it on the floor like she was supposed to. A girl said her boiled egg smelled like a poot. She had noticed there were letters written on her napkin but had no idea what it said. The leak proof container had opened and spilled homemade ranch dip (store bought had too many ingredients for my taste) all over her beautiful sparkly lunchbox.

I pressed on.

I was only having to pack two lunches that year, and two days a week I only had to pack Preston's so I continued on my quest of fun, healthy organic lunches, even though more often than not, they were coming home largely uneaten. I learned to draw pictures of hearts and sunshines instead of write words she couldn't read. I bought even more cute toothpicks and cookie cutters. I subscribed to blogs solely devoted to lunch packing.

The next year, another child went off to preK. I learned from the first experience. We ordered lunchboxes that had a little pouch on the side so I could tuck their ($20) water bottles into the side of it, and they wouldn't have to remember to get them out of their cubbies. I bought stainless steel containers because who knows? Maybe the plastic ones aren't really BPA-free even though they claim to be. I don't know what BPA does, but I read a blog saying it was bad, so it must be. You can trust blogs to always be 100% accurate. I tucked even leak-proof containers inside baggies so when they inevitably leaked the spill would be contained. Sometimes I forgot to draw a cute picture on their napkins but nobody is perfect. Although I considered myself pretty darn close. 

Two years passed before the third child went off to school for preK, but I evolved light-years in my lunch packing. I was having to pack three lunches a day, five days a week, and half the time Preston would leave his in the fridge. (Which always prompted me to send him a nasty text about he must not appreciate all I do for our family. Honestly I'm surprised he continues to come home at night.) "Why not have them buy the school lunch?" you are wondering. Well, the school lunch costs $3.75, and that times a whole bunch of lunches is a whole bunch of money, and I have seen the amount of food they throw away. I'd be better off to just throw my cash in the garbage. We let them pick two days a month each to buy lunch. They almost always picked the two pizza days, although one child swears to hate pizza when it is offered to her at home, which is really another blog post. I'll come back to that another day.

The nightly line up.

By the time the Baby went off to preK this Fall I had taken a part time job for the mornings all three were in school, so now we needed five lunches packed. I was begging people to tell me what I could put in their lunch boxes they would eat. I was willing to buy anything. Especially if it was prepackaged because that made my life so much easier. I took them to Kroger, and we went up and down every aisle filling the cart with high fructose corn syrup, yellow #5, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and pure white sugar. Rarely do I add a napkin note. A kiss as I shove them out the van door should be enough to communicate my love.     

Here's the kicker: they STILL came home having barely eaten their lunches! I guess the cafeteria is for socializing. I wouldn't even pack a lunch anymore but if they don't have a lunchbox their teachers will assume they are buying hot lunch so I'll get charged for more food they are planning to throw away. Packing lunches became my least favorite time of the evening. We upped their hot lunch allowance to once a week, which they were so excited about. I guess throwing away hot lunch is more fun than throwing away home-packed lunch. I lectured almost daily about starving children, we are so blessed, blah blah blah.

And then in October we took them to an event called "The Compassion Experience." It was put on by Compassion International, which is an amazing organization based out of Colorado through which we sponsor two children. They took the stories of children who have been through their program and basically "built" their lives. They took pictures of the children's houses (if they could be called that) and recreated them, setting up different scenes from the child's life experiences in another culture. Throughout the tour we listened on headphones as the child (now an adult and graduate of the program) told his/her story. We saw a bench the 13 children living in one small dirt floor hut used to fight to sleep on. We saw the jail cell one starving boy was thrown into for stealing bread and heard how the 20 boys in the one small jail cell fought to lick up one boy's spilled gruel next to the toilet which was out in the open. We heard how one girl was so excited to get a rotten apple dropped on market day to share with her whole family and how later in her life her family could not grasp that they would be allowed to pick a fresh apple from the tree and not eat the ones already fallen to the ground.

This opened our girls' eyes more than ten million lectures. More than beating them over the head with the command to "be thankful." When we exited the tour we were given the opportunity to sponsor a child. We were already sponsoring two so insisted to the girls the money wasn't in the budget to sponsor another. They were disappointed, but we would not budge.

The next morning the girls had the day off school, but Preston didn't so he went off to work. At breakfast the girls kept talking about the Compassion Experience. They were particularly affected by one boy who had been older when he finally received word he would be sponsored. He said he used to cross all his fingers and toes just praying his name would be called, but assumed it wouldn't be because the young, cute kids were always the ones who got sponsored. They really, really wanted to sponsor an older child. I was still insisting that the budget was really tight, but if they could figure out a way to squeeze out $38 a month we would do it. I texted Preston to see if this was ok. He was fine with it, confident we wouldn't be able to find an extra $38.

One girl goes, "What if we never bought hot lunch again?" I did some quick math and figured out that would get us super close, but it meant I would always be packing lunches. I was extremely hesitant. Another one asked, "What if we cancelled Netflix?" Now this is a big deal in our house because we don't have cable and someone has to contort themselves and hang an antennae out the window like the rednecks we are to get some of the five channels we pick up to come in clearly, so Netflix was our main source of TV.

I questioned their willingness to do these things FOREVER, even on PIZZA DAY, and one girl said, "If someone died because I couldn't give up pizza, I would feel horrible." 

And that was that.  

We immediately got on the computer and sorted the children by "longest waiting." We picked a 14 year old girl in a high danger area. She is beautiful. We have already begun sending letters back and forth. Not a day goes by that the girls don't pray specifically for our three Compassion kids. The oldest told me that when there is something in her lunchbox she doesn't like she just thinks about those boys licking up gruel beside the toilet and is thankful she has food. God has changed them. And let me remind you, it is ALL Him because Preston and I were discouraging it. We were totally opposed to another child to sponsor. Thank God for the grace of covenant children.

There is still complaining in our house. Lots. Over ridiculous things. One child recently sat at the supper table for 45 minutes over a bite of broccoli, which when she finally put in her mouth, sent her into dramatic gagging convulsions. Lunchboxes still come home with uneaten food. We are spoiled. 

But now we are praying for the Lord to show us WHY He planted us here instead of on the streets of Bolivia. Why did he give us soft beds instead of a narrow bench? Why do we live in the safest area of the safest country of the world instead of behind a bar where we have to worry about a drunk man stumbling into our shanty during the night? What should we be doing with these seemingly endless resources You have showered on our family? How can we use it to bring glory to Your Name and spread the name of Jesus?

And so, although packing lunches is still a chore (I mean, sometimes I just want to throw in a can of tuna and a can opener.), it is my favorite chore. Because with that one chore God is changing the life of a girl across the world from us. I no longer worry if every lunch contains the right balance of food groups. My children are offered healthy food every single day. I am so thankful for that. 

I encourage you to check out Compassion International, take your children to The Compassion Experience if it is ever within a day's drive of your house, choose a gift from their Christmas catalog that could literally save a life.

And have a Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas! He is born this day! And I know it's for Easter, but the best part of the story: He is risen! He is risen indeed!!

Grace and two weeks off from lunchboxes,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Have You Ever Played This Game?

I made up a game. You can only play it the week before Christmas break. I bet you have played it before, too. See if this sounds familiar. 

Mom! I need a bag of individually wrapped candy! This one has tricked you before - one year you bought a big bag of m and m's and wrapped it, thinking they were exchanging bags of candy as a gift. Nope. The next time this request was made, you wrapped each individual kid a Reese's. Also wrong. So on your third try, you checked with the teacher and got it right: a bag of candy in which each piece inside is individually wrapped. But you forgot the kid needed it and ended up running to Walgreen's after drop-off and running back to the school to deliver it. Score a point for you anyway.

Wife! Could you help me make a big pot of that pumpkin soup next week for all 75 teachers at my school for lunch? Code: Husband needs you to make this for him but he sneakily throws in the word "help" so you are more agreeable. Husband is amazing at a lot of things, but cooking is definitely not on that list. You got the soup made but realized as Husband was walking out the door with it you had forgotten to add the half and half, which is the best part of the soup, and had not tasted it for seasoning at all, so you chase him out into the cold, hollering directions about not scorching it while he is reheating it lest he waste all "our" hard work. Score lots of points for you to be redeemed at a later date when needing Husband to do a project he does not enjoy, like folding little girl laundry.

Mom! I need to wear all red today! Seeing as the girls wear uniforms to school, this one really caught you off guard. Luckily, a red t-shirt was just gifted to Oldest Girl for her birthday, but other than a red tutu, there is nothing to go on the bottom. You call your neighbors, who happen to be your relatives, and request that one of your nephews trot over with some red pants or something with a drawstring so they can be strapped onto the girl since all the neighbor cousins are boys and older than your girls. Your nephew shows up with giant Under Armour shorts you can tie on super tight. Girl is satisfied. Score one for you.

Mom I'm staying with while my mom is out of town! I need to wear pajamas to school tomorrow! - This is actually score one for you, too, because that means one less child needs to get dressed.

Surrogate Mom! I need to study for a test about rats that we dissected! This really stinks because you don't remember anything about dissecting a rat, much less a pregnant one that had babies inside that you got to hear all about and about how one boy accidentally popped the head off one of the rat fetuses. Hopefully the kid passed the test, but he isn't technically yours and you are extremely grossed out so you don't really have to care. No points scored.

Self! You told your sister-in-law you would bring the cake to MIL's birthday lunch, but you forgot how everyone needed to be in different places at different times all weekend and do not have time to bake a cake. You call Husband, and he confirms the plan to buy a cake is a good one. You head towards a local cupcake shop but forget your town is hosting a Christmas celebration people attend from far and wide and end up in ridiculous traffic. You change plans and head to a different cupcake shop. Upon pulling into the parking lot, you notice the cupcake shop is no longer there, so you google it. Cupcake shop has moved up the road. You zoom out of the parking lot in your speedy minivan because it is almost time to pick up a girl at a birthday party. You barely make it, but you do. Score one for you.

Mom! I need to wear a robe and slippers and take puzzles to school today! - You text your group of mom friends who text each other a million times a day to confirm little details like this that you can't hardly believe are true and sure enough, the child isn't lying. This is a real problem because she doesn't have a robe, her stompeez (google it - or don't because then a kid will see it and add it to their Christmas list at the last second) are too small. You suggest she wrap herself in a blanket and wear her sister's slipper socks. Blanket idea isn't well received. Sister threatens death if sister needing slippers dares to wear her slipper socks. You intervene and give a mini lecture on sharing and threaten sister who was threatening other sister. A blanket with a hood is found and deemed acceptable. Puzzles the girl selected are left on the counter. You figure she's eight now and should have remembered without you reminding her. Probably should be a draw, but still score one for you.

Mom! It actually isn't my snack week! This is a crushing blow for you seeing as you already purchased all the snacks and BLOGGED about it. But you decide to hide the snacks because the first week back from Christmas break is your now confirmed-by-the-teacher snack week, so you can save them. Except for the apples. But you are making everyone eat an apple every time they even make a peep about being hungry, so you get the point anyway.

Wife! Can you make your homemade cinnamon rolls for all the people in my department and the cafeteria ladies who sneak me free lunch and make chocolate gravy for me all the time? Ten pans should do nicely. - Oh, my word. Actually, you choose other words you say in your head, but you don't speak them so you don't want to type them on your blog. You and the Baby spend a day making an insane amount of cinnamon rolls. You recruit Husband to help put them in bags and tie on the ribbons and realize you have not made enough. You think more not-so-nice words when you realize another day will be spent making cinnamon rolls. Lose a point.

Mom! Can we make these fun cookies you marked on Pinterest? You agree, thinking this looks like an easy project you can knock out and will be really fun. See pictures. You lose all your points.

But then you get a moment like this, and suddenly the points no longer count. You are so glad these people look to you when they need things and can't believe they are yours to care for. Your eyes water a little. 

And then you hear someone yell, "MOM!!!" and you really start to cry.

Grace for the Season,

Sunday, December 14, 2014

SHHHH! I'm Writing This From My Closet

In case you can't tell from my past writings or from the fact that I write a blog putting all manner of details about my life out there for all the world to see, I am an extrovert. An extrovert to end all extroverts. I love a crowd. Bring on more people. I always have something to say. I will offer up my thoughts at the slightest sign someone is interested in hearing them. I strike up conversations in elevators, waiting in line, with the people dining at the table next to me, with the person loading my groceries. It's like I cannot help it. I have to talk. And usually at a high volume, which I am conscious of but also seem unable to control. One time when I was about four an adult friend of our family's told me every time I talked I made the wind blow. So I conducted an experiment and sure enough, the treetops appeared to blow every time I spoke. I thought it was awesome. "People Person" describes me well. 

Until I had kids. 

Picture how excited you were on the Christmas morning you got what you wanted more than anything else in the entire world. Perhaps a Cabbage Patch doll. Or maybe a Nintendo (not a Wii - the version with Super Mario and Duck Hunt). Or it was the year you finally got to get your ears pierced, (that's mine) or you were deemed old enough for your own BB gun.

That is how excited I feel anytime I have an hour alone. 

Ages 1, 2 and 4 during some "I am not alone" time. 

I have not been alone since 2006. Back when we had a 17 month old and a newborn, Preston worked about three minutes away from our house. I remember an evening when I was particularly exhausted and was whining into his handsome ear about how I was NEVER alone. He had pretty much had enough of the whining, and said, a little testily, "Do you think I'm ever alone?" (He could be classified as a bit of an introvert and actually needs some alone time, which he hardly ever gets due to his choice of wife. See first paragraph.) I actually said, "YES! You get to drive to and from work by yourself! You have SIX WHOLE MINUTES EVERY DAY!!!" 

I realize that sounds insane, but I'm telling you, that is a verbatim conversation we had, and I meant it. Six minutes sounded amazing. These little people running around have two thousand reasons to find you before breakfast. And when they are babies you have a video monitor on right beside your bed so you really aren't alone even then. Lo, they are with you always. (By the way, I would totally chuck that video monitor out the window now. Why did I want to see them while they were asleep?)

This is how we used to roll. Literally.

I had the privilege of staying home with our babies instead of working because we had three kids in three years, and day care would have cost more than my meager teacher salary. Literally. And it was a privilege. But oh, my, those years are a blur of spit up, bottles, yoga pants, and Baby Einstein. A child was attached to my hip and there were two glued to my legs. Even now, they are a bit older and two are gone to school everyday, but they will still find me any time, day or night. 

One morning this week, I lectured about how we will have a new strict policy on school. You must be 1) throwing up or 2) have a fever to stay home. No more staying home based on a tummy ache or slightly red throat. I am through with that mess. Literally, within 3 hours of this lecture, the school called me. "We have Middle Girl here in the office, and she says her tonsils are huge." I'm sorry, what? Put her on the phone. GO BACK TO CLASS! She managed to find me even from school.  

Or another example...Hysterical child: "Mommy?! Where are you? I need sumping!" (I refuse to correct this grammatical error, and if you tell any of my children the real word is "something," you will be sorry.) 

Me, sprinting from the upstairs (where I am undoubtedly in the laundry room, yelling at my washing machine - see this) taking two steps at a time, panicked by their frantic tone, "What is it, darling? What's wrong?"

Child who is now calm: "What's for supper?"

If I am on the phone, you can be sure they will find me. "Hold on, Long Lost Friend I Haven't Talked To In Years With Whom I Am So Excited To Be Chatting. My child is apparently being eaten by a grizzly bear! I must tend to her! Oh, never mind. She needed me to change Barbie's dress."

My sister-in-law hides behind the coats to try to escape her kids when she's on the phone. But they find her. I try to go outside. One time I sat in the freezing cold van on the floor so even if they looked out the window they wouldn't be able to see me in the driver's seat. 

My least favorite thing they do, outside of throwing up, is when I am working on something, or talking to someone, or typing this blog, and they will stand beside me and go, "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom." I mean, I am right beside them, they don't even have to look for me, they can see me and see that I am doing something, but no. "Mom" must be repeated nonstop until it garners a response. This will eventually awaken a sleeping dragon deep inside me, and it will come flying out of my mouth at the loudest volume imaginable: "WHAAAAAAAT????!!!!" Pouting child, "I just wanted to tell you I love you." Whatever. That is so not what you wanted, but I feel awful now.  

This week is going to be a time of super never aloneness as we are keeping the children of our dear, dear friends who have to go out of town unexpectedly. I don't know why people leave their kids with us, but it seems to happen a lot, which I think is a poor parenting decision. But these three kids are like my own. I knew that the day I was showering, (another place I go where I know the girls will find me) and I heard their middle child's voice say, "Martha? I need blah blah blah blah blah." I was SHOWERING! And I did not birth you! Go! Away! 

The mass I will be mothering this week.

So if on Wednesday, Preston tries to file a missing persons report on me, do not help him look. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. No one took me. I have run away. I will return when I feel sufficiently sane enough to once again savor the craziness. 

I do know there are people out there who would love to be in my situation, so I don't want to be insensitive to that. You are invited to our crazy any time. We do not turn people away no matter how messy the house or how empty the pantry. We can always make pancakes. Preston and I have determined we will have an open door policy. So come on over. Just don't be surprised if you catch me slipping out the open door...

Grace and solitude,

Friday, December 12, 2014


Ok, admittedly I am new to the world of professional sports for children under the age of 10 (a.k.a. YMCA youth basketball). In fact, we rather discourage our children from engaging in activities outside the house, especially ones which require one of us to leave the house at rush hour and deliver a child to another location, wait around for a half hour to an hour, which inevitably results in the poor decision to purchase a strawberry slush and cheese sticks from Sonic as a reward for my sacrifice of time, and then drive back home to frantically scramble through baths, teeth brushing, and devotions, (i.e. "the whole bedtime mess") resulting in the appearance of Impatient, Yelling Mommy which in turn causes Sobbing Children to show up. Also, we feel strongly if one of our children should show a gifting in a certain extracurricular activity, they will still have that gifting at the ripe old age of 10 or even 12 and can start their training then.

So far, no one seems to be showing star qualities in any one area, so we don't have a lot to worry about as far as rush hour deliveries are concerned. We've tried gymnastics - lasted 8 weeks, no one could do a cartwheel, realized this was costing REAL money as opposed to Monopoly money, and pulled those little nonflexible girls right out. (They have since learned cartwheeling right in our own yard without the assistance of a paid gymnastics coach.) Also, they attempted tap, but the whining that went along with, again, the REAL money being spent was more than Mommy could handle, and no tears were shed when we informed them of the decision to discontinue their dancing careers as well. Turns out they just wanted to see their cousin, who was also in tap class, which we can do for FREE. Anyways, we'd really rather be at home playing Pay Day which they appear to be somewhat talented in. If colleges start offering scholarships in board games, watch out! (Or is it "bored?" As in, I'm bored so I'm playing this game. I've never been sure.) 

But I digress. Snacks..... I mean, what the heck? They passed the ball a few times, properly defined a triple threat, dribbled a record eight times in a row and were rewarded with a capri-sun and a bag of cheez-its. I'll have to ask my sister-in-law, who runs marathons for fun (no one even makes her!), but I'm pretty sure they would have needed to run a 5K in record time to justify that snack. Plus, nine capri suns and nine individual bags of cheez-its costs approximately $112 in today's economy, and now I know I will be asked to provide snacks of equal wonderfulness in the eyes of these 6 - 8 year olds. And when I tried to pry actual basketball practice details from them, I got an excited showcasing of one child's empty snack containers and how delicious they had been and could I get some for her lunch box? and a display of the other child's unopened containers because these snacks are so rare they must be saved for a more appropriate time when they can be savored since you are impatiently rushing us off to bed, Mommy. (It was almost 8 pm by the time they got home!!! My me time is supposed to start at 8!) What about the coach? Did you shoot the ball? Were the other children nice? Did you EVEN BREAK A SWEAT? Those are the details I was searching for. Nope. Cheez-its, front and center. And apparently they will require a snack after every practice and every game. What the what now?? And how does a POST game/practice snack help them play better?

Super intense practice. Whew! Get those kids a capri sun, stat! And look, one girl has on her t-shirt we got free when signing up for gymnastics. I guess all those weeks and money weren't wasted after all.

Why can't kids feel a little hunger? I mean, there are children in the world who won't be offered a meal today, much less three meals and 87 snacks. And why must they have water bottles at their constant disposal? They are supposed to sip constantly to hydrate their brain, but when they aren't sipping they are in the bathroom because of all the constant hydration. Again, some children will spend all day walking to get a bucket of clean water, lug the heavy water bucket home, sleep, and then start the whole process over again tomorrow.

Message to American Child - get a sip of water from the water fountain your school is required by law to provide for you and move on. Also, eat your meals when they are offered to you, two of which your school is required to provide if your family needs a little help in that area. Should you choose not to eat it, another meal will be offered in about 4 - 5 hours, which you may also refuse. This process will be repeated until you get hungry enough to eat the meal placed before you.

And even though I write all this, I will undoubtedly purchase some disgusting cracker/cheese/Koolaid combination so the girls won't become known around the community sports arenas as the "girls who won't bring snack." Or, even worse, if I buy a bag of apples, which is what I really want to do, "the girls who bring (gasp!) healthy snacks!" And I will continue to lovingly (or begrudgingly? I get those confused, too.) fill a water bottle and tuck it into their backpacks. (Which roll. Because the one folder required by early elementary school grades is too heavy to wear on their backs. Or just carry.)

By the way, the fact that this post coincides with two of the girls' school "snack week" which requires me to provide a total of 145 sugar-free snacks for the week, (it also helps if they are nut, gluten, and dye free, but we haven't reached that requirement threshold yet) and it is my week to wash the classroom water bottles, AND it is our week to provide snacks and drinks after a grinding 6 -8 year old basketball practice is purely coincidental. Probably.

Grace for today and enough snacks for tomorrow, 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Norman Rockwell (would be ashamed)

In my family, we never could do things normally. Not even get a Christmas tree. And it has carried over to my generation. And we are trying to push it into the next generation. We don't go to the corner where the Boy Scouts are selling trees and hot cocoa, wandering the aisles looking for a tall, beautiful, wonderful smelling tree, excitedly shouting when we find the perfect one. Or head over to Home Depot and get the ten foot Douglas Fir prelit with 5,000 twinkling white lights, and decorate it with beautiful coordinating silver and red balls topped with a beautiful ribbon bow that trails down through the majestic branches.....

Nope. Not us. We have never ever done anything remotely like that. And Preston didn't during his childhood either. (He's a true redneck - dirt road, miles and miles outside a tiny town in which the main attraction is a restaurant called Pusser's. As in Buford Pusser. As in the sheriff who carried a big stick. There's a movie. Google it.) Cutting down our own tree is the only way to go. 

Sometime around the middle of November, I start to get antsy about decorating and especially getting the tree, but My Redneck makes me celebrate Thanksgiving first. Fine. Whatever. But the morning that's finally over with, out comes CHRISTMAS! There's a whole song stating "It's the most wonderful time of the year" for Pete's sake. How can you argue with that? However, I have learned getting the Christmas tree too early leads to a completely brown tree which on Christmas morning will pour spiky, dead needles down my shirt as I reach for presents. Not good on a lot of levels. So I show some restraint on the tree. And wait until the second December starts. 

We live on a bit of a farm, so we traipse around carrying an axe and a shotgun looking for an acceptable tree. Our standards are low. Anything appearing green and remotely shaped like a Christmas tree is fair game and can be argued about. And argue we will. 

The youngest will pick out a tree which would be appropriate for in front of the U.S. Capitol building and swear it is just the right size for our not-as-big-as-the-US-Capitol-house. And she will be passionate about it and be willing to fight to the death for her tree. 

The middle baby, who likes fanciness and will do something devoting her life to making Creation more beautiful, really can't find a tree she likes because they are not the ones I described above. She wants a perfect Blue Spruce lavished with glittering white ornaments and sparkling lights with a sterling silver star on top. Ain't never gonna happen in this here family. And I don't even talk like that. 

The oldest wants all the trees. There can be one in every room, the treehouse, the deck, to the top of the porch, to the top of the wall, let's cut them all down! They are all wonderful! I love Christmas! I will do cartwheels proving how much I love Christmas! I fell during that last one! Can you wash the cow poop I fell in out of my overalls? What Christmas tree? Oh, yes! I love that one and that one and that one! Let's get them ALL!

So. We eventually come to one Preston and I convince them will do just fine and start chopping. We must chop in order from youngest to oldest or something awful will happen. I don't know what, but it will, and it's tradition so we must do it this way. Chop chop. And since they are three little girls, chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop chop. 

Insert Daddy. Chop.

Then Preston drags the tree onto the trailer, and we all comment how it's the best one we've every had, and it will be perfect. (Bull and bull.) Commence the off key singing of Jingle Bells and haul the tree back to the house. Now we must get the tree to stand up, which means the stump must be leveled off, but the chainsaw won't start, because that's just the way things go. A butter knife is suggested and met with eye rolling by the others. Daddy gets a hand saw and uses all his manliness to pull the thing back and forth until his arm falls off. Then Mommy must lie on the ground holding the stand while Strong Daddy lifts the tree into the stand. Then we switch places, and Mommy must hold the tree upright while Daddy does things with wood pieces and wrenches and other things purely designed to keep Mommy's hand attached to the sappy tree trunk as long as possible. No, Preston, I cannot see if it's level because my head is buried in cedar limbs, which I happen to be allergic to if you remember. Can you please just screw the things in tight? How can it take this long to stand up a tree? Should we switch places and you hold the 400 pound tree upright while I screw in the thingamajigs? This leads into the inevitable light fight about who put them away in a giant knot last year and why none of them work and who will run to Target to get a fuse? And what exactly is a fuse? Off to Target. Trim it up while I'm gone and make it look less like a giant bush.

For the price of a nice fake Frasier Fir, I return home with all new lights because no, they did not have fuses. And the lights get strung and out come the ornaments. Not matching beautiful ones, although there are certainly beautiful ones, but rather homemade ones with chipping paint, ones showing preK baby faces, salt dough handprints, hand made wooden ones from Grandpa, ones collected from every trip we've taken since our Honeymoon a million years ago. Priceless treasures. Then it is topped with the star from my grandparents' Christmas tree. And suddenly, the tree is stunning. Beautiful to even the staunchest critic. The gathering place for the next three weeks. Home. Maybe worthy of a Norman Rockwell magazine cover.


By the way, we do this whole routine with my side of the family as well, to find a tree for in Mom and Dad's house, so just take this story and magnify it by 13, and you have another blog post to imagine. Only on that day we end the tree hunt by taking turns shooting the shotgun at clumps of mistletoe high in the trees and racing to pick up the fallen sprigs. Isn't that what they do at the Boy Scouts' stand?  

Grace and Mistletoe for today,

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Dream Realized

Ever since we were kids and would go on family vacations, I have entertained thoughts of being Erma Bombeck. Well, not really being her, but being like her. I even shared in a small group situation years and years ago that the "secret dream" no one knew I was harboring was to be a writer like Erma Bombeck and make people laugh. (Why were we sharing secret dreams no one knew? Kind of took away the secret since now a whole room full of people knew my secret desire. But since I've never been a particularly good secret keeper nor particularly shy, I was probably the first one to offer up my dreams.) If you have never read one of Erma Bombeck's books stop reading this IMMEDIATELY and go read one. THEN COME BACK HERE! 

In about the fifth grade I started writing the family Christmas letter on behalf of my mom, dad, and two older brothers. (this was waaaaay before Facebook made Christmas letters obsolete), and people used to tell my parents how hilarious our family was. I don't think Mom took that as a compliment, and I know my middle brother, who so wishes he came from a family with a little more class, didn't, but I sure did. "Secret dream" planted. 

My mom would read aloud from Erma Bombeck books to help pass the never-ending time on our two week long family vacations (another blog post entirely - really, a whole book) and laugh until she had to make Dad stop the car so she wouldn't wet her pants. My brothers and I always laughed, too, not so much because we got the jokes about Tupperware parties or being the only one in the house who could find the toilet paper "hidden" under the bathroom sink, but mostly because Mom was hilarious, snorting and slapping her leg, laughing until her mascara was running down her cheeks. But many years later, when I read those same books as a wife and mother, I totally got what was so funny. 

This job is not for the weak or faint of heart. It requires so many different skills and talents, from producing a meal from a box of spaghetti noodles and a half empty jar of mayonnaise, to making four dozen cupcakes the night before they are needed, (“Like that Martha Stewart lady made on Food Network the other night? Remember, Mom?” Wrong Martha, Kid.) to doing 14 loads of laundry each week in a washer that only works if you yell at it. (I swear, when I yelled, "Stupid washer!" at the washing machine it suddenly started the spin cycle. Just ask my my four year old who learned the word "stupid" that day and now uses it to refer to almost everything. Excellent parenting that day.) Some days the only way to stay sane is to laugh. And Mrs. Bombeck was the queen. Even today I have never read anything that so accurately and hilariously depicts motherhood in suburban America. But back then, it was just funny to see my mom get so worked up. And why is she so concerned about wetting her pants? (I know that answer now, too.)

So, after much, much encouragement from my husband and years of talking about "someday, when I have time to write", and since anyone with a computer can put their thoughts out there these days, here begins my journey. The name "Savor the Crazy" came to me about six months ago, but I only shared it just recently with the girls. I had to explain what I mean by it, that although things can get really crazy in our house I want to make sure that I savor these years....before they're gone. I asked one if she thought it was kinda funny. She suggested it would be a lot funnier if it contained the word "poop" further illustrating how perfectly fitting is the title I've chosen. 

The main goal will be to entertain you and myself with the hilarities of our everyday lives and make you feel better about the hilarities of your own. If you have ever been amused by something I have said or posted, please follow my blog, SHARE IT, and share your own adventures with me in the comments. We are all in this together. Let's at least laugh about it.

Grace for today,