Monday, April 29, 2013

Visiting, visiting, visiting

We made plans to see lots of people on our trip to Ohio.

People are really all we miss, so it made sense we'd spend most of our time visiting family and friends while in town.

Although it's been extremely enjoyable to see and chat with everyone - it's also been exhausting.

One day was jam packed.  Coffee with a friend in the morning, a park lunch play date in the afternoon, immediately followed by making and eating dinner with Granddad, only to quickly scamper off to Pump-it-Up for a fun-filled-birthday-celebration for a friend of the littles from church.  (More days like this are planned and have happened since.)

Phew - just typing it all wears me out again.

This day was open.  Nothing major planned till dinner.

I made a quick trip to the store for cereal and a shower caddy as well as gas for the mower.  Then back to granddad's house where we'd stay for the remainder of the day.

I sat on the couch and became more and more tired.  Everyone was content - reading, watching a movie, having a snacky lunch.  I decided to lay down and 'rest' for a bit.

REST?  I took a full blown, multi-hour nap.

I finally re-emerged to discover the big kids had put the littles down for a nap and had cleaned up from lunch.

WOW!  Did I ever mention what great children I have?  Well -- they.. are.. awesome!

That nap helped tons too.

Although fun - all this running, chatting, meeting up with people, juggling schedules, living in someone else's house apparently wore me out.  Physically and emotionally.

The kids are dragging too.  Colds are brewing; circles under eyes are developing; 'grouchies' are budding.

I'm looking forward to seeing yet more beloved family and friends, but I'm also counting the days to return home to our mountain abode.  To simpler times.  A less frenzied pace.  Our new norm.

Friday, April 26, 2013

When our children hurt

One thing I wasn't mentally and emotionally prepared for when I became a mama was how to deal with our children's hurts.

Not so much their physical boo boo's.  I could deal with those.  A hug and kiss, a little TLC, a fun bandage - voila - all was well.

The emotional ones?  Those have been the kicker.

The hurt feelings.  The friendship splits.  The mean spiritedness of others.

With six kiddos, I can't tell you the number of times I've cried because one of our babies have been hurt by someone else's actions or words.

I must also admit that the mama bear in me wants to growl out when these 'injustices' happen.

I've learned, however, that these 'growing pains' are also part of life.  Walking through these rough times have helped mold our children into the beautiful, gentle, loving spirits they are becoming.

My heart has broken many 'a times as I've watched our kids bemoan a lost friendship, hurtful words spoken from a 'supposed' friend, chasms developed over silly tisks.

At the same time, that broken heart has been filled to the brim with pride and joy as I've observed our children overcome the hurt, the disappointment, the sadness; using it to help another; to grow; to gain compassion, empathy. To be MORE than what was done to them.  As they've learned what NOT to do to others because of how they felt when they were treated poorly.

It doesn't make my mommy heart ache less for them, but it does make that hurt worthwhile.  It does help heal the pain and it teaches my mama heart lessons.  Instructions on how to overcome my own hurts; how to help them the next time they hurt.

It also builds toughness in them - a character trait that will aid them in this life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Saying Yes

There's been a blog on facebook that's boasting of being a 'yes mom'.  This is an area in which I struggle.

Gee, seems I struggle in a lot of areas.  Who knew starting a blog would result in me airing them all to the world?

Anyway, I'm still not sure saying 'yes' is always the answer. I think the fact parents have stopped saying NO when it's necessary is partially WHY our society is in the state it's in.  But... that will be a different post. A more political post.

Back to saying yes.  I all too often say no to small things. Not because they are bad or detrimental, but simply because I fear the mess, the time required, the money involved or basically I haven't thought through it all.

So, recently, I said yes to:
  • a second breakfast for some kiddlets who had already gotten down from the table
  • playing w/clay
  • tea at lunch
  • sugar cubes in the tea
  • a candy cane for dessert
  • playing 'store' with school play money (that is usually off limits so it doesn't get lost)
  • a movie before nap
  • making shaving cream, squishy, color bags
  • digging in the mud
  • picking flowers in the grass and yard
  • buying goldfish crackers (those things are expensive)
  • pop - with caffein (for the older kids)
  • Frosty milkshakes from Wendy's on the way to testing

Not saying I'm going to stop saying no.  Not saying I always say no.   I AM saying:  I'm going to continue making fun memories - saying yes to the simple pleasures in life.  Saying yes to the little things that make the mundane a bit more exciting, memorable.

When do you try to say 'yes' more often than not?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fear or Peace - a choice?

Finding a lump in my breast and other unsettling symptoms brings me to my gynecologist's office.

Confirming my fears as reality, she sends me for my first mammogram.

Nervous is an understatement.

Techno-genius Doug, the love of my life and my strength outside of Jesus, accompanies me to the appointment.

Assuming he could join me in the examination room, he stands up as they call my name.  "No sir, you can't come back."  WHAT?  I WANT him with me, HE wants to be with me. Why not? Turns out the other ladies sitting around wearing only a pink paper shirt that opens to the front, wouldn't appreciate his presence quite as much as I would.

Sitting back down, he kisses me; gives me a reassuring smile.

Off I go.  I get my own "locker" to hold my belongings and am handed a pink paper shirt of my own to put on.  Then I sit.

It's not long and I'm taken back for my mammogram.  The technician is kind and gentle. The overall experience nothing like I had imagined.

She and I agree - women make too much of this procedure - causing fear to keep many from getting needed exams done in a timely manner.

I'm released back to the waiting room where I chat with another woman awaiting her turn to be seen.  A bonus of this particular center is they give you the results prior to leaving the building.

Due to my other symptoms, an ultrasound is also in order.  Hence, I sit in my little paper shirt longer.

In anticipating a bit of anxiety, I had searched my Bible for a verse to carry with me.  John 16:27  "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" became my strength.  Especially as I sit here alone while my earthly strength sits in the other waiting room, also alone.

Sitting here - my imaginations running wild - I keep repeating this verse to myself.  Each time I recite it, my heart calms a bit more.

Witnessing other women getting their results brings both joy and sorrow.  Some receive happy news of a negative result.  Others are not as fortunate and their lives are forever changed in this small waiting room dotted w/pink paper shirts.

I believe it is sitting here watching others - who came in after me - get their exams AND results before I am called back for the ultrasound, that convinces me I do in fact have breast cancer.  Trembling wells up within me.

John 16:27 flashes once again through my memory. I purposefully claim the words.  Praying while repeating the words in my head.  I need to believe this verse before I begin to weep in despair.

Finally, I'm called back again.  The ultrasound is easy - having birthed 6 kids, this is not new territory.  {Ah yes, my 6 precious bundles:  it's their little faces, their smiles, their voices that make this whole ordeal NOT easy.  How could I be absent from the rest of their lives?}

What seems like moments later, I return again, to the waiting area.

Fears creep in many times as I sit, wait, and ponder.

More women receive their results - some good, some heartbreaking.  I have to add here, the center does a good job of keeping confidences, but a woman's face can speak volumes without a word ever being heard.

This may have been the hardest part of the whole experience.  Watching others get their results.  Not only does your heart rejoice or break for them, but it also opens the door for your mind to decide it's own results.  Usually leaning toward a death sentence in your near future.

Becoming increasingly anxious, I text both my husband in the other waiting room as well as a friend who had promised to pray.  My friend responds and assures me she is praying and gives me additional verses containing God's promises.

Calming the tears that threaten to spring forth from my eyes, the nurse finally appears and beckons ME to the locker area.  Heart beating, face flush, I stand up and follow her to the cubicle. Mind racing, I envision how I'll react to the news.

The results of my tests in her hand, she says, "Everything is fine.  Your results are negative.  Be sure to follow up in a year for your annual mammogram."

Grasping what she is saying, a few tears of joy and release make their way to the surface. I dress, now smiling, walk to the waiting room; this time it is me who gives Techno-genius a reassuring smile.  All is well.

We embrace; with a bit more spring in our step then when we arrived, arm and arm we float back to our car - relieved knowing we dodged this bullet.  Yet knowing if we hadn't, God would have walked us through because we have his peace if we'll only accept it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Long Trip to Ohio

Predictions of yet more snowfall resulted in us staying at Aunt Biff's house Friday night in preparations of leaving for Ohio Sat morning.

We couldn't afford being snowed in or the road closing.

Due to this change, we managed to get our buns in gear.  House cleaned, clothes packed, car loaded.  All before dinner.  Must be some form of record.

Waking early, we got off by 4:23 am.  Another family record.

Due to such an early start plus being 1/2 hour closer, we arrived at our hotel that first night unexpectedly early.  Record breaking abounds.

The kids were thrilled by this turn of events.  Meant a more relaxed dinner while watching part of Tangled on TV then a LONG time at the hotel pool.  We usually have to rush all of this 'just to get it in'.  Not this trip - we were able to leisurely eat, change, AND swim for over an hour.  Whoo hoo!

Doug and I noted on this trip how big all the kids are getting.

The older kids, during their boughts of 'wrestling' in the pool with daddy, are getting closer to being able to overthrow him. Closer - not there yet.

The younger ones were even more noticeable.  This past summer when we traveled, both Trinity and Selah were quite fearful of the water. They LOVED being in the pool, but tended to stick close to the  stairs or clung to the wall.  This trip?  Trinity was walking all around the pool and trying her hand at 'swimming' on her own.  Selah?  She was pulling herself all around the pool - chasing Charity - along the sides.  Last summer it was all we could do to get her off the steps. She was even able to touch the bottom and walk a bit this trip.  WOW!

Our babies are no longer babies. :-(

That's a sad thing, but also exciting. A whole new adventure.

The second day of the road trip was rather uneventful.

Got up, packed up the car, ate breakfast at the hotel - nothing to write home about.  Then we drove.  And drove.   And drove.  Stopping for gas, 'potty breaks', and lunch.

Pulling in to Cincinnati a little before 7pm - Skyline Chili was on deck for dinner.  Followed immediately with a trip to the Mt. Healthy Dairy Bar for dessert.  Mind you NONE of us were hungry at this point, but.... we ate ice cream anyway.

Finally, on to Granddad's house where we unloaded, made up sleeping areas, and got everyone tucked into bed.

Safe and sound - our first leg of our Ohio trip was complete.  Now the fun can begin - seeing all our family and friends.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How to Travel with Kids

As we prepared for our trip to Ohio this weekend, I began going over my mental list of all I needed to do.

Part of this list included keeping 6 kiddos happy in a cramped SUV for 2 VERY LONG days.

How do we keep all those kids occupied for such long trips?

  • Each child brings a small backpack of 'toys' for the trip.  Items they can play with in the car or books they can read.  As the ages go up, this tends to include more books than toys, but... same idea.
  • Game boys/Leapsters are permitted for our long trips.  However, screen time is still limited to 1/2 hour increments -  usually once before lunch and once before dinner.
  • Snacks doled out periodically
  • A movie on the SUV's DVD player - to be honest, we tend to only watch one movie a day on these long trips
  • The favorite tradition, which Doug's family began when he was young -- handing out 'small gifts' throughout the trip.  I usually pick up little trinkets at Deals and the Dollar Tree for these.  They tend to be 'useful' items like chapstick, fun pens and pads of paper, or food items - favorite candies, gum, a special can of pop.  
    • Depending on what the trip is for (ie: summer vacation to the beach; a trip to the mountains; or like this one, just a trip back to Ohio to visit and have appointments) I will give 'themed' prizes.  Small beach balls or frisbies; bouncy balls; socks for cold trips.
    • Recently I also started giving items we can use in the hotel.  Each kid gets their own bag of microwave popcorn; a packet of hot cocoa to have while we watch a movie; maybe even a new toothbrush to use on our trip.
It's a fun way to break up the trip.  Gives the kids something to look forward to. Allows for something 'novel' to entertain them a bit.  Provides built in snacks or treats as well as fun 'traditions' for the hotel - popcorn and hot chocolate after a dip in the pool while we watch a movie and wind down for the night.

What do you do to keep kids occupied in a car during long trips?  Our children travel pretty well, but 10-14 hours in a car can test even the most patient and docile of individuals.  I think Doug is considering buying ME little trinkets to keep me happy along the way.  :-)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lessons Learned

As the 'Spring' snow storm subsided, I had to make a trip into town for a rescheduled dental appointment and last minute errands before our trip to Ohio.

Having done the 'bad snow' drive already, I felt confident my trip would be just fine.  4-wheel drive was set and I was ready to roll.

Roads were still icy, snow covered, and slushy.  Speed limits continued to be low.  As I was driving, I noticed a large chunk of slush/snow in the midst of my lane a bit too late.  Clunk.  Over I went with a thud.  Not a good sound.

All seemed fine.

As I neared the end of the highway, I stopped and turned onto the road heading into town.

Drag, churn, clug is what I heard.  Remembering the 4-wheel drive mode doesn't like turning, I flipped it to regular mode.

Next stop, chug, chug, drag.  Hmmmm.... that couldn't be good.

Upon arriving at the dentist's office I surveyed the underside of the truck.  I discovered that driving in very cold weather on the snowy, slushy, non-salt treated roads of Wyoming resulted in a build up of frozen sludge on the undercarriage of my vehicle.

Said sludge caused the wheels to churn and grind against it resulting in a horrific sound that would convince the average woman that she'd 'ruined' her hubby's car by running over that large snow block on the highway.

I must have been quite a site as I stood outside the truck, in a long jean skirt and cowboy boots, kicking the crud out of the frozen slush around the tires and under portion of the pick-up.

I'm sure to an unsuspecting on-looker it must have appeared as though I was a disgruntled girlfriend taking out her frustrations upon her ex-boyfriends truck.

I could just hear the country music in the background.

At least I hadn't 'damaged' the truck with my driving.  :-)

The Big Snow

We kept waiting for feet and feet of snow as we moved to Wyoming in late December.  It's Wyoming, after all, it's supposed to have LOADS of snow all winter long.  At least in our heads; based on what people have said about winters in Wyoming.

Boy were we surprised when month after month we'd get a dusting - maybe a bit more here and there - but temperatures were mild, pleasant. We experienced a few weeks of subzero temps and bone chilling high winds, but otherwise, it was quite enjoyable.  Ohio seemed to be getting more snow that we were. What was up with that?

Until.... mid-April.

Who knew that March and April were the big snow months?  Well, most native Wyomians, that's who. LOL!

After a week or so of VERY mild temps in which we all took the liners out of our winter coats, had thoughts of spring clothes, flowers, and buds on trees we were in for a shocker. The temperatures began dropping, the snow began falling.

We were used to that.  We assumed it would fall for a short time. The wind would blow most of it away and whatever was left would quickly melt as the sun shined down upon the earth.

Boy were we mistaken.

It began snowing late last week.  A slight bit of accumulation, but it was melting some. Then.... it really started snowing and.... it.... just.... didn't.... stop!

Plus, the heavy cloud cover kept that beautiful, hot star in the sky from beaming down on the never ceasing snowfall.  Preventing any melting what-so-ever.

Poor road conditions made travel less than fun.  Some days appointments and activities just needed to be cancelled.

Finally, we needed to go into town and the snow fall was slowing.  The kids and Doug began shoveling.

We were amazed to realized we had a good 2 ft of snowfall.

The truck literally looked half buried.  Small bushes looked liked tufts of grass peaking out over the top of the snow covered plains.

Our poor little truck - practically buried from our Spring winter storm

THIS was what we'd been waiting for.

A winter wonderland in Spring

Apparently, this is not uncommon for this time of year.  Guess we just needed to adjust our expectations.  Winters aren't all that bad in terms of snowfall -- but Spring...... well, that's a different story.

Oh the adventures that await us in our new country, mountain home.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My first 'bad weather' drive in Wyoming

Last week, Doug drove the girls and I in for their doctor's appointments b/c the roads were 'orange' due to slick conditions and blowing snow.  As we drove, I made the comment that I would eventually need to learn to drive in this stuff.  I am from Ashtabula, after all.  It's not like I've NEVER driven in snow before.  LOL!

Little did I know that the time to learn and be courageous was coming..... SOON!

Sunday night as we made plans for wake-up times, Doug and I both checked weather reports and road conditions as we knew I'd be taking Jacob to Cheyenne over I80 in the morning.  The pass between Laramie and Cheyenne often closes when it snows because it's one of the steepest inclines on a highway in the US.  Fun stuff, I tell ya.

Snow was expected.  Out here, one can never really predict when it will ACTUALLY hit or how much will REALLY end up falling.

With a winter storm watch being elevated to a warning, I decided to wake early to  ensure we got off on time and had plenty of 'flex' in our schedule.  There was a chance I'd have to take a different route that would add close to an hour to our drive.

5 am arrived.

I rolled out of bed and turned on the computer.

It had snowed all night long and the road conditions were 'orange' due to slick roads and limited visibility.  I wasn't a fan of such words.

Bravely, however, I made the decision to venture out.  Granted, we did leave at 6:10 for a 9:30 testing appointment.  (Last time we made this trek it only took us an hour and a half.)  Glad we left when we did as we arrived just shy of 9am.

The roads were in fact snow covered and slick.  Visibility - quite limited.  However, 4-wheel drive, slow speed limits and an occasional verbal panic attack, allowed us to make it just fine.

I've discovered I have another love-hate relationship. This one is with the anti-lock brakes on our Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck.  Funny thing, even though it may seem smooth sailing as you drive along a  highway using your 4 wheel drive, it becomes a bit more dicey as you attempt to slow or stop. The number of times those anti-lock brakes kept me from fish-tailing, skidding, slipping, and sliding were countless.

I'm quite grateful for anti-lock brakes, even if they do wig me out every time they 'push back' against my efforts to stop my vehicle. :-)

I can now proudly say I survived my first driving attempt in 'bad Wyoming weather'.  It wasn't nearly as traumatic as I'd feared.  Jacob may have a different perspective since he was privy to my mini semi-truck-passing induced panic attacks.
The little truck that could.  This pick-up truck was masterful at
driving on the snow covered, wind blown roads of Wyoming.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The PJ Bandits

On cold days the kids often prefer to stay in their warm comfy PJ's rather than worry about getting dressed. We know we're not going anywhere, we're not expecting company, and best of all, it saves on laundry.  Wooot wooot!

This day, it was snowing.  It was cold.  It was an all out family PJ day.

The dog, however, didn't get the memo.  He still wanted his walks.  Several of them.

Bethany and Elijah volunteered to take him on this, his third walk of the day.

Knowing it was cold, they ran and grabbed their snow pants, scarves, gloves, and hats.  Being ever so efficient, they put them all on in the back closet room in which they are kept.

As they emerged and walked down the hall and into the living room Doug burst into laughter.  As I looked up, I heard him mumble, "They look like bandits. The PJ bandits."

Belly laughs filled the room. They did in fact, look quite like masked bandits with their scarves tightly tied around their mouths and  noses, hats covering all of their head. The only part of them peering out was their eyes hidden by their glasses.

To top it off, they were wearing matching pajama shirts under their snow bibs.  Our PJ bandits were on the loose.

Guess this time it will be the kids that become the talk of the town rather than the dog.

Our cute little PJ Bandits!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Grumble or Sing Praise?

Recently, our pastor preached on giving praise in hard times.  How when we are miserable, down trodden, in trials and pain the best thing we can do - what we should do - is sing praises to God.

Not my natural response.

Hearing how Paul and Silas sang a song of praise after being beaten and shackled and put in jail amazed me.  I had never before fully thought through their situation.  They had open, bleeding, wounds; they had been falsely accused, so their punishment was unwarranted; their fate was most likely death in the near future.  Despite their circumstances, when it would have been easy to weep, to complain, to grumble, and cry out to God and anyone else listening, they sang.  They had been dealt with unjustly.  How would we have reacted?  I know my tendency - I would have vented, cried, possibly even had a little self pity party or grown up temper tantrum.

In light of that, I began thinking of our medical situations.  We do seem to be 'genetic medical mutants' these days.

Our eldest, before he was 16, had major spinal fusion for Scheuermann's Kyphosis.  His younger brother also has kyphosis that is being monitored.  We won't really know if it's the same type until he hits his prepubescent growth spurt.  Our 7 yr old daughter, she has mild scoliosis.  But, if research proves correct, it could become significant given she has so much growing left to do.  In the last few days, we learned our oldest daughter appears to have some mild scoliotic tendencies as well.  Again, since she's just hitting puberty, we need to monitor it closely to see what direction it might go.  Given our family history, the doctors don't want to mess around.  This in addition to her weird auto immune swelling episodes she is so prone to experience.

A part of me feels overwhelmed by it all.  I wonder why?  Why so many of our kiddos?  Why crooked backs?

Having gone through spinal fusion surgery with one child already, I can attest to the fact - quite confidently - I'd prefer NOT to go through that again.  It was hard.  Scary.  Heart wrenching.

At the same time, I acknowledge how blessed we are.  Our children are quite healthy overall.  Crooked backs, although not easy or fun, are also not generally life threatening.  Thank the Lord.

So, I'm going to give thanks.  I'm going to praise God. I'm going to sing Psalms and songs of praise for being given this opportunity.  God's plans are not my plans. His are so much bigger.

I recall the wonderful witness Jacob was to the staff at Cincinnati Children's Hospital during his surgery and recovery.  I'm certain he'll touch even more lives as time moves on.  God's plan - not ours.

I'm excited to see how these circumstances; how our 'medical mutant' status; how curvy spines and all that goes with them will enable us to touch others lives.

I will sing praises to God.

Psalm 59:16 But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Looking out for one another

We have a rule in our house. When you take the dog for a walk, you take a walkie talkie - leaving one with someone in the house - preferably mom or dad. Even the parental units have to follow this rule. We live in the mountains, a wilderness area, with lots of potential wildlife.  Consequences always follow forgetting said communication device.

Today, Jacob headed off for his afternoon jaunt with the dog.  Half hour into it, he sent us a text message that he had in fact forgotten the walkie talkie, but had his cell phone and was ok.  He was heading back home.

As if on cue, moments later, the walkie talkie (that had been left on Techno's desk after the morning dog walk) called in.  Techno-genius, being silly, called it right back.  A simultaneous hello from he and Bethany negated both their attempts. He then re-called and Bethany said, "hello?"  Techno responded in kind.

A brief pause then we heard, "Uh oh."  Knowing her thoughts, we both began chuckling.

"Uh oh, what?" he quipped.

Another pregnant pause, "Um.... Jacob forgot the walkie talkie."

"We know."  Came the reply.

A bit nervous sounding, "OK, love you," came through the speaker.

"Love you too," Muffled Doug between laughter bursts.

We knew exactly what was going through her mind. She hadn't meant to get her big brother in trouble. She was most likely trying to call HIM - thinking he had left the walkie talkie in her care.  They do that, often, call each other just to say 'hey' while on their Apollos walks.  What had she done?  Would he lose privileges?  Would he be upset with her for 'ratting him out'?

I guess it would have been kindest had we fessed up to knowing, before this event, that Jacob didn't have the other walkie talkie. That he had already 'checked in' and told on himself, but was ok since he had his cell phone.  But... instead, we practically rolled on the floor in laughter as we recalled, the 'uh oh' comment echoing through the walkie talkie in Techno-genius' hand.

In all honesty, we're glad they look out for each other.  Thrilled she wasn't 'tattling' on him as many siblings might.  She just wanted to say 'hello' to her big brother and mistakenly got her dad instead.  Which, she knew, meant her brother had broken the house rule.  She had no way to cover, to turn back.

Giving both her dad and I a hearty laugh and a heartwarming smile to know she cares about Jacob and wanted to protect him.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Love/hate Relationship

Bundling the girls up to go out and play, I was thrilled they wanted to venture into the new blanket of snow almost covering the tall tufts of vegetation that is our yard.

Stuffing little hands into tiny gloves, wiggling fingers into their proper position.  Tying hats on heads so they won't fall off - the hats that is. Wrapping scarves around necks to keep the cold and snow from going down their coats.  Forcing gloved covered hands through tight fitting elastic coat arms to keep those little wrists warm.  Stomping cute little feet into warm winter boots to keep tiny toes from freezing.  Oh, we mustn't forget fluffing little girls' skirts into warm snow pants in order to save little bony legs from getting chilled and wet.

I'm sure it took me 15 minutes to get them all three bundled up and out the door.

The chatter of excitement made it all worth it.  They scampered off to the front yard to make snow angels, climb on the snow covered rocks, and simply enjoy the newest winter wonderland that had developed overnight on this fun spring morning.

What seemed like moments later, the door opened.  In trotted Selah already shedding gloves, hat, scarf. Begging her eldest sister to unzip her coat, her snow pants, and to pull off her warm boots.


15 minutes of preparation for what.... 5 minutes of play time?

Was it worth it?  What was the use?

Yeah, those few minutes of exhilaration as they stepped out into the new fallen powder, full of joy and anticipation of what fun was in store, made it worth my time and effort.

The other two lasted a bit longer.  Only returning inside to eat lunch.

Following lunch, Trinity inquired, "Can we go back outside?  Or, watch a movie?"

Hmmmm... let me ponder my options..... what movie would you like?  It may have been worth it, but if an alternative was available, I was takin' it.

That love/hate relationship I have with getting littles ready to play outside.  Loved it the first time, was hating the thought of it the second time.  Maybe tomorrow that love feeling will be back.

Yep, those 15 minutes of bundling up were worth it.  Just look at those cute faces.

Science Fun

Each day I attempt to do a fun craft or activity with the girls. Especially now that they have finished their 'official' lessons for the year.  Keeps them occupied and makes certain I spend time purposefully engaging with them.  <When they are playing happily together, it's tempting to let them be and get projects/chores done.>   Such activities are usually fun for all.

Today, we began our craft time making some felt Bible Buddy Bookmarks. This was a colossal fail as the elmer's glue was just not cuttin' it.  The pieces would NOT stick together.

Once we bagged all the pieces up, the girls began begging for a 'replacement' craft. Trinity reminded me of a 'keep them busy' activity we'd done in the past.  Putting shaving cream in a bag with a drop or two of food coloring.  One then squishes it all around 'mixing' the colors.  Unfortunatly, we hadn't enough shaving cream and Daddy wasn't willing to forfeit what was left of his 'expensive stuff' for our project.  Guess that will be saved for another day.

Hmmmmm..... needed another idea.  Pinterest.

I came upon a neat suggestion using vinegar and baking soda with food coloring to have what I'll call 'color explosion'.  What a blast.  We've done similar activities in the past - volcanoes and the like, but.... this was a bit different.

                                           We gathered our materials.
A bottle of vinegar and container of baking soda.  
 4 clear cups for each girl, 4 large baking pans, 4 spoons for each, and food coloring.  
*Note: The pan made for super easy clean-up.

We lined the cups in the pans.  Filled them with vinegar.  Put drops of food coloring on the spoons. Then, filled the spoons with baking soda.

A little hesitant, Charity adds her first spoon

Next came the fun part -- adding the baking soda spoons to the cups.  Watching the girls excitement as the vinegar reacted with the baking soda, resulting in a "color explosion" out and over the top of the cups was priceless.

Adding spoon after spoon for bubbling fun
2 down, 2 to go

What fun.

Our finished product of fizzy fun

I think they had even more fun as they poured all the contents of their cups into the bottom of their pans and 'played'.  Occasionally we added a bit more baking soda to produce some 'bubbling', otherwise they just enjoyed scooping, stirring, and pouring their concoction back and forth from cups to pan.  The most creative aspect was the girls making 'spoon people' who were swimming and/or bathing in the now green vinegar/baking soda slush.

Stirring and pouring is half the fun

Sometimes ya' just gotta enjoy the simple stuff.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mercy-filled Mothering

Recently, it seems many blog posts I've been reading have centered around showing mercy in parenting.

The first one I read I found inspiring. I thought, "Yeah, I should think about that."

The second one, made me ponder a bit more.

By the third one I began to wonder if God was trying to tell me something.

They weren't all in one day or even one week, but still in close proximity.  Coincidence?

Most who know me would probably describe my mothering style as a bit strict. We have high standards for our children. We strive to teach them the truths of the Bible and how to live out their lives in a way that honors and glorifies God.  Part of that is discipline and teaching self control.

As I read these various posts, however, I was struck by the fact that I have a tendency to target correcting the faults and not praising the positives near enough.

In my quest to raise up good, Godly children who will be an asset to society, I am prone to focus on correction, teaching, disciplining and not enough on offering encouragement,  mercy; as God does to me.

Part of this is my personality. I understand this.  In general I am a black and white type person - it's either good or bad.  You do something wrong, you receive appropriate punishment.  To receive reward, you need to do something to deserve it.

To be honest, I believe that is a good way to approach life.  My problem comes when I fail to offer the rewards because I'm so enthralled with doling out discipline.  Or, when I should use a situation to 'teach' in a gentle, merciful manner and instead I bring down the hammer in full force, showing less mercy than I should for a mild infraction.

I must admit, I'm grateful God does NOT do that to me.

Why then, do I act this way all to often with my own beautiful children?

I imagine it all goes back to my own sin, my own pride.  If the children misbehave, it's going to look bad on me.  If I let them get away with something, they will just do more of the same. (Again, I do believe this to be true in many cases, but.... mercy still needs to be shown).

In all honesty, I'm not sure HOW to change my actions.  I'm praying for wisdom. For God's intervention to give me a softer heart.

I do know, for now, I can make a conscious effort to praise my children frequently.  To clarify, I do praise my kiddos, but I also tend to correct them even more.  So, today, tomorrow, I will purposefully seek out positive actions performed by my children and verbally praise them for what I see.  Praise them for the wonderful hearts they possess; for the Godly characteristics I see developing.

The funny thing is, I praise them often to others.  Here on my blog. In facebook posts. To their grandparents, our friends. Techno-Genius and I have loads of conversations of how proud we are of all of the kids.

Now, however, I am determined to tell THEM as much as I do everyone else, just how wonderful they are.  To show them a little more mercy when they 'goof up'.  A little less sternness when they act like...well.... children.

Our precious bundles - I'm so blessed to be their mama

I'm not lowering our standards - God's standards are pretty clear. I'm not compromising our beliefs.  I'm just committing to be the type of mom that is a model of our Heavenly Father. Showing mercy yet still teaching and admonishing when appropriate.

I'm learning that maybe EVERY little infraction isn't worthy of my full 'mommy wrath'.

Thank you God for continuing to work in me.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

socks and slides don't mix

I'll never forget the eerie sound of our eldest son's scream that anxious day.

Following his baseball game, our son had invited his friend over to hang out for the afternoon.  For whatever reason, this friend declined, but his older brother was interested in spending the time at our house.  This turn of events may be the catapulting factor for the remainder of this story.

Excited to have a friend over - an older friend at that - Jacob began to put on his best.

Our house at the time had a huge basement.  We had turned half into a play area complete with a slide, foam mat flooring, a train table, and a kitchen play set zone.

The other portion was compartmentalized into an office, 2 school areas, our laundry room, a craft nook, as well as a workbench area.

Techno-genius had work to do in the office and I was getting the younger kids settled down to naps and quiet activities upstairs following the busy baseball morning.

I was in the living room when I heard it. A loud shriek coming from our oldest child in the basement playroom.  It was an uncanny sound. But, no crying or yelling followed.  I quickly dismissed it as a 'fluke'.

Moments later Jacob appeared with his friend,who, with face flushed, stated, "I think he dislocated his wrist or something."

Approaching, holding his right wrist with his left hand, eyes bulging he presented his arm to me. Expecting dislocation, I sympathetically looked at his arm.

What happened next was not my finest 'mommy moment'.

Looking at his arm, my heart moved into my throat.  My head swam, my stomach turned.  "Oh my!" I blurted as I turned and walked to the other side of the room, hands covering my distraught face.


The arm, just above the wrist, made a complete S curve.  I could see the bulging of the bone as it pressed against his skin.  "As close to a compound fracture as you can get without the bone literally protruding out of the skin," the doctor would later quip.

Fortunately, Techo-genius was much better with this scenario than I was.  He remained calm and quickly ushered Jacob to the car and on to the hospital; where I'd soon meet them after delivering the friend to his parents and finding care for our other 2 children.

HOW had this happened?

When an 8 year old boy wants to show off for his slightly older friend, he'll do silly things.

What sort of silly things you ask?  Things like climbing up the slide in our basement, in his stocking feet, and proceeding to JUMP off said slide. Resulting, as one could imagine, in a loss in footing, a fall to the ground, slipping on the foam matting, and catching his full weight on his right arm - snapping the bones clean through.

Re-setting of the bones, casting, surgery to place pins, more casting, and a long recovery have cured our son of showing off on slides in socks.  I think he learned - they just. don't. mix.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sibling Love

As I sit and look out our front window I'm reminded of just how much I adore our children.  Watching them flounce about in the yard - full of life and glee.

Initially Selah didn't want to join the fun. She wanted to sit on my lap and be cuddled.  Loving that, I allowed her to stay with me.

Seeing her sisters happily running outside, climbing on the rock pile, she changed her tune and longed to get dressed and join the fun.

I had to smile as she chose her dress "so I can match Charity."  Then, putting on her clothes, talking to herself, "oops, forgot my tank top," I muffled a chuckle.  Eventually I offered to help her as everything ended up inside out before she was done.

The boys too enjoy the wide open spaces. They continue to relish sword fighting one another.  It gives my mama's heart great joy to see them still 'playing' together despite preteen and teen years setting in.

Watching our girls explore their new yard thrills me.  Further solidifying our decision to 'move west'.

Smiling ear to ear, Selah delights in Jacob whisking her into the air to carry her across the 'tall grass' and into the rock pile to climb and explore.  Like deep snow, she's not a fan of the tall grass either.  She'll need to overcome these quirks as they are going to be par for the course in her outdoor adventures.

Big brother is always willing to take his little sisters along

My heart sings as I observe my 16 year old son lead the way for his little sisters - jumping, hopping, exploring the rocks, the creek, the nooks and crannies that surround our new home.  He's a wonderful big brother.  Playing, exploring, nurturing, teaching... it's all part of his interactions with his wee sisters.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sunshine and Happiness

Today the girls were in rare form again, but this time not in a good way.  Bickering, arguing, blaming, complaining, were all on the menu for our morning of whine and cheese.

Having slept better, I thought it was going to be a fabulous day.  Such antics from the littles, however, put me in a grouchy mood 'right quick like'.

Why is it on mom's bad days, kids have good ones, and on mama's good days, the ckicklets have bad ones?  I'm sensing a conspiracy theory brewing.  :)


We fumbled our way through breakfast and into mid-morning/early afternoon.  Squabbles, mom intervened.  Happiness for 10 minutes.  More squabbles.  Time on the couch sharing nice things about each other. Pleasantries for 20 minutes.  Squabbles... you get the picture.

After lunch, the girls asked to go outside.  Craft project complete, full tummies, I figured it was a great idea.  I'd join them with my camera.

Sunshine and warm temps awaited us.... so.... out we went.
Just getting outside brought smiles to these cute little faces.
 I like THIS much better than the 'whine' served earlier.

Climbing on rocks, exploring our yard, walking the perimeter of our property line made for wonderful giggles, great exercise, and educational finds.  Like this cool, but kinda creepy skeleton.
Found this along the perimeter of our yard

Once we made our rounds covering our own land, we decided to take a bit of a walk through our 'subdivision'.

Running toward our driveway
Smiles and laughter and lots of chatter ensued throughout our little adventure.

As we approached our driveway to return home, Jacob and Apollos were just heading out for their afternoon walk. The girls begged to 'go along'.  Knowing they'd get too tired to make the full 2+ mile trek Jacob usually walks, we took a different route and walked toward the fire dept.
Big brother helped each girl take a turn petting the horse.

A quick stop to see the neighbor's horses, then a jaunt through some public land to search for antlers and watch the antelope play in the distance encapsulated our walking journey.

We didn't find antlers, but we did find this......

A skull found on our walk.
Just never know WHAT you'll found out here.

Finally getting tired, the girls asked to go back home.

Just sitting for spell

A piece of Easter candy to curb their hunger, then off to nap.  After all that walking, I'm sure naps will be good and long.

The shadows playing on the nearby mountains in our 'subdivision'.
Have to admit, getting out in the sun and fresh air not only helped their moods, but mine too.  Memories were formed, health was improved, relationships strengthened.  Sunshine and happiness --what a wonderful cure for the 'grumps and whines'.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Homemade Honey Tapioca

I love pudding. Especially the type you cook on the stove. There's just something comforting about warm pudding.  Techno-genius is just the opposite.  He loves his pudding cold, right from the fridge.

I've never made homemade pudding - unless you count the powder from a box to which you add milk. :-)

Aunt Biff has made tapioca pudding a couple times for our dinners at her house and the kids have discovered a keen liking to it.

With that and having come across a neat looking recipe on Pinterest, I decided to give it a go.

I adapted this recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day to come up with a fairly tasty honey tapioca.

Players Roster:  Will make 8-12 servings

6 C milk (I used 5 C skim and 1 C heavy whipping cream to give it more creaminess - you could also use half-n-half or use a higher percentage of fat -- 2% or even whole)
2/3 C small pearl tapioca
4 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
2/3 C honey (I simply used regular honey as I couldn't find any "flavored" honey at the store - the original recipe called for raspberry honey)
Grated zest from 1 small lemon - could use bit more since this recipe has been doubled.

Soak tapioca in 2 cups of milk for 30-60 min in medium/heavy saucepan.
Whisk in egg yolks, salt, honey, and remainder of milk.
Bring mixture barely to a boil over med/low heat. (I had to up my heat to med/high to get to this point)
Decrease heat so mixture gently simmers, stirring constantly, for another 20 minutes. (this is the hard part - that's a long time to stand and stir over a hot stove)
The tapioca pearls will become translucent when done. Taste to confirm.
Sauce will thicken to custard as well.
Once done, remove from heat and add lemon zest.

Creamy and yummy. Very mild flavor. I believe the flavored honey - of any kind - would add a great deal to the overall taste.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Headaches and Happiness

Yesterday I awoke with a horrible headache.  Lack of sleep and sinus pressure were winning the war in my throbbing head.

For some odd reason - this day - the girls were in rare form.  In a good way.  They were getting along marvelously.  Playing together; squealing in delight; running to and fro through the house - while squealing; making up elaborate games -- all of which entailed lots of noise and motion.

I usually relish days like this. They are happy.  Smiling.  Laughing.  Playing nicely together. NO bickering.  NO fighting over toys.  Just collaborative, creative playing.  A mama's dream.

Ride 'em cowboy - nothing like pillow pet wranglin' -
as long as your with your sisters
Headache brewing caused me to be less than thrilled with the level of robust creativity.  On occasion I found myself tempering the girls enthusiasm simply because it was causing the already dull drumming in my head to escalate to a severe pounding in mere seconds.

Coffee in hand, I made a choice.  I'd get some ibuprofen, start lunch, then plan to do an activity with the girls.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em was my motto for this particular situation.

Our goal in parenting is to teach our children to love and follow Jesus, but also to love and serve one another. Today the girls were doing that on their own, in their own way. Who was I to ruin it simply because I had a headache?

Not saying it was easy. I just wanted to find a dark room, crawl in bed, and cover up with the comforter.  Sleep. Rest. Close my eyes and block out ALL noise and commotion.  Even the happy, jovial sounds of my 3 precious bundles.

I'm glad I made that choice.

I prepared lunch, no longer snipping at the girls to 'quiet down'.  It took a little longer to prepare than expected and making French Onion Soup needed to start while lunch was cooking.  Selah 'helped' me with all of it and the other littles stopped in here and there to inquire as to what I was doing, what was cooking.  A pitstop, as it were, in their rounds around the track that is our home.

We didn't manage to get to a craft but it forced me to smile at their games rather than wince and resulted in a much more pleasant afternoon overall.

A headache is no picnic, but grousing at the girls, who were so joyfully interacting with one another, wasn't making it any better.  Choosing to push through the annoying pain, choosing to smile and not snip at the girls, choosing to laugh with them rather than telling them to stop laughing so loud made a world of difference.

I did crawl into bed later that afternoon - the same time the girls had their naps - and it did help my less- than-fun headache, but encouraging the girls to continue in their positive interactions had a bigger impact on all of us.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stages and Ages

Nurturing Selah during her illness this week made me remember how much I enjoy that part of mothering.

Not to say I'm not nurturing when the kids aren't sick, but they are all old enough now that I don't have to carry them around, tending to their every need.

I miss that!

Babies and I are a good mix.

Dont' get me wrong. I'm enjoying all the various stages the children have and are going through.

Teenagers are pretty fascinating.  The conversations you can have; the insights they portray; the maturity they display - most of the time; the less than wise decisions they occasionally make are all intriguing.  I'm learning to embrace much of it -- <sometimes.>  :-)

Pre-teens are a hoot.  Not little kids anymore, but not 'mature' teenagers either.  It's amazing to watch the whimsical manner in which they approach life.  Things are still novel to them.  They are figuring out their own place in this world yet still looking to mom and dad for guidance.  Fun and occasionally frazzling at the same time.

Early elementary kiddos are priceless.  Yearning to gain some independence, they are trying to stretch their wings.  Getting their own breakfast, choosing their own clothes, yet not wanting to 'clean up' after themselves because -- after all -- that are still little.

Last, but not least, the preschooler. She's torn between wanting to be like the 'big kids' and wanting to be babied by mama.  She's gaining a little independence and wants it when she's playing with her sisters, but.... at other times, she wants to be held, cared for, tended to.

Holding Selah this week - often; snuggling with her at naps; carrying her, as walking wore her out; stroking her head as her listless body sat on my lap; brought back those memories of when they were all just babes.

I LOVED holding them, stroking their hair, kissing their heads, rubbing their backs.  Just because they are older, bigger now, doesn't mean those activities need to cease.  Maybe they look different, but I'm still their mama, they are still my babies.

I wish my little ones didn't have to get sick, but I'm grateful for the reminder to be softer, more affectionate, to hold them on my lap, to rub their backs, to kiss their heads, to talk gently, lovingly to them, to serve them.... just because.... I can.  Just because..... I'm....
A common sight this week - minus the donut

Monday, April 1, 2013

Busy is as busy does

The past couple of weeks have been busy!   At least in respect to what our schedule has looked like since we've moved to the 'simpler life' in the mountains.

Doctor's appointments, dentist appointments, chemistry exams out of town, shopping, more doctor's appointments, lunch with a friend, more dentist appointments, a date, yet more doctor's appointments, and even a fun-filled morning of Easter egg activities have filled our days recently.

All necessary events. All pleasant - well mostly - activities.

The pace nothing compared to families with multiple kids in multiple sporting activities running nightly to and fro, barely having time to eat meals and kiss their loved ones hello and goodbye.

However, I noticed in myself added stress.  A higher level of grumpiness.

I'm amazed at how just the little bit of added 'outside' activities changed the dynamics of our 'happy little family'.

Now, don't get me wrong, we go to church every Sun and Wed. We spend Sun lunch with friends or Aunt Biff.  We go to the grocery store; out to eat occasionally; and the kids play at friends' houses.  We are not hermits or recluses.

We do, however, enjoy the less frenzied pace of our new lifestyle.

I enjoyed getting out a bit this week, but found I longed to be home. Cozy inside our little abode. Doing chores; crafts with the kids; cooking our meals; spending time doing family fun activities; having time to stay on top of the day to day tasks that so easily mount up.

Another confirmation that this 'laid back' pace of life is right.... for us..... right now.
The peaceful beauty that is our new mountain surroundings.