Friday, December 2, 2016

Honor Your Parents

Yes, children!  Did you see what today's challenge is?  HONOR YOUR PARENTS!  Be nice to me! Do what I say!  I'm so funny that I make them all roll their eyes.  Pick those eyeballs up off the floor, children.  You might need them someday.

So maybe the little video here says it more nicely than I did.  Watch it and think about it for a minute.  It says Jesus honored his parents, which makes me think of Joseph the carpenter.  I have a special spot in my heart for him, since he willingly stepped in and raised another man's son as his own.  Just like my sweet Trent has done for my older boys.  I am so grateful for the parenting and strength and love that he shares with all of us.

I wasn't particularly close to my mom growing up.  I loved her lots, and I knew she loved me.  I knew it.  But we clashed in some ways.  My dad said it was like living with two queen bees!  I wish I could talk to her and tell her how sorry I am for that.  I wish I was a better daughter... but I didn't know how at the time.  I would love to sit down with her and ask her advice about a number of things that I can see she did really well: welcoming other people into the family, maintaining calm in a crisis, encouraging people to do their best, holding your tongue instead of blurting out awkward things...  Love that lady, and I'm proud to be her daughter.

We live with my dad, so we see him all the time.  He has Parkinson's and dementia, so life is a bit tricky for him and will only get more so.   Today I sat with him and just listened to him talk.  He told me about how the pollen that is in his bedroom is thicker in the morning and dissipates as the day goes on.  He told me there are spiderwebs and strands or cords that hang from the ceiling.  Water condenses on the strands and when they get too big, they drop off and he can hear them hit the floor or feel them hit his head.  He thinks they make his bedcovers damp and cold in the morning.  But he says the pollen is beautiful, shimmering with purple and different colors. Sometimes he is frustrated that I can't see and hear all the things he does.  His world looks different than mine sometimes, and I think it sounds lovely and magical.


He can still walk and get around most of the time.  On bad days, he'll use his walker to stay safer.  His feet and legs freeze up sometimes, and he is stuck for a few moments until the brain messages finally get down to them.  He says he has to get his landing gear down and locked before he starts to walk.  His balance is poor and he tips a lot.  Most of time Trent or I are near enough to catch him - we are never far away - but sometimes he falls.  He spends most of his day sleeping or watching TV in his room, and sometimes both at the same time!  I hold his cold, thin hand when we go for a walk up the street and he tells me about the cars he has had, or about winning tennis championships in his glory days, or about what he would like to do next on the model train layout in his garage.

He can't live by himself, as he'd be lost trying to cook in the kitchen.  I made a grilled cheese sandwich for his lunch today, with extra cheese and butter for more calories.  I hid a can of Ensure and some black beans in his banana and peach shake to add some protein and nutrition.  He's missing a few teeth so it's hard to eat, plus he tires out quickly, so we do what we can to help him stay healthy.


It's not easy to be a caregiver, but for us, it's the right thing to do.  Dad gets to stay in his own house, sleep in his own bed, do his own hobbies in his own garage, and greet the neighbors he's known for 40 years at his own church.  We really didn't know what we were getting into when we moved in, and it's become more challenging since then.  It's not so bad when we can share the care around.  Angel likes to fetch things for him.  The boys look out after him.  Trent shaves him for Sunday and cleans up his toilet (which is something I can not bring myself to do!).  I think we are often too rowdy and busy for him, but he patiently puts up with us.  We're glad we are here, and glad he is still here.  I love my dad.


Oh, and as long as you are here, you can read this old, finally finished post about hidden blessings  from last April!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Little Overwhelmed and Pizza

Deferred maintenance can be a killer.  On a house, not keeping things up over time will lead to left messes, decay and  eventually structural issues.  Not keeping a car running well will kill it even faster.  As I'm looking at my blog, I'm glad it doesn't break down, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done - and I haven't been doing it!  Notice how young my children look in the header?  They are quite a bit older now.  I'd like to update the background too, now that we don't have current world travelers.  And I just found a whole pile of old posts that I had started, but never got finished.  Sigh.  There is always something, isn't there?

So I don't know if I'll post every day, or even every other day.  But I am going to start chipping away at my old stuff.  Like this post from last April about what we had for dinner.  New and complete!  And then I will feel like I've been productive.

Honestly, it's been hard to feel productive lately.  My health hasn't been exactly bright and perky, so I haven't wanted to be up and doing things.  I've not been feeling well in the mornings, so I haven't been walking the kids to school.  There have been some difficult family things going on, so it's sometimes hard to find my happy.  And my dad has been more shaky, so I can't even leave the house until someone comes to spell me off.  So maybe this is a perfect time to start writing again.  Then I feel like I've accomplished something even when I have just been sitting on the couch.  Hooray for little wins!

But hey!  We did do something good today!  Have you seen the "Light the World" challenge?  It's being put on for the month of December by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Every day, we see one trait or characteristic of Christ, then we see how we can do better in that way.  Today is the kickoff, and it's a day of service.  Please click on the link there.  The videos are so well done and inspiring!


We learned that there are 60,000 refugees who now live in our state, and that they are in need of food for the holidays.  Our closest refugee center was asking for rice and bean meal packs.  It costs 5 or 6 dollars for a pound of beans, 2 pounds of rice, and 5 pounds of flour.  This week, the kids have been doing chores to earn their own $5 to help with this effort.  We went to the store and picked up the supplies.  They were excited to pick out which kind of beans they wanted, and help tie a pretty ribbon around each package.  Tomorrow, Trent will take them to the refugee center.  It doesn't seem like much, but I think every little bit helps.


And then, if we needed a reminder that good things come back to those who do good, our neighbor brought us pizza for dinner.  This is a snapshot of the leftovers.  We have the best neighbors!  And when we try to do our part to make it a better world, I think we become better neighbors too.

Maybe we are more productive than we think we are.  Maybe there are ways we can help and serve, even if it's only a drop.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When My Memory Fades

I forget things.  Not just because I'm getting older, but also because moments change.  When the house is a disaster and all the pennies need pinching and I'm hungry but there is nothing for me to eat and the kids are fighting with each other and we are LATE AGAIN! it is hard to remember that there are times that go well.  But there are good moments.  Lots of them, in fact.  So I need to write them down, because that's how I remember better.  I think that is one of the great blessings of the scriptures - they make our collective memories bigger.  And it's nice to remember the good things, especially when hard times hit.

***


Alec came over to change his oil.  I have appreciated how Trent has taught the boys how to fix and maintain a car.  When Alec's new car spilled oil all over the driveway, Alec was good to come back and clean it up.  He stayed for a bit and we ended up all eating hamburgers in the kitchen together - 12 of us with Grandma Jeanne that day.  It so warms my mother-heart to be together.

***

We were driving home from a late-night family gathering in the big van.  I love being in our big van, even though I don't particularly like driving our giant, unwieldy van -  because it means we can be all together.  Something is missing when we have to take two or three cars instead.  Eddie started saying things in a British accent that evidently wasn't quite up to snuff.  Before long, David, Chris, and Ben were all criticizing  his attempt, but each fake accent was different than the one before.  I think we all ended up in giggles at all those bad accents.  British giggles, mind you.

***


When someone does an especially good job on a school paper or artwork, we hang in on the refrigerator.  I was pleasantly surprised when Chris asked at the end of his senior year if he could put his well-done-paper one the fridge, since he usually does not like to be the center of attention.  The next time I walked past the kitchen, it looked like this!  It was so fun we left it that way, all covered with his awards and achievements, for the whole summer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Family Funnies

Even though I haven't been blogging, I have been collecting little snippets of our family life.  Some are funny, some are sweet, and some are just happy family moments that I'd like to snuggle up in and enjoy for a long time.  As much as I'd like to remember them forever, I know myself better than that.  If I don't write it down, it is lost and gone.  End of story.

We went to a family reunion recently, and they talked about having a family talent show.  At dinner, we discussed what talents are, and what we could do for the show.  Angel was more than excited with all sorts of ideas.  "Ooh!" she squealed, "I'm going to draw some pictures!"  Freddie pondered for a few minutes before somberly announcing, "My talent is reading."   Georgie didn't have to think long before he let us know what he planned, "I'm going to hoop a hula.  I like hooping."

Angel loves watching all kinds of animals and birds.  She told us she wanted a bird to make a nest in her lower lip and lay and egg there.  "When it hatches, I can raise it for my very own.  It would be glorious!"

Trent took Freddie on an errand in the car.  After a few minutes, Freddie innocently asked, "Dad, why didn't you use the [tongue clicking]?"  Thinking.  You mean the blinkers?  Yes, that.  Busted by the six-year-old back seat driver!

Georgie had been in the car too long.  In desperation, he demanded, "I want to walk home for the last block!"  When the answer was in the negative, he insisted, "Then I will cry all the way home!"  Freddie muttered under his breath, "Oh, just let him walk!"

Freddie let us know an important upcoming event.  "I'm gonna change my name when I grow up.  I'm gonna change my name to... (thinking)... Hot Sauce."  Not to be outdone, Georgie will also change his name.  When asked what his new name will be, he replied matter-of-factly, "I'm Batman!"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Must Right the Not Writing

A few years ago, one of my sons implored me to never stop blogging.  "How will we ever know when we did things?  Or remember our family stories if you don't write them down, Mom?"  His plaintive request caught me totally off-guard.  I didn't think he read the blog at all, or even really knew that I wrote.  Especially since he was in an I-don't-care-about-this-family kind of stage.  So I kept writing.  Every now and then, life gets crazy and other things are more important than writing, so I pause.  But I miss it.  It's hard to jump back in and not feel guilty that there are things that I didn't record that I wanted to - that's why the pauses last longer than I want them to.  I feel like I have to play catch-up before I can jump back into today.

In the past half year, we have gone from Mom and Dad, six kids and Opa, with two missionaries out, to both missionaries home and eleven people in this house!  At the end of the summer we had a wedding and two other boys going away to college, so we were down three.  David and Eddie were happy to move into Chris's old bedroom (it has a window!), and the twins got to move out of the room they shared with Angel.  Yes, we had eight children in three bedrooms for a while - although some of the older boys preferred to couch-surf rather than sleep downstairs.  It seems funny to say that the house is quieter and feels empty now, because there are still five kids plus two parents plus a grandparent who still eat, sleep, and hang out on the premises.

But it is a little empty.  Alec and his new bride have a cozy little apartment a few towns over, and seem to be living happily.  Do we need a bloggy name for her?  Does it need to match up with Alec's letter A, or should we begin with B since that is the next girl name in the alphabet after Angel?  Let's call her Belle, just for fun, and because it fits her.  Ben's university is in the next town over from the university Chris chose, so they are sharing an apartment and commuting.  I love to hear them tease and bicker over bedtimes and groceries, and I'm glad they have each other.  My mother-heart has grown a few sizes to include a new family member, and to love my boys as the adults they are becoming.  I pray every night that they will all find real happiness and fulfillment in their chosen areas.

David is a sophomore this year, so I have him in the nest for two more years while he grows his flight-feathers.  I'm so impressed with how he handles the challenges he faces, and how he determinedly gets back up every time.  He is learning such good things!  Eddie is in eighth grade and finding his groove in his studies and groups of friends.  He and David clash on a regular basis over the standard sibling things, but I'm glad that they like each other anyway and manage to set things straight.  If we could figure out how to simultaneously play music and have quiet; turn the lights on and have dark, we would be a thousand times more peaceful.  And rich, if we could sell that technology!

Our Angel is eight and thriving in second grade.  Her social butterflightiness (can I combine "social butterfly" and "flightiness"?) is calming down several notches, and she spends a great deal of time writing and drawing pictures, or playing school with her little brothers.  When she has been quiet for a long time, I know her imagination has been captured by a good book.  Freddie and Georgie are in the first grade.  Gone all day!  I love to hear the commotion that descends upon the house when the three of them come tramping in after school.  And then my mother-heart is happy: my children are home!

Yes, dear son, I'll keep blogging.  There are so many things for me to write about and I miss it when I don't.  We have a great family, don't you think?  If I don't jot down the things I am ever so grateful for, then I forget.

And I don't ever want to forget.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Save the Day!

Or maybe save all the food today.  It's harvest season, which means that we are in the kitchen most of the time.  This year I'm actually canning, whereas last year I only did a little because I had been so sick.  And the year before I did nearly none, since we were moving in.  That's an interesting transition, and it tells me that this year is better than the past two have been.  Sometimes it's hard to see gradual improvement.  


I did a few dozen quarts of applesauce, and wrecked my right pointer finger doing all the cutting.  The apples were on the green side, so they were a bit tougher to cut through.  The applesauce is still good though, even if it is more tart.



I can't tell you how excited I was when I sent the twins outside with their big white bowls to get more apples - and they came back empty.  No more apples!  These boxes were full to overflowing - and we haven't even started on the apples from our own trees!  They won't be ripe for a few more weeks.


I'm always amazed at the wonders of our beautiful world when I'm canning.  Aren't these peaches gorgeous?  The colors are vibrant and living, sustaining and improving our lives.  Thanks, Lord, for this amazing planet!  I love, love, love bottled peaches.  And I hate peeling peaches.  Fortunately for me, my sweet husband doesn't mind, so he peeled and I made jam - rows and rows of bottles full of it.

I was poking about in the storage room for a good shelf to load all the bottles onto.  We haven't really cleaned out the storage room since we moved in, and it isn't really set up efficiently.  I moved a couple of cans, and the whole shelf fell out!  I'm glad I didn't have it full of glass jars.  So we need to fix and shore up the shelves in the storage room, but the produce won't quit coming!  I moved things around as best I could, and made room for the peach jam with the apricot jam we did earlier this summer.  

Before Trent could start shelf-fixing, the grapes ripened, and we've spent the past week doing what must be a million batches of grape juice.  I'm generous to myself here, because Trent has done all the work on this one.  The kids love the juice, and I try to not imagine it spilled on... on anything.

Our excitement of next week: tomatoes!  The pears are on right now as well, and then our apples will be last.  At least, I think they will be last. 

I opened a new bottle full of apple butter from a couple of years ago, and spread some of its dark sweetness onto a hot piece of whole wheat toast.  Yum.  Having food in my pantries makes all the hard work worth it.  And now I want another slice of toast!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Labor Day Chill

I guess it is the end of summer.  Sigh.  I love having my kids at home.  I love not having to get up at any particular time.  I especially love not having to get up early.  Like before 9 or 10.  I know, I grumble too much.  But I am excited for this new year.  I am so glad that my children have the opportunity to go to school and learn.  I am looking forward to having a quiet house.  I like having these changing seasons in life - it's never boring!

basking in the sun, and pretending I'm warm

To celebrate Labor Day (and to make up for not using our season passes, not once!), we went to the waterpark.  It was to be a day filled with water slides and lazy rivers and wave pools and laying in the sun and trying to avoid sunburn.  Unfortunately, the day was cloudy and unseasonably cool, which meant that only the most daring of the boys even wanted to get in the water.  The wave pool was somewhat warm, but the breeze was uncomfortably cold.  It didn't take long for the littlest ones to get chilled through, and want nothing more than to be swaddled in a big, dry towel.


We even managed to visit with Ben, who has spent his summer with crazy-busy hours as a manager of the food areas.  He looks good in his no-nonsense black non-slip shoes!  I'm glad he got a good job for the summer and has been able to save up money for college.


Yeah, we didn't last very long.  Hooray for not getting sunburned, though!  And now the kids can't say I never took them to the waterpark.  It was just too much of a challenge to gather up the strength, all of them, and Opa.  He didn't want to come today, so that made it possible for us to come.


I was able to snap a picture of everyone but Ben, who was busy working, and David, who had a splendid time on the water slides in spite of the cold.  He is our most adventurous one, after all.  Sometimes I wonder if the effort to have a family outing is worth it, but I love to see the happy in their faces.  We're making memories, at least!