Thursday, July 26, 2012

Working Mom

Why is it that we have to compartmentalize mothers?  You are a single mom, a working mom, a stay-at-home mom.  But working moms are also at home a lot, and stay-at-home moms certainly work, too.  Maybe we should invent our own labels.  I'm an are-you-kidding-I-have-eight-kids-I-am-certainly-working-my-tail-off-at-home mom.  I wouldn't want to leave them for all the jobs in the world.  On the other hand, there's no way I would be able to make enough money at any job to put them all in daycare!  So I'm home, and happy to be here.

In all honesty, I don't know how "working moms" do it.  I would be pathetic at trying to juggle work and commuting and picking up the ends at home.  I wouldn't like to commute - I don't like driving in traffic all that much.  I'd get a better wardrobe, but I wouldn't necessarily like shopping for it or spending the money on it.  I'd hate the feeling of having to split my time between being at home and being away.  That one I know for sure.

The last few weeks, I've been spending a lot of time caring for me mum.  I've spent time with her, in meetings family councils with my brothers and their wives, running errands, keeping track of medications, and commuting to the hospital and back.  And I notice that I forget things.

Reference the recent forgetting of the scout pants as our first exhibit.  I missed a grocery shopping trip or two.  My house became disastrous.  My laundry piled up.  The twins got screamy.  Angel got whiny.  Dinner was spotty.

And I loved taking care of me mum.  It was totally worth it.  And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  And I'm glad that I get to stay home with my kids.

Family Vacationing

This week is our family vacation, Part III.  Part I happened two weeks ago, when we were planning on going away, but didn't due to some miscommunications.  Part II was last week when we thought we'd make the best of what we had and go anyway, even though Alec and Ben had to stay home and work.  This week, the vacation turned into a mere overnighter when Alec and Chris were at scout camp, Ben had to work, and the twins and I had to stay home because there isn't enough room in the truck.  Oh, and they wouldn't have a good time at the cabin anyway.  And Grandpop is going.  So it looks a lot different than what we first planned: Trent and three kiddos instead of the whole family.

On my end, it means that I have to get Ben to work and back, but the rest of the time I just have the twins to keep me company.  Our house is pretty quiet tonight.  Of the usual six people who sleep downstairs, Ben is the only one home tonight.  He asked to sleep upstairs because it's just too empty down there.

It's been kind of fun to have fewer bodies to take care of, and be able to concentrate better on the three here.  We've had a fun day.  On the other hand, I really didn't feel like cooking dinner for just two big people  (peach smoothies, boiled eggs and fried Spam, anyone?).  

My heart is usually so full, but tonight, our house is just too empty.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scout Pants

Alec and Chris are at a week-long Boy Scout camp.  Alec is one of the main youth leaders, so he had to go up a few days early to help set up and prepare.  Chris left this morning.  It's always an adventure to pack and get ready.  For this camp, they had to be in full uniform.  We have scout shirts.  Boy, do we ever have scout shirts.  But scout pants are expensive, and the boys grow so fast.  We don't usually buy them at all.  But for this camp...   <sigh>

Alec kept reminding me that we needed to go get scout pants.  He was busy with work and important teenager stuff, and I've been crazy-headed about taking care of me mum and everything.  It's been on the shopping list, yes. But I've just had a hard time actually getting out to do the shopping.  Friday night, Alec, exasperated at my slowness, just went down and got his own pants.  After he left, I realized that he should have taken Chris with him, but then I got busy and forgot again.

Alec left bright and early Saturday morning, looking fresh and crisp in his full uniform.  I planned out the day to allow space to go shopping.  Finally!  I cleaned up the house, took care of my children, and hopped in the van as soon as the twins were napping.  It was then that I discovered that the scout shop closes early in the afternoons on Saturday.  And our hometown variety store which carries scout supplies was closed entirely on Saturdays!

This is what happens to procrastinating mothers.  They get anxiety attacks and ulcers.  And they have to send their sons to scout camp in their skivvies.

Our story has a happy ending, though, because we live in a place that remembers when it was a small town.  On the door of the variety store, they have posted a phone number to call if you need help when the store is closed.  The nice man came and opened the store, late at night,, just for us to buy a pair of scout pants.  Thanks you, kind sir!

And that is how Chris came to be leaving, bright and early this morning, looking fresh and crisp in his full uniform.  With pants on.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hospital Noises

As I walked into the ICU to visit me mum today, the first thing I noticed was that the television was on.  I waited for the nurses to have a free moment, then asked for the daily update.  No worse than yesterday.  Good enough for now.  She's totally out - completely sedated and comfortable.  But was she coming out of her medically-induced fog?  Had she been watching TV?  No, the nurse assured me that no television-watching had been going on.  "I just turn on the TV for some white noise," she cheerfully told me.

I returned to Mom's room and looked at the brightly flickering screen.  When we were kids, and had it on too long, it was called the boob tube.  Nope, no one was watching it.  I switched the channels until I found a classical music station.  That would be better than the chaotic hubbub of commercials.  Not as soothing to her as Josh Groban's crooning, but better.  Mom likes music.

But do you really need white noise in the ICU?  This is nearly the noisiest place in the hospital.  The nurses' stations are close by, and someone is always talking about something.  The floor polisher guy just went by with his grumbling machine, drowning even the chatter out.  Mom's machine beeps and blips; a random alarm sounds.  The ventilator whooshes and sighs repetitively, pushing air and then relaxing.  A motor purrs.  The oxygen is a constant hiss.  The bed self-adjusts to change positions with a hum.  Who needs TV when you have all this real white noise?

Me, I'm kinda enjoying the peaceful din.  It's a nice change from the happy hullabaloo I left home.

Today I

Today I slept in a little bit.  The babies stayed blessedly asleep until about 8.  I was so glad to have the sleep I got, since I wasn't able to go to bed until about 2 am.  Yikes.  Stupid hour.  But it was necessary, as we had to call a late-night council with my siblings and spouses (Trent calls them "spice") to figure out how to deal with our current medical adventures.

I grogged around for a while, but was able to eat the French toast Trent made me for breakfast without any spilling incidents.  I spent a lot of time on the phone with various nurses and hospital departments, trying to get a status update on me mum.  That was frustrating.

I threw my hair on top of my head in a French twist kind of 'do.  It was way too hot to wear the fur collar today.  I wore a skirt for the same reason.  I watered the yellow spots in the lawn for the same reason.

I laid on my bed and cried for a bit, just because I don't want to deal with all the stuff I have to deal with.  Then I shook myself, prayed, got up and went back to work.

I got into a teenaged argument about exactly how much information the parents need to have before the aforementioned teen is able to have permission to drive the aforementioned parent's car.  I settled a few debates about a Monopoly game.  I read the news online.  I paid bills.

I held the twins and read them stories.  I tickled and sang to them and played with them.  They have gotten so grouchy without their regular routine for the past two weeks.  I helped them learn not to scream when they want something.  I did a few loads of laundry.  I even folded and put away a load of laundry.  I didn't forget and leave a load in the washing machine overnight.  It would get stinky, so Trent took care of it for me.

I had a good visit with each of my older sons.  It felt good to connect with them again.  And then I had to ground them from the computer for breaking the rules.  And that's about it.  Lots of sitting and resting and loving on my kids.  I think we all needed a day like that today.

And oh yeah, I took a nap.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In the Hospital

I've had a leave of absence.  Partly because I've been so busy (and so away from computers), and partly because I haven't wanted to write about the things that are in the forefront of my mind, and heavy in my heart.

One of those is me mum.  What a wonderful lady she is!  I still have old-timers (no offense to those rich in years and wisdom!) who ask me if I am her daughter.  I guess there is a family resemblance.  I'm always flattered.  I want to be like my mom when I grow up.

My mom had surgery recently, and I've had the honor of helping care for her.  It's been rough, and she's had a hard go of it.  She's back in the hospital now, with a massive infection.  I don't know how she feels about me writing about her (I oughta ask her, dontcha think?  I can't now, 'cuz she's in surgery.), so I haven't.

For me, being a medical care provider for a family member is a mix of emotions.  I love taking care of her.  I love being with her.  It's an emotional boost to be able to help someone who has done so much for me.  It's also a pot full of scheduling conflicts, anxiety that I get my own family taken care of, anger at the medical mistakes that negatively affect us, joy in watching my family pull together, melancholy and sadness in remembering past hospital stays, fear that things may not work out the way we want them to, frustration that our bodies don't always work the way we want them to, and amazement in the divine engineering that they usually do work so well.

The late hour now makes it easy to succumb to discouragement, and I'm fighting it.  The specters of old, unpleasant hospital experiences seem to lurk around the quiet, dark corridors.  Every hospital smells the same: a mixture of sterile and stale and sick.  In my mind, I keep hearing the beeping of the monitors surrounding my sweet Angel as she struggled to stay in this life after her terrible fall out the window.  I see the operating door open, and the gowned surgeon telling me that the husband of my youth had cancer.  I remember all too well the fear and despair - it's as much a part of me as the dear newborn babies I was handed in other hospital rooms.  I'll remember the joy and the hope, and tell the other, darker ghosts to go away.  That's all we can do, isn't it?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Familiar Sayings

I was talking to one of my brothers the other day, and we remembered some of the things our mother used to say to us:

"Scrub your scalp when you wash your hair, but not with your fingernails."
"I'm so mad I could spit!"
"I'm going to hang you up by your toenails!"
"We should throw you into the lake!"

I never quite understood how I could hang by my toenails, or how she would even get a hold of them firmly.  And I thought getting thrown into the lake sounded like fun.  I actually remember trying to spit to see if it made me feel any better, or even angrier.

I guess I say things like that to my kids, too.  I wonder what they will remember from me?  There are phrases I say often enough that maybe I ought to patent them and start earning royalties:

"Chores first, then play."
"Clean up this room right now!"
"Then do it until it is clean."
"Fair does not mean the same."

I guess many of the things I say over and over are related to getting chores done.  Maybe I should say less about work and more about what is really important.

"Be good."
"Listen for the answer in your heart."
"Speak kindly."
"I think you are terrific!"

"I love you"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Doing Dishes

I was asked how we handle kitchen cleanup with so many bodies in our home.  I would love to (1) snap my fingers and have the dishes magically appear, clean, in the cupboards, or (2) have everyone just pitch in, without being asked, and help each other clean the kitchen, while singing songs in harmony and telling jokes.  Either way, 'tain't happening.

We have tried to have everyone help clean up, but the there just isn't room enough in our kitchen for that many people to work harmoniously (cancel the singing).

We assigned teams of two to take turns cleaning the kitchen after meals.  This worked fairly well, but there are always complaints from the harder-worker kids about getting paired with less-hard-workers, or about who cleaned up more.

We have had one boys assigned to clean the entire kitchen by himself.  This our most fair solution (and I'll pitch in and help the younger boys).  True, it takes a long time, but we know who is responsible for the work, they know they can't shirk, and you get the rest of the week off.

During the summer, the rotation of kitchen cleanup for all three meals runs into some uneven rotations.  Dinner is definitely our biggest chore, followed by breakfast.  Lunch is hardly a mess at all.  So here is our plan:

For breakfast and lunch, we all pitch in to help clean up.  The mess is usually minor, and we get done quickly. It is a good exercise in working together (this is theoretical.  In reality, we have several skirmishes through the course of the work.).  For dinner, each of the five older boys takes a turn flying solo.  It works pretty well, and they don't let me forget whose turn is next.

(Oh, and then after they are done, I sometimes go in and finish up the little bits they forgot.  Or call them back in to do it.  Sometimes multiple times.  I think I'll work on the magic snapping fingers trick.)

Family Funnies

Things I'd like to always remember:

David's look of "What?  What's the problem?" when I told him that no, I wasn't going to find a small screwdriver for him when it was 10:30 at night and he should have been in bed a long time ago.

Chris being the first one to pop up from his book when I come into the room and announce, "Time to clean up the kitchen, boys!"  I so appreciate that he gets right in and helps get the job done without any complaints.

Freddie's round little face, slowly peering through the slightly-opened door when he is checking to see if the coast is clear to come running out of his room when he was just put down for a nap.

Alec's exuberance for placing in the top 10 men in his recent bicycle race - which also involved stuffing yourself with as many donuts as you can eat.  He just started racing, and is loving it.

Ben's jokes.  He has me rolling, and in stitches, far past any rational person's bedtime.

Angel's rosy cheeks when she is just waking up.  She is so cheerful after getting some good sleep, and greets me with a sweet, "Dood mornin', Mommy!"

Eddie's kisses.  I'm sure it won't be long before a boy grows up enough to not want to kiss his mother (we've been there four times so far), but he is still very affectionate, even at nine.  He always has to give two good0night kisses - one on each cheek.

Georgie's reply when I hefted him into my arms and said, "Oh, someone is stinky!  Are you stinky?"  He very matter-of-factly stated, "No.  Si (is) Eddie."

I so love my kidlets!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Husbandly Hair

This post will be written by a person of a female gender.  That is a no-brainer, because the menfolk don't normally discuss hair.  They wash hair (not shampoo), grow hair, comb hair (and brush), get hair cut, and even colored.  Oh, and sometimes they do wear hair (like the kind of hair that is removable and then replaceable).  They do look at hair, and mention it to their buddies (Hey, Buddy, didja get your ears lowered?  Nice haircut.)  They don't discuss hair.  But I shall.

I cut my husband's hair.  He doesn't mind (I think I would mind if he cut my hair).  He says that as long as it doesn't look ridiculous, he doesn't mind whatever I do.  He did get a buzz cut once (admittedly, it was accidental.  It was just after we were married and I hadn't realized that his hair was, um, thinner than the luscious locks of my boys.), but most of the time it's been a pretty standard short 'do.

The last few months, however, I let it grow out.  Whenever he said he'd like a haircut, I'd just trim around the edges and let the rest of it grow.  I was curious about how his hair would look when it was longer.  Right now I'm kicking myself for not getting a picture, because I thought it did look pretty nice.  It was just too hot for the summer, so tonight I cut it off.

He got somewhat alarmed when long locks of hair started drifting down over his shoulders, and my scissors were still snipping away.  After his shower, he casually commented that I had given him a military cut (it's not that short!).  But it is short, and quite a difference from what he had before.  A woman would have been livid.  But my man?  He just remarked on how much shampoo he had just saved in the shower.  I like that guy.

(And I like his hair just a trifle longer than how I cut it.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Soft and Fuzzy

We went to a family barbecue at "Unca Munk's" house.  Their home is large, lovely, and beautifully decorated.  David and Eddie were enthralled with the floor-to-twenty-foot-ceiling bookcases, complete with sliding library ladder.  "Mom!  We've got to have one of these!"  Right.  With our eight-foot-ceilings.  I can just see it now, the mayhem that would ensue with all our boys and a library ladder.  I'll have bad dreams tonight about Tarzan-like swinging, things slamming into the walls, and dangerous falls from precarious heights.  I don't think so, my dears.  Sorry.

Ben and Chris had a great time playing "Oh yeah, watch this!" on the in-ground trampoline.  They didn't break anything.  The twins and Angel spent most of their time on the wooden playset and swings.  Georgie was enamored with the waterfalls that he could see but couldn't get to.  It was almost Tantalus-ish.

Freddie fell in love with a little turtle statue.  Every time he would run past the rock garden, he would hunt it down, calling, "Toe-toe?  Toe-toe"  When he found it, he would affectionately pat its colorful resin head.  After a while, he couldn't stand the separation any more, and gently picked up the turtle, holding it against his chest.  When I explained that we needed to leave the turtle in the rocks, he sadly placed his beloved pet back on the ground, patted its head, bent over, and gave it a kiss.

And Angel's favorite part?  The toilet tissue.  When she was in the bathroom, she pulled out some tissue to use.  She held it in her hands for a long time, then reverently whispered, "It's so soft."  She stroked her cheek with it and delightedly exclaimed, "And it's fuzzy!" 

Soft and fuzzy.  Would that I were so easily delighted.
(James 3:17)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What A Crock (Pot) Granola

Gorgeous granola from SmittenFoodie at Food Buzz

I love granola.  I like it plain, snitched out of the container.  I love it warm and soft, smooshed into balls.  I love it over ice cream or mixed into yogurt.  I love it with milk for breakfast.  I love it made into cookies or granola bars.  We eat a lot of oatmeal during the winter, but summer is too hot and granola is perfect.  Trent makes good granola, and we practically inhale it.  I don't, because I usually burn it.

I had heard of granola recipes cooked in a crock pot.  Stephanie at Crockpot365 said,

"This is one of the only times I haven't burnt granola, and my kids have been eating it non-stop since the first batch came out of the crock. I'm going to go have some more right now."

So I gathered my oats and nuts and honey and all the other good stuff, mixed it up in my big trusty crock, vented the lid, and stirred it every half hour.  The house smelled wonderful.  The kids were dying for oatmeal cookies.  It got done late, just before bed.  Ben had some for a midnight snack, even though it was still hot.  I left the vented lid on, figured it would cool through the night, and went to bed.  I was pretty pleased with myself for doing such a good job, and looking forward to a yummy, easy, good-for-you breakfast.

(Things don't always turn out like you want them to, do they?)  The bad news:  I forgot to TURN OFF the crock.  The very bad news:  I burnt the granola, and the kitchen reeks.  The very, very bad news: I had actually made TWO batches, and burnt them both!  The very, very, very bad news: I think I way have ruined two wonderfully useful crocks.

All the nasty-smelling oaty mess went to feed my brother-in-law's chickens.  I scrubbed for a long time, and still didn't get the green crock clean enough to use.  

(Bad words!)

Friday, July 6, 2012


I made chocolate pudding for lunch today.  I mean, for a snack after lunch - if you finished your lunch.  No, we don't have pudding FOR lunch.  Not even chocolate.  It was a hit.  What a surprise.  I don't make snacks or goodies very much, so when I do it's an extra treat.  I eat too much when I make them, that's why.  I have no self-control, so the only way I can avoid eating them is to avoid making them.

I ate a moderate amount of the chocolate pudding, but was successful in convincing myself that it wasn't enough.  This evening after dinner, I made another tiny batch for myself.  All for me. It feels more wicked and decadent that way, doesn't it?  And I threw in some coconut, because I like it.

I took it to my room, and have been nibbling on it ever since.  I hid it away when it was time to put the kids to bed.  David disappeared outside, Chris and Eddie were in the shower after their haircuts, the twins were running wild, and Angel wouldn't let me brush her teeth.  Exasperating.  Especially when I tried to brush her teeth, only to find her mouth full of something she was eating.  What...  coconut.  She held tight to the toy airplane she had been playing with.  Its cargo bay was full of, and spilling out, shredded coconut.  Trent cleaned it up, only to find another stash in the refrigerator.  And another one, in a toy house under the table.  Now there are sweet white shreds of coconut all over the floor, and strewn about the toys.  I guess I left the bag open, and out on the counter.  I'm busted.  Shame on me.  But I like it so...


Thursday, July 5, 2012


I looked out my front window recently, and saw this:

It looked like a house in our neighborhood was on fire.  As it turns out, the fire was much bigger than that.

The mountains near our home were engulfed in a rapidly-moving wildfire.  During the day, the huge, rolling smoke clouds make me stop and look, and hope that all the people are ok.

At night, the bursts of flames licking over the ridges make me catch my breath in frightened awe.

Tonight, we saw the fire of man juxtaposed against Mother Nature's fire.  Hers won.  Wow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Today, as we celebrate our freedom and our amazing country, I'm cooped up in a tiny little hospital room.  No, I'm not the patient - just part of the support group for a family member who just had surgery.  But it gives me some time to sit and think.  Quiet thinking is such a lovely treat for me.  It doesn't happen very often at my house.

In years past, we've celebrated the Fourth of July with family barbecues, going to an early-morning hot air balloon launch, watching the parade, and taking mid-day naps to steel us up for the later-night fireworks displays.

This year, Trent has to work.  Ben has to work.  Alec had a bike race.  I'm in the hospital.  We have local wildfires burning out of control, so no fireworks for the kids.  So the other kids are at home, watching the parade on tv.  It's an awful lot cooler that way.  Sometimes, we have to change our plans.  We'll just make different plans.  And tonight, maybe we'll throw a party with star-spangled waffles.  Unconventional, I know, but it does kind of sound like fun.  And fun doesn't have to be regularly scripted.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thoughts Worth Thinking

(Photo by Serg Bezrukoff.  Quote from my sage mother, but I don't know if she originated it.  Either way, it's worth thinking!)