Our Family

Our Family
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my hearts trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. ~ Psalm 28:7

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Update 2011

            Merry Christmas!! Oddly, my last blog post was in August, so if there is any need for clarification, yes, indeed, time DOES fly, and yes, indeed, 4 kids DO keep us WAY too busy!  In case you can't keep track (because Lord knows Chris and I have trouble) the four little people in our world include Stephanie who's now 10 and in 4th grade, Melanie, she's 8 and in 2nd grade, Ryan who's 6 and in 1st grade, and my little man, Kevin who turned 5 at the end of August and is in Pre-K.

            This year, as in true Justi fashion, we began with a move into a new house and ended with a new addition to our family. Now, before you go gettin' all wound up, let me clarify; we haven't added a new baby for 5 years and have no plans of doing so anymore. THIS new addition has 4 legs and fur; after dog sitting this past spring for a dear high school friend of mine, we fell in love with her Shih Tzu and added our own little Roxie Roo to our family this past August (on Melanie's 8th birthday). The little ball of fluff is puppy fun and has made our house even that much more interesting (apparently our day to day wasn't crazy enough!).

            Last Christmas, Chris moved into our new home (which had been occupied by a lovely middle aged couple who packed up a little, left a ton, and moved to Texas).  We inherited their mess, and "mess" is an understatement. The home was left in a condition that would've made the guys at "Hoarders" flinch. But not Chris; he "saw the forest for the trees" and dove in. He moved in 3 weeks earlier than we did, and by the time we moved in on Dec 20th, a couple of Clorox burns and a tetanus shot later, the house was beginning its transformation, thanks to Chris and my dad. We celebrated our first Christmas complete with party hosting (as if we'd let a little thing like unpacking stop us from celebrating?!? We had the house unpacked and decorated by our Christmas Eve party) and haven't stopped working on the house since. No complaints; we enjoy making it "ours".

            Our year was spent making odd discoveries, finding unique treasures (and not so unique trash) and getting our above ground pool ready for summer. We landscaped, dug, tore up, replanted, mulched, removed old car parts (and some old bones of some kind....don't ask...I, for one, don't want to know).  Before you knew it, we were muck booted up and clearing out spots for camping on our 2 acres, fire pits, tire swings, and slip and slides, and creek walking in the stream that runs through our yard. We've had a full year of new friends with lots of fun....we've had brunches, book club, lunches, dinners, girls' nights, cookouts, Fall Fests, and date nights with the new friends we've made; Most everyone has 3 or 4 kids, too, so chaos reigns supreme with the kids outnumbering the adults!

            The rainy spring was well worth the beautiful summer. We swam everyday and by July, we geared up for a huge pig roast to honor my dad's 60th birthday. Over 100 guests celebrated the day with us, and we plan to do this now annually (We think the Saturday after the 4th will be our annual date).  The mammoth slip and slide was the recycled tarp Chris once used to create the ice rink on our very flat Cleveland property. THIS time, we used it on our very hilly property and found that we could fit about 20 kids on it at once! In fact, at least one newly crowned 60 year old "kid" was seen slippin' and slidin' at one point. A full fireworks display lasted over 1/2 hour, thanks to my pyrotechnic brother and his "craft".  Lots of time has been spent catching up on lost years with our family, now that we are all "just down the road".  Family dinners and birthday parties with grams and paps, aunts and uncles are all being made up for now.

*****************************Justi Recap 2011******************************

JANUARY: It snows. A lot. And we are stuck because our driveway becomes an ice hill.  Much of what was uttered in January was related to traveling down an icy driveway and therefore, probably shouldn't be shared here! Ryan tells everyone to wave their "terrible flag" (instead of terrible towel) when the Steelers need a little help. It doesn't really work. But he has fun trying.

FEBRUARY:  Still snowing, but now Valentine's candy has filled the sugary void since Christmas. When I ask Melanie if she'd like a little brownie for dessert, she replies, "Now why in the world would I say no?"  . We've survived sledding with no broken bones so far this year.  Kevin tells me "you put the YOU in bea-YOU-tiful". Steph and I go shopping, and I discover a fashion diva in my midst. She tells me "Oh, that is so you, Mom.  I just love fashion".  Melanie is too busy making faces in the 3 way mirror to care.

MARCH: Snow blizzard strikes. All sanity is out the window as snow day after snow day accumulates. Ryan asks if I can "right side" his shirt in. Kevin tells us he is "tired of chewing" his chocolate cake. Kevin also makes a bold statement that he won't change his underwear until he goes to Heaven.  Gotta love that kid.

APRIL: A snowflake or two remains. We dog sit.  We secretly mount a campaign to win Chris over to the dog side. It works (see August). Ryan tries to summarize a movie he saw, and decides, after telling me "um" 13 times, it's just easier to share the ending. Ryan turns 6.  We watch our dollars fly out the window as Steph gets braces.  We are still broken bone free.

MAY: We open the pool! (Yes, it was just snowing a month ago...welcome to Western Pa). We herd a cow with our minivan (we have embraced country living completely). Yard work begins, and Ryan tells Kevin "You need to eat more chicken. Chicken makes you strong. Like Batman. And Mom." Gotta love that kid.

JUNE: It's hot. We swim. Everyday. Life is good. Kevin tells me, after a lunch gathering with friends who brought fabulous muffins, "Mom, I think I have a muffin problem".  Steph launches her jewelry making business and does wonderfully (she IS into fashion, remember?) Gotta love that kid.

JULY: Pig roast. It's hot. We swim. Everyday. We've adopted the "pool is your shower" method and "get in, get wet, get out, get to bed" method of keeping cool when the house still reads 84 degrees at 11pm. (We don't have air conditioning. Yet.)  Dog campaign is in full force. Mel becomes distressed when the frog she loves eats the lightning bug she loves...but is thrilled when the bug survives in the frogs belly and lights up the frog, and then she just loves the frog lighting up. Still no broken bones to report.

AUGUST: We camp out in our backyard. Steph is paranoid about the "ferocious deer". Two birthdays happen (Mel turns 8, Kev turns 5). We get back from Summer's Best Two Weeks Family Camp, and get the dog Roxie. She is so cute (wait till next month) Ryan loses his first tooth, but holds it till the second tooth falls....he felt the tooth fairy should only come when BOTH teeth had been lost. Kevin transforms into Indiana Jones and remains that way for the next few months.

SEPTEMBER: School starts, more chaos mounts as we head into gymnastics for the girls and cub scouts for Ryan. All love their activities. I begin to think Chris was right on the NO DOG side, as she continues to eat more and more non-food items. We often refer to her as "that little Shih...Tzu".  But she is so stinkin' cute.  Gotta love that dog.  The 20 turkeys in the yard begin to look at her like they could easily take her on.  Chris begins to dream of hunting the turkeys. And the ferocious deer.

OCTOBER: Fall fest, scarecrows, pumpkin patches, harvest parties, trick or treating with cousins (Melanie reports "Roxie is trick or treating in the trash!") and canning begin. Pool is closed for the season. Chris and I celebrate 14 years of marriage. We take the kids to the high school's undefeated football games.  My world stops when my dear Aunt Fran passes away very unexpectedly. The rest of the world goes on. And the snow falls before Halloween.

NOVEMBER: Steph turns 10. A decade. I run a turkey trot 5k to celebrate surviving 10 years of motherhood. And I race hard and fast for my aunt's memory. Thanksgiving is bittersweet, but celebrated with family and friends. Still no broken bones in our house. Instead, Chris gets a nasty tick bite and is diagnosed with Lyme's. He starts treatment and is doing just fine. Chris becomes a hunter/gatherer for the first time in 20 years. Gotta love that guy. 

Ah, DECEMBER. The month of crazy hustle and bustle. The decorating is done, the cookies are baked. We are overjoyed to be able to sit back and really celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. We share laughs and meals with many friends and family, and we share the glorious gift of Jesus' love with each other. We still mourn, but we rejoice "Joy to the world. The Lord is come!" May you be blessed by His Grace!  Gotta love that Lord!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

...It was the worst of times....Who says?!?

It's been awhile since I put fingers to keyboard and dashed out my thoughts, but some events recently have made me so agitated, I can only express myself (at least coherently!) in this way. So, if you've had a day where you've already heard one too many soapbox moments, I'll advise you now to tune out. Or at least tune out till the end, kinda like this is one big paid commercial announcement that you choose to ignore till the end of the show; I promise to wrap it up in a cheerful, "happily ever after" manner!

Ok, now that I've got my disclaimer out of the way, I'll ease you into the reason behind my emotional rant.

If you know me at all, you know I am a glass half full kinda gal. I think the best of folks. I give you the benefit of the doubt. I'd like to take credit for all this feel good, girl scout behavior, but I can't. I've said it before, and I'll continue to say it...the only thing that's good in me is Jesus. My disposition comes straight from His love, because I'd easily choose the "grumpy" dwarf over happy on any given day; it's just easier sometimes- and if you're honest, I'll bet you'll admit this, too! Choosing Grumpy can really seem appealing when you've been up all night with a colicky infant/sick child/snoring spouse/ insomnia episode.

Back to my point. So far, I've let you know I'd be a lot less nice if I didn't have Jesus. Now let's move onto the world we live in.

The world....Oh, the world. Now that's a tricky one. We live in America, where we have much to be thankful for, despite the economy we face right now. We have food readily available (check out the local grocery store and count how many types and varieties of fresh, frozen and canned veggies are at your disposal). We have luxury shelter (even Freddie and Fannie Mae can't argue that our housing is far more luxurious than a one room dirt floor hut). We have opportunity, not just to better ourselves, but to live freely (You wanna worship a cat? Yeah, you can do that here in our free country. I'll need to freely have a conversation with you, but you're free to do it if you choose.)

Yet, somehow, somewhere along the lines, we've become a people of fear. Of timidity. And I'm not the least bit pleased with the trend I see. Nor do I want to be a part of it. Yet I get sucked into it again and again. How you ask? (Or maybe you're not asking because you've tuned out already...that's ok, I plan to share anyway!)

I wanted to put my son's name on his backpack. But someone, a stranger, might see his name and call him by his name and he'll be  (insert terrible thing here).

I posted some pictures of my niece with nakedness. Adorable innocence, but I ended up taking them down because of the (insert terrible thing here).

We encourage our kids to smile and make eye contact with people  they meet, but that person might be (insert terrible thing here).

My husband offered a ride to a man who's bicycle literally fell apart, but that man might have (insert terrible thing here).

We needed a place to sit and rest one day while walking the super humid streets of downtown Saxonburg. We found a church but had to sit outside, because, of course, the doors were locked to prevent (insert terrible thing here).

In the "old days", before kids lit up my world, I was a nurse; a doggone good one too; I loved my patients and I loved being a caregiver. But now, because someone out there sued a nurse, and legal actions complicated matters, I hesitate to put my family at risk because some nurse once (insert terrible thing here).

I'm sure you get my long winded point. But what to do about it?

I will tell you I've been hurt by being too trusting (naive, some would say); I've thought the best of some and then seen their worst. I've been bit by the hug that held me. And I've seen myself repeat the same mistake over and over again when it comes to giving someone the benefit of the doubt, only to find out they actually DIDN'T deserve it.

But you know what? Despite all that, I will not change. I will not succumb to the mentality of "insert terrible thing here" into every part of life. Oh, but don't think that I'm doing that on my own soapbox. No way! I'm standing firm on solid ground, folks, listening to what God has told me (and told you, too). 

A favorite verse in our house is from 2Timothy 1:7:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of fear flying out the window; it has no place in our world. When we invite Jesus in, we solidly escort fear out.

Our second born, Melanie, who overcame magnificent odds when she was just 8 weeks in the womb, tends to lean towards a spirit of fear. That makes me sad, considering how she triumphed over all fears when she was just a blip on a monitor screen. But I am hopeful that since this is a verse she hears often, in her own time, she will come to not just hear it but believe it; since she sees it lived out in our family, I pray she comes to understand it on her own.

As for me, I'm gonna continue to buck the system of fear the world encourages us to live under. And while I'll admit to occasionally kneeling to the world's ridiculous fears (I did take the seriously adorable naked little tushie photos of my niece off of my shared photo site), I will absolutely denounce living in spirit of timidity. I will not be dictated by fear. I will continue to smile at strangers, offer up our guest room to friends of friends', provide a helping hand to a stranded biker, and yes, even shout my kids' names (sometimes both first AND middle names!) at playgrounds....And I will continue to seek the light when I find myself wanting to hide in the darkness of  fear the world offers.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
~Psalm 27:1

Until next time, peace to you!

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Mother's Day Thoughts for YOU!

Some of you may know, I've been working on a book for a long, long time now. A devotional for mom's, it's something I'd like to see completed before I'm a grandma!  This particular day's devotional seems fitting as we get ready to celebrate moms everywhere:) I've always believed that you don't have to have children to be a  revered as a "Mom" for someone...I can think of more than one special woman in my life who wasn't my mom, but who provided me with love and nurturing. So this is to celebrate women everywhere who've offered motherly love to someone in their world!

Don’t hurry, don’t worry and take time to smell the flowers~

My husband’s uncle was a man of God, a Capuchin Priest in the Franciscan order. It was in his recent death a little over a year ago that I came to know of this favorite saying of his. Looking back on the 16 years I knew him, it’s easy for me to see how his words played out in his everyday life. An ornery sense of humor and a booming voice, you could feel his presence in a room before he walked in. And once you were with him, you could just feel yourself slow down a bit as you listened to his stories and anecdotes, his tall tales and his true tales. He engaged you with every bit of his being, as he would ask you question after question about your life, your thoughts, and your ideas. After a conversation with him, you just felt better. He’ll be missed on this side of eternity, but we all know Uncle Marvin waits for us at Heaven’s gates!

As moms, I know how hard it is to take those moments to slow down. We have agendas, obligations, tasks (some of which have to be completed just to ensure our wee ones live and breath each day with clean little bodies and well fed tummies!). Don’t I know it, as I sit here ticking off my to do list today. And it’s all we can do sometimes to just survive minute by minute, hour by hour. But God’s soft voice quietly reminds me to live the moment, for my days our numbered. Please don’t think me as fatalistic, just truthful. God has given us a timeline here on earth, not to be taken lightly. We have an important job to do, wives to our husbands and  moms to our kids, butwe do this all as children of God.  He expects us to live this life in a joyful, earnest way, making the most of the moments we have. Of course, He also knows our hearts and how weary mothering can make us. But that is especially when He calls on us to run to Him, to cast our cares to Him, to throw our worries to the wind. You’ve heard it a million times before….the computer will be there to check email, the bills will be waiting, the laundry will never stop growing, and families will not cease to exist if cold cereal is served for dinner. But our children will be grown before we know it. I don’t want to live with regrets, so I will begin each day with these thoughts from Uncle Marvin: don’thurry, don’tworry and take time to smell the flowers.

My prayer today:
Father, I pray today that you will help me to focus. I know it’s unrealistic to “clear my agenda”, as I have a job to do as wife and mother. But I also know that it is your true desire for me to have joy in these tasks. When I find myself becoming resentful of the many things I “must” do, please God shine my children’s smile my way as a reminder of your love and blessing. Please allow me put aside my tasks with a happy heart as I embrace the moments of mothering; humble me so that I might be able to recognize these earthly tasks are trivial compared to the tasks you have set before me. Thank you God for the gift of each day, to start fresh and new.
Psalm 39:4 (New Living Translation)

 4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
      Remind me that my days are numbered—
      how fleeting my life is.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rendered speechless

Recently, Chris and I have found some awesome documentaries on the Wii Netflix channel. Now, before I continue, I promise this story gets much more interesting than your current image of the two of us entering middle age, watching documentaries as we wistfully remember the good ole days. Wait for it.....

As I was saying, we've somehow managed to reclaim some time after the kids go to bed, and with the garbage they put on cable, we've resorted to Netflix. So far, so good. So good, in fact, we've had a ton of opportunities to teach the kids some history (tons of National Geographic stories offered) as well as some really cool science. We just watched March of the Penguins, which, while it was an awesome program, did have some emotional highs throughout. You can probably guess here...Nature, predators, cute little penguin chicks....Kevin actually said, as he watched the penguins dive back into the ice "like bullets going super fast" that he wanted to BE a penguin. Until the momma penguin was eaten by a leopard seal. That changed his mind fast. He and Ryan went to bed, whimpering, and I had to remind them "I am not a penguin Momma and there is no seal that wants to eat me".   They seemed content enough once they remembered, indeed, I am not a penguin. 

Strike one for the brainstorm we parents have to expose our kids to educational documentaries.

We started to watch a really cool program last night, Man on Wire. It's about a (nutty) Frenchman who is a wire walker (like the tightrope dudes in the circus).  Back in 1974 (the 1900's, according to my kids....hmmmm, they are accurate, I guess, in saying that, but really? Does it have to sound so ancient?) this particular nutty Frenchman Philippe Petit decided, after crossing various other too high buildings,
he MUST cross a wire between the twin towers. (Yes, he actually said  he MUST.)

Now, I will digress a moment. In order to fully appreciate this story you must understand a few things about Chris and me.
  • First, we are adamantly against cable TV. Just ask our families. They've grumbled through years of us only having rabbit ears and then basic cable, which we HAD to get for internet service.
  • Two, we aren't that well versed in entertainment media; this simply means we have no idea which teen singer is dating who, which reality show just sent someone with a rose to live on a deserted island, or what movie was up for whatever is the newest, grandest award.
  • Three, we are,in fact, kinda dull and nerdy book types. (He's MUCH more of a nerd that me....he IS a science geek, you know! The title sterility assurance manager/microbiologist just kind implies "science nerd"!) 
  • Four:  We do love a good movie. One of our favorite date/family time things to do is watching a movie together. We thought we hit the jackpot with our newest delve in documentaries.

And now, back to "Man on Wire" and the "wait for it" moment I promised you.

So, today, at dinner, Chris and I were talking about this program, and Steph pipes in, "Hey, we learned about this guy at my old school. He walked across the two tallest buildings on a wire."  She was intrigued, and wanted to know what the show was like. We told her (and the others, who were now listening intently, the idea of getting to watch TV on school night seeming to be pretty appealing) that we only watched 1/2 of it, and were planning to watch the rest tonight. She (and the rest of them) were excited, so we said, sure, why not!

When it comes to movies, we are always checking out whether things are OK for our kids to watch (http://www.pluggedin.com/ is one of our fave sights, but also use http://www.imdb.com/ ). However, we had already started watching this true life story, and hadn't seen/heard anything we would shy from. We did consider our sanity in allowing Kevin to watch anything that could encourage his Evel Knievel spirit, but we pushed those thoughts aside. (I'm sure this will come back to bite us later...look for it in a later post, no doubt!)

The nutty Frenchman and his crew were entertaining at times, as they plotted how they would actually accomplish this task. There was some dialogue in French which = BORED kids. But there was some cool wire walking scenes on top of buildings and bridges=FASCINATED kids. Success, right? They was a lot of talk of the science (at least from their dad) about how this wire walking event would have to take into account wind, humidity , blah blah, blah.....(I never really cared much for the science behind the man!).

And then, one of his crew mentioned pot. As in, the kind one smokes before he assists his friend in walking across a wire suspended between the Twin Towers. Not something any of the kids picked up on, but still something that made Chris and I less than comfortable. We cruised by this one, but we are now at strike two for the brainstorm thing.

Wait for it. There's a tad bit more.

So, we get to the climactic scene of the wire walking event. The kids are amazed. Thrilled. Flabbergasted. So are we. This guy takes 45 minutes, makes 8 back and forth walks, lies down, kneels down. CRAZY! AND our kids get to see the twin towers. Not images of towers marred by airplanes sticking in their side, with flumes of smoke pouring forth. Those tower images are all they really seem to know. Especially since Steph was born two months after 9/11. Lots of memorabilia from her birth year include those photos. Instead, they are seeing these gleaming newly built towers, they saw the construction process outlines in the film, the saw the final building, they saw the nutty Frenchman walk atop those most amazing buildings. We were all talking at once as we saw the Frenchman finish his task and be arrested for his nuttiness (see, there is even a lesson here. Kevin, don't break the rules!)

That "wait for it " moment enters right now.

The nutty Frenchman is next seen talking to reporters and then, a split second later, as he describes a young woman who was so intrigued by his feat, the black and white scene cuts to a young man and young woman in fast forward motion, like an old time silent film.....TAKING OFF THEIR CLOTHES!!!!! HOLY CROW!!!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE?!?!?!?

Strike three.....and the "worst parent of the year award goes to...."

Our girls are cracking up as "those two people are getting naked and having a pillow fight" Chris hurdles a kid or two and pole vaults the recliner to turn off the TV. But not before the initial image of two figures disrobing are burnt onto the blasted 52 inches of LCD screen in our living room!!!!!!!

Do we react or try NOT to react, so as to defuse the situation. Folks, we were watching a documentary, full of facts and nutty french people performing dangerous daredevil stunts, never expecting this little blip on the scene. OF COURSE WE REACTED!!!  Shock and awe, people. Shock and awe. I was laughing and crying at the same time. In disbelief. They took a good thing, and had to add that? FOR WHAT PURPOSE? Just to make other parents out there become Olympian gymnasts before their kids see that 5 seconds of unnecessary skin???

The kids are now in bed, and we are both still shaking our heads. Really? They HAD to go that route? It was an hour and a half program, and at 1hour and 24 minutes we had a grenade thrown at us. Tune in tomorrow for the cleanup. I'm sure there's bound to be some repercussions from this one. UGH.

Unfortunately, after the fact, I see that there was a rating on this....apparently it wasn't just a standard old documentary type thing...it was actually a movie. Rated PG 13. Sigh. .

So, I guess the moral of the story is, if you are coming to the Justi house, we suggest you bring a book. Cuz, that there TV, well, she's worn out her use, and it looks like we're gonna have to put her down.

Still in shock,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oh, The Way They Grow!

First born girl, Steph

Second little lady, Melanie
Most recently, I've had the pleasure (said in a slightly sarcastic tone) of seeing the difference between my boys and girls become glaringly obvious. Despite the fact that we are technically years from the teen turmoils of having young women in the house, our sweet little ladies have been really having some trouble reigning in their emotions. As a girl myself (yes, I must admit, I too am a girl.....) I can understand their plight, their drama, their emotions and their tears. Of course, the issues the girls have versus the ones that send me to my emotional breaking point are strikingly different, since, according to them, even though I'm a girl, I'm a MUCH OLDER girl . Whatever (as I ignore the obvious knock on my age). In the end, we're all still girls.

That's why my boys have been giving me such a burst of fresh (non-estrogen tainted) air recently.  Overlooking the basic need for the two of them to CONSTANTLY be in motion, usually involving wrestling one another in some shape or form, the boys have been on the up swing of the parenting pendulum. (Hey, I'm just beyond thankful that there even IS an upswing to that pendulum!).

First born boy, Ryan
For some reason, thank you Lord, there is balance in our world as the boys are my newest best buds, my biggest admirers. The girls, at the moment, are all about dad, their biggest superhero. And you're not getting any complaints here. I'm glad he can be their "number one". It's great. And besides, the girls are surely aware that I'm (as a girl myself, remember) fully equipped at knowing when the tears flow, sometimes, just sometimes, those tears have an ulterior motive. Enter Dad and that age old cliche' about wrapping around little fingers. This is definitely where being a girl/Mom plays to my advantage: I know more than they think I do about how we girls work! 

Second son, and baby, Kevin
 The boys, of course, well, they still look to Dad as hero, too. And they wrestle their little brains out with him. So once the robust energy is spent, I get the leftover snuggles, the tender moments, the sweet expressions of love from my 5 year old and 4 year old. I get the full day with the littlest one, unaware of the world's influences yet. I get almost the whole day with my sweet 1/2 day kindergartner, who is always so eager to be home at lunchtime with Mom and little brother. I get the book reading, the song singing, the quiet resting time with them.

And I as write this, something becomes very clear.

I realize, with a little angst, with some wistfulness, that some of my brood is growing up. That my mothering needs look differently right now with my girls, as they are in the midst of elementary school learning, friends, and struggles to test the waters of new independence. I realize that my boys are still so little. And I realize that as time marches on, or maybe more appropriately, steam rolls right over me, what I know about mothering is changing ever so slightly. I'm no longer a mom to toddlers and infant; in fact, I'm barely a mom of pre-schoolers anymore....right about here, mybreathing accelerates, my anxiety level raises a notch....

The littlest of littles as new baby arrives over 4 years ago

4 little kids growing big, see the show, watch them grow

I realize that it was just a few years ago that my little girls were MUCH MORE little than they are now. And that each day, they continue to grow up. And my boys are on that same path of growing away from "little". Suddenly, I'm overcome with the need to reach out and wrap my arms so tightly around them all, to make sure that they are just within my arms reach at all times. And then the more rational (translation: sane) side of me takes over. THIS. IS. MY. JOB. TO. LET. THEM. GO. AND. LET. THEM. GROW. (A slight whimper/whine at this point....but whyyyyy is it so hard??) And then, gently, my whiney cries are answered softly by the echoes in my heart: these children are on loan to me; they are mine for a short time.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
~Matthew 19:14

So I stop to remember what God has called me to do, and I humbly ask His help in letting me know what my changing role of mothering my growing children looks like.  I stop to remind myself that as the girls change and grow, that so must I change and grow. I don't want to be left in the dust, that's for sure! But I will honestly tell you, these moments of childhood with the boys, these moments where I still have them in my arms so much of the day; these moments will be more focused, more treasured. I'm excited to embrace what this new stage of parenting holds for us. (Yes, even the tearful, emotionally turbulent years of parenting two girls!) But, for the moment,  I will hold onto the NOW for as long as I can! I will make it a point to find ways to mother my growing girls (and yes, that will mean squeezing in even more snuggles; let's face it, we ALL need snuggles!) I will look back with love and sweetness at the passing of being a mom to tiny little babies, and I will look forward with joy and excitement to being a mom to tiny little, ever growing children, who will, someday, *gasp*, grow into teens and even adults~ And maybe, they, too, will be blessed with the struggles and challenges of watching their own children grow...

And, in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, I leave you with this thought:
Dr Seuss Image Dr Seuss Clipart Cat in the Hat
“Don’t cry because it’s over.
Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Extra! Extra! Read all about it: Winter Cold Freezes Kindness"

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
~ Mother Theresa

Old Man Winter. Jack Frost. February Freeze. All of these words conjure up seriously icy images. Unpleasant cold creeps into my bones even as I type (perhaps it's the draft sneaking up the open basement steps, or just the sub zero temps hurtling at my windows from the wind storm outside, or even the sound of "Mr.Freeze" battling Batman on the Lego Wii game). In any case, it's cold. Freezing. Brrrr. <teeth chatter here, for added effect>

By about this point in winter, I'm done, toast, I quit. I'm fairly certain most everyone  this side of the planet agrees.  It's not just the snow. It's the blustery cold. It's the rains that turn to ice that turn to snow that freezes solid surfaces faster than you can blink. It's the fact that my "mouse-chewed" corn pillows have been retired to the trash, and I'm left to try to keep warm by layering even more clothes on top of the 4 layers I already am wearing.  It's the "thrill" of walking kids to the bus stop, sliding down the drive, waiting while the wind hits from every direction, only to have to walk up the hill, sliding sideways, as the wind hits from every direction. You get the point.

All this griping and moaning from a woman with a well insulated, well heated home. From a woman whose gas bills can be paid without incident. And yet, here I sit, knowing full well my blessings, but still being a bit grumbly as my teeth continue to chatter.

With that being said, one thing I've noticed as the winter wears on is the rather unpleasant "fend for yourself" attitude many folks have adapted. Thankfully, the people who are in my daily life are anything but this type of person. However, as I head to the shopping centers and banks, I see fewer people being willing to hold the door, to wait for the person struggling to get through the slush, to take the shopping cart from the young mom juggling two kids and grocery items as the cold nips at her back.

I'm amazed to see the longer winter lingers, the less tolerance people have for....well, other people. Lots more horn blowing as folks impatiently travel through the melting mess. Lots more "head down, don't look now" moments when the "beggar" asks for a donation. Lots more "hurry up and wait" scenes as people rush to get in the store, forgetting about the people behind them who can't move quite as fast.

It makes me more than a bit sad. Wasn't it just a 2 months ago, as the Christmas season barreled down, that the cold, snowy scenes gave us a feeling of goodwill toward men?  Where "peace on earth" oozed from daily greetings as the new fallen snow made it all look so charming? 

What changes in two months time? So it's still cold. So what. That doesn't mean we have to let our hearts turn icy toward one another.

Case in point...As I was returning some light fixtures today at a local hardware store, there was a LONG wait. Even though I had a 4 year old saying....."WHENNNNNN      ARE WEEEEEEEE     EVVVVERRRRR      GONNNNNAAAA   BEEEEEE    DONNNNNNNEE?????? <my own emphasis NOT added here...This was ALL him. Truthfully. He sounded just like this>,  I cheerfully told the cashier today "Enjoy your day, and stay warm!"  She looked at me so gratefully, as if she was fully ready to take yet one more verbal lashing that the cold seems to spur on from people.

Now, don't get me wrong. I was cold. Tired. Hungry. Annoyed at the delay. Double annoyed at the nagging 4 year old. And late for my kindergartner soon to be arriving home while I waited for a dreadfully long return. Easy to get aggravated at her, right? But how much better was it to let a little sunshine into both of our days in such a simple way?

Driving home, the sun was out, the snow was melting and my car was toasty warm despite the winds whipping outside. Couldn't help but thing how differently both my day and the cashier's could've gone had I allowed my freezing state of being affect how I interacted with her.

My challenge to you today....despite the subzero temps outside, let the promise of spring brighten your spirit so you can share it with others. Oh, sure, we'll still be pretty cold here for a while yet. This IS Western PA, folks. And it IS still winter. And I have serious doubts about this whole groundhog prediction method. But we don't have to be frosty toward one another.

I chose to open my thoughts with Mother Theresa, and I think I'll close with her same words again:
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
~ Mother Theresa

Have a warm, toasty today and tomorrow:)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Don't hate me for my honesty

OK. I'm just gonna say it. Here goes. I. Do. Not.  Care. About. The. Superbowl.

There. WHEW! A weight has been lifted. Now, that's not to say I won't watch (at least some of) it. And I'll thoroughly enjoy the friendship time/family time that comes out of it. But that's mainly because everyone in my immediate world is OK to chat and laugh while the Black and Gold march up and down the field with the ball (That translates into a fun time for me, since no one will be yelling at me if I have to chat and laugh every once in while!)

I love to see how people can unite, even if it is over who scores the most on Sunday (I could come up with a bunch of other reasons for folks to unite, but I'll "tackle" that another time...did you like that use of football lingo I just "passed" by you!?!?).  And even folks out there who wouldn't know a goal post from a fence post become overnight fans just to partake in one of the biggest "gotta be a part of it" social events for all ages.

I understand. BUT.......well, I'm gonna go out on a limb, and venture to say, that unless you are ACTUALLY a player on the field getting paid to run that ball, have to tell ya, sorry, but your life really won't change one way or another over this game and its winner/loser.

Please, I'm not dissing you football fans out there. I was born and bred with a terrible towel hanging over my TV while Dad turned down the volume and let Myron Cope's voice color the world of football play by plays.
(Even with all that, a love for football never really sprouted, but at least you know where my roots grew!)

Superbowl, in my mind, is a great excuse to throw a party, hang with family and friends, root for the home team and of course, eat all kinds of normally off limit munchies. But life changing? Nah. Don't think so.

So again, I'd like to venture to say that, even you die hard fans out there, would have to admit that yes, indeed,  there ARE more important things in the world than football. Like what you ask?  Well, allow me to share.

Rainbows, or even better, double rainbows (did you see the one I posted last week?)
The smell of fresh laundry, or even better, the smell of freshly bathed babies in fresh laundry.
Flowers in bloom, or even better, flowers in bloom picked and presented by your main squeeze.
Sunshine rays, or even better, the first rays of sunshine after a dark, stormy night.
Out of the oven cookies, or even better, your next door neighbor with a plate of cookies and a cup of coffee to share.
Tears of joy, or even better, tears of joy that flow once you've laughed so hard you can't breathe anymore.
Healing words, or even better, healing words on the tail end of the statement from the doctor informing you, "Yes, we did indeed get all the cancer".
Hope that reigns out of despair, or even better, hope that reigns when you've cried out to God in despair.
Triumph over addiction, or even better, triumph over addiction that leads to more lives impacted by your success.
A tree house, or even better,  a tree house created especially by your dad with all your special requests in mind.
A spouse who loves you, or even better yet, a spouse who loves you and who remains in love with you.
A job that provides, or even better, a job that provides you a chance to grow and expand your passion without compromising your spirit or values.
A best friend, or even better, several best friends from all chapters of your life who still meet you right where you are.
A cuddly pet, or even better, a cuddly pet who doesn't mind when you shrug him off; he still looks at you like you're the best thing that could've happened to him.
Forgiveness, or even better, forgiveness that you 100% didn't deserve.
And sure, a Superbowl victory for your team, or even better yet, a victory for your team AND your self in being able to keep your priorities straight and your outlook on life unchanged by the outcome of the game.

No judgement here....I know I'm sure to be cheering right along with the rest of ya Sunday night (I won't know much more than what it means to get a touchdown and extra point, but I'll have fun trying to figure it out!) But let's just remember when we wake up Monday morning...well, life is still pretty amazing. I'm sure you can add some of your own "or even better" moments to my list. Try it. Trust me...you'll be surprised what you come up with.

"You put a smile on God's face"~Max Lucado

Until AFTER the Superbowl when the Steelers are declared victorious yet again,

Monday, January 31, 2011

A New Appreciation

For the millionth time, I've suffered right alongside Kevin as he's endured yet another round of croup. Croup is that nasty, barky cough, the kind that starts up way high in your vocal chords, the kind that signals your airway is beginning to swell and tighten. It mainly comes on at night. Oh, you get a hint of what's to come as the daylight hours fade, and by day two, you're seeing the symptoms lurking around even when the sun shines.

And yes, it DOES sound as bad as it is. Because there is NOTHING you can do to "quick fix" it. So, we endure a three day run of horrible coughing at night, gasping breathing, sometimes vomiting (like last night ) from the shear force of coughing. A lot of times, we opt for the "go to" drug, steroids, which gives us the Incredible Hulk in pre-school form. (Envision Kevin telling you..."Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry").  Not a pretty sight, and truly, it doesn't even seem to work well anymore. Doesn't matter...steriods are prescription, and we're out from the last time we saw our doctor in Morgantown.

We approach nightime with fear and trepidation, knowing full well what's to come. I prep for a full night of trips outside into the ice cold air, hoping that helps. Or we try a hot shower steam sauna to see if that works. I bunk with him, I listen closely to see if we're getting to a distress point that needs an ER trip. Chris holds down the fort.

And then morning comes. And life must go on. Kids must go to school, and have breakfast, and be at the bus stop on time with lunches in hand. Dad must go to work. And Kevin, despite his lack of sleep, breathes much better as daylight is ushered in. And, let's face it, he's four years old. He's ready for the day, albeit, a much more subdued version than he normally tackles.

And then there's me. Zombie Mommy. No amount of caffeine makes up for the lack of sleep. No amount of hot showering can relieve the stress I carry in my shoulders from tensely waiting to see what would happen in the wee hours of the worst of it. I'm exhausted, and barely tolerating a massive headache between my temples. Chris is gone, and it's just Kevin and me. I'm barely able to tackle the breakfast cleanup, and Ryan will be home soon. And I'll have to be "on" again. 

Normally, this would be the tipping point for me. The point where I throw myself onto my bed and just cry. BUT, this time is different. And I have to pinch myself to remind myself that it's different.

THIS time, my MOM saves the day! Chris can stay at work, the kids can come home to a slightly less crazy mom than they expected, (Chris can safely expect not to receive a dozen phone calls from me melting down!) all because I could punt the remainder of the day to Grandma!

I'm not boasting about this, please know. For many years, Grandma was too far away to be able to help out the way I always dreamed it would be. And we had an awesome church family to rely on, a family who always came through for us. But in the back of my mind, I always imagined how it would be to have my mom close by, close enough to call on when I needed her.

That puts so much into perspective for me. My own mom's mother died when Mom was only 22 years old. Breast cancer. She raised my brother and I without the chance to lean on her mom's advice and wisdom. I still can't believe how she managed to do such a great job without being able to call her mom and cry/shout/laugh/listen/vent. But she did. And so she and I are BOTH still learning how this new dynamic works, since it's a new experience for both of us. How the "Mother/Daughter who's also a Mother" relationship unfolds and evolves.

But today, well this was it. This was what I always wanted. I wanted the chance to call on her, and for her to respond. I think she wanted to the chance to be needed. And we both wanted the opportunity to prove that no matter the time or years that have passed, no matter the lack of knowledge we have about how to play out our roles, we are still mother and daughter.

So she took care of me today. No miraculous healing was performed, no five course meal was prepared, no super human chore list was crossed off. Instead, she just let me be, she let me rest, comfortable, safe, content knowing she was there for me. She did what she needed to take care of the grandchildren she loves, and she kept the day as stress free as possible so I could step up to be the best mom I could be to those grandchildren she loves. And she just quietly loved me. Thanks, Mom.

What more could I possibly ask for?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The "blue crankies"

Today could've gone better. I'll admit, the best part of my day was spending some time this morning with my sweet niece and nephew (and of course, my dear mom in law....do I get points for this one, Mrs. Justi??).  I feel like I'm getting to know these kiddos on a whole new level, and I love being Aunt Karen, something that really remained pretty foreign to me as we've lived pretty far all these years. I love being in their lives on a more frequent basis. So that was definitely the silver lining.

But, you see, I'm a "do-er"....that is a noun in my own personal dictionary which means "a person who does things".  That means I don't like to sit idle. In fact, it's pretty hard for me to sit idle. I like to accomplish something, to step back and see something transform, or to see something become functional when it once was not.

Remember, I "do" things. Or at least, I NEED to "do" things. And we have a house FULL of projects that must be done. Most of these projects require power tools of some sort, or at the very least, a non -hasty, patient person who can tediously complete the task. I am NOT that person. Hasty is my middle name. Which is pretty tricky when I have to teach our little crumb producers (a.k.a., our 4 children) the virtue of patience. I've been known to start a project or two (or ten) without even having the necessary "stuff" on hand to finish the job. I know that about myself. And I'm most certain that my husband finds it one of my most endearing traits (this statement is dripping with sarcasm....how handy that sarcasm font would be right now!!)

So I'm itching to "DO" some things around here. I enjoyed a lovely morning, and had the afternoon before me to get on task. I realized, with snow falling crazy from the sky, that I was not about to get out and about to get some of the things I needed. And THEN I realized that I couldn't find the other things I needed to even halfway start the projects I had in mind. Oh, and by the way....did I mention that I found a mouse (I'm praying that's all it was, anyway!) had invaded MY walk in closet?? Yes, MY closet, the one with my clothes, my shoes, my STUFF. Not Chris'. MY closet. MINE!

Well, I didn't actually find the mouse...I found the two holes he nibbled in the corn pillows sitting on my closet floor. (Corn pillows are some awesome homemade bags of feed corn sowed  up tight and made to be heated in the microwave....the corn doesn't pop, it just retains the heat and keeps your hands, back, toes or whatever, nice and toasty...If you want one, talk to Lori Spahr!)

The pillows had been chewed open, and some corn had been left behind as a trail to torment me. And I will fully admit to being TORMENTED! I know, I know; I'm a country girl now. And I completely expect to have little critters invade my space....just not so close to my bed, for Pete's sakes!!!! So, after a bit of a meltdown, I knew we'd  have to do something about the mouse (or, more correctly, as my mind creates a picture, the little army of mice I envision marching along my Skechers and Reebok's searching for more corn).

And of course, there is the issue of Melanie. She has actually owned pet mice. This was not going to go over well. And I'll admit, my own pet loving heart was feeling a bit sad at the prospect of how the little mice would be "removed" from our home. I was dreading the whole idea of the "good riddance" process.

Between my inability to be effective in completing any projects, and the whole "rodent in my house" thing, I'm pretty sure there was a defeated air about my demeanor. Ryan, my ever tender little boy, asked me in the most precious way, "Mom, are you blues?" Thinking I didn't hear him clearly, I asked him to repeat himself. He said it again, "Mom, do you have blues? You know, the blue crabbies?"  Suddenly, I understood. He was asking me if I was feeling blue. His interpretation, and the fact that he was so incredibly perceptive, immediately made my heart smile, and put a real smile on my face. That kid is too much sometimes.

The moral of the story?  Well, I still have nothing checked off on my "to do" list. I still have a mouse problem (Note the small shiver of disgust up my spine right about now).  But I most definitely DO NOT have the blue crabbies, thanks to one little boy in my world. Thanks, buddy....now, Ry Guy, about that mouse....what kind of wisdom do you have for that?!?!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nature views

My dad, in his close to retiree age, has become an avid bird enthusiast. I know, it's pretty cliche, but it's the truth. Over the years, he's fabricated every type of birdhouse you can imagine, and has gotten equally as creative with how to hang them and what to concoct to feed them. And as a testament to his persistence, he probably has the most unique variety of feathered friends that greet him throughout his day.

He's been sharing his passion with us for many years now, and we've had a few feeders ourselves. I, however, with 4 small kids underfoot, really never had the efforts ready to do the necessary steps to keep the birds coming back (that translates into....I got too lazy to feed them when I was so busy feeding my own little mouths). So eventually, they'd stop coming. And we'd be sad because we didn't have our birds around anymore.

With our recent move back "home", Dad's been out a little each week, doing some house stuff, and he once again, has attempted to provide us with a chance to welcome nature into our very rural backyard.  I  completely forgot how awesome it can be to become mesmerized by the dancing of tiny birds outside the window. And God is enticing me to keep at it this time, as we watch brilliant red cardinals and bold blue jays flit about between a bright white snow blanket and a deep green pine tree. Our kids call it Narnia. And I call it peace. I literally was lost in the view at one point; when I "snapped out of it", I berated myself for allowing myself time to be idle. Then, as is true in my most insane moments, I (mentally) countered that argument. This back and forth internal battle over the use of my time went on for a few minutes. Thankfully, I wasn't talking out loud. (Have I painted a pretty nutty picture for you? Me, standing in the breakfast area, coffee mug in hand, watching the birds, mentally arguing with myself to go make a bed or clean a dish or something domestic like that?) Well, you'll be pleased to know there was a winner in this mental battle: and it literally came straight from God. (I kinda envision God, our heavenly Father, watching me debate this seemingly significant use of my time, allowing me to go on and on, just as I do with my own kids,  until He finally says, 'Enough already' and nudges me to end the insanity!) His nudging was simple, yet powerful.

Be still and know that I am God.  ~ Psalm 46:10.

How much easier is this?  Nothing I could have felt I had to do was so pressing that it could possibly top that, don't ya think? Now, I'm pretty sure God is not suggesting I toss this scripture out there, say, when I don't feel like cleaning the toilets or doing the laundry. But I do believe, in that moment, He called to me to remind me that my life moments need to be more centered on this scripture. That, despite what I feel, in my role as super mom and super wife and super homemaker, nothing is more important than being available to hear God in my daily "stuff".  That, despite the times of chaos in completing my assigned <MANY> jobs, despite the times I feel like the earth is shaking around me because I'll never "get it all done", God is there. And all I need to do, to really find the peace in the day to day, is to be still.

So, I paused to continue to watch the birds. We even had two woodpeckers find their way to our feeders!  And I'm grateful for my dad's ability to have shared his way of finding peace. And as I sit here today, typing away, that nagging voice inside is saying "you should be doing SO many other things right now". But I'm not even gonna argue today. I'm gonna ignore it completely. I'm gonna share my thoughts with you. And then I'm off, coffee in hand, to sit in the breakfast area, to watch the birds and snow fly, and to thank God for my dad, and for his birds.

~Until next time,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The dreaded 2 hour delay

Well, I'm ashamed to admit I had a monster mom moment today. And I'll happily blame it on the two hour delay we had. Now, a delay in and of itself is enough to throw any mom into a tailspin; but tag that delay onto a snow day from the PREVIOUS day, and you've got a recipe for a meltdown.

I sort of figured we'd be delayed, as the big puffy flakes were flying. And of course, the children who generally have to be woke with a clashing symbol bonging in their ears,  were already up and about, on their own accord, at the crack of dawn. With no official "snow day" being declared, this simply meant that I now had 3 school age kids with ample (so THEY thought) time on their hands. There were projects to be started (Melanie started crafting), breakfasts to be made (Steph decided to make pancakes, since "we have SO much time") and computer games to be tackled (Ryan has been trying his hand at his class computer homework).  HOWEVER, no one (ME INCLUDED!) seems to take into account the severe time warp that happens with a two hour delay. Just as you get into that "leisurely snow day" mode, suddenly, you have 10 minutes to bus time and OF COURSE, everyone needs full snow gear (not to mention, they all need to at least be out of their pj's!) And add in one little 4 year old pouting that kids have to go to school NOW?!?!?

So, thus begins the chaos, the yelling, the escalating yelling, until I snap when I realize Steph is wearing the (somehow) only pair of girl ear muffs we have and they are, of course, her sister's earmuffs. Aside from trying to figure out where the 6 other pairs are (which I'm sure will be unearthed when the tundra mountains of snow melts), I'm now at my breaking point because we are not only having a yelling match about getting to the bus, but now I'm intervening in a sister issue. 

See, the problem here (aside from that blasted two hour delay!) is that I'm the mom, the grown up one. But some where in the midst of the morning, I forgot that. And I too found myself knee deep in projects, just like my kiddos did. THINKING I'd have plenty of time to "git 'er done" before their departure. And then, when the madness erupted, I REALLY forgot how to be the grown up and had a plain old fashioned temper tantrum because things weren't going my way. Do you see where I'm going here?

How many times have I had to humble myself to ask my kids' forgiveness for the mess ups I have?   And how many times do they simply wrap their little arms around me, in the most tender of ways, and tell me of course they still love me. Even though I don't deserve it. Wow.

Don't get me wrong; they were being little buggers this morning. No doubt about it. They were itchin' for some serious mommy crankiness to be unleashed because of their behaviors. But instead of me being able to stay the adult, I immediately went right on down to the level of a 9 year old who was having a "moment". 

Lori and I are doing a bible study via the power of the internet, and one of things she challenged us to do (Kudos, Lor!) was to find our "psalm phrase"; the phrase from our "psalm prescription" that we can go to in those moments of explosive madness to reign it in before we react. I haven't found it yet. Just bein' honest here. Lord knows I would've used it this morning. Perhaps God will put it on my heart tonight! But it'll still be up to ME to call upon God and that phrase; it'll be up to me to make that choice to go to that place of peace BEFORE I react. Which is EXACTLY what I ask of my kids when they are having an emotional meltdown; I tell them to pull it together first so I can understand what it is that they need. Ironic that I don't take my own direction.

Of course, it'd be so much easier if the school day delay hadn't happened. But I'm smart enough (or at least experienced enough in motherhood) to know something else would have been the trigger, at some point in our day together. How do I know? Because it's simply part of parenthood, of childhood, and let's face it, it's part of life. We were never promised to be happy all the time, that things would always go our way, that some cranky someone wouldn't interrupt our day.  But we were promised joy in our everyday, if we seek it. That's my prayer tonight: to seek the joy in the everyday, to be grateful for the awesome ability of my kids to forgive me so easily, to be assured that it will most likely all happen again tomorrow (God willing) and I'll have the chance to choose a different response-the better response-and I'll make the wise choice next time.

Oh, and please Lord.....no more 2 hour delays. I'm just asking for the whole kit and caboodle, please....either give me a snow day or nothin' at all!

Seeking JOY in my days,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mathematician Extraordinaire!

Now before I go getting all smarty pants on you, I have to confess...I had NO idea how to get back onto this blog of mine! Seriously! THEN, I realized I had a different password I entered, and lo and behold, I'm back. Whew! Small moment of panic there!

But, I must return to my title, the whole mathematician thing. I know friends of mine who'd beg to differ on me being an expert in math (and normally, I wouldn't argue!), but with 4 kids, 3 of which are in elementary school, my math skills have had to be refined.

Take, for instance, the homework assignment for Steph in her old school. She needed to come up with a math story problem with different functions in it(yes, the dreaded story problem still haunts me). So I helped her out the only way I know how...with a reality check. Keep in mind I was on the slight verge of insanity, with Chris only being home on the weekends, and me holding down the fort, managing the house, the kids and all the homework associated with those kids. So bear with me as I share my creative steps to creating a story problem for my 3rd grader:

 I told her, "Imagine a mom, slightly crazed with lack of sleep and stress, who has to do the laundry. On this particular day, she chooses ONLY to wash the jeans from the 4 kids in her house. Child A has 4 pairs of dirty jeans (because she spilled toothpaste on one pair that never even made it out the front door). Child B has 6 pairs of dirty jeans, because, let's face it, her food always ends up on her in some way or another. Child C has 3 pairs of dirty jeans,  (sweet mercy, thank you!). And Child D, or the "pigpen" child, as we like to call him, has 9 pairs of dirty jeans (I'm interrupted by my inquisitive youngster at this point...."Yes, you are right, Steph, there ARE only 7 days in week. Don't ask me what your brother does to get his clothes so messy".)
SOOOOOOO......how many dirty jeans does mommy have to wash in one week?  Addition step:  Correct! The answer is 22.  Now, let's use your multiplication skills:  How many jeans, in one month, would mommy have to wash at this rate. AWESOME! You are right again!  88 pairs of jeans. Wow. Pretty sure mommy is going to go hide in the bathroom and cry for a bit." 

Don't know if the teacher appreciated my humor as much as I did at the moment, but it seemed pretty relative to getting my child to understand everyday math. And it supported my case for crying when Chris would call and ask how I was "holding up". 

And recently, with the start of a new school, we've had an influx of information, on top of the normal stuff (and by "normal" I must tell you that Melanie will bring home at least 7 or 8 pictures of rainbows and butterflies on any given day). So, even with a low number of only 10 papers a day from school, with 3 kids, I'm looking at 30 papers to sort, sift, recycle and of course hang on the refrigerator. Then, with 5 days in a week, and 4 weeks a month, 9 months out of the year, I've now tallied my "papers incoming" to be 5,400 papers. I'm fairly certain that trumps the health care bill. Perhaps I'm now qualified for politics?  Oh, and don't forget, we still have one more kiddo at home.  Why, oh why, do I choose to think these things out?!?!?

Enough of math!! Let me share something super amazing with you all....

Let me show you a glimpse of a when God winked in my world. (By the way, if you want to know more about God winks, check out any of SQuire Rushnell's books on his website www.whengodwinks.com ).  

A dear friend from "home" (my Morgantown home) had suggested I look up a friend of hers who lives in Butler (my new home). I friended this gal on facebook, and as we chatted, she realized that not only am I in her same zip code, but we are literally one street away from each other! My Morgantown friend was a little angel acting on God's prompting, and this new neighbor has now reached out to me and our family. We're actually invited to her house tomorrow! I'm so thrilled to be able to connect with other women, and I'm so thankful that God is so involved in all the details (I'm sure God handles those important things for me when He realizes how tied up I am with dirty jeans and mountains of school paperwork!!)

 I'm always overwhelmed by that...by the details of my life that God is wrapped up in! So, just as I was about to throw in the towel and succumb to the massive amount of "Stuff" to do surrounding the everyday bits of being a mom and wife. living in a new house, in a new school system, in steps God and reassures me that He's got it. WHEW! Good thing! Cuz I sure have a LOT to hand over to Him:)  

Till the next overwhelming moment hits and I feel the need to share my rambling thoughts,
Peace to you all!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Some fun photos/videos to share:)

  An updated tour of the house

Our shutterfly shared photo site with new house photos

A look at our world

So I'm gonna try my hand at this blog thing...I'm fairly certain, as much as I love to write, that God did NOT wire me for this century, but I won't give up! 

We woke up to  the most beautiful morning; snow has been falling here for the last couple of days. Always amazes me how a simple coating of white changes the entire perspective of our world. All of the trees are just heavy with snow, and it makes our already still country air just absolutely cease to breathe. We have a stream at the bottom of our driveway (er, make that, small mountainous slope) that literally "babbles". It's an awesome sight. Of course, I'm a realist. Once I closed the front door, my postcard moment was interrupted with the sound of our 4 children arguing over where they'd sit at our breakfast bar. Because, you know, this is a monumental thing to people under the age of 10. (Heavy sarcasm should be noted here!)  In fact, I'm sure I just heard our 4 year old utter..."'I'm too tired to argue". Sigh again.

The kids had their first week of school (3 days, started on Wednesday).  Seems good so far. I really liked the way the school made our kids feel like VIP's coming in....they were all geared up to warmly welcome our small herd of new students. Stephanie is in 3rd grade, and already has made many friends; her class had earned a "crazy" day on Friday, for which she eagerly participated. Melanie, too, has made some friends; one little girl in particular has captured her heart. Emma is apparently a budding Van Gogh like our Mel, so they've clicked very quickly.  And Mel has already gained an admirer...on her first day, a little dude named William said (and this is an exact quote!)  "When I saw that face (referring to Melanie), I said, HOLY COW, I'm gonna like that girl!". Needless to say, we were all pretty amused at this:)

Ryan is beyond thrilled as he is in 1/2 day kindergarten. He goes in the morning, and comes home on the short bus to have lunch with us. Chris has been able to join us everyday for lunch (only 4 miles away) and he was able to witness the first day of Ry getting off the bus. The monumental part of this story is the greeting Ryan received from Kevin. Kev came flying down our (very steep) hill, propelled by the thrill of having his brother home (and the power of some serious gravity pulling him downward!) and tackled Ryan with the biggest bear hug. I'm fairly sure that image will never leave Chris and I.

As for Chris and I, we're just happy that 6 months of separation hasn't changed our relationship. Ok, ok, I'll admit...I did get quite used to feeding everyone cereal for dinner 4 nights a week, and now this whole cooking thing is sending me into the archives of cookbooks buried in my kitchen, but other than that, we've picked up right where we were 6 months ago.

We've been privileged to host some family gatherings, and I'm in my glory. I love playing hostess, and I'm pretty sure the gift of "hospitality" is an inherent part of my being. It's been so wonderful to call on parents, sisters and brothers, and actually connect with them in person rather than just on the phone.

All in all, we are settling in quite well and are trying to re-establish a routine (as if there is such a thing with 4 kids in our world!)