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

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!)