Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cinder~Elle~a

It was the perfect day to turn three.






Miss Elle has been longing for her "berfday" since Alvin's party in June.  She was suddenly struck with the full force of realization that everyone has a birthday.  Birthdays mean cake and presents and a whole day dedicated to YOU!  And she was ready to experience one for herself.  (The poor dear doesn't remember her super special First Birthday, sniff)

But first it was Alvin's special day.

The next month was all about  Dee.

We celebrated Cy the month after that.

And all the while, Ell would plaintively query "When's my berfday?  I want a pink cake and a pink dress and a pink house on my berfday!  In Octobuh!"  The poor girl has no idea when or what October is, but she is sure it will be pink.  And it will be all about her.

And she would be correct.

Finally the day arrived.  October 24th.  Maybe it's because she is my first girl.  Maybe it's because after a three month rash of boyish birthdays to commemorate, September is gloriously quiet.  Maybe it's because this day will always hold a double significance as the day God spared my life so I can continue to be a mother to my small brood.  Maybe it's because Thanksgiving is in the air.  Whatever the cause, October 24th finds me ready to seriously party!



I have this  thing with Cinderella.  It started back as a toddler, watching the old VHS tape my grandma had recorded off the Disney Channel.  I loved the mice and the Bippidy, Boppidy Boo song.  I loved the pumpkins and the fairy dust that sparkled everywhere.  Then I grew into a wild, heathenish tomboy that scoffed at such foo-foo frippery.  My inner princess lay forgotten and neglected for the next 25 years. 

Until Elle was laid in my arms. 

She is my princess.

So, guess the theme for her first birthday . . .

It's like Cinderella just grabbed a hold of my shopping cart and started throwing Disney licensed merchandise in.  We had printed plates, and napkins and a printed tablecloth.  Never in my life had I bought licensed merchandise to wipe my mouth on.  But I N.E.E.D.E.D. those sparkly napkins!  And let me tell you about my Pumpkin Votive Candelabra!  It's gorgeous.  That is all. 

There had been a serious Cinderella Void in my life and I was just now recognizing it.

So, Elle's first birthday was a Cinderella-palooza.  So what?  I'm not going to have favorites here.  Every child deserves a super special first birthday with printed napkins (even though the boys never got that, shh!).  That doesn't mean I'll do something that elaborate every year.  I managed to keep myself in check for her second birthday.  I don't even remember what I did for her second birthday, that's how lazy sane and sensible I was.

It was the first of October and her much anticipated third birthday was looming.  I wasn't quite sure how to best celebrate.  I figured I'd bake a strawberry cake and invite a few friends and family over.  But what's this in the mail box?  A flyer advertising the Tulsa Opera's production of Cinderella?  Playing on Elle's very own birthday?  I was a goner already . . .

Rob had already made plans to go camping with friends on that day.  (No stressing over planning the perfect birthday for him!)  He was sad to not get to take his princess to her very first opera, but he managed to survive, strangely enough.  There was nothing left for me to do but to find a suitable dress for Senorita Elle.


I found this dress at Toy's R Us.  When she tried it on, her whole face sparkled.  She knew this was THE dress.  Everything about it made her feel princess-y.  As for me, all those repressed girly notions from my tomboy days came flooding back.  I totally understand how moms can get so caught up in making sure their daughters have their own dream wedding.  I had better get all this out of my system now . . .

Since I now had one extra ticket I called up my good friend, Lisa, and asked her to come with us.  She had never been to an opera before and was really excited to go.  She sparkled too.  There is an inner Cinderella in all of us, I'm telling ya.


Seven thirty finally arrived.  We were seated, the lights dimmed, the first haunting note of the oboe sounded out, long and clear.  The orchestra tuning up always gives me goosebumps.  Then came the National Anthem.  A full house standing and singing at the top of their operatic lungs always gives my goosebumps goosebumps.  At last, the overture over and the curtain drawn, Cinderella is dutifully scrubbing whilst singing.  The evil stepsisters are prancing and cavorting across the stage.  The audience is under their spell, not a whisper or rustle is to be heard.  Save for the three year old diva beside me who demands to know, "When is it my turn to dance up there?"  She did not whisper.

All in all, it was a magical evening.  The night ended as all good fairy tales should, with fairy dust and a kiss.  And Taco Bell.  Most fairy tale books leave Taco Bell out of it.  Holding a princess with a real, live hoop skirt in one's lap for two hours will make one excruciatingly hungry.  The best remedy is a Chalupa Supreme.

The next day we had our pink cake party with a few friends that happen to be family. 




Happy Birthday, Miss Elle!  I hope you have enough happy memories to last you until your next berfday.  It's not until next Octobuh, you know.

Next up, Ana . . . I'm thinking February is the perfect month for a Frozen party.

 I wonder if they have any napkins for that?



P.S. I am excited to announce my new Facebook page.  I'm finally beginning to feel like a real writer now!  You can find me on Facebook under Chores Of Opportunity.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Prayin' For Peace And Patience!

I knew I was in trouble last week when I looked at the calendar and every day for the next 10 days was triple booked.

But what's a girl to do when there are so many fabulous, educational opportunities out there.  Especially a girl whose blog's middle name is Opportunity!



 So, last Monday was Cy's orange belt test.  He did a fantastic job!  I wish I had a picture to post, but I don't.  You'll just have to take my word for it. 

Tuesday was Tulsa State Fair Day. 

Cy is actually on this crazy ride!


Wednesday and Thursday was Cram Like Crazy to get a week's worth of lessons completed.  That didn't exactly work out like I had hoped, but plenty did get done.



Friday afternoon I drove to Oklahoma City.  We spent Friday evening playing Boggle and Scattergories with my crazy brothers and saintly mother.  I don't know how she managed to keep her sanity raising four rowdy boys and two equally rowdy girls.  Maybe I should interview her for a "How Do You Do It?!" post. 

Saturday was spent with my Father In Law, at the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival in Gutherie.  It was a very pleasant day, with perfect temperatures, blue skies, happy kids and good music.  Since Gutherie is only 30 minutes from my In Law's house, I drove back to put the kids down for naps (I may have snuck a tiny nap myself).  I went back to the festival in the evening for the headliner shows.  It was so much fun to snuggle down into a lawn chair with baby Ana and listen to folk songs under the stars.



I roused the troops early the next morning and lit out for Tulsa.  We made it to church, only, you guessed it, 3 minutes late!  And yes, my church is worth getting out of bed and making a two hour drive for.  And since it was First Sunday, we had a potluck dinner.  Oh yeah!

Here's where things get tricky.  You might need to tighten your seat belt:

After Fellowship dinner I headed home, unpacked and repacked the three middle kids.  Cy was scheduled for an adenoidectomy and turbinate reduction early Monday morning.  Sweet Aunt 'Nana and Uncle Clint took my munchkins off my hands for the night.  Cy got to spend the evening being an *almost* only child, eating pizza in living room and watching Dances With Wolves with us.  Things got a wee bit hairy towards the middle of the movie.  It's amazing what one forgets over time.  What we remembered as perfectly acceptable, historical drama was suddenly quite embarrassing.  We are going to have to be more careful in reviewing movies online before we embark!

Monday was devoted entirely to Cy's surgery and recovery.  The offending adenoids were removed and the swollen nasal turbinate reduced.  I sure hope this helps him to breathe easier.  The tissue was blocking nearly 95% of his nasal passage.



Tuesday morning came waaaay too early.  I had three wart hogs to get to the dermatologist by 7:30!  A.M.!!  That was not particularly pleasant.  After forking over a hefty co-pay x 3, the Dr proceeded to tell me that because of Government regulations (i.e. ObamaCare) he was not allowed to offer treatment on our first visit.  But I could pick up a prescription version of Compound W to use in the mean time.  Great.  I can't be trusted to get my kid's teeth brushed twice a day.  Treating warts twice a day is probably not going to happen.

We returned home for a few hours before my next appointment.  Sweet Miss Velma took the kids while I went in for my yearly exam with Dr Silver.  I specifically wanted to talk to him about my roller coaster hormones.  The best he could advise was for me to take the mini-pill, Micronor.  It might help.  Or it might make things worse. I guess I'll find out in about a month.  I hope to follow this with a post about what steps I am taking to address some of my health issues. 

After the doctor, I went to the pharmacy to pick up the super duper Compound W that requires a prescription.  My insurance doesn't cover it.

BUT, my trip was not a waste!  I bought myself a couple of quality candles.  So far, this has been the highlight of my week.  You see, waaaay back on Monday morning I "just happened" to read a post by Courtney at Women Living Well.  October is her Making Your Home A Haven month.  I was intrigued.  The first week's challenge is to light a candle every day.  Whenever you see it, the flame reminds you to pray for Peace and Patience.  This is my sort of challenge!  I just needed an inspiring candle first.  I wound up with two.  An Apple Cider one for the kitchen and a romantic Paris inspired fragrance for my bedroom.  But, of course, I couldn't rush home and light them.  First I had to drive back to Coweta to pick up the kids, then back to Tulsa to help my brother move into his  apartment.  The day ended with pizza.  And that, my friends, is a good end to any day.  Oh, and I lit my candles.

Wednesday promised to be a much slower paced day.  I only had to be at the podiatrist by 10:15 and then I was home free until church time!  We boogied out of the house in a timely fashion.  I had just turned the radio up when Rob called.  The exterminator was coming at 1.



We have been plagued by creepy crawlies all year, not the least of which are fiddle back spiders and scorpions.  I am so NOT okay with a scorpion curled up in the tray of the baby's exersaucer.  Especially not when the baby is in her exersaucer!  Thankfully, no one has been bit or stung yet.  But really, that is just disturbing.  I think an exterminator is a great idea in theory.  It's just the details that were snowing me under.  I got home around noonish.  Which meant I had approximately ONE HOUR to empty all the cabinets, drawers and closets.  Cover all the dishes.  Remove all the food and  remove all the children.

I lit my candles.

Peace and Patience, Peace and Patience, Peace and Patience.  That was my non stop prayer.  The kids helped and we got the job done.  The house was a wreck.  Worse than moving.  Worse than evacuating for a wild fire.  My nesting mojo had long since worn off.  The pantry was encrusted in, well, crusts and crumbs.

I drug my weary carcass off to Sherry's house to lick my wounds until our Wednesday evening prayer service.

Coming home was a nightmare.  All the dishes, all the pullups, all the toothbrushes, all the nose sprays for Cy's recovery, gone.

Buried.

Un-findable.

The roofers were due to arrive at the crack of dawn, we had music lessons at 10:30 and I had a chiropractor and an orthotist appointment.  It turns out, one of my legs is shorter than the other.  This would explain why my right knee, hip and shoulder have always given me trouble.  I also pronate.  That is why I wear tennis shoes exclusively.  I am going to need custom built orthotics.  I am so glad our insurance is caught up for the year.  This is why I had so many doctor appointments this week.  We are trying to address all of our issues before the end of the year.  If the pace doesn't kill me first . .

The view from my kitchen
Did I mention our air conditioner is out?  It's 85 degrees in here.  The boys are dripping with sweat.  Why do little boys drip so much?  Just wondering.  Anyways, back to the story . . .

Once I returned home, I set all my candles ablaze.

This is my peaceful candle

 Ah, a tiny haven of peace and serenity.


 Okay, a rather dwindling haven of peace and serenity.


All right, all right, it's just a tiny pin point of light, awash in a sea of tumult and confusion.  And a fire hazard.

But that's okay.  It's a starting point.  Once you light a candle, you kind of have to clean the area around it for safety.  And the peace spreads from there.

Here is a peaceful corner in my room.







No, really.  It's just a corner . . .


How often do you see a beautiful photograph of a serene candle on a serene table with a serene family?  How often do you feel a twinge of jealousy, despair even.  Has it ever kept you from lighting a candle yourself?  Might I suggest that such images are just cleverly photoshopped?  Closely cropped, airbrushed, offending reality completely removed . . .

You don't have to have a clean, peaceful kitchen in order to "deserve" a peaceful, serene candle.  What I am learning this week is that I am the candle.  When I light a candle, I am reminding myself that I am my family's enviroment.  I am also being reminded that I am just a little pin point of light.  The Light of the world is Jesus!  I need to be kindled by Him!

I really didn't intend for this week to be as hectic as it was.  It just sort of happened to me.  I certainly did not begin the week with Peace and Patience on my mind.  But this is the lesson God has for me.  My plans get shot to pieces.  I feel like I could shoot others to pieces.  And I have, with my words.  But then a waft of Apple Cider hits me square in the nose, a glimmer catches my eye and I start mumbling, "Peace and Patience, Lord!"

And you know what?

It works!

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in my bedroom!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dinner Conversation

"As our program begins, we join the Hudson family dinner already in progress . . ." 

Ana: "WAAAA!" - I'm hungry!  I'm starving!  Nobody cares about the starving baby!!

Dee: "We are eating chicken muscle, cool!"

Ana: "WAAAA!! - "What's this, pig slop?  I think they call it 'green beans'.  It looks like snot . . ."


Dee: "If I was made out of one giant muscle, I could wiggle my ear just like a finger.
 
Ana: "WAAA-THTTTT!" - "Keep the green stuff rolling.  This joint has terrible service.  I hope they aren't expecting a tip."

Alvin: "Hey, I found the bullet hole!  This is where the chicken was shot!!"

Ana: WAAAA-ACK-WAAA - "Seriously, what part of 'waa' does she not understand?!  I am obviously full, but every time I open my mouth to tell her, she shoves more food into it."

Elle: "I lost my ice, I lost my ice!  It was right there in my cup and now it's goooone!!!" (dissolves into tears)

Mom: "Okay, it's time to get cleaned up, everyone.  Ana, you are done!  Actually, I'm done.  Time for bed."

Ana: "WAAAAAA!!!!!" - "I could go for some milk . . ."

Happy Friday Night, y'all! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's A Jungle Over Here

"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea."

Psalm 46:1-2

The earth is quaking and trembling around here.  And it's not just because I live in Oklahoma!
Every day this week has brought a fresh and totally unexpected trial.  Sure, the first several days the trials were pretty small.  As in, the local grocery store didn't have the advertised picnic roast that I had planned on purchasing at $1.79 a pound.  Disaster with a capital D!  Of course, this is my Hormonal Crazy Lady Week, as my darling husband has repeatedly pointed out . . .  But from Wednesday on, this has been a whole different ball game.


I am in awe of all that has happened.

I am in awe of all that my God has done.


There is so much I can't say.

I have neither the permission nor the ability.  And, some things just haven't reach a conclusion.

You might could say, "Stayed tuned for The Rest Of The Story".  I just don't know how or when that story will conclude. 

Nevertheless, God is still our refuge and our strength.  Come what may, He is my only foundation.  And the couple dozen times I forgot that and reached for a life rope, it has crumbled into a poison ivy vine in my hands.  

Please forgive the weird metaphor.  I grew up in the country, climbing trees and swinging like Tarzan.  I have climbed a few poison ivy vines.  It's never a good idea.

Anyways, it's been a rough week.  I needed out of the house!  
I wanted some fresh air! 
Sunshine! 
Wide open spaces!
Exhausted and smelly children!

 A trip to the zoo was clearly in order.


A field trip to the zoo with our church homeschool group had been in the works for a month.  It wound up being postponed.  Since our family has a zoo pass, I decided to forge ahead on my own.

This is my "Taking Five Children To The Zoo By My Self" Game Face

 Cy made the PBJ's.  I filled the water bottles.  Then I made power smoothies to drink on the way.  Best decision of the day!  I am going to remember that trick.  We arrived at the zoo fashionably late, at 12:30.  Since we had just inhaled a Chocolate Raspberry Banana smoothie, we were reasonably full and able to meander at will.

Meandering is the second secret to a happy zoo trip.  Take time to smell the monkey poo . . .



Elle has perfected the art of Meandering


Alvin looks so much like my dad at this age :-)

She can be sweet . . .

. . .Or sour!






 We had a gorgeously cool and overcast day.  All the animals were out.  We got to witness a Rhino fight, hear the Lions roar and watch a carnivorous bird eat a rat!


Alvin narrowly escaped being eaten by a dinosaur . . .


The Aldabra Tortoise is one of my favorite critters!

This is another one of my favorite critters!  

Dee was hoping I would let everyone know, he is hanging by one arm fairly high off the ground, suspended by a slender bamboo shoot.  I call him my Lemur.

Ana just soaked it all in.  She was an absolute angel all day.  Happy 7 Month Birthday, Ana-kins!

I just thought I was going to get a National Geographic shot
It is impossible to stay down for long with this crew.  I thank God for my sticky, overstimulated little blessings.  

It was a good day!

It will be a good tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wake Me When September Ends

I really do love September.

I think we covered that two posts ago . . .

I  guess that's why it's always a shock when I find myself unusually emotional come mid September of every year.

My heart remembers, even when my mind has done it's best to forget.

You would think that four years and two beautiful girls later, September 18th wouldn't be such a big deal.

You would think that I could count my blessings, stay positive and just live through the day like any other.

I certainly thought that.

And yet, every year I prove myself wrong.

It begins on September 11th.  A Day Of Remembrance.  The whole world remembers the terror, the loss of life, the heroes.  I remember a perfect day at the museum with my family.

And I remember the disconnect from one Saturday to the next.  When everything fell apart.  When I realized the path I must once more walk.  The path of loss and grief and recovery.

I'm still working on the recovery part.

What exactly is it that one recovers when you lose a baby?

There are no memories.  No pictures.  No trace that that particular life ever touched yours.

Just a date on the heart's calendar, circled in red, forever.

I sometimes feel ashamed that I no longer remember the other dates.  The days that the three other babies left me.  All I can recall is the approximate time of the month.

"Let's see, my first pregnancy test was positive on the 4th of July, so we must have lost Galen towards the end of July 2003. 

"I knew I was losing Kelly on Mother's Day 2004, so it was sometime in the middle of May. 

"We announced our next pregnancy at Cy's first birthday party, but we lost Aiden before Labor Day, so it had to have been the end of August 2006."

I feel like a bad mother for forgetting.

But the heart can only take so many remembrances like that throughout the year.  So, today becomes The Day. 

If only I could plan for it, maybe it wouldn't take me by surprise.  Maybe I wouldn't be crying at Taco Bell over one thing and realize with a jolt that it's really because tomorrow is the day I have dreaded all year.  That even though I have five lovely, darling children, they will never make up the deficit I won't admit to carrying.

I'm supposed to feel grateful.  And I am.

 I'm supposed to celebrate survival.  And I do.

Maybe the time has come to really circle the date.  Make plans for next year.  Not allow myself to be caught off guard again.

After waking to the gloom of a September shower, I decided to clear the schedule.  We did make it to music lessons at 10:30.  I looked like something the cat drug in.

 A rather melodramatic cat.

 The non musical kids dumped a box of shredded paper and strewed it through the teacher's house.


  Ana contributed to the mayhem by helpfully barfing in puddles, rolling in them and then rolling in the shredded paper. 

You might be wondering, why was there shredded paper in the house to begin with?  Well, our sweet teacher is the composed mother of a single toddler.  This toddler actually plays with the confetti without making a mess.  I didn't know that was even possible.  Neither did my kids.  Miss Rachel has privately sworn to keep the tactile paper put away when our crew arrives.

 On the way home I decided spur of the moment to pick up Little Caeser's, rent Mom's Night Out and call my sister, Joanna to come watch it with us.  School be hanged!

And so, the clouds cleared,  a glittering sun regained it's place in the azure sky.  The world slowly sets itself right.

That's the way it is with September.

Cy and Dee at the Philbrook Museum, Sep. 11, 2010


If you want to read Micah's Story or How God Blessed Me through it all, you can follow these links.  Just a warning, Micah's story is pretty intense.  I wrote it more as therapy for myself.  But if you think any of these posts helpful, please share.  There is a Fabook button at the bottom of each post. 

I love all of you!

Tomorrow will be a better day.

It always is.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Easy Peasy

Alvin at age 4


Today should be day 11 of our 2014-2015 school year.  It's kind of hard for my perfectionist self to admit that.  I still have niggling feelings of guilt over not finishing Shurley's English vol. 2 and Math U See Alpha from last year.  Let's not even mention Story of The World: Ancient History that we have been lost in for the past THREE years!!

 The blame rests squarely on my shoulders for that one.

  I loooove history.  It should be a crime to spend one bare week on The Seventeenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.  Nope, we must mummify a chicken (Imhotep, the celestial fowl rests in peace on a shelf in the garage), read at least 20 different picture books, watch The Ten Commandments while eating an authentic Egyptian meal complete with homemade flat bread and write out the spelling list in hieroglyphics.  This will take at least three months. 

It should also be a crime to skip from Ancient History straight to Columbus.  What about Erasmus?  What about Kubla Khan?  What about The Dark Ages??

It turns out Perfectionism, Guilt and Old Fashioned Competition are a really bad combination.

I do try hard not to compare, but surely I'm not the only homeschool mother who cringes when the school bus rumbles down the road at 7 in the morning and my kids are all sound asleep and I'm still in yoga pants?  I mean, shouldn't we all be up and fed and hitting the books because we are Awesome Homeschool People who breathe Latin verbs and eat the Periodic Table and finish the days lessons before noon and college before we can drive?

Then I shudder again when the bus returns everyone home at 3 pm because I am still in my yoga pants and the kids have yet to finish their Columbus Day word search and haven't had recess yet and the kitchen hasn't been touched all day and surely all those children on the bus will be met by mothers in heels and pearls with milk and freshly baked cookies on the table. 

Okay, maybe that was only in the fifties, I guess everyone today eats Pizza Rolls or Hot Pockets.

Anyways, there is no end to the ways I can feel guilt over something that is such an incredible privilege.  But, they are just lies from the enemy.  I'm not really in control of my children's destiny anyways.  How much better it would be if I submitted everything to prayer, proceeded to give thanks and went about my day in the freedom of Grace.

 The freedom to not compare or try to keep up with the Joneses or the Joneses charter school. 

The freedom to change as the Spirit directs.

 The freedom to trust the future to God's direction.

 The freedom to chunk ol' Shurley and lovingly put away The (Never Ending) Story Of The World.

And so, I am stepping out in faith and trying something that up until a few months ago I utterly scoffed at:

School on the COMPUTER!.

Cue ominous music...

I didn't want to even consider online school for the following reasons:

1. I want less screen time for my children, not more.

2. Video games for math is cheating.  Thomas Jefferson didn't do it.

3. It couldn't possibly fit in with my Charlotte Mason fantasies.

4.  It might be expensive.

5.  It's MY computer and I don't want to share, doggone it!

Here is what changed my mind:

1. Ana.  'Nuff said.

2. I am lacking direction, daily planning is not my forte.  It is waaay to easy for me to get distracted and go overboard on one subject whilst completely ignoring another.

3. Lack of funds to just go buy curriculum.

4. Lack of patience to track down affordable, used curriculum that all fits together.

5.  A good Facebook friend posted a link to Easy Peasy, All In One Homeschool.

6. It rocked my world!

Easy Peasy is completely free.  180 lessons for every grade.  Every subject covered.

 We even get to use McGuffey readers!  Thomas Jefferson would approve. 

Even though he didn't actually use them.

 Because they were written about a hundred years later. 

But I digress . . .

We are having a blast so far!  I can breathe.  No need to cower from the condemning yellow bus trundling by.  I have a point by point plan that I can check off and rest afterwards, knowing that we are good for the day.

And for me, that is priceless!

P.S.  I will try to post a few pictures of recent projects and a sample of what our day looks like sometime this weekend.  Right now it's Time For School!  See ya later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

End Of Summer, Beginning Of School

Just a report from the trenches . . .

It seems like it was just two weeks ago we were soaking up the lazy, hazy days of summer.  Swimming, camping out in the back yard, Vacation Bible School, celebrating the boys collective birthdays with a sleepover.  And then BAM!  All of a sudden we are officially Back To School and the kids are still scratching their heads, wondering what in the world just happened?  Me too, for that matter.

 I have to confess, though, I love the change of seasons.  All the seasons.  There is something magical about the gradual loosening of Winter's icy grip, the softening of the air, the redbuds, uh, well, budding.

 I live for the first really hot day.  The first day we can go swimming, the first lighting bug flash, the first cicada whirr, the first ripe tomato.  I love to  lay out on a blanket and soak in the rays and listen to the cacophony of Summer. 

I know that Winter will be solemnly quiet by comparison. But before the austerity of January is the cheery-ness of December and the Thankfulness of November. 

September is Summer's farewell and Autumn's promise. 

We don't start to cool off until October, typically.  The leaves change at the tail end of October.  But September will give us tantalizing glimpses of pumpkin pie weather.  My Russell Stover Carmel Apple will be melting in the heat.  I will sweat through a Pumpkin Spice Cappucino from Quick Trip.

 Our pencils will be sharp, erasers un-chewed and crayons unbroken, whole and neatly stacked in crisp yellow boxes.

Okay, that last sentence was so like, last week, you know.

 
The Avengers or The Village People?






See this picture?  There are several remarkable things about it.  First of all, it is the first picture I have ever posted.  Yay, me!!  Second, it proves that my kids did have a fun party at the end of Summer.  Third, my house is well protected, as you can see.  Fourth, as of the time of this photo all crayons were pristine.  That ended on the first day of school, three days later.

Alvin, Dee and Cy
I guess I should say something about this party.  I am not a big plan-it-out-party sort of gal.  I prefer to be spontaneous, practical, unique and a little on the cheap frugal side.  Last year we had an identical party.  I was pregnant, but it didn't seem to slow me down.  I allowed a troop of about 10 boys into my kitchen to top their own homemade pizzas.  I was totally cool and not stressed one bit. 

This year we had Little Caeser's. 

That Sherry bought and delivered.

I stressed over it for a week.

It looks like real life has finally caught up with me.

Just before our guests arrived, Robert very thoughtfully mowed the yard for me.  Then all the kids jumped into the wading pool.  Then they climbed out, then jumped back in, then climbed out and dripped their way into the house.  It could have been a Dr Suess lyric, "Big feet, wet feet, here come furry grass feet."

After our pizza feast, we had a costume contest.

Elle is practicing being a flower girl for her Uncle's upcoming wedding.


Cy and Dee opened their gifts.  Lots and lots of weapons!



Me and Ana
At ten o'clock the party moved out to the tent.  I slithered out behind the tent, utilizing my "Don't Let The Baby See Me While I Put Away The Laundry During Naptime" commando crawl and eavesdropped on the ghost stories.

At 11:15 Rob came inside.  He figured the boys would be right behind him, just as soon as the coyotes commenced to howling.

At 11:30 the whole troop came crashing in jubilantly: "It's dawn!! It's dawn!! We made it through the whole night!!"

Sigh . . .

 I will draw a merciful curtain over ensuing scenes.  Suffice it to say one movie, five hours and countless warnings later they all moved back outside to crash for the scant hour before the true dawn.

They truly squeezed out every last drop of fun.  Isn't that what Summer is all about?

But, Back To School must happen eventually.

Going to sleep must happen eventually too, so I will segue into the next post with the grace of a one legged duck.  Maybe tomorrow we can talk about School Year 2014.  It has been really different this year.  And I like it.  I like it a lot!

Good night.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thank You

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful."  Colossians 3:15

All weekend I kept thinking, I really need to say thank you. 

There are so many wonderful people in my life, friends and family who love me so much.  It will be difficult to properly acknowledge every blessing.  But, I will try.

And this is just for this weekend!

First of all, I want to thank all of my praying readers.  Thank you for sharing comments and links, encouragement and your own experiences. Ever since my last post went "viral"  ( defined by exceeding 100 page views.  Matt Walsh, I am not. )  I have had a great sense of peace.  I know there were, and still are, many people praying for me.  And I thank you all.  Never discount the power of prayer.  The tiniest old lady, bedridden by a stroke, unable to communicate to the world around her, could very well be the mightiest prayer warrior in the Kingdom .  Prayer really does change things!  

My husband has seen me at my kicking and screaming worst, and he still loves me!  Thank you, Rob. You have been there through the very best of times and the very worst of times.  Thank you for frying chicken and making ice cream when I refused to because the mess paralyzed me.  Thank you for cleaning the kitchen on the nights when I hid in the closet.  And thank you even more for teaching our boys how to clean the kitchen.  I absolutely do not have the nerves to teach that myself, right now.  It ranks up there with On The Job Bomb Defusing Training.  I'm just not brave enough.  You are my hero.

My mom is an amazing lady.  We've been through a lot together.  She has always been there for me.  Not easy, when she is the hub of a large family.  But I know I can count on her.  She has been there for the birth of each baby.  She let me move in when Rob had to go to New York for a summer.  She dropped everything and drove four hours to the Panhandle once, because I was homesick.  Thank you so much, mom.  I am continuously learning from you.  And now I know why you took such long showers when we were kids!

One of these days, Susan and I will be on top of the world at the same time.  Then, watch out world!  We will be unstoppable.  But until then, we sort of ride this see-saw together.  The one that is up encourages the one that is down.  Meeting with the Body of believers Wednesday night left me so encouraged.  Thursday body slammed me.  On Friday I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  I have these mysterious fevers.  It's different than being sick.  Tylenol doesn't really help.  The more depressed or the more advanced I am in PMS, the higher it usually is.  On the months when I am doing well, I don't have it at all.  On Friday it was consistently at 100.  Susan came over and literally put me to bed.  She pried the shoes off my feet.  (I wear bright fuschia tennis shoes, all day, every day, from dawn to dusk.  I don't take them off until I collapse)  She fixed lunch and guarded my bed room door.  She vacuumed and washed the dishes.  She put all the kids down for a nap.  Thank you so much, Susan.  Without that rest, there is no way I could have possibly made it through this weekend.

 Robert needed solitude in order to prepare for preaching, Sunday night.  I literally spent the entire weekend away from home with all the kids.  That could have been a disaster.  But, thanks to Amanda and Sherry, it was a blessing.

Operation Solitude began at 1900, Friday night.  Since I had spent most the day in bed, I was able to lace my trusty tennies securely to my feet and carry on.  After a speedy dinner of Little Caesar's pizza, (thank you, Rob!) I loaded up the troops and headed to the local theater.  Cy had only three requests for his birthday, celebrated earlier in the week.  1. Steak  2. Rush Revere and The First Patriots on Audiobook and 3. To see Dinesh D'Souza's film, America.  He is my All-American!  I couldn't help but catch the kids excitement.  They were going to see a MOVIE!  In a THEATER!!!!  This is a rare treat indeed.  I was actually smiling by the time we marched up to the ticket counter.  

"We would like to see America," as I adjusted the baby on my hip.  The lady looked up, startled.  "You do know that this is a documentary?" in what can only be described as a cynical whine. 
"Oh yes, the kids are so excited to see this!" as I hastily searched for the little dears. 
They were playing hide and seek behind the singing Annie poster. 
"They are?  Okaaay . . ."

Well, Cynical Cynthia notwithstanding, I am pleased to report that we all had a marvelous time.  Cy declared that this was the best movie he had ever seen in the theater.  Better than the LEGO movie.  For real!  Everyone should see this movie.  And so, I want to thank our troops, border patrol, police and firefighters, freedom lovers all over our great land.  Thank you for serving us day in and day out.  Even when most of us aren't as grateful as we should be.  I am thankful for our Founding Fathers and our Founding Documents.  I am thankful for our Providential history.  The hand of God has brought us through many toils and dangers and snares.  And now, as the world is on the brink of madness and an evil that has not had it's equal for several generations, I hope and pray that God will bring a revival of Biblical proportions to our land. 

Saturday morning came way too early, but Operation Solitude was still in effect and the boys had violin lessons at 0900.  I would like to stop here and thank my wonderful father-in-law, Ron.  He is providing the boys with violin lessons.  They are loving it.  And I am loving watching this camaraderie and love of music spring up between the boys and their grandpa.  Ron has also insisted I use some of the music funds to do something for myself.  Something like hire cleaning help.  Bless you, Sugar Daddy!  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sweet Miss Amanda met me before lessons to take Alvin and Elle and Ana off my hands.  Blessed relief!  I got to spend the morning with just my two oldest sons.  We made some special memories.  At this beginners class all the kids sat in a circle and introduced themselves.  Dee was very forthright, stating his name, age and favorite hobby of climbing trees.  Cy started off by saying he was the big brother to "five, no four, no it's three brothers, well, actually two brothers and two sisters.  And boy is it hard to keep track of them all!"  Bless your heart, little man.  When we went to the Philbrook Art Museum afterwards, he practically skipped across the parking lot, so relieved that he didn't have to hold anyone's hand.  Thank you, Cy for taking care of your family.  Only nine, but so dependable.  You bless me every day with your sweet spirit, love for the Lord and love for everyone around you.

After a while, Amanda called me to advise Ana, aka Stinker Bell, positively refused to eat from a bottle.  She bought a special bottle that promised to satisfy finicky breastfed babies.  She tried feeding her with a blanket over her head, all to none avail.  So, I headed towards Catoosa.  I was at a stoplight when my engine's temperature gage dinged.  My van was overheating.  Thankfully, I was right at a Utica Square, a trendy shopping center.  I pulled in front of a cute little sandwich shop and waited ten minutes for the engine to cool off.  I have put coolant in my engine many times, but I'm always terrified a little concerned that the whole thing might explode in my face.  So, I opened the hood and stood there, looking rather fragile and helpless.  Sure enough a kind man with his wife instantly materialized to offer assistance.  Thank you so much, random stranger.  And thank you to all you men out there who do the same.  Feminists might protest, but deep down, they really are grateful.

Back in the saddle, I arrive at Amanda's house and retrieve my little girl who missed me so much.  She snuggled her little head under my chin and wrapped her dimpled arms around my neck.  Thank you, Ana for making me feel needed.  Sure, it would be nice to be able to leave you with a friend every once in a while.  But, at least I know I'm not easily replaced.  We all need to be assured of that sometimes.

Amanda offered us lunch,
Which I gratefully accepted,
She started a movie.
Which I gratefully accepted,
She started the sequel,
Which I gratefully accepted.
She invited Robert to join us for supper,
Which he gratefully accepted.

Thank you, Amanda for serving us in such a practical way, all day long.  And even the next day she took Ana once again so that I could go to WalMart in between church services.  If I am tired today, I know she must be twice as tired.

I also must thank our Pastor's wife, Miss Sherry.  She single handedly kept the crime rate of Coweta from rising, yesterday.  If I had taken my other four hot, sticky, tired, overstimulated children into a crowded WalMart, full of Back To School Panicked Shoppers . . . Well, let's just say there is no way to know what sort of headlines were avoided in this morning's paper.  But beyond that, Sherry has been there for me, much like my mom, more like my sister, always my friend.  She has given far more than I could ever repay.  In twenty minutes, I will take my children back to her house while I go to the doctor to see what might be going on with me.  This is supposed to be the Pastor's Family Day.  Thank you, Sherry for your unconditional love and for teaching me how to minister to others by ministering tirelessly to me.

 While I'm at it, I would like to thank the others who have blessed me by loving and caring for my children.  This is just huge!  Such a ministry, you have no idea.  My sister, Joanna.  Miss Velma, Jeana, Amy and Lisa, Brenda and Linzi.  You gals are awesome!

I want to thank my Pastor, Brother J.C.  His love for Christ and His sheep is apparent every single day.

And there is yet my brothers, aunts and uncles, childhood friends, Facebook friends.  Thank you everyone for being a part of my life.  I love you all.

God is so good to place us in a network of friends and family.  Most amazing is the way my church has circled around me.  We can't do this alone.  If you do not have a home church to be committed to, please, pray about this.  Find a church that preaches the whole counsel of the Word of God and is strong in the love of Christ.  It is not enough to warm a pew.  We all need a place where we can love and be loved, serve and be served, feed and be fed.

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now." Philippians 1:3-5

I will try to update when I have a better picture of what might be going on with my health and the steps I will take to remedy it.  Thank you again for your continued prayers.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams, Charles Spurgeon and Me

I can't sleep.

Thoughts are tumbling through my head, one after another.  I have been aching to write. Something, anything!  But the words wouldn't come.  Then there were the headlines.  The blog posts.  The Facebook wars.  A kind and noble man was dead and we were all taken aback.  Scrambling to make sense of it.

It is frightening, really.  Michael Jackson's death took no one by surprise.  We saw that train wreck looming for years.  Stars often drink and drug themselves to death.  But Robin Williams seemed different.  I don't think anyone saw this coming. 

And it's scary. 

Could that happen to me?

I am not going to even try to give any answers.

I certainly am not going to condemn.

I just want to talk.

"The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy." Proverbs 14:10

I have been bouncing all over the emotional spectrum these past six months.  There is finally a discernable pattern to it.  It is definitely related to my hormonal cycles.  That doesn't make it any easier to handle. 

Last night I took several "depression quizzes".  Me and half of America.  I think everyone needs a little bit of validation, something tangible to tell us what we are experiencing is not without precedent.  That others before us have felt the same way. That there is a name for this.  A treatment, or cure, or some sort of protocol.

One of the results suggested I was highly bi-polar.  It's called PMS, honey . . .

Another said I was at risk for Seasonal Affectedness Disorder.  I sat outside in the sunlight today. 

What surprised me most was the tell-tale symptoms of PTSD are still showing up without me being cognizant of it.  I really thought I was over that.  Maybe I'm not, after all.

But internet quizzes are no substitute for a doctor's evaluation.  I had to click the disclaimer button stating such for every quiz I took.  The problem is, I'm afraid to talk to a doctor.  I don't trust anti-depressants.  I don't believe that it can all be explained away by a "chemical imbalance"  I have read enough to know that the chemical imbalance theory is just that, a theory.  I have also read enough to know that some people do become suicidal after taking Prozac.  That the pharmaceutical companies are dishonest.  That we are being poisoned everyday with toxic food, water and drugs and our home enviroment.  Sometimes, I think I read too much.  If you need any disillusioning reading material, I would highly recommend" Let Them Eat Prozac" and "The Emperor's New Drugs".

There is nothing new under the sun.  Depression of spirits is as old as sin.  What could be more depressing than living in a sin cursed world?  I can only think of one thing worse.  What if I had a taste of Paradise first and then had to deal with a murdered son, a murdering son fleeing for his life, thorns and sweat and blood and tears and hangnails, constipation and fig leaves for toilet paper.  Poor Adam and Eve!  They looked forward with earnest expectation to the advent of their Deliverer. 

And so do we. 

"But I would not have you to be ignorant brethren . . . that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." 1Thessalonians 4:13  This verse, often quoted at funerals, is primarily speaking of the believer's hope in Christ for a resurrection.  But I think it can be applied to all of life.  Living hurts.  But we have hope.  We die daily so that the life we live is not our own, but Christ living in us, the hope of glory.  Galatians 2:20  Colossians 1:27

 It is not by coincidence that I am re-reading "Bright Days, Dark Nights:With Charles Spurgeon in Triumph Over Emotional Pain" by Elizabeth Skoglund.  Such an important and needful book.  You can get it on your Kindle or from Amazon.  So worth reading.  Most people know that Charles Spurgeon suffered great depression though out his entire life.  It was debilhitating.  But oh my, how God used him be able to come alongside and pull up those suffering with him.  Even today he offers such wisdom and encouragement.  Encouragement that comes only with the experience that resulted in patience and hope.  There's that word again.  "Whispering hope, how welcome thy voice, making the heart in it's sorrow rejoice."

Brother Spurgeon wrote: "Excess of joy or excitement must be paid for by subsequent depressions.  While the trial lasts, the strength is equal to the emergency; but when it is over, natural weakness claims the right to show itself "

Yep.

I read this on my phone.  It so moved me that not only did I highlight it, I wrote my own note next to it. "This explains why I became depressed after surviving Elle's birth.  All the previous periods of grief and upheaval, coming from repeated loss of unborn children, loss of jobs and security, loss of my dad, all came crashing down on me at once.  What had been survived, but never properly grieved, finally asserted itself.  I am still dealing with the fallout.  Even though Ana's birth was a tremendous deliverance, there was a tremendous let down afterwards."

Holy Carpal Tunnel, Batman!  I can't believe I texted that whole thing . . .  I really need to write more often.

So, in closing I guess what I really wanted to say is:
 Depression hurts.
 But there is hope.
 Digging out is not easy.
 But there is hope.
 More people suffer from it than you can imagine. 
But there is hope. 

That hope is Jesus Christ.

 He did not die to make us happy.
  He died to make us sons and heirs.
 He died to conform us to His image, a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief.
 He has a purpose for putting me here in this place at this time.

 There is something He wants me to learn.

 Maybe it is that His grace is sufficient for me.

 Maybe it is so I will have experience in order to hold out hope to someone else. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Just Let It Go Already!

Strains of "Let It Go" have been swirling through my thoughts this past month.  I am sure that at least half the planet's population has been similarly afflicted.  There is something about that song that speaks to us.  Powerfully.  In some cases, even against our wills.

Before I saw the movie, Frozen, I was puzzled by this phenomena. 

I guess the first I heard of it was when my brother-in-law took my two oldest boys to see it when their little sister was born.  They were bitterly disappointed.  Evidently all three of them assumed it was going to be an Ice Age movie. 

Oh, the agony of disillusionment!

And yet, when given the opportunity to watch it again at a friend's house, they were delighted!  Thrilled, even.  They sang along with it . . .

How did they even know the words?

Well, on their way to church camp, both vans had a copy of the soundtrack, purchased by a 23 year old male, (who shall remain nameless) and sung anywhere between 7 and 70 times.  (My three witnesses have been debating the exact number.  I think they settled on an average of 18 total.)

If you are depressed with the world news and the direction our country is headed, just watch this video of our proud and brave U. S. Marines singing along with Elsa.  It might make you feel better.  Or maybe terrified.  Let me know how it affects you.  It made me proud though.  The kid in the center is the spitting image of my little brother.  These are the guys on the front lines, defending Justice, Freedom and The American Way.  They are just kids.  And they sing along with Disney Princess movies.   God bless every one of them!

Anyways, this is just one example of the two and a quarter million You Tube videos relating to this song.  I couldn't believe that number.  People, we are seriously obsessed!

It is a well established fact around here that my family is too cheap to go to the movie theater.  Which means if I want to see the latest and greatest hit movies, I have to wait 8 months for it to come out in the library.  But that's okay.  I'm totally cool with that.  I was number 267 on our library's waiting list for Frozen.  It just arrived on my hold shelf last week.  But, thanks to my awesome friend, Susan, I got to see it at her house last month. 

And now I get it.

 The song makes sense.  

Really, it blew me away.  I was mesmerized by the intensity of color, music, feeling and good ol' Disney magic.  All of a sudden, it became my song.

Here is my theory on why Let It Go speaks so powerfully to all of us, whether we want to admit it or not:

Every single one of us are created in God's image.  That means (among other things) we are creative.  For years I argued with my Grandma that I was not creative or talented in anything. 

Guess what? 

I was wrong. 

Just because I can't paint, like she does, or sew like my other Grandma does not mean I am not talented.  Thanks to my Grandma Joan, I discovered as a teenager that I enjoyed writing and playing the piano.  When I married, I let both of those "hobbies" lapse.  Every now and then I would get an urge to sit down at the piano.  Sometimes my inner storm would erupt and the only way I could make sense of things again was to take up my pen.  But mostly these promptings were stifled, pushed down, concealed. 

I didn't have time. 

It wasn't as important as taking care of my family. 

I was afraid of failure. 

The excuses rolled on.  But last year came a sort of watershed moment for me.  Almost simultaneously, my music and my written thoughts found a way out.  I started piano lessons and this blog in the same month.  For the first time in forever (another great Frozen song!) I felt like had found a large chunk of myself that had been AWOL. 

And it felt good.  

It was right.

 I hope to never let these outlets of expression languish into oblivion again.  God gave me these gifts.  He wants me to use them for His glory, my enjoyment and the enrichment of others. 

I find it interesting that Elsa's ice powers are more the expression of what she feels with her heart than a thought out response.  When threatened, her ice is a barrier, sharp and defensive.  When finding release, it is joyful, beautiful, triumphant, but yet cold.  When moved by love, it is warm and thoughtful, serving others. 

What hidden talents do you keep tamped way down inside? 

You aren't creative, you say?  Maybe you need to look again. 

I am not good at taking a blank anything and creating something from basically nothing, per se.  I am not a Novelist, creating people and realms straight out of my imagination.  Rather, I prefer to take something that is already there and craft it to suit my purposes.  That is why I write personal experience stories and devotionals and recipes.  The raw materials are already there.  Whatever you do, don't send me to the store to purchase everything new to make over a room.  I can't do it.  But, lock me in a room full of shabby and eclectic  Goodwill furnishings and I can make it a work of art.  Give me the notes, and I will make it my music. 

What makes your heart sing?  What can you do to feed your soul while feeding others at the same time?

 I have such talented friends.  I think of Christy at Sooner Sugar.  She has a gift!   She comes from a family of extrordinarily gifted ladies.  I'm in awe of all of them.

  I dearly love Miss Susan at Grace To Thailand.  She is using all of her Pastor's Wife Super Powers to create a lovely home for abused and orphaned children.  But besides these, she is a gifted author who is now using her skills to keep supporting churches apprised of the best way to pray for these precious souls they are serving.

  Renee at Little Earthling Photography and A Baker's Dozen is changing the world, one photograph, one blog post at a time.  Not only is she the mother of 14, she has such a tremendous heart for the babies and mamas of special needs families.  Her photography is beautiful, dignified, heart rending and heart healing.

 Mrs, Gore  has the most amazing and thoughtful birthday party ideas.  I truly admire her gift of making memorable occasions.

 We may not all be able to do our thing, whatever that might be, in a professional way, but we can do it like no one else can.  And it makes all the difference in the world to those around us.  If you need any ideas to get started, may I recommend another one of my "life changing" books?  The Hidden Art of Homemaking; Creative Ideas For Enriching Everyday Life by Edith Schaeffer.  You will be thoroughly challenged and  refreshed.

One last link, for all of you who now can't get Let It Go out of your head, here is a version that is not only side splitting funny, but lump-in-your-throat poignant: Let It Go Mom Parody

Let's Let It Go today!