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Raising Five



A Christian woman, wife and chaos manager for five kids from elementary to college.



Updated: 2018-01-15T10:51:19.110-06:00

 



Checking in

2013-10-30T12:24:39.066-05:00

Had an unexpected day at home today so I thought I'd pay a visit to the ol' blog.  Life is clipping along here at the Raising Five house. Allie (20 - eek!!) is getting married in May. She met her man because her original plan to move off to Africa for a year fell through, and she found herself disappointed and "stuck" at home going to community college last fall.  When she called me from speech class and told me about this sold-out-for-Christ guy who sang Amazing Grace as part of his speech, we knew that Caleb was someone special, and - holy cow - did God sovereignly change the direction of her life in order for them to meet, or what?  What do I know about planning weddings?  Nothing.  But I suppose I will be an expert after planning four of them.  Any tips welcome. Seriously.Neal (18) graduated in June and is commuting to college this year. I feel so amazingly blessed to have the gift of an extra year with this young man at home.  I think he realizes he's got it pretty darn good, too.Libby (15) is a sophomore and keeps a dizzying schedule of sports and school stuff.  We've talked a lot about balance this year, and OH how I cannot wait for this child to drive!  When I see this, though, I realize she's got the most important priority straight. Annie (12) is navigating the up-again, down-again world of 6th grade, finding her way as the cliques form and she figures out who is a "heart" friend.  Hard to tell a middle schooler that she may only have one or two of these in her entire lifetime, and that she might not meet some of them until adulthood.  It makes for some good talks, though, usually well past bedtime.  She went on her first mission trip this summer and loved the hanging out with the preschoolers. Ruthie (9) continues to be the sparkle that keeps things from getting boring around here (as if that were possible). She taught herself how to do a back-handspring this fall, and though I'm still holding out, I foresee some sort of cheerleading in our distant future.  One out of four...not bad.  Here she is with her best friend on the mission trip.  No matter that they didn't speak the same language.I resurrected my old ICU skills this summer, surprised that not much had changed since I last did it 12 years ago.  So I'm working a couple days a month in the hospital, and part-time at the college.  Loving having a little breathing room to get the dishes done occasionally (note I did NOT say getting the laundry done!). Loving that man more every day.  Taking a class a semester toward my master's and working in the yard in between all the wedding planning and comings and goings around here, and cheering on my sister Rachel Anne in her book endeavor!  Whew!  Life is busy, far from perfect, but good. So what's new with you?[...]



Now, where was I?

2012-06-26T13:27:49.443-05:00

Whew!  Has it really been an entire school year since I last posted?  Where has all the time gone?Well, I'll tell you.1.  Senior-itis.  Having a senior is, well, amazing.  I know I'll feel this way with all the others, but somehow watching your oldest go from being a self-centered child to a self-giving young adult in 18 years is nothing short of breathtaking.  After weeks of parties, bonfires, and hanging out until the wee hours with friends, she's all ready to go to off to college.  At this moment she's on another mission trip to South Africa.  I could not be more humbled that God saw fit to let me - impatient and imperfect - be her mother.  Behold the Lord's handiwork.2. Work-itis.  I resigned my school nurse job at the end of this school year.   I do believe God miraculously used this job three years ago (has it been that long?!) to provide for our family at a time when we needed it most, and I am thankful.  I worked with an amazing group of believers, and I love my little patients, but - being the one-ring-circus girl that I am - I needed to regain my sanity make a change. This fall I will be working a couple of days a week teaching a class at the community college, and probably doing some home care.  3.  The Rest of Life.  Right now I feel a little scattered, going from 100 miles an hour to almost zero in a matter of weeks.  Where do I start?   I am plugging away at finding which way is up, cleaning closets and going through papers that have piled up over the last three years, while driving kids to sports camps, doctor appointments, and trying to keep everyone fed with anything but Ramen and Mac N Cheese. I think I say this every summer, but this one especially, since I will have another senior next year (great family planning, I know!).  I will have kids in FOUR schools (if you count college) next year.  This last year I had more than my share of "oopses" - missed dental appointments, games, bills, etc., etc., etc.  If I were ever proud of being organized, the sheer number of things to remember (or forget, as the case may be) has kept me humbly begging forgiveness.  A lot. 4.  Pondering.  I am blessed.  Sometimes I forget that.  This new season of life is crazy-busy in a way that's different from the last one.  Remember how it feels when your toddler is  this close to being potty trained?  You know it's coming, and every now and then you get little (dry) glimpses of what your life will be like diaper-free.Well, that is what it is like having three teens, a pre-teen and an eight-year-old in the house.  Sometimes they are all getting along, telling each other how much they love each other, and I think, "Wow, this is awesome!  I must be such a great parent!" And then the next minute they are arguing over who gets the last of the Cocoa Krispies, or whose turn it is on the computer, or do you really need a logical reason to argue? And the next thing you know, someone is running crying out of the room.  It is exhilarating and frustrating and wonderful and irritating and deflating all at the same time.  It keeps me focused on Jesus, not my ability to do it all right.  I keep loving them and trusting Him, Who knows the end from the beginning, and whose children they are in the first place.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.2 Timothy 2:13[...]



Sanity savers

2011-10-07T22:12:13.674-05:00

As usual, the first few weeks of school have been a whirlwind of craziness.But they could have been so much worse. I decided before school started that I needed to change the way we do some things around here.The first thing I decided was that I needed cleaning help. The big kids are busy, I'm working, our evenings are precious, and our Saturdays are usually full. Everyone keeps their stuff somewhat contained...but the filth! The last thing I want to do on Sunday afternoon is mop my kitchen floor.But how to pay for it - you know, guilt free?This line of thinking got me started on a budget-cutting frenzy. Last spring discovered my new budget love, YNAB ("You Need a Budget"), or what I call Budgeting for The Rest of Us.Yes, I have used all the fancy money management programs at one point or another over the years, most of which are for people with MBAs, a personal accountant and/or nothing but time. I'd get to about April, get discouraged at the upkeep, and give up. With YNAB, I can download my bank statement and know exactly how much I can spend at any given moment. Did I mention I LOVE THIS PROGRAM? Total sanity saver.We had already cut almost everything remotely frivolous during our Austerity Year. But our biggest line item for a family of seven remains, aside from our house payment, no surprise: our grocery bill.I started googling, and was very frustrated. I read about people who feed their large families on $300 a month, but I just don't see how this is possible, unless you (1) eat beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner; (2)spend every waking moment cutting coupons; or (3)make daily runs to sales at stores which are not available here in Small Town.I eventually ended up at my Got-to-Get-Frugal go-to guy, Dave Ramsey. I was not looking for it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a link to what became my second sanity saver: e-mealz.com.In less complicated times in my life, I had a brain cell left at the end of the day to make a menu plan for the week, and maybe even manage to come up with dinner. But lately I could not even pull it together to put Ragu over the noodles. I. am. not. kidding.We've been using e-mealz for almost 3 months now. Each week I download my family's menu and the complete grocery list. Even side dishes. Each week's menu includes seven dinners - we usually pick 4-6 that sound good. Then, my wonderful husband goes to the store and buys everything on the list.Then, at dinnertime, I cook. I do not think. I do not argue with those who do not want to eat what's on the menu. I follow the plan. I do not deviate. At all.Not only has it saved us money (I'm not throwing away food that rotted because I didn't have a plan for what to do with it), did you catch that? I cook!We're eating better - fewer snacks made by older, impatient kids, because they know Mom is going to make something amazing like Pork Chops Marsala (last night), a feat I would never have attempted - especially not on a weeknight - if I had to come up with it on my own.We're trying new things. We're eating out less.And, well, if you ever wonder if the way to a man's heart really is through his stomach, let me assure you: it is.So...Monday I finally got my wish: Professional house cleaners came and cleaned my house from top to bottom. They will be coming regularly.I don't think we will ever get to a $300/month grocery bill. But I've saved enough to make room in the budget for some sanity.And I don't feel guilty at all.[...]



The beginning of an end

2011-09-16T22:45:51.281-05:00

This year I made all the kids stand in front of the house for a first day of school pic. The last few years it's just been either the two youngest, or sometimes the three youngest girls, since the kids are spread out at 3 different schools, all with different start times. Which means there's no way everyone's hair is ever going to be "ready" at the same time, not to mention the inevitable cries of, "Mom, I'm not in kindergarten!"

At first, the older ones did not want to join the photo op. "I don't have time!" (What? You've had all summer to get ready, what are you talking about?!)...

Until I reminded them: "This is the last time I get to take a pic of all five of you on the first day of school."

Yep, Allie, now 18, is a senior. I thought I would be so excited, and I am. We are looking at colleges and making plans for the time (How can it be this soon?), when she leaves home.

But I've also been shocked at what an emotional basket case I've turned into. I did not expect it to hit me so hard. It seems like we're just getting to the good part. Allie is somehow turning out to be this amazing young woman, in spite of being our firstborn "guinea pig." The other kids are growing up, and we are enjoying them so much. The craziness that has defined our family - something I've come to love at the same time it's made me insane - is about to change. I want to hold on - savor the moment - just a little bit longer.

The kids eventually all gathered on the porch and then lined up obediently, even acted like they liked each other, and smiled.

My heart is bursting! Don't cry, don't cry! It's the first day of school!

Then of course (in typical Raising Five family style) the battery on the camera was dead [Heaving sighs here as I look for another camera. Also dead.].

Now I am asking who has a phone I can use.

So I am stuck with a camera phone picture to remember this moment in time...(image) It's a little blurry, but I suppose that's how I will always remember it, looking through my tears.



****
Here's the post about when our oldest became a teen.
And when I realized our middle child was growing up.
And when our youngest was finally out of diapers, and was the last preschooler.
And the end of the parenting honeymoon.(image)



Resurrection of an old friend

2011-08-07T19:41:27.549-05:00

Every year about this time I start panicking looking at how I can make things go more smoothly at the Raising Five house.

Yes, the kids are getting older and more capable. The older 3 can all babysit, cook a meal, do their own laundry, and generally get things done when I need them to.

But they are also busier. Neal-16 is working 20-30 hours a week (will be 12-15 in the fall); Allie-17 is babysitting a lot. Libby-13 will have volleyball and lots of student council activities this fall.

So I looked up one day and realized my younger two (7 and 10) were living a splendid life of leisure. Yes, they did their own self-care, kept up with their rooms, were (generally) helpful when I asked them to do something.

But when it came to regular chores (meaning, the ones for the benefit of the family), I was still counting on the older ones too much. When the big kids were gone (which was ALL THE TIME!!), instead of regularly assigning a younger child, guess who ended up taking up the slack?? ACK.

Yep, I said I would never do it, but I had neglected to bring the younger ones into the chore rotation.

So last week I decided to resurrect the Chore Rotation that served our family faithfully during the elementary years. It sort of fell by the wayside the last 2-3 years when our schedule went crazy. All my "helpers" were home at different times and I thought I would just be frustrated making assignments that wouldn't ever get done. I was mostly relying on my Chore Clips, which are awesome, but at our house, those work best for "non-regular" chores, like organizing a drawer and "by the way, get your shoes out of the living room."

Here's how it looked then (3 weeks of rotation for 3 kids, ages starting around 6-10).

(image)
Now that they are 7 to 17, I decided to give each person a "chore buddy" for most things that absolutely must get done every day - feeding the pets, unloading the dishwasher, etc. That way they can work out sharing the job based on who's going to be home. My goal is really to have the younger two take the biggest load, since they are home the most, and they are the most cheerful workers.

Now our rotation is five weeks for five kids. Here's Week 5. My older kitchen helpers are going to be assigned one night to make dinner. I'm pretty pumped about that.(image) I can't fit it on a 4x6 card anymore (rats!). I printed the 5 weeks on 5 pages and put them in page protectors on the fridge. We rotate on Sundays.

The kids have been surprisingly enthusiastic about this, probably because they like to know what's coming, and hate it when it appears that I "nag." Who me?

I'm also working on budgets, projects and menus - more on that later...

(image)



It sounded like a good idea at the time

2011-07-23T18:48:25.633-05:00

You know you're a mom when the biggest item on your summer to-do list is getting kids' tonsils out.

This month we put a (hopefully) final end to two years of recurrent throat problems. Annie-10 and Allie-17 had back-to back tonsillectomies on July 1, with full rein of the surgery center's "suite." Ruthie-7 kept us all company.


(image) The first few days were pretty rough (note the smoothie next to the Lortab Elixir, both of which were administered around the clock).(image) But I have to admit - once the bad part was over and they just wanted to sleep all the time - I enjoyed everyone being HOME, rather than the continuous Sleepover City, which is our usual summer existence. We had lots of guitar playing (this was purely for the photo shoot, since it's been over 100 degrees ALL SUMMER. Ack). (image)
Allie-17, too impatient and creative to follow a pattern, made a cute bag on my ancient sewing machine.(image) Ruthie-7 took lots of pictures, but what's new?(image) Neal-16 has a full-time job as a cart boy at our local golf course, which is why I can't seem to get a picture of him..(



And - because I start work in a few weeks and it's now or never - we finally got our house on the market. I am hoping that since we bought it when it looked like this:



(image) someone will want to buy it now that it looks like this...


(image) The original idea was to stay in this house 2 years, fix it up, and then sell, but then, well, things didn't exactly go according to plan. Or at least not according to my plan. I'm hoping this time around I can be content with His plan, not mine.


Next month: wisdom teeth.
(image)



Graduated thoughts

2011-05-14T10:23:28.956-05:00

I think I say this every year: It's been a crazy year.

I finished my bachelor's degree this week.* Just completed the last of six classes I've needed - for the past 19 years!

This last one was by far the hardest, because it was a five-hour class in five of the busiest weeks of the kids' school year, which, as you may recall, is also my work year. We've been walking over mountains of laundry, dust, and papers that have been stacking up and driving me crazy.

So today's the day I am trying to figure out what's what.

I've thought a lot about working and education and motherhood over the last two years since I found myself in such uncharted territory. A lot of it I still can't put into words, but maybe some day.

Mostly the last year reminded me - in yet another way - that God is good, and that contentment can be found in the most unusual circumstances if we will make a conscious effort to pursue it.

And I have seen the value of tradeoffs. For a year, I gave up the luxury of blogging and having closets clean (we won't even talk about sleep or minimum standards of wholesome nutrition). There were some mornings of sock-hunting insanity when I doubted the wisdom of this tradeoff, but now that it's over, I see that the closets waited for me. =)

Anyway, I am alive, my family is alive and doing quite well in spite of mismatched socks, and I am just waiting on my diploma to come in the mail, since, well, there was too much going on and I opted not to walk the stage this time. Hopefully I will be writing a little more this summer. I've missed you all!



*(For those of you who care, there are three different options for entry into practice as a registered nurse. There are a few "diploma" or hospital-based programs still out there, which was the most common way to become a nurse in my grandmother's generation. I started with an associate's degree, which is how over half of RNs are educated today. For the past 40 years or so, several nursing groups have been trying to make the bachelor's degree the basic requirement, and the workforce now has about equal numbers of associate's and bachelor's degree-educated RNs. Nurse practitioners must have a master's in nursing, and will soon be required to have a doctorate. Here is more info.)(image)



And another teen

2010-12-30T16:21:03.576-06:00

I've been thinking a lot lately about life and where I am and where my family is. I suppose that's the nature of "mid-life" - as hard as it is to believe (and even harder to admit!) I am here so soon.No one could have told me how much I would enjoy this time, when the kids are independent and headstrong and taking baby steps into the adult world (brought back to reality by young ones who still beg to be tickled and who still must use a timer in order to begrudgingly share Wii time).I sat and drank coffee with Neal-16 this morning, talking about life and what I think he's good at (listening and talking to people) and dreaming with him a bit about what the future holds for him.Interestingly, Annie-9 and Ruthie-7 joined us at the table. Ruthie was preoccupied, darting back and forth to the pantry looking for hidden Christmas candy, and interrupted a few times to ask if it was okay if she had some (she knows the answer is usually yes when I am distracted and talking-smart thing!). Then she sat down with a sucker (where did she find that?) and drew in a notebook and pretended to listen, but we all knew it was just about the candy.Annie, on the other hand, sat right up at the table and participated animatedly. If it annoyed Neal that a nine-year-old was in this discussion about his life dreams, he didn't show it. She piped in with her ideas and memories, and, even though they revealed her still-concrete stage of thinking, I wondered at her...When did you learn to make conversation like a miniature adult? This is the second time in two days this has happened. Last night the two older girls were talking about the youth group, and Annie included herself with them (yes, and I admit the conversation was after 10 p.m., the hour at which all things are just getting underway for teens). "I think if I were in youth group, I wouldn't want there to be a bunch of games. I want to be learning about the Bible and about Jesus." And how old did you say you were? This encourages me, after a day of mediating Wii disputes. Ah, yes, all growth is definitely not linear.Tomorrow Libby will be 13. It seems like yesterday she was nine, just beginning to venture into the world of the big kids. She has the vocabulary of a college professor combined with an insanely dry sense of humor. Sometimes what she says will hit you much, much later. With one minor exception she could be described as hyper-responsible, something I suppose is inherent in her position as The Middle Child, and as her mother's daughter (in the discussion of the youth group last night, Libby was making notes - probably in outline form - on her phone, if that tells you anything). We're working through that one together.No, growth is not linear, but it is definitely a joy to watch. I love you![...]



To write a Christmas letter

2010-12-17T17:28:42.852-06:00

I used to be really good about sending out a Christmas letter with our Christmas cards.

But then again, I used to be good about sending out Christmas cards, too.

I'm ashamed to admit that the last time we mailed out a family pic was in 2007, and the last time we mailed a letter was in 2006!

I really must do better, if for no one else else than for the grandparents.

This year we are off to a good start. It's only December 17 and we already got a friend to corral us all in one place at one time for a pic, taken in a typical little alley here in Small Town.

Ruthie-6 was concerned that people might think this is our front porch. Just to set the record straight: It's not.(image) Not sure why I like getting a Christmas letter, even when I'm getting status updates from those same friends and family on FB. I guess there's something about sitting down with a cup of tea, looking at the card, and reading the next chapter in my friend's story, as opposed to receiving a text with someone's latest random thought (although I'm sure my life is so much richer knowing how (and exactly when) my kids (or their friends) are so very borrrred or tiredddd at any given moment).

In 2007, our kids were 4, 6, 10, 13, and 14. I was a suburban stay-at-home mom in the thick of carpool and kids. Fortunately most of that year is chronicled on this blog, because gracious, that seems like eons ago!

Now they are 7, 9, 13, 16, and 17. We've moved, Dennis changed jobs, I got a job, kids are all in school, I got some carpool helpers (2 now!), and life is just as full of joy, in ways I couldn't have imagined three years ago.
(image)
Hmmm. Now to write all that in 200 words or less....(image)



The 30 year plan

2010-11-05T21:49:05.018-05:00

I am back at school (for me, not the kids!) again this semester. Fall is always busy, so even though I only need 2 classes to graduate, as registration drew near, I realized they are a combined 9 (count 'em, NINE) hours. I knew I couldn't do that, work full-time, be a mom of five and still maintain my sanity (note I did not mention keep up with the laundry, because I couldn't do that even before I went back to work). So I chickened out decided to take just one.

Boy, am I glad.

It's been tough but manageable, except when it's, well, crazy, like this weekend when Allie-17 is supposed to go on a college preview weekend and all the other kids have their usual activities and I have a six page paper due. Sleep is definitely overrated.

The first assignment was a "professional development" paper that had us look back on our career and see where we've been, assess our strengths and weaknesses, and then make a 30-year plan of where we want to go.

(I use the term "career" loosely in my case of spotty work history due to constantly being pregnant for the better part of ten years and staying home for the better part of 16).

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to do a 30-year plan for wife-hood and motherhood, too. Thirty years puts most of us in the role of grandparents, which explains why grandparents are so darn smart. (It is often hard to remember that our parents were once as young and dumb as we are, and I believe it is often hard for them to remember it either!).

But I digress. Here's my rough draft:

A little over 1 year - Oldest graduates from high school. Kids now stretching from elementary to college. Go to camp and enjoy vacation with everyone all together. Sit around wondering how time flew. Keep gardening and volunteering in youth group.

5 years - Oldest two in college; next one is a senior. I will never get to quit my job now. First time not to have at least one child in elementary school. Oldest may be married and I may be a grandmother. Brush up on crocheting skills. Consider smaller house.

10 years - Oldest four graduated; last one is a junior. Will I really have an empty nest so soon? I'd better be a grandmother! Move to cottage in the country and start a new landscape from scratch. Become PTA president because I am holding on to youngest like crazy.

20 years - Empty nesters, visiting and/or enjoying kids coming home for holidays. Finally have a clean house. I'm not sure, but I think I will miss those fingerprints on my glass doors.

30 years - Dennis retires. We are now that cute little old definitely hip couple holding hands and drinking our free coffee at McDonalds hoping someone will ask us about our grandchildren.

Yup. Sounds like a good plan to me. I'd give me an "A."(image)



Playing catch-up

2010-10-03T21:31:36.151-05:00

Seven girls under the age of 10 are sleeping on my living room floor.Last night we spontaneously invited the last girl (a six-year-old sister of one already coming) as we attempted to exit Small Town's Friday night social event football game. Her mom looked me incredulously as I feebly attempted to corral the wiggling, giggling mass of children and asked, "Are you sure you want all these girls over?" To which I replied, "We always have this many kids over. We just never know what ages they will be this time."Such is my life. Granted, today's five guests are only from two families. That makes it easy. Mac and cheese and sandwiches cut into pumpkins and stars, then give them a few kittens to play with, and I don't hear from them for hours as they play pretend and dress them in tutus and Santa hats.For the ravenous masses of tweens and teens, I'm learning to cook in vats (or make double batches of Little Brown Jug Rolls), and turn up the noisemaker in my bedroom as they turn on a movie at...midnight (oh to be 17 again!). Menu planning for the inevitable extra plate(s) on the table has become an incontrovertible necessity.Yes, I miss blogging and my "old" life of having time to reflect a little. Right now reflection is a quick glance in the mirror to see if there's anything between my teeth before I dash out the door!But there is something amazing about a full life.Allie turned 17 last month, has a wonderful young man that has taken interest in her, and she landed her first job (a carhop at Sonic - she refuses to let me take a pic, although I will secretly sneak one so she can always remember and be grateful for her college education some day!). And she started her first dual-credit college course. I am daily filled with the realization that our time with her under our roof is coming to a close. It's an untidy heap of sadness, dread, anticipation and exhilaration that makes me want to hold on too tight, even though I know that is a futile endeavor. Neal will be 16 soon, and driving. He is his father's son, and when I am overwhelmed (or over-scheduled, as the case may be), he is the one who offers to make dinner, as long as it's Hamburger Helper or eggs. And when Libby turns 13 in December, I will have THREE teenagers. How I remember so vividly when they were all under age 4! Sigh.I have to remind myself that the "little girls" are not so little any more. At nine, Annie is in what I like to think of as the golden age of childhood. So capable and creative and carefree. And Ruthie-6 is playing her first season of soccer, and finally has front teeth for the first time in four years.Sigh again.Even with all this, this fall is going much more smoothly than last year, though I started the school year off with a razing bout of bronchitis in Week 3 (or as the kids teased me: "It ain't easy being wheezy."). At least we are not dealing with H1N1. So I have that going for me.I've been a bad blogger, letting little things like not having time to upload pics to make posts "interesting" keep me from writing. But I just need to get over that and try to jot thoughts down so I can remember this time in life.I'm glad a few of you are walking this path with me.[...]



The little black dress (again)

2010-08-04T09:44:58.126-05:00

Everyone is home now, so I was able to wrestle the camera away from our campers - only to find that I hardly took any pics of our niece's wedding last week. Bummer!But it was still fun to see, since about the only times we dress up are for cousins' weddings (Allie-16 was the maid of honor - so amazing!). Yes (since I knew you'd ask), that's the same little black dress I always wear (this is my fourth or fifth time to wear it in a wedding, thanks to some excellent blog-friend advice four years ago. Now it's becoming a matter of tradition). Here's 2010:With Libby-12, Annie-9, Ruthie-6 and cousin Savannah:And just for nostalgia's sake, here's the first time I wore it for a wedding, in 2006. Funny how in four years I shrank so much!Sigh. For some reason this wedding hit me very hard, maybe because I saw Allie walking up the aisle as a bridesmaid (I thought I had shed all my tears during the rehearsal, so I was home free and whew! I was going make it out with some makeup still intact. And I was holding myself together so well...until I saw my daughter get choked up during the vows. Ack!). I realized (AGAIN!) just how quickly this is all happening. Although we've been to several weddings as a family, this time it was less about the dressing up (even though I was proud of my deals at Ross and TJ Maxx!) and more about what does this mean, this idea of giving myself to another? As long as we both shall live?Those things we model every day (whether we realize it or not) and think they are not noticing. But they are. Yup, makes me remember I need to keep parenting with the end in mind - that the reason I insist that my six-year-old tell the truth is because some day she will be standing at an altar pledging her whole heart to a (handsome) young man (we are praying for you, wherever you are!). That we insist on kind words because some day she will have decide how to respond when her husband does something she doesn't agree with. That we keep talking with our teens about making decisions based on a biblical foundation because some day they will have to teach their own kids how to do the same thing.Hey, and to think I get to do all that today with my comfy t-shirt and running shoes on (the dress would be fine - it's those 2 1/2 inch heels!). This should be good.[...]



Nesting

2010-07-29T20:42:07.796-05:00

As we head into the final days of summer, I find myself nesting. Dennis cleaned out the garage a couple of weeks ago, but I (after two years living here) finally organized it. The little girls' closets are underway, and today (after I take several trash bags to Goodwill and finally fix that door that's been off for what, six months?) I will finish mine. It's like the calm before the storm.Allie-16 and Neal-15 are at camp - the same camp we went to earlier this summer, but this week as "staffers." Our youth group sent 15 of our teens to be counselors, kids' camp leaders, cafeteria workers, and (the envy of all) rec leaders.This, after an eight-day mission trip to El Paso, three days home, then last weekend, away again for our niece's wedding (in which Allie was the maid of honor).Another week out of town was NOT what they envisioned when this all sounded so good on paper at the beginning of the summer. Both of them were wanting us to give them an "out" - and we did feel sorry for them. Neal-15, especially, likes and needs downtime at home.But I am glad we stuck to our guns and made them honor their commitments (next year they may weigh them a little differently!). From the calls and texts we've gotten, God is doing good things (Allie's comment: "I wish I could do this all summer!"). Nothing like hanging around with a bunch of college kids sold-out for Christ to give the last couple of years of high school some much-needed perspective. SO much better than Mom and Dad preaching the exact.same.message, but who needs to tell them that.So it's been a quiet week of snow cones, swimming, and enjoying the younger girls while going through their hand-me-downs.(I would have pics, but alas, the camera is with Allie at camp...)Several of you have asked if I am going back to my school nurse gig this fall. After wrestling with it, exploring some other options, and coming to the depressing realization that God wasn't going to give me the winning numbers to the lottery (rats!), yes, I am going back.We are still digging out after nine months of unemployment, and I just can't find anything with such amazing hours that lets me be with my little girls during the day, and with my big kids every time they are home (including every holiday and ALL SUMMER!). So I will be back to my little clinic on August 16.Which makes the nesting that much more feverish.This year should be better. For one thing, I know everyone's names (it took me a while to get to know 485 kids and 50 staff members!) and I know what to expect - of myself, of the family, of the rhythm of the school year. The kids are a whole year older. We will have fewer sports activities, so that should help. And I think overall, I am just in a better frame of mind because now I know I can do this (there were some moments last year when I sincerely wondered!).I am determined to be more organized this time around (crock pot recipes, please!). I am determined not to wallow (too much) in self-pity. I am determined to enjoy my husband and my children. And I am determined to trust God and let Him use me, even when the circumstances aren't what I would have chosen.He is good.[...]



Temporary empty nesters

2010-07-18T22:55:11.716-05:00

Not sure how we lucked out it happened, but this weekend Dennis and I found ourselves at home.Alone.For the life of me, in almost 17 years of parenthood, I can't remember when this has happened. Ever.The three big kids are wrapping up their mission trip to the border (home tomorrow!), after which I am most certain they will appreciate air conditioning, their mother's cooking, and their own beds, although from the pics I have been getting, they seem like they are managing to have their own fun. =)The younger two got invited to spend the weekend with their cousins.So we slept in until 8:30, took our sweet time at Sam's Club and Home Depot (no one rolled their eyes when I stood admiring each and every perennial), ate out way more than we normally do (Subway and Wendy's - we are so darn cheap!), didn't tell one person to get their flip flops (tea glass, gym bag, you get the idea) out of the living room, and (get this) WE GOT TO CHURCH 15 MINUTES EARLY...In between all that, we had these conversations about how we started the last 12 years with three kids under four, and how in the NEXT twelve we will be....empty nesters.Is it me or is time moving more quickly than it ever used to?Oh rats, I just miss my kids. I can't wait to hug them and cook for them and somehow try to make time slow down...glad that our empty-nestedness is a temporary one.(But I doubt that will keep me from enjoying sleeping in tomorrow.)[...]



Back...summer may now officially begin!

2010-07-13T09:12:34.665-05:00

The problem for people like me is that when I only post occasionally I feel the insane need to tell exactly what I've been doing for the last month or two since I last wrote. Maybe I haven't given up on this blog being something of a journal.Anyway, here goes:I finished my last two papers for summer school last weekend (Nursing Research kicked my you-know-what). I took a Family Nursing class, so now I know for sure that if my kids turn out, it will be ALL because of God's grace!!We celebrated my parents' 50th anniversary last weekend at my sister's house. I know our kids can't comprehend how unusual it is to have the example and blessing of BOTH sets of grandparents who just can't get enough of each other (Dennis's parents celebrated their 50th last December). And parents who are crazy about each other after their first 25. We're halfway there.The Big Three kids are on a mission trip with our church in El Paso this week. They will put on a VBS and sports camp for a sister church in a poor neighborhood there. It's not Africa, but I am still so proud I could just burst.Meanwhile, Eleanor has been busy again. Yep, you counted right. EIGHT babies. We really should have a talk with her.The Little Girls and I are home this week. They are inviting friends over, while I try to dig out from a month of having my hiney glued to the computer chair writing papers about How We are All Dysfunctional. Now where IS that floor? Right now I am heading off to mow - since my "Yard Team" (aka Neal-15 and Libby-12) is out of town, I will take this two-hour "opportunity" to think and pray and sweatdream. It's all good.[...]



Back from camp - and a link

2010-06-15T10:55:00.507-05:00

Camp was awesome. We took 130 kids from our little town (pop. 2500) to eat bad food, share tight quarters, and play some very serious water games.Libby-12 (in the white sunglasses).Annie-8 in her "fort" with a friend. This was on day one, things looking pretty spiffy. We crammed 30 high school girls, four adults, and five children in one room. By Day Five it looked like Hiroshima - I'll spare you that pic.Neal-15's team contemplates strategy for Total Domination of the next "wet rec" game. Somehow Allie-16 (bottom center) ended up on the bottom of this wet pile.Ruthie-6 (in pink) walking back to the cabin after swimming with a friend.Probably half the kids in our group were unchurched - our church views camp as a community outreach. And did they ever hear the gospel. By the last night, kids were circled up in spontaneous little groups praying for each other. My heart almost couldn't take it, it was so overwhelming. God is so, so very good. Here are some of my thoughts from last year's camp.While I was gone, my dear, dear blog friend Andrea posted my little interview for her Mama Monday series. We have shared many emails over the past few years, mostly about raising teens, but recently about raising five. If you haven't already, why don't you go over there and tell her how much you appreciate her gentle blog?[...]



Checking in

2010-06-07T00:21:33.213-05:00

Summer is finally here!The kids finished school Thursday; I had to work yesterday, finishing my first school year working full-time in 16 years. I am exhausted, but proud of what we've been able to accomplish, although my usual goal was to get out the door without anyone crying, least of all ME! Like I always say, Aim low, then you'll never be disappointed.I also finished my two classes (2 A's, TYVM), a very expensive and stressful way to learn that science has finally concluded that we would all live long, healthy lives if we would just eat right and exercise. My mom could have told you that, back in the 70s. Two more classes this summer, two in the fall, and I'm done. Breathe...On Monday all five kids and I are going to church camp again. It's for the youth, but because I need camp as much as the kids, and because am crazy enough to volunteer as a sponsor for twelve high school girls, they said I can take our Little Girls (Yes, yes, I know they are not so little anymore, but they will always be known as such around here). Because they get to sleep in a bunkbed, eat in the mess hall, and worship with the big kids, they think it's their camp, too. Why tell them the truth?Dennis and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on June 1. I suppose I should do a recap like I did for our 20th. Someday. Chapter Five was going to be entitled The Dark Years, Revisited, but maybe I'll just make that Part A. Chapter 5B includes the fact that we made it through, so think I should call it something like Ebenezer, which sounds really bad but means "Thus far has the LORD helped us," which He has.It also helps that we are more crazy about each other than we were way back when we were kids and just thought that was love. No, you know it's the real thing when the life you wanted to make together doesn't come out exactly as you planned, and the disappointments and heartaches melt together with the accomplishments and the joys, into a look - or a touch - that says, I know all that, and I'm sticking with you anyway. Yup, he's a keeper. Here we are then.And here we are the other night at THE Mexican restaurant in town. Lots of college classes, five kids, nine moves, and a million shared memories later.Man, I love that guy.My mind is full of all the rambling thoughts - about teens, tweens, little people, marriage, working, gardening and life - that I haven't had time or wherewithal to turn into coherent blog posts the last few months. I'm hoping this summer some of those will start to congeal in my brain so I can get over my writer's block.Maybe after camp...[...]



Insanity on steroids

2010-04-17T09:01:26.390-05:00

Because my calendar magically cleared itself (and my laundry washed itself, too!), I decided to take a couple of college classes this spring.

NOT.

No, actually, my calendar is fuller than ever (and my laundry is piled up higher than ever), and I am just a crazy woman.

One day last fall I came to the realization that our extended excursion into poverty last year just might have positive implications when it came to financial aid.

So, armed with a bucket load of grants and scholarships, I am completing the remaining six classes I need to finish my bachelor's degree in nursing (I have my associate's - it's a long, complicated story and I won't bore you). Yes, it's those same six classes I have needed since I decided I was too busy and overwhelmed, and quit when Allie-16 was born, well, 16 years ago. And again that time when I tried to start when Libby-12 was born. And again when I registered but withdrew when Annie-8 was born....You get the idea.

ANYWAY, I thought it would put me over the edge of the stress scale (I was at 330 at last check, which is probably why I finally had to go to the doctor for - you guessed it - a steroid shot for my allergies, which have been out of control lately).

But surprisingly, I have thoroughly ENJOYED my new venture. The kids are cracking up when I say I have to do homework. They are already used to stepping over my piles of paper, so that wasn't any adjustment. We held a family meeting and they agreed to pitch in (at least in theory). I cleared out a space in the garage and set up tables for sorting laundry (it's amazing how those piles don't bother me, as long as they are not on my bed). I have already written four papers in APA format (who knew all that blogging would come in handy when it came to writing?) and read dozens of scholarly articles. My mind is brimming, which is probably why I can't come up with something to blog. Just email me instead, okay?

So here I am. A forty-four-year-old working mother of five going back to school. It's just so crazy it might work.(image)



A good day to have a birthday

2010-03-25T19:05:06.960-05:00

Yesterday was my dad's birthday. I woke up thinking about calling him, but before I could, Libby-12 came running in, breathless, saying Eleanor had had kittens.Eleanor had been fat for so long (since, like November!) I finally decided it was worms, and even started feeling a little guilty that I had let her pot-bellied-ness go on so long (and to think I call myself a nurse). Here's her profile last week (even after de-worming).Ya'd think after five kids I'd recognize a pregnant bod. Oh, but aren't they tiny? A mama cat is known as a "queen," so we thought deserved a castle to keep out the rain.All babies are miracles, even if they are kind of ugly and their eyes are glued shut. Look at those tiny claws!It was a good day to have a birthday. My parents were here last week, so we got to celebrate Dad's birthday a little early and try to fill up on hugs. Dad, I love you!And to celebrate, Dennis shooed us from the kitchen and whipped up his mom's Amazing Oatmeal Cake. All we had to do was sing happy birthday to each other (our birthdays are both in March).Thought you might like the recipe:AMAZING OATMEAL CAKEPour 1 1/2 c. boiling water over 1 c. quick oats. Let sit a while.When it's cool, add oat mixture with:1/2 c. oil1 c. sugar1 c. brown sugar2 eggs1-1/2 c. flour1 t. baking powder1 t. baking soda1 t. cinnamon1 c. raisins1 c. chopped nutsPour into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for approx. 40 min.Topping:1 c. brown sugar1/2 c. (1 cube) butter1/2 c. milk or evaporated milkMix all together in a saucepan. Boil for about 5 minutes and pour over cake while it's hot. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. coconut.[...]



$50 landscape and yard update

2010-03-17T09:50:18.957-05:00

Well, it's spring break, and after a miserably wet, cold and dreary winter, the weather is finally gorgeous. I have spent most of the week so far playing working in the yard. On Saturday, I even got a nap. It just doesn't get much better than this.Don't know if it was all the snow we had, but my daffodils are positively phenomenal this year. Ruthie-6 took this (see her little hand?).Looks like it's going to be another great year for peaches.Aren't these blossoms just gorgeous?In the front yard, I've been working on the walk-up to the house.And I put in the next leg of my $50 landscape - an island bed. This is next to the other island bed that blocks my view of the distant highway:5 Clara Indian Hawthorne3 Gulf Stream Nandina3 Hollywood juniper1 Chinese fringeflowerI love these quirky Hollywood (also called Tolurosa or Kaizuka) junipers.I also found bare-root Knockout roses at Home Depot the other day. About 1/3 the price of potted (does that mean I can buy 3 times as many of them?? ). I've never planted bare-root roses, but these had nice big canes. Will see how they take off.They will do much better than the Encore azaleas that they are replacing on the west side of the house - the ones that are half dead after two Texas summers. I dug them up and will try to revive now on my north wall. I see I am a bag of mulch shy on this little bed. Oh well.And just because Ruthie was my gardening helper and because I love kids' feet...So now that I have used all my excuses not to face the laundry, I'd better get at it. Even on spring break...WAH. [...]



In a rut?

2010-03-12T06:43:01.879-06:00

First of all, yes, I am alive. Busy, but alive.I think this is my longest blogging break ever. I have SO missed my blog friends (and the outlet of writing about life) so I thought I'd say hello with a little post here.A friend recently (okay so it was weeks ago, but hey, I'm trying!) emailed and asked me this question:Did you ever, in all your years of being an at home mom, just get tired of the same thing day in and day out? If so, what did you do to overcome that feeling?In a word, YES.There were The Dark Years.Followed (quite quickly, I might add) by The Veteran Mom Years.Right now I find myself somewhere between The Carpool Years and The Constantly Trying Not to Worry Praying for Teens Years; between kindergarten parties and high school dances.The child-rearing years are just a very busy time of life, especially when you are in the thick of the diapers and laundry and meals and playdoh and clutter, when it is easy to think there will never, ever be an end to them. (Yes, I still remember!). Obviously (looking at my pitiful blog), there is not always time or energy for doing things the way you "think" they should be done, or even for getting a good night's sleep, for that matter. The needs are incessant, and the cries for "Mommy" are relentless.It's easy to find yourself going through the motions, streamlining constantly for efficiency of time, space, and even words. There have been days - weeks! months! - where I've felt like a machine ("No, go back out of the room. Come back when you can say that without whining," is the current repetitive phrase coming from my lips.).It's easy to lose perspective.There are a few things I do when I feel myself slipping into machine-gun-style parenting, rat-a-tat-tatting out orders and sensing that the kids God has given me have become more of a bother than a blessing, and that these years something to be gotten through rather than enjoyed:1. Look at pictures and read journals. There is nothing that gets me to realize how fleeting childhood is than when I see pictures of my kids when they were little. I smile when I think of this moment in time, which seems like yesterday because it was around the time I first started blogging (tell me where almost four years went?): Write down your thoughts about this stage of life so you can remember and be thankful years down the road.2. Do something unrelated to children and housekeeping. Gardening and updating our fixer-upper house are two outlets that give me satisfaction apart from having the dishes done and the laundry put away, since they never are, anyway. Here is what Ruthie-6 has to say about it:(Translation: My mom works in the garden. She works and works and works.)But then the next page says this:(Translation: My mom's flowers are pretty and blooming.)Maybe your thing is scrapbooking (bless you) or coordinating the Ladies' Luncheon at church. Projects that have a beginning and an end give me something to look forward to, and make me appreciate a little monotony when things settle back down.3. Talk to people farther down the path. Or even on another one. My observation is that most of us moms tend to find other moms with kids the same ages (usually the age of the oldest, anyway), and we never venture much out of this comfort zone. Why is this? Regardless of the life stage of our friends, some regular, social, adult interaction is important. Kids are watching our friendships - are we cultivating ours as we tell them to cultivate theirs?Anyway, I digress. I will never forg[...]



One Hour Alone

2010-01-10T08:33:00.266-06:00

I find myself tonight with One (blessed) Hour Alone. Two kids are at a friend's. One is at basketball practice. Two more are at a game.Can you say, "Aaaaah....?"We just finished the first week back to school after a much-needed break. It's the final end to our Normal Insanity that is known in other places simply as "December."We had our moments. For one thing, I was crying my eyes out the last night before school got out. Around nine o'clock I realized that, in addition to multiple other acts of omission I'd committed that week, I'd forgotten to buy a coloring book and a box of 24 crayons (they were very specific about that part) for Ruthie-6's gift exchange the next morning, even after her kindergarten teacher had personally come to remind me ("She's the only one who doesn't have a present under the class tree," she whispered as gently as she could, which of course I heard as, "She's the only one with a mom that can't pull it together.").Even as I assured her it was on my list and I would take care of it, the phone was ringing, and it was Neal-15. "Are you coming to my game?" Game? Tonight? Oh, yes, today is Thursday. Of course, I will be there. Then the game ran into basketball practice which ran into bath time, which ran into trying to get excited kids to bed because they've been up too late all week, which suddenly ran into nine o'clock.Now, I suppose to you city folks who have a Wal-mart on every corner, this seems a non-issue. Just run out to Wal-mart or 7-11 and pick up the dumb coloring book. And don't forget the 24-count box of crayons! However, you must understand, nine o'clock is the hour at which this entire town shuts down. And by entire town, I mean The Grocery Store and Dollar General.So by the time Dennis called to check on things (he had been doing birthday/Christmas running around - for me - and hadn't even been home yet), I had already sent Allie-16 and Neal-15 to Dollar General to see if they could bang on the door to see if someone would have pity on them and sell them a coloring book and box of crayons, something I would only try in Small Town ("'We're the school nurse's kids,' you can tell them."). And I was crying and laughing and crying again at the stupidity of my crying over a two dollar coloring book, which we all know wasn't really just about the coloring book (or the 24 crayons), but was really about Everything Else in Life that seemed overwhelming at that moment.Dennis knew we were one day away from a nice break, so rather than discuss the psychological ramifications of my dilemma, otherwise known as Why You Shouldn't Be Crying, he chose the chivalrous route: He drove seven miles out of the way to The Grocery Store in the next town. "It's going to be okay, Babe," he kept telling me. "It's going to be okay." Yes, I suppose it is. And it was. Oh, how I love that man.So we made it through Christmas programs;two more birthdays (here is one; I'm having issues with my memory card to upload the other);Christmas;a very bad (okay, granted, it's TEXAS) ice/snow storm (we got to drive on this ice rink on Christmas Day);a wonderful 50th anniversary party (don't you just want to look as good as my sweet mother-in-law after 50 years with your man?);And I got most of the painting done on the sunroom, so last Saturday my side of the family gathered here our annual Christmas/birthday/New Year's/etc. get together. We aren't very good at organizing ourselves in front of a tripod, as you can see. This is the first time in [...]



Merry Christmas!

2009-12-24T08:19:10.086-06:00

(image)
Now unto the King eternal,
immortal,
invisible,
the only wise God,
be honour and glory
for ever and ever.
Amen.
(image)



Seasons

2009-12-08T06:00:00.395-06:00

I stayed home the other day (my first sick day on my new job) fighting a huge headache and body aches. I spent the day in a heavily medicated sleep (only the strongest over-the-counter cold/flu medicine will do). I briefly thought about posting that day, but...why? It was the first time I'd had a few moments guilt-free to lie around and just really not care that the house was a disaster and that the kids were fixing themselves all manner of junk food in the kitchen. There's always tomorrow. So (once the fog clears and the kitchen's remotely clean) what does one write about, when one hasn't written in weeks? Hmm. Well, for one thing, seasons. Yep. That's the best way I can describe our family as we've adjusted to my w-w-w-working (see, I can almost say it!). It's a new season around here. It's been three full months now. We're letting go of some old things and learning to embrace some new ones. Figuring out what works and what doesn't. Doing some evaluating of what's important. Or not. I'm not gonna lie...it's been tough. For me, a One-Ring-Circus kind of gal, suddenly managing a full-time job, five kids (four of them in sports this fall), all while staying on top of the house and laundry (insert canned laughter here - like that's really going to happen!). To be honest, I have spent an inordinate amount of time making myself miserable. Wishing for things to orderly, predictable. And right now, they're just...NOT. Wanting to be able to pick up the slack for my family, but right now, I just...can't. Wanting to have unending energy. But I just don't have it.It's through these times you go back to what's important. Dennis and I had our heart-to-heart (read: he listened while I bawled my eyes out) a couple of weeks ago. We always seem to have those at the end of sports seasons or school semesters, when we're all exhausted, grumpy, and too brain-dead to have a rational conversation like normal people. When we've been running around passing each other but not really communicating. It all gets bottled up, and then one day when I just don't have time for this (usually around midnight), I explode in a fury of tears. I know, I know, not healthy. But after 24 years of marriage, in its own dysfunctional way, it must be working for us. He knows to just wait for it.So I blubbered and he talked about work and kids and marriage and never-ending house issues and Christmas and whose idea it was to have three kids in December and how on earth are we going to get all this done. That sort of thing. We didn't solve much, mostly because you can't solve things that are part of life and are just tough.But you can go through them together.So we are back on the same page, talking. That feels good. Things are slowing down a bit (only two in sports now for basketball season) and on the horizon I can almost taste three weeks off for Christmas.... Meanwhile, over Thanksgiving break I started a new project. Even Dennis agrees it is cheaper and more practical than going to therapy. Hey, and I may even get it done by summer: our sun room.Here it is in the lovely 80s shades of hunter green, dutch blue and, maroon (Hey, haven't we seen that color before? And my, hasn't Ruthie grown in a year?):It only took me three tries (plus primer) to find this color (Sherwin Williams - Tiger Eye). I can't seem to catch the light right, but when I do I will post a cleaned up version...And we've had some firsts ar[...]



If you give a girl an afternoon

2009-11-10T06:05:58.638-06:00

If you give a girl an afternoon (sick children may or may not be included), she will probably look around the house for stuff to do.If you let her look around the house for stuff to do, she will probably find some power tools.If you give her some power tools, she will probably think up a project (like what to do with ancient bathroom cabinets painted with flat maroon wall paint? Love those peach walls?).If you let her get started, she will probably not stop to clear things off first.She will probably have stop occasionally to make sure her sick children are doing okay. They are.If you let her start sanding (who knew there were three colors under there?)......she will probably look around to see what paint she has available. Yes, this black door paint will do just fine (remember when I painted this?).If you let her paint it one color, she will probably change her mind. Too manly. And she will probably want some new hardware...If you are very patient, and maybe even let her have a couple more evenings, she will probably keep sanding until she comes up with a little distressed look, finished off with some Red Mahogany Minwax Polyshade?Ah, yes. Just right. ...But...If you let her do one project, she will probably be looking to the next one...like what to do with faux marble countertops and 1960s mini-medicine cabinets...Just give her another afternoon...(minus the sick kids would be nice)...Similar thoughts:Doing projects with kids aroundHomemade baby giftsMaking the most of the home years[...]