One year ago today, my husband came rushing in the front door around noon yelling at me about having my phone turned off.  Of course my phone wasn't turned off; it was just lost somewhere in the midst of the chaos and the battery was dead.  Nothing new.  I was annoyed but he looked rumpled and frazzled, and instead of yelling at him about yelling at me, my heart sunk.  I was 100% sure he was going to tell me that he was home in the middle of the day because he had just lost his job.

"Scott passed away this morning."

That didn't sound like the words I was expecting to come out of his mouth, so I said, "What?"

He said it again.

I said, "What?" again.

Blah, blah, something about early this morning.


Blah, blah, something about in his sleep.


More blah, blah, something about my dad calling him at work because he couldn't get a hold of me.  Blah, blah, blah, something about "Oh shit, Jerry."

"What?  What?  What?  What?"

365 days later I can still feel in my eye sockets how wide my eyes were and how I kept shaking my head and was so confused.  I think I probably said, "What?" while shaking my head about a thousand times.

He hugged me while I kept saying, "What?"  Neither of us cried; that came later.  He and the little kids left to go pick up the girls from their friend's house and I was alone.  I am sure right now, with hindsight, that the proper thing to do was not to go on Facebook and post: OH MY GOD, MY BROTHER DIED 20 minutes after finding this out.  But I was alone and shaking and not ready to talk to anyone on the phone and most all my friends and family live in my computer.  And I'm fairly sure that I never had learned the etiquette of how to handle yourself on social media when your 32-year-old brother passes away from sleep apnea.  Or if I did, I guess I don't remember those particular rules for special circumstances.

Anyway, that's how the first hour went down.  I am thinking about it a lot this morning, and thinking that I probably don't want to view the Timehop app today.

Do you see this picture?  For anyone who didn't know him, let me tell you a few things about my (biggest) little brother: He could be kind of a jerk.  Seriously, he often wasn't very nice when we were kids, and he didn't have the best track record for rule-following or moral imperatives as a teenager or even an adult sometimes.  But something had changed in the year before this day, August 8, 2013.  Edges were softening and there was a purpose and direction and healing going on.

I say this because people always want to glorify their deceased loved ones.  I don't want to do that because that is not honest at all.  Of course we got along quite well for the most part as adults, despite bumps in the road, and I am thankful that we are a very close family.  But if I don't honestly remember the negatives about him, then his really great sides aren't as positive either.  And this picture I'm sharing - it represents a lot of the really great parts of him, they show who he really was inside.

The little figurines?  They are Shirt-Tails, for anyone who remembers.  He loooooooved Shirt-Tails when we were kids, probably a lot longer than he should have <shhhhhhh>.  He kept these two guys so long that I found them on his kitchen windowsill when we went to go clean out his house after the memorial service.  Probably they were there for the benefit of his kids, but I still find it amusing that they were still with him 25+ years later.

The picture on the program from the service is him wearing a Vikings jersey (typical) and wearing the big pink dress-up hat three-year-old Hannah had just opened that Christmas morning.  Also typically goofy.

But the thing I treasure most of all is that index card.  I found it in his papers.  It lists in his own handwriting the names of his kids, my kids, and our other brother's son.  I can only assume what it is from and I don't really need to get into it in this type of forum, but it seriously touched me to come across it.  Any good dad loves his kids, and he was no different.  But to know that he also kept in mind his nieces and nephews and tried to better his life for all of them together...wow.  I am touched in their honor and so incredibly thankful to be able to remember him like this.


Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da...

...life goes on brah
La la how the life goes on 

- The Beatles

Beauty and order give my soul rest.  I want my home to be beautiful and orderly.  I want my body to be beautiful and orderly.  I have a sense of rest when I have that, but this occurs maybe a good 2% of the time.  The other 98% of the time (aka reality) I have to come down to earth and face facts.  My house is not going to be beautiful because it takes time and effort that I don't have in me.  My house is not going to be orderly because I have four children and a messy husband, and again, it takes time and effort that I don't have.  My body is not going to be beautiful because...well, maybe someday?  But then again there's that time and effort thing...I cannot manufacture this - after years of trying, it just doesn't work! 

I have not sat down to write in such a long time, but I have been mulling over how to bridge the gap for a while now.  Recent online articles about parenting were just the catalyst I think I needed.  When I started writing this blog my life was in a completely different place.  I was an at-home mom with two small children, just beginning to embark on a homeschooling adventure.  For all those years I was just trying to work it all out - find out what works, what doesn't work, desperately trying to find out how much different our lives were from everyone else's while at the same time needing to know we were all the same.  Everything was still out there, somewhere in the future, and I was trying to navigate how to best arrive at that place.  Because at that point pretty much the only thing that was in the past was my own childhood.

Those first two small children?  They have more than half their own childhoods behind them now.  And I still have two smallish children, but I also have two older children, and in a couple weeks we will be starting the teenage years.  All homeschooling ceased almost two years ago, and as of next year I will have four school-aged children.  I now do at-home work as well as outside-home work, not as a patchwork, whatever-gets-us-by basis, but a real and true job that is a source of income.  It is not anywhere near what I went to school to do.  But it pays well, is super flexible, and I am too tired to care.  So nowadays about the only difference between my family and other families is that not very many of them have four kids.  But I am no longer interested in bucking the system and fighting the good fight.  Mommy Wars?  No thanks; I'm tired and only interested in getting through the day in whatever way works. 

Diapers, sleep schedules, nursing, and fatigue from waking up with babies has given way to middle school drama, activity schedules, quick meals on the run, and fatigue from getting up at dawn to go to work.  But it's great, it really is.  Because I'm beginning to have clarity now, that this IS it.  This IS the future.  What was out there before, is now.  Sure, things will change a hundred times between now and when I am gone, but right now is the time that everything else will be measured by.  Our family is solid and secure and these are the years that all six of us will now remember for the rest of our lives as the "remember when?" years. 

It's most certainly not going to be the "remember when our home was beautiful and orderly?" years.  It will definitely not be the "remember when mom was young and beautiful and not fat?" years.  But I guess it will be the "remember when mom and dad always made us go out and enjoy nature on their days off?" years.  And the "remember when we all built those blanket forts?" years.  The "remember when we all danced after Uncle Scott's funeral?" years, as well as the "remember when the power went out and we played card games by candlelight?" years. 

So it might not be beautiful from the outside, but I hope that if I pay more attention to the type of beauty that is going to last in our memories, those will suffice to give my soul rest instead.


Mom Thoughts

It seems to me that parenting is a harrowing and unrelenting (emphasis on unrelenting) balance between a multitude of two seemingly opposite phenomena:

Between planning and flexibility.

Between "consistency is key" and "letting loose".

Between sheltering and releasing.

Between the absolute highest joys and the deepest black sorrows.

The trick is finding the balance, and all we can do is to hope we find it at some point.

Parenting is the ultimate yin and yang.


Moving to Australia...

...you know, like Alexander?

When last we met, I was embarking on a great biking adventure.  It was going to be amazing!  It also lasted, like, two weeks and ended with a whimper (rather than a bang) due to long-lasting illness, unbearable heat (related), and about six or so gigantic life decisions cast upon my shoulders.  Driving around in a car is much more conducive to long-lasting illness, unbearable heat, and gigantic life decisions rather than is trying to figure out the logistics of transporting via bicycle.  Yes, these are excuses.  And yes, if you bet on the fact that I was starting something I would never finish (yet again), you would be correct.

So, four months, a little bit of healing, and three-sixths of the gigantic life decisions later, here we are...

It's been one of those days.  You know, one of those parenting days that leaves you beaten up and broken down at the end of the day just begging God for mercy in the form of a peaceful bedtime.

Look, I even attach a photo of myself-at-this-very-moment, to show that I make no hyperbole when I use the phrases beaten up and broken down.  In the past 45 minutes alone, my little lovely has yanked out my hairdo and given me what is sure to soon be a black eye while trying to change her diaper.

That was today.  Heck, that was only the last hour of this day.

If I was still on Facebook at the moment, I would be staring at the screen and scrolling through all of y'alls status updates.  Possibly commenting, but probably too lazy for even that.  Most likely just clicking "Like" a lot.  But alas, I have been off Facebook and shall remain for the foreseeable indeterminate amount of time.

So what is left is just me talking to myself on my blog, which is better in a way because I can release my own thoughts without being distracted by everyone else's at the same time.  Somehow, that method just doesn't allow for the processing of a complete thought and my brain just needs a break from that sometimes.

ANYhoo...I was all about going to recount why this was such a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.  But at this point I am over the details.  Who needs to rehash it?

Suffice it to say: 1) I now have two preteen girls with attitudes to match the age, 2) and a two-year-old--'nuff said, 3) I have been single-parenting for the past 2-1/2 weeks and still have 2-1/2 weeks of this to go, 4) the pets are driving me nuts, 5) I swear the toddler is beating me up on purpose (though it always looks accidental), and finally 6) WHY WON'T THEY JUST GO TO BED???!!! and LISTEN! and DO THEIR CHORES! and STOP WHINING! and GET ALONG! and SHUT THE FREAKING DOOR WHEN THEY GO OUTSIDE!?

Aaaaand, that should do it.  There, I feel much better now :-)  Many thanks for sharing in my vent-of-the-day.


Adventure Off to a Sputtering Start

Sort of, anyway.

Thanks to falling ill the very day after making the decision to bicycle for transport, and thanks to some super-time-sensitive errands in a row, and thanks to not being able to figure out how to ride to the dog park without the dog jumping out of the bike trailer, I haven't been able to fully do this yet.  But on the bright side, I am mostly recovered now and have been taking out the bike probably 75% more than I would have before last week.  So we're getting somewhere! 

A log for posterity and accountability:

Thursday rode to a meeting 1/2 mile away.

Saturday the three big kids were gone and we rode to church and back and then tried to go on a bike ride but only made it 2 miles before I realized that I wasn't quite recovered enough to force it any further.

Monday (today) rode to church with all the kids and plan to do the same the rest of the week.   We were running late (surprise!) so I decided not to switch hitches for the bike trailer and just take Conrad's bike.  Which was a mistake because I can't even sit on the seat while standing straight up on the pedals.  Needless to say, my hamstrings got one heckuva workout today.


The Rules

Okay, I think I have sorted this out.

I fully intended to start biking yesterday, but my purpose for leaving the house was to buy two 4'x4'x1/2" particle boards.  I was all set to go, but then C. reminded me that it would be quite difficult to get that home.  It turns out I couldn't even fit them in the Saturn, either, and Menards "couldn't" cut them down for me (I really needed 3'x3', but they don't sell those).  Stupid Menards.  Really?  A lumberyard can't cut through 1/2 an inch of particle board?  E. and I did end up biking to the archery range afterward (at 9 p.m.) (and it was still light out!) (which is a rant for another day) because we have this nifty carrying case that I can strap around my body. 

So to keep this simple--I will make every effort to bike when leaving the house, but I will use the car without guilt when:

1) Traveling more than 5 miles with children

2) Inclement weather arises, although if I am alone I should make every effort to bike if my safety is not at risk, and

3) Transporting anything larger than will fit in the bike trailer and baskets.

Did you know there are a lot of blogs about bicycling?  I am learning a lot in 24 hours.  Fascinating.


A New Summer Adventure

Time to dust off the cobwebs in this little corner of the internet.    *dust, dust*   There, that's better.  So I was contemplating earlier today what would happen if I tried to substitute my bicycle for my car this summer.  As most things in my life go, it didn't take long to cement itself in my mind (hello, I knew who I was going to marry before we even started dating!).  Snap decisions are my major M.O.

ANYhoo...I also started thinking that it would be awesome to do this thing and journal it for posterity.  I type faster than I write and have been missing blogging recently, so here we are.  If I say it on the worldwideweb, I have to stick with it, right?

A bunch of rules guidelines are floating around in my head pertaining to how exactly I can go about this.  I mean, I'm definitely not going to be riding my bike to South Dakota this weekend.  I probably wouldn't do it in the middle of a thunderstorm when I and/or my husband feel like we're going to die if one of us doesn't procure a pint of Ben &amp; Jerry's at that EXACT moment, either.  Not that that ever happens.  Stay tuned as I work those little details out.


There's a SIM Card in That Thar Crockpot!

Or: What the Heck Do You Do All Day?

The other day I was thinking of grabbing a notebook and reporting everything that went on in my day.  For no reason except for my own pondering.  Somehow that turned into a goal to record it all in a blog post when I heard someone mention something about "lazy SAHMs".  That's stay-at-home-moms.  Though, personally, I much prefer Household Manager and Domestic Entrepreneur.  And yes, that would be said tongue-in-cheek.

So I recorded nearly every moment of my day, but not the complete saga.  I mean, I think I forgot to say that we ate breakfast, or that I tweezed my eyebrows, or searched for missing paperwork, etc.  And I may or may not have popped back on the computer a few more times that what I've listed.  Whatever.  The following is extremely boring, but it could be worse.  You could have had a play-by-play of me shaving my legs.


6:30 a.m. :  Wake up and see that the kids are already watching cartoons on Netflix while their dad makes himself breakfast.  Great.  Why do we not own a TV again? 

6:45 a.m. :  Go for run.  Fall twice before I get smart and trade off between running on the street and the boulevards.  Decide I REALLY don't like the Week 2.1 c25k download here.  Too many drug and violence references for my delicate sensibilities.  A little bit is okay.  But this is over my personal limit.  Disappointed because I really liked the Week 1.2 playlist.  Possibly will have to find another one.

7:15 a.m. :  Come home, shower, quick computer break.  Emme comes out and tells me she has changed Juliet's (cloth) diaper all by herself.  She is very proud.  I am very proud. 

7:20 a.m. :  A few minutes later JJ crawls over to me, I pick her up, notice that her butt is decidedly UN-fluffy for a cloth-diapered girl.  And that would be because her sister did change her diaper, yes.  However.  She forgot to put an actual diaper inside the new diaper cover.  Thankfully, a disaster of epic proportions was averted by my quick prefold-stuffing skills.  Skills.  Yeah, I've got 'em.  I'm cool like that.

7:45 a.m. :  That was exhausting.  So I take another quick computer break.  An online forum is discussing Feminism (hello NFP friends!) and before I know it my research spark is lit and I spend a little too much time digging into the subject.  Whoops.  Mental note to curb computer time for the rest of the day.

9:00 a.m.:  I make my bed, tidy the bathroom, get the kids ready and going on their chores, do my hair and in the process of all that, I notice that even my eyebrow hairs are turning white.  Wonderful!

10:15 a.m.:  Get the brilliant idea to precook a bunch of chicken breasts and ground turkey/beef and prechop a bunch of onions.  Am having a difficult time staying on top of meals lately, so thinking that doing this and throwing the stuff in the freezer will be helpful to me at approximately 5 p.m. every day this week.  Wonder why I never thought of that before?  (Hm, could it be because I always get these 'brilliant ideas' but never follow through longer than a couple weeks?)  So I start preparing all this food while lunch is cooking.  Decide that I am hopeful that I can convince myself to do this more often.   Decide to expect that I won't.

11:00 a.m. :  Listen to Hannah unfurl to me her Great Book Club plan.  I agree that this is a great plan, and yesterday we went to the library to pick up her book club kit for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  Which she has read.  Multiple times.  And has been read to her.  Multiple times.  Why she picked that one is anyone's guess, but who am I to question her self-directed educational prowess?

11:30 a.m. :  We are all straightening up while dancing to some Kung Fu Fighting.  The dancing turns into actual Kung Fu fighting by everyone except me, so I shut off the music for the time being.

11:35 a.m. :  The library calls to tell me that we actually only have half the book club kit.  Sweet librarian emails me the discussion questions instead of having to go back and get them.  Which I wouldn't be able to do anyway because I had neglected to petition the use of our lone vehicle for the day. 

11:55 a.m. :  I realize that aforementioned book club is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. today.  Except that I haven't spoken to any of the parents.  I decide to call and make sure they know that our daughters are planning to meet at our house today.  They knew.  It's all good.

12:00 p.m. :  Try to read a math book to Max that he has been begging me to read to him all morning.  I see that there is a page torn.  He tells me it's "Ju-ju's" fault.  I'm skeptical.  Read the math book to him anyway.  He is already correctly formulating mathematical sentences.  I will try to focus on this good thing a little while later.

12:15 p.m. :  Go down to do laundry.  Come upstairs and see that Max is clearing off the table all by himself.  Give him lots of love and praise.  Pat myself on the back for training such a helpful little three-year-old.  Will also try to focus on this good thing a little while later.

12:30 p.m. :  Check on my chicken in the crockpot.  See something blue floating in it.  Ew!  Dig out floating blue thing: an old (but still wanted) SIM card that had been lying on the table 20 minutes previous.  Now here is where I try to focus on those better sides of Max.  Except it doesn't work.  I yell.  A little.

12:55 p.m. :  I've been listening to the same playlist over and over today.  I put Juliet down for a nap while Train is playing.  She kicks in time to Hey Soul Sister while nursing.  Happy that I am finding her to be not only a fellow multitasker but also that she takes after me in the rhythm department (thank goodness!).  But I decide that we have heard this playlist a few too many times today.

1:05 p.m. :  Go down for another load of laundry.  Find Emme reading her cat books.  That kid has checked out every single book on cats/cat care/veterinarians/large cats/domestic cats/ASPCA guides/whathaveyou contained in our library.  Entertain a fleeting worry that I have no idea what we will do next week when there are literally no more cat books for her to read.  I guess she'll just start reading them all over again.

1:20 p.m. :  Trip up the stairs carrying clean laundry.  Realize that I have yet again neglected to vacuum the stairs.  I am always forgetting to do that.  Throw the laundry on my bed.  Try to tell myself I will get it put away before bed tonight, all the while realizing that laundry in the proper places is merely a pipe dream.

1:30 p.m. :  It is nearing time for the book club meeting and the kids are getting squirrely with excitement.  I think that I need to create a calming playlist for times like these.  I'll probably get to that eventually, but for the time being it is easier to let them watch a show while they wait.  To make myself feel better, I say that it has to be an educational documentary.

1:40 p.m. :  After ten minutes of listening to squabbling over Pets and Their Vets (Emme) vs. Secrets of King Tut (Hannah) vs. Go Diego Go! (we told him it was not an option, but he's persistent) I kick them all downstairs to their rooms.  Not literally.  Figuratively.

1:45 p.m. :  Found some old hoagie buns in the freezer from back when we ate nonwhole-grain breads.  Don't want to waste anything, so I chop it up into crouton sizes. 

2:04 p.m. :  It is book club time but no one is here yet.  I look around and see that the kitchen sink and one counter are piled with dishes, which looks kinda scuzzy.  But I also see that most things are picked up, the garbage is all out, and I have vacuumed and swept the floors, so I call it good and hope none of the guests notice.  Or if they do, hope they don't care.  Make the informed decision to hop on the computer for one more little break instead of doing the dishes.

2:15 p.m. :  Only Michelle came, and she doesn't care if my dishes are done.  Plus she knows that I'm not the dish-doer in the house, Conrad is.  Have a nice little chat while the older kids discuss their book club plans and the younger ones find creative ways to bug them.

3:45 p.m. :  Play Guess Who with Max.

4:00 p.m. :  Play checkers with Hannah.

4:30 p.m. :  Play Jenga with everyone.  This is quickly abandoned, in a way, for a Jenga block-and-domino train.  Man.  We worked so hard to get that all set up (it fell, many many times), only to have it complete the entire show within seconds.  Oh well.  Obviously we just need more dominoes!   The following video is sideways.  I can't get it to straighten!  Also, by this point in the day the floors are no longer swept nor vacuumed, but I swear I did it just three hours ago. 

The video is not working.  I'll have to try for it tomorrow :-(

5:30 p.m. :  In the intense game-playing mode I was in for so long, I forget about supper.  Quickly throw together a cranberry/balsamic salad.

5:45 p.m. :  We eat dinner.  Correction:  Conrad and I eat dinner.  The rest of them pick at everything and whine.  Juliet happily eats her baby food but demands three jars of the stuff.

6:30 p.m. :  I put JJ to bed and head off to run errands.  Leave the husband, who is watching a tiger documentary with the older three, with strict instructions on when to put the rest of them to bed.

6:45 p.m. :  ATM machine #1 is out of order.  

6:55 p.m. :  Drive to next ATM machine.  #2 is in working order, thank you very much.

7:00 p.m. :  Hy-Vee for staples we absolutely cannot live without for the next day.

7:25 p.m. :  Back to the library for the second time in two days to get research materials for hubby.  Drive all the way across town for this, only to (stupidly) remember that it is Friday and the library is closed.

7:45 p.m. :  Drive all the way back across town to Target to return a black slipcover I absolutely adored and wanted with all my heart but realized very quickly, post-purchase, could not actually afford.  Picked up a new memory card reader and printer ink in its stead.

8:30 p.m. :  Come home and Conrad is asleep on the couch.  The rest of them are watching Hello Kitty on Netflix.  It is past all of their bedtimes.  Grrr.

8:45 p.m. :  Am uber-exhausted.  Think about going to bed early, but get back on the computer.  See, this is becoming a problem I think.  I'm like a moth to a computer flame.  I let the kids fall asleep on living room floor.  Eh, it's Friday.

9:20 p.m. :  I remember this blog post and make an executive decision that it must, absolutely MUST, be posted today.  Because otherwise how would anyone know what I did today?  My readers wait with baited breath.

10:00 p.m. :  Realize that I forgot to put away groceries.  Quickly do just that, and feel relieved that they weren't left out too long.

10:15 p.m. :  But I find that the crockpotted chicken breasts (the ones cooked with the yummy SIM card) were left in the crockpot.  Which had been turned off.  Four hours previous.  Recall which road is paved with good intentions...  Then mutter to myself that I might as well just have let the SIM card cook with the rest of it.

10:57 p.m. :  I. AM. GOING. TO. BED.  Stieg Larsson is waiting for me, though I'll most likely fall asleep on him before finishing three pages.


Project 365: Day 46

Juliet Escapade 3

Wow, I can't believe I made it all the way in here!

Hmmm, what's this thing...

Oh......hi, mom...

Oooooh, fuuuunnnn...!


Project 365: Day 45

Juliet Escapade 2:  Here I am just enjoying a lovely mid-day snack of alien lego men.