18 Summers

The first piece of parenting advice I ever got was the traditional cliche...

"Enjoy him. They grow up so fast."

I nodded and smiled because I'm polite like that, but inside I was thinking, "Whatever, lady. Let's get him sleeping through the night and using the toilet and reading his own bedtime books.  Like, pronto."

Then, soon enough, he was getting a solid eight hours and wearing big boy underwear and reading chapter books to himself by the light of his bedside lamp.

Then he turned ten.  And it suddenly occurred to me that in just ten more years, he will be the very same age I was when I received that sage wisdom ten years ago.

They grow up so fast.

In the grind of long, grueling days followed by night after night of inadequate quantities and quality of  sleep it is so hard to remember how fleeting these moments are.  On the days when bad attitudes prevail, nothing gets finished, and everything seems wrong, or at least, insufficient, it's impossible to think that we will ever miss these times.  But we will.  I already do.

I would go so far as to say that I mourn for the time I've squandered and wished away.  Precious memories I missed making.  Moments I could have lived instead of wasting.  I say it not as a regret, but as a reminder to myself that the time is now for making memories.  The time is now for having that difficult conversation. Or maybe just the boring ones.  The time is now to hold the baby for a few extra minutes, to skip schooling to play at the playround every once in a while, to pile in the car on a spontaneous trip, to read an extra bedtime book, to play silly make-believe games that involve fending off creepy cats with the push of a force field button.

Even though I know I would really, truly love some long, good quality sleep from my precious five month old Noah, I remember that ten year old Ben was but a tiny, sleepy baby just a few winks ago. And I shouldn't, can't, won't wish that time away.

As we approach summertime, I implore you, parents, not to enter into it with a negative attitude. Yes, your kids will be home from school. Yes, the days will be long. Yes, you might want to put them outside and lock the door some of those days. But, attitude is everything. Make a happy home. Make it count. We only get 18 summers. And when it gets put that way, doesn't it make you want to cherish the moments? Think of this time and these kids not as burdens to bear, but blessings to behold.

For now, I will remind myself over and over agin that these are the days. The days that count. The days where memories are made. They don't have to be magical, but I pray they will be happy and full of love.

They grow up SO fast.


My Happy Place

There's a scene in Dumb and Dumber where the main character, Lloyd, is about to have an unsavory encounter with an old nemesis in a gas station bathroom and he begins chanting to himself, "Find a happy place.  Find a happy place." 

Some days, to be completely honest, I find myself thinking these same words.

This is my happy place.

It's my backyard.  With tall grass.  Give me a mower and someone to watch the kids and I will mow until I can mow no mo'.  I do my best thinking while I'm mowing.  It's a good, boring, repetitive task that requires no amount of concentration and so my racing mind just ready, set, goes for the duration.  I don't know why I enjoy it so much.  I guess it's fulfilling.  Like when your carpet is visibly dirty, then you vacuum it and it's suddenly 100% better.  I like being able to see my path of progress as I mow each row.  I like being able to see how much is left and watch it dwindle as I go back and forth, back and forth.  I really like that I can get a little suntan while I'm doing it. 

Shortly after we moved to this house in 2006, my father-in-law gifted us an old riding mower.  It was so unbelievably appreciated.  We lived on a quarter of an acre at our old home which was easily mowed with a pushmower.  Our new yard was more than double that, and while I pushed it for a few months, a riding mower was a small glimpse of heaven.  It worked well for a few years.  Then, over time, just as all machines do, it started to wear out.  And I got weary of trying to make it work.  Here's a little run-down of how it would go when I'd try to mow the grass:

1.  Open shed.
2.  Notice back tire is flat (again).  Walk to garage to retrieve air compressor.
3.  Inflate back tire.
4.  (Unsuccessfully) Attempt to start mower.
5.  Push mower to driveway to jumpstart with the van.
6.  Mow for 5 minutes before a child retrieves you from backyard for an "emergency" like "I need some milk." 
7.  Go inside to tend to said "emergency" only to return to a dead-again mower.
8.  Go back to Step 4.

Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather pull out the pushmower and get something accomplished than spend 45 minutes trying to get the riding mower to start.  So that's what I did.  Even when it was really hot and I was really pregnant and being seen behind a pushmower cutting grass should probably have been embarrassing.  Mowing is just my thing.

Last summer, we decided it was high time we fix up our fixer-upper and so Sam did a pretty extensive overhaul on the old girl (if hand-me-down riding lawnmowers are, in fact, girls - whatever).  New blades, new fluids, a new tire, new belts.  Everything was taken off and re-installed.  I cranked that baby up like she was good as new and mowed through a 42" path of grass like butter.  About 5 rows into it, oil sprayed onto my leg, a giant plume of black smoke emerged from the engine, and the whole thing cut off.

It didn't look or sound good.  And it wasn't.

May she rest in peace.  (Or, indefinitely at the back of our yard behind our shed.  Because, what do you do with a riding mower when you don't have a truck to haul it away with?)

In case you're wondering why I've written this long of a post about mowing the lawn...here's the pay dirt.

I got this new girl today.

Because my husband loves me.  And he wants me to use my time efficiently.  Now I get to think on the mower, then I'll have time to come inside and type it all up in the form of a blog post.  Wait, sorry Sam.  Probably didn't see that coming did you?

I'm just grateful for spring, a big yard full of tall grass (or "grass" as the case may be), kids to play in it, and a way to mow it. 

My happy place.

Happy Spring!!!

Where do you do your best thinking?  (Coming in a close second for me is the shower.)


All of the Things

While it's impossible for me to believe that November 28th was over four months ago, I sit here with a house full of kids in perpetual motion around me while the newest member of the family sleeps happily (for now) in a swing that I hid from his way-too-adoring big sisters in the corner of a bedroom where he's never been located before.  Flexibility.  That's the name of the game these days.

As I observed my family today, I realized how long it's been since I even uploaded photos to a Facebook album, let alone blogged about our many adventures (and non-adventures as is typically the case on a run-of-the-mill day around here).  These are things that have taken up residence in my mind.  I read something online today that says you should declutter your brain, spring-cleaning-style, by writing things down.  My mind clutter is about to become your blog reading.  I decided to sum up our last six-ish months in a single blog post and write about ALL OF THE THINGS.  All of them.  Hold on to your butts.  (That's a Samuel L. Jackson quote from Jurassic Park thrown in just for fun because my brain contains a useless wealth of obscure movie lines.)  But seriously, don't quit reading.  I'll use pictures and bullets, you know, of the literary variety not the "pow-pow" kind.  'Cause that's what I do.

All of the Things I Meant to Blog About...but Didn't.  Until Now.

1.  A Medical Emergency in a Foreign Land - While Sam and the 3 oldest went to the hotel pool, Leah and I hung out in the room (pre-Noah's birth).  I fixed myself a cup of coffee with the in-room coffee pot, and, well, went to the restroom to pee.  While in there, I heard a blood-curdling scream, only to find Leah had pulled the coffee down from the sink and scalded her underarm and ribcage.  Here I was alone on the 10th floor of a hotel room in Canada (okay, so it was Niagara Falls and I could probably have spit on the United States from our balcony, but it makes the story better this way) with a hysterical 18 month old, and a history of not exactly remaining cool, calm, and collected in emergencies.  I rinsed her in the sink, handed her a tiny piece of chocolate, and did the only thing I knew to do - took her to the pool to ask Sam for advice.  Turns out, that was a good move.  We dunked her, cooled her off, and she stopped wailing.  It looked bad (photo if you care to see).  We slathered her with some good Canadian medication and mummy wrapped her in gauze, and, by some miracle, watched that sweet baby up completely within a matter of days.  Isn't it awesome how quickly children can heal?  The best thing to come out of this experience was that Leah developed a healthy fear of all mugs, coffee pots, and general hot things.  In fact, her first word aside from the usual suspects (Mama, Dada, duck, ball, bird) was "Hot!"  Poor, sweet girl.  Talk about Mommy guilt. 

2.  Hotel Living - People ask us how it works on our trips with so many people.  Let's just say we travel with an air mattress, and sometimes we have to get creative.  (And those are the times I want to snatch these kids of mine up and hug their necks.  Just look at them.  Precious.)

3.  Dandelions and Hill Rolling - Sometimes you just never know what might make the biggest impression on a child.  Like...when one of them decides to pick dandelions just feet away from Niagara Falls.

Or when they climb Mount Royal in Montreal only to be more excited to roll down the side of it.  Part of me wonders how many Canadians watched us and shook their heads.  "Crazy Americans."

4.  The Christmas that Almost Wasn't - You hear so often about house fires in the winter, usually from space heaters and faulty decorations, etc.  What you don't hear about as often is central vacuum cleaners whose faulty wiring cause tripped breakers.  So very thankful that Sam discovered this on December 23rd and saved our home from an electrical fire.  It would have started in the attic.  I shudder to think how long it would have gone unnoticed before we realized...

And then there was the whole Abby-falling-out-of-a-tree on Christmas Day thing.  When we heard she'd done it, at first we thought, "Oh Abby."  Then we realized the severity of it.  The tree literally tore her shirt practically off of her body as she plummeted to the ground.  We are very grateful she was not more seriously injured (aside from scrapes and a sore tailbone).  Must have had an angel soften the blow for her.  But, know what?  This hasn't stopped her from continuing to climb trees.

5.  The Kidney Stone Saga of 2014 - I say that with finality because even though it's only April, I'm really hoping it is the kidney stone saga and not one of more.  On Sunday, January 27th we got home from dinner at Firehouse Subs after church, I was in my bedroom getting ready to put the kids down for the night and that all-too-familiar pain hit me in my back.  With tears in my eyes, I told Sam I was taking myself to the ER.  He, of course, refused to let me and while I cried myself a pity party, he called our favorite family of gingers who sent relief over to keep the kids safe while I writhed in pain at the emergency room.  As I was literally vomiting from the pain, my doctor took a comprehensive medical history in the exam room.  "You have five kids?!  You know what causes that right?!"  (Dude, not the time.)  Then he sent the nurse in to inform me that he would not give me any pain medication until after my CT scan.  I informed her that I was not a drug addict, that just 8 weeks earlier I birthed a nearly 10-pound baby without pain medication, and I didn't have a clue how I was supposed to be still enough for CT when I could not stop my body from shaking.  My arguments were not compelling enough.  To CT I went.  Lo and behold - I had a kidney stone.  On the bright side, our kids got to take their first ever "field trip" to a urologist's office.

Long story short, it didn't pass, my kidney puffed up, yadda yadda yadda, I had outpatient surgery and went to Disney World two days later.  Then Noah and I drove back from Disney World to get the wretched stent out of my body and I was as good as new.  Which brings me to....

6.  Walt Disney World!!!! - This very obviously deserves its own post, but we did go to Disney World.  This was the kids' big Christmas present this year.  Ten days at the most magical place on earth.  It was splendid.  Here's a picture of the kids when they found out they were going on Christmas Day.

And one from actual Disney World...maybe one day I'll dedicate a post to the trip.

6.  Leah is TWO! - I don't know how or when it happened, but it did.  This deserves its own post too.  I love this sweet girl to death.  What a joy she is in every way.  Age two has brought a language explosion and the sophistication that comes hand in hand with it.  I cannot even tell you how happy we are that Leah is part of our family.  Just look at her.  Go ahead.  Bite her.  She's irresistible.

7.  The Staph Infection (seriously, what's next?  Typhoid?) - I can only assume I picked up "the staph" during one of my hospital stays.  Hospitals are good at hosting things like that.  On one particularly beautiful Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, I decided to mow the backyard.  It's what I do for relaxation.  (What?  I'm weird.)  Apparently, I should wear gloves because I grip the handlebar way too hard, and I irritated a patch of eczema on the palm of my right hand.  This minor irritation was the perfect site for the staph to colonize, and within 12 hours of developing a minor fever feeling, I was in full-on infection mode.  Festering boils, pain and streaking, swollen and sore glands in my neck, high fever.  Thanks to Dr. Google I was self-diagnosed before I even saw my GP.  And as he ran behind by nearly an hour for my appointment, I sat in the tiny exam room and imagined all sorts of worst case scenarios like, "What if they have to amputate my hand?!" and "How can I take care of 5 kids if I'm plugged up to an IV in a hospital fighting off MRSA for six weeks?!"  Turns out a 10-day course of antibiotics knocked the thing clear out of my body and I'm good as new, but seriously...what in the world is God trying to tell me!?

This is already too long, and I'm on a roll so I'm cutting myself off.  Thanks for letting me de-clutter my brain on you.  I had a college professor who called this a "data dump."  Whatever you call it, it's my life - sometimes crazy, usually fun, always unpredictable.  And in good company.  Until next time, blessings, my friends.

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