It's been a long week and it's only Wednesday.

Oy.

Lucy and Gemma have been full of mischief and trouble.

For Lu, this means she's been decorating all sorts of things (walls, bedspreads, herself, herself) with all sorts of things (sharpies, markers, pens, nail polish). This morning she brought a lovely shade of purple nail polish to me and was adamant, "I did not put this on my door. I did NOT." Then she smiled. "I didn't!"

Convincing as this was, I had my doubts. On the wall next to my bed I had found an interesting illustration done in purple sharpie. (Purple isn't the only shade she uses-red, brown, green and pink have been in her repertoire this week, too.) I called her in and asked her if she was the artist behind the masterpiece.

She considered. She demurred. She began to deny and then nodded her assent. I sighed and said I was just so sad that she hadn't done it on paper because paper I could keep, but walls need to be washed. We had what I assumed was a fruitful conversation and I gave her a smooch and thought I had sent her on her way.

I forgot she is the 6th child and fourth girl so she has all of the angst and drama of a preteen shoved into a three-year-old frame.

"I'm just really stressed out! Because I'm afraid you don't like my drawing and think it's stupid."

Speechless pretty much sums up my reaction. Then I laughed (she joined in) and assured her I would never say that about her. But mostly I wanted to say, "If I were you I'd be stressed out about having martial law instituted on your person!"

Anyway, trying to work out how to function without anything in the house that can make marks. Open to suggestions!

If you want to get to Mass on time, you mention it Saturday night.

Mentioning your hopes means that you should find shoes for everyone before tomorrow morning.

Thinking of shoes makes you remember that you should probably find the right size tights for everyone while you're at it.

In order to find the right tights, you need to figure out what you'll be wearing.

This leads you to the girls' room where you see the littlest girls bed is in need of sheets. It's been this way for over a month so you set your jaw and decide to make the bed.

To make the bed, you need to find sheets so you open the linen closet.

When you open the linen closet, a stack of towels falls at your feet so you take a few minutes to sort through all of the linens.

As you sort through the towels you remember that you want to get to mass on time so the girls should shower tonight so you hustle them into the shower.

While they shower, you take advantage of them being occupied to make their bed.

When you lift up the mattress to make the bed, you find roughly 10 pounds of toys, garbage and writing utensils that need to be removed before the sheets can go on.

After you pull the mattress out of the bunk and lift the entire bed frame up to sweep out the crap, you realize you are now ankle deep in the detritus of 5 girls, the bed isn't made, you don't know what you're going to wear, where the tights or shoes are and now it's very, very late and everyone's tired so you make the bed, put on the fancy pillowcases, and send kids to bed while you hope for the best in the morning.

And in the morning? The hunt for shoes takes so long you are past an acceptable late entrance so you turn the car around and come back home where you mention that you want to be on time for the evening mass.

Imagine, if you will, that you are hanging out at our table.  For funsies, you suggest a game of word association.

You: Queen

Me: Fat Bottomed Girls

(Here Philip covers his ears and leaves the room.)

You: Butt

Me: Dirty

("Mom!" Tess exclaims.)

You: Wipes

Me: Diaper

You: Penny

Me: Velociraptor

(The kids left in the room erupt into laughter.)

Yes, my precious babe resembles a vicious dinosaur.  She seems friendly enough but she has razor sharp teeth, a penchant for destruction and a scream that induces sheer terror.

Honestly, the scream  . . . ! It started as a way to express displeasure at the sometimes overzealous attention of her sisters.  But now? Well now it's used as a general "Listen to me!"

Poor girl, she so badly wants to communicate but is having a hard time being heard in the chaos.  Being heard when she isn't screaming, that is.  She's been reluctant to use signing, opting to only utilize "All done" regularly until this past week or so.  Seemingly overnight she picked up "Please," "Food," and "Nurse." Then last night as she played with Monday, she started to say what sounded like "Monday." She repeated it again and again.  Excited, I asked her to say "Daddy" and she did several times. That's when Jacques asked her to say "Mama." Without pausing, her hand shot out and she rapidly signed

"NURSE"

We laughed because it was hilarious but also because it confirmed my suspicions- she only likes me for my body.  It's cool as long as she's not screaming. ANYTHING to keep her from screaming!

(My laughter becomes nervous and then turns to crying. There's so. much. SCREAMING.)

Update: tonight she said "Mama" a few times! But then when Jac clarified if she was indeed saying "Mama," she signed "Nurse" again.  Baby steps, right.  Baby steps.

On Friday I was explaining to another homeschool mom where Jac was. "He's at the dentist with Phil." A friend overheard and exclaimed, "Again?!"

Yes, AGAIN. February-and it turns out March, too- was the month of dentistry. It adds up quickly when everybody and their mother (no hyperbole here) have cavities and or other issues.

So fun!

Its made us hyper sensitive to whats going on - or more accurately, IN - everyone's mouth.

Gemma is bird-like in her appetitive to begin with but she leans hard in the "bird-like and only things that are sweet" direction. As in, claims she's full after eating three sugar snap pea pods only to ask for an "Oreo? Gumball? Icecream? Peep?" etc., etc. the minute she's excused from the table. The requests for sugar are made ALL DAY LONG and she is often found rummaging in the pantry (or on the counter or above the fridge or in my room or. . . ).

Plain and simple, she is a sugar fiend.

Recently, she announced she was hungry. So, so, sooooo hungry. I suggested some cheese.

No.

Yogurt?

No.

Crackers, pretzels, apple, Cutie?

"Yeaaaah. I'd just really like an Oreo. Or some chocolate."

I laughed. "Gemma, we've got to get you eating something else beside sugar!"

"Why? Because I'll get dia-BBs?"

I choked back a laugh. "Do you know what diabetes is?"

"It's when you swallow sugar and you get BBs stuck in your throat and die."

I had a choice here and I did NOT take the high road.

"That's right. You're right."

"So, I can't have an Oreo then?"

We are well loved by the people in our life. So much so that's i fear the kids might take it for granted, that it's a given to be so generously cared for.

On Monday I realized that Wednesday was Pi day and mentioned it aloud absent mindedly. A few hours later the mail arrived and the kids clamored around when Jac handed me a package.

"Who's it for?! Who's it for?!"

"It's for mom."

"Well, who is it from?!"

"It's for mom so that doesn't matter."

I announced it was from Chrisa.

"YES!" Philip yelled. "I KNEW she'd send something!"

Chrisa's fun-filled Pi day packages have repeatedly been a mid-March blessing and it made me smile to realize that they have become something that the kid's look forward to.

This year's box was heavy and I could hear coins. As I started to peel back a flap all of the kids yelled.

"No! We have to wait until tomorrow!"

They were particularly cooperative and quick Tuesday morning and they all gathered about me expectantly when prayer was finished. Upon opening the box we found a wrapped bundle that Gemma opened. Inside was an envelop for every individual in the family. Anxiously they tore their envelopes open. Out poured coins and a card.

They were lightening fast in figuring out that the coins added to $3.14.

A short debate followed with factions arguing for and against individuals keeping their money or pooling it for pie.  I knew Chrisa's heart would rejoice over how they multiplied 3.14 by 9 and then asked what a trip to Perkins would cost for 2 pies (as there are chocolate fans and fruit fans and only a few who swing either direction, thank you very much). After a quick call, they added up the two pies and subtracted that from the total. We pacified Gemma and Lu by allowing them to keep a few Penny's and made big plans for a treat after FNE.

Alas, everyone else in Rapid City also made plans involving pie and when I made it to Perkins Tuesday evening nary a pie was left.

We made amends on Wednesday and all really enjoyed the deliciousness of being loved and remembered.

It was possibly even sweeter for breakfast. At least Penny thought so!

(Gemma chose to paint the walls with the remainder of her Thursday breakfast. She then learned how to wash chocolate silk off the wall. That kid.)

 

At 4:30 pm, while I was nauseous with nerves and the kids hovered about me while I fought with the sewing machine ("Tension! Let's talk about tension! C'mon!!"), I gave myself a harsh talking to. Why? Why do you do this to yourself? Why do you make things harder than they have to be? Why must you make things a thing?

Well, because they're fun and memorable and pretty darn great.

I'm just writing it down so I'll remember the next time we are all in a frenzy.

I wish I could say it wasn't all my fault but even the kids dragging their feet can be traced back to me modeling plenty of procrastination. Dang. So the fact we chose our Mardi Gras theme on Friday, chose the day to celebrate on Saturday and then didn't have the house anywhere near presentable until lunchtime today. . . It was a team effort on the waiting.

I hope the kids remember how their costumes appeared like magic from the cantankerous machine. How bed sheets and scraps and curtains became garb from Japan, Africa, Russia, and India. I hope they take the joy of Mardi Gras and the fun of costumes  with them where've they go in this wide, wide world. And I hope-for the love of Pete and all that is holy- that they learn, by some miracle, to plan ahead.

We celebrated Penny's birthday with Her Godparents and Susan. We put her in her Guadalupe dress and she represented Mexico. Lucy was a Spanish flamenco dancer, Gem a Russian maiden (because it had a crown AND jewelry!), and Ellie opted for an African woman. "Even though I think I'm probably the second or third most whitest person in the house!" Her reason? She really, REALLY, wanted to wear her hair wrapped up. She went to bed only after asking if she could repeat the hair-do soon. And she loved that Maria came as an Africa. princess. Tess and I watched a video about how to wear a sari and pulled one together out of curtains. How fun to have Val arrive in a gorgeous authentic sari from her days in India! Philip wanted to be a Samurai and even *gasp!* let us put his hair into a Samurai bun. "My hair pores aren't as strong as the girls!" He announced. And Max, well Max likes to push his mother to the point where she gives up and then he pulls through. He would not commit to a country and decided at 5:15 that he would be Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days. But he wore a pink cravat so I won't complain! I represented Scotland and Clan Crawford with my kilt and Jac was "European" in his FNE uniform. He and Sebastian were a good pair as Seb was a Frenchman. Nate represented Peru and Susan was from North America-it was very cosmopolitan, you can be sure! We ate whipped cream on bacon and pancakes and in our pop and covered in sprinkles. In the end Jac said, "I'm so glad it's not Ash Wednesday tomorrow! Two full days of gluttony!" Yeah, that's pretty great.

I like to plan. It's a well known gag among ourselves and our friends that Jac and I tend to be decidedly different about the necessity of planning. (I'm bringing him around!) And our children? Yeah, they've learned a little too well from my example.

"So, what's going to happen after nap?"

(If you don't ever go to sleep and keep the baby up, you won't live to ever find out.)

"What's for dinner tonight?"

(Why do you only ask on days that I don't have an answer and how about one thing at a time, Mr. Jammiebottoms?)

"How will I say no if someone asks me out?"

(Uh. . . You're ten. Let's work on learning the times tables first, m-kay?)

Anyway, The kids were sorely disappointed by our lack of plans for New Years Eve.

"No one is coming over?! That's sad!" they lamented.

I assured them I had planned on plenty of sugar and probably some games and all would be well.

There were no plans for New Years but there were plans for the rest of the twelve days of Christmas, Twelfth Night, Epiphany, for schooling, for evenings in and out and I, for one, was relishing the thought of the New Year, new goals and fresh starts.

Then the call that Papa was in the hospital. Would he stay or be sent home? If he stayed, for how long? Things weren't so bad. Things weren't looking good but could turn around. Things were . . . Bad.

I got the text Papa had passed after the New Year was rung in and everyone was in bed. We got the first text offering condolences and help before I was out of bed the next morning.

Messages of sympathy and assurances of prayers came flooding in. We had planned to go to Mass and leave to come and load up so we could go before the weather hit but we were the last to leave the church. Friends came to give hugs and ask what they could do. Folks offered to pick things up for us. Rent a vehicle. Take our kids so we could pack. Elizabeth came and washed dishes, matched socks and folded laundry.

When we hit the road, exhausted and spread thin, friends stayed up to pray and send messages, asking for updates and making sure we stayed awake. More texts came assuring babysitters if we needed them in CA. Later we heard that at Ripon Grace, Pastor Rex asked for prayers for our safe journey. All of this prayer ...continue reading

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Children of mine,

At the moment, we are climbing the Sierras in the van with most of us sick. You have requested to listen to Hamilton at least a half a dozen times and are rolling your eyes at our California themed play list. Someday this will be the soundtrack of your memories. Someday.

It's been a little over two weeks since Papa Bill passed away and I haven't had the words or the heart to write about it. Writing makes me feel things and I have been numb. Numb with stress and worry and work and the next thing on the list. Someday you'll understand. Someday.

I want you to remember Papa. That's the hardest part of this loss for me-the fact that Lu and Penny and probably Gemma, too, won't remember him. We will share stories and laugh over photos and sing the songs he sang but they won't remember his dignified stride, his laugh, the weight of his hand on their head. I wish I could have bottled those things up to bring out and share as I willed. Life doesn't work like that though and we are given the gift of loss to savor the now. I know you don't understand that and truthfully? I don't either but God says someday we will. Someday.

Anyway, there will come a day when the memories of this trip have become fuzzy. Maybe you'll remember the bag piper or the time spent at the Wyeth's or cousin Kathy and Saboin. Maybe you'll recall the sickness or build-a-bear or any of the other things we did these last two weeks. So I want to put down Papa's eulogy I gave for us to remember. It gathers up some of the best lessons he gave and someday you will appreciate it. Someday.

Eulogy for Papa-January 7, 2017

I was voluntold that I was to read the obituary today. However, as I reflected on it I thought that it would be unnecessary to do that since it is printed in the programs. But if you'd like to have it read to you, please find me afterward because I have 4 of my children that can do that for you.

It is a daunting task to sum up the life of someone,  especially for a man who lived a life as rich and as varied as Papa Bill. I have been overwhelmed with the desire to include all of the important memories to everyone. However, that is impossible and the truth is most of you are here today because you have your own memories of Papa Bill. Thank you for coming and I ask you to treasure and cherish those memories and share them with us at the reception!

With that said, what I will share with you today is what I hope my children will know about Papa. And I know he was known by many names and titles but I hope you won't mind me calling him Papa Bill because I couldn't call him Bill even if he wanted me to.

Papa Bill was an educator through and through and he was always teaching. Every conversation was an opportunity for a lesson though it was seldom explicitly stated as such or heavy handed. And so I want to share with you some of the greatest lessons he taught us.

He taught us to value home and where you came from. Born in 1928 in Lead, SD, he always considered it home. A number of years ago as we biked the Michelson trail. he shared with us that it was the same route he took as he rode a train away to service. He said he cried as wondered if and when he would ever see his beloved hills again. And not a trip went by that he wouldn't declare upon arriving in South Dakota that no where in the wide world -and he had seen a lot of it! -had skies as blue as SD. Loyal, he stayed in contact with his high school class through email and facebook -because he was into those sorts of technologies-and attended many reunions. When he moved to Tuolumne, it became his second home and it was love for Tuolumne County that flowed through his veins. He felt like belonged there and never forgot how the community had welcomed him and his family in when they were strangers. He did his very best to return the favor, opening up his home to others and welcoming folks into his family. And as is evident by the presence of the piper and the kilts, he was deeply proud of his Scottish heritage and closely identified with that part of himself.

He taught us that some things are worth waiting for. As a child, Papa loved to eat stale marshmallows.  Laughing, he'd tell us about taking the homemade marshmallows his grandmother made and hiding them in his underwear drawer until they were good and crunchy.  This carried over into stale peeps, a treat that my mom and I still enjoy.  His wife of 60 years was his high school sweetheart who he left at home when he joined the service.  But instead of sending a "Dear Joyce" letter home, he waited, returned and married his love, making her my nana.  And, as many of you were privileged to witness, his beloved kilt was purchased in the last years of his life, a luxury he had waited a very long time for.

He taught us that sometimes it doesn't pay to wait, either.  In the service, he dutifully fulfilled what he had promised to do, but did not stay one day longer once he had made up his mind that he was through.  He dropped out of West Point because it wasn't for him.  When he had a young bride, a baby, and a full time job, he packed everything up and headed to southern Colorado to pursue and get his masters degree because it was the right time to him.  He was unable to sit still, always moving on to the next thing, and he was known to announce when he had decided enough was enough, "My coach has turned into a pumpkin!" and that was that.

He taught us there was a right way to do things.  When he was 9, his older brother grew lax in his milk delivery route.  Papa was disgusted that it wasn't being handled in the right way and took over the responsibility, waking at 4 am to get the milk, deliver it, return the used bottles to the dairy and return home all before school. He taught us there was a right way to hold drum sticks and a right way to march.  He was very opinionated about the right way to drive and didn't hesitate to tell you if he thought you were not in fact doing it right. Papa even had a right way to wash a car and it was a big deal when I got my first car that he made a special trip down to show me how to wash it correctly.  I still feel a tinge of guilt each time I use an automated car wash.

He taught us that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well. This fact was evident throughout his life but most especially in the many hobbies he was passionate about.  His HAMM radios, wood working, model planes, real planes, weather tracking and his Bible study were just some of his hobbies he shared with others.

He taught us that life is too good to be taken seriously.  One just needs to look at one of the dune buggies to know that this is true because they look ridiculous.  It was on those dune buggy trips, often in the midst of a particularly rough patch that one would hear him laugh.  Or around the campfire, sharing stories or songs.  I will never forget that sound for the rest of my days.  He was good at reminding me not to be so serious.  On bike rides he'd ask me how I was feeling and I would answer, I don't feel good. It was my go-to response because I was difficult.  It never failed that he would give me a squeeze and say, "You feel pretty good to me!"

He taught us it is never too late for redemption.  Papa Bill was a man who came late to Jesus.  Having avoided church for the majority of his adult life because he was afraid he'd be forced to lead the choir, he began by learning about Jesus.  Then he came to know him.  He was baptized at 86 and even in the last days of his life, he chased after the Lord, coming to Bible study as usual.  This is the most important thing - that he followed Christ.

A dear friend said to me when she heard of Papa's passing, that she couldn't imagine the world without him in it.  I agree as it just doesn't seem possible.  But here we are and the world is better for having Papa in it and we are better for having known him.

 

It seems right, fitting even, that since we took our fall photos before it was officially "autumn" that I should finally get around to posting them on a frigid day in December.

Yes, I am rolling my eyes. Yes, I am disappointed in myself, too.

The lot of us were struck down with a stomach bug the third week of September. Jac and I both kept telling ourselves that surely we were not really sick. Surely it was all in our heads.

We woke on Jac's Birthday determined to power through, but by 12, admitted that our sweating, lethargic selves were, indeed, sick. We allowed ourselves a moment to mourn and grieve and then Jac suggested a run for the canyon.

Because driving those curvy roads with a van full of nauseous kids and people is living on the edge! And then coaxing photo worthy smiles out of them all?! Who doesn't love a challenge?

I kept glancing over at Jac all the way up wondering what we had done.

But God is good and no one got sick and no one yelled (Lu did cry but she was 2 and she takes her roll of being obstinate and difficult very, very seriously.

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As we edited them at home later, Max couldn't get over how old he looked. "I look like I'm 15 or something!" We laughed over grumpy/crazy/confused faces and compared Jac's running shots to those of years passed.

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It was another one for the books. "2016-the year we felt like puking." Nice!

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A long time ago a friend shared how some of their friends had a laundry and letters Friday evening tradition. After this week, I thought why not combine the idea to air my dirty laundry in letter form? Sounds fun!

Dear New Neighbors,

So they probably didn't disclose that you'd be sharing a fence with seven kids and a crazy dog. I'm betting you are wishing they had! But since it's too late to back out, know Gemma is just going through a dramatic stage and the screaming you hear is just for show. Thanks for being cool and not calling CPS on us!

Beloved Children of Mine,

I know I've said it before, but In case you need a reminder:

Don't toss your clean, folded clothes on the floor. It makes me crazy and prone to yell.

Dear Child's Future Spouse,

Your beloved is probably going to throw their clothes on the floor along with everything else. I apologize. I tried.

Dear Parents Everywhere,

A word of advice- if you cannot get your children to come when you call and you need them, use the restroom, sweep up a dust pile or mop the floor.  Works like a charm. They will come running.

Penny's Teeth,

Listen up, punks. It's high time you showed up already. We've all waited long enough and you're making our girl miserable. She hasn't napped all week, for crying out loud! Give us a break, okay?

Love of my life,

The London fog you brought this morning and the bagel with the cream cheese I like? Incredible. Even better? The way you talked me down from the yelling over the clothes on the floor. (See above) You da real MVP.

Self,

Advent is supposed to be exciting so just relax. And think about and pray over any grand ideas of traditions before you start them, okay? Because seriously, you're exhausted. (See above) I guess you can take comfort in knowing you don't have an elf to move around. Let's celebrate the small victories, shall we? ...continue reading