On the Home Front

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We lost Penny this afternoon.

Okay, maybe "lost" is too strong of a word.  "Misplaced" is probably more accurate.

Anyway, it was a gut-wrenching, frantic, panic-inducing 3 minutes.

It started simply, with the girls in and out of the house through the sliding glass door.  Penny had been traipsing along with them but at some point they all scattered.  The quiet was what triggered my concern.

"Where's Pen, guys?"

Radio silence. I upped my volume.

"Has anyone seen Penny?"

Tess was the first to respond followed by Max.  She ran outside to check and he poked his head into rooms.  We hollered her name and checked all of her usual spots.  Others joined the search and the lists of dark possibilities rang in my mind like the totalling of a cash register.

"She's not out there!" Tess was breathless as she came inside.  I'm unsure if my eyes matched her wild expression but I was less than comforted by her look.  Could someone have left the gate open?  Could she have wandered towards the street? I ran out front quickly and when I got back, I heard a muffled question from Jac.  I hoped he was saying she was with him.

"What?"

"Did you find her?" He was at the top of the stairs, panic on the edges of his voice.

I didn't think my heart could sink any further but it did.

And then, just when I was on the edge, I saw the faintest motion past the trampoline.  Her little ponytail was being buffeted in the wind.

"I see her!  I see her!" I yelled as I ran out to her.

I'm not sure why I ran to her.  She was safe and fine.  But watching her hauling a doll out of the Cozy Coupe and struggling in the wind combined with my overwhelming relief sent me out.

"Pen-pen!  You scared us!" She saw me running and thought it was a game.  She smiled her crinkled nose smile and ran to meet me.  She squeezed me back and patted me when I picked her up.

In that moment, I really, truly understood Luke 15:4.

"Doesn't he leave the 99 in open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?"

I'm not one to suggest changes to scripture but I'm just saying that "lost child" packs a greater punch.  Then, too, I have never much liked the Prodigal Son (I'm the eldest, remember?) but I understood the father running to his son today.

What was it that left me shaky and oh-so-grateful to hold her little body against mine and to feel her happy hands on my shoulder?  We've lost kids before.  (C'mon.  Don't act shocked or like it's never happened to you.) Was it because she isn't talking yet so she couldn't respond to our calls?  Perhaps knowing her speed and her curiosity  was what lit up my imagination.  Whatever it was, I was abundantly thankful that she was found and that I have been found, too.  May I turn with a crinkled nose to the Father who runs toward me even in my faults and failings and may I press into him, patting him back, grateful to be loved. And thank you Jesus that we found our girl.

Now if you'll excuse me, I do believe I need a drink . . .

Last week. . . Last week I strong armed us back into our school schedule. We had griping and complaining and we had to school in the afternoon (unheard of!) because of a lazy morning and we used Friday for catch up instead of IT. But it was a good week.

This week? Well, this week we are dragging ourselves on our belly by ragged and broken fingernails to the finish line.

The whining!

The crying!

The terrible, angry shrieking from Penny!

I returned home from a meeting today to a filled wine glass and a note alerting me to the fact that it was indeed for me.

It's been that sort of week. One in which a child who shall not be named killed the sourdough starter by not paying attention and using cornmeal instead of flour. (It was white cornmeal in their defense so it sort of looked like whole wheat. I still wanted to cry.) A jar of cold pickle juice was spilled all over me by another child, soaking every piece of clothing I had on. I found long bite marks in my fancy lip stuff. And today as I wrangled and wrestled little girls in the bathroom while out at a concert field trip, the spot where Pen was being held on my hip got very warm and very wet.  Somehow her diaper had slipped so my shirt and pants did the trick.  A change of clothes for her I did not have.  And our lunch that was rather thrown together by the boys for the picnic afterwards was drowned by a leaky water bottle.

I'm blaming the sudden rainy, dreary, threat-of-snow-in-mid-May weather for the funk we've all felt but also remembering the good of the week, too.  We had great friends over for a visit and Tess made playdough solo for the first time.  We've had 2 awesome field trips in 9 days.  Gemma figured out she can clean their room on her own.  And I have managed to comb the girl's hair EVERY. DAY.

I guess the week hasn't been so bad after all.  But maybe that's just the wine talkin'!

 

This modern age with its diagnosis and syndromes and whatnot. . . It can seem ridiculous. But the first time I read about "Decision Fatigue," I thought, Oh my goodness, write this down, I have that!

Alllll day every day I am bombarded with questions. "Can I eat this? Why not? How come she can? Can I play on the computer? How much time will this get me? What's for lunch? How come I have to make it? Is nap over yet? What's for dinner? What are we doing tonight? What's the weather like tomorrow? What's the plan for Friday? Who's going to babysit us? Why's your eye twitching like that? Are you crying? Mom?!"

Decision fatigue. It's a thing.

But sometimes? Sometimes I'm the one asking the questions. Not always fun ones, either, but necessary all the same. Like why is there raw bacon on the bath mat? Is that poop on that toilet paper next  to the toilet? Why is the counter all wet? Where's Penny? How'd she get in the shower?! Why'd you let her in? How much toothpaste DID she squirt onto the floor? Is that gum in the shower? Who put it there? And why is there a toothbrush in the tub? What the heck is that on my towel? Why do I smell nail polish? Why can't this place stay clean?!

It turns out that asking the questions is just as exhausting as answering them so either way I end up tired. There's no question about that.

*All questions were really asked in the last two days in the bathroom. Life's a barrel of laughs over here!

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.

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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

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Max has a way of requesting things. Like when I've got Penny in the backpack, and sisters crying, and 30 minutes to make a 45 minute dinner, he will come and stand next to me, handing me items I need and then ask calmly, "What was the last thing you wrote on the blog?" I'll tell him and he will ask when that was and I'll wrack my brain for an answer amid all the other scraps and scrapes in there. "Oh, that's sad." He'll say. "You should write about fair." Then he'll say something to Pen and disappear.

Request received.

It matters to him this year because this year he knocked fair out of the park. Such a surprise after last year when it was a fight to get him to do anything. He entered 15 total items including 6 photos. If he wasn't thirteen or a boy, he would've been giddy but all he could muster was early rising and extra jokes. That was pretty great, too.


For 3 weeks he researched, studied, planned and built a Lego DDay Omaha Beach landing. He was so proud of it and we were, too.  When we went to pick up our entries, the fair lady gushed about it and said at least one kid had studied it at length, determined to make his own. Jac and I were glad the effort was recognized with a best in class ribbon. I had a few project suggestions for him, too, and one-a splatter painted Captain America shield-won best in show.


Philip dreamed about how great all of his entries would be but the morning we planned to turn things in, he panicked. "I have nothing done!" How many things had he started? One. We calmly asked what he had been doing instead and if it was worth it. When he realized it had been, most of the pressure was lifted. And in the end, the things he did enter received blue ribbons and a ceramic tile even won best in class.


Tess and Ellie both worked hard and with great persistence on their entries. Tie dyed shirt, art pieces, recycled crafts.  .  .they were pleased with their effort. Their ribbons reflected their hard work.


And Gem was serious about her work and truly aware of what it all meant. She was excited to check in and when we finally saw their ribbons, she beamed.


And me? Well, at the end of it all, I was in need of a good, stiff drink for my nerves, a massage for my tension headache, and a maid for the state of the house. Oy.

Their winnings are now burning holes in their pockets and they have already begun to plan for next year. I think I need a few months to help get me there, but I'm sure I'll come around.

There is so much to say.  So very much.  And I've said a good deal of it with posts just waiting to be published.  Well, have photos uploaded and then published.  Therein lies the trouble, you see.  Because this computer and I?  We're not exactly chums.  More like "frenemies" or something along those lines.  The photos I need are nestled in the middle of a card and each time I try . . . well, the details aren't important.  What is important is my IT guy (Jac, love of my life) has been so busy and working so hard that I've barely seen him let alone had time to bother him with this business.

Boo. Hoo.

Can I blame the baby?  I'm gonna blame the baby.  I'm 2 months out and wondering how the heck we got here.  We're having a baby forcryingoutloud and everything's about to get a whole lot weirder and crazier and louder and smellier and what were we thinking?!?!

In the words of Jim Gaffigan, "We thought it through!"

But then there is the speculation (read: arguing) from the kids about whether it is a boy or a girl.  Kisses on my belly and eager hands to feel it stretch and bump.  Loads and loads of "When Septimus comes" or "After Septimus is born." Though Jac and I have yet to let our minds wander there, the kids have put in lots of miles back and forth to that destination.  The general consensus is, "I can't wait!" and it's contagious, thanks be to God.

Now if only technological know how was as easily shared . . .

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Being a mom is hard.

There are no performance reviews, no standardized tests, or yearly award programs to tell you that what you are doing- anything you are doing- is working. It's the stuff of sleepless nights: Does is matter? What am I doing with my life? Am I making a difference?

But God is so good and consolations, however few and far between they may be, are sweet and sustaining. Sometimes they jolt me out of the mundane with their flashes of glory and brilliance, other times they feel like a gentle squeeze of the shoulder. And sometimes, sometimes, they make me pump my fist in the air Rocky Balboa-style, allowing me to ignore the metaphorical cut above my eye and my fat lip because, remember, being a mom is hard and there is a fight that we are taking the heat in.

Whew!

In early November I had one such fist-pumping moment and it's been carrying me through. Phil quietly clarified, out of no where, why Advent is his favorite.

"It's not the gifts at the end, it really isn't, though I DO like those. I just like all of our traditions and the getting ready and waiting. I like the books and the surprises we unwrap each day and the activities we do and the cookies and stuff. But probably my favorite is the music because I really, really like the music and I can't wait to listen to it again."

My middle of the night questions were answered with a resounding, "YES! It matters!"

I told you God is good.

Sometimes I fret that the kids know more and feel more fondness for Advent music than for actual Christmas hymns and carols. But then, so what? When we made the purposeful decision to focus in the season with seasonal music, I was hopeful if doubtful. However, as my mom says, the proof  is in the pudding. The sounds of the season are very much part and parcel to the experience for our kids. Bring on the consolation, I say!

And the music. Bring on the music.

I've posted this before, but in the event someone needs quick access, here's our Advent playlist.

A parent needs encouragement! From people without kids who can say, "I want to be like you!" And from those in the trenches with them, and those beyond their stage who can assure them that it IS worth it. This lady and her family are just that for me. 

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It's what the kids kept saying to each other as we prepared for our photo shoot.

"This is exciting!"  They say it like it's said in a kid history episode which makes it even funnier.

So, without further ado, the photo!

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That's right!  No one can raise 6 kids so we're having a seventh!

It seems to make sense to us . . .

So the behind the scenes:

The kids have known since the first week of August when I threw up one morning.  No one asked or acted like anything was out of the ordinary but at supper when Jac told them, there was a lot of whopping and hollering and cheering and "I knew it!" flying around.  To say they're stoked is an understatement.

We've been tossing around ideas of how to mark this occasion for weeks and weeks.  But when I looked at Jac and said, "The light's good right now in the bathroom," he responded with, "Let's do it, then." "Now?!" "We've got a few minutes left on the pizza.  It's go time."  We called for the kids and quickly explained what we were doing.  In 5 minutes, the bathroom was tidied, the door removed from the hinges, props and kids in place and Jac was framing the shot.

Oh, the laughter when Jac requested someone help him with a towel on his head!

"Some people are going to be very scandalized that dad's not wearing a shirt."

Max was ecstatic to get to "Totally Max out!" on purpose and not be chastised for it.

We didn't notice until Jac went in to do final edits that Lucy is copying him.

Ellie and Philip?  No acting necessary as that is them 100%.

Lu balked at everyone being in the bathroom but when I asked if she wanted to get in the tub by herself or if I should help, she mumbled something and climbed into the tub.  As confused as she might of been, she obviously had a good time!

I was feeling fine until I had my head over the toilet like that.  Ellie's currently in charge of the bathroom and she doesn't have the highest of standards.  "I'll be in charge of flushing if you need it," was Max's generous offer.

Gemma's face had been painted by Tess earlier in the day which was serendipitous as we had intended for her and Tess to be playing in the makeup all along.

We are calling this baby Septimus Prime or Septimus.  Jac made up two images - one with the title you see above and one with Septimus.  To my great surprise, the kids all voted for the Septimus one.  "Well," reasoned Ellie, "We have been learning about ancient Rome and Latin and stuff so it just makes sense."  They were sorely disappointed that it didn't win out.

Actually, that and the fact that we're not making an actual movie and that our friends our expecting twins and therefore will "beat" us, are their only disappointments in regard to this baby.  This kiddo doesn't know how good it's gonna have it.

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Tess really has been counting down to her ninth birthday for months. Her wish list?  Itemized.  Her menu? Planned well in advance.  The movie . . . well, that was something else entirely and took up more than a few days with anxious deliberation, perusing of trailers, and indecision.

A study in contrasts, that one.

In the end she settled on Kit Kittredge, An American Girl so a typewriter graced the table and newspapers were used to wrap her gifts.

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She requested crepes for breakfast.  With whipped cream, of course.  Dear future spouses of our children who end up called to marriage:  I apologize for the crepe thing.  When you innocently ask what they want for breakfast and you are expecting a trip to the donut shop or breakfast in bed at the most and then they request crepes . . . yeah.  Sorry.

Tess cheerfully tidied and then helped me with her cake.  Vanilla with green buttercream.  The morning was filled with loads of "Mama, how else can I help?" because she's a go-getter with a servant heart.

Come lunch time, she looked up hair-dos and was stoked that her pony tail got curled.  She had planned exactly what and how she wanted for lunch at Perkins so there was a collective groan when we drove up and found it closed for remodeling.  Now for some in our family (me included), such a change in plans would have been the end of all good things for the day.  But not Tess.  It took her a moment to gather her wits and change gears but she cheerfully decided that Burger King was a good substitute and off we went.

She was dragging when we got home but didn't want to miss a thing.  She made and received calls while we finished party prep and guests arrived.  By the time supper rolled around, she was near tears.  She was feeling pukey and didn't want to miss out. แผนที่ดาวเทียมสด  Instead she was sent to her room for a little cat nap and after that and some enchiladas, all was well.

Riddles AND puzzles led her to her haul of gifts.

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Hurray for roller skates!  Hurray for candy!  And face paint!  And clothes! The skates were donned immediately and she teetered then careened in and through the chaos.

By the time the movie rolled around she was straight up delirious with satisfaction and fatigue.  And she was one very happy nine-year-old when she finally collapsed that night.

Hope this year's as fabulous as you are, Tess!

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