Something So Big

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lego My Lego

Legos are a double-edged sword to me. On the one hand, they are wonderful at encouraging my kids' imagination, spatial/math skills etc..........

but on the other hand, they are a bugger to clean up as they spread across my living room carpet. They don't feel too good to step on barefooted, either.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Whole World

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13

Mom's Diner, Open 24-7

We're 11 days into summer vacation and the kids are eating us out of house and home. This month's food budget was gone by the 14th, so I figure we'll be running on fumes and cereal dust in about 3 days. No worries.

Now remember, I'm a Slacker Mom. I had 2 children in school full-time (eating hot breakfast and lunch at school) and 2 children in school part-time (eating hot lunch at school). Any good Slacker Mom knows that translates into 30 extra meals per week eaten at home in the summer. Lots more food consumption; lots more dishes & clean-up; lots more order-taking.

Summer lunch at our house is sandwiched between (hey! I made a restaurant pun!) swimming lessons and basketball camp and/or softball practice and/or summer school enrichment class and/or outdoor yard/painting/cleaning projects. So to keep my Slacker Mom status, I resort to leftovers and simple sandwiches at Mom's Diner. Here's a typical conversation overheard at Mom's Diner:

ME. "Welcome to Mom's Diner. May I take your order, please?"
SHAE. "I'll have a peanut butter samwich and milk please!!"
PAIGE. "Mo-om! (sing-songy whiny voice of twin chickens) I want Mi-illllllk!"
ME (going to pantry to retrieve peanut butter). "Ally? How about egg salad?"
ALLY (nodding). "Okay."
CY. "I want a bologna sandwich, Mom."
SHAE. "Mo-om!! Where's my milk???"
ME (grabbing milk , egg salad, and bologna out of fridge). "It's coming. I only have two hands. "
SHAE. "I don't want the chunky peanut butter!!"
ME. "It's the only kind we have left, Shae. Just pick the peanuts out of it."
ALLY. "How come you don't like chunky peanut butter, but you'll eat peanuts?"
ME. "Yeah! You love peanuts!"
WYNNE. "Pop! Pop!" (translation = popcorn, which in this case means peanuts because she can see the jar of peanuts in the pantry)
SHAE (shifting to high gear whine mode). "I don't LIKE PEANUTS IN MY PEANUT BUTTER SAMWICH!!"
ME. "Alright, alright, I'll scrape out just the peanut butter for you. (as I frantically spread peanut butter sans peanuts on a slice of bread) See???"
PAIGE. "MI-ILK PLEASE!!'" (fourth gear whine mode)
ME. "Ally, can you pour her some milk, please? You don't have to cry about it!" (Slacker Mom Bad Move #136: whining back at children, pointing out their faults.)
WYNNE. "Mom! Mom! Gunk!" (milk or juice, depending on what she sees in fridge)
ME (grabbing sippy cup and apples out of fridge). "Here you go, Woots." (taking apple corer/slicer out of drawer) "Anybody want apple slices? They're so good for you!" (Slacker Mom Bad Move #137: asking child for their preference; giving choices; not just telling)
PAIGE. "WYNNIE!!! Get out of my seat!!!" (Crying now as Wynne climbs up to share her stool. Note: Mom's Diner has 5 regular customers but only 4 stools. Youngest child prefers swivel stool to boring high chair--who wouldn't?)
ME. "Paige, just let her share with you, please honey?"
PAIGE. "Noooo!!" (pushes toddler off of stool, said toddler bumps her head and cries")
CY. "You stupid-" (hitting Paige in defense of baby sister, because eye-for-an-eye is the most logical choice of a 7-year-old boy)
PAIGE. "WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!" (2 children crying now)
MOM. "Cy!! You don't have to HIT her!" (Slacker Mom Bad Move #138: not issuing time-out or other punishment to son at this time--can't shift out of sandwich-making-mode into discipline mode. Walks around counter to pick up Wynne and hug/kiss Paige.) "I'm sorry." (to Paige:) "It would really be helpful if you would just share with Wynne today, or bring a chair over like Shae did yesterday. What do you want for lunch, sweetie?"
PAIGE (simmering down now-hey! another cooking pun!). "But I don't want to!"
MOM (bringing over another chair). "Ally, can you move to a chair please? You're the biggest anyway."
ALLY (glumly conceding). "Alright....(to Paige): You big baby!"
PAIGE (winding up to 5th gear again). "Mo---om!! She called me a BABY!!!!"
MOM (to Ally): "Ally, don't even look at her. Paige, you need to shut up or take a nap because you're whining ALL of the time! Now what do you want for lunch??" (Slacker Mom Bad Moves #139 and #140: saying "shut up" and confusing 2 issues- lunch and nap)
PAIGE (back down to 2nd gear). "I want a buttered bread."
MOM. "Honey, you know we don't just eat buttered bread for lunch. It's not that good for you. You need to eat a meat or peanut butter or egg to get muscles." (Slacker Mom Bad Move #141: explaining too much to a 5-year-old)
PAIGE (shifting to 4th gear). "I want BUTTERED BREAD!!"
MOM. "How about a slice of ham or bologna on that?" (Slacker Mom Good Move #1: ham is more nutritious than bologna.....right?)
PAIGE (back down to 3rd). "I want ham but I don't want it cold! And it has to be cut up!"
MOM. "What do you say?"
PAIGE (high grumble): "PLEASE!!"
MOM. "That's better. I'm not your slave here. Mommy has a lot of things to do and it would be nice if you guys could say 'please' and 'thank you' and not be so demanding." (Slacker Mom Bad Move #142: rambling. As if hungry children care.)
SHAE. "Thank you for the milk and peanut butter, Mom!"
CY. "Thanks Mom! Can I have another bologna, Mom?"
MOM. "Already??"
ALLY. "Mom? Can I have an egg salad sandwich, please?"
MOM. "Oh, I'm sorry honey! I didn't get you that yet, did I?........(sprayed by water)....Wynnie!! Get off of the counter!!!!!"

You know what? Maybe the diner/whatever's-in-the-fridge meal is not that easy, after all.

Except that the alternative is actually making something that they will all eat. Which is what I attempt to do for supper every evening, and why put myself through 2 root canals in one day? Because you see, my children are individuals with individual tastes. Slacker Moms have to know their Algebra. The Commutative Property of Food Tastes means that:

Child 1 likes most foods because she is older and has acquired the taste. (plus she was here for 2 years without sibling distractions and her parents weren't worn out yet)

Child 2 likes cereal with milk (3-4 bowls a day, any time of the day), pizza but NOT spaghetti, a few fruits, and no green vegetables.

Child 3 likes cereal without milk (milk on the side), anything bread/pasta group (mainly crackers), BUTTER (which in our case is low-transfat margarine), NO KETCHUP, cheese, pizza, most meats except for hamburger (dang it!), chicken, yogurt. Maybe an apple slice. (and this is IT!)

Child 4 likes cereal without milk (milk on the side), peanuts, peanut butter hold the peanuts, anything bread/pasta group, ( NO BUTTER, NO KETCHUP, sometimes apples, bacon, spaghetti but NOT pizza, cheese grilled!, and yogurt. (again, this is IT!)

Child 5 likes cereal, noodles, mac and cheese, any meat (thank God), eggs, carrots, dip, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, ranch, any condiment in the world basically, yogurt, cheese, carrots, but that's about it for fruits and vegetables. (notice I didn't list any fruits...what is up with that???) But note = Child 5 is two. So I'm hoping this improves.

Speaking of all this food, I have to show off our pantry:

Isn't it AWESOME? You have pantry envy now, don't you!
But this pantry is a double-edged sword.
I love love LOVE it for keeping things organized and out of the kitchen cabinets....but I hate hate HATE how the kids just open the door and walk into their all-access-all-food channel. (Note the empty cereal containers on the lower left shelf...everything but the healthy Special K is practically gone. I can't keep em out of the cereal.)
I know what you're thinking--just tell them "NO!" or Don't buy them sweetened cereal. In my lame defense, I buy only the "healthy" versions of sweetened cereal, the honey-nut oat cheerios (generic versions in large bags for large families of course) and frosted mini-wheats and sweetened wheat puffs (hey it's better than Choco Monsters or Cookie Crisp!). As far as the "no" thing, I can say it till I'm blue in the face (which I do). But what can you do when you're outside or in another part of the house working?
This is why I want to put a LOCK on the pantry door.
I am not kidding. (My husband thinks that is mean. Please give me your thoughts! Internet Poll Time!!)

See, I know the deal here. The Distributive Property of Open Pantry looks like this:
Constant pantry grazing (no potato chips, just pretzels, cereal, and crackers) = Bad appetites for meal time = Headaches for Slacker Mom.

So throw me a bone here. (Another food pun! My last one today. I promise.) Please tell me that locking the pantry will reduce the number of picky eaters in my house.

(6th gear whine mode:) PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day, Dad

My dad and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye, but he is a special man and truly one-of-a-kind. Some would call my father narrow-minded, and you could include me in that group at times. But as the years pass and my faith deepens, I am beginning to realize that there is some wisdom to Dad's way of thinking. Maybe it's because I'm nearing 40 (the age my father was when I was born, the baby) and my own children are giving me some of the same griefs and joys that my parents experienced. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. Whatever it is, I am feeling a strong need for life to SLOW DOWN and for people to acknowledge God as the original Creator of the FAMILY. I don't know how to talk about my dad without being politically incorrect, so please forgive me if this comes off as judgmental or righteous. I don't wish to sound that way--I'm just trying to express how I share my Dad's belief in "the good old days". (You know, the traditional structure of Mom and Dad are married, take the kids to church, spank the kids when they need it, love the kids at all times with together time/work/chores/play; everyone eats together around the dinner table; prayers at bedtime, that sort of thing.)

My dad has taught me so much about being content, putting family and faith in God before anything of materialistic value, and appreciating the simple things in life. Dad grew up during the Depression years so he knows what it means to "go without"....and he never really had the desire for the newest model of anything. He learned how to fix things and re-use them; he farmed his whole youth and working adult life, so he knows hard work and sacrifice. I was so proud when I finally got the chance to milk cows alongside him and my sister Julie during our high school and college years. Dad taught us to treat each cow as an individual (we only milked around 20) and consider each one's temperament. We had names for each of our "girls", and Swissy (our lone Brown Swiss among Holsteins) was the clear favorite. We had a lot of laughs out in the barn!

I read a statistic where children are 40% more likely to be active in a church as adults when their father helps take them to church (as children). Dad was right there with Mom, taking us to church most every Sunday. Dad is very musical, playing the organ "by ear," so Sundays were a great chance for him to sing the bass version of our German Lutheran liturgy and hymns (I was raised "Luth'ran".) As far as the 40% statistic, we can vouch for that, as most of us 9 siblings are active participants in our own congregations (Sunday School superintendents, teachers, VBS organizers, choir members, church council officers, confirmation leaders, etc.) . I don't say this to brag, only to share this vital part of my upbringing which came largely from Dad. (Not to be outdone, Mom has grown steadily in her faith and is the best example of a "saint" here on Earth, I kid you not. Just ask Dad--she puts up with him!!)

Dad has always been very vocal about what his expectations for us kids were and are. I would love to get him and Jim Dobson in the same room....they would probably laugh and reminisce and get into a passionate conversation about how today's society is veering away from God's path for us. Growing up and dating my future husband, I never wanted to disappoint my mom and dad. Mom led by quiet example, and Dad was always very "black & white" on "right and wrong". You knew where you stood with my folks, and you knew that you were going to get it if you crossed that line.

In today's world, there are less "black & white" and definitely more gray areas. Dad has had a hard time adjusting to that, and sometimes I get frustrated with him for being so boneheaded. But time passes, new generations are born, and I am beginning to understand more of Dad's perspective. I love talking with him about the funny little things my own children do...and complaining with him about rising prices, today's wasteful society, and the crumbling family unit. I long for more black & white and less gray.

Don't get me wrong--Dad is not perfect. He is human, and some of the most aggravating things about him are also what make him more endearing to me. I can't pinpoint the exact moment when I bridged from childhood to adulthood, but I can tell you that I grew up a lot when I realized that my father wasn't perfect and that he made mistakes. One of the most precious memories I have of Dad is seeing him break down in tears as he humbly admitted he'd made some bad mistakes. It was a moment where I felt like we shared humanity together....we were both children of transcended time. It was painful but also very necessary in my growth (and in his, too). Dad is 78 years old, but he is most proud of his 27th Birthday this April. His sobriety birthday. When his family intervened 27 years ago, Dad chose his wife and kids over that next drink. There are no words to describe what that says about a person (and the woman who stands behind him).

Somewhere in his young adulthood Dad picked up the nickname "Governor" or "Gov." (Don't forget the period ".") We kids have often joked about how we were going to compile a book of "Gov.isms". Here are some of them. (Disclaimer=These phrases may or may not be politically correct. They are not intended to offend anyone, nor are they all original thoughts belonging soley to my father.)

"When I first saw your mother, I knew I was going to marry her."
"That's a long time with one woman!" (every anniversary year)
"That's why."
"A hundred years from now no one will know the difference."
"It's just money."
"If it works, don't fix it."
"Think about it."
"I got everything I need right here."
"You bet!" or "'Bet!"
"15-2, 15-4 and a pair is 6."
"Take what you're used to."
"That's the way to function"
"physic ya!" (when conditions are harsh)
"I'm just joshin' ya" (teasing)
"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"
"He don't know sh_ _ from fat meat."
"Full of sh_ _ like a baby robin."
"Honey...................SHUT UP!!!!" (directed to loud children)
"If you wanna dance, you gotta pay the fiddler."
"His squeeze" (girlfriend)
"Suck face!"
"Don't take any wooden nickels."
"Keep it simple, stupid."
"He/she could stop a clock!"
"Mom had the patience of Job."
"Money is the root of all evil."
"Did Nick get a nail??" (inside joke)
"They oughta make one more like that and throw it away!"
"Get something on your feet!"
"Were you born in the barn?"

Dad has 29 grandchildren, 1 on the way, and 5 great-grandchildren. The kids know Grandpa for cribbage games, tootsie rolls, and dollar bills at Christmas. When Wynne thinks of Grandpa, she puts her finger in her mouth and tries to make that popping sound he always makes. Grandpa makes neat sounds and can even wiggle his ears.

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thursday the 12th

We live about 7 miles north of the Mississippi River. What you're seeing is our pasture and the northern neighbor's corn fields. NOT a river. Just the result of record snowfalls and rainfalls over the past 7 months. First time this has ever been under water.

We all hear about Friday the 13th.
Well, in Wisconsin we had Thursday the 12th.
"For we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." --Romans 8:28

School of Rock

My husband is a tireless worker. In addition to his teaching and coaching and athletic directing and weightroom supervising, he comes home and specializes in maintenance, landscaping, farming, and remodeling. The past few weeks he has come home from an 11-hour day at school to put in another 4-5 hours of yard work. And when I say yard work, I don't mean lawn mowing and hedge trimming. I'm talking rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. BIG rocks. Like this:

These rocks are like 2 feet squarish. I can't even budge them. (I can't budge ones that are half this size.)
Mark worked for 6 summers as a landscaper during his college/early teaching years, and he is wonderfully talented in this department. See that cobblestone patio? He did that over the last weekend in May. 3000 pavers or so. He's crazy man.

Here's the view from our kitchen/family room looking north. (See that barnboard arbor and gazebo in the back? Mark made those, too. Am I bragging up my man? Yes.)

Here are a few more shots of the past few weeks' handiwork...

Mark had a vision for this back yard 5 years ago when we moved here. I can't take credit for any of it. (My job is to keep the kids out of the way when he's working-)
Mark is MY rock!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Big M, Small World

Last weekend we took the kids on their 2nd letterboxing expedition. Letterboxing is an ancient pasttime which I will sum up here as, basically, a combination of hiking & treasure hunting. The "fun mom" in me loves that the kids LOVE it, exercise, and we can all enjoy this together. The teacher in me loves the reading, language arts, math, and geography skills going on. And this past expedition even had some history & family genealogy wrapped into it...bonus!!

We had to climb the world's largest M which is on a mound between Platteville & Belmont, Wisconsin--not far from where we live--and the "treasure" (letterbox, a box with a stamp and log book inside of it) was hidden somewhere at the top of the mound. (The Big M, by the way, stands for "Mining" and represents the mining school which is now part of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.) On the steps up to the top, there are names printed on small plaques, representing people who have had a part in the history of the mining school/UW-P's engineering programs. Anyway, we hadn't been up the mound for several years (the first time with all 5 of our kids), and we noticed a step entitled "Clarice Myers, Jr."

That's my uncle! He was in mining school and must have donated to the construction of these new steps! And come to find out, another letterbox hunt on this Big M uses his name and step # as one of the clues to finding its treasure! Small world :)
So now we are going to wait until my cousins travel back to Wisconsin for the Myers Family Reunion in July to try the next Big M Letterboxing Expedition...using my Uncle Jupe's (Clarice Myers, Jr.) clue to help!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Like Sleep.

This little trapeze artist learned how to climb out of her crib two days ago. Actually, it was 2 nights ago. You know how the exciting stuff always happens when you're snuggled in bed, drifting off to sleep? Well that's what happened Sunday night. Our baby came toddling into our room.

"Look who can get out of her bed!" my husband says to me, a mixture of pride and fatigue in his voice.

I must confess if you haven't figured it out already--I am a Slacker Mom. I like to have personal space at bedtime. I'm the one who lets the kids snuggle in with us for a few seconds, then takes them back up to bed & lies with them there for a while until their fears are diminished. I'm the Mean One (At least at night--Daddy admits that he is too tired and dysfunctional at night to get up with the kids. If I had a nickel for every vomit, potty break, scary dream, etc....)

"Look at her standing there," Mark whispers to me as we lie in the darkness and see the silhouette of our youngest standing at the foot of the bed.

"My life is over," I say as I come to the realization that our chances of watching the 10:00 news uninterrupted or me getting in a workout at 6:00 a.m. are now over, now that Wynne can climb out of her crib at all hours of the night and wee morning. I return our baby to her bed 4 times, shut the door to her room, listen to her screams, and eventually rock an exhausted little girl to sleep.

And then I remember the 2 most blessed words known to Slacker Parents: crib tent . Ah yes, the crib tent!! Somehow our eldest stayed in her bed as a toddler and didn't need one of these Modern Miracles of Slacker Parenthood. But when our son was 9 months old and climbing out of his bed, I did some research and found this sanity-and-sleep-saver. (I can just feel the "shame on you"s coming from Attachment Parents right about now.) Yes, I have an illness. It's called the Need for Sleep. Hello, my name is Amy and I am a Slacker Mom who uses a Crib Tent.

So yesterday I dug out the tent, put it together, and let Wynnie play under it while I attached it to her bed. Like her older brother and twin sisters, she loves the airy canopy. With mixed feelings of mommy guilt and joy, I took this picture.

I know, she doesn't look too thrilled in the picture, but she likes her tent. And trust me, she'll thank me in about 30 years when she comes to borrow it for her own baby!!
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8