Friday, February 27, 2009

Who, Me?

My five year old came up to me and told me that when she grows up, she wants to be a mommy, but not a mean mommy, like me. At this point, I raised my eyebrows and pushed down the desire to have her sit her tiny, barely-reading behind in the chair and begin diagramming sentences.
She explained herself quickly, though, because she added, "You haven't been mean in months!"

I'm pretty sure she doesn't know the difference between months and weeks and eons and millenia, but, who cares. I haven't been mean in months! I'll take her extended perception of things.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mothership's Favorite Thing

Well, one of my favorite things, anyway.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Results of Her Last Meal

For those of you who have always wondered . . . my breast fed baby had asparagus pee tonight.


I like to let my children have a little autonomy over their lives. Notice I said a little because they still have to clean their rooms and brush their teeth because I said so. I think character is developed when life has a chance to chip away at our rough spots. When my kids know that they made a decision to do something and the thing they chose becomes difficult (shoveling the walk in a skirt is fun, but you are going to get awfully cold after a while), they also learn to take ownership of the consequence.Along the way, the bumps and bruises refine and smooth out the rough places. They always have rules, but those rules are generally broad. They are thoroughly rehearsed in safety and know how to ask for help. When I try to let them make a lot of their own decisions and don't micromanage, they learn to rely upon themselves and their own good sense. (Hopefully, they are developing the all-too-elusive common sense.)

My oldest two pods are 10 and a couple of weeks shy of 8. Tonight, they are at a movie, by themselves. The theater is one mile away and I let them walk as long as it is light out. They have earned their own money for tickets and popcorn.

I have let them do this kind of thing before. Sometimes I spy on them--not because I don't trust them, but because I just want to watch. They are more careful and better behaved when they are allowed to govern themselves.

As parents, we are asked to help a person evolve from completely dependent to completely independent in about eighteen years.

As if you needed that reminder.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ain't That Thar Funny?

I was born in an English speaking nation. I have spoken English every day of my speaking life and have read and written English every day of my reading and writing life. I am 32.

I have a French friend who sometimes corrects my spelling and grammar.

Ironic or just pitifully sad?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I was seven months pregnant with my fifth child when I fell down the stairs. There was a piece of clear plastic on the top stair that I could not see with my protruding belly in the way. I fell on my backside so my baby probably just thought I was dancing with the big kids, again. Though I scrambled to catch hold of the rail, it was too late and the stairs too steep. When I reached the bottom, I limped into my bedroom, unfolded on my bed and sobbed deep, heaving sobs. It scared the tar out of me.

Now, though it has been nearly a year, my heart still leaps a little when I go down stairs--any stairs. I always hold the rail, now, but, if my hands are full and there is no way to hold the rail, I walk like a toddler. Stairs are always a bit more challenging to navigate in heels, but now I get grizzly pictures in my mind as I imagine myself splayed at the bottom stoop because my heel caught the edge of the step.

Is there such a thing as stair-phobia?

Post Script: I just googled "Fear of falling down stairs" and, guess what? IT IS A REAL THING!! It's called climacophobia. One place promises to relieve my fear for $2974. Where did they come up with that number? Weird. Like someone could be afraid of falling down the stairs. Geez.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Last month I read Cheaper By the Dozen. If you haven't read it, do. It is a quick read and is full of wisdom that is delivered with a good deal of humor and love. One of the major themes of the book, is Time--specifically, the use of time. Frank Gilbreth, the dad, was the first Efficiency Expert and was quite passionate about it. He tested many of his theories on his family and they were all required to find the most efficient way to do everything. It got me to thinking: How do I use my time?
Then I found this:

"Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction. He would have good people fill their lives with good things so there is no room for the essential ones." Richard G Scott.

And, also, this:

"We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families." Dallin H Oaks.

So, I started a log. Do you ever go to bed at night and wonder what the heck you did that day that made you so tired? For the last couple of days, I have kept track of my use of time on an hourly basis. I was relieved to discover that I am not lazy. I am often busy with the mundane, have-to-do-it-again-in-an-hour stuff so it sometimes feels like I am getting nothing done.(Remember, when Pam had to keep track of what Michael did all day? His list included "Cosby Impression" and "Stood in Pretzel Line." Maybe I should get a job like that so I could get some rest.)

I will not bore you with all of the details of my log, but suffice it to say there is a lot of milk and a lot of poo involved. There are school projects with my children that will never be "done." I am in the kitchen a lot. Errands are time parasites.
Now, I am going to make another list: What are my highest priorities?

Then, taking the list and the log in hand, I am going to decide whether I am spending my time doing the good things or the essential ones.

Are you happy with the way you are spending your time?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not Just a Fantasy

You know how, before you had kids, you had no idea how hard it would be? Remember when you had no idea how hard your parents worked and lifting your feet up so Mom could vacuum was irritating? You know how you were oblivious to the unending worry, hope, prayer and tears that went into the raising of you? Those questions are all answered pretty quickly, once that first baby comes.

I have five children and being a mother is the thing I have most wanted in my life. I was just reminded, by an old friend, how I used to talk about being pregnant with a dreamy look on my face. I would stuff a pillow under my shirt and look in the mirror and wonder. I am also a romantic, so my mother dreams were never realistic. I went to birthing classes with the express purpose of getting a little reality in my vision of labor. In fact, when asked why I was there, I believe I said something like, "In my mind, I am going through labor in a white linen dress. My good husband is standing at my head with love in his eyes as he gazes at me. A soft, wet curl has fallen over my forehead and a glow of perspiration shines on my face. I need to know what it will really be like."

There were other romantic notions that clouded my prophesying. It has frustrated me, at times, but there are other times when they are fulfilled.

One could walk right by without noticing the modest, unassuming house. It did not stand out, it did not make a statement. If you did take a chance to see what was inside, however, you would know that something was different about this place. The room was basically tidy, but there were a couple of plates left, not forgotten, but not yet attended to, on the table. A basket of unfolded laundry sat awaiting attention, but you hardly noticed those things. There was a feeling. A mother sat in her rocking chair with a book in one hand. A single lamp lighted the pages and cast deep shadows around the rest of the room. A small child, who was cradled in her lap, felt her eyes grow heavy as she was lulled by the voice of her mother. The old, deep couch was the resting place for two more children. They lay sprawled together, looking not at each other, but off--into their imaginations, as a place and time, other than their own, was illustrated by their narrator. Then, continuing your scan of the room, you see a fourth child, maybe seven or eight years old, holding a baby of about the same number of months. She rocks the baby gently, but she, too, is caught up in the story as her mother reads. As you watch the love with which the girl strokes the fat cheeks of the baby in her lap, you look back at the mother. She has food smeared on her left shoulder and there are signs of past stresses on her still-young face. Here, at the end of the day, her hair is no longer neat, her make-up has faded. She is not wearing a lovely dress with folds of silk, she is in jeans and a sweater, but it's okay. She reads with animation and sometimes has to stop reading aloud to laugh or wipe tears from her cheeks. She subconsciously fingers the hair of the toddler in her lap and you think, "It doesn't get any better than this."

Dreams do come true, only, like the book to it's movie, real life is so much better.

What I've Been Doing

Last Fall, my husband started pharmacy school. Pharmacy is a very rigorous program so his study time increased exponentially. Also, we had decided at the beginning of his college career, that we would do everything financially possible to allow him to avoid working. I worked at several odd jobs, those first three years, and took thrift to a new level (my grocery/household budget when we first started school was $175 a month for our then family of six). Last summer, however, my husband found two part-time jobs. He kept them for the first two months of the semester, then quit one of them. He continues to work part-time for a local pharmacy.
Needless to say, we rarely saw him. He came home at about six and stayed at long as two hours--usually less--until he was off, again, to the library or a job.

Recognizing this was to be the pattern for the next four years, I decided to do something about it.

One day in September, I took a chain saw and cut a big hole in the side of our garage. I built new shelves in the storage section of the garage and organized it. Then, after building a separating wall, I made a study room for my husband. Because I have a lot of children and must continue grocery shopping, home schooling, and laundry folding, it took me the whole of last semester and a couple of weeks of this one.
But, now, I get to see my favorite friend every time he takes a bathroom/stretching/food break. If I have something to tell him, I just run into the back yard and tell him. Here it is:

He has a long desk, book shelves, a peg board, and a white board.

We get to see more of him, and he doesn't have to miss out on this:

Or this:

It was worth every sliver and back ache.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Just In Time

An ideal day, here at our school, begins with our Big 5. It includes the basic chores and personal grooming that every person should do, every day of their lives. They are:
  1. Make Bed

  2. Say Prayers

  3. Tidy Room

  4. Brush Teeth

  5. Get Dressed--includes fixing hair

Seems pretty straight forward and simple, right? Not so. These activities, which are to be done before one gets breakfast, has taken as long as ALL STINKIN' DAY.

Today, however, each child did get their Big 5 done, I had done my own morning chores and the house looked tidy and presentable by about 11 am. I then sat down with my book. I can get pretty absorbed in a book and I am reading an especially tense and raw one right now (All Quiet on the Western Front, if you care). In that short space of time, when I was completely absorbed, the children managed to wreck the house. Yes, I was on the couch, even, and not hidden away somewhere.

It should also be explained that in our small house, we do not have a family room, per se. That means that all blanket forts and cushion slides and other childhood edifices are built in the living/dining room.

One thing I cannot ignore during my reading time, is snot (blood, hopefully, goes without saying). I had just taken care of the nose of one of my pods when the doorbell rang. I reached over and opened the door to our mail man. Our mail man is really a great guy. He is funny and kind and remembers the names of each of our many children. He also has a way of coming at the wrong time.

After opening the door, I took a quick glance around the room and felt my stomach sink. There was a crazy cushion/pillow/magazine rack slide that our seven month old baby was attempting to scale. Someone had taken the empty bag of Marshmallow Mateys and dumped the cereal crumbs all over my freshly swept floor, making it look like maybe I never sweep. The table was strewn with art supplies, which, by The Law of Art Supplies, must be strewn. I was even holding a snotty tissue in my hand.


At least we were all dressed. . . this time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Nightmare

I love my teeth. They are nothing special, really. They are not impervious to cavities, like some people's teeth. They are not gleaming white, though without coffee, cola or tobacco, they aren't too yellowed. I am a very smiley person, though, and I am not embarrassed by my smile. I think a big reason I love my teeth is the three years and twenty-five days they were wrapped in metal. That is a big investment, if you consider it filled one quarter of my life by the time they were removed.

My recurring nightmare is that my teeth are loose or fall out unexpectedly. I had another one last night and I awoke in a panic. Sometimes I even run to check my teeth in the mirror. Always, I brush extra good that morning to make sure I am doing my part to insure their health and safety from those wily sugar bugs.

It freaks me out and I would have a completely happy life if it were not for this one thing so please help.

Do you have that dream? What does it mean?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tool Belt

I have a tool belt. I've needed one for years. My dad gave this to me for my birthday and I love it.
That's it. I just wanted to show you.
The Mothership

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Reason For Families

When we told our son that our new baby would be his fourth sister, we thought he would never recover.
But, he has.
The love is mutual.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Warning: Disturbing Image

This is the creepy doll that someone gave my daughter. This evening, one of my pods was pretending to be in labor (they've seen me there, so they were fairly accurate) and had the doll under her dress. At the climactic moment, I looked up from my book to see the baby delivered like this: There are obviously some things concerning the size of the birth canal that my girl did not understand.

But she will.

Friday, February 6, 2009

More On Mornings

My last post got me to reminiscing about my growing-up mornings. I had a seriously happy childhood. We all have crap, but I've dealt with it and have decided that mine is a much happier life when I forgive and forget the crap.

I know, I have a way, an eloquence. You can vinyl that and put it on your wall, if you want.


I laid in my bed looking at the red digits of the alarm clock. 6:08. I knew I was pushing it, but I just couldn't make myself get out of my warm, washed-soft sheets. 6:09.

Move, Emily, I instructed myself inside my head. You have to take a shower today because you didn't yesterday!

It was true. I've never been an everyday showerer, but two days was too many for a fourteen year old girl. I heaved my body into sitting position on the edge of my bed and had barely shifted my weight onto my feet when I heard the telltale rattle and shake from the water pipe that ran through my bedroom. OH, NO! Someone was in the shower. I half sighed, half growled and flopped back on my pillow.

Our home was filled to the brim. At it's peak, we had two adults, four teenagers, one tween, two mentally retarded boys, and a baby. Ten human creatures was more than enough to warrant a second bathroom, but we had only one. One of our "boys," as we always called them, Daniel, had special bathroom needs. He was born without a few essentials. In order for him to be considered potty trained, he had to sit on the toilet for a good deal of time each morning.

Family grooming ran like a well-oiled machine. We stood tallest in the back and tapered down to the front. We could sense the needs of another so brushes, hairspray and deodorant was passed without asking. We tucked in tags, helped fix the back of each other's hair and were rarely injured.

Our mother, a patient, loving, good, etc., etc., woman, never excelled at organization so we did not adopt any kind of system. Our system meant leaving the door unlocked while in the shower so the rest of the family could parade in and out to go to the bathroom, brush hair, fix make-up, use the curling iron, get the baby wipes, and so on. It also meant first come, first served for the shower. I had not been first that day.

I grabbed my underthings and trudged up the stairs. If I wasn't first, I HAD to be second. I dropped my pile of clothes in the hall, right next to the bathroom door. That was the line. While Joe was in the shower, I went into the dining room to finish up my last minute homework and get breakfast. Sitting on the counter was a bowl of granola already covered in milk. That would be Joe's. My always frugal parents had gotten a bulk supply of granola from somewhere. There was a reason it was given to my parents; it tasted fine, but you had to soak it for twenty minutes before taking a bite or risk losing all of the hardware on your teeth (and our family boasted a lot of hardware!). I prepared myself a bowl and sat it next to my older brothers'.

Gradually, the rest of the house woke up and came into the kitchen. It was the central meeting place of the house--Mom was always there, frying bacon, fixing hair, getting the pharmaceuticals ready for the "boys." She was, like the rest of us, in varying stages of readiness. Someone was singing, someone laughing, someone screaming at the printer (our laser printer, in the early 90's, was exasperatingly unreliable), and all of us were in a hurry. I'd had my shower, eaten my now softened granola and was getting dressed. My jeans were still wet in the waistband and seams. Oh, well. I knew they would dry quickly on my body. Mom didn't use the dryer because it was so expensive to run. She hung the laundry even in the winter and that meant that if you needed a pair of jeans for a specific day or event, you'd better get your jeans in the laundry three days ahead of time, or they would not be dry.

6:59. A sentinel was posted to watch for the bus. It usually didn't come until 7:04, but sometimes came early. I raced to the kitchen sink, where we kept our toothbrushes because of the over-used bathroom, and reached for my toothbrush--the one I got from the dentist three months earlier and had been using every day since. It was wet.

A wet toothbrush that you didn't use could only mean one thing: someone else was using my toothbrush.

"AUGH!!! WHO USED MY TOOTHBRUSH??" I hollered in my most controlled holler.

"What do you mean, your toothbrush? That's my toothbrush!" answered an equally grossed out Joe.

Simultaneous NOOOOO's issued forth from our unbelieving selves. How was this possible? For the rest of my life, I would cringe at that thought: We used the same toothbrush for three months. Ewwww.

"Bus!" echoed through the house. Our freak-out would have to continue there. It was time to go.


Our family is still very close. Maybe it was the bathroom that bound us together in such an intangible way. I miss being so close to them. I do not miss the granola.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Bus Schedule

Homeschooling can be a two-edged sword--in, at least, one respect: there is no school bus in the morning. I took the bus to school every day for the first eighteen years of my life. Do not question me, here. I realize I did not start school until I was five, but the grief I suffered on that bouncy, smelly vehicle make up for the missed time. I had to wake up when it was still dark and cold (we had a wood stove, so the house was cold until Mom could get a fire going--even then, it was only warm immediately around the stove for a significant amount of time). Our house, with it's one bathroom and ninety-two people, was a den of chaos, in those early morning hours. Not only did we have our family, but many of the neighborhood children came to wait at the Mattoon house, so they didn't have to stand in the cold. We could see the bus approach about half a mile away and a sentinel was always set to watch for the warning. As soon as the alarm was sounded, we rushed into our coats, Mom signed the last note, the toothpaste was spit into the sink, and we rounded the driveway as fast as possible--the whole herd of us. A reprimand by the driver could be relied upon if we were late. Sometimes, the look-out would somehow miss the bus as it entered it's warning stretch and then the sound of the air brake would cause bedlam. I am not kidding when I tell you that my heart still leaps when I hear that familiar sound.

Oh, I have some school bus stories I could tell! Oh, boy, oh, boy. But, I won't. . . today.

Today, I'm talking about the two-edged sword of the lack of the need for a school bus due to homeschooling. On one side, we do not generally have pandemonium at our house in the morning. People wake up when they are rested. Mornings are certainly a busy time, no question, but are rarely the hectic or frantic mornings of my public-school childhood. (Disclaimer: Those mornings were not the fault of my mother. She did her best to wake us up on time, have clothes washed and ready, and, goodness knows she reminded us and questioned us repeatedly about homework and permission slips. It was her fault that the whole neighborhood was there, but I think that was a good thing.)
The other side of the sword, is that my children have never learned how to go to bed at a descent hour. It is 10 pm and only the baby is asleep. It kind of makes me crazy, but not crazy enough to change it. Many people point to this as a consequence of my poor parenting. Maybe, but one thing it does produce is children falling asleep in the strangest places and the oddest times.

I can't help it--I love it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Know You Probably Don't Care, But . . .

I like dessert. I don't know a person living in these great United States who doesn't like dessert. While I do enjoy chocolate, I have never been able to enjoy the death-by-chocolate indulgences. It is just too much. My favorite desserts are usually more mild. Any kind of pie (excluding the pudding-in-a-crust kind) are sweet and satisfying. Pies are usually filled with more healthy things than other desserts--two cups of pumpkin or six cups of apples, for instance. They are beautiful on a plate and make me want to eat slowly--enjoying each bite. My pies are amazing. I will not attempt humility here--they are really that good. The secret is in the crust.

If I am going to have brownies, I want chewy and a touch bitter. Please do not frost them or fill them with chocolate chips. It is too much and the satisfaction of the texture is lost. Chocolates, now and again, are gratifying. By limiting yourself to only one or two, you get to savor each taste, let the flavor melt onto your tongue and, by so doing, eliminate our blinding stresses. I can make a bag of quality chocolates last months and I swear it makes me a better mother.

As far as candy is concerned, chewy goes a long way. Having said this, it is vital to remember that candy should not be punishment so all Brain Bursting Sour Chews are out. OUT. I recently discovered a perfect combination of chewy and sweet, but not too sweet, at Costco, in this. Black. Oh, my stars, these are yummy. You only need two or three to do the trick.

Every good mother has her candy hidden and every good mother knows why. I knew someone who kept hers in an emptied tampon box. Genius. I knew someone else who actually had a chest with a lock on it. It is hard to hide pie in the sock drawer, though, so I've gotten to the point where I make something like a chocolate cream for the family and then a custard pie for myself. I can eat an entire pie on my own. It is like baked egg nog and who doesn't like egg nog??

Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment, I need to run to Costco.

What is your favorite dessert and where do you hide it?

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Up at the top of my blog, you will notice that there are several tabs. They have been, for the most part, defunct. I am not a computer programmer and all of the // and [.]'s remain mostly mysterious. Add to the equation that the template I chose was written in a Latin-based language that is not English, and you will see why this took me much of January to figure out.

But, hooray, I have one page done! Click on "the fleet" above and you will be directed to a page full of information about, well, my fleet. (How do you feel about the all lowercase business? This is the kind of thing that usually irritates me, but it is speaking to me, for now.) I made little last-day-of-summer-camp videos that will probably only interest my mom, but you can watch them, if you want.

I remember the first time I frosted a double-layer cake and miraculously portioned the frosting so it would cover the entire cake (not just the picture-taking side). I was so impressed with myself. No one else cared--except my mom, who proclaimed me the most talented 14 year old she had ever had the chance to meet.

I feel like that.

Post Script: I have been informed that the tabs cannot be seen if you are using FireFox. I have no idea in all of the universe, how to correct that. If you do, please let me know!