Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Motherhood is a stream of wiping, consoling, scolding, teaching, exhorting, preaching, fixing and healing.  There is nearly always someone sick, making a mess, picking on a sibling or otherwise complicating my images of a lovely home.  The more children you have, the less likely that everyone will be happy and healthy at the same time.

I learned early not to look back on the day and evaluate whether it was a good day or a bad day.  It is rarely so cut and dried.  It could have been a nearly good day, but when the kids took a bath after dinner, they flooded the basement, or some other disaster, that ruins the possibility of calling it a good day.

I decided to take the moments.

And I try to remember them.  I make a conscious, "Emily, remember this!" decision and keep a permanent record in my gray matter.

Sunday night was one such moment.  It was the last night of Spring Break and we had all had full access to Dad the entire week.  (He was amazing last week.  Among other things, he changed the hot water tank, cleaned out the back of the dryer, shampooed the carpets and helped keep the house clean.  I told him to quit school.  It would be worth living on welfare to have him around all of the time!)  Justin sat at the computer inputing favorite songs from his childhood while the rest of us danced.

After a few minutes, I found my way to a corner so I could gaze upon the entire scene and cement it in my memory.  The house was tidy and the baby was safely diapered for the night.  Two of the girls were doing the Tango--not very well, but with a great deal of passion.  It reminded me of my sister and I rocking the Polka in the very same way at the very same ages.  During a slow song, the oldest sister held her youngest sister and rocked gently across the floor.  There was so much love in that embrace.  One child is a natural dancer and knew precisely what moves were required for everything from Van Halen's Jump to Suzanne Vega's Tom's Diner.

Everyone was laughing.

So, even though there had been less-than-perfect incidents earlier in the day and there were to be emotional scenes before bed,

there was this moment 

when everything was right in our world.

In honor of my oldest brother and for your viewing pleasure, may I present an anthem from my childhood:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gaining Weight

Not Me.

During each of my pregnancies, I have gained 50-60 pounds.  I've always lost it, though it takes me a bit longer after each baby, and decided a long time ago that that is just the way my body needs to do it.  Still when I see the charts recommending a 25-35 pound weight gain, I feel guilty.  Each doctor visit, when I step on the blasted scale and see the BMI chart that is posted directly in front of my nose, I feel guilt, frustration and embarrassment. For a girl who has never struggled with weight, it effects me in such a peculiar way.  Toward the end, when I am reaching my peak, I have grown out of most of my maternity clothes and don't want to be seen.   Despite the many cumulated years of pregnancy, I have very few pictures of me with an expectant belly.

So this pregnancy, I have determined a couple of things.  I am now thirteen weeks along and am sick of being sick.  Many women lose weight during the first trimester; I have gained ten pounds.  The problem is that my morning sickness is lessened by food and I have discovered that protein works the best.  I'll eat cheese, peanut butter, a handful of nuts, or a couple of eggs.  I don't want to eat and when I do it's not because I'm hungry, but because I know that the food helps me feel better.  I usually feel good in the mornings until about 10:30, so even if it takes a while for my morning sickness to completely dissipate, I do have the morning.  I usually take advantage of that time to catch up on the house work I was too sick to conquer the night before.  But, I am determined to move my body more so that even when the pounds do begin to mount, I will at least know that under it all, I am strong.  Dishes be damned.

Also, when I step on the scale at my appointments, I will close my eyes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Family Knows Me So Well

It began with my husband--always the first one up and going.  He hurried to me and pulled me outside with a, "I have a surprise for you!"

My Snow Crocus are blooming!  Our area is in zone 4, so everything is a little later here, but my house faces North West, so the front flower beds get the last of the winter sun.

A few minutes later, one of the girls hollered through the house, "MOM, MOM, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!!"

Not only was she proud to present the mounds of Snow Crocus, but also pointed out the Anemone.

I don't know if they are related to the wild Buttercup, but the early spring Anemone always reminds me of them.  Ohhhh, I just looked it up and they are from the same family.  No wonder I love them.  Buttercups are always such a delightful surprise!

Throughout the day, each child didn't just tell me the flowers were blooming, but had to show me.  By the afternoon, we also had the first of the Miniature Iris (actually from the crocus family, but you can see why they are named after the Iris).  It was yet another of my children that delightedly presented the display.

So, even though the earliest Daffodils and Tulips are still far off, I have flowers in my garden.  I have been drooling over the gardens of bloggers in more southern zones who are planting lavender and harvesting lemons, but I am grateful that I live in a cold climate.  Our cold winters make the spring flowers so beautiful because they are so needed!  I swear, the colder the winter, the brighter the colors of these first blooms.

If I am doing nothing else, I know I am teaching my family the delights of flowers and sharing the good news that they represent.

Aren't they (the family and the flowers) wonderful?

Anything blooming at your house?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Everyone Has a Genius

I was talking to my mom on the phone recently, sharing insights I had learned from another mother.  I told her that I think everyone has a genius.  I think we should learn from people who have genius in an area where we are weak.  Mom agreed then said, "What if you don't know what your genius is?"

Although her question made me a little sad (to think that my amazing mother doesn't think she has a genius), I told her to ask her children.  She hesitated for a minute and then said, "Emily, what is my genius?"

The first thing that popped into my mind, was communication.  None of us struggled with communicating with our mom.  There may have been things we didn't want to tell her, but we told her.  The problems that many parents of teenagers have, Mom didn't because of this genius.  

Second, gospel teaching; both in a formal classroom setting and on an individual basis.  Mom never shied away from discussing the "meat" of the gospel with us.  If she didn't know an answer to one of my many questions, she wouldn't just say, "I don't know."  She said, "I don't know.  Let's find out."  She taught me to search for answers in the scriptures and through prayer.  She still calls me in the middle of the day to share an insight she just gained.

Those were two just off the top of my head.  There are others, of course.  I hope she asks my siblings and gets some other insights. 

It made me wonder, who else in my life shares their genius with me?  Who teaches me something that I just don't get, but comes naturally to them?  Do they know what their genius is?  Have I told them how they've helped me, improved me?  Have I thanked them?

Can you identify your genius?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Apprentices

I went to a home schooling conference over the weekend.  Overall it was a good experience, but not the amazing experience it has been before.  I think one reason is that I've been doing this for a while now and most of the classes were for those just starting out.  Unless they change the format by adding classes for veteran teachers, but who are still learning, I probably won't go back.  Still, for the group on which they focus, they do a good job.  I will share most of my notes on The MotherShip Home Schools, but I will share some with you here.

One class I took was not necessarily about educating at home, but was more about ideas on how to run our homes more effectively and efficiently.  Her name is Rachel Keppner and she writes this blog.  I haven't read any of it, yet, but love the header picture.

I tend to want to take classes from people who have older children.  (I don't think that if your oldest is eight that you have the experience necessary to teach me much.)  I went to this class because she has eleven children and most of them are older than mine.

She presented the absurd idea that our children should be able to run a household before they leave my household.  This is becoming a rather unpopular idea in our society.  Children take care of their bedrooms, their own school work, and other things that belong to them, but they are often so busy outside of the home, that household or family responsibilities are left to the parents.  She pointed out that doing work for the family (others) helps them develop concern for one another, rather than the more selfish taking care of only themselves.

She explained that our homes should be like an apprentice shop with the mother and father serving as masters to the children apprentices.  (And I want my boy to be just as adept in the kitchen as my girls are at changing a flat tire.  No traditional gender rules apply here.)  A good mother should slowly work herself out of a job.

I LOVE THAT IDEA.  Obviously, there are maternal roles that a child can never take, but I hope that by the time my children leave home, they can do everything in the home that I can do.  They should be able to mop a floor and clean a toilet, yes, but they should also know how to bandage a wound, cut hair, check the oil and tire pressure, make a variety of healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, pack a family for camping, fix a leaky faucet, change a dirty diaper, dress a restless one year old, stock a book shelf, and use a sewing machine and a paint brush.  This is aside from educational pursuits.

Having said that, I also need to make sure that I'm not having them do my job.  I have known people from large families who don't want to have children because they feel they already raised their brothers and sisters. If they leave my home with that feeling, than I have failed--even if they can make light and fluffy biscuits.  It is a difficult balance to strike and can only be achieved with constant vigilance and good counsel from the spouse.

One final, more practical tip, that she shared, was about recipes.  She gives her children a simple three-ring binder.  As they learn recipes, they write them in their own recipe book.  I would expand that just a bit.  For instance, my ten year old daughter wants to learn how to make Taco Soup.  I give her my recipe and she copies it into her book.  We make the dinner together the first time.  The second time, she makes the dinner on her own, but I am available to answer questions ('Do I drain the beans?" or "What is 'diced' again?").  By the third time she makes Taco Soup, she can do it on her own.  By the time she leaves home, she has a binder thick with recipes she can make and knows she likes!  What a valuable tool!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Like many of you, I have been thinking a lot about Japan this week.  I have poured over scores of pictures; have been shocked at before and after satellite image; have learned (and taught) more about plate tectonics, the physics behind a tsunami and aftershocks; have learned that the earthquake changed the location of Japan, changed the length of our day and altered the axis of the earth; been thankful, in a weird sort of way, that the disaster happened in Japan where engineering standards and building codes are strict enough that millions of lives were protected by it; learned more about nuclear power, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island than I ever thought I would; been amazed by unexpected rescues including a man ten miles out to sea and a lone baby four days after the disaster; and have been thoroughly impressed with the Japanese people and their reaction--there has been no looting and no whining on the rooftops while we have witnessed an incredible, organized, well-rehearsed disaster action plan.

I don't know anyone in Japan.  I have no Japanese friends or friends living in Japan.  As far a personal connection, it is only in my love for mankind that has had my heart breaking and kept my prayers sincere.

Yesterday, my husband sent me a link this blog.  I don't know where he got the link, but he doesn't send me stuff very often so I thought I should check it out.  Oh, my.

They are an American military family living on base in Japan.  Her name is Emily, she has a large family, she blogs, and she shares my religion.  Obviously, I felt a connection.  Her first post after the quake was an informative human interest story.  She shared first responses and the success of their emergency preparedness.  It was interesting to see how all of our instruction to prepare can pay off and what holes she had found in her reserves.  I will be using her suggestions.

Her subsequent posts continued in the same vein, but she began to get more information about what happened around her (they had virtually no information for the first day because of loss of power and phones).  She told of families in shelters and other families needing immediate help.

Remember, there is an ongoing, major emergency in Japan.  There is no knowing when stores will be re-stocked or international supplies brought in.  People are living on what is in their homes--with little (sometimes NO) water and inconsistent electricity and heat.  Still, when a plea came for help, look at what just one small group of people donated.  THIS IS WHAT A FOOD STORAGE IS FOR!!  Yes, you must think of your family, but then you must think of your neighbors.  (How many of those neighbors had a food storage that was swept out to sea?)  You see no one brandishing guns and screaming at their needy neighbors to stay away.

 You see them sharing their stored food, generously.

I stole these pictures from her blog.

Will this decrease the comfort of some of the donating families?  Certainly.

Will they starve for their generosity?  Did the widow's grain and oil fail?

Then, she told of  two separate women who found her blog and asked her to find their daughters.  They were some of the people in the shelter and communication was difficult to impossible.  In this post, she tells of visiting them.

Can you imagine sitting in a cold gym, having lost everything (or not knowing what you lost) and then having a stranger come to you and say, "Your mother sent me."

Mothers amaze me in the ways they find to bless the lives of their children.  I have no doubt that were I in a similar situation, my mother would find a way to send me her love and the comfort of a long-distance embrace.

Anyway, there is more over at Acte Gratuit that might be of interest to you.  I was so moved by her story I just had to share it.

Have a wonderful day and I hope we will all be a little more grateful for our comfortable lives.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I am a mega-dreamer.  Nearly every morning I have at least one dream that I can remember.  Pregnancy exacerbates the condition.

Last night I dreamed that I went to EFY (Especially For Youth--a faith-based week long camp for YOUTH, ages 14-18).  I was still 34 and still pregnant with my sixth child.  I was having fun and enjoying the classes, but wondered why everyone kept staring at me.  When the kids asked me what I was doing there, I told them I enjoyed it when I was younger and wanted to come back.

Here are the problems with this dream:  Why in all of the world would I choose to spend a week of vacation (remembering that my full-time job is child-rearing) with children?  Wouldn't I have wanted a break from the noise and emotional toll these smaller people take?  Also, I wasn't a counselor or speaker or administrator, I was a participant.

Am I longing  for, or even mourning, my firm body youth--a time I quite enjoyed?  Have I not progressed spiritually, emotionally or intellectually since my visit to EFY when I was 16?   Do I still feel young in this older woman's body and my subconscious figured out a way to express that?  Am I too old to be pregnant?  Is this because I just pulled out my maternity clothes--at eleven weeks?

Or maybe it was just a wacky, hormone induced, exhaustion-fed dream.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Next Week

Public Service Announcement:

Today is NOT the day you change your clocks and wake up an hour earlier for church.  Today is NOT the day to go around the house and car changing clocks.  It was not necessary to get to kids to bed an hour early last night, even though you knew they wouldn't go and you would end up sending them to bed for the whole hour.  Today is not the day because today is NOT the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.

It's next week.

I'm taking a nap.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My, How Things Have Changed

First, an unrelated question:  Do titles no longer require capital letters at the beginning of each word, save prepositions (of, in, on, to, by), conjunctions (but, and, or) and articles (a, an, the)?  I was always taught, and have always practiced, capitalizing each word that does not fall in to one of those three catagories.  Is that wrong?  Because our local newspaper DOES NOT follow that rule.  They only capitalize the first word and names.  They do not put punctuation at the end of the title, making it a proper sentence, either.  Are my grammar skills outdated or is our local editor unqualified?

Second, after weeks of being afflicted with one physical ailment or other, I woke up this morning feeling great.  In fact, I opened my eyes and said audibly, "I am healed!"

 Since it was a mild March day, I opened the windows and stripped my bed (there had been a lot of coughing and sneezing on those sheets).  I began cleaning and disinfecting the house.  I took a shower and washed away all of the germs and filth.  I actually even made breakfast (without opening one box).  We started school took a recess break.  It seems like so long since I felt good that I wanted to participate in the recess.  I directed my class in some exercises.

This is where things started to get dicey.  Push-ups first.  The boy can do about a million.  The girls each did twenty, pretty correct push-ups.  Even the two year old made an effort.  Me?  I completed five, shaky push-ups.  Five.

In the ninth grade (which, remarkably, was nearly twenty years ago) I did forty nose-to-the-ground push-ups in the one minute timed test.  Back flat, arms coming to a nice, crisp angle.

Then, it was time to do sit-ups.  Twenty.  2-0 . . . and it was really hard for me to get there.

What the heck happened?  I used to be so svelte!  I know, I know, twenty years and now in my sixth pregnancy, there are few muscles left.  But, now?  Well, now, my body aches anew.  So much for feeling great.  I'm never exercising again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Still Human

I have to give the kid a break.  I have been sick, both from the pregnancy and then from a raging head cold, and I haven't done too much to improve my appearance in the past few days.  But, I still had to laugh when the little neighbor boy said to me,

"Your face is really old, but it's still human."

I mean, PHEW!

Should I tell his mother what he said?  I don't want to get him in trouble, but it was a line worth writing down.