Friday, October 29, 2010

Guess what?

I'm a mother-in-law!!!!  My oldest daughter, Kelsey is now a married woman!  She and Derrick decided not to wait on a go-all-out ceremony, and they were joined in matrimony this morning at the courthouse!  I'm still in a bit of shock, but I just have to post some pictures...
 The judge did the 'ceremony' in the hallway because we couldn't all fit in his chambers!  LOL

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This is one of "those" weeks.

This is shaping up to be a "totally useless" week by all external standards, but if there is one thing I've learned over our years of home education, it is the value in looking beyond the academic learning to the "real life" learning--there is a huge relief in knowing that my children ARE learning very valuable lessons even if their math books remain untouched. 

Sunday evening, our little three-month-old puppy Sasha started showing signs of illness; by mid-day Monday, she had lost two pounds and was starting to look severely dehydrated from incessant vomiting.  Monday afternoon, she was diagnosed with parvo.  It wasn't what the vet considered an "extreme" case, so she sent her home after giving her fluids and medicine.  I spent most of the morning yesterday (Tuesday) trying to keep fluids in her and when she took a turn for the worse, there was only one other course of action--Sasha is now in the animal hospital, being given intravenous fluids and medication in hopes of keeping her alive and strong enough to fight off the virus. 

As if yesterday wasn't stressful enough, early in the morning we learned that one of our dear friends had been taken by ambulance to the hospital...and Pete called from the hospital last night to tell me that Josh had no brain function at all.  Our hearts are hurting, but this was a victory for a young man whose life was frought with suffering.  Josh was born with birth defects and developmental handicaps and wasn't expected to live very long; he outlived both his mother and his grandmother!  Taken in and cared for by his aunt and uncle, he has been struggling the last few years (since his grandmother's death) with what to expect in the afterlife.  It frightened him, and the idea of a new and perfect spiritual body, he said, scared him to death.  He feared being able to know people he didn't know here on earth, he feared seeing dead people alive again, and he feared seeing the face of God. 

Thankfully, death came quickly for Josh--one minute he was complaining that he couldn't feel or move his arms or legs, the next, he was blue and lifeless.  God truly knows what we can handle, and in His infinite wisdom and provision, He chose to let Josh pass from this life to the next quickly and without being challenged with the fears he didn't understand.  Josh has nothing left to fear; he is in the presence of his mother and grandmother, in paradise with our forefathers, waiting on the Lord to take us all to Heaven.  In a fitting end to his earthly life, his organs are being donated so that Josh's life may be a blessing to people he didn't even know, extending the reach of people this young man touched with his relatively short life.  What a blessing Joshua Lyle was...and will continue to be.

As I said before, this week has been just "too much" already, for us to continue unimpeded with daily schedules and lesson plans.  Sometimes academics have to take a back seat to life, and that's what has happened this week.  My girls are still learning, however.  We've had discussions of viruses, hygiene, caring for the sick, even death and Heaven.  We have wept with joy and with sorrow, all at the same time.  And in celebrating death, we are also celebrating life.

Today is another milestone for our family--the middle child of the younger 'set' is four years old today.  Morgan, Jamie, and I have had several discussions this week about making Danica's birthday special for her, since she is often the one who gets the short end of the stick in many things.  Dani is sandwiched between two sets of Irish twins, so she is "all alone" in the middle--neither one of the babies or one of the big girls.  It's difficult sometimes to find something that identifies her because she wants so much to fit in that she really doesn't express her favorites or what she "loves" like Morgan and Jamie do.  It's going to be challenging to make today extra-special for her, considering that a lot of the focus this evening at Bible study will be on Josh's family....but we're taking cupcakes for Dani to share with everyone, and she gets to choose what we have for dinner tonight.  This weekend, we're going to visit the zoo as a special treat for her birthday. 

Happy Birthday, Danica Jill!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Conquering clutter

I've had an ongoing battle with clutter almost all of my married life.  I'm presently sitting in a room that is actually bigger than our first apartment was (no kidding!), and the thought of all we had shoved into that tiny little space--three people, a bed, dressers, couches, tables, chairs, kitchen stuff, baby stuff, a crib, stroller, plus all those makes my head spin.  And it just got worse from there.  Twenty years, we dragged our boxes and bags full of stuff around the world.  Thirteen addresses, two overseas moves, living in five different states (six if you count Pete's six months of training in VA the first year we were married), the junk adds up--and takes over, if you're not careful.

We weren't careful.

And boy, HOWDY have we paid the price.

Yes, folks, there is a price to be paid for letting 'stuff' hang out in your house rent-free for years and years.  It doesn't benefit your life at all, but you still keep it.  Why?  Sentimental reasons, practical reasons, the excuse I heard for way too many years of "It might be worth something someday."  Well guess what?  If it's not worth something to me TODAY, I don't want it around.  The greatest cost I've had to pay toward the rent of keeping clutter around me is in mental energy.  You heard me right.  I've had to invest mental energy into keeping this STUFF.  Why did I do that?  I honestly don't have a clue.  Maybe it's a leftover that was passed down from our Depression-Era forefathers who wasted nothing and kept everything...but even as bad as our economy is, we're not in the dire straits they were in by any means.  We have no valid reason for all this STUFF other than to make us feel like we own something.  Validation that we're "somebody" because we own things.

I don't want that kind of validation.  I'd rather be validated and found worthy because of Whose I am, not what I manage to step over on my way to the door. 

I suppose there is a positive effect from at least some reality shows on TV as of late.  The show "Hoarders" has made me want to hire a cleaning crew and rent a dumpster on several occasions, I must say.  I knew that the clutter was having a profound impact on my standard of living, because I would spend a good 2/3 of my day rearranging and moving stuff and junk just to get to what needed to be done.  Not healthy.  Too much energy spent on worthless things that do not add value to my life. 

Over the five weeks that Pete was gone, I decluttered a LOT of our house.  He truly was shocked at the difference.  We can now walk in our bedroom; while it's still a work in progress (there are still some baby items we have to give away and winter clothes of ours to weed through), the progress is stunning.  Even more shocking to him was the bonus room that we use as our playroom, office, and "guest" room (there's a bed, so it's for guests....LOL) that were, up until just a few short weeks ago, BURIED under all the stuff we had no other place to store.  We have a storage closet in this room, but it was chock FULL of the girls' clothes. 

NOT ANYMORE!!!  In fact, to a large extent, I've even tamed the clothes monster!  I used to have all of the girls' colder weather clothing separated into five Rubbermaid tubs, and even those were overflowing...
Well, it took me about a week, but I emptied those tubs onto the living room floor, took out only what I knew I'd allow them to wear (we've been given a LOT of clothing that is totally inappropriate or even just too old and icky to wear) and literally tossed the rest.  Out of the dressers came the summer clothes, and MOST of that got tossed too.  This is what our living room looked like for almost a week...
It was ugly.  But now, I have a clean closet in their room, all (and I do mean ALL) of their out-of-season clothing fits into ONE of those five tubs, and we filled two huge boxes and four garbage bags with clothing to give away or donate.  Sigh.....

As for the bonus room closet, it's CLEAN, organized, and clutter-free!!!!  I've still got to tackle Pete's filing system (har, har, har...), but it is just wonderful to walk in this room and be able to FIND what I'm looking for--including the computer!  Check it out...this is the before...

And the after.....

There really is something calming in waking up to an uncluttered house.  It's much easier to clean, too!

So who else is doing a Fall-Cleaning?  Care to let down your guard, open your curtains, and share?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bookstore befuddlement

This past Saturday, I managed a few minutes to slip away as Pete and the girls watched the Alabama football game (quite a tragedy, I might add) to enjoy some much-needed and long overdue peace and quiet all by myself.  My activity of choice?  To go peruse a bookstore, alone, without having to chase after five little people who all want to look at and read five different books in five different places, and without the constant request to go to the bathroom.  Ahh.....just me and books.  Now THAT is tranquility.

Or so I thought.

As I headed toward the education section of the store, I found myself backed against the 'young reader' shelves, and what I saw there made my blood run cold.  See, my older two younger daughters (did you follow that one?) are six and five, and because they are emergent readers, they will soon be poring over all of the luscious book titles offered for their reading pleasure in the bookstores when I take them on our little selfish-indulgence outings.  So what will they find?

Have you looked lately????

I'd say about 90% of the books in the young reader section had something to do with either vampires, witches, or the occult.  The other 5% was a mixed bag of teeny-bopper romance novellas and a sparse collection of the Hardy Boys books that looked like they'd been there since the Nixon administration.  What on EARTH?????  I knew it was bad, but you've gotta be KIDDING me!!!  These are books marketed toward young adolescents????  What do we expect these kids to glean from such a waste of paper and print?

Disgusted, I left that portion of the store bound for the Christian literature section where I figured I could at least come up with some C.S.Lewis to challenge my brain as I sat to sip my cafe mocha.  What I was confronted with as I looked for the brain-benders and soul-challengers was no less than just crazy.  I found myself being pointed at by authors on the covers of books that admonished that I should just claim my best life NOW; I looked upon retouched pictures of veneered, bleached smiles adorning those perfect faces perched atop a well-placed curled hand telling me that God's best is awaiting me, all I have to do is let go, trust God, and it would all be handed to me.  Titles that told of peaceable, unhurried, unstressful lives that every Christian should have....good grief, and here I was just thrilled beyond belief to get two hours without anyone asking anything of me, now I've got a whole twenty-foot-by-six-foot shelf just FULL of books pointing out how my life doesn't fit in with the model of christian perfection.

GIVE ME A BREAK, PEOPLE!!!!  Just WHERE in the Bible do these authors find that God intends for our 'best life' to be HERE?  Where do they find such ridiculous models of peaceful perfection in Scripture?  Where do they get the idea that living a Godly life is going to make things rosy and wonderful?  Note to christian authors--you're setting people up for disappointment and utter FAILURE if you are getting them to strive for the best THIS life has to offer!!!!

It's not about THIS LIFE!!!!  This mortal life, humble and temporal, is messy.  It comes with one stress after another, one disappointment after another, one failure after another.  Why is it that so many young people are gravitating toward 'immortals' and the occult?  Maybe it's because they can see so clearly that modern-day christianity (lowercase christianity, mind you....) is failing MISERABLY in the hope department.  We (lowercase christian adults) are striving for the best HERE, and our kids are picking up on the fact that it just can't be found HERE.  Yet we have somehow failed so horribly at doing for our world and our children what the Apostles did for disciples in the first century--we have failed to give people a vision of a future far greater than ANYTHING this world can offer. 

What a disappointment.

Friday, October 1, 2010

One week left!

I can't believe how pathetic I feel about this whole separation thing.  I mean, come ON--Pete has been deployed to war zones and we've gone MONTHS without hearing from him, why is it that five weeks is this much of a problem for me?

Because it just is.  And I'm okay with that.  I'm okay with the fact that I really, truly do MISS my husband.  I feel disconnected from him and therefore from myself.  I feel out of place everywhere I go.  I'm lonely.  But for the first time in my married life, I am giving myself permission to FEEL it.  During the war, I had to be the strong, rock-solid one that two dozen blubbering and sometimes clueless military wives (and one mom that I will never, EVER forget) called on at all hours of the day  for six solid months.  I had to be the one that everyone else drew strength from; I had to be the one who told everyone else that it would be alright, that they really could survive; I was the one who lived the independent, stony exterior while on the inside I was just falling apart, day after day.  I HURT from the loneliness, and it was anything but healthy to allow myself to do that.  I'm not going to do that anymore.

No, Pete isn't going to war zones--yet--the United Arab Emirates next year is still one that I'm undecided on as far as his safety goes.  But he's still not here with me, and I can't deny the fact that it really does cause me emotional pain for him to be gone.  I truly cannot WAIT till he gets off that plane next Friday!  No, not because I want to run away from the kids and get some peace.  Well...okay, I *do* need at least a slight break where I can go somewhere by myself and just enjoy a little bit of solitude, but that's not why I'm looking forward to having him home again!  Why is it that people seem to think that when you have a large family, all your husband is good for to you is 'babysitting' and household chore-sharing?  Why is it that I'm not allowed to be lonely and just need to have my beloved here with me where I can see him and talk to him face-to-face?  I am no different from any other woman who misses her man--I'm glad we're on our last six days!

That said, I'm expecting quite a week ahead of us!  I just received a free Christopher Columbus unit study from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Teacher's Toolbox so I think we're going to slightly 'interrupt' our regular history study for a week to study Columbus--leading up to a pretty amazing 'field trip' to Guntersville next Saturday *with Daddy* to see replicas of the Nina and Pinta!  I'm hoping to be able to swing a few minutes' time tomorrow evening to get my dining room curtains sewn and hung.  It shouldn't take long; a couple of straight stitches and a few screws should do the trick!  I really wanted to get the opportunity to get my paint touch-ups done, but considering I'm never really without ten extra hands--some of which REALLY love to get "involved" in whatever Mom is doing, that just never happened.  Other than the paint and the curtains, the dining room for now is DONE and I'm quite pleased with how it looks!  When Pete is home and I don't feel so odd about having a repairman in the house while I'm alone with five little girls, we'll have the fireplace opened up (for the first time in over nine years, from what I'm told!) and serviced so we can enjoy a nice warm fire. 

Next week's other main project?  The master bedroom.  It's horrific, there's no better way to put it.  I sleep in it and dress in it; that's pretty much the extent of what's been done behind those walls this last month.  Eek!

Today was pretty rough, but tomorrow, I'm expecting to have that last-week 'high' hit me as I kick into gear to get ready for Pete to come home!  Yay!
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