Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Story

I have a story to tell.  It make days.  It may take minutes.  I just don't know.  I have thought about why I am writing this story.  But, after much soul searching, I am writing this for me.  It may not be coherent and it may not be consistent but I don't claim to be an award winning writer.  I write for me, for my family.

A long time ago, we had a new neighbor move in.  It took us awhile to warm up to her.  I can't really tell you why.  Maybe it is because she moved into a house of a friend of ours who had passed away suddenly.  Who knows.  But, as I told the kids just the other day, God put Ms. B next to us for a reason.

One morning, at about 6AM, as I was dragging our garbage cans to the curb, I noticed she was dragging hers out as well.  I had heard through the neighborhood grapevine that she was ill.  Very ill.  Cancer.  So, I went over and helped her.  And I think at that moment our friendship with her began.

Not long after that she invited the kids and I to swim in her pool.  But, we never took her up on it.  At the time EG was a baby and I just didn't feel comfortable going by myself.  And we really didn't know her all that well.  But, as the weeks and months went by, God put it on my heart to get to know her better, to minister to her.  She was ill and alone.

We started by just inviting her over occasionally.  Especially if we had some type of gathering going on.  She came once or twice.  But because of her cancer treatment, she had to be careful being around germs.  At times we would just bring her a meal or baked goods.

Then we started getting her groceries.  I would leave on Saturday morning and call before we went.  She only ever wanted a few things.  2% milk and strawberry Haagan Dazs were just a couple of the usuals.

She would pay the kids to get her mail three days a week and then this past summer we actually took her up on the swimming offer.  She LOVED having the kids around and always told me so.  When the kids brought her the mail and she felt up to it she would talk with them and have great conversations.  She would tell me about some of them when I would visit with her on the phone.

We took her to the Goodwill book store over the summer and we all had a ball.  She loved to read and loved books so we had that in common.  When she had a particularly worrisome doctor's appointment I would pray with her.

She had been sick for a really long time.  They finally took her off her chemo and she was such an incredible fighter!  Her positive attitude was infectious and I was always so uplifted after I would talk with her.  I would even feel a little guilty about my own poor attitude.

About two weeks ago she had a necessary back surgery.  She came through it with flying colors.  We visited her in the rehab center and she was making great progress.  She was able to go home.  We made sure she had some groceries when she got there.  And someone to look after her daily needs.

I am not really sure what happened but about a week ago she had to have a second emergency surgery.  I didn't find out until the next day.  Things had not been healing like they were suppose to.  She came home four days later.  And sounded horrible and in an incredible amount of pain.

We had been praying for her.  Me especially.  For as much as I had visited with her and having prayed with her, I had no idea where she stood spiritually.  She knew I was a Christian.  And we had discussed faith once or twice.  When I had invited her to church for Easter she said she and God were fine but that she did not care for church anymore.

So, on Monday when I knew she was going to be alone the next day, I offered to come sit with her until her friend was able to come back.  She was very hesitant.  She knows I am busy and she knows my mom is here recovering from knee surgery.  But, I assured her I could come hang with her for a little bit.  And was happy to do so.  Also, she had asked that I help her with some personal stuff toward the end of the week.  So, I knew I would have some uninterrupted time with her.

Monday night and Tuesday morning I prayed that God would give me an opening to share the love of Jesus with her.  Or some how let me know that she believed in Jesus.  I was nervous and scared about discussing spiritual things.

God had been prompting me for some time to share with her.  Over the months, I had used the excuses that I could never talk with her alone.  Or that it would be awkward to talk about heaven and hell with someone who was on the brink of death.  It was uncomfortable and way out of my comfort zone.  But, as the weeks passed I knew it was necessary to be obedient to God's calling.

On Tuesday morning I was up and showered early so I could be ready to go to her house when she needed me.  I had a plan with my mom and kids.  About 15 minutes after my shower my phone rang.  It was Paul.  An ambulance had been called to our neighbor's home.  She wasn't breathing and unresponsive.

I rushed out of the door with EG in my arms.  (She was the only one awake.)  I saw my other neighbor.  He and his wife had also been caring for Ms. B.  I told him what was going and and he and I and EG entered the open door to Ms. B's home.

Ms. B was on her bed.  Shallow breathing and unresponsive.  Her caretaker was beside herself and just not sure what to do.  I sent EG out to the couch to sit and the caretaker and my neighbor and I all had hands on her and prayed.

The paramedics arrived shortly after.  There was much chaos because of her just having had back surgery and the brace and the caretaker not really able to help with information.  Then law enforcement arrived and the fire department.  We were all asked to leave and stand in the driveway.  I took EG home and I went back.

We just waited.  My kids peeking out of the house wondering what was going on.  Although I am pretty sure they knew.  After what seemed to be an incredible amount of time, they brought her out and put her in the ambulance.  They let us know a few minutes later she had a faint pulse.

By that time hubby had arrived and was able to help us understand a little bit better what was going on.  They had cleared the house in case of death.  And how law enforcement kind of provides a hedge around the guys trying to work on the person.  (My neighbor's wife was very adamant about not leaving the house but she later apologized.)

In the meantime, our neighbor had called Ms. B's son and he was on the next flight.  The ambulance left and went to the hospital.  We sat most the morning just wondering.  She was put on life support and they waited for the son to get there.

He arrived last night.  And his mother, our neighbor and friend, passed away this morning.

I have had a mix of emotions.  I feel a bunch of guilt.  We should have done more.  I later learned from her son that she hated to ask for help but as her health deteriorated, she just didn't have a choice.  I should have responded promptly when God encouraged me to share Jesus.

Nothing happens without a purpose.  I am saddened by my neighbor's passing for so many reasons.  But, I also feel I need to search for a purpose.  A "why?"  More than just the obvious fact that she is no longer in pain.

It is so easy to say "this is not my responsibility" or "I don't have time to take care of that" or "shouldn't somebody else be doing this."   That is the most profound thing that has troubled me, for lack of a better word.  Our purpose, here on earth is to love and serve people and to share the love of Christ.  His gift of Salvation.  And if that is what I am called to do by God almighty Himself then my new motto has to be "If not me, than who?"

Here is a lady who was gravely ill for so long.  A tough, courageous, positive fighter for her life.  She was alone and eventually needed help.  How many more are out there?  I know we have a few just on our Meals on Wheels route.

My life can be hectic.  It can be crazy busy.  But, should it ever be so busy that I cannot help those who God has placed right in front of me?  I need to step up.  I need to see every person as Jesus sees them.  No, I can't help them all.  But I can pay attention to those who are in my life, who God places in my path.

I don't know if we failed.  I do know that her son said she thought the world of us.  And were grateful for our willingness to help.  I know I can't sit back and say I did everything I could.  Because if that were true I wouldn't feel the way I do.

But, I am going to take this as a huge lesson as to how we live our lives.  I have a husband and a family and they come first.  But, honestly, I cannot go through life and make excuses.  I have to help.  I have to be available.  I have to step out of my comfort zone and share the love of Christ.  I need to be the hands and feet of Jesus because that is what God has called me to do.

Will I fail.  Yes.  We all fail.  But, I want to look at people in my life with a new appreciation that life is short.  And we just don't ever know.  I can no longer wait for the right time, the perfect moment to share God's love.  It is a hard lesson to learn.  It is one I am sharing with hubby and my kids.

I want to always think "If not me, then who?" . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Laundry Soap

Last week we made our first batch of homemade laundry soap.  I had bought the ingredients quite awhile ago but had a ton of the store bought liquid I needed to use first.  They say the homemade stuff works as good as Tide and with $20 worth of ingredients it lasts close to 9 months doing about 8 loads a week.

We had fun making it but decided the next time we will grate the Fels-Naptha soap over a period of a couple of days.  Grating three bars of soap with a cheese grater was a little hard on the wrists.  Nature Girl started out helping me.  And LM finished up.  I feared Boop was a little too young.  I didn't want him to grate off his finger tips. ;)

I will be using the soap this week and hope it works well.  I am really picky about clean, fresh smelling, stain free clothes so we shall see.

Next on the list is homemade dishwasher soap . . .

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grandma's Surgery

So, Grandma had surgery yesterday.  And everything went pretty well all things considered.  She is taking it easy today and should be even better by tomorrow.

The kids were with me the entire time.  And now I am going to take a minute to brag on them.

It worked out that we could actually fit Grandma in the back of my van if we took out a seat and the three bigger kids sat in the way back seat.  (We had practiced on Monday taking Grandma to Hobby Lobby.)

So, on Wednesday we took Grandma to her pre-op appointment.  The kids all had either a book or flashcards or a math sheet.  Something to do while we waited.  All the nurses said how cute and how well behaved they were.  One nurse asked if we homeschooled and I said yes.  She said she could tell.  I am not entirely sure what she meant but because I felt they were so well behaved I took it as a compliment. ;)

During the pre-op appointment they had a fire drill.  While the security guard was making his rounds, he kind of jokingly asked them if they shouldn't be in school.  We all just smiled and laughed. ;)

Then yesterday, surgery day, in the pouring rain, we all took Grandma to the surgery center and sat with her in pre-op for over an hour.  The nurses and the anesthesiologist came in.  The kids sat quietly while all the questions were asked and answered.  They stayed out of the way and didn't talk while the others were talking.

Sissy came to relieve us and we ran home to have lunch and clean up Grandma's room.  I wanted to go back to talk with the nurses and doctors after surgery and Little Mama wanted to be there when Grandma was done.  So, after all our chores were done at home, we went back to wait.  Again, the kids brought a few things to keep them entertained.  The waiting room nurse was very kind to them and they chatted with her for a little bit.

When Grandma made it to post-op and I needed to get instructions from the nurse, they all stood quietly while I talked.  Well, by that time I had to hold EG but she did so well.  Sissy took her for a little spin around the area so I could concentrate on what the nurse was saying.

Never once did I have to worry about what they were doing.  They had spent the better part of the last two days at the surgery center and they were awesome!  And I am glad they could be there for their Grandma.  I know that it made it just a little bit easier for her being surrounded by her grandkids. . .

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hugs, Prayers and Consistancy

Today is Saturday.  Traditional school (I do not like calling real school because what we do is real school it just looks different and has a different philosophy) starts Monday.  Not that it means anything to us but it just makes me more acutely aware that I am less prepared for our school year than usual.  By this time, I have usually taken each child school shopping and taken each of their pictures.  Last year I even had spiritual, physical, educational and practical goals for each one.

Not so much this year.  (Although I will try to snap a photo in the next few weeks.)  As I was sorting laundry this morning, I felt I needed some kind of focus even though we need to be really relaxed and flexible right now.  And I don't foresee that changing any time soon.  My mom has to have surgery next week and will most likely be in a brace for the next month or so.

A couple weeks after the surgery, although I haven't really thought a whole lot about timing, we leave for my nephew's wedding in Pennsylvania (which EG and Boop are part of) and a side trip to DC.  Twelve days after that, we go to the mountains for a four day, five night tent camping trip with three other families.

It seems kind of fruitless to really push any type of firm routine.  But, like I said, I feel I need some type of focus.  Something to keep us, me working towards for the next few months.  So, as I was sorting laundry an idea or a focus came to me.  I need to hug my kids every day as many times as I serve them a meal (idea from either A Holy Experience or iMom).  And to hug them when I least want to (another idea from A Holy Experience.)

I know that it may sound crazy but I can't say that I hug my kids more than once in a day.  I do before they go to bed.  Sometimes I do when they wake up.  But it can be hit or miss.  Hugs are important.  I am not a hugger at all.  I had a friend once who was a fabulous hugger.  Every time we saw each other she would give me this great big hug and it always made me feel great.  I read once where a 5 second hug releases endorphins which make you feel good.  So hugging is one of my focuses.

Last night, as I was lying in bed, I realized I don't pray for my children with any consistency.  A couple of weeks ago I had read about a mom who picked a scripture verse for each of her children and prayed it over them for a year.  So a week or so ago I started searching for verses for my kids.  My focus will be to pray those verses with, I am sure other prayers, over each child every night.

Lastly, I thought about discipline or discipling.  That hugs and prayers are great and very, very important but there has to be a part of all this that points them in the right direction.  That points them to the Cross.  That shows them that we are sinful and that we all need a Savior.  That is where the consistency comes in.  We have been working on first time obedience for years! ;)  It is important for so many reasons.  But, I know the reason we don't do it here with any regularity is because I am not consistent in training it.  It takes time and energy and love and patience and forgiveness and time and energy.  And it means stopping the things that I think are important to train the things that are really important.  I have to be unselfish.  (Kind of ironic because I preach selflessness all the time to them!)

So, as I sit here Saturday morning, avoiding going to the grocery store, I am using my brain to find us (me) some focus.  We will see what really happens when the rubber meets the road. . .

Friday, August 17, 2012

Additional Student

One of my little worries when Grandma came to recoup with us was the possibility of not getting our much needed school work done.  I had planned, numerous times over the summer, to officially start school way before traditional school.

Even though we were somewhat effective in doing just that, it really wasn't with the consistency that I had hoped for.  And that made me just a little bit concerned.  But, as I am learning (and just mentioned to a Meals on Wheels client the other day), in our home life is school.  And that is becoming more and more true.  My school day is going to look a little bit different than what I originally had thought.  At least for the next few weeks.

This week we were able to start back with a little consistency.  At least more consistency than in the prior weeks.  One of the coolest things, though, is that I have an extra pupil.  My mom is loving to "learn" right along with the kids!

Sometimes she is the recliner and listening to the stories I read the kids.  Sometimes we go into her room and read Science and our book club book.  Right now she is tucked away in her bed reading our Anatomy book all by herself.  And just this morning she had out our flying birds of the 5th day and was doing an experiment with LM.

She has a favorite book about John and Abigail Adams and when I told her I only read that book about once a week she was bummed.  But then she said "I guess I could read it on my own."  We were taking about early church history yesterday and I have offered her a book that we are reading on early church martyrs.

She is an extra hand with math so that is nice.  And she encourages the kids to sit still and pay attention.  (That is nice as well!)  She also lets them know how great they have it by being educated at home.

There is always something for me to do and I have been pretty busy with trying to do school, manage the house and take care of my mom.  But, one of the blessings is having another very interested and willing to learn student. . .

Monday, August 13, 2012


We have watched more TV in the last two weeks then we have in probably the last 6 months.  But the Olympics were so great!   At night, all of us would cram on the couch and cheer.  Whatever we missed at night, I would let the kids catch up on the next day.  And I would usually sit and watch with them because it was so intriguing.

We took the time to read about the origin of the games.  We learned about the sports and the athletes.  The kids loved the back stories on many of the competitors.  NBC had a great piece on England and WW II and the Dream Team which we all loved.

We were amazed at the man with the double prosthetic and rooted for him to win.  We were disappointed by some of the athletes reactions to getting silver and happy for those who reveled in their outstanding accomplishments.  We were saddened by those who were true contenders only to have the unthinkable happen and not be able to compete for a medal.

I don't remember enjoying the Olympics quite so much.  But, I am sure it had to do with enjoying it and experiencing it with the kids.  Not a bad way to spend some hot summer nights . . .

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I debated on whether or not to tell this story.  It is an unfortunate turn of events.  But, in my heart of hearts I know it was the right decision.  And it is part of our life.

Three days ago we had to give up Snoopy.  It was a hard decision and one we had been struggling with for a number of weeks.  He is a great dog.  But just not for our family.  He did not have patience for the little ones.  If he did not want to be bothered by them he would nip at them in the face.  We (I) was hoping he would grow out of it as he got closer to two.  But, it was getting worse not better.

I know there are many who felt that we needed to train him and not just give him up.  But, he had that little problem on top of some other probably more trainable issues.  And in a house with 6 masters most of which are little it just wasn't safe.  I was always worried that he would nip Boop or EG when I wasn't watching.  Or, worse yet, one of the many little people we have in the house on a regular basis.

We had made the decision last Thursday afternoon and told the kids.  They of course were heartbroken.  We did all we could to make it up to them.  Daddy told them that some day we would get another dog.  He gave them each twenty bucks.  And they could get fish.  That night they had a sleepover with their good friends.  Anything just to get us through the moment.

As it turned out, that was the night we got the call about my mom and her knee.  So, the next morning we had to travel to her house.  Dog, kids, sister and all.  It took the kids' mind off of it and gave me a chance to figure out what to do with him.

When we came back with my mom, her dog and the rest of us in the house, I knew we had made the right decision.  I called the Humane Society and cried and told them my story.  They were so understanding.  They want their families and their dogs to be happy.  They did not make me feel bad or guilty.  I was so thankful for that!

I explained he was a great dog.  He just needed a smaller, older family.  And I was sure he would be awesome.

It is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make because it brought so much sadness to my kids.  But, one of the blessings about the whole thing was the way they handled it.  Daddy and I were honest with them.  And even though they were sad they understood.  Such maturity in my children.  There were tears and hugs.  I accepted responsibility for a bad/impulsive choice on my part, rushing and being impetuous when we got the dog.  I asked the kids (and hubby) for forgiveness and apologized for making them sad.  They forgave and hugged.  We have talked about disappointments in life and how to deal with them.  Oddly enough, it brought us closer together I believe.

They each are dealing with it in their own special way.  Boop and EG have recovered almost completely.  Little Mama wants me to call and check on him.  Just to make sure he is OK.  (They lady at the Humane Society said we could call anytime.)  Nature Girl is the one who is taking a little longer.  But, she is trying to focus on the good and thinking about someday getting another dog.

I have a folder now labeled "dog."  And we are going to write all the things we have learned and all the questions we need to ask.  And being honest about what type of responsibility it takes in having a dog.  And that you just don't know what you are going to get and having to be able to live with all the dogs great qualities and potential short comings.  The lady at the Humane Society said when the time comes around again, she would be more than willing to work with us.

It has been a rough week.  But, it has also been a growing week.  For all of us . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Respect

I am not complaining.  And my mom has been great.  But, I have a new found respect for families who take care of a parent 24/7.

We have a plan here.  My mom is determined to do things on her own.  She loves us and loves it here but she does want to go back home at some point.  So, we know there will be an end.

Again, I am not complaining and I have it easy and my mom has been great.  But, I can not imagine having to care for someone, well except the kids, 24/7.  Get food, showers, going to the restroom etc. All those things we take for granted that we can do as adults.  To have to need help with most of it.  And to provide the help for some of it.

The kids are great.  The first two nights each girl stayed with my mom so if she had a problem in the middle of the night they could help.  Or come get me.  Last night she slept by herself but she had her phone and I had mine in my room so if she needed me all she had to do was call.  I know that sounds funny but it works.

Sometimes it is so loud in the house and there is so much going on that if my mom yells for me I can't hear.  So she calls me.  It works.  The kids help to bring food, water or help with clothes.  As I told a friend, we have been given an amazing opportunity to really show the love of Jesus to someone else.  We all have had to step up the serving of others a notch.  To all in the house.

We have a great patient so far.  So that helps!  I am not sure how long she will be here but I know we all have the same goal in mind.  To heal.  To get better.  And my mom is very determined.

But, it does give me great admiration and respect for all of those who are raising families and caring for a parent. . .

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Science Experiement

We are trying to finish up our anatomy book this summer before we start something new for Science in the fall.

We just finished reading about our skin.  If I remember correctly it is the largest organ of our body.  Anyway, one of our experiments was to do our finger prints.  I thought we had the necessary stuff to do it.  (Thanks to my Stampin' Up ink.)

So, I got the supplies together and gathered the kids.  I proceed to start printing them.  And I did horrible!  The prints were so thick we couldn't tell any distinguishing lines or patterns.  So, I called in the expert.  And he brought his own tools, real finger printing ink, which isn't as dense or thick.

Hubby had spent many, many years working in booking at the local county jail and had the technique down to a science.  Now that he is on the road, he keeps printing ink and supplies in his deputy car.

Anyway, he did "professional" prints of the kids.  ;)  It was neat to watch him in action, rolling and pressing each little finger just right.  It was cool to look at the prints and see how different they all were.  How crazy that no one in the whole wide world has the same exact finger prints.  And, that the "print" actually goes way down into the skin of the pads of the fingers.

Boop's fingerprint lines were so fine and so close together.  EG's were much the same way.  I guess it is because they are younger.  Not sure why I didn't have pictures of the girls getting their prints done. Oh well.

I had the kids put their names and birth dates on them and I am going to keep them in our records.  Always a successful Science experiment when daddy is involved . . .

Monday, August 6, 2012

One of Those Weeks

This is a posterity post. Just because I have had a crazy week filled with so much stuff and I want it to be remembered for some purpose or other.  Maybe to appreciate those slow weeks.

Monday morning the local lake for our women's book club get together.  Monday afternoon Olympics and laundry.

Tuesday the girls started a mini ballet camp put on by a friend's 13 year old daughter.  Dropped the big girls off.  Took the little guys to the grocery store.  Picked the big girls up, ate lunch and headed to our harmony class and sign language class.  Had our friends for dinner because they still had no water.  The big girls went home with their friends for a sleepover and I kept the boys.

Wednesday morning laundry.  Picked the big girls up from ballet.  Ate lunch at Chick-fil-A and then I made an executive decision to skip church.

Thursday was dentist day for all and then big girls to ballet.  We went back at noon to watch their wonderful mini recital.  The afternoon was the removal of a cyst on my face (by a plastic surgeon so as not to leave a scar.)  Then our friends, who still did not have water, came for dinner.  Their big kids stayed with us for the night.  During dinner I got a call that my mom had fallen and broken her knee cap.

Friday - unexpected trip to Clearwater with my sister and kids to pick up Grandma and bring her home.

All day Saturday and Sunday morning at Grandma's getting her packed up to come stay with us.

Today is Monday and the kids were evaluated and they all passed!!  (Yay!!)

Grandma will be with us for the next couple of weeks so she can recuperate and heal.

Hoping this week is just a little less eventful. . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Book Club

A week and a half ago, we had our summer gathering of book club.  We decided to meet at a state park.  We swam, had lunch and the kids did their reports.  I am pretty sure every family was present.

It was a beautiful day.  The park has a spring fed lake which means two things:  very clear water and very cold water!  Of course, the kids didn't mind.  The park also had a diving platform.  I can proudly say I jumped off of it!  With hubby!  Nature Girl jumped twice. The first time she jumped she had held her arms out and it kind of hurt.  So, she was a little hesitant the second time.

Little Mama would walk up to the edge and then chicken out.  Which I told her was absolute fine.  Not everyone has to jump.  She would walk up again, look down and then back away.  There were a bunch of teenagers waiting to jump and they were very patient with her.  Finally, with her daddy by her side, she did it!  And at the top of the platform the teenage girls were all clapping for her.  It was so sweet.  I was proud of her too, for not giving up!  I think she jumped many more times.

The high platform was not Boop's thing, which was totally cool with me.  He hung out with his friends.

But, the real reason we were there was to discuss Black Beauty.  The kids all gave wonderful reports.  Standing up in the middle of the park and just talking away.  Little Mama did an especially good job.  Her report was on all the types of equipment needed to care for a horse such as a curry comb and brushes (she brought some of my stuff from when I owned a horse.)  She also talked about the frog which we learned from our friend is part of the hoof.  She tied it into the book where Beauty had gotten a stone stuck.  She also talked about horse feed and had printed off a picture to show of the different kinds of feed.  She did it all on her own.

Nature Girl did her report on the different breeds of horses in the book and then talked about her favorite breed of horse.  Boop pointed out the different parts of a horse.   The each had tie ins to the book which is what I am hoping we will do more of in the future.

Little Mama after jumping off the high platform.

Nature Girl after jumping off the high platform.

Boop wasn't quite ready to jump yet.  But, hubby and I jumped together.  He was worried about the very cold spring water.  I was worried about how high up we were.  But, we both survived to tell our story.  ;)

We ended our book club day with getting ice cream with a couple other families.  It was such a good day.  And I just love our book club and that we can call it school . . .