Thursday, January 13, 2011

Preparation and Poison

My days are busier than ever now. Up at 7:00am , pack Matt's lunch, Naomi's school lunch, and lunch for Me and three other kids; pack diaper bag and cleaning supplies for the day; spend a few minutes debriefing with a bleary-eyed Matt who got off of work after 4:00am and is now heading to bed; get kids dressed; do three heads of hair; escort Naomi to the bus; and load other three in the van. Now we're on the road, heading HOME!

Our new house is a 20 minute drive from Matt's parents. The kids were thrilled to see it for the first time yesterday. There's wide open space and a circle design that doubles as race track, but Hannah didn't mince any words about the current condition of our new abode. "This is an OLD house!" she observed, "Really Old! It's really dirty. I don't think the people who lived here ever cleaned at all. You know, Mommy, you make me clean up my own toys, but these people didn't clean up their mess. I guess they didn't ever learn that."

Emma had other struggles: the steep, narrow staircase had no banister. I had to rescue a screaming, shaking Emma no less than three times before she gave up going upstairs. Toby found nothing wrong with the house at all, and was remarkably agreeable about being confined to a pack-n-play for over five hours as long as he had a clear view of the vacuum.

Fortunately two angels, Carma and Rochelle, from my church met me at the house yesterday for an all-day cleaning party. Vacuuming, scrubbing, scraping, and scouring followed until a late lunch at two-o'clock. I cautiously released Toby from his confinement cell for a bite of sandwich. Unfortunately he dropped most of it on the floor, and opted to pick up the toothbrush that had been scrubbing unspeakably filthy surfaces and pop it in his mouth. He didn't object at all when I washed his mouth out and plopped him back in the pack-n-play.

At 3:00pm it was time to pack up the kids and head back to meet Naomi at the bus stop. Leftovers for dinner was widely unappreciated. As soon as the kids were tucked in bed I rushed out to pick up some paint, then to Wal-mart, then to the grocery store, then home to clean up the kitchen and lay out the next day's lunches. Asleep by 1:00am, up at 7:00am.

Today Carma and I finished the dead-bug, ancient food-goup scrub and started in with the painting. That was more encouraging. The colors don't really look at all like the colors on my paint-swatch cards (not sure what went wrong), but they're nice, and I don't have the time or energy to fight with the paint store. More painting will follow tomorrow. Hopefully we'll finish up the kitchen and bathroom. If I can get those two rooms functional it will be a lot easier to spend time at the house fixing the rest up.

I'll post pictures when we're finished. I think it's going to look nice when we're done, maybe even nice enough to satisfy Hannah's finer taste.

Monday, January 10, 2011


So many times in the last week I've wanted to write. The kids are cute and funny, of course, but bigger things are happening these days.

Matt is working his first day of RV factory work right now. It's not glorious work, and not very reliable as RV factories seem to be up and down now, but it's something. The day we arrived back from our Christmas vacation a neighbor informed us that he was able to secure Matt a position at the RV factory where he worked. Yesterday a lady from Matt's parents' church showed us a big farm house in the country that she would rent to us for a very fair price. I got the key to the house today. Tomorrow the gas and electric get turned on in our name and I have to get to work cleaning and painting, but we should be completely in our own house by the 22nd. I never would have dreamed that possible just seven days ago. God loves to work in dramatic ways in our lives, I suppose that way we can never be mistaken that was we who did it. It is good to know he is working, hard as it is for me to understand what he's doing.

Tonight I tucked the girls in bed by myself, since Matt is working second shift. We talked about the hard things and the happy things with all the change coming up. I prepared Naomi to say good-bye to her first grade class because we will be moving out of this school district. She is a little sentimental, but very excited to begin homeschooling and learning about cooking and laundry from Mommy. They will miss living with their grandma and grandpa and uncle. They will miss bedtimes with Daddy. But mostly they are excited.

Hannah can hardly contain her excitement. She remembers toys that have sat in boxes for 18 months now that she can't wait to see again. It is a bit bittersweet for me though, because the children who will open those boxes and pull out the toys are so different from the ones who helped me pack the toys up 18 months ago. I feel like life's been on hold for 18 months, waiting to get back to something "normal," but children's lives don't pause. They have grown and changed so much. The normal that was will never be again. They will have a room again, a huge room with all four kids together just because they like to be together. For a moment I smiled, thinking about all the cute "Winnie-the-Pooh" decor I could pull out to recreate their room from Cono. Then I realized that my girls weren't toddlers anymore...none of them, and "Winnie-the-Pooh" nursery decor will never suit them again. They grew up while I was waiting, and it is bittersweet.

Naomi has ideas about how she wants the walls painted. "Mommy, maybe you could paint a road with cars and trucks on it for Toby and some pretty purple and pink flowers beside the road for us, and a pretty blue sky too." Oh, if only I had the time to sit and create an intricate mural on the wall. She might get the pretty blue sky, but I'm not too sure about the floral highway. I do want it to be beautiful though. It is only a rental house, it is only temporary, but they will grow while I am there and I want to soak it in, not wait it out.

I just sang "There is a Higher Throne" with my three girls as I put them to bed. It is a song the Cono Choir used to sing. I heard them practice it over and over some days as I worked in the Student Center kitchen to prepare dinner. The song is such a beautiful description of coming to find our home in worship before Christ's throne that I had to teach it to my girls. It's so cute to hear their little voices singing along, even Emma, who can't pronounce the words, carries the pretty tune:

...And there we'll find our home
Our life before the throne
We'll honor him in perfect song
where we belong
He'll wipe each tear-stained eye
As thirst and hunger die
The Lamb becomes our shepherd-king
We'll reign with him...

I remind them where our real home is, but I am happy to once again be creating a shadow of "home" here on this earth. I pray it lasts long enough for them to enjoy a taste of heaven here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fevers, Strangers, and Vacuums

Today is a bit of an "eye of the storm" day. The past few weeks have been filled with the rush of surgery, holiday preparations, visiting family, traveling out of state for 12 days, traveling home, and attempting to re-settle a tired, cranky family.

We arrived at my parents on Dec 23rd just as a snowstorm was blowing in and spent a few quiet days adjusting to Grandma and Grandpa Johnson's house. My brothers and sisters were away on Christmas morning so we opended a few simple presents by the fire with my mom and dad and grandma. After a few presents Toby caught the spirit and began announcing, "Merry Mih-muh!" over and over. That wasprobably the high-point of the trip for him.

Only a couple days into the trip Toby began acting ill and refusing to eat. The morning of the 28th he woke with a fever. We took him to a doctor who confirmed a nasty double ear infection and prescribed an antibiotic. Toby spent the next four days with a fever between 102 and 103 degrees, clinging to my hip like a barnacle, and refusing to ingest anything except juice and rice milk. On the 30th my brothers and their families arrived, increasing Toby's anxiety and clinginess. I had to enjoy my family with Toby by my side, which he was OK with, as long as they didn't look at him or attempt to touch him. Even his six boy cousins wrestling on the floor infront of him barely elicited a smile, and wouldn't lure him from my lap.

About the only thing that would brighten Toby's bleary eyes was the thought of the vacuum cleaner, or "BAA-coom!" as he called it. He has been both wildly afraid of and strangely attracted to vacuums for a few weeks now, but last week it was the only thing he was willing to talk about. At church, when a man greeted Toby and asked him how he was doing Toby answered cheerily, "A BAA-coom!" At the mall, when a lady I hadn't seen since my childhood chatted with me and smiled at Toby he broke his empty feverish gaze to greet her the same way, "A BAA-coom!" Back at Grandma's he sat for hours rocking on my lap and refusing to acknowledge anyone's existence until a thought suddenly sent a thrill of life through his hot little body, "A BAA-coom! In closet! Is loud! SEE IT!" When the tornado siren sounded a long and loud test one afternoon Toby was stunned and frozen in wonder. After a minute of silent reverence he spoke, "A BAA-coom! Outside! Is LOUD!"

That evening Emma came down with a fever and began to wheeze dramatically. Emma has always wheezed dramatically with viruses, but her oxygen level never drops. I usually don't pay it much attention anymore, but this time the wheezing and retractions were enough to even raise my eyebrows. Fortunately I had brought our trusty nebulizer and a few treatments every four hours got her through the worst of it.

Both Toby and Emma were finally on the mend by New Years day. This was a blessing considering more extended family came to fill the house that evening in order to celebrate my grandmother's upcoming 90th birthday. About 30 people attended the evening meal and birthday party. Nana was delighted, but even more surprised when we all attended church with her the next morning and held a birthday lunch for her with her church family that afternoon. A photographer was there to take a picture of the 37 person extended family. We also got a photo of Nana with her 18 great-grandkids, in which Toby was screaming his little lungs out, of course.

Naomi was supposed to attend school back home on the third, and as much as we were all ready to head back to sanity and routine, a sway bar on our minivan decided to break and we had to delay our return by a day in order to get that repaired.

Now a pile of laundry and a heap of unpacked bags face me. My refrigerator is empty and I am forced to begin cooking again. Toby has renewed his interest in his red toy Dirt Devil vacuum and "cleaned" nearly every inch of carpet in the house. Yesterday, when the washing machine in the basement hit the spin cycle and shook the floor where we were standing over it, Toby froze and listened intently, "A BAA-coom?" He asked me.

"No, Toby," I answered, "That's a washer. It's washing the clothes in the basement."

"A washer!" He repeated, "In basement! Is loud! SEE it!"

A new year of adventure lies ahead, and I don't dare guess what it will hold.