Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Amish Far Side

We heard sirens as we left the park yesterday evening. "Is that an ambulance or a fire truck?" I asked.

"Fire truck, I think," Matt said. A minute after pulling out onto the highway we could see billows of black smoke from about two miles away. "Want to go for a drive?" Matt asked. It wasn't hard to find the origin of the smoke. Fire trucks were wailing and whizzing by us. The road was blocked ahead so we parked in a long line of cars along the country road, unloaded the kids, and walked to the top of a nearby hill. An Amish family and a few others were watching the fire from there as well. They told us it was a garage that had gone up in flames, and the barn beside it was singed, but thankfully the nearby house was fine and no one had been hurt. We listened to the hissing of the water on the flames and talked to the kids about how the firefighters were working.

After about twenty minutes the air was becoming chilly and the action was winding down. One spectator climbed back into his truck to leave, but turning the key, was only answered by a loud clicking sound. He turned and the truck clicked for another minute, then he got out, popped his hood, and stood staring at the truck's insides.

The Amish man beside me shook his head under his straw hat, then called out in a faded German accent, "Sucks to be you! If you would've had a horse it'd go now!"

I had to suppress my laughter. Oh, how the people around here love to talk bad about the Amish. "They make it so hard on themselves! Why are they trying to earn their salvation?" But maybe they're not making it that hard on themselves after all. At the end of the day, which man had trouble getting home?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Feeding the Ogre

I really intended to write on the first month of my pregnancy earlier this week, but every time I sat down at the computer I had a hard time taking my spoon out of my mouth long enough to type...then I fell asleep at the keyboard...sort of. It just wasn't working out. Not much of life works out too well for me in the first four weeks after that pregnancy test shows two pink lines.

You'd think by the fifth time around I'd be able to do pregnancy in my sleep, and I probably could if I didn't have four other children to take care of, plus little things like laundry and shopping and cooking. Then again it's hard to sleep when you have to visit the refrigerator and the bathroom at least bi-hourly.

I began to have an inkling that I might be expecting again when Matt and I sat down to watch a movie on his computer and the smell of the kettle corn, which I normally love, turned my stomach, but I had no problem devouring half a bag of "hint of lime" corn chips. Then I began waking with a familiar mixture of horrific hunger and nausea. That's pretty much a dead give-away since virus-induced nausea erases all memory of appetite from my mind.

Pregnancy-hormone-induced nausea is more of an oversized, blood-shot-eyed, fang-bearing ogre wrenching my stomach and screaming in between slobbers, "Feed me! FEED ME NOW!" And I've found that if I feed him as many calories as possible he may just release his nauseating grip for a few minutes of reprieve, before the next feeding. The real trouble is that he's a very picky eater. There are only certain foods he will accept and these change from hour to hour. As his horrific grip tightens and his slobbering shrieks wring in my ears I find myself acting in a manner I would otherwise consider utterly insane.

Never, never would I have imagined that I would put all four children in the van and drive to the grocery store at lunch time so I could buy gluten-filled frozen pizzas to eat right in front of their celiac eyes. Don't worry though, feeling horribly guilty I bribed them off by renting "Tangled" at the Red Box and letting them watch it instead of doing school work that day. They were quite pleased with their side of the deal.

"Mommy, why are you making chicken noodle soup at nine-o'clock in the morning?" Naomi began asking. All I could answer was, "Because mommies do very strange things when they have a baby growing inside of them." She has since learned not to ask.

The other problem with all of this ogre-appeasing behavior is the sudden, utterly inappropriate weight gain. Some women lose weight from nausea, some gain the appropriate three pounds, I struggle to keep it under ten. Matt takes all this in stride. He kindly turns a blind eye to my new-found insanity, but he doesn't offer any aid to my cause either. I learned a few pregnancies ago that asking him to run to the store for ogre food would only win a round of laughter. I have to go myself, but he doesn't stop me.

Then there was the morning I had to take Emma in to the hospital for an early morning EEG. I was up at 5:00am just as Matt got home from work. Unfortunately his choice for dinner was microwaved Pad Thai and the smell sent me reeling. I opened the front door wide and stuck my head into the frosty morning air, panting like a dog, but it didn't help. I grabbed Emma from bed and put her in the van, hoping that just getting out of the house would help. But the nausea only grew as we entered the hospital. I tried to hide my misery from the technician, but just in the middle of the test, when we were supposed to be still and quiet, I had to run for the attached bathroom and lost everything I'd eaten for the last day or so. Upon returning home I had to take the trash out and scrub the microwave and kitchen spotless to ensure removal of every remaining molecule of Pad Thai.

It's hard for me, being sick and insane. I'm much more used to feeling generally well and level-headed. Thankfully, much of the initial hormone onslaught is leveling off now and the ogre has shrunk more to the size of an incessantly yapping poodle. Sometimes I have to appease the thing to get it to shut up, but sometimes I can ignore it. I'm looking forward to regaining control of my mind, especially as my body becomes more and more devoted to growing a new little person. My friends at the grocery store may miss me, but I think my family is ready to welcome me back.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Springtime's Gift, Winter's Blossom

Two years ago April was a beautiful month, but I wished that it wasn't. I didn't want the summertime to come and to have to pack up and leave our home. Last April again produced fragrant blossoms and brilliant colors, but the colors barely touched my soul--not after being denied the PhD that Matt and I had worked so hard for seven years for (for reasons truly God only knows). Closing out the year in Matt's parents' basement, having no idea what that year would hold, springtime seemed only a sign that another year was passing us by.

This April we are still in limbo, but watching that magnolia tree outside my kitchen window open its' enormous pink blossoms seems to call my soul to open again too. This year I can feel the sunshine, and welcome the warm air into my own house. This year the bright new leaves feel less like the tease of a malicious older sibling and more like a father's smile. This year I am anxious to greet the new year and all the gifts, as well as challenges, it holds.

This April, having finally settled once more in our own home, my babies are growing faster than ever and bringing more joy to my heart than I ever could have known. I look back at the fears and the worries I had when I learned that God had sent each of these little ones into my life, and I smile at God's provision for each of my fears. While I'll spare you details, I'll tell you that Toby was a surprise and miracle in many ways, and that I was far more exhausted than thrilled when God sent him our way. In the throes of morning sickness, with three children ages four and under I had to question God's wisdom. Nearly three years later I'm still exhausted, but I am so very thankful for that gift! Just what would my life be without Toby? I can't imagine it as anything but empty.

So, on this day of celebrating Christ's resurrection life I look forward with great joy to the season of celebrating Christ's birth--and the day when, Lord willing, I will receive into my arms God's newest blessing for our family, our fifth child.

Though it may be tempting to see the obstacles in our way, I urge you to lay aside your fears for our family and trust us as we trust God's provision. Please share in our joy as we welcome this baby, to join our family sometime around December 8th. I am only 7 1/2 weeks along, but I am terrible at keeping secrets. My life was meant to be an open book. I realize the pregnancy is still tentative, and in the event that the child is lost early, then you will share in that chapter of our lives as well.

The kids are thrilled. The girls have learned that babies are hard work, but bring lots of joy. Hannah has been praying for the baby, talking to the baby, and making birthday cards for the baby since the day she found out. Just seven more months to go, Hannah. Emma's reaction? "Now Toby can talk to the new baby instead of calling Taco Sauce on the telephone." Yes, Toby does need a brother...desperately...but as my sister pointed out today, if he gets another sister he'll have plenty of opportunity to mold her into a suitable playmate.

Please pray for my (mild/moderate) morning sickness to ease soon and for the health of the baby. My next few posts will let you in on some of the more humorous pregnancy moments so far. Thank you for sharing our journey and sharing our joy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pretty Eggs, Frazzled Mama

If I had a leisurely afternoon to creatively decorate and dye Easter eggs I might really enjoy the process. But as it is, my children wanted to dye the eggs, and I just wanted to die.

OK, it wasn't quite that bad, but at the ages of six, five, and three the girls needed a bit of help with a few of the details like: boiling two dozen eggs, covering the table with waxed paper, finding suitable paint clothes, mixing up permanent dyes, getting the eggs in and out of the dyes, shrinking decals onto the eggs in boiling water, and putting "tattoos" on their eggs. Who knew these kits would come with egg "tattoos?" Strangely enough the girls didn't seem to grasp that you have to press hard enough to get the tattoo to rub off onto the egg, but not so hard as to crack the shell.

"Mama, would you put this one in the blue color for me?" Hannah asks, just as Naomi cries,"Oh no, Mommy, I dropped this one on the floor!" Emma calls impatiently, "Mah-ee, I nee el wih thih ah-er! Ih nah er-eene!" ("Mommy, I need help with this flower (tattoo)! It's not working!")

And I answer something like, "Sure, Hannah. Naomi, here, let's shrink wrap that egg with this pretty design and no one will notice the cracks. I'm coming, Emma, let me rub that for you." And then I stand on my head and balance eggs on both feet in the air, just because I'm awesome...not really.

At least Naomi and Hannah could handle the "magic crayon" that puts clear wax on the egg so that the dye won't stick to your design, and then your design "magically" appears in white when you dye the egg. I gave the crayon to Emma and told her to try it. A few minutes later she handed the egg to me for dyeing. "Oh, did you make a pretty design?" I asked her. "Yeah," she said, "but it didn't show up." She really giggled when I pulled her egg out of the dye and showed her that her design did in fact show on the egg.
Amazingly, before Toby woke from his nap, we had a cleaned-up kitchen, and a pretty basket of eggs. I hope the girls made happy memories because egg dyeing might not come around again for a couple of years.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hannah on Being Watched

This evening, as I made my way around the house closing the blinds for the night, Hannah asked, "What are you doing, Mama? Why do you close the blinds at night?"

"Well," I replied, "because when it gets dark outside people can see into our house, and we don't want them too."

"Why not?" she probed.

"Don't you think it would be strange to have people watching what we do at night?" I asked her in return, not wanting to delve into the details of stalkers, thieves, and murderers.

"No," she replied, smiling, "I like people watching me! I like a lot of people watching me all the time!" At least I'm raising an honest narcissist.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How to Get Your Truck Shoes Back

Toby was restless this morning. He just couldn't seem to find anything amusing or challenging enough for his liking. He fussed and he whined, but then he had an idea. He scurried up the stairs and clunked carefully back down a moment later proudly sporting his sisters' pink high heeled dress-up shoes. I turned a blind eye to his footwear, happy that he wasn't whining anymore, but Matt wasn't about to let it go.

"Toby, take those off," he chided, "those are girl shoes. They're for girls to wear--you're a boy." But Toby wasn't going to relinquish them.

"OK," I sighed, "I hid his truck shoes on top of the fridge last week when he kept pestering me to put them on every ten seconds. If you get them down, maybe he'll trade you." Toby was more than happy to trade, and, to my amazement, he kept the truck shoes on happily most of the day. I think he only liked the high heels for the challenge anyway.

He proved that he was still a man's man when he climbed in bed beside me this afternoon for a little snuggling, then suddenly sat back up and declared, "Forgot vacoom!" He retrieved his friend the Dirt Devil, and the three of us snuggled happily for five seconds...then Toby and Dirt Devil were off to find new adventures, and I was thankful for a few minutes' peace.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Toby Falls in Love at the Pet Store

Friday mornings I load all four kids in the van by 8:10am--quite an undertaking--in order to drive Emma back to the school district we used to live in so she can finish the year with the same speech preschool class. There are stores just across the way from the school that I need to visit for some of our gluten-free staples, so we drop Emma at school and do our shopping on Friday mornings. Usually it takes me the full two hours to visit two stores and get all of our supplies for the week with three kids in tow, but this morning I found myself with a short shopping list and some extra time.

We wandered the aisles slowly and stopped to see the fish. Then I looked at my watch and saw that we still had an hour to wait, so I decided to pack the kids up and take them on a new adventure--the nearby pet store. I made it clear that we were just looking, telling them it was a like a trip to the zoo--you enjoy looking and you don't expect to bring anything live home.

Naomi, Hannah, and Toby were intrigued by the friendly cockatiels. They laughed at the scurrying hamsters, and playful ferrets. Then we saw a lady cleaning out the mouse cage. She picked each mouse up by its tail and set it in a clean tank, and when the tank was full of frantically scurrying mice she cleaned out their cage. Naomi and Hannah giggled at the little mice trying to climb the glass walls, but Toby was enamored with something else entirely. The pet store lady was sucking all the old mouse bedding out with a shop vac!

"A vacoom!" he whispered with breathless excitement. I smiled and talked to him about how she was cleaning the cage. After a minute Naomi and Hannah were anxious to move on. We still had the reptile isle and the aquariums to explore, but Toby wasn't budging.

"Come on, Toby," I urged, tugging on his arm, "would you like to see some snakes?"

"No!" he insisted, "go see-um vacoom!"

I prevailed, with pure brawn, since our time was limited before we needed to pick Emma up. Toby begrudgingly glanced at the snakes and turtles and fish, but took each opportunity to steal away from my grasp and run back to the hamster aisle. It didn't seem to matter that the shop vac sat silent now as the lady placed clean bedding and supplies in the mouse cage--just to be in its presence was enough.

Hannah was full of chatter as soon as Emma was strapped in beside her in the back seat of the van. "Hey, Emma, guess where we went? We went to the pet store! And we saw some birds, and some ferrets, and some..."

"And vacoom!" Toby added. You know, if I had to have my son fall in love with something at the pet store and just insist on bringing it home, maybe I should be glad it would be a shop vac and not a puppy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tire Swing for Four

We had another beautiful evening at the playground. Toby would have gone on swinging forever, but I lured him out of the toddler swing with the hopes of riding on the tire swing with his sisters. Unfortunately the playground was packed and the tire swing is popular, but after an eon of waiting our turn arrived. I managed to catch a snippet of the action with my camera while I pushed the swing. I hope you enjoy their giggles. It's hard to see Toby's face, but it started to turn a little green after a minute. Not that that mattered to him. He still screamed when I took him off.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Toby the Nurturer

Toby has been developing his nurturing side lately. With three older sisters, he was bound to finally see that baby doll as more than a football to fling down the stairs. But it's an odd tension he lives with. Some days he just adores a baby doll. "See baby?" he asks me as he cuddles the little pink doll in his arms, "Nice baby! Toby's baby!" Then, looking for a little more action, he will strap the tiny pink bundle into our pink doll stroller and take it from to zero to sixty in about three seconds. If the stroller should wipe out attempting to turn the corner from the kitchen into the office at sixty miles an hour, and baby should fly from the stroller incurring massive head injuries, Toby will laugh and strap the poor child in for another spin around the house.

"Oh, no, Toby!" I tried calling in a sad voice once, "Baby's hurt! See, baby's crying now, 'wah! wah!'"

"Ha! Wah! Waaahhh!" Toby joined in with me, grinning, and showing no sympathy.

Today Toby's baby was hungry. "Put baby in boos-seat! (booster seat)" he narrated for me, "baby's hungee! Eat chips, baby! Tastes good!" Then he had an even more brilliant idea. He promptly ejected Baby from the booster seat to the floor and ran for his kid-sized red Dirt Devil vacuum. Heaving and grunting, he hoisted a vacuum as tall as himself into his booster seat and managed to get it to sit upright and stable there. "Ha!" he laughed to himself as he pushed the vacuum up to the table, "See, Mommy? Vaccuum's HUUUngee!" Proudly, he stood back and admired his work. Then he coaxed his favorite buddy, "Eat chips, vacuum! Tastes good!"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Warm Weather Calling

By nature, I love to get out. Before I had Naomi I made sure to get out of the house every day, for work, for shopping, or just for a walk. But now that I have four kids, I find that my desire for sanity outweighs my desire to get out. It takes twenty minutes of hard work to get through the necessary potty stops, diaper changes, foot shodding, coat donning, water-bottle filling, and diaper-bag packing. Once we're out the door, the only moment of peace is the drive to our destination. "Everybody all strapped down now? Good...maybe we'll take the long way." Sometimes Matt asks why I drive so slowly. Maybe because I'm cautious, maybe because I need a rest after the effort to get to the driver's seat.

But on Saturday the 70 degree weather after a long winter pried me from the comfort of routine. I looked on the Internet and found a county park near us, then announced to the kids (and Matt) that we were going for a picnic. Toby could hardly believe his ears, "Where's truck shoes?" he asked, darting around the house. "Put coat on! Go bye-bye in van! Swing on swings...Weeee!" He whined impatiently as I packed the sandwiches and drinks and as we completed our leaving-the-house routine. But it was worth the wait.

The air was warm and fresh, there were very few bugs, and very few people. The kids ran along the nature trail, stared spell-bound at the waterfall under the bridge, and giggled with delight to find a second waterfall at the end of the trail. Hannah discovered the rock-climbing wall, and soon all the kids were climbing up under Daddy's watchful eye, dashing down the slope, and climbing up again.

"Oh, thank you, Mommy!" Hannah glowed. "I love this place so much! I want to sleep here tonight. I want to live here forever!"

"Step on rocks!" Toby added, "Frow sticks in waterfall!"

 "I don't know, Hannah, what about the wolves at night?" I asked with spooky eyes.
Hannah froze for a minute, then wrinkled her nose at me, "Stop, Mommy, there's no wolves here!"

So with no wolves to deter them, it was hard to drag the kids away. "No! No!" Toby protested. "Frow sticks in waterfall!"

I promised to bring them back again soon, though. It was well worth the effort.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Truck Shoes

"Ouchy shoes!" Toby called as I tried to hurry him out the door with his sisters. Stopping to inspect his toes I realized he had a valid complaint. It had been six months since his last shoe-size promotion. Yesterday I found the time to dig out a box of shoes I had been saving for him, hand-me-downs mostly from our former neighbors. To Toby's delight there was not only a practical pair of size 8 tennis shoes, but a size 8 pair of brown crocks that looked like Mater from the Cars movie.

"Oh-ho-ho!" Toby growled, "Truck shoes!" It's hard to describe his manly description of those shoes. It sounded like Tim-the-Tool-Man-Taylor's "more power" grunt. Something like, "Oh-ho-ho! Man's shoes!"

I wish I could say that he wore them happily ever after. That is what I imagined, but unfortunately, Toby, for some reason utterly inexplicable to me, felt just as compelled to take his truck shoes off as to put them back on. Unfortunately as well, even though they are crocks, he couldn't manage to get them on by himself.

The rest of yesterday went something like this. Toby screams, "Ohhh! Truck shoes! Not working! Need heeeeellllllpppp! Put truck shoes on! Oh! Oh! Ohhhhh! Not working!"

I respond sweetly, "Oh, do you want help putting your truck shoes on? Say 'please.'"

"Pease!" And so I put them on and Toby happily shuffles around the house for thirty seconds until he feels compelled to pull them off and look them over from another angle. Suddenly, Toby realizes the truck shoes are no longer on his feet. Panic stricken he shoves them back on his toes, but they no longer fit his feet! "Ohhh! Truck shoes! Not working! Need heeeeellllllpppp! Put truck shoes on! Oh! Oh! Ohhhhh! Not working!" he cries, fully believing in his heart that his feet will never again be shod in such finery.

I respond, slightly annoyed, "Toby, I just put them on. You took them off. If you want them on, LEAVE them on! DON'T take the shoes off!" as I cram them back on his feet.

"Gank You," Toby smiles happily, wiping his tears with his shirt sleeve. Then, grinning like a chimpanzee with a banana, he shuffles throughout the house for another half-minute or so...until he feels compelled to take the shoes off...and finds himself in need of rescue again...and I lose my patience.

You wouldn't believe how many times this scene repeated itself. Ten? Fifteen? I'm not exactly sure, but I actually had to hide the truck shoes from him! You think I'm cruel, but he got over it, and I got dinner made. I'm telling you, he can't handle truck shoes yet. Maybe when he's older.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Rub-A-Dub-Dub" An original performance

A while ago Naomi, Hannah, Emma, and Sally dressed up, practiced, and asked me to grab the camera. This is completely their own genius. Not bad for a 6 yr old, 5 yr old, 3 yr old, and oversized doll.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pretending Church

"Welcome to our church!" Naomi announced from her rocking chair of authority to Hannah, Emma, and an assortment of baby dolls lined up on the couch. "Hannah, would you introduce your guests?"

"Well," Hannah replied, "this is Sally, Mally, Cally, Childrens, and New Baby" (five friends who have been a part of our household since the days when I was expecting Toby).

"Yay!" Naomi cheered and clapped, "We got some more people for our church service!" Hannah and Emma cheered wildly as well. Then Naomi added, "We would baptize them, but they're babies, and we don't want them to drown."

"Yeah, that wouldn't be good at all," Hannah agreed.

"Now," Naomi continued, "Once upon a time there was a kite that flew so hard it knocked twenty trees down..."

"No, no, no, no, no," Hannah interrupted, "you're supposed to talk about God now."

"Well, first I'm gonna do a funny story for the kids," Naomi clarified. After finishing the kite story she transitioned, "Now we're going to talk about God. One day there was a man and a woman who wanted to get married, so one day an angel who came to the woman said, 'Fear not!...' Hey, Hannah! Pay attention!...'For you are going to have a baby who will be Jesus.' And then there was a big tax, and they had to travel all the way to Bethlehem. And Mary had her baby there. Now let's sing a Psalm."

Two Psalms, and a round of Jesus Loves the Little Children rounded out the church service. Sensing that things were drawing to a close I called the kids in to the kitchen for dinner.

"And church is over!" Naomi announced, "We will now have a fellowship lunch in the kitchen."

And we did.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bloodthirsty Doctor, Six Year-Old Ghost

My mother-in-law came Wednesday night to sit at the house as I took Naomi for a late-night blood draw. The doctor wanted to check her melatonin level because it is produced in the pineal gland where she has a cyst, and this had to be done after 10:00pm. Naomi trudged into the ER in her pajamas with her head buried in "Little Town on the Prairie" and we waited for the phlebotomist. She only cried a little as two tubes were drawn. Then it was back to the cold car and off to dream land by 11:00pm. Unfortunately for Naomi, that was only the beginning of a long 24 hours.

We were back up and out the door by 6:30 the next morning for an A.M. cortisol level blood draw. This was followed by a trip to a specialized lab in the next town that afternoon to give another 17 tubes of blood. And by Thursday afternoon, at our third blood draw, Naomi had had just about enough.

"Are you sure that's a safe amount for her weight?" I questioned the phlebotomist as she lined up tube after tube meant to check hormone levels of every possible kind. I was thankful this pediatrician was being thorough, but I had to wonder if this wasn't a bit of overkill. Then I reminded myself that this was the doctor who caught Naomi's celiac disease because she was thorough, and where would we be if we hadn't caught that?

The phlebotomist raised an eyebrow at me. "I once drew 22 tubes from a one year old," she declared. And I guess that was supposed to reassure me. Naomi sat in my lap and didn't move as they drew tube after tube, but she did break down crying. I tried to reassure her. I tried to crack jokes, but it takes a long time to draw 17 tubes, and nothing seemed to console her--until she looked up and saw Toby, strapped in his stroller, rolling up his sleeve and inspecting the inside of his elbow with great concern. He looked solemnly up at Naomi, then down at his elbow again, then back up at Naomi's tear-streaked face.

"I think Toby's worried that he's next, Naomi," I whispered in her ear. Looking at his little face she had to laugh, blood still pouring from her arm.

"No, Toby, you don't need any blood draws today," Naomi reassured him, "It's just me." Hannah and Emma quietly joined in the giggles from the other side of the room. Finally, the last tube trickled full, the needle was removed, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But that was premature. Naomi lay back against me and stared at the ceiling, white as a ghost.

"You, OK, honey?" the phlebotomist questioned.

"I feel tired, and my tummy hurts," Naomi nearly whispered. The phelbotomist quickly ran for a can of orange juice, but Naomi wouldn't touch it. I was urging her to drink it and explaining the ins and outs of rehydration and blood sugar when Naomi sat up, belched, and heaved. The phlebotomist instantly grabbed the garbage can and I pointed Naomi's head toward it just in time. Unbelievably, it all hit the target. After a few minutes Naomi was able to drink some water and recover some energy. She still felt dizzy as we walked together out to the car.

"Just rest now, sweetie," I coaxed her as I buckled her in for the trip home. "No more blood draws for a long time."

"Yeah, like for a couple weeks," she said happily. I truly hope it's longer than that.