Sunday, October 26, 2014

You Don't Really Know...

One of my favorite books of all time is Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

I tend to be picky about TV/movie adaptations of favorite books, so I am pleased that I like not one, but THREE different adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. The most recent was released a few years ago and stars Keira Knightley.

In that movie, the character of Jane Bennet is played by actress Rosamund Pike.  Jane is an incredibly sweet character -- nice, kind, generous, always looking for the best in everyone.  Pike does a great job of playing her character.

Without consciously thinking about it, I projected the Jane Bennet character on the actress Rosamund Pike. That is to say, I had a general feeling that Pike is probably a nice person. Of course, I knew and indeed know NOTHING about her personal life. If I had consciously thought about it, I would have thought "all I know is she is a good actress. She could be a total jerk.  She could be the next Mother Theresa. I have no idea."  But I wasn't thinking.

So this week, I discovered that Pike is playing the lead female character in the movie Gone Girl.  I would hate to spoil the plot though I personally think all Christians should think LONG and hard about watching that movie. I have not, and you could not pay me enough to watch it.  Focus on the Family gave it a very poor rating...suffice it to say that it is violent and ugly and has some really nasty sexual stuff.  Pike's character is evil. I have read a plot summary of the book and it gives me the cold shudders.

 I felt shocked that Rosamund Pike would play this character.  And of course, that is silly.  Most Hollywood actresses will play most things.  Rosamund Pike is NOT Jane Bennett.  She just played her. And now she is playing a part that involves murder and infidelity and ugliness.  As a Christian, I would not play that part (if I was an actress -- and I am as far away from being a decent actress as one can get.)  But she obviously was fine with playing the part, which means ... well, it means she isn't Jane Bennett. No surprise there.

That made me think of Robin Williams, God rest his soul.  I saw more than one person on Facebook say "Oh, I love Robin Williams!" when he died.  Truth is, we didn't love Robin Williams.  We loved his acting.  Most people (including me) didn't  KNOW him.  We know his persona.  We know that he was a brilliant comedian and actor. And indeed he was.  But obviously under that tremendous comedic skill was a man with very major problems that resulted in his tragic suicide.

I wonder sometimes how I come across in this blog.  I've had people very kindly refer to me as Super Mom.  I know I am not.  I project a persona on this blog. I try to be very honest, but reality is that the blog is just a part of who I am. I never deliberately lie or deceive, but I only tell about SOME parts of our lives.  I don't have time to cover all of my life and indeed much of it is boring :-).

If there is one thing I could say about me it is this:  I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. That is a quote from John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace hundreds of years ago.  That may sound like false modesty on my part but it is not.  I fail in a hundred ways every day. I get cranky with my kids. I get obsessive about messes.  I have my lazy moments.  I give into anxiety. But Jesus is my Lord and my Savior.  So I'm in pretty good shape.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fire Station Field Trip

Field trips.  From an educational perspective, I love them.  I love the concept of hands on learning. I love going out into the world and actually seeing and touching and learning.

Practically...field trips are hard.  9 kids under 15.  Great big helpers in the form of my 2 oldest girls, but with a baby in tow and an insane toddler, field trips are hard.  I'm also slightly freaked out with finding new places so there is always low level stress that I'm going to get lost.  I do have intentions of getting a GPS of some kind in the near future, but right now I'm dependent on mapquest.

We visited a fire station a few years ago and it was strenuous.  However, our big girls needed to talk to a firefighter/paramedic for part of their Emergency Preparedness badge for American Heritage Girls (AHG) so I girded up my loins (figuratively speaking) and arranged to go on a field trip to a local fire station.

And really, it was awesome. The fire station in question is only about 7 minutes drive from us, and the 2 firefighter/paramedics who hosted us were incredibly friendly and helpful.

One of the first things they did was to take us into their TV room and then turn on the emergency lights/sound alerts.  The whole station is rigged up with these, so when a call comes in the lights go red and a voice tells them that they need to run off to a fire or medical emergency. Incidentally, only 15% of calls are fires nowadays; the vast majority of calls are for medical issues.

 The firefighters work 1 full 24 hour shift, then have 2 full days off.  During their 24 hours ON they often get almost no sleep. I joked that it was like having a little baby and they agreed, except of course they keep up this grueling schedule for years on end.  But they do have 2 days to recover each time unless they get called back in for a larger emergency.

They took us up this training tower.  It goes up several stories and has an outdoor balcony. They can and do flood it with smoke and do training exercises where they go in through the balcony (via a ladder) in full gear, and creep around in the smoke looking for a hidden dummy.  Have I mentioned I don't like heights?  At all? And you can see the stairs are those wonderful mesh horrors where you can look down between your feet and see the floor a LONG way below.  It really was not my favorite thing to go up those stairs, but the 8 older kids were going up so I needed to go with them. Do I get a medal?  My big girls' AHG troop leader came with her kids and kindly looked after Rose so I WAS able to go up the tower.  It would have been impossible without her.

The firefighters very kindly let us feel the hose.  Here Naomi is helping Daniel. He loves water.

It wasn't a huge hose but it still had quite a bit of power.  I've read that the really big hoses need a couple of STRONG men holding them because if they break loose, they can hurt people thrashing around (the hoses can hurt people, I mean.)

This is the big fire truck. It has a host of equipment for various situations.  In between chasing kids, I thought a lot about the logistics of a fire station like this.  They have to keep the vehicles stocked at all time. They need to keep good track of their staffing so they aren't spending too much BUT they also have enough people to do what needs done.  The personnel explained that they work in conjunction with departments within about a 30 mile radius, so if there is an emergency in a nearby town, they can and will be called.

The big rig has an appallingly tall ladder.  I think they said 110 feet long.  Ugh.  We talked a fair amount about fear of heights. The staff said everyone has their "thing" -- some don't like heights, others don't like blood, or small spaces, etc.  They have to learn to overcome their particular fears and stressors to do their jobs well.  Training tends to weed out people who just can't cut this job, which is a challenging one.

Daniel was more or less a nut through most of the field trip, so the big girls and I spent a fair amount of time chasing him.

We also got to walk through the "ambulance" -- the smaller vehicle they send on medical runs.  It is, of course, scrupulously neat and clean, and has a host of medical supplies for a variety of purposes.  Kevin actually visited this fire station 7 years ago when he had some worrisome symptoms which signaled a possible stroke.  It turned out to be nothing to worry about, but having a local place like this fire station IS reassuring when something scary happens physically.

So...thoughts.  Profound thoughts.

I truly admire firefighters/paramedics. They are on the front lines of emergency preparedness.  They deal with WAY more than fires. They are there for car crashes and heart attacks and yes, fires.  They have to stay physically strong so they can carry people up and down ladders.

There is no way I could physically do their job.  There are a few women who staff this station (though our 2 hosts were men) and they learn to compensate plus, hey, they are strong women!

I don't think I could mentally/emotionally do this job either. Sometimes, these folks are the heroes.  They go to the heart attack victim's house and pull him or her back from the dead using CPR and an AED. They treat asthma attack victims or deal with serious head trauma.  They pull people from burning buildings.  That is amazing and awesome.

Sometimes, they can't save someone. And that's where the job has to get tough. I wonder how they do it?  How do they deal with a situation where they go and it is too late to save someone?  I have a sweet online friend (who will no doubt read this blog entry) who lost her husband more than a year ago due to an epileptic seizure.  It is heart breaking that the medical emergency personnel couldn't save him, but they couldn't.  Sometimes the seizure is catastrophic,  sometimes the heart attack is too severe, sometimes the fire is too entrenched and someone dies of smoke inhalation or burns.

So I think this job requires more than just physical strength and expertise.  It requires a special type of mind and soul. I hope and pray these folks still have compassion for those they help.  I am sure they do -- you don't go into firefighting/paramedic work for the money. The hours are lousy and the pay isn't amazing.   I would guess, though, that fire station personnel need to separate enough from a tragic situation so that they CAN do their jobs.  Maybe it is a natural part of who they are, maybe it is part of their training, maybe it is a combination.

Anyway, amazing field trip.  Thought provoking.  I'm thankful for these folks.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nosebleeds and Eating Problems

2 nights ago, in the evening, I had a gusher of a nosebleed.  I don't get them often at all.  In fact, the vast majority of my nosebleeds are when I am pregnant and I AM NOT PREGNANT :-).

But...I can tell I'm having pretty severe allergies to something out in the environment, so I'm dealing with drainage and dried up nasal passages.  So that's the source of the problem.

That evening, I spent a good hour waiting for my nosebleed to stop.  Then in the middle of the night, it started up again and I spent another hour dealing with it.  Ugh.  Not the best night's sleep.

I love how the Lord uses the printed word to help me deal with bad attitudes. I was not happy about the nosebleed, or drainage that causes stomach upset, and a bad night's sleep.  Not too fun.

But right before the nosebleed, I was reading a book from the library that I picked up randomly.  It is about a young woman in her 20's who got sick with a virus that attacked her heart.  After 4 miserable years of heart problems, and literally months in the hospital, she had a heart transplant. Then she dealt with rejection though they managed to quell the rejection to the point that her new heart "took."  
Then she started climbing mountains, I guess, but I haven't gotten to that point yet in the book.

Point is, this lady got really really sick in spite of living a healthy lifestyle.  She was young, happily married, a sportswoman, and ate carefully.  You'd think she'd be healthy and she wasn't.

So here I am, 45 next week, and really very healthy.  Nosebleeds and allergies?  Pshaw.  Not a big deal.  

Last week I was reading the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. I have read it many times before and this time, the oddest thing jumped out at me.  Namely:

Mark 1: 6-8
Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Ok, so there is all that awesome stuff about Jesus' coming and how He was far greater than John.

But that's not what jumped out.  It was the "locusts and wild honey" part that did :-).

Um, locusts?  Insects?  No, that does not sound too tasty.  The Israelites in the desert whined about manna but if you ask me, they had it pretty good.  Honey is good, locusts bad. I think.  And talk about limited.  I mean yes, maybe he had the occasional variation in his diet (maybe the random fig?) but it sounds like mostly he was eating bugs dipped in wild honey.

I've been a bit grumpy about my food lately. I'm diabetic, which limits what I can eat.  I've adjusted to that over the last 10 years and there are plenty of things I like that I can eat.  But now some things aren't agreeing with me, like dairy, so I am off all milk products.  AND I think Rose might be allergic to wheat so I'm off wheat as well.

But you know, all those limitations aren't the biggest thing. The truth is, I like to relax when I eat.  I have a bad habit of being hungry and thinking, "Well, I want to eat...but right now the kids are crazy and I don't have time to sit down to eat.  So I'll wait."  And I wait and wait, to the point that sometimes I don't eat enough to maintain my weight.  Right now I'm 15 lbs higher than my "normal" weight -- but I know from experience that if I lose too much weight, I'll lose my milk supply.  Rose and I have made it 4 months and that is better than I did with Daniel, so eating early, often, and consistently is important.

I have found myself munching down oatmeal with both Daniel and Sarah on my lap, in front of the computer, while Daniel and Sarah watch a youtube video of "Let It Go".  I like the song, but I'd WAY rather have the kids all occupied while I sit peacefully at the table to eat my oatmeal, with a good book in front of me.

This reminds me of a section in C. S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape Letters.  This book is a totally fictional account of a higher level demon advising a lower level demon how to tempt a man away from Christ.  (Obviously it is fictional since that's way out there -- but it is a GREAT book. Very thought provoking.) There is a short section where the demon talks about the "subject"'s mother.  In the book, the mother is very picky about food.  She wants things "just so" though she isn't a glutton in the sense we usually think about gluttony. But she is fussy and whiny about her toast being just right, or her food at a restaurant not being too large of a serving.  The demon points out that being hyper picky about food is a form of gluttony, and I think that's a valid perspective though not what we usually think about when we think about gluttony.

ANYWAY, I'm in good shape with food.  I've got a husband bringing in a big enough salary to feed us all, and feed us all well. I have my chocolate from Trader Joe's, my coconut flour from Amazon, and my eggs from Kroger.  I have plenty of times in the day when I can eat, even if it isn't quite the environment I prefer.  And I don't need to eat bugs.  Dipped in wild honey.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Tie and the Rainbows

We found this tie in one of the big boys' drawers, and we thought it would be cute on various kids.  And it is!

Tuesday the weather was pretty crazy.  We had rain off and on all day. I took the children ice skating (all but 3 kids, I should say) and forgot my camera :-(.  They mostly had a good time.  We missed heavy rains while driving, which made me happy. And late afternoon, and early evening, we had rainbows.  I thought the evening one was particularly interesting with clouds in the background.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sometimes Our Fabulous Littles Are Awful

   We're having a "season" with our 3 and 2 year old children. They've been very difficult the last few days.

 But let me back up a bit on that.  I have a dear friend, a mentor, who told me that age 3 was a very challenging age for her daughter.  I think our kids have been challenging at 3, but for some reason I've blocked it out.  I just remember dear D. telling me that.

 Anyhow, Sarah has been pushing things and honestly, I've been letting her get away with disobedience.  I have read that early kids are often disciplined more than later born children.  Most "experts" say or imply that Mom and Dad are too tired and worn out to discipline the young ones as well as they disciplined the older children.  They just kind of "give up" because it is too much trouble to discipline the young ones.  Supposedly.

 I wouldn't use "tired" or "lazy" to describe me and my discipline style.  I feel pretty good physically and not too tired, and I am a very diligent parent and I know how important discipline is for every child, regardless of where he or she falls in the birth order.

   But I am definitely, over the top, distracted.  I've got a baby who needs me, I'm having intense and interesting discussions with my teens on occasion, and I've got an older son struggling with math.  Our preschooler and toddler are cared for well and get lots of attention from siblings and parents.  BUT, I sometimes tell one of the littles not to do something, and he or she waits a minute and disobeys, and I miss it because something else grabbed my attention.

  Sarah, who is a smart little cookie, has been doing something sweet but disobedient. When I'm nursing Rose, Sarah likes to crowd up against us and kiss Rose's head.  I allow that once, but then tell her to go away as she distracts Rose.  But until 2 days ago, Sarah usually disobeyed me and just kept kissing Rose's head, and I just kept saying, "Stop, Sarah!"  Over and over.

 Looking back, I'm appalled at that particular brand of bad parenting.  Nothing reinforces disobedience like repeated instruction and no consequences for disobedience. But like I said, I've been distracted.  And when I'm nursing Rose, the last thing I want to do is to stop nursing and deal with disobedience. Sigh.

 So 2 days ago, I realized I needed to start cracking down on Sarah's disobedience in this area and once I started paying attention, I realized she was disobeying about a host of things. She has a common trait of wanting a toy that someone else has.  She has been snatching toys from Daniel regularly, and having tug of wars over toys.  When I tell her to let go, she disobeys me 100% of the time.

  None of this is to be "down" on Sarah. She is only 3 years old.  The thing is, she is desperate for boundaries. I believe with all my heart that kids really do want their parents to provide a safe and understandable life.  Her will says she wants a toy, RIGHT NOW, and she'll gladly snatch or steal from someone to get it.  But in her heart, she wants a safe place where no one is allowed to snatch HER toys.  So me being careless in this area is bad for her and the whole family.

 I've started giving her one spank when she disobeys me, or I have a big kid remove her to our study (which is a toy room) on occasion (like when I'm nursing Rose and she is disobedient.)

  I don't think it is surprising that since I started disciplining, Sarah's disobedience has escalated.  Various experts would say various thing about that, but my belief is that she is testing to see if I will cave.  Will I really keep following up?  Or will I give in?  So I need to be very consistent and diligent right now, though it IS tiring.

  Daniel is mirroring some of the same behaviors as Sarah, albeit at a less sophisticated level because he is only 2.  He and Sarah have been quarreling a lot the last few days.

 All this is very tiring but I'm praying for wisdom and patience from God, and strength from God as well.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lunar Eclipse

A lunar eclipse which starts at about 6 a.m. is a gift from the Lord. I LIKE lunar eclipses, they are very cool, but I do NOT want to get everyone up to see one in the middle of the night. So October 8th's "blood moon" at 6 a.m. was wonderful.

Lydia is the only one who got up and stayed up, but I woke up our 3 little girls and our 2 big boys and they peered out the window at the eclipse.

Kevin pointed out that the pictures would be better if the camera was on a tripod, BUT we still got a few neat pictures.  The first, of course, shows the earth's shadow moving across the moon.  The 2nd picture shows the official blood moon lunar eclipse.  I believe the orange color comes from the reflection of dawn onto the moon, but I'm not sure about that.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

And Get a Haircut!

This is totally random.  It's a family story.  And you know, family stories are cool. They bind us together and give us a special way to relate to one another.

I woke up one morning many years ago (5, 6, 7?) to find our voicemail blinking.

I hit the play button and heard this message; the voice sounded like that of a teenage girl:

"So...I was waiting for you to come pick me up last night. I thought we were going to the dance.  I guess not.

So...just so you know, we're OVER!


Now, we very clearly had an outgoing message about who we were, and we are not the person who stood this young lady up.  She was obviously so mad she didn't even LISTEN to the voicemail message, so she left her enraged message on the wrong voicemail.

I  know it is a little sad (maybe?  Sounds like he was no great loss!) but it has been a family "line" ever since.

Any time we talk about cutting hair one of us will likely say:


Saturday, October 4, 2014


She was 10 lb 11 oz on Thursday!  That means she is staying on her growth curve, and THAT means she is getting enough milk.  I've been devoting considerable time to nursing, I'm eating steel cut oats, and I'm trying to get enough liquids.  I'm thankful we've made it 3 and a half months!

Busy, Busy, Busy

Like most people in our culture, I feel very busy.  VERY VERY busy.

Stepping back, that isn't too surprising.  Nine kids, including a baby.  I homeschool the older 6 and have a 3 year old and 2 year old to keep safe and engaged in life.

However, I have been thinking about the reality that when I'm pregnant, I feel quite sick the first 3 months and very bulbous and limited the last 3 months, and still all the basic things of life get done -- in spite of my limitations.

So, why is it that when I'm pregnant and sick, I get everything necessary done but now that I feel more energetic, I still feel pushed to the limit most of the time?

The answer is complicated.  One thing is that Kevin took over many of my outside the home responsibilities when I was pregnant.  He took over the grocery shopping and other errands. That helped a lot.  I also didn't go out and do fun, outside activities with the children much.

I'm adding back some grocery shopping to my "to do list", especially as Kevin is in a new position at work which requires longer hours and more fixed times when he needs to be at work.

I am also making the effort to take the kids on field trips at least occasionally.  This last week, I took the kids to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in 2 groups of 5 (different kids each time except the baby came with me both times.)  I'll try to write a post about that trip.

Right now I am nursing the baby still (praise God, I'm still nursing!!) and that takes several hours a day. So I feel busy from that.

It is Ok that I am busy, but I am thinking about my time with the Lord God of the Universe.  I have been getting up a little later than usual most days (close to 7 a.m,) which means the kids get up about when I do, which means it is hard to find time to read the Bible and pray quietly.  I am usually up once with the baby during the night,  and that is a time for prayer and reading a Christian book on my Kindle (gotta love my Kindle with its backlit screen!)

I am reading through a book called How to Hear God's Voice.  I read the previous version of this book 20 years ago and it is fantastic.  It teaches some ways to hear from God directly, to actually have conversations with God. I know it works but I haven't done that much lately due to sheer busyness and weariness and distraction from our family life.

And that isn't good. So I have the goal of finding some more quiet time in my life when I can pray, listen to God's voice, and journal. I am also praying for wisdom to know what things I am doing that I shouldn't, so I can free up some time.  Reality is, this is a busy season for our family.  But that won't end any time soon.  We have been blessed with 9 glorious children and they have many needs. I have to find time, though, to nurture my relationship with God.  That IS the most important relationship of all, and if that relationship fails, my roles as wife and mother will suffer immensely.