Family Rules

For some time, I have wanted to add to our walls, and no, that doesn’t refer to the (failed/tabled) house hunt from earlier this year. I mean artwork, but artwork (not surprisingly) based on words more so than images.

Basically, I have been itching to create a Family Rules piece to display on our walls where each member of our not-so-little crew could see it as a daily reminder.

We already have the Be the Good sign and this little piece (no really; it’s 5×7) img_0394 I picked up at a friend’s home decor party that hangs in our bathroom, but the two messages I have been wanting to showcase come from Micah 6:8 and the lyrics to the chorus of a song by Nahko and Medicine for the People. Perhaps that seems like an odd pairing, but in my world and in my brain, the wishes I have for my family can’t be said any more beautifully or clearly.

This is not the first time I’ve written about Nahko, nor is it the first mention of Micah 6:8, either. Both have been featured in posts because both are, as best I can tell, TRUTH. And I finally got around to getting both up on the walls, but in slightly different ways.

img_0391The Micah 6:8 sign I found on Etsy after hearing another sermon preached on it at our church last weekend; it was a great reminder of how much I love the charge to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” so I set out that same afternoon to find a sign. And because the Internet is awesome in that just about anything you can imagine exists, my beautifully lettered sign arrived five sleeps later.

However, when your favorite musician is a little obscure, not even the Internet can always provide the product you seek, so I had to get far more creative with my “Manifesto” piece (warning: the song has an unfortunate, albeit true, f-bomb in it, so be careful playing that around sensitive ears). It helps to have very talented friends, though, and instead of just a plain canvas, I was able to get a piece of art from my dear friend Chelsie Wilson, and because she’s not only dear but also awesome, she didn’t mind the fact that I wanted to write all over it in paint.

Originally I thought I’d have someone else do the lettering because my penmanship isimg_0393 nothing special, but I quickly tossed that plan because eff it. What’s so bad about putting my family’s rules in my own writing? If I can write in my own hand with a Sharpie on my walls, I can do so on a canvas. So I got a paint pen, spaced out the piece to at least make the lines even-ish, and got after it. Minus the fact that Chels hasn’t signed it yet, it is perfect.

So now these two signs are ready to display and ready to be imprinted on the eyes, hearts, and minds of my Littles, and any Bigs who happen to wander through my home. I can’t think of any better words to live by, at any age.

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Goodbye, Gertie

Gosh darn it. I’m sitting here feeling a little un-tethered right now. In less than three month’s time, I’ve had to say goodbye to my last two grandparents.

The last blow came, initially, after my first week of teaching summer class (and the night before we took family pictures). My parents called to tell me that my grandma Gert’s nursing home had called them about wanting to have a meeting to put her on hospice care. They told me she’d been pretty out of it when other family members had been there the previous weekend, but Ben and I decided last minute Friday night to pack up the kids and hit the road Saturday morning post-pictures, so we could go see Gertie one more time.

Y’all, it’s a miracle those pictures are as good as they are because I cried a lot that night. This is all just so heavy heart making and also hit so soon after the loss of my Grandpa Cliff (just for clarity’s sake: Cliff was my maternal grandfather and Gert my paternal grandmother). And we knew it was a long shot that she’d be coherent enough to visit with us, but we wanted to try.

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The stop at the nursing home was tough. She had declined drastically from the time my dad had last seen her and we had allll the kids with us, so I was trying to keep my brave, light pants on even though I was shocked by her appearance. She was not awake but also not asleep, if that makes any sense, so we tried talking to her a bit with the kids, but then Ben and my dad took them on a walk through the facility halls so I could just sit with her for a bit. I put my hand on top of hers, talked to her a little bit, and cried. That’s really about all one can do in a moment like that. And I said my goodbye because I knew that if they were talking hospice, that meant the end was near.

Getting to do that was a gift, really, and it’s one I’ve never had before with any of my other grandparents prior to them passing. It doesn’t make the loss any easier but I am grateful that she got to hear from me my thanks and gratitude for all that she did for me over the years. I thanked her for loving me. I thanked her for giving me my dad. I thanked her for being my grandma.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma when I was younger. Their farm was always less than 10 minutes away from us (even when they moved to a different farm place) and I spent countless hours roaming around her house and yard (and outbuildings, which apparently my parents did not know about until a week ago) where she would let me pull all of the cans out of her cupboard and rearrange them (yes, I sometimes did extremely strange things for fun as a child) and was always sure to hide the Twix bars in the same spot so I always knew where to go to sneak one. She made me hamburgers and mashed potatoes for lunches (because, again, weird kid), and taught me the beauty of games like Solitaire and King’s Corner.

After I left for college, my grandparents moved to town, and on almost every trip home, I’d pop in to see them. When I learned, my sophomore year, to quilt, my grandma recruited me to helping her with various quilting projects when I was home for breaks and holidays. She was also forever trying to give us stuff from her house (I use that vague word because seriously, there’s no way to categorize the randomness of what she might try to get you to walk away with after a visit), and I’m convinced she continued to work night shifts as a nurse for years and years and years just so she could slip us some mad money whenever my grandpa wasn’t looking.

Grandma Gert was fiesty. I heard stories about her card games (oh my gosh. so many card games!) and her quick mouth from people decades younger than her who worked with her at the State Hospital and got such a kick out of her. I heard that quickness myself over the years, and I have to think that I learned something about raising a big crazy crew from her, the mother of five boys and one girl. If my kids get together and laugh some day as they tell stories like hers tend to do, my heart will in fact burst wide open.

Right now my heart feels cracked for a different reason. We know what comes next because we’ve been here before and really, not that long ago. We’ll gather our gear and load up the babies to make the trip to be with family and friends to remember and honor another life that was thankfully long but of course never long enough.

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Our last photo all together, from our SD travels last July. 

One out of Five

And just like that, we’ve passed another milestone and are one step closer to being out of the Tunnel of Parenthood (I sometimes imagine an ominous three-note dity in my brain when I use that phrase. You?) However, seeing as the milestone in question is that of The Nap, I don’t know whether to celebrate or lament in this post. And also the Tunnel is time dependent, not milestones, but whatever. My brain is tired, so I’ll take the weak comparison and run with it.

Over the weekend we made a last minute decision to travel to SoDak for an overnight trip so we could see my grandma Gert and our travel + visit times both Saturday and Sunday meant that we weren’t in a house during nap time either day. And apparently the vehicle is no longer a sure bet for napping where Truman is concerned, so….there. His nap gone without intention, our toddler is now free to reign alllll the live-long daylight hours.

Actually, he’s handling it pretty well. The first day, Saturday, was at my parents’ house, so Truman had lots of fun distractions around him (mainly their puppy who is as much a toddler as TJ is) and was so worn out after supper that he agreed to going to bed before any of his siblings without any fuss. All told, he had a few Moments, but nothing too horrendous.

Day Two, Sunday, saw us traveling during the mid-to-late afternoon hours which for a suddenly non-napper translates to Witching Hours pretty quickly. The last 45 minutes were horrendous. But eventually we got home and we’ve now gone through two more nap times without naps and I guess we are surviving?

img_0313I mean, the volume level is intense and the end-of-day emotions are intense, but this is not the first toddler to drop a nap in the Twos (actually, he might be one of our longer nappers, if memory seves me right), so we kind of know what we are doing. Or at the very least, we know that bedtime will be easier and earlier and that alone will see us through one more step through that Tunnel. Right?!

If nothing else, those blonde curls and blue eyes continue to be the perfect salve for any and all chaos he creates.

 

 

With Your Love on Your Arm

I have been trying, for almost nine years, to think of my “mother’s” tattoo. Now, I understand that not every mother requires one of those, but I’ve always wanted one, and as I’ve added baby after baby (after baby after baby after baby) to our crew, I’ve been at a complete loss for how to represent them in permanent ink.

For the longest time I assumed I’d do something with their given animals. But it’s pretty hard to think of something where a monkey, owl, frog, bear, and elephant all go together that isn’t a zoo (although, let’s be real – that might be pretty appropriate and funny) and something that isn’t culturally appropriating, so that never seemed quite right even though I searched and searched on Pinterest for ideas.

Then, in April, Pinterest did show me the way when I saw the prettiest lower arm flower tattoo and a dang light went off in my brain.

Flowers.

Five different flowers.

All familiar to me and with significance, too.

I picked the following:

Sunflower – because, how could the 90s girl in me not include one, and my kids have always planted those in our garden, so, perfect.

Lilac – because they grow on my family’s farm in SoDak and are one of my favorite smells ever in this world.

Peony – because they are big and beautiful and their blooming process fascinates me.

Ranunculus – because from the first time I saw them, I was crazy in love with their shape and their colors.

Rose – because, love. Wild, free, sometimes thorny. Love.

Now, I don’t have a flower associated with each kid yet and maybe I never will. Maybe each kid will embody a component of each flower at different time in their lives, or maybe not. That part doesn’t matter so much as the bouquet, because without all five of them, I wouldn’t be the mother that I am.

The other factor that sealed this deal for me was the song “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty – my favorite of his ever since I came across it two decades ago in the yearbook editing room of my high school in a sleeve of CDs left behind by some other random student. If you’re not familiar, here are the lyrics (and my wish for my own five wildflowers):

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free
Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free
Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

 

And, so. Here I am now with my love on my arm, for all of time. We weren’t able to get it all done today (gray tone fill will come in two weeks) but it is an amazing start (except wow, I hate how much line work hurts), and I can’t wait to see the final product.

Shout out to the always awesome Joel Anderson for another great piece!

 

Give Thanks

If you’ve been keeping up with the FB posts here lately, you’ll know that our Crazy May has indeed continued the last few days with RL taking another turn for the sickies Friday night (and then being totally OUT of it all day Saturday) and then Truman following suit (in the messiest way possible) late Saturday afternoon, resulting in more couch “sleeping” and So. MUCH. Laundry!

In the midst of all this chaos I realized I dropped the ball last week on Teacher Appreciation gifts (and also Mother’s Day cards, because adulting is hard), so the kids are taking them this week instead.

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Now I know in the past I’ve done “crafty” TA gifts because I’ve written posts about them (as if someone might pin them – *snort*) but clearly that’s just not happening in our world right now, so instead, a little truth for you. This year I went the “support local businesses” route instead, buying gift cards for teacher gifts (for coffee/alcohol, depending on their preferences – lol) and, a first, store bought (but still local!) cookies to share after LT’s preschool program.

Do I feel bad about this? Not at all. It’s what we could do and no one wants anything coming directly out of my house right now, anyway, so it’s all for the greater good.

img_0100Also for the greater good? Actually expressing gratitude (that gets hard when you’re low on sleep and immune systems), and by this I mean: writing thank yous.

Now. Writing thank yous is something my mom made us do always when we were growing up. I know I sometimes drug my feet a bit on it, but I’m pretty sure I always did them and the habit has stuck with me. I continue to send thank yous because I think they matter and I think they help us focus on the good in our life (and I don’t believe thank yous are just for responses to gifts, an idea that is supported by this book which is a great read), and I want my kids to do the same.

Writing thank yous is clearly nothing new in this house, but this weekend you would have thought I threw the biggest curve ball EVER when I asked the boys to do theirs to accompany their Teacher Appreciation gifts (RL was still convalescing and she wrote a thank you note of her own volition on Friday for a friend, so she’s clearly not part of this).

For the record, I was age-appropriate in my asking. HD was asked to write his in entirety and LT was asked just to sign his.

To protect the not-so-innocent, I won’t go into detail about what ensued, but it was ridiculous and long-lasting enough to frustrate even the utmost of patient parents (which I doubt we were given the lack of sleep and abundance of sickies in our house this week).

Eventualllllllllllly, they got their acts together and completed the tasks (and yes, HD wrote the perfectly lovely note I knew he was capable of doing). It’s not that they don’t appreciate and like their teachers; they just didn’t like and appreciate me telling them to tell them. And I get it. Forcing them to do thank yous creates one more power struggle here at home, but dang if it isn’t one that I’m going to keep after because I do want them to give thanks (preferably with a more grateful heart, but we’ll get there). I want them to know how to look around and see all that is being provided for them and to be able to express gratitude for it because those are valuable tools (and gifts).

Eventually we will find a way to remove the struggle from our thanks giving, which as you can see, RL has down in the best new-writer fashion:img_0128img_0126

 

 

Crazy May

If you’re reading this (i.e., if you’re human), I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how bonkers May is. It is truth. And you already know the hubbub well. If I took a picture of our calendar, it would say much the same (and my anxiety levels feel it, too). But our May is off to a cray-cray start not (just) because of the schedule, but the oddities my children are throwing at us.

860fd21b-d3bb-4cc6-b5e4-f9721a00134dMost current is an at-home with a tummy-bug that started last night RL. She is slowly doing better but she’s super sad to be missing tonight’s Student Success night at school and I haven’t even had the heart to tell her that she’s going to have to stay home and miss her first-ever Field Day tomorrow. For my little Kindergartner who LOVES school, this is like a double whammy of feeling crappy because both her body and her spirit are suffering.

But stomach bugs aren’t all that weird, even this time of year. They seem to suck more when the weather is nice, but they happen, so although not ideal (and definitely still contributing to the crazy), not that unknown.

However, Raegan is not the only girl in our house throwing curve balls this month. On Saturday I walked in to see Wilson on her tummy in her crib which was a HUGE shock because she’s been sleeping the last month-ish in a Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit (worth the look if you’ve never seen them as they are a great swaddle transition) and the whole point beyond keeping them from punching themselves in the face during the night is to KEEP THEM ON THEIR BACKS.

Not my Wonder Baby/She-woman. She is too strong for mere mortals and also for magic baby gear, apparently. So bye-bye Merlin and Hello, Halos, instead! Of course this means she has way more freedom in her crib and as you might remember from previous mentions, she’s in this phase where she often forgets that she can in fact roll from her belly to her back, so now when she should be sleeping or napping, she’s often yelling because she’s “stuck” belly surfing. Heaven help our tired souls (which did not benefit from poor RL being up alllll night with the urps last night, either. Also. Whatever.).

And while this conundrum at this age is new to us, it’s also not that strange. Babies get bigger and they outgrow fixes. In fact, that’s still the best baby advice I ever received from a friend after HD was born: as soon as you think you know what the kid is doing, said kid is going to change. FOREVER.

What is both new AND strange to us, and to others I’m willing to guess, happened Friday night to one of our boys. Not naming because I’m trying to protect anonymity and privacy here, but the gist of the story is that a certain body part on a boy got horribly and inexplicably swollen Friday evening, resulting in a trip to Convenient Care which then lead to the ER (!!!) for an ultrasound to make sure that surgery was not needed on (un)said body part that same night.

Yep. Not even kidding.

The whole thing was a whirlwind and scary but thankfully did NOT result in surgery (for real, I’m cool if #WonderWilson is the only one who ever needs that in our family’s story), and the child in question has been doing pretty OK since. He is on meds and will do a follow up with our family doctor and then later in May a specialist, so I might have more to share then, but for now I’m just starting at the calendar and thinking: good gravy, that’s a lot for a five-day time span.

But that’s motherhood, isn’t it? Lots of plates spinning with unknown new plates getting tossed in to the mix when we least expect it. And so we just keep spinning. Thankful to be doing so for another day, even if it’s a day that requires a lot (a LOT) of coffee to keep it all going.

Uncharted Territory

In case we didn’t figure out from WA’s pregnancy or her first three weeks earth-side, this sweet fifth child of mine is bound and determined, in all her glory and cuteness, to do her own blessed thing. She may look like one of ours and sounds like one of ours (because, hi, she’s one of ours) but make no mistake that she’s also here to carve her own path, thank you very much. Then again, don’t they all?

In Wilson’s case, this carving takes many shapes. Such as drooling all the live-long day. Such as sleeping through the night earlier than anyone else (gold star for that one, Baby). Such as needing/wanting the pacifier (long side story: we’ve never had a paci kid and I honestly think this might be a residual NICU thing for me. She really liked it when we were there and it helped get her sucking reflex going in those early days. Then, when we got home and she had some bouts of what I call her NICU cry – a really loud, freaked out sound of SOMEONE COME GET ME RIGHT THIS INSTANT I NEED PEOPLE NOW COME GET ME – the paci helped that, too. And apparently I still don’t like to hear her cry or fuss because when she does, my first answer is the paci. Whoops?). Such as boob drama.

Another long side story: what has gone through Stage One, Two, and Three, is now sitting as yet another unknown in the original hurt boob – some sort of stinging, stabbing, constant pain plus weird spot but not a bleb on my nipple. I know. Everyone is sick of me talking about my boobs. I AM SICK OF ME TALKING ABOUT MY BOOBS. But they are pretty hard to freaking ignore when they hurt constantly and you have to use them every three hours to feed a human being and your other human beings insist on sitting on your lap and hugging you and therefore bumping your sore boobs and the ugh just goes on and on and on, it seems. Which, if in all my whineyness I have not yet mentioned, seems terribly shitty to start in Month 5, the time in which things are meant to be getting EASIER, but I digress. And okay. Done with the shouty caps. Maybe.

So, yes. Five months in with Baby No.5 and it is clear that as much as one might think that we’ve got it all figured out by now and know exactly what we are doing, that is just never going to be the case. 1, 2, 3, or 7 (nope. measures have been taken. we are not having more than 5, my friends!) still applies because each new person is their own blessed, beautiful (minus the boob drama) uncharted territory.