Cart/Horse

img_3213As you may know from following along here, the kitchen chaos we are currently living in (more on that here soon, promise) has always been part of the remodel plan. When we first talked about staying in this house by making the basement more functional, we decided that the someday dream of tearing out the wall between the kitchen and dinning room to gain much needed counter space just needed to happen at the same time (*gulp*) because so much of the plumbing and whatnot was already going to be touched, so, why not?

We thought a majority of the work would be done by March. Or, at least, we thought most of the basement would be finished by March and the kitchen started.

As it went down, though, a lot of pieces in the house got started and none actually completed, so with the new month, we decided to go a new route with builders. In a total leap of crazy faith, on the day we let the previous providers go, we did not have new ones ready to come in and start working.

That was March 1.

On March 4, 5, and 7 we met with potential new hires. We walked them through what had been done and what was left to do (i.e.: a LOT).

By March 6 we had interest from a local building company, and I spent all of last Thursday (the 7th) in a mad scramble to empty out my kitchen because that is where they wanted to start.

Which leads me to the aforementioned cart and horse.

You see, part of the appeal to these new folks in starting the kitchen first was that we didn’t have to wait for 6-8 weeks for our cabinets to come in because they are already living in our garage and have been for almost a month.

Begin Rant: Our previous provider encouraged us to order through a different local company before price increases with the new year which turned out to be a huge mistake because said cabinet company totally bowled us over with a change to our upper cabinet height that was neither asked for nor approved nor caught by us until after the magical window in which to change the order disappeared. And then they refused to work with us to fix it. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of them (the company), but we had already gone too far with financial investment to back out, so I am hoping and praying the cabinets either A) look OK even though they are shorter what my previous kitchen had or B) can be fixed with some extra installments on top of them by someone – anyone – else later on down the road. But please, if you are ever doing kitchen work in your house, I’ll be glad to tell you who NOT to patron with your business and your dollars. End Rant. 

So that’s the long way of explaining why it is that we’ve come to start work on our kitchen before finishing the basement. Because, we can. And we need to, because having that much cabinetry living in my garage is NOT good for my anxiety levels for multiple reasons.

Instead, my anxiety gets to focus on keeping a family of seven going with no access to several major parts of our house, plus no oven, stove, sink, or dishwasher, which is bonkers making but so, so worth it because the new builders are amazing and doing such great work, so quickly for us.

I’ll post more about living in our living room soon, and if you have favorite tips for cooking with just a skillet, microwave, and toaster, trust me – I’m all ears.

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End of an Era

All the signs have been there for some time now, but oh my goodness, it appears that the actual END has arrived.

After 9.5 years of nursing babies around the clock (there are less than a handful of months in that time span when I wasn’t pregnant, nursing, or both), I’m done. Wilson is apparently, officially over it and my Boppy (OK, Boppies) are ready for retirement.

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In some ways, this breaks my heart.

I weened some of my others because I knew I wanted to get pregnant again, but I would have gladly let Wilson go the distance for as long as she wanted; so even though this is pretty average for a nursing stint for one of my babies, it still feels too soon. How we are already to this point?

In other ways, I know this is perfectly fine.

She’s walking, she’s eating, she’s following her growth charts, and she’s totally typical in all the best ways possible when you consider where we started those 15.5 months ago. These are all amazing, normal things, and this no-more-boob bit is just a natural step in the process of her getting bigger and more independent, which, you know – is the ultimate goal of this parenting gig.

But you guys. A decade is a long time to go between being a solo person in charge of and responsible for only their own body. And while I’m sure I’ll figure it out quickly enough, I legit don’t even know how to be a mom who is not growing or feeding another human being at the same time as the mom-ing and the adulting and the existing.

I guess a lot of it will feel like freedom but enjoying that is going to take some time, as I’m already missing the sweet, sequestered moments with just me and the baby in a rocking chair, doing our thing.

 

A Quiet Mind

img_3153For the first time in three months I am sitting in my house with a hot minute (actually 50) to just be here with my coffee and my computer while everyone else is at school or napping. While this is supposed to be normal every Tues/Thurs, it hasn’t been in ages because of construction. But today? No one coming and going. No banging or clanging.

Why the total quiet? Because we are in the middle of a Big Change in the middle of our Big Changes in our house.

Passing the three month mark as we did last week was meant to be quite exciting in terms of completion (at least some things should have been completed, you know?) but instead we are faced with the “exciting” prospect of starting over and finding a new team to complete our projects.

You all get the heavy dose of sarcasm living in those quotation marks, yes?

I won’t go in to details here, and of course no house project happens without some drama, but this total shift midstream is not something we anticipated when we began this journey the first week of December.

But now it’s March, even though the foot of snow still existing in my yard would say otherwise, and with the changing season that IS coming, so too comes a need for us to push onward and upward, to not be deterred by confusion and delay (yes, I realize I’m quoting Sir Topham Hat here. I have five children, so this is not unwarranted. Plus, Daniel Tiger and Thomas the Train have some legit, mad skills when it comes to parenting mantras).

This week also brings me the gap between terms of online teaching, so as I wrap up grading and prepare for the new sections incoming next week, I’m taking in the bubble of space we have given ourselves in our house and flat out appreciating the lull, the quiet that my system hasn’t had in months.

I’m trusting that this same quiet will help us find the right way forward and that all the chaos that brought us to this moment of pause will be worth it in the end.

Because, for the love of all things holy, there will be an end and we very much have a say in how we get there.

 

 

2019 Reading List

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My reading year has started off intensely with ALL the library requests coming in at the same time (naturally) and some really long books (because, why not?) and just life, but here’s the start of the list, what I’ve read to the children, and what I hope yet to read in 2019. As always, titles to add are welcome!

Read:

  1. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty — I go back and forth with Moriarty’s books. Some I love a lot and others not as much. This swung to the loved side for me. It was a fun, easy read that didn’t seem as cloying as some of the others. Plus it had me laughing out loud at times throughout the whole book which was fun. Nowhere near as solid as What Alice Forgot, but a quick, light read. (finished 1.2.19)
  2. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Holy Hannah. My first Powers novel and does he ever give you a lot to chew on in one book. Good. Ness. Overall, I enjoyed this first foray, but one observation about the landscape of NE as a character of sorts within the book: not everyone who visits or lives here finds it to be the desolate drag the novel implies (thanks).
  3. The Winter of the World by Ken Follett (book club) — We upped our reading timeline and decided to finish all of book two instead of just half of it by the end of January, so I had to hustle and read a LOT (all 940 pages to be exact) in less than two weeks’ time. I liked Part Two of the triology quite a bit and enjoyed getting to know the second generation of characters. And, to follow up on my critique of KF’s writing after reading the first installment, this one is thankfully slightly less teenage hormonal when it comes to sex. Slightly.
  4. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (book club pick) — None of us knew what we were getting into with this one and I’m here to say, don’t do it. Ever. This book is terribly and porny and nothing like the romance the back cover and blurbs claim it to be. I finished it only because I read too many pages to abandon it and the time I spent on it (it’s short but dense) , so damn it, I was going to finish and add it here, if only as a warning not to bother with it (finished 1/26/19)
  5. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens — Oh, this book! One of my dear reader friends suggested it and she was totally right: I loved it! Oddly, birds and nature featured as another dominate character, much like they did in The Echo Maker, but a totally different setting and tone to this one, which was essentially a murder mystery.
  6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — When OverDrive from the library rains, it pours, so another one of my Must Reads came dropping down in the midst of due dates, but I got it done and I adored it. Such a different story with some twists and turns I saw coming and others not. Would make an excellent book club selection. (finished 2/4/19)
  7. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan — I feel like I’ve met my quota of WWII books, however, this one was a good addition to that large pile of books read under the same category. The twist here? Based on a true life story and set it Italy. I don’t know if I just got tired or impatient, but the end of the book dragged on for me quite a bit, even though the first 400 pages were captivating.
  8. Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley — This was tough on many levels. I’ve obviously heard of conversion programs, but never read about someone’s account of having gone through ex-gay community. When you add assault and the mental distress of Conley, it is all just painful and heartbreaking to read. On a picky, literary note, I also struggle with memoirs containing overly descriptive passages/dialogue and this contains a lot of all that, too.
  9. An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao (book club read) — I’ve read about the partition that created the separate states of India and Pakistan before, but this collection of short stories knocked the wind out of me. First, it’s one of the best SS collections I’ve ever read in that the stories are so different and yet so interconnected in smart but less than obvious ways. Second, the subject matter and abuse and struggle is just grueling. Not very much uplifting to share out of such a tumultuous boarder/political/religious split. (finished 2/17/19)
  10. Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy (book club pick) — this was a fun listen (in my case) and is such an interesting look at body image, high school, family relationships, friendships, love, etc. I realize it’s not the most serious book ever, but I think there is a lot that a lot of people can relate to in it. Looking forward to discussing with friends at book club. Also, the Netflix version is fun, but of course different and not quite as good as the book.
  11. This Blessed Earth by Ted Genoways — (One Book One Nebraska pick) Being a farm girl from SD, this subject matter is not foreign to me, however it was never the plan for succession to happen in my family, so reading about the passing from one generation to the next and all that farmers, the markets, and the planet must endure because of our current Ag situation/climate in this country was fascinating. My only contention with the book is that Mr. Genoways claimed that Milford, NE (my hubs’ hometown) is “just outside” Omaha. Y’all, it’s an hour and a half away from Omaha. Just sayin’. (finished 2.28.19)
  12. Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett (Book Three, Century Trilogy) (KFC book club read) — holy moly cow. At 700 pages, I thought I was getting close to the end. In reality, I still had 400 to go. In some ways, the storytelling in this, like the other two, is fantastic. In other ways, the history of it all is a damn slog (and I’m still super annoyed by his portrayal of women and sex. I mean, UGH/gross/stop). Also, I’m not going to miss trying to read these great big heavy books in bed at night without injuring myself or Ben with them. I loved the group of women who comprised the book club that took on this challenge, but I’m pretty sure I’m done with Follett books for a good, long, maybe forever while. (finished 3.17.19)
  13. You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero — totally cheated and read this “read in bits and pieces book” in one sitting. Was loaned it by someone who gets it, and I’ve already ordered myself a copy of it so I can indeed have it on the shelf to pick up for now and then reminders and prompts of badass-ery.
  14. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (book club read) — I am so sad to be missing the discussion on this one later this month. It was such a pleasure to read and holds so much potential for discussion. The book is at our library as a book kit for clubs and I can totally see why, as it is captivating and full of considerations. (finished 3/20/19)
  15. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult — Whoa. Added this to my library request queue simply because it was the newest Picoult title, and although I struggled a bit with the narrative structure, she once again managed to blow me away with a novel centered on an issue that divides us in so many ways. I admire the humanity she shows in the last few books of hers that I’ve read and she manages to keep me guessing (for the most part) to the final pages as she does so.
  16. Overcoming Trauma through Yoga by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper. I have been putting off reading this in full because trauma work is WORK and hard work at that, but I’m glad to have finally gone through this title. Some stuff I’m already doing in my own teaching is there but there was also much to learn, as is always the case in this life.
  17. Becoming by Michelle Obama — everyone needs to read this book. That is all. (finished 4.6.19)
  18. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (book club read) — my friend A picked this for book club because it is her favorite book but she hasn’t read it for age and wanted to see if it stood up to time. It was a first time read for me and a slog at that. It wasn’t that I disliked the book, but it was slow, slow going for me. Over 500 pages, long, there were lots of little parts that seemed like maybe you could skim over them, but then they’d be referenced later and sure enough, the last five pages brought together so much of the seemingly small bits from earlier in the book. Curious to discuss this one (finished 4.22.19).
  19. The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden — this YA book was good in that it was quick and thought provoking, and I could see where it would be a helpful read for its intended age range (8-12 yr-olds). It’s about a girl living in poverty also dealing with domestic violence and issues at school and it beautifully latches on to (pun intended) the imagery and superpowers of the octopus throughout the text.
  20. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant — although it was not the stand out of Diamant’s The Red Tent, this was an easy, enjoyable read that took on some slightly different points of an already much discussed time period and spoke to many taboos that have started to lessen with time.
  21. “The Deal of a Lifetime” by Fredrik Backman — I don’t normally include short stories on my Read list, but I also don’t normally read shorties, sooooo….this one landed here because of my quest to read everything and anything by FB. I tend to Love or REALLY Love all of his work and this one again landed in the oh my gosh, I want to read it multiple times because it makes me think and feel so much category, so the streak clearly continues.
  22. Miss You by Kate Eberlen — grabbed this one off OverDrive because it was available. Turned out to be a slightly different take on chick lit that I enjoyed reading.
  23. Surprise Me by Sophia Kinsella — I am in the mood for fluff, so I’m running with that, and this one sort of redeemed itself in the second half, but the main characters and their “dilemma” at being faced with a long healthy life of being married to each other annoyed the crap out of me.
  24. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms — Happened to be at the lib with RL and saw this on the New Release shelf; nabbed it because it looked fitting based with my recent reading trend. Turned out to have more meat to it than the Kinsella (thank goodness) and I enjoyed the characters and storyline quite a bit. (finished 5.27.19)
  25. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Eveyln Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Read Aloud Books:

  1. Crenshaw by Kathryn Applegate — my first Applegate book, about an imaginary friend helping a 5th grader go through some hard times with his family as they find themselves without enough money for food and housing. This one caused some good conversations with my kids about recognizing that others don’t always have the same living situations that we do. This one I read to the 9, 7, and 5.
  2. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DeCamillo — again, read this to all three of the bigs and they seemed to enjoy it, even though we got behind and strung it out over too much time. The chapters are short and the vocabulary done in an entertaining yet educational way, and the message of light vs. dark is of course age old and always good. (finished 2.24.19)
  3. The Wishing Tree by Kathryn Applegate – so good. SO good. My big three loved it and I loved it, too. Gave me hope, made me cry, made me laugh. Highly recommend!

 

To Read:

The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Sticks & Stones, The Dorito Effect, Delivering Happiness, Shoe

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

There There by Tommy Orange

The Witch Elm by Tana French (crime)

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

 

Pass the Manual, Please

img_3096Of course there are exceptions, but it seems that I don’t land here as often as I once did to write. I suppose part of that is time or lack thereof, but I think another of it is that as my kids have grown, I’ve slowed down on the amount I’m willing to write about them in this public space. I just can’t put all of our stuff here (not that I ever have, as much as it may seem like I have (over)shared in the past).

That’s perhaps a little ironic considering that the point of this post is that I am once again lamenting the lack of a Definitive Guide to Parenting. As in, why don’t babies come with a fool-proof manual that totally works every time for every kid please and thank you very much? Is that really so much to ask? Just because I can’t or won’t write about all of our Stuff, couldn’t somebody please do it so I could turn to that reference guide when it feels like everything is just a bit too much?

Now, I’ve written about parenting books before and how I own plenty of them (and no, I have not read all of them, so again – the irony), so it’s not like there isn’t a plenty big library out there of this stuff. But the impossible dream I’m asking for is a way to know I’m doing the right thing for each individual kid in each individual moment and there is just no book out there that’s ever going to fill that need.

It doesn’t help that we’re nearing the three month mark with house projects which is a less than open book story, so when you add in adulting and parenting and project-ing (you get my point), it’s no wonder that my brain feels a bit spun out and my overall system wishes that the magic of books and words really could come to the rescue right about now.

Grand scheme of things? I don’t have all the answers. I know that none of us do. Rather, the most we can do is keep trying. Keep learning. Keep inching our way forward, whether the manual was included or not.

Early to Rise

It’s no secret that we’re Sleep Sticklers and have been forever and ever. This has earned us some awe, some confusion, and some disbelief over the years, but for real: since RL entered the picture, HD has been an EARLY riser (5/6s for years now, but trained to stay in bed and not turn lights on until 6:30), which means we’ve been going strong for seven years now of early to bed because 1) our children are tired and 2) we are tired. There’s no staying up until even until 7:30 on a regular basis for any of them because Mama don’t play when it comes to the fact that they need sleep and if we let them stay up late, they are STILL going to get up EARLY (sorry for all the shouty caps and long, crazy sentences. My brain is as tired as the rest of me right now.).

Case in point? The Big 3 got to have their first sleep overs last night and now this morning we are all already in fall out mode with meltdowns and irritability.

This is, of course, entirely our own fault.

A few months ago we planned a date night in Omaha and rather than stick the grandparents with all five children for dinner and bedtime, we farmed a few of them out to very kind, very gracious, very helpful friends for their first-ever not-with-grandparents night away.

Based on the reports and pictures, everything went great. There were a few tears from a few kids, but everyone made it for the long haul, including Ben and I who drove to and from Omaha for dinner and a concert in a total of 8 hours.

And even though he’s better, Truman’s still fighting off germ bugs and it would appear Wilson is, too, so let’s just be clear that the Welschies 7 are on the Struggle Bus today.

But the children in particualr? They are a whole new level of exhausted and we’re only halfway to bedtime at this point. I know no one expects a lot of sleep from a sleep over, and we have zero qualms with what transpired for them last night (seriously: if you housed one of my babies last night, I give you nothing but the utmost praise and thanks!!!). But you give my oldest an inch and apparently he’ll take a good four hours to go to bed and STILL get up at 5:45 the next day.  This means the rest of the day is going to be a true test for all of us. Tomorrow will be much the same. Because as anyone with an Early Riser will tell you, it doesn’t matter how late you let them go; their bodies are still going to get up at the (bum) crack of dawn. So now have to try to keep our eyelids and our attitudes skyward, because, parenting. And adulting. They just don’t stop for the tireds or birthdays (HBD, Husband! I love you always, even when exhausted.)

At least we still have a tiny sense of humor this morning (check with me by 5:00 today. It might be dead by then) and managed to document our “tired faces” for the camera, including eye masks for me because my bag and circles have bags and circles at the moment:

Coffee, anyone?

 

In Bits and Pieces

Like many people, especially in Nebraska, our January was neither terribly healthy nor very happy at times due to rolling sickness in our household. Spending eight days of various children coming down with various degrees of fever was exhausting and even though we’ve been fever free for a week now (knock on ALL the wood), we’re still recovering.

Today also marks the end of our first full week of school since the Christmas break. That’s in part due to breaks and weather, but mostly illness, and holy moly cow, we are feeling it. Or, at least I am, as it feels like the only word that truly describes this week + my children would be: RELENTLESS.

img_2967Actually, that’s not fair. It mostly pertains to one particular child who absolutely will not leave my side (NO: I am not pregnant. It is not that kind of clinging) and will not let me get anything done because he wants me to build with him all the live-long day. And it’s not just asking, it’s whining and demanding and oh. my. gosh. Do you know how many Lego towers and gas stations I have built this week? Me neither, but I wish I had a nap for every one because I bet in that case, I’d feel a whole lot better than I do right now.

How am I writing this then, if TJ has been so stuck to me? Finally, a blessed bit of Netflix to the rescue. Now, if only I could decide which of the 50 things I need to do most in this moment of quiet (grade papers, fold laundry, read a book, pee, do the dishes, eat, yoga, absolutely freaking nothing). But instead, I need to write because January sucked for that and long as they are, these days are worth documenting, too.

Now, it doesn’t help that our house is in bits and pieces still, too. And will be….forever, it seems, but really at least for the very distant, foreseeable future as not one of the five (so help me Baby Jesus) spaces is actually complete yet and we’re already two months in to the process. I am not going to complain about the fact that we are working and able to make our house work better for our family, but I am going to lament the hell out of the fact that progress is slow, my day-to-day privacy is nill, and there is still SO much left to be done before we can get back to normal.

For the sake of fairness, not all of January was crap. It got me through 2/3 of my first time teaching two classes in one term for BU. It gave me (OK, I took by staying up too late) time to read. I did 30 Days of yoga through an online challenge AND attended some kick ass public classes taught by friends, including one with sweet RL on the mat next to me. I even added some yoga teaching back to my schedule for the coming month.

But bless it, I really need a respite from the building…of Legos, of house stuff, of all the things that are distracting the bejeebies out of me right now because it is crazy making.

And of course none of that is possible because that’s not reality. Reality means I have a 3-yr-old who needs me right now, so I have to be there for him, even when it mean building my umpteenth Lego tower of the week. Reality means we’ve committed to home improvements that are going to take t-i-m-e while we live in the chaos of it, so I have to be patient even when I want it all done yesterday, please and thank you.

And reality means continuing to find ways, in whatever blessed little bits and pieces I can, to carve out time for that which calms me down and brings me back to center. Like this, and like whatever I can eek out next to keep the system going.