April 30, 2009

Week 2 of 52

I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself with one or more of your children. It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. To check out my first week click here You can also Click the button below for more info or if you'd like to add your name to the Mr. Linky. I don't know how to set that up so you'll have to go to Carin's site to do that. If you can tell me how to set up Mr. Linky, I'd be glad to add it. So, have fun!

Forever In Blue Jeans

I think I am breaking the rules already. Here is a picture of me and my friend Miss Lorene. It's not one of me and my kids but I am in there. I have been blessed to call Miss Lorene a friend for some time. She makes the best banana pudding, fudge and peanut brittle in the world. She doesn't usually share her 40 year old secret recipe for brittle, but she agreed to teach me how to make it. This is her and I in my kitchen yesterday morning.
We had to tie our hair up thus the fashionable scarf. Isn't she lovely? Miss Lorene is 76 years old and a every inch of her is a Southern Belle. This soft spoken lady is a woman of virtue in every sense of the word.

Miss Lorene is amazing. She started her life as the daughter of a poor tobacco share cropper in the leanest of conditions. She said not only didn't they have toys or indoor plumbing but they didn't have toilet paper most of the time. Yet, with a smile on her face she said they never knew they were poor.

In a time when it was a shame to be a single mom, Miss Lorene's philandering husband took off leaving her alone with 3 boys. She lifted her chin, learned how to play football and baseball with them, got a job and made them into 3 fine men.

When she survived cancer not once but twice she told me it was so she could give me my hugs every Sunday morning.

Miss Lorene treats everyone like a child or grandchild. As each of my babies were born she would make dates to come and sit in my rocker and cuddle them. Not because she doesn't have a quiver full of her own grand babies, but because her love extends to everyone the Lord has put into her life.

Miss Lorene still suffers severe medical problems. Someone who wasn't in her confidence would never know it, though. She spends her life with a smile on her face in service to those around her. She has a sharp wit and quick sense of humor. Oh, and her hair and makeup are always perfect to boot.

I have truly been blessed to call her my friend and sister in Christ...and it's not just because she will sit and eat 2 1/2 pounds of peanut brittle with me.

April 29, 2009

Love and Affection Promote Romance

When talking to people who have been married a while, you often get the idea that all romantic notions went out the window shortly after the honeymoon ended. Yesterday, I laughed as I read Heather Kay's entry because it was so closely related to my topic for yesterday. Which I never got written. I was encouraged to know that other "old" married couples still have romance.

Sometimes, yes, couples do get comfortable and forget that they need to keep romance in the marriage. Just the same, I believe for many couples romance doesn't die after being married a while. We just view it differently. I will take my hypothesis one step further to say that a person's idea of romance is strongly tied to your current situation.

Don't get me wrong. My heart always did a flip flop when I heard his car in the driveway. But, when my Allen was first courting me, romance was the flowers he sent or the times he would show up on my door step carrying my favorite mint chocolate chip ice cream.

I lived in New Jersey for a time and my sweetheart would sometimes come to visit on the weekends. Those were sweet times together as we would walk the beach and grill fresh fish. We would spend hours standing in the driveway staring at each other and saying goodbye and that was romantic but... I was extremely broke and trying to get by on my own and romance was also in the gas money I would find in my billfold or the little bottle of perfume I loved but could never afford to buy for myself.

In our first apartment, when I worked nights and he went to college by day, little was more romantic than the notes written on the bottom of the grocery list detailing how he'd run a load of laundry and what type of toilet paper he'd chosen and why. Even more so, were the times he waited up for me and cooked us dinner in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning.

As I was sharing with Heather Kay, when all my boys were babies and I slept about 3 hours a night and I didn't have time to take care of my self and eat the way I liked...romance to me was a glass of fresh pressed carrot juice while I was nursing a new born after those sleepless nights.

When we had our sixth baby, romance meant any time alone togehter. A walk in the park or sitting on the bench in the back yard after the kids went to bed.

When I was trying to lose weight, Romance was knowing I was loved by the endless supply of diet coke in the fridge and the times he kept me company while I was on the eliptical bike and on my evening walks...even though he hates exercise of any kind.

Romance to a diabetic was that Allen would read what seemed like thousands of labels and count carbs with me. My heart is warm and tingly when I remember the way he encouraged me and stood beside me when I had to learn how to inject insulin even though he gets light headed at the thought of needles.

This week, romance is a grocery list. Let me explain. Allen is often away from home for his work. I hate this. I have never kept that a secret.

Most of all, because I am lonely for my best friend.

Then there is the fact that I have to do the job of two.

And I get no break. I am on duty from 6 am until 10 pm. And night duty, too.

And our schedule is messed up.

And I can't sleep without him, so I am really tired.

And something ALWAYS goes majorly wrong. Like the time he was in Indonesia. Our van broke down on the Dulles Toll road. Ten miles from the nearest anything. It was 105 degrees. I had our then 2 little girls with me. I was 7 months pregnant. All in the days before cell phones.

So this week he planned a little suprise. Which is something in itself because my husband doesn't plan ANYTHING. I told you I love folding socks. I like almost all my homemaker duties. Apparently, a lot of people in blog world hate sorting socks. But the only chore that I absolutely hate is shopping. And grocery shopping more than all the other shopping combined.

Before he left, my romantic fellow carefully planned our meals for the time he was away. They were all easy to prepare with kid friendly dishes for them and a healthy alternative for me. Take tonight's menu for example. Chicken nuggets, broccoli and tater tots for the kids. Ceasar salad topped with organic chicken breast, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts and olives for me.

Romance this week is that he didn't stop at planning the menus. He went to Walmart and bought all the ingredients. He brought them home. He unpacked each item. He put them all away.

Romance this week, is in the little envelopes hidden around the house. One with a gift card to our favorite restaraunt for the night of my exam. Another with cash to take my daughter on a date to buy sandals. A gift basket of bath items to help me unwind and get a good night's sleep. Little ways to show he cares about what is going on in my life even when he is far away.

Now that is romance.

April 26, 2009

The Twice Forgotten Rocket

Well, I've been trying to write this since Sunday evening...but Sunday I was packing my husband off for a week of meetings in Dallas.

And then on Monday, I spent the whole day studying for my final. The Lord was really with me. My teenage daughters are real prayer warriors and even during my exam, I could tell that they were praying for me at specific times. I was very calm and was able to think clearly.

I am a real perfectionist, and so one of the things I was praying about, since I realized I was roped into the test, was not to necessarily do well (although that would be nice) but for the Lord to give me the ability to be OK with not getting a perfect grade. My second prayer, as I mentioned was to not be nervous.

So, in addition to doing well, I was able to see God working in those small ways in my life...which is always a blessing!

The weather was amazing here over the weekend. We had a blast working in the yard...mowing, planting, mulching. During my studying breaks, I pruned my roses and hydrangea. My husband worked on building hard scape stairs and I spent some time getting the pool area cleaned up and ready for Memorial Day. After lunch, Sam took his nap in the grass while I sat under a tree to study.

A mouse had taken up resident in our towel shed. I HATE mice and was not thrilled at the idea of cleaning up behind him. Although, he was gone...among other "tidbits" he left a shredded towel for me. And to be honest, I was worried that he might jump out at me from under the piles of towels. I survived the ordeal. Ironically, Sunday evening when we got home there was a very plump mouse dead in our driveway. Paybacks?? In case you've not figured it out...we live in the country.

Since, the kids had worked so hard and because he was out of town last week and because he was going to be out of town this week...my hubby planned a day out for the family. After church and lunch we went to the park. There is a little background necessary for this story to have a lot of meaning.

We give our children 3 gifts on Christmas...in remembrance of the 3 gifts that Jesus was given by the Magi. Last Spring or Summer, Allen and Aedan were shopping when Aedan caught sight of a rocket.

He said, "Pa, I would like very much to have that rocket for Christmas."

Allen said, "Aedan, there is only one left and I can't buy it now because you would know I got it for you and then it won't be a surprise. There probably won't be anymore if I come back to get it another time."

At five Aedan has a good understanding of the value of selective memory. He said, "You can get it now and I will forget about it. I won't look in the buggy, Pa. That way it will be a surprise."

Allen is a big softy. I suppose he really wanted that rocket as much as his little five year old. So it came home and was hidden on the closet shelf all summer and into the fall. And everyone forgot about it.

In September, we were at Disney World, when Aedan saw a Buzz light year costume. He thought that was amazing. He had saved up some spending money for the trip but it was so expensive (I think it was around the $100 mark). I told him I would search Ebay for a suit when we got home.

In a minute you will see how it all has to do with going to the park on Sunday. So, we got home and as it turns out Disney was having a special on costumes and I was able to get one for around $20. But we were out of town for a month and by the time we got back he had forgotten about the costume. So, I decided to tuck it away for Christmas.

Later that month, I was cleaning out the summer clothes and putting out my husband's winter clothes, when I found the long forgotten rocket on Allen's closet shelf. Now, I was so excited. I added a set of walkie talkies and Aedan was going to have a space man themed gift on Christmas morning.

Move ahead to Christmas morning. Aedan woke with the flu. Burning up with fever. A cold sore so bad he couldn't eat a bite for almost a week. Headache. Body Aches. The whole bit. He got up with us and opened his gifts anyway.

He was so thrilled about the whole deal. He put on his space suit. It was too small. Well, not to be daunted. It was a very odd day for Christmas in Maryland...warm enough to be outdoors without sweaters or jackets...never mind the usual coats, hats and scarves. My good husband suggested we go across the way to an open field and fire off the rocket.

And set it off, we did. The first time it went up and came down perfectly. But, what do you think happens when you put three little boys and a Pa and U.F. together with a rocket? Yes, that's right. They sent it so high, it was lost forever. The whole family hunted and searched so far and so long that the sun set without us ever recovering it. We had a blast (no pun intended).

As we were getting ready for bed on Christmas night, Brianna asked Aedan if he'd had a good day.

He said, "Yes, but I am sick."

Brianna sweetly tried to encourage him, "But you got your cool Buzz Light year costume."

"But it doesn't fit."

Always the optimist she piped up, "That is a really neat rocket Pa gave you." Oops... I don't know who felt worse at that moment...Aedan or me.

Well, I ordered a replacement costume. And Samuel got to have the smaller one.

He put it on and the zipper broke! When all was said it took until Mid January for him to get a costume that he could use.

The rocket was a harder issue,still. No one sells rockets except during Christmas, or so the guy at Toys-R-Us claims. We at long last did find a hobby store that carried them. Just in time to wrap it for his birthdaylast week. It was really funny, too, because he was trying to guess what was in the funny shaped package. He had forgotten all about he gift he chose for himself. Not once, but twice! About a half way into his birthday he shouted with glee, "I bet that is my rocket!"

Last Sunday wasn't good rocket launching weather, though. And Pa had to be out of town last week. So, now you understand why going to the park to launch his rocket was such a big deal for everyone.

The weather was super clear and we had the nicest day.

I am not sure that you can tell here...but when this picture is blown up on my big screen, you can see the three boys are actually airborn all at the same time as they took off to get the rocket as it parachuted down.

We stopped at Brewster's for ice cream on the way home. We never go out for ice cream so it was a super special treat.

The boys get their ice cream cones turned upside down in a cup to prevent too much laundry pretreating. Notice Sam's cone is in his pocket? He wanted to eat the ice cream first before it melted.

Did you know kids under 40 inches get a free cone at Brewster's? I didn't. I ordered the boys each the smallest size because they never finish it and then found out they were all free!

Duh, we are so observant. That is KK standing right next to a sign that says so!

On the way home Sam and Ellie were so sleepy they went out, holding hands together. Or so I thought...turns out he was fake sleeping so he wouldn't have to take his nap when we got home. I think it is a cute picture anyway. Who knows, maybe I can employ some of that selective memory and in a few months we will forget that they were both awake afterall and it will be an adorable picture of sibling affection.

April 25, 2009

Leftovers, Socks, Fennel and Bling

I am always in a state of decluttering. We live in a small house for the number of us and stuff would crowd us out if I didn't. Spring is a major decluttering spell and we are going at it full tilt. Yesterday I attacked the laundry room and kitchen. Every fall and spring I pull the rubber maids out of the attic and pull out clothes for each person for the upcoming season. That means a deep cleaning of each closet and drawer.

Every item is considered for fit, condition and usefullness and put in the appropriate place: Rubbermaid for next season, younger child's closet, good will, mending pile or the trash. This is not my favorite job as it takes about a week and creates a ton of laundry and ironing. I am always thrilled to have all the closets and drawers in order, though.

A few times during the year this cleaning frenzy extends to my grocery stores. Sometimes, I do it to save money. Sometimes, I know I will need the room for a special occassion. Sometimes, I just like to use up all the little bits of odd things that aren't enough for a meal or that I bought to try and forgot about. Before I stock up again, I give the cupboards and fridge and freezers a good scrub down and enjoy refilling it with all fresh. I have found we can easily go two weeks like this without being hungry. I will say, we do eat some odd combinations by the last day or two but it is so much fun trying to see what I can do with what is on hand.

This is is one such week. The family was working in the yard all day and I needed to make something fast. In the fridge I had some fresh steamed broccoli leftover from lunch. There was half and onion in the crisper. Ham in the freezer. And my favorite baby red potatoes. I roasted the potatoes with some olive oil and salt and pepper, garlic and paprika.

After mixing the chopped onion, broccoli and diced ham together I couldn't figure out what to do with it to make it a casserole.

I usually mix cream of mushroom soup, sour cream and cheese but I was out of soup and cheese. So I opened the fridge and starting pulling stuff off the door. I mixed together some sour cream, mayonaise, 2 packages of Chic-fil-A Roasted Honey BBQ sauce, honey dijon sauce I had made for a fish dish and a puree of olive oil, garlic and herbs left from pizza night. It was so good! My family was impressed, too, except for Sam (who doesn't like anything but chocolate milk and peanut butter sandwhiches which he is allergic to).

So, I was wondering...do any of you do that? And what have you come up with that leaves you thinking, "I wish I'd written that down?"

Speaking of cleaning out cupboards...when I was doing that this afternoon...you will not believe what I found! Yes, you guessed it...another jar of fennel! Go figure. You all had some great ideas. When I mentioned it to Allen over breakfast he said, "In case you want to use it more than once." If you don't get that joke watch My Blue Heaven.

Then he said, "You were probably looking at a recipe and asked the kids if we have any fennel and they looked and said no and so you bought more." In their defense, KK said, remember Aunt Diann gave us all her herbs when she moved to Italy last year. She had me convinced for a few minutes but that still doesn't explain the third jar.

So what about fennel recipes. Does anyone have any killer dishes that happen to use fennel?

Last evening, I was folding laundry when my hubby came in and said, "That's a lot of socks." I am so glad that engineering degree is paying off so nicely for us. While we are on the topic...let's talk about folding socks. Is there anyone else who loves folding socks. I think it is so relaxing. I love gathering them all into one pile and matching them and throwing them into the basket.

Do you ever pray for your family members as you fold their socks? I like to just speak to God as I touch each pair. "Lord, here are Ellie socks. Today would you be raising up a boy to become a man who will love you and serve you and be a worthy husband and leader to her?" And here are Sam's favorite dump truck socks. "Father, you know I need to be better at helping him learn to obey. Will you make me a better mother today?"

Don't they look so pretty when they are lined up in the drawers? It is by far my favorite part of doing laundry. Well, that and hanging laundry on the clothesline on a spring morning.

OK. So, out of curiosity we counted and there were 67 pairs. I guess that is a lot of socks.

Most of my weekend will be spent in a state of anxiety as I attempt to find time to study for a final on Monday night. I have never been a confident test taker. I usually do well in the end but I panic so bad ahead of time that I have been known to get sick on my stomach. When I was a full time college student I used it to my advantage by studying more. But these days I have far less time to study. When we signed up for this class (my hubby, 17 year old KK and I) I said I was going to audit because I didn't want to have to go through all the anxiety. However, somehow here we are 3 days before the test (I know this because it says so on the wipe board in our kitchen) and I am wondering what I was thinking?

Since this post is so boring... (Although, I did find it extremely therapeutic to rid my brain of the test overload deal) here are some shots of my little Bling baby. That is what we call Elisabeth because she loves all things shiny. Bling was one of her very first words.

She has been wearing pearls daily since she was a few weeks old. Ellie's official statement on Pearls is that they are for any occassion...like circle time.

Bath time...

Play time...

When entertaining...

And yes, even when vacuuming in her jammies.

In fact she loves neck bling so much she will pick anything up and put it over her head like a necklace...scarves, ties, knee socks and even the boxer shorts that Sam gave his Pa for Christmas.

She loves to open my jewelry box and carry my bracelets around. So as the adoring and bling loving mama I am, I had to get her some ARM BLING of her own...which she wears all the time in large quantities.

This afternoon her brothers' were playing under the cherry tree when they brought her some HAIR BLING...

Can you tell she has a cold? And don't you LOVE the rice cake stuck to her chin? The other night she was playing in my jewelry box when she discovered LEG BLING

And now that warmer days and bare feet are here...we added some TOE BLING for good measure.

April 23, 2009

Week 1 of 52

About 9 years ago, I started moving our treasured photos to Creative Memories albums. I love the way they tell the story of Us: Our faith. Our love for each other. Our family. Even though, I am always behind and I may never finish, each album is a labor of love and truly a blessing to me.

As I relive each picture and the memories that go with it...I am constantly forced to realize how quickly time passes. In doing so, I must consider what I've done with the time that has gone by. How have I served my God in this time? How have I blessed my family? How have I served those around me? What have I done for the future? Have I done enough for eternity? Have I realized any of my hopes and dreams? In short...is my living worthwhile.

In constantly reflecting...I am encouraged to work for change and improvement almost on a daily basis. I pray, in so doing, I am making the most of each moment here on earth for God, myself and each person whose life I am privileged to touch.

All that said, in working on my albums, I noticed a lack of pictures of me in what was essentially my life story! When I was discussing this with my dear friend, and creative memories consultant, she told me that many moms have the same revelation when they start work on their albums. She passed on a suggestion from her niece to hand the camera off to someone else once in a while. I have tried to do that at least once at each gathering where we are taking a lot of pictures. When I started an album for my husband telling our story a few years ago, I realized I was doing better with pictures of me but we didn't have enough pics of us together to do even a small book. So, I have started getting snapshots of us together every once in a while, too.

Forever In Blue Jeans

I saw this 52 week challenge on Carin's blog http://wyomingbarnetts.blogspot.com/ I was intrigued and thought it would be fun to play along. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself with one or more of your children. It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. You can also Click below for more info or if you'd like to add your name to the Mr. Linky. I don't know how to set that up so you'll have to go to Carin's site to do add your name. If you can tell me how to set up Mr. Linky, I'd be glad to add it. So, have fun!

Here is my first picture.

Brianna took this picture of Aedan and I on Sunday. We had just buried his pet lizard, Flo. He just couldn't pull himself away from the peach tree where we had put her. So, even though it was getting cold and starting to rain and I was going to be late to our evening service...I sat and we hugged and we just thought about how sad we were at that moment. It is not a great picture but it is my favorite of the week because it is a shared moment that ten years later would have been lost forever. Now, each time I see this picture I will be reminded of the opportunity I had to share a very important lesson with my son about the comforting arms of his parents and more importantly his heavenly Father who can bring him comfort in all things.
Have a great day and don't forget your camera!

April 22, 2009

The Spice of Life

You want to know why there is a picture of my spice rack don't you? Hint: It is not because I am an Italian who loves to spice life up a bit...although, that is true. I didn't get the name Chili Pepper for nothing, you know. Wink. (Actually, that isn't how I got my name either. I promise one day I'll tell you the story.) Go to this page to find out. http://yewnorkbabe.blogspot.com/ My spice cupboard used to be a jumble of jars and packages until my husband gave this to me for my birthday many years ago. When we moved to this house there was no place to hang it. I found it sits beautifully under my upper cabinet and is really handy there.

The girls, who inherited my sickness of needing to keep everything organized, alphabetize it periodically.

Oh, and you noticed the missing Cardamon lid, huh? My five year old was making us breakfast in bed a few Sundays ago. He took a slice of bread and topped it with Provolone cheese and pepperoni leftover from Friday Pizza night. Then he sprinkled it with Cardamon (don't ask me) and put it in the toaster oven since that is the only appliance he is allowed to use without supervision. The lid to the Cardamon fell under the stove, though, and no one has taken the initiative to pull it out and recover the lid.

And why do we have two jars of fennel seed?? I couldn't tell you. If you have an idea leave me a comment! Don't forget to put up your pics and let me now that you've posted them so I can check them out.

April 21, 2009

Little Peppers Praying for Stellan

Today, as we have been for the past month, me and my little peppers are praying for Stellan. You can read his story here.


Then put on some orange and join us in praying for his complete recovery.

Have Some Chocolate Milk on Your Puffed Rice

At the age of 12 I read that a vegetarian life style was healthy. I went to my father and told him I would now be a vegetarian. He said OK but I had to get some books (yes, it was before the internet was invented) and research it and learn how to get the proper nourishment without eating meat and dairy. I am not sure my pops realized what he had started or what he was getting himself into.

Research it, I did. Along the way, I found a heart healthy diet and posted it on the fridge. Each day I followed the meal plan precisely and prepared whatever delicacy they recommended for my soon to be middle aged father. One night was broccoli and baked chicken breast. Another day egg white omelets. He didn't stick with his diet long but I fell in love. The study of health and nutrition became my passion.

And I stuck with it for four years. I had always been a lover of fresh fruit and veggies and I suffered migraines at the hands of dairy and eggs. The only real change was that I no longer ate meat and I consumed a lot more beans...which, I loved, anyway. At the age of 16 I developed mono. In addition to several months of bed rest the doctor insisted that I needed animal protein to overcome the virus and build my strength back up. I continued in my healthy eating and living lifestyle but that was the end of my vegetarian living. Or was it?

Some things just become a part of us. They may lay buried deep in us dormant for some time but with the right trigger will rear their heads up again. Even if we don't go by the name we still walk the walk. I grew up and married and as a student of nursing and young wife and mother I continued to read and study about the benefits of a healthy diet. We may not have called ourselves vegetarian and we did eat meat on the rare occassion when our college student budget allowed but eating for the best quality of life was so ingrained in me that it became part of who I am.

Over the next few years, I learned to make my own fresh baked bread from my own fresh ground wheat berries. I researched the butter versus margarine debate and settled on olive oil. I weighed the pros and cons of supplements. I poured over vegetarian and healthy cookbooks as if they were best selling novels. To the chagrin of my husband I learned about barley green and carrot juice. My champion juicer replaced my coffee maker as the most used appliance in my kitchen.

And I shared my knowledge with everyone I came in contact with. Anyone who had health problems was given a prescription for the right juice combo to heal their ailment. My babies were breast fed almost exclusively for one whole year. My toddler's ate homemade baby food My daughters were raised on oats, nuts and fresh fruit. Everything was made from scratch, organic and natural. I was rewarded with energy, slimness and children free of colds and viruses.

And then...I had sons. Nothing in our home has been the same since. Oh, it started out business as usual. But, by the time Nathaniel was six months old he refused to nurse and took no table food at all. As his doctors ran tests to find the cause of his illness I struggled to find something to nourish him.

He proved allergic to standard formula. After much lost time and many sleepless nights we found he could digest a non dairy and non soy based formula that cost $25 a can. He hated the stuff! After some experimentation we mixed it with rice milk and carrot juice to get something he would drink. He continued to lose weight at a frightening pace, so we began adding olive oil to each bottle. Yes, you got that right. Each 8 oz. bottle contained 4 oz. fresh made carrot juice, 4 oz. of rice milk, 4 scoops of formula and 4 Tablespoons of olive oil for good measure. It stunk like crazy. It stained like nothing I've ever seen. But he ate it. In fact he loved it. Within 6 months he had his fat little baby cheeks back again. And I had a picky eater on my hands.

With the addition of his brother, things only got worse. By the time the third son arrived, I began to compromise my high eating standards for whatever the boys would eat. For a time Samuel would only consume those little whole wheat crackers made by the South Beach people and the little melt in your mouth banana bits from Gerber. By the time he was 18 months old I felt I had triumphed when he fell in love with bananas and I could claim he was eating fresh fruit every day. At the age of 3 the only vegetable he eats of his own accord is beets. I grow them by the bushels and can them at the rate of a hundred quarts a year.

When Elisabeth started table food I was thrilled. She loved bananas, avacados and all the good stuff babies should eat. She cried for bits of orange and apples. Broccoli was her friend. She couldn't get enough beans and peas. It was so sweet to have a girl who loved heathly food. Mealtime would be a nice occasion, again, with my little Ellie in the high chair beside me.

And then it happened. I am not sure exactly when or how. But it did. The boys won her to their camp. Fast forward six months. This past week she has consumed less than 3 bites of fruit and/or vegetables a day. The foods she once loved she won't touch. Worse, the foods she loved yesterday, she won't take one bite of today. Her diet for the last week has consisted of nothing but carbs...oatmeal, rice cakes, scooters (that's walmart cheerios), puffed rice and black beans.

My how I long for the days when my 3 little girls sat at the table and happily asked, "May I have more cauliflower please?"

Instead, in an effort to fill hungry tummies without too much complaining, I find myself agreeing to things I never dreamed they'd be allowed to eat. Hot dogs, chips, cup cakes... To make matters even more difficult, we are a family of nine trying to stay within our grocery budget in an ever tightening economy with constantly growing grocery costs. I have borrowed so much in advance from my husband's budget that this pay day I had to hand my entire household pay over to him. Not because I spend frivolously, but because that's what it takes to buy groceries these days. I had to borrow for an Easter ham and then for my son's birthday party and such and such. You get the idea. So, this pay I decided to get out of debt before it got any worse. We have very limited groceries as I am trying to make do with whatever is in the freezer or pantry until the 15th of the month.

So this morning was cold breakfast cereal...something usually reserved for the most hectic of mornings...instead of the hot breakfast they are used to. The kids were fine with breakfast cereal-they love the stuff. It comes in a card board box after all. I still will only buy healthy cereal like Kashi, puffed rice, granola...you get the idea. The junkiest we get is a big bag of "scooters", which look like cheerios, from Walmart. So it was pretty ironic when they were eating their delicious and nutritious cereal this morning and we were out of white milk and I was trying to get the boys to eat something when I heard myself say one of those things I never thought I'd say, "Here, have some chocolate milk on your puffed rice."

April 20, 2009

Praying Thank Yous

When Brianna was 3 or 4 years old, she had a pet fish. At that same time my brother, whom the girls called U.F. (for Uncle Frank) lived with us. I don't remember the name of the fish. I will never forget one particular Sunday night when we returned from Church, though.

We walked in the door and U.F. told Brianna her fish had died. The little curly-haired girl looked up at him with her enormous brown eyes and asked him what he'd done with it. He said he had flushed him down the toilet. Brianna, burst out in tears of despair for, we thought, her dead pet.

When we moved into our house there was a fifty gallon fish tank built into the wall of our family room. We knew nothing about fish keeping but thought it would look beautiful to have some fish in there and envisioned ourselves sitting around watching them for endless hours of relaxation.

The reality was a little different. Instead of sitting around on lazy Saturday afternoons lowering our blood pressure by watching the gentle movements of tropical fish, we spent half of each Saturday testing water, scrubbing the tank and doing water changes with bottled water of a better quality than what we drank ourselves.

No tap water would be good enough for our little aquatic friends.
It wasn't long before all the fish started to die as we abandoned the tedious, time consuming and expensive care instructions for an aquarium of our size. We quickly calculated that it was quicker and cheaper to go to Walmart once a week to buy new fish.

Our kids saw many a good fish give his life in the tank of death we called an aquarium. Never once in her four years of life had Brianna showed any signs of distress at the loss of the little swimming martyrs. That is why we were at a complete loss to explain her sudden bout of mourning.

When she finally calmed down enough to pose a question, we asked her why she was so upset. The reply was so shocking and yet we immediately burst into tears of laughter at the words coming out of her pouty little mouth. "I wanted to flush him."

Since that time many critters and pets have come and gone My husband lovingly calls the children's terrarium "The Cage of Death." In the name of home schooling, we have killed 50 or more African Tree Frogs in one fell swoop.

We raised tadpoles one year. Of the 6 we started with only 1 was released to the wild. Of course, we have seen our share of carnival fish come and go.

There were once salamanders named Buddy and Sally. They escaped TheCofD by faking their own demise. When we dumped the soil out to clean the tank they crawled away healthy as can be. Word spreads quick and the terror of a painful demise at the hands of the Wachter's struck fear into any creature that passed through our door. My brother's Pleco was found dead on the playroom floor one morning as if he were trying to make a getaway in the night.

One night, taking pity on the poor thing, U.F. and Allen released our pet pray mantis into the wild after the children went to bed. There was also my brother's pet Oscar (a fish) who, in a desperate attempt to get away, committed suicide by jumping out of his tank and landing into the cat dish below. And speaking of cats...our cat who we bottle fed from two days old, disappeared one day and never came home.

None of those losses bothered us. It was part of the whole experience. What we did over the years was perfect the pet funeral business. Our neighbors know that if the kids are gathered by the cross near the back corner of the shed, another has bit the dust. Kaitlin is the funeral director. Emma is the resident mourner. Nathaniel reads scripture and preaches the sermon. Brianna is the grave digger. Aedan the music leader (and yes, Amazing Grace is always on the list.) Samuel and Elisabeth are the beloved next of kin. The grave yard is adorned with cross tombstones cut from trees in our woods and artificial flowers from the dollar store. Critter funerals are quite an event and almost fun at the Wachter estate.

Yesterday was different, though. I mentioned Saturday that our lizard, Flo, had been injured and was in distress and likely dying. I also, mentioned that Saturday was Aedan's sixth birthday and Flo had been our gift to him on his 5th birthday. The prospect of losing her was painful to all of us and on his birthday even more so. We prayed for her to live at least until the next day so that his 6th birthday would not always be the day his pet died.

God did answer this prayer. All through the day we took turns checking on her and giving updates all around. We comforted her in the only way we knew how by spritzing her with water and speaking soothing words into her home. We were relieved when we tucked Aedan in bed Saturday night and she was still moving about, although, weakly.

Sunday morning I was excited that she was still alive and after church when I checked on her I began to have hope that she would live. I sat down and began writing about it. Thirty minutes later I got up to take a picture to show you all how cute she was and found her dead.

My heart really sunk. We called Aedan in from the yard and told him the news. I really believe, that in great part, children will react based on how we share things with them. So, I was trying to be so positive. God answered our prayers and let Flo live for your birthday and isn't it great that she got to be with us for a year? He took it really well at first. I was so impressed by his stoicism when I wanted to cry myself. Another minute passed, though, and his lip began to quiver and then the tears started. Not all loud and emotional...just sad little tears running down his fat little cheeks. It broke my heart.

He and I began to prepare an Altoids tin for her burial and Allen told the other children. I figured Aedan might be upset but was completely shocked at the response of 3 year old Samuel. At first he seemed OK. Then he started to ask questions.

(As he starts to cry)Why did she die? Well, Sam because of sin everyone dies.

But why? Some people grow old. Some people get sick. Some people have accidents but everyone dies. We must die to get a new body and go to heaven with Jesus.

But I don't want to die. But, Samuel, if you believe when you die you can go to the wonderful Heaven God has for you.

That's why Jesus died for my sins? Yes, Samuel it is.

But what about Flo? Well, Samuel when animals die, they just die. When you die you go right to heaven, though. Isn't that wonderful?

In his very excited three year old voice now: I know Mama! Jesus will make her alive again. Let's pray right now and ask him. First I will pray and then you mama.

Dear Jesus, thank you for Flo and thank you for making her alive again. (Now I am crying.)

Those simple words were a tough act to follow. They reminded me of how children pray. Why Jesus said we should be like them. How we should all pray. When Samuel is praying for a request...he so much believes that God can and will answer his prayer that he doesn't waste time asking for it...he just thanks God believing that it will be done. Even what we, as "mature Christians", consider impossible or unworthy of prayer-liking bringing a little lizard back to life.

Not knowing what to say next, I suggested a picture of Aedan with his friend. We agreed to bury her, not in the graveyard, but under the peach tree Aedan and his Pa planted a few weeks ago.

Kaitlin added a balloon for good measure.

Aedan chose a beautiful rock from his collection to be the marker.

And everyone gathered flowers from our gardens to decorate her resting place.

In the end, memories were made. Lessons were learned. Heartstrings were tied. All for the love of one of the smallest of His creatures. A red letter day in the life of this family.

April 19, 2009

I Dreamed I Was Growing...

I have heard that after people are married for such an amount of time they begin to look like each other. I don't think my husband and I look much like each other. In fact I don't think any of our kids look anything like either of us. But that is another story.

What is funny is that my husband and I think exactly alike. This may not sound funny unless you know a few things about our background. He was an electrical engineering major. I was a student of nursing and midwifery. He comes from a long line of dairy farmers. My family were Italian immigrants. He lives by chaos and disorganization. I go beserk if something isn't put where it belongs. He likes burgers and fries. I like sushi and salad. He likes science fiction. I like romantic comedy. We are nothing alike and yet we think exactly alike.

This afternoon we sat down on the love seat for a minute of rest before we head back to church. He was reading one of his many beloved seed catalogues. All of a sudden he looked at me and said, "Last night I dreamed that I was growing..." I kept on typing and said, "Asparagus." Bingo.

See what I mean?

If All Visitors Were Like This

The other day, we had some company. A mother came with her three young children to talk about home schooling. While we sat on the school room floor looking at books and catalogues, the kids played in the basement playroom. Brianna was ironing in the laundry room when 5 year old Cal came in. Their conversation went like this.

Cal: What's that?

BTW: A washing machine

Cal: Why does it have clothes in it if it's not running?

BTW: We have to move them to the dryer.

Without saying another word, Cal then proceeds to open the dryer and put all the clothes into a basket. Next, he opens the washer and moves the wet laundry to the dryer. He then turns around and goes back to the playroom.

Do you think they will get suspicious if I make regular playdates on Monday? And do you think his mom might think I was out of line if I asked her to teach him to fold and iron? If only all our company were so helpful.

April 18, 2009

Lizards, Lemonade and Laundry

On a sad note. Our lizard is dying. I know this is riduculous and silly but it has been dragging me down for two days. It is just a little critter and they exterminate for the things in most parts of the country. This one is special to us, though. We gave it to Aedan last year on his birthday...which happens to be today. He named the couple Flo and Ramone after 2 of his favorite Cars characters. On Wednesday, one of the rocks they climb on somehow fell and trapped Flo. Causing injury to her head. She has a weepy bloody spot between her eyes. At first, we thought she was dead. Please, don't think we are nuts for immediately praying for her. But we did, and she actually moved a little. She is very lethargic and unresponsive, though. I fear it is just a matter of time before she goes. That is part of life and having pets and growing up and all. I just would like for it not to be on his birthday. You know what I mean? If you could spare a little prayer for one of the least of His creations...I would be grateful on behalf of a six year old boy and his unstable mother.

On the brighter side...That is Elisabeth's sweet little fat hand. It is the only fat thing on her. When she was born her hands and feet were photographed and hung in our hallway. To the tune of $100. My husband thought I was nuts when I suggested it and then he showed up with the framed piece for my birthday. She has grown and changed so much in the last 18 months but not her hands...I still think they are adorable.

This is Brianna giving Ellie a piggyback ride. I was so impressed with myself that I actually caught both of their expressions. Last October we were at a picnic when the kids spilled a cup of lemonade in my camera. Amazingly enough it still works. The only catch is the buttons are so sticky that sometimes it won't turn on. When you try to zoom in or out it keeps going all the way in whichever mode you started to go. So, either it is all the way zoomed out or in. Before our trip Allen suprised me with a new one. I love that it is so tiny I can keep it right in my purse all the time and start taking pictures while the kids eat their lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Thank God for lemonade, eh? I am finally starting to figure out the features so this last week I took a bunch of snapshots.

This is Nathaniel and Aedan sharing a milkshake at Chick-fil-A.

Kaitlin hanging laundry on the clothesline on the first Spring day. Isn't she stunning? And don't you love clothes fresh off the line? Now that shouts, "Spring is here."

Elisabeth climbing the stairs to our attic. She got to wear her dress her Uncle an Auntie sent her from Italy for Christmas.

I took this one when I was on hold with the passport office. (And about 30 others). This is the door between Samuel's room, where she loves to play, and Allen's office. She is a big time Daddy's girl and can not stand when he isn't paying attention to her. When we put the glass door in the location it made so much sense. I could watch Samuel play while teaching the children in the school room. Now it is torture for Elisabeth to stand and stare at Allen through the glass and know that he won't come and play with her. She has figured out how to push on it just right so she can get in to him.

This is Elisabeth and her friend Ella. Elisabeth is 2 weeks older than Ella and they had so much fun playing together. Elisabeth was showing off her walking ability.
Well, I am going to head out to the yard to join in the fun. Laying stones, builidng steps, mixing soil, spreading mulch and planting flower bulbs. Life doesn't get much better than that! Yes, I will be putting on my flip flops and buried in my garden for the rest of the day. Oh, how I love spring!!