How Not to Help Your Husband

  1. Complain a lot. Keep worrying about how close the house is to the road, even after he put up the picket fence.
  2. Spend too much money. Go shopping a lot. Look at all the lovely home decor, at new towels, at cute children’s clothes without any wear. Get thoroughly dissatisfied with what you have.
  3. Drop hints. “Those weeds in front of the picket fence just aren’t getting any shorter, are they?” 
  4. Be grouchy when he comes home. “I am so exhausted. You will never guess what the kids did today!”
  5. Grudgingly throw supper onto the table with never a thought to serving bowls and garnishes. Make sure they all know that it’s all I had time for in this hectic day and I am going to have to scrape myself off the floor by the time the dishes are done.
  6. Sigh dramatically when the pager goes off during supper. Make him feel really apologetic that he is on-call to support your family.
  7. Be too tired to be any fun. 

If you wonder how I know these things, I will just inform you that I have tried them. They are the besetting sins of wifedom that I try to slay every time they pop up. The last three years have been far from easy for us with Gabe going back to school. Not easy for either of us, but we are almost done, and that is incredible! Tunnels really do have ends! 



This is what my man looks like on clinical days. I am so proud of him! If I had a bad wreck, I would want him for my EMT or my life flight medic or my trauma nurse. 

We knew it was going to be a long haul, a seemingly endless journey out into the future. There are saner things to do with your life than going to nursing school when you have a family of four. Staying in school despite the financial pinch and another baby and illness with surgery attached? Downright extraordinary!

So I get lonely sometimes and I feel like hurling those 5 pound textbooks onto the rubbish heap. But when I see Gabe heading out the door, excited even about night shift at the hospital where he works, it makes me so happy to stand behind him with all my might. My man gets to do what he loves!

Why I Stick my Neck Out…

or Why I Blog… because really, aren’t they the same thing?

Some women can paint, or decorate their homes with amazing constructions out of nothing. Some design the most lovely clothes. A few create wedding cakes and take breath taking photos. As for me, I have a love affair with words. I love them spoken well. I love them illustrated. I love words written, chosen carefully and strung together in fascinating sequence. I love to write them. I even love the Thesaurus.

This summer I met someone who also reads the shampoo labels in the bathroom, and it was oddly comforting! My brother and I used to read the dictionary when we were little and talk about words. “‘Orts.’ Doesn’t that just sound exactly like the scraps left on your plate? ‘Schlep.’ What an awesome way to carry stuff!” And it would make us feel happy, just thinking about it. As weird as that may be, we grew up to be fairly normal. 😉

Writing is a catharsis for me, a way to process what is going on in my world. I get up in the middle of the night to write, and goodness, if it is more important than sleep, it has to be a fairly strong urge. If I have real navel gazing to do, I assure you, if stays in my paper journal!

Yesterday I had a lovely conversation with two old friends that I rarely see. Both of them are ladies who always bless me and give me nudges in the right direction. We talked about using our gifts, not hunkering down to play it safe. I thought again about my blogging, about my motives, about the narcissistic bent to be affirmed that can underlie it all.

Many years ago I hit a particularly painful patch, one of those where I really didn’t want to  keep living. I journaled about wishing I could just fit into a groundhog hole and disappear. Now I look back and am not sure why it was such a big deal, but then it was a crisis of faith. My roots didn’t go very deep yet, and I wasn’t sure I would make it. Silly me, I just struggled through it on my own when I was surrounded by people who would have been glad to help.

One night I told God that if He would just help me keep breathing and learn from my mistakes, I would be willing to use my story to help anyone else in similar circumstances. Through that experience, I have come to see that every hard thing can be redeemed, that the mending of brokenness is why Jesus came.

I think the worst thing in human existence is to feel all alone and hopeless. There are times when I have written a particularly revealing post… you know, one of those that show me up for just who I am, not very lovely at all. I sit there, feeling vulnerable, not sure whether I dare to hit the publish button. Sometimes I ask my husband to read it first, just to be safe. :/  It never fails that those are the posts where I get the most feedback from others who are relieved that they are not the only imperfect one out there. I will be shameless enough to admit that those comments make my day.

If I can share my humanness and the glory of forgiveness and transformation, then I can extend hope through my words. I am that lady with five children and a husband still in school, but I can reach out to bless others just by being real. I even get to play with words while I do it!

That is why I stick my neck out.

Is It Friday Yet?

My mom volunteered to watch the children for me this morning so I can hit a few yard sales. I mulled over it and decided to take her up on her offer. It isn’t every day that you have a sitter who likes your children so much that you don’t feel at all obligated to pay them. GOD BLESS GRANDPARENTS! I say it often, with heartfelt meaning.

Of course, there was some laundry going on, and I asked Mom to bring her shampooer so I could tackle the girls’ bedroom carpet. You know how you just get the feeling that a room stinks, like maybe someone peed themselves once too often, and you cannot ignore it anymore?  I had all this stuff I should have been doing, but I saled anyway. Found some really good deals, too. When I got back at lunch time, everybody was happy, Mom had done my ironing and already cleaned the carpet. Then she just kept on going and did the living room carpet, too.

An extra pair of hands is such an amazing thing. I told my mom that I no longer feel like the butcher who backed into his meat grinder.  He got a little behind in his work.

Ha. Isn’t that just the best pun ever? It isn’t original with me, but I get a fresh laugh out of it every time I think about it. I admit, I wrote this whole post just so I could pass on that giggle.

It isn’t my Reputation on the Line

These days of beginning school again, I find myself looking in simple places for inspiration before I wake the crew each morning. I have to get up early, like really early, to beat the two incorrigible early risers and get some quietness for me. One of them chatters every waking minute, so as much as I detest the alarm’s intrusion at 6 AM, I try to haul myself out for the sake of the day ahead.

I have been reading the Psalms as they correspond to the days of the month, finding they resonate with life as it is right now. “Deliver me, O God… Preserve me… Renew a right spirit in me… Let me hear joy and gladness…”

This is the day for Psalm 23, and I have to confess that in my life I have had some irreverent thoughts such as, “Goodness, I guess he couldn’t think of anything else to share for a meditation at church so he fell back on good old Psalm 23.” I have also read some books that beat this beautiful Psalm to death, so this morning I asked God for something fresh.

Maybe this is old hat to you, but to me it is new and lovely from an ancient place.

Consider verse 3: “He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.” I have started substituting the word “reputation” whenever I see “name” in the Psalms. This morning I see that the way of rightness preserves God’s reputation.

Paraphrased for me, this goes something like this: Today God will lead me in a direction that is right, so that His faithfulness and goodness are revealed in me.

Practically it means that today when my children chew their pencils, when the baby chews the toddler (not really, but she has taken up biting since her molars are pushing), when everybody is always wanting more FOOD to chew, I do not need to chew them out. Sorry, I know that is lame. True though.

It means that when (I quote my son here) “I am sick and tired of being gracious”, I extend grace anyway. I might hit the roof when I see the hole they hacked into the lattice so they can hide under the deck, but I can understand the logic behind the idea. And it is behind the shrubbery, after all.

It means that the child with a band aid fetish gets one even though she isn’t bleeding.

It means cheerful wiping of bottoms, and folding of laundry and teaching of prefixes and suffixes and making of quantities of food and dispensing kindness.

I go into the day knowing that I will live it imperfectly, but a path is not a finished product. A path is a direction. I go into this day knowing that within me He has put the power to protect His reputation.

Rejuvenate: Make Fresh, Renew

Last week one morning I dumped  the contents of my purse onto my bed, sorted out the hair bands, diapers, pencil stubs, gum wrappers and cheerios container before I replaced my wallet, day planner and phone. I had a separate bag of toiletries and yet another large canvas tote of school books. Rather giddily, I loaded them into the car and took off, just me, for 24 hours. I was on a quest for some brain space and quietness to plan out the coming school year. Normally I am happy with a fairly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants schedule. However, that approach gives me a nasty feeling of loose ends flying about me during the school term. I love learning with our children, but this year August came with it’s aisles full of back to school deals and I didn’t even want to think about math and history. So my thoughtful husband gave me a day off, completely, while he took care of the kiddies.

It was odd. I haven’t been all by myself for that space of time since I began having babies, ten years ago. It was oddly fun, too. I spent so much time at Hobby Lobby that I started feeling embarrassed. Then I found a tea room and took my canvas tote full of school resources inside where I sipped chocolate hazelnut tea out of a china teacup and nibbled a cranberry scone while I read “Books Children Love” and scribbled notes.

I thought long uninterrupted thoughts. I even spaced out and didn’t think for a while. At suppertime I was pleased to find that I can still make a salad last for an hour. Being of a frugal bent, I checked into a motel with econo in its name, despite Gabe’s protests. 😉  It did have a king sized bed and I slept until I woke naturally,  (Okay, it is also natural to be awakened by babies… but I slept until I couldn’t sleep anymore.) figuring it must be about seven o’clock. It was closer to nine which meant I had to scramble to get some continental breakfast. My economy room  had a large desk where I could spread out my stuff and set to long range planning. Never mind that the remote was held together by duck tape. I didn’t need it anyway. I needed quietness. At noon I checked out, went to the super, back-to-school sales with a lot more enthusiasm, and stocked up on glue sticks and pencils and cheap notebooks.

I had intended to stop at the tea room again, but something strange happened. I couldn’t wait to come home.

My Chortle of the Day

You know how you can be listening to a long-winded story while doing other stuff, and occasionally saying, “Uh huh. Yeah.” And you know the kid that cannot be concise, no matter what, so you tend to tune out a lot?  You say, “Please hurry,” and he thinks you said, “Tell me more about your alleged dream while you clear the table.” I nearly missed a choice bit because of my habit of tuning out. But I did hear it, and here it is for you.

We were driving home at dusk, windows open, looking for wildlife. There was a general roar of visiting going on in the back of the van when we topped a hill and were treated to three does and three fawns, staring at us curiously. The roar loudened with the escalated levels of excitement, and as we drove slowly on, I heard Gregory dredging up a tale. “I read in a book that vinegar-ana has so many deer that they call them their state bird.” While I was still going, HUH, Alex took a brief break from his own story to say, “VIRGINIA.” 

I am proud to say that I did not burst out laughing until a suitable amount of time had passed so no feelings were hurt. I urge you, listen to your children. It is better than a comic strip.

It Was Lively. It Was Loud. It Was Lovely.

We had a lovely time at my parent’s house this past weekend. All three of my siblings brought their families to Pennsylvania for three days of community living and connecting. Due to all sorts of different circumstances, we are all a little cash strapped, so we decided to camp in my parent’s backyard instead of trying to find a cabin big enough to accommodate our crew of 10 adults and 13 children. It was a brilliant plan, all except the part where my mom and dad nearly worked themselves to death to get ready for the chaos happy offspring descending upon them. We tried to feed them well and take good care of them over the weekend. I think they had fun.

First Things First

I have a few things on my mind for the day.

  • Laundry. Always. (Remind the little laundry helper to put the detergent into the washer this time.)
  • Process broccoli for the freezer. (Try not to think about how it stinks up the kitchen.)
  • Feed my babies. (Not just food, but stories and maybe popsicles and praise mixed with the inevitable corrections. Always.)
  • Make blackberry jelly from the fruit Gabe picked beside the road.
  • File homeschool affidavits. Order some books for the boys’ upcoming foray into organized learning.
  • Feed my babies again.
  • Give two hair cuts to people who wiggle and shrug their shoulders and complain bitterly about the prickles.
  • Make fun food for the kiddos’ party with the cousins. Cupcakes. Granola bars. Finger jello. (Try not to go bananas when every little body wants to help.)
  • Wait to wash the kitchen floor until the helping/slopping is done.
  • Oversee the job charts and sticker distribution. (Don’t expect what you don’t inspect, you know.)
  • Maybe, if I am really really brave… Go to Walmart to get my glasses fixed and see if I can fit the groceries into the cart with the tot who will probably sit on them.

It will be a good day, even though it has hardly gotten started. I got up early to fatten my soul, and drink my Earl Grey. And if it doesn’t all get done, I pray that at the end of the day our souls are still well nourished. Now, for a piece of peach pie. Quality of life is all about priorities, not?