Growing Up

The conversation at the supper table was all about what we want to be when we grow up. Of course, the children have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, since they hold the erroneous assumption that I have now reached what I want to be and it’s all downhill from here.

Gregory likes art and books, so he may be looking at a life as a librarian or a teacher. Olivia wants to be a nurse and Rita is dithering between being a doctor or an artist, presumably once one side of her brain gets precedence over the other side. Alex isn’t saying, because he is old enough to know that he will change his mind, most likely. The other children say he will be an engineer or a preacher or an inventor or something leaderish. šŸ™‚ As for Addy, she is earnestly anticipating a career as a peaceful Indian. She also has grand delusions about all the amazing presents she will give us all once she grows up, chests of gold and jewels for the ladies, cars for the boys, anything they want. Given her current circumstances, she had better look for lost pirate hoards when she gets big.

I was struck by something. In my somewhat sheltered childhood, I never mentioned any of the things they said they want to be, because it simply wasn’t done. (Actually, I do remember the librarian dream, because I couldn’t imagine any happier place than surrounded by books.) Higher education wasn’t done. People stayed close to their roots and happily raised families very similar to how they themselves were raised. I think the simplicity tended to an almost idyllic peacefulness. Sometimes I wonder what I would have chosen to study if I would have had the option of going to college.Ā But I was much too conventionalĀ to push for anything that would have rocked the boat. It was part of the culture and I didn’t really consider venturing outside of the safety of our world.

Did you ever have a moment when you wondered, “This? This… hard work… is what I spent all that effort growing up for?” And you want to tell the children to just slow down and enjoy their Ranger Rick and Legos and being told what to do and when to go to bed. Not to sound negative, or anything, but there are times when I wish to run from responsibilities, to stop being the tired middle-aged person with all this stuff on her mind and this back log of things that need to be done, the passel of grubby children needing attention.

At those times, I hear this voice in my head, (It might be Elisabeth Elliot or Sally Clarkson or Rachel Jankovic or even Marabel Morgan…) “Stop whining,” it says. “This is life, all this stuff that needs to be done today is life, and you get to live it. What did you want? A useful sojourn in a coffee shop, scrolling through social media and posting gorgeous pictures of your outfit and your new sunglasses?” If I don’t feel sufficiently chastened by this inner voice, I want to be sassy and say, “No, but I would take a cook and a maid so I can at least be lazy over coffee and finish this book.” Then I laugh at myself and set myself to the task of learning to enjoy the things that need to be done. I make it a practice to look into my children’s faces, wash the grime off tenderly, feel the different bone structures, sense the miracle of these little people. And I look for things to laugh about.

Last week our blueberries came, the ones Gabe ordered for containers on the deck. Tophat blueberries, they are called in the catalogs. I called him, excited, and said, “The ‘tow-fat’ blueberries are here!” He was quiet in a Huh? kind of way, then kindly said, “Honey. Those are top-hat blueberries.” The resulting fit of giggles grew into near hysteria. It was precisely what I needed to release some of the stresses I was having a hard time dealing with.

Maybe someday I will be grown up enough that it all comes effortlessly. I hope that when I get big, serving others joyfully will have become my default mode. Raising a family certainly should give us enough practice, not?

I mentioned that I am reading Sally Clarkson’s new book, Own Your Life.Ā I am being challenged to identify sources of chaos in my life, things that divide my heart and make me unthankful, interruptions that I bring upon myself. For this season, it is a very convicting read for me. I am taking it chapter by chapter, searching my heart and letting God’s Spirit speak to me. When I am done with the book, I will do a review. šŸ™‚

Chin up, my friends. The best is yet to come! Oh yes, it is!


and now, just for fun… artist unknown.

Hello, April! Oh Wait, That Was a While Ago

I opted on loading up the children’s bikes for a trail ride/walk this afternoon at Blue Knob instead of collapsing on my bed for a nap. Now that we are back, I have been trying to decide whether to read “Farewell: the Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century” or write. Maybe if I am really efficient, I can do a bit of both. šŸ™‚ Gabe’s shift ends at 9:30 tonight. There should be time before he gets home.

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The weather is just glorious these days. I have real flowers being picked out of my flower beds to put on the window sill! Hallelujah! Our girlies have dragged many of their play things out to the playhouse. Hallelujah again for their room, although not so much for the lawn! When the sun is especially warm they set up camp with blankets and sleeping bags in various places. Rita hauled this slab of moss tenderly down the steep path from the top of the ridge. She is a passionate nature lover, loitering to observe textures and colors after the others have galloped down the trail.

The guys spent a good deal of time outside yesterday, working on a garden shed. Last night they came in with sunburns, and I wished I had just left the cookie dough and gone out to help them. I had asked Alex to make cookies for the weekend, with extras for the freezer. He picked an unfamiliar recipe, one of those ginormous Sugar Cookie recipes that Amish ladies describe as “gma” cookies. Usually he is very efficient and speedily churns out the goodies, but yesterday he stalled and asked me if I would bake them now that the dough is mixed. I was clearing out cobwebs in the bathroom and said, “Yeah, just run outside” without looking at what I was getting into.

I found the Kitchenaid bowl nearly brimful of suspiciously runny cookie dough. Sure enough, the test batch ran out flat, like crepes. I guess the young man had gotten discouraged with trying to incorporate flour into such a full bowl, so I dumped out half, added a cup of flour, did another test batch, still runny, more flour, test batch, finally right. I baked all those, then repeated the adding flour/test batch steps with the second half of runny dough. By the time I had about 8 dozen cookies, I too ran out of stamina and froze the remaining dough. Then I looked at all those flat, flat test cookies and had a lightbulb moment. I would make a light butter cream icing with lemon curd in it for flavoring, then I would make sandwich cookies. All was well that ended well, as Ma Ingalls said so many times. But it took a very long time. When they were wrapped, I felt both satisfied at my brilliant solution for a problem and miffed that the day was half over and I still hadn’t cleaned anything in my house except the cobwebs in the bathroom. At least I would not be watching them all disappear in one day at the “gma”.

I have been making slow but steady inroads on my stores of stuff this past month. There have been books sold on Amazon. (Ouch.) I have cleared out desk drawers and organized old pictures. I have waded through the season change clothing swap for five children, and I survived. (Although I don’t know what I will do if they dig out gloves from the tote one more time.) This week I took my maternity clothes to Goodwill. (I know, I know just what you are thinking. If that happens, I will quickly tell you. :O )My Blessed Big Boy cleared out that freezer I mentioned a while ago, you know the one where the scrapple packs were stuck in ice. He organized it, and now I like to just stand and look in until I remember that I am wasting energy and quickly shut it again.

Of all the things I can already look back and know I did wrong in parenting my oldest, there is one thing I feel blessed to have gotten right, and that was to let the very active, hands-on, please let me try child… try. I tripped over him and his ever present watching chair so often when he was a toddler. I tried hard to biteĀ my tongue when I knew he was going to make a huge mess, and then we would clean up. In retrospect, it was not wisdom on my part so much as a desperation to keep him occupied that led me to involve him in activities that were not really child’s play at all. That, and knowing that if he was right with me, I could see what was happening, even if it was inconvenient to trip all the time. Now I see that he has confidence to try big stuff, really useful stuff. I would stub my toes on that stool by the sinkĀ 20 times a day just to have a resident freezer-cleaner-outer.

One of the reasons I was so diligently managing my household stuffs was because my husband applied for a travel nursing job early in the year. The agency accepted him and we started looking online at the posts available, and my panicky feeling of needing to condense and simplify spurred me to action. If he applied to a hospital, we could expect a move within a month, with posts lasting 3 months and then another place. It sounded exciting, paid much better, and looked like an adventure. In idealistic youthful times I used to say we should try to get all our worldly goods into a Conestoga wagon, just to keep from accumulating too much chokey stuff. Well. Our house isn’t much bigger than a Conestoga, (just kidding) Ā but we do have a lot of stuff that would have to litter the trail.

As is turned out, the logistics of finding short-term housing with a family and a dog, as well as switching health care plans, etc. etc. turned it into not a wise move at this time. We were happy when Gabe found a job at the bigger city hospital just 1/2 hour drive away in Altoona. This is a trauma center, where he hopes to get a lot more experience with trauma, I guess. If you say “crisis” or “trauma” to me, I run the other direction to avoid fainting. He runs toward it. I am much happier not thinking about the internal workings of the pipes and tubes in the body. When he sits beside me on the couch and strokes my wrist, I know he is romantically looking for a good IV vein. Haha.

So, we are planting a garden after all this year, instead of gallivanting across the country. Last week it seemed the soil was about ready so I went to Farm Bureau for pea seeds. Enroute it began to pour and I figured we missed our window of time. I bought them anyway, and found that the road was dry a mile from home. Good old sheltering Black Oak Ridge must have hustled the clouds to the east and north of us. It was a great day to plant since Gabe was home to exercise his super straight row making skills. The children and I dropped seeds as fast as he made the rows and we were done in short order. To celebrate, we had peas from the freezer for supper. I got out enough that everybody could have all they wanted because every year… Every year I do this. I get all happy about planting peas and feel smug when April showers fall on them. Then in June I bend and pick and pick and bend and wonder what is wrong with me and I will never grow peas again. But I do it every year because they are just so good.

Okay, I think it is time to return to the spy story before too much stream-of-consciousness spills out. Happy, happy spring to all!

The Adventures of Silly Billy

We have a very old fashioned book on our children’s book shelf by that title. I picked it up at a library sale because it had cute illustrations, but every time I read it, I feel offended for Billy’s sake. In fact, the only reason I still have it is because it is so much fun to hear Addy request the “See-yee Bee-yee” story.

It goes something like this: Silly Billy wants to prove how wise he is, so instead of eating hisĀ bag of popcorn, he plants it. When he proudly tells his motherĀ about it, she laughs and says,Ā “Silly you are and silly you will be as long as you live.” His father says the same thing when he tried to make his hens drink hot water so they would lay boiled eggs.

Eventually Billy goes on a journey to prove his wisdom and all the people he meets and helps think he is amazingly smart when in fact, they are incredibly dull. He comes home loaded withĀ the gifts they haveĀ given him, promptingĀ his parents to change their tune and call him Wise William.

The book ends with Wise William dreaming of a way to get cows to make chocolate milk.


This week my little girl asked me where her boots were. I knew, of course, and then she wanted to know which front porch. I was reminded of my outrage at Billy’s insensitive parents, yet it is so easy to leave an impression of “how can you be so dim?” even without saying a word. I can spot it a mile away when someone else does this to their child. Oh dear, yes.

It seems I am being tested along these lines a lot. The exasperated parental question, “What were you thinking?” is quite useless, because, sorry, they weren’t thinking.

That includes the little boy who puffed talcum powder in thick clouds in the bathroom because the mushroom plume was so fun to watch. It includes the episode of drawing a huge mural on the kitchen floor with a dry erase marker. In his defense, I had used dry erase markers to divide the floor into sections for different children to wash, but it is a different story when you let it dry. Oh, the scrubbing with scouring powder as the little boy sighed, “I am just always in trouble.”

I had to agree with him, since this came right on the heels of the episode where he had sneaked a bit of ginger ale and failed to close the top of the bottle. When the little sister carried it to me for a taste of her own, I grasped it by the top, lost the whole bottle, and we had fizzy pop all over the kitchen. Oh help and bother. Shades of Silly Billy’s parents came out of my mouth, I fear.

Maybe I should keep the book for myself, to remind meĀ that the stench in the girls’ room emanating from a pillow case full of wild garlic shows persistence and creativity. Or that the syrupy concoction of vanilla and sugar and milk on the counter Ā with the sign “try me. I am good.” may be a great break though some day.