Potpourri of Just Happy Stuff

I have another shortcut to misery all ready, but on a drizzly, grey day, who needs that? We need to focus on how to be happy, yes?

There is a sweet, humming sound in my laundry room this morning. I keep tilting my head, listening to make sure it is still going along all right. Thanks to my husband’s skill in ordering and installing the right part from a system that is, at best, user surly, we have a washer again. I am grateful to not be schlepping baskets of dirty laundry to the neighbors or to my mom’s house. When we got married we bought a washer and dryer set at an auction for about forty dollars. They were already old when we got them, but lasted ten years with hardly  a hitch. We decided that we must have lucked out and gotten a durable brand, so when we needed a new one, that is what we looked for. Let’s just say we went to the big store that rhymes with gears. Gabe said, “You need a good one, a big one, a dependable one, so we are not going to buy cheap.” Okay by me, the one who always starts at the cheap end of the displays.

Three years later we had a washer that expired in a clunking of alarming engine noises. My resourceful husband had already taken it apart once to try to find the noise, but since it still worked, we kept using it until it didn’t work. Of course. The place that rhymes with gears said their repairman could come out on January 2nd. “What? You have got to be joking! I have 5 children and I cannot wait that long,” I protested weakly.

We started checking out local repairmen, all of whom were ever so helpful and friendly, but afraid to mess with a computerized appliance from “gears” because they do not give any tech support to non-company fixers. Finally we were able to find one who was willing to give it a try if we wouldn’t get mad at him should he be unable to fix the problem. Meanwhile, I called the company people and made my case a little stronger. This time I got Betty, “she’s the bomb,” and she pulled some strings, scheduled me a Company Man for the very next day. So we cancelled the friendly local guy.

The funny thing was, the man they sent out was the most garrulous person I ever met and he spilled the beans about quite a few things, including the fact that he isn’t very busy at all right now. He doesn’t know what the January 2nd date was all about. Tilting the washer up about 45 degrees, he looked underneath and immediately pronounced our transmission shot, maybe a few other things fried as well. It could run into a lot more repair bucks than the machine was worth, he has a bunch of coupons and if we decide to go buy a new one, just give them his number, yada-yada. He didn’t do anything with his tools except carry them in and out again after charging us a hefty little sum for diagnosing our problem. To be fair, he had called ahead and explained all charges and he was very kind and helpfully verbose. Particularly he thought I shouldn’t use so much detergent, even if it is formulated for high-e machines, even if it is packaged in a handy little pod. I have to admit to some incredulity, “You mean, you think that is what fried the transmission?”

Upon careful reflection and an inspection of the family budget, we decided that a repair would be smarter than buying new, only the repair would be done by my husband  now that we had been informed that it was not a computer problem. When Gabe ordered the part, they once more gave him that magical January 2nd date for shipping. We resigned ourselves to the inevitable and growled at the children every time they did superfluous changings of attire. The boys actually have no problem with wearing their clothes for a few days, but our girls do love to change outfits at least once a day.

Late last evening, UPS brought our part, Gabe promptly installed it, and now I can do my laundry again! It is only December 16 yet, so this is a gift! Can you see why I am happy after jumping through all those hoops? We have decided that, in future, we will buy new appliances locally, not because we carry any grudges against the friendly unhelpfulness of the big stores, but simply because we don’t like being lost in their shuffle and given dates that don’t mean anything. Also, we would like to keep the breed of small town owners alive, even if we have to pay more up-front, even if they don’t send out reams of coupons with their repair guys.

Moving on… We have a new baby at our house. A puppy baby, that is. She is sweet and waggy and might even turn me into a dog lover with her winsomeness. Gabe has dreamed of owning a spaniel for about most of his life. This fall we had started researching and looking at puppies with an eye to raising pups to sell. Our boys have wanted a puppy all of their lives, but we were always afraid of the road out front. There will have to be a kennel, and there is a lot of training involved, but spaniels are supposed to be extremely amiable and willing to obey. For now, there is a crate in the basement with a  puppy that is learning to only go potty outside. :/ I wasn’t going to allow even that much, but it is winter and spaniels don’t smell, etc, etc.


She is named Lady Gauge and we like her. May she enjoy a long life and flush many grouse and have many babies!

Some of you know about how I injured my knee while performing the arduous task of fishing some books out from under a dresser. As I twisted to stand up, something popped and I felt alarming pains that affected my walking for a few hours. With ice and elevation, the knee eventually was not painful unless I bent it. Gabe’s doctor friend said it was likely a tear and should be scanned sometime, but mainly I need to keep it braced and inactive. Hahaha, I said mirthlessly to myself. After 10 days in which I walked stiff legged and fantasized about curling up on the couch with my tea instead of extending my leg always into the cold, I am able to bend it carefully. It is healing, and that is happy too! I might add that the washer broke down at the optimal time, when I couldn’t run up and down the basement steps anyway.

Yesterday Rita wanted to ask the blessing at lunchtime. She started with a sweet thanks to Jesus “that I have a family and don’t have to live on the street…” Yes. That is right, little girl.

The boys are deep into codes and acronyms these days. I keep coming across papers with hieroglyphics of some sort or another, with alphabet decoders alongside. The acronyms are less obvious. “That was the MDM!” one of them will exclaim and when I look blank, they say, “Most Delicious Meal, of course.” Or I will hear an argument where one will insist, “I tell you, it is AT! AT!” I have discovered that AT means All True. Of course. Somehow the girls know that they should be insulted if they are referred to as “SLG”, or Silly Little Girl, as well as any other variation on the theme. I roll my inner eyes and laugh at the circus. Or I might say, “Okay, that is EA! Enough Already!”

We had a mega cookie baking spree one day, where each child picked a recipe and we baked it. Alex made rice crispy candy on his own and Greg did his own snicker doodles, but the girls still required a lot of supervision. I made a little mistake when I handed them a Taste of Home cookbook with pictures so they could choose their recipes. They chose things like Peppermint Pinwheels, Evergreen Sandwich Cookies (with two kinds of icing, no joke, although I declined to ice the tops with royal icing…) and Giant Spice Cookies (that look like cracked concrete according to Rita). The batches were small, and we gave a bunch away and ate a bunch and here we are, 10 days to Christmas and the cookies all gone.  Addy was crestfallen that she won’t even be able to share her kind with Cousin Jackie.  I am a sucker for sad eyes. Yesterday we made Evergreen Sandwich Cookies again.

In wintertime I challenge myself to do things that are inconvenient and require me to give up my personal space, just for love’s sake. After all, it would have been much easier for Jesus to stay in heaven, wouldn’t it? It isn’t that stuffing white socks with batting and making snowmen is so complicated. It is that it requires me to put out patience and long-suffering and time with a generous helping of hot glue and buttons. My children don’t know the difference between that and love that actually is costly. What they recognize is the camaraderie of life with a cheerful giver/mother. Incidentally, the Greek word for “cheerful” is the same root word as “hilarious,” a tidbit I remember from Bible School days. That is the catch, isn’t it, my friends… it isn’t the doing, it is the how they are done.

That is what I mean when I wish you a merry Christmas. I wish you joy in recognizing how extravagantly costly was the gift God gave when He sent His Son. Let’s live His lifestyle of extravagant giving of ourselves!

Stage Whispers

Parents with small children cringe at the blurting statements of those who have not figured out the skill of whispering without making any noise, but if they step back and look at the situation outside of the embarrassment, the hilarity needs to be shared with those who are fortunate enough to sit somewhere less entertaining distracting. I give you some quotes verbatim from my small fry in church.

What do you stink like? (This is accompanied by loud sniffing.)

Why is he talking so loudly?

Can you look into my nose and see if there are any big boogies?

Is church about done?

The Smartie Man is here!

I am starving!

Are we going to have dessert? May I have dessert today? (Dessert is the reward for good behavior in public assemblies.)

Is church about done?

There is Doddy! May I go sit with him?

Am I being good?

I have to go potty! ( Shh… Just wait a few minutes then church will be over.)

But I have to go now! I will pee myself!

“Amen,” says the preacher.

Amen.  That means we are done!

Was I good? Do I get dessert? 

I remind myself that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, particularly weak when it takes more than 2 hours of sitting still to earn a piece of cake. I myself am afflicted with a terrific urge to giggle at solemn times such as at my aunt’s funeral or during ponderous prayers where God is being informed of events He already knows quite well. It isn’t exactly irreverence, but more the incongruity of a matter that sets me off. I suppose there are times when I shouldn’t have dessert after church either.

Some Good Medicine and Other Stuff


Last night Gregory heaved a gusty sigh as it sank in that he had really, truly done the last lessons in third grade: “I cannot believe tomorrow I will be a free man!”

At five this morning Gabe kissed me good bye and went to work. I sighed, rolled over and promptly fell asleep again. At 6:30 the piping little voices started up in the girls’ room, and then a loud screeching disagreement, apparently over who would be the mom and who would be the children. I sighed, got up, sneezed violently four times and made coffee.

It is gonna be a fine day! The boys really did finish the 170th lesson in their books yesterday. All that remains is logging in their field trips and finishing up their portfolios. I should really do that today, but probably I won’t. They have never gotten done this early in the year before. This success is due to very few vacation days and a lot of Saturdays. I think the motivation comes primarily from the uncle who always beats them by starting early and doing Saturdays. 🙂 He still got done first this year, but not by such a big margin.

I have been scratching my perennial borders this past week, moving stuff around, trimming bushes. It makes me so happy! Gabe thinks one should plan the plantings with research and care, then step aside and let them grow, but I am incapable of doing that. This year I moved two bittersweet vines from the shed to the fence where they can climb all they want and not damage any roof shingles. I moved a rose bush and a hydrangea from the shady side of the house to more sunny locations then put hostas into the shady places. The peony plant that I have been babying in an obscure location is now big enough to bloom by the picket fence, and some of the Dutch irises took a fast wheelbarrow ride down to the pond where they grace the bank. So it goes; I really cannot help myself. Nearly all of my flowering plants are gifts or swaps from friends or family. One cannot plan that and must simply move with it.

Last summer my husband spent almost all of his spare days working at trenching and draining our swampy land into the pond. This spring we  have a new spot for a garden patch/orchard. The soil is hard clay, so we have a lot of work to do before we plant trees, but I am so happy for this space! The men around here have been building a fence to keep out the critters. We will finally have a garden big enough for vining things like melons and squash! Actually, it is huge, like a field. 🙂 I am quailing a bit at the thought of all the maintenance, but Gabe is the one who does all the fruit growing around here, and that will be the bigger part of the work. Unlike perennials, fruit does take a lot of research and knowledge, and he is the right one for the job.

I have been living life in my red rubber boots, only taking brief breaks in the kitchen to cook up double batches of food so that we can eat leftovers the next day. If I were to hire domestic help, it would be a cook or a maid, but definitely not a gardener. 🙂

On the rainy days I have been working on the book I bought for myself as an end-of-school treat: The Father’s Tale by Michael O’Brien.  I haven’t given the children their books yet, but I couldn’t wait, and with over a 1000 pages, it will take me a while. What I should have done is wait to crack the book until the portfolios are finished and ready to be evaluated, but I have discipline issues.

Olivia mourned, “I never win anything,” after dropping her name into a door prize drawing. And then she won a doll, which is now the Favorite Child in her little doll family. “Mama, what color are your eyes?” to which I say, “Blue.”  She concludes, “Well, since mine are brown and this doll’s eyes are blue, she must have gotten a gene from her grandma.”

And lastly there is Addy, capering around in a towel after her bath: “I am a fancy little Egyptian! A fancy little Egyptian!” I ask, “Whatever do you mean?” and she explains matter-of-factly, “Egyptians dance in just towels.”

So there you have the funnies that had me laughing in the last 24. Why don’t more mothers draw comic strips?


A Question

I have a son (not mentioning names here or anything) who baffles me and delights me and makes me howl with laughter and irritates me terribly by turns.

How is it that the person who last brushed his teeth “the day after tomorrow” (he was serious) can tell me long involved stories about the digestive processes of owls?

How can a child who forgot every day where his seat was at the table even though it never changed, be able to show me the perfect little chef delineated by Minnesota, Wisconsin, and so on, ending with the Kentucky frying pan where he is making chicken?

And today when I told him to put the gloves away “where they belong”, he said, “I am going to need latitude and longitude for that.” Yet he could quote verbatim a long Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

Can somebody tell me what is up with that?

Can somebody tell me whether I should continually pull him ruthlessly back to reality and the job at hand, or should I laugh and let it go?

Never Relax on a Monday

I was sitting, quite inert this morning at 6:45 when Smallest Thing 1 woke up hopping. She immediately found me in my reading spot (all my children have homing devices to find mama) and admonished, “Mama, don’t reyax. Neveh reyax. Just get up with me.” And that was her chipper advice for me on this Monday.

I didn’t take her advice. It took me all morning to get into gear. Maybe the oatmeal wasn’t energizing enough. (Some of you may actually get the pun intended there.) I know it (the oatmeal, not the pun) reduced Olivia to tears.  Oatmeal makes Gregory cheer and Olivia cry. What is a mother to do?

This morning I pulled out a frozen tater tot casserole after I got the scholars schooling. No cooking today, every scrap of leftovers licked out of the fridge at lunch. My goal is to do Rita’s photo book in February. I am trying. I really am. I messed with it all day. The stuff is all spread out in our reading room, which is now a verboten room for  small children. Stickers, cutters, papers, glue dots, all seem designed to attract little girls with sticky fingers. I am having fun with her book but I can hardly wait to finish it. 🙂

Why did I make two “impossible” goals for February, writing every day and arranging 295 photos in a scrapbook? But I made it half way through both projects and I am not twitching too badly yet. I will “reyax” when I am done.

Guest Post from my Son

Gregory wrote this during our deep freeze weather. This is a child who has been known to weep over a one-sentence journal entry, so I was a bit surprised at the rapidly scratching pencil. When I read his story, I remembered what he shared with me just a few days ago. “Mama, if I daydream all day long for about 3 weeks, do you know what happens?” Of course, I knew some things that happen, like a very exasperated mother trying to get his attention, but actually, I didn’t know. “Well, if I do enough daydreaming, I don’t dream at night! It’s like I used up all the dreams!” It does make sense, doesn’t it? I give you his story, titled:

The Polar Regoin

I knew it would be a very unusual day. When I woke up and felt how cold the floor was. I walked over and opened the door and saw before my astoinished eyes a……… penguin demolishing an icicle!!!

I heard a growl. And looked over and locked eyes with a polar bear! My first thought was (I knew my dad had got lost wen we moved!) fortunately I had a baseball bat at my side!

To bad he didn’t have time to tell his fellow bears about the strange thing on two legs with a stick that he swung on him nearly nocking his head off! (I did nock his head off!)

I guessed the bat was going 90 miles an hour.

Then I woke up! To bad.

Are We There Yet?

The paved roads only brought us close, but the last 8 miles were graded tan Michigan dirt under a tunnel of golden yellow trees. It is off-peak season in the  Upper Peninsula, mostly deserted and calm around the lakes and waterways. We have been blessed with weather 20 degrees warmer than is typical for October. It feels like Utopia… With wifi. 🙂 Our cabin is 110 years old, furnished with a charming disregard to modern ways, lights all operated with pulls and strings tied to various parts of the walls. There is an indoor toilet and a tiny mention of a shower.

Currently the boys are out in a rowboat on the lake, fishing and mostly rowing around. The little girls cheered when they heard that they can wash the supper soup mugs in the teeny sink. So here I sit, soaking in the ambiance of a perfect autumn evening. There are trails, there are meandering mazes of roads through the state forest land, and there are no. other. people. I brought four books to read, and a duffel bag with children’s books, toys, and games, in the event that we should hit a rainy day. Three days of blissful quiet before we resume the journey to South Dakota.

We decided to split up the travel time a bit, seeing we haven’t road tripped any further than 4 hours in the last 3 years. Even so, we were hardly driving for an hour before Rita said, “I think I just wanna stay home. I didn’t know it was going to take so long.”