Errands for the Birds

We’ve run into a small snag with our poultry operation. We finally got the temperatures that we expect in November, which is to say frigid, which also means that every morning the water is frozen in the chicken tractor. Addy lovingly takes warm water out for the flock and by evening it’s frozen solid again. So this morning I decided to slog the weary (two) miles to the Farm and Home store. Across the street I would have the option of a Tractor Supply, and if I go one mile further I can go to the Ace Hardware.

I asked my son to start my vehicle when he went outside, and a half hour later I looked out the window and noticed little puffs of exhaust coming from my Suburban. Oh. It would now be toasty warm, although outside it was 25° with a brisk wind, but I was dressed for it. When I parked at the Farm and Home, the guy in the car next to me got out and strolled nonchalantly by, Carhartt unzipped, munching on a Klondike bar. Granted, he had a beard impressive enough to cover the space where his coat didn’t close. I shivered in my down puffer and fur lined boots and dashed inside.

There was another lady in the poultry aisle, and we did some quick bonding over which heated waterer would be the best in my situation. I was grateful for her help and we shared a laugh over the pumpkin spice supplement blocks for chickens. Then I did the hilarious thing and bought one. Shouldn’t my hens have Thanksgiving too?

As I breezed past the bird seeds, I snagged a large bag of sunflower seeds. At home Addy hung the feeder on a branch where we can see the activity from our living room windows. Winter can now commence. We are officially ready.

And that’s how one spends eighty-nine dollars for the birds. 🫣

Ten Down, Two to Go

Not that I’ve been wishing for the year to hurry… October was a magical month. We felt the usual harvest urgency, without the high stakes that attended harvest time for centuries past. It doesn’t seem fair that we can grow things just for fun, and if we have a crop failure we won’t starve.

We have tucked in the garden with a heavy blanket of chopped leaves from our lawn and pine straw from our neighbor’s trees. My strategy was to blow or mow as much as we could into piles, then run over the piles with the small mower and a bagger attachment. A few teens in this household thought that was a weird and unnecessary way to clean up leaves, but I persisted. That is, I persisted in asking them to do it my way because the leaves break down better if they are chopped, especially our tough oak and hickory leaves.

We obliterated all the corn stalks and sunflower trunks through our BCS chipper attachment, a task that required two persons because a lot of the organic matter was soft from rain. I loaded them into the hopper and Gabriel tamped down the dead plants with a sturdy tree branch, and cleared the chopper blades when they became clogged. Once everything was chopped up, we spread it out to compost right on top of the soil.

The only plants left are the fall crop broccoli and cabbage, the slowly fattening Brussels sprouts, and a brilliant row of kale. It would be noble to be like a brassica, bowing under the hard frosts of life, but standing cheerfully upright again repeatedly until you die. Unfortunately this is just not a homily that inspires me. I do not want to be likened to broccoli, much as I admire it.

While we were cleaning up the outdoors, the field mice were claiming the indoors. I knew we had a problem, but I didn’t know how bad it was until I offered Rita a dollar for every mouse she catches. She is at 9 currently, and the last three were all caught on the same raisin. This little venture is turning out to be quite profitable for her, what with such a low overhead on bait for her traps. I do not begrudge her one penny of those dollars though.

I had a big pile of wood chips dropped off here by the power line workers this summer. We set up the chicken fence around it and let the girls out of their chicken tractor once they were about half grown. Immediately they did their henny-penny things, completely leveling the pile in their constant scratching quest for bugs. For a foolish minute I thought that I would let them free range once the garden was dead. How far could they go? It took them less than 10 minutes to be all the way at the house, digging great holes in the flower beds as they sampled all the dust bath options on the property. Okay then, that’ll be a no, chickens.

We are at last getting plenty of eggs from our flock. It seemed to take forever for them to start laying, but now I feel smug every time I walk past the egg section in the grocery store and see the prices. We have added a thin layer of food independence to our lives.

(If you are curious about the way to homesteader land, chickens are the foot in the door. Owning a small flock makes you a fledgling homesteader just like that. )

There is only one Ameraucana in our small flock of buffs and reds, a silly hen the girls named Susie. She navigates life with the idea that she is special, slipping out of any crack in the fence, roosting in weird places like the entitled lady she is, getting extremely ticked off if you open the nesting box lid when she is sitting in it, and not so much cackling as bellowing her triumph of the day: another blue egg. She could be more humble about her accomplishments, seeing as she only lays about three eggs a week. We forgive her arrogance because we are fascinated with the processes of a bird who eats worms and corn and somehow produces blue pigment that permeates her egg shell.

We are on track for homemade pasta, custards that are yellow instead of beige, and eggnog with that special flair because it didn’t have to travel far to the blender. I even bought whole nutmegs to celebrate this goodness, only to run into the small problem of not owning a nutmeg grinder. I ordered one because we don’t care for knuckle skin in our nutmeg.

I have done my annual sort-fest through the winter gear, giving away things that are too small and donating the snow pants with Steelers logos. Now I know exactly what we have and what we need. I like to do this to Be Prepared. While I was sorting, Addy persistently flitted around, reminding me that her ice skates are too small or broken or something, and it was seventy degrees outside and there was such a ridiculous amount of gear all mixed together. I felt the old panic start to rise: the premonition that I will be swallowed alive by winter, inundated by mittens and hats, my withered skeleton emerging from a mound of boots and puffer coats when spring comes again. And then I laughed because I remembered two things. My children can take care of their own clothes now, and also it is impossible to wither with a mug of something hot in hand. I’ll make it.

Last week we planted tulip bulbs and a large bed of garlic, sticking them in to wait quietly for the right time to show up. I feel myself turning into a tiresome philosopher when I draw parallels from my garden, so I will trust your intelligence to figure out what that could mean.

Addy just asked me a rhetorical question, “Why do we never have dessert?” I serenely ignored her lack of logic and told her that she can make dessert if she wants some. That’s why there is the aroma of cookies baking right now. That is my baby, and here I am sitting on a chair, writing about an October just past.

To welcome in a new month yesterday, we had our Tuesday Tea at a coffee shop where they sell Boba tea. The girls all fell for that, naturally, and I had a chai latte. Here’s to November!

The Short Month is Over

Who woulda’ thunk it? I left the last day until the last minute, but I can’t give up now, seeing as I almost made my goal. I will leave you to imagine how many times I rather scraped bottom in this challenge I put up for myself. I am well aware that sometimes what oozed up from the bottom was sub-par filler, but I actually enjoyed the discipline. However, it is as Journey Mama says, “Being a writer means being away, dreaming of another place. And mothering requires absolute presence.” I probably can’t afford to do this too often. Eyes rolled at times when Mama needed to write. Nobody was actually bodily neglected, but still…

As for the scrapbooking challenge? I did do Rita’s book, from birth to age 4. May I mention that RIta absolutely loves her book. She pores over it, asking me to read the journaling again and again. “And that was the time I picked all your roses, wasn’t it?” It amuses me that they “remember” their babyhood through these albums, which is the whole point. I did not do all 295 photos, though. I put the rest into a drawer and cleared up all the paraphernalia in my reading room, and now I can sit and dawdle March away. Or not.

This morning I told the children we are going to take a day off the textbooks. Instead, we did one hour of work, then one hour of reading, then another hour of work, etc. It was really fun and we got a lot done. It is Gabe’s weekend to work in the ER, so we will do school tomorrow instead of today. I have to keep a firm grip on myself, or I completely lose track of what day it is. Since our schedule no longer revolves around the weekend, our “Saturday” will be on Tuesday when he next has a day off. See what I mean?

Tonight was our church’s annual couple’s night. As always, the ambiance and the food were amazing. It was an oasis, dropping off the children at the schoolhouse and having a leisurely meal and grown-up conversations with friends in a candlelit room.

All week my little guys were anticipating it, “Couple’s night is so much fun!” They were referring to the babysitters’ efforts to keep a large herd of little people occupied and happy. To the youth who invested in them tonight: God bless you, every one! Someday my children will babysit yours. :O

That pretty much concludes my stream of consciousness for the last evening in February. Thank you for being such loyal friends to me and encouraging me along the way.

On the Mountaintop

Did I need my pep talk? Yes, I did. I had a mountain of laundry to climb today, probably due to having never caught up last week. And I scaled it, all the way to the top. Well, it isn’t folded yet, but that is downhill work. I did get to the summit and planted my victory flag.

When I went downstairs to start the boys on school, I had to fight the impulse to turn tail and run from the chaos in the basement. Their school stations are inside the door where all winter activity comes and goes. Booted, mittened, snow-panted, muffled, coated, hatted activity flows through that area, and they were sure that they put their stuff on the register to dry, but there it was, muddled on the floor in the worst melee ever. There is no way one could do math in that atmosphere, so we spent a good half hour cleaning up and sorting out. I was exasperated, and I didn’t scale that challenge so well.

Then. Time for school. And I find that the boys had done the last DVD lesson that we had. Apparently the company only sends 2/3 of the lessons at the beginning of the school term, then doesn’t send the last 50 lessons until they receive the first 1/3 back. As the teacher, I should have known this, but I completely forgot. So today I taught the lessons, and I remembered how much I really like to teach. I also realized again that it is quite the dance, looking after tots and teaching. And doing laundry.

Gabe was putting in a ski patrol shift and called to say the snow was fine. Patrollers get paid with passes. Did I want to bring the three oldest children and join him? I had known that he might call, so I had lined up a babysitter for the little girls just in case. I made them eat lunch fast, left all the washing and dishes and leftover school lessons, stuffed everybody into extra layers-hats-gloves-pants-coats-mufflers-boots, sent the little girls to the neighbors, and hauled the crew up the mountain.

I really like adventure. Oh, the thrills I experience at a used book sale! I like finding painted turtles on nature walks and I like wading in shallow creeks. An adrenaline junkie I am not. Today I decided that I am still just like the little girl who used to climb up the hay bales in the barn for a long, thrilling swing ride on a rope hung high on the beams of the hayloft. I would stand there, daring myself to let go, then when the other children got too impatient to wait, I would just get off and let them take turns. After a while I couldn’t stand them having so much fun and would fling caution to the wind and after that I wouldn’t give up my place in the line.

I feel that way about skiing. I stand at the top of the slope, mildly terrified. But there is only one way down, and that is to push off and try. The first run is the worst, trying to get the feel of this thing that I only do once a year. There is a great deal more flailing than finesse for a while, but then I start to feel like I can handle these skis and make them go where I want them to go. Slowly, I have very careful fun. I only fell three times on that first run down.

There was hardly anyone on the slopes for the first two hours. Gabe put Olivia on a tether and showed her the moves. She zipped off like nobody’s business, and I was grateful she was tethered! I was always the last in the line. Then the school busses came and emptied their loads of cocky young snowboarders onto the mountain. I know exactly what they think of the cautious lady V plowing down the steep spots as they flash past in a kaleidoscope of colors. Boarders tend to run in herds so that they can show their stuff to everybody on the jumps and more technical places. And they swoosh past with terrible swiftness. All I can think is, “If their mothers would see them! And where are their helmets? And who goes up to the top of a mountain in 20* weather in only a hoodie?” I wonder if they can guess what I think?


That is the slope that I am happy to stay on. I have nothing to prove more than staying upright and having fun. The sun went down and the mountain got blitzing cold. Livvy and I took two runs down the easiest slope without the tether. As we were creaking slowly up on the lift, suspended 40 feet in the air with the mountain chuffing and puffing frigid blasts at us, we decided that we had enough.

We left the guys up there, still going strong, and came home for hot drinks and baths. Apparently the water heater isn’t working. So we are really down in the valley again. But at least there is heat even if the views aren’t so grand.

February is a Short Month


I have decided to commit myself to writing every day this month, mainly because I have terrible issues with discipline. When we were doing our monthly budget huddle, I told Gabe the money should reach better in such a short month. He gave me that special, patient look reserved for times of dimness. “It’s only 2 days shorter, Hon.” There is also the small matter of having two fewer days to work.

Two days, however, is two days is two days closer to spring! I am hanging on, but I admit that I fantasize about grubbing about in the dirt while I carry water to my three hardy houseplants. I also dream about eating at the picnic table when I am sweeping up a “dirt shovel” (which is how you say it in PA Dutch- how quaint!) full of rice and bread crumbs and stray peas after a meal. And I sigh wistfully when I see how lonely the Monkey Tree is these days, while the children play puppies inside with shallow dishes of dry cheerios for chow. And they bark and bark and growl from the enormous nests of pillows and blankets that their owners have arranged. There are times when an eavesdropper would hear me plead, “Please, do not bark one more time!” That is their cue to switch to kitties.

It has been truly, awfully cold this year. I step outside and feel my skin go taut and kind of dry so I quickly grab the mail and retreat into the warmth of the house. I have been reading Garrison Keillor’s stories about winter in Minnesota/North Dakota and how they had to build a charcoal fire under the car so the oil in the crankcase would warm up enough to start the car and all the thermometers ended at -40 because that was all the colder anyone wanted to know about. The hungry wolves would stalk them on the way to school, which was uphill coming and going through snow drifts higher than a child could see. I laugh and expect that if our global warming trend continues, that is probably how our grandchildren will hear our stories some day. Yeah, we used to build a bonfire on the pond bank so that the skaters wouldn’t freeze their toes and even the ski slopes closed sometimes so that they would not be dealing with prying solid chunks of ice off the lifts at the top of the mountain.

I am glad February is short and usually has some blue skies and now it seems reasonable to browse through the seed catalogs. I will be checking to see what Phil says tomorrow.

Ordinary, Infused with Everlasting

So when she was single, the girl didn’t dream much about ordinary things. The thing about dreams is that they are wonderful. In them, she was the heroine. She was visible. She was on top, making a difference, feeling fulfilled. She didn’t think so much of dirty, gritty details like insufficient toilet facilities and sickness in missionary families far from good medical care. She didn’t dream of difficulties; she dreamed of adventure and achievement. Of course, she reserved a very private place where she dreamed of the love of a good man and the security of marriage. To her amazement, she really did get that love and marriage (and the babies, and the baby carriage)! Wow. Things settled into a somewhat frantic routine of not neglecting the thing that was right in front of her. There really was not a lot of time for a head in the clouds.

She was sort of a hard learner, and it took a while for her to “get it” that as a married woman, there would be glory in the meld of her dreams with her husband’s dreams. Her role was cast by God as a supporting role, a helper without whom her husband would be a bit disabled. 🙂 With the years and a good bit of trial and error, she came to understand that it was a wonderful place, a privilege to stand behind her man, to help him achieve his dreams. I am not suggesting that she was on such an exalted plane that she never whined, “But, what about Me?”

Here is what she wishes she had known all along. The happy woman keeps her dreams portable. There is only frustration and unloveliness in doggedly trying to make things happen the way she thinks they should happen.

Life is seasons. There may come a time for some of the obscure dreams to become reality. But for now, she is free to revel in the everyday, sometimes camouflaged goodness that is given. I have learned something from that girl. (Work with me here. Pretend you don’t see through that third person thing. 🙂 ) Just because living is lots of sameness and hard work doesn’t mean it is not valuable. The things which endure grow out of the ordinary. 



(for wallpaper dot com)

…. I am not done yet…

Open Letter to an iPad Thief


I wonder if you knew that when my husband (your loved one’s nurse) stopped by and laid an iPad on the bed, he was at the end of a long night shift, just ready to head out the door. He saw that your loved one was uncomfortable, so he had the compassion to come in and try to fix things up for him. That is when he forgot to pick up his device (which he “never” takes along to work) and you saw your opportunity. After he left, the other nurses asked if the iPad on the bed belonged to you, and you said it did. It got packed in with your belongings, and you just had yourself a freebie. I know it was a big temptation, but they gave you the chance to be honest. I am sorry you weren’t.

The funny thing is, that particular first generation iPad isn’t really very valuable anymore. Three years is a long time in the evolving world of technology. If you are interested in knowing what you stole, here is what it is to us, not in dollars, but in value.

You should try the Bugs and Buttons app. My 2 year old really loved counting buttons and sorting colors during her quiet time on the couch. There is a whole folder of pictures that our four-year-old drew and colored on her favorite app. She would tell you to try Monkey Math, where you trace numbers and count objects, as well. Have you seen that one yet? Our older children don’t really mind not having to do flash cards, but they had a lot of really good audiobooks and music on there for road trips. The boys especially wish they could still use the iPad to hunt deer when they have earned enough privileges on their job chart.

As for me, what you stole was my homeschool tutor and my all around helper. I had a lot of books on that shelf, books I highly prized. There is one I especially recommend to you, titled Don’t Waste Your Life. That iPad was also my recipe book, my contacts list, my connection to the world outside my house. Did you know that you stole my Bible? I miss that more than anything, because it was the one I used to study, underline, and  note.

For a few days we kept hoping it would show up, someone would bring it to lost and found, etc. When my husband called you and courteously asked you if you had any idea where his iPad is, you had no idea. In fact, you hadn’t seen it. I bet you were a little surprised that we knew exactly who you were. Maybe you just knew we were the sort of people who would not press charges.  I scrambled to change passwords on all the stuff I always left open in my bookmarks bar. We haven’t quite figured out a way to log out of everything remotely. I suppose if you are smart enough to disable the tracking setting, you know better than to incriminate yourself with funny business on our Amazon account. At any rate, we would love to have it back, but we will be okay. No doubt every one will adapt to how life was three years ago before it got so handy-dandy.

I hope you enjoy. Oh, and do check out the Bible app. It is amazing.

Sincerely, the Peights


I have been thinking that maintaining a blog is a bit like building a snowman. You sort of have to keep the ball rolling so that you know what to build onto next. If you stop for  a long time, you find that the energy has melted away and you aren’t sure where to start.

I have periodic freak outs about the lack of anonymity that comes with internet. Like, suppose someone reads that we are in Michigan and decides it would be a good time to clean out our house with a U Haul? So then I should probably not have posted that bit until we are home. And real bloggers have posts done ahead of time, scheduled to publish on set days.

Also, I cannot type on the iPad very well, which was the only piece of technology we hauled along. I have issues with anything but an Apple keyboard, finding myself so distracted with frustration and backspacing that I lose my train of thought.

So… enough with the disclaimers. Here we are, home again. So very much has happened in two weeks, I could bore you to tears. I decided to keep it to a terse list of impressions.

  • Rest…such a lovely rest in the middle of a National Forest in Michigan.
  • Enchanting foliage in hardwood forests
  • The limits of GPS on National Forest trails 🙂
  • New foods (Pasties, (pass-tees) anyone?) and painted moose
  • Political blather about the government shutdown on every. single. station.
  • A missed stop sign, a speeding feed truck, a smashed front bumper… within four miles of my grandparent’s WI home!
  • Large mercies!
  • An evening of family camaraderie with the uncles and their families
  • Half way there, kids!
  • Hours of mind-numbing corn fields
  • Welcoming arms of the SD home which was our ultimate destination
  • Wood stove, tea, comfortable catch-up chats with siblings
  • Laughter as yet another child, supposed to be abed, needs something
  • Melding of nine kids in one house, smoother than expected
  • My sister-in-law’s cappuccino muffins with coffee
  • Blazing sunsets… so much horizon you would have to believe the earth is round
  • New appreciation for the blessing, “May the wind be always at your back.”
  • Sunday lunch with friends, reminiscing over childhood memories
  • All too soon packing up again… fare-thee-wells
  • Fifteen minutes into a 20 hour journey Addy’s piping voice: “Are we about there yet?” (No joke.)
  • Due east into the Minnesota sunrise… and on… and on…
  • Dairy Queen to cheer the little people
  • Pit stop in Indiana at a beloved cousin’s house
  • Child blubbing sadly for an hour when we hit the road again the next morning… she doesn’t know why
  • Little girl fantasizing about a long bath
  • Loud, cheerful singing of “We’re home, we’re home, we’re home…” in the last three miles

There is also a list of numbers in my head.

  • Six audiobooks: Exodus, Number the Stars, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Amos Fortune, Calico Captive, The Man Who Was Thursday, and Dave Ramsey something or other
  • One hundred and seven (give or take a few tens) water towers
  • Hundreds and thousands of windmills, spinning their futuristic way to power
  • Zero. The number of times my two year old had a potty accident.
  • Two and a half books, read during stretches of mind-numbing corn fields and political blather
  • About two thousand, nine hundred and sixty-seven semi trucks between IN and PA, according to Greg
  • Three thousand, two hundred and forty miles

So here we are, home again. Grateful.

Essentials for Parents

When I was expecting our first baby, I got a free subscription to a couple of those baby/parent magazines. Nearly every issue had lists of essentials: Things to Buy Before Baby Comes. They included the obvious, like diapers and wipes, but there were also lists of gear, the best gear for the job. There were clothing lists: 10 onesies, 7 pairs of socks, 14 bibs, 5 blankets, etc.

By the time my fifth child was imminent, I just chucked the magazines into the trash can as soon as they came in the mail. It wasn’t all pish-posh, but most of the advice and current parenting trends just didn’t seem relevant at all to the lady who already had 14 bibs and rarely used them. I didn’t need pacifier sanitizing wash or enormous exercise saucers that would fill all the space in my living room where we usually walk. Please, don’t even get me started on the advice for parents when the child is angry/pitching a fit/making needs known. And those gorgeous pictures of model babies wearing designer clothes…hello! Who spends 70 dollars on a jumper for a 10 month old?

If I were to make a list for the baby mag, it would look more like this:

  • Sense of Humor. You will need it every single day. Just last week, my 2 year old dropped a small deposit out of her undies onto the floor of the library. She is supposed to be potty trained, but still in that stage where squatting down to look at shelves of books tends to complicate things. You simply cannot make up the stuff that happens with small children around. You might as well laugh. I often feel like I live in The Family Circus.  Hey, it is funny!family-circus-0011
  • Grace for the times that aren’t funny. When I feel like shaking and scolding, it is good to remember how graciously I have been dealt with in my failures and idiosyncrasies. Instead of saying, “You LOST YOUR SHOES AGAIN?” I might remember how often the whole crew looks for my lost cell phone. “Okay, sonny, they can’t walk off by themselves. Where did you last wear them?” Did you know grace doesn’t roll eyes at her children, either?
  • Persistence. Parenting is another word for repeating. You know the verses in Isaiah 28:10 where he is talking about teaching knowledge, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” It really is that way. Sometimes it feels like the things I am trying to teach my children are dotted lines, and the children are not connecting the dots. They just never are going to get it. But they do! They grow, they learn, and eventually they get it! It just blesses my soul when my child takes the smaller piece of cake and lets a sibling have the one with more icing surface area.
  • A pen and paper. This comes in really handy when you are having one of those dotted line struggles where you feel like you will never connect. Keep a private journal of the joys as well as of the issues you are facing. One day you will be heartened when you look back at what you wrote and realize that you have indeed passed that milepost.  My mom kept a baby book for each of us, even though she also had a cow to milk and hens to feed and innumerable duties on the farm, not to mention raising 4 kids born in 5 years. We always cherished those books, laughing about our first words, comparing our records to see who walked first, and who hated eating peas, etc. Pen and paper doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has an amazing way of making a child feel celebrated. “Mom noticed me!” A friend of mine makes quick notes on her calendar when something noteworthy happens with the children. You might think you will never forget that hilarious thing the 3 year old said, but it could be gone by supper time if you don’t jot it down.
  • Flexibility, sometimes a complete U-turn. Also known as humility, this is an essential that is sometimes so hard to come by. You can get so invested in winning every battle, being the authority, having the answers, that  you forget all about the little person you are dealing with. We have always had a strict bedtime policy. Once you are in bed, you don’t get out unless you are about to wet the bed, or maybe if the house is on fire. 🙂 It took a bit of training for the toddlers, but they caught on. This last toddler, however, still has not gotten the memo, even though we have been working on this since spring. She comes crying, wanting a drink, a vitamin, a different blanket, a story. It is too dark, too light, she fell out of her toddler bed. For the first few months, we steadfastly clung to our usual training routine, and much as I dislike saying this, it didn’t work. It didn’t work ten times a night. I began praying for enlightenment. Finally we decided that she simply wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep at the usual bedtime, so we let her stay up an extra hour or two. She sits on the couch and looks at books, then we have a little cuddle and off she goes! The little offspring of the bedtime absolutists has taught them a bit about flexibility. I would like to assure you earnest young parents out there that needing to change your mind on an issue is not a sign of weakness. We all need to grow, not just the children.
  • Wisdom. Pray for it. God has promised to give it…liberally! Don’t knuckle under when the problems seem too daunting. I think back to a contrary streak one of my sons went through. To be honest, there were days when I just wanted to give him away, let someone else raise him for a while. I felt so totally unprepared for this task.  One day I was dumping out my questions to God, and He clearly showed me that I needed to first get rid of my own bad attitude. “This is your job. You were given this child because you are supposed to be his parent. Embrace it, even when it is hard. I will give you the wisdom you need.” Things went quite a bit better when I got my own sinful attitude cleansed. Wisdom, I might add, is not a fail proof system that you use to ensure good outcomes. Wisdom is a relationship with the One who knows all the facts and guides the person who seeks to walk His ways.

While not essential in the strictest sense, this list is Frivolous Things Every Parent May Need.

  • Chocolate. Really good chocolate, hidden for quiet moments alone in the bedroom. Just don’t hide it so hard that you can’t remember where you put it when you really need it!
  • Lysol wipes. Children is another word for messes. It is supposed to be that way. The wipes just make a lot of cleanup so much easier. And they smell nice.
  • Audiobooks. Books are gateways out of our little worlds and worries. They help us to soar serenely above the mundane. 🙂 Any parent knows that after you read The Curious Little Kitten, The Biggest Bear, and Fox in Socks for the 40th time, you don’t have an abundance of time to read your own level. (Unless, of course, you barricade yourself in the bathroom and ignore all sounds of disaster outside the door.) This is where audiobooks are so helpful. You can listen to them while you cook, while you drive to the dentist, while you fold laundry. Bonus points go to the audios that capture your children’s attention, too. We are currently on the umpteenth listening of God’s Smuggler.
  • Band aids. Lots of them. They make everything better.
  • Friends. It is nice if some of your friends also have drool on their shoulders and cheerios on the floor of their mini vans. I have been so blessed with beautiful friends who have my back. We do not walk alone, thank God!

I am sure I missed some essentials, especially frivolous essentials. I would love to hear what yours are.

Edit: how in the world did friends get put on the frivolous list? Just so you know, it is in the wrong place up there.

Interior Monologue at Two AM

Smiley Flower Happy!

In the past week I lost at least three blog posts to the shadows of the night, because I was too lazy to get up  needed to sleep. I don’t know why it is that sometimes the writing flows and other times it gets stopped up. Neither do I understand why I think up long, interesting bits about life at 2 AM and then cannot remember more than shreds of it at 7 AM. I should probably do what some bloggers do, give myself a deadline. You can expect a fresh post every Tuesday and Friday morning at seven, sharp. (That was a joke, because where would be the fun in that?)

Last night we went to bed early, and here I am, all chipper and feeling like I already slept enough.

The new family vehicle started hiccuping on us last weekend. Some stabilitrak system or other was kicking on and off without provocation. OH, NO. Service stabilitrak soon. It is a little hard to ignore when the lights flash and blink on the dash. We needed an inspection anyway, but the title transfer wasn’t done yet. So we decided to get a tune up, see what we are up against. Halfway to the garage, a distance of seven miles, I noticed that the warning light was off, the vehicle no longer hiccuping at all. Thank the Lord for large mercies!

Driving a Suburban is a little like navigating a smallish whale, although I have to say, this one is smoother than the old van was, by a long shot. And do you have any idea how much cargo room these guys have? It is amazing.

Gabe convinced me to go to our local outfitter’s store last Saturday when they were having a summer blowout sale. He brought me a helmet when he got off work Friday night and told me to go get a bike to wear with it. Something like that. Again, he was working, so I loaded up the little guys and off we went, bike shopping. I haven’t owned a bike for at least 10 years, although I occasionally took his for a spin. Did you ever ride a men’s bike with a really high bar? In a skirt? Awkward. Whoa, I really hope I don’t have to stop until I get back home to the mounting block.

He had preselected what he thought was the one I would like, so I browsed for “a bike with vine decals and a nice seat, but not a granny seat”. There were two with vine decals. Me being me, I got the cheaper one. Gabe being Gabe, he had the other one in mind, the one with the shock on the front tire. However, I can’t see myself doing extreme trails anytime soon, so this is fine. It is really fun to go buzzing around the back roads with my boys. We have no arrangement for the little girls to ride along, so Gabe and I haven’t biked together yet. All in good time.

I cleaned out my garden this week, all but the fall stuff. I feel cleansed. No more blighted tomatoes and unhappy watermelons. No more weeds on steroids. Just their babies. I can now look out my kitchen window without feeling the failure of neglected plants. And those grapes that we were fondly anticipating? It puzzled me to find that all the ripe ones kept getting neatly picked off their bunches, the green ones left behind by some fastidious critter until they were ripe, when they would also be neatly picked off. I myself ate maybe 5 grapes, total. Rita solemnly insisted that she did not touch the grapes. The thing was, there were no deer tracks. Then the children told me they kept seeing the cats in the grape vine. I suppose for the cats, those 65 dollars we spent to get them spayed is pretty good insurance. (We are now responsible pet owners.)

We took a ride up to the ski slopes last evening, looking out over the vista of mountains to the west, the glorious sunset highlighting  the shapes of scores of windmills in the distance. Gabe thinks they look clean and green. I think they are just a little annoying when I am trying to see the scenery. On our way home we stopped at a local ice cream place where you can get 5 kid cones and 1 medium for $4.25. It was dark and cold and shivery for ice cream eating, but when has a child ever objected to that?

I recently read a thought that impressed me. “When it comes to child training, you decide how you want it, then you make it that way.” (Elisabeth Elliot, who else?) Maybe that is a little overly simplistic, but it is pretty true. When your children are allowed to whine, grab, belch at the table, disobey Mom when they feel like it, and other such socially unacceptable behaviors, it is because you have decided it is too much work to train them otherwise.

We are starting a new initiative this week: The Annual No Complaining About the Food Act. Every so often I notice that my children have fallen into a bad habit of grumbling about what is for dinner. Not everybody dislikes the same food, but with 5 children, there is a good chance that at least one person will not be impressed with the fare. All you need is one person turning up his/her nose for the chorus to begin. “Not beans again! Couldn’t we have spaghetti and meatballs?” Addy: “Have getti and meatballs!” Next meal: “I wish you would make rice instead of quinoa.” Addy: “I wants rice!” Random other child: “No, no, I don’t like rice!”

Mine all like broccoli, by the way, which makes it a bit puzzling when someone chokes about chicken noodle or fried potatoes. Some of them love oatmeal and others prefer eggs, while still others just wish they could have a bagel. And of all things, the kid who hates mayo loves mustard! It sounds like I really have a lot of children, doesn’t it? 😉 I don’t mind preferences. It makes birthday meals fun when you know what they love to eat. But you can’t always have what you prefer. Deal with it. I got tired of displeased sighs at meal time. It’s time to decide how we want it and make it that way.

Last year I purposely made foods they didn’t enjoy until they quit complaining. This year I amped up the stakes. We are having dessert every night this week. Gasp! If you forget and grouse just one time about the food you are served, you get halfsies on dessert. If you grouse more than once, you don’t get any. Fortunately, a jar of peaches counts as dessert for our children. Or a piece of Dove chocolate. Ask Rita how big a half piece of dove chocolate is.

Last night, sort of by accident, I made a total fail of a meal. It was edible, but it wasn’t good. We excused Addy for saying, “It’s yucky.” The rest deserved their ice cream cones.

I just read Code Name Verity, which is actually considered a young adult book, although I wouldn’t recommend it. It made me cry. While I could never be a spy, I love reading spy stories. (I don’t know if it is some housewife thing… me, in my safe little world, reading about the intrigue and unbelievable duplicity of the CIA or Mossad.) I wondered if I could be that brave if I were being interrogated concerning my faith in Jesus and my fellow believers like so many Christians are today.

All right, I will spare you more stream of consciousness and go back to bed.