Amazing Graces

Goodness. Time has flown by with no blogging. Here are the updates:

Feff: The youngest of the family, and the easiest right now. Besides his little quirks (we have to run over every drain we see, whether he’s in the stroller or the grocery cart…just as an example) and the fact that he seems completely incapable of being quiet in church, this kid is a breeze. He’s excited to start preschool this Tuesday and even more excited to ride the bus (although he’s convinced Ms. Frizzle will be driving…reference anyone?), so we’re hoping all of that goes smoothly.

Feffer: Kindergarten is hard work. He seems to be doing great there, but he’s pretty drained of energy/patience/anger-management/self-control by the time he gets home. Since we’re working very hard to not manhandle him (not pick him up and make him do what we want) but rather let him decide for himself, this kid is taking up a lot of time right now, since he balks at every. single. thing. He’s also not entirely sure why he has to go to school every day. That said, though, he’s proud of being a big kid and eager to tell us everything he’s learning.

Fiffer: Second-grade seems to be going awesome. She still can hardly see Dillon without swearing at him, but we’re honestly all starting to react that way to him, so we empathize with her struggle:) Besides that, she went a whole week without scribbling on anything (like the walls or the van), so she earned a much-coveted package of glitter glue. Now, she’s working on earning a set of walkie-talkies. It’s going to take 30 days (not consecutive) of not cussing (in addition to not scribbling), so we’re not exactly budgeting for them quite yet:)

Dillon: Oy. While his after-school behavior has had us hoping he would get a case of laryngitis, we were thinking that maybe he was putting all of his energy into being good at school (similar to Feffer). Alas, we talked to his principal Thursday evening, and that isn’t the case either:(  So…Dillon is continuing to adjust to the demands of school and adjusting to a new set of parameters here at home. Being thirteen is a challenge. For everyone. 

Hayden: Hayden is doing great! Because she doesn’t go to bed before sundown (like the youngest four) or work almost every night (like Josiah), we have been able to spend a lot of time with her. She’s a delight right now…helping out so much with the little kids, playing games in the evenings, making plans for a Sonrise retreat in October, filling the house with piano and guitar and trumpet music, enjoying our homeschooling, teasing Quincy via text, and making us laugh with her stories and impressions. Hayden, as always, is the family funny bone; she keeps us laughing (and sane).

Josiah: Starting his senior year of homeschool, winding down the season with his mowing jobs, working with me to find music for the church Christmas program, and working 30+ hours a week at Panda makes for a tired (but rich) young man. While he is doing a great job keeping up with everything, he was grateful to spend a couple of evenings at home this weekend…playing Settlers and eating non-Chinese food.

Zachery: I was able to go with Zach and Raven and Raven’s mom to a sonogram earlier this week. The baby (due in January) is a healthy, growing-right-on-schedule baby girl. Standing next to my son watching the monitor and hearing Raven and her mom talk about how Raven was as a baby made me ache for the losses our adopted children have. Between the booze and the drugs and the shoddy paperwork, we have no idea how Zach was as a baby. We don’t even know how big he was when he was born. His birth certificate simply says that I gave birth to him, which is an untruth that doesn’t do justice to his actual birth or the way our family was formed. He seems eager to be a dad, though, and eager to not leave his child (Sophia?) with a similar legacy. We are hopeful.

Quincy: After being back at school for a total of four days, this child of mine (who would have been appalled at this idea last year) skipped a day of classes (with the blessings of her profs) to go with Tom to Minnesota to celebrate the wedding of Tom’s brother (who was married this summer in Colorado, but was having a closer-to-home party this weekend). She is feeling quite comfortable with Tom’s family now and had a great time. She’s back at school safe and sound, ready for classes on Monday (Concordia doesn’t give the kids a day off for Labor Day, since they have found that homesick freshmen have a hard time coping with a break that early in the school year).

Haley: After a seemingly successful interview on Friday, Haley is looking forward to starting a new job soon…in New York. While there’s still a lot in limbo (including her living situation), she seems relatively at peace with it all…eager to begin this new phase of life. In the meantime, she left three huge crates here at home, full of contents that she would like sent to her. I checked into  shipping rates this week…good heavens. Anybody heading to the Buffalo area anytime soon?

Jason’s Dad: Erich is turning 85 on Labor Day! Where has the time gone?! I couldn’t ask for a better father-in-law and picture of who my husband is becoming…Erich is truly one of the kindest, gentlest, and most godly men I have ever known.

Our Family at Faith: I seriously love these people. I had a teenager harass me today, sarcastically asking why we haven’t starting practicing Christmas songs yet…smart aleck…we’ll start next week:) A fellow parent completely cracked me up at the Confirmation meeting after church today, as he imitated his not-paying-attention son. One of our members is facing a relapse of his cancer, and the whole congregation is holding its breath. Two of our members were selected by our local newspaper as “Angels Among Us.” While certainly as angelic as any of the rest of us (“for it is by grace you have been saved”), one of them…um…doesn’t often always show her angelic side…so when Jason announced the award today (in her absence) there was an almost palpable smile-but-don’t-make-eye-contact moment throughout the congregation…it was good to get that out of our systems so that we can congratulate both of them properly next Sunday:) And…oh, yeah…we all heard God’s Word today…and prayed together to Him…and confessed our sins and received absolution…and shared in the Lord’s Supper…amazing graces, every one.

Yes, indeed. Amazing graces, every one.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

To my own beautiful children…and many other returning college students…five things to keep in mind before you come home for another visit…said with all love…and a touch of exaggeration…

1. You are going back to roughly the same home that you grew up in. In your absence, Mom and Dad probably haven’t renovated the house so that you have your own little guest apartment, complete with room service and housekeeping. More than likely, you will need to share a bathroom. If you shared a bedroom before you left home, chances are you’ll have to do it again. So (and it’s truly remarkable that this needs to be said…particularly since you have a roommate in your “other life”) you need to be considerate of others. The bathroom sink is not your personal storage cabinet. The bedroom floor is not (ahem) your personal trashcan. Your stuff goes in a drawer or a closet or a hamper. Seriously.

2.The world is not nocturnal. Yes, we know that you might be, but realize that you are in the minority. Your family most assuredly isn’t. That means…among other things…that your parents (and siblings) need to sleep at night because they need to get up in the morning and do crazy things like work or care for the other children. So…wait for it…you can’t be nocturnal either. Not while you’re staying with them. Sure, nobody cares if you stay up (and sleep in) a little later…but the emphasis is on the word little. Watch a movie until 1:00? No problem. Be out of the house until 1:00? A bit of a problem. When your parents say they can’t sleep until you’re home, it’s not that they’re trying to suck the fun out of your life; it’s just that they really can’t sleep until you’re home. And remember…they have to get up. You stay up way later than that all the time, you say? Yes, and you can get right back to those habits…as soon as you leave your parents’ house.

3. We know you’re tired. We do. After all, we’ve seen your class schedule. Three classes on Fridays?! What do those people expect? You’re not a machine! But, seriously, we know you’re tired. So take a couple days to sleep until noon. That’s all cool. After that, though, it’s time to get up off the mat and join the rest of the world. All that sleeping is going to make you feel worse anyway. If you’re not working (and if you’re home more than a couple of weeks, you really should be working), pitch in around the house. Reconnect with your folks and your sibs. Dry a dish, for the love. You’ll still get plenty of sleep…since you’ll be going to bed at a human hour again.

4. Remember that you’re not a guest. You’re not. That day will come, to a certain extent, but it’s not here yet. You’re still our kid. You’re still one of a group of siblings. If everyone else is helping clean up the kitchen, it’s probably not appropriate for you to go turn on the TV. If everyone else is tidying the house and you’re not sure where you fit anymore, just ask. You still know how to operate a vacuum, right? And the schedule that you grew up with? It’s probably still intact. Mom’s kitchen didn’t used to be a 24/7 cafe? It still isn’t. Eat with the family. Sleep with the family. Get up with the family. Making any sense?

5. We realize that being home again is a bit of tight fit. We do. But remember that it’s a bit of a tight fit for all of us. It might seem like you’re the only one making concessions, but you’re really not…that’s just a topic for another blog. And I hate to say this, but even if you are the only one making concessions, there’s a reason for that. Check the mailbox. See all those bills? Are any of them addressed to you? I didn’t think so.

Feeling really cramped? Even after only a few days? Then that’s probably confirmation that it’s time to be on your own. I know exactly how you feel, because I feel that way when I visit my parents. Why? Because I’m all grown up, and my childhood home is just a place to visit now. You’re growing up, too, and we’re so proud of you, kid. Now…see you in a couple months:)


First Days of School

After years of all of our kids attending school right here at home, this year we’re spread out further than ever. 

Fiffer started second grade on Monday. 


Feffer started kindergarten (in a different building) on Monday, but the kindergarteners only attended for one hour…and that was with their parents.


On Tuesday, they were ready and eager to get on the school bus. I’m not wild about them riding the bus, but with everyone going here, there, and everywhere, we really don’t have much choice. 


Right now, Feff is my bus-stop buddy. We make sure Fiffer and Feffer are all aboard safely, and then we take Sunshine and head to the park for a while. After Labor Day, though, Feff will ride a different bus to preschool (in yet a different building) every morning.                


Dillon started eighth grade today (in a different town).  


On August 25, Quincy will start her sophomore year of college (in a different state), Josiah will start his senior year of high school (right here at home), and Hayden will start her sophomore year of high school (also right here at home). 


Happy learning to everyone!

What Goes Around…

I was a smart-aleck as a kid. I admit it. I had several junior high teachers that I’m sure would have liked to string me up by my toes. But…and this becomes more critical the older I get…I never talked that way to my mother. I didn’t. Neither did my sister. Although I never remember the woman laying a hand on either one of us, there was an unspoken certainty that she would have knocked us into the middle of next week if we had sassed her. True, there was no real basis for that fear, but it was enough to keep my mouth pretty much closed throughout my adolescence. 

So it hardly seems fair that…somehow…I have not been able to pass that same fear down to my children…particularly that darn baby. Dillon came home today (after spending his day at church with Jason…his school starts tomorrow…alleluia) loaded for bear. After I watched him demolish the little boys with his disdain (which is so sad to watch, because Feffer worships the ground Dillon walks on), he and I had a very calm, very quiet come-to-Jesus meeting. He refused to cooperate and kept arguing and sassing until I finally told him to finish his chores and retire to his room for the evening. We both worked on chores in silence for a couple of minutes, and then he tried to strike up a friendly conversation with me. I pointed out to him that I find it amazing that he can be so incredibly difficult, not repent, and then act like nothing has happened. He worked quietly for another minute and then looked up and said, “So…can I be happy now?”

M: What do you mean?

D (in the cheekiest voice ever): Well, when I tried to talk to you a minute ago, you didn’t seem to want me to be happy. So…can I be happy now? How exactly do you want me to be?

Had the other kids been in the house, they would have gasped (as they have before). As it was, a few seconds of silence ticked by, before I answered him (barely above a whisper), “How do I want you to be? I want you to be silent. And then I want you to be gone to your room.” 

Good heavens. It’s coming around, for sure…but it hardly seems fair:)

Mind Benders

Have you ever done a puzzle like this?

Sharon had a birthday party, and among her friends who attended were Angela, Carlotta, Elias, Harold, and lgor, whose last names are Durwood, Forman, Kramer, Lansdowne, and Nardon. The gifts they gave Sharon were a book, a game, a jigsaw puzzle, a model airplane kit, and a compact disc. Read the clues to find each friend’s full name and gift. 1. Elias didn’t give Sharon a compact disc. 2. One of the girls thought lgor was kind of strange for giving Sharon a model airplane kit, but Sharon said she’d wanted one for a long time. 3. Durwood asked Nardon if he thought Sharon liked the gift she gave, which was not a game. 4. Forman was pleased by Sharon’s smile when she saw his gift. 5. The girl who gave Sharon the book, who is not Angela, asked Kramer if he’d read it. 6. lgor and Forman started to put Nardon’s gift together, but Nardon and Sharon made them stop. 7. A girl gave Sharon the game.

Now I enjoy a good brainteaser…when they’re just for fun. I don’t always enjoy them when they are my life. Here was today’s puzzle…

It was a Sunday afternoon, and everybody needed a nap…Jason, Kris, Quincy, Josiah, Hayden, Dillon, Fiffer, Feffer, and Feff. Read the clues and schedule the rest of the day.

1. Although they definitely need a nap, the four youngest members of the family will absolutely, positively not take one. Unless you rock them with a real rock, they won’t sleep.

2. Likewise, none of the four youngest members can be left alone unless in his or her own room. Feff cannot be left alone at all. Fiffer and Feffer can be left in their respective rooms but only if their door alarms are set, so they don’t sneak out and do damage elsewhere. Dillon can be left in his room, but his resentment grows exponentially during room-time, so this approach must be used cautiously.

3. Fiffer and Dillon cannot, under any circumstances, be in the same room together. This only lasts about 30 seconds before the swearing begins.

4. All writing utensils should be locked away, preferably with a real lock, even more preferably on a high shelf. Fiffer and Feffer can not walk unattended through a room with a writing utensil in it or said writing utensil will be used on the carpet. Or the furniture. Or the wall. (Yes, we know they’re seven and five, but those are the facts.)

5. Kris cannot fall asleep unless Jason is rubbing her back. And Kris sleeping for a bit is really the backbone of the entire afternoon. This must be a priority. If mama ain’t happy…

6. Jason needs to sleep at the same time Kris is sleeping (so he can rub her back before he dozes off), but he needs to be at the nursing homes from 3:00-5:00.

7. Hayden needs to sleep, but she also needs to be at the nursing homes from 3:00-5:00.

8. Dillon, Fiffer, and Feffer are abnormally fussy today (maybe nervous about school starting?), so they should all be treated with extra patience.

9. There is still a little standing water in the front yard from yesterday’s rain. Feff must be vigilantly attended or he will end up covered in mud. Again.

10. Feff is also going through another phase of pooping his pants several times a day. Don’t argue with it; just change it when you smell it.

11. Dillon barely listens to Jason and Kris right now; he must not be left for a sibling to supervise.

Good heavens. We did it, though. The oldest five members of the household squeezed in much-needed naps today. Everyone else survived until bedtime. School starts tomorrow. Alleluia.



Hard-Working Kids

I’m so proud of our hard-working big kids. Yesterday was a prime example. Josiah went in to Panda Express at noon and was supposed to get off at 4:00. However, he finally clocked out around 10:45 (his time card said 10.7 hours). He smelled like a wok. Hayden got picked up at 9:15 to ride to Centralia to work the Balloon Fest. She walked back in the door at 11:15 (her time card said 11.5 hours). Her entire body was covered with a thin layer of sugar. They were both full of stories.

Since Dillon and the littles were long asleep, Jason and I had to figure out what to do with ourselves while we waited for our little working bees to return home. Maybe we could spend the evening with Quincy, since she’ll be headed back to college soon? But, no…she was Skyping with her boyfriend for two hours…and she talks to him every night…young love:) (Oh, and she would be quick to point out that she put in 42 hours at her job this past week too.)

So…we played Rummikub…and visited…and did some prep work for today’s lunch…and rejoiced when both tired teenagers returned home.


Everyone’s going to need a nap today:)

Breakfast Request

Conversation with four-year-old Feff:

M: What do you want for breakfast?

F: Raisin Bran.

M: Raisin Bran? Are you sure?

F: Yep. Raisin Bran. Without the cereal.

M: Raisin Bran without the cereal?

F: Kris, the cereal is gross.

M: So…just a bowl of raisins?

F (a little frustrated at my slowness): Yep. Raisin Bran. Without the cereal.

M: Right. Got it. Sorry.