Life With Nine Kids

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Memories, Snow, Hospital Aftermath, Honoring Each Other

For the 'ice and snow storm' that came through last week (Feb 21)) I wanted to do something more fun than our routine wintery day vegetable beef I picked Salisbury steak with homemade mushroom gravy (made with homemade beef broth), mashed taters, veggies and moist delicious chocolate cake. If there were to be homemaker rating scales I’d rate making this somewhere around awesome. Not because it’s hard, it’s not!  Mostly because it's thought to just come from a TV dinner -and I wanted to make it healthier with the classic-ness of yesteryear, but better tasting and all from scratch. So all that clearly makes it awesome.

Food never looks as good photographed, but look; it does look like tasty Salisbury steak! 
And I served mixed veggies on the side, too.
 And look here, mine beats the pants off this flashback photo:
I felt accomplished because no beef bouillon, canned soups, or gravy mixes were used. Not even canned beef broth was used, because I made that myself! (It's my thing: I want to know how to make things from scratch!) All I'm missing is that little delicious cranberry-cherry cobbler that comes with some TV dinners. Oh, how I LOVED that dessert thing when I was a young girl.
I love all the hustle and bustle and freak out of a winter storm; it’s so exciting. The store was packed when I went and I was among the masses filling my cart. I enjoy the good ol' day feel of everyone 'talk'n 'bout the weather' with anyone that'll listen. Everyone loves to chatter about a storm -it's a small town thing especially. When I talked to Aunt Sharon she told me about the ladies in the hair salon chattering about it.
 I sickeningly like being among 30 people in line and one of the 12 people crammed at the counter packing up their own groceries all at once at Aldi's. I was told by the cashier, "You should have seen how busy it was earlier, this is nothing!" I was probably a sight myself, wearing my purple snow pants as usual before any snow had fallen. I hate the cold but with my snow pant I’m fine!
  People seem to love to prepare for a snow storm. I love turning on the news when they are reporting on almost absolutely nothing in our viewing area, but Kansas however is getting 10 inches of snow in 5 hours so they have to cut into all the afternoon programing to talk about it. Then when our snow does start it’s almost never as bad as they say it might be for us, but they cover it anyway…for hours. I love it. I love my family cuddled up and playing by the window, too. I love waking up to a white world after months of yellow grass and gray sad trees. I sometimes love the house strung about with snowsuits and boots and kids with lost gloves. (It depends on the year; sometimes I don’t look forward to bundling up a houseful of kids This year it was a very welcome distraction.)
Working together, so cute!

Charlotte (16) is a great animal herder in the snow and caught the geese so we could shelter them the night it was supposed to drizzle freezing rain. They are really tolerant in the cold though.
When the storm hit Ricky was home from work by 2pm and the kids were thankfully content and easy going while I baked and cooked to my heart’s content. Charlotte kept laundry going so I could stay in the kitchen and I’m happy to report my first ever Salisbury steak attempt went amazingly well.
 Last week my blog also got love bombed! I got so many nice comments and friendly folks wishing Penelope and our family well.  Just look at Penelope in that photo at the very top, does this look like a kid that had surgery a week ago? Yes it does actually ...because kids are full of awesome. (She's the blue-eyed sweet one in all pink.)

Weekend Highlights and Hardships / And Trying to Get Back to Normal
 *Ricky and I smell something burning, we walk into the kitchen and the toaster is smoking like it's on fire. It's not on fire; it's just burning the hell out of some toast. Everett (2) is very close to it and as he yells "FIRE!" at the smoke the toast pops up. My mouth hangs open in disbelief and thankfulness that he wasn’t hurt. Without missing a beat he happily and rather loudly and proudly then exclaims, “TOAST ALL DONE NOW!”

*Everett (2) was on the table naked and he had a piece construction paper between his legs. Try as we might the kid loves streaking and it's hard to keep him off the table which is a whole other separate issue. So he's holding this paper between his legs and I see his penis making contact with the thick paper. I look at him casually and say, "Everett seriously, you're going to hurt your wiener if you don't stop it. Look see it on the paper, paper can cut you." He grins and yells, "YEE-HAW" at the very top of his lungs and trots off down the table riding the paper. Ricky and I can't hold back the laughter. Life can be so crazy, but they are so funny and free spirited.

*Sebastian (4) says: Hypno-potamus instead of hippopotamus. He also still says Dark-Gator for Darth Vader (a long time favorite of ours.) I love the things kids say.

The weekend is a time Ricky and I really look forward to. I get help with the mundane and not-so mundane kid-tasks, Ricky and I get later nights together (if we can manage to stay awake!) and longer mornings to snuggle up (a long morning to us is 20-30 minutes of being awake and snuggling --generally *almost* uninterrupted) before we have to make breakfast, break up a fight, or wipe a butt that isn't our own. Saturday and/or Sunday (but usually one morning more than the other) is a family-filled retreat of a breakfast casserole (made the day before so it just needs baked!), berries, juice and sometimes donuts or homemade coffee cake. Ricky and I take time on the weekend to have coffee together on the front porch or at the kitchen table if it's too cold out. The weekend is also a time we try and sneak in a meal alone; we prepare something for ourselves and quietly eat together before the kids get to. On weekends we don't generally go places, especially in the winter. We try to make time for games, kid-friendly documentaries, have a family movie night and/or living room picnic with the kids, and it's also the main video game time for the kids. Sometimes the weekends are really this nice and sometimes they make us question our very sanity. Last weekend was absolutely crazy.

We are trying to yet again get reorganized after yet another household disruption (Penelope's illness). As I predicted another glitch in our health and routine has shaken the very core of all sanity in our home. The older kids and Aunt Sharon and Grandma, God-bless them, made sure laundry was done and the house was clean before we got home from the hospital so really the hard part was fairly easy -keep it all up while trying to re-establish routine and as we settled into Penelope's medicine routine and home-care. Things went fairly smoothly, but she's been home 12 days and the emotional trauma rears its ugly head over and over again, a little bit for us too.

Penelope has regressed slightly since her hospital trips: clingy, whiny, needy, night waking, crying -no, make that bawling- at the drop of a hat. I expected all of it. I did not expect her pain tolerance (or lack thereof) to be so fragile. She's always been a sensitive kid (neither of my Libra children are very good with pain, in any form at all, is this a Libra trait perhaps!?)

The little kids are being weaned off TV and video games after another stint with 'mom is too busy to notice just how much we are getting away with.' Of course I notice, I just know I'll have to fix it and I wasn't ready yet. I became ready a few days ago. I notice a definite pattern in our lives when it comes to a major disruption (usually the disruption is an illness but it can be a vacation, holiday or new baby). It seems like when I'm busy TV viewing becomes more frequent and I eventually accept it and continue on doing what I need to do, same slip with homeschool. We'll go from school 4-5 days a week to 1-3 days a week. Arts and crafts frequency will slip to very little; soon we are totally out of habit and the only thing that's getting done is laundry and dishes. Unless I'm really-super busy or sick, in that case the laundry starts to pile up for about 4 days. So anyway, slowly things slip and when they do it doesn't take long for chaos to build and build and explode. Little kids get bored and they don't know what to do with themselves after television-zombification occurs. Older kids dodge some chores and homework but still do just enough to pass. Several kids forget simple household routines: like what day trash day is, how to water and feed the chickens or where the dog water bowl is (seriously is it that hard? LOL)! Or, they forget what life was like getting dressed and brushing teeth before 10am. The older kids also tend to stay up later at night, I think because they aren't as tired from structured busier days. The older kids also tend to help me more when the little kids are bored and crazy, so I feel obligated to thank them with later TV nights so they can unwind too. The older kids are awesome.

Slowly I get back into my routine and them back to theirs. I'm the leader of the pack so they follow my cues and vibe whether I crack a whip or not. (Learned this a long time ago, I used to stress out and complain at everyone when we got behind and things got crazy, now I realize I can just chill and relax, everyone will help out and get busy with gentle reminders that it's time we buck up and get back to reality!)

Weaning the younger kids off TV is a little trickier, but seriously it's ONLY four or five days of torture and crying and boredom before they settle into a new routine. I usually spend this time doing a lot of extra stuff with them. Reading, playing, art, Etc. I sit in their room and just talk and play with them for hours and I take them along with me to do chores around the house and bake. Soon the more peaceful (but never fully peaceful of course!) household dynamic is back. Soon my tv watching zombie-kids are used to independent play and structure and circle time again. (Circle time is our pre K and K homeschool time)

So that's kinda-sorta where we are.
To keep busy this week we made these fun things! Link to the Busy Kids Blog and some things we did.

Things have been more stressful for me and Ricky. I can't remember a time we've been this stressed, but I'm sure we have been. We knew my car needed work on it and I told myself I was not going to be surprised when it happened, which is probably abruptly and VERY soon. It's Ricky's car that is acting up first though. I'm still not surprised. So he's taking my car to work. Hospital bills are trickling in and it's stressful to be put so far back from paying off some other debts we thought would be GONE this year, or just to even do home improvements we desperately wanted to do. We checked on Ricky's student loans in the midst of all this, to assess the whole situation, which was a depressing mistake. This is real life though and not surprising. Two steps forward, one step back. Three steps forward, two steps back. And repeat after me: LIFE. We are using this opportunity to teach the kids that life is not always fair and balanced, so try not to be too surprised when things crumble and money is hard. It's life. Half our tax return paid for our winter heat, animals we had butchered in the fall and some other car repairs we had done last year instead of a family vacation or new to us car/van. Thank God we find a way though. Thank God we do it with a smile...mostly. We have income, we have a house, we have each other...and we try to let that be our focus.

Last weekend everything was coming to ahead and things got particularly stressful and annoying when the younger kids ran around the house like insane people. Also, Penelope needed help walking (being carried everywhere) yet again because of a seriously sore knee, and then her elbow hurt. (Her joints it seems are problems for now - considering Juvenile Arthritis. This kiddo is in “pain” so often. But pain is a relative term. How much pain is she actually in? She exaggerates and also is super sensitive. Nothing to freak out about yet but come on when is this kid going to stop having weird aches each day? It's wearing on us big time. So far the Dr. says no signs of arthritis.)
 Since I/we have been waking at night to administer meds every six hours I think I reached a breaking point on Saturday. I could feel it building. I felt exhausted, but okay, but as time wore on I felt fragile. I realized at some point I haven't had a full night sleep in a very long time. After weaning Everett in December he had *just* started sleeping without waking up and needing to be rocked back asleep when Penelope started having health issues. Life is a balance like that. One kid got easy while another got hard.

Saturday was a roller-coaster ride of insane kids and mood shifting parents. One minute I'd be stressed about money and the car and the next Ricky would. We balance each other like this. We hate seeing each other stressed or upset, so we will go out of our way to make the other one feel better. The day was wearing thin on us though. We had fun laughing at the kids for part of it and cringing at other times. Eventually Everett was throwing toys at me in the kitchen during a toddler fit and I was trying to make something for lunch and help Penelope (who couldn't walk for some unknown hurt knee reason). At the same time Sebastian was running through the house and Ricky was bringing up old clunker computers from the basement. I eventually snapped at Ricky that I didn't want the computers upstairs and that I was trying to get the kids away from the screens not get more of them, and then for an hour we were both miserably hurt by each other because I was mean and he was mean and then it turned into something about some clothes in the bedroom. His work clothes were a mess and taking over our closest and some were piled on our dresser, and while I really don't mind tidying them up it had been two weeks, and I realized all at once while dodging a toddler throwing a block at my head that I frigging just wasn't going to get to it, like ever. I lashed out about it totally randomly and snapped, "I always do _____" and he asked why it wasn't done then. And that is how fast a fight can start, except thankfully we don't really fight. We get mad or overwhelmed about something and say a few words and usually then we both just shut-up and our feelings just get hurt. I rarely cry but I did. I did the sad go-to-the-bathroom-and-hide pregnant women's 'ohhhh life is so hard' cry. He moved some clothes upstairs to our storage closet and hung up stuff that he hadn't worn but had down from the previous week. I folded clothes Charlotte washed for me and cleaned the bathroom while mascara streamed down my face. He very soon told me he was sorry he made me cry. I thanked him and said that I was sorry for my part too. And then it was over and nothing else mattered and no one was hurt. (But I cried when I saw the trashed basement later that day! lol)
 We don't play the blame game, I tried that early on in our marriage and he jarred me right out of it. I love to vent and I automatically seem to retort to blame and anger. At first this was my "language" but shortly after we were married I found his love for me ran far too deep for me to fight with him from a place of blame or anger. I thankfully realized long ago by the things he said and the way he treated me that if I was worthy of his love and honor I better act like it. I had no idea I was lacking at compromise until he pointed it out. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. This is what honoring each other means -putting the other first. Duh.
Soon I'd do anything to make him feel better and he'd do anything to make me feel better and the outcome we both wanted no matter what was/is to just love each other. I found that happiness, affection and love automatically followed without any effort when we just simply *honored* each other.

I emailed him a couple days later:
I read this and thought of when you apologized for 'making me cry' last weekend.
Honor your wife more than yourself.
Love your wife more than yourself.
Do not let her shed a tear.

Thank you for noticing my feelings and thank you for valuing them like you do. I'm sorry again that we fought and I'm sorry for my part in it, but that's all over now. What I remember is not what happened or what I felt or what we said, but how you cared about me and never want me to cry. It's not just about saying you were sorry, anyone can do that, it was how you said it. I Love You.

And here is another quote I love and live by :)
'Make your husband your hero, your home your palace, and your children your priority." -Jerry Ross


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