A Giant Died Today

I am sure the thud was heard near and far as a Giant died today. The deep chasm in our hearts has left an imprint so large that I am quite sure it will never be completely filled. 
My Dad- strong, large and in charge, brilliant, generous, loving , tenderhearted, a man’s man, lover of God, his family and his country, left us today to be with his Creator, our great God.
He had one of the brightest minds I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I could list his accolades -too numerous to count-from his years serving our country in both the military and as a civil servant, but I won’t. Because his crowning achievement was the way he loved his family and the people around him.
He and my mother Phyllis shared a life together for over 62 years, married almost 59 of their journey together. And that is how they lived- together. Supporting one another’s careers, hobbies and interest. They were a smashing couple. Stepping out the door to go to a dance in tuxedo and ball gown, bowling strikes together at the bowling alley, waiting all over the country for the announcer to say, “Gentleman, start your engines”, laughing as they played card games with friends and family, shopping for Beanie Babies and glass slippers, traveling the world-they lived and loved having a full life together.
My sister Diane and I can attest to the fact that he was a Papa Bear. We, along with my mother, were the “darlings of his heart.” There was not a day in our lives, he would not have moved mountains for us. And honestly, there were many times, he did. He was strong and loving, teaching us the meaning of unconditional love. We certainly could illicit out of him a ” for crying out loud!” response sometimes, but a “you okay little girl?” far outweighed those moments. And being a father didn’t just extend to his girls. His heart was large enough to make his son-in-laws feel respected, admired and loved. 
His twelve grandchildren and eight great grandchildren were “the apples of his eyes.” Whether taking them to a NASCAR race, playing “booger your neighbor” and other games, watching a favorite tv show together, calling one of the grandsons “Roy” when they were little, feeding them too much candy, tickling enormous giggles out of them, or listening to the latest events of their lives- he was active, present and there for them.
Friends- who were many, and family alike, could affirm the hospitable nature of my mom and dad. My mom may have made the dinner, but my dad served up the jokes. And he never disappointed. He could tell a story that left most grown men in the room crying tears of laughter and quite frankly, women running to the bathroom to see if they had peed their pants. 
For everyone- he always had a listening ear, solid and loving advice, a shoulder to cry on, a dollar to spare, and a chair to sit beside you. 
Many would describe him as tough as nails, but in the same breath they would speak of his kindness and fair approach. He was a lion and a lamb.
John Greene was a child of God, a Boy Scout leader, a military soldier, a WRM Logistical Manager, a lover of John Wayne and westerns, a devoted Steelers fan, a dancer, a bowler, a singer with a rich baritone, a fan of country music- old style the likes of Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash , a NASCAR fan, a deer hunter, a friend, a storyteller, a brother, a son, a beloved uncle, a true gem, a charmer, a lover to my mother, a husband, a father, and a Pap. He lived a life full of adventures and has left a legacy that will carry on in those who loved him and knew him. 
He will be missed. His memory will be cherished. And most of all, he was greatly loved.

 

“A heart is not measured by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

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My Dogs are Multilingual

My dogs must be geniuses. My theory is my dogs speak, well understand, many languages. This truth or at least my version of the truth, occurred to me today while I was trying to coax them inside during a particularly cold spell here in “sunny” Ohio.
Facing the elements to beckon in a dog is no small feat. It really is a an act of balance. Trying to figure out just the right amount of your body you have to stick outside so they see you and know you come in peace. My dogs are spoiled, er, I meant well-loved. There are two in particular who do not come right away when called. And there is one tiny, white, alpha dog who shall remain nameless, that completely ignores any pleas to come in. So we have often resorted to bribery, uh , I mean treats.
As we were gathering said treat, I remarked to my number 5 son, ” Dogs must speak or understand all languages. I am surprised I never realized this before today. Because if our dogs were in Portugal or Italy or Kenya, they would understand their owners commands in Portuguese, Italian or Swahili.”
So I tried out my theory with a little Spanish. I took Latin in high school, and while it is an intriguing language- it’s a dead language. I thought a phrase in Latin might be setting the bar too high, even for my little Einsteins.
So, with my head out the door, my right leg firmly planted on the backyard patio, the other in the air behind me like a prima ballerina, I waved my right arm with a tasty treat in my hand in the air with a lively motion. This is not a new trick on my part, but what I said absolutely was a first for them and me.
Okay, so it took me awhile to google the phrase I wanted and my furry beast lived on in the wild Arctic tundra of our backyard a bit longer, but this is what I said. ” Perrito, veni, TRATAR!” I think loosely translated it means “Puppy, come, treat!”
And voila, like the intellectual creatures I knew they had the capability of being, they came running!
After several leaps in the air on my part, not the dogs, I declared, ” They understand other languages, they other stand other languages!” 
“Mom”, number 5 son matter of factly  said, ” I think it is just the way you are making your voice sound.” 
“You mean, the inflection?” 
With maybe an eye roll , he replied, “Yes, you are making it sing songy at the end, like you always do.”
With righteous indignation, ” No, I don’t thinks so. I think they understood me. They came running. I know they understood me.”
So that’s my story and I am sticking to it. My dogs are multilingual.

An Open Letter to Flag Burners

imageAn Open Letter to the Flag Burners

Let me first say I am a true believer in free speech.  Anyone who knows me well would wholeheartedly agree. I enjoy the freedom of healthy debate and discussion. So if far more learned men and women have ruled that abusing our country’s flag is a constitutional right, then so be it. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I’m going to ask those of you out there burning it, not raising it, defiling it- to stop. And now said in my strongest, fiercest, firmest Momma voice,”STOP IT NOW!”

As I am writing this I have spent hours on and off consoling my youngest child. She is sweet and tenderhearted. Her blue eyes with insanely long lashes are swollen from tears that have flowed down past her round cheeks and soaked the collar of her pink pajama shirt. Her blond hair that frames the curve of her face doesn’t shine tonight; it’s dark and damp from the love that swelled up from her heart and poured out through her eyes.

Why is she crying? What could bring such distress to one so young and carefree?

Her sister’s leave has ended and she heads off tomorrow to her next assignment. My little one thinks her big sister has hung the moon. She admires her big sister. She is devoted to her big sister. She LOVES her big sister. And at the ripe old age of seven, she is beginning to understand what sacrifice means. She knows that her sister has made a commitment to defend our country.

The flag is not just an archaic symbol made out of red, white and blue materials. It is the worldwide recognized emblem, the visual embodiment of being The United States of America. Sure I could try reminding you countless men and women have died defending our country, so you have the freedom to burn Old Glory, but I don’t think that matters to you. I honestly can’t wrap my brain around what sense of satisfaction desecrating our flag brings you.

I’m not going to call you names or hurl insults at you. I’m just going to ask you to please stop. I’m sorry you feel so angry, misunderstood and frightened that you feel the need to have, well, what appears to be an adult tantrum. Clearly life has brought you to a point of very little hope in holding onto the belief that we are a country united. But make no mistake we are the United States of America. I’m proud to be an American. Not a hyphenated American; let’s throw out the hyphen and just be Americans. When I stand in awe of the Stars and Stripes blowing in the wind, I’m not a conservative, democrat, independent or libertarian, I’m an American.

Let’s remember men have placed our flag on the moon. It’s been placed in far-reaching lands in battles. Loved ones have draped it on the coffins of their dearly departed. Our flag is a reminder that we live in a country where you do have the FREEDOM to burn a flag and NOT be arrested and killed. So don’t abuse your freedom. Have your different opinions, raise your fist in white-knuckled protest. Be angry. Just don’t incinerate our flag.

There is a younger generation watching. There is a blond-haired, blue-eyed child with pride in her heart- for now, but that could change, because she’s watching. She’s part of the generation who will one day be making and upholding the laws, fighting the wars, defending our Constitution and country when you are too old and possibly feeble to even muster up the energy to strike a match. And YOU owe it to her. She deserves to live in our great country where her liberties can be exercised. And you will want her to care about America and your freedoms, and to understand what all of that means. Burning our flag will not teach her anything except anarchy. She will need to respect our flag that encompasses all America represents. But understand respect is learned, it’s instilled and it’s earned.

Remember you stand under an invisible cloak of red, white and blue that you can’t burn away; it was fabricated under the sacrifice of men and women of many different nationalities of origin, political beliefs and socioeconomic backgrounds who at the end of the day are proud to be called Americans.

Reeses Christmas Trees

I know our world and especially social media is full of debates right now. There is never a shortage of opportunities to read people’s opinions, to witness tempers flair and unfortunately much of the time just being generally disgusted by the lack of compassion and courtesy out there.
But I have good news.
I have found a topic that really has no room for debate.
The peanut butter wrapped in scrumptious milk chocolate that is currently being called a Reeses Christmas Tree. 
I guess there was a major brouhaha a few weeks ago about the candy not really looking like a Christmas tree. It was such a HUGE deal that the company who manufactures the treat came out with an ad campaign that was proclaiming “all trees are beautiful” and “we celebrate trees in all shapes and sizes”.
So I just had to know for myself. I purchased a bag, brought it home and opened it to share with my family. Everyone had a thought or two about the treat. Aside from it being delicious, I think Caleb summed it up best, “It looks like a log of poop, but it sure does taste good.”
So I have good news friends, a topic with no real debate. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and we may all have our own idea of art, but I think the candy factory mold was broken this year.
So give the company an A for effort on spin control, an A for tickling our holiday taste buds, but an F for tree making.
Here’s a picture for you. Don’t be the judge on this one, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the fact that this controversy is resolved.

  

A Real Day in the Life of a Large Family Mom

A few moments ago, my six-year old was burping repeatedly and loudly after finishing her last bite of cookie from an impromptu tea party with her siblings. I stopped long enough to shove in the mandatory three cookie minimum. My 17 year old was repeatedly tapping my foot under the table with her shoe clobbering my brand new, first- time worn, gray suede, low-cut boots that were helping me hold on to the last shred of feeling like a hot, groovy Momma in my mind. My 23 year old was spontaneously singing the cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Sleeping at Last. I was trying to read a blog post aloud by another mom of a large family explaining why moms with large families never share what it is really like to have a large family.
I felt inspired to write my own blog post about the topic. So here I am with my fingers typing away while my six-year old is melting down and being far to hard on herself as she constructs paper snowflakes for the front window. Don’t worry we have offered numerous times to help her. She is having none of it. The same two previously mentioned children are singing loudly to other select cover songs they choose as they click their iPods back and forth, back and forth. My 20 year old just flew out the door to rock climb. My 10 year old son left the tea party with cookie crumbs on his face which I am sure I may find later on his shirt sleeve to join his 12 year old brother who is recovering from a night of vomiting while still feeling chilled, feverish, coughing, stuffy and just in general miserable. That’s just the ones that are living here.
I spoke last night during dinner to my 24 year old son who is a new dad. Our dinnertime is when it works for him right now.  He calls while driving home from work so when he gets home he can give his attention to his own family. Time was spent both last night and today on the phone with the lets call him 28 year old son ( his birthday is in a few days) coordinating plans for his family’s stateside visit for the first time in three years. And my 26 year old called about the dentist and to get dates to ask off from work for his brother’s visit. Of course, my adorable baby-making husband called somewhere in the middle of all of this chaos to chat and share a friendly hello and a grumble from his work day. Some of you may be envisioning me complete with air traffic control headset saying to yourselves, “Houston, we have a problem.” But here is the thing…
I. Wouldn’t. Change. A. Minute. Of. It
Sure, I don’t usually dissect or describe my day to the degree I just did. For one, it is simply just my incredibly, wonderful day in the life. Secondly, maybe if I did, I would become like an Eeyore or allow myself to constantly be overwhelmed in the constant stimulation of my life.
Most of you do not often hear me complain about the intricate balance of being a mom to a large family. And you probably won’t. Sometimes we large family moms feel like we aren’t allowed to share the difficult days. And so often, when we do open up our hearts, we are either greeted with comments of ” Well if you didn’t have so many children…” or “Oh thank God you aren’t really superwoman-you’re human.” Of course I’m human and if you ever did see me with a cape on, it would only be because I was trying to hide under it or because my dental bib had shifted to my back and was flapping in the wind as I escaped the chair of doom in panic ( but that’s a story for another post).
On the flip side, when we share our triumphs, we have to be VERY careful. Let me say this clearly- it is never the desire of a large family mom to make another mom feel inferior or less than. No one is trying to look like we have it all together. But seriously, it does take a tremendous amount of emotional, physical and financial energy to be a mom. And we come in all shapes and sizes as moms to kids in all shapes and sizes with all different kinds of needs and demands. It’s apples and oranges folks. So why are we constantly playing the comparison game?
Sure I like to think I am a fun, cool, hip, patient, loving mother. And I am pretty sure I am- let’s just go with that definition. But I am not perfect- I am human. I take great comfort in being perfectly imperfect while resting in the only Perfect One who created me.
So let’s just all celebrate one another in whatever stage or season of motherhood we find ourselves. Let’s commit to breathe words of encouragement into one another’s lives. Let’s be glad for our triumphs, laugh at our messes, and cry for our sorrows and defeats- together. Friends, let’s be gracious.
Well, I just got my cue to go. One teenager, not the sick one, is yelling down the stairs, ” The Tylenol are not there.” And I shouted back, “Oh my God ( yep, that’s what I said) if I have to come up there. They are exactly where I said they are in the clear box on top of my little bookshelf in my room!” To which she replied, “Oh there.”

Plus the dog is now eating the paper snowflakes.
To all you moms, I salute you, we are in this together!

Lydia’s snowflakes she made on her own.

Sex with teenagers in the house

I have had a lot of people ask me the personal question, “How do you have sex with teenagers in the house?” I really don’t mind the question and it always brings a smile to my face. It warms my heart that others see my husband David and I as a couple that is still intimate. And with your teens, I think that is where it begins: the appearance of intimacy.

David and I hold hands everywhere we go. We sit on the couch together, right next to each other. We turn on a favorite song and slow dance or take advantage of a melody Lilly plays on the piano. We spontaneously kiss as I do the dishes or David is doing a project. We whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears and giggle, loudly sometimes. We let the children know it is okay for us to have inside jokes. We spend time each day after David has greeted the family, just the two of us chatting, letting the children know our relationship is important. We aren’t trying to gross them out, but we are okay with them understanding, we are attracted to one another and we were made to be sexual human beings. We both grew up with parents modeling they were in love which has helped us immensely with our own family.

In our house, with the ages of our children living at home ranging from 4-23, there is almost always someone up until the wee hours of the morning and then again at the crack of dawn-usually different children-but they are always up! So waiting to spend time with my husband until everyone is tucked in bed is not an option.

If you read my earlier post on special dates ( https://lifefullyloaded.com/2013/05/21/make-it-special/ ) then you already know we spend a weekend discussing sexuality with our children when they turn 13. So opening the door to healthy dialogue and questions, along with an understanding that we view sex as a very good thing- HELPS! An experience happened about four years ago that paved the way for a more relaxed approach to intimacy in our house.

All of our children were home, including our now daughter-in-law. The littles were in bed and all of the older children, ages 14 and up, were waiting to watch a movie. I said I was going to go “tuck their Dad in bed [I am a night owl, he is not] and visit with him a little and maybe join them later.” David and I were “visiting” and Lilly came to see if we had the VCR remote. She didn’t knock and even though the door was locked, her forceful knock and push of the knob elicited a loud and forceful shriek with a “Don’t come in here!” A bit later in the evening I decided to venture downstairs and join them. They were well into their movie and as I snuggled down in my chair, fits and starts of giggles erupted. “What? What’s so funny?” I inquired. Giggle, giggle, laughter everywhere, followed in unison by simultaneous mockery from various children. “What? What? ‘Oh, oh, don’t come in here. Step away from the door. Don’t come in here.’ We know what you were doing.” Ha ha ha ha ha! Or at least they were amused! 😊

So we decided to just go with it. Laughter seemed to be good medicine for the situation. We sleep with our door open, so now if one of my big kids is moseying by our room and the door is shut, they know not to knock unless there is trauma or fire. They understand if the door is shut, we are having private time. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are being intimate, but it does mean we are carving out our alone time.
Some of you may be thinking, oh, but I would still be too self-conscious. Turn on Pandora, a CD, the radio, a white noise machine. If it is getting late, I also am not afraid to say to my older children, Dad and I could really use some alone time, stay off the second floor (we have a three story house and the big kids’ rooms are not on our floor) for the next hour. I think establishing you are a couple and your relationship has important needs that require attention is vital in the life of a family.
Now, we do get a chuckle because sometimes when we are already in bed, reading and chatting, occasionally one of the bigger kids will walk by and say, “Would you like me to shut the door for you?” 😜

Note: This was written almost three years ago and never posted. The children are now almost 7-28. We are in a different house now with the sleeping quarters all on the same level, but it still has three floors. I would say I still find this post to be true, but I would add one other “suggestion”. Take advantage of teenage or adult drivers. Recently when Grace was home for a visit and almost everyone else was at their Saturday morning martial arts class, we spontaneously arranged an early lunch date for Grace and her youngest sister Lydia. Grace didn’t mind and I figure we will readily be babysitting her future little bambinos some day. And when that day comes, we don’t need to know whether they are doing their taxes or taking quality time for one another- though I recommend the latter 😉

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Mondays are long days for our household. Mondays are good days-fun days, but long days. We are members of a local homeschool co-op that meets on Mondays and takes up most of our day. Our evening is full of one activity or another for several members of our family.
I allowed myself to sit for a short time on the love seat in our kitchen before I accepted a simple everyday fact- yes, these people really do need to eat (again) and I probably should feed them. I sat just long enough to feel my hips stiffen and my knees ache. We had decided on boxed organic chicken noodle soup and drop biscuits for dinner. A simple meal.  Lydia and I took on the role of biscuit makers. After we made our buttermilk substitute we mixed the remaining ingredients. My oven reminded me for the umpteenth time this week that it was long overdue for a cleaning, as I stood fanning the smoke detector to appease the head-splitting beep. All three dogs chose to hide under my legs each time the box on the wall screeched.
As the soup began to steam and the cheese bubbled on the biscuits, I had many hands wanting to help and make our workload lighter. I wasn’t sure I wanted help. The extra patience to make sure this one didn’t get burned on a cookie sheet and that one on dripping hot liquid was a virtue I had to dig deep in the moment to find. I was hot and tired. I was weary from our pace of life, but it took me more than a minute to realize I was hot because I stood over the open flame of the burner, forgetting to turn it off as I lifted the pot to pour.
The song, ” Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?” played in the background. We had one of those TV commercial moments where everyone was singing as we ladled the soup and placed our nourishment on the table. We were in sync. Singing and dancing rejuvenated us all.
As the music faded and we bowed our heads, all I could think was, “Thank you God for giving me many somebodies to love.”