Kids, Life

Keeping My Body Limber

I realized today that I need to keep my body limber if for no other reason than the dog and my five year old. We recently purchased a home and we are in the middle of not only getting out of the old one, but trying to settle into the new one. It has been a long and exhausting process but we are joy-filled and very grateful.

My husband and I have been sleeping in the basement while we are painting our bedroom. Each morning I find our Lydia has shifted from her pallet ( so she can be near us -after all, as she reminds us ” she can’t see through floors from her room”. I guess that means on the same floor her x-ray vision is in place through walls, she says tongue in cheek ) to the futon with me. Each day our beloved family golden doodle, Lexie, has inched closer and closer to sleeping on the floor by the futon. I was plotting out my escape route amidst boxes, bookcases, human and fur when I gave up and decided to just write a post.

So in addition to working on my mad cat-like skills, I need to remember tomorrow, if I feel wet, sloppy kisses in the morning, it’s probably the dog inching even closer.

Kids, Life

The Smile Behind The Tree

Time flies by. We all know it. We all say it, but so often we don’t stop and really appreciate it -time.

With having children ranging in age from almost 5 to almost 26, I get a glimpse of different ages and stages every day. But oh one of my favorite things in life, the most precious moments, is when I get a glimpse of the little person in my grown child.

Over the weekend, Grace, now 21, became tickled with a story she was telling and as she began to giggle, she brought her hand to her mouth, cut her eyes to the side, crunched her head down low between her shoulders held high and in a split second, there she was – my little princess with her white dress with the silver lining trim and her princess crown on top of her head, giggling as she told me a story about her day. I could even see the dated wallpaper behind her head that really needed to be peeled and scraped and replaced with fresh paint, a new look. They grow so fast and for just a moment she was five again.

Later, I picked Lilly up from a meeting at college. She was waiting just past the stop sign like she always does, tucked behind the bush. As I came down the hill, I could see the top of her head and her eyes peaking over the shrub, but I could already tell there was a playful smile attached to the bottom of the face that held the head full of wild, beautiful hair. Something about the look on her face transported me back to preschool days. As I would pick her up, some days she would pop out from behind a tree on the playground, wild mane revealing her spot just seconds before her playful eyes and then her “I’m not up to anything smile” would not be too far behind. But then I blink and realize she’s really 18.

I know it sounds kind of cheesy or something like the scene from Father of the Bride when Steve Martin’s character watched his daughter grow before his eyes while playing basketball with him, but it was wonderful.

It’s such a privilege to watch as our children grow and experience different seasons, but oh how special to catch glimpses of the little person they were as they grow into the person they were meant to be. I pray I always remember to not let life move so fast, that I don’t miss the smile behind the tree.

Kids, Life

Bella is leaving the hospital! Yippee!

I am so happy to share with all of you that Bella is leaving the hospital! She has been fever free for 48 hours and is being released. We are so thankful for her healing and for all of your faithful prayers and concern. Please continue to keep their family in your prayers as they have a few other medical things to attend to before they fly back to their home in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

We are so glad our sweet Bella is feeling better!

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Kids, Life

Please keep the prayers coming for Bella

Thank you everyone who continues to pray and be concerned for our sweet Bella and our family. Bella has had some improvement in that she is eating again and she feels like playing. She has always been protective of her “baby sissy” Emma, even on the days she has felt terrible.

On the medical front, her urine has cleared for signs of the bacteria that has caused the UTI. That is great news and a huge praise! However she continues to have fever, it spiked again this morning :-/. The doctors will be running more tests tomorrow to try and determine the origin of her fever and to piece together all of her lab results.

We covet your prayers!

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Kids, Life

Please Pray for Bella

Please pray for my sweet, rambunctious, full of life granddaughter, Bella. She is in the hospital in Thailand, and is very sick. The whole family came down with a flu-like virus but Bella didn’t seem to shake it. They had gone to the doctor and four days later when she was still running a fever of 102, she was admitted to the hospital for testing. We are on day five of 104 degree temperatures now. She has a UTI that has entered her blood stream. The doctors are running more test and searching for more effective antibiotics.

This is hard being so far away and wanting to nurture and encourage them. I wanted to sink down into my chair and wallow, but decided against it. I decided to do something normal, so I shaved my legs and took the kids to the park- to breathe in the fresh air and sunshine, to pray and to be grateful for Bella and every moment we all have to cherish life.

Please pray for Bella! Pray for her healing and that she will be our climbing little “monkey” soon. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors. Also please pray for Philip, Ashleigh and baby Emma.

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Kids, Life

In Sorrow We Find The Laughter And Memory of A Wonder Years Moment- ( for Julie)

My heart is heavy today for a wonderful friend who’s son, Daniel, has passed away. I spent late last night and today walking down memory lane and recalling so many fun and fond memories of my big boys ( as I call them), along with other neighborhood playmates.

My family was blessed to live for an incredible season in the Bon Air section of Richmond, Va. for nine wonderful years. We belonged to a great neighborhood association and pool called Brighton Green. I think everybody who knows this “season of life” I speak of would agree it was magical. Our families, parents and children alike, we ate together, we swam together, we educated together, we laughed together, we “partied” together and we wept together. Love , support and encouragement were the theme of our lives and it wasn’t just lip service, it was lived out.

When I heard of Daniel’s passing, I immediately thought of his slightly crooked smile and his eyes that danced when his lips turned upward. I then remembered the “Wonder Years” moment. My dear friend Mariann lived up the hill behind the pool and we were all ready for a break from the sun. We collected our children along with several other neighborhood kids and we crossed over the small bridge above the creek, walked up the steep grass and entered through her screened-in-porch door. The boys were sent to the basement to play, my older girls to the den to watch tv with a snack and Mariann and I settled down to a glass of lemonade.

It wasn’t too long before baby Phoebe wanted to eat. My bathing suit was hot and sticky and it was awkward to nurse her, so I quickly agreed to Mariann’s suggestion of just pull the top all the way down. So there I sat, Phoebe contentedly nursing, me no longer dripping in sweat from wrestling her, and my top-half exposed back to the day before man and woman wore clothes. It was a perfect plan, great friends lost in conversation, sipping tasty lemonade- a perfect plan until the basement door opened.

I am sure the boys came up for something that day but for what we will never know. One by one they filed through the kitchen,mouth open, blank face with a dazed look in their eyes as they passed me and very quickly filed out the front door. It all happened so fast. I sat equally in shock as I thought of how I had just exposed myself to these preteen fellows and would now need to tell their mothers.

Mariann broke the ice, she exclaimed, ” Well if that wasn’t just an episode of the television show The Wonder Years. I can picture it now. One of the boys are the narrator and he says, I remember the time I saw my first breast. It was a hot summer day and Mrs. Irwin…” We laughed in fits and giggles for hours over that scene and we still giggle to this day. All of the moms were gracious about it and laughed right along with us. Such good times- boys being boys, water gun fights, creek digging for tadpoles, swimming pool games and coming of age stories.

I sit here with a grin as the tears stream down my face, embracing the sorrow for this world’s loss but reaching for the memory of laughter as I recall a sweet boy’s face.

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Kids, Life

Momma I have good words to say

I was running a few morning errands- picking Caleb up from tennis, taking Lilly to work and stopping by the bank. Lydia spent most of our drive trying to decide if she was really ready to wake up and greet the day. We were almost home and I heard this sweet, small voice say, ” Momma, I have good words to say.”She proceeded to inform me she had found Hello Kitty’s dad. Honestly I was not completely sure what exactly this meant, except that it involved her new squinkie toys and brought her joy.

My heart of course immediately melted at her precious phrasing of her good fortune and then I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I thought of news I had to share as “good words”. I mean what if I viewed slicing the watermelon not as a chore, but found the “good words” in not only each slice my knife created, but the vision of happy faces with dripping watermelon juice smiles. What if the hunt for missing keys, purses, important papers brought thoughts of “good words” upon finally being found instead of exasperated relief, frustrated words and inappropriate #%%# exclamations!

I want my days and my life to be filled with my own “good words” as well as the conversations of the people I am surrounded by in life. So for today, at this moment, I share I have beautiful grandbabies and though I can’t touch them as they are far away, I get to see and talk to them often through modern technology. I cut a watermelon that brought big juicy grins all around. I have a healthy body and working van to run my errands. I have progressive lenses to give me clear vision and write this post. I can hear the hum of the neighbors’ lawn mower and be grateful I have a husband who is able and willing to mow our rain-soaked tall growing grass later. Yes, I like having”good words” for the most simple and mundane tasks in my beautiful day ahead.

What are the ” good words” you are using today?

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Kids, Life

Advice for the graduates

My Lilly graduated this weekend. I could wax eloquently about how proud we are of her (we are), how her future is bright (it is), how she was first in her class (we homeschool) and that she has her whole life ahead of her (she does), but what I really want to tell her and her graduating peers is not just platitudes of conquering the world, but some of the truth in those wisdom-giving sayings, as well as a few other thoughts.

* So the saying taken from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor is “the world is your oyster.” Let’s throw out the original violent context from the play and we have a saying ripe with the encouragement that you can make your life anything. Go out there and grab your oyster; after all, oysters have pearls, and so you have riches out there that await you. If you grew up around water like I did and you ever went clamming or looking for oysters in a seashore tidal pool, then you know it is a process and can be hard work. So just remember, Graduates, finding that oyster can take hard work and you most often cannot just stop at one. Life is typically a series of oysters and you have to work. And you can’t just stop at finding one oyster and letting it sit; remember, seafood will stink after a few days.

* Soap operas, TV shows and movies do not depict real life. Sure there may be emotions, themes or an essence about the show we can relate too, but they are larger-than-life caricatures of people. Please don’t go through life expecting everything to work out like a two-hour movie with a neat and tidy ending. Life is great and marvelous, but if you stack your boyfriend/girlfriend, job and social outings up against your favorite show, you will be disappointed. Don’t do it.

* Forest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you are going to get,” is true. When I graduated high school, if you had told me I would move 15 times in 25 years of marriage, birth nine children and be a homeschool mom, I would have laughed at you right along with ALL my classmates. But oh what an adventure it has been and a charmed life too amidst the moments of heartache and sorrow. But those were only moments. So be fluid. Let’s define fluid – a substance that has no fixed shape and yields easily to external pressure. Be willing to be fluid and go with the flow.

* Remember to not take yourself or the moment you find yourself in too seriously. Remember it will pass. You may not have a choice in your circumstances or it may feel that way, but both your feelings and the moment really are going to pass.

* “You’re on top of the world” or “at the top of your game.” What do those sayings really mean? If you live your life feeling like you have climbed some mountain peak and the rest is downhill after that one job, one experience or one moment, you will live a life of discontent. You will find yourself undervaluing or under-appreciating precious, sweet moments in your life. Yes, there will be once-in-a-lifetime experiences but don’t live your life longing for them and wasting your days seeking them out; sometimes they just find you. In the quiet, subtle living of day-to-day there are many moments of beauty to be found.

* “Bloom where you are planted.” Your life may take you many far-off places or you may spend all your days in your hometown , but choose to bloom. Just as a flower needs water and nutrients to grow, tend the garden of your life.

* Be unique. Don’t worry about being one of the crowd, but do remember in the crowd there are friends to be made and memories to make. Don’t try to go at this life alone.

* Speaking of alone, cling to your faith. As a Christian, I would tell you, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) If you do that you really can’t go wrong. It doesn’t mean life will always be “a piece of cake,” but it will just be easier.

And a small final piece of advice from the movie Finding Nemo: when you don’t know what else to do, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

It’s a grand world out there – enjoy it!

Oh and eating an organic apple a day, drinking plenty of water and exercise each day can go a long way too! 😉

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Kids, Life

Make It Special

My daughter Lilly recently turned 18 and this past week my husband took her out for her birthday present. After I shared the evening’s events with a friend, she encouraged me to write a post about special dates with our children. I should first tell you I am both a tour guide and an event planner at heart. It doesn’t even have to be a day or an event I am participating in – I am more than happy to plot out how a friend or family member should spend their money for a fabulous day. I should also tell you I am a big believer in no matter how large or small the size of the family, it is imperative for children to have quality one-on one-time with their parents. It doesn’t have to be weekly or even monthly, but it does need to be regular and it does need to happen. I also believe that sacrifice and careful financial planning should occur so plans are executed and memories are made.

Her birthday celebration night they travelled to Columbus, Ohio about two hours away. Lilly is going to a culinary school next year, so I searched for a restaurant that would offer a dining experience within blocks of the theater. I chose an upscale, open-air Italian grill. I made sure the food would be eclectic and exciting and the meal would be leisurely. I wanted to help create an atmosphere for them with good food and great conversation starters. Palates satisfied, they then ventured on to The Ohio Theatre to see the musical, Les Miserables. They sang and chatted the whole way home and arrived in the wee hours of the morning to exclaim “it was a night they would never forget!”

In our large family, with financial resources being a consideration, we have special milestones our children can look forward to, and we also have the “let’s go do something just because you are special” dates. These special dates don’t have to break the bank. One of my son James’ favorite dates was when he and I took homemade muffins and fruit with cocoa in a canister and spread out a blanket near the fence of a farm and chatted as we watched the sun rise higher and the horses gallop to and fro. Picnics in scenic locations have always been a favorite of all our children. Ice cream and a walk- times are hard? Make your cone at home and walk the neighborhood. A visit to the local playground to watch your special date’s unique tricks of the playground trade. A browsing trip to their favorite comic book, Lego or clothing store. Sometimes one of us takes the rest of the children out for a walk or to the playground so the other can build a model or bake a special treat with our special date at home. Occasionally the special date is a can’t-wait movie, cheap theater or orchestra tickets (cheap being the operative word), a trip to the free art museum, an exhibit at a local museum or $5 baseball seats to see The Big Red Machine.

Our milestone dates occur at age 13, 18 and after graduation. At age 13, the same-sex spouse takes the birthday child away for a night and two full days to go through Family Life’s Passport to Purity. For one child, the date was Great Wolf Lodge, another a special hotel with amenities and pottery painting. We try to cater to their interests and the idea is for fun, fun, fun in between session times. After all, we are talking about S-E-X with them, YUCK! :-). We end the getaway by meeting the other spouse at The Melting Pot for an evening of hours of conversation and the presentation of the birthday gift.
It takes five more years to save 🙂 so at 18 we try to make the gift a special day or event. After they graduate, we take the graduate away before college for a weekend, whether they are really leaving home or not. For the first four, it was trips with the same-sex parent. For the three boys, one went camping, one went camping and canoeing down the river, and one went to Washington D.C. for tours of all the museums. For Grace, girl weekend at the beach, need I say more! ;-). This year we have changed the rules for the next five and we are both going to go. Sometime in June, the three of us will head to the beach in Michigan to celebrate Lilly’s accomplishments and entry into formal adulthood.

When planning these events I always try to think of each child’s unique personality. If I am planning for my husband and one of our children, I try to make it as stress-free as possible. After all this isn’t a test to see if he is a party planner; it’s a chance for quality time. So for example on the birthday trip, I called ahead about parking for the restaurant and theater, printed parking garage maps, and spoke with restaurant personnel for the timing of their arrival to guarantee good service and a non-rushed dinner. I tried to be a helper to David and think of things in advance that could cause the normal frustrations for a person in an unfamiliar city. Part of the good-time guarantee is the thoughtful planning ahead.
I would love to hear (and I am sure other readers would also) your date ideas and special occasion ideas with your children.

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David and I celebrating with Phoebe her 13th birthday dinner at The Melting Pot

Kids, Life

Sometimes kids are just going to cry

As I sat on the front porch this afternoon with my crying four-year-old, I was reminded that sometimes kids are just going to cry. She was upset first because she couldn’t watch her TV show, and then it was the thought of me trimming the nail on her never-ending finger, and then it was because the neighbor’s trampoline was wet and she needed to bounce, and then the grand finale of the sobfest erupted over her riding her scooter on the big sidewalk and not the little one.

All of these tears and issues took place over a five-minute time span. And she was genuinely sad. Oh sure, I could have told her to just “dry up” or “do I need to give you something to cry about?” or given in to her “please, please” for one of her many requests, but I didn’t. I just told her she could just sit there and cry for a few minutes, that she must need to have a good cry. I also explained to her, “Now, don’t cry too loudly because baby birds may be sleeping in the hanging plant and you wouldn’t want to wake them.” She stopped crying, joined me on the love seat, placed her head in my lap and began to stare at the hanging plant.

We pulled out pictures this past week to reminisce about my father-in-law who had passed away and to embarrass my son James in front of his girlfriend. After all, isn’t childhood photograph embarrassment in the job description of every good mother? Seriously, he was the cutest little rascal and he was a rascal. Many a day I pulled him away from the bigger kids at the neighborhood pool just as his little four-year-old-hand was accomplishing the position they were teaching him for the universal symbol for “the bird.” But I digress. This proud Momma wanted to share photos of his wide grin with just a hint of mischief in his eyes sporting his Toy Story Woody vest I made him for Halloween.

As I poured through the green photo box, I came upon a picture of tears. There sat my three little boys who are now all grown men, one who has a tear-maker of his own. They were three, one, and a few months old. Baby James was in the middle, in his car seat, face pinched so tight you can hear his scream straight through the printed picture. Philip was staring at the camera with a look of sadness with his eyes and mouth betraying that he was on his way to joining James. And there sat Matthew, just staring at both of them, contemplating what in the world was going on.

The picture made me smile and I thought to myself even then, yep, sometimes kids just cry. In 25 years as a parent, I know there have been many crying moments and days, but I really don’t remember them. It took the picture to remind me that when I had a bunch of little people the waterworks must have been plentiful, but that’s not what I remember. It also made me grateful that aside from a sniffle or two occasionally from my seven-year-old, the four-year-old is bringing up the rear and there shouldn’t be too many more years of the hysterical outbursts over what seems like nothing to me, but obviously is indeed something to her. Yes, she is my last crying Irwin, or at least the last one I can’t hand over to their mom or dad and say, “Here, I think they need you now.”

So if you are reading this today and you are knee-deep in tears and desperate drama to ride the slide one more time please from your little ones, be encouraged and take heart. It won’t be too long before it will take a picture or a session of storytelling to remember those moments.

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My three little boys who are now men 🙂