Wednesday, November 24, 2010

To Be Thankful May Not mean You get What you Want

I'm not sure what to write other than there are a tumult of emotions whirling around in my head and heart.
This was supposed to be the first family Thanksgiving for my side of the family since we have all been married. Luke and I have been married almost 9 years. Not once, has my whole family ever been together.
I love being near Luke's family, and even though we love each other, blood family is just different. We have talked about this weekend for a little over a year now. The one weekend where we'd all be together.
Two weeks ago, the day of the anniversary of the death of my nephew, my dad was taken to the ER with "funny" symptoms. He was in Washington DC as a Sponsor with my brother and my brother's Senior Class. The diagnosis: Brain Hemorrhage.
When one hears the word brain hemorrhage, one does not conjure up very positive things. My mom flew out the next day to be with him and we all waited for word from her.
To make a very long story short, my dad survived. My dad, who just turned 60 and is beginning to resemble a cat with 9 lives, is still with us on this earth.
The last 72 hours since he arrived home back in Nebraska have been a flurry of phone calls between siblings, parents and spouses. Will Thanksgiving still happen? Will we still be able to get together? Is it too soon?
Yes it is.
I think of the Pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving. Half of their numbers were gone. HALF. Mothers. Fathers. Sisters. Brothers. Cousins. Gone. Permanently. Many precious lives were missing from the tables. How many mothers quietly wept while preparing the feast? How many fathers mourned the loss of a child or wife? How many children were there with only one parent to care for them? We see the beautiful paintings of food overflowing the table, but was there a quiet heartache below the surface as well?
Thanksgiving is more than just getting together and "legally" gorging on some of the most fattening food we can cook in one meal. It is way more than the parade I was delighted with as a child. It's more than the ever-idolized football games the men watch while the women chatter away cleaning in the kitchen.
The Pilgrims gave thanks for those who survived a long winter and were able to plant and harvest enough food to make it through another one. They were thankful for the Indians whom God had sent to show them how to LIVE in a strange and hostile land.
The were thankful for LIFE.
I've ran the gauntlet of emotions in the last two weeks. Tears of memory for my sister's baby. Worry for my dad. Laughing at the funny things from my children. Relief that my dad will not only live but he will also recover. Love for my dear husband who is walking through it all with me.
Thanksgiving this year does not mean for me that I'm sitting down with my family and all our craziness. It does mean not being able to listen to the cousins playing their games and discovering new things of their own. It does mean not laughing in the kitchen with my sister, mother or sister-in-laws.
But, BUT It does mean that we will whip out the computer and phone as we have done for the last 9 years and call those who are long distance to hear their voices and laugh together via satellite and wire.
Thanksgiving this year means being thankful for the ultimate gift: LIFE. It is being thankful that my dad is alive and with us still. That we're not attending a funeral again so soon after the last one. That we have Christmas to look forward to and that even though we're far apart we still have each other.
(and, so that no one says "poor Melinda", we are spending Thanksgiving Day with Luke's family and all the craziness that 17 grandchildren and cousins on THAT side hold.) It will be a day full of fun and love and being together. I will most likely be blogging about the fun we will have with all of that side. I was just excited to also get to spend it with mine. And, I am truly Thankful this year and in a deeper way I think than ever before.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Waiting in the Quiet

I sit and wait in the quiet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Love My New Job!

What better place to drink from your sippie cups than the front entry closet? These two are forever hiding in there and trying on shoes or throwing them out into the entryway at any unsuspecting passerby.

For those of you that have known me for very long, you know I've tried my hand at various ways to help earn money and take some of the financial burden off of Luke. I've sold make-up, scrapbook stuff, nutrition stuff (all of which I still like and buy but don't sell anymore). I did in-home day care for 2 little girls before Good Lookin' came along and loved it. I worked in a large daycare after he was born and was the teacher for 12 two-year-olds and hated it. One person should never be subjected to that much craziness.
I've done crafty stuff and so on and so forth.
Right now, I AM LOVING what I do! I take care of just 3 extra little boys 2-5 days a week (plus my own two). They are adorable, lovable, crazy, busy, aggravating at times and sooooo much fun.
I have decided that raising little boys is pretty much like raising puppies. They're naughty. They go for every dangerous thing in the room before you even tell them "no."
They'll dump the box or cereal of bag of animal crackers on the floor and instead of picking it up, dive in face first. "Look mom! No hands!"
They're sloppy, messy, gooey, grubby and snotty, but just like puppies, when they look at you with those adorable still droopy baby eyes, your heart melts like butter left on the hot stove and you go all mushy inside.
The first couple of weeks I thought I was going to go crazy. The energy output that I was expending had to match theirs just to keep up, but we've settled into a pretty loosely consistent routine and the days are just flying past me. I mean loosely consistent in that we do the same routine EVERY DAY but I don't stick with strict times.
I have the best job in that I get to PLAY for most of the day. I am doing preschool with them, but it is ALL OUTDOORS for now. Several of them (including my own) are learning their numbers, colors, shapes and letters just by playing with the toys God gave us: rocks, dirt, leaves, sticks, grass and our beloved dog, a dozen or so cats and two goats.
My house has taken a definite hit in the cleanliness area (well cluttered anyway). Dishes are no longer done every night and laundry may wait for days in a pile in the laundry room. My basement may look like a toy factory threw up it's contents.
I do have a lot cleaner surfaces now with 5 little nose pickers (we're learning that even though the fingers may fit up there, they don't belong there), and inadequate nose blowers, potty-trainers and all that dirt drug in from the outside. I've never used Clorox wipes or hand sanitizers or Lysol on a daily basis...until now. (i still don't use Lysol. I use an organic disinfectant that makes everything smell good too.). Every night I wipe everything down and spray the rest and then throw a handful of toys into the dishwasher with the dishes to be sanitized. But I digress.
This is what we do most days:
Children have a connection with animals. We spend lots of time feeding the goats apple cores and peelings and nuts they've gathered from the ground. The LOVE LOVE LOVE watching "Mr Luke milk our little nanny Tree and climbing all over the hay in the shop.
These two adorable hooligans say that they're brothers. And as one knows, the new way to wear sunglasses is not on your head. It's around your waist.
One is constantly following the other around. Some days they have their backpacks on seeking adventure and other days it's playing school. It is so fun watching 2 little guys teach each other the alphabet when neither of them really know it that well. Yesterday Good Lookin' was singing his ABCs and when he got to LMNOP he instead sang LSD. Not sure where that came from, but like all beginning learners he was singing his heart out and missing and mixing much of the alphabet.
Then we have the 3 two-year-olds. They have a love/hate relationship with each other. They are either wrestling, following each other around, singing together or taking each others toys and making a run for it. This particular day they were digging for buried treasure.

We take A LOT of walks outside. The older two run ahead usually singing or yelling something at the top of their lungs and I slowly assist the shorter-legged-diapered people. At least one of them has to either help pull or push our little red wagon, so that make for getting anywhere really really slooooooooow.
We see lots of stuff on our adventures. This day the little guy had spotted a hawk perched on a wire alongside our drive. It's really funny trying to explain that the bird hawk is not the same as our last name Haak to a 2 year old....or even a 3 year-old for that matter.
I tried taking a picture, but it didn't focus too well. I can't wait until the eagles come back in the Spring. They fly over our house and yard and now that I don't have to worry about our little chihuahua becoming lunch we can enjoy them a bit more. (We gave the biting beast away).

The mailbox is a quarter of a mile from our house and makes an excellent source of getting rid of energy. Little boys happen to like puppies in another way, they need A LOT of exercise or they make their own trouble happen. I get my own exercise as well because by the time we head back, they ALL want in the wagon and then I'm pulling nearly 90 pounds a pure wiggliness behind me).

These two are fast friends. Little guy in the back brought his trike to ride over at our house since he's the one that's here every day for a good 9 hours. Yesterday morning he allowed Nater Mater to get on in front of him and he attempted to drive him around. It was so fun watching him be so sweet and trying to be all big brotherly when he's just 7 months older.

About once a month, we head down to the dairy barn and watch my father-in-law milk the cows. It is a little boys heaven. I often wonder what they are thinking when they look up through the fence at those huge Holstein cows. There is a lot of pointing and "hey look at that one!" going on. I'm rarely sure which one they are pointing at since they all look alike to me.

We've been able to help the last 3 times with bottle feeding the calves. Nearly every time that I pick up the two brothers, they beg to go see "du cows." I try not to take them more than once a month because I know that when we "help," it takes twice as long. I think I'm safe to say that it's the highlight of each month though.

Being around children all day is exhausting but oh so rewarding. The constant laughter and delight in the smallest discoveries makes ones heart swell with joy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life is a Gift.

Today is a kind of melancholy day. I've gone back and forth on the memories and emotions of this day for 2 years now.
This day 3 years ago my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. They had tried for 11 years to conceive a baby and had given up. Then that spring they got a surprise. We were all ecstatic for them. She had a wonderful pregnancy and it was fun to watch her belly grow and she glow. We had something in common to talk about (we are very different).
At the 20 week sex check, they were given agonizing news. She had lost most of the amniotic fluid and the baby not only had no kidneys, but his little lungs had not developed past 12 weeks gestation.
I stood in numb shock when she sobbed the news to me over the telephone.
To make a long story short, she and my brother-in-law made the agonizing decision to continue to pregnancy (even though by at least one doctor they were encouraged to abort).
I got to be there just after the birth of their precious little boy. He was beautiful and perfect looking. He had lived a full hour without ever taking a breath.
I was privileged to hold him. To touch his tiny head and stroke the soft hair. It was surreal. By the time I arrived at the hospital, he had already passed away. He looked like he was sleeping peacefully...only he was so still. I remember choking back the sobs and wanting to holler "WHY?" I remember curling his little fingers around mine and inwardly feeling guilty that I had 3 precious little ones of my own out in the waiting room. I wanted to gather them into my arms and never let them go. It also made me aware of just how precious and short life truly is and how each day; each breath we take is a gift given to us by our own Father. I held him for a long time.
My sister-in-law gave birth just 5 days later to another beautiful baby girl. I was at the funeral of my little nephew. His casket was the size of shoe box. I held her baby a couple of weeks later and then went home and cried myself to sleep that night. She too was so tiny and so perfect. She was still living and my sister's baby boy was not. I didn't think it was unfair. It was just such a happy and such a sad time. Death and Life being mourned and celebrated within the same week and weeks thereafter. I wanted to be there for both of them in their sorrow and joy and it was a yoyo of opposite emotions.
I don't pretend to know God's ways. I know He was crying with us that day and the weeks and months that followed. I am not angry. I have seen death too many times in my life--even the death of young children to be angry. I just long for heaven so much more. Heaven, where the author of death will never be allowed to work again. Heaven, where I will once again get to embrace those who've gone before me. Heaven, where life NEVER ENDS no matter what the age.
I will cry and remember today my little nephew. I will go to my niece's 3rd birthday on Sunday and rejoice for her life.
My sister and I still have something in common. We are both mothers. She may not get to raise him, but she is still a mother. It has brought us closer together. Grief takes many paths and I've been given a gift in walking through it with her. Life is so precious. Every child is a gift whether they live in this world or not. Life is sweet and after walking through this experience as a family I see even more why Jesus told His disciples, "to let the little children come to me." It's made my job as a mother to my own and then a caregiver to others more profound and important. Life is a gift.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I survived voting

Yesterday was one of those days that you just have to look back upon and say, "oh well, I did my best. I performed my civic duty. My children are all happy and healthy and safe, and I am still alive and laughing."
It started out like any other fun-filled adventurous day that seems to happen at our house. It was made extra special in that daddy was home for the morning with no extra chores waiting for him. It was just me and him and the two youngest.
I got up; took the older two to school and drove back home to get breakfast on for those of us that hadn't eaten yet.
I had plans that morning for the two of us to go vote together before I went over to help a friend pack up her kitchen for her big move on Saturday. It didn't happen that way. Things moved much slower than my scheduled and planned time-table (as usually happens). I used to get flustered and angry; knowing what lay ahead if I ended up voting alone (as did happen).
I have learned (well, am still learning), that for the sake of my marriage and family's sanity that some things just have to move at a different time-table and I am capable of taking all the kids with me. The boys had fun too with just daddy relaxing, playing and wrestling at home.
I helped my friend empty her kitchen into awaiting boxes (a job I know well), then left to pick up the little boy I babysit in the afternoons and evenings and drove home.
All I can say is, THANK GOODNESS for Hot Chocolate, a good book and a fireplace with a whole hour to relax because the craziness started soon thereafter.
About 2:30 I woke up the preschooler and toddlers (all of which were not happy to be woken up) and drove off to pick up the older 2 at school. Did I say that I am SO GRATEFUL for DVD players in the car? I can take a screaming out of sorts toddler (or 4 year-old) and turn them into these cute little giggling and clapping children at the push of a button. The Play button that is. That and a bag of snack items for each of them allows me some sane time in the car.
I was planning to take Precious Jewel to ballet and then go vote, but she announced yesterday that she was officially done with ballet and since she'd gone back and forth for the last 3 months on whether she wanted to continue I said, "OK" and we drove to the voting booths instead.
About three-fourths of the way there I began to smell a rather stinky sort of smell. You know the one. The one where you know that you can say, "check" to diapers, wipes, snacks, drinks, blankets, and videos, but not to extra clothes. Ya just can't remember everything.
I pulled into the tiny little church that hosts every election for my particular precinct and sighed. I couldn't just blend in and hope no one would notice who I was. EVERYONE and their grandmother and next door neighbor knows who we are since Luke's parents won Farmer of the Year for the whole State of Arkansas last year. It's been a year of newspaper articles and photo-ops and magazine covers and such. There is no HOPE or PRAYER of anonymity. My pride as a mother was about to be run over.
We live in an area that is well, backwards and forwards. You might find the Postman in hunting overalls and no shirt and then turn around and run into a member of the famous Reality TV Duggar family at the local Walmart. Then in the same day, you can sit in a restaurant booth across from a multimillionaire exec. from Walmart. (Not all 3 had happened to me on the same day though). It's just a weird and fun place to live. Old culture meets new culture all the time.
Here I was arriving at the local polling booth with 5 bored kids, one now half-clad in a t-shirt and diaper with a sticky lolly pop all over his face. Did I mention it was cold? Not a good day to be touting around a half-clad toddler and still call yourself a good parent.
I walked in and sat him in a chair and ordered the others into adjacent chairs and then bribed Precious Jewel and Mr. Smiles with extra allowance money if they could keep the other 3 entertained and in their chairs. Half-clad Nater Mater wasn't too impressed with the chair or the toy I'd given him and promptly slid off to give his own go at a voting machine.
The dear ladies behind the table didn't even ask my name! They just pointed to the spot on the paper that was my name and smiled and told me to show my license and sign. I asked them how they knew that was me. The one sweet lady smiled and said that she's just seen our picture in the paper (again) and only had to ask for the license because she was supposed to. "I already knew who you were honey." Inward groan.
By that time, toddler 2 was off the chair and headed for the other electronic machine. I grabbed both. Re-deposited them in their respective chairs and told them again to "sit." They were like untrained puppies who promptly contorted and slid of their chairs to head back for the "pletty" (pretty) buttons.
I grabbed a paper ballot (that I could carry with me and try to wrestle them back to the corner with promises of candy if they stayed. "Give me 4 minutes guys. That' all I need. Four minutes!" Four minutes means nothing when you are 2 years old. Now they were climbing under the chairs with both Mr. Smiles and Precious Jewel grabbing at their ankles.
"Leave them! At least their contained under there!" I hissed loudly at the two of them. I rapidly fill out several ovals and look up to see 3 pairs of eyes watching my mother skills go their crazy best. I blushed and ducked back behind the partition begging God to help them forget that belonged to the family I did. Not that I don't love my husband's family. I do! But at this moment, this wasn't a side I really wanted everyone to see publicly. I'm a mom. I'm a mom of 4 younger children and an extra toddler every evenings. It often isn't pretty, but everyone is happy and it's who we are.
I finished filling out the last ovals and grabbed the hands of Nater who had just figured out that if his pants weren't on, he then had easy access to the diaper tabs. And as every mother of boys knows, they prefer to be naked! Who cares if they are in public. Slapping the tabs to the diaper back on I appologized and am sure was the color of the Maple leaves laughing at me through the window.
The redeeming moment was when the lady on the far left of the table directed my paper to the ballot box and then smiled and quietly whispered. "You're a great mom honey, and those kids are lucky to have you. I'm glad you didn't' let them stop you from voting."
I smiled in embarrasment, grabbed a tiny hand and scooped up the other half-dressed sticky child and herded everyone out the door. Thank God that was over! Anyone up for a movie when we get home while mommy crashes?!?!?! (We all ended up in the yard instead running through the leaves. Life in our home is NEVER boring!