Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jesus Satisfies

I'm fairly fond of my sweet tooth; I like to feed it regularly.
I gave my sweet tooth to Jesus, though,
gave it right away for Lent.
I've never observed Lent before,
except to partake of the Paczki the day before it begins.
I'm not a heathen, exactly,
it's just that my faith background did not include Lent.
I was always secretly relieved
to be an unobservant evangelical. 

This year, I have read more and studied more, and I desired to connect myself more deeply with a Christian observance which is meant to draw me closer to Christ; to allow me to repent, to savor, to express gratitude, to think about Him
and worship Him when I feel the pangs of wanting what I want.

I have friends from other religions who are very observant of fasts and special prayer times.  Frankly, I'm kind of embarrassed that I've never been serious enough about this Faith I think I hold so dear - to deny myself much of anything.

I'm only two weeks into the forty day experience, and I'm not very good about sticking with things; but I'm going to hang with this small deprivation.

I have learned a few things about sugar, namely, that I have used it in various emotional ways in my life.  Sometimes it soothes me (the equivalent of an emotional pacifier.)  Sometimes it is a reward at the end of the day (for surviving nine kids.)

But surprisingly, sugar is something I have used to fulfill me, to make the meal seem complete.  Without sugar, I feel craving - something is just not right.  I don't feel addicted, but just that something is missing.

When I feel the hunger for something sweet,  I have been able to offer that "wanting" to God.I am tempted to want to fill it with something else, to replace it with a "fake" sweetener.  But I don't.  I don't want to replace the hunger for God with something empty.  Instead, I lift it up, and say, "this hunger is for You,"and "I find my fulfillment in You." At those times, I am reminded to pray for those in need, for those I've promised to pray for. It's a very trivial denial,but it serves its purpose. It draws me into the life of Christ, reminds me of His suffering and the LIFE He came to give. And in those times,I know it in my own spirit:   
Jesus satisfies.

(The pictures are from Gabe's first bites of solid foods at 5 and a half months.  It's a thin sauce I made from cooked pears - and he thought it was okay.  I don't usually begin solids for babies until a little bit later, but he has been very interested in our food and utensils so we gave it a try.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The multi-generational family - moving through the twilight years

It is such an interesting place and stage of life, living near my parents as they grow old.  It is bittersweet and painful.  I feel as though I am watching an age be drawn to a close - the purse strings seem to pucker and pull, then come tight.  The strings almost dangle and dance from my wrist; an entirely other world and a completely different time, encircled, encased.

My father is good, he is still mostly healthy - if you can call someone with a non-existent adrenal system and a recently broken/replaced hip healthy.  At 86 his mind is still clear and he has excellent quality of life.  He loves to talk politics and history; continues to learn to use technology and modern contrivances.  This week he's trying to learn to use a small flip video recorder, perhaps next week he'll have a twitter account.  He relies heavily on his teen-aged grandchildren to show him how to manage it all - but he's sharp. 

I have watched people age, cared for the elderly for years.  Many of them have been absent from their minds long before their bodies were ready to say farewell.  My Grandma was like that, Alzheimer's invaded her brain and she didn't know her own daughter for a decade.  The agony of aging was not so grim for her.  To an extent, she didn't know what she was losing.  Except for brief spells, she was content.

But to watch the aging of a body when the mind is still so good and the memories so bright - well, that brings a suffering of its own.

I imagine that it hurts a once strong man as he watches his hands jerk and tremble when he gestures, to see his frailty as his skin bruises and tears as he bumps his hand against a door.

It hurts a formerly independent man, an original "I'll do it myself-er" to need consistent help from others.  It's not really pride, it's just a way of life turned upside down.

He takes trips with his family, visiting old sites one more time, remembering the younger and carefree days when he roamed the backroads, fished the creeks, and hunted the hills for coons with his buddies.   He's never forgotten a field, nor a tree, nor a hill.  "WHERE did the time go," he wonders?  He watches the grandsons run, and thinks, "How did I get this old, where did my energy go?  It seems I should be able to run with them."

And what to do with the memorabilia of a life of travels - artifacts from people groups long gone, bits and pieces of forgotten eras?  He visits a lawyer and tries to think things thru.  "Who will want my memories?  Who has room for them?"  He does what he thinks best and leaves the rest to work itself out with time.  What else can he do?  He is not finished by any means, I certainly am not writing him off - but there is no denying the passing of time.  He knows he must do these things, take these steps.

It hurts a bit, I think.  I grieve that for him.

But he does have Jesus, and the promise of the life yet to come.  He believes in the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and he believes that he too, will be raised one day.  There is life yet to come for old bones.  This is how it is for the Christian - as we begin to purposefully shut down one life and say farewell to times, memories and places we once inhabited, we begin to look ever more hopefully to the life to come. 

And he does have us - blood of his blood and flesh of his flesh - here, running before him.  The children spread their own wings, explore, make their own memories - some which include him and their times spent with him.  He's seen his children's children flourishing and thriving and living and loving and growing (and sometimes being naughty.)

That, I think, is a comfort.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring weight gain.

There are rumors that Spring is coming, so I've been pulling out summer clothing.

For Mari, this seems like Christmas.  Different clothes!  Must try them ALL on.

Eight layers.  At once.

Upside?  It keeps her busy for hours.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This little ritual makes me absurdly happy.

Cloth diapering - The washing, the hanging, the drying, the folding, the stuffing....It all makes me feel calm.  Why is this?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cuteness therapy...

Have I mentioned that we had a tough year?  (The real question might be, "Have I talked about anything else?")  It wasn't just a hard year for Jeff and I, it was difficult for our children as well.  I felt so bad for them at times.  Yes, responsibilities are good and serve us well, but there can be such a thing as overload at a young age.  There's no question that there were blessings in the hard time, and we grew from it all - but there's also no doubt that the kids suffered from stress and from having their parents so consumed.  It hurt to watch but not be able to do much about it at the time.  (Who do you say "no" to?  Your recuperating husband?  Your parents in surgery?  Your unborn baby?)  None of the above - you keep your head above water the best you can, pray that God will give the strength needed by the whole family, figure that you'll deal with things as you are able, and hold on by your fingernails.

I worked hard during and after Jeff's recovery to try to give each child/young person individualized attention, depending on what each one needed to heal and to feel secure again.  (Jeff and I both have....it's just that this particular post is about the "crafty" side of life, and Jeff doesn't have any crafting skills.  :)  )

One of my children, Julia, loves cute little things.  She's into quirky/adorable/tiny and or huggable things.  She's twelve, and since that's kind of an insecure age anyway, I ended up making her several things that she could hug/hold/sleep with.  The bonus, of course, was that she could sit with me and do some of the sewing, or the stuffing.  I let her tell me how she wanted her little pink bear to look, what she wanted it to say.  She chose to have her name embroidered in the heart on front, and there is another heart which says "loved" on the bear's back.  That's because Julia is loved, and I wanted her to hear that, to be able to read it at any time.  This bear was made out of some cotton scraps I had in my craft box, and she was made to replace Julia's original pink gingham bear that I made for her when she was really little.  It had worn completely out, been re-stuffed, sewn back together, etc., and the fabric was threadbare.  The original bear still lives in a special box in the attic, along with Pajamas the babydoll who lost her head but regained it when we used Monkey Glue to reattach it.  :)  Her choice, of course.  My bear-making website is here, if you want to look around.  I don't make too many right now, but I do enjoy helping people tangibly hold on to their memories.

I think we made this critter after Gabe was born.  I was folding up a "too small" sweater of Julia's, getting ready to put it in the bag to go to the thrift store, when I suddenly saw "Owl."  I pulled out my machine, and whipped up the basic shape.  Less than five minutes, tops.  Julia filled it with Clusterstuff (which you can scarcely find any more,) then I sewed it shut for her.  She cut out the eyes, beak, and talons from felt, and while she sewed the eyes together I sewed on the rest.  
Do you ever do that?  I mean, do you ever look at things you are sorting thru and sending out and think of all the things you could make out of it?  I do, ALL OF THE TIME.  I have to close my eyes and stuff it all in a bag, or else my house would be filled with projects I never have time to finish.  I ended up using a couple of other sweaters to let Sam (6) and Ben (5) make "Monster Pillows."  They did all of the designing as well.  Kids just like to do that, you know, either make their own things or tell someone else how they should look.  I guess that's the exciting thing about the "Build A Bear" workshops - but making things from old sweaters is definitely cheaper.  :)

Another thing I find myself doing often is mending tiny ribbons on Barbie clothes, or sewing an eye back on a sock monkey.  My sewing pile always has jeans to hem and stuffed animals in it.  :)  I try to get the "parts" sewn back on for the little ones as quickly as I can - although in all honesty it usually takes me at least a week or two - but I figure that it matters to them, as much as my priorities and projects matter to me.  Me - fixing up their special "friends," says in essence that they (the individual child) are important to Mommy.  I want that for them, want them to know how special they are.  It's easy, I think, to get "lost" in a large family, and this is one of my ways of trying to overcome that possibility.

And lastly, speaking of Sock Monkeys:  

This is Rosebud.  She came in a kit for Julia's Christmas.  She also has very cute bunny slippers and a stuffed bunny to hold....but they are lost beneath Julia's bed and I did not feel like searching for them.  :)  Julia did the stuffing, mama did the sewing.  We are nuts about sock monkeys around here!

We have employed many different coping methods as we have journeyed back to health this year, depending on "who needed what."  Sewing plus "cuteness" was good therapy for at least two of us, although there were many, many other projects with the other kids as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not to be outdone by her sister....

...my Emmy girl decided that she needed to
decorate her jeans, too.

She came to me, old faded jeans
and permanent Bic markers in hand.

Knowing her artistic bent,
I thought, "Why not?"



...and "What would it hurt?"
They turned out cute, I think.

 Emily also entered two photographs in
a local art show.  She enlarged the photos
to 11" x 14" and put them in nice frames.
We dropped them off today,
I can't wait to go in and see them on display!

This photograph was not altered in any way - it's just as she took it
in my parents' garden.  Two gorgeous butterflies were feasting
on a rotting apple, she just happened to have her camera.

And this one of Gabriel was taken when he was less than one day old,
when she came to see me in the hospital.
What I really love about it is the
way she captured the soft, white light
and his sweetness.
I think I like it because she recorded more
than a moment in time,
she also captured a feeling.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hemming jeans, embellishing jeans.

Some of my children are very "hard-to-fit."   I've spent a lot of my mothering years taking hems up and letting hems out, of adding elastic to waistbands or making darts in a seam.  I find myself pressed at times with quickly growing children.  I would tend to neglect my mending pile, if I weren't nagged by the thought my children will outgrow the clothes without ever having worn them, if I don't get them mended.  The clothing is usually in the pile precisely because the child needs it, so while guilt is not a great motivator, in this case it works.  I do like to make mending or altering as painless as possible, however, so here are a couple of links for some shortcuts that I've found.  They really are easy, and they really do work well.

I hemmed these jeans for Julia by hand, then because I had time left over I added some freehand embroidery.  She was tickled pink, red, and yellow.  :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gabriel Joseph - five months

Fifth month
Gabe actively found and enjoyed 
putting his thumb to good use.

He enjoys his walker,
can even make it go forward a little bit.
This is unusual, most of my children have made
them go backwards, for months.

He cut his first tooth,
and is working on the second.
His eyes are two different colors....
anyone ever seen that before?

He's grabbing toys, 
putting them in his mouth,

Cooing, talking, making "mama" sounds -
engaging anyone who will listen.
He initiates conversation, and 
seems endlessly curious.

And this morning, 
one day after the five-month mark,
he rolled over in his crib
(for the first time)
at 5:30 
and told me (loudly)
that it was time to eat.

I am still astonished at how much I am enjoying him, at how "right" it feels to have a baby in our house.  (I'm not the only one who feels this way...it's safe and accurate to say that we all do.)  There's nothing like it and there's nothing that could possibly replace having been given the opportunity to experience and raise another child.  Not a new car, not a new house, not a trip to the Bahamas...nothing.  I am so thankful that this is my life, crazy as it is.

Last night, my husband handed me "the baby" across the bed for me to feed as we prepared to turn in for the night.  I thought of how many, many times this same scene had occurred over our parenting years - and how precious these small moments have been, and are to me.  Morning and evening, day in and day out, year after year - being parents together.  I told him this, and also told him how much I will miss these days when we no longer have little babies in our home.  

Lastly, I want to mention that I took Gabe in for his four month check up a few weeks back.  He checked out well, in the 76th percentile for height and around that for weight.  (He's over 16 lbs.)  Our family doctor (we love her - she's the mama of three young children herself) observed him all over, and at the last said, "I have to mention this to you.  I think the top of his head looks small.  This is a sign of muscular dystrophy.  His development is good, however, and his muscles are strong - he makes eye contact, grabs things, and initiates conversation.  I do not know about MD, things don't seem to add up.  I can't connect anything, but we will watch him for it."  

I agreed with her.  I have thought, myself, that Gabe's head is rather interestingly shaped.  He has a thick neck and heavy (kissable) cheeks, but the top of his head is kind of small.  At her office, I did what I always do when confronted with new information.  I shuffled it into the top filing cabinet in my head, thanked her for the info, drove home and did everything that I needed to do, then pulled the file back out and began combing the internet for information.  What I found was overwhelming.  There's simply too much information and too many types of Muscular Dystrophy for me to even begin to understand it (without help.)  I *think* Gabe is okay, he really is active and connected and strong - but I "had" to shake her words and worry them over like a pup with a chew toy.  It's how I process.  Then, I tucked them back into the filing cabinet for now, knowing that this is something we are just going to have to watch and wait through before we know any more.  Yes, there are diagnostic tests that can be run - but she did not offer them at this time, so we wait - and simply enjoy our sweet boy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

...it's pay enough.

Construction paper hearts on my extra pillow, 
just as Ben placed them beside me
while I still slept in the morning.

by Margaret E. Sangster

Love wore a threadbare dress of gray,
And toiled upon the road all day.
Love wielded pick and carried pack
Though meager-fed and sorely tasked,
One only wage Love ever asked -
A child's face to kiss at night,
A woman's smile by candlelight.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

...the way it is.

It is time to write a post, I guess, as some of my friends are worried about me and my lack of posting!  What sweet friends you are!

No worries, though, all is well at our home.

I just must come to the conclusion that at this stage of life - having 9 children still at home - is all consuming.  That's understandable, and I am certainly NOT complaining, simply explaining!  It's life, and it is good!  :)

I know that many of us think that when our kids enter their teen years, we will have so much more time!  I used to think that, but have found the opposite to be true.  Teenagers are FULL of life, and Jeff and I are caught up in their lives, their interests, their friends.  There is almost *never* a quiet minute around our home, and that is no exaggeration.  The minute I sit down, someone needs me.  I'm no Walter Cronkite, but that's "just the way it is."

I think that someday I may have moments of solitude where I am able to think and write (and actually make sense...) but mostly, online writing looks more like a monthly report or a letter to the folks at home.  :)

Since that is how it is, here's how we have been spending our days:

*Spring is almost here in Southern Indiana.  This means that I feel compelled to do many things at once.  Finish school! Sort thru the clothes and see what I'll need for summer and next winter (for eleven people!) Spring clean! Plant things!  If only we could quit school by mid-March.  Some of the kids are almost finished.

*My attic is very organized and well-labeled.  Nothing else is.

*Regarding planting things...I always say that I'm not going to garden, that life is too busy, that I just can't do it again...but along about March I see that green things are beginning to sprout up and out and I feel a sort of desperation that I am "behind" and I need to get "out there" and shove seed into the soil.  It's indigenous, baby, so ignore anything I said last year.  This all might be related to the wanting an actual home-grown tomato, not a super-market "so called" spray-painted bit of fakery.  Yesterday, as my mother and I rode the ferry across the frighteningly flooded Ohio River to pick up supplies in Amish country, she pulled some tomato seeds from her pocket.  She'd saved them for me from the year before, as she always does, with the seed dried on a paper towel and the names of the tomato scrawled across the bottom.  "This one, I call Henry's tomato.  It's a big, beefy, tomato - so good for canning.  Henry's my neighbor, you know, and this one, is Norman's tomato.  It's pear shaped.  And these are from those little yellow cherry tomatoes you like....and this one is a pink and white candy striped...."  Oh my goodness.  I could taste the sun-warmed goodness right there on the cold, grey, wet ferry.  So, yeah, I plant.  I can't help it.

*lots of doctor's appointments lately.  Some for my parents, some for the kids, but mostly just standard things, nothing really serious.

*and as always, laundry, laundry, laundry and food, food, food.

*I spend a lot of time grading papers, reading essays, and assigning the next week's work - at least 3 hours every weekend.  I am so looking forward to completing this school year.

*I've been sewing some Huggable Memory Bears, too.

*Gabe cut his first tooth last night.  That's always so exciting.  :)  There's more to say about him, but he's almost five months, so I'll do that in the next post.

It's so good to stop by and say hello - if you have a moment, be sure to stop by the comment box and let me know how you are doing!