Someone’s Worst Day

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These days we live near an ambulance transport service. It has become common to hear sirens at all times of the day and night as the emergency vehicles respond to a call.


Tonight the sirens went off as I was sitting, disgruntled, looking at the sink full of dishes, feeling pressured to update the family calendar, and knowing the pile of clothing sitting in front of the washing machine wasn’t going to pick itself up and enter the tub of its own volition.


And then the sirens went off and I realized, “That’s the sound of someone’s worst day.”


When I was in college a friend of mine rather bashfully admitted that every time she heard ambulance sirens she would say the Lord’s Prayer. It inspired me to utter a simple prayer when I hear the noise: “Lord, please be with whomever is involved in this situation. Please help everyone involved to do their part to the best of their ability. May Your will be done and please allow peace to invade this moment.”


It’s gotten to be such a habit our kids will stop what they’re doing when they hear sirens and say, “Oh! Mommy! We need to pray!” but we hear sirens so often now I think I forget the significance…


  • That siren means someone is in danger… and I’m worried about dishes in the sink.
  • That siren means there’s a chance someone’s life has just changed irrevocably… and my thoughts are consumed with putting events on a family calendar.
  • That siren means someone’s nightmares just came true… and I’m busy thinking the laundry needs to do itself and just leave me alone.


It’s the sound of someone’s worst day. And I have so very much to be thankful for in my own life and I’m pretending this is my worst day ever.


Really? Really?!


Sometimes my life gets put into perspective by the wailing of a siren.


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Easy Lessons

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann

Today we had a turbo load of reading lessons because Dos has decided she wants to get her ears pierced and I’ve told her she can’t until she can read.


Doesn’t anyone else see the connection between artificial holes in the ears and language comprehension?!


I’ve heard other parents say they don’t reward their kids for accomplishing what should be expected behavior. I understand this concept and in a few ways I agree with it, but when it comes to the stuff that causes a reduction in the whine factor around here or simply makes my life easier – bribery all the way, baby.


Before we started homeschooling I never really understood the physical process of reading. To me, it was a magical process that just happened, kind of like outgrowing your clothes overnight or getting freckles in the summertime.


Little did I know there was a reading Bible for homeschoolers and parents who want their kids reading at 18-months-old and are known for shouting, “Rah! Rah!” and shaking pom-poms.


I don’t know what that pom-pom reference is about. I don’t own a pom-pom. Just a chainsaw.


Back to the issue at hand, I do know the reading manual of choice (at least in my circles) is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Englemann.



At the most basic level, it’s written by a guy named Siegfried and anything coming out of a guy named Siegfried has got to be decent. And possibly German.


Second, it’s filled with words that are color coded. If the kid is supposed to say something it’s in black type. If the adult is supposed to say something it’s in pink. That’s pretty much dummy-proof. They even give you a pronunciation guide just in case you’re a little fuzzy on the exact sound an “r” or “o” makes when in isolation. (It’s not as simple as you might assume.)


All of these are lovely additions and speak highly of the book.


However, may I suggest that Siegfried may have underestimated the easiness of repetition 100 times? And that these lessons are not exactly easy-peasy? At least, according to Uno and Dos they’re the worst sort of punishment a child can face.


They groan and moan and whine and complain and basically roll around on the floor in despair… unless they think pierced ears are connected to the whole process.


I’m sticking with it because I’ve heard many, many parents credit this book with their child’s reading success and ability to explore the worlds a novel opens. I also just read the blurb on the book cover and discovered my friend Siegfried is also the author of a book called Give Your Child a Superior Mind.


I told you Siegfried was cool – now I know he’s superior! And maybe, just maybe, my kids will be superior, too.


But only after they’ve gotten their ears pierced.



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Bugle Call of the Wild

je1196 / stock.xchng
je1196 / stock.xchng

I have moved one step closer to being a real hunter. (Please, oh please, read that phrase again while imagining Pinocchio.)


I’m a real girl!


OK. The truth is I’m not really much of a hunter although I’m completely in favor of it if you eat what you kill. Personally, I have only killed a few rabbits and that doesn’t seem to be on the same grand landscape as taking down a 500-pound elk that could feasibly feed a family for close to a year, but I’m inching that direction after our weekend activity.


What has caused this character growth, you ask? I’ve been elk bugling.


Now you may (like me) be naive when it comes to what elk bugling as an activity looks like, so let me give you a run down of my own experience:


  1. Go on a ridiculously beautiful drive out into the woods.
  2. Eat popcorn and throw rocks down an abandoned well.
  3. Walk a toddler’s mile at dusk.
  4. Whistle and make high pitched grunting noises in hopes a randy elk will respond.
  5. Wait.
  6. Get told not to wander off in case an elk in rut wants to… you know… rut you.
  7. Walk a toddler’s mile back to the car.
  8. Drink hot cocoa.
  9. Be at peace with the world. (Or go through the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — over the fact that elk didn’t find you attractive and stop by to check you out. It’s all part of the experience.)


Real wildlife people described an elk bugle like this: “The typical bugle of the bull elk is a surprising, distinctive sound that begins deep and resonant, and becomes a high pitched squeal before ending in a succession of grunts.” You’ll notice that, contrary to what vocabulary words might lead you to believe, there are no small musical instruments involved in this bugling, nor are the monstrous elk likely to wake you up to a revelry in the morning.


I needed my friends to clarify that at the time they issued their invitation because I really couldn’t understand why they would want us to come play in a band with elk.


Like I said, I’m one step closer to being a real hunter now.


Now, real hunters go elk bugling for a variety of reasons. They may want to locate the elk for hunting purposes, have a fetish about massive bovines and mating season, or  think it’s cool to be close to nature and in the wild and stuff.


All I know is it was awesome and highly recommended. Maybe next time I’ll bring a trumpet.




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Lead Pooper Scooper

The face says it all...
The face says it all…

There are so many things I have found unpredictable about parenting.


The hearing your child laugh and feeling like your whole world just brightened? Never knew that was coming.


That feeling in your chest when you see them sleeping and they look so, preciously, dang perfect? I suspected it might exist but until it happened to me it was an unsolved mystery.


Finding your kid pooped in the bathtub when you wonder what’s all over his hands? That’s another little gem I would never have expected even a split second before it happened!


And yet, there it was, the evening activity: scooping poop from the bath. It was such an exhilarating experience I’m considering adding it to my resume:

Mom. February 2006 – present. Demonstrates problem solving techniques and visible desire for best hygienic practices, particularly when confronted by situations where the poop literally hits the fan. Exhibits flexibility and exceptional management skills while supervising a four-person team prone to sudden mood swings and emotional outbursts. Proven ability to work under pressure with limited resources and minimal rest periods.


What would you add to your resume if parenting skills seemed relevant?




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It’s the End of My Rope as I Know It

End of Rope
End of Rope

I’m on my second cup of coffee and today is looking like it may very well require multiple pots of that precious elixir.


Here’s the snapshot so far:


Tres is standing on the table in her underwear “showering.” She has commanded no one can look at her or talk to her while she “washes her hair.” I just told her to take the nail file out of her Dora underpants before someone ends up hurt.

Bubby is in the high chair emitting high pitched squeals in practice of his sonar tracking system. I believe he got the inspiration for this super sonic invention during his time communing with bats in the wee hours of the night because sleep is for the weak.

Uno is badgering me to assume ownership of a rabbit that’s half her body weight. She is more concerned with ownership and her rights than Lewis and Clark and the U.S. Government.

Dos is still complaining of “grumpy legs” – which I think are a way of her telling me she’s having growing pains – and wants to see pictures of all her friends on Facebook. This means she lets out a huff worthy of a howitzer blast every time I take my phone away from her because I’m under the crazy impression the phone belongs to the person who pays for it and is least likely to put Pop Tart smeared fingerprints on the screen.



I am, without shame, now hiding with my laptop and a cup of coffee while my husband, the versatile gem that he is, attempts to pull the kid off the table and complete farm animal needlepoint at the same time:


He makes a lovely stitch, does he not?!
He makes a lovely stitch, does he not?!


All of this makes me think about how I respond when people ask what it’s like having four kids and also homeschooling them. Chaos like this morning and pain of it all are the images that flash into my mind and I groan and say, “Let us be your cautionary tale! Don’t do what we do!”


But then I think again and remember the pure joy I felt when I met each of these children moments after they emerged from the womb; how just hearing their laughter makes my heart lift; I have a flash of excitement when they are able to read street signs and sound out words — even our showering beauty on the table this morning was hilarious in the midst of complete disregard of all societal norms that encourage us to stand on the floor instead of the location we place our victuals.


When I lump the bad and  the good all together (and pray… lots of prayer), I realize I have the courage to try again; to leave the my hidey-hole, and take up the privilege of teaching, mentoring, stewarding these little lives.


So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a table to Lysol and a pig needing some needlepoint completed. I’ll catch you in awhile.


(But feel free to pray for us. It’s gonna be a looonnnnnnggggggg day.)



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The stereotypes about boys are true

celila / stock.xchng
celila / stock.xchng

I’m not one to buy much stock in blanket generalizations, but every once in a while I am reminded that stereotypes become stereotypes because in many cases… they’re true.


Tonight when I found our 1-year-old son standing in front of the window of the front loading washing machine, bouncing up and down, batting at the clothes whirling around inside, and laughing, well, the cliché of men being relatively simple and obsessed with simple pleasures came to mind.


Three other things I’ve noticed after comparing a baby boy to three girls?


Boys bang. This child believes everything is a snare drum, from his high chair tray, the kitchen cabinets, to his sister’s head. The world is his oyster and he’s going to bust it open or die trying.

Automatic watering system. I was warned about the dangers of the male apparatus and urine production, I even got a pee-pee tee-pee as a shower gift, but nothing can prepare you for the directional sprinkler system attached to your masculine progeny. This child could nail a fly on the opposite wall on a bad day… and dampen everything in between.

He’s happy, happy, happy. While we’re getting glimmers of a strong will in this boy as we enter the Era of the Tantrum, in general if the kid is dry, fed, and rested there’s not much that can derail his happiness. He giggles. He smiles. He coos. He’s unbelievably stress-free. This is a direct contrast to our girls, who could visibly be seen multi-tasking and seeking the next best thing even as toddlers.


I can’t wait to see what other stereotypes will be confirmed or denied in the years to come. I’m just praying his easy going nature will continue when his sisters are in the teen age years, Lord knows we’ll need a voice of reason around here!


What differences have you noticed between male and female toddlers?



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How to Lose Weight

darrendean / stock.xchng
darrendean / stock.xchng

I just got back from a visit to the doctor for Dos and Bubby. Yes, those lovely check up appointments when you wait for a practical stranger to tell you if you’re doing an acceptable job keeping the children you’ve birthed, clothed, fed, and raised alive and well.


Our doctor told me they are both doing fine but in the 8% and 2% for weight, respectively. She gave me a hard look and said, “I remember your husband is rather tall and thin, too? This is probably normal for them. But you could feed them more cottage cheese, avacados, and – for you – even slather the butter on the fast food chicken nuggets.”


I nodded and told her that, yes, my husband weighed 95 lbs. as a freshman in high school and I didn’t top the century mark myself until my junior year. It was a banner moment for me as I felt I had to apologize for our genetics.


Then, when I was checking out the gal taking our co-pay was astounded to find out we have four kids and I birthed them all. She asked if I was a runner – I laughed, explained I find myself allergic to sweat, and admitted I just really like yoga pants and have made them my outfit of choice, despite the social inhibitions most feel when appearing in public in workout clothing.


These events have given me the courage to share my dirty secret with the world: I know how to lose weight. It’s really quite simple, a four-step process:


  1. Go back in time to become the genetic by-product of a chicken and giraffe. This will produce skinny knees and knobby elbows that give an illusion of thinness. Forget the goal of actual fitness – who says strength training is desirable?!
  2. Acquire a serious bout of influenza. After spending three weeks on my back in February eating only Gatorade and Saltine crackers, I lost all previously acquired baby weight. You, too, could drop massive amounts of weight if you’re truly committed to the illness process.
  3. Switch to a liquid diet. Coffee preferred. But water and Coca-Cola are acceptable substitutes. When in doubt if you’re feeling a hunger pain, just self-medicate with coffee. Lots of coffee. Did I mention coffee?
  4. Allow another human to nourish themselves using your nutrients. Breast-feeding. May not work for all people but I know nursing a baby burns of more calories while sitting on your bum than an hour on a treadmill.


If you can follow these simple instructions and change your wardrobe to yoga pants, I’m sure you’ll find any excess weight you’re sporting will melt right off of you like butter on an ear of roasted corn.





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Daddy’s Handkerchief

Daddy's Handkerchief
Daddy’s Handkerchief

I miss my dad.


I was in church on Sunday and started crying. Crying is a pretty foreign concept for me in general as I’m a bit of a “suck it up” personality. But Circumstances prevailed and my tear ducts turned on.


I had no options for my tears and ensuing snot than my shirt sleeve and we all know I like to blame the baby when I’m sporting snot, not myself.


At that moment I experienced intense nostalgia for my dad.


He’s of the older generation, just shy of the greatest generation of all: World War II. He’s the strong and gentle warrior.


He always carries a handkerchief in his pocket.


I wish that our generation would carry handkerchiefs. They’re terribly important bits of fabric that can fulfill a multitude of purposes.


I cannot begin to number the times I would sneak up to him and borrow his “hanky” – times I was crying, times I sneezed, when I needed something to hold a cube of ice or wipe up a spill – Daddy always had his hanky.


I have these times that jump up and attack me with a stranglehold of emotion – though my father is still living and physically present he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He becomes disoriented frequently and struggles to get any words out. It’s been many months since I’ve been able to have a conversation with him. This summer has shown a pretty marked decrease in his ability level and he is in many ways a stranger inhabiting a body I adore.


I miss the Daddy who set the standard for the men in my life; a compassionate man who was a jack of all trades, always had an answer or worked with me to find one, a man who honored my mom with the delivery of a single rose on their anniversary or just because (because a bouquet was just too over the top – there was beautiful simplicity in a single bud), and teased us.


My kids will never remember the man who snuck sugar-covered orange gelatin candies to me when my mom wasn’t around, or see the capability of a large knuckled hand that could ably butcher livestock, maneuver a tractor, or wipe away a tear.


I can’t remember him making a decision that didn’t put our family first in his thoughts.


I miss him.


And his handkerchief.


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There's always that ONE...
There’s always that ONE…

If I said, “You are a great follower!” would you be insulted?


If you said the same to me, my first reaction would be offense.


I don’t want to be a follower! I’m a leader! I’m not a mindless mass without wisdom and knowledge and gumption! I’m special, unique!




But “follower” doesn’t make you a mindless minion. In fact, being a good follower in this age of entitled know-it-alls, of talking heads and news show yappers, might make you a more attractive leader.


Why would I say such a thing?


I’m reading a book about leadership development and one chapter addresses following. The author couches the information from a leader’s perspective – such as what can you, as a leader, do to make your follower productive, satisfied, and loyal?


But in reading this chapter it occurred to me more should be written about the value of a follower in recognition that following is an important skill that if not acquired, will hinder anyone from long term success.


Think about it –


  • How do many people learn wisdom from leaders? By following the leader until they’ve proven themselves interested.
  • Who do leaders enjoy spending time with? Their trusted followers, because they’re pulling in the same direction toward a common goal.
  • What is one of the most exasperating things to a leader? An unteachable follower who goes renegade because they’re determined they know more than anyone else.


These thoughts make me want to intentionally practice to be a better follower. To me that means:


  • Trusting. Instead of doubting a leadership decision, armchair coaching, or being a Debbie Downer, I want to learn to trust the judgment of the leaders around me. Genuine trust of an honorable person places a burden of responsibility on that leader to live up to the trust they’ve earned.
  • Supporting. Too many times I contribute to the common good of a group out of social obligation or with hopes of later recognition. That’s not helpful! I want to support others because that in itself is a worthwhile reward.
  • Playing. When someone else is navigating the course I have the freedom to play and enjoy the journey without prepping for the next change. That, in turn, makes me much more fun to be around.
  • Loyalty. I want to be a loyal person. Our culture is not supportive of a steadfast spirit. We are always looking for new and better, speed and energy But I want to be a part of an admirable tradition and someone others can depend upon to be consistent.


I’m becoming more and more convinced that being a follower is an unrecognized skill that we should all master.


What other skills make people excellent followers?



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I am not June Cleaver

June Cleaver and Leave it to Beaver.
June Cleaver and Leave it to Beaver.

Although this will likely not surprise you, I have a confession to make: I am not June Cleaver.


I am also not Mama Berenstain Bear. Nor any other paragon of motherhood heralded before me in the media.


I cannot explain why this realization was so shocking to me, but it hit me yesterday like a ton of bricks – I’m not a perfect mother and I don’t even portray an image of a perfect mother. I don’t always have the right words to sum up the moral lesson, I lose my temper, sometimes I argue with their father, I hate doing laundry and the corners of our shower are a little frightening to behold.


I’m not perfect. Nowhere close. No paragon of virtue present in this household.


For a long time I’ve tried my best to match up to the examples set by the maternal influences in my life whether my mother, mother-in-law, sister, friend, etc., or the women I see in movies or on television, or brought to life via words from the imagination of authors of books. I’ve read books, scoured the internet for blog posts, and solicited parenting feedback from friends near and far.


The ultimate diagnosis? I’m not perfect. I will never be perfect.


But that doesn’t make me hopeless. That’s the next step in this line of thinking – that lack of perfection doesn’t equal failure as a parent.


Yesterday wasn’t a special day and I’m sure this is an understanding I will have to acknowledge again and again, but saying the words, “I am not June Cleaver” lifted the monkey of perfection from my back for a bit of time. Here’s what I can claim as real instead of perfection (and maybe you can claim it, too):


  • I am a capable woman who is sometimes overwhelmed by the tirade of emotion coming from children over whether they get a piece of gum.
  • I am a logical human being who realizes sometimes getting a few hours of sleep is more important than having the floors mopped or socks matched.
  • I am a caring person who invests in those around her and occasionally that means arguments and temper tantrums – because the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.
  • I am courageous and up to the challenge of parenting because I choose to be present in these children’s lives and live authentically with them.


Oh, how I wish it didn’t take me writing these things down to try to remember them in my most critical moments! But I don’t have to be June Cleaver (and neither do you). I can be me.


Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to model yourself after someone else, or an image that seems too good to be true. Just be you. Do your best every day to be true to your values and then… relax.


Be the best version of yourself, no one else. It’s enough. Rebuke the pressure.


What truth statements do you need to write down so you will remember them in your critical moments?



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