This morning, and past few days, have been so crazy I am going to attempt to convey the normal chaos that is my life. Add in the time change, and it is a perfect storm.
Let's work backwards. I just finally, at nearly 11 am, cleaned up breakfast. Before that it was a dog bath, a dirty diaper, waffles for all, disposal of a rat, and inducing dog vomit. Let me explain.
For the past few weeks, we have been dealing with rats coming into our laundry room at night. It has only been confirmed in the last week, so I haven't been fully aware of it until recently. I cannot even convey how extremely disturbing this is. For many reasons. Knowing that there are vermin out there roaming my kitchen and laundry room every night is disgusting. Just lying in bed wondering what they are touching, where they are going, and what diseases they may be spreading is a literal nightmare. I dream about rats. When I actually do sleep. It is gross. I don't even feel the need to apologize for this being a "first world problem" and how I have this amazing house I live in whilst other people have rats crawling on them while they sleep. I don't care. I hate them and I want them to die.
So. We have been trying to outsmart them and trap and kill them every night for about 3 nights. We have killed three. I rigged up this elaborate "stairway to heaven" rat trap that involved them crawling into paper tubes and falling into a trash can full of water. After trying this for 3 nights, it finally killed one last night. Jimmy has been setting traditional traps. After setting two traps a night for three nights (so 6 traps) we have killed 2 that way. Not a great percentage, but we'll take it. They manage to eat the bait without getting snapped or falling into the water. It is discouraging. I chant a new inner mantra which is "I am smarter than a rodent. I am smarter than a rodent." I'm not so sure.
Last night I added a new method- mix dog food with some flour, oatmeal, and some plaster of paris. They are supposed to eat the plaster of paris, have it turn to a rock in their gut, and die.
(They seem to love dog food- they've been chewing the lid of the dog food bucket every night for about 4 weeks. It's like their own version of Shawshank Redemption. Eventually they will make it through.)
This morning Jimmy checked all our torture devices. Drowned one. Got one in a trap. Sadly, they didn't seem to touch the "poison." (This is our new morning routine- I lay in bed clutching the covers up to my neck and Jimmy goes to see what happened the night before. It's disgusting. I'm fully aware.) We hung out in our bedroom for a little while discussing it, and I got dressed (okay, just put on a sweater and my slippers, which I'm still wearing) and went out to start breakfast. I saw the dog chowing down on the plaster of paris mixture. Ugh. Have I just killed my dog?
So now I am mixing up waffles, holding Violet (her morning routine) and googling how to induce vomit in your dog. Hydrogen peroxide will do the trick. We hold her mouth open and go for it. Send her outside. She hurls white paste all over the yard. Time for breakfast kids!
After I eat toast standing up while serving waffles it's a baby diaper change, bath for the dog, and all the while I am discussing countertops with Jimmy. For our new kitchen which we are planning to purchase all the cabinets for one week from today at IKEA- their kitchen sale is ON.
This week is Spring Break. My "break", while it will not involve home school or extracurricular activities, will involve play dates, infinite laundry, planning a kitchen renovation, trying my hardest to kill as many rats as possible, editing three photo shoots from this past weekend, preparing for my bible study, and feeding six children three times a day. (I was thinking about potty training this week, but to borrow a phrase I love to hate, "I can't even.") I'm not gonna lie. When it's only Monday morning of break and you've had to deal with dog vomit and dead rats and have not gotten anything even started on your mental list of spring break must do's, it's a little discouraging. So you sit in your pajamas and write a blog about how wacky your life is and hope that maybe you can deal a little better after you get it out.
Well, it's out there. Like dog vomit in the backyard, I'm going to let the rain wash it away and start anew. Spring break here I come. I am smarter than a rodent. I am smarter than a rodent.
My Dad, a.k.a "Pop Pop," hatched some chicks while we visited over Thanksgiving weekend and again at Christmas. As a special treat, when we left after Christmas each kid got to each pick a chick to bring home and enjoy for a few weeks, as we had plans to visit and bring them back the third weekend in January.
We brought home 5 chicks (Jackson's not really into claiming a small fuzzy bird as "his") with us in the van and I became a temporary chicken farmer.
From the title of this post it seems like I'm going to ramble on with some amazing stories and anecdotes about raising up these chicks for a few weeks. Really, it was pretty uneventful. (And I can let the photos speak for themselves.) But it's the first time I've ever taken care of an animal other than a dog, and it was really quite fun. At one point I moved them from their box in the garage to a cage outside and we had to make sure they had food, water, warmth, and shelter. Home school. Mostly, for me, because while I was doing all this I wasn't really teaching them a whole lot about what I was doing, I was just trying to repair a water dispenser and figure out how to shield them from our dog, who would have loved a chicken nugget or two. Or five. Oh, and now (as if I didn't already) I say "WASH YOUR HANDS!" every five seconds.
The children have enjoyed the chicks immensely. They hold them, talk to them, have named them (of course), and I fear they have traumatized them to the point of the chicks needing to see a chicken psycho therapist when they're all grown up. But whatever. They put the chicks on the swings, they carry them up into the playhouse, and I had to stop them from sending them down the slide. If there is one thing I've learned it's that chicks are resilient. And that they like to poop all over my children's clothes.
This is "Lemonhead." Violet's chick. Violet was traumatizer numero uno, as she could care less whether she was nearly squeezing one to death or not. I heard multiple times from inside the house, as they were outside with them- "Violet! No!" and I was sure she would have squeezed it to death, but she managed to allow them all to live. (So far.)
This is "Youngster." Juliet's chick. Appropriately named, Youngster is the smallest. Juliet has trouble catching them now that they are bigger and move faster, but youngster has had plenty of love from Juju. Juliet was quite the mother, she would place Youngster on the patio table and place torn napkins under his bum- waiting for him to poop, so she could change him. This is the only time in your life you will be eager to change a poop filled napkin, Juliet.
This is "Hope"-- aka "Bob Hope," and "Bob Ross." Penelope's chick. It was originally Hope, but seems to be looking like it's a rooster, so Penelope renamed it "Bob Hope," then that became "Bob Ross." I don't know who he is currently. Penelope reminded me of the "feed the birds" lady from Mary Poppins. She was constantly letting the chicks roost in her hair, on her shoulder, or on top of her head. She always was rubbing her face against them and pretty much LOVED them ALL THE TIME.
This is "Bono." Cash's chick. Named after the U2 lead singer, of course, and very appropriately so, since last week the boys and Jimmy got tickets to see U2 this summer which we will never forget, as we will never forget our time as temporary chicken farmers. I named him Bono because he had gray hair, which reminded me of Bono. Old, but forever hip and young, like a baby chick. Shortly after I took this photo of Bono on Cash's back, he pooped on Cash.
This is "Solera." Libby's chick. Named by Uncle Willie shortly after hatching. Libby was a lot of help with the chicks, and also helped keep the dog away from them countless times.
We will be taking them back to Pop Pop in two days, and will all be sad to see them go. Our HOA will not allow us to have chickens, sadly. I feel bad for them, as they really seem to like their home here. There is something very fulfilling about making a good home for something and seeing them thrive. I wish I could see my children in that way. That simple way. Instead, I make a good home for them, love them, take care of them and instead of feeling fulfilled, I let my mind fill with worry that I'm doing enough, educating them enough, providing enough. That's not the kind of mother I want to be. I fight it. This temporary chicken farmer is a permanent mother. May I focus on the simple and enjoy them immensely.
In early November we went to see Relient K and Switchfoot in Thomasville, GA on the "Looking for America" tour. It was nothing short of awesome. We took our oldest three and they loved it as well. Switchfoot sings a lyric on their latest album which I love: "the wound is where the light shines through". I take this to mean, as I guess it was intended, what Paul means in 2 Corinthians when he says, "when I am weak, then I am strong" and "I rejoice in hardships, etc...so that Christ's power may rest on me." When we go through difficulties, that is when we feel His power.
That night at the concert we had no idea that in a little over a week we would be walking Juliet through a wound and teaching her about the light shining through.
Saturday night, November 12, my sister Susan and her family were visiting us and we had some people over for dinner and a fire pit in the backyard. Right before bedtime Juliet was running and tripped on a branch in the backyard and injured her elbow. She did seem to hurt it pretty badly, but had some movement and seemed like the pain was minimal when she kept it still, so Jimmy and I decided to see how she was in the morning. I gave her Tylenol and put her to bed. We do NOT rush to the ER around here.
At 3:45 a.m. she woke up and was whimpering in her bed and I went in to check on her, quickly moving her out of the bedroom she was sharing with Libby, Penelope, and Violet, so that she wouldn't wake anyone up (Susan and Willie were in her room). I could tell by her amount of swelling that we would probably be dealing with a trip to urgent care in a few hours, but I gave her more Tylenol and hoped she could make it until morning. I allowed her to sleep in my bed with us to maybe make her feel a little better and also, again, to keep her from waking anyone.
At 6:00 a.m. I woke to her jerking and realized she was having a seizure. I woke up Jimmy and turned on the light and we tried to rouse her but she just kept twitching. We made the quick decision to not call 911 but to just put her in the van and take her to the ER facility that is super close to our house. I woke my sister and told her what we were doing as we headed out the door. I ran a couple lights and constantly asked Jimmy how she was as he held her in the back seat.
It was weird telling them what was wrong with her, as she was coming out of it when we got her in the door, but they could tell she'd had a seizure, because she remained very lethargic for quite a few minutes after. The weird part was that when they asked us why we brought her in, we said, "She had a seizure and oh, she probably needs her arm x-rayed." Two things that I assumed were unrelated and really, I think they were. Maybe. We really will never know.
To make a long story short, which I intended to do but have totally failed, her arm was broken and she passed her blood, urine, and cat scan tests in the ER- they showed no reason why she would have had a seizure. So we had to follow up with a pediatric neurologist.
This meant that for the next four days I was either at the orthopedic office or neurologists office. It was a whirlwind. And more time than anyone wants to spend in the waiting room. She had to have a 20 minute EEG, then a 24 hour EEG, and then we finally got the diagnosis that she has Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, which is a childhood form of epilepsy that involves partial seizures that happen in their sleep and that the majority of children grow out of. She is on medication twice a day for the next 2 to 3 years.
Juliet is my most compliant child, and was nothing but wonderful through the entire process. It is not easy to have one arm to work with, and I caught her doing her best to put on socks all by herself the day after she got her cast. Most of my other kids would have very vocally announced to the entire house that they CANNOT put on socks.
During the 24 hour EEG and all the waiting that included, she was patient and apologetic if she moved in a way I told her not to or disrupted anything.
In the waiting room(s) I read "The Littles" by John Peterson out loud to her. It was one of my favorite books as a kid, and it got us through many hours of waiting. That and UNO cards and in the end, when I had little stamina left, the iPad. While I was battling a tense stomach, she was smiling as I tried to make it fun with hospital hot chocolate.
And as I was in there, standing under the hot water for a long time just to wash off all the tension from the last four days, I knew something. I knew that I would put my life on hold for as long as necessary at any moment, for the well being of my kids. And I had done it without any consideration or decision. I just did it. And there, in the shower, I knew that's how God does with me. He does any and all for his children. And without hesitation.
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." 1 John 3:1
And what is Juliet's response to me taking care of her? She follows. Without hesitation. I tell her we have to go to the doctor (again) and she just puts on her shoes and gets in the car. I tell her she has to get 20 spots of glue on her head (again) and she doesn't complain. I tell her she has to take medicine every single day twice a day and she just opens her mouth. She doesn't ask me what's in the medicine or why we have to wait so long in the waiting room, she does what I ask her to do. And it reminds me not to question why God has me go through those wounded times. He is my Father and he is, automatically, doing what is best for me.
And as the days have gone on with Juliet, I have shared with her about how this thing she is going through is a challenge, but that God can be her strength when she is weak. And she gets it. It's a beautiful thing. Her wound is where the light shines through.
Though a little late, I didn't want to pass up a blog about Jackson's 15th birthday. At our house we only get a "friend party" every other year, and for years 11 and 13 Jackson chose to take trips instead of a party. So he was due a fun one. He organized it all himself, and graciously invited not only friends his age, but entire families, most with kids not even his age!
He hosted a game night! It was lots of fun and included Bohnanza, Trump (as in the Donald Trump game from the 1980s), Ticket to Ride, Dominion, and of course Settlers of Catan.
We also had a movie playing for the little kids and lots of fun games in the backyard which the non table top game playing kids initiated themselves.
Instead of a cake, Jackson requested cinnamon rolls, and we made the ultimate game night snack- the Nachos of Catan.
It was fun for all and as his mother I was of course happy to see how many people love my boy and blessed him on his birthday. He is definitely worth loving.
He also got his learner's permit a few days after his birthday- this has been somewhat anti-climatic. I think teaching a teenager to drive may be a bit like having a baby on TV. On TV, you see parents who are teaching their child to drive as these panic stricken crazy people and the teenagers are always doing something over the top stupid. Like a woman in labor on TV is yelling crazy things and/or doing something totally unrealistic like smiling with perfect makeup right after the baby is born. All that to say, I expected teaching Jackson to drive to be like it is on TV. It's not. It's actually quite boring riding around a parking lot at 5 mph. I found myself saying things like, "Okay, now we're going to try and go the speed limit." I'm sure the panic moments will come, but so far the contractions are really far apart, so to speak.
Happy Birthday Jackson!
Sometimes I feel like my life is like that opening scene from the movie "Fame"- that one continuous shot where you see all the students practicing instruments, dancing, singing, or acting. It's portrayed as this romantic and genius chaos. This is how I try to view my life, but it's hard. It's hard because to see my chaos as romantic, I have to look past things like chewed up Tootsie Rolls on the counter next to someones lost tooth. I have to get into a van with a mystery smell. I have to wade through laundry closing in on me like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars. And I will say it out, even though the authorities may come for me: It's nearly impossible to get anything academic done some days.
So we press on. And I pray for the wisdom I need to home school these six brains. And that's all one can do. So keep those creative juices flowing, kids. And tomorrow, during lunch, let's do a big dance number where we jump on the kitchen table and bang out rhythms with our silverware. Oh wait, we never use silverware at lunch time. Maybe you can roll up your paper plates.
Here we are this year.
Jackson: Marty McFly
Libby: Rey (so was her cousin Elise!)
Cash: Sumo Man!
Penelope: The Statue of Liberty
Juliet: Little Bo Peep
Jackson did most of his on his own with help from multiple family members and neighbors. Libby and I may or may not have cried and yelled while working out her costume. Cash got this Sumo suit from my sister and her family for xmas last year, so...thankful for the low maintenance kid. Penelope made me extremely happy by dressing up as Lady Liberty- which I did when I was about her age, and she totally owned it. Juliet and Violet were nothing but precious and Juliet did take out a couple things with her staff. Violet had to be bribed with candy to put the hood on for the photos, but hey, at least it worked.
There is a lot I could say about the planning and execution of costumes for six kids. But because of all that, I have very little energy or brain power to write much. This year Libby hung this up in my kitchen to keep me on track.
It was super helpful and also a little rattling to realize that this is just a tiny portion of what goes swimming around my brain on a day to day basis. Here's to fun memories!