Monthly Archives: December 2010

Chaos is nice, quiet is too


A late “Merry Christmas!” to everyone!  Christmas day at our house was loads of fun, and definitely noisy.  My family drove down from Massachusetts to spend almost a week with us, so my home was full to the brim!  I like it that way!

On Christmas morning, Cboy woke up at 6:00am and got sent back to bed with me.  As exciting as it sounds, I am not a fan of 6:00am present opening!  Maybe in the future, if my kids can have a pot of coffee ready and all I have to do is sit on the couch in a still-sleepy stupor.

We finally opened presents around 10:ooam, after pancakes made by Dee, a few pots of coffee, and a few showers too.  So much FUN!  My kids were happy with all their presents, but loved the snap bracelets and pop-up thingys they found in their stockings.

My husband bought me a grain mill for Christmas.  Surprise for sure!  He’d just bought me that expensive vacuum, plus we’d told each other, “Now, you’re not buying me anything this year, right?”  (You know how it goes!)  We lied.  Now I feel very spoiled,  and have no more excuse for not keeping fresh, homemade bread in the house.

Our new Wii was a big hit!  If my siblings weren’t beating each other up on Smash Brothers, we were watching movies, playing cards, or SHOPPING!  We actually did a lot of that, me and my sisters.  Sweet deals around Christmastime!  My kids loved walking in the woods with Bompa and the dogs, and I loved the ever-present pot of coffee.  Esther got a lot of ribbing about her and Ben’s texting habits, but that’s okay.  Every engaged couple deserves some hazing!

My sisters and I had a nice Starbucks chat on Monday night, before they left again, Esther for good this time.  Of course she and Ben will come visit us — a lot I hope! — but she’s getting married and everything changes when you get married.  Good changes, yes!  Oh my, yes!  But changes take adjustment, and it’s easy to fear change.

My house is half quiet again, with my family gone.  It’s never all quiet!  (How dull that would be.)  I always miss my family when they leave.  But now it’s just a normal, “I love them so much and can’t wait to see them again” missing.  When I first got married and moved eight hours away, I would get SO sad and depressed when my family drove away after a visit.  I would curl up on the couch and wonder, “What in the world was I thinking getting married?!”

Now, me and Dee, we enjoy being alone again after my family leaves.  We tuck the kids in bed and change into jammies, without worrying if it’s acceptable around-family attire.  We watch another “24” episode, without sitting on edge wondering if there’s a scene that makes family viewing uncomfortable.  And we leave our bedroom door open, without being in full view of anyone sitting at our diningroom table.

Having said all that, I CAN’T WAIT to go make my family’s house crazy in just three weeks!  My Montana brother and his family are spending a whole week in Massachusetts too, in the same house, so we are going to have some wild times!  I think it’s nice to go back and forth between chaos and quiet.


Our Recycled Basement


I’m feeling very earth-friendly and “green” tonight!  My husband is down in the basement, pounding away, finishing off a family room with recycled material.  2×4’s, doors, plywood, railings, oak boards for our “rustic look” walls…  all of it found in dumpsters or given to us by kind friends and relatives.

“Um, sure!  You can have our trash!”  is what they said.  Most people were probably thinking, “Oh, maybe we should buy them groceries too, that poor, poor family.”

Hey, we just like being resourceful!  The oak boards for our walls had to be ripped off pallets, and took Derek hours and hours and hours.  One dude said, “Just BUY boards!”  Dude, that’s not how we roll.  We do it ourselves if we can, so my sweet husband can buy stuff like, say, a brand new $549 vacuum for his wife ’cause he wants her to have a nice one.

(Does it make me want to clean?  Nope.  Sorry honey.)

I just googled the laws on dumpster diving, because someone recently told me it was illegal.  Turns out, it all depends.  Dumpsters are usually on private property, so the biggest issue is trespassing.  But most people don’t care if you take junk destined for the trash heap!  Besides, dumpster space costs an arm and a leg, so binners save people money.

“Binners,” by the way, is a term for people that dive into dumpsters for trash.  Side note, did you know that Americans waste 40-50% of their food?  Sad.  Our dumpsters would feed a lot of hungry people, and sometimes do!

Rag and bone man, waste picker, junk man, and bin hoker are a few more, but these are terms for people who actually make their living by sorting and trading trash.

Some other random facts from wikipededia…

In Italy, dumpster-diving is completely legal!  Declared so by the country.

A “garbologist” studies the sociology and archeology of trash in modern life.  For real!  I say, if they get a title, we deserve one too!  All of us moms that study poop and puke… we’ve got just as much going on as those scientists.

Oregon frowns very sternly upon dumpster-diving, and Wisconsin considers dumpster-diving “very” illegal.  (Haha!  This cracks me up!  So is something that’s just “illegal” a better crime?  What do they call murder?  “Very, very, VERY” illegal?)

In Michigan, dumpster-diving is “generally” illegal.

In Iowa City, dumpster-diving is…. LEGAL!!!  Iowa city police say once its in the dumpster, its free game. Even if it’s a business.  They can complain, or put up a sign, but you can dive anywhere, anytime in Iowa city

In Texas, you can take the trash.  Just don’t get caught!  More from my googling:
Stealing trash is not illegal.  The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that once an item is left for trash pickup, there is no expectation of privacy or continued ownership.
 “By definition anything in a dumpster is waste and therefore not needed and abandoned by the owner. So you can recover anything from the trash that you want.”  
The problem is the location of the dumpster. If the dumpster is on private property then you can’t access it without trespassing.

(All of my info came from, so don’t quote me on anything!  If anyone moves to Iowa City to steal trash, I will not be held responsible!)

Back to OUR dumpster diving.  It’s really fun!  If you’ve never tried it, give it a whirl.  We even made dumpster-diving a family affair this summer!  I asked Dee how much “money” he’d pulled out of dumpsters, and he said, “Oh!  Thousands and thousands of dollars!”  He drives truck for a roofing supply company, so he’s around construction site dumpsters every week.

I’ll post pictures of the finished basement, but this is what it looks like right now…

Dee built this railing yesterday, so I don’t have to worry anymore about my babies falling down and cracking their heads on the concrete floor.  Plus it just LOOKS cool!  Doesn’t it look great with my purple stairs?

 Free stuff!

framing up…      

Wall before…

And AFTER!  Doesn’t it look awesome?

In our really cool, barn-looking basement, we have a full bathroom and a kitchen.  We will also have, in the future, a pool table.  Ping-pong too, if I have anything to say about it!  So if you need a place to hang out, come on over!

Photo sessions are for laughing


We finally have a new family picture!  It’s been two years, believe it or not.  I realized this year that we had NO family picture with Moosies in it!  Christmas 2008 was the last one, me with a big baby belly.  (Funny thing, I saw that picture somewhere and thought, “Hmm, that’s a really cute sweater!  I wonder where it is…” and then hunted for it a while before I remembered that it was packed away in my maternity boxes!  Silly me.)

Family pictures are high stress situations for me.  I fret about what clothes to dress everyone in, will the clothes match, are they CLEAN, can they stay clean between dressing and picture-taking, and will we look cute enough?  And then when it’s done, I heave a big sigh of relief!  Even if it was a crazy photo shoot!  Only one or two out of a hundred pictures are perfect, but I love it that way.  We’re NOT perfect!  We’re a family.


Here it is!  (The perfect one.)

My friend Mary stopped by our house last night to take the picture.  It was really nice not to have to worry about shoes and socks, coats and carseats, and a trip over to a photography studio!  I forgot to tell Dee that the rest of us would be barefoot…

Instead of just “cheese!”, we laughed our heads off saying, “cheeseboogers!” 

My kids made some awful funny faces…

…and CJ told Anna, “I love you too. GAS!”

I really wanted individual shots of the kids, but Moosies was a big stinker.  She decided she didn’t like Mary, and nothing we could bribe her with would make her sit or stand anywhere but in Mommy’s lap.  Mary took this shot first thing, before Moosies started her boycott…

After my wild monkeys were tucked in their beds, my sister and I stayed up late and talked.  Anna was only twelve when I got married and moved away, so I love it when she comes to my house to visit!  Yeah, we talk about deep, heavy stuff… but we also talk about boys, and make-up, and babies, and what we want to be when we grow up.  All the sister stuff I miss!

Merry Christmas to you!  May your homes be filled with as much love and giggles as ours is right now.

Dear Esther…


 I wrote this letter for my sister Esther, and read it at her bridal shower yesterday.  She gave me permission to publish it here!

                                                                                 December 11th, 2010

Dear Esther,

In October, you asked me what advice I could give you on how to be a good wife. I didn’t answer then, because I had no idea what to say! That, and Derek and Ben got to talking about husband stuff, and we stopped to haul that big red door into the truck.

I still didn’t know what to tell you, so I went to a man. I asked Derek. “If you were still looking for a wife, what one quality would you look for? What would a guy appreciate in a woman?”

His first response was very guyish, so I’ll skip that one. But you already know how important that “fun” side of marriage is! Keep it up, even when you don’t feel like it, and you’ll have a good marriage. It’s how Ben is hardwired to show his love for you!

Derek’s next response was “stand by him.” Loyalty. Choose Ben over everyone else! When his boss is a jerk, and his father-in-law just said something to annoy him, stand by Ben. Pick Ben over your mom or your sisters. Loyalty is easy when you and your husband stand on the same side of an issue, but stand by Ben even when you feel like fighting him. I guarantee he’ll notice your loyalty, even if he doesn’t say anything. He’ll be able to fight the world off with a woman like you! Prove your loyalty now, when you have your newlywed spats. Because no matter how many books you read, front porch talks you have, or marriage counseling sessions you go to, you will fight! You’re a sinner, he’s a sinner, and you sinners are going to knock heads.

Honor him. (Derek couldn’t pin-point just one quality. Men want it all!) Admire and praise Ben every chance you get. Even cheesy stuff like, “Oooo, honey, you have such big strong muscles!” when he opens the pickle jar for you. (You’ll be eating pickles soon, right? And yeah, you have to pretend you can’t do it yourself.) Stroke his ego! It’s okay! Flattery in a marriage is just healthy flirting. Make him feel like a man.

Don’t compare! Contentment. You guys are just starting out, so it might seem like everyone else has more. Of everything. Again, stand by your man! Tell Ben it’s okay that there isn’t extra money for a vacation, and it’s okay if you’re still in a tiny apartment. It’s okay if you have to use hand-me-down furniture, and it’s okay if “out to eat” means Taco Bell. I’m pretty sure you’d be okay with any of this, but make sure Ben knows you are! Your guy worries about providing. Let him know you really are okay, and happy.

Follow his decisions. Derek didn’t say “obey,” but that’s what he meant!  Obey Ben, even if he doesn’t actually ask you too. Obey his heart. Know what he wants to do about church, kids, food, holidays, cleaning, vacation – whatever! – and then follow his spoken and unspoken wishes.

So that was four things, right off the top of a man’s head. Loyalty, honor, contentment, and obedience. I think men just want to matter to someone, to be the center of someone’s world. Your man is craving love, like we all do. So just keep on loving him! Unconditionally! Remember that love covers a multitude of sins. Love him when it’s tough. When he’s hurt you somehow, set aside your pain and love him anyway. You and Ben have something special going on, and Satan’s going to attack your marriage. See it for what it is, and don’t fall for his traps! Hold on to God, hold on to Ben, and keep on being the beautiful woman you are.

Pneumonia and a Christmas tree

Pneumonia and a Christmas tree

Moosies struggled through a bout of pneumonia earlier this week.   I barely had time to eat, never mind blog!  For three days, all she did was curl up in my arms, cry, cough, moan, suck in air, or finally crash on the couch for thirty minutes at a time.  At night, she woke up every hour or less, and just wanted to be held and rocked while she wrestled to get comfortable.  She had a fever the whole time too, so I had a hard time keeping her cool.  It was EXHAUSTING, for both her and me!

But she’s back to normal now!  Climbing, running, hitting her brothers, and teasing me about having gas.  Yeah.  Even at one-and-a-half years old!  I’m still pounding her chest to loosen leftover congestion, and also adding eucalyptus oil to the humidifiers.

Moosies stopped nursing when she caught pneumonia, so we’re done.  I was too consumed with caring for her and catching sleep in my spare moments to be super sad about it then.  Now, though, I’m sad!  Especially because once Moosies was better, she started to ask again, “nurse? nurse?”  Like tonight on the way to bed.  I just keep saying “no,” because I know we needed to stop sooner rather than later.  As much as I admire the moms who go longer than a year and a half, it’s just not accepted around here.  So I’m sad.  Dee goes back and forth between making fun of me, and being really sympathetic!

Moving on…

Last Sunday we drove down the road to pick out and haul home our Christmas tree!  I don’t have pictures of the “sawing down,” but took a couple shots of the boys waiting for Daddy to come home from church.  It snowed that day, which was exciting for ME!   Just flurries, but snow is snow.

I waited until the kids were in bed to put lights on the tree.  It’s just easier that way!  On Monday morning though, I let them hang ornaments up however they wanted.  They’ve been taking ornaments down and re-hanging them ever since!  Our tree has quite a few “ornament clumps.”  It’s beautiful!  I did hang several special ones myself, way up high…

I’m leaving tomorrow later today for Massachusetts, to help party up my sister’s bridal shower.  I can’t believe she’s getting married in a month!  And I can’t believe Christmas is soon!  I’m bringing another sister back home with me, and I’m just as excited as my kids about that.  I’m looking forward to hanging out with my baby sister (now nineteen) until Christmas!

Crappy days are all in my head


Some days are just crap.  That’s what’s running through my head anyway, when things fall apart.  Like…

When CJ wakes up at 6:00am, and poops and pees in the basement, and knocks down a huge stack of 2×4’s, and opens the wood furnace door (again), and he and Moosies climb up on a desk, on a lamp, and fling shelf after shelf of my books to the floor, and Moosies gets stuck in the bathroom sink and burns herself with hot water, and the kids are whiny and grumpy, and I can’t ship them outside because it’s raining, and I don’t get much school done with Kbug…

My gut response is to say, “What a horrible day.  My life is awful right now.  Woe is me.”  (Take your pick!)

And I do, regretfully, give in to that human response.  Yesterday when Dee called me, I was in tears.  Over the phone I sobbed, “Homeschooling would be so much easier if I didn’t have three other kids to take care of!”

And then I watched a video about a mom and dad whose baby was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia.  They’re just waiting for him to die, maybe even before Christmas.  And I think about the unborn babies ripped out of this world every twenty seconds!  And I think about the moms in other countries, watching their kids slowly die from starvation or disease.  Stuff uncommon here in America.  Stuff I take for granted.  Just like I take for granted my healthy, happy children.

I have been wonderfully, extravagantly blessed!

So really, my day was anything BUT crappy!  It was beautiful, because it was full of life.  I can clean up poop.  I can pick up books.  (I can even buy new ones!)  I can sleep later.  I can fix burned hands, because I have salve, and bandaids, and aloe, and stacks of books about “how to.”

Ever since I started intentionally focusing on gratefulness, my “problems” fade away much quicker.  I have no real “problems!”  Only heart problems, of my own.

I’m grateful for…

65. healthy children

66. bandaids

67. Eden Salve

68. a three-year-old that wants to wear undies!

69. free lumber

70. a husband that goes dumpster-diving to get it

71. bookshelves hand-made by my husband

72. hundreds of books to fill the shelves up!

73. instant resources for injuries

74. a daughter that wants to read about Squanto

75. and also prays, “God, please help Mommy not to yell at us, and to love us and take care of us better”

76. snow flurries

77. warm coats, hats, and gloves

78. hot towels from the dryer!

79. tea parties, to relax and regroup with my kids

80. candles

81. a radio in the kitchen

82. a huge Christmas tree in the downtown circle

83. a Suburban to pile in when we need to drive around and look at lights

84. Christmas lights

85. the Light of the world

86. a Baby to save us all

Nerf guns and goats — both good stuff!


I was going to be good this year, and not buy lots of stuff for the kids.  I’m struggling with, “Maybe we should just buy goats and cows and ducks and chickens through World Vision instead?”  I definitely want my children to be givers.  Not focus so much on materialism.  So should we even put gifts under the tree?  And then I went shopping!  Last night.  I came home with bags!

Not all “stuff” is bad, right?  See, I stopped first at the Homeschool Connection store, looking for… I can’t remember now.  EVERYTHING was 15% off, since they’re going out of business!  It’s all educational, so, it’s all good?  Stuff like puppets and wooden theatres, train sets, tons of Melissa and Doug toys, art supplies, castles and knights, dress-up clothes, science projects, math games, maps, charts, posters, and of course, any school books and teachers guides you would need for homeschooling!  Wow, it was fun!

I bought stuff.

At Kohls, I bought more stuff.  Hey, Nerf refills and Play-Dough restocking is a must!  And socks.  The Man needed socks.  (Which I gave to him the minute I got home, lest you think I’m one of those lousy “sock givers” at Christmas!)

At Target, I bought more stuff.  Well, just one thing.  For the baby!  Mustn’t let her feel left out, you know, in the ripping off of wrapping paper!  (And it was something I’ve had on my “replace” list…)  I rarely shop at Target, and now I’m convinced that’s a good thing.  Very good!  I would spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY if I visited Target on a regular basis.  There was a super cool Nerf shield/sword set that ended up in my hands several times.  But, I did set it back down.  For now.  Maybe I’ll sneak back.  (Cboy has a birthday right after Christmas, after all!)

I felt like sneaking all my bags into the house and into a closet when I got home.  But I didn’t!  I showed Dee my treasures, and he actually gave me hugs and kisses and said, “Good job, Baby!”

Whew!  Guess I didn’t do so bad after all!

My gut feeling on this issue of Christmas Presents is that it’s okay to bless our children with gifts.  Not overboard, but gift-giving is a Godly characteristic.

As far as giving to the rest of the world, and the orphans and widows in our own backyard, it doesn’t mean squat at Christmas if we’re not giving year-round!  God knows our heart.  If we’re “donating” at Christmas because we feel guilty, will He honor it?  I doubt it.  Sure, we can give goats and fresh water at Christmas, and fill shoeboxes with gifts for poor children, but what else are we doing?

Are we filling bottles with change for the crisis pregnancy center?  Or even writing a check?  Are we volunteering our time at public schools’ release time for kids?  Or the local relief center?  Are we passing bags of nice clothing on to someone in church instead of selling it?  (Me!  I’m guilty of this!)  Are we praying for and sending money to the missionaries we know, or that our church supports?  Are we giving to these people anonymously, or taking a tax write-off?  Are we paying some stranger’s grocery bill?  Or better yet, sending groceries to a family we know that’s struggling financially?  What about stopping to give the “lazy bum” at the Wal-Mart corner the rest of our cash?  Donating that $1 at the checkout counter?  Are we inviting the “unlovely” into our homes, to share a meal or just some friendship?  What about abused children?  Rape victims?  Pregnant teens?  Children and women trapped in the (United States!) sex-trade industry?  Are we bringing our family to the nursing homes and soup kitchens?  Can we offer to watch kids for free, so a mom and dad can “date?”  Buy huge boxes of diapers for a family with a new baby?

So many ways to give…

Giving has to be a way of life, not a once-a-year offering.

This fall, my family was here on a Sunday when a missionary was speaking at church, about life in Africa.  I didn’t want to stop at Starbucks on the way home, to pay $2.21 for a cup of coffee.  I knew that $2.21 could buy precious more than a cup of coffee in Africa!  I said something, about wanting to save the $2.21 that week, and not spend it on coffee.

My dad spoke up with words he’d heard from a long ago pastor.  The gist was,

“Don’t talk about ‘not spending’ money because of poor people in another country, unless you’re actually going to take and send that money to another country!”

So I think I will keep sending money to other countries!  And to families from here.  I think I will keep giving my kids presents at Christmas, and also buy goats and chickens for families in South America.  I know I’ll keep drinking coffee!  But I’m going to do my best to SAVE in order to GIVE all year long.