Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life without satellite

A date that will live in infamy.
A day that will change the dynamic of Oehlschalger farm forever.
A turning point.
It was the day we got rid of satellite.
Now, without a digital converter box, we are the proud owners of an Amish television.
And when the wind blows, our channel options are even fewer.
Sounds pathetic this is such a big deal, right?
I think it is. It’s pretty sad when deciding to turn off the tube and turn to family time caused such a stir.
And I know we aren’t alone. Families all over the country have been caught in the time-consuming vice of television, satellite and DVRs so long we don’t know any different. We don’t see the problem. It’s a part of our lives. And the reason it’s sad is because television is not reality.
On the other hand, it is a way to avoid what problems ARE realities in our lives.
A way to procrastinate the work we, in reality, have to accomplish.
It makes us lazy. It numbs our minds. It makes us fat.
Wake up, America. We are zombies!
The instant we unpluged that satellite and turned on the fuzzy remnants collected by our antenna, there was relief.
Our home now has a different feel.
The white noise (most of it) is gone.
Now all that remains is the normal and healthy family sounds.
Kids screaming, playing and laughing.
Conversations with my husband.
More story times with the children.
There’s even more quiet.
The world has been turned off and I am left with the things that matter most to me.
I’m not distracted by smut T.V. or worried about the influence even “good” shows are having on those little sponges.
There’s no obligation to keep up with “my shows.” Getting rid of satellite was like marking 100 things permanently off my to-do list.
I can tell you that, so far, it has been one of the best decisions we’ve made in regard to our family health.
Mentally. Physically. Financially. Spiritually.
Winter is on its way. An opportunity for us to perfect our non-satellite time management skills. I will be tested. I probably will long for the mind-numbing glow of hundreds of child-occupying channels.
But I will also cuddle with and listen to my oldest daughter, Kadence, read me a story.
I will be captivated by the Lego architecture Rylan designs.
I will watch Bella dance to her own music in her full-length bedroom mirror.
I will laugh at the antics of baby Masen.
I will miss lots of television, but I won’t miss my family.
We will be warm. We will be safe. We will be happy.
Without satellite.

Ginia's favorite things

You know that little, barely known talk show named after the world’s super-mega-icon-celebrity Oprah?
While I don’t frequently watch the show (I have a hard time stomaching the star for a whole hour), I am familiar with her annual “Oprah’s Favorite Things” show.
During this Christmas episode, all audience members in attendance leave with a bundle of Oprah’s favorite things for that year. And I mean the loot they leave with is AMAZING! An eBay seller’s dream score.
So in light of the fact that Oprah is retiring from her show and I will never have an opportunity to be in THAT particular audience, I’ve decided to compile a list of my own favorite things.
Now I don’t get the kick-backs that I’m sure Oprah doesn’t receive either, and my list is rather unexotic and, for the most part, inexpensive and unfashionably available and common, but I’m going to write on anyhow.
This list will be made up of things. There will be no personal heroes or favorite people and no “fall is my favorite.” Just boring things.
So without further delay, I now present you with “Ginia’s Favorite Things 2010”:
(In no particular order)
1. Pepsi. Without the burn of this caramelized “water,” I would surely become a headache-ridden, zombified grouch. (Please, no snickers from the crowd.)
2. Netflix. I love, love, love this online movie rental service. For a monthly fee, your family can enjoy several movies every month delivered straight to your mailbox or live to your T.V. Literally, this service has any movie you can imagine. Literally.
3. Gum. I was THAT kid who always had a wad of the chewy substance smacking around in my trap. Still love the stuff. I carry several different varieties in my purse. I long to be known as the “gum aunt.” And I am proud to announce my reputation is spreading. You should see the crowds I attract at church!
4. Tide and Magic Erasers. I know you are in shock because this former laundry detergent maker is now a buyer of one of the most expensive detergents out there. But, believe me, the orange bottle is worth it. I was skeptical, but it convinced me.
Another cleaning miracle is Magic Erasers, otherwise known as God’s gifts to housewives. Whatever that little sponge is made of can do wonders, making the thickest ring on the dirtiest tub come off with little to no elbow grease. It can take crayon off anything and can do a gazillion more cleaning chores like a champ.
5. ewordtoday.com. This little website gives you day-by-day assignments to read the Bible in one year. God convicted me to do this after thinking back on all the books I’ve read from cover to cover. I, unfortunately, realized the Bible — the most important book on my shelf — had never been read as thoroughly.
6. allrecipes.com. This site gives cooks a chance to browse more online recipes than you can imagine. What I like is all the reviews and suggestions. Excluding your own kitchen inadequacies, it’s almost a sure-fire way to make a hit dinner dish.
7. Dyson vacuum. We recently purchased one of these awfully expensive vacuums after our only-2-year-old model quit doing it’s one and only job: sucking! I will tell you, that this purchase has revolutionized my world. Seriously. I loved to vacuum before. But now I REALLY love to vacuum. Worth the money.
8. Coolpix camera. This memory maker has been nothing but a joy to me. Available in all the colors of the rainbow, the cameras are as small as a cell phone and take amazing, quality photos.
That’s really it. My favorite things reflect what’s most important in my life: God, husband, kids, family, home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Contemplating the reasons

As I removed the turkey baster from my youngest son’s nose on “one of those days,” it reminded me of God’s sense of humor.
Not even five minutes later, when I was washing a dog treat from that same child’s mouth, a small, still voice reminded me that “everything happens for a reason.”
There’s a reason nothing is getting done today and everybody is at everybody else’s throat.
There’s a reason I have no energy to wash the mounds of laundry and dishes.
There’s a reason my youngest is not the typical easy-going last child.
This list could go on and on — for the positive and the negative moments in my life.
Boy, that’s easy to say sometimes, even easy to believe, especially when all is well. But when your life is feeling out of control — whether it be something temporary like wild kids or something serious like sickness — that reason is hard to swallow.
Still, He says there is one, whether we know it or not. Accept it or not.
Now I know some people find that pregnancy is controversial, but it’s not to me. I believe ALL children are gifts from God, and I know the reason He gave me four was to save my life. Literally.
You couldn’t convince me back then that anything good could/would come out of having our fourth child when our third was just 10-1/2 months old and our first had just turned 4.
How was I going to survive? I didn’t know.
So I worried and dealt with it on my own.
The fourth time around was not and has not been the easiest.
Now that the little ball of fun is just months away from his third birthday, I have a very different perspective on why God chose me to be a mom.
As my faith has grown. I can see how God has used each of them to bring (force) me closer to Him.
Taking into account my understanding of God’s humor (which I have experienced personally), I envisioned Him looking over my life and seeing me trying to control every aspect and facet. I know He wanted me to surrender my life to Him, but I just couldn’t (wouldn’t) give up the control.
“OK, Ginia, now try to control having another baby.” — God said to an unlistening Ginia.
Into our life came baby Bella, only 15 months after our second child.
Still I resisted His urging to draw near to Him. I struggled to remain in control. I was missing something, but I didn’t know what. Angry but I didn’t know why.
God knew when He gave me Masen that it would be the straw that literally broke my back, my pride, my will.
With so many young children with so many needs I couldn’t control, let alone meet, I finally submitted to God’s authority over my life.
Each child in my care right now will live out God’s plan for their lives, but I believe without these children I would not be here.
I would be asleep in my own little world, still frustrated by my lack of control without understanding the reason behind it.
Ten years ago, my destiny (according to me) would not have included children.
I thank God every day that I’m living His will rather than my own.
And His reasons are good enough for me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Man vs. wild pits Mom vs. kids

The Oehlschlager men have been doing this “go-out-into-the-wild-and-survive” thing a few times now.
They cleverly call it “Man versus Wild.” (Like the popular TV show.)
We girls aren’t invited (not that we would want to go out in the middle of nowhere with no tent and sleeping bag and limited food and water).
So we are left to fend for ourselves and the young’uns at our respective homes.
And this time around was no piece of cake (for me and my brood). Literally, it was my worst parenting weekend since becoming a mom of four.
I can’t pinpoint the reason why, it was just the perfect storm of a significant mood-altering weather change, lack of sleep and the kids missing their Dad.
While my children go to bed earlier than most (tend to rise earlier, too) and are, for the most part, ingrained into a daily schedule, this weekend-palooza sent even our most obedient child into a tailspin.
There was an enormous amount of unbridled, never-ending energy and curiosity from the youngest, fight after fight after fight with the two middles and an emotional roller coaster with my oldest bookend.
And Saturday was the most beautiful day, too. Sorry to say I didn’t enjoy it.
I remember watching the clock tick away. To survive and make it easier to swallow, I mentally broke the days into little segments: breakfast, lunch, nap, bed. Done.
But done took so long to arrive.
And then Sunday finally came.
I woke early (mainly because everybody else did) and went to the kitchen to rustle up something to keep the children’s mouths occupied.
I could barely keep my eyes open. The fuse on my temper had long been burnt through. I was literally a worn out, useless shell of a body. But, Matt was supposed to return before lunch.
“I can make it just a little bit longer.” — Me to myself.
So, I bet you can guess what happened next.
The cattle got out. Of course.
It was like jumper-cables re-electrified the “I-can-do it”-attitude I had long lost amidst the terrible weekend.
“You can do this, you’re a real farmer now,” was the dialogue between my brain and my scrawny muscles as I high-tailed it down the driveway.
I looked ridiculous, but I ran anyway. Cows (money) before beauty (pride).
After fetching some grain, opening a gate to run them through and running back up to the cows, I realized I might be in over my head.
With the amount of attention my weak and pathetic “scow” and a bucket of grain brought, I KNEW I was in too deep.
They started running, so I did too!
While running (literally for my life) toward the open fence, I saw four short-people faces plastered to every open window on the west side of the house, and I realized, this IS probably how I would die.
In giant black Mucks over my neon pink pajama pants with greasy, barely pulled back hair and leftover mascara smudges under my puffy sleep-deprived eyes.
Yep, this would be how my last moments would be played out. A crazy mess till the end.
But at least this crazy mess got the cows back in AND is still alive.
I had a little skip in my step (mainly vibrations from my pounding heart) as I walked back up to the house.
The kids were waiting to congratulate me. (They were all amazed, too.)
I guess when you can successfully corral a few wandering cows, that does make you a real farmer (at least in a pinch).
— As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Another milestone

First off, I wanted to give a shout out to the Man upstairs: THANK YOU FOR THE RAIN!
Along with the much-needed moisture for our pastures, You have also given our home a much-needed boost in morale. Hallelujah!
Now we might just survive this long, dry, hot summer.
Although the liquid gold (rain) has been almost non-existent the last few months, our home has moved full speed ahead.
The Oehlschlager children have continued to grow (unlike our pastures) and have met some pretty major milestones.
Side note: I’ve noticed lately my columns tend to lean toward bathroom topics. I believe this is because the matters we moms deal with on a moment-to-moment basis are, unfortunately and typically, related to some form of bodily secretion. These incidents and milestones therefore do not qualify for dinner time conversation and may be considered improper topics in general.
So, I’m sorry to those who display more elegance and etiquette than I, but I can’t just be quiet about my life. And my life revolves around small people whose pastimes revolve around doing mostly disgusting and very clever activities.
One of those more mainstream activities that we participate in is potty training.
Our final diaper wearer, Masen Timothy, is now nearing the finish line of the potty training race.
We are more than excited about this very monumental milestone in our family.
Since December 2003, we have been purchasing diapers and more diapers and more diapers.
While I trained Nos. 2 and 3 (Rylan and Bella) early, I have been dragging my feet with the baby boy.
Frankly, relatively speaking, it’s easier to have only one in diapers than to have to go through the process of toilet training. I was (and still am) a little burned out.
But, I am a big believer in goals. So at the end of last school year, our family listed and posted our summer goals for each child.
I begrudgingly added “potty training” to our little Mae Mae’s list.
And so the quest began.
As all of mine have, Mae began with enthusiasm (which I lacked). The messy and time-consuming roller coaster of this training process also included the unfortunate spell of his refusing to go.
In my house, small people go to the restroom when I say. Period.
Mae learned quickly that I meant business, and he eventually submitted.
How we train in our house involves M&Ms and an oven timer.
(We don’t use pull-ups until the child is nearly potty trained because it’s confusing to them.)
First thing in the morning, the trainee puts on big boy or girl underwear and tries to use the facilities. If he or she goes, they get to eat one candy.
The timer is set for 15 minutes. Then they MUST try again. If they absolutely have nothing happen, then the timer is reset for 5 minutes. And the process repeats all day long. One candy per toilet success.
We don’t push naptime and nightime until daytime is fully established.
And now Mae is going through the stage (which I’m almost 100 percent certain he learned from his brother) of going wherever he is, toilet or not.
He has also discovered, and I’m sure most innocently participates in, urinating as a form of annoyance to other people.
While I was talking to my grandma about Mae’s toilet success, I caught him (pants down) standing behind an unsuspecting sibling who was relaxing on the floor.
I intercepted his plans before the victim was affected.
This is the messiest, most disgusting and frustating phase of the process, which hopefully is short-lived.
When the day comes that I have to give away all of our stock-piled diapers, I might be sad.
But only for a minute.
— As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Monday, August 23, 2010

A niece says thanks

How can I summarize 75 years into one column?
How can I write what I want to say and convey to you why a man like Doug Seneker made such an impact on so many?
I don’t think I can. My black and white words will not do justice to the colorful lifetime of memories made.
My memories of my Dunkle Bug (which is how I pronounced his name when I was little and it stuck) are entangled with that of my Grandpa Don, his identical twin brother.
Literally two identical peas in a pod.
Since my grandpa’s sudden death in 2002, I have taken comfort in the “identicalness” of the two.
While I know that my uncle was devastated by the loss of his brother, he worked very hard to be there for the family in a way only my grandpa’s twin could be.
Unspoken understanding is one of the most unique attributes of the Senekers. I never spoke these words to my uncle but I know he knew.

Dear Dunkle Bug,
There is peace in my heart today because I know you ran the race set out for you.
You got all the “goody” out of this life and were blessed with a wife, children and grandchildren who love you.
Your obituary is filled with your accomplishments and accolades.
What a fine man you were. A dandy.
Thank you for your “extra presence” after Grandpa died.
You were larger than life. Funnier than most. Intelligent. Interesting. Interested. Insightful.
I am a better person for knowing you.
With much love
and respect,
As seen in the Lawrence County Record.
Doug Seneker’s complete obituary can be found on The Record's website: www.lawrencecountyrecord.com.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Borderline OCD? Try 20/20 system

I don’t technically have obsessive compulsive disorder, but I’m for sure a borderline case.
Four kids, a husband who wears cow patty-caked boots, an indoor cat and two floppy-eared bunnies later, I’ve been forced to learn some coping mechanisms.
A day, hour or even a minute doesn’t pass without something someplace being moved from where I placed it. And since the kids and animals are home all day, our home can look more like a barn when the sun finally sets.
Time to clean conveniently arrives when it’s also time to go to sleep — at least that’s what I’d prefer to be doing.
So to motivate myself, (because nothing can start my day off worse than a messy house) I’ve implemented a 20/20 system.
And it is serious business to me!
Real serious.
Ask Matt.
He came home one evening to find me flinging and literally sprinting back and forth across the house like a mad woman, cleaning to beat my timer.
That’s the point. I set our oven timer for 20 minutes. Then I try to accomplish as much cleaning as possible in that time.
When the timer goes off, I stop. Period.
Then I set it for 20 more minutes. I can do whatever I want during this time. Usually, I read or play online.
The cycle repeats itself until I’m completely finished with my chores.
I LOVE this system!!
Besides motivating me to get the chores done in a quick amount of time, it allows my sick and twisted brain to know exactly how long it takes to clean a particular room or fold a basket of laundry or iron a pile of clothes. Because it never really takes as long as you think it does.
My kitchen can be swept in two minutes. The dishwasher unloaded in about three minutes, and I can fold a basket of clothes in just a whiff of time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love to clean. I’ve been known to offer (and actually follow through with) cleaning people’s houses. I love the transformation — making something better.
But even the most borderline cases of OCD become paralyzed with the workload. And everybody is tired. At least it seems like everybody is always complaining (like me) that they are tired.
This system has allowed me to persevere when I feel like giving up. And I have given up at times. Left the clothes overnight in the dryer. Counters littered with that evening’s takeout. Yes, I’ve been guilty.
But I never sleep well when the house is a wreck. So, mostly, I push through, and it’s always worth it.
At the end of the night, when you slip between the cool sheets of your cozy bed, I will almost guarantee the lemon Pinesol smells of your spotless house will lure you to sleep.
And the satisfaction you feel will make all the crazy running through the house you just did worth it.
— As seen in the Lawrence County Record

A bunch of bitter cucumbers

Cucumbers. That’s all I think about. My bitter, heart-breaking cucumbers.
I know it seems pathetic (it really is). But I can’t help it.
Besides planting, weeding and watering, I really grow to love the plants in my garden.
I have been known to fly out of the house, broom in hand, to scare away the winged, egg-laying creature creeping too close for comfort.
So it’s very personal to me when I pick a half a dozen beautiful, green cucumbers (which are almost my favorite thing) and they are all inedible. Bitter is a kind word, really.
It’s very sad. I have to throw away tons and tons because cucumber plants put off tons and tons of produce. I still diligently collect them, though, and have gotten into a routine. I peel the center of each cuke (the name people in “the business” call them), cut them in half and taste the center (supposedly the least bitter part).
If it is bitter, I throw it away. If not ... well, I haven’t had that problem yet.
I’ve eaten so many bites of bitter cucumbers lately I’m starting to forget what they are supposed to taste like.
If I think and squint my brain eyes really hard, I can imagine the sweet and tangy flavors of cucumbers mingling with onions in a bowl of vinegar and sugar.
I can still hear the crisp crunch as I take a bite of the refreshing cuke, drenched in ranch.
And that’s it. Fantasizing about my summer cucumbers is all I have left. That and a bunch of bitter cucumbers.
I’ve tried pickling them. Yuck! Didn’t work.
Tried to eat them anyway. That didn’t work either.
So I need your help. What do I do? Is there any hope?
Have any of you fixed this problem or know of a way to prevent it in the future?
Call me if you know.
I know the “cause” is stressed plants and lack of water. So, we upped the water and are praying for divine intervention on the stress-relieving part.
g g g
Like my cucumbers, life on the farm has been anything but a summer breeze.
I don’t know of any profession that has so much to do in such a small amount of time and in such conditions.
My hat goes off to all you farmers who are working hard in the hay fields, planting your beans, corn and all the rest and praying for rain.
Growing up as a “city girl” I had no clue of the amount of work that goes into a farm — especially during the warm months.
The days are long, and the work rarely gets caught up.
Matt will work at the yards all day and have to go back out as soon as he scarfs dinner to water and feed. Then his weekends are spent hauling hay or building fence or doing something else labor-intensive.
I don’t think I would survive due to my air conditioned-weakened temperature gauge.
I’m thankful I married such a motivated, hard-working guy.
And just take a ride through the country and you’ll see several other hard-working, motivated farmers who are working and sweating their tails off to get it all done.
Don’t you worry about me overworking myself in all this heat. I can be found standing over the sink in my air-conditioned kitchen tasting bitter cucumbers.
— As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seriously seeking a nanny

I am looking into getting a nanny. I mean SERIOUSLY looking into it.
But not the kind you’re thinking of. I want one who will sleep outside, eat out of a bowl and come when I whistle.
I want a Border Collie.
My fascination with this animal (because I am NOT a dog lover) came after Matt and I saw a show about a ranch that used dogs to herd their cattle. And the thought hit me, “I could use one of those for my kids!”
Now, I’m only partly kidding, and mostly I think this is a novel idea.
Matt (who is not so convinced) warned me that the dogs “nip” and “bark” at the cattle to get them to cooperate. That’s fine with me. It will teach the kids not to wander, right?
I can see myself now. Shades on. Feet up. Kids frolicking in the yard. Uh, oh!
Somebody’s escaped! Not to worry, Sally (the name we call most animals at our farm) is on it.
She runs as fast as her legs can carry, barking a warning to the escapee: “Stop or else!”
That child ignores her. Big mistake!
Sally makes a sharp right, cutting the very-near-to-death child runner off, causing him or her to lose footing and come to a halt.
Lesson learned. Child safe. Mom (me) has not ruined the family name by running/screaming/flailing in public.
All is well.
Yep, I need that dog.
Especially since Masen is turning into such a 2-year-old tornado!
In less time than I steal away to use the restroom, he can open the fridge, dump a drink inside, close the fridge, find a chair (from a different room) to drag into the kitchen to find something he “needs” on the counter. Then he will open and dump that much-desired thing, take a bite (not like it), flee the crime scene, and I will find him peacefully (seemingly innocently) watching cartoons with his siblings.
I know you’re thinking that a dog won’t be able to stop him from making messes. BUT, I will have energy in reserves to deal with those extra “Masen” messes because of all the chasing Sally will do for me outside.
I hope you don’t think I’m crazy. Maybe all these kids over these last few years have really gotten to me. Because to me, Sally the Border Collie Oehlschlager sounds like a GREAT idea.
And seeing how life seems to be getting easier and yet harder every day, it is very possible that I might need some live-in help. Unfortunately, God only gave us moms two arms, two eyes and two legs with a bunch of other squishy stuff in between.
He also decided to bless Matt and me with charges with a grand total of eight arms, eight legs and eight eyes.
Hardly even a competition.
I believe with four-legged Sally on my/our team, it should even out the score a bit.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bathroom boundaries

There is a room in our house I can guarantee you will always smell like pee. And it’s not the bathroom.
DISCLAIMER: To protect the reputation of my family member — who will surely, hopefully and prayerfully grow out of this — I will not disclose his name. (But I will tell you it’s not Matt.)
The room that owns this unremovable stench belongs to a little man whose life revolves around protecting what is his.
You can’t even walk into his room without this Rumpelstiltskin-like boy flying up the stairs to see who is in his room and why. He disappears up there for hours working away on buildings and vehicles (built from Legos) and roads (he’s “carved” into the carpet) — creating his own empire.
And every empire has a few bathrooms, I suppose.
At least that is what I discovered while I scoured the room on my hands and knees, sniffing like a dog to find the source of the odor.
When I came to my child’s bed, the cozy place where I diligently put on laundry clean-scented sheets every week, my odor alarm rang loud.
My son, whom I love dearly, had been urinating under his bed, marking “his territory” like an animal! A WILD ANIMAL!
For how long, you ask? I don’t know. When I asked him that question, he held up all his fingers and I soon realized he’d been doing this more often than he could count.
So I explained to him that he is only to go to the restroom in the toilet or on a tree (preferably not in town).
Boy did we sound hypocritical.
See, Matt and I have been training him since he was 1-1/2 years old to alleviate his problems wherever he pleased (outside or in the bathroom) as long as it wasn’t in his pants.
And he has been my earliest potty trainer.
I guess we literally forgot to explain to him the bathroom boundaries.
We should have gotten the hint after my parents’ incident with him at church. A Presbyterian church, no less!
Services were held outside that Sunday in a casual atmosphere. So casual, in fact, my son simply stood up and made his toilet right there during the worship service.
But we turned a blind eye, never really having the heart-to-heart with him about how that’s inappropriate.
Now I realize how much of a mistake that was. I SMELL how much of a mistake that was.
He was there with me while I cleaned the carpet and I believe he now recognizes the disadvantages of going to the bathroom on the carpet.
We pray he does comprehend, because he goes to preschool next year, and I’m sure his female classmates are not ready for THAT kind of anatomy lesson.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The cat's out of the bag

The cat’s out of the bag.
They know and there’s no turning back.
Our children — all four of them — just recently discovered that there are four of them and only two of us.
And now they have been exercising their power in numbers by plotting and scheming and manipulating the younger and trusting siblings to do things for the darker good.
At night, I can only barely count on my fingers and toes the number of instances I’ve kept them from their own demise.
It seems a child’s — or at least my children’s — main objective in life is to find new and creative ways to harm/kill/maim each other or themselves or property.
And my job is to keep them from succeeding.
It’s exhausting.
So to conquer my exhaustion and to exercise my brain, I’ve compiled a list of “mom rules” you should ALWAYS follow (like I’m an expert — yeah right!).
No. 1: Silence during the daytime? This is a sign of trouble. It’s like the calm, eery feeling before a thunderstorm, you know?
When you don’t hear screaming, fighting, laughing or singing, you need to scour the house to account for all children and their limbs.
More times than not, you will find somebody doing something they aren’t supposed to do.
Like when I found our youngest sitting outside in the garage on the lawnmower. We were all screaming and searching. Finally, the little man (who could barely talk) came strutting out of the garage in too-tall-for-him boots and said, “What, Mom?”
No. 2: Invest in latches for doors and remove all objects that can be used to escape.
We have several escape artist children who will do anything possible to rid themselves of the confines of a bedroom or house.
Now, there are multiple levels of locks on our exterior doors,
And when you undo the latch, stand back because once they are “let” outside, they scatter. Keeping them all in one confined area is like holding water in your hands. Some are bound to get out somewhere.
No. 4: Distraction is key to survival.
Even we adults distract ourselves with the daydreams of what we’re going to do when we get home or when we get some free time.
Children are the same way. They get bored with the routine and if they aren’t mentally stimulated, they will work hard to do it themselves.
And the outcome typically involves mud, toilet water or soap. I do speak from experience on this one.
No. 5: At all times account for where every sippy cup and snack is located.
I don’t know how many times dinner has been postponed while we frantically searched for somebody’s missing cup.
I’ve stepped on a squished-into-the-carpet-half-eaten banana.
Long-forgotten cups have been discovered weeks/months later. Enough said.
No. 6: Smile.
When I wake up grumpy — which is more often than not, unfortunately — I find that I set the tone of the house.
If I wake up in a nothing-can-get-me-down mode, the day tends to be better.
The saying is true: “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
One day maybe my kids will get the memo and take it easy on me. But for now, Matt and I are making battle plans of our own.
And though we don’t win every battle, I pray we eventually win the war.
—As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Monday, April 19, 2010

Directionally challenged

I am a direction-illiterate.
That’s right, the queen bee of OCD can’t tell her north from south, let alone be trusted to safely navigate the streets of Springfield.
And that’s why I married Matt. He’s the perfect ying to my yang. He likes the inner pieces of a brownie; I like the edge. He likes a little bit of spaghetti sauce; I like a lot. He is cool, calm and collected while I’m frazzled, frenzied and fried.
And, best of all, that guy knows how to get around. He can navigate with the best of them.
So when Matt found himself parked in a hospital bed last week, he left me, navigator of the year, to fend for myself.
Now getting to the hospital is no biggie for me. I’ve had four kids and have visited that section of Springfield regularly. But once inside those walls, unless I’m heading to labor and delivery, I’m lost.
My handicap may seem ridiculous to those of you who can get around with ease. But if you were to spin me around in even a semi-circular motion, I would be lost. It’s a problem.
Add elevators, no sleep, multiple strangers and stress — forget about it.
I was a mess.
Every time I left Matt’s room (which, of course, was on the top floor of the hospital totally away from EVERYTHING I might have needed, including my car), I had to psych myself up.
My pep talk and deep breaths gave me the false confidence I needed to exit the room without the look of a lost mental patient.
And when I finally found the elevator, I was nearly home free.
Just one other problem. Since there was a little bank of elevators — four to be exact — and you were stuck riding whichever one came first, I was always turned around after I exited.
I had to stop and reorient myself before moving. I’m sure this little quirk of mine was a little annoying for all those who knew exactly where to go.
It was all so stressful I don’t know how I survived.
But I did.
And, more importantly, Matt did.
And I think that if I hadn’t had all the direction drama, I might have worried about him more.
In a weird way, my inability to get from one place to another kept me distracted enough to keep me from losing my cool in more important areas.
While I sit here with those turbulent few days left only in my memory, I am thankful.
I am thankful my partner is safe and returning to his optimal health.
I am thankful we had family and friends to help with the kids and animals and other logistical parts of our life.
I am thankful for the prayers that sustained Matt and me and our family.
I am thankful for our God, who answered those prayers.
And last, but definitely not least, I’m thankful to live in a place where I only rarely find myself lost.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Just the other day

Just the other day, I was a kid.
Just the other day, life was simple.
Just the other day, we were walking down the graduation aisle, toilet papering people’s houses and cruising around the square.
When did we grow up?
I don’t feel “grown up.” But does anybody ever really feel ready to take on life as an adult?
Memory lane was reopened last week and, thankfully, only happy memories came to the surface.
Like when a childhood friend and I dumped an entire bottle of liquid glue into another classmate’s school box.
But he totally deserved it. And I, consequently, totally deserved being sent to the principal’s office in (wait for it) KINDERGARTEN!
(I’ve always been a parent pleaser!)
Or the slumber parties. Water wars with enemy girls from higher grades.
Police were called and we were all told to go to bed.
Dance competitions. Show Choir rehearsals. Home games.
We were all so innocent back then.
There were no bills. There was no stress besides the who’s mad at who and the other inevitable middle and high school drama.
But then we grew up and moved away from the sheltered existence of our youth.
I think most adults long for the days of no bills and real responsiblities.
I don’t want to go back to being a teen, but I certainly would love to be that carefree for a few more years. Maybe if I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t rush the growing up process.
I would savor sleeping in. I would appreciate someone else cooking my meals, buying my groceries, driving me to and fro.
I would forget about having a boyfriend and just hang with my pals.
And we would laugh.
Because that’s the thing I remember most about my youth.
Laughter. Gut-wrenching, pee-in-your-pants, tears-freely-flowing laughter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You know you're from Mt. Vernon when...

I love Mt. Vernon. There’s no other place I’d rather live.
When I was graduating, I couldn’t wait to get out, and I left for a few years. But since being home, I’ve realized what an emerald of a place we have here.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some down sides to living in a small town. Everybody knowing everybody’s everything can get a little old. Especially when everybody tells your everything to everybody.
But, all in all, there’s nothing more special than the way this town rallies around people who are having a hard time — or a good time, for that matter.
People in this little old town of Mt. Vernon are good stock, and they care about each other.
And that outweighs not having a Wal-Mart or a 15-show movie theater. At least in my book.
So in honor of all you out there who bleed green, I asked my online Facebook friends to help me think of some things unique to Mt. Vernon by finishing this sentence. Here’s what some of them said:
“You know you’re from Mt. Vernon when ...”
• you think apple butter is a food group.
• you don’t look twice when you see people driving lawnmowers or golf carts instead of cars.
• you realize other high schools don’t bale hay on the school’s front lawn.
• someone’s pulled over by police, you stare to see who it is because you probably know them.
• you pronounce it supe R market.
• you know where “Tater Town” is.
• someone hears on the scanner that your teenager got pulled over. Then they call to tell you.
• you can’t help viewing anybody in black and red as an “enemy” to the homeland.
• you move away and plan vacations back home around Apple Butter Makin’ Days.
• you used to hang on the square after Friday night games.
• someone gives you a local name, you could probably recite most of that person’s family members — including cousins and ex-spouses — and the year they graduated.
• your mascot has a coonskin hat and a shotgun.
• you can remember middle school movie nights at Ruble’s theater and have cruised around the Golden Keg.
• you would rather drive home to eat Mt. Vernon cashew chicken than eat it anywhere else.
• you don’t know street names. Directions are given based on who used to live near or around there or businesses that don’t exist anymore.
• you remember eating Queenie burgers.
• someone tells you to meet them at the “big tree” and you know exactly where it is.
• you know what Happy Brew, Jolly Curls and Smile Dogs are AND you know how to make them.
• you know most names — if not all — of people you see in the grocery store.
• your child is taught by teachers who also taught you, and, in some cases, your mom and dad.
The list could go on and on. But really, the spirit of this little town rests in the fact that there’s no place like home.
And that’s just what Mt. Vernon is to me. Home.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hoping to survive with grace

I am currently reading a true account of a woman from the early 1900s and her life on the Canadian frontier.
Boy, am I a wuss!
Page after page I am baffled by the obstacles day-to-day life brought this woman. The book told of a time when she and her husband were forced (due to starvation) to make a 25-mile hike in 65-degree-below weather with a toddler to a “nearby” cabin for help. Oh, and she was seven months pregnant! And they survived!
Stories like these are the norm in this woman’s life. After giving birth to her third child, she got word that her husband had drowned. Now she and her three young kids were on their own. There were tales about moose hunting — all four of them — from a crooked canoe. And more times than not there wasn’t enough food. There were wolf attacks and very vivid descriptions of nature and the majesty and terror that life on a homestead can bring.
I love reading books like this. It might seem weird, but reading about women who have had it worse — and most do — than me brings comfort and strength where I might lack.
Because since moving onto the farm, I have never been so humbled. There’s nothing like this type of life to make you see where you lack in physical strength and mental knowledge.
Like a few weeks ago when the kids and I went to check the chickens. And then one got out.
“No big deal,” I thought. I was just going to grab the fishing net we use for this type of situation and collect the bird and place her back inside.
And the kids were going to help ...
Which meant that our little fix turned into a half-hour trek through the pasture, back and around all sorts of nooks and crannies.
Finally, I surrendered. We went back inside to eat dinner and let the bird deal with the consequences that might befall her. But when Matt got wind of the events, he told me (he was at work) that I needed to try harder to save his blessed hen.
So every 15 minutes or so, I went out into the dark, cold night trying different scenarios to catch the already spooked bird and lead her back to captivity.
I’m thankful you didn’t see me that night. Because in the light of the chicken house, I could be seen running — with Matt’s too-big-for-me knee-high work boots on — chasing the winged creature around the entire back of my yard with the fishing net. A ridiculous, and unfortunately accurate, display of my farming abilities.
See, I gave up my pride a long time ago. Situations like these forced me to. Whether it’s trying to free my beloved bottle calf from his own stupidity (and mine) or attempting to help wrangle our entire herd of escaped cows. A life of pride simply does not go with my reality.
So reading these books of women who encountered actual life and death situations and handled them with what seemed to me as poise and grace, is inspiring.
And although I wasn’t able to save that stubborn hen — Matt had to catch her — I gave it my all.
Hopefully, one day all of my predicaments will amount to a story about a young city girl who survived this life with a lot of joy and, hopefully, a little bit of grace.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Story

Pastor Jim told the congregation Sunday that we should prepare "our stories” because he is going to call on us to tell them. And I think he is serious.
Fear was nearly palpable as people imagined themselves standing in the spotlight, eyes watching them stand alone to tell some of the most intimate details of their lives.
I’m sure some are contemplating not returning to church until after his assignment is due and everybody has completed the terrifying task. My thoughts have been more on conjuring up the best excuse — the most believable — for why I won’t be able, unfortunately, to speak.
So that was settled. There is no way I’m going to obey. No way I am going to step out of my comfort zone, walk down that aisle and up those steps. There is no way I am going to hold the microphone, let alone speak into it.
And then it came to me Monday afternoon as I was struggling for a topic for this column. The reason I don’t want to get up in front of the church to tell my story is because I don’t think it’s special enough to hear. I don’t think you’ll care. And maybe you won’t.
But what if you do?
And the “what if you do” part is why I’m going to lay it all on the line. Because while you probably know a lot about me since I am a born-and-raised Lawrence countian, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been this candid about the most important thing in my life.
It all started a couple of years ago when we found ourselves attending church. But it wasn’t until I began participating in Sunday school that I found Christ.
I remember the day clearly. The kids were taking a morning nap, and I was sitting on the couch reading that day’s Bible lesson. The story was about Abraham and his son, Isaac. God tested Abraham’s devotion by asking him to sacrifice his one and only son, whom he loved. When Abraham was about to kill his son, God provided a ram for sacrifice so Abraham’s beloved son could live.
It was like a light bulb turned on inside my head and woke me up from my 20-plus year slumber!
God sacrificed his one and only son, whom he loved, so that we could live. He is our ultimate provider and His son, Jesus, is what He has provided so that we can live and not die.
Life changed for me that moment. And the journey since has been one of incredible personal growth, which has made me a better wife and mom. I wish I had the space to tell you all the different ways I’ve seen God move in my life, including two financial miracles that only can be explained by divine intervention.
And I know, without a doubt, He has an army of angels living in my attic to rescue my kids from all the shenanigans they pull! (Next time you see me, ask about the space heater and toilet water!)
Even with all the miracles and my changed heart, I struggle daily, hourly and some times moment-to-moment to keep my minds’ eye focused on what is pure, what is right and what is holy. I still want to control what I can’t control, and my fleshly desires still sometimes win.
I don’t want you to think this profession of my faith in any way elevates me. Since becoming a Christian, I see myself in a whole other light. It’s like my faults are blared in neon lights. But my shortcomings, thankfully, are not nearly as important as the path I’m on now.
And I hope you’ve sensed a change in me. I pray that you see I’m not the same girl you once knew. Because I’m not. And now you know why.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Friday, January 8, 2010

All aboard the Polar Express

As we were waiting — all six of us — to board the Polar Express in Branson, I realized we had bitten off more than we could chew.
It was freezing temperatures, and we were outside with four tired kids on a platform crammed to bursting with other tired and cold passengers. Everybody was impatient. All the kids were hysterical with excitement. My arms were numb from trying to hold and wrangle Masen, who had had enough and was throwing the biggest tantrum of his almost 2-year-old life.
I decided, amid the mayhem, that I was done. I wanted to leave. Walk away and never come back. Our holiday intentions had blown up into our faces and we were left with an impossible mess of tears, snot and grumpy bystanders. Merry Christmas was what we intended. Bah, humbug, was how I felt.
And then Rylan had to go the bathroom.
All we could do was laugh as Matt, Bella and Rylan made the trek through throngs of people back to take care of a situation that typical toddler boys wait to the last minute to take care of.
But we survived, and an eternity later, we heard the conductor boom “All aboard!!!” — which had no magical effect on us because it was drowned out by the agonizing screams of our youngest son.
Soon we were settled into our seats, and the Polar Express story was being read over the speakers. The kids mellowed a bit after their bellies were full of hot cocoa and cookies.
Lights dazzled the outside darkness, making for an interesting ride for the pajama-clad little folks.
Excitement built again when the train made a stop at the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus and we waved at the elves, who were busy building toys and dancing to Christmas music.
Santa came by and gave each kid a sleigh bell, and the conductor made a stop to punch the kids’ first initials into their tickets.
And as Christmas carols blasted on the train speakers and I could barely hear the music over my kids’ joyous voices, I realized it was all worth it.
Despite our stress and discomfort, the children found the spirit of what the trip was intended to be. They laughed, they sang, they ate, and they smiled.
I could almost hear the memories being made and burned into their little brains. They won’t remember the cold and unbearable wait to board the train. Their memories will be filled with Christmas music, hot chocolate and Santa Claus.
Thankfully, the Christmas magic that used to live in Matt and me as children burns hot in our kids. And it’s contagious. Who could resist smiling when you’re sitting next to a child whose happy face is covered in cookie, hot cocoa and dried snot? You can’t.
I found out this last weekend I have to sit back, enjoy the train ride of life and realize that life is what you make it, and my life is good.
Merry Christmas to you all! God bless.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

And smile, smile, smile

It’s nearly 2010, and I’ve decided to be happy about it. Literally.
My New Year’s resolution is to be happy more. Smile when there’s nothing to smile about. Laugh when I want to cry. Be silent when I want to scream. In general, I want to hold back on every natural urge I have to be the out-spoken, glass-half-empty person I’ve grown to be.
You see, it seems nearly every time a New Year has gone by, I, like others who live past their youth, have found myself with more and more responsibilities. And since I’m the type who gets stressed beyond the point of helpful and despises imperfection, I’ve found myself grumpy at the ripe old age of 27.
(Pause for reaction.)
I know I know. I have nothing to be grumpy about. I have a healthy family, a farm, my own health, a job ... and the list could go on and on. But I have, since becoming the mother of four and wife of one, turned into a mission-accomplished-oriented person. I don’t handle “winging it,” and I don’t like to mess up routines. In turn, I’ve lost that crazy spirit that used to live inside.
Growing up, I was the clown in our little group. Laughing was my favorite thing, and I did plenty of it. Thankfully, my childhood was filled with many more smiles than tears and much more laughter than yelling. So why have I allowed myself to become so embittered?
Am I that unthankful? Do I really have that much relying on my actions?
Well the answer to both questions is yes. Matt and I have four souls resting on our shoulders, relying on us to carry them into their adulthood unharmed and hopefully with enough spunk not to be menaces to society.
And I was raised with the schooling of: “You’re more than capable of doing that yourself, Ginia.”
Problem is, now I’ve taken that mentality to the extreme. See, there are many things I can do by myself in this life. Most of the physical demands on my life I can handle. But all the mental stress of being a partner in this farm and in this bigger-than-most-family is something I cannot do alone.
Sure, Matt and I have each other and a very supportive extended family. But what I’ve learned in the last couple years is that I am nothing without something else. Something supernatural. An all-powerful, life-giving, need-providing source. God.
I’ve come to recognize that if I don’t lean on Him, I will crumble. If I don’t give it to Him, I will screw it up.
I’m slowly learning to daily give my troubles to the Lord (and my praises, too). It’s hard to give up control, but the more slack He takes in my reins, the more stable I feel. The more relieved I feel.
I have a safety net. I’m free to fall head-first into this beautiful life I’ve been blessed with and know that no matter what happens I’m going to be OK. Phew!
So as I embark on this New Year, I plan to work on not throwing away this gift God’s given me. I’m going to enjoy it. Responsibilities and all.
I’m going to smile.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record