Sunday, September 26, 2010

All At The Same Time

This is a story about deer, diapers and baths.

Joel and the 4 older kids went to a homeschool conference on Saturday morning. Joel was giving a presentation; the kids were visual aids.

I stayed home with, you guessed it, the toddlers and the baby.

I got Sadie up. Her diaper had BLOWN OUT. This means the little gel balls in the diaper had exploded out of the top, had spread all over her onesie and onto her stomach. One swipe with a wipe just moved the gel balls around; it accomplished nothing in the way of actually cleaning.

So, suddenly breakfast time became bath time. Just before the bath, Zeke asked if he could go outside on the front porch and blow the Whistle That Used to be Mine When I Was A Soccer Coach. I was coaching soccer back in the day when people said it was easier to wait for adopted children to come home if one kept "busy." It didn't work for me, but I got a pretty loud whistle out of the whole deal.

I said yes, Zeke could go out on the porch and blow the whistle. That moment of permission giving meant that in nanoseconds, Lizzie would come careening over from wherever she had been to say: "BIZZIE OUTSIDE WHISTLE ZEKE GO??????!!!!!!!!"

Yes, Liz. You can go out too.
Mom? Bizzie potty.
Ok, you go potty first, then outside.

I kept Sadie lying still in the urine soaked gel balls by giving her a bottle. However, when Lizzie was done going to the bathroom, she needed me. "Stay there," I commanded my 1 year old.

I helped Lizzie, came back to the livingroom and found U.G.B. (urine gel balls) in a line where Sadie had rolled over and tried to crawl to find me in the bathroom.

Sent Liz out with whistling Zeke. Picked up Sadie, plopped her in the bathtub.

10 minutes later, I hear a strange, muffled sound. It's crying. It's hysterical crying. It's crying and Mommy all put together from someplace I can't find.

It's Lizzie and Zeke and the whistle. And.....the 8 point buck who has come to play with the toddlers. The toddlers have smashed themselves up against the back door. Zeke sort of likes the deer. Lizzie hates him. I finally arrive on the scene, naked baby wrapped in a towel, tear soaked Lizzie who looks like she's just seen a bomb go off and Zeke who says, "The deer came to me when I whistled."

A New Question

I was at the store yesterday with the toddlers and Sadie. A woman turned and smiled at us. I was expecting the standard:
1. Are all these yours?
2. Do you have a daycare?
3. My, you must have your hands full.

Instead, I got, in reference to Lizzie and Zeke:
"Are they twins?"

Ummmm. Well. There's a thought provoker.

"They are the same age," I answered. And then I stared hard at them. Am I missing something? Have we spent so much time together that we are ALL starting to look the same?

I'm including a picture. Zeke's on the right, just in case you can't tell them apart.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hanging Clothes/Mrs. Jean Belz #3

Mrs. Belz rarely told me what to do. She made "suggestions," usually only one time. I learned to listen for them: they were few, far between and valuable.

One beautiful summer day she remarked, "This is a perfect day to hang clothes on the line."

"Done," I thought. I pulled the still damp clothes out of the dryer mid-cycle and took them to the clothesline. I hung them carefully over the line, felt accomplished and went back inside.

Mrs. Belz came over. She was suppressing a smile. "Sometimes it's easier if you use clothespins." She put an ice cream bucket of clothespins on the kitchen floor.

I left that first load out on the line. They had been nearly dry anyway when I draped them; it seemed silly to interrupt the whole natural drying process now. But for the next week, I watched the clothesline. There was an art to hanging clothes. Shirts, pants, towels, all were hung with an obvious plan inmind that went beyond draping.

After watching, I began my quest to Hang Clothes. For awhile, I found very little satisfaction in the whole thing beyond the importance of having followed Mrs. Belz's suggestion. Then I noticed that I was beginning to enjoy the process. When life got busier or came apart completely, there were my dish towels, flapping in silent testament to the fact that there was someone who knew and could keep order.

Two years after my hanging clothes started, Mrs. Belz called me. "That's a very attractive clothesline you've got out there."

I called my friend. "SHE LIKES MY CLOTHESLINE!!!"
My friend didn't miss a beat. "Marty, you've arrived."

The day after her funeral, I hung three loads of wash outside with Mrs. Jean Belz clothespins. It then rained for 2 days straight so I had to stick them in the dryer after all. But it was worth it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Weird Week

1. The toddlers went to preschool.

2. Sadie will turn 1.

3. Eli will start classes at a co-op.

4. Emma got her driver's license.

September 7-September 14

For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your work; at the works of Your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 92:4

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mrs. Jean Belz Story 2

Mrs. Jean Belz helped to plant 5? 12? evergreen trees when she was 84? 85? years old. I was at her house on the tree planting afternoon. She asked me to help her into bed saying she didn't feel "quite right." While this was much more common in the last 5 years, it was not at all a common occurrence then. I helped her to her room, then she asked me to call her daughter in law, MaryAnna. I called, but Mary Anna was off campus. She would be back in 1/2 an hour. I sat on the other bed, stared at Mrs. Belz and thought about how bad I am at handling medical situations. She asked me again when Mary Anna would be back. That question filtered through some medically alert section of my brain and became, "Can you call 911?"

I went in another room in case her well known frugality extended to ambulance calls as well. Perhaps I also didn't want her to know that I didn't know what I was doing, that MaryAnna coming home in 28 minutes seemed like forever. The call felt like it was more for me than for her at this point.

The dispatcher asked me what the problem was and then asked, "How old is she?"
"She's in her 80's," I said.
"Ohhhhhhh. Well, we'll be there as soon as we can."
Now another section of my brain whipped into high gear translation. It became clear to me that this dispatcher had no idea that we were talking about a dorm parent, a Latin teacher, the Manners Teacher for Wayward Teens and International Students, the founder of a school and the calmer of not just students but staff as well. Like me.

"You have to come now," I told him. "I need this woman here. It doesn't matter how old she is. She is really, really important."

"Of course," he says, we'll be there as soon as we can."
"How soon?"
"We can be there in 15 minutes."

I hung up. I looked at my watch. I looked at Mrs. Belz. I called 911 again. It had been 3 1/2 minutes.

"I just called."
"We know."
"You need to come."
"We are."
"Yes, but you're not fast enough."
"We're coming as fast as we can."
"I know. Come faster."
"Mam......" (cue slightly patronizing tone.....)

The ambulance came. I felt sheepish/apologetic/awkward and entirely relieved. What if she had been just tired? Maybe it had been no big deal. Now her insurance would probably skyrocket all because I called an ambulance for her fatigue and my panicky incompetence.

She'd had a heart attack.
She lived for another 7 years.
She died after having a massive stroke.
As many as 500 people gathered yesterday for her funeral.

Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Ps. 84:5

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Tonight I happened to look in the mirror. I only looked because I was giving the toddlers a bath and I stood up to get the shampoo. Bam. There I was looking back at me. My firework hair, my drooled on/cried on/spilled on shirt, told the story of today in more than vivid detail.

I stayed up too late last night. If you got an email from me after midnight, this day might have been your fault. We did an entire day of school. Still not used to it. I took the toddlers and baby on 2 separate trips. Still not used to that either. The police came to my house. Told me someone from our address had called 911, 911 had called back, someone had picked up the phone, there was static and then the phone went dead. I didn't tell the police officers this, but my boys had been playing poker. With chips. 2 of my children were in cribs asleep. One of my children was downstairs with me asking me questions every other minute. One of my children was in the shower. And if Emma was the one to make the call and the hang up then we're in more trouble than I know.

Maybe I called them. Maybe I somehow knew that after they left I would go to a soccer game with 3 kids 3 and under. And they would be hungry. And it would get cold. And it would rain. And then it would lightening. And then Zeke would put his hands over his ears and start screaming so loudly that he couldn't hear me tell him to get in the car.

Maybe I knew that while I gave Sadie a bottle tonight she would crank her head around and practically knock my lower jaw out of joint.

Maybe tomorrow I will call 911 just to see if they have Emergency Helpers, although the plan is to go to the Minnesota State Fair. I'm sure livestock, sewing, yodeling and walleye on a stick will go a long way in restoring my youthful vigor. Something needs to happen. If the Fair doesn't work, I think I demonstrate "emergency" quite persuasively. Maybe 911 needs a poster child. I saw her in the mirror just today.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recent pictures

Hey everyone. Look over your shoulder. Here, no, Zeke! Sadie? Levi? Hey--Eli? Ok. Nevermind.

A Question

Levi: "Mom, is it ok if I wore these shorts yesterweek?"

Mrs. Jean Belz 1919-2010

Joel and I spent 7 years working at a boarding school in Iowa. And that's a blog all of its own. Tonight, though, and maybe more nights after this, will be about the woman who founded the school in the 1950's and who, at the age of 80, was still teaching and dorm parenting when I arrived on the scene in 1998.

Mrs. Belz had an interesting way about her. I wasn't scared of her, but I did feel I needed to act a certain way. I needed to be proper. I needed to be careful. I needed to be alert. All those things in a good way.

One of my first memories of spending time with Mrs. Belz was at her 80th birthday party. Eli was either a newborn or at home or both. That made going to a non-family member's birthday party possible since he was a horrible child from 9 months to oh, 6 years. Emma was little--4 or 5 years old. Grace was 3. Grace was too small to hold birthday cake on her lap, so I scooted her up to the table that held all 30 to 40 pieces of cake, made a little spot for her and gave her a piece. She and Emma were holding up well--no spills, no cries, no offenses that made people wonder if my children had been raised by wolves.

Until Grace finished her piece and reached for another. I pulled her hand back, pushed the cake back, explained that she had finished her piece and those were for other people. She became a sobbing mass of distress. Alert to the unraveling of my proper, careful image, I realized: she thought every one of those pieces was for her; and she was just getting started.

Now it was time to 1. preserve my dignity and 2. get control of my daughter. I don't know if either one worked. It didn't matter because Mrs. Belz came to the rescue:

"Well. I certainly understand her disappointment. I think she was really looking forward to my birthday party."