Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Familiar sayings....

We have been very busy. Yesterday we all went to the natural history museum... the kids mainly love it for the gift shop but I figure they may pick up a bit of educational material since we are surrounded by cool historical stuff. Everyone walked through and saw lots of interesting things plus the kids all got to spend a little of the Christmas cash that had been burning holes in their pockets. After the museum we did a little window shopping. It is very difficult to keep tabs on everyone when there is such a large group so it was no surprise that we lost a kid... but if you look at it from the 'glass is half full' point of view I should say we did NOT lose 5!! Macy wasn't paying attention and got left behind. We did notice by the time everyone was ready to leave the next store. We hunted around then walked back... she was waiting by the door looking nervous. She was definitely shaken up about it. I know this for two reasons... 1) she held my hand for the next 20 minutes, which is very unusual for my 7th grader and 2) she did not even think to use being left behind as a good reason she should have her own cell phone!! All was well though and we told her we thought she was very wise to stay where she was and wait for us to come back.

While I was growing up we often went to visit my maternal grandparents. In their kitchen there was a plaque that read: "All our guests bring us joy; some by coming... others by leaving" I never really got it as a kid... but grown ups always seemed to chuckle at it. Now I get it. Having all our guests this last couple weeks has been fantastic... I would not have changed this holiday season for anything... but I really am ready for a break from company. I miss hot showers. I miss only cooking for 7. I am tired of Dori using our company as an audience for her teenage temper tantrums and the other kids needing constant direction to walk not run, use an inside voice, play nice and take turns. I will miss our busy house when our friends head back home.... but it will also be a sigh of relief too. I think if I had a plaque I'd want it to say "All of our guests bring us joy when they come to visit and when they head home again!!"  :)

BTW... my Dad had a "bar" in our basement for when they had parties at our house... he had a saying on a plaque too... it was "I found the perfect woman... I could not ask for more... she's deaf and dumb and oversexed and owns a liquor store" It really drives me crazy that I can remember that stupid saying but I can't remember what I walked into one room from another for or to grab ketchup at the grocery store... not to mention my horrid direction sense!! Its hell to get old.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


This post is dedicated to Jay... my oldest and dearest friend. I talked to Jay this morning and she is coming down for a visit for a few days, more company at our place... we are keeping busy this holiday!!

Jay and I met in college. We lived in the same dorm but on different floors. We had one class together: Soc. 101 and we both had crazy people as roommates. We would often go places around campus such as the library or book store... or a bar to get away from them. I had a car so sometimes we would venture off campus to go to a movie or the mall... or a bar.  She actually kept me in line for the first semester of our freshmen year. She put me on this strict schedule that included attending all my classes and studying-- how crazy was that?!! Jay only stayed at our college one semester then moved back home, but we have remained friends. 

We sort of have to stay friends at this point... she has very incriminating photos of me... in one I am on a beach in a very unattractive pose and swim suit (even she knows I will kill her if that becomes public!!)  and in another I am wearing ORANGE sweatpants sporting one of the finest mullets ever seen. But, then I know her weight, bra size, age (she is WAY older than me) and a lot about other incriminating skeletons in her closet... 

My father didn't really like Jay much when he first met her. She came to my family's house the summer after we met for a visit. She hated driving long distances back then and brought her boyfriend too. I gave them my room to sleep in and shared with my sister. Dad wasn't sure he liked the idea of Jay and her boyfriend (with whom she lived, was engaged to and would marry shortly) "shacking up" at his house and wasn't quiet about it to my mother and I. Jay redeemed herself to my Dad that Christmas... she sent him (actually me... but I didn't mind sharing!) a huge box of many different kinds of homemade cookies. Suddenly he forgot all about the summer visit and started calling her, "That friend of Ilene's that I like."

We were there for each other for the 'big stuff' too. I was maid of honor at her wedding. (I wore a pastel bridesmaid dress and heels just for her!!) I was there when she was frustrated because she kept trying to get pregnant and miscarried several times. I was there when she got the positive pregnancy test result and watched her excitement grow just as the son inside her did. I was there when she needed a shoulder to cry on because her marriage was ending, and when she was lonely and struggling as a single parent. 

She was the first person I came out to. I didn't know how to tell her I was in love with Pepper and worried that it would ruin the friendship between us. I asked her to sit down and told her I needed to tell her something that I was afraid to say. She sat down and seemed to hold her breath. After I told her, she laughed. I said,  "What's so funny?" She told me that since she knew my high school boyfriend had been diagnosed HIV+ she had been terrified I was too. She was thrilled I was only telling her I was a lesbian! When my father passed away, it was a very cold, very stormy January. The drive from Jay's to my family's house was still long. She talked with another friend who said, "The weather is horrid, do you think we should try to get there for the funeral?" Jay simply said, "I am."  She was there and stayed by my side the whole time. She was there for my Mom's funeral too. 

Nowadays, things aren't usually so stressful. She is remarried and has added a daughter and a step-son to her family. We strive to get together one weekend a month and go camping together several times every summer. Our family's are close and we are there for each other to handle life's joys and sorrow's. Am I lucky or what? She should be here soon... better go start getting dinner ready.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Poncho People

Last night and this morning were a little stressful. Eleven people in our house, plus one big dog and a cat was a bit squishy. Last night, we went to see "Bedtime Stories" and to Red Robin for dinner. The cousins were not getting along. Dora was grouchy because she had to sit "with the kids" and the rest were over-tired an annoyingly giggly. They were getting too familiar and comfortable with each other and knew how to push each others buttons. Luckily, margarita's helped the grown-ups get through!

Once at home and the kids were settled in-- the power went out. The TV worked but the furnace, pellet stove, family room and kitchen lights were all out. We went down to check the breaker but could not get it to flip back on. In the morning, we realized that a computer cord was cut and tripped the breaker. Once that was unplugged things went back to working. (Thanks to Uncle S for figuring it out!!) Uncle S got an extra special treat in the night too. Our cat has been trying to 'win' him over (Uncle S is VERY allergic to cats) So the cat brought Uncle S a cute little mouse and dropped it beside him while he slept. Neither Uncle S or my sister were too happy about it!!

Today, we went to the Toledo Zoo to see the "Lights Before Christmas" which we like to do every year. There were 13 of us that went. The weather was perfect... 62 with a bit of a brisk breeze.... very nice for the end of December... that is until we walked through the entrance. As soon as we got in it started to pour!! We all darted into the gift shop to dry out a little. Macy noticed rain poncho's at the counter so we bought everyone one. Everyone had clear poncho's with random zoo animals scattered around... except Dill's- his was yellow. We were wandering around singing and laughing in the rain while almost everyone else ran for cover. We were calling ourselves the Poncho people and Dill was the nacho cheese. The kids sang Christmas carols off key and looked at the animals and lights as we all walked along. Every once in a while we'd find someone to take our group picture in front of something with lights and everyone stood close together and laughed some more.

The only real negative thing that happened was some lady walked up to sister and said, "Where I am from those are just garbage bags with holes in them." Sister said, "Where I'm from we like to stay dry while we walk in the rain." Why do people care? We even got our teenagers to enjoy wearing the silly poncho's and have their pictures taken in them. We were all having a great time... does it really matter if they looked like garbage bags?

Sister and her family headed home right after the zoo... now the house feels too empty. It was a great visit, I miss them all already. 

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post-Christmas thoughts

So Christmas is over... the kids have opened all their gifts, we did whirlwind visits to as much family as we could fit in, Christmas was white (although a little rainy and icy too), faraway friends and family were thought of, the candlelight service and the children's pageant were both enjoyed and all is at peace in my world. I think this may have been my best Christmas ever. Not in a what 'I got' sense... because honestly the two things I thought I'd get this year weren't under the tree. (Lots of great stuff was... I am just usually a really good guesser!) More in what I learned about the people in my life... I am damn lucky. 

We cut back on gifts this year... who didn't, right?! But there was this little guilt feeling that the kids would notice and be disappointed. That family and friends would have expected better, that in the recesses of their minds it meant we loved them less. 

Actually the opposite happened. My sister called and asked if she could come visit. I hadn't been going 'home' lately, so she decided to come to me. When we talked about gifts for all our kids, she said, "Let's just do stuff. I'd rather spend time with you and have our families do things together than try to give each other random things." When did she get so smart? 

At every relatives house, our kids felt loved and comfortable. I remember going to my father's parents house as a child. It was always stiff and tense and we kids needed to "slow down" and "be quieter". There was none of that in the places my kids went this year. At all the grandparents homes and the aunts and uncles there was just joy and people interested in what the kids were up too. That was the best gift ever.

Special note... I've been thinking about the 'secret identity' I wanted to call Pepper's parents. We went to their house yesterday for dinner and the whole family was there.... which hadn't happened for quite awhile. Pepper's Dad was so adorable... the kids all went together and bought him a Nintendo DS... he's wanted a computer chess game and it seemed like the best way to go. He barely put it down the whole time we were there. He was sitting in the living room with all the kids... they ALL had there noses buried in their DS's.... he looked like a kid in a candy store!! I had to take a picture because he just made me smile. Speaking of smiling... I realized sitting at the table last night that all the women in Pepper's family have the best smiles. When they are happy they smile with their whole face. Their eyes light up and their faces brighten. I love to just watch them all be happy. I noticed I turn into a comedian there just to nudge it along. I probably drive them all crazy! It was a very enjoyable day and I really feel loved and comfortable myself when I am there. So, about those secret identities, I've got the perfect ones.... Mom and Dad. I hope they don't mind.

Thanks for reading.... everyone is up, I can hear my sister hunting for coffee-- I better go help.  :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Secret Identities

Showed this blog to bff "Skip" and she was very concerned that I was using everyone's real names. So today I talked to the kids and we came up with secret identities. The kids loved the idea... don't know if they really liked the names I decided on. Oh well, they never got to pick their real names either! So, now once I finish this blog I will go back and change everyone's names on previous posts and hopefully keep them all straight in my head!!

Skip and I also had an interesting chat yesterday about relationships. A couple in our church recently broke up and while their college age son is handling the break up well, the high school aged daughter is not. Skip feels that the parents should have stayed together, however unhappily until the kids all moved out, I think the parents needed to make sure the kids know they are loved, a plan set for how they will be cared for and the parents need to handle the situation as maturely as possible... but care for their own needs as well as the kids. This is a very sensitive issue and we both feel strongly about our opinion. At this point, we have agreed to disagree but eventually we will touch back on this topic. BTW to any friends/family reading this.... both Skip's relationship and my relationship with pepper are just fine. It is just an interesting intellectual conversation. :)

Today, we drove around to various relatives houses to celebrate the holidays. First we stopped at Dad D's family compound.... lots of people live there so adding our 7 was not that big a deal. It is amazing how loved our kids are. Sometimes it is easy to feel like Pepper and I are wading alone in this crazy kid populated place as we deal with day to day issues.  We forget all the support and love they get from our huge extended family. At Dad D's all the kids got a scratch off lottery ticket... which they all love because it makes them feel grown up. Plus they all got clothes and gift cards. Kiwi got a great shirt that said "I am famous... in Europe!" which she loved. Macy got a hoodie that she kept hugging and asking everyone to feel how soft it was.
At Dad B's house the kids all had hot chocolate and cookies at the big dining table and a card with money in it. More money than I'd expect, even Kiwi. I love that our extended family included all our kids and that all our kids feel so loved... I think it will be the best gift I get all year. We are so lucky!! :)

Our last family stop was to Uncle K and Aunt L's house. Macy said something funny that I will share.... Dad B asked, "What did you all get from Aunt L and Uncle K?" Dill replied, "I got a REAL bow and arrow set... it is so cool!!" Pete added, "I got one too, they are for hunting, the arrows are really pointy and sharp!" Macy said, "I got a shirt with a big target on the back." Everyone laughed at her quick wit!!

The kids did an excellent job at their pageant at church this afternoon and all the kids stayed awake through the candlelight service.... first time for Dill! It was very nice... I love all the lights and the familiarity of the service. The priest talked about the benefits of hugs.... which I loved because I am a big fan of hugging!! Well, kids are all asleep and we grown-ups need to get things ready to help Santa.... 

Thanks for reading..... Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy 13th Macy!

We started the morning by singing to Macy. We have done this since the girls came to live with us. This tradition was a great plan when we first started it. Before the girls started school, Pepper and I would slip into the girls room and wake them up with our singing. We weren't that good or anything, but it made the birthday girl feel special and we always had a gift with us for opening in bed. It was just natural that we continue the early morning tradition after the boys were born. Nowadays, I have to say, it is not as charming. Once Dori started middle school and had to be on the bus before the sun was up...  we started to feel the strain. Now it is a bit of a battle to get the non-birthday children up to sing... Pepper and I have to be part cheerleader and part drill sergeant. But this morning,  everyone was up without to much complaining and the singing... although still lame, included the entire household.

Macy was quite amusing when she opened her gift. She opened the card then ripped into the gift. We always make sure the gift is wrapped in birthday paper we are never allowed to 'double gift' which is to present something as a birthday "slash" Christmas gift. Pepper's Mom has a December birthday too and we learned long ago that those were serious faux pas for anyone with a December birthday. So she ripped into her gift... which was Jones soda and dark chocolate (two things Macy loves but we try to limit how much she has) she was thanking us and hugging her soda and we had to tell her to search a little more in the box. We also included an envelope with a $100 bill inside. Her eyes lit up as soon as she saw old Ben Franklin's face peeking out. She has wanted to do some clothes shopping, so we thought we'd give her some money for that. She asked to have her picture taken with the money... cash is another of her favorite things!! 

Uncle K stopped by to plow the driveway again today. We will definitely have a white Christmas this year!! Sounds like tomorrow will be hectic. We have three relatives to visit before the church pageant rehearsal at 2:45, then pageant at 4 and Christmas Eve candlelight service at 9. Dad B and Dad D will spend the night over Christmas eve so they will be here to watch the kids open gifts in the morning, then we will go to Pepper's parents for an early dinner on Christmas day and back home to meet my sister, LM and her family. They will be staying at our house for a couple nights. It is hectic having so many relatives to visit, sometimes it is overwhelming to try to get everywhere-- but our kids have so many people in their lives that love them.... we really are all very blessed. 

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do I look like a driver's ed. instructor?

Tomorrow is Macy's birthday but I wanted to do a Dori post tonight because she has been so funny today. She has been working on her hours for drivers ed (she needs 50 total hours with a parent) so she can get a license. I let her drive while we were going to pick up wood pellets at TSC. Her attempt at parking when we first got there was quite amusing. She got out and walked around the truck and said, "at least I'm in the box" I said, "yep, four of them!!" 

We went in, paid for the pellets, then came back to the truck. I drove up to the front so the guys could load the pellets. As we were finishing, two bags broke so I had to go back in for a price adjustment. I handed Dori my keys and told her to move the truck back where it was (the big open space in the back of the lot). I went in and realized I had left my purse and the receipt in the truck so I went back out. Dori came running up to me saying, "Mom, I hit the light!!" I said, "What? What light?" Dori says, "The one on the van that was in my way!" I said, "where is the truck?" She says, "It is still hitting the car!! Help me!" I go out and sure enough my passenger door was kissing the tail light of a minivan. The older couple who owned the minivan were both standing there looking at the situation. I got into the truck and backed it away from the van. The couple looked at the damage and said it was very minor and went on there way. 

Dori held it together until we got into the truck, then she bursts into tears and said, "I feel like an idiot!" I said, "Yes, things like this can make you feel that way. But no one was hurt and everything is going to be ok." She said she didn't know how it happened. I said, "Honey, it was a PARKED car, how do you think it happened?" (Dori has no concept that she is not all-knowing and perfect. One of the many gifts granted to teenagers! The idea that it could be her fault still hadn't registered!!)

Dori said, "The lady was sitting in the passenger seat, she could have warned me!!" I said, "So it's her fault that you hit her?" She said, "well she could have gotten out and said I was too close." I said, "So as the truck is getting closer to her minivan she should jump out and flag you away?" Dori is silent.... the silence is killing me. "Hmmm.... she could have jumped over the armrest and gotten in the drivers seat, started the van and moved for you." Dori rolls her eyes and said, "Mom, she was OLD... probably post-menopausal." I laughed- loud. Dori was not amused.

At home, we worked on making Christmas cut-out cookies. All 5 kids happily rolled out dough and cut out shapes and then placed the cookies on cookie sheets covered in parchment paper. Pepper was keeping the flour flowing and I was organizing the cookies on the trays and putting them into the oven. Things were going really well until the end. Pepper went to get the boys washed up and I was putting the last of the cookies into the oven. The cookies and the parchment paper slid off the cookie sheet, hit the bottom of the oven and burst into flames! (Parchment paper burns very well!!) I spent the next couple minutes putting out the parchment paper fire and then I started scraping the burnt cookies off the bottom of the oven. Dori walks over, sees the burnt cookies and says, "That's ok Mom, nobody was hurt, its going to be ok.... We'll just leave those cookies out for Santa." 

Thanks for reading... take care.

The future Generation

Sometimes I wonder if my kids are paying attention. They need me to repeat things several times before they respond to my requests.... I must say "pick up your dishes" 15 times after every meal! This holiday season I have actually seen and heard them processing the things in their world. Here are a few examples that they are paying attention. There is hope for the future generation!!

Pepper has always set up a creche near the Christmas tree and every year she leaves the manger empty until Christmas morning so that we can ceremonially place him in it, signifying his birth. Pete was looking at the display and asked, "Where is baby Jesus?" Pepper took the time to explain that he wasn't born yet and we would put him in on Christmas morning. With barely a pause Pete says, "Then why are the wise men and the shepherds standing there just looking at the empty spot, don't they come after Jesus is born?"

At church each week there is a time where people with birthdays and anniversaries are announced. Yesterday, the prayer went something like "we especially pray for Davy celebrating his birthday on the 21st, Ann celebrating on the 22nd, Macy celebrating on the 23rd (this is where Macy does a little happy dance to make sure everyone at church knows it is her that is being mentioned in case someone missed it) and we celebrate the anniversary of ..." at this point Macy stops dancing and says, "Hey, they forgot Jesus' birthday!!"

This morning, Dill was wide awake and in an excellent mood when Pepper and I woke up. He was dancing and singing to himself in front of our pellet stove. He said he couldn't wait until Santa came and excitedly told us how many more days we had to wait until his arrival. Yesterday, while at the mall I had cringed when I saw how long the line to see Santa was, but now I felt guilty that I hadn't taken Dill at all this year. I said to him, "Hey Dill, Santa is at the mall, do you want to go see him today and tell him what you would like for Christmas?" To this Dill pondered only a second and said, "Mom, that is just a fake Santa. The real Santa is way to busy to be sitting around at the mall!" Yes, she is! :) 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Busy Holidays..

I am watching "White Christmas" for the 20+ time because it is a tradition Pepper started ages ago with her family, so now we watch it with our kids. The good thing about watching a movie over and over is I can multi-task and still follow the plot. 

It is amazing how interested my kids are all in the movie. The youngest, Dill is snapping his fingers to the music, and the other kids are commenting on how skinny the women are in their fancy dresses. (They keep calling them Barbies!!) 

Well, it is between musical numbers so I will introduce the members of my family. There is me and my partner Pepper. More on us later... 

Then we have our 5 kids.... 

Kiwi (16) is our foreign exchange student from Germany, and the only voluntary resident at our house. Of course, she knows she gets to leave as soon as the school year ends...

Dori (16) is our oldest. She is all attitude right now.... and is available free to a good home about every other day. :) I remember it being so hard to be that age.... one day you feel all grown up-- large and in charge, and the next you feel like a kid-- just wishing you could curl up in a lap and cuddle. She'll get it together, I just can't wait until she has a daughter of her own!!

Macy has a birthday coming up. She will be 13 in two days. The start of the teen years... another one. Pray for me. AL is still trying to figure out who she is.... she'll get there-- I just hope there are no casualties along the way!

Pete (10) is becoming a typical 5th grader... from my point of view as a teacher, that isn't exactly a good thing! Humor begins to be all about bodily functions and how gross things can be... (insert sarcasm here) just a joy to be around! Our little boy is trying to be a tough guy.... until he gets a sliver or a nosebleed, then he's just our little boy again!

Dill (6) is our caboose. He is quite a character... for instance, on his swim team he was the only one that would not wear googles. We bought all kinds of goggles, went to a special swim store and had him fitted, we talked to him, then had his coach explain that he would go straighter and wouldn't run into the wall if he wore them.... no way! He would not budge. Finally, I pulled him aside and told him if he did not wear his goggles I would make him be a vegetarian. He's worn goggles ever since!! Really, is that a normal 6 year old?

Ok, its my favorite song in this movie.... "I fall asleep counting my blessings" I used to sing it to my kids when they were babies. I could never do it as well as Bing.... probably gave my kids nightmares rather than sweet dreams!!!! 

Thanks for reading... take care.