Thursday, October 29, 2009

Skipping Christmas

Okay, I don't really want to skip Christmas. It is just that I have been thinking about and pondering a solution to how to tone down Christmas. And as I think about such things, that book by John Grisham comes to mind.

It isn't that I dislike Christmas...quite the contrary! Actually, Christmas is my favorite holiday. Of course, it is the celebration of our Savior's birth. Without that, my eternity would be uncertain. I also have such fond memories from my childhood, sugar cookies baking in my grandmother's kitchen, visiting with cousins I only got to see once or twice a year, reading the Bible story of the first Christmas before opening presents, not being able to sleep Christmas Eve night in eager anticipation.

Even now, around the day after Thanksgiving, my fingers itch to get out our holiday decorations (I just cannot do it earlier than that). I like to see the Christmas tree coming together, decorated with ornaments from my own childhood as well as the ornaments my children receive or make each year. I tear up every time I hear "O Holy Night", my favorite holiday carol. I try to instill some of my own childhood traditions for my family such as the reading of the first Christmas and making and decorating Christmas cookies together, as well as creating my own (like the Christmas books we wrap each year).

This year though I am considering how we can tone Christmas down a bit. Not Christmas itself, but the gift giving.

It isn't so much the money, though that is a factor too. It is the stuff. We have too much stuff. We have six people in our house, two girls in one room overflowing with stuff. And though they like to play, they typically only play with certain things, while other things sit on the shelves collecting dust.

Some have suggested getting rid of "stuff", and we do that frequently. We really do. But there is still a lot of stuff.

And by the time you get to the little ones, honestly, there are very few "needs" or even "wants"....(the older ones however will always have a long list of wants...they are the pioneers after all :)

Let me say that I LOVE gifts. Receiving gifts is one of my love languages. I wouldn't consider myself materialistic, I just love the surprise and the idea of someone loving me enough to gift me with something. That also means I love GIVING gifts. I take delight in trying to find "just the right thing" and seeing the joy when gifts are opened. One of our children is falling right in my footsteps on that.

So my dilemma this year is how to tone down Christmas a bit but still keep the magic. I asked for suggestions on Facebook and received some wonderful ideas. The problem is we already do some of it (we do participate in various giving projects). The other problem is the "magic". The "magic of Santa". Santa has been visiting our house for 10 years. He has established a very high standard for gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. I am trying to decide how we can ask Santa to "tone that down" a bit while keeping the magic alive. It would be one thing for me to say, "Hey, this year we are going to do some things differently". However, that guy at the North Pole...well, how does HE say that but still keep a twinkle in the kids' eyes?

Suggestions? :)


Monday, October 26, 2009

13 years and Counting...

13 years ago, Mark and I stood in front of family, friends, and some of my students and vowed to love each other through better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. I am pretty sure neither of us could truly fathom what we were promising, nor would we ever dream what our lives would become. (And maybe if he had...he would have run the other way :)

I have been thinking about 13 years of marriage. I cannot say every single day has been a joy. This is life. Some days are harder than others. But through it all, I am blessed and grateful to have this man walking beside me...

Come, take a walk with me as I do a quick tour through 13 years of marriage...

1996- We were married in Little Rock, where we both lived. Above you will see a picture from our honeymoon to Gatlinburg. We were so excited to visit the Smokey Mountains during the peak of fall. We went hiking, explored some historical sites, and rushed out to buy the video "Toy Story" (which we had seen on one of our first dates at the theater). We often joke about the wind that came through one night as we snuggled in our honeymoon cabin...the wind that knocked almost every single leaf off of the trees! It was a happy time...
1997- I am not sure how Mark would classify this year. Our first year wasn't all bad, but it wasn't an easy one for sure! It was a year of growth (and a lot of tears...mainly on my part :). We were so excited about the wonderful tax refund we were sure to get because of our marriage...except that Mark's boss at the time hadn't been paying any taxes for him. So we had quite a shock on our hands when we found out how much we OWED instead. Financially, this was a rough year. We both brought debt into the marriage on top of the taxes owed...our fun consisted of anything free, like exploring Hot Springs on foot. Just to add a little excitement to our lives, Mark switched jobs that year and began working in Northwest Arkansas. I was still under contract in Little Rock, so during the week, Mark lived with my parents (and loved every minute of it :), while I stayed in LR. We saw each other on the weekends. Life was a bit tense at times. Finally that summer, we made the move to NWArk. together, living in a duplex on the other side of my sister and her husband (married just a few months before us). I also got a job with the school where I am still teaching.
1998- We made a trip to Disney (with my family)...always a favorite place to go. That spring, our first house got a foundation, and we found out we were expecting at the end of the year. Sometime that year, Mark took another job, then lost it soon after we moved into our first house. It was scary coming home from a baby shower and finding out that we were minus an income. Thankfully (and as usual), God provided. Mark found another job shortly afterward. And in December, we welcomed our first son to our family.
1999- A year of adjustments. We were first time parents struggling to figure out how to be the parents we needed to be...still working on that actually. I imagine a few more tears were shed that year as we battled the fatigue of caring for a newborn.
2000- Though our life as a family of three was delightful, we found out in the fall that we were going to be adding another little Cloud to the family. For some reason, being pregnant while being a Mommy to a toddler was a little more difficult than the first time around.
2001- Little Miss entered the world in June. Whew! I just thought running errands with one kiddo was difficult...until I had two. Suddenly going out into public seemed very daunting!
2002- The theme for us this year was job changes...Mark started a new job (same industry, different company), and for part of the year, I taught part time so I could have the best of both worlds...I got to stay at home a few days a week, but I also got to be in the classroom.
2003- I continued to work part time throughout the year. Our oldest started pre-school which was a new season for all of us.
2004- I returned to the classroom full time. And in the fall, our oldest started kindergarten, while Little Sister started preschool. We moved into our current house (my "dream house") that fall. Life felt very full and blessed.
2005- Well, we just thought life felt full. We had a family trip to Disney World in the spring. Little did we know that that summer, a yearning would develop in my heart to bring home a little girl from another country to join our family. Shortly afterward we accepted the referral of our daughter from Guatemala (with a visit to follow at the end of the year). Let the paperwork chase (and the endless prayers) begin!
2006- We made a family trip to Guatemala to celebrate Child 3's second birthday with her. After much prayer, tears, and fasting, we were able to bring home our little princess from Guatemala that summer. Again, our marriage faced new adjustments as we adjusted to life with a not so happy toddler with a lot of her own adjustments. Mark, ever the "steady" one was a rock during the transition (for both of us :).
2007- Again, we thought our family was complete. Until that spring. Then suddenly I felt that yearning start all over again. (Yes, less than one year after finishing the first adoption) Suddenly the paperwork chase was on yet again. We made our fourth and fifth trips to Guatemala, the last trip right before Christmas to bring our little gift home...our youngest.
2008- Suddenly, we were a family of six. This year we enjoyed a trip to Gulf Shores. We also learned the fine art of "tag teaming". It is the only way we are able to parent at this point in time. :)
2009- Mark changed jobs, I stayed in mine. Child 3 started school, and Child 1 is finishing his last year in elementary school. Where did the time go? We are still exploring the world together, though sometimes in a new way (with extra people :). (See picture below of our anniversary hike)

13 years of changes, of laughter, of tears, of sickness, of health, of financial ups and downs...God has been faithful. And so has Mark.

I love you, Mark Cloud. Thank you for the life and family you have given me.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Job Performance Evaluation

Sometimes I wonder what my job performance evaluation would look like. I look around the house and see disorganization (which drives me crazy). I have given up on our household budget. (Thankfully we aren't big spenders, so I can estimate...keeping up with receipts was an impossible task with everything else going on...) This week I have done well cooking, others, we eat out more than I want to admit. Exercise is just not happening for me other than the days we get out to hike. And yes, that pile of socks without matches is for real though it is probably time for me to go through again and see if any of them resembles another sock! Some days I feel like Supermom, others, like Loser Mom.

Today I realized that I can continue to focus on what isn't done (like the budget, the piles, the photo boxes). Or I can stop and think of what I DID do today (as a a teacher is a whole different post)...

  • I prepared lunch for Child 3 and myself for the field trip we thought we were going on before the rains came down...again!
  • I held Child 4's hand during breakfast...why? Because he wanted me to. It is his love language. So I guess you could say I fulfilled his love language.
  • I fixed the hair of two little girls.
  • I got out of the house with three kids (Mark takes the youngest), all dressed and fed.
  • I again (with gentle reminders) reinforced the pattern of prayer on the way to school, praying out loud for each family member.
  • I got myself and the three kiddos to school...early!
  • I hugged Child 3 in the hallway a couple of times just because she needed it.
  • I found Child 1's glasses on my desk and remembered to bring them home for him.
  • I finished up my work early so we could get Child 4 out of daycare isn't fair for it to be a long day for him.
  • I signed up to bring a snack for the Halloween party at Child 4's school.
  • I made Child 4 a snack because that is his routine, even if he just ate one at school.
  • I blended salsa and browned hamburger meat for our taco dinner (always a favorite around here).
  • I checked backpacks, making sure the kids were caught up on school work and any other needed notes...I reinforced that education IS important.
  • I folded a few loads of laundry, washing more in its place.
  • I assisted Child 3 with her "chore" of emptying the dishwasher. In many ways it would be easier to do it myself, but I have to remember that it instills responsibility and a sense of accomplishment for her.
  • I cleaned down the counter and washed my hands several times in hopes that we can stay healthy around here.
  • I picked Child 1 up from swim team. Extra curricular activities are tough on the rest of us but they are important to him.
  • I answered questions delicately and honestly for Child 3 about something she had heard at school that upset her (a current event), hopefully providing her some peace of mind.
  • I prepared the house to look somewhat decent for an upcoming visit from Mark's parents.
  • I nurtured my family with a yummy taco meal followed by Halloween sugar cookies.
  • I maintained discipline (or tried to :), hoping that by changing some behaviors not, they won't be an issue later in life.
  • I cleaned out one last box of summer/spring clothing...I am almost finished!
  • I prayed for several friends and family throughout the day.
  • I e-mailed (what I hope was encouragement) to some friends.
  • I maintained my relationship with my sister who lives away from me through Facebook interaction.
  • I helped save even a little bit of the earth by recycling rather than throwing away.
  • I spent even just a few minutes talking or playing with the kids, connecting with them after being away all day.
  • I researched possible summer vacation destinations, possible dinner for tonight, and other things.
  • I spent some quality time with my hubby.
  • I recorded some memories on Facebook and the blog in hopes that it will provide my kids with a written record of our family life for years to come.

All that to say, I am never going to be the ideal mom or wife. I won't always run the house in an organized manner. I won't always be on top of things. And some days, I am in survival mode. I think about all of the things our ancestors did (like churning butter, collecting eggs, sewing clothing), and I am so far away from being that "ideal woman". But at the end of the day, if I really think about it, I can look back and see that I have accomplished many things, that my heart is there for my family and friends, that I am "doing my part" for the world. I imagine you could do the same!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Signs of the Times

Here are a few signs of the times around here...we obviously have kids in the house...

Hair scrunchies all over the place. ALL over the place. Everywhere I turn, I find a hair scrunchie. I have a nice system for storing them, and it works well if anyone actually puts them AWAY!Your sacred bathtub has a kids' piano book on it (and a magazine that undoubtedly one of your little ones dropped in there...
A pick up stick under the table (of course...)...why?
The crumbs and dropped food on the floor. I am really hoping for a Roomba at some point to clean my floor when I am too tired to!
The blinds are always askew...
The daycare notes which show up in some of the strangest places. Every day when he gets his note, Child 4 declares, "My paper! My paper!" And he acts like he is guarding the vault of a reserve. However, we step into the house, and suddenly the paper is dropped on the floor, soon to be forgotten...
The Last Chance Basket. On occasion, the clutter is too much for me. So I collect the stuff that is NOT mine and load up the basket. The kids have about 24 hours to clean it out.
Photo albums or Calvin and Hobbs books randomly left in my seat
The stuff I put outside their door so they can put things away. Yet three days later, there is the pile of stuff, still outside the door!
The handtowel in the bathroom that is NEVER ever put back on the ring...

The refrigerator, covered in kids' papers/artwork, invitations, cartoons (about parenthood), etc.

The Clothes! The Clothes! Still switching seasons out...
The fingerprints left on the cabinet drawers

The pillows never put away correctly...

The basket of socks with no mates. How does that happen?
The bottomless box of Cheerios.

I am sure there are a few more signs of the times around here, but I must get to bed. So, what are your signs?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Do Overs

Lately with our oldest son, I have been giving a lot of "Do Overs". When he snaps at his sister unnecessarily (which is happening more and more as we enter the preteen years), I simply said, "Do over..." He knows that he needs to say it again, whatever his request or demand, in another way. And he usually does a good job about it, though at times he will still argue with me about why he had the right to say it that way the first time. :) There are days he could and would argue with the wall.

Sometimes I wish life was like that. I wish I could just "do over" and erase whatever it was I just said and did. Don't you? (Or am I the only one who sometimes speaks off the cuff and with a little passion if I am feeling defensive?)

Recently someone was talking to one of my co-workers who is very pregnant. They were talking about the excitement of the baby coming. And my co-worker joked that she was excited, though sometimes my Facebook status updates scared her about what is to come. :) (They really aren't that bad, though I am not afraid to admit when it has been a rough day...often find I am not alone in that department)

Of course, I joked that IF it were that bad (and more), we obviously wouldn't have done it four times, the last two being "chosen" times. Obviously there are some high points of motherhood. A lot actually.

What is hard to explain to new moms-to-be though is all that comes with motherhood.

Like the joy of watching a little life unfold before your eyes.

The way your heart sings when your child eagerly tells you about stranger danger, how to spell the word "go", and that five and three makes eight.

The fatigue you feel at the end of the day...much of it physical from the demands of keeping up with kids, but also so much of it emotional when you have answered one question too many!

The heartbreak you feel when your child is rejected by a friend or comes to you with a 103 degree fever.

The irony you experience as you fold the warm pajamas of the child (because she needs them) who is screaming at the top of her lungs at you from the shower that she is NEVER EVER EVER taking a shower again (as she showers).

The loneliness you will feel when one child is gone for the day and how your family just feels imbalanced...

The difference it makes. Before you would spend money on a night or weekend getaway with your spouse for your anniversary. This year, you are saving that money for Christmas gifts that are just "right" for your child.

The patience you experience (sometimes thinly) as you explain for the 400th time that we do not hit other people or when you answer yet again what is for dinner (often followed by a grimace)

The communion you feel with other parents, along with the empathy you "get" as you walk into a store and see someone else's child on the floor in the middle of the tantrum (as well as the relief you get as you realize that today it is not yours :)

The love that you feel in your heart...and that it just expands with each child. Just when you think you can love no more, you do!

The prayers that are prayed daily, often for your children, for you with your children.

The way your heart melts when that sticky chubby hand reaches up and holds yours as you walk around your yard.

The inner groaning you do (with a smile on your face) as your child details another elaborate plan that will most likely result in a big mess.

The peace you feel as you snuggle on the couch reading a book together.

The intense guilt you feel daily over almost every decision, always wondering if you are doing the right thing.

The wish for do overs...for the days you snap at your precious child (even if they might REALLY be deserving), for the words that leave your mouth in a moment of frustration, for the opportunities missed to enjoy each moment with him/her.

These are just a few of the things that you cannot ever truly is just something you have to experience as you go. Sigh.

More later...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Clothes Out...

Sorry I missed yesterday. I was SOOO tired. I hardly touched the computer. I didn't even "farm" on Facebook. And today...I am buried in clothes. We have clothes everywhere. I keep thinking I am almost done but then I find another box of clothes. What I am really buried under is the old clothes that need to find their respective piles. I will get done, I will get done...right?

Well, yesterday I had this passing thought, "I am so glad that I seem to feel pretty healthy right now..." When you are around children all of the time (at school and home), the chances of getting sick are fairly high. I do try to wash my hands often but sometimes those slippery germs get by. Well, I cannot blame anyone for how I feel today (except myself for feeling so happy yesterday about how good I felt). Overnight (literally), my allergies flared up. I have been surprised they haven't bothered me yet this fall with all of the rain (which I am guessing stirs up mold?). When I first woke up my throat was sore. Thankfully that passed. Now I am just a sneezy, sniffly, drippy mess. My cheeks ache and my teeth hurt. I don't feel bad enough to stay at home, but I sure don't feel like I am at the top of my game.

Okay, enough whining...

A Child 3 story: Yesterday she informed me that she wants to be the boss of everyone. She meant it. The girl loves to boss. As soon as we get home, she pretends to be the teacher. (Actually more often the principal) She loves to get on to kids. I have to laugh because I know her teacher well...she is NOT imitating her teacher completely. She says her teacher's words but not in the same voice her teacher uses. I sometimes remind her that teachers really aren't allowed to yell at the students, imaginary or not...

Sidenote: Happy birthday to my Grandmother today!

Have I mentioned I am a bit weary of the rain? We have had very little sunshine around here this month. I heard this morning on the radio that 10 out of 13 days in October thus far have been wet! Have you ever been to an elementary school when they don't get outside for recess??? Please, God, please. Send some sunshine our way!

Please continue to pray for Hannah Grace. As if being diagnosed with leukemia wasn't enough, she has had to battle some issues related to a stroke and possible seizures.

Well, this is short and has little substance. Sounds like a perfect Seinfeld episode to me. :) But I must go. I am achy and weary. Yet for some reason, I am thinking not being able to breathe is going to interfere with my sleep tonight...


Monday, October 12, 2009

Classified Ads

Wanted: One wife/mom-like assistant to be an assistant to this wife/mom. Someone who cooks dinner after a full day at work and keeps the house organized in spite of the children. Someone who can break up arguments between siblings. Someone who can consistently discipline a toddler even when she would rather sink into a chair with a good book and ignore the behavior...again. Someone who can handle the birthday, Christmas, and other holiday shopping. Someone to take LOTS of pictures at every event so that the children have memories one day when their parents are gone. Someone who will go through children backpacks and piles of papers every day, sign needed papers, and write down important events. Someone to follow up with homework assignments and check fifth grade math or third grade spelling. A helper to organize clothes on a seasonal basis, trying to maintain some sense of normalcy and neatness while dealing with piles of clothes going to several different places. A shopper for groceries who can plan ahead for meals, someone strong who can turn a deaf ear to an occasional "squeal" at the store from a rowdy child or can ignore the stares after the kicking and screaming of a stubborn toddler who wants to buy cookies even though you have said "No cookies today". Someone to sort through the mail each day. Someone who will instruct the children in the responsibilities of life, such as assigning chores that they will probably complain about. Someone who will keep up with the major products (such as chopped onion or granola bars) that has run out even though a child left the empty box or container in the pantry. Someone who will periodically vacuum the whole kitchen because the crunching noises under the feet (though nobody ever claims to have dropped food there) are louder than their thoughts. Someone who transports children to school, checks in with teachers periodically, and then takes them home afterward. Someone who leaves work earlier than in years past because that is needed at this time for her children's' schedules. A hair stylist who can fix unruly hair in the morning. A nurse who will make the decision whether to take a child to the doctor, who will administer medicine on a regular basis, and can kiss each and every booboo even if they are on stinky toes. Someone who can whip up a snack while balancing a bag full of groceries in her arms. Someone who can climb up the bunk bed to change the sheets even though it is a feat of acrobatics. A decision maker who may get three different questions concerning three different topics at the same time and be expected to make a split decision that is wise and prudent. A weatherman and timekeeper who will know the weather for today and for days to come, who can pull the correct temperature off the top of her head, who always knows exactly what time it is. A counselor who will advise children and husbands through the heartaches of life, the ups and downs of relationships, and the scary fears that lurk behind the closet doors. A spiritual advisor who can pull the right Bible verse off the top of her head when a difficult decision pops up unexpectedly and who will pray for each child daily even though they rarely pray for her. A judge who makes decisions daily about what is appropriate for her children to see, to say, to read, to hear. A journalist who keeps up on current events so she can have intelligent conversations with her husband and children about topics they are interested in. A storyteller who can read the same book repeatedly night after night with the same enthusiasm as the first time it was read. A philosopher who can answer deep questions about death, birth, growing up, love at a moment's notice. A receptionist who organizes not one but two dossiers for children desired through adoption, who makes multiple trips to the notary public, and who makes last minute travel plans when the adoption is final. A helper who can hold together the household like glue when the husband goes away, making sure everyone gets to their appointed place on time each day. A disciplinarian who makes appropriate (or tries to) consequences for poor decisions by children who may or may not be repentant. The keeper of traditions who stays up at night wrapping Christmas books or decorating a birthday cake because it is what our family has "always" done. And many, many more responsibilities.

The Pay? An occasional hug or kiss and spontaneous outbursts of laughter when the planets are aligned just right. The Benefits? Lots of life experiences, occasional pats on the back by others, and a full time membership into Club Mom.

Please note...there will be little gratitude and occasional criticism of the meals, of the house, of the decisions you make.

There is NO overtime and very little vacation time.

This is a full time job with full time responsibilities.

Only apply if fully qualified and interested.

A tired mom and wife

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Too Many Irons...

What is that saying about having too many irons in the fire?

This time of year I feel that way.

It probably doesn't help that I started the big chore of switching out clothes. And it is a chore. I have said before, it isn't a matter of just taking old clothes out and putting the newer clothes in. I have different piles for the old clothes (garage sale/donation, consignment sale, save for another child, possibly wear next year...). The new clothes require the trying on process which can be excruciating for all of us, especially me when I listen to "I have to try on something else???" in that really whiny voice.

That being said, I am SOOOO thankful we have clothes left from our big kids to pass on. I am so thankful we do not have to buy a new wardrobe for all four kids each year. I am thankful my kids have clothes to wear for every season.

And just in case it sounds like the little ones ONLY get leftovers...they don't. We buy them a few new pieces too.

I actually like going through the "new" clothes. It is like Christmas. I get to pull out outfits I haven't seen in eight years. I pull out a shirt and instantly remember how I visited several Old Navy stores in search of this one shirt just for the oldest. Now the youngest will wear it. I watch Child 3 pull on a dress that Child 2 wore just a few years before. I also discover clothes I got on clearance last year that I had forgotten about. And I find out how much the kids have grown when I pull out clothes I am sure they will fit into only to find out they are much too small now. You don't realize how much they have grown until they put on a pair of jeans they wore in February and find out they are now two inches too small!

So much of my day yesterday involved going through boxes and boxes of clothes. (Believe it or not, Child 4 was the most cooperative about trying on clothes!) The big boys went to the Razorback game. I stayed home with the rest of the crew. (Child 3 is doing just fine.) Thankfully for the most part they played nicely together, freeing me to work on the clothing stuff. As I sorted the clothes, I made clothes piles which meant I had a lot of laundry to do too. I am not finished yet, but all kids have at least a few outfits to wear this year.

Oh, I will admit, it was hard to not want to escape by going somewhere like we have the last two weekends. I had hoped we would visit the pumpkin patch. Unfortunately, Child 2 was still "contagious", and I had too much to do. So we didn't. We stayed home. The fun part was staying in our pajamas. I think Child 3 would have worn hers all week had I let her!

I did fit in a nap yesterday afternoon (which I felt like I deserved :). It was much needed!

After I woke up, I also did a little fall decorating. When we first got married, we decorated for every holiday. When the craft fairs came (coming up this weekend), we visited them in search of holiday decor. These days, I don't decorate as much except for Christmas, mainly due to time constraints. However, after Christmas, fall is my favorite season/time to decorate. This year I was determined to do it. Against my husband's wishes. :) He has apparently moved on and doesn't want any kind of fall/harvest display. And while I am usually somewhat submissive, I decided that a few decorations (nothing gaudy, nothing cheesy...just a few colorful leaves, scarecrows, and ceramic pumpkins) would be okay...he can live with it.

We ended the night with chili. It was much appreciated after a fairly cool day!

So, here it is a day later, and I am still dealing with piles of clothes to launder. There are a couple more boxes to go through for the girls. Child 4's clothes still need to be officially switched out. And I have some piles I really need to deal with. It is easy to be overwhelmed. And I am at times.

Too many irons!!!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Are You Positive?

Yesterday morning, I pulled myself out of bed, which was a feat in itself, since a cold front had moved through. It went from 70+ the day before to the 40's and lower 50's. I do realize if you are in the North, that is not that cold. And comparatively, it probably isn't. But we still haven't switched out our clothes so we did a bit of a scramble, especially for poor Miss Child 3. Anyway, I whipped together a batch of pumpkin muffins for Child 4's teachers, then jumped back in bed to check e-mail.

Suddenly drama. Child 2 is standing in my room sobbing. And I am totally bewildered because I have no idea why she is crying (no tornado sirens) or what she is saying. After a little of that Mommy, "What? Slow down...I cannot understand you...", she finally blurted out that she had a temperature of 101 and wasn't able to perform.

I think I have told you a little about her personality. This girl is fairly self-sufficient. Always has been. She did things (talking, walking) early, and "Me do it" were some of her first words. So in her typical fashion, when she woke up, she was feeling hot, so she swiped her forehead with our handy dandy thermometer to check her temperature. She knows that 100 degrees is the magic cut off for school. And she was supposed to perform for the third grade program in the afternoon.

I told her to settle down, that I would re-check her in a few minutes. Honestly, she looked just fine. So I was hopeful.

I waited until she had settled down and scanned her forehead myself. (Which means I have to scan everyone's...if the thermometer is out, they ALL want to know their temps!) 101.9.

So, who are you going to call? Mommy of course!

I am so thankful for a mom who opens up her home to sick grandchildren at a moment's notice. I will stay home when needed but at the same time, I try to save sick days because I never know what the flu season is going to hold.

My little patient was crushed. Third grade has been working for quite a while on a cute program about food. Child 2 had a fun part as a construction worker foreman directing the building of an ice cream sundae. She didn't actually speak, she mouthed words while a deep voice on the CD spoke the words. It was really cute. She performed it for PTA on Monday night, so thankfully we had all seen it. But I was saving pictures for Friday's performance at a school assembly. I figured the lighting would be better; I have difficulty getting pictures in the school cafeteria at times. So Child 2 was crushed, and if I admit it...I was too.

All morning I wrestled with whether to have my mom bring her in for that little bit of the assembly for her part. She didn't stand near anyone and could enter and exit quickly. I figured it was just a viral thing that probably was finishing its course (since you are usually contagious before symptoms even start...).

I finally thought, "She can come just for her part."

I called my mom to let her know. I asked how she was doing. Mom said that she (being Child 2) was complaining a lot about her throat and had been sitting in a chair vegging all day...highly unusual. She also didn't have much of an appetite. Also highly unusual.

Uh oh.

I made the decision that she needed to stay home. It was cold and rainy out and it sounded like she was getting worse. Plus during that time, Mom took her temp. It was up. I broke the news to her (via phone call) and she didn't even up put up a fight. That told me how bad she felt.

Uh oh.

I searched for the music teacher to let her know that Child 2 was definitely "out" of the program. Then I started the internal (as in my head) I take her to the doctor?

I never like making that decision. We do not rush to the doctor if I don't think it is necessary. I am always embarrassed to go and find out "it is just a virus". Like I have failed as a mom somehow for not knowing that. And we don't visit the ER unless it is a major incident. At the same time, since it was Friday, I knew that our options would be limited over the weekend. And after our last (and only) visit to the walk in clinic where we waited for two hours on a Saturday afternoon...well, in the end, I decided a visit to the doctor was necessary.

I love our pediatric clinic. I have yet to have a doctor we didn't like. We have one we visit more than the others, but we will always choose "first available" in sick situations. But the part I REALLY like is I can request appointments online. I have probably mentioned, I am not a phone person. I don't even like to order pizza over the phone. I much prefer online. So on my planning period, I did a quick form fill out on line and clicked "Send". In about ten minutes, I had an appointment for my little patient for that afternoon.

After school, we picked child 4 up and then I left the three kiddos I had with me at my mom's house, picking up Child 2 for her appointment. We ran home to prepare the house for a guest later that evening, then rushed to the appointment.

I am SOOOO thankful I didn't have the other kids with me. We were there for an hour. I am guessing there was a lot of sickness this week. The room was pretty full which is rare. (And this was just one of their "sick" clinics!) We actually got called back pretty promptly. That is when the waiting game started.

There isn't a lot to do in a pediatric exam room. Child 2 read the picture book in about half a minute. We counted the "windows" on the border at the top of the room. Then we scanned the pamphlets...whew. Was that an experience!

Child 2: Mom...what does "p-u-b-e-r-t-y" spell?

Me: That is puberty. (as I held my breath for the next question...)

Child 2: What does that mean?

Me: It is a time when your body starts changing from a girl to a young woman.

Child 2: Oh, I don't want to do that!

Me: I don't want you to either. :)

Child 2: I don't want to pay for my own cell phone or my own house. How much does a cell phone plan cost anyway?

I give her a ballpark figure. Then she requested a house payment estimate. I gave her a "roundabout" on that too.

Child 2: Okay, I will have a cell phone, but I am not buying a house.

I would like to say that was the end of it all, but I ended up pulling down the pamphlets as I came to the realization that my older children ARE approaching some changes in their lives in the next few years. There was one for girls, one for boys. She browsed the girl one and thankfully didn't truly tune into the isn't that I am ashamed to have these conversations, I just didn't feel like having them at that moment. Meanwhile I browsed the "boy's" version which was eye opening for me...I only had a sister, so it is all new. She then asked to see the boy's pamphlet. I said most definitely no. :)

Thankfully , shortly afterward, the doctor came in. He took one look at her throat and asked if she had had Strep before. I told him that she has and seems to be kind of susceptible to it though it had been a while. Of course, that meant the throat swab came next, then more waiting.

We had all kinds of conversations as mommy and daughter waiting for the test results. My favorite was the comment, "Mom, if I cannot have a baby, I will just adopt." I am thankful she has a positive view of always wonder if you have turned their lives upside down having more kids.

Finally, I heard a voice in the hallway that sounded a lot like the doctor we had just seen. He was right outside our door and I heard, "What about that test...positive?"

The rest is history. She actually got worse and worse last night, but we did manage a dose of antibiotics, and today she has yet to stop talking. :)

So now Child 2 has a bottle of pink medicine, and I have peace of mind.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Rains Came Down as the Floods Came Up...

For some reason, I have the song "The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock" stuck in my head, especially the part mentioned in the title.

Tonight after dinner (a very yummy crockpot meal...we will have that again!), Child 4 was having a little meltdown. Not bad, just typical "I only took a half hour nap as opposed to my typical two hour naps". So I suggested that we could watch a little t.v. together, thinking rocking might settle down. We found an episode of Barney (much to Mark's dismay, but our son loves it) to watch. Suddenly, a weather bulletin breaks into our show. We were REALLY surprised because we were watching "On Demand", not live t.v. Shortly afterward, we turned it to our regular news station to check out what was going on.

We were under a tornado warning. Not a watch, but a warning. Note: we are both pretty sure the "old school" definition of a "warning" involves a tornado actually having been sighted. Apparently the "new school" version just means that conditions are VERY ripe for a tornado to happen.

That is what panic broke out.

I could not name the child but you will figure it out pretty quick I think. One child is not crazy about storms. She handles them okay UNTIL we get to "tornado" watches and warnings. Then...well, the tears begin. Darn that "Wizard of Oz" anyway!

In her defense, it doesn't help to have the big "scientist-minded" brother who LOVES to share all he knows about tornadoes and storms. To him, it is all very matter of fact. He has his own fears, but storms are not one of them. It is all science to him.

So immediately he starts sharing storm facts and horror stories. As our daughter's cries got louder, he started "preaching" how fortunate we are that we don't live in Oklahoma where there are LOTS of tornadoes. For some reason, that didn't seem to calm his sister down in the slightest.

Meanwhile, other than acting surprised to hear thunder, Child 4 just played happily while Child 3 kept asking why we weren't watching Barney anymore.

Fun times at the Cloud house.

In the end, we did not take cover in the closet, though we were prepared to. We just watched the weather updates on t.v. to find out what our next step would be. Mark occasionally walked outside or to the window to report on the weather. And I answered a lot of questions about what would happen to our house IF (not WHEN like someone thought :) a tornado picked it up.

A few minutes later, the storm had moved on through, though the rains continue pounding outside my window. Apparently our river has already formed in our garage. (The next true storm was breaking the news to Child 4 that it was his bathtime...he wasn't at all happy about that!)

On a lighter note, when we got home this afternoon, Child 4 told me he wanted to play "DS". Seriously. Should a 2 year old know what a DS is? I told him he could. I don't know that he actually "played" but he sure had fun doing whatever he was doing. (I wouldn't be totally surprised to find out he has taught himself TO play. :) Here are a couple of pics. He was playing "Mario". (That is who he was for Halloween last year)

Oh, today was "picture day" at Joshua's school. I went ahead and signed him up; after all, the other kids just had their school pics taken. I told Mark to let the teachers know that we were just fine if he didn't cooperate with having his picture taken. It all depends on his mood. Plus, he wouldn't be the first one to not want to seems to run in our family. I am not sure how it went; I haven't seen a picture yet. But when I picked him up, I asked, "Did you say 'cheese'?" and he said, "No, no cheese. I not cheese." So...there you go. :)

Now my tune is changing to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat..." I may need one to get to school tomorrow. :)

Better run.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dear Clothes Designers...

Dear Clothes Designers,

There are some things about the real world that you need to know...

There are short people in the world. Short does NOT equal frumpy. Short also does not equal fat (though I could stand to lose a few pounds). I find all kinds of fashion and style in the misses and junior sections. My eyes turn green with envy as I survey the fun colors, the fun styles, the variety. Unfortunately those are all too long for me. So I move on over to the petite section. The petite section is petite in every sense of the word. Variety? Mmm...not so much. It is like the tall people have the whole house, and petites are relegated to the walk-in closet. Elastic waistbands? Just because I am petite (as in short) does NOT mean I need elastic in my pants. I am capable of buttoning and zipping. And short does mean short. I am noticing more and more that the "short" pants I buy drape the floor. And I am not even an overly short person (as far as compared to other "shorties" out there).

Also, shirts. I like color. I like design. I just want my money's worth. It seems like so many of the tops I try on are LOW cut; where is the rest of the fabric? I teach school. I cannot wear clothing like that working with young children. I am not a prude by any means but all tops have to "dip"? Can crewnecks be made to look somewhat stylish?

Finally, remember this is the real world. What looks good on runway models does NOT necessarily translate to what looks good on 38 year old teacher/housewives. I am not a teeny bopper wearing tees and cute jeans all of the time. Yet I have not moved on to the elastic pants or polyester. Is it too hard to come up with clothing that looks nice on people like me...someone who has birthed children? Someone trying to watch her weight but having to eat on the run on occasion? Someone who makes efforts to exercise but at the same time is exhausted by the end of the day from chasing after children?

I realize you are the designers. The ones with credentials saying you know style. You know fashion. I am just one of the poor souls who tried on a stack of clothing today in hopes that one or two pieces could be salvaged.

Your friend,
Reba (petite but not frumpy)

PS To the rest of the world...can you tell what I did tonight? :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Preach On...

This morning when I got up, I just felt the need to be at home today rather than at church. I went through the motions, got the girls dressed, put make-up on, had poor Child 1 change his clothes (nothing "fall" fits him), then realized I really had nothing to wear either. Well, not what I had planned. Child 4 was running around with a runny nose. And I was feeling overwhelmed with the task of switching out clothes. I know that may seem silly but it is a HUGE ordeal. I have to put clothes up, some going to charity or the garage sale pile, some being saved for next year. Then I have to dive into that really disorganized attic to find the clothes that we have saved that will probably fit this season. Of course, we are in between seasons, so I can only do a little of each. And I do it for three kids and myself; Mark takes care of the oldest. I am also facing a little stress this week which means I am back to popping Tums to cool the burning sensation in my stomach/esophagus. (They don't work by the way) And I just needed some extra family time. Last week's schedule was hard. And though church is kind of a "family event", it isn't completely. We all go to different classes, then Child 4 stays in the nursery all morning. I just needed that "together time".

Anyway, I made the choice to stay home. I am not ashamed of it. I don't feel like I am less of a Christian or doomed to a bad week. In fact, I had a pretty good worship experience, albeit a bit nontraditional. :) I ended up having three kids join me; Mark and Child 3 went ahead and attended church. In no time, the two older kids had planned "home church". All I had to do was show up. :)

After a bit, we gathered in the living room. The boys were dressed for church, their sister was in casual clothes, and I was in my pj's still. Really, isn't that what church should be? A place for you to wear what you are comfortable in? Does God care if I am in pj's? Is it what is on the outside or what is in my heart?

Child 2, in her typical planning mode, had planned out the "service", with a little itinerary and everything. We started off with a reading of Psalm 23 (Child 1) then moved to praise songs. Thankfully, due to the lack of any kind of musical talent in our family, Child 2 had the good sense to bring out Praise CD's. Something interesting happened. We sang songs like "Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord". And my children who tend to hold back their song at church sang at the top of their lungs. In fact, we all did. (Child 4 was in and out of the "service"...he attended children's church a couple times which means he was sent to his room :) We sang without any reservations. I will admit. It sounded bad to human ears. But I can say it was all sung from the heart and hopefully God's ears heard something totally different. :) Child 2 even moved a bit (not danced, just moved) which doesn't happen often in a Baptist church. The praise time was very sweet.

Then it was time for the preaching. Child 2 chose to read from Esther, which is her favorite Bible story. Then Child 1 threw in a story from his "Book of Virtues" which we tied to some other Bible stories. I got tickled listening to him "preach". He did the finger pointing...not quite hellfire and brimstone, but close. :) He also would stop and ask questions after reading for a bit to make sure we were paying attention! Nothing keeps you on your toes like knowing you will have to answer questions. :)

One funny moment was Child 4 pulling out his own "Bible" as we were doing our Bible story. He didn't sit still for it but it was cute that he was trying to join in. Even though he really didn't participate, it was just nice to have our "worship" with him there, loud as he can be. :)

We ended with some prayer time, always a sweet time with the kids.

I didn't get much done...too hard with me and three alone. But I did get a little extra rest and even more important, some family time. I needed my love tank filled. Hopefully that filled theirs too.

Traditional worship? NO! Glad we did it? Yes!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Football?

A few years ago, our town opened a second high school because our original high school was overflowing with students. It took a little time for the football team of the new school to get going but when it did, we decided to buy season passes to the football games (which are actually still played at the original high school's football field...they share). Our thought was that when our kids are in high school, we would have our seats established. Of course, at that time we were a family of five (or planning on it anyway), now we are a family of six. Thankfully this year we were able to get six tickets in our same place.

We missed the first "home" game because we were in Branson. Last week the town's two high schools played each other, so Mark took the older two to part of it, even though we were considered the "away" team this year so they didn't get to sit in "our" seats but on the other side in the bleachers. Either way, our team won. :)

This week was another home game. In fact, we played the rival of my high school (there were also two high schools where I lived during my teen years). So all afternoon I wrestled with whether we should all go or just some of us. In the end, everyone was in a fairly decent mood. Child 3 had had like a four hour nap.Child 4 was pretty happy. And the two big kids are always raring to go somewhere. So we all went.

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we heard cries for "snacks" from behind us. I have yet to figure out why but Child 4 is like Pavlov's dogs...he thinks if he gets unbluckled from the carseat, there must be food within just a few minutes. It doesn't matter if he just ate a really big meal. He. Must. Eat. (or so he thinks)

So we got settled in our seats, and Mark was off to hunt for some refreshments. We had two hot dogs, two orders of nachos, three bags of popcorn, and three drinks. Not too bad for our family. And best of all, the popcorn kept the youngest pretty busy for a while. We like busy. :) Well, entertained busy. There were several moments in the game that it was just "I am busy, I cannot be still" for the two younger ones. That is when you realize how very close together those bleachers are!

One thing I was not prepared for was our oldest son to want to hang out AWAY from us with his buddies. We have very mixed feelings about it and haven't really decided where we stand on that...don't know what age is "old enough". We let him hang out with his buddies (with an occasional "check in" by his dad) for about a quarter, then he was to report right back to our seats. And he did. I know he is a good kid, fairly responsible, but as I have told him, it is my job to worry as a mom. There are so many kids running around. I told him it wasn't HIM I worry about so much, but other people. I just don't know if I am ready for that. Thoughts? Advice?

The game was a good game. It was fairly cool, but not frigid. In fact, I am fairly cold natured, and other than feeling a bit cool, I was never shivering or miserable. I love being in the stands amidst the fans and friends, pulling for our team. (It does help when our team wins)

I did feel a bit old when I heard the names of some players and even a member of the homecoming court called. They were in my class in kindergarten! Now, several are seniors. Ugh. I ran into the mother of one of the players when I escorted Child 3 to the restroom. I had seen an article on her son that very day in the paper and commented about it. She and I both agreed it seems like just yesterday he was sitting at my feet for storytime; now he is a senior running all over the field making incredible plays. (Wish I could take credit for that, but I can't :) Seriously, where did the time go???

There were a few moments in the game we were ready to leave. Child 4 made a few people around us laugh when he yelled, "Go, go!" so of course, he hammed it up big time for them then which was hard on us because is it like wrestling a monkey. He also got restless a few times and decided to go back and forth between the two of us...over and over and over. It was pretty exhausting. Hopefully those in front of us didn't suffer too much from flailing limbs...

There were some sweet moments too. Like when Child 3 asked MANY questions about football, like what those posts were (those are kick the ball between them to get a point), who those people with the blue shirts were (that is the team we are cheering for, only some get to play at a time so the others have to wait for their turn), and why those girls had on the fancy dresses (it was homecoming...she quickly declared that the dresses kind of looked like what I wore when I got married :). And then Child 4 was saying, "Go, Razorbacks" for much of the time until I finally convinced him we were Wildcats tonight...then he would perk up every time the announcers made a remark about Wildcats. And the band mesmerized all of them.

We ended up staying until the fourth quarter and actually only left because it was so late. By that point, the youngest was fairly calm (and cold), snuggled up against me. It was the longest we had made it yet, so it gives us hope!

By the time we got home, our team was declared victorious over the radio. And we had one little boy sound asleep (and really unhappy to be moved from the car to his bed), with the others not far behind...even better, they all slept in today!

It was a fun night of football and family!