Thursday, July 28, 2011

PicVids - July 2011 Part 2

In my haste, I forgot some. Here you go.

She's a little too adept at this, methinks.

They have such fun together sometimes.


She put the hat on all by herself!

PicVids - July 2011

So I discovered that I can upload videos (as well as photos) to my Photobucket account. This resulted in me inserting them into my blog post in a different way than usual, the upshot of which is mostly that everything came out a lot larger. On my screen, the photos and videos actually get covered up slightly by the sidebar, but those of you who aren't accessing my blog through a mini-laptop might not have that problem. Let me know, though, if it works well for you. Photobucket is also a little less clear and more choppy on the videos, when I access their site; please let me know if the embedded versions here are any different from what you normally see on my blog. Also, I'm posting today instead of tomorrow because I will be leaving to drive up to Seattle for a family reunion.

A cute moment.

The things they make up, man.


Ah, brothers.


Apparently Ken and I felt the need to get a lot of photos of Julie in her dress. Maybe that was the first time since her baptism that she'd worn a dress?


She actually is standing with both feet, but I was greatly amused by the effect here.

Notice how Kyrie is the one most interested in what is actually going on.

Gabe has since learned the word "Fire works", which he says something like "ayer wuh".


Something about low-light plus kids-who-won't-sit-still doesn't lend itself to quality 4th of July photos.

Ok, this is kind of long, but it's so cute that:
(a) She feels a need to take a break from playing the ipad in order to suck her fingers.
(b) She actually got some of the Aces up halfway through, plus moving the cards around.

From the time she was 6 months to the time she was 9 months, she learned that hitting the ipad with both hands is generally unsuccessful and that the best approach is to use one finger at a time. Pretty good, I think, for someone who isn't even a year old yet.

The kids got very excited about having their own cookbook.


There was this whole project where we moved all the VHS tapes (that we haven't used in years because we never bothered to hook the VCR up to the TV when we got the entertainment center) off of the shelf they were on and into that space you see there. Now the shelf is Gabe's cubby, right underneath the cubbies that the other kids have.


My cousin Lisa came into town with her husband Dave and son Toby, so we got to see them. My cousin Kim and her husband Nick and their girls Lana and Maya also came over; clearly I've been slacking for not having gotten together with them before now (since they live in town). Savi showed off some of her reading skills here.


Kim holding Lana.


And Nick holding baby Maya.


We tried to get all the kids on the couch, but Gabe refused to go sit on Elijah's lap. On the left there is Toby, then Lana holding Maya, and then all mine. Go check out Lisa's post about her visit, too. (She's got pictures up too).

Elijah the goofball can make Jules laugh by doing something of the most random things.

Behold the power of chocolate. The effect was ruined somewhat when I stepped away from her at the very end, but I am still very amused by her reaction to chocolate.


Picnic in the backyard with Brittany & Shane.

Good times, good times.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Things Kids Say


Gabe hit Savi. Savi tearfully says, "Gabe, when you hurt people, you even hurt God."

We are Mad Scientists!


Savi and Gabe were playing with the plastic teapot. Savi tearfully said, "Gabe won't let me drink any tea." I then wondered how to explain that since there wasn't any tea, he couldn't stop her from drinking it.

Mom is too busy taking pictures to stop me from getting into Dad's water!


Savi: "Mom, there's a moth in our bedroom."
Me: "Ok."
... she runs back a little later...
Savi: "Mom, now we think it's an insect, because it has six legs and flies."

What has two legs, one foot, and jumps?


Elijah: "This is a joke. Why did the piggy cross the road?"
Me: "I don't know, why?"
Elijah: "To build a house so they can be safe from the Angry Birds."

This is not an Angry Bird.


We live in a small two-bedroom apartment in a complex that is all first-floor apartments. We've been praying that we'll be able to buy a house, and recently Elijah asked me when we would get one. I said I didn't know and asked him what he would like about a new house, thinking maybe he wanted not to have to share his room with his sisters as well as his brother. His reply: "Umm, stairs."

It's like Where's Waldo, with kids. Can you find all four of them?1

1. I would also like to point out, for the record, that this picture was taken at some ridiculous hour like 1am. And it may not be obvious from this photo, but Gabe is WIDE awake. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Acknowledge the Cost

Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. If one of you decides to build a tower, will he not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete the project? He will do that for fear of laying the foundation and then not being able to complete the work; for all who saw it would jeer at him, saying, 'That man began to build what he could not finish.' [Luke 14:27-30]
I think we often fail to appreciate the magnificence of that first statement about the cross. "Ah yes," we think, "Jesus died on the cross and we too must be willing to make noble sacrifices in order to follow him. He is, after all, God." But his audience did not know he was God, and they did not know he was going to die on the cross. To them the cross was a form of capital punishment, the way that disreputable criminals died. To better appreciate how this must have struck them, picture Billy Graham getting up in front of a large crowd of people and declaring, "Anyone who does not go to the electric chair for me cannot be my disciple!" What sheer chutzpah, to declare that following you could be more important than the disgrace of being condemned as a criminal and rejected by your family, more important than life itself!

Which makes it especially dramatic that Jesus follows this statement up with a parable about being cautious.

Umm... wait a moment. Didn't he just say following him is more important than life itself? Why is Jesus now telling us to think before we jump? Shouldn't we be jumping headfirst, throwing caution to the wind as we leap eagerly towards whatever He has in mind for us?

Apparently not.

No, he says, first you have to count the cost. You have to know what you are getting into.

I've run into trouble in this area before. I relate all too well to that builder who got halfway through and then ran out of money. Every now and then around the house I discover one of the notebooks that I kept from high school on. Invariably I find in these notebooks a list of all the things I need to improve about myself: daily cleaning, reading to the kids, exercise, and so on. I would make the lists and jump headfirst into doing all of them at once, without ever asking myself how hard it would be or whether I could realistically achieve it. I mean, they were obviously the right things to do, so God must want me to do them. When I fell flat on my face, over and over again, I came to the conclusion that I just didn't have enough willpower. I simply wasn't a good enough follower of Jesus, since I couldn't make myself do these things1.

So now I'm trying to be better about this. I'm trying to remember that everything comes with a price. Everything I do demands something of me. Everything requires spoons, and (healthy as I am) I have a finite number of them to go around. I still believe that God gives me what I need to do his will; but now if I think I can't pay the price, that becomes part of the discernment process in whether it's his will at all.

Sometimes we are not the ones who pay the price for our actions. Sometimes, that sacrifice comes down on others.

When we start preaching about the sin of homosexual sex, we must accept that homosexual people will sometimes take that personally and be driven away from God because of our words. When we lobby to make abortion illegal, we must admit that somewhere a young woman will attempt to kill the baby herself, and die because of it, and that we would prefer that over legal abortion. When we take up homeschooling, or breastfeeding, or Catholicism, or growing vegetables, or golf, and especially if we ever get excited and tell others why we did these things, we must realize that some people will take our decisions as a condemnation of theirs, and there will be nothing we can do about it.

I read an article years ago about embryonic stem cell research, where the author insisted that anyone who was against it needed to be willing to look straight into the eye of someone with Parkinson's disease and say, "I know that you might die because I oppose this research,2 but I believe it is worth your life." That's what I mean by 'acknowledge the cost'. If we can't admit that, then we are being weasly. We are trying to have our cake and eat it too. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, religious or atheist, everything has its price. Every position that we could possibly take up demands something uncomfortable from us, and we either acknowledge that price and pay it, or else we are two-faced hypocrites.

We must acknowledge the cost because it is the truth. But we also must accept it, because only then can we work to minimize that price. If we pretend there are no women for whom an unexpected pregnancy is a matter of life and death, then we excuse ourselves from putting our energy into finding those women and saving them. If we pretend no one is hurt by our words because we don't mean them to be hurtful, then we give ourselves leave to spout off whenever and however we feel like instead of crafting our passionate speeches with care and limiting them to those circumstances that God leads us towards. When we acknowledge that there are real people out there dying of diseases that might be cured by embryonic stem cell research, then suddenly we care more about searching for a cure for them from another source.

And when we look honestly at what must be sacrificed, sometimes we will find that the price is too great, and we are not willing to pay it. And other times we will find that the price is as great as the electric chair; but that it will be worth it.

1. There's also the whole aspect of perfectionism and trying to do something on my own instead of letting God do it in me. But part of my failure was naively thinking I could do everything, no matter how difficult.

2. The fact that embryonic stem cell research hasn't actually demonstrated results the way that adult stem cells have is worth making. But this doesn't change the fact that it is a real possibility that embryonic stem cells may turn out to be the only way to cure certain diseases.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Itsy Bitsy Things God Does

Welcome to anyone who pops over from Conversion Diary! I wrote a guest post for her "Our Father" series which you can find here

This is a list of things that God has done in my life recently, but which are too small to make into blog posts of their own.


The day after I wrote about decluttering, I was trying to finish up the last of the clothes-sorting, but it was taking longer than I thought. I got that static pain1 thing, so I decided to stop and start working on sorting the toys instead. The static pain went away and the timing ended up working out very well: just as I was getting close to being done with the toys, the landlord showed up to do something that needed doing in the kids' room.


On July 8th, I ended up pulling laundry off the outside line around 10pm, in the dark. I've stepped on some painful things walking around barefoot in the backyard before, so this time I said a quick prayer and asked God that I wouldn't step on anything sharp. And I didn't.


Jules got a goose-egg on her head (she's at that age2) and Ken was concerned enough to be talking about going to the hospital. I said a prayer that she would be ok, and shortly after that, Ken managed to check her pupils and decided she was probably ok.


On Friday the 15th, I kept stopping to wonder what I should be making for dinner. I didn't have anything thawed or planned. Every time I thought about it though, I had this feeling that I didn't need to do anything, like God saying "I've got it taken care of". Ken hadn't said anything about cooking, so I couldn't think of any reason I might not need to make dinner. I had other things to do though, so I let it go. When Ken came home, he promptly started making fish. I still don't know if he had already thawed it or bought it on the way home or what - but it was all taken care of.


When I took the kids to the library last week, Gabe kept running around the aisles and handing me random books off the shelves. I was trying to scan the sci-fi section to see if there was anything there that I hadn't read before, might like, and wasn't book 2 through 8,459 of a series. In the middle of trying to do this and keep Gabe under control, Kyrie handed me this little red book and asked me if she could get it. For some reason, I had this very vague feeling that I shouldn't let her, but I was too distracted to pin it down, so I said yes. It kept bothering me enough that a couple day's later - after Kyrie had already read it - I picked it up and started reading to find out whether it was all my imagination or whether there was something objectionable in it. And yes, there was. There was lots of good stuff, too, but some of it rubbed me the wrong way. So I'm sorry I let her read it. On the other hand, I think this means that I don't have to worry about reading every library book the kids want to get, to make sure it's ok3; I just have to worry about listening for God's warnings about the ones that aren't. You have no idea how relieved that thought makes me.


Julie caught a cold4, so I didn't want to bring her to Mass on Sunday. Since Ken isn't Catholic, he's usually the one to stay home with sick kids. This time it felt right, though, to stay home with her myself, so I did, and Ken took the three oldest to Mass.


Last Saturday I went to confession. As I arrived, the church was packed full of people who were just finishing up a bunch of baptisms. It happens sometimes that I feel a little leap of joy or find myself smiling without ever having intended to, when I see someone else receiving a sacrament, especially the sacraments of initiation. It's only ever happened at the moment of the sacrament, though. This time I was walking in after all the sacraments were over, and I felt as if they all hit me at once. Before I knew it, I discovered I had the hugest smile on my face. It was awesome.


During my Monday night charismatic prayer meeting, we were praying for people, and I kept having these impulsive thoughts popping into my head, about what would or would not happen with the prayers. Even the "happy" thoughts didn't seem exactly peaceful, so I prayed to strengthen my armor5, and immediately my thoughts calmed down and it was easier to discern how to pray.


Back in 2008, I decided to start praying that we would be able to buy a house by the end of 2012. (I discovered that my grandparents had bought a house when their oldest child was 8; I wanted a house by around the time when my oldest was that age, which she is now). Ken interviewed with the bank last Saturday; the lady recommended waiting until next February to apply, since Ken will then have been working steadily for two years. Next February would make it 2012.


I had two stories for my Stories of God6 project, and I've been waiting for over a month now, I think, for a third story before sending out the next edition. It occurred to me that I could put in a story of my own - I had written up an inner healing story for some people in my prayer group - but I thought maybe I should be waiting on God. On Sunday, I felt I needed to pray about it, but when I did, I couldn't settle on either decision. Then I started praying in tongues, and the more I did so, the more convinced I became that I should put my own story in and send out the email. So I did.7

1. I describe static pain as "the nastiest of moods, the one where my every thought turns into a self-accusation, like a knife that I can't stop stabbing myself with". This link tells how I came to discover that it is God's way of pushing me to do whatever it is he wants me to do.

2. You know, the one where she's just learned how to pull herself up to standing, but doesn't have the balance to go with that yet. If I recall right, the head-bumps last until sometime after the baby learns how to walk; eventually they get steadier and the head-bumps get a lot more rare.

3. Just to be clear, I don't pre-read stuff for my kids. I'm way too lazy and/or busy for that. I just worry that I should. I'm pretty permissive about such stuff, at least as judged by the Catholic blogging world. I mean, I'm actually looking forward to my kids reading Harry Potter.

4. Lisa, I blame you. Or I would, if I hadn't essentially agreed to it beforehand. :)

5. In case you aren't familiar with it, "putting your armor on" is a great way to ask God for protection from evil, as Jesus taught us to do daily, in the last line of the Our Father. That's part of my morning prayer with the kids, but this particular day I was extra distracted while praying in the morning, so I figure it needed a little boosting.

6. Stories of God works like this. People send me stories about what God is doing in their life; I put them together in an email to send out. Everyone is welcome to participate, and it's completely free. To subscribe or to submit a story, email me at

7. A bonus answered prayer: I couldn't remember what it was that I had meant to include for my last point here, and then I prayed and asked God to help me remember it, if he wanted me to, and a minute or two later I remembered it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Am I clueless about cars? YES.

On Tuesday, with the laundry piling up and library books due that day, I piled all the kids in the van and made a trip to the library and to Kmart for detergent. As I was unloading the kids back at home, Elijah pointed out that one of the tires on the van was flat. As I was standing there dismayed at the thought that I had a flat tire and wondering how it had happened, when one of my neighbors came by and mentioned he had seen it that morning. Doh! I had been driving with a flat tire and not even noticed1.

So naturally I just curled up in a ball in the bedroom and hid until the problem went away on its own.

Just kidding.

I only wanted to do that.

Instead I made a brief and unsuccessful attempt to find2 the Fix-A-Flat that Ken insisted he bought for the van. When that didn't work, I was tempted to just leave the tire flat until such a time as Ken would be free to deal with it. But Wednesday evenings are my Spanish class, and I was not quite prepared to miss that. So instead I listened to the instructions that Ken gave me on how to deal with it.

Wednesday morning I asked God for a quick, easy, and cheap repair for the tire. Later that morning I finally dragged all the kids out to the van, used the Fix-a-Flat3 that Ken kept for his own car on the flat tire - it got it about halfway inflated - and drove about two blocks to the place Ken had mentioned. The guy there said he doesn't repair tires, but he kindly put air in the tire for me. He mentioned that I had Les Schwab tires4 (which was news to me) and directed me to a Les Schwab a mile or two down the same road.

I got there and the lady took my name and car info and such and then was clearly done.

"Oh, assuming it's repairable, how much will it probably cost?" I asked.
"Do you have Les Schwab tires?" she said.
"Umm. I think so? I don't really know." I answered.
"Well, if you do, it will be free. Otherwise it's twelve sixty-six."
"Ok." I said and went to sit down with the kids5.

A little while later a mechanic came over and informed me that there was a nail in the tire and it was unrepairable. He also seemed to be under the impression that I should have noticed a vibration of some sort at some point in time6. I think I tried to mumble "Not that I noticed"; it was difficult to come up with words on the spot that would convey the idea that this vibration of which he speaks is probably entirely real, but that he was after all, talking to someone who had been driving around on a flat tire without noticing. Then he offered to look for a used tire which would fit it, which he insisted he would be able to give me for free. "Ok", I said, which statement I think should win awards for Understatement of the Year. I was almost deliriously happy with this offer.

Half an hour after I had walked into the Les Schwab, I walked back out with a new (used) tire7, total cost to me: $0.008.

Answered prayer: Check.

Go Les Schwab9!

1. It's not exactly that I'm unobservant. It's that I can't tell the difference between "driving feels rough because I have a flat tire" and "driving feels rough because the pavement has not been sanded down to atomic-level smoothness". Just like I can't tell the difference between "my engine is making noises that indicate it will explode if I do not get it to a mechanic within the next 0.3 seconds" and "my engine is making noises that are perfectly normal for any vehicle that has been in existence longer than 1 year". This is why I tend to just ignore anything my vehicle does, so long as it is still running. Much to the dismay of my husband.

2. A search that was made more difficult because I still haven't actually offloaded all those bags of clothes that I decluttered yet; most of them are piled up in the back of the van, on top of where the Fix-A-Flat would be, if I had it.

3. It wasn't called Fix-a-Flat. It was called Tire Jack, I believe. Go Tire Jack!

4. This was news to me. Ken bought the tires used from someplace. It may have even been from Les Scwab directly, although he seemed a little surprised when I told him this whole thing, so who knows.

5. The second I started to turn away, I wanted to turn back and ask "You did mean $12.66 and not $1266.00, right?", but I didn't do it. And as I was sitting there later, sense came over me and I was glad I had not asked such a stupid question. Because: (a) I know tires cost somewhere in the $50-$200 range, and no one is going to pay over a thousand to repair something they can buy new for a tenth the price. (b) If a car place is considering doing work that is worth that much, they sure don't let you go with just your name, as the lady did for me. They will take your address and phone number so they can hunt you down if you don't pay, and they will look at you all serious-like when describing the problem because that is how they convey that you are about to provide half their profit for the year. and (c) They don't offer thousand-dollar repair jobs as a free courtesy for people who have previously bought something from them.

6. I couldn't exactly understand what the vibration thing was about; the guy had an accent. I think he was not saying that I should have noticed the flat tire, rather some other vibration, but I could be wrong. The "There's a nail; it's unrepairable" part came through quite clearly, as well as the subsequent offer of a replacement used tire.

7. I did have just enough savvy to look at the treads on the tire they gave me before driving off. They were, if anything, slightly better than the other tire on that side, so I was happy.

8. Well, ok, with the price of gas these days, I probably spent that $12.66 just driving the four mile round trip to Les Schwab. But still.

9. My sister-in-law informed me that Les Schwab is only on the West Coast. Haha all you non-West-Coast suckers! On the other hand, another friend informed me that other, cheaper tire places also offer this "buy our tires and we will repair them for free" deal. Like America's Tire. So maybe it's more common than that. Who knew? On the gripping hand, I don't know if other places also give out used tire replacements for free.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The True Cross

So there was someone in my prayer group who mentioned that someone was coming to our area with a piece of the True Cross, the cross that Jesus died on. I know a lot of people who would be very excited about that sort of thing.

I'm not one of them. 

I didn't say anything at first, but the man I was talking to is both perceptive and willing to follow up, so he asked me about it and I got into listing all my reservations. Really it boiled down to 
  1. There's no way such a thing could be tracked accurately across so many centuries, and 
  2. The saying goes around that "there are enough relics of the cross to make up three crosses" [or ten crosses or whichever other version you prefer]. 

A week or two later, my parish printed the following in the Sunday bulletin1:

I know you can't read the article from this webcam photo... the title should give it away though.

It was a heck of a coincidence. "Yeah," I thought, "maybe God's trying to tell me something."

I looked through the article and thought about what my friend in the prayer group had said. It turns out, that saying about all the pieces of the cross adding up to more than a cross is just a saying. There's no concrete evidence behind it. The only person who is known to have tried to catalogue every known piece of the True Cross found that they all added up to less than a third of a cross.2

And the story of St. Helena finding the cross caught me, too. I mean, she was the Emperess, the mother of Constantine. She doesn't sound like a dummy or a sentimental fool, to be taken in by the nearest person trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge. She sounds like a powerful, generous, and determined woman. She was trying to find something that was 300 years old; she dug up where she thought it would be and found three crosses. She determined which was Jesus's by seeing which one produced a miraculous healing.

And here's the thing; I believe in miracles. AndI believe that when we ask God those things that only He can know with certainty (like which van to buy), He often tells us. Helena did everything exactly right; she put her God-given reason to work on finding the cross as well as she could. When she thought she might have found it, she asked God to confirm it.

And He did.

Who am I to contradict God? If He says it is his cross, I will brush aside all the voices telling me that only ignorant and superstitious fools believe things like this3, and I will put my trust in Him.

1. If your mind works like mine does, you're wondering if the man I was talking to arranged it. Let me just point out that in order to get that article in that week, he would have had to submit it to the parish before our conversation and then convince the priest to sign it - the priest at a parish he doesn't even go to. So, no.

2. I even looked it up on Wikipedia, which more or less said the same thing. That was back in the 1800s when Mr. Whoever catalogued them... but still, that was after the medieval period when people would most likely have been expected to go crazy with "finding" pieces of the True Cross for the purpose of selling them.

3. He did, after all, say ""I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike." Luke 10:21.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Static Pain & a Truck Show

Part 1: Static Pain

So back when I was younger and paid way too much attention to my feelings, I came up with the name "static pain" to describe one particular mood. "Static pain" is the nastiest of moods, the one where my every thought turns into a self-accusation, like a knife that I can't stop stabbing myself with. That was the "pain" half of "static pain"; the "static" came because trying to think any constructive thought at all - whether it was "I should do the dishes now" or "I wonder what to have for breakfast?" was like trying to listen to someone speaking to you when there was static noise1 blasting in your ear.

Fast forward to last January. There was this talk that I was writing for my prayer group. One evening I was kind of tired and vegging out. I had been thinking about working on my talk some more, but I was slipping into the static pain mood, which makes me want to curl up in a ball and pretend the world doesn't exist. The only thing that I had ever found to help get rid of static pain was going to bed for the night, but ironically, doing anything so healthy as that only becomes more difficult when you're filled with self-destructive thoughts. Finally, in a sort of desperate "I can't feel any worse than I do now, so I've got nothing to lose" move, I decided to try to work on my paper.

Five minutes into writing, I realized my static pain had evaporated.

I was still tired; it still wasn't easy to write my paper. But the nastiness was gone. That had never happened before. I was shocked, amazed, delighted. All these years of running into this mood, was it always because I wasn't doing whatever task God wanted me to be doing right then? And all I had ever needed was to do my work, and the pain would go away? What a waste of all those times, not to realize it then! What a mind-blowingly wonderful revelation, to know it now!2

Part 2: Truck Show

Fast forward to last week. My neighbor had told me about some kids' event going on Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of the nearest Target store. I had a scheduled online chat at 12:30 with my sister-in-law and Spanish class at 6; the event was from 2 to 6. The last thing I felt like was ignoring all possible chores (including cooking dinner) to pack all 5 kids up and take them to a crowded place with lots of people that would probably involve people trying to sell things my kids would want me to buy. When my kids came in saying the neighbor's son was talking about a Truck Show, I said no, we weren't going to go (even though I had finished chatting with my sister-in-law already).

Shortly afterward, I noticed that static pain had slipped up on me. The only thing that I could think of that God might be trying to push me towards doing was going to the stupid Truck Show.

I tried to avoid that conclusion, but after praying along the lines of "So, I don't want to go to the Truck Show, so what else might you want me to do, God?", it was still all I could think of. So I eventually gave in and packed up the kids and went to the Truck Show.

Which turned out to be awesome.

Apparently the "Truck Show" consists of a dozen or more different kinds of trucks which the owners have brought in so that kids can climb inside and see what they're like. There was a fire truck, an army vehicle, a snow plow, a small semi, an (empty) FedEx truck, a Comcast truck, and more. There was this cool truck where they have a camera to investigate the inside of pipes - the kids could operate the camera controls from the inside the truck with video screens to see the results on, or they could make silly faces and wave into where the camera was set up outside. The kids got to sit in the back of a police car. (One parent commented how quick the kids all got back out again - it's not designed for comfort! The cop responded that nope, it was designed for easy cleaning. It was a revelation to me that cop cars don't have normal back seats.) The police siren went off twice while we were there; there was pretty much non-stop honking from one vehicle or another the whole time. The lady at the tractor was amused that kids preferred playing with the radio control over most anything else, and the guy with the snow plow turned the engine on and actually let the kids lift the front-plow up and down and move side to side. As we were driving away, we noticed there was an ambulance, too; we hadn't climbed inside because it had been hidden behind the larger fire truck and we never saw it. For bonus points, several of the truck-people were giving out candy, stickers, or bracelets to the kids.

It was like, "Everything truck-related that you've always been curious about but never had the chance to discover." Totally worth the annoyance.

1. Those of you who are my age or older will probably remember changing TV channels and suddenly coming across a station that wasn't getting good reception right then. Sometime the flickering black and white dots were silent or quiet, but sometimes they were inexplicably LOUD, as if someone had adjusted the volume ten times higher than whatever channel you were previously watching. My kids will be too young to remember such a phenomenon. Of course, you could also think about static on the radio, which you can still find these days, although it's not usually so loud as I remember it being. (Clearly I'm really old now, since I'm using the phrase, "it's not as _____ as I remember it being.") ;)

2. I have long considered the accusing thoughts to be coming from the Accuser - that's what the name Satan means, "Accuser". I've started to think that this static pain thing may give some insight into what is meant in 1 Cor 5:5 and 1 Tim 1:20, about handing someone over to Satan until they change their ways.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Go buy earrings from Brittany!

Because my head hurts as if I have a hangover and I didn't even drink anything for the 4th but just stayed up crazy late In lieu of a real post today, I'm just going to put in a plug for Brittany's Etsy shop.

Guys... got a girl in your life - mother, girlfriend, sister, wife - who has a birthday coming up and don't know what to get? I suggest earrings.

Got a significant other in your life who won't be happy if you go bowling with your guy friends on your anniversary again? Appease her with earrings.

Girls... been wanting to buy something to reward yourself for your ten pound weight loss? I suggest earrings.

Point two (0.2) pound weight loss? I suggest earrings.

Have you recently been convinced by Betty Beguiles to dress in a prettier, more feminine manner befitting your feminine femininity? I suggest earrings.

Are you a drag queen who wants to dress in a prettier, more feminine manner befitting your feminine masculinity? I suggest earrings.

Is this post completely ironic coming from the last lady in the universe2 with ears that have never once been pierced? Yes! But go buy some earrings anyway.

Seriously, Brittany is awesome at that whole artistic thing. She makes good earrings, and I encourage you all to go check it out.

2. Ok, second-to-the-last, Gayle.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


God Tells Me To Do It

One day, back in April, I was listening to the radio, and the announcer gave some tips about decluttering, suggesting that people donate things that they don't use to charity. I thought, "Gosh that sounds nice, I've been wanting to do that forever, and it never works." And then I changed the radio station, looking for music. And another announcer came on who also mentioned donating as a way to help unclutter.

Huh, I thought. Maybe God's trying to tell me something.

I prayed about it later, and was overwhelmed at the thought of how much work is involved in actually uncluttering my apartment. There's just so *much* clutter. And getting rid of it sometimes adds a little stress to my marriage, when I want to get rid of something that Ken wants to hang on to. There's so much else that needs doing, do you really want me to be spending my time decluttering, God?

I opened the Bible, searching for answers, and it opened to a verse about God making mountains into valleys. I think I also came across another verse about giving your things away to the poor, thus making it really obvious that God was saying yes, this was his will. But I really appreciated the mountains into valleys reference: I needed to hear that God could make this herculean task into something I could actually do. So this is all I've been working on the last few weeks.


One of the first things I actually got around to doing1 was the re-organization of the kitchen. We had gotten an extra rack of shelves recently, so I spent a full day recently re-arranging things in there, giving away several boxes of things that we don't use to my step-daughter Brittany.

As I was transferring the boxes from the back of my van to Brittany's car, I told her, "When I tell Ken I want to give things away to the thrift store, he's like I think we should keep them. But when I say we should give these things to Brittany, he's like Ok, I guess." That's right, all you folk who want to declutter, if you don't have a convenient adult offspring to unload all your crap still-usable things onto, perhaps you should consider adopting/finding one.


Not long after the day when God told me to unclutter, I went over to my friend Becky's house. She's like my guru for decluttering; I am full of suppressed jealousy awe over the spareness of the apartment that she and her husband and three kids have. We talked about kids' clothes; here are some of the differences between our two approaches.

  • My approach: I keep almost every piece of kids' clothing I've been given since Kyrie was born. (Which is a lot). I have separate sets of winter and summer clothes for each kid; I store the off-season in the closet and flip them out twice a year. I have girl clothes that are too small for Savi, even though Julie won't be big enough to wear them for another 3 or 4 years. And I have a complete set of baby clothes, in both boy and girl, for all seasons. Chances are, any one baby will only wear a fraction of those clothes, depending on their gender and what age they are at each season. But I've kept all of them, just in case. There are even several items that I don't think any of my kids have worn simply because the proportions always managed to be off (too long for how skinny it was, or the like). Also, each of the kids has as many sets of clothes as I can stick in their drawer. With Kyrie especially, after I would do the twice-a-year clothes swap, her drawer would quickly start overflowing, bulging so high it couldn't be pushed back in again. The kids often complained that they couldn't find some particular item, because there were so many clothes in their drawers that it was a pain to search through them. And there were probably even more "extras" in the closet. All in all, I had the drawers and closet overflowing with clothes, most of which were not being worn during any given month. I could probably count on one hand the number of times we've bought clothes for the kids, because we've gotten so many hand-me-downs. The kids often wear stained or sometimes ripped clothes, because I don't want to throw them in the garbage and don't think anyone else would appreciate stained clothes.

  • Her approach: She keeps several outfits for each kid, all of which fit neatly into one drawer (that's one drawer for all the kids together, not one drawer per kid as mine have) plus a little closet space. She uses things like leg-warmers so the same set of clothes can work in any season. She has a couple outfits that the baby might grow into, but otherwise does not keep any clothes that are not currently being worn. Because each kid has only a reasonable number of outfits, the outfits usually get stained or ripped, so she gets rid of them instead of passing them on to another child. If a kid does outgrow a still-useable outfit, she gives it away. She asks for clothes for birthday and Christmas presents, and buys any other outfit the kid might need.

You can, perhaps, see the difference.

Can you see the spot stains? Would you donate this?

I finally got motivated to do something about this when a friend told me about someone he knew who needed baby clothes. So we've taken the last three weeks off homeschool and I've organized and washed all the kids clothes. Three containers of boy baby clothes, 5-18 month size, went to his friend already; I have another 6 or 7 garbage bags worth of clothes, 1 bag of shoes, and 1 bag of books that I 'm going to see about donating to a place nearby that I think works with parents who are trying to get their lives back together. I put aside all the girl clothes that I think will be the right size and season for Julie for the next year or so; the rest of the kids' clothes all fit in their drawers. I figure the next time I find out I'm pregnant, I'll start putting aside $20 a month to buy a new set of baby clothes with. I mean, really, I might get to pick out my own baby's clothes!

The hardest part was definitely deciding which clothes had to be sewing scrap because of stains.


I have this giant file folder I use to keep contact information in. If someone mails me something, I stick the envelope with the return address in there. If I jot down a telephone number on a scrap of paper, I throw it in there. And so on. It's gotten huge, so it takes forever to actually find any one given piece of information, and once I do, I never know if that information is up-to-date or not.

So instead I decided to put all my contact information into Evernote. I can do a new note for each contact, or I can stick a whole related-group of them in one note. Evernote is search-able, so all I have to do to find any given contact is start typing their name. (Business/medical type contacts can often be inputted simply by taking a photo of their business card.) I take my laptop places with me that I would never take that giant file folder; I can access that information on my laptop even when I'm offline; it automatically backs the data up online; I can even access it through a web browser on someone else's computer if I need to. And I will know that whatever info I have in there is the most recent info I have for that person. I spent a few hours typing all the information into Evernote and then tossed a giant pile of paper into the recycling afterwards. I LOVE doing that.

Kids' Toys

Yeah, so, really, it's hard to make this part sound at all interesting, but basically I spent a lot of time decluttering the kids' closet and organizing their toys today and tomorrow I plan to finish that, along with setting aside some of those toys to donate.


These were most of the major decluttering projects that I had to do; the one other one is to declutter our various outside toys and junk. There's some more minor decluttering to do inside; who needs VHS tapes when the VCR isn't hooked up? ... and the shelves of homeschooling things are a little over-full, and some space should be found for the cookbooks. But the biggest stuff is done, and I'm loving it. It feels so good to be free of it.

1. Yes, it took me two months to get started. I'm lazy; I'm busy, one or the other or both.