When it rains, it pours

The kids and I returned, soaking wet, from our grocery shopping yesterday to discover a flooded basement. Since the bulk of the mess was under the boys’ bedroom window, my guess is that the window well filled with water and leaked through.

Bill is TDY. In Europe. I’m sure he’s miserable.

Well, the boys’ room needed cleaning anyway. Somehow, none of the dozens of books scattered on their floor got wet, but they did lose some of their artwork. Oh well.

I’ve been reading a Charlotte Mason book and last night’s reading covered tidiness. Just add that to the long list of good habits my children seem to be lacking. I’ve got less than 8 years before I set Fritz loose on the world. Guess I’d better get started, especially given this morning’s scenario where he dressed for mass wearing jeans with holes in them. After he said his church pants were AWOL, I up-ended every hamper in the house to no avail. He finally found them on the floor of his closet.


The Emergency Flood Service guys arrived at 9 am while I was still in my bathrobe. In about 5 minutes, they’ll have to move their van so I can leave. I’m not comfortable having strange men in my house when Bill is gone, and even less having them in the house when I’m gone too. I guess I’ll mention the vicious attack dog upstairs, so they’ll stay in the basement. As much as I do not like my dog’s aggressive nature, times like these I’m thankful for the loud barking which evaporates any potential “easy victim” thoughts.

Happy Sunday.

Doing business the old fashioned way

About two weeks ago the realtor called to say they had received our deposit check for a house we plan to rent, sight unseen, in Virginia. Since they are closed on the weekends, I told them Bill would be there first thing on Monday morning, the 16th of June, to take care of any paperwork and get the keys.

The realtor wanted to send me the lease to review but said we could sign it on the 16th. She wanted to fax it, but I don’t happen to have that capacity here at home. Honestly, I think in 10 years of “working from home” having a fax would have been convenient perhaps twice. Each of those times, Bill had the fax go to his office.

He doesn’t have an office here.

I suggested email, but the realtor doesn’t have a scanner, and the software used to generate leases isn’t emailable. The realtor was beginning to adopt a certain tone that really annoyed me. I wanted an email; she wanted to fax. This was clearly, in her opinion, my problem, not hers. I suppose, if I were the sort of person willing to jump through hoops to please someone else, I could have figured out a solution. When I worked for a living, that’s what I did. But since I’m the client, I really didn’t feel it necessary to thumb through the phone book, find the nearest place that accepted faxes, get their number, call her back, round up six kids, drive to the store, and pay money for 30 pages of legal gobblety gook.

Fortunately, we had time on our side, so I told her she would have to mail it.

She seemed confused. Like she had never done that before.

I assured her that it would only take 2 or 3 days to get here, and we had weeks before we were moving. “I suppose so…” she said hesitantly.

She never mailed it.

She called back today. Apparently, this office does things differently than her old office, and the lease would have to be signed in the near future. She started in on wanting to fax it again. {Pet peeve: business people who can’t remember having this exact same conversation with you two weeks prior.} Again, she said she couldn’t email it. Again, this was my problem.

Again, I told her to mail it.

Again, the uncertainty about exactly how that would be done.

The thing is, I know the owners of this house, and I trust that everything works out always. So not only do I not fear that the house might be rented out from underneath me if I don’t get that lease signed ASAP, I know with my deposit money and a signed offer to rent, they can’t rent it out from underneath me, and even if they did, I would simply find another house (with a realtor who knows about stamps and those blue collection boxes you see all over).

We’ll see if she manages to put the lease in the post. Perhaps I’ll toy with her and tell her I didn’t get it? Couldn’t she just email me?

Driving in the Rain

If you

(with six small children in tow)

go to the auto parts store

(in the pouring rain)

and ask the man

(in a slightly desperate tone)

which brand windshield wipers you should buy, and he

(without hesitation)

answers something German-sounding, you could safely bet that they won’t be cheap.

In fact, you might even wince as you pay for them.

But they will work, and very nicely too.

And, thank the good Lord, the installation was included.

Are we there yet?

We got to Mass this morning with only a few minutes to spare. (I hate that.) The front was pretty full, but I happily noticed that the second row had a family on the center aisle side leaving just enough room for my crew to fill in from the left. I had my older girls with me, but Bill had gotten stuck carrying the baby and herding the toddler and was way behind. The boys were somewhere in between.

I got to the row, genuflected, made sure the girls genuflected, and moved us all the way in to the middle. Kneeling down, I turned to my left to check on the rest of us, but instead of seeing my family, I saw, to my utter confusion, a strange man and his two adolescent daughters. I looked back down the aisle and saw Bill looking at me with one of those looks (like it was my fault or something).

I leaned past Jenny and said to the man, “Sir, do you mind if my husband sits here?” He said, “Oh, sure,” but instead of leaving, he shifted backward as if to let my husband get by. Sometimes brevity is not the best way to clearly communicate. I guess I should have mentioned my four other children as well. I looked at Bill, and we both shook our heads, and I said, “Just give me the baby.” He passed Mary, in her car seat, past the three interlopers, and then directed the boys to an opening five or six rows back.

I was in a snit. I know, I know it’s bad. I told myself it was bad. I told myself to get over it. But I just could not concentrate on the readings. Instead, I was evaluating the situation: Did I take his seat? There hadn’t been any coats or anything else in the pew. Was I cutting him off from the rest of his family? I recognized most of the other families nearby, and he didn’t seem to be wishing he could be closer to them. Did he not notice my husband had other little children with him? Could he not figure out that my husband was not sitting with me because there wasn’t enough room? Should I have excused myself to go and sit with my family?

It went on. I chastised myself. I thought about the blind man in the Gospels. I looked up at the crucifix and sternly reminded myself that Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins and by way of thanks the best I can can do is sit here and mope. Petty, petty, petty.

Finally, Father got up to do his homily. At one point he talked about the classic line uttered by all children on a long car ride: Are we there yet? As we are more than halfway through Lent, it is a question we might be asking. Father said there are three components to this question. THERE, meaning we are progressing forward, YET, implying a timeline for our journey, and, of course, WE, since we, the Church, are on the trip together.

And I’m sulking like an adolescent who can’t sit next to her best friend on the bus.

It was enough. I got out of my funk; I got over it. Although sitting with my entire family would have been nice, it’s not necessary. We’re journeying together. This family next to me is trying to get to the same destination. I should be happy to share an hour of that trip with them.

But next Sunday, we will get out the door earlier, by golly.

Must be Lent

Let’s see…

Yesterday, at a store, an old man told me I should get myself fixed because I had one too many kids already.

I had only my three daughters with me.

…moving on…

At another stop, I sat in the car with the kids while Bill ran in for something, quick. But quick doesn’t happen when there are long lines. One child had to go to the bathroom. We waited, but the issue became urgent.

So, I interrupted Mary’s snacking, put socks and shoes on the one who kicked them off, got everyone out of the car and across the busy parking lot, went into the store (no husband in sight – I think he hid when he saw us coming), found the bathroom, and got the child into a stall.

She was a bit…stopped up, shall we say? No pressure, honey, I kept thinking. There are only six people standing here waiting for you to go. “How about we try again later,” I suggested. Nope. We were there for ten minutes.

…then, a new day dawns…

This child has been battling a cold for nearly a week and is still pretty miserable. And misery loves company. She really should just take a nap, but instead, she’s using naughty words and annoying her siblings for no good reason. To cap it off, she mooned her sister.

What the…?

And because we have been emergency room-free for way too long now, Peter whacked his mouth on the window sill and cut it from left to right between the lip and the chin. We thought it went all the way through, but the doctor wasn’t sure. He ended up using dermabond on the outside and leaving the inside alone. I had to give Peter Advil this evening, and expect I’ll have to do it tomorrow too. This poor kid’s chin now has three scars.

The only thing that bothers me about this is the doctor’s instructions to keep an eye on the inside laceration and wash food out of it if necessary. Oh, the joy.

But this is all good stuff. Really. I’m smiling in the midst of it all. Even the desire to punch the old man in the nose was more an after-thought than a true wish. I’m sure he meant well.

It must be Lent. Ever notice that the more charitable you wish to be, the more difficult it is?

Forever young

Yesterday afternoon, after Bill got home from school, I ran over to the grocery store for a few items. Alone.

As the teenager who bagged my three gallons of milk and 20 pounds of dog food hauled my stuff out to my van we talked about the bizarre weather. It had been 60 degrees the day before, but we had gotten about an inch of snow that morning. The winds were pretty fierce, and at times the conditions were white-out.

As he placed the bags around the double stroller and the big diaper bag in the back of the van, he told me how he had called his parents and asked them to come get him out of school because of the conditions.

I have no idea what his parents said. I considered briefly what I would have said to my teenaged son, but was more struck by the fact that he was telling me this. Did I not look more like his parents then someone his age? I pondered. This conversation seemed more appropriate between two teens than between a teen and a strange parental unit.

As I got in the van, I glanced in the mirror. Could I still pass myself off as a twenty-something? I wondered. Perhaps…the knit hat disguises the mom-hairdo and the winter coat hides the t-shirt with dried baby spit-up…perhaps I don’t look as old as I feel.

It was quite a cheery thought as I maneuvered my twelve passenger van with five car seats through the snowy streets. Quite a cheery thought.

Renaissance Festival

Because my blog is my default photo album of family life, here are some pics from the Renaissance Festival we went to on Saturday.

Sir Thomas and Sir Christopher face each other in a joust.
Billy and Katie ride a camel.
King William VIII.
Jenny and Billy on a Merry-Go-Round…or is it a carousel?
When we pulled into our parking space, Fritz wanted to know why there were so many telephone poles. Bill explained that it was a telephone pole farm. It always amuses me when I hear my own dad’s words come out of his mouth.

After walking around this festival for about three hours, we decided we weren’t tired enough and dragged the kids to a Greek Festival. Bill got in line for gyros while I got in line for baklava. It was crowded and tables were scarce, so we ate on the road. It took all my self control to avoid the gift shop at the church. Beautiful icons…and a nativity set like I’ve not seen before… Sometimes having grumpy children who don’t like ethnic food is a blessing in disguise (at least to my wallet).

I am still very sore from all that walking around. But I hear there’s a Polish festival this coming weekend…mmmmm…pierogies….

No Bubble Boys Here

Just in case you were wondering about “socialization” – oh, you know, that crucial issue raised by those who oppose homeschooling…

…the point being that you are depriving your children of something by not sending them off to hang out with their peers in a classroom all day long….that they’ll miss out on real life experiences…that you are overprotecting them by keeping them home…that your children may seem a little “off” or not “with it” or something…

I would just like to reassure the whole world that, indeed and most unfortunately, my sheltered children are being properly socialized. Heaven forbid that our decision to homeschool should keep us from a typical scenario experienced, I am sure, by thousands of parents every year such as the one we had last night at the dinner table when one of my sons demonstrated a gesture which he had learned and had explained meant “stupid.”

On the one hand, it’s so very nice to know that my children are unafraid to show off to their loving parents the wonderful new social graces they acquire in the neighborhood, and I am glad that his father and I are there to explain, calmly, that the middle finger does not, in fact, mean “stupid,” that it means something much worse, and that under no circumstances should he employ such a gesture ever.

On the other hand, having taught my children that saying “stupid” is akin to cursing, I question the common sense of my son who would nonetheless demonstrate to me a non-verbal way to use the term.

And I really question the common sense of both my older sons who continued to discuss with us, in almost scientific terms, all the knowledge they had obtained regarding the use of the middle finger (including physical demonstrations), until I quickly interrupted them and pointed out their three younger siblings who were listening, most interestedly, to every detail.

And have I mentioned that we call the toddler Pete the Parrot for obvious reasons? It was about three nights ago that Jenny taught him the lovely phrase “Shut up!” Thank goodness, he forgot it after about five minutes. That little girl is on a roll with causing mayhem.

And so, dear world, it is quite evident that homeschooling in no way detracts from proper socialization. My children have not yet reached double digit ages, and yet they know enough to get their front teeth knocked out by an older boy who really knows what the middle finger is all about. I’m sure a discussion about condoms isn’t too far in the future, since the first time I heard the word “rubber” was when I was ten. I had no idea what it meant, but I had enough sense to know that asking my mother meant asking for trouble.

My friends taught me that.

A New Tradition is Born

Today is Katie’s 6th birthday.

This past weekend I tried to find a gift locally. The toy department yielded nothing of interest, but I did manage to find one outfit that I think might be good in the girls’ department. It has a skort, but that seems short, so my hope is that if it’s inappropriately short the waist will be too big for her skinny little body, and I’ll have an excuse to return it.

And still, I felt she was too young to get only clothes for her birthday. She needed a toy of some kind. So after swimming lessons, we headed for the Super Walmart (open 24 hours!) that is 20 miles away.

Deserted rural highways prevent the drive from being too long.

I promised them all lunch and then Katie would be able to select a gift (I held ultimate veto power, of course). This idea was a big hit with all of us. Once she understood that she couldn’t have everything that she liked (she had to replace one item in order to get something else she wanted more), she was content in her choices. I’m happy to not have spent money on things she didn’t like. And the other kids are excited at the possibility of being able to do the same thing on their birthdays (although Billy will tell you how very far away February is).

And I received a birth-day gift as well. The kids behaved nicely in the food area. Most of the other customers were elderly men and women. A man at the table next to us asked if they were all mine. I smiled and said yes. He and the two women with him all nodded their approval.

“They are very well behaved,” he said. “Do you homeschool?” Local schools are in session around here.

“Yes, I do. It’s my daughter’s birthday, and we’re letting her pick out a present after lunch.” I guess I feel the need to justify my presence in public during “school” hours.

But they weren’t critical of my being out for lunch. Instead they turned to each other, and I could vaguely make out favorable comments directed toward homeschooled children from large families.

Thank goodness for these good days. May the memory sustain me through the bad ones.