Sunday, June 15, 2008

Surprise! Our new baby . . .

Yep, arriving on Tuesday, charming us all, covered in plenty of hair and bottle-feeding like a champ, it's . . .

a RACCOON ?!?!?!?! Yep! He joined our family on Tuesday, when we found him, apparently motherless, in the woods behind our house. We took him in and gave him plenty of love. Thus began a great adventure in the world of raccoon parenting. We named him Bandit and fed him puppy formula from a bottle. He chirped when you scratched his back and had a habit of pooping on us. In doing some internet research, we found that raccoons can make great, though unpredictable, pets. We also found out that raccoons are illegal to keep as pets in Utah. I called a wildlife rehabilitatator in Heber, who offered to meet me that day at Bridal Veil Falls and take the critter off our hands. He said the statute in Utah states that since raccoons are not native to the state, they should be dispatched upon capture. However, he said he did not like to do that, so he took care of them until they were old enough, then took them out five miles from civilization to release them. He seemed quite a character, and more than understood when I told him we’d like to keep our new baby for a while. We took care of him until Saturday, feeding him from a bottle 4 or 5 times a day, taking him outside with us, and helping the twins to take turns with him. Eliza loved him as well.

On Saturday I arranged to drive to Heber to drop Bandit off and see this man’s place. I was very curious about what he does, and I thought the kids would enjoy it too. When he gave me directions, he described it as “hillbilly heaven,” and that’s pretty much what I found when we arrived. He’d told me he kept goats, but I hadn’t expected the huge number that wandered the yard, nor the dozen dogs, the chickens and lamas and peacocks and geese and whatnot found everywhere. I’d left Eliza home, but everyone else was as fascinated by this place as I was. We could clearly see a large cage on his front porch with 5 or 6 half-grown raccoons inside. He took Bandit inside to raise with a few other younger coons, then showed us some of his animals. The man looked like Santa Claus and obviously loved his animals. The goats were very tame and very friendly. Did I mention they were all over the place? Hundreds of them! We left after a short time because I was tired of corralling the twins, who could not contain their excitement even when warned that one of the dogs was prone to bite. They also wanted to collect all the feathers on the ground, which was bare of all vegetation and covered with goat droppings. After a liberal amount of hand sanitizer, we drove home, glad that Bandit had a new home but grateful we had a chance to get to know him.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And now a word about socks . . . and other dirty laundry

We wash a lot of socks around here. We fold a lot of socks. Socks have the potential to be the bane of our existence. Luckily, I have a method that has worked great in our family. Except for mom and dad, no one owns any! Oh sure, we have a lot of socks and my kids wear them, but they don't OWN them. Nope. We don't wear shoes or socks in our house. Our mud room is set up with slots to hold both shoes and socks (This is an old picture; trust me, our mudroom never looks this clean and the tiny basket of socks on top is not big enough for all of our socks, so we moved them to the bottom bin on the far right in the picture), and after the socks are all folded, they get put away in that bin. When the kids need a pair, they pull out the bin and find a pair that's about the right size. I try to buy lots of socks in the same size and color so its easy to find matches when we're folding. We keep a big basket of lonely socks in the laundry room and it grows from week to week until I get ambitious and go through it finding mates.

Laundry can be a pain in a large family. I've heard lots of good ideas about it. One good friend does one load every day. Around here, I have one designated day to wash all of it and another day to fold it. In a typical week, we do between 12 and 15 loads. I designed our house myself, so I'm a bit spoiled in the laundry facilities here. We have our main laundry room on the same floor as all of our bedrooms, and we put in hook-ups for two sets of washers and dryers there, though we only use one set right now. We also have a stacked set in our mud room on the main floor, so laundry created in the kitchen nearby or from the guest bedroom or outside gets washed right there. We typically do 1 or 2 loads a week in the mud room and the rest in the laundry room. My friend Allison saves time by not sorting any of her five boys' clothes. She's found they still get clean. I've taken a page from her book and I don't sort the clothes from my boys room. They are simply so dirty most weeks I don't want to taint the rest of our clothes with them! The rest of the clothes get sorted, washed, and folded.

I'll leave you with a picture of a typical week's worth of laundry at our house:

Anyone else got good laundry or clothes tips?

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Week in Review . . .

For almost 4 years now, I've been in the habit of sending out weekly emails to my kids' grandparents and a few friends and family. I don't usually post what I say there here, but now that I'm blogging more, I thought, hey, why not? So, here, for your reading enjoyment, is some of my email from yesterday:

Friday morning, we had a huge load of cabinets delivered to our house. DH spent a huge amount of time before our house was finished preparing cherry cabinets for his office and our entertainment area. He’d done about 70% of the work, but then the demands of installing and finishing all the other cabinets for our house took priority. With his new job and ongoing family responsibilities, he hadn’t had time to finish them and they sat in his friend’s commercial shop until this week. A month ago, this friend called and said they had some time free (a common occurrence around here in the construction industry lately) and wondered if he could finish the job for us. What a blessing! We paid for them to finish up, but nothing like what it would have been to start fresh. I had not remembered there being so many cabinets. DH started installing his office on Friday, and with some help from his dad, who came for the night, they got all but two done before our cookout.

Friday night, we had a cookout in the backyard with three other families, then two of the families camped out in our backyard. We used our neighbor’s fire pit to roast hot dogs and make s'mores and just had a great time. The weather was cool and between all the kids plus two friends of the F’s, we figured there were 20 kids there. We went through more than 32 hot dogs and the same amount of buns, three bags of chips, two bottles of pop, grapes, carrots, and a pitcher of lemonade. And the oldest kid was only 10! The twins loved cooking their own marshmallows, even more than eating them.

After a bit, half the guests went home and we set up tents. Lillian, Joey and Michael each slept in their own special tent (courtesy of Grandpa & Grandma M 5 or 6 Christmases ago), DH and the twins slept in another, and Spencer and his four older kids stayed in our large 6 man tent (also courtesy of the Ms).

Saturday morning, we woke up to rain. It hadn’t been in the forecast, but the last several hours of the camping had been rained on. Luckily, with the rainflys on all the tents properly installed, nothing got very wet. We ate breakfast of pancakes, sausages, and eggs inside and waited for things to dry to take down the tents and take care of the supplies. Everyone was so excited about having slept in a tent the night before. The rain cleared up around 10 o’clock and things dried out pretty well, even enough for me to get the lawn mowed yesterday.

Speaking of yesterday, after the other kids left, the real work began and didn’t end until nearly midnight. DH worked on installing the entertainment center cabinets, while the kids and I tried to somehow get tons more laundry done and folded (we had 9 days this time instead of 7 and it was overwhelming), rooms cleaned, garbage out, and more. I was called on to help DH a lot with the install, which went very slowly, mostly because the cabinets were one inch larger than the space, which meant cutting a ½ inch off the face frames of four cabinets by hand, then hand-planing the edge, then cutting an inch off the top, then carefully getting them all to fit. Did I mention the word “overwhelming” yet? To top it off, neither DH or I had slept well.

I was so proud of Lillian and Joey yesterday. Joey was DH’s helper for a lot of the day, running his errands, handing him tools and screws, vacuuming up the messes, and more. Lillian kept at the laundry. Three times I went downstairs to switch the loads to find that she already had, without being asked. Not only that, but she kept folding and folding while watching a movie with the twins. It was so nice to see that job getting done while I worked elsewhere. Later on, while we were trying to figure out how to get the lawn mowed, keep track of the twins and Eliza, and get the upper cabinets installed, Lillian asked, “What’s for dinner?” “I don’t know!” I grouched. Ten minutes later, she said, “Mom, can I make dinner?” And she did. While Eliza took a second nap, the twins played downstairs, and I mowed the lawn, stopping every ten to fifteen minutes to help DH lift the next cabinet into place, she prepared spaghetti and sausages, peas and carrots, and pears. She set the table and had everything ready just as I was finishing the lawn and Eliza was waking up from her nap. It was such a blessing and so needed on such a tough day.

Later, it was Joey who provided that last-ditch relief that made such a difference. Fully awake after her late nap, Eliza found the whole cabinet process fascinating. She was underfoot, grabbing tools, picking up screws, and nearly dumping out cups of finish oil. Joey saved the day by taking her outside and playing with her for a long time. He wandered around the yard with her and gave her rides up and down the street in her stroller. She loved it, and we got a much-needed reprieve. Joey also stayed up long after everyone else was in bed, providing screws and tools and moral support to his dad while he worked to at least get the rest of the cabinets installed and the family room reasonably clean for the Sabbath. They also ran to the store for some necessary items that couldn’t wait until Monday (twin-size pull-ups and hamburger condiments for our lunch today). We still have a lot of work on the cabinets to do, mostly applying the finish to the doors and the cabinets, but that will have to be done this next week (anyone want to lend a hand?).

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"When we're done"

One of the sweetest things about having almost-4-year-old twins is listening to their prayers. No matter how crabby or defiant they have been during the day, no matter how much they fought two minutes earlier over whose turn it is to go first, the sincerity of their prayers is humbling. It's also a bit amusing sometimes, as they go on and on, "And thank yous for our pretty light, and ours lovely house and ours lovely bed, and thank yous that we get to wake up in the morning and have breakfast and thank you that we can play with roly-polys..."

Last week, just before prayers we sang "I Am a Child of God," both girls' favorite song (you can listen to it here, if you like, with some bonus ASL). With the message of the song in her heart, Sarah's prayer included the phrase, "And thank you we get to live with you again when we're done."

Something about the way she said that phrase humbled me. I really like the idea that we will return to God when we're done with the work He's given us here on earth and when we've learned what we need to.

As a mother, I often feel my work is never done. My delicious dinner laid out on a table in a clean kitchen will be eaten and forgotten the next day. The kitchen I spent an hour cleaning yesterday is once again overflowing with mess. The floor I mopped last week is already sticky in some places and my children continue to wear clothes and to soil them, causing that pile of laundry to grow ever higher. I'm never done reading to the kids, for tomorrow they'll be another book to explore. I teach the same principles of respect, kindness, and responsibility over and over ("Look, your basket is right here! Don't you think it would be just as easy to put your dirty clothes inside it rather than on the floor next to it?"). I clean up the same kinds of spills, sweep the same floors, wipe the same walls, scrub the same toilets, and weed the same patch of flowerbed. Is it any wonder that I like the thought that someday my work will finally be DONE?

On a sidenote, a mom with 8 kids further along in life than me once called sewing her "undoable." She suggested that every mom needed a hobby or something to accomplish that couldn't be undone. For her, sewing was a project that could be completed, enjoyed, and not repeated (at least in the same way) the next day. I used to sew and remember her words. Now, I get my "undoable" satisfaction by finishing a book, designing scrapbook elements, or completing a digital scrapbook page.

"Done," of course, has a lot of different meanings in the world today. "So, are you done?" is a question often asked after a new baby arrives, and really, it's such an inadequate way to describe the decision that a family is complete. Is a mother who just had her last baby really done? Hasn't she just begun to raise that child? I do suppose that, in a way, having a child is an "undoable" -- something exciting and difficult accomplished, a new life begun, a family that will never be the same again.

I am often asked if I'm done having kids, and when I answer negatively, the other question is how many we want to have. Honestly, I don't know. I just know they aren't all here yet. I feel that having and raising these children is something I promised God I would do with my life, and I know our family is not yet complete. I think we'll probably have a lot more before they are all here, and when we built our dream house 2 years ago, we designed and built it with a super-size family in mind. So we'll keep having them until we're DONE!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

One of the best parts about having DH work from home...

Since January, DH has been working from home about half the time. I don't always know when he'll be here and mostly I try to pretend he isn't here while I go about my normal day (that's so he can get some work done).

But one thing I love is that I can leave while Eliza sleeps. This morning, I took Michael and the twins to a summer movie ("The Bee Movie," which was totally stupid, by the way) and left Eliza in her crib. DH listened for her, but she didn't wake up until after we got back.

Monday, June 02, 2008

I haven't been blogging, but I've been reading . .

Here's a review of one book I loved:

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't often give books 5 stars, but this one deserved it. An uplifting look at a way a mother in the 50s and 60s took what could have been a devastating situation and turned it into the best. The stories and anecdotes in the book made me smile and sometimes laugh out loud -- the story of when terry (aka Tuff) babysits her siblings, the tulip fiasco, the amazing ways they find to make their household appliances work even when they don't (applying pressure to the fridge at just the right spot to pop open the seal when the handles broke).

The mother's husband is a sometimes-abusive alcoholic, and yet while not glossed over in the book, he really is a peripheral character -- the spotlight is on the tenacity and creativity of the author's mother, the Prize Winner. In a contest-centered world, she uses her skill with words to win various prizes, from appliances to cash to trips. The timing of some of the wins is fortuitous.

View all my reviews.


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