Content Amidst the Chaos

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100th post! February 2, 2011

Filed under: babies,family size,Our home — jps23 @ 12:25 am

It’s fitting that tonight I was going to blog about learning to become content.  It’s the name of the blog, and with this being the 100th post (according to my dashboard because otherwise, that’s just one more thing for me to keep up with!), it’s quite appropriate that it highlights when I arrived at that place of true contentment.

We are still on our baby journey in these posts.  There is so much back story that many of you don’t know, that if you did, I feel like you might understand why we keep having babies.  I know that ultimately it doesn’t matter if you understand that, but knowing God’s role in it all can be a benefit to all those reading this, even if you don’t decide to take this journey.  This is about trust and contentment, which I think can apply in anything you do.

So, after the miscarriage and Coleman’s illness, there weren’t any other major life catastrophe’s to speak of for some time.  However, as Andrew was added to the family (which was a horrific birth story, but I’ll save that for later), the 1,100 square foot house began feeling smaller and smaller.  I had a brilliant idea, though, an answer to our growing family’s need.  Let me explain a little to help you understand why we just didn’t run out and buy a bigger house.

We didn’t get a credit card until my senior year in college, which was also Adam’s year spent acquiring his Masters degree.  We did take out some student loans when we discovered the difficulty of juggling marriage, good grades, and jobs, but we were both attending on the HOPE grant, so we didn’t need that much.  We were a little foolish.  We went to out of town ball games and took a trip out of state here and there.  After all, Adam already had a commitment letter with a firm in Atlanta making A LOT of money.  We were going to be rich!  Add in a teacher’s salary, and we were going to be sitting pretty.  We also had to replace our car, and since I always wanted a truck, we went for it.  My parents cosigned, even though they advised us against buying new (What did they know? We had college degrees with sweet pay coming our way!)  Okay, maybe we were a lot foolish.  We did graduate into high paying jobs, and we somehow managed to spend, spend, spend.  We rented a house after a couple of months in an apartment that we eventually purchased.  It was a very modest brick ranch starter home in an established neighborhood.  But then we noticed that the credit card debt we had acquired wasn’t disappearing as quickly as we hoped (that’s hard to do when you are still spending and not focusing on paying it off- we had horrible financial habits early in our marriage).  So, we refinanced and paid off our credit cards with the equity, but we didn’t close the cards, and we continued to make stupid spending decisions.  Long story short, selling our house wasn’t an option.

So, I had another idea.  My grandmother’s house was double the size of ours, where she lived alone.  It made sense to me for her to allow us to move in the partially finished basement (the equivalent in sq footage to our house, almost) and let us fix up her house a little here and there as a form of payment.  Her health was deteriorating a little, so we would be there if anything should happen.  I wrote her a beautiful letter to give her time to consider my idea (she was the most beautiful letter-writer of them all), absolutely sure she would see the reason and logic in my proposal.  I had sketched floor plans with ideas for improving the house and making it work for our family for when she decided to move into something smaller.  I was so excited!  Then she called me one day and said, “Oh honey, you are so sweet to think of me, but I just plan on dying in this house, and I don’t want to live with anybody at this point in my life.  But you sure are sweet to think of me.”

I wasn’t content.  I was desperate!  I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t see the logic in my thinking!  I began living each day saying, “If only we had a bigger house…”  But we didn’t.  There we were, almost eight people in 1,100 sq feet.  You do that math on that one.  Never mind, I’ll do it for you.  That was approximately 150 sq feet for each body in our house (including the baby on the way) and all their stuff.  We were beginning to homeschool, and with me being the creative and crafty type, I had craft, scrapbooking, and school supplies everywhere!  It was insane.

So I had another brilliant idea.  We’ll just move to Mom and Dad’s lake house a little over an hour away and clear out our house, make repairs, and put it up for sale by owner, since we couldn’t part with any money in whatever deal we could come up with.  This idea was CRAZY.  There are no two ways about it, but it was all I had.  Remember?  I was desperate.  I was teaching preschool at our church and pregnant, and Adam was working, and driving both cars was just stupid, so we would get up at 4:30 so we could leave by 6:00 to sit in horrendous traffic to get to the southside of town on the days I had to work.  It was miserable!!!  And guess what?  Nothing got done to the house because I was so tired at the end of the day, entertaining five little people in even less space than we had before and too nauseated to fix dinner, that I would beg Adam to come home and bring dinner almost every day.  So we came back home just before Joseph was to be born, and we tried to live in our house again.  Joseph came, we made adjustments to accommodate him, and we just pushed through.

Then one day, I was cleaning the bookshelves and putting books away, and I found the sketches from my dream about living in Grandma’s house.  I looked at them, told myself it was never going to happen, prayed for contentment, a way to find joy in my current circumstance and learn to accept that God has a bigger plan, and I threw them away.  Then and there I decided to be content.

Now let me say this, if you haven’t already figured this out.  I am typing this post from my grandmother’s house, that I now live in and have lived in for about a year and a half.  The story of how it all happened requires a post of its own (and I think I’ve actually shared a little of the story already), but it is evidence that being content is worth it.  I don’t remember a lot from the last year we lived in our house.  I look back at pictures and videos and wonder how we did it, but I think that God also protected me from being overwhelmed by it all.  My pastor said something in his sermon the other day that struck me and kind of relates to this: “If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, then you can be content in all circumstances.”  That is what had happened.

So, while messy floors bother me, I am content.  While laundry piled a mile high is aggravating, I am content.  While the kids clothes don’t always match and I can’t stand the hair-do on one of my girls, I am content.  And while I could have spit out a post every other day like all these other amazing bloggers that I follow, I haven’t, and I am content.  Happy 100th post to you.

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No longer “Hot as Hell!” November 1, 2010

Filed under: Our home — jps23 @ 7:51 pm

In my last post, I shared how God placed us in this house we now live in, my grandmother’s house.  If you didn’t read it yet, you should.  It explains the title of the post.

So God had given us this wonderfully large home, but it had no central A/C.  Now, we have a shady yard, but when they call our city Hotlanta, they ain’t kidding!  And this past summer seemed to be unseasonably hot.  We had a window unit that was already installed in the wall in one of the rooms of the house.  We also found two portable units, but the trick with those was finding a way to vent them.  You see, they have little kits for venting them out of sash-style windows, but we have the old crank-style windows, so we had to get creative.  Superman’s dad came up with a solution for the first one, which was taking out the glass from one of our front door windows and putting in a piece of laminate flooring with a hole cut into it.  We didn’t use the front door anyway.  The second solution was for the unit we put downstairs in the girls’ room, and that involved cutting a hole in their wall and extending the exhaust tube to the basement door, which has the 70’s style glass slats in it, so we removed one and replaced it with the kit from the first unit.  The next a/c unit we got was a window unit for the boys’ room, which we resorted to busting the glass out of the bottom pane of their window to put in!  When we found out Earnhart had allergies this year, the doc said we needed to run the a/c all the time to minimize dust mite growth.  Oops!

and then this happened

that's a window unit in the wall

…and that window unit was leaking condensation in between the panel and the outside brick, which ran under the laminate flooring we put in when we moved in.  When the insurance adjuster came to assess the claim, he also theorized that rain water was getting in around the opening in the brick for the unit, since we had some pretty rough rains in our area this year, also.  We noticed water seeping up when we stepped on the floor in a few places, but we thought the kids had spilled a drink or two or three…  Turns out, it was all the way to the middle of the 26 ft long room.  Dang.

The kicker in all this, but also the reason we got such a generous check, is that the tile under the laminate contained asbestos, and when the water dried up, the tile began cracking and breaking.  So, the insurance gave us a generous check because abatement tends to cost a pretty penny.  The grand total of our insurance check was around $6500!  Wow.  But I’m not done yet.  The blessings kept coming.  My brother’s brother-in-law (did you get that) works for a carpet and flooring care company that handles jobs like this, and he has a boss that lets him pick up side jobs using the company’s equipment.  So he did our abatement for a greatly reduced price.  Then, my cousin was able to lay the new flooring, which was ceramic tile that we bought at a discount flooring store.  My cousin loves doing tile, and he did a beautiful job!

...and this room isn't square OR level, we learned...

My boys on the new tile

In this process, my cousin brought a friend to help him with the work.  He’s worked on this house before, and his grandfather goes to our church.  He also works in heating and air, so when we realized our furnace wouldn’t cut on with our first cold spell, he was able to check it out.  It turns out the the element that burnt out on the furnace controls the carbon monoxide emission.  He and his grandfather both commented that they were surprised no one was dead from it.  He also was able to find a replacement furnace for a reasonable price.  Now, my mom being the sweet, let-me-fix-everything kind of momma, started asking him to look into the cost of adding an a/c unit.  We got quotes when we first moved in, which were $8,000 and $10,000 to have the a/c done and have the furnace replaced.  I looked at Superman one day and said, “Where are we ever going to come up with that kind of money?”  (We no longer rely on credit for anything.)  His reply was simply, “That’s going to have to be a God thing.”  It turned out that this guy’s dad was upgrading his unit, so he sold us his two-year old unit.  And sweet Momma fixed everything for a mere $3000, which we had, thanks to the insurance check.  Did you get all that?  Call it coincidence if you like, but I have a friend who likes to call those “God-incedences”.  What started as a “problem” turned into a tremendous blessing, in more ways than one!  Our God is so good!  He was good when it was hot as hell in this house, and He is good as I sit here warmed by the furnace, and He is good come spring when we run that a/c for the very first time.  It will no longer be “hot as hell,” Grandma.  God took care of that for us.

 

God’s Provision

Filed under: Our home — jps23 @ 7:08 pm

It is my mission to make a photo book about this house in which we live, my grandmother’s house.  There is a beautiful story behind being here, and God keeps adding chapters to a home already rich with stories.  My grandfather was an Army Colonel, who was actually stationed in Japan when my mother was born.  Shortly after moving in here, my mom discovered the journal writings from my grandmother when they moved to Japan to be with him, meeting my his new baby girl for the first time.  Around the time my mom was in fourth grade, they moved into this house, a ranch-style with a full basement, partially finished.  It had five bedrooms and three bathrooms, which was perfect for their family of seven.  It was also close to the military base where my grandfather was stationed until his retirement.  He was actually 13 years older than my grandmother, so he had given many years to the army before he met her.

I’ve heard stories about meals squeezed around the dinner table.  Some good, some not so good.  In fact, one ended with my mom hitting one of her younger brothers in the eye and cutting it open on the brow.  If you know my mom’s feisty side, then that doesn’t surprise you.  My mom lived here when she met my dad.  He was a lifeguard at the pool on base, stationed there after his return from Vietnam.  She was what you would call an “Army brat”, and she liked to hang out at the pool.  She was also a smoker.  The only thing good that came from her smoking was my dad asking her for a light one day out by the pool.  Six months later, they were married.  And no, they weren’t pregnant, just in love.  She was nineteen and he was twenty-three.  They celebrate 39 years of marriage this December (and my older brother is only 36)!

After my mom, my grandmother had two more to move out of the house.  The last one came and went a bit over the years, but once he was out for good, she lived here alone, in 2,200 sq feet.  We encouraged her to fix up the downstairs and allow college students to live here.  No thanks.  She liked living alone, doing as she pleased.  She was a precious woman, but a stubborn one.  Time went by and she got older.  We had holiday gatherings over here in my elementary years.  We hunted eggs in the front yard.  As she got older and less able to cook and feed us all, we moved festivities to my aunt’s house, a born entertainer.  So, aside from a visit by one of her kids, she rarely had guests.  She lived in this big house and all this room alone, just the way she liked it.

I grew up and got married, and once our family started outgrowing our home of 1,100 sq feet, I came up with a brilliant idea.  Why don’t we fix up the basement and live down there, while she allows us to earn our stay by fixing up other parts of the house?  Yes, it sounds crazy now, but to me, it was a wonderful idea.  She didn’t have to be alone and have my mom and her siblings worry about her falling or opening the door to a stranger (she never met one), and we could be on our way to living in a home big enough to accommodate our growing family!  I wrote her a letter because I wasn’t brave enough to ask her face to face, and I also knew how stubborn she could be.  But I just knew she’d see the logic in my large family with the small house living with her in her big house!  How can you not???

Well, she didn’t see my logic, and she called me one day and said, “I got your sweet letter, but I just like being alone.  I plan on dying in this house.  But that sure was such a sweet letter.”  I was crushed.  Every day in my little house with all of its stuff, I’d say to myself, “If we just lived in a bigger house…” or “Once we get into a bigger house…” and I was miserable.  I couldn’t find much to be happy about.  I’d just look at all the stuff in the tiny space we called home (five kids with one on the way in 1,100 sq feet) and feel so sad, so hopeless, so buried by my big family and their stuff.  I had held onto the little sketchings I had made of Grandma’s house, praying she’d change her mind.  We tried moving to my parents’ lake house, which was really a double wide trailer (nice, but still small), in order to get out from under the chaos and get things in shape.  But who was I kidding?  We had little kids, I was working at our church’s preschool, and Superman had a bank job, with bank hours.  It was just a temporary break from the sanity that we soon moved back into in order to prepare for Dozer’s birth.  It was awful.  I look at pictures of the place we had gotten to and just can’t believe we lived that way.  How did we do it?  I felt like I numbed myself just so I could get through.  Then one day, as I was trying to work on establishing some order in one of the rooms, I came across that sketch, the one of Grandma’s house and all the great ideas I had.  I said to myself, “This ends now.  I have to learn to be content with where God has us now.  I have to trust that He has a plan.”  And I threw the paper away.  In just a matter of months, His plan started to be revealed.

Dozer was born in April.  Grandma still lived here, but she was becoming frail and weak.  She could only move with a walker, and it became more and more difficult for her to get around the house.  She struggled just to get in and out of her chair.  Her kids were worried for her, but she wouldn’t hear anything about moving out of this house and into assisted living.  We actually have a great place in our area that has an entire campus devoted to elderly living.  They are also a campus for a children’s home.  Our church, which was also my Grandma’s church, is very closely affiliated with the facility.  Superman’s grandparents have a home there.  They have houses, apartment units (which are kind of like duplexes, only there are four units per building), apartment buildings, and assisted living.  His grandparents moved into one of the apartment units (a quadplex?) a while back, and they are far from dying!  It’s a wonderful place to live.  But Grandma wasn’t interested in the least.  They tried, she fought.  Until she had a fall that concerned my mom and her siblings enough to convince her that she had to move.

She moved into the assisted living facility shortly after that, at which time she said she didn’t want to talk about the house for six months.  I had completely let go of the idea long ago and pretty much decided that wasn’t what God wanted anyway.  Then one day, while chatting with my mom, it struck me to see if our renting the house might be a possibility.  I didn’t bank on it, and I didn’t make any sketches or floor plans.  I just wanted her to ask.  So, she gently brought it up about two months after Grandma moved.  Turns out, she loved her new place, feeling like God placed her there to love on those that took care of her, who felt ignored and over worked.  She made some friends, and my grandparents-in-law would check in with her from time to time.  She just loved her new home.  Which was probably the reason she allowed my mom to bring up the idea.

visiting Nana in her new apartment

We never talked about it.  I left that up to Mom.  Once she worked through her issues with it (the biggest one being that she knew all the work it needed, and she worried about us having to deal with all of it), she said yes.  It was only then that we talked about it, and it was only to let her know how grateful I was that she had agreed to letting us live there.  I think it was hard for her to think of someone else living here, even if it was her granddaughter, which is why I don’t think she really wanted to talk about it all that much.  However, I found out how happy she was just three weeks after we moved in, when I visited her in the hospital.

It was Father’s Day, and I heard through the grapevine at church that my grandmother was in the hospital that morning.  I was nervous, and I tried to get in touch with my mom.  I couldn’t get a hold of her, so based on the information I got at church, I headed over to the hospital to find out what was going on.  Superman didn’t mind dropping me by there, even though it was Father’s Day.  I went in and found out that she had some bleeding ulcers.  She was doing better, and they were about to move her to a room.  Now, my grandmother was the queen of proper, and she fussed that we were seeing her “that way”.  I told her not to worry, that I just wanted to make sure she was okay.  Even with the assurance she offered, and what was being said around me, I felt like something was just not right.  I tried really hard not to cry, but I just had this feeling.  We chatted for a bit, with her asking me how things were going at the house.  She told me how happy she was that we were there, and she apologized for the heat (no central a/c).  And for the first time ever, I heard my grandmother say a cuss word.  “I just know it’s hot as HELL over there!”  She continued to fuss at Mom and my oldest uncle, making sure they took care of the bug service and anything else they needed to in order to get us settled.  I told her we were just grateful to be there, and she didn’t need to worry about a thing.

We all went home, her kids included, and my family and I went over to Mom and Dad’s to grill steaks.  We were sitting down to eat, my Mom lying in the bed to rest, and we got the phone call that Grandma had had a heart attack.  Mom and Dad rushed off to the hospital, me right behind them, leaving Superman and the kids at their house.  When my parents arrived, she was already gone.  She had died, not in her house, but alone, which I think is the way she would have chosen.  She had seen all of her kids that day, and she sent them home, telling them what to do one last time.

I had the privilege of coming home that night alone, my parents letting Superman and the kids stay there, since they were already asleep.  It was going to be so different walking into this house knowing she was gone.  It was good for me to get to do that, and I was grateful to my mom for allowing me that, knowing that just losing her mother probably left her feeling the need to be alone.  However, she let my kids and Superman sleep and allowed me to come home alone.  Mommas just love that way.

So here we were, in a house big enough for us (and our stuff).  Yes, there was work to do, lots of it.  But it was worth it to be somewhere with room to move.  Especially since we were sweatin’ our way through one of the hottest summers in Atlanta on record!  You don’t want to be sitting to close on days where you sweat through your clothes in five minutes or less.  Which leads to my next story, in my next post

 

God spoke July 29, 2010

Filed under: family size,homeschooling,Our home,The Siblings — jps23 @ 10:07 pm

We all have bad days.  Those of us with seven kids and those of us with two kids.  Those of us who homeschool and those of us who entrust others to educate our kids.  We ALL have bad days.  So today, and yesterday for that matter, were bad days.  At least today threatened to be bad, until my mother and my best friend who understands and doesn’t ask any questions made it better.  And then I got home and checked the mail, which I RARELY do.  That is normally left to Superman as he pulls up from work each afternoon.  My day was redeemed, people.  God spoke to me in a letter from a friend.  When I say friend, I mean a lady at church that has worked in the nursery with my boys.  When I say friend, I mean a fellow homeschooler on the more experienced end of the spectrum with 2/3 graduated, her girls, with her son in his high school years and not in jail or socially inept.  When I say friend, I mean a Facebook friend that bats a comment back and forth with me from time to time.  We have not spent a ton of time together.  We don’t really KNOW each other.  We are quiet and distant observers of one another.

I have to back up.  To when, I can’t really say for sure.  I’ve always been hard on myself, but since embarking on large family living and homeschooling, I seemed to have increased my own criticism of myself.  I don’t want people to look poorly on life with seven little ones.  I don’t want them to see it as burdensome.  I don’t want my kids to grow up resenting it.  I don’t want to fail, yet many times a day week, I proclaim my failures to Superman.  I can never do enough or be enough for my ________ (fill in the blank).  I do this to myself.  And it seems that Satan is very aware of the Georgia homeschool convention schedule because he starts whispering to me the week of, usually right after I let others know how excited I am to attend.  And yesterday, as I have done in the past, I decided not to go.  Didn’t matter that we had already paid for it.  I was headed to the local Board of Education tomorrow, instead of the conference, to sign up the girls and Earnhart for public school.  I mean it.  I’m not in a very good place right now.  I wouldn’t normally share that with anyone.  Not even my mom or best girlfriends.  I don’t want anyone to say, “Well what did you expect?  You have seven kids!” or “You need to stop having kids.  If you can’t handle it now, then what will happen if you have another one?”  I don’t know why.  It doesn’t really matter if they say that.  I just don’t want to hear it.  So back to the letter.  It was clearly God reminding me that He has called me to this chaotic life, and that I’m not disgracing it as badly as I think I am.  At least that is what I got from the letter.  I am not sharing this to boast or toot any horns.  I am simply sharing this because I want you to know how awesome God is!  My friend wrote this letter a few days ago, before my melt down, and it just happened to arrive today, and I just happened to check the mail.  If Superman had checked it, the letter would still be sitting in a stack of mail in his passenger seat, or the floorboard, some time next week.  I’d like to share some excerpts so you can see how God spoke to me through this letter.  Although I sort of blew our cover last post, I will be using our good ‘ol blog names to protect the privacy of the innocent.  😉

Dear Content (more like Chaos, on this given day) and Superman,

I want to tell you how much I admire your family.  You live what you believe, and that’s not easy to do sometimes, or maybe even most times.  I admire how you have a large family.  I imagine you hear remarks everywhere you go.  I remember when I was pregnant with E (my third, and last), an acquaintance asked me if I knew what was causing it (we get that one quite a bit!), and that was only with a third child!  I’m sure with seven children, you hear that and worse.  But I hope occasionally, you hear better.  I was in a store recently where a family passed by with six children.  I’m certain they were all siblings, and I was fascinated, as I am with your family.  I love to look at each one of your children and see who they remind me of  with regard to their parents and to each other.  Your children are all beautiful and adorable.  I’m sorry I wasn’t at (our church) sooner to keep your girls in the nursery, but I have been blessed to keep each of your sons.

I also admire you for not having air conditioning (….) that will cost $10,000 for you to get in your house.  I think it says a lot about your family that you are willing to wait on it (she’s referring to our plan to save up the money to get it and not go in debt over it).

I also admire you for being a generous, giving family. (We’ve given away two OLD appliances recently, one to her family) You were so kind to give us your spare dryer, and Superman, although dressed for work, you were so willing to help me and E load it onto the truck. (….) Generosity comes back to you and I know that your family must feel that.  It is also very cook the way Content always compliments you, Superman, on how kind and helpful you are to other people, and E and I were able to experience that first hand.

I hope you all have some kind of an idea of the example you are to others, even to me, whose children are 2/3 grown…just one more to go.  I’ve learned a lot just by observing your family.  Staying home full time with children is wonderful, and it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Staying home full time with children and homeschooling them is wonderful, and is also the super hardest thing I’ve ever done!  With seven, it must be very challenging many days, but I know you all are committed to it and I promise I’ll pray for your family every time I think of you.  Hang in there with all the challenges, even with nasty neighbors who complain about your yard and your house.  I’m praying about that, too.

Please remember that we don’t live that far from you, and if our family could ever be of help to you, we will be.  –PH

Heard and noted.  Thanks, PH, for the reminder that this is worth it.  Thank you for believing in my commitment to this for our children, since just this week, I quit believing in it myself.  Thank you for reminding me that all this is more important and impacting on others than a clean kitchen counter would be.  Thank you for changing my plans in the morning.  Instead of meeting with the Bored Board of Education tomorrow, I’ll be planning and learning how to enhance my children’s learning experiences for their own unique little lives.  I can do this.  He wants me to do this, and He just reminded me that I can do it well, regardless of the opinion of my own worst critic.  PH, you were the vessel through which He accomplished this today.  Thank you.  That’s worth a free dryer and then some.


 

What’s on your fridge? July 6, 2010

Filed under: Our home — jps23 @ 8:55 pm

I think a family’s fridge says a lot about them.  I’m not sure what exactly, but I just know that you can learn a lot about someone from looking at their fridge.  It’s one of the first things I look over at a friend’s house for the first time, and many times after.  I’ve seen wedding announcements, family reunion fliers, kids’ artwork, photos, and much more.  So as I stood in my kitchen getting lunch together, I thought I’d take a picture of mine and share it with you.  This may bore you, or it may simply delight you.  A glance at our fridge is a glance at our life.

If I had some great photo editing software, I could put little arrows with descriptions ON the photo, but since I don’t, I’ll offer an explanation here.  Top left is a photo of a baby.  This baby is special because he is the firstborn son to our first trusted babysitter.  Seeing her get a chance to be a mom, and the amazing one that I always knew she would be, makes me smile.  I look at this little one every day.  Right next to that is our camp photo from camp this year, which includes the three girls and me.  We had so much fun.  Under those photos is a picture that Picasso drew that says “Jesus loves you and me”.  Yes, He does.  Right top corner is Mary Lou, the kindergarten graduate.  This picture of her is just precious.  To the left of her photo is a thank you note from Preacher for being tribal parents during Jerusalem Marketplace, which is where our children’s ministry gets converted for five weeks leading up to Easter to the streets of Jerusalem.  The kids love it, so I actually thank her for the opportunity.  It is truly a blessing to us.  Behind those two items is a buy one, get one free ticket to a Six Flags park, which we will probably not use this year, but it’s a great deal, so I hold onto it, just in case.  More artwork in the middle of the freezer door.  I just can’t tell them “no” to displaying their beautifully creative creations.  The green board is a magnetic write-on board I used in the co-op classroom.  It’s blank and just hanging there for when I might use it for something else.  The fridge door has some more artwork.  It also houses some incentive charts.  Mary Lou got a ZhuZhu pet for her birthday, which everyone now wants.  While they are cheap when it comes to toys, multiply that by six, and you are talking 54 bucks!  So, they are earning them by working on a particular area in which they are week.  Three of them are working on obeying right away, one on putting things away right away, and the other on brushing her teeth daily.  Dozer doesn’t have a chart, but I’m sure he’ll want one of the plastic furballs simply because everyone else does.  At the bottom, there is a sign that says “I love to draw.  It is fun.”  Yeah, which is why my fridge is full of artwork.

Right side.  The big sheet is the outline of Earnhart.  He made it at school in the beginning of the year, and I just can’t take it down.  There’s a unicorn picture on top of it, and to the right are pictures of the two oldest girls.  They drew them in art this year at the co-op when they studied drawing action.  The top right has two of our birth announcement pictures, which I love, and the top left has another thank you note from Preacher.  This one was to me after serving at VBS the week my grandmother passed away, the one whose very home we are living in now.  I cherish the words Preacher said to me on that note, and I won’t take it down until I put it in a scrapbook or memory box.  There’s a Babysitter Board on the fridge that we use on the rare occasion that we have a new babysitter.

Left side.  Top right is a great magnet I got when I flew to visit my friend that moved to Virginia.  It says “I love my country.  It’s the government I’m afraid of.”  I bought it for Superman from the airport.  To the left is a business card from the place where I ordered my kids’ personalized backpacks for Christmas two years ago.  Great price and quality, so if I need more bags I know where to go.  I’ll probably order Tipper a bag this Christmas.  To the left of that is a stack of letters from my co-op kids, written to Tipper when he came into this world.  I have a couple of take-out menus and some magnets I like by Quotable Cards.  I have a handy Easy Opener from Pampered Chef, a magnet given to Picasso on her baptism day, and a chart that lists the purposes of the room and the daily and monthly tasks that would keep it clean (if people read it and did it from time to time!).

That is our fridge.  It’s a mess, I know, but I tried to keep it clean and was unsuccessful.  I’m not good at keeping things clean.  Where is my calendar, you ask?  That is for a different post, but I’ll give you a sneak peak…

 

The neighbor July 1, 2010

Filed under: Our home — jps23 @ 3:20 pm

This house is changing.  For those of you that follow this blog, or know me pretty well, you know that I am living in my grandmother’s house, the one they moved into when my mom was in fourth grade.  So, the 2 swing sets, the trampoline, the supersized sandbox, and the numerous ride-on toys are a new thing for the neighbor.  One lady’s garbage is no where near the same sight as the overstuffed garbage can that sits outside our house, which sits close to the driveway so it’s easy to move down the hill of a driveway we have.  I try to be responsible and recycle, but that produces a different stack of stuff on our carport until we get the chance to take it to the recycling drop-off.  We are relaxed parents who like to have fun, and for every minute we spend creating order, there are five minutes of one of our children undoing that order.  I wish it wasn’t that way, but I don’t desire extreme order so much that I’d give up the joy that each child has been in our lives.  We have some order going on around here. It just wouldn’t be enough for Peter Walsh.

The neighbor doesn’t like this, and it has upset him enough to warrant two visits to our door and a name calling.  He’s 50-something, and I don’t think he likes kids at all.  He never smiles when we wave, and you can almost see him throw up in his mouth when he sees one of us.  He came down and knocked on the door at 8:30 pm the first time.  When Superman told him that he had boys in the bathtub and he couldn’t talk, he persisted to complain about the state of our yard, informing us that it is against the law to park in the grass.  He finally left.  The next visit occurred shy of one week later, while SM was on his way home from his four-day hospital stay over Father’s Day weekend.  Nice timing, huh?  This time I answered the door.  He asked for SM, and I explained what had happened over the weekend.  Guess what he did.  Complained anyway.  He brought up the car in the grass.  YA’LL, Roomie moved her car out of the grass and parked it in this little triangular spot between our driveway and carport that has a little grass, but it’s not the front yard.  He complained.  I said, “I’m sorry.  If she parks behind us then everyone has to get our here to move a car when someone needs to go somewhere.  You can call and report us and let them come out and write us a citation and we’ll pay the fine.”  There was a comment made about me deciding to have seven kids (like I didn’t know), and I responded that our backyard will reflect that.  I didn’t say, “Yes sir, I will do whatever makes you happy”, and he just didn’t like that.  He resorted to telling me I “give new meaning to the word trash.”  No one has ever called me a name to my face.  Maybe one of my siblings when we were younger, but that’s it.  It made me shake.  When my father-in-law arrived with SM, he spoke to the neighbor  as he left and told him to not bother us again.  This is what my friend Preacher had to say about it…

I just realized what has been really bothering me about your neighborly encounter. I don’t know if it was just a confusion of syntax or perhaps it was a metaphorical allegory gone terribly awry, but he is mistaken in using the term “trash” in reference to you and your family. Now, of course, I am making the assumption that he was shortening the term and his actual intention was to reference you as “white trash”. As a daughter of the South, I feel a mandate to clear up any confusion in this area.

I was raised that there were several levels in the caste system that comprises southern womanhood. In all honesty, southern womanhood is a complex issue. Everyone down here is jacked up on moonshine, humidity and Calvinism. It does lead to all sorts of confusion about the appropriate categories. Let’s review…

At the top of the system there is the “Southern Lady”. They are the women which we all aspire. Even during temperatures reaching the upper 90s with 100% humidity, they glisten or perspire – they never sweat. While their homes may occasionally be in disarray, they are never filthy. These women typically participate in some in a traditional Women’s Club, Bridge Club or Literary Society and are associated with a tour of homes during the holiday season. This variety of southern woman may, but not always, be associated with “old money”. They observe the time honored southern rituals with the most practiced grace: white shoes only between Easter and Labor Day, diamonds before 40 years of age are tacky, they don’t smoke in public, and Christmas cards always go out on time. They are our heroes. Unfortunately, they are almost extinct. it is really no wonder why now is it?

The next step down is the “Southern Belle”. Think Sally Fields in Steele Magnolias. A little less perfect, these women usually have some kind of a “past” associated in some sorority sort of context that is allowed and excusable under the existing social codes in the south. Their houses don’t make the tour of homes, but they do usually manage to have a freezer stocked with at least 2 emergency casseroles for families in need. They attend their churches on Sunday but are, in all practicality, unable to get the friend chicken on the table in their own homes under such time constraints. You’ll see them eating with their families at the Piccadilly instead. They are diligent about matching ensembles for family portraits and will go to great lengths to procure them. Their roots never show. I think it is the effort to achieve this level of perfection that can occasionally lead them to be the meanest breed of southern woman alive. When you hear them say, “bless your heart” what they really mean is: “you stupid bastard”.

Then there is the species of southern womanhood of which I find myself, the “Redneck Woman”. Contrary to popular belief, this woman is at least semi-educated and always literate. She is just doing the best she can but has come to the realization that she cannot achieve the upper echelon of womanhood afore mentioned. Her home is marginally clean, but impeccable by Third World standards. As a global thinker, she is okay with this. Rather than abolish her home of cobwebs and dust bunnies during the holidays, you may find her just throwing tinsel on them. Her efforts are better put to use finding a good recipe for the perfect “hot buttered rum” to take to whatever Christmas light extravaganza she is required to attend with her extended family in celebration of the birth of her Lord and Savior. For all general purposes, she waits until 5pm to start drinking  and never while nursing, even though I suspect the generation before us smoked and drank while nursing which is why  we have many of our issues. However, she finds no shame in a Mimosa before church on the Sunday she has volunteered to teach the 2 year olds. She knows no shame in purchasing her clothes at Wal-Mart or Target. Her family will probably not match for portraits. As a matter of fact, if everyone gets out of the house with the same set of shoes on each foot the day has started off pretty good. Her yard will indeed be cluttered with parts of her life that overflow from the windows of her home. This may mean the blessings of toys, and tarps used to paint (I’m looking out on my fence as I write), and various furniture litters her lawn. She may behave in ways unfamiliar to the unaccomplished connoisseur of southern womanhood. On occasion, she may have to beat her dog because it ran out the back door with her favorite bra. You might hear her call out to her child: “Baby, run get Mama another beer out of the crisper.” While she may be many things, she is never disingenuous. If she thinks you are a stupid bastard she will just call you one to your face.

Here is where your neighbor made the great leap in error. While I feel you were just probably identifying with the Redneck Woman, he saw traits of what we sometimes lapse into which is the “Common” category. My grandmother had an entire list of things that classified you as “common”. Re-applying lipstick at a table in a restaurant, for instance, was common. Smoking on the front steps of the church was also common. I remember seeing a woman re-applying her lipstick in church after communion. I was sure my grandmother would’ve been mortified. One of the great things about the “Common” category is that it is fairly fluid. For instance, I may be a Redneck Woman but do things that are just downright common every once in a while and still maintain my status.

However, if you persist too long in the “Common” category you will unfortunately fall into the least sub-species of southern woman: “White-trash”. Now the trick about being white-trash is that you never know it until it is too late to do something about it. See the example below:

Now I promise you that she did not realize, until it was too late that she was, indeed, white trash. I’m sure she didn’t even know that her tattoo was showing. Of course this is another identifying factor of the white-trash woman. Not that she has a tattoo, but the odds are highly likely that it is either spelled incorrectly or the name of a former associate. She is often marked by a tendency to over accessorize her ensemble. Notice the dangly earrings and black purse. This outfit clearly calls for another choice. Alas, she didn’t know. The classification of white-trash can also be associated with poor hygiene. Whereas the Redneck Woman may leave her Christmas lights out all year long to honor the birth of her Lord and Savior, the White-Trash Woman doesn’t even try to decorate. There are also no toys in her yard because she has spent all her money on accessories.

Note: You won’t find the White-Trash Woman at church on a Sunday at all, not because she doesn’t believe in Jesus but because in the South we have predestined her to eternal damnation. There is nothing a Calvinist likes better than to play social piñata with her. See the story of the Woman at the Well for more details on how Jesus interacted with the White-Trash.

In conclusion, you are not White-Trash. I’ve never known you to over-accessorize and as far as I know, all of your tattoos are spelled correctly. I’ve never even known you to lapse into a series of common behaviors, but if I ever do please know that I will warn you of your impending compromise.  Please inform your neighbor of his social faux-pas. You are strictly a Redneck.

Yes, she has too much time on her hands right now.  She is resting up this summer in preparation for starting her master’s program full time in the fall, and she is an amazing writer.  Jesus, autism, or social commentary…she knows how to put it into words really well.  So, I guess I am a redneck.  I don’t actually drink beer simply because I am almost always nursing or pregnant and I just don’t like the taste, AND I don’t have any tattoos.  No judgment- they just aren’t my thing.  But other than that, I guess I am a Redneck.  That would mortify my grandmother, and I’m sure SM’s relatives have felt this way about me from time to time, seeing as the women are all at least hanging with Sally Field on this one.  But it works for me and what God has called me to do.  I don’t try to offend anyone, especially the neighbor.  I guess he’s glad that he’ll be moving sometime in the near future.  I know I am.

 

It keeps getting better June 29, 2010

Filed under: Our home,Superman — jps23 @ 9:17 am

We have a new visitor, and I’m not referring to the cranky neighbor.  We have a rat.  Unfortunately, our house sits just above a sewer drain.  In addition to that, we have a toilet in the basement bathroom, which needs a major renovation, which is empty.  No water, just dry.  It has become the entryway for this rodent to drop by.  How do I know?  I took a guess, and when Superman put a paint can on the lid of the toilet, the rat was unable to leave.  As a matter of fact, our roomie (the college student/friend that is living with us this summer) saw it roaming up and down the hall a few times last night while we were away.  We put out mouse traps, which was all I could find at Kroger.  It ate the peanut butter off and went on its merry way without setting off the trap.  So last night, we took a family trip to wally world at 10:30 at night to get some rat traps.  They had none, so we ended up getting sticky traps for rats instead.  Heavy duty is what the package said.  Nope.  It trapped the hair, but no rat.  So, Superman will be visiting Home Depot today to see if he can find the rat traps that we need to catch this pest.

UPDATE:  Of course, the situation changed before I got to finish the post, but it’s good news.  No luck with sticky traps, so SM brought home the “breathe-on-it-too-heavy-and-it-will-snap” trap.  Loaded it with peanut butter, which the little rodent ignored.  It decided to come back upstairs last night, which pissed off SM to no end!  I stick my head in Roomie’s room to get her flashlight, and she jumps up and grabs a shoe.  IT’S ON!!!!  They find it behind the fridge, block both sides, but it somehow gets past them and goes under the dishwasher.  In the meantime, Earnhart and Smiley wake up and are crying and needing me.  I hate when that happens, but I prefer it over rat-catching any day.  SM and Roomie spend about 30 minutes trying to coax it out from under the dishwasher.  They finally do and SM pins it down.  It squeals (ewww) and then without any idea how else they can kill it, SM resorts to stabbing it with a kitchen knife (which we promptly throw away, with the dead rat).  Disgusting, but at least it’s gone!  We’ll keep the mega-traps in case we have to do this again.  The funniest part to me was Roomie.  She was held hostage on the bed Sunday night by this thing roaming the hallway, but last night she was up and ready to hit it with a shoe!  I love that girl.