Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The one about being needed and not being needed and dancing with Alzheimer's.

I can't say I wanted it to happen, but I was glad it did. I blame Golden Corral. A special treat for the kids who eat all the meals at home, we visited the buffet of bacteria the night we drove around looking at Christmas lights because Annual Traditions. They are paramount. 

When you wake up and blink the blur of tedium from your eyes and realize the hours have tumbled into years and somehow, the daily that was so pressing in the moment is long forgotten, you still have the traditions that infuse depth and meaning to hold onto. Then you understand, you can no longer summon the frustration you once held over the mud they tracked in the house, nor can you quite remember the ten thousandth game of uno you played or the way they forgot to scoop the cat litter (again) or all those pencils and markers and scraps of paper and candy wrappers strewn about the floor all the blessed time and you can't quite bring to mind the thousand pictures they drew you with crooked hearts all over them, but you remember those holiday lights you saw together. 

She woke up that night with a stomach ache, an excuse to cuddle in bed with mom and dad until the contents began spilling over. Then, huddled over the porcelain throne she would remain until the light of day, with the only one person on this earth she wanted, craved, needed. Her mommy.  I would rub her back and wash her hands and face and soothe her woes with my softest words. When it was over I would draw her a bath with rose castile soap and lavender oil and I would brush her wet hair and put on a movie for her in my room and offer her crackers and I would love her more than ever for allowing me the most precious gift of my life - to be needed - the ability to nurture. For some reason, I never properly appreciated it with my older kids. I think I may have even resented it at times. It was too much, I guess. I was too overwhelmed, too tired, too delirious from bearing up under the heavy workload, too busy with dependent little ones everywhere I turned my head. Oh, I was needed. But it wasn't a sweet, gentle usefulness that only I could provide. It was more demanding and wearisome and relentless and constant than I would have preferred. The little one, she is my wealth, my gift, my chance to make things right, to be who I always wanted to be because I can think straight now. Age has given me perspective and the tiniest bit of wisdom that understands, there are things far more important than sleep. 

She gets the best of me. It's just the way it is.  

The Ethiopian one, she wants me far less, but I insist she must allow my physical presence, if nothing else. Her heart is hard to reach, it turns from me defensively every chance it gets. She pushes and pushes and pushes. Hard. I feel I can do nothing, not a single thing right. My feelings ache. Rejection aches. When my small, wounded self crawls out of its pitiful hole, I act as the grown up I ought to be and I let her know, I am here. When she is ready. Should she ever become ready. Should she ever decide to need me in any way at all, I will be here, eager to lend a hand, to offer my heart. It's always open to her. I will never let it close, no matter what. 

After watching Alive Inside, about how music is being used as a highly effective therapy for Alzheimer's patients, I've begun my Alzheimer's playlist. Seeing the documentary took me right back to the days I worked in a nursing home throughout high school, speaking of gifts. Such a tremendous experience. At the time, I didn't understand all that I was learning about life and death and lonliness and love and intergenerational relationships and basic human connection that I would recollect throughout the years of my adulthood. I adore the elderly. I hope to one day become one because the documentary was right, we are born to age. My husband assures me he will play my music often for me and we will dance, should my mind become seized with the loss of who we are. A jig or two during Pink's So What or Fun's We are Young or Tag Team's Hip Hop Hooray or Babyface's Two Occasions might do the trick. He assures me he'll take care of me (when I ask for the millionth time if he will.) "Of course I'll take care of you. You are our treasure," he says.

A tear wells up in my eye and I think to myself, goodness. That about sums it up. 

This is really all I've wanted in this life, to be a treasure to my people. 

May it please be true. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just to be near to you.

My heart was a jumbled cord of tightly wound contradiction. It had been that way for awhile.

I winced through the moments just before the Thanksgiving meal, when thanksgiving was offered. It was all so confusing to me. As 36 people linked hands in my home to give thanks, I couldn't stop thinking about those who were without even a portion of the abundance we possessed on that esteemed day. And all the other days.

In the ever evolving spiritual quandary in which I find myself, I must admit, prayer has become a most troublesome state of affairs for me.

What shall I ask for?

Don't I already have enough?

How do I thank God for the food set before me when two children are sitting at my table because they were born to parents who could not afford to nourish them?

Did their scarce lot occur at the hand of God?

Does my bountiful one fall from the same hand?

If God gave life to those exquisite babies I relish so dearly, did He also not allow my last one to draw its first breath?

Was that precious child's demise His doing?

What about those born to mothers in no condition to raise them?

Do I give thanks for my existence of privilege, or is it a hindrance to higher objectives?

Why have I suffered so little while others have endured such extraordinary pain?

I have done nothing to deserve my good fortune.

They have done nothing to deserve their lack thereof.

The war of injustice rages throughout the the whole burdened world.

Is God pulling the strings on the entire affair or is He simply standing by, watching it all play out?

I used to think I knew. His will seemed crystal clear. Now, I am anything but sure.

If I openly give Him credit for the glorious good, must I also attribute the wretched horrendous to Him? Is that the notion of Sovereignty? That seems to be the prevalent belief in the churches to which I have been part.

Therefore, if He blesses the work of my hands so that I reap excessive bounty, is He, at the same time cursing the labor of another's?

I've begun to wonder if rather than asking where He is, what His role in all of this is, if it would be enough just to accept that He is near - in, through, over, under, above and beneath and inside and out all of the every single thing.

Could I, as I stand in my living room on with friends and family on The Most Thankful Day of the Year - with people ranging from a wonderful, servant oriented, retired  Baptist minister to a generous, benevolent family of Atheists, simply thank God for being here...near...present, here for the excessive and here for the scant?

Could He be near to them all, the wealthy and the poor and the uplifted and the broken hearted, to the one whose spirit is soaring and to the one so low they cannot bear to look up. Just near to them, less a puppeteer and more a Mere Divine Presence. 

Could I offer a prayer of thanksgiving to a mysterious God I cannot fathom, but I know is here, on earth, near enough to every one of us?

I think, maybe I can.

"As I understand it, to say that God is mightily present even in such private events as these does not mean that he makes events happen to us which move us in certain directions like chessmen. Instead, events happen under their own steam as random as rain, which means that God is present in them not as their cause but as the one who even in the hardest and most hair-raising of them offers us the possibility of that new life and healing which I believe is what salvation is." - Frederick Buechner
   

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

In Defence of Making Do and Leggings Too

When we bought the land we call our won and built our home 10 years ago we had two itty bitty tykes and a wee one on the horizon. Jayla was nearly 3, Onyx 1 and Tyden came along 3 weeks after we settled on the vast golden prairie. My wildest dreams never, ever involved raising more children than I could count on one hand. Nor did my tame ones. It wasn't something I dreamt of at all. Unless I was having a nightmare. 7 (!) kids was well beyond the scope of my Serene Life Vision.  

Needless to say, had we known, we probably would have placed sheer square footage and bedrooms galore higher on our priority list of must haves. With 4 bedrooms in the house total, as the whippers just kept coming we just kept shoving them in, up, up, and up the ladders to the tippy top triple bunks of the beds The Handyman served up. They are the sweetest, fort like hand made beds  you ever did see. And they worked wonders. For years. The three girls in one room, the four boys in the other. An empty room for the baby of my evolved dreams who fit well within the field of my current scope.

As time as gone on and the young ones have grown, we have begun to sense a need for more privacy and personal space for each of them. When they were little, All Things Community worked pretty well. Now, they have more of their own personal belongings, electronics, Lego creations and the like - bought with their own money or received as gifts - that they would like to be able to maintain without the swipe of the sibling's grubby hands. I get it. I really do. I have only one brother, 4 years my senior, and he wasn't all that into Strawberry Shortcake, Hello Kitty or Mary Lou Retton. My things were my own.  But we only have the 4 bedrooms! Whatever shall we do?!

[Enter Dad]

The Man is going to construct individual little islands of personal space for each and every one of our aging crumb snatchers. They will each have a loft bed with a desk, drawers, shelves, and a wardrobe underneath for maximum efficiency and individual storage. Inspired by Ikea, built by Bob. They're gonna be rad. Construction to begin soon. I'm so excited for those boys and girls.

In Deutschland, we thrive on finding innovative ways to Make Do with what we've got.

Speaking of which, how about my new, indoor clotheslines courtesy of my ever capable husband? I haven't used a dryer in years and used to have all these racks set around the wood stove in the wintertime. But they always broke and fell apart as all things do in The Land of Many Children, so Bobby came up with these as a solution. Be still my heart. How I adore the appearance of all things old fashioned and conservation related! Perfectly suited for our little house on the prairie.




I am in serious love. With the man too.

This month I turn 40. At this mid point milestone, I find myself in serious pursuit of an overall healthy lifestyle where I focus on all the things I like to make priority, based on what I prefer. I feel stronger than ever, in every way, though I know in physical terms it's just a mirage. Whatever. It's highly liberating to get older and step into even more freedom to think whatever I think without the constraints of fretting over whether or not it's socially acceptable. WHO GIVES A RAT'S BLEEP?! Oh my gosh. I wear my leggings all the time, no matter what the Christian women say. How I adore this space. If this is what aging is like, bring it baby. My leggings and I are all in.




      

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Thanksgiving

Written the night before Thanksgiving on facebook - copying here for the blog book. 

36 friends and family will join us to give thanks for for two 20 lb. turkeys who graciously cut their gobbling days short on our behalf, along with my daughter's homemade pumpkin pies tomorrow. Hosting 36 people! Me! And to think, at one time I thought Lipton's Pasta Primavera was *real food* Baby, I've come a long way. Thankful for ever expanding capacities and a breakfast consisting of grapefruit flavored vodka screwdrivers that serve to soothe the nerves.

Thankful for the girl who spoke up in rebuttal of my parenting techniques today. It means she's thinking for herself. We both know, there are many things I do wrong. I savor her company. She is becoming one of my dearest friends and she makes good pies, that one.

Thankful for the boy who rode his bike right along side me today as I jogged a full four miles without saying a single word. His joyful, quiet spirit is salve to my soul. He has yet to correct the error of my ways. Bless his introverted heart, my boy. 

Thankful for the Ethiopian princess who is bravely stepping outside her shell of safety with each passing week. She is growing in grace and confidence and enthusiasm before my very eyes. It's such a wonder to behold. A beautiful, gentle gift, precious girl.

Thankful for the chatterbox who keeps my ears full of stories and detail and exaggerations and complaints and raucous laughter every single day. His eagerness for my presence breathes life into my hours. With him near, I am never lonely. A true companion he is, sweet boy.

Thankful for the one working so very hard to keep up. His efforts are admirable, extraordinary, honorable, his advancement magnificent. His tender heart reminds me to speak kindly, to hug often, to look into eyes and smile big, real grins. He was not born to me, but he is a teacher to me, my African boy.

Thankful for the child that never stops bouncing, running, jumping, building, laughing, crying, bickering, hugging. His boundless energy inspires me to take life by the horns. His smile is truly infectious. He lights up my world, the freckled faced boy. 

Thankful for the girl who owns me hook, line and sinker. She can do no wrong. My heart grew a thousand by a thousand times the day she was born and each passing minute she fills it with the purest joy it has ever known. She is my muse, my beloved baby, no matter how old she gets. Love that girl.

Thankful for the man who labors so intently to keep it all together. His efforts afford me the treasured lot of life at home with my messy, wonderful, flawed and faithful and tireless people. The toil is real, the days challenge, but still, my cup runneth over. Always. The way he chooses to spend his hours demonstrates to me the meaning of genuine, selfless love year after year. I can't thank him enough. 

Thankful for Echo and Jedi who are as much my babies as the rest of them. You keep mama fit by walking me. Your curly poodle hair is my favorite. I love you too, boys.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving.


Day went off without a hitch. Whew! 

It just so happens that one of the 36 is the remarkably outstanding photographer, Karin Winter. All photos courtesy of her fine talent. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One Smart Boy

"I think that Thomas Jefferson having slaves is really dumb. Because he wrote The Declaration of Independence...." - Tyden Deutsch
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Great Debate

It happens every single year. Not an annual changing of the calendar goes by that our thoughts aren't graced with its tormenting presence.

It's The Talk that begins between my husband and I, then bleeds over into a Formal Dinnertime Conversation Topic with our youthful charges. It's the obsessive scrutinizing, the sleep depriving agonizing, the pros and the cons and the trade offs and the ups and the downs and research and the people we know who do and the people we know who do not and those we know who have at one time, but stopped and those we know who didn't always then started and those we know who do some and don't others. It's the flurry of conflicting viewpoints that collide, obliterating each of my individual brain cells into tiny bits of squishy grey mush. Oh wait - they were already...never mind.

It's The Great Homeschool Debate.  

Like lice on an Egyptian's head, it plagues me. Especially when times are tough. For instance, when my hunk o burnin handyman love opts to take some vacation time to completely gut and remodel a once 1/2 bath/powder room and transform it into a Grade A bathroom for our 4 growing-in-age-and-stink boys, with a shower! A shower that wasn't there before! Um...plumbing. Need I say more?

The man worked dawn to beyond dusk for 10 solid days, through 2 weekends and I tried to carry on per usual routine. I really did. The wee munchkins and I sat obediently at the table for school like we always do. We plowed forward through the banging and hammering and nailing and compressing and the dreadful mess strewn about the house because construction is, above all, untidy. (Have I ever properly expressed my undying affection for All Things Tidy?)

We pressed on though my poor wits had long ago reached their harried end. I was stressed. Ladies, do you hear me when I say that as much as I adore that useful groom of mine, I wouldn't have minded his copious talents being used elsewhere? Say, at his place of employment. Where he has his domain and I am The Unchallenged Queen of my Castle all the way up until 5:00 p.m. Not that he was trying to challenge me in any way. He was just here. All the time. Up in my BIZNESS. Trying to HELP when I became FLUSTERED by STEPPING into my REALM. Bless his sweet, helpful soul.

It didn't prove to be our finest adventure in homeschooling. It prompted the gut wrenching endeavor I face every year anyway, bathroom project or not. Would we all be better off if we place those naughty little buggars in school? Would I be better? Would they be better? 

It's something to really consider.

I tossed and turned and made inquiries and fretted long and hard over it, as I always do. My angel of a 13 year old darling daughter and I talked....and talked....and talked, weighed the options, discussed the opinions, thought it through to the best of our abilities until our heads were swirling ambivalent.

In the end, though no right or wrong answer would ever present itself clear as there is simply No Such Thing, I just could not get a sense of peace over the notion that school-away-from-home was the way for us to go at this particular juncture. The thought of it was, still, more than I could bear. It didn't fit with the longing of my heart and the desire of my bones to teach them and to learn with them and to be with my babes most of the hours of most of the days, through the thick and the thin of the mess and the chatter and the attitudes and the breakthroughs and the banging of the heads on the walls and the spontaneous laughter that erupts serving to deepen my crow's feet.  

Though next time, I will formally decree:

Dad's Home Project = Kid's School Vacation

Because really, who are we kidding? This is Mama's House.

Before:
After:

Dude's amazing. Seriously. I love him so much! 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

This is So Right Now

One of my kids' favorite activities is sitting around looking at blog books. They laugh at what they've said and done and they remember what they would have long ago forgotten. We recently received our 6th book for 2013. Six years of their lives, of our lives, of my thoughts, their thoughts, our words and deeds and joy and sorrow and bliss and triumph and challenge and victory and gain and loss, our grief, our elation, our struggle and our rising up again, our memories are tied up within the pages of those books. To the Deutsch people, their value is beyond measure.  

So when someone asserts, blogging about your every day existence and what your children are doing is so 2008. Well, goshI really can't help but not care. Current and relevant and interesting to the general population just doesn't matter to me all that much. Because this? What is happening in our every day reality - all of it - the ups and the downs and the sublime and the tearful and the ordinary and the memorable and the forgetable, it is the stuff life on this earth we share together is made of. It's true what they say, the little things truly are the big things. They account for the vast majority of every single portion of this, our exquisite human experience. The mountain top peaks are rare, the valleys are only visited, but the grassy hills and the meadows and the flat, golden prairies, that's where most of life is made to be experienced. 

Right in the rumpled middle.

Where I have to force myself to take a beat to stop cold in my hectic tracks and slow the pace and breathe deeply and blink my lids and open my eyes and carefully see the enormous beauty in the every single day I am still, temporarily, alive. Otherwise, I might miss my very own wonderous lot as it passes me by. 
  
Tyden on last night's date with dad and mom ~ Panda Express.
The incomparable big grandma and grandpa ~ Halloween 2014
The whole crew on what might be the last night they all trick or treat together.
Flint and Meadow on a Family Date Night in Oct.
Notes left for me to find when I returned home from a night out with girlfriends.
The night my husband grew into a paternal giant in his wife's eyes.
When he, spur of the moment, offered to sleep out in the little house with his boy who was scared.
The girl with the frilly skirt and striped knee high socks on the motor bike with her dad.
The 11 year old boy
The night we went to visit grandma JJ at her work.
The girl flanked by the poodles.
Perhaps the only hug these two have ever shared. 
His 10th birthday.
The parents, that day at the penny arcade when mom's grief was raw, 
but the boy's birthday was celebrated.
The baby's first day of first grade at school for homeschoolers.
That time we visited dear, old friends in their new house.

When she made rose pens out of tape with her friends for her 13th birthday.
The one and only time Meadow asked to take her mom's picture, because she had a new phone.
The year all the pumpkins we carved were homegrown.
When the siblings worked together to build a fortress.
That time they asked me to take their picture, so I did.
The day the boy turned 9.

Now, go ahead.
Tell me this isn't so, completely relevant....

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