Monday, April 29, 2013

A sleeping house

I'm currently sitting in a quiet sleeping house.
Image courtesy of photostock /

Ahh, the joys of major jet lag and trying to switch days and nights.

There is nothing pleasant about lying wide awake in bed knowing you really need sleep and yet being totally incapable of it.

But there is something pleasant about that moment where you get up and grab a cup of tea and sit quietly in a sleeping house.

I love that.  It is the sense of possibly, the calm before the storm.  Life will be happening here soon, but not yet.  For now I can sit quietly and think, uninterrupted.

I've learned that I like quiet and solitude. A lot.

But I like it because it recharges me.  It prepares me to face the household as it awakes, the joys and pains and bustle of daily life.

A sleeping house is special not for the peace and quiet but for the promises of activity to come.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Some days a shower is too much to ask for

"5 minutes alone in the shower.  That's all I need."  How many mothers of young children have said those exact words.  It doesn't seem like much to ask for and yet sometimes it is.

juhansonin via photopin cc
It was one of those days.  I needed a shower. Badly. Desperate times call for desperate measures so I dumped a pile of toys on the living room floor and told the girls, aged 3 and almost 2, to play together.  I stripped off my clothes, grabbed a towel and headed to the shower.

And then I made the fatal error.

I closed the bathroom door.

Nothing attracts a small child like a mother desiring a moment's peace in the bathroom, so the sound of the bathroom door clicking shut immediately pulled my sweethearts away from their toys.

"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, when are you coming out?  Open the door.  We want to take a shower too.  Let us in.  Mommy, Mommy, Mommy"  complete with pounding on the closed door.

I ignored them and stepped into the shower.  The pleading turned to tears.  And more pounding.

I didn't take long and as I quickly toweled dry I reassured them,  "I'm almost done.  I'll be out soon. Stop crying."  I could hear them trying to open the door but it is an old house and the knob is very difficult to turn.

I took a deep breath to prepare myself to reenter the fray of motherhood and put my hand on the door knob to turn it.

It wouldn't turn.

"Oldest girl, you need to let go of the door knob so I can open it and come out of the bathroom."

"Oldest girl, Music girl, stop crying and listen to me.  Let go of the door knob."

"But Mommy, (sob, sob, sob) we aren't touching the door."

Then I remember that the bathroom door knob sticks from the inside.  It opens well enough from the outside but for some reason doesn't open easily from the inside.  It is just so rare that I actually close it all the way since I'm rarely alone even in the bathroom these days.

I try harder.  I tell Oldest girl to try harder to open it from her side.    I start searching the cabinets for any tool I can use MacGyver style to take the door knob off or the door off it's hinges.  Nothing is working.  The cries from my two little girls are reaching panic levels.

I contemplate climbing out the window and walking around to the front door.

There are only a few problems with this plan.
  • The window is pretty small and I am currently 8 months pregnant.  
  • It is a story and a half drop to the ground and, although I might be willing to risk it ordinarily, did I mention I'm 8 months pregnant.
  • I undressed in the hallway so all I have is my towel which is much too small to even wrap around me much less cover my naked 8 month pregnant body.
I turn back to the MacGyver option and manage to remove the door knob with the only tool available, fingernail clippers.  This doesn't help at all.

Throughout all of this, four little hands are pounding on the door and the soundtrack runs from pleading to sobbing to screaming.

Back to the window plan.  Nakedness or not, my babies need me.  I open the window and look out to realistically assess the drop.  Realize the drop doesn't matter.  There is no way I could fit my body through that window.

Okay, deep breaths, think calmly.   

An adult should be able to open the door from the outside so I need to get an adult in the house. 

The Professor won't be home until late.  Waiting is out.

How embarrassing is it going to be to have someone come let naked pregnant me out of my own bathroom?  Pretty embarrassing but there aren't really any options here.

The only neighbor likely to be home right now is across the street.  I carefully weigh the risks of sending my 3 year old out by herself to cross the street and get help.  It's a pretty quiet street but still.  I try to quiet the crying long enough explain the plan to Oldest girl.  She's game but she can't open the front door either.

Curse that deadbolt.

It will have to be the fire department I decide.  They can break down the front door.  Plus it will be a fun story for them to tell for years to come about that day they rescued a naked pregnant lady from her own bathroom.

Now the trick is to get oldest girl to dial 911.  She can't find the cordless phone so this is not a good start.*

"Honey,  do you know what the number 9 looks like?  You don't remember.  It's a circle on a stick.  Go to the phone in the kitchen and see if you can find the number that is a circle on a stick.  You touch that one time and then you touch the number 1, that's just a straight line.  You touch that two times.  You can do that for Mommy can't you?"

She could not.

And then the miracle occurred.

Throughout all this both Oldest girl and I had been regularly messing with the handle.  Oldest girl gave it one more try and this time it opened.

Praise the Lord!

So just remember, some days a shower IS too much to ask for.

*Yes, I realize that now any halfway intelligent 2 year old could use a smart phone and call for help, but this occurred way back in the dark ages before smart phones existed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

German Shepherd Thinks He is Lap Dog

Sometimes the way we perceive ourselves is totally different than the way the world sees us.
PeterJBellis via photopin cc

The best dog I ever had was a German Shepherd named Ninoy.  He was a beautiful dog with about 50 lbs. of pure muscle.  His looks were fierce and his bark even fiercer, but he thought he was a lap dog.

I would be sitting in a comfy chair reading a book and Ninoy would come bounding over to jump on my lap, nearly toppling me and the chair in the process.  It would take a bit of effort for us both to get settled comfortably but once we did we were both very happy.

Once a family with a baby visited us and left their empty infant seat on the floor in the living room.  We came back into the room later to find Ninoy curled up in the infant seat as best as he could manage.

Ninoy was a stray.  Dad came home with him one day.  Mom took one look at that fierce dog and declared that that dog was not staying.  "Either he goes or I go" she stated.

They both stayed.

Some animals (and people) seem to have more than their fair share of personality and Ninoy was one of those dogs.

People will judge you by your appearance but you do not have to conform to their expectations.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What's for Dinner?

In preparation for our move we have begun that joyous stage of meal planning based on the current contents of the pantry.
Image courtesy of Ambro /

Tonight's dinner was chili and cornbread.

For a thrown together meal without using a recipe I thought I did a great job and the family actually approved too.

Until the end of the meal when I looked at them and said, "So, what did you think about the meat in the chili?"

Oldest Girl dropped her spoon in horror.

"Mom, no one ever wants to hear that sentence."

I suppose it did sound a little scary.

The Professor chimed in, "Has anyone seen the cat?"

They joke, I assure you.

The real secret, as my family was relieved to discover, was that the chili was made with ground pork that I had purchased by mistake.  Tasted great, I just wondered if they had noticed.

Have you ever snuck in a surprise ingredient on your family?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tastes Like Sprite

Beverage options in our house tend to be limited.  Usually there is a choice between water and milk.  So as little ones our kids didn't have a lot of exposure to soda.
Image courtesy of Suat Eman /

When Imagination boy had his first taste of soda, it happened to be Sprite, he didn't like it at all.  It was too fizzy and strong tasting for him.

For a couple years after that anytime he tasted something new that he didn't like (which means almost anything new he tasted) he would solemnly announce, "That tastes like Sprite"

"Sprite" became the stand in for any strong taste.

A spicy barbecue sauce on the chicken: tastes like Sprite

Salsa:  tastes like Sprite

Spinach salad:  tastes like Sprite

Dark Chocolate:  tastes like Sprite

His taste buds have evolved a bit.  He now loves Sprite and Coke although he still prefers his meat bland.  And he adores salsa and chips although he mostly waves the chips in the general direction of the salsa consuming the maximum amount of chip to the minimum amount of salsa.

But we still joke about tastes like sprite.

How often to we do that in life, reject something out of hand.  Quickly categorize it as unacceptable in some way so we can just stick with the old familiar comfortable things.  Sometimes we need to learn to branch out and taste new things.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I am not fond of waiting.
Image courtesy of digitalart /

Not that I know anyone that is.

There are many kinds of waiting and some are a lot worse than others.

First there is the everyday waiting
-waiting in the doctor's office for your appointment
-waiting while the oil is changed in your car
-waiting for kids to come out from a school activity

I must say my iPhone changed my attitude towards this kind of waiting.  Now I always have a book to read with me.

Then there is that same kind of waiting but with pressure added.  Like any of the above when you have somewhere to be or something to do and the minutes are ticking by and you have no control and...

Then there is the waiting where you think maybe there is something you can do but you aren't sure what and any choice you make might just make things worse.

And the waiting for something deeply longed for or greatly feared and you don't know if it will happen or not and the agony of uncertainty is keeping you up nights.

Waiting is hard.  My current season of waiting has taught me how much I hate not being in control.  No surprise there and I'm not so different than others.

Waiting comes to us all and the best we can do is calmly weather through it.  I am grateful that I know someone much greater than me is in control.  Cause frankly, even when I think I can plan things so much better than God seems to be doing, I'm wrong.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One less kid = a lot more quiet

We are short one child in the Letters household this week since one of the kids is away on a school trip.

It is amazing how much quieter it is here.
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

This never ceases to surprise me.

Going from one child to two does not, as you might mathematically conclude, double the noise.  It quaddrupales it.  And going from two to three is an even greater increase.

The same thing works in reverse.

And the odd thing is, even though any outside observers would conclude that some of my children are much louder and more talkative than others, it doesn't really matter which child is gone.

This morning there was no shouting and fighting over who got that bathroom first or who was taking too long or who took my bagel that was my bagel I put in the toaster or who was standing on whose shoes so that if you don't move we will miss the bus.

After school there were only two backpacks to trip over.

Dinner was quieter than normal too.

And the thing is, I like quiet.  I actually like it a lot.  But I don't like being one child short.  Someone is missing and we aren't complete.  I'll be glad when it is 5 of us again.

Although if there was a way we could be 5 of us and still have a peaceful morning I'd be all for it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Power naps

Music girl was the queen of power naps.
Image courtesy of Stoonn /

As a small child she would run and run and run and then suddenly just stop, lie down whereever she was and close her eyes.

30 seconds later her eyes would open, she would jump up and be off and running.

We have a photo album full of pictures of Music girl sleeping in strange places. My favorite is the one of her asleep on the front door step with the door wide open and half her body inside the house and half outside.

We had come home from an outing and she had run to the house but before making it all the way in needed a quick nap.

That particular nap lasted a full 5 minutes, long enough for me to grab the camera.

I wish I could power nap like that.

Sometimes my day seems full of running, running, running.  Maybe I need to copy Music girl, close my eyes for a moment, breathe deep and then get up to run again.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

MIddle Child Woes

It isn't easy being a middle child.  I should know.  I am one.  And so is the Professor.

Music girl is our middle child.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

I have written posts featuring Oldest girl and I have written posts featuring Imagination Boy.  I wanted to write a post featuring Music girl.

Turns out that all the best stories including Music girl seem to involve her older sister or younger brother in some way.

I've started writing a post highlighting Music girl's awesome uniqueness and I'm finding it nearly impossible to without using phrases like, "Unlike her sister." or "In contrast to her brother."

As a middle child myself, I want to scream about the unfairness of this all.

I had to stop writing this post and go apologize to Music girl.

I apologized for all the times and ways her middle childness has hurt her and I haven't noticed even though I think as a middle child myself I'm sensitive to the issues.

And then I sat down and wrote a post (read it here) just about her.

'Cause Music girl is awesome, just as she is, and I wanted to celebrate that.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Homework: old school or new school.

When did we turn into our parents?

Scene at our house last night. Oldest girl is at the computer writing a paper with her textbook in her lap.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

"I really wish my textbook had a control F feature," she sighed.

What's that, I wondered but didn't say.

The Professor laughed.  Ah, I thought, he is hipper than I am.

"It does," he said.  "It's called the index and you find it in the back of the book."  Okay so maybe he isn't hipper after all.

Sometimes we like to amuse ourselves by telling the children stories about the bad old days when we did homework
  • without computers
  • with typewriters
  • and white out
  • or pencils and pens and (heaven forbid) legible cursive writing
  • and dictionaries
  • and calculators that only added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided
  • and logarithm charts
  • and microfilche 
  • and books and libraries
  • and card catalogues

They find this amazing and lame and it reinforces their impressions that we really are ancient and out of touch.

Which is exactly how I viewed my parents.  My mom went to school in a one room country schoolhouse.  My dad was president of his high school slide rule club.  And they both walked uphill, 5 miles, both ways, in the snow, everyday to get to school.

So what I wonder is what changes will my kids be telling their kids about?
  • lectures with powerpoint
  • having to hand write exams
If you have any ideas what our kids will complain about to their kids, leave a comment.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How to get your kids to play the piano

I have found the secret to getting my kids to play the piano.

Suggest selling it.
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

In preparation for a major move we have had many discussions about what should and what shouldn't move with us.

Three years ago our piano teacher moved away and while we meant to find a new teacher it somehow never happened so the piano just sits, taking up precious space in the living room.

Until someone with a small child comes to visit.  I don't know what it is about pianos and small children but rare is the child who can resist banging on one.

That didn't seem like a good enough reason to move a piano across oceans however so tonight at dinner we discussed selling it.

Imagination boy was the only one who didn't think it was a good idea.  In fact he asked to be excused from the table so he could go play the piano right now.

He then proceeded to sit down at the piano and play the most beautiful, haunting melody of his own composition, made up on the spot.

I guess we won't be selling the piano.

After a decision

After a decision do you regret all the choices you didn't make?  Lament the road not chosen.  Is there a sigh of relief that things are settled or a sigh of despair that now you are locked in to one choice and regret of all the choices left behind?
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

After six years in a house that I know was the right choice I still drive by that house not chosen and wonder what life would have been like if we had chosen that one instead.

Never mind the fact that the choice was taken out of our hands.

Sometimes I think I get so wrapped up in making the right choices that I put way to much confidence in myself and my ability to actually choose.

That house six years ago, was rented to someone else the day we decided to take a second look at it.  It's not like we could have had it anyway.

So I'll continue to research choices but in the end I need to accept that I have only so much control.  And as I sit and wait currently lacking the ability to make a choice, I give myself freedom in advance to be content after.

This post is prompted by Lisa Jo Baker's 5 minute Friday, writing on a prompt for 5 minutes without editing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cultivate your Creativity

If you aren't being creative, you aren't fully alive.

Too strong a statement?  I don't think so.

During those mind numbing days of preschoolers, poopy pants, and perpetual laundry, I absolutely had to be creative at least some of the time or I would have lost my mind.

My creativity then took many forms, including but not limited to the following:

  • I planned elaborate (but extremely low budget) birthday parties.
  • I wrote my own curriculum for the church youth group I led.
  • I painted murals on my kids bedroom walls.
  • I cooked.
  • I scrap booked.
  • I found joy in stretching our budget as far as it could go.
    Image courtesy of David Castillo /
My kids were (and still are) creative too.  I remember the first time Oldest Girl painted.  She stood at the easel with her little smock on holding tightly to the paintbrush as she hesitantly brushed some paint on the paper. 

Then she noticed that some paint had dripped on to her hand.  She immediately had to stop and go wash her hands.

It wasn't long before she got more paint on her hands.  Again she washed.

The third time she noticed paint on her hands she stopped and stared at her hands.  

She thought for a bit looking from her paint splattered hands to the paint brush to the paper.

Then she took the brush and proceeded to paint her hands, both of them.  Then she put hand prints all over the paper and proudly showed me her creation.

Oldest girl had it right.  Sometimes creativity means letting go of your expectations.  Sometimes it means getting messy.  Sometimes it means joy.

This post was inspired by reading The Modern Mrs. Darcy's post “Unused Creativity Isn’t Benign. It Metastasizes.”

What you wear changes how people see you.

How you look changes how people look at you.

A few months ago I started wearing skirts almost all the time
jessleecuizon via photopin cc

It wasn't like I had a sudden fashion epiphany.  Truth is that during my father's illness and after his death I did just a little bit too much comfort eating and now I needed to lose 20 pounds before I could comfortable fit into my pants again.

So I started wearing skirts because they were comfy.

And if you are wearing a skirt you need to wear an appropriate top to go with it.  And shoes.  And since you look so nice you might as well throw on a bit of makeup.  And do your hair.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm still a pretty low maintenance kind of gal.  I'm not talking high fashion here, just making a choice versus my former wardrobe of mom jeans and a hoodie or Dockers and a sweater.

The thing that surprised me most was the way people react to me just a little bit differently when I wear a skirt.

It isn't a huge difference.  I don't have the kind of figure or face that stops traffic or anything dramatic like that.  But it is a real and noticeable difference.

People smile at me more.  Clerks are more helpful.  More people engage me in small talk.  Doors are opened for me more (literally and figuratively).

And when I say people I mean men and women although I confess the effect is much more pronounced on men.

But the thing is, I'm not sure it is the skirts.  Truth is when I dress up a bit it changes how I feel about myself.  I smile more.  I'm more likely to engage in small talk.  I expect doors to be opened for me.

So how you look changes how people look at you, but how you act when you are feeling confident about how you look changes how people look at you even more.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Comfort of being known.

It's been a tough time of year for me with lent and Easter and memories of my Dad's death a year ago and lots of uncertainty about our families future and general unsettledness.

Image courtesy of photostock /
We had a Confirmation in our church last week.  It was a lovely service.  I'm not a big crier but I cried quietly during the service.  The Professor didn't say anything but took my hand.

As we drove home the kids asked why I cried in church.

Before I could form an answer the Professor answered for me, "Mom cried because when John makes Profession of Faith grandpa won't be there."

And I started to cry again.  Good tears not bad tears.  Because I didn't tell him that.  He knew.


This makes me love my husband.

The comfort of being known and being understood and being loved.  That is the comfort of marriage.

Today I pray for my mother and all the other widows who struggle with the loss of that comfort at a time when they need it so desperately.