Friday, January 24, 2014

In My Bed

Brrrr!!!!  It's so very, very cold out there...and snowy....and windy!  I have such a hard time getting motivated to EVER leave the house these days.  In fact, I have a hard time getting up in the morning. 

My bed is my favorite place.  It's warm and snuggly and my window looks out onto the wooded side of our property, so even with the curtains open I enjoy just laying there gazing at nature.  Most of the time, I have company in the bed: Bushy.  He is also a big fan of my bed because it's about the only place he can get any peace in the house.  In fact, yesterday he felt so comfortable there, he puked on it - twice.  I had an emergency laundry job at 9pm.  Such fun.

One of my favorite things to do as I'm trying to get to sleep at night is to close my eyes and imagine myself in other beds and rooms I've slept in over the years.

First, I remember the room I shared with my sister growing up.  It had bright red carpet - yes, bright red carpet - and pale pink walls.  We had bunk beds and, because I was older, I mostly occupied the top bunk.  My poor sister had to put up with me rearranging the room 3-4 times a year (something I've never outgrown!) so our beds were in just about every position they could be in that little 12'x12' room.  I can still remember our desk for homework and, later, make-up, and the baby animal posters I had all over the walls.  I remember when we figured out that we could crawl out the window onto the roof and go visit our brothers next door.  I loved that little room.

Then I move on to the house we inhabited during my high school years; no more bunk beds for us.  We had a big walk-in closet that doubled as storage for large pots and pans, since the room was right off the kitchen.  My dad built a small desk in there to do my homework, but it was always freezing so I rarely used it. The carpet in the room was green and the walls were again, pink.  I had the wall over my bed covered with corkboard and at first I thought I'd never be able to fill it, but it didn't take me long at all!  I loved that the phone was right outside the room because I could talk to my friends in relative privacy. (That's when phones were still corded.)

My college dorm room in Vermont- I actually had two, since we moved to a different building the second semester.  The first one was so tiny, it was changed to a single after my roommate and I moved out.  I loved it, though.  I had my bed right near the dormer window and I can remember the view perfectly, especially after our first big snowfall.  The second room was much bigger but lacked character since it was in a newer building. I woke up one morning to a song:  "Where the Streets Have No Name," by U2.  It was one of those perfect spring mornings and someone had it blasting from their window for the guys who were playing "mud football" on the front lawn.  Whenever I hear that song, I am instantly transported back to that sunny Saturday in May, one of my last in Vermont.  It was such a magical time in my life.

When I was in my mid-20's I shared a flat with a guy and my room was right near a tree.  It was as close to sleeping in a tree house as  you could get without mosquito bites.  The house has been torn down now, but whenever I drive past I see that tree and remember my time in that flat.  Bittersweet memories.

I remember the bed in Chris and I's apartment when we first got married.  I remember kneeling down next to that bed as I waited for the results of my pregnancy test, praying it would be positive.  I remember those times when we would first get into bed and our beloved cat, Sir, would crawl up between us.  I remember moving that bed to our first house and laying with my newborn Owen in it.

When I'm in my bed now, it usually means that everyone I love is within a few feet of me and the peace and security I feel wraps around  me as I drift to sleep.  I remember the blessings of the past and am so thankful for the present.    Is it any wonder I never want to get out?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Facebook

Most of us love Facebook - a few hate it, are distrustful of it - but most of us love it.  I am one of those people.  I joined Facebook about five years ago, just to see what it was all about.  It's predecessor,, seemed like something for the younger set to use to meet up with friends or potential dates. I was married with a family - who on earth would I want to connect with?

The impetus for me joining was actually because I saw on our church website that my pastor had a Facebook page.  "He's MY AGE," I thought.  So I figured it was worth checking into.

Some of my first "friends" on Facebook were people I knew and saw every day: old friends I'd stayed in touch with, co-workers.  But then other people started finding me, people I hadn't seen or heard from in YEARS but who I always had fond memories of.  That was when I started loving it and even though I know it's a time-suck, I can't stop hopping on to see what my community of friends is up to every day. 

Twelve years ago when my dad died, I remember being so surprised to see one of my best friends, Michelle, at the funeral home.  I was surprised because I hadn't called her to tell her, but she had heard through the grapevine and, of course, showed up.  The only person I had called with the news of my dad's death was my boss, for obvious reasons.  Who wants to call someone with that kind of news unless they really NEED to know?  And crying over the phone?  Totally not for me, if I can help it!

When my brother, Daniel, was found unconscious at work a year ago I didn't call anyone, but I did put out an urgent prayer request right away on FacebookIt was so easy to call for help through a keyboard because no one could hear me crying or see me breakdown.  Almost instantly, the voices from my past rang out, "We're praying for him!" and I felt surrounded by love and hope.  As the week went on and it became apparent that the outcome wasn't going to be good, I received message after message of condolences from people I hadn't seen in years, but who felt compelled to let me know that somehow, in some way, I had made an impact on them.  I was so very grateful.

The day after Daniel died, I wrote the following note entitled "To All My Friends..." on Facebook.  A year has passed, but I still have not forgotten the kindness they bestowed on me.  I will never forget it.

"Every man dies.  Not every man really lives."  - my favorite line from "Braveheart"

As most of you know my younger brother, Daniel, died suddenly this past week.  The doctors say that he was probably gone within five minutes of biting into whatever he had ordered for lunch last Tuesday.  The hospital kept his body alive until yesterday, which allowed my mom, brother and sister to get to Arizona to say goodbye, and also for his organs to be donated to others who needed them.  It was his final act of kindness.

Daniel was a loner.  He had been all his life.  He had a handful of friends growing up, but none that really "stuck."  The year I was a senior in high school and he was a freshman, friends would come up to me asking me if I knew the kid in their accounting class with the same last name (VanLoozen). Pretty tough to say no with that last name, huh?  They would be so surprised when I told them that, yes, that's my brother.  He's so quiet, they'd say.  So reserved.  Doesn't talk to anyone.  Yes, that's my brother

He lived with three cats and an equal amount of fish tanks, filled with an exotic array of fish.  Daniel never married, never knew the joy of his own children and had one confidante in the world:  my mom.  After he got out of work, he would call her and they talked for hours about politics, science, history, his pets, whatever.  In the end, it was good that the allergic reaction happened at his work because someone found him quickly;  if it had happened at home, it may have been days before anyone noticed. 

It's a natural reaction whenever someone you love dies unexpectedly and so young, to take stock and consider what it would be like if you were to die tomorrow.  Would you change anything about the way you're living now?  Would you have any regrets?  What would be your final thoughts on your way out of this world and into the next?  After this week, I have a few thoughts that I feel compelled to share with you, my friends - both "Facebook" and otherwise. 

It's strange to think that I would sit here the day after losing one of my siblings feeling so incredibly blessed.  This week I have received the kindest words of support and love from people I haven't seen or heard from in YEARS - people I wasn't even sure remembered me!  I want to make sure each and every one of you know that you are my friends here on Facebook for a REASON.  You have touched my life in a special way - all of you - and made it so full of love and laughter.  I am so, so grateful to have crossed paths with each of you, whether it was in grade school, high school, at a former place of employment, if you're a relative I hardly ever get to see, or if I just happened to pick up the phone one day when you called to book a retreat. (You know who you are!)  It truly amazes me to think I have been lucky enough to know so many wonderful people and even luckier to call you all my friends.  So when I think of that line from Braveheart, I know that I have truly lived, mostly thanks to all of you. 

It's been a busy week and I haven't had a chance to personally thank everyone who has prayed for my family and I, but please know that each prayer has been felt in our hearts and is appreciated more than you'll ever know.  Thank you, thank you, thank you all. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On purring

It's hard to believe it's been a year since we lost my brother.  Nothing will ever feel the same to any of us.  It was so incredibly sudden and unexpected and it was hard on all of us, but especially my mom. 

Last night I was laying in bed thinking about what I would post today, the one year anniversary of the day we got the call.  I was very sad, crying, and believing that my mom and sister were probably far off in Michigan doing the very same thing.  But then he came....Bushy.  And my plans for this post changed.

I don't love having animals.  I think it's a good thing for the kids because they learn compassion and, in theory, how to take care of something.  But really it's Chris and I who take care of the pets around here.  Sometimes it seems like more effort than it's worth but then there are moments, like last night, when I can't imagine my life without them.

Bushy is almost 12 years old - I have always loved older animals.  They get to a certain age and they are just so wonderful!  He climbed up beside me and started purring.  Oh, the sound of a cat purring!  I know it really means that they feel safe and loved, but it translates into "YOU are safe, YOU are loved."  I stroked his soft fur and realized that in 12 years he has given me far more than I could ever give him.

My mind drifted to Sir, our wonderful black cat, who lived to be only 10 years old.  He was an amazing cat.  He had an air of dignity that I've never before sensed in an animal.  Chris and I were absolutely shattered when he died.  He also comforted me through many heartaches.  I will always miss him.

Then there was Muffin, my beloved cat that I had from the age of 11 until I was 24.  I had my senior pictures in high school taken with her.  There had been so many horrible days in high school when I had come home and collapsed onto my bed in tears.  She would instantly come out from under the bed and through my sobs, I could hear her purring.  You are safe, you are loved.  I don't honestly know how I would have made it through those years without her.

My sister is fortunate that she has not only three cats, but that one of them happens to be one of my brother's cats.  Although Daniel had three cats, Kringer was the only one he really loved and so my sister brought him back to Michigan with her when she left Arizona last year.  I'm sure Kringer is bringing her a lot of comfort during this difficult week.  Hopefully she will let my mom spend some time with Kringer, too.  I think it would be wonderful therapy for her.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Yes, I have a job - two jobs, actually - but I am primarily a homemaker.  It's something I spent many hours at my desk job dreaming about doing.  I was so excited when I quit that job.  I couldn't wait to cook meals and clean and organize my house.

Almost three years later, I laugh at my excitement for such tasks.  Discouragement has set in BIG TIME! 

Cleaning the house is an exercise in futility.  The only time it ever seems really clean is when the kids are gone.  If they're here, it's a matter of minutes - no, seconds! - before they throw something somewhere it's not supposed to be.

Organization?  I LONG FOR IT!  But there aren't enough hours in the day for me to get this place organized.  If I do have time, the most important thing to organize would be my "home office," but that would be really hard to do, considering I don't even have a desk with drawers.  I have a two drawer filing cabinet with only one working drawer.  My files sit in paper boxes on a table.  Pathetic.

The worst discouragement, though, is with regard to cooking meals.  I cannot begin to explain how disheartening it is to NEVER (and I do mean NEVER) make a meal that everyone here likes.  And it's not just that they don't like it - it's that they complain LOUDLY when it's something they don't like.  The list of things they won't eat is staggering!

 A friend of mine with four boys the same ages as mine posted yesterday on Facebook about how excited she was to make spaghetti for the kids because she loves to see their big smiles.  Big smiles?  Mine make gagging noises. 

The BEST I can hope for is for two of the four to tell me the meal is "not bad."  Since I started staying at home, I have completely abandoned any sort of love - or even tolerance - I had for cooking.  In fact, I don't even like it when the kids ask me what's for dinner when I'm in the kitchen.  Too many times, my response has been answered with "EW!" or "Can I have something else?"  So I end up snapping at them just for asking.

My husband has been working afternoons for some time now, so I've given up trying to make anything decent.  It's usually some variation of pizza (either a frozen one, or put on  crescent rolls, bagels, etc) or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  But now Chris will be working a day shift that allows him to be home in the evenings and that's a whole different ball game.

You would think, perhaps, that life would get easier with another adult her to eagerly eat whatever I serve.  WRONG!  The list of things Chris refuses to eat is almost as lengthy as the boys':  no sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, cream soups in ANYTHING!  Even the slightest hint of any of those things and he won't touch it.  As far as meat goes, he wants almost nothing but red meat.  He will eat ground turkey in lieu of hamburger, but is VERY particular about chicken.  He will eat a little once in a while, but all fat has to be completely removed.  Dark meat?  NO WAY!  Sausage and/or pork he will tolerate, maybe once a week.  And both he and the kids agree on the fact that almost all vegetables are disgusting.

I have given up on the idea that I can ever prepare a meal that I enjoy myself, but the fact that now I'm responsible for making FIVE people meals that they may or may not enjoy.  I don't want meals to be redundant, but there are only about 3 or 4 that they will all eat.  And anything they won't eat the first time, DEFINITELY won't go over on Day 2.  Wasted food is an almost daily occurrence around here.

I'm just having one of those days and it helps to write about it.

Still no pictures

It's so frustrating that Blogger won't allow me to upload pictures - it's been a WEEK!  But I figured I'd better post something anyway, otherwise I will fall out of the habit again.  So here's a random update about what we've been up to:

 - The boys and I started our Unit Study on the Olympics yesterday.  It didn't go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped, but I'm sure it will be better today.  I purchased the download from for just $5.00 last week (price went up to over $10 by now, I think.)  I really like the format and all the links to videos, which keeps the boys interested.  I got a free lapbook download with my purchase, so we will start on that project maybe on Friday.  It will be a nice keepsake for them.

 - Chris is still working crazy hours (7am-7pm) most days but every few days he gets a reprieve and works what he calls his "princess shift," which is just 7am-3pm.  Having him home at 3:30pm is very, very strange.  I actually have to care about what's for dinner now!  It's also hampering my TV schedule; I missed the Bachelor last night because he was home!  Oh, the HORROR!  The kids are really happy to have him home more and we are thinking by early February he should be on his regular "princess" shift full-time, with weekends off. 

 - I have started getting up in the mornings before the kids.  For a long stretch, I was staying up until close to midnight and sleeping until 8 or 8:30am.  That meant we didn't usually start our school day until close to 10am.  With Chris getting up at 5:30am, I am more inspired to get out of bed and have a cup of tea while it's still quiet.  I also stocked up on a few good books, which I'm enjoying.  Right now I'm reading "The Giver," which was recommended to me by one of my former babysitters and it will be made into a movie later this year.

 - We went to our homeschool group's meeting yesterday for "Bubble Science."  One of the mom's led the class - she used to be a science teacher - and it was wonderful! The kids were put into different age groups and had all different experiments to do.  I got to talking to a woman who was new there and she told me the reason she doesn't normally come to the Monday meetings is because she has her kids enrolled in classes at Quest for Kids, a private group in Janesville.  She told me they offer classes every Monday from 10am-2:30pm (with a break for lunch) and that they are AMAZING!  Parents teach everything from ABC's for the little ones, music lessons for the older ones, and she herself teaches a Lego class.  I think it sounds great and she's going to email me more info.

 - Expecting more snow today - just a couple of inches, but enough to freshen it up.  I'm already anxious to sit in the sun in my beloved lawn chair in the driveway and read books, but I realistically know that's 4 months away.  (sigh)  At least we have our vacation to Pigeon Forge, TN to look forward to;  we leave exactly two months from yesterday!  Woo hoo!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy Birthday

It's my mom's birthday today and since I'm a good daughter, I won't publicly state how old she is.  I don't know if it matters anymore.  We spend the first 1/4 of our lives bragging about how old we are (Owen will be the first to tell he you he's "ten and a HALF!"), the next 1/2 of our lives trying to hide our age (I'm well into that stage right now!) and then we eventually come full circle and tell everyone who will listen how old we are.  I still remember how proud my grandma was to tell people she was 90, 91, 92....  She loved to hear people tell her how great she looked!  So my mom is probably nearing that stage, but I want to be respectful in case she's not quite there yet.
I'm feeling very sad today because I can't give her the one thing I know she'd like for her birthday: a call from my brother.  He's with her, though, I know.  He always will be. 
Despite this year's tragic events, my mom has led a pretty blessed life.  Sure, she's had her share of hardships, but she taught me to take those in stride because she always does.  She's one of the strongest people I know.
This is my favorite picture of her:

I'm not sure how I ended up with it, but I'm glad I did.  She played the piccolo in her high school band.  I remember her telling me that she cried while playing Pomp and Circumstance at her graduation ceremony.  She loved high school and was voted "Most Flirtatious" in her senior class.  (Not at all surprising to anyone, even now.) 

I look at this picture and see a young girl, full of hopes and dreams for her future.  I wonder if it turned out anything like she thought it would.  She was married to my dad for 34 years, raised four kids, had a career at Ford Motor Company and is now retired and enjoying her 7 grandchildren.  I'd say she's led a pretty full life.  She'd most likely say the same.

Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

For me!

 Chris bought me a watch for Christmas.  It was a REALLY nice watch - one of those Citizen Eco Drive ones - and it cost over $100.  YIKES!  I've never had a watch that cost that much.  I know it took him a long time to decide on the right one and he read all the rave reviews for it, but when I opened it I couldn't hide my disappointment.  It was a nice watch, but not my style.  I think it's very difficult to choose a watch for another person; I bought one for Chris a few years back and he promptly took it back.

My real issue with the watch was how expensive it was.  I prefer cheap watches because then I don't feel badly when I want to switch it out after a year or two.  This is the same reason I won't spend $400 on a Coach purse; I would have to carry it for a decade to warrant that sort of expense!

He returned my watch and let me order my own.  And I got TWO for $40 - not bad! 

I ordered a classic look for work and if I ever have an opportunity to go somewhere fancy...

And then I ordered a fun one for everyday wear with my jeans...

Isn't it cute?  Those are safety pins with colored beads on them all around the band. 

Another reason it would be difficult for someone else to purchase a watch is wrist sizing.  I had to read the reviews on both of these to make sure they would fit my very small wrists.  I'm happy to report they do, and are really comfortable.

Merry Christmas to me!


William got a little gypped at Christmas.  It's difficult to keep track of exactly how many gifts there are for each kid.  We realized it too late, when we were already in the thick of things with wrapping paper flying everywhere and William just quietly watching everyone else.  He never complained or even said anything, and that made me feel even worse. 
I mentioned it to Chris later and he said that we need to buy him the stuffed cheetah he's been wanting for two years.  Sometimes kids ask for stuff and then forget it later.  (Like when 2 year old Sammy said he wanted Immonium AD because he saw a commercial for it!)  But William has been asking for a stuffed cheetah since before his fifth birthday so it was high time we got him one.
Chris had him pick it out on the internet and use some of his birthday money for it.  When it came, it was a little shocking...
Apparently neither of them read the dimensions because both Chris and William were surprised to see how big this thing is.  William insists on sleeping with it, even though there's very little room left.
You know what the best thing about getting something big is?  The box...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome, 2014!

Even in the new year, there are some things that never change....
I have this nice little basket in the hall bathroom that nicely holds two extra rolls of TP.  I understand that I am likely to be the only one who will restock it with fresh rolls, but do they really need to throw the empty rolls in there?  Really?
Sammy worked hard the other day making paper snowflakes.  None of the other boys were at all interested, but he worked at it for over an hour.  We pressed them in a heavy book for a couple of days and he was excited to put them up today. 

Looks appropriate, too, because we just got another 4" of fresh snow last night.
There's one thing I forgot to add to my resolutions post from yesterday and that is SAVING $$$:

One of my Facebook friends posted a 52 week savings challenge and I'm going to stick to it this year.  The idea is that you put money in an envelope each week:  $1 on Week 1, $2 on Week 2, $3 on Week 3, etc, etc.  A couple people commented that it would be very difficult to save the larger amounts at the end of the year because it's so close to Christmas.  I agree!  And the way my business works, my pay fluctuates tremendously month to month.  So I am going to put the money in the envelopes and then check off the week I did, going in no particular order.  By the end of the year, I will have over $1300 in these envelopes.  Pretty nice, huh?
Happy New Year to everybody!  Hope it's a great one!