We got a new fridge!

I know, my life is one thrill ride after another.

The fridge that came with the house was rather small. So small, in fact, that my monthly Costco trip had to be curtailed based on the volume of my freezer. Plus it kept freezing things. I mean, this thing might have been 16 years old but it was no sissy. I turned it all the way to ‘cool’ (which is the warmest setting in the fridge) and it still blasted anything on the top shelf with enough freon-laced air to turn it all to ice cubes. And let me tell you, lettuce and cream? Not the same once they’ve thawed out.

So last week I sent a text to my husband. “Grr. Tomato, cucumber, lettuce and two fruit cups frozen and destined for the garbage.”

His reply, “Ugh. We need to look at a new fridge.”

So I looked at a new fridge, and you know what? They are spendy. And I am not one to just spend money if I don’t have to. I got on Craigslist and found one for less than half the price of new. Less than half! We were going to SAVE MONEY.

Of course it wasn’t going to fit in the minivan, even if we did put the kids in the trunk, so the next day my dear husband went and rented a Uhaul with which to bring said fridge home. And an appliance dolly, and some furniture pads. And we had to pay gas and mileage. But even so, we were SAVING MONEY.

Once he got it home it was quickly apparent that the new fridge was not going to fit through the front door. We also realized that we don’t own a tape measure. I mean, we did own one but the kids used it for a jump rope or something and now we don’t have one anymore. I’m sure our neighbors enjoyed watching us measure the new fridge and our doorframe with a 12 inch ruler.

In the end we had to take the doors off. The fridge door, not the front door, although that might have been easier.

So! Doors off, now to get it up to the kitchen. We made it four feet into the entry and realized it wasn’t going to fit around the corner of the closet that I want to knock out. We measured. We pondered. We debated hauling it around the back and bringing it up the deck stairs. And then we said to heck with strained backs and scraped up walls and just muscled the thing. Up the stairs to the second floor where the kitchen is. Fun.

At this point I had to call the Uhaul people and ask for more time because two hours wasn’t nearly enough for moving an appliance.

Pulling out the old fridge was easier, although it did leak all over the place because it hadn’t occurred to us that if we were going to disconnect the water hose we should probably turn off the water. Mop up the water, pull out the old fridge, slide in the new one.. which didn’t fit. We had to remove the upper cabinet. Seriously, you’d think this house was built in 1966 rather than 1996. ..And put the doors back on. Funny thing is, once we put them back on they wouldn’t close. I’m pretty sure this is the point at which my husband started muttering something about the reasons we pay people to do things. Eventually we figured it out (hinges on backwards – whoops) and got it all set up. Now just to hook up the water line!

Wait. The old fridge had a weird, giant connector thingy and the new fridge has a normal plastic tube. And the house has copper plumbing. These things do not go together. Hmm..

The kids hauled the frozen food that was languishing on the counters down to the garage fridge and I ran out to McDonalds (because it was now almost 3:00 and we hadn’t had lunch) while Justyn went to Home Depot to get whatever you need to connect a fridge to copper plumbing.

We eat, we connect, we turn on the water and.. it leaks. Everywhere. So he unhooks it and tries again. No luck. I run to a different hardware store in town and explain to the guy there what we’re trying to do. He informs me that we’ve done it right, we just need to tighten it more. Problem is, I get home and attempt to do just that and find that my wimpy lady muscles are simply not up to the task. But you know what? It’s okay. Sure, we haven’t had running water for 12 hours but doesn’t most of the world’s population go without running water just fine? Besides, it’s totally worth it because Justyn will come home and fix it and we will have SAVED MONEY.

The next day my fearless husband braves yet another trip to the hardware store and comes home with the same advice and some new tools. At this point we’ve spent more on our three trips to the plumbing department than it would have cost to have someone come out and install the dang thing for us but that’s okay. Still cheaper than a new one and it’s almost fixed! Sadly, the new tools and parts give us the same result as the old ones. A leaky connection and a very frustrated husband. He breaks down and calls a handyman.

When the handyman gets here, he kindly informs us that the hardware store folks had got it wrong. We had installed the connector with an extra piece. A piece all three plumbing department employees had told us to use. It took him five minutes, which means he makes a killer hourly wage.

But it was DONE. Installed! Ready for use! Filtered water never tasted so good! And despite the rental truck, the new tools and paying the plumber, we had still SAVED MONEY! Kind of!

So the moral of the story is.. I don’t know. Listen to your husband? Don’t trust 17 year old Home Depot employees?

But I do love that fridge.

P.S. Want to know the kicker? The first time I turned off the water main I mistakenly turned off the GAS main, causing our hot water heater’s pilot light to go out. So we also went two days without hot water before we figured that out. I love home improvement.

Cell Phone Snark and Hooey

Ah, Facebook, bringer of all things controversial. It’s where I stumbled across this article, which, frankly, seemed so silly that I would normally have ignore it, except that apparently the APA isn’t ignoring it. And it was on Time.com. You know Time Magazine, that bastion of factual information and intelligent writing… or maybe I’m dating myself.

Anyway, the premise of the article is that mom and dad spend too much time on their phones when they should be hanging out with junior, and that frequent cell usage makes you a worse parent. It’s hard to take parenting advice from a journalist whose opening sentence (for Time!) ends in a dangling preposition, but there is a valid point to be made here. According to the article, researchers from Boston University took to fast-food restaurants and observed the interactions of parents and children.

To study the effect of smartphones, Radesky and her colleagues sent in undercover investigators to surreptitiously observe any adult-child grouping with more than one youngster as they ate at a fast-food restaurant. The observers recorded the behavior of both the adults and the children in 55 such groupings, as well as how frequently the adults used their smartphones.”

So, basically, they snuck around on people, recorded their behavior without permission, and then published it in this study. I’m not sure what the ethics are on that, but I can tell you I’ll be nicer to my kids the next time we hit up McDonald’s. Also, the ‘undercover investigators’ bit makes me leery. Why weren’t Radesky and her colleagues doing the observing? The article continues:

“The data provided an unvarnished look at how absorbed many parents were by their devices. One child reached over in an attempt to lift his mother’s face while she looked down at a tablet, but to no avail. Another mother kicked her child under the table in response to the child’s various attempts to get her attention while she looked at her phone. A father responded in curt and irritated tones to his children’s escalating efforts to tear him away from his device.”

Here’s the thing – it takes a lot more than Candy Crush to get a woman to kick her child. This is one of those chicken and egg situations. Do cell phones make people ignore their children, or do people who ignore their children use cell phones? Just this evening I was sitting on my front step with, yes, my phone, reading an article. My four year old was building with bricks nearby. He would call me, and I would look up and interact with him, then go back to my phone. It’s easy to point to cell phones as the reason for bad parenting. It’s much harder to address the character flaws – laziness, selfishness, lack of self-control, a temper – that are the real issue. But of course, the ‘researchers’ weren’t finished.

“In light of the data, Radesky is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop some guidelines for the smart smartphone use in front of the kids — just as the academy has advice for parents on TV viewing.”

Because of course the answer to every problem is intervention and rules set by professionals. One rather sneaky study, with a very small sample group, and no background information on the subjects, seems shaky ground to make these vast claims. I’m not saying parents should choose cell phones over their children! For heaven’s sake, I’m the first one to say that we should all go back to the analog age. I’m saying that we’ve got to stop grabbing at what’s easy if we want what’s best. It’s called “ignoratio elenchi” – the argument addresses the issue, but it still isn’t logically valid. It’s more frequently known as ‘missing the point’. My smart phone doesn’t make me a good or a bad parent. My smart phone isn’t the bad guy. As I’ve already mentioned, there is a valid point to be made here. I just think we’re missing it.

Joy and Laundry

Having a large family is a lot of things. It’s chaotic, yes, but also peaceful. It’s loud and sometimes quiet. It is very messy but.. okay, it’s very messy. I often find that people who ask me about raising six kids have a polarizing idea about what it is – it must be either ethereally joyful or insane. The answer is.. yes!

And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I’d snap some and share with you what life in a family of 8 is like. All these pictures were taken between 4 and 5 on Thursday afternoon with no staging. I promise!

 

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Coffee. My best friend.

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Yes, it’s 4:30pm and lunch is still on the table.

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I would be ashamed, but this is actually pretty good for us.

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Teenagers do not like their photos taken. Unless they are selfies.

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And, in an effort at brutal honesty, one of me. Today was a no-makeup, no shower day. But it isn’t always like this!

Also, you people who take selfies and post them on the internet? I thought you were silly, but you are BRAVE. I think I took ten of these before I got one I was okay with.

I look so weird! And I like my face!

So go forth, mama, and know that your life and your house and your face are lovely. Even if there are dishes in the sink.

The Crazy Person’s Guide to Moving

This week marks a momentous occasion. We closed on our house last Friday and will spend the week packing and hauling and breaking things in our eleventh move in fourteen years. Yes, you heard that right. Eleven moves. Fourteen years. So I’m kinda like an expert on this.

Since I’m such a pro, I thought I’d endow upon you some tips I’ve learned on How to Make Your Move Go As Smoothly As Possible.

Tip #1 – Decide on Thursday afternoon to have a garage sale.. on Friday. Because the neighbor is having one and has already put up signs, and not having to put up signs is SUCH a time and work savings that it makes the crazy garage sale prep at the last minute totally worth it.

Tip #2 – Make sure that said Friday is also walk-through and closing day. Two birds, one stone. Something like that.

Tip #3 – Friday should also be grocery shopping day. Obviously you won’t have time to go grocery shopping, so you can just skip it. You managed to avoid grocery shopping! Well done. Dominos delivers, so you’ll be fine. Bonus: hire a truck for Saturday to take the non-essentials. This way you won’t have time to go grocery shopping Saturday, either. Your local McDonald’s will thank you. 

Tip #4 – To occupy the young children in the house while you’re packing, leave some Bingo dotters lying around. You know the ones that are full of runny, permanent ink with the huge spongy dotter on the end? The ones that splat satisfyingly when you slam them down onto cardboard? Yeah, those. Leave those out right next to a stack of new boxes. The children will be thrilled and will leave you alone for at least half an hour. You don’t really need those Bingo markers anyway (they’ll be pretty well ruined by the slamming). Or those boxes. Or that.. carpet.

Tip #5 – Pack up ALL the children’s books a week early, seal the boxes and drop them of at the new house on the first run. This way they’re as inaccessible as possible. The three year old will not understand why there are suddenly no books in the house. There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. But it’s worth it because three more boxes will be at the new house.

Tip #6 – For homeschoolers only (sorry): Don’t schedule any time off of school during the move. Of course you can do a full six hours per day of academics, host the co-op and go on a field trip during the week of the move.

Tip #7 – Happily agree to a four-day business trip for your husband the week before the move AND do all of this while six months pregnant. It’s like the X Games, baby. The more extreme, the… more extreme.

So there you have it! Just a few tips to make your next move more.. exciting.

Off to pack!

Brieana

Easter’s Not for Sissies

So… this post was supposed to come out yesterday, you know, on Easter. But my mouse ran out of batteries. Seriously. So here’s some post-resurrection reading for you. 

It’s Easter, and Easter at church means salvations. Every year hundreds of non or semi-Christians visit our churches and hear the message of salvation and redemption and come to the altar to receive Christ. We rejoice in this, because we love sharing our faith with others. We love adding new family members. We love the joy that comes from receiving the redemptive work of Christ and we rejoice with those who rejoice.

But there are plenty of people on Easter who are skeptical about all these salvations. They wonder if an ‘altar call’ is a genuine experience. They doubt the sincerity of those who feel a need for Christ when they’ve never felt that need themselves.

Coming to faith in Christ is like having a child. Before I became a parent I had an intellectual understanding of why people loved their kids. I knew that their love for their children was real, and I thought it was nice for them. I recognized that they felt so strongly they would lay down their lives for their children, but I had never experienced that feeling myself.

Then I had a child of my own. Suddenly the entire world was new. I experienced joys and sorrows of which I had been wholly unaware. I was seized with a passion for my child. Suddenly I could easily see myself laying down my life for her. I wouldn’t even hesitate; the pain of losing my child would so far outweigh the pain of death that thought wouldn’t be necessary, putting myself in harm’s way would be effortless. I now understood what real terror was – it was the thought of being separated from my child. Everything I did was for her benefit and when I failed her I felt ashamed – not because she, a tiny infant, made me feel ashamed, but because of my deep desire to do only what was good and right by her.

This is what happens to us when we come into relationship with God. He changes our very souls. We experience things that we had no idea existed. Our priorities and motives change. We are made new.

And the change is irrevocable. Much like having a child, we never go back to the way we were. If my children were all to pass away I wouldn’t go back to being a childless woman, I would always be their mother. I can’t undo the soul change that happened when each of them was born anymore than I can regain the 20 year old body I had before it housed them. I’m wrecked.

Which means that, like parenthood, Christianity isn’t something we can try on for size. Childless people might babysit for their friends as a way to see if they’re ready for children, and they’ll gain some understanding of the practical elements of caring for a child. But they’ll never experience the true nature of parenthood until they have fully committed; until they’ve conceived and carried and borne a child of their own. And by that time it’s too late to go back.

So it is with God. We can visit churches and read books to ‘try on’ Christianity to see if it fits, but we’ll never experience the immensity and power of newness in Christ until we are fully committed. And by that time it’s too late to go back. We will have been wrecked.

Simcha Fisher makes this observation about God’s mercy.

“The mercy of God comes in like a flood. Not a warm bath: a flood.”

“You can go back and salvage some of your stuff, but you will not be living in that house again.”

Today, on Good Friday, I find myself meditating on the old house of mine that God flooded. Because, again like childbirth, the entry into God’s family is sometimes painful. Certainly it was painful for Him. Dear God. And for us as well there will be things that are left behind. There will be things that we are required to surrender and things that we willingly and joyfully surrender. We place ourselves into a new category of people, with new priorities and requirements.

It is not a small thing, this conversion. It isn’t small at all.

It’s Holy Week!

There is so much to write about this week! There’s yet another vaccination brouhaha going down on Facebook and some parents of disabled kids are suing Disney – and boy, do I have something to say about that. But it’s Holy Week! So rather than be controversial, let’s talk about Jesus.

I normally like to do something Lenten around this time of year. It’s not required – we’re nondenominational Charismatics, which means we don’t really do liturgical. We like the new stuff! But I like to recognize this time of year. It’s important to focus on the reason for Easter – my own sin that brings destruction and darkness and the glorious act of God that wiped it all away. I think it’s important to meditate for a while on the death and suffering of Jesus. Otherwise I tend to just go, “Hey – thanks God! That was great. Well done. Time for ham.” Plus I like ceremony and tradition. There’s something warm and inviting about it – like a comfortable sweater on a chilly day. You put it on and all is right with the world.

So, generally I do give something up for Lent, as a reminder that He gave everything. I plan my Bible reading around the Gospels and I try to incorporate some kind of teaching into our school days so that my children begin to understand the significance of the holiday. We’ve done the kitschy stuff, too, the empty tomb cookies and whatnot.

This year, however, I’ve really only just realized that Easter is quickly approaching. When it first dawned on me, oh, three days ago, that I hadn’t done any kind of preparing for Easter – not even checking Pinterest! I felt awful. I began apologizing to God for ignoring the ceremonial and traditional ways of relating to the season.

Here’s the thing, though. One of the things that fascinates me most about Jesus is that so many people He came into contact with had no idea he was God. That tells me He was a pretty normal guy. He wore normal clothes and talked in a normal kind of way. He wasn’t self-important or overly intellectual. He observed the Holy Days of His faith, absolutely, but he didn’t stand on ceremony. He leveled with people. He met them where they were. And He loved normal, carnal kind of stuff.

Like food. I’m astonished how often Jesus is found eating, or talking about eating, or planning to eat, in the Bible. As the great C.S. Lewis points out, God loves matter. He made it.

So here’s what I’m grabbing onto this week – it may be a little late for elaborate lessons and meals, I’m not sure if I’ll get to a Good Friday service (though I’ll try) and I never did celebrate Lent in the traditional way, but I can still celebrate Christ Risen if I seize the normal moments that reflect Him. When I stand in the first sunshine of spring and enjoy the warmth on my face I can take a moment and breathe a prayer of thanks. When I am surrounded by my children I can remember that He is the one who gave them to me, and it’s His grace that gets me through each day of raising them. I can revel in the gift of prayer, even when it’s during dishes instead of in my special quiet time spot.

I can take a step toward Jesus every ordinary, normal, un-interesting day of my life. Here’s Pope Francis (yeah, he’s Catholic):

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of  you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”

This is what Easter is all about. In whatever way we celebrate it, it’s about taking a step toward Jesus and realizing that He is there, waiting, with open arms.

And.. We’re Back

This is awkward. 

 I’ve been away from blogging for three months (!) and jumping back in is more difficult than I thought it would be. I’ve spent the last few weeks vacillating over whether to just start up like there was no gap or explain what the heck I’ve been doing all winter. And then I realized that the last few months’ worth of activity is going to show up pretty clearly so I’d better lay it out there. 

In late December, we found out we’re expecting again! This is, of course, joyous news, but I am going to be brutally honest and admit that when we first found out, I was not happy about it. And I was shocked at not being happy about it. I believed I was open to having more kids, and I’d even wished for another one at various points, but the reality of it was a bit devastating. And then I felt guilty about feeling bad about it. And then there were the frequent episodes of vomiting and the need for 16 hours of sleep every day that accompany early pregnancy. Between the physical and emotional turmoil, blogging sort of fell through the cracks. 

So we’re due in August, it’s a girl, and everyone, including me, is absolutely thrilled about it. Even if we are still reeling a little bit. 

Then we found out that the house we’ve been living in since last June, that we were trying to purchase as a short sale, wasn’t going to happen. So we’ve been in the throes of house-hunting and are now facing yet another move. This time with me pregnant. Yay! But we found a house and have a closing date, so that’s great news! 

Then my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. 

There really isn’t any good news to soften that one, at least not yet. He started chemo yesterday. It’s been quite the roller coaster ride, emotionally, especially since I’m apparently some kind of emotional retard. I spent the first week after getting the news trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me and why I felt all weepy and scatter-brained all the time. Because my rational self couldn’t understand why my emotions would react to such news and, you know, affect my daily life. So it was kind of like waking up suddenly to find yourself on a roller coaster that’s already going full speed and not knowing where you are. 

I struggled with anxiety and depression. I didn’t feel like myself. Housework and parenting suffered. The weather sucked. There’s a reason filmmakers use weather to convey mood. 

And all winter long, as one hammer after another fell and my hormone-addled brain struggled to keep up with everything I felt it was impossible to write. I didn’t want to write about bad things! I want to be encouraging and positive! I kept waiting for myself to pick myself up and dust myself off and find the bright side. 

I’m realizing, though, that life simply isn’t always that way. There are seasons in which the bad seems to out-shadow the good, and pretending this isn’t so isn’t just untruthful, it’s wrong. Dark places are just as much a part of life as light. Walking through them is devastating, but can also add a richness and texture to life that makes the whole of it more worth living. 

And I missed it, the writing. 

So I’m back. I’m not going to promise that you’ll find encouragement and happy chirping and cupcake recipes. Some days there will be humor and joy, and some days there will not. Life is gritty sometimes, but we’re all in it together. We might as well admit it. 

As my 12 year old reminded me in a remark she made after watching Saving Mr. Banks, it’s good. I asked her if she liked the movie and she said that she did. “It was a good story. It wasn’t always a happy story, but it was really good.”