My Resume

16 08 2009

I’ve been looking up old friends on Facebook, which has been a lot of fun.  The only difficulty comes when they ask, “So what have you been doing for the last eighteen years?”


Surely I must have done something!  Let me think.  I had four kids.  Yeah.  Oh- and I cleaned a lot.

What a great summary of the profit of nearly two decades!  I have friends who started their own company, an ex-roomate who became an international real estate princess, an old boyfriend “in publishing,” several friends with great-sounding jobs like “Principal of an exclusive fine arts school,” “Head Coach,” or “Software Guru.”

Me?  I’m the queen of all I survey: a sink full of dishes, a hamper full of clothes, and a yard full of kids that could, frankly, use a bath.


I must do something to buck up my spirits.  After all, my life can’t have been as boring as all that, or all my friends would fall asleep when I talk to them.  What have I been doing for the last 20 years?

Well, I went to college at the USC honors college in Columbia.  I met my first husband, took a trip to England and France back-packing around and staying in youth hostels.  I didn’t write a book about it, for which the world should be grateful.  For four years I had a great time in academia, reading literature of all kinds, writing 50-page papers, learning French, exploring science, and taking drawing classes.

In my free time I worked at a real estate office, eventually moving from receptionist to personal assistant.  I did exciting things like typing and drawing ad material for post cards.  I graduated Suma cum Laude and got married in the same month.  Sadly, the marriage only lasted a couple of weeks, though we drug the dead body around trying to revivify it for several more months before separating.

In the next year, I went back to school to become a nurse, met my current husband, got pregnant, finished my second year of my RN degree and finalized my divorce.  With an on-going talent for multi-tasking I remarried and had my baby in the same month.

After this my history becomes blurry, not so much because nothing happened as much as because I didn’t get a full night’s sleep at any point in the next ten years.  I left nursing school when my husband got a new job in another city.  We moved seven times in three years.  We lived in Canada for about nine months, I remember that.  Donal grew like an over-fertilized weed.  We had a second baby in a home-birth, a daughter, who continues to delight us both.  I continued to live to sleep.  Neal came and went on consulting jobs.  My conciousness kind of came and went, too.  We spent some of our leisure time playing around in the SCA.  Neal made himself a suit of armor, I sewed dresses for me and cute clothes for the kids.  I read a lot of library books while I sat on the porch and watched the children play in the sand box.  We finally paid off our school debts.  I struggled with depression, and Neal took care of me.

At some point my nerves and my health broke.  Neal moved me in with his parents so I could have some help with the kids and care while he was consulting.  I eventually took a small apartment in the same town with them, and Neal continued to fly home when he could.  Finally, he found a job that didn’t require travelling, and we moved to Wilmington.

In the next eight years, we bought two houses and had two more children.  I received Christ, we joined a church, I joined a homeschooling group and began schooling my children.  I spent two years writing a humor column for a local Christian news monthly.  We grew a garden, kept chickens, and adopted some cats.  I served on the board of the homeschool group for about four years.  We took a couple vacations, celebrated a lot of birthday parties, made some friends, and renovated our house.  I can remember that it all seemed like a good idea at the time, but I was still only semi-concious through most of it.

Finally, Neal lost his job in the middle of the renovation.  Unable to find work in Wilmington, we scurried to finish & sell the house, and moved here.  We’ve been here nearly two years.  All of my children are finally sleeping through the night.  Most of them are potty-trained.  We continue to homeschool.  I’m trying to paint the house.  I spend most of my time trying to balance the budget and balance our diet.  I teach.  I research learning methods.  I do a little painting, a little writing.  I try to be a good and loving friend, but sometimes I let important things slip.  I still read a lot of library books.

I guess this year has been a watershed year for me.  I’ve been homeschooling for eight years.  I have fifteen to go.  We’ve had our last child (I’m pretty sure- adoption’s still an option).  One of my best friends died last month in a freak accident, I’ve been having some health problems, and the question of mortality is nibbling on the edges of my mind.  I’m nearly 40.  When I was eighteen people used to say I “had a lot of potential.”  Now they say I have four kids.

I really can’t think of anything to say when people ask what I’ve been up to for the last eighteen years except that I’ve had four kids.  I’m afraid those two statements are going to be bracketed on my gravestone: “She had potential and she had four kids.”  The summary of my life.

I still feel, vaguely, that something wonderful is supposed to happen to me between the time that I was born and the time that I will die.  I think a lot of people would be happy with what I have: a home, a husband, a church, a family.  But I keep peering around corners hoping for the suprise, the rainbow, the sudden, unexpected, glittering wonder that will make all the other stuff look ordinary.  The culmination.  The prize at the bottom of the box.  The pinnacle.  The moment when I know who I am and why I am here, that moment in which I know that I know that I know that I fulfilled God’s calling on my life.

Is it irrational to look for something like that?  Or are the every day wonders all I will get?  I’ve had quite a few of those- wild cherries off a tree on a dawn walk, baby kisses, lilies from my husband, perfect sunsets, walks in the snow, birthday surprises, and tearful hugs.  Maybe this is all anyone gets.  Maybe the quote is true: “There are no extraordinary things, only ordinary things done with extraordinary love.”

But something in me just won’t stop hoping.  Maybe in the next 36 years, maybe there will be something wonderful…


Blueberry Crumble Pie

30 06 2009

Sultry and wet as the days have been here, the blueberries are practically bursting off the bushes.  The shady, sweet scented acres of pine woods behind our home are host to about twenty blueberry bushes, most of which tower over my head.  Donal and I were pulling off fruit the size of marbles.  It was easy to fill my largest bowl.

All four children wanted to help wash the berries, to help make the pie crust and to help mix up the pies.  Unfortunately, in my small kitchen, too much help leads to short tempers and floury disasters!  So this time, I divided them up.  Michael assisted with crusts.  He mixed and rolled dough.  He cradled the “dough baby.”  He slurped up the scraps.  Donal made the sugar-free filling, while Brenna stirred the sugared.  They each rolled handfuls of blue-black berries frosted with bloom around on their palms, picking out the shriveled, the small, the sour, and choosing only the sweetest, fattest, softest ones for the pies.  Finally Patrick took his turn, climbing up on a wooden stool to cut butter, flour, and sugar into crumbles to top the pies.  He strewed crumbs across the pies, the counter, and the floor.  Most of the topping ended up on the pie, though a certain amount strayed into his bird-like mouth.

It feels like summer.  Blueberry pies in the oven.  Golden heat outside.  No school.  Yesterday, Donal found two pale-blue robin’s eggshells on the lawn.   Tonight Neal is taking us to see the Kinston Indians play baseball, taking us to eat hot boiled peanuts, taking us to introduce the kids to the rituals of pop flies in the stands, the seventh inning stretch, and marking stats on the program.   Meanwhile, another summer treat began arriving today: next fall’s curriculum delivered by the UPS fairy to my front door.  Yum!  Almost as good as bubbly, crunchy blueberry crumble pie.

How to recycle an old trampoline as a play tent

12 06 2009

Our trampoline started losing it’s D-rings a few months ago.  We took it down and stored it in the garage, thinking I would be able to fix it.  We bought webbing from R.E.I., but when I tried to sew the webbing on to re-connect the rings, I couldn’t force a needle through all the layers.  I tried several different ways, even with some very sharp upholstry needles, but decided it wasn’t worth it.

So… what to do with the now useless trampoline?  The kids have been bugging me to build a play tent.  Family Fun magazine gave instructions for how to build one out of PVC tubing and a tarp or sheet.  That was cute, but I think this is even better.  So here is my recycled trampoline project: a kid-sized shade tent that looks sort of like a yurt.

Recycled Trampoline play tent

Recycled Trampoline play tent

The base is made of two of the trampoline sections turned upside down with the U-shaped legs still attached.  I joined the two rounded parts with two more of the U-shaped leg sections to make a oval shape.  This formed the base of the tent.  Neal really wanted to be able to move the tent to mow, and this solution looks good.  It should slide just like a sled.

center roof rib

center roof rib

Next, I put together two of the legless sections of pipe that (in trampoline formation) join two of the leg sections.  This made an arched rib to hold the roof up and keep it from sagging.  I bound the join with duct tape (you can do anything with duct tape except, possibly, make a diaper), and used more duct tape to tape the ends to the frame.  The center is supported by part of another U-shaped leg, as you can see in the next picture.

100_3500To make the center support, I removed one of the vertical pieces from a U-shaped leg.  I left the other piece on, and it lays along the ground, providing more support.  The top is bound to the roof rib.  I hope this makes sense.  Maybe you can at least see what I mean from the pictures.  The little boys put an old wooden end table we rescued from the dump over the bottom part of the center support so they wouldn’t trip over it.

bottom of center support

bottom of center support

At this point we were ready to add the fabric to the frame work.  For this, of course, we used the trampoline itself, leaving the D-rings attached.  (Can you call them D-rings if they’re triangular?  I don’t know what else to call them.)  We spread the fabric over the frame, and the first thing I did was lace the edge on to the top of what we designated as the “door.”  I used some nylon string from my junk drawer which should be weather-proof.

100_3493Once it was attached to the top of the door, the little boys helped me pull it down all around the rest of the tent.  We tried to make it snug and even.  Then, at the places where the fabric came closest to the frame work, I laced it to the bottom on both sides.

Lacing the sides of the tent to the bottom of the frame

Lacing the sides of the tent to the bottom of the frame

There was a good deal of fullness left where the circular tent folded down over the smaller oval frame, so I pulled the fabric closed in four gussets, two in the back and two in the front.  I used more string to tie the D-rings together, and then tied them to the leg pole.

A close up of lacing the gusset to the post

A close up of lacing the gusset to the post

The gusset iteself, taking up slack

The gusset iteself, taking up slack

As a last step, we moved in some old beach chairs to sit on and let the little boys take possession!  They look pretty comfortable in the shade, don’t they?

The only thing missing is some lemonade, mom!

The only thing missing is some lemonade, mom!


15 08 2008

Man, i could really use some encouragement today.  Kids fighting, kids sick, house messy, too much work, and my legs are aching.  Less than inspired homeschool day.  Why does my son insist that multiplication problems are unsolvable by man?

A few current events photos

14 08 2008
Does this look comfortable?

Does this look comfortable?

Patrick has a tendency to fall down on the floor when he’s sleepy.  He hates being put in bed, but anywhere the blankie is is OK, apparently.

A couple of local urchins in their VBS headgear.

A couple of local urchins in their VBS headgear.

For some reason, Bren is embarrassed by this picture.  I think it’s cute, don’t you?

Donal's new knife

Donal's new knife.

Donal got his “Totin’ Chip” at scout camp this summer.  Neal promptly took him out and bought him a knife.  Although nervous on behalf of my upholstry, I have been very pleased to see how responsible he’s been with it.  In this picture he’s only pretending to whittle.  He said I was getting too close with the camera (“You’re inside my blood circle, mom,” he said importantly) so this is a dramatic re-enactment.

Snowflake sits on Donal's arm for the first time.

Snowflake sits on Donal's arm for the first time

The parakeet taming is coming along slowly but surely.  It has been difficult for the children to understand that taming an animal proceeds at the animal’s pace, not theirs!   But they are finally seeing the results of their work.  Bluebell sat on my finger a few days ago, and Snowflake, not to be outdone, perched on D’s arm during school today.

Hadassah looking queenly in her favorite place: reclining on my pillows.  I’m curious- with the cat on my bed and the kitten in my rocker… where am I supposed to sit?

Ganging up

14 08 2008

The world is ganging up on me again!

-Van’s compressor burned out spectacularly yesterday.  Is it a bad sign when smoke comes pouring out from under your hood?

-Dryer broke.  Had to call the repair man.

-Driver side window broke on van, so in addition to no air conditioning, I can’t roll my window down.  Praise God for pleasant weather!

-Neal’s motorscooter is up & running, but he still can’t drive it to work.  The vendor forgot to sign the title, so Neal can’t register it and get a plate.  Which means I can’t borrow the truck.

-Ooops!  I thought the mortgage payment had cleared, but it hadn’t.  Now it can’t.  I was wondering why we seemed to have so much money this month.  How many days till payday, again?

-Got the bill for D’s x-rays.  $700 for taking a picture of my son’s internal organs.  Praise God for insurance!

-Doctor sent Neal to the specialist for his elbow.  Can’t wait to get the bill for that.

-Roof still leaks over the blue bathroom.  Roof not covered by home warranty.  Neither is dryer.  Is anything?  The roof hasn’t been a problem for a while due to drought, but last two days of steady rain have not improved the look of the bathroom wall.

-Left the windows down on my car last night to vent stinking plastic compressor smoke.  Of course, I didn’t remember to roll them up when it rainied.  Of course not!

-Despite being very good for the last three days and eating no sweets, my weight hasn’t changed an ounce.  Sigh.

-Two kids are feverish and sick in bed with the flu.

Of course, there have been good things, too.  The little boys and I made cinnamon bread yesterday and enjoyed reading on the couch and listening to the rain.  The dryer turned out NOT to be broken, just sadly overloaded.   Seems a child put two loads of wet clothes in together.  Our school is going well- the children love their books.  Sonlight is still the best, and we’re loving the Teaching Textbooks.  Bren, despite running a fever of 101, sat on the couch yesterday and did her grammar and mathematics bit by bit when she was feeling up to it.  I also read her the first two chapters of Johnny Tremain, and we looked up repousse silver pieces on the internet.  When I was kneeling by my bed and praying last night, Neal actually came and joined me.  This pleased me very much.  Maybe some day we’ll be like those couples in the Christian books who pray together every night?

One more good thing- when we were trying to leave the house (wet and two-fifths feverish) to take the car to the shop, I discovered that D had lied to me AGAIN about doing his chores.  I was furious, and delivered a scorching lecture on lying the whole time we were driving to the shop.  Felt like the Wicked Witch of the East on steroids.  D finally broked down crying in the shop parking lot and asked my forgiveness.  Then (this is the good part) all day yesterday he really exerted himself not to lie, steal food, or break the rules.  I praised him to the high heavens and tried to pay him extra attention to him last night.  It’s the first real breakthrough I’ve seen in his deceptiveness in a while.  Isn’t it amazing how quickly even small sins can become destructive habits?


12 08 2008

I am frittering away my afternoon dipping flowers in scented wax.  Some of Neal’s roses dried beautifully, and before the color fades, I am trying to preserve them.   I have a passion for Glade’s Spiced Rose & Vanilla scented oil candles.  I burn them frequently and keep the spares in my dresser drawers.  I am trying to reach the point where the scent so permeates my room it is like a light haze when you walk in!

I should be folding laundry, doing dishes, teaching spelling, and disciplining children.  Instead I am floating around my bedroom as dreamily as the Lady of Shallott, and my children are watching something on television.  I hope it is educational, but am not prepared to go find out.

The weather is lovely again today.  I have all the windows open and hung freshly washed sheer curtains in the living room just so I could see the breeze lifting and releasing them in long white billows.    I forced my eldest son to help me pull the trunk into my room yesterday.  It’s sitting at the foot of my bed now with my grandmother’s quilt folded on it looking lovely and nostalgic.  I also hung the cross stitch of 1Corinthians 13 beside my bed.  It is taking a good deal of self-restraint not to get on line immediately and order the curtains I have picked out for my room.  They’re Victorian reproductions in a pattern called “floret” and they’re dainty and beautiful.

I suppose I should go do something busy and improving, or at least pray, but all I seem to be capable of these last two days is wandering around fluffing my house.  Lord knows it needs it.  I probably vacuumed miles of spider webs out of the windows yesterday.  I have never lived in a home so infested with tunnel web spiders!

Lisa 2 (Janeofalltrades) commented yesterday that I shouldn’t let my children tell me what to do (by which I presume she means order me out of bed and drag me blueberry picking at 7a.m.)and that I should remind them who God’s delegated authority in our home is.  The problem is that I am generally so taffy-headed that the children need to tell me what to do.  They are quite used to asking things like, “Mom, isn’t that where we were supposed to turn?” and “Mom, didn’t we forget to do history today?” and  “Aren’t we supposed to be going to dance lessons tonight?”

The keyword to every discipline system I have ever read about is “consistency.”  Everyone on earth, it seems, knows that consistency is the way to raise well-behaved mentally healthy children.  I have tried to be consistent, but only in the most inconsistent way!  I will occasionally announce, with great gravity, that we will from now on do thus and such.  My children slink away knowing that if they behave well for a day or two, I’ll forget the whole thing. And I do, very consistently!

I am not, and have never been, a consistent person.  I do things in great feverish rushes.  I become infected with cleanliness and clean passionately for several hours.  Then, for the next three days, I barely lift a hand.  I do great masses of laundry one day, spend the next day reading three books and practicing piano, pay all the bills at midnight, wake up miserable and tired so I take the children shopping and we buy a weeks worth of food and new socks and underwear for anyone who needs it and fix an enormous supper.  The next day we all do research projects and lots of math… at which point I realized the house is filthy and clean passionately for several hours.

It’s not a well-regulated life, I can see that.  And I can certainly see where we would all benefit from more method and constant application.  I am simply unable to do it.  My mother tried for eighteen years to straighten me out, and if I have managed to arrive at the age of 35 without being straightened, well, I’m afraid I’m hopelessly crooked.  My children, like theater children, will just have to scramble up as best they can on irregular hours, famine or feast, and inconsistencies of every kind.

Fortunately the little wretches seem to thrive on it.  This is possibly due to another bit of child-rearing advice I did take very much to heart.  One child-raising book I read said that when dealing with toddlers you should try to say “Yes” as much as possible.  If the child wants to blow bubbles, you shouldn’t say “No, not right now,” you should say, “Yes, as soon as we finish picking up.”  Or if they ask for a cookie, instead of “No, it’s 6 a.m.!  Have some eggs!”  you should say, “Yes, you can have one right after lunch.”  Of course, there are times you simply must say no, and I do.  But whenever possible, I try to say yes.  I started this when Donal was two, and nine years later I think I just forgot to quit.

If my child wants to fingerpaint, my son wants to research Koalas on the internet, my daughter wants to braid my hair, my two-year-old wants to blow bubbles in the bath, my 5-year-old wants some rubber bands, my husband wants to buy a motorscooter, my mom wants me to come see her, my friend wants to meet for a playdate, my daughter wants a slumber party, my children decide it would be fun to hold a back yard fair… I try not to reflexively yell “NO!!!”  I stop and think.  Would it hurt anyone?  Or interrupt something critical?  Or would it just be a little messy, troublesome, and not quite what I had planned?  If it’s the latter, I try to be flexible.  I say yes when I might want to say no.  And most of the time, it turns out to be fun.

So yes, between me wandering around with my head in the clouds, to use my mom’s phrase, and the kids feeling free to try and start their own projects going, I guess our house is a little messy and strange. My children have now turned off the TV.  Brenna and Michael are making musical instruments with tupperware containers and rubber bands.  Patrick has gotten out a roll of sewing ribbon and is experimenting threading it through the hinges and latches of the sewing cabinet door, and Donal is watching his lava lamp and working on a detective story he’s writing about a dog named Holmes.  Meanwhile, I have finished my roses.  They turned out well.

Hopefully the kids will, too.