The Birth Announcement

The remarkable thing is that it is the crowded life that is most easily remembered. A life full of turns, achievements, disappointments, surprises, and crises is a life full of landmarks. The empty life has even its few details blurred, and cannot be remembered with certainty. -Eric Hoffer, American writer

Hmmm, odd, because I'm pretty sure we are full of all of those things yet I can't even remember what I had for breakfast, much less what has happened outside of this blog!

Speaking of a life full of landmarks, like most parents we know, we have sent out a birth announcement for each child. (They are landmarks, right?) Solomon was afforded the same treatment and since we had not sent out Christmas Cards in 2010 because we knew we'd be sending a birth announcement soon thereafter, we opted to add a little letter to say as much. I asked Kurt what he wanted the family letter to say and he told me whatever I came up with would be fine (so he thought). So, I wrote what I wanted to say and then thought, gee, that sounds an awful lot like a blog post. I emailed it to Kurt looking for feedback and he agreed, it sounded like my blogs (I suppose that's what they call writers voice) and he had thought we would be saying something more along the lines of "Hope you had a Merry Christmas" and such. But then I got to thinking, he originally said to send whatever I wanted so at least half of those we know received the he said/she said version as follows:

Her Version:

Dear Friends and Family,

Life is full of surprises. Embrace them.

At this time last year, I participated in a class at church about journaling one’s faith. Yesterday, I happened to run across my notes from one of the sessions in which we answered the question: When do I feel alive? We were told to list all the things that make us feel fully alive. I am guessing I had to resist the urge to chuckle and write ‘when I breathe’ or ‘whenever I’m awake.’ None-the-less, my list included ordinary things such as ‘being outside, running, and hiking in the mountains’ and then listed things like ‘when I am acutely aware of God’s presence in a particular moment’ and ‘when inspiration hits, the creative juices turn on and the writing (or music) simply flows out of me.’ At the very end of my list I wrote the solitary word BIRTH and then I apparently went over it again and again with my pen because it stands out big and bold compared to everything else I listed. Now, had I been in the audience watching the movie of my life at that moment, I might have recognized that particular still frame for what it was: foreshadowing! For here I am, a year later, feeling VERY MUCH ALIVE!

Somewhere between the kids’ homework and gymnastics, soccer and ice skating, Aidan’s drum lessons and Boy Scouts, Madeline’s dance, Lily’s playdates, Liams’s speech and development classes, my teaching (violin and piano), writing and church groups and Kurt’s running his own business, we managed to find an extra twenty minutes to go have a baby, fortunately in the hospital! And we are so blessed. Our life is often busy and hectic but it is also full: of love, of laughter and of life, and of course a few surprises here and there. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, may you recognize that which makes you feel fully alive and embrace it. (And might I suggest you include ‘winning the lottery’ in bold on your list!)

Much love to you all,

Kurt, Karen, Aidan (» 8), Madeline (6), Lillian (4), Liam (3) and Solomon (1 month)

His Version:

Dear Friends and Family,

We apologize for not getting our Christmas cards out earlier but we hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

All the best in 2011!

Kurt, Karen, Aidan, Madeline, Lillian, Liam and Solomon

**"From the fullness of his grace, we have all received one blessing after another." John 1:16
After another, after another, after another....

And I'm almost done sending these out...Matter of fact, I've got an expected "done sending" date of Christmas ....2015.

Gotta set those expectations high from the get go, right? ;)


Letter to a Fellow Driver

"So turn it on, turn it up, and sing a long
This is real; this is your life in a song
Just like a road that takes you home
Yeah this is right where you belong
This is country music." --Brad Paisley, This is Country Music

Dear Ticked-Off Driver (who couldn't control the primitive urge to give me the finger the other day),

You may not know this but it was in fact a RED LIGHT at which I stopped. It had ceased being yellow long before I arrived at the turn and therefore I did the only logical thing, I stopped. Furthermore, while it is true there was nothing coming from the other direction, the law states I have to wait until the light changes to green BEFORE I make that left hand turn we were both eager to make. I am fairly certain you wouldn't want to pay the fine that coincides with breaking that law and get this, neither would I.

Now, had you been behind me the day before and decided to let your birds loose, I would have completely understood. You see, I was driving my little children home from dance when I came upon an intersection with all lights flashing red. So I stopped. And absentmindedly, I sat there singing country music with the radio blaring well above my melodic mistakes....and we waited and waited and waited and you'll never guess, but that light NEVER CHANGED to GREEN! And before long I had about seven other cars waiting patiently behind me. And man, they were being very patient because I didn't hear any honking (over my blaring music, windows up and heat running high) but when that big ol' semi-truck pulled up next to me and had the audacity to start pulling out to turn left on a red....(Oh Crap! That light is a FLASHING light!) I started moving, not having any clue where we were in the traffic pattern but figuring that semi made a great shield. I certainly would have understood the birds flying the coop then. (Perhaps you were sent to me as the universe's delayed reaction?)

And I would also even have understood it if you were, let's say, my seven week old son who freaked out today when I used a cold wipe on his bum to which I told him in the sweetest of cooing voices, "Some mommies are really nice and have wipes in warming containers so that they are toasty and comfy on their baby's skin. But since we believe in tough love, just suck it up." (I'm sure I'll regret that remark at 2 a.m when he takes me up on it....) And though the urge is primitive and quite universal at that, bird flipping is apparently a learned behavior that my baby has not yet acquired.

All this to say, if you are going to let your birdies out of their cages, at least have good cause. Oh and just so you know, driving without either hand on the wheel is certainly not how I would do it, but then that's just me and obviously I have been wrong before!

Here's a highway salute right back at ya!

Oh, my bad, those are bunny ears....unless of course you happen to be British....

Good luck to you,
The Graceful Chicken


6 Weeks

"Beep, Beep, Beep!" honks the Chevy Silverado.

"I didn't even know this town had a volcano!" says Tommy's Father, running out the door to his truck while simultaneously putting on his jacket, his wife running after him in her bathrobe, holding out a coffee and muffin.

--From The Chevy Silverado Super Bowl Commercial

Now, obviously this is a rip off of Lassie, which is in part why it so funny. And the very absurdity of the father's lines are great: "How'd you get trapped in the belly of a whale?" for instance. And if you watch more closely, the details make it all the better: when the truck comes honking onto the scene, the father is doing things like making card towers and carving wood sculptures, you know, exactly what all us parents are doing while our very young children are off flying hot air balloons. But I have to admit, as a parent of a child with severe speech delay, this is EXACTLY how I feel sometimes. Just today, while I was relaxing next to the warm fire, being pampered by expert beauticians and massage therapists while slowly sipping a latte that was actually still hot (ok, so that is a far cry from the dishes, sweeping and lunch prep I was actually doing but hey, we can dream right?) Liam came running up ("Beep, beep, beep") doing his version of the hand signals that must have taken place between Squanto and the pilgrims. I quickly figured out that he wanted me to turn the kitchen lights on so that he could eat some lunch (What? Tommy has been eaten by a giant squid and was barfed back up on the island of Capri only to be captured by hippie pirates who have handed him over to purple grotesque aliens from outer space?) And that is when I realized, Kurt and I would probably be really good at charades!

At any rate, having had my 6-week post natal check-up recently, it struck me that Solomon has been here for over 6 weeks. And before I move on, I have to say how much I love doctors... although my OB said she thinks I do pregnancy, labor and delivery very well (ah shucks, thanks) and would not mind doctoring me through another (quite a sales pitch, really), she wanted to know what I would be doing to prevent another baby until we so chose to have one. (Insert spontaneous neurotic laughter.) Now, my brother told me I should have responded with "What?! I can prevent this?" (I didn't even know this town had a volcano!) but the only thing I said was that while I'd love to single-handedly keep her in business, we really had no intention of becoming the next Duggar Family and I am pretty certain we are done at 5! After all, it is one thing to explain the unintentional fifth child...a bit tougher to explain the unintentional 5th AND 6th! (Yet not quite like explaining the fully intentional 19th!)

Anyway, a lot happens in six weeks. Solomon went from taking life far too seriously, keeping a slight scowl close at hand in case anyone spoke to him, to blessing us with smiles and the hope that he might actually enjoy our company as much as we do his. Liam went from a weepy, jealous filled toddler to a once again happy baby-diaper-change-helper whose new set of speech therapists have attributed some of his speech delay to how smiley he is (try talking through a great big smile....it's tough. Apparently his mouth muscles are too retracted and they are working on neutralizing them so he can better form sounds. BEEP BEEP!) We hosted a month's worth of laundry-washing-house-guests (and my laundry room has suffered ever since their departure). We participated in a Pinewood Derby (a Boy Scout thing) and then we watched our football team come in SECOND PLACE in the Super Bowl (hey, if the news people can spin things how they want, why can't I?) We celebrated two birthdays: Liam's (now 3 and very much a big brother, or at least bigger than the baby....for the time being) and Aidan's (why I thought a sleep over with five 7-8 year old boys would be less stressful than hosting a 2-hour birthday party is beyond me but his eighth birthday was definitely one to remember...if not just because Kurt allowed him to wrestle with his friend who happens to be the 5th of six children of a family that lives on an animal farm...same kid who gave Aidan a rather sharp pocket knife for his birthday....hmmm, who'd you put your money on? Needless-to-say, Kurt escorted a crying and red-faced Aidan into the kitchen looking for Tylenol after Aidan had been face planted in the basement....Kurt wondered if he might have a concussion....good times.) And finally, we taught the girls that Louis Armstrong is NOT one of the Beatles as they had begun to believe; the CDs just happen to be back to back in the car changer.

So, it has been a fun filled six weeks and we look forward to many more! (Weeks that is, not babies!)


Blood Bath

"Chickens are naturally clean and only get truly dirty when they are kept in less than ideal conditions..." (From a poster on the GardenWeb forum, answering the question: How do you give a chicken a bath?, a fairly humorous read for anyone looking to kill time.)

You know bath time has gone terribly wrong when:

  • 1) It allows you to start a blog with: you know bath time has gone terribly wrong when....
  • 2) Your six year old comes screeching into the laundry room (two floors down) naked and dripping, towel in hand, and says "Mom, you need to come upstairs right now because Lily is getting blood all over. It's coming out REALLY fast, but don't worry, she hasn't gotten it on the clothes yet, just everywhere else."

Oh good, because I was really concerned that she had ruined the clothes....HELLO? Give me the SOURCE of the blood please!

"Madeline, where is she bleeding from?" I asked calmly, as we headed upstairs.

"It's just her nose but it is All. Over. The Place!" Madeline explains. (Phew. At least it isn't an ER night.)

  • 3) You enter the bathroom and mistake it for a reenactment of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Ok, seriously. Just out of curiosity, what do you usually do when you get a bloody nose? Grab a tissue, right? Maybe sit still as you breathe through your mouth and hold your nose tight, yes?

Apparently that is not a trait with which we are born. Upon entering the above scene I found Lily tightrope walking along the edge of the tub, breathing blood through her nose like a fire breathing dragon and I must have just missed her helicopter-gone-wild-routine because there was blood EVERYWHERE! It was splattered on the wall; swirled in, around and behind the toilet; decorating the outside edges of the toilet paper (still not sure how she missed the middle entirely!); dripping in the sink, on the floor, in the tub, all over the bath mats, down the sides (inside and out) of the trash can.....Not to mention Lily looked like she had just single-handedly fought Vietnam! Really. I think the only way she might have covered more area was if she had hooked up a hose to her nostril and deliberately sprayed the place down. But hey, she missed the clothes! Yippee!

And to think, some people get red roses or red wine on Valentines....

Of course, where's the creativity in THAT?! Next year, try giving your spouse/mom/friend their very own blood bath to clean up. It's the perfect gift for the CSI lover wanting to gather DNA evidence for their kid's next science project or for anyone wishing to test the effectiveness of various household cleaners. Oh, and make sure they get to end the evening with a conversation like this:

Me: "Was this an accident or did you hit your sister on purpose?"

Madeline: "What does 'on purpose' even mean?"

Right....define accident...

Oh well. At least now I know my chickens are in need of more "ideal conditions."

Happy (belated) Valentine"s Day!


God Talk, Steelers and other such things....

"Are you there God? It's me Margaret." --From Judy Blume's book by the same name.


While my mom was here recently, we overheard the following conversation between the two girls:

Madeline asked Lily, "Do you know where God is? He's in your heart."

"He's in my brain too, " Lily replied.

"Well, he is everywhere, but mostly he is in your heart," Madeline told her.

"Well, he is in my brain," Lily said back a little louder. "And he's in my mouth too, wanna see?" she asked. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaa! Can you see him? Look closer.....Aaaaaaaaaa!"


Then, a few days later in the car, I heard the girls calling, "God! GOOOOOOD! Where are you? I can't hear you...what do you want to say to me? Goooood!? God?"

"Lily, Madeline, God usually doesn't talk in a big, loud voice so you have to be still and quiet and then you might hear what God says. But it will most likely be a tiny whisper in your heart," I explained.

I look in the review mirror and both girls had their chins pressed tightly to their chests.

Madeline, using the deepest, slowest voice she could muster, and chin still touching her chest, said. "Are you in there God? We're listening....Goooood?! We can't get any closer but we still don't hear you...."

That's when Lily started yelling at Madeline (chin still to chest) to stop talking so loud because she wouldn't be able to hear what God had to say.

I think they may struggle with the "quiet" part...and probably the "still" part too come to think of it.


We were driving home from school the other day when I noticed two police cars with lights flashing. They were running some sort of speed trap and had caught a couple cars.

"Look kids, police cars! And they're giving out tickets," I said as we got closer.

Matt, the carpool kid spoke up: "My dad, he's a good driver. He doesn't get in crashes and he doesn't get tickets."

There was a slight pause before Lily proudly replied: "My dad's not...he runs red lights."


So I just have to say, poor Steelers! (And yes, I admit it...it is all my fault they lost the Super Bowl tonight! I ran out of white frosting when making the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Covered Rice Krispie Treat Footballs and well, I didn't feel like going to the store for a third time so I made do with blue and red and yellow instead....my bad.) Actually, I am giving credit for the loss to our quarterback. And not for the reasons most people are giving him credit. You see, he is not exactly the sharpest tool in the toolbox, nor the brightest star in the galaxy, and I think he was thinking he could get a sizable deduction on his taxes for giving away the game. He was probably thinking, "Wow, we have LOTS of Super Bowl rings and they have very few so let's share the wealth and then claim it as a charitable donation." Idiot.

But at the very least, we have the cutest fans.

And there's always next year! Maybe God will decide to loudly shack up inside OUR players next time so we won't go home holding our chins to our chests: "Are you there God? It's us, the Steelers!"

Better luck (or perhaps playing) next time!

Have a great week!

The Meltdown

"The five day outlook is calling for intense sunshine followed by the end of the world." -Fast Tony in Ice Age, the Meltdown

Changing a diaper is a lot like getting a present from your grandmother - you're not sure what you've got but you're pretty sure you're not going to like it. --Jeff Foxworthy

Diapers. Such a wonderful invention yet I can't seem to escape a single baby-hood without at least one diaper "incident"....or is it one a week?! At any rate, people have asked how things are going with five children and I have to admit, I still don't truly know since we have had grandparents here to help for the majority of the last four weeks. I can tell you though, having a newborn is always an adventure, whether it is your first or twelfth.

For example, last week I took Lily and Solomon to Costco. For the sake of famous last words: it really did seem like a good idea at the time. We had just finished up at a party at Pump it Up and then dropped Madeline off at a birthday party and had two hours to kill before retrieving her. So I figured it would be a great time to take the car to Costco to get the tires rotated and do a little shopping. Of course, I had forgotten that whole thing about newborns needing to eat every two hours, or whenever it is least convenient, whichever comes first.

So after dropping the car off at the tire center, the two kids and I went strolling leisurely through the store: Lily sitting in the front of the cart tasting all the samples with me and Solomon snoozing in his car seat inside the cart. It was a blissful, quiet minute. Then, Lily decided she wanted to walk and Solomon began to stir. It soon became very apparent that the baby was no longer content in the car seat so we pulled over at the fire exit doors to check things out. Sure enough, Solomon had a diaper *issue*.

To make a long story short, Solomon felt it was a perfectly good time to try out his new set of lungs (which are apparently from the same manufacturer as that of a bull horn) while I quickly discovered not only did he have a full on diaper blow out but the only diaper I had on me was Liam's size 5. I quickly reframed my initial discouragement into thankfulness that at least I had a diaper on me (three cheers for progress) and proceeded to make it work, amusing myself with the thought that on Solomon the size 5 basically fit like a disposable onesie.

Now, for those of you without kids or much baby experience, you might be thinking, "Great, problem solved, end of story." But of course, you'd be very wrong. Move over Israel because Solomon, now King of the Jungle, was not done roaring just yet. He was awake and had a fresh full-body diaper and for his last trick, he was now ravenous. I grabbed the cart, reassured Lily we'd come back for the rest of the samples in a few minutes and made my way slowly toward the front of the store, with Solomon screaming over my shoulder. There was no shortage of pity-looks from strangers in Costco that day. As luck would have it, when we neared the Pharmacy two older women were standing there chatting and immediately started to ooh and aah over the baby. Not wanting to be rude, I stopped to let them see him mid-scream and explained he was ready to eat, like it or not. They laughed and I think began telling stories of their own children when they were that age but I managed to excuse myself; after all, by this point, Solomon was in hysterics, Lily was telling me she needed to go potty and my body was metamorphosing into its Bessie the Milking-Cow persona (not too unlike the Hulk, but leakier). Fortunately, that little "chatting" break had allowed me to spot a nice little nook in the pharmacy: the consultation/immunization/blood pressure room, complete with chairs and door for privacy. I quickly asked one of the pharmacists if I might use the room for a few minutes and leaving my basket, car seat and all, outside, the kids and I scurried inside. (I figured the dirty diaper sitting near the handle of our cart would be great protection for our stuff.)

I started feeding Solomon and within moments, my phone rang. It was the tire center explaining they couldn't rotate the tires because my tires were on their last tread (that makes two of us). Meanwhile, Lily was picking her nose in the corner when she started shouting about me needing to kill a spider crawling toward her. I pointed her to a box of tissues on the desk and explained we were not going to kill the spider, which she had already half-squished I think, as it wasn't going to bother us.

Once the baby was satisfied, we regrouped, went back for the rest of the tasting samples, finished shopping, checked out and went to talk to the tire guys. As the manager was being summoned, my knee-jerk reaction was to leave the diaper in their trash can but wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt, I resisted the urge. Sure enough, my fairly-new-and-still-under-warranty tires were already worn and they couldn't legally do the job. I'd have to leave this one for Kurt as it was time to get Madeline. Now, where was that receipt necessary to exit Costco? I searched frantically until finding it stuffed in my purse (I have no idea when I did that) and then, forgetting the tire center guy still had my keys, I began looking for those as well, which of course, were in my car outside where they had driven it up to the front door for me.

So, to answer the question: how is life with 5 kids? Pretty much the same as life with one, assuming that the one is a five headed beast that speaks in 4 different languages all at once, poops all the time and whose life mission is to keep its mom in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation so even the simplest of tasks becomes an obstacle to overcome. Yeah, it's kind of like that....not exactly the end of the world but it is some "intense" sunshine for sure.

And these are the best of times....