Sunday, June 30, 2013

Limitless Possibilities

She dances as she thinks. Unbridled. Free. She is connected to everything, everyone, to energy and creativity and love and God and infinity.

He speaks. Passionately. Intently. He is sly and wise and adorable and cuddly. He is love unencumbered.

She follows her heart in fearless determination, and wears it on her sleeve. A natural explorer, she approaches new things with excitement and confidence.

He embodies love and compassion, is a young man of ideas and inspiration. A well-honed sense of humor and quick wit to back it up.

He lives in many worlds - in games, his own head, books, real life. He is creative in his unique artwork and in the tales he weaves. He doesn't let a label define his capabilities or possibilities for his life.

My children. Children who defy labels and diagnoses and DNA. One has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, two have Aspergers, one clinical depression and one as-of-yet-undiagnosed joint and energy issues. You could say each has limitations, but don't say it in front of them. If you did, they probably wouldn't believe you anyway. They use their powers for good, after all.

Ocd girl has always had to do everything herself. From the earliest age, if you did something for her that she thought she could do, she'd undo and redo it until she got it right. I've never seen an eighteen month old so intent on the silverware basket of the dishwasher being arranged just so or a five year old who can tell you at just about any point in time where everyone is, what they are doing, and where you can find just about any object in the house.

Aspie the younger learns everything he can about everything that interests him (dinosaurs, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, etc.) and talks and talks and talks about all he has learned. These things, these facts and figures, don't just fill his mind, they fill his being and become his world.

Joint issue girl has spent her life working around her pain and fatigue while passionately achieving her dreams. When she was younger, she wanted to learn to ride a horse and saved and raised enough money to do so. Now she's passionate about travel and spiritual pursuits, and is combining her passion for gluten-free baking and tending to children to help realize her dream. She doesn't believe in limitations to what one can accomplish.

Depression boy has turned his understanding of deep feelings into a deep compassion for others, and a deep love for all whom he holds dear. He seems to sense in others just what they need at that moment, from a hug to a joke to one raucous game or another. His gentleness, generosity of spirit, and amazing sense of humor ... along with his gorgeous blue eyes ... draw people to him. He is comforter, supporter, encourager, and spirit-lifter. 

Aspie the older, although quiet and seemingly unwilling to engage much of the time, can carry on an amazing conversation when he's in the mood. He's not one to be touched, but you can see his heart melt whenever you hand him a baby. He lives much of his life in his head, and when he puts his world on paper, amazing stories and images emerge. He is brilliant, this child, he just tucks his light deep within himself, choosing to share it only when he's at ease and feels the need. 

Within all children lie limitless possibilities. No matter what label they have, that label is not them. It tells you something about them, but does not define who they are or what they can or cannot accomplish. Within all children lie limitless possibilities.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thrift Store Thursday: Random Insanity

Welcome to another Thrift Store Thursday! Today's post is brought to you by total randomness. 

The first item is the Tap-Tap Nagelspiel. I was particularly attracted to this beauty just because of its' name. Who on Earth could resist something called Tap-Tap Nagelspiel? I ended up having to pass on this wonderful toy, as I walk barefoot around my house and didn't want Nagelspiel to become a swear word should one of the tiny nails become embedded in my foot.

Next is good ol' Toucan Sam in the form of a small pitcher, which I would guess would hold the milk to put on your banned-in-other-countries cereal. I'm not really sure I'd be keen on a toucan puking milk onto my cereal even if I did eat petroleum o's.  

The next treasure was not one, but TWO pair of these b.i. GEAR slouch socks from the 80's, new in package, originally sold by Bradlees, according to the yellowed tag. They may be 30 year old socks, but they're comfy!!! (Yes, I bought both pairs!)

And last, but certainly not least, was the deal of the century. AS SEEN ON TV!!! A Flowbee for the low, low price of $39.99. Who couldn't use a Precision Home Haircutting System??? Unfortunately it wasn't in my budget that day. Perhaps my new short hairstyle could have benefited from such a rad product. 

Until the next thrifting trip...

Lessons from Sporadic Artie

Life with Sporadic Artie (Psoriatic Arthritis / PsA) has taught me lots of useful stuff. Most of the recent lessons have been taught in the week or so before each infusion, when one part of my body or another decides to do something interesting and unexpected. The malady of the week this week is unusually swollen and incredibly painful fingertips. And not ALL fingertips, just SOME fingertips. This weeks' lessons include, but are not limited to:

- How to Experience Intense Pain and Not Swear Quite Vociferously No Matter How Much Better You Might Feel if You Did (see the next lesson learned) 
- How to Turn the Beginning of the Exclamation of a Profane Word Into the Overly Loud Usage of a Mundane Word (ex. Fu...dgesicles, Sh...eboygen, Holy F...ather please help me make it through the week until my infusion without lobbing off my fingers in an attempt to end this agony!) 
- How to Accomplish Nearly Everything with the Use of Two Fingers or Fewer ... including typing, brushing teeth, making dinner, and various cleaning activities.
- How to Convince Your Children to do Anything Requiring Hand Usage ... including dishes, laundry, opening things, making coffee using a french press and requiring grinding the coffee beans, assisting with craft activities, taking Legos apart, and packing their own stuff for camp. 
- To Live in Gratitude for helpful children, a helpful spouse, books and internet on Kindle due it's finger-friendly design,  and blocks of chili in the freezer which make making dinner that much easier. 
Although living with Sproadic Artie isn't always easy, he certainly has a lot to teach us, even if they're not lessons we' particularly wanted to learn. 

Not a Yes or No Question

Be careful what you say to children. 

The other day, I needed one of my kids to do something for me, and I said, "I need you to..." to which the child responded. "No." I then explained that it wasn't up for discussion - it wasn't an yes or no question - it was something they needed to do. Now.

And then comes...

Alia: Mama, can I play on the Wii?
Mama: No.
Alia: It's a yes question. You can only answer yes.

Mama: No.
Alia: That's the wrong answer. Since it's a yes question the answer is yes so I'm going to play now.
Mama: Look at me.
Alia: Or not. 

Where in the parenting manual does it discuss the possibility of a child coming up with the concept of "yes question"s??? There was no warning. No preparation.
The thing that scares me most is that she's only five and is coming up with this stuff. She's getting smarter, and frankly more maniacal, while my brain seems to be on a decline.

This does not bode well for me. At all. 

face paint by Alia 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Post: Walk of the Storm Drain

Guest post by Alia Steyer, age 5. 

The other day we went for a walk. We looked down all the storm drains to see how much water was in them, how fast the water was going, or if there was just mud. 

The farther down the street we got, the less water was in the storm drain. Then something unusual happened -toward the end of the street, there was more water than in the middle part of the street.

We went up the hill and got to the end of the street. We all touched the STOP sign. 

On the way back, we looked in the drains on the other side of the road. The results of our survey were the same with more water at the ends of the road than in the middle. 

I think that the water traveled faster through the middle of the street than at the ends and it didn't go really fast at the end of the street so looked like more water. 

[Blog hosts's note: This is what you get when you combine a very bright child with a touch of OCD, homeschooling, and Alia's love of anything that could possibly be scientific. This "storm drain survey" took place on what started as an ordinary walk from our house to the end of our street - not a huge distance, but it took 45 minutes, as Alia insisted we thoroughly inspect each storm drain.]

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thrift Store Thursday: Epidemic

There's been an epidemic at my local thrift store for quite a while now. You can't help but notice if you go anywhere near the men's section. They all but leap out at you. 

This is dangerous for our family, because my husband was infected with this particular strain years ago, and it's just gotten worse over time. At first the symptoms were subdued and fairly subtle. Over the years they've grown to epic proportions. It's difficult not to notice that he's infected, especially on the days he adds to the insanity with tye die AND plaid. 

It is this - the Hawaiian shirt. Not just your average, run of the mill Hawaiian shirt, but the overly bright, graphic, and sometimes themed Hawaiian shirt. 

Specimen 1: Parrots in Paradise

Specimen 2: 80's Neon Hawaiian Holiday

Specimen 3: Rockin' Aloha

If only you could have experienced these in person. They were totally radical, dude!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


We have many countdowns going on in my household these days...

9 days until Camp Calumet

27 until Zachary's birthday

30 days until the Summer Kids' Birthday Party

There are days when Mama has her own countdowns...

# hours until bedtime

# days until I get some time to myself

# of years until all the children are out of the house and none of these Mama countdowns are necessary. 

It's not that I don't treasure my time with my kids. I do. They are lovely creatures. Lovely creatures from whom I need a break every once in a while. Daily even. 

I am a Mama who occasionally craves solitude in a houseful of rannygahoots. Sometimes I seek Sanctuary by locking myself in the bathroom. A perfect plan, if it weren't for the fact that seven of us live here and there is only one bathroom. Other times, I create a few quiet moments of prayer and meditation after sending the kids to bed and before telling them to go back to bed - or on good nights, in between my kids going to sleep and my husband getting home from work. 

It is in these quiet moments that I regain my balance, my center, my self, my breath. And it's not because I am alone - it's because it's often in these moments that I feel most connected to the One Who is My Center. Perhaps this is why I countdown to these moments, not for the solitude, but for peaceful connection.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Girl of Fiery Spirit

She inspires me, this girl of fiery spirit and noble heart. 

At such a young age, she knows her passions and dreams and is happy to put in the work to make them come true. She plans for a life of passions fulfilled, from horse farm to gluten-free bakery to home and family. But before that, a pursuit of knowledge through experience, experience through travel and exploration and hands-on-learning. She is fearless in this, taking on any task head-on. 

Her heart soars as she plays with little ones; as she remembers caring for and riding horses and dreams of doing that again soon; as she sings songs of thanks and praise while whipping up one gluten-free confection or another. Her joy is palpable as she does these things, and it's difficult not to get caught up in joy with her. 

She is sensitive, too. Easily upset by siblings' and others' plights. Always wanting to make things right, fair, and good. 

She is my daughter. She turned eleven today. Eleven. She is becoming such a wonderful, and wonder-filled young woman. 

I rejoice in her becoming, this girl of fiery spirit and noble heart. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Seeing Red

The wind billowed red tapestries of assorted patterns and hues as we wound red yarn around our wrist or ankle and expressed gratitude once again for something in our lives. Connected to each other by this thread and in our thankfulness for things the size of Love to the tiniest chia seed, our formal time together ended, and feasting began.

In this Circle, we share our selves, or ideas, our hopes, our joys, and our pain. We gather to support each other; discuss life's tapestry; explore our feelings, thoughts, motives, desires, and needs; and connect with each other in a calm, loving atmosphere. We laugh. We cry. We give and we receive. We nourish our spirits with friendship and our bodies with good, good food. 

In our Red Tent, our girls come and go throughout the discussion, hopefully taking in some of what we're saying and storing it in their hearts. Today's topic is gratitude, and as I sit, listening to those around me share amazing things, my heart overflows with gratitude for these women, this place, this sacred time together.

Later, at home, I send two girls to bed, red yarn-encircled ankles and all, and once again my heart brims over in thanks for life's blessings, big and small - today, most of all, the connections between the women in my life, big and small. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Captured Moments

Of the hundreds of photos from my children's childhoods, there are a probably only a few dozen that capture my heart. These captured moments show what the people in them are made of. Going through pictures of our early parenting years, I realized two things...
The first was that those days were my father's early grandparenting years as well. 

He is such an excellent grandfather. The look of adoration on his face when we watches his grandkids do just about anything is priceless. That twinkle in his eye betrays his still-youthful spirit. Papa has been a resting place for our kids heads and their hearts from the time they were tiny, our littlest still settling into his lap during worship. 

The second was that my husband had a lot of hair. I may or may not have fallen for his long hair before I fell for him. He's been shaving his head for five years now and looking at those pictures seems like it was a lifetime ago. I suppose it was Alia's lifetime ago, as he shaved his head when she was four months old.

To this day, my husband continues the tradition of fun and silly set forth by his grandfather, Pappy. I have to say that my kids have definitely inherited his sense of humor and quick wit. I love his spontaneity and ability to construct armor... or racing helmets? ...  out of just about anything. 

I do have to admit - in these three photos of my husband, it's not so much the long hair that makes him sexy to me (although it doesn't hurt a bit), it's the joy in his face, the fun he's obviously having, and the genuine love and care for his children that makes him so appealing. 

With great gratitude, I look forward to many more walks down memory lane, and more discoveries of precious moments like these preserved in a single image that speaks volumes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One of Those Weeks

It's not been one of those days, it's been one of those weeks. One of those weeks when nothing seems to go right, when you can't seem to complete any major task and few minor ones. When the kids seem particularly ornery, even though it's most likely you that's overly ornery. 

Rain, lack of sleep due to carpal tunnel issues and too many happy supplements (no, not those happy supplements, just good old B2, B6, B12, and D3 ... LOTS of them, as prescribed by my healthcare providers) have all ganged up on me, and beat my emotional state to a pulp. 

I know the likely antidote or antidotes, so I shall write myself a prescription and do my best to stick with it:

1. Get. out. of. the. house. First to a breastfeeding support meeting (I first typed beastfeeding, which is also accurate at times); then for a massage, to apply for passports, and a visit to my grandmother on Friday; and then to a wonderful Red Tent Women's Circle on Saturday. 

2. Go forth in Gratitude. I need to take time each day, especially when things aren't going well, to fill my heart with gratitude for the bounty of love and beauty and good things that surrounds me. How timely that the topic of the Women's Circle is just that - gratitude! Each time I find myself getting frustrated or discouraged, I will stop, take a deep breath, and breathe out prayers of gratitude over all around me. 

3. Church. First, Coffee and Conversation, a wonderful prelude to worship, during which I get to converse with other adults about things other than parenting little ones and all that entails. Then a brief choir rehearsal, worship, and coffee hour. Just what I need to refresh my soul.

4. Family. It just so happens to be Father's Day on Sunday, complete with a gathering at my parents' house and my mom's delectable lasagna. It will be great to have some good food and good conversation with loved ones. 

Calmness wafts over me as I write this - anxiety over my overly busy week diminishes. I pray for a full night of quality sleep and a better attitude tomorrow than I had today. And I pray that we all weather this week with grace and mercy and find peace amongst the chaos that is life. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gray Day Blues

Bleary eyed, even after coffee and a shower, I sit, waiting for energy with which to tackle the day. A cat, sacked out next to me, seems to be having the same rainy-day issues as I. It's difficult to get moving on these days, and there have been too many lately. Gray, gloomy, damp, stormy - my joints and my emotional state don't appreciate this at all. My to-do list is long, my energy in short supply. 

Looking over my to-do list once more, and excitement fills me. Just look at these blessed things on my list:

Passports - who would have imagined just a couple months ago that I'd be planning for a trip to Israel in February of next year? Camp - less than three weeks away, and we're all incredibly excited!!!!!! (I was informed by the child reading over my shoulder that camp requires at least six exclamation points, so please excuse the over-enthusiasm.) I suppose I could do without the need to call the phone company or pay the water bill, but feel blessed that I may be able to lower my phone bill and that we have the money in the bank to pay our water bill, which somehow always manages to sneak up on me. Blessings abound in that list. Having the physical ability to tackle such a list brings tears to my eyes. 

And so I pick myself up and plant my feet firmly on the floor, ready to tackle the day. Instead of railing against the rain, perhaps we'll instead take this opportunity for some puddle jumping and be thankful that all this moisture will make for a wonderful wild mushroom season. 

But first, I'll go to the kitchen and beg my husband for another cup of coffee. A change in attitude doesn't change the horrible night of sleep I with which I was gifted last night. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rainy Day Painting Party


Outside, rain falls in sheets. Inside, drying off after welcoming guests, I sit, listening to a choir of giggling girls. They are creating works of art that will become a part of our lives, as they cover the walls of Haley's bedroom with a mural of their own design. Her eleventh birthday a week and a half away, Haley chose painting as her party's theme. Girls only. What a perfect activity for a rainy day!

They descend the stairs in search of snacks, which immediately get put on hold to play with cats. Finally, snacks in hand, they return to the room full of tubes and bottles of paint and all sorts of sizes and designs of paintbrushes, and let their creativity loose. I'm not sure who's more excited - the painters, or the Mama sitting at her computer, curious as to what wonderful things are going on upstairs, but wanting to let the girls have their space and their fun. 

The other half of the bedroom, if memory serves, was painted ten years ago by 1-4 year old children, then touched up and added to by grown-ups to make a nice fairy-tale-ish themed mural.  Haley, one of those 1 year olds at the time, was covered in (non-toxic, washable kid's) paint by the time they were done. Ten years ago. It's difficult to believe.

Emerging yet again, it's time for Dee's gluten-free cupcakes and the unwrapping of gifts. The delight on everyone's faces is priceless. When asked how things are going, I am informed that no one is allowed to see until they are done with their work. 

Daddy and siblings arriving home, the girls sprint up the stairs and close the door, banishing the curious onlookers, especially the ones who try to sneak up the stairs for a peek.

Mothers trickle in, arriving to take their artists home. Finally allowed to see the masterpiece - and the mess - it is evident that fun was had by all. 


So many parts of this mural are my favorites - from the unicorn-drawn carriage going over a bridge to the giant tree with an interesting story, to the love and the handprints and the magic that's found everywhere. But my most favorite part is the echo of giggles and joy-filled voices I'll hear every time I look at this marvelous work of art. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I Didn't Know

There are so many things in life that I just didn't know, or realize, or fully take to heart. Not until I heard it come out of the mouth of a child, anyway. And most of them, I have to say, I should have known, and some I felt, but never put into words...

"Let me tell my own story. You tell yours. It's not polite to tell someone else's story." said a five-year-old to an older brother, who was "helping" her tell her story.

Those words stayed with me, whispering themselves into my ear for days. Yes - let me tell my own story. Let me own it - good and bad. Let me tell it to you from my point of view, after all, it is my story. And yes, you tell your story, too. The good and bad. I want to hear. Your story is valuable, just as you are. And no, it's not polite to tell someone else's story. Just as one cannot know what story is going to come out of a five-year-old's mouth, one cannot truly know another's story. We can only let them tell it. But it's only their point of view, you say? Well, isn't your story your point of view as well? Is your story and the way you tell it not formed by your entire life, your experiences, your brain chemistry, your programming? Just as I could not accurately tell your story, you cannot accurately tell mine, not having been in my shoes, or my wheelchair, or my body, or my mind.

"Don't just listen with your ears, listen with your silence and your heart." said by a seven-year-old who struggles to find his own internal silence, and therefore knows its value.

To truly listen to someone, to really hear what they're saying, you need silence. Not external silence, but internal. You cannot listen to someone if you are forming your own opinions, thoughts, replies, or stories while they are speaking. You cannot accurately hear what someone is saying if you don't open your heart to where they are coming from, letting go of your own suppositions, taking what they're saying without judgement, without placing value, without putting yourself in their place.

"It's ok not to be ok." said a wise almost-teenager who understands his mother's struggles all too well and uses her own words to comfort her, giving her permission to curl up in bed and let it all out, as she's done for him countless times.

I know this, but sometimes don't know it - don't own my own words. It is ok to not be ok. What a stagnant life we'd lead if everything was peachy all the time, if we were happy all the time. Growth comes from struggle, as do tears and frustrations and a need to recognize within ourselves when things are not ok. It is in these times when we need to not be ok - to sit with this not-ok-ness, listening to what it has to tell us, and moving on in the direction of what is right and good and holy.

"Some days are good for nothing, in which I mean good for doing nothing. Like nothing that requires energy or thought. Like video games. Lots and lots of video games." said by a teenager who, well, thinks like a teenager, at least some of the time. 

But he does have a point. Some days are good for doing nothing. For not having schedules or goals or to-do lists. For just lounging and reading and watching silly things and doing sillier things and just being. The thing about these days is that they are vital to our existence, especially in this world of go-go-go, do-be-accomplish. It is in these slow-down, good-for-nothing days that we can be still enough to just be, quiet enough to listen to our hearts, calm enough to let the precious moments of connection with our selves and with those around us speak volumes to our souls. 

"Sometimes you just have to go with what feels right and see if everything works out. Even if it doesn't turn out as planned, it's still usually great anyway." said an almost-eleven year old, full of moxie, about baking, but also about life. 

In the same way that she delves into gluten-free baking with joy and abandon, she approaches life. She is fearless in her baking experiments, sure that even should the end result not be as she envisioned, it will still be a delight to the palate. Life, it seems, should be viewed the same way. It may not turn out as expected, but it can still be wonderful nonetheless. If psoriatic arthritis taught me one thing, it's that things work out for the best if we let them. If there's one thing this amazing young woman has taught me, it's that I should not only enjoy whatever the journey has to offer along the way, but should move forward in wondrous expectation of brilliant things to come. 

What has your child taught you, that you didn't know?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fun and Games

It all started with, Mama, can I use the face paint?

Rock star clown

Blue and black cat with a red scar across one eye.


The beauteous flower on my cheek, painted by our resident five-year-old, took around forty-five minutes and after this photo was taken, grew exponentially in size until it was down my neck to my chest and I announced that I needed to make dinner.

It was all fun and games until the green and blue didn't wash off very well. and it looked like I'd been beat up more than it did that I'd been ravaged by a face-painting rannygahoot. But if that's the price of priceless time with my kids, I'll pay it anytime.