Monday, March 24, 2008

Conference Crunch-time

Wednesday night begins this year's mission conference. The Rooney family will be our guests. They are on their way to Great Britian. We have never met them before, but are looking forward to making their acquaintance tomorrow night when they pull in from Ohio. They have seven children, with #8 nearly due, so Mrs. Rooney will be forgoing this trip. It is my understanding that only about half the family, give or take a couple, will be coming.

The family is in a mad flurry of homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, and general uproar. I got the menu for this week planned over the weekend and the fridge, freezers and cupboards are now bulging. I am trying to get two whole days of schooling in so that the rest of the week will okay if we just get in partial days or none at all. It is a lot of pressure to get a full day of school in, plus feeding guests 3 times a day, AND having to be out the door on time for church everynight. So, whatever happens, happens.

We were able to accomplish a lot today, and tomorrow will be the basic dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and making sure everyone has bedding, towels, and the like.

Oh, I wanted to post this pic. It is a drawing Josiah did for art last week. We have been studying a little about eagles and their assignment was to draw a picture of one. Oh, btw... Josiah is 7.

I employed the useful tool of child labor today. Over the weekend one of the guys from church came over with a surprise... a new metal swing set! Someone annonymously donated to our children. It is really for the "littles", but I noticed the "biggers" have enjoyed it as well. I forgot to take a picture when we were all out side earlier, but will try and get one soon. Anyhoo, I wanted to put it on the other side of the house so I can see them out the kitchen window (for some reason I spend a lot of time in the kitchen!) before Dale buries the legs of it for stability. We had a bunch of the neighborhood kids over (our yard is the "meeting place" apparently) so I bribed them with choc. chip cookies and asked them to move the swing set. They did and I was out half a double batch of chocolate chip cookies that I had made earlier. I didn't mind though. :)

This week's menu, at least for suppers is as follows:
Tonight: leftovers dolled up into a crockpot creation
Tues: chicken enchiladas, veggie, applesauce
Wed: chili con quesa, cornbread
Thurs: ham, potatoes, peas, salad
Fri: leftovers from the ham
Sat: International dinner at churc (I gotta figure out what to bring)
Sun: either leftovers or potato bar and spinach salad

Breakfasts will be eggs, baked oatmeal, regular oatmeal, pancakes, etc. I have lots of options and I can figure it out as I get there. Lunches will be cold cut sandwiches and fruit, or leftovers, or a quickie casserole type thing. I have some cookies in the freezer, several loaves of sweet bread, and I was given several cake mixes (gasp.. NOT from scratch! I'm such a backslider!). Unless something unforseen happens, we are well set, and the cleaning is all on schedule.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spicy Cheeseburger Soup

We had this last night and LOVED it! It was a huge hit with my family. I got the recipe online from I would change some of the steps next time to make it a bit easier, but will type out pretty much how they have it on their site. I doubled the recipe, btw, and we ate off of it for two night, plus a little bit left over for Dale's lunch. :)

Makes 12 -16 servings
30 to 45 minute prep (depending on how many littles need your attention)

16-24 oz. of ground beef (I used 3lbs for a double batch)
1 1/2 C. choppped onions (adjust to your own preference)
1 1/2 C. Shredded carrots ( I chopped up baby carrots)
1 1/2 C. Diced celery ( I just sliced it up and included the leafy tops)
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsely flakes
1/2 C butter or margarine divided
6 C. chicken broth (beef broth would work too)
8 C. diced, peeled potatoes (almost 2lbs )
1/2 C. all purpose flour
16 oz. processed American cheese (ptoooey.. use real cheddar. 2C or more.)
3 C. milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 (10 oz) cans of crushed or diced tomatoes (it can add up to more than 20oz)
1/2 C. sour cream ( I forgot this and it still turned out yumola)

1. In a 3 quart saucepan, brown beef; drain and set aside.
2. In the same saucepan, saute onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsely in 1 TBSP. butter until vegetables are tender- about 10 min.
3. Add broth, tomatoes, potatoes, and beef; bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 -12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
5. Meanwhile, ina small skillet, melt remaining butter.
6. Add flour; cook and stir 3 -5 minutes or until bubbly.
7. Add to soup; bring to a boil.
8. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
9. Reduce heat to low.
10. Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper; cook and stir until cheese melts.
11. Remove from heat, blend in sour cream.
(I served this with homemade whole wheat bread and real butter. Very good!)

Changes in prep I would do next time:... Brown the beef, drain, put into stock pot. Add the veggies and spices, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil. While that is heating up make up the butter and flour mixture. Add that and the milk to the boiling soup and cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. Add in shredded cheese and sour cream and stir. Reduce heat and let cook on low to medium until veggies are done.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

3 Ways to Torture the Family

"Cruel and unusual punishment." I am sure everyone has heard that term. That is what my family sometimes accuses me of when I am baking. No, not the taste, the smell! For example:

Elizabeth helped with with bread as part as "Home Ec" today. They had to smell that fresh bread baking while working on schoolwork. Of course, before that was Benjamin and Josiah's Home Ec project, which not only did they have to smell, but had to SEE because of the cooling time before I could put them away:

Eventually the smell of those two things wore off and I proceeded to torture them with a "smell but don't touch" slow cooking spicy cheeseburger soup:

Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rambling, Reeling, and Regrouping

Yesterday was a long, dark, emotional day. I think I wrote over twelve pages in my journal before I realized at 1:30am this morning that I was "reeling" again. I had that problem right after Aaron's birth, and it lasted several weeks. It subsided into a general restlessness in the evenings. Lately it has been more just awake and twiddling my thumbs wondering when I will fall asleep. It has been getting gradually better, so I am thankful.

Usually writing is theraputic for me but I kept going over the same paths of thought, just using different words. That is what "reeling" is. I haven't had that problem in many weeks, so it took me by surprise. The solution is to break the thought cycle. Your mind then can relax and you can move on to other things... like sleeping, in my case.

Today is a regroup day. Typically after a "crash" day I have a day where my mental capabilities are at a bare minimum. I can't even conjure enough "toomph" to get wound up about anything the kids may or may not be doing. I don't care if the schoolwork gets done. I don't care if the cooking gets done. I don't care... it takes too much energy.

Now before things look totally lame here, I have gotten a shower, organized and written down what schoolwork everyone needs to do, and have done two loads of laundry. Now I have my feet up and just having some regouping time, some rest time, some alone time (well, Jerusha is trying to do a headstand on the bed next to me). This afternoon I plan on taking a nap. Lord willing, that will be able to happen.

I don't understand how some people disdain the thought of having children. I have to sing their praises. Yesterday during my emotional crash, they were wonderful at keeping things going here. They did breakfast, kitchen clean up, folded laundry, schoolwork, kept track of the littles, and put up with my sobbing all day. They responded in immediate obedience when I gave directions. They worked quietly and got along well. As a parent I am used to finding what needs working on as far as their behavior goes. But yesterday, though they aren't perfect, all I say was what a wonderful blessing they are to me. They were truly a reward and a gift.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another day of coping

And that is all I plan on doing today. Rough night last night, which was surprising, because in the evening I got to go for a walk, which was pleasant, even if it proved I was out of shape though I have lost around 35lbs since having Aaron. I had a peaceful evening and cross stitched until my eyes couldn't take it anymore. I actually got sleepy enough to go to bed around midnight.

It is funny how grieving can come back and bite you. You'd think the ending to the above story would be I slept good, had a restful night, and am off and running this morning ready to tackle anything that comes my way.

What really happened was that I ended up not falling asleep until several hours later, had a miserable night, restless sleep, and have had a morning of emotional turmoil, tears, and been through more tissues than anyone should be allowed. So, today the mantra is "just cope.. just exist... " and get through it one moment at a time.

I am glad that now not every day is like this. I have many days where I can "do" a lot and even get through the day with a great deal of productivity and grace. I can smile and enjoy the children and the sunshine and the fact that the geese are flying north and we saw a robin and we will be planting the garden before we know it. I know yesterday's post was a vent of sorts, and today's is gloomy too. Just for the record, everyday isn't like this. And even with a certain amount of emptiness inside my heart, there are plenty of days were I would say they were "good" days, meaning they were easier.

I just pray the day will go by quickly and that tomorrow will be better.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Taking a deep breath

It has been a little while since I posted about some of the raw feelings. It hasn't been that I haven't been having any, just that I was getting tired of writing the same thing over and over. If I was tired of writing it, I was sure you were tired of reading it. However in the interest of keeping things honest, I have to include this post of what has been on my heart today.

It has been almost 3 months. Maybe I have too high of expectations or something but I really thought I would feel better about losing Aaron by now. At least now I can go through the motions of a regular day, schooling, chores, etc without feeling totally overwhelmed. The "normal" stuff seems more normal, and doesn't feel so surreal or strange. But I still have this catch in my throat, and tears that come so easily, and a hurt in my heart like a black hole. I hate socializing with people. I don't mind doing stuff at home... cooking, laundry, taking care of the family, tickling the kids, cross stitching, etc. But I hate going to church, putting on even a small smile because I think I have to in order for everyone to know I am okay. But inside I am NOT smiling. I feel a little lost yet, still trying to stumble my way in learning how to be the Mama of 6 living children and one that has died. I still feel like I am trying to process the fact that Aaron is gone. My heart still cries out for him. So many times, like today, I just don't know how to be Mama of a stillborn son. I would much prefer the chaos of fitting in feeding times, extra diaper changes, crying of a newborn into our daily lives than trying to deal with the quietness that isn't supposed to be there.

Having posted Aaron's picture was like showing him off. I have had many responses to how beautiful he was. My mother's heart just cries and cries but it is proud too. He was adorable, and so perfect! He actually looked alot like Jerusha did when she was born, except he had more hair and was a little bigger.

I am trying not to focus on the hard parts of dealing with our loss. It could have been much worse. The Lord has shown graciousness to us in so many ways, big and small. I need to remember to dwell on God's goodness.

I kind of feel like I am past the appropriate grieving time, whatever that is. I wonder if people think I am grieving too long, but also realize that honestly, I don't care what they think. Nevertheless, I find myself trying to put on that smile, and act "normal", and keep my grieving to myself. Someone asks how I am doing and I answer most of the time, "just fine" and move on. That is still a hard question for me to answer. How am I doing? Maybe they should tell me! In all honesty, I think I am where I am supposed to be as far as grieving goes. And I am not talking about the world's standards. If I went by the world's standards I would be thinking I should be "over it" by now and just get on with things. Or I would be getting professional help because I'm NOT over it. Well, I don't have anything against professional help if you feel you need it. But I just need time, and understanding, and daily reminders that it is okay to grieve, to take the time I need, and go at my own pace. Dh says I tend to push myself too hard. On the days I feel more "gung ho" I push even harder, and try to get even more accomplished. Then there are those days I call "crash days". Those don't hit as often as they were, but when they do hit, just getting out of bed in the morning is a challenge and a half.

When does that empty feeling go away? Please tell me it DOES go away! I know I will always remember Aaron, and that there will always be times when the emotion of his memory gets stuck in my throat and leaks out through my eyes. But that yawning emptiness? When does that fill up with a zest for life again?

I know there are no concrete answers. Just prayer. That is greatly appreciated. Some of the pressure I am feeling is due to the Missions conference coming up next week. I know it will all go well, and Dale is a wonderful husband who has assured me he'll be there to do whatever he can to help and safeguard me. I have this all built up in my mind that I have to be superbaptistpreacher'swife and make sure the house is in Martha Stewart order, and whatever I do, no melting down or having to deal with grieving because goodness, that would mean I was human and not supermombaptistpreacher'swife.... anyway, you get the idea. Don't worry, Dale will have some sense talked into me before then and I won't be freaking out. The work doesn't scare me... I can handle the work. It is the whole social aspect of it. It is hard to explain, really. I don't mind the cleaning, and prep work, nor the cooking or dishes, etc. I think it is the prospect of being on "company behavior" for such a prolonged period of time and not feeling like I can "lose it" if I need to. They won't understand if I have to have some time to myself, or if I can't eat, or can't sleep, or cry for no apparent reason, or be short with the children, etc. Dale understands. When my mom was here she understood (sorry mom, you don't scare me! hehehehe). That may not make much sense, but that is an honest appraisal of my doubts and concerns.

Thank you for your kind responses and prayers. They are a great encouragement to me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Aaron's Portrait

Here is the portrait of our son that was done by Bethany Kerr. She obviously has a wonderful talent from the Lord. The portrait is very accurate to what Aaron looked like in real life. We are looking into having it framed with the poem I wrote for him.

My mom came out with a surprise this weekend. She, my dad and stepmom, and brother and sis in law, went in together and had pendant made with Aaron's actual footprint. It was shrunk down to fit onto the necklace, and sculpted with laser. I recongnized it as Aaron's print right away. What a wonderful, thoughtful, gift. You can see how shiny the gold is. We tried to get it NOT to reflect, but it reflected everything to my shirt, the visual of the camera, with and without the flash. Okay, so we aren't professional photographers!

Dale and I went out on a date today and finally got his Christmas gift from me... a new suit. Well, it was two nice sports coats and a new pair of dress pants. You know you can't find a decent suit anywhere anymore? Unless you want to pay $500 or so. Ack. Sorry Mr. Armani, we aren't buying.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What if....

We were playing a "what if" game at the breakfast table. It is kind of an informal excercise in logic and problem solving. The question to the kids was "What if you had one little row boat, one paddle, and you had to row your Mother and younger sister across the river. But you can only fit one in the boat, besides you at a time. And only you can row."

There were all kinds of answers. Lots of pondering. Esther said, "Take the younger sister and tell mom to swim." Pfffft.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Busy Days

Dale went back to work last Friday. It wasn't so bad on Friday because it was just one day, then two days off. Monday morning after he left, however, seemed quite challenging. The whole day ahead before he got home! And a whole WEEK before he was off again. Makes the week seem very long, to say the least.

We are back into our busy, everyday life routines for the most part. Homeschooling is going well. We are enjoying studying spiders, ptarmigans, Alaska, and George Washington, amongst the basics. We finished reading Ten P's in a Pod, and are now reading Charlotte's Web in our read-aloud time. They have seen the movie, and read the book, but since we were doing a study on spiders, it seemed appropriate.

We have been blessed to have a young lady from another church playing piano at our church on Sunday mornings for us. It takes a lot of pressure off of me, and I can go and enjoy the sermon without feeling like I should be at the piano. The children who are doing music have done several specials over the last few weeks. Benjamin, Esther, and Josiah, who just started this year, like the piano, and Elizabeth likes to play the recorder. Benjamin and Elizabeth just started working on a duet from the hymnal. Esther and Daddy will sing while Benjamin and Elizabeth play. That will be a first without Mama. Usually I help sing, or play, or something. This time I just make sure they get the practice time in.

Our different sewing projects are moving along, now that they are working on them regularly. Benjamin is making a quilt, and is at the point where we need to find some border and backing fabric for him. Elizabeth did a latch hook project and made it into a throw pillow. She gave it to the deacon's wife for her birthday, albeit it was a belated gift. Esther is working on her latch hook still, sewing the backing on by hand. I have been involved in a Paula Vaughn cross stitch that I started over a year ago. Right now it is my favorite "decompress" time thing to do. I do that until my eyes cross, then read for a while.

I am noticing the days are losing their "surreal" quality. I still have times when I am fidgety and my heart feels Oh so heavy, but I can get in a full day and cope with things without melting down for the most part. I keep busy as I can in hopes it will help me to fall asleep at night, but I am still having trouble on that front. I think it is getting better, for instead of finally falling asleep at 2 am., it is now 1 am. It is at least going in the right direction. I did have one night last week when I didn't fall asleep until 5a.m. but that was only once.

Everyday life is keeping me busy. With six active children to school, feed, and train, life is never dull around here. I find that I need to build up my stamina again. Having Dale home made me so spoiled! I have been so tired the last couple days from doing all the brain work, and training, schooling, planning, etc. Dale was wonderful at doing the mental work. Our marriage is tempermental. The mental ability is from Dale, and I am the the "temper" part. :)

I appreciate all the encouraging words that have been left in the comments. Believe me, I treasure them, and I should be thanking you all for them more diligently.

WhirlWind block

This block is called "Whirlwind". I think it should have been called "Tribulation Bringeth Patience". There must have been 8oo of those triangle half square pieces! It didn't come out perfect, but it is good enough for me. Whew! I am glad it is a sampler quilt and that not all the blocks are made like that one. I have two more blocks to go... Carpenter's Wheel and Pieced Star. I am thinking of setting the blocks on point, with setting blocks inbetween with some fancy quilting in them, and some major borders to make it come to the right size for our bed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Do you see what that is??? That is a lilac bud! Whoohoo! This weekend we turn our clocks ahead. I am getting itchy to be hanging laundry out again. Could it be... Spring? Bring it on!

I love the first signs of spring. This week has been long and low for me so far. The little hints of spring we are getting are so encouraging. To make a long story short, I was able to attend both services Sunday. Then Monday and Tuesday I never even got dressed. Monday was quite emotional for me, and Tuesday I was just plain drained. Today I was able to resume a very moderate amount of activities. Such is the path of grieving I guess.

I have been journaling my thoughts, even if I haven't been updating here. I finished the book of Psalms the other day and was going to go back and read it again, but decided to start with Job. The following is just random impressions and thoughts about different verses. I hope you have some coffee, because this might get a little long, since I am "making up" for several days.

Job 7:13 "When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint..." Job knew all about the "safety zones" we set up for ourselves when grieving. See, I thought when I first entered into all this, that "safety zone" was a modern idea. Not so. It is apparently old as the hills. My safe zone is my bedroom. That is my spot to get away from the rest of the world. I do my best to keep it pleasant, cheerful, and welcoming. I go in to rest.. mentally and physically, and to be refreshed spiritually.

Job 6:1-4 " But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up. For the arrows of the almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me." That describes well some of the grieving process. That heaviness that you can't shake. You smile, laugh, converse, and function in a normal, everyday fashion, but that heaviness is with you all the time. It is constant and you learn to live with it. Your words do indeed feel swallowed up, for you find you can't answer simple questions like "How are you doing?" That can be very difficult to answer. Or "what do you want me to do?" is a hard one to. Frankly, most of the time I can't think of one thing that anyone can do. "Do you want me to do ___________ (you fill in the blank)?" Honestly, I don't know.

"... the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit;" makes me think of that verse in Proverbs about how a joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit drieth up the bones. That broken spirit reminds me of the meditating I have been doing on being a broken vessel. Depression, grieving, trauma of any kind, can break you. And it feels like life has been sucked out of you and left your bones dry. It takes a lot of time to "recover" from traumatic events.

Why do we feel we have to "jump" back into our routines and daily tasks, and act like we are feeling better than we do? We do we feel like we have to smile when we just want to cry? I have had wonderfully understanding people around me. Personally, I think the pressure I feel comes from what I unconscienciously know of our culture. I would like to be able to freely say, when asked how many children do I have, to answer : "Seven.. 6 living here and one waiting in heaven." I don't say it because people in our culture don't like to deal with anything that isn't pleasant or satisfying. The ironic part of all this is that by not allowing the natural grieving process to happen at a natural, slow, healthy pace, we are actually prolonging the healing. But isn't that the American way? To indulge in short-sighted, instant gratification, and avoid the unpleasant or uncomfortable truths at any cost? Some native American tribes allow A YEAR of grieving before they expect to see any improvement. A year! If you think about it that makes perfect sense. In a year's time you will hit all the "firsts" after a death. It gives the loved ones opportunity to hit each "first" with the freedom to grieve as hard as they want. And to take plenty of time to process the loss.

It has been about 9 weeks since Aaron died. Am I "improving"? Does it matter? According to the Indian custom, my grieving process has barely begun. But to answer, yes, I think every week I am able to cope a little bit better. The fog of anguish lifts a little bit more. Am I still grieving? Absolutely. Am I changed? Yes. No one can stay the same after a loss. You grow and learn from the experience. Do I still crave my "safety zone"? Oh yes... constantly. But I now can survive outside my safe place for periods of time. I have one foot back into "normal" life. Kind of like easing back into the ocean. Just a little bit at a time. Easing my way in, slowly, getting used to the rhythm and temperature of the water. If the culture today had its way, I would run and jump right in. But with grieving you can't do that, or it comes back to bite you. Your brain needs time to process everything all over.

Okay.. I have totally digressed from Job! Sorry about that. :)

Job 10: 9 and 10: " Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again? Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?" I love the imagery here that Job uses. I have to admit that in times when I have read these passages before, I thought perhaps Job was being a little melodramatic. But I know now, he was understating it. Some days you feel as wimpy,used up, and sour as curdled cheese! It is true.

I have more thoughts on my reading today from Job 23. I won't type out the whole chapter but just quickly give some of my thoughts, briefly.

If anyone had reason to grieve, or be resentful, or bitter, it was Job. He lost 10 children, his wealth, and the love of his wife (or certainly her support) in one day. Remember, she is the one that told him to curse God and die. What a loving wife, eh? She couldn't stand being near him. His friends (and I use that term loosely) were a torment, not a comfort. Talk about being alone in grief, anguish, and misery. No wonder he feels like God isn't around! (verses 8 and 9).

For all that, Job still believed in God's goodness. Romans 8:28 wasn't written yet either, but Job understood and believed that truth (v. 10 ). I don't think it was lip service or spiritual posturing either. Job believed it, to the core of his soul.

Verse 16- Job knew where all the trial were coming from. He knew that God had appointed the path he was on. He didn't understand the "why" about it, but simply trusted God. I wonder if Job now realizes his story is in God's word, and has since been a help and encouragement to millions?