Thursday, August 31, 2006

Should I Stay or Should I Go

There is a very large, dead tree in our neighbor's yard, or at least we thought it was in our neighbor's yard until it dropped a branch that ripped the wires out of our house. The wires were repaired, but we became concerned that another branch might fall and could possibly injure a child playing in the yard. So, we asked our neighbors to consider taking the tree down. They said they would if they knew the tree were on their property, but that they thought our property extended five feet beyond our fence into what looks like their yard. That's the first we'd heard of that, but we really aren't aware of our exact property lines and they could very well be right. So, we may be looking at spending an unexpected $2,000.00 to have the dead tree taken down.

This, just a few days before we are supposed to be leaving for our vacation in Cape Cod. To top it off, Hurricane Ernesto that is just now hitting the Florida coast is predicted to sweep the Eastern Seabord and threatens to give us a week of rain, wind, and rough surf at the Cape.

"Should I just cancel our vacation and use the money we were going to spend to take the tree down?" I asked my mother with obvious frustration and disappointment. "You tried to get out of your vacation last year too," she replied. Did I? What? Is that true?

Ah yes, and then it all came back. Last year, at exactly this time we were getting ready to go to Bedford, Virginia to a working farm we were renting for a week. Then, one morning on his way to work, Jeremy's car broke down and we were unexpectedly hit with a major repair bill. We really didn't have the money for the repair and so I felt guilty about spending money on a vacation. I had called my mother and asked her if I should cancel the trip to the farm.

Looking back, it is unbelievable to me that I had considered such a thing. The boys had such a wonderful time at that farm. It had over 200 acres for exploration. There were pigs, sheep, goats, cows, a horse, peacocks, rabbits, and even some newly born kittens in the barn. There were hay bales, fishing ponds, a tire swing, and a hillside cabin built in the 1700's (the inside looked just like the log cabins described in the "Little House" books!) Even the old farmhouse we were staying in was filled with treasures. There were old fashioned toys and games, a stack of Highlight's Magazines from the 80's to read in the evenings, a record player that worked and plenty of records (the boys called them big CDs).

We were never at a loss for things to do. We gathered eggs from the chickens in the morning for our breakfasts, fished in the afternoons, flew kites, hiked and explored. There was a one-eyed goat that jumped her pen each morning and followed us wherever we went. We had beautiful weather and a pic-nic every evening. One night we picked apples from the orchards and made a pie in an old cast iron fry pan. It was homey away-from-home and happy, happy, happy. The boys still talk about "our farm." How could I have thought to exchange those memories for temporary financial relief? We remember the farm. We did not remember the car repair. Somehow that got paid for, I don't remember how.

It appears that life's burdens and troubles will always be with us and so I shouldn't allow them to stop us from enjoying the better parts of life. I am resolved, now, to go to Cape Cod and trust that, rain or shine, we will build lasting memories there of these brief and precious years we have together.

"Martha, Martha," Our Lord answered her, "Thou art troubled and anxious about a great many things: But one thing only is needful: and Mary has chosen that better part, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

Lord, help me to see all things from the perspective of eternity, to choose the better part, and to trust that you will help me resolve the temporary problems that can cause me so much anxiety. Amen.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Darth Alexander

Alex goes over to the dark side
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Nuts and Bolts of Raising Boys

When I was newly pregnant with my first son, I was delighted to have this invaluable resource. "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" is a wealth of information about every quirk and craving of pregnancy. It eased my mind to find my strange symtoms listed in this manual, to know that I was normal, and that my baby was healthy.

Then, when Simeon was born I had
this book to turn to. "What to Expect the First Year" prepared me for many things that might have unnerved me had I not seen them coming. These two books were constant companions and great blessings to me.

But then they ran out...I'd gotten through the first year, but that was it. I just can't find a "What to Expect When You Have Five Boys Under Age Eight" out there anywhere. Oh sure, there are plenty of resources...books on boys' physical health, books on boys' emotional development, books on educating boys, ...but nothing as complete and as exhaustive as the "What to Expect When You are Expecting" books. So, I have been left completely unprepared for life with boys and have had to muddle through on my own. So far, along the way, I have learned a few things and if anyone out there is thinking of writing the manual on boys, I would like to make this important contribution...

THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF RAISING BOYS: Be prepared for hardware. That's right, at least once a week my boys bring me hardware. They come to me without saying a word and make as if to give me something. I put my hand out and they give me some screws, or some nuts, a washer, or sometimes a knob. At first I was foolish, looked at these things and threw them out, but then chairs began falling apart, a coffee table would give out under a guest's feet, a tricycle would suddenly send all three wheels sailing in different directions, and so I learned. We actually have a special drawer on our kitchen counter for this hardware, now. It is full at this moment. I suppose it is natural for a boy to be interested in hardware, tinker with it, and then find he has removed a piece. The funny thing, too, is that they always bring it to me. The screws and bolts are unrecognizable to me, but a knob will sometimes ring a bell. I know I have seen this in the house before... but where?

We like to think that the skills the boys are developing from taking apart nearly everything we own will one day be used to fix things around the house or build us beautiful furniture, but we don't know what to expect. We don't have the manual.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Boys, Boys, Boys!

"Cats, Cats, Cats!"by Leslea Newman (and beautifully illustrated by Erika Oller) is a lovely little book about one Mrs. Brown who keeps a great multitude of cats. She loves them all so dearly though they romp through her house, get into absolutely everything, and leave enormous messes. all seems so strangely familiar.

My four year old , Jacob, just loves this book. Cuddled on the couch beside me, he was all ears when I read for the first time,

"Cats in the entryway throwing confetti, Cats in the dining room eating spaghetti..."

"Black cats, white cats, gray cats too
Eyes of brown and eyes of blue...

Striped cats, spotted cats, large and small
Mrs Brown just loved them all."

At this point Jacob looked up at me with that excitement children get when they have made a connection. "Mama, " he said, "that is JUST LIKE how you love children." I agreed. He kissed me and we read on...

"She loved to fill her lap with them
She loved to take a nap with them

She loved to place them all just so
and then embrace them row by row"

"Some say that Mrs Brown is batty
And that her house is way too catty

Says Mrs Brown, 'Oh fiddle dee dee!
I love my cats and they love me."


Some say the Temple house is noisy
Some say that it is much too boysie

Says Mrs Temple, "Oh fiddle dee dee
I love my boys and they love me."


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Sunday, August 27, 2006

When the Curtain Falls

We live in an older home replete with all of New England's charms. There's the cherry tree that blossoms in spring alongside the white picket fence, the window boxes that bloom all summer long, the sunroom with a wall of climbing roses, the built in book shelves, cedar lined closet, and even a nifty safe in the wall of the master bedroom. Hidden beneath all these charms, however, is a mish-mash of building techniques and materials that frustrate us to no end whenever we begin a remodeling project or even basic maintenance and repair.

FOR EXAMPLE: Tonight, when the boys were sent up for their get-in-yer-pajamas-and-brush-yer-teeth after dinner routine we heard a crash. A loud crash. A very loud crash. "What was that?" we asked, and the answer came: the shower curtain rod.

Now this is interesting because, you see, just a few months back I had decided to replace that rod. Over the years previous owners had painted and repainted the bathroom and patched the plaster around the rod's hardware in a rather unsightly way. So, a few months back when I was repainting I thought I might as well replace the whole thing. I did not replace it, however, because... I COULD NOT GET IT DOWN. I tried all sorts of things to get it down, but none of them worked. I should have tried wrapping the shower curtain around my neck like a cape and then falling backwards with all of my bodyweight, because apparently that is what worked for my oldest son, Simeon. The hardware broke, the shower rod came down, and the curtain came with it.

REPLACING THE SHOWER ROD: Now here's where the story gets really interesting. While searching online to find a replacement rod I learned a great many things. You see, this is no ordinary shower curtain rod, as no part of this house is ordinary. It is a special "Neo Angle" shower curtain rod absolutely required for our special bathroom and our special blue, square, tub (don't ask). I learned all this just tonight and I also learned that these rods cost anywhere from $100.00-$200.00. I didn't know a shower rod could cost that much. I learn something new every day. This is all very interesting.