It all started with a simple decision to clean my room first. On a normal day, breakfast is followed by getting dressed and cleaning up breakfast, then the kids play while I do my hair a bit, and then the day goes on from there. This morning my Mom called after breakfast, and the kids were in a particularly rowdy mood, so I made the decision to start in my own room first so that I could hear the phone conversation. I made my bed and put away some clothes. No big deal, right? Except that it started a chain-reaction of events that lead to probably the worst possible impression that I could have made on my new neighbor, who stopped by to introduce herself and her two little boys.

Because I didn't get Evey dressed right away, she leaked through her diaper and peed on the couch. Because I had to clean the couch, the cushions were all wet. Because I was busy dealing with that, I hadn't taken the front room couch cushions out of my bedroom windows (where they spend the night, doubling as blinds until we can get real window coverings up). Because Evey was a mess, I decided to give her a bath. Because of all of this, I was dressed in clean-up grubbies with my newly cut hair pulled into multiple ponytails to keep it out of my way (ready for a magazine cover-photo gorgeous!).

That was where we were at around 10AM, when the doorbell rang. My new neighbor had just moved in and came over to introduce herself and her adorable little boys. Right off, I was off my game. I looked like a hag and felt self-consious, and my living room cushions were still in my bedroom windows, so there was no sitting and visiting there. "Come on in," I say as we walk in to sit on the family room couch. Except the couch was sopping wet from being scrubbed. Oops! We'll just stand and talk in my disaster of a kitchen with breakfast dishes still all over the table (because I'd started in my room instead) and papers all over the bar since I had started the morning working on registering all my new appliances. Feeling massively self-conscious, I called the kids in from the back of the house, where I swear it sounded like they were killing each other. They came tumbling out of the hallway in the roar and chaos stereotypical of the way large families are always portrayed in the crappiest of pulp-fiction formula novels. They were dressed in a random assortment of part-dressed, part-jammied, part-costumes reminiscent of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. I think my poor new neighbor was a little terrified when her oldest son, who is about 5 years old, went downstairs with my three oldest kids to play.

We spoke together for a couple of minutes, then were interrupted by her son running back up the stairs in tears. He had been jumping on the little exercise trampoline that my kids have, and he fell off. Seth, dramatic as ever a ten-year-old could be, felt compelled to speak up and say, "well at least he just scraped up his hands. If he had fallen the other direction he would have split his head wide open!" Nice. I'm sure that kid will be coming over to play soon!

Remember now that Evey (and Chloe too, who can't resist a bath no matter who it was intended for) is in the bath. A scream from Chloe, investigated by Seth, leads to the yelled-at-the-top-of-the-lungs report that "MOM! EVEY POOPED IN THE TUB!!" Perfect. Walking my new neighbor back toward the front door now, while trying not to yell at Seth, who is bouncing up and down saying, "It's okay, Mom, I'll get Evey out of the tub," over and over again, and me replying, "No Seth," over and over again between polite conversation while the sweet neighbor puts her boys' shoes back on (she made them take them off to come in the house) and escapes.

Whenever people say to me, "five kids!?! You must have your hands full," I think, "how stereotypical." A house full of kids does not have to mean chaos. It is busy, and often loud, but not in a "little old woman who lived in a shoe," kind of way. Except for those odd days when it all seems to explode uncontrollably; when the forces of the universe combine to create the perfect storm of noise, mess, and injury. Drop a perfectly quaffed, lovely new neighbor with her adorably perfect preppy toddlers into the eye of that storm, and I can't help but wonder what she walked away thinking about us! Poor housekeeping, pathetic personal hygiene, wild out-of-control children, mess and chaos and insanity.

As for me, I'm feeling embarrassed and determined to somehow rectify the first impression. On the other hand, I can't help but laugh sadistically every time I think of the look on her face as she was leaving. Completely freaked out!!
My seven year old has, for a while now, been going through the "guess what" stage. He's not quizzing anyone, it is just become part of his speech pattern. For example, he was telling me a fairy tale the other day and it went something like this:

Isaac: So, there was this prince, and, guess what?
Me: what?
Isaac: He had two brothers. Well these brothers all decided to get married, and guess what?
Me: what?
Isaac: One of the brothers married a farmer's daughter, and guess what?
Me: what?
Isaac: The second brother married a pot-maker's daughter, and guess what?
Me: what?
Isaac: The third brother married a frog! And guess what?

It is no exaggeration when I say that this went on for over half an hour. Now, I believe strongly that listening to children is one of the most important things parents can do for that child's self-esteem, so even though my husband kept rolling his eyes at me throughout the whole story, I refused to break it off. But as much as I love my son, and as much as I love fairy tales, the whole, "and guess what?" is not very high up on the list of great story telling techniques.

But my question is, why does almost every child seem to go through this stage? It isn't just stories; every communication is riddled with "guess what's?" or the interchangeable variation, "know what?" I sometimes think that it must come from feeling ignored or brushed off - a means of confirming that the listener is still listening. It turns into a viscous cycle though, because it makes it so much harder to pay attention when the conversation is constantly interrupted. So, then, I end up listening less attentively because of the "guess what's?" I find myself needing to focus over and over again instead of letting my mind wander away and mechanically answering "what?" every time there is a pause.

Though it may sound cruel, one of the funniest things is to break the rhythm. Instead of answering with the expected "what?" I sometimes throw in a "why?" or a "nope," or the ever classic answer to "know what?": "no, but I know his brother, Who." Infantile, but when done playfully it simply elicits a response of surprise and that great look that kids seem to learn from infancy, the one that says, "you are out-of-your-mind-crazy," usually accompanied by the exclamation, "M-O-M!"

But mostly I play along, hoping that my persistent attention will eventually eliminate the need for him to confirm that I am listening. And between the "guess what's" there is a whole lot worth listening to!
Hello Blogland - we sold our house and bought a new one. Sounds okay like that, but with loan problems, legal issues, and pressure from our buyers, we weren't sure if we'd have anywhere to go at all! Our loan fell through, the buyers threatened legal action if we backed out of the contract to sell, we ended up closing on that house, renting it back for three weeks while we figured things out, came to the end of the three weeks with no solution except all seven of us in Grandma's basement, and then, miraculously, our loan barely went through in time and we were able to close on our new house!

We moved in two weeks ago tomorrow. It sounds so simple like that! All my life I've heard friends, family, random acquaintances say, "we moved," and it sounds so matter-of fact, so clinical, so opposite of what my experience was!!! I wasn't neglectful either. I diligently began early. I visited websites with ad
vice on packing, I planned out box sorting (heavy books in smaller boxes, lighter items in larger boxes), I printed off labels that listed every single item in the box for easy reference (even categorizing all of the "Books" boxes with subtitles such as "Early American Fiction," and "Mid-century British Poetry,"). I was organized and hard-working in my pursuit of an easy move. Except that it would take anyone at least a year to completely categorize every possession like that! And I felt that somewhere along the way I developed a light case of OCD - if I found a board game under a bed, and the "Board Games" box was full already, I was frustrated and massively annoyed, to the point that I almost would rather throw away the offending item than place it in a box in which it didn't belong.
As my beautiful boxes beg
an piling up nice and neat in the garage, I was satisfied and content. But before I knew it, moving day arrived. The morning began nicely - I got pictures of the kids with the Uhaul truck, and helping move my lovely, organized boxes into the truck. All was well. I felt good. Until my boxes were all in the truck and the friends and family who had come to help turned to the rest of my "stuff" and began really moving. It was ugly! Boxes were filled with any and all random objects - and there were SO MANY MORE random objects than I thought possible! Logically, seven people generate quite a bit of stuff, but it just didn't seem possible. My newly developed OCD was ramping me up to near panic as things were thrown in together without any reason or logic. As I looked around, for the first time I understood fully. I hadn't packed anything really. The stacks of organized boxes were a fraction of what needed to be moved, and I was completely unprepared.

The first truckload went to the new house, and I stayed behind to prepare for when our volunteer army of movers returned for more. I was determined to get the chaos organized; except my phone rang - Tysen had forgotten the keys to the new house. So we (remember, "I" rarely exists in my life, it is always myself and my five little satellites - thus "we") loaded in and went to the chaos at the other end. Our movers were wonderful, but they were also more practical than I was, and boxes and stuff were all either stacked in the garage or taken to the basement to expedite. In either place, my careful labeling was pretty meaningless at the bottom of the pile! I left to get everyone lunch, so I wasn't even around when Tysen got the awful phone call that his Dad was dying and he needed to come right away. I was picking up pizza when Tysen called me and simply said, "my Dad just died. Shut everything down, we'll worry about moving tomorrow."

Not knowing what else to do, I followed his instructions. When everyone heard, they thought differently. "Trust us," they said, "we can do this for you, and Tysen will be so relieved to just have it done." So we went on. I had wonderful people working in every room. We filled the truck a second time, and it went to the new house to be added to what was already there, and grow into a mountain of stuff that seemed much bigger than the house it came out of! By this time it was getting late into the evening. I stayed at the new house and put sheets over windows and tried to arrange enough space for mattresses on the floor, and find jammies to get kids to bed. I was confident that I wouldn't be needed at the old house - it was pretty much done already. Just the garage and a few random odds and ends. But I was wrong - again. Tysen was with the moving team at the old house, after spending some time with his family, but he was an emotional wreck. Over two hours later, they finally showed up at the new house with a FULL truck!! Where was all that stuff? It couldn't have been in that house!! And the random mess that came out - having run out of boxes long before - was a nightmare! But it was finally done. We had to go back and clean the house the next day, but that wasn't nearly as big as the insane, horrific day we had just had! At 2AM, Tysen and I finally collapsed on our partly assembled bed after a cold shower because the water heater hadn't been turned on. Oh, and I never mentioned that it poured rain all day long - drenching rain that disintegrated boxes and made everything muddy and miserable.

We woke up the next morning, not filled with joy at finally being in this house that we'd fought so hard to get into, but dismayed at the awful mess, and broken-hearted over my father-in-law's death. Tysen had to meet his family at the mortuary that morning, which took until late in the afternoon. We then had the no-fun job of cleaning the old house - which ended up filling up cars and our van with yet more random stuff. Eating dinner at 9PM and to bed in the wee hours again.

The next day, rainy again, was dedicated more to writing funeral talks and doing flower arrangements than to finding some order to our chaos. For a viewing and funeral, we'd need dress clothes, which I hadn't planned on needing yet, and little things like an iron. The viewing was fine, and the funeral was beautiful. Tysen gave a wonderful talk, and as he dedicated the grave, the rain began again. That crazy torrential, pouring rain that isn't typical of Utah summer, but has been freakishly come day after day. After spending the afternoon with family, I brought the kids home from the funeral. Before I had time to change my clothes though, Chloe split her head wide open playing down in the basement! Head wounds bleed like crazy, and it obviously was going to need stitches. I called Tysen to hurry home from his Mom's house, and dealt with the bleeding the best I knew how while also getting a slippery wet Evey out of the tub because she'd had a messy diaper just when we got home, that had gotten all over her. Tysen arrived and took Chloe to the KinderCare, where they put in four stitches! What a day!

So that was my moving experience. Throw into it that our washer and drier still haven't been delivered, though they were supposed to be the day we moved in, and with the rain and a yard of dirt the kids are constantly covered in mud, with no way to wash their clothes except by hand or hauling it all to a laundry-mat or neighbor's house. Consequently, I feel that my definition of "moving" has been altered permanently. I previously understood that "moving" was an isolated event - something with a beginning and an end - with the ending being when the moving truck is returned. I now look around me at the painfully slow progress, and at the days themselves, and I think that "moving" is more synonymous with natural disaster survival! It is not a point in time, but a journey that may take a very long time. (especially considering that I find odd things like my laundry trash can still full of trash among the piles of moved stuff. With so many people helping, they didn't know what was to be saved and what was trash or DI - even though I marked most of it - and so they moved it all!) And though it has been a rough road, I've decided that from here on out, I'm going to be positive and expect good things instead of never-ending disaster! For the record though - and I am an adventurous person who relishes a challenge - it would take my ultimate dreamhouse and a professional team of movers to EVER convince me to move again!!
I've recently begun reading a writing book.  (Which, by the way, amuses Seth to no end - "who would write a book about writing a book?"  Hilarious to him, especially after I showed him the entire section of my bookcase dedicated to writing - handbooks, theory, manuals, textbooks)  Anyway, the book is full of writing exercises, and it says that I need to write every single day, rain or shine.  Spiffy - one more thing I'm not doing well enough!  More than that, I need to set aside a half hour of completely uninterrupted writing time when everything is focused, quiet, and there are no distractions.  Nothing is to interrupt, nothing to delay or pre-empt writing time. I have one instant thought - this guy doesn't have little kids!!!  Even 2AM is often prone to nightmares needing comfort, potty-breaks, and crying babies.   The book's conclusion is that if I can't dedicate myself to that half hour a day, I must not love writing enough and I'd better give up wanting to write.  

To a certain extent, I agree with this.  True loves are absolutely necessary to life.  No matter how crazy life with my kids gets, for example, I can't imagine a day in which I don't read at least a few pages of a book.  Reading is like breathing.  I've been know to read while nursing a baby, while waiting in pick-up line at school, or the ever-resorted to retreat of greatest desperation - reading in the bathroom!  It is as necessary as breathing or eating.  Life isn't even life without reading - the newspaper, novels, parenting books, religious books, backs of cereal boxes, e-mail, blogs, everything I can possibly get my hands on!  

So, if I don't feel that way about writing, am I never destined to write even though I enjoy it?  Always to consume, never to create?  As I have twice been interrupted while writing this, once to change a diaper and again to get a toddler a drink, the uber-focused writing time obviously doesn't work for me.  Yet I feel that my true love right now is the cause of the distraction - not what I'm being distracted from!  As long as these little ones are needy and engaging, everything takes a back seat to them.  And, oddly enough for my family, with a genetic knack for feeling guilt about just about everything, I don't feel one bit bad about prioritizing my loves that way.  

And, frankly, I don't believe there is a conflict.  When my husband and I were married, the officiator told us that "Love never divides, it multiplies."  Though he was referring to in-laws and our suddenly expanded circle of family, it applies here as well.  If I love my kids so much that I'll put down a book or stop writing mid-sentence, that absolutely does not mean that I should never pick the book back up or finish the sentence.  Practically, it's just silly to think that love and dedication to one thing must necessarily exclude love and dedication to another.  Love doesn't divide - it multiplies.  My recent hunger to create through writing has actually been inspired by my kids and the flights of fancy and imagination they encourage like no adult ever would.   Evidence of the multiplication principle - one love expands another.  And sharing literature with the kids, from picture books and poetry, to increasingly difficult books as they get older, has re-connected me with the simple beauty, joy, and delight of reading.

But still - regardless of my theories about the "half hour of un-interrupted writing every day" I'm accepting the challenge to write more.  With the upcoming move to a new house, the end of the school year, kids' birthdays, and all sorts of other distractions, it should be interesting how long I can keep the challenge going.  We'll see.
At this point, it has been so long since I've written that I don't think I have any readers anymore, but today I really felt like writing, so who cares if no one is reading!  I've been distracted lately, by more than a few extraordinary events.  

Chronologically, the first distraction has been having my head examined!  I know, I know, it's about time!! lol  But since having Evey, my already annoying migraines went supernova - striking unexpectedly, where they used to be fairly regular and predicable - clustering for days on end - and adding frightening new symptoms like vertigo and numbness.  Consequently, Tysen insisted I start seeing some doctors.  After past negative experiences, I was cynical, and it hasn't been an easy couple of months, with tests of every kind and experimenting with medications, but I'm pretty happy with the results.  Instead of daily chronic headaches with frequent migraines, I have now gone as many as four days without any sort of headache, and the migraine frequency and severity has been cut about in half!  Down side, the meds I'm now on make me drowsy, and it is impossible to get up in the mornings!  Most days Tysen gets the boys ready and takes them to school while I sleep through the whole thing, alarm, kids, and all.  The girls come in and wake me as soon as they get up, and I zombie my way through the morning.  By lunch I'm totally normal, and I'm told that as I build up tolerance to the drug, I will get less and less sleepy.  The saga still continues though, because I have some random spots in my brain - likely results of severe migraines - that are under investigation.  I underwent an MRV yesterday that was absolute torture.  On the upside, I get to blame everything now on this - "I forgot that completely, but you know, I do have a spotty brain."

The second HUGE distraction is Tysen's sudden inspiration to buy a new house.  He came home after a day of financial meetings that discussed the interest rates and opportunities they present, and lunch with a friend who designs homes, completely convinced that now is the perfect window of opportunity for us.  I was less enthusiastic.  Why?  Because I am a tangled mess of over-analytical, over-sentimental, over-thinking!  It's not that a new house doesn't sound good, it's just that I don't know what I want.  And in the meantime, I'm losing all my feminist credentials as everyone is made perfectly aware that Tysen wants to move and is moving us wether or not I want to.  So I feel some need to set the record straight on that, and maybe work out how I feel by writing about it.  

First, if I said to Tysen - "I do not want to move, I want to stay in this house because..." and was able to present him with some rational reasons, he would never go against my wishes (and I wouldn't let him!!).  But in the void of my indecision, why not trust his decisiveness?  The For Sale sign went in our yard yesterday, and it is totally freaking me out.  When I told Chloe what it means, she cried for 20 min. but then asked if we could go see some model homes today.  Every model we walk through Chloe says she wants to live in - which I sympathize with - but she cries and cries at the idea of leaving this house.  It is no wonder that Tysen is confused by me when I'm acting the same way as the three year old!!

Now, in perfect impossible decision practice, I'll list the pros and cons of each and see which list is better.

Staying Put Pros: the excellent neighbors next door. - I know that some say I should "cut the chord" and move away from the parents just as a matter of maturity, but I have so much loved living next to them that it truly is the most compelling reason to stay.  Financial Security - Tysen assures me that we can afford a bigger, newer house, and we pre-qualified easily, but we know for sure that we can make this house payment, and a new, larger payment may force cut-backs in other lifestyle choices.  I would rather be a stay-at-home mom in a little, old, creaky house, than have to go to work to afford a pretty new home.  Sentimentality - how can I walk away from the place where I brought my babies home, where they took their first steps?  Blood, Sweat, and Tears - this place was a mess when we bought it.  We have invested $60,000 in fixing, renovating, and upgrading the home - not to mention the hours and hours of our lives dedicated to those projects.  My kitchen is pure joy to me, because I picked everything out, I tiled and grouted the backsplash, together with Papa I tiled and grouted the fireplace, when pregnant and ill, I learned to use a grinder and installed much of the rock on the house facade.  Everywhere I look, I can say, "I did that!" - Other neighbors.  Our neighbors like us, especially Tysen's love for beautiful landscaping.  I know that I shouldn't feel responsible for everyone's lives, but I do feel keenly the apprehension they all have at what kind of neighbors will replace us.

Staying Put Cons: I never planned to stay here forever.  We had a five year plan that turned into ten years and counting.  I don't like the floorplan - I want a greatroom off the kitchen and a small formal living room.  Even if we finish the basement, the family would all be downstairs while I'm upstairs in the kitchen.  I never wanted that.  - One bathroom, no master bath - tiny dining space. Once Evey is out of the high-chair, we won't be able to all sit at the table together.  There isn't enough room for a table big enough.  We can't build out back either because of the shape of the yard. - The house still has problems.  The floors creak EVERYWHERE, the bathroom floor is rotting away and needs to be replaced, and we're still daily finding insane things the Booths did that we have to repair.  I never have felt like it's my house, especially when I'm constantly living with decisions they made (the house still has a smell that isn't bad, but is "their" smell, and nothing we do, paint, replace everything, air fresheners, gets rid of it completely)! - The bulk of the yard is front yard, which means lots of landscaping, but little real space for hanging out. - The neighborhood is nice (our corner of it) and quiet, but that's because there are no kids.  All around us are retirees or near retirees (or non-english speaking families).  There are no friends around for the kids.  Church even gears for an older audience.  It would be wonderful to be part of a younger neighborhood. - Schools suck.  The local school gets a rating of 3 out of 10 on the biggest school rating website.  So the kids go to the charter, which has an educational philosophy that I disagree with more and more every year.  The school is uptight, negative, and unhealthily competitive.  If we stay, I don't know what to do about education for next year.

Moving Pros: Bigger, newer house.  Hopefully fewer constant repairs and replacements.  A floor plan of my choosing.  More space.  - Younger neighborhood, not guaranteed, but that's where we keep looking for houses.  Friends for the kids.  Potentially great schools.  A new adventure.  All the stuff listed in Staying Put Cons!

Moving Cons: Financial scariness.   Disappointing next door neighbors. Leaving the known and comfortable for the unknown.  Probable year-round school.  Landscaping a new yard from scratch.  Still can't afford a 4 bedroom, so I'd get my formal living room and great room, but would have to finish a basement bedroom either way.  Leaving my gorgeous custom kitchen.  All the stuff listed in Staying Put Pros.

So there it all is.  Whew!  Doubt anyone but me will ever get through it all, but it feels good to sort it out like that.  Did it make my decision though?  Of course not!!  Because you still have to add into the discussion all my psychological insanity and guilt about stupid things like, "the pioneers raised families of 12 in one room cabins - what kind of wimp am I to say I can't breathe in this house with five kids?" and a whole pile of irrational, strange hang-ups and I'm still all tied up in knots.  Who, in their right mind, would hesitate when their spouse comes home, lays out the financial possibilities in black and white, and says that he can give you a better, bigger, more beautiful home?  Who turns around and says, "well, I don't know!  I'm not sure."  Seriously, Chloe would be better at making this decision than I am!!

And between headache stuff and house stuff and all the day-to-day stuff, my head may very well explode!!!  Help!
How do our kids ever grow up even halfway normal when parents do our best to throw them a curveball rule-reversal every time a holiday rolls around?

For example:
Don't talk to strangers - except at Christmas when I tell you to go talk to that fat guy in a red suit.  Wait, don't just talk to him, sit on his lap!  And be happy about it.
It's not polite to ask people to give you things - except at Christmas when you can tell a complete stranger to bring you a whole list of stuff, and at Halloween, when you walk around demanding that people give you candy.
Never eat anything you find on the ground - unless it is Easter - then the more you pick up off the ground, the better egg-hunter you are.  Eat up!
It's mean to pinch - unless it's St. Patrick's Day.  (eurgh - that one causes trouble!) 
It's rude to ring the doorbell and run - unless it's Valentine's.

And I'm sure there are more that elude me right now.  See what I mean though?  Warped!
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