As I was standing at my stove making meatballs for dinner tonight, I glanced over at my calendar on the whiteboard off to my left. One of the dates caught my eye, which read "Home from VA". For a second I could not believe it was still the same month that we had gone to Virginia, though we had spent the majority of the days there in July. It had been a wonderful vacation, time well spent with my sister and her family, and one we will talk about for years to come. In fact, the entire summer was a great one, filled with travel and lots of great memories that will continue to make my heart smile. Yet, as the summer comes to a close, I must say I am ready to see a new school year begin. We crammed in so much these last three months. On this last day of summer, I want to give a little recap of what we did and show you some pictures of our times together.
It began at the end of May with our teen banquet, with a masquerade theme and everyone got to dress up - ball gowns for the young ladies and men were in nice suits. Mostly the adults wore the masks though. I guess the teens did not want to mess up their hair and makeup. A few days later was graduation. Even though I did not have one that graduated this year, all the guys that graduated are very close to our family. We had a bonfire the next night and all the teens had a blast!
After a few days of rest, Susanna and I packed up to take a quick trip to Indiana to visit a friend who was having an engagement party. We drove half of the way and stopped over in Ohio that first night, then continued on to our hotel in Indy. It was a whirlwind day that Saturday, but we had a good time catching up and meeting her other friends that had passed through her life. We got back in the car Sunday morning and drove thirteen hours home, arriving about 11:30, just in time for Susy to do laundry and get some rest before heading to camp the next morning.
While three of my children were away at camp for a week, JJ worked with Joe, so Ben and I had some special time together. We decided to go to Quassy Amusement park and we rode the rides, swam, and took a paddle boat out on the water. It brought back memories of a time when I went out on Lake Champlain with my dad in a paddle boat during one of my "days". We also spent an afternoon at Uncle Shawn's with some friends and had a great time at the beach.
By the time the children came home, it was almost July. One entire month had flown by already. We had filled the days with lots of little day trips to the beach with friends, as well as buy a pool so we could cool off in our back yard during the hot months. It took quite a while to get our pool set up and ready to go. It almost seemed like it would never happen because of the amount of leveling Joe had to do to get it water worthy. Finally, we got it filled and enjoyed many hours of fun in the refreshing water.
July 4th came and we visited Uncle Shawn again. He set off some amazing fireworks that rained debris all over the yard with each blast. Caleb had fun getting buried while at the beach until the waves washed up to his head and threatened to overtake him.
On the 9th of July I drove up to New Hampshire to visit a friend I had not seen in a long, long time. She was in New England for a wedding and stayed an extra day so I could go up and spend some quality time with her. What a blessed time we had taking a walk in the woods, dipping our feet in the water, and eating ice cream together. It was a wonderful time of catching up and renewing our friendship. I am so thankful for good, Christian friends who still love the Lord and we can start right back where we left off.
A week later Ben and I traveled up to Vermont for a work day with my family. My mom's house needed some work done so we all got together and had a great time catching up. We got a lot done for her and the house looked awesome when we were finished! The highlight of Ben's visit was his ride on Uncle Nate's motorcycle. When it was time to go home, we brought our little nephew and his sister back with us for a week long visit. We had a great another great week with lots of fun in the sun.
After the busy week was over, I had some time to unwind before our trip to Virginia arrived. Joe and JJ needed to stay home and keep working the business (make hay while the sun shines, right?) and take care of all our animals, but my sister came with her family and together we made the trek down to Williamsburg, VA. It was eight days of more fun in the sun, with lots of rain in between keeping all the grass green down there. We came back late that Friday night of Aug 3rd so we could beat the crazy traffic that we had hit on the way down. While in Virginia, we went to Ripley's Believe It or Not museum, Busch Gardens, Water Country Park, Virginia Beach, and golfed in the rain at Pirate's Cove.
We came back home and had a few days of rest before Power House began at church. Teens from all around New England came to Heritage Baptist for two and a half days of preaching and fun game times. I do not have any pictures from those few days. The next big event was our boat outing we did on the 16th though. We had a crew of 21 people and we took three pontoon boats out on Candlewood Lake and had fun water tubing, jumping off the Chicken Rock again, and this time our friends brought some jet skis so we rode those a little too. Ben and I were dumped off two times, so it was really good we had our life jackets on during those rides.
One last big day trip was to Southwick Zoo in Massachusetts. We went with Patrick and Katie and we all had fun looking and petting a few of the animals. The baby monkey was small enough to fit outside of the cage so he was sitting on the fence scaring some of the visitors who did not read the sign.
That is about it except for the fact that JJ bought his first car this month. I will post a pic of that plus a few other good ones taken throughout the summer. May the Lord bless the rest of your summer (according to the calendar!) and remember that God is always good!
My son was taking out the garbage the other day when he suddenly surprised me by poking his head in the doorway and shouted, "Mom, come quick! You've got to come here right now!"
Of course, my mom nerves jerked awake as I automatically assumed the worst. I quickly dried my hands from the dishwater and raced down the steps to the door.
"What is it?" I asked expecting to see something broken, hurt, bleeding, or something else horrible out in the driveway.
"Listen!" he looked at me with wide eyes. "The birds! They're all singing! It sounds like spring!"
My heart slowly stopped pounding in my ears, enough for me to focus on the wonderful songs of the Red Wing Blackbirds sitting in the trees surrounding our yard. Robins chirped as they hunted for worms in the brown grass. Blue jays squawked at some enemy nearby in the woods. I closed my eyes to take it all in. Even though the temperatures were still hovering around 50 degrees or less, the rays of the sun felt warm on my face.
"Mom, spring is coming! You can hear it all around us!"
I had to agree. It was a welcomed sound. March had blown in like a lion, throwing a snowstorm in once every week for the first three weeks. It left like a lamb, as the saying goes, but April blew in like a bear. We are ready to see green again, to see the rainbow colors of flowers as they shoot up from the cold, barren earth. Even my son, who loves the snow and cold, who even loves to run barefoot outside our house after a storm, was ready for nice weather.
"I can't wait to go biking with the guys," he told me happily.
I had never heard him so happy to hear bird songs. My tough as nails son, at least on the outside, once again showed me that he is soft as a teddy bear inside. He is growing up. Maturing before my eyes. Blooming like the Crocuses and Dew Drops that are spilling all over my lawn. He still likes to tease, but he is changing for the better. It does not take eight times for him to learn a lesson as it did when he was three years old. Not everything he touches breaks in his hands now. He just turned 17 in March. He will get a job this year. He is going to focus on his driving this summer and probably get his license as soon as he turns 18. Where has the time gone?
As I thought about what the songs of the birds revealed to me, that good things are on their way, I thought about what my young teenage son was showing me - that good things are coming for him too. Not just the promise of spring in the world of Wallingford so he could go biking, but also the promise of "spring" for my son Caleb's life. There will be no holding back as he blooms into a young man learning to face the world. As long as he keeps God at the center of his life, the season of spring will be a marvelous time of joy and learning.
Teenagers. It's like starting all over again. Not the diapers part of it (thank the Lord!), and certainly not the eating part of it, but the common sense part of it. The stuff that you taught them over the course of their childhood is somehow lost overnight. It's simply gone. Kaput. Empty. Just like that. They suddenly wake up and it's as if their mind was wiped cleaned by one of those memory erasers you see in movies, where they don't want the poor person remembering what they saw and before they know it - ZAP! It's all gone. That, my friends, is the beginning of the teenage years. Now, I realize they are going through physical changes, where the frontal lobes in their brains are shifting (etc. etc.) and there is a genuine reason for their confusion and moodiness that they go through, but can they use that as an excuse for using my floor as a trash can? Or their beds as a bureau for all their clothes? Or for the dishes that are left around their rooms with the last bits of crumbs rock hard on the bottom? No, no no! Some of it comes down to laziness, some of it to selfishness, and some of it to just plain forgetfulness, but I realized the other day that it is really starting all over again. Time to get out the 'paddle' so to speak, and whip these kids into action.
When the children were little, I remember days where I was completely wiped out from chasing them around, getting them to listen, and working with them to share and get along with their brothers and sisters. Just trying to keep sane in the process was exhausting enough. Evenings were the worst part of it because I was so tired I could not deal with any more messes and foolishness that came along with the package. And that was when the house was at its worst too. Over time I realized that I needed to lower my expectations of the children. Messes happen. And as we worked on the process of cleaning and tidying up, they learned to know what was expected of them too. Their expectations were higher, yet mine were lower. We began to have a happy medium, though there were still days when exhaustion took over and I was the mean mom at night. I think the kids forgave me for those days. I know I have forgiven them for the rough times they gave me. Again, it's all part of the package called child rearing.
Well, yesterday I had one of those exhausting moments hit me, and it was not even night time. These moments are rare now, not like it was when the children were little, but once in a while it still happens. I went down to the laundry room to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer and discovered that there was gum all over the drum of the dryer. Someone had not checked their pockets before washing their clothes and gum had gone through the wash without any problems, but once the heat of the dryer hit it, it melted all over the place. (Now all I need to do is search the clothes and see if there is gum stuck to someone's pants or skirt!) Streaks of hardened goo, black from the lint of the clothes passing over it again and again, covered the white drum, as well as a few hard clumps with the paper still on. It brought back memories of when I was little, when my dad would find gum stuck to the rug of his car, or one of the kids would announce that gum was stuck in their hair. Then it was all over for us...no more gum for anyone for at least two weeks! It was a very sad day for me when that happened...I liked my gum. Even though we were allowed one piece a day, we made that piece last until we had to go to bed. I can still remember seeing the little pink pieces of sugarless gum stuck to the sides of our plates, anticipating the moment we would get to eat it again as soon as dinner was finished. Kind of gross to think about now, but as a child, those things matter a lot. Reminds me of the song, "Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?"
After cleaning out the dryer, I went upstairs and decided then and there to teach the children what it would be like if I acted like them. How would they like it if they had to live in a house that looked like their room? So, while they were all off doing stuff, I took the garbage bag out of the barrel and laid it on the floor; I threw some plastic bags all over the place, as well as some other lose items and made a huge mess in my kitchen. I then stack the dishes high in the sink, an ugly pile of yuckiness. In the living room, I took the two baskets of clothes waiting to be folded and threw the clothes around the floor. Books from school time were scattered all over the dining room table... I looked around and it looked horrible. And I walked away. I went downstairs and began to work in the office, waiting to hear someone say the words I said so well, "What happened in here?!"
It did not take long. It was Caleb who discovered it.
"Mom! What happened up here!"
I kept working. "Oh, nothing. I'm just showing everyone how bad the house would look if I did what you guys do with your rooms."
"You're joking, right?" he asked.
"Oh, no, I'm serious."
"But did you see our room? We cleaned it the other day. I even changed my bed! It looks nice! It must be the girls' room you're talking about."
Yes, Caleb and Ben had cleaned their room and to be honest, they did a good job. I was thinking girls, because the clothes bomb that went off in there was one of those huge nuclear ones that leave nothing untouched. But, bless his heart, Caleb began cleaning my kitchen and living room. He took out the trash, washed the dishes, cleaned up the floor, put all the books away, collected the scattered clothes, and even swept the floor. It was amazing when I came upstairs. The girls never came out during all this, and were surprised when I told them what had happened. They did not even believe me when I told them. I guess I will have to repeat the lesson soon so they can benefit from it too.
I learned something that day. I learned that I need to lower my expectations again. I learned that I need to call them when I need help and not expect them to just know when I need their assistance. I need to tell them exactly what to do and when, so they can learn that they are important in helping out in the household. I guess I have been thinking they are mind readers and should know what I expect them to do without me telling them. I have tried to teach them to look around and see what needs to be done, but then again, it all went out the door with their new teenage brains. I need to teach them all over again. So, instead of getting mad at them, I will lower my expectations, put on my mothering/child training hat, and train them in the way that they should go. Because after the teenage years, they will never again forget the things we teach them because all those changes will be finished as they go into adulthood, Lord willing, with God's help.
I would like to introduce you to the newest member of our household...
Mocha, the seal-point Siamese.
This past Sunday was time change Sunday. Although we got an extra hour of rest that morning, it also brought on a season of extra hours of darkness, which can seem depressing and heavy at times. But, it was a much needed day for us, especially after all the work we had put in Friday setting up for the largest women's conference our church has ever had. Over 500 lunches had been made and packed into boxes for the men to transport over to the church we rented for the event. Mic checks were made and the ladies in charge of decorating worked furiously to get everything done in the two hours we had available to us that night before the conference. People were everywhere, working together, with a sweet spirit of unity that helped everything come together smoothly. Lots of prayers had been made to cover this event and God's hand was clearly seen the entire weekend. The only down part was seeing Mrs. Bish look so unwell that night. She had suffered a mini stroke that day and seemed out of it as she sat in one of the seats in the auditorium. It only caused me to pray harder for her to get better, so she could attend the conference the next day. Even in her state of health she had been burdened to still hold the conference, which was our tradition every year for the ladies of New England. But that is how she is...a woman of strength, wisdom, and a love for others before herself.
God answered our prayers though, because the next morning she was able to attend the first session, as well as speak to all the ladies as the conference began. Pastor took her home to rest after the session ended, but she was back for the last session, smiling and glowing as she sat up on the platform. If there ever was a woman who I felt I could look up to, it is Trina Bish. Watching her go through this trial of having a brain tumor has been an astounding thing for me. She has never given up hope, never given up on God, never given up on people who need the Lord, and never stopped believing that God is good.
It was actually during Amy Vassek's message that a light turned on in my heart. I knew I had been having a hard time trusting the Lord with certain things. It has been a tough road ever since I lost my dad to cancer back in April 2015. I have been in doubt about His goodness ever since the Lord did not allow me to make it up in time to say goodbye before taking Dad home to be with Him in heaven. All my childhood I had been taught that Christians should not get sick; that if we were right with God then we should be fine, and that God would shelter us from the devil. That if we were sick to always examine our hearts and make sure there was nothing keeping our prayers from being answered (this is still true, but it was the point of not getting healed if there was nothing wrong between the Lord and the sick person.) No Christian should have to suffer a horrible disease and die because we were His child. Yes, I know what Job went through, but we were supposed to cling to the promises of God, claiming them as our own (yes, I still believe this), and not profess anything negative, to the point where you could not even tell others you were sick because that was "negative" thinking.
Mrs. Vassek spoke on giving thanks in the darkness, quoting Isaiah 45:3: "And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that though mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel." She talked about how the darkness would not make you lose your faith in God, but sometimes it would be difficult to find Him. Even Job said in chapter 23:8-10, "Behold, I go forward, but He is not there: and backward, but I cannot perceive Him: on the left hand, where He doeth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him: but He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." We may not feel like God is around us, but He knoweth every step of the way. We are not to run from the horror we think lies beyond us in the darkness, but wrap a "blanket" around us and wait it out. A blanket always gives us comfort, making us feel safe in the darkness. When I am in bed I do not like when my foot hangs out of the covers, or if I feel exposed to the darkness in the room. I love feeling a safe cover over me. Our blanket in the time of darkness in our lives is the Word of God. Read the Scriptures and wrap them around your heart. They truly give comfort to your soul when you need it. I love the Psalms for that reason!
We need to also understand that there are a million reasons why God has us in the darkness. Going back to Mrs. Bish...I have heard so many stories of people getting saved because of her stays in the hospitals, or the treatment center in Mexico. I cannot get the story of the lady with the lollipop out of my head. Mrs. Bish noticed the guard in the booth had a lollipop, so every time she went shopping she bought her a lollipop and that opened the door to talking with her about the Lord. Even in her darkness she found enough light to spread the goodness of God.
I realized that day of the conference that my problems have been so minimal compared to others, but it was holding me back from moving forward in my walk with the Lord. If I could get so bogged down because of doubt and mistrust, then how much more would a bigger trial throw me off the path and sink me down in a mire I could not get out? I also realized that Christians can get sick for many different reasons, one being that it is simply for God to use you in places you would never be if you were not sick; to give glory to His name somehow. I finally gave it all to the Lord and asked Him to forgive my unbelief. It felt like a weight fell off my shoulders, and my eyes could clearly see that He has been there all the time. I learned that He is still God, and He is always good. He always has been. He is my Father and will never leave me nor forsake me. It does not mean life is going to be easy, with no sickness, trials, hurts, or frustrations, but when He is by our side, we can go through the darkness knowing He is holding our right hands through it all (Isaiah 41:13). It does not mean that we failed in our walk with Him, but it means that He is allowing moments for us to grow, to spread the wonderful news of His salvation every where we go. I want the Lord's works, miracles, and all that He has done to be the focus of my life because it will encourage me to tell others about Him and what He has to give to those who do not know Him. Like the song that Cam and I played at the conference which you hear playing, "Be Thou My Vision", I want Him to be my vision, so I can see others with His eyes and heart.
So, even though we had to turn our clocks back on Sunday, which gave us more hours of darkness in our cold, leaf-barren land, we just need to turn on the lights inside to pierce the darkness so people can get the hope that they need. Go be a light!
Note: For some reason my audio file will not play unless it is downloaded. If you want to hear it, click the download button and you can hear our song from the conference. In the meantime, I will try to fix it so it will play on my blog. Thank you.
He could not wait to get behind the wheel of the car and start driving. I had known Caleb would be different than my oldest, who was always the cautious one. JJ had taken his time with learning to walk, not willing to try it until he was fifteen months old. He did everything with careful consideration before attempting anything new. He was the same way with driving. He took his time, but we did not have to spend much time in the parking lots before I felt he was ready for the main road. He even drove the entire way home after passing his permit test. It took him over two years to finally get his license, and now he is driving (my car!) all the time. I worry about him, but know that he is still the cautious one, and hopefully will remain that way for life.
Caleb is a different child. He always threw caution to the wind. It was jump first and then consider his next move as he plummeted to the ground. Sometimes it happened seven or eight times before he realized he should do something different in order to protect himself. I had no idea what that might mean the first time he got behind the wheel, but then again, with his huge flipper of a foot, I wondered what might happen when he pressed the gas pedal for the very first time.
He passed his permit test with flying colors, but he did not drive home that day. It was not until after business hours that we went to the empty parking lots of some businesses and I let him climb into the driver's seat. I sat in the passenger's side and began instructing him on all that he needed to know in order to drive for the first time.
"Okay, Caleb, first of all, make sure you put your seat belt on, which is very important. Plus it is the law. Next, you need to adjust your mirrors to make sure you can see behind you as well as along the sides of the car."
Caleb proceeded to do all these things accordingly and I went on. "Now, to make the car go you need to press the gas..."
Suddenly the car revved into high gear, but we did not go anywhere as he pressed the pedal before I even finished speaking.
"Caleb!" I hollered. "You need to listen to all of the instructions before you even try to go!"
He glanced at me sheepishly. "I had no idea the pedal was so easy to push!"
I continued. "Now, BEFORE you put your foot on the gas, you need to put your foot on the brake and shift the car into drive." I waited for a second and glanced down at his feet. "Um, Caleb, you need to use your right foot on the brake, not your left. You never use your left foot while driving. The only time you use your left is in a standard car, but that is not what you are driving right now. This is an automatic."
Caleb looked at me aghast. "What do you mean I can't use my left foot? What is it supposed to do, just sit there not doing anything?"
"Yes, it just sits there. Move it as far away from the pedals as you can so it doesn't even try to get in the way."
"But it feels so weird sitting over here not doing anything."
"Trust me, it'll get used to it."
He shrugged, still not sure he liked the idea, but was slowly taking in everything he needed to learn.
"Okay, not put the car into gear, but take it S-L-O-W-L-Y, Caleb. There is no rush here."
I went on to explain a few more things and then finally he stepped on the gas and we inched forward. We drove around the first time without a hitch, but then it came time to stop. He hit the brake a little too hard and I flew back against the seat. He laughed nervously. "I guess I need to work on my stops, don't I?" he said.
Holding onto the handle over my door, I grinned nervously and told him, "You will learn, Caleb. These things come over time. That is why we are practicing in the parking lot though."
We crept around the lot, practicing stops and turns, and at one point he turned to me and said, "Mom, this is so different than Need for Speed. I had not idea driving was so hard! There is so much to remember!"
After learning that Need for Speed was a car chase game, I agreed with him 100% - video games are not the way to learn to drive. There is nothing realistic about any of them, and once you experience a real crash you quickly realize you do not bounce back onto the road again as if nothing ever happened. At least that is my experience...hopefully he will not learn that any time soon.
So, around and around we went, each stop getting a little better, and each practice turn getting a little better, though he kept saying how awkward it was that his left foot had to remain motionless on the side.
"How do you drive on long trips like this? Doesn't your foot fall asleep? Driving is so hard! There are so many things I have to pay attention to! I'm definitely not ready for the road yet."
I was glad he felt like that. By the time I had him climb out of the driver's seat so I could get in, I was a bit frazzled, but hoped I looked calm to him. I hate being the nagging parent who constantly has bad things to say about everything their child does, but when it comes to putting my life into my child's hands, it means a completely different thing. Needless to say we have taken our time with him, sticking to parking lots for quite a while, something I probably will continue to do until he is thirty years old. Joe has let him drive on the back roads a few times, but the last time there was a scare and I have not heard Caleb ask to go driving for quite some time now. I know it will happen again, probably sooner than later, but parking lots are my friends. Besides, I have three more up and coming drivers that I need to teach how to drive after Caleb....I think parking lots are a great place to learn.
We took a trip up to my home state a week or so ago to visit my family. It was a nice, long visit, and it was great to catch up with all my siblings and my mom. It was very cold though, and the rain decided to fall every other day, which, according to my mother, had been the norm for the entire summer. It was on a crisp, clear day that I decided to get out of the house so I could take a walk around the block, which was about a mile or two around the dirt roads of Vermont. There are a lot of memories along that route, and I was thankful I had my phone camera with me so I could take a lot of pictures. Vermont is a gorgeous state in the summertime, with all the green mountains surrounding you like sentinels safely guarding from any outsiders. I always feel safe in the mountains, and really miss them when I am away. My husband calls me Heidi sometimes, especially when I wear my hair in two braids. I always did want to go visit the alps in Switzerland...
Anyway, I wanted to share some of my pictures that I took along my walk, as well as some other haunts from around the area. Yes, I am a sentimental fool, but I don't care. It makes me happy. Enjoy!
As I finished my walk, I stopped by the graveside of my dad and sat down for a while to ponder and think about things. I wrote this letter to him and wanted to share it with you today in closing:
I just took a walk around the block, something I haven't done in years. I heard the sounds you loved, smelled the smells you loved, and saw beauty all around me...something you never grew tired of seeing. My legs burned as I climbed those giant dirt hills, gasping for air by the time I reached the tops, but I also gasped in wonder of God's country all around me. You passed on that love to me, the love for animals, for birds, for nature, for astounding beauty that lies just outside the door of your old home. Thank you for that incredible gift, because I will always have that piece of you safely locked inside my heart, to carry it where ever I go.
So as I sit here by your side today, visiting the spot where you are buried, I soak in the warmth of the sun, listen to the humming of the bees in the hydrangea trees, and watch the horses prance and sway in the meadow. A gentle breeze blows the green leaves that hide most of the mountain just peeking over the tops of the pines. It is breathtaking, and it is the view you will see when you rise up from the grave, when Jesus calls all His children home. And someday I will join you there in heaven, where nothing of this beauty will compare to what you see and waits for me. I love and miss you.
We are a cat family. We have always loved cats, and always have had many of them in our home. I especially love Siamese cats because of their amazing personalities, but we have had all kinds. Recently I wrote a story about our cat Jenny who we had when I was growing up in Vermont. (I thought I had posted it here, but cannot find it. I will post the story later.) After we moved she disappeared for three months. Every night I prayed that we would find her and God answered that prayer in an amazing way. I was only thirteen years old at the time. We had a similar situation arise recently that brought back all the memories of losing Jenny so many years ago. Again God answered our prayers in an amazing way and I want to share it with you today.
Currently we have three cats: Maysie, Kia, and Pinky. Kia is a short haired seal point and flame point mix, my beautiful, full of spunk and naughtiness, Siamese. Pinky is Kia's son, pure flamepoint with long hair, and I think he must have ragdoll in his genes because my son can carry him around on his shoulders, like a lamb, and Pinky does not complain. His story is another great story to tell because I nursed him back to life when he was on the brink of death as a little kitten. He holds a special place in all our hearts even if he is a little bit slow and awkward from his experience. It is what makes him such an amazingly gentle cat. Last of all, though she was one of the first cats we brought into our home, is Maysie. She is a long haired calico, though I believe she has Maine Coon in her blood too. That little M sits on her forehead, and so did her son Tiger, who passed away many years ago from a mysterious disease.
After living in a small apartment for five and a half years, we were finally told we needed to find a bigger place when I was pregnant with my fourth child. I do not blame the owners underneath us. Our tribe of children's feet running overhead probably sounded like thunder at times. We found a house not too far away and moved in on January 1st, 2004. Our cat Precious had passed away a few months before and we were catless for a few months. It was okay because we had lots of unpacking to do and a new baby to prepare for, so we figured after we were settled in we would search for a friendly feline.
Fast forward to April. Susanna was a month old and we were ready to find our new friend. We heard of a lady who took in strays. I took the children to go check out the kittens that were available. There were so many in her home! It was very hard to choose from, but JJ, my oldest, wanted an orange tiger cat. Francine brought out one of the litters and in the mix was a beautiful boy tiger. JJ fell in love and we decided he was going to be the one. Francine was happy to hear that we had chosen him, but she was concerned for the mother cat. She was still a kitten herself, not even a year yet. She was a beautiful calico, extremely friendly and she loved everybody. She purred happily as I stroked her fur as she laid on the floor with her kittens nearby. I asked what her story was. Francine explained that this cat had been found in an old abandoned shed in the woods with her six kittens. The mother cat was too friendly to have been a stray so she must have become lost when she was little after receiving a lot of love from her family. Maybe she could not find her way home and took shelter in the shed when she got pregnant. It was the only thing that made sense to us because she was too nice to have been given up easily.
"Please take her," Francine begged. "It's going to be very hard to place this mother cat because she isn't a small kitten anymore. You must take her and give her a good home."
I told her I would discuss it with Joe and get back to her later on. I left to go home, packing up my four children who I found had been very busy. (I know this may seem like a rabbit trail, but this is a very neat part of the story.) My two boys had discovered a motorcycle outside and had decided to sit on it to test it out. My younger one also found there was still a key in the ignition. He took it and tossed it into the grass of the yard and did not think anything of it. Francine's friend who owned the motorcycle discovered the key was missing. He asked the boys where it was and they told him in the grass. My heart stopped beating. I thought I was going to die. I marched over to them and took them aside. "You two had better start praying we find that key because if we don't you are in huge trouble!" Praying my own prayer I began walking around the yard searching everywhere for a silver sparkle that might be the key. JJ bowed his head and I watched him as he prayed. He began looking again and so did I, but before I took another step, I found the key right at my feet. It was like God put it there when our eyes were closed. I just had to share that part of the story because God is an amazing God!
To make a long story short, we decided to take Maysie and Tiger, and they settled down happily in our home. It was as if Maysie had always lived there. She flopped on our laps instantly, like she owned the place, and our house was now a complete home with our two kitties.
Fast forward 14 years...Maysie has outlived her son by 7 years already. We love her even though she is full of mischief, peeing on throw rugs, pulling her water dish across the kitchen floor, knocking down our trash barrel, eating broom bristles, tearing up papers left on the floor, begging for any bits of food we are eating, etc. We had to set up a system for the water and trash barrel that prevents her from pulling either of them over. Yet, she has never changed in her love for us, though she has tried to get out a few times. I think she still remembers being free as a kitten and the outdoor air calls to her. So, it was no surprise to find that after a friend of Ben's had left the door open that she had taken the chance to slip out and disappear into the nearby woods. I had noticed she was beginning to lose weight, even with the amount of food she was eating (or should I say stealing), and she was beginning to get a little aloof with us. A small bump had begun to form on her side too. After two weeks passed without any sign of her, I began to wonder if she had slipped out to pass away in the peacefulness of the woods around her. The not knowing was agony though, wondering if she was still alive, stuck somewhere, needing our help. We made some fliers that we put around the neighborhood in hopes that someone would give us a call if they saw anything. We prayed that she was okay and that God would bring her home to us again.
After the two weeks I received a call from a neighbor down the road. She had seen a little puffed tail go into the shed behind her house (Maysie had been trimmed with a lion cut so there was no mistaking that she was someone's cat). We raced over and called Maysie, looking everywhere for her little face in the middle of all the wood and junk inside the shed. Our search revealed nothing, so we left a little bowl of food on the floor and left. From that day on we began walking in the area every day, calling her, trying to lure her out. The food was eaten slowly, so we figured she was not starving. Then another call came...another neighbor saw her in the driveway, but we were away at the time. But now we knew the area she was living in and took great strides to search for her in the woods.
I still remember the day we saw her...it was about 7:30 at night and we were beginning to walk home disappointed again. Then I saw her face looking at me from the woods. I pointed and said, "Look! There she is!" Joe and I called, shook the bag of treats we carried with us, and he even sat down on the curb to see if she would come out. She simply stared at us, then laid down in the dirt with a look that said, "I am going to stay here. This is my home now." When we approached her she took off and disappeared into an old shed without a trace. We were in shock. Our cat had snubbed us and did not want us, or need us anymore. We decided to up our game. We got a have-a-heart-trap and set it out with some food in it. We only did it for a few hours because we did not want to catch a skunk or something unpleasant like that. The first day did not catch anything so we closed it for the night. The next day we did not open it, but a neighbor, who was helping us look, went walking and saw her sitting near the trap. He went home and got some food, setting the trap after she raced away from him. He went home and went about his business.
I was home getting ready to take the girls out. We had my niece and nephew here for the week and the girls wanted to go pet dogs at the pet store. "Before we go, let's take a walk and see if we see Maysie." They took off with Joe and a few minutes later the phone rang.
"We got her! She is in the trap!" Susanna yelled happily in the phone. We were a bit stumped at how she got in there, but the neighbor's wife told us her husband had set it. We were so happy to finally have her safe and sound! We got her to the house and let her out in the bathroom, where we could contain her. She cried, looking around with wild eyes, and hid behind the toilet for a while. She seemed disoriented and confused, and she was extremely skinny, weak, and shaky. She raced into the closet and hid in the blankets with her face peeking out. She let us touch her and talk to her. After about 30 minutes she came out of the closet, ready to leave the room. The wild look had left her eyes. She was our normal Maysie again. We pulled some gigantic ticks off her, put flea gel on her, and checked her over for anything else we did not want in the house. Satisfied with her condition, we let her out. She remembered where everything was, and was even happy to see the other cats, who did not know who she was and ran hissing out of the room. It had been three weeks, but now she was home again. I took her to the vet to make sure she was okay. It was an amazing blessing to find she did not have parasites (did she not eat while she was out there?), she did not have fleas, and though she did have a urinary infection, that was treatable. Everything else was fine, except for the large tumor that was found in her stomach. We knew of the lump, but did not realize how big it had become. So, my thoughts of her leaving were confirmed. She had left to die, but it was taking longer than she expected. Another week and she would have passed away from starvation and dehydration. She had gone from 12 to 7 pounds in those three weeks.
Even though the diagnosis was sad, we are glad she is home to pass away in the loving arms of her family. She seems well enough now, eating and drinking little bits all through the day. We don't know how much time we have with her, but we are going to enjoy every minute we have left. We are so thankful the Lord answered our prayers and brought her back to us. Amen!
I have always enjoyed little children, I think. :) At least it seems that way. Maybe not at the very beginning when my little brother was born three days before I turned six years old. I had an older brother already, and we played well together, though I remember being chased quite a bit, and him scaring the heebie jeebies out of me many times. I got a little annoyed at having my baby brother tag along behind me, getting in the way of my "big girl" things, like wrecking havoc with my dolls or throwing all my books on the floor. Shortly after came my first sister, then shortly after came my second sister, and then shortly after came my third sister. (Shortly is a term I use loosely because when you are little time seems to crawl by, and so does being pregnant, but as you grow older times seems to fly faster then ever and before you know it, you've reached your 40th birthday and all the days behind you seems like it was a "short" time.) So, there it was, six children in the Pinkham family, two boys and three girls. I watched my younger siblings a lot, helping keep them out from under foot when my mom was making dinner or cleaning. I remember a few times my parents went out alone and though my older brother was the older one, I did all the work, cooking for the crew, cleaning up after them, giving them baths, and putting them to bed. I knew the process well and it worked for us. Little children were my norm in life.
I began babysitting when I was 12 years old and watched many children all through my teen years. I had regular babysitting jobs every week and made quite a bit of money. It became so common that some people in town never saw me without a child in tow. I was often called the "little mother." The children I watched were always ten years or younger and I was glad about that. I always did get along better with younger people than me, and all my best friends were a couple years younger too. So teens scared me. I did not know how to interact with them. Plus, I had heard teens are terrible at listening and those years are extremely difficult.
Fast forward a few years to my 20's and now I have a crew of my own. I had four children rather quickly, and life settled into the busyness of taking care of four toddlers, four years and under. I barely had time to breath, let alone think as I chased after my two boys and two little girls. A few years later my fifth baby arrived, making my number three boys and two girls. I would sometimes stop and think about what it would be like to have teenagers, and it scared me to death to even consider having that many teens all at the same time. I was much more comfortable with my babies. I knew exactly what they needed, I knew where they were at all times, and tending to their needs came naturally. I was an old pro.
Fast forward again to now...I have four teenagers and one 9 year old, who thinks he is 16 too. My oldest is 18, just graduated from high school, and the rest are steadily making their way to the same place, and do you know what? I am loving my teens and this stage of life! Yes, we have had some ups and downs as their brains reset around 13 years of age, when we have to begin at step one and retrain them in all that we thought they knew from the beginning, but some of it is not their fault. It is just the changes that puberty brings. The beautiful thing is they respect us, happily do what we say, and life is very pleasant in our home. (I will add that there are some training moments, and times when they forget to do certain things, but don't we all?) But, the other night we were all sitting at a frozen yogurt place after church...my five children, my niece and nephew, and seven of their friends from youth group, and I just took in the amazing site of so many young people getting together and having a good time. I love watching them interact together, and my heart swells with joy at how my children have such good friends, and can laugh and talk comfortably together. A group of twenty people, four adults and the rest teens, went out on two pontoon boats yesterday and we had a blast on the lake! Jumping off Chicken Rock which was 15 feet up in the air, and swinging into the water on the rope swing was the highlight of the day. I love how I can talk to their friends and have a comfortable conversation, and I no longer fear the days when the word teen is after their number age. I am a mother of four teenagers and I am proud of it. "Thank you, Jesus, for giving me just what I needed at the right time to deal with the children you have placed into our home. Keep these precious children safe and guide them as they grow up, and may they always live for You. Amen."