Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Fossil Hunt

The Skiff boys on a fossil hunt

What are Little Boys Made Of? 
   attributed to Robert Southey
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails
And such are little boys made of

Yesterday, my husband had a grand idea; we should take all the boys on a fossil hunt at Lake Texoma.  
Never mind that it was 95 degrees,or that we would be hiking off trail, through knee high weeds ( in Texas this is not a particularly good idea.  We have some nasty things that live in the tall grass), down gully's and over rocks, or that I am not overly fond of nature when it is all untamed, buggy and well, naturey.  Yeah, never mind any of that, we were headed on a fossil hunt!! 

We loaded everyone up into the ole' Skiffmobile and headed out.   After driving a bit, we arrived full of excitement and enthusiasm, well at least they were full of enthusiasm.  I sunblocked and bugsprayed the heck out of everyone, except hubby who claimed he didn't need it (yeah he's regretting that decision today;).  Then we started hiking....and hiking....and hiking.  I have to admit the scenery was beautiful as we hiked along the trail.  Then the wonderful trail ended.  Undaunted, we forged ahead through the weeds and climbed down to a beautiful, secluded cove.  I may not like buggy, grassy, itchy nature but I LOVE relaxing, peaceful, cooling, water nature.  Here, I decided, I would park my behind and enjoy the quiet cove whilst my adventurous men forged ahead to discover prehistoric relics.

My quiet piece of paradise

Here, in my cove of peace, I relaxed as I haven't relaxed in a very long time.   I sat on a big rock, my feet dangling in the water, the gentle waves lapping at my ankles, I was completely at peace.
I was able to meditate, to sing and pray without the slightest distraction.  It was definitely worth the buggy, itchy hike to enjoy these moments of solitude.
Me, hot and sweaty (not my greatest look;). but relaxing and  enjoying the quiet
While I was at peace and contemplating, hubby was wrangling five boys as they continued on their hike over even harsher terrain. I would feel sorry for him but this was HIS idea;) They did find a ton of fossils and had a fabulous time, according to all involved.  On their way back to me, Jamie's shoe broke after he got tangled up in some under brush.  Jamie continually has shoe issue's,  whether it is not putting them on before leaving the house or leaving one shoe at wherever we went or breaking his shoe in the middle of a hike.  I have not yet figured out why Jamie and his shoe's have so many difficulties but I am considering putting them in counseling.  Maybe then they can work out their deep seated issues together.
Hubby and the boys rounding the corner of my cove, on their return
Other than the broken shoe, which hubby cleverly cobbled together for the rest of the hike, and everyone getting a bit over heated it was a very successful trip.
One of the fossils they found and brought home
We hiked back to the Skiffmobile, loaded back up (with lots of cool fossils), and headed out for ice cream and slushes.  All in all, I say hubby had a winner of an idea after all (but don't tell will go to his head;)
Another of their fossil finds

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Are They ALL Yours?

I know this won't be news to almost anyone who reads this blog regularly, but for those who don't know, I have a lot of kids, and by a lot I mean a boatload.  I have my own basketball team.  Well technically, WE have our own basketball team, but more on that in a bit.  Indeed when walking down the grocery aisle my five boys look like an invading army, marching single file behind the grocery cart, except on the occasions that they look more like a swarm of invading locust, hungrily grabbing at anything and everything and putting it in the grocery cart.........yeah, hungry teen and pret-teen boy sized locust......that about sums them up.

Anyone who has a large family knows that there are certain questions you are bound to be asked whenever you go ANYWHERE as a family. As I'm tired of answering these same questions over and over and over and over and.....well you get the point, I have decided to answer everyone's question once and for all right here.  Then when I am asked any of the questions, I'll hand the questioner my business card, with a link to this blog or maybe I 'll have it printed on T-shirts and make all the boys where them whenever we leave the house.  Yeah, that will go over REALLY well with my boys. ;)

Question #1: Are they ALL yours?
No, I just go around collecting wayward children off the side of the road and bring them to Walmart for kicks.  Yes, they are ALL mine.  If you question my honesty on this, just hang around for another 3.5 seconds and two, if not three, of them will be calling "M-OM!" for some reason or another.

Question #2: You do know how this happens don't you? Also phrased: Should I buy you a TV and DVD player so you have something else to keep you entertained?
Judging by our success rate, I say we are well acquainted with the how and why of it all.  It is also apparent we are experts at entertaining ourselves but thanks for asking.

Question #3: Are you having anymore? Also phrased in our particular case: Are you gonna try for that girl?
Coming from a complete stranger, in line at the grocery store, I find this one of the more rude and intrusive questions.  It brings out my smarty pants side (sorry, Mom.You did train me better) Am I planning to have anymore, what? Sex, why yes I am.  Oh you meant, kids? Oh, I don't know.  I thought we might try for an even dozen.  What about you? Are you planning to have anymore kids? If so when?  Why? Oh you find these questions rude.  I'm so sorry, I wouldn't want to intrude.
For the record, we aren't having anymore but that really isn't the point now is it?

Question #4: How many loads of laundry do you do?
A lot.

Question #5: Do they all have the same Dad?
No, I'm like a black widow; I always eat my mate after we procreate.  Even my twins have different fathers.   Really, do I interview you in the checkout line about your children's paternity?   I give extra jerk points to people who ask me this in front of my kids.  For the record, yes all my boys do have the same father, not that this is anyone's business but ours.  Sheesh!

Question #6: Are you Catholic?  Are you Mormon?
No, we aren't.

Question #7: How do you afford all the kids? Are you on welfare?
We are blessed and my husband has a good job.  No, I'm not on welfare. Again, how is this  ANY OF YOUR  BUSINESS?!?  
Question #8: This one is asked to my husband by other men:  Are they yours?
I find it reassuring that other men, complete strangers mind you, have no problem insinuating that I may be a skank to my husband. I have already answered this, but obviously it needs to be said again: YES, THEY ARE ALL HIS!

They are ALL his.  They are ALL mine.  They are ALL ours and we wouldn't trade any of them for anything in the world, even when they resemble a swarm of hungry locust.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Go Southwest Young Skiffs- A miraculous journey from there to here part 2

When I was a young girl, we lived at the top of a mountain in West Virginia.  We were far away from city lights or street lamps.  In fact the only light at night was this big security lamp my great grandmother (who lived next door to us) had mounted on a pole.  For fun, the family would sit outside and watch an owl swoop down after his prey, exciting, I know!  When that bright light was turned off, you had an amazing display of stars but on nights that were overcast, where you couldn't see the stars , the night was so dark that you could almost reach out and touch the darkness.  They say that you can only truly appreciate the light after you've experienced this kind of palpable darkness.  I can attest to the truth of this.

I left our story off at the darkest of dark times in our lives.  I had reached the very bottom of my soul and put out a fleece before God.  "Prove yourself to me.  I don't care how but do something that I know only you can do."  This was almost four years after we moved to Virginia.  In the next six months things went from worse to desperate.  We could not afford the house we lived in the suburbs so we moved into a sketchy part of Richmond (something I swore I would never do), I was working and running the kids to all their different schools and daycare centers. We stayed away from home as much as possible.   The school the kids were in was so poor that they didn't even have books.  We had lived less than fifteen miles away, for four years, and every student had a laptop provided by the school but here the kids didn't even have books.  It was a very eye opening experience, to see first hand the inequity of our education system. 
After we had been there about four months, the kids got a 24 hour bug.  They all bounced back quickly except for Sam.  He just got sicker and sicker.  I was bringing him to the doctor every other day.  He was sent to the ER twice and then admitted to the hospital.  They couldn't figure out why he was so sick.  His oxygen levels kept dropping.  The second night he was in the hospital the machines all started beeping, I shook him and couldn't wake him up.  The nurses came running in with a crash cart. I was praying and trying frantically to get him to wake up.  Finally, after the doctor and nurses worked on him for a while, Sam woke up.  The next day they discovered Sam had pneumonia, two ear infections and his globulin E levels were off the charts.  The doctor advised us to move away from Richmond.  Sam had a severe allergy to mold and mildew which is everywhere in Richmond, which was originally a swamp that was drained to build the city.  This allergy caused him to develop asthma. 
A week after Sam was released from the hospital, I came home to find out the landlords had lost the house to the bank.  We had to move out with 60 days.  That very same day Usarian came home with an announcement, his employer had "promoted" him to a salaried position.  That sounds amazing but in truth it was a $15,000 pay cut because much of his pay was based on overtime.  We were already not making it, we could not take a pay cut.  Within two weeks we found ourselves in the position of  needing a new job, with a child who needed us to move from the area and soon to be homeless. Talk about stress!!
Usarian put in his resume everywhere.  He had companies expressing interest from Washington state to Washington DC.  He did interview after interview, and even flew down to Houston for an interview (the job itself was in Dallas).  They assured him the job was his so he put in his two weeks notice at work.  We rented a little U-Haul trailer and determined to take whatever would fit.  As we were packing, he heard back from the company, they had hired someone else.  Now we had to make a choice.  We had already put money down on a house to rent in TX but now we had no job waiting for us.  Should we go in faith, leaning on the word God had spoken to my heart years ago, 1,300 miles from any family or friends? Should we stay, move in with my parents and try to find something in the area, where we had family support?  It was an agonizing decision to make.  After much prayer, we decided to go. 
We left with almost nothing.  We brought a washer and dryer, one bed, our kitchen table (no chairs, we couldn't fit them), the kids toys, clothes, a TV, our family pictures, and some of the most important kitchen items.  That was all we could take. We drove for three days and had to stay in a hotel for the first few days after we arrived, waiting for the house.  I remember when I walked into the house for the first time, I cried.  It was beautiful and perfect for our family; 2,700 square feet, four bedrooms, in a wonderful neighborhood.  I prayed the day we moved in "God, we have enough money to get through two weeks.  Usarian needs a job by Monday."  Two days after my prayer, his recruiter called him with an interview on Thursday, at a private bank.  The recruiter warned him that they were slow to make up their minds, so he probably wouldn't hear from them for a while.  Friday evening, ten minutes before five, he received a call, telling him he was hired.  He would start Monday, at three times the salary he made in Virginia!! 
We went from nearly destitute and homeless to a huge house, in a wonderful neighborhood, making well above any salary we had dared to dream of, in one step.  That doesn't just happen.  That was God.
God had heard my desperate cry and proved himself above and beyond anything I had ever imagined.  Every time I soak in the huge garden tub, in our master bedroom, I am reminded about our journey here, a journey fraught with heartache and peril, an amazing, miraculous journey, that took us halfway across the country,  and I am so very grateful.
My friend, I don't know if you are at a place of total desperation, where there looks to be no way out of a hopeless situation. I don't know if you are at a place where you desperately need a break through, where nothing short of a miracle will make a difference.  I do know that if you cry out to God, if you lay yourself bare before Him in all your brokenness, pain and anger, He WILL be faithful to answer you.  It may not be when or how you expect it, it was six months after my prayer that I saw God move, but He WILL move.  Take heart, He has not abandoned or forsaken you.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Go Southwest Young Skiffs- A miraculous journey from there to here part 1

One of my very favorite things to do after a stressful day is to take a nice long soak in my garden tub.  I pour in bath salts, run the water as hot as I possibly can, fill it as high as I can and soak until my fingers and toes resemble raisins left in the sun too long and the water has long since cooled.  Tonight was a night I needed a long soak.  As I lay staring at the small water stain on the ceiling, a reminder of the time a storm blew the shingles off of a large portion of our roof a few springs ago, I was hit by wave of gratitude.  You see, laying there soaking in that huge tub, was a special gift from God to me, a prayer answered, a promise fulfilled.  This is a story of God's incredible patience, love and blessing in our life.  This is a true life adventure story, that spans ten years and 1,300 miles. This is the story of our move to Texas.

My husband and I met at a small Bible school in Western New York.  My husband was from the area, so after our wedding it was natural for us to settle there.  We settled in, bought a house, and had our first four children.  Then the sky fell in.  To make a very long story somewhat brief, I fell down an entire flight of stairs when I was 25 weeks pregnant with our twins.  I was holding Sam, who had just turned 1 a week and a half before.  Miraculously, Sam came away with nary a scratch.  I, crushed my elbow and spent the remainder of my pregnancy in and out of the hospital, mostly in.  This long hospital stay coupled with my husband having to be on unpaid leave for the entire time (we had no one to care for Paul and Sam while I was in the hospital) left us pretty much destitute after it was all said and done.  We were a young couple, starting out (only married four years) so we didn't have anything to fall back on.  We did a short sale on our house. Then we moved to Virginia to start fresh, drawn by the promise of a better economy and the plethora of family I had there, who could help me with four babies, aged three and under.
The day we moved into our house, as my brothers and husband were unloading the moving truck, I said to my husband "The next place we are moving is Texas."  He looked at me like I was a bit crazy and asked in typical Usarian fashion "So should I load everything back onto the truck?"  I shook my head and said "I just have a feeling I shouldn't get too comfortable here.  We will only be here about five years."  I really think God had spoken to my heart because otherwise there would have been no prying me away from all my family that surrounded us in Virginia.

Our four and a half years in Virginia were the hardest of our marriage.  I was home alone, with five babies (we had Benny while there), while my husband worked seventy hours a week.  We were so broke we could not afford heating oil, so we heated our house with a wood stove.  Two of our boys were diagnosed on the autistic spectrum during this time.  My aunt, who was more like a sister to me because we were so close in age (we even shared a bedroom for a time), died after an excruciating fight with cancer.  My extended family was facing some huge challenges and our marriage was a complete disaster.  I became furious with God.  I could not accept that the God that I had spent my life serving in ministry and personally, could just stand by and watch our lives blow up.  What was his problem?!?  People tried to give me the typical Christianese answers "God works everything for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes." "God won't give you more than you can bear" (that one isn't even in scripture) "You know God must have mighty plans for you." "We live in a fallen world" All of these answers just made me even madder.  I remember saying to a family member "I think God is a sadist."
 One night, as I was rocking a screaming Jamie in one arm (he had night terrors at the time.  He would wake up and run screaming throughout the house) and was giving Benny a bottle in the other, I turned on the TV. The only channel that had anything on at 2 am was PBS.  The program playing was a round table discussion with all the major religions represented by notable figures within each belief system. The moderator was posing different theological questions to each of them.  The question he happened to be asking when I turned on the show was posed to the man representing Christianity.  I don't remember his name but his response to the question posed changed my life forever.  The moderator asked him "If your God is real and all powerful, why do terrible tragedies plague the world?"  Honestly, I rolled my eyes, expecting him to quote the same scripture I already new backwards and forwards and give the same answers I myself had given a million times.
 Instead he began telling the story of C.S. Lewis and his wife.  Lewis married late and life and deeply loved his wife. She died not long after they were married from bone cancer.  Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed  "Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand. The conclusion is not "So there's no God, after all" but "So this is what God is really like, the Cosmic Sadist. The spiteful imbecile?"  
My ears perked up at this point.  C.S Lewis, one of the giants of the faith, was basically saying what I had just said a few short days before. 
The man answering the moderator said  "Many people say this was a crisis of faith for Lewis, but I say it takes incredible faith to stand before the Almighty God and be completely honest with what you are feeling and thinking."  I had tears flowing unheeded down my cheeks and I cried out to God in all my grief, anger and brokenness "God, I don't care how you do it but I need you to prove yourself to me. I'm tired of all the Christian excuses.  Yes, we live in a fallen world, but if you are God and you are bigger than that.  The truth is you could have stepped into any one of the situations and changed it.  But you didn't.  I want to believe in your goodness, I want to believe in your power but right now I need you to show me.  I need to see you are all the You say You are."  
I had been a devoted Christian for 25 years.  I had gone to Bible school, been in ministry, done all I knew to do to be faithful.  Yet, despite all of that, this was the defining moment of my faith, this was me at my very rawest before God.
I am going to stop here, in my darkest night.  I promise the second half of this story is nothing short of miraculous but in order to appreciate where we are now you have to know where we came from.  I pray if any of you are in your own darkest night, you will be encouraged.  I don't have the answers you need but God does.  Don't be afraid to be honest with Him.  You are in my prayers-Kristine

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