Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sandbagging the Basement

Hello, Minnesota Spring.  Although I had been looking forward to you for a while, now, I didn't realize what an incredibly messy and expensive house guest you would make.

Sweet Hubby and I have been in the same house for 14 years and never had water rushing into our basement from spring thaw.  Until last night.

Around midnight, Ben told me "The laundry room has a couple inches of water in it."  With that, Levi instinctually sensed his moment to lay claim to our time.  I got him back to sleep and went to the basement, expecting to see some problem with the washing machine that my very competent husband had under control. 

Instead I found Ben squeezing out water with a sponge at the base of our upright deep freezer and extra fridge and stove looking perplexed.  (Yes, large families often have an extra appliance or two or three...) Since the laundry room floor was covered in a layer of clothes needing to be washed, he couldn't quite tell where the water was coming from. 

Side note - I am going to commend myself for having a layer of clothing on the floor to soak up some of the excess water.  If I had been all caught up with laundry, we might have had an even bigger problem. 

The water had spread from our laundry room into our furnace/storage room, which are both, thankfully, just a concrete floor.  Unfortunately, the water had also begun to soak into our carpet in the main room of the basement. 

We worked together till 2AM trying to get things away from the water and start cleaning the mess.  When we got closer to having things cleared out, we realized it was melted snow water, not any plumbing leak.  We have been taking turns since 2AM staying up to empty the water.  We used our shop vac till its motor wore out.  We also spent hours hunched over, cleaning up the water with sponges.  We are now the proud owners of another shop vac that will hopefully last till this mess gets cleaned up.

With my parents' help (they were here visiting) we managed to dig a trench to try to divert some of the water away from the house.  We also cleaned out a plugged drain in our egress window - a likely cause of some of this problem.

However, at this point, there is not much else we can do to stop the water.  It keeps pouring in by the floorboards in our basement.  We have sucked out hundreds of gallons so far, and I'm assuming will suck out hundreds more.  If we can keep up this relentless pace through the night, I am hopeful that the damage won't spread.

As much as I don't particularly enjoy this waterlogged adventure, it could be worse.  At least it is only melted snow water - not sewage.  Also, we were able to catch it before it destroyed everything in the basement. 

I have found the actual vacuuming with the wet/dry vac and subsequent dumping of the heavy 8 gallon container to be quite a good upper body workout.  Sure, I am hunched over something fierce because my back hurts and my arms and legs are tuckered out, but I feel like I have gotten quite a good bit of exercise.  Also, when I am vacuuming, I only use one hand.  I have been putting the other to good use holding a book.  This minor calamity is giving me hours upon hours to catch up on my reading. 

I've already had to cancel our family Easter dinner that we were going to have at our house tomorrow.  I am hoping that we can get this water situation under control enough to be able to go to church as a family and take a little time for Jesus and each other.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Finding My Happy Place

This afternoon was one of "those" parenting days.   Without incriminating too many people, lets just say that in the last hour or so I:

Scrubbed poop off bedroom walls
Took care of poopy bedding and stuffed animals
Mediated a disagreement where one child got punched in the stomach
Found out another ruined his shoes by not putting his boots on in the snow
Heard a running tattling commentary from a child who can't understand that just because something is true doesn't mean it can't still be a tattle
Grabbed our cat that had gotten outside
Stopped a child from climbing on our china cabinet
Still managed to make supper and wash dishes

On days like this, I need to find my "happy place".  Let me share my all time favorite movie scene.  It is impossible to not be in a better mood after watching it.  When everything seems to be going wrong, laughing like this is about the only cure. 

Thank you, Tom Hanks. 

From:  The Money Pit


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I am an Adequate Parent

Last week we had our first post-placement visit for Levi.  Post placement visits are required by China at 1 month home, 6 months, 1 year, 2 year, 3 year, 4 year and 5 year.  Yes, folks.  I will be doing adoption paperwork for the next five years.

Post placement visits involve the social worker assigned to you from your agency coming to your home and asking about how family life is going with the newest addition.  They ask about the child's health and adjustment to the family.  They are available to offer contact information for resources (like counseling, early intervention, etc.) if we are in need.

The social worker will use the information gathered at this meeting, in addition to written information and photographs that we provide, to write a report to send to the Chinese government. This will assure them that we are taking good care of Levi (although the adoption is finalized and China cannot "take him back") and make them feel comfortable about continuing their international adoption program.

I think the post-placement visit went well.  The social worker witnessed Levi almost pulling a floor lamp onto himself, but other than that, pretty event-free.  We are adequate parents!

I feel like this small victory was necessary for me to redeem myself as a parent after our last experience with Children's Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS), our agency.

A couple weeks ago, we were asked to speak as part of an adoptive parents panel.  Our agency runs weekend training sessions to educate future adoptive parents and one of the sessions (the one we were involved in) gives these parents-to-be a chance to ask families who have been through the process questions.

Ben, myself, and all the kiddos were lined up in front of a few couples and social workers.  We were with two other families.  One had just one child, one had two children.

In situations like this, it is necessary to plan seating arrangements with logistical precision.  Which child can be out of arms reach?  Which children are currently arguing and need to be separated?  Which kids needs to be close enough to whisper in their ear that he or she needs to stop picking their nose, adjusting himself, passing gas on purpose, etc. 

We have participated in these panel discussions previously.  As is typical, the families still in the adoption process were mainly interested in children without identified medical needs.  Both of the other families on the panel had adopted children without special needs.  I spent some of my time trying to take the scare factor out of the idea of special needs - letting them know that these kids are just regular kids who happen to have a medical quirk or two.

After the panel was done, I had the opportunity to spend time talking to one of the parents-to-be about special needs.  She seemed interested in hearing more.  And I was more than happy to share.

Which is why I told Veronica to wait a minute when she asked to go to the bathroom.  I lost track of time when she eventually wandered off toward Ben.  Ben came to me a few minutes later with a panicked look in his eye.  He let me know that Veronica had a problem and was in the bathroom and needed me "Right Now."

No, she didn't just have a little tinkle accident.  Poor girl had some runny poop issues.  Which I managed to clean up with witnesses in the bathroom.

Fortunately Veronica was wearing a dress instead of pants and a shirt that covered her current lack of tights and undies.  It really wasn't noticeable until she bent over to pick up a toy...

Do you see the irony?  I was talking about how to be a good adoptive parent, yet I neglect to help my own kid in the process.

Oops.  I'm glad that didn't get documented and sent to China.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Don't Clean My House

I don't clean my house.  Really.

There is too much pressure for a "clean" house, and I believe it is  impossible.  Housework never ends and there is always something that could or should be cleaned. As an at-home Mom, I can't just leave work and come home to relax because I am surrounded by a visual to-do list. 

I don't make my house clean, but I do make it cleaner.  Instead of getting the office "clean" by filing every paper, dusting, vacuuming, getting the computer files organized, putting away the pictures that have been in a giant tub waiting to be placed in photo albums for over a decade (No, that is not an exaggeration and please don't judge me), I simply set a timer for 15 minutes and get the office cleaner.

Did you catch the difference?  "Cleaner" vs "Clean". 

By re-framing the situation with a linguistic flourish, I suddenly go from failing at finishing a never-ending list of chores that will just need to be redone anyway to succeeding at my goal.  Improvement is my goal, not an arbitrary level of perfection.

I became a triumphant champion by verbally lowering my standards.  It's like a Jedi Mind Trick. 

I can look back on my days, even with laundry piled knee deep (again, not an exaggeration) and think "Well done!  The laundry is not up to my thighs anymore."  I have done "some" laundry instead of doing "all" the laundry.   The kitchen floor might not be washed and there could be dust clinging to the tops of my cabinets, but it is "cleaner" with the dishes washed and counters scrubbed. 

Striving for perfection is depressing.  I will often settle for bare competence when dealing with keeping a house with six children, age 10 and under living here.  And I'll feel good about myself in the process.

No, I have not gone this far in avoiding housework.  But she sure does look happy with nothing left on her to-do list.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Comparing Success

I got a phone call from the university I graduated from last night.  Ben answered the phone and offered to take a message, but they said they would call back.  I'm assuming they just wanted donations.  But, this reminded me that a little while before we left for China, my college alumni magazine came in the mail.  They put out a young professional edition to highlight people in their 20s and 30s and all the incredible things they are doing.

This did not cause me to feel bursting pride in my school and fellow Winona State Warriors.  Instead I felt like an inept slacker who had nothing noteworthy to put in a magazine.  Nobody is going to be putting my picture in a splashy spread, talking about how I manage advertising accounts for Fortune 500 companies.  I wasn't the alum surrounded by NASA astronauts who couldn't have finished their mission without me.  My classmates were doing amazing things.

I looked around my living room strewn with toys and laundry baskets full of clothes to be folded.  I heard a couple of kids arguing in the basement. Where was my glory moment that would make my school want to write about me?

I felt sorry for myself for a couple of hours.  Then I was mighty embarrassed because I had forgotten what I already know to be true.  I'm doing exactly what I am suppose to be doing.  Just like the people in the magazine are doing what they are suppose to be doing.

My job in life has nothing to do with my career (or current lack of one).  Nobody's does.  How could I have minimized my REAL purpose in life?

The whole point and purpose of life is to accept God's love and reflect God's love to others. 

That's it. 

I am currently doing that by raising my family and attempting to be kind and helpful to everyone I meet in my daily life.

I'll admit, some days I am an epic failure at this one job God has given me.  But most days, I'm not doing to shabby.  I suspect most of us feel the same.  It doesn't matter where I do this job of reflecting kindness and love to others.  I could do it at home, at the grocery store, at an office, or at NASA with a bunch of astronauts.  The title and paycheck don't matter. 

Thank goodness God's plan for me has given me a life I absolutely adore. 

P.S.  I hate math.  That NASA thing wouldn't have made me happy anyway.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In Sickness and in Health

I feel like Ben and I have been testing that "In sickness and in health" vow for the past several weeks.  I am currently fighting off a cold which might be morphing its way into bronchitis (not an uncommon occurrence for this asthma girl).  Ben has been fluctuating between illness and health since we have gotten home from China, too. 

Folks - for the past month, there has not been a single time when everyone in our family has been healthy on the same day. 

Which brings me to one of the few downsides of being an at-home parent:  lack of sick days.  I remember how absolutely wonderful it was pre-children when I was ill.  I could stay home from work and lay in bed all day, drugged up on Sudafed.  I didn't even have to buy the non-drowsy because I could drowse all day long if I wanted/needed to. 

Of course since I have been home for over a decade, that was back in the day before the "real" Sudafed was sold only behind the pharmacist's counter.  I still feel an uncontrollable urge to tell the pharmacist, "I'm not making meth or anything." every time I buy it.  They always reply that they didn't think I was, but I feel better for having told them.  But I suppose that is another story. 

I would just love a real sick day.  I would lay on the couch watching the PBS Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Colin Firth for the millionth time.  I would have a few light snacks and drinks on the side table next to me and a cozy velour blanket wrapped around me.  I would maybe flip through a magazine when I was feeling particularly energetic between naps.  When Ben came home from work, I would moan a few times for good measure, just to let him know how sick I was, yet how very brave I was handling my head cold.  He might serve me toast with a giant side order of pity.  Then, I would nobly trudge my way upstairs to my bed where I would sleep through the night, waking up rested and feeling better to greet the workday.

But, as it is, I have six kids (wow, it still feels weird writing that many children) to take care of, sick or not.  Ben is awesome, as usual, and does what he can.  However, I'll have to postpone my date with Colin Firth/Mark Darcy because there are still butts to wipe, stories to read, fights to mediate, blogs to update.

Sniffle, sniffle, cough, sneeze.