Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Catch Up

I don't like posting so many posts at one time, but it's just how crazy life is at the moment.  Here are some pictures to bring you up to speed (thanks to Patrick for motivating me to get caught up!):

 Yay for finishing little projects!!  Mitch and a few of the kids got these hung for me in our high entryway.  I don't claim to be an interior decorator.  It just doesn't run in my blood.  These are pretty cool, and they work for me!  :)

 We celebrated Mitch's birthday at home with just us.  As the kids headed to bed, Mitch and I went out to Mexican Village for a free birthday meal.  I suffered terrible heartburn.  (Note to self:  do not stuff tummy then head straight to bed.)  Adventures in potty training continue:  we always try to get underwear on, but sometimes there are no shorts.  Tirzah also battled a bad case of constipation.  It was terrible.  I would gladly put off potty training for the time being, but she still insists on stripping down and going potty. 

Eden wore this outfit 10 years ago!!  It's one of the few special things I saved.  SO fun.  :)

Obadiah makes all kinds of cute faces and is learning to smile.  He's getting cuter every day.  :)

Malachi is very affectionate towards Obadiah.  I don't usually let him too close, because he's just too rough.  :)  Obadiah will be one tough cookie!
Malachi is impersonating Han Solo, and Obadiah has put on his best Jabba-the-Hut face!!  =D

{Forced brotherly love}

We celebrated Memorial Day on Sunday with friends the Bergrens and also with Holly and Kyle's family.  Look at all these kids!!!  We left up the birthday decorations from Mitch's birthday because Malachi's is on Thursday of this week.  :)  He is so excited.  On Monday (Memorial Day), I went shopping at the thrift stores because they had everything 50% off.  We snagged some good deals.  After that I went grocery shopping, then I picked up Malachi for a special trip to Wal-Mart.  I bought him a birthday present from us, and I let him spend his money on some other things he wanted.  He had a really fun time.

Update on house stuff:  Well, our water heater works really well.  Our cleaning/purging is moving along.  Mitch is very excited about how organized the garage is getting.  He insists that I pretty much won't see him the rest of the summer because he will be playing in his garage.  I said it's about time.  LOL, ok so I didn't really say that.  But I am happy that he will be able to work and play with his tools.  I know that girls and boys are different, but my feelings for my sewing room must be comparable on some level.  Our lower level is still pretty much destroyed.  Our church is having a garage sale next week to raise money for their Abba Fund--a new fund set up to provide interest-free loans for people who are adopting.  I have piles and piles of items set aside in my basement to take to the garage sale.  Also our carpet is not laid back down yet, so the items from that bedroom are still spilling over into every other room.  I'm SOOOO anxious to have it back together.  I still need to switch over clothing for a couple of the boys--Zeke is getting close to wearing size 8, but his summer shorts are all size 6.  Ufda.  Josh doesn't have any summer stuff out yet.  I can hardly get in their room anyway, so what would I do???  The to-do lists are out of control. Some days I can't even focus on the task at hand, because my mind drives me from one thing to the next chaotically.  I'm trying to take it just one day at a time, but I find that my heart is much more like Martha and very little like Mary (Luke 10:38-42) these days.  I'm so overwhelmed at times that all I can do is be grumpy.  :(

Well, my time is up.  I could sit here and write at least one more post.  But maybe there will be time tomorrow??  We'll see.  Right now Micah pretty much made lunch all by himself.  I'm sure he'd appreciate my help serving it...

Prom and Graduation

Mitch and I, along with Kathi, got to experience two popular American events for the first time.  Well, it was our first time on the parents' side of it, and of course Kathi's as a student.

We learned of a program in MN called Operation Glass Slipper a few months ago.  Mitch and George (another YFU volunteer) took a group of girls down to the Mall of America to pick out prom dresses.  Kathi made plans to go to prom with friends.  Here are some of the pictures I took:

{Our gifts to Kathi for prom--a professional manicure, and a wrist corsage}

{Kathi and her friend Laura at the grand march}

We asked the Apollo High School counselor to place Kathi as a "Senior" so that she could experience the events that Seniors normally get to experience--including graduation.  Of course, Kathi does not have enough credits to obtain a high school diploma, but she was able to participate in graduation ceremonies and receive a "Certificate of Graduation."  I think it is fitting, because just like other seniors, she is leaving and won't be back to high school here (she has 3 more years in Germany--it's hard to imagine!).

Hosting an Exchange Student

This post is long overdue!!  If you have ever considered hosting an exchange student, now is the time!  There are lots of students who are preparing for an exchange year (10 months) away from home, waiting patiently to be chosen by a host family.  Opening your home to an exchange student is an incredible experience.  We have been blessed twice with exchange students.  They have become an inseparable part of our family.  If you haven't been reading Kathi's blog, you should!  I haven't blogged as much about Kathi this year as I did about Patrick last year.  Part of the reason why is because Kathi does such a good job blogging herself--my excuse to be a little lazy!  My father and mother-in-law Paul and Marilyn also hosted a student this year, Eva.  Eva has a blog too, but she typically writes in German.  I sometimes use Google Translate to get the gist of what she's saying.  She posts a lot of pictures, which is fun.

My question for you is, would you consider hosting?  Shall I list a few benefits of hosting a student?
  • Expand your borders.
  • Multiply your love for other people and cultures.
  • Share your family history and values.
  • Open doors for international students.
  • See your own little piece of the world through new eyes.
Visit Youth for Understanding-USA today!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dedicating Obadiah

On Sunday we had Obadiah dedicated along with 7 other new babies in our church.  It was a special event for us, where we dedicate ourselves and our child to the Lord and promise to raise our child according to certain pillars of our faith, teaching them about God, how to pray, to read the Bible, taking them to church, etc.  Then the pastor prays a special blessing over each child.

Adventures in Gardening

We are starting our garden later this year, because spring came later. We should have had our plants started indoors already, but we are late with that as well. We'll see what happens! I also didn't get any "before" pics. A couple weekends ago Mitch and Micah worked hard to clean up the old straw bales from the yard and rake the weeds and dry plants in our raised garden leftover from last year.  Then Mitch and his dad Paul went to get new straw bales.  On Monday they "tilled" the garden by hand and planted seeds.  We also started some plants indoors (cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.).

Check out the look on Tirzah's face:

This is what she's looking at:

They kept trying to get her to touch it, but she wasn't going to have anything to do with it!  Even Kathi tried to get her to touch it...
Can you see everyone?  Well, everyone except me and Obadiah...of course I'm taking the picture, and Obi is on the blanket next to me.  But everyone else?  Count them...that's what I always do!
Mitch tried again to get her to touch the worm...
Check out the dirty little piggies:
And tiny little oak leaves...

Mitch planted sunflowers, corn, lettuce, carrots, green onions, and radishes in the raised bed garden.  We planted thick and will have to thin out the plants when they come up.  Last year our carrots didn't come up at all, but hopefully this year will be different!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Oh if you could see my house now...but you're not gonna, because I'm not gonna take pictures (even though Karri told me I should).  Mitch is motivated to clean/organize, and I am motivated to purge.  There is talk about getting a storage unit, and I'm at the point where I fear what renting a storage unit means.  :)  So I am motivated to throw or give away items that we just plain don't need (nor have space here at our house to keep).

We just moved from 'overwhelming' into complete and utter chaos.  I'm surprised I could find a chair to sit on while I type this. :)

I'm writing in jest.  Sort of.  I'm not exaggerating.

I hope the daycare kids have a place to play on Monday morning!  Shucks, I hope my kids have a place to sleep tonight!!

With our basement still turned upside down (the carpet has not been laid yet in the boys' room), we emptied our garage attic, and moved all the tubs of clothing from the crawlspace under our entryway to the garage attic.  It's amazing what has accumulated in our garage attic the past few years.  Amazing.  Yeah, maybe there's a different word I should use.  Let's just say that it exploded--some is in our basement (how they found any room to pile it there is beyond me), some is in our bedroom, some is in Tirzah's room.  It's crazy!!

Why am I sharing all of this really?  Materialism just sneaks up on us.  Where are our hearts?  Where are we storing our treasures?  Stories like this one, of Tom Lee (father of 13) who lost his life in the deadly tornadoes in Alabama, really snap me back to reality.  (Here is another one:  the Crawfords, who lost their home and their parents' home.)  If a tornado wipes out our home, what am I going to miss?  What am I holding on to?

Seize these moments of motivation when they hit!  Even if it throws your house into chaos.  It might get worse before it gets better.  A reality check is good for you.  Owning stuff requires upkeep.  One of my favorite songs says, "Have what you want, but want what you have."  (Point of Grace, How You Live)  As we head into garage sale season, and the temptation hits for us to own "new" items at bargain prices, hopefully we will use this refocused perspective to make good purchasing decisions.  :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Showers, Laundry, Potty Training, and more!

Well, our hot water problem is pretty much solved.  Mitch purchased a tankless water heater that, with rebates, will cost about the same amount as a tank would have.  The installation was a lot harder, though.  Mitch took the day off school on Friday to work on it.  The vent for the old heater was only 2", so he widened it to 3".  He also ran a second vent.  The longest pipe he could buy was 10', but he needed 15 or something like that.  It meant he would have to cut a hole in the ceiling so he could put a support for where he pieced the pipes together.  Instead, he and Micah spent some time driving around to some larger places (not your Menards-type store) and finally found a couple pipes that were long enough.  He had to pay twice as much for the pipes, but the extra $30 was worth not having to patch our ceiling (sheetrock, tape, mud, texture, paint), don't ya think??  The gas and water pipes had to be completely rerouted also.  He got help from a friend and from his dad for those.  When the propane torch came out for soldering, I got a little uneasy.  :)  Mitch and Paul enjoy playing with fire too much!!  There are a few little things that Mitch needs to finish up before the project is completely done.  The immediate need is relieved, though, we have hot water!

This tankless system is supposed to be good for large families and it is supposed to save us money.  However I have found one problem:  my showers will likely be longer than they ever were, because I'm not going to run out of hot water nor worry about the person showering after me.  :)  The savings we have will go to our increased water bill to be sure.  LOL  All I know is that on Sunday morning I was 5th in line for a shower.  When I got in, Zeke was already in the shower downstairs.  I noted that I didn't have much water pressure.  When he kicked his shower off, my pressure was up to a level that was more acceptable.  I had perfectly warm water for as long as I lingered in the shower.  On a different Sunday I could have expected a lukewarm or cold shower at best.

Getting back to laundry was another issue.  When Paul and Mitch were inspecting the space between the ceiling and the subfloor above, Paul noticed that our dryer vent was disconnected part of the way back.  Our ceiling had a lot of lint on it--yikes!  So Mitch had to repair the dryer vent before I could be hooked back up for laundry.  Even though my friends helped me get my laundry done last week, it felt like we had twice as much laundry this week.  I still can't figure that out.  The one who never changes his underwear actually had one pair in the wash, as well as 2 pair of jeans, 2 shirts (one shirt is the same shirt he wears to church every Sunday), and a couple pair of socks.  Should I be worried??  =S  Just look at this crazy pile of laundry!  There are still two more loads in the wash.  Insane!!  Micah helped me a lot with folding, though.

Tirzah has insisted on potty training.  I have been hesitant because I have so many other things going on and I can't focus enough.  But when she pulls off her dirty diaper, we all start running. 

I started a few months ago just teaching her the basics, to prepare for a more fast-paced training in the future.  I would have her sit on the potty to practice.  I would talk to her about all the words (wet/dry/poopy, potty, diaper, etc), so she understood the language.  I had other kids help her go potty, and if she peed they would each get an M&M.  I had her wear undies a couple times here and there, but I wasn't ready to make the switch to wearing underwear for any extended period of time, nor did I really expect her to stay dry at all in them.  I just wanted her to be used to the "feel" of it, before we were ready to start. 

That's when the stripping began.  She got so used to it that she would often strip out of her diapers.   I wasn't sure how to proceed--like I said, I wasn't ready to give her some good focused attention!  She was so proud of herself for being able to get dressed by herself, that I would often walk into her room and find clothes all over the place where she had been trying on different things (such a girl!!). 

In the past week she has gotten so much more consistent with going and we have had her in underwear more than in diapers.  She is doing amazing!!  Both yesterday and the day before she only had 3 "accidents".  Two times were just before needing to go poop--she peed a small amount in underwear and ran to the bathroom to finish.  The third time was while playing outside--that's always a hard one to figure out.  (Even some of my bigger boys have recently been trying to pee outside--NOT cool with me, here in the middle of the city.)  This is SO much better than training Malachi.   

(And I think my dad will agree that in this picture she looks an awful lot like me.  It's the angle.  Hehe.)

Obadiah has been smiling.  He is also packing on some weight.  I haven't been able to catch a smile on camera yet, though.  We didn't use cloth diapers last week since the hot water was out (I couldn't wash them properly).  This week we are back at it, and I think he doesn't like them.  He was a crabby patty yesterday every time he was wet/dirty.  :\

My basement is still a disaster.  We have to get the carpet laid back down before we can get it put back together.  I admit that I'm really anxious for that to happen.  I still feel so overwhelmed by the "to do" list that I've been carrying around in my mind.  At the same time I am excited and joyful.  Each day has its own accomplishments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Unite for Life Webcast

Just a friendly reminder that tonight is the Unite for Life webcast featuring Abby Johnson, co-author of Unplanned and former director of a planned parenthood clinic in Texas.  I recently did a review of the documentary Unplanned.  Abby struck me as very sensitive, gentle, and understanding.  The webcast is scheduled for 8pm in all time zones.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Review: Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor

Micah (13yo), Eden (12yo), and I all read Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor by Chuck Black this past week.  This book is part of the Knights of Arrethtrae book series.  There are several other installments already in the series, but it is the first we have read.  Each book in this series is able to stand alone, so they do not have to be read in order.

The book is an allegory in a medieval setting.  The allegory is to the growth of the early church.  In this book, Sir Quinlan is a young knight who isn't particularly good with his sword, but he genuinely loves the Prince.  He joins a special unit of knights who go into battle against the Shadow Warriors and work to protect other knights who are carrying the story of the Prince throughout the kingdom.  Tragedy strikes their team, however, and Quinlan faces trials larger than he ever imagined he would face when he originally joined.

The allegory is very clearly laid out in the initial chapters, which made it a little less interesting for me reading on an adult level, but I know that for the younger set it may good to be clear up front.  Once the story got moving, I could think less about analyzing the allegory and relax into enjoying the story.  I felt the story was well-written as a whole.  There were a lot of different characters, and at times I wished that some had been developed more.  The book is relatively short, though, at 176 pages.  I loved the character of Sir Quinlan.  He is a bottom-of-the-class type character.  He isn't a high achiever, but he seems to accept who he is and is comfortable with that.  He feels that what he has to offer in service of the Prince is inadequate.  But the Prince takes what Quinlan has, and builds on that.  He makes Quinlan strong and able to lead the Swords of Valor.  I think there are many young Christian readers that will be able relate to Quinlan.

Micah says of this book: "I think Sir Quinlan is a great book to read because it has adventure and fantasy in the middle of important lessons for life." Micah and Eden both expressed joy and sadness over the ending of the book.  It was a somber reflection of the reality that is coming for all of us.  I'm glad they could feel that, at least a little bit.

The book also includes discussion questions, answers, and piano sheet music for the song "Ride of the Valiant."

We are excited to have a new author to add to our list of favorites, and we can't wait to look for more of his books!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah.  I was not required to write a positive review, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Please take the time to rank my review with Blogging for Books.  This helps me continue to get great new books to review!!  It requires a one-time setup with your email address.  :)

Book Review: Lead. Serve. Love.

When you were a kid, did you take any medicine that you really loved the flavor of?  I did.  :)  It was fun to take medicine that tasted good and that I knew was going to help me feel better.

Lead. Serve. Love.  100 Three-Word Ways to Be Like Jesus, by Gregory E. Lang, is like good medicine.  It tastes good going down, and it makes you feel better too.

This is a gift book that features short devotionals.  On every-other page is a paragraph or two with a lesson of application.  On the facing page is a list of scripture verses that apply.  The focus of each devotional is to bring encouragement and practical ways to lead, serve, and love as Jesus does.  For example, lesson number 1 says, "Smile at everyone."  This one was kind of easy for me.  When I go out, I always wear a smile.  There is one guy at Sam's Club that I see nearly every week.  His name is Gary and he checks receipts as people leave the store.  He has commented to me several times that I am "always smiling" and how pleasant that is.  I like him.  A smile is an easy thing to share.  But I don't spend the majority of my time outside the home, I spend the majority of my time inside with a bunch of short people.  Am I sharing my smile here, with those who need it most?  One of the things Lang says about this is "Christian living is more than adhering to moral standards of conduct; it is also the demonstration of several graces, including love, joy, and peace."  The scriptures referenced are: 2 Corinthians 13:12, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:31-32, Philippians 4:4, Colossians 3:12. The medicine goes down easy and I am encouraged.  Again and again.  Because just like with Tylenol, sometimes we need repeated doses.  :)

This book would make an excellent gift for any occasion.  It should be kept nearby, in a place where it can be easily grabbed when you have a minute.  :)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson book publishers as a part of their booksneeze blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thirsty for God's Word?

I have some more book reviews coming up.  I read the book Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor, by Chuck Black.  I also read the book Lead. Serve. Love., by Gregory E. Lang.  I want to tell you what I thought of them, but I'll save it for the reviews.    :)

I have recently spent some time in thought about Christian literature, especially reflecting on "Christian fiction" after reading Sir Quinlan.  I have been doing a lot more reading in the past year, and I have been exposed to a wider variety of literature from Christian authors than ever before.  It has always been rather easy for me to get "caught up" in a good fiction novel.  I know that is true for MANY people.  My oldest 3 children devour fiction novels, then talk about them endlessly for days.  They recall favorite scenes and conversations.  The characters in these stories almost become real to them.  Caleb is usually first to research the author on Wikipedia and find out if there is going to be a sequel.  They beg me nonstop to search our library for more books by the same author.  They don't even complain when I ask them to write a one-page book report for me.  When their supply of new books to read dries up, they pick up favorite books and read them again. 

This is good, right?

I cautiously say "yes."  And "no."  What are they hungering and thirsting for?  Is their love of fiction literature driving them to explore other things?  Is it challenging them to grow in character?  Is it challenging them to move on to harder pieces of literature? 

Or is it just tickling their insatiable desire to be constantly entertained?

It's almost like our books have become another version of "screens" for the kids.  There was one day recently when the weather outside was absolutely beautiful.  The younger kids were begging to go outside to play.  I couldn't go out with them at the moment, so I asked Eden to go out and be my eyes for me (I could hear them, just not see them, as they played in the back yard).  I happened to look up in time to see Tirzah escaping from our fenced-in back yard to the front yard.    Where was Eden?  Oh, she was outside, alright.  With her nose stuck in a book.  When I demanded that books stay inside and all lazy children go outside to play in the warm sunshine and fresh air, I was met with whines of "There's nothing to do!" and "It's too hot!"  Sheesh, kiddos!

Sir Quinlan is an allegory, which can be good and bad when analyzed theologically.  Every allegory is going to fall short of the true Gospel presented in God's Word.  But an allegory can also reignite our passion for the true Gospel, it can encourage and inspire.  I'll make my own little analogy:

Soda = general fiction/popular media
Koolaid = Christian fiction
Water = the Bible, God's Word
Let's say you are a soda drinker.  You must drink a prescribed amount of soda every day or you have withdrawal symptoms.  The problem with drinking soda is it not only quenches your thirst, it will deplete your body of fluids causing you to be dehydrated.  And it actually makes you LESS thirsty so you don't drink as many fluids overall as you should in a day.  Now say you switch to drinking koolaid.  It's better for you, but still not as good as pure water.  Don't they say "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"?  Yes, it's true, but there's an awful lot of sugar in that koolaid.  And the problem is that it creates a desire for more sugar.  Plain, pure water doesn't taste as good when your diet is accustomed to drinking so much koolaid.  It quenches your thirst, and you don't head for the water.
If your diet consists of a lot of general fiction (or even non-fiction), will you have time left over for God's Word?  And what you put into your mind (garbage in?), will come out (garbage out?).  Just as soda will deplete your body of fluids, a heavy diet of popular media will interfere with hiding God's word in your heart.  Don't get me wrong--I'm not slamming popular literature/media and saying you should not read it.  I'm aiming to point out that possibly a diet heavy in those things will detract from your ability to read and digest the Bible.  But focusing on only reading materials from Christian authors isn't the answer either.  There's an awful lot of "sugar" in these novels.  When your desire to read the next novel (or self-help book) outweighs your desire to go straight to the Bible, your diet may be imbalanced. 

Ok, maybe my analogy is a bit far-fetched, but this is what I'm trying to get at.  A good Christian book can remind you of Biblical truth.  It can help you understand things about life that you are struggling with or questioning.  It can encourage you or convict you.  It can help you think about things from a completely different angle.  It can even help you understand Scripture that you are hung up on!  These are all really good things!  But they are still no substitute for turning to the real thing.  And if you find yourself picking up your Bible and thinking, "Uh, this is boring.  I don't understand this.", then you may have a real problem with an unbalanced diet.  Oh man, I know this personally! 

And another thing, I worry that my kids' favorite fiction novels will become so "real" to them, they will become equivalent to Bible stories.  The only way this can happen is that Bible stories will become more like fiction in their minds.  I know that this is how my kids think!  If that happens, the fiction novels, even though they are "Christian", will be doing some serious damage--way more harm than good.

It is good to read.  It is good to curl up and "escape" in a good book.  But don't let it interfere with your (or your kids') desire to read the Bible.  Hunger and thirst for God's word.  Hide His word in your heart.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Drawing for UnPlanned DVD!

I didn't forget that I needed to do this drawing, I just have been so absolutely overwhelmed that I didn't have a chance to.  :) 

And the winner is....

"The Mom"

Can you please email me at stephtheis at gmail.com?  I need your name and address and I'll drop your certificate in the mail!  Thank you so much for participating.  :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Small update

Small update:  Our water heater is only a 40-gallon tank.  :)  *I* misread the side of the tank to come up with the 79-gallon number.  We can easily find a 40-gallon tank, and much cheaper too.  And if we go with the 50-gallon tank, it's not a downsize, it's an upgrade!!  Also we have offers of help to install it.  Whew...now to make plans.

Stress, stress, and more stress...

If you are my friend on facebook you already know this story.  I'm sorry it's so long...I was feeling a little wordy today.  I really need to learn to be more concise.  ;)

On Wednesday I went to hop in the shower and discovered that the hot water heater was not working.  We tried shutting it off and turning it back on, but it never would warm.  A daycare parent, with a house by the same builder, told me their water heater (the standard one installed during that time-frame) had broken a couple years ago.  They woke up one morning and heard a hissing sound, and went to find it had cracked down the side and water was spraying out.  Hmmm.  Hindsight is 20/20.  I did nothing but assume our water heater needed to be replaced.  We left the water on, left the heater on, and just waited.

On Thursday morning, Mitch went to take a cold shower, and discovered that it was actually warm.  Strange, but fortunate I thought.  I got a shower.  :)  On Friday just before lunch Micah came upstairs to let me know that the floor in the room where the boys sleep was squishy wet.  Soaked.  I went downstairs to inspect.  That room is on a side of the house where there are no pipes.  The only places water could come into the room would be from the laundry room, which shares a wall, or from a leak in the basement foundation.  Inspection of the laundry room showed no obvious signs of water--none on the floor, none visible on the walls.  But the boys' room was soaked nonetheless.

I had to get to the bottom of it, literally.  So Micah and I began cleaning as much as we could while still doing lunch, taking care of kids, etc.  I had a small hope that maybe some naughty boys had dumped buckets of water on the carpet.  Sadly, that was not meant to be.  We began moving things out of that room, which is basically 9x10 and held a full size bed, and a bunk bed that used to be a twin-over-full, but is converted to be twin over two toddler beds.  It's wall-to-wall beds in there.

I took a flashlight and went into the laundry room again to find water hiding in some dark corner.  I did.  It was the water heater.  Water was trickling out and instead of heading toward the drain in the laundry room it was heading toward the boys' bedroom.  We figure our basement floor must be slanted.  :(  All we could do was empty the bedroom.  Then we had to wait for help.  I knew Mitch was only going to be home for about 45 min between school and leaving for the YFU orientation.  So I called my father in law, Paul.  He had equipment we needed anyway.  He and Mitch moved the dryer out of the laundry room so they could actually get at the water heater and determined that it was indeed the source of the problem.  Thinking about the wet blankets in my washing machine and rain in the forecast, I mourned the loss of use of my dryer.  Paul helped us get the carpet ripped up, throw out the pad, and get fans running under the carpet to dry it.  He also emptied the water heater.  All this time, Micah was his constant helper while I dealt with the rest of the kids.

We were thinking we were out of the woods.  Sort of.  Stop the water before it spreads.  One 9x10 room is not so bad, right?  Saturday's weather was mild enough to get my wet blankets dried on the line outside.  On Saturday night (I haven't had a shower since Thursday, remember), I loaded up all the kids and took them to Kyle & Holly's for baths/showers.  On Sunday I tried not to think about it.  I couldn't help but worry about the next shower or how in the world I was going to get my laundry done.

Monday morning Devona picked up Micah, Eden, and Caleb to administer their Iowa Basics Standards Tests since she is testing her children this week and they are the same sections/times/instructions.  She took with her some laundry to wash and dry at her house.  Later in the day Kelly stopped by and picked up 3 more loads--one that I washed here so it could go straight to her dryer, and two more to wash.

When I went downstairs to get the laundry, that's when I found more flooding.  See, we had shut off water to the water heater, but anytime we used cold water at the faucets, the vacuum would pull water backwards through the hot water pipes and was refilling the water heater.  We had a hose run from the water heater drain to the laundry room floor drain.  This hose was running as often as we were using cold water (which was often enough, especially when I ran the washing machine).  The hose got kicked out of place and onto the hallway floor, drenching more carpet.  While Kelly watched my kids, I ripped up that carpet and threw away the pad, then got it propped up so it could begin to dry. 

Discouraged doesn't even begin to describe how I felt.  But in the midst of it, I also felt encouraged.  I was surrounded by friends with offers to help.  My laundry was getting done.  I knew when and where my next shower was going to be (Monday night at Kelly's), and the oldest 3 would be taking showers at Devona's.  Plus Devona was going to drop Kathi off at another friend's house (Todd & Karri) for a shower when she got home.  Karri stopped by Monday afternoon and surprised me with a turtle fudge sundae from Culver's.  In the midst of my stress and chaos, I was being built up.

Later Monday evening we closed all the hot water valves at the faucets, and also disconnected the hose and shut off the drain to the hot water heater.  If it does refill with water, it will leak, but probably only into the room where it leaked before and the carpet is still up.

Today Devona is doing 2 more loads of laundry for me.  That will get me at least until the weekend, then I can go to a laundry mat if needed.  We will continue to rotate around for showers as needed.  (With the water shut off, the faucets in the tub will not bring any water at all, not even cold water.  Otherwise we would fill the tubs, then add boiling water to warm them.  Or some of the brave people in my home would be willing to suffer 50 degree F showers.)  We heat water on the stove to wash dishes, and I try to keep it warm throughout the day for hand-washing too.

Our search for a new water heater is not going well.  We called a couple places, but they quoted us over $2400 for the heater and installation.  We have a friend who can install it for us if we buy one, but none of the stores we have called have anything larger than a 50-gallon tank in stock.  With a family our size, 79 gallons doesn't keep up sometimes.  I don't even want to think about what that means if we downsize.  We are considering tankless, but that will require changing the pipes, as well as the venting.  As in, the venting that runs through the finished ceiling of the basement.  Could we run it through the back wall of the garage?  Possibly, but not tomorrow.  And not cheaply. You know, this is one of those things where I was thinking a new water heater costs around $300-500.  Wowzers, I'm having a little bit of sticker shock here.

The boys have no bedroom to sleep in, so they are sleeping every night in our living room on a mattress and/or the couches.  I have a new baby who gets up at night, so I'm tired and short on sleep.  There are many end-of-the-school-year activities going on.  I'm still doing daycare.  Mitch is using his precious few minutes of planning time during school to try to call people for quotes or advice.  Stress, stress, and more stress!  This is not all that's stressing me out, though.  The water heater is enough on its own, but there are a few other things too.  It all adds up, and it feels like it came all at once.  How will I ever manage to get everything done?  Even if I just narrow it down to the important things...

Remember how much cleaning we did in the basement a week ago?  I'm really glad we did it, because this mess could have been much harder to deal with.  But looking at how it looks now, it feels like we didn't accomplish a thing.

 Looking longingly at my dryer...which is a TV stand now...even the treadmill stands unused, holding an empty laundry basket...

 Carpet I flooded and ripped up yesterday...

 Just enough walking space to get to their clothes...

Carpet up and drying (big fans underneath), blocked off mostly for kids' safety.

Mother's Day

My friend Kelly decided to surprise me by helping my kids do a special Mother's Day project for me. Mitch was busy Friday night/Saturday morning with the last YFU orientation for this school year. Kelly came over on Saturday morning and watched all the kids (sans Caleb, who was at Mall of America with a friend) while I headed out to do the grocery shopping.  She even kept Obadiah! I was so nervous that she would be overwhelmed by all those kids. :) At some point I realized, hey--I do this every day, she'll be able to handle it!

She not only did the project with them, she also took pictures!!  Kelly works as a vet tech, and brought her scrubs for the kids to wear as paint shirts.  They looked SOOOO cute!!  :)

She also brought all the supplies, even thinking of plastic for the table.  That's some good organization!

Even Micah had a great attitude about this project.  :)

Malachi had to use every color on his.  What a mess!  :)

These are going on the wall above our entryway stairs, for all to see.  Caleb finished his on Sunday.

It was such a sweet gift from Kelly and the kids!  Kelly is celebrating her first Mother's Day with her baby girl in her arms.  :)

On Sunday night Kathi displayed some amazing observation skills and presented me with a gift that made me very excited.  :)
One of my favorite movies, Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightly.  ;)  I can't wait to have a girls' night!  Especially with all the stressful things going on here lately (more on that in the next post).