Mama's Maxims 

Where you will find blogs about faith, friendship, family, fundamentals and just plain fun. 

Homecomings 

A blog on family. February 2011

Don't you love homecomings? I had one today.

Emma and Mary, ages 12 and 13, stalked my car to see who could touch me first when I opened the door.


"I missed your coffee," said Mom Dot, my mother in law, delivering a hug.


"Oh, Mommy, I am so glad you're home," said Emma. That made me feel good. "We have been out of milk for two days. And yesterday I had frozen casserole for lunch and dinner."


Captain Fun embraced me, kissed me, said I was a rock star.


"Did you notice I took out the trash?" asked Ben, 15.


And Dorothy, my six year old who had been with me all week in Vermont, begged for a spot on my lap during family devotions, after which I cleaned the kitchen, did some laundry, swept the floor, cleaned out the fridge, and took some steaks out to thaw for a real dinner tomorrow night.


In my younger years I would have gone on a rant (to which no one would have listened) about all the work I do and why it should still get done even when I am not here to do it. But the older I get, the less I mind being needed for the many roles I play.


"Where no oxen are, the crib is clean," Proverbs 14:4 says, "but much increase comes by the strength of the ox." That verse always makes me chuckle when I think of my kids--where no kids are, the house is clean.


Family life might be messy (when I'm away it's really messy) but I'll take it. I returned refreshed, ready for the hugs, the work, and everything else that awaited me.


It's a good thing. Those homecomings can be a lot of work.


Comments: 


Debbie Riley on Monday, February 28, 2011 3:18 AM

Homecoming after the kids are all grown up and you return to an empty house: Me - YELLING to the house as I come through door - "I'M HOME IF ANYONE EVEN CARES!" Enjoy those days Margie - they don't last forever!


Leslie (Daniels) Cawley on Sunday, February 27, 2011 1:00 PM

Margie, I understand about homecomings, when Phil was in the Navy we had many! And when Joshua had to move away from home and into his own housing, well homecoming has a special meaning every Sunday now! 

What Friends Are For 

A blog on friendship. February 2011

Visiting Vermont this week has me thinking about friendship.


Friends come in all varieties, and I have decided I need every kind.

With some friends you can pick up right where you left off. You don't see each other often or contact each other much, but it doesn't matter--they listen as if no time has passed.


Then there are friends who build you up just by their presence. Encouragement seeps from every pore. I have encountered many this week and they always leave me feeling like I have had an energy drink.


And I have had a few friends in my lifetime who slip in quietly at my hour of need and help me in a way that leaves me speechless. When my mother died in 2002, for instance, my phone rang the morning of her funeral. It was my friend and neighbor, Angela. "Get out the clothes your kids are wearing today," she said, "I am coming to pick them up and iron them. Then I will bring them back." I didn't even argue. I just obeyed.


A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. She slipped in, offered a hug, took the clothes and left. She knew me well enough to know that I would pull out the crumpled clothes for seven kids that day and be reduced to tears. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me and I will never forget it.


There are some people who just say "Let me know if I can do anything." Then there are others, like Angela, who just do it.


I need every type of friend. But I also want to be every type of friend--the energizer, the doer, the listener. The friend who will get past the awkwardness of the moment and simply do what is needed.


Now that's what friends are for.


"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."  Proverbs 27:17


Comments: 

Anna on Sunday, February 27, 2011 8:56 PM

I've just discovered your blog, Margie, and of course I had to read this one, as you're one of my treasured friends-from waaaay back! I love you and miss you!


                   Anna, I will never forget how you picked me up for Mother's Day Out                      every week when I didn't have a car!     Margie 


Pam on Friday, March 04, 2011 1:17 PM

Margie! I can only imagine how many friends you must have. So good to see you walking in destiny and imparting to so many! I am thankful for our long standing long distance friendship beginning in Science class. Our God is so good! Shine on!


                   Pam, I always pray my own kids will find a friend like you in biology                        class!  Margie 


Angela on Thursday, March 17, 2011 5:18 PM

Margie! My Faithful Friend! The Hubs found your blog the other day. (Forgive me for not finding you first!) As he read several stories to me,(my hands were in dishwater) we mused, cackled, and reminisced until he got to "What Friends are For". He couldn't continue, literally choking back tears. We were both so touched. I am humbled. YOU have been EVERY type of friend to me. Love to you and yours.


                    Angela, I still share that story! I will always love you for it.    -Margie

Captain Fun Strikes Again 

A blog on fun.  February, 2011 

Writer John Trent says people basically have one of four personalities: beaver, lion, otter or retriever. My husband, aka Captain Fun, is a fun-loving otter who is always trying to force fun on me. It gets annoying when you're a working beaver.


When we took our daughter, Bethany, to NYC for the day for her 21st birthday last summer, Captain Fun had to bring all the kids back down just 48 hours later. No problem. It was only 8 kids and Grandma.


When it's under 50, he'll ask who wants to go for a walk. When the temps are above 50, he wants to play baseball. Or soccer. Or football.


During TV shows, he rewinds funny commercials.


When we go to the lake, he begs me to swim. I prefer the lawn chair, thank you.


And today the snow measured almost two feet on our hill , so sledding was the order of the day.


I was doing my usual beaver-like activities--sweeping, cooking, laundry. After all, I had been gone for five days and things were a little messy.

"Can I talk you into sledding?" he said, poking his frosty face around the door.


"No. It's Sunday. I'm resting."


"Awe, come on. Your children need to have one memory of you sledding with them."


"They do," I said. "I have pictures."


"No, that was the older kids--the grown ones. The younger kids don't have any memories of you sledding with them."


Darn. He was right. But winter is far from over in upstate NY, I argued. Captain Fun was not going to get to me today.


I swept for a few more minutes, stomping around, listing out loud all the reasons why I didn't want to go out. Then I went out.


"You're out!" he exclaimed. Surprise, surprise.


We rode double down the driveway and I laughed hysterically on each trip. Three year old Silas went repeatedly all by himself. The faster he went, the louder squealed. And the teens and preteens came out when they heard Mom was sledding today. (Better come, Captain Fun said, it's the only chance you'll get to sled with Mom in your childhood.)


After the sledding, he insisted on a snowball fight. I tolerated it. Hitting him with snowballs helped.


I hate to admit it, but if it weren't for him, I would never take the time to have fun with the family.


"Thanks for coming out today," he said.


No, thank you, Captain Fun, for helping this beaver remember to think like an otter.


PS John Trent's website is www.strongfamilies.com



Happy Noise 

A blog on family.  February, 2011 

My house is noisy. Six kids, three adults, two cats and a dog.


Mornings are brimming with activity; dinnertime is bustling with chatter. And in case I haven't told you, I am married to Captain Fun, so evenings are especially loud.


That is why I learned to separate the happy from the unhappy noise.


A whiny child is unhappy noise, as is an escalating argument among siblings.


Squeals of laughter from the den --happy noise. Captain Fun calling out the rules to a game. Ditto.


Silas hitting the piano keys--happy. Silas hitting his sister--unhappy.


You get the idea.


I am a writer--or at least I aspire to be. And writing requires solitude, quiet, tranquility.


In the past I would wait for these elusive elements to come to me before I could write. However, the more kids I had, the less they appeared. 


Consequently, I have learned to write through the racket. And while the happy noise is easier to embrace, the unhappy is simply part of it.


Now that I have launched three of my nine kids, I know that gradually, yet quickly, both kinds of clamor will fade, and nothing will remain except peace and quiet.


And chances are Captain Fun and I may not be too happy about that.


"Better is a dry morsel with quietness than a house full of feasting with strife." Proverbs 17::1 

The Barney Fife Approach 

A blog on fundamentals.  March 2011 

Can we talk about smart-alack kids?


"I cannot believe the way some of my friends talk to their mothers," my own kids will tell me from time to time.


"They wouldn't live at home if they talked to me that way," I say.


"They wouldn't be alive if they talked to you that way," one of them replied not too long ago with a laugh.


Without apology, I don't put up with sass. And I have my own mother to thank for it. Despite my sisters' insistence that Baby (that's me) never got in trouble, I can remember my mother coming at me with a spanking and a few choice words. Mama put up with a lot of things from her eight kids, but sass was not one of .them.


Consequently, I have followed her example. From the first time my kids are old enough to back talk, I nip it--Barney Fife style--in the bud. But unlike Barney, I have my bullet in my gun and not in my pocket. That is, I have a plan.


Preschoolers get a quick swat on the backside or a little pinch on the arm. Again, I got the same from my mom, and it only hurt me in the way God intended. "I don't understand all this bargaining that goes on with kids these days," my mother once said to me. "Why not just give them a swat and be done with it?" Amen.


My school age kids write sentences as punishment, and I have my middle school drama teacher, Mrs. Mills, to thank for that. One day I thought it would be hil-arious if I put tacks in everyone's chairs. She, however, did not think it so funny and ordered that I write sentences stating, I will not put tacks in people's chairs.


I now do the same with my own kids who just once in a while might have to write, I will not talk back to my mother. So thank you, Mrs. Mills, for that very creative idea.


Middle and high schoolers sometimes write sentences but mostly lose privileges--Wii, phone, TV, car keys, email. There is just so much you can take away these days. And so much you can add, too--clean the garage, wash the windows, do the dishes all weekend.


For example, when I have had grumbling about not keeping up with the laundry adequately, the laundry gets turned over to the grumbler. End of issue. 


Nipped it. Just like Barney.


Bottom line: kids have to learn how to be nice, and guess whose job it is to teach them? You win, parents! Teachers can't do it by themselves. Counselors can come up with solutions til the cows come home, but unless we parents take responsibility for kids' behavior, the issues will never really be resolved.


So get those pencils sharpened. Have the paper ready. And when Junior smarts off, and he will, pull out your weapons like old Barney use to pull out his pistol.


And whatever you do, don't forget your bullet.


Hebrews 12:11

Now no chastening for the present seems  to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Mama Said

A blog on family.  March, 2011 

I like a routine. It is comfortable to me; predictable. And even with six kids at home, I am generally able to stick to it.


Today, however, is not a routine day for me. It is one of those days where I hit the floor running and don't stop until I fall into bed. (I know you know what I am talking about.) Robert Frost's line from "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" often replays in my mind on days like this--"And miles to go before I sleep."


Even as I write this I have people crowded around me in the kitchen. My kids are home from school (plus one), my husband is chatting with his mother, Mom Dot, who lives with us. I spent most of the day in Syracuse speaking to a group of wonderful MOPS moms, barely had arrived home when my three year old's teacher emailed me (for the third time this year) asking me if I would I please speak to him, he is not listening to the teachers. He was sent to the principal's office--twice.


Now is the time for action, I decided. I picked him up earlier than planned so I could catch the teacher and made him apologize. (I will let you know if it is effective. I know I have nine kids, but this one makes me feel like I don't know what I am doing.)


So, I am blogging in the middle of the bustle, as my comfortable routine eludes me. Isn't there a song, called "Mama said there'd be days like this?"  It is today.


But I am embracing it as best I can. All the commotion only means I have a full life, after all. And for that, I am thankful. AND I am thankful that I have a pot of leftover spaghetti sauce on the stove, into which I threw a leftover pork chop--a secret I learned from my sister, Pam.


Cheers and a new appreciation to the daily routine. Maybe it will return tomorrow.

Free Advice 

A blog on fundamentals.  March, 2011 

When you have nine kids, lots of folks solicit your advice. I am a chatty southerner, so I enjoy sharing my experiences with other moms.


My youngest was the only one not born in Memphis. I had the privelege of having him in the great state of Vermont--land of freedom, even during labor. By that I mean that I (the one in labor) called the shots. Now, having nine kids over a twenty year span, things have changed a lot. With my first born, in 1987, I had to stay in bed, push when they told me to, and as soon as the baby arrived, they whisked him away to an incubator . Then at scheduled times I was allowed to reach in and stroke him through a porthole in the side of that scary plastic box.


Fast forward to 2007, twenty years later. I am all hooked up (I don't go natural if I can help it) and just waiting to deliver. The nurse asked would I like to get in the tub, or sit on the exercise ball? Um, no, I say, I don't think I could manage that

.

"Are you hungry?" she asks.


"You mean I can EAT?" I say.


"Of course, you can do whatever you feel like doing." Nothing I would ever say to my kids, but during labor, those words were music to my ears.


But the biggest shock of all was when the doctor told me to just let her know when I thought I should push. Times have changed.. I have had a nurse storm out of the delivery room when I told her I didn't feel it was time to push, and with my 7th birth, no less. And the incubator? A thing of the past for healthy babies. Nowadays they lay that little bluish-pink baby right on your chest before they even clean him up.


During those three glorious days in the hospital, I had two different nurses solicit my advice about kids. "Is this your 9th baby?" my night nurse asked, pulling up an exercise ball.


"It is."


"Can ask you about my ten year old?"


We both chuckled. Of course, I say, agreeing that age ten is when they start rounding that corner toward the exit of childhood.


And the day I left that wonderful hospital (I am never ready to leave when it's time) my discharge nurse stood beside my bed. "Can I ask you about my twelve year old?"


Again, I laughed. Yes, I confirmed, twelve is tricky.


This month my editor at Memphis Parent asked me: What must your kids absolutely know before they leave home? We asked experts, other parents, and I put my own two cents in. Then we put it all in a piece called "Skills That Will Help Teens Spread Their Wings"  The link is below.


I am the first to admit I haven't done it all right. It has been (and still is) a journey of trial and error.


I will leave you today with some of the best advice I've ever received : "When you think you have parenting all figured out, you probably aren't doing as well as you think," my mentor, Jean Stockdale, told me long ago. "But when you know you're in way over your head, when you start each day with "Help, Lord!" then you are most certanly doing better than you think."


I can tell you that has been true in my experience. And the "Help, Lord!" place is where I live most of the time.


http://memphisparent.com/health/skills-that-will-help-teens-spread-their-wings/

www.jeanstockdale.com 

Thank You, Vermont 

A blog on friendship.  March, 2011 

“A company in Vermont wants to interview me,” my husband said to me one southern spring day.


“Vermont?” I said. “I don’t want to move to Vermont.”  Oh, but I did. I just didn’t know it.


My sister called. “Robert is in Vermont on a job interview,” I said, “but we’re not moving to Vermont.”


Oh, but we were. I just didn’t know it.


“Honey? Guess what?” he said through the phone. “We’re moving to Vermont!”


I hung up the phone, excited, then scared. Can a family with eight kids move from Memphis to Vermont? I wasn’t sure.


But we could. And we did. Eight kids from six weeks old to 17 years.

Surely those sophisticated New Englanders will think I talk funny, not to mention too much, I thought to myself. Do they even wear make up in Vermont?


I very quickly saw I could not have been more wrong. They thought my southern ways endearing, even calling my accent charming. And they didn’t even mind my lipstick.


It was 42 degrees when we pulled in on June 2, 2004. “If it’s that cold in June,” my sister pondered, “what is January like?” I was afraid of the answer.


But Vermonters embraced the cold summers. For the rest of that summer, in fact, I kept waiting for it to warm up, to really arrive. At the community pool I wrapped a towel around baby Dorothy to shield her from the cold—in July. The lifeguards wore sweatshirts over their bathing suits. The kids’ lips turned blue in the pool. Even in August, the pavement was cool to my feet.


“Oh the humidity!” the Vermonters would wail when the temps would approach 80 cool degrees for a day (or a minute) or two in August.


“You don’t know anything about humidity,” I told them.


“And you don’t know anything about the cold,” they told me. They were right.

Vermont did teach me about the cold, yes. But it taught me so much more. I was taken aback by their hospitality—something southerners are known for. Their work ethic, their frugality, I could go on and on.


“People are so accepting here,” my oldest son observed upon arriving home from school. We had moved his senior year—usually a challenging time to change schools. Another needless worry—for him the move was seamless. In fact, he met a terrific girl in English class and married her a few years later.


And I was delighted when the teenage girls from school rang the doorbell to invite my then 15 year old Bethany to come along with them on a Sunday afternoon. But they weren't going to the mall, not these Vermont girls. They were going to hike a mountain.


Today I returned to Vermont for a visit. I was filled with nostalgia and gratitude as Lake Champlain came into view. I pointed out the cows to the kids and was once again charmed by the covered bridges and the overall loveliness of the place. And though lots of folks visit Vermont for the beauty, it is the people that keep me coming back. What a gift, a privilege, a blessing.


Thank you, Vermont. Now I know.




Pictured: My friend, Louisa Larson took this beautiful picture of us as the sun set one summer evening. To this day it is still one of my favorite pictures of our family. (I am in it, but couldn't fit it in this tiny frame) www.louisalarson.com


Comments: 

Robert on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 4:21 AM

I absolutely agree.


Robert Sims on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 5:13 AM

Margie, this was simply wonderful.


Sherry Shelton on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 5:27 AM

Margie, I love your writing. It makes me feel like we are sitting in the living room, sipping coffee and talking to you. I am sharing your writings with many of my women friends. I love you.


Rita Pass on Thursday, February 24, 2011 5:50 PM

You make me want to move to Vermont, maybe one day I will get to visit. Love You all.


Kelly Palmer on Sunday, February 27, 2011 11:39 AM

Vermont is a very special place. I will always call it home!


Rachel Seavers on Monday, February 28, 2011 5:44 AM

We are so glad you came! Vermont is a better place because of the Sims family! Just wishing you'd come back... :(


Deborah Johnson on Saturday, March 05, 2011 8:54 AM

Us Vermonters are glad that the Sims family decided to come to make Vermont a homeplace for a few years. Many, many families have been blessed by all of the Sims. I know mine has forever in a lifetime. Thank you Sims Family for being just you.






Birthday Parties 

A blog on friendship.  March, 2011 

With six kids still at home, birthday party invitations average about one a week at my house. Today I am heading out in a snow storm to, you guessed it, a birthday bash for a classmate of Silas.


When I was a younger mom, I admit I would let the event slide right by, never making a serious attempt to get my kids to them. Sometimes I would call with regrets without even checking the calendar. Too much trouble, too much time, too much expense. I could always find a reason.


But somewhere along the way, I began to tune in to the importance of these play dates. I know birthday parties are great occasions for my kids to connect with classmates in a setting other than school. And while I am not naive as to what can go on at middle school parties, I do make an effort to find out if the setting is acceptable. (I am one of those annoying moms who calls and asks suspicious questions: Will parents be home? Will the kids be supervised? What movies will you watch?) It has been worth the trouble, as one of my kids was on the shy side in middle school, and it was at a birthday party that he entered into a fun friendship.


I have even turned shopping for gifts into a hobby--scaling clearance aisles, stashing paper, tape and those handy birthday bags. For a while I was having trouble keeping up with my finds, until I struck up a conversation with a lady in line (remember, I am a chatty southerner). When I shared with her how I loved to shop ahead for birthday parties but sometimes had trouble finding my bargains at home, she suggested I keep everything in a "gift closet". Thank you, chatty shopping lady, for that good advice.


For the second Saturday in a row (with another one next week), I am off to a birthday party. 


Who knows, maybe I will make a new friend, too.


Comments: 

Debbie Riley

Birthdays from Gran Gran's perspective: this is new to me - Abigail turns 12 on Saturday and it is her first year to not have the traditional party at her house with 15 kids - she is a Middle-Schooler this year so a movie and dessert at Perkins is the plan. Abigail, you want me to go to the movie - "Uh, Gran Gran I'm good". OK - so what time are we doing the cake at your house and I can meet you there - "I'm good Gran Gran, we are going to Perkins for dessert". OK it is middle school. So I will make the sacrifice for the first time of not being at her party, but I did spend a wonderful afternoon of birthday shopping, lunch at Cheeburger Cheeburger, and a movie - 6 hours with Abigail and Amelia and me! Even though they sat on the front row and I just couldn't do it - I could see the tops of their heads - a good day! Not sure I am ready for this life change! Love Ya Margie!


Margie 

My mom-in-law says grandparents have a short shelf life. Don't worry, though, it is just middle school--she will be back around.



That Southern Drawl

A blog on fun.  March, 2011 

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, but I've been out of the south for almost seven years. And even though all but Silas were born in the south, my younger ones tease me relentlessly about my southern drawl.

"I am going to drive y'all home today," I stated on the way to school last school year. The statement was innocent, harmless. That's when the attack came, unprovoked. "Dri-ive yawl. What is dri-ive yawl?" asked Cory, my then nine-year-old.


I spoke more slowly--easy for a southerner, but he still didn't understand.

I broke it down for him. "I am going to drive you all. Y'all means you all, as in all of you. I am going to drive all of you home from school today." He got it.


"Mom, why don't you pass that car in front of us?" 13-year -old Mary asked me just a few months ago as we poked along the winding road.


"There's a double yellow line," I said.


Again, an unprovoked attack came from the back seat as cackles filled the car. "A dubble yella li-ine! What is a dubble yella li-ine?"


And just this morning, six-year-old Dorothy mimicked the way I turn one syllable words into two syllable words. I explained to her that, for a southerner, there are no one syllable words. We really can't help it.


"Maybe one day you'll talk normal," she said.


"Some day we might move back to the south, and y'all will be the ones who talk funny," I sometimes warn my children.


Unlike a southerner, they never hear past the "y'all".


Update: It is now 2018 and my prediction came true, as we relocated to Alabama six months ago. Dorothy, now 13,  frequently catches that southern draw coming from her own mouth. 


Pictured here: Dorothy, age 3,  never suspecting that she would be a southern belle just ten years later.


Comments: 

Mary Sims

Hahaha Don't worry mom, I really do love your accent and your 2 syllable words 


Reply

Margie 

Why-y thankya' Mary!


Kelly Palmer 

Hi Margie, I saw this post on Robert's facebook page. Not sure if you remember me from EAC. In any case, I found this blog hilarious -even if I only lived in the South for a year! Now that I know your website I will try to keep reading!


Reply

Margie 

Kelly! Of course I remember you. Glad you got in touch. Only those who have experienced the culture can truly understand!


Debbie Riley 

I love your Southern drawl Baby! And no, it isn't going away - you have had it too long!


Reply

Margie

My kids almost get in trouble at school when they say ma'am! (But I still want them to say it! No 'yeps' around here!)


Anna on Sunday, February 27, 2011 9:02 PM

Ha ha this one's funny Margie. I always teased Natalie when she would say "No-ah," instead of "No" by saying "Noah built the ark!"


Margie 

Like I said, "No" is a two syllable word! Bethany got teased when we moved to VT!

Sunday Morning Workout

A blog on fun.  March, 2011 

With six kids left at home, going to church on Sunday morning often resembles a workout.


As soon as we find our row of seats, the jockeying for position begins. "I put my bulletin on the arm of this chair," says Mary, 13, "because it is my turn to sit by you." ( I admit I do love that my teenage daughter wants to sit by me.)


As the music begins, Silas lets out a squeal. Last time he said a hearty, "Amen!" after the morning prayer, so the squeal is an improvement.

The rest is a Sunday morning ritual, as predictable as our KFC Sunday lunch.


As we stand to sing, Silas reaches for me. "Hold me," he says. I pick him up, his legs dangling down my sides. When the lyrics appear on the screen, six year old Dorothy comes to stand in front of me, taking my free hand and holding it to her cheek. Though the hymn we are singing tells us to "lift up holy hands" my hands are occupied most Sundays.


Today Dorothy was inspired and guided my hand to help her balance as she glided into second position. I quietly chide her, knowing our family is enough of a distraction already.


The special music starts. I am getting over a cold, and the tickle in my throat is persistent. I feel a coughing spell coming and try to find the Tic Tacs in my purse. But every mother knows it is impossible to quietly get a Tic Tac during church. (Why don't they make a rattle proof container?) First Dorothy hears it and in a loud breathy whisper asks, "Can I have a Tic Tac?" Rattle, rattle, rattle. This makes Silas aware of the opportunity, and he, too, asks for a Tic Tac. More rattling, which notifies the rest of the row, as all my kids' hands go out.


After we are seated for the offering, I cross my legs and my foot gets caught in the chair in front of me. It is Rosie's chair, Silas' three year old comrade. She pushes her seat cushion with all her muscle, trying to force it down, unaware of what is stopping her. Finally, I free my foot, certain she and Silas conspired today before church.


Dorothy whispers, once again in her loud, breathy whisper that she needs to use the restroom. I send Mary with her. Silas likes that idea and says he needs to go, too. Captain Fun volunteers to take him.


They return in time for the last song and Silas again asks to be held, so I oblige him. This time, though, he presses his cheek up firmly against mine, giving me fish lips as I sing. This delights him.


As the song concludes, the childcare coordinator asks me if I would be willing to fill in if the volunteer who was scheduled didn't arrive in time for Children's Church. "Of course," I say. It would be a vacation.

She arrives after all, so I send Dorothy and Silas to Children's Church after the last song and settled in for the sermon from the book of Luke.

.

My pastor quotes Luke 11:13: "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


I am a flawed human, yet I long to give my children every good thing that I can, be it Tic Tacs during the special music or fish lips during a song. How much more does my flawless, perfect Heavenly Father long to give to me?


That revelation was worth the Sunday morning workout.


Angela 

Margie, THIS is my second favorite so far!! ("Friends",of course, being first!) You are amazing for so many reasons!


Margie 

I just love you. And I miss you.

Meet Cousin Fernie: The Family Fall Guy 

A blog on fun.  March, 2011 

Why is it that ten year old boys resist showers, vegetables, and brushing their teeth?


Lately I have noticed that whenever I tell Cory (of chicken suit fame) to do something- anything- that is healthy for him, he ignores me. Or he tries.

"Go take a shower, Cory," I said last night. Not an unusual request from a mother on a Sunday night.. He stood there without acknowledging that I had spoken.


"Cory, go take a shower," I said again.


"I don't NEED a shower. I took one yesterday."


"It was the day before yesterday, and you do need a shower."


He trudged away to gather his pajamas and a towel, reappearing a minute later. "The bathroom smells bad."


"That is the nature of bathrooms. Go take a shower."


"But it really smells bad. Come smell it."


"I don't need to smell it because no matter what it smells like, you are taking a shower."


"But Cousin Fernie died that way!" His final objection before taking a shower.


Meet Cousin Fernie- the family fall guy.


It was my mother in law who first introduced me to Cousin Fernie. Mom Dot is by her own admission a bit of a worrier, and tends to awfulize at times. When one of the kids has a nosebleed, a stomach ache, or a fever, she is often of the opinion that I need to call the doctor. Years ago Cousin Fernie, it seems, had that same condition and died from it. Twice.


Cousin Fernie goes way back to Mom Dot's own mother in law, she tells me. Whenever one of her own kids had an accident, her mother in law would shake her head back and forth very slowly while whispering, "It's the worst death in the world. In fact it was the end of old Cousin Fernie."

"I said I would never be like my mother in law," Mom Dot sometimes warns me, "but here I am turning into her!"


With accidents and illnesses being the norm at our house, I confess I have become a bit calloused to them. If there is blood (and lots of it) I might take a trip to the ER, but even then it's not a guarantee. We have had broken bones, stitches, concussions, surgeries, chicken pox, strep throat, ear infections, and the swine flu to name a few. Come to find out that Cousin Fernie had all of these conditions- and died from most of them.


"Cory, I only make you do all these things because I love you and I want you to be happy," I chided him this morning when he (gasp!) resisted going to school.


"I think you are trying to torture me," he said.


If torture is defined as a mother making her kids do what's good for them on a regular basis, then so be it.


I have a sneaking suspicion that even Cousin Fernie never died from that.


Aunt Agnes: The Picture of Discontent 

A blog on fun.  March, 2011 

Mom Dot tells me that she is named Dorothy Alice after her aunt, Agnes Alice.


When Aunt Agnes lost her husband, she went to live with her sister. But no matter how her sister tried to please her, the story goes, she was not happy. "Agnes refuses to be content," she told Mom Dot one day many years ago when they saw one another at a family funeral.


Much like Cousin Fernie, Agnes has become an icon in our family. "Agnes refuses to be content" is a family motto of sorts.


We all have our moments, or even seasons, of discontentment. But I strive not to be like Agnes, and I encourage my children to do the same.

When we moved to a small town in upstate New York, for instance, I felt I had to go looking for contentment. Surely it was an hour away, I thought, like the mall, the nearest city, and the airport.


But I soon discovered if I looked for the negatives during that season of transition, I would find them. Ditto with the positives. I looked and I found them.


These days, it is the weather that is making me squirm... or freeze. Today, for instance, our high hovered around thirty degrees. This makes me wrestle with discontentment when most of the country is thawing. But, as some of my Facebook friends pointed out, the sun is shining and spring is forecasted to show up any day now. Contentment is attainable- I just need to look up at the blue sky instead of down at the old, cold, dingy snow.


Finding contentment can be the difference between calm and turmoil.

It is the mom who says "get the camera" vs. "get the mop" when the baby dumps spaghetti on her head.


It is recognizing dirty kids, dirty laundry, and dirty dishes are signs of blessing.


Contentment is a powerful thing, a choice, a gift. And I have discovered that in the every day routine of life, it can be found if you look for it.


There is a good chance of our family is relocating this summer. While moving always has its challenges, I am up for it. I will unpack the bags, the kids, the dog, and the cats.


Then, unlike Aunt Agnes, I will not refuse to be content. Consequently, no matter how many moves we make or where we land, I know I'll find it every time.


I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.      

                                                                -Philippians 4: 12-13

The Boy...in the chicken suit?

A blog on fun.  March, 2011 

I love a good bargain.


I shop for next year's winter coats at the end of the season. I buy next year's bathing suits at the end of the summer. And after Halloween, I like to see what deals I can get on costumes. (When you have nine kids, you don't ask what everyone wants to be for Halloween. Instead, you spread out all the costumes in the dress up box and say, "Pick one!")

I was proud of the chicken suit I had bought from Kohl's for around $9 on clearance. The fabric was not only durable but came complete with separate pull-on chicken legs and a hood! Whichever kid could fit into it always had a lot of fun with it. Cory took it a step further.


"Mom, can I wear my chicken suit to school one day?" he greeted me one morning when he was around 7 years old.


"Well, you'll have to ask your teacher," I said, certain she would say no because it would disrupt the class.


He burst through the door later that day. "She said I could WEAR it!" I had no choice but to keep my word, but I didn't think he would go through with it.  Next morning, he came down for breakfast in his chicken suit. To catch the bus.


"WHY is Cory wearing a chicken suit to SCHOOL?" his siblings asked.


"He feels like it," I said, as if they had asked why the grass was green.


"I am so glad I am not riding the bus today," said my then high-schooler, Matthew.


Breakfast was over; it was time to catch the bus. Out marched three kids and one chicken to stand at the end of the driveway on our somewhat busy street. But Cory didn't just stand there. He waved at the passing cars, he flapped his wings, he did the chicken dance.


"I am so glad I am not riding the bus today," repeated Matthew.


I doubled over with laughter as I watched the puzzled drivers pass by. My sides ached and tears streamed down my face as the bus pulled up and I saw the reaction of all on board. I was still laughing as the bus pulled away.


"How did it go?" I asked Cory when he got home, still in his chicken suit.


"Great!" he said. "The other kids chased me around the playground at recess yelling, 'We want chicken!' "


"I think it is great that you wore a chicken suit to school just because you felt like it, Cory. Your class mates will always remember the day you came to school in a chicken suit."


He said thanks and went on his way. And somehow I thought I got a lot more for my $9 than just a chicken suit. I also got a memory I will never forget.


Cory finds another way to be

The highlight of my day

I'm taking pictures in my mind

So I can save them for a rainy day

                                 --from "Stay Beautiful" by Taylor Swift


6 Comments to The Boy...In the Chicken Suit?:

Comments 

Anna 

Ha ha! Thats great. It took a lot of nerve for him to do that, and I admire nerve in the face of peers! Why can't more of us follow our harmless impulses like that? The world would be a MUCH funnier place!

Reply 

Margie 

Wouldn't it be lovely if the world could get funnier instead of scarier?


Joan 

I laughed my way through this whole thing...I could just hear Cory & especially Matthew saying that....what a beautiful legacy you are leaving for your family to be able to read these and recall the precious memories. I admire you for being able to remember things in such detail...you have a God-given gift...thanks for sharing it!


Reply

Margie 

Joan! I miss you. We might be coming through there on spring break. If we do, I'll bring the chicken suit! 


Top Ten Things About Norwich 

A blog on fun.  March, 2011 

Ben (a.k.a Elvis) was in the Norwich High School talent show last night, along with many other talented students. I think the whole town showed up.


I left right after his beat boxing act- it was 9:00 P.M. and Silas and Dorothy had to get to bed. But as I braved the bitter cold to go home, I got to thinking about this little town. Like most small towns in upstate New York,  it is miles from anywhere: the mall, the interstate, an airport, a major city. 


But Norwich holds its own.  Here are my top ten things about Norwich.


10. No traffic. Zero. Nada. None.


9. As a result of #10, you can pick up four kids from three different locations in ten minutes.


8. The YMCA is the hub of the community.


7. The Gus Macker Tournament in the summer (www.macker.com). Any town would benefit from an event like this, but for small towns like Norwich, it is a real boost.


6. New York State Parks. Head out in any direction, and you will find a beautiful lake in a serene setting. We go almost every day in the summer, and it keeps all ages happy.


5. It's only an hour from Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame (www.baseballhall.org). Living in New York when you're a Red Sox fan has its challenges, but the Hall of Fame has sufficient Red Sox memorabilia.


4. The talented kids. Last year, the high school did Les Misérables. I had never seen it before, but afterwards I hurried out to buy the CD, only to discover the kids in the high school play were better. The next weekend, Norwich High School presented Phantom of the Opera. Only 68 schools in the world have done it. Enough said.


3. The good restaurants. At first I was surprised by the quality of restaurants in this little town. Now I have come to expect nothing less. When everything else is an hour away, it is refreshing to know that good food is just down the hill.


2. The support the town shows the students. Whether a sporting event, band concert, or theater production, like last night's talent show, it is often standing room only.


1.The neighborly folks. When we had an attic fire shortly after moving here, my neighbor showed up with dinner and goodies. When I miscarried two days later, half my church showed up with dinner and goodies. It was one of our worst weeks for sure, but the people around here made it more bearable.


While living in a small town can have its disadvantages, I have learned no matter where you live, if you look for the good- good people, good food, good fun, you can find it-even if everything else is an hour away.


Comments:

JP 

Hey! We have traffic it's called Farm Equipment!! lol

Reply

margie 

Farm equipment and snow ploughs!


Debbie Riley 

A nice place to visit Sister Dear? I can just picture its quaint personality! Nice job! Love, Debbie

Reply 

margie

Please come visit! I will take you to all of our nice restaurants.


jane 

Bravo, Margie. One talent I've always admired in you is your ability to bloom where you are planted. So glad you've chosen to celebrate the blessings of your small town.

Reply 

margie

Thank you, Jane. Glad you stopped by. I think you will find it a quaint little town when you visit.




Elvis Story 

A blog on fun.  March, 2011 

Today is Rock Star day at the high school. With his collar "popped" and his hair slicked back, Ben went as Elvis.


You can't grow up in Memphis without knowing a litttle about Elvis. I was only 12 when he died, and like you, I remember where I was. While watching the Brady Bunch at my best friend's house, the TV reporter broke in with a Special Report. He held the microphone up to his mouth and said solemnly, "Elvis is dead." Within twenty four hours, it seemed the whole world came to Memphis.


If you lived in Memphis during Elvis' lifetime, my sister Debbie says, you have an Elvis story. She's right.


Mom Dot spotted him leaning on a car on North Parkway chatting with a friend. "We had to swerve in order to avoid bumping his backside," she says, adding that such a mishap would have been a career ending injury.


My three older sisters saw him in his yard at Graceland playing football, and sister, Debbie, babysat for his hairdresser. My husband attended a concert as a kid. And, though it wasn't an in person sighting, I remember lying in bed with my mother watching Aloha from Hawaii crying like a baby, clueless as to why I was crying. She patted my leg knowingly. It was just the affect Elvis had on people.


If you're a serious fan you might know that Libertyland was one of Elvis' favorite Memphis haunts. When the amusement park finally closed down in 2005, I wrote an obituary for The Zippin Pippin, one of the country's oldest wooden roller coasters and Elvis' favorite ride. The sign in front of the Pippin stated that Elvis had rented out the park just a week before he died. http://www.themeparkreview.com/photos/libertyland/zippinpippin.htm


My Mary was born on the 2Oth anniversary of his death in Memphis. As they wheeled me into recovery, Elvis and Ann Margaret were dancing across the TV screen, no doubt as part of an Elvis Movie Marathon in his honor.


When we moved to Vermont a good thirty years after his death, I walked my kids to their classes at the elementary school. There he was in the teachers' lounge--a life size cut out of Elvis. And here in upstate New York, at least one resident drives around my little town with an Elvis license plate. You just can't get away from Elvis.


Nor do I want to. No one would deny that Elvis had his struggles, but whether it's the gospel CD that pours out of Mom Dot's room or the Christmas CD I play annually, he takes me right back to my childhood.  My own kids, in fact, gathered around the TV screen a few weeks ago to watch and rewatch the dance scene from Jail House Rock.  


I worked at a small rural post office when the Elvis stamp was released--back when stamps cost 29 cents-yet folks still swarmed in to get it. 


Yes, Elvis has left the building, but his music and his memory remain.




Comments 

Karen Brasher 

Having grown up in Memphis, I can relate. My grandmother gave Elvis some money outside of the Cats drug store on Airport Blvd. when he was a teenager. He was playing his guitar and she gave him a $1. She always thought Elvis would drive down her rode with a pink Cadillac, as if he knew who she was. She had me convinced of it in my earlier years.

Reply 

margie 

It is true, Karen. Every Memphian has an Elvis story. Thanks for sharing yours. I enjoyed it!


Debbie 

You are a Memphian at heart Margie! Loved it! 

Reply 

margie 

maybe you can take the girl out of Memphis but you can't take Memphis out of the girl!


Robert Sims 

I did take the girl out of Memphis! No desire to take that sweet, southernness out of my girl though.

Reply 

margie 

In the words of Gomer Pyle, "Well, Gaaawwwleee." Thankya, honey.


Shaila 

Did you know that Elvis came to Grandma and Grandpa's house when Mom was a teenager? You dad would have been gone by then. Mom was dating a guy that played in one of Elvis' first band. Mom said one day he came by the house to see her and this guy got out of the back of the car and her boyfriend introduced her to Elvis Presley. He was nobody then. I told her she should have married that guy! LOL And his kissing cousins lived just down the road from them and Uncle Larry dated one of the girls is what I've been told. And while I'm at it, Kevin's been in his bathroom where they found him collapsed. His Dad works for an alarm company and he happened to go to work with his dad one day when Graceland wad having alarm problems. The problem was in that bathroom and his bedroom. Kevin said he remembers there being racks and racks of his clothes and the jump suits he use to wear.


Reply 

margie 

I never knew we had our very OWN Elvis story, cousin!

Two Different Languages

A blog on fundamentals.  March, 2011 

Have you ever noticed that men and women speak two different languages? Let me illustrate.


A dear friend of mine tells the story of playing Pictionary with her husband at a party. If you're not familiar with Pictionary, it is just like charades, except on paper. You remain silent while you draw your word instead of acting it out.


My friend picked a card and her word was injection. I've got this, she thought. Easy.


She turned over the timer and drew an arm, a syringe, a needle. She pointed at the needle and slid her finger across the paper to the arm to illustrate motion. She tapped the picture with her finger. She sent him vibes. Injection. Injection. Injection. But he guessed everything but the word. The sand ran out. Time was up.


"Injection. Injection. The word was injection!" she said.


"Why didn't you just draw a fuel injector?" asked her husband.


It made perfect sense to him. Yet her illustration made perfect sense to her. Men and women. Two different creatures. Two different languages.

Today I spoke to the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS.org) in Pulaski, New York, about marriage. It was loads of fun. I love talking to women. Have you noticed?


Captain Fun and I will celebrate 25 years in May. When we have disagreements, I must say that much of the time it is over a miscommunication, a misunderstanding. But we are getting better and better at speaking the same language.


In fact, by the time we launch the other six, I am certain we will speak exactly the same language. The question is, will we be able to hear each other.


PS. Note to Pulaski MOPS: Those resources I mentioned today were Tommy Nelson's Song of Solomon study and the books Intimate Issues & The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.

Chore Day

A blog on fundamentals.  January 23, 2018

Original post, March 2011

Around our house, Saturday is chore day. And complaining will get you way more than you bargained for.


"Okay everybody," I announce each Saturday A.M. with great enthusiasm around 8:30. "Chores at 9:00!"


"I hate Saturdays," at least one child usually responds.


"Work is a blessing," I remind them. "It means you have a full life; things to take care of; people who need you."


But the collective moaning reminds me that hard work is something that almost always has to be taught to kids. And they all bring different levels of work ethic to the table.


I remember when my husband was teaching one of our sons to work. We had leaves that needed to be raked and bagged--piles and piles of them. He was outside with one of the boys and they were raking. And bagging. For an hour they worked, with still so much more to go.


I could see through the sliding glass doors that the work session was unraveling. He didn't want to finish, yet his dad was driving him on. It tugged at a mother's heart.


I opened the door, stuck my head out, and opened my mouth to intervene. His dad saw it coming and held his hand up. "Let me raise the man," he said. I guess even Captain Fun has to get serious sometimes.

I pulled my head back in and shut the door. Hard work was something each kid must learn, and it was a hard lesson.


But when that son played football, his coach said he had never, never coached such a hard working kid. When he got his first job and every one after that, his boss bragged on what a hard worker he was. Still is.


Work is part of growing up, I tell my kids. Don't be afraid of it; embrace it. And hard work makes you stand out. Be intentional about it; take initiative.

Some of them still moan, but I don't let that stop me. After all, parenting is the most important work of all. And if you're intentional about it, you'll get more than you bargained for.


For a game plan on teaching kids the life skills they need, see my article in Richmond Family.

http://richmondfamilymagazine.com/article/clean-house-summer/


3 Comments 


Pam 

Margie - you really have some great stuff! Going thru this with my 10 yr old boy even as we speak! ;)


Reply

margie 

Pam and Joan-- Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts. Keep at it--they will get it. One thing I do daily is a "seven minute cleanup" after dinner every night. Then Saturdays we work for an hour or so every morning. I tell them it is me for three hours by myself or all of us for an hour to accomplish the same thing. Anyway, work has to be taught. I am convinced of that. 


Joan 

Margie, you always motivate me to higher thinking especially when it comes to parenting. It is hard for this mom to persist with and organize chore time when I like the fun as much as your captain fun...thank you for challenging me so gently but firmly!!

Relax and Unwind

A blog on fundamentals.  January 24, 2018

Original Post, March 2011

I will just come right out and say it. I am in a slump. Maybe it's the long winter (it's snowing again) or the fact that I am an hour away from a mall, an airport, and the interstate.


Whatever the reason, I like to think of my favorite things to help me relax and unwind (my mother's favorite expression). And I would like to hear your's, too. I need all the help I can get.


-a good, meaty, life changing Bible study

-coffee. no sugar. extra cream.

-chai tea. soy milk. a little sugar

-my feather pillow--can be folded flat and put in my suitcase (I don't leave home without it)

-my wedding anniversary--25th this year--we always take a trip. Oldest daughter Bethany babysits.

-rare days that Silas takes a nap. (He is taking one now!)

-straight A's on report cards--we pay big bucks figuring we will save LOTS of money in scholarships

-Facebook--an almost daily blast from the past. Also a great way to -connect with family when you live in the middle of nowhere.

-family weddings (we have dozens of cousins)

newborn babies

-long, uninterrupted writing sessions (I'm having one now thanks to Silas' nap!)

-Dove dark chocolate with almonds

-history museums (an hour away)

-lively worship services

-hotels

-feel good movies where everyone keeps their clothes on

-women's groups

-quilts


Silas stirs. Actually Silas screams. Send me your tips to get through the rest of this winter. What are your favorite things?


6 Comments

Debbie Riley 

Big warm cozy fireplace Photo albums - a blast from the past Big Canoe with all my sisters (turning 60 this year Baby Sister) Hayley Mills movies on DVD with Amelia & Abigail Two little Granddaughters - watching them play in the Princess room with Jeri's old Barbie Dream house! Margie's Blog!


Reply 

margie 

Love that, Dee Dee!


Anna 

WELL, I have found some favorite things I like when confined by illness. I've been enjoying listening to audio books. I can close my eyes, which you can't do while reading! and they really made the time in chemo fly by. Surfing the 'net has kept me feeling connected to the world. Sipping anything hot-chocolate, black tea w milk and sugar are my favorites. A fire in the fireplace. Watching documentaries on the internet. studying a new language.


Reply 

margie 

Anna, glad you can find some things that make you feel better. Your cheerful attitude inspires me.


Joan 

My friend, I have laughed, I have cried and concluded I really miss my long distance friend!! Some of my favorite things are curling up on my love seat with my " princess" dog, a cup of general foods coffee and my Bible or my Southern Living that I read cover to cover...playing with my new iPad...playing board games...looking at old family movies/ videos/ pictures...and, I have to say it....going sledding with the boys! You knew it was coming,didn't you? So glad Bethany told me about your blog! Thought you would appreciate the cups of General Foods coffee...thx for introducing me to it!


Margie 

Visiting YOU is also one of my favorite things, Joan! Oh how I miss you!

Someone's Watching You

A blog on fundamentals.  January 24, 2018

Original post March, 2011

My little guy Silas is a potential screen head. Whatever screen is on, be it the TV, Wii or computer, you better believe he is watching.


Yesterday, big brother Cory was home sick and wanted some screen time on the computer. I told him okay--I make an exception to my "no screens on school days" rule for a sick one--but just be sure Silas can't see it. Next thing I know, Cory is in the recliner with a blanket over his head. His brother didn't even notice. Or so I thought.


"Can I have my Barney computer?" Silas asked me this morning. For once, I actually remembered where something was, so I retrieved it for him. Next thing I know, Silas is under his blanket, playing with his Barney computer.


You know where I am going with this, but I had to let Cory in on it. "Cory, look at Silas," I said. "He saw you under the blanket on the computer, so now he thinks that is what he suppose to do."


"Can you imagine if Silas is over at a friend's and the friend wants to play computer?" Cory said. "Silas will say, 'Sure, do you have a blanket?' "

We had a good laugh.


The teachable moment was glaring. "Remember as you get older, Cory, that what ever Silas sees you do, he might do it, too." We chatted about it for a minute. I think he got it.


There's a teachable moment for us parents as well. A reminder that as our kids grow up, next thing we know, they will do as we do.


You better believe it-  they are watching.


"Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 

                                                                  I Timothy 4:12


Pictured: Cory and Silas hanging out at a West Point football game with their brothers, Matt and Ben.  Cory still sets a good example for his brother. 


Comments 

Karen 

you need a like button. I am loving reading your blogs. I bookmarked it on my computer so I can read it every day. Good job Marge!


Reply,

Thanks friend! You are one of my most consistent readers and responders and I appreciate it! 



Life Lessons From the Snow 

A blog on fundamentals.  January 25,  2018

Original post March, 2011

When you live in the northeast, you can count on the fact that there will always be just one more snow storm before spring really shows up.


We have had a few warm days; a few shoots have made it through. I know not to let that deceive me, however. I cannot exhale yet. But I have learned some things about life from the snow.


When we first relocated to the northeast, for instance, our new pastor said, "If you stay inside and look at it, you'll go crazy. Find a way to enjoy it and get out there and do it."


Life with nine kids is like that, too. With one baby after another coming, it didn't take long for Captain Fun and I to realize that we couldn't wait for the kids to grow up before we experienced life. We decided to experience life with them.


"Is everyone going on vacation?" I have often been asked (and it never ceases to amaze me). "Okay, kids," I can hear myself saying, "pick a number to see who gets to go this year." Though it usually requires two cars, two hotel rooms, and two pizzas, everybody goes. Every year.


"We built igloos today!" my Emma said, coming home from a day of kindergarten our first year up north. Of course- take advantage of all your resources. Why settle for a snowman when you can build an igloo?


Equip yourself for the snow. Clogs, for instance, won't work. I tried, as did two of my teenagers. We all landed on our backsides. No shortcuts- this is not the south. Salt, Blizzax tires, and an LL Bean clearance sale and we are all set. With the right equipment, I have yet to meet a hill I cannot climb.


Ditto for life with nine kids. It is full of challenges and changes. I assess the challenges regularly and equip myself. As a mom, that means keeping my face in my Bible and my knees on the floor- though at times I find myself with my face on the floor, too. Some days are just like that.


Parenting nine kids means a lot of work blended with a lot of laughter (Captain Fun's department). And for all of us it means putting the family first- the only way for the family to survive.


Shortcuts are sometimes necessary, but not when it comes to the important stuff like practicing what you preach, integrity and family unity. Try to take shortcuts with those, and you'll end up on your backside every time.



The Other Side of Me

A blog on fun.  January 25,  2018

Original post March, 2011

I've discovered another side of myself. It happened suddenly one afternoon many years ago, as my children were climbing into our mammoth white, 15 passenger van, a vehicle my teenagers fondly referred to as "Moby Dick." It struck me as comical that all these kids climbing into the van were mine. I suddenly felt like a bus driver. In a nasally, Edith Bunker-like voice, I called out, "Move to the back of the bus."


Mary and Emma, then 4 and 5, squealed with delight, "Who are YOU?" they asked. For reasons that will forever remain unknown, Arnold Horseshack, of Welcome Back Kotter fame, was the first person who popped into mind. "I'm Mrs. Horseshack, a friend of your muth-uhs," I replied.


I then proceeded to give them nicknames, reserved for use only by their new friend. For the rest of that school year, Mrs. Horseshack put the younger kids on the bus most mornings. "Good-byyyye Elvis, Tina, Annie," she called out to the children who in "real life" were Ben, Mary, and Emma..


"Catch my kisses, Mrs. Horseshack!" they yelled from the end of the driveway, wildly waving their arms. "One for you and one for Mommy!"

Over the years, Mrs. Horseshack has frequently shown up at family occasions or milestones. When baby number eight was on the way, for instance, it was Mrs. Horseshack who broke the news, "I know a secret about your muth-uhhh!" she announced one evening at dinner. Though their eyes widened upon hearing the news, it wasn't until I, the real mom confirmed it that they actually believed me.


In truth, I'm like any other mom. I get stressed, I lose my temper; I sometimes even yell at my kids. I'm often in a hurry and don't always listen to what they have to say. And as I've mentioned before, playing is hard work for me. But these are not the traits I want my kids to remember when they reminisce about their childhood. Enter Mrs. Horseshack.


While the average mom might excel at running her house, Mrs. Horseshack is a pro at having fun. She chases kids around with the vacuum cleaner, playfully reminds them to use their manners at the table, makes spontaneous pit stops for doughnuts, and always, always makes them laugh. As the real mom, I have a bad habit of telling my children I'll play with them "in a minute", but somehow pretending to be this ebullient lady equips me-- Mrs. Horseshack makes it happen.


Some of my kids had less affection for my alter ego. Teenagers at the time Tiger (a.k.a. Stanley) and Bethany (a.k.a. Eunice) as well as my then middle schooler, Matthew (Melvin), use to roll their eyes and beg me not to embarrass them in front of their friends. I wouldn't do that, I reassured them, and neither would Mrs. Horseshack, thank you very much.


Sometimes Mrs. Horseshack won't show up for long stretches of time. The summer our family relocated from Memphis to Vermont, (and our youngest was just 6-weeks-old), it took her months to catch up with us. I was simply too tired to be silly. But it wasn¹t until she finally reappeared that I realized how important it was that I interact with my kids in this way.

"Oh, Mrs. Horseshack, I love you! Where have you been?" my then 7-year-old Mary (alias Tina) said, a bit of pleading in her voice.


Mrs. Horseshack reassured her that she had been looking for them, and when she went to their old house, they were all gone. "And when did you move to Vermont anyway?" she asked. "You have to tell Mrs. Horseshack these things." Just like old friends, we picked up right where we¹d left off.


Sometimes my younger kids try to distract me when they have been mischievous or I,m in a foul mood. "Mrs. Horseshack?" they'll say, trying to call her to rescue them from real life and their grumpy mom.


"She is most certainly not here," I answer in my sternest voice. Other times, I¹ll find it in me to be silly only to be accused of being Mrs. Horseshack. "No, it's me," I say, reminding them that I was the person who created Mrs. Horseshack in the first place.


My alter ego has become such a part of our family that I wonder if sometimes I shouldn't set her a place at the table. After all, who knows how long this tradition will last. I wonder if my kids will outgrow her or if might she turn into Granny Horseshack someday?


It doesn't matter--as long as they remember that their mom went out of her way to introduce them to other side--the silly side---of me.


"A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones."                                         Proverbs 17:22

6 Comments 


Taylor 

Hi Mrs.Sims! I am a friend of Becky's here in Orlando. She has told me so much about you (which I'm sure doesn't even cover the surface) and your family and of course, your writing. I am a writer as well, an aspiring journalist I'd like to say, and am definitely going to love reading your blog from here on out! Looking forward to it. -Taylor


Reply 

margie 

Taylor, Thanks for getting in touch. We love Becky! Hope to meet you when we come down for spring break. We are frozen and ready to thaw out! Margie


DEBBIE RILEY 

You must take after Big Sister Deb or Susie-Q who have trouble locating their Silly Sides. It is Bon Bon and Pammie who have the silliest of the Silly Simpson Sisters as their alter-egos on a regular basis - joined by Shirker-Doo but only on occasion! Love ya for reminding me! :)

Reply

margie 

I think I have a little bit of all of y'all in me!

sherry shelton 

Big smile :)



The Jacobi House

A blog on fundamentals.  January 27,  2018

Original post May, 2011

I don't mind moving. I like change and what it brings--new places, new people, a new experience.


I confess, though, I wish I could take this house with me. From the view to the library to the platter cabinet in the sideboard, I love everything about it. But especially the history.


"Dr. Jacobi delivered me," a repairman told me when he came to fix my dishwasher.


"I remember that tree," said a new acquaintance who had come to pick me up for dinner when we first moved to Norwich. "When I was a little girl and Dr. Jacobi turned on that tree, I knew the Christmas season had started," she said, nostalgia in her voice.


I pointed. "If you look close enough, you can still see lights dangling from the top branches."


"Dr. Jacobi delivered me," yet another repairman proclaimed. "I was named after him."


Everywhere I go in Norwich, I meet people who were touched by the life of Dr. Martin Jacobi. Born in Germany, Jacobi could see what was coming with the rise of Hitler and fled to America after finishing medical school. He became an American citizen, then enlisted and served in World War II, helping to liberate prisoners from some of the most horrific concentration camps.


After the war, Dr. Jacobi was on his way to live in Oneonta when the train made a stop in Norwich. "The streets were so crowded with people," his daughter, Nancy, told me, "that it reminded him of NYC and he immediately fell in love with the little town." He never made it to Oneonta.


Those were the glory days of Norwich, when the pharmaceutical business was booming. Pepto Bismol and Chloraseptic were both invented right here, in fact. He set up his practice and went on to deliver over 8,500 babies. No wonder I regularly run into someone he brought into the world.


Every time I see his daughter, we hug. "I love the house," I tell her.


"I love that you're in the house," she says.


"The other night I was driving down the highway and I looked up on the hill-- it did my heart good to see the lights on," she told me not too long ago. "You turned the lights on again in more ways than one." That made me smile.


We have lived here for two years, and when we move this summer someone else will move in. But to me, this place will always be known as the Jacobi House.


Thank you, Dr. Jacobi. It has been an honor to be part of your history.


The Jacobi House link, if you're in the market or you just want to look, the house is up for sale again. Either way, you'll enjoy the view.

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/446-Manley-Rd_Norwich_NY_13815_M45378-09877


Update: I was saddened to learn that Nancy Jacobi Mirabito, from whom we bought the house, passed away recently. She was a beautiful and compassionate presence in Norwich, and she will be greatly missed.


Comments 

Debbie 

I truly wonder where you will make your mark next... You did the Jacobi house proud!

Fire, What Fire?

A blog on fundamentals.  January 27,  2018

Original post March, 2011

I awakened well before dawn one morning when we still lived in that wonderful house in NY (keep scrolling to read my post, The Jacobi House).


Sniff, sniff. Is that smoke? I thought. No, just dust on the heater after it's been off all summer. The nights had begun to get nippy, as my dad use to say, and the heat had been due to come on.


I lay there for a while, when suddenly Captain Fun jumped out of bed. "Do you smell smoke?" he asked, controlled urgency in his voice.


Having been awake for some time, I was getting sleepy. "No," I sighed, rolling over to finally doze off. "It is just the heater coming on after being off all summer. It's the dust burning off."


He left the room to return with a flashlight. "Look!" he said, aiming the beam over my head. "That is smoke."


"Where? I don't see any smoke." I was so sleepy, after all.


"Could you get up and help me look around?" he asked politely. Well, I supposed it was the least I could do.


He went toward the boys' bedroom; I headed into the den. As I looked up at the light fixture, there was no mistaking it: a little bit of smoke was slowly seeping into the room from the attic. I woke up.


"Honey!" I ran to the bedroom. "Come take a look at this!"


"Get the kids up!" he said as he headed to the attic to take a look. I made the rounds. I was on it. I was alert. I was in.


He came down from the attic to find us headed for the door. "Well, I found the fire and was able to put it out," he said, explaining that an old electrical box had apparently shorted and ignited itself. "You guys go back to bed and I will stay up just in case," adding that he would call someone first thing in the morning.


I had barely closed my eyes, it seemed, when he woke me up. "You know, I am afraid of that old box reigniting so I am going up to check. You might want to hop in the shower in case we have to clear out suddenly."


Against my will, I got up and into the shower. Just as I got out of the shower, Captain Fun told me that the fire had reignited in the attic and he had called 911. I needed to hurry.


Surely I have time to dry my hair, I thought. It won't take long.


When Captain Fun came back a third time and found me drying my hair, well, let's just say he stopped being Captain Fun for a moment. "Turn that off and get in the car. Now."


Is it necessary to be so harsh? I thought. Surely not. I had gone through labor nine times without so much as raising my voice. Surely this harshness is uncalled for.


I got into the car obediently. He had already loaded up the kids and Mom Dot. As I backed out of the garage I could hardly believe my eyes. Smoke hovered above the roof of our house from one end to the other. "Honey, look at the smoke!" I said, so distracted, in fact, that I backed into his Mustang.


"I know," he said, "That's what I have been trying to tell you. The house is on fire!"


I drove down the hill with the kids and Mom Dot, deciding to head to McDonald's for breakfast, passing the fire truck on my way.


The firemen were quick and careful, keeping damage contained to one room. And thank the Lord that because Captain Fun acted so quickly, no one was injured, or worse.


Why did it take me so long to realize the house was on fire? When my husband said I might want to jump in the shower, I got stuck on that word "might". Even though I had seen the smoke and heard the urgency in his voice, I was hoping maybe it wasn't as serious as all that.


Maybe it is too easy to take the same approach with our families. We see the smoke: negligence, apathy, all the other red flags that pop up when  relationships are deteriorating. We hear the urgency in our children's or spouse's voice when they suggest something isn't right. But we just won't accept that, yes, the house is on fire.


I hope I always remember what I learned that day: where there's smoke, there's fire. And though that fire was traumatic, it could have been much worse had Captain Fun not been so quick to respond when he saw the smoke. May I handle my family with the same urgency.


After all, far more than a house, a family is worth it.


"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. "

                                                                              Ephesians 4:32


Comments

Rose

Didn't know that happened to you, but you're on the money - if you think something might be wrong and your gut instinct makes you uneasy, then keep checking to make sure things are OK. Hope all's well with you these days!

Reply

margie

doing well, Rose. So glad you give your input on my posts! Miss you and hope your family is well.

Debbie

Mama always said to "Go with your Gut" - well said Margie. Love you Sister Dear!

Reply-margie

Thank you Dee Dee! Mama always knew, didn't she?

Me, Sick?

A blog on fundamentals.  January 27,  2018

Original post March, 2011

I started feeling a familiar pain in my lower back last Friday night. Kidney stone, I self diagnosed, as I had had one about 25 years ago. Over the years, it has surfaced here and there, but if I drink lots of water it works its way out.


Two aspirin didn't help. Two Advil didn't touch it. Late into the night, the Captain noticed I was a little restless. "You okay?"


"Yes. Kidney stone. Just need to drink more water," I said. "And would you rub my back?" He brought me two more Advil and rubbed my back. I finally fell asleep.


The next morning, the pain was still present: a dull ache with a little burn mixed in. But, again, I knew that pain. Kidney stones. Today, I resolved, I will drink gallons of water and get rid of this thing.


The snow had started falling, along with the temperature. Try as I might, I just couldn't shake it. I started to feel funny. Maybe I was running a fever?


102.5


"How about I take you to the doctor?" the Captain said.


"Oh, no, I know this pain. I just need to drink more water." Besides, I had heard the temperature outside was nine degrees. Way too cold to get out with a fever.


Eight inches of snow fell that day. Come Sunday, church was canceled--not that I was going anyway. My fever held on at 102.7.  "I found a home test for UTI's," the Captain said. I am going to get it for you. If it's positive, I am taking you to the ER."


Yes, sir.


He did. It was. I felt like a noodle. I looked like death. But I kept my end of the deal and braved the cold.


Two IV's and four blood draws later, the ER doc came in with his diagnosis.

"You're dehydrated."


But I drank all that water.


"Your fever is 103."


Oh.


"Your heart is racing."


"My heart's not racing," I protested.


"Your heart rate is 130," he said.


Ah.

"And your white count is elevated," he continued down the list of symptoms. "I am sending you for a CT scan. We might admit you." With that he left.


"I will be very surprised if they admit me," I said to my nurse, whose only reply was a raised eyebrow. 


About an hour after the scan, the doctor returned.


"You have two kidney stones, one of which is blocking your kidney, causing a kidney infection. I am admitting you; you will probably be here a few days."


I glanced at the Captain, who had a knowing look.


The doctor wasn't finished. "If I just put you on antibiotics, you will not get well. You need to have surgery today to drain the infection. The surgeon will be in to see you soon. The stones can be treated later."


I thanked him, and he left. Then I knew there was someone else I had to thank.


"Thanks for bringing me in," I said to the Captain, meaning it. "And next time I won't resist," I added.


"You're my wife. I love you--I just want you to be healthy," he answered with a gentle pat on my pin-cushiony arm.


"Well, I'm glad you have the same standard for yourself as you do for your kids," my oldest son chuckled on the phone when I told him the story. I admit, it's true. I am not one to dash off to the ER, no matter who is sick.


The whole episode has been a gentle reminder of what marriage is for--to help each other, love each other, listen to each other. Believe it or not, there have been other times when I just didn't get it-- even once when the house was on fire! (Keep scrolling to the next blog to read Fire? What Fire?) And--I know this comes as no surprise--this week has been a reminder of what an attentive, cheerful caregiver my husband, aka Captain Fun, is. Thank you, Captain, for watching out for me.


As for me, I have also learned just how fast you can get really sick. And I have resolved to be quicker to listen to my spouse.


Maybe every marriage could benefit from that.


"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,"

                                                                           --James 1:19


My Right to Be a Redhead.

A blog on fun.  January 29,  2018

Original post March, 2011

When I was in first grade, I fell off the monkey bars and broke my left arm.


When I was in second grade, I tripped over my dog and broke my right arm.


"Redheads are smart, but they're clumsy," the navy doctor said as he was preparing the plaster for my shoulder length cast. My mother, also a red head, cocked her head to one side. "Oh, pardon me," he quickly added.


In elementary school, the boys called me carrot top.


My sister (another red head) gave me her shirt that said, "Orange eyelashes are cool."


In middle school, Coach Thomas regularly called me a red-headed pecker wood. And Mr. Mitchell chanted daily, "I'd rather be dead than red on the head."


"Did you know," I asked my mother one day as a teenager, "that less than two percent of the world's population has red hair? I read it in a trivia book!"


"Well, I have most of them, then," she laughed. Most of her eight kids were redheads. And just like my mother, most of my nine kids are redheads. A mixed blessing.


"A boy at school called me a ginger today," my Mary said recently. I thought I had heard every nickname for a redhead, but that one was new to me. "Get used to it," I said. "It is part of the package."


"I can never be truly happy," said Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. "No one can who has red hair."


Well, I wouldn't go that far. Being a red head has been mostly fun--until a few weeks ago.


"I wouldn't call you a true red head," my long time friend said to me on the phone. "It is more strawberry blonde now."


I have nothing against strawberry blonde hair. It is just that my whole life I paid my dues for being a redhead. The freckles. The skin that won't tan. The orange eyelashes. The constant teasing. And now I'm a strawberry blonde?


If you see me on the street, or if you have red headed friends whose hair might be fading with age, don't mention it. Just allow us to keep referring to ourselves as redheads.


After all, we've earned it.

My Beaming Bethany

A blog on fundamentals.  January 30,  2018

Original post March, 2011

One summer when daughter Bethany was about 13, we were, shall we say, frequently at odds with one another? It was, ahem, the middle school years, and those aliens I've mentioned before were taking over. I decided I was going to keep her out of my ha-- I mean, extremely busy with productive activities.


First on the agenda was a trip to Atlanta to see her cousins. Her Aunt Bonnie, my sister, is the hostess with the mostess, and showed her and Tiger a marvelous time. "Mom," she said when she got off the plane, "why do we live in this city? There is nothing to do here."


A few weeks later, it was time to go to youth camp. Camp was a big part of my life growing up and I love to send my kids. Upon arriving home, she announced it really wasn't THAT much fun this year.


Next came our church's junior high choir tour. We went to the mall to get the required performance clothes. She didn't like them--the khaki skirts were ugly, she said, and WHY did they have to be so LONG?


It took me all summer to realize that my plan had backfired. The more I had tried to entertain her, the more she complained. By the end of the summer, I had created a monster.


"Uh, Bethany," I spoke up when summer was nearly over, "next summer you are going to have to pay for all your activities yourself."


"How?"


"Babysitting, or whatever else you can come up with."


"But, why?"


"You have been nothing but ungrateful this whole summer," I said.


"But I said thank you."


"Figure it out," I said (that's one of my favorite things to say). End of discussion.


The last of the summer agenda was a week long inner city Vacation Bible School ministry. I started to keep her home, but decided she was already committed. I dropped her off on Monday, knowing the nature of this trip was very different from the others. They would be sleeping on a gym floor, working outside all day in the Memphis heat and having meals like canned ravioli and pbj for dinner. I wasn't sure what kind of mindset she would be in when I picked her up on Friday.

.

I pulled up and she bounced out to the car, beaming. "Out of everything I've done all summer, this week had the deepest impact on me."


Proverbs 27:7 says, "He that is full loathes honey, but to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet."


A glaring parenting principle is hidden in this Proverb: Keep kids a little hungry instead of allowing them to get overstuffed.


They'll be grateful you did. Just ask my beaming Bethany.


PS. Thank you, sweet Bethany, for giving me permission to share this! 

Pictured: Bethany doing what Bethany does best: beaming.  Moms of middle school girls, take heart: we really are the best of friends now.  


Comments 


Denise Daoud 

This is so true, sometimes we give our children so much materially and then we wonder why they are ungrateful.They don't always appreciate it. It is also not being a bad parent to not give everything to your children. Parents too need to realize this. Children need something to strive for as do adults. Thanks Margie

Reply 

margie 

You are welcome, Denise. Thanks for your comment- I totally agree.

Da' Mom (aka That Football Field Lady)

A blog on fundamentals.  February 1,  2018

Original post March, 2011

I was standing on the sidelines at yet another football practice when I turned to the mom beside me to make conversation. "You know," I said, "these practices sure do take up a lot of time."   I had no idea what I was in for.


"Yes!" she turned to face me, putting her hand on her hip. "But you know what?"


I was afraid to ask.


"If we weren't here, my kids would just be at home watching TV."


I started to agree, but she wasn't finished.


"But you know, the real challenge is getting them home, feeding them dinner, making sure homework gets done and they get into bed on time because, you know, I am not one of those moms who is going to throw hot dogs and french fries at my kids every night. Right now I have chicken and green beans in the crock pot."


She took a breath.


"And in the morning do you know that you can cook an egg as quick as you can pour a bowl of cereal?"


I don't remember anymore of the conversation, but I do remember coming away knowing what it looked like to embrace your role as a mother. Though she didn't come across as arrogant, it was clear to me she was Da Mom.


At the time I probably had half a dozen kids. But I was preoccupied, winging it, flying by the seat of my pants and I knew it. The writer inside me seemed to never quiet down, and I found myself dabbling in parenting and immersing myself in my writing.


I don't know exactly why that football field lady impacted me the way she did, but I came screeching to a halt--asking myself how could I better embrace my role? I knew the first answer--show my kids they are my priority by writing only at nap time.


Then came attention to the little things--getting up a little earlier, trying a little harder in the kitchen, scheduling in homework time. In short, I became devoted to letting my kids know they are important to me by my simple, everyday actions.


A lot has happened since that conversation ten years ago. I have had two more babies and launched three of my kids into adulthood. I still have a long way to go, but I can honestly say I am trying my best to be Da Mom--it is nap time as I write this, for one thing.


Thank you, football field lady. The day I met you was the day I started doing things differently. Your enthusiasm for motherhood has had more impact than you'll ever know.


6 Comments 

Debora Paretti, Tampa, FL 

Margie has been my go-to parenting book for a long time. Her words flow easily yet powerful to reach the center of any mothers heart with a desire to be better, the reassurance we are doing just fine, and the reminder we are not alone.

This is one of my favorite posts!! 


Robert Sims 

My wonderful wife, YOU are Da Mom. And Da Wife... And everything beautiful and wonderful in the world.


Reply 

margie 

Awe, thank you, honey. That means a lot coming from Captain Fun himself!


Amber Ripa on Friday, March 18, 2011 

Margie, thank you so much for launching this blog.... our MOMSnext group has been talking you up since your visit to us! We all felt a deep connection to you and what you spoke about.... I look forward to learning more from you through your blog!


Reply 

margie 

Hi Amber, So glad you like my blog. It is so important to get a little encouragement every day when you're a mom. I think that is why I started blogging. So enjoyed your group! Margie

Aiming Your Arrows

A blog on fundamentals.  February 2,  2018

Original post March, 2011

Today I spoke to the wonderful Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS.org) group in Rome, NY.


Psalms 127:4 says, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth."  And what do you do with arrows but aim them at a target?


In today's culture, though, the target is getting more difficult to hit; more difficult to see, even. Just what is the target? And how do you hit it? This is what I told the MOPS in Rome.


Arrows have to be prepared, propelled, and sometimes retrieved.


To prepare your arrows, embrace your role. Embracing your role means deliberate parenting. Parenting on purpose. If you want to know what that looks like, let me refer you to yesterday's blog (below) That Football Field Lady.


Secondly, arrows also have to be propelled in order to fly. If you don't propel them, I told the MOPS today, something will, and you may not like the target they are heading towards then. Propelling arrows means equipping your kids; helping them discover their gifts and talents, teaching them to work hard, making sure they know you love them. Basically, making sure as they grow up they have what they need to soar.


Then, occasionally, arrows need retrieving. We went to Silver Bay for vacation last summer, (wonderful family vacation I heartily recommend http://www.silverbay.org/) and I went to watch Cory at the archery range one afternoon. "When you retrieve your arrows," the instructor said, "sometimes you will find them barely visible because they go so far into the ground."


And so it is with kids. During some seasons, you may not recognize them- the kid you knew might be barely visible. Go after them. Do whatever it takes to retrieve your arrows, even when you hardly know  them.


Guard your children like a warrior guards his arrows. Then aim carefully; aim deliberately. And keep your target in sight.


"Like arrows are in the hands of a mighty man, so are the children of one's youth."                                             Psalm 127:4 

Kindness: A Little Goes a Long Way

A blog on fundamentals.  February 5,  2018

Original post March, 2011

Our oldest had flown the coop. First to college, then the Navy. It had been months since we had seen him, and his birthday was coming.  "Why don't we go see Tiger for spring break?" Captain Fun said to me one morning.


"Uh, do you know how much that would cost?" I failed math in college, but I did know that airline tickets for seven kids and three adults from Vermont to Virginia would be a hefty sum.


"And it is worth every penny," he said. (Like I've said before, I don't call him Captain Fun for nothing).


We bought the tickets. We packed 10 suitcases, two car seats, and one diaper bag. We were a sight at the airport. A spectacle. An exhibition.


"I bet you had to mortgage your house to make this trip," a man in the security line said.


Everyone paired off and we boarded the plane. Bethany, 18, and Dorothy, 4, were a perfect match. Ben, 12, paired up with Cory, 6, for some brotherly bonding. Mary, 10, and Emma, 9, were inseparable. Captain Fun escorted his mother, who really didn't need an escort, even at 81. And, as always, I got dibs on the baby. I like it that way.


To save money, we landed about two hours from Norfolk. We claimed our bags--all ten of them--and made our way to the rental car counter to drive the rest of the way. Twenty minutes turned into thirty. Forty five minutes approached an hour. The rental agent assured us that our twelve passenger van was coming momentarily. I kept throwing snacks at the kids, assuring them that we were not sleeping over at the airport. Captain Fun kept assuring the agent that the wait was no big deal.


After almost 90 minutes, the car was ready. We thanked the agent from the bottom of our tired hearts.


"Now I am totally convinced that you guys are nuts," my son said when we finally arrived at his base. I blamed Captain Fun for the idea, as well as the marvelous time we had with Tiger all week. It was a shot in the arm for all of us.


We returned home via the same route, of course. Same airport, same rental car company, even the same agent. "Hey!" he said when he saw my husband approach the counter. "I was just talking to my mother about you last night."


"You were?"


He nodded. "I told her that one of my customers changed my life this week by his kindness," he said, adding he would be going to church on Sunday as a result.


While we were waiting to board, he gathered the kids and told them what the agent had said. "You had a part in that," he added, "because you were so patient and well behaved," he told them. "See the difference a little kindness makes?"


Four years have passes since that trip, but once in a while the kids will talk about it, and the conclusion is always the same; whether it is by speaking a good word or simply controlling your temper, the far reaching effects of kindness cannot be underestimated.


"Do all things without complaining or arguing, that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the Word of life.." Philippians 2:14-16 (--NIV)


Comments 

joan 

Boy, is that the truth...we had the same opportunity to show some "grace" to the man who was trying to find our Drew's(our oldest son) skis that somehow got lost overnight. We sensed that God used that moment as an opportunity for them to see our loving and patient Lord...I LOVE these stories... it makes me feel like you are back in my kitchen again....and I laughed out loud AGAIN!


Reply

margie 

Joan, thanks for sharing that. I miss your kitchen!


Denise 

Well Margie , this story will keep me entertained for days and i will never be afraid to fly again. I am hoping to run into you at the airport and have fun!!!!!!!!!. Like today


Reply 

margie 

Denise, I am glad you liked my post. One day we will be in the airport together on our way to England, I hope! Thanks for coming with me to Rome (NY) this week!

Chore Day

A blog on fundamentals.  February 8,  2018

Original post March, 2011

Around our house, Saturday is chore day. And complaining will get you way more than you bargained for.


"Okay everybody," I announce each Saturday A.M. with great enthusiasm around 9:30. "Chores at 10:00!"


"I hate Saturdays," at least one child usually responds.


"Work is a blessing," I remind them. "It means you have a full life; things to take care of; people who need you."


But the collective moaning reminds me that hard work is something that almost always has to be taught to kids. And they all bring different levels of work ethic to the table.


I remember when my husband was teaching our oldest son, Tiger,  to work. We had leaves that needed to be raked and bagged--piles and piles of them. For an hour they worked, with still so much more to go. I could see through the sliding glass doors that the work session was unraveling. He didn't want to finish, yet his dad was driving him on. It tugged at a mother's heart.


I opened the door, stuck my head out, and opened my mouth to intervene. His dad saw it coming and held his hand up. "Let me raise the man," he said. I guess even Captain Fun has to get serious sometimes. I pulled my head back in and shut the door. Hard work is something each kid must learn, and it is not an easy lesson.


A few years later, when Tiger played football, his coach said he had never, never coached such a hard working kid. When he got his first job and every one after that, his boss bragged on what a hard worker he was.  Still is, as even as an adult, our oldest still gets recognized for going the extra mile. 


Work is part of growing up, I tell my kids. Don't be afraid of it; embrace it. And hard work makes you stand out. Be intentional about it; take initiative.


Some of them still moan, but thanks largely to the Captain, I no longer let that stop me. After all, parenting is the most important work of all. And if you're intentional about it, you'll get more than you bargained for.


3 Comments 

Pam 

Margie - you really have some great stuff! Going thru this with my 10 yr old boy even as we speak! ;)

Reply

margie 

Pam and Joan-- Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts. Keep at it--they will get it. One thing I do daily is a "seven minute cleanup" after dinner every night. Then Saturdays we work for an hour or so every morning. I tell them it is me for three hours by myself or all of us for an hour to accomplish the same thing. Anyway, work has to be taught. I am convinced of that. Margie


Joan 

Margie, you always motivate me to higher thinking especially when it comes to parenting. It is hard for this mom to persist with and organize chore time when I like the fun as much as your captain fun...thank you for challenging me so gently but firmly!!

My High Flying Tiger 

A blog on fundamentals.  February 9,  2018

Original post March, 2011

Parenting is tricky.


You go through nine months of pregnancy (no fun) and then hours of labor (even less fun) and then a brand new person appears. Like all new moms, I did not know what to expect the first time. But when my gaze met his, I fell in love. It awoke something in me that I didn't know was there.


The preschool years are endearing. Exciting. Exhausting. And I have heard the elementary school years tagged the "golden years" of parenting. I would have to agree with that. They like you and you like them, for the most part.


Then comes middle school. Attention everyone: aliens ahead. They transform, they morph, they alter into something you don't recognize.


Just so you'll know, I have been granted permission to talk about my first born, Robert, aka Tiger. He was a little red-headed, freckle faced straight A student. Then came middle school. For whatever reason, grades dropped, self esteem dropped, confidence dropped. So I dropped--everything.


At Captain Fun's suggestion, I started home schooling. The Captain and I both agreed he needed to get out of the muck of the middle school atmosphere. Tiger was willing, I was willing. We gave it a try.


The first year was actually fun. For someone who vowed she would never home school, I really liked it. Tiger was a natural at academics, and I found him to be an enthusiastic student who liked to learn.


He was fascinated by the weather, the solar system, everything. He built a trebuchet out of Popsicle sticks. (I thought every 12 year old did that.) 


The questions he asked amazed me. "What if we could put lasers in each corner of the yard and then press a button and get all the grass cut in 1.2 seconds?" he piped up one day after cutting the grass. Brilliant, I thought. As long as the dog wasn't in the yard, his dad added.


Then came 7th grade where those aliens again took him away. One day, I gave him a writing assignment (my favorite subject). He handed it in--with one sentence at the top and a squiggly line down the middle of the paper.

"Ahem, Tiger," I said. "If you keep this up, you're going back to school."


Fast forward to the first day of eighth grade. "I didn't think you would send me back to school," he said as I was driving him to school.


"You have to be educated one way or another," I said. We had tried one way, now it was time for another.


His freshman year of high school was hard. Academics were average; he was shy and unsure of himself. He seemed timid about everything from going swimming to riding roller coasters. What's more, he told me he ate lunch alone every day for almost the whole year. 


Sometimes I worried about him until my stomach ached. When did my outgoing, carefree kid get become so reserved and self conscious? I felt I had failed him.


Playing football his sophomore year brought new friends, and his junior year was even better.  Prior to his senior year, a new opportunity came and we began planning a move to Vermont. He was okay with it as all his friends were older and were graduating anyway. His dad was confident he would be fine. But me? I was nervous. He was over the hump and I was unsure how a move during his senior year would go.


But for him, the move was seamless. Dozens of friends filled our yard on the weekends for bonfires. And he met his future wife in English class, to boot. To this day, he never meets a stranger. As for timidity, during his time in the Navy, he took a Somali pirate into custody and got a commendation from his Admiral. And now, the kid who was afraid of roller coasters is flying airplanes.


"Is it okay if I say you were shy?" I texted him while writing this post.


"I was the weirdest kid I have ever met," he wrote back (which got him a LOL). "You can say whatever you want."


Middle school is tricky. You go through a few years of unmarked territory, face unforeseen fears. You worry. You pray. You don't recognize them for a while. But don't give up. Keep at it. It may take a time, but eventually a brand new person will appear.


Just ask my high flying Tiger.


Update (2/2018):  Tiger has an excellent history podcast that is both educational and entertaining.  If I still homeschooled, I would definitely use it as a supplement. Check it out at http://www.hitmpodcast.com/


16 Comments


gloria lewis 

Margie, this is so wonderful!!

Reply 

Margie 

Thank you, Gloria. I loved writing it.


Debbie Riley 

I remember every version of him. His Aunts were all surprised by his visit as the new grown up personable Tiger after the move to Vermont. I loved this. Are you going to grace us with a blog about all of the kids? Can't wait!

Reply 

Margie 

Some of them are asking when their turn is. I tell them it just has to hit me at the right time.


maggie swanke 

middle school IS ALIEN territory...worried mamas all watch the chrysalis of childhood give way to the blossoming beautiful butterflies of young adulthood!

Reply 

margie 

Maggie, that is well said. Maybe YOU should start a blog!


JP 

Perfect timing Margie. I have one starting Middle School in the Fall. I won't tell him this but I am scared. I hope he doesn't lose himself by trying to be what other kids want him to be. Your post gives me hope!

Reply

Margie

Just remember aliens are likely...and don't stop being his cheerleader. Glad for the timing!


Neil Fick on Friday, March 11, 2011 3:26 PM

Margie, you are a talented writer . . . and with such a fine son to write about. I was so happy to have met him, and you all, at the wedding.

Reply 

Margie on Saturday, August 04, 2012 10:04 AM

Aww thank you.  He is a fine son.  And what an honor to have Becky in the family!


Deborah 

I have 4 boys 9 and under, this will give me strength on the road to Mars that is ahead. And more faith that the beautiful hearts inside my boys will beat true until they can find their ways back from outer space.


Holly Pittman 

Margie!!! Remember me??? From Bellevue days :) I saw you were friends with Laura Hatcher on Facebook!!!! I asked to be your friend too!!!! WoW!! Tiger is married????? where has time gone?? I have four now...even have my own redhead ;) my youngest 4 1/2...her name is Adrienne!! after Dr. Rogers :) look forward to visiting :) holly

Reply 

Margie 

Hi Holly! Just realized you posted this. How is the parenting of four kids going these days!?


Ron Berry 

LOVE THIS STORY! I have a 14 year-old ALIEN, so you and your Tiger are giving me a glimmer of hope. Best wishes to you and yours, Margie!

Reply 

margie 

Glad to know this encouraged you. Just buckle your seat belt and keep at it. From my observation, the kids that I see who totally lose their way are the ones whose parents give up (thought I know this is not always true). Thanks for the comment.


If you enjoyed this blog please shoot me an email at [email protected] and let me know! 

Southern Manners  

A blog on fundamentals.  February 12,  2018

Original post March, 2011

I am undeniably southern. My kids call me Mama. I relish turnip greens and crave barbecue on a regular basis; I like sweet tea and go to church every Sunday. And though I do draw the line at saying "fixin' to" instead of "going to," I have a surefire, oh-I-can-tell-you're-from-Memphis southern drawl.


As southern as my blood runs, though, I have botched my southern heritage in one respect: I fear I have failed to teach my children manners. True, life--even for a native southerner-- isn't as slow paced as it used to be. And with so many kids, the ambiance of my home is about as tranquil as the county fair. But excuses fall flat when you're from the south. Manners simply aren't an option.


Like any good, determined southern woman, however, I am resolved to remedy this blunder. Having given up on gentle reminders, I sometimes resort to fines and punishment: a dollar for every elbow on the table, two dollars for those who smack while they chew. Forgetting that burping is no laughing matter or neglecting to put your napkin in your lap means automatic KP duty. Reaching across Grandma at the table gets you 25 sentences in which you will declare: "I will not reach across Grandma at the dinner table." 


 And if you forget the Granddaddy of all southern manners -- "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir"--it's both money and sentences for you. I sometimes even threaten etiquette classes as a last resort.


"We southerners are known for our manners," I admonished my children around the table when we lived in the south.


"We are?" my son practically choked on his dinner.


It's a universal fact, I thought. He should have known that already.

Why do my younger children run through the church foyer like a band of southern Baptists on their way to dinner on the grounds? Why do they interrupt? Dash to the front of the line at potlucks? Talk with their mouths full?


Why? Why? Why?


"You're doing a good job teaching your children manners," a very kind lady said to me on one of our outings. "You're reminding them elders come first, to slow down, and say 'Yes, ma'am'."

"Are you from the south?" I asked.


"Yes, I am."


Ah, another native southerner. Perhaps all is not lost. She must know manners when she sees them.


"Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right."                                       

                                                                  - Proverbs 20:11

Relax and Unwind  

A blog on fun.  February 13,  2018

Original post March, 2011

I will just come right out and say it. I am in a slump. Maybe it's the long winter (it's snowing again) or the fact that I am an hour away from a mall, an airport, and the interstate.


Whatever the reason, I am intentional about taking a break every day, and thinking of my favorite things helps me relax and unwind (my mother's favorite expression). And I would like to hear yours, too. I need all the help I can get.


  • a good, meaty, life changing Bible study
  • coffee. no sugar. extra cream.
  • chai tea. soy milk. a little sugar
  • my feather pillow--can be folded flat and put in my suitcase (I don't leave home without it)
  • our wedding anniversary--25th this year--we always take a trip. Oldest daughter Bethany babysits.
  • rare days that Silas takes a nap. (He is taking one now!)
  • straight A's on report cards--we pay big bucks figuring we will save LOTS of money in scholarships
  • Facebook--an almost daily blast from the past. Also a great way to connect with family when you live in the middle of nowhere.
  • family weddings (we have dozens of cousins)
  • newborn babies
  • long, uninterrupted writing sessions (I'm having one now thanks to Silas' nap!)
  • Dove dark chocolate with almonds
  • history museums (an hour away)
  • lively worship services
  • hotels with free breakfast 
  • feel good movies where everyone keeps their clothes on
  • women's ministry 
  • quilts

Silas stirs. Actually Silas screams. Send me your tips to get through the rest of this winter. What are your favorite things?


Margie

Comments: 

Debbie Riley 

Big warm cozy fireplace Photo albums - a blast from the past Big Canoe with all my sisters (turning 60 this year Baby Sister) Hayley Mills movies on DVD with Amelia & Abigail Two little Granddaughters - watching them play in the Princess room with Jeri's old Barbie Dream house! Margie's Blog!

Reply 

margie 

Love that, Dee Dee!


Anna Terry 

WELL, I have found some favorite things I like when confined by illness. I've been enjoying listening to audio books. I can close my eyes, which you can't do while reading! and they really made the time in chemo fly by. Surfing the 'net has kept me feeling connected to the world. Sipping anything hot-chocolate, black tea w milk and sugar are my favorites. A fire in the fireplace. Watching documentaries on the internet. studying a new language.

Reply 

margie 

Anna, glad you can find some things that make you feel better. Your cheerful attitude inspires me.


Joan Graybeal

My friend, I have laughed, I have cried and concluded I really miss my long distance friend!! Some of my favorite things are curling up on my  with my " princess" dog, a cup of general foods coffee and my Bible or my Southern Living that I read cover to cover...playing with my new iPad...playing board games...looking at old family movies/ videos/ pictures...and, I have to say it....going sledding with the boys! You knew it was coming,didn't you? So glad Bethany told me about your blog! Thought you would appreciate the cups of General Foods coffee...thx for introducing me to it!

Reply

Margie 

Visiting YOU is also one of my favorite things, Joan! Oh how I miss you!


 Uncertain Seasons

A blog on fundamentals.  February 13,  2018

Original post March, 2011


I am sure you have had hard days before, but have you ever had a hard season?


I vividly remember a dark season in our lives in July of 2003. First there was this wacky storm--straight line wind, it's called--that knocked the power out for five days.   To this day, Memphians refer to it as Hurricane Elvis. 


The day after the storm, I had my first miscarriage--quite a shock since it was my eighth pregnancy. Because the power was out for five days, we lost all the food in our fridge. We replaced the food, then the fridge died and we the food went bad a second time. Then our A/C broke and the transmission in our car had to be replaced. Our savings were drained. As a final blow, in the midst of all that stress, an anticipated relocation fell through.


In a span of about ten days we went from the promise of a new baby and a new city to no baby, no move, and no money.  As far as I remember, it was our first real trial as a married couple, and it was hard.


What did we do?   For a while, it was a slower pace, but we kept steadily moving forward.   We both kept reading our Bibles, kept praying, kept taking care of the family.  We kept doing what we've always done.  Sure, some days I wanted to pull the covers over my head. But whenever I felt like that, I would pray, grab my Bible, call a friend--whatever it took. It was a long season.


Almost exactly one year later in July of 2004, I was sitting on a mountain top in Stowe, Vermont,  holding six week old baby Dorothy at a Mozart festival.   The sun sank behind the mountains as the symphony filled the evening air when suddenly it dawned on me--that difficult season had begun precisely one year before. Yet if anyone would have told me during that time that exactly one year later I would be perched on a mountain in Vermont, holding our new baby,  I wouldn’t have believed it.


"God helps those who help themselves," is a saying I often hear. But I am not so sure. I think it is more accurate to say God helps those who cannot help themselves; those desperate for His touch, those who realize they need the help of a Saviour.


Unlike the seasons, He will never change.


Psalm 145: 14 "The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all those who are bowed down."


Email Margie at [email protected] 


maggie 

Jeremiah 8:7 Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons you have the most beautiful red headed babies, whether bouncin around here or in heaven!! Children bring such a sense of Hope, or never giving up, never giving in, never giving out....just giving!!

Reply

Margie 

Maggie, that is beautiful. Thank you.

The Freight Train

A blog on fundamentals.  February 15,  2018

Original post March, 2011


Do your kids ever ignore you?


"Come to dinner." Nobody moves.


"Do your homework." Stillness.


"Okay everybody, let's clean up." Everyone acts as if you do not exist.


In the past, I would repeat requests until I found myself stomping around the house, yelling about WHY no one listens to ME. But now, the freight train comes.


What, exactly, is the freight train?


If you're a mother, you will recognize it. It's that gradual out of control feeling you get when your kids aren't listening. The more they ignore you, the faster it comes flying down the tracks. I have discovered that if I begin to announce the arrival of the freight train when I feel it speeding toward the station, my kids get it.


"Come to dinner." Nothing. "I think I hear the freight train," I say.


"Do your homework." Nobody moves. "I can see the smoke."


"Seven minute clean up." Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. "If you don't want the freight train to pull into the station, you better get moving. Now."


The instant I mention the smoke, the lights, the sound of the clackity clack down the track, they understand: this is their warning. It is not The Little Engine That Could. Nor is it Thomas the Tank Engine. It is The Freight Train.


And you can't ignore a freight train.



4 Comments :

Heather 

I wonder how many times I have responded to God the same way children respond to their parents. The orientation of my heart is to self rather than to God. I am reminded of Psalm 4:23-27.

Reply to comment

margie 

Too many times I have responded the same way. Isn't it good that God gives us a relationship with our children so we might better understand our relationship with Him?


Debbie

Your kids are blessed. Love you Deb

Reply 

margie 

thank you, dee dee! Our mother sure had her own version of the freight train!

The Last Part of the Journey 

A blog on fundamentals.  February 23,  2018

Original post April, 2011


As you might know, we have just returned from spring break in Vermont. The six hour drive isn't too bad, but if you're familiar with this part of the country, you know the scenery consists of cows, barns, hills, and trees.


"Can we listen to the LARIOUS song?" Silas asked the last hour of the trip.


FYI, the "larious song" is a song that sister Mary once played for Silas in order to cheer him up. She shook her hair around with such aggression that Silas thought it was hilarious. Now it's known as the "larious song.".


Without question, the last part of the journey is always the hardest, the longest, the loudest. I try to be prepared with plenty of ammo: the 'larious song, of course, but also food, music, gum, candy, videos. I will stop at almost nothing to keep my kids, and especially the baby, happy. And woe to the child who needs to stop for the bathroom while the baby is asleep!


It looks as if my family and I are on the last part of our journey here in Norwich, as our house went up for sale this week. That being said, I plan to simplify. My blogs will be sporadic from here on out, but you can follow me on twitter @mom_of_nine (NOTE: now mom_of_ten).


"Once you find out you're leaving, you're already gone," someone said to me just before we moved to Vermont. I have found it to be true--with six kids to plan for, both my heart and mind are racing ahead to the future.


Just like those road trips, the last part of this journey is the hardest.


PS Here's a link to the Larious Song video (aka Born Again by Newsboys)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDCnfGQcDEQ

The Generous Ben and Jerry  

A blog on fundamentals.  February 23,  2018

Original post April, 2011 


I was dismayed, but not surprised, to find that I had gained 3 1/2 lbs over spring break. I couldn't help it, though, since we went to Vermont--home of Ben and Jerry's ice cream (http://benandjerrys.com/).


We stood in a long, winding line with the rest of Burlington on Free Cone Day. With six kids and two parents at $4 a cone, well, you do the math. It was worth it.


Two days later, we ate our way through Waterbury, home of Cabot Cheese, Lake Champlain Chocolate, and, you guessed it, Ben and Jerry's first ice cream plant.


As I waited for my ice cream and watched the promotional DVD in the lobby, I was impressed with the generosity of Ben and Jerry. After over 30 years in business, the evidence is in, and they are guilty:


Ben and Jerry made a promise back in 1978 that, if on their first anniversary they were still in business, they would give away free cones as a way of saying thanks. Over thirty years and millions of cones later, they still say thanks with Free Cone Day.


Milk prices plummet in 1991, but Ben and Jerry's pays dairy farmers premium price anyway.


Every employee of Ben and Jerry's not only receives three free pints of ice cream a day, but a free gym membership to boot.


Donating to nonprofits, promoting fair trade, modeling community involvement, buying ingredients from local dairy farms, the list goes on and on.


Imagine if every company, or how about every parent, lived life that way-- practicing radical generosity in front of our kids. Not only would it change our families; it would change our world.


"And don't forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Hebrews 13:161



Good Guys, Bad Guys

A blog on fundamentals.  February 23,  2018

Original post April, 2011


With five boys, I have a lot of experience at playing good guys and bad guys. Silas, unfortunately, still hasn't mastered it.


Yesterday, for instance, he bumped his head on the corner of the kitchen counter. It juts out at just the right place and height for him to catch it every once in a while. "Grandmama pushed me!" he cried.


"Grandmama did not push you!" I said. "She would never do that. You need to say your sorry."


"Sorry." How sincere.


Five minutes later. "Grandmama ate my yogurt!" Sigh. May I take a moment to describe Silas' eating habits? He leaves his chicken nuggets and eats all his broccoli. He snubs his fries and eats his salad. I've never experienced a preschooler with such a palate. And, remember, I have a lot of comparatives.


If it was ice cream that was at stake, he wouldn't have cared. But this was his yogurt. His Fiber One Key Lime Pie yogurt. "She did not eat your yogurt, Silas. You ate it."


"Noooo," he wailed. "Grandmama ate it."


Clearly, Silas has his allies and enemies confused, for, if anyone is on his side, it's Grandmama. Toy Provider. Fan. Friend. Slave. Just last night, at his command, she put a Snapple box on her head and played robot with him. This morning, it was bowling in the hall with plastic cups for pins, and at lunch, they watched TV in her bed while he ate his lunch, despite her sheets becoming filled with crumbs.


Grandmama just stopped by the office door to tell me how terrific Silas is.

And Silas just stopped by my office fresh up from his nap to tell me I am a bad guy.


Every so often I have to go retrieve Silas from Grandma's room. "Silas, I told you no more TV today. And no candy either. It is too close to dinner."

"Grandmama said I could!"


"I confess," she always agrees. "He asked if he could watch and I couldn't resist."


Maybe he knows more about this good guy/bad guy business than I thought.

Reputations

A blog on fun.  February 27,  2018

Original post April, 2011


It was with great anticipation that I readied myself for Norwich High School's Saturday night performance of Phantom of the Opera. NHS has a reputation for top notch drama. Last year they performed Les Mis. It knocked me out.


This year it's the Phantom. My son, Ben, was the auctioneer, among other parts, and the first one of the cast to speak. Theater is a new venture for him, and I was as proud as a mama could be.


"Why are all the car doors locked with the keys inside?" Cory asked early Saturday afternoon. Cory has a reputation for joking around, but he wasn't kidding. No problem, I thought, we will just take the 12 passenger van....aka Moby Dick Jr.


Some new friends were joining us for appetizers from a nearby town so I went about my day to prepare for their visit. Until I remembered my purse was in the car with the keys. And the tickets.


Last week when this happened, Captain Fun, who has a reputation for coming to my rescue, was able to use a coat hanger and get the door unlocked. He tried, but no such luck this time, he said, as the door that was slightly ajar before was shut tight.


I texted another friend who has a reputation for empathy. "New complication. Locked the keys in the car with the tickets."


"Do you have a spare?" She texted back.


"It's in my purse. In the car. With the tickets."


Then came the empathy I was looking for. She texted me her own story of locked car doors. "Is the car running?" she asked. "Silas is not in the car, is he?"


Silas, who has his own reputation, would have driven away in the van and taken some girls from his preschool to the show. No. He is inside with me. The car is in the garage. With the keys. And my purse. And the tickets.


One thing I have learned about the NHS drama productions--they sell out every time. I was thinking of how I could convince the doorman that I bought my tickets weeks ago, hoping I had a reputation for honesty.

Maybe I could call one of the directors and explain, I thought, but I quickly decided against it. Disorganized people like myself can be very high maintenance--a reputation I didn't want to get in our little town.


My friends arrived and I showed them around. Then I came out with it. "I locked our tickets in the car. With the keys. And my purse." They went easy on me, perhaps because we are too newly acquainted for them to know my reputation.


No problem, I concluded. We will just go earlier than planned and beg for more tickets. I didn't mind buying them twice, but at just $5 each for such quality theater, the show was certain to be sold out.


As I climbed into Moby II, I had the thought to look in the door's little cubby. Something shiny caught my eye. It was, indeed, a key to the van that I had lost last fall. Of course it makes perfect sense that it would be in the door of the 12 passenger. If you're me, anyway.


When we arrived, the doorman was announcing the show was sold out. The line wound down the hall for what seemed like half a mile. But we got in. With our tickets. And my purse. And the keys.


And Ben nailed it. In fact, the whole cast nailed it. The production was an absolute smash. Three shows, all sold out.


Norwich High School lived up to its reputation for excellence in theater.

And, sadly, I lived up to my reputation of being very forgetful and disorganized.


I regularly wish I was more together, orderly, organized and structured. And I will never cease to be amazed by people who are naturally so. But meanwhile, I roll with it. Yes, I get tired of my lost keys and my scatterbrained ways. I grow frustrated over how much longer everything takes because I so often have to backtrack. And I really worry about the example I am setting for my kids.


But secretly I am hoping that they remember me not for my forgetful ways but for how I roll with the challenges of being absentminded. It is an issue I have to face every single day. One I really have trouble overcoming. But I do my best. And I will never quit trying.


After all, what choice do I have? I have a reputation to keep, you know.


PS If you're like me, here's a song for you

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe4SckesWLE

Organized Schmorganized 

A blog on fundamentals.  March 2,  2018

Original post April, 2011


I have a confession to make: I despise organization.


Don't misunderstand. I would love to be organized. But I am convinced my abilities are limited.


Getting ready for church, for example, was a nightmare when I lived in the Bible Belt back when church attire was in a class by itself. Finding shoes and socks that matched 18 feet was a routine Sunday morning frustration--also in a class by itself. One morning we were down to the wire and I was frantically throwing shoes out of the shoe basket, crying, "I hate shoes and socks!" when I turned to see my daughter, Bethany, standing behind me, no doubt trying to figure out just what her mother had against shoes and socks.


During baseball season, I have shown up at the wrong field with the wrong kid on the wrong night.


I frequently get lost--with a GPS.


During my homeschooling years, it took me 15 minutes every day to find a sharpened pencil.


The constant clutter and chaos can get a mother down. But one day several years back, I learned to let go.


My husband's Aunt Fay invited us to California to visit her.  Since Mom Dot and Bethany frequently saw her at Christmas,  they stayed back and kept two year old Dorothy, and Cory, who was five at the time.  


Aunt Fay picked us up at the airport in a limo and it only got better from there.  For five days, not only was I without small children but I also did not have to lift a finger during our visit. Questions like, "How do you like your coffee?" and "Do you need anything ironed?"  were all I had to think about. I felt like I had won both showcases on the Price is Right.      


One afternoon I was chatting with the sweet woman who worked for Fay as she fixed our lunch.  "You do a good job with those kids," she said to me. "They are polite at the table and they take their plates when they're done." She didn't know we had practiced for a month before we came. "I can tell they are being raised with a lot of love."


"Oh, thank you," I said. "That really makes me feel good--my house is so messy, it really gets to me."


She stopped in her tracks and turned to face me. "I have worked in many clean houses where the kids are killing themselves," she said, looking me right in the eye. "Don't you worry about that house."


I will forever keep trying to do better in the organization department, but I will never forget her words. Her advice has helped me to remember that while being organized is a good thing, it is not everything.


Once in a while the clutter still gets me down, but then I revisit the essential elements of raising kids. Being organized pales in comparison.


"Where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox."                                   Proverbs 14:4

The Goal

A blog on fundamentals.  March 5,  2018

Original post April, 2011


Bethany told me she showed her friend my website back when I had nine kids.  My tagline was: Nine Kids. One Goal. 


"So what IS your mom's goal?" her friend asked.


Bethany wasn't quite sure.


Soon after, Ben was perusing my website. "Nine kids. One goal."

He turned to me, "So what's your goal?"


My apologies, kids, that your mother has neglected to tell you her goal for each of you. I guess I thought it was obvious- that you would already know. But, then again, how could you understand until you have kids of your own?


You know I believe in the Master plan. That God has a will, a calling, a design for each of your lives.


I remind you of your oldest brother, Tiger, who went to Embry-Riddle to learn how to fly airplanes. I am so proud of him. But does that mean I expect all of you to be pursue aviation? No. I would never expect you to all grow up and do the same thing. News flash: God doesn't either.


Seek God's will, His counsel, His plan. Then, be courageous. Be bold in your pursuit. Don't compare yourselves to each other or anyone else. Look for the life He has for you. And once you find it, go after it, not letting critics and doubters deter you.


Theodore Roosevelt said it best:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."


Find your calling. Not your brother's calling, not your sister's calling, but yours.


That's my goal.


"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

Long Days, Short Years

A blog on fundamentals.  March 6,  2018

Original post April, 2011


Though it is just 28 degrees outside on this April morning in upstate New York, I am sure spring is out there somewhere. It will come, I keep telling myself.  But it sure is S-L-O-W.


Raising kids is the same. You bring that baby home from the hospital, he turns your world upside down. The days are long, the nights are longer. And you cannot anticipate how the siblings will respond to the newest addition.


When Matthew was a toddler, for instance, older sister Bethany decided we needed to sell him. I picked up the phone, thinking if I played along she would retract in horror at the thought of selling her cherub cheeked brother.


"Hello? Yes, I have a boy whose sister has decided he needs a new home. How much? Just a minute."


I put the phone down. "They want to know how much."


She held up her hand, spreading her fingers wide. "Five dollars?" I asked. She nodded her head, never even turning away from the television.


"Five dollars," I said, trying to keep a straight face.


"Here, he will want this," she chirped when I hung

up the phone. Without any hesitation, she handed me his favorite Donut Man video. How nice of her.


I came screeching to a halt, explaining how we could never, no never, sell baby brother Matthew. To my surprise, she was disappointed, but he forgave her for that and I am happy to report they remain friends to this day.


When I brought Ben home from the hospital, Matthew was three. He pointed at my stomach and said, "I thought you already had the baby!" It took a while, but I forgave him for that.


A few days later, he wearily asked, "When is that baby's mother coming to pick him up?" I tried to explain that I was that baby's mother. It took some time, but he forgave me for that.


The baby season can be hard on everybody. Adorable? Yes. Exhausting? You bet. But buckle your seat belt, the next season is coming.  As someone said, when it comes to raising kids, the days are long but the years are short.


It is true. You start out changing endless diapers, then one day you realize your son's whiskers scratch your cheek when he hugs you.


I am so tired of cold and snow. I regularly check to see if any new shoots are coming through. I go to weather.com, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the temps will reach 40 degrees. I strain my eyes to see if there are any buds breaking through at the tops of the trees.


Waiting for a change of season can be agonizing. But eventually the next season does come. Both my youngest and my oldest will celebrate birthdays in the next 30 days, turning 4 and 24. For a very long time now, I have continuously been in almost every season of motherhood. 


Long days, short years.  If you're weary of your present parenting season, hang on. Just like spring, the next one will come.


"To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under Heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1


PS Update: The baby season has ended at my house, as my youngest is 6 and my oldest is 30! Also, the Donut Man has been a favorite of my kids for over twenty-five years.

www.donutman.com 

Daddy, the Horses and Me.

A blog on fundamentals.  March 7,  2018

Original post March, 2011


My dad is on my mind today, March 7. He would be turning 92  if he were here.


I was his baby of six girls and two boys. Little Marge is what he called me. To him, Little Marge is who I always was.


Some of my earliest memories are of getting up with him at sunrise and feeding the horses; dragging bales of hay that were bigger than I was across the yard; seeing mares give birth or watching in horror as my dad untangled a horse from the barbed wire.


When Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, I was eight years old, and my dad tore a picture of him out of a magazine to put up on my wall. While other little girls wanted dolls and dresses for Christmas, I wanted boots and a cowboy hat or some new piece of tack for my horse.


Daddy loved every aspect of horses: caring for them, owning them, riding them, betting on them. I remember once when he was riding our mare, Dolly, she fell and rolled on him, breaking his ribs. It didn't stop him though. He eventually got back on.


Dolly's foal, Princess, was my horse. A princess in name only, she repeatedly tried to throw me nearly every time I rode her. The boy next door would laugh at me, but Daddy would always tell me to climb back into the saddle. One day, though, I guess he had had enough of her antics, as I came home from school and learned that Princess had been sold. That's just the way Daddy did things.


By the time I was in 5th grade, we had ten horses that grazed right in our yard. Every day when I got off the school bus, the horses would start towards me. Thoroughbreds are known to be spirited and they scared me to death, but I knew my friends were watching from the bus and I would resist the urge to run. The young race horses are etched in my memory: Whiskey Harry, named after my great grandfather; Green Eyed Primp, named after my mother, and Charming Margie, named after-- well, let's just say she gave my siblings more proof that I was the spoiled baby.


It was Daddy's dream to win the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont, the Preakness, even the Triple Crown. Since horse racing was illegal in Tennessee, we moved to race our horses and I became familiar with words like trifecta and handicapping. On the evenings we didn't go to the track, we would sit on our back porch and listen to the races. I became very familiar with the announcer's call, "And they're off!" No matter the odds, my mother always bet her lucky numbers, 2-5-8. Daddy would tease her, saying the horses didn't know what number they were wearing.


Green Eyed Primp got us into the Winner's Circle once. But once was not enough in such a costly business, and we returned to Memphis where Daddy sold cars for a living. I have never forgotten, though, how he had the courage to pursue his dream.


Alzheimer's took my dad in 2007, but it didn't take away what I learned from him. He was not a perfect man, but whether I failed a math test--and I failed many--or was thrown from a horse, his message was the same: get back up, he would say, reminding me that if it weren't for failure, success wouldn't mean anything.


I am grateful today to have memories that most little girls only dream of. I will always cherish the memories of Daddy, the horses and me.


Comments (from March, 2011)

Sherry Shelton 

Margie, thank you for that terrific memory of dad. I just returned from a funeral where Alzheimer's robbed another person of their memories, so he was definitely on my mind. love you.


Margie 

I love you, Sherry. Such an awful disease.

Debbie Riley 

Margie thank you for the memory - one I had not thought of while Dad was on my mind on his birthday. Your memories of him are so different than mine. I was already out of the house and married when you had these experiences. Thanks for the reminder.

Reply 

Margie

I know we had two completely different experiences growing up in the same house. And now that I have so many kids myself, I understand why!


Robert Sims 

Honey, this is a beautiful tribute to your father. Such a wonderful man. I was / am very fond of him.

Reply

Margie

Honey, He liked you from the very first moment. Remember what he said to me when we had briefly stopped dating, "Whatever happened to Robert? He was the only one I liked!"

 

Pam 

Great tribute to your "Daddy" ~ I always loved how you called him that. I was recently telling someone about how you and I met and how your dad brought you and the horses to our little town to try his hand at racing them - only to have you move away a year later. What an ordained time. Now your Daddy and your Papa God are singing over you together! ;)

 

Robert on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:06 PM

Honey, I could not sleep tonight, so I was re-reading your blog posts. All were so touching - this one particularly so. Common theme of getting back on the horse that threw you. Great theme for life. I loved Pam's comment regarding your heavenly Father and earthly father singing over you. It brought tears to my eyes. Loved hearing your dad was fond of me. There was definite mutual regard there. I love life with you. These blogs remind me why.

Reply

Love you, Honey.  And thank you. 


Linda Couch Williams 

Margie, You were so very young when I hung around your sister, Susie; Sherry and my brother dated for quite a while. Anyway, I use to spend the night with Susie and we would go back to where the horses stayed - can't swear which horse it was (probably Dolly) and she knew I was scared; she chased me under the same barbed wire fence that you are speaking of and it caught my shirt and ripped it,  But yes, these are great memories of my childhood too! I use to love spending the night at The Simpsons!

Reply

Margie 

Linda, Thanks for sharing that memory. I remember your brother even though I think I was only about five. He was always nice to me. Glad you have good memories of my family--and those scary horses!



Dozens of Cousins

Posted on March 9, 2018

Original post, March 2011

Pictured: Daughter, Bethany with more than half a dozen cousins. (2017)


When I was a kid, we would make the drive from Memphis to Little Rock every Memorial Day where we would see my Dad's very large family. He was the oldest of eight kids with six sisters and a brother.  They all had children and, consequently, I had cousins I never knew. Try as I might, I never could keep his family clear in my mind.


"Mom, which aunt is that?" I would whisper to my mother when no one was looking. She always set me straight on who's who, but no matter how many years we returned, I never got my relatives right  until I was grown.


Now with 16 first cousins and about 21 second cousins, my younger kids have the same problem with remembering who's who in the family. And living far from home doesn't help.


I once started a "Family Bulletin Board" and hung it in the hallway just off the kitchen. Anytime we got a new picture of the cousins, it went on the board. Every so often I see one of my kids studying the pictures, trying to put faces with names.  "Is that Uncle Rusty?" my daughter, Mary, once asked.


"Well, that is Rusty," I laughed, "but he isn't your uncle, he's your cousin. He is the son of my oldest sister, your Aunt Debbie. In fact," I continued, unaware that Mary's eyes had glazed over with Too Much Information, "he is the oldest of all the cousins. I was just eight years old when he was born."


That bit of history brought her back to the moment. "You became an aunt when you were EIGHT?"


"Yes. And then your cousin Brian was born just two weeks later."


"He has the twins?" Emma chimed in.


"That's right!" I exclaimed, delighted over a correct answer.  Their confusion was understandable considering the distance between us. But one year, family mix up was  taken to a new level. First, when my daughter-in-law's mother came over for a visit shortly after our kids were married.


"Dorothy," she said to my then six year old daughter, "I have pictures of Tiger kayaking down in Florida with Becky."


Dorothy looked confused. "Tiger was kayaking?"


"Tiger, your brother," said Heather. "You know, you were in their wedding last summer?"


"Oh, oh!" she said. "I thought you were talking about Tiger our cat." 


Dorothy saw Tiger the cat a lot more often than she saw Tiger her brother so I guess that was understandable.


And shortly after that, I was talking about cousin Frances from the other side of the family and how her birthday is coming up.   "I thought that cousin Frances had died," Cory said. "Isn't that the same as Cousin Fernie?"


This is serious.


"No, no, no," I laughed. "Cousin Frances is alive and well. Cousin Fernie has died many times of many ailments. Fernie isn't real, Frances is. And her birthday is coming up." We all had a good laugh, just as we always do over family confusion.


But at least one thing is always clear: A whole lotta' family means a whole lotta' love.  And there is never any confusion about that. 


The Boy in the Chicken Suit


A blog on fun.

Posted March 13, 2018

Original post March, 2011 

Pictured: Cory, back in his chicken suit days.


I love a good bargain.


I shop for next year's winter coats at the end of the season. I buy next year's bathing suits at the end of the summer. And after Halloween, I like to see what deals I can get on costumes. (When you have ten kids, you don't ask what everyone wants to be for Halloween. Instead, you spread out all the costumes in the dress up box and say, "Pick one!")


I was proud of the chicken suit I had bought from Kohl's for around $9 on clearance. The fabric was not only durable but came complete with separate pull-on chicken legs and a hood! Whichever kid could fit into it always had a lot of fun with it. Cory took it a step further.


"Mom, can I wear my chicken suit to school one day?" he greeted me one morning when he was around 7 years old.


"Well, you'll have to ask your teacher," I said, certain she would say no because it would disrupt the class.


He burst through the door later that day. "She said I could WEAR it!" I had no choice but to keep my word, but I didn't think he would go through with it.


Next morning, he came down for breakfast in his chicken suit. To catch the bus.


"WHY is Cory wearing a chicken suit to SCHOOL?" his siblings asked.


"He feels like it," I said, as if they had asked why the grass was green.


"I am so glad I am not riding the bus today," said my then high schooler, Matthew.


Breakfast was over; it was time to catch the bus. Out marched three kids and one chicken to stand at the end of the driveway on our somewhat busy street. But Cory didn't just stand there. He waved at the passing cars, he flapped his wings, he did the chicken dance.


"I am so glad I am not riding the bus today," repeated Matthew.


I doubled over with laughter as I watched the puzzled drivers pass by. My sides ached and tears streamed down my face as the bus pulled up and I saw the reaction of all on board. I was still laughing as the bus pulled away.


"How did it go?" I asked Cory when he got home, still in his chicken suit.


"Great!" he said. "The other kids chased me around the playground at recess yelling, 'We want chicken!' "


"I think it is great that you wore a chicken suit to school just because you felt like it, Cory. Your class mates will always remember the day you came to school in a chicken suit."  He said thanks and went on his way. 


 And somehow I knew I got a lot more for my $9 than just a chicken suit, as the family  got a memory we will never forget.

Cousin Fernie


Posted on March 13, 2018

Original Post March 2011

A blog on fundamentals, with a little bit of fun.

Pictured: Cory, back in his cousin Fernie days.


Why is it that ten year old boys resist showers, vegetables, and brushing their teeth?


Lately I have noticed that whenever I tell Cory (of chicken suit fame) to do something- anything- that is healthy for him, he ignores me. Or he tries.


"Go take a shower, Cory," I said last night. Not an unusual request from a mother on a Sunday night.. He stood there without acknowledging that I had spoken.


"Cory, go take a shower," I said again.


"I don't NEED a shower. I took one yesterday."


"It was the day before yesterday, and you do need a shower."

He trudged away to gather his pajamas and a towel, reappearing a minute later. "The bathroom smells bad."


"That is the nature of bathrooms. Go take a shower."


"But it really smells bad. Come smell it."


"I don't need to smell it because no matter what it smells like, you are taking a shower."


"But Cousin Fernie died that way!" His final objection before taking a shower.


Meet Cousin Fernie- the family fall guy.


It was my mother in law who first introduced me to Cousin Fernie. Mom Dot is by her own admission a bit of a worrier, and tends to awfulize at times. When one of the kids has a nosebleed, a stomach ache, or a fever, she is often of the opinion that I need to call the doctor. Years ago Cousin Fernie, it seems, had that same condition and died from it. Twice.


Cousin Fernie goes way back to Mom Dot's own mother in law, she tells me. Whenever one of her own kids had an accident, her mother in law would shake her head back and forth very slowly while whispering, "It's the worst death in the world. In fact it was the end of old Cousin Fernie."


"I said I would never be like my mother in law," Mom Dot sometimes warns me, "but here I am turning into her!"


With accidents and illnesses being the norm at our house, I confess I have become a bit calloused to them. If there is blood (and lots of it) I might take a trip to the ER, but even then it's not a guarantee. We have had broken bones, stitches, concussions, surgeries, chicken pox, strep throat, ear infections, and the swine flu to name a few. Come to find out that Cousin Fernie had all of these conditions- and died from most of them.


"Cory, I only make you do all these things because I love you and I want you to be happy," I chided him this morning when he (gasp!) resisted going to school.


"I think you are trying to torture me," he said, to which I replied that If torture is defined as a mother making her kids do what's good for them on a regular basis, then so be it.


I have a sneaking suspicion that even Cousin Fernie never died from that.

My Mother's Face

Posted March 22, 2018

Original post, March, 2002

A tribute to my mother on the 16th anniversary of her death.

Reprinted with the author's permission (that's me) from Chicken Soup for the Mother and Daughter's Soul. Page 205

Pictured:  this is a tattered (but treasured) picture of my mom at around 16.


I've heard it all my life, "You look just like your mother."


Not that I minded it. With red hair and Wine with Everything lipstick, Mama was as glamorous as a 1950's movie star. Though I've never been the glamorous type, there is no denying I have my mother's face--minus the red lipstick.


Throughout her life, I observed an array of emotions on that face. When I was small, my mother's face often wore a wrinkled brow, reflecting her fast-paced determination to meet all the demands of caring for eight kids. As I grew older, her face revealed worry over problematic adolescents or my dad's unpredictable antics.


When I was a teenager, my mother's face mirrored her quick wit. Though I was never rebellious, I still thought myself pretty clever, and I certainly knew more than my mother did. At a very naïve sixteen, I came home from my job as a waitress and handed her a napkin on which a boy had written his phone number and invited me out on a date. "What do you think of this?" I asked, pleased that someone from school would find me attractive.


Her penciled eyebrows arched as she tossed it back to me. "Use it for toilet paper," she quipped.


As a wife, I intentionally sought to wear my mother's face. She had me--her eighth child--on her thirty-fifth birthday. I had seven children by the time I was thirty-five. During those years, my mother's face beamed approval with each pregnancy announced. When everyone else was questioning my decision to have such a large family, I knew my mother would relish my news. After the arrival of each baby, my mother's glowing face was always one of the first I saw.


When my mother got cancer, I briefly lost sight of the beauty of her face. Distracted by mottled skin and the loss of her lovely red hair, I grieved losing the mother I had always known. I mourned the inevitable altered course of life as this woman who managed her housework much like a Navy captain runs his ship now needed a walker even to saunter to the bathroom. As I trailed behind her to keep her steady, I reflected on how, without her hair, she had an uncanny resemblance to her own father, my grandfather, with whom both my mother and I shared a birthday. 


But during the months of caring for her, each time I drew eyebrows on her with pencil or assisted her with her lipstick, I began to see glimpses of my mother's face. And--whether through turban fashion shows or outrageous bathroom jokes--when her sense of humor again shone like a lighthouse during the greatest trial of her life, I saw her face as I had never seen it--so steadfast, so strong.


As the inoperable tumor in my mother's throat grew to the size of an orange, I watched desperation, panic, and anxiety--but never surrender--govern her face. "Go forward," she whispered with labored breath and raucous voice to the doctor's inquiry of the next steps to take. She had much to live for, and, never complaining even once,  she wore her game face to the end.


I was with her the night a simple breathing treatment triggered coughing, and her coughing evolved into choking. As I smashed the button to call the nurse, my mother's face was pure fear. As she mouthed, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" and the nurses rushed my sisters and me out of the room, the look on her face is something I will never forget--it is stamped in my mind like a terrible song stuck on repeat. Though she lived 36 more hours, she remained unconscious.


I wasn't with my mother as she drew her last breath. Consequently, as I approached the doors of the funeral home, part of me feared seeing her lying lifeless in a casket. Then, as I crept toward her, I recognized her face.


Deliberately disregarding her counterfeit hair that hid cancer's scars, shunning her hands so gnarled from fighting cancer's battle, I kept my eyes on that face

.The face that had guided me and given me strength. The face that personified determination both in life and in death. The face that I had always been told I had, but knew I could never have, really.


As long as I live I will never quite trying to wear my mother's face.


From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrates Mothers & Daughters, page 205

Reprinted with the author's permission.

Sisters


Posted on March 28, 2018

Original post May, 2011

Pictured: four of my five sisters at my 50th birthday. 


"Don't worry, Bethany," I told my oldest daughter after the birth of her third brother, "no matter how many times I have to try, I am going to make sure you have a sister." That was over fifteen years ago.  Bethany has three sisters.


Sisters really are that important in my book. Last weekend I was once again reminded why.


My sister right above me turned 50, so the six of us girls gathered near Atlanta to celebrate with her. We drank pots of coffee to coincide with our hours of conversation. We painted nails, shopped, went to lunch and caught each other up on our kids.


One evening we were laughing about our upbringing. "Did you EVER get a spanking, Margie?" one of them asked (I was the baby).


I assured them I did--a total of three that I can remember, but I'm not sure they believed me.


"I can remember Daddy telling me I didn't need college, but I better learn to type," my oldest sister laughed, adding that they were always afraid to ask him for a quarter for gas.


I had an Amoco credit card, I teased. Well, not really, but I never remember feeling afraid to ask my dad for money. It is no secret, after all, that I had a different upbringing than they did. Not that my parents were rich, just established. And relaxed by the time number eight came along.


 I will say that Bethany has an amazingly close relationship with her five brothers, especially her big brother, Tiger (he's 30 but I will never quit calling him that).  However, It has been a long time since I've talked to my brothers. One of us needs to pick up the phone and it's probably going to be me. Sisters, though, aren't like that.


"Now that I see Mary and Emma growing up together, I am starting to get that sister thing," Captain Fun said to me as I was preparing for my trip.

It's true; sisters have a thing. We fight over the lunch check, laugh with each other, bicker with each other but always, always forgive each other. Mama would have wanted it that way, we agree.


At the Binghamton airport, my four daughters clamored out of the car to greet me upon my return home. After a light tackle they chatted about their day at the mall, lunch at Subway and how they got flip flogs BOGO free at Payless.


Ordinary stuff, yes, but sisters care about that sort of thing just as much as they care about life's more serious issues.


"I don't know what I would I would do without five sisters to share in Mom's care," I remember one of them saying during my mother's bout with cancer, now over a decade ago.  She needed round the clock care for the last eight months of her life, and I learned the same lesson then that I was reminded of last weekend: 


Whether it's sharing a burden or sharing dessert, sisters are there, ready to help, laugh, cry or celebrate.  It is just what sisters do. 

The Good Old Days


Posted on March 29, 108

original post March 2012 

Pictured:  The clan back when we only had seven kids. 


Pretty soon spring will be busting out all over around here," a new south Florida friend told my husband, Robert last week..


When the Captain relayed the message to me, I had to laugh. We had gone to the beach over Christmas break and repeatedly right on into March. When does spring ever really exit south Florida?


I admit to a few cool days in January. But cold, like beauty, is only skin deep. One 45 degree day little Dorothy wore shorts to her second grade class-- where she was promptly sent to the office which provided her with pants. She didn't get it. I didn't get it. But then again, we came from the northeast where 45 is warm after the temperatures have hovered around zero for a good, long while. I sent an email to her teacher and thanked her.


"Please pray for my daughter who might get a job in Atlanta," said one of the ladies in my Sunday school class several weeks ago.


"Atlanta!" exclaimed an elderly lady. "It's cold up there!"


Again, I had to laugh. And I had to admit that in my pre-Vermont days, I would have agreed with her, as my hometown of Memphis also seemed cold in the winter.


"You're canceling soccer practice because it is 90 degrees?" I teased my Vermont friends one August day.  "Ha! You don't know anything about the heat." 


"And you don't know anything about the cold," they quipped. They were right. And I soon learned.


Parenting is that way. The first baby comes and you are overwhelmed with fatigue and exhaustion. You're up all day, you're up all night. What could possibly be harder than this?


Um, how about the constant supervision that toddlers require? Or the terrible two's? Middle school issues? Teenage drivers? Dating? College admission? The list, or seasons, if you will, go on and on.


I spoke to a MOPS group about seasons of motherhood a few weeks ago, encouraging them to embrace each one. The preschool phase may seem impossible, I told them, but it really is the easy part--you control their whole worlds, after all.


A lot of freedom comes with embracing the seasons. It is how I am able to relax and rock the baby, wipe a nose, change a diaper or fix a PBJ sandwich for the millionth time. Because each parenting season is as brief as a south Florida winter.


Moms who were farther along in their journey used to tell me that, but I didn't listen. My own mother reminded me frequently, but I didn't believe her. But now that three of my kids are out of the house?


Now I know it.  These really are the good old days.


"To everything there is a time, and a season to every purpose under Heaven."

                                                                --Ecclesiastes 3:1


"Let's stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days." 

                                                         Carly Simon, Anticipation

Risen Indeed.


Posted on March 30, 2018

Original post, March, 2012 when we lived in the cold northeast.  I had to smile as I reread it, as now I am in sunny LA (Lower Alabama).  Nevertheless, six year old Hope has bronchitis, which will likely keep us home from church on Sunday.  Thank Heaven that no matter what, Easter is still Easter. 


Despite the cold, rainy day, Easter is upon us.


"Did your kids get up early?" my neighbor asked me at church this morning. "I know it is shocking," I said, a little sheepish, "but I haven't done Easter baskets in about ten years." I began to explain how it was just too much with so many kids, and she nodded in agreement.


I was frequently finding that I had barely recovered from Christmas shopping when the task of filling half a dozen or more Easter baskets was staring me in the face.


The thought was frightening: people eying me down aisle 9 asking themselves why that woman was buying all that stuff? Who does she think she is, I could hear them ask the check out lady, the Easter Bunny?


And then as I paid for my Easter loot I would feel compelled (as I often do when I do my grocery shopping) to lean in and explain the volume of my purchase to the poor, undeserving cashier. "Ahem," I begin, "just so you know, I have ten kids--eight still at home." Maybe I will get a t-shirt printed so I can stop explaining.


We do celebrate Easter. We dress up, attend church (a good chance you will find yourself at the sunrise service when you're married to Captain Fun), have ham or corned beef and cabbage for lunch and coconut cakes for dessert. In the evening we read the Easter story from Luke 24 for family devotions.


Mostly, we just let Easter be Easter. Trying to keep the focus on that glorious morning when Mary and the other women went to the tomb to find it empty, an angel announcing, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He is risen!"


That is the Easter memory I most want my kids to recall: 


He is risen indeed.








Proms and Prayers


Posted April 2, 2018

Original post April, 2012

Pictured: Ben, ready for the Prom with his "high voltage smile" as his grandmother calls it. 


All eleven of us were sitting around the dinner table one spring evening during our son's senior year when it dawned on me--it's that time again.   "Ben," I inquired, "isn't Prom coming up soon?"


"Saturday night," he said, gulping down another bite of Pioneer Woman's Sour Cream Noodle Bake. (Love that stuff.)


"Aren't you going?" asked his dad, aka Captain Fun. Not a surprising question coming from the Captain.


"Wasn't planning on it."


The Fun in Captain Fun took over. "You should go, Ben. It is your senior Prom."


"You're going to regret it," I said. "I didn't go to my Prom, and I regret it." I know about these things, even though my nickname lacks the word fun.


Ben explained himself. "I wasn't even going to mention it after the car and the choir trip expenses."


Ben had put a ping in the 12 passenger van a few weeks before. Okay, a little more than a ping. Call it a mega-ping to the tune of $2000.


"I want to buy you a ticket, Ben," insisted his dad. The conversation lingered over dinner; the other siblings chimed--or clamored-- in (the Sims kids have been known to raise their hands at the dinner when deemed necessary).


Ben's grandmother, Mom Dot, chimed in, too. "I just want to see you in that tux with that high voltage smile of yours."


The Captain talked him into it. I wrote the check, but Ben forgot it, leaving it sitting on the counter the next day. Time was short, but he vowed he would buy one.


That night while we were in the throws of March Madness, the doorbell rang. No one was there. I confess I blamed Silas. One of his pranks, I thought. (Sorry, Silas.)


Then Dorothy noticed something. An envelope. Taped to the door. With BEN SIMS written on it.


Ben wasn't home. We oohed and ahhed. Mom Dot held it up to the light, then shook it and said steam might do the trick. She then suggested opening it in a way that looked like an accident.


It was almost ten o'clock when Ben got home from his shift at Johnny Rockets, and his siblings mobbed him, smashing the envelope into his hand.


He opened it with an audience--there's always an audience at our house. $200 cash tumbled out. Ben read the anonymous note:


Dear Ben,

Your love of God and people is refreshing in this day and age. It has come to our attention that you may not be attending your prom. Please use this money for Prom (or however else you may seem fit).

Psalms 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."


Ben was touched. And I don't think he would mind my telling that he even got a little teary.  "What a witness you are, Ben," I said.


But there was even more to it than that, and I knew it. This, like so many other things that happened during his final year of high school, was an answer to a mother's prayer.


I know you moms understand the sort of prayer I'm talking about. The kind of prayer that you pray when friendships are slow to form, when not everyone is nice, when things get hard.  When your kid goes to three different high schools in four years, you worry a little. And you pray a lot.


So I started praying somewhere along the middle of his junior year: Lord, please take care of Ben. Give him a fun senior year. He is such a people person, Lord, just send him some fun.


Then last September he got voted onto the homecoming court (but that's a blog for another day). And this spring he was voted Most Outgoing of the senior class. Then someone anonymously paid his way to Prom and wrote him a note he will never forget. What's more, he got voted Prom King.


"Be anxious for nothing," Philippians 4:6 tells us, "but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."


Pray for, with, and about your kids. When they are little, when they are teenagers, when they are grown. Pray about the big things. Pray about the little things. Pray about everything. That's what it says. Everything.


Even the Prom.

Everybody?  Not On My Watch


Posted April 6, 2018

Original Post April, 2014

Pictured: A random kid jumping off a cliff (FYI this is not one of my kids!) 


I wanted to ride my bike to the mall with my BFF when I was about 12. My mother said no. I told her everybody rode their bikes to the mall.


"And if everybody jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?" she asked.


Why do all my friends' mothers say that?  I thought.


When I was 17, a guy who was well over 21 asked me on a date. My mother said I had to wait until I was 18 to go out with him. So I did.


In college, a foreign student invited me to his apartment. "I will cook dinner for you," he said in his thick, mysterious accent.


"I can guarantee you he has more in mind than dinner," my mother said.


Conversations between kids and parents have changed, it seems. Nowadays they go something like this:

"Why wait until I am 21 to drink? Everybody drinks before they are 21."


"Fine, then," say Mom and Dad. "We will host the party so we can supervise and make sure no one drives home under the influence."


At one high school kids attended, a banner hung on the gate from prom until graduation proclaiming Parents Who Host Lose the Most. Really?  We parents have to have a giant sign to encourage us not to host underage drinking?


When my oldest daughter was in the spring musical during her senior year, I volunteered our house for the cast party.

"Well, Mom," she said, "I already mentioned it and they want to have a coed sleepover. I told them my parents would never go for that."


"How about the girls sleep over and the boys leave at midnight?"


"I offered that, too, but they said they would find a house where the parents either didn't care or weren't paying attention."


What happen to the jumping off the cliff analogy? What happened to that's not healthy, that's not right, you're too young or it's illegal.


"Why try and stop them when they are just going to do it anyway?" I hear repeatedly.


Because they need to know it's wrong when they do it. And how will they know if we parents don't tell them? Wrong. The opposite of right. Introduce your kids to the word. 


Most kids want boundaries. All kids need guidance. And they all need to know parents care enough to say no.


It is no wonder kids are convinced everybody's doing everything. Instead of encouraging the common sense it takes not to tumble over the cliff with the crowd, many parents are packing kids a parachute to protect them from consequences, then escorting them right up to the edge with a wave and a timid, "Be careful!"


Say no, offer guidance, be the bad guy (it's in the job description).  Will kids always make the right choices? Maybe not. But they will know the difference between right and wrong. 


 And they won't have to wonder if you care.


Getting Back on That Horse 

A blog on fundamentals. 

Posted on April 23, 2018

Original post, April, 2011 

I was thrown from many horses during childhood, but I remember my dad always urging me to "climb back on that horse."


Years have passed, and I've encountered a variety of horses since I was a kid. But one that seems to constantly buck me off is the weight horse.

When daughter Bethany sometimes tells me how much more the younger kids have than she (#2 child) ever had, I remind her that she got the young, thin parents.


I know I was thin once. I have pictures. Better yet, when she was about 15, same daughter Bethany fit her slender figure perfectly into my wedding dress. There. There's the proof.


"You have have had NINE kids," someone always defends me when I lament over my muffin top.


I have found having nine kids to be useful for many things. When someone asks me if I can volunteer my time or talent in some way, I say, "Of course I can handle that, I have nine kids."


On the other hand, when others ask the same question, I reply, "I cannot possibly do that, I have nine kids." It is a valid excuse for almost anything--even if three of them are grown and out of the house.


My younger kids are not shy about letting me know I could stand to lose a few pounds.


"Mom, you're fluffy, but you're mighty, mighty lovely," Ben said several years ago.


Thank you, I think.


And just last night during family devotions, Silas poked my stomach and said, "You have a squishy tummy."


Thank you, I know.


In my defense, I did go on Weight Watchers online (www.weightwatchers.com) a few years back and lost twenty (count 'em--twenty!) pounds. It felt terrific.


And in my defense, I have kept most of it off. But life creeps back up on me, and I find myself falling back into old habits of too many calories and not enough exercise.


That's when I remember what WW repeatedly says to discouraged dieters: Whether you have an off day or an off week, just get back on that horse." Solid advice. Takes me right back to childhood.


But being a mom works against you, doesn't it? When you're not shopping for food, you're preparing it, putting it away or eating your children's leftovers.


Just today, in fact, I went to join Cory and Dorothy at school for their Easter lunch. Ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots, peaches, a roll, and cake. I slipped off the horse during spring break, but I am trying to get back on. Consequently, I skipped the potatoes and cake, ate only half the ham, and put just a smidgen of butter on my roll. AND I took a walk via video with Leslie Sansone this morning.(www.lesliesansone.com)


It is small decisions every day that add up to weight gain or loss, preaches WW. I strive to remember that not just for the weight horse, but for all the other horses that try to throw me.


Will I climb back on that horse? Of course I will. After all, I have nine kids.


"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 (NASB)


To subscribe to my blog, email me at [email protected]

A Good Sign

A blog on fundamentals. 

Posted on April 23, 2018

Original post, April, 2011 

Pictured: Brand new Hope, in more ways than one. (This beautiful picture taken by the beautiful Becky Sims, my DIL)


I have never been very good at hiding things. At Christmas, for instance, I toss all the presents in a corner of my bedroom and throw a blanket over the pile. Not too obvious, right?


So when I shoved my prenatal vitamins into the closet yesterday, still wrapped in the Rite-Aid bag, I thought the kids wouldn't notice. I just forgot that Mary never misses a beat.


"Mom! Mom!" she hollered, dragging me back to the hall closet last night. "I found these vitamins next to the children's vitamins (oops) and they say 'For PREGNANT and LACTATING women', and I had to go ask Grandmama, 'What does LACTATING mean?' and when she told me I had to come find you and, Mom, are you PREGNANT?"


I nodded, unable to speak for laughing. She threw her arms around me for a long hug. Emma darted out of the bathroom and joined us. "I was listening."


The gig was up. I couldn't hide it.


Not that I want to hide it. A baby is a blessing. A gift. A sign for good. But I lost the last two and wanted to go to the doctor before I told the kids.

So yesterday I saw the little 6 week old jelly bean with (sigh of relief) a heartbeat. Then like a good mommy I went and bought my prenatals loaded with folic acid.


"Maybe I'll have a flower girl!" said Bethany, who is certain that 7 year old Dorothy will be too old by the time she gets married.


"Awesome," said Matthew, who is soon bound for the West Point Prep school. I'm so proud--but that 's a blog for another day.


"Y'all are crazy," said Tiger, my oldest, who has held that same opinion the last three times. But I am certain he loves being the oldest of ten. My goal had been not to be pregnant at his wedding last summer, I reminded him. Mission accomplished. Now if I can just be done before he starts a family of his own. He assures me that mission is also easily accomplished, as no such plans are in the works.


Dorothy, who just a month ago said she was praying for a baby sister, was beaming. Cory beamed, too, in his own male kind of way. And Ben and Mom Dot both agree that another baby is a blessing. In fact, the vote is unanimous in our family.


Well, except for Silas, who did not acknowledge it when we told him the news. Perhaps he is busy calculating just how much his life is about to change.


Our family has been through a rough patch since the start of 2011. I know many don't agree, but we consider a baby a good sign.


"Let's name her Hope if it's a girl," my husband said to me the day we found out. I love the idea.


And while, yes, there is plenty I could worry about, news of a baby has brought new energy, excitement and yes, hope, to the Sims family.

In my estimation, that's a good sign.


To subscribe to my blog, send an email to me  at [email protected]

The Beauty of Big Families 

A blog on family.

Posted April 24, 2018

Original post, March 2011

Pictured: back when we juts had nine (Dorothy eventually got her baby sister). Photo by Louisa Larson.

"Mommy, I want a baby sister," six year old Dorothy said to me just the other day.


Our house is crowded. Dorothy not only shares a room with two sisters, but also sometimes a chair with one at the dinner table. When my adult kids come home, they battle for dibs on the couches. Ben lives in the little guest house on our property. We are at capacity. Yet Dorothy wants to increase our population. Why?


Being the youngest of eight, I know why. Someone is always there. There to play with, eat with, laugh with, grieve with. You get used to it- crave it, even. A few of my kids have even told me they don't really enjoy being alone, they are so use to having a crowd around. (I do not share this sentiment, but, hey, I'm the mom.)


Being from a big family means ABC's and SAT's, driver's training and potty training, puppy love and puberty--all at once.


Noisy? Yes. Crowded? You bet. Messy? Always.


But big families are, well, comfortable, in my opinion. I came from one. I have one now. And some folks think I'm crazy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.


I knew I had written about big families years ago for Memphis Parent, and I finally unearthed the piece on an old blog.


This piece best expresses how I feel about big families: They are beautiful.

http://nine-is-enough.blogspot.com/2007/09/beauty-of-big-families.html


Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,

The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,

So are the children of one’s youth.

Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;

They shall not be ashamed,

But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127: 3-5

Big Enough 

A blog on family.

Posted May 1 , 2018

Original post, May 2011

Pictured:  This blog was written back when I had nine kids, but this pic is all ten at Matt's wedding, May of 2016.

A man approached me yesterday as I was climbing into my van in NYC.  "Is this the airport shuttle?"


"No," I said, before he could toss in his bag.  Just my family car.


When you have nine kids, you are use to everything being big, both in number and in size. Two hotel rooms, three car seats, four pizzas. The list goes on.


Being in NYC, however, can make a person feel small.  I attended the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference (asja.org). Jane, my friend, writing coach, cheerleader, and Memphis Parent editor, suggested we go when I told her I lived so close to the City.


Going to NYC for a writer's conference made me feel big time. Until I got there. The place was buzzing with energy. Swarming with writers.

"What do you do for a living?" I asked one particularly chatty woman.


She looked at me quizzically. "I write."


Oh. You mean you can DO that?


The keynote, Jen Singer (http://jen-singer.com/)  is a pioneer mom blogger. And a five time book author. And a Huggies, Hershey, Pull-Ups spokesperson, as well as a guest on The Today Show, The Early Show, and practically every show in between.


By the time I left the conference, I felt, well, small.  Until I got into my van to go home. There I was, The Big, Bad Mama, cutting my 12 passenger straight through the NYC traffic. No matter that it was Sunday morning and traffic was minimal. It still counted.


My van is just one representation of, for lack of a better word, the bigness of my family.  No, I am not a big time writer, but the mom of a big time family who has a little time to write.


For me, that is big enough.


Comments to Big Enough

Robert Sims 

Whoa! What a great blog! You were "big time" with me from the moment I heard about you, came to church to meet you. When I laid eyes on you, I was convinced that you were too much for me. And you are. How blessed our family is to have you. How blessed am I. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making us a priority. You have made us "more". Now that the world has read/heard your writing it is just a matter of time before the big time finds you.  As Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote in his lyrics for the Phantom, the world "was bound to love you, when they heard your voice."


Reply 

Thank you,Honey. I love our life together!


Debbie 

Robert said it beautifully. You are blessed. I love you too!


Kristine

What a great blog! I LOVE it! I knew I liked you from the moment I saw your...bag! ha! Just like mine!! :) I also have a minivan... with only 3 kids in it, though! Hats off to you for braving the NYC traffic...I left my van at home for hubby to take all weekend! Way to go for zipping in and out of that mayhem!! It was great meeting you at the conference and I sure do hope we can stay in touch!

Reply

So glad you spotted my bag! Otherwise we never would have met.


Margie

I love you, Dee Dee. Can't wait to see you!

What a Mother Wants 

A blog on family.

Posted May 2 , 2018

Original post, May 2011

Pictured: Getting a hug from Bethany and Ben.

As Mother's Day, 2018, approaches, I just cannot express my thoughts any better than this post from May, 2011. A few updates, though.. Son, Matt, is a West Point graduate, and Ben, the West Point cadet pictured hugging his mama, will start his senior year this fall. And of course, with the addition of Hope, I now have ten kids. But one thing hasn't changed. No matter how many Mother's Days come and go, I still want the same old thing that keeps motherhood new to me: those hugs and "I love you's" from all my kids.


"What do you want for Mother's Day?" asked Emma a few days ago. 


"Dark chocolate covered almonds," I said. "Dove or above."


When I use to ask my mother this question, she would always give the same answer, "I already have everything I want."


Don't you know that you are going to miss the chance for all the loot?  I would think. She had eight kids. That's eight presents. Even I could do that math.  I either got her a present--an eggbeater or a half dead flower--or drew her a picture. She always raved about it.


Mother's Day is a big deal around here thanks to Captain Fun. Today I woke up to find a new laptop from the Captain himself. He has always been my biggest fan.


And I know from past Mother's Days that being the mom of so many meant lots more loot coming--one year it was three pounds of chocolate and three pounds of coffee, and I still had three more kids to hear from.


"Matt said to get on the Bed, Bath & Beyond website and order yourself some 1,000 count sheets," Captain Fun told me this morning after breakfast (French toast and blackberries with squirty whipped cream, I'll have you know).


"Wow, really?" The thought of thousand count sheets almost made me choke on my blackberries. Matt has been away at VT National Guard boot camp and medic training for six months, but somehow he remembered I said I would buy some one day. That kid is paying attention.


Two calls after church from Tiger and Bethany announced more surprises arriving tomorrow. Nine kids, nine gifts. And a new laptop. That really is a lot of loot.


Do I enjoy the presents? Yes, I do. And when my kids ask me what I want, I tell them--chocolate, coffee, pajamas, expensive shampoo. All those little pampering gifts that most moms enjoy.


But it isn't all the stuff that a mother really wants, though that's a definite perk. It's the affirmation behind the stuff: thank you; you're appreciated; we notice what you do.


"I don't know what I would do without you," read Emma's card this year. I almost teared up a little.


That's what a mother really wants.

Egypt or Bust 

Posted in honor of Silas' 11th birthday, May 7, 2018

Original post, May, 2011

Pictured: Silas, still a sponge at 11, builds his first fire at Boy Scout camp. "All by himself," said his dad, who snapped the picture.

My friend, Denise, gave four year old Silas an Usborne book on Ancient Egypt. The first time he got his hands on it, he sat down and looked at it for a solid 90 minutes.


"Where is my Egypt book?" he regularly asks. And if he corners you with it in hand, you are doomed for the next hour to read to him about ancient Egypt. "But don't show the mummy pages," he orders.


"Tell Denise I am going to beat her with that book," Mom Dot teases. She is Silas' slave, and will answer his every beck and call—even if it means reading the same book every day.


"Let's teach about Egypt," Silas said one night after dinner a few weeks ago. "What am I?" He lay down on the floor and crossed his arms.


"A mummy!" I say.


"Right! Now who am I?" he says, pointing to his chin, then bringing his hand down as if growing a beard.


"King Tut!"  guesses his dad, aka Captain (or King) Fun.


"That's right," he says. "Now what am I?" he asks, forming himself into a statue that I somehow guess is a Sphinx. He is delighted.


A few days later he woke up crying from his nap, “I want to go to Egypt.”


“It’s too far away,” I say. “Let’s just play Egypt.” With some persuasion, he settles for pretending and reading his book.


We are originally from Memphis, and recently Silas spotted a picture of Memphis on the bathroom wall with a Pharaoh in the background.  “An Egypt picture!” he exclaimed.  I took it down. He took it to his room.


“Is that a pyramid?” he said from the back seat of the van last week, pointing to the dollar bill Mom Dot was holding in the front seat. He was right. There is a pyramid on every dollar bill.


“Say it with me, Mom,” Silas said this morning while getting dressed.  “School, Egypt, home.” I am fairly certain he was trying to trick me into taking a little detour on the way to preschool today.


Preschoolers are like sponges, someone said, soaking up everything they can. My homeschooling years taught me to take every opportunity that arises to teach my kids something. Right now it is Egypt, next month (we all hope) it will be something else.


As summer comes, keep teaching your kids. Home school even if you don’t home school a friend told me once.


That’s just good advice—no matter what the subject.

A Whole, Entire, Complete Day Off 

Posted May 8, 2018

Original post, May, 2014


"What do you want for Mother's Day?" Captain Fun asked me several nights ago after family devotions.


The answer came easily. "A whole, entire, complete day off, especially from supervising my preschoolers."


I adore Hope- my present preschooler.  In fact, the more children I have, the more precious those early childhood years become. But as I told the ladies at Grove Avenue Baptist MOPS this week, I have had a preschooler in some form for 27 years, and sometimes I feel like it is gaining on me.


But then Mother's Day comes (hallelujah), and relaxation is forced upon me. My kids won't let me do dishes. And they practically tackle me if they catch me carrying laundry to the laundry room. Bethany put Hope down for her nap, and someone else will get her up. And don't dare let Captain Fun catch anyone asking me to do anything for them on this day.


In the last 24 hours, I have received roses, chocolate, a gift card to Bone Fish (going there for dinner), shampoo, make up, lotion, coffee, and many other gifts that make a mother feel appreciated.


And then there's the cards. Oh, the cards!  "You are so patient. You don't complain. You cook such elaborate meals. The older I get, the more I understand all you've done for us. You're a great listener. You're smart. You're funny. Thank you for taking care of us. Thanks for all you did for me while I was growing up. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."


Many years ago I worked part time for the US Postal Service. Two young kids would come in to see me almost every time I was there. One of them even started calling me Mama. Their teeth were rotten, their clothes were dirty, their hair was greasy and tangled, and they were often eating candy for breakfast. Why? Because their mother had deserted them. She wasn't there to wash their clothes, brush their teeth, comb their hair, or forbid candy at 8 a.m.


Seeing those kids regularly for several years taught me something. It taught me not to underestimate my role, my significance, my importance in the lives of my children. And that the million things I do every day? They matter.


I love a day off. It is what all mothers want on Mother's Day, really. An official, intentional, real, live day off. And today I have one. If you're a mom, I hope you have one, too.


But Monday when we all hit the floor running again, remember with me why we do what we do. Don't lose sight of the significance of those million things we do every day.


What a difference they make.


"A wise woman builds her house, but a foolish woman tears hers down with her own hands."

-Proverbs 14:1

What Summer is For 

Posted June 13, 2018

Original post, June, 2011


I  never did get use to the school schedule of the northeast when we lived up there.   Some years, the school year ended as late as June 23!  Where I come from  (the deep south) school had been out for almost a month by then, and the July 4th holiday that traditionally marked the middle of summer only meant summer had barely begun. Still, whether it starts early or late, I'll take it. I simply love summer.


When I was a kid, my friend and I would pack our lunch, hop on our bikes and vanish until dinner. Every day was filled with a new adventure, exploring the woods, playing in the cemetery, roaming the pasture where my dad kept our horses.


Another friend and I would make our rounds: the public pool, the 7-11, or the school where the Memphis Park Commission organized supervised play at the playground. Box hockey (ever heard of it?), tether ball, water activities, board games. It was a great way to grow up, as every day was filled with wonder.


Most of the time I walked or rode my bike, but sometimes I took my horse out for the afternoon, riding her down the road, through the orchard, wherever our noses led us. In all those summers of unsupervised days, I was approached only once by a stranger. A man on a motorcycle pulled over and offered me a ride when I was walking home one day. When I refused, he drove away.


By the time I had kids of my own, the world had changed, and I resented that I couldn't let them go find their own adventures. Instead, I felt compelled to keep them within sight, too afraid to let them wander. Every activity was--and is--organized and supervised.


Once in a while they ask me if they can hop on their bike, but until they are about 14 or 15, the answer is no. "When I was as young as 7 or 8, I spent my days exploring and finding my own adventures," I tell them regretfully, "but the world is not so safe anymore, and you will have to wait til you're older."


I know it sounds crazy, but I have this dream for my kids: that one day they will look into the eyes of their children and say, "When I was a kid, it was too dangerous to go off by myself, but now the world is a much safer place. Be home by dinner."


Every kid deserves an adventurous, care-free summer. It's the least we can give them.


It's what summer is for.


For the Father of Ten  

Posted June 17, 2018

Picture: One of my favorite shots of Captain Fun, in his element as he cracks us up during a West Point weekend in 2016.


With Father's Day upon us, it is only fitting  to pay Robert, aka Captain Fun, a special tribute.


It's hard to find a man who will go along with the idea of having ten kids. But from the beginning, it was no secret that I wanted a brood. And from the beginning, he has been on board.


Children are a blessing, a gift, a reward according to Psalm 127. But some would say that children are also expensive, messy and a lot of work. I guess both statements are true, really.


Enter Captain Fun. He is, first of all, fun, which I am not. While my tagline is "finding the faith and the funny in life with ten kids", he is really the one who finds the fun. Some Father's Day weekends, for instance, we have been known to grill out, watch two movies, go to the beach and visit the pool--twice, all within a span of 48 hours.


So many men would rather be on the golf course or out of town, away from their families, Mom Dot often says. But not Captain Fun. He is a hands on, all in Dad who tries to cram in as much fun in a short amount of time as possible. We are all certain he holds the record for it.


Apart from his fun side, I love his ability to see things in our kids that they, or even I, sometimes cannot see right away. When our son, Ben, was undecided about the spring football season in high school, his dad suggested he revisit lacrosse. Ben emerged from his JV season as MVP and still went on to play football in late spring.


He told our son Matthew from the time he was just a kid that he possessed strong leadership qualities.   All these years later, his suspicions are confirmed. Matthew graduated from West Point in 2016 and is now a 1st Lt. in the US Army.


When I was unsure about putting Silas, now 11, in preschool, his dad thought it would be just the right thing. He was right. Silas flourished in the school environment- still does.


I could go on and on. In fact, I think I will.


Though he goes by Captain Fun around here, I know the kids would agree he doesn't shy away from the hard stuff. He makes integrity, hard work and accountability the focus of fathering.


But my favorite thing about him is the way he gathers us every night for family devotions. He takes his time--but not too much time--exploring a passage of scripture, digging into it, putting a finger on where everyone is in their spiritual journey. Yet he stays transparent about his own walk of faith, too.


We talk a lot at our house about how popular the "point and laugh" trend is concerning men these days.  It's not good for a man, not healthy for his psyche, I frequently remind our five daughters. And it is especially not good for fathers.


Thank you, Captain Fun, for being the on board, all-in Dad that you are. The kids and I are all the better because you are in our lives  


You're fun. You're strong. You're kind. You're smart.  And you have made such a difference in our family.