Thursday, January 19, 2006


These pictures are about a week old but due to the weather, not much progress has been made since then. The siding is complete on the back of the house and on the gables on the sides. The front is still barren of its siding. Inside the only progress has been to mark off where the new cabinetry is going in preparation for the plumbing and electric. This seems to be a slow and tedious process and I'm hoping this will be the final hump which will thrust the project to its end. Of course we are way over-budget but we are slogging along.

I love the color of the new roof and the siding but the blue trim has got to go now!! I've always loved the blue but boy does it clash with our new colors! The best news, I think, is that we have had much hard drenching rain and the basement remains bone dry!


We are heartbroken this week. Tiffany and little Ava went home for a weekend visit on Thursday and aren't coming back. Saturday she called to say that the trains weren't running their usual schedule, she'd try to catch one on Monday. Monday her mom called and left a message that Tiffany would be home "later" as she had some relatives who wanted to see the baby. We've played the train game before and had already decided we weren't going to stand for it. It's very difficult to plan our whole day around a time when I need to get 8 children to the train station only to be told at the last minute that she has no intention of being on that train and so thus began a series of conversations with Tiffany's mom trying to explain why they were being inconsiderate. She didn't get it.

In fact, she didn't get a lot of things. She didn't get why Tiffany was living with us in the first place - isn't the best place for her in her own home with her own mom? She didn't get why Tiffany didn't see a future for herself in DC - wasn't this where she'd been raised and isn't this the city she loves? She didn't get how a 16-year old girl could have the will to change her heart and her circumstances - how can she know what she wants when she's so young? The conversations with her over the next couple of days were very revealing to me. They were filled with lies, half-truths, broken promises and a lot of self-pity. By the end of the first day I was up all night reading a map written on my soul of Tiffany's spiritual heritage. It was truly frightening and I prayed for her, begging God to bring her back to us before she slips away for good. But she'd been in the city for too long and she'd been sucked back in. The next morning Deacon Jeff called to tell us Tiffany had called him to tell him she wouldn't be coming back. She didn't have the guts to call us - and still hasn't. That seems to be her family way - if there's some unpleasantness just don't talk about it and you won't have to deal with it. Convenient for them, infuriatingly frustrating for those who are at the other end of it.

I spent 3 hours today cleaning out her bedroom - she had, afterall, just gone home for the weekend and so she left behind most of her things. I sorted through a mound of laundry, I put aside her wallet and her WIC coupons, her medical card and her important papers - things you just don't abandon somewhere if you're thinking rationally. I sorted and packed and I cried. There was so much evidence there of her growth since she'd entered Sparrow House. I found her baptismal certificate, her pamphlets on parenting which she'd been reading religiously, CD's filled with Christian music she'd been trying to use to replace the filth of the world which had filled her mind and soul until her recent conversion. "Please, Lord, don't let bitterness take root in me!" I cried out and He listened and He replaced the bitterness with an overwhelming, heart-wrenching sadness.

I'd been contemplating yesterday in a particular way the marriage relationship between God's people and His church which scriptures describe most vividly in Song of Solomon. I had been thinking that intimacy between two people married so long that they begin to acquire one another's thoughts, characteristics, even looks is a wonderful picture of the intimacy Christ desires with us. When we use the phrase that we are to "be Christlike" we are placing ourselves in that relationship with Him in which we are so acquainted with His ways and so intimately connected to His thoughts that His Being begins to seep into ours. It is as much a curious happenstance of Friendship with God as it is any intentional effort of our own. And so, in the midst of my turmoil over Tiffany I stood in the bathroom and called out to Christ as the Spouse of My Soul. And He responded with likewise intimacy by revealing to me His Heart. I saw Him stand and watch Tiffany wherever she was at the moment and He began to weep and the pain overwhelmed me and I had to weep with him. I wept for only a moment compared to His eternal weeping for all of us. It was too much. It was too overwhelming. His love for us is so lavish. His gift to us, too generous.

My heart is broken. Betsy watched me sort through a pile of papers and immediately noticed a colorful picture full of butterfly stickers she had given to Tiffany. "Mommy!" she cried, "I gave Tiffany that picture! She loves that picture! Why did she forget her picture, Mommy? Why didn't she take her picture? Is she coming back? Is she coming back to get her picture I made her?" How do I answer that? How do I wrap up all the generations of someone else's bad choices in a simple answer for a 4 year old? I can't. There is no answer for my dear little Betsy except to assure her that Tiffany will get the picture back. She'll get it because it will be on the top of the pile of things I send to her that she's too irrational to realize yet that she needs. She'll see the picture Betsy made her along with the picture of our family I tucked into her wallet and the broken crucifix we'd given her which was broken because she'd been carrying it in her pocket faithfully.

Tiffany is teachable - it's the thing I love most about her. So when she sees her things, she will remember that her sights were set higher here, that her soul was more free here and that God has a wonderful plan and purpose for her life. She will remember and she will rise above it. No, I don't think this chapter is done yet but there is still the lingering sadness of the present moment. I am still living in that place in life where we allow God to have His way with our hearts so that we can learn more of His heart. Tiffany and Ava have taken up residence in that place of my heart already occupied by Jake. They are the ones for whom I will pray without ceasing until God sees fit to raise them up out of their circumstances to walk solidly on His path.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

This House is Loud

I've taken up the habit of sitting outside for a few minutes during the day when I feel like I just need to clear my head. It does me wonders. The weather here hasn't been particularly nice so I've sat in the rain and the clouds and the cold usually in my sox and no coat but my mind doesn't seem to notice except to take in with delight the sharpness of and the contrast between what's inside the house and what's outside.

Tonight I made it through the hour of power - 5:15 - 6:15 pm - when I am trying to make dinner for a lot of little people and the little people are doing their best to exert their limited power over me and each other. I actually had a nice dinner prepared a few minutes before Fr. Joel was due to be home from work and so I snuck through the house, tried to quietly exit through the front door and sat on the porch breathing in the cold, wet air and working my way into an inviting welcome for my dear husband. About 2 seconds into my escape I felt the eyes of little people boring through my back and turned to see no less than 3 or 4 faces pressed against the windows of the front door staring at me. I squawked, I shooed and I skeedaddled those faces away. A couple left silently, one hooted at her brother and another let out a war cry and ran willy nilly for the nearest target to torture. It's ok, I thought, I'm right here, how much damage can they do in a couple of minutes? I'm still going to take my time on the porch.

I put my head in my hands and breathed deeply as I thought about the loudness of it all. This house is loud, no doubt. The collective noise of that many people can be overwhelming - even when they are all actually acting like civilized human beings and not whooping and hollering like hooligans. At the moment there was a lot of hooliganian shenanigans going on and with great effort I put my chin in my hand and chose to ignore it. From that vantage point, I could look across the street at my neighbors - people I barely know, who after 7 months time here are still virtual strangers. There's Loud Boy (so named by my husband after just a few weeks in residence here) on the corner. His family is rarely home. I don't know where they go but it was months before I even realized that this young man has 2 parents and a little sister. It's loud at his house too, the kind of loud that just seems to happen when you get a bunch of 18 - 20 year olds and their cars crammed into a small space of tarmac. They don't mean to be loud but, really, take it to a college campus please. This is a neighborhood with, you know, grown-ups and young children who take naps in the afternoon and dogs who bark at every disturbance to the territory surrounding their households. Yep, I'm awfully glad, I thought, that we're not that family (momentarily ignoring the fact that at some vague point in the future we will have several 18-20 year olds of our own in our household at once).

Next door to Loud Boy is the Quiet Family. They only have one little girl that I know of. I'm told through the grapevine that her mom would like to have more children but she is frustrated by a closed womb. I see her and her daughter outside together looking incredibly lonely with just the two of them rattling around that house all day without anyone else to play with them. Well, I think to myself, I'm glad we're not them too.

Next door to her is a family with two children (I think). One of them is a young lad of about 3 or 4 who likes to hang out his 2nd story bedroom window and call out to passsers by. That, I thought, is more like it. I get a kick out of passing by that house when I walk down to the mailbox and I hear that little voice scream out, "Hey Lady, whatcha doin''?!" I'm happy to tell him I'm getting my mail and then counter with an equally enthusiastic, "Whatcha doin''?!" Yep, that house is a little closer but you know there just isn't enough of those little faces hanging out the window - it still seems, well, lonely.

I turned my sights to the family who live behind us whose house I couldn't see at the moment. We know them the best. They have two children and are very loud - in a whiny, demanding and dysfunctional way. I am soo glad that's not us that I didn't even have to dwell long on that household. Which is good, because just as my thoughts turned to them I saw one of my favorite sights - a silver Saturn driven by a very handsome gentleman - come around the corner and pull up to the curb in front of the house. The gentleman got out of the car with a surprised look on his face. He's not used to seeing me sitting on the front porch when he gets home and he asked, "Is something wrong?" I replied with, "It's really loud in there" and gestured vaguely toward our front door. "Yeah," he said and I completed his thought, "but I'm really glad. I like our kind of loud."

I got my hello kiss on the front porch that night uninterrupted by the loud and then he proceeded to his favorite part of the day - walking through that door into the loudness after a long day away. He always says any man who doesn't have at least 6 little people scream out his name in delight and offer excited hugs and streams of chatter about their day the moment he walks through the door is missing out on the best part of life. He's right, you know. There's some loud you just can't beat.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Locks of Love

On Thursday Miriam and I finally got our hair cut for Locks of Love. It was a year and a half of growing it out. Miriam was at the point where her arms were too short to even brush out her long hair and I'm just too hormonal to deal with all that hair cascading around my shoulders so it was perfect timing and now we both have the cutest little haircuts...The pictures are of her with her long hair, then getting it cut and the bottom picture shows her with her bag of hair to send away.

Who knows, maybe we'll do it again in another year and a half. It feels good to help someone else.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Today's Progress

This is today's picture from my spot in the backyard. As you can see, the siding is going up around the addition. It probably got finished today on that part of the house. You can see the new French doors from the outside. Obviously we'll need a few steps down to the yard.

This was how much siding had been done as of Sunday. I didn't realize what slow going that can be - especially when cutting around edges, roof, windows, etc. I pleased that the guys were taking their time and making sure to get it all fit nice and tightly. They asked today if we needed to keep the two antennae on the roof since we have cable. Fr. Joel said we may as well trash them as they don't seem to work very well even as lightning rods...

Here is the most recent picture of the basement. The gutting of it down to the insulation is now complete.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This is my day today...

The big boys are at their grandparents' house for the week and the girls were at my mom's. Life should have been pretty good...except for that thing called lack of sleep caused by a lack of furniture which was removed from the house yesterday afternoon thanks to our insurance company wrapping up the whole relocation bit of our settlement. Unfortunately, with renovations being done on the house, we are still about 2 months from being able to move back away went the rental furniture. We bought new mattresses but they don't arrive until tomorrow sometime which is the same time I'm supposed to be in an appliance showroom an hour away from here to finally choose the appliances - which has been a whole complicated mess of its own. The clincher is that the inside work can't go forward until we have our appliances chosen since the next step is plumbing and electric. I'm beginning to realize why marriages suddenly dissolve when couples decide to take on major home renovation projects. These deadlines, decisions and ultimatums from the contractor are enough to drive the sanest person to the brink of madness. That and lack of sleep in my case. I have to admit I've been a terrible bear today. The closeness of space, the decisions that need to be made, the morning sickness...and afternoon sickness...and evening sickness, the regular bickering and bantering and , oh yeah, did I mention lack of sleep, have all started to creep into my brain and make me a good candidate for the nearest nut house. We just keep looking at each other and saying, "Why is life so *hard*?" Is it too much to ask to just be able to walk into Sears, pick out some appliances and then have our contractor work around it? Apparently so.

So, anyway, I decided to declutter some things. And I decided to use my favorite venue - Freecycle. If you've never freecycled then please stop reading now, go to yahoogroups and look up a freecycle group for your local county. I have decluttered, gained valuable items which someone else mistook for clutter in their homes and made some terrific friends along the way. These were my posts for the past two days:

OFFER: Lite Brite Cube - Brand New

This was a gift and I have no desire to even open it and let a single one ofthose little colored pegs come tumbling out of that

OFFER: Itty Bitty dollhouse
This was also a Christmas gift for the two children voted most likely to lose any tiny loose piece of anything given to them. It is adorable. It is a little dollhouse w/furniture and two itty bitty dolls. The dollhouse is about 4 inches high and 6-8 inches long. It opens up with the little furniture and dolls inside. I prefer pickup before the owners come home from their grandmother's house tomorrow.

OFFER: Itty Bitty dollhouse - OFFER RESCINDED
I'm sorry to say I can no longer offer this item. The 18 month old and the 21/2 yo have taken all the itty bitty peices and stuffed them into the tape deck of a boom box here. I cannot get them out and what remains of this item has been thrown in the trash in frustration.

OFFER: "Boombox" CD/Cassette player
I have up for grabs a boombox type CD player/tape player /radio. There are two cassette decks. One of them has been stepped on when the 2 yo shoved the 18month old off of it and the door has come off, the other has pieces of an ittybitty dollhouse set stuffed into it which I cannot get out. I think the CD player works ok and I know the radio works but I can't really make any guarantees since we haven't used this thing in a while. I am considering adding a 2 yo and an 18 month old - two adorable boys - in with this offer.

It amused the freecycle community and gave me a little therapeutic release anyway...Oh yeah, did I mention I also bought a balance beam today? Yep, a bonified gymnastics balance beam for 10 bucks - now how many cool mom points do you think *that* will win me?! I'm going to need's been a rough day.