Moving and A New Job!

I want to give a quick update for those of you asking how things are going.  In short, they are going near perfectly.  We are moving into my husband’s grandma’s house that has been empty for four years. 

The House (front) Needs some landscaping.

Back Side. Still a little messy.

We’ve been doing some major cleaning and organizing (while doing Vacation Bible School every night this week) and now it’s time to move all the stuff in.  Tomorrow will be an all out blitz of carpet cleaning and furniture moving.  I expect me and the hubby will be dog tired tomorrow night, but at least we’ll be in our house.  I know our presence in the saint of a mother-in-law’s house has been stressful.  She’s organized and likes a clean house.  Enter 7 dispossessed slobs with all their donated clothes and stuff in boxes and bags and a few random suitcases.  It’s not pretty.  I know she’s not freaking out about it or anything, but I still feel a little guilty about it. 

The only bad thing about where we’re moving is that it’s in a different (and worse) school system.  I was really concerned about that and was racking my brains for a way to keep them in the same schools.  Lying was out.  How could a preacher and his wife sign a paper swearing to something that was not true?  Everybody in town knew the house was gone.  So.  What to do? 

I’ll tell you.  Go to church, sit down and make brown paper bag “bricks” for a well, while others turn the social hall into a market of Nazareth by hanging sheets from the ceiling, and wait.  When you least expect it, a disembodied voice from behind one of the sheets will yell out, “Get a job in the school system!”  Was it the voice of God?  Yes. He just happened to be speaking through a lovely lady known as Jackie. One of the “perks” of getting a full-time job in the school system is employees’ children being allowed to enroll in the same school system.  It was brilliant!

So, I put in my application, and I was mortified when I had to list my last three jobs.  Wendy’s, Hometown Pizza, and Valley View Day Care.  It got worse when I had to list the dates.  My last job was in the year 2000.  Yikes.  Oh well.  I had to get back in the game sometime, right?  I was nervous.  I felt stupid. And hopeful.  The perfect solution to my problem had fallen into my lap.  In church.  Things had been working out so perfectly and I guess I was afraid I’d used my allotment of good blessings.  Stupid girl.

I got a call two days later and was offered a full-time job.  No interview required.  The hours and location were perfect.  6 hours per day, between school drop-off and pick-up times and only on days when the kids are in school.  It could not be a more perfect situation.  The only piece left is to find an acceptable daycare for the Baby Girl.  Call me crazy, but I know we’ll find the perfect place.  

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

Oh, I forgot to tell you what my job is!  I applied for it specifically and I am so happy!  If you’re curious, click the link for the answer!

Putting Our Money Where Our Mouths Are

My husband and I try to teach our kids what matters in life–God, family, friends, love, and compassion.  The intangibles.  Like all parents, we fight the incoming tide of materialism, and often lose.  They fight over video games, beg for more toys, and refuse to share.  My 19-month-old even snatches things up, clutches them to her tiny chest, and emphatically declares in her sweet little voice, “Mine!”  It’s cute, but also demoralizing.  How can we compete with human nature?

We all like our stuff.  Giant HD televisions, golf clubs, books, pianos, video games, cake decorating equipment, computers, handbags, shoes, Barbie dolls, movies, blankies, Legos…the list is endless.  But it’s not important.  We constantly have to remind them and ourselves that if we lost it all, we’d still be blessed with our family, our church, and friends. 

We are a Christian family. Like all Christians, we have a standard litany for times of trouble. 

  • “Our trust is in the Lord.” 
  • “God will provide.” 
  • “The Lord will take care of us.” 
  • “No matter what happens, the Lord will use it to his glory.” 
  • We’ll pray for you.

    "Consider the lilies of the field..."Matthew 6:28

They roll so easily off the tongue, I sometimes wonder if people really believe what they’re saying, or if they’re just following the script.  I’ve seen people who say these things spend all their time fretting and obsessing over the worst case scenarios instead of doing what they can and trusting God to take care of the rest.  And I wondered, do I really believe that God will take care of me?  Do I trust Him as much as I claim?  I’m positive my husband believes it, but do I?

Then, a police officer told me my house was completely engulfed.  “Oh, my God.”  A plea and a prayer.  Then, a stunned silence, broken only to comfort the children.  My husband and I followed the police car for the 10 minute drive, and we discussed it.  I don’t remember much of what was said, other than my husband’s statement, “Well, it’s an opportunity to put our money where our mouths are.”  When he said that, I thought about what I was really feeling–shock and concern for the children and our landlord. What I didn’t feel was fear, hopelessness, or despair.  I knew we were going to be okay.  I was at peace.  A peace that surpasses all understanding.

I do believe that God will take care of us.  If I didn’t believe it before, I have no choice but to believe it now.  We have gotten so much help from the church, the community, family, friends, and complete strangers.  I actually have to turn away clothes, toys, and furniture now. 

We have a fully furnished house to live in and more Barbies and bathing suits, Legos and notebooks, video games, and clothes than before.  We have money to help us buy the groceries, the cleaning supplies, the garbage cans, vacuüm cleaner, and all the other stuff you don’t think about unless you have to start over.  Look around your house at the things you use every day and write it down.  Hair brush, fingernail clippers, screwdriver for those pesky miniscule screws in kids’ toys, band-aids, tape, a can opener.  We have none of that.  It is going to be one heck of a trip to the Wal-Mart**.  A trip that wouldn’t be possible without the donations. 

**If you hate the Wal-Mart as much as I’ve grown to, you will reconsider that if you find yourself looking for a one-stop shop to buy a vacuüm cleaner, hair dryer, dishes, socks and underwear, books, tools, and a dozen eggs.


We are blessed.  Abundantly blessed.

Next time, I’ll share the amazing things that people have done for us, from the state of Georgia all the way to The Netherlands.  Yeah, The Netherlands.  I can’t wait to give them a little tiny bit of the credit they deserve. 

Right now, I want to thank all you blogging buddies for your thoughts and prayers.  I am overwhelmed by the number of comments on Friday. It meant a lot to read all those comments.  I felt all warm and fuzzy.  (((Hugs))) and I love you guys!

House Fire Leaves Family of Seven Homeless

The title of my last post was “What a Difference a Day Makes.”  I had no idea.  A little over 24 hours ago, my house burned to the ground, leaving my family with nothing but the clothes on our backs, our cars, and the contents of our garage.  So much has happened in the time since then and I want to share all of it with you. And I will, as soon as I get the chaos of the last day organized inside my head.  For now, I’ll just give the details of the first couple of hours, since I know that’s what everybody wants to know.

It was Wednesday night, after church.  Everyone had gone home and we had finally gotten everybody in the car when a police cruiser turned into the church parking lot.  The policewoman got out of her car and walked up to the car and I rolled down the window and asked, “Hi, can I help you?”  She said she was looking for my husband.  My mind went to any past speeding ticket or something he hadn’t taken care of and I got nothing.  My husband said he was who she was looking for and she said, “I hate to have to tell you this, but your house is completely engulfed.”  What?!  “Oh my God.” 

My husband went to his parents house next door to tell them the news, my sons started asking questions, and my oldest daughter started crying.  I did what all moms do in situations like this and kept my cool and comforted them the best I could.  My husband got back in the car and we followed the police car to our burning home. 

We saw the smoke and lights of the firetrucks before anything else.  I think we were secretly hoping it was the neighbor’s house.  We knew better, of course.  How in the world would she have known where to find us?  The neighbors knew where we were and told her. We turned onto the street and yes, it was our house. We climbed out of our car and walked over to watch with the neighbors as our house burned.  It was unreal.  The neighbors described the first flames and one neighbor told us of his attempt to go in the house to make sure everyone, including the pets, were not in there.  He didn’t get very far because the heat and smoke were unbearable.  Fortunately, the pets were left outside and we were 15 miles away.

Pretty soon, the Red Cross and the News showed up.  My husband went with the Red Cross volunteers (two of the sweetest people I’ve ever met) and I carefully avoided the news guy.  I was not going on television.  I don’t even like to see myself in pictures, much less on the 11 o’clock news.  He asked my son where his mother was, but my mother-in-law told him I didn’t want to be interviewed.  I checked the news channel’s website later and the headline was “House Fire Leaves Family of Seven Homeless.”  Homeless.  Wow, what an impact that word had on me.  More about that another time.

While we stood on the lawn across the street, 6 church members arrived, within 30 minutes.  Word travels fast in a small town.  There were hugs, assurances of prayer, promises of help,  and condolences.  There was no crying.  There was no despair.  There was even some laughing.  I know people were waiting for me to lose it–to cry, to turn inward and go silent, something.   But I didn’t and I haven’t.  I’m sure it is partly because the enormity of the loss hasn’t fully sunken in, but mostly it’s because I know now as I knew then, that everything is going to be okay. 

I would like to tell you the different ways people reacted to The Event.

Husband:  “It’s time to put our money where our mouths are.”  (I will explain this in my next post.  This is the most exciting part of the story and I can’t wait to tell you about it.)

Me:  “I feel like someone is trying to teach me a colossal lesson.”  

Aidan (the 12-year-old): I hope the dog’s okay (he disappeared while the firetrucks were there, scared out of his mind.) and “Everything I own is paper or plastic,”  his realization that he wouldn’t be able to salvage anything from the wreck.

Fire Chief: “Total Loss.”  Well, I have to disagree with that and you will see why in my next post.

Mikey (almost 11):  Silent crying. 

Molly (8-year-old):  Immediate sobbing and lamenting of “all my dolls and my bathing suit.”  Brief fun rolling down the neighbor’s ditch with her brother, and then more crying and “All my stuff was in there!”

Anna (19-month-old): No clue what was happening, but definitely knew something was.  She’s fought sleep ever since.

Billy (5-year-old):  Standing on the curb, looking at the black, burning shell of our house, he points to the porch, which is only slightly damaged and says, “Look at the porch!  It is MESSED UP!!” 

That’s my boy.  Make ’em laugh.  The alternative is much too depressing.

This used to be my living room

What A Difference A Day Makes

At some point, every mom feels useless, lazy, inept, stupid, sad, fake, or guilty.  Useless because she’s “just a mom” and doesn’t have anything else to offer the world.  Lazy because the dishes are piled in the sink, the laundry basket is full, and there’s a strange smell coming from the kid’s room and she doesn’t have the energy to care, much less do anything about it.  Inept because she’s just yelled at the kids for being kids and is probably doing things on a daily basis that will screw them up for life.  Stupid because she can’t remember the word for that round glass object she piles the mountains of food on to scarf down in a mindless comfort eating session.  Sad because she spends too much time reading Jane Austen novels and watching too many chick flicks and then wondering why her husband isn’t making grand declarations of his love and appreciation using words of four or more syllables or pithy statements like “You complete me.”  Fake because no matter how she’s feeling on the inside, outwardly she’s smiling and pretending everything is great.  Guilty because her kids and her husband know the truth.

Image via stock.xchnge

Usually, these emotions don’t present all at the same time.  There’s a brief moment of weakness and then the joys of life take over.  The kids say the cutest thing, her husband does the dishes, complete strangers compliment her kids’ manners, she answers 75% of the questions on Jeopardy, there are clean spoons, or when somebody asks her how she feels she can honestly answer, “Great!”  These are the normal ups and downs of motherhood–life spent in the slightly hazy outskirts of mom fog.

Then there are the unusual times.  When all these emotions are weighing so heavily, it’s difficult to get out of bed.  And that is where I’ve been for the past month or so.  I’ve been walking around in a mom fog so dense I can’t even see my hand in front of my face. I suppose it’s a kind of depression.  Luckily, it’s the situational kind.  I know why I’m depressed and I know what to do about it.

I have lived away from “home” for 9 years.  I get back every once in a while for a completely inadequate amount of time for the things I want to do and the people I want to see.  I miss my family and friends.  It’s normally just a vague feeling in the back of my mind that occasionally moves to the forefront when I stop and think too much.  Usually, I’m too busy to dwell on it.  Lately, it’s been thrown in my face.

First of all, having kids is a constant trip down memory lane.  Every birthday reminds me of my childhood at that particular age.  Every slumber party revives the memories of late nights giggling, gossiping, and swooning over boys both “real” and famous.  Every goofball thing my kids say and do reminds me of the goofball things I did as a kid.  It’s impossible not to compare my experiences with theirs.

Then there’s the stupid wonderful thing that is Facebook.  I get to read what my family and friends are doing without me.  A simple status update of “Best girls night out EVER” reminds me of what I’m missing and nearly brings me to tears.

Worst of all, there’s The Blog.  I started Momfog as a way to combat mom fog–an outlet for frustration and creativity, a way to connect to adults, a way to discuss non-kid-related subjects.  It worked.  For a while.  Then I started using a writing prompt–RemembeRED.  I love doing it.  I read some fantastic writing and get some feedback for my own.  But it’s all about memoir.  I’m forced to look back on my childhood and the constant stream of memories only make me more homesick.  It started with The Games of Life which made me think of my best friend and cousin (the writer of the offending Facebook status) and my mamaw.  That made me think of my grandma, aunts and uncles, and my other cousins.  That led me to write My Old Kentucky Home.  That only made things worse.  The fog that I thought was harmless and amusing became an ever-present, black, suffocating thing.  I thought I was doomed to wander aimlessly in it forever.

And then I got the phone call.

My dear daddy is going to help me come home.  My husband has graciously agreed he can survive two weeks without me and the kids.  He’s even got a plan for the food situation.  He’s going to take advantage of his female co-workers’ sympathy and beg leftovers.  I sincerely hope he’s joking, but after tasting the Korean egg rolls he brought home, I’m not sure I’d blame him for trying.  His mother has also offered to let him come to her house if he gets lonely.  It’s comical, really.  The man can cook and I’m sure he will fare just fine in the loneliness department.  He’ll have his mistress to keep him busy.  I’m speaking of golf, of course.  Two weeks of as much golf as he can handle with absolutely no one to gripe about it?  Yeah, I’m sure he’ll suffer greatly while I’m gone.

So, just like that, the fog has lifted.  I wasn’t depressed.  Not really.  I just wanted to go home, see my family, and have a girl’s night out with old friends.  Guess what?  I feel like cleaning my house from top to bottom.  Maybe I’ll watch a Lifetime “men are evil” movie and thank my lucky stars for my husband, who may not say “You complete me” out loud but shows me in a million subtle ways that I do.  When my kids are fighting and doing their best to make me lose my marbles, I’ll attack them with kisses and get them on the ground for a good ol’ tickle fight.  No feelings of inadequacy, no guilt, and no yelling.

Until I have to spend 12 hours alone in the car with them, anyway.

The Leaning Tower of Rapunzel

Okay, so I decorate cakes.  And they’re pretty good, if I do say so myself.  See here and here. Well, sometimes I have a cake disaster.  Those sometimes are inevitably when I am making a cake for my own kids.  Last year it was a Darth Vader head. Well, it was Darth Vader’s head if it had gotten stuck in a compactor of some sort.  The proportion was all wrong, not tall enough.  My son made the best of it.  I also made a very cute giant cupcake which fell over in the car.  Total loss, although my kids and the cat did enjoy some salvageable scraps straight out of the trunk.

My daughter turned 8 this week and wanted a Tangled birthday cake.  The tower, with Rapunzel hanging out the window by her hair.  I had to object.  I could do Rapunzel in the window with the hair hanging out the window.  She reluctantly agreed.  So I stayed up all night, literally no sleep, and I worked on it. And I discovered a few things.

1.  Rice crispy treats are wonderful and should always be used when trying to defy gravity.
2.  A mixer with a dough hook is an excellent way to make marshmallow fondant.
3.  Faces and people are impossible to make freehand out of fondant.  Not for everyone, but definitely me.

Okay, so I used rice crispy treats for the base of the tower but not the top.  I used a cupcake.  Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.  I knew it was going to be a problem, so I didn’t attach it until it was time for the party.  It didn’t matter.  It leaned and eventually fell off.

The Leaning Tangled Tower of Rapunzel

In the above picture, you can see the long hair draped around the distressed castle.  Alas, that’s all you see of dear Rapunzel.  I tried desperately to make a fondant version of the damsel but every new attempt looked worse than the first.  She went from looking like an old hag to looking like Marty Feldman.

Can you imagine that with long flowing blonde hair looking out at you from a fairy tale tower? I think not.  When I told Molly there would be hair but no Rapunzel, she was less than happy.  She insisted that I could use what I came up with.  I willingly showed her my Marty Feldman Rapunzel and she said, “Well, maybe just the hair.”  Smart girl.

Of course, I now realize I could have printed out a picture and traced it on a hunk of fondant, painted it, and stuck it in the window.  But after being up all night, I was tired, disgusted with myself, and not thinking clearly.  Oh well.  I think it turned out okay and dear Molly begrudginly settled for my sub par work was happy.

Tangled Tower Cake

All in all it was a good birthday.  She had a slumber party with just the girls.  She insisted her brothers be shipped off to Nana’s because “they’re annoying and Billy tries to kiss my friends.”  Billy is 5 and cute as a button.  Honestly, don’t you want to kiss him?

Hey, girl. Wanna make out?

The next day, we had a pool party with the brothers, who did annoy the girls.   As far as I know, there was no kissing.  Molly blew out her candles and cake and ice cream were consumed.  It was a nice party and it took me a day and a half to recover.

Molly blowing out the candles on her topless tower.

Two birthdays down. Only three more to go.

My Old Kentucky Home

Life in Georgia is good.  The winters are warm, the people are nice, and I live in a safe community with decent schools.  I have a husband who loves me even when I don’t deserve it, smart beautiful children, and maybe the best in-laws in the history of existence.

Easter 2011. They're not frowning, just squinting because of the sun.

I also attend a wonderful church, which has been a great blessing.   I have always felt loved and accepted, even when I was new and too shy to talk to anyone. I think when I finally started talking, they were shocked.  I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, as the saying goes, and that comes as a great surprise coming from someone who has barely said a word for two years.  Once the conversation started, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with these very special people.  I’ve learned from their humor, insight, and even their pain.  They love my children and spoil them rotten.  They are my Georgia Family–grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and my dear friends.  I love them, absolutely and without exception.

But I miss my Kentucky family.  My flesh and blood family.

I miss my 83-year-old, slightly ditzy grandma. The crazy old lady that used to get my notoriously late-sleeping brother out of bed with cold water or by dragging him out of bed by his feet.  The woman who cannot sit still and let an empty trashcan sit on the curb longer than 2 minutes after the garbage is collected or a coffee cup sit on a counter for longer than 10 seconds before she’s putting it in the dishwasher, whether you’re finished with it or not.  The girl who didn’t date boys who didn’t have the ration points for gas and had no qualms about hitching a ride with a truckload of sailors on leave.  My grandma, who is the most forgiving and faithful woman in the world and who taught me what it means to be a true Christian woman.  Time is running short and I’m terrified I may not see her again.

I miss my aunts and uncles.  The aunt that, when it snowed, would smear my red lips, nose, and cheeks with chapstick if I came within arm’s reach.  The same aunt who took pictures of my baby hiney because she thought nothing was more precious than an infant’s chubby behind and she was right.  My other aunt who made saying the sentence, “I don’t like spiders” a reason to burst out laughing.  The uncle who respects his mother’s opinion so much, he has hidden his smoking habit from her his entire life.  The other uncle who loves cooking shows, turtle soup, and above all, his nieces and nephews and all their children.  The aunts I haven’t seen in years and the uncle I’ll never see again.

I miss my cousins.  Growing up, I lived two doors down from 3 of my cousins.  One who ate onions like apples .  Another who I always think of with a swirly even though he’s a military father of four beautiful daughters and a long anticipated son.  And the one who chopped off the baby curls it took me two years to grow, who let me watch movies with him, and basically tail along behind him for most of my early childhood.  The other cousin who loaned me his purple Skidz because I loved them so much, who always made me laugh, and who is now battling a chronic and debilitating disease.  His brother, the clown, who loved mashed potatoes more than any kid I’ve ever seen.  And all the others who share the same precious memories of loud chaotic family get-togethers and summer days spent in an apple orchard, a car port, at the creek, or in a gully.

I miss my nuclear family–the original four.  My mom, who doesn’t take crap from anybody, who sings like an angel, and who can do absolutely anything she sets her mind to.  My dad, the foodie and workaholic, who kicks butt on Jeopardy and who loves it when a plan comes together.  I even miss my brother, the spoiled brat who never had to do any housework, who is too smart for his own good, and who, without fail, has a smart-alec remark for everything.  I miss his beautiful children and it breaks my heart that our kids are missing out on the shared memories of cousins.  The memories that bind a family together, reminding us of what’s important, even when times are hard.  The memories that keep those who are gone alive and present in our lives.  The memories that make us who we are.

Finally, I miss my best friend, who is also my cousin.  My soul mate.  We are different in a lot of ways, but none that matter.  We share the same insecurities and struggles, we know exactly what the other is thinking, we complete each other’s sentences, and we share the same memories.  We know why the word, “hunkered,” is the funniest word in the English language.  We know that it is possible and so easy to laugh so hard that it hurts and makes breathing impossible.  We know that it’s important to put enough distance between two people when walking down stairs so that their heads won’t knock together.  We know that the best gift in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is two turtle doves.  We know that two girls traveling in the back seat of a car leave behind a lot of stray hairs.  We know that body suits are the most sentimental and grown-up articles of clothing. We know that it is ridiculous to think a man’s arms are sexy. We know that people who actually go to school every single day in their senior year of high school are chumps.  We know that it is an excellent idea to ride around in a van full of boys you barely know. We know you should never say in front of a little brother what you don’t want broadcasted to a visiting friend.  We also know that sometimes we will get on each other’s nerves and say or do something incredibly insensitive but that it doesn’t matter because we will always forgive each other.  Together, we know everything.  We are kindred spirits, bosom friends, partners in crime, two of a kind.

Best Friends in Gatlinburg, Tennessee a million years ago.

I have been missing my family so badly for the last couple of weeks. Visits home are rare and so short, it’s impossible to see all the people I want to see.  I desperately want to spend a couple of weeks at home to see old friends, visit old haunts, and just be in the place where I grew up.  I want to be where everybody knows everything about me.  I want to see hills again.  I want to sleep in my old bedroom in the log house.  I want my old Kentucky home.