Presenting… The Unpluggable Beast! \(˚o˚)/

The toilet…

… is plugged.

NOOOOOO! \(˚o˚)/

The beast glared at me, daring me to try the plunger that has, for two years, proved useless against the beast’s might. Formed in an oval, curved shape that could only have been designed by a maniacal madman, the bowl is resistant to any attempt to get a seal with the rubber plunger. What happens, instead of the plug dislodging, is the water burps and sloshes on either side of the rubber ring where the rubber and porcelain fail to meet. No effort of mine, however vigorous and determined, is ever successful. Only Sackett Man, my plumbing hero, has ever beaten the beast.

It chose its timing to strike well.

The disassembled remains of our basement bathroom mocks me with its silent, ghostly voice. To fix the water leak that happens every spring in the only finished room in the entire basement, Sackett Man has torn the bathroom down (walls and all), and jack-hammered up the raised concrete pad that housed the floor drain (which meant if a water flood happened, the water would have to be at least three inches deep before it could even reach the floor drain). Bags of cement wait in the garage for him to mix and pour a new, even floor, with a drain low enough to actually drain. A carpenter is on standby, ready to rebuild the walls. Other tools and materials for fixing the water leak are ready. Waiting.

But for now… there is nothing. Nothing but a room-sized, gaping hole in our basement floor. Bare dirt. A silent testament to what was and what will be.

There is only one toilet in the house now. One, for the use of a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy and her desperate, hourly trips. One, for the use of two potty-trained children, who often need to use it at the same time.

One.

And it plugged.

It was only 10:30 this morning when it happened. My mind raced. What could I do? I was facing an entire day, with little kids, with no working toilet!

It is in the 50’s today, bright and sunny, but did I dare send my two sons outside every time nature called, into the mud and melting snow? Did I dare go outside, every hour, hiking entirely too far to get to our woods so that I could answer ‘the call’ in privacy, beyond the curious eyes of three little kids and the many windows of our house? I couldn’t hike that far. I’ve had three false labors already; I didn’t need to have the real one out in the woods!

No. While my oldest could stand on the edge of the deck, my second was too young yet… I didn’t want to think what the state of his pants would be!

What else? I could throw aside all shower rules and have them go in the shower. It had a drain, and could be easily cleaned. I was pleased with this solution. No muss, no fuss. But then my eldest posed a very dark and disturbing question: What about… number two?

Oh no. There was no plan for this. No good way to fix it. What about Two? That was NOT happening in my shower!!! I couldn’t see any good way of having the two little ones going outside for it, either. Not in the mud and barely-melting snow, and we certainly didn’t want a surprise of that sort in our yard when spring really, truly came!

I could line a pail or a bucket with plastic bags, but then I would have to help them perch by holding them up above the bucket so they didn’t fall in. Kids are heavy. Not pregnant, I could do this. Nine months pregnant? This was not a good plan. I scratched it immediately.

And then it came to me. The potty chair! The one we had put away months and months ago! The boys could easily use that! And if I lined the bowl with a bag, that would make any cleanup the easiest thing ever!

With more delight than a scientist discovering renewable, unending world energy, I set about my task. I made my single trek downstairs to the basement (my doctor has limited me to stairs once a day). I found the potty chair, brought it up, and cleaned the dust from it. I lined it lovingly with a plastic shopping bag. I set it gently against the wall in the bathroom, and put the free-standing toilet paper holder beside it with great care. I took blue painter’s tape and taped the toilet-beast shut. And then I called in my two-member troop of boys, and explained to them what to do when they needed to go. I was met with approval, but not the applause I was hoping for.

Oh well. I thought. Someday, when they are grown and have children of their own, they will understand.

Silently, I cheered.

The toilet, unpluggable beast that it is, thought it had finally beaten me. But I have risen victorious and found a way.

The day may be long. The hours will not be the easiest. But we will survive.

And when evening comes, so too shall Sackett Man, riding up the driveway in his noble green pickup.

With his toilet auger.

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Call Me the Dancing Panda

I’m a mother of three. Soon to be four. I’m short. When I picture myself (aka my body, not my face) I see Rachel Luttrell— short but fit and hard, curved and slender, and then I walk past a mirror and go “AARGH!!!”

I do yoga and bollywood. My 3 year old giggles. (I choose to believe this is because he’s 3, and not because I look like Po the panda trying to do kung fu.)

I used to be a dance teacher during my college years. I weighed 124 pounds of fit muscle when I got married at age 18. Then I did full-time college plus worked two jobs. My time to devote to staying that physically fit dwindled to nill. Then I began struggling with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which played havoc with my weight), and THEN I started having kids.

In today’s day and age it’s really hard to maintain a good self image. Even during my dancing years it was hard; I have curves where most dancers don’t. I’m curvy up top and generously endowed in the back. My thighs have never, ever had a gap between them and I’ve never been able to wear boots that go higher than my ankles; my calves have always been too thick. Being around stick-thin girls with bird-bones and barely-there curves made me feel big, even though I wasn’t.

I wear size 12 pants. My stomach has stretch marks running up and down from my ribs to my hips. My hips and legs look like Chel’s from “El Dorado.” I’m a 38D. I have Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis), so I always seem to have bald spots or thin patches in my eyelashes.

My toes are stubby.

But you know what my boys tell me? That I look like a princess. My daughter loves to hold my cheeks with her little 18 month old hands, and after looking at me with large, shining eyes, she kisses me and says “Uv U” and “P’tty.”

Sackett Man thinks it’s the best thing ever when I decide to do bollywood. Sweat, tangled hair, Po the panda doing Dancing Goddess and all. He usually reserves a seat on the couch for the 45 minute show.

Why am I writing about this right now? Because of this blog right here, by Nicole Jankowski, which hit me right where most women feel the most vulnerable. Our self image.

Everything telling us we’re not pretty enough, or doing enough to take care of ourselves? Doesn’t matter. Yes, be healthy. Yes, take care of yourself. And listen to those who live with you and actually SEE you. Every day. That new beauty article can’t see you. Your computer doesn’t care. Those big-time designers, whose clothes almost no one can wear, can’t see you and don’t know you.

Your husband, your kids? They know you. They see you. And I’ll bet they wouldn’t want you any other way than just the way you are.

“Stories of Our Children: Part Two”

We may not have been ready before to become parents, but after our little lost one, we were more than ready.

We began trying soon after for another child, with no success. I have always had some problems with hormone levels, which meant that I have always worried that I would have trouble conceiving. Three years passed, trying to conceive, and failing. During that time I learned I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, a confirmation for me that there was something wrong with me. I was broken.

I struggled. At times I had such feelings of brokenness, inadequacy, and failure, a sense of something being broken and wrong with me inside, as though I’d been made wrong. Sackett Man was always there, no matter how up or down I was, loving me and encouraging me. I thank God every day that He gave me Sackett Man as my husband; without him, I don’t know what I would have done.

Then came news, deep in the middle of winter, that would change our lives. We learned that one of Sackett Man’s relations was expecting a baby boy. She didn’t feel she was ready to be a parent, to be the kind of mother she wanted her child to have. She was still young, still unsure of where she wanted to go with her life. Her then-ex boyfriend was also not in any position to raise a child. She wanted her child to have a stable, Christian, married father and mother, with a good and steady home, who she felt would raise the child as best as possible. So she decided to put her child up for adoption.

The moment she told us about her decision I felt an instant connection that I didn’t fully understand. I ignored it, and we supported her the best we could, but it quickly became a matter of desperation for me. After our loss, I could not imagine giving up your child. She remained fixed on adoption, and my feeling of desperation increased; all I could think was that another child was going to be lost. I knew it sounded irrational, and tried to fight against it, but finally I told Sackett Man that I thought we should offer to adopt her child. At first he was against it, worried about the adverse affect it could have on the family relationships. Would it be too awkward for her, when we visited? Would she have a hard time letting go? Would there be trouble if she still felt maternal urges even as we tried to be the baby’s parents? Were we ready for such a big step? I didn’t know; and at that point, I didn’t care. The connection I felt was so strong, as if it were my child she was carrying. All I knew was that if she was serious about going through with adoption, then I wanted him, with a passion.

For two months we prayed and talked, and I cried. She was nearing her seventh month, and we still hadn’t asked. I felt like time was running out.

And then it happened: she asked us. She had been hesitant, she said, because she didn’t want to create an awkward situation for us… but then she thought about how much we wanted a family and how hard it had been for us, and she finally decided it was better to ask and leave it up to us.

It was such an answer to prayer! I laughed and then I cried. We said yes!!! Absolutely, we wanted to adopt!

I thought that would be it, we would move forward with all of the legalities and red tape and in the end we would have a son. If only I had known. The ex-boyfriend still hadn’t even consented to adoption. If he did, then he had to consent to us being the adoptive parents. They lived in a different state than us, so we had to comply with two separate states’ adoption laws. We still had to be evaluated and looked into in order to receive approval for adopting. We had to find lawyers. We had to figure out if we needed just lawyers (since it was an in-family adoption) or if we had to go through two adoption agencies and lawyers.

Then one evening in late summer we got a phone call. She was going to look into other families, because she was too afraid that if her ex-boyfriend found out we were the adoptive couple, he would back out of the adoption deal altogether (because then she would have the upper hand, so-to-speak, since we are her family).

I have rarely felt such horrible desperation and anger. We thought that the ex had known about us; to find out he was okay with adoption, but hadn’t been asked about us, was a complete shock. We prayed, begged, and waited. I went from being completely fine (because I refused to think about it) to being a complete mess. I ranted and raved between bouts of tears.

A week later we got another call. She had decided to brave her ex-boyfriend’s unpredictable nature, and told him. Not only did he agree to us being the adoptive parents, he was excited about it! He had met us and gotten to know us the previous Christmas, and actually felt relief because he knew us. His child was not going to disappear into the void, given to some strangers.

At this point we only had three weeks to finalize all of the legal details, go through a home inspection, get approved, and get ready for a new addition to our lives. I went into a nesting phase to end all nesting phases; my office was completely emptied of everything. I swept, mopped, and then got on my hands and knees with a toothbrush and a sponge and scrubbed until you could have eaten off that floor. I cleaned the walls. My mom gave me a dresser she’d had in storage and the baby bassinet she’d carefully stored in her attic for years. I cleaned it all and set it up in the room. I added a changing table and a rocking chair.

And after those two  days I turned to the rest of the house, whether it needed it or not.

Being a family adoption, we learned that the process would be naturally faster. And we only needed lawyers, no adoption agency, which sped everything up even more. The home inspection was all of one hour long. The inspector, before she left, assured us that– although she had to submit the paperwork– our approval was pretty much guaranteed. Another blessing from God!

The same day, that same hour even, we got the call that our boy was born, eight pounds of long-limbed beauty! The moment the inspector left we threw our things into the car and drove three hours across the state line and to the hospital. I was shaking as we entered the hospital room. He was laying in his little hospital crib, sleeping, but the moment he heard Sackett Man’s voice he opened his eyes and searched the room until he found the source, and then he couldn’t stop looking at Chris. He quieted and snuggled into my arms whenever I held him. I couldn’t believe how beautiful he was, how big his eyes were, how his fingers curled around mine. I had been dreaming about him for three chaotic, crazy months, and now everything just stilled as we looked at each other.

We named him Roman.

I was a mother.

I was a mother.

We stayed with my in-laws that first week. I was honored and so, so happy when she (the bio. mother) let Roman come home from the hospital with me. I slept in a twin bed by his crib, and I fed him with a bottle throughout the night.

Needless to say, that first night was long. He woke up every hour and a half, and finally I just pulled him into bed with me and wrapped him in my arms and held him close. Then he slept. He’d just wanted me.

I quit working full time, to stay home, and I was so happy! Roman fit into our lives as though we’d had him ourselves. I couldn’t believe how natural it was; our lives had been turned upside down in a matter of months, but we couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

Three months later we had the final inspection (that insured that we were being good parents and that Roman was thriving), which lasted all of ten minutes, and then we went to court and the papers were signed off and filed. Roman was officially ours.

All we ever wanted was our own child. God answered our prayer in a wonderful, beautiful way.

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Chocolate Therapy

It’s eight in the morning, and I’m here at my table, having watched the sky grow from dark to blushing pink to blue (thank you, baby daughter, who got me up so early). I am finishing up the comic for my nephews today, and wrapping the last gifts for the last extended family gathering, which will be had at my house. I am also going to indulge in some fantastic cups of indulgent, velvety, rich homemade hot chocolate. Why? Because I’m nervous, and nervous = chocolate therapy.

“Why are you nervous?” One might ask. “So far it sounds like you’re just doing art, which you do all the time anyway, and having some family over. What’s the big deal?”

Well, tomorrow, early in the morning, my husband is having knee surgery. I know that isn’t the biggest thing in the world; not the most dangerous, or most fearful. But he’s never had surgery before. He’ll be out for it, and intubated (“Just in case”, the doctor’s say. That’s not very reassuring.), and then out of commission for two weeks. I’ll need to make sure our two boys (5 and 2) don’t leap on him or bump his legs during that time.

And I’m his wife. It’s my job to worry about him.

He’ll be fine; probably the hardest part, for him, will be the two weeks of inaction. Sackett Man is a man of movement. He’s always doing. So not doing is probably going to give him a worse case of Cabin Fever than our -45˚ weather ever could.

It’s only -10˚ today, by the way. We’re having a hot streak.

My mom is graciously watching our boys tomorrow (I’m keeping the baby girl), so that I can be with Sackett Man. Thank you, Mom!

And today: today I am mixing up my homemade hot chocolate mix. And having some of it. It’s really the EASIEST thing in the world to make, and it’s so, so good!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

3 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

2 1/4 cups Cocoa Powder (I use Dutch Cocoa)

1 1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container, and mix.

Add 2 Tablespoons to a cup of hot water, and then added a splash of milk at the end (like one does for coffee). YUM!!! Garnish as you wish: with nothing, or marshmallows, or whipped cream… you get the idea.

NOTE:

If you want to have just a little bit to try (who wants a tub of something they don’t like?) then do these amounts:

1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

2 1/2 T Cocoa Powder

1/8 tsp Salt

This will give you a good amount for sampling purposes.

Then if you like it, you can make the tub!