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Monday, May 16, 2011



The past two years since Jaeli was born with complex medical conditions has been a tough two years. We're approaching her second birthday and I wonder where time has gone, who I am. Caring for a rare chromosome disorder child who is sick often has a way of doing that to you.

I spent most of 2010 in and out of the hospital with her, dropping everything in a moment's notice to drive to Children's Hospital Boston, where she gets her care when anything requiring an IV comes into play. She is the tough-stick queen and I can't thank enough Sesame Street's free educational videos on iTunes for getting her through tough procedure after tough procedure. This year has been a wonderful one so far. She's been sick lots, but all her sicknesses have been treatable at home.

It's difficult trying to figure out who I am now after all I've been through with Jaeli and the medical world. Writing is emotionally hard. Trauma has stretched its tentacles farther than it was supposed to.

Now that we're home more, we're looking at the house more. Jim put up some siding. It's nice to see. But we know the rest of the house needs to get finished. We're considering getting a loan.

The reason we started building without loans, to be debt-free, was because we had no other choice. OK--we did have a choice: take out a loan, default because we didn't have enough income to pay the monthly bills, and go to collections. I don't see that as a choice. It's unwise and being a bad steward. Sometimes, though, being a good steward means getting a loan. We have kids we're stewards of, and our trailer is telling us its time is short, especially with Jaeli now crawling.

We're better able to sustain a loan now that Jim runs the business he once worked for. It's a good thing: After Jaeli started going to Boston for treatment, we had to replace our car, and we bought new--first time ever--to have a reliable four-wheel-drive. Still, the economy is tough, he's a only a few years in as owner, and it's hard to know how things are going to go. The wrong kind of weather can significantly dampen his income.

Is getting a loan a dramatic shift from where we started six years ago? I don't think so. If we could afford it six years ago, we would have. And sought to pay it off as fast as possible to get out from under the debt. I could have resigned six years ago that debt-free, no loans was THE way to go for us, based on "this is what my life is now so this is what God must want." The hardships along the way, especially all those encountered with my youngest daughter, have taught me not to count things as fixed. I reserve that for Jesus and God's mandates. Anything else can change, and if it does, I need to shift. That goes for family, health, finances, plans... everything.

Jim called the local supply store the other week to get an estimate on how much it would cost us--at Jim's contractor prices--to finish the house.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The Silver Peg

We've been using the chore board and ladder discipline system on and off for over three years now. I've discovered my kids won't follow the Daydo list, and the allowance system was too much to keep track of so we abandoned it, but the chore board and ladder has become a staple.

We fell away from the board for the better part of the last year while I tended our infant in and out of the hospital throughout multiple medical issues, but I've been increasingly disgusted with the messes everyone is leaving for me to clean. I decided this week to revamp the board.

It needs to be replaced, torn up from one of my kiddos who purposely destroys it with his peg when he's unhappy about moving down the ladder, but it's good enough to start back on.

I got new pegs to replace the missing ones, making sure I had enough different colors for each kid, and decided to use the All Boys, All Girls, and Everyone pegs much less, changing out some of their neutral colors. I set the board, conscious I couldn't assign everything that needed to be done. Then I took off the obsolete pegs except one, the silver peg that was left from the former Everyone color. I set the ladder, then called everyone over to view the board and ladder reinstatement.

A few whined they were down the ladder, but I reminded them of their recent behavior and failure to do their verbally assigned chores.

"How can I go up the ladder, then?" they whined.

"By doing all your chores on time." I answered.

"But how else can I go up the ladder?"

I realized that by doing only set chores, it would take a few days for them to get up the ladder. They realized it too, and it was making them already discouraged. I looked at the board, remembering an article I'd read a week before about one family who assigned value to chores to earn shiny marbles and how their kids scrambled to do them. The silver peg shined back at me. I got an idea.

I took the silver peg and plugged it into Clean Litter Box, something only one of my older kids has done a handful of times. I wanted to see if the silver peg was enough of a lure. If any of them would clean the litter box, I knew it would work longterm.

The kids looked at it and said, "What's that for?"

I replied, "Anyone who does a silver peg chore, gets to go up the ladder."

To my shock, my seven-year-old son ran to retrieve a bag and the litter box scoop and began doing it while the others were still staring at the peg. Then the eight-almost-nine-year-old joined him to help sweep litter off the floor. Both went up the ladder one.

"What's the next silver peg chore?" they asked. Bags of backed up unfolded laundry came to mind, so I set the silver peg on Fold Clothes.

This time the ten-year-old joined them and folded the multiple loads of laundry. Then it was on Clean Garbage Can, then Clean Bathroom, then Vacuum. The oldest, 15-year-old IJ, who at first scoffed over the whole thing, saw how well they were going up the ladder and how he couldn't play video games because he was too far down. He picked up the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed the living room. Then he put it down to leave more vacuuming for someone else. By then, I'd found another silver peg and had plugged it into Clean Microwave. So he went and cleaned the microwave.

I was amazed. I am still amazed. I hadn't realized it, but our chore board had been missing an important component to make it really work: extra incentive. Now perhaps our board will go from being a good acquaintance to being our best friend. Thank you, Silver Peg.

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Friday, January 01, 2010


Five Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, Jim was putting up house trusses and I made the first of my blog posts here at The Building Brows. If you had told me then that we would not be in our house yet five years out, I wouldn't have believed it. Since then, many things have transpired.

  • Birthed two children bringing our total to seven children
  • Built two additions onto our mobile home to accommodate our growing family
  • Had farm animals & given them away
  • Been adopted by a wonderful cat who had kittens then died
  • Leveled land
  • Cleared forest
  • Gone from worker to business owner
  • Built a business workshop
  • Endured the passage of puberty and entry into teendom with our first child.
  • And now we parent a child with a rare chromosome disorder who has required much.
Life is drastically different than five years ago. I'd like to think we're wiser and better, but I prefer not to be delusional or a fool.

Five years ago we began this venture to build our house without loans, not because we were prideful or arrogant, but because we knew the worker-roofer income did not support a year-round loan. We suffered ridicule and threats to report us to child services by "well-meaning" readers who insisted we neglected our children because we refused to provide bigger and better for our kids on their time frame.

Five years ago we couldn't see a recession coming, we only knew we needed to follow what God was telling us to do. Now that the recession is here and many are suffering great loss, I find us stable, no different than we've been these past five years except that we're in better position to finish our house now that Jim owns the business he used to work for.

Five years ago I would have run away if you asked me to stay here five years: I believed we'd be out of the mobile home by now. In five years from now, I don't think we'll be out. But I hope.

I welcome 2010, another year to build, living day by day in the moment with each moment a chance to start new.

Build well.

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