The Birds, the Bees, and the la la la la la!

For a brief second, I was at a loss as to what I was going to write, but then we went to our homeschool co-op today and life provided humor! As I have stated before, I have five kids and I homeschool all of them. Whatever your thoughts on homeschooling, I LOVE it! It allows me to be with my kids and teach them what we value and feel is important. A side benefit of homeschooling is that I have been able to preserve the innocence of my kids for longer than if they were in public school. When I was in public school, I learned about sex from friends in the third grade. Not that most of what I learned was correct, but I knew more than my kids do. My oldest is 12 and he still has no idea about the birds and the bees. I know, I know, we are going to talk to him about it soon, so calm down.

We moms were sitting around after lunch sharing stories, and the topic of talking to our kids about sex came up in conversation. I have all boys, I have a friend who has all girls, and I have several who have a mixture. From the time my kids were little, they have known that they have penises. I felt very strongly that they should know the anatomically correct word for body parts. Since I didn’t have any girls, I didn’t have to deal with the “other” word, because they were never questions about that. They simply knew that mommy didn’t have a penis. It never came up, I didn’t think it was necessary, and the idea of the word vagina coming out of my boys’ mouths kind of made me cringe! Anyway, we were sharing stories about how much our kids knew and one of my friends told us about a book that she was reading on this very topic. The book supported using the correct terms for body parts. Then she told us the story about when she first told her daughter:

She talked to her about God’s purpose for sex, how our bodies are made to work together, and the actual process of intercourse. She told her that a man puts his penis inside a woman’s vagina in order to have sex. This is where an understanding of the relationship between the parent and child of a homeschooling family has to be understood. Because our kids are with us 24/7, there is a comfortableness that our kids have with us. I am not saying that they see themselves as equals, but they definitely don’t hesitate to talk about any topic that comes up. I am also not saying that other families don’t have this same closeness, it is just pretty common with homeschoolers because of the amount of time we spend together. However, sex is a difficult topic to discuss no matter what. My friend was super proud of herself for having “the” discussion and was excited that she had successfully tackled the topic without making it embarrassing or extremely awkward. I told her that I was excited that it had gone well and that her story had really inspired me to go ahead and talk to my son.

THIS IS WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF!!!

She then looked at me with an expression that can only be described as terrified amusement and said, “Oh no, wait. There’s more!” She told that later that night she went to put her daughter in bed, like usual; they read, they prayed, she told her she loved her, then it happened. She was just about to shut off the light when her daughter looked at her and asked, “Hey, Mom? Is Daddy going to put his penis in your vagina now?” THIS!!! THIS IS WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF!!!! I can’t even IMAGINE!! What on earth do you say to that???? Seriously, think for a moment, can ANY of YOU imagine saying THOSE words to your OWN parents???? Just the idea makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. I mean, yes we all know that our parents do that….or at least they did as many times as they have kids, but THOSE words. NO! NO! NO! I am honestly not sure if at that moment I would have laughed hysterically (like you do when your having a mental breakdown) or if I would have maturely shoved my fingers in my ears and yelled, “LA LA LA LA LA” at the top of my lungs! My friend handled it much better! She must have had a moment when the heavens opened and God poured wisdom onto her like a ray of sunshine out of a pure cloudy sky, or maybe it was like the dove of wisdom landed on her shoulder because however much she wanted to run, scream, or laugh, she simply said, “Probably not right now,” and left. Later, she explained that that isn’t really a question that is okay to ask adults.

Ugh!!! Why is this topic so difficult to talk about with our kids??? My husband asked me the other day, “Do you think our kids will ever figure out why we lock the door to our room sometimes?” My response was yes and now I am almost sure that when they do they will knock and then in their sing-songy little voices say, “What are you doing? Are you having sex??” And, of course at that point, we’ll be like, “Nope! Absolutely not! You just ruined it!” Then I don’t know if I should be happy that our kids will be okay with knowing that their parents have sex (how progressive) or seriously creeped out that my kids are OKAY knowing their parents have sex. I am pretty sure that it’s all a crap shoot!!

I blame my mother for my poor sex life. All she told me was ‘The man goes on top and the woman goes underneath.’ For three years my husband and I slept in bunk beds. –Joan Rivers

A Life Measured in Dogs

This is our dog, well one of our dogs. Her name is Josie, actually Lady Josephine of Barkingham Palace and she is currently helping me write my blog post. The great T. S. Eliot wrote the line, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” in his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I LOVE Eliot, but I, personally, measure my life in dogs! If you are a dog person, then you probably understand what I am talking about.

The great T. S. Eliot wrote the line, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” in his poem The Love Song of  J. Alfred Prufrock. I LOVE Eliot, but I, personally, measure my life in dogs!

When I look back and think about my childhood, I remember by beloved beagle/basset hound mix named Nipper (don’t judge! I was 2 when I named him and my parents let me name him on my own.) Nipper was my faithful companion for 16 years. That’s right! That blessed mutt lived for 16 years! When we finally had to put him down, I was an adult. Nipper had been the pet that had been with me when I played on my swing set, when I got a new baby brother, when friends were mean, when I went through dreaded puberty, when I started dating, and even when I met and started dating my husband! As I watched my sweet puppy Nipper take his last haggard breath, it wasn’t just my childhood playmate that died, but also my childhood. Nipper was the pet that marked that chapter of my life. He is ingrained in most of my childhood memories!

After my husband and I married and moved into the first home we rented, it was only a few years until we adopted a sweet little beagle/rat terrier mix. My husband, who had never had his own dog, named her Posey. Posey was our first “child”. Posey was adorable! She slept in our bed and went everywhere we did! We took her to our parents’ houses, to hotels, on day trips. Posey was with us when we moved into the first house that we owned! She snuggled with me when I was pregnant with our first son. When our oldest was born, she LOVED him. He would feed her from his high chair and they were the best of friends…that is until he became mobile. She didn’t love him very much after that. In fact, Posey in her senior years didn’t love any of our kids. She preferred to hang out in the basement until they went to bed, then she would come up and hang out with us. We lost Posey this fall. My husband and I both wept like babies. It was sincerely a hard loss. She had been through so much of life with us. And another chapter closed.

Nessie the big brown dog that we had when I lived at home and Posey our adorable little puppy.

Before Posey died, about three years ago, we adopted a perfect dog named Jack-Jack. We adopted Jack for our boys. I thought that they needed a dog that was young enough to romp and play with them. Jack-Jack is a big dog! He is part Shepherd and part lab, a perfect mix if you ask me! Jack is as close to perfect a dog as I have ever met! We adopted him at 6 months old and he came potty trained. He LOVED our boys right away! He will fetch a ball as many times as you will throw it! Jack is often found curled up with someone in the recliner or couch. He thinks he is a giant lap dog.

Jack loves to take walks and is gentle enough that my youngest has been able to hold his leash since he was three. Jack never pulled him down! Jack is a great watch dog and lets us know right away if anything sounds out of place in the house or if someone happens to drive into the driveway. He is a smart dog and has learned commands without much training at all. Jack is the dog of my sons’ childhoods. He is the dog that my children will mark their childhoods by. He is the dog that I will mark their childhoods by.

Our youngest walking Jack-Jack when he was just three.

Josie is our newest dog. We added her in July when Tim and I decided that our boys needed to experience a puppy. Josie is the only pure bred dog we have ever had. She is a blue heeler, except that she is almost completely white. Josie is the bratty little sister of the pack! She is spunky and feisty and has been difficult to potty train, but she is another dog that will mark the childhood chapter of my children. When they look back at their childhood, Jack and Josie will be in most of their memories!

It isn’t just the dog that we are grieving, but also the chapter of our lives that the beloved pet marks.

If you have ever had to say good-bye to a beloved puppy companion, you know that the pain and sorrow are serious. The grief can be crippling and deep. It can mirror the grief we feel when we lose a friend or family member. Non-dog people will not understand the depth of that grief. It isn’t just the dog that we are grieving, but also the chapter of our lives that the beloved pet marks.

I have had many pups: Nipper, Rory, Nessie, Posey, Tilly, Dixie, Penny, Jack-Jack, Bailey and Lady Josephine. Each one of these pups holds a special place in my memory. They each mark a special part of my life. Seven of those chapters have closed. The beauty is that as a chapter closes, we begin to write another. With each new precious pup that comes into our lives, a new chapter is opened. I believe firmly that dogs are a gift to us from God. He designed them to be our wonderful companions and to help teach us about unconditional love! Truly, no one has experienced unconditional love until they have been greeted by the body wagging, tongue lolling, excited barking of a pup when you come home! What a gift! There’s no way that greeting can’t make any day you’ve had better!

My fashion philosophy is, if you’re not covered in dog hair, your life is empty. –Elayne Boosler

Sometimes Life is a Table

This past summer, my husband, Tim, finally made the table that I have been planning for two years.  We have recently become a family of seven and I wanted a BIG, HEAVY table that would not be moved by bumping. I had spent months researching and pinning all types of designs and now we were going to see the design come to fruition.  I HAD A PLAN!

There is a big barn on our property. Several years ago, we had removed some floor joists and I had my heart set on the table top being made out of those heavy, oak boards. Tim borrowed a friend’s planer and went down to the barn to haul up the boards.  Upon closer inspection, we noticed that the boards were one thickness at one end and a totally different thickness at the other end.

I LOVED the idea that my table would be made of wood salvaged from our barn!

This wouldn’t normally present a problem because we could just plane them down, but they were full of old nails. They were completely unusable.  To say that I had a high-speed come apart would probably be an understatement. This is the vision that I had for this table!! I LOVED the idea that my table would be made from wood salvaged from our barn! There were tears….lots of them. There was screaming and maybe even a swear word or two. See….this project had already had several snafus.  My loving husband ( I totally admit that I married a better man than I am a woman), had asked me what color I wanted to paint the legs and support frame of the table. I really thought that I wanted a glossy black, but then I changed my mind. Before I could tell him that I had decided to go with a different color, he built and painted the whole thing.   I hated it. I really, really hated it. I tried to keep that to myself, but when I found out that I couldn’t use the boards, well that information came spewing out of my mouth like a geyser. Of course, my husband, who had tried to make me happy was now completely caught off guard because I am telling him that I don’t like anything that he has done.  I was so frustrated that I did what any mature mother would do; I went to my room, closed my door, and cried hysterically on my bed. I felt horrible. My table dream was falling apart.

While I had been wallowing in my disappointment, he had been trying to salvage my table dream.

My loving husband braved my hysterics and came in and said, “ Hey, come out here. I have something I want you to see.”  While I had been wallowing in my disappointment, he had been trying to salvage my table dream. He had found some raw cut poplar that had been forgotten in the barn.  Tim had cut a few pieces and planed them down. The wood was pretty, but I couldn’t decide. I had been so sure, so set on having the table built from the salvaged barn wood. Tim, ever wanting to make me happy, simply told me that he would build the table and if I wasn’t happy with it, we would sell it and start over.  

My husband glued, clamped, sanded, hand planed, sanded, stained, polyurethaned, sanded, sanded, and sanded the table top until it was beautiful!!  I LOVED it!!! But I hated the legs. That shiny black paint just made the table horrible. Again, Tim said, “Let me see what I can do, if you don’t like it, I will rebuild it.”  He took the sander and sanded the legs and frame, stained the exposed wood gray, and polyurethaned them. They were beautiful!!! He fastened the table to the frame…..and it was perfect!!!  It wasn’t anything like I had planned, but IT WAS PERFECT!!!

That’s when God gently smacked me with a two by four of truth:  This table is my life. We all have plans for our lives.  I remember wanting to be a writer, marry the love of my life, have two kids, adopt kids from foster care when our youngest was eight, live a comfortable life, never have loss or struggles.  Instead, I became a teacher, I DID marry the love of my life, we lost our first pregnancy, had FOUR kids, are in the process of adopting PRIVATELY when our youngest is FIVE, we have a great life, but it can be hard.  

Suffering, hurting, struggling was NEVER in my plan, but in God’s plan, none of it has been wasted.

Yet, when I stand back and look at the project that we created, that table, all of the UNPLANNED aspects are what make it perfect. I think that when God looks at our life, he sees that what He has created is perfect for us.  Even though he has had to hand plane and sand away some of my rough edges. That has definitely NOT been in my plan. Suffering, hurting, struggling was NEVER in my plan, but in God’s plan, none of it has been wasted. It has all been used later on to provide comfort or guidance in our own lives or to help others.  

My perfect table that didn’t go to plan at all….reminded me of my perfect life that hasn’t gone to MY plan either.  I am grateful that God’s plan is ALWAYS better than mine!!

Life is all about how you handle Plan B! –Unknown

Sensational Sundays

Each Sunday I am going to try to highlight a few items that I think are sensational and that I LOVE!! These may be products, recipes, books, movies, or activities!

Today, I will be highlighting some Natural Oil Rollers that I use. These come from my friend’s store, Natural Cures and Creations http://naturalcuresandcreations.com/ . It all started with my horrible insomnia. My friend Ariel heard I was having problems and brought me a “Liquid Ambien” essential oil roller. It kicked my insomnia’s tush and I use it pretty much nightly now! Since then I have branched out and use many of her rollers: I have one for headaches, one for stuffy nose that I use with the kids a lot, and a “Happy Mama” roller that I love so much I use it as my perfume!! My personal experience with the natural oil rollers is that everything that I have tried has worked. They smell wonderful, don’t have harmful chemicals, and they are small enough that you can easily carry them in a purse, pocket, or glove box.

Natural Cures and Creations is a lovely shop and Ariel offers oils, specialty t-shirts, herbal teas, and many other natural products! If you’re within driving distance, I highly recommend the trip to see the shop. If you aren’t, then check out her online store. You won’t be disappointed!!

Nature itself is the best physician. -Hippocrates

10 Tips for a Happy Marriage

We all want a happy marriage! So many times, it’s the little things that cause the problems. I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are a few tips from our marriage in no specific order:

  1. Laugh a lot! Sometimes it is difficult, I know. But laughter really is the best. Life throws so much at us and there are times that it is difficult to laugh at it. Really though, life is too short not to laugh! If you can’t find something funny enough to laugh at in your life, than I highly recommend checking out Dry Bar Comedy on YouTube! Trust me! You’ll laugh!
  2. Sharing the blankets is hard! We have a queen size bed and it always seemed like someone was without covers. Now I sleep with my own sheet and quilt and so does he! We can both burrito ourselves and roll with the covers as much as we want. Problem solved!!! And for those of you wondering, “How do you make a bed like that?” See previous post: Lowering the Bar.
  3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! My husband always tells me, “Assume that I need you to spell it out for me!” Not that either of us are dumb, but we do communicate differently and have different expectations. Your partner is on your side….so share your thoughts with your spouse!
  4. Follow the same rules you expect of your kids! Be kind, don’t call names, if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all, etc. Pretty simple actually!
  5. Play! Play board games, play tag, have a Nerf gun war (tons of fun!), joke around, tell corny jokes, play chase, have snowball fights…just have fun! Fun is a huge component that most adults are truly missing in adulthood. Notice that all of the above mentioned, are free!!
  6. Don’t say no to sex. I know this one sounds difficult, but physical intimacy truly grounds a marriage and keeps us united. The more that you say no, the easier it is to continue to say no. The more you say no, the harder it is for your partner to ask. No one likes being turned down. Try saying yes. Every time. I promise you won’t regret it.
  7. Jobs should be done by each person. I always say that we are a team and it doesn’t work unless we are both pulling as hard as we can in the same direction. My husband does laundry, I take the garbage, we’ve both mowed the lawn. The point is that there aren’t “his” jobs and “her” jobs. He works full time. I work full time educating the kids. To get it all done, we pull together!
  8. Fart in front of each other. I really feel that this is essential. I mean, I live with 6 dudes, so my life is truly a gassy mess! But gas is funny! Which brings us back to laughing together. Oddly enough, ladies, most men are impressed by gas…no need to hide your talent!!
  9. Be together! Togetherness is important. In this busy, busy world we live in, it is easy to get lost in the busyness and forget to be together. Cook together, read together, study together, drink coffee together, fold laundry…mountains of laundry together, watch movies together, work on the car together, exercise together. If you can do it together, do it together. It helps you strengthen your connection.
  10. I know that some things on the list are seriously tongue-in-cheek…I mean we do them, but you don’t have to fart in front of each other to have a happy marriage. This last tip, however, is the most important. Pray for each other. There are several reasons that I say this: A. because in this harsh world of temptation and struggle, your spouse needs your prayers. Prayers of protection, prayers of safety, prayers of wisdom, discernment, and strength. B. The more you pray for your spouse, the more endeared they are to you. Let’s be honest, Jesus said pray for your enemies and some times it seems that is our spouse. However, Jesus, King of the world, knew that when we pray for someone it becomes increasingly difficult to see them as an enemy. Therefore, the more you pray for your spouse, the more you think of them first. The more you think of them first, the more you put them first. The more you put them first, the more you love them more than yourself. The more you love them more than yourself, the more you love them like Christ loves the Church, the more you respect them, the more your trust them. Isn’t that the goal?

Disclaimer: I am no marriage expert! I have been married for 17 1/2 years. I know more today than I knew when we married. I will know more in the next 17 years than I know today. Most of what we have learned has been trial and error. I love my husband more today, than I did the day I married him and more than I loved him yesterday. He is a wonderful man….I married up 🙂 These are 10 practices that we honestly do in our marriage and I do believe they contribute to our happiness, although I hate it when he does #8 in the car and locks the windows!

Lowering the Bar

Recently, I was at the dentist with my five children. Yes, you read that right, I have five children. Currently, they are 12, 9, 7, and two 5 year old boys. Anyway, we were at the dentist. My oldest was getting his teeth cleaned and the younger 4 were playing in the waiting area. A mom with two children came in and sat down next to me. As we were watching the herd of children play in the small area, she turned to me and said, “Do you have FOUR children??” The shock people experience at finding out that your family is larger than normal still amazes me….but that is a post for another time. “Actually,” I corrected her, “I have five…all boys.” It is at this point that the shock really takes over. The face is amazed, you hear the audible gasp, “Oh my! You have your hands full!” Well, of course, but don’t we all have our hands full, really?? She is quiet for a moment and then she looks at me and asks, “Do you mind if I ask you how you manage?” Now, I am not sure if she is thinking, “This chic has to have some awesome organizational tips” or if she is just wondering how I am not mad at this point, but I am sure she was hoping for a mind blowing response.

“You just have to learn to lower the bar.”

Unfortunately for her, I gave her my life’s best advice on the matter: “You just have to learn to lower the bar.” I realize that in today’s world of Pinterest parties and perfect Facebook vacation pictures that this is neither a common nor a popular philosophy, but it should be! With each child that comes along the ability to keep up the perfect standards we place on ourselves erodes. My house is NOT clean….ever. It is what I affectionately call clean-ish. I do my best! I have my kids pick up after themselves, but there are FIVE of them….FIVE. They outnumber me by 4! I leave the room clean and if each one gets out one toy, it is a mess again. Thus, I lower the standard of what I consider clean. Gone are the days of cleaning, leaving, and coming home to a clean house.

Laundry is another nightmare! When I think of laundry, 1. I want to throw up, 2. I am grateful that I don’t have girls who ( I have heard) change their clothes multiple times a day. CAN YOU IMAGINE??? I have at least two loads a day simply because everyone wasn’t naked. If they were changing clothes during the day, I would have four. I would NEVER catch up!! Who am I kidding? I am never caught up anyway! If I am being honest with you right now, I have 9 baskets of clean laundry in the basement that I have to fold. Hey! Don’t judge me! The holidays are a super busy time. Again, lower the bar! The expectation is CLEAN clothes. They are clean! The expectation is not FOLDED clean clothes. I used to feel horrible, but I do enough laundry for it to qualify as a full time job, so now I don’t.

My kids behavior is another good place where the bar must be lowered. Now this isn’t to say that I allow my kids to run around acting like little jerks, but they are also not going to be quiet in a restaurant or still at church. They will be quiet-ish and still-ish. There are five of them. That is a decent amount of sound even when they are talking quietly….and they don’t really come from quiet people, if you know what I mean. I guess I could harp on them and break their spirits and demand that level of behavior, but for me I would rather they be kind, compassionate, and full of grace than quiet and still.

My point is that we have ridiculous expectations for ourselves. Life is not perfect. It is messy, chaotic, and complicated. We must learn to prioritize the things in our lives that are most important. For me, folded laundry and matched socks are NOT IT. (SHHHHHH! A made bed isn’t either). There is only so much time that we are given; 525,600 minutes per year to be exact! For me, I want to choose to focus those minutes on building memories and relationships with those I love, instead of trying to have the perfect life. Having said all this, my challenge to you is: Embrace the movement! Lower the bar!

Action expresses priorities. –Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome!

Welcome and thanks for visiting my blog!!  My name is Laura (La) Cochran and I am Queen of the Cochran Castle.  My first post is supposed to tell you who I am. I find this to be difficult because who we think we are is typically how we categorize ourselves:  I am a former educator, wife of a science guy, mother and homeschooler of five boys, animal lover, book lover…you get the picture. But who am I?  Before my five wild and crazy boys entered my life, I was an avid writer. Then came motherhood and I became overwhelmed and under rested. Life has a way of getting away from you and becoming a place that we lose ourselves.  We become all of the THINGS that we DO instead of who we actually are. Life has given me a hilarious, chaotic, and adventure-filled palette that I am eager to share with you. I am just making it up as I go and trying hard to make sure my kids don’t talk about me too much in the inevitable therapy that we all end up in!  Jesus, family, fun, love, and togetherness are the fuel that drive my wild life.

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. — KURT VONNEGUT, Mother Night