Tag Archives: My Crazy Family

You want HOW MANY children?

Last night I was watching “18 Kids and Counting” – a TLC show about the Duggar family who have 18 children and are pregnant with their 19th.  All of the children are from the same parents and appear to be healthy, normal, and happy.  Their oldest son got married at 20 years old and he and his wife announced their own pregnancy within a few months.  Their child was just born, a few months before Michelle’s 19th child is due.  They are thrilled with all these children and believe they are a blessing from the Lord.  They don’t believe in birth control of any kind and feel that if they leave it totally up to the Lord, He will give them the number of children they need and nothing more than they can handle. 

When this show first came out, I watched it out of curiosity – judging them in my heart and feeling sorry for their poor children.  I felt it was a ludicrous concept and that Michelle Duggar was endangering her own health and the well-being of her children.  I was certain that many children would make it impossible for the parents to know each child and give the proper amount of attention to each one.  And I can’t forget to mention that they home school their children, the girls all wear skirts or dresses, they don’t watch television, and they have a home church.  I think all those things can make a family a little weird; however, every time I watched the show, something stirred in my heart and I found myself watching it the next week as well.  I now record it every week so I don’t miss anything. 

Surprisingly, I’ve found the Duggars to be one of the most sincere and healthy families I’ve ever encountered.  I know it’s a television show and they can edit out whatever they don’t want shown, but this family truly appears to get along with one another, to be well-educated and entrepreneurial, hard-working, creative, and sincere in their love for the Lord and their study of His word.  When asked to explain their unusual beliefs, they often say that this is the conviction of their family and not something they expect everyone else to do. 

Jim Bob Duggar, the dad, made a comment on a question and answer show last night that stunned me.  He said if he and Michelle end up having 20 children, and each of their children has 10 children, then there will be 200 grandchildren and the family will never be without young children toddling around.  It seems ridiculous – 200 grandchildren!? 

But then I think about how much I loved my younger brother when he was born.  I was almost eleven years old and I had no idea that I was capable of so much love.  He brought joy into our family in a way we never could have anticipated.  I adored him and stayed close to home in college to be near him.  And then our family had no babies for 21 years.  Christmas morning became rather boring – adults sleeping in and sitting around opening presents we’d often picked out for ourselves.  We played games and made everything look pretty, we went to movies, but we were working hard to amuse ourselves.  Then my sister had a baby – a beautiful little girl who brought immediate joy and laughter to our lives again.  She will be almost two years old this Christmas and we are all thrilled.  We can’t wait to make Christmas special for her.  She’s a constant subject of conversation and we can’t get enough of her.  A six-hour drive home feels like nothing when I know I get to spend time with that little princess.

I wonder how much joy and laughter we have missed because we think we have to wait for the perfect time, the perfect economic situation, the perfect amount of energy to have babies.  Michelle Duggar is in her early 40s and she isn’t slowing down one bit.  She is healthy and happy.  When she went on interviews early in her pregnancy and was asked how she felt, she joyfully said she was nauseous and that was a good sign because it meant the baby was healthy.  When they announced the news to their children, there was joy; none of them groaned or acted like now they were going to get less attention from their parents. 

Obviously not everyone can have 20 children.  Michelle Duggar is an unusual woman who is physically capable of having babies without difficulty and stared very young.  But I think there’s something to be said for the way they do things.  We are such control freaks in our society.  We want everything to be perfect and get out of sorts when we realize the inevitable –that life is messy.  We want to be able to buy designer clothes for ourselves and our children (when the Duggars seem perfectly happy to shop at thrift stores for much of what they need).  We want to fit nicely into a booth at a restaurant.  We want to keep things small and contained and under control. 

I find something beautiful in the lives of these people who have turned control over to God and trust Him to help them manage their humongous family.  Michelle is a very organized woman and she has systems in place for everything.  The older children help take care of the younger ones.  Everyone has chores.  They built their house themselves and made it an educational adventure.  If they didn’t know how to do something, they brought in professionals who were willing to work alongside them and teach them how to do it.  They are completely debt-free.  Their house stays clean because each child has regular chores they are expected to do.  They agreed to do a television show so they could be an encouragement to others, sharing the message that their faith sustains them and children are a blessing.  Sure, they get paid to do the show, which is a huge incentive.  They are creative in finding ways to sustain their large family and continue to be debt-free.

I’m not saying I plan to adopt their way of doing things, but I do think it’s an interesting and challenging point of view.  They seem to be doing it well and are an inspiration.  It definitely gives me something to think about.  Don’t expect me to start walking around in ankle-length skirts and perming my hair though.  And as for babies, there will need to be a husband first.  I’m mature enough to realize that this yet-to-be-seen husband will have ideas and opinions of his own.  But if that day ever comes and I’m married and pregnant, I promise to do my best to smile through my nausea and tell you joyfully that it means the pregnancy is going well.


Filed under Just Goofing Around

Carrying In Wood

When I was in elementary school, there were occasional Saturday mornings in winter when I’d get the dreaded knock on my door at 6am.  It was followed by the booming voice of my father…

“Get up! We’re carrying in wood.”

Groaning, I would drag myself from bed (never have been much of a morning person), bundle up, and complain (very, very quietly) with my sister about our dread over the task looming before us.

Our house was heated by a homemade wood-burning stove. My dad can make anything. He turned an old metal barrel into a stove and piped the heat through the whole house. We had a furnace room in the basement where the stove was, and one wall stacked with wood.

Outside the basement door, Dad stored wood for the whole winter. Inside the furnace room was enough wood for a month or so. “Carrying in wood” meant that we went outside, got an armful of wood from Dad, walked down the hall to the furnace room, and waited a few seconds for him to come in with his own load behind us. He put down his load, then took ours from us and stacked the wood neatly against the wall. Then we’d do it all over again.  And again.  And again…

Dad carried in massive pieces of wood. The wood was so heavy that as a little girl I couldn’t even push or roll it across the floor. When I tried to move it, it wouldn’t budge. But Dad carried in gigantic piece after gigantic piece without any effort that I could see. He was the biggest, strongest man in the world.

The oldest that my sis and I were when we did this chore would’ve been 12 and 9. We moved into that house when we were 5 and 2. Somehow Mom was excused from carrying in wood. I was just the tiniest bit jealous of her…

My memory is probably a little fuzzy here, but it seems like this chore took us at least four hours to accomplish. Those were the longest mornings of my life. Back and forth with that heavy load, wait for Dad, then do it all over again. And out of all the times we did that, I only remember taking one break. Probably because the break was so memorable.

I’m sure Katie (little sis) and I complained constantly as we were doing this task. Katie was pretty little, so one day she was excused to go upstairs and get us some drinks. She filled two big glasses with ice and lemonade, then very carefully made her way to the newly carpeted basement steps.  I happened to glance up at the top of the stairs just as she was getting there.

We’d recently been on vacation and a big suitcase on wheels was sitting at the top of the stairs waiting to be carried down.  In those days, rolling suitcases had a looped handle that you pulled and then tried to balance the suitcase on all four wheels as you walked (not the best concept; the suitcase was always falling over).  Much to my horror, as Katie rounded the corner to start down the steps, her little foot got caught in the suitcase strap.  It threw her off balance and she fell headfirst down the stairs.

Of course it isn’t funny to think of a little girl falling down the stairs…  Of course not!  However, if you knew how Katie sacrificed her body to keep those two glasses of lemonade from spilling on the new carpet, you might have to giggle just a little.  (Relax!  She’s okay in the end.)  I saw my little sister go flying headfirst down the stairs, hollering, with a terrified look on her face.  But the whole way down she held her arms out straight in front of her and perfectly balanced those two big glasses of lemonade as she bounced down the stairs.  Not one drop of lemonade spilled on the stairs until the bottom three steps!  Toward the bottom, she finally gave up the heroic effort and spilled the drinks, landing in a heap on the basement floor.

Oh, but that was not the end of her unfortunate experience.  Don’t forget about the suitcase that started this whole thing…  Yes, the suitcase that she caught her foot in was right behind her on the stairs, bouncing along behind her.  No sooner had she landed at the bottom than she was struck by the run-away suitcase. 

She cried and we comforted and we were all thankful that the long fall didn’t do much damage.  She was simply a little bumped and bruised.  Then Dad asked me what in the world happened and if I had seen it.  I felt so bad for her, but as I began to tell what had happened, a little giggle came out.  And then another one.  I tried so hard to tell what happened without laughing, but by the end of the story – especially when we all realized how successful she’d been at not spilling the drinks – we were all laughing.  Well, maybe Katie wasn’t laughing, but the rest of us were. 

I think it’s safe to say that we never left suitcases at the top of the stairs again.


Filed under Just Goofing Around, My Crazy Family

Emma Mildred

My maternal grandmother was a fun, mischievous woman and I have great memories of her.  We lived in the same small town for a few years when I was young and I got to spend a lot of time with her. I was thinking about her today and wanted to share a little about who I remember her to be.

Her name was Emma Mildred (Mager) Schoch.  I thought the name Emma was beautiful, but she couldn’t stand it.  She went by Mildred instead, a name I thought sounded like a “grandma” name.  I always thought it might be nice to name a daughter Emma in her honor, but is it honoring to name a child a name that was hated?  Hmmm…  And now Emma is such a common name that I’m hesitant to do it for that reason.  Not that I have any children on the way…  (Sigh.)

We lived really far out in the country when I was a kid.  It was about as rural as a place can be, with the slight exception that the church was built behind our house.  We burned a lot of our trash, but anything that didn’t burn got put in the church dumpster.  It wasn’t a fun task for my parents to haul the trash back to the church, so we worked out a deal.  Dad taught me to drive the car (I was eleven, but 5’8″ tall) and I drove the trash back to the dumpster.  This was a total distance of maybe 1/4 mile each way, on private property, but made me feel like a million bucks.  I loved it even though I probably never went over 15 miles an hour.

One day Grandma and I drove to the neighboring town.  I told her how Dad had taught me to drive and that I did it all the time, conveniently leaving out the part about only driving back and forth to the dumpster.  I begged her to let me drive us back home.  To my utter shock, she let me!!!  I got up to 55 miles an hour.  It was one of the best days of my life.  When Mom and Dad found out, they were horrified.  Poor Grandma.  She never scolded me for it though.  She seemed to thoroughly enjoy the adventure.

Since Dad was a pastor, we were in church A L.O.T.  I mean, A WHOLE LOT.  And we were Charismatic, so the services were no 45-minute walk in the park like you Baptists sometimes get…  There were services where we stayed long into the night, sweating and singing and praying.  We were there for every single one of them.  Not only were there long services, but afterward people needed to talk to Dad.  So my mom and sister and I waited and waited and waited.

Grandma felt sorry for us for being little girls in very long services.  Much to our delight, she always brought us BIG bags full of candy.  I thought I had hit the jackpot when one of those bags came out of her purse.  But Mom didn’t like us having all that sugar (we’ll rot our teeth!), so she put a stop to it pretty quickly.  Here’s the great thing about Grandma though…  She found sugar-free candy and this chocolate substitute called carob and filled bags with that.  I have to admit, I really didn’t like the fake stuff, but I don’t think I ever told Grandma.  I just smiled and took the bag because I loved it that she thought of us and brought us treats.  (By the way, the no sugar thing worked.  Neither my sister nor I have ever had a cavity!)

Grandma told me “grown up” things too, then begged me not to tell my parents.  One time she told me all about strippers.  She’d always thought they were really bad girls.  But she’d seen a TV program that explained that many of them were single mothers and college girls.  They had to do it to support their children or pay for college.  We had a big talk about what makes people do the things they do and how we shouldn’t judge until we understand the whole story.  I promised to play dumb if my parents ever mentioned strippers around me.  I think I’m released from that promise by now though…

Grandma told me that she’d had beautiful legs as a young woman and my legs reminded her of hers.  All I could see when I looked at her legs were varicose veins, but I realize now that she was trying to give me some much-needed confidence and make me feel good about something I felt very bad about.  I always thought my long legs were a bad thing because of comments others made about the need to cover them up.  Grandma saw my pain and sought to ease it without embarrassing me. 

We moved from Ohio to South Carolina when I was thirteen, which I don’t think she ever really appreciated…  I became a bratty, fourteen year old who avoided my parents at all costs and didn’t hug them unless it was required of me.  I remember the night my mom woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me my precious Grandma had died.  Grandma was fairly young – just 69.  She died very unexpectedly.  Mom came into my room, sat down on the edge of my bed, and told me the news.  Without thinking much, my heart went out to her.  I knew this had to be the hardest day of her life.  Instinctively I said, “Oh Mom…” and wrapped my arms around her.  We cried for a minute before I realized that I was too cool to hug my mother or cry in front of her.  Then we got up and started getting ready to leave for Ohio. 

It’s been almost 20 years since that happened and I still cry thinking of it.  My mom was sad for a long time after that.  It was hard for her to go to church because people would say things to her about it (out of love and concern) and it would make her cry all over again.  I was so sad for her, and sad for myself, but I didn’t know how to comfort her.  I didn’t want to mention it and make her cry again.  I realize now that I’ve never acknowledged the anniversary of Grandma’s death or said much to Mom about her since then.  I’ve been trying to spare her feelings, but unintentionally have probably come across like I don’t care or don’t miss her.  Yet I have often wished for her to be here and to see the woman I’ve become.  I think she would’ve cheered me on all the way. 

Mildred Schoch was a wonderful woman and an amazing grandmother.  She is missed.  I only wish I had had more time with her.


Filed under My Crazy Family

My Brain is Tired?

I’ve been under the weather for the last few days. How much TV can one person watch before they lose their minds?  It’s not much for me.  In my old age, I’m finding I have less and less tolerance for stupid story lines.  So I spent most of yesterday in bed, reading a book titled Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars.  It’s a business book, written as a fable, and a quick and interesting read.  Believe me when I say this…  I am not a big fan of most business books, but this one is good.  Even though it’s a good book, I was definitely surprised when I finished it in about three hours. 


In the preceding days, I’d also finished a book titled The Weight of Water and another one titled Redeeming Love.  Both of those books are novels that I’d been working on for awhile and was able to finish when I had the time to just sit and read.  I also finished reading the book that was recently published with an article that I wrote – God, Please Help Me through this Wilderness.  I hadn’t had a chance to read all the other articles in it yet and when I had the time, I read through them.  By the way, the other articles are really good and I had a great devotional time because of them.


I don’t think I’ve told anyone what I read and it never occurred to me to do so.  Then my sister called this morning.  When I told her I just wasn’t feeling right, but am not sure what’s wrong, she said,

“Well, maybe your brain is just tired from all that reading.” 

            “What?”  I replied, wondering if she’s installed hidden cameras in my house.  “I haven’t talked to you in days.  How do you know I’ve been reading a lot?” 

            Katie kind of laughed and said, “You didn’t have to tell me you’d been reading.  Some things never change.” 


What followed was a sincere attempt on my part to justify my reading, followed by her making fun of me for not watching Lifetime movies all day but reading a business book.  She thought I should at least be reading romance novels…  My sister was also quite amused at my shock that she knew I’d been reading.  I tried to tell her that there are months on end when I rarely pick up a book, but I guess that’s probably not true.  I’m always reading something. 


The thing is, there’s just so much to learn and so little time.  What better way to learn than to read?  How does a person get better at their job, at relationships, or at life if they don’t read?  My friend Reneé says one of these days she’ll catch me walking around with a pocket protector.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that the best place to stash a book you can’t find the time to read is in the bathroom.  J 


Thus, there will be a new section of my blog called What I’m Reading.  Not that any of you will care that much, but just in case you’re interested…



What I’m Reading:
Making Small Groups Work – Cloud and Townsend

The Weight of Water – Anita Shreve
Redeeming Love – Francine Rivers
God, Please Help Me Through This Wilderness – assorted authors (including me :-))DemmeHouse Publishing



What I Recently Read:

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars – Patrick Lencioni


Filed under Just Goofing Around, Literature

Wenger Family Fun

In the farming community that I lived in until I was 12, the county fair was a really big deal.  There were all kinds of rides and they actually cancelled school because all the farm kids took animals they had raised to show and compete at the fair.  This was a totally foreign concept to me, but I wanted to go to the fair for the rides.  ALL the other kids went to the fair, but Mom and Dad would never take us.  It was terribly expensive to ride the rides.  I think you could get a bracelet to ride them all for $15 and that was highway robbery.

When Adam was a baby, I finally convinced Mom and Dad to take us to the fair.  Adam couldn’t have been more than 3 months old and they had this nifty carrier thing that Dad could strap to his chest and carry Adam around.  So off we went, into unchartered territory, with a father who was NOT HAPPY about the amount of money he was about to spend.  I was as dressed up as I could be with my little lavender purse just chock full of money ($7 was a lot of money to an 11 year old) and about to burst with excitement.

Things did not start off well.  Not only was Dad in a bad mood to begin with (which we all tried to ignore and act extra cheerful to help him out – no fighting, no asking to go to the bathroom), but he had not anticipated the parking situation.  They had turned a field into a parking lot and it was muddy and rough.  We had to park as far away as a person could get from the fair and hike in through the field.  Mom was wearing flip flops and after we’d hiked for a good 10 minutes (or so it seemed), her shoe broke.  So Dad tried to fix it – adding to the tension of the day.  Dad got it fixed up so Mom could at least continue walking, sort of (she would never had admitted there was another problem at this point), and off we went again.  Before we had quite made it to the edge of the field, Dad made a comment about his shirt feeling wet.  We trudged along while he tried to discover the source of the wetness.

Suddenly, we heard a great shout and looked over to see Dad standing stock still staring at his hand that was frozen in mid-air.  It was covered with yellowish brown slime.  Yup, folks, it was poop.  Upon further inspection, we found that our sweet little three-month old baby had at that very moment released more poop than we thought could come out of a grown man into the tiny littlest diaper – which of course could not hold all the poop.

There was poop everywhere:  all in the carrier, in Adam’s clothes, up his back, in his hair, all over Dad’s shirt and arm and hand…  And remember, things were already tense in the Wenger family that day.  This was one of the first times they’d used the carrier, so they weren’t real familiar with how to put it on and take it off, and those things can be kind of tricky.  So Dad found an empty tent at the edge of the fair and commanded us all inside while he and Mom tried to figure out how to get this carrier thing off him and Adam out of it without smearing any more poop around.  Oh, by the way, it stunk to high heaven!  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth…

Katie and I stood off to the side and tried our best not to laugh out loud.  I mean, what else do you do in that kind of a situation???  Stay out of the way and do all you can to stifle your giggles and PRAY that at some point this will strike Dad as funny.

I’m pretty sure we left the fair then.  If I had any memory of the ride home, I’m sure I’ve suppressed it by now!


Filed under Just Goofing Around, My Crazy Family