Zoo Creatures, Dead People, and Steel Magnolias

Ryan and I journeyed to Tennessee last week to begin preparations on our new zoo… I mean, our new HOUSE. We are currently residing in three particular movies: We Bought a Zoo, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Steel Magnolias. We Bought a Zoo – our version would be more appropriately named We Brought the Zoo to Tennessee and Then Looked at Each Other, Screaming in Disbelief, “WHAT IN THE WORLD HAVE WE DONE”? Although that would probably be the longest movie title in history.

Under the Tuscan Sun – For those who have seen the movie, our new house is pretty darn close to the dilapidated state of the villa she purchases in the movie. We fell in love with the land and saw potential in the house. The reality is, the house needs A LOT of work. There was no paint, no flooring, no phone jacks, no cell service, no kitchen, no trim, no nothing, well not completely true, we had dry wall and some very strange oddities left behind by the extremely wealthy owner. For example, we are now proud owners of an oxygen portal installed straight into the wall which aided the wealthy Mrs. during her health decline years ago.

oxygenWeird Oxygen Thing

We now also own our very own cemetery, which holds the remains of the wealthy Mrs., admittedly a little bit cool and a little bit creepy…

graveyardOur very own graveyard

Despite the sad condition of the house, we love it and officially sealed the deal to purchase it.

Steel Magnolias – I herald from a decent size city in Michigan, I have no idea what the population is, but I have numerous options when it comes to dining out, entertainment, malls, and many large movie theaters.  In my new hometown I have a Walmart – 30 miles from my house – granted, it is a Super Center Walmart, but I’m thinking my clothing options may have just decreased considerably. There’s also a Piggly Wiggly AND a Family Dollar if I ever find myself needing a few alternatives. I knew I was in trouble as we came down to the final hour of our drive and every little town we came upon I was frantically googling the name of the town along with “mall?”, “gym?” “Family Dollar?” “Cato?” “Deb?” “Goodwill?” SOMETHING! ANYTHING! GOOD LORD! HOW DO THESE PEOPLE SURVIVE??!

The thought that I may have made a slightly rash decision was well enforced when I was asked three separate times by well coifed southern women “Honey, why in the world would you move here? No one moves here…” and I started to wonder, actually panic a wee bit, thinking “Why did I move here?” deep sigh….

The first evening we pulled up to our new palace, after a 12 hour day of driving, and we were confronted with a pack of bats, (I think they roam in packs?? Correct me if I’m wrong) circling around our car. After finally unlocking the gate and driving up the wheat field/driveway we arrived, set up our trailer and discovered that we didn’t have any water. After numerous attempts we relinquished our desire for cleanliness and gave in to the sweet smelling stench of one another, in the trailer, in a small bed, both of us hovering over our respective edges in an attempt to avoid all touching– not the most romantic night we’ve had together. We planned to either shower first thing in the morning when we found water or plan B – check into one of the luxurious hotel options, such as the classy Pine Hotel we had passed earlier in the day. We managed to find water the next morning, but no hot water, not even luke warm water, just pretty much frigid, icicle type water. We took cold showers and pretended like we were part of the other 90% of the world that isn’t American. The next few days we worked hard, painting 7 rooms, ordered all of the flooring, trying to figure out a school for our children (something we probably should have considered before buying the house), health insurance, doctors, dentists, hospitals, unpacked the trailer, and managed to get a few blessed moments of peace and serenity when “them Skeeters” weren’t eating us, admiring the beautiful views of the Tennessee River from our patio.

office                            Ryan working hard on the office

master              Painted Master Bedroom

greatroom                            The HUGE greatroom

river                          View from our porch

I have gone from complete exhilaration, to complete bewilderment repeatedly in this process of new home ownership. I love the house, absolutely love it, but it is SO out of my comfort zone and it is so much work. At times, I’ve wondered if Ryan and I are just gluttons for punishment. It’s hard enough moving 7 young children, but to move them, one severely handicapped child, to an entirely new state, a new house, a house that has absolutely nothing ready in it, and a small town where we don’t know a single soul seems like it may just be bordering on insanity. I feel like an alien in my new hometown, a strange girl from the “North” with an odd accent that everyone peers at through squinted vision, wondering who and what I’m doing invading their territory. I know, in my heart, that this move is so much more than meets the eye. It is about solidifying ourselves as a family, relying on one another, and truly learning to embrace each other and the roles we  play in the Ronne clan. A lot of it is about starting new as a family – a new for all of us. We believe that we are supposed to be in Tennessee, and we usually have a peace about it. Nothing good ever came about without some blood, sweat, and tears, and this home has become a symbol of our beautifully, blended family which has also found its beauty through blood, sweat, and tears. We want to raise our family in a particular way, void of all of the commercialism in the world, teaching our children to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation and the reward that comes from some hard work (that lesson could take a while). We want to get away from the wastefulness of our society and teach by example where our food comes from through having the land and the resources to raise and grow our own. We desire to live simply, no cable, limited cell phone usage, (that’s not necessarily by choice but more of an AT&T decision), no microwave, yes you read that right, NO microwave, the simple life.  It’s a lifestyle we feel called to and a lifestyle we are usually excited about embracing. It’s a life that will be well earned at the end of the day – zoo creatures, dead people, and all of the steely magnolias I encounter along the way.

newhouseHome Sweet Home

Just keep livin!!

Just Keep Bouncing!

I’m convinced that there are two ways I can look at my life. There’s nothing overly profound about this revelation which unraveled one evening while reading a book to my three year olds, a book about two very beloved and dear creatures that many children have grown to cherish, a Winnie the Pooh book but more specifically my thoughts arose through the antics of two of Pooh’s favorite sidekicks, his closest friends, Tigger and Eeyore.

Tiger – full of life, vitality, energy, bounce and spunk. Everyone loves Tigger. Tigger is faced with different predicaments in his life but his voice always shouts back, “That’s ok buddy boy!” and he keeps on bouncing, and not only bouncing, but his bounces get higher and higher – ultimately closer to the Heavens. He acknowledges the negative circumstances that he faces but then moves forward by CHOOSING to focus his attention and energy on the positives.

In comparison to this loveable guy, there’s Eeyore. Eeyore really annoys me, probably because he goes against my entire life philosophy of “Just keep livin!”   Eeyore is king wallower, head hung low, full of a woe is me attitude, always looking for pity from everyone else around him. Eeyore, unlike Tigger, ONLY sees the negative. The negative becomes so large and all – encompassing that it clouds over any positive – to the point where in Eeyore’s mind there is nothing to be thankful for. This becomes his reality – his perception of life is shaped because of the cloud of negativity he has allowed to overtake his existence.

Bad circumstances will occur to every single person who walks upon this earth. There is no getting around it, as humans we are faced with hardships. It becomes our choice as to how we respond to those situations. When we wallow in sorrow and seek out attention for the negativity in our lives, we act like Eeyore. We create a huge cloud of darkness that hangs over every aspect of our lives, not allowing any sunlight to filter through for a glimpse of the blessing that still remains in spite of the difficulty. The act of wallowing according to the dictionary is to “live self -indulgently, revel, to wallow in sentimentality, to flounder about, move along or proceed clumsily or with difficulty.” This is exactly the way Eeyore lives his life, he self – indulgently moves about slowly, muttering woe is me comments, reveling in his own pain.

The concept of remembering, however, is a “recalling to the mind by an act or effort of memory; think of again” a very different trait than wallowing. When we remember something we acknowledge that it occurred, we are able to bring it to our memory and then in moving forward as a Tigger, we choose to find the silver lining, understanding the blessings of our life rather than focusing on the pain. In other words, we begin bouncing.  

Sad generally sells over joy, proof seen in any newspaper, most riddled with sad, tragic stories. It is human nature to fixate upon pain and suffering because it makes our own pain more bearable to know that there are others in the world floundering as much as we are.  There’s a lot of truth behind the saying, “Misery loves company” and it also tends to be in our nature to become envious when we recognize blessing and joys in others lives; especially when we don’t possess the same peace and joy in our own lives.

My son Caleb was recently reflecting on his late father’s death, commenting on a specific aspect of their relationship that he missed. It wasn’t a wallow moment, in fact, it was very much a remembering moment for in the same breath as his recollection he turned to me and said, “But I’m lucky because God gave me two good dads.”

If a ten year old has the ability to bounce after his late father’s death, I have to believe that most of us can as well.

Just keep livin!!

Corn Husking and Cows

I’m tired! It’s been a busy, crazy week. Tuesday we packed for the big move, occurring in about six weeks, and I also had my ear literally glued to the phone all day while a lower region of my body was attached to a couch cushion in an attempt to find some answers about the kid’s school situation in Tennessee.  I have a bit of a phobia with cell phones and portable phones (radiation issues) so we have a quaint, little old fashioned phone, with a cord, void of caller ID.

People have questioned repeatedly how I live without caller ID. There is one major advantage to NOT having this modern convenience. When I don’t know who’s calling and it’s admittedly in my nature to not answer the phone  because I’m not going to have an actual conversation with a real person while seven kids run around, so I assume people won’t be offended if I don’t answer because I am obviously not avoiding them personally – I’m just avoiding the whole human race. I discovered, during this extended phone time (and a tiny bit to my guilty delight) that all of the kids start school on August 5th _ they were scheduled to return here the first week of September. On one hand, I do feel badly for them, missing out on a whole month of summer vacation, and on the other hand… well, it sure will make the transition easier! The not so exciting news is that the new school starts at 7:30 in the morning. That is almost an issue that could motivate me to consider homeschooling, almost…

Ryan came home that evening, later than usual, to discover me singing, not along to music or even to one of Luke’s Veggi Tale videos, just singing a happy little diddy to myself.  Usually when he comes home I’m not in a singing mood, usually I’m in a stressed out, fried to the core, it’s been a LONG day sort of mood. He suggested that perhaps the absence of the older kids was causing my sudden surge of joy and as I thought about it, he may be on to something. The big boys in particular get bored, often, and decide to take it out on everyone in the house, usually the littlest beings, who then scream and holler at the top of their lungs trying to get mom’s attention. The big boys are also expressing their likes and dislikes very vocally at this stage in their lives – AKA, they’re mouthy. I’m not sure what to do about this problem, if anyone has a successful solution, please pass it along.  

Although stumped in the mouthiness department, I did produce a fantastic positive rewards system that is curbing some of the negative behaviors occurring in the family. This is what I came up with after a successful trip to the dollar store.

Josh’s problem is a complete lack of motivation to use the potty, Mabel struggles with staying dry at night due to excessive drinking before bedtime, and Miss Jada needs a little support in the “using kind words” department (probably brought about by her older brothers). If Josh goes on the potty all day and Mabel stays dry at night, and Jada uses her mouth for kindness then they get to pick one of these treats for snack time.  

Jada was the one and only treat earner on Wednesday.  I also woke up this morning bound and determined to REALLY accomplish potty training with Josh. We have bribed this child with everything, really EVERYTHING: a call from Buzz Light Year, a toy story movie, a huge airplane, candy, Disney world, anything if he will just go on the potty. During this tedious process I decided to run the sprinkles for the afternoon and stripped this child down to his birthday suit. He usually does well until a pull-up or a diaper is strapped to his behind and then he sneaks off to do his duty. I was determined that no shenanigans were going to occur on my watch! This child relished in his nakedness, go figure, he is a boy, and as they played outside, I continued doing whatever moms do inside until my calm was brashly interrupted when he ran full throttle, swinging open the door, full of excitement and joy as he proudly announced,

“MOM, MOM, come see outside, I went poop like a cow!”

“WHAT??” my mind questioned, “Surely, he didn’t really go poop like a cow?”

He impatiently ran to the field and pointed very proudly at what appeared to be a pile of something resembling cow poop. Back to pull-ups we went. Honestly, the thought of him using the great outdoors as his toilet was appealing, as long as I didn’t have to change ANYMORE DIRTY DIAPERS! Needless to say, we are still not successful in our endeavor to potty train him. I’ve been told to let it go, and I suppose I have to at this point.

Later that night the kids helped me husk corn, their first time ever and they did a great job.


Thursday was a mommy relaxation day as I had our babysitter come and watch the kids for a few hours. I had really good intentions of running a few errands and then going to the library to write, but I was sidetracked when a large, wonderful, antique thrift market beckoned me to enter. I love thrifting, and I found some fabulous little finds like this old basket. Later that afternoon, I spray painted it, added some small jam jars, painted the tops black and then wrote the names of spices on them in blue marker paint. It’s such a convenient little contraption to have right next to the stove while I’m cooking. 


Thursday evening we crossed or fingers and tried something unique with Luke’s bedtime routine, hoping to eliminate his diaper dilemma, discussed in the Father’s Day post.  We cut the feet out of his sleeper and put it on backwards, being 90% confidant that there was no way he could maneuver out of the contraption. He was curious and confused about this turn of events in his bedtime attire, although he reluctantly seemed to accept the change. Reality isn’t always what it seems to be and this is what I found an hour later when I went to check on him, talk about Houdini…

Mabel had a successful Thursday night and earned her treat for Friday! This is what she wrote the morning of her success. I think this child needs a diary.

Saturday was busy. Early in the morning Ryan picked up the kids from Bible camp and then we packed all day long. We are taking the first official load down soon seeing that our time frame has been crushed considerably with the start of school in about 6 weeks!

Hopefully next week I will have the pleasure of sharing something that doesn’t involve any of my children’s bodily functions, cheers to that thought, huh??!

Just keep livin!!

PMSing with Funky Toes and other things I’ve made my peace with…

This is a bit of a cop out post. Honestly, I’m pressed for time with packing, potty training, and summer break activities and this list came to mind the other day while driving to the gym.

Issues I’ve made my peace with in 36 years…

1.      I will most likely be a nail biter until the day I die, never basking in the delight of glancing down at beautifully polished nails.

2.      Speaking of polished, I will probably have some funky looking toes as well because along with being a notorious nail biter, I am also a notorious toe nail peeler. My husband was thrilled to find another of his kind when he married me.

 3.      When faced with a bag of Cheetos, I will probably, 9 times out of 10, eat way too many of them, like possibly the whole bag.

4.      I can’t change people, people can only change themselves. Pretty simple.

5.      Relationships are the ONLY thing that matters here on earth. A relationship with the Maker of Heaven and Earth and our relationships with those He has created. That’s it, that’s all that it boils down to at the end of the day.

6.      I’ll never be a runner. I’ve tried every way imaginable to twist and tort my mentality and my body into accepting this practice but it’s just not going to happen for me.

7.      I’m a passionate person – sometimes this is a fantastic trait and sometimes not such a fantastic trait, ask my husband for clarification if you’re confused.

8.      Stretch marks and hormones will be a part of my life for a long time unless I find myself excessively wealthy and can afford a permanent treatment to remove them both from my existence. 


9.      The gym is therapy for me. I can either spend A LOT of money on actual therapy or a little money for a gym membership. Pretty clear cut decision – in my opinion.

10.   I will have days when I feel like I’m completely inadequate in my calling of motherhood but my feelings have failed me many times in the past – My faith never has.

11.   I often have no idea what God is up to in my life and will probably have those same feelings many more times but if I’m honest, it’s none of my business. He is God, I am not; I’ve finally accepted this fact.

Just keep livin!!