on mother's day

oday was my tenth year to celebrate Mother’s Day, since we began celebrating when Arwen was in utero.

I have hated almost every single Mother’s Day, and I really can’t explain why. Is it the unmet expectations? The ridiculous notion that moms of littles get a day off? Is it self condemnation, feeling that I don’t deserve the honor?

This year, I am super sick and exhausted on Mother’s Day. And it was the best Mother’s Day ever.

I got to sleep in because we didn’t go to church since I’m sick and a couple of the kids were looking run down.

After breakfast, the kids and Brent had gifts for me.

They sang to me and started the presentation.

Evie and Titus got into a fight over who got to carry the last gift, and Brent went to break it up. He still had his guitar on and accidentally smacked Evie in the face with it.

You can’t see him, but Titus was crying too.

Eventually they calmed down and I got to open my last gift.

Only, Titus snatched them up and wouldn’t take them off.

eanwhile, the other kids were running amuck and being berserk.

We finally got shoes and everything on the kids because Brent wanted to take me to lunch. My first restaurant choice had an hour and a half wait, so we punted it and I picked something I thought the kids would enjoy, since I felt too sick to really eat much. They all feasted, I had soup. Totally happy with it.

After a nap, I tried to go shopping with some coupons I’d been saving up, but I couldn’t stop sweating and feeling faint, so I skunked back home and Brent put me to bed.

Sounds pretty sucky, right? When I told Brent this was the best Mother’s Day ever, he remarked that he must have really neglected me all those other years.

But that’s not it at all. The difference is that I’ve let go of all the extra expectations of what defines motherhood that have been pressed into my head for so long. Those ideologies that glorify the stay at home mom over the work outside the home mom, they are damaging to the stay at home mom too. Because, what if you stay home, but you really suck at it?

When we define biblical motherhood as staying home, cheerful-excited even- about dishes, as using all of our gifts solely for homemaking and child rearing, as being beautiful soft spoken women, as having 19 children, as being the number one highest calling, as being the base of your identity….

There is no place for the mom that sucks at housekeeping, that has desires to use her gifts outside the home, that is genetically predispositioned like a bull in a china shop, that realizes you don’t have to prove that you love kids by having a million of them, or that really doesn’t like even being a mom sometimes.

It’s because that is not a definition of biblical motherhood. That’s a definition of someone’s skewed ideas about motherhood In reaction to the culture we live in today. And I reject it. Almost all of it.

I tried to fit in to the patriarchal community, and it was like jamming a square peg into a circle shaped hole. It was painful and uncomfortable, and it resulted in me hating motherhood and all of its demands altogether.

My identity is not found in my current role as mother. My identity is found In Christ. And He calls me to serve Him, love Him, BE loved by Him, and to love His people.

Motherhood is not the greatest calling. Following Christ is the greatest calling, and that affects the kind of mother that I am.

It means that I administer grace and mercy in my home. It means that I serve others, including my children, first. It means that I consider the lowly, in this case the young, and meet their needs. It means that I do all to the glory of God.

So, how do you have the best Mother’s Day ever?

Be loved by God.

Know that you are His delight, His joy, made for His glory. Know that the gift of children that He has given to you is a reflection of His creative nature, and we get to partner with Him in that each time we give birth. Women are greatly favored in this way.

God loves you, Mamma. When your floors are filthy, when your children misbehave, when your kid can’t read, when you yell because you have had enough, when you pick up fast food (again), when you complain about it all on Facebook (again), when you fail over and over, He loves you. His love is not contingent on what kind of mother you are. His love is contingent on His nature that never changes. He.is.love.

Yes, God loves you.

Even when you let your kid play with knives.

when life is painful, part 2

I owe you an apology. In this space I try to be raw and unveiled, but also inspiring and hopeful. I had to end yesterday’s post abruptly because of a little one’s needs, and I feel like I left everyone dangling in hopeless pain. Let’s finish the story.

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (Jesus- John 16:32-33)

There you have it. Jesus promises that life is going to be difficult. Hard. Disturbing. Any preacher who tries to sell an abundant life full of riches and comfort is not following the Jesus that walked long miles, dealt with extreme hatred from his own people, forgave freely, and died a painful death.

So let’s all just give up and die, right? But, wait! Jesus has overcome the world. I don’t have to. Whew. Thank you, Jesus.

Rend Collective has a new album out called The Art of Celebration and you need to go buy it as son as you’re done here.

The first song, Joy, says this:

The pain will not define us

Joy will reignite us

You’re the song of our hearts

The dark is just a canvas for your grace and brightness

You’re the song of our hearts!

In the shadows

In the sorrows

In the desert

When the pain hits

You are constant

Ever present

You’re the song of my heart!

You can hear the whole song here.

People, if you ain’t got Jesus I hope you get him soon, because this life is dang hard and unless you have some super powers, you can’t save yourself from it. Being good doesn’t help avoid the pain or save us from it. Thinking happy thoughts is only temporary. Jesus promises life beyond this temporary world and he is the one constant never failing hope.

Jesus is the joy in the pain. Trusting God means that I know that while life is painful, he’s working it out.

My sister-in-law wrote a book. You should also go get it now. It’s called Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God

Oh my heck, you will laugh. You will cry. You will reminisce about Kris Kross and maybe even want to get out your old Michael Jackson albums. I have read and reread it because it’s encouraging. Today I picked it up and read the chapter called The Rhythm of Fighting. She’s just finished describing a period of her life that was particularly painful.

In some cases the change in our rhythm that comes with the beat down breaks us. We’re left puzzled, stuck and sometimes without motivation to begin again. But you don’t get to quit because it’s tough, uncomfortable, or inconvenient. There are some times in life when you need to fight to the finish. Each time you do prepares you for the next time you feel like life is closing in on you and teaches you to trust the One who knows all things. The beat down is, sometimes, a means to breaking rhythm.

Breaking rhythm is about change, about dealing with delay, pause, surprise and all of the moments when life doesn’t unfold the way we want or expect. God always knows and always has a plan. A friend of mine use to pray, “Thank you, God, that nothing occurs to you.”

As I drove Charis, quickly and gently, to the emergency room, having left all my other children at home while their Daddy quickly drove over, Charis was freaking out in the seat next to me. And rightly so. So I prayed out loud and tried not to cry, ” God, you knew that Charis was going to break her arm today. You go before us and behind us, and you knew we would go to this hospital at this time and you have put those doctors there today and whatever is going to happen, we trust You.”

My life rhythms have been MESSED UP, y’all. I can’t tell you everything. (I swear I’m not being vague for the sake of drama.) I went to Austin for IF, I read Jesus Feminist and Freefall to Fly, after weeks of asking God to help me surrender so that I could be free.

And that great Deejay in the Sky responded by scratchin my records all up.

No. He scratched them all up and changed the direction and played some hits backwards and now I think He has decided to skip to a new album completely. But He always makes beautiful music, so I’m okay with it.

I hope all of these things inspire you to be hopeful too. I know that everyone has pain. Not everyone is as transparent about it, but we’ve all got it. Everyone is fighting a battle, but Jesus has conquered the world.

So, take heart.

in which life = pain

On any average week, you could say that we are Rolling with the Punches.

The punches somehow went from minor annoyances to great big bruising blows lately.

The first pain was when somehow the lack of rest my body gets in contrast with the amount of use it gets caught up with me. For weeks, I’ve been walking around like a granny, when I could walk, with hip pain. I’ve done every weird physical therapy exercise on YouTube, except the one where this man sticks his fingers up his rear (you know you wanna click it. Do it!)

I even had to stop running for the last six weeks! But I think the chiropractor and I have worked it out, so this pain has ended.

The next pain came more around the posterior region when an errant cop pulled me over and I proceeded to lose my crap all over him. Not literally, although he probably needed to be knocked down a few notches.

Anyway. Junior Cop had the nerve to write me up for a misdemeanor when all I was doing was driving out to the country store to buy chicken feed for my illegal chickens.

And I’ll just insert a rant here. Would the entire UNIVERSE just leave me alone? Let me birth my babies where I want, feed my family food I grew myself, and drive down the dang road crying. Seriously. There are actual criminals out there, people littering even. Live and let live, people. There has got to be a bumper sticker for that.

Back to the pain In the rear. It was a clerical error at the tag department, and I showed Junior Cop this evidence, which he verified himself before writing the ticket.

Luckily the solicitor for Podunk City, Georgia was smart enough to see there was a law suit brewing and dismissed my case.

Case: Dismissed. Thug Mamma OUT!

We had a bit of pleasure thrown in for Easter because my mom saved the day and did everything for me. (I did make the carrot cake.) (Strike that... Charis made the carrot cake.)

And I swear this is the only picture I got of my kids in the only pair of nice clothes they own. I am that mom.

Finally, Charis fell out of a tree and broke bones in her arm. It was freaky weird looking. I won’t post pictures of it because I don’t want you to throw up. You just need to know that it was all There Was a Crooked Man and they tried various torture devises before finally inserting a very large needle and injecting lidocaine so that they could come back later and torture her some more. Her back arched, her eyes got wide, and I went into doula mode, beckoning her to relax and breathe with me and look into my eyes. “Melt into the bed” really works for a variety of pain circumstances, FYI, including having your bones snapped and crackled back into place.

We came home and scrubbed the MRSA off of ourselves and I cried what I couldn’t cry because I was being strong for her.

Pain. The normal response is to run from it, to escape it. But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to press into it, stare it down, absorb it, and blow it away. Sometimes you just gotta call out to Jesus for help. I’m doing it all.

grace to remember

Do you know how the Lord chose for this day to start off for me?

The clanging of dishes outside my door. That’s the very first noise I heard. Shortly after I opened my eyes and my sweet Arwen girl had prepared the very best breakfast in bed that she could muster up: extremely buttered bread, a banana, a nectarine, and an apple. On a tray and everything.

“Do you see those sparkles on top, Mamma?” her sweet voice asked. “I added something special.”

Oh, my heart. 

I realized that it was about 5 minutes before Brent was to interview and quickly texted him to check his fly. I’m such a good helpmeet.

What I really wanted was to dramatically sit by the phone waiting on news of how the interview went. But the baby was screaming, four other kids needed breakfast, the chickens kept escaping to the front yard, and well…. you get the picture. Before I knew it, Brent called to tell me the interview was over and he felt like it had gone really well.

And then about an hour later he texted that he didn’t get the job.

Cue the confusion. Was this a joke? You went to the interview for the job that they practically begged you to apply for, right?

Cue the anger. They picked the other guy? The lateral move guy? The guy who doesn’t even work in this department?

Cue the confusion. What about all our stuff in storage?

Cue the anger. You mean I did all that work for nothing?

Cue the confusion. Well, wait. Where are we going to live? Are we still going to sell the house?

Cue the anger. You mean we are stuck in this house ? You mean I have to move all that crap back into the house?

Cue the confusion. Wait. What about school stuff for kids? I can sign up for stuff now?

Cue the anger. You mean I did all that work for nothing?

Cue the confusion. So, I need to make more soap? I’m not cutting back on soap work?

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Then I tried to give Hard Hallelujahs. They don’t call them hard for nothing.

I added buckets to the tears that the soap room carpet has seen, today.

I’m not really ready to talk about how I feel. It’s like two rhinoceruses are battling it out inside me and I’ve got the bruises to prove it. It hurts.

And did I mention I’m confused and angry?

But the reason I am typing this out right now is because there are a couple of things I want to remember.

I want to remember the sweet way that the Lord graced my morning. He was padding the fall. Such a faithful God!!

And when the kids found me crying on the floor in the soap room, their responses floored me. They were disappointed, sure. But the grace and compassion that poured out of them was astounding. They left me quietly at my request and settled themselves at the table and created page after page after page of sweet drawings. Masterpieces, really.  God’s grace, expressed through a crayon medium.

And halfway through the morning my midwife, who lives so far off the grid it’s crazy, texted me. She said she couldn’t stop thinking of me and hoped I was okay. Now that’s some midwife intuition right there. Lots of friends checking in and praying today. So so so grateful. Y’all are a big chocolate covered piece of God’s grace too. Unless it’s weird to tell your friends they are covered in chocolate. (But my real friends would totally appreciate being covered in chocolate, I think.)

I had been thinking, worrying really, about how to tell the kids the news, whether Brent got the job or not. This entire  process has been so disruptive to our lives and the kids have been troopers. How could I make it easier on them? After weeks and weeks of, “Well…we might not sign up for art this year…” or “Hey, in the new house, maybe we can have room for…” or “I’m sorry I’m so tired guys, life will get back to normal when…” And if I had $1 for every time I said “IF WE MOVE” in the last month or two…

After a restless naptime I came downstairs to see that Arwen had created an entire party scene.

Y’all. There was a banner, and she made a party hat for everyone. And some party wands made from pipe cleaners and pom poms.

I half-bitterly questioned what she was celebrating.

She didn’t know, I could tell. She just knew there needed to be a party.

“It’s a cheer us up celebration, Mamma!” she proclaimed. And then proceeded to do a puppet show in her home made theater with the seven or so puppets she had created.

So, there it is. A lot of processing left to do. A lot of humming and hawing. And it doesn’t help that I just finished reading some Francis Chan, am currently reading Hatmaker, and pastor preached on Revelation 2-3 on Sunday.

Oh, and I’ve been watching way too much of The Office with a dash of Hunger Games.

Oh, my brain.

S is for Secure

After we made it home from our adventure, Brent immediately came home to supervise me and bring me and the babies to the Promised Land to meet up with the rest of the family, on their way to a family reunion/vacation in the mountains.

Look at the scenery here, will ya?

We took a stroll to the lake nearby and listened to a sermon while a weird guy did yoga. Ezra wanted to know why he was naked. The next day we went to a little man made beach on the lake and it was the perfect destination for our little family. Arwen proclaimed it was “the best water experience ever”.

This was shortly followed by the second third fifth one of the top ten most stupid things I’ve ever done. (Okay, so I’ve done a lot of stupid things.)

The next day we had our “worst water experience ever.” Admittedly, it was by choice. We took the whole family tubing on the Chattahoochee river. See previous statement about caution and wind.

Uh. Whoops.

In our defense, we were assured by other family members that it was totally baby friendly and more like a “lazy river” than tubing. The water was no more than two feet deep, and the “rapids” simply spun your tube a little down a 6″ drop. I would agree that this river was quite lazy. It did barely ANYTHING to move us along. So there I was, in a giant inner-tube with a seven month old, floating along and “bbbbbvvvvvvvvppppppttttt” , the vinyl of my tube slid to a stop. Stuck on the tip of an algae covered boulder. Now, what do you do when you are in a river, on an inner-tube, with a baby in your arms, and stuck on a rock? Any bright ideas? Because this happened repeatedly. As in, every fifteen feet or so. I was STRANDED with a baby with no transportation, that’s for sure.

Our trip down this “lazy river” was supposed to be an hour long. I began to despair approximately 1 and a half hours into it after listening to Titus scream for 45 minutes. I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling of being STRANDED again, just like in Tuscaloosa. I don’t do “helpless” very well. I tried to be thankful for the smooth stones I walked on as I tried to just let Titus ride in the tube (it had a bottom in it) while I pushed it along. But mostly I was just really mad about being stuck by myself in this stupid river with my baby. Brent had a couple kids somewhere down stream, my dad had a kid somewhere up stream, and my mom stuck close with Ezra. Until she got pummeled off her tube and run over several times by a gaggle of jerks. We were in two feet of water for crying out loud. Finally I convinced a strange man to rescue my mother and son and we waited on the bank for my dad to appear. Bless his heart, he now had the task of herding an injured Grammy, a four year old, a 7 year old, and a grumpy Mamma and her screaming baby about another mile down the river. It was ridiculous and miserable. He deserves a medal.

And I don’t ever want to talk about it again. Just know, that if anyone ever tries to convince you that it’s a good idea to take your baby tubing, you can slap them in the face and tell them that your idiot friend Missi did it and you know better now.

Just when we were recovering from the trauma Brent got a call that his grandpa was in life threatening condition in the hospital and no one was with him. Brent rushed to be by his side, leaving me STRANDED on the side of a mountain. Again, with kids and no transportation. What’s with the theme?

After he got to the hospital it was discovered that his grandpa’s life was not threatened and he did have a couple of family members near by checking on him. We were still glad that Brent was able to get to him quickly because we love Grandpa Farmer dearly. Brent got a hotel and I spent the entire night keeping everyone settled in strange beds. I was mad because the rest of the family had been going off doing fun things all day and me and the kids (and my parents by proxy) were stuck at the cabin.

I struggled to be content. I’m just being honest here, because I know that we all have these struggles and somehow convince ourselves that no one else does.  I wanted to dwell on “S” is for STRANDED. Because here I was AGAIN stuck with kids and nowhere to go. Our basic needs were completely met. We had family with us. We had WIFI. Shoot, I even brought along my favorite pickles. And I still couldn’t be happy.

And this made me even more mad. At myself. I need Jesus so bad. 

At the other end of a restless night a text from a friend awaited me. She felt like her storm shelter from life was about to collapse. In praying for her, I got the resolution I needed. The Lord brought my mind to Psalm 139.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

(Psalm 139:1-14 ESV)

I encouraged her that her storm shelter was the Lord and He never faints or grows weary. He is a sure protector and she was free and SECURE to praise Him in the storm.

THUNK!

I could very easily read this passage to state:

You know when I am stranded in Tuscaloosa and when I am safe at home.

You search out my path and my lying down.

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me, even when I’m being a grumpy jerk. 

If I am stupid enough to go tubing with my baby and get stranded on a river, you are there!

If my husband gets called away during our only vacation of the year and I am stuck on the side of a mountain, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

God is so gracious to free us! So faithful to love us when we act as though we have been abandoned. I realized I was free to be secure, in the midst of a life that is changing and uncertain right now. I longed for solid, familiar ground to stand on and I found it in His Word.

Evie and I wandered outside and played bubbles and then treated ourselves to a lunch of hot dogs, pickles, and green Naked juice.

And just like that, all was right with the world again. All was right all along. It was me that was wrong.

“S” is for Secure. We are always secure with Jesus. Always. 

But I am never leaving my house again. 

while I'm sitting here sweating

Well, now, there were several blogs swirling around in my head. And I figured since Titus was insising on some post-work out sweaty booba, I’d blog one.

But the problem is, I can’t remember any.

So, how about I revert to bullet points like last summer and we will see where that takes us.

  • We started farmers markets this week. Our Thursday market decided to start a couple months before all the others. It happens to be our busiest market, so this is a good sopping wet dry run to see how market life with five chil’rens goes. It was a little messy. A little bit like Brent and I each juggling one baby (either Titus or Evie) and calmly urging the other three to act normal since we were in public, while asking people to please give us just a minute to finish setting up so they could shop, answering questions, and doling out soap in paper bags, while doing higher math equations to make change. Yep. One of the kids took a behind the scenes photo:
  • The good news is, the farmers market was successful. It looks like this is going to be a promising year. The bad news is that our sink broke that morning. Welcome to adulthood, right? You make money, something breaks. Reminds me of that montage in Up! with the sweet couple and their money jar.
  • Titus is rapidly producing teeth. We totally skipped that season where you get decent sleep. You know, the one that falls a couple months after they are born and lasts for a few weeks before they start teething? That’s okay though. We survived a baby who never slept, so this isn’t as bad. However, my brain cells are short circuiting. I’m like an alzheimer’s patient some days. So, don’t be surprised if you catch me wondering around Target naked. Or wandering even.
  • Brent and the big kids have left me and the little people here again by ourselves. This means that another big box was purchased and Mamma is cleaning out the down stairs like a mad woman. We just have too much stuff for our small house. I’ve pretty much gotten rid of or donated everything we don’t need. So, now I’m boxing up stuff we do need, but maybe can live without, and sticking it in the attic until we get new digs. Or is that diggs?
  • Speaking of digging. We expect to be bursting out of these seams next fall. Anybody want our house? It smells good!!!
  • We attempted to do school at a local public park this week until the local elementary school came and kicked us out. It has taken me several days to come up with something nice to say, because it sure was a lot of work getting all our school and lunch stuff together and all set up and cleaning up a certain poopy britches child and getting settled, just to be be made to leave by a school who has their own play ground that I pay for with my taxes and also when the kids knock on my door and ask for money for their government supported school even though I pay for every dime of my children’s education. But gee golly I sure am glad that those kids got to get out of the walls of their school and be free range for an hour or two! No really…. I am!
  • Also, we realized that if we only had three kids, we’d be owing money on our taxes. This is because we are living the American dream by owning our own business. {{snort}}
  • I should probably tell you that I cut out all sugar, in addition to being sleep deprived. And it’s making me a little grumpy.
  • Hey, look at these cute kids!
 Mary is still around! She's all dolled up in honor of the A Day Game today. ROLL TIDE, Mary!

Mary is still around! She's all dolled up in honor of the A Day Game today. ROLL TIDE, Mary!

 Charis and Arwen got four stickers on their chore packs. This means they got Yogurt Mountain! (And they did Peeps as a topping? Gross!)

Charis and Arwen got four stickers on their chore packs. This means they got Yogurt Mountain! (And they did Peeps as a topping? Gross!)

 Ezra has really reached a challenging time in his development into a big boy. We are encouraging him daily to grow strong on the inside. Having two older sisters is tough! Any tips, boy moms? We have a lot of tears these days...

Ezra has really reached a challenging time in his development into a big boy. We are encouraging him daily to grow strong on the inside. Having two older sisters is tough! Any tips, boy moms? We have a lot of tears these days...

 Evelyn adores the book Go, Dog, GO! We read it over and over and over and...

Evelyn adores the book Go, Dog, GO! We read it over and over and over and...

 And occasionally I remember to bathe the little one 

And occasionally I remember to bathe the little one 

messy fruitful

There are a great many Restaurant Disaster stories I could tell you, but I’m going with this one because it’s the most recent. As in, today.

After church Brent got my hint that I needed some meat and wanted to treat us all to a good burger. We tried this new joint, {It rhymes with SLIP, as in, it was only by a complete SLIP OF THE MIND that we chose to eat there.}

The moment we walked in, we should have turned around and walked right. back. out.

But we were starving and it takes a lot of effort to get everyone into and out of the truck, so we stayed. And I needed to go potty really badly and they had a bathroom.

The restaurant screamed STERILE. CLEAN. NO KIDS ALLOWED.

By the time I was able to figure out how to make the uber-modern faucet work in the bathroom, everyone was being seated.

Anyway. The waitress, bless her heart, acted like she had no idea what to do with us. She chuckled and seemed a bit intimidated by our crew. Clearly, she had never seen a child before. I started to wonder if we had accidentally stumbled into a gay bar. Honestly.

I thought out loud, “What do you call this kind of music?” I’m not sure who it was, but Arwen or someone spoke up and said, “Bad?” I’m going to go with electronicmetrofusion. Going outside does not escape the background music, just so you know.

There was no kid’s menu, but she did say that they had grilled cheese sandwiches for kids.

Before we even ordered, Ezra stabbed a hole in his cup with his knife and a fountain of water ensued. Everywhere.

Evie cried and thrashed about and it was at this point I noticed the coffee stain on the front of her dress. Brent fessed up to giving her coffee during the church service. Do you know what happens when you give a toddler coffee? Ask Brent.

Arwen chirped loudly to the waitress how she would like her lettuce extra crunchy and she can’t have gluten because it makes her itchies worse.

We also managed to set off our car alarm about 5 times. Someone was playing with Mamma’s keys.

And I continued to feel bad for the people sitting around us because we were disturbing their sterile environment. Big time.

The menu was a s t o u n d i n g. My crunchy lil heart was doing leaps as I read the words GOUDA, TEMPURA, GOAT CHEESE, CHOCOLATE SALT, LOCAL LETTUCE, GRASS FED BEEF. And the prices for these delectable burgers were reasonable when you consider you were getting real food and not a cheap chemical cocktail made to look like food.

We got the tempura battered sweet potato fries, served with chocolate salt and a side of yummy creamy dip. We all fought over the last one. And they had their burgers available as lettuce wrap style for those of us that can’t have wheat. So thoughtful.

The milkshakes will blow your mind. And your wallet. And they will not allow three people to split one, only two. Ask me how I know.

So, we paid them our next week’s worth of grocery money and left quickly.

This is the end of my review. Long story short: it’s a good place to go for a date or with your girlfriends, but not your family.

Why am I telling you all this? Perhaps I am really enjoying destroying the perfect image that you may have of large-ish homeschooling families. Perhaps it’s because this was more than a “we’ll laugh about this one day” experience. We typically laugh about our Restaurant Disaster experiences as we are experiencing them.

Before we got married, we were subjected to a rather lengthy examination by our church’s in-house counselor. He made us take lots of tests, and we learned all sorts of things about ourselves.

Like the fact that we were Ideologically Disillusioned.

Rose colored glasses, ya’ll. We thought that just because we were courting and planning to homeschool and not use birth control and we go to church every Sunday that life was just going to fall into place and everything would be hunky dory.

“What if one of your children has dyslexia?” “What if you find out you can’t have kids?” “What if you can’t find work but she can? …What if… What if?” The counselor made an attempt at helping us see that we were not seeing the fine print to this lifestyle we had chosen. He wanted us to read it before we signed on the dotted line.

We gave a casual shrug in the direction of the fine print, did a little skimming, and we signed that dotted line.

And here we are, learning that just because you are “doing everything right” does not mean smooth sailing. Just because you feed your kids all organic food, all on schedule, does not mean that one of them won’t ever have health issues. Just because you train them to obey, does not mean that they won’t stab a hole in their cup at a restaurant and make a mess everywhere.

It’s messy. Fruitfulness, the opposite of barrenness, is messy. Barrenness, the synonym of sterility, it sounds so clean. And we usually associate cleanliness as a good thing… especially when you’re in the business of making soap. 

But I’m here to tell ya that messy is great. I’m not going to package this lifestyle up in a pretty little box, tie a ribbon on it, and offer you my tips for $4.99 in a neat little e-book. For free, I’ll tell ya that it’s hard yet deliriously delightful, it’s messy in the  most beautiful way, and it will not look at all to be the perfection that some have been led to believe that it is or that we appear to think we are.

So, while I had this ideal in my mind of what our life would be like at this point. Me, almost thirty, mother of four. Homeschooling mother of four. Work At Home Homeschooling mother of four. Did I have any idea when I just had teeny little Arwen what this would consist of? The grunge of the everyday?

Not. a. clue.  I really thought I was perfect and that my life would be perfect and I would bake bread every day and sing hymns all morning and never yell because my children would perfectly obey since I followed all the formulas and trained them according to the books I read.

No thanks. Life has surprises at every turn and God is glorified in our mess and He is glorified in our struggle and He is still on the throne even when I can’t school my children perfectly like I want to.

9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)

So when you hear a Mamma talking candidly about how she hasn’t slept in eleven years or recounting the disastrous restaurant experience she had with her family, or maybe even saying “Hey. I don’t know what in the heck I’m doing here. I could use some help.”… Please don’t think that it’s because she hasn’t read the books or followed the formulas or even that it means that she hates her life or thinks her kids are preventing her from having the life she really wants.

And on the flip side, when you read the books by the mothers of ten that make it sound like their life flows in perfection and they always get good sleep because they sleep trained their baby and their house is always clean because they joyfully hum hymns all day while they keep their home and their kids walk single file behind them in matching outfits… you get the picture, ad naseum. No one has that life. Even the Duggars. In the very least, they are at least 2 hours late everywhere they go.

It doesn’t look like that for any of us. Most of my friends are homeschooling large family mammas and none of them live perfect lives, but all of them love Jesus and all of them are doing their best and all of them breathe a sigh of relief when they see my mess on occasion. We still clean, we still train, we still love and pour out and do our very best by the grace of God,and we even hum hymns while doing it, but that does not mean easy and it does not mean perfect. What it means is wonderfully messy. It means that our weakness has a proportionately larger chance of being displayed (after all, it’s hard to hide a screaming two year old in the grocery store). And God’s grace should also be displayed in our lives to the same measure.

Yes, God is glorified in our mess. Even in our mess and our weakness. It doesn’t have to make sense. The Bible says it and it’s true.

 

the Lord helps those that help themselves

Just kidding. You did know that’s not actually in the Bible, right? Technically, we’re supposed to bear one another’s burdens.

But the plight of today’s young mamma with lots of littles is typically, HELP AIN’T COMIN’.

It can make you bitter. You tell yourself that no one cares that you are sitting in a filthy house with a screaming baby who won’t let you put her  down and you haven’t had breakfast and it’s 2 pm, your depressed, and all you really want is thirty minutes to put the laundry away and think just one single thought. And sometimes we get down right jealous of those that have time to piddle. What’s it like to be able to have a whole day of not being sure what you’re going to do take a shower in peace, brush your hair everyday, actually sleep all night, lay down when you’re feeling sick, or go to the bathroom alone, just once? We put on our big girl panties, realizing that this is a thankless job for any mom, regardless of how many children she has. We also realize that there are a multitude of reasons why most people don’t want to have a gaggle of small children all at one time, and we live out those realities day by day, moment by moment…times twenty.

And yes, we know that everyone is busy. But the deal is, you can’t turn your kids off. You can’t call in sick, you get no vacation time, and you can’t renege (is that the correct word?) on your commitment once you find that you’re overwhelmed. So, it’s a different kind of busy. A busy that others might think they understand because they kept their brother’s dogs for a weekend or whatever. But the truth is, you have no idea, unless you have experienced it day in and day out.

It’s exhausting, discouraging, deflating, and down right hard.

And that’s just the way it is. I use to think that if I could just {{insert helpful advice here, such as- put dinner in the crock pot in the morning, hire a helper, organize my chores, etc}} then my act would be together and things would be smooth sailing.

But the truth is, this act ain’t gettin’ together. And now that I’ve accepted that I’m so much more free!

I long ago accepted that the floors were not ever going to stay clean, the laundry was never going to get caught up on (not to mention that I can’t wash my linens on Wednesdays and my lights on Mondays and my darks on Saturdays…yes, this is what I did before kids), but accepting that it was daggum’ hard was something I didn’t want to do.

Like everyone else, I’m always trying to find an easier life.

So, maybe it isn’t in the Bible, but I’ve been helping myself, ya’ll.

I helped myself to an hour and a half in the tub the other day.

With a mud mask.

the photo that accompanied this declaration is sadly lost in the internet somewhere. 

And I watched an entire movie on my lap top while soaking.

This was monumental.

So, here’s my tutorial on How to take a really long bath with lotsa kids. (With numbered bullet points.)

  1. Put your littles ones to bed, making sure their tummies are full and the room temperature is comfortable. (I’m usually only guaranteed about an hour of this bliss, more on that below.)
  2. Settle your biggies with something captivating. This may mean their own full length movie to watch. I captured my moment while my girls were playing with their stuffed animals, dressing them up as princesses and stuff and with access to the kid account on the computer. (Clarify beforehand who is to go first.)
  3. Start your bath water right away, while assembling the following: a bag of yummy something (I did iced animal crackers), bananas, a book to read or a movie to watch, a large glass of water, mud mask, and your favorite bath salts or bath bombs.
  4. Explain to your biggies that you are going to take a bath and they are not to disturb you unless someone is hurt. Tell them not to answer the phone or the door. Cover all your bases. Tell them what they are going to do and give an example of a good reason to interrupt you. (Example: The house is on fire.) Give them plenty of examples of reason NOT to interrupt you (Examples: the computer won’t work, the movie skips, the baby is crying, etc.)
  5. Get in the tub and start your movie. Enjoy it thoroughly. Try not to think about the laundry, the dishes, or worry about the baby waking up early. Turn on the fan in the bathroom so you can’t hear anything. Don’t worry, if you’ve trained your biggies well enough, they will come tell you the important stuff.
  6. However well trained they are, after an hour or so one of them is going to come in. Take this time to inquire whether the baby is awake. She’s not? You’re doing great! Give your biggie the bag of iced animal crackers. Tell her to share them with everyone that is awake and to turn a movie on/get out a game, etc. You probably will have to explain the mask on your face, but you will not hear from her again.
  7. When/If your biggest little comes in to tell you that the baby is awake, send him/her off with the bananas to feed the baby all she wants and instruct him to stay with her until you get in there. (Miraculously, my littles slept the entire hour and a half this day!!) Evie sleeps in a play pen that she most certainly cannot get out of, and she enjoys when an older sibling climbs in with some toys…or bananas. Whatever your family’s set up is, premeditate a plan to make it work so that baby is safe and happy.
  8. Finish your movie and be refreshed.

The point is, stop expecting that at some point everything is going to be okay, or pouting that if someone would just come lend a helping hand you could get what you need to get done, or being angry that you haven’t had a full night’s sleep in seven years or whatever.

It’s not going to get done. We still have to try and do our best, but it’s just not all going to get done. Having a well organized cozy life is not our season.Our season right now is hard, with little breaks or relief, and very little sleep. But there is a huge huge pay off coming… and we can help ourselves to some breaks every now and then. 

And most importantly, Mammas. Don’t give up. You gotta fight for your right to party.

its the sincerest form of flattery

I’m not planning on wearing any denim jumper dresses anytime soon, but I’ve been attending monthly homeschool mommy meetings at our new church. Sssshh. Don’t tell any of my high school friends. They’d laugh you out of town!

Last Tuesday night the guest speaker had some very thought provoking things to say and it really ties in with some things I’m seeing in other places. Briefly, here are my notes:

On Shepherding Our Children (speaker-Tammy Horton)

  • PRAY- there are no guarantees
  • CULTIVATE SOIL (You cannot lead them where you haven’t gone. Become a true disciple of Christ)
  • Have the courage to face your inadequacies and ask the Lord to help you become who you need to be….she said “daily” but I’d like to add “moment by moment”.
  • Start early SERVING THE WORLD. Teach your children to serve. This goes back to the second bullet point. They won’t be servants if they don’t witness you serving.
  • Develop a strong family identity. For my notes, I wrote “Who are the Burgesses?” This is something that Brent and I will be praying about as I’m not totally sure either of us has an answer to that question.

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

And there I was minding my own business on Wednesday when a conversation about discipline styles popped up on one of my Charlotte Mason lists. I generally try to stay out of these conversations, but someone made the comment about a suggested child training website. The reader thought the website seemed to be promoting the idea that you are training your children to be like you. The reader was appalled by this and insisted that she could never think of herself so highly as to have such a goal and instead, she wanted her children to be like Christ.

Mammas, whether or not we like it, our children are going to turn out a little like us. Okay. A LOT like us. If you have a child that is constantly complaining, look in the mirror. If you have a child that is lazy, look in the mirror. This goes without saying that obviously they are going to develop individual traits all by themselves and that by the grace of God wonderful people do come from completely detestable parents sometimes. But we should feel this weight on us, this responsibility to constantly be refining our character to be more like Christ, as we take the hands of our children to follow us in that pursuit. Know this, they are watching and they are soaking it all up. Every moment. Every word. Every action.

With all of this on my mind, I was amused to come downstairs this morning and find Arwen wearing my apron and Charis clopping around in my shoes. This imitation is flattering, but not so much when I hear a harsh criticism towards a sibling…and know that they got it from me.

Yesterday I was gone for a few hours and do you know what my sweet big girl was doing while I was gone? Brent had started some laundry and she was sitting at the table coloring. The dryer stopped and suddenly she sprang from her chair and walked into the kitchen to unload the dryer and transfer the clothes from the washer into the now empty dryer and turn it on. She sees me working around the house all day long and it came naturally to her to do it, I guess, since I wasn’t there.

This brings me to my (I lost count, 4th?) point: Your children are capable of a whole heck of a lot more than you think they are!

Under the influence of way too many hours spent reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and Charlotte Mason, we’ve been doing chores every morning. I’m not really organized about it because that just isn’t the season we are in right now. We just clean whatever is the dirtiest that day. And most of our “cleaning” is just to get things manageable. But we don’t do anything else until the house resembles a place that everyone wants to be in all day.

We clean and I say, “We don’t want bugs in our house, so we need to sweep under the couch!”

We clean and I say, “Isn’t it nice to be able to find your toys when you want to play with them? Put all the train tracks here.”

We clean and I say, “Arwen, you are going to be such a wonderful wife and mamma one day! You are learning how to keep house!” (Yes, I do try my very best to sound like Michelle Duggar when I say that one.)

We do lighter cleaning on heavier school days and stop by 10 am. But on lighter school days we’ll go until 11. Please don’t think I mean cleaning until everything is spotless. I mean cleaning so that we can find our clothes when we need them and the baby can crawl across the floor without contaminating herself with God-knows-what, and so that I have dishes available for the next meal. That kind of cleaning.

Do you think they are enjoying it?

 A dish might get broken, but she’s learning important life lessons. And she gets to wear Mamma’s Apron!

A dish might get broken, but she’s learning important life lessons. And she gets to wear Mamma’s Apron!

Quick Tips:

  • If your kids cannot pick up after themselves they have too much stuff. Inform them of this and then get rid of a lot of it. You are doing them a favor! It shouldn’t take hours to put toys away.
  • If you cannot keep up with all of your stuff, YOU have too much stuff! It does no good to keep every single birthday card you ever got from anybody if you never actually look at them or have a special place to put them. Look at them, say a silent prayer of gratitude for grandma betsy and then throw those suckers in the trash!
  • The stress you lose as a result of getting rid of your stuff is worth more than the weight of all said stuff in gold. Trust me. Get rid of stuff. Throw it out. Donate it to charities. Have a yard sale.
  • Your children feel important and needed when they get to help out with daily maintenance around the house.
  • If they complain, it’s only because you have conditioned them to believe that work is always bad and playing is always good. Change your attitude about your duties and theirs will follow suit.
  • If you are charging down the steps with a leaking diaper baby and see that the AC repairman left a mess when he changed your filter, don’t get overwhelmed about it. Call out to your four year old to grab that hand broom and dustpan and sweep it up. So what if she doesn’t do it perfectly. It’s just dirt, people.
  • When your two year old asks for a spray bottle and a rag never say “No.” Give it to him and try to persuade him to clean something that actually needs cleaning. If he wants to clean a window that is already clean, so what? It’s just a window, but he is feeling important to get to help.
  • When your kids are running around fussing at each other and being goofy, distribute baby wipes and send them to clean the walls. Walls always need cleaning.
  • I firmly believe that at the age my children are in, establishing good habits is more important that sitting and doing school lessons all day.
  • Sit in the room they are cleaning up and instruct them. They are not born knowing how to clean. “Charis, pull everything out from under Ezra’s bed.” Then help her see that she can get all the blocks and put them in the block box at once. Then point out the books she pulled out. Then the hairbows, etc. You can’t just send them into a room and say “Clean it.” It won’t get very clean and they won’t learn how to do it right. With time, you will be able to do that though!
  • I find that explaining to my children that we don’t want bugs or mice, or that we don’t want to get sick over and over, is great motivation to get them to clean up.
  • You have all that energy just sitting in your house mammas. Put it to good use!!

pitty the foo'!

Originally Published August 30th, 2010 

Ya’ll remember Mr. T right?

Anyway.

I woke up this morning with stuff to say.

Now, this isn’t a real problem for us, but occassionally when we go out I see looks of pity on people’s faces… and the comments. The comments do not get to me. (You know, “Bless your heart” type stuff. Like I’m a one legged beggar on the side of the road or something.) I’m not irritated with them or offended. I mostly just feel sorry for the people

who see dollar amounts instead of children

who treasure their decaying earthly possessions more than the eternal soul of another person

who buy big houses to store them up with lots of crap while their souls are empty

who think that because we have a “large” family we must be poor

or (almost worse) who think that we have many children because we can “afford” it.

I don’t know about ya’ll, but I grew up with only one sibling. A brother. And my parents both worked two jobs for much of the latter part of our upbringing. Eventually they had a third child and for 3 years all three of us lived under the same roof. But for most of my growing up years, there were only two of us. There were times when money was tight and my parents honestly prayed for our next meal. And then the doorbell rang and there was a sack of groceries or a wad of cash shoved in the mailbox.

I can remember my mother sweetly suggesting that we try the thrift store for back to school clothes…before we hit K-mart to spend the big bucks. I can remember doing all of the Christmas shopping for my little brother at used and second hand stores. I can remember my mamma staying up until 4 a.m., working with her hands to craft something to sell at a festival or fair that began in only a few hours. I can remember my dad trading in his own car for my bright shiny pick up truck, and not having his own car for a while because of it.

But when I look back (and I’m pretty sure I can speak for my older brother here too), I never think of “doing without”. I can’t remember the feeling of being poor or worrying over it. Our parents stressed one thing over and over again…the only thing you can take to heaven with you is people. The other stuff doesn’t matter. What’s stands out the strongest when I reminisce is the times of laughing it up with my older brother. We didn’t need toys. We had them, but our best play times were spent with a fan and a cassette tape recorder. In our underwear. (We had clothes, but being underwear super heroes was way funner.) Our house was always pretty and clean. My mamma didn’t need fancy stuff to help her clean or decorate. She made a lot of our home decor with her own two hands.

And yes, I pity the fool who works day and night to pay for the house, the car, the tv, the fancy phone, the fancy food, but would never give a second thought to having another child, or investing in life of one of the countless millions of orphans across the globe.

Pity me? Please don’t. I’m so rich! I get to build up souls for the kingdom of God, and keep these treasures this side of heaven!

When you look at your children today, see their little souls. Every word, every action, every small.little.thing.you.do matters. The dirty diapers in the night. The endless squabbles with siblings. The breakfast you cooked that everyone hated. It’s all for the glory of God and the building of his kingdom. May your words be like drops of rain on their thirsty souls today, Mammas!

in the beginning.....(I had no idea)

Five years ago, at this very moment (8:40 pm) I was beginning my journey to Motherhood. I was approximately 9 hours into a 26 hour labor. Good thing I didn’t know at that moment that it was going to go on for so long! 

I had returned “home”- to my parent’s house- a place of comfort and familiarity. I was surrounded by family members (and our family dog, Scotty who faithfully stayed by my side). Mostly Brent and the midwife travailed with me while everyone else hung out.

I had no idea at that moment that I was learning the beginning of giving myself for others. I had gone way overdue and I was so anxious to have my first baby! We knew it was going to be a girl, but had no idea that we were about to be catapulted into being adults, into learning to care for someone else as much as you care for yourself, into learning unconditional love for a small, helpless, demanding, creature.

What a miraculous thing!

Plucked right from the scrapbook. Brent NEVER, and I mean NEVER, left my side the entire time.

I had no idea, and I mean no idea what I was getting myself into. I said as much to Brent this morning while fixing breakfast for everyone. Lately, I’ve been “sleeping in” when Brent is here in the mornings. (“Sleeping in” means that I don’t get up before everyone else, but rather get up when they do.) So, the kids keep searching the house for me and finally find me still in bed on these mornings. I’m usually half way conscious when Charis sidles up to my bed side and says, “Mom, I’m hungry. Will you get me a snack?” And then Ezra usually comes around and lays a DVD or puzzle or something on my face. Then, of course, they both take turns draining my water bottle. Arwen comes literally bouncing into the room, filled with ideas and hopes and dreams for the day. “Can we go to Oliver Park today? Mommy, is Miss Terri coming today? Did you know that it is just ONE DAY UNTIL MY BIRTHDAY! Are we going to make party hats today?!?” The child doesn’t understand that I’m simply laying there trying to figure out the best way to launch my big self out of the bed!

Eventually I work it out and grunt my way into some clothes and slump down the stairs. I immediately start making food for everyone. No thought about it. No questions of why I have to do this, how come someone else can’t do it so I can sleep in for once. No doubts. No questioning. I’m sincerely happy to do it.

And that, folks, is the grace of God. Because five years ago today I sure was getting a wake up call! I had no idea the grotesque amount of selfishness in me that was about to manifest itself with the birth of my first child. This time, five years ago, I was just trying to make it through the night. Parts of my body were being used that had never been used before. Muscles were being called into action, but had no idea what to do. My brain was trying to battle it’s way through an inescapable pain. I didn’t know about surrendering then.

They danced with me, they hiked with me, they squatted with me, they fed me (grilled chicken, organic grapes, crackers, and cheese, and plenty of Recharge drinks) they sat by the pool and wiped my tears… and these very same people- our family, Brent, and our midwife, have been with me every step of the way ever since. Encouraging me just like they did as I labored with Arwen- at times I feel like giving up, and they cheer me on. I can remember Terri’s encouraging voice, “Missi, you’re doing so great!”

And I look at Arwen, my sweet sweet girl, and I know that I would never be the same without her! She has transformed me. Our hearts and souls are tied together.

It was tough, five years ago at this very moment. I wanted to give up. But I knew that something wonderful was coming. I never could have comprehended just how wonderful it would be though!

Tonight, I sat in her room, singing to her and her siblings while they fell asleep. Ezra was cuddled up tightly against my belly, and the baby on the inside of me was straining and pushing to get comfortable. That kept causing some Braxton Hicks contractions and I remembered those first pains I had. At this moment, five years ago, I never could have imagine how rich our life would be. These three little souls entrusted to us, and somehow even a fourth one on the way?!? What wonderful, terrific thing could I ever have done to deserve this?

if you're pregnanct with three children

To be read in the same style as “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”…

If you’re pregnant with three children, they will surely devise every diabolical scheme they can to ensure that you never get enough sleep. Once they are sure that you are so tired your thoughts sound like fuzzy background noise in your head, they will set about eating exactly one half of all of your food portions. They will do this in small incremental ways so that you do not notice. When the midwife asks you if you’ve been eating at least 100 grams of protein a day, you will say, “Yes, I think so…” (Actually, you’ve only had about 50. Maybe.)

…they will also dump out the water from your water bottle when you are not looking or just drink it themselves, which means you haven’t actually had one gallon of water to drink today.

Because you haven’t been eating enough protein or drinking enough water, your ankles are going to get swollen to freaky weird proportions. You sit confused because you know that most of the time this swelling is totally preventable, and you’ve been taking all precautions to avoid it. You realize your feet are enormous and you should put them up for a minute, so you sit down on the couch and  prop them up. Rest assured, they will all three pile on your lap, completely cutting off circulation to your legs. 

You’ll start reading them a book, and one of them will declare they are hungry. Which will make you realize that you are hungry too. You’ll wonder how in the world you could be hungry when you just ate [half] of a bean burrito smothered in cheese and sour cream an hour ago and somehow consumed 32 ounces of water on top of that. You’ll forget all about your ankles and get up into the kitchen to fix a nice high protein dinner [which they will all eat half of when you aren't looking, or possibly just dump half onto the floor.] When you bend down to wipe your food off the floor, you’ll also find a puddle of water. Which will remind you that you are supposed to be drinking a gallon of water a day. You’ll start to look for your water bottle and find it empty. Under the couch. In another puddle of water. You’ll clean that mess up and refill your water bottle and return to the table where everyone has finished their dinner… and yours. 

You’ll suddenly realize how exhausted you are and look at the clock to see that it’s bedtime. In the course of brushing teeth, dressing, and hopping into bed, you will give them water [from your water bottle] about five times. 

Once every one is sleeping you’ll plop onto the couch with your [empty] water bottle and glance down at your enormously proportioned ankles and wonder why they could be so swollen. “This has never happened before!?” You will review in your mind what you’ve had to eat and drink that day and notice your empty water bottle. Sure that you must have had enough water, since you remember refilling it four times, and sure that you must have had enough protein, you reconcile that it must just be because you are so tired. Really, that’s all you can think about anyway. So, without fixing yourself a snack or getting anything to drink [because you know you've had plenty to eat and drink that day already] you go to bed… without brushing your teeth. 

Then your kids wake up at 5:30 the next morning because, let’s face it, this game gets even more fun the more sleepy Mamma is!

how do you do it?

…when you feel like you can’t?

I was sitting on the couch, feeling strangely ill, with swollen feet. Brent left for work and the kids immediately woke up from their nap  exploded out of their room. They had just slept for two hours. I tossed and got jostled by an un-named big guy and poked by a four year old. I was tired and physically incapable, I felt, of taking care of the ants streaming down the wall, the hungry children, my thirsty self, and any of the other random events that I knew were about to happen. 

So, how do you do it, when you feel like you can’t??? When you feel like all you can do is sit there and let life happen to you…?

You have yourself a good cry. You feel sorry for yourself, but just for a minute. You get angry. And then you decide that this day is not going to lick you. You accept your handicap, whatever it may be at the moment (headache, swollen ankles, exhaustion, etc.) and you determine to do all that you can, and do it to the glory of God. That works a whole lot better than sitting on the couch feeling sorry for yourself! <3

look ma! no hands!

Now that I’ve come out of the closet and admitted my accidental parenting, I’ve got a couple more gems to share with you. 

You know that feeling you had as a child when you first realized you really could pedal your bike down the street with your arms outstretched like a bird? I feel that way as a parent sometimes! =D I accidentally stumble onto some truth or action that really works and I see that my children are actually learning stuff and growing into decent human beings and I think, “Hey, Cool! I’m really doing it! I’m being a Mom!!

Take for example, household work. With five people who like to get dirty on a regular basis, there is a lot of laundry going on in this house. Often times there are two overflowing tall baskets in the hallway, one in our room, and one downstairs. Not to mention the dirty clothes that I can’t seem to convince anyone to pick up off of the bathroom floor and put in the dirty clothes baskets. One day I’ll declare it’s laundry day, which pretty much means that I sweat and groan all those clothes down the stairs to wash them, nag everyone to help me fold them (which takes an hour) and then we all grunt and groan the clothes back up the stairs to put them away. Yuck. I’ve very quickly been teaching my kids that house work is indeed a chore- not something that we enjoy the fruit of. 

Add to that the fact that my second trimester energy spurt seems to have spurted out on me and you’ve got an entire upstairs that smells like dirty laundry, kids with no clean underwear, and an overwhelmed Mamma. Just the other day, the kids were running circles around the downstairs screaming like wild Indians (more on that later) and I knew they needed something to do. But I looked around my house and also knew that my house needed some attention as well. “How am I supposed to run this house and come up with constructive activities for my kids for 12 hours a day?!?” I shouted at Brent. (Yes. There. I said it. I shouted at my husband. The good news is, he isn’t the sensitive type to get his feelings hurt easily.)

 It hit me later on after he left for work, casually tossing these words at me, “You’ll figure something out. You’re smart enough to do this.” What a guy. 

DOH! Having the kids help me keep house IS a constructive activity! I don’t have to feel overwhelmed about all of the things it takes to run this house and spend quality time with my kids and teach them about life and make enough soap to keep the whole world naturally clean and fresh. AND, while my body is temporarily tired and in resting mode, their little bodies never seem to run out of energy. So they can do a lot of the work that I’m too tired to do. 

I can’t tell you how many times in the last week I have trudged my round self up the stairs and seen all the dust bunnies resting on the wooden steps and thought, “Man, I have really got to get the vacuum cleaner up here.” Or how many times I have looked out the back door and realized it was covered in sticky (although sweet) dirty little hand prints. And then there’s that laundry. 

After Brent’s encouraging little speech, I turned to my children and said, “Today kids, you will learn to run the house.” Their little eyes lit up! After breakfast we all emptied and refilled the dishwasher. Of course they put things in backwards and I had to instruct them to separate the forks from the spoons and knives, because I’m anal like that. Then we did Bible time and started on the laundry. 

This is where I really got into the whole hands free thing. 

Arwen pulled the clothes out of the washer and Charis shoved them into the dryer.

Then they all got into the action of putting the clothes into the washer. Charis handed them the dirty clothes and they put them in. Shameless plug: Using Soap Nuts makes it fool proof. I showed Arwen how to check and make sure the soap nuts were ready to go, drop some essential oils onto the bag and toss it in. No measuring or toxic chemicals to mess with.

And I sat and watched.

We taught them a long time ago how to fold their clothes. Not that they actually stay folded in the drawers, but that is the eventual goal. They also can fold the little wash cloths and dish towels, etc.

Today Arwen asked if she could vacuum the couch and I sent Charis to tackle the stairs with the dust buster. Arwen then vacuumed the downstairs while Charis went around with a spray bottle, wiping down all those sticky hand prints from the doors. Ezra helped me slice soap while they were doing that. 

When we went upstairs to nap, the house looked like it was ready for company. I didn’t need a nap today, so I took a bath instead, since there really wasn’t that much left to do.

The whole time we’re working I’m saying things like, “I just love having a clean house that smells nice! It makes me feel so happy and comfortable!” and “Daddy is going to be so glad to come home to a clean house today. He really appreciates all the things we do to keep the house tidy.” and “If we don’t clean the floors and  pick up our toys, bugs will come in and try to hide under them. I don’t like when bugs come in the house.” You see, I am deliberating brainwashing them. Replacing the thought of “This is work” with “This is a meaningful way for me to contribute to my family and I have an important job.”

I couldn’t help but contrast my children with the little girl across the street. While they were humming around our house like the birds and mice on Snow White, she was sitting on her front porch watching it rain, looking lonely and dejected. My kids feel so proud and needed. We have a little enterprise going here, and everyone counts and they know it. And they nap like crazy after I’ve had them working alongside me all morning rather than trying to move them around out of my way .

Now where is my gold star??

the accidental parent

I’ve been reading this bit on the Idle Parent, and it sounds like a lot of hooey to me. (Google it, I won’t waste space here to cover the details. Suffice it to say, it is exactly what it sounds like… Whatever is natural is good, and children should be left to themselves to become what they will, etc etc.).

I do seem to find myself caught in Accidental Parenting sometimes. It’s a whole new ball game here. Most of  us were raised by a lot of different people. Of course our parents had a lot to do with it, but we spent the majority of our time at school, in daycare, or at church. Even some of us that grew up with stay at home moms didn’t experience any sort of Purposeful Parenting (which, by the way, is the opposite of Idle Parenting, and my personal goal). Anyway. My point is that we get confronted with issues that we never had to deal with as children, and that we never got to witness our own parents confronting. 

So Accidental Parenting is when I accidentally get something figured out. =D There seems to have been a secret transition that has taken place in our home. Arwen has taken it upon herself to make Ezra her buddy. It’s been going on for a little while now, but I wanted to make sure it was for real before I wrote about it. I believe that what started it was when we accidentally discovered that Arwen and Charis were capable of buckling themselves into their car seats, and we rearranged the seating arrangement in the car. We also accidentally discovered that Arwen can UNbuckle Charis and Ezra, who cannot unbuckle themselves yet. You have to understand how much easier this makes going places when your abdomen is expanding! I put everyone in the van-Charis climbs into her seat in the very back and buckles herself in. Arwen sits in one of the captain’s chairs in the middle row, and buckles herself in, and I barely have to reach to buckle Ezra into the captain’s chair next to Arwen. So now Arwen and Ezra sit next to one another and she is responsible for unbuckling him and sometimes even buckling him. We also accidentally discovered that Ezra feels like a big boy when he is holding his sister’s hands. If he is having some self control issues in the store, I merely suggest that someone hold his hand, and he is more than happy to walk calmly and quietly to our destination.

When Ezra gets up from his nap, Arwen helps him climb out of his play pen. He sits at a booster seat at the big table now, like part of the family- next to Arwen. 

So, do you see where I’m going? It’s a buddy system. If you want to purposefully enforce this is your home, I highly recommend it! Just keep putting an older kid with a younger kid. In the car, in the bathtub, at the table. And push that older child gently to do things that they may feel that they are incapable of (Arwen was initially convinced she was not capable of unbuckling anyone. It took some practice and patiently talking her through it, and now it’s old hat.) Arwen is Ezra’s buddy. When he falls, she is genuinely concerned for him and helps him back up. He even takes things to her to fix sometimes. 

This is what I meant when I said that my kids were going to change drastically by the time this baby is born! So many moms sell their kids (and themselves!) short by getting all flustered at the idea of another baby. They get that baby fever and shush it up inside, because let’s face it, it would just be insane to let yourself get pregnant when your baby is 9 months old. We fail to reason that our baby will actually be 18+ months old by the time the new baby is born! Silly us.   

Anyway. If you aren’t an Accidental Parent (even occasionally) like me, you may be thinking “DUH!”, but I was pretty thrilled to discover this little buddy system. It has made my life extraordinarily easier. I fully intend on making Charis the new baby’s buddy when he/she gets a little older as well.

the more we get together the happier we'll be

Suburban CEO has pinpointed that one of the biggest hurdles facing the stay at home mom is isolation. Some one give this lady a Nobel Peace Prize.  She says that if you move more than once every 5 (or 7?) years, it’s even worse. Try5 times in 5 years. That’s how many times we’ve moved. Basically, every time you move you are starting over again with networking and forming a local support group (which we all know is mandatory for the survival of your sanity when you have peanut butter in your hair, no one can find their shoes, and your pretty sure that someone recently peed in an undisclosed location which you can’t find.) Basically, the modern SAHM is having trouble coping with what should be a normal and natural role. It doesn’t fit with a modern day society.

So, we’ve lived in 5 locations in 5 years. Factor into that a husband who works long hours far away from home and doesn’t even get a chance to even call to check on you most days and you’ve got a recipe for a really lonely frazzled mommy. I thinkmay have just gone off the deep end yesterday if my older brother hadn’t called to check on me. (Thanks, Matt!) I crave community. I crave to be able to be physically present to help others out. And yes, I’ll be honest, I crave some DOGGON HELP!

I know, it sounds stupid probably. I was really wondering if maybe I’m just too self-absorbed. Is it really reasonable to expect to have a network of people at your beck and call everytime you have a bad day? (To overexagerate things just a tad.) I should just pull myself up by my boot straps and do what I’ve got to do, but instead I’m in my room hiding from my family while my poor husband tries to feed the kids breakfast.

But really. Hours and hours and HOURS of isolation from anyone who can carry on a reasonable conversation. (And I don’t think that “How are you today? My those shoes are cute!” from the checkout person at the store counts. .. Although it is slightly exciting at times.) Day after day after day. Is this acceptable? Shouldn’t I be able to call some older woman for help when I feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do? Shouldn’t there be family near by to assist you with those tasks that only a family member would be willing to engage in. Or… not even just to WORK or HELP… but just to drop by and hang out and laugh and have fun?

I think that we were created to be together. In scripture we are told to bear one another’s burdens. We are told that it is good and pleasant for us to dwell together. (Sorry I don’t have my Bible nearby so I can’t look up the references. I went to Bible College, take my word for it. =P )

All of my kids are at really intense places in their development right now. Arwen appears to have no clue that she’s a child. I think this is normal for four. She’s very combustible and questions and back talks ALL. DAY. LONG. Eventually I just run out of reasons or the ability to offer an explanation and I have to just ask her to please not ask any more questions for the next five minutes. Then I feel like a jerk. Charis is of course the middle child. She’s 3. She’s a girl. That seems to amount to a lot of crying and hurt feelings (She is likely to cry simply because she thought she was getting spaghetti for lunch and I served PBJ instead.). She’s very tender and I really love that about her, so telling her to “toughen up” and stop crying doesn’t seem like a good idea. Ezra is in the clumsy toddler stage of having a LOT to say but no words to say it with. This is frustrating for all of us. He also doesn’t seem to know his own strength, bless his heart. This makes me nervous about the new baby that is coming.

And then there is the new baby. I have to admit, the Fearless Mamma is slightly afraid of having 4. I think it’s a normal phase of pregnancy. The first trimester you just try to get through the days and feel better, and comfort sets in with the 2nd trimester. Your mind starts to wonder and you day dream about your baby. Boy or Girl, what color hair, etc. Then you start to try to imagine squeezing a new born into your every day life as it is right now, which is just absurd. In the middle of a stressful situation you find yourself thinking, “Oh Lord, what would I do if I had a newborn right now?!?!?” I try not to go there, because that thought freaks me out (and it’s just not a good idea). Of course, all of my currrent children are going to change SO MUCH by the time this baby is born! Life changes constantly and we’ll all be ready when the time comes. It’s been that way every single time. I remember when Arwen was 10 months old and I found out I was pregnant with Charis. I looked down at my child who couldn’t even walk and all I could think was “How am I going to carry them both around all the time?!?!” Arwen, of course, learned how to walk by the time Charis was born. Charis squeezed right in and after a brief four month adjustment period, our lives were normal again. Ezra practically snuck in the back door when he was born, 21 months after Charis. I again had two in diapers (cloth at that), and everything was okay. So, by the time this baby is born, Ezra will be almost 2, Arwen will be five, Charis will be almost 4, and life will look a lot different than it does right now.

I’m sorry for rambling. This is just my way of processing.

I think my conclusion is that I’m in the middle ofa really lonely period of life right now, but that life may just look totally different in even justmonths, or maybe 5 years. Either way, feeling hopeless and stuck isn’t an option. I can only try, once again. to put my roots down deep and hope that we stay put for a little while. 

(Speaking of putting down deep roots. It has become apparent to me that I “cope” by gardening, and yesterday I put in a lot of new plants- both vegetable and flowers. I’ll post pictures later.)

Tomorrow, FIL is supposed to come to start the transformation of garage to soap lab. This will be an enormous weight off my shoulders, so that should help too. And rumor has it that my family is coming for a visit next Monday.

See? Things aren’t so bad after all. <3 <3

Love the one your with, ya’ll.

The industrial revolution of birth (alternate title: Why I won't stop talking about it)

I am reading this fascinating article. I know it’s way too long for most people to read through (although I thought it was worth it), I’m sharing my favorite points. =) Enjoy:

I have seen, over years of practice in maternal-fetal medicine, an odd and somewhat unsettling pride among women who announce that they have a “high-risk pregnancy.” Although the inherent literal meaning of the term high-risk pregnancy is one that entails a greater risk of a poor outcome (for mother or baby,) the subtext seems to be that high risk equals high value. In some cases it is difficult to persuade a low-risk woman to continue her care with a general OBGYN practice instead. “But I’m high-risk,” she says. Does she really mean, “I’m high-status,” or “My baby is high-value,” specifically, more precious than someone else’s? Is it a statement of importance? Does it mean that she is special? Or is it a Disneyfication of a primal human endeavor, longing for the synthetic and dramatized experience in preference to the authentic? These questions are raised, but cannot possibly be answered, in this commentary.

(I have noticed the same thing. Mothers that are afflicted with various health problems tend to almost seem proud of them. I wonder sometimes how many actually have real handicaps, or which have been fear-mongered by their doctors into believing that they couldn’t possibly survive without monthly or yearly exams, medications, etc for completely preventable conditions.)

But across the developed world, or across medium- and high-income countries, there is no additional benefit of further increase in cesarean rate (Althabe 2006.): Slovenia, with a 12% cesarean rate, has the same maternal mortality ratio as the US. Nordic maternal mortality ratios are only a fraction of the American, at a 50% lower cesarean rate. Neonatal mortality does not change in high-income countries across a range of CS rates from 10-40%. (Althabe) Infant mortality rates as low as 4 per 1000 are achieved at CS rates of 15% in a number of countries, contrasting favorably with the US infant mortality rate of 7 per 1000: the American system results in infant mortality nearly twice as high achieved at the cost of twice as many cesareans. It is hard to make the argument on a population basis that abdominal delivery is safer for mothers or babies, at least after a minimal necessary rate is achieved.

(In other words, while many moms are lead to believe that their c-section was “necessary”, for whatever reason, the facts prove that it simply doesn’t make a difference in maternal or infant mortality rates.)

In the US, we have heard arguments that women are entitled to autonomy in making their birth choices, and that therefore it is ethical to perform cesarean for no reason other than maternal request. Curiously, this vaunted autonomy stops at the door of the labor room. Women are implicitly allowed, or encouraged, to make only those choices which increase the power of the physician and which decrease their own.

(’Nough said.)

 Stipulate that antibiotics and blood banks are good and necessary things, and that emergencies may, in fact, develop: still, the majority of births will be normal. Or they would be, without interference. The species that cannot birth its young becomes extinct. But fear has pushed nearly all American childbirth into the hospital, a campaign which continues even now that that battle looks to have been won. (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2008) Still, despite the implied promise of safety if all the rules are followed—ID bracelets, intravenous lines, electronic fetal monitoring—labor may follow an unpredictable path. The definition of “normal” becomes ever narrower, and toleration of deviance ever lower. The final stage of this philosophy takes the process of birth away from the woman entirely and turns it into a surgical procedure performed by the doctor. Childbirth becomes a manufactured experience, shorn of any real risk or real power, one in which the woman is so far alienated from the capabilities of her body that she is only a package on an operating table for a professional to open.

(Emphasis mine. I had to restrain myself from highlighting the entire paragraph. This is truth right here.)

The industrialization of food production is, perhaps, a harbinger of the industrialization of childbirth. Food production was once local, varied and small-scale, but farms have been taken over by huge conglomerates, and monoculture of a small number of genetically uniform crops has replaced variety. The disappearance of cultivars—that is, the loss of deviants—means that random natural events could wipe out large swaths of the food supply. To draw an even more pointed parallel, meat in America is cheap and widely available because of industrialized animal production. These animals lead narrowly confined lives from conception to death. Reliance on a small number of breeds, confined animal feeding operations, and the production line essentially turn animals into factory products. Industrial animal production has exacted a price in ways that until recently were invisible to the average consumer: the pollution of air and groundwater, the increasing potential for foodborne illness, the escalation of antibiotic resistance which begins in industrial herds but moves into human populations, even the quality of those animals’ lives. Clearly, industrialization has a downside, although we may not notice the drawbacks until all competing models have vanished. While some would object to drawing an analogy between industrial food production and industrial childbirth, I submit that in both cases we see a conversion of a living creature to a commodity, with an emphasis on the end product and a marked disinterest in the natural process over time. Women can be processed through the childbirth machine and handed a baby at the other end, stripping them of their central role at the heart of things, and turning them instead into objects that someone else operates upon.

Sometimes those of us who are birth advocates feel as though we are shouting from the rooftops and being completely disregarded. This is why we feel so passionately about this topic. This article has summed up why it is important that we teach our daughters that birth is normal and beautiful and safe. This is the heart of motherhood and of femininity and it is being taken away from us. Women are becoming like men, and worse- like factories.

We feel like pulling our hair out when we hear of a friend, sister, or even acquaintance who was forced to experience an unplanned c-section and led to believe that it was necessary for whatever reason. Because we know that it could have been different for her with proper care and nurturing from other wise women (and herself!) instead of a hurried undereducated physician. We mourn the loss of confidence and ability that results. Because ultimately, it does affect every single one of us.

Potpourri

Baby Beat

Next on my list is an update on the new baby. We heard the heart beat with my doppler about a week and a half ago! I was just barely 9 weeks at the time, so it required my filling my bladder painfully full and laying on the hard floor while trying not to pee on myself. But I located the baby and since have felt movement at least once a day in that same area. The child keeps kicking me in my hip bone. It seems a little early to me to be feeling movement, but I double checked my dates and keep getting the same week estimate. If I heard correctly, the placenta seems to already have attached itself rather high up on the left side. I like this because my babies usually cuddle the placenta and I prefer for them to lay along my left side. So far, they have all dutifully obeyed. (Although Charis took until 38 weeks to comply. She’s always done things in her own timing, that one.) Did I mention I’ve already gained 20 pounds? Ummm. Yeah. That’s a problem. Pretty much all the weight I lost in preparation for getting pregnant again piled right back on the minute I saw two pink lines. Generally, I do spend the first six months of my pregnancies getting fat, and then the next 4 months I don’t gain so much. However, 20 pounds in only 11 weeks is not acceptable, even by my 50-pound-weight-gain-per-baby standard. So, yesterday I did Pilates and made myself so sore I can barely move. And I’m not eating sugar anymore. Now I have rightfully punished myself, don’t you think?

Backyard Extravaganza Update:

I started my tomato seedlings about a week or so ago, and am finally getting some teeny tiny sprouts! I’m thinking the seeds got moved too close to the surface of the dirt. These little sprouts are so tiny and frail looking! They are enjoying some nice warm sunshine outside, so hopefully that’ll beef them up? I know I’m probably not sprouting them right, but I had all these containers and really really wanted to repurpose them for something

The Schedule:

I may or may not have mentioned my reading Manager’s of Their Homes, by Teri Maxwell. I finished it several weeks ago, and in much trepidation have been considering following her schedule template. I finally took the plunge two days ago and mapped out an ordinary day for all the kids and myself. I’ll admit, I didn’t have enough room to fit everything that I want to do in a day and had to think hard to move things around. But I did it. Yesterday was the first day implementing it, and I’m proud to say we followed said schedule all the way to 9:00 a.m.! And I’m thrilled. Baby steps, right? Then I was struck with insomnia last night and the entire schedule is out the window today. It’s videos and lots of books on the couch, peppered with imaginative play and coloring. And I’m okay with that. 

The master schedule is hanging on the laundry room doors now.

Blog Business

Now, I’ve already said that I hate the name BurgessFam, especially since I’m the only one that blogs on here. I wanted to call it “me and my big ideas” but evidently a scrapbooking company has snagged that one already. 

I’d like to think I could call my blog something really matriarchal, taken from Proverbs 31. But I don’t fit the bill. Maybe in my 50s I can pull that one off.   

So I thought of “Mamma in the Raw.” Since most of my writing is just my honest thoughts on my adventures and struggles through this wonderful joyful journey of motherhood. But I don’t want it to convey the wrong image.

I also liked “Earthen Vessel” because it expresses the idea that there is a work in progress going on here, very raw, not yet finished. However, that is taken by a pottery company. Good idea. So, I’ll have to think of something similar.

Mostly, I just want this to be a place for me to easily and quickly record family memories, as well as be a testimony to (hopefully) the way that God is shaping me to be what He wants me to be.

the whole thing was rather anticlimactic

Last Monday I bought BBQ chips…Buffalo Bleu BBQ chips to be exact. Then I ate the entire bag by myself over the course of the week. I crave BBQ anything like a mad woman when I’m pregnant. I didn’t catch the hint at that point though.

I’ve been really tired and super hungry lately. I wake up in the night starving even. 

Then the last three days I felt that familiar little knot in my womb. Just a little bloating and a little tightness. 

As I said before, I also feel like painting pictures of rainbows and hanging them everywhere. O, hormonal bliss! I have been hugging my kids so much that it’s actually starting to get on their nerves.

Yesterday I sat and balked at a show called “I didn’t know I was pregnant” in which four women actually went into labor and thought they had cancer or the flu. One even delivered her baby andstill didn’t know she had been pregnant. What irony. I just knew I was pregnant. I’ve also been DVR-ing every birth show there ever was and sitting and watching with tears in my eyes when the baby is born.

I always “know” at just around 3 weeks. When you consider that my pregnancies usually go at least 41 weeks, this is a long time to wait. Just once I’d like to find out when I’m like 8 weeks along to cut the wait time down. 

Brent brought home some pregnancy tests last night. I’d already peed like a million times in the last few hours (that’s the other sign…lots of peeing). 

So, we did the whole dip stick thing and the doggone thing took forever. Just that one bold line sat staring at me for at least three minutes. Brent was disappointed. I exclaimed that I didn’t need a little stick to tell me I was pregnant and the whole thing was stupid. 

Then we stared at it until we started to believe that we saw a second line. The directions said not to interpret the results until after five minutes. I guess they meant business. At exactly five minutes a small faint line appeared. 

See what I mean about anticlimactic? What do we do now? We just stood there and stared at eachother and I said, “Well, I guess I’m going to bed.” or something along those lines.

I tested again with my first bathroom trip of the day and same results. Hm. I guess a line is a line, be it faint or not.

So I get online to try to figure out how far along I am, because every stranger I meet from here to next October is going to ask me when I’m due. 

October 11th, but you can go ahead and add a couple weeks onto that date, folks. 

Then out of curiousity I clicked the link to learn all about the wonderfulness of week number three in your 40+ week journey. I expected to see some little alien bean in the picture and I was so bummed to find…

… a blastocyst.

That’s right folks. Nothin’ to do now but sit here and split some cells. 

I love my little blastocyst. And as Arwen already informed me, “Mom, it’s not a blastocyst…it’s agirl.” 

Charis had only this to say when I told her I was going to have a baby: “What kind?”