either I'm crazy or I'm on to something

After a long stretch of physical, spiritual, and emotional unrest, things have been peaceful.

I’ve been practicing The Liturgy of the Hours. It’s a Monastic and Benedictine practice of pausing for prayer at seven appointed times during the day.

{Best Valley Girl accent} I’m, like, totally praying all day long.

I’m not a great pray-er. I get distracted approximately 3.5 seconds into bowing my head, my words are jumbled, and I just can’t think of what to pray about. Pretty pathetic.

To make matters worse, when my world comes crashing in around me, it never occurs to me to pray. Freaking heck.

Don’t get me wrong, praying seven times a day has not been magical or easy yet. I’ve only been doing it a few days with some sparse information I got online. And let’s be real, I’m at home with five kids all day. My prayers often go like this:

Lord, thank you for this day… stop licking the table… Uhhh, Lord…err…

Which is why I ordered a book with guided prayer topics and suggested scripture readings. Because prayer is a discipline. And carving out time to pray is something of a fast. Once you are done working out the logistics you find actual communion with God.

I’m already seeing results, even though I’m probably doing it “wrong”. Last night’s Property Virgins episode was in the Promised Land. In our price range. And instead of packing to move into one of the homes parading across the screen like I thought I would be, I’ve been unpacking. All the anger, disappointment, feelings like something had been promised and then stolen….it all started to rage.

Mercifully, my phone alarm clock chimed. It was time for The Great Silence, a time set aside for letting go. Gently evaluating the day and setting aside struggles to welcome rest and new mercies for tomorrow. I was forced to pause. Forced to acknowledge the Lord’s presence and hand in my life. Forced to commune with the Maker of the Universe as I was created to do. What a ridiculously wonderful blessing.

The first stuff we got out of storage was the school stuff. Our home is so complete with the massive black shelf with books and such weighing it down. Attitudes changed immediately and we haven’t even officially started yet.

They were like pirrhanas (I’m too lazy to spell check that.) attacking the books and demanding that I give them work to do.

We will start back to school when we get back from our 8 day beach vacation. You heard me. Since we ruined the last vacation, we are trying again.

Edited to Add: I had abruptly ended this because my kids were begging me for lunchI had nothing more to say. And later I checked in at Ann Voskamp’s blog. Her blog post today brought it full circle. Is it any wonder that two weeks into a vacation from Facebook that it occurred to me to pray more? She has such a way with words and said it better than I could have. I am being blessed by the ceremony of pausing to pray that is being squeezed into my schedule. I am being blessed by checking out of social media for a time and checking in to the moments happening in the present. Even the hard ones. 

when God's grace screams

I had big plans for today.

I spent most of the morning chasing down chickens while stressing out at everyone about a house showing we had later on in the afternoon.

And we had some places to go.

First, we had a meeting for our home school cover school. We, being the kids and I. Even though we will only be here for a month and a half of the school year ( unless Brent doesn’t get the job), we still had to sign up for a cover school.

After that I was prepared to brave the long lines at Chic fil a for their appreciation day, but we got a little bit later start than I wanted because we were enjoying ourselves at the home school meeting so much.

We had been in line at the light to turn onto the street that our Chick is on for thirty minutes when the AC of the truck went hot. I glanced at the engine temperature gauge and it was all the way hot. And lights were coming on and stuff on my dashboard.

ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?! My mind raged. Didn’t I say I was never leaving home again???

I threw on my hazard lights and gave up on the line for Chic fil a. Careening into a parking spot at Panera Bread, I called Brent and proceeded to unleash the crazy. Brent brazenly stated that I should be good at this being stranded thing by now. The man has guts. He did marry me, after all. He was just encouraging me to let the engine rest for a bit when my friend Sheryl pulled right into the spot next to me!

“Girl, don’t tell me you are broken down again,” she teased. Then she saw the look on my face. I was so happy to see a familiar face!

I restrained myself from squeezing her too hard. She and her daughter helped us all inside and even bought our lunch. They headed back home with food for their own family and we made spectacles of ourselves in a booth inside Panera. At one point all you could see of Ezra was a pair of cowboy boots in the air while Titus refused to nurse with the nursing cover on. In between biting me, he was happy to flash the crowded restaurant his “lunch”. Evie was wandering around the restaurant, I think looking for a responsible adult to take her home.

Another mom in the restaurant recognized me from home school circles and asked if she could help. She supervised some of the kids while I took others potty. We chatted for a while and made our way back out to the truck, which I assumed had cooled down.

We all sat in the hot truck while Titus finished nursing. I assured the kids that the Lord was just preparing them to be missionaries one day. I mean, there isn’t AC in Africa, right?

No sooner had I gotten back out in traffic than the dang thing went blazing hot again. Again, I threw on hazard lights and pulled into the Target parking lot this time. If I was gonna be stranded again there was gonna be Starbucks involved, that’s for dang sure.

I called Brent again, and he concluded that I just shouldn’t be messing with things under the hood. He was going to leave work and come fix it, since AAA can’t be trusted. Unless I wanted just enough coolant to NOT run my truck. Humph.

{{ Of note: I was supposed to go get all fluids checked before leaving town for vacation, but getting stuck in Tuscaloosa had changed all that. So, follow me… Because AAA didn’t give me enough gas and I lost a whole day, I didn’t have time to get my coolant checked, and now… Well. Here I was. }}

We bought some nice cold bottles of water and headed for the dollar section. Y’all. The dollar section at Target is awesome this month! Flash cards, work books, children’s classic books, stickers, and cute Dr. Seuss totes to put it all in?! Yes, please.

At check out I explained to the cashier that I needed to group specific items together to go into specific bags. I could tell by her expression that she was less than thrilled so I explained that our car was broken down and desperately needed to create a silver lining for my children. She was more than happy to help.

I also had to explain that I had a receipt for our waters, but Titus ate it. For real.

It was the longest checkout process ever.

Brent arrived just as we were finishing up and we herded ourselves into the in-store Starbucks. I handed each child their bag of activities.

Voila!

$35. That’s what some emergency peace and quiet cost me. Worth every penny.

Brent purchased some coolant and requested my car keys.

“Uuuhhhh.” I couldn’t remember where they were because by the time we had gotten to Target Titus was screaming and Evie was having a nervous breakdown. The child cannot cope with any sort of stress. I don’t know where she gets it from. Eventually we found the keys. In my back pocket.

I’m so glad we had bought all the books and crayons and activities because he was out there for a while. I glanced out and saw a kind stranger was out there under the hood with him, despite the heat.

And a friend texted me and said she was on the way in case we needed a ride or just for moral support.

Oh yeah, God’s grace was screaming.

Eventually the truck was all better and we were on our way back home. I had barely two hours and not a thing done to be ready for showing the house. My plan had been to clean during nap time. But we had just spent nap time at Target.

I put the kids down for majorly late naps anyway. And of course Titus took f o r e v e r to nurse and go down for a nap. By the time I was done I had less than an hour to clean.

I did what any respectable mom with a large vehicle would do. I put everything into laundry baskets and shoved it all into the Suburban.

I instructed Charis to turn off the clothes dryer when our guest arrived, and Arwen and I were just finishing sweeping when the door bell rang. Charis jumped up and ran to the laundry closet like her life depended on it. Then both girls settled on the couch with books like we hadn’t just been rushing around. It was just like that scene in Pride and Prejudice. Only our guest wasn’t Mr. Darby. 

I sure did show the house with three sleeping children.

And she LOVES it.

I think the soap sealed the deal too since I gave her a free bar. The lady can’t wait to move in. Seriously? Is the first person we show it to gonna take it?? We’ll see. 

Brent had offered to stop by Chick fil a on his way home, for dinner. I hesitantly suggested it might take too long. I was impressed when he shook it off.

Until later when he called to tell me it was “Chick fil a appreciation day or something.” Oh, really?

He doesn’t get out as much as I do. And it’s probably a good thing. I need someone on standby to rescue me. He even tracks my iPhone by an app on his. Can you blame him?

So, what sweet things has the Lord done for you today? Did you find His grace everywhere? Cause I’m telling ya… It was there.

rodeo!

We’ve been a little down in the dumps around here lately, and several weeks ago I saw an advertisement for a rodeo that benefits Rescue 1 “an abolitionist movement to end sex trafficking”. I tore it out and stuck it on the fridge for a back up plan, in case the unthinkable happened and we were not in Atlanta looking at big beautiful houses with trees.

And, we weren’t, so we went to the rodeo.

And it was awesome.

You might have correctly assumed that I have never been to a rodeo before. While the Promised Land is in the south, we are more of city people. People here in the Home Land? They are for real about their horses and cows.

And I was the only person snapping pictures right and left with an iPhone. I also wore inappropriate footwear. I completely understand now why everyone else was wearing cowboy boots instead of cute strappy sandals.

The girls quickly bought themselves some hats.

After about ten different tributes to the USA, the rodeo got down to business with bucking broncos.

Um. Ow.

Most of my pictures from the actual rodeo are of blurry horses, cows, bulls, and rodeo clowns. But the kids got cotton candy for the first time ever!

We were a little disturbed about the calf roping. But thankfully it transitioned to the grabbing the bull by the horns part. Somehow that was exciting and not disturbing at all. Don’t over think that. I tried.

Our citified selves stuck out worse when they called all the kids into the thing rink big circle. We missed the garbled instructions and suddenly all the other kids took off running through the dirt (and horse poop?) with Arwen timidly trailing behind. I don’t blame her. So far we’d only seen people get trampled by horses and bulls, and cute baby cows thrown onto their backs and tied up.

Turns out they were chasing a cow. One kid actually tackled it. This was obviously not his first rodeo.

Exhausted, we took our gringo selves home.

what's next?

The last two days have been really hard. Wrought with disappointment, frustration, and anger. Filled with lots of tears and painful feelings.

I have done the equivalent of donning sack cloth and ashes: I have sat around in capri yoga pants with unshaven legs. I have sported a neon blue tank over a pink sports bra and layered bobby pins on my head for lack of washing my hair.

In some very real ways, there were some losses to mourn. I’m not ready to delve into that right now.

Mostly I’ve just been asking God to help me be content again. Once I let my mind roam into the possibility of more, it’s been hard to go back to less. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Just normal. And less isn’t a bad thing either.

So. At nap time today I curled up with Charis and chatted about her new Wednesday night class at church. They had learned about church plants and she wanted more information.

I recalled when I was 12 years old and our family left sunny Florida to plant a church in the Promised Land. It must not have been easy on my parents. Our current circumstances in Florida had been very hard for them. People were being malicious and unkind. I remember watching my dad weep and my mom struggle to make everything happy for us kids. We were poor. We received government welfare, even though both of my parents worked two jobs. It was just hard.

So I was recounting these events to Charis, how the Lord led my parents to Georgia on a wing and a prayer. How we lived in a rental house for many years until I graduated high school. I remember that house. It had a whole wall that was 1969 era marbled mirror. I bet my mom hated it. Did she have friends in fancy houses that made her squirm with wanting more for her family? I don’t know. I cant remember her complaining. I can’t remember anything except that my mom could make a shack beautiful. And she made that house pretty.

Then I told Charis about how my parents bought their first home, their current home, just as I was taking off for Bible college in Texas. At that same time, her daddy was leaving Arkansas for Texas too. And then her Papa and Nana moved to the Promised Land, where her Grammy and Grandpa already were.

She giggled. If you’ve heard Charis giggle, you can appreciate how comforting that was.

Then I told all about how eventually mommy and daddy fell in love, and with Arwen in my tummy, we moved back to the Promised Land. To Grammy’s house, where Arwen was born.

Then we moved to a rental house in Tucker, Georgia where Charis was born.

More giggling. 

Then we moved to Pell City, Alabama to another rental house, and Ezra was born.

Then we moved to our current house and Evie was born. And then Titus was born.

“…And now we are still here…” my story trailed off.

Charis smiled and looked into my eyes like an old soul and said, “I know what you’re thinking, Mamma.”

She turned to a page in a little book she’s been working through for fun.

"Give this page to an adult"....

"Give this page to an adult"....

What’s next?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing? Maybe this is it. We stay here, we continue to work hard.

I know one thing for certain that is next: I lay it down. All the hoping. I just.lay.it.down. And I repent for longing for more than what Christ has already done for me. Because what Jesus did is more than I will ever need or hope to accomplish on my own.

I will always hate my kitchen though.

And that’s where I’m at.

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.

three times the charm

As cliche as it sounds, it’s hard to believe that another season of farmers markets has gone by. It’s tough- the heat, the missed naps, God help us if it rains…

But the farmers market people at the three weekly markets we sell soap at have become like family to us! They have watched our kids grow. They have worried about me through a difficult pregnancy. They have seen us at our sweatiest and stinkiest. Evie has essentially spent every summer of her life at the markets, for some perspective.

Our first summer we worked our behinds off to get out of debt. The second year it was all about the beach vacation. This year, we went because we love those farmers market people.

We missed a lot of markets this year. The Tuesday market concluded a couple weeks ago. Attending that market involves yanking kids out of beds from naps and surviving for an hour or so by myself while helping customers until Brent gets off work. We were so blessed to have sweet friends, the Vines, in the booth next door this year. Between the two of us, we had 9 kids roaming around!

Then we have a day off to prepare for the next market of the week.

Our Thursday market is on the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.

::::::::::ROOOOOOLLLLL TIDE!!!::::::::::::

Anyway, yeah we go because we are big fans. And they are big fans of our soap. And I kid you not, big burly football dudes totally love the Happy Thoughts soap. 

This market is a family field trip day. Brent takes the day off, we skip naps altogether, and roll with the punches in the name of adventure. You might recall this was the epic scene where AAA totally let me down.

Even though the market is still swinging, we had designated last Thursday to be our last. We have a big markdown sale on the last market and folks stock up like its Y2K. A really dirty Y2K. Of course our last Thursday had to be just one.more.adventure. Because our lives have been totally boring lately.

We had just finished setting out ridiculously large piles of soap on our table when lightening struck and a squall broke out overhead. Tents flew everywhere. Tree branches sailed by. After we ran circles around the table screaming “What do we do?!” and wringing our hands, we settled on throwing the edges of the burlap table cloth over the soap and lowering the tent like a big giant umbrella. It took both of us hanging on to keep it from blowing away. And when you’ve got several hundred dollars worth of soap on a table in a monsoon, you will do whatever it takes to keep it relatively dry.

And would you believe our loyal customers ducked right in and bought soap anyway?

It’s good people in Alabama.

The kids were still in the truck when the storm hit, thankfully. Except Titus, he was in his exersaucer and I threw him in the way-back and shut him in. Evie stayed in her seat and peed gallons all over herself.

Once the storm blew over we raised the tent, let the kids out, and cleaned Evie up.

Now, I’m not the mom who ever has diapers, wipes, or spare clothes on hand. But Ezra is a unique little boy who always packs three changes of clothes for any day trip.

So Evie was dressed like a boy the rest of the day.

We concluded the trip with our favorite dinner destination: Five Guys. I broke my diet and ate there too, out of sentimentality.

Today was the last Saturday market for us. The market director nearly cried when I told him we were possibly moving. I enjoy this market a lot. Even though it involves leaving the house early, and sometimes 100+ degree weather.

I’m normally giddy at the thought of putting away all the market signs and boxes at the end of the season. It’s exhausting, restocking three times a week, loading up three times a week, unloading three times a week, etc.

But it’s also familiar. Farmers markets are good for the soul. You can be having the crappiest day, but by the end of the market, life is just peachy.

I hate not knowing if we’ll be back next year. I hate not knowing what two months from now looks like. I get queasy at the idea of not having my home school support group. I get nervous at the idea of relocating our business. Atlanta is really honking big.

But there is also a tiny thrill at the unknown. Elation about living near family and old friends again.

Three days until the interview! We are sitting tight.

life goes on

I suppose an update of sorts is in order. Y’all know there is always something to report on. It’s just a matter of having the time to do it.

 

In short: Arwen turned eight, someone got sick with the lovely virus we brought back from vacation, someone else got it, someone else got it, and then someone else got it. Also: we are ready for fall.

And, look! Eggs!

 

Even a double yolked one. Maybe it’s a sign. Does a double yolked egg mean that you are destined to one year free of sickness since at least one person in the family has been super sick for four weeks straight?

I hope so.

While the rest of y’all are going back to school, we are getting lots of (forced) down time and scouring the Internet for houses in Atlanta that will accommodate a family of 7, a soap business, and 6 chickens.

Brent flies out for the interview to take place on Tuesday. We should know relatively quickly. If he gets the job, he will start October 1. That gives us about four weeks to find a house, close on it, and move in. We have a lucrative offer on our house, pending inspection and contract approval. (Now y’all can stop asking me if, when, why, where, or how. That’s all I know.) 

You can ask me if I’d like some chocolate or how my sanity is holding up or if we will need help packing when it comes time. Grashus.

what i feel and what is

So we thought that the very first person who looked at our house was gonna work out. I held back from any grand announcements because who ever heard of that happening.

And it’s not looking so great right now.

And we are 12 days away from the interview.

And I don’t know what 2 months from now looks like. While all our friends are planning school years and field trips, I’m stalled out.

And we’ve only been out of the Burgess School for a couple weeks and I’m ready for structure to our days again.

And I don’t know where we will live if he does get the job.

Or if he will even get it.

And what if he doesn’t? ALL THIS WORK?! For NOTHING?!?

What if he does get it and we pick the wrong neighborhood. Or we don’t know anyone nearby.

These are the thoughts I think all night long.

These are the thoughts rolling in my head as I change diapers, wipe noses, wash dishes.

And these were the worries knocking in my brain when I took out the trash.

I stopped to examine the sun set. To think about how huge the sun is, how far away the clouds actually are. How tiny I am in this galaxy.

And I remembered that the God who made all of that… Loves me.

Cares for me.

Remembers me.

Astounding.

3

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. 

A is for adventure

I could never be described as a cautious person I suppose.

Most people would just stay home and watch lots of preschool television in their pjs if they found themselves home for a week with their two smallest children, and the rest of the family out of town. I guess?

Me? I saw opportunity! I could finish touching up the house to get it ready to sell. I could move plenty of stuff into storage. I could handle the farmers markets just fine with the littles.

I worked myself silly moving boxes, sanding and painting, and staying up all night with a teething infant and potty training toddler. I had forgotten to figure that into my equation.

By Thursday I was super pooped but I still had a lot of painting and a farmers market an hour and a half from home.

I rushed through the morning painting and greeting soap customers with their pick up orders and quickly threw babies and soap in the truck for the market. An hour and a half from home.

I was feeling pretty positive as we hopped the curb onto the market lawn. And then my truck sputtered to a stop smack in the middle of the farmers market. I hopped out and called for able bodied men to come to my aid. Luckily, this market is on a college campus and there were plenty. They pushed me to my spot and I quickly set up to sell soap. I could set up for a market in my sleep, we’ve done it so many times. Which is good, because I was super tired.

At some point I called AAA to come give me gas, in between helping customers and doing hostage negotiations with my two year old who was clearly suffering emotionally from the little bit of transition our family is experiencing right now.

Brent has me covered with the most expensive premium package AAA provides. Because I throw caution to the wind as a habit.

AAA came and put gas in my truck and it still wouldn’t start. So I had this big muscled man who makes a living working with automobile emergencies telling me that I needed a new fuel pump and would have to get towed. This is similar to going to the ER for abdominal pain and being told you needed to have your appendix out when really you just had gas from some cauliflower you should have avoided. But you believe the man in the dr. smock with the nerdy glasses because he’s a surgeon.

When really they just didn’t give me enough dang gas.But I didn’t find that out until much later.

Are you still wondering how the police and chickens come into play? Good. Keep reading.

At this point I wept into the tail of my baby sling like… A baby. I had been trying so hard to be strong and not complain about how tired I was. About the anxiety that I battled with every box I packed and stowed away in our storage unit. About the sweet hand prints on the walls that I was painting over, erasing every sign of a happy life lived in our home. Trying to be strong and show Brent that he could trust me to do important things while he was out of town working equally hard to get this new job. And now I had to call and tell him I had majorly failed and I was stuck overnight at least until a mechanic could fix the truck. And did I mention that I was supposed to leave the next day to get to my other children? Yeah. I was devastated.

Brent found some sweet people for me to stay with. They recommended a trust worthy mechanic to have it towed to, and chauffeured me to Target for clothes, diapers, baby wipes, pull ups, and food. I was very grateful to have a place to stay and kids for Evie to play with.

Sometime the next morning the mechanic called with the news: it simply needed more gas.

I don’t have anything nice to say. Which is why I haven’t called AAA yet to let them know, for future reference, that 3 gallons of gas isn’t enough to restart a Suburban.OH AND THANKS FOR CRANKING IT SO MANY TIMES THAT YOU ALSO KILLED MY BATTERY AFTER YOU DIDN’T PUT ENOUGH GAS IN.

Ahem. See? No nice words.

I finally made it home. 24 hours late. The babies were exhausted from a very long and sleepless night so they dozed in the truck for quite a while. I was happy just sitting in the driveway. Eventually Titus woke and I took him inside, leaving car doors open for Evie while she slept in her car seat. Oh, and my wallet and iPad in the front seat. And my change bag stuffed with cash from the market. See previous statement about caution and wind.

I got distracted as I was unloading when I remembered we had chickens and I hadn’t tended to them before leaving the day before since I had only planned to be gone a few hours. Not 24. I didn’t see any of them and their water was bone dry.

I rushed out there, leaving the front door standing open, and was happy to find them alive and cackling angrily at me about their thirst. I let them out and filled their water dish while they circled my ankles. I’m pretty sure they think I’m the mamma hen.

I decided to circle back around the outside of the house to check on Evie who was still sleeping in the truck.

Imagine my surprise to find a cop standing in the doorway looking alarmed.

I snuck up on him and said, “BOO!”

Just kidding. But that would have been awesome. I did surprise him when I poked my head around the corner to ask what I could help him with.

He inquired whether I knew I had left all my car doors open with valuables inside and my front door open with sweet baby playing.

“Oh. My chickens just needed water real bad or they were about to die,” I explained. And, realizing that made no sense I added, ” I just got home. I was stranded in Tuscaloosa because I ran out of gas and AAA killed my battery and I was in the middle of unloading when I remembered I had chickens.”

Because all of that made me sound really credible, he cancelled his call for back up.

Whew.

Evidently there has been a rash of car and home burglaries in our town and he was sure he’d caught the perpetrator in the act.

I was just glad he didn’t realize I had a sleeping two year old in the truck because cops in our town are really bossy about leaving your kids in the car in the drive way in case a pervert comes down the street. True story. A cop said that one time.

“As long as everything is okay?” the cop said cautiously. I assured him it was and that I was gonna finish unloading. He smiled and left and I know he was thinking, ” Did she say chickens??”

the idiot's guide to FREE

I have been all over the place with Freecycle this week.

Since we are going to be trying to sell our home, we want it to look like a family of 7 doesn’t live here. So we rented a storage unit to put extra stuff in and are also just getting rid of some things we don’t want to move. Moving has a way of making you think about all your “stuff” a little less affectionately.

One piece of furniture in particular has never received any affection from me, and it’s the rocker/glider that we bought from Wal-mart when I was pregnant with Ezra. Five years ago. It hurts. After Titus was born I flat out refused to rock another baby through the night in it, and it has been replaced.

So I listed it on Freecycle. (If you are unfamiliar with Freecycle, it’s an email group categorized by city and people list items that they either are seeking for free or would like to get rid of for free. It’s a great way to get rid of big things that you have no idea what to do with, or broken things that you have no idea what to do with. Trust me- someone on Freecycle wants your junk!) In my offering I said in no gentle terms that it needed to be picked up immediately and I did not have time in my life for people who wanted to claim it and then not pick it up.

A woman called immediately and rambled on and  on about how she was not the type of person who would say she was coming and then not come and she knew what a hassle it was to wait on someone like that. Evie was peeing on the floor and Titus was screaming and in no gentle terms I said, “Great. Just come get it.”

Two days later, three phone calls and several texts, the dang chair still sat in my living room. And a bolt fell out the back.

So I relisted it as needing repair and in very aggressive terms communicated that I was going to hunt down anyone who wanted to waste my time   not going to hold it for anyone, and please don’t respond unless you are telling me what time you are coming to get it. And that I would give it to whomever said they were coming first.

Y’all. I got a lot of responses. Here are my favorites:

  • Can you take a picture of it? NO
  • What color is it? It’s FREE. FREE is a neutral color and it goes with everything. 
  • Can you measure how tall it is? Why don’t you measure your back seat and tell me and then I’ll tell you whether my chair will fit. After you tell me what color your car is. (Unless your car is FREE and then we’ll all know that it will go fine with my FREE chair.)
  • What is a glider? This one was my personal favorite. You probably don’t need it if you don’t know what it is. I’m considering responding with something totally made up. Got any ideas?  

And later I had some picking up of Freecycle stuff of my own to do. I’m an honest free cycler. I always come when I say I will and I don’t claim crap that I don’t need.

 

This lady had tons of moving boxes and packing supplies. (And no, I did not ask her to text me a picture of the boxes or what color they were.)

 

{GULP}

 

As she and I were loading it all into my truck I chatted about how we were just “pre packing”. Because I’m in total denial. Come to find out her family was crammed into a small space and had to do the same thing to sell their home. And here she was on the other side of it with a house double the size and beaming like she’d won the lottery. She was on the other side of this insurmountable task of moving a whole family (only I don’t think she has chickens or a soap business.) And her family is considering adopting from Uganda, only they aren’t sure how to go about fundraising. Imagine that. I bubbled over with information and I think I’ll hear from her again. 

 

I got home and it was time to put some things into the boxes since Brent was taking me by the storage space to show me the ins and outs.

 

And I realized that packing is a lot like unpacking. As I packed photos and hand prints and board games and what nots I realized I was unpacking a home into these boxes. One piece at a time, a life that we shared here was being wrapped up and packed. For where? We don’t know! Oh, the uncertainty!

 

When we moved here it was just a box with a bunch of dead plants outside. Our neighborhood was a wasteland, and now there is so much life! Babies were born here, and that’s always the hardest part about leaving a house. (There were two here.) Ezra and Evie took their first steps here. We’ve just fit ourselves so nicely (and tightly) into this space. So much love and life has happened to transform this box into a home. Thriving plants crowd around every side of the house. Chickens cackle in the back. My sweet girls’ flower beds burst with color.

 

Packing is hard. I am swallowing down tears and trying to be excited about the unknown. But it’s just.really.hard.

it was just like the mall, only it wasn't...

… And we didn’t get anything free.

But you know there was lots of poop.

After the Tuscaloosa farmers market we took a picnic to the park.

Doesn’t that sound so ideal?

We were almost done eating and just about to unleash the kids on the playground when the Potty Pilgrimages began.

After the third trip we determined we were done eating and had just enough time for half an hour of play on the playground.

Just as we got settled on a nearby bench and the kids ran off to play, Ezra shouted and began to trot back towards the bathrooms. Brent handed Titus off to me and I got to witness the big girls do monkey bars for the first time while Brent was with Ezra. There. You know, the potty.

Just after I captured that photo, I noticed Evie standing on the monkey bar deck looking guilty.

Can you even believe what I found as I neared???

A doodle. Dumped. On the deck.

Deck dumping doodle.

How does this happen?? She was wearing a pull up! I do not understand.

She had stepped in it. And smeared some on her dress.

I quickly texted an SOS to Brent, who was still in the potty with Ezra.

He came running. We couldn’t leave it there for another kid to step in! And to make it worse, some other parents were sitting on a bench with a front row seat.

Brent grabbed a baby wipe and did doodle duty.

And of course, I was glad again that at least we weren’t at the mall.

Now Brent had to take Evie to the truck for clean up and wardrobe change.

He got back with just 5 minutes till time to go. And right as Titus was filling his diaper.

Final count, best as I can tell, 4 out of 5 kids pooped at the park. 1 kid pooped on the park.

Thursday is thus known as Poop in Public Day. Who wants to come play??

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 

resources

I’m a pretty resourceful person. Half the time, I can’t answer the question of “What’s for dinner?” because I don’t know what to call what I just threw together. I just call it “dinner”. (And most of the time it tastes pretty good, too.)

I haven’t blogged much lately because I am out.of.resources. Not so much the food resources, as my waste line would indicate, but most of the others. And yet God continues to squeeze and press more out of me.

You might say our family is in transition. That phase right before new birth, when you want to vomit and you are exhausted and really ready to be done and get your prize already. It’s a wonderful place to be, right there at the mercy of God. You are working hard, yet you have a feeling of excitement and expectation. Sometimes you don’t know what is about to come out of you, because you stubbornly chose not to find out the gender of your baby. Although, I would almost compare our current situation to one of those moms on “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”. One day you are just minding your own business, and BAM! labor pains. Is this a kidney stone? Is my appendix bursting?? Oooohhh…. I’m in labor.

So there we were just muddling through survival with a newborn, tired, half awake, majorly caffeinated. And it’s almost like God sort of crept up our blind side and BAM! Labor Pains. You could say this “child” was not planed.

Are you wondering what in the heck I am talking about?

Yeah. Me too.

Anyway, church today was about the feeding of the 5,000. That throng of people pressed in hard and demanded to be fed. The disciples had no resources. Jesus looked at them and said, “YOU feed them.” (Charis laughed out loud at this point in the story, which is pretty much my reaction when Jesus tells me to reach deep into my own emptiness to give.) And of course Jesus generously provided the resources to feed the crowd. And what was left over? 12 basket fulls. And how many disciples were there? 12.

Howa bout that. So, the general message was: Trust Jesus, Give all you’ve got, He will provide and even some grace left over for you too. And when our pastor asked if we had people in our lives that were hurting or had deep needs, I could honestly say, “YES!” And really, once we remove our heads from our rear ends, we should ALL be able to answer that question with a resounding “YES!”

I already wrote about how we tried to start a small group in our area from scratch. And well… it didn’t work out. We never found other families interested in a family-integrated small group. So we tossed around ideas…how do we find community? How do we find a place to serve?

Well. How about right where we are?

Brent came up with the idea to host a Dave Ramsey course in our home for our neighbors. (We are only acquainted with two of the households in our neighborhood. And if I’m being perfectly honest, there are a couple that I didn’t really wish to be acquainted with at all. Okay. Not a couple. A bunch. I suck.) Brent’s heart is so bent towards shepherding others. He does not look down on other people. Me? I mostly want to be comfortable and do my own thing. (God’s working on that, trust me.) But I knew enough to be supportive. So we baked cookies and Brent and the big kids took them door to door while I kept the little people at home. Each and every household got cookies and an invitation to come over for some good ol’ Dave Ramsey stuff (including a free book! He bought books for them all!). That Friday night we waited to see who would show up.

You know who showed up?

One. little. old. lady. And I don’t think she cared anything at all about finances.

But she sure was lonely.

The next week Brent and the big kids went around again and invited the whole neighborhood over.And while they were out, they made it a point to stop by that old lady’s house and give her some company.

You know who showed up?

One. single. mamma. And boy did she need some encouragement.

The next week I was out of town for a funeral, but Brent went around again and invited the whole neighborhood. This time making it a point to stop and chat with both the single mom who needed encouragement and the little old lonely lady.

And…Just one guy showed up. And that’s exactly how God planned it to be.

Last week no one showed up. But guess what?

When they were going door to door, Brent found out that just a few houses down there was a family with the wife on bed rest because she is pregnant with triplets.

T.R.I.P.L.E.T.S.

If there is one thing we know how to do,it’s taking care of new mammas and new babies.

So, I was making dinner and my casserole just wouldn’t fit in my dish. I had just enough to put in another dish.  The next afternoon Brent nudged my poor tired aching body down the street to that family with that casserole.

Y’all. It was just squash casserole. Poor man’s food, you know?Not EVER what I would intentionally take to share.

“They probably don’t even like squash.” I said.

“Maybe they already have dinner planned.” I excused.

“I really don’t have time. I need to get in there and cook dinner for my family. I’m already running behind.”

See what I mean about the head in the rear?

So I grabbed the baby sling and another kid and we trotted down the street.

It was awkward.

These people did not know me and here I was showing up with food unannounced. And my hair looked stupid because I had just taken a quick shower and not fixed it. And I probably said something weird like “well, we just love pregnant women!” (Seriously? That’s the best I could come up with?) The dude was totally taken aback. And to this day I still have no idea how the Lord chose to use my silly little casserole to bless them. I mean, hopefully it was a blessing. 

But it’s not my resources that will minister to hungry souls. It’s Jesus’s. And I can only be the earthen vessel he uses to do it with.

Even though our attempts at the whole Dave Ramsey thing seem like a huge failure, Brent and I both knew in our hearts that something bigger was happening. By His grace, we are being changed. And the Lord brought along people with such big needs. And we never would have known.

It doesn’t have to be something huge and grand. It might be something as simple as getting out and meeting the neighbors. Finding out that there are people right around you that are broken and hurting and need Jesus’s love.

And this could be the beginning of something more. Dare I say… big?

I do tend to have big babies.

i've been to the dentist a thousand times

 Originally Published: March 29th, 2011

Apologies to Owl City

Once I was done dazzling and amazing the dentist with my lack of dental care supreme survival skills, I scheduled appointments for the whole family to go get cleaned.

We shut the place down for the afternoon last Friday. They did all three big kids at once. Upon arrival, Arwen began to question exactly how good this dentist was. I was puzzled until she pointed out how empty the waiting room was.

Then it dawned on me that we were the only scheduled patients. Because there were so doggone many of us.

Then it dawned on me that I am a mother of four, three of which were visiting the dentist for the first time.

Then it dawned on me that I’ll be 30 next month and this is a very grown up thing to do- taking three kids to see the dentist.

Brent and Evie met us there shortly after we arrived and the three of us (Brent, Evie, and I) wondered the hallway checking in on everyone. Ezra was a tad bit reserved as usual, but eventually he opened up and got a good cleaning. Arwen was very worried that the only choices in “cleaner” flavor were “chocolate chip cookie dough” or “bubble gum.” Evidently she didn’t think either one sounded very healthy and was sure her mother would not approve. I told her to take her liberty and she was very cautious about choosing cookie dough.

I refused the fluoride treatments for all three. No one questioned me. And none of them had any cavities! Everyone got new toothbrushes, which is a relief because Evie keeps sticking them all in the toilet. We go through a lot of tooth brushes.

Today, I had to return again, to have a couple small cavities of my own filled and also have my mercury filling on one side replaced. I felt like I should ask for a key to the place since I practically live there now.

Only problem was that my stinkin’ mouth got stuck open last week when I yawned. Yeah you heard me. My mouth got stuck open. Normally, I would laugh off such a comical sounding event. But this hurt. As in, if I could have gotten a big saw and cut my head off, I would have. Now, this has happened to me before, years ago. I would be up in the night nursing baby Arwen, yawn, and then POP! Uh oh. I’d wake Brent up and he’d take the baby while I applied heat and then slammed my mouth shut. It usually only took a few minutes to resolve. But this time was not so pleasant or easy to laugh off. 30 minutes into it, I was really in excrutiating pain and starting to feel certain that something was broken. I had to type a text into my phone to communicate to Arwen what all my screaming and punching myself in the face was about.

Finally I got it shut and I haven’t been able to yawn since then. So, I saw my friendly chiropractor before my dental appointment this morning. She wins the prize of being the second person to make me cry today. She got all up in my mouth and I said, “OwOwOw!” a lot, and then I cried a little. Which was sort of embarrassing since the waiting area was filled with acquaintances and customers of Cheeky  Maiden. However, she did fix my jaw, because she rocks at fixing stuff.

I made it to the dentist and explained my recent jaw problems, and this made them equally antsy about the upcoming procedure to take place in the very back of my mouth. I opened as wide as I could and they numbed me all up.

With a needle.

You  may not know this, but me and needles? We don’t get along so well. I learned to enjoy piercings at one point in my life. That’s all we will say about that. But, needles in medical settings? It doesn’t jive.

He warned me that there was a lot of injecting about to take place and apologized and said he’d be as quick as possible. And then asked me to open as wide as I could.

My mind desperately searched for a happy place, but all I could think of was Evie’s birth. And I figured that if it wasn’t as bad as birthing a sumo wrestler unmedicated and then being catheterized shortly afterwards, I could probably take the pain.

Turns out I was right. The assistant proclaimed, “Wow! You didn’t even flinch!” And the dentist congratulated me on being so tough.

I told him he had nothin’ on my chiropractor, and kindly left out any mention of my birthing sumo wrestlers in my living room and stories of being sutured and catheterized. Since he was a dude and all.

I only have to go back one more time for the mercury filling on the other side to be replaced and then I’m all done I get to make my appointment for six months from now. (As a side note, please comment and let me know…do all ya’ll go every six months? Seriously?? Your kids too??)

And finally, I leave you with this song, from which I stole the line. Owl City is our family favorite…especially this song lately.

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.

 

what to do with a grumpy boy man

I don’t know what in the heck was wrong with him, but my boy spend most of the morning in tears. Big fat crocodile tears streamed down his face and his mouth was wide open in screams all.morning.long.

I wanted to put him in a box and mail him to his Grammy but I settled for feeding him lunch and putting him down for a nap.

Then I put myself down for a nap, because let’s face it, dealing with a screaming kid all morning is traumatizing and I had a migraine.

The big girls don’t nap anymore. (Except on Sunday, and then we all pretend like we’re all going to take a nap and no one does. It’s a Sunday ritual.) But today three of us napped.

When Ezra, Evie and I came downstairs from our naps we were greeted with a loud “SURPRISE, EZRA!”

The girls had thrown a “Sserprise Ezra, We Love You, Party.”

They must have spend the entire nap time working on it.

Making lists and checking them twice...once.

My sweet girls strung up a banner. This explains why I kept hearing the tape gun during my nap.

They made a special party table with decorations and special party fruit.

Arwen wants to be a Party Planner when she grows up, did you know? They even orchestrated a special humming of “Deck the Halls” while the Party Planner Extraordinaire danced a special party dance.

I heard talk of a homemade spider and some phonics flash cards.

He looks pretty happy to me.

We love you, Ezra!

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.