Saturday, June 30, 2012

One for the Road

Buckled everyone in for a trip to the store for diapers.
It would have been a quick trip except for the four little helpers I brought.
So it wasn't a quick trip.

What he usually does with tissues.

Halfway down the highway there was a yelp from the back seat.
"My nose!"
The three year old sucked his thumb to console himself and blew a snot bubble.
I glanced back, concerned, but saw no blood or brothers poking the victim.
"Um, do you want a tissue?"
I tried to guess what concerned him so.  He wouldn't blow, just sniffled and whined.

A minute later, the rearview mirror's sight made me glance twice.
Bright yellow ooze trickled from one of his nostrils.
My mind started turning.  What had he found that could offend in that size and color?  I don't keep candy at hand, especially at little hands.  A tic tac?  A little toy?  Oh, something from the morning's activities at church with the kids was the likely culprit.

"Is there candy in your nose?" I asked, finally.
He nodded, miserably.  Sometimes I think lessons can be learned fairly quickly.  I guessed this was one of those that wouldn't need repeating.
The older brothers perked up at the mention of this interesting development.  They started guessing.  "Starburst?"
He looked up sharply, and more yellow goo trickled down to his lip.  Bingo.

I giggled.  He grumbled, but it only made chocolate mix with the color below his nose.  I giggled again and handed him a tissue which he held limply on his lap.  "This is beyond me; you fix it, Mom." His silent message only made me smile.  His warm little body was resolving the issue on its own.

By the time we parked in front of the big store, most of the contents of his nostril had melted.  (That's a sentence I've never written before.)  It was largely smeared around the side of his cheek and hand.  I wiped him off with tissues as much as the dried chocolate would allow.  Gave him a once over; no one could necessarily tell the scruffy appearance of his face had originated in his nose.  Gone are those only-child days when I cared so much how we appeared to the general public.

We went in with a big cart.
We bought diapers.
We smiled sweetly at the strangers in the store who invariably must comment on my handsome little brood.
We went home.

He smelled like chocolate until bath time.

Sweet story, huh?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

To be alive

I asked the voice on my husband's iphone what she thought the meaning of life was.
"42."  She deadpanned immediately.
"Thanks," I sniffed at the device that has me programmed as "wife." "I read the book."
"No problem." She returned mechanically.

Maybe its not a problem to the cheeky minichip computer voice.  But it is a conundrum that most of us flesh and blood mortals have to reconcile.

I asked my six year old the same question.  "What is your purpose? What were you made for?"
He answered immediately, "God made me so I can keep Him company and eat popsicles for breakfast on the beach in heaven forever."

I asked my four year old for his opinion.  "I don't want to think about it."  He grumbled, fiddling with toy trains.  "But is it really a beach in heaven?"

A nice, but not quite heaven, beach.

We don't just exist by accident.  I refuse to accept that.
God formed us carefully, fearfully, wonderfully - Psalm 139.
He has good plans for us - Jeremiah 29:11.
He set up a standard and guidelines for life - to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as our self (Luke 10:27); to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Hosea 6:8); and to be holy (1 Peter 1:16).

But I don't always do that.
Well, ever.

Whoever keeps the whole law, yet stumbles in even one little point, he is guilty of breaking the law - James 2:10.
I know I'm not alone.  No one is guiltless - we've all broken the law at least a little bit, at least once - Romans 3:10.
There is a price for breaking the law.  There must be a consequence for all the folks who have wronged me, so I must accept the same for my own wrongs.  The price of doing wrong is death forever - Romans 6:23.

I don't like to admit I'm not perfect (as obvious as it is to everyone else!)  But since I am not, I cannot stand in the presence of a perfect God.  To be apart from the God of life is death.  I can pay for my wrong by dying.
But then I'm dead.  Forever apart from God who is life.  So what do I do?  Live in my sin till it eventually kills me anyway?  Bummer of bleakness.  I'm stuck.

Except... Can I share a secret?  There is one way out.  God will accept a substitute.  The price of my wrong must be paid to the just and fair Judge.  The score must be settled.  But who can, or would want to, accept my death sentence as their own?  That's crazy suicide.

But someone did it.
God demonstrated His own love toward me while I was still a sinner - Jesus the perfect son of God and human child of Mary - He died for me.  (Romans 5:8)

I call it the great trade.
It makes me cry even now when I think about it.
Scarcely for a good person would someone want to trade their own life - Romans 5:7.
But He did it for me as I was still rolling in the filth of my own selfishness and stubborn wrongness.  I looked disgusting before a perfect Being.
But He loved me enough to trade.

Its a gift, mind you.  He didn't rip my nasty life out of my hands and force His perfect one on me.  He didn't charge me anything; I couldn't afford it anyway.  Jesus gave me life for free.  Ephesians 2:8.

Its called grace.  Its free to you too, if you want it.

Wanna trade?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Big friends

My favorite boy band - impromptu pajama session this morning.

"Is God bigger than our house?" My three year old asked.
"Way bigger."  I replied.

"Is God bigger than the sky?" He continued.
"God made the sky; He is much bigger." I explained.

He pondered this a moment, trying to grasp the immensity of a God he can't see.

"Well, is God bigger than Daddy?" My little boy wondered.

I smiled.  "Yes, God is even bigger and stronger and more loving than Daddy.  But God made Daddy to give you a little picture of what He is, even though we can't see Him."

"Oh," he seemed satisfied.  "Then God is my friend."

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

There must be an easier way

In the sandbox.

Spring cleaning is challenging with children.
Alright, understatement of the season.
Anytime cleaning is challenging with children.  In the first place, there wouldn't be a quarter of the mess without them.  In the second place, you can't get a quarter of the work done with them underfoot.  It is beyond ironic.  If you don't have children, or are one of those exceptionally organized folks whom I admire from afar but dare not ever invite over to my disheveled home, you probably should just ignore this post.  We live on different planets and our orbits will never quite align.  But please wave when you pass serenely by.
For the record, I haven't really gotten around to much actual Spring Cleaning yet this year.  I still have half my childrens' drawers to clean out of last year's clothes, windows to wash, hedges to trim, walls and ceilings in need of paint, corners that need to be unburied from clutter, toys to be exhumed from the bottom of toy boxes and sent to places where other parents need used toys to buy, pictures to organize, print, hang, and (I dream), scrapbook, shelves and drawers to de-clutter, curtains and rugs to wash, radiators under which I need to go digging for long-lost treasure...  That's just the remainder of last year's Spring Cleaning list.
Perhaps you have no idea what I'm talking about.  Or, perhaps, you are in the trenches with me and will be glad to know you're not alone in the fight against clutter and chocolate milk stains.  Here is an example of what a (real) cleaning session looks like at my house.

How to Clean a Minivan.
1. Every time you get into the vehicle, realize how dirty it is getting and decide its time to clean.  Promptly forget about it after exiting vehicle with arms full of baby and groceries.  This stage may last several weeks.
2. Several days before cleaning, write a list of things to do that week and vaguely include "clean van."
3. Day before cleaning, decide what in your daily routine you can leave out the next day to make room for your vehicle detailing.  It generally includes, but is not limited to, meal prep, a homeschool lesson or two, folding laundry, precious quiet time during the children's nap, or time I should be cleaning something else.
4. Cleaning day.  It rains.  Postpone till next day.
5. Cleaning day, second edition.  Kids are extra needy.  Spend morning hugging fussy babies, laboring for an hour over a 15 minute math lesson, and wiping up spilled yogurt.  Twice.
6. Get the little ones down for nap after lunch.  Throw dishes in sink to marinate.  Send bigger boys outside to play quietly in sandbox.  Go out to van with a plastic bag for toys and one for trash.  Start decluttering, seat by seat.
7. Go back inside to send three year old back to bed for nap.
8. Return to van. Find four year old emptying bag of toys you've just collected.
9. Go back inside and start movie to keep bigger boys occupied.  Plan to vacuum sand in entry after the van is finished.
10. Try to remember to add "more sandbox sand" to shopping list.
11. Drag vacuum outside.
12. Go back inside for extension cord to extend vacuum cord to reach van.
13. Plug in vacuum.
14. Go back inside to find three-prong adjuster so you can plug extension cord into the electrical plug outside the door.
15. Start vacuuming van.
16. Vacuum stops.  Go back inside and hunt for a new vacuum bag.
17. Return to vacuuming.  Vow never to feed children in van again.
18. Hear big boys fighting.  Go inside to stop fight and realize they are fighting over crackers.  Crackers are all over sofa.  Have vague memory of storing crackers up high where they couldn't see them.  Peek in kitchen.  See top cupboard door open.  See more crumbled crackers on floor.  Take remnants of cracker package from boys and threaten to turn off movie.  They smile at you and you know they're calling your bluff because if you turn off movie, they will want to come outside to "help" you.  Consider never feeding children anything that makes crumbs again.  Maybe apples.
19. Hear baby crying on monitor.  Ignore him.  At least you know where he is.
20. Can't find vacuum bag.  Might be more in basement?  Go down to check.  Walk through cobweb.  Wonder for a fleeting moment if a dirty van is really so bad.
21. Go back outside and resume vacuuming with new bag.  Thank God for a working vacuum.  So valuable.
22. Find sunglasses in tissue box under seat.  Only a little (more) scratched.  Happy.
23. Daddy long legs from basement crawls out of your hair into van.  Not happy.
24. Boys all come outside to see why Momma screeched.  "Mom, its just a spider."  Ugh. Boys.
25. Decide van is clean enough.  Go get crying baby and set him in sandbox with all the other brothers.
26. Go inside for a glass of water and moment of silence.
27. Hear vacuum turn on.  Peek outside to see boys vacuuming the (dirt) driveway.
28. Bring vacuum inside.  Bring sandy baby inside to make him stop eating sand.
29. Decide vacuuming inside can wait till tomorrow.
30. Make kids stay outside till supper. Feed them. Bathe them. Read to them. Kiss them goodnight.  Go downstairs, sit on sofa, stare a ceiling and revel in the silence.
31. Plan not to repeat for another 6 months or so.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


I started this post in early April.  Sorry I never published it.  Still, the events and people are real and need no embellishment.  Enjoy.

Monday morning.

5:30 a.m. dragged me out of sweet stupor with a little voice calling "Mommy! (Cough.) Help me! (Cough. Cough.)"
I contemplated for a hazy second if I had to answer the plea.  It was cold outside the blankets.  My two year old coughed again, and I trudged into the boys' room, laying my hand on a hot cheek.  I snuggled him back under his disheveled blanket and offered his water cup, hoping it would be so easy.  No.  "Mommy!" He wailed plaintively.  "Help me!"
"Medicine?" I whispered, hoping the baby wouldn't roll over and notice my presence.  The smallest ones seem to feel it when Mommy's heartbeat speeds up in the morning to climb out of bed.
He coughed and moaned loudly, and I hurried out to find a bottle of Tylenol.  Often a little dose of honey works to soothe their throats, but I didn't have any.  I couldn't remember the last time he'd had a dropper of anything, or if he'd even take it.  Was he the kid who was 20 pounds or 40 pounds, and where was that little paper that told me the right dose?  Through the dark and my foggy brain, I couldn't compute.
In the cold kitchen, I found the dropper and remembered his approximate weight.
He sucked it down.  The baby wriggled, eyes closed, and pulled a burp cloth over his eyes.  (He's slept like that for months, since he was able to coordinate the movement and I was convinced he could get it off again easily.)
Good.  Less likely he'd notice me.
I crept furtively out of the room.  Pausing indecisively at the top of the stairs, I knew it would be wise to stay up.  But it seemed unfair to have been woken in the middle of a delicious sleep cycle.  Maybe I could just finish it and wake back up in a few minutes when I was at a better stopping point.  I voted for the latter.

An hour later, much later than I ever get up, two of the boys were downstairs fighting over sofa cushions.  The other two, snuggly helpless in their cribs, were calling for me.  They should have all still been quiet in their room.
I nudged my husband, wishing he would feel a sudden urge to attend to the children and so I could justify finishing the good sleep that had eluded me since 5:30.  I'm getting used to sleeping more now that I don't have an infant.  I'm growing soft and spoiled.  Probably means I'll be pregnant again soon.  Keeps me selfless.

Downstairs was cold.  The big boys helped me with the priorities, since I was off to a late start, and they weren't even supposed to be up yet.
We made coffee.
We poured them some milk.
We wiped the spilled milk off the floor.
We started the fire.
We opened the kitchen window to let the smoke out so Daddy upstairs wouldn't smell Mommy's fire-starting-smokey-ineptitude.
We dove together into the couch blankets while the cool morning air sucked out the smoke and the little heat that had been in the kitchen.
I smelled the coffee.
I got up, poured some, and closed the window.  The plants on the windowsill looked dry.  I'd water them later.  Maybe.  If they were lucky.

The baby was still calling.  I barged in.  The tired two year old had rolled back over to catch up on his sleep.  Ben was glad to see me, though, and waved his leg joyfully.  He came downstairs with me, grinning at the bigger brothers foot-fighting under the blanket.  I nudged them ungraciously apart and sat on the sofa between them.
Ben nursed.  I contemplated the coffee cup just beyond my reach.
Need to add coffee to the grocery list.
Should go tomorrow.  But we're almost out of milk.  We must go today.
What's for supper tonight?  I still haven't made a meal plan for the week. I really am a slacker.

I ran up for a quick shower.  The baby had pushed himself backwards over to the toy cupboard and set to work emptying it while the bigger boys read picture books.  Showers are short quiet moments for prayer.  I often feel cleaner and fresher in more ways than one afterwards.  The garlic smell was still on my hands from a day ago, though.

We made scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Several helpers cracked the eggs for me.  I wiped the counter.  A few of them wanted bacon too.  The baby edged closer to the stove, pushing his way backwards on his backside.  Gavin noticed, and grabbed him from behind around his ample tummy.  "Mom, here's the baby!" he staggered under the heavy load.  I rushed over.  Ben grinned at me while stuck up to his armpits in his captor's embrace, blowing spit bubbles at all the attention.  I stuck him in the high chair and pushed it behind me where he could watch us cook.  He reached for the calendar and pulled off all the velcro dates he could reach.  I ignored him.

The boys ate, kicking each other under the table.  Henry called through the monitor that he was awake.  He  was docile and cuddly from the extra sleep.  Is that what I'd be like if I slept in?  We'll never know.

The older brothers were sent to get dressed while I changed the unwilling baby.  You can't sit upright while I change you, child!  He fussed and soaked my hand.  Boys will do that.  Don't bite the hand that feeds you - and don't do that to the hand that changes you.  The new diaper secured, I went to wash my hands while he rolled off to a new adventure.  Before he got there, he hollered at me to free him from under the sofa that had attacked and caught his legs.   Yep, I'll save you.  He continued right over to the toy cupboard to finish emptying it. I grabbed the pile of pajamas and went to start a laundry load before we dove into school.
"Grab the math lessons off the shelf." I hollered to my oldest, and met, expectedly, with, "But Mo-om...!"  Always makes my blood pressure rise a bit.  I fought the urge to reason with my offspring.
"Can I have an Easter peep first?"
"After math?"
We need to do Bible first."
"Get your math.  I have to finish picking up breakfast."
"Can I help?"
I cringed, he knows how to play me.  How could I say no? Ugh.
"Get your math finished so we have time to go to the library later.  I'm cleaning up."

Daddy appeared, fresh from the shower.  I handed him a warm coffee mug and asked sweetly if he would like to do math with the bigger boys.
"If I can have a bacon-egg-cheese-bagel." He countered.
Sure.  Anything to keep me in the kitchen where I live, I thought ruefully, but agreed.

Homeschool is so much easier with a husband.  Too bad everyday isn't his day off.  Baby on my hip, I switched the laundry into the dryer.  The two year old climbed a stool to the pencil sharpener with some colored pencils he'd stolen from his brothers.   The sharpener - the old fashioned kind; it came from my grandparent's house - has a container for the shavings, which was full.  It fell off.  Henry jumped down from his stool and landed squarely in the little pile of pencil leftovers.  The little pile became a big mess.
The baby heard the noise and began scooting himself into the room to see if he could help.  He fussed when I scooted him back.  As soon as I turned to grab the broom, he began pushing toward the excitement again.
The math book was lying dejectedly on the dining room table.  The big boys were under the table, constructing a raceway by lining up crayons to make long paths.  I noticed some milk splatters on the table leg.  Old dried ones.  I need to wipe those.  Maybe I can just add that to the spring cleaning list.  I'll start that tomorrow.  (Not the cleaning, just the list.)
Milk - that reminded me I needed to get some.  I like to go before noon; the stores are less busy and the kids behave better.  Maybe Daddy could stay with the kids and I could make it a significantly faster trip alone?  He was by the computer, bills scattered around him.  He looked up at me grimly.  I decided not to ask for anything for the moment.  In fact, it probably would be better if I took everyone so he could think.  There aren't many quiet corners in our house.
I went to gather them up.
Henry was lying on the living room floor, sucking his thumb and sounding snuffly.  He saw me and reached for a hug.  I gathered him up and settled on the sofa.  "You've grown since the last time I held you."  I murmured, gathering his lanky little frame into my lap.  He snuggled into me.  I felt some of the sickness stress drain out of his relaxing muscles.  Moments like these are fewer as they grow.  I leaned back and savored the moment.  School could wait.  And groceries.  These precious moments are the perks of Mommyhood.

But why was the baby being quiet?
I peeked around the corner to check the kitchen.
Ah.  Found him.  So much for that plant.

That is just how mornings go sometimes.