Thursday, January 31, 2013


Some people make resolutions in January.  But this year, I expect to gain weight, sleep less, eat lots of leftovers, likely spend more on the food budget than I ever have, add more stuff to our clutter, and in general be hormonal and cranky quite often.  So instead of resolving anything drastic, I'll just admit a bunch of my quirks.

- I've never played Angry Birds.

- I fall asleep praying.  Often.

- I usually forget to check pockets before loading the washing machine.

- I will not promise to pray for someone unless I truly plan time to do it.

- I'm a firm believer in the healthy benefits of fresh butter, sea salt and good red meat.

- I try not to buy or own children's toys without volume control.

- I'm the only one in my house who replaces empty toilet paper rolls.

- I'm not scared of the dark.  I am scared of the potential bad guys, spiders, and/or tiny mammals that could reside in the dark.

- I haven't vacuumed the van or scrubbed out the fridge in months.

- I can't flip omelets.

- I don't like the smell of vanilla candles.  Whatever chemical they use to make that smell gives me a headache.  (Real vanilla is fine and dandy.)

- I can't watch a movie and go right to sleep afterwards.  Not for hours.  Quite annoying.

- I still haven't officially finished my first child's baby book.

- I dislike children's books on ABCs.  Waay over done.

- I turn into a pumpkin by 11 o'clock at night.  If I'm not in bed, I can only shuffle around mumbling afterwards.

- I never say or write "LOL".

- I'm quite happy and content not to live in Hollywood - or even generally know who does.

- I procrastinate (notice when I finally posted this "January-specific" blog..)

- I should not be allowed to order and eat thick sandwiches or burgers in public. (When my boys are just a bit older, I'm sure they will specify this before being seen with me outside the house.)

- I've never had a cavity.

- I'm ok with my boys playing dress up.  Fairy wings on a cap-gun-toting three year old with a mohawk really don't seem to detract from his manliness.  In my opinion.

- I haven't worn a belt yet this year.  (Well, seat belts, yes.  But the kind that goes in belt loops, no.)

- I am aware of some chocolate milk spots on a baseboard that I haven't scrubbed off yet.  They've been there for a couple months.

- Canned soup smells like cat food to me (especially when I'm pregnant.)

- Decorating is really, really not my strong suite.

- I love biographies.

- I'm fairly awkward in public.  But I really do like people.  Really.

- I don't like the color teal.

- I only buy name brand tissues.

- I don't have any pets - unless you count a few types of food cultures I feed daily.

There.  Now you know me :)

My tinker bell, uh, guy.  With a gun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Just a Season

I went ice skating today.  The first time in over ten years.  My feet hurt now; I think they've widened (or my skates got narrower in storage in grandma's basement...)
I remember the cold January afternoons, trudging across the field from my house to the frozen pond in the neighbor's horse pasture.  I was fifteen probably; my little brother ten.  Second hand skates slung over our shoulders, and maybe warped old hockey stick tangled through the laces.  We'd lace up, quickly, fingers numbing.  I'd try to figure out how to glide backwards, fast, or spin on one foot like they did so effortlessly at the Olympics.  I wasn't so effortless.  My tailbone would ache after some afternoons of hard falls.  Still, we'd be back out in another day or two.  Sometimes we'd bring shovels after an overnight snow.  Sometimes the sun warmed the top layer and we'd carve through a layer of slush around the edges.  Our boots would serve as goal posts.
I met my husband, a hockey player up through college.  We bought a house close to several rinks.  He played a few pick up games from time to time, but we got busy.  Jobs, new house projects, then I was pregnant, then the baby, then another and another and another...
Suddenly it has been more than ten years since I laced up my skates.  Maybe twelve.  And I'm pregnant again, of course.  But today was my husband's day off.  My six year old, my five year old, and my three year old convinced grandma to bring over her stash of yard-sale-find-kid skates, and to watch the two year old for an hour.  And we went to a local rink so my kids could feel ice beneath their blades for the first time.

They tell me it's just a season.  This time when the kids are small and so needy; it won't last.  But I've been hearing that for seven years.  I'll keep hearing it for at least several more.
"You'll sleep - when they're older."
"You'll have date nights - eventually."
"You'll go out shopping with your own friends - when they can be home alone."
"You'll go out for coffee - when they are all in school."
"You'll have time to do all those things you can't - when the kids are grown."

I know they're right.  I'll miss these days, the days of small things.  The cuddles, the funny quotes, the innocent giggles, the early mornings when I don't get my coffee until I've gotten everyone else dressed and fed - they won't last.  I'll reminisce.  And I'll do things on my own - like go to the bathroom without interruption - and it will be quite pleasant.  
But this season, it is somewhere between long and endless for me.  I keep having kids.  I homeschool.  I don't work outside the home.  I have a child with a handicap.  So this season, I can't treat it just like a summer or a winter that will pass with a spring thaw, or when the school bus comes to pick up the youngest for kindergarten and leaves me suddenly alone on the doorstep.  I can't look at it as an interruption to my real life. It IS my life, the fullest part.  It is not incidental.

I don't want to just endure these humble years, counting the minutes till I'm "free."  I might almost claim to have more purpose to living now than in any "season" previous to little children.  There are moments it feels like diapers will never end; when their bedtime can't come soon enough for me to get to the quiet "me" time after it; when I can't imagine life beyond Cheerios under the table.  But I'm not living each of these moments just to pass the time until I can take up my "real" life again.  This is it.    
It is true I can't do everything while I have little ankle biters.  But I couldn't do everything even when I had no kids.  So instead of considering all the things I'm unable to do, it is time to get creative to figure out what I can.
I always used the excuse that I was too pregnant or had a little one so I couldn't go ice skating.  I can't carry a baby around the ice safely, and if I fall hard, it could be damaging for the bun in the oven.  But I'm always pregnant, and I always have a little one.  So today, grandma happily watched the 2 year old at nap time.  And I was always holding a little someone's hand on the ice so a tumble involving dangerous speed or force was more unlikely than getting in an accident in the car on the way to the rink.
It was fun.  It wasn't like it was fifteen years ago, but I don't want to go back in time and miss the joy on my five year old's face as daddy guided him all the way around the rink.  Or the three year old's excitement when the zamboni past the glass just inches from his upturned face.  Or the sparkle in my husband's eye as he grabbed my hand and told the six year old to take a picture of us on this long awaited "skate date."

No, I can't just sleep in whenever I want these days.  I can't just take a long road trip (the potty breaks would be maddening).  I can't just stay out late with friends.  I can't just live for myself.
That's good.  Enough with the "I can'ts."  I can live for others.  I can do a lot of stuff that I don't consider when I treat this as "just a season."
This is life.  Time I figured out how to live it fully.  And see if I can cajole a foot rub out of my very sweet husband.
We'll just have to see if I can manage that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Chicken or the Egg

Yes.  I am pregnant.
It happens.
Regularly, it seems.
(Though actually I had nearly five months when I was neither pregnant nor nursing this time.  Previous record was about two months, and I had an early miscarriage in the middle of that.  But that's another story...)
So we are excited.  I know I am very blessed.  I am also sick, hormonal, and exhausted.
And in the midst of all the congratulations, I sometimes get the (not unexpected, yet often subliminal) question, "Why?!?"

The fifth child elicits that type of reaction naturally in our modern American culture.  More so if they're all six years old or less.  More so if mom is only 5 feet tall and tries to avoid wearing obvious "mom jeans."  More so if folks know you only have a two bedroom house.  Much more so if you have a toddler in a wheelchair.
I'm fairly used to the reaction by now.  Sometimes I smile, a bit, and feel like I'm the bearer of a great secret.  Those folks who look at me with consternation, amazement, or pity, they simply must not know the worth I find in these treasures.

For the record, I am aware, childbearing and raising, especially in quantities, is hard.  It is expensive.  It is tiring, frustrating, thankless, often demeaning; sometimes it seems flat out impossible.  And that's just before daylight hits.  The gentleman in the grocery store commenting "You sure are busy!" isn't telling me something I didn't know.  I'd like to answer, sometimes, "Oh, wow, I didn't realize!  I am busy, aren't I!  Thanks for pointing that out!"

But the question is understandable.

But part of the answer is simple chemistry.  My husband and I seem to just think baby, and they appear on an ultrasound.  We seem to be ridiculously fertile.  We are young and healthy.  We could try to shirk this, but we're choosing to treat it as a blessing, the miracle of life.  Because the Bible says it is.  And there are plenty for whom childbearing isn't such an easy option.  I must consider it the good hand of God, as Mary did, when the angel told her she was having baby Jesus.  She was young, unmarried, poor, and alone.  It would cost her reputation, it would cause her husband a great deal of difficulty (and patience before his marriage was consummated), require a frantic flight at midnight to another country, and ultimately break her heart as she watched her Child be murdered.  But at the news - she praised God.
Along with that, the method we use for birth control is - leaving God in control of birth.  No hormones.  No surgery.  And, dare I say it, no random chance.  At the risk of too much info, the plus side of having a "cycle," is just that.  A cycle.  Fairly predictable.  As Ecclesiastes notes, "there is a time for everything..."  Much of the month, it is quite unlikely you will make a baby.  You can get fairly familiar with the times you could.  And if you hit that particular time, what's the worst thing that will happen?  Oops.  The miracle of life.

Part of the answer is probably my pride.  When baby number four was born with Spina Bifida, it became obvious that, while he would have some difficulty with his lower body for the rest of his life, and probably surgery from time to time, he wasn't going to require 'round the clock care particularly more than any child.  I didn't want the simple fact that he can't currently hike a mountain be the deciding factor to end our kid-having.  And I don't want him to think that his disability somehow disables us from giving him a younger sibling.  He's a regular kid; he just happens to not feel his feet or bladder.  Plus we'd probably spoil him if he remained the youngest.  He already gets away with crashing into people's shins with his wheelchair more than he should...

The fastest way to get spaghetti to your tummy should mean bypassing the mouth and esophagus completely.  The logic of a two year old.
Also, well, we have four boys.  You can't say yet that we're not giving a girl a chance :)  But having a complete soccer team in the same genre would certainly be more convenient, cheaper with hand-me-downs, and I'm all for it - either way.

Finally, honestly, why will we have another baby?  Because I was once that person in the grocery store who looked at the tired mom with her snotty brood in mismatched puddle boots and thought, "Why?"
Two or maybe three children, spaced comfortably years apart, sounded like a practical, workable way to ensure progeny.
But God had other plans than mine.  (He often does, I've found.)

The first baby sunk me.  I didn't get what it would be like to go from working a full-time job, trying to finish my degree, and being a young, upwardly mobile couple, to being a stay-at-home mom budgeting on my husband's income.  I was lonely.  The baby cried at odd hours, for no reasonable purpose that I could see.  As he didn't come with a manual, I read all the books I could get my hands on, and they often offered conflicting advice.  Feed on demand; feed on strict schedule.  Wear your baby always; always put them down in their own crib.  Feed them cereal around 4 months; start them instead on finger foods when they're closer to a year.  Before kids, I might have thought parenting was just another notch on the growing up belt.  I started to realize it wasn't that easy.
Then baby number two surprised me with his unplanned (by me) existence.
If you asked me the age old question - which came first, the chicken or the egg?  I'd probably say the eggs.  When I saw each teeny little heart beating on grainy black and white screens, I cried.  Yes, I loved them and knew I was honored to be made a mommy.  But I turned into such a chicken at the thought of having a little one.  Then two little ones within a year and a half.  And then three within the next year and a half.
By the third baby, mamma chicken was starting to catch on.

These parenting shoes are big ones, Momma.  Won't you put them on?

God's plans are better.
He used us not just to make new life exist, but He used all that new life to renew my own.
But I had more to learn.
Baby number four arrived with the aid of the doctor's scalpel.  He met the knife personally twice in his first two weeks of life, with his spine and his brain.
Chicken mommy was learning.
I am learning still that God loves to use these burpy, sticky creatures to refine mother herself.

I planned to go into nursing, acting as an angel of mercy for others during their brief stay in a hospital.
Instead, I am into nursing babies, acting as their very life sustenance during their year long stint as an infant.
I planned to space my children, so each would have at least a couple years of mom's specific attention.
Instead, they came at year and a half intervals, so each had a close sibling to give them special companionship.
I planned to sleep, expecting to need the energy to pour into each day with zeal and excitement.
Instead, I spent many of the wee hours with a warm cuddly dependent life, learning to pour great zeal into prayer for energy to do what was truly essential to life and godliness each day.
I planned to invest and save healthy amounts for each child's further education and interests.
Instead, in the moments when we didn't know where the weekly grocery money would come from, I learned to invest in their daily life through the library, good friend groups, healthy food, prayer, discipline and cuddles, and trust that God would supply their needs even as He always had my own.
I planned to be sufficient for the job of parenting.
Instead, I was - I am - constantly humbled to realize what a weighty and precious work this is, raising each fragile life to know he is made in the image of his Creator.  I realize how insufficient I am.  But God loves to use the most unlikely of creatures to prove His own sufficiency.
He used a donkey once to speak to a man and save his life.
I guess He can use a chicken too.

A chicken with all day morning sickness.  May my soul magnify the Lord.  Bring it.