More multitudes on Monday…

Taking a deep breath today to say thanks.  Trying to build the habit of gratitude, being blessed a great deal along the way…

# 41 – a weekday off work for Daddy

#42 – first cherries of the season…sticky, bright red fingers

#43 – sharing food with neighbors

#44 – getting food shared back

#45 – filthy, dirty bums on boy pants

#46 – fresh paint

#47 – fresh pain from just-starting-to-heal wounds

#48 – wet grass smell mowing the lawn

#49 – the end of three weeks of sickness

#50 – books that are changing my life

#51 – a soon coming baby niece or nephew

#52 – marshmellow smiles in window sills

#52 – finding a new washer on craigslist

#53 – a husband willing to go pick up and then learn to install said new washer

#54 – the sound of that washer working this very minute!

#55 – a proud boy

#56 – the hope that comes from planting tiny veggie starts in the garden

#57 – watching myself respond to something the right way…finally

#58 – middle of the night snuggles from random small children

Children+pain=hardest thing ever

June in Seattle is never lovely.  Every year everyone here wonders if summer will ever come.  This June is no exception.  So today, being the native Northwest folk we are, we headed to the park for playing and a picnic in the (light) rain.

Everyone donned their waterproof parkas and we ran and swung in the constant sprinkle.  We enjoyed some lunch under the picnic shelter and then ventured to the giant grassy field for a rousing game of sharks and minnows.

It was all fun and games until the slippery grass landed Rylee flat on her mouth as she ran across the field.  She hit hard.  Really hard.  I was right in front of her.  As I got to her there was blood and she was starting to panic as it ran down her jacket and she started to gag and choke on it and couldn’t get it under control.  She looked at me for how to respond.  I had nothing to sop the blood up.  We were all in slick jackets.  Chris had gone running for something but he was a ways off.

So I did what any mother in a pinch would do when your child and a lot of blood is involved, I unzipped my jacket, took off my shirt and stuffed it in Rylee’s mouth.

Just as a car was pulling into the park and just as Christopher was getting back (with a tiny paper napkin that would not have helped anyway).  I had started to cry but I’m pretty sure I saw my beloved crack a big smile as he returned to find me shirtless in the grass field in the rain holding our sobbing, bleeding daughter.  She had instantly calmed a little with something to keep her from seeing the blood.  I put my jacket back on.  And tried to be strong mommy but it wasn’t working too well.

In those moments holding her, knowing it would be okay and knowing her mouth would heal, my heart would have given anything to ease her pain and fear.  Giving her the shirt off my back was nothing, it was done in an instant with no thinking.  I’d have done more if I could to help her but I couldn’t and that is I think one of the most heart wrenching, difficult things about raising children.

Having known them and loved them since the moment we knew of their existence, we want to protect them.  We want to keep their bodies and their hearts from breaking.  We want them not to be wounded by words, by attitudes, by people.  We would do anything to keep them safe.

But no matter what we do, no matter how we try – they will be wounded by the world because it’s made up of people who aren’t perfect.  They will even be wounded by imperfect me, the mother who loves them more than anyone else does.

The only way I can live with that is that I believe this to be absolutely true:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  -Romans 8:28

As my wise mother has always said, God doesn’t waste pain.  He doesn’t waste anything.  He can make good out of anything.  Even when I scream in anger or anguish as I have, many times.  Even when I won’t speak to Him for months because I hurt too much.  Even when I doubt His very existence.

Right now, our kids are small.  The wounds are (mostly) small.  But as they grow, I know too well that they will get bigger and harder and hurt more.  More than anything, I want them to know two things…

That they can trust God to care for them and to work it all for good.

And that they have parents who will love them without condition.

The mother muddle



While it would be wonderful to have each day present itself as a perfect one, that’s just not reality.  No matter who you are or what you do.  Even the best laid plans often fall to ruins at our feet.  More days than I might care to admit, I don’t amaze myself at how nicely everything went and how well I did at my list of tasks.  Instead I see roadblocks and obstacles stacked up one after another and somehow we all still made it through the day

This week it was me, really super sick for the first time since Christmas.  So instead of diving into science and history in the calculated ways I’d planned, I let the kids catch bugs and line my kitchen counter with jars and bags of creatures.  Instead of cleaning my kitchen, I found myself laying on the couch waiting for my ear to explode while the kids watched their little insects, drew pictures of them and talked up a storm about bug life.

Instead of making it to appointments and playdates, the kids helped an extra lot around the house.  They emptied dishwasher loads, cleaned off eggs from the chickens, fed pets, cleaned up more than usual and served their sick mama who had spent the last two weeks caring for sick kids.

While we didn’t get to ‘science projects’ from our book, there are dissected bumble bees all over the counter right now.  There is a friendly caterpillar who’s become my 2 year olds’ best buddy in three days.

With me coaching from the couch how to make the mac and cheese that Kyler was determined to fix, he watched as the boiling water, noodles and cheese sauce made an overflowing, orange mess.   I rallied myself up and  smiled at him as I dumped it out and started another pot for him.  He got it all perfect the second time.  And he received grace and a second chance, which was (and is) precisely what his tender heart needs more times that I give it.

What I could have deemed a disaster but instead labeled a ‘field trip’ to the doctor’s office became an adventure.  The kids all squeezed into the little room and waited with me to have my ears checked for a half an hour.  They donned gloves and pretended to care for sick people.  They found the little doctor light and figured out how to raise and lower the table.  They delighted in every minute and I was too sick to argue.

The thing I’m just beginning to learn and appreciate is that in this ‘muddle-through’ way that we often make it through days raising little kids is that much of it is more beautiful than I realized.  And the plans that fall apart can, if I let them, lead to better things even more lovely than I expected.

Embracing the ways the days begin, unfold and finish is opening a door for me.  One to less disappointment and more joy.  If I could just keep going and walk on through, I’m quite certain we will all be better for it.

The joy of boys

While I’m not an expert on raising boys like my friend Kim who has been blessed with five boys, I am certainly learning a lot about a gender that I considered mostly a mystery.  Growing up with only sisters, I didn’t really know what life with little boys looked like until I had some.  After a strong-willed, sensitive, challenging first boy we were given a soft-spoken, calm, easy-going second born boy.  They are very different.

One reason we are really happy about homeschooling is that boys tend to need to move quite a bit, they can be loud, they often don’t naturally sit still for long periods, they are very curious and they love getting dirty.  Those characteristics, I believe, are intrinsic and don’t need to be fixed or tamed.  The way our American culture has feminized men has come at great costs.  That’s a whole other post and a can of worms I’ll leave closed today.

Just to say, that I am constantly learning and doing my best to allow the boys to be who they are.  Boys.  Messy, loud, creative, busy, active, wild, physical boys. This ‘boy nature’ doesn’t always fit well in an all day classroom setting and watching our boys be who they are is one of the great delights of home based learning for us.

Some days this means taking a snail break for Caleb:

Being outside is very calming for this high-need boy we have.  He needs time alone outdoors to help him reorganize. He collects snails by the dozens and carefully watches them and cares for them for hours a week right now.

Sometimes, like today all the kids find something to do together after we get some ‘table work’ done.  There are some fuzzy, friendly bees buzzing in a jar next to my hand while I type this.  The kids spent almost 2 hours capturing, studying, observing and being amazed by the incredible bees living in our rhododendron blossoms.

Audrey found a caterpillar on our walk today, brought it home in my coffee cup and carried around until naps.  She insisted on eating with it at lunch time:

Sometimes, boys at home means pain and sadness.  When we aren’t enjoying nature or good books, things can and do go awry.  Like last week when Kyler bit out of frustration at the injustice of his situation:

Or also last week, when Caleb silently took a pen to every single key of the precious piano that I grew up playing on:

And I was so very upset that I forbid myself to utter even a word and when Caleb was in tears because I could not speak to him I finally wrote him this note…

Lastly, in case you want to know, ziplocs can hold bees nicely in a pinch should you run out of mason jars….and mama’s can move very fast should a bee escape in the kitchen!

Product of grace – 11 years in

It’s been eleven years today.

Around year eight I found myself wondering how we’d even get to nine.

But here we are.

Our union a product of grace, miracles and the faithful work of the God we love.

Absolute bliss marrying my high school sweetheart.

Then absolute real life…not bad.  Just real.

Real hurt.  Real joy.  Real struggle.

Growing and changing.  Like it or not.

Life always surprises.

Babies blessed us.

They stretched us.  In every way.

Work became something difficult.

Difficult became disillusionment.

Disillusionment became distance.

Distance became two people raising a handful of children who didn’t know how to love each other anymore.

We found our way back.

We found things to enjoy together and our hearts slowly unfroze.

We changed more than we thought possible.

God changed us, He still is.  We can’t take credit for making it.  It was and is beyond our ability.

Now, driving in the car today, I heard these precious words:

Man, I sure wish dad was here in the car with us.  Want to know why?  (everyone says yes)  Because if dad were here, we could watch them play that kissing game.  I love that.  Mama, if Daddy were here, you could put your coffee cup up and hide behind it and kiss him!  Or you could use this book too…(giggling then ensued)

Not long ago, we never played that game.  They were more likely to hear harsh words than to see their parents smooching in the car.  They were more likely to see anger than tenderness.  That’s the honest truth.  Life hurt a lot and we became adept at hurting each other.

My heart smiled today as I listened to my children chatter in the van.

We are learning and growing and loving and messing up and living in grace.

More now than ever.

And there is so much more to come.

Just Heard Thursday

I am having lots of trouble loading pictures on the blog…which is why Audrey’s birthday post from yesterday is not up.  But here’s your Just Heard Thursday without my little logo!

Rylee (upon examining a dead mole baby we found while walking):  “See here, it’s mouth is wide open.  It died screaming for it’s mama.  How sad is that guys?”

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Rylee (at the mall walking past the fountain):  “Do they empty the fountain out and give all the money to poor people?”
Mama:  “I don’t know but I sure hope so, that would be wonderful.”
Rylee:  “Can we find out?  Because wouldn’t it be sad if it got wasted and left there?”
Mama:  “We should.”  And we will find out, because the fact that it was important to her, makes it important to me.

——————————————————

The kids were playing with my wallet, taking out money and counting it.  I was doing dishes and overheard, “That’s 100!”.  Later that day, I realized that the hundred dollar bill was gone and only $7 dollars remained…not exactly enough for groceries!  Upon asking and looking everywhere it was not found.  That was yesterday.

Kyler (today, out of the blue):  “You can have my money mama.  It’s right here.  I think it’s a quarter….no it’s just a penny.  But you can have it since you lost yours.”

Mama (with a big sigh):  “Thanks Kyler.”

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Caleb:  “WHOA! I just swallowed a huge ice cube, better watch out when that goes through me!”

I just smiled instead of diving into a lesson on melting ice in the stomach.

My birthday timeline

Just for fun, we spent some time at the Urgent Care on my birthday eve to get treated for pink eye and ear infections which are making the rounds with all the kids.  It went as smoothly as possible and after trying 4 pharmacies, we found one open, got drugs and came home.

12 AM – happy birthday to me, I am blissfully sleeping
1:30 AM – wake up after sleeping less than two hours to Audrey crying and coughing her little heart out
1:31 AM –  I poke Christopher and ask him 5 times to get Audrey and bring in to our bed to sleep
1:35 AM – He says yes, gets up, goes to the kitchen, drinks a glass of water, returns to bed…without Audrey, mumbles about being thirsty and tells me Audrey is awake
1:40 AM – I am peeved and grouchy and feel entitled to birthday sleep, it’s been two weeks since my last full night of sleep, but I get her anyway

Fast forward and I spend the next two hours getting kicked and pushed out of my own bed by someone who weighs 23 pounds and coughs in my face every 5 seconds.  Every time I try to leave and sleep on the couch, 10 minutes go by and I hear the pitter patter of her little feet looking for me in the dark.

3:30 AM – We all finally sleep

4:30 AM – Daddy gets up to leave for work

7 AM – Rylee, 5 inches from my face, whispers “Happy Birthday Mama!”  to which I cannot even reply I am so tired and feel an unbearable headache and sore throat overtaking me

9 AM – I get up after half sleep, listening to the kids bustle and play around the house trying to let me rest, without me having even asked

9:30 AM – I make myself and the kids chocolate chip cookies for our breakfast and dole out antibiotics like they were candy

10 AM – try so hard to muddle through a phonics lesson and some read alouds while my eyes are wet because of such a bad headache and feeling so sick (which is the result of poor food choices all weekend, which I felt I deserved of course)

11 AM – muster every ounce of myself to take the kids to the park for an hour so they get enough energy out to take naps, we stop at my favorite coffee stand and get a free birthday coffee, unexpected and makes me smile

All the while, every five minutes someone is saying “Happy Birthday Mama!”,  “I love you Mama!” or “Let me hold your hand Mama”.  Kyler held a down tree steady for me while I crossed it so that I would ‘be safe’, melted my heart completely.  We prodded and examined a dead baby mole for 20 minutes.  Rylee informed me “Look here, see how it’s mouth is open?  It died screaming for it’s mama, how sad is that guys?”,  “Let’s see how many teeth it has.”,  “Can we open it up?”.

1:30 PM – sheer delight of naptime, three slept, one played and I rested as the headache finally waned

4 PM – we bust out the little DVD player, all settle onto the couch and watch Cinderella…I almost call Chris to say “Please do NOT bring home a cake for me”.  But I don’t.

5:30 PM – Daddy is home.  With Thai food take out for all and – yes, a HUGE birthday cake with my name on it.  Sigh.

We proceed to eat our food while two children are throwing the fit of the month and S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G for mama because they’ve been told they cannot have any cake right now.  The headache returns but I enjoy the thai food immensely.  I smile at the table across at my good-hearted husband who I’ve now been with for 16 years of my life and say “Happy Birthday to mommy!” with just a touch of sarcasm

6:15 PM – My dashing husband does an impressive cleaning frenzy and gets the house close to back in order
6:30 PM – I find out my sisters and parents are coming over

7 PM – We go for a quick walk to get us all some fresh air
7:30 PM – We lose Rylee and Caleb (on bikes) during our bike/walk, Chris runs all over looking for them then home to get the van, I try not to have a full blown panic attack
7:45 PM – We find them after about 20 minutes during which we both were more afraid than I think we’ve ever been

8 PM – Blood pressure still sky high from adrenaline, we have some birthday cake, relieved and glad to be all safe and sound

9 PM – Hopefully the birthday festivities are over and we can all go to bed

Truth be told, although it was not your typical birthday, it was a good day and I refused to have a pity party regardless of the days happenings.  I told myself more than once, “You are an adult, you know your friends and family love you.  You have much to smile about.”

So, smile I did.  On my oh-so-strange 32nd birthday.

Thankful for gray hair

I’m on a slow journey to name 1000 things that I am thankful for.  It’s been a year of unexpected loss and we’re still finding our way.  Joining in with Ann’s Gratitude Community is one way for me to put my focus in the right place.

#25  gray hairs noticed by my hair stylist (and not minding one bit!)

#26  being another year older today

#27  a new camera to play with

#28  knowing a full night’s sleep is on it’s way in just 6 days

#29  a birthday night with treasure-friends that I won’t forget

#30  celebrating a life passed and a newly begun life on the same day

#31  loads of sunshine

#32  letting expectations go

#33  letting what takes place be what it is and being content in it

#34  how the gifts people give are windows to the people who give them

#35  writing this list at 3 AM up with sick, snugly babies

#36 the absolute beauty that I see in the hearts of my children when I least expect it

#37  anticipation

#40  every moment I’m given, knowing too well that it could all change so fast

holy experience

Move more, eat less

Those four little words are my husbands oh-so-brief directions for weight loss.  He many times has joked he could write a book and it would have only two chapters.  One about moving more and one about eating less.

If only it were that simple right?

This coming from a man who has weighed the same for 12 years since the day he graduated from high school.

This spoken to the wife who has borne his four children in 6 years and seen fluctuations in weight that make her head spin.  And her knees hurt.  And her skin permanently marred with stretch-mark-scars. And her energy wane when she needs it more than ever.  And her moods far too susceptible to the woes of sugar highs (and lows!).

I had an epiphany in late January.

No one was going to make time for me to exercise, but me.

No one was going to learn self control and hold back from eating sweets every single day, except me.

No one else was responsible for how crummy I felt.

Sure I had a list a mile long of why I couldn’t do those things.  But in the end, it was just excuses.  Excuses for eating poorly, even while feeding my children (relatively) healthy food most days.  Excuses for napping instead of exercising even though I knew getting moving would bring more energy.  I could find no one to blame it on but myself.

I didn’t have a pity party or anything.  Just pulled up my bootstraps and moved on.  I had done weight watchers in the past and knew the basic guidelines and practiced them.  Writing down all my foods took just a few minutes a day but made me far more aware of what was going in.

I also quit eating seconds for the most part.  I was amazed that I didn’t really need as much food as I wanted.  If I take more of anything, it’s broccoli instead of pasta and bread is no long a staple at our table.  Instead of feeling deprived and cheated, I just feel like I’m in control.  And I haven’t felt that way in my relationship with food for….ever?  If I choose poorly, I feel crummy.  If I choose well, the reward isn’t a box of cookies.  It is that I feel better inside, like things are working better.  I am certain they are.

After s-l-o-w-l-y losing a few pounds just changing that, and joking with my husband about his ‘move more’ theory, I added in the moving.  I tried to get to the gym but it is nearly impossible with our lifestyle.  Remember my review of the infomercial exercise DVD that (hilariously) remains my most read post ever?

Since I’d paid a pretty penny for that DVD back in September, I thought I ought to bust it out again…and this time actually use it.   Use it I did and though there is still a great deal of ‘firming up’ to be had, after a few weeks I felt so different.  So much stronger.  More limber.  And the best part for sure was that I found myself chasing my kids around the park without feeling like passing out.  The scale is moving in the right direction even if there are still nearly 25 pounds to find a new home for.

And while I can’t fit (nor am I crazy enough to even possess) any jeans from high school like my hubby still can, I have enjoyed fitting into my old Lucky Jeans from a couple years back that I adored too much to toss even when they couldn’t get buttoned.

This month of 5 family birthdays (mine included), Mother’s Day and our anniversary is certainly slowing down progress.  But at least I know what to do to keep on track…move more, eat less.

I guess it is kind of simple after all.

Choosing thanks

Somehow a whole week passed without words on here…so I’ll just do what I promised myself I would, keep giving thanks.  Instead of complaining.  Instead of finding fault.  Instead of turning inward, closing up, which hurts less.

# 9  the promise of upcoming time away with my love

#10  answers that come from asking hard questions

#11  courage to seek out a challenge

#12  acceptance despite grave flaws

#13  promises kept

#14  verbal explosion from a fuzzy haired thumb sucker

#15  dreams

#16  the joy that ‘clean’ brings

#17  the far greater joy that I trust will come when the months-long-night is over

#18  the forgiveness of children

#19  a husband who works so hard

#20  using fine china even with children everywhere

#21  the delight of hosting a Mother’s Day dinner party for 21 dear people

#22  watching men carefully wash my wedding china

#23  fine wine, a board of cheese and food made with 12 cloves of garlic!

#24  my second-favorite flowers in bloom in my yard

holy experience