Life lessons from this sleepy mother of five

Goldfish crackers, a granola bar and a diet coke can loosely be called lunch when too tired to make yourself one.

Sleep is more valuable than a shower and make-up.

But getting the dishes done and kitchen picked up is actually more valuable than sleep.  Makes for oh-so-much better mornings!

Three year old little girls can learn to silently creep into your bed in the middle of the night so that you are genuinely surprised to roll over and find them 2 inches from your face in the morning.

When all else fails, blame it on the cat.

Reading a book about sane mothering does not necessarily equate sanity.

The power of princess panties and a new potty weighs pretty heavy.

Hearing the words below from an impassioned, almost crying 7 year old son may be both the high and low of the day:

“How can you expect me to eat this sandwich when it smells like poop?  It tastes like poop too!  Have you tasted it mom?  Its just like poop.  It really is.”

(I’m laughing, giggling uncontrollably just typing it out.  It was too funny to even offend me even though I’d made the bread for the sandwich myself…it left me wondering – how does one even KNOW what poop tastes like?)

Using M&M’s for potty training incentive only works if you don’t first eat all the M&M’s yourself.

When you have a temporary lapse in your ‘healthy eating goals’ and down a Frappucino AND a ginger molasses cookie on the way home from the YMCA, don’t then go online to Starbucks’ website to see just how bad they are for you.  You don’t want to know.

A text message from the hubby can make the whole day.

The balls don’t magically go over the fence like I’d thought, I actually watched the kids throw ALL the balls over the fence today JUST so that they would have to climb the fence to retrieve them.  Might we need more activities around here?

When in doubt, have people over.  It can transform a so-so day into a wonderful day. Just. Like. That.  There’s something so great about hanging with other people even in the midst of life’s mess.

And in closing, my sister Danielle’s perfect motto from this morning:

Some days are make banana-flax-whole wheat muffins from scratch and bring-them-to-your friends-house-just-because and some mornings you are lucky just to put the toast in the toaster.

Well said.  Sums it up quite nicely I’d say 🙂

Who dun it?

It’s 9:30 at night.  The boys were put to bed 2 hours ago.  They are still awake though they shouldn’t be.  Their little heads have popped out of their rooms about 15 too many times tonight.  I give them one more stern “go to sleep please” and then head to my room with the baby who’s hungry.

Chris is on a late night long run.  I’m exhausted and ready for sleep.  Rylee is sleeping over at Nana’s.  Phineas gets what he needs and is about to be asleep in my arms when 3 kids burst in my door all talking at once:

Audrey went #2 in the potty!  No she didn’t!  I did, yes I did mama, I get a chocolate!

Just an hour ago I’d come home from the store with a brand new little potty for Audrey.  Really hoping to get a jump start on the whole potty training thing.  So if she’d figured it out this fast, I was thrilled.  But the accounts were all conflicting.  One by one they told me what they thought had happened.  By now baby Finn was wide eyed and listening to the action.  So much for sleep.

Audrey re-thought her statement and told me she hadn’t actually gone in it (she was still snug in her footie jammies which confirmed it had not been her).  She blurted out that it was Kyler.  He’s 5 and knows far better than that so I thought there was no way it was him.

By now I’m mildly amused and sure that the potty is empty and this is all a ploy to stay up later.

So I walk with all three in tow, and lo and behold the tiny potty is certainly full.

Now I figure someone is lying to me.  So I carefully ask each one who did it.  I explain there were only the three of them out there while I was in my room and it had to be one of them.

Not a word.  No confession just giggles and heads nodding no.

I am now baffled and laughing and its so late my sleuthing skills are seriously lacking.  I give up the inquiries and tuck them all in bed again.  But they are all riled up because there is a mystery at hand and they want to know the answer.

So do I.

My best assessment at this point is that it was the cat.  Our perfectly trained lovely sweet cat we’ve had for nearly 3 years.  Now I’m left picturing her using the pristine frog-shaped kid potty I just bought for her own kitty business and I can’t stop laughing.

I can’t toilet train my 3 year old child but the cat is another story…

Back on the gratitude bandwagon…

#431 – silly sister moments

#432 – silly sibling moments (love the relationship these two have most days)

#433 – impromptu brother sister tea parties by candlelight (they rumaged all the snacks they could…even vitamins!)

#434 – sleep (the bits I’m getting are pretty darn sweet!)

#435 – making a CD mix for my love….my ploy to remind him of me while he spends oh-so-long days driving and working

#436 – date night – 2 1/2 hours of face to face time with no children = absolute sweetness

#437 – perfect, yummy baby skin

#438 – a hot meal, not prepared by me, and the joy of eating it all while its still hot (did I already mention date night?)

#439 – common ground, sharing dreams, having ideals

#440 – sisters (a good one of my middle sis, just so she doesn’t kill me for posting the goofy one above!)

#441 – new favorite song – Matthew West “Hold You Up” – what it is about a girls’ heart that wants to hear the words “You are worth fighting for”?

#442 – garden boxes and all the little tiny seedlings poking out of the ground despite the COLD spring!

#443 -pins and needles waiting to hear about the birth of my best friends’ SIXTH blessing!!!

#444 – how good it feels to let things go and really, truly let. them. GO.

#445 – celebrating twelve years married to the love of my life

Birthday Princess Audrey

We talked two years ago as a couple about how we wanted to downplay gifts at Christmas (making room for the real meaning of the season) and make an intentional effort to celebrate the uniqueness and blessing each child is on their birthdays.

We celebrated Audrey’s 3rd birthday (two days after my birthday and three days before our wedding anniversary…its been a busy week!) on Saturday with her sweet girl friends.  The sweetest princess pal being her older sister who prayed for her long before she was born into our family.  Such a treasure to watch these two girls love one another.

I took on my most ambitious cake-making yet with this 9 layer pink princess cake, it nearly tipped but we stuck a BBQ skewer in it and it held in okay!

The girls (and our two boys) all decorated crowns and scepters.

Audrey was pleased as punch with her cake, so worth the 5 hours of work!

By night’s end the party girl was worn out and we found her on the couch with her new pillow pet and her special blankie and her thumb…

It’s hard work being in a princess!  What a delight of a time to do girl stuff and celebrate the gift this sweet thing is to our family.  She makes us laugh and smile literally every single day.

Testify

Twelve years ago today we walked down the aisle to these words:

For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
I’ll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough
With every breath I take I will give thanks to God above
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
(Avalon “Testify”)

We didn’t give it much thought, love was easy and simple.  We’d waited 4 years to marry, dated through our last two years of high school, been through lots of ups and downs and at the time our very union was testimony to God’s faithfulness.  It really was.

We were idealistic and hope-filled 21 year olds.  All of life spanned before us and it seemed so very grand.  We made plans, dreamed dreams and forged ahead together.  We paid $427 a month to rent a tiny campus apartment that overlooked a lake while we finished college.  I think I threatened once or twice to go back to my parents.  Oh how young I was.   I made coffee and he made disciples as he led the youth group at our church.  He thrived and I watched his passion explode.  We studied hard and graduated together.

While on a missions trip to El Salvador using pit toilets and doing manual labor every day, a pink line rocked our world and we grinned all week as we kept our little secret.  We bought a tiny pair of brown sandals there and flew home on our own cloud as we pondered the parenthood journey we were about to embark on.

Years passed, more babies entered our world and the thriving, passion-filled man faced a lot of challenges and work became something different.  I filled my heart and my life with a job that I loved.  Church life wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  People weren’t perfect, we weren’t perfect.

We walked out our days and our lives in the best ways we could.  But we hurt each other.  A lot.  At the bottom of a spiral that seemed to last forever, we realized a choice had to be made and we chose each other.

Hard work.  So much of it.  So many words and tears.  We found little things to love together.  Like music.  And somehow these words came to be true…

And I don’t care if everyone knows what we’re going through
‘Cause all the roads lead back to you

On and on and on we pray, we can break into a brighter day
Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy
On and on and on we go, I don’t understand this windy road
Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy

And we’ll keep on, keep on climbing on down this narrow line
So we can see the other side, the other side
(Mat Kearney “On and On”)

Weeks, months passed and the ‘other side’ ever so slowly found its way onto the horizon.  We vowed without words really, that what we had was worth it.  And we walked the hard road of healing.

Now we testify to something different.  Not just to an ideal we call love.  Not just to a dreamy something that is nice to sing about.  To the ultimate, radical power of God to change lives and the most stubborn, broken hearts into something beautiful.  To the unchanging, unceasing grace that He gives when we can’t even muster up the ability to ask for it.  To the reality of restoration and the gift of forgiveness.

We testify to love.  But not to our own imperfect, never-enough kind of love.  To the Love Giver Himself and the way He makes all things new.

Patience – do I have enough for one more child?

We ventured to our favorite specialty grocery store today for a walk on a nearby trail then lunch from the awesome deli.  They have live crabs in big tanks and as we watched one try to climb out another mama stood next to me with her son.  Her first words to me were the ones I hear nearly every time we go out:

Oh my goodness!  You certainly have your hands full!

Totally not offensive at all, just a matter-of-fact statement.  It’s true.  I do, I’m outnumbered five to one.  I could write another post about the rest of the things people say.  But I’ll pass on that.

She was actually only seeing four of my children because my sister had Rylee with her elsewhere in the store.  I told her my daughter was in the produce section and her were wide.

How do you do it?  I only have two and I don’t even have the patience for the ones I have.  We’ve been really thinking about having one more but I’m scare, I don’t think we can do it.  I just don’t naturally have the patience.

I smiled and waved my hand toward my brood and said:

I don’t either!  I don’t think anyone has natural patience!  There are things that get more challenging with each child.  But there are a lot of things that honestly get easier.  There is a always someone to hang out with or play with.  Each one of these kids has taught me more patience.  I think we learn patience instead of ‘having it or not’.  Each baby we’ve had I’ve had to grow more patience, more grace, that’s the beauty of it all.

Her son was moving toward the lobsters so she walked on and we grabbed some lemon shrimp salad and corn dogs and other tasty yumminess then headed outside for our ‘picnic’.

But I drove home thinking more about our oh-so-brief conversation.  Did I mean what I’d said?  Had I been sensitive to the inquiring stranger?  I am hyper-concerned sometimes about not wanting to say anything that makes other mamas feel like I judge them for having a different amount of children than me.  I’ve heard that attitude/sentiment before and its ugly.  I aim for sharing my honest reality.  And that’s what I’d passed on to this sweet lady.  Truly, I meant exactly what I’d said.

I have marveled at how much calmer my spirit is with all the newborn baby piercing crying with Phineas.  Yes it’s hard to hear.  Yes I wish I could do something to fix it.  But I have HAD to learn that it will pass.  That sometimes there is absolutely nothing I can do to sooth him.  That he will survive if I need to change his big sister’s diaper or quickly start lunch.  I used to sob and get incredibly worked up during Caleb’s months long colic days.  I was certain it meant I was a terrible mother.

This is the beauty of getting to add another one to the mix that is our family.  I get to learn something new.  I have the opportunity to beg for more patience, more grace, more help….more something.  And God is tremendously faithful to supply it.  All I have to do is ask (and you’d think I would remember that all the time but I still forget…often!).

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.
Philipians 4:19


Family gardening

I know we’ve all heard about how if kids grow their own food they are much more likely to try it and eat it.  While I’m no green thumb at ALL, I certainly did find this to be true as over the past two years as we’ve attempted to grow food in the summer.  This is our first year going all out, really making an effort to get the yield that we need to actually feed our family for some meals, not just provide a handful of snap peas to snack on.  The kids could not understand how the snap peas we grew could taste so much better than ones from the store, but they do!

While I’m pretty tied up with a new baby (and the rest of our crew), we had a friend help build us some square foot garden boxes so we could utilize the small yard we have in the best possible way.  They are are far less maintenance than traditional row gardening, the whole system is really quite ingenious.  It puts gardening within reach even for people with a condo patio or a tiny yard.  We didn’t have time or space to grow any seeds inside the house so we are using small plant starts for the slow growers and planting seeds directly outside for the rest.

We may be dreadfully behind in history homeschool but we ARE learning about seed germination times, why certain things don’t grow well here and why we space veggies certain distance apart….along with lots of other fun facts.  My grand plan which I truly doubted would come to fruition given these past two months, was that each child would have their own box and they would map out each square foot to hold what they chose to grow.  They would be responsible for weeding, watering and harvesting.  They have been more than a little excited about this.  Hand mixing our own custom dirt mix was a highlight for Caleb (and me really!).

After our trip to the garden store last week, we were finally ready to get to planting.  It was a rainy, windy day and Phineas wailed the whole time but I was determined not to say “no, wait till I get the baby calmed down” for the hundredth time.  So we persevered and it was so fun for the kids.

It was a wonderful chance to practice reading a map and they carefully consulted their paper to make sure the right things went in the right squares.  We’ve stocked up on garden tools very economically at the thrift store or the local dollar store, everyone seems to need a shovel at exactly the same time!

By the time we got inside I needed a massage from wielding the crying babe and plants and giving lessons on hole spacing and the kids need cocoa because their hands were frozen.  Their maps had disintegrated in the rain which was a bummer.  Such is a nature of gardening in the Pacific NW.

I decided to pull out my laminator and print out maps to laminate.  I used heavy laminating sheets that would hopefully hold up well then bought cheap 2 foot garden stakes.  I was pretty sure without a map we wouldn’t remember which seeds had been planted in each square.  They turned out great –

Though it was pretty late when we finished, Audrey still made time to water the primroses in her pajamas and boots!

Now if we could just muster up some sunshine and warmer days, we hope to see lots of yummy things growing soon.  I made sure each kid planted radishes not because they love to eat them but because they will quickly pop out of the ground and be the first food they get to harvest!

It’s Mother’s Day

It’s a 4 AM feeding with the newest baby.

30 minutes later, its tending to a 3 year old with a high fever.

20 minutes after that its jumping out of bed to see what crashed in the girls room, just stuff that fell off their bed.

It’s laying in bed in the dark thinking of my own mama and how this is her first mother’s day with no phone call to her mom.  How strange and sad that would be and how long I hope it is before that’s me…

Then I’m thinking of my neighbor, who not only raises her own two boys but her sister’s as well after her sister passed away a few years ago.

And my other neighbor who should have three children calling her today but only one is still living after two horrific car crashes just one year apart.

I can’t sleep and can only think.  How could I be so blessed to share the relationship I do with my mom?  How could my heart burst with pride over the life she’s living out and how she’s allowed God to transform and shape her even in these later years?

It’s laying in bed for a half an hour while kids draw me pictures and this baby of mine smiles and coos at me.

It’s snuggling the feverish one since I’m all she wants.

It’s requesting a donuts and a coffee run before 8 o’clock.

It’s still trying to snag a shower at just the right time.

It’s making it to church without arguing and watching our niece’s baby dedication.

It’s holding a 3 year old in the backpack simultaneously cradling the newborn in my arms and balancing a diaper bag on my shoulder while wearing 3 inch boot heels to church just because I can.

It’s kids crying in the car wondering how their daddy’s going to make their lunch while I go out with my mom and sister.

It’s the very best gyros and free mimosas and divinely uninterrupted conversation that feels like such a gift.

It’s bright fuchsia nail polish getting painted on my tired and worn out mama toes.  They make me feel like maybe, just maybe spring is on the way…

It’s getting the text the sweet baby boy drank his very first bottle while I was away and the slightly euphoric feeling it brings, knowing I’ll be able to get a little break here and there in the months to come.

It’s grilling my own steak and potatoes dinner because cooking just isn’t his forte and I love steak.  We both do what we’re good at and it’s okay.

It’s gardening into the dark, just one more plant to get in the cold ground and hope it thrives.

Entertaining with children

I have read many a lovely blog posts about this topic and they are often inspiring and wonderful even if they feel out of reach.  Before Phineas was born I told Christopher we ought to plan to have a meal in the crock pot every Sunday and have someone come home from church with us to eat lunch.  He said that sounded great.  I wasn’t sure just everyone would WANT to come eat at our house with our large brood but we could at least offer right?

I figured we’d have a few weeks off for getting settled with baby (our fifth, how hard could it be?) and then implement my new idea.  Ha!  Who knew we’d still be settling in after 10 weeks and that life had basically stood still since he was born, certainly not me.  I kept trying to pull it together to just get dinner for my own family on the table until he was over 6 weeks old-and even then it wasn’t normal dinner fare.  The mere thought of having people over didn’t even enter my mind.

Last weekend we hosted a birthday party with 20 people here, it went off without a hitch except for the pretty-close-to-bonafide panic attack I had the night prior.  Couldn’t stop my head from shaking and twitching or find my breath when I needed it.  The only way it came together was what I think is the pillar of hosting parties, dinners or anything when you have small children:

EVERYONE has to pitch in and help.  EVERYONE has to be on board with having people over and wanting them to feel welcome and at home.

So, we all pulled up our bootstraps and doled out tasks for kids and did the hard work needed to get ready for a crazy gathering that would leave adults outnumbered by children once again.  This can be fun or totally un-fun.  It really is up to the mom and dad and their attitude toward the work.  If we act like its a good time then somehow our kids are stumped into thinking the same, 90% of the time.  Unless your name is Kyler and then you’d just really, really prefer not to work, ever.  If you were Kyler you might offer to trade a stuffed animal for someone else to do your work.  Or a pen.  Or a coloring book.  Or some money.  But not chocolate, never chocolate.

Easy meals that kids actually like is also part of our scheme for successful dining with kids and company.  If I’m going to try a new lentil stew recipe, when guests are here isn’t the time for it.  Sticking with a favorite is always easier.  Yesterday it was chicken tetrazzini.  Not my healthiest meal by any means, but certainly one that everyone is pleased to devour.

While doing what you can to make things go smoothly, there is always the chance that your day will be a disaster and you’ll be left wanting to cancel 20 minutes before your friends are due to arrive.  That was yesterday.  By 10 AM,  I’d been royally insulted and called a liar.  By noon I was in tears in my room after correcting the same behavior for the thousandth time, just sure that no one listened to anything I said.  By 3 PM I had decided my kids should just go to school because I obviously wasn’t doing any paramount job of raising and teaching them at home given the happenings of the previous 8 hours (every March or April I wind up thinking that at least once!).

By 5:30, dinner was made and cooking but everyone was fighting and I sat in my bed with the baby and cried.  Ten minutes before our guests arrived, Daddy got home, found me in my falling apart state and said our friends were here (this was the first time we’d had them in our home for dinner).

I took deep breaths in the bathroom and tried to make my eyes look less red. I wished I could present perfectly behaved children, mopped floors and a gourmet meal.

If I was really honest, I just wished I had more control over everything.

But alas, I do not.  I could not.  All I could offer was my less than clean home, my children who’d had a crummy day, my slightly burnt dinner (can’t hear the timer going off in my bedroom!), floors covered with dog hair…

and

a heart that loves people, hands that love cooking for others and the desire to be the me that I am today instead of the me that I would like to be or think I ought to be.  Even if that me is totally not put together.  I’d prayed that we could be a blessing and encourage our friends, which is always my heart when we have people in our home. Being the imperfect, real people we are is the best way to do that.  Even when it’s humbling and hard.

Loving others in the midst of mess, bad days and limitations is better than not loving at all.

Captain Caleb’s pirate party

I wasn’t too keen on the whole pirate thing, not really a fan of skull & crossbones but after reading a younger version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Caleb was captivated by the story and requested a treasure hunting birthday.  Given the new baby and pretty maxed out state of life at the moment we certainly flew by the seat of our pants unlike last years 2 months of prep for the Robinhood party!  But it all worked out okay, amazing how when you pull together and work hard what fun you can come up with!  We focused on the ‘treasure’ aspect instead of the stealing and looting aspect which worked out to be super fun…

We spent the afternoon getting ready, red nails for the girls just for fun!

The kids tested out the boat in the ‘sea of good Hope’ (AKA backyard)

Audrey kept checking her nails for dryness

The daughter of my parents friend made this amazing cupcake-cake-map…I’m learning, ever so slowly, to pass on what I’m not able to do in the current season and the cake was certainly one of those things.

The only super easy food I could think of at Costco last week was teriaki meatballs over brown rice, our friend Tom deemed them cannonballs and they were a pirate hit.  And they cooked all day in the crock pot so very little work for me!

Daddy made an awesome treasure map and sent the kids searching for the booty

Didn’t take too long to dig up the treasure with all these hands!

Caleb and his crew

the littlest of the ‘good pirates’

What a treat to have a gorgeous sunny day to celebrate, though we’d have still had fun in rain it would not have been quite the same.  It was wonderfully fun for our sweet 7 year old and I told him more than once…the real treasure is him.

And I meant it.  This sensitive, passionate, bright-minded and uniquely-wired boy is truly a gift to our family.  He has taught us all a great deal about patience, self-control and how to love without condition.  We are all better for knowing him.