On crazy busy life and “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkeurst

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review.  While I have certainly read some good books, I haven’t managed to sit down and write about them.  But this one requires passing on, The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst.  Our flurried, broken, overextended-in-every-way American culture is a living, breathing example of many examples of “you reap what you sow”.  Instead of breaking down that reality, may I just say that despite very intentional efforts not to live inside the crazy…sometimes it seems impossibly hard to step back, step aside, step OUT of the continual myriad of activities.  Nearly all of them GOOD things.  The amount of extracurricular options is staggering.  Whether you are married with kids or without, single, young or old….there is nary a shortage of ways you could spend your time and energy.

One particular aspect of this that I find it difficult to navigate is the mentality that if you don’t offer your children a plethora of options, be they flute lessons, karate, a spot on the baseball team, chess club, horse back riding lessons, 4-H, drama class, choir, soccer, art lessons and tickets to a play or five at the local kids theater, that somehow they will be cheated of a “well rounded” and “rich” upbringing.  The array of “good things” here is at best mind-blowing.  And at worst, well, I don’t know.  I suppose I would just venture to say that this way of thinking is a plague in our culture and in fact, learning to have some white space or margin in your life is perhaps one of the very best tools parents should empower their kids with.

It sounds easy right?  But its not.  Even having moving out of the city into a more rural area, there are so many things one can do!  I have done much quiet thinking about it this past year, a year that left me gasping for breath and feeling like I could not, would not possibly be able to continue on the same path.  A wise mother said to me just last Tuesday while listening to me wrestle out loud with the too-many-options dilemma, “I have come to a place where I honestly believe, if my child has a very exceptional, genuine kind of gift at playing piano or baseball or something….that talent will well up and emerge regardless of my ability to provide copious amounts of lessons and instruction in its realm.”  I breathed a sigh of great relief.  And my heart agreed.

If I believe that God’s plans for the lives of my children will not be thwarted by my inadequacies and imperfectness as a parent, then I can instead invest in loving them well, building strong, healthy relationships, providing a solid, vibrant foundation for their lives. Which I’ve come to believe MUST include having a weekly schedule that has room in it to breathe.  I absolutely must, as a mother who seeks to walk in wisdom, learn how to make thoughtful decisions for our family and for my own life that reflect a measure of having ‘counted the cost’ of each and every spoken and unspoken YES in my life.

This is where the book by Lysa comes in.  I ended the summer feeling terribly unready for the year ahead.  Still struggling to bounce back from last year.  When I read the tagline under the title, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, my head just nodded and I clicked ‘place my order’ before the book had even been released.  It is practical and so well breaks down the reality of every “yes”.  Yes to one thing means a no elsewhere, this is the part I hadn’t learned to think through very well.  I just kept on with yes’.  I would liken it to writing a check on an empty bank account, eventually the debt is in your face and you have to deal with it.  Lysa  breaks down, wonderfully well, various ways to learn to cultivate this sort of wisdom and also delves into why it matters so much.

I am learning to weigh my yes and to really sift through all the implications it will have.  Slowly, albeit, but learning nonetheless.  Just yesterday we were at the pumpkin patch, having great fun with my sister as we have done every year for at least 8 years in a row.  I started to get anxious being there, knowing that in two weeks our homeschool group is going on a group trip to another pumpkin patch.  I feel obligated to go, my mind had already relinquished to having to go.  But as I thought more, talked it out loud a bit, it was so clear.  Yesterday was my “best yes”.  Two weeks from now will be my wise “no”.  And in that, I get to practice something I am not good at, giving grace to myself.  Grace to say “one pumpkin patch trip with my six children is all that I can manage this year and that is okay, more than that, it is wise and good”.

If life feels a bit over the top and you aren’t sure how to proceed or how to grow in this aspect, this book is an excellent, very worthwhile read.  Really, just about everyone I know fits into that description in some way!  My copy is heavily highlighted and written on, which is one of my best measures of good books.  Beyond that, my life is incorporating the practical wisdom from the pages and that is surely the best part.

Here are a few snapshots of our one and only wonderful pumpkin patch trip this weekend:

big boys Oct 2014
Finn's pumpkin
Lib and mama
Lib Oct 2014
nana and girls
three girls
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photo 5

Why mud means hope

It may not make any sense to anyone except me.  Which is entirely okay.  But coming outside just now to rally some boys for some heavy lifting work only to find them emerging from the forest wearing wide grins and pants covered in thick mud….it was a glimmer for me.  A glimmer of what might be some day soon.

Spring might come.  We might some time, not too far from now, spend days outside, one after another.  My boys, despite their glaring, enormous differences in personality, might get along with each other within the common cause of the outdoors.  Though the wind whipped brisk and chilled all bits of skin that weren’t covered tight, warmer days will arrive.

It’s been a long winter.  The metaphorical one and the real one.  There have been many, more than normal, cold days where we’ve been sequestered to the indoors.  This is especially hard for one of our kids, the one who lives and breathes all things nature.  So finding my boys wielding my purple pruning sheers and pants that will for sure never be the same again, somehow this fills me with hope.  Getting stuck in two feet of mud and losing a pair of boots in the process was the common ground these two needed today, even if for just one day.  The mud means the ground isn’t frozen which means we’re not frozen.  We will pull through. We might be messy and sure get things wrong along the way.  But we will be all the stronger for it…

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Snapshots

These days are a blink and I’m a fool if I don’t believe its true.  I don’t want to forget…..

telling the kids in the van today that our friends daughters’ were making headbands to sell to raise money for orphans in Ethiopia and Caleb’s immediate reply:

Rylee, can I give you some money so you can buy yourself one from them?

as she got out of the van at her friends’ home he handed her cash from his stash that he always has on hand because he is our very frugal saving one

despite his penny-pinching ways, he has a heart that is gold and he didn’t think twice about gifting not only his sister with a new headband but for a cause that he knew meant something

the bigger ones naturally holding hands with the littles when we walk-I won’t ever not love seeing that

the way Phineas says “I need it” about everything.  no ability whatsoever to distinguish need from want.  and the application of that to his two year old life is constant entertainment for the rest of us.

how much fun can be had on our giant new bed.  ridiculous much.  five kids and a daddy wrestling.  reading books in heaps of pillows and blankets.  middle of the night snuggles when bad dreams keep little people awake.

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realizing that if I feel too far away from the one I love in said giant bed, king size pillows are big enough for two.

the endless list of reasons why I’m thankful our kids get to learn at home with me and with each other, that in all its imperfectness (and even now, at the tail end of the year when I’m so ready for summer!), I still believe it’s the best place to be

looking out my window to see this a few hours ago:

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Caleb had his magnifying glass and was crawling around with Finn on hands and knees searching for spiders….every time they found one Finn shrieked “PIDER!”

later they spent an hour collecting varieties of mushrooms for their “mushroom museum”

how Finn says thank you every time I change his dirty diapers

the love I get to show through serving these ones in our home by feeding, clothing, driving, teaching, correcting, forgiving and encouraging for hours upon hours every day after day

that my boys notice my sparkle – if its a bracelet or dressy earrings, they notice

whether you’re 10 or freshly 35, the gift of friendship is a profound treasure

these and a thousand more – forcing myself back into the counting of the gifts because I know I need to remember, need to practice what I preached (literally two weeks ago!) and lift my eyes up to where it all comes from

A boy and his dreams

Today the wide-eyed one who loves to wonder told me with with brazen confidence:

See that tree mama?  What I’m gonna do is climb it to the top and jump out after I make some wings.  I’m going to glide down (a brother interjected, “won’t you FALL?”) Oh no, I won’t fall I will GLIDE.  It’s going to be great!

I smiled at the blue-eyed one.  Much of life seems to bear down hard on this precious son.  The way he feels and learns and sees and hears makes for
o-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-e-d him more often than I wish.  Who am I to crush his dreams?  Who am I to be the voice of reason and tell him he can’t and it won’t work and here are 10 reasons why that is a terrible idea?

How many times have I crushed him already?  Not been tender enough when he was (slightly) injured for the millionth time and I could not muster one more ounce of compassion?  This the one child that managed to break his foot simply leaning back on a kitchen chair because he could not sit still through dinner.  How have I taken the fun out of something meant to be lighthearted when all he wanted was to dream big?

He’s hard at work behind me right now.  The sweet grunts and groans of boy deep in his work.  Believing big that he can do something great.  Is it my job to tell him he can’t fly?  He can’t change the world? Just because I feel so darn grumpy this morning?  Or just because the world is a terrifying place where the most unimaginable things happen?  Every.  Single. Day?

He just finished the work.  “I’m going out to fly mama!”  Hope filled and an ear-to-ear grin.  “I’m right behind you, hang on” I call to him. 

I grab a camera and chase the one who I know will one day conquer great things, for all the small he has to learn to conquer everyday.

“Do you think its going to work?  I’ll climb up and you hand me my wings so they don’t break, okay? (he pauses) Maybe I should come down a few branches and try lower first?”

He trusts me, implicitly, despite my daily failing him.  He knows I’m in his corner.  Despite the thousand times I’ve wondered why he didn’t get a better mother than me, somehow he loves this one that he has.  He asks if I think this is the right height. I breathe relief.  I didn’t want to say it.  Thankful he figured it out on his own.  He waits and shouts “READY!” and jumps.

My eyes well up behind the lens because its not every day I see this kind of sheer glee from him.  I love it.  I love his sparkle and his creativity and his determination.  I love the way he cradles grasshoppers and moths in his hands.  The way he knows the sounds of different birds in our yard.  I literally relish every single second because I know it won’t last an hour, maybe not even five minutes but the taste of this moments, these moments with this boy….they are so sweet my heart hurts.

Where big brother goes, little brothers long to follow.  This does not always pan out well here.  But it did today.  Little brother searched for his own cardboard, his own scissors and tape and formulated his own ‘wings’.  The littlest brother was happy to swing in the hammock chair while the big boys proved their awesomeness. The tree proved a challenge so we moved the picnic table to the edge of the deck which was a perfect, still challenging but not quite so crazy, height.

Someday his jump will take him out of my nest and into the wide world.  I will miss his good days and his bad.  I will miss the way he tucks himself under my arm on the couch because someday he won’t fit there.  I will not always be his leading lady so I am determined to find more days like this one and love them with all my heart.

Life with boys

While I am no expert like my sweet friend Kimberly, the blessed mama to SIX lovely boys, I am learning.  A lot.  Having grown up with only sisters, the world of legos, star wars and weapons was entirely foreign to me.  Now that boys win around here (for the moment at least) with Phineas’ birth tipping to scale to boys-by-one, I’m trekking along on my journey of learning to love and nurture these little men the best I can.

There are some, like writer Sally Clarkson (whose two-part guest post on the MOB blog was excellent), far more seasoned in the raising of boys, I’m still a well-intentioned newbie.  Many a day I can be heard saying “how do you do that? why did you do that? that is NOT a weapon!”.    The way their little minds work is a mystery often.  They have energy and a zeal for rocks, dirt, things with wheels, tools and all things battle-related that blows me away sometimes.  How they could cultivate all that boyness in a sit down, school-room-all-day setting is beyond me.

I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to learn at home and lend them the freedom to spend hours taking apart home appliances with their ‘man box’ tools and to craft all sorts of things out of cardboard boxes and duct tape.  The freedom to whoop and holler and wrestle and be all the boy they are.  The simple gift of time to spend in wonder at the black beetle in the yard and how it always seems to turns itself right side up.  The chance to share a newly acquired skill with a younger sibling.

But I’m getting sidetracked.  My point today was simply the beauty of learning to embrace little boys for all the wonder they were created to be.  So that when you sit down to the lunch table, finally able to eat, and look to your left to see this:

And you hear him say with glee “It’s not a sandwich, its a TANK!” as he stuffs cherry stems into his grilled cheese sandwich in complete delight so much so that he inspires his older brother to do the same so they can have grilled-cheese-cherry-stem battles right there at the lunch table.

And I’ve walked this road enough to know that some days, I absolutely have to smile and giggle and tell them their ‘tanks’ look awesome and what a fabulous idea that is.  We can let the ‘don’t play with your food’ lecture wait for another day.  I’m pretty sure we’ll all survive (grin).

Sink baths

“Don’t climb out!” (shrieking and giggles) “No, come back I’m trying to give you a bath” (more giggles) “Kyler, don’t touch it, it’s mine”

I’m listening to this commotion from Rylee’s room as I am holding her in my lap while she sobs for her Daddy. One of his shirts ended up in her laundry basket and while she was putting her clothes away, she pulled it out and started crying-I asked what was wrong she said with tears streaming down her face-“When I picked up Daddy’s shirt, it made me think of him and I wished he was here with me.” Wow, I was amazed that our emotional bent begins at this early age. From the sound of her quivering voice you’d have thought her Dad was gone forever. It made me cry, we wiped each other’s tears and hugged some more.

Back to the ruckus in the bathroom, I thought I’d better check it out, this is what I found:

Fires and other firsts

Tonight we had our first fire in our side yard to celebrate the fact that we finally have completed the project (well almost…we’re still missing the top of the arbor).  We added the new fence, finished the fort/slide, added a climbing wall, brought in 6 yards of pea gravel, and built a small outdoor fireplace.  So, Karissa headed off to the store to grab some necessities (marshmallows and roasting sticks) and we roasted the night away.  I was completely impressed with the roasting skills.  Both Rylee and Caleb were doing a tremendous job making mouthwatering nicely browned mallows.  Kyler would put the marshmallow near the flames for about 1 second and bring it back to his mouth, take a bite and repeat step 1.  The big projects are over for now…we are looking forward to many summer nights spent outside with the fire pit.  Any takers?

In other news, Audrey is smiling now.  For the last five days or so she has been responding to her mama and daddy, and I think Dee Dee with the cutest little Audie smiles.  Another first for Audie is that she slept for 6 hours straight, ate, and then went right back to sleep for another 3 (two days in a row now).  I had forgotten what a good night’s rest looks like.  Also, Rylee now puts Audrey to sleep by holding her and gently bouncing up an down on one of our inflatible balls.  It is quite handy having a sweet little girl who adores her little sister.

In the “I’m thirty now” news, it appears that although I am still capable of running a quick 4.5 miles on a whim, my legs hate me for the next three days straight.  Add that to the list.

-Chris

The Boardwalk Revisited

Call me a glutton for punishment or just stubborn, but I decided this morning to head out to the wetlands for another go at the boardwalk with the boys.  Alright, that is not quite the truth…what really happened was that the boys were going ballistic after being cooped up insdide for so many days with Audrey so Karissa looks at me and tells me to take the boys outside to the park.  So off I went, fully aware of what happened the last time the boys went to the boardwalk.  If you did not yet read about this adventure, you can read about what happened here.  So Caleb, Kyler, Maggie and I decided to tackle the boardwalk again.  This time  was not as adventurous and the only one to get wet was Maggie.  We even managed to grab a few pictures.

 

Diggin' in the wetlands
The boys and Maggie
A self portrait attempt

-Chris

 

What about the Boys?

Rylee is so excited to have Audrey as her baby sister.  In fact, many of the pictures we have of her involve Rylee in one way or another.  Yesterday, I sat down on the couch next to her as she was holding Audrey and just watched in awe of my beautiful daughters.  Rylee looked up at me and said “Daddy, out of all the things that I have gotten since the new baby came, the baby is my favorite.”  This just melted my heart.  We had put a bag together full of new toys for each of our kids in celebration of the new addition to our family.

The real question, though, was how were the boys going to react to Audrey when she showed up.  Before she was born, Caleb was asked several times what he thought about the whole deal and his standard answer was “I don’t think about it.”  Kyler of course did not have much to say.

Since she has been home, Caleb has looked at Audrey from time to time, but is kind of pressing on with life knowing she is now a part of it.  Twice now he has asked to hold her, but for the most part he has kept to his usual stuff, baseball, monster trucks, digging in the yard, and throwing balls.

Kyler has probably felt the most change in his status.  He, of course, is no longer the baby and has done his best to demand a bit more attention.  Often this is seen in trying to be funny to get everyone to look at him.  He did this before (he is quite the comedian) but I feel like he has amped it up a bit.  Of course, this morning, he got Dad to himself by virtue of a 5:20 wake up.  Coffee anyone?  The most affection he gives to Audrey is a lick on the head.  I am not sure where he learned that one, maybe from Maggie…

I am anticipating both boys connecting on a deeper level with their  Daddy as Mom needs to spend time bonding with Audrey.  It will be an interesting journey as we watch these two little men grow up in this family of six.  Yesterday Karissa and I looked across the dinner table at each other and just took it in that we really did have a table for six.  We love it and look forward to watching each of these four children grow up learning to love God, love each other, and to serve others generously.

-Chris