Someday my couch will have all its cushions on it and it will not perpetually look like this:

Someday my kitchen counters will actually feel smooth when I run my hands across them, they might actually be clean for more than 5 minutes.

Someday there will not be a giant pile of dirties next to my washer, there will be no muddy little people to accumulate said dirties.

Someday there will be quiet and calm here.

Someday the kids bathroom won’t smell like pee.

Someday I will have the time to sit and drink whole cups of coffee before they are cold.

Someday there won’t be a shoe around every single corner or permanent marker art on my wood floor.

Someday I won’t shop at Costco anymore or buy 500 pounds of beef at one time.

Someday I will (maybe) think about my outfits, my style and actually wear something not from Costco or the Goodwill – and it will stay clean on me for the whole day.

Someday I won’t find my hairbrush in the toilet because there will be no one here who would think to put it there.

Someday I will go for long walks, have time for daily Pilates and have time to exercise.

Someday I might drive a small, zippy, efficient vehicle.

Someday I will go weeks without uttering phrases like “show kindness please” and “take the craziness outside”.

Every season at least once, I ponder what my days will look like in a few years time.  How this place will change and how different the issues and challenges will be that we each face.  This season of training many littles is exhausting.  But I am foolish to think that someday I won’t miss the loud, chaotic, crazy LOVE that spills from this home.  Oh yes, love will still live here.  But it won’t look the same, sound the same or feel quite the same as having my brood here, under my roof.  So every morning I wake up and remind myself to live in the moment that is today – my chance to impact and imprint upon real, live people is today.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Honestly every day I am ridiculously thankful for my present, for my today.  From the outside looking in I know it may seem nuts, this life, this way that we walk.  And that’s okay.  I would not trade it for any convenience, any comfort, any dose of ‘easy’.  The riches are immeasurable,

Delighting in daughters

Her blanket is in the van and its dark and late and my foot has a tiny piece of glass in it and I don’t want to limp outside to get it.  She is too tired to argue so she gently takes my hand and cradles her cheek with my palm just like she would with her blankie.  She holds on to my other hand with her tiny one and I watch her eyes flutter.  Mine keep closing from a longer than most day of the hardest work.  But I will them back open to make sure I don’t miss getting to watch her fall asleep.

There is something delicious and other-worldly about little girls.  Her lips are a perfect tiny rosebud and her curls hang all around her face.  She reaches out to touch things that aren’t there and makes the softest little sounds as she drifts off.  Her skin is unblemished and untouched by age and I soak in all that she is in this moment.  She possesses a tender, sweet spirit and I pray for it and her to be protected in all the years to come.  That somehow she can cultivate and grow in her feminine, soft loveliness in this ever-so-mixed up world.

The older daughter, my first born, she has this intangible ability to sense how people feel around her.  Maybe that’s why she went to all the effort today to set up a tea party in the family room for us girls.  She thought of everything.  Put Ray LaMontagne on the CD player and a fan on for ambient noise.  Tried to light candles but couldn’t find a lighter.  Put a table cloth over the old card table and sprinkled rose petals from the yard all over the table.  She played two roles even, server/waitress and the friend joining us who was running late.  She switched between roles throughout our lunch.  Made sure to tell me I would be so impressed by the baker who’d made our cookies we were eating “she has FIVE kids, can you believe it? and she made these delicious cookies and they are gluten free!”  I grinned big and marveled at her nine year old self, play acting and still managing to compliment me in the most darling fashion.  There were even little umbrellas in our iced tea!  I rode the happy of our tea all day long.  I replayed it all over and over and was unceasingly thankful that I am blessed with these two daughters.

The view from here

He pulls me along and we poke our toes in the sand.  His blond fuzzball head covered obediently with a hat and his ever so pudgy fingers squeeze my hand tightly as waves lap at our feet.  I spent his first year trying to find ways to soothe his colicky, high-need baby self.  I’ve spent this first part of his second just trying to keep up with him.  He will change his world someday, whatever that world is that ends up being his circle.  He refuses to be a spectator and will not let life or adventure pass him by.

I say a silent thank you while I walk with this youngest one on the beach, a thank you for a husband willing to do hard and sometimes unpleasant work for our sake.  Driving day in and day out, every month a new sales quota to meet.  Missing our mornings, our days, sometimes our dinners and our lazy summer beach days.  What a burden we are to his man-shoulders.  One I know he gladly, willingly bears but I am foolish to forget that we are heavy on him.  Just as easily as I let the days ahead loom over me and tempt me to be overwhelmed, he too just might feel like there is no end in sight, no respite from hard work.

This moment walking on the beach with my toe-headed little boy is perfect.  I don’t want to forget.  I let him walk me as long and as far as we can go.  I push every thought out of my mind and delight in the way he holds onto my pinkie finger.  Someday he will be taller than his not-so-tall mama.  I’ll look up to him.  I’ll tell him he has what it takes and he will let go of my hand.  And I might choke up thinking about holding him night after night while he cried and fussed about who knows what.

But for today, I’m loving my view from here.

Heads, hearts and helmets

No brilliant person’s words of wisdom, no fantastically written book, even no astute observations on my part could have ever prepared me for what would happen to my heart when I had children.

What it would feel like to hear tears down the street, to not worry too much because daddy was nearby and to go running down our little lane only to be waved back to the house by the daddy carrying the middlest one who obviously had met much pavement at a very high speed on his bike.  The blood pumping strong I run back toward the house and do what he told me to do “turn around and get all the first aid ready”.  The word “all” makes me start to worry much.  I clear the counter in an instant and realize our bandage supply is meager, it is the end of summer after all.

The pain in his voice as he’s carried in the door makes my insides shudder.  I never knew I would know all the different sounds of ‘boy’ and that only a few would make me feel like this.  His helmet is still on and we gently take it off (we don’t play the “what if he hadn’t had it on?” mind game now, but it comes later).  He is writhing and I want to just hold him but I have to assess the scope of it all.  The impact was obviously head first and then the whole left side.  I see deep open sores on his side and he is holding it so tight, I think spleen? and keep taking mental notes on everything while trying to play calm mommy.  Left elbow maybe broken, lots of blood and road rash abrasions.

We make the decision to head to the ER.  Too many variables not to go.  And he is getting foggy.  Not responding normally to us.  So we pack up and go.

The drive from our new place to the ER that we know and love seems like an eternity.  I pull over on the side of the freeway because he isn’t answering me.  I tug on his foot and he talks back but I know we aren’t in good shape.

As soon as they see him they bump him to the top of the line and send him straight back and there is a doctor there before we are even on the bed.  He is sharp and kind and takes the very best care of my boy.  When he gives me choices on what to do and I waffle and wish my hubby was here to help me decide, he offers to call him right then and there and talk with him in the room with me and we figure it all out together.

The only reason we probably had choices and didn’t head straight away for a CAT scan was because he had his helmet on.  More than once, he said “with that kind of impact, if he had not had that helmet on, this outcome could have been very different”.  As it was he still had a concussion.  And he was badly beat up from his body meeting the road at that speed.

The first hour he is so out of sorts and I wonder how this is going to turn out and would he be okay?  He is in and out of it.  Completely not his normal self.  My mom keeps me grounded and keeps talking to me and we talk to him and we watch and wait.  For several hours.

He finally turns a corner and we go home on strict limitations to his activity and super close watch on his demeanor.  We wake him all night every two hours to make sure he can wake up.  In the morning, the pain of waking up completely undoes him and in doing so undoes this mama too.  He is nauseous and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g hurts him to tears.  He can’t moved from curled up on the couch.  It breaks my heart.

Dressing wounds also makes my list of “things I did not expect to learn to do”.  But I do it because that is what a mother does.  And it honestly hurts me physically to have to pull gauze out of open spaces of skin that want to grow new into the bandages.

I spend a RIDICULOUS $60 on bandages, bandaids, non-stick gauze and my kitchen counter looks like a Red Cross clinic.  Never again will you find me out of stock when it comes to these necessities.

The days pass and two nights I hardly sleep.  I keep rehearsing our conversation and spilling over with thankfulness that it went down the way it did…

Me:  “I sometimes felt like the dorky mom always making my kids wear helmets, when the neighbor kids mom’s don’t make them wear theirs’.”

ER doctor:  “Well, if you hadn’t done that though, you might not be heading home right now.  Things could have very differently.”

Me:  “Sign me up for dorky mom.  Any day of the week then.”

I can hardly eat anything for several days after.  All the sores and pain and trauma leave me sick to my own stomach even though I’m not the one injured.  But it feels like I am.  And that’s what else no one could make you understand before you are a mother.  When your child’s heart or body is broken, it actually feels like it is you who is broken and sometimes even I think we feel worse than they do.  The whole phenomena is something I’ll never wrap my mind around and forever be thankful for.  The way these little people grow my heart is totally beyond me.

Why we homeschool

I love reading other people’s post about why they homeschool and I used to struggle to formulate a proper response succinctly when people would ask me why on earth I would choose to keep my kids with me all day, all year.  So this year, really for myself more than anyone, I thought I ought to make myself write out some thoughts on the matter.

There are a lot of reasons why we homeschool now though if I’m honest in the beginning it was more from fear of other options and a dreamy hope that we would whittle away blissful days of learning together.  While we do spend days learning together and it is awesome, bliss isn’t probably the best descriptor.  Chaotic, messy, loud, passionate, frustrating, rewarding and meaningful would better fit the bill.

One of my favorite aspects of home based learning is that learning becomes a lifestyle that we live out together.  We don’t sequester off a ‘school room’ and only do school certain minutes in that certain place.  Though some times and spots (the kitchen bar or table or couch or covered front porch or under a tree on the front lawn)  we do more traditional work, the boundaries of home and school blend into a beautiful mess.  It can be a Saturday morning at 10 and Caleb can find a brilliant green striped caterpillar and we can work on identifying and classifying it together.  It can be Rylee not feeling well and waiting till 4 pm to sit down for her math lesson because she tends to work best later in the day anyway.  It can be a week that several people we know are sick or in need and we spend a Tuesday baking and cooking food together then delivering it to bellies that will be blessed by it.  Life and learning and loving get all wound up in this indescribable way and it is hands down, every day worth the sacrifice and the work.  It’s worth missing out on coffee dates with friends after school-drop-off time and time to pursue hobbies and such.

We are able to adjust for different children’s learning pace and style when they learn in this setting.  This has been a huge blessing as we’ve watched our children grow and develop in their skills and styles.  I am challenged to be a student of my students and to figure out how best to bring them to feast on knowledge, truth and great literature.

Facilitating sibling communication and relationships, sometimes my least favorite job, is also a part of our learning lifestyle.  We get all day to figure out how to work together, how to all pitch in to make this home run smoothly, how to honor mom and how to work hard.  We mess it all up all the time and we learn and we get the chance to give grace every single day.

When we talk about the stars in the sky and read about the founding fathers, I marvel and wonder out loud at how God works and designs and uses the lives of people to make history.  This I love.  I could not imagine not being the one to stand before them impassioned and animated reading the Declaration of Independence and talking about what freedom means and the price so many have paid for us to enjoy it.

We can hunker down and get a school-days worth of work completed in a couple of hours.  Then we can pursue carving, sewing, tree-climbing, adventure-finding and delight in nature before the sun goes down.  We can have friends over or go to classes at co-op or take field trips when we fancy.  Even if its a weekday afternoon or morning.  The freedom and flexibility abound and I love that.

The way ‘school’ soaks into life and the kitchen table gets covered with handwriting practice and maps.

The chance to be the one learning the most about who my kids are, how they can thrive, what they are passionate about and what sorts of choices (and friends) they are making, I am incredibly grateful for this.

Just a part of the iceberg here, more thoughts are mulling about but for now, I’ll just say that the (official) new school year is upon us and I can’t wait to dive in when the day is here.  But for these last few days of summer, you’ll find me sleeping in, drinking coffee on the front porch at 10 am in my jammies with my kiddos hanging around…




Finding order – with a houseful of kids

Yes, I realize that five kids between 18 months and 9 years of age is not a houseful to some, but it is to most.  And I most certainly have felt a big pull to make some strides in the area of organization and planning our days to work better.  When we moved this spring I thought I had this great chance to implement 52 grand ideas on ‘how-we-can-do-things-better’.  Turned out we actually had this great chance to clean out, give away and somehow survive moving.  That was about it.  And it was plenty.

I emailed a few veteran mama friends towards the end of May.  We were (barely) crawling to the finish line and may or may not have finished our grammar work before calling it ‘summer’.  My email went something like this:

I have a lot of small people at my house.  I love them.  They are messy and loud and imperfect (darn it!).  I am feeling pretty overwhelmed.  I want to be able to manage my home better, spend more time doing fun stuff with my kids, train them to help more efficiently and effectively and to PUT THINGS AWAY AFTER GETTING THEM OUT.

So those may be the main bullet points but in reality my honest email was much longer and was a plea for some direction, inspiration and encouragement.  This stage with young ones is just plain hard.  No way around it only one way, through.  I trudged forward and packed our years school materials away for summer and took a deep breath.  There was so much I loved and I am ever so thankful to get to have them with me instead of sending them off every morning.

There were several approaches to getting organized but some basic principles, that I’d seen pay great dividends even when I merely dabbled in them, continued to surface as I searched for ideas and help.  Themes like:

  • get up before your kids and get ready for your day before it gets away from you
  • assign chores to your children, stick with the same ones so they get in a groove and do them well – to learn a good work ethic, everyone needs to learn to help out
  • expect EXCELLENCE – show them what a good job looks like and challenge them to greatness
  • children thrive on structure and routine, it makes them feel safe
  • mom’s need to model discipline and self-control (and sitting on the couch/computer/facebook on a smart phone/etc need serious boundaries)
  • one can schedule and still cultivate free play, creativity and other lovely things (I did not know this, really!)

Early June I wrote a friend (who I knew was struggling in the same ways) and suggested we read and brainstorm how we could plan better and make our life at home with our kids run more smoothly.  She said a quick yes.  We read and made lists and bounced ideas off each other and our husbands and made more lists.  Our goal was to, by summer’s end, have a workable schedule for our entire days during the (home)schooling year.  We would meet up late August and spend a few hours (celebrating her birthday) and hashing out all the details to form our many lists and thoughts into a master family schedule.

Today was the big day.  We woke with the sun and I drove a long ways while she took a ferry across the water to get to our meeting place.  After a hearty breakfast we broke out the gelly roll pens, the mechanical pencils, the plethora of lists, big erasers and a lot of determination.  We spent hours working and planning (and talking).  I think I drank 4 cups of coffee and 6 glasses of ice water and 2 mugs of tea.

We interrupted each other a few dozen times and erased what we’d written more times than that.  Though this part seemed hard, it was easy compared to the work ahead.  We have patterns that need changing, habits that need breaking and it won’t be a piece of cake for sure.  In a few weeks, I’ll be sure to post again and update on how the implementation all went down.  I expect it to be more than rocky.  But we will persevere and adjust when needed.  For now, we’re soaking in these summer days and spending every extra minute at the fair and in the sun!

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.

The best question asker

Rylee.  She is uniquely wired to ask more than the average amount of questions.  While this does pose a patience-challenge sometimes, it is a wonderful quality and I do my best to affirm it.  Every now and then I do ask for a ten minute question-asking timeout.  To which she usually asks “Why?” and I have to laugh.

This morning while we had breakfast together before church we got to talking about Finn and she was saying how he was too cute and we were gushing over him as we tend to.  We talked about how glad we were that he’d been given to our family. The lingo we use whenever we talk about children is always intentional and always positive.  So it was natural for her to frame her question the way she did, but it still surprised me:

If God gives a baby to someone and they didn’t really want to have kids, then what happens?

Um, wow.  She is only 8 and though we’ve talked abortion in broad terms I didn’t really want to go there in our short time at the breakfast table.  She actually asked the question in regards to someone we know that recently got married.  And they do want kids, I made sure she knew that.

But still, the question loomed and was such a big one.  I stumbled for words as I ate my pancakes and told her that maybe people might not think they did but once they’d been given a new life to love, they might change their minds.  This prompted a whole new thread of thought for her, and more questions. I told her:

Well, just like animals get surgery (like our cat and dog did) so that they don’t have babies, people can do the same thing.  And to be honest, after Kyler was born we thought our family was full and perfect.  We really did.  But God spoke deeply to my heart and to daddy’s.  We listened.  He told us that His plans for our family were different than ours.  If we had said ‘no thank you’ to what He was asking of us, you wouldn’t have the sister you prayed for.  And we wouldn’t have squishy, smiling Finny here today.  Can you even imagine?

She said no way!  And I agreed, I can’t imagine.  Though there are chaotic moments, the bottom line is we are abundantly grateful for the path we’re on and the way God has shaped our family.

What I wish I’d said but thought about later was the way that God grows and opens our hearts if we let Him.  I really didn’t think there was room for more little people for me to love in my very early years of mothering.  But the most amazing things happen when Love abides in an open heart.  Though I run out of love regularly, the Love Giver Himself is always overflowing with more than I could ever need.

That love is amazing, unwavering and extravagant.  And it is always, always enough.



We may not have clean fingernails…

…but we sure know how to catch frogs.

and we can gently hold a bee flower for a long time and watch its tiny parts move

we love to share frogs with our little sis

and dig for carrots in the garden then peel them for Mama

and disappear with baby brother to snuggle him in a chair while Mama cooks

and delight in setting tea tables with mom’s wedding china and a flannel pillow case for a table cloth (can you see the flower petals they put in the sugar cubes?!?)

and share…because what else can you do when there are five kids in this cozy place?

# 501 – 508 on my thankful list this week

Oh motherhood…

There are so many high and low points in any given day.  It is hard sometimes to ride it out. The ups and downs of this life never cease to amaze me.

One day I’m serving up a lovely impromptu tea party for your girls and the next day I am driving home from a failed Costco trip and informing a 7 year old that his crying sounds like a dying horse.

One minute I’m giving a silly analogy for something and the next someone is sobbing because they took personal offense to the example given.

Someone is laughing and someone is crying at the very same time.

One person finds my dinner wonderful and another refuses to eat until tomorrow.

One second I’m at the end of my rope (again) with a boy then when I can’t find him for ten minutes and my mind runs a mile ahead of me and I’m sure I’ll never see him again.  All I can think in my panic is that the last thing I said to him was that he sounded like a dying horse.

Someone is doing math and loving it.  Someone else is doing math and hating it.

I’m up early and alone and get settled into my chair and breath a deep sigh.  Thirty seconds later the pitter patter on the hard floor tells me it was short lived.

A little boy is blessing me by doing the dishes.  A glass bowl breaks in his chubby hands.

Everyone is playing an elaborate game nicely in the front yard.  Until someone puts Audrey in the wheelbarrow and promptly (accidentally) dumps her onto the pavement.

I can scarcely keep up with it all.

And sometimes, I’m not okay with that.  But really – these are the ways my life is being shaped and changed and blessed.  In learning to roll with the rhythm of each day and choose to be thankful for how it plays out.