Thursday, July 26, 2012

Survival mode

It's what we do when we are in a crisis.  It's what we do when we are overwhelmed and can't do everything that really needs done so we just do what we have to do.  It's the way I've lived most of my parenting life. 

My first born was 9 months old when I found out I was pregnant with my second.  That was the beginning.  Closely spaced siblings are challenging.  Being pregnant with a baby when you have a baby is hard.  So it began.

When child number 2 was roughly 8 months old, we found out number 3 was on the way.  As I've said before, I was pretty sure life was over at that point and that I would never leave the house again.  But he came, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  Partly because survival mode had become a way of life by then.

15 months and 3 weeks later child number 4 arrived.  15 months and 3 weeks after that, number 5.  16 months and 3 weeks later, number 6.  You get the picture.  A friend told me once that it took his wife about a year to really get back to herself after having a baby.  Only 2 of my children have had a first birthday before a new sibling was on the way.  I haven't been normal in 17 years. 

So there are ways of doing things that are not good ways and certainly not ideal ways but that we have come to see as normal over the years, to the point that now, when I see someone doing it "right", I'm surprised by it, and have to think for a minute to realize, no, that's just good parenting.

For example, I went with some girl friends to a Chinese buffet yesterday with a few of our children.  Our older kids were all at camp together, so I had 4 small people with me, while one friend was kidless, and two friends had a single child with them.  They both gave their children a normal balanced meal, complete with fruits and vegetables.  I was struck by this.  I fed my children food I knew they would eat, get full, and be content.  Their plates were full of chicken nuggets, fries, and pizza.  My goal was full and quiet.  Healthy and well balanced never entered my mind! 

Other mothers play with, engage, read to their preschoolers regularly.  I do those things from time to time, but not because I really intend to.  It's more of a reaction, because they ask, or because they need my involvement.  Having been pregnant or postpartem for all of their lives, I have it in my head as acceptable to just lay around and do as little as possible.

Our education is basic.  Although I have a degree in music education, my children know very little about music and have not been properly trained to read it or play it, for the most part.  I mean to.  But I don't.  It takes all I have in me to get through the day, to get everyone through school, some basic chores, fed, and in bed at the end of the day.  Everything else is fluff, extra, not necessary.

Now you might say, well, you use cloth diapers, don't you?  That is not a survival mode necessity.  Yes, and no.  I use them when I can and take a break when I get overwhelmed.  And they are somewhat of a financial necessity.  It costs a lot of money to keep 2-3 butts in disposables.  I've had at least one in diapers for 16+ years, usually 2, and frequently 3. 

But it is also true that even in survival mode, there are choices and options and priorities.  For example, I blog because it helps my sanity, maintains the slender thread of mental consciousness that I remember having.  I don't have to.  But I do.  And there are other things I do well because they are that important.  And there are things I don't do well, using my crazy life as an excuse, but if I really wanted to do well, I guess I'd find a way.

In my defense, I think I do a lot of things that are important, but invisible.  Conversations had with children, hugs and kisses, character training.  But I could do so much better in all those types of things also.

It is always a little overwhelming when I'm a few weeks from having a new human, to do a little assessing and see the weak points and know that, to whatever degree I think I stink right now, it's only going to get worse.  At least for a while. 

But I also look at my older kids and think that God is, through me and/or in spite of me, doing some pretty great things in them.  Under close speculation, I'm not very impressive, and maybe they're not either, but impressive is not our goal.

I suppose that's what it comes down to.  What is our goal?  Our goal is that they know Jesus.  Our parenting looks like this, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you (hallelujah)."  That seems to be true.  We're still at the very beginning of our parenting experience.  We are a long way from finishing anything, from having any good advice to give.  If we are purposing to focus on one thing, we're not doing a great job at that one thing either.  Do they see us reading our Bibles?  Sometimes.  Do they see consistency?  Not so much.  But, forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, we press on.  And we hope that God, Who is faithful, will fill in the many, many gaps of weakness laden parenting, into a firm foundation of children who have seen the faithfulness of, if not their parents, at least their parents' God. 

That's all we got, folks.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hypothetical thoughts on walking with integrity

I have trained my humans, thus far, to see any romantic interaction that happens outside the context of either marriage or leading up to a desirable marriage as being a bad idea.  It might be lawful, but it isn't usually profitable.  Ideally, we save our bodies, our minds and our feelings for the person we will give ourselves to in marriage.  Certainly, at an age that is too young to get married (which applies to all of my offspring at the time of this writing) no romance is profitable or helpful in our pursuit of a future Godly marriage.  I talked about that before, and won't beat you up with it now.  I don't know how to link to that blog, and I don't even remember what it was called.

But let's say you, and I, and my children buy into that concept.  We are saving our hearts, bodies, and imaginations for an appropriate time and person.  Then what?  What does that look like?  What do we do with that in practical reality?

For example, how do you communicate with a young man or woman that while you are honored by their interest in you, you are not interested in a love connection at your current phase of life.  Do you avoid them like the plague?  Do you just say, "My mom and dad won't let me date," and leave it at that?  Might they read that as, I want to but my parents are in the way?   What if they continue to pursue you, since everybody knows true love doesn't let a little thing like parents stop it?  

I know that in my romantic history I did not honor some of the guys who expressed some interest in me, telling "white lies", or just being rude.  That may have been more effective, but the result was not honoring to the young men or to the Lord.

What would Jesus do?  What did Jesus do?  We don't know.  But I think He walked in integrity.  He would not have wronged them in His pursuit of doing what was right. 

So I have been thinking about this subject lately, and I can say I'm pretty sure I have none of the answers.  It's a tough subject.  How do you even know when to say something?  And what do you say? 

To complicate matters, I also think there are at least two categories to would be suitors.  There are the ones that you hope would not be interested in you or even live on the same hemisphere as you ever, and there are the ones that you think, if the time was right, might just be the right kind of guy/girl.  And probably some in between, some that make you feel special, but if you're honest, aren't probably what you really want in a mate.

Do you handle all of them the same way?  Hopefully, yes, I think.  The answer, if they are classy enough to ask a question, needs to be something like, Thank you, but I am saving my heart and myself for the person I will marry someday.  If I were old enough to get married, I would tell you to go and talk to my father, but since I'm only xx, the answer is just no. 

I think if the other person is not classy enough to ask and just presumes and goes the normal cultural manipulative route, flirting, inserting him/herself into your situations, then probably it is ok to use unspoken avoidances to communicate that you don't reciprocate their intentions.  But that is just me thinking in a hypothetical, nonspecific kind of way. 

Those would be the other hemisphere people.  But what about the ones you like to have around, the friends, the maybe someday people?  How do you say, You're a good one, but now is not the right time?  I think you can't say that.  Because even then, you may be giving false hope.  Here's why:  You don't know who he or she will be when that time comes.  It's like playing the stock market or blackjack.  You are betting your emotions and that person's emotions on an assumption that who they look like they are or seem to be now will grow into someone you want to be connected to later.  You are planting seeds of hope in them that could grow into something that could eventually mess up a right relationship for you or them because one or both of you has internally given a piece of your heart to them. 

No, better to leave it all in Jesus' hands.  Thank you, but I have entrusted my future to Jesus and my dad, and until I am old enough to choose a mate, I'm not shopping or trying anything on.  I only have one heart and I am going to wait to give it until the appropriate time comes.  I'm glad to be your friend.

Walking in integrity means I am treating each suitor the way I want my future mate to be treated by others.  I don't want to receive a rejected heartbroken spouse who has been mistreated at other's hands on his/her way to me.  I'm treating them the way I want to be treated.  It might be messy, embarrassing or awkward.  It will not be culturally appropriate, and I will probably look like a fool, but my Savior made Himself of no reputation for my sake.  I can be a fool for Him.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I know I've mentioned this already, but I'm going to whine a bit here.  I'm nervous about this school year. 

First of all, the number of preschoolers is up.  I will have an almost (but not quite) kindergartner who will sort of do some math and handwriting (without tears) and (rocket) phonics, at will, when someone has time and he's in the mood.  He's not the problem. 

We will also have a new, new, newborn.  He, or she, will, if I remember correctly, want to nurse a lot, be changed a lot, be held quite a bit and cry some.  That person is also not the problem.

It's the terrorists.  The Three, the Almost Two and the One-and-a-Half.  The G3.  The Three Musketeers, sans muskets. 

Example:  yesterday after breakfast I headed upstairs to spit in the wind (a.k.a. clean something) and as I walk, I encounter some bumgenius diapers here and there which had been hanging on my drying rack upstairs (the bannister).  This is my first indication that all is not well in the Land of Happy Children.  As I continue my course, picking up the diapers, I see a bread-crumb like trail of unused, unwrapped, unusable sanitary napkins, the disposable kind.  Hmmn, I think, I wonder what else they've gotten into.  I go in my room.  Dad's coin bucket has been emptied, as has my trash can (which had some used baby wipes, you can imagine what they were used for) and as I get up from a moment of solitude on my porcelain throne, I see that, along with the deposit I made, there is also something that did not come out of me - a flat head screwdriver. 

I'm in trouble.

My older boys are starting high school biology (apologia).  This is a huge step up from our elementary/middle school group science (God's design series).  Lots of reading and responsibility.  My oldest three are also beginning a year of going to a separate location for a whole day a week and taking 2 and then 3 challenging courses not taught by me.  They will have lots of reading and writing and, I'm afraid, some genuine thinking.  They will also have a significant amount of freetime which they will need to use wisely, not to mention, they will be responsible for behaving themselves out of my circle of influence (within earshot of my mad yelling voice).  They'll be on their own, pretty much.


In spite of the increased work load, extra reading, writing, thinking and dissecting, 5 middle and elementary students, and 5 preschoolers, we are maintaining what we normally do - Awanas, worship training set, soccer.  Eldest is adding a different house of prayer set, different time.  We are just graduating from doing pretty much everything together to a season of people being in different places doing different things at different times.  This means more responsibility for everyone to get all their stuff done, and more responsibility for Mom to encourage said responsibility, since I am responsible for all their responsibility.

Did I mention I'll have a newborn for all this? 

And, this just in, there is a possibility of having a C-section recovery on top of it all.  That's right, baby number 13 is comfortably breech.  The last few ultrasounds have shown our sweetie kicking him (her) self in the face.  Hopefully, baby will turn.  With help or without.  Certainly there is ample room in my well used uterus for the child to drive a small car around.  But in the context of nervousness about next year, this is certainly a factor in my forward thinking brain.

I am going back and forth between faith-filled, prayerful, worshipping supermom and pouring over the internet/crystal ball trying to figure out my future and to decide how to proceed in trying to encourage Thirteen to get into the right position.  There are some lovely ideas on about how to turn said child.  My family shrieked with laughter at the sight of me with my elbows on the floor, knees on the couch and butt up in the air.  My old ironing board barely holds up my iron, let alone me at a tilt.  But I'm trying.  Sort of. 

And besides, there are other things on my mind.  Like how to deal with little children dismantling the humidifier in the baby's room. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nesting, phase 2

We painted the boys' room, and set it up.  All it lacks is the stars, the flag, and I'd like to hang some things on the wall - like a framed Gettysberg Address and the Declaration or something.  And some quotes from Spirit.
We painted their bathroom, all it needs is a shelf for their stuff, and maybe another towel rack, which I have.

We painted the girls' bathroom, hung the shower curtain.  It needs a shelf, more towel racks, and some rugs (I guess the boys could use rugs too).

We painted the nursery, needs the recliner taken up there, pictures hung, coats removed, baby bedding in place.

We painted my bathroom, needs a mirror hung and some storage help.  And I'd like a big picture of lilacs to hang above my bathtub.

That might be all we do right now.  My blood pressure is starting to climb, so unless I can enlist some big kid or husband help, I don't know if the other painting projects will happen anytime soon.  Oh well.  I am immensely pleased with the progress so far.  Now we have to clean up the mess. 

The other things I am giving my attention to are school prep and food storage.

School prep is mostly spitting in the wind, but it means coming up with chore assignments and charts for at least September, daily schedules (because most days will be more different than similar, and not the same for each kid), and a plan for my time - how to get through the day and get it all done and feed all the humans and not die.  We got our standardized test results back and the truth revealed therein is that I need to do more one on one with everybody, less delegating.  This will require a plan.  A loose plan, adjusted frequently, but a plan none the less.

Food storage is because we are anticipating hard times.  There is a drought.  Things are dying everywhere (including my dogwood, sigh).  Prices will go up.  Anything I can afford to buy and have room to store, I need to do it.  It is also easier when school starts to have small grocery lists and have much of what we need on hand. 

I'm also thinking about how to say, politely and thankfully, something like this:

Dear people bringing meals, you may or may not have noticed that the new mother has lost about 60 lbs in the last year.  Please do not bring your most delicious fattening comfort foods to reverse her efforts.  Also, she does not eat sugar (or sugar substitutes), so feel free to omit dessert, or just bring fruit, or simply bring enough for Dad and the kids to have one portion, but not lots and lots, no gallon sized vats of Death by Chocolate.  Finally, we know that providing food for such a large family is overwhelming, and that most people think of pasta dishes, but please also consider doing a salad (without fruit or sweet dressing) or soup or perhaps some breakfast muffins or something like that.  Thank you very much.

I'm not sleeping well - so hot and so active mind.  As usual, I am overwhelmed with the pre-baby suspense - when and how and how will I know.  I don't have the option of just knowing how everything will turn out, it never works the way I think it will anyway, so I have to put my effort toward trusting the Knitter of Babies to bring this one forth in His time and way. 

So much advice, so many opinions, but in the end, I just have to hide in Him.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Power tools and other firsts

We live in an old house, the kind people buy cheap and run down and fix up and live in.  Only we didn't fix it up.  Because we don't really do that sort of thing.

When we got married, my husband needed me to come sit with him for moral support for a half an hour while he did a minor toilet repair.  He is a computer guy, not a handy guy, by nature.  A shame, since his dad fixed things for a living, but it just didn't pass on.  Nineteen years later, he is able to do lots of things that have to be done, but is still not the guy other people call when something isn't working.  Unless it's their computer.

He does paint, though.  I don't.  At least, I haven't.  Haven't been allowed to.  Because if he is a less handy person, I'm pretty much inept.  The whole fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of living works okay with music and cooking, but not with mechanical things, not with a knowledge base of absolute zero.

But he has these seasons at work that we call busy, and by that we mean, crazy, completely focused, AWOL from life and home.  And I'm simultaneously in this season called nesting, which is a completely illogical thing that happens to pregnant women when they have the least amount of patience and energy but feel they must get their life ready for the coming child, who couldn't give a rat's backside what color the laundry room is painted.

So this week, I, the amazing supermom, painted.  I painted a small bathroom green.  It was only horrible and not a complete disaster.  Then, not satisfied, I also did a crappy job painting my sons' new bedroom.  It was not remotely as tragic as it might have been.  But (and this is the really exciting part) that was not enough for this completely unhandy chick.  I purchased and put together some shelves and (drumroll please) I hung a shelf/hanger rack. 

Perhaps you don't fully realize the wonder of that statement.  Let me 'splain.  No, it would take too long.  Let me sum up.  I put 7 holes in the wall.  WITH A DRILL.  That's right, me, Susie Homemaker.  I used a power tool.  Uh-huh, uh-huh.  And a level.  Not that it is level.  It's not.  But it'll do.  It will hold up shirts.  I picked up a power drill and made a shelf happen.  Kinda like magic, cept it's real.

I kept thinking about Bill Murray in What About Bob - did you see me?  I drill.  It wasn't that hard.  I just let the drill do the work.  I drilled.  It was my first time.  I think I just might be ready to drive a skidloader next.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


I'm nesting.  I want to paint and clean and organize my house. 

We're kicking the kids out of our bathroom.  "But wait," they say, "why do you get 2 sinks for the two of you and we 12 have to share just one?"  Good question, we say.  (My kids decided a long time ago that a "good question" is one I don't know the answer to.)

What if we put the boys in the previously spare bedroom in the attic and give them the attic bathroom for their very own and give the girls the bathroom on the second floor?  And we let them choose the paint color for both bathrooms?  The boys have chosen grasshopper green (according to Sherwin Williams - it'd have to be a very bright grasshopper) and the girls are painting their bathroom tangerine.  Both colors will make it easier to take contact lenses out.

So what happens to the boys' room?  I'm turning it into a nursery.  A room with a crib and a changing table and a rocking chair.  And maybe a bed.  Painting it my favorite color of yellow and hanging my classic Pooh things up. 

My bathroom needs a makeover too.  I want to put up a big mirror that I can see myself in, not just from the neck up.  I have learned from experience that I am more likely to try to take care of my body if I have to look at it from time to time.  But alas, my current bathroom has two oval "mirror, mirror on the wall" style mirrors that stop around my shoulders.  (For those of you who don't know me, I stand at a towering 5'1", maybe.) Not helpful.  And I want some kind of storage up above the height of the 3 year old so that she doesn't attempt to shave her beard off.

My laundry room deserves a cheerful color as well, and shelves for baskets of dirty clothes instead of a line of them in the hallway (blocking quick and easy entrance to the tangerine bathroom). 

All of this painting requires cleaning and organizing, because, well, you can't actually paint a room with a foot of clean laundry covering the floor.  So I've been moving the clean laundry back and forth between my room (a big hit, let me tell you) and the laundry room, trying to get it processed and hung up and put away.  There are at least 2 baskets of clothes that don't fit anybody and need put away, high away, and another two baskets of unmatched socks, because, well, you don't need socks in 108 degree weather.  But it's a work in progress, and if no one needs anything, I should be able to get it done in about a week.  Yeah.  Right.

Oh, yeah, the first floor bathroom wants to be the same lovely green color as the foyer, and the kitchen just wants to be the color it is, minus the white spackle splotches. 

We're hoping to put Psalm 1:1-3 on the wall in the foyer, using the vinyl wall stickers, because anything we hang there gets knocked off the wall by boys or the things boys play with.  And I'm having eldest daughter paint a tree in the living room for me to hang lots of family pictures over the top of.

The kitchen floor is ceramic tile and parts of it are coming up in pieces - best puzzle ever - because our floor is not and never will be level.  We are exploring options for replacing it with something more forgiving, because we need a lot of forgiveness around here.  Maybe a wood looking vinyl.  I also have dreams of someday not having to keep a bowl under my garbage disposal to catch (some of) the leaks and not having to keep the water running whenever the temps go below 20 degreees.

Lastly (I know, you're exhausted) I want to put up a chain link fence so that if we leave our doggie at home he can poop in the yard instead of on my carpet.  I know, not in 108 degrees, but if the temperature ever dips back into temperatures cooler than the surface of the sun. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

catching up . . . or starting over

Maybe a week ago I heard a guy speak and really what I mean is that I felt the Lord speak to me through that message that I am really not living the fasted lifestyle that I mean to or that He means me to. 

I have never liked artificial sweeteners.  I did a speech about it in college, how much better it was to eat real sugar rather than a chemically synthesized substitute.  But in the last several months I have taken in more artificial sweeteners than I have in my entire life, times 10.  And from my experience, I would say they are just as addictive (making a slave of me) as the real thing.  And they are really probably worse for me.

With caffeine, I have not had a real cup of actual coffee with caffeine in a while, but I have had decaf, which we all know has caffeine, chai, which also has caffeine, and chocolate (artificially or naturally sweetened), which also has caffeine.

None of those was what I wanted, but they were a substitute.

So here I am, living a fasted lifestyle, not having (real) sugar or (much) caffeine, calling myself a Nazirite, and really I'm just periodically binging on stuff that might give me cancer and definitely gives me the jitters and diarrhea.

A fasted lifestyle is, to quote Lou Engle, "foregoing legitimate earthly pleasures for the sake of heavenly treasures", or something like that.  I've been denying myself legitimate earthly pleasures and indulging in different, less healthy and less satisfying earthly pleasures.

So I have started over, I suppose.  I haven't had artificial sweeteners this week.  It's been a tough week.  And I'm out of fruit.  But I'm less of a slave to my appetite.  I've still had some white flour things, which are technically not part of the fast, but they do make my craving motor run.  And just now, I'm eating too much of my daughter's banana almond blueberry bread, also not something I'm fasting, but not something I should eat too much of.

But I'm celebrating.  Celebrating my 33 week doctor visit, having gained only 3 pounds for my entire pregnancy and with my blood pressure still in the very healthy range.  Celebrating making it through the week in a more faithful, more devoted, more healthy manner.  Celebrating the faithfulness of God to bring me through tough days.

Speaking of tough days, here's one.  Not exaggerating.  I came downstairs to a severe lack of milk in the house and a couple of crabby babies.  So I took daughter #2 to the grocery store and did a mid sized trip.  When we got home and were putting groceries away, all my sons who can talk were playing an old, stupid game wherein they try to get one kid to say the word "what".  I remember my brother playing it when we were kids.  I hated it then and hate it now.  It drove me bonkers.  So finally I got done with groceries and away from the game and at that moment, my husband, who was working from home, called me upstairs with that tone in his voice. 

The Littles had been loose in my room, for quite some time apparently.  An entire bottle of vitamin E oil had been emptied on my chair, my dresser, and my baby boy.  There was calamine lotion in the carpet.  Nothing had a lid on it.  Liquid foundation in daughter #5's new dress.  Little baby dissolvable teething tablets were everywhere, as was my entire box of recently organized recipe cards.  It was a disaster.  I spent the next 45 minutes cleaning it up. 

When I came downstairs, youngest daughter had a bowl of yogurt.  All over her.  All over the table and the chair.  I cleaned it up and fed her the rest.

Right when that ended, eldest son called my name in that same tone, and at this point I was honestly thinking of running away.  He was carrying youngest son by the trunk, sans diaper.  The diaper I could see, poop filled, a couple yards away.  Baby boy had poop everywhere.  No, really, everywhere.  He was covered with it down to his toes, hands, arms, legs. 

Now this kid is in the phase requiring what I like to call Greco-Roman diaper changing.  Where you have to put them in a wrestling hold, pinning one leg against your body with your armpit, one hand against his body with your elbow, holding his other hand and a foot with your hand and doing all the operational stuff with your free hand in order to get the diaper changed.  However, none of that carefully developed strategy works when the kid is completely covered in a layer of his own excrement. 

So it went like this:  wipe his hand, wipe my hand, wipe his foot, wipe my hand, wipe his hand again because he grabbed his stuff again, wipe my hand again, wipe his butt, wipe my hand, wipe his leg . . . you get the picture.  I sent eldest son to clean up the mess.  He assured me he did, but the dog's breath smelled really wrong later, and I'm not sure who actually did the cleaning up.

It's also been fun this week because my two oldest daughters got their ears pierced last weekend.  Nightmare.  One has an outgrown nickel allergy so we spent the big bucks on her.  The other didn't, so we got the cheap ones for her.  Regretting the whole operation at this point.  How do people do this with smaller people??

But really, I think the hard-ness of the week is about me learning to lean on Jesus more and my kids playing too much on the computer.  Which is another subject, and this post is long enough already.