Category Archives: kids

Someday

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Teach a kid to write – and then wonder why you took the trouble…

Someday, the coffee table might be for holding coffee rather than hiding diaper boxes.

Someday, the toilet paper roll won’t be empty every single time.  And I won’t find it unrolled down the stairs.

Someday, forks will be considered mindless utensils, not deadly weapons.

Someday, I won’t find rocks and legos in the bottom of the washing machine.  Or underfoot in the middle of the night.

Someday, I won’t be wiping footprints – off the walls.

Someday, there won’t be crayons in the tupperware drawer.

Someday, I’ll have a phone conversation, beginning to end, without being interrupted by a side discussion on the life cycle of octopuses.

The last role
The last role

Someday, there will not be fingerprints in the sticks of butter.  Or teeth marks.

Someday, used tissues won’t be put back into the tissue box.

Someday, my houseplants won’t be home to plastic beetles.

Someday, every sock will be monogamous with its mate.  (In theory).

Someday, I won’t find plastic army men frozen in the ice cube tray.

Someday, I might have to pay workers in a currency other than Skittles.

Someday, my coat pocket won’t have someone else’s used gum wrapped up in it.  And my sleeves won’t wear someone else’s snot.

Someday, I won’t dig up little plastic treasure boxes when I go to the garden to pull some carrots.

Someday, transformers won’t live in my purse.

Someday, pet rocks won’t live on the piano.

Someday, the doorknob won’t be sticky.  And no one will lick the screen door.

Someday, every library book borrowed will have more than 20 pages.  And fewer than 20 pictures.

Someday, I won’t fish someone else’s toenail clipping out of my own eye. (Ouch!)

Someday, my descendants won’t all fit in one bedroom; they may not all fit under one roof!

Someday, I won’t feel like crying over spilled milk.  And cheerios.  All over my cell phone.

Someday, I might be lonely.

Someday, I might think it’s too quiet.

Someday, I might even feel bored.

Someday, the days will seem shorter and the years will stretch longer behind me.

But perhaps someday will eventually remind me that all my yesterdays were worth every minute.

Some days, though, I can’t wait.

At least it was washable
At least it was washable

Beautiful Feet

I love my kids.  A lot.  But (sometimes) I am fonder of them in hindsight.  So I count the hours till bedtime. Then the minutes. I sigh with relief as I close their door and feel the stillness of the day for the first time since 6:59 that morning.
Now, dishes await me in the sink.  There is still mushy banana and cold rice under the table to sweep, wipe, and pick up with grudging fingers.  I have lessons to prep for tomorrow. The bag of hundreds of plastic army men exploded in my room, but I wanted the boys in bed so desperately, I didn’t make them clean it up.  So I do.
But later, much too late later, after finding the floor and the bottom of the sink and pulling every last plastic sniper out from under my pillows, I will quietly open their door.  The room hums with the gentle breathing of the fullness of life in bunk beds.  The fan masks my steps on the creaking floor. I peer into each bed in the darkness.  Adjust a blanket.  Ease a matchbox car from its imprint under a cheek.  And pray.  Silently, briefly. Over each tousled head.
“This one,” I murmur softly, “Give him more patience with the world tomorrow. Heal his skinned knee.”
“This one,” I stretch to reach the top bunk, “Focus his intensity on good. And show me how to reach his heart.  And help him stop chewing his fingernails.”
I am not a prayer warrior. The whole business of prayer, of communicating with a supernatural Creator – I don’t understand.  I have seen people healed through prayer. And not.  I have seen miracles.  And not.  I have begged for answers.  And sometimes been given them.  But I know two things about prayer.  God told me to do it.  And it causes me to talk to my Maker.

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I come to the strawberry blonde in the bottom bunk.  His head is disproportionate to the rest of his young body.  Quietly, I pull the Captain America blanket around his frame.  A foot sticks out.  I tug on it, gently, a ritual every night in the dark.  Stretching the heel muscles that do not stretch themselves.  He doesn’t notice; he doesn’t feel my touch.  Of course I think his feet are adorable.  Perfect.  Warm and soft.  But they are different from his brothers’ callused feet.  The familiar ache wells up in my heart.  For the thousandth or maybe hundred millionth time, I pray desperately, “Heal him, God.  Make his body whole.  Make his nerves work!”

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But God doesn’t.  Not tonight.  So I have learned to pray the prayer that aches even deeper in my heart.  “Use him, God.  Make his feet beautiful on the mountains.  And on the linoleum.  And pavement.  Save his soul.  Make him Yours.  Make his life count.  For You.”

And over each young blonde head, I say the same.  Perhaps I expect less from the others, in some ways.  They don’t have a leg up, pun intended; they don’t have the automatic platform that their brother has been given.  He who was born with a death sentence has the power to effect lives.  The others have been given full use of their bodies.  But my son with Spina Bifida, he has been made in the likeness of the Savior Himself, made weak that others could gain strength through him.  I tremble at the great commission my three year old unwittingly has been given, and wonder again how I can be mother to this cause.

Perhaps Mary pondered the same thing in her heart, gazing at the dark lashes of the Son of God as he slept though boyhood dreams at night.  Even in his youth, I imagine, little Jesus taught His mother to pray in ways she’d never known she would.  Never knew she should.

Sometimes she wished He wasn’t so different.  Sometimes she trembled at the thought of the prophecies of suffering and swords in their future.  How could the Son of God be so normal – so weak?  How could the Savior of the world die?  She wished the pain would go away.  She prayed He would be safe, normal, have a stable career, a family… She prayed that He would save Himself.  But God said no.

And my own son, he is not a savior.  He is three and his favorite word is “no.”  I ask him to come and he scoots his wheelchair the other way.   But he has a purpose.  When I prayed for him, still in the womb, I ran to my Bible and got only the promise of pain.  And I pondered.  And I pleaded.  Take this cup from me.  From my son.  But God said no.

Because He wants more than that my son be safe.  Or successful.  Or happy.  Or normal.

He wants him to live bravely.

He wants him to live fully.

He wants him to live.  For real.

So I am learning to pray.  For real.  Because in hindsight, his soft feet may prove stronger than the calluses on any marathon runner.  Not only will they never feel the pain of stepping on a plastic army man.  They will be beautiful.

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”    

-Isaiah 52:7

First time pulling himself to standing!
First time pulling himself to standing!

Boom Baby

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I had an ultrasound today.  The tech moved over my round belly, 20 weeks full of baby and decreasing muscle tone, and found what she was looking for.  I blinked.  Yup.  I’ve seen that before.

I had panicked, silently, at the thought of having a girl.  Would I have to invest in nail polish? I don’t have any.  Or a hairbrush.  Is there a video I could watch on how to fit a toddler into tights? I’d have to learn how to apply makeup! I’d have to actually watch Frozen! Could we still go frog catching for fun? Would mud pies be off the menu? Could I still get nerf guns for everyone for Christmas? I’d have to change our “Act like a man” mantra…

But no.

I’ve got baby boy number six growing inside me.

Here we go again.

blue frosting!
blue frosting!

I don’t have this parenting thing down.  Not by a long shot.  But after five boys in the last eight years, I’m fairly confident with parenting the whole camouflage and peeing-standing-up crew.  Practice makes – well, not perfect, but certainly better.  There was once a study that claimed that 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert in that area.  True or not, if you claim only the 24 hours every day of every year that my oldest, the eight year old, has lived, that’s over 70,000 hours of my life that I’ve parented a boy.  Add the hours of each of my other boys’ lives to that, and I’m clocking over 210,000 hours as a mother of boys.  That’s a lot of miles of train tracks, a lot of energy, matchbox cars, aliens, robots, bugs and beef jerky.  I’ve got this.  Sorta.

For years, every time I’ve been pregnant, people have commented sympathetically, “I hope you have a girl this time!”  Or “You must still be trying till you get a girl!”  Sometimes I wondered, “Why? Does it really matter?”  Will the world tip over from too much concentrated testosterone if I have “too many boys”?  I suspect there are others who make up for the lack of hairspray and ovaries in my house.  Am I missing something that I need to make life complete?

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On the flip side, how could a girl after so many brothers not be messed up?  Would she end up ultra-sparkle, spoiled, petted, princess pink?  Or would she be such a tomboy that she could’t handle barrettes and compliments?  Would she be scarred for life?  When boys start climbing the walls in here, I just send them outside to run 5 or 6 laps around the house.  It’s almost always a cure for what ails them.  But girl drama?  What do you do with that?  Hug them?  Buy them new shoes?  Give them a time out in the lego corner?  Five times I have wondered, “What was God thinking?!?” as a fresh bundle of life was handed to me in the maternity ward.  Who am I to be given such a blessing – and such burden – to raise this particular life?  Today, I wonder it all over again.  I’m five feet tall, an introvert, who likes to bake chocolate things and read and drink tea.  And now I have six strapping boys who all take after their six-foot-something hockey player dad.  Does it make God chuckle to look at my family?

As I lay on the table in the dark room, it didn’t matter to me if I would emerge planning a tea party or another jersey for our homemade soccer team.  All that paled before the unknown of their health. Would the baby’s nerves or brain be growing outside its tiny body?  Would its heart function?  And on top of all that, I wondered if it would even live outside the bubble in my womb.   Wardrobe color paled in comparison.  Whatever is given, it is not by accident.  But I will never take a completely formed spine or four chambered heart for granted.

Here am I and the children God has given me.  There is no lack.

I am getting really good at homemade beef jerky and the different meanings of Tarzan yells.

I just need to buy that farm now.

And maybe a fresh set of ear plugs.

Because of course – it’s a boy 🙂

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sugar crash

Mediocre

Sometimes I wish I were illiterate.  Honest.  I realize the irony as I write the words across the page on my blog.  But, sometimes, just for a moment, I wish that the burden of responsibility did not lie on my shoulders. I know too much.

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I’m knee-deep in curriculum for the coming homeschool year.  Bright sticky notes hang garishly all over the desk – to-do lists, grocery lists, books that have been purchased, books still to buy, blog ideas, Bible verses, funny quotes from my kids, chore lists, schedules, fall clothing needs, birthday lists, meal plans… Don’t tell me I need a planner.  (They are too compartmentalized, never handy when I need them, and can’t seem to last me more than a week.  And then I revert to sticky notes.)

It’s the homeschooling, homemaking, home-er-welming mother’s new school year resolution time.  I will lose the weight of last year’s teaching failures.  I will exercise my children’s minds every day.  I will be organized this year.  I will keep my house clean and hospitable.  I will make my children brilliant.  I mean, brilliant-er.

But of course, that will last all of a week.  And that next Monday I will wake up, roll my growing frame out of bed too late, and patter into the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, to sit forlornly with a cup of coffee staring at last week’s unfinished school and house lists.  And I will sigh.  And probably go buy a planner.

But of course, that’s not what I really need (though maybe this year it will help…)  And it’s not what my kids really need (though it’s not an excuse for them to skip math, or reading, or writing, or spelling, or science, or history, or art, or typing, or logic, or piano, or etiquette, or any of the bazillion other things they simply have to know before I can untie my apron strings- aurgh.  But I digress.)

Knowledge is power.  Of course I want my kids to be powerful.  But what if my quest for power is overshadowing a greater goal for them?

There will come a day when I will stand before the Judge of all the earth.  He will look at me with piercing eyes, and He will ask me one question.

It will not be, “What did you do with your sons?”

It will be, “What did you do with My Son?”

What good will it be to my own children if they can grow up to write computer code, give persuasive speeches, name every country and capital, philosophize, harmonize, digitalize, make lots of money, cure cancer, or even do the dishes without being asked – but they have not learned from me that the paramount object is to know Jesus?  Might they save the whole world, but lose their own soul?  If they did not learn this one thing from me, what a tragedy would be on my head.

This is not an excuse to be lackadaisical in my approach to teaching my children all they need to know.  I want desperately for them to learn, to know, to soak in and apply.  That is why we homeschool, that is why I pour my mind and energy into making their waking moments meaningful, and that is why I plan to continue.

But I would rather fail – utterly – teaching them even basic knowledge, but know they gained true wisdom.  If I had to choose.  Because I’m willing to bet even Jesus couldn’t find China on a map (based on what he learned during His school days anyway.)  I suppose He could cure cancer though.  Maybe it was because His mom had a really good planner.

Or maybe not.

The Minor Profits

What are little boys made of?

Snips, snails, and puppy dog tails.  That’s what little boys are made of.

Slime, grime, and mud all the time.  That’s what little boys are made of.

Youth, truth, and a missing front tooth.  That’s what little boys are made of.

Truth.

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The test is small, the size of a pen.  I’ve used one many times before this.  But the result is always weighty.  I felt it on my shoulders this time.  Heavy.  And I felt the smallness of my house, the weakness of my own arms, the onrushing responsibility of soul-raising threatening to close over my head.

But I took a deep breath.  I tried to step out in faith, once again, and simply be amazed.  And… I stepped on a lego.  I stepped on a piece of cold spaghetti with a bare foot.  I stepped on a sticky lump of I-hope-that-was-just-week-old-banana, and started to cry.

Because, believe it or not, I was surprised by the result of that test.

That pregnancy test.

And while the miracle of life was not lost on me, neither was the gravity.

I didn’t feel the urge to scream my news from the rooftops.

Folks at church will look at us and think, “I wonder if they know the Bible doesn’t say you can’t use birth control?”  And folks at the grocery store will think, “She is to blame for global warming and those huge carts that clog the aisles.”  And the folks at the doctor’s office will think, “I wonder if their insurance is coming out of our taxes?” And folks at the family reunion will think, “That right there is why we can’t meet at a fancy restaurant.”  And folks at the playground will think, “We better keep our kids away from hers.  Their weirdness might rub off.”  And folks we call grandma will think, “Babysitting is getting more challenging…”

I was lost in my own thoughts as I pushed a sagging cart out of the grocery store that week.  A grandmotherly lady stopped us with a glowing smile.  “I love seeing you in here,” she patted the baby on his pudgy hand and counted the blonde sea of heads.  “I hope you’re not thinking of stopping!”  She grinned.  I took it as an excuse to sheepishly share the secret that burned in my throat (heartburn is rough in those early weeks of pregnancy.)  “Oh no.  Haha.  There’s actually another…”

However she responded, I will never remember.  Instead, I noticed a young hand suddenly grasp at my elbow.  My eight year old looked up with shining eyes.  He’d heard the secret.  “Really, Mom?”  He said as we pulled away from the smiling woman.  “Really, are you pregnant?”  I nodded, wondering how the oldest of now (gasp) 6 would feel at the news.  He let out a whoop.  “That. Is. Awesome!”

The other boys, engrossed in the challenge where you can only step on the sidewalk paint and not on the parking lot tar, were oblivious to his excitement.  “That is the best news!” he gushed.  “It’s like a present from God!”

I hugged him as bodies clambered into their seats around us.  “I am so glad that you are glad.”  I said sincerely.  I was tickled to know that one who would be affected so directly was so happy.  Of course, it didn’t change anything, but it was reassuring.

Sometimes it’s hard work not to be surprised by the cynicism and disapproval of others.  I’m not surprised anymore by attitudes that think I’m doing the other children a disservice by having more offspring than I have hands for.  But I was surprised when I realized that attitude was coming from myself!

I have been given the great honor of being called mother.  Again.  I will not dare to throw this gift back in the face of the Giver of life by being unthankful.  No.  Not for a moment.    A new awe is coming over me.  Again.  Now I am surprised – by joy.

Sometimes it takes the mouths of babes – and frank, lanky eight year olds – to remind me to thank God for doing great big things in humble little packages.

We have been blessed.  That’s the simple truth.

Rejoice with me!

 

burning marshmallows… I mean, making s'mores
burning marshmallows and making memories

 

A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.

But at the time, I didn’t realize it.

It was one of the times I walked into the grocery store with my brood.  There were boys in the cart, around the cart, under the cart, and every other preposition physically possible.  I scraped one child off the side as the automatic entrance doors stopped opening abruptly, as if they weren’t expecting to accommodate a load that wide.

We took our time (that’s how you do it with kids), heaped groceries in every cranny of the cart where there wasn’t a body, and eventually made it to the checkout without too much drama and only a few scratches from the fight over who got to hold the bacon.

The lady smiled with recognition as she looked up from the register.  She often worked the day we normally appeared.  Groceries bounced onto the conveyor belt as my minions exuberantly raced to heap produce on the moving counter.  A bunch of bananas arched over my head.  The three year old reached for the extra pennies he had recently discovered always live in a little bowl by the kiosk.  He smiled a joyful grin at the grandmotherly clerk. “Shiny!” He boasted.  He glanced at me subversively as he tucked the treasure down into his lap.  I frowned at him.  This petty-penny-theivery threatened to become a habit and I was cracking down.  I unclasped his hand myself to avoid a battle of wills if I asked him to do it himself.  We were so close to the exit.  I didn’t want to force a showdown when we were nearly done.

“Do you want help out?” The checkout lady asked as she handed me the long receipt.  I shook my head, returning my usual response, “It’s ok, I bring my help with me.”

The answer generally satisfies, but that day, the woman leaned over with a grandmotherly furrow in her brow.  “At least here, you can get help when you need it…” My eyes snapped up to search hers.  Was she implying that having so many kids was impossible to do alone? Or did she feel the urge to call the Department of Human Services to alert them that a woman was leaving the building with too many children to be considered safe?  Who in their right mind would have five young boys by choice, after all?  I decided to go with the least imprecatory option.  It was nice to be offered help with a big load of groceries.

“No thanks.” I said with certainty. “We’ve got this.”  And believe it or not, we managed.

Produce
Produce

But I mulled it over as I loaded the car, buckled in babies, and peeled bruised bananas to keep the backseat drivers occupied.  It is an extension of grace to be offered help, and I mean to respectfully treat it that way always.  But what I have is children.  Not a disease.  I don’t need chemo.  These are my blessings, and I mean to treat them that way always.  No matter how others think.

The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does…

Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.

Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.  He is the one you should fear.  He is the one who should make you tremble.

(from Isaiah 8:11-13, NLT)

I shudder to think what my sons will face as they grow into men.  Devaluing of human life, government corruption, a super sized handout culture, sex, lies, and whatever has replaced rock and roll… It’s scary.  It will hurt them.  And sometimes I do go down that path to Pity City.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed.  I really must be crazy to think I can properly manage a big young brood.  The looks I get when I’ve got my ducklings waddling behind me, wheelchair in tow, baby on my hip, nerf gun bullets whizzing past my head…  Clearly I am recklessly bearing offspring with no control of my fertility or my husband, and am ruining my financial future and stomping all over the fragile environment with my huge carbon footprints.  Tragic.

But sometimes I take the other path, up the trail to Perspective.  The view is much better from there.  The idea that five children is a big family is newfangled.  The belief that it is a bad thing is unfounded, in fact, antithetical to all evidence from tradition and history.  It is only very recent culture that looks short-sighted down its nose at a growing family unit.  It is the vocal consternation from a few that makes the masses recoil at the sight of a car with so many car seats. The very first command God gave to the very first couple was “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).  Though there are (good) reasons not to have a lot of kids, I haven’t had one personally yet that overrides this first basic command.  “It’s hard” just isn’t a good enough excuse.

People don’t stay at the crossroads between the two cities.  When they see me, they immediately have an opinion, and often share it.  No one is ambivalent, and somehow it still surprises me the force of conviction I encounter.  Call me crazy and stupid, or set me on a tippy pedestal.  Everyone wants to either slap me silly or pat me on the back.  I guess they did the same to Jesus.  It’s funny, really; I’m just walking the path I’ve been set upon.  And it is covered with legos.

“I and the children the LORD has given me serve as signs and warnings to Israel from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.  (Isaiah 8:18)

For better or worse, I guess I’m going with Isaiah on this one.  I will just keep on walking, and watch our simple existence affect the people we meet.  Isaiah ended up dying a horrific death for walking the road he was set on.  But he did also write a big chunk of the Bible.  Unfortunately, he left out one key part of the story.  How did he manage his cartload in the grocery store?  I wish I knew…

Testosterhome

“Cooties are just an excuse boys made up in the 80’s to get away from girls.” – Gavin, age 8.

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It took me a while to get used to the idea of being a mom to a boy.  By that, I mean every single time I had one.  Since I am not a boy, it’s all pretty new territory.  They are fast.  They grow fast.  They eat fast.  They get mad and hit and forgive fast.  They are not dwellers.  They have hormones that drive them onward and upward. (Literally up-the-walls-ward.  You should see the footprints over my sofa.)  And none of mine have even hit adolescence yet.  (We’re willing to accept donations for groceries for when they’re all teenagers at the same time.)  I love them.  But, boy, I don’t understand them.

When you have little boys…

Ice cubes may contain fossilized bugs (real or plastic).

The garbage men and plow truck drivers automatically wave at your windows when they go by.

You know that hooters and honkers refer to tow trucks.

All pockets must be checked for saved mud before washing.

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You have yelled, “Don’t climb on the walls!” and meant it.

If the kitchen is filled with the smell of chocolate rather than meat, they’re disappointed.

Your three year old wails “I need more power!”

They go to sleep clutching matchbox cars.

Plastic spiders live in your houseplants.

You’ve never had a tea party.

You’ve never seen Frozen (Really.  Never.  I can’t even sing the song.)

A power ranger greets you when you open the cabinet over the bathroom sink.

Everything’s a weapon.

Ace bandage + empty soda bottle = jet pack
Ace bandage + empty soda bottle = jet pack

Toy boxes are divided into weapons, a guy box, a transformer box, and legos.

Clothing is excessive.  Any clothing.  Except for boots.

The baby’s favorite chew toy is a nerf bullet.

Camouflage is in.  No sparkles in this house.

Dirt is a food group.

If you’re not yelling louder, then you must not mean it.

They set traps in the backyard to catch dinner.

There had better be mud puddles in heaven.

To burp on command is a badge of honor.

“The last shall go first” lesson results in backwards racing.

You know the name of every type of construction vehicle and the common name of most kinds of lizards.  And what they eat.

Dad is their hero.

The baby boy can’t talk, but when he hears a motor, he growls.

They know real men eat from pink bowls (it’s a good lesson to learn!)

Your set of train tracks can loop around the house.  Twice.

A hole is to dig.

"Mom, can we kill it for supper?"
“Mom, we caught a live squirrel!  Can we kill it for supper?”

Cleanliness is next to sissyness.

You’ve had serious discussions about reasons they cannot camp out on the roof.

Using forks is too slow.

Your pillowcases are wrecked from stair-sledding races.

You know more about Star Wars now than you did when you were a kid.  Not because you want to.

You are automatically cool when you get older because you get more candles, and therefore, fire, on your cake.

Someone found your smartphone and it’s now full of selfies.  Of lego men.  And pet rocks.

You can make a sweet catapult.

“If God didn’t want us to pick our noses, why did He make our fingers fit in there so well?” -Shiloh, 6.

“I don’t want a hair cut.  I just need a short cut!” -Ben, 3.

“I can’t say ‘docile’ but I can say ‘roar!'” -Henry, 5.

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That’s just how boys roll.  (And run and climb.)  Thought you might want to know what you’re missing.

 

And P.S.  We did not eat the squirrel.  This time.

Gram negative

I spent last weekend in a very unique position.  Lying on the couch.

Some mutant germ got into my system and did what few microbes can claim – it got Mamma sick.  Not just sniffles or a headache, but too-sick-to-move, skin hurts, pneumonia-kind of sick.  I thought about going to the ER to look into getting medicine capable of resurrection, but decided against it.  Mostly, because that would have required moving.

My kids realized the gravity of the situation when supper time rolled around and I didn’t budge.  Concerned, my eight year old took matters into his own hands.  He handed the fussing baby to me to nurse and went into the kitchen and cooked dinner.  He made scrambled eggs for the four oldest, which everyone inhaled, along with some yogurt and a bowl of clementines.  And then he surveyed the pile of dishes, grubby toddlers, and cluttered floor, and did what any logical child would.  He called in grandma.

A few minutes later, grandma floated in, like an angel of mercy in her muddy garden boots.  She took the baby from my limp grasp, and single-handedly managed to clean up supper, children, and the floor in preparation for bedtime.  I drooled numbly on the sofa cushions, impressed in spite of my dazed self.  Once a mom, always.

The rest of the week was equally rugged.  Child after miserable child succumbed to high fevers and explosively upset stomachs.  On top of it, Ben had surgery on Tuesday to loosen the tendons in his heels.  (He had looked like a ballerina constantly pointing his toes.  Not very manly.)  I had thought it was a minor surgery, and even questioned the need for anesthesia at one point (since he has no functioning nerves in his lower legs, a medically-induced coma seemed rather excessive.)  Apparently, it was a bigger process than I had anticipated.  It resulted in full-leg casts on both legs.  At least they made them red.

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Anyway, it was not my favorite of weeks.  But it wasn’t just because I spent some of it glued helplessly to the sofa, though I hated that part.  And it wasn’t because I had to hand over my child to strangers to be cut and filled with strong drugs, though I hated that part too.  And it wasn’t even because I spent a lot of time scrubbing the contents of my children’s stomachs off of the rugs and stairs and blankets and clothes throughout the house, though I hated that part also.

It was because I didn’t pray.

I didn’t completely forget to talk to God.  Not totally.  I did mumble here and there, “Please heal me, Lord… Please guide the doctor in surgery… Please protect my son… Please, please make these kids stop throwing up and let us all sleep tonight!”  But it was that kind of popcorn praying, that filling up with empty calories that are, at best, just a vehicle to get salt into our mouths – or problems voiced and quickly shoved away.  My prayers were cheap.  Obligatory.  Emotionless.  I almost didn’t chew; just shoveled the popcorn in quick and took no time to savor.

I should have.  I had the time.  As I lay lifeless on the couch, necessarily putting down my to-do list and homeschool plans and even every movement but the barest of required ones, I had the time to pray.  And as I sat in the waiting room while my son slept in surgery, I had time to pray.  And as each of my children’s bodies waged war against the ruthless germs in their bloodstreams, we set aside our regular school work and chores and errands, and life screeched to a halt.  All week, we had time to pray.  

But I didn’t.

I shut down.  I didn’t want to feel or think or be thankful.  I felt more like the seven dwarfs than Snow White.  I was grumpy, sneezy, dopey and withdrawn (I’m pretty sure that’s one of them.)  I wasn’t looking for a great conversation with a handsome prince.  I was playing hermit in my own little world, willing to live with cobwebs in the corners and darkness in my soul rather than venture out into the revealing sunshine and gaze into the wishing well where hope swirled fresh.

I identified with the bad guy of Psalm 109.  Rather than being “given to prayer” as the writer was, I was the enemy, “clothing himself with cursing.”  I wasn’t just sporting old yoga pants and wrinkled tee shirt.  I had covered myself in frumpy grumbles.  It was decidedly unattractive.

Once I realized it, the week started to turn around.  I tried to be a little more thankful.  I purposed to praise in the little moments.  When the baby woke too early, snuffly and hot with fever, I recognized it as a moment to spend in prayer rather than be grumpy about sleep lost.  He snuggled against me as I sat with with my Bible and a warm mug of coffee.  And I counted my blessings.

After Ben got casts over his thighs, I was feeling grouchy.  It was difficult for him to pull his encased lower body around on the floor, and he was heavy to carry.  The wheelchair he had been using was helpful, but he always got it caught on the door jams and it kept him restrained in a cumbersome harness.    By coincidence or design, the wheelchair guy called the next morning.  Surprise!  His new chair was ready!  Sleek, well balanced, and with more space for his thick casts, I couldn’t help notice the hand of God.  And it was red.  The boys were excited too.  With two chairs in the house, now they could have wheelchair races.

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Even though it rained a lot toward the end of the week, my outlook got brighter.  Thankfulness was on my lips.  Chicken soup simmered on the stove.  The boys played quiet games and worked on lego projects while their bodies healed.  I spent less time on Facebook and more time reading real books, my children snuggled around me.  Mountains of laundry later, we felt a little less overwhelmed by germs and sickness.  A peaceful thankfulness enveloped us instead.

The Lord has been mindful of us, He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great… Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.  Psalm 115:13, 116:7

Benched

“You’re that mom of five little boys?”

“You’re that mom of the kid in the wheelchair?”

“You’re that homeschooler, that stay-home mom, that mom with a huge vehicle full of car seats parked in the handicapped space?”

“You’re that one who writes that weird blog?”

No.

I mean, yes.  I do write that weird blog.  I do homeschool, and don’t have a paying job, and do drive a beast and park it boldly.  My kids are young and male and awesome; the one in the wheelchair revels in your attention and will probably take your money if you offer it.  And I answer to “Mommy” 36,453 times a day.

But that’s not me.

Every day I see articles and encouragement to moms and wives for their great and holy work.  And it is great.  It is most holy.  The work of a wife and a mom is worth far more than rubies, no matter how thankless or difficult it feels.   When my husband walks in the door after a long day walking circular miles though his store, he usually finds me somewhere in the midst of feeding a late supper to unobliging toddlers/wrangling slippery kindergarteners out of the cold bath/finishing reading homework with grumpy 8 year olds/kicking aside the already-folded-and-dumped-back-out-laundry pile/stepping on the 7 year old’s almost finished lego creation/nursing a tired baby/trying to answer the three year old’s endless question “why?”/and counting the minutes till bedtime when I can catch up with remembering all the necessary things I had to do today, like breathe and eat and scrub play dough off the walls.  I’ve got this most holy of jobs in all its beauty and terror.  And I wouldn’t trade it.

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But let’s not deify motherhood.  I’m potty training.  Is it important?  Heck yes.  But is it my ultimate purpose?  I sure hope not.  I am really just one big sinner showing other little sinners how not to do things.  God could use a donkey if He wanted to get a job accomplished – or an unwed teenage mother (it’s been done.)

My three year old tried to sum it up for me yesterday.  “Mommy, I am in charge and you are the binch.” He said it confidently as he sat on my lap.  “What?!?” I gasped before the translation kicked in.  “Oh, you mean your ‘bench.'”  He snuggled back against me, content.

Yes, child.  I am providing you a sturdy seat from which you will launch off when you are ready.  Someday you won’t need me under you.  I wasn’t made with seat belts; because my purpose isn’t to keep you safe forever.  My purpose is to glorify your Maker with my life.  And to bring you along for the ride.

I am for God.  My kids, they are for God.  God – He is for God.

It’s not about me, or my kids, or our happiness.  It’s not about their safety, or their education, or their success in life.  Life is about Him.  This is epic.

It’s freeing, really.  I am going to mess this motherhood thing up.  I already have, today.  And yesterday.  And tomorrow.  And if my focus is on being such a great mommy that they turn out to be decent, successful men, then I am failing.  My sights are too low if I’m merely trying to be supermom.

My sights should be on Jesus.  Always.  They said when I was learning to drive, keep your eyes on the road, because you will turn the wheel whichever way your eyes are pointing.  Sometimes He takes us off-road, over bumps and around sharp corners.  Sometimes the road is hard, and His directions don’t make sense.  But Jesus is more honored by me trusting Him than by me trying to give the kids in the backseat the safest, quickest route.   I will dishonor Him if I take another road.

I was made to honor Him above all else.  I wasn’t made to figure Him out.

After all, He made me, though He didn’t need His creation.

He chose me, though He could have had anything else.

He loved me, though He didn’t need my love back.

He died for me, though He could have lived without me.

He asked me to respond, though He has every right to force my allegiance.

He calls me to trust Him, though circumstances sometimes belie the very provision and safety I expect from a good God.

For God so loved the world, that He made a woman capable, if only she tries hard enough, and dresses right, and reads the right books, and chooses the best education, and eats the right foods, and marries the perfect man, that she could be supermom.

No.  That’s not how it goes.

He didn’t give us super powers.  He gave us His son.  He gave us His everything.  So I don’t have to be everything.  I can be nothing.

Or just a bench.

I hope, at the end of the day, when people think of me, I won’t be remembered as a good mom.  I want people to think, “that crazy little lady clearly had a really big God.”

Because He is.

Happy Easter.

Growing Stains

Some of the things I’ve said to my children make me chuckle (much later, after they’re in bed and I’ve eaten something chocolate).  Sometimes, I even remember to write a few down.

“Do NOT call him Petunia!”

You cannot lap up your supper without hands like a cat.”

“Han Solo is not a spoon for rice.”

“Ears were not made to hit people with.”

“Do not throw flour!”

“Real superheros do their own laundry.”

“You can’t wear the bee costume because your brother threw up on it.”

“If you’d really rather eat dirt than the supper I made for you, then prove it!”  (He did.)

“Nail clipping is not punishment.”

“You are not allowed to lick the lamp.”

“No caterpillars on the baby.”

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my superheros

 

Of course, they’re pretty quotable themselves.  Sometimes I manage have a pencil handy when they open their mouths too…

“All you need to be a happy man is beef jerky and a gun.” -Henry, 4.

“This is a waste of good graphite.” -Gavin, 8, grumbling over his subtraction homework.

“Do pirates have to like pie?” – Henry.

“I love you the most when you make us noodles [from a box].” -Shiloh, 6.

“It’s broken!” – Ben, 2, very frustrated that he couldn’t re-close the banana.

“To be a piranha, you have to just feel it.”  -Gavin.

“I forgot to remember.”  -Henry, stuck on a sound in his reading book.

“I’m making an emergency!”  -Ben, gleefully dumping yogurt in the pencil box during school time.

“Since they had a South Dakota, couldn’t they have come up with a better name than just ‘North Dakota’?  Maybe ‘Land of Desolation’ or something…”  -Gavin (no, he’s never been there.)

“I wish your job was to  make us happy instead of smarter.”  -Shiloh, frustrated over schoolwork.

“Daddy is going to work in his cage again.”  -Ben, apparently referring to the little cubicle office in Daddy’s store.

“My mind keeps taking pictures of popsicles and sends them to my tongue – so I can’t swallow my eggs.”  – Henry, wishing breakfast was something different.

“Does how much time you spend on Facebook show how smart you are to your friends?” – Gavin.

“I am the President.  So I can punch you if you are bad.”  -Ben, the politician.

"Eggs must have made Dark Badar mad."  -Ben, realizing it was impossible to eat and be the bad guy simultaneously.
“Eggs must have made Dark Baydar mad.” -Ben, realizing it was impossible to eat and be the bad guy simultaneously.

“Sometimes our house is more interesting than Grandma’s.  Kind of like a fight is more interesting to watch than a garden.”  -Shiloh

“I’m NOT gonna be an astronaut when I grow up because they still have to wear diapers in space.”  -Henry

“My tummy is stuffed to the max.  Usually it’s my brain that feels this way.”  -Gavin

“Pirates don’t like it when their ships fall on their heads.  We don’t like to be hurt.  We just like to be happy.”  -Ben, after being rudely awakened from nap when his toy pirate ship that had been parked haphazardly on the headboard fell on him.

“I dreamed I was a Lego and the bad guys kept turning my head backwards.”  -Shiloh, describing a nightmare.

“In heaven, I will be cute like a baby but strong like a daddy, have a pet dinosaur, ice cream will be good for you, and I will be purple.”  -Henry, who plans these things out.

“I love Spring because of mud.  Mud makes everybody happy.  Well, not you, Mom, but everybody who knows how to play.”  -Shiloh.

“Can I take my hooker to church?”  -Ben, holding up his tow truck with a hook on the back.

“I don’t need to know how to cook.  I just need a smoke alarm with good batteries.  Right, mom?”  -Henry.

“I want a new nurse!”  -Ben, fighting his mother as she attempted to brush his teeth.

“You’re a pretty fly for a white guy.”  -Shiloh, seriously attempting a compliment to his four year old brother, who happened to be wearing blue wings while helping make muffins, when a dusting of flour somehow got streaked across his arms and face.

 

Henry

And that was my March.