Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Before the "Pretty"

                The toddler stands contently beside me.  I mindlessly wash dishes while he busily pulls every piece of silverware out of the dishwasher and throws it on the floor.  He is happy.  The preschooler stealthily sneaks into the bathroom and squeezes the entire tube of toothpaste onto the counter. I won’t realize it until two hours later.  There’s a salt dough map of America on my counter that is half done.  One girl calls for my help with her math problem. There are two appointments in the afternoon, and three scheduled activities in the evening.  The puke covered laundry from the stomach virus that made its rounds in our home this week is now starting to mingle with the normal laundry that needs to get done.  It's an average day.  There is more work to do than there is hours in the day, but soon it will be Christmas.

                I have to get the tree up.  Where are the ornaments?  Why can’t I get it together?  I look again at my Pinterest board.  The kids ask, “What about the light show?  Are we going ice skating?  I really want to make ginger bread houses again this year.”  Somehow I have to squeeze some type of homemade love into this crazy mess.  I need to package things and put bows on them.  There needs to be some "pretty".  There are traditions to continue!!!!

                And they will…  The traditions will continue, and somehow it will come together.  By the 25th, we will have managed to push back the crazy and pull out the special.  Our home will have the look and feel of the American Christmas that we all love.  But the Bethlehem Christmas is the Christmas that I need.

                Hope was born at the Bethlehem Christmas.  As a tiny wet-headed baby, wrapped in rags, breathing first-breaths of air, heavy with stench, He came.  Without the pretty or the bows, He came- just as God had imagined.  

               Soon, I will pull out my beautiful nativity.  I will arrange sweet Mary beside her Joseph, and then I will nestle the baby Jesus between them.  It will be so pretty.   But right now, there is a sink full of dishes, a floor littered with toys, and a soundtrack of bickering in the background, and my real, living Jesus is nestled down right in the middle of it all.  He meets me in the ordinariness and the messiness of today.  Before the bows and the pretty, He is here.  Like His arrival as a baby so many years ago, he comes today in the stink and the darkness.  The majestic King of all Creation, finds His place in my home because He loves me.  I’m not ready for Him, but He is ready for me.   I stand with my hands submerged in the dishwater and chest tight with worry, and the incarnate God is there with me.  I relax in his presence and inhale.  I remember the gift of God- my Jesus.  Again and again, Jesus breathes his Christmas morning peace into my every-moment-need.

              For my friends who may be reading this, I would love to say that I am on my way to your house to deliver a plate of fresh-baked cookies to you, but I am not.  So, please know you are so very loved by our family and by the Bethlehem Baby who truly was and forever-will-be, the perfect gift.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How we ended up on the outside of normal: A confession from the mom of six kids.

We sort of meandered into the large family category.  It did not start out as our goal, but one baby at a time, we crawled closer and closer to the far end of normal.  Everyone knows what that means, right?  The extreme end of normal in our culture is definitely four kids.  Two is squarely normal.  Three is ambitious, but understandable.  And four is the absolute end of the road for normal people.  Four is reserved for the "Suzie homemakers" that just really love kids, but it is not a number that will make someone fall off their rocker.  However, once you cross over that magic line, you find yourself in a whole new category.  After 4, you will be known by the number of off-spring you have produced (or adopted into your brood, as the case may be).  People will automatically assign you into categories that you may or may not fit into.  You will be assumed to be a Catholic or a fundamentalist, a homeschooler, a wheat-grinding bread-baker,  an ultra right-leaning  republican, and a type-A personality.  My kids took lessons from a lady once,who literally spent a year trying to  figure out what box we fit into. She just couldn't believe that we were pretty average people who just happened to have a bunch of kids.

Baby number four was our last, until two of our girls started praying that we would have another.  I never pictured us going over the edge of normal. The girls asked us to have another.  I said, "Nope.  We have enough to handle."   "But", I added, "I will do what God wants us to, so feel free to pray." I didn't think much more about it until several months later- surprise! We were in free-fall.  

And although I threatened several times during that pregnancy to perform an at-home vasectomy on my sweet hubs, I never did.  Nor did we end up feeling convinced after that, that we were done having kids.   Perhaps, it was because all of our other kids were in pairs, but there was still a little tiny corner of our heart that was willing to welcome another one.  So, once again, we were graced with a sweet surprise.(Recognize a pattern?  If you haven't guessed by now- I definitely don't deserve the type-A label.)

So here we are.  Two average parents who are totally in love with each other and with their wild tribe of children, living on the outside of normal.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

How to Survive a Blizzard in the South: An Explanation of How 2 Inches of Snow Can Become a Governor-Declared State of Emergency

I love everything about southern snow days: the sudden halt of all normal activity, the feigned state of emergency, and the camaraderie of all the neighborhood kids in finding some place to sled and something to sled with.  The big kids play with the little kids, and dads are all home from work.  It is a surprise family vacation that came without planning or prep and is a beautiful break from the business of life.

I think the most enchanting part of snow in the south is the unspoken contract that everyone seems to dutifully uphold.  Everyone will treat the prediction of snow as a very serious emergency.  We will act as if the very thought of sending children to school in such conditions is ludicrous.  No one will attempt to make it to work because life is simply too precious to put our lives in such peril.  Then, when our collective front of deep concern and fear has successfully delivered the expected cancellations and closings, we let out a loud "whoo hoo", layer up the kids in every pair of pants they own, and fly out our doors to go play in the snow.

The contract is never mentioned, but there are some invisible "high-fives" going around as we gather with our neighbors at the top of our favorite sledding hills.   Kids and parents alike spend the day building snow men, making snow cream, and throwing snow balls.   In a day or two, the sun comes out and life returns to normal.  But we never forget the treacherous winter weather that we all just barely made it through, and we silently vow to do our duty next time disaster should strike.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Rosemary Bouquet: clippings from our week that I want to remember.

I started this week with much fear and trembling, pretty certain that the days would undeniably confirm that I am, indeed, "in over my head".  This was my first week flying solo since Cute Boy was born 3 weeks ago, and it was also our first week of homeschooling since break.

Well, it is Saturday, and the verdict is in.  I am in waaay over my head.  However, along with the verdict came a lot of very sweet reassurances that God is near and caring for us in the midst of the craziness.

People helped with meals, school pick-ups, house cleaning, homeschooling, and caring for the babies.  There were so many tangible ways that the Lord showed me that he sees me, and He is carrying us.  I want to remember each of those things.  In times when I fear that I am all alone, I want to have this moment to look back to- a time that I thought I would sink and yet the Lord upheld me.  My life is filled with those moments.
So, I am starting the New Year with a new resolution.  I am going to use this space to write down the things that I don't want to forget: the precious, the funny, the divine.

Clippings from the Week:

Cute Boy is perfect!  His favorite thing to do is lay on Mama's chest and sleep.  Everyone is smitten with him.  The Jo Boy is especially thrilled to finally have a brother, but has yet to make good on his promise to learn to change a diaper.  :)

The Gracie girl got her Latin and logic exams back in her Classical Conversations class.  She made a perfect score on both.  I am so proud of how hard she has worked, especially since she did not have much support from me during the last month or so.  Now she is very excited about the mock trial her class is working on and has decided she would like to be a lawyer when she grows up.   The girl would definitely make one spit-fire of an attorney!

Baby A (also known as Sweet Girl) has decided she only wants to wear fancy dresses.  The dress has to be velvet or sparkly and look great when she twirls.

The best part about homeschooling with a new born in the house is snuggling during reading time!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How to Home School With a Baby In the House

With some creativity and a lot of flexibility, it can be done.
(Psst... push play to see video.)
What to do with baby when you want to read-

I laughed at myself for naming one of my posts, "How to Homeschool With a Baby in The House".  I'd really like to read the "e-how" article on that one, too, if someone ever gets it figured out.    I am just kidding.   The truth is that I don't think there is a magic plan, but here are a few of our strategies:
  •  I Adjusted our schedule to be more of a checklist than a rigid grid of times and subjects.  That allows us to flex around baby's schedule and mood
  •  Teach the most "mommy-intensive"subjects during nap time
  • Set aside one day a week for focused, uninterrupted study time without baby.  (On that day, my fabulous mom takes baby for the day.  It is a special day for both of them, and we are able to get a little more done.)
  • Be creative.
  • Be flexible.

 Homeschool looks different than it did before baby, but we are still learning and growing. There is no secret to it.  Like everything else, we just have to keep moving forward.  

However, in the midst of it, I try to remember the lessons that are unique to this season.  My girls are learning  to be kind when their baby sister colors on their math work or patient when mom is busy.  They are learning how to love a little person even when she is making life more challenging.  These lessons are as important as page 53 in the language arts book or lesson 90 in Saxon Math.  In fact, these character lessons are at the very heart of our choice to home school.

Baby A teaching the girls.

So, things may get a little crazy, but by the end of the week we have completed all of our  lessons- even some eternal ones, hopefully!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Camping Out at "Half-Way There"

     When I am standing on the shore opposite of the promise, there is a choice.  I can settle here, or I can cross over.  The choice seems simple on the surface.    Why would I settle for something less when I know "the more" has already been promised to me, if I just keep going?
     Today, I find myself camped out at "half-way there", and I want to stay.  It is not amazing, but it is not awful either.  I have worked hard to get here.  However, my wise pastor challenged us this morning to open ourselves to being changed.  He said, "Just because you are comfortable, does not mean that you are not in a desert."  As he spoke I leaned forward, feeling the sand shift beneath my feet.  
     God made a promise to Abraham to settle his people west of the Jordan River.  He was to give them a land to call their own that was flowing with milk and honey, a place where the roots of a nation could go down deep into the soil and raise up from it generations and generations of faithful people. 
      In Joshua 1, God's people stand on the edge of the promise.  Their new leader, Joshua, listens as God directs his way:  "Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses."  God goes on to say, "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go."  And He concludes with the promise, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 
    Joshua clutches hard onto the promises of God, and steadies his gaze on the path forward.  Then, he faithfully leads God's people across the Jordan and into the land God had given them.
    God has a promise land for me as well.  I have walked long in pursuit of it. My  eyes fix hard on the path for a time, but then I shift and look to the left or to the right.  I get weary and set up camp.   
    When I am honest about this land of "half-way there", I see that the joy is thin here.  In this land, hard words fly, and peace is a struggle.  The voice of God is so very, very soft.  I strain to hear it, but then I lose my focus.  The effort is too much.  This place makes family hard and purpose blurred.  No, this land is not awful.  We can make it here.  But I have been given the promise of more.  
    I do not want to raise a family here in the desert.  I want to push on towards the land of "more".  So once again I stand, take a hold of my Fathers hand, and ask for his spirit to lead me on from this place.  This is the hard path of complete submission to God.  The strain of releasing control, pulls hard against me, but the promise pulls harder.  The call of joy is echoing.

 Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.   

1 Peter 2:9  But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Have you gotten stuck in the land of "half-way there"?  What helped you to start moving forward again?  I'd love to hear your comments.  :)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Frugal Hoosier... or something like that

If you are a fan of the TV show, The Middle, you know the Frugal Hoosier.  The Frugal Hoosier is the scratch and dent grocery Frankie Heck shops at.  (I loooove The Middle!)  I laughed so hard the first time it was mentioned in the show.  Bargains is our local version of the Frugal Hoosier.

    Twenty years ago, I would not even buy generic spaghetti sauce. The thought of eating it made me gag.  Flash forward two decades and five kids later, and now, I buy generic stuff all the time, and I love shopping at Bargains.  In fact, I get a little giddy as I fire up the mini-van and head out for my monthly shopping trip there.  It's true; there is a slight odor, and some items are a bit grimy.  (I never leave there without giving my hands a thorough dowsing of hand sanitizer.)  But, oh, what wonderful treasures I find!  Kashi cereal for $1.89 a box, Power Bars at 10 for a $1, Pepperidge Farm bread for $1.35 a loaf...the list goes on.  It's amazing. 

Part of the fun is that I usually go with good friends.  We head out early on a Saturday and make it a girl's day.    We laugh and take turns hunting out the bargains.   I love doing life with these gals.  Most of us are stay-at-home moms, trying to stretch one income to cover all the needs of our large families.   When other ladies are heading over to the mall to freshen up their wardrobe, we are digging through boxes of canned goods looking for the ones with the fewest dents... and having fun doing it.  We know this is just a season, and we all feel so blessed to be home with our kids as they grow.  One day I may go back to shopping at a nice clean grocery store and start buying Prego again.  Then I will come home and join my friends for a cup of tea.   We will sit on my porch and reminisce  about the good old days when our homes where wild with children and we had Saturday excursions to Bargains.

*If I have sold you on Bargains, here is a place to go for more info.