Monday, July 02, 2012

The Clan on Vacation

We are currently recuperating from our big family vacation. This is not an undertaking we tackle often, as you can imagine the amount of preparation, packing, planning, and patience it takes to take 8 people on a week-long trip. However, I do think it's important, at least once a year if possible, to make the effort. Children are truly only small for so long, and these are memories that they will have for their entire life.  "Remember when Daddy took us to the drive-in?" (yes, we really did find a still-operating drive-in!) "Remember when the GPS lead us down that scary, curvy, one-lane backroad through the woods?" "Remember the round of mini-golf at the amusement park when the toddler snatched up our ball and ran away with it down the path?" "Remember when Gregory dumped his caramel sundae all down his front in his car seat?" All of these things are small, and may seem insignificant to us grown-ups, but here's the thing: what the kids are really remembering is the time you spent together. The change in scenery and routine cements the memories in their minds, but it is the experience of being with you and interacting with you in a relaxed and fun manner that matters most.

You do not have to go to great expense; in fact you do not even have to travel far, geographically-speaking. We just tooled around Ohio's Amish country (where, incidentally, families with 6-8 children are the norm and we were not looked at as if we were completely insane. A nice change!) Daytrips and staycations can also fit the bill very well. But please... take the time. Make the memories. They will be grown before we know it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Losing Baby Seven

It might be too soon to write this post. But it might always be too soon.

We lost our Baby Seven last week, at 14 wks gestation, or at least that's when we found out about the miscarriage. An ultrasound showed the gestational sac, but no baby, meaning that the child died soon after implantation. The nurse practitioner informed me it was a "blighted ovum," and said, "I'm so sorry this was not the outcome you had hoped for." Wow, what a very careful, boilerplate, CYA expression. It's a bit like saying "I'm sorry you were offended" when you're called upon to apologize to someone.  I'm sure they see all kinds of women in all kinds of situations, so they are trained not to refer to it as a "baby" or a "child," but still, one would think they might be able to tailor the response to the particular woman at hand.  If she's visibly upset, I think you could safely say,  "I'm so sorry for your loss."

If you think miscarriage is hard for adults to deal with, try explaining it to your young children. Our four-year-old at first thought it was a joke. A baby dying? That's crazy, babies don't die. Once he processed the info, though, he wants to share his grief with everyone. He goes up to folks we know and informs them, "I'm sad because the baby died in Mommy's tummy." I was going to admonish him for this, but on second thought, why shouldn't he be sad? And why shouldn't he tell people that? Miscarriage is not commonly discussed in our society, but since approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, maybe it should be. I can't tell you how many women friends have contacted me, saying, "I know, I've been there."

It does help, having the wee ones at home. Not in the, "Well, at least you have other, healthy children." kind of way. But getting bouquets of dandelions and grimy hugs around one's knees never hurts. Plus, being so busy taking care of the littles gives me far less time to wallow in grief. Nothing reminds you that life goes on like diapers to change and dinners to cook and library books to be read together on the couch.

And nothing makes you realize how precious and precarious life is like losing one. Still we know we are not in charge of all this; even the children I have are not, strictly speaking, *mine;* I'm just taking care of them for a while here on earth.

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21. 

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them falls to the ground without your father knowing it. But the very hairs of your head are numbered." Matthew 10:29-30

How to Miss a Childhood

I don't usually post a lot of links on here, but this woman's post made such a good point, and made it so convincingly that I had to share.
Please check it out: The Hands-Free Mama: How to Miss a Childhood
It's a good reminder for all of us, and I most definitely include myself in that, as to what our kids see and feel when we are hunched over our "devices" all the time, instead of really being there with them in the moment. That being said, I need to go make breakfast for my babies! God bless you all this day.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Indoor Cats and Outdoor Cats

It never fails to amaze me how different in personality all my boys are. I could classify them by the introvert/extrovert axis (2 introverts, 4 extro); the temperament scale (2 choleric, 1 melancholic, 1 phlegmatic, 2 sanguine), the Myers-Brigg inventory (although they're a bit young to sit through all those extremely annoying repetitive questions.). But I prefer the much simpler Indoor/Outdoor Cat distinction.

If you have boys, you know that they have a LOT of energy, and if you don't find an outlet for them to release it, they do things like beating on their brother's head with a Nerf battle axe or coloring red marker on the baby's face. All boys benefit from unstructured outdoor play. There is something about the green of nature, whether it be a manicured lawn or a dappled woodsy glade, that simultaneously soothes and energizes boys' brains (See ""Last Child in the Woods", by Richard Louv.

But we've noticed that some of our boys, especially those with choleric tendencies, have such a visceral need to go outside everyday that they are like Outdoor Cats: standing at the sliding door, yeowling until they are set free. If they don't get to roam outside during the day due to weather or a busy schedule, they start doing the boy-equivalent of shredding your favorite shirt or peeing on the laundry pile. (I love to secretly watch my children play outside, when they don't know I am watching. Is that creepy?) Once outside, they will be the ones whipping the bushes with a torn off willow-branch or running around the house as many times as they can in 2 minutes, "just to see." My Indoor Cats also love to play outside; but they will be the ones playing sedately in the sandbox or soaring nicely on the swings. The Indoor Cats will also come back inside after 20 minutes, complaining that they're cold, and sit down to do a puzzle or a mind-bogglingly complex European strategy board game. The Outdoor Cats would happily stay out all day in the teeth of a Michigan blizzard, making legions of snow angels and hurling snowballs at the garbage cans. 

Trying to equalize their amount of outdoor play, or trying to turn Indoor Cats into Outdoor cats, is a recipe for disaster. So try and work with their tendencies. Direct the Outdoor Cats to the pile of scrap lumber to build a fort, or to the weeded-over garden patch to create their own vegetable kingdom. And make sure you have plenty of challenging books, puzzles, games, Legos, math manipulatives etc, to keep those Indoor Cats purring. 

How about you? Do you have Indoor/Outdoor cats too?
Indoor cat Josiah and his super Lego pyramid
Outdoor cat Caleb and his caterpillar

Saturday, April 28, 2012

...And Hence the Name

Any parent of more than 2 children these days knows the drill. There you are in line at the checkout in Aldi, Kroger's, Lowe's, what-have-you, just minding your own business and trying to flip over the trashy magazines before your little ones see them. Your baby is chewing on the rail of the shopping cart, your 3-yr-old, who is sitting in the middle of the cart surrounded by 7 gallons of milk, is eating all the grapes and throwing Mac n Cheese boxes over the side. Your older kids are milling around, staring in glazed-eyed fascination at the forbidden exotic candy, and trying to be "helpful" by loading everything onto the conveyor belt in a huge, precarious tower. You hear a gasp from behind you....and you know what's coming next. "Are they all YOURS?" asks the lady. "Yes," you sweetly reply, "they're great helpers." (That's on a good day. On a bad day, you might mutter, "So they tell me!" or "I think so. But not THAT ONE.") Then comes Phase II of the exchange: "You know what causes that, don't you?"

Over the years, we've developed many comebacks, as I'm sure you have too. Most of them I never speak aloud. Oh, they're snappy, and pithy and zingy, all right, and it makes me feel good to come up with them as I drive home in the van, fuming. Things like:
-"Yes, and we LIKE IT!"
-"No, what??? Oh my gosh, do you know?? can you tell me, PLEEEEEEASE???"
-(confused look) "We *thought* we had it figured out....but if that were the case, we'd have thousands of kids!"

But those are the things we think and do not say. I usually try to keep in mind what the undercurrents are in this situation. Does the person seem to be genuinely interested, or snarky? If it's an older lady or gentleman, I find their general attitude to be wistful or reminiscent, and their next words are something like, "We only had 2, we wanted to have more, but..." or "I was one of 8, myself!" I don't want to pull a defensive attitude against these sweet souls.

Now, there are others, whose tone and timbre indicate that their inquiry is not so benevolent. Such as the lady (probably in her mid-40s) in line at the library who tsked, made other grunts of disapproval, and muttered sotto voce, "You better stop having so many kids." Believe me, I started to unsheath my mama bear claws.  But do I really want to get into a philosophical debate with complete strangers, in front of my kids, in a time-sensitive environment? Will that really be conducive to changing anyone's mind?

 So I smiled at her and wished her a good day on the way out. It should not be my goal here to score debate points or put other people down.  I just looked at the joyful, energetic faces of my kids, and the bitter, dour expression on the woman's face, and knew that mine was the better portion.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Redeeming the Time

Note: This post is from waaaay back in 2004, as I am deleting another old short-lived blog of mine and consolidating some of the contents. Most of the old posts are going straight into the digital trashcan, but this one I thought warranted keeping. Ha....this was back when I had two kids! (So, I ruefully reflect, it should be three times as true for me now!)

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. -Ephesians 5:15-16

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. -Colossians 4:5

"How on earth are you filling the time without TV??" asked a friend, incredulously. It's true, my husband and I made the decision to forgo TV for the month of August. No more flipping through the stations just to see what's on. No more giving in to my toddler's demands of "Blue's Clues, Mommy, Blue's Clues!" Enough with the same old Friends or Seinfeld rerun we've seen 8 times already.

But my friend's question seemed to highlight the issue for me so clearly. Why do humans have this constant need to "fill time?" What is wrong with just allowing an hour - or even a day- to just unfold? And if we are acceeding to this need to "fill it," then what are we filling it with? If the answer is TV, then we are filling the time with refuse. Offal! Dung! Think about it: insipid sitcoms, most of which are just one long sex joke. Police dramas, in which bloody homicides are brought right into our living rooms. You would not allow these people into your home, but every night you spend hour after hour with them. Even shows, ostensibly designed to be good for children, portray parents alternately as buffoons or as over-strict martinets. Rebellious children are rewarded with adventures, romance, and the self-satisfying position of having been proved right.

Now, I enjoy good religious or cultural programs and truly worthwhile children's shows as much as the next Mom. But even when the content is positive, I see the slack-jawed, glassy-eyed expression on my toddler's face as he is glued to the screen, oblivious to whatever else is going on around him. The last time his grandmother came to visit from over 400 miles away, she arrived in the middle of "The Wiggles." He didn't even look up as she entered the room and greeted him. That is not how I want my sons to be raised.

I want them to value people over things, real relationships over mere entertainment. I want them to be able to be equally comfortable reading in the silence of the midafternoon and yelling and roughhousing in the backyard. And I don't want to just "fill" my own time with meaningless drivel on the screen. I want to be reading Scripture, and really taking its lessons to heart. I want to be thinking of and working on ways to make my marriage and family stronger. I want to learn to sew, learn Greek, write a book, evangelize my dad, bake a pie, build a sandbox. It's amazing how much more time I have for all those pursuits when the remote controls have been hidden away.

I don't want to merely "fill the time;" I want to redeem it. I want to make the most of the time that God has given us here on earth. This is our training ground for heaven. This is our mission field. I hope and pray that someday I'll be in heaven. The only question is how many souls I'll take with me when I go (although not in a fiery car-wreck kind of way!). Who will God have allowed me to touch and how will God use me as His instrument to help bring people to him? I don't have all these answers. But I know it's a lot easier to listen for them with the idiot box turned off.

OK, Third Time's the Charm...

*sigh* Alright, let's do this thing for real. Y'all can laugh and guffaw at me for daring to try and re-start my blog while dealing with 6 small boys and a seventh baby on the way. But let's give it a shot. Every time I read "Parenting...illustrated with crappy pictures!" I think, "DANG! That same thing happens to me all. the. time.! Why have I never thought to write about it??" So, here is the new blog, to the delight (or possible horror) of my Facebook friends everywhere.