Monday, June 19, 2017

Competitive Reading

I made the mistake of signing our family up for a summer reading program at the library. It's a mistake because evidently the Man and I suffer from hyper-competitiveness. We're one week in and neck and neck at 500 minutes of reading. He tried to convince me that the night time reading I get done while up with Twinkle doesn't count while making sure I wasn't logging quiet time minutes (which I had to confess I'd thought about). He also tried to log all the audio book minutes that he listened to after he fell asleep. Let me just say: dirty. cheater. Let me also say: I am putting every free minute to good use these days because he is going down.

Side note, I have the ability to do this because Twinkle has transitioned to the jumperoo after trying to flip her bouncer off the kitchen counter during breakfast and evidently the jumperoo is fun for the whole family.

At any rate, I thought it was time for a quick book blog. It has to be quick because I was up from midnight until 330 last night with my favorite fifth child and I would like to get a little bit of time to hang out with the Man before I pass out from exhaustion. And before anyone makes the assumption that the Man was snoozing away blissfully while I manned point with the baby, he took the first shift...and also has to get up at an obscenely early hour to go to the gym so that he doesn't kill people when he goes to bring home the bacon. Moving on, apologies for not including nice pictures of the books but all my reading is happening on my phone these days (the better to read while night-nursing, my dear). So here's what's been hanging out of my kindle app:

The Pigeon Pie Mystery and Acedia & Me are both still in the works
so no comment as of yet.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. My middle sister suggested this one primarily because she wanted someone to discuss it with. Aziz Ansari is best known for his role as Tom Haverford in Parks and Rec but this is primarily a research driven book on what it's like to find love in the 21st century. I could write an entire blog post just about this book, and I don't want to because not enough sleep AND want to hang out with the husband BUT if you want to understand a little better what is going on in our culture (and even cultures around the world), this might be worth a read. I found it to be a somewhat sad read (especially because I'm reading Little House on the Prairie to the Bigs right now all most people want in life is a relationship like Ma and Pa's).

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Allie Brosh's blog is one of my favorite online reads, and I was so excited when I heard she was putting out a book. Turns out that more than a few of the chapters are repeats from the blog, which is why I get books from the library instead of buying them, but I didn't necessarily mind the reread. Her story about the dinosaur-goose was a fun add in, but her strongest chapters are still the ones on depression. If you haven't read her two posts on depression, please go over to her blog and read them. The last two chapters about identity were also fascinating. Brosh manages to blend humor with depth in ways that really gave me a lot to think about.

She's scooting, but only backwards...
which means I'm fishing her out from under the piano a lot.

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith. My oldest sister suggested this book (why have a librarian when you can have sisters!), and it was a great read. I went through a massive Alexander McCall Smith phase after the Little Man was born, but this may be my new favorite. It made me want to take the Man to Italy. But we wouldn't rent a bulldozer to drive around in. But we might gently bend a few laws. But we wouldn't land in Italian prison. Hopefully.

This is the portion of the blog where I was going to force the Man to tell me about what he's been reading (he audio books like a beast), but he got sucked into watching The Office, so that ship has sailed. Anyway, assume I said something about military history and things that actually happen in real life and stuff blowing up, and you'll be pretty spot on.

I take a break from reading to hang out with this kid,
because she's pretty cute.

So, books: read them. And then compete wildly with the people you love to see who can read more of them. And then stay up way too late reading them instead of actually adulting.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mom Truths (That Might Just Be Regular Truths--Who Knows?!)

Dear New Mom,

I hear you had a rough night last night with your baby--I've been there. You may be wondering when it gets better. You may be worrying that it won't. You may worry, and perhaps rightly so, that you are going to be sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and drowning in someone else's body fluids for the rest of your life.

Even body fluids from super cute babies like
this can be wearing.

You may make the mistake of telling a mom of teenagers your misguided hopes that things will get easier one day--and they will then shoot you down by telling you that you're doing the easy part now, that it only gets harder as you go along. They are dealing with teenagers. To them, toddlers are mere child's play.

Personally, I think these non-teenagers are pretty terrifying.

May I take a few minutes just to tell you a couple truthful encouragements? That mom of teenagers may be right (but she should've just nodded sympathetically and given you a cup of coffee). It doesn't necessarily get easier. Parenting, just like most relationships, will present you with one challenge after another. This is called dealing with people.

But the challenges are different challenges. You are not forever in a season of sleepless nights (says the woman whose twins didn't sleep through the night until they were a year and a half old). Potty training does, indeed, come to an end (says the woman whose twins took close to a full year to stop peeing gleefully all over the house). And the days of leaking breastmilk and having a very cute parasite constantly latched to your chest will one day draw to an end (says the woman with five kids who thought she was done after two).

There are children hanging off all your appendages:

I think you know these things and may just need a reminder because sometimes it's hard to think straight when you are very tired.

Also, when you are tired,
you might decide to sit in the backyard
and let your next door neighbor parent your kids.
This is legit.

Here's something you may not know: it doesn't necessarily get easier, but you will get stronger. It's true. I promise. I remember when I had my first, and I was tired and overwhelmed, and there may or may not have been one night early on when my mom brought Littles to me and I told her I'd just nursed him and I wasn't ready to do it again. She gently refrained from laughing in my face--and I manned up and nursed that poor baby. But last month, I drove two days with four sick kids who had excess fluid coming out both ends and a baby who wanted to stop and nurse every 2.5 hours (and never timed her meals for when we were already pulled over to clean up barf), and while it wasn't fun, I handled it. didn't necessarily get easier, but I got stronger. And you will too.

This picture goes with a comment in the paragraph below about
Twinkle being a ridiculously happy baby.
Also, she's rocking those eyebrows.

You get stronger because there is such a thing as muscle memory, and it's not just for exercise. This is one of the reasons why breast feeding moms are encouraged to get through the first six weeks if they can. Because at some point, your muscle memory kicks in and your brain tells itself, "Hey, I've done this before, and it stunk, but I got through it, so I'll probably get through it again." This is also the reason adding kid number five hasn't been as hard as some of you might be imagining it would be (that and Twinkle is a ridiculously happy baby). My body is used to nights of interrupted sleep. It remembers how to nurse, how to change a diaper in the dark, how to unfold a stroller with one hand while grasping a wiggling baby and the diaper bag in the other.

Side note: you don't have to have five children to get to this point.

These were the test run children. Now I know what's up.

Every day that you make the choice to get out of bed and Mom like a Boss, your body and brain (and heart!) are filing away information, telling themselves "Oh, so this is what it means to be a mom." And later, when you need it, the muscle memory will kick in, and you will be able to handle without blinking things that would've pushed you over the edge in the early days. You will grow because you are adaptable and strong and resilient. And because God gives us incredible amounts of grace in these days.

Sometimes the biggest measure of
God's grace is a happy 5th child.

The last thing I want to remind you of is something I think I've said before (and flagrantly stole from a friend): this is hard, but you can do it. Say it to yourself as many times a day as you need. Because each time that you acknowledge that it's hard (which is true) while simultaneously rising to the occasion, you are training those muscles up in the way they should go...which will hopefully help you as you're trying to train up your children in the way they should go.

Naturally, you hope they will go the way
of the books. They will.

If it's hard, say so. There's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't mean that you don't love your kid. It also doesn't mean that you can't do it. You are made by God, in his image, and He doesn't make mistakes. This doesn't mean you will get everything right the first time, but that you have the capacity to do incredibly challenging things with His help.

So, new mom, it may not get easier, but you will get stronger. And while this is hard, you can do it. Hang in there.

Another Mom in the Trenches

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Myth of the Supermom

Once upon a time, I was asked to write a blog about being a Supermom. Naturally, since the Man is on a week long out of town trip and I'm kicking it with all five kids, now is the opportune time to rise to the occasion and instruct all of you in the Ways of Awesomeness.

First, I'd like to extend an invitation to come spend some time in my home. Seriously, there is no better way for you to learn the ropes than to watch me in action. You will note Exhibit A) me yelling at my kids and only grudgingly apologizing hours later, Exhibit B) just how little actually gets done during the day, Exhibit C) some seriously impressive three year old tantrums, Exhibit D) me reading novels when I should be parenting, and Exhibit E) a goodly amount of chaos. Also, while you're here, can I please take a nap?

And I need a nap because keeping up with all of these kids is hard work.

If, after your foray into my home, you still believe in the Myth of the Supermom, I will tell you my secret. Come closer. Seriously, lean in a little bit farther. I'm getting ready to pretend whisper into your ear only to surprise you by yelling. Are you ready?


Public service announcement:
This kid knows first hand that there is no Supermom.
He is Super Good at getting into trouble.
He also has Super Awesome bed head.

Supermoms are like magical pregnancy unicorns. They may be able to wear five inch heels and flounce around majestically in their third trimester before popping out a beautiful bouncing baby without a milligram of pain medicine, but sooner or later, something is going to bite them in the rear. And it may be the aforementioned beautiful bouncing baby that they just accidentally sat on in their newly sleep deprived state.

We all have moments when we think that we are rocking it, when we think we have achieved the perfect state of the Supermom (or the magical pregnancy unicorn). When you are in that moment, enjoy it while it lasts. Nothing lasts forever but those moments really are great to remember. Personally, I like to look back on the day when I managed to change a poopy toddler while nursing a newborn. On the days when I have to bodily straightjacket a screaming, hitting, biting three year old, I remember that, once, I too was awesome. But no one is awesome all the time. Except for Jesus. And last time I checked, He wasn't in the running for Supermom.

This kid is so happy that sometimes...
she makes me look pretty Super.

Now that we have debunked the Myth of the Supermom, I do want to say a few things to encourage you, oh sister in the trenches of motherhood. One: every pregnancy is different, every child is different, every mother is different, every family is different, every stage of life is different. Figure out what works best for your family--in this stage that you're in--and don't worry about the rest of it. What works for someone else may not work for you. Then again, it might be worth a shot. Who knows? The point is: everyone is different (say it again: everyone is different). Do what works for your family. Let the rest of it go. Comparisons are odious.

I said "odious" above, not "odorous".
Littles' feet after a long day of playing in the yard are odorous.
Luckily for him, Trigger doesn't care.

Second: cut yourself some slack. And yes, this is me, preaching to the choir. Most of us are our own worst critics. Guess what? You don't have to be Supermom. You just need to be you. Case in point: I lost my temper yesterday with one of my lovely and challenging young children, but Littles informed me I only lost it a little bit so you know what? I'm taking that for a win and refusing to wallow in guilt. Stop beating yourself up. There's no such thing as a Supermom.

Sometimes cutting yourself slack means letting Kid No. 2 read to Kid No. 3.

Third: laugh about it. I think a lot about that Princess Bride quote: if you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything. But in parenting, if you haven't got your sense of humor, you haven't got anything. See, if you don't laugh about the fact that your son called from the bathroom, "Mom! I made the Great Lakes! Look! There's Lake Michigan!" you might start to suffer from anxiety or high blood pressure. If you can't laugh about the fact that the twins used "rest" time to rearrange their room by shoving the bunk bed away from the wall, unloading all of the clothes from their dresser, constructing a humongous maze of dumped toys, and adding a shining pool of pee in one corner and some new marker-to-the-wall artwork, you might literally explode like a blender with its top off. My new plan these days is to remember that I would've laughed about it eight years ago before I actually had kids of my own, which tells me that somewhere, deep in the recesses of my heart, I can dig up the ability to laugh about it now. Hopefully.

If you can't laugh at yourself or your own kids,
feel free to laugh at mine.
Finally, and this is one that I learned from a friend recently and am still trying desperately to implement in my own life: prioritize kindness. There's a lot of things your kids will not remember about their childhood, but how you treated your kids probably isn't one of them. So if you have to choose between getting dinner on the table on time and not screaming at your kids, choose the late dinner. If you have to choose between a Pinterest perfect craft that you can photograph and then put on Facebook and not losing your temper due to shattered expectations, choose just a simple coloring sheet and move on. If you have to choose between a pristine home and losing your ever loving mind, go ahead and start naming those dust bunnies so you can count them as pets. Most of the time, you won't have to choose. You seem like the kind of person who can be awesome and kind at the same time (obviously: you are kindly choosing to spend your time being awesome by reading my blog). But for me, sometimes I have to stop trying so hard for awesome and just settle for kind. It matters more.

I'm sorry I crushed your dreams of being Supermom.
Feel free to try your hand at being Captain America,
but know you've got some competition.

We all want to be Supermom. But let's just be honest: there are days and then there are days. Celebrate your Super moments (and the Super moments of other moms you see), laugh about the off days, and for the rest of it...make like Elsa and let it go. You've got better things to do with your time.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sharing Our Plenty

A few weeks ago, I saw a friend post on Facebook asking how other parents of littles manage to fit in a quiet time. I didn't have a chance to comment because--Five Kids--but I had a quick moment of empathy because, let's be honest, the struggle is real (see photographic evidence below).

Bruiser not included because he was too busy throwing a tantrum.
Twinkle got in on the action, empathetic soul that she is.
Bee was not impressed.

There are seasons of plenty and then sometimes there are seasons that just are not. And while we may find ourselves with an abundance of one thing (in my case, children), occasionally that leads to a deficit in another (in my case, the brain waves and time required to study God's word). But here's the beautiful part of being in community: what I may lack at this moment, someone else may have in profusion. And sometimes that someone may have so much that a little bit of their plenty can overflow into my life.

Here's an example. A couple weeks ago, the Man's younger brother sent him a message that included a quotation about God's sovereignty and timing. The Man, in turn, passed it on my way.  It was something so small, but sent from a generous heart, it encouraged my thoughts back to God's goodness and lifted my spirit that day. Neither my brother-in-law nor my husband were under any compulsion to share, but they did, out of their overflow, and ministered to my heart, which was in need.

I share this for two reasons. One, if you find yourself in a season of need, don't kick yourself while you're down. This isn't the time to put yourself on a guilt trip for not having an hour long quiet time. Look for the little ways God is still speaking to you. When I was surviving the twins, my quiet times were 5 minutes on the toilet with a little book of blessings from Scripture. Maybe you just have time to listen to a few short verses as you drive to work. Maybe you don't manage to touch your Bible in between Sundays. Sure, it's not ideal. We know that. But that doesn't mean God can't speak to you in other ways. So pay attention: He might be using someone else to draw you into His presence.

That brings me to number two. If you, on the other hand, find yourself in a season of plenty: share the wealth. If you have time to pray for someone, let them know. If you learned something in your quiet time, tell someone about it. If you read something that made you think more deeply about Jesus, text the quote to a friend. You never know who might need to share in what you are learning.

We all go through different seasons of life. When I am in a season of need, sometimes it's hard not to look back longingly at the season of plenty, when really, I should be giving thanks for what I learned during that time and continuing to wait for the unique ways God might speak to me even now.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Have Kids. Will Share.

April got away from me. Let's be honest: quite a lot of things get away from me these days. I assume this is one of the perils of having a big family. It's not the only peril. Here are some more!

Once upon a time, if I was planning a meal that used ground beef, I would buy one of those handy little one pound packets at the store. We'd even have leftovers! A couple of years ago, I graduated to the three pound tube of meat. I'd use two pounds and freeze the extra pound to use for another meal. Now, the whole three pounds go into the pan. Leftovers are hit or miss. Oh, the days of tiny grocery bills...they are long gone.

We get a lot of "You've got your hands full!" comments. This is nothing new. We've been getting them since the twins. And I get it. When you see a huge family, sometimes you just want to say something. Yesterday though, I had someone tell me that I sure did have a lot of helpers, and that may be my new favorite, only to be trumped by hearing how adorable or well behaved my children are. I did get asked the other day if I ran an at home day care. Nope. These are all mine.

Last week we had record wreckage in our home (please try saying "record wreckage" five times fast). In a six day span, we managed to break 9 different items: a wooden cutting board, a plastic bin (that wasn't even ours--the twins thought it would make a great step stool), one dessert plate, a Thomas the Tank Engine spoon, a juice glass (that one was me), three bowls (in one fell swoop--unloading the dishwasher is hazardous), and one other item that currently escapes my mind (see paragraph one).

In addition to the record wreckage, the twins like to take advantage of any momentary distraction exhibited by Mommy (i.e. homeschooling or nursing) to create fabulous murals on their walls, doors, bed spreads, naked bodies, etc with whatever markers they have secreted away from the last time all drawing utensils were confiscated. They also managed to use an entire previously unopened bottle of baby wash at bath time last night. The Man and I are going to get our new family motto emblazoned on our imaginary coat of arms: This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. Either that or tattoo it across the kids' foreheads. Preferably in purple as that has been the marker color of choice lately.

Our family needs to just start a list of "You might have a big family if..." It's close companion would be "You might be a fifth child if..." And Twinkle is starting that one out right with doing two complete roll overs without anyone there to witness. Both parents were otherwise occupied wrangling kids and putting together dinner on both occasions. She also graciously took a nap in the barbershop while all the boys were getting assembly line haircuts. Evidently, for a fifth child, there is nothing quite so soothing as the hum of a fan directly accompanied by the sound of loud dance music and eight barbers buzzing. I now have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in my head.

At any rate, I'm including pictures from Twink's three month out door photo shoot (knocked out while the boys played football and the twins alternated hitting each other in the head with the swing and trying to con me into letting them play in the Man's jeep). I'm trying to get back to writing more regularly, but most of the time by the end of the day all I want to do is never talk to anyone ever again which might be a sign that I'm an introvert who... has a very large family. All of which means, let's not hold our breath.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

School and Books and Learning/Empathy

This is how school gets done most days:

Littles does math on one side, Tiny reads to me on the other, Twinkle does her best to distract us with her cuteness, and somewhere upstairs the Tornado Twins wreak havoc while Mommy dearest is otherwise occupied. I'm telling you this because I have a feeling inquiring minds want to know why the truant officer hasn't swung by yet to trot my children off to public school. Side note: no judging the plaid with stripes as seen above. Twink is still learning how to pair her patterns. Unfortunately, since that isn't yet covered by either of her big brothers' curriculums, she's not likely to learn any time soon.

Moving on, other than minimal amounts of effort to keep up with our school work, mostly the kids have been playing outside (because that makes everyone smarter and happier and healthier) and reading. I asked a homeschooling mom of six how she survived homeschooling with a newborn, and she told me that she just did a lot of reading and let that cover things. So basically, I've been taking a page out of her book and spending a lot of time reading out loud to the Bigs (especially Littles) and discussing what we read. 

This month we read The Good Master by Kate Seredy and are now plowing our way through its sequel, The Singing Tree, which is set in Hungary during WWI. It's been a great chance to discuss big topics (war, terrorism, racism, discrimination, loss, growing up) within the framework of a story. My hope as my children read these books and others like them is for them to be able to see the world through different sets of eyes, developing empathy as they go along. I also want them to see modeled in other ways some of the virtues the Man and I try to instill in them: responsibility, respect, hard work, honesty.

At any rate: we're reading a lot these days so hopefully my kids will one day make it to college and, if not, at the very least be semi-decent people, and man, that baby sure is cute. The End. More mostly incomprehensible blog posts to come at a later date, I'm sure.

Sorry. I ran out of steam at the end. Now I want to take a nap.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Flourish to our Family

Sometimes, when you have your hands full with a loud and proud fire team of four, God decides to give you one little flourish of extra happiness, just because he loves you.

Ours arrived on February 2nd, at exactly 22:22, and is possibly the most kissed baby in the history of ever.

I'm not going to write long or include twenty thousand pictures (although I'm really having trouble deciding which ones to include here), but we are incredibly grateful for our Bonus Baby. She has been mellow and sweet and snuggly and wonderful, and I'm sure we will spoil her silly. Even the dog likes her.

In the meantime, we are adjusting to being a family of seven, by which I mean, some days I feel like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and other days I imagine children dripping out of the pores of our home the way sap sometimes oozes out of a tree.  Good thing they're cute and we mostly like them. But we are starting to see progress: today I got in my first postpartum run and now I'm miraculously getting a blog up. This week we even managed to get a little school work done.  Last but not least, the Man and I have finally agreed on a blog nickname.

Ink Blots, meet Twinkle:

Here's to one month and some change of loving on this beautiful addition to our family. Wow, February went by fast...