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...

Sunday, January 29, 2017


One of the things I've been learning this pregnancy--

Wait. Hold on. Quick side note.

Yes, I am still pregnant. You can address any questions, comments, or concerns at the non-existent link on the right labelled "My Sanity Is Already Walking a Fine Line."

Moving on.

One of the things I've been learning this pregnancy is that what's true at the microcosm is true at the macrocosm and vice versa. What does this mean? Essentially, that if it's true for my one small life then it's probably true on the universal stage. And if it's a grand theological truth that applies to the whole world then it probably also applies to my immediate circumstances.

For instance, this morning I woke up--still pregnant--and my news feed was full of the new restrictions towards refugees. I then proceeded to read Psalm 121 which says, "The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." At the macrocosm, my heart is breaking for the many refugees who had a hope of a new life, a safe haven in the US for their families. At the microcosm, I am discouraged by the fact that I have not yet given birth and am stuck waddling around the neighborhood like a straight-jacketed penguin while I try to Get. Her. Out. When I remember that God keeps our going out and our coming in, I know that God is no less in control of US policy and the sojourners in our midst than he is in control of when our Bonus Baby puts in an appearance. He keeps the coming in of refugees; he keeps the going out of one small baby.

Macrocosm. Microcosm. It's still true.

Sometimes we think that there is a huge divide between what is true for us and what is true for everybody. Surely, we think, a small truth doesn't necessarily apply to big grand happenings, and the big grand happenings have nothing to teach us in our little lives. But here's my new secret: truth is truth, big or small. And if I can work it out on the small scale, maybe it will start to be reflected in the big things as well. If I can see it in the small things, maybe the big ones won't be as scary.

So, from my microcosm to the world stage: may we remember that God is keeping our going out and our coming in. And may we watch in wonder as he works good--in the little and the big--while we simply remember the truth of who he is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

For the Love of the Run

I'm 39 weeks pregnant today, so I thought it was about time to finally write that post about how to love running. You know, timing-wise, it just seems appropriate. I went for a walk with the kids today in an attempt to get things rolling on the labor front. No luck, but I did have fun racing the boys home (I was pushing the twins in the stroller) while Bee laughed maniacally and Bruiser yelled for me to run faster. And...I can still beat the five year old. But barely. And only over very short distances. Still: small victories.

My last official run attempt this pregnancy on Christmas Eve.
It was not pretty. Trigger may have laughed at me.

But here are the things you need to know about learning to love running. I will bullet point for three reasons: 1) I'm really hoping that the Man will get home soon and I want to finish this blog before he does, 2) I'd really rather be in labor than writing right now, and 3) no one really wants to experience the beauty of me writing while simultaneously bouncing on a very large exercise ball. So, without further ado:

  • Take a partner. Accountability is key. This pregnancy, I've had a friend meet me every Thursday night. Sure, these last few weeks she's mainly entertained me while I waddle and occasionally pretend to wog (that's walk/jog to you), but it still counts. Normally though, my running partner is Trigger. He looks so pathetic when I miss our runs that it's highly motivating. Also, he has this incredible ability to mock me with a single glance if I slow down. Running with a partner means you bail on your runs less often and quit less early.
  • Make it something you get to do. To me, running is time without the kids. It's time that's just for me. When I'm running with someone else, it's time to enjoy adult company. It's something I get to do that makes my life happier. Seriously.
  • Switch it up. This last year, the Man built me a running plan that gave me one day of interval training (speed work! yay!), one day with a timed run, and one day with a long run. Because each day was something different and each week the times and distances changed, I was much less apt to get bored or burnt out.
  • Reward yourself. Sometimes this looks like "When I've run this many miles, I get to buy a new pair of running shoes." Sometimes it's more like, "Today I'm going to humble brag on Facebook about my run and people will pat me on the back." Other times, it's knowing that you get to come home from your run to a nice glass of ice cold chocolate milk. Do not reward yourself with an entire sheet cake. You will hate yourself afterward. Just saying.
  • Give yourself a goal. Pick a race, any race. Sign up for it. Better yet, sign up with a friend. Train with or without said friend. Show up for said race. Feel awesome.
  • Figure out what you like about running. If you start every run thinking about how much you hate running, you will never learn to love it. This is true about most things in life. Maybe the only thing you ever learn to like about running is finishing a run. This is fine. When you start each run, you'll say to yourself, "I'm going to feel so great when this is over." That's legit. Personally, there are many things I like about running (and a few that I really dislike--such as the fact that it's really hard to do when you're 39 weeks pregnant and your baby dropped 3 weeks ago). You just have to pick one.
  • Find a cheerleader. Maybe the humble brag on Facebook is beneath you. I have a former running partner that I text with about my runs, and the Man is excellent about high-fiving me  and telling me I'm awesome when I get back to the house. My middle sister also does a great job cheering me on (and she's run a marathon so she always gives me something to live up to). We all need cheerleaders in our lives. If you don't have one, I'd love to be that for you. Cheering others on is one of my favorite things.
Here's my last piece of advice though, if you really want to love running and you just don't, find something else that you can love. It doesn't have to be running. Really, it doesn't. There are lots of other great options out there. Swim. Cycle. Do yoga. Try out Zumba. Be purposeful to go race around the yard with your kids more often. Running isn't for everyone. And sometimes it's just not for every season. I am not running right now. Well, not more than 25 very awkward yards at a time. And that's okay. 

Anyway, I repeat: running isn't for everyone, but you know what should be for everyone? Joi de vivre and feeling good in your own skin. So find something that helps you do that. Even if it's just frequent dance parties in your socks while you cook dinner in the evening. Because God did a really good job on you, and I think we should always celebrate that. With or without a side of running.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Purposefully Present

We're closing out birthday week today, and I am finishing up prep for our number 5 as she should arrive at some point within the next three to four weeks. It's been an interesting end of pregnancy as I've found that I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to "have it together". I'm not quite sure if it's the fact that it's number 5, so really, I should know what I'm doing at this point, or the fact that we have four other kids, so in order to decrease the chaos, I want to have things squared away, or just my typical type A tendencies, but the need to whittle down my To Do list and my ensuing inevitable frustration (because you take one item off the list only to add three more) have resulted in a fascinating study of the state of my soul.

You see: I have trouble letting go of control, which is ironic considering the fact that I'm pregnant at all this time. I want to have it all together at all times. I want my expectations to consistently line up with reality. And I forget, so very easily, that the point is not to impress others with my ability to be awesome but to bless them for God's glory.

So today, before  I try to work (again) on the homeschool planning that may or may not get finished,  before I go make Littles his apple pie, before I even manage to get out of pajamas, I'm taking time to write down what matters. Because sure, there will be days when I have to choose between meeting one child's emotional needs and two other's physical needs (and I pray to God I make the right choice), sure there will be days when the laundry just does not get finished (and, thank goodness, I married another capable adult), sure there will be days when I'm frustrated by what hasn't gotten done instead of satisfied with what has, but:

We do the best we can...and try to eagerly anticipate whatever adventure comes next.

We remember that this is not our story--it's God's--and we just get to come along and enjoy the ride.

We remind ourselves that the best way to bless others is never personal perfection but rather our purposeful presence. And sometimes in order to be purposefully present when I'm nine months pregnant, I need to stretch out on the couch with the Man's baseball cap covering my face and take a short nap. Hear, hear. Oh, yeah, and remind myself of what is true: that present always trumps perfect and that it's better to bless than impress.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Grace for the Grieving

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her... 
Isaiah 40:1a

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.
Jeremiah 31:15

We think of Christmas as a time of joy--and it is--but I think sometimes we confuse joy with happiness. Consequently, some of us get lost around this season because we don't "feel" the Christmas spirit, we don't feel happy. Sometimes this is simply because we are grieving, and we wonder how our grief fits with the joy of Christ's birth.

We see the happy little nuclear family, the baby safely delivered to his mother, the angelic celebration, the joyful visitors, and we don't know where our sense of loss is supposed to go. Maybe our nuclear family has been scattered or broken. Maybe our baby didn't have the wished for safe arrival. Maybe the friends we long to be with are separated from us by distance, disease, or death. Maybe our lives don't seem to warrant happiness at all.

But if we stop to really look at the Christmas story, maybe we can find space for our own grief. Perhaps we see pieces of it in the crushed dreams of Joseph, the fears of a young teenage mother, or, just a couple years down the road, the mass slaughter of infants as Herod seeks to eliminate a perceived threat. It is a poignant story, full of pathos coupled with an almost tremulous hope.

This year I realized a little bit more how much God is with us in our grief and loss. For the first time, I understood that when God sent Christ to earth, giving him life, he was essentially signing his son's own death warrant. I forget, sometimes, looking at the Christmas story, that Christ's birth was his first step towards the cross that saves us. I forget that as the angels sing against the back drop of blazing stars, that God was on his throne grieving the inevitable loss of his son.

I am reminded now that God is with us in our grief and loss. That is the point of him being Emmanuel, God with us. He purposefully became flesh, and therefore embraced his coming death, so that he could be with us, unseparated by the gulf of our sin. He purposefully became flesh so that one day there can be an end to these griefs and a return to wholeness.

We think of Christmas as a time of joy, a time when there seems to be no room in the inn for our grief, but Christ makes room for our sadness. He creates space for our broken heartedness. He reminds us that grief and joy are not mutually exclusive--and he comes to bring healing, to bring comfort, to bring himself to be with us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Heading Towards the Home Stretch

Preface: I realize now why I haven't been blogging the last few months. It's because this is exhausting. I wrangle four kids all day long, try to get in exercise when I can, attempt to not let the house go to the dogs, and work to have conversations with my husband that consist of more than caveman grunts all while growing someone else's eyelashes and toenails...and by the end of the day, I'm done. However, I recognize that a) there is no rest for the wicked, and b) sacrifices must be made, and c) some things are worth it.

Moving on...

The end must be drawing nigh:

  • I can't get five minutes without a child or a pet superglued to at least one of my appendages. Someone must be touching Mommy at all times because soon...she will be taken over by the interloper baby.
Case in point.
  • I keep finding that my shirts don't always completely cover the bottom of my belly. I'd be more embarrassed by this if this wasn't my fifth kid, by which I mean: the standards have dropped significantly. Sue me.
Pancakes at the kitchen counter. This is either another example
of lowered standards or just me winning at life.
  • When you have four kids already, nesting looks a little different. Sure, I've set up the nursery, washed the clothes and put them in the dresser, prepped the carseat (well, that one is still in the works--we're currently playing tetris with all the boosters and carseats in the Bus), but there is no point in washing curtains, bleaching the tub, wiping down baseboards, etc. All that work would be promptly undone before Baby even arrives. Instead, I've suddenly found myself with an unholy need to bathe all the pets, re-hang pictures, complete art projects, and just spend time with the older kids one-on-one. Oh, and also, I have plans to trim 80 fingernails/toenails and four heads of hair. Priorities.
Clean kitty, angry kitty...
  • People are starting the "any day now" comment and eyebrow wiggle...which means I still have over a month to go. It is blatantly unfair that at my height, I don't carry a little smaller. By the time I do deliver, everyone is past the "any day now" comment and eyebrow wiggle and instead moved on to the "are you having twins again?" expression of shock. It's lovely.
If I was due "any day now", could I still do this?!
  • The Man doesn't leave town on work trips without first stocking the pantry with Tim-Tams and biscotti. Hold on, let me add another note to my ever growing "Why I Married That Guy" list... He also made sure I restocked on decaf P. G. Tips. You can take the girl out of England and make sure she's only able to have minimal amounts of caffeine, but a cup of tea still fixes a whole lot of crazy. And trust me, there's a whole lot of crazy to go around right now.
Technically, this photo goes with the next blurb.
  • All the holiday parties are causing problems. Do you know how hard it is to look appropriately cute when all you want to wear are your oldest pair of tennis shoes, your husband's running tights, and the biggest, rattiest t-shirt you can find? Forget festive, I'm just trying not to scar all my husband's co-workers who are only now working on kid number one! I imagine them gazing at me in horror as the deep fear that this is where they end up next slowly infiltrates their minds.
  • I lose my train of thought halfway through at least three-quarters of my sentences, and I spent more time trying to remember the word for "baseboard" than I actually spent writing this blog. There may have been googling involved. All this means that, homeschooling has gotten extra interesting. Yesterday I gave Tiny a full explanation of the word "opaque" only to realize that it was completely wrong and I was actually defining "translucent".
Why is this face so cute?
Good thing he's only 4 and the cuteness makes up for the inability
to tell you the difference between translucent and opaque.
  • I've gotten oddly interested in non-maternity fashion...probably only because maternity clothes and I are so over each other and I'm dreaming about a time when I can get back into my normal clothes. Unfortunately, next up is the slowly deflating postpartum belly and the humongously awful nursing boobs. These kids better know how much I love them.
When Tiny decides he wants all the kids in a picture,
but the twins just aren't quite on board...
The end might be drawing nigh when I start thinking that I'd better find a blog nickname for this latest kid. Bonus Baby has such a nice ring to it, but no real long term staying power. At some point, all babies, even bonus ones, grow up. But no matter how close I am to the end of this pregnancy, I am so not close enough to be thinking about that.