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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Picture the Learning

{Warning: several unflattering pictures of me to follow. Blame Tiny who likes to steal the phone while I am otherwise occupied with Littles.}

Next week, we are finishing out yet another semester of homeschooling. Thankfully, as our semester peters out, we have less and less work. I say thankfully, because we are all still blowing out buckets of snot, our main teacher (that's me) sounds like a cross between an operatic frog and a cross-dressing chain smoker, and our other main teacher (nope, still me) is running out of steam as her pregnancy draws to a close. None of us are completely sure how next semester will go with a new baby in the house, so this is probably a good time for a little retrospective. Next semester may go to the dogs.

Really this is going to be more of a picture post with explanatory captions. Enjoy.

This is my teacher's planning book. So I feel like a real homeschool teacher. And also so that I can convince myself that we're actually learning real things and making real progress. I have delusions of grandeur.

Most of the time, this is what school looks like in our house. We do a good portion of our work slumped back on the couch, with or without the laptop (that day was a research day--let's watch the moon landing, kids!), with or without half naked twins climbing over us, with or without partially folded laundry in the works, with or without lego towers.

We use the whiteboard a lot. But I have to hide the markers when they aren't in use because otherwise the twins wreak havoc. And do you know how hard it is to get dry erase marker out of clothing? Because I do. That day we were studying Venn Diagrams. Fun times. Especially when Venn Diagrams turns into an episode of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" (We know our bad guy is tall, wears glasses, and has a beard...)

Sometimes, though, school is outside--because if you can, why don't you? That was the beginning of our gratitude pumpkin--we don't normally homeschool accompanied by giant gourds. We do, however, occasionally take breaks to play football.

Since October, we've been working on cursive. It's been painful for all involved, but especially for me--my handwriting is notoriously horrendous. Littles has threatened multiple times to desert me for a better teacher (i.e. Nana or Aunt Jo). So far no one has abandoned ship, although my sanity has been taking a leave of absence for several weeks now.

I have tried really hard, as is evident by this super concentrated tongue effort. Things are still very ugly, but we're plowing through.

Even Tiny has gotten in on the game.

We've also had some really entertaining journal entries. Like when Littles wrote that "For Neni and Aki's visit, I liked wine..."

Although some of his were inspirational. All aspiring presidents could use the reminder not to be mean. Cough::we don't talk politics on this blog::cough cough.

And we had some exciting art lessons. This was the day we studied Jackson Pollock.  Thank goodness for water based paint.

I also found some great drawing books at the library that helped the boys with their animals. Tiny did an exquisite squid and quite an accomplished ant eater, but neither photographed well, so you're stuck with Little's sea turtle. I'm digging those ultra-stylized waves.

For P.E. we play football and take walks with the dog (and inevitably get home to discover that I still have a pen stuck in my hair that had to be quickly confiscated from Bruiser earlier in the day). The boys have also been turning our home into an American Ninja Warrior course. So far no one has died. Props to me.

And most mornings it's only Trigger hiding under the covers from the start of our school day, so...I'll take it.

I will say, though, that my homeschooling philosophy is shifting somewhat. Here's why: I'm starting to realize that I just can't do it all. I know. Shocker. The truth is that most days I feel pretty good about where Littles and Tiny are scholastically. I may not be the most organized or driven homeschool mom on the face of the planet, but we're getting it done (mainly because of my type A first child).

But every once in a while I talk to another mom who tells me what her kid is doing in school and I start to panic. My kid isn't doing that. I haven't taught that concept. We haven't gone over that together. It takes every ounce of self preservation not to a) completely scratch everything we are doing and revamp our system or b) enroll my kids in whatever school system was just discussed or c) resign myself to my child hating me forever for a lifetime of imbecility. After a few deep breaths though, I remember that I'm not in this "job" to teach my child everything under the sun--because that's impossible--I'm here to teach my child how to learn. Then he can go out on his own and learn whatever it is that he actually needs.

But sometimes, I just really wish I was better at all those cute little crafty things.

Related side note: The kids and I tried making cinnamon/applesauce/glue ornaments this week. Not only did two of them crumble into oblivion at the first touch, but I totally underestimated the effect it was going to have on my over heightened sense of smell (thank you, pregnancy) even while dealing with excess mucus issues. Lesson learned.

In closing, when I told the boys I was writing about homeschooling this week, Tiny said to tell all of you that his homeschooling advice is to read everything in the whole wide world. So...we're going to get  right on that. In the meantime, may we all continue to educate our children in whatever manner is most effective for them and for our own families. Vive la diffĂ©rence!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Words of the Week

Sometimes the word of the week just happens to be "catawampus". It's not that everything is awful--worse things could've happened--but your week is just a series of one "SERIOUSLY?!" after another.

You hear weird sounds in the kitchen sink and then the toilet floods and then before you know it, the house is swamped by poop water and you're being encouraged by maintenance to make alternative arrangements for the night (which turns into two nights). One kid comes down with a cough, and then it's two kids, and then before you know it, the whole family is down for the count (and coughing their heads off in temporary lodging).

Blythe, confused, because last time she checked,
the toilet didn't belong in the front hallway.

You're late to church on Sunday and forget that you volunteered to help with child care. You lock yourself out of the house when your husband (and both house keys) are half an hour away. You rip your favorite pair of maternity jeans. Yes. You really do. And then make fat pregnant cow jokes for the rest of the week.

But you know what? Sometimes the word of the week also just so happens to be "grateful". Grateful that your husband is home and can take off work to deal with the poop flood. Grateful for kids who saw our escapades as adventures not inconveniences. Grateful for friends who provided back up. Grateful for breakfast tacos (because, let's be honest, if you can't go home and cook your own breakfast in your own kitchen--let there be tacos). Grateful that you happened to be ahead on your To Do list and your homeschooling schedule so that a couple days languishing in snot and hotel sheets don't matter quite so much. Grateful that we have maintenance guys who can dig up water mains until they find whatever it was the twins more than likely flushed down the toilet.

The younger three and the maternity jeans
that can't keep my leg muscles in...

I guess the real word of the week might've been "perspective", because by now we all know, it's rarely as bad as it could be, and there are always things to rejoice in and be grateful for--if we're willing to look for them. So, it's Thursday night, and with my head convinced that it's going to explode in a snot volcano, I am grateful for perspective on catawampus weeks.