Friday, August 28, 2015

"A Failure of Imagination"-A Must Read Essay

This is a rich, incredible essay on life and it's sanctity by Sarah Clarkson.  I don't think I've ever read anything as powerful-every paragraph-as this one.

"I am convicted, as I encounter the Planned Parenthood debacle, that one of the best ways I can affirm and defend the value of the unborn child is to create a narrative in my action and words that affirms my belief that children are a gift from God. I hope that these undercover videos will provoke, not just outrage and anger, but a renewed commitment to lives, homes, and creative works that celebrate children, make room for them, affirm their value not just as infants but at every stage of growth. I hope that we embrace anew the hard and beautiful work of raising, training, educating, watching, and caring for the children in our lives with love, grace, and verve. And I hope that we learn to invite those who have never tasted the beauty of childhood into the stories we create."
Sarah Clarkson

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Toddlers Tips Introduction

I am going to do a little series here and there this year on a handful of toddler tips and tricks I've learned along the way.  I owe much of this learning to my mother and mother-in-law who have taught me in so many ways how to love this stage, sharing their education, experience, and their tips. Their love of children, at all ages, has been a gift to me, and I am forever grateful.

I adore toddlers.  I know that many parents feel that they have to "survive" toddlerhood and we've all heard the "terrible two's" phrase hundreds of times.  But I think toddlers are the funniest, cutest, cuddliest, most irresistible little guys ever and I've always said, it will be a sad day for me with no toddler in the house.

That is not to say raising a toddler is a breeze.  It requires quick thinking, an art really, a skill to handle this wondrous stage of development.  There are times when toddler behavior is frustrating, we all have had bad days, when we just don't have a drop of patience left.  I've had plenty of those days also.  This is such an important time in a child's life.  They are growing and changing so quickly, too quickly for themselves.

It is most certainly a stage in parenting that requires more energy from us. They place a huge amount of trust in us, their parents, and we must try to understand their little minds, but also be a leader to them.  If not, we confuse them, and make them miserable and ourselves miserable in the process. The thing is-it's easy now when they are little, believe it or not. They trust us, adore us, and we have total control over their lifestyle, their environment and their schedule.

If we are willing to learn about what is going on in their brains and bodies, and adapt our lifestyle as much as we can, we can have toddlers who are generally happy, joyful children.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Coming Home-Miranda's Story


God’s provision for the hearts desire of His daughters is as luxurious as it is sufficient. His interest in meeting our deepest needs is intimate, specific and perfect.

I should begin by saying that I was certain I never wanted to be a stay at home parent. Never wanted to own a minivan and never thought I would have three children in three years. Three boys, one Honda Odyssey and the second anniversary of my vocation as full time mother reveals how wonderful it is to be wrong. When I survey the landscape of my life at this moment and consider my days spent with my sons, I am humbled by the satisfaction I feel even in the midst of rampant chaos, diapers, trains, messes and superheroes.

Maybe it is in the ‘nevers’ that God reveals His creativity and also His gentle hand. He rarely forces us to move, but waits patiently as He authors change in our lives, softly nudging us in the right direction. The truth is I had a completely wrong and probably immature vision of what it meant to be at home and this vision was colored by fear. Specifically, I was afraid that I would become unimportant or invisible or one dimensional or worse – that my children would know I wasn’t satisfied being with them and wanted more. What if it wasn’t really ‘different’ when they are your own kids? What if some women are just made to yearn for motherhood and home life and I wasn’t built like that?

The reality of having my first two children 14 months apart and working full time was absolute madness. Pumping before work to ensure the baby had enough to get him through eight hours of daycare and then again four times daily in my office, hiding from the glass door separating my modesty with the outside world. If either boy fell ill, the catastrophic ripple effect caring for them had on my business schedule seemed like the end of the earth. The ridiculous image of my evenings with my boys makes me shake my head and laugh in near disbelief. Perched on our kitchen stool, I would hold the pump to myself with one hand, balance the baby on my knees with a bottle held to his mouth by my chin, and periodically chuck bananas chunks onto my toddlers neighboring highchair tray. Roughly 90 minutes a day was all I had to cherish them in and this time was filled with dinner, bath and bed, then it was off to answer endless emails, plan events and travel. I could never savor any moment with them because each minute was a task and segue to the next to-do on my list.

Ten days before I was to return to work after my second son was born, my heart caught in my throat as I considered the approaching date. It was out of nowhere as though all of a sudden I realized I would have to again part with this small one I had just met. With my first, I was so caught up in the learning of parenting and balancing work and daycare and pumping that I didn’t have to feel the separation. I ignored the feeling this time around, passing it off as cold feet, but in the months that followed even my coworkers could tell I wasn’t really myself anymore. 40 plus hours in office, night programs, travel and so much email to devour me every night. My oldest would come home calling me by the daycare providers name and though she was dear, she simply wasn’t me. One night at swim lessons, my husband and son in the pool, I watched two women chatting on a nearby bench and felt a foreign emotion – envy. They were stay at home moms and I envied what they had – time. I couldn’t fathom having a third child – a hope of ours – when I could barely spend time with the two we had. I was losing heart. No one ever says when they’re old that they’re so glad they had less children and spent more time at the office. Was this really the story I wanted to live?   

Every ‘coming home’ story entwines itself with a ‘staying put’ story. Our God is the ultimate multi-tasker working revision and refinement in the hearts of all family members impacted by a mother’s decision to spend her days raising tiny humans. Mine is no exception.  Months passed before I sat my husband down and said, “I can’t do this anymore. Please could we consider a part time option?” I’ll never forget the look in his eyes – fear. He spoke to me with a tone of ‘how could you do this to us’ in his voice solely because his desire to provide everything our family needs is so strong. We both had felt that dual income and having a life outside children was best and now I was standing on the edge of the boat, making a jump to swim for shore, and changing everything. This completely rocked the foundation of our family structure. Months of talks, prayers, and tears revealed that there would be no part time option. And this gave way to the most intimate of moments in our marriage. He looked me in the eye and said one the bravest things he may ever speak, “I want to give you what you want. I’m just scared.” My strong man, my superhero, shaken to his core as God called my heart to come home and beckoned him to stay his course, man his post and be the sole provider for our family. My respect for him deepened beyond measure that night as it has for all men and women who uphold the needs of their families with their time, talents and energy. 

I left my office on June 3rd, 2013, and standing there on the front steps, every cell in my body felt deep freedom. Finally, how I spent the minutes of my life would match my heart’s priorities.

These two years at home have been many things: rewarding, desperately painful, satisfying, deeply lonely, refining and adventurous. Building relationships with my children, carving out a rhythm that nourishes, defining us as a family and myself as a mother are all journeys in their own right. Yet even at its worst, God steadied my heart and not once did I consider coming home a mistake. When my third son was born in 2014, something was noticeably missing: a ticking clock. This was the first time a new person was welcomed to our family and the deadline of work’s hostile takeover wasn’t a threat.

We possess a brilliant brevity in our souls – this short burst of time God has given us to dwell and thrive on this earth. Owen, Graeme and Colin, and their daddy, William, have my heart and my days. And now I have new ‘nevers.’ I never question the value of my presence in their lives. I never wonder if anyone else could care for them better. I never think my time could be better spent elsewhere. I am home. My Father granted my hearts desire beyond my asking.  

- Miranda Warder

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What We Are Reading

A rhyming book (I love rhyming books) about the school bus and the animals boarding it.  Janey loves this book (as did Patrick, Andrew and Mattew-thanks mom!), I read it again and again to her.

I am reading this book chapter by chapter to Patrick (7) before bed.  It is survival story of a young boy left to fend for himself, and he encounters many adventures and problems along the way.  The chapters are short, and the story moves quickly, which is perfect to hold attention.  And the cover is scary, which counts for everything.

Andrew (11) is reading this book-a book that my older kids enjoyed also when they were his age. This is how he described it, "A group of people, orphans and runaways, saw an ad to pass a few very difficult tests.  Then they have a choice to go on a secret mission if they pass."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Guard Your Time

I am republishing this as most of us are sending our children off to school and going to parent meetings and facing sign-up sheet-just a little reminder!

A couple weeks ago I had to go to a quick meeting after school for a first grade activity that involved a family feast.  I was assigned to make a part of a meal and we volunteers all met with the teacher for a quick "go over".  I sent my older kids home on the bus, just for routine sake, and because they are old enough to be home for a few minutes.  Of course I had my trusty helper Patrick by my side.

One of the moms there had a little baby in a car seat, 2 little ones, and was picking up her first grader. The baby had been peacefully sleeping, and some of the other kids (like kids do) woke him up to "see the baby".  Her little toddlers were being little toddlers and she tried to keep track of them and attend the meeting at the same time.  She look frazzled, tired and overwhelmed.

It brought back SO many memories, because that was once me.

I remember the amount of work it took to organize naps and nursing times, to show up for a meeting at school or someone's house, or to drop off a snack that I was signed up for, or to show up in a classroom.  It hardly ever seemed to go smoothly for me and never as easy as I thought it would be.

It often meant that the entire nap/nursing/snack/dinner schedule was thrown off for the rest of the day, or sometimes even days.  It meant I had to find something decent to wear, and find the time somewhere to put on some makeup and brush my hair.  It meant that I had to make sure each child had a snack in him/her, to prevent breakdowns. It meant I had to look at my watch all morning long.  It meant that I usually ended up sweating buckets carrying a 40 pound car seat, and a toddler who refused to walk, into a stuffy classroom, or drive across town to someone's house. 

I always felt very obligated to do all I could to help...I didn't want anyone to say, "Oh she never does anything."  I felt like my kids would have this huge gap in their childhood if I wasn't participating regularly at their in-school activities. 

As I added my 4th and 5th child to the family, I let ALL of that go.  I gave myself permission to NOT sign up for things, I gave myself permission to be OK with letting school be school, and not a parent participation contest, I gave myself permission to know myself, and know my babies, and know my family...what I can't handle, what is too disruptive for our little thriving schedule, what I just don't want to's all OK. 

Here's what I want to tell my younger self, and all of you who may be experiencing the same struggles I did:

1. Whether you have one child, or two, or five, remember that their are times and seasons of your life, where you are "allowed" to step back and just survive day to day without adding more to your plate. 

2. Be confident in having the knowledge that only you and you alone can decide when your family can handle any extra commitments. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.  Offer to do what you can do easily...that means with no stress.

4. Don't compare yourself with others.  What one person seems to handle with ease (notice the "seems" part), is maybe not what you can handle.  We all have different talents, and we all have different stresses and thresholds.  We also all have different support systems behind the scenes.

5. Be kind to yourself and in spite of what the world tells us all today, do not underestimate how much work it is to be a mom, just by itself, without all the extra things we feel pressured to do today. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Extraordinary Days

In these two weeks:
Matt started sophomore year
Andrew and Patrick will begin first and sixth
Janey celebrates her third birthday (can you believe it?)
Andrew celebrates his twelfth
we drop Abbey off for her first year at college
Isaac drives himself to his last year of college.

I am tired from an intense summer and must pull this all off.

A friend asked me earlier this month how I feel about dropping Abbey off, and honestly, I'm emotional, but it seems in this house (and moms of large families please does it seem this way to you?) everything happens all at once.  (Remember when I gave birth to Janey the night we dropped Isaac off at college the first time, which happened to be Andrew's birthday?) I want to savor the moments, I don't want to live always thinking of that "next thing" I have to do, but sometimes I do have to check off my list, and move on to the next event.

I told this friend that I feel like it's all a blur sometimes. I have a hard time really contemplating any of it at this pace, and I am hesitant about feeling too emotional when faced with each transition. Really, I am afraid I would just cry straight for weeks at how fast my children are growing up and leaving this house and that would be bad on my sinuses if not a little emotionally disturbing for the children. It would also inhibit me from moving to the next need down the line.

I was feeling guilty about that-that blurry feeling, that on-to-the-next-thing mentality-and then I had a revelation:

God knows what is best for me.

As much as I wish I had more time to dwell on this event and that emotion, I need to accept that I am not a bystander, I am the conductor, the hostess, the producer-yes, in these roles one can enjoy one's work, and have wonderful moments, but they have a duty and an obligation to fill that weighs heavy.

I realized in a split second that God knows what is best for me-he knows that I need to move forward, to not dwell, to keep my hands and heart and mind busy, which is why He gave me these six children, and many chores and responsibilities when there are big life changes.

It does and will continue perhaps to happen all at once around here, maybe that is the nature of having a big family and this is His way of protecting me from myself and deep emotion.  It will fly by, this life of mine, but I am here in the thick of it. When I realized this, I felt the pressure lift off and began to feel calmer, and stronger, and filled with gratitude for this incredible role I have been assigned. He has given me the work I need to move forward, and He supplies me with the strength to handle it all.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Good Book

I haven't been a great reader this summer, in spite of my big intentions, but I am so glad I didn't return this book before I read it. It was excellent and made me see some things in a different light.  I love when books do that.

Bloodroot is a story of three generations, a cycle of poverty and abuse and mental illness, but also love and magic and salvation set in Appalachia.  It is seeing a way of life behind the eyes of those living it-the humanity, the beauty, the sense of knowing nothing different but needing love to fill holes in the heart.    

Amy Greene in an interview said this, "I also thought about the possibility of hopelessness as a kind of legacy, generation after generation accepting destitution as their lot in life because it’s all they’ve ever known. But while history and the passage of time do play important roles in this story, the familial bond of the characters mattered more to me. It transcends the changing world around them--the landscape changes, their circumstances change, people move in and out of their lives. But their blood ties are permanent."

The story is easy to read-excellent storytelling that flows, and the content is not-sometimes heartbreaking, but it has closure and a beautiful ending.