Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thursday

We have an under the weather fellow. It's nothing too serious, just general aches, lots of sleepiness, no appetite, and a strong need to cuddle. No complaints from me about that last symptom. Audrey and I organized the heck out of her room today, which looks spectacular, and my little sick fellow slept on my bed, surrounded by his old pals, Henry and Ribsy, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and some kid-friendly Shakespeare books we bought for the kids. He'd wake up periodically, pet the snuggly kitty, read a few chapters, slurp some pedialyte, then drift off for another siesta. I remember those long, lazy days of sickness from my youth fondly, not because I was sick, but because the world slowed down just for me, or so it felt.

It is snowing snowflakes as big as my face, and a few of us cuddled under thick blankets we lovingly call "blanket heaven." Audrey made waffles for our "breakfast for supper" tonight and the scent is making me want to dive in, but I'm cutting out sugar for a while, what with the Christmas induced sugar cravings waking me up in the morning thinking that fudge is an acceptable breakfast. Isaac used his Christmas money to order a new to him bat so he's all ready for baseball season. Asher napped and the rest of us watched the last part of Return of the Jedi. Then Asher woke up and wanted snack, so I went in to help with hand washing and he screamed like I was filling a cavity minus Novocaine. Angry Toddler! Apparently hand washing goes against everything he believes in today. He worked it out, requiring lots of snuggles and some applesauce, and now we're here.

That's a little snippet of our day. It doesn't matter much. But it sure is important.

I am reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Today I read the chapter with the letter she wrote to her kids. Good grief, the tears and yeses and me, toos flowed while I read that chapter. I would like to cut and paste the whole chapter (or book) right here, but that's frowned upon by legal types. Therefore, I will instruct you to borrow or buy the book. In this chapter in particular, I love how she knows her kids make mistakes and aren't perfect, but she loves and likes them in real ways and they also bug her in real ways, too. That's life.

Jen's (I call her that, since I now know she basically resides in my head and writes about the stuff I'm thinking/worrying/laughing about.) oldest is off to college next year, so their time together as a full family under one roof will soon change into something new. We all know that will happen, but sometimes it seems sooner or more real than others.


Today is one of those days it feels closer, so we snuggle under blanket heaven, read another chapter of Little House on the Prairie, and embrace this flawed, loved, imperfectly perfect family.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

resolutions, shmesolutions

That's supposed to rhyme. Get it?

Anyway, moving on.

I am bad at resolutions. Big fail bad. And it isn't even like I make huge, life-altering resolutions with no shot at success. "I resolve to lose 8.93 pounds and win my first ever beauty pageant." "I resolve to never roll my eyes when my son tells me the same made-up, never funny knock knock joke for the 389th time today." "I resolve to only eat vegan, raw, organic, locally sourced, elk-pooh fertilized garbanzo beans every day for the next year."

Nope. I aim low and still fail.

One year I resolved to wear earrings every day. Nope. Another year I hit a new low and resolved to get dressed every day. Still nope. I mean, really, what's the point of homeschooling if you can't sit around in your pajamas every now and again? Also, my dislike of laundry AND shopping is well-documented, so it is no surprise that there are days when both of my pairs of jeans are dirty, thus making a pajama day my only option.

The point is, resolutions, shmesolutions.

Before 2015, I read about choosing a word and focusing on that for the coming year. I chose order. My grandma, also a mother of four, got a good old kick out of that one. She saw it coming; the writing was on the wall. I failed. I didn't even mean order in the sense of keeping my life orderly and my house clean. Instead, I wanted to order my priorities and live my life to obviously reflect them. Still nope.

But, quitters never win and winners never quit, so I'm back at it. A new year and a new word.



Now I'm not saying it isn't as ridiculous as order, because I fully know it is, but I'm going to give it a whirl and here's my reasoning.

My brain doesn't shut off. Never. And my mouth is nearly always running. Also, I am usually surrounded by 3-4 children with varying needs and wants who are very skilled at voicing their needs and wants. It's never quiet. I'm never quiet.

And if I'm always loud, then truth and beauty have to fight harder to get my attention. I'm tough to track down. I'm distracted. If I'm always loud, I'm not listening enough. I'm not listening enough to the people in my family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and God.

What it probably boils down to is that I decided to ditch any sort of resolution or word because who needs so many years of failing in a row, but then the word quiet just wouldn't get out of my head. I felt it heavy on my heart, like it was something I really needed to explore.

For those reasons and more, I will focus on quiet, both internally and externally. I will spend time, just with me, exercizing, reading, journaling, and studying the bible. I don't do any of those things enough and they all fill me up, but instead of carving out time to do them, I run around on empty. I will also work to listen more and talk less, think more and speak less, read and write more and facebook less, pause more and teact less, consider more and shout less.


My chances of success aren't great, given my sketchy history, but I'm going for it with baby steps.

Do you have a resolution, word, or goal for the New Year? Do you think a homeschooling mom of four has any chance at at making "quiet" happen? :)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Silent Night

The candles are passed around and lit, the lights are dimmed, and the song starts.

The kids look at me, nudging each other, because they know I'm crying like I did last year and the year before and like I'll do next year, too.

I'm crying tears of despair at babies washed ashore as families flee. I'm crying tears of sadness at lives cut short or families struggling. I'm crying tears of happiness because I am surrounded by these people I love in this community that feels more like home most days. I'm crying tears of awe as I stand in a dark church, the people I love holding small flames, lighting up the darkness. Proclaiming, in the face of hate and anger and war and famine, that love wins. God's goodness, mercy, and love win.

The candles are a metaphor for everything I have to believe in to keep myself from falling off the deep end.

Love wins. The beauty, goodness, and kindness of the world is more powerful than the hatred and anger. Good shall overcome. Good is overcoming now.

I forget those things. I worry. I cry.

And then I stand in a crowded church, the moonlight streaming in, the light of our candles streaming out, and I am renewed.

May our light continue to stream out. May it overpower the darkness. May love win in big and small ways.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Toys R Us or Time? Which gift will they remember?

We don't buy our kids a ton of gifts. For starters, we have four kids, a puppy, a cat, and one income. You do the math. There's also the fact that we want holidays to be about more than gifts. And we are doing our best to not raise entitled jerks. One of our kids went through this lovely phase where kid would open a gift, tear open next gift, get to last gift, and ask, "Are there more?" What a joy. (sarcasm!) We had some conversations and some consequences to nip that greedy behavior in the bud. Hopefully we won't relive it with Asher, but I won't be surprised if he does because kids don't come with instruction books, but they do need instruction.

We all know that time with our kids, attention, phone down, head up love is the gift our kids want, need, and will remember. Those are the gifts that will build relationships and grow love, not the new designer jeans or the mounds and mounds of gifts surrounding and dwarfing the tree. We all know it, but studies show that, despite our knowledge, we spend a boatload of money on gifts. This year the websites show we'll spend between $830-$1,270 on gifts and an average of $270 per kid. That doesn't count special dinners, new outfits, decorations, groceries for cookies, and all of the other things we think we must do every year.

On Saturday, I was wrapping up gifts for our kids. For the record, our kids want for nothing. They are clothed and fed and sheltered and loved. (I will readily admit that they often have really short pants because they just grow so fast, but they are clothed!) Yet I found myself buying into the hype. The beautiful packages, aglitter and bedazzled, and every last item on the long wish list checked off to ensure big smiles and lasting memories on Christmas morning. I found myself disappointed in the gifts were are giving, in the quantity. I imagined my kids disappointed.
(Not our house!)
I was lying to myself, believing the commercials and the consumerist hype. I was imagining that every kid would have more gifts than mine and they would be disappointed. I was being an idiot. That happens more often than I'd like to admit.

The truth is that the reason that our family celebrates Christmas is to honor Jesus and the beauty, peace, and love that his most unlikely of births brought and will bring to our world. We play games and sing carols and spend as much time with family as we can. We go to church and read from the bible, as well as lots of other Christmas books. We slow down, make fewer plans, and hibernate for a bit.

Most years our kids get three gifts from Jim and me. We joke that if three gifts were good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for our kids. Each kid also gets one gift from the other three siblings and one gift from Santa, for a total of five. Last month we got a new cat, nobly named Chandler Bobcat, and he required some rather expensive purchases, so we told the kids that Chandler was one of their gifts. They were over the moon about it, and it makes sense financially, yet there I sat, wrapping two gifts, feeling crummy.
Our sweet and snuggly Chandler boy
I posted about it on facebook, thinking that maybe others might be feeling the same way. I also shared this.
Because this is the truth. Most gifts will be forgotten, a new deposit in the land fill at some point in the distant, or even not-so-distant, future.

I also shared that we are giving each kid a calendar and an envelope full of special moments to share with just one parent. With four kids and two grown-ups, and one-grown up when Jim is traveling and traveling some more, one-on-one time is a hot commodity and a true gift for everyone involved.

A few people asked for more details, so here it is. We will give each child a wall calendar that matches their room or interests them. Audrey is getting a beach calendar to match her new beach mural and the boys are getting a baseball stadium calendar and a MN Twins calendar because they share a room and love baseball.

Isaac's calendar to write down our special dates
Along with the calendar, each kid will get an envelope full of special activities or fun surprises. Some examples are Pick a breakfast, picnic, ski day with dad, movie date, trip to the used book store, game of catch in the front yard, back rub before bed, hike, special braid, and bike ride. The best part is that it's one kid and one parent. I might be more excited about this than they'll be. Every time I have the chance to spend time with just one kid, I remember again just how much I sincerely like my kids, in addition to loving them like a crazy woman. Sometimes loving them is the easy part, so those reminders are much appreciated.
Isaac's list of fun parent/Isaac activities
There are many ways to celebrate and many reasons to celebrate Christmas. There are many ways to show love. Sometimes I think my ways aren't quite enough.
But then I think about what mattered to me growing up and what continues to matter now. I cherish the car rides looking at Christmas lights, the lefse making, the movies watched, the hours upon hours spent playing cards and board games, the living room dance parties, and the laughter.

Grandma said we looked like a field of flowers-Thanksgiving


Lefse making. The end product was our first failure at lefse, but we sure had fun.

beauty

hand, foot, and knee card game

ginger bread contest

books to remember why we celebrate
backwards plank sledding

silly matching pj pictures

Pure silly

Asher posed every single way we told him to. 

Jump!!

Searching for a Christmas tree

Cookies at nana's and babu's house







holiday parade of lights in Denver

Asher combined both of our nativity scenes for a big party for baby Jesus

Our small, up on lifts, Christmas tree, appropriately named Prince Malachi Cruise

Another beautiful snowy day, just perfect for sledding

A gingerbread house birthday party at a friend's house

cookie time

unwrapping kisses

Those are the things I want my kids to remember, too. Not the latest gadget or the most stylish jacket. The time. The laughter. The love.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Family Dinner Book Club

In a perfect blogging world, which is a world I have never and will never inhabit, I would have come up with this idea on my own. In a semi-perfect blogging world, our family would participate in this each month and I would take ah-maaaaazing pictures with a pristine, white background with my kids wearing matching monogrammed clothes.

In the real world, right here on the planet earth, I will share this wonderful idea with you, (hopefully) join in on the reading adventure each month, hope you'll join the fun, and maybe, just maybe, blog about it. If there are pictures in the blog, my kids' clothes won't match, mine might, and none of the boys' hair will be brushed. You'll see dirty laundry and/or unfolded blankets and/or dirty dishes in the background. True story, folks.

So, without further ado, I introduce to you: Idea I Wish I'd Thought Of.

Each month the family reads a book together, alternating between chapter book and picture book, and then picks a night to have a themed dinner and easy table crafts to go along with the book. The genius behind the blog Growing Book by Book also gives conversation starters related to the book AND a family service project that compliments the title. Can you even stand it? I am in love with this idea for a few reasons.

A: I love reading, cooking, talking, and serving with my kids, so this combines most of my favorite parts of parenting. (Now I just need to find someone to clean the kitchen, spit spot.)
B: I don't have to think of a darn thing.
C: It's free.
D: I don't need a D. This is so exciting. A-C is plenty for me!

The kids and I have read many of these, but I look forward to exploring them in new ways and getting introduced to new books. My kids range in age from nearly 12 (aaaahhhhh!!!!) to 2, but I know a good picture book will draw in the older kids, not to mention adults, so we're all going for it.

Who's in? If you're in, what book are you most excited about?

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 11, 2015

a haircut

Some things just need to be documented. Take, for instance, Asher's haircut earlier this week. All three boys needed haircuts or a surgery to have their eyeballs lowered since they could barely see. Off to cheap haircut spot we went. An older man was getting his haircut and Asher wanted to know his name. By that, I mean he asked me 35,032 times, "What his name? What that man name? What his name, mama?"

Finally I responded, "I don't know. Maybe George."

"His name George. Hi, George." And from then on, that man was George. "George" finished up, paid, and went on his  merry way, when another older gentleman came in. "Oooh, mama, look. There another George." The whole place is laughing by now because Asher, looking spiffy in his brand new haircut, is a hoot, making buddies with everyone, whether or not their names were George. All the hair cutters loved him and the woman waiting for three boys to get haircuts was making googly eyes at him and waving.

We went to pay, requesting no suckers, so the woman gave us four stickers. Isaac is not into stickers these days, being the ripe old age of almost 12 (gasp, gag, huh?, gasp!), so we had an extra. Audrey tried to give the extra to Asher, but he walked up to the woman waiting and said, "You want my star sticker?"

She smiled, looked at me like she was in love and would kidnap my kid in a heartbeat, and said, "I think I need to wait to get a sticker until after my haircut."

Asher thought about it, walked around a bit, then came back to her. "You want my star sticker? You can have my star sticker." (big brown eyes, beseeching her to please, ma'am, take the sticker.)

Come on. How are you going to resist that? She couldn't. There was a 60+ year old woman sitting in cheap haircut spot, sporting a bright silver star on her black sweater. Her smile matched the star as she beamed.


This is what kids do. They love people and make people smile. They also fill their diapers, spill a lot of water, and need plenty of reminders about picking up toys. But, generally speaking, they do a bang up job of loving and lifting up other people.

I want to get on my high horse, because I'm angry and sad and heartbroken about a lot of big things, but I'm not going to.

I'm just going to say Be Nice. It matters.

Smile at people. Give them stickers. Wave. Give compliments. Hug. Cry when people are crying. Look for our similarities and build on them. Share your brownies. Lift each other up.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Heartbroken. Again.

Do you always, always, always have that gnawing worry in the pit of your stomach?

Why do we keep hurting each other? Not hurting each other. Stubbed toes hurt. Paper cuts hurt. Being called stupid hurts. We are outright gunning each other down. Massacring each other.

Picking up a gun to kill someone, much less multiple people, isn't anywhere on my list of possible actions. It doesn't register as an option for me.

It's true; I think about what I would do if someone hurt my child. I say I would want to kill them with my bare hands. But that's not a real possibility. As much as I hate violence, sexual predators, and murder, I respect life and love and humanity even more.

I don't know. I just came here to shed a few tears with people. To kind of wrap my arms around you and feel your arms around me as we mourn and shake our heads and wonder what we do next. To wipe our tears and decide to make new connections and forge new relationships to try to be the person who notices someone is off or overhears a conversation about violence. To mentor youth. To raise our kids with love and respect and consequences. To be champions for mental health care. To never stop caring, even when it hurts. To never stop fighting, even when it seems useless.

What are we going to do, you guys? Really. What are we going to do?