Wednesday, April 2, 2014

First Things First


Noelle is ninety. And amazing. She knows all of my children's names and can match them to their faces. She speaks several languages fluently. When my husband starts quoting a verse in the Sunday School lecture, he can see her mouthing the words before he says them. She asks pointed questions that invite illumination, and her answers to questions impart it.




So when I saw her handing out a Bible reading plan at the first of the year, I wasn't shy. "Noelle, can I have one of those?" She eagerly handed me the folded bookmark and answered in the affirmative with that musical lilt that is her voice.

"And Noelle?" I hesitated. "How do you make yourself DO it? I've probably read Genesis ten times now, given how many times I vow to do it and then falter a month into it."




"Oh," she said. "I know about that. But I decided that I was not going to read ANYTHING else each day until I had read my Bible."

And that was it. It may have been the lighting in the narthex, but truly her white hair was shimmering.

But of course. If something is a priority, then it comes first, right? So just ... make it come first.

I am proud to say that I'm almost done with the Book of Joshua. I'm 3 days behind, but that's only because of my own foolhardy reasoning and deviating from the plan. And I'm looking forward to righting that tonight.

I've found that, just as with many other things, the more I do it, the easier it is and the more enjoyable it is! I actually look forward to spending time in the Word and shoving aside "other" reading (ahem, you Laptop Temptress, you...).



I've been a solid reader for over thirty years. And for over thirty years, I have hemmed and hawed and been flummoxed over reading my Bible.

Which, really, is predictably stupid. If you want to make something come first, make it come...first.

Thank you, Noelle.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Because matching socks is a mathematical endeavor



They want to know. Why do we have to do math? When are we EVER going to use this?

And I absentmindedly give them a halfhearted answer about doubling recipes, and balancing checkbooks, and surveying land.


They call me out on that last one, and I wisely submit that they have no idea what they're going to grow up to be. They could all end up surveyors.


Only, they answer, for sure we won't. Not if we have to do math.




It's later, when I'm matching socks and turning pant legs right-side-out, that I remember.

People get married, and then there's the honeymoon, and then when the diapers stink and the taxes are due and "What can you make with half a pack of lunchmeat and some craisins?" -- well, there's fine daydreaming in those honeymoon memories. Remember when we rented the luxury vehicle? Remember when you ordered the coq au vin, and I ordered dessert? Remember sleeping in until noon, going out for lunch, then counting our wedding money?


Figure out 9x15 now, so when you're my age, you can remember a time when problems had answers . . . and if they didn't, there was always the back of the book.




Arithmetic, and algebra, and calculus, these are your mental honeymoon. These are your chance to say, "Aha! I know the answer!" and be right. And later, these will provide the sweet memories of a time when wrong answers were safe and a feeling of exhilaration accompanied the successful working out of a problem.

You may never need to remember how to find the circumference or how to figure out how long the train took or what difference a differential makes.

But you may need to remember that all the size 4 "Cars" underwear is the 5-yr. old's, except for the one pair with fire coming from the back of Lightning McQueen...that's the 4-yr. old's that came in his varied Disney pack.



And you may need to remember that all the socks with three stripes belong to the 8-yr. old. The 5-yr. old gets the ones with two stripes, and the baby gets the ones with 1 stripe.

Somewhere in there, your mental acuity will need to be present enough to remember who wore the Old Navy tunic dress last, because the 8-yr. old and the 7-yr. old girls take turns with that one.

And really, for our family, Grandma's Crustless Quiche recipe should be multiplied by three but split into only two pans.

Seven cookies split between nine children with teeth equals 7/9 of a cookie each. But to make that easier, split all the cookies in half. Then everyone can have a half of a cookie. Now there are 5 halves left. Split those in half. Everyone can have one half, and the extra half goes to whoever first grabs the broom to sweep the floor.

And I know you don't believe me, but sometimes I envy you with your math book. A few tears shed, a few minutes sticking to the task, and then the joyous, "I'M DONE!!!" and racing to find your boots and coat.

Math envy. Is there such a thing?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Joy

I woke Christmas morning to a small face at my ear, whispering in a slightly nasal tone: "I wet the bed, Mama. [Pause.] Merry Christmas."

And, oddly enough, that was a wonderful start to the holiday. Just one of those remembrances that has kept me chuckling every time I imagine him tiptoeing down the hall, thinking to himself, "Now what were the two things I needed to tell Mama? Oh, yes..."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Be Glad


Twelve years ago, I was a struggling mother. I was struggling because I had a fussy newborn who didn't know you could safely be awake and not nursing. I didn't understand about dairy and newborns, and this constant nursing led to constant fits of crying. I was crying because my baby was constantly crying, and he was crying because his tummy hurt.

And also, he was crying because he was a baby.

We only had one vehicle for the first 8 months of Benjamin's life. Ethan would drive that vehicle into work, and I would stay home on this huge plantation where we rented a little modular home. For eight months, I had nowhere to go but the petting zoo and the strawberry patch and the river and the farm market, where they sold freshly made pumpkin donuts.

With Aunt Jamie, Aunt Michelle, and Mama on the farm
Every day, I would strap this fussy baby on and walk all the way around the farm. He would cry, and I would sing, because no one could hear me out there in the country. Eventually he would calm down and fall asleep. I would walk back to "the trailer" (what everyone called it) and ease him onto the couch and sip a wine cooler while he slept. That was a hot winter (80 degrees in November!), and those twenty minutes before he woke were the best part of my days. I would scurryfunge the house (took all of ten minutes in that little place!) and play Ethan's Harry Connick, Jr. CD. (Did someone give him this CD? I don't know, but I can't imagine him buying it and I sure loved it!)

Then Benjamin would wake, and I would nurse and console and walk around the house with him, doing the "Indian walk" that my Aunt Thelma taught me as a way of dealing with fussy babies. (Basically, you walk a few steps then lunge as if you are falling. It stops a crying baby in his tracks! And also, it gives your quads an incredible workout.) Every couple of minutes I would look at the clock, and then I'd walk some more, and then I'd look at the clock, and then I'd walk some more.

Those days were so, so long.

I felt alone, and incompetent, and frumpy, and frustrated.

We had six married months before we were expecting Benjamin. Those six months were fraught with busy-ness and exasperating work (we both taught) and dreams of what we would do when we were "off" for the summer.



And then, BOOM! We were starting a family.

Only it took a while for me to accept that we were "starting a family." It took a good, oh, two years after Ben was born. It felt more like we were "ending a couple." No more freedom to be spontaneous. ("Go shopping? OK. Let me nurse him and change his diaper and check the diaper bag and can you get the head support for the car seat and...")

Even a few children into our family, we were still talking about "Some Day." Some Day we would travel, Some Day we would exercise regularly, Some Day we would have people over for dinner.

Still living on the farm. Sweet, sweet memories!
And I'm not quite sure how it happened, but one day we realized that "Some Day" was an evasive illusion, a chasing after the wind.

There are good and valid Some Days, I think. Some Day we will see Christ face to face. Some Day we will hear no more crying. Some Day we will be glorified.

Christmas in Alaska with Ethan's sisters and mom, who is taking the picture.
We were so young!
But the satisfaction, the contentment, the joy that comes with realizing that THIS is the Day that the Lord has made...not Some Day of my own conjuring that never comes to fruition...this is such freedom!

Each child, each interruption to the moment, each deviation from our plan? Well. They are part of Today! They are part of this day that the Lord has made! They are part of His crafting of my life and my days.

Instead of pining away for what may never be, it is truly most satisfying to long for what will be and superimpose that on my day. Let's live like people who will see Christ face to face!

It is also most satisfying to long for what is. I've already been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me! (Gal. 2:20) I long for Him to live in me...and He does!

Perhaps one of the greatest realizations I had practicality-wise as a young mother was that I was going to have to live this life, so I might as well learn to love it. Cooking meals every day? Yep. So let's check out some cookbooks from the library and some cooking shows online. Let's figure out how to do this thing. Laundry dried and folded? Yep. So let's see if we can get this done by noon each day (I can't anymore, but that's OK!). House able to be walked through without hazard? Yep. So let's check out Flylady and Pleasant View Schoolhouse and Like Mother, Like Daughter and Edith Schaeffer. Homeschooling? Yep. So I would head over to Large Family Logistics (her old blog, which sadly is no more, but much of that blog can be found in her book, and you do NOT have to be a large family to find many gems there!) and Susan Schaeffer Macauley and Gregg Harris.

Looking back, there were two very providential factors in those early days as a mother. The first was that I had to stay home, and the second was that we had a dial-up Internet connection. You could only get so many pages to load before your patience totally ran out and you were done for the day. Which was good! I would load a page, read it and be inspired, and get off the computer.

Ahem.

So how's that for mixed advice? Get on the computer to get help, and get off the computer to get help! Well, yes.

So I'm still a struggling mother. I struggle to use my time wisely. I struggle to stay away from the Internet, which ever beckons me... I struggle to bite my tongue instead of lashing out about the freshly mopped floor. ("GUYS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? If the floor only gets mopped once a year, you very well better stay off it for at least a week!")




But I really don't struggle with this being my life, not like I used to. I'm not resigned, either. Far from it! I love this life and these children and even our challenges. I love figuring out how to do this life and this laundry and sarcasm from a pre-teen (wherever did he get that? Pardon me while I wipe the floor. My sarcasm is dripping.)

I have been given so much. Longing for the way things were, for Egypt and the slavery...is foolishness! This is what God has chosen, and that means it HAS to be the best way!

"This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24-25).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Outer Banks, Large Family Style


Well hello there, Much Neglected Blog. You and Laundry Room should talk! (I guess Front Porch, too, but as it's not the main entrance it's easiest to just pretend it isn't there...at least, that's what I do.)

So.



We did get a vacation this year. We decided to spend a full two weeks but not travel as far as we have in the past to get to our vacation destination. So to the Outer Banks we went, and it was a breeze of a trip (only 5 hours, which is totally doable without meltdowns!), the weather was delightful (I may be sold on late September vacations now!), and I have decided the beach is GREAT to visit but boy, am I glad I live in the mountains.



And isn't that the perfect vacation? You have fun but are rarin' and ready to be HOME, possibly even before the vacation has officially ended.


Which brings me to another point. Or maybe just "a" point, since I'm not quite sure I could detect a first point.

This. Vacationing as a large family, and a large family with one newborn and one ornery 18-mo. old, requires a bit of strategy.

We have the unique distinction of being the largest number of passengers that Charlie the Ox has ever pulled. Also, here I learn that "ox" just means "cow bull (sheesh, Ben!) that has been taught to work." How did we just finish all of the Little House books and still I totally missed this?
 And mostly, the strategy is this: Let's talk about what we expect from our vacation, and then let's cut those expectations by about a third.


When you tell someone, "We are going to the beach for a vacation," they picture beach chairs and boogie boards and magazines and margaritas and lounging.

Perhaps we should qualify: "We are going to the beach for a vacation. But we are still taking the children, so you know, there's THAT."



What WE expect from a vacation:

1) Papa will not be officially working. Oh, he might be gathering information for future sermons/Sunday Schools/other occasions, but he won't be leaving to go into church every day. He will be with us. So TOGETHERNESS.


2) People will still need to eat and still need clean clothes. So meals and laundry will still need to get done. It's best to just acknowledge that and deal with it head-on in an efficient, cheerful manner instead of pretending we're on a honeymoon with ten stowaways.

It would be a bummer honeymoon, anyway.



3) While we are going to "the beach," very little of our time will actually be spent at "the beach." Most of our children are not yet strong swimmers. It is impossible for two adults to rescue nine drowning children, especially if one of them has a three-month old attached to her.


4) There will be splurges. Coffee is one of them. Daily. And not the brewed-from-the-pot kind. We had to decide between risking damage to our espresso machine or leaving it at home and being OK with splurging.

We were OK with splurging.

5) We're making memories. No one wants a memory of us sitting around the beach house quietly while babies nap. (Oh, all right, so I can't get anyone else to want that memory...) So while there will be some of that, there will be times when it's just Mama doing that, and there will be times when we are not doing that; but Papa and Mama will be considerably more tired after outings that took the place of naptime. Your naptime is for our rejuvenation! And while coffee is a great balm, it is not a cure-all.

We need to be armed and ready for when naps must be missed. How to be ready: snacks, snacks, snacks, and snacks. Good music in the van. Coffee for Papa and Mama!


6) We will explore. Oddly enough, some of our best family memories are of driving around, finding new spots. Case in point: Manteo. Oh, Manteo, Manteo, wherefore art thou Manteo? Why did no one tell us about Manteo? Ocracoke can ocrachoke and Nagshead can go to bed, but Manteo was a delight! Oh, the cute downtown, the Bluegrass Festival, the ice cream by the library, the Island Farm, the aquarium, Festival Park, the old homes, the pumpkin spice lattes...




7) If you are a large family, and we are, expect to be gawked at like you're part of the exhibit. We even had a man take a picture of all of us just so he could show his friends a family with ten kids. (I guess he doesn't watch the Duggars.)

This also means we should make sure faces are relatively clean, diapers are not sagging, and your head and a hairbrush have tangoed (tangled?) in the last day or so. You know, since we can be SURE we will be watched. Let's pretend we're one of those respectable large families and not one of the messy ones.



But I don't care if your crocs are on the wrong feet. Kudos for finding two of them, even if they are different sizes!

And for my own memory's sake, here's what we did:

Beach in Waves
Sound in Waves
Fishing at Rodanthe Pier (Ethan, Ben, Abe)
Boogie boarding at Jeannette's Pier (Ethan, Ben, Lily, Abe, Mimi)
Jeannette's Pier
Ocracoke
Festival Park
Roanoke Museum
Island Farm
North Carolina Aquarium
Pea Island Wildlife Refuge
Jockey's Ridge State Park
Kitty Hawk Kites
Thrifting in Nagshead

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Settling in


Things are finally starting to settle into a semi-routine. The crazy hectic non-busyness of summer has mostly dwindled; and we are easing into a new pace of sorts, discovering how we do this thing of functioning as a family while keeping the dishes and the laundry clean, schoolbooks found, and babies fed and dry.


Eden (6) enjoying her first taste of cotton candy. "It's yucky," they all agreed.
"Mama, next time you can just get more funnel cakes."
The tips and tricks of mothering a large family are few and effective: 1) assume the role of Child of the Light rather than Martyr, 2) learn to love your job (aka Fake It 'Til You Make It), 3) fiercely love your husband, 4) realize you do, after all, have it really, really, really good so choose to laugh, and 5) get off the computer. 


Simple, really.


I am amazed at how complicated we like to make things. 

(I readily admit, it's undoubtedly taxing [esp. that 3-yr. old in green]; but it's not rocket science.)



Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday morning

I'm sitting here looking out the window, and there are delicious signs of fall. The morning glory has climbed almost to the middle of the telephone pole across the street, our butterfly bushes are gargantuan with a few purple blossoms left yet, and the porch swing is swaying gently with the breezes still left from last night's cold front passing through. If I look very selectively, I can perhaps forget that the windows are in desperate need of washing and that the front porch needs a good dose of elbow (and knee!) grease and a rather vicious scrubbing.

The children are sitting at the breakfast table, giggling and enjoying each other. If I listen very selectively, I can perhaps forget that I know their humor is over the comment, "It smells like rotten eggs in here. No, it smells like throw up on top of rotten eggs in here."

Signs of fall, and signs of The Fall.

There are no deep thoughts here (obviously), just a glimpse of my morning.



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