Friday, February 17, 2012

"The heart of man plans his way,

but the LORD establishes his steps" (Prov. 16:9, ESV).

Being mother to a large family comes with its share of paradoxes. There is joy in the exasperation, love in the frustration, and wealth in the empty wallets. There are nights when you sit, shell-shocked, in front of "Frasier" on Netflix and wonder, "How are we going to survive all these children?" or even "How are all these children going to survive us?" and nights when tears are shooting out of your eyes in laughter over the day's antics. There are times when you wonder if it's even worth it to make that trip to buy milk/cheese/meat/lip shimmer if it means loading everyone into the van, and times when the only remedy to the chaos in this house is to load everyone up and get the heck out of Dodge for a spell.

There are times when it's all you can do not to smack the mother in the organic baby aisle extolling the virtues of jars of pronounceable ingredients as her chubby cherub looks innocently from his spot in the Ergo carrier.

It's not that she's doing anything wrong. It's just that she's skinny and pretty and doesn't have varicose veins and can afford trendiness and doesn't have seven other children touching everything on the shelf and picking their noses and squirming to go potty and complaining that she never lets them get anything and why couldn't they just stay home.

I love my lot in life. I didn't set goals or plan towards having a large family. I did, as a little girl, say I wanted a dozen children but that was before I got married and therefore gets lumped in with saying I wanted to be a jockey and an actress when I grew up. We didn't examine our bank account and then plot children on a graph of years to come. We simply loved, and from that love came one child, and then two, and then four, and then five, and then six, and then eight.

This is math at its finest.

I hear newlyweds discussing their family many years they are planning to wait, how many debts they are planning to pay off before dealing with children. I hear parents instructing their grown offspring in the virtues of having this-that-and-the-other completed before dealing with children.

I hear it. Sort of.

Mostly I hear my mother's premarital advice: "Get married and stay married!" and her prenatal advice: "You're afraid you won't have enough love? That's how love works! It multiplies with each recipient, not divides!"

And she's so right.

And daily I fail at this trial called motherhood. Daily I scold and sigh and sometimes even cry. But even in the midst of the mayhem, I know I am severely blessed.  I know all of this does more than define me. It refines me, and it's not all by fire.

Some of it's by diaper changes and math corrections and grammar lessons and room cleanings and piano practice and sheet changings and cat vomit and the 3-yr. old watching "The Waltons" and then asking, "Is that WHISKEY?" when he sees you and your husband chugging down a root beer. Some of it's by sweet cards to Mama and Pupu and the sway of 2-yr. old hips to a Sesame Street/Feist video and children listening closely enough to a sermon to quote portions of it verbatim on the way home.

I'm glad we were thrust into this craziness. I don't think, had I been given full disclosure, I would have chosen this path. And that would have been my mistake.

I can't imagine a way in which priorities would have been forced more clearly than they are now. Life in a large family is fast-paced. There's always the next meal to prepare, the next load of laundry to change over, and the next room to clean. There is not the luxury of deliberating over non-issues. Only the important things earn time. You learn that for this family the popular magazine mommy debates are moot and not even entertaining.

I can't imagine a way in which I would have been forced more often or more brokenly to the cross and the empty tomb.

I'm not sure what my point here is, except to say that we didn't purpose to be a large family but we are and that is a blessing not to be taken lightly. We aren't here because we know what we're doing. We aren't here because we do more things right than others. In fact, we may be here because we do more wrong. But we are here, and it is good. It is right, and I am sure of this.

Our children have been entrusted to us. Sometimes it's so easy and convenient to forget that there are souls involved and not just smart-mouths. Sometimes it's so easy and convenient to forget that there is a God involved. If all I had to do was ensure that they reached the age of eighteen with few broken bones and a full belly...

I'm not sure I could do even that.

And I know this soul-growing business is not mine. It is God's, and I have to get myself out of the way. I am to love on them and pray for them and read the Bible to them and apologize and correct and thank the Lord always.

And then? We can garden, or not; we can travel, or not; we can host a family movie night, or not.

For more photos of everyday life, visit


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beauty is only skin deep

We may have a tie for first place for favorite Valentine card in this ridiculous family of mine.

Also in the running is one of Lily's early Valentines.

But certainly first place for this year goes to Abraham (6).

Karen is one of the longsuffering ladies in our church (read: Sunday School teacher to 2- and 3-yr. olds and head baby-sitter for 25 children 10 and under during their mothers' book study). She recently had the children decorate Valentines for their craft during the book study.

At the end of the craft, Abraham handed her a Valentine and announced it was for her.

She looked at the front.

("Mrs. Jones")

Then she opened it.

Being an expert at decoding, she read slowly, "Appears to be deeper than the skin of his."

She stopped. "Abraham?" she asked. "Is this something you copied for me?"

"Yes!" he answered. "From the Bible!"

"Show me," she said.

He grabbed a pew Bible and turned until he found the right page. "Right here!" he pointed.

And then she found the source of her Valentine text.

Leviticus 13:3

New King James Version (NKJV)
The priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the body; and if the hair on the sore has turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore. Then the priest shall examine him, and pronounce him unclean.

In all of her years of teaching (and there have been many, many Valentines in those years), this is the



Leprosy Valentine 

she has ever received.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

...And Many More...

I do believe I may have waxed, eloquently or otherwise, about Two being a better age than One.

I should know better.

I guess, like birth pains, the pain of having twin two-year olds is easily forgotten.

I just don't know how.

February 2nd was Groundhog Day. I guess. In our house, that little fact is totally eclipsed by a certain second set of twins having a birthday.

We grilled. We baked. We partied. I fought my usual losing battle with my camera, trying to take indoor pictures at night. We congratulated ourselves for moving them over into the big boys' and big girls' rooms (and out of cribs) successfully before their second birthday. 

And a few days later, I was calling my mother trying to sell them off.

It all started when Jonathan flushed a stink bug down the toilet. The next thing I knew, Gideon and Salem were finding flies and other insect carcasses under baseboard heaters and heavy furniture and wedged in window casings. Their subsequent multitudinous flushings necessitated my leaving the kitchen to fix the toilet.

I should have remembered this chain of events from when Abraham and Miriam were 2. Fix one mess, return to place of origin to discover new mess.

When I returned to the kitchen, I found Gideon and Salem had peeled the labels off the tomato cans. Gideon had his cup stuck in the automatic water dispenser on the front of the fridge (so water was constantly running in a so-fun fountain onto the unfinished wood floor), and Salem had the top off the vinegar bottle.

My mother wouldn't take them.

In all honesty (and all of this has been honest), these two bring us constant laughter. Exasperated laughter, sometimes, but still.

Gideon has this shock of curly hair that I just love. It's funny, this wee bit of his Grandpa Allison that shows up in this house. He has expressive eyebrows and an uncanny sense of rhythm. Like King Saul, he's soothed by music. We're keeping our eyes out for some bongos for this one.

And Salem. Oh, Salem. I've never met a more condescending two-year old. She has the expressions and mannerisms of a forty-year old. Even Miriam wasn't this patronizing. And she loves to sing. She sings to The Head and the Heart, and Gideon dances and beats on the couch.

I am remembering all the other things that happen when you have (or when we have, at least) twin 2-yr. olds. The crayons and markers get thrown out or locked up (by the parents!). Any cups with drinks still in them are hastily poured down the owners' throats before they get discovered by those who have newly learned the joy of moving a chair to get things that are higher than they can normally reach. Toothbrushes are hidden. Silverware is regularly counted, and when it goes missing, floor vents are checked.

Nothing is safe.

Cue the "Jaws" music. And cue The Head and the Heart. I am lost in my mind, and I have no hope of recovery.

(There is a video embedded in this post. Email subscribers may have to click over.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Three-Layer Corn Bread

Sorry, Dad. This is an incredibly boring post. I am only posting this because tonight's corn bread was a huge hit with the kids, and it was a heavily tweaked recipe in a library book. I can't post my notes in the book, and I don't want to forget what I did. I think Gideon had about 20 pieces.

Three-Layer Corn Bread

1 c. cornmeal (I used coarsely ground)
1 c. whole wheat flour (prairie gold is what I had; it worked great)
1/4 c. mixed grain cereal (but will just use oats when I run out of mixed grain)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. honey or molasses (I used maple syrup)
1/4 c. oil or melted butter
3 c. milk or buttermilk

Mix dry; mix wet; mix together. Pour batter into greased 9x9. 350* for 50 minutes or until springs back lightly when touched.

It forms 3 layers. The middle layer is sort of custardy. This was a huge, huge hit with everyone. We started out with honey drizzled on top (heavenly), but laziness won over and we ended up eating it straight. The original recipe calls for white flour and bran, but I used what we had (all wheat, mixed grain cereal, etc.) and it was delicious nonetheless.

I doubled the recipe. Good thing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Number Five Is Five

Her name ... Eden Quinn Mable ...

means "delight, fifth, lovable."

It's a mouthful.

But nothing like what I usually am yelling: "EDEN QUINN MABLE-LIKE-TABLE!" because when my grandmother was telling people how to spell her name, she would say, "It's Mable, like table."

And out of all of our children, this one really does seem to embody the idea of delight and pleasure. I don't mean she is any more delightful than any of the other angelic beings (somewhat, ahem, fallen) that call her "Sister." I mean she finds delight everywhere. She has this infectious, throaty, lusty laugh that wrinkles her newly freckled nose and gets her eyes to sparkling.

Following on the heels of a set of twins (19 mos. after), and the fifth child to boot, she never lost time in paving her own way. And now she's five. Look out, world. (And look out, Mama, because Five is somehow the Official Age of No More Naps in this house.)

What she hates: cleaning, organizing, tidying, neatening, straightening.

Sort of a lot like a certain oldest sister of hers.

What she loves: chuckling, giggling, guffawing, snuggling, looking straight into your eyes and saying, "OK. [Deep breath.] Let me tell you what happened. [Deep breath.]" before launching into an involved explanation of why her best attempts at the aforementioned cleaning, organizing, tidying, neatening, straightening resulted in more toys out and more doll clothes strewn everywhere.

She is a fierce hugger. I worry for the elderly in our church who are the recipients of her love. "Brace yourself!" I wince as I see her headed their way with outstretched arms.

But I never see them wince.

I see them smile, their noses wrinkling and eyes sparkling.

Eden, you are a good middle child. Right smack in the middle of everyone, you defy those that say the middle children get lost, unnoticed in the crowd.

You will never go unnoticed. You will never be lost.

You are a delight to Papa and to me. And, also, to a little more than a half-dozen other children who share our table and your jokes and also, sometimes, your chores.

Happy belated, Eedles Sweetles.

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