Monday, March 19, 2018

History repeats

Do you remember when I talked about the birthday project I’ve been working on for my son, a homemade book called When I was Five?

A short recap, I collected photos and interviews from a bunch of family members and each page will be a little spread telling him about that person’s life at age five. Where they lived, how they did school, how they played…

It was a lot of fun to collect all the photos and information, and it’s been so awesome to reexamine the way God has woven all these families together.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice was how much of our families grew up on a farm, or at least a mini farm. My mom, both of my grandparents. Ryan’s mom, aunt, and grandma. Plenty of people didn’t. My great grandmother, for example, grew up not on a farm but in the café her parents owned and operated. She wasn’t allowed to serve customers at age five so was thrilled when she finally got to at age ten.

I couldn’t help but notice how goals and parenting styles have shifted and changed throughout the years, how history repeats itself again and again.

Right now, today, we’re living in suburbia. We’ve got tomatoes in pots on our windowsills but we are otherwise completely garden-free this year. I’ve been all about vegetable gardening for years now and it’s honestly driving me a bit crazy that we aren’t growing anything else right now but I have a young baby and our goals are making life feel a bit temporary at the moment so this year I am sad to say that we will not be enjoying homegrown raspberries in our oatmeal or watching our babies tug carrots out of the ground. The pumpkin we paint at Halloween will be one that is picked at a patch, not plucked from the vine taking over our backyard.

But our goal? Our goal is to do it like our grandparents did. Our goal is for our children to someday write about their childhoods and say that they chased our chickens and named baby goats after their favorite book characters, that they used to pick berries from our own patch when they wanted some with their breakfasts, that they once grew a watermelon so big it won a prize in the county fair.
I don’t want a full farm, per say, but I want a more self-sustaining lifestyle. I want fresh eggs and goats’ milk. I want to make goats’ milk cheese and pick most of my produce from the ground in my backyard. I want my children to run amok outdoors, to grow up thinking store-bought is a treat instead of a default.

I want it to be time for history to repeat itself. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Seven Recent Reads

-The Boxcar Children… I had planned to read this one to A about halfway through kindergarten, which is next year. I loved this book as a kid. The only children’s chapter books Ryan can remember from his childhood are the Goosebumps series… but when he saw the cover, he suddenly remembered that he’d definitely read The Boxcar Children too. A got crazy excited for it one day and so I naturally got crazy excited too and we went for it. It worked out great! He’s honestly always loved for me to read chapter books to him, long before he could really comprehend the stories. At least at this point he’s our most extroverted child by far and I think that’s why. He wanted me to be reading something out loud while he played with LEGOs or colored, at least until his sisters started to be old enough to play with him. He’ll be five in about a month and I think it was a perfect age for us to read this one together. He absolutely loved it, was always asking for a chapter (and then for one more chapter), and he retained all of the characters and storylines quite well. He had me request the next book in the series from the library right away.

-Emma… I have been meaning to read this book for years and recently got excited about it again when I found out that the movie Clueless is loosely based on the story. The other night I stayed up really light trying to get a large file to download using the Internet on Ryan’s phone and it was taking forever so I started reading Emma. I just don’t know. I couldn’t grasp it for some reason. I kept getting confused about characters and having to flip around to figure it all out, then never picked it up again after that night. I want to not give up on myself, and to hope that I will try again when it’s not already an hour past my normal bedtime, but only time will tell.

-Give Them Grace… I’ve had this grace-based parenting book in my shelf for quite some time and finally got around to starting it last week. I didn’t honestly finish it. I got it and agreed with most of it but it started to feel a bit repetitive in concept so I felt like I had gotten what I wanted out of it and skimmed the rest. There were a handful of things I didn’t necessarily agree with (while not necessarily disagreeing with either, in most cases) but in general I feel like it’s one that’s worth checking out

-Grace Revealed: Finding God’s Strength in Any Crisis*…  I don’t even know how to review this book. The short story is that I didn’t really like it but am keeping it to read in the future. I think it’s probably an excellent book to read when you’re experiencing a crisis. At the moment, praise God, my life is pretty crisis-free so it just fell flat for me in some ways. That just feels really unfair to say since I do truly think it’ll be an excellent and inspiring book down the road and freely admit that I think it would have been amazing at other times in my life. The stories were a bit depressing for me right now, even though they of course all revealed amazing grace, and the way they read just didn’t resonate with me in my personal style. I’m very curious to see what others think about this one because it gives me such strange, mixed feelings. I feel like my review is “It’s a great book and I didn’t like it” which seems silly… but that sometimes happens, right?

-The Stolen Marriage… I love Diane Chamberlain books but I didn’t finish this one. I actually didn’t even get very far into it. I’m not spoiling anything unless you haven’t even read the description so move along if you don’t want any spoilers at all… There’s a sex scene very early on, where she is wildly in love with her fiancé but then gets drunk and loses her virginity to a complete stranger that just drove me nuts. It wasn’t a horrendously graphic sex scene or anything but I just didn’t really want to read the book at all after that. I’m very sensitive to adultery subject matter but I still manage to read entire books that talk about it without feeling too horrible so there was just something about this particular scene that made me feel really sad so I put it away and hugged Ryan instead. It does sound really good but I just can’t imagine I’ll pick it back up again any time soon.

-The Storyteller… Another Jodi Picoult novel and this one just blew me away. I’m in a WWII phase, as you probably know, and this one naturally had my attention because of the subject matter. The main character, Sage, is a total wreck and I always like that in a character. Reading this book gave me a million emotions at once. There is a bit of old Polish vampire lore woven in and I didn’t mind it at all which is really saying something since I am so not a fan of vampire anything. There were times when I was reading it, for the briefest of moments, when I allllllmost felt sorry for an SS officer which was of course a crazy feeling. I want to be all mature and spiritual and say that is God’s job to judge, not mine… but then I think about all the horrific accounts I’ve been reading about, both fiction and non-fiction, and let me tell ya, I struggle. That’s the thing about her books, she takes a subject that rubs most people the wrong way and humanizes “the bad guy” in a way that confuses the heck out of you and makes you really think about life in the other person’s shoes. It is definitely not always easy to think about the tender sides of a school shooter (Nineteen Minutes) or a neo-nazi (Small Great Things), nor to wonder about the character of an SS officer “who was just doing his job.” The writing in this one was so gripping and emotional, so raw and often sickening, that I wanted several times to put the book down for good but was so desperate to know how it all ended (and if I had guessed right about a surprise twist ending, which I had) that I would just wipe away my tears and keep going. And gosh, I’m not even touching on the deeper stuff here, on forgiveness specifically. Especially forgiveness that doesn’t involve you, forgiving someone for a past mistake they committed against someone else… suffice it to say that this book was very heavy and I definitely liked it but I have to warn you that you are taking on a lot if you decide to pick it up.

-Twenty and Ten… I’ve been working my way through all kinds of children’s fiction booklists and this one was listed in quite a few of them. It’s a fictionalized account of a true story about ten Jewish children being hidden among 20 French children and I can see why it’s so popular. I blew through it during one day’s naptime and know I would have loved it as a kid so it’s staying on my personal children’s chapter book list.

Current reads: $100 Startup with Ryan // Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with A (oh man, y’all. I am so loving this read-aloud stage) // Man’s Search for Meaning // Just downloaded a bunch of fiction to the Kindle so we'll see!

What are you reading/ have you recently read?

*I received a free copy of Grace Revealed from LitFuse in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ten Minutes at a Time

The truth about having four children under five is that the hardest part is time. Yes, it is a lot of work. I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for five years straight. When someone is sick, we’re all sick… which means that I am semi-frequently sick while caring for four or five other sickies. There is never a shortage of “I’m huuuuuuungry” or “Uh-oh” and you can’t imagine the dishes or laundry situations unless you’ve lived them…. but the work, whatever. I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. I’m good for it.

The time, gosh.

There is just never enough of it! By the time I have the morning ready to go, it’s lunch time. So I start lunch and then I stop midway to change a diaper or kiss and owie, then I finish plating lunch while shouting over the baby’s cries, “Can somebody just rub her tummy and tell her Mama’s hurrying?”
The entire day goes like this. I’m nursing the baby while the big kids are whining for a snack, I’m prepping their snack while the baby is, you know, making you-might-wanna-change-my-diaper-now sounds, I’m changing the baby while the big kids are saying “You said you’d read this to us and you haven’t yet!”… it’s endless.

It leaves very little time for me to enjoy a desperately-needed moment for myself, and it leaves very little time for me to relish each of my people individually. I love being a family, but I also love each of them individually. I like to show them that.

I was thinking about that the other day, about how hard it is to work dates into each weekend, and I realized that it’s okay. It is. Would I still love to be able to do a nice elaborate date with each child each week? Yes. You bet. I would love to take one kid to the library and one for a walk, one to the park and one to read over cocoa at a coffee shop. And someday maybe I will. But not right now.

Right now my job is very physical. I need to physically be present for nearly all of it… or at least, need to in the sense that I want to. I may not be in a position to go out on long dates—or the special weekend getaway dates I hope to someday enjoy—but I am still building individual relationships, ten minutes at a time.

I’m building relationships when I spend ten minutes playing peek-a-boo and This Little Piggy with D before her siblings wake up for the day and when I spend ten minutes playing a board game with A during his sisters’ naptime. I’m accomplishing this when I spend ten minutes snuggling with and singing to B when she first wakes up from that nap, and when I let C stand on her stool in the kitchen and help me with dinner for ten minutes, asking her how her day was and letting her stir.

I’m building relationships when we’re all curled up on the couch or in my bed for another story, and also when it’s just me and a little one praying away bad dreams or belly aches together in the middle of the night. I’m building relationships when I take one child with me to run an errand and I’m building relationships when I dance around the living room with the baby late at night or when I read a bathtime book to one baby while Daddy plays with the other three.

Ten minutes at a time. That, I can handle.

Ten favorite ten-minute dates:
-Walks. I’m a big fan of walks, especially nature walks, as a family or at least with my babies…but sometimes it is just so special to take a one-on-one walk with Mama. They can tell me whatever is on their hearts, we can examine something that interests them without siblings growing impatient, we can hold hands since there is no stroller for me to push.
-Puzzles. All three of my oldest monkeys just love for me to do puzzles with them. A likes for me to sit and talk with him while he does the puzzle himself. B likes for both of us to do it together. C likes for me to do the whole puzzle but put each piece in kind of crooked so she can push it into place.
-Board games. C is of course too little for these yet but A and B both love a little one-on-one board game time. A few weeks ago we had a weird day and missed naps so all three baby girls were asleep by 6:45 but A was wide awake. Ryan and I sat down and played a game with him, just the three of us, and he was overjoyed.
-Books. We do a lot of reading around here but it’s always nice to read a book just-me-and-mom. C can pick out simpler books that hold her attention longer, A can pick out longer books that the little girls always interrupt. We read most of our Boxcar Children chapters alone at naptime so there were no little sister interruptions and there could be great discussion afterwards.
-Arts & crafts. Sometimes my kids want me to color with them but A especially enjoys doing a more in-depth craft with me that I can’t really do when I’m nursing a baby and wrangling a toddler. We might do some painting, cut out paper snowflakes or chain-people, do something that involves him gluing, you name it.
-Foot rubs. All three of my big kids love it when I give them a foot rub. This is something that I sometimes do at bedtime but it’s nice to do it one-on-one because I can drag it out to make it a better foot rub, plus it’s something that’s super easy to talk through.
-Cooking/baking. All three of my older kids love cooking and baking with me. There are jobs for everyone, too. The other night Ryan played with A, B, and D while little C stood on her stool in the kitchen and made pizza with me. We added spinach together and then “we added pepperonis” together too, which is code for “she added one pepperoni and then stood there eating them with a conspiratorial grin while I added the others.”
-Garage time. This is not my thing, it’s Ryan’s. All three bigger kids also adore garage time with Daddy. Even B, who is as girly as a clichéd book character, will throw on a pair of sparkly pink tennis shoes and rush out there to hang out with Dad.
-Snuggles. This is not a fun date for A, who is too active to lie snuggled up for ten full minutes most of the time, but B, C, and D are all more than happy to just snuggle up with me for ten minutes of talking, singing, giggling, and cuddling together.
-Baths. All of my kids love bath time. I just talk and sing to D and relish a few quiet minutes together while I wash her hair… but the big kids, they all love for me to read to them or tell them a story, talk to them, listen to their stories, answer allllll kinds of questions…
Do you have any special at-home date ideas I’m forgetting about or need to be introduced to? =] 

Monday, March 12, 2018


I was the first. The first baby. The first granddaughter—no, grandchild. The first niece. The first.

Hand-me-downs were a rare treasure in the home I grew up in. I did not play with my mother’s old toys or wear a big sister’s Easter dresses. My father never painted a big brother’s bicycle pink for me. I never longed for just one sweater with its store tag still intact.

I was the giver of hand-me-downs, not the receiver. I handed down dance costumes and homecoming dresses to my younger cousins. I handed down books and a hermit crab to my little brother. I handed down my bicycle, my doll clothes, old Disney cartoons.

And now I have three little girls, all who came after a big brother.

I do wonder sometimes if the hand-me-downs will ever be a problem. Will little D be almost as excited as her sisters when they open their Christmas gifts, since she knows that dress will be hers in a year or two? Or will she watch B collect all the new girl-stuff and feel a little resentment at the slight fading in the knees of her pants?

I hope it’s the former. I hope she is one of those people who is honored to be given a hand-me-down.
I hope she puts on a sweatshirt and imagines that she can smell the campfire in it from our campout last summer. I hope she dons a dress to impress her secret crush and feels confidence flow through it since it’s the one B wore through a piano recital and C wore to sing a solo in the church Christmas play.

I hope she climbs on her bike and sees it not for its scuff marks and chipping paint, but instead for the magical adventure machine it has been for the siblings who came before her. I hope she is ecstatic when she picks up yet another dog-eared novel to read because she knows she’ll have at least one sibling to discuss it with when she’s finished.

Maybe, if we play our cards right, she’ll think about all the joy and wonder attached to all these hand-me-downs and think she’s the lucky one.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Stirring up anger

A and I have been memorizing a different Bible verse each week since he was three. Maybe even slightly before age three. I read about this somewhere, about starting when your babies are tiny, and later read something in a Sally Clarkson book about her children’s hearts being treasure chests she could fill up with stories and memories and, of course, scripture to fall back on as they hit rough patches in life.

I loved that so much. I loved the idea of a scripture popping into their hearts to remind them that they’re loved, even when they’ve made a terrible mistake or when someone else is working hard to tear them down. I love the idea of a scripture popping into their hearts to stop them from making a decision that will come back to haunt them. Is there a scripture somewhere that’s like, “Call thy mom?” because I would like to help them memorize that.

We recently memorized Matthew 7:12- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We talked at great length about this verse meaning “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” and there were all kinds of great opportunities to remember this verse all week since siblings of course have squabbles every week.

The next week we memorized Proverbs 15:1- “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

We work on those verses Monday through Friday and I tend to forget to talk about them at all when the weekend arrives and we’re busy with family activities and errands.

We had just learned that second verse, Proberbs 15:1, and were now enjoying a Saturday drive. We have this great goal for our future and we’re frequently scouting out property for it. This was one of those days. We were on a “long” drive and the three oldest kids, whose car seats all three fit side-by-side, were starting to bicker. A sits in the middle and is in a forward-facing seat while his sisters on either side sit rear-facing. They were both putting their feet on his chest, making irritating sounds, basically being absolute champions at little-sister-ing.

“Girls!” he shouted in exasperation. “What was our verse?! Do unto others as you wanna be treated. Right?”

I glanced over at Ryan with a huge smile on my face. It’s so easy for us mamas to feel like our hard work isn’t paying off, isn’t it? But here it was. Proof that my efforts are not in vain. My heart was so full.

“That means treat me good! Because what’s our new verse? A harsh word stirs up anger. You’re stirring up my anger.”

Pretty close, right? He’s only four. I’m so impressed! It’s working! It’s really working!

“And that means I’m going to have to hit and kick you soon. If you stir up my anger, I will hit you and kick you. I don’t want to hit you and kick you. I want to treat you how I want to be treated. But if you stir up my anger I have to hit you and kick you. So don’t stir up my anger. Turn away wraths, girls. Got it?”

Abort! Abort! Stand down!