Kid Tune Torture

It’s a rainy summer day here in East Tennessee. All of my teenagers are off living their lives somewhere else today. I am home with six of my children plus three bonus children. And amazingly, everyone is getting along and playing nicely. I made all the kids work and clean up the house so we’d have a peaceful environment. It’s not immaculate, but it’s tidy and welcoming. The older boys are in a bedroom playing legos. The older girls are cleaning the girls’ bedroom and making a game out of it. The three youngest are sitting at the dining room table playing playdoh. Talking quietly and cheerfully to themselves. I have been playing my piano for the last half hour. Schubert’s Serenade, some Preludes by Chopin, a Waltz by Brahms. I’ve been skimming through my piano collections, finding the simple, peaceful, pensive pieces. My piano is right next to two large windows and the falling rain has accompanied my music. Ah. So peaceful.

I retire to my chair in the corner of the room, my own little private space. And then. Then, my brain resumes it’s torment. “I AM THE IRON MAN…toodootoodootoodoo,doo doo doo….I AM THE IRON MAN…toodootoodootoodooo.doo.doo.doo…” You might be wondering what on earth that is all about. There is some kind of spoof song about the Iron Man that my son showed me once on YouTube several years ago. That song has taken up residence in my brain and it won’t leave me alone. I only know a couple words of the song, but my brain helpfully fills in all the rest with toodoo toodoo toodoos. This song won’t leave me alone. I try to replace it with other songs. But, I have children, and there is a whole repertoire of annoying songs ready to take its place.

The other day I realized that I had been singing the Alphabet Song all day long, under my breath. With great feeling and emotion. Kind of like a sad ballad. I stopped. What are you doing??? I asked my subconscious. My subconscious refused to answer, and instead continued it’s sad wailing, “Q, R, S, T, U, V…” and then, with great feeling, “W, X, Y and Z…”

AAAAACCKK!!!

New song. I need a new song in my head. Then I hear the piano in the background. Two of the girls in my house have learned the same arrangement of a song from the Disney movie MOANA. I, of course, do not know all the words to this song, and so my head does another rendition of, “Too do dooo, to do doo, to do doo, doo, doo, DOOO, doo, And now I Know, how far it goes…too doo doo, too, doo doo, doo doo, DOOO doo, and now I know, how far it GOES!” (now the key change…) and on and on that song goes in my head. Just a short part of it, cause that’s all the girls play.

If it’s not Moana, Iron Man or the Alphabet song, it might be the little song from the tv show, Sarah and Duck, in which a narrators’ voice says, over and over and over again…”Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…quack.” (By the way, on Youtube, somebody was nice enough to post a video where they had looped this song. You can sit for nine hours and listen to a narrator say “Sarah and Duck.” Apparently, I’m not the only one who is bothered by this song.)

It would be nice to have a Praise Song, or a Bible Memory Song, or a beautiful hymn running through my head all day. Occasionally, I’m fortunate, and I do have something like that repeating through my thoughts throughout the day. “Amazing grace, how sweet the song, that saved a wretch like me…” And then, out of nowhere…I AM THE IRON MAN!!

Good grief.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Today is Father’s Day. I want to wish my Dad a wonderful Father’s Day. Thank you Dad for loving me. Thank you for sharing your passion for the Bible. Thank you for showing us how to love people. Thank you for playing your guitar and being the soundtrack of my childhood. Thank you for teaching us the importance of working hard and always doing your best. Thank you for teaching me how to edit papers and enjoy a good joke. Thank you for loving Mom and faithfully taking care of your family. I love you.

Happy Father’s Day to my Father-in-law! Thank you for all you did to help my husband become who he is. Your legacy is being passed down the generations.

And last, but definitely not least…Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband.

We’ve been on this parenting journey for eighteen and a half years now. It’s fun to look back…

I remember when we brought our first born home from the hospital. We were having problems with nursing and I didn’t know what to do to help this poor, crying little baby. I remember how you confidently scooped her off the bed, cuddled her to your chest and began rocking her and murmuring to her. She instantly got quiet, staring intently into your face as you talked to her. I was slightly jealous, she didn’t get quiet for me! But, mostly I was just relieved that at least one of these new parents was succeeding. You have always had a way with infants!

I remember you playing on the floor with a bunch of toddlers and small children. All of them climbing on your back, trying to ride the horsie. You would play “rough” with them and sometimes I couldn’t stop myself from yelling “CAREFUL!!” but the kids would just laugh and laugh and run back for more.

I remember you mowing the lawn. Our son, maybe three years old, following along carefully behind you as he pushed his little plastic mower. He was quite convinced that he was helping you with this important chore. And you just walked carefully, keeping an eye on him.

I remember when I headed off to my first weekend Women’s Retreat. I was leaving you with a four year old, a three year old, and a one year old who was going to be weaned while I was gone. I looked at you doubtfully. You got this? Sure. I’m going to take them camping. Cause only you would think it was easier to take three babies camping than it would be to stay home with them for a weekend alone. And of course you guys had a great time.

I remember late nights, when the baby had been weaned, I was pregnant with our next. You took over all night time problems. The toddler would start crying. You would grab your pillow and head off to lay on some bedroom floor, soothing the crying child with your presence, your deep breathing as you fell asleep next to their crib.

I remember how you would always take the newborn from me at the dinner table. Settling them on your knee as you ate with one hand, giving me a break from the nonstop baby-holding. And you would always give them tastes of your food way before I was ready to take that step.

Then the kids started getting older and while we still enjoyed holding and cuddling the infants, we also had to start dealing with teenagers. I remember your patience. Your grace. Your love for these kids who were doing everything possible to not be lovable. I remember your willingness to forgive. Your humbleness when you asked your child for forgiveness when you messed up. I remember your prayers for wisdom.

You are an awesome dad. I love your sense of humour that makes the little kids cackle and the older kids roll their eyes and groan. I love your willingness to put our two year old to bed every night. I love how our children clamour for you when you walk in the door. I love how you enter the room and the energy instantly gets revved up. Dad’s here. The Fun has Arrived.

You love your kids and you model the life of a man who walks after God. I thank God for giving me such a partner. Happy Father’s Day!

 

Fat Fridays: Week 25 Failure

Hey Everyone. Here we are, a new week. I have pondered whether I should even be writing a weight loss “weekly” when there doesn’t seem to be any weight loss happening. I set goals and then the goals get thrown out the window. I feel a bit like a fake at this point. Of course, in one sense, I’m holding true to the purpose of this post, which is to blog about my journey to weight loss. A big part of my journey is failure.

I think when I started this post, I imagined myself sailing along, posting pictures of myself as I lost inches. Writing glowing reports about how disciplined I was, and look how I great I am to finally conquer this weight problem. Everyone can read along and enjoy the show. And it is inspiring to read how people overcome all obstacles and manage to get healthy again. I want to be that person. And I’m not. I seem to be stuck in my same old pattern. I diet. I exercise. Life gets stressful. I stop.

While it might not be enjoyable to read all the ways that I’m messing up, I will say that writing this weekly post is still keeping me accountable. I have not sunk to the very bottom, mostly because I don’t want to have to write about it. And I keep focused on my diet/health/weightlossattempts at least once a week as I write this post.

This past week I did not go grain-free as promised. But I did eat a lot less grain. I did make some better choices. This week I was also dealing with some heavy stress as our situation with the homeless family we are helping escalated. Some hard choices had to be made. But God was merciful and my husband had enough grace and wisdom to come up with a Plan that should get them into housing and a relatively stable life if they stick to the plan. Dealing with this level of crisis is tough on me. This week has been about trying to be purposeful about not letting other people’s drama harmfully affect my own mental health. I have been carving out a private space for myself. Making a routine that involves quiet, devotions, music, doing hobbies I enjoy, and of course, caring for my family. I have been trying to make smart choices for food, but haven’t yet achieved the “super disciplined” level I was at several weeks ago.

I did have something happen this week that was at first annoying and then I realized it was a blessing in disguise. I’m signed up with this health-food-shake-supplements-etc company. I buy shakes from them every once in a while. They have this annoying system where you are automatically signed up for “autoship”. They automatically charge your bank and ship you products unless you sign in and change it. I’m presuming there is a way to change this, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I had been simply logging in once a month and changing the dates so at to postpone the order. Well, I forgot this month. This week I received not only a box of shakes, but a bottle of Cleanse which had been on my wishlist. Yikes. My bank account could not really afford that. I was complaining to my husband about it and he surprised me by saying, “It’s good! Drink your shakes!” Oh. Ok. Well… that makes sense. So, this morning I drank my Cleanse stuff and had a shake for breakfast. A much healthier breakfast than I’ve had in a while. Hurray for mistakes.

So, I feel like I’m a bit of a disappointment because I am not being Superwoman with this weight loss thing. But, I’m going to keep on persevering.

I’ll see you all next week.

 

What is Your Complication Threshold?

My mom was talking tonight about some app she had that let her communicate with a bunch of people. I had heard of this app before and had actually had a couple people suggest I download it so they could keep in touch with me better. Yeah…about that. I don’t like downloading apps. There are a couple that are vital to me, like my kindle app, my weather channel app, and email app. And…yep. That’s it. That of course makes me sound like a boring person. But actually, it has to do with my complication threshold.

 

(Esther’s Definition of Complication Threshold: the point in any activity where the process becomes so complicated that it’s no longer worth completing the activity.)

 

My phone is cheap and retarded and difficult and any other bad adjective you can think of. Downloading apps is a pain in the butt. It’s complicated. I don’t do complicated. Even when I had a phone that worked and was relatively simple, there was still the whole learning how to use the app, figuring out all the ins and outs etc. It’s not my cup of tea. I never played video games as a child. My use for computers is word processing and internet browsing. My computer abilities are at the basic level. And I’m happy with that. If I have to do anything complicated, I have my husband or my teenage son to help me.

It’s not just technology though. I have a complication threshold for all areas of my life. I can cook. I’m not sure where I fall in the cooking scale of Good versus Bad. My mother-in-law taught me to how to make homemade jam and homemade biscuits. My mother taught me how to make a couple Indian dishes. My husband taught me how to make homemade bread and black beans and rice from scratch. And then I taught myself a bunch of other stuff. I like looking at new recipes occasionally, trying to get new ideas. But when the recipe starts talking about chilling the dough for 30 mins before rolling it out. Or sifting the flour four times before measuring it. Or taking the temperature of cooking foods…yeah. That doesn’t work for me. I usually glance through the recipe, get the general idea of what they’re trying to do and then remake the recipe so that it’s simple.

The same goes for crafting projects. I was once gifted with yarn, knitting needles and a pattern to make some kind of baby thing. It looked really cute. I thought, hey, why not? I have everything here, I should just try. I read the first instruction. Cast on twenty stitches. Ok. I know how to do that. Twenty stitches coming up. Then the second instruction. Knit one line. Ok. I have vague memories from my mother’s instructions from my childhood. I can do that. The next instruction. Pearl one line. Pearl. Pearl. Ok, wait, I think I know what that means, just knit backwards, right? Check. Got this. Then the next instruction. Pearl one stitch, knit one stitch, stand up, spin around, count 14 stitches, then knit two stitches then pearl one, then sing a song…and you get the point. Way too complicated. I put the knitting project away. It surpassed my complication threshold.

Now, there are some areas where I can handle complicated without twitching an eye. Managing the schedules of twelve family members is one of those areas. I have scheduling meetings with my husband. Ok, I am going to take this child out of school in the middle of the school day to take them to their doctors appointment. I will have the two little ones in tow. If, for some reason our appointment goes late, then you will have to leave work and go pick up the kids from school. But, I should be there, it’s just if their appointment goes late. And in fact, keep your phone handy…If the appointment goes late I might still be able to go to middle school and pick up that child that has a later release time. You can possible just go to the elementary school and take them home and then get back to your job. And you can leave them at home because today is early release for high school so there will be a highschooler home to watch them. And then after I get everyone home I’ve got to run by the University and pick up the eldest who is coming home for a night. And then we have to take this other child to a special event tonight…Piece of cake.

Knowing what level of complication you can handle makes decision making easier. My teenage daughter just launched into a spiel where she was trying to sell me on getting her a different phone plan with unlimited data. Her plan of action involved me monitoring her online presence carefully and setting up certain times of the day when she could be online etc. I stopped her mid-sentence. Nope. Way too complicated. That passes my complication threshold. Right now you can text and call on your phone. And use wifi if it’s available. That is so wonderfully simple! Why would I want to change that?

The teenager was not impressed when I explained that I was actually writing about complication thresholds and her request proved my point.

We’re all different. Things I find too complicated are easy-peasy for others. So what are your complication thresholds? What is the straw that breaks the camels’ back for you?

 

 

To The Parents In the Trenches

I’ve been thinking about parenting. This week a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while asked how things were going. I gave some short, glowing reports about my children. A sense of well-being flooding me. My kids are doing so great!

Then I thought about a couple different friends of mine who are struggling with their teens. And I thought about how my glowing reports might not be taken so well by parents who are currently in the trenches with their own offspring.

When we are struggling we tend to look around us at how everyone else is doing. If our friends are doing better than us we feel condemned, less than. If our friends are doing worse than us, we feel validated, superior. If they are in the same boat as us, we feel encouraged, we’re not alone!

For those of you who are on the battlefield right now with your teen, I want you to know that you are not alone. I would guess that most parents of older children have fought those battles. We don’t talk about it much. We can’t. We can’t gossip or malign our own children. We can’t air our dirty laundry because it affects their lives too, not just ours. We can’t betray their confidences, their privacy. So, we mostly suffer alone. Privately. Perhaps sharing only with a very close friend. It is very lonely.

I want you to have hope. Not all problems with teens automatically mean that they are going to end up homeless drug addicts, wandering the streets. A big percentage of those kids conquer their problems. They move on to become productive, wonderful adults. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to cry and feel like I’ve completely failed as a parent. Bewildered at what colossal mistake I must have made to make my child act this way. Not sure if this child and I can live in the same house together much longer. Pondering how much boarding school really costs. Could I get a loan to cover that? Can I legally kick an underage kid out of my house?

Even though it is lonely in that we can’t share our troubles with the world at large, I really encourage you to seek help. Pastors, teachers, doctors, psychologists, prayer warriors…There are people that it is appropriate to share your troubles with. People who have seen it before. People who might have some wise counsel or are just willing to stand in solidarity with you. People who are willing to go that extra mile or one hundred miles and come pick up your teen and take them away for a couple days so that everyone can have a cool down period.

Here’s the thing…one day, you notice things aren’t as bad as before. And then a while later, you realize, things are actually getting better. And then one day, you look at your teen, and you swell up with pride because they have actually become someone you like.

Yes, there are many stories of parent/teens who don’t make it. It ends ugly. But, maybe, even for those horror stories we hear, maybe, down the road many months, years, possibly decades, peace happens. Reconciliation. Where there is life, there is hope.

I’ve only been in this parenting game for eighteen and half years. During that time I’ve had some pretty amazing highs and some heart-wrenching lows. I have a two year old. I am nowhere close to being finished. As I look at my large brood, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have some rough years ahead for some of them. It seems to just be part of growing up for some kids.

I hope you know that when I brag on how great my kids are doing, I’m just telling you the highlights. We have to stay positive after all. I’m not free to share all the crazy episodes I’ve had, but maybe you’ll feel better knowing that I’ve had them, and that you’re not alone. Here’s praying for all you parents in the trenches. May God give you peace and wisdom and hope. You are not alone.

 

 

Fat Fridays: Week 24 Half a Diet

Hey Everyone, How’s your week gone? Mine has been better. Life has settled a little bit more into a pattern, it doesn’t feel as chaotic, peace seems to be settling again after a crazy month.  Last week I shared that my diet had gone on hold. Well, here’s some good news. I’ve been diligently weighing myself, just waiting for those numbers to start creeping back up. And they haven’t. I’ve lost 25 pounds and I’m holding steady at my current weight. This is actually a pretty big deal to me. In the past, I have done different diet plans, but as soon as I fell off the wagon my weight would immediately start to climb upwards again. I don’t want to push my luck. I’m trying to figure out how to jump back into the pool. Get back into the game.

It’s summer. The season of cookouts and popsicles and ice cream and barbecues. I have decided that I’m going to try out a more simple version of my diet for a couple weeks and see how it goes. See if I can start losing weight again. I know that right now I do not have what it takes to go completely vegan and grain free. So, I’m going to try half the diet, and just go grain-free for a while. I’m not even going to try and limit sugar. (Because actually, my go-to is sugar plus grain. Sugar on it’s own is not nearly as appealing to me.)

You might wonder why I’ve picked grain. So, I’ve gone off my diet and I’ve been paying attention to my body as I have eaten the “forbidden” foods. Meat really doesn’t seem to do much to me. Dairy, well, I don’t think my body likes dairy a whole lot, but I am not in the habit of eating dairy. I don’t buy blocks of cheese. I might put some shredded cheese on a Mexican dinner occasionally, but I don’t pour it on. I don’t like Milk so I stay away from that. I’ve lost my taste for yogurt, don’t really like it anymore. So, I probably should completely abstain from dairy, but I figure the occasional sprinkle of cheese and an occasional ice cream treat are doable. Grain is what really does a number one me. It spikes my blood sugar, it makes my stomach feel yucky. I generally have a feeling of ick after I eat a bunch of refined grain. Especially wheat. So, I’m going to keep it simple for now as my life is still a bit nuts and I’m finding summer eating to be difficult, and I’m just going to cut out the grain. See what happens. Though I don’t like watching a scale closely, I think I’m going to watch it for awhile just to see if any visible results happen. I’ll keep you posted.

I guess my philosophy right now is, do what you can. Even a forward movement of inches is better than a complete stand still. Ideally I’d love to be taking leaps and bounds forward in my weight loss journey, but if a slow crawl is all I can handle, at least it’s something.

Goals: cut out grain. Continue to try and make my mental health a priority. Have fun with my kids.

Have a good week, see you all next time!

 

My Brain is Too Small

I’ve had a couple thoughts this week that have merged into one idea. This week I picked up one of George MacDonalds’ novels. Old-fashioned. Sometimes a bit heavy-handed with the moralizing. But a lot of wisdom packed into a little book. I’m about half-way through, still not sure if I want to commit to reading the whole book as it’s not my typical style that I enjoy. It moves slowly. But, I also find it to be soothing. I am confident that I am not going to run into any themes that go against my conscience, and I am certain that I’m going to run into ideas that make me pause and think and ponder. The insights into humanity are deep and cut right to the heart of the matter.

There is a scene in the book that stayed with me. A young boy is talking to his tutor about God, trying to understand the omniscience of God and being frustrated because he can’t wrap his mind around the idea. His tutor laughs and says he is trying to understand something that is so big it won’t fit in his brain. It’s like trying to fit 20 horses into a stable that only fits 10. This made me stop. It seems very counter-culture to me. Nowadays we like to assure our children that they can Do Anything. Be Anything. Achieve Anything. We don’t like to put any limits on our abilities. If you want to pursue that challenge, then Pursue it! I’m Confident in you! You can do Anything!! And then here in the book there is a tutor laughing at his pupil for trying to comprehend a large idea, saying his brain is not big enough to take it all in, and he should just leave it as a mystery. Hmm. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of that.

Then this morning I sat and continued my Bible reading in the book of Revelation. There’s nothing like the book of Revelation to make you feel like your brain isn’t big enough to take in everything there is to know about God. I have read the book of Revelation several times over the years. I always get stuck. So many questions. What’s that? What does that mean? What’s going on? Why are they talking about that and then suddenly talking about this?? I’ve listened to different teachings and sermons on the book over the years and I can say that I have a couple good conclusions. God is in control. God wins in the end. God is Holy beyond my comprehension. Beyond that, everything is a little gray and fuzzy. And it occurred to me this morning, perhaps my brain is not really big enough to understand all of this fully. We’re talking about the nature of God and heaven and things in the spiritual realm. I live here on earth. My dealings are with people and the things of this world. While I am certainly supposed to grow in my knowledge of God and spiritual things, I think there is a limit to how far I can go in my understanding. How can I truly understand how heaven works until I go there? The Bible certainly drops many hints, but God never seems to think it’s important to try and spell out all the details carefully for us.

I find it a bit freeing to not have to understand everything. It’s kind of like laying down a heavy burden that I was never meant to carry. I am not saying that we should stop pursuing knowledge. I plan to continue to read Revelation and research and ask questions and understand as much of it as is possible, but it’s nice to know there are limits. Mystery is a Thing and faith makes that ok. I have faith that what the Bible says is true. I have faith that God is good. I have faith that He is in control. I will try to learn and understand everything I can, and the things I can’t understand, I can be at peace knowing that God’s got that too.