The Committee Meeting

As I was mopping my floors for the first time in a long time today, I had a funny thought. What if God had done interviews of my family and friends when I was somewhere around 19 years old. And he said, Hey, I’m looking for someone to have 10 children and run a household and keep everything in order. What do you think about Esther? I’m pretty sure that none of my family members or friends or roommates would have nominated me for the job. Esther? She’s rather messy. Housework and Esther? Nah. She’s kind of absent-minded too, not real detail oriented. Honestly, I don’t think Esther is much of  kid person, I don’t think she’s even babysat much, and she never tries to hold other people’s babies at church or anything like that. She’s not exactly the crafty, fun, play with kids type. She’s rather sarcastic, that surely can’t be good for raising children. All Esther wants to do is play her piano and read books. I can’t see her taking the time away from that to raise a family. 

 

Ok. So probably my friends and family would be too diplomatic to voice their true feelings, but I’m sure they would have thought at least some of that. 

 

I am visiting, once again, the amazing discovery that God doesn’t always match our callings up with our gifts. Or, to put it another way, we don’t need to work on the areas we are strong in, we need to work on the areas we are weak in. 

 

I can just see it: A committee meeting. God proposes to a couple angels, I’ve got a position open for Stay at Home Mom of Ten, I’m thinking that I’m going to put Esther in this position. The angels raise their eyebrows (I’m going to presume they have eyebrows) and look cautiously at each other. Umm. God, we know that you know everything, so you must be right, but we really don’t see how this is a good fit. Can you explain? 

 

Then God would say, Look, you see how she has been lazy and selfish about helping her mother out with washing dishes for her entire life? Every time she has to wash dishes she has a temper tantrum. See, I’m going to put her in a position where she has to wash up the dishes after 12 people, 3 times a day. She’s going to learn how to change her attitude, stop treating it like a death sentence, and in fact, one day I will teach how to make that time of serving her family, a time when she can put on worship music and worship me. 

 

The angels nod in amazement. Wow, Esther washing dishes and worshiping? Is that possible? 

 

Then God would continue. You see how she’s really messy and doesn’t take care of her belongings? I’m going to surround her with a houseful of people who are equally messy and who also don’t take care of their belongings. She’s going to learn how annoying that is and start taking steps to change it. She’ll also have the ironic position of trying to teach her children how to take care of their belongings. Esther’s mother will find the whole situation very amusing. 

 

The angels grin, yes, I’m sure that will be good payback for her poor mother who’s had to deal with her mess for years. 

 

God will smile, and continue. Yes, and you see how absent-minded she is? I’m going to make her have so many details to keep track of that the only way she’ll be able to do it is by clinging to me and my strength and power every day. She’s going to become a lot more reliant on me. 

 

And you see how she doesn’t even notice the existence of children? I’m going to change her heart and make it so child-focused that she won’t be able to enter a public place without seeing all the kids. And she’ll have a heart for them. And she’ll start praying for them and being kind to them. Only I can change a person’s heart like that. And I’m going to use her own children to make this change. 

 

You see how proud she is? She thinks she’s really smart. I’m going to let her be a mom to ten children and she’s going to learn very quickly that she really doesn’t know much at all. And instead of trying to do everything out of her own ability, she’s going to learn, slowly, how to rely on me for wisdom and direction instead of her own intelligence. 

 

I’m going to take this girl and make her a woman with a heart for me. 

 

The angels get all excited…How long is this going to take God? 

 

God smiles, Her whole life. But what a journey it’s going to be!

 

 

 

Emptying the Nest

It is the end of an era. My oldest son is leaving home tomorrow. He’s off to Montana for a year-long bible school. He worked really hard to get to this point. He managed to graduate a year early from high school so that he could have a year in between college to do something different, take some time to figure out his direction. I am overwhelmingly proud of him. He worked two jobs this summer, stayed connected to the church, started dating a very sweet girl. What more can you ask of your child? And now he’s leaving. And I am now swamped with a whole bucket-load of differing emotions. 

If you think about it, this whole motherhood thing kind of sucks. You take these newborn babies and pour your life into them. Every decision you make for the next 18 years takes them into consideration. Will this be good for my kids? And then they start growing up and developing independence and you run the tightrope walk of trying to make sure they are safe and also giving them the space they need to learn how to take care of themselves. And then they grow up, they learn everything you expected them to learn in their time at home…and then they leave. And it kind of feels like your heart is walking out the door…Except, this was the whole point. From day one you have been working to get them to Here. Where they can now step out, fully equipped, and start living their own lives. 

And there are tears because you can’t believe you made it to this point. There were definitely some moments along the way where I was positive my child would never make it to adulthood. And you are kind of in awe at God’s mercy and grace that got you and your child to this point. And so there are tears. 

And then there is relief. After all, part of leaving the nest is outgrowing the nest. There’s not enough room here for my mostly-adult child to become a full adult. He needs some space. It’s hard to stretch your wings and learn to fly when you keep bumping into your parents. And it’s hard to get on with parenting your other kids when there’s an overgrown chick bumping into you all the time. And so I am relieved that he has found a good place to spend this next year. And I’m excited for him, excited for all the adventures he’s going to have and all the things he’s going to learn. 

And he’ll be back. Christmas, summers, transition times when he just needs a safe place to land while he shifts gears.

My oldest daughter is also taking off in a couple weeks for a year in Alaska. 

Needless to say, my heart is doing that crazy thing where it is swelling up with pride and joy and at the same time, breaking in half. 

Man. Being a parent is painful. 

 

 

Just a Thought

My eight year old daughter was sitting next to me on the couch today. I noticed that she was wearing an old watch on her arm. It was silver and obviously too big for her. 

 

Me: Where did you get that? 

Nomi: What? 

Me: The watch, where did you get that watch? 

Nomi: (continues to play with a toy, doesn’t look up) Miss Linda.

Me: Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Yeah.

Me: (wracking my mind, trying to place this name…a teacher at school? Someone at church? A neighbor?) Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Miss Linda! 

Me: Who’s Miss Linda! 

Nomi: IT’S MISS LINDA!!!

 

You would think that at this point in time I would realize that this method of interrogation was not working and I should try a different approach. But, no.

 

Me: WHO’S MISS LINDA?!?!?!?!?!

Nomi: Mom, it’s Miss Linda. 

 

I stared at her in frustration. Then it clicked. My husband had taken two of his little daughters with him when he did a quick Saturday side job to put up a ceiling fan for Miss Linda, a retired woman he has done work for in the past. It was a chance for him to have some daddy-daughter time and a chance for Miss Linda to spoil some little girls. 

 

Ok. Mystery solved. 

 

Then one of my sons walked in the room, spotted the watch with his laser eyes, and quickly went into attack mode..

 

Judah: Where did you get that???

Nomi: Miss Linda.

Judah: Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: It’s Miss Linda! 

 

I inwardly groaned as I knew I was now going to hear this whole conversation again. But as I watched my daughter I noticed a certain spark in her eye, a smug set to her mouth. She was having fun with this. 

 

What is it about kids loving to create conflict? 

 

MOM! SHE TOUCHED ME!

DID NOT!

DID TOO!

DID NOT!

dsDID TOO!

 

And on and on and on. 

 

I remember being exactly the same. It wasn’t until I was an older teenager that I started realizing that I didn’t have to react every time my brother pushed my buttons. And I didn’t have to push his buttons every time the opportunity presented itself. I presumed that it’s just part of growing up; learning how to live at peace with people, no longer delighting in sparking conflict. 

 

Enter FaceBook Stage Right. 

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting on FaceBook. I love seeing who just got engaged. Adorable baby photos. Who just got a new job. I love reading interesting articles that people post. Beautiful photos of far-off places. FaceBook can be a lot of fun. 

 

Then you have those posts that say, “If you don’t agree with my position, then you are STUPID!” And then someone comments: OH YEAH! WELL, YOU’RE STUPID!

AM NOT!
ARE TOO!
AM NOT!
ARE TOO!

 

Apparently the need to stir up arguments and be difficult Doesn’t go away when you grow up. 

 

I am not saying there isn’t a place for expressing ideas that differ from others. And I think there is definitely a time to say, I disagree with you, and this is why…I guess what always baffles me is why we can’t have differing opinions or even heated discussions without remaining respectful of each other. It is possible to believe strongly in something, have a desire to share that belief with others, and still not be rude or disrespectful to the people who believe differently than you. In fact, if you remain respectful, you will probably have a much better chance at sharing your beliefs with others. 

 

Just a thought. 

 

Parenthood Requires a Sense of Humour

I saw a little clip of the British comedian Michael McIntyre where he talks about leaving the house with kids Michael McIntyre. (Might be some swearing.) It was hilarious.

I was thinking about his comedic routine this past weekend while we were at our family reunion. The reunion was great. My brother and his wife and three of his kids were there. We had six of our kids and my parents were there as well. My sister-in-law found an amazing airbnb down near Tellico Plains in Tennessee. It was like having our own little patch of the Smokey Mountain Park to ourselves. There was a good stretch of river where the kids could tube and swim, trails to walk on, a pretty little meadow. It was great. 

Our first morning there I said that I would like to go for a walk after breakfast and see all the trails and the river. Pretty soon almost every one had decided they wanted to go too. Great! We cleaned up from breakfast and then I told the kids to go get their shoes on.  A couple kids walked past me still in their pajamas. 

 

Hey! You need to get dressed first! 

Ok Mom!

 

Kids go running off, all trying to get to the upstairs bathroom first to change, since we have one family per bedroom and very little privacy. There is a tussle upstairs, some loud thumps..someone yells. 

 

TAKE TURNS IN THE BATHROOM!! I yell up the staircase, too lazy to actually run up the steps and see what exactly happened. 

 

Meanwhile, my mom, who has no little children, sits in the living room. 

Just let me know when you’re ready.  

Ok Mom. 

 

Some barefoot children run past me. SHOES!! You need your shoes!! The ten year old then launches into a complaint about how his water shoes are no good and he has no shoes to wear and of course it’s all my fault because I didn’t buy him the new pair of water shoes that he was wanting. (Because he had a perfectly good pair already.) I tell him to just wear the cheapy tennis shoes that he brought, it won’t matter if they get wet and they will definitely keep out rocks. 

 

No way. Those are tennis shoes. You aren’t supposed to wear tennis shoes in the water.

I don’t care which shoes you wear, just PUT on shoes NOW, or you can just sit on the couch all day.

 

He goes to find his water shoes and then starts yelling because his older brother is apparently wearing HIS water shoes. Older brother protests. (Unfortunately, at the time of purchase, there was no variety available, I ended up getting the same shoe in two different sizes. Bad idea.) We finally make older brother take off the water shoes so we can verify the size of the shoe. Yes, these water shoes belong to the ten year old. Sorry older brother. 

 

Older brother then collapses onto the couch in a full-on pout. 

 

What’s wrong?? Go get your shoes on!!

I can’t find my shoes. 

Have you looked in the car? In the living room? Outside? In the bedroom?

I haven’t looked in the bedroom.

THEN GO LOOK IN THE BEDROOM!!!

 

My mom sits peacefully, turns a page of her book as I stomp on by.

 

Then I notice the two year old. He is walking around in his diaper. Good grief. I run up the stairs into the bedroom, grab clothes, diapers, wipes, socks and shoes. (It’s summer, but this poor baby has fat feet that get blisters in every single shoe unless he is wearing socks.) I run downstairs, corner the baby, and start speed-dressing him. Children who are dressed and shoed are now running around outside. I jump up, stick my head out the door..

 

DON’T LEAVE UNTIL I COME OUT THERE! 

Ok Mom.

AND WHILE YOUR’E AT IT, GO INSIDE AND USE THE BATHROOM AND GET A DRINK!

 

Children start pouring back into the house to fight for the bathroom.

 

Older brother is once again sitting on the couch, moping. 

 

WHY DON”T YOU HAVE YOUR SHOES ON???????

My shoes are in the bedroom and the bedroom door is locked and I can’t get in. 

 

What? I was just up there. That’s impossible. Go try the door again. 

 

I stand at the bottom of the steps and watch while he runs up. I hear him struggling with the door. The door is not opening. 

 

ANDY!!! It’s now time to bring in the reinforcements.

 

My husband comes, inspects the door. He needs a paper clip. We are in someone else’s house. It’s very unlikely there are any paper clips around. We search all the drawers. I find toothpicks. Will that work? 

 

Nope. 

 

Finally, with a credit card and who knows what other magic, my husband unlocks the bedroom door. (I would very much like to know how it got locked in the first place.). Older brother retrieves his shoes. I announce loudly, to the house at large, that I am now leaving on a walk. 

 

My mom has finished her book by now. She gets up and joins us. (I’d like to add that my brother and his wife are going through the same saga getting their kids out the door.)

 

We start walking down the path and I suddenly remember that little comedy clip I had seen about parents trying to leave the house. I start laughing. Parenthood definitely requires a sense of humour. 

 

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!

 

Just Another Fun Day at the Park

This past Friday night I took my four youngest kids to the park. We had to take my teenage daughter to work for her evening shift, so we dropped her off and then picked up some McDonalds and went over to Fountain City Park.

We hadn’t been to this park in quite a while as it’s in a different part of town and I rarely venture that way. As we walked into the park and I was looking for a table where we could eat, there didn’t seem to be too many people around. We walked down a little path and suddenly there were people. Two couples and a guy by himself, they were all standing within fifteen feet of each other. Just standing there, every single one of them staring at their smart phones intently and pressing the screens frantically as if they were playing some exciting action game. It kind of took me by surprise. Like, am I interrupting some kind of group therapy where everyone stands around and texts each other? None of them seemed to have any children with them (which is my primary reason for visiting parks). They had just come to the park (For exercise? Fresh air? A change of scenery?) so they could stand in the great outdoors and stare intently at their phone.

Ok. That’s weird.

I edged around the group of phone zombies and we settled at a picnic table right next to a little man-made wading creek. The kids were torn by two opposing treats. Eating McDonalds or playing in the creek. The creek finally won out and they left half their meal behind as they ran for the water. Everything was good. Cute kids frolicking in the water. Then, about two minutes later, the six year old runs up to me. I NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM!

Let me just tell you, this park has public restrooms, but they are on the opposite side of the park. It is too far away to leave children alone playing while you accompany someone to the bathroom, and they are too far away to just let a child go there by themselves.

Uh..No.. We can’t go to the bathroom. It’s too far away. (I cringed as I said this, I’m pretty sure it breaks some international treaty laws to deny a child access to the bathroom). She looked at me, thought about it for a minute, and then said, Ok, I can hold it for a while.

Alrighty then.

Five minutes later, the four year old ran up to me. I NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM! Ok. Fine. I give up. I grabbed my purse, yelled for all my kids to come cause we were going to the bathroom. I pointed in the direction we were heading and the eight and six year old took off at a full run. The four year old was about 20 feet behind them and then came me and about twenty feet behind me was the two year old. He had decided that he wanted to climb over a rock, a stump, say hi to a butterfly, inspect the grass, and all the other things two year olds do when you are in a hurry. I was stuck in the middle, yelling for the girls to not get too far ahead, trying to encourage the two year old to hurry up.

Too late, the three kids ahead of me disappeared into an opening that lead to the bathrooms. WAIT! Don’t go so far ahead!…They were obviously out of ear shot. I urged the two year old on and started walking faster. The two year old and I finally got to the doorway where they had disappeared. There was a Men’s Restroom Door propped open and I heard child voices inside. Oh no. Did my girls accidentally go into the Men’s Room?? I stood at the doorway, not wanting to cross that sacred threshold unless I absolutely had to. I scanned the room. No men in sight. Good. ARE YOU GUYS IN HERE?? My little boy piped up from the one stall in the bathroom, the stall door swinging wide open. Yeah, I’m here! Ok. My son is in the Mens’ Restroom. Not the girls. All is well, though I would have preferred he had gone to the Women’s Room as he is still little. I stood at the doorway waiting for him to finish, then his little voice piped up. Where’s the toilet paper? …There isn’t any toilet paper! I yanked open my purse and started looking for tissues. Wait! I’ve got some, I’ll bring it to you. Just a minute! I finally found the tissue and headed into the bathroom. Again, too late. Sound of flushing. He had skipped the toilet paper part of the routine. I peaked into the stall. Yep. I now had a mess to clean up.

Fortunately Mom is always prepared (except when she isn’t, and then it’s bad). Out came the wipes from the bottomless handbag. Clean up the mess. Wash hands. Quickly exit the Mens’ Room and go hunt down my girls. I could hear them before I even entered the Women’s Room. They were chattering away to each other as they washed their hands. The entire building is made of concrete block. That, combined with a vaulted ceiling and a concrete floor, made the whole room an echo chamber. My two little boys followed me into the restroom and instantly noticed the noise level was about one hundred percent MORE in this room. They started shrieking just so they could hear the sound bounce off the walls a million times. I told them to be quiet and stand by the wall while I used the bathroom. More shrieking. BE QUIET! Lots of muffled sounds, then more shrieking. Almost like yodelling. Of course, I usually ignore this kind of behavior. Making noise at the park isn’t going to hurt anything. But, a glimpse under the stalls showed that some other poor woman was having to share this restroom with my noisy brood. QUIET!! The older girls decided to be helpful and started shushing their brothers. Then they discovered that the shushing sound also echoed off the walls, and if they shushed to a rhymic beat it also had a fun feel to it. The two year old decided to practice his hooting skills. I was rendered helpless, stuck in a toilet stall, unable to back up my hissed commands of BE QUIET with any action.

Fortunately, I saw the shoes of the unknown woman leave her stall, and shortly after, heard the outer door close. We were alone. I came out. Glared at my children who were still making their own version of music. I washed my hands and then shooed them back towards the playground and the creek. Several minutes later we were all settled in, me at the picnic table, the kids splashing in the water again. The eight year old walks up to me. Uh Mom, when we were in the bathroom, I didn’t have to go, so I didn’t go. But, Now I gotta go to the bathroom.

Right.

Taking kids to the park is so relaxing.

 

Fifth Grade Graduation

Today I went and saw my eleven year old’s fifth grade graduation. He’s finished elementary school and will head off to middle school next fall. They had a nice little ceremony. About a hundred fifth graders were sitting on folding chairs in the middle of the gymnasium while all the parents crowded the bleachers and lined the walls when the bleachers filled up. Our community is all about celebrating children’s accomplishments. There were parents there with balloons and noise makers, ready to holler as loudly as possible when their child’s name was called. I was the only family member there to cheer on my son. I had taken my two little boys with me to the kindergarten graduation in the morning and that had been an exercise in frustration. They were not very interested in sitting quietly on the bench next to me. By the time I got them home, I was thinking Never Again. I knew I still had the afternoon graduation to go to, and so I was very relieved when my highschooler came home at lunchtime after getting released early. I set her up to babysit and went off to the next graduation of the day.

My son won an award from the librarian for being an enthusiastic and voracious reader. He also met his math and reading goals for the year. Yay! I watched my handsome boy, standing happily holding his certificates. A little embarrassed to be the center of attention, but obviously pleased with his accomplishments.

This week has been the week of awards and ceremonies for my children. They have all done well. Some of them shining like stars, their accomplishments impressive. Others did the equally impressive feat of just getting through a school year with the the knowledge that their teachers were pleased with them and happy that they had had them in their classroom.

As I sat there in the bleachers I was overwhelmed with pride in my children. How on earth did I get such amazing kids? I looked around the gymnasium and saw a room full of parents who all seemed to be having the same sentiments. I took a closer look at the other kids, sitting in their folding chairs. My son’s classmates. His friends. His peers. At the beginning of the ceremony, the music teacher had lead all the kids in singing “This is Me” from the Greatest Showman. (If you are not familiar with this song then you are obviously not plugged in to pop culture nor do you have teenagers in your house!) This is apparently a popular graduation song, as the kindergartners sang it also, and the high school dance team did an amazing dance to the same song at the high school graduation. The words are very inspirational..

 

Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me…”

Another line from the song says, “For we are glorious!”

 

Now, I don’t buy into the philosophy that children are these innocent creatures, mini-gods walking amongst us. I have ten kids. I am very aware that children are just mini-humans. Capable of anger, jealousy, pettiness, and all the other unlikable things. But, in children, it’s like it hasn’t completely taken root yet. There is so much potential. They are still at a place where you can correct their mistakes, direct them down better paths, teach them in hopes that they will avoid some of the big pits that you fell into yourself.

I sat and watched these little 5th graders. Each one an individual in their own right, marching bravely into the future, optimistic and full of energy. I joined the other parents as we clapped and cheered. Those are our kids! We believe in them! We are dedicated to doing everything we can to turn them into happy, productive adults. We are ready to show up and cheer them on, no matter how small the milestone. Yeah, my kids are amazing. And so are yours.