As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Snapshot - January 27, 2013

Here's what our days looked like this week (starting from the top left corner, and working my way around clockwise back to the center):

I have a confession - I have a ton of photos of my kids around the table.  This particular one was taken at recess one day this week.  It's the only time of day when all the kids are a) in the same place, b) sitting still, and c) all happy at the same time.  Something about seeing them all so still and peaceful makes me love my life, no matter what challenges the day brings.  I am also so very grateful looking at my bigger kids in this picture, for the reality that they are part of our every day life as a family (not just the little ones).  Homeschooling is such a blessing.

Last week was a busy one for me, and my little baby spent much of it like this.  This particular photo was taken on a evening when I went out for Women's Adoration, which we do monthly and is such a blessing.  I wasn't sure how soon after Mary's birth I would be able to attend (because most of my other kids were not easy to travel with in the evenings when they were very young) but I haven't had to miss one.  She is so easygoing and just rolls with whatever changes come our way.  She is such a little doll.

Katie got this apron from a dear friend of mine for Christmas, and has been dying to help me bake something.  We had chili for supper tonight, and my husband requested tea biscuits so I enlisted her help.  She was overjoyed.

Baking is almost always crazy at my house, and truth be told I usually hope the kids don't notice me doing it so I can get it done by myself (otherwise I have five kids crowding the counter, fighting to be the next to "dump it in".)  The older kids were out today though, so I just had these guys and it was a lot of fun.  We made the best biscuits I've made in a long time (not sure what I've been doing wrong, but my last few batches were write-offs!)  Today's however, were delicious.  It's all in the help, I guess.

The big boys got lego for Christmas.  We were a little frightened at first, as previous attempts at small toys have ended in disaster (read: watching your money get sucked up by the vacuum).  This time it came with a locking suitcase so they can lock their creations away from their younger siblings.  They are loving it, and will spend hours at a time in their room building and re-building things. It's been great for them to have something to pass the time, especially on the coldest days when it's not much fun to be outside for great lengths of time.  And I am happy to have a way to give them some toys that aren't "toddler-friendly", to allow for some age-appropriate fun for them.  (Mega blocks just weren't cutting it anymore!)

This week has been frigid cold - too cold for the birds to go outside.  So they've been chillin' in the coop instead.  Doesn't seem to bother them too much, but I'll be happy to see them back outside.

You can't really tell from this picture (or maybe you can), but our dog is jumping for joy.  Why?  Because I asked her if she wanted her breakfast.  She's getting old, eight to be exact, and is slowing down quite a bit from her younger days.  It's one of the things I like the best about her (I don't have time to keep up with a rambunctious dog).  Still, every now and then, I like to see that there's still a bit of puppy left in her.  Sometimes I'll chase her in the yard for a bit, or bring her to the coop with me to get the eggs.  She is the world's best dog, has been from day one.  A great companion to our family.

And finally, this little guy stole my camera today and snapped some pictures that made me laugh.  This was my favorite, I call it, "wonder what this button does?"  What a guy!

That's all for this week.  Cheers, from my family to yours!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Gift of the Moment

My husband is fond of reminding me that each moment is gift for me.  Whatever the particular circumstances, good or bad, delightfully glorious or insanely frustrating, this moment (and every one after it) are for me.  They are gift.  Not just to be endured, but to be accepted, embraced, so that their goodness can be fully revealed and delighted in.

I find so often that I react to a situation without really thinking.  I respond however the circumstance dictates (with anger, frustration or excitement) and think about it after.  I've been trying lately instead to take a moment before responding to just soak it in, to clear my head.  With so many toddlers and silly little boys things are often very explosive, and I often respond with an explosion of my own.  I've been trying to breathe a little, to give myself one minute to put things in perspective and then respond.

This is particularly challenging with my two-year-old, who is both explosive and destructive by nature.  His intensity is one the things I love most about him, but also presents the greatest challenge to a Mom whose whole day revolves around a neverending to do list.  I have often lamented lately the great burden it is to me that I am constantly worried about what he is going to get into, what lock he is going to break, what job I have finished that he is going to come along behind me and destroy all over again. It has caused me to respond with a heavy sigh as soon as I see him, wishing instead that he would just go play quietly somewhere with the other kids so I can finish what I need to do.

I don't want to be that way.  I want to enjoy him as he is right now - a beautiful, vibrant, intense, two-year-old boy.  So yesterday afternoon while the baby napped, I set aside my to-do list for a half hour and just played with the kids, all of them.  We laughed and were silly, and when I set about the rest of my day I found I had a new perspective.  These little guys are fun!  The fact that they are in my face, interrupting me from my daily chores - that's not to irritate me, that is for me.  So I can breathe a little bit and enjoy life, enjoy them. What a blessing they are.

This morning I was trying to do school with the older kids.  One of the boys got a karaoke machine for Christmas, and not long into our lessons I could hear my toddler with this machine blasting pop music from the basement at a volume that easily broke the concentration of all my students.  I (nursing the baby and stuck in my chair) asked him politely a few times to please take it in one of the bedrooms and close the door.  But, given the ear-piercing nature of this delightful toy (thank you to the individual who bought that for them, by the way!) he didn't hear.  He walked right up the stairs, the offending sound getting louder and louder, and I breathed in deep.  As I saw all of my students lift their heads from their work, the concentration I had fought so hard to gain for them gone in a New York minute, I listened to his gruff little two-year-old voice singing the words into the microphone, and I laughed.  We all did.  He was so cute!  I listened to him for a minute, told him what a great singer he was, and asked him to please take it back downstairs.  With a little coaxing he agreed, and the big kids got  back to work.  I think it was just what we all needed to relieve the tension of the burden I place on all of us to work without distractions.

It's so easy for me to just let life pass me by. To get so focused on surviving these moments that I forget to be in them, always looking instead to the crazy expectations I set for myself (that maybe I can  reach and maybe I can't.)  I am so grateful for a husband who reminds me to accept the gift in each moment, the trial and challenges that are uniquely and blessedly mine.  And of course for the little ones who know better than me, and are constantly calling me to chill just a little, and enjoy the beautiful gift that is my life.

Happy Friday everyone!  May we all spend a few minutes soaking up the goodness that is ours in each moment.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Learning to Love

This morning was a rough one.  It seems like we haven't fully recovered from Christmas, and we've been too busy to get anything done.  We've been swamped with extra outings and appointments on top of our usually busy schedule.  My house is upside down.  Everything is behind.  And to top it off, getting out with the kids has been less than smooth.

To elaborate, on outing days every ounce of energy I have from the moment I get up goes towards having us all ready to get out the door by whatever time we have to be out. There is no wiggle room.  But the past few times we've had to be out, one of my students has dug his feet into the ground.  Not outright, of course, but subtly.  So that I don't realize he's not done most of his school work until it's too late to make it up.  And when this happens, I am faced with one of three options: 1) Cancel the outing, and make him work until he's done.  2) Make him sit down and do his work as soon as he gets home. 3) Leave the work until the next day, and do double the work.

The problem is that each of these options means triple the work (and thus, triple the anxiety) for me.  Sometimes I can't cancel, and even if I can then I'm the one missing out - little twiddle-my-thumbs gets to just keep trucking along at his own, delightfully snailish pace.  And if I leave the work for when we get home, I am faced with arriving home with all six children (two of whom have probably fallen asleep on the drive and are guaranteed to be cranky for at least an hour after) at supper time, scrounging to prepare a meal and look after my infant, who likely did not eat while we were out and will need to be nursed, and looking after all the other evening getting-the-house-in-order chores with the kids.  Not exactly the easiest time to homeschool.  But, if I leave it for the next day, then the little one who already didn't make it through yesterday's workload now has double the mountain to climb - how's that for motivation? 

Now that I've presented my case, you can probably guess my reaction.  Not good.  The first two times it happened, I absolutely lost it with this boy.  Repeatedly.  And had several serious, sit-down talks with him. And got his father to do the same.  So today is a gym day, and I thought I had the upper hand.  I thought, "Aha!  I don't need to go to this, this is for them.  If they don't have their work done by the time I need to go, we just won't go.  No stress, no freaking out, problem solved." boy worked extra hard, like rock star hard, and even did double the work.  "Know why I'm working so hard Mommy?" he says, "So I can go to gym class."  Well...I can't really keep the whole clan home now.  

As I watched my little knuckle-dragger deliberately stare at the ceiling, defiantly twiddling his thumbs and ignoring my warnings (the last of which I gave him around 10:00 am, and went something like, "Make sure you know what you're choosing by doing this, you will not go to gym class if you don't finish all of your work by lunch time.  I'm not going to keep nagging you, it's up to you.") my blood boiled.  I texted my husband at work and asked him for prayers, and it took everything in me not to snap at my darling little boy.  I knew I just couldn't go there again.  But I didn't know what else to do.

Love is the answer, he texted back.  I'm not a big text messager, but I am so grateful for it in moments like this.  When I am thick in despair, it's so good to know my husband is not so far away.  Sometimes love looks a lot like a crucifix.  I mean for you.  I'm not saying you should crucify him.  I mean it would be helpful for you to lovingly accept your cross. 

How many times am I confronted with this demanding love, the kind that doesn't have an easy answer, that makes things a million times harder for me (if I do it the right way) - do I crucify my children?  Do I lash out in anger, lamenting my lot in life that these children seem to be choosing to make my life harder?  When I read those words my heart broke, because as a mother the last thing you ever want to do is string your child out.  But I do.  I get desperate.  I snap.  And instead of taking their place and accepting my cross, I heave it onto their little shoulders.  Of course they don't know the pressure I'm under, why should they?  Instead of trying to make them understand the load I am carrying, I need to be more willing to carry that load and more if required, to deal with these little upsets that are natural for the ages they are at (not to say anything of what's coming as they get older).  Instead of looking for every opportunity to rid myself of some of that weight I need to get good at carrying it, so that when my burden becomes heavier, I'm not looking to toss it on the next poor soul who walks within catching distance. 

Most importantly, I need to remember that I don't carry this cross alone.  And rather than looking to little ones to understand what they can't possibly, I instead need to look to the One who knows far better than me.  The One who gives me this cross and allows me to bear it as gift, pure gift, for me alone.  For my good, and the greater glory of His kingdom.  Where someday I hope I, my husband, and all our little ones will join Him after a life lived loving Him.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

May Jesus help me bear whatever it takes to get these little ones to Heaven. 

We did go to town.  My little rock star went to the gym class he had worked so hard to earn.  And the rest of the kids and I went to the chapel in the school next door and poured our hearts out to Jesus (or at least I did).  It was beautiful.  It was peaceful.  It was healing.  Then we came home, and with a renewed sense of purpose and love for my little boy, set out to do the work that lay before us.  And he finished it - all of it - without me raising my voice to him, not once (even this morning).  

My husband was right.  I love him so much.

Snapshot - January 19, 2013

Last year I had what I thought was the brilliant idea of doing a monthly newsletter for our family, to document what we had done in that month.  I thought it would be a great way to keep our friends and family up-to-date on our lives, as well as documenting it for our own future reference.  Unfortunately my first newsletter was also my last.  You see, I lack both discipline and continuity - coupled with my extreme lack of time, and you can see why playing "roving reporter" at the end of the month to try and dredge up and document our best memories may not have been such a doable thing for me.

However I do like the idea of documenting our daily life, if only to create something I can come back to when these days are long gone.  Something that stands the test of time, which sadly my memory does not.  To help me celebrate the little things in family life that make it so great.

I had the idea a while back to do a "snapshot" post, something that I could put together in a few pictures that best showed my life that day.  I'm hoping to do at least one of these a week but, due to my aforementioned weakness with continuity, am not putting too much pressure on myself.  We'll take it one day at a time, and see how things go.

So, here is my first official snapshot:

I'll start with the middle photo on the left and work clockwise.  We've had two snowfalls this week, and the kids are loving it.  They spent much of the day Saturday sliding at our neighbor's house with their best friend.  I am so very grateful for snowy, winter weather, and good friendships between boys.

Mary continues to grow and do more and more each day.  These days she is into telling long stories, which are loud and theatrical in nature and bring so much delight to her siblings, who absolutely adore her. My favorite time of day with Mary is in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed, and Jeff and I are sitting together in the chair and a half to watch TV, which seems to be just about her favorite time to distract us.  She tells these big, engaging stories that make us smile so much our faces hurt!  Love that little girl.

Stephen had a bit of a rough day.  First he went to the washroom downstairs, and since the music was on really loud (the way Jeff likes it) nobody could hear him shouting that he needed toilet paper.  Not sure how long he was in there, but I found him after I came in from shoveling (Jeff was making supper) and he was pretty upset.  A few minutes later he came upstairs crushed because he thought Aaron had broken one of his toys (turns out it was fine) and when I fixed it, I was a superhero.  All in a day's work.

Aaron was super-cranky so Jeff decided to lay on the couch with him and before you know it, they were both out like a light.  There's something about a heavy blanket of snow outside that makes you want to cozy up with a heavy blanket inside.

I am enjoying Katie so much these days.  Three years old with her has been rocky, mostly because it's been difficult for me to adjust to how different she is as a girl (and to be honest, because she is so much like me in that I am quite often as tantrum-y as a three-year-old).  I've been spending lots of one-on-one time with her and really feeling a special bond with her as my oldest girl.  I love how sweet and girly she is, but also how rough-and-tumble growing up with three older brothers has made her.  She is an absolute gem.

I am way behind (way behind) on so many household chores, and debated whether I should get started on some of those, or just sit and take it easy as my body was calling me to do.  I decided that since we had a busy day on the agenda Sunday, I would wish I had taken the time to relax while I could if I let the moment pass.  So I pulled out a word search book I got for Christmas, made myself a tea, and sat down to spend some downtime.  Stephen and Katie, who have been dying to dive into these puzzles since I got them, asked if they could help.  I said sure, and they pulled up their chairs beside me, crayons in hand.  Katie circled random letters and delighted at me trying to pronounce the word she had just circled ("nmlzip", for example) while Stephen, who is just on the verge of reading, helped me search for smaller words and circled letters I pointed out for him.  The result was the messiest word search I have ever seen, and time well spent with two of my middle children.

Katie got all bent out of shape about something.  I forget what.  But it seems that Dora, her thumb, and a fuzzy blanket were all the comfort she needed.

As it turns out, Sunday was beautiful but crazy-busy, and I am terribly thankful to have spent our day enjoying life and our family.  The big kids didn't get home until after dark, we ate a beautiful restaurant-worthy meal that Jeff made for us, and had a movie night.  I am so grateful for this life, and all the little things that make it great.

And now, off to do some laundry.  Which after this weekend, has become mammoth-like.  Until next time, cheers!