Archives

Babies Don’t Keep

DSCN1565My fifth child is 2 months old now. How can that be?   She likes to cuddle and snuggle and rock. So that’s what we do.  As I look around my house- the floors covered with crumbs, dishes piled in the sink from the weekend- I think about a few poetic lines about dust, cobwebs, and rocking babies my mom had embroidered in a frame on the wall when I was growing up.

My mom actually told me recently that these lines were actually part of a longer poem called “Song for a Fifth Child.”  How appropriate!  I hunted down the poem and what do you know?  The whole poem was written for me!  A mother with her new fifth child- a baby girl.

DSCN1441

Song for a Fifth Child

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,

Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,

Hang out the washing and butter the bread,

Sew on a button and make up a bed.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?

She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

20160417_200053

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue

(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due

(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).

The shoppings not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo

But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.

Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?

(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

DSCN1802

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,

For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep

I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

DSCN1479

 

So I’m not worrying about the fact that my dishes don’t get done every day or that the floor gets swept only when company’s arrival is imminent. Instead, I am enjoying my baby’s soft skin and sweet breath and squishy, cuddly body as I hold her close and rock her.

And I think, as I rock her in the dark stillness of night, of my mom’s words of wisdom that she bestowed upon me when my first was born, “Make friends with the night.”  I enjoy the peace and quiet that rarely reigns in my home and think that these moments are fleeting and this season will pass far too quickly.  So I am content.  To sit and rock my baby, for babies don’t keep.

 

Welcoming a New Baby Sister!

My hands and heart are full.

My hands are full of blessings. My heart is full of love and joy.  God has been very gracious to me.  Children are truly a precious gift from the Lord.

Baby #5 has arrived!

DSCN0741

Dimple!

She did not exactly arrive as I had planned.  With her breech presentation and my preeclampsia, and after an unsuccessful version attempt, she was delivered 2 weeks early via c-section- my first baby to arrive in this way.  It was a completely different experience than my other births and honestly, it was a little scary.  However, I rested in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and love.  He was not taken by surprise.  This was the way He had ordained for her to enter the world.  Furthermore, He is faithful and never leaves me nor forsakes me.

However it happened, we ended up with a healthy baby and a healthy mama.  That is all that is really important.  Then, while my husband, the wonderful man that he is, took care of me and the four older children, I spent the next week resting and recovering and snuggling her.  Baby snuggles!  The best thing for recovery after a birth of any kind!

7 February2

DSCN0782

My older children are over the moon with excitement about their new baby sister.  They are also really enjoying the break from school they are getting as I recover and we adjust to life with the new baby.

DSCN0722

DSCN0814

DSCN0867

Redheads Unite!

She is beautiful and cuddly and sleeps like a baby!  (That is to say, she sleeps in short intervals of 2 or maybe 3 hours- if I’m lucky- at a time.)

DSCN0854

DSCN0902

DSCN0954

One Week Old- Time Flies when you are snuggling a newborn!

 

Homeschooling is Awesome

Because you can totally declare your oldest son’s birthday as a holiday.

8 Years Old

X-man turned 8 and we declared a day off of our regular school schedule.  We celebrated and made fun memories instead.  He went out to breakfast with his dad.


Fierce 8 Year Old

Then we went, at his request, to our local Children’s Discovery Museum.  The kids played with the water tables, caught and released (plastic) fish in the creek, had snack under a tree, painted and built structures.  And did a lot of exploring and wandering.  It was a nice morning and then we left just as it was getting hot.

X's Birthday

X's Birthday2

Xander's Birthday1

Xander's Birthday3Art Room

Xander's Birthday4

With all of these awesome activities, I’m totally counting this as a field trip.

Then we went to Grandma’s house for a lunch birthday party.  Daddy came too!

X's Birthday6

20150430_124200

20150430_124535

8 Candles on his Cupcakes

And because it is what you do on your birthday (or on your brother’s birthday), they all made sure they exited the vehicle via the window.

X's Birthday5

Happy X-man Day!

Me & my oldest baby 8 years from the minute he was born

Me & my oldest baby 8 years from the minute he was born

My Three Step Process for Tackling the Tough Stuff

Messy Room

I hate cleaning my house.  I wish I could have Mary Poppins’ snap cleaning powers.  That would be awesome.

I know there are plenty of people out there who enjoy cleaning.  Or who find the result of a clean house so motivating that they are willing to put forth the energy frequently enough to keep up with the housekeeping.

I am not one of those people.

I do have a level of cleanliness need- I absolutely hate crumbs under the table.  That is sufficiently motivating for me to sweep once, maybe twice a week.

Another highly motivating strategy is to invite someone over.  I definitely find myself in panic mode the night before company is due.  I’ll whip this house in shape then.  But other than that, I have a hard time getting up the energy and motivation to clean, de-clutter, pick up, and do all those household things I really should do.  I’d rather plan out my scope and sequence for my children’s schooling for the next 12 years.  Again.

Part of the problem is that three years ago, I birthed child number 4 and then I moved that summer and every summer since.  Around that same time, I began this homeschooling journey as my oldest entered Kindergarten.  Trying to clean and go through things to get rid of excess stuff when under time constraints with moving (while trying to manage four children and trying to stop them unpacking every box you pack and writing on every surface with the black permanent markers), and with homeschooling, and settling into to a new church and a new area is extremely challenging!

Another part of the problem is me.  I get overwhelmed by the mess and the clutter and then I berate myself and hate myself for my laziness and absolute failure to keep things tidy.  Not all that surprisingly, this does not lead to a more joyful, hard-working approach to my household tasks.  It ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.  When I tell myself I’m lazy and a failure, that is just what I become.  I know I need to have grace for myself (“Cleaning the house while the kids are growing is like shoveling snow while it’s snowing,” after all), but I also know I need to be faithful and hard-working in my God-given tasks.

In my ponderings on how to solve this motivation problem, I’ve been thinking about something Charlotte Mason quoted in her Original Homeschooling Series (Volume 2), “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

It starts with sowing a thought.  That’s all I can handle right now.

So here is my three step process to sow a thought (well, three thoughts I guess) to motivate myself to tackle my housekeeping.

#1:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8:1  I quote that to myself first, to remind myself that I do not do dishes to save myself.  God does not condemn me for my laziness or discouragement.  There is no condemnation.  I am free.

#2:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13    I admit to myself that I cannot do this.  I cannot face my dishes, my sweeping, the toys and the clutter.  But Christ, who lives in me, can.

#3:  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”  

With these thoughts ringing through my mind, I find the strength to get up and get to work.

Where on Earth Have I Been? Moving. Again.

New House

It has been three months since my last post.  Where have I been?

Well, for the third time in as many years, we moved.  Our new place is about 7 minutes away from our old place, but it was still a whole lot of work.  We put all of our stuff in boxes, borrowed a truck, hired some guys to give us a hand and hauled all of our stuff around the corner and down the street.  And it is amazing how much stuff a sentimental homeschooling mom of four accumulates.  SO. MUCH.  May I just take this time to say that I am so very, very tired of moving.

Move & New House1

Thankfully, we have good reason to believe that this will be the last move… for a good long while, at least.

Anyway, I spent the first half of May sick with the flu- the seasonal, high temp, cold shakes, achiness, crippling fatigue for two weeks kind of flu.  And then I spent the second half of May preparing for this move- packing our stuff, painting the new place (with my wonderful cousin who came to help me out for two weeks and without whom I do not know how I would have managed), figuring out where stuff would go and cleaning the old place.

My cousin & I painted the new place and it was SO MUCH FUN!

My cousin & I painted the new place and it was SO MUCH FUN!

We moved the last weekend of May and spent the first few weeks of June in our new place without a working kitchen and managed to get very tired of take-out.  However, we kept working at it and with the hard work and help of my husband’s parents, we slowly have made great progress.  There are still boxes around (what else is new?  This has been my life for the last three years), but things are finally feeling more settled.

Our First Day at Our New House

Our First Day at Our New House

Some school happening in the chaos... and the chaos of bedtime on the first night

Some school happening in the chaos… and the chaos of bedtime on the first night

Our New Yard

Our Beautiful New Yard

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately.  I am looking forward to getting back into my normal routines.  I am excited to post pictures of our house’s transformation and our various outdoor outings and adventures from this summer.  Soon!

A Tale of Two Journeys: The Return

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  

Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities

Last week, I shared the tale of my flight to Virginia with four small children.  That was the worst of times I’ve flown with children.  It is time to move on to the best of times I’ve flown with children: my return trip.

Mind you, it was still hard.  But the difference was figuratively (and literally, as it happens) night and day.

#1- The day of the week.  When I flew out to Virginia, it was Saturday, a busy travel day.  When I flew home, it was Tuesday.  The security checkpoint line was absolutely empty.  So instead of feeling pressured and rushed to get all of my things unloaded and on the conveyor belt while trying to keep my children from running to who knows where, there was no one in line behind me.  No pressure.  I was able to take my time and had 5 TSA agents around  to guard all exit points and keep an eye on the kids.

#2 I was much better prepared.  I was more careful with what food I packed and I had a plan of action for which toys and activities I would bring out at which times. When we got to the gate, we had about 2 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave.  So, we started with a snack.  Then (since I really didn’t want to unpack their backpacks and have their stuff spread throughout the gate waiting area), we used the iPad (see #3 below) to watch a show.  Next, we took a field trip to the family restroom nearby.  Then it was time to board the airplane.

My sweet baby

My happy toddler

#3 My sister’s iPad.  On the flight from home to the East Coast, as I evaluated my options, I kept vascillating between moving to Charlotte (so I would never have to get on an airplane with children again) and spending my life savings purchasing a handheld electronic device for each child and perhaps a few spares as well.  A few days after I had arrived in Virginia, the stresses of the day had faded a little so that I was a bit more reasonable.   But still, I did talk to my husband about the possibility of purchasing some sort of handheld electronic device for the flight home.  My sister later asked me, “Are you wanting an iPad for good, or is this just for the flight?  Because if you just want something for the flight, you can borrow mine.”

Oh, what an amazing gift that was!  Sacrificing her iPad for a few days for the sake of my sanity.  How MUCH my sister loves me!

I did end up borrowing her iPad and we downloaded a few episodes of a few shows my kids enjoy.  There were also a whole battery of kid games my sister has downloaded on her iPad for her neefs (her brilliant abbreviation of neices and nephews).  While at the airport, they watched an episode or two and then after the restroom trip there was time for the older two to each have a turn playing a game of their choice.  Then it was time to board the airplane.

The magical iPad

The magical iPad

#4 Many, many angels God sent to help me on my way.  On the way to Virginia, God did provide several very helpful people to carry my carseat or call ahead and hold the flight.  But it was crazy how many people He sent on the way home.  I wish I could properly express to them how significant their help was to me.  Perhaps they saw it on my face.  I hope that God richly blessed them on their journeys.

It started at the end of the bridge as we were boarding the first airplane.  I had dropped off the stroller where I was supposed to (so that I might pick it up to get me to through the next airport) and had the diaper bag, the leash, the backpacks and all.  I hefted the car seat up to rest upside down on my head (which trick I discovered on the way to Virginia) and behind me I heard a few men speaking, “She’s superwoman,” and “She’s just making us look bad,” or some such nonsense like that which nonetheless, I appreciated.  Then a kind man stepped forward and asked if he could carry my carseat.  I gratefully accepted the offer.  He then gave up his seat, which was the aisle seat directly across from my children and took  the window seat I was supposed to sit in.  I’m sure everyone was grateful for his sacrifice.

Puzzles, mazes, coloring, and other fun activities

Puzzles, mazes, coloring, and other fun activities

Z-urchin then took his turn on the magical iPad while the older kids pulled out their various fun activities from their backpacks.  Shortstop promptly fell asleep (Hallelujah!) and Z-urchin’s iPad turn pretty much covered the whole hour flight to our connection.  I found that this worked really well in keeping him seated.  And it worked as motivation for him to keep his seatbelt on as well, since I told him he couldn’t play the iPad unless his seatbelt was on.

A very long iPad turn

A very long iPad turn

The same man from before carried the car seat to my stroller at the end of the bridge and then Angel #2 came and made my connection possible.  He had four children too, though only one was with him.  But he understood and very kindly offered to carry my carseat to the gate (his connecting gate was nearby mine, which was quite a blessing from the Lord).  Then, about halfway there, Z-urchin dashed the opposite way down a moving sidewalk.  He dropped everything and rushed after him.  Then this very kind man carried both Z-urchin and my carseat to the gate.  I really wish I could send that man and his wife a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.

I barely made it into to the airplane before they closed the doors and once on, my children and I were such a sight that all kinds of people surrounded us to help us.  A man from first class carried my car seat to my seat, a kind and experienced mother installed it while I arranged my children and stuff.  A man gave up the seat next to his wife so that my children could all sit in a row with me.  The wife, a new grandma herself (her grandson is an extremely fortunate little boy- she’s amazing!), sat by X-man and chatted with them.  They were full of chatter about their trip and their Auntie Suzie.  “Oh! My name is also Suzie!” she exclaimed and trust between them was instantly developped.

So the older two took a few turns with the iPad while Z-urchin and I did a sticker book.  I handed out sandwiches and snacks for dinner and helped Shortstop color and play with a few toys.  Then the kind Suzie read the older two Frog and Toad while the young woman in the row behind me begged to hold Shortstop for awhile.  She colored with him, fed him snacks and chatted with him for an hour.  She told me he remined her of her adopted baby brother whom she missed. My heart overflowed with thankfulness.  I was even able to use the restroom by myself!

I tell you what, when I grow up (or you know, travel somewhere without children), I want to be just like these angels God sent to me.

#5 We flew at night.  Our first flight took off at 4 and our second flight left at 6:30.  That meant that about 2 hours into the flight, the kids got very sleepy.  Only this time it was a good kind of sleepy.  Not a cranky sleepy which is what you would expect.  The kind of sleepy that made my daughter say, “I’m tired, I think I want to go to sleep.”  And she did.  And then so did Z-urchin.  And then when I took Shortstop back, he fell asleep too.

Blissfully sleeping

Blissfully sleeping

This left only X-man awake.  I handed him the iPad and he played Angry Birds Star Wars for the remainder of the flight.  I hardly knew what to do with myself.  I figured it out pretty quickly though.  I took a nap and then read several chapters in my Georgette Heyer book.

What in the world?  Wow!  Such a difference from my last trip!

Finally, the flight was over.  The man who had given up the seat next to his wife for me carried my car seat out of the plane and all the way to the baggage claim.  Suzie held X-man’s hand while I pushed the stroller with the other three kids (and backpacks, blankets, diaper bag, and doll) all piled into it.

My husband met us there with a bouquet of flowers in his hand.  Everyone there cheered him on and an awesome woman from first class told him, with quite a bit of attitude infused in her voice, “That’s right.  You better have gotten her flowers.”  Another woman chimed in, “And a key to a hotel room for a night by herself!”

 

 

A Tale of Two Journeys: The Departure

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  

Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities

Three weeks ago, my grandfather was admitted to the hospital.  Two days later, surrounded by family and friends singing hymns and sharing memories, he slipped quietly into eternity.  My mother, the middle of his three daughters, had been caring for him and my grandmother in her home on the East Coast for the past year.

She called me in tears to share the news and my heart was ready to do whatever she needed from me.  Somehow, a mother’s tears have magical motivational properties.  At least, my mother’s tears do.  They must.  Because it turned out she and grandma wanted me to come for the services and bring my four young children across the country.  And I agreed.  What in the world?

They found a secret bench in the airport

They found a secret bench in the airport

Before really thinking it through, I scoured the internet for some reasonably priced tickets from California to Washington D.C., found a good deal, and purchased them quickly.  Only then did I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and visions flashed before my eyes.  Airport Security.  Busy airports.  Bathroom breaks on tiny airplane facilities.  Young children sitting for 5 hours on an airplane.  Carrying a car seat (with which hand exactly?).  Short layovers.  Snow storms.

Two days after that, my husband took me and the kids to the airport, helped me check my bags, helped me get everyone to the bathroom and walked me right up to airport security.  He could go no further.  From now on- for the next 10 days- I would be on my own.

Flights

Thankfully, the Lord provided a couple right behind me who were about to become grandparents.  Bless them, they helped me wrangle children through security and then carried my car seat to my gate (before it had been wedged in the back seat of my double stroller -I do love my Joovy Caboose!).

I did get a lot of comments from parents taking fewer than four children through the airport: “Wow, you have your hands full!”  (Yes, quite literally) and “You are so brave!” (Yes, I heartily agree).

While at the gate, the kids watched the airplanes take off and land, ate snacks, colored, played with their toys, cried for water, tried to go down forbidden stairs and attempted to enter locked doors.  Meanwhile, I talked to the airline employees to try to arrange my seats so that I would be sitting by my children.  I wasn’t too worried though- I figured even if it didn’t work, once I got on the plane, no one would want the children sitting by anyone but me.

A great place to watch the airplanes

A great place to watch the airplanes

When it was time to board the airplane, a very kind man carried my car seat to the front of the line and then one of the flight crew carried the seat onto the plane for me.  The flight attendant worked out all the seating arrangements so that we ended up with one whole row- three seats on one side and three seats on the other- to ourselves.  I was very thankful.

X-man and Princess K spent the next 5 hours happily coloring, doing sticker books, and playing with their toys they had in their backpacks.  I spent the next 5 hours trying to keep Z-urchin from climbing over the seats and running down the aisle and unbuckling his seat belt when the light was on and trying to keep Shortstop from crying and kicking the seat in front of him.  Snacks worked for awhile.  Shortstop liked to color.  But almost nothing helped Z-urchin for long.  I’ve blocked much of those 5 hours from my memory.

Playing with Ace, the Talking Dog

Playing with Ace, the Talking Dog Pen

What I do remember is crowding Shortstop and Z-urchin into the airplane bathroom when I had to use the restroom.  It worked better than I expected.  I remember that Shortstop did not take his nap at his normal hour and then when he finally did fall asleep, Z-urchin thoughtfully woke him up so his cries filled the cabin for a short- thankfully- while.

I also remember spending all of those 5 hours worrying about making my next flight.  Due to airplane repairs and the snow storm that had hit the East Coast the few days before, my first flight was nearly an hour delayed.  My layover in Charlotte was only 1 hour long.  The next flight up to D.C. was at 7:30 in the morning.  We would arrive in Charlotte at 11 pm.  What was I going to do with tired cranky kids in the airport?  Certainly not try to go to a hotel for 4 hours. And also I worried about how on earth I was going to get off the plane with four children, four backpacks, four blankets, four coats, a doll, a diaper bag, and a car seat?

The two older are happily engaged with their toys, the younger one is wiggling more than coloring

The two older are happily engaged with their toys, the younger one is wiggling more than coloring

The pilot’s voice was finally heard over the loudspeaker, “We are beginning our final descent.  Prepare for arrival.”  Immediately, Z-urchin takes off down the aisle.  He gets halfway up the airplane when I call his name.  He looks back and says, “What are you waiting for?”

My answer: “The plane to land, you crazy child.”

Once we touched down, I noticed that would have about 15 minutes to wait for our gate-checked stroller and make it across the airport to our next flight.  There was no way we were going to make it.  The flight attendants had requested that anyone not trying to make a connection remain seated to let those who were get off the plane first, so I decided to be one of the ones who waited.  Me and the four children would only slow everyone down.

So, I took the time to get everyone’s coats on, backpacks on, Shortstop’s monkey backpack leash on, their blankets wrapped around their necks or in their backpacks, and made sure Princess was holding tightly to her doll, Rose.  I got Shortstop out of his car seat, put my own backpack on, and then hoisted the car seat upside down over my head.  I felt a dusting of cracker crumbs land in my hair and trickle down my back, but I was in a hurry and didn’t even care.

With one hand holding Shortstop’s leash and the other hand holding a diaper bag, I followed my running children (whom I could not see due to the car seat hat that covered my eyes) down the aisle and out of the plane.  I was the object of many laughing cheers.  I was quite a sight for sure.  I would have laughed at me too.

When me, the four children, and all of our junk loaded up on the stroller arrived at the gate, I breathlessly asked, “Where is gate 26?”  A very kind pilot surveyed the scene in front of him (cracker crumbs in my hair, children running circles around me, a stroller loaded with carseats, backpacks, and blankets) and took pity on me.  He walked me over to the computer screen and directed me to my flight.  When he saw what time it was scheduled to leave (only 5 minutes from then), he told me to start running and he would call ahead and see what he could do.

I started running.  They held the plane for me.  When I boarded the plane, sweaty and out of breath, I was never more thankful in all of my life.  I would not have to manage any details with small children trying to escape and I would not have to try to get my children to sleep on airport benches.  Praise the Lord!

That second flight was actually much better.  For one, it was only an hour.  Two, Z-urchin was actually sleepy.  He laid down across two seats and dozed.  Shortstop was not, but he happily colored on a drawing pad.  My other two were happily occupied again.  Though my daughter was very loud with her delight at take off.  It is like a roller coaster, apparently.

Once we landed and reached the baggage claim, my brother and sister were there to greet- and help- me.  My checked bags had not made it, but I didn’t even care because we did.  That was a victory right there.

Playing in snow for the first time

Playing in snow for the first time

Outside, in the parking lot, there was snow.  My two older children squealed with delight as they stomped in the snow, covered by jackets my sister had borrowed for their use. ( We got to play in the snow for the next few days and it was a lot of fun!)

We took two cars to get my brood to my mom’s house.  My Grandmother’s delight in seeing her adorable (if I do say so) great-grandchildren- some for the first time- did not wipe the memory of the day away, but it made it worth it.

Great-Grandma O and her great grandson watching the snow fall

Great-Grandma O and her great grandson watching the snow fall

Stay tuned for the next installment of my Tale of Two Journeys: The Return.