Friday, January 30, 2015

Rise and {Shine}

A very blustery night was followed by a brilliantly sunshiney morning and it's just enough to make me think I might just make it through. Although Spring is a long way off still, especially here in Michigan, the sun is the first hint, a reminder that it's not that far off.  I measure it through my camera lens and feel a particular thrill when there is enough natural light for somewhat decent pictures. 

We're finding our way through these long, locked inside winter days and it's really not half bad. After a few particularly rough years, so far this has been the best Winter I can remember. Somehow, six kids schooling under one little roof is working out just fine. We are finding enough to keep ourselves busy here and have nailed down a flexible but effective routine that seems to take into account everyone's needs - amazing when you consider we have everyone from toddlers through elementary and middle schoolers with a pregnant Mama besides. We ease into the mornings with nothing formal until 10, have a few intense hours before more ease in the afternoon while babies nap. It's ideal for me, for now - growing another little one and just beginning to feel that need to slow down a little bit as we head into the third trimester.

These kids never cease to amaze me and this has been our best homeschooling year yet. It's not often that everyone blossoms at once but it seems like suddenly each one of the four I'm schooling have had their own "Aha!" moments and it's so wonderful to witness. I've been at this long enough to know that these mountaintop moments are the exception, not the rule, but after seriously doubting myself and considering sending them all to school in the fall - it has been a much needed affirmation that we are just fine.

I'm taking these days to really sink into life as it is today and am finding so much peace in the predictability of it. I've never been much of a schedule person but I'm finding a lot of comfort in knowing that if I just follow the plan, I'll end up at the end of the day just where I need to be.

I'm discovering the keys to a happy life are just these: Coffee in the morning, knitting all day, relaxed expectations and a heaping dose of gratitude. I think I can manage that.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Finding Joy When No One Wants Your Life

I wasn't even halfway done describing my day when I saw it, the exchange of glances between the two of them. I was trying to be honest but, to be honest? I didn't think what I was saying sounded all that bad. I was surprised when he blurted out -

"That sounds...awful."

My life sounds...awful? I turned it over and over in my mind that night, remembering a recent conversation with my husband. He had been frustrated at work when, after mentioning the number of children he had, the conversation of those around him moved toward preventing a large family at any cost. It kind of knocks the wind out of you, just a little, when people look at the life you've built and say "yikes. Anything but that."

Everyone's lives have components that people look at and find less than desirable. Working nights sounds awful to me. Having a spouse who travels a lot or is deployed for long periods of time sounds awful to me. Getting up at 6 am every morning to drag kids to the bus stop sounds anything but enjoyable.

The beautiful thing about life is that you can find joy anywhere. A doctor working exhausting long hours can find it when he can give a family good news after a surgery. A Mom like me, with days full to the breaking point of diapers and math assignments, dishes and laundry - finds it in the satisfaction of blessing the people she loves the very best.  God equips us all differently, calls us all differently, and even in lives that look to the outside like anything but fun, he showers grace and beauty, carefully seeds joy. He grows us into our vocations, and as we work, we grow attached, even fond of the rhythm of our lives.

Work isn't a curse. Industry and creativity bring us to a place of satisfaction that a life of leisure never could. Looking at the outside of any particular job or task never gives you the full picture of the joy that is possible when you're in it, giving it your all.

My life is kind of a mess. Crumbs and chaos mixed in with faith and learning, little people and bigs, pregnancy and diapers and pre algebra all at the same time. It's overwhelming, exhausting and loud. And from the outside, that just might be it. From the inside, that doesn't even scratch the surface.

Ten years ago, I wouldn't have wanted the life I have today if I had overheard a description of it. I may have even blurted out "that sounds awful!" and made a private note to not end up like this. After all, the thought of non stop childcare and housekeeping doesn't sound glamorous to anyone. But life is more than a list of duties. 7 kids is more than a number. Babies are more than diaper changes and teaching more than paperwork.

While there will always be components to my day that I do not enjoy, not one little bit - I have come to love it. Being with my people, keeping our home, watching them learn and grow and love on each other - it's a beautiful, amazing thing. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

You have to live it to see it clearly. I did.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Enjoy Them

I had only been up an hour, but the thought was a recurring one.

When my 9 year old daughter popped her head in my room and whispered to the stirring toddlers snuggled next to me - "Rosie and Pete! Come on, let's go get breakfast! Do you want cereal or toast?"

When my three year old requested to be wrapped in a blanket while eating his breakfast, and heaved a sigh of "ahh!" when I tucked it around his shoulders.

When my 21 month old said "Thank you, Mama. You welcome," when I handed her a drink.

When my 11 year old cracked a joke while we worked a math problem together and we both laughed.

When my 5 year old excitedly told me a story, his eyes all lit up.

When my 7 year old lay on the couch, her unbrushed hair splayed in all directions, reading, unprovoked.

"I really, really, really like these kids. I just do."

It's not all about noticing what they do right. Sometimes it's just enjoying where they are right now in their lives. The 3-year-old-isms. The tip of her tongue sneaking out the side of her mouth while she concentrates hard on a word. His sense of humor. It's just so good. It's just so human. It's just so precious and fleeting and all of those things that we always tell ourselves.

Being home with them day in and day out gives me a unique opportunity to view bits of them I might not get to if we were separated, but it also leads to potentially missing it in the ordinariness of it all. They are regular kids and we'll get in regular scuffles and there will be sibling fights and pouting and consequences doled out today. That's life. But it would be a mistake to notice only that, skimming over the great bulk of who they are, which is just wonderful people. People I'd be happy to know, even if they weren't mine. People I'm proud of.

Our new baby taps me from inside all day long and I can't feel anything but so thankful for each of them - from 1 to 7. After a couple of rough days, and even waking with a headache today, I'm feeling intensely grateful for the kids in my life, and thrilled that today I get to enjoy them all over and over again.

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