Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy Birthday K.!



K. turns 3 years old today. (We celebrated his birthday this past weekend which is why I have birthday cake pictures.) It's hard to believe that he has yet to be home an entire year because he has integrated into our family so seamlessly. He has gone from a scared, undernourished, underdeveloped 2 year old baby to a self-assured, funny, competent 3 year old eating machine. During the never-ending wait to bring K. home, I was worried I was missing so much in his life. Little did I know that we would get to witness most of his 'firsts'. Other than your typical baby things...rolling over, sitting up, first tooth, first step, first surgery (OK, so maybe that one isn't typical)...we have witnessed the rest. Since he had no language when he came to us, we heard his first words (Ma and Da), first swim, first solid food, and now his first birthday celebration. Clearly, he had been paying attention to the 6 birthdays he witnessed before this, since he is a champion at blowing out candles. He enjoyed opening his presents, but the whole wrapping paper-thing is still a bit baffling to him. A. was helping him and was telling him to pull on the paper. When the paper ripped, K.'s first response was to look worried and say, "Oh oh!" It took a moment to convince him that this paper was OK to rip.
In honor of K.'s birthday, I will once more make a plea for all the little boys out there who still do not have a family to call their own or a Mommy and Daddy to love and care for them. In the adoption world, the preference is for girls. I've watched little girls, sometimes with significant special needs, move off waiting child lists, while healthy, slightly older boys wait and wait. Girls are wonderful, but so are little (and not so little) boys. They are different than girls, but different is not better or worse only different. I can't imagine my life without the four boys we have in our family. They are so filled with energy, joy, enthusiasm, humor, and love that our lives would be significantly poorer without their presence. If you are considering adoption, please consider a boy, consider special needs, consider expanding your boundaries of what is desirable. If you have never considered adoption, please consider it. Many, many children wait for families both here in the US and in other countries. Each child we have brought into our home has added a richness that we could not have imagined and brought us blessings without measure. Adoption is at God's heart...nothing else so clearly shows His relationship to us. Please prayerfully consider growing your family through adoption...who knows what blessings God has in store for you. Remember, there is always room for one more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

If I'm not lost, why do I have to find myself?

I'm not sure I should listen to daytime radio, even to our local Christian station. Something will inevitably come on that makes me wander around the house muttering to myself, much to the amusement of my children. This particular case involved a woman's interest show and the person being interviewed had written a book about how when she became a mother she lost who she was and had become "just a mother". I'm used to hearing things like this and usually let them roll past me, but the interviewer had to go on to say she was sure there were two types of woman listening. The first group were the women who didn't know they had lost themselves and the second group were the women who understood completely what the author was talking about.

Now, I know, and J. is constantly reminding me, that I am no one's target audience. But the fact that the interviewer didn't allow for a third option really grated on me. Frankly, I don't feel lost and I don't feel I am just a mother. (Personally, I can think of no more degrading a phrase to describe my existence than "just a mother". The phrase implies stupidity, laziness, and unproductiveness. The word 'just' does tricky things when used as a modifier.) My self-worth comes from the fact I am a child of God and that I serve Him. It does not come from a paycheck, or from having many degrees, or even from having a huge audience for this blog. (Perhaps I'm still working on that last one, judging by how many times I check to see if there are any new comments.) As I go about my day, I try to keep in the forefront of my mind that I am serving God. For instance, how would I feel about fixing dinner tonight if I knew Jesus was going to be sitting at my table? Doing mundane tasks take on a whole new aspect if I am doing it for my King.

As mothers and wives and homemakers, we deal with the essentials of life...food, shelter, clothing, and love. We are home during the day so we are free to volunteer in ways those working full-time cannot. We are doing the most important things. But society often gets it backwards. The important things, we are told, are things that bring in a big paycheck or provide prestige. While there are important jobs and careers out there, I am unwilling to say that they are more important than what I do.

And I do more than just clean and wipe noses. I have many gifts and talents that I make use of during my days and weeks. Women who fall into the "just a mother" trap don't seem to realize that they can exercise their gifts and talents as a compliment to being a mother. Just look at the woman described in Proverbs 31, it makes me tired just to read about all she accomplished. But I think one reason some women find it difficult to suddenly being at home is that no one has ever trained or taught them to be at home. These women go from full-time jobs, where much of their time is prescribed for them, many with a boss to whom they must answer, and a set job description... to being in a place where none of this exists. As a homemaker, I am responsible for organizing my days, deciding what must be done, what my budget is, and determining if I am doing a good job. If I want contact with other people, I must arrange it; there is no ready-made group of people to socialize with. I must be OK with being alone at least some of the time. (As well as never really being alone, given the many small people....) It is a totally different lifestyle and we act as if women automatically know how to make it work.

I truly believe the only way to learn to be content and fulfilled at home is to have mentors who can model what it looks like. I have been blessed with both a mother and mother-in-law who are/were home full-time. But for women who feel they are forging new ground, where are the mentors? They are difficult to find these days. My experience has been that the majority of women go back to work after the children go to college. Very few women choose to stay home, and frankly, society views women who stay home when there are no children involved as complete pariahs. As a result, there is a dearth of models for those who choose to stay home.

In the end, the women on the radio have only lost themselves (and really, I'm still not sure what that exactly means) because they have bought into society's insistance that we must have a title or defined role to know who we are. If this is the case, the career of "mother" just doesn't cut it because it is so little valued by society. The job of "mother" is seen as one-dimensional, simplistic (because really, how difficult is diaper changing), and mentally stultifying. Instead I see the career of "mother" as one of great influence with the opportunity to impact mulitple generations for years to come. It can be as challenging and creative and enriching as I choose to make it. From a human perspective, the role of “mother” may be viewed as economically, politically, and socially negligible, but in God’s economy, perhaps it has a value that exceeds all of those roles that society values and compensates so highly and publically.

But really, the point is that your “self” is not something to be lost or found in ANY role, whether the role is CEO, radio host, author, mother, or any combination of the characters that exist in society’s cast list. The roles we choose or accept certainly can affect the self, either by strengthening and enriching or by diminishing and distorting our souls. But the self is (I think) to be understood as that which God sees when he looks at us. Surely He sees not “mother” or “consultant” or “teacher.” He sees the unique person whom He created; He sees our hearts and actions and choices and desires, and He sees them without the cloudy lenses of socially defined roles that we get trapped behind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

AWOL

I think the title really sums up how I've been feeling these days, and not just absent from this blog. I feel as though I'm living in a fog and can't focus on anything. Even if I was up for doing everything that needed to me done, I can't think what all those things should be. It doesn't help that it feels as though every time I sit down, I fall asleep. I have moments of clarity where the fog has lifted, but they are few and far between and usually end up being somewhat depressing because I look around and see how life has fallen apart around here.
So, in honor of my completely scattered state of mind, I will catch everyone up on the doings around here, but in a completely scattered fashion.

Life with four extra children has been going smoothly, in large part to the two 16 year old, first-born girls (M and P16) who now reside here. I'm pretty sure that I could completely disappear and they could keep life running for the rest of them. The two oldest boys (B and P15) have also been very helpful, but they were both gone on a Boy Scout camp out for most of the weekend. In truth all the P's are wonderful children and it's been more fun than anything having them around.

I had another midwife appointment and ultrasound. (A regular one, not a level II, which I declined.) The babies seem to be growing well...probably just over 2 pounds each now. The kidney-thing with Twin A seems to be completely resolved. Twin B still has slightly enlarged kidneys, but still within normal limits. (I love the ultrasound tech in my midwife's office...she is very low key and non-alarmist.) I, however, have to go take the 3-hour fasting glucose test, having had slightly elevated numbers on the regular one hour test. Drat. I'm pretty sure I will probably pass it as I don't have any symptoms for gestational diabetes; it's just a pain to have to go do it. And what's the deal with asking pregnant women to fast for that long? That's what I'm dreading, not the four blood draws.

All of the presentations that I was scheduled to do went well. The most recent was last Monday, talking about 'Meal Preparation and Pantry Storage' at my church's mom's group. I guess I never quite realized I had so much to say about the topic, until I was able to fill up over an hour of time. The first two presentations were at a homeschool conference. They went well, except for the fire alarm going off in the middle of one, so we lost over half the time we were allotted for our presentation. That presentation was on homeschooling large families. There seems to be two very common questions about homeschooling lots of children. The first is how to manage the laundry. Considering the state of my laundry room at this moment, I feel completely unequal to tackling that question. But, the other common question of how to homeschool with little children about is one I feel I can. Perhaps it's at the front of my mind since we added another five year old to the mix, so I'm working with three 5/6 years, plus have K. running around.

So, here are my tips. First, I always work with them first. That way they feel as though they've had my time and are perfectly happy to play while I do other things. Second, I have special bins made for the younger set that only come out at school time. (As a disclaimer, I have to admit to stealing the concept from Renee at Steppin' Heavenward. I just elaborated on her idea.) I have about 20 bins, each containing one activity. For example I have a bin for pattern blocks, for chalk and a slate, for counting, for tracing. You get the idea. All the pieces needed live in the box, plus the instructions for using the box are written on the underside of the lid. That way, if an older child is helping a younger one, they know what to do. Most of the contents came from all of those cool educational toys and manipulatives that I have collected over the years. It occurred to me that I would forget to use them and the children weren't playing with them. Now, because they have become a restricted material, they are suddenly cool. The boys can't wait to see what box they will get to play with each morning, and by having so many, it keeps them fresh. So, one boy plays, while I work with the other. Often K. joins in playing with whichever brother is 'working' on his box.

I took some pictures from this morning so you could see them in action.


TM using the Lacing Box

K. 'helping' D. with the Pattern Blocks.

P5 using the Lincoln Log Box.
D. using the Pattern Blocks Box.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

7 + 4 = 11

children, that is. As of tomorrow we will be the guardians/parents of 11 children for the next two weeks...our 7 plus 4 of children our friends the P-family. The parents of these children are our very good friends who are travelling to Ethiopia to meet their two newest children. We will be caring for four of their children and other friends are caring for the other 2. Before you start feeling too sorry for me or decide to sign me up for sainthood, you have to know that I feel as though I am gaining 3 more pairs of hands as opposed to 4 more dependents. Our friends refer to themselves as the "P" family since all of their first names begin with that letter. It will make my system of referring to my children by their first initial a bit awkward. So, to help with confusion I will also tack on their ages: P16, P15, P10, and P5. The only real difficulty with this arrangement will be with TM and P5. They are good friends, but also have a tendency to lead each other down the wrong path more often than not. We are still not sure who the idea person is of this pair, or if it changes. But, whoever has the ideas, the other seems unwilling or unable not to follow along. While we have joked we need to install cameras on their heads for continual surveillance, I think I will just have a rotating schedule of older children assigned to keep tabs on the pair at all times.

I anticipate the two weeks going very smoothly. We are all involved in nearly the same activities so it doesn't add extra driving for me...I will have some extra hands to help with things around here...and since I drive a 15-passenger van, we still all fit in one vehicle.

Do join me in praying for our friends as they travel...for safety for all and for a smooth first meeting with their new children (ages 1 1/2 and 6).

Friday, March 13, 2009

M. turned 16

and I'm not entirely sure how it happened. It seems as if it was just last week when she was a baby and just yesterday when she was 2 years old and reciting A. A. Milne's poem, Lines and Squares. Though when she recited it, all the l's were pronounced as y's, so it sounded more like 'yines and squares'. (And yes, having a 2 year old who could recite mulit-stanza poems did slightly warp my expectations for the following child...poor B.)

But now she is a lovely young lady, who is confident, intelligent, and very mature for her years (and can pronounce the letter 'l'). So, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that she is 16, since she has been 30 for so long. For a 'practice child' I think she has turned out pretty well.

So, happy birthday to my darling daughter who has forever changed my life and the one who made me a mother.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Happy Birthday, A!

Today A. turns 11 years old. She is bright, cheerful, funny, and very giggly. A. is also well on her way to turning into a young adult. The past several months she has been incredibly helpful...making dinner and all of our granola, helping to take care of her younger brothers, and she is the only one who can remember which piece of clothing belongs to which person. We receive a lot of hand-me-downs (for which I'm exceedingly grateful), but sometimes none of us can remember to whom the 'new' piece of clothing belongs...except A.. She has a remarkable memory, especially when it comes to clothing. In short, A. is a delight and life is much duller here when she is not around.

This is also one of our two months of cake. Except for P. and TM., who have birthdays off in the fall, all the rest of our birthdays and anniversaries occur in the months of March and June. And assuming I last until 37 or 38 weeks with these two babies, the new little girls will have June birthdays as well.

A. (on left) and P. -- taken spring '06

A., taken spring '07 (Sorry you have to turn your head, I didn't realize the orientation was wrong.)

A., taken last night, while she was opening her presents.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Just because it's cute


A friend sent me this picture yesterday of K. It was taken at our history co-op's annual end of the year feast. We were studying the medieval period last year as you can tell by all the little knights in the background.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Happy Square Root Day!

Today is "Square Root Day" because the date, written is numbers, is 3-3-09. The next one won't be until April 4, 2016 (4-4-16). In honor of the day, I set A. to making a game about square roots that would help explain the idea to P, TM, and D. Here a picture of them playing A.'s game:




You can't really see the games, but one is a matching game and one is more of a board game.
Now, off to work on the square root of 9 things on my 'to do' list, especially since the conference I'm presenting at is this weekend.
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