Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Large Family Checklist

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times.

 "How do you do it?" 

Five kids seems to constitute a huge family in today's world (though it's really not - I know many, many families with more children than our little five). 

So here's a few things we can't live without, in no particular order:

A tabletop griddle.  Grilled cheese, pancakes, french toast, bacon. . .When there are seven people waiting hungrily for a meal, a measly stovetop square griddle just ain't gonna cut it.

A well-running dishwasher.  I must say, we are hanging on by a thread with this one.  Ours is 14 years old, and I fear she may not be long for this world.  But she stills churns out a load every night after dinner, without fail.  If the kids are home all day (as in weekends, summer break etc.), then it is usually run twice a day.  Most pans and large items still have to be hand washed every night. But remember - we have five kids, so that doesn't mean I'm doing all that washing.

4-slot toaster.  Breakfast is so very much more pleasant when I can pop out four pieces at a time.  With seconds on toast, I only have to run it about three times a morning.

Bunk beds and lofts.  We have two lofts and one set of bunk beds. They make our average-sized bedrooms seem roomy (as does a large set of utility shelving in lieu of dressers in the boys' room - huge spacesaver).

Front loading washer/dryer.  Seven people wear a lot of clothes.  A lot of clothes.  I do laundry twice a week and our large washer/dryer set make the whole process go much more quickly.

A van/suburban.  We currently have both.  Older models, but in good shape.  Our van is not a looker, but it's paid for and utilitarian (two things I love in a vehicle).  The suburban is a thing of beauty to me, and it's plenty spacious.  

And now I'll tell you a few things that are not needed to have a large family.

A lot of money.  Yes, some money is essential.  But kids don't need to be involved in every expensive sport offered.  They don't need to have the latest Uggs and iPhone.  They don't need to have birthday parties with astronomical price tags.  They don't need trips to Mexico and Florida two to three times a year.  Are these things nice?  Absolutely.  And if you can afford to give them to your kids, great!  But they're not necessary to a person's childhood.  

Superhuman patience.  Five kids can really tax my sanity, not gonna lie.  The volume, the fighting, the constant activity and scheduling can be a lot.  But I don't have any more patience than the next person (and quite possibly less than the next person) and somehow we manage.  

Lots of spare time.  People always ask "How do you find enough time to spend with all the kids one-on-one?"  It is a challenge, but it can be done.  We are creative with carving out time with each of the kids.  This doesn't have to mean major events.  Just quality time talking or throwing a baseball or going to the grocery can be wonderful opportunities to connect.  

A huge house.  As we kept having children, people would ask "Are you going to have to move into a larger house?"  My answer continued to be "No".  Our house is 2100 square feet, with four bedrooms  and a partial basement, and it is just fine.  Sure, if a huge house were to fall into our lap, that would be great.  But who's going to clean it?  Kids can share bedrooms.  It doesn't kill them.  It might teach compromise (we're working on that).  And here's a strange phenomenon I've noticed over here.  It doesn't matter the size of your house -  your kids are going to be in the same room you are in 90% of the time anyway.  When our kids were a little younger, that meant our master bathroom.  Smallest room in the house, and everyone seemed to congregate there when we were trying to get ready in the mornings.  True story.  These days it's the family room/kitchen.  Most of the time, all of us are there, doing our various activities.  Why have all those other rooms to clean?  Might as well keep it to a minimum.  Bonus - I know what's going on when everyone is within earshot.

Okay, true confession.  We don't need all those items I listed above.  They make life easier, for sure, but we could certainly get along without them (but man!  I would miss that dishwasher!).  What we really need is love.  And grace.  And the love just grows with each child.  There never seems to be a shortage.  Being surrounded by your children (whether it's one child or nineteen) has to be one of God's greatest gifts, don't you agree?  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Blustery Friday Afternoon

In no particular order of importance in my (scattered) brain, especially since none of the following observations are of any importance at all:

My children have been trained by Disney DVD, in the manner of Pavlov's dogs.  When watching a Disney movie, when the children hear "Fast Play", they all dash to the DVD player to push play.  Because everyone knows that "Fast Play" is, in essence, "Slow Play" and shows about a million trailers before starting the feature.

A couple of things I don't understand about Facebook:  I realize I am not a hipster, but why must young people call their boyfriend or girlfriend Boo and Baby on Facebook?  In all honesty, I once read a status in which someone called their significant other Baby.  I was legitimately confused, thinking they had a baby I was unaware of.  Help a girl out, people.  Call your boyfriend by name!  And the other thing - check-ins.  Why is that necessary?  I watch people check into Walmart, the dentist, a restaurant, the Carribean.  It's good to know where everyone is at every second of the day in case I might need to track down the girl who I worked with in 11th grade, but it just seems like overkill to me.  And perhaps dangerous?  It seems like a bad idea to advertise to 500+ people that your house is currently unsupervised.  Maybe it's just me.  Re:  I am not a hipster.

You will be oh-so-happy to hear, dear reader, that I can now listen to/watch "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?" without crying.  This only took me about 25 tries.  I feel ridiculously proud about it.  I just knew you would too.

And another thing about Frozen.  Have you noticed how many times the characters say "Wait, what?"  I have.  It's a lot.  Trust me.  Or don't and watch it for yourself.

The weather today is disgusting.  Windy, cold and rainy.  Better than snow, yes, but seriously.  My flip-flops really want to be worn.

Wow.  There is a whole lot of nothing in this post.  To the few of you who made it this far, I'm truly impressed.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Overheard this week

My little daughter has to bring in a collection of 17 items this week.  While she was looking through her toys, one of my sons made a (very helpful!) suggestion:  "How about seventeen farts in a jar?"  That's how we roll around here, peeps, that's how we roll.  Farts are hilarious.

Another one of my four year old's bedtime blessings to me, said while tracing a giant cross over my whole face:  ". . .watch over mommy and graciously keep Your light shining upon her. . ." So sweet, the prayers of little ones!

My husband was praying with our boys the other night, and as usual, prayed for the future wives of the boys.  After the prayers, one of the boys said, "But what if I don't get married, dad?"  My husband pointed out that given the fact this particular boy has already had two girlfriends, he didn't think that was likely.  The boy quickly replied, "But maybe I'll go Paul on ya'll!"  Single or married, at least he has his biblical knowledge down pat!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bad Frog!

My kids had no school yesterday, so I thought I would treat them to a movie.  The boys wanted the Lego movie, but I wanted to go to a cheaper theater, so we found The Muppets:  Most Wanted.  Score!  Everyone in our house adores the "first" Muppet movie, so I thought it would be a slam dunk.

It was pretty good (for singing and dancing puppets), but within the first couple of minutes, my  youngest two were shaking in their seats, scared of Dominic Badguy (pronounced Badgie) and Constantine, the Kermit look-alike frog.  I assured them the Muppets would make it out alive during the Crown Jewels heist,  because how would they make another sequel if they didn't?  Still, a little anxiety stuck around, especially in my youngest.

Fast forward several hours later - bedtime.  I was not feeling well, so my husband did all of the bedtime routine.  But little K just couldn't settle.  Time and again, she came down to me, teary-eyed, afraid of the "bad frog".  Time and again, I reminded her that he was just a toy and not at all real.  She continued to ask me to watch all the doors of the house ("even the ones we don't use too much") to ensure Constantine didn't make an unsolicited entrance.

About 10:00, I gave up.  I saw the writing on the wall.  I must sleep with this child tonight if I was to hope for any sleep at all.  During the bedtime switcheroo, during which my husband settled into a pink princess bed, my seven-year-old arrived at my bed, fearful of robbers (not the frog, mom!  just real-life robbers!).  Quickly I acquiesced to him slumbering on my floor next to me.

So the night proceeded thusly:
I would drift off, only to be awakened by K, demanding my arm be touching her at all times.
I would drift off, only to be awakened by the dreamlight's constant projection of stars on my ceiling.  The whole night.
I would drift off, only to  be awakened by my sore throat and pounding head. I would look to my left and see somber eyes gazing at me.  She appeared to never fall asleep.
I would drift off, only to be awakened by K asking me if it was almost morning.  I glanced at the clock, thinking surely it had to be morning and this painful night almost over.  It was 1:56.
I would drift off, only to be awakened by my left arm being held hostage by K.  I extracted it and tried to roll over, only to be told she needed to be in front of me, spoon-like, that being right next to me in bed was not sufficient.

At this point, I put my foot down (and I think I even said that phrase - I'm sure she totally understood it).    And gave her a firm, impassioned speech along these lines:  "Muppets are not real.  They cannot get you.  They are just toys, and the bad frog can't walk or talk.  He will not be coming to our house because that is impossible.  Mommy is RIGHT HERE and I will protect you, even though no Muppets are coming to our house.  Now it is absolutely time to go to sleep.  Mommy is exhausted and I need to sleep!!"

This was about 2:30, and within seconds, she went to sleep and slept the rest of the night without incident.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


My eldest daughter turned 14 yesterday.  Fourteen!  The ages keep getting harder to swallow each birthday.  It's so hard to believe how quickly the years are passing.

We decided to celebrate her birthday on Sunday, since Monday was chock full of crazy, and Sunday was blessedly peaceful. Daddy and the boys went roller skating and played laser tag (thanks to a free coupon!), and Mommy and the girls went to see Frozen.  Side note:  I did cry, but did not make a fool of myself, thank heavens.  We all reconvened, had dinner, sang to our girl, and she opened her presents.  We all took turns saying something we appreciated about her, and some of the responses were very heartfelt.

And then we had devotions, as we do every night.  Usually at the end we gather around the piano and sing a hymn, but this particular night, one of the kids requested we sing a contemporary piece called Your Grace Finds Me.  Here are a few  all of the lyrics (read them all, or read a few):

It’s there in the newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me, yes your grace finds me

[VERSE 2:]
It’s there on a wedding day
There in the weeping by the graveside
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

The same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh such grace


There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be


Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

And this is the scene:  Every one of us is singing with all we've got, and my four-year-old is in her own world, dancing and twirling around the living room.  And suddenly, my heart is in my throat.  My emotions get the better of me and I feel tears well up.  So much grace!  So many gifts in this room, too numerous to count. My oldest son looking suddenly so mature, belting out his praise.  My older daughter, smiling serenely at her little sister.  My youngest son, cuddling up with his father, happy and content.  My middle son, affable as always, grinning across the room at me.  My little daughter pirouetting to the beat.  And my husband, flanked by our children, looked quite moved himself.   The newborn cry . . .the everyday and the mundane . . .there on the wedding day . . .the same for the saint and for the sinner . . . In every moment, we're breathing in God's grace and breathing out His praise.

The years keep flying by, getting faster by the moment.  My 14 year old is visiting high schools. My younger daughter will be going to school every day next year.  I am considering working a bit next year.  Things are a-changin' around here.  But one thing is not:  God's grace is ever present.  In every situation, unfamiliar or established, we will continue to breathe in His grace and continue to breathe out His praise.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cue the Waterworks

I have not yet seen the Disney movie Frozen.   I know, I know.  I might be the only one with young children not to have seen it yet.  My whole family saw it over Thanksgiving, but my little K was vomiting that day, so she and I stayed home.  I vowed to take her some afternoon (she was too sick to care at the time), but alas, it is March 12, and we have yet to go.

However, due to Pandora and youtube and my oldest daughter, I know all the songs, and so does little K.  She sings "Do you Want to Build a Snowman" so often that I finally asked my teenage daughter to explain what it was about.

Big mistake.

Sisters that are separated!  A little sister who doesn't understand why her big sister doesn't answer her!  Parents that die!  Ohmygosh!!  I can't handle that kind of trauma.  I was weepy just listening to the lyrics while she explained it.

So today, we are all home due to a lovely Midwestern snowstorm in March.  I was upstairs putting laundry away, listening to the Disney Pandora station...and this song came on.  My little daughter was playing on my bed and immediately starting singing all the words in her precious four year old voice.

And I FELL APART.  As in, big, ugly cry.

"I never see you anymore. . .we used to be best buddies, and now we're not. . ."

Whimper, sob.  Scrunched up face - even now as I write the lyrics!  A little sister desperate to see her big sister and not understanding why she won't come out anymore. . .

Musical interlude, during which my little daughter informs me matter-of-factly, that the parents get on a ship and die in the water.

I walk into the bathroom to bawl on my own, so as not to traumatize K, who probably already thinks I've lost my mind (do you agree, dear reader?).

 I come out to hear these lyrics:  "They say 'have courage' and I'm trying to, I'm right out here for you, just let me in! We only have each other, it's just you and me.  What are we gonna do?   Do you wanna build a snowman?"

Their parents are dead, one sister is locked up in a room, the other sister doesn't understand why, they're both lonely and sad and makeitstop!  I can't take it!

I thought I wanted to see this movie, but I'm not sure it is a good idea!  Public humiliation will almost certainly result in the theaters - best wait till it comes out on video (Tuesday) and I can only blubber in front of my children, some of whom will think I am crazy and others of whom will cuddle up next to me and try to soothe their crazy mamma.

Deep breaths.  The tears I have shed while writing this post have (mostly) dried up and I think I will be able to carry on the rest of the day.  And my son's version of this song makes me smile and cheers me up a bit:

"We only have each other, it's just you and me.  What are we gonna POOOOOO?"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Overheard this week

"Mom, would you be sad if I die just before I turn 50?" asks the child.

"Ummm, yes!", I reply.  "Why do you ask?"

"Because I really don't want to get a colonoscopy!"


"Get in the shower, honey", says I, patiently and lovingly.

"But Mommy!  The shower water is too wet!"


"10 and 2!  10 and 2!", bellows a child from the rear of the suburban as I drive.  Apparently my favored position of "7" is not acceptable.