A place to be real about a life of chaos, with eight beautiful children, homeschooling, special needs, adoption, sanity or the lack thereof.........a rubber hits the road sort of journey that I thankfully do NOT walk alone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting in "The Zone"

It seems every time I turn around this week the message is about getting "in the zone"...being centred, confident in who I am...in the world not of the world...you know....being totally clear on the inward orientation of my heart! No problem right.....WRONG!

Today while consciously making an effort to be "oriented" correctly, I fell short as I became distracted by things like my two year old stuffing homemade mac and cheese and pork chops into the holes on the high chair tray that lead to "no man's land"... the same mac and cheese being pushed around on the plate of my almost 13 year old while much whining and complaining about how gross it was droned on and on...the need for repeated direction on why we have kind, generous hearts and why beating on, cheating on or biting one's brother is not ... well...it's just not nice! "Girl drama" ensued several times and facilitating problem resolution became my primary role. I don't know.... where does it say stealing away to the bathroom with contraband candy and trying to flush the evidence is an appropriate action! Is it really necessary for me to read all English instructions on a worksheet to have one hand it in having made up their own!!!

I was exasperated!

My words became...."Dear God...please remove all problem people, problem situations, problem parenting challenges, problem....." oh gosh I really lost sight of my "position"!

It struck me that keeping my cool while remaining heart oriented as my two year old threw Chief's laptop to the ground that he had "left" on the chair in the living room was near impossible! "Get me outta here" seemed a reasonable request and although coupled with some mother guilt.....I truly felt like jumping ship! Is that wrong?..... It doesn't really match up with my "never quit" mantra that without a doubt one of my more astute older children would have happily reminded me of ...

" my grace is more than enough...."

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness..." 2 Corinthians 12:9

ok..........time to lay on the brakes...what I needed was some wisdom, patience, peace and even a little victory during times of failure and disappointment. My mistake had been wanting desperately for change to come in others and forgetting what might be necessary in myself. So........I left early for one of my mom taxi pick ups and sat quietly and read...time to fill the tank a bit...admit a little weakness....I know , I KNOW...yes I said it!!! I needed the strength of my spiritual Father....He promises His grace is sufficient ... and I will lean on Him...without whom I am nothing...

Like this little bird which I managed to capture as he shook off a rather nasty run in with our sun room window....I need to get my coordinates in order, centre myself so the prayers of my heart lead to the filling of my strength, and I can continue to soar in the role I have been given!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Becoming or Being?

A lull...

The past few weeks have been ... well ... "full" ... on many levels.

Most significantly, we said our goodbyes to Jagger, a faithful family pet for 14 years. It was such a difficult day. Never underestimate the relationships between the children in your home and their beloved pets...the devotion flows both ways and times like this are really, really ... tough...

So much else... Grandma and Papa have been away for three weeks, another birthday celebration, many milestones accomplished in school, doctor appointments, youth events, specialist referrals, the death of a pet bird, heightened sibling rivalry, the usual ebb and flow of activity in a house with ten heartbeats ( plus menagerie!) ...it is sometimes a blur of "how on earth...!"

Chief ( tribe ringleader ) has been on afternoons and that in itself makes my well planned days look more like a three ring circus with an extra distraction for all my little angels that struggle enough to stay on track. Sounds of horses galloping and gunfire as Daddy's "down time" includes an old western don't bode well for much success in arithmetic completion and spelling drills...

Yesterday... well.... was a larger disaster than most...

Daddy had just left for work and I was preparing supper, the two oldest children weren't home and the next two in line were being anything but helpful...that left me the four youngest...one was knitting, oblivious to the fact that the youngest was trying to ride our dog like a horse while smacking her tail end shrieking like he was on a wild amusement park ride, and the two "all boys, no impulse control" were happily beating each other with pillows and hollering something about revenge being sweet!...GOOD GRIEF!!!! I hurdled the two cats that were in a hissing match in the front hall to reach the two year old and spare him an untimely vault from the dog's back to his head, ducking as a croc flew past my head missing the intended target...a brother...and as calmly as possible asked the other three what part of "CHAOS" were they not hearing and at what point might they have noticed impending injury and as all good big siblings can... and SHOULD.... STEP IN AND HELP ALREADY!!!!

I got the expected glazed over looks and "Oh, sorry Mom I was at a really good part in the book", "I didn't notice, but look how much of my scarf I've finished!", and the absolute best response that got him sent upstairs for a very early bath....."What!?...you didn't ask me to watch anybody!"


The very patient part of me that even my children often recognize I manage to muster up at all the appropriate times may....just may have lapsed a tad and I advised my son to go upstairs NOW....quickly.....no quicker than that.....and have a bath while I finished supper and vacuumed the downstairs. I was expecting a friend to come by after supper for a much needed time of adult conversation and "sister-like" support time and I knew I had six baths to be done, supper to be fed and calm to return....ok....a decreased amount of activity to return to my home so bedtime routines would actually be successful!

As I vacuumed the stairs I thought I heard someone screaming...I quickly realized the screams were coming from the bathroom and I launched up the stairs hollering through the door "Are you ok?".... "Come in here quick Mom!!!" I hear with a great sense of urgency....I opened the door to find my son standing bent over the tub trying to no avail to stop the hot water that was bursting from the wall where the tap handle used to be!.....ok....envision if you will a fire hydrant that they have opened to clean out the lines!!!! This is what was happening in my bathroom!!

I turned to run down the two flights of stairs to shut off the main water valve in the basement while shouting at him to get dressed!!

I stood in my fruit cellar questioning what about this was supposed to be teaching me something cause surely to goodness this was not just for entertainment purposes....

After a deep breath I returned to the bathroom where I determined the "fix" of yesterday (Bless his heart) had gone wrong somehow and now I had six baths, supper to fix and serve, teeth to brush and bedtime toilet runs to do and NO WATER! Long story short...I loaded everyone in the car...picked up the older girls, left them to finish supper and feed their younger siblings, travelled to the hardware store and purchased a new valve, returned home....fixed the tap, turned the water back on...drove the older girls back to their grandparents, finished baths, and all bedtime routines, put the children to bed, coffee on and welcomed my dear friend for a visit....

My life....is not dull!

Earlier yesterday morning, I had struggled a bit with feeling the stress of this world and the judgement that sometimes I allow to creep into my head....."You can't possibly do this!", "The children would be better taught at school", "You should be more involved...", "Step outside your comfort zone and socialize more!".....I really don't appreciate these moments....but....at the end of the day when I had enjoyed a coffee with a friend, I was reminded what another friend of mine had shared with me not that many weeks ago.....

I am exactly who I am supposed to be and I was created this way so I would be equipped for the awesome task of raising eight children... and fixing hot water taps!....

My children are exactly where they were meant to be and I am doing exactly what I've been called to do and I am reminded I will not define myself by what I "think" I am expected to be , but by the very "call" on my life....I can only do my very best and as long as I am..........my children will continue to be amazed at my plumbing skills and I will be satisfied in the "being" not the "becoming" of who I am!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Attitude of thankfulness...

Two little words that can change everything. Today...I continue to be thankful!

We gathered at church this morning and listened to an awesome message ... coveting ... an "incredibly powerful, dangerously subtle, unquestioned and accepted, equal opportunity sin". I think the pastor summed it up quite well don't you? Once we determine NOT to covet we need to counter that with an appropriate antidote. I came away with this ... Sacrifice vs. Generosity ... How will I choose to live my life? You see, there is a far cry difference between giving anything ... our time, our passion, our "stuff", our money, our hearts ... and giving any of these things sacrificially. With this in mind, everything I do needs to be done with the correct attitude ... thankfulness that spurs on sacrifice!

I couldn't have had a day any better fit for thankfulness than today. What a beautiful day it was! We packed up all the gang and head out to take in the fall colours. There really wasn't a "plan", just the intention of driving north and maybe a little west to find the "peak" display and then get a family shot with that wonderful backdrop. K....the family shot didn't happen...but instead as I drove, planning on getting lost (one of the best things about now owning a GPS!) we ended up heading for the beach ...

It took the children about 3 seconds to take off their socks and shoes and roll up their pants! Who would have thought we could enjoy playing at the beach on October 10!

The rest of the day requires few words but I have found several quotes that appropriately describe my "attitude of thankfulness".

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."

Henry Miller

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."

Thornton Wilder

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

Albert Einstein

This sweet face is one of the greatest miracles I have witnessed!

Teaching my children to stop long enough to see "all" that they should be thankful for....

From the tiniest of things......

To the "not so tiny"!

On this special day of "thanks"...I am so very grateful....

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joys, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." William Arthur Ward

thank you.........

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Best Birthday Gift Ever....

Yesterday was my birthday and I bought myself the best gift! More on that in a minute!

Birthdays around here seem to come fast and furious...I guess it's just a numbers game but October is a busy month with three birthdays in our immediate family. My birthday doesn't tend to be a big hoopla...my doing mostly...I'm getting up there and I'm pretty clear on how little reminding I need in that department.

My oldest children are quite disturbed by the fact we haven't yet done cake, or given gifts, but to be honest...I'm good with that. You see, especially of late I am reminded of just how much I have.

How easy it is, and believe me I'm guilty as charged, to fall victim to the "I wish I had...." mentality that this world feeds continuously. We are bombarded daily with advertisements, sales pitches and media that define what we "should" have. Somehow this false sense of entitlement if not "checked", can creep in and become a focus in our lives. I've fallen prey ... that green eyed monster sneaks up and wreaks havoc with the ideal of a simple life that I really secretly desire. You know ... the friends that are taking family vacations, those that are buying newer, bigger homes with all the bells and whistles.... the ones with enough room for everyone to get their own bedroom....oh...and the master "suite"....not just a bedroom with a separate bath but literal hideaways for the sole purpose of ... hiding...it's not what I really dream of...

I tried hiding...they found me...(Note to self...the bathroom no longer works for "me time".)

As much as this seems like a great idea... it really isn't what I want. If I wanted "stuff" and not the life that I have then I would have remained a double income family with no children, multiple vacations a year, the fanciest of cars (something smaller than a 12 seater bus that requires "back up" warning sounds!), the latest in trendy wardrobes and a closet full of shoes!

It's not what I "want".....

I'm sure I'm not the only Mom who has delivered the speech ... "There's a big difference between what you want and what you need"... I believe I have witnessed a bit of eye rolling in this house when I've launched into my well tuned rendition of this tirade. But it's not something I take lightly...Yes we have a large family and yes that means my children haven't been to Disney, but oh my... we are blessed beyond measure in so many other ways!

What we may lack in the material department we "own" in the family department! We have tried to ensure we celebrate the simpler things...appreciate what we have. Believe me there is no "lack" here...I'm still quite sure a large dumpster in the driveway could be filled with all we don't "need".

I understand the importance of celebrating birthdays...after all each one of us is worth celebrating ... yes, even me and the lots of candles on my cake. But what I know is.....the handmade cards from each of my children, the big hug and well wishes on the morning of...singing, and showing thanks for me with an extra smile, or just going out of their way to say they love me an additional time...spoils my heart...and that's what is important.

My eleven year old came to me last night and said, "Mom, I didn't buy you anything for your birthday but I've got something for you that is just perfect!" Alright I say smiling, unsure what to expect. "I'll just set it on the computer table in the back room OK?" I assure him that's great and I'm sure I'll love it...he hugs me and sets off for bed. To be honest I forgot about it until I returned to the room to shut things off for the night and there on my table ...

Perhaps insignificant to some but to me a tiny little eraser heart spoke volumes...This gift that cost nothing...worth much. If I can look back and know that my children have understood the simple things in life ... that when measuring up... that they have placed their priorities in order... then I will have done my job!

I recently followed the blog of a woman I have come to respect very much. She travelled to Guatemala on a missions trip and witnessed the extreme of "need". I was moved to tears as I read daily the reality of what life there is...especially for the children. Meanwhile thoughts of ...sure there are things that would be nice to "have"...frivolous, unnecessary things that may make life more enjoyable in the moment...but only for a moment.

As I sat reading last night in the few minutes left of my birthday it dawned on me that I knew just what I wanted!

Meet Leidy...it's Spanish...short for Aleida and means "small winged one"...funny... she looks just like a little angel to me!! She is my ninth child...a child I sponsored through Compassion Canada.

Truly the very best birthday gift ever...the privilege of having a hand in providing the "needs" of a beautiful child who otherwise might go without.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Suffer"..."Smell"..."Smile" :)

Shortcomings or at least the perception of same as a Mom is nothing but a road block!

Today was one of those days where I seemed to take one step forward and two steps back.

There are not enough parenting classes in the world that would leave me feeling totally equipped for what lay ahead...or is that simply "perspective?"

It's never a good thing to awake like Miss Clavel in Madeline thinking "Something is not right!" I jumped out of bed and raced through to the boys room (good guess!) and found the younger two quickly pulling up their covers and initiating synchronized snoring noises. I'm still not entirely sure what was transpiring but I'm fairly certain I foiled the plan! After a brief "I'm going to have a bath and I'd best not hear any more" I head to the bathroom with intentions of breaking my bath speed record.

Despite my best attempts at hurrying...I had my bath while listening to extremely loud thumping. I feared there was jumping from high places while role playing oh.....I don't know....Tarzan, Superman,.....some Star Wars hero.....(note to self....clothing is much easier to put on if you have taken the time to properly dry off!)....I raced through the door to find one with another in a head lock that surely was cutting off oxygen!!!

The oldest..."the more mature one" after politely advising me I was having a bad hair day suggested he had done his very best to control the two, still sat with that smug look of pure entertainment on his face. I thanked him for noticing my new hairstyle and suggested he move quickly to complete his chores and get downstairs for breakfast.

This was all before 7am!

I'm resigned at this point I believe that finding my happy place and relying on well practised deep breathing exercises would be mandatory for survival! Their survival!!

All this to say the day progressed as expected with a larger than usual number of distractions, meltdowns, pouting episodes, tantrums, refusals, and just downright naughtiness.... At least it's predictable!

By 10:00 I had "nuked" my coffee at least eight times and still was working on the first cup. I had implemented the do not sit within arms length of your brother rule and spent the rest of the time trying to enforce said rule while jumping over the gate to stop the baby from climbing on everything, pulling the light cord on and off at record speeds, and emptying his mouth of "whatever" that was he found under the couch cushion!!! I taught language at two grade levels and marked tests, celebrated with my five year old the success in his math program and encouraged reading, reminded several times that the planner has all the information regarding "what now?" if they would read it and said "Please sit down on your bottom with your feet flat on the floor to do your work" no less than 50 times!!!

Lunch time came and went, the baby was down for a nap and my taxi-ing to co-op complete I sat to eat my lunch while the children had some free time. I recapped the morning in my mind wondering what I could have done differently to make things run a little smoother and then I realized as I often do that I was doing the very best I could and although it seemed to me to be totally out of control we had accomplished all that I had set out to accomplish this morning and I should just "collect" myself and get on with it!

One of my boys is struggling these days. He's a very bright child, capable of all I ask....all that is, except any and all social cues, impulse control, boundaries, following rules even when he can recite them verbatim, and a clear understanding of dangerous behaviour (both to himself and others)...piece of cake if I sit and hold his hand all day but alas.....I am divided in eight directions and that is not possible. Here's where I insert the "thankful I home school" plug!

He is the one who "melts" at the first sign of not completely "getting" the math lesson even though with brief instruction he's off and running...he gently loves on his biological brother proudly "helping" him without being asked one minute and the next is wailing...."I'm not doing this...I'm not helping...You just want me to suffer!" My precious woven rugs (read my last post) are exceptionally intricate.

As I finished my teaching day and I was trying to wrap up my marking I struggled with how I might have made this day easier for this same child. How might I better serve him to make his journey easier and to be honest....to make it easier on all of us...I opened his spelling work and the stress of my day dissipated as I found myself laughing out loud at the response to the final question in his work....

Complete each sentence with a spelling word that means the same as the boldface word.

#17. allow God will not __________________ the foot of the righteous to be moved (Psalm 121:3)

Very carefully he had inserted the word........ "smell"...........

I'm still laughing and I'm reminded of how important laughter is in my day.

I called him over to go over his work and when I got to this answer he looked at me waiting for instruction...."Honey....did you look this scripture up?"...."Nope I knew it all by myself!"

His honesty.....my day went from "suffer" to "smell"....to "smile"!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mistake or Plan?

On most days it's easy for me to acknowledge my children, every one of them, are masterpieces. "Individual works of art", molded and formed to be just as they are with all of their strengths and weaknesses, desires and dreams, challenges and frustrations, stumbling blocks and successes. I would however be lying if I didn't add that there are times when my expectations don't step up to the forefront and "mess" with the whole "plan".

The whole "nature vs. nurture" argument leaves me without question leaning heavy on the "nurture". With seven of the eight born not of my womb but of my heart, what I feed into their lives is all I can take responsibility for. You know the day to day influences, the values, the goals, the rules but more important than all that structure is the unconditional love.

Admittedly, the tendency to allocate "blame" or "justification" for all that nature "dished" out is easy. Finding the courage to push through can be draining...even downright exhausting.

How easy when it is I who has fallen short to find a reason other than something I have done to account for the behaviour. Finding the courage to look full into the eyes of my child and see their individual potential regardless of my own preconceived notions...necessary.

I've never been too fond of labels and try to make it a priority to avoid them at all costs especially when it comes to my children. Life is stressful enough without having to wear a large, neon sign saying....please excuse my behaviour but I have "such and such".

Behaviours tend to speak for themselves and to offer up a reason to be looking for "trouble" does none of my children any good. Aside from having the potential predetermination of guilt it suggests to the child in question "There is something wrong with me and I am doomed to not succeed here." That just won't fly in my house!

A friend once shared a story of a traveler who visited a village and upon entering a shop there stood watching in awe the rug makers hard at it. This traveler was amazed as the craftsmen sped a shuttle back and forth on the loom.

"What if you make a mistake with the shuttle?" asked the traveler. "You are going so fast you will not see the error in the design until you have woven several layers over it. What will you do then? Will you unwind the carpet and remove the layers of thread that you have added?"

"No," said the rug maker "we would never do that; that would take far too much time. I'll tell you a secret. The most beautiful rugs with the most elaborate designs, the most expensive weavings, are the ones with the mistakes hidden inside."

"How's that?" questioned the traveler. "Well, once we notice the mistake, we have to integrate it into the pattern. We have to change the pattern to include the mistake and make it part of a new design. Sometimes the new design is far more complex, far more embellished than anything we could have created ourselves. That's why the most beautiful rugs are the ones with the mistakes hidden deep inside."

You see, I believe that these "complex designs", these beautiful "embellishments" that make each of my children who they are...are not errors...These "designs" are not mistakes but the careful placement by the Master Weaver of each of them in the plan He has for them.

The intricacies of each one only makes them special, unique in the Weaver's eyes and in mine. What they have to offer this world and selfishly what I continue to learn as I am blessed with the privilege of parenting them is immense! What a different place this world would be if we could all look through the eyes of the Creator of each "masterpiece".

What the world might reject...I must cherish. What the world judges...I will nurture.

Mistake or Plan? I choose to follow the "plan."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chicken or Pig?...Tales from the parenting trenches!

Before I begin...I know...yes, it has been made abundantly clear to me, I have been absent with NO excuse for far too long! With that in mind and of course with the beginning of yet another "well-planned" home school year, I am endeavouring to set new routines in place including this blog. I have found it quite therapeutic and to more than a few of my bloggy friends I have provided a hearty chuckle or two.

This past Sunday our preacher delivered a message that included visual aids. Much to the pleasure of all of the children, two live barn animals...yup, you guessed it, a chicken and a very unnaturally clean and quite feisty pig graced the stage. I have to admit I was uncertain whether this was indeed the Sunday he'd finally lost it. But after an hour and a half realized "losing it", was simply the goal.

The much condensed version of the message is simply this...are we spiritually a chicken or a pig? Are we content pecking at bits of nothing while wandering around aimlessly and often alone, or are we willing to truly be hungry with a voracious, "pig-like" hunger for God, desiring the company of others just like us? There was much more to it but essentially a chicken even when giving eggs isn't wholly dedicated to the task. It's just another "offering up" with no real sacrifice. But a pig!....now when he offers breakfast sausage or bacon he's, as my preacher says..."All in!". A complete sacrifice! This is what we are called to do as fully devoted followers.
As I absorbed (translated: "was smacked in the face by!") this message I couldn't help but draw many parallels to my call as Mom to my eight awesome kids. My role must be one of full dedication to the task or I am not filling the shoes I am meant to fill. To be set apart from the status quo I have to realize the "cost", take "action" and quite often be misunderstood by those that don't agree or simply don't "get it".
For those of you that know me well, you know our story, you know the blessing of our only biological child and the heaped upon us multiple blessings of our seven adopted children that followed. Being a parent to this tribe requires being "all in" ALL THE TIME! There is a personal cost to be sure but like the pig, I'm on a mission....I have an important job to do and I must be willing to stay in the trenches and complete the task. As for "losing it"...I lost it ages ago! Some of my friends would argue what I lost was my everloving mind, but what I refer to is the selfish control of all circumstances. In order to be the best Mom I can I have to wake every morning recognizing my job is to love, to teach, to discipline, to live my life by example. Controlling all simply does not occur! I have grown to understand that living each day coping with the challenges that present themselves as they arise with a "pig like" focus will better serve my family.

An aside.....

My dear friend just yesterday messaged me concerned that all stories I was sharing of late had a certain focus...a common thread...a theme shall we say....."poop!"

Now before I lose you let me share ....

Last week I took seven of the children to the dentist to have their teeth cleaned. Yes, I had temporary loss of sanity when I booked them all together but it was too late to cancel when I finally flipped the month to September on the calendar and noted the appointment so off we went. It turns out six of the seven were due for x-rays and of course the many consults with the dentist regarding the plethora of imminent orthodontic treatment dragged the time on to about one and a half hours before the inevitable...."I have to go to the bathroom!". I quickly left the five year old with his older sister in the waiting room promising to return before it was his turn and directed the potty going child to the appropriate bathroom and instructed to lock the door and come directly out when finished. Within three minutes she returned with this distraught look on her face. "Mommy, something happened when I flushed the toilet and it's overflowing"! I raced into the bathroom to find the contents resembling an infinity pool just hovering at the lip of the toilet bowl! I cranked the shut off valve and held my breath hoping to see the level lower and the crisis to pass. It was not to be and I soon came to the realization that the last of my children to use the bathroom had deposited the paper hand towel in the toilet not the garbage and it was neatly blocking the hole from allowing the "contents" to flow away! What choice did I have but to remove my watch........

At the beginning of this week as I set my sights on early rising to have some quiet time, do some reading etc. I went to bed set the alarm extra early and looked forward to a refreshing new routine. I managed to get up without stirring the other nine heartbeats, bathe, dress and head down the stairs. What met me in the front hall I can only assume was the result of a rather elderly dog enjoying the scraps left around the picnic table from snacking with friends the day before. Every olfactory nerve ending was hyperstimulated as I hit the bottom of the stairs and I spent the next half hour on my knees cleaning and scrubbing. What choice did I have but to have my quiet time right there, being thankful for the food the dog must have eaten, thankful for the ability to get down and back up again although a little slower than years gone by, and thankful for the quiet time..........

And just this morning....I rose early without waking anyone and was just closing the door behind me to go downstairs and a wee voice from his crib in the dark greeted me with "Hi Mommy...Mommy.....MOMMY!!!!!.....POOPY" Remember that lack of control? I am simply Mom......all in!!