Be careful what you wish for…

I love our house.  God blessed us with a home that has met needs we didn’t even know we were going to have when we moved in.  It has been flexible enough to allow my husband to work from home, and still had space enough to welcome our third child.  Somehow its four walls managed to expand and allow two foster children to move in, and now it’s relaxed back down to contain a more comfortable three-kids-and-two-dogs family. But I admit to stalking houses not even a mile south of us.

Mere blocks away there are houses that back up onto a forested creek.  I’ve said, repeatedly, “I love our house….if I could only pick it up and set it down in the middle of the woods!”  (Which is, frankly, ridiculous.  Part of the appeal of this house when we bought it was the yard full of mature trees.)

But if you drive home “the back way” there are rows of homes surrounded by trees, with no real backyard neighbors but the creek.  A range of homes, too:  yes, there are a few cul-de-sacs of high-end pricey ones we could never afford, but there are also some really reasonable ones that we could.  If, by chance, we ever decided to move again.  And yes, I was frequently stalking those houses, thinking about moving.  (Because now that things have settled down, let’s stir things up, right?)

It turned out that our Sunday School class’s annual Super Bowl party was in one of those houses.  This couple was newer to our class, and when the address was sent out I almost burst out laughing:  we’re practically neighbors!  (Truly:  my husband and son walked home that night.)  I was going to get a little taste of what it might be like to live in one of Those Houses.  I wondered if I’d end up envious.  Or maybe if I’d end up with a lead on a potential home for sale?

Instead, I ended up with a near panic-attack.  A truly beautiful home, with a small, scenic backyard…that dropped off sharply into the creek.  My evening was mostly spent keeping tabs on the three-year-old:  Where’s the baby?*  Is she back outside?  I need to go check.  Wait. No.  She’s here.  Where is she now?  I think she’s downstairs.  Maybe I need to check?  There she is. Etc.

For three hours.

I joked with my husband later how glad I was that we had that experience.  I could just see us, led on by my glorious rustic imaginings of barefoot big kids playing in the woods and wading in the creek, moving into one of those homes, and then immediately being hit by the reality of a three-year-old who doesn’t swim.  Oh, my word….what have we done?

I hereby choose to shift my focus onto gratefulness:  for a home that I love, for a (relatively) large yard the kids and dogs enjoy, and for the fact that when my youngest wanders out back unattended I don’t think twice.

 

*Yes, we still refer to her as “the baby.”  I think it has to do with the age difference in the kids:  we have “the bigs” and we have “the baby.”  Please bear with me…surely at some point we’ll decide on a new nickname.

2016….

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how glad I’ll be to say goodbye to this year.  It’s funny how you start each year optimistic and full of enthusiasm over what it might bring….this year started innocently enough with my youngest being sick.  We’ve said repeatedly that she’s the easiest child we’ve ever had, but she is, by FAR, the absolute worst when it comes to being sick.  So we endured a few weeks of two-year-old induced misery, followed by me going to the doctor for “this weird spot on my back….also, I think I might have pulled a muscle.”  It turned out both those things were related and I actually had shingles.

That didn’t even get us through February.

This year was marked–strongly–by one of my children dealing with severe depression. The weight of that anchor pulled the entire house down most days.

There were petty nuisances:  the “two-week” bathroom redo that took a full month.  There were truly awful shocks:  the horrific accidental death of a friend’s child.  And we are sending the year out with three cases of bronchitis and one sinus infection….and my poor husband with something that has yet to be officially diagnosed.

Good riddance.

But that can’t be what I focus on this year.  It overwhelms me when I look at it that way.  There have been beautiful things about this year, too.

  • The twenty-year wedding anniversary trip to Colorado.  (Brief, but kid-free.)
  • The adoption of our former foster kiddos into a wonderful home.
  • My older daughter discovering musical theater (and a strong talent for it).
  • The arrival (finally!) of antidepressants for my child, who is returning from the edge.
  • My sister being in town from overseas twice!–one visit for Christmas.
  • Month-long chaos or not, we have a lovely “new” bathroom.  (I’m sure I’ll be posting quite a bit about that particular adventure.)
  • We’ve celebrated scary birthdays this year (we have a teenager!) and are now parenting a 13, 11, and 3-year-old.  Typing that looks weird, but I’ve pretty much gotten used to our goofy arrangement of kids.
  • Homeschooling keeps getting better and better.
  • I cleaned out the unfinished part of the basement so well that my son asked if he and his sister could turn it into a Lego room.  (!!!)
  • Laughter is returning to our home….though it never really left completely.

And how can you despise a year where a game called “Rancor Pillow Beat” was created by my 3-year-old?  (It involves lots of running, screaming, and pounding Daddy with pillows.  Oh, and laughing.  Also lots of laughing.)

Taking a deep breath in preparation for 2017….

Don’t just stand there….

We celebrate three years of homeschooling today.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the chaos, stress, and upset leading to our “we don’t really have any other choice” decision.  It was the hardest choice I ever had to make.  It has also been by far the best.

Originally published March 2013

*****

I wrote this post months ago; it’s been sitting as a draft because really, it didn’t fit with any of my usual topics.  But when it happened I wanted to make sure to write it down; to remember the moment.

Now, months later, it’s hitting me in a completely different way:

Recently I sat at our kitchen table, eating dinner with my family, when a flash of feathers caught my eye.  That in itself isn’t all that strange; I’ve very strategically positioned a bird feeder outside one of our windows so when I sit in “my spot,” I can see the birds.  It was the motion of the wings I found odd:  a frantic flutter, then stillness, to the point where I would think the bird must have flown away.  But then the frantic would begin again.

I continued to sit and eat dinner, but thoughts began to nag at me.  Maybe something’s wrong, they started.  Maybe it’s hurt.  Maybe it’s stuck.  Stuck?  The bird feeder hangs from a “feeder holder” that clips to our deck; an arched piece (that ends in the hook that holds the feeder), is attached to a straight rod, which fastens to the deck rail.  It was possible, I began to think, that maybe the bird got his foot caught between where the two pieces of metal meet and overlap.

That’s ridiculous.

Well, maybe.  But still possible.

The movement would be so still for so long that I would think it was gone, then it would rouse up again; and finally, once I finished my dinner, I joked that “I’m going out to see what on earth is going on out here.”

The bird–it was a nuthatch–was stuck, but it wasn’t his foot.  It was his head.  I wasn’t ready for the panicked feeling that welled up in me when I saw this tiny, tiny creature freeze in fear and stare at me, his neck wedged between the two pieces of metal.  (Never in a million years would I have guessed the gap was big enough to fit a bird’s neck, even one as small as this one.)  My head was spinning as I slowly approached to try to lift the little one.

Nothing prepares you for the sheer nothingness that is the weight of a bird.  I’m amazed each winter as I watch them walk on the snow; I know in my head that they are weightless and fragile, but until you pick one up, you truly can’t imagine.  He was perfectly still as I cupped my hands around his little body and slid him slowly, carefully, up and out from in between the cold of the metal.  The moment he was free, he flew away.

I went back inside ready to cry.  What if I hadn’t gone out?  What if I hadn’t seen him at all?  What if he’d been stuck there….how much longer could he have been stuck there, without permanent damage?  And then….how many times do we not act on a “hunch?”  On a thought, on a feeling, on a suspicion?  How many opportunities have been lost because we failed to do something, however small?  What permanent damage has been done because I’ve chosen to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my mind?

Just some things I’m thinking about today…

 

That last paragraph…acting on a hunch, what permanent damage has been done, failing to act, ignoring the nagging voice in my head…..It occurred to me today that all those things perfectly sum up our decision to start homeschooling.  I’m tired of just standing there.  I’m doing something.

A belated Thanksgiving

I feel bad for my lack of Thanksgiving posts.  The entire month of November, when everyone on Facebook is posting all the things they’re thankful for, I stayed quiet.  Then I didn’t even blog Thanksgiving week at all; when I get busy, writing is the first thing to go (in spite of the fact that it helps me stay sane).  Topping things off, my latest post was a bit of a rant.  That’s what happens, though, when I dwell on something for such a ridiculously long time that it finally just bursts out that way.

But I am thankful.  I think, if I posted thirty days worth of “I’m thankful for…”, two things would stand out.  One is how thankful I am for really petty things.  That first cup of coffee in the morning?  Unbelievably thankful for it.  (I’ve noticed my thankfulness for that particular cup rises in direct proportion to how early I get up.)  A temperamental hot water heater means I’m thankful for a hot shower in the morning, as compared to the warm-ish ones we often get.  Lacking a garage for much of our married life means I still, ten years after getting one, think how grateful I am that I don’t have to scrape a windshield on a bitter morning.  A baby who leans toward thirty-minute naps means I’m beyond grateful when she sleeps for an hour and a half.  We had dinner with friends last Sunday after church, and managed to drive around to see some neighborhood Christmas lights last night, and most importantly, the baby TOOK A BOTTLE in the nursery at church this morning, all of which point to a turning point in babyhood:  the Ability to Have a Life again.  I’m incredibly thankful for that.

See?  Petty.

The other thing that would stand out is how repetitive my thanks would be.  Family, current and extended, would feature prominently and often.  I’m so grateful for growing up in a loving home, in a two-parent family that even now has two parents.  I’m thankful for my sweet husband, who puts up with my quirks (ahem….understatement) and loves me anyway; who is a great dad with all our kids, including the baby.  I’m really thankful for that; when he walks upstairs after work and I essentially throw the baby at him and say here….your turn, and he takes over with a smile.

I’m thankful for my oldest.  I’m thankful for the sense of humor he’s developing; people ooh and ahh over the toddler and preschool days (me included) and talk about paying attention and savoring every moment, and now I’m looking at this ten year old and thinking, they don’t tell you this is fun, too.  Having a kid with a real sense of humor–who not only gets your jokes, but can make you truly laugh, too–it’s amazing to watch what these little ones turn into.

I’m not thankful for his anxiety, but I’m thankful that those problems led us to homeschooling.  I’m thankful for watching him relax a little and enjoy life again.

I’m thankful for my oldest daughter, for her energy and enthusiasm and constant motion.  I’m thankful for the sheer joy she brings to her schooling, for the moments like when she learned about why trees change color in the fall and she looked at me with eyes shining and said, “It’s like the trees are keeping a secret all year!”  (Admittedly, the pendulum can swing quite extremely the other way, also….)

I’m thankful for her silliness; she was the one who taught her brother to laugh, all those years ago.

And I’m so thankful for the baby.  I’m thankful that she’s a happy baby, that she sleeps as well as she does, that she is usually so mellow….I’m thankful that I finally understand what it means to have an “easy baby.”  I’m grateful and beyond surprised at how much “the bigs” love this baby.  I knew my daughter would do well, her mothering instinct is strong; but watching my son fawn over her was so unexpected I still–seven and a half months in–whisper prayers of thankfulness when I see them together.

I will never forget the photographer taking pictures of my sister’s family with ours.  She very carefully kept trying to position the baby with my sister.  It made sense:  ten and eight year old together, two-ish little one (my niece) with the baby.  My sister briefly explained the situation and then, leaning in to the photographer, laughingly announced, “Surprise!!”  The photographer shook her head and did her hands in a motion that was half “Praise the Lord” and half “Raise the Roof”:  “No,” she stated firmly, “Blessings.  BLESSINGS.”

And she is right.  That baby has been the most unexpected blessing of all.

So, yes, I’m thankful.  And I’m happy for this thankfulness to carry through Christmas.

How did I get here?

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?

–Once in a Lifetime, The Talking Heads

This is the song that keeps getting stuck in my head lately, all prompted by a moment that hit last week.

It was late morning on a gorgeous fall day, where the weather is unbelievably perfect and the kids had (wisely) elected to do their reading outside. My son came bounding in and excitedly (yes, excitedly!) launched into his description of what was happening in the book he was reading.

And that was when I was struck, almost physically, with a growing awareness of the absurdity of the entire situation.

I am forty years old, standing in my kitchen, in a county I swore I’d never live in, wearing a baby, listening to my son talk about his reading while his sister reads outside, with homeschool work all over my kitchen counters, and my pharmacist husband working from home in the basement (not in any Walter White way, I swear).

Did I mention I was wearing a baby?

How did I get here?

What’s that quote? Man proposes, God disposes? I’m a planner. I had a plan. I had my life all pretty well mapped out: graduate, live on my own awhile, get married, have babies, adopt some kids, send them all to school and then turn into one of those moms who volunteer incessantly. All of this was to be completed by the time I was thirty. (I do realize my numbers don’t quite add up…I was never very good at math.)

What’s funny, though, is that I wouldn’t trade this. I love this. I love the kids home, I LOVE the hubby home, I (obviously) love the baby….so while I’m not really sure how I got here, it’s proof that I can trust the One who brought me.

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Forty years & five months

How to decorate a nursery without Pinterest. (Or money.)

Over the course of the last year I’ve had the opportunity to peek into at least three different nurseries of three different mothers, whether in real life or through photos on Facebook.  It wasn’t until the third that I really noticed it:  this vaguely familiar feeling; the I think I’ve been here before…but no… moment; the why does this ring a bell?  thoughts.  It all clicked when I complimented one of the moms on a wall hanging and she said, “Thanks!  I found the idea on Pinterest!”

Aha!  That’s it.  Everyone had taken all the same ideas and made them their own:  each room was different; and yet, each room was sort of the same.

Well, I’m not on Pinterest.  I waste enough time online without needing to get sucked in to something that I fully recognize could take over my life.  So the baby’s room fails to meet the “shared on Pinterest” criteria.  But….the baby’s room is done.  It’s actually completed (even though it didn’t get painted until she was three months old).  Back in January I wouldn’t have guaranteed any of that.  And last fall I was a basket case, because, as I kept having to tell people, we have nothing.

“Wow!  Your other two are really old!  Do you even have any baby stuff left?”  That was pretty much the response of pretty much anyone who talked to me about our little surprise blessing.  And my response, to each of them, was always the same:

No, we moved when my daughter was two and didn’t want to move all the baby stuff since were weren’t having any more…..all we have are two umbrella strollers.  We don’t even have a crib–it broke in the move.

Then my response started to change.

It started with a sweet friend from church asking me if I had any maternity clothes.  No, and I was loathe to buy them, knowing I’d never wear them again.  So in came three bins of clothing for me to use, completely free; originally on loan but (after some thoughtful consideration 😉 ) simply given.  My entire maternity purchases were a few pairs of jeans from Goodwill.  (I hadn’t even known there was a maternity section at Goodwill.)

Next up:  dinner with my college roommate and her husband.  She asked about our adoption plans, and when we told her–as we’d told our caseworker–that we had a “situation,” she got it immediately.

“A growing situation?” she asked. Yep.

“Do you even have any baby stuff?”  Nope.

She then offered us all of her baby stuff, left from her now-preschool son; after coming to the conclusion that they wouldn’t be having any more, she was trying to figure out how to get rid of it all.  (I believe her actual words were, “Back up the truck, baby….it’s all yours!”)

So a few weeks later, when another friend asked “Do you even have any baby stuff?”  I got to try out a new response:  Funny story…. By the end, I said something like, …and all we need to buy is a crib!  We have everything else we need!

To which she responded, “Do you want a crib?”

Are you kidding me?

We have acquired, to date, a crib, changing table, two changing pads (with covers), a bassinet, a car seat (plus two bases), a stroller (that works with the car seat), two baby bathtubs, one bouncy seat, one infant “seat,” one floor play mat, one swing, and numerous toys and blankets.  This doesn’t take into account the amazing amount of clothes loaned to me by my sister; from my niece, who is just over a year older than our baby girl.  And it turns out we didn’t actually have “nothing:”  I had my older daughter’s crib bedding, which I’d listed on Craigslist twice and which–somehow–never sold.  (Thank goodness it was a girl!)

I could spin this and talk about how budget-friendly our nursery is.  Or how “green” I am, with all this used stuff.  The reality, though, is that when we had a need, God provided.  When I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of starting over, especially since we weren’t planning on doing the whole baby thing again, God took care of the “stuff” situation, and helped me realize how He was present in the entire “baby” situation.

I am so unbelievably thankful to all the people who made my little one’s room.  Each and every day I see these things, and am reminded of God’s provision and friends’ willingness to help.  I can’t imagine a better way to decorate a nursery.

A quick note…..

On April 19th we were blessed with a 9-pound, 10.7-ounce bundle of little-girl joy.  I’ve spent the past month primarily snuggling a baby, homeschooling a son, and just. barely. keeping up with the house.  (I’m incredibly grateful for a Sunday School class–and a husband–that cook.)  No blogging for me, thanks.

I had a friend post something on Facebook, though, that I wanted to share.  It really hit home for me for two reasons:  first, the incredibly obvious idea–how did I miss it?–that “gluttony” doesn’t just apply to food.  (Duh.)  Secondly, the incredibly convicting idea that it’s not just about getting rid of stuff.  It’s about putting Him first, making sure He is our priority, finding out what He wants from us….letting Him fill us, so we don’t feel the need to be filled with all the other “stuff.”

I’m working on it….

The Socially Acceptable Sin, by Jason Todd