Times change

March 24, 2017

Recently I found this draft I wrote three years ago:

I was snuggled with my littlest, before bedtime, when I noticed something odd.  Her bedroom is–by far–the smallest bedroom in the house.  It’s also the most awkward to furnish, because in addition to being small (it’s something like 9’x10′), one wall holds three doors:  the door into the room and a double-door on the closet.  But as I sat and rocked the baby, I realized that her room felt spacious.  Maybe not as roomy as her sister’s (whose room is ridiculously large), but it felt open and clear.

That’s because, of course, she isn’t even a year old yet and doesn’t have any “stuff.”

Don’t get me wrong, that closet is quite full of clothes waiting to be grown into; almost the entire top shelf is devoted to 12-18 month clothing that she’s creeping towards daily.  She has “stuff.”  But wow…all her room has in it is a crib, a changing table (with baskets for the clothes she’s currently wearing), a rocking chair and a small side table.  That’s it.  It’s absolutely refreshing.

I wish my other kids–especially my son–would “get it.”  That even a room that tiny can feel large if it’s not crammed with stuff.  My oldest often complains about how small his room is, when in reality it’s not bad; it’s just full.  He’s also the poster-boy for posters; when we moved here we devoted one wall to all his artwork, arranged carefully all together.  Now he’s old enough to get the thumbtacks for himself and his room is becoming a fire hazard.  I keep trying to explain to him that his room isn’t small, it’s crowded.  I think it might have started sinking in when family began to ask him what he wanted for his birthday and he said he didn’t want any more Legos because he didn’t know where he would put them.  That’s a pretty big step for my little Lego fiend.

The problem is that everything is held in comparison to middle girl’s room, which is HUGE.  It’s the one at the veeeery end of the hall, over the garage, and it’s almost as big as the garage.  (The square footage of her bedroom is actually bigger than the master bedroom; it’s 12’x18′.)  Her space veers back and forth between completely trashed and amazingly clean; the older she gets the more into decorating she is and the more “fixy” she is about her space.  To her credit, her large room usually feels large because she’s kept it fairly picked up.

I’m sure that someday, as the baby gets older, she’ll probably want a room as big as her sister’s, too.  I’ll take the smaller space any day.  Especially one as clean and simple as the nursery is now.  In a few years, little one will start accumulating stuff and putting her own mark on everything, the way her siblings have.  I hope she learns to appreciate the beauty of less.

So here we are, three years later.  The room is actually much the same, though we moved in a chest-of-drawers to replace the outgrown changing table.  We also moved the side table out, and a small “crib” in, to hold her stuffed animals.  (I would say it was a doll bed, but it was actually built by my great-grandfather for my mother when she was born.)  The closet has even been cleared out, and all her “to grow into” clothing (now size 6 to 10, the best of the best from older sister) is hanging up instead of piled on the upper shelf.

The only part of her room that gets regularly out-of-hand is her bed, since she wants ALL her stuffed animals in bed with her.  Oh, and her library books.  And sometimes a box of Kleenex.  (You get the idea.)  Sometimes when I tuck her in at night I tease her about where she’s going to fit, and she will cheerfully inform me, “It’s okay, Mama!  There’s a spot right here!”  And sure enough, there’s just enough space for her little head to lay on her pillow.

My son has come a long way, too.  Apparently around age ten or eleven there’s a seismic shift in attitude about stuff, and things that once were overwhelmingly sentimental now just seem babyish.  (I’m seeing it happen with my eleven-year-old daughter now.)  His room looks consistently better, with the occasional “wow, I have too many books” issue.

Interesting what three years can do.

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.

A belated Thanksgiving

December 15, 2013

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.

Good enough

October 27, 2013

I forgot how much you sit with a baby.  How often there’s really nothing you can do besides…sit, and hold a baby.  After about two months at home with a newborn, I found myself curled up in “my spot” on the sofa (again), holding a nursing baby (again).  This third little one is not too keen on naps; even then, she never seemed to sleep for very long.  For a few weeks, her late-afternoon nap ritual involved me nursing her to sleep and then holding her.  Transferring her to a crib guaranteed waking her up; holding her not only guaranteed sleep but, potentially, a real nap instead of the cat-naps she enjoyed so much.

So there I sat, holding a sleeping baby.  Just….sitting.  And holding a baby.  And in danced my older daughter, who came to a halt in front of me.

“Is the baby asleep?” she whispered.

Yes, I whispered back.

“And you’re just sitting there?” she whispered.

Yes, I whispered back.

She cocked her head to one side, surveying the scene.  I bit my tongue to hold back the dozens of excuses that were wanting to spill out of me; all the reasons I wasn’t doing all the things I should be doing besides sitting and holding a baby.

She straightened up tall.  “You’re a good mom,” she announced, and pranced back out of the room.

The floors that needed to be swept, the rugs to be vacuumed, the laundry to be put away, the dishes to be done, the schoolwork to be prepped, the papers to be graded…the list, in my head, was never-ending.  I suppose, though, that those things would be the definition of a “good housekeeper,” or a “good teacher.”  I didn’t have the time or the energy to be any of those things.  For those few months, being a mom was pretty much all I could do.

I’m thrilled she thought I was a good one.

A quick note…..

May 20, 2013

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

Thankfulness on a snow day

February 26, 2013

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I have seen my husband get up at 4:30 to make the 45-minute drive that turned into an hour-and-a-half in the snow and ice, trying to get to work.  (So thankful we moved.)  I’ve seen him spend the night in a hotel room, provided by his job to ensure they would be staffed for the following day.  Thoughtful, no?  I’ve seen him have to dig his car out of a car-eating-snowbank down the street, and go in really late; which just means he works later to make up for it.

But today was a real snow day.  We were incredibly blessed to not lose power.  The kids are still in pajamas at almost five o’clock.  It’s been a very….quiet….day of staying warm and watching the snow fall.  And now, after a lull, it’s falling again.

And even my husband didn’t go to work.

 

In God We Trust

January 17, 2013

Funny, isn’t it, that that’s what’s written on our money?  It’s like someone knew we’d be needing the reminder.

“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  (Proverbs 11:28)

Let me vent for a moment and I promise I’ll circle back to the important point.

Months ago, I realized that in preparation for our Disney trip I should probably be ramping up our savings; I didn’t want to drain the entire account (admittedly unlikely, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in preparing for a trip that big).  So I did my best to start funneling a little extra each paycheck into our savings account.

That’s when it started.

It began very slowly; so slowly I didn’t even notice for a bit.  But the longer time went on, the more I began to see a pattern:  things were going wrong.  Often.  At an increasing rate.  The phrase “that’s what savings is for” was being thrown around more and more; so much so that I began to tack on an addendum:  “that’s what savings is for….but what happens when it’s all gone?”  The fact that we would be adding a baby into the mix in just a few months didn’t help my attitude one bit; nor did the timing of Christmas shopping.

Our list:

6/15  Husband’s pharmacy license renewed (thankfully, reimbursed)

7/11  Sprinkler repair

7/30  Tax oops (yeah….I don’t wanna talk about it)

9/9  Car battery (mine)

9/12  Bo…last vet visit

9/19  Brake work  (mine)

10/4  Tire  (mine…wow….it sounds like I drive a beater)

10/11 TRIP!!  (at least this was planned for)

10/26  New dog:  Kina!

11/1  Meds for Kina

11/12 Garage door repair

11/16  Kina disaster

11/20  Kina final lab work

12/4  Car repair (husband’s)

12/10  Furnace repair (to get us through the holidays)

1/3  New furnace install

1/18?  Impending new tire (Mine.  Wow….maybe I DO drive a beater!)

Some stuff on that list was known; the trip was a planned expense.  The dog purchase….an arguable expense, but this family doesn’t stay dog-free for long.  Everything else was a nasty surprise, and each time I’d find myself getting more and more worked up about it.  And each time, I could sense God prodding me:  Who are you trusting in?

It’s easy to sit back and blab about how much I trust in God when everything’s coming up roses.  It’s truly hard for me to remember what it was like, sixteen years ago, when we were first married and flat broke and barely making it.  There’s a lot of trust when you’re barely making it.  Now “we’re doing fine”–that seems to be our phrase of choice; not rich, but far, far away from “scraping by.”

That list of problems has forced me back to trust; to evaluate who I’m truly trusting in and whether that trust holds even as bank accounts weaken.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”  (Psalm 56:3-4)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proberbs 3:5)

Party time!

October 3, 2012

I was at my daughter’s field trip recently, joking with a mom about how I seem to spend all my time counting heads when I’m out with the class that way.  (We were only in charge of four little girls, so the job should have been easy, but I’m learning that there’s always one in any group who wanders.  A lot.)  She laughed and commented that it was like those big birthday parties that you have somewhere “out;” where she could never relax because she kept needing to make sure they had everybody.

And I had to laugh, and admit that we’d never done that.

While we’ve had family parties every year, it wasn’t until the kids were in kindergarten that we started doing parties involving friends; and even then, they were small, involving five or six little ones.  My children are invited, often, to parties where kids invite the entire class or all the girls/boys in a class; while I suppose that saves on hurt feelings, I have no idea how people do it.  The cost.  The headache.  The hassle.

My daughter just celebrated her seventh birthday, “Rainbow Magic Fairy”-book style.  (On a side note, my kids have a knack for picking birthday themes that you can’t find party supplies for.)  We intended to invite six little girls, but once she got to four, she got hung up.  A domino effect seemed to be occuring:  “If I invite A, then I have to invite B and C; and if I invite C, then D and E have to come…”  Finally she stopped and looked at me.  “Can I just invite four people?”  Absolutely!

Out of the four, three showed up, and they had a wonderful time playing fairy games and making fairy crafts and eating pink-frosted chocolate cupcakes.  It was absolutely hilarious to see how much noise four little girls could make….coloring.  They laughed and danced and “helped” unwrap gifts and when it was all over, my daughter told me how much fun she’d had.

“I’m glad you liked it!”  I told her.

“I didn’t like it!  I LOVED it!!” she shouted; and honestly, if she LOVED her small party, why on earth would I want to do anything bigger?

Realistically, a bigger party would have meant missing out on some of the crafts; buying supplies for four is much easier than buying for twenty.  I was able to include a “fairy book” (from a local used-book store) in everyone’s party favor bag, instead of a plastic kazoo.  It just turns into a completely different party with fewer kids.

My sweet son approached me recently with a request for his upcoming birthday:  could he just go with a couple of friends to the local science museum?  And then maybe out for a treat?

These parties just get simpler and simpler…..

What a bargain!

September 14, 2012

I was scrolling through houses on the internet recently, as I am wont to do, and found an astounding price on a home a few miles north of us.  “Astounding” as in $100K cheaper than the other homes for sale in the neighborhood.  I assume it was a foreclosure, and as I scrolled through the photos, I was amazed at how genuinely beautiful the house still was–even with carpeting pulled up, and flooring missing in some rooms, you could see it was going to be a gorgeous home for someone; probably very soon.  Someone, somewhere, is about to get an amazing bargain.

I do wonder about the consequences of that choice, though.  If it’s a family who will slide right into the neighborhood effortlessly, or if it’s a family trying to reach up, just a bit, and finally score a house “in that neighborhood;” a house that would normally be out of reach but which suddenly is surprisingly achievable.  That house purchase could start the dominoes falling…

Now that they have a bigger house, in a nicer neighborhood, they have to furnish it, and fill those extra rooms they didn’t have before.  Then they’re sending their kids to school with other kids who are better off than they are, who have x and y and z, and suddenly they feel the need to get the same for their children.  Every day they’re surrounded by people who have “stuff” they don’t have, “stuff” they aren’t able to afford….but somehow that doesn’t stop them from buying it.

Maybe not.  Maybe the house will be filled with the “just-right” family; a perfect fit.  Or maybe it will be filled with a family who truly doesn’t care to keep up with the Joneses.  I just hope whoever moves in thinks through their decision.  It could be a really expensive bargain.

A few weeks ago I wallpapered the lower part of our front hallway.  I love the paper, I love how it looks, and I especially love that my front hall no longer greets people with an icky brown color.

That being said…

I’d struggled with one sheet–just one–in trying to keep the edges from curling up.  I don’t know why one gave me problems and the rest of the hall went fine, but one sheet was being difficult, and when it was all done and dried, there was a gap.

The gap, mind you, is probably less than an eighth of an inch wide, in-between two sheets of plaid wallpaper.  If you’re not looking for it, you’re not going to see it.  I was fussing over it, though, the day after I’d finished the work; about why that piece was so difficult and everything else went fine…. and my daughter looked at me and informed me, very seriously, “Mommy!  It doesn’t have to be perfect!”

I am so, so thankful, that out of all the things she’s heard me say to her in her short life, that was one that stuck with her.  As often as I’ve said it to her, you’d think I might listen myself.