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.

Pursuing enough….school?

I messaged two other homeschool moms recently, trying to figure out if I was doing enough.  It doesn’t ever feel like enough.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m not pushing my kids hard enough and school is too easy, or if the amount of our coursework over the days is too light, or if it’s simply that homeschool is different and it’s totally normal to be done at lunch time.  (It does help to have an early riser.)

Tied very closely to that is the fact that while both my older kids are bright, my oldest was officially tagged with a gifted label during his last year in public school.  Gifted does not necessarily translate into a love of learning, however, and he daily does the bare minimum required.  Is that enough?  How much more should I be challenging him, since he clearly could be challenged?

And the “s” word….socialization.  How hard do I push this high-anxiety, borderline social anxiety disorder kiddo into social situations?  Having watched his entire demeanor change once he started this homeschool process, seeing him go from a tightly-wound ball of stress to a laughing kid…..Knowing that he hates large groups, knowing the anxiety they cause; how do I encourage my introvert to be social?  Our local homeschool group has a Park Day every Friday; we went for awhile but the reality is, he views it as punishment.  He has no real friends in the group yet, and the size of the group means he’s very unlikely to make any.  He thrives in small group situations.  (I was thrilled to hear him comment recently that a boy his age in his gymnastics class was “becoming a friend.”  This was after an hour a week, for three months.)

Interesting….I just realized that after almost two years focusing on simplifying and paring down, this would be the one area in my life where I feel like it’s not enough.  Not really sure it ever will be.

Good enough

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…..

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

Transitions

This has been a season of transitions.

In February, we started homeschooling my son, while my daughter continues to attend our neighborhood school.  Over the past two weeks, my husband’s workplace has been prepped and he officially has his first full-day work-from-home today.  The baby has been considerate enough to wait until the work move was complete, but she’s due to show up any day.  (Hint, hint, baby girl……ANY DAY NOW.)

The basement has transitioned from a nice place to hang out to a room full of cardboard and packing trash alongside the sleek computer equipment.  We’re still figuring out what to get rid of and how to arrange what we keep….it will probably take awhile.  I have to recognize that this shift is huge and that it’s not going to be a showplace tomorrow.

The nursery has transitioned from being worthy of an episode of “Hoarders,” to being cute and ready to welcome a new arrival, back to–well, it’s still nothing like it was.  The sudden overwhelming urge to paint (surely we can get the room painted before the baby shows up!), though, has turned it back into a space clearly not ready for habitation.  Half the room is taped, half is not; I’ve spackled the walls and they’re now sporting a delightful calamine-lotion-on-chicken-pox look, and all the furniture is pushed to the middle of the room.  Again:  it’s not going to be a showplace tomorrow.  And it doesn’t matter; the baby will be sleeping in the bassinet in the master bedroom for weeks anyway.

I have to laugh as I look back on how I started this blog focused on simplifying my family’s life…..things have only gotten exponentially more complicated.  It’s hard to be faithful to writing and posting when I’m doing so much reading and researching on homeschool stuff, never mind the normal, day-to-day getting ready for baby.  (At nine-and-3/4-months pregnant, all I really want to do is sit down.)  I’m realizing, though, that even through all this, my ideas of “enough” and “simplifying” are continuing to be defined and clarified.  (A perfect example is when my daughter looked in the nursery and asked, “Is this all that’s going to be in here?”)

I have all sorts of posts swimming about in my head….maybe, as this time of transition starts to settle down just a little, I’ll be able to start writing more.  I realize that it will probably get worse before it gets better.  🙂

Dealing with “stuff”

I realize that it’s been over a month since I’ve written anything.  Because I’ve been dealing with “stuff.”  Literally.  It’s everywhere.

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She seems perfectly harmless, right?

Let’s start with dog “stuff:”  no, not that kind of dog stuff.  I’m thinking of the afternoon I got back from picking up the kids from school and discovered that, in the twenty minutes I’d been gone, the dog had ripped the under-the-kitchen-sink cabinet door off its hinges and gotten into a full bag of trash.  That’s a full bag of trash, all over the kitchen floor, with a cabinet door laying on top of the mess like a fancy embellishment.  I tend to operate under the theory of “if you’re going to look back on this and laugh, you might as well laugh now,” but I’m pregnant and hormonal and I didn’t laugh.  I cried.  (Bending over to clean up an entire bag of trash is becoming not only uncomfortable but downright impractical.  Thank goodness for helpful children.)  That story, though, was only a lead-in for more “stuff.”  Thankfully, the rest of the stuff isn’t as nasty as a full bag of trash.

Baby “stuff:”  We’ve been extraordinarily blessed with a huge amount of things for the baby.  We’ve gone from “we have a nine- and a seven-year-old–we have nothing for a baby” to “I think all we have to buy now is a baby monitor.”  It’s been absolutely unbelievable, and I’m so grateful.  It’s also been all over the house, because, since we’ve never had babies in this house, I have no idea where to put any of it.  The big stuff, in a way, is easier to handle than the little things: while loading a swing and a playpen in the car I was actively thinking about where to unload them when we got home.  It’s the bags of things like baby bottles and sippy cups that are wearing me down; I’m going to have to clean out an entire kitchen cabinet to fit all this stuff.

So yes, baby “stuff:”  a laundry basket FULL of baby toys sat in our garage until I got tired of tripping over it (our garage is not THAT big), and then I brought it in and it sat on our kitchen counter.  For days.  Along with baby clothes passed on from my sister, which sat piled up on top of the dryer.  Also for days. Which then met with….

Car “stuff:”  We got a new car!  (Well, a new-to-us car.)  We found a great deal on my “I’ve wanted one for six years” seven-seater CX-9, which then leads to cleaning out your old car so you can trade it in.  Which means another bag of “stuff” culled from my old car, sitting on the kitchen counter.  Next to the laundry basket of baby toys.  (Feeling crowded yet?)

I finally, finally went through the bags and bins (and yes, an especially supportive friend came over and helped, because there comes a point where you don’t have the wherewithal to do it alone) and had a clean counter for a matter of days.  That’s about the time where our decision to homeschool one of our kiddos kicked in, and we ended up with…..

Homeschooling “stuff:”  math manipulatives and library books all over said counter.  (Again….where am I going to put all this stuff???)

This doesn’t count all the normal “stuff” of everyday life; school papers and newspapers and toys and shoes and books.  (I joked with my husband that when my son leaves stuff laying around, it’s in a big pile on the side table in the kitchen.  When my daughter leaves stuff laying around, she seems to dribble it everywhere.) Now, with two winter storms in less than a week, we also have snow-related “stuff:”  that giant pile of wet laundry and shoes that ends up next to the back door. (One point for me:  yesterday I had everyone just throw it all in the washer.  Immediately.)

To top it off, throughout the background of all this physical “stuff,” I’ve got ongoing mental “stuff.”  The phone call from the doctor’s office:  Your glucose test came back fine, but you’re anemic.  The phone call from the principal:  About your son….   The announcement from my husband:  You know those work from home positions?  I scored one.  (YAY!!  But….where will all THAT “stuff” go?!?)  All the “stuff” that rolls around in your head, 24/7, and makes you want to crawl back under the covers until it just goes away.  (Maybe that’s the anemia talking.  Or maybe it’s just that it’s February.)

So, bit by bit, we’re piecing things together over here.  Very slowly, things are finding homes.  I’ve had a clean counter for, I think, three days now….maybe I’m on a roll.  Hopefully, little by little, we’ll get new things put away in their new homes and we’ll start in on new routines and maybe I’ll even be able to write about it a little more.  Maybe, hopefully, in a more positive, not-so-whiny way.  Thanks for letting me vent.