Upset

Two years ago this month. That’s when the upset began.

I was content with my life. I had six perfect kids. I was comfortable with our income, our home, our car. I was complacent in my belief system. I was stagnant.

I was due for an upset.

And then it came. In triplicate.

First came the pregnancy test that heralded another nine months of morning sickness, heartburn, and depression. Month after month I did little more than vomit, wish I wasn’t having a baby, feel guilty for not wanting the baby, and then throw up again. I lived on the couch, watching Netflix and trying to keep down a bite of something, anything. My house was a wreck and I was a wreck. My only hope was in knowing that it would end and I would a have a beautiful baby to show for it.

Then came the birth, and with it the next upset. Down syndrome accompanied my Blessing into this world, calling into question everything I thought I knew about health, parenting, and faith. My baby flirted with death and for months I’d rock her to sleep with my heart silently pleading, “Live! Grow! Thrive!” I spent her early days redefining my mothering practices and wondering if she’d live another day. But she did live, and she grew stronger. We got comfortable with her diagnosis and fell into complacency once again.

Then came the next big upset. It became necessary for us to move out of our home of nine years. The hunt for a new place to call home became my new turmoil. I wondered where we would live, or if we could find a place or would we be homeless? I pleaded with God to give us a place to call our own, a place perfect for us. And He did. He didn’t give me what I thought I wanted, but as always, He gave me what I needed. And so we moved and changed and grew a little more.

For the last two years my life has experienced great upset. And while I long for peace and security, I recognize that it is through adversity that I become stronger, more faithful, and closer to God.

It is through the pain of pregnancy that I was given The Blessing.

It was the through disappointment of her diagnosis that I was introduced to an amazing community of people who were born with an extra chromosome and have so much to offer the world.

It is through losing our old home that we were able to move into a home much more fitting a family of nine.

And it is through all of these upsets that I drew nearer to God. Relying on Him to provide, calling on Him to heal, resting in His peace, and allowing Him to be my Father as well as my God.

Blogging through all of this has been a challenge and recently I have neglected it all together. It is hard to pretend that all is well. I’m not a good liar. Besides that, I want this blog to be a place of inspiration and encouragement , not a place for me to air all my dirty laundry. But today I’m being real. Life is hard, but it is also good.

I hope that the upsets are over for now and I can have some nice things to write about. I know that I have a lot of knitting and spinning to do and to share. I also have some thoughts about homeschooling, parenting, and babies. Then there are the things God has shown me about Himself in the past two years, and everyday that I sit and listen. I have some political rantings, too, but I promise to keep those to a minimum. The point is, I see more blogging in my future. I’ve missed it.

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Happy New Year!

What’s that? I am six days late? My apologies to all of you who rang in the new year on time, but I am just getting around to it. We have been the reluctant hosts of a nasty little stomach bug since before Christmas and I am just too happy that we are all not barfing any more to care that Christmas and New Years were a total bust this year. At last, today, six days late, I start the new year. Today the kids begin their second term of school, I begin living up to various resolutions (both knitting and food related), and here on the blog, I recap the old and ring in the new. So….

Happy New Year! 

I’ve got to fess up and tell you that I have been a bit blue looking over the last year. Twenty-thirteen was a toughy. I spent the first six months of the year suffering through a pregnancy that I was still struggling to accept, a pregnancy which culminated in the birth of our blessing, and her subsequent diagnosis, hospital stay, and breastfeeding/weight gain issues. I was just starting to feel better and The Blessing was putting on weight and eating well when that Christmas sickness knocked us all down again. It was very discouraging.

These things were made harder to bear by the extremely tight finances. With very little money to play with on special occassions, our 15th Anniversary was a dud, my birthday was practically ignored, and our Christmas was meager. Then there was the time when my wallet was stolen, along with two weeks worth of grocery money in it. And the time my credit card was used at a hotel in Conneticut (hint: I live in California).

To top it all off, close friends suffered also this year, and I grieved sorely for broken marriages, lost babies, and empty wallets.

But it is as they say, that every cloud has a silver lining.

The pregnancy that I didn’t want and that I suffered greatly through, gave me the most amazing blessing that anyone could ask for. Her birth was exactly as I had wanted, her smile makes my heart ache with happiness, and her life is more precious than anything.

The hospital stay was probably the scariest thing that I have ever endured, but it was only a week long. The Blessing’s Down syndrome did not come with any life threatening conditions and did not require heart surgery, feeding tubes, or long term medical care. Though she was born with TMD (a form of leukemia), it was gone before she was discharged from the hospital. Our baby is now a healthy, happy six month old.

Down syndrome has not been the life changer that I thought it was going to be. So far, The Blessing has not been delayed at all, and she is very much a normal baby, with only her regular therapy sessions to remind us that she does, indeed, have an extra chromosome. Well, that and her eyes, her gorgeous, blue, almond-shaped eyes.

When my wallet was stolen and we had no idea how we were going to buy food for the next two weeks, I told the kids that this was our chance to see how God takes care of His children. We prayed and asked for Him to provide for us. And He did. People heard what had happened and started giving us money. A little here, a little there, and in less than a week we had more than we had lost!

On Christmas morning, after the stockings were opened and breakfast was eaten, we opened our front door to find that someone had piled up a Christmas miracle on our doorstep. Gifts of socks, shirts, and sweaters for everyone, a big box of food, and an envelope containing a Costco gift card and a typed note. I seriously cried as I watched the kids open these very unexpected gifts.

I realize now, looking back over 2013, that I can see it two different ways. I can see it with my blue lenses, my woe-is-me glasses, and cry over all the hardship that I endured. Oh, what a struggle it was to get through this past year! Oh, the things that I have had to endure! Oh, the trials that I have faced!

Or, I can instead put on my rose colored glasses, my life-is-good lenses, and see how it really was.

Even in my discontent, God provides.

Even in my weakness, He shows me his strength.

Even in my trials, He comforts me.

And, honestly, if that was the worst year of my life, then I have had it pretty easy. 

So here I am at the start of a fresh, new year. I have great hopes for this year. I’m going to be healthy and strong. I have creative goals and personal goals. I have ideas for homeschooling and memory making and training our kids up in the way that they should go. But I also have the memory of a very tough year to remind me that even when things don’t go the way that I hope they will, God is always in control and He has me in His very capable hands.

In Defense of the Perfect Mommy Blogger

We all love to hate her. She is disgustingly perfect. She blogs about her life and every post could be in a magazine. Her house is always clean and organized and her furnishings are gorgeous. She decorates with an amazing eye for detail and everything that she has she found at a great deal or made herself. Her closets are full of fashionable outfits and her bed is covered in hand embroidered pillows. Her kitchen looks like it could be the set for a cooking show and is always spotlessly clean.

Her children are always dressed in perfectly coordinated outfits, Little Miss’s hair things match the buttons on her blouse and the buckles on her shoes. The Little Man always has his hair combed and his face is never dirty (unless a dirty face fits into that days’ blog post, and then it is an adorable, controlled messy). Her homeschooling techniques are creative and fun. Her little ones could read at age three and knew the pythagorean theorem by their eighth year.

She makes everything from scratch out of the finest ingredients with an expert eye toward presentation and a balanced approach to nutrition. Her grain is freshly ground, her eggs came from her chicken coop out back, and she fetched her own milk from the cow in the pasture. Every meal she makes looks delicious and her children never complain that they want cereal instead of buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Her organic garden produces so much food that she sells some of it after she takes catalog quality photos of shiny eggplant and long, flawless green beans.

On top of all of that, she somehow finds time to run a flourishing business out of her basement. She creates some wonderful, one-of-a-kind product that the masses are willing to pay lots of money for and yet she somehow keeps up with the demand.

Her husband is handsome and charming. She keeps him satisfied in every way and they are living a happily ever after.

And when she blogs about this utopia of hers, she makes it sound so easy. “All I did was lead this camel through the eye of this needle like so. Anyone could do it.”

Somehow this makes us feel small. Inadequate. Like loosers.

In retaliation there has been a surge of Imperfect Mommy Bloggers. These are the ladies who flash pictures of their messy houses and dirty kids proudly. “See,” they declare, “I’m far from perfect and that is okay!” They readily admit to being in their jammies at noon and yelling at their kids. They flaunt their imperfections to make us feel better. And it works. We love them. They make us feel like we are okay. So what if I didn’t get it all done today? Nobody is perfect.

Well, I am here today to tell you that I have a problem with the imperfect mommy bloggers and this is why.

Some nights I go to bed feeling great. The house is clean, the laundry done, the dishes washed. These are the days when I spent time with each kid, talking, reading, or playing. I was a firm and gentle disciplinarian and my patience was everlasting. Our schooling was fun and we all learned something new. The Man was given a reminder of the sexy lady that he married. I prepared and served three healthy meals. My day was full, productive, and beneficial for everyone.

Some nights I go to bed feeling guilty and inadequate. The house is a wreck. I yelled at the kids. I gave The Man the cold shoulder. I spent too much time on Facebook. I fed the kids some fast food crap.

Sure, it makes me feel better to soothe my conscience by comparing myself to other moms who fail. It strokes my ego and lets me know that I am not alone. But it does not inspire me to do better.

Now I know that it is not a competition. But admit it, we all do it. If my kids are bratty, I think, “At least they are not as bratty as So-and-so’s kids” and I become complacent in my parenting. When I visit someone else’s house and it is messy or the toilet is dirty or the windows look like they haven’t been washed in months, I think, “Wow! I am doing so much better than this gal!” And my poor housekeeping skills remain where they are.

But, when I see someone with well behaved, lovely kids, I am inspired to raise my own standards for parenting. When her homeschooling is better than mine, it inspires me to be more creative and to try harder with my own. When I visit someones clean, orderly home, my own standard gets raised a little bit and I am more inclined to wash my windows.

No, it is not a competition. And I am not trying to out-do any of my friends. But I want to surround myself with people who inspire me to be better, not coddle me in my failures. Don’t tell me it’s okay that I am the way I am, show me the greatness that I can become. I don’t want to barely get by. I want to strive for excellence.

So, I cannot resent those who seem to have it all together (which, by the way, we all know that they don’t). Rather I accept the challenge to do better in my own home and with my own kids and for my own husband. Because I can do better and I want to do better. I will be inspired by the success of others and I will forgive myself when I fail.

And I will encourage others to do the same.

I’m Such a Dork, and Other Things I Believe About Myself

Today I feel very inferior. My thoughts about myself have been very harsh.

As I got dressed, “I am so fat. And lazy. Fat and lazy. And if I wasn’t so lazy, then I wouldn’t be so fat.”

As I brushed my teeth, “Today is definitely a makeup day. I am so unattractive.”

As I prepared to write a blog post, “What could I possibly say that would be interesting or benefit any one? I am such a big dork.”

But, here is the deal. While there may be a bit of truth in each of those thoughts, they are all based on emotion.

Think about that for one minute. How I feel about myself is based on how I feel. And when has how I feel ever been worth anything?

Heck, just a few days ago my thoughts were totally different.

As I got dressed, “Hey, these pants are a tad looser. Look at me. I am so hot!”

As I brushed my teeth, “Who needs make up? I am a natural beauty.”

As I made breakfast, “I am getting pretty good at this house-wife thing. I should blog about this genius breakfast I am making.”

See what I am saying? Not much changed between last week and this, but my thoughts about myself are like night and day.

My perception about my weight, my ability, my style, my looks, my coolness… it is all up and down.

There are many factors that influence how I think about myself, but one thing is for sure –

My opinion of myself is not based on the truth. I know this because truth never changes. Feelings change, though, don’t they?

If I was thin and gorgeous last week, I am thin and gorgeous this week. The truth is that I am neither fat nor thin, but somewhere in the middle. The truth is that I am neither very industrious nor very lazy. The truth is that I prefer knitting to strenuous work. The truth is that my house could be cleaner, but it isn’t really that bad.

The truth is that how I feel about it changes nothing.

I say all that to get to this one point.

How I am feeling about myself today is of little importance because how I feel will change from day to day.

The truth is what is important.

So, where do I find the truth about me?

The Bible tells me who I am – A child of God, worthy of great sacrifice, loved eternally, blessed abundantly, and created to be beautiful, talented, and industrious. I choose to believe these things about myself because it is the Truth about Me.

A bit closer to home, it looks like this:

When this thought “I am such a fat dork” flits through my head, I grab it, look at, and hold it up to the truth. It looks a lot different in the light. 

Now I see that the truth is that I am a little overweight. The truth is that I am not really concerned about loosing any weight right now because I am still nursing, and furthermore, I am not ever going to be Barbie. I don’t want to be Barbie. I want to be healthy and active, being skinny isn’t really that important to me. The truth is that being cool isn’t really that high on my priority list and if I wanted to be cooler than maybe I ought to subscribe to Vogue or something. The truth is that The Man thinks I am pretty hot, and my friends think I am cool enough to hang out with me on a regular basis. The truth is that I am a pretty average mother of six who will lose a little weight some day and who smiles a lot.

And I am pretty much okay with that right now.

What is the truth about you?

I Don’t Talk On the Phone and Other Ways Parenthood Changed My Life

Don’t take it personally. It isn’t you. Really. I haven’t returned your phone call, yet, because I just don’t return phone calls. You see, I have children. Lots and lots of children. And so I don’t talk on the phone very often. When one lives in a small house with six children, one finds themselves having phone conversations like this –

“Hello? Hi! How are you? Put your sister down, please. What? I’m sorry, what did you say? No! Don’t bring the hose in the house. Wow! Really? Oh, just a sec. No, you can’t have ice cream for breakfast. Okay, sorry. Well that is amazing, and then Oh wait. Really? All the toilet paper? Shoot. I really have to go. Can I call you back later? Stop flushing! Better yet, just message me on Facebook.”

One only has to have a few conversations like that to induce one to avoid the phone at all costs.

I do have an answering machine, though, and I did get your message. Well, most of it. You see, somebody dropped a glass jar onto the kitchen floor when your message was halfway through and I had to run off to get the baby out of the blast area before she ingested broken glass and when I returned to listen again, the baby was squirming in my arms in protest because she wanted to eat all that sparkly glass, and her squirming was knocking my hands out of my control for the most part and when I meant to hit “play” I actually hit “erase”. When the machine asked me “erase all messages?”, I was distracted by the barefoot child running toward the minefield of broken glass and hit “yes” instead of “no” and well, what was it you called for?

Getting a hold of me is easiest if you use Facebook messages. Or better yet, just come by. I am here all the time. I don’t leave the house much, mostly because I am a homebody, but also because when one has six kids, one doesn’t get a lot of invites for visiting. Oh, I love to have people over, and I do it all the time. If I don’t, I would never see anybody! And I am not really complaining, though I know it sounds like I am fishing to be invited somewhere. I understand that it is intimidating to ask us over – we must seem like an invading horde or like the clowns in a circus car (“how many people are in that car, anyway?”) as we spill out of our SUV into your clean, quiet, orderly house. And feeding us must scare the daylights out of any hostess. So I just try to keep my house picked up and my bra on in anticipation of drop in guests, but to be safe, maybe you should just expect to find a mess and me in my jammies… just in case.

As a matter of a fact, my house is rarely clean. I didn’t say that I don’t clean, just that it is rarely clean. But, cleaning the house for me looks like this –

Go in kitchen to wash dishes. Find toys all over kitchen floor. Call kids in to pick up toys. Play peacemaker to the bickering about whose toys they are and who put them there. Say in an exasperated voice, “I don’t care whose they are or who put them there. I just want them put away.” Return to the dishes and find that there are no clean dish towels. Go to laundry room to look for a clean towel in the “to be folded” basket and throw in a load of laundry while I am there. Hear the baby waking up from nap. Get her up, change her diaper, nurse her, cuddle and play with her. Smile when I see The Munchkin approaching with a pile of books. “Mama read to me?” she asks in her so cute way. Read a pile of books. All the kids gather round to hear, regardless of age, and I sigh in content as I cozy on the couch with my brood. Then I look up and see all the dishes in the sink. And the toys on the floor. So I do what any good mother would do – I reach for another book.

So parenthood has turned me into an almost-hermit who dwells in a messy house with a bunch of loud kids who only communicates with the outside world through Facebook messages.

And I am totally okay with that.