How could you miss the obvious?

You know, lately I have begun to question whether I am cut out to be a parent. As parents we are supposed to be wise, patient, kind, insightful… near-omniscient, benevolent beings charged with the molding of young lives. But children have a way of exploding the Hallmark perceptions that we blissfully pack into parenthood.

Exhibit A:

Child #2, rinsing cereal down the kitchen sink and talking at the same time. 

Me: Hey, please don’t dump food down the sink!

Child #2: I’m not dumping food down the sink. (scrapes the bowl out with fingers)

Obviously I am mistaken as to the definition of “food”. Or maybe “sink”. But I was definitely WAY OFF.

Exhibit B:

Enter Child #11, with child #10 crying.

Sibling tattled that #11 hit #10 with an action figure.

Me: “Why did you hit your brother?”

#11: “I didn’t.”

Me: “Then why is he crying?” (The wails increase in volume.)

#11: “I tapped him. Very softly. I was nice!” 

Me: (eyeing the mark left by Captain America) “Then where did this come from?”

#11 shrugs, big innocent four year old eyes: “Maybe he was playing with a marker.”

*facepalm*

But my favorite is Exhibit C:

Child #2: “Why am I in trouble? I just don’t get it!”

Me: “Well, we have explained it six times. Mainly for arguing with Mom.”

#2: “I don’t argue with you!”

Me: “…um… yes… regularly…”

#2: “No, I don’t! I never argue with you!”

Me: “You are arguing with me about arguing!”

#2: “No, I’m not!”

Me: …..

Yessir, I missed my career path big time. My powers of observation are evidently far too limited for this parenting gig. Maybe I should consider something not quite so taxing for my inferior mental capacity… like rocket science. Jeez. The things that no one tells you about raising kids…

Love and Respect

We were given this book as a wedding gift. Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I had read it before, in my frantic quest to save a dying first marriage- but this morning, as I re-read it with my hero in mind, I was brought to tears by the formidable grace of God.

The pain of our past relationships forged so many things in us. Determination, for one. The never give up, never say die mentality… we are two bulldogs for tenacity. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and all that. But the determination to love- to demonstrate it visibly and consistently, even when you are tired or frustrated… The will to model respect, even during disagreements. We have had hammered, tempered practice in these things. Do we mess up sometimes? Yes. But the habit is already there. And my hero makes it so easy. His love and regard pours gasoline on the fire of my respect for him. 

In case you haven’t noticed, ladies- our men live for respect. They crave it the way we crave love. Dr. Eggerichs points out that the one feeds the other- she respects him, and he loves her, so she respects him more and he loves her more. In our blended family, we have together purposed to be the reason our kids want to get married. One of our oldest kids watched the crash and burn of the first marriage and has very loudly stated that they never want to do that. But together, we want to model the relationship that we wish they would have with their spouse someday.  One way I have chosen to show respect and appreciation for my hero is at the end of a long 12-hour shift, when he is physically exhausted but still smiling (I love that, by the way)… I unlace his heavy, steel toed work boots and pull them off. I tell the kids that is MY job. He knows that I appreciate his long hours and hard work. The kids see that I value his efforts. When my boys get married, I hope that their wives will demonstrate respect and appreciation for them- because their daddy is most definitely training them how to love a wife. He calls me while he is commuting to work, and sometimes on his way home. He hangs out with me in the kitchen while I am serving dinner to The Horde, sometimes helps either cook or serve or referee- but he is there. He brings me gifts every time he goes to the store; small things, maybe raspberries or a new flavor of chips or a potted plant. We date each other- very purposefully, because you don’t just impulsively go out with eleven kids to take care of! 

Yes, those eleven are a lot of work. And yes, I am flat out DONE at the end of the day. But the small effort that goes into a smile, or words of appreciation, or some honey wrestle time… that small effort pays such huge dividends, that I would be cheating you if I didn’t tell you. Love, to your man, is spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Appreciate his efforts, honor his achievements, and buckle your seat belt. You will enjoy the ride.

Eleven gifts

Today is my birthday. I had got out of practice celebrating it… I successfully ignored it for many years, but this year was different. But I figure since we didn’t celebrate for 14 years or so then I will just pick up counting where I left off… I’m 24, thank you very much.

But seriously. Yesterday, surrounded by my family (most notably my eleven smallish people), opening gifts was an event. Each child had selected something for me- with some help from grandparents. A big fuzzy ball for a keychain- so I won’t lose my keys, EVER. Silver bangle bracelets, three of them. Went straight on my wrist. A keychain LED light, so I can see when I am opening the door at night. (I am seeing a trend with the key thing.) Coca-cola flavored lip gloss. 

All those heads clustered around me, all those hands pleading me first, me first. I honestly don’t think that any millionaire could have felt richer. Because no recession can reduce the value of my assets. These are eternal investments, with immeasurable value. My amazing kids, my wonderful hero husband- country living with good neighbors, a goofball Great Dane and little fat terrier, pomegranates on the tree and flowers in the garden… I hope I can communicate to my kids that this is where real riches are. The cool new toys and shiny new cars are nice. Nothing wrong with them. But to see the joy in the moments and the small things, to find beauty in imperfection-  if you can do these things, you will forever be wealthy.

This Too Shall Pass

Rough days happen. They just do. In the immortal words of Westley in The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Westley didn’t know something, though. I serve a God who makes promises and keeps them. And one of those promises is that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

There are plenty of days, in this adventure of blending our family, that give Satan opportunities to sow seeds of doubt and defeat. But I have learned, after years of listening to his insidious whispers of worthlessness and fear; I have learned to recognize the oily stench of his putrid mind-darts. He says “You can’t.” But God, my God, the One Who Delivers, says… “WE CAN.”

He says “It’s too much-You aren’t big enough.”

But God, my God, the One Who Overcomes, says “I am greater than he that is in the world”.

He says “You’re too broken- you’re not worth respect.”

But my incredible God says “I am the One Who heals you. And you are Mine; my loved and precious one.”

How amazing is it, that we can serve the King of the known and unknown worlds- and that He loves us so deeply? We cannot allow ourselves to lose the wonder and the treasure of that thought. 

And so, on those days that dealing with the drama and mayhem becomes simply too much to handle, I have to remind myself: this too shall pass. Tomorrow is a new day. Jesus has carried me through every day up until now, and He won’t desert us. 

So here is my pep talk to the girl in the mirror: When you are tempted to throw in the towel, remember that success is determined not by talent, nor by intelligence, but most often, simply by not giving up. If God is on your side and you are doing what is right, then carry on! He won’t let you fail.

The Indespensable Sense of Humor

With one, two, or even three kids, you can get away without much humor in life. Staid, humdrum reality can drone along like a bee on a lazy summer day. But with more kids comes more craziness, and a sense of humor becomes necessary for survival.

I have mentioned before that my hero husband is a large part of the reason I am still sane. I should mention that I tend more towards the serious side of life, while he leans hard on the hilarious. Kids making obnoxious noises? He will join them and do it louder and longer. People picking on or ganging up on each other? Better watch out, Daddy is infinitely creative and diabolically clever when it comes to assigning consequences. 

Not sure why, but with six boys plus my other half, a lot of humor involving bodily functions happens around here. I have said a lot of unexpected things in my parenting career, but “Don’t pee on the chickens!” probably tops the list. And the excitement of the big ones when one of the little ones produced an unusually large bowel movement resembled the frenzy typically reserved for a Superbowl touchdown. Now he is constantly trying to set a new poo record. I suppose fame of any sort will go to your head…

The girls are much calmer, more predictable. Their version of crazy involves dressing our Great Dane in their clothes (hilarious, by the way), getting into makeup, and looking like clowns at the end of the day. You know, girl stuff.

The dogs contribute to the ridiculous routine too. Usually just by being…dogs. The Dane got into some trash two days ago, and yesterday acted uncomfortable. One of the kids mentioned that she was moving very gingerly, and I said she couldn’t just flop down like the terrier because of her size. Not five minutes later, a smell wafted through the house. This was during lunch, and we all blamed each other, gagging dramatically. And then, we saw the floor.

Rivers of liquid brown ran down the hallway, artistically splattered on the doors and walls. An apologetic Dane hunkered on the door mat, begging (too late) to go out. Suddenly my tater tot casserole looked a lot less appealing. It resembled the semi-congealed mass in the middle of the brown puddle far too closely. And the screams and squeals from the peanut gallery definitely added dimension to the scene. 

Four older children and I enlisted copious amounts of paper towels, gags, and giggles to tackle the mess. Poor dog was banished to the outdoor kennel. Bleach and scrub brushes were produced, and the poo river quickly became a smelly but distant memory. 

Of course, we have loads of fun not related to excrement. One favorite is when they stuff their clothes with pillows pretending to be Sumo wrestlers and run and bounce off each other. Another involves a big Tonka truck, a small sibling in the dump bed and a larger sibling for a motor. But my favorite is a new family tradition: The Gong Show. Instituted by my hero, it is a takeoff on charades. The only difference is that you have to impersonate someone who is present while everyone guesses who it is. It gives a funny perspective on how you are perceived by people around you- a big one imitating a small one’s incensed stomp and slouch routine, a small one imitating a big one’s fairly consistent dramatic response to any unpopular orders. I swear I’m going to buy a tiara- I have a whole raft of drama queens who can take turns wearing it.

No, I would never make it without a sense of humor firmly attached. If you intend to have more than a couple of kids, make sure you order one commensurate with the intended size of your family. If you have a blended family, ask for the expansion pack on that sense of humor. There are days you have to either laugh or cry, and laughing is better for the blood pressure- or so they say. šŸ˜‰