Crazy Rednecks

I have said before that my husband and I are unrepentant rednecks. We are both fiercely independent,  hard working, creative crazies who like fast vintage cars and big guns and wide open spaces. So it was perfectly fitting that we spend part of his Christmas vacation teaching our children to love the same things. He wanted to get me a gun for Christmas, but wasn’t sure what I could handle. So we went out to our land and brought some toys. Targets? Who needs targets? Cheap water bottles explode when you shoot them with a 12 gauge shotgun, which is WAY more fun. And then you can stand them up again, grab your .30-06 deer rifle, and shoot the caps off of the already dead water bottles. Highly satisfying. Needless to say, he decided I wasn’t a pansy when it comes to guns. The older kids got safety and shooting lessons from their very own Marine shooting instructor, too.

Then we put the boom sticks away safely, and the kids led a mad dash through the woods in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Funny how they always pick the ones that are twice the height of the ceiling… it took some discussion to convince them that if the tree is twice as tall as Daddy, it WON’T FIT IN OUR HOUSE. But finally, the perfect tree appeared. We walked into a clearing and there it was, waiting for us. Complete with golden beams of sunset and angels singing. Our boys produced the saw, cut it down, and hauled it out with excited yelps, energetic advice to each other, and lots of arm waving and grunting. My hero and I followed their passionate charge at a more leisurely pace, enjoying the woods and the drama unfolding before us. Sibling stepping on the tree while it is being dragged to the truck? Check. Tree getting hung in brush on its way out? Check. Prickles and pokes from the needles? Check check.

We made memories that day. Together. Another step in our journey away from “us” and “them”, to just “us”. So from our big, crazy redneck, blended family to yours…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Baby steps

You would think, with all the helpers running around here, that the house would stay clean and orderly all the time. Eleven sets of hands can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. Right?  Of course right.

Or not. I think my children are part squirrel. I will get one set doing their chores, walk away to motivate someone else, look back, and the first one is already sneaking baby bunnies into the house for socialization. (Well, they ARE stinking cute.) 

But I am seeing an upward trend in the order of the house. Six months ago I needed scuba gear to be able to breathe… I was drowning. It took me realizing that there are a bunch more of THEM than there is of ME, and assigning age appropriate chores, training them to do said chores, and now we are working on doing chores without Mom sounding like a broken record. “Do the dishes please.” “Trash out, buddy.” “Laundry going, eldest.” “Dishes please.” “Trash out, dude. Don’t forget a new bag.” “Laundry…” “Dishes!” “Trash!” “LAUNDRY!”
And so forth. We have a points system that we implemented several months ago, tied to their allowance. Good behavior, motivation, quietly being helpful without drawing Mom’s attention to the fact that you are being helpful… all of those things earn a blue point. But things like fighting with siblings, back talk to parental units, slacking on work… those things earn a red point. Blue points earn bonus $$, red points earn negative $$. A fine, if you will. It involves some math when it comes to doing allowance, but it is a great motivator for the kids. Those that are approval-driven don’t want their name tarnished with a dreaded RED MARK, and those that are income-driven don’t want to lose any of their allowance. One or two pretend that they don’t care, but when everyone else gets their allowance and they used all theirs up by mouthing off and fighting… well, that does tend to motivate.

So the baby steps are there. Every time we go on a cleaning spree, it takes less time to get the house in shape. I am learning how to manage people, not just try to do everything myself…because I can’t. I hung up my Wonder Woman cape a long time ago.

tired

There are different kinds of tired. There is the mental exhaustion of dealing with difficult problems. The short term burn of completing a big project (VBS comes to mind). The bone deep weariness that comes with infants that won’t sleep through the night. Physical tiredness from exertion. 

And then, there’s us.

Not sure what it’s called when the second you sit still, you fall asleep. WHERE doesn’t matter so much, so long as the surface is horizontal. I have never been a soldier, but I am pretty sure that we approach battlefield fatigue. Given a couple of days off, with no kids, my hero and I would probably sleep the whole time. I know there is a balance between getting everything done and actually resting… still trying to find that balance point. 

Maybe we are overachievers. Maybe homeschooling, sports, church, keeping house with eleven kids, farming, working, AND trying to have a life is kind of a lot. Or maybe the tyrrany of the urgent is pushing us over the edge.

Yesterday at church I was reminded that time is a precious commodity. Once it’s gone, you don’t get it back. Where is my time going? Am I redeeming every hour, using it to the best of my ability? Or just spinning my wheels in a crazy whirlwind? 

These aren’t questions that I can slap down an easy answer for. In my sleep deprived fog, even figuring out WHERE the time goes will take concentrated effort and determination. But it was a good challenge. To discern between urgent and important; to be completely invested in what I am doing at the moment, not thinking of the five thousand other things that I need to do; to live mindful that tomorrow is a hope, but not a promise. And so, the same way I am going through my house and getting rid of excess STUFF, I will be going through my time and trimming the waste there as well. I would love to hear your success stories on making your time count for the important stuff, and how you decided what that was. 

National Challenge Your Parents Day

Maybe y’all missed it, but yesterday was National Challenge Your Parents Day. A day set apart for young people to declare their autonomy, to rise up in the face of parental rules and structures, and strike a blow for freedom. It was a day to be noted, to be memorialized in the annals of history.

At least, that’s what it felt like at our house.

No one was without a part to play in this drama. From the oldest to the youngest, even the mildest mannered of our children staged an Incident. The youngest actually tried it twice. The coup was unsuccessful and the oppressive parental regime still rules, but their voice was heard loud and clear. Authority and its restrictive rules is not appreciated by the young people. Not one bit.

Oh, but my children… what if I told you that the rules are your safety? Just like when you are determined to fly with a bedsheet and I have to explain to you the Law of Gravity is no respector of persons- not even if that person wears a Superman costume?  What if I try to help you see that unbridled anger at your brother leads to destructive behavior that as an adult would get you arrested for assault and battery? (Last time I checked, punching someone in the nose and calling them names fell under that category.) 

I used to think that the older my kids got, the more susceptible to reason they would be. Maybe some kids are, I don’t know. But when your beloved offspring will sit there and argue, bargain, wheedle, coax, plead, and cry to try and escape the consequences of their behavior- for which they were duly warned and clearly advised that continued infractions would incur said penalty… sometimes the reasonable parent has to resort to the tactic known as Parental Fiat. It goes like this:

Because I Said So.

Now Go To Bed.

My hero tucked the troops into bed and prayed with them, like he does every night. His steps, as he came back down the hall, sounded like he was carrying a heavy load on his back. He stopped when he entered the room, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. 

“Oh my gosh, honey. ALL of them? In one day?”

I groaned and hugged him and told him what an amazing daddy he is. And we took comfort in the fact that ONE DAY our children will be tortured by their own children. One day they will understand how it really would be so much easier to just let them rule the house. Want to swing from the tallest tree on a rope that is old and will break? Fine. Have fun. Want to drink soda and eat candy for dinner?  No worries. It’ll be great. Pound the bloody snot out of your brother? Sounds like a blast.

But I love them too much. The rules HAVE to remain firm, the consequences sure. There is safety and even joy in knowing where your boundaries lie. The understanding of the WHY for those boundaries can come later. But for now, my hero and I lean on each other and thank God for a new day- and we pray for the grace to parent wisely and justly. The same way that our heavenly Father parents us. 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Farming, or something like it

My hero and I are both die hard rednecks. I was raised on a dairy goat farm,  he in the Valley in California where livestock and crops still abounded. (Don’t ask me how a redneck could have been born in California. I try not to question the workings of Providence.) So it has been natural for us to accumulate quite a variety of animals. The two dogs and one cat are pretty standard- except for the fact that one dog is a Great Dane. We just like BIG around here. The two ponies aren’t too far out of mainstream- my kids don’t even know how lucky they are. How many kids beg for a pony every Christmas? Even the forty chickens are… well… forty chickens. They scratch,  they peck, they lay eggs and fill the freezer on occasion. The chickens get us a little closer to legitimate farm-dom. The thirteen rabbits…since we sold one last week, my hero said “Now we’re really farmers!” But today is an auspicious day. Today were joined by three meat goats; one buck, two does. (That is one boy and two girls, for the uninitiated.)  We are inheriting them from a friend, which is how we end up with a lot of our animals. 

If we aren’t careful, we will soon move from farm to menagerie. We are already pushing it with the parrot. He was named Chango (Spanish for monkey), because he likes to hang upside down in his cage and cock his head sideways- contemplating. We have dreams of a tropical greenhouse inhabited by chameleons and birds… We love growing things, too. Our pomegranate trees are loaded this year, and we enjoyed peaches and plums from our fruit trees this spring. 

Maybe that is why we have so many kids. We are addicted to LIFE. The vast variety of gifts, talents, personalities, abilities- even just in our little family- is mind boggling. The satisfaction of tending our growing things, whether they are plants, animals, or people, and watching them become mature and productive… that satisfaction makes all the struggle worth it. Most days. Some days require sneaking a chocolate from your secret stash in the freezer to really make it worth it. 

The Edge of Insanity

No, I didn’t fall off the edge of the earth. I am still here, madly trying to keep my crazy life at a functional level.

This little photo sums it up for me. The minute I start to feel like I may have everyone pointed in the same direction, they scatter. Like when you are trying to get your chickens in the coop. They bunch together right up to the door and then…poof. Feathers everywhere.

I get asked a lot, “How do you DO it?” My stock answer, chuckling, is “Not very well”. But I guess if you define a successful day as one in which everyone got their school mostly done, everyone was fed, and no one was permanently damaged- well, we are wildly successful. 

The days start early- my hero and I reluctantly stagger out of bed around 5:00am, and I usually cook him breakfast and get him out the door by 5:30. Then I have an hour or so of quiet to pray, think, catnap, work out, whatever…until the first little feet come pattering down the hall. From that moment, it’s ON. Non-stop GO; feeding people, educating people, directing people, loving on people, feeding them some more, running to practice, running errands, feeding people… I spend a lot of time feeding people. Everyone has their own plate with their name on the bottom- their own cup, their own bowl. I grab a stack, start serving food and calling names, and they all scramble for seats. There are no special orders here- you eat what you are served, or you get it for your next meal.  Picky eaters need not apply.

9:00pm finds us at family devotions- a tradition instituted by my hero. The kids take turns reading Scripture, praying, being goofy… But at 9:30 they are in bed and my hero and I get to finally eat and talk. I think once football is over, our schedule won’t be so crammed- but for now, we are doing great to get to bed before midnight. Then do it all again the next day.

Yes, I look at the end of football season with wishful thinking. Life will slow down then, right? But I know it won’t. Not once 4H kicks into high gear- martial arts training- art classes- whatever else rears its head. We are flirting with the edge of insanity, and are contemplating how and where to call it quits. Every family has to find their sweet spot; the place where everyone gets to do fun stuff or learn useful skills, but Mom doesn’t go nuts. I will let you know once we find ours. Until then, excuse me while I round up my squirrels…

ee

Cinnamon Toast

My kids love cinnamon sugar toast. And invariably, it ends up as a sticky, grainy disaster in my kitchen.  Today, my friends, I elevated myself to Genius status by solving that dilemma.

Cinnamon Toast Butter

Mix 1/2 cup softened real butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tsp. cinnamon in a bowl that has a matching lid. Keep in the refrigerator. Kids can spread to their hearts’ content, and the sugar stays on the toast.

You’re welcome. šŸ˜„