wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

A Different Sort of Weird

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It had been a fun, field tripping sort of day in the Upper Peninsula. Because lunch was beef jerky and cheese sticks with apples, everyone was on the grouchy side of hungry by five o’clock. There were no fast food restaurants, and most of the diners were closed for the season. We were forty minutes from our cabin where there was abundant food, uncooked, of course. So we kept searching.

Finally the GPS directed us to Jack’s Eats. Now Gabe and I make fun of any food establishment with the word “eat” in the name, but this would have to do. The parking lot was completely full. As we were piling out of our vehicle, an elderly lady watched us with frank astonishment. “Are these?.. All?.. Yours?” she asked, dumbfounded. I looked around and assumed she must be talking to me, since there was nobody else in the vicinity. (What do you mean? There are only five!) I didn’t say it, but my children snickered. “Five isn’t even many!” they said to each other, wondering at the silly lady’s perception.

We entered the diner, a seat-yourself place, and started threading our way to the back dining room in quest of a table. The talking din became noticeably quieter as the entire crowded roomful craned to watch us. There was, in fact, not a single table available. I resisted the urge to quack loudly as we threaded our way back out past all those full tables. Five miles further down the road we found an even greasier diner with a bit of space. So the hunger crisis was averted, and all was well.

I like this story because of my children’s amusement and the total lack of embarrassment they showed in being such an enigma. Sometimes I shrivel a bit under the disapproving vibe: the sheer audacity of having more children than is considered normal… must be some kind of freaks without many smarts. “Wow! It must take a lot of food at your house! How do you ever reach around to them all? You raising a bunch of kids to do all the work?” I think the comments are slight admiration with occasional undertones of sarcasm about the huge carbon footprint we are leaving. I also think they are a little unmannerly, don’t you?

Recently I met a lovely Indian lady at a park and we chatted about our children, our cultures, our values, etc. She told me how incredibly difficult it was for her to come to America to study with her husband. They found themselves without people, so far away from all the connections that were completely vital to living in their culture in India. When they had a baby, her mother-in-law came for 4 months to  help with the baby. The grandfather of the child got to choose her name as a mark of honor. “It is sad that America does not value family and children,” she concluded.

I couldn’t agree more. In our society, it is more important to get a thirty year mortgage on a McMansion than to fill it with people. Garages are packed with ATV’s, boats, snowmobiles, you name it, but we can’t afford to have children. There are endless jokes about how inconvenient/expensive/disruptive the kids are. I am just getting up on my soap box to tell you that I am sick and tired of it!

It isn’t so much the number of children we have as the attitude we display. This sad old world needs to see us happily visiting with our little guys while we walk into the grocery store. It needs to see us smile into their faces, listen to their stories, laugh with them at the ducks gobbling the bread at the park. It needs to see us bending down to their level to explain why they may not run across the parking lot. It even needs to see a kindly firm “No” when our children beg for candy. Our society needs to see that we Christians will not subscribe to the hip and modern notion that pouring out our lives for the sake of the next generation is much too sacrificial and time consuming.

I think something in me has been growing up and getting bolder about the fact that we are living counter-culture. When the lady in the pottery shop told me, “I only had two and boy, was it tough!” I simply said, “I decided when I became a mother that I was going to make it my career.” Maybe she thought it was rude, but like I said, I am fed up with feeling slightly apologetic about my values.

Recently there was media buzz about a woman who chose to stay home with her family, describing her as a person “who never worked a day in her life”. Wow.

So… here we are, living on one income, stacked into our little house, wearing our second hand clothes, sporting our home-style haircuts, working hard to grow a lot of our food, (go ahead and measure our carbon footprint), trying to stay out of debt, having a string of children, spending our very lives to teach them well. So what if it is hard. You got a problem with that?

I am calling all Christian parents to rally together and show the twisted world we live in that we really do believe our children are our greatest investment.

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Impressions

I have been thinking that maintaining a blog is a bit like building a snowman. You sort of have to keep the ball rolling so that you know what to build onto next. If you stop for  a long time, you find that the energy has melted away and you aren’t sure where to start.

I have periodic freak outs about the lack of anonymity that comes with internet. Like, suppose someone reads that we are in Michigan and decides it would be a good time to clean out our house with a U Haul? So then I should probably not have posted that bit until we are home. And real bloggers have posts done ahead of time, scheduled to publish on set days.

Also, I cannot type on the iPad very well, which was the only piece of technology we hauled along. I have issues with anything but an Apple keyboard, finding myself so distracted with frustration and backspacing that I lose my train of thought.

So… enough with the disclaimers. Here we are, home again. So very much has happened in two weeks, I could bore you to tears. I decided to keep it to a terse list of impressions.

  • Rest…such a lovely rest in the middle of a National Forest in Michigan.
  • Enchanting foliage in hardwood forests
  • The limits of GPS on National Forest trails 🙂
  • New foods (Pasties, (pass-tees) anyone?) and painted moose
  • Political blather about the government shutdown on every. single. station.
  • A missed stop sign, a speeding feed truck, a smashed front bumper… within four miles of my grandparent’s WI home!
  • Large mercies!
  • An evening of family camaraderie with the uncles and their families
  • Half way there, kids!
  • Hours of mind-numbing corn fields
  • Welcoming arms of the SD home which was our ultimate destination
  • Wood stove, tea, comfortable catch-up chats with siblings
  • Laughter as yet another child, supposed to be abed, needs something
  • Melding of nine kids in one house, smoother than expected
  • My sister-in-law’s cappuccino muffins with coffee
  • Blazing sunsets… so much horizon you would have to believe the earth is round
  • New appreciation for the blessing, “May the wind be always at your back.”
  • Sunday lunch with friends, reminiscing over childhood memories
  • All too soon packing up again… fare-thee-wells
  • Fifteen minutes into a 20 hour journey Addy’s piping voice: “Are we about there yet?” (No joke.)
  • Due east into the Minnesota sunrise… and on… and on…
  • Dairy Queen to cheer the little people
  • Pit stop in Indiana at a beloved cousin’s house
  • Child blubbing sadly for an hour when we hit the road again the next morning… she doesn’t know why
  • Little girl fantasizing about a long bath
  • Loud, cheerful singing of “We’re home, we’re home, we’re home…” in the last three miles

There is also a list of numbers in my head.

  • Six audiobooks: Exodus, Number the Stars, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Amos Fortune, Calico Captive, The Man Who Was Thursday, and Dave Ramsey something or other
  • One hundred and seven (give or take a few tens) water towers
  • Hundreds and thousands of windmills, spinning their futuristic way to power
  • Zero. The number of times my two year old had a potty accident.
  • Two and a half books, read during stretches of mind-numbing corn fields and political blather
  • About two thousand, nine hundred and sixty-seven semi trucks between IN and PA, according to Greg
  • Three thousand, two hundred and forty miles

So here we are, home again. Grateful.

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Are We There Yet?

The paved roads only brought us close, but the last 8 miles were graded tan Michigan dirt under a tunnel of golden yellow trees. It is off-peak season in the  Upper Peninsula, mostly deserted and calm around the lakes and waterways. We have been blessed with weather 20 degrees warmer than is typical for October. It feels like Utopia… With wifi. 🙂 Our cabin is 110 years old, furnished with a charming disregard to modern ways, lights all operated with pulls and strings tied to various parts of the walls. There is an indoor toilet and a tiny mention of a shower.

Currently the boys are out in a rowboat on the lake, fishing and mostly rowing around. The little girls cheered when they heard that they can wash the supper soup mugs in the teeny sink. So here I sit, soaking in the ambiance of a perfect autumn evening. There are trails, there are meandering mazes of roads through the state forest land, and there are no. other. people. I brought four books to read, and a duffel bag with children’s books, toys, and games, in the event that we should hit a rainy day. Three days of blissful quiet before we resume the journey to South Dakota.

We decided to split up the travel time a bit, seeing we haven’t road tripped any further than 4 hours in the last 3 years. Even so, we were hardly driving for an hour before Rita said, “I think I just wanna stay home. I didn’t know it was going to take so long.”

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What We Didn’t Know

Yesterday was our 12th anniversary. See, here we are, after about 8 hours of just the two of us. It’s still there – that magic my friend, the preacher’s daughter, called “the glue when Dad puts their hands together in marriage”.

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Twelve years ago we could not have imagined awakening on our anniversary to conspiratorial whispers and clinks of crockery in the kitchen as our children made a surprise breakfast. We pretended to sleep while someone slipped loudly into our room with a lighted candle which he set directly under the lampshade, which I hastily rescued. The little sister got sent in at least three times to check if we are awake yet, seeing as the eggs were getting cold. The waiters brought in plates with pancakes and eggs, excellently cooked. My pancake was a teddy bear, Gabe’s was a penguin with its feet chewed off. Then came the crowning touch of a breakfast tray with steaming mugs of tea, a bowl of sugar and a pitcher of syrup, along with a funny little music box tinkling out a merry tune.

The children had gone to the neighbor’s yard sale the day before and picked out some anniversary presents. One was the holder for the lighted candle. Twelve years ago I wouldn’t have thought that I would ever cherish a rather unusual porcelain bird/flower candle holder painted in various astonishing, pearly colors. Another gift was a small pot with a lid that clasps, “for special things”. (Why do I think of Pooh?) I love it! And the music box… which someone made it their business to wind and rewind the entire time we ate our breakfast, because everyone knows there should be romantic music on an anniversary. On our honeymoon, we would have laughed at the idea of having an audience of five watching us eat our breakfast in bed, but we didn’t have the heart to send them away, seeing as they were so exceedingly pleased with themselves. It was actually quite romantic, when you consider that out of our love sprang these dear little people sprinkled all around us.

Twelve years ago we would not have been thinking in terms of going on a date in a rather large Suburban with very high miles, seeing as the tiny red Mazda was working just great for us. In fact, I believe we made merciless jokes about those family vehicles. Now we are poster children for those jokes. Guess what, we don’t even care! Neither would we have known how rejuvenating it is to a marriage to just spend time with each other, even if you are grocery shopping or ambling through the mall, hand-in-hand, checking out the clearance racks.

Sometimes we look back and laugh at those kids that got married, with all their ideas and plans. We hadn’t a clue that there were career switches for Gabe, from deck builder to teacher to nurse. We hoped for children, but we didn’t know. Sometimes through the years we would look at each other and say, “What do we think we are doing? We don’t even know what we are doing!” When the questions get too big, we have learned to just leave them to Providence and say, “At any rate, I’m with you.”

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