Why it is Okay to Think Your Kids Are Pretty Special

That last post about individuality in a pile of kittens and how the eyes of love see them… well, here is where I am going with that.

I believe strongly that our children need to know that we see them, who they are, their gifts and natural abilities, as distinguished from all the other grey kittens in the pile. They need to know that Mom and Dad are on their side, cheering them on to success, despite the fits and starts that accompany budding attempts at growing up.

One of my sons is having a bit of a wobbly time right now, struggling to relate to friends, not always sure he likes himself or anybody else, even. Oh dear, I think, here we go into adolescence, and I have no idea what I am doing parenting this age. I have seen his step lighten after I just casually put my arm around him and tell him (one cannot be too deliberate with affection at this stage, it seems) how proud I am that he is my son. I tell him that he is learning to walk upright, and that is sometimes really, really hard, but I know that someday it will help him to be a real man because he fought battles when he was young. I explain that it is all right to mess up, as long as one admits the mistake and makes amends where it is needed. I want my son to know that he is special, he has gifts, he makes me happy, so I tell him those things, even when, or maybe especially when he sorely tries my patience. I do hope and pray that this will help him to have confidence and steadiness when the waters get even rougher.

In parenting, there are so many moments of correction, reproof, instruction… so many times we need to discipline and pull back an erring child. We certainly don’t want them to run wild without the stability of boundaries. But it is much too easy to forget that they do not automatically know how much we love them, how delightful they are to us.

The eyes of love notice the hidden talent that will be a tremendous asset as the person emerges. They see under the surface of sameness and assure the little ones that they are unique, telling them small specifics that are evident in the child’s life, like little buds waiting for the right season. This is what breaks my heart about orphanages. No matter how clean and well fed a child may be, every child needs someone who really sees them as invaluable. My deepest respect goes to those who make it their life goal to provide that for parentless children.

The old thinking was that too much praise would make a proud child. Humility is a beautiful virtue, but there were entire generations of children who grew up straining for approval and yearning to hear just once that their parents love them. That is just tragic, and not a mistake that we need to repeat. Surely we can show our children how much we like them without turning them into stuck-up snobs.

Parents are notorious braggers. We don’t mean to be, but it happens because we are besotted with these children that we love endlessly. I honestly think this is okay. I have heard some obnoxious bragging, but generally I love to hear people talk about their children. It means that they are noticing them, really looking at them, delighting in them.

This is why I also love pet names for children. It is like a personal tie, a more intimate connection than you have with just anyone. I love secrets with children, whispering in their ears. When my babies were nursing infants, I made up songs for them with their names and sang them in the dead of the night, just me and the babe. I make no apologies for being completely dotty over my children, and neither should you.

After all, God delights over His children too! Far from making me feel proud, that fact raises in me a reciprocation of delight in Him and cements in me a confidence in His love that takes me through the storm.

 

But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love. Ps. 147:11

Never Relax on a Monday

I was sitting, quite inert this morning at 6:45 when Smallest Thing 1 woke up hopping. She immediately found me in my reading spot (all my children have homing devices to find mama) and admonished, “Mama, don’t reyax. Neveh reyax. Just get up with me.” And that was her chipper advice for me on this Monday.

I didn’t take her advice. It took me all morning to get into gear. Maybe the oatmeal wasn’t energizing enough. (Some of you may actually get the pun intended there.) I know it (the oatmeal, not the pun) reduced Olivia to tears.  Oatmeal makes Gregory cheer and Olivia cry. What is a mother to do?

This morning I pulled out a frozen tater tot casserole after I got the scholars schooling. No cooking today, every scrap of leftovers licked out of the fridge at lunch. My goal is to do Rita’s photo book in February. I am trying. I really am. I messed with it all day. The stuff is all spread out in our reading room, which is now a verboten room for  small children. Stickers, cutters, papers, glue dots, all seem designed to attract little girls with sticky fingers. I am having fun with her book but I can hardly wait to finish it. 🙂

Why did I make two “impossible” goals for February, writing every day and arranging 295 photos in a scrapbook? But I made it half way through both projects and I am not twitching too badly yet. I will “reyax” when I am done.

I Am From

Recently a friend found an old picture of our family and posted it on Facebook, a picture from an era of exceedingly large glasses and hair parted straight down the middle. In the comments my sister mentioned that better haircuts and cuter clothes might have helped, but what can you say, we were secure and happy children. I have been thinking about that and decided to do something I have wanted to do ever since Shari put a link to this template on her blog. I am posting this today in honor of my mom’s birthday! Many happy returns of the day, Mom!

I Am From

I am from a wide, extended table, whistling tea kettle, and chocolate chip cookies.

I am from the teeny yellow cottage by the creek and the square farmhouse in Dutch Corner.

I am from restoring a log cabin on the hill overlooking the sunset.

I am from the ancient apple tree whose brittle limbs threatened to drop us on the ground every time we picked its bounty.

I am from a crackling fireplace and praying every night before bed.

From three siblings and many “adopted” little ones.

I’m from coffee with creamer and dunking donuts and from “hols hocka” which is fried batter in hot salted milk.

I’m from you may not ever pout, we don’t work on Sunday, and it’ll heal before the cat lays an egg.

I’m from Saturday night games of chase and give-away chess.

I’m from Indiana and Ohio blended in Kentucky, from ancestors ages ago in Switzerland,

From homemade scrapple and creamy mac n cheese.

I am from Aunt Ruth’s cherry delight made with lime jello and Uncle Tim eating his noodles.

From The Ten Commandments hung on the living room wall, carven camels from the Holy Land marching in a row, wobbly stacks of books on every nightstand.

I’m from relentless teasing, laughter, and inside jokes.

I am from a secure and happy place.

Mama with a Cause

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(photo source)

That question I asked at the end of yesterday’s post? I know the answer, and so do you. Of course our assignments as mothers are important. They just don’t always feel that way. There are a lot of very worthy causes for women to pour their energies and passions into, making a difference and all that. It just so happens that my calling has placed me into a spot where I believe it is in everyone’s best interest if I stay home and do it. There are days when I have had an overload of domesticity and I could rally about as much enthusiasm to Save the Turtles as I “feel” about Making a Home.

I remember one day I had a bit of an epiphany. There had been a night of interrupted sleep, the third baby uncomfortable in my womb, and my little boys were doing laps around me, full of impulsive ideas to have fun. Clear as a bell, the thought came: If I am going to be a mother, I might as well give it everything I have. The truth of the matter was that I wasn’t giving it everything. I was spending too much time trying to figure out ways to make this job less demanding on me. This attitude was sucking all the joy out of my days.

That was when I decided to quit keeping a mental tally of the hours of sleep I got, the numbers of times I had to lay down my book to get a drink, the tons of laundry I pulled up and down stairs and in and out of machines. I stopped resenting wiping noses and concentrated on how cute the noses were. I love children’s literature, and now I got to read it out loud, all the time! Things became funny, my own private comic strip. They actually became fun (most of the time). Joy came back.

I am not going to pretend that the adjustment to whole-hearted momming was easy for me. I have an insidious desire to spare myself from too much hard stuff that didn’t die its final death in one instant. There have been many times when I have thought longingly of the English and their nannies. On the days when I am overwhelmed with the vastness of the job of raising my children, I need to pull my head out of the sand and remember my credo.

I have been given this job as a sacred charge, and I am going to give it everything I have, by the grace of God. I am a Mama With a Cause!

Reliving my Babies

I have never put together any sort of photo album for the two smallest girls. Olivia’s is done up to 18 months, with about three years to go. Each of my children get one personal hand-scrapbooked album, which usually fills up at about 4 years old. When Rita was 3 months, we had a computer crash that wiped out years of photos, then we had camera fiascos and I lost the memory card in the bowels of the CD reader one dark night. You could say it hasn’t been the most fortunate set of circumstances. For a long time I held out hope that my brother could retrieve our files off the crashed computer, but alas, it was not to be. Eventually friends and Facebook albums provided me with some of her as a newborn, so I have cobbled together a file of about 300 photos that I am getting developed to put into their books. That is about 295 more pictures than I have from the first four years of my life, so I think they will be fine. 🙂

Anyway, I have been looking at our photo archives, and every now and then I would say, “Gabe, come look at this! Remember this expression? Can you believe how little they were when Addy was born?” And so on and so forth with the stuff parents say and then resolve to enjoy the moment more. I will spare you, but just share a few snapshots that make me smile.

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Four years ago, the happiest, jolliest baby ever.

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She’s a Tomato Peight. (Someday I will post my husband’s essay on the subject.)

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The child has a surprising aptitude with scissors.

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And here we are four years later. Next thing I know her dad will be walking her down the aisle.

“Earth’s Crammed with Heaven…”

My posts on dreams kept veering off in a different direction than I wanted them to go. I am unhappy with that, and I remember now why I scrapped writing about it earlier. The subject is too vast, our lives are so varied… And what if we are just plain lazy, so our dreams stay only in a nebulous section of our lives titled “Impossible”? The more I thought about all these qualifiers, the worse it got, until I was too muddled to remember where I actually wanted to go in the first place. Maybe it was because I wrote in third person. You can blame E.B.White for that. He said it is bad style for writers to constantly refer to themselves. “To air one’s views gratuitously is to imply that the demand for them is brisk…” What would he say to bloggers?

But I have thought about it, and I have come back again to what I really wanted to say. Assuming we are talking about children of God here, those who earnestly wish to please him with their lives, especially those who want to change the world, make a difference, share the Gospel…there is much heartfelt desire behind all the cliches. Most times the grand dreams spring up when we are young, inexperienced, but feeling at our core that we should do something. Many of my friends and I did just enough travel, short term missions, volunteer work, that we could never just comfortably sit and claim blissful ignorance about all the things that need to be done. This is a good thing. We have been richer all our lives for the interaction with other cultures and countries. We cannot live a casual American dream without being pricked in our conscience. We understand better the urgency of living counter-culture in an incredibly selfish society. And almost all of us still live right here in America. What is up with that?

This is where I ran into trouble, comparing the ordinariness of my life (sorry, E.B. White, but here we go again) with what I thought would be a better way/place to live it. I had two little boys when I went through this joyless tunnel. “I just feel so stuck, so unproductive,” I would sob to my husband, as I peered down the vista of years of diapers and interruptions and needy, needy people. It was a little difficult for him to understand why I felt like I wasn’t “doing anything.” (This begs the question, what was I thinking it would be like in an orphanage? Had I so soon forgotten the neediness of my school students?)

Quietly, kindly, God showed me a flaw in my youthful dreams, a streak of self-aggrandizement that was going to produce only ugliness. He showed me that I loved projects, neatly finished up and displayed with a happy, “I made this.” My children were not projects, they were people: real, needy, little people. This life, this very place where I was living was His Best for me, and all He was asking of me was faithfulness, the same as if I lived in Mongolia or Malawi. I learned to offer up each task, no matter how menial, to Jesus. It started to sink in, the amazing truth that no offering is too small to please Him, no place too quiet or hidden for Him to see. I learned to simply “do the next thing” in Elisabeth Elliot’s words, but I also found, to my astonishment, that nothing is wasted.

Guess what, the joy was back in life, the sun was shining again!  The people were still needing diaper changes and clean clothes and food and endless training and every. day. dying. to. self. I was living my dream, not the way I had imagined, but the way God planned.

That teen- age ideal of living like Hudson Taylor, waiting on God to supply our needs? Well, three years of back-to-school for the family bread winner may have qualified for that one. It was very, very good for us. The dream of going to college for writing and English classes? I don’t know whether that will ever happen, but technology has brought us the blog and such nice readers like you. 🙂 Learning to read Greek/Latin? Not going to happen. Ever. I am not going to tell you the rest of my dreams. You might laugh. 😛

I am not very old, but I have enough years under my belt to see the unmistakable traces of God, directing my way. In the words of one of my favorite poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

And only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

 

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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.

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.”

Essentials for Parents

When I was expecting our first baby, I got a free subscription to a couple of those baby/parent magazines. Nearly every issue had lists of essentials: Things to Buy Before Baby Comes. They included the obvious, like diapers and wipes, but there were also lists of gear, the best gear for the job. There were clothing lists: 10 onesies, 7 pairs of socks, 14 bibs, 5 blankets, etc.

By the time my fifth child was imminent, I just chucked the magazines into the trash can as soon as they came in the mail. It wasn’t all pish-posh, but most of the advice and current parenting trends just didn’t seem relevant at all to the lady who already had 14 bibs and rarely used them. I didn’t need pacifier sanitizing wash or enormous exercise saucers that would fill all the space in my living room where we usually walk. Please, don’t even get me started on the advice for parents when the child is angry/pitching a fit/making needs known. And those gorgeous pictures of model babies wearing designer clothes…hello! Who spends 70 dollars on a jumper for a 10 month old?

If I were to make a list for the baby mag, it would look more like this:

  • Sense of Humor. You will need it every single day. Just last week, my 2 year old dropped a small deposit out of her undies onto the floor of the library. She is supposed to be potty trained, but still in that stage where squatting down to look at shelves of books tends to complicate things. You simply cannot make up the stuff that happens with small children around. You might as well laugh. I often feel like I live in The Family Circus.  Hey, it is funny!family-circus-0011
  • Grace for the times that aren’t funny. When I feel like shaking and scolding, it is good to remember how graciously I have been dealt with in my failures and idiosyncrasies. Instead of saying, “You LOST YOUR SHOES AGAIN?” I might remember how often the whole crew looks for my lost cell phone. “Okay, sonny, they can’t walk off by themselves. Where did you last wear them?” Did you know grace doesn’t roll eyes at her children, either?
  • Persistence. Parenting is another word for repeating. You know the verses in Isaiah 28:10 where he is talking about teaching knowledge, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” It really is that way. Sometimes it feels like the things I am trying to teach my children are dotted lines, and the children are not connecting the dots. They just never are going to get it. But they do! They grow, they learn, and eventually they get it! It just blesses my soul when my child takes the smaller piece of cake and lets a sibling have the one with more icing surface area.
  • A pen and paper. This comes in really handy when you are having one of those dotted line struggles where you feel like you will never connect. Keep a private journal of the joys as well as of the issues you are facing. One day you will be heartened when you look back at what you wrote and realize that you have indeed passed that milepost.  My mom kept a baby book for each of us, even though she also had a cow to milk and hens to feed and innumerable duties on the farm, not to mention raising 4 kids born in 5 years. We always cherished those books, laughing about our first words, comparing our records to see who walked first, and who hated eating peas, etc. Pen and paper doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has an amazing way of making a child feel celebrated. “Mom noticed me!” A friend of mine makes quick notes on her calendar when something noteworthy happens with the children. You might think you will never forget that hilarious thing the 3 year old said, but it could be gone by supper time if you don’t jot it down.
  • Flexibility, sometimes a complete U-turn. Also known as humility, this is an essential that is sometimes so hard to come by. You can get so invested in winning every battle, being the authority, having the answers, that  you forget all about the little person you are dealing with. We have always had a strict bedtime policy. Once you are in bed, you don’t get out unless you are about to wet the bed, or maybe if the house is on fire. 🙂 It took a bit of training for the toddlers, but they caught on. This last toddler, however, still has not gotten the memo, even though we have been working on this since spring. She comes crying, wanting a drink, a vitamin, a different blanket, a story. It is too dark, too light, she fell out of her toddler bed. For the first few months, we steadfastly clung to our usual training routine, and much as I dislike saying this, it didn’t work. It didn’t work ten times a night. I began praying for enlightenment. Finally we decided that she simply wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep at the usual bedtime, so we let her stay up an extra hour or two. She sits on the couch and looks at books, then we have a little cuddle and off she goes! The little offspring of the bedtime absolutists has taught them a bit about flexibility. I would like to assure you earnest young parents out there that needing to change your mind on an issue is not a sign of weakness. We all need to grow, not just the children.
  • Wisdom. Pray for it. God has promised to give it…liberally! Don’t knuckle under when the problems seem too daunting. I think back to a contrary streak one of my sons went through. To be honest, there were days when I just wanted to give him away, let someone else raise him for a while. I felt so totally unprepared for this task.  One day I was dumping out my questions to God, and He clearly showed me that I needed to first get rid of my own bad attitude. “This is your job. You were given this child because you are supposed to be his parent. Embrace it, even when it is hard. I will give you the wisdom you need.” Things went quite a bit better when I got my own sinful attitude cleansed. Wisdom, I might add, is not a fail proof system that you use to ensure good outcomes. Wisdom is a relationship with the One who knows all the facts and guides the person who seeks to walk His ways.

While not essential in the strictest sense, this list is Frivolous Things Every Parent May Need.

  • Chocolate. Really good chocolate, hidden for quiet moments alone in the bedroom. Just don’t hide it so hard that you can’t remember where you put it when you really need it!
  • Lysol wipes. Children is another word for messes. It is supposed to be that way. The wipes just make a lot of cleanup so much easier. And they smell nice.
  • Audiobooks. Books are gateways out of our little worlds and worries. They help us to soar serenely above the mundane. 🙂 Any parent knows that after you read The Curious Little Kitten, The Biggest Bear, and Fox in Socks for the 40th time, you don’t have an abundance of time to read your own level. (Unless, of course, you barricade yourself in the bathroom and ignore all sounds of disaster outside the door.) This is where audiobooks are so helpful. You can listen to them while you cook, while you drive to the dentist, while you fold laundry. Bonus points go to the audios that capture your children’s attention, too. We are currently on the umpteenth listening of God’s Smuggler.
  • Band aids. Lots of them. They make everything better.
  • Friends. It is nice if some of your friends also have drool on their shoulders and cheerios on the floor of their mini vans. I have been so blessed with beautiful friends who have my back. We do not walk alone, thank God!

I am sure I missed some essentials, especially frivolous essentials. I would love to hear what yours are.

Edit: how in the world did friends get put on the frivolous list? Just so you know, it is in the wrong place up there.

In Which We Break Out

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I would so prefer outdoor stuff to the indoor grind. This past week I convinced the boys that they would probably rather clean the house than mow the lawn. So we switched. I trundled happily after the mower for about an hour. It was loud, blocked out all noise, and I just thought stuff to myself for the whole time. Well, every time I emptied the clippings bag, I could hear that the people inside the house were alive. There were some loud “discussions” about the proper way to clean a bathroom, and no, Gregory did not nail it quite. But I pulled weeds on the walkway and out beside the picket fence and just let them work it out. Then I put away all the garden tools and a bunch of stakes that had a brief life as spears in a throwing contest. When the lawn was all nice and neat, I checked up on their work and was thrilled to see that all the biggest messes were cleaned up, floors cleaned (after a fashion…. seeing as Greg used hand soap out of the dispenser to wash them) etc. etc.

I called everybody outside just to enjoy the gorgeous afternoon. Since school started two weeks ago, it has been noses to the textbooks, labored cursive, practice with forgotten math facts, and a few other not so fun things. Then the afternoons we tried hard to catch up with our regular chores. It made me cross and bothered. Ask Gabe. 🙂 I felt like Jack, the dull boy. And I know that I resembled the mother cat in Milo and Otis, who keeps resolving never to yell at her childr… “Milo! Get back here right now!” Why does that part in the movie always make my children snicker?

Anyway, on this particular afternoon, I was trying to think of something off-the-wall that we could do all together, since Gabe was working that night. The little guys were all climbing around in their favorite  Monkey Tree, fashioning make shift platform houses. It was approaching supper time and I had no idea what to feed the crew when I had a happy thought. “Hey, how would you guys like to eat supper in the Monkey Tree?” Oh, yeah, just like that I had my cool-mom status back.  🙂 I am a little embarrassed to admit that “supper” was Cocoa Pebbles served with milk in mugs. Like Alex observed, “At least they are made with real cocoa.” Wanna see?

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I thought it was funny that we only had one spill in the tree, and who knows how many we would have had at the table, sitting properly with bowls?

We also had watermelon for dessert. I dared to pick the one in the garden. It was luscious. Just ask Addy.

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