Quote ~ from the movie Parenthood

Grandma: "You know, when I was 19, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick so excited and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out if it."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mount Washmore or The Never Ending Story

I saw the following picture on Facebook today and laughed out loud, not because it’s funny, but because this particular subject has been on my mind all weekend.  I do believe God is trying to get my attention!

We spent the weekend packing up two kids who left on a mission trip yesterday, cleaning up and making room for the first of our three exchange students that will spend part of the summer with us.  As we cleaned and rearranged and shopped, Mount Washmore grew and grew as each of us did load after load of laundry.  The higher the pile, the more I began to think there has to be a better way, especially since there are three more people who will be joining us very soon.

I think my mother had the right set up, she hung a clothes line and hung a never ending supply of hangers over her washer and dryer.  She folded everyone’s clothes or hung them up immediately after they came out of the dryer.  I don’t remember now but I’m pretty sure she delivered the clothes to us and we were expected to put them away.  I’m not entirely sure I ever did put my laundry away, it probably ended up on top of a chair or dresser or maybe even on the floor, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t make it to any drawer or the closet.

When I was early married and had younger children six to ten or so I got tired of getting folded clothes back in the hamper so I devised a system and taught each child how to do their own laundry.  I gave them each their own day on which to do their laundry and made sure they had all the proper tools in order to do their laundry correctly.  I even made them individual picture example labels and gave them three different baskets so they could sort their laundry accordingly.  Oldest got tired of that method of laundry, so he devised his own method, which was pretty much throw it all in at once and wash on hot.  He has had pink underwear and socks before, but he doesn’t seem to mind too much.  As he has gotten older he has gotten much more careful about certain items in his wardrobe, like his dress shirts and such.  He even hangs them to dry on occasion.

Despite all my kids doing their own laundry (except for The Little Man), we still seem to have this massive mound of clothes on the end of the sofa, at least one day a week, if not for most of the week.  It’s just one of those things that seems to get pushed to the bottom of the priority list.  I mean feeding people at regular intervals, procuring some sort of education and keeping the entire house from imploding, just seems to always take precedence over anything else.  And so Mount Washmore grows to an implausible height, taking on a life of its own!  Morphing into some “B” movie blob taking over our family room, consuming small children and animals as they walk by and always leaving only one lone sock behind.

And so this brings me back to the above picture and my thoughts on laundry.  I’m thinking we should move to a nudist colony and The Director can get a job and work from home.  Think about it!  If we we're nudist’s we wouldn’t have to wash anything!  There would be no Mount Washmore!  OK, maybe, we might have to wash some sheets, but if we only had one pair per bed we would wash and put them back on right away.  No morphing blob to consume anyone.  I’m thinking this could REALLY work!  I’m not thrilled about the state of my body but I had two thoughts on that as well, OK maybe three.  One, I’m a homebody, this gives me the perfect excuse to stay home permanently!  Two, honestly I don’t think there’s that many nudist colonies with good looking people in them, at least not by society’s standards.  I get the feeling that most people who want to live as nudists might be a bit on the free spirited, hippie side, not the cool, gorgeous body, jock types.  And three, if I happen to move into the cool, gorgeous body, jock nudist colony I’ll be motivated to do what I can to improve my body, which is in PITIFUL shape, in order to fit in!

Still thinking this might be a plausible solution to Mount Washmore, now I just have to convince all the really shy and modest people I live with to join me!

Picture from We Know Memes

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Crazy is as Crazy Does

I wish, like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, each time someone told me I was crazy that I could reply “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.” 
I have heard so many times that you are crazy, I can’t even count that high.  Yesterday I was told I’m “plum crazy!”  Often times I’m told this by friends and family, people who like and love me.  I like to think it’s a compliment, and I hope that I am worthy (crazy) enough to be in the good company of the saints and martyrs.

You see, my family lives counterculture in most things, we have for many years.  I didn’t learn this lifestyle, I wasn’t raised this way, and I didn’t have any great life epiphanies that got me here.   The Director and I didn’t start out with these incredible convictions to live counterculture, it just sort of happened over time.  When we were first married we were like most every other young couple.  We had debt from the Director’s student loans, we had a mortgage, two incomes, newer cars and enough credit cards to fund a small nation

When I became pregnant with Oldest, I really wanted to stay home with him.  While the Director knew we really couldn’t live on one income, I persisted with my pleas.  I finally did research on diapers, formula and day care.  When I put it on paper and showed him that I would only be clearing about $75.00 a month after all day care related expenses he relented, and I became a stay-at-home momma.  Of course we made about $10.00 too much to qualify for food stamps and had just about nothing all the time, but we seemed to manage somehow.  (Being young and naive has its perks, you're clueless about how bad off you are and you have an optimism that only someone in their 20’s wearing rose colored glasses can have.)  And, so began our lifestyle of counterculture living.

I honestly don’t remember much about how we managed to make it.  I know there was a lot of fighting over money and expenses.  I know I made a lot of stuff from scratch and I drove a car without reverse for an entire year (believe it or not it can be done!  Just never park or go somewhere that you have to back up from.  I only got it stuck twice in that year.)  For the last twenty years I have managed to stay home and raise my kids.  I have had a few part-time jobs and worked from home here and there but overall we have lived as a one income family.  We have almost no debt (mortgage and some medical expenses) and we drive older cars that aren’t too pretty to look at.  We have made sacrifices in order to do this, sacrifices that not a lot of people would make, our first step on the road to “crazy”.

After Oldest was born, we got very involved in our local church, just about all of our social engagements and activities revolved around a church function or with church friends.  Step two on the road to “crazy”.

When Oldest was to start kindergarten, I couldn’t even begin to imagine sending him to school.  Again it wasn’t because of some religious or superior academic conviction, it was simply because I couldn’t imagine that he would be gone all day.  I couldn’t imagine six and a half hours without him and not knowing what he was doing etc.  So, we started to homeschool, step three on the road to “crazy”.

Then we went and did something completely insane, we had five children!  In a culture where the current fertility rate is 1.9 children per women, most people think we went off the deep end.  At first we had three kids, which seemed to be tolerable.  Even after The Informer was born people still seemed to be fairly ok with the idea.  But, GASP, since we used no culturally accepted forms of birth control and I got pregnant with another child just seven months after The Informer was born we were dubbed out of our minds.  When I miscarried that child several people told me it was probably for the best.  All I could think was, you’re the one that’s crazy!  When the little man came along, the general consensus was you have to be out of your mind!  Step four on the road to “crazy”.

Of course you have the whole “You’ve been together and married for how long?!”  Shock, gasp!  “Despite troubles and heartache and pain, you stayed together?!”  “I don’t know how you do it, I just couldn’t handle it, what about me, I deserve so much better blah blah blah!”  Then there is the fact that our kids aren’t involved in lots of activities, most everything revolves around church functions or something to do with singing and acting.  And then you have our strict parenting rules on modesty, dating, grades, chores and family time.  Steps five six and seven to “crazy”.

Oh, and what about the fact that I devote a good portion of the spring and beginning of my summer to co-direct VBS, spending an entire week with large groups of other people’s kids!  This year it happened to fall the week before my older kid’s leave on their mission trip so things are a bit more hectic than usual but in the eyes of others “NUTS” pure and simple.

However, here’s the thing that deemed us “CRAZY”, in fact “PLUM CRAZY”, this summer in addition to our five children we will be hosting three exchange students.  For two weeks we will have all three of them with us at the same time.  We hosted two at the same time last summer and had so much fun that this year it seemed perfectly normal to have three of them come to stay with us.  Before we were married The Director and I always discussed having eight children.  As it has turned out that was not God’s plan.  I can tell you however that I fell completely in love with the two kids we hosted last year.  I never would have thought you could love someone else’s child in such a short period of time but I did.  Believe it or not, the kids we hosted had a great time and one has asked to come back in the fall with her brother while on a school holiday.  So, I figure if we keep hosting kids, I will end up having way more than eight kids in my lifetime.

Hosting teenagers (GULP) from another country for three to six weeks in the summer is like having a month long sleepover.  My kids love it and sure it’s completely chaotic and messy, there are long waits for the bathroom and much of the food is gone when you go to get something, but the blessings far outweigh any negatives!  So, when someone hears my kids excitedly talking about our students that are coming and they look at me with dismay and disbelief, I confirm that what they have heard is true with a very large smile and enthusiastic I can’t wait either.  I then tell them of all the free or almost free places we plan to go while the kids are here.  And again a large gasp, eyes widen and I know it’s coming “you take them all out?!  All eight of them at once?!  You are CRAZY!  PLUM CRAZY!”  And, honestly I kind of smirk to myself and think that’s ok, I’m the one having all the fun, but I sure wish I could say “I am not crazy my mother had me tested!”
 Pictures Sheldon Cooper portrayed by Jim Parsons The Big Bang Theory

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Great Adventure

For the past 17 years every summer, always in June, I go on an adventure that starts in January.  It involves a good friend, my kids and a substantial number of other people’s kids.  My dear, dear friend The Teacher asked me to join her on this adventure when I was six months pregnant with The Organized Child.  It started in a small classroom filled with very active and energetic three year olds.  And, while I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, each year I come back again and again.  This adventure is one of great stress, but HUGE rewards!  It is one of my greatest passions, despite swearing year after year, that this is the end, no more!  Each year somehow, no matter how stressed and completely spent I am, I am filled up with enough energy to take on this adventure.  I can’t claim that it is grace, because I must admit there are many times I don’t handle what is thrown my way with any grace at all.  Never the less I embark on this adventure and pray that God will take my meager efforts and work His grace like only He can.

What is this adventure?  It changes every year and yet stays the same.  It is transformative and exciting and definitely full of adventure.  It is a quest to sow seeds, seeds that with hope and prayer and love will emerge and transform the world.  Seeds that are sown all for the Glory of God.  Seeds that will hopefully blossom and bear great fruit, fruit that will be taken forth and shared with all.  This adventure is one like no other and today I started it again, in a capacity like no other before.

This morning I arose earlier than normal even though I had very little sleep.  I showered and dressed and headed out the door with all five kids in tow.  We loaded up and headed to church where we prepared with lots of other adults and teens to greet and share the word of God with 95 (you read correctly, 95) little people, ages 3 – 10.  We entered our parish center temporarily transformed for one week.  No longer a place to have donuts or omelet breakfasts on Sunday morning after mass, but a medieval castle!  Kingdom Rock Vacation Bible School where kids “Stand Strong for God”!

In 17 years I have done every job there is to do when it comes to VBS.  For the last 10 years or so I have been a co-director, making sure all the pieces of this massive puzzle fit together.  I have a tremendous friend and partner that I take this on with each year.  She is amazing when it comes to all of the administrative stuff and her people/children skills are amazing.  She handles things much more diplomatically than I do, that’s for sure.  I tend to tackle things like the daily materials, decorations, and discipline.  Together we make a great team along with one other mom who anchors us and helps us manage it all, in any capacity we need her (even though her kiddos are in high school and college).

This year I feel we are in over our heads!  95 LITTLE PEOPLE!  I should have tackled 95 little people in my 20’s when I had a lot more energy and a lot less anxiety!  So many times I looked around our parish center today and panicked!  What in the heck were we thinking taking all these kids?!  We are responsible for their safety, their fun and hopefully their learning about God’s word and His infinite love!   When it comes to their safety I’m a nervous wreck!  We have two children with diabetes, numerous kiddos with food allergies from gluten, to red dye, to eggs and milk and two children with Down syndrome.  We have children who like to wander, kiddos that miss their parents and want to go home and those older kids who think they are just too old and cool for VBS.  We have to make sure each one is safe from wandering, food stuff and normal every day boo boos.  We have to reassure little ones missing mom and dad, help redirect and keep on track others that are distracted and try and break through the tough exterior of older ones who feel they have outgrown this.  In addition we have to make sure all the helpers have what they need and are on top of what needs to be done.  All while making sure everyone is having fun!  It’s a tall order and one that has filled me with extreme panic over the course of the day!

When I got home late this afternoon, I began to tackle VBS things that needed to be done for tomorrow, most of them e-mail related.  As I deleted, answered and quickly read through the dozens upon dozens of e-mails I came across one that comes into my inbox every day.  It comes from a blog that I love but don’t always have the time to read A Holy Experience .  Today in my scatteredness I felt the need to read Ann’s words.  She writes in a very different manner, one that always speaks to my soul and fills me with peace.  In today’s post I found the following words:

“Worry is belief gone wrong.

Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.

But peace –

Peace is belief that exhales.

Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere—like air.

Exhale. Let go. Peace is the belief that God’s provision is everywhere.”

Words I so needed to read, to breathe in deeply to the depths of my soul, words to heal a momma’s worried mind and soul.  Worried for 95 little people’s safety, their enjoyment, that they are being reached, that seeds are being planted.  So much worry and anxiety, so heavy, so heavy that my shoulders ache, weighted down, more than I can almost bear.  So much so that I began to dread thinking about tomorrow.  Please God let us just make it through the end of the week safely, my constant exasperated prayer all day.

Then the words, Ann’s words, Holy Spirit inspired words?  A still, small voice stirs in my soul, you have brought 95 little people together, 38 teens, numerous parents and adults, all to teach them about My word, My love, do you not trust that I will take your efforts and bless them?  Do you not trust that I will protect all of these children, My children?  Did I not command “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”*  “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.*

I wish I could say I had a great calm right now.   I still feel an immense responsibility and safety for the 95 little people, and helpers.  However, I do have a calmness, some calmness that I didn’t have before.  I’m working very hard on letting go and trusting!  Trusting that God is in control and without a doubt He will get it right!  That no matter what happens good or bad, He is always in control.  I’m exhaling, breathing in and out, exhaling, with each exhale I’m working on letting go a little more.  Praying that God will help me to open my fists, let go of all this anxiety, and teach me to breathe in and out, exhale completely and rest knowing the He will always get it right now matter what!

Matthew 19:14 and Matthew 8:26