Friday, September 21, 2012

Taking Delight

The Lord your God is with you; the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

We've all met the parents who constantly brag on their kids.  "Oh my son can do calculus and he's only five years old you know!"  These types of people are wearisome and tacky.  And their puffy words only serve to repel those around them.  Partly that's because often their words seem incredulous.  I mean really, unless you've got a Little Gauss on your hands, your five year old is probably not doing hard core calculus.  The other reason these words alienate people is because they draw comparisons and make other parents feel bad.  Our son can't do Calculus at five so he must be dumb.  And so on.  You get the drift.

However, there is a flip side to this as well.  There are parents that constantly berate their kids to other adults, pointing out all of their flaws, riding them for every mistake and communicating to everyone around that they're not proud of their offspring.  These types are probably worse than the former.  For even though kids can get too puffed up from their parents' praise, life generally has a way of sorting these things out through experiences.  But a continuously battered heart can't necessarily be easily repaired.

Either ditch is wrong.  Staying on the road and keeping balanced is obviously the best way.

I've always struggled with this whole aspect of parenting.  Sure I tell the grandparents all of the amazing (to me) things my kids can do.  And Steve and I will stay up late at times talking about our dreams for each kid and how proud they make us.  But I keep those things really close and I don't ever want to come across all showy.  And sometimes I probably try to balance those feelings too much with being overly critical.  But regardless, every parent feels an amazing sort of pride in their kids.  They're our offspring.  God created them but we begot them...they're ours.  And believe it or not, they need us to be proud of the things they do.  They need us to be interested in them and their accomplishments.  Keeping it all balanced is the hard part.

Awhile back I heard Doug Wilson say something in a sermon on parenting that really caught my attention.  I don't remember which sermon it was but it stuck with me.  He was talking about this very thing.  He said (loose paraphrase), "Delight in your kids.  You can't overdo delighting.  Of course they're cuter than everybody else's.  Of course they're the best to you.  God delights in you.  Love like Him and delight in them."  After hearing that, I thought about it for a long time.  God delights in me.  How can I love like Him and delight in my kids without being overly proud?  And how is delight different than arrogance?

The difference between delighting and being too proud may sound like splitting hairs but really it's not.  It's a matter of focus: delighting is about the child and boasting is about the parent.  Delighting in a child gives them a healthy confidence they need to grow.  Boasting is self-serving, draws comparisons and in doing so, only puffs the parent up.  Doug meant that we're to keep an honest perspective but we're not to feel bad when we're proud of them.  In fact, a parent who isn't proud of his child is not loving.  A child who is loved properly won't be afraid to try things and fail because he will know that no matter what, even if no one else is with him, his Mom and Dad will be.  

Parents see everything.  We know our children's weaknesses and we know their strengths and we are to love them despite it all.  Delighting in them ultimately means we believe in them.  From the toddler learning to take his first steps to the thirty year old son pondering career changes, every child needs to know someone believes in them.  Belief and confidence in another human being can go a long way. Simply put, the first ones God has given this role to is parents.    

I have a beautiful friend who reminded me of all of this recently.  Her son just turned one year old and as she and I were talking at church, she was beaming as she described watching all of the fun things he was doing and learning.  I smiled as I listened.  It was obvious that she was totally and completely over the moon for him.  And I understood because I feel the same way about my kids.  But I could tell it wasn't about her.  It was about him.  She wasn't making comparisons.  She was simply delighting in him because he was hers not because he was better than every other baby around.  Her love was apparent and it was refreshing and real.  Talking with her also flooded me with emotion because I remember Isaac at that age and how I felt exactly how she felt-so incredibly proud of the many things he was learning.  And I remember thinking, "That little boy is so lucky to have a mom who takes delight in him simply because he's hers."

All of my friends have amazing kids.  They're so smart, athletic, artistic, imaginative, musical, witty and funny.  I know one boy who goes into the orchard by his house to look for spiders and he writes about them in his very own Field Book.  He's a scientist in the making!  I have another friend whose son is so naturally athletic I can just hear his name being announced over the loud speaker as the starting quarterback of the high school football team someday.  I know another boy who can play many musical instruments and he's not yet a teenager.  I could go on and on.  There's serious talent out there!  All of the kids I'm surrounded with are simply incredible.  Mine included!  God is so creative and good.  He's filled all of these little people up with talent, curiosity and courage.

I just pray that I'll be able to properly take delight in mine.  I want them to know I believe in them.  I want them to know that no matter what they do, I'll be proud.  And that I think they can do anything.

But most of all, I want them to know that I don't delight in them because of their accomplishments and how those accomplishments make me look but simply because God gave them to me.

They're mine.  And that's why I love them so much.  Simply put, I adore them because of their identity, which is just like Christ with us-they belong to me.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pigs, Watermelon Rinds and Joshy

Joshua's fourth birthday is coming up and he wanted to see animals.  At first he asked to go to the zoo.  But then, after us reading about pigs in Farmer Boy, he decided he wanted to go to a farm.  Luckily, we live in prime farm country.  And even more lucky for this mama, the county fair was coming up.

We've never been to the county fair.  Steve's brother's family goes every year and they always have good things to say about it.  But we've never felt the need to attend.  However, Joshua's request being what it was and us needing a "canned" birthday celebration with all that's going on with having little Nathan around, we decided this was our year to try it.

I didn't tell the kids what we were going to do, only that we would see pigs for Joshua's birthday.  So in typical Joshy fashion, he had a plan to make his swine outing even more enjoyable.  He started saving food to feed them-watermelon rinds to be exact.  At first I paid no attention as he asked me to save his rinds for the pigs.  I must admit, I chucked them into the trash when he wasn't looking, thinking he wasn't too attached to the idea.  But I should've known.  As the days wore on, he kept asking me to save the rinds and so, I felt bad and started obliging him.  By the end of the week, he had quite a stash.

On Saturday afternoon neither Steve nor I wanted to go.  I had spent the morning out at Costco and Trader Joe's with the five kids (and was quite a laughing spectacle to all we came in contact with-so funny to me!).  And Steve had spent the morning taking a practice exam.  Needless to say, we were tired.  But we knew it was our one shot to make Joshua's upcoming birthday special and so we rallied our spirits.  We were so glad we did.

When we pulled up to the thoroughfare, the kids were absolutely thrilled.  They had never seen anything like it.  All of the flashing lights and rides of the midway had them sucked in.  But we weren't there for the rides.  We were there for the animals.  So we made our way back to the barns and wove our way through the displays.  They were quite amazing.  There were chickens, turkeys, cows, horses, ponies and of course, what we were ultimately there for-the swine.

I never knew pigs could be so big.  I'm sure I've seen them in real life before.  I know I have.  But seeing my boys stand next to them was crazy.  Those things are HUGE!  And upon seeing the pigs, Joshua was delighted.  When I pulled out his watermelon rinds, he was even more excited.  I'm so glad I went against my own better judgment and saved them.

We found some 4-H students and asked their permission to feed their pigs.  They of course obliged.  What followed was all of the children squealing with delight as they fed the pigs their "treats".  It was so cute and definitely a fun parent moment for Steve and me.  After that, we finished things off with some fair food of corn dogs and fries while I nursed Nathan.  We then caught the beginning of the pig races and then visited the model trains.

By that time, the sun was setting and the fog was rolling in.  It was getting cold fast.  So we packed up and headed home.  It was definitely a simple deal to do for his birthday but we could tell Joshua felt really loved.  As we left, Steve grabbed my hand and said, "Why haven't we done this before?  This was a ton of fun!"  And he was right.  I was thinking the same thing.

Quite simply put, even with four little kids and a brand new baby, the whole experience was quite charming.  Not bad for a trip inspired by a birthday and pigs.  Not too bad at all.        

Friday, September 14, 2012

Transition Update

I have a few seconds of free hands and so I'm going to blog.  I've been thinking about it forever!  But all of the little people whom I adore, have taken all my extra time lately.  Them and sleep that is.  Little power naps here and there have become more important than updating my sixth child...the blog.  But I'm sure, with a few more weeks under our belts, I'll get back to our regular programming here soon.

As for an update on our family, I'll do my best to give you a drive-by re-enactment of the last few weeks because I'm also quite smelly and need a shower and by the time I do all of the that, Nathan will be hollering at me to eat again.  Maybe I didn't need to admit my state of cleanliness on the world wide web but, I thought I'd be honest.  I'm determined to be dressed in something presentable by the time my husband comes home today.  And stretchy yoga pants don't count (even though I wish they did).  Nothing else fits.  My maternity clothes look like a lame attempt at ghetto "bagginess" (not a word but you know what I mean) but my regular jeans are still a far cry from being worn.  Alas the middle stage...soon I can start running again so that I can get back into those jeans.  But it still takes some time.  What have I done all of the other times? I don't know.  I can't remember.  In fact, I can't remember anything right now.  Ha!  I'll have to rustle up some sort of outfit that doesn't look totally hideous.  Wish me luck.

But anyhoo, Nathan and I have definitely turned a corner.  I have figured out (for the time being that is) what he needs to get a decent nap.  So he's been sleeping tremendously better and crying much less.  Yeah!  He wasn't ever horrible.  Just a newborn.  Wait, he's still a newborn.  Okay, he was just a really new newborn with a mom who didn't know what he needed yet.  But now, he's doing a bit better because we're getting the napping thing down a little more.  Nursing is also going much better.  The soreness is pretty much gone and I've graduated from having to use the My Breast Friend Pillow all the time.  I like graduating from that thing.  Even though it helps so much, it's pretty embarrassing to schlep around places.

Case in point- A few weeks ago at church (my first Sunday back) I mentioned to Steve that I'd just nurse Nathan in the car whenever he wanted to eat.  He looked at me like I was insane and said, "Why?  Just go in the nursing room."  I then explained that I didn't want to walk into church with the My Breast Friend nursing pillow in my arms like an idiot.  He laughed and then said, "You really are going to go all the way to the car so you don't have to bring the pillow in."  I responded very emphatically, "Yes.  I am.  So there."  To which he responded, "No.  Just bring it in.  Nobody's going to care or think you're weird.  We go to a church where the kids outnumber the adults.  Everybody understands about these things."  Easy for him to say.  He doesn't have to carry it around.  But he was right.  It wasn't that big of a deal.  However, after that, I got smart and had one of the boys carry it in for me.  They didn't mind one bit.  For some reason, it was much easier to have them do it than me.  Less strange.  But like I said, I'm glad to have graduated.

Steve and I are doing well.  Steve's studying a few nights a week and on Saturdays but his class this semester is much more mellow than the past few.  So it's not demanding quite as much of his time.  He's signed up for an exam at the end of October that he needs to brush up on but, other than that, this is our most relaxed season of grad school in awhile.  Or maybe I'm just more used to it.  I don't know.  It seems better to me.  After this, we've got just one semester left.  His real job is busy with the start of school but, that will subside a bit more in the coming weeks too.  He and I have been staying up late so I can feed Nathan one more time before I sleep and it's been fun to get that time with him.  And when he's gone, Season 1 and Season 2 of Downton Abbey have been my companions.  Them and The Office (seasons 1-3).  

All of the kids are doing well.  Things are wild here at times for sure but, still doable.  I keep telling myself that I just need to lower my standards sometimes so that we can all reach the standard I've set with smiles on our faces but I'm stubborn and proud.  And I want things done they way they should be done.  You'd think I'd have learned by now.  This scenario especially comes into play when Steve is gone studying and I'm managing the evening or Saturday by myself.  Sometimes I find myself pushing them all through a certain agenda and then there's a lot of tears in the end (even from me).  I need to remember that all of us need more grace right now.  All of us.

Awhile back I asked a friend who had five children what made them decide to go for a fifth and she said something I've never forgotten.  She said, "It's hard for the first two years but then, you think, hey this is hard now but, we've got this whole other person for the rest of their lives.  We can do these crazy two years.  It's worth it."  That's kinda how I feel right now.  It's crazy.  I don't quite know how to get everything done and get to every person.  I feel like everyone is clambering for my attention and it doesn't stop until I shut my eyes at night.  But I'm trying to remember the long view.  There's a precious, new little life we've been given. He's got his own unique personality with strengths, weaknesses and things for us to be proud of.  This time will fly fast.  And having another eternal soul added to our family in the long-run is just wonderful.  We'll all make it just fine.

So there it is.  Nothing special.  Just didn't want to leave you all hanging for too much longer.  We're transitioning.  We've turned a corner and soon, we'll be much more comfortable in our new skin as a family of seven.  And I know this because God is faithful.  He always is.     

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ramblings of the sleep deprived...

When you've got a bunch of little ones running underfoot, people assume you've got your act together.  I mean, why else would you have more children unless you did have your ducks in a row?  We're all more enlightened now.  We have birth control.  We can control the madness and stop it if we want to.  So having a lot of children nowadays is definitely a choice.  And most people assume it's a choice that is made by people who are "good" at kids or who are really organized.  Because if you're not, then why keep going??  Plus it's safer that way...and easier right?  Less waste-less risk.  Children are messy.  They're work.  They're LOUD.  They're difficult to figure out and they require many external resources-especially cash.  And God knows, I like keeping my cash in my pocket.  We all do.  I'm just sayin'...

But here's the thing, I now have five kids.  But, *GASP* we don't have our act together.  We don't have all of our ducks in a row.  We sit in the back at church because one of our boys talks constantly through the service no matter what we do and everyone else is squirming, going to the bathroom, moving hymnals all over the place all the while participating whenever they can-definitely NOT the "model" family.  Daily I find myself buried underneath mounds of laundry that never ends and I constantly feel under the gun about what's going to be for dinner.

Obedience is a high priority in our home.  But our kids still don't listen all the time.  They give other people problems sometimes and they embarrass us on a regular basis (they also make us super proud much more often!!).  Some people might conclude, by the sheer fact that I have a lot of children, that I know what I'm doing and that I have it all figured out.  But newsflash, my kids are not perfect and guess what...neither are we.  In fact, Steve and I often have to ask forgiveness too for attitudes, being angry and being unfair.  We're in relationship with each other and that requires all of us to confess our sins to one another and seek forgiveness.  That's living life together.

No I don't have it all figured out.  I simply don't.  I'm not a super mama.  I'm not even an amazing mama.  I'm just average.  I'm just like everyone else.  Like you, I'm trying to stay one step ahead.  I'm simply trying to stay afloat while keeping a smile on my face.  And I have come to believe, over the years, that if I can just keep my head above water with a good attitude, well then I've succeeded at something.

Having a newborn around always brings me back to the basics.  And I'll lay it all out for you-I have no idea what I'm doing.  You'd think, that after four other newborns, I'd have this part figured out piece of cake.  But I am reminded daily that I don't.  Not only do I find myself scratching my head constantly trying to read Nathan's sleep cues and such like a first time mom, but I also keep wondering why it still hurts at times to nurse him when he's over three weeks old!  Isn't that part supposed to be over by now?  (Those lactation consultants LIE when they say nursing isn't supposed to hurt if you're doing it right.  It hurts every.single.time in the beginning until your body figures it out again.  It just does.  LIARS!  But anyhoo...)

And I'm trying to figure him out a midst everyone else and their needs.  It's an intricate web I'm weaving and every strand affects another strand.  I simply have to weave in such a way as to make it all a cohesive piece of art that functions to serve everyone, not just one.  Plus every child is different and has different likes/dislikes.  They are a little person, not another cog in the wheel.  So what worked last time won't necessarily work this time.  And once I figure Nathan out for a time, he'll switch it up again.

Aahhh...the beauty of learning.  It can be painful and stretching.  Not to mention all the other parts that are hurting and healing, spinning and changing.  Life trudges on with everyone else around here while my body and brain try to catch up.

Seems easy right?  Yet it's not and every time I feel like I'm "getting it" with the brood, the stakes get higher and more complicated.  That's what learning is-getting better at what you do and then learning to take on more.  That's growth and it's necessary for living.  Without it, we're just robots that do the same thing over and over again.

But we're not robots.  We're people who are made to be in relationship with others.  And relationships are built on sacrifice.  Without sacrifice, there is no love.  For love is laying down your life for another.

So don't believe the lie-I don't have it all together.  I'd like to but it's impossible.  I'm simply living day by day, moment by moment hoping that I can lay my head down at night (for a few hours at a time) having loved someone more than myself.  And that's because that's what God tells me to do, not even because I really want to all the time.

So there you have it...a jumble of words not quite fit for a neatly tied blog post from the new mom to five littles who is still trying to figure it all out...

And realizing more each day, that the learning never ends.  But neither does the loving and frankly, that's the best part.