Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Unconditional Love

I have had an amazing week.

I have had an extra surge of energy, amazing amounts of patience, and have been embarrassing my kids with my awesome dance moves. In other words, I've been really happy.

Maybe it's all the christmas cookies.
And the wrapping of presents for my kids.
And the christmas music.
And the fact that it's been in the 50's the last few days.

We decorated the tree. I did the top part and the kids did the bottom. And then at nap time I re-distributed the bottom half onto the rest of the tree to even it up a bit. ;-) This tree is super pokey! We cut it down, like we do every year, but this year we really got a lethal one. One poke from a needle and I've got tears in my eyes! Also, remember the naked tree two years ago that dropped all its needles in the house a full week before christmas? Fortunately, our tree isn't naked yet, but let's just say that we could have a repeat on our hands.

Poor little Oliver rolled unassumingly underneath the tree yesterday and got his arm stuck in one of the branches when he tried to pull down an ornament. Poor kid not only got poked like crazy, but he also got a shower of pine needles in his face! Seriously, christmas trees are the worst. But they look so pretty! But they're so much work and ridiculous besides! Still pretty. An environmental tragedy. And yet still so pretty. 

A trunk of my high school and college belongings arrived in my house last week. This is what happens when you move over ten times in 18 years. Your stuff is all in trunks being stored who knows where. Anyway, this particular trunk was home to about five journals. Yes, I used to do that religiously. Before I had kids, since obviously I have so much time to write for hours and hours about my feelings now. Eric got his hands on them and pretty soon we were both flipping through four years of my personal history. You know what the best part was? In every single journal, from 2005 onward, Eric was the main character. You know what else? I was in love with him by December of my freshman year of college, exactly nine years ago. Eighteen-years-old and completely in love with my new best friend. I'm so thankful to have shared nine years of history with him!

Speaking of Eric (urban farmer extraordinaire), he thinks our goat Jane is pregnant. Which means she could be having triplets in February. But we don't actually know for sure, because we messed up a little with the whole breeding thing this year since it's our first time. And we can't feel the babies moving yet...if there are any. Let's just say we are learning a lot. Haaaa.

Two of my kiddos are down with fevers today, accompanied by rattling coughs and fountain noses of green. It's a great excuse to drink hot chocolate and watch movies all afternoon. cough cough **every day** cough cough. Can we be better by Christmas please?

Do you know one of the greatest things about having little kids? I get to read The Jesus Storybook Bible over and over and over. And it never gets old. Best children's Bible EVER. And you know what else is great? It ministers to me every day. In reading it every day, I have been really trying to instill in my kids that God's love is unconditional. That no matter what you do, God will always love you just as much. Because He loves you for who you are, because He created you and He delights in you. I want my kids to know that no matter what choices they make, or their birth parents make, or whatever may happen in the future, that God will always be pursuing them and loving them. Because it is not about being good or even being kind that will win God's favor. We've already won his favor, just by being alive! 

So even if we choose to walk away from God, we can never ever walk away from His love for us. Because He will continue to love us no matter what. 

That is grace.

So as I preach the gospel to my kids, I'm also preaching it to myself. That God delights in me because He made me. And I am enough. Because I am His.

I am thankful that my life is God's. (And that I get to explain to my kids that Jesus isn't actually a tiny person living inside each of their hearts and that no, there are no doors or windows in there...who even told them this anyway?). And whatever my kids decide, whether to walk with God or without Him, may they always know His incredible, unwavering, unconditional love He has for them. Simply because of who they are.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

God with us

I've been thinking a lot about Jesus's mother Mary today. About how she was a nobody. Just an average girl. Nothing special. Probably poor. Definitely imperfect. Completely human.

But she was willing.

Willing to let God work in her life in the ways that He chose. Willing to give up her dignity, honor, and cultural acceptance as a woman by saying YES to God and therefore YES to the baby in her womb.

God chose to send his Son and our Rescuer and Savior into the world through a girl who was broken, who had problems, who struggled with life and hard questions, as all humans do.

And God still wanted her to be the one to bring Jesus into this world. In spite of her sin, in spite of her shortcomings. In spite of emotions, or doubts, or whatever she may have been going through.

That is grace.

That God still wants us. Just as we are.

And if we are willing, He will work in us, work through us, and fill us with Himself. All for His glory. For making all things new. Because He loves us that much.

So I hope.

I hope for my daughters who are living in my, perhaps temporary, care. That God would make their brokenness whole. That their sorrow would be changed into laughter. Because he loves them that much.

And I hope for the children from my womb, that they would be willing to allow their Creator to write their stories. And I hope for words of joy, redemption, peace, and grace to be woven into the sentences of their lives.

And I hope for my husband. That his heart would beat in sync with our Father. That he would be clothed in strength for the days ahead.

I hope for myself. Because God can use my broken pieces. And He is, even now, creating something beautiful with them. I just know it. I choose to trust that He is doing a good thing. And perhaps a bit like Mary, I choose to be willing.

One day I will look back on this season of my life and will be able to see God's goodness and faithfulness even more clearly than I can see it now. But even in the darkest moments, I still see His goodness. In Oliver's smile, once open mouthed and gaping, is now a vertical line that squishes out his cheeks and defines his little dimples. In Lyla, slipping into my lap out of nowhere. Fitting perfectly. In the smell of Lexi's hair as she tucks her head against my shoulder while I read aloud. In Joy Girl asking for an extra kiss at nap time. In Kia spreading peanut butter on slices of bread and licking her fingers when she thinks I'm not looking. My children are a blessing.

For my hope is in Christ the Lord, the Risen King. Emmanuel. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Not Alone

This last week I have noticed that my blog is becoming my external thinking space. So if you don't want to hear what's rumbling around inside my head, stop reading. Otherwise, welcome to my crazy scrambled eggs brain!

I have also noticed something else: I am a happier person when I get the chance to sit and write at some point in the day. Usually it's nap time. But since I'm sleeping better at night, I usually take nap time to sit in my chair and stare into space while sitting in the silence. Or typing madly away on my laptop in an effort to organize the chaos inside my head.

Speaking of being a happier person...

I am a part of a women's group that meets on Monday nights for a Bible study/book study/women's fellowship time. We just started two weeks ago, but we are all friends of at least two years (some longer), we we already have a friendship base formed. Anyway, this past Monday since we didn't all have the book yet that we had ordered, we just went around and shared what is going on in our lives. It wasn't great.

In fact, I affectionately dubbed it, "Wet Blanket Night." Since pretty much everything that was shared was heavy, uncomfortable, and hard. Blankets aren't exactly hard, but you get the point. It was gloomy. And damp. And... never mind.

As these lovely women (myself included) were sharing their struggles and fears and questions, I couldn't help but notice a few things.

First off, I have been completely in the dark. I had NO idea that these ladies had this stuff going on and we actually called ourselves friends. I don't think so, but here's to a fresher start. Secondly, most of the words we were using to describe how we are really doing, included this vocabulary:
Lost identity
Lost purpose

I know there are a lot of women in the world, but honestly it was so good for me to hear that I wasn't the only person who is incredibly lonely and unhappy and trapped and you get the point. I may be surrounded by five kids who touch me and need me every second of the day, but my husband works twelve hour days. And weekends are usually filled with projects or managing kids or hanging out with other people. It gets lonely during the week. And sometimes I even feel trapped. Well, more than sometimes.

So it was good to see that there are other people in very different seasons and stages of life than me who are actually feeling similar things in very different circumstances. Proof that the grass is not always greener on the other side of that really tall fence.

But it was also really discouraging. And I'm just being honest here. It was discouraging because all of us in that room are professed Believers. And as such, shouldn't our vocabulary look more like this?
Because a life in Christ should be filled up with HIM. Consumed by Him. He IS the stairway to God. He IS all that we need. So isn't that first list of words pretty much everything that is NOT of Him?

I can't help but think sometimes that I am missing something. I love the Lord. I would even go so far as to say that He really IS my life. But what if I'm wrong? Because if He really had every part of me, why would I be feeling so unhappy? And is this depression speaking or really a deep longing for something more?

I will never EVER give up my faith. I love the Lord too much for that. But I think sometimes I lose perspective when most of my day-in-and-day-out relationships are with little people who have underdeveloped frontal lobes. And when my best friend tells me that I can just choose to be happy and I will be. But what if I can't just choose? What if I really do have a problem?

Anyway, this was a little more sad than I wanted it to be, but I think that life as an adult is never quite what most of us imagined it would be when we were kids and just wanted to grow up faster. I really do have joy in my life and wonderful little moments with my kids too. But I am tired of the masks. I am tired of thinking that I am friends with a person only to find out in one evening of honesty that I never really knew them at all. I am tired of the social media shameless bragging and idyllic lives that are portrayed every second of every day. Because that's not real. And when I say "Hi, how are you" and you answer "I'm great, how are you" are you telling me the truth? The real truth? And will you still be my friend if I answer with truth? Because my truth right now is that first list of vocabulary words. I don't like that it is. I don't want it to stay that way. And yes, yes, yes, I pray to God that it will change and soon. But this is today. And I am so very thankful for Ann Voskamp's words in The Greatest Gift,

Christ becomes the one step we can never take - and takes us. He comes to us like He comes to Jacob - He comes to us not in spite of our failings - but precisely because of them. Ours is the God who is drawn to those who feel down. Ours is the God who is attracted to those who feel abandoned. Ours is the God who is bound to those who feel broken. ....This is grace.

A friend of mine told me yesterday that she is praying for God to make my life into stained glass. Broken up, messy pieces put back together by the master Artist. Created into something intricately more beautiful than I could ever have imagined or thought possible. 

I wonder what that will look like. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cutting Trees and Mending Hearts

Yesterday we went out and got our christmas tree. And by "got" I mean that we drove an hour outside of the city to a tree farm and cut one down. We cut a tree down every year. Is anyone else bothered by this? While I enjoy the tradition, and the fact that Eric loves hunting down "The Perfect Tree" with the shivering, teeth chattering kids, I can't help but cringe whenever the saw hits the trunk. Cutting down a tree and bringing it inside the house and putting lights and ornaments on it and then throwing it out three weeks later seems like something a crazy person would do.

Hello, United States of America.

Oh well. At least my house smells good now.

Also, I forgot the camera and my phone battery died. So we have no proof that we even went all that way to cut down that tree. I DID remember diapers though. And snacks. Both of which are more important to immediate survival than a camera is. So there's that.

And a guy dressed up like Santa Claus was there. Kia went right up to him and said to his face, "You're NOT Santa. You don't even look like him!" Ha!

After killing a perfectly good tree and strapping it onto the roof of our van, we drove to my parent's house and Eric made duck pho for all of us. Which is another name for an extremely delicious noodle soup that is cooked with the broth from one of our smoked ducks. So good.

Eric cooked in the kitchen and had a blast, my kids were entertained by the grandparents and aunties, my dad was laughing and singing silly songs, and my sister (who is currently in massage school) gave me a massage. On a heated massage table. It was glorious. And, who knew? She's actually getting really good!

I love being with my family. It always feels right and good and so so safe. Being with them is like having a warm fluffy blanket wrapped around me. Like nothing can go wrong. And if it does, it will be ok. Because we are all together. A family.

This morning, back at home, Kia was having a rough moment because it was Lexi's turn for me to color with her (yes, I set a timer and have to rotate my way through four little girls who all want me to color in their Dora coloring books with three times a day. We need some more exciting coloring books before Mama starts pulling her brains out through her nose.). Anyway, Kia was angry and among other things said that she was leaving the house and going to go live with her Mom. I said, "Ok, have fun, but you can't open the door and leave the house without permission." And so it went.

But when she was calm, I gently explained to her again that it is not my decision if and when she can return to live with her mom. That the decision is up to the judge. I also assured her that the adults will make the decision about what is best for her, and that she just needs to be a kid and not worry about it. Because either way, she will still get to see her mom. And either way, she will be in a safe home (I may have been stretching a bit on this one).

And then something strange happened. She started crying and grabbed my arm and told me that she doesn't want to live with her mom and she wants to stay here. That she doesn't want to leave here, ever.

And here I am, still feeling all warm and snuggly from my time with my family, listening to a four-year-old tell me that her family isn't working. That her family has been broken apart. Wounded and bleeding. That some wounds might be too deep to heal.

How is this fair? Why should a four-year-old have to be dealing with so much confusion and grief and pain? And she is sitting there choosing me over her own birth mother because she was forced to, in a way, due to the circumstances. While I treasure the fact that she loves me, that she tells me she wants to live here, that she is thriving with us, my heart is also so broken over the 'whys' of how she even joined our family in the first place.

It didn't have to happen this way.

I know God can write a new story for her. And even for the rest of her family. But the pain and cold hard truth of what brought these girls to our doorstep can never be erased.

Sometimes this is hard for me to accept.

And I want our family, my family, to be enough. To wrap her up tight in our love and hold her there, safe.

And I am scared for her. Not knowing what's coming. Not knowing if her life will be happy or safe. Not knowing what choices will be made for her and what choices she will make herself.

So I hold her close. Tell her I love her no matter what happens. And I pray. Pray that God will mend her little broken heart.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bad Karma

Let me start out by saying that I don't want to live from crisis to crisis. And for the most part, I don't. But lately, things are getting a little out of hand. In Eric's words, "We can't catch a break around here!"

I'll fill you in so you can laugh at our problems and also understand why we are currently a bit low on the extra bucks.

A month ago, our neighbor ran into our garage door with her car. I really don't know how she managed to do that. Unless she just was really not paying attention. Anyway, about a quarter of the garage door was missing. It was old and made of wood panels, so you can imagine the wreckage. Of course this happened on a very cold, dark evening when Eric was still at work and I was home alone with the kids. Our garage had a lot of Eric's power tools in it, and our neighborhood can be kind of seedy. So I SOS-ed a friend, locked the kids in the house with Curious George playing, and emptied out the garage.

Everyone has asked why we didn't ask the neighbor to pay for the damage. We could have, but their dad just unexpectedly died from cancer last month. And their family is already struggling financially to cover the bills that came along with his diagnosis and final treatments.

Then Eric and I took off for a long weekend in Florida. It was great. Except for the fact that our hotel bed was infested with bugs (and they wanted us to continue staying in the room!), so we switched hotels at 11:30 at night. It was chilly and rainy weather, and on the one gorgeous day the tire blew out on our way to the beach. We lost four hours of the day with that ordeal. And then our plane was delayed on the way home. And Oliver pooped through every outfit that I brought for him. It was gross. Other than that, we had a great time. We really did. But this post is all about the bad things, so obviously I can't tell you all the good stuff (and really, there was so much good stuff, I can't wait to go back!).

A few days later Eric was pulling into our alley on the way home from work and the tire exploded on OUR van. We ended up needing to replace all four.

The next week, our dishwasher broke. When the guy finally came last week to look at it, he said the motor was completely burned out. It's only three months old. Yeah.

Yesterday, one of the kids (I won't tell you who) used an entire roll of toilet paper to wipe her poopy bum. Said toilet is still very very clogged. It's getting gross. And slightly (more than slightly?) unsanitary in there. Thank goodness we have use of the bathroom in the basement since my sister recently moved out.

And the mouse. The mouse! We can't catch it! It's everywhere and nowhere, and just when we think it's gone, I find yet another turd and another bag of nuts that has been chewed through.

So today all the kids are wearing these crazy mixed matched, ill fitting clothes because it was laundry day about four days ago and I still hadn't washed anything four days later. Today I was determined to wash it all! No more digging through dirty clothes to pick out even more dirty socks to wear! I was in the middle of the wash cycle when a city worker came to the door and informed me that they are turning off the water for the afternoon.

I mean, my toilet already won't flush and my dishwasher is broken too, so we might as well just slit the throat of the washing machine as well.

I guess I haven't mentioned yet that I have been without a vehicle for a while now. We were going to get Eric's car fixed so I could have the van during the week with the kids, but then all of the above happened. So, as my friends like to tell me (they're so nice), I'm kind of under house arrest.

And since this post is only about bad things happening, I'll keep going. Lexi is still sick. But apparently she is well enough to come out of her room, throw markers at my head because she's mad, and then yell at all the kids to shut their mouths and leave her alone. I made her go back to bed.

It's actually pretty amazing the change in family dynamic when Lexi is sick. All of the sudden Kia is the angel child who has all of my attention and absolutely no one to fight with. Don't get me wrong, it's sad when Lexi is sick, but at the same time, yesterday and today have been really great relationship building days with Kia. My affection for her (which was reaching dangerously low levels due to the two worst months of our lives with her in October and November) is rising again and we are having so many positive interactions that I am catching myself smiling a lot and laughing WITH her instead of cringing while I wait for the next bomb to explode. She really is a delightful child. Funny how we so quickly lose perspective when we are forced to wade through shit for days on end. There might not be flowers yet, but at least the road has been clean this week. It makes a big difference.

Oliver is sick too and has taken to rubbing his gooey, snotty face all over my shirt whenever I pick him up. Yep. Can't wait for that water to be turned back on.

We decided to do our christmas shopping for the kids at the thrift shop this year. This means that Eric hangs out in thrift stores in the suburbs during his lunch break at work, and I get to be surprised and happy about what ends up under the tree for the kids. It's actually kind of fun, since the pressure is off. And there's always Amazon Prime in a pinch. We don't have a tree yet, but we will. I got out all the christmas books and stockings and the kids have been forcing me to read aloud Charlie Brown's Christmas at least ten times every. single. day. At least it's not about Santa. That guy seriously bugs me.

Despite me writing about all the bad karma we attract, I am actually in a really good mood today. I spent some great time with kids this morning, and even though it took three and a half centuries for 12 o'clock to roll around, it finally did. And we ate lunch and now everyone except for me is napping peacefully. I should be too, but I would rather write. It fills me up more than sleep these days. Plus, you needed to know about my bad karma so you could stay far away.

Eric and I have a bet concerning which costly appliance is going to blow this winter. I think the refrigerator, he is guessing the boiler. Stay tuned. It will probably happen right when we are about to get the car fixed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I have this nifty little speaker that connects to my smart phone via bluetooth that Eric got me for my birthday a few years ago. I have a few favorite Pandora stations and like to blast them while I get my cooking or dishwashing on. Speaking of dishwashing, our dishwasher broke last week so we are back to the extremely time consuming hands-on approach. And the paper plates. Let's not forget about those handy little guys.

Lexi is sick today, so I used the morning to make a new batch of granola with Kia. I had music going as usual and was dancing along as we whip-whip-stirred (Star Wars Christmas Special reference. Don't ask.).

I took my lanky four-year-old Kia in my arms and spun her around to the beat, her giggles filling up the room and my heart. My love for her is still new, still tender and raw in places, but it's there. And it's growing.

"Look into my eyes," I said, "and remember This. When you are an adult, and you're feeling sad, just turn on some music and dance in the kitchen."

"Why?" she asked.

"Because it makes you feel better. Dancing in the kitchen makes everything feel better. Trust me. I know."

We kept dancing. And laughing. And spinning. Granola flying everywhere.

These are the moments I want to remember.

Not the tantrums, the screaming, the whining, the endless poop and clogged toilet, piles of laundry and food going bad in the refrigerator. I don't want my kids to remember me yelling at them or crying in frustration, or locking myself in my bedroom to just. get. away.

I want them to remember me acting like a happy fool, and dancing in the kitchen with them.

Oliver boy

My Oliver boy is the best.
Call me a biased mom, but he is.

Yes. He wakes me up at least three times a night to eat. Yes. He naps erratically. Yes. He cried non-stop for the first nine weeks of life. And yes. He must be held constantly to remain happy.

But seriously, this boy.

He smiles these huge open mouth smiles at me every time he catches my eye. My sister and I like to joke that he looks like a Peanut's character with his bald little potato head and huge eyes and big vertical open mouth grins. And he ADORES me. I'm his hero. His drink machine. His greatest love and biggest fan. His milky breath is sweet like strawberries and his chubby fingers are always trying to find my hands, face, hair, anything that he can grab and stuff in his mouth.

It is hard to believe that this boy that I am so smitten with was causing me so much anxiety and distress one year ago. If only I could have seen into the future a bit, maybe it would have been different. Felt different. I don't really know. But I do know that a year ago, I was struggling to accept the baby that was gifted to my womb unexpectedly. And today, I can't even imagine one single day without him.

Funny how God (and those wonderful little bonding hormones) does that. He takes something that we think we don't want, that we didn't think we asked for, didn't think we could handle, and turns it into something beautiful. A treasure. A son.

I'm not ashamed of the fact that I was upset when I found out I was pregnant. It makes me sad to think back on my emotional state at the time, though. But don't forget that pregnancy hormones wreak a lot of havoc on my body, both physically and emotionally. Eric can testify to this. So while it makes me sad to remember how I felt, I understand too, and give myself grace.

Since we have pretty much decided that my Oliver boy is the last baby that my body will grow, I am soaking up every minute of his baby life. I can't even believe that he is almost six months old already. Wasn't it just yesterday that I birthed him in this very room?

His giggles slay me. And he has these little flecks of brown in his big blue eyes that you can see when the sun shines in. A dimple on the side of his button chin when he grins. A forehead wrinkled in surprise. Soft soft skin and thigh rolls that delight me to no end. He catches my eyes and his whole body reacts. Mouth wide open in joy, legs kicking and arms waving erratically. Round rosy cheeks that invite multiple kisses, soft peach fuzz hair.

If only they could stay this little for just a while longer.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Naptime woes

I'm pretty sure I'm going a little crazy.
I don't think it is necessarily normal for a person to narrate her life in her head as it happens. It's a strange third person experience happening live. Anyway, it's been happening a lot. And since I'm already writing about my life in my head, I thought it would probably make more sense just to write about it for real. Probably.

Also, I'm not going to beat myself up over the fact that I'm not filling this blog with pictures all the time. I need to write. So write, I will.

I started reading this book written by a woman who is journaling through her life. At the time of writing, she's my age, has three little kids all in a row, is an artist, and seems to be emotionally and personality-wise very similar to me. She also has a beautiful relationship with God and doesn't know what she's doing as a parent to three littles. And sometimes feels trapped. And depressed. And victimized by said Littles.

I love her.

Finally! Someone who isn't afraid to say that motherhood is hard. That it's not always fun and not always enjoyable. That sometimes, there are other things we would rather be doing and other places that we would rather be.

I'm going to come out and say it too. I don't always like being a mom. I love love LOVE my kids. ALL of them. But there is a difference between deep, unconditional love and daily like. Call it sin, call me depressed. I don't even know what's wrong with me. But there it is. I love my kids. I can't say that I always like them though. And I can't say that I love parenting them, either. Maybe it's different when you only have your own biological kids. I guess I'll never know. But either way, in my personal experience, parenting has certainly not been enjoyable lately.

Yesterday, after the epic trek to church and back again (we should be on a reward system for getting all seven of us to church every week), we arrived home with starving, un-napped kids, and two exhausted parents. Eric made soup for everyone (which was outstanding), but it took a while to get on the table. And then the kids, after begging him for the soup for the past twenty minutes, all decided that they didn't like it and didn't want to eat it. I tried to bribe them with dessert afterwards if they finished, but this only ended in multiple meltdowns...all at the same time. If you think one kid having a meltdown is annoying, try listening to four kids having meltdowns simultaneously. And then add a sick baby crying in the background.

We finally got all the kids in their beds for naps. But that's when the real fun started. Joy Girl (3) and Kia (4) (yes, I finally decided on blog names for them at 2:30 AM this morning as I was, yet again, writing in my head) were messing around in their room so Joy Girl got moved into a room by herself. Kia was mad, so she decided to stand in her doorway and lick the entire mirror that is built into her bedroom door. I don't even want to think about the germs she picked up. Why would anyone lick mirror?
When I caught her licking the mirror and told her to knock it off and that she had to wash it, she promptly peed on herself and the floor. I seriously don't understand this child.

Meanwhile Lexi (4) and Lyla (2) are screaming and shouting in their bedroom and despite numerous threats and corrections and fruitless statements that I made referring to myself in the third person such as "Mama is SO TIRED. PLEASE please PLEASE GO TO SLEEP," naps were not to be had. At one point Lexi came out of her room (for only the fifth time) naked and asked for a drink of water. I don't know about you, but I remember nap time as a kid vividly. I laid on my bed and WENT TO SLEEP. I was perfect. I did no wrong. Obviously they don't get their bad behavior from me.

I finally removed Lyla from her room in a last ditch effort to get Lexi to take her nap. She didn't, but Lyla curled herself up onto my chest and fell asleep within a matter of minutes. Out of that whole exhausting, rotten afternoon, Lyla falling asleep in my arms turned out to be the single golden sunbeam. My heart almost burst with love for her. (And over the fact that she was sleeping.)

Out of the three other kids, Joy Girl was the only other one who slept yesterday. It's a good thing she did, too, because that little one is anything BUT joy when it comes to missing sleep. Eric had a mushroom growing workshop that he went to during said nap time, so when the kids woke up I was fully in charge. I made them clean their bedrooms as punishment. Again, I don't ever remember having to clean my bedroom as a kid. It was never messy. Ever. I ALWAYS picked up my toys. Seriously, these kids.

After they cleaned their rooms (and cried buckets of tears while doing it), I rehydrated them with some water and we got out all the craft supplies and made some pretty epic birthday cards for Eric's birthday. And when I say epic, I mean stickers EVERYWHERE. They were awesome. Lexi and Kia even wrote "Happy Birthday Daddy" all by themselves. I just told them the letters in the proper order.

Bedtime was less eventful since everyone was so exhausted from missing their naps. And this morning, can you even believe it? I was the FIRST one up! Miracle. Lexi actually stayed in her room until she heard me rustling around the kitchen at 6:30 to whip up some birthday pancakes for Eric. Sometimes the fact that it's still dark out at wake up is great. The kids still think it's nighttime and stay in bed longer.

Eric is back to work today after an entire week of being off. He took a few vacation days in addition to the Thanksgiving holiday so he could spend more time with us. I love that about him. He loves to be home. Even with all the crazy that is home, he still prefers to be here with us. Sometimes I would rather leave, but I don't have much of a say in the matter at this point. Right now financially it makes a lot more sense for me to be taking care of the kids. The cost of five kids in daycare would pretty much devour my teaching salary. That and I'm not so sure I want to teach kids all day and then come home to a house full of them every night. So I'm home for now. And I like it mostly. And some days I love it. Other days, well... We all have those days when we would rather run and hide somewhere than do what needs to be done. It's probably just one of those things that is part of the human experience.

Today, nap time went a little better. I only had to deal with one obstinate kid instead of four. And I even took a shower while poor sick little Oliver rolled around and cried on the bathroom floor. Poor kid. I have to drag him around everywhere with me whether he likes it or not. Sleep probably wouldn't be such a big deal around here if I got more of it. I'm just so tired all the time. And I definitely don't drink coffee. It's a lose lose situation.

Maybe one day I will be able to look back at this post and laugh instead of cringe. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway. That by chronicling my days, I can somehow validate them. And maybe eventually, be able to laugh at the absurdity of my life in the present instead of just in the looking back.

Friday, October 3, 2014

New internet space and life update

I haven't written in a while over here at Lifetime of Spring because I've been busy posting over at our new urban farming blog. Check it out at

In the meantime, I do have good intentions for keeping our family life internet space updated, but I'm giving myself some grace since I am, after all, trying to parent five very dependent little kids right now. I know that a lot of you are probably wondering where we are in our foster care process and what the status is of the girls who have been a part of our family since last October. A lot has happened and changed in a year. The foster parents who are loving on two of the brothers of our girls also have a blog. I asked her permission to share the link to her latest post, which describes not only where we are at in the process, but also where we all are emotionally as foster parents. Please read and continue to pray for our family and all the families involved in this case.

While we did not enter into foster care with the sole intention of adoption, we always were open to that as an option. As it stands today, if the termination of rights goes through, we will be the adoptive home for our girls. While this feels so daunting and overwhelming, and at times downright crazy, we know that what we are doing is for the glory of the Father. And as He loves us and adopts us into our family, even as our most unloveable selves, so we should do as well. That's a lot of hard, powerful, sacrificial love. We love these girls as our own. And pray every day that the Lord will grant us the wisdom and grace and love to parent all of the children that have been entrusted to us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My perfect life. Unveiled.

I find it rather ironic that my last real post was all about my idyllic home birth. Yes, it was perfect. I couldn't have asked for better. But before you start thinking that just because a few hours of my life went according to plan and therefore my everyday life is full of peaches and flowers and sparkly clean floors, let me enlighten you. IT'S NOT.

My kids.
They fight. ALL.THE.TIME. No matter how consistent our discipline is, my two four-year-olds have made very loud tantrums and hitting each other their hobby. Which they practice multiple times daily. I've been potty training one of my two-year-olds since January and she still likes to grace me with bulging panties when she gets mad at me. Yes. She poops out of spite. My other two-year-old is sweet, but good gracious, she is a walking talking TORNADO! Her current favorite past time includes rubbing bars of soap all over her body and then flooding the bathroom floor in an effort to wash it off. Apparently she really likes being clean.
And my baby, God love him. My sweet nine-week-old son. He's adorable, really. But so crabby. SO cranky, when he's not in my arms 24/7. This might work out sweetly if he was my one and only. But let's not forget that I have four other (very dependent and needy) children to take care of. Yes, my days are anything but pretty.

My garden.
"How do you do it all?" They ask. My answer? I don't. Hence why there are no pictures on this post.
Back in February, I did all the preliminary planning. I ordered the seeds, planted the seeds, and watered them for weeks every day while they grew indoors. Once it was warm enough, I transplanted everything into the beds and started a watering routine.
And then my son was born.
Fast forward nine weeks.
I haven't touched the garden. Who are we kidding? I don't have a spare second! Even when my babysitter is here, I end up using all of that time for laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, endlessly nursing, and writing this whiny blog post. Eric is the man behind the amazing garden, friends. He has faithfully watered, weeded, harvested and reseeded ALL SUMMER. He's amazing, I know. He even made all those jars of pickles with me the entire month of July. If it wasn't for him, I would probably have given up on the garden this year and be back to eating squishy Aldi produce. Just sayin'.

My animals.
Again, Eric's territory. I only step in when he is out of town on business, which only happens a few days each month. Otherwise, I love the animals, but he is their man.

Our real food diet.
While Eric and I are in it together, I do most of the day to day cooking. Eric cooks breakfast for the kids each morning (usually whole grain oatmeal or eggs), and I am in charge of lunch, dinner, and snacks. I do the meal planning and shopping as well. Honestly, I've been cooking from scratch (aka, no tv dinners or pre-boxed meals) for so long that it isn't hard for me to whip up a healthy something for dinner. But if I don't plan well, we end up eating quesadillas or rice and beans a little more often than necessary. Which lately, has been a little wee bit more often than necessary! Aldi's take and bake pizzas are a little too tempting as well....

Eric and I have just recently decided that we would like to get away from commercialized food even more, which means that grocery store meat (which we hardly eat anyway) and my survival organic cheerios, need to go, among a few other things (Like, ahem, those take and bake pizzas...). It's a process, but it's been wonderful to eat all of our vegetables exclusively from our garden this summer. It's also nice to be raising non-picky eaters who say things like, "Mama, I LOVE this eggplant!" and "YAY! Lentils for dinner!" and "Tomato cucumber salad is my favorite!" Granted, my two-year-olds are not quite as enthusiastic about this (and usually one ends up throwing her plate on the floor and the other chooses to not eat at all), but they'll learn!

My marriage.
We're normal. We have problems. Some days are better than others. Most days are just plain exhausting with long work hours for both of us. Do we go out enough alone together? No. Do we wish we did? Yes. Do we get more than five minutes a day to chat without interruption? Not usually. Are we still best friends? Yes. Are we still figuring this whole marriage thing out? Yes, absolutely.

My personal life.
Um, do I have one right now? Sometimes I get to take a shower. That's always nice. Usually I'm paying a babysitter so I can revel in that little five minute treat before the baby starts screaming again. Let's just say there is rarely a few minutes in my day that I am not caring for someone else. If there are a few free minutes, I'm sleeping. Even now, my baby is laying on my lap while I type this. I know this is just a season, and babies don't keep and all, but friends, this season is just plain hard. Also, I just had a baby. So my wardrobe is difficult because nothing really fits yet. Let's just say that without frequent showers, no time for sleep or makeup (luxury!), and only gym shorts that fit, (not to mention the spit up!) I'm not much to look at. The good news is that my kids don't care. And probably Eric is too exhausted to notice much either. So we're good. I don't really go out in public anyway. And my art endeavors? I spent nine months making my latest creation, so I'm currently on sabbatical. ;-)

This kind of sounds whiny. It's not. I'm not unhappy at all. I love my kids, ALL of them. I don't dread waking up in the mornings and usually we have pretty good days, all things considered. But before anyone jumps to unrealistic conclusions about my life, sometimes we just need a reality check. Even me. And someday, when I am sitting around bored to death with my too clean house and manicured lawn, I will want to remember these days....(or not?).

When you hear moms say that they are "in the trenches" with all their littles, it's true. Parenting little ones is hard. Whether you have one or five.

So there you have it. I'm normal. Very imperfect. Very human.
Speaking of imperfect, I'm reading an awesome book right now called No More Perfect Moms, by Jill Savage. Give it a read. It's worth it.

If you're curious about how we plan to spend the weekend, we had this lovely GIANT branch break off from our resident tree last night... Let's just say we have our work cut out for us over here!

And now back to my fairy tale life of too many children who simultaneously burst into song and choreographed dances when going to bed every night. Maybe I'll even re-purpose those old curtains while they're sleeping! (totally kidding...)

Fall again

If you hadn't noticed, I took the summer off of writing. I didn't really plan it, but I had a baby. And after a rather idyllic birth, said baby decided to cry all the time....ALL THE TIME...for weeks....and WEEKS. Finally, at ten weeks (three weeks ago), Oliver woke up one morning, and was HAPPY. Smiles and giggles all around. Not only that, he began sleeping 6-8 hours straight. EVERY NIGHT. And he goes to sleep for the night at 8:30 or 9. He definitely still likes to be held most of the time during the day, but our crazy crying days and nights are (hopefully) over. More sleep = happier mom. And perhaps more productive mom (if you don't count the laundry that I am seriously avoiding).

Finally I feel more rested and physically recovered. And now it is September. I love my baby, I really do, but how did I miss the whole summer?! I'm finally back on my feet and ready to play and everyone is back in school and ordering pumpkin lattes and I am NOT happy about this.

I am not excited about Fall because Autumn means winter. And winter means freezing cold and always one lost mitten and leaky boots and being inside, always inside. And depression. Winter means depression.
At least it did last winter.
And I'm not ready for that. I don't want it and it's not welcome here. But somehow it always comes. I am dreading it.

So to get back to happy things...
This summer we didn't do any traveling, due to the baby's arrival, and, well, we have five kids four and under. So traveling is not necessarily fun or easy, and any sort of vacation is big bucks with all of us and probably more work than it's worth at this point in time. We spent our days playing at playgrounds and splash pads and in a little turtle sandbox-turned-pool in our yard. We grew vegetables and ate them, made jars and jars of pickles and fresh salsa, milked goats and made cheese, improved our animal's living areas, and day dreamed about moving to the country.

And that's pretty much it! The baby is getting chubbier by the day and the girls are growing out of their clothes and shoes faster than I can replace them. Preschool has started up again and we have entered back into a more structured routine. Although I'm not sure if you can ever call parenting five kids under five "structured," but we manage somehow!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Oliver Michael

Oliver Michael came into this world on Wednesday morning, June 18, 2014, at 7:21 AM.
7 lbs 10 oz, 19 1/2 inches
He was born exactly three weeks before his due date of July 9, which happens to be today.

After a very (very) short and intense four hour and thirty minute labor, Oliver was born in the comfort of our own home, surrounded by a wonderful team of midwives, my mom, my sister, and Eric.

I delivered in a birth pool, and eased him out of my body with my own two hands, pulling him up to my chest upon his arrival. It was nothing short of miraculous and quite possibly one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

No tubes, no IVs, no beeping machines and matter of fact nurses. Just a very skilled team of women caring for me in my own home as my body did its work naturally.

On Monday night, June 16, just shy of midnight, my waters spontaneously ruptured. I was genuinely frightened, since I was still not quite 37 weeks yet and was concerned I would be sent to the hospital due to having a premature baby. Fortunately, although my waters were leaking, I had not gone into labor yet. My midwife assured me that normally when this happens, the body will naturally go into labor within 24-48 hours, but usually within 24. And since I was at this point only one day shy of being 37 weeks, they were still comfortable delivering the baby in my home. The next morning, I was having some contractions, though not regular. Knowing the baby was coming soon, we had my dad come to pick up the girls and my mom came to stay. While I paced the house, my mom and Eric got the house and bedroom ready for the delivery. My midwife came over to check on me and drop off the birthing pool (I was supposed to pick it up the next day at my 37 week appointment), and Eric promptly filled it with air, put in the liner and got it set to go. To go along with our wonderful timing, we also discovered a major plumbing issue that morning in the kitchen and had two plumbers making a giant mess in the kitchen for several hours trying to resolve the issue. They were probably a little more than confused about the pregnant lady wandering around the house aimlessly and everyone else bustling around like crazy people.

I took a nap that afternoon and by 5 PM, all contractions had stopped. My midwife called and told me to go to bed and if labor didn't start on it's own in the night, they would try some of their fail proof natural inductions in the morning (aka Castor oil....YUCK!). I went to bed, slept well, and naturally, dreamed that I was in labor. I woke up around 2:45 AM to discover that as a matter of fact, I was. When I started timing my contractions shortly after waking up, they were already 2-4 minutes apart and increasing in intensity. I called the midwife who was on call, Tera, and she arrived shortly after with her assistant, Annie. Funny story about Annie. When my first born Lexi was born at Swedish Covenant hospital, I was in the care of the midwife practice there. During my labor, they called in a volunteer doula to assist me. Annie. Four years later, at my second prenatal appointment with Gentle Birth Care (the home birth midwife group I delivered Oliver with), Annie and I realized that we knew each other and that she had already been to one of my births! It was wonderful having her assist me again, especially now that I had a relationship with her.

A few hours later, my midwife I had most of my prenatal appointments with, Amy, came over to relieve Tera, who had to catch a flight somewhere. I was so happy it worked out for Amy to be there! At this point, I was now in the warm pool and ready to push. With the encouragement and assistance of my birthing team, Oliver was born soon after, emerging out of my body and into my hands. The most beautiful moment of my life. Laughing and crying, I gently pulled him up out of the water onto my chest and discovered that I had just given birth to a son.


While I realize that not everyone can safely have a home birth and many need much more medical assistance that can only be provided in a hospital, I personally couldn't have asked for a better labor and delivery. Eric and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. We are forever thankful that I was able to deliver in the comfort of our own home, with people that we know and trust. My midwives don't treat me like a patient. They treat me like a person. A woman who they want to get to know and respect and care for naturally to the best of their abilities. This is why I have been in the care of midwives for all three of our children. My only regret is that we didn't have home births with the other two as well!

The Lord is good. Our baby is healthy, I am healthy. Our four girls love the baby, but are adjusting to the new pace and tempo around here. Five kids under five is a lot. We even have to get a special waiver from our foster agency in order to continue caring for our foster daughters (who are in the very beginning stages of the adoption process with us)! If we can do it with four, we can do it with five. I just have to get my strength back first. In the meantime, we're welcoming any assistance we can get. :-)

Welcome to our family, baby Oliver. 
Everything from your conception to your birth 
has been a surprise and a daily practice of joy and giving thanks in all things.

We are so incredibly thankful for you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May Garden

Our garden this year is truly much more impressive than last year, by comparison. We have added several more garden beds (3 large box beds, 2 medium beds, and 2 beds that border our fences) and five peach trees to replace a tree that we had to take down because it died.

We started all of our plants this year from seed and have been growing many of them since the beginning of March under a timed grow light in our basement.

It certainly paid off considering how brutally long and cold this winter/spring has been. Our tomatoes are vigorous and huge compared to what we are finding other places in the city! Several are already flowering and have little baby tomatoes on them. Our other plants are doing great as well. We are hopefully going to have a bit more produce this year and perhaps starting earlier in the season as well.

Last year, was our experiment year and we decided to let our tomato plants sprawl everywhere and take over. Mostly because we didn't know what else to do. This year, we are trying a support method that grows the tomato vines vertically around ropes. For the small space we have, this may turn out to be great, and will probably look pretty impressive by the time August gets here.

 This year we also planted many varieties of peppers, eggplant, pole beans, bush beans, squash, watermelon (the small ones), pie pumpkins, sunflowers, herbs, salad greens, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, tomatillos, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, potatoes and rhubarb (which comes up every year in our yard).

And of course, our animals. Who provide us with our milk, eggs, and occasionally meat (when the ducklings grow up and the accident rooster becomes too obnoxious).

And for your amusement, my girls like to practice milking whenever they get the chance. :-)

It is May

I've traded writing and posting pictures to sleeping. And reading books like they are food and I am starving. Welcome to my (approximately) last six weeks of pregnancy. My house is grimy, there are always always always laundry and dishes to wash and fold and stack and put away. I don't remember what color the kitchen floor is when it's not covered in crumbs and dirt. But there are fresh eggs on my counter. There are mason jars of fresh creamy raw milk in my refrigerator. Freshly made cheese on the fridge shelf, and warm bread and salad from the garden for dinner.

I've hit the "nesting" period of pregnancy which has really turned into mental panic because I don't really have the time or energy to scour and scrub and get everything perfect. Honestly I've been spending most of my free time in the garden. There is no nursery to prepare because I don't have an empty bedroom. And by the time my kids are fed and cleaned up and in bed for the night, I am crawling into bed and asleep before 9 PM.

The other day I was lamenting to Eric that our house LOOKS like there are four kids under five living in it. And he looked at me and said, "Um, Beth, that's because there ARE."

And so I have been realizing that our home is what it is. And I am struggling with it, because I would love for it to be pinterest worthy and all, but it's not. And the amazing thing is, THAT'S OK. And whether or not my pantry is organized and all the mail piled high in the kitchen is sorted through, this baby is going to come soon and be loved. And everyone will continue to eat and play and get hugged and kissed and cuddled and clothed and diapered. And if the floors only get swept once a week because that's all I can manage, then so be it. At least we are enjoying our lives and learning to love our five little kids and eating so well.

A lot of people (ok, make that everyone) ask me "How do you do it?" Like I am some superhero mom who has it all together and can parent (almost) five little kids and manage eating a real food diet while gardening and taking care of animals and foster parenting (which can be VERY very different from normal parenting much of the time). Here's the truth.

My life doesn't feel extraordinary.

And it certainly isn't glamorous.

There are many days that I slump on the floor in tears while three of girls are tearing up the house and the fourth is throwing another epic 45 minute tantrum. But then there are beautiful moments too. When the girls tell me with a hug that I am a good mom. That they love me. That they are happy. When they smile and run into our arms like we have the same blood running through our veins.
We garden and have animals because we love it and we also love eating well and eating what our hands have planted and grown and raised and milked. We parent because the Lord has blessed us with children. We foster parent because there are kids in this city without a loving home to call there own, and we have made ourselves available to loving them as our own, baggage and all.

Our life is messy, but it is purposeful. So there are dishes in the sink resembling Mount Everest. And the very long tantrums and aggression with our preschoolers continue every day. And we are six weeks or less out from baby and I am waddling around like a penguin with skinny legs.

But really, in the end, our messy life right now is really quite beautiful.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Milking tales

My two-year-old Lyla has thrown my tiny netbook computer on the floor one too many times. All of my USB ports finally broke, so no pictures can be uploaded at the moment. Not that I had any free hands to capture this event with my camera anyway, but I guess I felt the need for a valid excuse.

Now that our goat kids are old enough, we have begun the daily morning milking. On the days that Eric is not home or has to leave early for work, I take over the morning shift. Of course, it's cold and rainy this morning and I have to milk. It's May and the low temps are back in the 30's. Nobody is happy about this. At eight months pregnant, I am still battling morning sickness every day and would prefer to not have to spend my nauseous moments wrestling with a goat's rump in order to get milk in the pail. But I do, because let's be honest, I may not love the moment, but I do love my goats and the rich milk they produce! So there I am in the drizzle, sitting on the milk stanchion with one arm wrapped around Jane's rump to keep her still and the other hand working her teat to get the milk out.

Jane doesn't have the most wonderfully placed teats in the world, which makes getting the milk into the pail kind of a challenge. Yesterday it took me several minutes before I looked down and discovered that I had thoroughly coated my jacket with milk and not one drop had landed in the pail at all. This morning I paid slightly more attention to the pail's position and had a good rhythm going until Jane finished the grain in the feeder. At which point she began to bawl and buck her head to get it out of the stanchion. Now, I'm sure that most people have heard a goat bleat, but probably not as many have heard them scream. Let me tell you, this scream is eerily human sounding and extremely loud. I wouldn't care if we were on a farm, but at 7 in the morning in the city with neighbors' windows literally ten feet away, it becomes a bit of an issue.
So of course, Jane starts screaming and I am only halfway done. Still wrestling with her rump to hold her still (with my very pregnant belly getting in the way the entire time), I start on the other side. Frothy rich milk streams into the pail, steaming. Love. I am finally feeling good about this milking session. Jane is still screaming, so I look up and start talking to her to soothe her as I milk. I guess that was her cue.

Now we have milk with goat berries.
Dump the pail, start again.

Finally, I finish. With less than half of what I would have gotten due to the berry issue, at least I have enough milk to bring inside and strain. I gather up my milking supplies and pail to bring inside. And just as I am reaching to open the latch on the gate of the pen, our other mama goat, Claire, jumps up behind me and puts both of her front feet smack into my milk pail. The pail tips. The milk dumps. I shout some mild expletives and aim a swift kick at her (which she pranced away from just in time). I'm covered in milk, Claire's covered in milk, the ground is covered in milk. Jane is following me around and still screaming. It's still raining.

I go into the house and there is Lexi in the mud room, all smiles. "Did you get some milk for us, Mama?!? I'm so excited!"

Nope. No milk. Not even a drop.
Eric is back on duty tomorrow. Can't wait. :-)

Monday, April 14, 2014

City girl, Country heart

Lexi's daily farm chores:
 Gathering eggs

 Hugging and kissing all the chickens (yes, every day). Because of this, she's also the best chicken catcher out of all of us!

Giving lots of love to the baby goats

And being her wonderful, giggling, happy self. :-)
What can I say? This girl loves her life. 
I'm thankful we got into urban farming last year! If we have to live in the big city for a while, we might as well make it awesome!

Happy birthday Lyla!

Last Thursday we celebrated two years of life with our sweet Lyla Grace. 
 Since the girls are such early risers, Lyla is usually in bed for the night by the time Eric gets home from work. Because of this, we have family breakfasts several times a week in the wee hours of dawn. This also holds true for birthday parties, and allows Aunt Alli to be able to participate with us as well.  :-)

Lyla was so excited about the blueberry muffin and the bacon that she was shaking! 
My daughters aren't huge meat eaters (probably since we only eat it once a week if that), but they DO love bacon!!
Present time!! We try to get our kids presents that the whole household can benefit from. This year, Lyla received some books (which are always in high demand at our house), animal magnets for the refrigerator, a no-spill bubble bucket, summer sandals, and a new dress along with a bank from Grandma and Grandpa.

After Eric and my sister Alli left for work, we spent the morning playing outside in the sun and blowing bubbles with Lyla's new bubble bucket. Seriously, these no spill buckets are well worth the money with all these toddler hands around!!!

 After playing outside, we had a cupcake decorating party. And who needs to invite friends when we already have four in the house?! Each girl got a paper plate with a cupcake, a dollop of homemade buttercream frosting, some sprinkles, and a spoon to spread the frosting with. As soon as they finished decorating their cupcakes, they ate them. :-)

Happy 2nd birthday to our sweet girl!