Posted in Parenting

Big Little Things

It is difficult to focus on anything when I am involuntarily wearing a thirty-pound toddler necklace. The banalities of stay-at-home parenthood — simply making it through the day — tend to overshadow the goal of raising the next generation of leaders.

I get bogged down and discouraged because I have to vacuum up cereal several times a day, referee sibling contentions, help three kids with homework simultaneously, and do my own class work. The cycle is never ending.

We took the Princess and the Monster on our ordinary mission Saturday to buy khakis, training pants & wipes, and shoes for me. My husband had jokes about how utterly unstylish my current footwear is. Of course, I am always the last one to get new clothes and shoes because we are blessed with so many children 🙂 He had just helped me decide on a pair of flats when a young man approached us.

This young man named Cole prayed with us and spoke words of insight about our two children who were present. It was an unusual encounter, but I was encouraged. Ever since that day, I have been hearing messages about the importance of raising children.

I have always been good with children. I began babysitting when I was eleven years old. I volunteered in the nursery at church as a teenager. I worked at a children’s shoe store for years. I just wasn’t sure I wanted any children of my own. Thinking about my own childhood kept me from wanting to take the chance that someone would hurt my children.

Then I met my husband, who already had a son and a daughter. When he obtained custody of his son, we decided that I would stop working and prepare him for kindergarten. My mother-in-law bought him a workbook with a CD ROM and we got down to business. Number One was totally prepared for kindergarten. In fact, he didn’t learn anything new until the second semester. By then, I was well into the second trimester of my pregnancy with The Genius.

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This is the first time in eight years that I have not had one child in training pants and one in diapers. I am going to miss the feeling of tiny appendages assaulting my internal organs while I am trying to sleep. The carrying season is over for me, but the nurturing season is in full swing. I was blessed to have Number One to set the example of how to treat younger siblings. He has instilled in all his siblings the legacy of loving and valuing one other. I have not had to deal with jealousy or fear that they would harm each other. With each new addition, they have extended their love.

Parenthood is a privilege and a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Our children have been entrusted to us for a short time. They are not pawns. They are not leverage. They are not dolls. They are small people with intellect, emotion, and will. They are priceless. So be careful with them.

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Posted in Life, Parenting

Shenanigans

Sometimes it takes a rough day (or week/month/year) to help me appreciate the little things. There is just something about going through hard times that makes me more sensitive to the beauty in the world. The tight squeeze my son greets me with when I wake him in the morning. The stars still visible opposite the sunrise. A smile and “good morning” from a stranger.

I had no idea that I would come to treasure the memories of my children’s various shenanigans. Those of you who have miniature clones of yourselves know (or will soon find out) that children should come equipped with DEFCON warning systems. None of my children are “bad” per se, but they have made life more interesting – some more than others. I mean, Ricochet scaled the big kid rock wall like a ninja at the park when he wasn’t even two years old. When I sat down to make a list, The Genius and The Monster had the longest toddler rap sheets in our household.

wp-1491026013919.jpgThe Genius had a huge afro by the time he was three months old. He was notorious for using his hair as a napkin. I had to shampoo spaghetti, petroleum jelly, and deodorant out of his hair. When The Genius was a bit more than eighteen months old, I was pregnant with Ricochet. The morning sickness was terrible. Because our eldest son’s room was right next to the bathroom, I would block his doorway with a safety gate and lie across his bed all day while The Genius played with toys and watched DVDs. One day, I went to the kitchen to get The Genius some lunch. Upon my return, a distinct odor assaulted me before I even rounded the corner. This toddler had distributed his diaper contents throughout the room. It was in the carpet, on the bunk beds, on the wall, and (of course!) all up in his hair. Usually, a boy gets his first haircut at two years old. Well, my husband decided that eighteen months was good enough.

The Monster is certainly the busiest child we have had. This boy is fearless. He was trying to climb stairs before he could even walk. He regularly climbed onto our bistro dining table. The other children would often scream, “He’s on the table AGAIN!”. I once discovered him squatting on the kitchen counter, playing in the oil in the deep fryer as if it were water. I had to bathe him with dishwashing liquid to degrease him. Now that he has grown a bit, he drops his shoulder and tackles his brothers like a professional linebacker. He is also our resident demolitions expert. He cannot stand to see a tidy room. You know where he has been because you can follow his trail. The Monster packs a lot of shenanigans into a day.wp-1491026036072.jpg

I have been having a trying month, but I have become aware of how blessed I am to have happy, healthy, curious children to love and clean up after. Plus, I have loads of blackmail material.

Posted in Life, Parenting

Bootprints

I get up early to walk two of our children to their bus stop. Our teenage son usually walks ahead of me and The Princess because her five-year-old legs can’t keep up. It’s okay. I cherish those few minutes alone with my daughter. Sometimes she talks to me, telling me what she knows about the moon and the stars we see above us. In autumn, I hold her hand so she can crunch the fallen leaves under her feet. When it rains, she is delighted to carry her own umbrella and tap dance around the puddles.

Not that it is winter, we walk in the dark. The skies are gray and the sidewalk is under a blanket of snow. The temperature has plummeted and we dress accordingly. The snow pants The Princess wears over her school clothes are light but bulky. She waddles like a penguin, but she makes it to the bus stop.fog-79456

However, winter being winter, the pleasant walks are less frequent. This morning, we awoke to a couple extra inches of snow. It isn’t a big deal to me or my teen, but the snow is like quicksand to The Princess’s five-year-old legs. She put on her backpack and hopped onto my back before we even left the house. When we stepped outside, the wind whipped the falling snowflakes so that they felt like minute shurikens slashing my cheeks. My hood blew off my head several times as we walked. The Princess put it back up as she huddled against my back, shielding her face from the wind.

Our walk today reminded me of Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson. We walk with our Father through the seasons of our lives. Sometimes we hold His hand, letting Him guide us and trusting that He knows where He is going. Other times, we run off on our own – panicking when we realize how lost we are. Then there are days like today, when the snow is deep and the cold wind slaps us in the face with freezing rain. We clutch His hand, but we struggle to keep up. So He hoists us onto his back, shielding us from the brunt of the weather and carrying us (plus whatever we have crammed into our backpacks).

“You are my hiding place and my shield”

Psalm 119:114a (NASB)

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Posted in Parenting, Uncategorized

Mom Regret

I feel like I have done one of my children a disservice. Soon after I had him, my husband and I separated. I had to go back to work after being a stay at home mom for four years. I was still nursing. I had to put my boys in day care. I agonized over all this.

I am blessed to have had a lot of people support me and come through for me during that difficult time. My sister kept my boys for me. My mother welcomed me (plus two!) back into my childhood home. My former supervisor found a place for me with the company he worked for at that time. Everything seemed to be working out. My husband and I even began the process of reconciliation.

In the back of my mind, I still feel as if I failed my son. When I have talked with people about this, I am told, “Hey, you did the best you could!” Did I? I was only able to nurse him for about nine months compared to the eighteen months I nursed my firstborn (and the two children I had after him). He is the pickiest eater I have ever met! He was at day care all day almost every day. Was anyone talking to him? Am I responsible for his speech delay because I was not there to talk to him like I did with my other children? When he grows up, will he resent his name because it doesn’t begin with an A like his siblings?

Perhaps my worries are unfounded. My son, Ricochet (like the cartoon rabbit), has bounced off of all those early challenges. He is now a straight A student in first grade. He is the most fun-loving, care-free, responsible child we have – even if he loathes vegetables and dinner entrees. He loves Spider-Man, watching sports with his dad, and running. Lots and lots of running. I can’t believe he sits still in school. His teacher had to send me a photo to prove it.

While it is still a battle to get him to try new foods, Ricochet seems to have suffered no ill effects from my perceived failures as a mother. I’m beginning to cut myself a little slack.

Posted in Parenting, Uncategorized

The Monster

There is nothing like going to a doctor’s appointment to discuss birth control and being politely informed that you are pregnant (again).

My husband had two children before we married. We planned to have one together, but that one (The Genius) opened the floodgates. We had a child every other year like clockwork. Almost. We had a miscarriage between the second and third, but our daughter was born a year (to the day!) after the loss. She was supposed to be the last.

I should have known something was up. Throughout that spring, The Genius kept rubbing my belly and asking, “Who’s in there?” I laughed it off at first, but he persisted for months. It wasn’t so funny after the positive pregnancy test.

I knew I was ready to be finished having children because of how upset I was at the prospect of having another child. I was downright mean to my husband and I cried and complained for a month. Then the morning sickness began and I kicked my hatefulness up a few notches. God bless my husband! Not only did he put up with the abuse, but he also spoke life into me. He carried me.

It took a few months, but I grew excited about the little person relentlessly kicking me in the diaphragm. He was born two days after my birthday, a couple of weeks before his due date. Now, The Monster is approaching two years old and he is a tiny version of my husband: brilliant, handsome, fearless. He gets into everything within his reach, which has grown considerably since the summer. He jumps constantly and climbs anything that will make him feel taller. He commandeers his siblings’ toys and fiercely defends his territory. The Monster is a cyclone, a force to be reckoned with. What am I going to do?

Posted in Parenting, Uncategorized

The Distracted Genius

One of my sons, The Genius, has had an individual education plan (IEP) since preschool. His evaluation team report (ETR) indicates autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD). At the end of his year of preschool, the school psychologist administered an IQ test out of curiosity. He scored low average in receptive/expressive speech and below average in social pragmatics. His overall score was still 139. According to the psychologist, the results were encouraging because the areas in which his score was low are skills that he can learn. Last summer, we completed the evaluation process and he was officially diagnosed with ASD. I am certain that he also has ADD, but I am putting off the diagnostic process.

The Genius is in third grade this year. It is a challenge to get him to complete his homework. The other day, I decided to make a list of things that distracted him. There were eight things within ten minutes!

Things were going well until he needed a bathroom break. While he was upstairs, the electricity went off. This sent all five of the children in the house into a panic. I was in the kitchen preparing to fry some chicken. There was screaming and fumbling as they all wandered around trying to find me. The electricity came back on a few moments later, but the damage had been done. He had a difficult time focusing from then on. Here is the list of distractions:

  1. The bruise on his shin
  2. Food stuck between his teeth
  3. An itch behind his ear
  4. The skin peeling off of his perpetually chapped lips (thank goodness for medicated lip balm)
  5. The movie playing two rooms away
  6. The flour on my fingers (from frying chicken)
  7. The overhead light blinking
  8. (and my personal favorite) the way I said “no no no no” in response to an incorrect answer on his math homework. It prompted him to pound a beat on the table and begin singing “Here Comes the Hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze.

Enjoy!