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Joel and William

Joel and William

It’s hard to believe my youngest will be turning four in two months—he’s growing up so fast. In the midst of the busyness of raising children, it’s difficult to imagine a time when there aren’t little ones about, but now I find it’s just around the corner.

It’s been my goal for these sixteen years of childrearing to treasure the time with my children. I’ve often failed in this. There have been seasons when my focus has been elsewhere. But God has been faithful to remind me that the time is short with my children, and to draw my heart back to delighting in the simple joys of mothering.

During this time of raising children, I’ve experienced more pain and more joy than I ever thought possible—and if I had the choice I’d do it all over again.

This is life—raw and uncontained—where I’ve discovered the depths of love in a thousand acts of devotion, from a droopy sunflower handed to me from a chubby fist to heart-shaped cards found hidden in my suitcase while away from home.

Were the sleepless nights worth it? Yes! Or the horrifyingly embarrassing moments when my children have vomited in restaurants or knocked over shopping carts? Yes—worth it even then.

Tonight we went out for Chinese food and several times my three-year-old, Joel, had us all laughing. At one point he belted out, “I need champagne!” (He meant chow mein.) After our meal he was handed his very first fortune cookie. Everyone was reading their fortunes when one of my sons asked Joel where his fortune paper was. “I guess I eated it,” was Joel’s solemn reply. I’m afraid I laughed long and hard at his deep sigh. (His big sister soon made it all better by giving him her fortune.)

I’ll miss having a three-year-old around! It’s always at this point—when my youngest is two or three—that I start begging my husband for another baby. But I promised I wouldn’t ask him again, and I am content with my six wild and wonderful children…but I’ll still miss having a little one to make me laugh.

I’m enjoying every stage—teaching my six-year-old to read, being startled when my eleven-year-olds jump out of dark closets to make me scream, watching my thirteen-year-old blossom in her first part-time job, learning chemistry along with my fifteen-year-old—but I’ll never have another one, two or three-year-old again.

And so here I am—making a recommitment to…cherish the moment.

 

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“Who are you and what have you done with my wife?” Kevin pulled away from me, and his mouth fell open. Moments before we were getting ready to pray together—like we do every night—when I asked him if our daughters could go on a school trip to Hawaii.

It was out of character.

Since our oldest daughter was born, we’d held our children close and sought to protect them. When other 5-year-olds boarded a bus and went to school, I kept mine at home to teach them myself. Our children stayed with us during church instead of going to Sunday school. We felt that it was our duty to teach our children the Bible.

Of upmost importance for both of us was to protect our children. Too sheltered? A greenhouse? Maybe, but our children were happy and thriving, and we wanted them to be strong and have a firm foundation before being thrust into the world.

I’m not sorry for those years of holding them close.

But it dawned on me that there had to be a time of letting go too. In only a few years, our oldest would be old enough to go to college. We’d protected her and sought to teach her truth, responsibility and honesty, but what had we done to prepare her to stand on her own?

I was notified of a Biology 11 class that included a trip to Hawaii. It sounded like an incredible opportunity for hands-on learning, and both of our daughters have interests in that field. The thought of sending them that far away terrified me, but I prayed about it and then asked Kevin what he thought.

“Do you really want them to do this?” Kevin finally asked.

“I don’t know, but Myra’s 14 and she might be leaving home in four years. We need to be thinking about ways to prepare both her and us for this.”

We decided to send them to camp last summer and see how that went before deciding whether or not they would go to Hawaii. Even sending them to camp was hard, but a close friend was going to be the camp nurse for the summer and the kids’ home teacher would be there too.

The girls had an incredible time at camp. They came home tired, happy, and more confident. We signed them up for the Hawaii trip.

The interactive class completely engaged both girls. They took part in v-classes with their teacher and the other students. They did group projects, and were forced to look at some big issues—like evolution—and learn where they stood on them.

They were scared the day we stood in the airport. They cried when they hugged us goodbye, but they were ready for this. We’d spent years loving them, protecting them, and teaching them. It was time to fly.

Of course I worried about them. I’m a mom. On the morning we were to pick them up at the airport, I had a few meltdowns. The hotel put us down for the wrong time for the shuttle to the airport, and the girls’ plane was ahead of schedule. I was beyond upset at the thought that we wouldn’t be there when they got off the plane.

As it turns out…we were there an hour early and by far the first parents there.

I watched them come through the doors trailing their suitcases. They scanned the crowd. Anxiously. Looking for us. I waved, and they came running. They threw down their bags and suitcases and squeezed us tightly. I wasn’t ashamed of the tears on my cheeks.

The girls had been on the plane all night and had slept very little, but it didn’t keep them from talking excitedly about their trip most of the 11-hour drive home. I laughed when Myra said she woke up on the plane and saw Melanie sleeping with her head face down on the table in front of her. I laughed even harder when I heard the story of how they accidently stole a cooler from the beach and when they opened it, it was full of rice. Cooked rice.

It was a celebration. We were together.

Myra is now looking for a job. She wants to go on the school trip to Europe next year. A longer trip. Further away.

They grew up on this trip. They are more confident, more vibrant. The letting go has begun.

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Love Sick

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a two day doula workshop. It was hard for me to go. I fretted about being gone so much and it was the longest that I’ve been away from my one year old.

The course was scheduled for 9 hours on Saturday and Sunday and then I had 3 hours of driving on top of that both days.  I’m so thankful that I was able to go though. It was an incredible group of women and we shared both laughter and tears.

Apparently, William asked for me throughout the weekend and both he and Joel started up a chant at one point, “Mama, Mama, Mama!” 🙂 Oh, how sweet it was to come home and be surrounded by all their beautiful smiles. Kevin and I kept the little boys up a bit late on Saturday and we just snuggled and played on the floor together.

On Sunday, Kevin texted me a picture of William and Joel that he had taken that day. “The day in their lives that you missed!” my friend quipped, and I felt the sting of tears behind my eyes. “Two days!” I said with a pang. I longed to be home, but I also wanted to take the opportunity to visit some friends I don’t often get to see. I left their house at 8:00 pm and still had an hour drive before I got home. I tried not to drive too fast, but I was worried that the children would all be in bed.

I ran up to the house and joy flooded through me when I saw Joel quietly playing while Kevin played guitar. My baby… my sweet baby. “Joel,” I called to him softly. He turned and gave me a gentle smile. I gathered him into my arms and he just melted, his little body snuggling into my embrace. I danced around the room with him. He rarely cuddles now. There’s just so much to see and do! But that night he just wanted to be close. After a while I sat on the couch with him and he would jump into my arms and wriggle his little head into the nape of my neck and then jump up, laugh, and do it all over again.

Yes, absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder, or at least it makes us realize how precious our loved ones are. But, like taking too long of a break from exercise, I think that absence also weakens our stamina! I have found myself thinking, “Wow, six kids is a lot of kids!” But when I’m away… I know that there’s nowhere that I’d rather be than right here at home… surrounded by those that I love.

The day that I missed

The day that I missed

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Tonight was movie night. My husband tends to pick westerns and adventure films. I pick dramas and tear jerkers. It was my night to pick a movie. Yep, I’ve been crying.

We watched The Grace Card. It came across as somewhat low budget, but the acting was great and the story powerful. I won’t ruin the movie for you, but God took the repentance and forgiveness theme and brought it home to my heart.

“What’s wrong?” my husband asked as my tears made a damp spot on his jeans. “I just want to be a good mom,” I managed to sputter.

Really, I had no idea that being a mom would be this hard. I thought that “all we needed was love.” And now, 13 years into motherhood, I realize that I will never be “good enough.” I will make mistakes. I will fall short. I will hurt my children. And that… is why I was crying.

Wednesday I was exhausted and irritable. Thursday and today I was still feeling rundown and got caught up with homeschool and weight loss. In short, I’ve been a grumpy and distracted mom and my relationship with my children has suffered.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1 John 1:9

Is there anything as lovely as grace and forgiveness? Oh how sweet this is to me! I prayed, “Lord, please forgive me for hurting your little ones,” and He did, He does. Tomorrow, I will ask my precious children to forgive me. That’s the reset button… repentance.

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April 10th 2013, 11:00 am

I’m curious about how this day will turn out and decided to write this journal style. I’m inwardly laughing and I know that I shouldn’t be!

It is Myra’s 13th birthday today. (Wow, thirteen years ago I became a mom!) One of my 8 year old sons tends to go wild when the routine changes and he doesn’t handle excitement very well. I noticed that he was starting to get really hyper over all the birthday excitement. “I’ve got to get things under control.” I said to myself.

Too late…

My son got in an argument with a sibling and stomped off to his room. I pushed against the door and found it wouldn’t budge. “Please move away from the door,” I said and then gave the door a harder shove.

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“I’m not against the door,” was the reply. That’s when I noticed that solitary seeking son had wedged screw drivers under the door, and that I, had gotten them stuck tight by pushing against the door.

I’ll admit. I really haven’t tried very hard to open the door. There was room under the door to pass some school work and pencils and I will be able to give him some food, (crackers anyway.) Things are wonderfully calm and peaceful and I think that it is a fitting consequence for the aforementioned outburst.

I find it absolutely hilarious and I’ve had a terrible time trying to keep a straight face around the children. I am reminded about being locked in a bathroom with a friend when I was about his age (maybe a little older.) We were there for hours and hours and my friend’s brother threw us cherries through the window, (that was unfortunately too small to get out of.) Finally we were rescued when a family friend broke down the door. It’s a good memory. Maybe that’s why I’m laughing inside. He’s making memories!

I also know that my husband will not see the humor in it, especially if he has to break down the door…

Oh my… I’m sure I’ll never grow up!

To be continued…

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Everything Old is New Again

I looked out the window this week to see my children running down the driveway with a green tarp billowing behind them. They were having the greatest time and would all scream when the tarp would fill with air and lift off the ground. Children are so incredibly resourceful! The tarp had originally been the roof of a gazebo that was given to us (thanks Mom!) It had been great during the summer, but a storm had crippled it and I was happy the children were enjoying the remains.

The following day the children had it attached behind their bikes and took turns pulling it. Later on, I overheard plans to jump out of the fort with it! “That tarp will not have time to fill with air before you hit the ground! Don’t do it!” I admonished them.

“Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t work,” they agreed nodding.

“And it won’t work out of a tree either!” I added, remembering what I had been like as a child. It’s pretty important to stay one step ahead of these guys! I did actually jump out of my fort with an umbrella as a child, (I was under the influence of Mary Poppins. Believe me, movies do affect us!)  🙂


Here’s a little video of my children trying to fly. 🙂

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A Time To Play

I always find that I spend time in deep reflection on the eve of my children’s birthdays. It is a little painful to realize how quickly they are growing. It is when I become acutely aware of the passage of time, a lot like when the leaves fall from the trees and I say good-bye to a summer that will never be seen again.

William’s third birthday came and went a week and a half ago. He could remember Myra and Melanie’s birthdays and was delighted to know that the balloons were in celebration of his birthday. We sang “Happy Birthday” to him and he beamed. What a special three years it has been!

It is at times like this that I realize that this is, and will be, the pinnacle of my life. It is when I realize that the days, the weeks, the years, are slipping past like the sand in an hour glass.  For the rest of my time here I will look back on these crazy, busy, wonderful years with a smile in my eyes and an ache in my heart.

I am very privileged to have several dear friends whose children are grown. They have so much wisdom to share with me, but perhaps the thing that they most want me to know is that these years when I am surrounded by my little ones are short, so very short. Their message to me is to enjoy this time, and yet I often forget, and the realization that the time is passing quickly sneaks up on me and surprises me every time!

I have found that the best way to really enjoy my children is to be play with them. I don’t know why, but I find taking the time to play with my children is very hard to do. It feels like I’m not accomplishing anything, but in reality it is connecting the hearts of my children to mine and that is one of my most important tasks here on earth.

So here’s to a summer of tickling my baby, playing tag, building castles out of cushions and sheets and splashing in the water. I want to look back on this summer and know that we played together, that we laughed together, that we had fun together. 🙂

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