Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The New Normal

It is currently zero degrees outside. Zero degrees. This may not seem like something significant to the many millions of people in our great nation who regularly experience the fifth season (spring, fall, summer, winter, frigid), but for me it marks yet another line in the sand as I become acquainted with my new normal.

My backyard is covered in snow. Not my friends' backyard where we are visiting. Not the backyard of a picture I happen to be viewing. Not even the imaginary backyard I pictured covered in snow while still living where there are only two seasons (fog, and not fog). Nope. None of these, but my actual backyard. It's another new normal.

We worshipped at our new normal church.

I bought groceries at my new normal store.

My kids played at their new normal friends' houses.

I now have a heated water bottle for the rabbit hutch, salt pellets for a water softener, and a fridge that provides filtered drinking water out of the door. Every one a new normal.

In fact, besides some basic facts regarding my name and some legal documentation that permanently connects me to eight little people and one man, there is just about nothing left of my old normal.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just - is.

I am learning to like the new normal and be content to simply remember the old normal with fondness. It takes time to make new associations, build new relationships, figure out the best route for that 10pm sweet tooth craving. I know that it will all come in time.

And while I wait I sit here, considering the magnitude of what brought me to this point in the story, and shake my head that God made it all work.

Evangeline - who will only ever remember the new normal

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The 80's

 You know you grew up in the 80's if.....
You know what "Sike" means.
You know the profound meaning of "Wax on. Wax off."
You know that another name for a keyboard is a "Synthesizer".
You can sing the McDonald's Big Mac, Filet-o-fish, quarter pounder, and French fry song.
You know who Mr. T is.
You know who Fat Albert is. 
You ever wore fluorescent, neon clothing.
You could breakdance, or wish you could.
You Believed that "By the power of Greyskull, you HAD the power!"
Partying "like it's 1999" seemed SO far away.
You thought that Transformers (the original) were more than meets the eye.
You knew that knowing is half the battle.
You wanted to be on Star Search.
You wore a banana clip at some point during your youth.
You remember the garbage pail kids, and owned some.
You knew "Rut row raggy" and "Zoinks."
You HAD to have your MTV & you  watched music videos on it..
You remember when ATARI was a state of the art video game system.
You owned cassettes.

You remember life before minivans and SUVs.
You remember and/or owned any of the Care Bear glasses collection from Pizza Hut or the Muppets glasses from McDonalds
You knew who Ben Stein was before you could win his money, "Bueller?"
You carried your lunch to school in a Gremlins, ET, Dukes of Hazard, Knight Rider, Strawberry Shortcake or A-Team lunch box.
You know what leg warmers are and probably had a pair.
You wore your Izod shirt with the collar up.
You had a Swatch Watch with the Swatch Guard.
You remember when Happy Meals came in a box, not a paper bag.
You remember when Saturday Night Live was funny.
You know what a "Push Up" ice cream is.
You had to change into play clothes after school.
You owned, or knew somebody with a Commodore 64.
You hated Scrappy Doo.
You recorded songs off the radio with your boom box.
Somehow you still know all the words to songs played on VH1's "Big 80's" ("it's been 7 hours & 15 days...")
Your arm was full of rubber bracelets.
You have ever said, "Gag me with a spoon."
You have ever wondered what happened to Saturday morning cartoons.
You had to get up to change the channel.
You can still sing 1 to 12 from the Pinball machine on Sesame Street.
You thought the "Thriller" video was pretty cool.
You remember the first time you went into a video store to rent a movie.
You wore those wide, colorful shoelaces.
Quiet Riot's "Come on feel the noise" was the best song - ever.
You still cannot go in to the water because of that damn movie - Jaws.
El Debarge's "Get a beat to the Rhythm of the night" plagued the radio every hour.
You were led to believe that in the year 2000 we'd all be living on the moon.


Monday, August 19, 2013



     hardy. As much as my first-born is a girl, and loves to do girly things, she isn't afraid of hard work. Hannah doesn't struggle much with a complaining attitude, and takes life in stride whether it is handing out roses or sending rain.

     awesome. I love her! She is fun to be around and has a great laugh. She has grown so much in her conversational style, and the two of us really enjoy hanging out with one another. We can have a great laugh together, or simply read in silence.
     neat. Hannah is a neat girl, both in her management of stuff and her personality. She is respectful and sensitive to cleaning up her messes (as well as helping with her younger siblings' stuff). I rarely need to concern myself with her belongings. But more than that, she is a really cool girl.

     nice. I want to apply this most especially to her work with her younger siblings. Hannah works hard to participate in caring for her brothers and sisters. She is responsible, and takes that responsibility seriously. Rather than ignore their needs, she will find ways to resolve situations with them and between them. As a freshman in high school she is still not above playing Polly Pocket, Legos, or catch with the other kids.

   active. Even with asthma she readily jumps into any sport being played. She runs hard and loses well. Hannah also keeps an active mind with reading, reading, reading. She adores books, and finds just about any excuse to stop and peruse one.       

     honest. I think of all my children Hannah is the most naturally honest one of the bunch. She has never been one for telling lies, and I can consistently count on getting the truth without a bunch of rigamarole - even when it is not in her favor. I genuinely appreciate this characteristic, and know that it will serve her well in life.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Better Late Than Never

I'm not going to even presume that any of you remember a while back when I did a series of posts using my children's names for acrostics. Let's just say that Phoebe wasn't included in the list because she was a tiny baby, and only God knew about Evangeline. However, there is yet another glaring absence in the list.

Hannah. My eldest.

I ran into her post in a list of drafts that were never published. It was entirely completed! Don't ask. I have no idea. But you may ask me why I'm telling you this rather than just publishing the post. Because I don't want you to think that I am shirking my other children when you read upcoming posts for Hannah, Phoebe, and Evangeline, but none for my other children. They are there, I tell you! I'll even give you the links:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Just Wait Until They Are Teenagers!

Hannah and Bethany spent a recent evening babysitting. The family has two very young daughters who are sweet to watch. On the way home the mom was peppering the girls with questions about their transition through tween/teen-dom and whether or not they were content with the path their father and I have chosen. I was amused by her inquiries and blessed by the girls' responses, because I remember being in her shoes, staring at my toddler and baby, and wondering how on earth I was going to raise them to love Jesus and respect themselves. I never dreamed I would enjoy the journey this much!

As my two daughters excitedly talked over one another, anxious to share with me their perspective on the conversation, I secretly took note of the moment. It was a sweet realization that... so far, so good.

Here is why:

1. They wanted to talk to me. This may seem altogether obvious, but as our children begin to grow into independent beings it isn't necessarily a given that they will include you in the ride. Actively listening to them as toddlers, pre-schoolers and grade-schoolers is one of the most important, long-term investments you will ever make. It is the foundation to having open, healthy dialogue during transitional phases in your child's life. If they felt belittled, condescended to, or minimized by your responses to their 6-year old concerns you will have a difficult time convincing them that you will respect their 14-year old concerns. Also, it is vital that you maintain a proper perspective on this battle for communication. You know the saying: Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff.? Yeah, that doesn't apply to immature humans. They have no ability to discern what is important and what isn't. This means you have to listen to it ALL, because in between the fear over the haircut hurting and their frustration that little Tommy always gets to pick the game first is a soft whisper that tells you how insecure they are around the neighborhood kids; and the pressure to feel accepted by them is pushing them to think about crossing boundaries you never dreamed would be ideas at their age. It all gets lumped into one long, run-on sentence babbled at the most inconvenient of times. So remember, the payoff is worth the ten minute saga on why Jenny was their friend yesterday but not today (even though you and I both know she will be her friend tomorrow).

2. They trust me and their father. One of the questions the mom asked was when the girls began trusting us to guide them in their decisions. The girls giggled with me about their answer. Bethany stated, "I wanted to say, 'Um, since birth!' But I knew that would be disrespectful so I just let Hannah answer." Hannah's response was along the same lines just without the snarky. "I just told them we have always trusted you." Both girls found it incomprehensible to consider a point when they began trusting us because of the admission that in order to start trusting you had to, by default, not trust. Bingo. Children are designed by their creator to implicitly trust their parents. It begins as babies when their very lives hinge on our provision. It continues through early childhood when we remain available to kiss boo-boos and lavish affection upon them. Through the middle years it is built up by our consistent, reasonable expectations, which develops responsibility and maturity they never knew existed in themselves. Finally, it is capped by the many small and large ways we remain true to the same character qualities we demand of them. Children are insanely protective of their perceptions regarding fairness. If we reprimand them for blatant wrongdoing we had better play by the same rules. Making mistakes is part of growing up. It is also part of parenting. Be prepared to apologize.

3. They desire my counsel and insight. While Bethany did not give her snarky reply to the question of when she began trusting me she did respond to the inquiry about her contentment in allowing me to direct her choices, especially concerning dating and relationships. "My mom has a much better plan than I would come up with on my own!" While I am deeply humbled by her honoring words I also know that she could only come to that conclusion by knowing what my plan is. You must share your vision with your children so they understand where you are directing them. And why. And you must start early. By now my older girls recognize that I have their best at the heart of my choices because I have informed them of my motivation in much smaller decisions throughout their lives. Speaking plainly about respecting themselves in the face of difficult friendships even at 6 and 7 years old helped them to see this truth. I don't want them to be victims, driven by the whims of people who picked them rather than confidently choosing their own friends based on mutual respect and enjoyment. By God's grace my counsel has proven true over and over, which lays a foundation for them to trust me when their own insight into a situation might lead them to form a different conclusion.

4. We are training them to live according to the bible and not relative morality. Every culture, generation, and even home has a different set of dos and don'ts. Heterosexual men walk hand in hand and even kiss in the middle east. Skirts that showed ankles were once considered immodest. Standing on the coffee table in my house is perfectly acceptable. While it is important that we intelligently assess cultural norms and make conscientious decisions to avoid miscommunication it is of much greater importance that we compare our actions with absolute truth, as found in the bible, and not relative mores based on the sway of society. I can listen until my children are blue in the face, but listening alone will not guide them towards a successful life. I think we have all seen the parent who spends more time making sure their child "feels heard" than actually directing the child towards appropriate behavior. I can ensure my children trust that I am fair-minded and just by maintaining the exact same standards for them as for myself, but pure egalitarianism does nothing to grow a healthy respect for authority. This parent abdicates their responsibility of establishing humility for wisdom and experience, and leaves their child drifting selfishly through life convinced that only the school of hard-knocks can teach them anything. Lastly, I can counsel, advise, and direct my children on every matter, subject, or personal affair but if my words are not biblically informed then I am doing nothing more than pontificating. And who enjoys self-important lecturers? You can recognize the glazed looks on children whose parents insist on turning every teaching moment into a 5 bullet power-point slide. They zone out long enough to survive the spiel before turning around and doing whatever they want to do anyway.

So, how does all this work? Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." I must humble myself before God and take His word to my own heart if I am going to reach and retain the hearts of my children. That means the above verse applies to MOI as God first trains me - His child. I can not expect my children to submit to something I am unwilling to submit to myself.

Do I want to talk to Jesus?

Am I trusting Him?

Do I want the Lord's counsel and insight?

Yep... so far, so good!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Sticks

I went to the doctor this morning for a regular checkup. He asked whether or not I was staying local for the foreseeable future. It was obviously a routine question. And I have answered it routinely so many times. But it was different this morning.

Um, no, actually. I'm moving in about a year.

Oh! Well, what takes you out of town? Is the job relocating you or is it a new job.

Neither. We are simply moving for an adventure. 

Really? Where are you moving?


Huh. (long pause) Are you going to homeschool?

Um,(?) actually I already do.

Ah, well that makes sense! You really want to experience a more rural lifestyle.

I could barely contain myself until the end of the appointment. Apparently all of Idaho is just one ginormous wild place. Unsettled and fierce, only the pioneering take their chances in its unsettled terrain. It's a good thing we already homeschool, because it will be nigh on impossible to expect any kind of civilized resources.

For the record:

Idaho Falls (the forerunner in claiming our citizenship) has a population of nearly 60,000 people with a population gain of over 12% between 2000 and 2011. My current home boasts less than 20k, and had a 21% population decline during that same time.

There are approximately 82 restaurants of distinct character in Idaho Falls. We have 42 in our town, but that includes Denny's and Subway.

A very cursory search for medical specialists reveals an easy handful of every type of doctor we currently use. Right now I have to drive at least 20 minutes to visit anyone besides my dentist and optometrist. This isn't necessarily because I prefer physicians from other towns. In most cases I have no choice because we have very few medical professionals.

But to be sure... not everything is bigger there. For instance, as of March 2012 the cost of living index (where the average US city is 100) was 105.2 in Marina. It was 88.2 in Idaho Falls.

Yep, we're moving to the sticks.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Perils of a Large Family

Things you only hear from kids who are raised in a big family (and always using British accents):

Mary: Her name is Chrissiana. Her name is Giselle. Her name is Merida. We have so many children!

Leah: How many do you have?

Mary: 26.

Leah: Maybe you should get rid of some. You should drop some off at the orphanage because we only have one. Are you going to have more?

Mary: Oh yes.

Leah: Has your uterus ruptured yet?

Mary: No, not yet.

Leah: Then you can give me your next baby since you are going to have another one.

Mary: Okay. But only one, because I love them so much.

Leah: Oh, of course. I wouldn't have asked you for one of your children if I didn't think you loved them.

Mary: Alright. I'm so glad you asked. Now I need to go because I have so many children to fix dinner for.

Leah and Mary with an orphan-cum-sister, Phoebe

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jesus First

One might say that Phoebe has "come into her own." This little exchange occurred the other night while Bethany put lotion on Phoebe after her shower.

Phoebe, please stand up.

Hmm, I'm going to need to ask Jesus first.

Phoebe takes her spiritual fervor seriously.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Charisma For Hire

charisma: \kǝ-’riz-mǝ\ n. 1. a special magnetic charm or appeal magically arousing enthusiasm for a person 2. Caleb

A taste of several gifts given to Caleb by complete strangers.

Our son regularly returns home from an afternoon in our neighborhood laden with gifts. And not just small trinkets and throw away junk. Everything from a 4-person inflatable raft freshly out of its package to a metal lock box have found their way into our home. Why? Because Caleb has a level of charisma not often seen in someone outside of the White House. He gets paid $10 to wash a car that wasn't really dirty and whose owner wasn't really looking to get it clean in the first place. Then he gets offered $10 more from the same people to wash their Jeep - just because. The neighbor who drives every deal to its final penny during his garage sale offers to give Caleb whatever he would like. He mentions fishing and suddenly a fishing pole surfaces from someone's back room, in mint condition. Then freshly caught fish emerges from their freezer. He has sisters, so beautiful china dolls in full costumes are unwrapped and tucked into his arms. While chatting with several college students at church he is warmly invited to join them at the beach later that day. The list goes on...


In the beginning we were convinced he was begging off of people for their scraps. He must be telling our neighbors that his family is too poor to afford any toys. He must be blackmailing them, holding their mail hostage and extracting one gift for each registered letter containing the specifications of their rich uncle's final will and testament. There had to be an answer for the seemingly endless stream of goodies parading towards our address.

So we did what all sensible parents would do. We threatened. We doubted. We refused to take his word that these were gifts given from honest generosity. We sent Caleb out to return the gifts.

He came home with more.

We finally decided it was time to investigate this ourselves. It just so happened that one of the gifters stopped by that very afternoon. He was dropping off an entire golf caddy with accompanying clubs to finish outfitting our son after the putter he bestowed upon Caleb the week before. He apologized that it had taken him so long. He explained that the clubs were in the back of his storage unit and took some time to get. He handed over his only child's prized jr. golf set with a broad smile.

Was he sure? Absolutely.

He warmly explained how enjoyable it was to chat with Caleb in his driveway each weekend. He chuckled at the numerous schemes Caleb shared with him. He assured us that it was his pleasure to give the clubs to him.


We thanked him for his kind words and chuckled under our breath. Obviously our son had a special gift to enchant and charm. His easy going personality and conversational prowess allowed him to fit into just about any situation. We finally accepted it.

Now we're working on an angle to make a profit off of him.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

I'm A Mexican Drug Lord

I thought I was the only one until I found this meme expressing the ubiquitous truth under which all parents live:

Through trial and error here are my 6 fail-proof tactics for smuggling out all those little treasures:

1. Whenever possible avoid any inside trash can. Your safest bet is to dump last year's science project in the outside bin the morning of trash day and then take your family on a 4-day trek into the wilderness. When you return and the project is noticed missing you can honestly say you don't know where it is... after all, you really don't know exactly where in the landfill it currently resides.

2. If you must throw the painted macaroni picture frame with only 3 crusted pieces of pasta remaining on it into an inside trash can then make sure you have no less than 3 pounds of cooked spinach to cover it. NOTE: Do not use junk mail which can be salvaged by your 9 year old son for airplane models. Do not use old bill envelopes which effectively outfit your 6 year old's play office. Do not use catalogs from 9 months ago because your teen daughters are still "reading" them. They themselves will be rescued from the trash delivering the crushing blow to your children that their prized lima bean statuette hiding underneath is no longer treasured.

3. Never throw your kids' stuff away on the same day you are cleaning out your own closet. Your children are insanely adept at picking up the "throwing away garbage" vibe. They will become freakishly paranoid of your intentions towards their ripped 8th place ribbon from their game of pin-the-hydrant-on-the-blaze during the great Fire Department Safety Day of 2007.

4. Do not let one child catch you throwing away another child's stuff. They will rat you out faster than you can say, "grimy Chuck E. Cheese game token with dried gum on one side."

5. Either keep the hubster entirely in the dark or schedule Summit 2013 in order to clearly explain exactly what is being thrown away and why. There is nothing worse than having Daddy innocently ask you why Betty Sue's broken baby doll stroller is stuffed into the trunk of his car during dinner. And because of Murphy's Law this will be the one time your prearranged "we'll talk about it later" look will go entirely unnoticed.

6. Bribe 'em. If you can coerce them into throwing away their own junk then you have mastered parenthood! Going out for ice cream is my favorite because it doesn't involve replacing the trash with new junk. What good is a bribe if it is a net loss? Go for the consumables and you will have a win-win every time.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Higher Calling

I love women's ministry. Everything about it just calls to me: the word of God; real fellowship and community with other imperfect women willing to be vulnerable; transparency and accountability to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ; and the laughter that reaches beyond age or season to envelope everyone in the room. Yep, it is good.

I also have a particular connection to women's ministry because God has graciously allowed me to teach bible study in many different settings and churches over the past 19 years. Preparing, studying and planning are simply a part of my life - like breathing.

I assumed, like breathing, that it would always be this way.

Someday I'll stop making assumptions.

You probably picked up on this long before I did, but in between my passion for teaching women and changing diapers I somehow missed the amazing serendipity (I love that word - even though I don't believe in happenstance or mere chance) of birthing six daughters. Six little women! As my daughters came I pictured us enjoying deep, theological discussions together. I imagined them in bible study as adults, but somehow I completely skipped over adolescence. After all, that was why churches had youth ministry and not simply men's or women's ministry. The needs of jr. high and high school ages created such an altogether unique dynamic that it required an entirely different model of discipleship.

Or at least that's what I assumed. (See note above about what I need to do with my assumptions.)

Hannah (14) - Phoebe (3) - Me
My eldest daughter joined our church's official youth program a couple of years ago. At that time my husband began to serve as a leader in the youth group. Week after week I quizzed him on what was being discussed during the teaching time for Hannah's class. Week after week Christopher shared with me the gist of the topics and conversation until I began to see a pattern in my reaction. I loved that Hannah was getting a chance to hang out with her friends. I thought the games the youth played were often imaginative and developed great team spirit. I was glad she was being challenged to think on her own about concepts from the bible. But I also recognized a growing disappointment that the lessons often scratched only the surface of genuine Christian character and godly lifestyle choices. 

The group was mostly made up of other boys and girls from similar backgrounds. Many of them were churched meaning they, like Hannah, had grown up attending Sunday School and VBS and usually knew the "right" answers. They were also questioning, often for the first time, the concepts taught them through childhood and beginning to decide if the faith their parents ascribed to was going to be their own. This all seemed normal. And so did the awkward, embarrassed, sometimes confused ways the group interacted as the individual trajectory of puberty and personality began shaping each member into their own unique person. But the very same factors that made it "youth" ministry were also keeping it from being entirely successful in effective ministry.

How transparent can I expect my daughters to be in front of a bunch of kids who are struggling just to understand their own bodies, let alone their deeper purpose and unique calling in this world? Growing and maturing takes discipleship. Or at least it does if I want my girls to transition through adolescence  gracefully and without unnecessary heartache - which I do. So, mentoring becomes invaluable. I want my darling girls to learn about femininity from the heart of great women (and men) before they have it compared to the likes of Lady Gaga. I want them to engage in open conversations about difficult subjects with candor and respect before they learn all the street slang for what they should do if they really "love" that boy. And most importantly, I want them to understand what the bible says about the beauty and value of their womanhood before their peers define it for them. 

Youth ministry, alone, can not achieve these goals. Why? For the same reason elite athletes don't train with amateurs, and why virtuosos don't practice with beginners - we can not grow in maturity when consistently surrounded by people as immature as ourselves; and we do not learn to stand out by working hard to fit into the mold. One or two adults working to shepherd a roomful of rambunctious teenagers isn't a ratio built for success. 

Bottom Center & Clockwise:
Phoebe, Hannah, Mary, Leah, Bethany, Me, Evangeline

So, I'm quitting what I love in order to love what I'm called to - women's ministry. The ministry of making women... making godly, honorable women who are strong, capable thinkers in a world filled with relativity and subjectivity. By the grace of God I have the privilege of sharing my passion with six of the most amazing girls I have ever known.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Our lives have an ebb and flow to them that seems to mimic the rhythms of the natural world. Life springs fresh and new, then deepens through the heat of experience and lessons until the maturity of years displays a splendor of wisdom in the autumn of our lives and finally quiet shadows gracefully fall upon a life well lived. We often see this transition quite clearly in the people surrounding us, but it can be a bit surprising to realize that it is occurring inside yourself, too.

I knew change was coming... someday.

Christopher and I have made no secret of our desire to embrace the gift of children in our marriage and actually pursue fertility. For 15 years our life has been marked by the swelling of my belly. Plans for travel set any further than 6 months into the future had to be held loosely because we never knew whether or not we would be expecting another child. I became an expert at shuffling hand-me-down clothes into bins for the next child - boy or girl. I own a moses basket, cradle, travel crib, pack-n-play, crib, and toddler bed with linens for both genders. There is a basket of infant toys in my living room that has never, ever been packed away. The convertible changing table/dresser has always had a changing pad on top of it and the crib that we were given upon the birth of our first daughter has never been taken apart for storage. A high chair has graced our table for 5252 days. I own a play set that rivals most small parks.

To say childrearing defines our lifestyle would be a gross understatement.

I reminded myself that someday it would change - especially when I wearied of Lego pieces scattered across my garage floor, and blow out diapers when I'm already late, and a thousand minutes of sleepless nights waiting for the baby to realize she is the only one enjoying that 3am tête-à-tête. I joked with my husband about what it would be like to actually know that you were never going to have any more children. What did that feel like?


I now know.

Evangeline's delivery held several complications for me - not the least of which was the discovery in the operating room that my uterine integrity was entirely compromised. Oddly, I wasn't surprised. For weeks I had the unexplainable need to discuss possible complication with my surgeon and husband. We traversed medical journals and studies to better understand probabilities associated with repeat cesarean births. I never before felt inclined to investigate these concerns to the degree I did with my last pregnancy. After all the data was collected and the specialists were consulted the questions continued to outpace the answers. There are literally two studies in the whole of medical history dealing with uterine integrity after 4 cesareans. Even these stopped their statistical projections at six cesareans. I was going into my seventh.

As Christopher and I drove to my last ob appointment the largest question facing us was whether or not we should pursue sterilization to secure my health. Added to this were the sharp pains I was experiencing that seemed all too familiar after suffering through micro-dehisence during Josiah's birth. My surgeon, her nurse practitioner/midwife, Christopher and I all worked through the final plan a week before my delivery date. We decided to forgo preemptive sterilization. We would wait and see how this delivery faired. And we prayed that God would simply make abundantly clear His design for our family.

He answered our prayers.

The pain I experienced was the significant dehiscence of my uterus producing a pocket large enough for the amniotic sack to begin protruding through the uterine wall. I carried Evangeline footling breach, but never before had a baby (and she wasn't my first footling breach) remained so high in her positioning. Our surgeon later recalled that had Evangeline been more engaged her foot could have neatly fit through the baseball sized hole in my uterus causing catastrophic results for us both. God knew how to safely carry us so that all the pieces would fit together. From our surgical staff and medical preparations to the physical circumstances surrounding the birth it all came together in a final moment of clarity for the new season we were entering. There would be no more babies.

We had peace.

And then reality hit.

My life has turned upside down in the past several months. I never before realized how defining my openness to fertility was until it was gone. As absurd as this may sound I honestly struggled with understanding my purpose. I saw many dark days where questions raised in fear rushed over me like floodwaters. Primary in my thinking was whether or not I was a good mom to eight people, or if I just had babies to avoid the real task of nurturing the children I already birthed? Yet in the gloom there was a flame that began to burn brighter and brighter still. While I believe I always loved my children to my fullest capacity something shifted in me when I knew I was done. A new outpouring in my heart of thankfulness and delight in each child God had given me welled up in my heart. I saw my family as complete. I didn't need to hold anything back in anticipation of another baby. I didn't need to live in limbo ever again. I had closure.

Now a new season begins for me. I am saying goodbye to all the pleasures and trials of infant parenting. There are things I think I may always miss: nursing; quietly snuggling a newborn who smells of heaven; tiny coos; and precious, miniature fingers and toes. There are also things I gladly give up: cesarean delivery and recovery; mastitis; bone-wearying fatigue; and the thousand trivial questions nagging you into believing that your choice of pacifier really does determine forever your value as a loving mom. You know... no pressure. Yes, there are good things that I glimpse and hang on to during the more difficult moments, because I believe with conviction that every season is marked by beauty. 

My joy is now discovering the beauty in this new season.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Leah came suddenly to me this afternoon and announced that she had written a book. She asked if she could read it to me.

Of course!

The Runaway Twins by Leah Randall

Once upon a time there lived two twins. They were brats. Their names were Lilya and Leah. As you know they are brats and are really bad especially. The bad things that they did: they stole people's lunch at school. That's the kinda bad thing that they did. It's crazy what they did do. Holy Cow! One day the brats' mother got mad. They ran away. The mother got worried. She had thought she had been too harsh. When the girls had run away she began to miss them very much. And so she began looking for them because she loved them very much. While the girls were gone they began to get hungry. Really hungry. Then they spotted a bakery. They had no money and they were really hungry. They decided to go home. When they got home they said to their mother, "We're sorry for what we did. Please forgive us. We will never do it again,"they said. "I forgive you. I hope you two do keep your promise." "We will!" The End.

Monday, April 08, 2013

non sequitur

Mama, did you give any of us kids away to an orphanage?

No, Josiah. I kept you all.

But are you going to adopt any of us?

I don't need to adopt you because you are already my son.

Oh! So I was already your son at the orphanage.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Open Letter To My Past

Dear Past,

I want to take this opportunity to apologize. I've changed. You haven't, which makes our relationship a little difficult from time to time. However, I'm beginning to realize that we can live agreeably with one another if we are both willing to accept a few truths about the other:

1. I promise to no longer deny you. It isn't fair to either of us. The truth is that I wouldn't exist today were it not for you. I'm bold enough to admit it and I'm sorry that I struggled at points to own it.

2. There really are three sides to our story: my recollection on good days, my remembrances on bad days, and the truth. I am going to choose to accept that you shift like a shadow through the course of the day and not hold too tightly to any one perspective.

3. You are tied to my emotions. I will never be able to look dispassionately upon your face. I am tired of trying. It is time to allow myself to feel the things you touch in me. Please forgive me for my many attempts at separating you from my soul.

4. I am done playing your guilt game. Yes, you have more baggage on me than Heathrow International Airport, but I'm no longer afraid of facing the mistakes and errors of what I did. In fact, I've learned that I sometimes need to look for ways to show people what's inside those suitcases just to prove to us both that you are not my only friend.

5. You may not define my future. Your existence does not entitle you to ownership in my destiny. You may come along for the ride, but I will be the one driving.

Some of this may seem rather harsh to you. Change is always a little difficult in the beginning. Please know how much I appreciate all that you do for me. I thank you for keeping a record of all the tender moments too beautiful to be spoken. Without you, they would be lost. I won't forget that. However, instead of only living in those brief moments of remembered bliss I'm ready to strike out on new adventures and experiences. I know how much this scares you. It scares me. I might get hurt, and you'll need to remember that, too. But I promise it will be worth it. Living with regret weighs us both down. Let's get rid of it together.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Your Necessary MommyPrint

A group of gals gathered to honor a sweet sister in her final weeks of pregnancy last night. We had fellowship, good eats, and a great time of talking shop. I was humbled by the request to provide a devotional. As I prepared to share my thoughts I was struck again and again by the memory of my own transitions through parenting. I wrote the words I needed to hear as a young mother preparing to bring her second born into the world. If you are journeying on this road called motherhood I hope this may encourage your heart.

I am so privileged to be here tonight, sharing with you from my heart. It is indeed a blessing to be a part of welcoming the life of a child. Every baby holds such promise, and is a clear indication that the Lord is still working in the lives of ordinary people. He alone opens and closes the womb, determining through His perfect plan the arrival of every human. This child is no exception! Even now, as God places the final touches on their precious soul they have a destiny. 
What an amazing truth! 
And not a little scary. 
It is a mighty responsibility to bear children. It is an even greater one to raise them. The bible shows us through the immeasurable love of our Lord how parental love should look: patience, tenderness, discipleship, encouragement, instruction and lots of hugs, boo-boo kisses, and baths with bubbles. The worthy calling of motherhood is not for wimps! And who better knows that then a momma preparing to bring her second child into the world? Experience has opened her eyes. But even though the how-tos of infant-care are second nature there can still be whispers of self-doubt and fear that creep into our minds, causing us to wonder if we’re ever going to be able to effectively love another child. After all, there are days we wonder if we’re effectively loving the one we already have! 
I want to speak a word of encouragement over you.  
You are exactly the right mother for this job. Your fist child was not accidentally placed with you and your hubby and neither is this little one. Your passions, strengths and talents are needed to mold the next generation. There are lessons that only you can teach. Stories written in the life experiences of your family that only you can tell. You hold the exact balance of temperament and personality necessary to fully engage the mothering these two children require. But, while it is so helpful to be reminded of the unique mommy-print we each carry through our individual giftedness, the blessing of our calling would only be half full if we stopped at this point. 
2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 
Mommy, you are also exactly the right mother for this job when you are imperfect. When your struggles, insecurities, and mistakes cause a giant blinking arrow to point to the word Failure hanging above your head Jesus is there to show you how His redemption is not merely about an eternal heaven - it is about: a cranky mommy who snapped at breakfast; an overwhelmed momma who can’t seem to get it right; a scared mother who doesn’t understand how the ups and downs of her battle to overcome sin could ever be a part of a healthy child’s legacy. 
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) because his grace is sufficient for you, and his power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9) 
Rest in the peace of God knowing that it isn’t just the good things you share that are part of God’s perfect plan. He is using your mess-ups and blunders, too. They help point your children to the only being who is absolutely perfect. And they restore to your soul the balance of knowing that you don’t have to be The Standard. You need Jesus just as much as your children do. You need never fear that truth, and allowing your children to see that is the most important thing you will ever show them. So be encouraged as you prepare to welcome your child. It isn’t just your strengths that are going to help them. It is the gift of grace in your weaknesses that will lead them to their Savior.

Monday, April 01, 2013


My children genuinely love one another. All of them.

For years I held my breath awaiting the dreaded sibling rivalry that was promised to me by grizzled veterans of the parenting wars. I watched, like a hawk, the children of other families and saw for myself the ways they picked, teased, argued and fought incessantly. My heart broke at the thought of such bitterness rearing up between my own children, especially as an only child who still has a sense of wonder at the mysteries held by siblings. I prayed fervently for the Lord to work in the hearts of my sons and daughters.

And I waited...

and waited...

and waited...

Until suddenly I realized I was already witnessing the beauty of my children's relationships filled with love and respect and I sighed with relief.

I'm certainly not foolish enough to believe that my children will never go through seasons of difficulty with one another. There are times when irritability, immaturity, and unrealistic expectations causes bickering. I can imagine that multiplied by problems bigger than whose turn it is to get the "good" truck in the latest installment of the make-as-much-noise-as-possible game. But that is a far cry from the splintered, anger driven actions of siblings with nothing but common parents holding them together.

So, how did we put ourselves on this course? I hesitate to give a set of rules that could mistakenly be thought of as a fail-safe because if there is anything at all the same about families it is that they are different. However, I do believe there are a few key principals my husband and I learned from the good and bad of our own families of origin.

Expect Affection. Children rise and fall to the level of expectation around them. When you expect them to love and cherish their younger sister, they will. Every time we bring a new baby home it is the same sense of wonderment, excitement, and joy. Children clamor to get their turn holding the baby. This natural awe easily quickens into love as the baby grows older and more sophisticated in its responses to the other kids. Sure, individual ages and genders may create a more seamless bond but there is something unique and necessary in the relationship between every person in your house. Treat it with respect and love. Our home's example: We underline again and again the importance of building one another up. To this end we do not allow coarse or crude joking that makes use of put downs or teasing.

Eavesdrop. Seriously. I am quite amazed at the number of parents who feel it is disrespectful to interfere in their children's affairs. Um, they're kids. You would never hesitate to teach the two-year old how to appropriately offer the new baby its pacifier so don't hesitate to teach the seven-year old how to appropriately offer their opinion. Children need to learn not just the motor skills of life but the emotional skills of life. Healthy relationships don't necessarily come naturally. This requires your input more than when it turns to blows. It must be proactive. Our home's example: I listen like crazy so that when a teaching moment occurs I can quickly take advantage of it.

Require Honest Apologies. When my husband and I argue it doesn't clear the air for one of us to simply throw our hands up and taunt, "Sorry!"If anything it simply adds fuel to a smoldering inferno. Honest, heartfelt apologies are the only things that get the job done. But how do you get them? We have found that doing two things helps tremendously. First, we work to set the offender in the offended's shoes and ask how they would feel if the tables were turned. Second, we teach our children from the beginning that a real apology is a specific one. Our children must clearly articulate what they are sorry for when they ask another child's forgiveness. Our home's example: Please forgive me for being mean when I tried to make the rules so you couldn't win. I was being selfish and it wasn't fair. I'm sorry that I hurt you.

Teach Reconciliation. Apologies are great and all, but if there is no reconciliation afterwards then you haven't won the battle. We all know that adult with a chip on his shoulder. It doesn't matter how real you are in your apology it won't do a bit a of good because he simply wants to be angry. When we are offended we wear our offense like a badge of honor showing the world that we've been hurt. Don't you dare try to pacify me. I've got my Wounded Ego button goin' on. We're simply children using bigger words. "Fine! Then I'll never play with you ever again as long as I live and even when I die I won't play with you! And you aren't coming to my birthday party!" But no bitterness. This won't get you far in healthy conflict resolution. We take gobs of time working through the honest apology so the wounded person feels heard and validated. But we also require the offended to choose grace and forgive. Holding a grudge is not an option. We often help our children come to a resolution by asking the offended what is their solution to the problem. Our home's example: I forgive you. I love you. I would like to play with the green truck by myself for a little bit but I would like to play with you after lunch.

Spend Time Together. Who are your good friends? Inevitably they are the people you spend or at least spent a great deal of time around. You don't become great friends with the person who lives across town but uses the same dry cleaners. Sure, you happen to bump into one another occasionally, but shared laundry just isn't enough. Of course I whole heartedly support friendships from outside the home. But I don't want those friendships to be a substitute for healthy relationships inside the home. And frankly, as children, I much prefer their closest friends be their brothers and sisters. After all, I know their parents and while they have some kooky ideas I can generally agree with their life paradigms. Also, I know if they get mean towards one of my babies I can expect honest apologies and healthy reconciliation. Our home's example: I homeschool. This provides the ideal environment to ensure that outside friendships remain secondary to inside ones.

Pray. Seek the Lord for wisdom in how exactly to manage your specific family's needs. He will provide it. (James 1:5)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lessons in Scaleability

I think I might finally be figuring out something.

I have a large family and I live in one of the most expensive places in the nation (69% higher than the average American town).

I forget that it isn't entirely the norm for people to have eight children. This may appear obvious to you, but to me these little people just quietly moved into my house as they stole my heart. So, I continually forget that I live against the current. Oh, I don't forget it when I am out shopping and the sixteen millionth person interrupts me to ask if I know where children come from (how original). And I certainly don't forget it when I see all those teeny tiny parking spaces that are made for über-compact electric cars that are driven by eco-snobs who apparently deserve to park in the very front because they aren't destroying our environment the way I am even though my van gets WAY better resource mileage per capita and I am single handedly populating the next generation whose salaries will pay for the socialized entitlement ideals that many of these drivers vote for year after year. *inhale* Yep, I don't forget it then. But I do forget it when I find myself looking at all the amazing ideas and resources for managing, organizing and decorating our life.

Great recipe? Quadrupling it isn't usually a viable option without experimentation to tweak prep and cooking times.

Darling decore? Somehow that bugs and trucks themed room won't work with four beds housing both boys and girls in that 9X10 bedroom.

Chore system? It all works beautifully for two (author - "Now my children know exactly what I expect of them each day. I can keep track of goals and school projects as well as regular responsibilities.") Yeah *snort* does it come with a GPS tracking device because, honestly, I would just like to know where all my children are on some days - forget their long term personal goals.

I hear words like "purge" and read articles that talk about getting rid of your children's old clothes. My garage makes the Goodwill look empty, and unorganized and yet I still don't have room to do much more than turn around in it. Keeping clothing stored for two genders and eight children ages 14 to 7 mos just takes room. Period. There are reasons those mega-families have things like specialized laundry rooms with ginormous launder-o-mat style machines and circular clothing racks for closets.

Yep. Scaleability. It's my new word. Our family is like the middle child that looks a lot like the milkman. We aren't quite small enough to fit into the average, the normal, the accepted. And yet we aren't big enough to deserve the pity of outsiders and have some DIY network come remodel my house so my kids can each have a place to sit in our living room during movie night (it can get ugly!).

1400 sq. ft.
3 bedrooms
1 shower
2 dogs
2 rabbits
8 children
1 mother
1 father

With these statistics we've got to be learning something... I'm just not sure what at the moment.