Content Amidst the Chaos

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God spoke July 29, 2010

Filed under: family size,homeschooling,Our home,The Siblings — jps23 @ 10:07 pm

We all have bad days.  Those of us with seven kids and those of us with two kids.  Those of us who homeschool and those of us who entrust others to educate our kids.  We ALL have bad days.  So today, and yesterday for that matter, were bad days.  At least today threatened to be bad, until my mother and my best friend who understands and doesn’t ask any questions made it better.  And then I got home and checked the mail, which I RARELY do.  That is normally left to Superman as he pulls up from work each afternoon.  My day was redeemed, people.  God spoke to me in a letter from a friend.  When I say friend, I mean a lady at church that has worked in the nursery with my boys.  When I say friend, I mean a fellow homeschooler on the more experienced end of the spectrum with 2/3 graduated, her girls, with her son in his high school years and not in jail or socially inept.  When I say friend, I mean a Facebook friend that bats a comment back and forth with me from time to time.  We have not spent a ton of time together.  We don’t really KNOW each other.  We are quiet and distant observers of one another.

I have to back up.  To when, I can’t really say for sure.  I’ve always been hard on myself, but since embarking on large family living and homeschooling, I seemed to have increased my own criticism of myself.  I don’t want people to look poorly on life with seven little ones.  I don’t want them to see it as burdensome.  I don’t want my kids to grow up resenting it.  I don’t want to fail, yet many times a day week, I proclaim my failures to Superman.  I can never do enough or be enough for my ________ (fill in the blank).  I do this to myself.  And it seems that Satan is very aware of the Georgia homeschool convention schedule because he starts whispering to me the week of, usually right after I let others know how excited I am to attend.  And yesterday, as I have done in the past, I decided not to go.  Didn’t matter that we had already paid for it.  I was headed to the local Board of Education tomorrow, instead of the conference, to sign up the girls and Earnhart for public school.  I mean it.  I’m not in a very good place right now.  I wouldn’t normally share that with anyone.  Not even my mom or best girlfriends.  I don’t want anyone to say, “Well what did you expect?  You have seven kids!” or “You need to stop having kids.  If you can’t handle it now, then what will happen if you have another one?”  I don’t know why.  It doesn’t really matter if they say that.  I just don’t want to hear it.  So back to the letter.  It was clearly God reminding me that He has called me to this chaotic life, and that I’m not disgracing it as badly as I think I am.  At least that is what I got from the letter.  I am not sharing this to boast or toot any horns.  I am simply sharing this because I want you to know how awesome God is!  My friend wrote this letter a few days ago, before my melt down, and it just happened to arrive today, and I just happened to check the mail.  If Superman had checked it, the letter would still be sitting in a stack of mail in his passenger seat, or the floorboard, some time next week.  I’d like to share some excerpts so you can see how God spoke to me through this letter.  Although I sort of blew our cover last post, I will be using our good ‘ol blog names to protect the privacy of the innocent.  😉

Dear Content (more like Chaos, on this given day) and Superman,

I want to tell you how much I admire your family.  You live what you believe, and that’s not easy to do sometimes, or maybe even most times.  I admire how you have a large family.  I imagine you hear remarks everywhere you go.  I remember when I was pregnant with E (my third, and last), an acquaintance asked me if I knew what was causing it (we get that one quite a bit!), and that was only with a third child!  I’m sure with seven children, you hear that and worse.  But I hope occasionally, you hear better.  I was in a store recently where a family passed by with six children.  I’m certain they were all siblings, and I was fascinated, as I am with your family.  I love to look at each one of your children and see who they remind me of  with regard to their parents and to each other.  Your children are all beautiful and adorable.  I’m sorry I wasn’t at (our church) sooner to keep your girls in the nursery, but I have been blessed to keep each of your sons.

I also admire you for not having air conditioning (….) that will cost $10,000 for you to get in your house.  I think it says a lot about your family that you are willing to wait on it (she’s referring to our plan to save up the money to get it and not go in debt over it).

I also admire you for being a generous, giving family. (We’ve given away two OLD appliances recently, one to her family) You were so kind to give us your spare dryer, and Superman, although dressed for work, you were so willing to help me and E load it onto the truck. (….) Generosity comes back to you and I know that your family must feel that.  It is also very cook the way Content always compliments you, Superman, on how kind and helpful you are to other people, and E and I were able to experience that first hand.

I hope you all have some kind of an idea of the example you are to others, even to me, whose children are 2/3 grown…just one more to go.  I’ve learned a lot just by observing your family.  Staying home full time with children is wonderful, and it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Staying home full time with children and homeschooling them is wonderful, and is also the super hardest thing I’ve ever done!  With seven, it must be very challenging many days, but I know you all are committed to it and I promise I’ll pray for your family every time I think of you.  Hang in there with all the challenges, even with nasty neighbors who complain about your yard and your house.  I’m praying about that, too.

Please remember that we don’t live that far from you, and if our family could ever be of help to you, we will be.  –PH

Heard and noted.  Thanks, PH, for the reminder that this is worth it.  Thank you for believing in my commitment to this for our children, since just this week, I quit believing in it myself.  Thank you for reminding me that all this is more important and impacting on others than a clean kitchen counter would be.  Thank you for changing my plans in the morning.  Instead of meeting with the Bored Board of Education tomorrow, I’ll be planning and learning how to enhance my children’s learning experiences for their own unique little lives.  I can do this.  He wants me to do this, and He just reminded me that I can do it well, regardless of the opinion of my own worst critic.  PH, you were the vessel through which He accomplished this today.  Thank you.  That’s worth a free dryer and then some.


 

Blowing our cover July 24, 2010

Filed under: autism,S2 — jps23 @ 11:12 pm

I started out with nicknames for us because that’s what I had read you should do.  Be anonymous for the safety of your kids.  So I have tried that, and I’m fine with keeping it this way, but then I read Preacher’s most recent blog post.  And I had to share it with you, even though it has my daughter’s name in it.  It’s too good to not share, so I’m going to blow our cover by sharing it with you here, or actually there.   Now you know who we are (as if you didn’t before).

 

What’s on your fridge? July 6, 2010

Filed under: Our home — jps23 @ 8:55 pm

I think a family’s fridge says a lot about them.  I’m not sure what exactly, but I just know that you can learn a lot about someone from looking at their fridge.  It’s one of the first things I look over at a friend’s house for the first time, and many times after.  I’ve seen wedding announcements, family reunion fliers, kids’ artwork, photos, and much more.  So as I stood in my kitchen getting lunch together, I thought I’d take a picture of mine and share it with you.  This may bore you, or it may simply delight you.  A glance at our fridge is a glance at our life.

If I had some great photo editing software, I could put little arrows with descriptions ON the photo, but since I don’t, I’ll offer an explanation here.  Top left is a photo of a baby.  This baby is special because he is the firstborn son to our first trusted babysitter.  Seeing her get a chance to be a mom, and the amazing one that I always knew she would be, makes me smile.  I look at this little one every day.  Right next to that is our camp photo from camp this year, which includes the three girls and me.  We had so much fun.  Under those photos is a picture that Picasso drew that says “Jesus loves you and me”.  Yes, He does.  Right top corner is Mary Lou, the kindergarten graduate.  This picture of her is just precious.  To the left of her photo is a thank you note from Preacher for being tribal parents during Jerusalem Marketplace, which is where our children’s ministry gets converted for five weeks leading up to Easter to the streets of Jerusalem.  The kids love it, so I actually thank her for the opportunity.  It is truly a blessing to us.  Behind those two items is a buy one, get one free ticket to a Six Flags park, which we will probably not use this year, but it’s a great deal, so I hold onto it, just in case.  More artwork in the middle of the freezer door.  I just can’t tell them “no” to displaying their beautifully creative creations.  The green board is a magnetic write-on board I used in the co-op classroom.  It’s blank and just hanging there for when I might use it for something else.  The fridge door has some more artwork.  It also houses some incentive charts.  Mary Lou got a ZhuZhu pet for her birthday, which everyone now wants.  While they are cheap when it comes to toys, multiply that by six, and you are talking 54 bucks!  So, they are earning them by working on a particular area in which they are week.  Three of them are working on obeying right away, one on putting things away right away, and the other on brushing her teeth daily.  Dozer doesn’t have a chart, but I’m sure he’ll want one of the plastic furballs simply because everyone else does.  At the bottom, there is a sign that says “I love to draw.  It is fun.”  Yeah, which is why my fridge is full of artwork.

Right side.  The big sheet is the outline of Earnhart.  He made it at school in the beginning of the year, and I just can’t take it down.  There’s a unicorn picture on top of it, and to the right are pictures of the two oldest girls.  They drew them in art this year at the co-op when they studied drawing action.  The top right has two of our birth announcement pictures, which I love, and the top left has another thank you note from Preacher.  This one was to me after serving at VBS the week my grandmother passed away, the one whose very home we are living in now.  I cherish the words Preacher said to me on that note, and I won’t take it down until I put it in a scrapbook or memory box.  There’s a Babysitter Board on the fridge that we use on the rare occasion that we have a new babysitter.

Left side.  Top right is a great magnet I got when I flew to visit my friend that moved to Virginia.  It says “I love my country.  It’s the government I’m afraid of.”  I bought it for Superman from the airport.  To the left is a business card from the place where I ordered my kids’ personalized backpacks for Christmas two years ago.  Great price and quality, so if I need more bags I know where to go.  I’ll probably order Tipper a bag this Christmas.  To the left of that is a stack of letters from my co-op kids, written to Tipper when he came into this world.  I have a couple of take-out menus and some magnets I like by Quotable Cards.  I have a handy Easy Opener from Pampered Chef, a magnet given to Picasso on her baptism day, and a chart that lists the purposes of the room and the daily and monthly tasks that would keep it clean (if people read it and did it from time to time!).

That is our fridge.  It’s a mess, I know, but I tried to keep it clean and was unsuccessful.  I’m not good at keeping things clean.  Where is my calendar, you ask?  That is for a different post, but I’ll give you a sneak peak…

 

Theology Barbie July 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 12:21 am

By the way, my friend Preacher has a blog out there, too.  I linked it up on the right side over there, but if you want the easy route, then just click here.

 

The neighbor July 1, 2010

Filed under: Our home — jps23 @ 3:20 pm

This house is changing.  For those of you that follow this blog, or know me pretty well, you know that I am living in my grandmother’s house, the one they moved into when my mom was in fourth grade.  So, the 2 swing sets, the trampoline, the supersized sandbox, and the numerous ride-on toys are a new thing for the neighbor.  One lady’s garbage is no where near the same sight as the overstuffed garbage can that sits outside our house, which sits close to the driveway so it’s easy to move down the hill of a driveway we have.  I try to be responsible and recycle, but that produces a different stack of stuff on our carport until we get the chance to take it to the recycling drop-off.  We are relaxed parents who like to have fun, and for every minute we spend creating order, there are five minutes of one of our children undoing that order.  I wish it wasn’t that way, but I don’t desire extreme order so much that I’d give up the joy that each child has been in our lives.  We have some order going on around here. It just wouldn’t be enough for Peter Walsh.

The neighbor doesn’t like this, and it has upset him enough to warrant two visits to our door and a name calling.  He’s 50-something, and I don’t think he likes kids at all.  He never smiles when we wave, and you can almost see him throw up in his mouth when he sees one of us.  He came down and knocked on the door at 8:30 pm the first time.  When Superman told him that he had boys in the bathtub and he couldn’t talk, he persisted to complain about the state of our yard, informing us that it is against the law to park in the grass.  He finally left.  The next visit occurred shy of one week later, while SM was on his way home from his four-day hospital stay over Father’s Day weekend.  Nice timing, huh?  This time I answered the door.  He asked for SM, and I explained what had happened over the weekend.  Guess what he did.  Complained anyway.  He brought up the car in the grass.  YA’LL, Roomie moved her car out of the grass and parked it in this little triangular spot between our driveway and carport that has a little grass, but it’s not the front yard.  He complained.  I said, “I’m sorry.  If she parks behind us then everyone has to get our here to move a car when someone needs to go somewhere.  You can call and report us and let them come out and write us a citation and we’ll pay the fine.”  There was a comment made about me deciding to have seven kids (like I didn’t know), and I responded that our backyard will reflect that.  I didn’t say, “Yes sir, I will do whatever makes you happy”, and he just didn’t like that.  He resorted to telling me I “give new meaning to the word trash.”  No one has ever called me a name to my face.  Maybe one of my siblings when we were younger, but that’s it.  It made me shake.  When my father-in-law arrived with SM, he spoke to the neighbor  as he left and told him to not bother us again.  This is what my friend Preacher had to say about it…

I just realized what has been really bothering me about your neighborly encounter. I don’t know if it was just a confusion of syntax or perhaps it was a metaphorical allegory gone terribly awry, but he is mistaken in using the term “trash” in reference to you and your family. Now, of course, I am making the assumption that he was shortening the term and his actual intention was to reference you as “white trash”. As a daughter of the South, I feel a mandate to clear up any confusion in this area.

I was raised that there were several levels in the caste system that comprises southern womanhood. In all honesty, southern womanhood is a complex issue. Everyone down here is jacked up on moonshine, humidity and Calvinism. It does lead to all sorts of confusion about the appropriate categories. Let’s review…

At the top of the system there is the “Southern Lady”. They are the women which we all aspire. Even during temperatures reaching the upper 90s with 100% humidity, they glisten or perspire – they never sweat. While their homes may occasionally be in disarray, they are never filthy. These women typically participate in some in a traditional Women’s Club, Bridge Club or Literary Society and are associated with a tour of homes during the holiday season. This variety of southern woman may, but not always, be associated with “old money”. They observe the time honored southern rituals with the most practiced grace: white shoes only between Easter and Labor Day, diamonds before 40 years of age are tacky, they don’t smoke in public, and Christmas cards always go out on time. They are our heroes. Unfortunately, they are almost extinct. it is really no wonder why now is it?

The next step down is the “Southern Belle”. Think Sally Fields in Steele Magnolias. A little less perfect, these women usually have some kind of a “past” associated in some sorority sort of context that is allowed and excusable under the existing social codes in the south. Their houses don’t make the tour of homes, but they do usually manage to have a freezer stocked with at least 2 emergency casseroles for families in need. They attend their churches on Sunday but are, in all practicality, unable to get the friend chicken on the table in their own homes under such time constraints. You’ll see them eating with their families at the Piccadilly instead. They are diligent about matching ensembles for family portraits and will go to great lengths to procure them. Their roots never show. I think it is the effort to achieve this level of perfection that can occasionally lead them to be the meanest breed of southern woman alive. When you hear them say, “bless your heart” what they really mean is: “you stupid bastard”.

Then there is the species of southern womanhood of which I find myself, the “Redneck Woman”. Contrary to popular belief, this woman is at least semi-educated and always literate. She is just doing the best she can but has come to the realization that she cannot achieve the upper echelon of womanhood afore mentioned. Her home is marginally clean, but impeccable by Third World standards. As a global thinker, she is okay with this. Rather than abolish her home of cobwebs and dust bunnies during the holidays, you may find her just throwing tinsel on them. Her efforts are better put to use finding a good recipe for the perfect “hot buttered rum” to take to whatever Christmas light extravaganza she is required to attend with her extended family in celebration of the birth of her Lord and Savior. For all general purposes, she waits until 5pm to start drinking  and never while nursing, even though I suspect the generation before us smoked and drank while nursing which is why  we have many of our issues. However, she finds no shame in a Mimosa before church on the Sunday she has volunteered to teach the 2 year olds. She knows no shame in purchasing her clothes at Wal-Mart or Target. Her family will probably not match for portraits. As a matter of fact, if everyone gets out of the house with the same set of shoes on each foot the day has started off pretty good. Her yard will indeed be cluttered with parts of her life that overflow from the windows of her home. This may mean the blessings of toys, and tarps used to paint (I’m looking out on my fence as I write), and various furniture litters her lawn. She may behave in ways unfamiliar to the unaccomplished connoisseur of southern womanhood. On occasion, she may have to beat her dog because it ran out the back door with her favorite bra. You might hear her call out to her child: “Baby, run get Mama another beer out of the crisper.” While she may be many things, she is never disingenuous. If she thinks you are a stupid bastard she will just call you one to your face.

Here is where your neighbor made the great leap in error. While I feel you were just probably identifying with the Redneck Woman, he saw traits of what we sometimes lapse into which is the “Common” category. My grandmother had an entire list of things that classified you as “common”. Re-applying lipstick at a table in a restaurant, for instance, was common. Smoking on the front steps of the church was also common. I remember seeing a woman re-applying her lipstick in church after communion. I was sure my grandmother would’ve been mortified. One of the great things about the “Common” category is that it is fairly fluid. For instance, I may be a Redneck Woman but do things that are just downright common every once in a while and still maintain my status.

However, if you persist too long in the “Common” category you will unfortunately fall into the least sub-species of southern woman: “White-trash”. Now the trick about being white-trash is that you never know it until it is too late to do something about it. See the example below:

Now I promise you that she did not realize, until it was too late that she was, indeed, white trash. I’m sure she didn’t even know that her tattoo was showing. Of course this is another identifying factor of the white-trash woman. Not that she has a tattoo, but the odds are highly likely that it is either spelled incorrectly or the name of a former associate. She is often marked by a tendency to over accessorize her ensemble. Notice the dangly earrings and black purse. This outfit clearly calls for another choice. Alas, she didn’t know. The classification of white-trash can also be associated with poor hygiene. Whereas the Redneck Woman may leave her Christmas lights out all year long to honor the birth of her Lord and Savior, the White-Trash Woman doesn’t even try to decorate. There are also no toys in her yard because she has spent all her money on accessories.

Note: You won’t find the White-Trash Woman at church on a Sunday at all, not because she doesn’t believe in Jesus but because in the South we have predestined her to eternal damnation. There is nothing a Calvinist likes better than to play social piñata with her. See the story of the Woman at the Well for more details on how Jesus interacted with the White-Trash.

In conclusion, you are not White-Trash. I’ve never known you to over-accessorize and as far as I know, all of your tattoos are spelled correctly. I’ve never even known you to lapse into a series of common behaviors, but if I ever do please know that I will warn you of your impending compromise.  Please inform your neighbor of his social faux-pas. You are strictly a Redneck.

Yes, she has too much time on her hands right now.  She is resting up this summer in preparation for starting her master’s program full time in the fall, and she is an amazing writer.  Jesus, autism, or social commentary…she knows how to put it into words really well.  So, I guess I am a redneck.  I don’t actually drink beer simply because I am almost always nursing or pregnant and I just don’t like the taste, AND I don’t have any tattoos.  No judgment- they just aren’t my thing.  But other than that, I guess I am a Redneck.  That would mortify my grandmother, and I’m sure SM’s relatives have felt this way about me from time to time, seeing as the women are all at least hanging with Sally Field on this one.  But it works for me and what God has called me to do.  I don’t try to offend anyone, especially the neighbor.  I guess he’s glad that he’ll be moving sometime in the near future.  I know I am.