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.


 

So you aren’t homeschooling anymore? February 23, 2010

Filed under: family size,Superman,The Siblings — jps23 @ 10:31 pm

As I type this, I am frustrated at the keys on my right hand sticking from the Coke that got spilled on my computer by my sweet little Smiley.  Of course, it was my drink, so it is truly my fault.  And, as I pop off the key covers to attempt to clean my keyboard and the backs of the keys, I misplaced my period key cover, so this post may be one big run on sentence!  Either that, or it will be posted with great impact and enthusiasm!  Or as a question?  Either way, we’ve got to figure out where that key cover is, unless of course I just use my ring finger to press down the little rubber circular thing that sits under the key.  Ah, not too bad.  It may just take me a tiny bit more time to post this since it takes me a little more than a split of a second to find the little spot as I type.

So, you aren’t homeschooling anymore?  A frequently asked question to us lately.  And the answer?  Yes and no.  Yes, we are still homeschooling, but not in the traditional way that most would envision.  To be quite honest, we don’t take a traditional approach to homeschooling anyway, and this set up is closer to traditional than anything I’ve ever done, or will do, in regards to homeschooling.  This year, we are participating in a homeschool co-op, sort of.  Our church started a preschool three years ago, and the first year of the preschool, I taught the three’s class, which was attended by my sweet Mary Lou.  I don’t remember the logic in deciding to teach with six kids of my own.  I think I remember hearing that they needed a teacher, and I do love to teach, and it was only two days a week.  I had the grandmothers help us take care of Picasso while I was teaching (since she was too old for the preschool), and everyone else was enrolled in either the preschool or the Mother’s Morning Out program.  It was fun, and the kids I taught were just precious.  But it was hard.  Earnhart, Smiley, and Dozer were little, and getting in and out of the building successfully required me bringing along the double stroller on a daily basis, plus whatever equipment or supplies I needed to teach my curious kids each day.  I was a sight, I’m sure.  We decided I wouldn’t return the next year, and I would just teach at home exclusively, especially since I would have two kids of age for homeschooling.

That year and the following one are a blur.  Maybe it was so many people in such a little house, maybe it was because of the financial crisis we found ourselves in, maybe it was the lack of contentment we were buried under.  Take your pick.  It was tough.  So, Superman and I started to brainstorm.  How could we increase our incoming funds to keep up with our outgoing?  How could we make a substantial dent in our mountain of debt (another story for another post, but it boils down to sheer stupidity)?  Where could I work and still take care of our six kids during the day?  How could he pick up a second job when his first one didn’t allow it?  And then I got wind of the fact that the preschool was starting a homeschool co-op class, and my director wanted me to come back and teach it.  Woo-hoo!  An answer to prayers!!!  I met with her and explained that I would need to be able to bring Picasso with me, and it was a done deal.  Just a few weeks later, we learned that my grandmother had agreed to let us rent her house (five minutes from church/school, as opposed to the 25 minutes we currently had to drive).  This gave us the financial confidence I needed to rent this house and run the risk of no tenant in our other house and having to pay two house payments.  What a sweet deal!  Just a few weeks after that, while preparing our “new” house for our move, we learned we were pregnant with Tipper.  It was a whirlwind.

We moved in Memorial Day weekend, and just three short weeks later, my grandmother suddenly passed away.  I found out that my due date was somewhere in December, which is great timing when you are a teacher.  Perfect timing would have been along with all the other late spring and early summer births of all the other children.  My director was understanding, as she is very business minded and doesn’t take anything too personally.  School year, let’s begin.

The girls now had an “official” first day of school.  They were making friends and learning new things.  But with new friends, we noticed a weakened dependence on each other.  We also noticed outright ill behavior with one another.  I can tell you, you will not be as quick to hurt the feelings of your primary playmates if you think you will be lonely without them.  However, if you have other friends to entertain you, then you suddenly don’t need want your sisters around anymore.  And man, has Earnhart picked up some interesting phrases and attitudes at school with other rambunctious three year olds!  Needless to say, it has been a strain on our family structure and relatability to be a part of this situation.  On top of this, my class isn’t a true co-op.  It isn’t a bunch of parents with a heart for homeschooling looking for enrichment for their kids.  It’s a group of parents waiting on a charter to pass in this area so they have better options in public education.  So, they needed a way to keep their kids at our preschool for their kindergarten and first grade years while they wait on the charter to pass.  Let’s have a class for them four days a week, covering all subject matter plus art, music, and spanish, and call it a homeschool co-op.  I want to teach with a more relaxed approach, as I do homeschooling, and I have parents asking for more reading assignments and homework.  It just isn’t exactly what I had in mind.  Add to that packing seven lunches four days a week (7 x 4 = 28), picking out clothes and socks for everyone each day (7 outfits + 14 socks x 4 = a whole lot of clothes!), getting all of us out of bed, dressed, teeth and hair brushed, and into car seats by 8:15, and it just doesn’t work.  Now, I know what some people would say (none of you, of course).  (1)”Don’t have that many kids if you don’t want to do that work!”  OR  (2)”Would they stay in pajamas all day if you were home?  Would you not dress them every day?”  Well, to that I say (1) I never intended to send them to school.  We’ve had a heart for homeschooling since we first discussed having children, and especially so since we’ve had seven of them!  and (2) Sometimes.  Sometimes they would stay in pajamas, for a little bit.  Yes, they would get dressed, but more likely in a costume of some sort.  Dressing is overrated!  It’s just a lot.  So we’re doing the best we can to get through this year, and then next year we will be home again, hopefully for good.  Not just because doing it the other way was so hard, but because we have a heart for homeschooling.  I could list all the reasons why, but for the sake of your eyes, I’ll save that for another post.  Reading much more than this will wear you out.

So now you see why we are, but are not, homeschooling right now.  The school is great,  my coworkers are wonderful, and our kids have had fun, but it just isn’t our thing.  Home is great, my coworker is my best friend and my love, and our kids have fun.  It will be nice to get back to “normal” next year.

By the way, we are ALWAYS homeschooling around here.  Every chance we get, we jump on learning opportunities, whether they involve setting the table, doing yard work, making dinner, etc.  Homeschooling is not always creating school at home, but I’ll share more on that in that other post.

 

Fix-it Friday January 29, 2010

Filed under: The Siblings — jps23 @ 12:19 pm

This post is in regards to fixing the names on the blog for better clarification.  Just posting that chaos clip had me confused, and I’m the mom!  So, let me introduce my brood with more distinct names for your blog reading pleasure…

Picasso (formerly known as S1)- I chose this name because she is a little artist.  She has always loved to draw, but her artistic talent extends to her creative mind, her ballet dancing, and her fashion centered mind.

Cowgirl (S2)- This one is pretty obvious.  The girl LOVES horses, and she actually will be starting horse riding lessons next Saturday.  It’s the obvious name choice for her.

Mary Lou (S3)- This one is our gymnast.  So this is her obvious name choice.  Her other love is Dora, but she is likely to outgrow this love in the next year or two.  I didn’t want to call her Dora when I was blogging about her first training bra!

Earnhart (S4)- The boy loves cars, as they all do, but he can drive!  He maneuvers his bike and ride-on toys like my dad did when he drove a big rig.  It’s quite amazing to watch!

Smily (S5)- My dad nicknamed one of the boys smily when he was a baby, but I’m not sure if I’m remembering correctly which boy it was.  Either way, this boy smiles all the time, and when he cries, a simple kiss makes it all better and he is back to smiling again.  He smiles with his entire face, too.  You can’t help but smile when you see it!

Bulldozer (S6)- I may shorten this to ‘dozer’ for conveneince one day.  This boy has been a bulldozer since he could move!  He gets to what he wants, no matter what, or who, is in the way!  I can definitely see him playing football one day.

Tipper (S7)- I may change this as he develops a personality and I find something that fits him better, but for now we’ll use this.  Why Tipper?  He tipped the scales in the boys’ favor when he joined our family.  Plus, I think it sounds cute!

So there you have it.  I used my limited energy (it’s been a busy week) and fixed any confusion from all my little S’s.  Hope it helps.

 

Waiting for S7 December 8, 2009

Filed under: family size,S7,Superman,The Siblings — jps23 @ 12:35 pm

Well, I’ve been contracting for about 30-something hours now, pretty regular, but not real strong.  I have a stubborn cervix that doesn’t change easily, so I’m just waiting for this to change enough to justify calling the midwife.  I have an appointment tomorrow, so at least then I can see what’s going on, if anything has changed, and see if she will help me along (which she has already said she would do).  In the meantime, I thought I’d post about what it is like to do this for the seventh time.

  • I still consult my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, usually towards the end, but sometimes even in the beginning.
  • I still get nervous.
  • I still pray for water breaking so I will have a more certain “It’s time, honey” moment!
  • I still miss my kids when I am in the hospital, and I have a feeling I’ll feel that way even more this time since the flu epidemics are keeping hospitals from allowing kids to visit.
  • I wish I could have Superman with me the entire time I am in the hospital, but I want my other babies to have as normal a transition possible, so he always gets sent home to be with them.
  • I am sometimes sad that people don’t celebrate number 7 with the same excitement as 1 or 2, but I kind of enjoy the quiet, uninterrupted rest time with my new one by my side.
  • I don’t like to send the baby to the nursery, and I only do so when I have to for baths, stats, or circumcisions.
  • I’m never ready at home with all the baby stuff.  I try to prepare, but it never really happens.
  • Fortunately, in regards to the previous statement, the baby doesn’t really NEED all that stuff!  🙂
  • I wish Superman had some sick/personal days left this year so he could stay home with us, like he has with all the others.  The move ate up his days this year.
  • I prefer delivering in the spring.
  • This is the first time we haven’t made sibling shirts.  Maybe after we get home…
  • This is the first time I haven’t taken my zoloft during the pregnancy (it made me very nauseous), and it’s been HARD!!!
  • I want my kids to be together during the time I am gone.  I don’t want them to be split up while I’m in the hospital.
  • What is it about me delivering the week of our children’s musicals?  This is the third or fourth time that’s happened!

That certainly isn’t an all-inclusive list of thoughts on my mind as I sit and wait for my body to be a little more aggressive.  I just thought it would be nice to let others know (that is, if anyone actually reads my blog) that it isn’t like riding a bike.  Every birth, just like every child, is unique and different.  Maybe I’ll have some fun with this idea and publish a What to Expect book for one of these larger numbers and make fun of us crazy people having more than two babies.  Yes, that’s right, you three kid mommies aren’t normal anymore, either.  Read the articles.  They think you are weird, too!  🙂

 

Manage-it Monday November 23, 2009

Filed under: Manage-It Monday,S4,The Siblings — jps23 @ 8:48 pm

So, how do you manage sibling rivalry?  It’s something that we have to deal with on a regular basis, seeing that there are so many siblings and they are so close in age.  I came across this tip on a few mom blogs a couple of years ago, and it has worked quite well for us.  They suggested having a kid of the week.  That child gets all the priviledges of the week, like going first (or last, if they prefer), being Mommy’s special helper, and sitting in the front of the bathtub, when sharing their bathtime (or maybe getting to take a bath alone).  However, they also are the ones that get asked for favors and special help sometimes, too.  In our family, the priviledge most desired is sitting in the front seat of the “mini” van.  It only seats seven, so when it is full of a parent plus all the kids, someone has to sit in the front.  This was a necessity before we got the “many” van, where we do not practice having a kid in the front seat because it isn’t necessary.  Fortunately, our “mini” van has a feature that shuts the airbag off when a certain minimal weight is picked up in the seat (like a child).  Before you report me, know that this is the only reason I will allow a child in the front seat.  I took this kid of the week concept and had a little fun with it.  I took the letters KOW and wrote them on a piece of construction paper.  I then found a blackline (coloring sheet) online of a cow and colored and cut it out.  I took the pictures of the three girls’ faces and cut them out, used velcro dots, and each week, we move the face onto the cow to remind us whose turn it is for the week.  Because of the front seat issue, you have to be five to be on the kow rotation in our house, and S4 even knows that when he turns five, he gets a chance to be the KOW!  This method greatly reduces our sibling rivalry issues.

In dealing with those issues, which we do in other areas now that the girls are older, I came across this idea.  We haven’t tried it yet, but it’s definitely in the toolbox.  When your child offends their sibling, saying or doing something hurtful or mean, send them to hammer a nail into a piece of wood.  Do this a few times until they seem to catch on to the connection between their offense and the nail.  Then tell them to go pull the nails out.  Discuss with them that although the nails are gone, the holes from the nails are still there and cannot be taken away.  This will help to illustrate the affects of their unkind words or actions on others, especially their siblings.  Of course, this wouldn’t work with my boys at this point because they are so young, but I think it’s something the girls would understand pretty quickly.  I think this idea was suggested by Kevin Lehman in one of his kid-raising books.

There are other tools and strategies, but that is the way we are managing it right now!