Eight is Great for Cbug

Cbug- 

SCbug 8weet boy! You are eight.  Which means we’ve wrapped up eight years of crazy, exciting, adventurous, never-boring years of CBUG.  You made your presence KNOWN the moment I went into labor with you and you haven’t missed a beat since.  I will say, though, I’m incredibly thankful that this year, your eighth year, was a bit less exciting in the health department.  We made zero visits to the hospital.  A rare gem in your lifetime- no stitches, no asthma attacks.  Thank you for that!

Cbug swinging- thenandnowYou’ve grown up a lot this year.  I love these pictures from one of your very favorite spots, four years apart.  I love them because they show what I see each day.  There is so much about you that has grown and changed over the last few years, but there is so much about you, too, that is still the same life-loving little boy.

You still love Legos and reading so much you get literally LOST and nearly unreachable when you are engaged in them.  In fact, at lunch one day one of your school friends told me (like it was the coolest thing EVER): “Did you know that when Cbug reads he can’t even HEAR you??”   Yeah, you might get a wee-bit obsessed.  You’ve also developed a new obsession passion.  Sports.  Which is funny because you’ve rarely even played on a “real” team.  Our “sports” have mostly consisted of jackpot in the front yard, kickball in the cul-de-sac, and my personal favorite: Air football at our newly discovered favorite park.  Air football is the game you and KJ invented.  No ball required.  Just lots of running and tackling.  Air-football, combined with the fact that every time we see a sign advertising ANY youth sport you ask me to call the number, finally led Daddy and I to decide we’d let you guys play in a small basketball league this winter.  You’ve only had two practices so far and already declared it THE BEST THING EVER.

cbugs numbersClosely related…You still love numbers.  In fact one of your favorite books this year was “G is for Googol” an alphabet book of math terms.  For some time you’ve assigned values to random things and developed games with them.  Especially star wars characters (like these pieces of paper I found in the craft area <—). But recently you’ve developed a new numbers passion.  Sports statistics.  With Daddy’s help, you’ve discovered the mass of information available to you online and also on sports trading cards.  You could spend hours arranging and rearranging cards by team, then by position, then by years cbugs numbers2played.  You LOVE to learn about players, teams, records, championships of any kind.  Random stats enter mealtime conversations CONSTANTLY and most of the time when you are telling me about something in these categories, I actually have zero idea whether you are accurate or not.  But you speak with such confidence I dare not question.  You are already counting down to March Madness and jeering me that you’ll cheer for UK.  I can’t wait!

I’m thankful for one thing that hasn’t changed: You can make a friend anywhere you go.  I L-O-V-E-D the day at six flags when you made friends with a man you rode a roller IMG_2458coaster with.  At the start of the ride he had headphones on, obviously enjoying some time alone.  By the end, his headphones were off and you were both laughing and sharing stories.  Your love for people is GINORMOUS, just like your hugs.  Once you’ve met someone, you are best friends.  I love that about you, but I know its sometimes hard for others to know how to receive.

That, sweet Cbug, is where I find my prayer for you this year.  I’m praying that your uncontrollable BURSTS of love and information and questions and conversation will be perceived exactly as you intend: fully sincere and distributed equally to beloveds and strangers alike.  And when its 3favecbug far (800x532)received that way, that it will be contagious, bringing joy and life and FUN to all you meet.  As your parents, as we strive to teach you some (cough cough) social cues and appropriate ways to display affection, I’m praying we won’t squash your desire to befriend those who need it most, your joy at sharing what you know with those who may not and your big expressions of L-O-V-E.  Because I know that your unique ability to love well and effortlessly and with unbridled equality can be used as a powerful tool for bringing others to the Lord.  When they feel welcomed by you, may they also come to know the ONE who welcomes all equally in big and generous and full-of-life ways.  What a treasure that will be.  Just like you.

I love you times a million billion trillion,

Momma

FROM: Momof7 TO: Jaw Dropper

I love a good “Say this/Not that” post.  Like what to say to a grieving mom.  Or what to say to an adopting parent.  Or what to say to a stay-at-home or working mom.  Not because I think the people that need the advice actually read them or are actually clued in, but because there is a sense of camaraderie with those that write them.  You can nod and say “Yep!  I’ve heard that.  And I wish they’d try saying something else, too.”

So, here’s my shot at it.  Moms of large families.  UNITE.

Here’s what Mom/Aunts of many children want you to know (YOU, YES YOU!)

 
My Dearest Jaw Dropper,

I say dearest because you really have no idea how dear you are to me, bless your heart.  The chuckles I get at your expense fill my tank, I’ll admit.  And that’s a necessary key to sanity.  I need to be reminded of how hilarious we are when we wander into the grocery store, a restaurant, down a hiking trail or onto a playground.  And I must laugh.  So I won’t cry.  You help me with that. SO thank you!  photo (18)

When I see you completely lose control of the cart you are pushing, drop your keys mid-stride, let all your food fall off your fork, or allow your ONE child to completely wander away…all while dropping your jaw to stare at my herd passing by…I can’t help but think about the narrative that must be playing in your head.  It’s provided hours of entertainment for me, I assure you.  To thank you, I’d like to take a minute to give you all the answers you really need.  This should help you avoid the embarrassment of the questions you might ask. just in case the cat lets go of your tongue before I can hasten by.

Yes, they are all mine.  And by mine I mean, I did not pick them up in the parking lot or gather them from strangers throughout this establishment.  I came in with all of them and I need to complete my task and leave with all of them.  It really shouldn’t matter to you, dear stranger, if that’s by birth, adoption, babysitting, friend-watching or play-dating. I’m responsible for seven in this moment and if I spend time explaining any further than that will not help me leave with seven.

Yes, I do have my hands full.  So full of blessings to overflowing.  And since you are such the sleuth, I’m sure you can deduce that since my hands are so full and I’m STILL trying to shop/eat/hike/play/supervise, it might not be a great idea for me to take my eyes off the task to stop and visit.  Thanks for helping!

Yes, there are seven.  You are very quick at your math.  Math is usually my strong suite, too, but I’ve counted to seven so many times today, I’m plum tuckered out.  Since you’ve only had to do it once so far, would you mind following me through the rest of this errand and continuing the game?  If you ever come up shorter than seven.  PLEASE NOTIFY ME IMMEDIATELY.  You have no idea how much that will help!

Yes, they are very close in age.  And, yes, I’m sure that none of them are twins, absolutely sure.  I was there for many of the births, up close and personal.  One at a time.  I do wish I had time to explain to you just how sure I am or explain how wrong you are that it’s even possible that they all “look exactly alike”, but I do not.  Thank you for understanding!

Yes, I know I’m brave. Very very brave.  But bravery has a limit.  And I’m only 11.5 minutes away from bravery becoming straight up crazy, with 13 minutes of shopping left to complete.  I really do hate to bravery over you, but if this chariot shopping cart doesn’t keep the forward march, I’m NOT GOING TO MAKE IT.  Please understand, the battle is at hand.  They are very close to victory.  AND I need to win.  Desperately, I need to leave with my last ounce of bravery.

Yes, I know you can barely do it with your two.  I sincerely do wish I had time to encourage you.  I’d love to grab you up with a cup of Starbucks and lean straight across the table and say YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB.  Parenting 1 or 7 is tough tough stuff.  I really do hope you have someone you actually know if for real life that will take time to do that for you.  It reminds me that I need to do it for some very loved new-momma’s too.  But right now we are not at Starbucks.  And I think that was your Johnnie that just opened the box of un-paid-for popsicles.  What a good kid, he even passed some out to his new friends, my thankful and hungry crew. See!  You are totally rocking this.  Thanks for sharing.  Gotta run!

So, in short.  The answer is YES! to all of your many jaw-dropping questions. I hope you’ll allow me to leave it at that.  For, they are young, but I’ll assure you- they are not dumb.  They can sense distraction. And if I spend another ounce of my focus engaging your need for a biology lesson, math tutorial or etiquette check, they will use it to their complete advantage.  Let me assure you, none of us want that.

And God bless you, too. 

Continue on, sweet jaw dropper, continue on.  And next time I see you, since we’ve completed the formalities, if you happen to ask if I need any help or maybe give a thumbs up and compliment my children (FOR HEAVENS SAKE, make something up), I can assure you I will smile and say “Thank you, friend!  That made my day.”

Sincerely, from the very deepest parts of my heart,

/s/ ABL

Your neighborhood Momma/Aunt of Seven

 

When Seven Isn’t Too Many

The first day of school was a whirlwind.  Alarm clocks, excitement, nerves, pictures, SEVEN LUNCHES, questions, a few more pictures and GO!  When I dropped off the five biggest and headed home for round 2 with the littles, I gulped back tears.  This year they weren’t tears of “will they be ok?”  This time I know they will.  This year I didn’t really have tears over how much they’ve grown.  They have, but I love the stages they are in.  This time the tears were fear.

Maybe 7 is too many.

I have that fear mirrored right back at me nearly every time I tell anyone that we have five children in our home attending the same elementary school.  In 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, and 1st.  Or when I mention that I have two more at another school down the road.  Or when I get to the part about packing lunches, doing homework and bathing children taking all.the.time of all.the.days.   They say “I don’t know HOW you do it?” And I want to scream right back “DON’T REMIND ME.  I don’t know EITHER.”  Can we do it? Will we do it?  Will there be a single day we remember everything, arrive unfrazzled, participate fully, learn something new.  One. Single. Day? FDOS PicMonkey Collage

Maybe 7 is too many.

Oh, we will survive all right.  Because I can build systems for that.  I can write on my chalk board a mean routine.  I can build a menu plan. Grocery shop with the tribe in tow.  Have a killer bedtime plan.  And BAM.  Survival.

But can we thrive? Can I give these three bonus loves the sometimes exhausting attention they need?  Can I find joy in helping them, watching them grow and keep hoping for full restoration of their family?  Can I keep my cool through the inevitable notes home from teachers and calls from the principal?  With the natural chaos of our home, can I patiently answer their 203985723658593 questions about their family?

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And can I keep giving on days when I feel like I’m missing out on life, on learning and on joy of parenting these four.  Because, truth be told, those are real days that I have.  Can I help these four, who’ve had their lives turned upside down, grow and understand and develop their own hope and joy and love?  Will I be willing to give up what needs to be shared?IMG_2724

 

Maybe 7 is too many for that?

But SEVEN is what I have.  For now.  And while 7 is too many for things like fitting in the same car, eating quietly in a restaurant, and getting out the door on time.  Maybe there are some things for which 7 is just right.

Like raising your average!

This week I decided to start keeping track of our behavior days at school in team percentages.

7 kids * 5 days = 35 possible awesome days.

And one not so great day (including hitting a friend and screaming at a teacher-, but degree of not-so-greatness isn’t important) subtracted from our 35 possible days, only brings our collective average down to 97%.  Thats not just passing, thats a high A.  Suddenly, “that day sucked” becomes “GO TEAM!”  And for that, seven is not too many.

I love this visual.  In this sea of hands, it takes some study to even identify the one finger representing the one day that one kid was…um…out of sorts.

hands

Which got me to thinking.  Maybe there are more.  More opportunities for using our seven-ness to great benefit and shift my perspective on how many is too many.  Maybe sometimes seven is not too many.  In the spirit of #huntingformiracles, I’m making a list.

Seven is NOT too many for…

Gathering a crowd to help celebrate long-awaited birthday presents.  7 opening present

Or toast graduation from kindergarten.

cheers

Seven is not too many for helping you master the art of two wheels

or having a crowd cheer for you when you make your first full lap around the culdesac.

chas bike riding

(in the video be sure to note how important a large team was: each other child is standing next to something CB had previously crashed into to remind her to turn and not repeat.  a hilarious sight, i assure you.)

Seven is not too many for…

having teams for kickball

kickball

or enough to play board games.

playing game

Seven is not too many for tough jobs like…

Raking leaves

raking leaves

or building a snowman.

building snowman

or creating the perfect birthday pyramid.IMG_0793

Seven is not too many for…

acting out a nativity scene (complete with a gift of shoulder pads for the King)

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or having enough to dress like (almost) all of the characters from Peter Pan.

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And apparently 7 is not too many for generating enough sympathy to be handed $10 in the grocery store.

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And, for sure, seven is just the right number to leave me with no other option than to throw up my hands and say “give me strength” and fully expect a strength that overcomes.

In choosing how to write the narrative in my heart of this season with seven kids, it does a world of good to make lists of pros (and leave the cons column blank for a minute or two).  When I do the math right, I dare to dream. Maybe we won’t just survive another school year.  I have a feeling we will learn and grow and change and become and THRIVE.

Maybe, for a season, seven is NOT too many.

With more than 1,250 possible school days available for success,

I like our Team odds.

(but please don’t ask me how we do it)

ABL

Becoming What You Aren’t

For more than two weeks in a row this summer, I was home alone.  With many many small children.  I was also at the tail end of a super busy work season.  When I finally came up for air from work and RRL was STILL out of town, I did the logical thing.

Watched every single episode of the first season of Gilmore girls.

In about 5 days.

And while I watched, I noticed myself taking on pieces of Loralei Gilmore persona: the laid-back, fun, energetic, witty and spontaneous pieces. Maybe because of the binge watching or maybe because I usually watched at a ridiculously late hour while falling asleep. Quite possibly both.  Whatever the reason, I grinned big when I swung by and picked up pizza after work instead of cooking.  Something I would have done anyway, but now seemed all spontaneous and free-spirited.

Then came the night I put my newly adopted traits to the test.  3rd of July. 6 kids in tow.

What would a fun, spontaneous, free-spirited, (temporarily) single mom/aunt do?  She’d totally pack a picnic of breakfast food (breaking all the picnic rules), throw bedtime caution to the wind and go watch a movie and fireworks under the stars.

Turns out, kids had a blast.  And I was miserable. 

It was H-A-R-D to be spontaneous and fun.  There was zero care-freeness.  And suddenly, I had a sharp TV realization.  There is a reason Loralei Gilmore was never portrayed on screen with her 3 year old.  And why she only had one kid.  Who was born to her.  Because the best of actresses in the world couldn’t have masked the truths which are necessary in such situations.  You know: the sweat, the gritted teeth and the under-your-breath “I will pack everything up and leave” (which you don’t mean because the only thing worse than surviving there is is the idea of getting everyone outta there)…all while taking happy smiling pictures.

Lets just say that if two sweet baby-sitter-friends hadn’t just happened along in the knick of time,  I honestly think I might have lost it. I cannot even begin to portray the desperation I exuded when they coincidentally walked in.  I readily admitted complete defeat and accepted a few minutes of their company and

H-E-L-P.

Looking back, it totally makes sense that I was defeated.  I was aiming for fun with sugar, a late night movie and dinner on the lawn as a single parent of 6; while I’m a strict bedtime and rules kind of parent who finds her team-mate invaluable.

It is hard to be something you aren’t.  Like your momma always tells you: “Just be yourself.”

 

REAL LIFE: But what about when what you’ve always been isn’t what you need to be?

This, I think, is at the root of why parenting “bonus kids” is ROUGH.  Whether step kids, foster kids or adopted kids, when you have “bonus kids” you need to become something you are not.  You were not first their mom/dad, but you need to act it.

With my three bonus kiddos, I’m not even hoping to be their mom someday (because I hope they’ll be permanently reunited with their bio-Mom).  But for right now, for who knows how much longer, I’m their primary maternal influence. I need them to believe that I will love them and provide for them unconditionally and for as long as they need.  I need them to find invisible the sometimes glaringly obvious line between them and my bio four.  I need them to believe without doubt that when I say they are some of my absolute favorites, it is true.  It isn’t what was, but for now it needs to be what becomes.

What’s more, they are also trying to be something they are not.  Most days they are just trying to ACT like they belong here.  Like maybe if they try hard enough they will finally mold into someone that fits.  I’m just beginning to be aware that they are grieving this hard reality, too.  Maybe not in a way they could articulate, but I believe its a deep soul “this isn’t the way it was ever supposed to be” kind of grief.  There is a part of them that clings to this temporary reality with fierceness.  A part of them that rests at night knowing tomorrow will have more of the same new normal in store for them.  It isn’t what was, but it is what has become.

The qualities and truths that are bringing us together right now are not qualities and truths which we are, they are qualities and truths we are becoming. Little, hard, but important bits at a time.

Maybe you, too, have felt you were pretending to be something you aren’t.  You first have a child come to you because of your heart to help, to meet their needs. And you fiercely desire to develop a heart that connects to who they are, not what they need.  So, you fake it for a while, maybe a long while.  Only to realize one day you aren’t faking.  You’ve grown into it.  You’ve become it.

Even once it has become, it might not be glaringly obvious.  That’s where I am.  I am learning to hunt for the miracles that represent this becoming.  Maybe its just that he came running out of school to tell you about his day, that she was able to tell you what she was afraid of instead of saying “I don’t know”, that he actually relaxed and snuggled deep into your lap when you picked him up.  Maybe its that he laughs at a joke and recognizes that you are kidding, maybe its that she can voice her opinion.

For me, recently, it was when I peeked into a desk and picked up a little pink eraser that looked exactly like it should.  I had a sudden flash of sharp contrast to the one I saw in the same spot last year, at the beginning of school.  This time no signs of anxiety reminded me of what we’ve become.

If you’ve experienced the miracle of that transformation you know, you can’t will yourself there out of sheer determination.  While you were becoming something new it can be painful and so rocky your hiking boots lose tread long before you arrive.  In the midst of becoming it may seem that only through brutal refinement do you change and grow.

Friends who are becoming: Will you please hunt with me?  Let’s hunt for the miracles that remind us that we are becoming.  They might not be what we’d expect, but we’ll find them.

Because it is hard to become something you are not.
But not impossible.

ABL

The Big Girl withOUT a Bow- Six

Sweet Lou

You are six!! I started to say “I can’t believe you are six”, but thinking back on the last year, seeing how much you’ve grown and watching you learn and learn and learn its actually harder to believe you are ONLY six.  Just since your last birthday you’ve learned to tie your shoes, ride a bike, shower on your own and READ! I’m so proud of all the new things you’ve tried and learned I could just burst.  And it seems you recognized quite the change in yourself this school year, too.  These were your self portraits from the first and last day of school.

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And oh my what fun we had celebrating your birthday.  We went to see Cinderella at a local theater with a few friends and it was one of my favorite birthday parties ever.  If it wasn’t your favorite before, this personal serenade by Cinderella pretty well clinched the deal for you, I’m sure.

If I asked you your very favorite thing about this year, I’m fairly certain you’d say “school”.  For several reasons.  First- your love for learning came alive this year.  You’ve never really cared much for the school part of school, but with your energetic teacher and an awesome group of kindergarteners you changed your mind.  When your teacher called you an “enthusiastic learner” in your end of the year evaluation, I wondered if she had any idea how much credit she deserved for that.  This year you LOVED calendar time, reading groups, math problems, really ANYTHING.  But the learning was only part of the equation.

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You also love teaching, so being at school where you might get to interact with younger kids on the playground, or have opportunities to be the “teachers helper” in your classroom just made you think you were in heaven.  One time your teacher told me she had to unexpectedly step out and talk to a parent.  While she was gone you managed to just keep the class right on going with calendar time so she just let you keep going when she came back in.  It was pretty much your favorite day EVER!

And last, but certainly not least…you love school because you LOVE to be social. My word you love people and you also love to be loved by people.  All kinds.  A sweet friend of mine who knows you well once told me “if there was a Preschool Homecoming Queen, Lou would be on campaign for the title”. No doubt.
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You’ve changed this year, too.  You are developing opinions and style that are your very own and it’s fun to see how you express them.  I (secretly) couldn’t wait to see what you would choose each Friday for free dress Friday to see that style come blazing out.  But in everyday things, too.  You’ve decided you no longer like hair-bows.  WHAT?!?!   Instead, you prefer that your hair just “be straight down” or in a pony tail that you do all by yourself.  Those are the options (just noticed all the pics I chose for this blog still have you in a bow…maybe your last few, sniff sniff).  You still LOVE dresses (especially with “high heels”) but also love to don a good pair of (preferably pink) fast shorts while you run and play and bike ride. While you still LOVE to dress up, take care of your babies, especially Samantha, and play house; you’ll also jump right in for a good water gun fight or nerf war or even fishing.  You love to adventure as much as any of your big brothers/cousins and don’t mind a bit getting a little muddy now and then.  While I’m shocked by the development of a girly/sporty balance in you I’m also VERY relieved…there might actually be a little bit of me in you afterall.  Maybe.
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You are my helper at home.  I can count on you to head the kitchen if you know I’m there to help me however you can.  You have a great knack for just seeing jobs that need to be done and volunteering.  You are happy to jump in as a third parent- and truth be told sometimes we need one. You treat Tito especially like he’s part yours.  So much so that many times when he says “momma” I just assume he’s talking to you.  You’ve even tried to teach him to ride his bike.

This year you’ll head to “big school” with your two brothers and two cousins,  what a crew that will make.  I think you are equal parts thrilled and nervous about that transition.  But I know, if you choose to, you can have the same love for learning and love for people in the bigger place as you did in Preschool and K. You’ll make friends and be a helper and continue to develop opinions and style that make you beautifully unique.
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And that, my sweet princess, is my prayer for you this year.  May you continue to learn and grow and try new things, but may you also have the confidence to hang on to the opinions and style that make you LOU.  May you not be afraid to be different, but may you also have a zeal for appreciating the differences in others.  And always always always may the true beauty that is in you be one that bursts forth from a true desire to know Jesus and share his love.  Jesus is a friend that walks with you the same in your new big school where you knew few people as He was in a school where every teacher, child and staff member knew your name.  He’ll give you strength and confidence and beauty just the same now as he did then.  But I’ll let you in on a secret, a secret that you’ll just be in the earliest stages of discovering-  you may just come to see Him in a brand new way because of this new adventure. And in that I’m praying you’ll find great joy. I think you’re gonna love being SIX!
I love you to the moon and back times a million!

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Love, Momma

The Miracle of Change

I’ve thought a lot about miracles.

I’ve written about miracles being hard work and about waiting on a miracle.

And during my gospel studies, miracles have been a theme I’ve looked at over and over.

Partly because miracles are so evidently part of the story of Jesus’s life on earth, but also because I’ve been searching. Waiting. Hoping. I think, in an effort to see Jesus and know Him more in this season, I’ve clung to the thought that the same ONE who came to earth, died and rose again ALSO performed miracles.  And if I fully believe the first part of that sentence (and I DO!) I also have to believe the second.  I can’t accept his gift without believing in his power.

Today I believe in miracles more than ever before.  But I also define them differently than I once did. I’ve seen growth and healing in our bonus kiddos in ways that couldn’t be explained by any other power.  So I know miracles. But I also know those kiddos aren’t fully restored. None of us are. And in some ways the transformation has been so slow and subtle and sometimes painstaking that unless I was walking with them, I might have missed it.

I wonder if that might be a little bit of the reason why so many miracles in the Bible required such hard work. Like the disciples pulling in the nets full of fish, over and over we see people doing hard and crazy things, through which His power gets displayed. Friends who dug through a roof, people who pushed through crowds, walked miles, shouted at the top of their lungs.  They aren’t the source of power, but the hard thing they do becomes the instrument by which the power is magnified.

This week I need to remind myself of the miracles I’ve seen so that I can cling to those still hoped for. One morning, before I knew some of the difficulties that particular day would hold, these verses jumped off the pages of my reading.

John 2: 7-9
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

did you see it? THE SERVANTS KNEW

The ones who filled the jars and carried them to the master SAW the change.  I wonder if there was a moment when they were putting ordinary WATER into the jars, jars they planned to carry to the master of the banquet, when they questioned the sanity of the Crazy Man who told them He would provide.  I wonder if they thought we must be INSANE for thinking this might work, that this ordinary might become extraoridnary.  But they were servants, so they obeyed.

AND because they obeyed, THEY KNEW. They SAW the change. HIS change.  Because they did the crazy thing with their own two hands.

You know what I’m learning about doing crazy things with the One who orchestrates crazy? Sometimes it is hard. Period.
But it is also miraculous. We get to see change unfold right in front of us which we might have missed had someone else carried the jars.  We see oridinary things become extraordinary, we see the impossible happen.

For RRL and I, through three bonus kids, we’ve seen change. And we might have missed it.

If we’d chosen the easy road, we might have missed a fiery red-head compete confidently in the first grade spelling bee. Round after round he sat patiently waiting his turn. Stepped up to the microphone and confidently spelled his word.  CORRECTLY.  Maybe to some he was another first grader doing an ordinary first grade thing. To us, the moment represented change.

If we’d chosen the wide road, we might have missed this girl who once had trouble even looking adults in the eyes transforming into this confident performer, glorifying His name with her voice.  She beamed and glowed for days as teachers, administrators and parents complimented her songs.  And you know, she was one of many in that talent show.  But for her, the moment was more than two songs.  It was change.

imageIf we hadn’t done the crazy thing, we couldn’t have recognized how cool it was for this big 5-year-old to plan his party.  When I asked him if he wanted cake or cupcakes he answered confidently “Actually, I’d like ice cream with chocolate and toppings”.  To some, this is ordinary.  All kids know what they want for their party.  But for this kid, speaking his preference with confidence and believing that his wishes might just come true = change.image
Sometimes miracles are hard work

And we get to say whether we are willing.

If we choose not to carry the jars someone else will.  Don’t be fooled, He will always provide whether we say yes to participating or not.

But if we let someone else carry our jars we will missed the slow stir of ordinary into extraordinary right in our own hands.

We will miss the change.

Tonight, I’m thankful for our jars.

Even when carrying them seems crazy.

ABL

KJ- On the Brink of Gone

KJ-

20150527-124854-46134414.jpgOh, Buddy. I find myself this year even more than others longing to be sure you know – really know- how amazing you are, how much I love you and how strong I believe you can be. Maybe partly because I’m in a near panic about 9. NINE. As in one year before 10 which is totally double digits and just on the verge on teen years in which you will grow up and learn to drive and become a technical adult and go to college and move away from me FOREVER. You are basically on the brink of gone. Sheesh. Nine.

The passion and ill-logic of that may make no sense to you at this point, but someday you will have a first born who will be this incredible human and you’ll think…OH.MY.WORD he’s like a for real piece of me walking around outside my body. It will change you forever in all the best ways. Just like you’ve done for me. And then you, too, might panic over nine.

Maybe the rest of the panic is because I see you changing. You are growing up. Which 20150527-124855-46135309.jpgmeans some really awesome things. It means you rock the big brother/cousin gig (like when for months and months you walked CB to class every day).  You slyly get in on jokes that used to just be for mommy and daddy, you help me with directions when I’m driving places and you can totally fix breakfast. Because we have seven kiddos at our house right now, you get to sit up front sometimes. It wasn’t my first choice, but the Lord has been sweet to make it a special time for us. Thanks for helping me watch for the green lights.

20150527-124853-46133371.jpgYou’ve also learned (a little bit) of flexibility this year. Maybe partly because of the craziness that you have to roll with when you are the oldest of seven, but also in large part thanks to your amazing teacher. She totally gets your need for order and structure and rule following. But she has also helped you see that it might be possible to maintain those things while operating in a little bit of open space. It might actually be possible to solve a problem in more than one way. This is awesome for you!
I love the way you patiently play chess and Stratego with Cbug, who isn’t always the most gracious of winners or losers. He’s getting better at that just because you are an awesome big brother and always come back to play again. I love the way you encouraged your sister when she was learning to ride her bike. She values your opinion so much and you totally knew how much it would mean to her for you to cheer. And you pretty much rock my world every time you offer to tuck the little boys in and read them stories.

One of my favorite things about this year was when your Daddy told you you could talk to him anytime about anything and you’ve taken him up on it. Though sometimes you use it as a bedtime stall tactic, other times it’s been a sweet time for you to hide away in our room for a bit or on the couch after other kids are in bed and just bond with your Daddy. Most of the time you’ll say “Mommy, you can listen, too” and I gotta tell you I want to bottle that up and keep it forever. I hope you’ll always choose us.

But growing up also means you are more aware of what people think, and for the first time deciding whether you care. I remember the day at school when you came to me with tears welling because you didn’t understand why someone had laughed at you. It was one of the Fridays I’d come to eat lunch with you and you had asked a girl to sit with you. You asked her because she was next alphabetically and you’ve been systematically picking your lunch dates all year so everyone would get a turn. Because that’s the amazing kid you are. Turns out, this Friday the girl you picked was extra special. She doesn’t look or talk or act like other kids in your class, she needs a little special help sometimes. You didn’t choose her that day to be noble. You chose her because it was her turn. One of your buddies thought it strange that she of all people would be your pick. And he laughed. My favorite part was that you didn’t even seem to realize why he would laugh and you certainly didn’t change your system for taking turns because he laughed. And that’s pretty much the coolest thing ever, an innocence I want to guard. But I saw it cracked just a tiny bit that day. Soon you’ll have to make the same kinds of brave and strong decisions even without the innocence. You’ll have to choose what’s right fully understanding that others will think it strange. More and more what’s right will have to weigh out what is popular.

KJ 9

So that’s my prayer for you in this last year of single digits. May you grow in understanding of the variety of opinions and beliefs that swirl around you. And right smack dab in the middle of that new understanding, may you grow bold and strong and fearless for what’s right. Only by courageously doing what is strange will you fully embrace the power of the One who chose the strangest thing of all- sending his very own Son to die for us all. You will be a warrior for Him when you fight for those others might scoff at. And I want you to know without a doubt that your Daddy and I think you are able and equipped and brave enough to be just that.

I love you in the fiercest way,
Momma

Pretty Pictures

I’ve posted a bit too much about the HARD stuff lately.

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But I want you to know     2boys       there are also lots of pretty pictures.

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In fact it actually seems like

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the harder things get

the prettier the pretty pictures become.

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Sure, the pretty pictures aren’t ALL there is.

But they can be what I remember most.

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And when I choose the pretty pictures

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I grin and think

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These people

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This life

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I choose them.

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Praise the Lord for pretty pictures.

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ABL

 

taken on our 6th annual trip to see the bluebonnets in the Bluebonnet capital of TX (a for real thing).  it was especially sweet this year during one of our increasingly frequent “just the six of us” times, with a BONUS of Grammy coming along.

2014,  2013,  20122010

Moms: Fortify Yourself

Mother’s Day was all kinds of things for me. I actually got a bit of a reprieve because I’m married to the best human alive. He sent me to spend Mother’s Day with my original fam on the beach. (Don’t hate).

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But I actually spent a little time that day thinking about you moms out there that have a super rough gig. I’m increasingly aware that there are a whole lot of moms doing really hard things to restore and redeem broken lives. Mom trying to build something to replace what was lost, creating a second best home for kids. But sometimes second best is still just that. Second.

Because here’s what I know: no matter how great RRL And I ever get at this parenting “bonus kids” gig- it will always be second best. Our home, no matter how perfect it may ever become, will never be Gods very first design for those kids. Family, at the beginning, had a perfect design. And it did not include Aunts and Uncles subbing in for Moms and Dads. It did not include weekend visits and shared custody. It did not include separation and divorce. It most certainly did not include “where do I belong?”

I’m so thankful that he is giving us the opportunity to be part of his grand redemption plan. But I learned from studying Nehemiah, and I’m seeing in my own story, restoration takes work. Hard work. Hard work for which there is no bypass. And believe me, if you could build a strategy or system for making the process more efficient, I would have done it by now.

But there isn’t a strategy or system to answer questions like “Why doesn’t my Daddy visit?” There isn’t an efficiency strategy to speed up rebuilding broken trust or securing feelings of “I.belong.here”.

And that’s true, no matter your situation. There will always be struggles in parenting (like your baby not sleeping at night) for which you can find volumes and volumes of advice/band aids. Some will work, some will make you feel like you’ve failed. None will magically turn hard into easy.

So, instead of trying to fix it, here’s my new favorite question to ask Moms:

“How do you make yourself stronger?”

You gotta keep doing this, they need to see you not give up, so what do you do to fortify yourself for the long haul?

Here’s how I’d answer that question. Some of these I’m better at than others, many have been seasonal- helping me at times better than others. All are like wearing a tool belt- available and ready for “OH MY WORD IM SO OVER THIS” kinds of days.

1) Keep my own hard stuff

One of the ways I reenergize myself is to make time to encourage someone else. Which sounds very noble of me, except that it does actually have a bit of selfish motive. Because for one, um, community. And for two because my reaction 99.97% of the time when I’ve taken time away from my own stuff to listen to someone else’s = “Thanks, God, I think I’ll keep my own hard”. Because HOLY COW some of the lives you people are living are just so.very.hard and I am not sure I could trade.

2) Schedule time to run away

Every Thursday, with very limited exceptions, I go to “Running on Empty” to exercise. For me, exercise and community are key elements to my mental, physical and emotional health. I love that it’s scheduled, both so I know it’s coming and so I don’t forget to make time to do it. It’s budget friendly (free) and there’s childcare. Win.Win.Win. But in general RRL and I have found that we both need to step away occasionally so we can come back ready to do another day.

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3) Root Beer dates

I have the very VERY best team-mate. Like for reals, RRL puts up with so much. We’ve been doing something together this year that might be my very favorite ever. Root Beer dates. We started on our anniversary by buying a dozen different root beers and ever since we”ve been buying root beers we haven’t tried before, pouring the bottle into two crystal glasses and sitting together for a while at some point during each weekend to drink, enjoy,and rank the favorites. We try really hard not talk about family business during this time. A time which doesn’t last long, but is a regular and inexpensive way to set time aside to bond with my favorite guy. I need time to be reminded how great our team is and rechoose to keep doing my part.

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4) Mad free zone- Monday adventures

A month ago we kind of accidentally had the best Monday ever, thanks to our adventure. Now we guard Monday afternoon. We do little homework, chores, and even little discipline on Mondays. I don’t check folders on Monday. On Monday we adventure. This is an old survival tool for me, but one that I recently reinvented. It’s saving my Monday sanity because it’s helping me unplug for one afternoon a week from trying to fix things.

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5) Listen to Light

If nothing else. This one. I’m hard headed. So I have to find ways to remind myself to keep choosing Light. There are lots of ways I could have gone about this, but this is my fave. Music. I made a whole play list of songs that talk about Light. And I play it. a lot. I’ll sing “Lord, let your light, light from your hands, fall on us”, while walking around my house opening every single curtain and all the blinds. Because sometimes I need tangible Light to remind me choose a penetrating Light.

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6) Word power

I’m slowly learning to embrace the power of scripture. I’m telling y’all, I’m not an expert on this. And you don’t have to be either. The words placed there are true. And available for all. I’m different for the times I’ve picked one book of the Bible and just read it and then read it again. Take some notes, pray through the words and keep reading. Nehemiah is like my good buddy now. And the truths I’m learning through the gospel study I started 2 + years ago are reshaping my thoughts on Jesus and miracles in crazy good ways. Having truth available in my head and heart is a tool I’m still learning to embrace, but couldn’t live without.

Nehemiah

That’s all I got. What’s your plan? I mean, other than stealing your kids candy and hiding in the closet to eat it (hypothetically speaking). Let’s stick together! With one reminder to each other : “Fortify yourself, Momma. We are in this for the long haul.”

ABL

HELP! My kid isn’t GREEN

20150413-201336-72816288.jpgHere’s the thing.  I have green kids**, ones who bring home folders from school that are (nearly) always colored some delightful color of green.  They obey the rules, listen to their teachers, complete their assignments, are kind to their friends, take turns.  And don’t flood bathrooms.

Obviously, this is because I’m a green-kid-kind of parent.  I set boundaries and high expectations.  I read to my kids as infants.  I feed them a balanced diet.  We play outside.  I do all the right things.

This was the false sense of security I lived under for two years of elementary-school-aged-kid-parenting, but this school year has been different.  If you were to open some of the folders in my house they look a bit more rainbow colored (heavy on the ROY).  Sometimes there are some big splashes of green, but sometimes…um, not so much.

Red/orange/yellow looks like:

Running and hiding from teachers, using napmats as weapon, chasing others with pencils on the playground, hitting, kicking, throwing objects, “no” being the word of choice, lying, exposing bottom cheeks and YEP flooding the bathroom.

I’ve tried everything.

I have: taken away every single possible privileged and also checked kids out of school mid-day for play time at the park. I’ve gone to eat lonely lunch right beside my one being disciplined to prove we were a team and I’ve spent the morning in a classroom to contribute to redirection; I’ve enforced belt wearing for cheek exposers and extra cleaning for bathroom flooders.  I was late to work every morning for one whole week to sit in line on the cafeteria floor beside one learning the art of keeping hands to himself. This week I even “let” closets get organized so someone could practice “helpful hands”.

Because you know what I’ve been a pro at? THEORIES.  Between my problem-solving brain and GOOGLE, there is a theory behind every behavior pattern.  With every theory comes a suggestion for solution.  It was just a matter of trying the right one.

Honestly, that’s the part that really eats at my core.  The peak of frustration, the inability to see the big picture progress kids have made, the desperation to FIX IT…usually has nothing to do with the kids.

It has to do with me.  One of the places of darkness I have to address constantly in my life is pride.  I want to be someone who figures it out, who makes change, whose theories work, who has solutions and gosh-darnit who has GREEN KIDS**.  I do.  I said it.

Wanna know the shocking reality.  I can’t fix this.  Sometimes there is no method, no magic wand, no quick fix.

Turns out there is only one miracle worker, His name was Jesus and guess who He hung out with?  The not-so-green crowd.  Woman at the well- married 5 times, living with a 6th and Jesus had the nerve to speak into her life.  Zacchaeus- tax collector (and not the polite kind), but Jesus ASKED to eat at his house.  And Judas- don’t even get me started on Judas.  Jesus knew he was going to betrayed by the very man who HE PICKED to be on his A team.  You don’t know about these Red, Orange and Yellow characters from the Bible?  Let me sum them up for you…HOT MESS.

So, what do you do?  You keep doing it.

The only “theory” I’ve found that can hold any kind of weight on the exhausting days of parenting is this one: each day is new.  Each day I get to choose for them and for me- today’s color is not tomorrow’s promise.

So today, I’m color blind.  (Not “behavior blind” but “color blind”.)  Today, I will try to recognize that you kicked someone to the point of swelling, but you had 6.5 hours at school that you kept your hands to yourself.  I can see that you had 8 “colorful” days in April.  But guess what? You had 12 in March. You got sent to the principals office, but you calmed yourself down, talked it through and were able to go back to class.  Today’s progress has to be way more important to me than yesterday’s color.  And better still is the promise of tomorrow.

I want the 7 kids in my home to know the one thing that is always true about tomorrow.  “I’ll love you if you were red, green, purple, orange or polk-a-dotted.  And I’ll love me even if I’m the parent/guardian of red, green, purple, orange or polk-a-dotted.”  We are in this together.  One colorful day at time.

Maybe your kids have traumatic backgrounds.  Or maybe your family is going through a hard time and your kids don’t know how to communicate it.  Or maybe everything seems right at home but he/she still struggles with anger or depression or deep darkness that you can’t penetrate.  Maybe learning disabilities gone undiscovered.  Whatever the reason, you have kids that just aren’t really green.  And harder still, maybe they won’t ever be completely green.

Take heart, friend.  There’s ONE who came for kids like yours, and for parents like us.  He knew the ones who had to struggle most for healing would also embrace it in the fiercest way.

I believe that someday full redemption will paint the most colorful of pictures.  Colorful, yet not an ounce of the canvas will be splashed with any of our daily struggles or failures.  The colors will be vibrant because they won’t be based on our worth, or our kids worth.  They’ll be bright because HE came.  And we believed.  The end.

So each day I’ll get up and choose the colors that can define me.  The red of HIs blood, the white of forgiveness, the bright glow of LIGHT.  Somedays I’ll get to the end of the day and realize I forgot that, but tomorrow I’ll get up and choose again.  And as for the colors of this earth…Well, today I choose color blind.

 ABL

 

 

**I’m sure all schools have their own ways to communicate behavior for the day with parents. Ours uses a color system- Green= great.  Yellow= Warning.  Orange=Not a great day.  Red= OH.MY.WORD.ARE.YOU.SERIOUS???

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