An excerpt from something I posted back in January, in honor of my great grandmother's birthday today. Boy do I miss her! ------------------------------------------------------------------ January 2013....
I've decided to learn how to knit and crochet. Why did I choose this? Well, I wanted something to do with my hands while my boys were working at their play doh or legos or lincoln logs. A mindless busy work, but still beautiful and something I can bless others with. And because...I miss my great grandmother.
I was blessed to have her in my life for 18 years. Our birthdays were two days apart and we were known to rock a shared birthday cake at a family party or two.
We did not get along too well the first 16 years since I had an affinity for frogs, dirt, pranks and daredevil schemes. She most assuredly did not like any of the above. Nope. No way. We did not get along. At least, I thought we did not get along….
Now that I am a mother, I look back and realize that while she did like to fuss and cluck at me…she really loved me.
I remember how nice she always looked. Hair like a football helmet. Not a single strand out of place. Nails always polished a nice peachy sheen. Pant suits. Lots and lots of pant suits. Clean, tidy, organized…and not afraid to party. :)
Every once in a while she would surprise me by doing something totally goofy and fun. She agreed to put on a clown costume one year for halloween, suggested by my mom at the last minute. Five minutes before we were to walk out the door and into the neighborhood, she agrees and dons this hideous polyester footie pajama. It came with a metallic wig.
16 years of that sort of thing. Super organized, predictable day to day order and then...the unexpected element that would put the great in "great grandma!"
She suffered a stroke and was blind the last two years of her life. I used to jokingly say to her that she liked me better when she couldn’t see how untidy and messy I was. Because we were quite suddenly, inexplicably closer than ever. A light turned on in the darkness.
During junior year of high school I would drive an extra thirty minutes out of my way after school to the nursing home just so I could hold her hand and listen to her talk.
I learned so much about her that last year. She told me a few stories she had never shared with anyone else. I don’t know why she chose to tell me of all people…but I am glad she did.
Yeah, she loved me a lot.
I loved her too.
Have I mentioned yet that she was the craftiest person ever?
She knew how to sew and knit and crochet. She would make such beautiful things. I used to love to watch her work. She made a pair of little snowmen once for my mom for Christmas. I used to hold them every year when we took them out of storage and run my fingers over the loops and hooks.
After she died I would run my finger over those loops and feel a bit closer to her.
So in her honor, I am picking up that heavy crochet needle and learning this new art. If I can make three things before the year is out, I’ll consider it a success.
Hand in hand with this learning of a new code and a new rhythm, I want to tell my boys all the stories I know about Meme.
So that when they run their hands over each loop and hook of my handiwork, they will remember her. Stories about their blue eyed great great grandmother, the rigidly organized party animal who would surprise her family with something zany from time to time.
The first time I looked at my post-partem body, I was standing before the hospital mirror in a hideously lit bathroom. Time has faded the exact rendering of what I found so shocking, but I know I saw something unexpected. It was alien. I had anticipated familiarity, at least some slight memory recall of what used to be. But my new Mama body was an unknown place, deeply uncomfortable and a visceral disappointment. Compounded by the trauma of that first birth, the experience I had dreamed of literally wrenched away from me, I felt and looked broken.
Its not that I had expected a hot body immediately after birth or that I carried some misbegotten expectation of emerging unmarked by the whole process....
I had simply anticipated the newness to be of a storybook spring quality, like a delicate scene purposefully unfolding the new season. Call me naive, but I wanted the unfurling blossoms, the wobbly kneed lambs, the pale green daffodil shoots, the soft downy chicks, all the warm fuzzies to match the baby's freshly painted room. The fragile and tender unknown land of motherhood would be blissful and satisfying. Awe and wonder. How could it not? My body would not be perfect, but it would reflect that "new spring feeling."
A new undertaking yet in a familiar setting. The territory would not be unchartered, I would know where I was even if I didn't always know what I was doing. I held on to that foolish notion during my pregnancy like a life line, convinced that familiarity would leave me with the sense of control I believed I so desperately needed.
Yet there I stood, weak-kneed, broken, exhausted, truly terrified and crying hysterically as I tried changing back into my clothes while my mother and husband ran various last minute errands before the big homecoming. The shock over what had transpired and the disappointment over what had not, it all fell heavy and ugly. The ominous cloud of depression on the horizon was moving in with breath taking swiftness to settle over my shoulders.
Oh, yes. And let us not forget that wee bundle of miraculous joy and unnerving responsibility cooing away in the bassinet.
Come on in guilt, we've been waiting for you.
I felt less and less myself with every passing minute. I wanted to focus on my son, but I could not overcome the crises of self I was unexpectedly facing. It dawned at last that the territory was indeed unchartered, a new undertaking in a completely foreign land. I didn't recognize myself, in body or emotion. My 24 year old bones were shaken to the marrow.
Talk about lost.
This morning I stood by the stove fixing breakfast for my brood. Its been four years and three more babies since the storm clouds of depression have lifted. The kitchen was warm with morning stirring to life. The eldest boy walked over and for whatever reason, decided to lift the bottom hem of my shirt up a few inches. He ran his fingers over the familiar marks he knew he would find there. I let him trace the long lines back and forth. He asked the questions over again, the same ones he had asked for months.
"Mom, are your zebra stripes really scars?"
"Not scars? They look like scars."
"They are marks. Stretch marks. From when my skin stretched as far as it could go to hold you in my belly and keep you safe while you grew there."
"While I grew inside you?"
"That is when God put me together right?"
"And when He made me, your belly stretched and stretched and stretched.... and that is why we call them stretch marks?"
I smile and muss his hair with my free hand.
And then, he asks something entirely new...
"Mom? Your skin stretched that way to keep me safe is what you said. So we could also call them safe marks, right?"
I felt my throat close up a bit.
"Yes, I suppose we could."
"I think your marks are safe marks, because you got them keeping me safe."
It was many years ago and a few babes back that I came to terms with those marks. Between the second and third water births of my sons, I remember standing in front of a different mirror, this time in our bedroom at the bungalow, tracing those ever deepening marks with my fingers. Somewhere along the way I had stopped hating them and lamenting their existence. They were simply familiar now, in a tender and comforting way. They were the new landscape. Maybe they weren't my favorite things in the world, but I wasn't ashamed of them.
Time marches on and now a little boy, dearly loved, wants to call them safe marks.
I can't think of them as "battle scars" or "honor badges," though I know some Mamas who do see them that way. They are neither ugly nor particularly victorious to me.
I suppose because for me, they can never be about what I have done.
To my mind they can only ever serve as a marker for what He has done.
They are the pile of stones, set up as a reminder of when the Lord gently led me out of that dark valley. When I followed Him into a better and deeper realization of what this life is and what this temporary body is for.
My body is marked for motherhood, for sacrifice, for a call to selfless living, for a diligent teaching I must first live out. Those marks remind me that I am not in control, I never was. They remind me to surrender my children daily.
Alone, I can not accomplish what I have been called to do. But with Him, I can.
Those dark and ragged marks, luminous in the light of His love and gentle leading.
The safe marks.
Known to my children as the lines that held them safe within me, but known to me as the daily promise that the Lord holds them safe.
From scary marks to safe marks. Only God could transform such heavy lines into miraculous simplicity.
I've tried several times today to scrawl out a few words in honor of my two boys starting Kindergarten tomorrow. I have failed each time. Overwhelmed with emotion and terror and joy, I guess. Cubs has also raided the supply cabinet and used nearly all the new supplies prematurely. My sister has poisoned him with a love for expensive office supplies and he is tearing through everything. I wanted to have the house shiny and clean for the first day of school tomorrow, but the boys got into the paints and everything is stained now. Really, the house looks like a tornado ripped through it. Oh well. It will STILL be a happy day tomorrow...a messy, happy day. Anyways, I felt inspired to jot down my own version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" Casa Iudi style. I hope you enjoy! It sums up our day, the excitement level, the disasters, everything without my having to write an emotionally draining blog about it.
Twas the Night Before Kindergarten
Adapted from: "Twas the Night Before Christmas"
By: This homeschoolin' mama of four boys.
'Twas the night before Kindergarten, when all through the house,
All creatures were stirring, right down to the mouse;
The backpacks were hung by the front door with care,
In hopes that adventure time soon would be there
The children were jumping wildly on their beds
While visions of school supplies danced through their heads,
New jeans stained with ketchup, and the pen with no cap,
The school year not yet begun and I needed a nap!
Suddenly in the hall there arose a great clatter,
I sprang from my macbook to see what was the matter.
A tiny nudist streaked by in a flash,
Followed by small children, covered in trash,
From the lure of white paper like new fallen snow,
To the lustre of unopened paints they could not say no;
Hurry! Quick! They mobilized before I could appear,
Splashes of paint on papers, flooring and one small ear.
The two year old leads, so lively and quick,
I round the corner, forgetting the floor would be slick .
More rapid than eagles the descent of my frame,
Now Dad intercedes, points out the paint, shouts out the dog's name:
"Now Micah, now Sam, now Gabriel, and Frankie,"
"On bathroom!; On carpet! On bedspread and blankie!"
"To the top of the mirror! to the top of the wall!"
"Please wash away! dash away! spray away all!"
As scattered legos before company fly,
A whirlwind of children; rags in hand, they did dry,
Each corner of the house, while Dad sipped his brew,
With faces like angels - the west highland terrier too.
I tried to ignore the sprinkling of paint on the roof
By the pile of crumpled paper the toddler stood aloof.
As I shook my head, and was turning around,
Down the hallway children returned with a bound:
Dressed ready for school, from head to foot,
Twelve hours too early, no sign of growing kaput.
A bundle of books pulled away from the stack,
Crammed quickly through the opening pack:
Those eyes - how they twinkled! Those dimples so merry,
Fingers coated in green paint, one face covered in cherry;
Excitement and energy, strung taut like a bow,
One more night of waiting could only add to their woe.
The new things ahead: reading, writing, loose teeth!
Dreams of adventure circled their heads like a wreath.
My growing boys: lean leg, diminishing belly
Could not wait for the school year start: for pencils and jelly
Paper and scissor, new notebooks on the shelf.
So I laugh'd when I saw them in spite of myself;
This school in our home, the lessons in my head,
Hand in hand with them, I have nothing to dread.
Boyhood filled with adventure, brings joy to the work,
(And help with the house chores so I won't be a jerk).
And so I gave a sweet kiss to the tip of each nose
And promised chocolate chip pancakes when they rose.
Fully clothed in their beds, clean as a whistle,
Away the dreams flew, like the down of a thistle:
One sleepy voice said, as I crept out of sight-
"Happy First Day to all…… how will I ever sleep this night?"
I really hate when so much time lapses without an update. This is our place for recording precious memories and our struggles as parents. We usually soldier through and make the time to update, even in the midst of life's greatest difficulties. But these past three months we've left things silent on here.
I think I needed a bit of time to reconsider how I use this space. I wondered for a few weeks if I should reboot this sucker and go for an all out "Mommy Blog." But that just isn't me and its not what this little corner of the internet is.
No bells, no whistles, just stories.
Our last reason for silence is the overwhelming amount of work I undertook as we prepared to homeschool our kids. Yes, we homeschooled last year. But we were really just dipping our toes in the water. The water was contained in a very, very small pool of water.
Ok, it was a puddle.
Turns out the path to homeschooling is wider than the Pacific. Like most areas of childrearing, any fool with internet access has a thousand and one things to say on the subject. I don't think I've ever researched anything that has left me so emotionally drained. I read around 75 books. Combed through endless homeschooling blogs, listened to recordings of speakers, spoke with other homeschooling families, and cried myself to sleep on at least three occasions. I endured this time of endless research while the testosterone levels in our home reached historic highs. It was a bit of a nightmare for a few weeks there, until I realized my calling and gained my footing.
I am proud of what we are left with...terrified of it too.
Yet I am upheld by the knowledge that God has laid this heavily on my heart. He has called me to serve my children in this way. He has specifically asked us to do this work, not so that we isolate ourselves from the world, but in order to teach our children His word and demonstrate DAILY what it means to live in Him and love others. I had times of crisis when I thought, I am planning to teach them something I do not practice myself. This is HYPOCRISY. They will see right through it. Also, I hate Math. How will this ever work?
I realized that I could not conquer this mountain on my own or expect an end product of perfect young adults sold out for Jesus. There can not be two Captains on this journey. There is only one and I am not it. I am too weak without Him. This is not easy for a control freak like me. So many things could go wrong....
What am I left with?
As my wise BSF teaching leader Babs always says, "We are not responsible for the consequences of our obedience to God."
I will obey. I will ask the Holy Spirit to enable me to live what I teach and to break what must broken so that I can lose myself in Him. I will trust Him with my children. Wherever their roads lead, I will trust in Him. I will commit myself to praying for my boys every day and to train them up the way He has commanded.
The step of faith has been taken. School starts August 5th.
We've picked out the curriculum and acquired more books, which is frightening since 60% of our last move consisted entirely of books. We joined a homeschool co-op and signed up for our last year of Day Class at BSF.
I am looking forward to this sweet time with my children. I will have the best hours of their day all to myself. We can study things that interest us and there will be no limits to how much we can learn. We can study His word freely and practice it daily. Field trips and daily chores. Science projects and toddler tantrums. Endless baskets of laundry. I have no doubt in my mind that my laundry problem will escalate into crisis mode this year.
Math. The bane of my childhood. Math will be back in my life. Maybe this time I will learn it the way I should have years ago. Prayers and numbers for support groups appreciated. This is the valley, the depths of despair.
The highest peak? Do you even need to ask? It is a mountain made of books.
Hours and hours of reading lovely books. Curled up on the couch or nestled in the play tent, flashlights in hand, or under the boughs of trees we know by heart.
Most of it feels idyllic. All of it will be messy.
There is no doubt about it.
My house may never be clean but it will always be filled with learning.
"He who called you is faithful and He will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24
It means you have survived the first six months of the terrible twos.
No one will hand you an award or pat you on the back over the cleverness of your survival, but you will know, and as you wipe the sweat from your brow and pause from scraping spaghetti off the ceiling, you will give yourself the fortifying pep talk of "Only 6 months left, only 6 months left."
At least, thats what I did with the Bear.....who was an angel until he hit the 3 and half year mark. He was our late attitude bloomer.
Then came Cubby....
who blasted all milestones and usual norms out of the water. Spaghetti on the ceiling? Ha! Mere child's play. Who thinks the camera should go for a swim in the toilet? Who wants to scream bloody murder for an hour for no reason? Who wants to spend every minute of the day finding new ways to die with creative flourish?
Cubby made me want to google the addresses of authors who had written the parenting books on my shelves. I wanted to find out where they lived so I could confront them, parenting manuals in hand, and hit them over the head with it. Plan B was to just ding dong ditch Cubs at the door....but he was too cute to leave behind. His eyes were too blue. His freckles were too....freckly? Ugh. I couldn't get him out of my system. So he stayed and we endured and just as I managed to pick myself up off the ground, shake the dust off, and pull forks out of the electrical sockets, I was pregnant with child numero tres...round 3.
Not to be outdone...our Babe looked at Path A and Path B, shook his head and whipped out a machete and began bushwhacking his own path.
While most 2 1/2 year olds ask for apple juice and a bubble bath and cheerios, our toddler asks for coffee, hot showers and parfaits.
If I lose him at the playground, I don't bother with the usual kiddie areas, I find the most complicated, dangerous area of the equipment, typically found near a sign reading something like "Ages 8+ only" and there I find him. My son. Curly hair, big brown eyes, irresistible chin dimple, bossing around twelve year olds and hanging upside down from the monkey bars without a thought for the 6 feet of open air beneath him.
Babe usually takes home the biggest prizes at the end of the day.
Beach Day Award for Most sand in a body crevice? Babe.
Publix Award for Most wine bottles knocked off the shelf in a single swipe? Babe.
Library Award for Best use of shelving for purposes of escape/possible espionage? Babe.
Parking Lot Award for Most heart stopping moment of the year 2012? Babe.
Party Award for Most downed cups of discarded wine when no one was looking? Babe.
I love you little Babe. You drive me crazy and I don't think I could ever kiss you enough.
You drink a cup of hot milk with a shot of coffee every Saturday morning. You ask for a parfait every day. You OWN your brothers. Does it matter that they are two and three years older than you? Nope, not one bit. Your right hook puts theirs to shame.
The way you pray....is one of the sweetest things I have ever heard.
Your cheeky grins.
Don't even get me started on the way you giggle.
Or the devastating perfection of your cute little booty. It is ode worthy my friend. Ode worthy.
As per usual, I can't drink alcohol during the terrible twos because I am nursing someone else younger than you....BUT if I were to raise a toast three weeks from now...
Babe, I could almost 100% honestly say that I am a bit sad these six months are behind us and only six months remain.
I say almost because the small percentage still cleaning the urine off the bathroom MIRROR, replacing toothbrushes, and liberally spritzing the bathroom with bleach would SLAP me silly for wishing those six months back.
Only six months left....only six months left.... who am I kidding?
I am a wife and mother of four boys. I love to write, cook, garden, study the Bible, and play with my beautiful sons. I try to keep my relationship with Jesus as transparent as possible so that my sons can see the sin, the struggle, the saving grace and the Spirit. I love hearing the ways God works in the lives of small children and their mothers.