Monthly Archives: April 2013

Confessions of a “SuperMom”

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Since Isaiah has been born, I have struggled more than I thought with adding child no. 4. In fact, I have struggled so much, that I momentarily wondered if there might not be *some* kind of out for our procreational commitment to allow God to determine the size of our family, and the number of our blessings. Not that I didn’t think every child was a blessing, but that it became increasingly harder to smile sincerely and respond kindly when folks at the grocery store smirked and said “Boy, your hands are FULL!” while I walked past with my 4 children, Isaiah (6 weeks) screeching that newborn wail, Emma (4) whining for a drink, Sarah (6) making silly faces at Ava, and Ava (2) having a full on tantrum on the grocery store floor. Somehow, human nature allows these failures to leave a more lasting mark than the 5 successful trips for every 1 failure. During these moments, my policy has always been to leave immediately, but unfortunately, this does not curtail the smirking strangers.

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Our new normal

One example of a recent “failure moment” happened just yesterday. While taking Sarah to her tooth extraction at the Oral surgeon, my Mother graciously agreed to take my two middle children (6am not being a friendly time of day to leave the house with 4 kids under 6 AND retain my sanity.) and I went there with Isaiah strapped to my front snugly, and waited impatiently in the waiting room for my oldest to complete her first “surgery” and wake up from anesthesia.
Upon finding out I had four children total, during my nervous blatherings., one of the receptionists shook her head at me, smiling, and said “You must be SuperMom.” Here, I had a potential ego boost that I had to put in perspective. Just a few short months ago, with three impeccably behaved children, I would have responded to this situating with feigned humility while patting myself on the back privately. Funny how your pride becomes all too apparent after you’ve fallen on your rear enough times.
This time, I felt immediately inadequate to answer her, a little ashamed, in fact. Mostly, because, this “SuperMom” didn’t even change her 6 year old out of her Pjs for the surgery, OR her newborn baby out of his (Don’t worry I DID change his diaper! Haha!)  In fact, I barely slapped on some sweatpants, a t-shirt, sneakers, and stuffed my Lilla Rose Flexi Clip and Lipgloss  in my pocket for easy elegance that could be completed in the space of one stoplight.  Isaiah had also, in fact, had a blow out in his diaper while Sarah was being medicated, and I forgot to bring a change of shirt. So I was also covered in baby poo. I felt like anything BUT a SuperMom. I even felt a momentary twinge of sadness that the only thing needed for “Super Mom” status in this case, was the number of children I have.  I wanted to feel justified in being called “Super Mom, ” and as proud of that title as I had felt when I had three children, but considering the past 6 weeks, and how very hard it has been to get back to being just a Mom and a Wife, I had nothing good to reply with. So I lamely mumbled that I didn’t feel like SuperMom, and then gratefully rushed off when the nurse called out “Is Sarah’s Mom in here? She is awake!”

Thinking on that moment later, I felt like it was a missed opportunity. I feel this burden on my shoulders, one that grows with each child God adds to our family. A burden to not only appear to be perfect, but in so doing, to prove the value in large family living. So many people in our lives, strangers, friends, some family, think we are certifiably NUTS not to take Birth Control. In fact, I recently had an exchange with my OB that went like this:
Dr: “So, what are you doing for birth control now.”
Me: “I don’t do birth control.”
Dr: “Yes, I know, you just had a baby, so what will you do now?”
Me: “I don’t believe in birth control.”
Dr. (incredulous.) “So what will you DO for birth control?!”
Me: Nothing.
Dr.: “Well what will you DO?!”
Me: “Be the next Duggars?”

The student observer standing behind me snickered at that moment, giving some much needed levity to the situation. But the point is clear. We must be CRAZY. These kinds of moments have led to putting this burden on me, and admittedly, my children every time we go into public. I feel like we must “represent” for large families. Be a shining example of how great they are. My own daughter challenged that thought just before her surgery when she said to me, “But why must WE convince everyone it is nice to be in a large family?” Ouch. Ok, I really don’t know the answer to that one. And, I had a sudden epiphany that perhaps in trying to be our “best” in public, I’m breeding a sort of nasty hypocrisy. We don’t need to be our “best” and always present only one side of large family life. We don’t need to be ashamed either when we don’t measure up to a “perfect” ideal on our own steam. With one approach, we alienate others by our artificial perfection and obvious pride in our own work. With the other, we publicly negate God’s work in our lives, by an exaggerated sense of humility, or shame.
We need to be real. We struggle. At least, I do. It is HARD work being a large family, and I don’t even think we qualify yet! I think that officially is reached at 5 or 6 kids… technically, anyway. Maybe rather than teaching my kids we need to be a walking commercial, I need to teach my children that we need to be a walking example of God’s grace. Tantrums do happen. And they happen in stores. They aren’t ok, and they aren’t good, and they are VERY annoying to other customers, but maybe the example of handling it Biblically, and gracefully, even under pressure, is far more powerful than being “perfect.”

So here is my “Super Mom” confession. I struggle too, and by God’s grace, THAT is how I am a Mom of a “large” family. I am not super, Christ works despite my failure to BE “Super Mom.”

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20, ESV)

Curriculum hunting

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Emma (4) and Sarah (6) at the kids Creation Seminar run by Answers in Genesis.

Homeschooling appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it is FLEXIBLE! I love that one day we can do back to back doctor appointments, and another we can stay home and learn there. My children’s learning doesn’t suffer from this, in fact, it often benefits! They have the benefits of multiple social situations and master teachers. (Who better to teach my children about the structure of the eye than our Optometrist?) But they also have the benefit of relaxed days, and a comfortable classroom. I want my children to think that although we must be diligent in completing our tasks, we can be creative in completing them too! Who says I have to wash the dishes grimfaced and snarling? I can sing and dance instead! Who says we have to do school uncomfortable and forced? We can have fun and explore instead!
One of the first places to start in this, something I am still tweaking as we go, is the area of curriculum! Some parents thrive on routine and predictability, and if that is the case, I would recommend a boxed curriculum with a teacher’s manual and lesson plans. I am the opposite. A seat of the pants kinda gal. I cobble together curriculum until I get everything just right. I am not a fan of across the board choices. So I find what curriculum I like in one subject, and supplement it with something fun. I prefer basic and thorough curriculum that uses a mastery concept. This way I can apply it in real time using real life situations and experiences to reinforce what they are already learning in their books. I’d rather be done with book work by lunch, and then spending the rest of the day learning incognito, than spending all day with our noses in books, tears pouring out in frustration!

So if you don’t want to go the boxed curriculum way, and you’re a seat of the pants kinda Mom or Dad, how can you cobble together a curriculum? Simply stated, do your research. Find out how your child learns, take your schedule into consideration. Do you need a mobile curriculum? Do you have a LOT of outside opportunities set up for your kids that can supplement something basic and simple? Or do you need a curriculum that covers everything in one book? After you’ve determined what kind you need, go for it! Ebay has a lot of books for good prices if you can snag them. We gambled on McGuffy’s Readers and bought a WHOLE set on there for a steal of $30ish dollars! But, now we have chosen that as our reading curriculum for several years now. At least for 6 years, maybe longer! Understand that if you choose this route, you may or may not have access to teacher’s manuals, you may have to plan lessons to fill in areas you feel are scanty, or in areas that your child needs extra instruction and reinforcement. Also know that you may have to tweak things year by year until you find things you like. We may have McGuffy’s for reading, but we will be adding Easy Grams, and perhaps English From The Roots Up. As the children grow older, so will our curriculum. We will add and adjust with them. It can grow in books, or experiences, or in any way that it works! That is the beauty of customizing!
Here is how our curriculum looked this year, and may look next year, with a few adjustments:

For reading, we use McGuffy’s Readers for formal instruction and supplement it with books or phonics programs (Dr. Suess, Little Bear, Peter Rabbit, Starfall website for phonics support.)

The girls making dough ornaments.

For Math, we are currently using an online website called IXL, but I am not satisfied, so next year we may just do Horizons. After 3rd grade, we are considering The Life of Fred. For now we’ve been supplementing IXL by applying the concepts we’ve learned online with in home situations. Measuring fractions for cooking, using an abacus to add, subtract, or make calculations for home needs, like how many grapes each child should get, etc. Also, paying for and calculating the price of objects when shopping.`

We are really liking “History for Little Pilgrims” for our history this year. We supplement this with social studies situations,

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Tea Party!

such as watching Rand Paul Filibuster in real time, or taking part in a community service project etc. We also do a geography element to this, learning about our state, our country, and using real life experiences to educate the children about other cultures and languages. This multi-cultural experience is organic and natural.

For science we are members of the Da Vinci Science Center, we can go there any time for hands on fun, we also use the book “The World God Made” by E.J. Shewan. We also supplement by going to any seminar we can find that includes our children’s grade levels.

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Emma, climbing a tree.

Another way to apply science year round is our plethora of pets to care for (rabbits, cat, and fish) and our organic vegetable garden, and mini fruit orchard in our backyard.

For health and wellness, we use doctor’s well checks as unit studies. We pick body parts and study how they function and what they do. We’ve enjoyed opportunities to do so in depth with Da Vinci Center’s Bodies Revealed exhibit. One of the girls also received a really cool body toy that one can remove the internal organs and replace them. It came with a booklet that describes the functions of each organ. Of course, a lot of outside play is involved, and this year, since I was pregnant, we did a constant study on how Mommy’s body works to bring life into the world. We studied how the baby grew each month, watched videos of what was happening in the womb, and learned all about the miracle of birth. (Age appropriately of course!) This will have a more formal curriculum as they grow, but now while they are young, visiting our doctor, and talking about how our bodies work, spending time daily to discuss nutrition and healthy practices, in hygiene (brushing teeth) or in diet, or in activities, we make this a part of everyday life.

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Emma (4) at the Lyons Fiddle Festival listening to some prime fiddlers!

For music and art we do a variety of projects, crafts, (all by the seat of our pants!) Lots of play doh play, We have a series of CD’s on the classical masters, each has examples of their most famous music, and a narrated biography fit in throughout the CD. We also do field trips like the Lyons Fiddle Festival, and Band or Orchestra concerts. None of this is from a formal curriculum, it is just LIFE! I love that.

We do not use a formal Bible program. This is something we do on our own too. Sola Scriptura is a great way to go! We take times to memorize scripture together for AWANA, and every day we review the Proverb of the day. (We use this website, and often listen to the devotional of the day, but I don’t like how they cherry pick scripture for the devotional, so we don’t use that every day.) The goal is that within a year of doing this, each child will know the Proverbs well, or perhaps even by heart. This is an excellent character building program, as throughout the day we apply the Proverb we read! Next year we may do something else, like a daily reading of the gospels, or a jaunt through Genesis. The point is to have them reading scripture. We are strongly considering a program of reading the Bible in a year, to expose them to the whole work of God. I have yet to find a program that suits my idea of doing so chronologically, but that is not overwhelming for little ones to sit through. (All of ours are 6, 4, 2, 1 month, presently)

It is very easy to cobble together your own curriculum if you choose. It can be cheaper, and more eclectic! This way you can customize it to meet your child’s needs, and to educate children of multiple ages at once. We LOVE field trips, because each child, no matter their age, takes away an age appropriate experience. Same thing with Bible programs, or Home Economics.

The best part is when the whole family participates side by side,the older ones helping the younger, and the younger’s questions challenging the older. Homeschooling just naturally provides a multi faceted approach to learning.

This time of year is perfect for considering curriculum options. Better to prayerfully consider now, than to have to change mid year, or have to buy things last minute during the summer. Once we buy programs we like, we will probably use them for child after child, handing them down as each child reaches the next level. Buying new books for our oldest at this juncture is also handy, in case she finishes her current book, and still needs to continue on.

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Our Kempton train ride field trip! Looking out the window of the caboose!

Happy Curriculum hunting!

Conviction: Where do I go now?

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I do not usually post things of an overtly political or social nature on this blog. Generally I stick to introspective thoughts, how tos, and recipes. But something has greatly shaken up my world lately, and it is heartbreak over a very preventable tragedy. As I hold my newborn son, and go through the beauties, the struggles, and the blessings of daily life with a newborn, I am completely aghast and heartbroken over the trial of Kermit Gosnell (please do not click on the link if you would prefer to avoid graphic images and descriptions. Viewer discretion is advised. The short story is that Dr. Gosnell is accused, and on trial, for gruesome partial birth abortions, and unsanitary and dangerous abortion procedures.) I have been following it for some time, and had heard about it as the trial date was approaching, and as my due date was approaching. Since the trial began, soon after my son’s birth, I read, in horror, of the atrocities this man committed. And I thought to myself; What does this mean to me? How should I, as a Christian, respond to something like this?

I spoke to my mother, knowing that when one feels strongly affected by something, indeed, convicted to act upon it, there are a few places we should go:

  • To scripture: Read God’s Word and find out what God says about what is bothering you.
  • To wise counsel: If God’s Word is unclear, or even if it is clear, seek counsel from those you look up to as spiritual advisers, on how to apply God’s Word to your life, or to clarify, and how to further study God’s Word to get to the heart of a principle or concept.
  • To prayer. Take time to unload your thoughts, burdens, and if need be, confessions, to God. Allow him to take the burdens you carry, and trust in his Sovereign Will, and his Infallible Word.
  • To application. Take what you have learned, toss out your own impulses, and apply God’s Word to your own life.

I know what God’s Word has to say on the subject of unborn children:

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Behold, Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3

He values them. He made them. He loves them. They are blessings. I know this.
So what did my Mother have to say when I called her? She told me something like this: “Liz, do not become so mired in this horror that you can do nothing about, that you forget your own responsibilities as a Wife, and as a Mother.”

Good advice. My first responsibility is to the children God has entrusted to me. He is clear in his Word what he wants from me on that score. (Duet. 6, Psalm 1, Eph. 6) So am I meeting the challenges God has given me in my own children? I must admit to falling short on that. It is a constant learning curve, and one that contributes to my sanctification daily, and theirs as well, I’m sure. The Holy Spirit is not done with me in this area of life, and I must admit that this case has had me feeling firmly convicted that my first place to look is here, in my own home, to see, how do I respond to the great blessings God has entrusted to me?

Secondly. Although I am vocal about the rights of the unborn, what do I really do about it? Not much, not really. I don’t talk to my elected officials on this one (and so I should, I’ve called them up enough on things like, personal liberty, gun rights, homeschooling laws etc.)  And do I offer help, compassion, support to any women I know? Not really. Do I offer a witness to others about the blessing of children? Sometimes I even complain about mine. Not that they are perfect, (they aren’t) but do I dwell on the blessings of children before others, or do I snarkily joke about the burdens? Ouch. Guilty as charged.
My husband and I feel firmly that the Bible teaches that each child is a blessing, and as a result, we’ve done something kind of scary, we’ve left our reproductive future in God’s hands. And just as I was beginning to feel overwhelmed with 4 children, and doubt this conviction, two things burst on my sight. Kermit Gosnell, and this book: Does Birth Control Cause Abortion?  I cannot simply read these things with a horrified look on my face, and feel sad. I have to act, and I cannot relent. I have been convicted, and it is time to apply God’s Word to my own life. I can’t stop the Kermit Gosnell’s of the world singlehandedly, nor can I stop the legality of the abortion in the U.S. alone. I CAN stick to what my husband and I have felt compelled to act on, and make our family a priority, and I most certainly can teach my daughters and sons God’s Word concerning marriage, family, and children.

I can also tell them my own story about the heartbreak of sin when we walk away from God’s law, and the ways I am still paying for my teenage pregnancy, even today. I know the heartbreak of those mothers in that clinic. I know the overwhelming feeling of “How will I ever ever EVER be capable of mothering this child?” and I know the emotional terror one faces when we realize our own inadequacy in the looming cliff of parenthood, when we are barely children ourselves. But I also know the redemption in Christ, the blessings of obedience, and the beauty in every single life. I know that I would not trade one moment of that terrifying and overwhelming experience of that first pregnancy for a different life. The beautiful little girl that God gave me is well worth every moment of it. I know God already has a plan for her, and is using her in many lives, including my own, to see the beauty in the work of God’s hands.
When we are faced with conviction, what can we do, but turn to God, and seek his face to remedy our own failures? We cannot stop or solve the failures of others, but we can certainly seek God to govern our own lives, and our own hearts, by his regenerating power.

Kuyper

Motherhood is Humbling

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There is nothing like the ahumilitypostavabandwrrival of a new baby to set your world spinning around and around until you are forced to realize: Motherhood is humbling.

My first jolt back to that reality was seeing my postpartum pictures. Cute kid, but who is that awful looking lady holding him?! Ack! THAT IS ME?! Yuck.

But there were more substantial reminders that while managing three kids had become a piece of cake for this Mama, God is NOT done with me yet! Sanctification continues.

I found the most humbling moments in these two experiences:
The other day one of my daughters had been especially exasperating in a new set of behavioral difficulties. I was frustrated, and at the end of my rope. Having a new baby is an adjustment for everyone, but adjustment or no, there was no excuse for her behavior! I was having a hard time reining her in. So I asked for advice from Moms I knew, My Mom, etc, and even some Mommybloggers. (Shout out to 4 Moms, 35+ Kids!) I still made no progress in helping her to curb her disrespectful behavior. I was getting rolling eyes, talking back, and exasperated rude responses. Then one day, this very child walks in while I was putting 2 of her younger siblings to sleep. She wanted to show me something she made. My immediate response was to roll my eyes and respond with “Well what is it? I’m putting your sister and brother down for a nap!”

Yikes.

It was me. How could I expect her to stop a behavior that I wasn’t even recognizing, let alone dealing with in myself? What a humbling moment. I felt awful instantly. I apologized to her and told her to please come back later.  It wasn’t a while until I was able to confess my full sins to her. It takes a lot to tell your child you’ve been wrong. I started half a dozen times only to put it off. Another sin of mine, pride, was staring me right in the face. Motherhood is truly humbling.

Then, yesterday, my husbaIsaiahnd called me on his lunch break, telling me “I forgot to pay some bills! And I never deposited that check… Could you handle it for me?” I was excited to show my husband I was getting back in my super prepped Mommy groove, and I could handle an emergency. Of COURSE I could handle it! “It” required a trip to the bank, and a trip to another bank to pay both bills. No problem, this was a piece of cake with 3 kids! Should be nothing with 4!
Wrong. Oh so wrong.

Instead: I grabbed some PB and J and…. uhm, what else is there? Carrots. Ok… whipped everyone into (semi decent) shape, and headed off into the sunset, wipes on hand for the inevitable peanut butter faces. We started the whole adventure off with an incident in the parking lot. Someone made a break for a puddle in a high traffic area, and I began the whole outing with a screech: “DON’T run there!”
There ended up being no cars in the parking lot, and the child in question responded instantly, and went back to her “spot”, never having been in any real danger,  and so all was fine, but I think this was the first indicator I was in over my head.  Before I had to juggle a toddler and an infant in exiting the car, she never would have even dreamed of making a move for that puddle.
Inside both banks the children ran around in circles or bounced nervously on the chairs while I signed papers. During the rest of our errands there was a lot of angst in the back seat, with everyone hitting the naptime wall, including me. We went home, nobody the worse for wear, but my pride having taken a few fatal blows, the whole drive home was dominated by Isaiah’s expressions of discomfort and disapproval after our long afternoon in the minivan hopping from place to place.

I had been at that place most of us go to when we’ve been “successful” in our christian walk. We begin to (erroneously) assume our hard work is paying off. But we forget
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 2:20, ESV)
We begin to trust in the law alone, and forget the all important work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, our home. Without God’s all consuming work in us, the law does nothing.  As I’ve heard said before (I think Rushdoony said it) ” The law does not justify, it sanctifies.” I had forgotten that truth, and began to feel as if I had conquered my sinful nature, and was fully capable of addressing my children’s shortcomings as well. But I’m not sufficient on my own. If anything, my knowledge of the law should inform me of how very deficient I am, and how much I need God’s righteousness. (Romans 7:7)

And so armed with this new dose of humility, I am reminded of many things. Firstly, without God’s Word, change is impossible, and without the Holy Spirit, lasting, sincere change is a lost cause. Time to get back to the Word of God with a humbled spirit.

humilitypostmomandemmasnuggling  To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:2-7, ESV)

I can’t make my chilhumilitypostsarahemmadren wise on my own, I can’t make my children well behaved on my own, and I can’t cause them to be their best, but I can introduce them to the God who sanctifies me daily, changes me as only he can, and provides me with the wisdom to meet many things head on. I can’t claim any of that goodness for myself, but I can lead them straight to the wisdom from God’s Word that does not return void. I can obey God’s command (Duet. 6) and teach them daily as I walk with Christ. And I can trust in his ability to bring lasting change to their hearts, minds, and lives. In the end, my failure riddled parenting isn’t enough for them, but the sufficiency of scripture in informing their wisdom and decisions, and the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives is something I can trust in to overcome my own sins and shortcomings.

Isaiah Allen has a birth day!

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I know this is late in coming, but we’ve been… ahem, busy lately! 🙂

This is our official blog announcement that we have now moved up in numbers and are officially a family of 6!
We are thrilled to welcome baby Isaiah who was born March 12, at 9:38am at 8 lbs 8 oz and 20 1/2 inches long. He is a beauty, and we all celebrated with a birthday cake! The girls LOVE their new brother, and the adventures have already begun in his first 3 weeks at home!
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