Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

Finding the Bliss

A lot of my daily life and work as a mother revolves around the physical care of my family. With five kids, this means a lot of laundry, cooking, and cleaning. I love seeing my children grow older. They pitch in a lot more. But with their growth, we are often vulnerable to outside demands dictating our schedules. Getting to school on time dictates a pretty specific routine. The after-school routine is equally specific. In order to get everything done in time for bedtime (so the kids can function the next day), things have to happen in a certain way. While I do appreciate the outside structure, sometimes I find that I forget to take those moments to reconnect with my kids in meaningful ways.

This was brought home to me tonight when I arrived home after an evening with my friends. My toddler man was still up and immediately ran over to me. I was overwhelmed by his need to reconnect with me. He hugged me tight. When I went to check on some things, he followed me, insisting on sitting on my lap. Eventually, I realized that his need to reconnect had to be met and so I stopped what I was doing. What followed just melted my heart. He pressed his forehead to mine, quietly looking at me. I stroked his baby-sweet soft cheek. It was just a quiet moment of mother/baby nuzzling. No words were said, just a moment to physically reconnect. As soon as he had enough, he gave me a cute kiss and then was ready for bed. And that was that.

With babies and toddlers, it is pretty easy and natural to reconnect, but I have a tendency to rush that need with my older kids. I need to remember that they need moments with more hugging and less talking on my part!


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Inching my way forward

Have you ever made a plan that you were sure was brilliant? And then have you watched that plan just crumble into dust?

Life lesson: Plans don’t always work out.

Have you ever watched your plan fall apart and then discover, perhaps years later, that things worked out better than your plan could have ever worked?

Life lesson: God knows more than you do.

When we moved back to the U.S. from Sweden, my husband was offered the job that we least wanted. It was so far from grandparents, cost of living was high, and we just didn’t feel certain about settling in New York. Watching the U.S. economy fall at an alarming rate has made me profoundly grateful for my husband’s job. We didn’t know it at the time but it WAS the right job for us.

Life lesson: Hold onto your faith.

Two years ago as we faced a stupid legal battle with a landlord who refused to work with us and ended up breaking our lease, I wondered if we could ever recover from the chaos and enormous stress. Now I know that moving was the best thing for our family, particularly one of my children who needed the specialized and individualized help that the new school offered.

Life lesson: It’s not just my own needs God considers, but the needs of every individual in my family.

Last year I constructed a tidy plan that I was excited about. A couple of months later, one dream burst in a lot of pain. Over the months, most of the details of my plan have blown up in my face. For the most part, it’s not dire. I still have my sense of humor. But I struggle with frustration. I can’t see the whole pattern. I know it is there, but my eyes can’t see beyond the small details. Ironically, there isn’t much I can do. I must wait and the waiting is more painful than doing work.

Life lesson: Wait patiently.

I’m still trying to allow the lessons I know and understand with my mind to sink deep into my heart and become a part of my soul. Until then, I’m inching my way forward.

What are some of life’s lessons that you are struggling to learn? How have you coped with your plans going awry?

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I’ve done this twice before, packing for an international move. It is always intense, painful, and usually by the end, brings me to tears. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we’ve accumlated despite my best intentions to keep clutter to a minimum. As I sift through clutter, I am tempted to throw the whole lot of it away and join a cloister. If I didn’t believe so ardently in my own religion and love my husband and children so much, packing would surely turn me into a nun. Yes, I can do without all my worldly goods. Yes, I can take a vow of silence. Yes, I can live a simple life devoted to God. But my life is much messier.

And tangled with the physical collection of stuff, inevitably comes all the emotional bonds that pull at me as we pull up roots and move on. When we moved from Utah to Sweden, while worried about all I would miss in the U.S.A., I still felt exhilerated and excited for the grand adventure ahead. When moving from Sweden to New York, I wept bitter tears hating to torn apart from all I had learned to love.

Here, I’m somewhere in the middle. Most of my stress stems from the uncertainty that surrounds the details of this move. We STILL don’t have a move date (though we are leaving this house by the end of the month). A great deal of administrative paperwork needs to be completed by the company that is sending it–yet the work is being completed at a snails pace. I worry about finding temporary housing, dealing with school, money, etc. I haven’t had time to think about missing friends because I am knee-deep in the mess of uncertainty, garbage, clutter, and boxes. When all is packed, stored, and cleaned, I’m sure I’ll feel plenty of homesickness. 

Well, getting that all out does feel better. I’ll stop being whiny and get back to work!

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Planning an international move is mind-boggling. Any move is stressful, but imagine doing everything you normally do for a move and then add to it: moving all your stuff overseas, dealing with passports, visas, immigration, foreign beauracracy, school enrollment, etc. Did I mention finding a house? It’s not like Househunters International, I can promise you that.

In some ways, moving to Sweden was much easier. I had the assurance that while I couldn’t speak Swedish, I’d still be able to communicate. Sweden is a part of Europe–thus subscribing to Western ways and culture.

But Saudi Arabia is really an unknown quantity. I’ve been reading what little information I can find about the country and I hope I can remember all the rules.

In the meanwhile, I should get back to cleaning my house. . .

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So we have some big news: We are moving to Saudi Arabia for a year. We will most likely leave in August, though the details aren’t firm on that point.

So new fodder for the blog, eh?

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I know its been awhile since I’ve posted. Life has been surprisingly busy, filled with a myriad of things that aren’t especially exciting or things I don’t feel like providing a commentary on. And the weather is humid and when it is hot and humid, my will to write is drained away.

I’m on track with things. New adventures are on the horizon. My kids are happy and busy. And the weather is humid.

So just in case you are wondering what I’ve been up to, here are a few things happening in my life.

1. My toddler throws major fits. Full, all-out, throw-himself-on-the-floor-and-scream-as-loud-as-he-can-fits.

2. I went to a two-day scrapbooking conference where I took 10 classes and spent the night at a hotel with my husband, sans children. It was blissful.

3. My oldest son enters middle school in the fall. The barrage of meetings, the puberty talk at school, forms, etc. have been ever-present.

4. My daughter enters kindergarten in the fall. Same barrage of meetings and forms, minus the puberty talk/video at school. 

5. I’m reading Acts in the New Testament.

6. I just finished Downton Abbey, a 7-episode BBC series, set in England between 1912 and 1914 at an aristocrat’s home. The interplay between servants and master is fascinating.

7. I finished watching Wuthering Heights and was reminded why I disliked the book so much. But I also felt really sorry for all the characters. I totally get why it was and is, to me, such a shocking book.

8. Zucchini and yellow squash can now be found again at the market. I’m crying tears of joy, truly. They are my two favorite vegetables.

9. I’ve sorted through all the clothing, which is such a major and detestable  chore. I also purchased new summer clothing for everyone.

10. We still have a month left of school and I am totally not in the mood for homework. I want to eat watermelon outside with my kids while they run through the sprinkler or splash in the wading pool.

11. Did I mention the humidity?

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Who knew?

I am secretly amused at myself when I drop my daughter off at preschool. During that time I look completely normal. I have two children-a boy and a girl. I drive a mini-van. Sometimes I’m even wearing exercise clothes. (Yes, I am exercising!) What amuses me so much is that I have three other kids at another school. And there is no way of hiding the fact that where I live, five kids is NOT normal. When I casually mention the other three boys, the other preschool mothers and fathers are usually shocked.

Yesterday at the pediatrician’s office, we ran into one of my daughter’s  preschool classmates. I cheerfully greeted the boy’s dad and introduced him to my oldest son. I mentioned the other two boys and his eyes got big. “Really?” he asked me. I laughed and said, “I know that I must look so normal with just the two kids–”

“You look happy, ” he interrupted me. “We’re going to have three boys soon and I’m not sure how it is going to be,” he rushed to explain.

We chatted for a few minutes about the baby they will have and then I left with the conversation hanging in my thoughts.

I am always surprised at the number of people who imagine that having more than children increases one’s misery or unhappiness. Almost as if extra work equals unhappiness.

I won’t lie to you, having five kids is hard work. I don’t spend my mornings working out at a gym. I don’t have a nanny or housekeeper to pick up the slack.  I don’t have grandparents nearby to provide babysitting. My husband doesn’t arrive home at 5 p.m. on the dot. His hours are long and while he is a tremendous support to me and totally involved with his children, much of the child-rearing rests on my shoulders.  I know many mothers like myself–but I don’t live near most of them. And to the people in my area, having more than two children, making do without a nanny or a housekeeper, seems like an impossible feat to accomplish. They find it hard to imagine that I can keep smiling.

But I do keep smiling, even when I want to throw things because my kids keep making messes, spilling drinks on the floor or fight. This is my life. And I am not miserable. I have my tough days, but tough days are universal.

I believe that achieving something worthwhile, like raising a large family, requires hard work. The hard work is worthwhile and valuable because I believe that I’m building something bigger than myself.

 Why is that we as a society have a hard time acknowledging that as a valuable contribution? Yet we laud olympics athletes with praise as they dedicate virtually every minute of their lives to breaking records and winning medals. And yet, the Olympic feats are so fleeting. Records are broken by other driven athletes. 

My hope is that my work with my family will extend throughout generations. And that seems a little more valuable and worthwhile than an olympic medal. Certainly worth a smile or two at least!

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