Thursday, February 23, 2017

Our Second Family

It's weird how that kind of worked out.
It was another evening with a bunch of little boys piled on the couch tucked in and around their dad watching *sporting event*.
i glanced at the TV... "Football's over... i thought it was football you guys were into?"
"It's not football, it's just sports. Sports never ends. It's always in season."
"Oh."
My college girl looked at me, "I'm confused... i still thought we were a fiddle/jamming family..."
"Nope," my husband replied cooly, "That was our last family. Our new family is a sports family."
This week, my littlest girl is on a road trip with her grandma and my bigger girls are all out interfacing with the world. My little homeschool is overrun with testosterone and little wrestling boys who are constantly needing snacks and reminders to shut down the wii.
i used to feel bad for Neil being so desperately outnumbered by girlies. He patiently listened to squeaking fiddles and watched fashion shows. He tenderly combed long hair and endured countless hours of girl talk...
But i see him now, with a satisfied smirk on his face as his boys grow like weeds around him. The seasons brought about a surprising change, and now i am the one who is outnumbered. Even my tiniest boy climbs out of my arms to tear off his shirt and pound his chest as he jumps into the fray to wrestle with his boys.
And so i'm learning how to mama my boys as they grow - even though it feels so very different to me than it did with my girls, and i'm finding my footing loving these boys *and* girls in the order and timing they were given... and it's all joy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Little Spice

Cai and i have been trying to have a date every month...
This month, we met at a little Indian restaurant that she picked. The server had brilliant blue eyes that sparkled against his dark skin and Chris Tomlin thrummed from their speakers. It smelled amazing. She was running a little late, so i waited, watching the window & felt my cheeks pull and rise into a deep smile as i finally saw her blonde head bobbing in the window - blue eyes searching for me...
There's something about watching your child look for you. At church last Sunday, i went to pick up Ephraim and Gage from their class and i was surrounded by parents taller than myself, but between their shoulders, i could see his platinum curls and his sky blue eyes searching faces... searching, searching... until his eyes locked with mine. His face was wreathed in grins and his tiny skinny legs started hopping as he called out and waved to me. He knew i was his, and that he is mine. And it struck me as i reached out my arms to him, how there were all these little pairings of parent and child at that doorway - each one magnetized to the other, in perfect matching sets.
She let in a tiny burst of spring air as she opened the door.
She's like food; like air, sun, light, warmth, softness and refreshment... all wrapped into a tiny passionate package.
Back home, folding laundry, Gage asked me, "So, how was your lunch with Cairo?"
"It was good, Gagey. So good. Sometimes i really miss her. I miss her living here with us..."
Time is measured so differently when you're a child. He lived with her for his first eight years, but these last 6 months she has been gone have felt like a whole other lifetime to him.
"I miss Colin."
"Yeah, i miss Colin too."
One can never have enough big brothers, and Colin with his gentle baritone and open arms has been with us so long, that Gage doesn't even remember a time when he wasn't...
But they are each other's more than they are ours now... Their own little entity - their own little circle of gravity envelopes them and keeps them orbiting each other... What kind of crazy alchemy is it that makes takes two and makes one? That separates from origin in order to create something new, something precious, something awe-inspiring in it's fragile beginnings? Marriage just takes my breath away.
The kids often ask me, "Are we nine in our family or are we eleven?"
And i never know how to answer.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A day

Found this post in my drafts folder...
i knew that season was brief. i don't know why i didn't press publish on this one. i need to write more, "a day" posts... it helps me to remember. Obviously written in the fall, a year and a half ago.

*****************************

It's a daddy travelling season of life, but for some reason, i feel like we've caught our stride.

Elmer potty trained suddenly right around his second birthday in June and to our surprise, he started sleeping through the night at the same time. My body hardly remembers what it's like to be rested and alert during the day. We also found out that a lot of his high needs nature had to do with our communication problem - that little boy needs subtitles. But as his language has developed, his frustration has decreased. Goodbye, baby... hello, big boy. He's still mind-bogglingly loud and bossy, but as eighth born, maybe that's just a defence mechanism God gave him so he'd be heard.

Ephraim started losing teeth this year. It amplifies his sweet speech impediment. He has platinum blond curls and sometimes i wonder if his face is made out of plasticine cause he can bend it in the most amazing ways to make the craziest faces. i'm teaching him to read. It can sometimes be laborious and tiring... i'm not a great teacher and i am trying to remember to be patient. A trick that i learned when i was teaching Cairo to read that i've used with every child since her is to look at their fingers when i start to get impatient. It reminds me how little they are, and it reminds me to be kind to them when they are still so wee - trying to learn something as difficult as reading. i don't know why their stubby little fingers with dirty fingernails do this to me, but it has worked for the six before him and it is working now. i love those little hands.

Gage is doing grade two. He's one of those weird kids where things just come easy for him. School is easy, he's athletic, sings like an angel, he's tall and handsome. But he's tender... He's all deep waters, feeling sadness or joy with more depth than you'd think possible at seven. Sometimes he laughs till he cries. He did that after Cairo told him that she's engaged. When he prays, there's a tenderness that testifies that his faith is his own.

Mollen and Charter are both entering the season of good-bye. Maybe some other parents of teenagers know what i mean when i say that. There's this healthy good-bye that happens as they transition out of childhood and into adulthood. It can be agonizing for everyone cause there are so many feelings - sometimes anger or sadness. They need time away from us - time with friends, and i honestly don't think i'd be strong enough to do this if Cairo hadn't taught me that after the goodbye comes the hello again... and it's all familiar and different and poignant and the same.

Peyton is at the cusp of the hello. But she's at public school this year and i miss her like crazy. When she comes home, i want to inhale her like she's oxygen. She's making me content in my decision to let her go to public school this year by working hard and by showing her maturity in getting herself up early, making lunches, catching her busses on time and getting her homework done. Grade 10 isn't easy - & i know how hard she's working to keep up.

Sloan is homeschooling for grade 12, but she's hardly home more than Peyton. She's holding down her job at Tim Hortons and her classes are so challenging, she spends much of the time she's at home holed up in her room listening to e-lives and doing online school. i miss her too. But when she comes up for air, she wrestles the boys or cleans the kitchen beside me while we talk. She got our whole homeschool to watch her favourite kids tv series as part of our homeschool this year and most of the time i just put out of my mind the fact that this is her last year. It all still sort of feels still so far away that it can't be real.

If Peyton and Sloan aren't home enough for me... i don't know how to describe Cai's absence. Only 11 more months of her being in my house, under my roof... all 8 of my sweet chicks in our crowded little nest. Three years - that's all i'll get with *everyone* all living together. She's breaking us in gently - her classes get her up and out of the house early and her evenings are full of meetings, volunteering and plans that i can never keep straight. She sometimes scarfs down leftovers out of the fridge long after i've gone to bed and if i'm lucky i'll catch her for a minute or two in the early morning minutes before she slips out the door when it's still dark outside. In less than 11 months, she'll be a wife with a home of her own. i'm so proud and happy - but... i know i'll miss her so much.

Neil and i never run out of things to talk about these days. i get up at 6:15 and when he's not travelling we have coffee together till 6:45 and in between the companionable silence we make each other little offerings of conversation. i miss him when he's gone too. It will be twenty years this may. Twenty years of being his wife, of never getting enough of him, of carrying his babies and keeping his home. Marriage has been such a sweetness in my life - my favourite gift from God.

So there's a little snapshot of our family in what feels like will be a very short season.

Monday, January 30, 2017

elitism

Sometimes people do cool things with their voice that kinda wake me up and make me pay attention. Little melodic runs that are out of my range, or their ears pick up some strange mode and they are able to put it in some crazy syncopated rhythm that enhances whatever it is being sung. Sometimes after i hear something like that, i'll pause the music and try to re-create it. i'll try again and again and again... until my mind can at least understand what it is they've done and i can scratch out some kind of weak imitation.
i've never been a really stellar piano player. My playing has always been about function - background rhythm and chords... My playing is accompaniment at it's best... noise at it's worst.
But i play.
In music - as in so many, many areas of life, the reign of elitism has squashed so many of the singers. It has quieted so many of the players. It has shamed so many of the timid makers of music.
Worse, it has fanned flames of perfectionism in performers, and misplaced the authentic mess that comes with artistic expression.
i'm learning to stop being afraid of that mess.
i want to learn to live my life that way: doing my best, and encouraging the same in others. i want to admire the beauty in the polished auto-tuned art... and in the rough mess of pitchy, wobbly vulnerability too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

punching bag

A friend with a grown son recently told me how he had regretfully admitted to her that during his teen years, he "used her as a punching bag"...
My friend kinda sighed - but it was a happy sigh. She loves her son and her love wasn't lessened or dimmed by his adolescent misplaced fury.
I'm watching my oldest four walk with so much grace through their teen years. Some things haven't changed so much since I was a teen, and in so many ways - I feel like they're making a better way than I ever did... but I'd be lying if I claimed that teen years don't have any pain at all.
I'm clinging to a few truths during these years - and i think these truths are things that have shaped the kind of mama i have become as my littles have grown...

1. Relationship matters more than pretty much everything else. A clean room, a good report card, a spotless driving record, a respectful mouth... these are all beautiful things - but I'm not trading my relationship to get them.

2. Adding to that concept, i really believe that without truth, we can't have relationship. That's one thing i love love love about Neil. He has never been afraid or timid about calling me on my idiocy. He has challenged me, called me out... and all around encouraged me to become a better, more thoughtful person. Without truth, the relationship is often one-sided - or hollow... Bring on truth - even when it hurts.

3. When i think of them, i try to act on it immediately. Sometimes i'll go pray by their door, pick up my phone and send a text, make a note in my calendar to take some action...

4. When they come to me... sometimes i'm touched out, talked out, burned out... but oh, how i want them to come to me. i do my very best to soften my expression, open my posture, make my stance one of welcome... i try to make eye contact. Sometimes in the past, they've tried to share a song with me, or something that moved them - and either i didn't take the time to click that youtube link, or didn't take the mental energy to make any kind of connection as to why it would move them. i'm trying to break those bad habits.

5. When i get my feelings hurt, i don't wanna pout... i wanna have thick skin, a soft heart and a forgiving spirit. i want my loves to feel safe with me - i want to be unreasonable in my affection and exceedingly abundant in my mercy.

When Sloanie was tiny, she climbed softly into our room and softly whined, "It's so hard being three.." And each age has it's difficulties and sorrows... the teen years are no different. My prayer is that i will be the kind of mama that softens the blows and equips my people to be the kind of people who shine a light into darkness.

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