Teen Green….

Nope, not talking about cash. That’s what many, my girls included, would think of first. Nope. Talking about that green eyed monster: Jealousy.

In our big messy house, we’ve been running into a lot of jealousy. I have. I am telling you that this spring, but oh my goodness even more so, this summer, every time I turn around one or another of my girls is jealous of a sister. As they say here in the south, “You can’t swing a dead cat” without hitting a jealous sister. I know, yikes!

Jealousy. It’s the grown up, breathing, creature risen from the little kid version of sibling rivalry. This has morphed from little kid “gimme’s” and grabs to a stewing breath of resentment and envy. It’s jealousy. I think especially for girls, it’s a serious monster that waits in the closet, needing only a crack in the door to step out. Especially for teens. Especially when it comes to teen sisters. {And there are many who can/will point to the idea that we/I haven’t ‘formed’ them well enough….maybe. But I think this is part of our human nature, and it peaks in the toddler and teen years. And with the complexities in our family and it’s forming, well, I’m not sure how we could have sidestepped this entirely…But maybe I’m just being defensive; it could happen!}

Now, most of the jealousy ’round here centers around time with me. Which, on one level, is grand. They like me! Or, more to the point, they need time with me. And they WANT it! But on another level, it’s tough. It’s a pressure. Because I do make a point of trying my best to make sure each kid gets time with me, one on one, face time, checking in, sitting by them, ears and heart open…etc etc. Typically, the jealous version plays out around the idea of…wait for it….shopping. No surprise that, eh? If one of them needs something from the store: another pair of shorts, a new sports bra, heck, more conditioner…… then if I take them to the store to shop and/or get it…..then I can be quite certain that when I get home one or several will now be “jealous.” {Which explains why I try to do a great lot of the shopping alone, when they are in school….but it’s summer…..yeah, circling back to the problem now….} Heck I can lay money on it. They don’t seem to be nearly as jealous of time spent with me chopping vegetables for dinner….hmmmm…

Michael D. Edens, “Jealousy”

It’s wearing me out.

So, this is a post to ask for ideas from anyone who has multiple teen girls at home: How do you soothe and settle the green eyed teen? How do you address the cries of “H first! (no fair, me jealous),” “It’s just that I NEVER get to go with you.” “You NEVER get me stuff.” You only take/buy/do for ____fill in the blank____?” All of these statements have a fractional basis in reality – in that I cannot buy for every single child every single time another needs something. We’d go bankrupt. And I cannot take every child every time; nor can I take every child every day or week. I’d simply drop dead from insanity or sheer exertion.

I have four teen girls right now. I love them so. Each of them is an amazing individual; each with so many great qualities. But, collectively? The sisters, the hormones, the drama, the JEALOUSY?? It’s making for a LONG summer. And summer has only begun….

Moms?? Experience, tips…anything??

Works for Me Wednesday: Kid Date

Ok, so this should be more precisely titled “Works for Us, Wednesday…”  But then I’d miss the whole linky bit, here, so I’m keeping it as is.  But, you get the point.  This little tip is something we’ve honed to a very worthy custom in our household: it’s the “Kid Date.”

The kid date is not, as you might wonder, when just the kids go out together and run wild, going out on the town and boozing it up or sneaking into movies.  No, no.  The kid date is when the kids get a turn for their own, SOLO, date, with their dad.  Sounds small, no big deal? Oh, no.  Not at all.  Especially when you have a family with many children, this is a really key thing to craft, if you can.  Heck, I’ll go out on a limb and say even if you have a standard size or even small size family, this is a good thing.  That time of undivided attention between the dad and kid?  Priceless.

The Kid Date is a standing Wednesday night gig in our house.  We protect it as much as possible.  Yes, it means a Dad Date, really.  The kids all get lots of time with me.  But their dad, he is a hard working guy and he is busy…all the time.  He’s around as much as he is able. But, his job stuff is, um, time consuming.  It just is.  So, a few years ago, we intentionally started carving out a protected night every week for Dad and one kid to go out, alone, to do whatever they thought sounded like a good idea.

This whole concept played off our standing date, Saturday night.  That’s right, Tom and I have a standing Saturday night date.  It’s all old fashioned, that standing mom/dad date, you betcha.  But, oh boy, it’s priceless and we protect it like gold.  Because it is.  But I digress.  We figured that our weekly date out was so important to our relationship and to staying connected that it would be great for each kid to get solo time w/ Dad too.  They get it with me; I have to make an intentional effort to find that time to check in (and some days/weeks I do that better than others), but with Dad, the time constraints are much tighter.  So, voila, the weekly kid date.

Now, the only way to do the kid date fairly is to make it a system.  We put it on the calendar and we rotate down the troops in age.  No randomness at all (because then there would be intertribal war, not good), though swapping due to homework deadlines is allowed (they work that out between themselves, mostly).  And, just this past month, little Gabey was finally considered old enough to be allowed to go on his first kid date! Oh happy day, er, night!  He was so excited!

It’s a little difficult some weeks to have the kid date, the weeks get eaten up with basketball practices or late meetings or tests…but we really try to make it happen.  And it does mean that Tom has sat through multiple excruciating memorable viewings of the latest kiddie flick (Fly me to the Moon, anyone? Anyone?)…but that’s just what a dad does for his kids.  It’s a tough duty but he’s the man for it.

And is it worth it? All those cheeseburgers, those cartoons, the crash of the bowling pins? Well, I’m not him, but I think he’d say, “You bet.”  Because in between the skittles and the  pasta, sometimes in the dark of the drive home…the kids talk.  They chatter or they open up for a heart to heart or they ask the hard questions.  Or sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they’ve been known to fall asleep in the movie.  But almost every time, that kid comes home to about half the others already asleep.  They come up and check in with me and hug me.  And I ask them, “Did you have a good time?” And they give me an extra kiss or hug, and say, “Yeah.”  Then they go find their dad and hug him goodnight and say thanks for going out with me.  And then, he thanks them back for going out with him.  And that, that is where the gold is.  That connection.  Little bits, along the way.

Kid date.  Worth the time, the trouble, the juggling.  It’s a bag of skittles, all gold.

>Shuffling shoes in Oz

>I wrote, not too long ago, about being mom to a large family and how humbling it can be trying to keep all the pins and schedules in place.
I didn’t, at that time, write about the shoes.

Van Gogh, “Shoes” 1888.

Oh, my goodness, the shoes.
I mean, really, think about it.  We are a family of ten.  We each have two feet.  If we all have only ONE pair of shoes then that is twenty shoes, right there.  I know, I know, you’re saying “Hold up, shoes are counted in pairs.  So twenty should be twenty pairs.(So, follow me, in my house that would be forty count – to be precise you know.) Well, um, nope.  Not in MY house.  In my house we count SHOES.  Single shoes, usually unmatched, in no proximity to each other.
Sounds kind of disorganized, I know.
That would be because it is, disorganized,….that’s how we roll, er, or perhaps I should say “march?”

You all know we have more than one pair each, we are most fortunate that way.
Heck some of my kids are growing so fast that I swear they need a new pair about once a month, not kidding….

Shoes are gonna be the end of me. 
Or, more precisely, shoes are going to be the blessed downfall, eventually and until I can finally let it go, of my endless stubborn pride.
Shoes are, almost daily, my “mom fail moment.”

Let me illustrate what I mean, another “so not the great and powerful Oz” moment:
A week or so ago, I was being getting ready to take kids to another Saturday basketball game…by which I mean, I was settling down at my computer to read some emails and surf some favorite blogs.  I had just poured my first fresh cup, ok maybe my second, of coffee and had waved my hands at the kids telling them we would go to basketball in an hour or so.  See, on top of the job….

The phone rang, a number I didn’t recognize, but local so not a salesperson (which I would have ignored), so I picked up.  Turns out, it was the mom of one of my first grader’s classmates.    Now, let me clarify, this mom is one of those moms that I am  not, nor can ever be.  She has two children (there might be a .4 in there somewhere, I’m not sure) and she is practically perfect in every way.  She is very pretty, she has great hair that is low maintenance, she has cute clothes, she is  young and fit though not an amazon type that you can write off just because they are freaks of nature…. Her car is clean and tidy (I’ve seen inside at pickup, even the cargo area is organized. I covet this.  Not that I’m snooping, those rear doors open right in front of you when you’re in line, ok? But I digress), and what’s more, she’s always on time.  Plus, she’s nice.  Really.  So, you know what that means: yup, I’m kind of intimidated.  Heck, she probably crafts too.  I’m pretty sure she’s been the room mom before and will be again.  You see what I mean.  She IS “the Great and Powerful Oz!”  But that is supposed to be ME, right? Ha, never.

Anyhow, so she started talking to me about Anthony and her son and shoes.  My mind was racing ahead as she talked, trying to figure out what this meant and what my kid had done and how could I fix it?  I heard her say something about different sizes.
What? Different sizes? Same shoes?
OH! As my dear goddaughter would say, “I’ve got this!”
So I breathed a quick sigh of relief and interrupted her, “Oh! Well, hey, if X has my Tonio’s shoe I can give you the other one.  Tonio just grew out of them over Christmas! I’ve ordered up a size, no problem!
And I blathered on about how funny it was that his feet were so big so fast and he’s a size 5 now and Marta wanted his shoes because they fit her and they were the unisex school shoes and she thought they were cute…until I realized that phone mom had fallen silent.  Oh.  Dear. Then I realized what she had been saying: shoe mixup at school somehow, the boys brought home each other’s single shoe.
OH! “No, ok, right then.  You want me to FIND your son’s shoe and bring it to basketball?!! Of course! Of course we will! Sorry, not enough coffee yet today, doh!
I hung up quickly and even more quickly went to make an espresso to wake up my soggy brain cells.  Doh, indeed.  And of course, then began the great, loud, furious (because now I was totally embarrassed) hunt for the shoe.  Which gave over to much drama and loudness and gnashing of teeth, because said shoe was NOT to be found.
Finally, it was time to leave.  No shoe.  Oh, we had Tonio’s shoe in a plastic Target bag, all right.  NO, I don’t know what I was thinking I just somehow felt the need to bring it.  What can I say, I’m a dolt.
I knew what I had to do…hope like mad that we’d find his shoe in the afternoon and bring it school…..
Until my Chris, deciding to go with us to the game at the last minute, broke the news to me.
He asked me about the odd bag with the single shoe.
I told him my tale.
He said, “Uh oh.  Is it a brown shoe with a velcro strap?
Oh dear, my heart sank, I knew before he said it, what he was going to say.  I sighed, “Yes.”
Well, I found one of those all soggy and wet when I was cleaning the backyard.  I threw it in the truck and took it to the dump.  Later I found another……” and we both looked at the bag.
Yuh.  We had thrown away this boy’s shoe.
And I had to tell the mom.
You might guess, I dreaded going to that basketball game.

But I did.  And I saw her in the stands, so I squared my shoulders and took a deep breath and went right up to her.
I blurted out before it hurt too much, “I’m so sorry! Please please give me  your address so I can send you another pair of shoes, I can get the same shoe at zappos, you will get them Monday.
She looked at me, and looked at the bag and said, “No, it’s ok, see there’s the shoe.” 
I choked out, but fast, “No, this is still the wrong shoe, wesentyourstothedump.  We sent yours to the dump.  I’m SO sorry.  Tonio left them outside, they got rained on, snowed on, Chris was cleaning and saw it a mess and took it to the dump. I’m sorry! Please let me replace them.
And, because she is practically perfect in every way, she smiled over her bewildered gaze and said, “It’s no big deal, don’t be ridiculous.”
Which of course just made me feel worse.  I am ridiculous, our house is ridiculous…because we leave our  many mismatched single shoes out in the yard to get snowed on and ruined even when they are not ours.  Because I didn’t even know any of this until she called me. Because I cart single used shoes to basketball games in Target bags even though no one wants his old shoe.
She refused to give me her address. 
I’m pretty sure she thought that was a safety move.

So, any of you who might think that I think that I’ve got it together…..I so know better.  I am the mom who is NEVER behind the curtain.  I won’t even begin to describe the random plops of unmatched shoe or shoes that we trip on here there and yonder in our house, or my nagging to pick them up or how often or how quickly they wander out of their closet or cubby …. But just let me say “Do the math.”  Mom fail – think of the shoes, people.  And have pity. 

Still dreaming of those magic ruby slippers….

>How’z that again?

>If this isn’t the closest analogy to how a big, erm, MY family works on it’s best day, I don’t know what is…. Perhaps this is more apropos of a large family, but still, this made me laugh and tonight I saw this and realized, “Oh  yeah, and that’s what happens in our house, on our BEST days.”  No kidding.
Take a look at this:

Yeah, think about it….{And while you’re at it, think about ALL the ways it can go wrong too…that too SO describes my family life! Ha!}
Yup. I know!
I thought so too.
{h/t to Buddybug}

>Make way for ducklings: Reality Check


I might have mentioned once or twice that I have a large family –  a fair number of kidletts.  People will ask me, “How do you do it all?”  They see my brood and the hustle and bustle and are often incredulous, and maybe a little freaked out (And probably thinking, “Whew, not me!).  Sometimes I smile and say, “The big kids help, it’s not so much.”  And that’s true.  More often I might say, “I don’t! I have help. It’s one of the secrets to a big family: built in helpers.”  Even more often, I say, “Well, I fail.  Every day.”  And that’s probably the most accurate of all.

Reality Check:  Sometimes, you have tough weeks.  Not even extra-ordinary weeks with some disaster that defines the days.  But rather, you have ordinary days, a week filled with laundry and school and  homework and juggling schedules.  But for some reason, that week is tough.  Sometimes, thankfully not so often, but sometimes….despite the standard mundane moments, it seems like every single person needs just a bit, or quite a lot, MORE, somehow.

On those days, that usual sense of paddling as fast as you can, maybe dropping a few balls here and there….kind of shifts.  
And then, you realize that you feel, for the moment, (to borrow an old phrase) like you are being pecked to death by baby ducks.

So, for those of you who wonder how any of us “do it all,”  I’d like to honestly say that some days you (ok, me)  just feel a little overrun, and maybe you (ok, me) fantasize for a moment or two about flights to faraway tropical islands – one way. So, that’s part of the package.  Not all that rare I suspect.  But yeah, it’s been one of those weeks.

>Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s off to Disney we go..

>Ok, so yeah, we lost our minds (Ok, Coffeedoc did) and decided we should “do Disney.” After falling out of my chair with sticker shock upon researching the cost (even w/ current specials) for Disney World…I realized we could go see my family, the beach,and college if we went to DisneyLand versus the Florida world – for about a third of the cost. Plus, and here is a “Big Family Tip,” since we are SO big now, we finally could get a group rate: buy 10 tickets as a group, get one free and group rate is about a 40% discount. Score! Decision: made.

Let me preface this post by saying I am a bit conflicted on the whole Disney thing. It’s a love/hate thing for sure for me. Part of me totally loves the whole deal, I like the scary but not terrifying rides, the whole vibe, the make-believe kiddie fun. But part of me resents it in the sense of the sticker shock and, well, the after effects. You moms know what I’m talking about: its the “donkey effect.” Yup. You know, I took Little Man, Marta, Sbird, and Miss M on Pinocchio’s Wild Ride (or something like that) and it’s all about Pinocchio’s visit to Pleasure Island – where he and the other spoiled boys run amok and turn into donkeys. It occurred to me that this ride should really be placed at the very entrance to the park and be a mandatory ride for all families with children under fourteen. Because, the kids, they all start to bray by the end of the day.

But I digress.

Anyhow, so we went to Disney, myself, Coffeedad, and eight kidletts (one of them being a buddy of Booboo) on Day one and nine (nephew joined us) on Day two. Whew. And let me remind you that one of them doesn’t speak any english and also doesn’t have that built in cultural soak in Disney. And let me remind you that one of them is two. Double whew. Makes you tired just reading that, doesn’t it? Go ahead, read it again, imagine it……yeah, has that effect on me too and they are my kids!

And yes, count those kids. Thats missing a few too.
And yes, I look like a dork but it got hot so I put on a skirt and I have bad feet.
Sue me. I don’t care.

But I digress.

So. We went to Disney. Overall, really, it went better than expected…for a while anyhow. A visit to Disney goes through the same rough stages: giddy anticipation, arrival and shock at the crowds the lines but the giddy anticipation carries you through, giddy fun while seeing the cool pretty park and the wandering characters, giddy anticipation of the first rides…. The whole “giddy fun” factor holds over for awhile, until it’s past lunchtime and then the slow crash begins.

Maybe you go on a ride that was a bad choice. Looked like fun but caused the newest teen to freak out. Was it the height? Was it the swinging? We’ll never know, not for a long time anyhow. But you console, and move on. Get some food into you, move into the next phase of “who rides what and when?” Strategizing. The giddy anticipation stage is over and it’s all strategy from here. It’s logistics times 8. You strategize potties, lines, rides, fast passes, snacks, and shows.

Finally, the teen boys return, the family comes together again. One last ride before you try to find a spot for the fireworks. Lunch was so late you only need more snacks and as you park and sit on the ground, all the kids are starting to crash whine. You jolly along, wondering if it’s worth it to wait. Finally the fireworks start, and they are amazing. Lots of oohing and aahing. All the teens agree that it was great, the smalls are too sleepy to say much and the two year old is asleep in his stroller. You walk back to the hotel, with the masses exiting the park, amidst the wails and whining of all the other small overstimulated children. Ah, the sounds of Disney at night.

And that is the plot line of the first day. Our first day. But really, I think the stages are roughly on target: giddy anticipation of the park, shock at the lines and crowds, giddy anticipation of the rides, giddy glee over the rides and fun, a few frowns and tears at a bad ride, hunger crashes and rallies, complicated logistical strategizing, and then the final surge of wow and the tired exit. Typical I’d say.

It really was fun, for the most part.
Watching Gabey see Mickey Mouse with his eyes huge and a little gasp: priceless.
Watching Little Man race to the rides and come off grinning: priceless.
Sitting next to him and Marta and Sbird with them all shrieking and burying their head against me, then grinning: hysterical.
Watching my Prima Diva go on her first real rollercoasters and come off with her face flushed, giddy and jabbering: priceless.

So, yeah, we had fun.
But OH so many more things to talk about.
But that will need to be another post. I’ve gotta take the kids out to the beach!

>Adjustment: two months.


Relativity, by MC Escher

So. We are at two months now of being a family. And really, I think this drawing sums it up best.

That’s right. Look closely. A little topsy turvy maybe? Yeah. That’s our household. Seems like just when one of us thinks we have our feet under us and know where we stand, well then it seems to go a little wonky again. Someone else skews the mood or drops something down the stairs or starts climbing the walls. You know the feeling…just a little still, um, shifty.

So, really, everyone is still kind of finding their places, so to speak. Especially in the new relations to each other, its a shifting thing for awhile; an up-down, push-pull kind of thing. I am working on keeping balance with all the family, the kids in particular. I’m finding my sea legs, so to speak, but man, its a workout!

I know this all reads so vague. But, its because I guess there is still so much guessing going on. We still don’t have much language floating around the house, not one that everyone can understand. So we do a lot of guessing, which of course leads surely to a fair lot of misconceptions flying about.

But even so, sometimes we make steps forward, on solid ground. We have negotiated bathroom times (still ongoing…girls, showers, ’nuff said), and are laying down the food rules (e.g. first real food, then sometimes ice cream). We have sorted through mundane teeny but oh so important practical issues of who sits where in the car and how mom can figure out whose clothes are whose in the laundry (Three girls who are much the same size = mom is confused, girls are mad. Can you say: “initials in all clothes?” I can!), and who does which chores and when. Whew. Boring stuff? Mundane stuff? Maybe, yeah. But not SO much when the smooth functioning of the house is at stake. And no, saying that, the house is not functioning smoothly, not yet.

But every now and then, that topsy turvy picture, above, morphs for a few minutes, into a regular old home, with our regular old life in a slightly newer version. Two months. We are at two months and counting…..and hoping and living…..together.

>Tumbling Stones

>Remember this?
This is a rock tumbler, seeing it is like a blast from my past.
My eldest brother is a gemologist, and as a boy, we had one of these babies grinding away in my dad’s workshop (a large-closet size room off the carport) for many a day.
It was kind of fascinating to watch him go out in the desert, hunting for stones, and come back with a pocketful. He would sort them and then put some paste of some sort in the tub and flip the switch. Then it would turn and turn and turn, slowly but surely. It was kind of loud, sometimes kind of smelly, often in the way.
I always wished it would hurry up and finish (yup, impatient even way back when).

Finally, he would decide it had turned enough and he would flip the off switch. The bin would come to a halt and he would open it up and reach inside. I always tried to be right there when he did. He would pull out the same stones and they were smooth, then he would polish them and they would be like some kind of cool rugged jewels.
It was a kind of magic for a kid. It was just cool.

I lay in bed this morning, awake again at three a.m. with Gabey. He had gone back to sleep next to me, but I could not. And I started thinking about the various drama we’ve been having with the kids: nothing big, just the usual fussing here and there and kids fretting about turf and things and how come they do this and why can’t they be like that sort of things. You know, the sibling stuff, standard issue…..to an exponential factor since we have a large family.

And I think it was Kimberly Hahn who I heard once say that having family is a way to rub off your sharp edges. And I remembered David’s rock tumbler.

That’s what having a big family is like. A rock tumbler.
We are tumbling stones.

We are given to each other to rub off all our sharp edges, to smooth each other out. It’s often loud, a lot messy, sometimes stinky, and frequently in the way of one of our individual desires. It’s not always easy and all that bumping and banging can hurt a bit here and there.
And yet, it is a cool thing, to be able to have each other to work away those rough bits. To learn to withstand the jagged edges of the one who scrapes across you, once again.
To get mad and frustrated and even hurt, but to learn to soothe and be soothed, to endure and withstand….to forgive and forget and move on.
It is this tumbling, this smoothing of our rugged jagged stony hearts and natures that is what we do best for each other. And what, as a family, as a large family in particular, we can do like no one else in the world. It is hard sometimes. It can hurt, frustrate, scrape and chip. But in the end, you end up with something all new again…..transformed, you could say.You end up with jewels. All different. Each unique. None just quite like the other, different size, shape, color, composition…some with streaks, some with glints of glitter.

But you end up a family, each being polished into their most true selves.
No wonder I was so fascinated with his rock tumbler, ultimately, I was to have my own.

>Adoption and Counting

>One of the little known facets of adoption is the whole counting thing.
It is found with all types of adoption, domestic or international.
But the international counting gets a little more obsessive, I’d say.
There is counting everywhere you turn (and NO not only for those of us compulsive controlling types, we all do it, I took a poll).

You count the paperchase, each step in it gets its own countdown.
You count the months from dossier landing, anticipating a referral.
Once you get a referral you count the weeks until court, then the weeks to travel.
Then the days to travel count down.
Then you count the days you are in country.

Of course, if you are just a really laid back kind of person, or really detached in the spiritual holiness sense, then you don’t count. You just live in the present moment.
Good for you.

I’m not that holy.
I count.

I even count the hours ahead, eight, of the time each day….kind of checking in, figuring out what she’d be doing now.
Don’t judge me, I can’t help it.

But today, as I was out trying to make a dent in the elfin duties of the season, another sort of counting was rattling in my brain.
I was counting kids.

I am often asked how many kids I have.
This often happens when I show up with a towering cart at the market or when I am shopping for stocking stuffers and buy in gross.
Like today.

And so today I was thinking, what do I say?
How do you respond to that when you are in the process limbo?

To the observer, when I am buying in bulk or when I have all the kidletts -big and small – in tow, I am sure they must think the number looks something like this pic, below.
Yeah, two of those are officially mine. Front and center, the cute ones.
And I can go all philosophical on you and say, that pic is from World Youth Day in Cologne, they are all my children, as a mother in this world I care about them all.
But that would be too flip.
And nauseating.

But really, how do I answer that?
I could say I have seven children. Count the bouncy balls in my cart: seven.
But then am I short-shrifting “M”, so far away?
Will that somehow resonate across the globe?
Somehow, oddly it feels like it does.
But then again, the process can make you a tad hyper-sensitive too and I don’t want to overstate (for a change, but I will, I can’t help it).
And so, if I follow that, I say “I have eight children.”
Then it too, feels not quite there.

Because while on this side of the world we’ve been given the ok and it’s almost a formality that she is our daughter….on the other side, in Ethiopia, it is very much not a done deal.
And it could go wrong.
It’s happened.
Until the court says she is our daughter, can I claim her?
Can I?

I have in my heart and head and energy and effort. I’ve taken the hits of scorn and derision.
I have fought for her.
And I have prayed for her, and do, every day.

But until it’s official in her country and culture and legal process, can I boldly, baldly say, “I have eight children?”
I think so…
But then again, I almost always feel like I need to clarify – we are waiting for court, so we can go get her…bring her home.

So, I think the only way for me to do this is to count.
And I count eight.
Eight children.
I have eight children.
Because she is mine already, part of the fabric of me and us.
And if, God forbid, something unthinkable happens I will still have eight children, I will simply be torn from one.
And the controlling freak part of me wants to push through the counting, shorten it all, because I have claimed her and so it only makes sense that we go bring her to us.
Then she can claim us too.

And we can count, together. A new kind of counting, forward and infinite.

And I bought her a stocking today anyhow, just because. I counted.

>Funky, Fine, or Freaks? Pondering the Large Family

>Fair warning: LONG post.

I have been stewing a bit lately. Maybe it was another migraine, pushing my thoughts outside their normal box. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Maybe it has been the intensive discerning process we’ve been in. Or now, the idea that we have EIGHT children (we just need CIS to verify). Very likely, that.

(This is an older picture, w/ our Korean exchange student/daughter from afar,
but not counting Gabriel or our new daughter to come)

But, clearly, I’ve been thinking, a LOT, about the large family.

Now, we, to some, are a large family. To many of the families I know, we are a smallish large family. Or maybe a largish, medium size family. Or a big small family. By some standards we are a middling family, no big deal. But, by others, the vast majority, we are a Large family. By modern American standards we are a freaky big family!

And I think, isn’t that odd?
And isn’t that kind of sad?

But then again, I have to think about that a lot. Because my kids have to grow up in this family. And some people have written about how hard and bad it is for kids to have to grow up in a large family; what a disservice it does to the kids. Hmmm.

Obviously, I have a bias.

I like to think that a large family, or a largish medium size family, or even a crazy big family is on the whole: good for the kids. Kim at Starry Sky Ranch is thinking about this, living it, as well. Worth a read that.

But too often, in our modern or postmodern culture, the large family is considered not only not so good, but detrimental. Huh? Because in the modern ethos, if you are filling all the bedrooms and then some in your house then surely you are shortchanging your kids, right? They must not have all the “things” they need materially. Because modern kids are not only entitled to their own room and an education but the newest backpacks and electronics and flat screen tv’s….really? Ok, I’m not saying everybody holds to this, but oddly enough, I get asked about this sort of thing. And of course, you might guess, I disagree. Kids are not entitled to such, to our excess consumerism, nor is it best for them (and we are all too guilty, all too often, mea culpa). But this is another post topic, really…the idea of how much and of what? Kids need a certain financial stability to thrive and certainly the adoption process ensures that. But it is a much wider swath than some I meet presume.

But to take it further, people wonder, and (to my waning shock) ask outright, if we are being “good stewards” of our resources. We have been questioned, point blank, on whether we have all our kids’ college funds funded (more than once). And you know, thankfully, so far, God has provided and no we don’t have every child’s entire education funded. We are figuring that we will figure it out and we will find a way to be sure that all our children get the education they want and need. It is a priority, but not a panicked stash. This is our personal decision (so don’t flame me, I get it when you decide otherwise).

So really, it begs the question: good stewardship, how is it applied to kids and a big family? Well, I think it’s simple. The best investment, ever and always, is in the life of a child. Period. That may be easy to say, but if we can make it work, we are gonna and so we figure we can raise one more, again. It might not be easy, it’s an expensive process and prospect. But, we, in faith, figure we will figure it out as we go.

But as for stewardship and the good of the kids, there is a much bigger picture to go with…..again, the fingers get pointed at the bigger family. Because you can’t possibly be a good steward of your other resources if you have so many kids can you? Can you really give those kids all the attention they need? Really? The love, the time? Can you really focus on their needs, their individual quirks and nurture them fully?
Yes, you can.
Is it hard and challenging at times?
Um, yeah.
Is it noisy and messy and chaotic?
Oh boy, yup, it is that!

But here’s the secret that people forget. They must forget because surely they know, if they pause to consider. One of the best, the very best, reasons to have a large family is: siblings. Yeah, the rivalry thing is real and can be maddening and intense. But siblings are simply the greatest gift you can give a child, any child. Even kids who have special needs, and might need more of your attention and resources (financial or otherwise); their best gift from you is a sib. Because only a sibling will always be there for them. Siblings are the only people who will have a relationship that spans the lifetime – even if it gets broken. There is still something there. And more siblings aren’t a drain, it’s a literal expansion: of fun, silliness, madness, emotions, opportunities, support, touch, love. They may not always be happy about it, and some sibs will be closer than others. But no one else will make you fall off your chair laughing til you cry when you’re grown. I remind my boys when they fuss that no one else will be able to make fun of me, after I am dead, like his brother. OK, or even now as I am quite alive. Love ’em or hate ’em, there is nobody like a sib. Ever.
And then we come to the one that makes me feel quite the curmudgeon:
“what about you?”
“How can you, as a mom, as an adult woman, feel fulfilled and challenged when you are tied to a house full of kids?”
What about “me time”?
People have asked me this in opposition to our latest adoption.
And you know, here’s my answer:
I do not live under a rock, I am aware of this concept, I see the magazines. And yes I do get tired and burnt out too sometimes. However, I am the most selfish person I have ever met and I must say I have a remarkable knack for carving out ME time.
But my “me” time may not be yours.
And it is a huge mistake to judge how much or of what type is claimed.
And in our culture, there is such an emphasis on self that it has gotten skewed. The best sort of “me” time I can really give, is to my kid (one or all). Not that I always remember that point, or do it. But the times I DO remember and value and that restore, are the ones that are those good quiet parent moments: laying down with a cuddled up small one for a rare quiet moment or two, the discussion (happy, funny, sad, intense) where you make those connections, the sideways look of understanding each other in a crowd (even if that crowd is your own kitchen). Don’t get me wrong, I love having a hot bath, I took the time to run far slow runs, I love a good book. But. When someone, friend, family, or stranger, tells me that we shouldn’t have another child, love another, because it will cut into “my” time (and they have, more than once)…then I’m thinking, um, something is wacked.

And I guess that’s where I’m at. I’m a bit dismayed over the flip. The cultural flip. It’s wonky. We are the stranger now. Our family. We have gone off the grid. We are freaks. We don’t fit, anymore. Because we have been deemed freaky. We are, weirdly, “other.” We feel freaky, really.

But here’s my take on it: it’s not politically correct, but I think our culture is freaky. Our society, in postmodern America (ok it’s even beyond, look at Europe) is the freaky thing. It’s wacked. The family, no matter the size, is under attack and when you are obviously centering your life around the family instead of the golden calf of “self”…well, you are labeled as a freak or crank or a pompous poof….or well, the list could go on and on.

If you are “lucky” people will presume you are ‘strong” or “good”…but even that is not so. Nice to hear, if embarrassing. Because, in actuality I am (we are) selfish, again. Because loving this family is everything to me. These kids, this life, this family, even as it grows…..is the biggest challenge, hardest, most exhilarating, most exhausting, most worthwhile thing I can begin to imagine.So, tell Gabriel that we are a freaky funky family, right after you pry him out of his big brother’s arms. Try it. I think he would disagree….