Sunday, March 6, 2016

Why everyone should have a baby when there are older children in the house

Macie will be 2 months old this week.  My other five kids range in age from 5 to 13.  In fact, we're at the easy part of the year when there is an even two years between everyone's ages-- 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13.  That all changes when birthday season begins in July!   When the others were tiny, motherhood was physically demanding.  There was always someone who needed to be carried or bathed or fed.  It was also mentally and emotionally demanding.  How can I meet the needs of all these little people well?  How can I do it and not let my house disintegrate into dust and clutter?

The 5-year break between kids gave me surprising perspective.  I don't feel as though I'm the same mom I was to the others.  Everyone needs to have a baby when they have older kids in the house.  Obviously I speak in jest.  I know people can't or don't have children for a variety of reasons, but there is peace and clarity that comes with time and age.

This time around I have older children who want to share my workload.  They ask if they can help-- to vacuum, cook, or hold the baby.  Having responsible baby-holders (versus ones who must be hovered over while they practice with the baby propped on pillows) is a game-changer. Moms of tiny ones understand the luxury of putting on a load of laundry using both hands.  Or even-- gasp!-- going to the bathroom alone. 

As on older mom, I also have the wisdom of fleeting time.  I understand and appreciate that this baby could be the last and I'm able to savor her a little more.  I'm in no hurry for her to grow up.  When she abandoned that scrunched-up newborn pose, with her legs pulled to her body in a classic fetal position, I felt a little sad inside. Watching her little legs developing fat rolls and witnessing her first gummy smiles are rocking my world. Each milestone is sweet. 

I'm not even minding the lack of sleep.  Admittedly, Macie is a good sleeper.  [She naps in the front wrap every morning.  She sleeps 2-3 hours in the afternoon in bed on her own and catnaps in arms in the evening.  She typically goes to bed around ten, waking once or twice to nurse before getting up at seven.]  But life and sleep with a baby is unpredictable and I'm learning not to mind.  I can even smile when I'm rubbing my sleepy eyes as I sit up with a nursing or wide awake baby in the wee hours of the morning. 

You know how everyone tells you to enjoy the baby years because they go so quickly.  I used to believe it my mind but struggle to put it into practice.  Now I've witnessed the truth of those words and I'm finally at a place where I can let go and savor.  Sure.  I still get frustrated and wish I could get more sleep or wish I could do something besides hold the baby all day long, but I know this stage won't last. I'm able to say to myself, "It's only one night. This isn't forever."  I'm don't have to rock my 13-year-old to sleep and my 11-year-old does not wake me at 5 am.  It won't last.

Before Macie was born, the ladies at my church gave me a baby shower.  Each woman in attendance wrote a message of encouragement on the front of a diaper.  They were called "middle of the night" diapers and were meant to uplift my spirit as I shuffled through the sleep-deprived nights with a newborn.  As it turns out, Macie was too tiny to wear those diapers in the beginning, but we're delving into them now.  I choose one on days or moments when I'm feeling particularly vulnerable or overwhelmed. Reminders that "the days (and nights) are long, but the years are short" or "the Lord will see you through" are just what I need at those times.  Another diaper said simply, "Pray," so I did.  And another said, "Eat a cookie." It's good advice all around! 

I think I'm gaining a new perspective on bad days.  A few weeks ago, we had a day when Macie didn't sleep or stop crying almost all day long.  Last Sunday, she was restless, fussy, and loud throughout the morning and I spent most of the church service out in the hall, even though a few of my kids were singing with the children's choir and I wanted to watch them!   On Tuesday, every time I laid Macie down for a nap, she woke back up, and didn't settle down for good until after 3 pm!  I texted Brian that we were having a rough day.  He texted back that he was sorry and I surprised myself by responding, "Just life.  It's okay."  And I meant it.  Despite my frustration, lack of free time, and the state of my messy house, I was choosing to put it in perspective. Those days, and any other day, is just a blip in time.

All this is not to show what a great and patient person I am.   I am not.   I like things just-so and prefer schedules-- and all things-- to go my way.  It's not to brag that I can get less sleep and not complain.  I do sometimes.  But the Lord is working on me.  Having a baby with older children in the house is transforming my thinking.  I'm more focused on people, not perfection.  Motherhood is changing me.
(Click here for other posts in this series.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Lazy Mom Teaches Geography

Homeschooling five children is not for the faint of heart!  For me, one of the most difficult parts is balancing everyone's individual needs and dividing my attention among them.  When I can find a way to fulfill an educational need by doing the kinds of things we would be doing anyway, it's a win for all of us.

That's why this year, Ben (2nd grade) and Alaine (kindergarten) are learning geography through a series of library books that I'm reading aloud to them.

We began with the Bella and Harry seriesby Lisa Manzione.  These are aimed toward younger children (maybe ages 3 through 7), but my older kids have been known to peek over my shoulder...or even sit by my side while we read.  The books follow two Chihuahuas around the world as they travel with their human unnamed family.  The dogs sample local cuisine and stop at major landmarks in cities such as Athens, Jerusalem, and Venice.  My favorite part is the short glossary of foreign words in the back of each book. We have fun trying to pronounce the words and figure out what they mean before we peek at the translations.  There are close to twenty books in this series and they do not need to be read in order.

In February, we switched to the Dodsworth seriesby Tim Egan.  These books are a little longer, short enough to be read in one sitting, but comprised of short chapters.  Dodsworth is a mouse who reluctantly travels with an annoying duck (?!) to visits five major cities. (It's a short series.)  These books follow a basic storyline so they may make more sense read in order.  The first book, Dodsworth in New York, is light on geography.  It mentions various NYC tourist destinations, but its primary role is to set up the rest of the series.

Do you find lazy ways to teach your children?  Share your secrets.

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