Monday, July 30, 2012

Two Weeks of Hell, or Not

For whatever reason, I sat down with my teenage daughter, to watch a little tv before heading to bed. We don't have regular tv, like I had when I was a kid. No, we have Netflix, and can watch whatever we choose, and there are probably thousands of choices. The selection was a documentary on the (then) two (now three) week selection process to be part of the Army's Green Berets.

Wow, was it intense. Not only have I never been in the military, I can tell you without thinking twice that I DO NOT have what it takes to be a Green Beret, nor have I ever dreamed of anything remotely resembling that kind of , torture, torment, training, experience. A young man we knew survived the selection process (which made watching the program more interesting), but he decided it wasn't what he wanted to do. Even so, my respect for him, and all the soldiers in the Special Forces, has gone up significantly

I realized, watching that documentary on the process by which the Army selects soldiers who can train (for a year!) to wear the coveted Green Beret, that motherhood is also pretty intense. Now don't get me wrong; I'm NOT saying that mothers qualify for the Special Forces, nor am I suggesting that parenting is anything at all like combat, where people (who want to kill you) are shooting real bullets right at you (because they don't just want to kill you, they are actively trying to kill you). It is definitely not comparable on so many levels.

But, in some ways, it is. Mothers understand sleep deprivation. Mothers understand stress, being pushed to (and beyond) their limits. Just when you think you can't go on another step, someone is crying, or someone is puking (on you), or the washing machine dumps gallons of water all over your floor, and you have to take care of it. Mothering is an exercise in endurance, if ever there was one. And, at the end of all your efforts, your children (until they become parents themselves) have no clue what it has taken for you to get them to that point alive.

The last sixteen (plus) months have been pretty intense. If I had a choice, I certainly wouldn't volunteer for what I've been through (unlike the amazing men who volunteer for the Special Forces selection process), but, as I look back, I'm thankful for what God has done in my life. It has been good (though miserable), and life-changing.

I do not have what it takes to serve in the Special Forces of the US Army. I have great admiration for each and every person who does; even more so after watching that documentary. What I do have is the confidence that God will give me what I need, even if that means dealing with crying children until the early hours of the morning, cleaning up puke (again), or taking one more step in this journey through the desert. I know, because He has, and that is a very good thing.

Streams of Water describes very well how I'm feeling. Every now and then I get a glimpse of what it might be like to not be worn out all the time, but those are fleeting and few. Even as we make progress in our house, slowly reclaiming areas left unattended for the last year and a half, not as important as comforting infants traumatized by health challenges they don't understand or preschool girls terrified by a world they can't control and don't feel safe in.

Everywhere I turn, it seems, something needs attention. If little ones aren't clinging to my ankles, big girls are pulling on my arms. Everyone wants a piece of me, but there aren't very many pieces left. Yet, the challenges continue.

Tonight, I noticed water on the floor in the laundry room. After closer inspection, it turns out a seal inside the door of my (relatively) new front loading washing machine has a big tear in it, allowing water to streak down the front, puddling before it gets to the floor drain.

Earlier today, I was feeling pretty good; most of the tasks on my list (from the day before) had been checked off, big projects accomplished; I was going into the evening with a little bit of energy. Then I noticed the washer. Suddenly all the wind left my sails and I was completely worn out.

God may have quite a sense of humor, but when I pictured streams in the desert, I certainly didn't picture streams of water coursing down the face of my washing machine as I trudged through my personal desert experience. Somehow, I'm not laughing. My mother always said that life would feel better in the morning. Maybe by tomorrow morning, life will feel better and I will be laughing. Time will tell...

Monday, July 09, 2012

Family Adventures

In an effort to get more exercise, preserve my mental stability (or at least what's left), and just have fun, we embarked on an adventure to a local park. It was wonderful; the weather was perfect, the views amazing, and everyone enjoyed themselves. The process of getting out, though, gave me cause to question my reasoning.

My big girls were amazingly helpful, getting snacks packed, making lunch before we left, and even helping to get little ones in the van. Unfortunately, those little ones weren't as excited to get in the van as the rest of us were, so the process included some frustration and tears. But, finally we were on our way. After enjoying a couple of rather short trails, kids forged out on their own.  It would have been fine, but one little girl needed a potty stop. With no potty in sight and an urgency only a three year old can know, she took care of business on the hill top. But, she missed. So, I left big girls with little ones and headed back to the car.

Quickly assembling the necessary resources, I returned to find my youngest daughter not completely exposed to the elements; one of her big sisters had improvised with an extra (much too large) shirt, adequately covering all the important stuff and keeping the little girl from too much trauma. The rest of the hike/adventure went extremely well. I may even try to get out again!!

Unconventional Appreciation

As the mother of eight, two with very challenging (though "hidden") special-needs, several people have asked us if we are planning to have more kids.So, we've (once again) been contemplating the whole birth-control question. And it's had me thinking; what if my husband had gotten a vasectomy when we planned to, two babies ago?

If my husband had gotten that vasectomy, we would never have been blessed with our two youngest children. In a culture that doesn't value life (pre-born life, the elderly, or those with questionable "quality of life"), it is easy to look at our two youngest and think perhaps we made a mistake. Life would have been so much simpler without them.

Then I realized how much I would have missed if these two blessings had never come into our family; the joy, the lessons, the appreciation for what I've always taken for granted.

Psalm 139:14-16 (ESV) says, "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

God didn't make a mistake when He created the man who penned those words, and He didn't make a mistake when He formed my precious son, or my sweet little girl, either. They are both "fearfully and wonderfully made," not just in spite of their challenges, but because of them. 

Exodus 4:11 says, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?"

Perhaps you don't know God the way I do; you don't trust His sovereignty or see His goodness. In which case you won't appreciate the above verses as I do. But, for me, that passage in Exodus brings peace, comfort, and hope. God made Moses "slow of speech." Perhaps he had a stutter or he got his tongue wrapped around his eye teeth, so he couldn't see what he was saying. Whatever it was, suffice it to say Moses was not eloquent. Yet he was God's spokesman to Pharaoh and he led hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people through the wilderness, forging a new nation in the process. Pretty amazing feat for a man who couldn't really talk.

Knowing how God uses people who are broken to accomplish great things, I wonder what He has planned for my two precious blessings. And I'm incredibly thankful I didn't refuse the gifts.Would life have been easier? Yes, and less expensive, too. But I'm not interested in easy, or in amassing (much) worldly wealth. The joy I experience watching my boy who has struggled to walk toddle towards me with his arms open is more valuable than anything money can buy. The pleasure of hearing the day's events from my precious daughter who has struggled to talk fills my heart fuller than Donald Trump's bank account.

So, I want to pose a question; is easy necessarily better? Why or why not?

Hard lesson learned

I love camping. It is truly one of my favorite things to do. I love it so much that I have camped my way across the country, twice (and I was pregnant with babies number five and eight, respectively)! We camped all the way home from Alaska, too. After the last fifteen months, though, I think my camping career is going to be put on hold for a while. Managing my two younges at home is stressful enough; add the challenges of begin away from home, plus the extra effort required for camping, and you have a mess. What once brought refreshment and joy now simply brings exhaustion.

For the sake of my sanity, and to protect the innocent, I'll spare you the details. Just imagine the worst camping trip ever, then multiply it by a very stressed out mama, unusually hot AND cold weather, unrealistic expectations (by that stressed out mama), and eight children (two who need structure, don't do well with changes, and have physical challenges); you have a perfect storm!

The experience wasn't a total wash, however. I learned some very valuable lessons. You may have learned these quite some time ago, and not have a clue why it's taken me so long. My explanation? I am a slow learner, and I (generally) only learn from experience. Painful experience. So, here are the lessons I've learned:
  • camping when exhausted is a bad idea
  • camping with special-needs kids can be extra stressful (especially with two kids who fall more than the average bear, and you are cooking around a campfire), even if you've camped with them before
  • camping after an incredibly stressful year is incredibly stupid and should not be attempted by the faint-of-heart  anyone!
  • when you go camping under the above conditions, don't expect to have fun, and don't expect people (even the ones you are camping with) to understand why you are not having fun.
After the worst camping trip ever, I have made a decision; I am not going camping again, for a long, long, LONG time. It is just too hard. I've also learned something else; disappointment and adjusted expectations are the harsh realities of my new life. It is a hard lesson learned the hard way. But, now it is learned, along with a few other valuable lessons. Though God has me on a difficult journey through the desert, I am planning to do the rest of it in the comfort of my own home!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Yes; we did that on purpose...

Little man has discovered the toilet paper. Even with close supervision, he will somehow figure out how to grab the end of the toilet roll and run (in his halting little gait), toilet paper trailing behind him. I'd say our consumption of toilet paper has doubled greatly increased!

So, I decided to take drastic measures; I took the roll of toilet paper of the toilet paper roller! But, I forgot to tell all my children. They have been trained put the roll of toilet paper back ON the roller. Oops.

As my children have begun to understand my plan, the consumption of toilet paper decreased slightly. It has only decreased slightly because well-meaning guests continue to put the toilet paper back on the roller! I think I'm going to tape a sign just above the empty toilet paper holder, saying "Yes; we did this on purpose. Please do not replace the toilet paper roll." At this point, I'm not sure if we should go on to explain why, or simply leave it to their imagination. Or, perhaps I should post a photo of the little man making his get-away instead.