Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Year of Pleasures 18

 My mornings are a bit more peaceful now that R has discovered the playroom. I enjoy this time where I can drink my coffee and play around for a bit before the onslaught of chores and class prep takes over my day. And there is also that joy in watching R become more independent and in seeing her become a proper beastie.
I love watching quietly from the door as she becomes incorporated into the play of the older beasties. Watching as she explores the toy bins looking for treasures. Watching as she tramples, baby style, the little worlds created by the others. They scream in mock horror turning her into a giant baby monster.  And even though there is a wistful longing for that newborn beasties, I relish the quiet time knowing that soon she will come back to me, seeking the comfort of my lap.

Monday, May 30, 2011


R toddles around carrying things: books, various pieces of clothing, cameras, toys. She throws them at me, laughing, eyes gleaming because she knows she's being naughty. She growls at Umberto, holding up a plastic white tiger. She is busy these days. She has a duty to walk into each room to check out what is going on with various people. And as she walks away from me, I remember, not necessarily fondly, how she used to cry if she crawled into another room. Now she is pushing boundaries, walking away from me to be elsewhere with other people.

Now that she is one, she is becoming more and more a separate person. Not as much part of me as she used to be when she was tiny and I wore here everywhere. Her personality is growing along with her body. Each day we learn new things about her. We have learned that she has a sense of humor. She likes to tease people. She likes books. She likes to play with her siblings but really hates it when they're on the video. She loves music and she likes to clap.  And I marvel at what we already know with the knowledge that there is so much more. These ever unfolding folds of knowing a person, like flower petals peeled back again and again.

I waver back and forth between sad and over joyed. There is always a twinge of sadness to each moment as she gets bigger. There is no longer the tiny baby that we hold close. The one who smells like creation. But how can one mourn when there is the joy of energy that fills her movements and discoveries. She is like a new beginning over and over.

After she destroys the book basket, spills a glass of water, rips the wires out of the back of the computer, explores the depths of the container cupboard, she comes back to me. She holds out chubby arms until I scoop her into my lap, and she nestles into me. She nurses, her huge eyes gazing up at me, and we both sink into the wave.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh So Pretty....

A friend posted this picture on Facebook last night:

Sorry for the blur but I think you can still see enough to understand my horror. "Yes my darling little pop- bellied toddler, you SHOULD wear a tee shirt that totally emphasizes an unachievable tiny waist and a low cut neck line to boot." This comes on the tails of the news frenzy over the mother who botoxed her little girl. And it comes at a time when I'm already thinking about gender.

On a gut level, my response to these things is just intensely personal. Why would I ever suggest in any way or form that my beautiful girls are some how not already perfect? Yes, I know, say what you will about perfection but my girls are perfect to me. When I see them, I literally have to catch my breath at their beauty which is reflected not just in their looks but in their strength and their minds.

The issue on a cultural level is two fold. First, when companies develop these lines of tee shirts, the subtle message that your body is not good enough begins. It's the start to a vicious cycle of body hatred and dieting. It plugs children right into that huge market. Capitalism in so many ways feeds on the not good enough mentality. Your T.V., your car, your house, your clothes, your body....never good enough. Buy some more and maybe you'll get a little closer to that good enough moment.

Second,  is the emphasis on beauty attached to the gender designation of female. Not only is the market aimed at little girls but it's a market that suggests that girls need to be concerned with physical appearances. They need to be pretty like a princess. And this in many ways leads back to my last blog post. Would this shirt be ANY BETTER if a boy wore it? Would the offensive message it contains be more platable if a child with a penis wore it? I think not. I wouldn't want this on my son anymore than on my daugther. I was really quite pleased that NONE of my children ever really wanted to look like princesses. Piper went through a stage for about three months but then it was over. They still have the dress up clothes in a bin but it's bin they rarely get into anymore. And when they do they come up with...odd...pairings. Darth Vader capes with Snow White dresses.

Essentially I have to wonder if revolution is going to come from allowing our boys to dress up like princesses. Maybe a better question is to ask what kind of damage we are doing when we suggest that anyone should desire to be a princess.

Oh Gender, Wherefore Art Thou?

Oh how I tried to not want to write this post. I did not want to be the person who commented on this issue but I keep thinking about it. I am not going to spend a time promoting this couple because frankly I feel that they are cashing in on their 15 minutes. To say that you don't want to make gender the center of your child's life but then to spread your story all over the world, well, you're making your child's genitals pretty central.

What interests me about this story is first the idea of gender as a choice. What an intriguing notion. These people say they want their child to have the freedom to choose their own gender. What a statement! Choose is such a complicated word. It plays into our notions of freedom and democracy. But choose is also a word that speaks of a kind of privilege. Coming from parents who are very concerned about social justice, I wonder if they have considered this aspect of choose. In order to have a choose one has to have a certain amount of things. Things like education, protection, comfort.

You see whenever we make a choose I think we should be aware of those who do not have the choose. I think of transgendered people who come from poverty, stricter cultures than ours, and who do not have the luxury of choosing their gender. And I wonder how much choose can we have in a world that does not offer it to all. Yes, perhaps, I should say "I'll start at home and let my child choose and then the world will turn to rainbows and be filled with unicorns and gender will be no more." But I don't think that happens. I think what it dose instead is it causes us to focus on our individual selves. There is no conversation going on about structural abuses of gender in this story. And that to me is the real problem.

I am not convinced that gender constructs in and of themselves are the problem. The problem lies in that fact that things, ideas, thoughts, discourses, become attached to genders. The problem lies in the fact that our society makes certain characteristics inherently male/female. It's not necessarily  that we name our gender, perhaps but rather that the discourses we have about gender all too often oppress a certain group of people. And perhaps the problem is that we are not allowed to choose what feels right to us on many levels. We are not just not allowed to choose to be male or female. We are sometimes not allowed to choose what those words mean.

My second problem with this secret of gender is that the assumption that we can some insulate our children from culture. Not only do I think such isolation is impossible but I think such isolation is dangerous. Perhaps the issues is not so much about not allowing our children to see and experience stereotypes but to allow them those experiences with conversation. If our children do not know how to deal with these stereotypes then one is never going to be able to disavow them. If one does not what gender is how does one pick? How does one choose? And if they do not choose what will happen? Is it a revolution? Or is it just one person in the face of great violence.

I don't think I have answers. I have my opinions. I write this as a feminist who is about to become a stay-at-home mother. I have three daughters and a son. Two of them like video games and Nerf guns. They all love to read. None of them really like to wear nail polish although one of them tried it once. One of them likes to wear dresses. I do not know if these things matter. What I do know is that I have raised a boy who when his sister cries he pulls her onto his lap and comforts her. I have a daughter who climbs trees in princess dresses.

If they are oppressed from the obnoxious choose I made from them, I do not know. But I do know that they are creatures of culture just as I am. And I feel as a parent I must raise them to be able to function in society. But I can raise them to be critical of that culture. To understand that being a woman or a man is not so cut and dry. I can raise them to think intelligently about those things. That is my hope. Not to make them genderless but rather to make them gender conscious in the best of ways.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fighting Beasties

Lately the girls have been going at it. Bad. They fight the way my brothers and I used to fight. There is lots of hair pulling, shoving, yelling of mean things. I feel at a loss. Yes I've read the sibling rivalries books, and I attempt to implement what I've read into our daily lives. But yet we still have fighting. Frankly I think the books are bunk (I don't read child rearing how to books anymore but that's another post), and I think my girls fight for the reasons all humans fight. Other people can be annoying. Alliances are drawn and some people get left out. We're inherently a bit selfish and living with other people involves compromise. In sum, one could learn about world relations by watching children interact. But what do you do? Whole nations don't seem to have the answer hammered out much less parents. For me, it's become about working on bringing myself to a different space.

I can't remember where I picked this up...I'm guessing in a class on Buddhism...but I remember hearing that Buddhist don't see children as sweet innocents. Rather children are seen as amazingly immersed in self, and that it is an adult's job to train them towards being more compassionate souls. I buy this totally. I love my children, and I think they are wonderful but I also see that they can  be selfish, cruel, unthinking, and impulsive. I am all of these things too which makes raising my children to not lean towards these things difficult. I am not so naive as to realize that I am not immersed in the ego self. I am. Totally. But because I have children whom I want to raise to be compassionate beings I realize that part of that training involves making me a better human as well.

This was driven home the other day as I watched Camille and Piper go at it. They fight a lot and it's very physical. Piper's reaction to Camille mirrored my own angry reactions to things. When Camille yells and runs from us, it is my actions that she reflects back at us. My children deal with their frustrations and anger the way that I deal with my frustration and anger. Yes, I have moved beyond hitting but you know I do hit in my  mind. Sometimes I feel like I have to walk away from arguments because I am afraid I will punch the wall or throw something.

And I get angry over the same things. I get angry because I don't want to give, compromise, give up space, etc. When I am the angriest it's a reaction to living in a community and having to deal with the petty irritations that being in a community necessarily involves. It's also about not reading myself well enough to know when I need a break, or some time alone to reflect. In other words, it's about being mired in the self.  Even when we don't take the time we need, it's often not about the other people, it's about us being too proud or too angry to ask for that time. To admit that we need to get away. I always try to push through like I am strong when in reality I am breaking up inside, and the strong thing would be to go get the time I need to function. It's also about sometimes shelving what I want as well. This doesn't mean giving up everything but one has to compromise when living in a group which means not always getting what you want.

Today as the beastie once again begin a day with fighting I am attempting to rethink the situation. As I open my mouth to yell at them to stop fighting, I am moved to stop and think instead. What are they fighting over? How can I teach them to take a different approach? What do they need to do to get a long with each other? How do I create alone spaces for each of them in our small space? How do I teach them to go to those spaces when they need to? How do I teach to talk to each other? To communicate as opposed to yell? This morning, I realized it was a journey we would all be taking together.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Meditation on Never Catching Up

I always think to myself that I'll catch up as soon as I have some free time. This is my mantra. But I never catch up. I'm not sure if it's due to me being lazy or if it revolves more around  having a huge list of things I need to catch up on.

Lucky me got a summer class. Lecturers don't usually get a summer class so it was pretty awesome to get this one. We need the money for the move and it's not too horrible a summer job. But I only had as week between putting final grades in and this class starting. I thought that I would catch Umberto up on math during this week. Like an intensive math workshop. He's doing so great on his reading, and I don't really have to do much with him on that aspect (who would ever have guessed this would be the case a few years ago?) but now he's falling behind in math. I figured we'd spend a few hours each day on Math and have him established in a routine by the time school started again.

But that didn't happen because I also had to "catch up" on the housecleaning. The apartment was trashed and really needed a deep cleaning. I dusted, folded clothes, wiped down counters, put stuff away, etc. I also had to tweak my syllabus which was fun. I had to work on a book review for a journal. In other words, I caught up on everything but I wanted to catch up on. Yes we worked on some math but not nearly as much as needed.

And now it's Sunday and I'm utterly frustrated with myself. I have to figure out a way to balance things. I ended up being able to focus on one thing at time and then everything else gets left behind. It won't get done until Ginger chooses that as her weekly focus. I'm still striving towards this place where I do lots of little things each day. Now that my summer classes is starting up I am already worried about dropping everything and just focusing on the class. It would be easy to do as I teach M-Th for two hours in the evening. I can totally see my whole day as a big focal point for that one two hour span.

I'm thinking that perhaps I need to stop thinking in terms of catching up. I need to print out the schedule I made from my friend's template and I need to stick with it. This little things each day seems a much better system then my intense devotion to one chore at a time. Spending a week cleaning is all well and good when one doesn't home school. But it's not so great when your intense focus means that you let everything else go. I mean my kids are feed and clothed. They get out and do things. But then sometimes I feel like that focus needs to be on them not on the house. I guess in some ways this is the dilemma of motherhood.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Year of Pleasures 17

Walking. I'm always happy to wait a bit for this milestone. Walking kicks baby rearing up a level. Being on hind legs opens up the world in all new highly destructive ways. Ahhh...the wonderment. So when my beasties don't walk at a year, I'm pretty okay about it. However there comes a time when walking just needs to happen. Who wants baby crawling on a nasty store floor or outside in the dirt? Gross. Plus they get so whiny right before they take off. Thus when R stood up on her own and started walking yesterday we were all pretty over joyed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Year of Pleasures 16

It has been weeks of birthdays. I both love and hate this time of year. Our birthday marathon now starts April 15 and runs through until June 11th. It is a time of feastings, trying to decide if we're going to do parties, gift buying, etc. This all translates into money we don't really have as we're headed into summer aka the time teacher's don't get paid. But still how can you not be joyful when your beasties are entering into a new year of their lives? It's exciting to imagine the changes in store for them.

We're come to a place where we just don't do the big parties with friends. We have the kids pick a favorite meal, sometimes it's a restaurant sometimes it's just pizza. We always have a cake of their choosing and they usually see my mom. This tradition arose from necessity. The girls don't have many friends (any really) and we always felt bad that Umberto's parties were well attended and the girls parties were rather lack luster in that regard. We decided to level the playing field and well Umberto seemed fine with it...Perhaps Athens will be different and we'll move back to parties with friends. Perhaps not because there is something intimate and special about these small family celebrations.

I find myself not wanting to share my child on this day. I want to hold close this moment of remembrance. This time when they came from my body into the world. I wonder if perhaps birthdays are meant to be more intimate. The births are why not these moments? Of course this is likely my reasoning for not spending a small fortune on huge cakes, gifts bags, food, rental spaces but it is a nice rationale. I find that in these quieter celebrations we remember to tell the birth stories along with other stories of this child's growing up. We share with them their history.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Last night I had a mini-anxiety attack. As I finished up the summer class syllabus, I realized that this was the last syllabus I would need to write for who knows how long. And I freaked out a bit. The last time I didn't work was when Umberto was a new baby and it sort of sucked. We were really poor. I've worked most of my life. Made my own money or contributed to our household income even if in a smallish way. At one point, I was the primary earner. It's a little scary to be heading to a new place in my life. I am not good about losing control, and not earning money makes me feel very out of control.

I started to run through all the things I could do if I can't find a teaching job. I started to search midwife programs again. I started to think about nursing. I wondered if I could hack teaching again. None of these things felt very good or right. A couple of them sent me into a sort of sad space because I knew I would be miserable if I did them. H reassured me that it was going to be okay and I was able to sleep. But the worry was there waiting for me when I woke up. Worry is funny this way.

After doing some chores, and eating breakfast I exercised to a podcast from "A Nun's Life." What's funny is that it was not the podcast I thought I wanted to listen to. I realized just now as I searched for a link that I was listening to an entirely different session then I had thought. Which makes what happened even cooler. I'm half listening because, well, I'm exercising and it's been awhile and when I finally tune in, the sisters are talking about they have no regrets about the lives they have chosen. This was their vocation. They were called to this life and there was no room for regrets.

And as I walked in place with ole Leslie, I started to realize that I had no regrets about this life I now lead. There are many things I regret about my life but never have I ever wished that I was not married to H or that I had no children. It has not always been easy, and there are times when I want to scream in frustration. There are times when I'm so bored I feel like poking my eyes with my knitting needles. But never have I wished my children away. This is my vocation in the religious sense of the world. While this may not be the path I had envisioned for myself it is the path that has come to me.

Things are going to be okay I realized. I am where I need to be.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Unsympathic Mama

I have a confession to make. I'm not so good with crying. When a beastie gets hurt or they're really scared, I'm good for about five to ten minutes of crying depending on the level of emergency. But you know when it gets past that mark, I find myself getting a wee bit impatient. When it crosses the twenty minute mark I get pretty snippy. I am not proud of this but it's where I am.

Last night, Piper fell down the last three three stairs of the outside stair case. It wasn't a bad fall as she was holding on the railing but she did get scrapped up and pulled her hand a bit. I held her feeling bad for her wounds as she cried, softly leaning into me. But then she just didn't stop crying. And it got louder. Within five minutes she was WAILING as if she had cut off her hand. At that point, I found myself getting annoyed and snippy. H remprimanded me when I finally snapped that she need to stop. 

And I felt really awful. I don't want to be impatient with beastie crying. I want to be sympathic and loving. I don't want to deny them their pain. But I can't help but feel that there ought to be a level of apprioatness to their responses to pain. It's not so much "Toughen up" as "Really do we need that much DRAMA for a small scratch?" I feel as if there ought to be a middle ground.

But to deny someone their response to pain seems a bit sadistic.

When I was in the hospital with my burns (2nd and 3rd degree on my thighs, I was seven), I used to scream every time they changed my bandages. It hurt beyond words. When the nurses peeled off the bandages, they usually peeled off skin. They were incredibly immune to my pain. They would shush me and urge me to be brave and tough. I tried. By the end of my stay, I could tolerate the changes with just tears. But then they gave me a bath. It was horrible. Like being dipped into acid. I fought them as they held me in the tub and when they finally let me out, I ran, naked and howling to my room to my mother who they prohibited from coming. The nurse was yelling at me to "Shut up!" as she chased me down those echoing halls. Whenever I am in pain, I hear those words coming back to shame me. Even in labor, I tried so hard to not cry out or make noise. With R, when my midwife chastised me to not yell but to breath, I felt like I had to keep that pain quiet, manageable under control.

And now I am worried that I will silence my children's own pain. It is as usual this struggle for balance. I do believe pain is cultural as much as physical and that part of my job is to teach my children to negotiate the cultural world in which they live. But on the other hand, I do not wish to deny them their pain. It is a fine line.

Bedtime is the Pits

Since we are a bohemian household with no bedtimes and not much in the way of a schedule, my children are just getting into bed. I'm on the computer...finishing up a syllabus? Okay I'm doing that but also playing on Facebook and looking at real estate I can't afford. And just now Piper flies, a streak of bright, through the hallway sobbing.

"What's going?" I yell.

No answer.

"Umberto! What happened?" I yell again.Piper is sobbing in our bedroom.

"Nothing. I don't know." Umberto yells.

"I"m sick of this!" I moan. "I thought six was going to be an easier age. That it would get easier."

"It will" H mumbles from the chair where he is half asleep.

Umberto comes out and explains to us why Piper is sobbing in our closet.
"She said she smelled something and for some reason thought it was my arm pits. The last time she thought that she tried to put deodorant on me and covered me from here to here (he demonstrates a wide arch going from his armpit over his chest tot his neck and then down to his other armpit). It was gross and I told her to stop it."

H laughs. I say seriously "It's not funny. She can't do that."

H answers "Do what? Drive by deodorants?"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Moving On Up

Camille does not like being a little girl. She resents the inability to control all aspects of her life. She does not care for being told to her clean her room, brush her teeth, eat her dinner. It is not that she does not wish to do those things. She is perfectly fine about cleaning her room, brushing her teeth, eating her dinner. Rather she just hates that some one has to tell to do those things and she is not able to pick her own time and way to execute what needs to be done.

When Camille feels really fed up with being treated like a child, she acts like an adult. She looks down her nose, over her book and makes proclamations which make her mother say "Don't you take that tone with me, Missy!" She talks like a grown up, inserting her opinions into grown up like topics. Not that the grown ups always take time to listen or appreciate what she offers.

Camille plans her grown up years carefully. She will always wake up at the same time. She will have the same breakfast. She will eat her breakfast carefully while reading. She will fold her clothes neatly. She will got to her job. She will walk her dogs.  It will be an orderly, neat life.

Her mom says "Oh Camille do not grow up too fast. Enjoy your childhood."

And deep down Camille does enjoy some things about being a kid. She likes her toys. She likes being able to climb into bed with mom and papa when she's scared. She likes running wild outside, screaming and shrieking. She likes jumping into pools, rolled up in a tight ball, splashing water everywhere. She likes tea parties with her younger sister. She likes to curl up in a warm chair with a good book and no worries. Sometimes she thinks that being a kid really is the best. Not that she'd ever admit it to her mama.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Life as a mother has often been about these moments held in suspension. Waiting each second for something. All around life dances in a fast forward blur while the special effects of your mind bring you to a stand still. I find it hard to do anything in those moments when I am consciously waiting. I never feel like I am done waiting but something the waiting takes on an urgency. And when those times arrive, I find myself held immobile under the pressure of something about to be.

Last night, my son came to us, wide eyed, quivering. The violent storms that rolled upon like us woke him up. Always a dangerous thing for my beloved boy. My husband lead him trembling to the bedroom and laid down with him until he fell asleep under the safe eye of his father. But I lay awake. Waiting as I have waited so many times for the tell tale thumbing on the floor, the hectic labored breathing that comes with each seizure. I listened to the storm, scared at its violence, worrying about tornadoes and how I would save my family. Finally with the coming of dawn, the waiting gave out to the exhaustion, and I slept fitfully because the waiting never really ends. It just sometimes becomes a side thought to something more urgent.

And then the waiting ends. The moment that you are waiting for, gut clenched, nerves stretched taut, comes, and you are unprepared. The waiting does nothing to prepare you for that second when you hear child on the floor convulsing, twisted limbs. And as you hold him, whispering to him that you are hear, you hope that the tension in your muscles will ease. But it doesn't. You will go back to waiting because you just don't know. You can never see into that fog which is the future.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Saturday, we meet up with a friend of H's at the park. It was late and we had to shop but we needed to catch the crisp spring day so we arranged for this small walk around a pond. On the way out to the park, we had received The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in the mail so Umberto was reading it as we walked. In fact, there had been a squabble over the book before we exited the van. Umberto beat Camille out. As we walked, careful to steer my reading son, H's friend commented positively on Umberto's love of reading. Love obviously as he couldn't put the book down to walk. And H and I both laughed because a few years ago we were worried that our son was NEVER going to read much less love it.

People often ask me how we raised kids who love to read. I never have a good answer ready. I certainly never have a quick answer. Part of it is a mystery. Part of it is that we just did what we love to do which is read, talk about what we read, and surround our children and ourselves with books. It's not a very scientific answer, and I don't have reams of studies that back up my methods or ideas. But there are a couple of things that I've learned in this journey of homeschooling and child rearing, and those things have helped me in more than just preparing my children to be readers who love books.

First, readiness. I am likely square in the middle between nature vs. nurture debate. I don't believe that nature fully shapes but I do believe that we have biological tendencies that work with culture to shape who we are, how we learn, and who we become. For those who know my academic work, this is likely a shock as I am very  much a cultural construstivist theory person BUT having four kids has forced me to rethink an extreme position on this. Readiness is one reason why I have had to reevaluate.

Kids have to be ready for whatever development/educational goal you have planned. Push too soon and you're going to get snapped back in a variety of ways. With Umberto we began pushing reading at 5 as he headed into Kindergarten. His initial reaction was to hate books. That was a hard blow and a big part of why we pulled him out of school. Umberto had always loved books and he loved to be read to until he started school.  I spent about four years pushing and pulling back. I'm stubborn and I had a lot of pressure to get him reading so I had to learn the hard way. When I pushed Umberto, he pushed back with anger and resentment. We both ended up tears and I would apology before going into my room to be worry without him seeing me. I was terrified that my son couldn't read. Worried that we had gone wrong, that there was something wrong with him. I struggled with sorting through what was reasonable to expect for him and my own expectations. I floundered with feeling inadequate as everyone else bragged about their four year olds reading.

But then one day, with the help of his meds for epilepsy, it came together. Slowly Umberto began to read. When I worked with him, he didn't push back. My mom worked with him and he responded well to her instruction. He was ready. Interestingly his sister who also likes to read while she walks was reading well by six. She was just ready at an earlier time. With Piper, her readiness is coming later like Umberto but I have a feeling will come sooner than his did. This lesson about readiness is important because as a parent I've learned it applies to so much than just reading. It's important for things like weaning from constant nursing (Rowena), toilet training, introducing new foods, etc. The list goes on. And it's a tough lesson because it involves knowing your children very well, and being willing to back away when you've pushed too hard, too soon. And yes it involves knowing when you need to push harder, to push through laziness, etc. It's an act of discernment.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Year of Pleasures 15

Yesterday we were at Amelie's, meeting with a homeschooling group. Per usual I was the one with the most kids. Most of the people we know have one or two maybe three kids. Sometimes, I walk into these situations feeling almost apologetic. Embarrassed a bit about my excess that is hard to hide. I feel like all eyes are on me, judging me, scrutinizing me for any sign that I made a mistake by having such a big family. I suppose that most people really don't think these things but I know that many do because they have made comments to me to that effect.

But today when I walked in, I felt a new confidence in my large family. There is not a child surrounding me that I would give back. They are now satellites in our orbit. Surrounding us with their energy and light. How could I wish one away? We wouldn't be complete if it weren't for each of them, and their unique offerings to our family life.

Yes, we gave up some things when we decided to expand our family. We will likely not get to Europe until we're much older. We do not have date nights (well we do but it involves four beasties plus us). We take up a lot of space. We don't eat out often (which is a mixed blessing. We save money and our waist lines by not doing so). It's an operational mission every time we walk out the door. There is very little quiet in my house, and I often stay up much to late to get what there is of that bit of quiet.

But there is such LIFE here. There is joy, anger, laughter, tears. The beasties are endlessly amusing and endlessly frustrating. They have forced me into being a better person. I've developed patience, kindness, firmness, discipline, and a whole range of other qualities that have made me a better human being. They've also made clear my faults which is humbling.

As we sat at Amelie's, me not always being able to chat with grown ups because I was wrestling with a nursing toddler, I hoped that no one was feeling bad for me. I hoped that no one was thinking "Wow I bet she wishes she had a few less kids."  Because I was feeling joy.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Year of Pleasures 14

New Beginnings.

As we moved slowly closer to July, I find myself filled with both excitement and dread. This is more than just moving to a new home which I really do enjoy. We are uprooting from a city that has been home (for better and worst) for almost ten years. It took us a long while but we eventually made friends. We are comfortable here. We know where to shop, where to hang out, where to get good coffee. And soon we will be packing up our things and moving to another town in another state. It's a little scary to leave.

And of course it's also exciting. We love Athens. Plus there is a sense that we are starting something new. It's a big way to make some changes. It's like a birthday and New Year's all wrapped into one. I'm a little nervous as it's a chance to focus on my writing and my children. I'm not sure what will come of either venture but boy is it heady to be giving it a try.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Big Families Not For Christ?

Ummm....are there any big families out there just for the sake of having a big family?

I've been thinking a great deal about my big family (which yes at four I do consider big), and I've thought about the kind of rude responses I get from utter strangers and from people I know. I knew we had crossed the line between acceptable and too many when people started to do the head count thing as we walked through the door of a store. I've had people say "You must be Catholic" which is somewhat true but not the reason we have four kids. People comment on how "My hands are full." which is again true but really annoying to hear when you're doing a damn good job of shepherding wayward kids through Target.

I've been playing around with the idea of writing an article about big families as the only ones I've seen in mainstream magazines either focus on those with three kids or those with 17. There's a middle ground and I thought it would be interesting to find it. But when I started to do a blog search to see what was out there every on was a Christian family. Are there big families that are having lots of kids not for Christ but just because they like having a big family? I'm not knocking the big families for Christ (although I have have opinions about quiverful that I will not share here) but I'm kind of curious to know how secular parents talk about having a big family.

Now we're not 100% secular but we're very liberal and progressive. I struggle with guilt about over population just like any good liberal but with the added test that I have a lot of kids. And while I value my religion, it is not what propelled me into having children. I have no problem with birth control. But I do feel that my life is more complete with all the beasties. I feel like there has to be more big families not for Christ out there. Are they not blogging? Are they harder to find? Anyone want to send them my way?

So Alive

Piper wakes up at screech. Her mouth opens for her first yawn and doesn't really close much for the rest of the day. She's talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming. She covers the full range of human passion in any given 24 hour period. There is nothing small about Piper's personality. She feels big. Acts big. Is big. She's just so much more than the average person. It's both exhausting and exhilarating to be in the presence of such intense life.

For Piper everything is new. Every experience is a new one. Even if it's just a walk to look at Renfrow's chickies for the one thousandth time. I think it's because Piper has a young soul. There is something new about Piper, and  we're privileged enough to be able to touch that newness. When you stop to look at the world through Piper's eyes it is so fresh and raw. There is a brilliance to Piper's experience that you can see if you open yourself to see. Every tree is made for climbing. Every hill is made to roll down with complete abandon. Every hurt is a tragedy that must be worn.

Piper whirls around me. A tiny ferocious life force that spins all around the house. She is never still. She is always dancing, prancing, running, leaping, drawing, creating. She is oh so alive.