Mothering, Studying God

the horrible, horrible day

Julie / September 22, 2012

I love my kids. They’re awesome. I live an awesome, blessed, charmed, amazing, incredible life. I am a happy person.

But. Every once in a great long while, there is a bad day.

Today was a bad day, and it isn’t even over yet.  I feel like crap, I’m exhausted beyond belief thanks to Baby Not Sleeping and Toddler Not Sleeping and that’s just the first two kids.  I just spent three whole hours trying to convince my girls to go down for a nap. And failed.  That’s emotionally trying for everyone, and it means I didn’t get my precious little thirty minutes a day of breaktime.  (Thirty minutes = two hours of naptime minus the hour and half that the baby is lately not asleep.) There has been disobedience and there have been messes.  There have been conflicts and trials and external pressures.  It has been a Very, very, horrible horrible no-good bad day.

Where is the grace?

I want God to surprise me with a phone call bearing great news or a message in my email that something fantastic has happened.  Or an encouraging, generic note.  You know, just something to get my day back on track, because it’s been so bad that I can’t figure out how to get back to happy on my own.  I’ve been trying for the past six or seven hours and I just keep sinking farther into despair as my circumstances continue to devolve.

God could fix it all in a blink.

And sometimes God does fix my bad days.  Sometimes He fixes our bad jobs, our bad houses, our bad churches–whatever we find discontentment in, sometimes He fixes it.  He’s fixed a lot for my family in particular, and I don’t want to minimize that.  We have plenty of room in our lives for bad days.  Part of me wants to just sit here and dwell on how much worse other people have it, and find my contentment in that.  At least I’m not starving, or cold, or dying, or mourning.

It feels empty, though.  It may be effective to remind myself of how blessed I am, even on these horrid horrid days, but I think it’s human nature to feel discontented when our lives get away from our normal, no matter how bad everybody else has it.  I don’t think the point of hardship is to sit and ponder how superior our situation is to our fellows’.  Rather, I think there are at least two things we should take away from “bad days:”

First, that they build character.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:3-4 ESV)

I know a “bad day” of housekeeping and cooking and childrearing is hardly “suffering,” by any objective measure, but in Mommyland it ranks pretty bad.  Some of these days like that have actually been more depressing and hard to deal with than the days when Seth has called and told me his department at work was closing and he was losing his job.  Bad days of home hit me where I’m at.  At any rate — the bottom line is, these “bad days” get easier the more they happen.  They build character.  One day a whiny teething child is the end of my little world; a couple of years later, I don’t even notice that they’re teething!  My meter has changed.  I’ve developed Mommy Character.  Apparently, I still need more!  But that’s what these bad days are doing.  They’re building endurance.  Building wisdom.  Building hope.  Teaching me to trust God, and to still pray even when it seems fruitless.

Second, bad days make me long for heaven.

…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16 ESV)

There are no bad days in heaven.  There are no bad days in heaven!!!  I can sit here and think very, very long about how happy I will be.  There will be no fights in heaven.  No giant unconquerable messes made by one-year-olds who don’t know any better.  No bickering.  No ungratefulness.  No confusion.  Nothing at all to drag us down and kill our joy.  All this crap we deal with here, whether it’s giant horrible suffering or itty bitty trouble, it’s still here because of sin and living in a world that is fallen.  So what we do is thank God that we’re only here for a moment and that we were made for heaven!  We have trouble because we are not there yet.  We hate trouble, even little trouble, because we were created for perfection.

And so I sit here and long for a better place, knowing that it’s coming one day soon.  Waiting.  Thanking God for the trouble that makes my heart eager for Him.  Asking that in the meantime, He’ll help me make the most of my bad day, teach me endurance, and help me not to make my day even worse by adding my own sin to the deluge.  And then eventually, inevitably, night always comes, and tomorrow.

Homeschooling

On the first day of school…

Julie / September 5, 2012

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Oh they are growing up.  This is the first year we are going to really “do school,” in a formal way—we’ve been kind of sporadic up until now, thanks to pregnancy and such major life changes. Smile  But now we’re on!

Ellie is four.  So not legally allowed to begin kindergarten in our state… yes, I actually wrote to the Department of Education and asked!  And that REALLY frustrated me because we’ve been doing kindergarten math texts and first grade science, so what am I supposed to do next year?!?! So I am waiting to formally enroll until next year, and then we’ll just start with first grade. It makes it less stressful, anyway, because if kindergarten doesn’t work out the way I think it will, we still have a whole extra year if we need it.  But my intention is to formally enroll as first grade next fall, if we get through all the state kindergarten standards before then.

We’ve settled on Essential Math Kindergarten A & B by Singapore Math for our math curriculum, which we started working through eight months ago (and then stopped when I found out about six months ago that we wouldn’t be allowed to start kindergarten this year) and will now begin again; and Explode the Code for English/phonics.  We had been doing the preschool Code books but they weren’t very hard and were a bit boring for her, so I bumped her up to book 1.  So far so good!  We’re actually doing the online version now.  There are some other books I am testing out for other English supplemental skills, and we have also been doing the BOB Books, which Ellie has really enjoyed.  We’re also doing Beginning Geography and Everyday Literacy: Science for science.

It was really exciting today (day two) to begin on the online version of Explode the Code and see Ellie actually READING words, all by herself, without hints!  She was typing and spelling and – it was a happy thing to see… just totally basic words and not without mistakes, but it was neat to be kind of removed from the situation a little bit myself and see what she actually knows on  her own, and I was surprised!  She totally hides what she knows until she knows it really, really well, so it’s often hard for me to gauge how well she’s doing.  That said, I can tell she’s going to get bored with the program (at least I think she will) so I need to come up with some kind of reward system.  It gives her virtual “stickers” so it should be easy to translate that to something in the real world.

Rowan is two and wants to do everything her sister does, so she does school too!  Hers is really a mismash of various preschool workbooks, including lots of skill books and the Rod & Staff Pre-K3 workbooks and Pre-K4 workbooks.  The Pre-K3 books, as an aside, are the first textbooks I’ve found at all that are genuinely doable by a two-year-old.  She’s been able to do them for a while.  We’re also going to do the A Beka Pre-K 4 curriculum, which Ellie did not have the patience for at all but I think Rowan will do well.

For both girls we have manipulative/toys (like tangrams, counting objects, letter tiles, etc.) but I tend not to incorporate those into technical “schooltime!” and instead we do them throughout the day.  I want to start doing more science experiments too—we did a little impromptu experiment on displacement this week and it was a ton of fun!  Ellie just soaks it all up and I love explaining how things work.

We do Bible stories and Bible coloring for Bible—all three crayoning munchkins participate.  During the rest of schooltime so far, Liam wanders around and makes messes. Winking smile  I seriously need to figure out what to do with him while I help the girls!

Mothering, Time Management

The worst version of myself.

Julie / September 2, 2012

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On one of my favorite chick flicks, You’ve Got Mail, at one point Tom Hanks’s character asks, “Do you ever feel you become the worst version of yourself?”

Oh, boy, Joe, do I ever.

I am exhausted much of the time.  I am pregnant quite a bit, too.  Even on a good day, my brain has four separate threads dedicated to each one of my four-and-under children, making sure they aren’t drowning in the toilet or secretly acquiring diaper rash.  If you’re lucky, my kids are elsewhere or amusing themselves happily so that I can sit down and have a nice conversation with you… more likely, though, my kids are crawling all over the place (and probably in cahoots with your kids, should you have any), and 75% of my mental powers at any given moment are completely dedicated to watching them.  But even if they’re being little angels (or absent!), my brain is just not used to grown-up conversation anymore. I’ve gotten really good at repeating myself, and my memory has officially gone on vacation.

In other words: I am one of those horribly rude Mommy-people who occasionally leave off in the middle of sentence, and never return; who talk a lot about poop and throw-up, regardless of whether or not you are also a Mommy who likes to talk about such things; who struggles to talk about current events (what are they and why on earth should I even care?); who struggles to talk theology because right now I’m clinging to all my might with the nitty-gritty of the Gospel that even a five-year-old can recite… and that’s probably not what you were hoping I’d contribute to your Bible study.

In short, I think I probably come off really self-absorbed, because I probably talk a lot about myself, my family, and whatever current child-rearing adventure has reared its head, and because I have an almost complete inability at this point to actually pay attention to any kind of real, linear conversation.

I feel like I have become the worst version of myself.

At least I hope this is the worst.  I’m forever plumbing new depths of how fallen I can be.

Exhaustion, in particular, has been a really profound learning experience.  I can even be kind of psycho, at the end of week of stomach-bug-induced sleeplessness followed by a week of trying to restore some kind of order to our house.  Or at the end of two months of relentless morning sickness surrounded by toddlers watching my every heave.  I didn’t know I could be such an unreasonable person—surprise!  Sleeplessness is the mirror that shows us our wretched selves.

I’ve begun to look at it like this is when I am having trouble not sinning.  This is when I have trouble not being quick to anger.  This is when I have trouble keeping my mouth shut.  This is also when I have trouble stringing together a coherent sentence.  This is when I have trouble listening sympathetically.  This tiredness, this distractedness… this is making my sin real.  It makes it come out to play.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:21-24 ESV)

It’s always good to be thrown helplessly into the arms of grace.  I appreciate that it makes me appreciate my Savior, appreciate my own inability.  It’s pretty easy to pass for a nice person when we’re refreshed and happy all the time, isn’t it?  It’s hard to be a nice person when we’re grumpy and tired.  It’s hard to be kind.  It’s hard to be a good friend, even; it’s much harder still to be a good wife and a good mother.  It’s like a pot with tiny flaws being constantly held up to the light so they can’t escape notice.

Maybe one day I won’t be tired and distracted anymore, and I’ll be able to do a better job of hiding away all these flaws that are magnified right now.  In the meantime, I’ll keep struggling with them, and struggling to improve them, to “depart from iniquity” and become “useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2).

And feel free to tell me I’ve talked enough about poopy diapers for the day, and help me talk more about the things that matter.  My brain might relearn old paths and I might be able to speak intelligibly again. Smile