This morning I have a crying 10 year old. It’s Sunday, the day her choir is singing in church. There’s also a church party in the afternoon and she just spent the morning vomiting. Disappointed doesn’t even cover it.
Her older sister is feeling fine and gets to sing both their solos in the choir, and will most likely be going to the party, unless she too begins to throw up. Life just isn’t fair.
“It’s not like it’s a normal Sunday where nothing special is happening,” she says. “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. Why couldn’t I have gotten sick last week? It just isn’t fair! Can you keep my sister home this afternoon and not let her go the party either? That would make me feel better.”
So, I sit on the foot of her bed and try to find the right words. It’s hard. There’s no way to fix this and make it better. I can’t wave a magic wand and make her well. (Boy, if I could do that I’d be a millionaire!) I can’t change time or have the choir performance postponed. I can’t move the church party. I can’t do any of the things that we parents all wish we could do. But I can understand.
As I talk with her, I realize that I need to hear the same words I’m telling her. You see, the day before, a young couple I sort of know got married and Facebook was filled with pictures of their beautiful wedding and smiling faces going off on a fabulous honeymoon. And I’m happy for them, truly I am, but I’m also jealous.
My honeymoon was spent in the ER with a 104 degree fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting. My happily ever after involved years of living with an actively alcoholic spouse, and now a baby who has Down Syndrome, intractable epilepsy, severe global delays, and low vision.
At 2 am when this young couple is enjoying their first night together in a nice hotel with room service, my husband and I are changing my two year-old’s sheets for the fifth time because he also can’t stop vomiting. They’re going on a weeklong vacation together and we’ve managed to go on one date this entire year. One.
It’s so easy to have a bitter heart. So easy to look at what could have been, what we think should have been, and be angry. Why did my husband have to start drinking? Why did my baby have to be born this way? Why did I have to get sick the day of the choir performance? Why do I have to be the one to miss the party?
And then, we move from there to being envious of others. Why does she get the nice honeymoon? Why is their baby ok? Why did she get to sing my part in the choir? Why does she get to go to the party? And we think, deep in our hearts, that it would make us feel better if those people suffered too.
And that’s when we need the light of Christ to shine into our dark hearts.
So, what I tried to explain to my daughter (and myself) is this: It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to feel regret. It’s ok to cry. But it’s not ok to be angry. And we stop ourselves from being angry by looking at things the right way.
My husband might have been an active alcoholic, but, by the grace of God, he’s recovering and it’s been almost two years since his last drink. There are many women who have not been so blessed and I am so very grateful that he changed.
My baby boy might have a myriad of health problems, but this week he suddenly stopped needing to be on oxygen support. He might not be able to do anything that a typical one year old can do, but he’s making huge improvements and he smiles every time I pick him up. I am so grateful that I can now carry him around the house without also carrying a heavy oxygen tank. I am so grateful for 112 seizure free days. I am so grateful that I am not in the hospital with him right now.
We’re going to miss out on lots of stuff in life. This world is a fallen place, full of sin and sickness and death, but if we keep a grateful heart, and look forward to when there will be no more tears, or sadness, or missed parties, we can stop that bitterness before it even begins.
I’m not sure if my daughter really heard me, and that’s ok. Because I’m 36 and I need to hear this every day. I think I get it, and then something happens and I start comparing the worst parts of my life to the best parts of other people’s lives.
But maybe each time we preach the truth to ourselves a little bit more of it sticks, and we start to cultivate a heart and perspective of gratitude instead of woe-is-me.
Except for vomiting two-year-olds. I haven’t figured out how to be grateful for that yet…
As I said before, Sunday’s are not my best day. Maybe they’re really the same as every other day, but I always feel like they’re supposed to be quieter, holier, more introspective. Everyone expects to be unclogging a toilet on a Monday. It just seems like things should be more heavenly minded on Sunday.
No matter how well we start the morning, it’s sure to spiral quickly out of control. Like the Sunday my 8 year old came down with his shirt inside out. Then, when told to fix it, he put it on backwards, and when this was pointed out, proceeded to change it to inside out and backwards. Wasn’t fazed a bit. In fact, he was giving me looks like I was some kind of fashionista forcing my avant garde ways on normal people.
(This also explains why I have to do 14 loads of laundry a week. Other moms get upset when people use an extra bowl or plate. I get upset if you change your outfit more than once a day.)
Clothing is not the only thing that suffers on Sunday mornings. Comprehension seems to have a serious dip as well. On a weekday, if we’re in public, I can give an angry laser look or the death whisper and kids will instantly shape up. On Sunday, it’s like I’m speaking a different language.
One Sunday, two of my boys wanted to sit across the aisle with their grandparents. I decided that a reminder to behave was in order (they were starting to wrestle) so I called them over before church began and said, “You guys need to be good. If I have to come over there to lay the smack down it’s going to be a heavy smack.”
“Huh?” they both said.
“Behave or you’ll be in trouble.”
“What do you mean, what?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you behaving and what will happen if you don’t.”
“What’s ‘behaving’?” one asked, sincerely puzzled as if he’d never heard the word before.
“Being quiet. If you’re not quiet you’ll be in trouble,” his sister chimes in.
“What’s ‘trouble’?” the other one asks blankly.
I give up.
But worse than the stress of getting to church in one piece is that horrible feeling of being a total fake. People come up to me and tell me how well behaved my children are, how nice they look, and all I’m thinking is, “Those kids?” The kids I have to arm wrestle into their clothes? The ones who are only wearing matching shoes because I screamed at them? The ones who slapped each other the whole way to church and cried because they dropped their car blankie on the ground and I couldn’t reach it without having a wreck? The ones I just verbally threatened to behave so they didn’t mortify me during the service? Those kids? But I just smile and say thank you.
When the pastor talks about how we are supposed to enjoy coming to church, how it should be the energy charge for the rest of the week, I wonder how much his wife is buffering for him. Maybe it is a relaxing day of worshiping with God’s people for some. But there are those of us who are praying every week that this Sunday will be the day we make it to church without yelling at anyone.
I’ll let you know if it ever happens.
The Sabbath. The Lord’s Day. A day of rest.
When I was a child I thought the Puritan stories of the poor little children having to sit on the parlor sofa in their best clothes and not move all day sounded like torture! Now that I’m grown, and have eight hooligans of my own, I think it sounds divine. Impossible. But still divine.
My husband is the worship leader at our church, so he has to get up early Sunday morning and leave for church in order to set up, run a sound check, and play for the first service. I’m still not convinced that people can actually get to an 8:15 service on time, but my husband assures me that they do. I wouldn’t know. At 8:15 I’m just hustling my two oldest boys out of bed, changing the 4 year old (don’t ask, don’t judge) and the 2 year old’s diapers, and making sure my 5 year old has brushed her hair.
Some mornings I even convince that same 5 year old to pick a different dress to wear than the one she’s worn almost every Sunday this year, but other days I just let it ride. Some Sundays I convince my 2 year old to wear the pants I’ve picked out for him. Other Sundays he goes through more outfit possibilities than a teenage girl.
It seems that whatever can go wrong does on a Sunday. If it were a weekday (any day except Monday. Monday’s are the Devil’s days and should just be skipped all together) no one would have trouble picking clothes to wear, or finding their shoes, or eating breakfast. But on Sunday? Sigh.
One Sunday, after carefully putting a bib on the 2 year old (maybe I should rethink getting them dressed for church before breakfast…) my 8 year old spilled his bowl of cheerios and milk in his lap. I didn’t yell. (It was the Sabbath after all. When your pastor talks about people not acting as holy on Monday as they do on Sunday he’s talking about me.) I didn’t fuss, I just calmly told him to go upstairs and change into a different pair of pants. He came back down with dry clothes and breakfast went on.
Later, as he’s clearing the table, I notice a huge wet spot on the seat of his jeans.
“You didn’t clean up the spilled cereal on your chair before you sat back down?” I ask, possibly rhetorically, although I’m not sure if there is any such thing when you are a parent. Although, to be fair, I hadn’t reminded him to either.
“Umm…” he says.
“Go back upstairs and change again,” I sigh.
Now, all I have to do is clean the kitchen, mix the baby’s special formula. Clean out his G-tube bag, prep a meal for the bag, prep another one in a cooler bag for after church. Check to make sure baby’s oxygen tank is full, change three diapers, make sure everyone is wearing shoes (yes, we have been that family), make sure the girls have brushed their hair, make sure the diaper bags are stocked, and then send the potty trained ones to the bathroom before it’s time to go.
There may or may not be yelling involved in all of this. Hard to say. (I could tell you but then I might lose my Sunday holiness points.)
We’re rushing out the door (is there any other way to exit the house?) and I look at my 8 year old. He’s wearing his little brother’s pants that end about mid-shin, with his white socks and shoes prominently on display underneath. When this is pointed out to him, he explains that his drawers are empty and he has nothing to wear. Now, since I do the laundry, I’m positive that he has another clean pair of jeans; I just have to dig them out of his brother’s drawer.
My older sons have a complicated laundry folding ritual that involves dominance games until the loser is convinced that most of the laundry belongs to him and he has to fold it and put it away. The winner gets to go play which seems like a win until it’s Sunday morning and all his clothes are in his brother’s drawer.
So, I find a clean pair of jeans, I fuss loudly at my son, I yell at the other kids who are doing everything but getting into the car, I threaten several times to pull the car over if people in the backseat don’t stop hitting each other, and arrive at church frazzled, out of breath, and exhausted.
And late. Again.
Where is that Day of Rest?
The new puppy has arrived! He is adorable, sweet, cuddly, loveable, and eats everything in sight. We are learning that reading books and watching The Dog Whisperer is not the same as experiencing things for yourself.
Perhaps I should take this to heart. Like all of us, I excel in certain subjects (Language, Music) and--what’s the opposite of excel? You’d think if I was so great at Language that I would be able to come up with the perfect word here. Let’s just say that I’m not so hot in other subjects (Math, Science). After many failed science experiments (there’s a whole slew of blog post ideas right there), I’ve settled on reading through the experiment with my kids and then watching someone else do the experiment on the TV. Hey, presto! Foolproof science experiments with all the boring assembly and waiting for things to happen bits cut out. But is it the same thing?
Puppy life would say no. No matter how much you read about how your 9 week old puppy needs to potty at least once a night, it’s not the same as waking up night after night to walk him. Reading about how puppies like to chew is no preparation for bringing home a tiny shark with fur. And being warned about the ingestion of non-food items is not the same as seeing a Lego block disappear down a Sarlac-like mouth or finding out that the tree you’ve been letting your pup chew on is actually a toxic holly tree.
In my defense, I didn’t want the tree in the first place. The lawn crew that planted our yard had a few extra “free” trees and stuck them in our yard to be nice. I was super grateful about that when I was on the phone with the vet, worried about a vomiting puppy, and mentally calculating how much that “free” tree was going to cost me in an emergency vet visit. Also, in my defense, you can add Botany to my list of subjects that I don’t excel in. I can tell a palm tree from a pine tree, but beyond that I’ve never really had the time to learn, seeing as plants die so quickly under my “care.” I decided long ago that keeping anything but grass was just plant abuse. Said holly tree is now just a trunk with a few scraggly branches on the top since I took out my frustration and worry with a pair of clippers.
My point is, perhaps if I had done more hands-on science with the kids, I would have known that ingested red berries can cause copious vomiting in dogs, and that, as I am not a falconiforme (aha! I did learn something in science!), I will fail at watching my pup like a hawk. However, I was able to teach my kids how to disinfect a tile floor (Thank God for tile!), how to chop down a tree like Paul Bunyan, and how a quick visit to Amazon Prime can have a puppy safe play-yard delivered to your home in 2 days with free shipping.
Thankfully, puppy Po (from Kung Fu Panda “Big and furry, soft and squishy, sort of plush and cuddly”) is alright. His tummy is back to normal and we have, hopefully, learned an important lesson in puppy care!
The holidays are over and we’re all starting back to school. Although, as homeschoolers, everything is school isn’t it? Those cookies you baked? Home Ec. Wrapping presents? Geometry. Christmas caroling was obviously music class. Opening presents on Christmas morning was Etiquette 101 (now whether my kids passed or failed is a different story!).
Whether you are the type of teacher who counts a trip to the grocery story as an Economic field trip, or if you’re like me and don’t (but only have 170 days of planned lessons), the kids feel like they’ve been on a long break, and that makes the first Monday back a doozy. Mondays are typically bad enough on their own. Monday after a break? Don’t even go there.
I got up early to make sure we would at least start on time. The stress of the holidays, combined with my youngest having a breakthrough seizure the week before had given me multiple migraines and I was determined to stay calm and relaxed and pain free for the day. Relaxed, for me, means staying on schedule. And we were off to a good start.
Everything was going smoothly. Sure, my nine year old had forgotten how to convert measurements, and my eight year old had forgotten how to add 7+7 (he’d also forgotten the million times I’d told him to NOT repeatedly click open on a computer file and he crashed the laptop—again). My five year old had forgotten what sounds “Ch” makes and was inclined to throw herself dramatically out of her chair wailing, “It’s too hard!”, but all in all, we were making it.
The two year old and the four year old were happily playing for once. They weren’t even in the school room, where they like to take every available surface for their coloring books and crayons and fight with anyone who actually might need space for say—school work. (That should have been my first warning sign.) I was going to make it through a Monday, and a first Monday back, nonetheless, without raising my voice.
I was so close to achieving my goal of teaching school like Maria Von Trapp. Pretty soon we’d be skipping through the Alpine meadows, singing together in perfect harmony, as we reveled in the joy of learning.
Has anyone experienced this nirvana of homeschooling? I’m curious. It feels like it should be possible, and yet, I never seem to reach it. The closer I get the more cruelly it is snatched away. Perhaps I should set my goal a bit lower. Goal: To have my children graduate from 7th grade without being arrested as juvenile delinquents. I might be able to accomplish that.
As you can guess, the calm and peace lasted about as long as it took me to walk downstairs to heat up the baby’s mid-morning bottle. That was when I saw the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot that we had painstakingly built the week before. It was supposed to be a Christmas present and school curriculum all in one. $400 of Lego programming and the hope that one day at least one of my children would get a degree in something STEM related.
The brain of the robot and a few scattered blocks were lying on the floor like the death of the future. Delinquency, Fine Arts degrees, and hipster clothing were looming on the horizon. (Well, maybe not hipster clothing. But the equivalent, I’m sure.) I lost it. There was screaming. There was yelling. There was demanding that a two year old who thinks a motorcycle is called a basketball explain where he had been playing earlier. There were time outs along with vague threats and angry eyebrows. Not my finest moment.
In the end, we found the pieces. Most of them. I haven’t had time to check the brain, since we were then eight minutes off schedule, but hopefully it’s not damaged. The future might yet be saved, but this Monday is lost. There will be no clothing made out of the curtains today. I probably need to go apologize for yelling.
And I think I feel my migraine coming back.
Welcome to Life in the Big House. I’m Erin Evans and I’ve volunteered to become the new blogger for Common Sense Press. I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous about starting off and so I spent a while searching the internet for how to write the perfect first blog post. That left me more confused than anything else so I decided to go with the simple introduction. Who I am, what I’m writing about, and why that might be interesting to you.
This is a homeschooling blog, so I am, of course, a homeschooler. I have 20 years of homeschooling experience. When I put it like that it sounds impressive. Actually, I have 12 years of experience being homeschooled, and 8 years of experience actually doing the teaching myself. For those of you who are as bad at math as I am, that means that my eldest child is currently in 7th grade. (Umm, math check here, I guess since she’s only half way through 7th grade that means that I only have 19.5 years of experience, but I’m pretty sure she’s the only one I did pre-K with so it might be more. Let’s just say “about” 20 years experience.)
My mother, Diane Welch, was one of the founding authors of Learning Language Arts Through Literature and my sister and brother and I were the guinea pigs for the curriculum. In fact, to hear my mother tell it, she wrote the program because I couldn’t use punctuation to save my life. Yesterday, my 3rd grade son wrote an entire page long paragraph without a single period. Perhaps punctuation is hereditary.
So, I’m very familiar with the homeschooling world and just learning to teach myself. I’m currently halfway through kindergarten for the 5th time and finally feeling like I’m getting this. Either that or my current kindergartner is really smart. Probably from watching her older siblings go over and over this stuff all her life. Lucky me, I still have 3 more kids to go after her, so I should really have it down by then.
Yes, I have eight children. No, that wasn’t the plan. The plan was 4, but, like I said, not so good at math. Actually, that’s a joke. The plan was 4 and then after a lot of prayer number 5 came along and we realized just how wonderful she was and how we would have missed out on her if we’d stopped. So, we decided to trust God and accept whatever He wanted to give us. I won’t tell you it’s been easy. There have been a lot of tears and long nights and a lot of doubt, but God is faithful and there has also been a lot of joy.
Currently, I am homeschooling my oldest 5: 7th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade, 2nd grade, and Kindergarten. My next two youngest, 4 and 2, alternate between trying to kill each other, tearing down the house, or playing on top of the school room table while we’re working, so at least they keep themselves busy. The baby has special needs, so, even though he is completely chill, he still requires a lot of attention. You could say things are a little crazy around here.
To this pandemonium, we’ve added two bearded dragons, which live in a tank on the school room table, one 16 year old Maine Coon cat, and 2 young Bengal cats who believe that any school book can be enhanced with the presence of a feline lying on top of it. After the new year we will also be adding a Goldendoodle puppy to the mix. I know. I’d think about getting my head examined if I wasn’t already convinced that I’d lost my sanity years ago.
My husband is semi-self employed, which makes taking off work to take kids to the dentist or doctor much easier. He is also the worship leader at our church, which means that I get to dress everyone and get them to church by myself. (I’m not complaining. I’m just making sure you appreciate my level of sacrifice here.)
When I used to have free time, four kids ago, I rode horses. Hunter/jumpers. Which means English saddle jumping over fences. Now, in my much less copious moments of quiet, I write. I’ve written 9 novels and am working on my 10th. It takes me a long time, writing a little bit at a time, but it helps keep me sane. (Or, at least, something somewhat resembling sane if you look at it from a long way away and squint your eyes.)
So, we’re wild. We’re crazy, and we had to put acoustic foam over our entire dining room ceiling so that the decibel level at meals didn’t deafen us. We love our kids, we love the Lord, and we’re surviving the homeschooling experience. I hope this blog can be a place to laugh, be honest, and be encouraged as we all try to train up our kids.
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!