Tuesday, August 26, 2014

my help

School started up last week for Annike. First grade begins the wild world of full day school. Off she goes.

On that first day while she was gone and my younger two were napping, I sat on the couch with my Bible, by myself.  It felt like a small miracle to be alone. I teared up with emotion, and all of the mixed sentiments of the day... worry, exhaustion, gratitude, relief, sadness at witnessing the arrival of yet another year.

That moment sitting on the couch was a healing moment. There was peace in my home, and I was allowed some space in a frantic world to process all of my emotional extremes. The moment ended shortly thereafter as the baby awoke early from his nap and refused to go back down. But in those minutes spent reflecting on our summer, I felt a huge sense of relief that we were exiting it and all the chaos that accompanied it. Summer is a wonderful time of fun and freedom, but we are all ready to have the reigns pulled back restoring some sense of order and routine in our lives, if for no other reason then our ability to once again enjoy occasionally breaking the routine.

At times, parenting three children is one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I can only imagine what it is like to have four, or six, or more. It brings multi-tasking to a whole new level, like trying to have a different conversation with five people at once giving them each your undivided attention. Take any serene moment, and there is an equally disastrous moment unpredictably lurking behind it. Like yesterday afternoon when we were all playing nicely in the backyard, engaged in our respective happy tasks, and all at once one child has thrown sand into the eyes of another child. The child with sand in her eyes is screaming in pain while the other child is rebelling with the knowledge she is waiting to be disciplined. Meanwhile the baby has discovered a nest of ants and is quite literally covered in them. The disciplined child is sent inside where she has an accident in the bathroom. As the meltdowns occur, everyone also appears to be both tired and hungry. Only 60 seconds have passed since the world was a place of calm. Now all is calamity.

It is difficult to know what to tackle first. I find myself just wanting a little help. Why is no one helping me? Why are there suddenly so many tasks to complete and not possibly enough minutes in the day to complete them while caring for these young people? and caring for my husband? and sometimes caring for myself? It is the feeling of being overwhelmed by all of the things that need to be done and the truth that I am completely incapable of doing them all at once, let alone doing them at all.

In that frantic moment I do not remember that God is my help. No, I am too busy being angry that my daughter has peed on the floor while she was having a tantrum, and being frustrated that my other daughter doesn't know how to communicate with me when she is in pain, and being worried that my baby is getting bitten by ants or choking on a pebble because I left him outside. In that frantic moment I succumb to the lies that I cannot do it. I have forgotten the truth that God is my ever-present help. He hasn't left me, or you, alone in the overwhelming present. He has not fallen asleep while we are left to tend to the mess.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills--
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, 
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.
Psalm 121

In that healing moment on the couch, relief flooded me as I remembered that I do have help. There will be plenty more overwhelming moments in my future. But they will be peppered by moments of peace, in which I have space to remember, and hopefully internalize, the truth.

It is ridiculous, of course, to entertain the notion that I don't have any help. Karsten himself has entered the very helpful stage of 11 months old. Below are some photos to prove just how helpful he truly is...

Here he is helping me load the dishwasher...

and helping me sort laundry...

and helping me reorganize the children's bookshelf...

and helping me clean the shower...

and helping me change the toilet paper roll, a favorite task of his...

and helping me dig in the garden, sampling plants as he goes to be sure that they are edible...

And just in case you have forgotten what it is like to live with small children in the house, this video is a reminder. How does anyone ever do it without this kind of helpfulness?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

a roll in the mud

These are the final days of summer. Sigh.

This is good news and bad news. The good news being that I will get to go grocery shopping with only two children in my cart, which will be a piece of cake. There will be a lot more room for food too. The bad news is, well, that summer is almost over.

When we moved to this farm over four years ago, I had no idea it meant that we would become a real farm family, unafraid of things like mice and dirt and eating fruit with worms in it. My girls can rock playing in the mud, and my little boy is learning fast. 

I've never wanted to be particularly uptight about letting my kids get dirty. As it turns out, they are covered in dirt often as a regular part of going outside. It just seems like part of a healthy childhood to allow some filth, even if it ends up meaning more laundry for me. And as much as is in my control, I would like to give my children a healthy childhood.

Like moths to a flame are children to mud. At some point between childhood and now I lost my desire to roll around in the mud, and they will lose it too. Is it because I did it enough to purge the need from my system? Or because my imagination has dulled? Or because I became too darn practical and don't want to take time out for a second shower today? Probably all of the above.

We spend a fair amount of time holding back as adults. Too many reasons to be responsible. Too many things to feel self-conscious over. Too much fear of the future. These are hindrances children don't inherently have, and I am oh so glad to celebrate this freedom of theirs for a few more years. That's what summer days are all about.

Rolling in the mud is a good reminder to celebrate the season we are in now. To celebrate today without anxieties about what may or may not be next. To temporarily let go of the "what might happen"s and the "I don't feel like getting dirty"s in order to engage in what is happening at this very moment. It means having a sense of humor when someone squirts you with a hose, instead of my newest adult tendency to snap at the person who did it. In these final warm days of August, go ahead and take another run through that sprinkler or a good roll in the mud. We can't get these days back again.

Straight into the bathtub after this. Next project on the list is installing an outdoor shower. Every farmhouse needs one.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


In an effort to make the most of the last few weeks of summer, this morning we went to a drop-in class at the children's gymnastics center. They always do a good job at making the experience both fun and educational. Today's theme was safety. During circle time there were introductions and each child was invited to answer the question: What are some things that help you stay safe?

There was a discussion about bicycle helmets and looking both ways before we cross the street. I always feel a secret glee when I get to listen in on my own children's comments, like a spy gathering information. What do they know and what will they say? Since they don't ride bikes yet and we live out in the country where there aren't many streets to cross, I was curious which connections they were making.

Sommer's turn came. What are some things that help you stay safe? She gave a fairly typical two-and-a-half year old's unrelated answer, "We have a trampoline at home!" Yes, she was more focused on the trampolines she saw around her than circle time. The teachers were skilled, however, at bringing it back around and they talked about trampoline safety.

Annike's turn came. What are some things that help you stay safe? She looked shy, then evangelized her class, "I pray to Jesus quietly in my heart."
Preach it, sister. Liberal Santa Cruz may not listen to me, but they will listen to you.

Responses like these are the reason I have named this blog "A Child's Eyes." I learn so much from the innocent perspective of my children. Over the years my contribution to a discussion on safety has been programmed to include something like: "Don't talk to strangers." But children only know what they know, without all of the programming.

This morning was one of those rare mornings when I was feeling brave enough to take three children on a summer outing by myself. The past few months with all the kids at home has tested and challenged me in this area as I have discovered the hard way that no matter where we go, I still can't predict the outcome of any outing where the ratio is 3:1. Hoping this will change shortly.

Gymnastics class went well, but like I said, I had an abnormal surge of bravery and decided to take the kiddos for treats at a local bakery. On the way out, because hot chocolate and a fruit parfait had clearly not sufficiently filled her tummy, Sommer ate "a green bean" from a mysterious plant by the doorway. I didn't see her do it of course because I was maneuvering the stroller through two swinging doors while corralling my children onto the sidewalk instead of the street, carrying three half-drunk cups of hot chocolate, attempting not to spill any on the baby or run over the toes of other guests.

When we got to the car Sommer told me, "My breath tastes spicy because I ate a green bean from that plant."
"You WHAT?!!?"
Approaching her I realized her "spicy" breath was actually the smell of vomit.

It left me acutely aware that while wearing seat belts and obeying traffic laws are all very safe and good choices, it is Jesus alone who keeps us safe when the child who should know better eats a poisonous plant. At the end of the day, it is He who holds our whole lives in His hands.

On the car ride home, Annike prayed quietly in her heart for Sommer's safety while I called Poison Control. It turns out that this plant causes gastrointestinal discomfort, hence the vomit, but in small doses most likely isn't toxic. We don't need to have her stomach pumped.

In the meantime we thank God for His grace to see us safely through another day.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4-5

Our family hands in cement.