This Moment

Sometimes, I just want to take a snapshot of this moment in time, so I can remember the ordinary not-so-noteworthy things that nevertheless make life as a parent of young children so delightful.

Like how Shiloh is taking her tentative first steps – three to five at a time, but only when she thinks no one is watching.

Like how Beth-Ellen gave me dozens of pretend gifts for my birthday and then carefully gathered together all the pretend wrapping paper and took it to papa to be shredded and composted.

Like how Louis has suddenly decided that drawing is a thing and is busily creating books full of animals, complete with captions, when only a week ago he didn’t even bother trying to be representational with his artwork.

Like how Tirzah Mae found a math workbook and raced through half of it in less than a day’s time.

Thank you, Lord, for these precious moments.

Oh. That’d be fine.

Louis requested to change which direction he lays on his bed. His argument was that the light gets in his eyes the way he sleeps now.

I tried to explain that if he faces the window (rather than having his pillow under the window as it is now), the light would be in his eyes even worse.

No, no. He was talking about the girls’ reading lamps, not about the sunlight through the window.

I lay on his bed in his proposed new orientation to explain how even the girls’ reading lamps were more likely to be in his eyes that way.

“Oh,” he replied, undaunted. “That’d be fine.”

New Passions

Long a fan of construction vehicles, Louis has lately shifted his interest to dinosaurs and mythical beasts.

So I am busy all day answering questions like: “Is an allosaurus bigger than a blue whale?” or “Does a stegasourus eat meat?” (Answer: “I’m not sure, son – I know very little about dinosaurs. How about you find your book and we can look it up.”)

Louis with his mouth (closed, thankfully) full of food

Frustrated with my lack of answers, he has started to just make up “facts” about imaginary dinosaurs. “The excavator dinosaur is as big as an orange shark, but still smaller than a blue whale.”

It’s a small step from imaginary dinosaurs to dragons – and Louis transforms into Sedonafee, a genuine fire-breathing dragon. Sedonafee is terribly proud of his little brother – HE breathes meatballs instead of fire. (Cooked meatballs. His mouth is like an oven that cooks them first.)

Put ’em in the bathtub

You’d think by the time a woman was shepherding her sixth baby through early toddlerhood, she’d have no more tricks to learn.

But you’d be wrong.

It never fails to frustrate me that brand-new puller-uppers LOVE to play in the toilet. Keep them out of the toilet and they’ll be digging around in the bathroom trash.

The worst thing is, when one is busy in the bathroom, one doesn’t always have a lot of ability to keep a baby’s hands out of inappropriate places.

It won’t really do much good if I take my hands out of the toilet where I’m rinsing dirty diapers just to move her hand away from the ick. And if I’m washing my own hands and they’re all wet? That’s not really ideal either. I’m going to have to wash them again (along with the baby’s hands) anyway, but I don’t really want to get her outfit all wet…

It’s a conundrum. It has been a conundrum for the past five and a half years since Tirzah Mae started pulling up on things.

But I’ve finally discovered a hack so simple I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner.

Shiloh, in my bathtub while I dress for the day

Put her in the bathtub.

Of course.

Expanding and Contracting and Expanding Again

How many times have people commented on what they see as the impossibility of our life? Difficult deliveries. Lots of young children, one right after the other. Foster care thrown on top.

How many times have I responded back that God gives grace for what he gives? I didn’t have the grace (or the skills) for three when I only had two – but God gave the grace when he gave the third child. Ditto four. And five. (Even if the skills are still a work in progress, to be honest!)

Nothing makes this more clear than when a foster child moves from our home.

Sweet P lived with us for 20 months and was reunited with her biological family in November of last year. We were so excited (still are!) to be able to participate in a successful reintegration. Of course, it was bittersweet – as happy as we are for her and her family, we are also sad to no longer have the connection we once had (We are so thankful that we have a good relationship with Sweet P’s family and have been able to see her a few times since reintegration, most recently an overnight just last night.)

Five children (including Sweet P!) around the dining room table
The view around my dining room table this noon – five of my precious children together again

Anyway, having a foster child move is bittersweet, but there’s another feeling I wasn’t quite prepared for when we started fostering. It was a feeling of… ease. Like, “wow, it’s a lot easier to parent four than five.”

The strange thing is, it wasn’t that easy to parent four back before four became five. My capacity expanded somewhere along the way. God gave grace for what he gave – grace for five.

But our family size contracted for a bit, and the bit of ease that comes with four instead of five has given me additional wiggle room now that I’m frequently parenting alone while Daniel travels for business. And has given me some additional wiggle room to help me establish good habits in our homeschool.

But it’s time for expansion again.

Four children has become five again.

Not a foster child this time. We’re not sure when Daniel will be done traveling and the logistics of a new placement don’t work very well with our current situation (lots of appointments that need to be done rapidly don’t work very well when you have four other children that you can’t take with you – thanks COVID! – and a husband that may or may not be out-of-state at any time in the near future). So we won’t be taking new foster children until we have a more settled schedule.

Playdough with the figure of a very pregnant woman stamped onto it
The Sumerian cylinder seal I made for myself as part of our history studies (Tirzah Mae thinks I should start looking like this tomorrow, since I’ve been pregnant almost a month :-P)

But four has become five again – it’s time to stop popping bon-bons (ha!) Instead, we are preparing to expand again as God gives grace for a new little one arriving on the outside sometime in September.

A Girl of Many Layers

Beth-Ellen came to me, complaining that her shoes didn’t fit. Would I help her put them on?

Oddly, she seemed to be right. I could have sworn those shoes fit yesterday. But wait…

I peeled back her sock just to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

Yep. Three pairs of socks worn on top of each other.

Beth-Ellen's foot with three pairs of socks

But three pairs of socks is barely scratching the surface of this girl’s love of layers. She’s worn as many as six or seven pair at a time. She’s also been known to layer three shirts and stick a dress on top of it all.

She’s a character, our Beth-Ellen girl.

And we love her.

In which I complete my first book of 2021

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Catwings Return is 48 pages long, has illustrations on nearly every page, and just happens to be due back to the library tomorrow with no more renewals available (which means I’ve had it on my bookshelf for 12 weeks already – nothing like a due date to inspire action.)

It’s a tiny accomplishment, but I’m learning to celebrate tiny things.

One fewer word missed on the verse I’m memorizing. The times when my children look me in the eye when I call their name instead of just ignoring me. A couple square feet of counterspace cleared of dishes and wiped clean of crumbs.

May 2021 be a year of many tiny steps in a good direction.

An Unexpected Perk of Parenthood

One of my favorite parts of this particular stage of mothering is that I can do all sorts of crafts without any expectation of them having to look truly good.

Kids painting leaves and making leaf prints

We gathered leaves and made leaf prints today. The ones we made with our temperas and kiddy paintbrushes are nowhere near as pretty as the one on Pinterest, made with expensive paint markers and made by an actual adult. But the children learned a little about the process of printmaking, and this actual adult got to do leaf prints without stressing over how my product was, mmm, less-than-amazing.

And when I finished making my prints and thought the painted leaves looked pretty? I quick cut out a cardboard ring and glued the leaves onto it to make a funky fall wreath. As a single gal, I couldn’t have pulled off such a kitschy craft – but nobody bats an eye when they see such things in the home of a mother of preschoolers.

My leaf wreath

Just don’t tell anyone that the preschoolers didn’t make it – it was all me :-)

Now We Are Six

I asked her what she wanted for her birthday meal. She said she wanted tacos.

“With taco meat or salsa chicken?” I asked.

“Just beans,” she said. “And corn.”

“And lettuce with ranch?”

“No, kaleslaw with Myrtle’s.”

So that’s what we had the day she turned six.

And bunny cake. We also had bunny cake.

Tirzah Mae and her bunny cake

I asked her what color. She said she wanted gray. “Like a real bunny.”

I’ve lost my cake decorating stuff, including my gel dyes, so we compromised with brownish from half-toasted coconut.

And that’s what we had the day she turned six.