Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the tag “LargeFamily”

Is There Ever Enough?

Baby Girl came into bed at 6:30 this morning, and insisted on sleeping on my neck. But I didn’t mind. The wind was cooling the room, and the sky was the over-cast helmet of a day of rain. Perfect napping weather, except I had to crawl out of my cocoon and start the day. I smiled at my Sweetie as he read his iPad, the blue glow on his face. When I’m like this I’m all haimish and happy. Then, I get up and the spell is broken.

I worry.  And worry and worry.  Will there be enough?  Enough to cover piano lessons, enough milk in the fridge for cereal, enough time to remember the project for school before they dash out the door?  Will I have enough patience not to snap, not to shout, to jump in the air for the 40th time that day and pretend to be surprised when she stomps up behind me and yells “Boo?”

Who will pay for our retirement?  What if something happens to one of us?  Maybe I should go back to work and help out around here.  It’s so hard to always say “no.”  No, you can’t have that.  No, it’s too much money.  No, we don’t have time today.  No, your Father and I don’t think it’s a good idea.  So, no.  Face falls, shoulders slump.  “I knew you’d say that….”

For years now, I’ve been researching the ancient pilgrimage route, the Camino de  Santiago de Compostela (the Way of Saint James), which crosses from France over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain.  It is my Sweetheart’s and my dream to one day walk it together.  A common thread seems to unite the reflections of the pelegrinos (the name for all “pilgrims” on the route) is that the Camino is life, and life is the Camino.  Everyday you get up and keep walking.  Did you have great day?  Super!  Now, keep walking.  Things going bad and everything’s wrong?  Rats.  Keep walking.   Just like daily life with it’s tiny victories and humiliations — just keep walking.

But what is so illuminating about a physical pilgrimage, is that it’s pretty hard to hide our decision to stop walking.  By Day 3 of your “Rest Stop” sitting in a Pub in some picturesque Spanish village, it has become apparent to everyone, including yourself, that you are going nowhere.  In the river of daily life though, it’s easy to be caught up in some little ebb and happily bob along there until it is too late.  The race was run and all you’ve got to show for it is a really awesome DVD collection, and a decent on-line gaming personae.  Trying to avoid the pain of the step after step after step, you missed the entire journey.  The gnawing in the pit of your stomach that you took the easy way out.

It seems I can walk the Camino without ever leaving home.  (This is awesome, because with trans-Atlantic flights costing what they do, I feel like we’ll be using walkers by the time we save up enough.  But who knows?  Maybe by then it will be Wheelchair Accessible.)  The question is whether I can keep going, step after packed lunch after messy room after bill to pay after step.  And if I don’t look at the big picture, but just do the little bit in front of me, well, I think — I hope — I can.  Just do the next thing and somehow we’ll all get to where we are supposed to go.

Update: I realized that I should have listed some of the Camino resources/reflections that I stumbled across that might be of some interest to you all.  As Brother James mentioned in the comments, there is the excellently reviewed movie The Way, which is hovering at the top of my to see list.  However, the rest of these I have had the chance to check out personally:

I just recently read this reflection by Dr. José Pereira, a Palliative Care Doctor at the Nothing More Beautiful Event sponsored by the  Archdiocese of Edmonton on May 10, 2012.  It is not a description of the Camino but a spiritual reflection of the impact the journey had on Dr. Pereira and his faith.

I was struck by several similarities to a programme on CBC Radio 2 I had stumbled on a few Sundays previous.  The program was called Inside the Music and it highlighted the work of fiddler/composer Oliver Schroer (1956-2008) who walked the Camino and recorded his own work in various Churches along the way  and collected in the album Camino.  The description of “keep walking” was a paraphrase of (what must of been previously recorded) Schroer’s.

Finally, if you are looking for a well-written travelogue with some wry commentary on just how weird thing can get with a bunch of women, get a hold of Jane Christmas’ What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim.  This book has a lot of great information on the nuts and bolts of the Camino, and some “funny now that it’s over” observations on traveling en masse with fellow females.

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Waiting is Empty

Waiting is an activity robbed of its activity.  Anticipation is waiting plus joy.  Dread is waiting plus fear.  But sheer waiting itself is empty.

But this is what we are doing now, with the house spic and span and the pictures on the Internet, we wait as the white and black For Sale sign swings on the front lawn.  And I ramble about the empty house with its echo, and scrub stray fingerprints off the barren fridge.  No pictures, no knick knacks, all the toys in bins.  Everything valuable is either pack in numbered boxes in the basement, or stuffed into a black gym bag to be stowed in the trunk of the minivan when someone comes to look.  Look at a house which is still ours, but may not be for long, or maybe ours forever.

The next item on the house selling project agenda: wait.

I went for a walk with Princess, Big Boy and Baby yesterday.  As I pushed the Chariot stroller down the icy sidewalks, and I looked up at the front room windows of my neighbours and I somewhat envied their state.  My emotions reminded me of sitting in the reception area while waiting to be called in for a job interview, as they employed nonchalantly moseyed by trying to get a look at who they might share a cubicle with.  Meanwhile, all I could think is how great it would be to be one of them, with a pass card and a paycheque.  Now here were all these  Not For Sale houses, and I imagined their toothpaste stained counters, stacks of personal papers and corners of unfinished projects, with no worry of someone calling an demanding entrance to peek in their most distant closet.

But at least the waiting has given me a chance to stop working at getting the house ready to wait, and I have had a chance to slow down with the kids again.  I realized that my parental skills had slipped this past month when today, Art Girl kept jumping up from lunch to play a musical accompaniment on the computer.  I finally got up to check what she was up to and found that she was jumping from game to game on the National Geographic Kids website.

This last month Princess changed the most.  Sometime in the last 4 weeks, she grew up.  I noticed it first at the restaurant on Tuesday when she confidently ordered a cheese pizza, carrots and chocolate milk from the waitress with no help from me.  Full eye contact, please and thank you.  Then today, I dropped her off at her preschool dance class.  I kissed the top of her head and she ran off into the room, and started leaping toes pointed, across the floor, her arms out, smiling.  She was wearing her hot pink and blue tutu tunic, with leggings covered in multi-coloured heart polkadots.  She looked like a deer in the sugar plum forest.  And it filled my heart with such joy that I could have stayed there all day and watched her and wept.   As I dragged Big Boy, Baby and myself back to the car, a lady passed by.  She looked up at the blue sky and sunshine.  “Isn’t it a glorious day?” she asked.  It was.

The problem with waiting, is wishing the now over, wishing the time to pass and the days to fall away.  With so little time on this earth, and so much to make us happy, it seems a sacrilege to wish it away, to pine for days ahead.  That’s why I see waiting as empty, and a waste.  So we will call this phase resting.  Because whatever the future brings, we will find some joy in it.

All Sixes and Sevens

My Mom had an unique expression for describing being out of sorts. “You’re all sixes and sevens,” she’d say.

I’ve felt like that for a while now, but haven’t had external validation until a few days ago. I was looking for large family blogs on the web, and stumbled on a few that were collecting links from any Mommy who was interested.  Except for one condition:  7 kids or more.

It’s official.  I don’t have a big enough family to be “special” and I have too many kids to be “normal.”  In the gigantic game of family match-up, no one is picking our family for their team.

However, I’ve noticed that most big families that make a point of getting out there to represent “Big Family-ism,” the “many-kid boosters” as it were, seem to be pretty interested in boosting a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t necessarily go for, either.  I hear a lot of advice and bite my tongue:  Homeschool or they’ll lose their faith.  Natural health because drugs just make you sicker.  Juicing cures everything.  Organic food because that’s what people who love their kids feed them.   If your kids are bad, it’s because you don’t eat whole grains.

Until this blog, I never made a big deal about how many kids I have.  I try not to bring it up (unless I have all six with me and they are bringing up the rear.)  I don’t want an award, a prize, or young Moms to follow me around looking for advice.  I also don’t want excuses.  I can get everyone to Church on time, as they say.  I think that I should try to have a family dressed in clean clothes, well-mannered, with enough social skills to carry on a conversation with someone their age.  If you have two kids, you pretty much do what I do, except I’ve got a couple of babysitters waiting in the wings.  I am not a specimen nor a spectacle.

In retrospect, I doubt I belong in the official big family club.  I’ve never been much of a joiner, not since I got kicked out of Brownies for a dispute over Easter Egg dye.  I’ve always been the loner, like when I took shop in Grade 7, just to make a point.  But this point is a little bit bigger — the next time these folks make you feel like you don’t measure up, remember that they even get under the skin of the Gal with Six.

Good mothers support each other.  They don’t look for chinks in others’ armour to play a game of “Who Loves Our Kid the Most.”

I Think I’m Normal, But I’m Not

We take up a lot of path when we go walking

Today’s Parent On line sent out a call for parent bloggers: “Topic: What makes your family unique?”  Gee, that’s a tough one, I thought.  I’m so normal.

Except I’m not.

I keep forgetting that the rest of the world doesn’t have six kids, 10 and under — or, as I like to put it,  2 kids 3 times.  I mean to us, this is normal when you have a 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, and a baby: dinner for 8 every night, $43 dollars for a fast food meal, boxes and boxes of hand-me-downs waiting for the next kid to grow into them.  We love our life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but sometimes I forget just how weird we must seem.

Weird like this:

  • We will be shopping in the Toy Department for 21 consecutive Christmases, before our youngest outgrows toys.
  • A jacket is worn by five different children, before we donate it to Goodwill.
  • We have to get two hotel rooms.  Otherwise, we’re breaking fire regulations.
  • Costco is our regular grocery store.
  • I have been playing “Bear in the Big Blue House: Time to Go” intermittently for 8 years now — and I’m still not done toilet training.
  • My husband calculated that we have changed 20,170 diapers costing us $7,100.  (He did a spreadsheet.)
  • We wore out our crib, our supersaucer, two highchairs, a bouncy chair, and two strollers.
  • I was going to try to list some of the funny places where I breastfed or changed a diaper, but I can’t think of a place where I have not breastfed or changed a diaper.
  • We take our 3 month old babies camping with us, because otherwise we would never go camping.

So you see, I’m a little unusual.  And deep down I know it.  Both my husband and myself came from families of two kids (a boy and a girl) and, while I always wanted  5 or 6 kids, I didn’t think that it would actually happen.  If you had told me while I paced with my colicky first born that things would turn out this way, why, I just might have screamed louder than her.

But, I’m not that weird.  We don’t do family closets, all wear the same colour, or co-ordinate outfits from Gymboree.  We attend the local school, listen to the local radio, and the girls’ go-to outfits are jeans and a T-shirt.  We play Wii and watch iCarly.  Yet, when I’m out and about with my 4, 3 and 7 month old people always smile and comment “how busy you must be.”  Meanwhile, I’m thinking I’m having a break with only half the crew along!   Sometimes I feel like a professional mother.

And that’s okay.  Because there is nothing like having 6 little people crowding your bed to wish you Happy Mother’s Day.  Or seeing the 8 year old reading her younger brother and sister a story — while she’s holding the baby on her lap.  Or knowing that you don’t have to worry about how the kids are going to entertain themselves on your camping trip — they have 5 playmates already along.   Things might be noisy and a little crowded, and OH!  the laundry.  Lord knows I can stretch a dollar until it screams.  But in this texting, tweeting, IM-ing world today, sometimes you just need a hand to hold,  a real live warm hand of someone who loves you.

As of last count, we’ve got 16 of those.  And that kind of weird is great with me.

Want to read more about the crazy life we lead?  You might like these posts:

Feel Free to Kick Me If I Nod Off

Why Your Kid is Happy and You’re Not

School bans balls…Next, children

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