Greatness

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about our plans for our home.  We had decided to stay in our little house, renovating a couple areas to make it more liveable while we save up to start an addition.  You guys encouraged me so much with your comments that day.  Seriously, if you are feeling frustrated with your living space because you feel cramped and crowded, go read the comments on that post.  Actually, I am going to paste some excerpts here.  I hope you don’t mind.

Beth wrote, When I was a child, my grandmother lived near a family who had eleven children. Their house was tiny…think one bedroom, a kitchen, a living area, a bathroom. One evening we stopped by at bedtime, and the children were in their “beds.” I was only five or six years old, but I remember how astonished I was to see that each child in the family slept on a cot, wherever there was floor space to put it, including in the kitchen. What amazed me even more was that they weren’t the slightest bit embarrassed or self-conscious about it. To the contrary, they were smiling, friendly, happy to have company, and completely welcoming to us, even though there was barely room to stand in the kitchen. I’ve thought of that often over the years, and about the expression that ‘love grows best in a small house’

Brigitte wrote, Our culture tells us we need more And bigger everything.

Ruby wrote, I am loving playing the ‘make do’ game more and more, the older I get, the more children we add to our family.

Rhonda wrote, One would think that having all the extra space would be wonderful. But trust me when I tell you that no one EVER spreads out. The littlest ones won’t even go on another floor of the house if someone isn’t with them (“too scary”). My children still find it necessary to sit on the couch with me while I knit (yes, all 5 of them) or pile around me while I’m making dinner. As I type this they are finding reasons to come into the office and sit on the floor under my desk or read over my shoulder! And let’s not even mention how awful the cleaning and upkeep of a large house is. If you can imagine the mess that kids make in one room, just multiply it by the number of rooms in a large house — they will and do find a way to make any and every room look like a tornado hit it. And seriously, does anyone really want to clean FOUR toilets?

You get the idea, right?

We were so tremendously encouraged by your words.  And Jonny, ever searching for a larger house, became far more content to stay put.  And we even decided to stop thinking about an addition.  We are going to really try to just work with what we have and we’re excited about that.  We plan to invest in a bit more land surrounding our house, and to focus on paying off our student loans (we should have done that years ago, but something else always seems to come up.)  I am feeling more confident about our unconventional lifestyle here and more convinced that we can keep doing this.  We all know the saying that the grass is always greener on the other side, and while I know that a larger home would make things more comfortable for us all, many of the things about living in a houseful of children that can be frustrating would continue to be frustrating in a larger space.  Your comments reminded me of that.

The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. — Pope Benedict XVI

I don’t want to get too comfortable.  Okay, maybe I do.  I do, but I recognize that it would probably be better if I don’t.  Does that make sense?

So here we are.  The house is a big mess.  The little kids are watching far too many junky cartoons while we try to get through these renovations as quickly as possible.  We are realizing (again)that it isn’t possible to do anything quickly when you have children.  We are accepting this, and trying to do so cheerfully.  I am failing a lot at the cheerful part, but not completely.  (I am trying not to worry about all the cartoon watching.)  Jonny is making progress, and I think it’s going to be great when we are finished.

We had a warm day this weekend and while we knew that we should stay home and keep working, we just couldn’t.  We drove to our fossil beach because there was a great low tide that day.  We ended up staying on that beach for all of fifteen minutes (after driving an hour to get there).  Small children got wet, they cried.  It wasn’t worth staying if the soundtrack for the day was going to be crying.  So we went to a nearby playground.  The older kids used their metal detectors to hunt for lost change, and the little ones played.  Everyone was happy, even Jonny and I, despite the fact that we had driven an hour one way to end up at a playground.  On the way home we broke all of our typical eating rules and stopped at a gas station with a little grill in the back where they cook up greasy grilled cheese sandwiches, potato wedges, and even fried shrimp.  When the kids asked for ice cream from the case, we said yes.

his first fossil hunting trip

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We haven’t been fossil hunting in ages, and an unseasonably warm day gave us a perfect opportunity to go recently.  Job was one month old on this day, and it seemed like a good way to celebrate:  his first fossil hunting trip.  Of course I ended up with mastitis by the end of a day that I finished off with errands and grocery shopping until 10 p.m.  I guess I overdid it.  A couple days of rest, and I’m fine now.  Lesson learned (again.)

As we walked down to the beach, and even on the drive beforehand, Jonny and I reminded Beatrix and Silas over and over again, “Don’t get in the water.”  The air was warm, but the water was very cold.  Beatrix is getting a little better, having learned the hard way many, many, times that if you get in the water during the fall and winter, even on a warm day, you are going to be really really cold.  Jonny and I still haven’t learned to carry more than one change of clothes per child for our younger kids and to actually carry them in a backpack so that we don’t have to make multiple trips back to the van.  I put these photos in the post in the order in which they were taken, and you can watch Silas go from fully clothed, to naked, twice.  I finally had to zip him in Beatrix’s hoodie to get him back to the car where thankfully there was one last dry shirt waiting for him.  These trips (a little over an hour in the van each way) always involve a lot of fun and a whole lot of crying.  Jonny and I endure the crying because it’s worth the fun of getting out of the house and being outdoors, and let’s face it, there’s a whole lot of crying from the younger set right now at home too.  How long does it take for things to settle down after a new baby is born?  I can’t remember.  I was thinking it would take a month.  Ha ha!  Maybe six months?

I’ve been making an effort to hand Jonny the camera more frequently so that I will have more semi-candid photos of myself with my kids (I’m not talking about the ones where I am sharing finished knits and I have made an effort to look nice and only show my good side.)  I know I am not the only one not showing up often enough in pictures with my kids.  We’ve all got our perceived imperfections; many of us wish we could change this or that.  But far worse than looking “bad” in pictures is being absent from them.

p.s.  Here’s a post I wrote earlier this year about getting started with fossil hunting.

p.p.s.  Larkspur is wearing this sweater, and Silas is wearing this vest.

p.p.s.  On the way to the beach we passed a field with what we at first thought was a large group of vultures.  But then we started noticing white heads on many of them!  It was a group of about twenty bald eagles, both adults and juveniles.  They moved into the adjacent trees when we pulled off the road, and I had a 50mm lens on my camera (my standard) so wasn’t able to zoom in, but did heavily crop a couple of photos so you can see the eagles in the trees.  They are the dark lumps in the branches.  This must have been one of the neatest things I have ever seen!