Small Things-5-2
Over the past couple of weeks I have started following a new morning routine.  After I wake up, I throw on a pair of jeans and head outside as quickly as I can.  I take care of my goats, then my chicks.  I walk around my garden, and most days tend a couple of beds there.  Only then do I head inside to shower and check-in online.

This is the skeleton of my routine, but there are aspects that can change day-to-day, seven kids and all.  Sometimes I start breakfast first, and on three to four days each week I ask my older boys to help out with garden tasks.  Oftentimes I have little ones tagging along to “help” tend the animals.  The most important part of my new routine is staying off the computer until I have spent some time working outdoors.  On days when I let my inbox suck me in first thing, I find myself far more distracted for the rest of the day.  On days when I stick to my morning routine, I get so much more done.  And it’s not that I ignore the internet, I just keep it in its place.

I do not possess a tremendous amount of self-discipline, and I find that I need external pressure to keep me on track.  (It’s no wonder I’ve been given seven children.)  As much as I love my garden, I don’t think that it alone would get me outside first thing each morning.  My goats though, they call to me loudly, and now there are 38 peeping chicks that need fresh water and food each morning as well.  I guess what I’m saying is that I’m so inherently lazy, that to keep myself on track, I need not only a large family, but some farm animals as well.  At least I’m self aware.

When Jonny brought up a weekend camping trip, I was hesitant to commit myself.  (This has nothing to do with the fact that I have never been camping, I promise.  It sounds like great fun. Really.)  I like my little farm mornings, and I am not quite ready to leave our animals in someone else’s care.  So when he left town Friday night with our five middle children, Seth (not interested in camping unless forced), Job, and I stayed home.  My big Fourth of July plan was to make pickles.  I also needed to catch up on laundry, though I didn’t really want to say so out loud.  I managed to do both and we ended the day by going to vigil Mass.  It was a very good day.

On Sunday, I took Seth fossil hunting.  Job found his first shark’s tooth, played in the water, and napped in my arms (so heavy).  We walked the beach for nearly four hours, and when we arrived back home, I found it hard to walk at all.  (Insert story involving me calling friends and freaking out because Jonny was supposed to be home late Sunday afternoon and wasn’t, and also wasn’t answering the cell phone.)  Jonny didn’t get in until after midnight and Monday was spent in trip recovery mode.  But even so, I started my day hauling hay out of the barn loft, washing and filling the chick waterers, and checking on my cucumber plants.  I like this routine, I really do.

p.s.  I followed the “Quickest Kosher Dills” recipe from Canning for a New Generation.  Great book!

Start Here

(Purse State Park, MD)

Jonny took four of our kids camping in a remote part of western Virginia over the weekend, their first real camping trip.  He hardly slept.  The kids claim they could hear some creature “crunching bones” outside their tent.  They arrived home Sunday evening and Jonny had to go straight to work.  He worked all night and all of Monday without stop.  I was up through the night with Job, whom I suspect has an ear infection after playing in the river on Saturday.

Monday quickly became one of those days when the messes were growing far more quickly than I could contain them.  Just trying to do the bare minimum to stay afloat, I became discouraged and started down the mental, “I am doing a terrible job” path.  If you measure my worth as a mother by the state of our house, well,  I just don’t cut it.

Because most days, we have a messy house.  And, some of our children fight, a lot.  The majority of them don’t go to bed as early as they ought to.  I have one child that I can’t for the life of me keep on task.  Sometimes I forget about lunch.  Last night I brushed Beatrix’s hair for the first time in three days.

When it comes to raising children, there are so many things that we aren’t doing well.  I could continue to list them, but then I’d start to feel panicky.

But, I would wager that dwelling on all the ways you feel like you are failing rarely brings about positive change.

Instead, maybe start by focusing on what you are getting right?

With seven kids, we are often asked how we give them all enough attention.  In a sea of mistakes and flawed parenting, this is what I hope we are getting right.  Jonny and I work hard to nurture our relationships with our kids.  I don’t typically worry about whether or not our children are getting enough quality time with us, either together, or individually, because we truly pay attention to each of them.  I try to genuinely listen when they talk to me (most of the time).  Don’t underestimate the profound impact of simply looking into a child’s eyes and listening when they speak to you.  Really, it’s the little things that matter most.  Not the dates alone with one child, though those happen naturally here and there, but the way you close the book, set the knitting down, or turn off the computer screen when a child addresses you.  This goes for housework as well.  I could easily clean all day.  But I would neglect my kids in the process.

I try to remind myself of these things when I start to panic over everything that seems to be falling through the cracks.

You are getting something right.  You are actually probably doing a lot right!  And that is where you start.  Then choose the next thing.  An area that you feel needs work, something to be deliberate about.  Standing on the solid ground of what you do well, begin to work on the area that needs to change.  But most of all, make your relationships your priority.  And lunch.  Don’t forget about lunch!

(Dominion Back Creek Recreational Area and Campground, Bath County, VA)