I've been putting little pieces of this post together for a while. I just want to freeze how life is right now with these little kids. I see now – more clearly than ever – how quickly my kids are growing up, how soon this phase of life is going to be over. When Hazel was a little tiny thing I remember listening to a song by the MoTab called “Turn Around.” It’s a really mushy song all about how you suddenly turn around and before you know it your baby is a grown up walking out of your door. I laughed out loud at those lyrics as they sang out on a Sunday morning. I remember thinking, “yeah right, I just turn around and she needs to be fed again, or changed again. This is not going to go by quickly!” But something about having a ten year old this year - with 8 years left at home – has opened my eyes to how truly fleeting these years are. I only get one shot at mothering these kids, I can only give them one childhood. I want to make the most of it.
For me, there’s something magical about writing it all down, or taking a picture of it that somehow helps me to see the beauty in it all. So, here’s a little snapshot of some little things in our life right now. Some good, some bad. Some beautiful and magical, other’s kind of ugly. Because the whole is what glistens.
- Peter wants to play “family” all the time. And he always insists on being the dad and bossing us all around. Jeff and I are pretty sure that this is his way of trying to wriggle free of his life dominated by 5 “adults”
- whenever we eat green beans the kids insist on racing to see who can munch them up the fastest. As soon as they’re done they raise both hands and open their mouths to show that they’ve swallowed it all down. We eat a lot of green beans that way.
- meal time is 20% of the time enjoyable 80% of the time frustrating as Jeff and I try to civilize our little heathens. It seems like we remind them all every single day as we sit down that we’re practicing good manners, that no one needs to talk while we get food on everyone’s plates, that they shouldn’t make noises unless they are part of a family conversation. It will sink in sometime, I know it. For now, I’m trying to remind myself that they’re just little. Still learning. That it will take a while (how long though people?). That 20% of dinner enjoyment is pretty awesome though. Especially if I stop and take myself out of things for a minute to see how beautiful it is that have these four exuberant children to feed.
- Speaking of meal times, we have people over for Sunday dinner quite a lot ( as the Bishops family we’re trying to get everyone in our home from church so that we can get to know them). It’s when we have company that our kids are the craziest. There’s something about being crazy that they think really impresses guests! This is getting better, but boy it has been a battle. One thing we do at every guest meal is as “THE QUESTION.” They take turns asking the question (seems to take a lot of courage) and it’s always worded the same way. “Tell us about a time, when you were little, under the age of 18 that you did something naughty, dangerous or scary. And if you get all three in one story then you get extra dessert. That’s called the trifecta.” I’m not sure where this question came from, for some reason my kids LOVE hearing stories about when adults were little and got into trouble. It’s a great conversation starter, it helps us to really get to know our guests and (we’re hoping) it helps them to avoid naughty, dangerous and scary stories in their own lives.
- What is up with all the unnecessary noise? Does this get better as they get older? Please, someone with older kids, tell me it does. Or maybe my kids are the only ones who feel like they should ALWAYS be making some noise (singing a loud song, drumming on the table, clicking, clapping, burping, repeating the same phrase over and over). This unnecessary noise happens all the time, and it doesn't get to me too much unless we’re trying to dish up food, or clean the kitchen, or get out the door.
- Charlie is the first of the kids to get up on weekdays. He wakes up to his cello cd which blares for 5 min and then is stopped by the second beeping alarm he has set for himself. On the days that I’m not running I love laying in bed listening as he rummages around in his room and then starts sawing away on his cello. I feel pretty darn proud of him, especially remembering that I spent an entire year worrying if he’d ever be able to get himself out of bed.
- Hazel is also into food art. I might have more pictures of food that she has artfully arranged on my phone than I do of my kids. She’s got an eye for beauty. Often I can convince her to make the school kids a cute little after school snack. These are the kinds of snacks I always thought it would be cool to prepare for my kids, but it turns out I’m lousy at it. Thank goodness for Hazel!
-When I’m not running the carpool I just have to help Charlie and Emmeline cross our busy street so that they can wait for their ride. I love watching them sprint across the street, hand in hand when I say go. And when I am running the carpool we’re usually running late so I get to watch them sprint hand in hand down the sidewalk to try to make it to Em’s kindergarten line before they go in.
- I’ve come to tolerate laundry a little more than I have in the past. Mostly thanks to good audio books, ted talks and call the midwives.
- My evenings are gone. I remember my sister telling me that this would happen….as kids got older Jeff and I would no longer have time to hang out at night. And, we’re there folks. After getting the big kids down (by 9:15 or so on a good day) I finish cleaning stuff in the kitchen, bring laundry up or down, send a few emails or do a little photography stuff and then drop into bed.
- lots of my days start at 5:30. I've successfully trained myself to get up before I actually have to get up to run. This is something I've struggled with my whole life. I’m not a morning person. But, at the beginning of the year I did a little online course on building habits (from Christine Carter) and she taught me how to get up early enough to read and think and stretch a little before I have to run out the door. And oh, it’s hard. But oh, it feels good. (ok, that was a snapshot of about a month a few months ago….I need to bring back that habit)
- During the day it’s usually Hazel and Peter and I hanging out. Hazel and I do work on the computer, she’s doing school, I’m editing pictures or paying bills. Peter plays or is at his little preschool. We take a break for lunch and lots of time watch a ted talk or a video from an online course while we eat. It’s nice having the three of us home. Hazel often takes a school break and takes peter for a walk around the block or down to visit our neighbor Joyce. I love the little bond those two have welded this year with Hazel at home.
- Speaking of Hazel at home (I need to write a whole post about this) – K12 is going well. Hazel is super self motivated and pretty much does it all on her own. I’m not sure if she’ll go back to school next year, but for now this is working. She gets her work done quickly and has lots of time and energy to pursue some of the other stuff she’s interested. She has such a curious mind and wants to spend time creating and reading and exploring her world. She’s doing a pretty good job using her time wisely (though I wish she practiced more and wrote more). I have been pretty hands off, letting her really navigate this alone and she’s done such a good job. I do worry that all this independence is making her grow up too fast. She even told me the other day that she is like a grown up –working on the computer, staying up late, deciding her own schedule. Of course it’s great that she feels all grown up but I keep reminding her that she only gets one childhood and she’s got to live it up. She’s going to be an adult FOREVER. I know there are some people out there interested in how this k12 stuff is going, so I’ll try to post more about it later. - Emmeline is learning to read and write! I love watching and being a part this part of development. It is incredible how the world opens up to kids as they discover words. Emmeline is climbing up that steep hard reading mountain. I keep telling her she’ll soon have enough words in her brain that she’ll hit the summit and start speeding down the glorious other side of the mountain. She’s gonna love reading once she gets past the hard part. Jeff keeps telling her she’s not allowed to read. This always gives her an extra little twinkle and a new push to get over that mountain!
- We've finally established a good family scripture study routine. We do it at night after dinner and clean up and before bed. We really went through a lot of trial and error and lots of contention and strife to iron it all out, but we’re finally at a place where we get through it without major arguments! Hallelujah! The kids are even engaged in what we’re reading sometimes! Light at the end of a long tunnel! I’ll share what we've learned sometime….hopefully someone can take something from our struggles with this. For now I’m chalking it up as a great shumway family victory.
- The kids still move the coffee table out of the living room pretty much daily to cut a rug and boogie down to their favorite songs on spotify. They've turned into kiss108 fans (uggg). For so long Jeff and I had convinced them that 80’s rock, the police, u2 and the beetles was the only good music out there, but they've now discovered the pop world and there’s no going back. I love our little family dance parties. So much happiness there.
- The kids will do anything for a family movie night, so you had better believe we use it as a bribe all the time. One of my favorite parts of the week, cuddling up in our freezing basement to watch some kind of adventure. We've had quite a few nights where we put Em and Peter to bed early and watch something a little deeper with Hazel and Charlie. We've had some great discussions after those big kid movie nights. I’ll have to post some of our favorites since it’s often a struggle to think of a good movie to watch. We haven’t always gotten it right, but we have found some great ones.
-I’ve been really shifting the way we eat around here. For the past few months I’ve tried to really load on the veggies (10 plus servings a day) and cut out out the processed stuff. Something about this podcast here really gave me the push I needed and I've (sort of secretly) brought my kids along with me. I have a lot more to say about this soon.
- I have to remind my kids every time the walk into the door: “Don’t explode!” Meaning I don’t want all of their stuff exploded all over the house. At what age do children start to be a little more aware of what they leave in their trail? Maybe i haven’t done a great job of training them.
- We try to do Saturday chores each week. The kids each have a Zone that they’re in charge of cleaning and then they have to deep clean their rooms. This is supposed to take an hour on Saturdays, but usually stretches into more with all the resistance. We’ve made great strides in this department, but still looking for the magic that will suddenly make my children love working. Where is it guys?
- Peter still takes a nap a few days a week, and Hazel and I fight over who gets to put him to bed. I love cuddling in our old chair to read him a story. After the story we always look deep into each other’s eyes. He knows this is my most favorite part of the day.
- Our kitchen is CROWDED. We’re tripping over kids, each other or stools in there all day long.
- For dinner prep I always have a little Emmeline or Peter helper tearing up salad or cutting things with a butter knife. If I'm behind schedule (like I normally am) it’s a little hard to have so many ‘helpers’ in the kitchen….but I’m trying to remind myself that one day my kitchen will be quiet and clean and empty of little hands.
- Bedtime is still hard. Pee Pee-Hands-Teeth-PJ’s. Somehow it hits when my energy and patient reserves are just totally depleted. But on the nights when I have time to read to the kids everyone rushes through the routine so we’ll have maximum time to read which makes it all so much more bearable. Then we all gather in Peter and Emmeline’s room, turn on the Christmas tree lights and I read out loud to them. We’ve read some really great books this year. Not tons, since I only have time to read once or twice a week. I should make more time for it because reading out loud to my kids is maybe my most favorite part of motherhood. It’s just magical, everyone sitting so still, a book opening up the world to us. I’m planning a post of our favorite read aloud books this year, I hope to get it up soon.
-We’ve been trying our darndest to have a weekly family meeting on Sundays where we can go through the calendar for the week and talk about what is and isn’t working. I’m learning more and more that building a family is total trial and error and has to be reinvented almost every week. Owning this, knowing that I don’t have to get everything right the first time, but have to be agile and willing to flex things to make them work better has really taken away the pressure to get everything right all the time.
- I love Saturday mornings (and all these snow days). Em is always the first one up. She comes in early and pokes me and Jeff to see if “it’s morning time?” When we don’t respond she usually (sometimes after some coaxing by us to go away) goes and wakes up Peter and they play for a while, get some cold oats sometimes, and then come back in to cuddle with us. Em always cuddles with Jeff, Peter with me. All four of us, laying in that sleepy state in our big bed. It’s all crystally and cozy and I love it (until blood sugar levels hit too low). Makes me think of this painting that I love by Brian Kershisnik, titled: This Splendid Inconvenience.
Isn't that a beautiful image? I love it. But mostly I love the name. This Splendid Inconvenience. There is nothing convenient about life with little kids. But when we step back to take a look we see that it is pretty splendid. And it’s beautiful, a little splice of eternity that won’t ever happen again.