Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Hard Stuff

Life has been super-busy for our family lately, and that has made things more challenging than the last academic year.  Instead of homeschooling 3, I am homeschooling 4 (Ellie has joined in with us.  And, although she is only doing some pre-school stuff, she is quite determined about it!).  

And, of course, now I have a baby under my feet -- or, more likely, on my hip.  Christopher, being a normal 17-month old, interrupts us constantly with his needs for food or to be changed or just to get some attention.  He also screams during read-alouds.

And dumps out toys on the school table as we are doing work!

Good thing he's cute.

I am finding the lack of sleep to be the biggest challenge.  Christopher wakes up once per night.  I am not sure exactly why.  It could be hunger, because he is not that interested in food during the day (unless it is ice cream or cookies) and he also gags and vomits a lot.  I wonder if I am not giving him enough food -- or keeping enough down --  to keep him satisfied through the night.  But, it might also be an attachment thing.  Perhaps Christopher is liking having a mother who will give him a snuggle in the middle of the night.  And, I will not deny him that no matter how tired I am.

Along with getting up at night, the almost-daily power naps I used to take last year no longer work.  Ellie doesn't nap consistently anymore, and Christopher naps way too early for it to ever work for me and our schedule.  So -- long story short -- much less sleep for mama. And much less patience.

I am also getting used to all of our current activities.  As much as I wanted to homeschool in order to make our family life less frantic, we still seem to get quite busy.  The kids have a tutor come twice per week for math, and another one twice per week for Chinese.

Ellie has speech therapy twice per week, and Christopher has Occupational therapy once per week:

Christopher with his OT, Miss Julie.  He loves her!

We also go to homeschool choir, fencing, cub scouts, and swimming lessons.  While these are all good things -- and usually allow the younger kids to play outside in a nearby park while the others are at lessons (I am always looking to kill two birds with one stone) -- I am finding myself harried and rushed, and using the phrase "hurry up!" to the kids many times each day.

In order for us to be ready to take all of these wonderful lessons, we need to get on with our schooling right away in the morning and to keep quite a brisk pace.

That does not always work.  Kids cannot be inspired on demand.  Being rushed does not induce learning.  Quite the contrary, stress hinders education.  This is not the homeschooling I imagined:  one of interest-led learning, play dough, learning to bake, and reading together.

And, as for me, tired + rushing = a grumpy mom.  I'm not being the best mother I can be, to say the least.

All of this is a long-winded preamble to me saying that I am finding myself worrying lately how I am going to do it all when Elijah arrives.  When I feel like I am already at my max in terms of what I can get done on a certain amount of sleep, how on earth can I do more?  

Some times I find myself feeling sorry for myself.  I do not take time for myself these days.  There is no working out long hours at the gym, there are no coffees with friends or even walks alone with the dog.  

Most of the time, I am okay with this.  I think the often-mentioned 'me time' is overrated.  I mean, it is certainly nice, but I don't "need" it.  I have found so much satisfaction and fulfillment in the "dying to self" to which Christ calls all of us who follow him.  I love this blog entry on this topic. I am so much happier now -- making 3 meals per day, doing loads of laundry, and teaching my kids -- than when my kids went to school and I used to spend more than two hours per day at the gym -- for real. I am truly not judging anyone who takes their kids to school and goes to the gym.  I have just found that I am not a good multi-tasker, and I am much more centered when I am focusing all of me (or most of me) in one area.  Actually, it's more than that, because I was certainly focused when I was in graduate school.  But I was not fulfilled because I felt like there was little greater good in what I was doing (writing academic articles about very specific and narrow topics for other academics to read and argue over?  Not for me.)


I am tired and I am overwhelmed.  I try to focus on the long term -- and, when I think about my life as a whole and how I want to have lived, I am at peace.  I know that God is in control and is doing beautiful things.  But, I am also human and I worry about the short term minutia:  how are we going to travel to bring Elijah home? How will Elijah fit into our family: what sort of 'issues' he will have, how I will homeschool him, how the other kids' roles will change and their reactions to that, where will he sleep?  Speaking of sleep, how on earth I will get enough sleep in order to be the mother they deserve.  I worry about my marriage and how I will find time to connect with my husband.  Of course, I worry about finances and how we will provide for six children.

What is hardest for me is that I feel like I cannot voice these concerns.  I imagine that if I say that I am worried, the response -- either stated or just thought -- will be:  "yeah, well, you should have thought of this before you decided to adopt again!"  or "why not just send your kids to school?" or "that is why I would not adopt an older child."  

I am not in a place where I can hear those types of responses yet.  Perhaps, after we have  few years of homeschooling or adopting an older child under our belts, I will feel comfortable discussing others' doubts.  But not now.  

I know what we are doing is right, I feel it in my gut.  To make any other choices right now -- not adopting Elijah, for example --  is unthinkable. I do not regret any of our decisions.  Just because something is hard does not mean it is bad.  In fact, often, the most important things -- the things we end up being most proud of -- are the hardest things in our lives.

But, I am human and therefore I want to avoid the hard stuff.  I want to complain about it, or at least talk about finding a way out of it.  And I do feel kind of isolated and lonely because I feel I cannot talk about it.  For me, to express my worries and to talk them over, often relieves my stress.  I work things out as I talk.  But, now, writing here has taken its place.

The kinds of 'solutions' I want to talk about are not making major changes in our decisions, but more in the line of cutting back on extra stuff -- fewer activities, less stuff, more interest-led learning instead of being as highly structured and teacher-led.  I realize that these ideas bring me even further away from what is considered 'normal' and 'good'  -- at least in my sphere or neighbors and friends -- so, again, I am reluctant to talk about it.

I mention my worries and thoughts now not only because writing helps me to process, but also because I get some comments here and there about John and I being so "great" and so "patient" etc.  But we are just regular people, who worry and who have doubts, who want to avoid the hard stuff.  Adoption, homeschooling, or just having a larger-than-average-sized family are not things that only 'great' or 'patient' people can do, but also regular, worried, lonely people like me.  Just like any mom, I am busy and tired and have doubts.  

But I am holding onto one of my favorite aspects of Christian belief which is that Christ is made strong in our weakness; that we do not need to be perfect to be used by Him.  I do not need to see more than just one step in front of me; sometimes I am even taking that next step blindly.  

With newfound faith.

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