So, in the past month we have traveled from north Georgia to south Florida TWICE for weddings, hosted Easter dinner with family in town, spent too much money on our car, discussed the “birds and the bees” with our almost 8 year old, planted a vegetable garden, switched out clothes for 5 kids due to sizing and season changes, and in between all that–the usual day to day of life in a big family, with soccer practices and games, church on Sunday and Wednesday, and the daily chores of life. Oh! And somewhere in there I turned 35 and I officially became a grown-up (more on that later). I am not complaining–this is all GOOD stuff (well, I could have done with out the car repairs), but it made for quite a month–hence I have not posted anything in a LONG time. I am fairly confidant that in this past month I did not plan more than 5 or 6 meals, TOTAL. Three of which were during Easter weekend. I totally shot from the hip and made meals from our freezer and pantry–and maybe threw in a fresh salad here or there for good measure. My house was in a constant state of chaos, I drank entirely too much coffee and seriously considered taping my eyelids open from time to time.
I am still dealing with the aftermath of it, but am beginning to see the light. But, coming out of it now–I realize I learned a few things.
One. When traveling with lots of children, less is more. Our first trip south, I packed too much food, too many toys and not enough clothes. Double fail. I remember thinking “I know, I just KNOW that I had room for my legs when we started this trip!” and asking my older kids “How in the world did you dump THAT many Cheerios?” Our shop vac is never hungry. Trip two, we were wiser when it came to packing — I mean I was wiser (husbands don’t do the packing). I packed minimal snacks, planned our meal stops for efficiency–one for breakfast after we’d driven for a few hours already, lunch at a rest area with a packed lunch so they could run wild while I nursed Sarah, then we pushed through to get to our final destination in time for dinner. LONG days. But, we found that just pushing through was better than breaking it up. By the time we unloaded all of our stuff, set up a pack n play for Sarah, set up the roll away for Hannah, made up the pull out bed for Samuel and Bethany and made a bed out of the couch cushions for Lucy–we could’ve driven 3 more hours and been there! AND saved money for the hotel stay and not had a horrible nights sleep thanks to the travel girls soccer team that was directly next to our room.
I am going to interject here for just a quick moment. So, my birthday was April 4, which happened to be the day before my sweet cousin’s wedding–translation: our driving south day. Wanting to make my birthday somewhat fun, my thoughtful hubby thought we could make it to Orlando, walk around Downtown Disney for fun and go eat at my favorite restaurant, the House of Blues. Well, it had been a long day, it was HOT, crowded and we were all HUNGRY. We walked around a little, then decided to go eat before the serious melt downs started. I don’t care how well behaved your children are–you get them over tired and under fed and you are just asking for it. Yep, that was us. The picture of chaos–don’t let that sweet picture of me and the kids fool you–about two minutes later our food came, and it was barely edible (in my opinion). The kids’ burgers were WAY over cooked, my highly anticipated shrimp and grits was flat out GROSS and Petersen’s pork chops tasted like jerky. THEN, they all started to cry/whine. We could feel people’s stares burning holes in the backs of our shirts. We kept our heads focused, paid the bill and shuffled our tired and cranky kids out of there. Happy 35th Birthday to me!! Ha! It is a birthday I will never forget. So, I will take it. Jerky and all.
So, in my opinion, if you have a bunch of kids like us–consider pushing through. Our second trip south was much better. Entertainment for the kids? Movies, tablets/games and headphones. Toys? TWO. Much better. Food? TWO snack packs and water. Eat at meal time and a snack when the whining is unbearable. (Clause for children under 3: pack whatever food necessary to keep them happy) Potty? We stop–you pee. Even if they “don’t have to.” And, fortunately, Sarah is the best baby EVER and she was an amazing traveler. (Again, as I mentioned in my sleep training post–I totally think sleep training her on her back helps a LOT with this). Here’s the link to that post.
Two. I love weddings. They are beautiful and romantic and cannot help but make you reminisce on your own wedding. Ours seems like it was so long ago now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday–which is saying a lot from a gal with the worlds WORST memory. I found myself very thankful that Pinterest was not around when we got married; otherwise I am afraid I would have been depressed about wanting it to be above and beyond amazing, then realizing our budget and my Pinterest wedding were never going to line up. The best part about weddings is seeing people face to face. Sure we stay up to date with each other somewhat–thanks to social media, but nothing replaces real face time. Real embraces, hearing real voices, looking into people’s eyes and cracking up watching our kids bust a move on the dance floor thinking they are the coolest things ever–just like we did when we were young. Oh how I love people and connecting with them in real life. I know life won’t permit us to attend every wedding we are honored to be invited to, but if we can swing it, we sure will try. I remember everyone who came to our wedding and realize even more now what a sacrifice many of them made to come; it is not easy with kids.
Three. Hosting Easter dinner in the midst of an insanely busy month was probably not the BEST idea. We love having people over; we LOVE hosting. And the last 9 moths have been nutty with moving and trying to get adjusted to a new city and state, being pregnant, then having a newborn and taking care of four older kids and my hubby. So, besides Bethany, Lucy/Daddy and Samuel’s birthday parties, we have been sitting on the sidelines of hosting. It was our turn–and besides, we LOVE it. Buuuuuuuuut, it was a little stressful in between long, exhausting road trips to south Florida. But, everyone pitched in and we had a blast celebrating our risen Savior Jesus! Plus, Easter is not Easter with out our crazy family tradition of bonking eggs! You simply have not lived unless you’ve bonked. Basically, you try to crack each other’s hard boiled colored egg (in a somewhat civilized manner), and the one who survives is the winner :aka the Kinger. And with each victory, you go up and up in number. I got smoked this year, and the highest I got was a 3rd kinger. Alas, there’s always next year. I think the record is a 22 or 23 kinger…
So, if you are crazy like us and decide to host even though your life is crazy busy, ask your family and friends to pitch in with sides and appetizers and you make the main dish, and anything extra you want to do is a cherry on top, but not necessary. I was excited, so we (Petersen) made a turkey and a ham, simple green beans, pretzel melted Rolo and M & M things (YUM!), egg shaped Rice Krispie treats, and the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten. Thank you Ree. This way, the meat cooked (thanks to my hubby), I turned on the water for the green beans and the cake and treats I made the day before. It was so nice enjoying the faces that were with us and not feeling like I never left the kitchen. Host on! But, maybe not in a psychotically busy month….
Four. Getting new tires, new brakes, a new brake module, an oil change and alignment, A/C repair, and a new transmission is STILL cheaper than a new or gently used car. Sure, the price tag of fixing up our Yukon made me want to vomit. And I’ve never fought so hard as last month to keep my heart content and thankful for what I have–not what I don’t have. Our sweet Yukon is still serving us well. Sure, we are cozy, and it could use some cosmetic fixes, but it is driving great and it. is. paid. off. Hallelujah. Please nothing else break, please.
Five. Having individual dates with your children is absolutely imperative. It is especially important with lots of children. On my recent date with our oldest, Hannah, we discussed the “birds and the bees.” It is not something that can be rushed. A month or so ago she came home with questions…those kind of questions…so, I did what any mother would do. I freaked out. What? What? Wait, What? You are SEVEN! No. Not yet. I am not ready for this. NOT ready. Well, guess what Lori, either you tell her, or some know it all 2nd grade boy who has older brothers will tell her. A plan. I need a plan. I work well with a plan. Ah-ha! Phone a friend! I called a dear and trusted friend who has an older daughter and asked her to tell me VERBATIM what she said. Well, she had that “talk” with her daughter when she was a bit older, so it didn’t apply so well to my situation. So, I prayed and waited.
Two months or more went by. Then, on our date last week, driving in the car, I felt the Lord prompting me to tell her; assuring me He would give me the words to say; just tread carefully and slow-ly. Deep breath, quick prayer and we carefully dove in. It was beautiful, and I saw the light bulb go off in her eyes, mixed with a bit of confusion and once telling me, “gross.” To which I explained, it is “gross” outside of marriage. But, with your husband, it is beautiful. Now, I did NOT go into detail, like at all. It is not necessary, yet. It was a great discussion with my girl, who was ready to have it explained–or at least the foundation laid for later, further discussions about it. She gets it. She gets it enough. And, when we were done, I very clearly explained to her what an intimate thing it is–not only physically, but also that it is something to be talked about with Mommy and Daddy ONLY. No friends, not your siblings. I hardly remember any conversations about the birds and the bees with my parents. It was talked about around me–but with my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade peers. I am sure Hannah will hear plenty at school, but at least she heard the truth from her Momma–and she knows where she can go with any questions. I don’t want her to be embarrassed about it to ask me. Best advice I have about this or any other tricky conversation that needs to be had with your child? Pray and wait. Be in constant conversation with your child and the Lord and He will prompt you when the time is right. I am so thankful I waited for Him. No doubt I would have botched the whole thing had I tried to explain it on my own account.
Six. Planting a garden with your children is a beautiful thing. One of my many Aunts owns a whole mess of property in upstate New York. They have a Christmas tree farm, a pond for swimming or ice skating–depending on the season, a garden, huge barn, a sand volleyball court and an amazing fire pit. I have always loved it there. Not to mention, my Aunt Claudia is an amazing cook and between her and my Uncle Jim, they are the most welcoming and loving hostess and host you’d ever had the honor of knowing. We have always talked about having property like theirs. So, until we have more space, we will be content with our little raised bed that we filled with tomato plants, a variety of peppers and cucumbers. We dug up the grass, bought some mushroom compost and good soil and planted. The kids helped and were super proud of their work. Here’s hoping that this summer we will have some killer salads and salsas!
Seven. I really really REALLY dislike switching out clothes. My upstairs–especially my bedroom, has looked like a clothes vermin vomited clothes everywhere for pretty much the past MONTH. Only real friends have been allowed to enter the premises. Switching out clothes id not fun. But, the best way that I’ve found to accomplish this task is to get three bags for each kid. I used to buy the super big Zip-loc bags–we are much more fancy now, and we use Glad garbage bags. Set aside two days, and just knock it out. One bag label for the clothes that are too small, but in good enough condition to save for the next kiddo in line. A second bag for the clothes that will still fit next fall/winter and a third bag for the clothes that you never put on your child to donate. If you are like me, you realize that your kid has way more clothes than they actually need, AND you know which outfits are the favorites and get worn the most, while others just take up valuable drawer space (kind of like my closet ). So, grab a few bags, a Sharpie and get busy! Good thing is–I only do this twice a year. Wohoo! I am DONE until mid-October.
Eight. In the midst of all this business, life still goes on. Wouldn’t the enemy just love to steal my joy and tear me down with discouragement this past month!?! And, trust me, he tried. But, apparently I had enough family and friends praying for me, that I had bits and pieces of encouragement all month long to keep me afloat. “But there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” And, I reminded myself daily that I am a daughter to The King–and help was always just a prayer away. So, my house was in a constant state of chaos, we ate mediocre meals, I cleaned on a need-to only basis and was NEVER caught up with anything all at the same time. But, we made it through and made memories with our children, got to witness two beautiful weddings of people we adore, were blessed to stay with beloved family friends who spoiled us rotten, swam in their pool and got to spend the day at my hometown beach and enjoy it with more friends and family. And you know what? This was a season, like any other. There will be long seasons of chaos and short ones. Just remember when you are in it, don’t worry about the little stuff. Just keep reading His Word, keep praying, keep loving your kids, your husband and the people around you and walk day by day–an eventually, the chaotic season will end, and you will be able to breath again and gear up for the next one. I am thankful God blurred our eyes as we looked past the messes and stepped over the piles of clothes that littered our bedroom floor–which would typically drive us completely bananas.
Here’s hoping May is a bit less stressful and we can close out this school year with a bang! Blessings Friends!!