Good Providence

Ever since I was young, I have been taught to trust in God’s providence. I should work hard for what I wanted, but have faith that God has an overall plan. About six years ago, I started to wonder about that plan. And what happened six years ago, you ask. Our fourth girl was born.

I’ve always considered myself a manly man. I hunt, make all my own repairs, I work on the car. I even grew a beard that makes many men envious. So naturally, I wanted sons to teach and pass on manly endeavors. I also wanted boys to help take some of the work load off my shoulders. But, after four girls, I had my doubts that they were ever coming.

big-babiesSo, I resigned myself to be content with a family of girls. I loved my girls with all my heart, and would be happy with whatever help they could offer when they were old enough. Until then, I worked alone.

About six years later, Wife gave me a bumper crop of boys. They are still too young to lend me any real help, but the time is coming. Until then, they are their mother’s problem, and what problems they can be. Luckily, we have four older girls.

Six years and five boys later...

Six years and five boys later…

It may have taken me a while, but in the end I saw the wisdom of God’s plan. By giving us the four girls first, we have built in mess-controllers instead of mess-makers, baby-carriers instead of big-babies. While Wife runs our household like an admiral at sea, our four girls are her captains and lieutenants. With those girls under her command, the household is kept running as well as a Man-Of-War.

I guess God does know what He was doing. Wife and I trusted Him, and He delivered more… much more than we had hoped for, and in a much better way than we could have planned.baby-carriers

Baby holder

Weekend Flu

There are certain inevitables when raising so many children. For instance, someone is always hungry. When food is prepared, someone is unhappy about it. When the day is sunny, there is always someone who wants to play inside. And when the flu comes around, no matter what you do, someone is bound to come down with it.

That is what happened this last weekend. All my projects were put on hold, including my weekly post. All I was able to accomplish was to rock one baby asleep, only to pick up the next. Wife and I switched off between #9 and #8, with occasional turns with #7. #6 came down with it yesterday. This flu seems to be crawling its way through the ranks in order of age.

As surprising as it is, Wife finally met a virus as orderly as she.

#7, #6, and #8 sick together, as our front room is turned into an infirmary.

#7, #6, and #8 sick together, as our front room is turned into an infirmary.

Because It Was There

It was a sunny day, in the middle of winter, with moderate temperatures. The high winds had stopped, and the cows had been chased out of the yard. All that said, it was a good day to send the children outside to play. But #8 has a love of travel. To keep him from wandering off somewhere in the wild-blue-yonder, Wife closed the porch gate.

The rest of the children were absolutely, under the pain of great punishment, forbidden to open the gate. So, like miniature mountain goats, they leapt back and forth over the gate, while #8 followed them as far as the barricade. He would try to scale the gate from time to time, but he has of yet been met with little success. So he then turned his attentions to whomever or whatever was still remaining with him, in his caged domain.

He would take on the tricycle, and show it just how strong he was by pushing it into the railing. The scooter would take on #8, and prove its wits by tripping the toddler. #8 would also set his little mind to cow-tipping. Lacking any cows, he would start tipping deck chairs. There was simply, and still is, no idleness in the little boy.

I guess he had gone over the porch a thousand times, but he had always overlooked one aspect of it… the winter firewood pile. He had seen the wood before, but only as individual sticks to be thrown and scattered. For the first time, he noticed it as a whole, and above all, he saw it was there!

The nature of boy rose up in our toddler, and overtook him. He started climbing the woodpile, and set to it with a will. Over the unsteady logs, he gingerly made his way to the top, where he stood up and slapped the house just to prove he was there. Smugly, he looked back on the track that he had defeated, and his muscles froze. With the terror that is only so absolute in children, he screamed.

On the top of the world.

On the top of the world.

Wife found #8 trapped on top of the woodpile, though it was only as high as her knee, but for the little boy, it was taller then he was. Attracted by the screams, many of his siblings gathered around and found much delight in #8’s position. Wife picked him off the wood, gently scolding him for climbing it.

Oh, the delight. Oh, the struggle. Oh, the terror.

Oh, the delight. Oh, the struggle. Oh, the terror.

So, our toddler is crossing into little-boyhood. He is starting to look past whether or not something can fit in his mouth, and is now seeking objects that he can climb… to the top of. There are some, with too much education, that might give some long explanation as to why little boys hunt for climbs to conquer. But, as I was once a little boy, I understand it perfectly.

You climb it, because it was there.

Not ME

When I was small and still growing upwards, I used to read the newspaper comics religiously. I only understood about a quarter of them, but that did not stop me from laughing at all the points that seemed appropriate. The truth was that a lot of the jokes simply flew right over my head. I had to finish growing up in order to reach them. And other jokes required children for true appreciation.

In the classic comic strip “The Family Circus” by Bil Keane, I needed my own children to fully understand the “Not Me” ghost.Not ME

While I was still young and my mother was upset over a mess, if I had not made the mess I would tell her it was not me. And she would sometimes respond, “Then who was it? The Not Me ghost?”

I knew better than to answer out loud, but I would think, No, that’s silly, it was one of my siblings. We don’t have a ghost in our house. Our house isn’t old enough to have a ghost.

Many years and a few children later, I understood my mom’s sarcasm.

Now that I’m all grown up, and my growth is currently directed outwards, I now have to deal with a “Not me” ghost of our own. No, that’s not quite true, Wife has to deal with the ghost causing a mess. And it must be “Not Me” because none of our children know how all the toys made their way out of the toy box. They are unsure who tossed the cushions off the couch, and spread blankets around the front room. And they all, every single child, vehemently deny dropping food onto the carpet and declare “Not Me!” He has even taken up slamming doors, an occupation Wife takes quite personal.

We need to take care of “Not Me” before this gets out of hand. I considered writing Bil Keane to find out what he did; however since “Not Me” still appears in the comics, I figured he has yet to rid his household of the ghost. My mother said that “Not Me” is always attached to the children. So… considering the youngest is six weeks… plus the bad job market… equals a very long time. Unless “Not Me” is attached to me, in which case I should give him the guestroom.

Let’s face it, we either need a ghost-buster or an exorcist… who ya gonna call?

WHO?

WHO?

One of Those Days

With so many moving parts in our family, it’s common for one piece or another to be out of sequence. In other words, they don’t always march to the same beat. Most often, only one or two are out of orbit at a time, and only once in a while does the entire thing spring apart like a dropped clock.

And so it began.

And so it began.

Wife had one of those days not long ago. She was already in a state of worry, sure that she would fall behind with the children’s school, because #9, as a newborn, was demanding much of her time. Then, an internal switch was remotely triggered within the children. As a result, everything exploded at once!

No seriously, the first thing to happen was that the toilet backed-up… and it was FULL. Not only did Wife have to de-flood the bathroom, she then had to bathe the two little boys who had been stomping around in it. All the while, #9 was insisting on his mama time. Apparently his eldest sister wasn’t good enough.

The next problem placed before Wife was a couple of bumped heads with some hurt feelings. Then #7 broke a plate while helping to unload the dishwasher. (It had to be a clean plate.) Then the dishwasher did not get started. With Wife occupied in the bathroom, #1 was holding #9, and the other children had no particular jobs to do. The living room became a mess. Someone dumped breakfast cereal under the table. Another spread crayons across the carpet. While two others industriously threw all the cushions off of both couches.  And to top it all off, when Wife returned to the once clean room, no one was listening to her.

In short, it was one of those days when one parent was not enough. If only we could be in two places at once, provided the children could not do the same. Then they could be handled so much easier. Wife could feed the baby and cook dinner. She could wash the young boys and clean house. I could go to work and help at home. I could write and watch the children outside. The options to make our lives easier, are endless.

To bad, huh? You see, I have every confidence that Wife would do exactly as I described above. But I’m afraid if I were blessed with such a gift, I would end up watching TV with myself.Watching TV

Timber!!!

Alas, the Christmas decorations have finally come down. I know many people take them down the day after Christmas. Lots of Catholics try to leave their decorations up until the Epiphany. That is the day the Wise Men found Mary and Joseph, twelve days after the birth. While a few folks wait until just before the Fourth of July, it would seem that they feel that Christmas lights are unsuited for our nation’s birthday. The catalyst for our decoration cleanse came in the form of a one year-old.

Timber

Timber

#8, acting like a miniature Paul Bunyan, took it upon himself to topple our Christmas tree. Without an axe at hand, he laid his bare hand on it and pulled. Success, the tree had lost its balance and was on its ways down. Timber! Wait, no! With unanticipated horror, #8 realized it was falling in his direction. Before he could retreat, our little lumberjack found himself trapped by his own mischief.

Need a hand?

Need a hand?

Hearing the screams of #8, and the giggles of our daughters, Wife rushed into the front room to find her son lying underneath our over-decorated tree. He was squirming, screaming, and scratching his way out of his prickly prison. And when he saw his mother, his screams picked up in volume, his release was at hand.

In little time #8 had been extricated, and the Christmas decorations had been stowed away for the next year. It’s quite a change for me to leave the house in the morning covered in Christmas splendor, only to return to stacks of boxes, baskets, and bins waiting for me to store away.

Heart Shaped Holes

For nearly ten years, I have received by-the-minute-up-dates about the children from Wife. I’ve always known, whether I wanted to know or not, when a child cut their first tooth, when they first rolled over, and when they did whatever came next. I’ve been the first Wife told for so long, that I had started to think of it as an inconvenient right of mine. And so, I would attempt to show the appropriate amount of excitement, while feeling little of it. Wife was never fooled.

Little Baby Boy

Little Baby Boy

After eight children, I felt I had a good idea of the flow of our babies’ development. And the other night, when the baby was about two weeks old, I realized that Wife had not yet announced that his umbilical cord had fallen off. I inquired when she thought it would happen. She responded, “Oh, it fell off days ago.”

I was shocked. What happened? Why wasn’t I told? When did I get taken off the Need-To-Know List!

How did I come to this?

How did I come to this?

Wife then said that the children had all gotten very excited when she told them.

The kids knew before me?

            She said that they all “oohed” and “awed” very nicely. They peered into the empty belly-button. They squealed with pleasure. I think someone even asked if they could keep the umbilical cord. (Don’t get grossed out. Wife wouldn’t allow that.) The girls were especially excited. Wife found in her little court of young ladies, all the enthusiasm over the baby that she felt herself.

I, on the other hand, with all my external indifference, had worked myself out of a job. That was unexpected!

I’ve heard it said before that nature has a way of filling in the gaps, or that God provides whatever is needed. So, He gave Wife daughters first, to give her the help she would need.  In our four girls, she found little hands to make her work lighter. Either with meals, cleaning their younger siblings, or house work, they are their mother’s big helpers. As they are growing into young ladies, they are also becoming lifetime companions for one another, as well as for their mother.

While part of me misses the attention that our girls are now getting from Wife, I am happy to see the job done properly. After all, it’s never good to try and force a square peg into a heart shaped hole.

Little hearts of love.

Little hearts of love.

Our Christmas Eve Package

Over forty-one weeks in the making, arriving twelve days late, with an overall weight of nine pounds and four ounces, our package finally made it home. #9 joined our clan. With his contribution, for the first time ever, the boys out number the girls. And after four girls in a row, that’s something I thought I would never say.

#9’s entrance into the world was without complications; however that is not to say it was without anxiety and a good deal of pain. He was due mid December, and Wife had all the symptoms of early labor. We were ready for his appearance at the end of November, but our boy had other ideas. Either he was very comfortable where he was, or he really didn’t want to face the world, in which case I can’t blame him. After several weeks of false labor, it continued to be false labor.

STILL pregnant...

STILL pregnant…

I’ve already written about how Wife had prepared for Christmas, so that when the baby came she would be able to recover without any worries about any of the Christmas details. About a week and a half before Christmas, she ran out of things to organize for the big day. Then she started to pace.

Have you ever seen a woman pace when she is over-due? She holds her belly with all the tender love and affection that makes a mother’s love incomparable. She strolls around with the comical waddle of a penguin. Her eyes dart back and forth seeking any mischief or mess-makers with the directness of a tiger. And the whole package has enough force to rival a typhoon.

At long last, after a full day of doubtful contractions, Wife’s mother made the call, she was definitely in labor. I met them at the hospital after work and thought that the twenty-third of December was a good night to have a baby. It was not quite as good as the twelfth, but it was better than the twenty-fourth. And so Wife labored into the night, until the twenty-fourth rolled around.Who You calling ELF?

Yes you read right, a Christmas Eve baby. He was a great gift, but his timing was about the last thing I expected. I’ve often heard of Christmas babies, and always thought it was a bad date for a birthday. I would never do that to one of my children. I mean, what are the odds? But then my sister pointed out, “Well, the odds for your family are about one in nine.”First Christmas

The Wrapping Was Upon Us

The wrapping was upon us. Need I say more? Ah, I see I do. Then let me explain. With all the attitude of a kingdom under assault, Wife barricaded herself in her bedroom and prepared. The scissors came out. The scotch tape came out. Finally, the Christmas paper came out. And woe to any child who attempted to enter her domain.Wrapping

Gifts were laid out on the bed. She had to see them all set in rows to make sure of the proper value of each child, godchild, parent, grandparent, and an assortment of siblings. Like a merchant with his scales, she weighed each set of gifts, all the while making certain no one was under valued. If a discrepancy was found, I would receive a phone call that very moment, for here was where she and the merchant part ways.

A greedy merchant would pinch a little off of one to even the scales out, giving everyone involved a little less. Wife would hear none of that from me, for I am more the miser. She instead would add to whose ever pile was less, so I received her calls, kindly asking me to release the funds she wanted. As it was for Christmas, and for the children, I found it difficult to refuse her.

In past days she would have extended her gift piles across the entire bedroom floor. But the pregnancy stopped that this year. So her scales were confined to the bed, which made her weigh and wrap in batches, as our bed was too small to contain it all. It took her longer, but she was able to muscle through it.

In conclusion, Wife successfully had all the presents ready for Christmas well before the new baby was due to arrive. And there was only one true discomfort for me. After clearing all the wrapping off our bed, I was unable to find the scissors. For several nights after that I slept very gingerly.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

We have no snow, nor any expectations of sleigh bells, or even chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Yet, our simple tree is trimmed, the stockings are hung by the fireplace with care (we can’t claim a proper chimney), and a profusion of electric lights have been strung around the house, both inside and out. In short, and to borrow the famous phrase, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”A trimed tree

The time of giving is upon us, and Wife takes her giving very seriously. As all her gifts are purchased and tucked safely away, she turned her eye to help our children make their presents. Let the crafts begin!

At one point, Wife went where I would dare not, the paint and brushes came out. Child-safe paint though it was, it just goes to prove her bravery and devotion to the Christmas spirit. As the art supplies came out, the children flocked around her like chicks around a hen. Even #8, though he is only one year-old, rushed the table so not to be left out.

Wife laid down the news paper on the table and began the shifts. In twos and threes she set them at the table, teaching patience to those who waited. She then furthered her instructions of patience by only allowing one color of paint to a child at a time. If #1 wanted green, she could not use blue until she had finished with the green and her brush was washed. While at the same time, if #4 wanted the green, she would have to wait for #1 to finish with it. So like a little factory of “paint-by-the-numbers”, the children steadily cycled through.

The girls pained without incident. So there is no point in relating that to you.

The boys’ performance was fair. #5 could manage pretty well on his own, as long as he didn’t get too excited. Reaching across the table, he would completely ignoring whatever was between himself and the object of his desire. #6 and #7 were each given a brush, but only after Wife had dipped them herself. And #8 was set on Wife’s lap so she could control his painting, and more importantly, what he painted.

She lightly dipped the brush in the blue, and then carefully placed it into the toddler’s hand. Ready for his overflowing enthusiasm, Wife had moved everything out of arms reach from the little boy. Nothing would get knocked over if he flailed his arms around with excitement. However, instead expressing his excitement by banging on the table, in the blink of an eye, he turned the paint brush around and chomped down on the bristles.

And he's already had a mouth full.

And he’s already had a mouth full.

If I had been in Wife’s place, that would have been the end of gift making. No, that may not be true. Either I would have stopped it all out of frustration, or I would have waited to see if #8 took a second helping. Fortunately, Wife was in the Christmas spirit, and with patience unusual for this late in her pregnancy, she quickly extracted the paint brush, and then guided her baby boy until his work was finished.

So, for those who sneer at the Christmas season, who say “humbug” at the Christmas spirit, who call December a commercial endeavor; I say you are dead wrong. And to prove how Christmas inspires charity, provokes “good will toward men,” and brings out patience for all; I show you the joyful smile and blue teeth of #8, and behind him the amazingly good humor of Wife.

Merry Christmas to all!

The finished project

The finished project