Its About The Effort

Malachi fell very comically off the pew during the sermon today and at least 15 people surrounding us laughed. I sighed.

I live in constant expectation of a letter, "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Clark, please go find another church to attend... preferably of another denomination." Either that or a shiny new plaque, "Most disruptive family of the year." Congratulations.

Church attendance for the last...oh 3 years, has been more of a survival exercise then anything else. I try, I really do. It's just that I always seem to have a baby that absolutely refuses to go into the nursery and all my attempts to keep him silent during the sermon somehow manage to be both completely futile and completely distracting. I can usually manage to gather about half of the message, while keeping him at a low airplane-take-off volume.

I'm sure no one around us is lucky enough to even hear that blessed half, not with Malachi throwing cheetos, pushing cars thru the isles, and yelling about the "fishy, fishy! FISHY!" on the wall. Oh and my personal favorite- motorboating my chest. Every Sunday I feel like passing a hand over my forehead,"phew, we made it thru on more service" and then going individually to every other person there and apologizing.

The situation is hilarious- I'm the first to admit it. But it's also disheartening. On the one hand, I know our church membership and they are endlessly forgiving and patient. I dare say they actually enjoy our kids antics. On the other hand, sometimes I wish I didn't have to be the one on Ash Wednesday with the kids running in wild circles while I attempt to sing. Sometimes I fail to see the virtue in ruining everyone else's experience.

Its the effort that counts right?

I hope so, because honestly this permeates thru so much of our spiritual life right now. The family prayers that Zeke repeatedly interrupts to inform us that we forgot to thank God for his fork, and Malachi forgets about completely halfway thru, stuffing his mouth with noodles and only remembering to fold his hands again for the yelled "amen!" The "quiet time" I take every afternoon to read my bible and pray...the one that's interrupted 4569 times. The one where I read about patience, and then quickly lose it when a fight breaks out.

Please tell me its the effort that counts.

Preschool Blues

Our new in-the-car routine goes something like this:

"I'm not allowed to kick people, right?"


"But I'm allowed to kick a bad guy, like if I saw a bad guy, and we were fighting, right?"


"My left hand makes an L, right?"


"There are red apples, and green apples, and pear apples, but only 1 a day, right?"


"But baby gets one too, so that means 2, right?"


"Excavators are too big to fit in our house, right?"


And honestly its been kind of fun. For one thing, I can barely listen, because all I have to do is wait for a pause and then say right. Anything else is unnecessary and frankly, unwanted. Beats the constant "why" game, which for the record, you can never win and often requires some mind-bending thinking. Not as nice as driving in blessed silence, or listening to the radio in peace but let's be honest, those were never possibilities anyways.

So now I get a glimpse of what exactly is going thru Zeke's brain every time we climb in the car. The things that have struck him, the things that he's pondering, the lessons he's remembered. And it's often hella interesting. And its often heartening to know how much he is paying attention, all too often I feel like the peanuts teacher- wah wah wah.

And every once in a while it makes me feel kind of bad.

"Mac goes to school, right?"


"and Xavia goes to school, right?"


"and Mckenzie goes to school, right?"


"And Preston goes to school, right?"

"Not yet, but he will start to go to school next week."

"And I will go to school next week too, right?"

", you stay home with mommy and malachi."


And we've had variations of this conversation over, and over, and over again. We've talked about how some people go to school, and some people go to work, and some people stay home. We've talked about how Layla doesn't go to school either, or Noah. We've talked about how when you go to school you are by yourself, and mommies aren't allowed. But apparently none if it sets in- this kid wants to go to school.

Its not like I wasn't somewhat prepared that this conversation would happen. Sooner or later he would want to go to school, sooner or later the answer would be no. We are planning on homeschooling after all.

But I'll admit that I wasn't prepared for it now.

Honestly, homeschooling plans aside, Zeke wouldn't go to preschool this year anyways. We just plain cant afford it. It's too expensive. The one preschool co-op that I know of is semi-affordable at 50 dollars a month for two days a week. But honestly even that- with a 35 dollars a quarter, and another 35 registration fee tacked on feels a bit cost prohibitive.

Add to that its being a co-op- which means it requires that I volunteer one day a week- which means finding babysitting for Mal one day a week...its just not going to work.

And I'm still really not convinced that Zeke would enjoy it- he's blissfully looking over that whole "he'd have to go by himself" bit I think. But he thinks he would enjoy it. He sees this giant, mysterious, thing that everyone (seemingly) else gets to do and he doesn't get to do. And he thinks it would be wonderful.

And I'm not sure that he's wrong.

And I hate it.

Oh Claudia

We got Claudia last Fall, despite repeatedly saying that I did not really want a dog, and even despite the fact that everything about her was wrong.

Well, she's turning 1 in September. She's gone from this:

To this:

An I can now say that she was arguably the best decision we made last year. The vote is still out, but she's a definite contender for greatest dog ever.

That's not to say there haven't been challenges. Leash training this dog nearly killed me. I gave up several times before we finally figured out how to "heel". We also had to work thru teething, and the loss of several of the kids toys; digging, and the loss of several rows of my garden; house training, which definitely contributed to the loss of our carpets; and the over-all Aussie neediness and stubbornness.

But she's a year old now, and we are out of the puppy stage, we're even out of the even worse 7-9 month stage (the age at which most "owner surrenders" are taken to the pound- aka doggie teens). Things with Claudia this summer have been decidedly...wonderful.

She has become my true partner. Following me like a shadow, in true Aussie style. She knows all her basic commands, her "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "drop it". She waits her turn to go out the door, and heels on our nightly walk, stopping at every crosswalk and ignoring barking dogs. I can leave the front door open while I unload groceries and know that she wont wander off.

Better yet, I can send her into the front yard while the boys ride their bikes and trust her to bark every time they step into the road, or ride further then their allowance.

Aussies are famous for needing a job to be happy, and Claudia has certainly found her job. She's a stricter mommy then even I am, and tells the boys off every time they fight, and tattles ever time they are naughty. Zeke opened the back gate the other day and went into the alley- and I knew it within 10 seconds.

And dare I say it? We have enjoyed her so much that I've been keeping my eyes out this week for another dog. Because I will admit the one thing that Claudia could improve on is more ability to entertain herself, and more confidence when left alone.

I'm being picky. I want a dog, not a puppy. Something between 1-4.

It doesn't have to have impeccably trained, or even trained at all; but it does have to be well socialized- with kids, dogs, and cats. Because we have all of the above, and they are all too precious to me to risk anything.

We want it to be somewhere around Claudia's size. A small medium to medium sized dog, about 25-50 pounds.

Ideally we'd like another herding breed, or mix of herding breed. An aussie, or a collie, or a sheepdog. They have their downsides, and oh boy do we know them better then anyone. But they are downsides we are familiar with- and there is something to be said for that. And they are downsides I can deal with. I can take a dog that will constantly try to dominate, and requires constant attention- a dog that digs however...

So obviously we know that there are certain breeds we aren't interested in at all- no pit bulls, no huskies, no chows or labradors, no beagles or daschunds or for that matter any type of hound. No terriers. It's not necessarily that those are bad breeds, they just aren't a good fit for us. I know several lab owners, for example, that adore their dogs. Obviously that leaves quite a few breeds we are just plain unfamiliar with- spaniels for example. Or what to do when a breed we like is mixed with a breed we don't, a husky/collie for example. We will cross those bridges when it comes.

We'd prefer a male over a female. Because getting two dogs of opposite sex to get along is a lot easier then two dogs of the same.

We'd prefer it to be neutered, because it's expensive and we feel very, very, strongly that all dogs should be.

We need it to be cheap(ish), hopefully even from a rescue. We have financial and moral issues with paying 100's of dollars to a breeder for a family dog.

But mostly we are waiting to fall in love. It certainly worked last time.

Sibling Fighting

For the past week, for the first time in their lives, my boys have been fighting. It feels like all day long, but in reality I know its probably only as much as all siblings fight...maybe even less.

It's just hit me hard because, like I said, they've never actually done this before. Since Mal's birth, they were always just two peas in a happy little pod. From the first, and honestly even in utero, they've just had this amazing connection. Like they were meant to be together. Truly in all ways a pair.

And now suddenly they fight.

And I suppose I'm just overreacting. My kids are together 24/7. They wake up within a half hour of each other, they eat all their meals together, they play together, they take their naps together, they watch cartoons together, they read books together, they go outside together, they go to bed together. Any special outing or art project or cooking that one gets to do, the other has a finger in. What relationship on this earth could ever withstand that kind of continuous company and not fight now and then?

And of course there's the oft repeated fact that its not how much you fight, but how you fight that matters. We've been working on the correct ways of fighting; and talking about how everyone needs to just be alone sometimes. We've been talking about how that is ok, and important to respect.

Whoever wants to be alone is usually the one that's best understanding it right now :)

I suppose I'm just taking it so seriously because their relationship is so important to me. Your siblings are the people that know you the longest, after all. Long before your spouses, long after your parents are gone.

To have a brother, is to have someone that's got your back for life.

I try to pray for my kids daily. I firmly believe that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more powerful than I can do in their lives than to pray for them. And I pray for a lot of things; for virtues I want them to have, for sufferings I want them to be spared from. I pray that they would be true to themselves, and that they would be blessed, I pray for their future spouses, for their passions, for their careers. And increasingly since Mal has been born I've felt led to pray for their relationship with each other.

For their brotherhood.

I dont know if its important for them, or if it's just important.

But I do know this- they are a pair.

And I wont let them forget it.


The front door slams and I recognize his footsteps on the wood floors.

"Mom! I'm hungry!"

And every inch of me freezes; I'm suspended in front of the refrigerator, door wide open and vegetables for dinner in hand.

And oh Lord, my Lord, when will it stop? When will they stop getting bigger? His growing pains have ceased for the time being, but mine...oh mine. I begin to wonder if this ache is permanent.

Malachi heard his brother as well and suddenly he's running to the front door.

Despite his mortification on the subject, Malachi is not allowed to play in the front yard by himself and was therefor pouting with me in the kitchen while Zeke raced back and forth on his bicycle. Even watching him thru the window is too painful.

I don't blame him. He always goes too fast- every time I glance out the window my breath catches in my throat and my arms lift as if to keep him from falling.

"Did you put your bike away?" I ask, as he settles himself heavily into a kitchen chair, little brother loyally following.

And I pretend to not notice the way he rolls his eyes as he answers, "It's in the garage, mom."

I pretend not to see his scabbed knees either, the tennis shoes suddenly huge in size 10, the way he's outgrowing his t-shirt (yet again), they way he needs another haircut, they way he relaxes his thin frame against the back of the chair.

And I chop zucchini, if only to keep my hands busy. If only to keep from running over and picking him up and rocking him like the baby that he isn't anymore. I can still pick him up, after all. Who knows how much longer until I cant?

Note to Self

Next time you hear the words, "Oh man, mommy is gonna be MAD" don't go in the room. Just don't. Grab your keys and drive away instead. Perhaps to someplace tropical...and remote.

2 pounds of oatmeal...on the floor.

I've sent my kids into the backyard and informed them they aren't allowed in the house anymore.

Lost and Found

"Mommy, we don't even have a baby in this house anymore." Zeke tells me disdainfully when I sit in the rocking chair and announce I need a baby. Maybe it's something they discussed privately because Malachi, who usually runs to me all open arms at this oft-repeated pronouncement, just briefly looks up before going back to his book.

"Maybe Claudia can be your baby." is my eldest's only comfort before he runs to his brother and solemnly hands him a plastic tyrannosaurus. His brontosaurus swings it's tail to whack Mal's T-Rex and Mal gives out a great roar. We all know the brontosaurus will win, they always do. It comes from watching too much Land Before Time, if you ask me.

I just sit in silence. Claudia, who heard her name, comes padding up and gives me a quizzical look and I feel like the classic Dr Seuss in reverse..."Are you my baby?" But when she realizes no one is offering up treats or petting even she wanders off. So much for the loyalty of dogs.

Malachi's arm reaches back and he absently scratches at his curls. Watching the motion it hits me that I should have seen this coming. Since when has he moved with such ease? When exactly did he grow up?

He hasn't nursed in a week.

Weaning at 19 months is no shock, and he's been slowly breastfeeding less and less all summer, but still- I was surprised. I can't even remember our last time.

Maybe it's the finality of it that's bothering me so much. The end of babyhood and now suddenly I have two toddlers. Or, to be more honest a toddler and a preschooler. Oh my.

I'm keeping myself busy to distract from the sheer insanity of it. No babies. I am both thrilled and dejected.

I'm lost and I'm found.