Summer of 2016, Part Two

Continued from last week, my brother Scott’s guest post about raising six children with two year old twins and a baby.

Summer of 2016

by Scott Hoover

Part Two

 

…Another contribution to the slow shipwreck was our dog, Oreo.  We got her so the children wouldn’t be afraid of dogs.  Unfortunately, she was half Jack Russel Terrier and wilder than the children.  She chewed crocs, jumped on people and ran away periodically.

One day the FedEx man left a box with 12 pounds of raisins on our doorstop.  When Priscilla came home Oreo had opened the box and every container of raisins.  The raisins that were left lay strewn over the concrete.  Somewhere in there Priscilla said she is just glad dogs at least don’t have souls.

The running away character flaw is what finally did Oreo in.  The neighbors would call and say our dog was at their place again.  Or they would just bring her back.  One low point was when our neighbors a mile to the south brought her back after we were all in bed.  Oreo had joined their campfire party.

The stress was just too much.  I finally suggested to Priscilla that we get an underground dog fence.  She said without much hesitation “or maybe we should just get rid of the dog”.  Priscilla is a woman of incredible mercy and patience.  When you run that well dry, let’s just say you are a very bad dog.  We’ve been married long enough I knew it was time for Oreo to go.  It was one of the best decisions we made all summer.

When you are at sea like we are, you want to stay close to home.  Sometimes it’s hard for people to understand that.  You dread taking the family anywhere.  The dread stems both from the time it takes to get ready and from the fear of what will happen when you get there.  You must plan way ahead to make it anywhere on time.  For it to work, many stars need to align.  It depends on length of naps, number of recent social events, and the current level of naughtiness and hyperactivity that day. Even if all those stars align and it looks like going away might be possible, you still must consider how much stress debt you will accumulate during the event. Any debt will certainly be repaid with interest the next day and even the next.

Getting ready for church Sunday morning means moving six children through the bath tub and getting everybody dressed.  Again, the oldest ones can basically bathe and dress themselves but they aren’t self-sufficient yet.  Sometimes you start stuffing youngsters in the van, before its time to leave, just to get them out of the way so you can focus on the remaining needs.

At church it only gets worse.  You wade through the people to get to a bench.  During the wading process, all the children get drifty and you can soon end up feeling like a single man again.  Except you aren’t, and it just means you’ve got six children to find before getting to the sanctuary.

After church it’s no better.  You try to talk to people but out of the corner of your eye you see the twins are pulling song books out of the holders and one twin is dangling a song book by its ragged cover.  If you hear a crash or screaming, you know there’s a good chance that it’s one of yours.  When you finally get everyone packed back in the van, drive slowly home and unload everyone, you would hardly say it was a fulfilling morning of worship and fellowship. 

Even just going to town is an ordeal.  Let’s say you want to run into town for pizza.  Everyone needs footwear and they all need to be pre-emptively taken to the bathroom.  Then they all need to get buckled into their boosters and car seats (yes, all six are in boosters or car seats).  When you get to the pizza store they all want to go in.  You help unbuckle everyone, parade in for a pizza, then back out and buckle everyone up again.

Apparently, we make an impression.  One time I went in to the pizza store alone and they still gave me packs of graham cookies for the children.  When I expressed my surprise, they said something about “remembering certain customers.” In my mind I can see the employees at the farm supply store and the feed mill nodding in agreement.

I’m not perfect and my conscience often reminds me of this fact.  But this summer the children starting becoming my second conscience.

“Dad, what is the speed limit?”

“Well, 55.”

“How fast are we going?”

“Well, uh, 60.”

“Dad are we speeding?”

Or when I try to sneak a few cough drops to take along to work, the twins will see me and say “NO Dad! NO Dad!”, and my cover is blown.  They are banned from dealing in cough drops right now, and view my grab as crossing a moral line.

To say the summer has been completely bad isn’t fair either.  We played kickball, me on one team against Brad, Alyssa and David.  It’s been the first time I truly enjoyed a game with them. Brad is showing the competitive streak he gets from his mother (wink, wink), crying when he loses a hard-fought game.

When I mow lawn the children listen for the sound of the mower deck shutting down.  They come running in all directions and I have happy memories of driving around the circle drive with five children and me on the mower on our way to putting it back in the shed.

There are also encouraging signs we might actually be entering the peaceful shallows of the middle years of parenting people talk about. One day this summer Priscilla took Brad to pick strawberries at Grandpa’s.  She left him there for an hour and when she came back he had picked almost four pails.  Then she and the children processed the berries for the freezer.  They hung in there and got it done.

Recently Alyssa stayed up until about 9 pm helping Priscilla. Alyssa has endless energy and gladly folded a basket of laundry then put it all away.  Really they all are good workers.  It’s something we don’t think about as often as we should.

We also forget to count our blessings. A lady at work has a daughter who has two children with disabilities. They need therapy and extra care, and even with that, may never grow up to be “normal” adults. Our children are all healthy. We have no excuse for any attitude but humble thankfulness.

There are also early indications that twins can be more than double the good too.  Recently I saw one helping the other take his shoes off when we got home from church.  You don’t get that kind of self-sufficiency when you raise singles.

We’ve learned a few things too.  Like keeping at least one empty bed available for children to sleep in after they have peed their first bed.  The second stage to that though is a child can effectively find himself switched to a new bed, as the days go by without the mother having time or energy to put new sheets on the first bed.  It’s still a good parenting tip, though.

You learn things you never thought you would have to learn.  The other evening I was away and Priscilla needed to help Brad and David with the chores.  The twins were hyper and hungry and she knew they would mow through whatever food she gave them before she would be back in from chores.  She suddenly thought of frozen blueberries and told Alyssa to feed them some of those, hoping that would slow them down until she got back.  That’s a mother from the trenches of motherhood right there…predicting a problem only a mother in those shoes could see and having a solution.

We are learning, but folks, we aren’t there yet.  If all the children were as serene as Violet we could write a nice book about effective parenting.  But let’s just say under the present circumstances there will be no book.

I’m reminded of a recent evening when we were deciding who would do chores, who would help in the kitchen and who would mind the twins.  Priscilla with a slightly desperate tone in her voice said, “whoever takes care of the twins can have half the kingdom”.

The summer of 2016.  If ten years from now someone uses that phrase and we flinch like someone in the dentist chair who hears the drill start, just bear with us.  If you can still flinch after ten years, it means you are alive and by the grace of God you have survived another stage of life.


 

4 thoughts on “Summer of 2016, Part Two”

  1. Scott, I laughed much more than is appropriate while reading this.
    May God’s richest blessings be yours – and keep writing: It encourages the rest of us more than you know.

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