Mother of many: Q & A

December 11th, 2012

Youngest son and oldest son~

 

Question:  How are you feeling and when are you due?

Answer:  In the mercy of God, this has been one of the more boring pregnancies I’ve experienced, and in my midwife’s opinion, when it comes to pregnancy, boring is good!

We’re just now seeing my pregnant state slow me down a little, but I can still run up the stairs, so I’m not an elderly matron yet, right?

Baby boy is due right near the end of April or beginning of May.  Yesterday was the halfway mark–twenty weeks.

The best part of pregnancy is always the nudges and thumps of new life inside me. From the first moment I knew I was a mother, I’ve loved everything about being pregnant and giving birth, but I am taking it less for granted and am more awed by this privilege now than I was in my thirties, or in my twenties.

 

Question: What are your best tips for managing your home and raising your noisy, messy kids in a smaller-than-average house?

Answer:  Did you say noisy, messy kids?  Hey, you must have visited us on a typical day!

Here are a few random thoughts, not intended to be an exhaustive list…

~First off, I am not supermom and do not possess anything approaching supermom skills, although I have wished for them at times.  I’m confident that you would not be impressed by any superwoman feats of strength, efficiency or organization if you came and observed us in person.  You would see a very real family made up of lots of very real people, each with their individual strengths and weaknesses.  You’d see parents who are still learning as they go along.

If you weren’t used to hanging around big families, at times you might feel like you were caught inside the constant motion of a kaleidoscope.  Often you might be surprised by how quiet our house can be with this many people in it.  You’d undoubtedly see us doing things differently than you do them as well as noticing areas that could be improved.

~Managing the home in a smaller house?  I love it.  The most challenging side to this is not the size of the house, it’s the fact that it wasn’t laid out to be efficient for the needs of a large family.  So we have exercised creativity where possible and contentment where necessary.

~We continually simplify in so many ways that have become such a part of life that it would be impossible to think of them all or list them here.

For instance, for years, none of our children over the age of babyhood have worn pajamas at night except after baths on Saturday night before putting on good clothes on Sunday morning.  Instead, they change into the next day’s clean clothes each night before going to bed, showering if necessary.

~Part of my job is to continually evaluate whether the items we have are worth the space and trouble they take, and whether we need other items that will work harder and longer for us in less space.

An example of this is that we use heavy cotton sleeping bags as covers for our boys’ beds rather than purchasing separate lighter covers and blankets and then storing sleeping bags for most of the year without using them.  We take the sleeping bags to the laundromat about twice a year.  This plan has worked well for us for a good long time.

~I am continually sorting and tidying as I walk through the house.  I don’t think I ever walk up or down the stairs without carrying a pile of items that need to be put away on the next floor.  This is such a part of life I don’t need to think about it; it’s automatic.

~Good or bad, I don’t function efficiently in untidy surroundings.  It’s preferable to have the house ready for the next day when we go to bed at night, but when this is impossible, we take the necessary time in the morning to put things in order before commencing with school work.  A small house requires us to keep chores done and rooms tidy in order to have usable living space.

~As you might guess, most things have to be written on a list or calendar in order to be remembered.  [Sending out a sincere blanket apology here if I have forgotten to write you a thank you note or send you a recipe or answer a question!  I know I let the ball drop sometimes and it is not intentional!  Please always feel free to bug me about it!]

~We now have two washers and two gas dryers, and recently installed a dishwasher.  This is enabling the household to run more like it did when we had half the family members we do now.  Two additional benefits to the dishwasher are a little added counter surface and much less water output.  Never fear, there is still plenty of work to go all around.

~Four little boys growing up together are a peer group and need to be kept supervised.  We try to avoid giving them freedom that they aren’t yet ready to handle wisely and to be directive about where they are and what they’re doing.

~We strictly limit the number and type of toys that we have.  We favor high-quality toys that foster creativity, especially select building sets, and other activities that use simple everyday materials.  We have lots of excellent books.  We always have art and craft materials available.  We also try to involve the younger ones in what we older ones are doing whenever possible.

~This small house on three mostly wooded acres with a barn is ideal for us.  A small house is more quickly tidied and cleaned, it’s easier to keep track of where everyone is and what they’re doing than it would be in a much larger house, and the outdoors offers plenty of space for being active.

~We do not subscribe to a rigid, clock-driven schedule.  We do have a predictable pattern to our days and weeks.  I say that, but understand that no two days are alike.  With this many people and variables, there is always something to lend uniqueness to each day, like the thirteen birthdays we celebrate each year.

 

~We spend most Sundays with our church fellowship.  We have a date night, a reading night, and a family night each week, with some flexibility, especially as our older children have more outside plans.  On reading night, Joe and the children make a simple supper and I have the night “off” for planning, writing, and catching up with friends.  We’re adding a project night to each week, which leaves one free evening each week for other activities, such as having someone here for supper, or a recent Christmas tea Joseph and Daniel served and the older girls and I attended.

 

Project night will be used to work together to implement plans I’ve been making for repairing, streamlining, re-organizing, beautifying, or creating more space in preparation for adding two new children to our family.   Plans like installing extra shelves in closets or cabinets to take advantage of usable space or painting a bookshelf or the living room.

Aha!  An empty wall better used for storage space!  

Above the place where that little cart is and where the bassinet will sit, Joe’s planning to build and mount shallow wall shelving that goes up nearly to the stenciling, to be used with more lined baskets for baby’s things.  In a smaller space, I prefer the clean lines of closed storage solutions to open ones.

 

~Joe spends the bulk of every Saturday grocery shopping and running all the other errands it’s possible to put into a Saturday.  The six children from Laura down to Stephen take turns spending this entire day with Joe.  When he gets home, he plans out the children’s school schedules for the week and prints out their assignment sheets, which double as their school logs.  In order to save time, he reuses the same templates with minor changes for page numbers, etc.

~I try to spend Saturdays preparing all I can for the next week, working with the children on food preparation and extra chores and projects that cannot be delegated to the household help.  The goal is for very little food prep to happen during the school week.  We’re getting closer to this goal, but we’re not there yet!

~Since the beginning of August, we’ve had household help three or four days a week for 2 to 2 1/2 hours each day.  We plan to increase this after Tommy and the baby are here.  The household helpers come one at a time and do things like change the sheets on all the beds, do the ironing, clean the fridge, clean the oven and stove, etc.  This is necessary as our older boys are moving toward more independent lives and we are adding more dependent children.  We also pay Laura a weekly sum for folding the family laundry.

~We usually have nine therapy sessions in our home each month.  I typically schedule two or three therapies on a given day to free up more afternoons.

 

Question:  With so many kids how do you find the time to spend so much of it with Katie, especially being her only caretaker?

Answer:  I’m not the only one who cares for Katie now.  That transitional stage of adoption is temporary; for us it lasted several months.  She is integrated into our entire family now.  I am not the only one in our immediate family to hold her, kiss and hug her, bathe and dress her, talk with her, feed her, play with her, instruct her, encourage her to crawl up one more step, praise her for some accomplishment, or carry her to her highchair or to the van and fasten her into her seat.  With the exception of time spent on therapy goals, much of which fits naturally into daily life routines, caring for Katie is like caring for a very sweet nine or ten month old who weighs thirty-four pounds and uses a toilet.

Also, I used to wonder what people meant when they said that their child with special needs helped them to see what was most important in life.  Now I understand what that means, for our family, anyway.

It’s impossible for us to do everything we used to do, or do what we see many others doing.  So we are forced to choose, and in our deliberate choosing, we desire to choose what is truly lasting and valuable–God and His Word, other people.  If it doesn’t serve the end of loving God with all our hearts and loving other people as ourselves, is it worth spending time on?

So there are many things I don’t do in order to live the life God has called me to, and there is so much satisfaction in living this way that I don’t miss them.  I can’t describe the swell of joy within me just watching Verity’s antics or seeing Katie make kisses when Daddy comes walking in the door at night.

 

Question:  What will happen to all Katie’s one on one time with you when Tommy comes home?

Answer:  We continue to make necessary one-on-one time for all our other children when a new child enters the family.  It requires more planning than it used to, but it is certainly not impossible and it is very worth it!

Our life is a busy one, but except for the two members who work outside the home full time, we are nearly always together.  I am here in the heart of the family, accessible to my children, nearly all the time.  I would find it heart-wrenchingly difficult to either be gone from the home myself or to send the children elsewhere for a majority of the time.

We connect more easily with our younger children during the day and with our older children after the younger children are in bed for the night.

 

Comment:  I just wanted to thank you for writing out your explanation about pottying Katie. It blessed me so much. Here’s why:

As much as you have written about your own struggles with being Christlike and the journey that you’re on to be more like Him, I have held you up to myself as some kind of “close to perfection” mother. I’ve imagined that most undesirable things wouldn’t bother you, at least not much. When I read the word “hard” and the word “loathsome” about some pottying issues, it was such a comfort to me.

Anyway, your testimony blessed me. Just knowing that someone I really look up to still sees that task as hard made me feel better. I guess somehow I must’ve thought that if I were more godly or closer to the Lord, I wouldn’t abhor it anymore.

I hope you haven’t gotten any bad comments for sharing that part. And I thought you wrote about it as tastefully as anyone could.

Reply:  Nope!  No bad comments!  I truly have the best blog readers ever, and rarely get ugly comments.

Up until recently, the hardest part of our journey has been the heavy responsibility of writing and advocating that God has added to my wifely and motherly duties.  If I didn’t have that constant weight on my shoulders, and if we were comfortably anonymous as we used to be, we wouldn’t consider life with Katie to be difficult, with the understanding we had beforehand of what this life involves, with the support He has sent us as we have needed it, and with the certain and satisfying knowledge that this is our calling from Him.  He sends me encouragement to hang in there with the blogging when I am either so busy or so discouraged that I feel like I just cannot keep it up.

It seems like the more open we become to Him, the more responsibilities He gives us, and the more impossible it is for us to manage without Him.

My parents prepared me for a grown-up life that was made out of hard work.  They reared me to expect grown-up Christian life to be a life of sacrifice.  They reared me to feel uncomfortable if life gets too comfortable.  So I don’t consider that something is wrong and needs to be fixed if my life involves hard work, sacrifice, or discomfort.  Hard is not the same thing as bad.

 

Question:  How do you stay so positive?  Sometimes I get overwhelmed and discouraged with all my responsibilities.

Answer:  I do go through low times, like many people do.  It’s just rare for me to write about it until after it’s all been processed through the truth mill.  Recently I went through a dark time for many reasons that converged all at once.

So I guess my answer would be that I need regular, heavy doses of the straight truth of the Word in order to have joy in the midst of the struggles and failures of life.

A commenter above described kids as messy; I’d describe real life lived in relationship with real people as messy.  Realness in relationships will involve inconvenience, stretching, even pain.  It is never easy.  Never obvious.  Never simple.

I remember as if it happened yesterday when it first hit me that the job God gave me to do is actually impossible.  We had five young children at the time.  I don’t mean logistically impossible to manage the outer details of life with perfection, I mean impossible for me to do that while excellently teaching my children and keeping my own mistakes from affecting their lives.  That realization, that God gave me an impossible task and He would accomplish it through me as I trusted and obeyed Him, has continued to be tremendously freeing for me.

Before we had children, my idealistic vision was that we would figure out the rules or formula to know how to guide each child in the way God designed them to go.  I looked for authors who seemed to have been successful in rearing children who were walking with the Lord, so I could maybe put the same coins into the soda machine and get the same results they did.  I didn’t realize that was my perspective, but I can see it now.

The older I get, the more aware I am of just how man-centered that thinking is, and how little ultimate control we have over who our children are and become.  The best efforts we make for our children are shot through with flaws.  Our ultimate hope must not be in ourselves and in how much perfection we can muster up, but in Christ and Christ alone.

The older we get, the more amazed we are when we see the good that God works in our children’s hearts, and the more grateful we are for His mercy.

 

Bonus miscellany:  For years, I’ve thought that the beginning of May would be the absolute optimal time to have a baby.  Why?  The pregnancy would completely skip the hot weather.  The baby would be born just as we finish school for the year.  No snowsuits and other wraps necessary.  Ahhhh.  But it just never happened that way.  So God’s irony in the timing of this baby was not lost on me.  “You’ve always said you wanted a baby at the beginning of May.  How about 2013?”

I also find it humorous that I will never know if the gray hairs I find nowadays are from being forty years old, from adopting while pregnant, or from my challenging pre-teens and teenagers!

We found out that this baby was on the way the same day we officially began the home study process.  We didn’t know until later that I was already a little past nine weeks along.

During the time I was pregnant and didn’t know it, I went on record as making the following statements, “This adoption seems to be coming together too easily so far contrasted with Katie’s adoption.  It seems like something has to come up,” and “No, I’m not pregnant.  I don’t think I’m even fertile right now.”  *blush*

The very best reaction I received to the news that I’m pregnant was from one of our household helpers.  I told her early on, because she got the task of ironing my maternity clothes.  As soon as she heard the word, “pregnant,” her whole face just lit up!  I laughed and told her I was unsure of what her reaction would be, since she knows we’re also adding Tommy to the family,  and she observes us during the most jam-packed time of our day, when a lot has to happen all at once.  Her response?  “Oh, you’ll manage.  You’re managing just fine now, and you’ll figure out how to make it work.”  Priceless words!

I’m learning to work hard on the outside while resting in God on the inside.

“A little Child, thou art our Guest,
That weary ones in thee may rest;
Forlorn and lonely is thy birth,
That we may rise to heav’n from earth.”
~Martin Luther

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It’s late on Sunday afternoon, close to suppertime, and the group is breaking up to head over to the home of one of the church families.  We’ve spent the whole day together.

One of my friends [Becky, of Tommy candle fame!] mentions that several of the women are going for coffee, and would I like to come along?

Like to?!  I would love to!!

I turn to ask Joe what he thinks.  On Sundays, we do all we can to give our older children a complete break.  If I accepted Becky’s invitation, I’d get a break and they would share in the work of feeding and caring for the two little girls instead of doing something fun with their friends.

Laura is standing right there.  She says with immediate enthusiasm, “I can take care of Verity!”

Joe heads out the door to ask Daniel for his opinion, and is back in again almost immediately.  “Yes!”

“Daniel said yes?”  I hesitate, still unsure, and in that moment, Daniel himself strides into the room.

“Daniel, are you sure?  It will cramp your style.”

Breezily, without missing a beat…

“It is my style!”

 

Dan the man~

 

 

 

 

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47 Responses to “Mother of many: Q & A”

  1. Sarah G says:

    As always, I love reading your writings about your family. Whether God blesses us with 2 children or with 10, I want our hearts to be set on what is eternal, though I feel I fail so miserably at that! I often selfishly crave more of “my own” time, even though I know my time is God’s to be used for his purposes. Your story about how much must be arranged before you can go out for coffee was so humbling. I think your children have learned more about giving sacrificially at their younger ages than I have as an adult. I know he who has begun a good work in me is faithful to complete it though, so I won’t be discouraged yet : ) Thank you again for sharing all of this.

  2. Psalm127Mommy says:

    What can I say?  Wow – what an encouragement – God knew I needed this! Thank you!

  3. Carol says:

    Tears in my eyes reading this, Susanna. You and your family are such an encouragement to me. Thank you!

  4. Corrie says:

    You are blessed and a blessing! Prayers for your son and his friend as the seek God’s will for their lives. :)

  5. LisaL says:

    Congratulations on your newest little boy, Susanna!!  Such a blessing!!  Thanks for sharing this post, too!  I have only three children (and don’t homeschool) and can’t imagine how you are able to get so much done!  Struggling with my chronic medical conditions don’t help, either!  I just wanted to let you know that I think about and pray for your family often.  I wish that I lived closer so that we could meet in person.  I have been drawn to children with special needs (especially significant delays) for many years and am so inspired by your adoptions.  I would love to be able to adopt one of the precious children you share about and know that in time God will open the doors for us.  My 9 year old will tell people that we are going to adopt “a girl from an orphanage.”  She can’t wait either!!  If you have a chance – could you pray for us – that our situation will improve so that we will be able to qualify to bring our little angel home?  We know that with God all things are possible!!  Much love!!

  6. Shana says:

    You’re my go-to for questions this week. :)  What kind of high chair do you have, and would you recommend it?  It looks like maybe the Peg Perego Tatamia?  

    We are looking for the right high chair that could take the place of a bouncy seat and infant swing, both of which our son is growing out of.  Our son will be two in March, weighs about 21 pounds, and currently doesn’t have head control, so is very much like a 3-month old.  We want a high chair that can basically be his “chair” around the house, and that he won’t grow out of weight-wise too soon.   

  7. Mary Winslow says:

    Howdy Susannah,
    Thank you sooooo much for sharing in such great detail and depth about your day to day life! We, too, live in a small cape. I LOVE your ideas about shelving and storage and simplicity and minimizing! That’s my goal for sure! We’ve come a long way toward it, but need to do so much more before our kiddos come home hopefully soon in 2013! I treasure this post! Thanks for giving us all a peek into your life!

  8. Denise says:

    What can I say?  I am so very thankful the Lord has brought us together.
    you are such an encouragment to me…. even if we only see each other 1-2x a year.
    I have been in your home, it is calm , peaceful, simple and I love it.   It is a welcoming testimony of the PEACE that the Lord has given your family.

    I too always love hearing details of how your life is unfolding.  THANK YOU for taking the time to share.    

  9. Mandy says:

    Yes, an encouragement! I love hearing how you make it work with a large family in a small home-gives me something to work towards as I have a long way to go to get as organized as I need to be with our growing family and be able to focus on what’s important daily. Thank you for giving us another window into your family :) 

    How exciting to be nearing another stage in life also with your oldest son!  

  10. Melanie says:

    Hi Susanna! I’ve followed your blog off and on for the past year. We’ve prayed for your little Katie and for your family, and I wanted you to know how many times I have been encouraged by your writing! Thank you for sharing your heart, honestly and openly!

    Our family is a good bit smaller than yours, but I very much know what it feels like to be pregnant and adopting all at the same time!!! This summer the Lord added two little girls to our family of 4 little boys. At the time, our boys were 1, 4, 5, & 6! Our first little girl was born in June and 2 months later, we brought Sophi home from Bulgaria. Sophi is 6 years old and the size of a 3 year old and developmentally at the level of a 1 year old. I must say that it has definitely been one of the MOST STRETCHING times of my life, in more ways than one! :) Gray hairs and all, the Lord has been so merciful to me! I understand exactly what you mean about the Lord giving you an “impossible” task. He has also taught me that I cannot do this, but HE can! I’ve thought about this quote many times recently… “Lord, command what You will, and give what You command.” ~St. Augustine 

    I have absolutely no doubt that the Lord’s timing was exactly JUST RIGHT when I got pregnant 3 months into our adoption. The Lord worked out every detail, and as I look back, I see more and more His hand and His provision. Everything from moving the hearts of our adoption agency to allow us to continue with Sophi’s adoption to the delays that we experienced in finally bringing Sophi home. My hope was to have her home before I had the baby, but the Lord had other plans. We ended up traveling on our first trip when i was 26(ish) weeks and after a few delays with court, we went back 2 months after our little girl was born! Again, the Lord’s timing was perfect, and I’m so thankful that He is the One writing the story, and not me! God’s plan IS always best, isn’t it?!!! 

    Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I am praying for you now. Praying the Lord will give you strength and patience. Praying that you will be able to rest in God’s perfect timing with this adoption. Praying that you will continue having a smooth and easy pregnancy!

    Blessings to your family!

     

  11. cindy says:

    I’m so glad I dropped by the blog today.  I had missed your pregnancy announcement.  Praise the Lord for His great plans, your willingness and your health.  Just an amazing testimony to God of you and your family. 

  12. Lori says:

    Thank you for sharing photos of your beautiful home, as well as offering us (more than) a glimpse into your lives.  You are certainly an inspiration for me.  Thank you for blogging, and thank you for sharing.  You are touching the world much more than you know.

  13. bbcooker from momys (Sandi) says:

    A zillion thank-yous, Susanna, for sharing this!  I so appreciate you letting me peak into your home and how you do things.  I look up to you and thank you for this sharing.  It mentors me.  :)

  14. Lisa says:

    Thank you Susanna for taking the time to share these details about the nitty-gritty of big family life while sharing your heart at the same time.  And I guess it’s good to know now that the “learning as you go” isn’t something I’m likely to grow out of.  I want to welcome as many children as God sends into our family but sometimes I have my doubts.  Thanks for making large family + special needs seem very do-able and reminding me of God’s sufficient grace.

  15. Deanna says:

    This post was a fun read – like talking to you on a Sunday afternoon.

    We still want to help with the red wall – Tim and Joe talked about it at your house. 

    We really appreciate you and your kids – so thankful for all your imperfections….just like ours.  Daniel is pretty special too – he has a wonderful servants heart!

    God’s grace is flowing….

    Love you guys. 

  16. Lisa H. says:

    Susanna,
    Thank you so much for your extremely helpful post!  One more question:  Could you share your personal daily schedule, and especially how/when you spend time in God’s Word…
    Blessings to you!
     
    Lisa H.

  17. Linda says:

    Thanks from me too, for sharing so openly about your life, and for taking the time out of your extremely busy life to do so. 
    I was very touched to receive a “thank you” note from you after contributing to the chipin, goodness knows you have precious little time to yourself and you chose to send a personal note. Bless you and your lovely family. 

  18. JessicaD says:

    Susanna, I have seen you reference the lonely breastfeeding before and I am curious about it. I also am a very modest mama, but only in the presence of non-family men do I hide out while feeding little ones.  If it works best for you, I understand. BUt something along the way gave me the idea that maybe clothes were an issues. I have no memory where that came from so please don’t be insulted if I am way off base. 

  19. Katie says:

    You put words together so well.  I’ve had your blog open since you first posted about Zoey, to thank you for sharing her, but I typed and deleted comments over and over because I couldn’t find the right words to convey what your advocacy for her meant to me.  Then, as the Christmas season crept up on us, I thought of your family often, because it was almost exactly one year ago that seeing Katie’s picture for the first time opened my eyes to the plight of orphans with special needs around the world.  The words to tell you how immensely that changed my life just didn’t exist.  The words to express the greatness of God in orchestrating so many positive things following Katie’s adoption are not of this world.  So what could I say?  So in any case, this is me saying ‘something’.  LOL.  And I am so unbelievably glad that Zoey has a family!  I can’t wait to see her home and getting the love and attention she deserves!  

    Final little note – with CHOP nearby I imagine you have plenty of experts at your disposal, but if you have any car seat related issues when Tommy comes home, feel free to contact me.  I went to a national conference over the summer and got to actually see and touch and play with car seats that are designed for kids with special needs of all kinds, see all the different adaptations for issues that might arise with various needs, and learn more about how families in need of these seats can get them, so if you need anything on that front just let me know and I’ll put you in contact with the kind folks I met at Lifesavers.  (Yes, I realize that I am a nerd.  I accept this proudly.  :P)

    Bless you and your family and biggest congratulations on the baby and MERRY CHRISTMAS!! 

  20. Gina in Spain says:

    Thank you Susanna for this…it was an eye opener…LOVE LOVE LOVE reading about your family…

  21. Susanna says:

    JessicaD, nursing one baby is no big deal for me out in public with a blanket or nursing cover, but nursing the twins (tandem, a necessary timesaver) and double pumping with young men in the house was a different matter entirely. :) Does this make sense?

  22. Susanna says:

    Lisa H, my daily schedule is in flux right now as we brainstorm ways to get more sleep for the pregnant mama, but I can answer the second question readily–I have my Bible open on the bathroom counter and read and meditate on the Word during the private time I have to get ready for the day each morning. That’s the biggest chunk of time I can count on, but of course there are other times throughout the day to interact with Scriptural truth in other ways.

  23. Deborah says:

    As He has blessed you, you continue to be a great blessing to others, certainly including me! praying for you as always 

  24. Jessica says:

    Thank you for your beautiful writing Susanna!  I lurk your blog just about every day :)  My husband and I are still in the planning stages, but we would love to adopt a child, and in large part thanks to the confidence I’ve gotten from reading how your family has managed it.  I am also amazed that with such a big family your home is so nice and cozy.  I just have 3 little kids and you would think a tornado happened in our house every day ;)  Congratulations on your two new boys being added to your family!

  25. taraandfamily says:

    You’re amazing, I enjoy coming here and catching up with your adorable family (thanks for sharing)!
     

  26. cinnamon says:

    I love the pictures of your beautiful house and family.  I also enjoy these long, detailed q&a posts.

  27. Alynn says:

    I very much appreciate this entry.  It has given me some ideas, and some hope. 
    We have 8 children living in our home.  Two are adult, biological, and six are aged 4-9 and adopted.  I have inquired of our SW about completing another home study approving us for more than one child this time (We want to be open and prepared for whatever the Lord leads us to.)  We were told they would only approve us for one child, as our home is not large enough, and we have so many children already.  Our home is 2600 square feet.  I was discouraged.  When I know so many large families that have adopted many more children than I have, I know it is possible, but to see that your home is almost half the size of mine, and you are making it work, and have passed a home study!  Well, that has made me smile today. 
    Please pray we will find a sympathetic SW who understands and will approve us for whatever God wants us to do.
     

  28. Melissa C. says:

    Susanna, thank you for sharing about your home. It looks snug and warm and adorned with love.
    I have recently become the foster mother of one very active 18-month old boy, after laying aside increasingly invasive fertility treatment. He is at once my greatest joy and my biggest challenge! I remember you when this one child, who (so far as anyone can tell) does not have the challenges two (soon to be three!) of your children have, acts up and brings me to the end of my patience.
    I have been longing to reconnect with the Lord in quiet time since we were placed with him (at Christmas it will be 2 months), and I am encouraged to hear your take on quiet time. I often pray in the shower, since that’s about the only time I have to myself that I’m awake!
    More and more I see my foster son (who we are praying that God will open the doors for adoption) and think about Owen from Plvn, how the two of them might get along…I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be actively considering being the mother of two boys! God shapes our dreams so subtly; He lets us think they’re our idea =) God bless your family!

  29. Juliana K. says:

    Thank you so much for your update and pictures! It is such an encouragement and  helps me to know how to pray for your family! Please tell Laura and Daniel how blessed and encouraged I was in my own life by hearing about their loving and self-sacrificing response! It brought tears to my eyes because I desire to daily and moment by moment respond in the same way to the interruptions and extra tasks that come into my life! “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to Thy word”
    ~ Juliana

  30. Kendra says:

    Enjoyed you whole post immensely…the last part made me cry! Thanks Susanna for sharing. :)

  31. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for sharing, Susanna. As we think about significantly downsizing from our ridiculously huge house to something we can better afford, I like seeing how you make the smaller space work. But, I’ve got to ask… where do your children’s things go? When we did live in a smaller house, each child has a under bed bin that they kept their special possessions in, what kind of solution have you figured out?  And my continuing storage problems are games and school stuff. (Text books which aren’t currently in use and things like that.) That’s what I have difficulty wrapping my head around as I think about living in a smaller space.  Any ideas?

  32. Holly says:

    Susanna, you blessed me and encouraged me in some pretty large ways with this post.  I’m a mama of nine in a small house.  I’ve spent many years doing laundry in a half-dirt-floored basement myself.  I know how much work it takes to rearrange for an evening out.  Actually, come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time that happened!  :)   I found myself nodding throughout – things I could so relate to.  I’m humbled by, yet mentored by your words.  Thank you!

  33. Susanna says:

    Elizabeth, for storage we use every available solution we can squeeze out of or into our attic, our basement, and an uninsulated, tiny, ugly, awkwardly-shaped room we call the side porch that has morning glories growing charmingly into it in the summertime. We use all kinds of shelving, old bookshelves, old dressers, tons of plastic totes, and hooks for hanging. Most people we know would find our storage areas, um, not very nice at best. But they’re what we have to use so we use them. Maybe God will call some of our children to be missionaries in places where the storage areas are even more “not very nice,” hee hee.

    Depending on their ages, the children have totes (“Treasure Boxes”) on shelving in the basement. Periodically I encourage them to go through their totes and distinguish between trash and treasure, and put the trash where trash belongs. Some of the children have shelving at their bunkbed headboards. Some have a fabric-lined basket in their bedroom. Our third born son has a plant box and planting area in the basement and a bookshelf in his room full of his books about plants. I’m sure I’m not thinking of everything right now. :) A lot of it depends on the child’s age and interests and we just figure something out. We have six desks on the first floor, all of which are assigned or otherwise claimed. I try not to fuss too much about the older boys’ messy desks, since we don’t have much extra space, and just ask them to clean/straighten them every so often.

    It’s definitely one of those areas where I have had to relax, let go of more of my ugly, uptight human perfectionism, and accept God’s kind of perfect. :)

  34. Deborah says:

    This blessed my heart.

  35. hsmominmo says:

    Susanna, you are a blessing. You and your family. Thank you for this peek into your world. Though I do not have as many bodies in my home, and none that have special needs as some of yours do, I can appreciate so much of what you wrote. We have ‘olders’ and ‘youngers’ here and I’m still learning, as we are adding in-laws and grandchildren to the family. You have encouraged me greatly! Continuing to pray for adoption proceedings and pregnancy!

  36. Jen Lehr says:

    Susanna, I’d love to know where you’ve gotten all those beautiful baskets with liners that are on your closet shelves. They look very sturdy and yet beautifully simple. I’m semi-local (currently living in central PA but grew up in Chester Co. and still visit fairly often), so if you bought them at a store, I’d love to know where!

  37. Susanna says:

    Jen Lehr, at Michael’s and also A.C. Moore–waited until they were on sale. Otherwise they’re pricey. :)

  38. Michele says:

    I have come back to read this post 3 times because it is such a blessing….This part especially blessed me:

    “My parents prepared me for a grown-up life that was made out of hard work.  They reared me to expect grown-up Christian life to be a life of sacrifice.  They reared me to feel uncomfortable if life gets too comfortable.  So I don’t consider that something is wrong and needs to be fixed if my life involves hard work, sacrifice, or discomfort.  Hard is not the same thing as bad.”
     

  39. Rachel M says:

    Thank you so much for the glimpse into your family life! I loved it, you answered so many of the questions I have had in my mind to ask you for a while. All I can say is praise the Lord for the works He is doing through your family!

  40. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for answering my question, Susanna. I had a feeling that was probably what you did, but I have to say, even though you are using every available space, your house still looks so calm and uncluttered. Well done… it inspires me to go through a lot of our collected stuff and get rid of it. Having lived in both a very small house (2 bedrooms, four children) and a very large house, it is so much easier to get lazy in the large house and let things accumulate. 

  41. Shana says:

    Please take your time to answer, but was wondering if you saw my question about your high chair?

    Blessings,
    Shana 

  42. Susanna says:

    Thanks for reminding me, Shana! Your question was already buried and forgotten! Yes, it’s a Peg Perego Tatamia, and someone else purchased it for Katie during a good sale. We use it as a feeding or fine-motor-skills-playing chair most of the time, since she’s so mobile now, but we sometimes remove the tray and use it as a seat for her to watch us working in the kitchen. Knowing all it is able to do in one relatively small space, and knowing how well it’s held up here, yes, we’d recommend it. We haven’t compared it with other good seats, though. We used an old-fashioned wooden highchair for Joseph through Verity, until it broke and we purchased a cheap basic high chair for Verity and put supports around her as long as she needed them. I like that the Tatamia has the five point harness, as that is pretty much necessary for Katie’s daily use, although we make do elsewhere when we don’t have it! Hope this helps!

  43. Shana says:

    Thank you so much!  I know you are SO busy, and I appreciate you taking the time to answer. 

  44. Kim says:

    Wow, this is my favorite kind of post!  I love how you inspire us all to use our “huge houses” (in comparison) to make space for MORE CHILDREN! :)  This will get bookmarked!
    Thanks again,
    Kimberly

  45. Sarah L says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write out this post. I really enjoyed reading all of it it. When I got to this part – “I remember as if it happened yesterday when it first hit me that the job God gave me to do is actually impossible….” – I was especially blessed! Your words were so encouraging. I have 4 young children and have been feeling quite inadequate and overwhelmed.  

  46. Marilyn Osborn says:

    I loved this post.   I’ve been offline a lot and missed out on your announcement of a new baby.   Prayers, friend!   I’m excited for all He has in store for you this year.  :)

  47. Sara says:

    I really needed to read this post.  I had been feeling so down about having more kids in our little 1200 sf house.  Seeing how you make it work  inspires me and lifted my funk
    Praying for you and your growing family!

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