|Mom with Me - about 10 weeks before being Widowed|
Three years ago this week, my Mother entered Heaven. I miss her, but mostly I am filled with joy when I think of her.
My Mother was nothing short of amazing! In the course of her life she raised 8 kids -4 Boys, 4 Girls - some Adopted, some Foster, some Birth, some Grandkids. Sure, lots of people have done that! (including many bloggers I read). But, Mom was different. She was different from most other Moms of large families because she was suddenly widowed in her prime - when she had several young children at home (including a newborn, me). She also had profound health problems. But, she managed, with God's help, to raise a bunch of us!
She was a living testimony to 2 Corinthians 12:9: God's strength IS made perfect in weakness!
She was a living testimony to 2 Corinthians 12:9: God's strength IS made perfect in weakness!
Mom never kept a house that looked like a set on Martha Stewart, but she DID get the important things done.
Mom would have told you that her biggest priority was teaching her Children to be good Christians, and she spent countless hours obeying Deuteronomy 6:6-7, which she quoted frequently enough:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
As a devout Presbyterian, she also loved to quote the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
I doubt a day passed that she didn't read us some great passage she had found - frequently from the Bible, or a Christian reading of some kind. And, she sprinkled all her conversation with Spiritual insights. In addition to that, she was always willing to help others in need. She frequently would treat someone else to a dinner out (I suspect that often the "poor" she helped were better off than we were!), collected money for the disabled, or assisted someone in some way they needed.
It was before the days of homeschooling, but Mom had been a professional teacher, and many, many times took it upon herself to educate us in some way the schools did not. Truancy laws weren't as strict back then, and I remember her taking her kids from classes frequently to do things like: watching a court trial, helping a sick relative, hearing a presidential candidate's speech, or watching the elephants put up the tents when the circus came to town!
Needless to say, this post doesn't cover all of Mom's amazing-ness, but a few of the many memories that come to mind are here.
She also had a few everyday methods that made it possible to run a household without a spouse there to help:
Asking for help from the kidsWhen Mom was first widowed, she called my older sisters together and asked them for their help in raising me. I was a newborn at that time. They all did - and did to a remarkable extent. I've always said that if there were two pieces of cake, any of my sisters would have given me the bigger piece! THANKS, SISTERS! : )
She trained us to help with many practical things that had to be done: laundry, vacuuming, food prep work, installing sump pumps, inflating tires on the car, scraping frost in winter, bringing in wood for the fire, taking out the trash, etc. Not only did that help her - it helped US!
Packing for tripsMom very seldom planned a trip, she often spontaneously went on the same day she decided to go! Most of our trips were to visit our Grandparents, who lived a few hours away (and in times of illness sometimes needed us to get there quickly), but some of our trips were more exotic. This is how Mom did it: She gave each of us a carry-on sized suitcase, and told us to open it on our beds. Then, she would go open her suitcase on her bed. Her policy was that four outfits should go on a trip - period. No matter where we were going, or for how long - it was four outfits! One Church outfit, three everyday outfits. She told us to pack our clothes whether they were dirty or clean (with a preference for clean, of course!) - and if needed we'd do laundry at our destination. Then, as she packed her suitcase, she would call out to us to put the same items in our suitcases. "Everyone, put three everyday shirts in your suitcases!" "Put in one Church shirt" "Put in your Church shoes!" "Okay, now pack your toothbrush!" and so on. When everyone was done, she'd do a walk around and inspect, then we'd zip up and go! Not only did she save herself a lot of work that way, but she also apprenticed us to be good grown-ups.
Color codingMom color-coded some of the things in our house. In the kitchen and in the bathroom, there was a row of drinking glasses, and we each had our own color. Any time we wanted a glass of water, we could help ourselves, then return the glass to its spot in the row. She also color coded things like photo albums - we each had our own. She didn't color-code towels, as she felt that was less efficient. In every color-coded system, we always had the same color. I was purple.
The Dot System:I've heard two ideas for laundry identification repeatedly: 1) Write the size inside the item - which is fine as long as you have the constantly changing chart of everyone's sizes memorized. and 2) Write the name of the owner in the item - which is fine till you have a hand-me-down. What do you do then, cross out one name, and write in another? Then, the third time the same thing is passed down, what do you do? Mom's system was much better. She used a system of dots written on with a laundry marker pen. Each family member was assigned a number in order of age - oldest to youngest. Mom was 1, Oldest child was 2, Second child was 3, etc. Then, you could expect to find a configuration of dots inside each clothing item, by the tag (or on the sole of socks). As the item was passed down each time, one more dot was added. I was 6 - my configuration of dots looked like the "6" on dominoes :::
The Towel System:Mom didn't color-code our towels, instead, she installed enough towel bars that we each had an official, labeled spot for our towel. She also installed bedroom towel rods, so that we could wrap up in our bath towel and walk to our room to dress, hanging our towel in our room. (We had one bathroom for a moderately large family - dressing in the bathroom was not practical. Also, for many years we were an all-girl household, so modesty inside the house was less of an issue than it might have otherwise been)
The Voting System:Mom cared about our opinions! She let each one of us vote, and have our say frequently on things like what restaurant to go to when we went out, or what T.V. show to watch (we had to agree on 2 hours total screen time per week when I was little!) But, she always had the majority vote (rather like a majority stock holder in a corporation). We could all vote first - we each got one vote - and she'd see what our preference was - then she'd cast her VOTES - all of them - and determine the outcome. That way, she knew what we felt and took it into consideration - but she wasn't ruled by it.
Hairbrushing ChainWhen you're raising 4 little girls - that's a lot of hair to get done to leave the house! Mom would put us in a line, oldest to youngest, and have us each do the hair of the person in front of us. In the time she could do my oldest sister's hair, we were all done. She said she had read the trick in a book somewhere : ) (I don't think this works with teen girls, only younger ones)
She DIDN'T "Choose her Battles"Mom believed that the parents should lead the family. If she said it, it was law. She thought that anarchy was a dangerous slippery slope with children - and that failing to enforce her own rules would weaken her authority, making it even more difficult to manage children by herself. There was never a "Well, it's not important if you're disobedient, as long as the rule I made isn't that important to me." (how does a kid figure that out - except by breaking all the rules?) Obedience was important, and not negotiable. But, she was also amazingly permissive about some things - she often quoted a friend who said, "You should always say "yes" to your children unless there's some good reason to say no." So, our freedom came in not having as many frivolous rules to obey, rather than in being allowed to disobey on "small battles."
The Lord's DayMy Grandparents had always strictly observed the Lord's Day. Not only did they not work on that day, but they would not engage in business that required others to work (except for acts of necessity or mercy). They did not go to restaurants, listen to the radio, shop, or get the newspaper on the Lord's Day. Mom was not as strict as her parents had been, but she still rested and insisted that we all rest on Sunday. After Church and lunch, we all lay down on Sunday afternoons to rest. Mom slept, and those of us who could sleep would also nap. If we were unable to sleep, we were to stay in our beds doing some sort of Christian reading. During the rest of the day, we were forbidden to use the day inappropriately. That meant no homework on Sunday evenings! We had to learn to plan our work do be done during the week, and not procrastinate till Sunday night. No sports in any organization that played or practiced on Sunday. No playing outdoors or doing yardwork on Sundays, either. I really think that this weekly habit of rest, in obedience to the 4th Commandment, is what saved my Mother's health & sanity when she had such a huge burden on her shoulders - and it was tremendously beneficial for us kids, too. When you have to "do it all yourself" it is SO easy to think that you have to work 24/7. But, she believed that Scriptures mandated rest as an act of Faith - that God WOULD help us if we didn't insist on being the powerful one and acting as if the world was on our shoulders. She rested in her demonstration of her dependence upon God.
May Her Memory Be Eternal!
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