Play parties: When large families have friends over

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Oh the chaos. Oh the noise.  This mumma duck is still getting used to the size of her family.

We had a play date today.  Can you call it a play date when you already have so many kids? I think not. I’m officially renaming play dates in our family, Play Parties! Seriously, you add an extra child or two to my five kids and there is so much extra noise, chaos, and fun, it feels like a kids party.  When the friends left this afternoon, I needed a nap.

I’m having fun wading through the big family waters, although I know especially in the Middle East, 5 kids isn’t really that big.  As a teacher, 5 kids is manageable, but for me, it’s the noise that kills me.  Some days, I wonder whether I’m the one with Sensory Processing Disorder, and not my child. The excessive amounts of noise coming from kids with shocking volume control makes me stressed! It makes me want to hide in a corner with my hands over my ears and rock.  Yes, yes, it does.  This is one of the big skills I am still to learn as a mum of lots of kids, how do I stop the noise from causing stress? It’s not fair on the kids that I get stressed and grumpy with them.  They didn’t choose to have a big family so it’s no way fair to get cross with them.  As part of my new year (as mentioned in my previous post), I’m trying really hard to have a heart of gratitude. I want to find more joy this year and to do this I’m working hard in having gratitude in every moment. Having thankfulness in all situations, is changing my attitude and renewing my joy every day.  I guess this is why I’m feeling so proud of my big tribe.  I’ve been working through the things that are stressing me out, and finding joy in those moments.  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). I love the book of James, but I was finding it way too challenging to find joy in tough situations that would arise.  By focussing on gratitude and looking for the positive in challenging moments, I’m having way more success. For instance, rather than getting down and frustrated at the noise, I try to smile and thank God for my awesome tribe of mini Thorpes, or the particular clown causing the chaos.  I find I smile more and frown less throughout my days. Nobody is perfect, so there will be days that I forget to try and find gratitude, and end up in a stressed, frazzled mess.  For those days, I think I need ear plugs!

Does the noise of your large family cause you stress or is it just me?

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Tornado Max: Embracing the storm

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I wake each day wondering what the weather will be like in our house.  We have a particular little person who is the weather man in our house.  For reasons beyond our predictability, he will wake angry at everything and everyone, defying EVERY single request, or he may wake peaceful.  Even he doesn’t know why the weather is the way it is. But, one thing is for sure, the second you know it’s a stormy day with a chance of tornados, you have to embrace yourself, put on your armor of God, yes, but also equip yourselves with your storm gear, or else the tornado will whip through the house leaving nothing but debris and emotionally exhausted people.  I try and stand strong but sometimes I get swept up in the tornado and spat out once it’s done.

When I write it down, the reality of the intensity of our day to day life living with an emotionally unstable and intense kiddo is apparent.  The hard part is, when the storm is raging and the tornados are coming, I know this isn’t my kid.  The anger, aggression and defiance is not the child I gave birth to.  This is the extremely frustrating part. It’s devistating. I don’t get the super calm, chilled, summer vacation kind of weather in our home often, but when I do, it’s divine.  It makes me teary because I get to see a glimpse of my actual son. Unfortunately it only comes a few times every three months or so.

There are a few things that I’m doing to try and help him with some success which I’d like to share in hope they might also give anyone experiencing our challenges with some tools to use:

Detox that stuff out 

Straight to a hot bath with Epsom Salts.  I put on some candles, an audio book and leave him be for about 30mins.  Goodness, maybe I should lock myself in the bathroom and give myself a calming bath too.  How good would that be?! With 5 kids, it’s something I can only dream of doing.

Supplements

We have started working with a Biomed doctor. She has really helped so far.  He is definitely slowly improving with her help. Citrate Mag and Zinc helps his farm to be more calm.

Emotional control

We use the Zones of Regulation for our son.  It’s a wonderful tool to teach children to recognise their emotions and how to get them to their calm, happy place.  They learn what each zone is like (ie, in the Red Zone my body is angry. My hands get sweaty, my words are loud).  They then decide on a few activities they can do to get out of that zone back into their calm and happy Green Zone.  This tool has been really helpful, especially in my husband and I having a common language to use with our son, and pre established activities that can be used when he is struggling in the red zone (the chart is on his wall for quick reference). I highly recommend this.

Diet

Histamines are his ANGRY foods.  Especially Cocoa, bananas, anything with starters like yoghurt or cheese, probiotics and tomatoes turn him into a beast. We have to watch his diet very carefully.

Exercise

Being out in nature without any boundaries or expectations help because to add to the fun, when the storm is about, oppostional defiance accompanies it.

Hugs

During the storm, aggressiveness and impulsivity kindly join us alongside the ODD.  We have a ‘no excuse for abuse’ rule in our house.  Whether it be a verbal or physical abuse incident, its consequence is timeout and making amends.  It’s important that he takes responsibility for his actions, even if he didn’t mean to.  But, there are some days he is struggling so much that when he is in the midst of a tornado, when asked ‘do you need a hug?’, it is usually met with a ‘yes’ and sob from both of us. We usually spend some time in prayer together at this point too.

It’s our heartbreaking reality.  I keep praying for my calm, happy guy to hang around more consistently. Our Biomed doc is giving me hope this may just be around the corner. I sure hope so, as it’s this kind of hope that keeps me going.


Happy New Year: Pressing stop and restarting the year.

I don’t normally write the title first, but as I was reaching for my IPad to write this post, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the year ahead.  It indeed feels like a new year.

The past 18mths has been the hardest yet of my expat adventures.  I thought leaving behind Jerusalem was a brilliant idea.  It was.  Living in Jordan has been like a vacation in terms of the change of countries.  We definitely left behind intensity, insecurity and uncertainty in our day to day living, for a place of peace and hospitality.  But I also left behind some very dear friends who I miss so much.  I didn’t really take into account having to make new friendships and a new life.  Not sure why I didn’t, but I didn’t.  With a hardworking husband travelling most of this year for work, it has left me utterly burnt out.  Trying to homeschool an extremely defiant, aggressive kid whilst taming my awesome toddler and other two lads, whilst pregnant, had drained my inner being.  What’s worst? I haven’t made a close nit group of friends.  To be honest, trying to homeschool and just survive, I haven’t had a huge opportunity to get out there and make friends.  This made me feel pretty lonely and down at some points and resentful of husband at times, even if he was going out for work dinners.  I wanted in too!

It’s nice being able to type this in reflective mode, knowing that a massive change is coming through, hence the beginning of a new year, or new season.  I feel light, enthusiastic and happy.  My homeschooler has gotten a place in our top school of choice.  He is sooo happy there, in fact, thriving.  Homeschooling him was an important time.  It was a time of growth for him, particularly in his love for learning, and confidence as a learner.  It’s nice to be able to send him back off into the world knowing that he is thriving.   Considering school used to be a high stress point for him. This homeschooling time wasn’t light and fluffy though, oh no, no, it wasn’t.  Trying to teach a defiant child was sometimes like hell.  I had many inward and outward tantrums, many of which I’m not proud of.  But, some of the battles he put up were beyond ridiculous!  Homeschooling really did put a strain on our relationship.  We needed the space from each other, it was way too intense. School is the perfect breath of fresh air that we needed.

Anyway, we have a newborn in the house again.  Three kids have started back at school and a toddler at home. The world is my oyster, so they say.  I’ve started arranging play dates, Bible Study, and in a few months will begin playing sport again.  I’m thrilled to have a piece of me back that was missing for so long.  Not to mention, my hardworking husband has got a new position which has barely any travel too.  See why I call this a new year?  It sure feels like it. It’s time to thrive rather than barely survive.  It’s time to laugh and smile again, rather than frown and cry.  It’s time to press ‘go’, moving forward to a place of joy and contentment with where we are and where we are going in God’s grand plan.

Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem

I love Christmas.  I especially love it now we have kids.  Preparing the house and our hearts during Advent brings much joy and excitement.  But each year there is the challenge to focus on the real meaning of Christmas and not get caught up on other worldly symbols of Christmas.  We took the opportunity to buy a Nativity scene from Bethlehem made out of olive wood seeing Bethlehem is just down the road.  We love it.   It has taken central focus in our house.  As a trial for this Christmas, we have sent Mary and Joseph on a journey to Bethlehem.  During the night they get up to all sorts of mischief while the kids are sleeping.  When the children awake, they hunt to find Mary and Joseph and see what they got up to last night.  The idea is inspired by ‘The Elf on the Shelf’ and ‘Dinovember’.  I wanted to use the Elf of the Shelf, but put a Christian spin on it.  As a result, every morning the children are talking about Mary and Joseph, Bethlehem and the Nativity scene.  I feel like mission has been accomplished.  I’m hoping I don’t run out of ideas.  We attempted using a chocolate advent calendar.  This has been disasterous causing all sorts of fights and arguments.  We have gotten rid of it as it was giving the wrong meaning of Christmas (chocolate and fighting).  I’ll attempt to make one for next year.  How are you keeping Christmas ‘real’?  Below are photos from the journey so far. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.  Excuse the poor quality of pictures, the night lighting doesn’t work too well with the Iphone camera.