by Kerry Costanzo
Ah, the sights and sounds of winter in a small house with seven children, one of whom was born a month ago and has found that she really likes to be held—and nursed—a lot. Robert Frost’s poem comes to mind, “And miles to go before I sleep, /And miles to go before I sleep.”
God gave us the best Christmas gift this year in blessing us with a baby girl, Elizabeth, on December 5th. I must admit, though, that the postpartum exhaustion and emotional swings threw a bit of a “snowball” to my homeschooling.
Already behind in our schoolwork, now we are REALLY behind. I didn’t want to be this behind. . . I really didn’t. Yet, during those last months of pregnancy, the fatigue was so severe, and the couch was so inviting, and the coffee pot was so empty (I wasn’t drinking it during pregnancy). . . well, the homeschooling suffered.
Then, when I came home from the hospital, in addition to adjusting to our newest little blessing, there were the Christmas preparations: the plastic toys to purchase, some of which I knew would be broken within an hour of my energetic children opening them: the artificial tree to try to sandwich somewhere in our family room: the ornaments that chubby little hands would soon grab off the tree and toss around the house, adding to the pile of debris that I have to sweep several times a day.
I saw the school supplies and the pencils in our little classroom. They were beckoning to me to give them more attention. I knew they were there. . . I heard their call. . . we used them here and there. . . but there was just so much else that competed with them for my attention!
The Consolation of Music
My kids love music, and they especially love Christmas music. I purchased a CD this Christmas with classic singers like Bing Crosby and Judy Garland. Some songs were really upbeat (I especially liked “It’s a Marshmallow World”), some more somber. . . kind of like my varying moods during these postpartum weeks.
The kids played it and other Christmas CDs a lot, and the music served as a not-so-quiet background accompaniment when Mommy was nursing the baby. . . and trying to wrap Christmas presents. . . and nursing the baby. . . and making runs to the store to Christmas shop. . . and nursing the baby. . .and assembling Christmas toys. . . and nursing the baby.
Singers like Johnny Mathis and Bing and Judy were there with us through it all. They kept singing as kids were sent to time-out, as paper airplanes flew across the room, as we frantically searched for missing shoes before Divine Liturgy. You might say they became part of the family. They were a refreshing addition, especially since they didn’t talk back or refuse to eat their dinner or fight with their siblings.
Yet, sometimes they weren’t welcome, especially when the noise level of the children reached ten thousand decibels, and Mommy and Daddy had had enough. Other singers were there as well. . . Andy Williams. . . Peggy Lee. . . reminding us that Christmas is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” This is good to be reminded of when you have had three hours of sleep and are trying to escape to the store and can’t find your keys, or when your oldest son finally breaks the kitchen cabinet door by standing on it to reach something.
The Most Wonderful (Cold and Snowy) Time of the Year
Now, as the Christmas season comes to a close, and the long winter looms before me, I long for spring. Those who know me well know that I am not a winter person. Ironically, my birthday is December 21st, the first day of winter, and I was born in Michigan. . . yet winter continues to be my least favorite season.
Added to this dislike of winter is the wonderful but challenging experience of having many children in a small house. The walls are putting up with more abuse than usual, adding to the already chipped paint and crayon marks. The floors are covered with muddy footprints and are groaning beneath the pitter-patter of little feet that long to be outdoors.
Stickers from the rocking horse that I bought my toddler have already been ripped off, the aforementioned toddler has already caused damage to the new (not-yet-installed) pull-up bar that we bought for his older brother, there is a missing piece from the checker set our boys received (even though they are extra large pieces—we pride ourselves on our children’s ability to lose almost anything!).
Yet, God is always good. The coffee pot is up and running now, brewing my coffee once more, January is already half over, bringing me closer to spring, and we’ve started getting more school done. Oh, and my dad found the fifteen dollars that he gave my oldest son as part of his Christmas present, which my son had promptly lost (please see the above mentioned reference to our children’s ability to lose almost anything).
So, there is always much for which to be thankful. Not to mention that, although the Christmas CDs will soon be put away, when you are blessed with seven precious children, every day you really have cause to say “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”