Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sunday- the Good, the Bad, & the Tender Mercies.

Because of Peter's work schedule, there are many Sundays I attend church alone. Not really alone, though, as I bring the six kids with me. I hate coming late those days with the walk of shame up the isle to the only spots left with enough space for my family- the front of the chapel. So I try really hard to leave the house on time, early even. Last Sunday I almost made it.

All the kids were newly-ish bathed or showered with clean clothes and real, matching Sunday shoes. Breakfast (for the ones too young to fast) was bananas and homemade toasted bread, much better than our usual fare of a handful of cereal thrown into a bag to eat on the way. In fact, the only glitch was when I remembered I owned a skirt that matched my new shirt and, after digging into the depths of my closet, found that it didn't fit anymore. But that was only small hiccup and, having exercised the day before, I didn't feel too bad.

In the final lead up to leaving I noticed that Joseph had somehow smeared butter all over the front of his Sunday shirt. I had my hands full of Kirsti's hair so I asked him to wait. Instead he rubbed it into the shirt. I could change him or keep on time. Reasoning that the dark brown color would hide the stain, I choose to keep the schedule.

I loaded the kids in the van, a few minutes behind but still well within my goal. I turned the key to wake the engine, but it protested. Click. Click. Clickity-click. I remembered Matthew climbing in yesterday to play. He must have left a light on.

I can handle this. Peter had gotten home from working the night shift a half hour earlier and his car was parked next to mine. Luckily our driveway has a slight incline so I could shift into nuetral and back down. I ran inside, grabbed Peter's keys, and postioned his car in front of mine for a jump. But I couldn't find the hood release. I looked for a couple minutes before resigning myself to my fate: I needed to wake my husband and ask him how to open the hood. Let's just say he woke up the way he always does and it wasn't fun. The Suburban started immediately and I headed to church, which began 5 minutes into our 20 minute drive.

Now I am in church. I've fixed my slightly cried into makeup and straightened everyone's clothes as I wait for the Sacrament to end so we can find a place in the chapel. As I always do before I begin the long walk up to a seat, in front of the whole congregation, I take a deep breath and hold my head high.

We walk to our seats and as I position myself on the bench I notice a lot of smiles. They weren't "we're happy to see you" smiles they were "I'm trying not to laugh" smiles. I know from experience this means one of two things- one of the kids has snuck in wearing something silly or carrying something silly. A quick check reveals the culprit. Joseph has carried in his toothbrush. It has a suction cup on the end and he has stuck it on the back of the bench. Having just drawn the attention of everyone as we tramped up the isle, at least half the congregation was watching him do it. Oh, joy.

As I try to find something to entertain Matthew in my church bag I notice it has some unusual contents in there as well. Like the missing toilet paper roll and an old, smashed bag of cereal. In fact, my bag is a total mess. The kids' clothes are a mess. I am a mess.

And then...miracles. The kids all sit quietly through the meeting! Not a single fight or yelled "whisper" or bathroom break needed. Even Matthew, who is in the midst of the wiggle and talk stage, sits with his head in my lap. Then, during the last two hours of meeting, my Sunbeam class is half its normal size. All children listen and participate. It is the best the class has been so far. I leave church amazed that the calmest 3 hours of church I've had all year was preluded by so much frustration.

I can't tell you how many times I have arrived at church on the brink of a meltdown. Frustrated and stressed and ready to just give up. Because getting 6 kids ready, taking them, and sitting through an hour plus meeting is hard. Doing it by myself is insanity. Wrestling with a class full of 3 to 4 year olds for the next couple of hours makes it harder. And EVERY time I feel close to breaking something happens. A kind word, an offered help, or a peaceful meeting. I am continually reminded that God knows my struggle by the tender mercies He shows.


  1. I am so sorry to have been a smiling culprit at the toothbrush...I meant it in a "that is very cute" sort of way, I promise. You and I can commiserate on the car situation...I have had to jump start mine twice this week (AND I just had it serviced last week.) Just so you know, my kids are well behaved sitting by your kids and you all looked put together and clean and your kids are darling, we love you all. And even though you may have been feeling rough on the inside, your hair looks more smashing every time I see you. You hold it together very well and people look to you for strength and encouragement...if Charlotte can keep it all together as well as she does, then so can I!

  2. Dallin just started the stage where he won't sit through church at all. I feel like we spend all 3 hours in the hall. sigh. I feel like the Lord is always there to give us those tender mercies if we just keep our minds open to them. I'm amazed when I feel like giving up he is always there to give me a reminder to keep going, that it is all worth it.

  3. emma jo- thanks for the kind words! I have to admit, it helped me to sit directly in front of two row of moms there alone with their kids. Strength in numbers. I knew the smiles were for the cuteness of the toothbrush, but still, a toothbrush for Sacrament meeting?!? Arrrg.

    Boyers- I feel your pain. I have had one child or another in that phase for the last 12 years.

  4. There should be a rule that the room has to fill up from front to back...I hate coming in late. We normally get there with 1-2 minutes to spare, but it is only a 5 minute drive. I wish I could sit behind you in church and smile at your cute kids!


  5. I always have to get ready & to church by myself because Ken has early morning mtgs. It was hard with 1 and worse with 2, I can only imagine 6!!At least once I'm there he's there to sit with me.

  6. I know I'm guilty of those looks sometimes, but in my defense, it's because I know how much the family like that must be (having grown up in one).

  7. Beautiful.
    I'm having a hard time comprehending the 6 kids sitting quietly for over an hour. That really is a miracle.

  8. Charlotte,

    You amaze me. You are such a great mom, talented writer, and web guru (your blog is so cool). Seriously, I don't know how you do it all.

    I too dread getting to church and I only have one child. Ben has to leave at 5:30 to get to meetings. It takes about a hour from door to door on the train or if I decide it's worth the money and saving time by taking a taxi the driver always gets lost. Ben always greets me with this look of terror on his face not knowing if I am going to bite his head off or not. It does seem like God sends tender mercies. Thanks for helping me remember that.

    Thank you too for the link you sent on photographing buildings--very helpful.

  9. Brenda- I agree, there should be a rule about filling up front to back (although that would encourage me to always be late so maybe not). I will try to do my hair so I can get a good picture.

    Kim- I must confess that the oldest 4 mostly get ready by themselves. I just have to double check what they're wearing and do Kirsti's hair. They usually are in charge of getting everyone breakfast (which is why we have bags of cereal eaten on the way)

    Gordon- I give those looks too. I mean you can't help trying not to laugh at something funny. And my kids provide ample opportunity for those looks.

    NOBODY- It really was a miracle. May never happen again.

    Bikmans- Adding 2 hours to my meeting blocks might push me over the edge. I hope you get to pass some of those beautiful views you've been sharing along the way.

  10. You have such a good attitude. I remember those days of sitting in church alone with six kids. Just be glad that you husband isn't on the stand sleeping peacefully while you fight with the kids to be good. Glad that you had a good experience.

  11. If it's any consolation, I didn't notice the toothbrush. Though that was the day I caught the baby's dress on the seat buckle and torn half of it clear off so I had my own problems.

    Beware - any week my class goes really well, the next week they are monsters. Just so you are prepared. But maybe it won't happen since the beginning of your Sabbath was so dreadful.

    This awesome post needs to go into the archives so every Mormon mom can read it on a weekly basis and be encouraged in our shared plight.

  12. Mom- I would probably throw a shoe at him if he were on the stand sleeping.

    Twinlinebackers- You were also sitting slightly in front of me- it would be harder to see the toothbrush from that vantage. I hope my luck with the Sunbeams holds.