From the Journal of Pam Bailey
(Fall 94 NATHHAN News)
I have just finished browsing through the latest issue (of NATHHAN NEWS). I had to let all of you know who are responsible for the publication how very uplifting it is to know others share so many of the fears, doubts and problems we were certain no one else could believe let alone understand.
We are a family of ten, five children still living at home and a three-year-old grand daughter most of the time as well. Our first three daughters, born naturally, were nearly raised, when through divine intervention, we found ourselves in the process of adopting four small children with a variety of set backs due to FAS, drug addiction, sever abuse, neglect and abandonment. With this very lengthy, and exhausting process in full swing one of our older daughters became the victim of a very sick society and vicious crime resulting in the birth of a beautiful little girl whom we are now helping to raise. She has been a wonderful blessing and instrumental in reversing the adversaries attempt at disrupting or possibly destroying our lives. All five of these little people, although not in the original plan when my husband and I had laid forth plans for our lives, have been a tremendous joy. Without them our lives would be so very empty.
Homeschooling is our latest venture and like so many articles in the newsletter, I find myself feeling a bit inadequate, yet convinced it is the path we are to follow. We have everything from learning disorders to accelerated learners. What a challenge!
I am enclosing a few pages from my journal you might enjoy. I truly thought we were the only ones with so hectic a lifestyle. I have a bit more strength now to carry on.
"Pulling myself back up out of the mental hole I had fallen into, I wondered how long I had been standing here or if anyone had missed me or even noticed that I was gone. I climbed the remaining stairs from the lower level of the Nordstrom's store where I had just scanned the childrenís department looking for an inexpensive (ha!) shirt for my seven-year-old son Michael. He, along with his brother and sisters would hopefully be waiting for me in the shoe department. What a disaster this day had turned into, and with all of my good intentions, too.
We had all left bright and early in terrific moods with lofty expectations for a wonderful day. This was "field trip" day. Seven year old Michael, his older brother Steve who was now twelve, Mary, age ten, eight year old LeLoni, the oldest Heidi, sixteen and my little three year old grand daughter, Alisha and I were off to spend the day together. We were to do a little shopping, make one or two business stops that I needed to take care of and then the rest of our time was to be spent leisurely roaming about the local train station. It had been converted into a mini mall but still held a wealth of cultural and history of our area. All of the children, as in every trip before, had been instructed to shower and to put out nice clothing the night before so that we would be a little less rushed the next morning. All seemed in order as I backed the suburban out of the driveway and got us on our way. I might normally have been suspicious when Mike was actually in the truck and ready to go without the normal three-honk departure call to rouse him from a wrestling match with the dog or any number of other distractions that might have him snared. Perhaps the morning was just too beautiful with all of autumnís glory about us, or the day too fresh, or too serene, I am not sure but as I said "all seemed in order."
We arrived at their favorite restaurant with the "all you can eat" breakfast buffet. I had promised would be the first stop on the agenda. Without, (I was well aware) I could not control this mob beyond an hour, two on the topside. Standing in line behind the wait-to-be-seated sign like a herd of penned cattle about to burst their restraint, I first became aware that something was amiss. The back of Michaelís "nice" shirt had a not-to-be missed, huge hole in it. Upon closer inspection I discovered that his ears had enough earth stored to plant next years crops. The back of his head sported an unruly cowlick making him look like the north side of a duck going south. The rest of the children all appeared to be fairly presentable with the exception of the worn spots in the knees of Stevenís nearly new wind pants. A good mother would have been on top of this of course, but with so many of these little people out numbering me so badly I just let this one slip. Besides, getting all of them in the rig and to the same location is sometimes a bonafide miracle. Oh well, so Mike had a hole in his shirt and his face and ears were a little dirty. At least the shirt was clean and a trip to the bathroom would take care of the rest including the duck thing on the back of his head.
Now I donít know how often this restaurant gets multiple child families in for breakfast early in the morning, before they had had anything to eat or drink or mom has even had a cup of coffee, but obviously not often. The young gal designated to be our waitress was quite nonchalant about the whole thing. That is, until the natives began to get restless. They maintained for about ten maybe fifteen minutes, but by that time when the waitress had not even taken our order, things were getting serious. The three year old began her morning ritualistic chant "I want food, I want food, I want food." The boys began to march on the establishment, around the table. The girls had made probably three or four trips to the rest room, each time weaving their way through the morning crowd lined up at the breakfast bar. Heidi and I sat serenely, sweetly smiling as though nothing was unusual. You see, I have long since learned and passed the valuable knowledge down to my nearly grown daughter that children, although somewhat of a challenge at times, are also quite effective in getting needs met. The young waitress also gained a bit of knowledge that day. Her laid back demeanor was soon put aside and she became rather proficient at taking and dispensing orders at a much quicker pace. I suppose a larger tip might have been in order, but hey! I deal with this sort of thing on a daily basis and no one ever tips me.
Leaving the restaurant and leading the kids all back to the suburban I resigned myself to the fact that my youngest son was likely never to be either a gentleman or well groomed. He pushed and shoved his way to the truck to claim his favorite spot and in his haste, tripped in the parking lot adding dirt stained knees to his now greasy, sticky, ketchup stained shirt. I realize my responsibility to prepare this child for his adult life and possible wife some day, but am now lost, wandering in a wilderness of slime, goo and gunk without a clue as to how to get us out. Our older son, Steve, will at least dress nicely when forced to do so but beyond that, is little better than his small counter part. They love anything dirty, greasy or alive and creepy. They are constant torment to the girls and to all of our dismay, our next stop was to be the pet store where Steve could purchase his weekly supply of live crickets which he would feed to his pet lizard, Iggy. These crickets, of course, would have to spend the day with us since the rest of our stops would be on the other side of town and a suburban does not have a trunk. They were in a plastic bag, but I am never able to suppress the shiver that slinks down my spine at the thought of them getting loose in the vehicle with us.
That mall was next, as today was Heidiís seventeenth birthday. She was to have a bit of a shopping spree since I was now having a harder time selecting gifts for her that I felt she would appreciate or would fall into her line of taste. Unlike most girls her age, Heidi isnít really fond of shopping. In fact, she dislikes the thought of it and would much rather I did it for her. She does like one particular clothing store in our town since it is geared for people her age though, so this is where she was headed. The boys really hated this sort of venture and could make things miserable for all concerned. The little girls werenít particularly interested either since the shopping was not being done for them. I chose to leave those four in charge of the three-year-old just outside the store. They were on a bench inside the mall within about thirty feel of where Heidi and I would be. A grave mistake in judgment is about as mild as this could be put. Since I could see them from where I was, I wasnít terribly concerned for their safety but had not taken into consideration the safety of others in the mall. About two minutes is as long as the baby would tolerate being parented in any way by those she considered to be her equals and she promptly and quite vocally informed them of such as she made a mad dash for freedom. Mike, thinking himself her keeper and great protector, pursued her with a vengeance. Little can be compared to the chaos caused by a three-year-old in pursuit of freedom and a seven year old on a mission. Heidiís shopping, cut short, would be left for another day when she and I might find a brave soul willing to spring for a couple of hours so that we might finish the task peaceably.
Slowly we were whittling away at our list of "must dos" so that we could get on with our real reason for being out in the first place. A highly educational and inspiring field trip. Next, both of the boys were in desperate need of dress shoes. Somehow I have a really hard time accepting my young men attending Sunday services in dress slacks or dockers and camouflage tennis shoes. So, as badly as they hated it and tried to convince me otherwise, we were going to find those shoes. I was even more determined now I think, because the realization was beginning to dawn that I would not likely get them to go with the girls and I again and that I had better purchase the offending items while I had feet to try them on.
After exhausting every store in this mall, we proceeded to the next one down town that is much larger and requires a great deal more walking. So across the street we went, all of us linked together in the human chain I demanded whenever we are to cross a traffic area or enter into heavily crowded areas and entered Nordstrom store. One of my favorite places in the world, but not with children. Not six of them anyway. The nice lady with the tray of cosmetics gave us a wide berth as did the lady with all of the wonderful fragrance samples and neither of them even asked if we might like to try the new items. I received a variety of looks as I herded my brood to the shoe department. I was accustomed to them so I did not take notice. Most of the children had managed to stay fairly clean except Michael who by now was beyond dirty. Several body slides on his stomach or knees down the aisles in the mall had rendered him filthy. In the shoe department I sat them all down in a semicircle on the floor with Mike perched in a chair like a king on his throne and everyone else looking like a bunch of cub scouts sitting around a campfire. A darling little thing came to greet us with a sweet smile and vivacious personality that said, "Iím here to serve" "how can I help you?" Steve had already chosen his shoes and after little discussion convinced me that he really would wear them so Michael was our last frontier. Nordstrom's being the establishment of prestige that it is requires a certain standard of dress for its employees. This was, most importantly, for those who are working with the public. Our young assistant I was certain more than lived up to those standards. A lovely, black, leather skirt and white, silk blouse adorned with just the right jewelry and accessories, gave her a professional yet elegant look that many would envy. Glancing at Michael in his less than clean attire and now really grubby face, I cringed knowing that she would have to measure his feet as I no longer know his size. Before I could climb over the others and get to him, she lifted his foot and removed the shoe. Humiliation should be my middle name so accustomed and bonded I am to it. At least an inch of dirt, sand, straw who knows what all fell to the floor making a little pointed hill much like when one turns over an hour glass for the sand to seep to the other end. Even this was not my portion. The blood had not drained from my face. My ears were not hot enough or my heart rate accelerated enough. No, there was more. She placed the foot to be measured ever so carefully so as not to get any of the falling debris or unidentified black stuff on the bottom of his sock on her beautiful blouse. She looked somewhat confused as she adjusted the slide on her measurement. I was fighting to recover from humiliation when Steve blurted out, "You canít measure that foot, cuz his toe is cut off!" The toe really was removed to the first joint due to an earlier motorcycle accident, but that was irrelevant at this point. I wanted to pull up the rug and disappear under it. As she reached for his other foot I made some lame excuse about boys and how hard they are to keep clean and disappeared down the stairs in search of the shirt still in my hand. Back in the shoe store I paid for the chosen shoes, gathered my wards, and exited the store as dignified as was possible.
The ride home was fairly subdued and uneventful. Once there everyone scattered, ran off some energy, and it settled into a surprisingly quiet evening. Everyone agreed that this day was not one of our best, but that we will probably still try the field trip without all of the other shopping chores. Iíll do those by myself from now on!"