Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grat*i*tude

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday. And it has nothing to do with the food. Seriously.

I love this holiday, not because I'm given permission to be excited about those things for which I'm thankful, but because, for whatever reason, our family s.l.o.w.s. down during this time. Vacation days are taken from work. Vacation days are taken from school. And we go slow. And we go together. Meals are planned by the condition of our tummies, not that of a clock. Bedtimes are flexible. Sunrise wakings are optional. Coffee flows almost all day, along with continuous jugs of water. We do it right, during this time of year. And by doing so, I easily get enough 'fuel' to continue on this spectrum (as best I can) until our Summer holiday, when we'll do it all again!

Don't get me wrong. I love !LOVE! the vibration of a thankful community. I appreciate the difficulty in remaining in a state of gratitude, so hearing words of thankfulness from friends, families, my neighbors, these are wonderful ways to feel connected. Nurturing a sense of gratitude in my young children is almost more important to me than teaching them to read. I'm not sure how to do this, exactly, in this age of instant-gratification, toy shelves bulging at eye level, Disney characters on the packaging of sliced apples sold at the grocery store. My successes & failures in this regard are often shaded by unmitigated quantity of children in this place (four isn't really that many, honest) and their own successes and stumbles in understanding and celebrating their riches. But they'll get it. I'm sure of it.

This year we are starting a new tradition - I love this aspect of having a young family....we are still deciding our traditions - I took an old tablecloth and wrote on it a meaningful quote about gratitude, and having enough. As we celebrate this Thanksgiving and those of years to come, I hope to fill this tablecloth with the art and words of my children. I can't wait for the conversations that will grow around the table from this annual tradition. It's these moments, surrounded by the life and voices of my children, across the table from my husband, that I find most filling.

May this holiday leave you feeling nurtured. Nurtured and full of life, and full of appreciation for the simple.


Friday, November 16, 2012

#fridayfaves

Friday is about being grateful
seeing the little things
remembering to breathe
finding joy

  

dear homeschooling
i never intended to know you 
yet now can't imagine life without you.
thank you for giving me the permission
to celebrate these children, 
and protect their childhoods -
as these years are fleeting, 
and i don't plan on regretting them.


dear farm-fresh milk
i waited on you for two years.
your rich, cold, delicious cream swirls
in my morning coffee,
and freezes into a velvety delight.
we thank the Jerseys each week,
as we pass them, milking in the shed.
my children WILL know from where their food derives.

 

dear independence
what a tangled web you weave.
you're exactly what a mother yearns for, yet fears.
if i knew it would be the last time my child would crawl into bed with me, 
i would savor the moment - wrap my body around him, 
stay awake,
listen to him breath,
smell his hair.
we are often unaware of these 'lasts...'
but creating opportunities for autonomy -
workmanship, 
action,
self-governance,
responsibility -
this is what a parent does.
even if it's just something little, 
like putting the kid dishes, at kid height.


dear oliver & drew
my twins.
my surprises.
my 'cherries on top.' 
my babies.
my middle and last.
my 'badge of honor.' 
my best example of what a healthy body can do.
my 6lb & 7lb, healthy, to-term multiples.
my forgiveness.
thank you for choosing me (us),
i hope to not let you down.


dear colors 
oh how i love you so.
you are everywhere - the colors of my world.
whether its your markers sprawled across my floor,
or your socks mismatched on the feet of my kids,
i so love seeing these colors - bold, bright, happy.
now...if i could just be ignorant to  the amount of chemical required
to make the colors of this fantastic
jellybean salad...


dear uprooted tree
actually...dear mother-nature would be a better beginning...
nonetheless -
dear uprooted tree,
thank you for catching our attention. 
your hand-hold roots
your smooth, long pieces of shale
your cracks & crevices
your newly designed habitat for critters of the small sort
all of you -
from deep in the earth to the highest roots high above -
all of you created this wonderful awareness for my Calum.
quiet in his exploration. confident in his climbing.
what a joy to watch this boy, in your element.  
        
      
 
       
 

 

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

#fridayfaves

There's this wonderful blog I follow...written by a mother, a mother to many. She might homeschool? I'm not really sure. What I love about her is this...her perspective is refreshing. Her encouragement is spot-on. Only a mother knows how to encourage another mother - on that emotional, insecure, sometimes irrational, deeply in love with our children, just doing our best, level. Here's the link if you'd like to check her out - http://rachelmariemartin.blogspot.com/

Every Friday, Rachel writes and shares a post called '#fridayfaves. It seems to be a practice in finding the beauty and gratitude in the little things. I used to post similar snippets on my Facebook page but since our divorce is official (mine and Facebook,) I'll try to use my Friday posts in a similar way. This is awesome in a few ways (mostly selfish to me but if you like reading this blog, perhaps you'll enjoy it too!) First, it sets my writing/blogging as a priority. I love to write; it fills that little cup inside my soul labeled 'peace.' So - the more I can commit to writing, the better. Second, seeing the beauty in the little things just makes for a better world. It makes for a better afternoon, evening, overnight... Just like smiling is contagious, being in a place of gratitude is contagious. If you can see a situation, not for its hardship but for its gift, whew! Can you imagine the shift in thought? Change your thoughts, change your world...

So - here goes:

Friday is about being grateful
seeing the little things
remembering to breathe

finding joy

dear ella
i am trying so hard to follow your interests;
thank you , my sweet girl, for being patient.
your enthusiasm for all things creative is an inspiration and
i need to do more things on a whim, like my writing...
and sewing with you.


dear homemade chicken soup
  even in the dregs of the batch,
you are divine and helping my body heal.
clean eating - farm to table -
doesn't get much more basic than you.


dear growing bodies
keep up the good work! and though
my back continually protests the changing 
weight of the children, please  don't slow down. 
there is no clearer sign of health than
a child sprouting out of her clothes.


dear mid-day dishes
through trial & error we've come 
to an understanding -
i keep the mess to an organized minimum,
and you continually remind me that
dirty dishes show the wealth of my day. 
a sink full of dishes means i was home,
with my children,
with enough food to feed them,
and sharing their day.
 

dear laundry
no matter how quickly you multiply,
i will always look at you as a blessing.
for it is you that i get to tug over my children's heads, 
while i steal a kiss on their cheeks.
it's your softness that i tuck underneath their chins at night,
and rely on to keep them warm when i'm not close.
how lucky am i to have enough towels, sheets, socks, blankets,
tshirts, pants, and incidentals to provide for my crew.
and oh how i love my favorite sweatshirt.
we ALL have one of those, right?


dear coffee supplies
i'm a mother to four young kids, 
first year homeschooler,
potty-trainer to twins...
i am forever grateful!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hurricanes and Halloween

It's been a busy few weeks over here. In actuality, it feels like we've been in a time warp. Ten days ago we were preparing for Hurricane Sandy, tying things down outside and getting schooled on how to use a generator. Adam always heads to work during any major weather event, leaving me to prove to my children that I, too, can manage keeping the house in one piece and the natives safe. Thankfully, I didn't need that generator. We never lost power. Simply amazing.

What we did lose, easily, was a week in time. On the heels of Sandy, Halloween arrived. On the heels of Halloween, mommy gets toppled by Vicki Virus! Some heavy-duty funk moved its way through this body and I am only now (Tuesday, Nov. 6) getting back into the swing of things. Since Adam has been working so much with storm cleanup and election prep, my mom came out to help and stayed, STAYED! for days. Thanks, Mom! I promise to pay it forward at some point!! I've been able to rest and closely monitor the progression of this illness. Life sorda stops when Mommy gets sick. I could spend a college semester researching the dynamics that interplay in a house when the stay-at-home parents falls ill. It's really no fun for anyone.

So, in an effort to remember what the last ten days looked like, here is our week in review. Enjoy. And go wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and drink some hot tea!


Vote



Don't take your right to vote for granted. 
Men fought. 
Women fought. 
We vote.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Forever


I knew we'd have challenges. I knew this first year of homeschooling would require patience, flexibility, respect, and a whole lot of 'breaks.' I knew I'd have some days with Ella wanting to be at school, and some days with Calum wanting to be at home (he is continuing in his Montessori program for his kindergarten year.) I must have said 1,502,498,216 times to my friends and family - 'This year is a learning year. My only expectation & hope is to want to do it again next year.' This mantra still holds true but so does another...homeschooling has been emotional, confronting, demanding, spiritual, and singly, the most difficult yet gratifying thing I've ever done so far....
I won't bore you with the standard emotions that may encompass our day. As anyone might imagine, there is joy, and fun, and frustration, and exhaustion, and silliness, and creativity. All of these fit the bill. And all of them I embrace, even plan for, throughout our days. However, there are deeper lessons I hadn't predicted, much less planned for, and perhaps even denied by virtue of being green at this. What will I always remember about these first few months? The changing dynamic between my children.

Homeschool has changed the game between my kids and in ways I hadn't even imagined. Hindsight is 20/20 though - I should have seen it coming. But this is the paradox of raising children...some of the most beautiful, breathtaking lessons are also the most painful. The ones that sting a little, or alot! The lessons of life that actually DO keep me awake at night. That mix of 'What have I done? And what do I do now? But wait, how would I have known...' 

My oldest children, Ella & Calum, have always been each others best friends. She has protected him since the day they met. Five years ago in that hospital room, when he was crying and she was stroking his head, I saw it in her eyes. He was hers, and she his. Ella rarely says 'Calum.' She has called him 'Buddy' since those early days. And Calum has called Ella 'Eye' since he started to talk. I don't think he could actually pronounce her name and it came out as 'Eye.' I love to listen to them playing - these pet names interchanged with their actual given names. All the children have their own dynamic between the four. And they all have quiet moments among them, when two pair off and go play something together. But up until recently it has usually boiled down to Ella & Calum - Oliver & Drew. And then we changed their rooms...

Late in the Summer, just a few weeks before school, Adam & I finally made the plunge and split the twins and divided the children's rooms by gender. Girls together - boys together. I was sure the girls would have a harder transition. Their male counterparts definitely compensated for emotions of each girl and kept things in balance. I was totally floored when, that very first night of separation, it was tears from the boys that I was wiping dry. They missed their girls. It took a few nights, and alot of encouragement, and a few promises for male-specific toys (I wasn't totally sure what I was promising to be honest) to get things settled. I saw it as an opportunity for the boys to become closer. Calum was RIPE for the big-brother role. After just a few nights, the transition was made and the kids were comfortable and happy with their new roommates.And then we started school...

Homeschooling really isn't to blame. And neither is the Montessori setting. Nothing is really a 'problem.' It's just a shift. Ella is home now with the twins and the three of them have become closer. Ella and Oliver pair off quite often. Calum loves school and rarely asks to stay home. He is excited to see everyone at the end of his day and is often full of energy and motivation. HE is the one with all the school stories this year. And HE gets to tell them without interruption! This is a new role for him. Calum has always competed for 'air time' with Ella. She likes to talk and he's male so...you do the math. 

We were driving off to school one morning and Ella was talking about gymnastics (we have enrolled her in a gymnastics class designed for homeschooling children - meaning, the class is scheduled during the week, during school hours.) Calum got super-excited and said that he wanted to do gymnastics too. Enter painful parenting moment.....Ella told him that she didn't want him to do gymnastics with her. 'I don't want you there, buddy.' Calum goes silent, feelings hurt. I stop breathing, heartbroken. Ella is talking in nothing short of a whisper. I can't believe she said it. For the first time ever, she is saying No to having him as her wing-man.And she's articulating her case very well - painfully clear.

Reliving this moment has provided a different perspective - she is maturing! Ella is growing in confidence, and is excited to explore places and new things - on her own. This is TRIUMPHANT, really, compared to where we were a year ago when she wouldn't even go to Home Depot with her Daddy. She is learning to work through her anxieties and go into a group setting with confidence. On the other hand, I have a son - a middle child, in fact - that is also maturing. Calum is succeeding in his new role of Kindergartner at school. He loves coming home to his family and sharing his day. The time apart from his sister is good for him, and he returns to their relationship with excitement and patience. But he misses her. Calum misses Ella - as much as he has been her wing-man, she has been his anchor as well. However, Ella is moving on in a way. She has stemmed new relationships with her younger siblings. She is yearning for additional friendships outside of our closely-knitted family. The latter may have less to do with homeschooling and more to do with age. Whichever the catalyst, the dynamic between Ella & Calum is changing. And, at times, it's making my heart hurt and my breath escape me. I wasn't ready.

So - when people ask, 'What's the hardest part about homeschooling?' my answer is usually dependent on how much time I have to talk, and how 'close to the bone' my heart can go. The hardest part, by far, is moving through these changes in relationships. We are all going through them. And if I'm lucky, I can pause in the moment to learn from them. But this one, this change between brother and sister, oh...this one confronts me. It's challenging the trust I have in myself, in believing that we are our right path. In their best interests, I've been forced to let go, to shore up, to encourage honesty and conversation between them, and to realize that they are both right in their feelings - and I am the mom, and despite the title, I can't always make things 'right' for each of them, at the same time. If I'm lucky, I will forever be the sounding-board for these two. And if I'm lucky, I can forever be the one to make them both feel loved, understood, celebrated, heard, and respected. But sometimes, what is best for one, will painfully impact another, and because we're family,  we will just have to work through the process.
 
Just this past week we took the older kids kayaking. As much as this was a treat for Adam & me (I haven't been on the water since pregnant with Ella,) I relished more in the kids' rediscovery of their closeness. Had I not been privy to the changing tides inside our home, I may have missed the chance to watch closely their faces, and listen intently to their voices, for love between them was most evident.