There’s a lot of details I’ll get wrong in education. (Same was true when I was employed in mainstream education too.)
Ideas shift. Trends in education rise and fill. Diagramming sentences matters in one decade, not so much in the next. I started farming out math to tutors and computer “textbooks” at about the third grade. Science isn’t my jam. At home we don’t raise our hands and sometimes we do history class in our pajamas. We travel as much as we’re able for the best sort of learning and no one calls roll each morning.
The one long standing, enduring, hasn’t changed detail that I do manage to get right, however, is books. Reading. Every day. Out loud. To themselves. At the table. In the living room. On audio in the car. We talk about books at lunch and we buy books for our friends and the library is vital to the routine of our lives. We read for fun and we read to laugh and we read to learn about how to make the best paper airplane and we read about poetry and about science and about enzymes and about manners and about little women and wild horses and wizards and wardrobes and towns on the prairie.
Tonight we finished Auggie & Me, a companion book to Wonder – the book we fell in love with this school year. Most nights I read a chapter or two of a novel to the kids in the living room before bed. At Christmas I try to find a holiday-themed book for our school read aloud. Last year it was the classic Best Christmas Pageant Ever. This year it’s The House Without a Christmas Tree.
I’ve been desperately trying to be more proactive in my own nighttime rituals and routines and I’ve been shutting the phone and computer down at least half an hour before bed (an hour if I’m really on top of my game) and reading in bed before I drift to sleep. This week I wrapped up Son by Lois Lowry. It’s a companion or sequel of sorts to her famous novel The Giver. Son was so compelling and filled in lots of gaps – what a satisfying read, even if it was a little depressing to me as well. I also finished the third Harry Potter book in a futile attempt to keep up with my children’s obsession with Hogwarts. I definitely liked this third one better but when I see the thickness of the next four novels my brain feels like slush. I started a non-fiction book I picked up spontaneously at the library called Troublemakers. It is about the problem with labeling kids in school settings and the dangers of forcing kids to uniformity. The idea sounded of interest but it felt an awful lot like whining to me and I never bothered to finish it. I used to feel bad if I didn’t complete a book I started. I no longer carry that guilt.
This summer I bought the older students a literary journal that I found at Barnes & Noble. And for some reason I impulsively purchased one for myself as well. (You can also find them at Amazon.)
It’s been such a great self-discipline to do this – to write in this Literary Journal.
It forces me to succinctly retell a plot and to summarize characters, to give a clear and distinct short review. To be brief but to be thorough. What a hard task.
It also allows me to the opportunity to practice what I preach. To see how difficult it is to sum up certain novels and certain ideas.
And it’s a satisfying record that reminds me that I am accomplishing some adult education and some reading entertainment in my own life as well.
I need a couple of winter recommendations actually. (In between my Harry Potter readings, of course.) I’d love a couple of non-fiction and fiction options.
Tell me what you’re reading now and what I should read next.
Maybe it’s been my attempts at doing nightly Advent readings during the month of December. Or the conversations that sneak up on me with my teenagers at bedtime. The way one of my kids looked at me with genuine surprise when I said I enjoyed the singing of all the songs at church each week – the part of the service which he happens to like least. The conversations about what makes us do what we do with my ten year old. The continual lessons in opportunities to serve someone other than yourself that parenting is always presenting.
Whatever it is, I have been feeling the weight of the responsibility of shepherd, care giver, leader, guide in my home as of late. I mean, it’s not really as if the task is new to me. I’ve been at this parenting gig for more than seventeen years already.
Isn’t parenting the weirdest job, though? What other job could you do for nearly two decades and STILL not really be an expert at doing? If I had been serving up Chick-fil-A waffle fries for seventeen years, I darn well better be the best waffle fry server you’ve seen. The same does not hold true for parenting though – does it? I just keep finding out all the things I stink at every day.
There is a holy burden to this task of raising humankind.
And I don’t have a desire to shy away from that task. (Well, some days I’d rather hide in a corner and read novels and eat caramel popcorn, but not every day.)
Does it keep me humble?
Like nothing I have ever known.
Does it keep me running to something stronger and holier and more helpful than my own flimsy heart?
Parenting is such hard work. It’s the hardest thing I do. Shepherding the hearts of my kids is the best part of my life – and the scariest part of my life too. The one area in which I most want to succeed and the one area in which I most want to throw my hands in the air and cry out “How?”
This week feels a little like it’s been two weeks long. I’d call it a pretty productive week, but also a week with full evenings and sometimes that equals a really tiring week too.
Here we are though – at the week’s end with Friday at our door.
This week this text appeared on my phone. It made me laugh a lot for some reason.
Today the mailbox bounty was hilarious. It was a tale of two lives, a juxtaposition of reality – the lovely vs. the ugly.
First – I received two lovely pairs of earrings hand crafted by my friend Heidi – wife to our family’s dear buddy Chris and new mom to a darling little girl.
Heidi is an incredibly talented designer who creates gorgeous wedding dresses and now is designing earrings too. You can buy her lovely and light earrings at her etsy site right here. (And you should. They’re sweet earrings. They are feather light so you get the fun of a big size but they feel like you’re wearing no earring at all. Plus, you get to buy from a genuinely kind human who is probably spending her baby’s nap time being creative and running a business. What fellow mom doesn’t remember those days and want to support that sort of mom power?)
Second, and here’s the funny part. Inside the same mailbox (but different packages of course) also arrived an order I placed from Amazon. (Yes, Amazon. It’s just so much speedier sometimes than running to Lowe’s or whatnot.) And that order was for rat poison. Yep. Rat. Poison. Because we have an attic issue that I don’t want to talk about, alright.
One mailbox. One day. Two very different “surprises”.
Welcome to my life.
This week we missed our Sunday evening grocery store run and by the time we hit Wednesday without going to the grocery store it became more like a challenge. How far can we go? Can we make it to next Sunday? We’re on the home stretch now so we’ll be just fine, I promise.
Although I might have offered the kids a choice between scrambled eggs or molasses cookies this morning for breakfast. (They’ve got molasses in them – that’s breakfast-like.)
So this week I’m just going to share a recipe that my friends Addy and Hilary both say is fabulous and utilizes that favorite kitchen tool/appliance/miracle worker – Instant Pot.
This week we sat in a living room with some friends and shared some songs and took communion together. I felt the heavy weight of being a spiritual leader for my children coupled with the knowledge that I fumble that task more times than not.
It’s hard, heavy, humbling, delightful, overwhelming work.
Nothing I really do matters as much.
We attend a rather large church and I love our body of believers and our weekly times together and so many other aspects of our church. But communion feels large there. And that’s alright.
In that living room though, being individually handed the bread and the wine and hearing the words spoken directly to me – “body of Christ” – as I took my portion, felt intimate, holy and personal.
I watched my girls take communion too. Same method.
And I was a little overcome. Lovingly reminded that communion is, in fact, intimate, holy and personal.
Okay. I do love spoken word and poetry and poetry performances and all sorts of art that goes along with people saying words out loud in a compelling and unique manner.
Maybe it’s not your style. It doesn’t have to be.
But perhaps you could give this video a listen or a watch or what have you. Don’t turn it off before you finish. You need to hear the whole thing through. Trust me.
You know what I need?
More hours in the day? Better time management? Someone to sweep my floor continually? (How much are those robot vacuum cleaner things? No – for real. How much are they?)
Maybe I do need those things. I don’t know. Maybe I need less distractions. Or fewer tasks. Or something. I don’t know. It hardly even matters because I don’t have those things. You don’t have those things. We’re just living the one life we’ve got and some days that’s not enough and some days that’s too much and at the end of the day we have the same number of hours as the next person and I spend my days being equal parts satisfied and horrified, productive and wasteful, pendulum swinging all the life long.
Our Christmas tree is up and the living room lights feel cozy and I’m eating peanut butter fudge and I figured it was past time to just say a regular old hello and happy ‘Tis the Season. My rhythms for writing have been off for so long that it almost feels like Off IS the rhythm and I’m not entirely okay with that but I’m basically alright with it because I don’t have time to figure out any other way to be.
This weekend we enjoyed a lively and sweet visit with Oma and Papa Dale. It makes my heart all kinds of satisfied to watch my children laugh and play and share stories and enjoy the company of two people whom I love so dearly. We shopped in TR and we dined out and we dined in and we decorated the tree together and we decorated gingerbread houses too. (Here’s a tip – it’s totally worth the extra couple of bucks to buy the packaged gingerbread house and just go with it instead of crafting your own and buying the random candy assortments and honestly, I think in the end, it actually saved money.) We celebrated our Christmas together and it was a perfectly wonderful way to kick off December.
We’ve started our paper chain again and already today we forgot to follow through with the scheduled activities. Fa la la la la.
Otto dropped my phone and the screen appeared very cracked, but turns out – it was just the screen protector.
Just as we suspected, the cat loves the wrapped presents and the low ornaments. Thought we were safe now with no toddlers living in the house and then I had to go and allow a stray kitten to come into our lives. Puck! (Whose middle name is truly Cobb Salad.)
Did you know there was a book by Lois Lowry that goes back to the community where The Giver takes place? Mosely checked it out from the library but I’ve snagged it from her and it’s so fascinating to me. I love when authors fill in gaps. Speaking of good books, I reread The Help last week. I wanted to see if it was appropriate for my girls to read (I decided I definitely do not think it is for a teenage audience, at least not my teenage audience.) But goodness, it’s a beautifully told story of hope and change and courage and struggle and relationships and complications and human nature and the mystery of it all. I loved it the second go-round as much as the first go-round.
Next year I will have three teenagers. It feels surreal, in case you were thinking about asking me how it feels to almost have three teenagers.
London’s birthday was in July. Last weekend she and I finally went on her birthday date to the movie theatre. Six months late. Because that’s how it goes sometimes. We saw Thor. I like watching movies with my big kids. Since it was Birthday (six months late, but whatever) we had popcorn and the largest icee I have ever ordered, or seen, for that matter. Thor was pretty entertaining, although superhero films are not my genre, you know.
For the first year ever honestly, I am trying to do a nightly advent reading as a family. Why’s it so hard to be daily faithful in that small way?
I’m not going to let myself eat another piece of peanut butter fudge because that’s just crazy – right?
I forgot how cathartic it is to write for a bit about this and that and nonsense and such. Sigh. Thanks for reading.
Even when friends directly say the words to my face, sometimes I have a hard time believing them.
Even when those friends are gracious enough to write the words down in a held-in-my-own-hand tangible sort of way, I am tempted to doubt their sincerity.
You see, I bring a lot of baggage to a friendship. Extra drama. A generous helping of neediness. And my inherent go-to is to assume that people are kind or people are helpful or people stop by born of a pity, akin to the sort you feel when you hand your dollar bills to the man on the street holding a sign. Sometimes I am guilty of assuming my friends feel sorry for me and that their “yeses” come from that place.
I’m uncertain why I believe this.
Actually – that is not true.
I know why I believe this.
I’ve been severely betrayed and hurt by many friends, particularly women. And not just once and not just in the normal woes of relationships that ebb and flow through the changes in distance and situation, but in life-shifting ways that feel more like a soap opera than a regular day to day life of a relatively ordinary family.
I have reason to be suspicious of women. (Well, I did have reason. Not so much anymore I guess. Is that a silver lining? I can make jokes at my own expense – right?) At any rate, there was a time that having close friendships with women was tricky. It felt downright risky, in fact.
I don’t feel that way any longer. Not mostly. Not usually.
I hope I never feel that way again, actually.
My current friendships with a handful of women are life-giving now. They’re highly valuable to me. Important. Sustaining.
And I am so thankful.
You really can’t undervalue the role friendships play in recovery. In day to day living. In feeling connected and regular and a part of your own life.
I thought they were all asleep.
There were kitchen chores to do. I turned on some music, lit a candle, rolled up my sleeves and got down to work.
Sometimes I like baking in the quiet of the night in my eternally gritty yet somehow cozy little kitchen. Because I was alone, I sang out loud. Bits of a song here, all of the lyrics for the next song. Off key, off rhythm, but with joy and abandon.
I walk across the kitchen to put something away and I see her little feet first, bare and standing by the kitchen door.
“I love when you sing, Mommy,” she smiled at me, sleepy-eyed and pajama-clad. “It lets me know you’re happy.”
I grin, hug her little self and walk with her back to bed.
That’s sort of all our kids want – isn’t it?
To think that mommy is happy.
A counselor told me recently, “You need to be okay. Like – really okay. Moms need to be okay. To a kid, the world revolves around you.”
It wasn’t intended as guilt-heavy advice. She wasn’t applying pressure that would encourage me to fake it or pretend.
It was part of a longer conversation about healing and healthy care and clarity of mind. About actually being okay.
It really is what our kids want. What they need. For you to laugh and for you to not find your affirmation in their praise. To not rise or sink on their whims and childish feelings. To be steady. To be okay. To be happy.
To sing when you think you’re all alone in the kitchen at night. To take the time to do things that you like to do too.
They don’t need to carry the burden of being your best friend or your social equal or your shoulder to cry on.
They’re great – right? These human beings we bore or adopted or embraced. But they’re just kids. They can’t (and shouldn’t be asked to) carry the weight of us as moms and dads and people with issues.
You be the mom (or the dad) and let them be the kid. You be okay – and they’ll probably be okay too.
It means The God Who Sees.
A few years ago the kids and I read a book about the different names of God. I’ve particularly remembered this name.
There are moments I feel seen.
Moments I can sense the “being known”. Through conversation divinely orchestrated. In a situation so obviously brought about by a grand master plan. In a secret tiny care being met even though I never spoke it aloud. At those times it’s as if God is speaking in an audible voice and saying, “There you are. I see you.”
And then there are moments I feel unseen.
Moments I force myself to repeat the words in my mind, in a deep sigh sort of way.
God. You see me.
Not as a question. There’s no upward inflection at the end of my sentence. A straightforward declarative sentence.
God. You see me.
As if I am just reminding the both of us that what He said is true. Reminding the both of us of what I am choosing to believe.
God. You see me.
When I feel small and left behind.
When I’m lying in one of my children’s twin beds at tuck in time, only at Child No. 2 in a Child No. 5 scenario, knowing a cold kitchen with grocery bags to unload awaits me. Knowing two hours of work is downstairs in my inbox folder. Knowing that the argument between two sisters is nowhere near solved to either of their (nor my) satisfaction and feeling Alone in this parenting gig.
God, you see me. You know my name.
When I think I just cannot listen to one more sniff of a runny nose, pick up one more lone shoe on the floor, type one more ad pitch, pay one more bill, fall asleep one more night alone . . .
God, you see me.
You see me.
My regular daily routine is pretty, you know, routine.
Attempt to rise before my children. (Though that Mosely is a hard one to wake up earlier than.)
Read quietly. Write a little in a journal. Check emails and get a touch of work done.
Prep breakfast, wake up the remaining sleeping younger kids who do not yet own an alarm clock.
Eat breakfast together.
Begin school at the table.
Teach/help/direct school until lunch.
Fix and eat lunch.
Wrap up the last set of help-needed school assignments.
Settle in for a few hours of work. (And by a few hours I mean, some regularly interrupted time to sort of accomplish my tasks.)
Take a little break and find myself surprised that it’s already time to get ready for dinner – what?
Make dinner and eat dinner.
Hang out with kids, play games, do whatever.
Gather in the living room to read, write in our family journal and Nature Notes, pray.
Tuck kids in. Repeat the process for one last round of – oh, wait, I need to tell you this/what’s for breakfast/where’s that one shirt?/do we have to take that hike tomorrow?/what are we doing this weekend? information exchange.
After I put the kids to bed, I begin work – usually writing.
But some nights I just don’t FEEL like it. I’d rather watch the latest This Is Us or paint that green set of cubbies I’ve been meaning to paint since last spring. (The yellow paint has been sitting by the door of the library since then. Has not moved in all those months.) I’d rather read The Help for the second time or draw out house plans for homes I’ll never live in.
I’d rather go to bed and lie there, not sleeping, because I’m not actually sleepy but I’m not entirely sure what I am.
That’s a genuine picture of the majority of my days. Filled and sprinkled, of course, with the unexpected trip the doctor or the scheduled eye appointment/dentist appointment/counseling session. The field trip or visit from friends or soccer practice or meeting or outing with buddies or you name it.
Sometimes in between all that routine something funny or silly or amazing or sad happens. Sometimes all of those things happen in the duration of one single day – or in one hour. I do live with five relatively dramatic human beings. Well, one overly dramatic human being and four regularly dramatic human beings. But still. You get the picture.
That’s my life. It’s pretty regular, in fact. Sure, sometimes marshmallows appear in the medicine cabinet and often times the laundry might as well be an additional family member and the cat and dog are for certain extra family members. But it’s basically a normal life. Or, you know, normal to us, for the most part.
There’s not an awful lot of wiggle room in this schedule. Not a lot of space to mix it up. All the things need to keep happening, all the plates need to keep spinning, all the monkeys need to keep dancing.
That’s it. A Day in the Life.
What’s your schedule settling and looking like in your current season?
It’s Monday of a holiday week but you already know that.
I tried to fight my urge to stay in bed on these cold mornings and wake up early to greet the day and feel a little more in charge of my life – it’s an illusion I keep trying to maintain in a half-hearted capacity.
I have neither the time nor the mental capacity to write a full post this morning but I do have both the time and the mental capacity to share a few photos from the last week or so of life and that feels like enough for today.
There was a work gathering recently that was fun and sweet – I love being able to partner with local businesses and people and do good work here.
There was a “hike” – really a slow and meandering walk – around our local state park with delightful friends.
We attended a theatrical presentation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with some of my favorite families. At one scene when Claudio agreed to marry a girl he had never met who was under a veil, Bergen loudly whispered, “That’s risky.” Yeah, it is son. Life lessons.
We spent another afternoon outside at the gorgeous Jones Gap gathering rocks that we all painted the following day with friends. (Otto keeps dressing himself in shorts and t-shirts as if he is unaware of the current season.)
I had an afternoon to spend with Otto and Piper recently and Piper was in charge of taking the photo.
This weekend we had a spontaneous gathering with friends who are both kind and hilarious and I always walk away from their company refreshed. They taught us how to play Spicy Uno and it was fantastic. Also – why do so many of my pictures include children sitting on our table?
Last week’s group gathering was the rock gym. How fun is that?
And there you have it, friends.
I hope your holiday week is off to a wonderful start.
When the temperatures drop even slightly, my crew and I become hermits. We want to sleep late, stay under the covers, hibernate. It’s just so cozy at home. Give us all the hot chocolate and thick novels and warm blankets. It’s hard to get up and go anywhere.
But we do force ourselves out of the house from time to time.
This week we had appointments we couldn’t shift (believe me, we wanted to) and school to do and a theatre performance of Much Ado About Nothing to attend.
Here’s what is NOT funny. Paul Blart. Okay, sure. This movie was out a while ago and it certainly doesn’t even look as if it has any intentions of being considered classic or incredibly meaningful. But the big kids thought it looked funny so we figured it would be worth a go.
It was not worth a go.
The plot was – wait, what plot?
It was so bad it actually was funny, so maybe there was that.
I know I know – another entry about boots.
I’ve been hoarding my birthday money since July.
I’m thinking these boots might be how my birthday money is destined to be spent.
I have never heard of this brand – Oliberte. Has anyone heard of this brand?
It’s not an American company and I like the info they have on their website about why and how and where they make these boots. It feels a little risky but I think I’m ready to make the leap.
Somebody just say the word – tell me it’s okay – and I’ll click the next button to pay for the boots already waiting in my virtual cart.
I have two loaves of Apple Cinnamon Bread in the freezer now, a little early holiday baking.
I know his poetry can be sort of weird and that lots of people nether care for nor understand e.e. cummings.
Sometimes I neither understand nor care for certain of his poems myself.
But sometimes I love them. Even the bits I don’t totally get.
I love this poem and I love our nearby state park of Jones Gap and I love that I feel better about pretty much everything everywhere when I am outside.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
— e.e. cummings
Why do they all have to get so grown up?
Love the words?
Feel free to share that love!