Growing Hope

These are confusing times we are living in.  Things that are unprecedented going on all over while other things that are frighteningly precedented take place close to home and across the world.  Some days, I just want to sit with my book and dog and read and escape with the sounds of the littles playing in the background.

It’s hard to know what is right and wrong, you know?  Hard to know how to make things better…..how to wrong the rights…..how to help the hurting.  And it feels so overwhelming, wondering how the little things I do in my day to dailies could possibly make a difference.

Is it any wonder we are all so tired?

Yesterday for the second time in three months, I found myself sitting next to an elderly woman in her 80’s expressing her thoughts on the world, our country, the situations on her mind.  Different women, different circumstances, but both times I sat trying to find balance in the situation.  Would my firmly stating how much I disagree with her change the world for the better?  Should I speak loudly and strongly what I believe is right and wrong?  Would I make things better by trying to explain how she wasn’t seeing things in what I believed to be the right light, or would I only alienate her and make things worse?

I couldn’t be sure.

Both times, I said something like, “Well, it is hard.”

“People are hurting.”

“I am not sure that everyone sees it that way.”

“It’s hard to know what the right thing is, isn’t it?”

Because it is.  None of what I said was an untruth, but I didn’t come out and say, “I BELIEVE YOU ARE WRONG.”

I just couldn’t.  And both times, I left feeling bad–wondering if I’d let down those who are hurting.

The difference yesterday though was that my littles, Cooter who is now 10 1/2 and our Princess who is almost 13, were there and listening.

*sigh*

As we left and got in our vehicle, I answered questions that Cooter had about what had transpired.  He wanted to know all kinds of things, like what the woman had been referring to and why she believed what she did.  One part I could answer, the other I could only guess.  And I told him that.  Then we talked about how we all see things differently.

And then we moved on to other important subjects–like what was for lunch.  Cooter is very meal-focused these days.  Must be that whole growing boy thing.

Then this morning, Cooter brought his Grammar/Literature book to me.  Some days there are readings that he is asked to read aloud to me.  This morning he came with an urgent need to read it to me NOW.

“Mama,” he said.  “You have to hear this.  It made me think about that lady yesterday.”

And then he read from his text–

Japanese Culture: Part 2

by Jennifer D. Lerud

Family, honor, good manners, and outside appearances are very important to the Japanese people.  They have two forms of behavior: omote, which is the public, formal, and conventional behavior that governs how close they stand to each other and who shakes hands first, for example; and ura, which is their private, informal, “relaxing at home” form of behavior.  They believe it is proper to agree with anyone older than themselves–even if the person is wrong–in order to avoid humiliating or bringing dishonor on an elder person.  The Japanese people display people’s ages in newsletters at work, and school and work desks according to age, and even hand out cups of tea in order of age.  Social ranking and status are important things…..

(from The Good and the Beautiful, Level 4–Book 2 Course Book, p. 11)

“See, Mama? That’s what you did yesterday.”

Bless him.

I’m not writing this to debate about whether I should have stood up yesterday or three months ago and called these women out.  It didn’t happen, and I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow or next week or next year, should such a situation arise again, as it likely will.  I’m writing this because I’m trying to wrap my brain around a child who was paying attention, and a timely lesson that spoke to him, and the fact that he saw the connection and shared it with me.

Most days it’s all little things that are dots that I don’t connect into a big picture until much later–if ever.  It’s reminding Cooter umpteen times to rinse out his oatmeal bowl before it becomes glue in the bowl or listening to our Princess practicing “The Carol of the Bells” for her piano recital.  It’s making sure that swim suits and dance leotards are clean and dry, and that scripts and epi-pens are in hand as we head out the door.  It’s grocery shopping and meal planning and reminding little people to empty the dishwasher.  It’s talking on the phone with our law student and trying not to miss her too much, knowing she’s where she’s supposed to be.  Sometimes it’s even making time to read my new favorite book or watch the newest Hallmark movie.

And most of the time, these little things don’t connect…..

But today, they did.  Today I’m thankful for a perfectly timed (I’m looking at You) Literature passage that gave me grace…..for that same passage that spoke to a little fella and helped him understand the ways of the world a little more.

Mostly I’m thankful for this process of “raising children”–that label is so limiting and not at all what we are doing together, y’all.  Together, all of us, we are growing hope.  As these little people watch and listen and read and begin to understand and teach us through their eyes and with their hearts–we are raising the ones who will carry our stories, our love, our light, and pass it along to the next generation.

And today, that is everything to me.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Milk Messes and Morning WakeUp Calls

Something I’ve come to enjoy each day I owe to homeschooling.  No, it’s not the audiobooks that we’ve been listening to together lately.  (Though they are quite wonderful–who knew that at my age I’d still love being “read” to?)  And it’s not that I don’t have to go running out for posterboard or glitter or sticks for the glue gun at the last minute because something IS DUE TOMORROW.  (Been there, done that.)  Though there is a long list of things I enjoy about homeschooling, this is the one about how I start my day.

I am usually already awake when I hear footsteps coming in my room. The next thing I know there’s fifty-some odd pounds of grins and joy bounding on my bed.

Cooter.

First thing, he comes and sits on the bed with me.  Sometimes he tells me about his favorite football teams.  Again.  Or he shares the best plays of his favorite players.  Again. Sometimes he shares about the book he’s been reading or something funny his friend said. But a few days ago, it was none of that.

“Mama.  Mama,”  he paused, waiting for me to make eye contact.  His voice was quite serious as was his gaze.  “Mama, I need for you to come fix me breakfast.”

Well, this was new.  Or maybe not so much new as a change.  He used to ask me to do that, but in the past few months, he’s found his way to getting a bowl and the cereal and the milk and fixing his own breakfast.  So, like I said, new.  But not.

I knew he had to be hungry because he hadn’t eaten much the night before.

“Okay, buddy.  But what’s up?  You don’t feel like fixing it yourself this morning?”

“No.  It’s not that.” He held his hands out for emphasis.  “The milk jug. Is. FULL.”

I looked at him.

“It’s a new jug.” And what he said next nearly floored me.  I mean, you know, if I hadn’t been already lying in the bed.  “I don’t want to make a mess.”

Wait.  Really?  He didn’t want to make a mess?

Now that really was new.

He’s nine.  And a half tacked on for good measure now.  Nine and a half, and he’s finally reached the phase where he thought it through before doing it.

Wow.

That is pretty exciting to me.  And maybe just a little sad–that whole growing up thing, but since I didn’t have to clean up half a jug of milk from the counter, cabinets, and floor, I’m getting over that sad bit fairly quickly.

It occurred to me later in the day, as I was once again marveling at this new development and how proud I was of him asking or help, that this world would be a different place if folks thought things through and asked for help if it seemed like they couldn’t handle it themselves.  A really different place.

But that whole asking for help is so hard, isn’t it?

This evening as I thought back over that morning’s conversation and the day’s revelation, Cooter was talking about something he was hoping to do.  “I think that will help me a lot because you learn about diffusing bombs.”  That caught my attention.  “I think that could be quite helpful, because I think I might want to do that one day.  Diffuse bombs.  Like on a bomb squad.”

Oh me.  So maybe he hasn’t learned to think through the consequences in every situation.

Oh well.  There’s time.  And until then…..

he still has his Mama.

Who relishes those morning wakeup calls.

Love to all.

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The Summer of Little Knocks

A couple of days ago I walked over to my neighbor’s house to share some of my summer abundance with her.  After debating whether to knock or ring the doorbell, I decided on the doorbell.  I mean, they have one, and so they probably appreciate that it gets used from time to time.  (Ours, on the other hand, went kerplunk a couple of years back.  Knocking suits us just fine, but mostly because we can’t seem to get the wiring right again.)

After a minute or two, their dog came to the door and pushed the curtain aside with her nose.  She stared me down but never barked.  I knew they were home, as their younger little was out playing with all the other children.  After a couple of more minutes, I sat the fruit down and headed back to my house.  About a half hour later my friend came walking down the street, shaking her head embarrassedly and laughing.  “Oh dear,” she said.  “I’m so sorry.  We were eating, and I just knew it was one of the children.  Again.”

She didn’t have to say another word.  I don’t think there’s a parent on this street who hasn’t ignored the summons to the door at one time or another this summer.  Just this evening, we heard a knock and Aub commented, “I’m guessing it’s someone under four feet tall.”

Because it usually is.

And it’s rarely for me.  Or Aub.  Or the Fella.  Our 12 and under residents are quite popular around here.

When the summer vacation for the public schools began, I wondered what this summer would bring.  Some of the children go to day camp, but most don’t–so yes, I wondered just how often the door would be knocked on and how often my children would be in and out and all over their friend’s yards playing back and forth.  As we still had a few days to finish up our school year, I hoped the knocks wouldn’t be too often those first few days of summer break.

It’s been an interesting summer really.  Some days no one knocks until evening.  Other days Cooter is out the door by 9 and he and his buddy play for an hour or so before the heat sends them scampering back indoors for a few hours.  The heat chases them inside more than they chase each other, playing this game or that–the ones we all played as youngsters or the ones they’ve specially designed for themselves.

It’s been actually quite delightful this summer, really, and I shall miss it.

Tonight was the last night of carefree summer fun.  School starts here for our friends on Friday.  Yes.  July.  In camaraderie and for lack of friends to play with once it begins, we too will start our school year then.  Tomorrow night will find all the children around here tucked in bed far earlier than they have been all summer, and they will awaken bright and early Friday morning to begin new adventures.

But tonight–tonight all the good intentions of us Mamas putting them to bed a little earlier all week in anticipation of the big day never even entered our minds.  The crew played and shouted and chased and hid, and I stood inside my front door, listening with my head bowed, close to weeping.  Such a treasured sound.  The sound of joy, of being young and carefree, of having friends and energy and good health, and laughter–oh the laughter.  My heart was full.

So I went to the garage and pulled out a chair.  I plopped it open in the middle of my front yard and set to watching and listening and soaking the last night of summer in–breathing it, savoring it, memorizing its sights and sounds and flavors.  I was soon joined by our Princess and two of her friends.  My Fella even came out and sat for a bit.  It was the best entertainment I’ve had in ages.

And I sat out there with our friends until the stars came out, as we pointed and tried to name them.

It was beautiful.

How is it that summer has flown by so quickly?  How is it that I can’t remember a whole lot of what we’ve done this summer–and yet, I’m thankful for that.

This wasn’t the summer of big trips.

It was the summer of little knocks.

And I give thanks for each one–and every heat-filled, sweat-drenched, lemonade drinking moment filled with water balloon fights, front porch performances and conversations, front yard baseball, football, and basketball games.  And the smiles.  I give thanks for them most of all.

Farewell, summer, and farewell, knocks that had me washing my hands from cooking or stopping whatever else I was doing to come to the door.  May there always be a neighborhood of friends to chase and confide in and dream with–and may we always remember this precious summer.

May we always have someone who knocks on our doors, asking if we can play.

Love to all.

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By Scrypted (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Confession of a Tired Mama

As a parent, I have my good days and my bad days.

And good moments and bad moments.

This one is about a little bit of both.

This morning Cooter woke up, as he is prone to do on weekday mornings, earlier than I would have liked for him to.  This is one of the perks of homeschooling.  We do not have to, and so we do not, start our days at oh dark thirty.

I heard him coming.  He’s not the quietest mouse in the house.  It was one of those split second parenting decisions that you can reflect upon later and and second guess or guilt yourself or wish you’d done it differently.  But in that moment–

you just react.

I reacted.

And closed my eyes.

I just wasn’t ready yet, y’all.

So when I heard him come in the room pretty much like the proverbial bull in that China shop, I remained still, as though I were still sleeping soundly.  He paused for a second when he came over to my side of the bed and saw me sleeping.  Then he got quiet and crept the rest of the way until I could feel his breath on my cheek.

“Awww, Mama’s so cute,” he whispered with the sweetest tone.  Then as my heart was about to bust with all the feels, he leaned over and tried to tickle my armpit, which he knows doesn’t work, and he left the room fairly quietly–at least for him.

Oh bless.

I opened my eyes and listened for clues as to what he was doing.

Ah.  Legos.  He was working on his birthday Lego set, the biggest one he’s ever done by himself to date.  He’s been diligent and methodical, and it’s been really cool to watch him as he works it out.

And so this morning when I exhibited parenting skills that could be labelled as “less than stellar,”  two things happened.  Two things that needed to happen, I believe.

First, I heard Cooter’s thoughts about me.  It’s funny how often I peek in on him sleeping and have that exact same thought–he’s so cute, adorable, precious.  For him to think that about me and for me to hear that, it blesses my heart and gives me all the warm fuzzies.  As we spend many of our days with me hounding him to get certain tasks done and him teasing me about being the “mean Mama,” this–that he sees someone other than a frazzled, worn out Mama–is a treasure.

Second, he went and occupied himself with a worthwhile task.  Without being told to.  He didn’t stay there and pick and poke and prod until I “woke up.”  He didn’t go and bother his sister until she got out of bed, hollering at him usually.  He didn’t scrape the stool across the kitchen floor to get his cereal or complain loudly about whatever was bothering him at the moment.  He sat and entertained himself and thoroughly enjoyed working a little more on his Lego set.  I’m really proud of him for that.

Tonight I’m thankful that tomorrow I get another chance to do better.  As a Mama and as a person.  Those new mercies every morning are everything–the real reason I’m able to get up in the morning, because I’ve shed the weight of all the missteps and misspoken words from the day before.  That grace is what helps me rise from slumber in the mornings.

But not too early.  This Mama is a night owl who needs those baby birds to sleep in just a little while longer.

Wishing you all the beauty of new mercies…..and for you to find out someone you care about thinks you are cute.

Love to all.

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The One About Vocabulary and Book Burning

Some days our homeschooling goes beautifully.  We are on our game, learning all the things, and we stay focused, on track, and we get through everything that we need to do in a timely manner.  Then we are able to move on to other things that we really enjoy.  Or nap.  Naps are good too.

Today was NOT one of those days.

But it was still beautiful.

Which is one of the main reasons I love homeschooling.  It can be a success without being  a neat and tidy notebooked, paperclipped, stapled, workbook process.  It can be messy and chaotic and loud and scattered and done in fits and starts and still be really good.

Like today.

This morning Cooter started off building with his Legos in his room.  I know this because I could hear the sound of Legos being pushed and stacked and moved around.  That is NOT what reviewing your times tables sounds like.  When we finally sat down together he had his Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary that he got for his birthday on his lap.  As I wrapped up what I was working on, he asked me questions–vocabulary questions–what does “reprisal” mean?  What does “trumps” mean?  I think we went through ten words before I realized that we were indeed “schooling,” only I didn’t tell him.  Sometimes it’s best to let the learning just happen without calling it that.

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Who am I kidding?  With this one, it’s best to do that as much of the time as possible.

This afternoon I left them working on their writing, and I went to attack Mt. Washmore waiting for me on the couch.  I was folding clothes when I heard Cooter call my name.  I turned around to see him standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Well, I have a funeral to go to now.”

Because I know this child well, I didn’t clench or panic as I might have if it were any of my other children.

“Yeah?  Why is that?  Whose funeral?”

(WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T READ THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS!)

 

 

 

 

“Sirius.  Sirius Black.”  He paused.  I took in the too bright eyes and the smile that seemed plastered on.  Oh my heart.  “He was my favorite character.”

I rushed over to him.  Yes, he’s nine now.  Yes, he’s rough and tumble and getting too old to hold my hand in parking lots much anymore, but I RUSHED OVER and grabbed hold of him and held him tight.

And he let me.

“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry.  I know.  I know.  It’s hard.  I’m so sorry.”

We’ve been learning a lot about grief over the past four plus years.  When my Daddy died, Cooter wouldn’t have much to do with Mama for a few weeks, and she was so afraid he was mad at her or blamed her.  He didn’t.  He just turned inwards.  He did the same thing when Mama passed.  Our Princess cried her heart out, tears for days, but Cooter just turned inward and was very stoic.

But today, today my little guy looked up at me and said, after I told him it was okay to cry, even if he needed to go to his room and be by himself to do it,  “I’m going to burn this book.  That’s what I’m going to do.  I’ll finish these last few pages, but then I’m going to burn it.”  He choked back the other unsaid things I heard in his voice and walked off.

This evening as he was reading the last of it in the car, he mentioned again his desire to burn the book when he was done.  His sister, who was delighted to find her very own copy at the used bookstore (a copy of her own that wasn’t her big sister’s), begged him not to.  “Do you know how hard it was to find that book?”  Finally, we agreed that might not be the thing to do, and we talked about Sirius and how he had gone just on the other side of the veil.  Just like Maemae and Cap had.  They are still with us, right there, just on the other side.  He nodded.

But still.

I remember when I read that chapter of the book.  I had so hoped Harry’s summer woes were over.  That he was going to finally have a good place, a good person who loved him, to spend his summers with and not the Dursleys.  But instead, life dealt him and all of them another terrible blow, and his life was upended yet again.

Much like real life.  Just when we think things might settle and be okay…..topsy turvy it goes, and we have to learn how to live with the new normal.

And so it would seem that on this day that no math was done (tomorrow will be really fun, y’all) and writing wasn’t finished, and we didn’t discuss the Bill of Rights as planned, that learning happened.  Important and good and hard learning.

And that right there.  That’s why I love homeschooling.  From vocabulary inspired by Star Wars to holding my baby through his book burning thoughts to sharing our thoughts on life and death and grief together, I love it.

It’s not my favorite everyday, and tomorrow I might need to be reminded how much I love it, but right now, I wouldn’t trade it for all the free time in the world.

Love to all.

A Dime For My Thoughts

A few days ago the littles and I were watching some videos about the Presidents.  One had a song about who is on this kind or that kind of money.  It was maybe a little beneath my two agewise, but it was a catchy tune, so we watched.

And I sort of sang along in the hopes that they would too.

Who’s on the penny?  Who’s on the penny?

Lincoln.

Who’s on the nickel?  Who’s on the nickel?

Jefferson.

(Did I mention I was rocking it while my two sat staring back and forth in disbelief between me and the screen?)

Who’s on the dime?  Who’s on the dime?

Eise

Wait.  What?

What do you mean–Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

I don’t even think so, people.

I pulled out my trusty friend (my phone) and asked that very question.

Who is on the dime?

And I’m sorry–

NOT Eisenhower?

My whole life has been a lie, y’all.

A LIE.

How did I ever get that confused?

Who was the first one to tell me that?  Or did I just assume and no one ever talked to me about this VERY IMPORTANT FACT, so that on this very day, I totally embarrassed myself in front of my two very impressionable children and had my very world turned topsy turvy, up on its end?

I feel like I should be sarcastically thanking someone, but I can’t figure out who.

I love my children.  I love homeschooling them.  Most of the time.  I love it when I learn new things, like how snails grow their own shells or a quick way to calculate something or the amazing things we have been learning about the Bill of Rights.  I love the great things we read and watch and the awesome conversations we have at times.

But this–

This I did not enjoy.  AT. ALL.

And it’s such a little thing, isn’t it?  I mean, I’ve spent more dimes than I would ever care to count or admit, and ALL THIS TIME I thought I was handing over Dwight D. Eisenhower, only I wasn’t, and so my world is a bit off balance right now.

What else have I assumed I KNEW AND WAS TOTALLY CORRECT in my way of thinking about–only wasn’t?

What else am I wrong about–in my thoughts, my understanding, my beliefs?

It’s scary, this thing of assuming what we know or understand is RIGHT.

Which is why, maybe, just maybe we should every now and then take a step back and listen to what others know and understand.  We don’t have to take those things on or accept them as true, but who knows what we might learn if we are open to hearing it.

Just a thought.  That’s my FDR coin’s worth, anyway.

……still shaking my head…..

Love to all.

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And so now, looking at it up close, OF COURSE I CAN SEE THAT THIS IS FDR. How have I been getting this wrong all these many years?

 

Our Feathered Friends–A Field Trip Story

Today we took a field trip down to Go Fish for a class.  Cooter and our Princess enjoy these classes, as do I.  They do a really good job of combining learning and fun in the classroom there, and the facility itself with the amazing aquarium and fully stocked pond for fishing is one of our area’s best kept secrets.  So many opportunities for education and adventure all in one place.

The class this morning was about Our Feathered Friends.  One of the teachers asked the children about characteristics of birds that most or all have in common.  Wings, hollow bones (except for the common loon, I learned something today), and beaks were a few of the things mentioned.

Then Cooter raised his hand, and she called on him.  I was sitting in the same room but not close enough to have assessed what his response was going to be in advance.  His answer to the question about what characteristics most or all birds have was:  “They’re good cookin’.”

She and the other educator looked at each other, confused.  “They’re good cooks? Birds can cook?”

Not daunted by the misunderstanding, my little guy shook his head no, and restated his answer, “They’re good.  Cooked.  They’re good cooked.  Tasty.”

Welp.  Okay then.

The teachers and other moms in the room laughed.  I shook my head and reminded myself about who my son is.

The class clown of Zoo Crew Academy, ladies and gentlemen.  He’s here for the next eight years.  Thank you.  

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The next activity involved using different things that had been put together to look and act like different types of bird beaks–the hummingbird, the pelican, the wider beaked birds, and the tiny little pointed ones.  It was interesting as the children tried the different “beaks” to pick up “fish” from the water, or the nectar, birdseeds, or “worms” in the sand.  The children discussed which beaks were best for each type of food.

When they finished with that, the instructors, who are vibrant and fun and have great senses of humor (thankfully) and who seem to really enjoy the children, brought around two live chickens who were hatched during the Fair about a month ago.  They were of good size, though not full-grown.  As Cooter and Princess were petting one of the chicks, my girl commented that she’d love to have that chicken at our house and how its feathers were so soft like a kitten.  The teacher agreed.  “Yes, I’d love to take it home with me.”

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Our Princess kept loving on the chick, “Can you imagine?  Eggs whenever you wanted.  You’d never have to go to the store to get them.  Scrambled eggs for breakfast everyday!”

The teacher smiled and nodded.  “That would be good.  Scrambled eggs for breakfast–I’d love that.  But I’d need the chicken to cook them for me too.”

My girl didn’t miss a beat.  She looked at her teacher and said, “But that’s what your husband is for.”

For. The. Love.

The teacher laughed, “I love that.”

And so do I.

That our Princess lives a life where, if the wife isn’t able to scramble the eggs, it is just assumed that the husband would jump in and do it.

I mean, why not, right?   So thankful for the world she lives in, what she believes, and the story that is hers.

Tonight I’m thankful for the wonderful opportunities to share in the learning with my children.  I am so appreciative of the time and energy these fantastic folks put into planning a great and interesting program for the children, and I’m glad we have such an amazing place to learn just a little bit down the road.  I love that I get to learn alongside my children.  Most of all, I’m grateful for their precious spirits–wonky sense of humor and all–and how they see the world.  Their laughter is more than infectious, it’s light pouring out from their souls and changing the world for the better.

May we all share a laugh and pour a little light into the world today.

Love to all.