Friday, April 22, 2016

A boy meets his shadow

Our Classical Conversations group is done for the year. Final papers are written, speeches have been presented, Memory Masters certificates have been earned. We are not done with school for the year, but the most intensive part of our day is done until next fall. Today was our first day since all of the end of year hoopla ended, so we all breathed a nice, calm sigh and had a relaxing day.

There's this two year old in our house who cheers at every baseball game and gets shuffled along to every homeschool group, show choir practice, baseball practice, and church meeting. He builds with blocks while mama teaches math, plays with playdough during writing, and draws during family read aloud time. He does it with a smile on his face and makes fans wherever he go, but he rarely has time to do whatever he wants to do on his little two year old timeline.

This morning he did.

He were outside throwing a football when he asked, "Mama, can we go for a mile walk?" With nothing on the agenda and no pressing school work to get done, I happily replied that we could. Carrying his little cow umbrella to block the sun, he walked to the end of our driveway. "Which way should we turn," I asked. He thought for a moment before replying, "mmmmm, prolly Grizzly Way." Since we get to Grizzly Way whether we turn left or right, I decided to just follow him.
swishy pants. check. plaid shorts. check. little brother t-shirt. check. cow umbrella. check. let's roll!

He wanted to cross the street so we looked both ways and crossed. Apparently our long driveway tired him out because he sat down in the grass on the other side of the road. "Should we sit here and have a snack," he inquired. "Maybe an apple?"
Yes. We took a break across the street from our home
Disappointed to hear that I hadn't brought an apple on our one mile walk break across the street from our house, he got up and decided he wanted to walk the opposite direction. We looked for cars again and crossed the street. He quickly tired of holding the unwieldy umbrella and asked if I would carry it. I happily obliged, not because I love hauling all of the kids' castaways, but because I couldn't find my sunglasses and it kept the sun out of my eyes.

We walked a bit more, with him crossing the street every time a dog came into sight so he could ask the owner for the chance to pet the puppy. I guess the sun began to bother his eyes because he started a question about the umbrella. "Mama, if that bright sun. . . WAIT. Is that me?"
a boy meets his shadow
My sweet boy just met his shadow. I told him to move around and see what the shadow did. "Dance, Asher," I instructed. He wiggled his arms and watched Mr. Shadow do the same. "Even the hairs move, mama." He was blown away. I watched him learn and observe and verbalize his new discovery and it was an absolute gift.
and dances with him

We finally continued on and I pointed out the melted snow running through the ditch. "No, mama. That's water," he replied. We talked about the fact that when snow melts it turns into water and goes down hills. We walked along the ditch and he shuffled into the snow to touch the cold, "freeeeezing" water about ten times.
He discovered that melting snow is not just cold, but freeeeeeeezing water
Then he found some pebbles and threw them into the snow to see if they would stay on top or sink into the rapidly melting snow. We found an icy spot with some melted water, a teeny tiny pond put there just for us, or so it seemed. We threw our little rocks into it to see where it would splash and sink and where it would stay on top of the ice. As we played in the ditch, the homeowner pulled up and stopped her Prius at the end of her driveway. She asked about what we were doing and what Asher had discovered. She smiled to see a little boy enjoying a lazy day of outdoor learning. I think she would have ruffled his too-long, blonde hair if she'd been close enough. She had that loving grandma look in her eyes.

We turned back toward home and hadn't been walking long when Asher uttered, "A mile walk is long, mama." I asked if he wanted a piggy back ride and he most certainly did. We walked. I kept reminding him to hold onto my neck. He kept asking why. I kept telling him that I was holding a 34 pound toddler and an umbrella while I walked up a hill in Danskos so I needed a little help. Well, I said that in toddler-speak. He'd hold on for a while, then point to the bird or the water or the rocks.

We returned home from our mile walk. Technically it was less than a mile, but don't tell Asher because that was his "mile walk."  A lot can happen in a (almost) mile. Memories. Learning. Love. Lots and lots of love.

I sure do appreciate the leisurely pace of a two year old boy on a brilliant spring day.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Caption this. . .

Forgotten Spring.


Pining for Spring.

Maybe this is a study in glass half full, glass half empty types.

Winter here is magical. Tomorrow it will be 55 and Monday it will be 65 and it is entirely possible that we'll get two feet of snow on Mother's Day. Good thing that wagon is weather resistant.

Monday, March 14, 2016

making space

I am astounded at how quickly these mountains have become my home. I look around and these trees whisper to my soul and the sight of the mountains from our front yard delight me many times each day. I never knew a place to infiltrate my heart so. The move has had many bumpy moments and I miss many people almost all of the time, but when I stand outside and breathe in the mountain air, look up at the millions of stars, pure and bright without city lights reflecting, and hike and explore new places, I feel at home.

I've run in places that have been devastated by forest fires. Every time we drive through our little town, each little volunteer firehouse has a sign informing us of the current fire danger. We are to inform the fire station before we use our firepit each time. Getting home insurance is no easy task due to the risk of fire. All of these situations are constant reminders that the danger of a forest fire exist here, too.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Watching a wall of fire take out the trees that whisper to me so sweetly with the gentle breezes and howl when a new weather system blows in like a freight train. Seeing the devastation later. Picking up the pieces.

When a forest fire finally sputters out, the charred remains of a glorious forest seem to be all that remain. Toothpick remnants of majestic trees and exposed animal burrows. Raw. Hot. Dead.

But then something beautiful happens. Green growth peeks through. Seeds germinate. New animal habitats are formed. Destruction and death become growth and life.

I've been thinking about that in my life. What parts of me need to die so that there is a space for newness? What parts of me need to be put to the fire so that new pieces of me germinate?

With each child and each passing year, I have gotten more and more disorganized. I rearrange piles, but never take the time to purge unused, outgrown, and unwanted items. I walk into the house and drop things in random spots. It has gotten to the point that I am wasting money buying things I know I have somewhere in this pit of a home I have created and time because I am searching for items that I cannot find when I need them. I do not like having people over because of the mess. In short, it has gotten out of hand. This piece of me has to die so that I have room for the people, relationships, passions, and things that really matter to me.

I am working on it. Oh, boy, it is a challenge, but it is a necessary change in my life. On Friday, my mom took the four kids to the Museum of Nature and Science, and I spent the day cleaning out the entryway, closet, living room, and dining room, and got a good start on my archenemy, the playroom/schoolroom. I am throwing a lot of things away, donating many other items, and making sure that everything that stays has a place and that we can all find that place easily. Did I say challenge? Yes. This goes against my very nature. But the other way is no longer working for me. It has to go. I need space for beautiful things to grow and that cannot happen in this mess.

I spend too much time on Facebook. There. I said it. My excuse is that I am home without another grown-up for many hours, weeks, and months of the year, so it is my communication with the outside world. My excuse is that with so many family members and friends back in MN, that is my mode of communication with them.

In truth, so much time on there prevents me from doing some of the things I need to be doing here, and, yes, keeping my house in order is one of them! In truth, spending so much time on there prevents me from the reading and writing and laughing and living that I want to be doing here. I don't have a smart phone, so when I am away, I am away, but when I am home, I am pretty plugged in, and who wants to look at a mama with her face in the computer? In truth, the upcoming elections are causing me quite a lot of stress, and seeing the chatter on facebook is an absolute detriment to my mental health. (that sounds like an exaggeration, but it really is not.) In truth, I do things and automatically think of how I would caption the picture or something funny happens and I think of how I'll explain it. That's weird. I mean, really, if I go to a concert with my kids, but don't post about it on Facebook, did it really happen? Why do I need people to know what I did? Why do I require that validation that I'm doing ok? Why do I feel like everyone's marriage is better than mine and everyone gets to fly to a beautiful beach for spring break and everyone has cute stitch fix clothes, and I'm just sitting here wearing pajama pants covered in dog hair with a big zit on my chin in my messy house with a basement that will never get finished and that still doesn't have window coverings in some (most) of the bedrooms? I am not in junior high; this stuff shouldn't matter to me, and the vast majority of it didn't matter to me before social media.

Last night I saw a political video that just about threw me over the edge. I decided then that I needed to step back from social media for a while. I needed some time to rearrange my priorities, let other people bash each other about how they hang their toilet paper or the proper pronunciation of New Orleans, or some other nonsensical argument that will never ever ever be resolved on social media. I jest, of course. But really, the hate that I see and read about the November elections, the comments I read about the Women's National Basketball League after the Lynx won the championships, the vulgarity that is posted about nude selfies and sex tapes are far outweighing the benefits of easily staying in touch with people and laughing about miniature giraffe videos. My mind just can't handle that much hatred anymore. I feel fragile, wavering in my knowledge that light really does overpower dark, that love really can overcome hate. So I am walking away from social media for as long as necessary so that I have room for love to take hold and overwhelm me and pour forth from me and find a home within my soul.

I don't know. I'm just this big work in progress and I think progress has stalled. So I will let go of the things that are holding me back, as hard as that is, so that I have room for new growth. It is all I can think to do. One step at a time.

I will let the wildfires burn within so that fresh greenery can push through the charred pieces of myself.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

To a boy on the cusp

You start your devotional at confirmation by reading a bible verse because your baby brother memorized it.

Then you play your guitar and sing a worship song with such feeling and warmth that I glimpse the future you.

You sled with your brothers and sisters for hours on end, giggling and throwing snowballs and full of silliness.

Then you want to be by yourself and say their games are too boring.

You read Hop on Pop to Asher and laugh at the top of your lungs.

Then you close that book and open Revelations in the Bible or a Harry Potter book.

You think it's weird and wrong that so many parents let their kids play violent video games and use their phone all the time.

Then you tell us you'd like to have your own phone, but know you can't. (You're right, by the way.)
Celebrating his 12th birthday with family
You are boy and young man, all at the same time, and I love both pieces of your unique puzzle so very much and I want to keep them forever. I remember when you got your first haircut and I saw you as baby and toddler. You wore your first fancy church outfit and I saw you as toddler and boy. Now you are suspended between boy and young man and it is beautiful and wonderful and exciting and terrifying.
little baby Isaac at almost 5 months

Bringing me such joy
You are twelve today. Your last year before you become a teenager. So many things will change, probably sooner than later, definitely sooner than I'd prefer. The world beyond our four walls will matter more. It will become louder. Please know that I will want to cover your eyes and plug your ears and lock you in a deep and dark basement so I can keep you forever. More importantly, please know that I won't because the world needs you. The world needs the special gifts that are yours alone, the mix of serious and focused and energetic and silly. The boy who loves sports, sports stats, stinky cheese, all the strangest food combinations, Broadway musicals, rap, and history. The world needs your big, beautiful, but sometimes shy smile, your understanding of right and wrong, your caring, your laughter, your sarcasm, your intelligence, your curiosity, your love. The best gifts are made to be shared, and you, my son, are a gift beyond measure. And most importantly, please know that on your journeys of this big, beautiful, terrifying world, you always have a home, a safe place to land, a place where laughter, hugs, and card games await, a place where we know the best and worst of you and love you all the more for the thousands of moments we have shared.

I remember when you turned five. I tucked you in and sang your lullabies and cried because I thought things would be so different the next day. But they weren't. Not right away. For all the millions of ways that things have changed since I first held beautiful, wonderful, perfect for me, you on February 11, 2004, so many things have remained the same.
Isaac's 4th birthday party

Isaac and his dinosaur cake

Your smile. My love. Your laughter. My desire to be the best mama for you that I can be. Your curiosity. My awe.

Our toothless wonder turns 6

Birthday fun at the Mall of America

A winter walk in our MN neighborhood

We've grown a lot these twelve years, Isaac. They placed you on my chest and I breathed the sigh of a woman who just discovered her place in this world. When I was pushing, I dramatically exclaimed, "I don't know why anyone does this more than once." Then I held you and I looked into your dad's eyes through the happiest of tears and cried, "Now I know." You've taught me more than I knew possible. I've failed and loved and worried and loved some more. I've prayed and cried and laughed and hoped and wondered and marveled. I've disappointed you before and I will disappoint you again, but I hope that when you look back at me, at us, at our complex and ever-evolving relationship, you will remember love. Love that you received and love that you gave, because both have meant the world to me.
Sledding together for Isaac's 9th birthday

Isaac's 12th birthday wish came true when his second favorite team won the Super Bowl.
We surprised them with a trip to the celebration parade.
Thank you for being you and for sharing your best and worst with me every day. I thank God daily for the grand honor of being your mama.
Isaac in a nutshell. Emotions on his sleeve and a MN sports fan at heart

Birthday fun at the arcade

Bowling with family and friends
Happy 12th Birthday, Isaac. I love you, million times two.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

twelfth birthday eve

I held him on my lap, all 11 years and 364 days of him, all legs and elbows and excited grin. We looked at pictures of him through the years. I told him that I am equal parts flabbergasted, proud, amazed, and heartbroken that he will be 12 tomorrow. I told him that I love him and that I always, always will. I cried onto his t-shirt. I made sure he was the first to let go.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


We have an under the weather fellow. It's nothing too serious, just general aches, lots of sleepiness, no appetite, and a strong need to cuddle. No complaints from me about that last symptom. Audrey and I organized the heck out of her room today, which looks spectacular, and my little sick fellow slept on my bed, surrounded by his old pals, Henry and Ribsy, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and some kid-friendly Shakespeare books we bought for the kids. He'd wake up periodically, pet the snuggly kitty, read a few chapters, slurp some pedialyte, then drift off for another siesta. I remember those long, lazy days of sickness from my youth fondly, not because I was sick, but because the world slowed down just for me, or so it felt.

It is snowing snowflakes as big as my face, and a few of us cuddled under thick blankets we lovingly call "blanket heaven." Audrey made waffles for our "breakfast for supper" tonight and the scent is making me want to dive in, but I'm cutting out sugar for a while, what with the Christmas induced sugar cravings waking me up in the morning thinking that fudge is an acceptable breakfast. Isaac used his Christmas money to order a new to him bat so he's all ready for baseball season. Asher napped and the rest of us watched the last part of Return of the Jedi. Then Asher woke up and wanted snack, so I went in to help with hand washing and he screamed like I was filling a cavity minus Novocaine. Angry Toddler! Apparently hand washing goes against everything he believes in today. He worked it out, requiring lots of snuggles and some applesauce, and now we're here.

That's a little snippet of our day. It doesn't matter much. But it sure is important.

I am reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Today I read the chapter with the letter she wrote to her kids. Good grief, the tears and yeses and me, toos flowed while I read that chapter. I would like to cut and paste the whole chapter (or book) right here, but that's frowned upon by legal types. Therefore, I will instruct you to borrow or buy the book. In this chapter in particular, I love how she knows her kids make mistakes and aren't perfect, but she loves and likes them in real ways and they also bug her in real ways, too. That's life.

Jen's (I call her that, since I now know she basically resides in my head and writes about the stuff I'm thinking/worrying/laughing about.) oldest is off to college next year, so their time together as a full family under one roof will soon change into something new. We all know that will happen, but sometimes it seems sooner or more real than others.

Today is one of those days it feels closer, so we snuggle under blanket heaven, read another chapter of Little House on the Prairie, and embrace this flawed, loved, imperfectly perfect family.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

resolutions, shmesolutions

That's supposed to rhyme. Get it?

Anyway, moving on.

I am bad at resolutions. Big fail bad. And it isn't even like I make huge, life-altering resolutions with no shot at success. "I resolve to lose 8.93 pounds and win my first ever beauty pageant." "I resolve to never roll my eyes when my son tells me the same made-up, never funny knock knock joke for the 389th time today." "I resolve to only eat vegan, raw, organic, locally sourced, elk-pooh fertilized garbanzo beans every day for the next year."

Nope. I aim low and still fail.

One year I resolved to wear earrings every day. Nope. Another year I hit a new low and resolved to get dressed every day. Still nope. I mean, really, what's the point of homeschooling if you can't sit around in your pajamas every now and again? Also, my dislike of laundry AND shopping is well-documented, so it is no surprise that there are days when both of my pairs of jeans are dirty, thus making a pajama day my only option.

The point is, resolutions, shmesolutions.

Before 2015, I read about choosing a word and focusing on that for the coming year. I chose order. My grandma, also a mother of four, got a good old kick out of that one. She saw it coming; the writing was on the wall. I failed. I didn't even mean order in the sense of keeping my life orderly and my house clean. Instead, I wanted to order my priorities and live my life to obviously reflect them. Still nope.

But, quitters never win and winners never quit, so I'm back at it. A new year and a new word.

Now I'm not saying it isn't as ridiculous as order, because I fully know it is, but I'm going to give it a whirl and here's my reasoning.

My brain doesn't shut off. Never. And my mouth is nearly always running. Also, I am usually surrounded by 3-4 children with varying needs and wants who are very skilled at voicing their needs and wants. It's never quiet. I'm never quiet.

And if I'm always loud, then truth and beauty have to fight harder to get my attention. I'm tough to track down. I'm distracted. If I'm always loud, I'm not listening enough. I'm not listening enough to the people in my family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and God.

What it probably boils down to is that I decided to ditch any sort of resolution or word because who needs so many years of failing in a row, but then the word quiet just wouldn't get out of my head. I felt it heavy on my heart, like it was something I really needed to explore.

For those reasons and more, I will focus on quiet, both internally and externally. I will spend time, just with me, exercizing, reading, journaling, and studying the bible. I don't do any of those things enough and they all fill me up, but instead of carving out time to do them, I run around on empty. I will also work to listen more and talk less, think more and speak less, read and write more and facebook less, pause more and teact less, consider more and shout less.

My chances of success aren't great, given my sketchy history, but I'm going for it with baby steps.

Do you have a resolution, word, or goal for the New Year? Do you think a homeschooling mom of four has any chance at at making "quiet" happen? :)