22 January 2014

be still

it was a morning much like all mornings. late starts. groggy mama. roaming boys. only on this morning the lure of a new trampoline and a sky filled with snowflakes called to boys. and a hot, freshly made cappuccino called to mama. so i went with it. 

the littlest bundled on two pairs of pants and thick socks, two sweaters and a sleeping bag. out they went for an early morning romp. i compromised, "p.e. came early." that is my excuse for our late school starts. and in reality sitting down to the table at 9:45 isn't going to kill anyone, right?

i was about to launch into reading history when i closed the book and said, "boys, what is the most important thing we can do all day?" in unison they answered, "pray". and so we did. only this time i told them, "today we are going to do something a little bit different. let's spend 1 minute saying aloud adjectives that describe god." i went on, "there is no method to this. just say a word. we are not going in order. for 60 seconds let's just close our eyes and remind ourselves who god is by describing him aloud. i'll start. powerful." the 10 year old chimed in "merciful". silence. the 10 year, feeling his part as older brother offered his younger brother in a loud whisper, "strong". so the littlest added louder as if it was his idea, "strong." feeling the unspoken rhythm i said, "love". the ten year old said, "powerful". silence. clearly the 7 year old was now accustomed to his older brother helping so he must've been waiting for another prompt. "all knowing", helped the 10 year old through a loud whisper. "all knowing!" raised the 7 year old.

and for 60 seconds we went around the table, eyes shut-i think, i never opened mine, but could hear the swill of hot chocolate sips and slurps in between words. it was the sweetest, most sacred time of prayer i have ever had with these little boys. hearing the 10 year old. his words so telling of how he sees his creator. the 7 year old speechless, but willing to take a lead from his older brother. and follow.

it is rare, rare that my hurried personality senses an urgency to slow down, for stillness but i have sensed for going on a year now an urgency, neigh, necessity to slow down. it began before we moved back to tennessee when i was anticipating this school year with its many changes. i knew that i needed to keep life simple. and i willingly obeyed that prompting. not committing my boys to too much. recognizing that less is more in the way of curriculum. honing their strengths and working methodically and slowly on their weaknesses. deciding that art class was the way to draw out their inner scholar. finding time for running club, basketball and swimming were the way to inspire deeper understanding of mathematics and reading. deciding much to my discomfort that reading, spelling, history and math with a gentle nod to science and grammar were the full scope and sequence of our school year, leaving out latin, rote memorization, and my love, writing. i tabled those. for now. 

everyday as i sit to teach i say something that i dare say no other school teacher has ever spoken to her students which is: i don't care if you don't learn a thing except to know that you are loved by an eternal, loving, true god. if you know this and if you love him, that is all that matters in this life. and you know what. that is my veritas. i don't care where they go to college. i care about where they spend eternity.

in the late afternoon amid the folded clothes on my bed, the 7 year old came to lie down beside me as i read the news. he chatted to me as i scanned the screen. i said what i say to him about a million times a day which is, "i really like you. and i love you. you are my best friend." and he said back, "i like you. and i love you. but my best friend is...you know." i began rattling off names of whom i thought it could be, his best friend. then he cut to the chase and said, "god". and my heart was glad. "i hope he always is."

so the next morning after the Mister left for work and in response to the frigid temperatures, i called the boys back to my bedroom, the warmest room in the house. "let's just read and pray back here since it's so cozy." the boys got situated under blankets and after what felt like an eternity of reminding them that nestling into bed isn't license to become rowdy, we read scripture. the familiar passage elicited a chorus of little voices who had somewhat memorized this particular set of scripture. when it came time to pray, i reminded them of what we did yesterday. "so today we are going to spend a minute calling out the many names of god." i went through the list many taught to me from amy grant and sandy patti songs. then we began, "savior". "lord". "mate". i thought about the boy who called "mate". and when i couldn't contain my emotion, i burst out laughing. yes, god is our mate, thinking he meant husband, but no. "he's my mate-like friend." ahhhhh. then we began back. "messiah". "judge". "life boat." clearly this boy sees god in a way that is pure and real, but when he called out, "brother from another mother" i chided, "okay, i think we're done here. our minute is up."

here's to finding an urgency to be still. had i not listened and obeyed, i would have missed these magnificent moments. how many of these have been squandered by the tyranny of the urgent. o, i am so ashamed. but there is hope to change. i will take it, the invitation to change. and find the blessing in what i've got left. may you find it and be delighted. 


20 January 2014

grit and bear it

i could see him. traipsing through the yard. with a ladder. i would be remiss if i didn't mention how i muttered, "o, good lord" under my breath or maybe it was rather audible as the sound prompted the Mister to ask, "what is it?" i nodded out the window to a group of boys who were gathering around a tree. i couldn't make out what was going on but from the looks of it the crepe myrtle was about to be scaled by the likes of two of wild ass monkey's finest: the 7 year old and the 10 year old. the 12 year old stood beside the ladder to steady the harrowing climb and to serve as wing man with an extra long pole in his hand. and then i spotted it. in the tippiest top of the tree was the 10 year old's latest procured aerobie that he just last night had spent his 10$ on at the adventure store aka REI.

now stop. in this story, i could have 1) ran out to stop him from making what was a risky climb which could result in a fall that could potentially mean a broken something or 2) i could watch (and maybe pray) to see how he worked out this scenario. want to guess which one i did?

i feel with my entire being that allowing children to risk and struggle is profoundly good (and ridiculously hard) and completely necessary. it produces grit. and grit chisels character. the lines run deep. the end result is stunning. but not without consequences. however, the consequences of not standing back and letting children risk, fall, fail are much more damaging than a trip to the e.r. and much more insidious. i would rather a bone need mending than to see one of my sons being crippled with fear-fear of failure, fear of intimacy, fear of success-you name it. better to have stitches than to have gaping holes of character flaws that result in too much navel gazing, hand wringing, waffling and what ifs. the purpose of parenting is to prepare our children for this wild world not to enable them from engaging it. 

the 12 year old lifted the pole he had fashioned with his brothers. pvc pipes taped together, 3 in total that they estimated would just reach that taunting orange circle. i stood at the sink. the Mister stood in the driveway and watched as three of our boys worked together like a team of mules in synch. i held my breath as the 10 year old climbed higher and higher. and just like that with the help of his brothers and a jury rigged pole, he knocked his hard earned toy free from the snares of the branches. the Mister looked up at the kitchen window to see if i had seen. i had. and i ran outside to holler, "way to go!" and just like that they resumed their game until it was time to assemble the trampoline.

this lesson is one that i must practice daily like when the 14 year old came home from school at 4:00 and wished to walk back to school to watch a basketball game that lasted until 9 at night-by himself. or when the 7 and 10 year old joined their 12 and 14 year old friends for a bike ride to the nearby ice cream parlor. or standing by when the 12 year old has to decide to stand for truth and goodness when he could easily be bitter or dishonest. even recalling these recent events makes my mama's heart wince. it's so hard, but then i see the consequences. 

the 14 year old enjoyed his night out alone with his friends. the 7 year old and 10 year old are maturing and learning to handle themselves in ways that i could only hope. and the 12 year old. o, that boy. he grows more tender and loving towards me as he grows more rugged and courageous towards life. 

i do not have this mothering thing figured out. i never will. just when we get in a new groove, life steps in and reminds me that i am working with organic beings who are constantly changing. and so must i. 


post script: a few hours after the boy rescued his toy from the tree's taunting branches, it landed in an even higher branch far, far out of the reach of ladder or climber made by the bravest. so like the movies, feats must be rated. parental discretion is advised. 

17 January 2014

greeting old

okay, just to be clear. i am not old. i don't feel old (despite what the body test i just took at the y.m.c.a. says). my friends say i don't look old. but a few days ago i turned 43. and found myself buying a pair of reading glasses-after the eye doctor gave me that knowing look when i kept holding the reading card away from eyes at my last check up.

but hey, it's all cool. getting older has never been a fear or a dread of mine. it happens, it's inevitable. why hate the passing of time? i don't understand how that's helpful. getting older for me has always meant one thing: one breath closer to meeting jesus. and seriously, that way overshadows wrinkles and achey knees. but seeing how nobody i know finds talking of death hopeful, i keep those notions to myself. 

so a couple of days ago, it was my birthday. it's been a long standing tradition in our household for the Mister to take the day off on this family holiday. this year was no exception. we sent the two older boys off to school and snuggled in with the youngers. they had planned breakfast and took me to a local spot that is often so bustling you can't find a table, but as providence would see (and the fact it was a wednesday), we managed to find ample seating for our dwindled bunch of 4.

the 10 year old brought his wallet and was set on contributing. he wanted to buy me SOMETHING anything. a new flask? no honey, mommy already has one. a small pot of jam, perhaps? no, thanks. i kept telling him there was nothing i wanted. but knowing that it was important for him to buy me something with his money, i told him i would let him know when i saw the perfect gift.

after we were stuffed and over caffeinated, the Mister took the two youngers home to school them whilst i got lost for the day. i took my traditional walk around radnor lake (the only time i typically do this alone), and perused a thrift store where i found the yummiest pendleton blanket for chicken scratch. and of course procured those darling reading glasses. 

after a day of decadently doing whatever i wished, i met up with the boys for indian food and a movie. after the show, we were walking out when the 10 year said, "mom, i didn't get you anything for your birthday-from me." about that time, the 7 year old noticed the photo booth that sits in the corner of this crowded theatre. "hey, i have an idea. for my birthday present, will you pay for a session in the photo booth?" and we bum rushed the booth and packed in like sardines. the 14 year old looked on with mild amusement, but no thank you he did not wish to participate. the 7 year old cried, "but i am so little i won't be visible!" i comforted him, "you can sit on my lap." the 10 year old pulled out his wallet and 3 crisp dollar bills to feed the machine. it was all ridiculously hilarious and fun. deeply satisfying sincerely fun. when was the last time you felt that? 

and when the slot spit out our strip of hilarity, i thanked the 10 year old for my favorite gift. a memory of our sweet time of being silly after a full day of ridiculous reminders of how loved and celebrated i am. and every year that passes, that is one more year for me to be reminded of all the joy and profound goodness around me that blankets me and mine through the likes of friends and community that is better than any earthly riches. i decided that greeting old is better than getting old. greeting is warmer and more intentional. so for this year, that's what i'll think on as i laugh-especially every time i pass the refrigerator where this strip of photographic evidence of time well spent is stuck.

and as you can see, the 7 year old managed to find his place in front of the camera. poor thing.

here's to keeping perspective, people. aging is inevitable-if we're lucky. 

07 January 2014

2013 was a moving year

i am not one for resolutions. i already feel like i am not keeping up so why add fuel to the fire. but if i did make resolutions, it would be to write more letters especially to my boys. in those letters, i would remind them of all i like about them, reminiscing over time well spent. but i am a loser. i don't write enough. but i do take photos. my only way of remembering all that we do. and in a given year, it's not unusual for me to take thousands. you know just to remember stuff cause my memory also needs some work. perhaps more sudoku would help with that? next years non-resolution. but back to this year. 

it's been a year. what a year! unlike a few years past when those who love me and know me received christmas cards which honestly read, "it's been a crappy year", this year has been better, kinder. full of promise and hopefulness and change (and no christmas cards). and even though i loathe the word busy, i will let you take a peek into our last 365 days. a recap if you will. 

our lives are full. brimming with all kinds of sweetness, sorrow, wonder and while. i managed to keep 4 boys alive. a huge feat. and i moved those 4 boys and two dogs with the help of the Mister and loads of lovely friends and family from the mid atlantic back to the mid south. another huge feat!

now prepare for photo overload. i wish the pictures came with sound. o, the volume! 

herein lies a little of what we did/saw/learned/loved. it's been moving...
charlie discovered the benefits of hanging with teachers outside of class

the passing of the baton: big charles gave little charles his 40 year old deer rifle

went to see casa de washington aka mount vernon

gave up on family photos

played tourists in our favorite place: nashville

got dolled up for a funeral

got creative with teachable moments

put a lot of miles (and a new transmission) on the boy mobile

discovered homeschooling these two is hard. real hard.

enjoyed friday night lights

found a new watering hole

yelled: a lot

drank: a lot

took loads and loads of photos

hiked: a lot

toyed with the idea of getting bangs: decided it was too much

got dolled up for a wedding

drank: a lot

ran with the mayor

shot guns

got dolled up for a ballet

played poker

got dolled up for church

ran for fun. in the rain. for beer.

baked: a lot

bid adieu to our mid atlantic life

baked: a lot

said hello to our second (SECOND!) dog

said good bye to some of my besties

said hello to my first love

had a little help moving

added triathlon to their curriculum vitae

realized these two make up the "wild" and "ass" in the wild ass monkeys

drank: a lot

used up a lot of nail lacquer

sent the boys to uncle george's for a week

sent these two off to public school

watched my love receive the coveted epps spark plug award

bought braces: twice

was given a school calendar for the first time-ever

drank: a lot

celebrated 18 years 

hiked: a lot

laughed: a lot

and last but not least...

found my groove-or something like it. 

here's to another year chocked full of all kinds of adventures: wild ass monkey style.
gf xo