Monday, April 20, 2015

Imagining the Past

One of the benefits of homeschooling that I really love is that we can often venture down rabbit trails.  We were talking about farming and southern plantation life during the Civil War era, when one of my kids asked where we would fit into society if we had lived during that time.  I easily answered that realistically we would most likely live in town and be a business owner.  Maybe shopkeepers?  Lawyers, coopers, or printers perhaps?  We would absolutely be acceptable in our own social circle, but much to one of my daughter's chagrin, we would not likely ever be invited to any events held at the plantations.  My eldest daughter grumbled, but I assured her that we would have made sure she married well.  It got a good laugh from her siblings.  As I surveyed the laughing faces, it struck me.  Not all of us would fare quite as well.

Mr. Clean with his handsome Viking features and icy blue eyes would fit right in.  Xena matches her father in looks and sports blonde locks.  K.Z. has my father's native look and bone structure, but with his freckled skin still looks like he could walk right out of my mother's native Scotland.  Carisa also matches my father, but if we keep her under a large brim hat and out of the sun, we can keep her light winter shade.  But my youngest boys?  Where would they fit in during the Antebellum years?  My heart sunk.

I decided to get real with the kids and be honest about how our family would actually look.  Eazy, my nine year old has the prominent look of Spanish aristocracy, but with an olive complexion.  His dark hair and eyes help to give away his hispanic heritage.  My baby, the seven year old Das, has the look of his Puerto Rican ancestors and more resembles the Taino tribe that historically inhabited the island.  As a baby he was a paler version of himself, but as he has grown his melanin has found its perfect level, leaving his skin a gorgeous copper brown.  That reality would have made my youngest boys very unequal in society in our imaginary Antebellum family scenario.

We talked for a while about the way just even by boys would have been treated differently from one another.  Eazy would have faired much better, with his features looking more European, despite his Spanish complexion.  Das would most likely have been treated much worse.  More than likely they would have been free men, but certainly not held as part of "polite society".  

I had never thought about how my boys would have been treated historically, but I have thought a lot about their futures.  Right now I can protect my boys from the nonsense the world can throw out there because they are darker than their parents.  I hope I can equip them to deal with any of it they may deal with as adults, out there on their own.  I pray that by that time, it won't even be an issue.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Happy Momma Moments

Every Thursday morning, my husband takes my eldest child, KZ to breakfast before he attends classes for the day.  They are usually up and gone by 06:30, which for me is a tad early.  Last Thursday, Mr. Clean had to be at a client's site early and could not take KZ to school, so it was up to me.  Initially I had planned to crawl out of bed, shower, dress, and drive KZ the fifteen minutes or so to school, simply making sure that my eyes, blurry from my permanent "night owl" status, stayed open.  KZ had a different thought.  He still wanted to go to breakfast.

Honestly, my first thought was, "ugh."  Not only did I have to get up early to drive him, but he wanted me to get up even earlier to spend money on him and take him to breakfast?  Cheeky kid.  I agreed, because he really seemed like he still wanted to go, despite his dad not being able to take him.  Seriously, who wouldn't want to hit Chick fil-A before hitting the books?

My alarm went off at 06:00 and I wearily got out of bed.  Surely after a shower, I would be ready to face the day.  It helped.  Sort of.  It wasn't until we got to the restaurant that It struck me that this was no obligation, this was a privilege.  I got to spend thirty minutes or so just hanging out with my boy.  Only my boy.  Not five kids, a husband, two dogs, three gerbils, and the dust bunnies that live in my house.  

We chatted as much as a sleepy mom and a fifteen year old can at 07:00, even laughing a bit.  I enjoy my kids and love spending time with them.  It amazes me how much more man-like my little boy is, and I am seriously proud of that man he seems to be morphing into.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Fresh Perspective

I have never been a huge fan of tweens and teens.  Until tonight.

Don't get me wrong.  I like some teenagers, and I like some tweens.  As a matter of fact I have some of both, and I adore them.  However, I have never been drawn to that age group.  Give me pukey babies, temper tantrum throwing toddlers, or the goofy young elementary sect, and I am good.  Anybody older than that, under the age of 18 or so, no thanks. I'll pass on the drama, and raging hormones. Normally.

Tonight I got to spend the evening with over a dozen young teens while they held a dinner for local veterans.  Any veteran was welcome, from Afghanistan to WWII, and we had a phenomenal span.  I watched as these young men and ladies sat with, spoke to, served, listened to, and cleaned up after the men and women who had proudly served our country.  And they were excited to do it.

I watched my own son and daugher carefully plan what they would wear for the event, to look their best.  I watched my daughter plan and execute making part of the dinner and a dessert.  I saw students prepare art work to decorate the venue.  I listened as my kids excitedly talked about the blankets they were making with their classmates as gifts for each veteran that attended.  I watched as these middle school kiddos helped set up and tear down the venue, making it as nice as possible for their guests.  I listened to the conversations in my van on the way to and from the dinner with the teen friend that carpooled with us.  I watched as they served and showed love to the ones who served us.  I saw individual young people who cared.

I saw this age group with new eyes, and I enjoyed them.  What a great honor it was for me to simply watch them at work.  They are a great group.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stranger, Friend...

I just watched a YouTube video of a man in, I believe, Istanbul standing on a busy street blindfolded, arms outstretched, and behind a sign that read (paraphrasing), "I trust you, do you trust me? Hug me."  I wanted to jump through the screen and hug that man.  In the beginning of the video, people were cautious, only one or two dared to do it, but by the end of the clip people were lining up for a chance to show some love to this stranger.  They were getting nothing more from it.

It reminded me of the Christmas Truce of 1914, when during "The Great War" (WWI) soldiers from both sides put down their weapons, ventured into No Man's Land and spent Christmas playing games with one another, exchanging small tokens and shared stories.  They sung together and hugged one another before going back into the trenches to get back to the dirty job of war.  The fact that they were alleged enemies didn't matter for that short period of time.  Their nationalities didn't matter, their religious beliefs didn't dissuade them, their jobs and social classes made no difference; they were simply men.  Sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, and friends.  

Isn't that so much easier?


Thursday, March 19, 2015

365 Busted

You want me to build you a birdhouse?  Okay!  It may not be level, and it may look like a crooked little squatter's den but I'll do it.  How about knotting a fleece blanket?  Sure!  They may not be exactly even squares, but it will keep you warm.  Let's go bake a pie!  That crust may burn a little, but it will be edible.  Why not?  Let's do it.

I will do a hundred things I am not so great at, and have no personal attachment or commitment to at the drop of a hat.  If I goof them up, no worries.  It won't bother me a bit.  But something that I love and enjoy doing?  If I can't make it sound the way I want it to, look the way I want it to, or read the way I want it to, I avoid it like the plague.  I hate that part of my personality.

I revamped writing here a little bit ago.  I committed to 365 days of writing; preferably in a row.  I have not been quite keeping up my end of that commitment however, and I'm frustrated.  I will write in my head at night and love the ideas.  When I start to type the next day, the flash of inspiration from the night before, or even hours before in the shower or while brushing my teeth, just doesn't land.  It doesn't sound right.  It doesn't have that feeling I felt when I was writing in my head.  It just... doesn't.  So, I abandon it.  And then I get annoyed with myself.

So it's time to get off of my self imagined high horse and just do it.  Get thoughts typed even if they do not match what I had originally conjured.  Let them take their own twists and turns, even if sometimes, I am not sure where they will end.  Like today.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Want A Do Over

This week has been one for the record books.  On Wednesday we had a gorgeous day here in PA.  The weather was mild and warm for the first time in a while.  On the way home from our homeschool co-op we had the windows rolled down and took our time getting home.  It was wonderful.

Later that afternoon, I discovered that our wee gerbil Sally finally lost her battle.  C'sa was busy jumping on the trampoline and playing outside, so I brought Sally into my room, found a box for her and decided that the knowledge of her death could wait in the kids' world.

Breaking the news to C'sa was hard.  I knew she would take it badly, and she did.  She loves deep, so loss cuts deep.  For the next couple of days she would break into intermittent sobs.  It broke my heart to have to try and soothe those wounds.

Friday afternoon her wounds became tangible.  While jumping on the trampoline with my oldest son, they accidentally collided and fell into a heap on the trampoline's canvas.  Her glasses broke, and so did her clavicle. She was in immense pain.  

We took her to an urgent care facility and had x-rays done. They trussed her up in a harness and a sling, and sent her home with a prescription for pain and instructions to follow up in a week with an orthopedist.  After 24 hours hours post break, I doubt she can last a week.  She is still in serious pain and can barely move.  Prayers are coveted, an immediate Monday morning appointment craved.

We will grow from this week, we will heal; but I wish it was one we could just try again, with much different results.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Well, I'll Be...

Yesterday it appeared that one of our little gerbils was ready for that Big Gerbil Wheel in the sky.  I promised my sobbing daughter on Sunday that I would make an appointment for her with the vet if she made it through the night on Sunday.  She did, but I could not get an appointment until today.  I knew I wasn't going to have to keep that appointment.  I prepared my girls for the inevitable last night.  We have experienced a gerbil death before, and the signs were all there.  Except she decided to hang out another night last night.

I got up early to go check on her, fully anticipating that I would need to remove her body so the girls would not wake up to that scene.  I snuck into their room with my flashlight and checked the tank.  Not a gerbil in sight.  Our sick little one, Sally, had been lethargically living her last days on a bed of cotton we had put down for her, and hadn't been budging, yet now she was nowhere.  I couldn't even find her sister, Lucy.  Panicking a little and imagining a lifeless Sally buried somewhere amongst the pine shavings and paper pulp, I shined my flashlight into the wooden house that dominates the glass tank.  Two very annoyed and tired eyes reflected the light back at me.  I think I jumped three feet into the air.  Sally, looking at me a tad perplexed as to why I was shining a light in her eyes, turned away and rested her head back down.  I breathed a little sigh of relief that she had lasted the night.

Later this morning, she had taken refuge once again on her cotton palette and was looking worse.  Her labored breathing had slowed way down to shallow gulps.  I was ready to call the vet and cancel the one o'clock afternoon appointment I was pretty confident she would not live to see.

Zoom ahead eight hours, and I am wrestling my wee friend to try and stick a syringe full of antibiotics between her teeth.  She is not happy with me, whatsoever.  The vet is hoping that she simply has an infection.  I never imagined I would actually have to keep a vet appointment for a gerbil.  In the last few hours, the sweet docile Sally girl has bitten one vet and one vet assistant necessitating a bandage for both, ran around her tank inspecting it for change while she had been gone at the evil aforementioned vet's office, completely demolished, by chewing her way through, the cardboard of a toilet paper roll, and dug so furiously, had she been in actual dirt, she may have made it to China.  She is now asleep, and I am exhausted.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring for our girl, but I can bet it won't be what I plan for. In either direction.

Monday, March 2, 2015

For His Eye Is On the Sparrow...

Three years ago my girls got three little rodent sisters as pets.  Although not my first pick for a pet, gerbils seemed like a good salve to put on my eldest daugher Xena's heart after our cat died.  We didn't want another cat, so after four or five years of her mourning him and begging for another feline, we decided to put her focus on something else with fur.  Welcome our little desert rodents.

I must admit I fell in love with them right away.  I could often be caught staring at the gerbil tank, just watching them play, dig tunnels, and scurry around their home.  I even would take them out to croon at them in that silly voice reserved for babies and puppies.  Last summer we had to deal with one of the sweethearts getting sick and dying.  It was Xena's gerbil that died and it was a tough time for her.  She was heartsick.  I asked her if she would take over the care of "my" gerbil Lucy.  She gladly accepted, and life kept moving on, in that way it tends to do.  Life, is once again gearing up to give us another blow.

In gerbil years, three is considered elderly.  C'sa's little gerbil friend Sally is fighting the good fight, but I fear she is going to lose that fight very soon, if not tonight.  I have spent the last day and a half stalking their tank, checking her breathing, hand feeding and watering her, and just stopping to gaze.  I have tried to brace my tender hearted girl for the stark reality of what is coming, but this evening it became too much.  My baby girl was in a puddle of tears at the simple thought of her gerbil dying.  

This is what love looks like.

I reminded her that the Lord created every living thing and cares for all of them.  His care extends to the lilies of the valley, the sparrows, and the little desert rodents.  As much as she loves Sally, Christ loves C'sa a gazillion times more.  So much that He sacrificed His life for hers.  A God that big wouldn't forget His smallest creatures.

I hope I reassured my girls that their little friends were loved by the One who created them.  They can trust Him to see to every detail, even the furry ones...

I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
For His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

Sunday, February 22, 2015

This...

Today was an extremely uneventful day in our house.  One might argue that is the best kind of day.  I concur.  The day was full of wrestling matches, clan wars, friends, Legos, book reading, laundry folding, tickling, and electronics.  Church was ultimately canceled today because of the early morning slick roads, which allowed us a late start to the day.  Two of the children never even got dressed.  It was a pajama lounging type of day.

It was also a day of that quiet affirmation that is sometimes hard to hear.  The small, still voice that assures your entire soul that the path you are on is the right one.  The job that you are doing, the struggles you are fighting, are being done well.  It was a day that "just being the momma" was akin to being adorned in the Crown Jewels.  

Before she went off to read tonight before bed, my eldest daughter and I stood side by side in front of a mirror.  She wanted to see our height difference (I still win... for now).  I took the time to take in our semi-matching faces.  Her beautiful golden hair against my dark mane. Our matching blue eyes and freckles.  I looked at this person, and simply the act of seeing her face reflected in a mirror made my heart happy.  

This is what it is all about.  This was the job I wanted.  On the days it gets tough, I want to remember today.  The "uneventful" one.  The one I want to repeat a million times over.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Full On Narcissist

The other day I was stewing a bit over a made up scenario in my head involving a friend.  Mind you, it wasn't even a real scenario, but I was getting indignant anyway.  I just knew I was right, and that Friend A had done something nice for Friend B; something that neither had ever even offered to do for me...

Again, imaginary scenario that I decided must have happened that day based on shoddy evidence I had gathered.  I was basically back in jr. high school in my head (and maturity level).  It was a tad pathetic.

Have you ever been there?  Decided that just because someone did not do something that you would have done, they must be snubbing you?  Did it hurt?

It occurred to me right that very minute that perhaps the act of service I was stewing about (again, alleged) was not even an act of service that Friend B would have ever thought about offering.  After all, we all are not created to serve in the same way.  It wasn't even something I have ever needed, yet I felt slighted not getting it?  No wonder we need Christ's humility as an example.  I was in full on narcissism mode.  Wince.

I have friends that would move heaven and earth to help me figure out logistics in my day.  I have others who are great listeners.  I have some who love me enough to tell me when I am being too snarky, silly, or sensitive.  I even have one that will cover all those bases.  I can't even fill all those roles for someone else myself, but my friends take me for what I can offer.  They love me where I am.

So perhaps the next time that cheeky, immature, bratty version of me gets indignant over what someone else doesn't do, she will instead be grateful for all the other things they have done and will do, and humble herself a little. And love them right where they are.  Isn't that what Christ did for us?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reveling in the Little Things

Mr. Clean was out of town last night with work, and I had big big plans.  I was going to rendezvous with a couple men I haven't seen in a while.  I figured that I could alternate my time and attention between Mr. Selfridge and Doc Martin, but those pesky children of mine had other plans.

The three youngest wanted a sleepover.  In my room.  I am certainly cultured enough to know one simply does not have men in her room when the children are about, so I changed my plans and let the kids camp out on my floor.  

I thought about how cool it was that I still had kids that wanted to spend time with me.  Wanted to just be in the same room I was for the night.  Even if it meant having to decide who got Daddy's side, and who had to grab a spot on the floor.  It was heartwarming.  So I put up with the whispering (I'm not sure how they forgot that I have the power of hearing), the sporadic snoring, the flip-flopping next to me, and the sleeping bodies blocking the path to the bathroom, to just revel in the fact that I had some of my babies super close for the night. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Well (Here's Praying Anyway!)

This is my eldest son's last year before high school begins.  The big leagues.  When, as he would put it, "school starts to count".  Insert big sigh, since school has been "counting" since the womb, or I would not have read, "Go, Dog. Go!" exactly 8,932 times when he was a toddler. Well, give or take a time or two.

So tonight, I got to sit and chat with an amazing mentor, and one of my son's teachers/partners in his educational journey.  We were talking about the future of his education and the scary high school years, since they apparently "count".  In the homeschool world, this can be even a bit more intimidating.  You simply do not want to goof this up.

While gleaning from her and her eldest daughter (also an awesome teacher; I am soooo buttering these two up as much as I can in preparation for the next four years, but their reputation and skill precede them, so while buttering I am still speaking the truth...), she shared with me something my son said to her.  She had commented on his skill and talent at drawing and asked him if he loved doing it a lot.  

He responded (and I am paraphrasing the both of them here, I am the 40 year old mother of five, therefore my brain capacity is limited, at best) that he did not necessarily like it, simply because he was very good at it.  Another friend and fellow writer was also in the room, and we all got a good chuckle at his sage fourteen year old insight, and that it would make for great blog fodder.

I thought about that on the way home.  This fact that seemed so obvious to him, was an eye opener for me.  However, it took a different turn.  For the most part I love having my kids home for their education.  I enjoy teaching them (save Jr. High math; it should be outlawed).  My astute nine year old commented today how I learn with them.  He is so right.  It's probably a dead give away, granted the number of times I say, "That is so cool, I didn't know that!"  

When push comes to shove, I can be good at coordinating curriculum, modifying it to what I want it to look like for my kids learning styles, organizing work, and envisioning projects and trips.  But there are many days, I don't like doing any of it.  I want to sit on my duff and just read a good book.  Educating kids at home can be hard work. Just like my wise old son, I want it to be easy.  But as the saying goes, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort..."

If my kiddo graduates remembering nothing else this entire crew backing him has taught him, if he simply remembers that, he will do just fine.  As for me?  I still want to do some serious duff sitting with that book.  Something about old dogs and new tricks, or the like...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Monday or Bust!

I don't usually like Mondays.  Sundays are nice; we worship with our church family, head home for some serious goof off time, and generally relax.  But Monday's shadow always starts to creep in on Sunday evening when I start to think of Mr. Clean heading to the office the next day, or out into the field to see clients (some of which might require an overnight trip).  School gears back up and I think about how much we didn't accomplish off of the carefully charted spreadsheet the week before.  I think about the obligations on the calendar.  I start thinking too much.  It's burdensome.

Tonight was different. We were invited by a very special brand new seven year old to come and share birthday cake with him and his family this evening.  He is my dear friend's son, my own seven year old's partner in crime, and a member of a larger family that I long ago adopted as my faux family here in PA.  Whether or not they know this isn't relevant.  I love this family and like a good barnacle I have attached myself. Fortunately, they have yet to see me as a nuisance and scrape me off the haul.

So tonight we happily went to this sweet boy's house, and sat around the table with his grandparents, parents, aunts, uncle, and cousins, while eating cake and ice cream.  Presents were opened, a cup or two of tea was ingested, stories were told, and laughter was abundant.  

And ironically, it changed my perspective on Monday.  Mr. Clean has to travel, we are expecting a couple inches of snow, and we are still behind on that school spreadsheet.  None of it ranks high on my "fun factor", but tonight reminded me that just as a simple birthday get together can either be the highlight of the day or just another thing on the calendar, Mondays will be exactly as I choose for them to be.  A chore or a chance to enjoy the day.  

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  Have a wonderful Monday!