Thursday, September 25, 2014

For the Pain

In the last year I've witnessed more pain and heartache than the 26 years before it combined. At least, I've become much more aware of it. Much more a witness to other people's pain, including the grief in my own immediate family.

I've watched dear friends and family lose precious babies.
I've experienced sudden loss and watched my husband and his family work through their grief.
I've witnessed loneliness, sickness, mental illness, troubled children, loss of faith.

It seems like too much. Too much hurt and loss. Too much betrayal.

Last year I found myself silently berating God. "How could YOU do this? How could YOU take away this sweet child? How could YOU allow them to suffer like this?"

And then, dear friends, a voice whispered in my heart. Not my own voice, it was almost as if I could hear it. It felt so real and so outside of myself.

Maybe you're looking at it wrong.

And that's when I changed.

Don't misunderstand me. Pain still hurts. It still feels unbearable. My heart still is weighed down by the heartache of my loved ones, and those that I don't even know personally. There still are and will be tears, a feeling of emptiness, a hurt that never fully goes away.

But for me, it's not for nothing anymore. I've realized more clearly in the last year that pain and loss is universal to the human experience. Nobody gets out of this life without it. Some people seem to get more than their fair share. Others put up a picture of perfection. But it's there. Underneath it all, we will all experience loneliness, betrayal, loss, a broken heart. We will all have to say goodbye before we're ready.

And it's awful. But it connects us. I've never experienced more love than after my father-in-law passed away in May. The loss brought us all together. Our hearts were broken, but they were knit together in common grief. And when those around us hurt, don't we all instinctively reach out? Try to lift that burden? Even if all we can do is say, "I'm so sorry."

This pain can tear us apart, but it can also bring us closer together. Shared heartache, collective mourning, united healing.

Back in Omaha I visited with a frail, old woman who told me of a book she read in which a person had a near-death experience/vision. In this vision, the person was shown a homeless drunk passed out in the street and was asked, "What do you see?"

She replied, "I see a homeless drunk."

The angel told her that this person agreed to come to earth and go through this so that the people around him would have the opportunity to serve and learn compassion.

A much younger me thought it was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard.

And now...I don't know. Without suffering, how would we learn compassion? How would we know the thrill of love without the pain of loss?

I have not lost a child, but I mourn with my loved ones who have. I cry today for two beautiful baby girls gone much too soon. But through the tears, I feel my heart opening. A string, a connection to their mothers is welded. I can not take away the pain. But I can remember with them. I can hold my own children closer today and love them too much. I can let my love and grief overflow in good deeds for others.

It doesn't make it better, but at least it doesn't seem in vain.

So to my friends and family who are grieving, you all know who you are, I see you. I remember. I love you. I hurt with you. And though I wish it hadn't happened, I am trying to allow it to change me and improve me. Unite us and bind us.

We are all fellow travelers along this road.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Written By Mom

    Today I opened my mailbox and found two contributor copies of next month's Highlight's Magazine for Children. The article I put so much time and work into two years ago is finally in print. I brought it inside and told the kids what it was. Jane wanted me to read it to her. So I did. Then, of course, I took some pictures to commemorate the occasion and put them up on facebook. It's not real until then, right?

    I got lots of great responses, congratulations, I'm so proud of you, that's so cool. And my favorite from my grandma, "I am so proud to be the grandmother of a published author."

    Published Author. Those words feel really good. They sound really good. You know what? They sound impressive. Published Author. Say it with a british accent. It's even better.

   But you know what? After a few minutes of celebration, I fed my children lunch. And at the table, Jane and Max were full of questions about suns, stars, and planets. So we retreated to the computer to look at pictures of Outer Space. We talked about the Milky Way. And which stars are bigger than our sun? Can we see them at night time? When will our sun run out? Will it get big and red? Why on earth did they name a star Betelgeuse? What's a black hole? Could one suck up our sun? How do stars die? Do they kill each other?

   And in that moment, I did something even more important than getting published. I was a mother. I was a teacher. I loved someone with every fiber of my being and held them close and shared with them a passion. I took a question and replaced it with wonder and awe and understanding. I helped little human beings grow just a little closer to being adults with reverence and knowledge.

  The truth is, a lot of people will see my name by that article. Very few people will know about what I did after writing it, before writing it, inbetween revisions, on the way to the post office to mail it, during the long months of waiting.

   I was a mother. I am a mother.

   Today I felt successful. And it felt good. It always feels good to put your heart into something and have someone tell you it is good. Heck, to pay you for it!

   The world puts little real stock in motherhood and what I do day in and day out. But I want you to know that I know it's important. It's most important. I love what I do. I chose it over many other good options. I was "successful" before today because I have invested in the people around me, friends and family. I put my heart out there every day. I strive to make my home an emotional safe haven. I love my children, and worry about them, and care for them, and teach them. I work and improve and evaluate and try again. I forgive and offer grace to myself and to others.


    And that alone makes me successful.

   I don't need a tag line for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Verses for chores and transitions

I've been having a bit of a hard time getting Max to follow instruction the last week. However, I dove back in to some of the Waldorf parenting and education stuff that I love so much and refreshed my memory on some good techniques. One of these is easing transition times through song. A lot of what I saw as failing to follow instructions was partially just not wanting to transition from playing to whatever else. But in the last two days when I've begun transitions with singing, things have been so much smoother. Max stops what he's doing and comes out smiling and knows what is coming. Sometimes he still takes a bit of prodding, but it is much more peaceful than before. The singing probably helps me be more patient as well.


I think the other secret to this change in our household dynamics is that I've made sure to do everything with him. Instead of just telling him to clean up the toys, I sing the verse and begin to do it and have him help me. This is much better than telling him and telling him and then finally shouting "PICK UP YOUR TOYS!" He's still only four after all. This also applies to transitioning to outside playtime. The kids are much easier to get out the door when I'm heading that way too. I've been reminded how important modeling is with young children, and let's be honest, it's hard to get angry at someone singing and smiling and inviting you to join them.

So here are some verses I've made up and started using for different parts of our day. You can make up your own tune. I have mine that I use (although some I'm still toying with). If you're really stuck on tunes, let me know, and I'll post a video.

For making beds
(I've found that somewhere around 4-5 children are able to start making their bed themselves. It isn't super pretty, but it's made. Until that age, make it with them. Right now I'm able to make my bed and Jane and Max each make their bed.)

To keep a tidy house,
We all must make our beds.
So smooth the covers out.
Tonight we'll rest our heads

For putting laundry in the hamper

Toss in the shirts.
Toss in the skirts.
Toss in the dirty pants.
Get them off the floor
So we can wash
And wear once more.


For setting the table
(You get the kids knowing this one well enough and you can sing Do you smell the food? and they'll reply Mmm, it smells so good! It's like instant  compliments whenever you want!)

Do you smell the food?
Mmm, it smells so good!
Let's get the table set,
and we'll be eating yet!


To Go Outside
This one can be easily revised to reflect the weather. Don't be afraid to do so. (Or to go outside in all kinds of weather!)

The sun is shining,
Grass is green,
So come outside with me.


Bathtime To the tune of "Let's Go Fly a Kite"

Let's go take a bath,
Oh how we'll splish and splash
Let's go take a bath,
And then start snoring.
Up where the water's clear,
We know that bedtime's here.
Oh, let's go take a bath!


Post-Bath baby Song 
Okay, I don't know how well this will work for anyone else. You can try it with your baby's name. My baby is so wiggly now that singing a song and playing games are the only way to keep him still enough for diaper and dressing.

Oh my baby, Tommy-tum,
Let's put a diaper on your bum,
Then we'll give you pj's too,
And say goodnight to you!

Monday, July 14, 2014

G week

G week was super fun! Even though, I probably won't have much to put here.

We learned our g signs, and continued memorizing our poem. We located Greenland on a map. We made geoboards and the kids played with them for hours every day. Jane finished her letter g quilt square. I need to come up with a new stitich for her to master. I think this week I'm going to show her how to do a lazy daisy.

We studied "Boy with a House of Cards." Practiced writing the letter g. Had a drawing and writing lesson everyday. Did 2-5 pages of math every day. We continued to learn about flowers and gardens. We tried to have garden olympics, but my plaster of paris didn't work out. We'll try again this upcoming week, but maybe with a different event not involving plaster of paris.

We've stopped planting flowers for each letter until the fall. There's no good place in our new house to really grow them. They get enough sun to sprout, but not enough to get strong and grow leaves. But when we move them outside, they burn up. So we need a little bit more forgiving temperatures first.

Jane added another page to her alphabet book. The letter b. She drew a book, banana, etc.

We made clay G's and baked them.

Other than that, we really just did a lot of reading. Jane is starting to really enjoy longer books and stories.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

F Week

F was for France, folding, fables, and flowers


F week was super fun and productive. Like always, we had circle time every day.

Scripture Story: Lehi's Family
Picture Study: Roman Girl at a Fountain
Poem: Farewell by Charles Kingsley first verse
Country: France
Song: You're a Grand Old Flag
F Signs

We did math in our workbooks every day. Jane worked on her quilt square.
She also started making her own alphabet book. Her page this week was the letter A.
We made modeling clay and formed upper and lower case letters A-F and baked them. We'll paint them this next week and add G.
We played "Roll a Flower" and talked about the different parts of a flower and what they do, including pollinators.
We read Madeline several times and matched the illustrations of the sites in France to pictures of the real thing and learned their names.
We learned how to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in french.
We learned origami (folding). Origami whale and crown.
Handwriting practice
We learned about fables and read 3 or 4. It was fun to talk about the "lesson" afterward and hear what the kids thought the lesson was.
Finished reading Magic Tree House #4

Signs for G Week


grapes
game
garbage
garbage can
garden
get dressed
get up
ghost
giraffe
giggle
gift
girl
glitter
glove
glow
glue
go
gone
good
grandpa
grandma
grass
green
ground
grow