Thursday, June 26, 2014

So Many Small Moments

I2 found a book about skyscrapers that measures nearly 3 feet tall.  Daddy checked it out and has been poring over it ever since.  The kids have caught him doing so and are mimicking him.  H4 loves "the building that goes 'round and 'round like a shell."

M12 has been giving her sisters impromptu piano, violin, and recorder lessons.  S11 came dancing happily into the kitchen, "I can read music now!! [M12] taught me how!  Did you hear me play?" 

I did hear her, and it is heaven.  All of them.  The piano is in action at almost all hours of the day.  I love to hear them play, and I try to tell them so.

A7 made lunch for us the other day.  At first she said she couldn't do it--make peanut butter and jam sandwiches.  But then I said, "That's okay.  [S11] can do it instead."  So A7 said she'd try.  She did a great job. 

S11 continues to ask me at least once a day how she can help.  Every time she does it I feel a miracle in both of our hearts.  I tell her over and over again, "I couldn't do without you.  I'm so thankful for your sweet help."

We celebrated the summer solstice with friends.  On the spur of the moment we invited some new church friends to come over, and we had a water balloon fight, ate giant ice cream cones, and caught fire flies.

That's all.

It was perfect.

A friend of ours knows a set of 4 siblings that need a permanent home.   She told me about them in hopes that maybe since we're looking to adopt and these kids need to be adopted, there might be some sort of cosmic serendipity.  s.

My kids freaked out.  The oldest child in this family is an 11 year old girl.  We already have an 11 year old, a 10 year old and a 12 year old, and my girls said it was "too much."  They were furious with a fury that actually frightened me.  I let them talk and talk and talk.

Then I said, "We're not even approved for adoption.  We could have months of paperwork still ahead.  Dad and I have made no decisions.  We haven't even met these kids.  We haven't fasted or prayed or gone to the temple about any of it.  Mrs. S-- says that their foster mom doesn't want them adopted by members of our church, and we don't know how much say she has about it--it could be a lot.  They've been available for adoption for nearly 2 years now.  The only people who ask about adopting the kids only want the littlest one, or only want 2 of the kids.  No one wants all of them.  Can you even imagine?"

They were silent.

I could feel sorrow emanate from their very beings.

They spoke not another word.

Over and over again I hear, "I'm so bored.  Can I play on the computer?"  I say no.  Children stomp off furious that they're stuck with the worst mom in the whole world.  They sulk and moan and throw their bodies around.  I offer to let them fold laundry or scrub the kitchen floor.  They glare at me. 

Then they go find something to do.

Read a book.
Give a sister a makeover.
Pull out the dress up clothes and make believe.
Draw pictures.
Go outside.
Play with a pet.
Write a story . . .

It is marvelous to behold.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Me vs The Student Whisperer--Round 2

I don't want to be ugly or angry.  So my prayer as I write is that I might communicate clearly and lovingly the feelings of my heart. 

I believe that motherhood is valuable.  I believe in the art of making a home.

The purpose of The Student Whisperer is not to defend motherhood or homemaking skills.  The purpose of The Student Whisperer is to show what it is like to be mentored and then to teach how to mentor.  I did not open The Student Whisperer searching for mothering tips or philosophical encouragement.  I am not complaining that the authors fail to defend motherhood or homemaking.

But I am so very disappointed at the damage I feel Tiffany Earl accidentally does to both.

In pages 105-108 Ms. Earl actually makes a strong case for motherhood and the homemaking arts.  She concludes, "The idea [that motherhood and homemaking leave women unfulfilled] has reached the point that most young women actually believe that being a homemaker is more unfulfilling and personally damaging than an army at the door . . . I want to embrace motherhood with all its duties intact, even that of finding the simple models that all generations of women through time have known." (p. 108)

It is this excerpt from her journal that leads me to believe that she has no intention of doing damage to motherhood.  Sometimes it is hard to keep our day-to-day actions in line with the ideals we hold dear.  There are also extenuating circumstances that can cause a gap between what we believe and what we do.

I'm in the middle of one now.  I'm struggling with morning sickness and fatigue.  I am not cheerfully caring for my home and family.  Every moment I spend upright costs me.  My family is doing 10 times the work I am.  I become withdrawn when I feel ill, so being touched and talked to make me want to shout in anger or weep in despair.  I grit my teeth and set my jaw in determination not to push them away when my little ones climb in my lap or even gather close around me in the big armchair.  When my big girls want to talk and talk and talk, I have to close my mouth and repeat in my head, "Let them talk.  Let them talk.  Let them talk."  It hurts my ears and brain right now to have so much chatter constantly around me, but I cannot hurt them by telling them to go away--even temporarily.  I am not planning outings or helping the kids with projects.  I am not spending quality time with my oh-so-wonderful husband (because when he's not gone to his work, he's stepping in and doing mine).  Our meals of late are barely tolerable, and the good ones are the ones the kids make.  I have retreated into books, because books distract me from my nausea and make no demands of me. 

I am not living up to my ideals right now.

But it is temporary.  I will come back.  (Though if I am honest, even on a good day, there is a gap between my ideals and my reality--it is just usually not as large as it is right now.)

Perhaps I can be more patient with Ms. Earl than I am inclined to be.  Perhaps I am picking at her when I want to be picking at myself.  Perhaps what she describes on pages 124-126 is only a momentary aberration--like I am having now.

Her husband comes home to find her distressed.  He asks what it wrong, and she points out the household chores waiting to be done.  She cries out, "Rick, when will I get to use my brain?  When will I get to use my talents? . . . When will I do anything besides folding laundry, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, and reading to the kids?" (p. 125)

She continues. "We'd had this conversation many times.  Rick knew me too.  He knew I loved our family. He knew that it was the most important thing to me.  He knew that I wasn't trying to complain about being a mother and a wife." (p. 125)

I believe she is sincere.

What confuses me is how can her family be the most important thing to her if she wants to be doing something else? 

And how can she think she's not using her brain and talents when she's caring for her family?

I think it is easy to dismiss the argument that home and family are useless.  I think some small part of our spirits know that is a blatant lie.  I the worst damage to the calling of mother and homemaker comes by those who profess to believe but who then claim that the essential work is mindless.  Because it is truth and lie mixed together, so that the truth is hard to find.

Cleaning does not have to be mindless.  My children turn on music when they clean; they fill their minds with poetry and song--some of higher quality than others.  They dance and laugh and think and become better friends as they sweep and dust.  I have a friend who turns on books on tape; she listens to great writing, great ideas as she scrubs toilets and tubs.  I am usually teaching someone small how to do the work with me.  My mind is forever working at explaining, correcting, and encouraging a young helper who thinks helping mommy is the coolest thing ever.  Cleaning does not have to be mindless.

Cooking is an art.  People devote their lives to cooking.  People accept the making and serving of beautiful food as their specific calling to serve their fellow man.  I work long and hard (when I'm not pregnant) at buying the best ingredients at the best prices.  I plan menus with a variety of tastes and textures and nutrients.  I prepare them carefully--adding a bit of this or a splash of that when inspired and find delight in the nuances that I create.  I teach my children about fractions and volume and chemistry as I cook.  I let them cook so they can make discoveries on their own.  Cooking does not have to be mindless.  Cooking can be the height of mindfulness.

Changing diapers?  Sure it can be just one more thing to do and miserable for both changer and changee, but it can also be a challenge.  Who has not had to get creative to keep a busy infant still?   Songs, stories, games, and silly faces are often essential to negotiating a successful diaper change.  And it can be a sweet, tender moment when mother (or father or sister or brother) and baby laugh together--perhaps teaching/learning a body part, perhaps sharing a tickle or a raspberry blown on baby's squishy soft tummy.  Changing a diaper can be an intimate moment of gentle touch and service given to one incapable of self care.  Changing a diaper does not have to be mindless.

Some books get boring quickly, but good quality children's literature is food for the soul.  Reading to my children is one of the jobs I value most in the day.  Even though talking (which includes reading aloud) makes me gag, I still sit down and read a chapter or two to my kids.  Our reading sessions are far shorter than they are when I feel well.  Our literature is lighter and sillier than when I feel well.  But we read.  We share laughter, tears, incredulity, awe, suspense, and great ideas.  Sometimes we share boredom, but at least we share it.  I love reading with my kids more than any of my other chores.  Reading to my kids is a privilege and a blessing.

Writing has brought clarity.  My strong emotional response to Ms. Earl's words come because I feel she has denigrated what I hold dear.  I feel put down--as if she thinks what I value above all else is useless.

But then what she holds dearer than all else is not of the same value to me.

I guess we're even.

I love to study.  I read and write every day.  Even when I'm not posting on my blogs I have journals in which I'm copying inspiring ideas, organizing my own thoughts, and recording the stories of my family's days.  I love books.  I love great ideas.  I love a good story.  I love to study.

But studying is not the most important thing.

To me.

I am at peace now.  I have written this post with a small boy on my lap.  I have paused to change his diaper and share a laugh with him.  I have paused to prepare him a snack to nourish his body . . . and his spirit because he knows he can trust me to take care of him.  I have paused to help my husband find paperwork and answer his questions.  I have paused to hug my youngest daughters and welcome them to a new day.  I am content that I know what is most important and that I am doing the best I can do follow knowledge with action.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Me vs The Student Whisperer--Round 1

I've been waiting a long time to read this book--The Student Whisperer.  I've finally got it to myself for two weeks via interlibrary loan. 

And I'm furious!

I'm so disappointed.

That's why I'm writing.  I feel as if there is wisdom to be found, but I feel so blasted by arrogance and superiority that I'm reeling and have to find my center again.  I need to purge my mind of my frustrations to make way for lessons that might be beneficial.

So Round 1 is my horror of how the authors believe they know what's best for all . . . maybe they don't believe that . . . but that is the message that I feel when I read it.

There is a section of Tiffany Earl's narration in which she recreates a conversation with her mentor Oliver DeMille about a student who leaves her school.  She's devastated that the student is "lost;" she feels like a failure.  Over the course of the conversation it is revealed that the student was withdrawn from the school because of a conflict between what the parent wanted for the child and what the teacher wanted for the child.

Ms. Earl writes the following:

" 'The next thing I knew, his mom called me to withdraw him from the school. She said, "My son studies too much.  He misses our family activities of watching movies together, sometimes he refuses to play with his friends, and I'm just afraid he isn't playing enough!" '

" 'Needless to say, I was shocked!  I'd finally inspired my students to want to put in the necessary time and I lost one.'

"I was beginning to learn that one of my greatest stumbling blocks to reading the youth and inspiring them to get a Leadership Education was figuring out how to get the parents to want it first, and to understand what it meant."  (p 130)

I find the lack of respect Ms. Earl has for the parent of her student staggering.  Instead of accepting that people have different priorities, different home cultures, different philosophies, and wishing them joy in their journey, she determines to set about convincing people that she is right.

My husband read almost nothing through his childhood and youth.  Instead he spent hours playing outdoors with his brothers and the neighbor kids.  He played baseball and soccer.  He went to church and participated in the Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle Scout.  He went on long camp outs and long hikes.  He did what he was assigned to for school--only studying just barely what he needed to be an average-to-good student in the public school system.  He got jobs and worked for his spending money.  His parents shuttled him from activity to activity--sparing no effort of time or energy in loving and serving their children.

My husband's parents never wanted nor sought for him to obtain a "Leadership Education" as defined by Tiffany Earl and Oliver DeMille.  Instead they gave him themselves.  And along the way he became a man of strength, humility, faith, courage, common sense, and wisdom. 

In his adulthood he has become a careful, conscientious reader.  He seeks wisdom out of the best books and applies it the best way he can.  He is simply the finest man I know.

The parents of that student might have had a bit of the wisdom that my husband's parents have.  They might have wanted a different perspective, a different experience for their child.  I cannot fault them for withdrawing this child from a school that was teaching values that conflicted with theirs.

I do not want a "Leadership Education" as defined by Tiffany Earl and Oliver DeMille for my family.  I opened this book because I do want to be a good mentor to my children, and I do want to know how to recognize good mentors when I am not enough.  Because I want to learn I am putting this opinion down.  In so doing I have greater personal clarity about what I hope for my children--I want them to find their own passions, their own joys, their own missions, and I want to help them develop those passions, joys, and missions.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Day in the Life--June

Linking up with Tristan over at Our Busy Homeschool:

I have not a single picture of the day to share . . . only words . . . and even those are hard to come by these days with my energy almost completely focused within on the pregnancy we hope will last until January of next year.

I woke first, as is my goal every day.  If I even get a few minutes of absolute quiet I am better prepared for the day ahead.  I2 had joined me in bed sometime in the night, but he'd gone reasonably easily back to sleep; I am thankful.

Fighting the nausea that is hard when I first wake, I prepared a bowl of raspberries and cold cereal for me to eat while I read my scriptures.  I'm in the book of Alma right now.  I copied a verse into my journal and helped I2 get his favorite morning treat of graham crackers and milk.

I heard the shower running and knew I didn't need to wake E14--she remembered about having to be up and out the door by 8:00 am for her physical exam this morning.  The other kids began waking, getting dressed, and doing their morning chores.

I got on the computer and found via email that our church congregation (ward) is hosting a funeral this weekend.  I signed up to bring watermelon, but it someone beat me to it.  I was shuttled over to a veggie tray; that's fine, too.  After replying to our adoption homestudy worker about a question she answered for me and sending her another question, I got up from the computer and got myself and I2 dressed for the day.

I gave out directions to the 5 kids who were staying home for making and cleaning up breakfast, and then I2, E14 and I left for our very first visit to our new doctor's office.  In truth, I was sick with wondering how the visit would go.  Would this doctor (actually it is a nurse practitioner) tolerate my parenting practices or would I have to endure lectures about how I am endangering my kids' lives?  Would she sign the adoption physical forms saying we are in good health or would she claim we are a danger to the community?  Putting my fears together with my physical nausea left me shaking with the effort it took to arrive at the office. 

E14 was seen first--and on her own as she'd asked me.  She felt quite old enough to not be accompanied by her mother during a physical exam.  I2 and I played in the children's waiting area.  The nurse practitioner came out to ask me several questions about E14's immunizations, and to my relief she took it in stride that I asked for one and refused another based on my lack of personal research.  I began to breathe a little easier.

I2 was next.  He suddenly got afraid.  He stamped his little foot and yelled, "No want to!" when I said it was his turn.  He allowed himself to be convinced, and that's how the whole appointment went--he'd refuse and then I'd cajole/distract him enough to get the exam done.  I give the nurse practitioner much credit for standing back and allowing him time to adjust to each new requirement.  She was kind to him and contributed herself to some of the distracting.  The questioning of parenting practices was far easier than I've experienced in other doctor's offices, and she didn't even bat an eyelash when I said I2 hadn't had any immunizations yet, but that I wanted him to start with polio and only polio.  I stated clearly that we'd do one series at a time and take however long it took to get him through.  She said, "Okay.  Let me check to see if we have polio on its own--lots of times they're combined."

I almost cried with relief. 

She came back with a dose of IPV and did not make me sign 4 different forms stating that I understood I was risking my child's life and under no circumstances was I to blame the doctor's office for my maverick and foolish choices.  In fact she smiled and told us all to have a good day.

If I hadn't been nauseous I'd have jumped for joy.

While we were gone Daddy came home from work, ate, showered, and went to bed for the day.  We came home to find S11 cleaning the kitchen and kids clamoring for snacks.  I passed out cheese sticks, ate one myself, and crashed on the couch. 

Kids did their own thing while I was conscious but only semi-coherent. 

I heard the piano being played;
The little guys got Twister down from the games shelf;
M12 told me she had Personal Progress goals to work on;
S11 kept working on that kitchen--I tried to make sure I thanked her for her service;
I thought E14 and J10 were reading.

Lunchtime came.  I was still incapable of standing upright.  S11 came and said, "How can I help, Mom?" 

She set out leftover bagel sandwiches from our picnic the day before and leftover quesadillas from dinner a couple of nights ago.  She filled the water pitcher, set out plates and cups, and called everyone to the table.  The kids gathered and prayed and ate . . . all while I continued to lie on the couch.

I was counting my blessings the whole time!

A lull in the rain lured a few kids outside to explore a little.  Otherwise they scattered again to their own pursuits.

Eventually I forced myself upright because I needed to get E14 and M12 to the store to buy a birthday present for a friend.  We also needed dishwasher detergent, diapers, and something that we could have for dinner that wouldn't make me gag too much.  I'd promised to cut up the other half of a watermelon for a snack, too.  But first I had to call the doctor's office to make appointments for the other 7 of us to get our physicals.  It took nearly 45 minutes, but the woman on the phone was unfailingly cheerful and polite to me, and she got all 7 appointments fit into 4 days next week.  That office is going to get to know us very well!

I cut up the watermelon, and E14 showed me a dead baby bird she'd found on our compost pile.  She and the littles dug a grave for it, then came in for their snack.

"Wash your hands with lots of soap!  Wash all the way up to your elbows!" I commanded before allowing them to eat.

I told the older girls to get ready to go shop with me, but then the watermelon in my stomach wreaked havoc and I spent the next couple of hours running to the bathroom.  In between sick sessions I worked on adoption paperwork.  The stack of forms is fully half an inch thick.

At 3:35 it was "now or never" for getting to the store and back before dinner had to be on the table.  E14 and M12 had been waiting patiently and jumped right to their feet.  Suddenly I2 said, "I go wif you!"  His shoes were missing, but some flip flops were close at hand, so we grabbed those and left. 

I sent E14 and M12 over to jewelry and make up to find a present while I steered I2 and the cart over to groceries.  I decided that hot dogs, french fries, and fresh veggies with dip would make the kids happy.  We threw stuff in our cart, figured that  putting together a formal veggie tray for the funeral would be too expensive at this store (Aldi is always cheaper), and then grabbed diapering supplies we needed.  I scooped up the big girls on our way to check out--they'd stayed perfectly within their budget and had found cute stuff on clearance for their friend.

When I got home I realized that I'd forgotten dishwasher detergent.

I also found out that J10 had been using her tablet to play Tiny Castles almost all day--with no timer set and not out in a common room.  Both rules are inflexible in our house.  I had to confiscate the tablet.  She handed it over without fussing.  I feel terrible for being so unaware of her.

S11 stepped right up to help with dinner.

She's been an absolute angel today . . . cleaning, babysitting, helping at every turn . . . and I know it's because she really wants to watch the Harry Potter video she checked out from the library.  I have strict rules about ages and times that those movies can be watched, and it's hard for the kids to get the chance to watch them.  The idea of staying up with my 3 big girls is overwhelming because I'm so tired, but there's no way I can let such consistent and cheerful help go unrewarded.

J10 felt badly for breaking the rules, so she joined S11 and me in the kitchen.   We tidied up, put the fries in the oven, set the table, and fried the hot dogs because I couldn't cope with the grill on my own.  I woke Daddy, and we talked for a few minutes, just the two of us.

I managed to stay upright through dinner, scriptures, and family prayer.  But I crashed again, and the kids cleaned up the kitchen.  There was some fussing about having to do it, but really, they are marvelous, and I found myself counting my blessings again.

After dinner and clean up Daddy left for work and the kids headed outside.  I stayed on the couch.  I could hear them calling and laughing together.

More blessings.

In an hour or so, a few kids came crashing into the house and I called, "Bathtime!"  Before I could struggle to an upright position, and without even being asked, E14 and M12 took care of bathing the littles. 

Blessings unnumbered.

I got up to read to I2 in the big blue rocking chair.  He was so tired.  I checked his leg for signs of tenderness at the polio injection site, but found only smooth, healthy skin.  I paused to pray my gratitude.  I sang for a moment, and he was asleep in my arms.  He's so big!  Only 2 1/2 and he weighs just shy of 40 pounds and stands well over 3 feet tall.  But he's still my baby.  He still curls up in my lap and feels like a baby.  I rocked him quietly for a few more moments, relishing the peace and comfort of being his mother.

Then I was sick again.

I finally came out to the living room to find all 6 girls waiting patiently for me. 
I read 2 chapters of Zooman Sam
I tucked in the little girls.
A7 said as I kissed her good night, "Mom, I'm reading in Mosiah now!"  (She's going to read The Book of Mormon on her own before she turns 8!)
H4 said as I kissed her good night, "Mom, I hope our baby lives."  (The last 4 have not.)
I told the oldest 3 to start their movie. 
They squealed with delight. 

I went downstairs to help J10 choose something to read and to tuck her in.  "Are you okay on your own down here?" I asked.  She smiled and said she was fine.  I hate leaving her out of the older girls' privileges, but she's not 11 yet, and I know that even at 11 the movies will probably still be too scary for her.  She's a sensitive soul, and I don't want to desensitize her.  I kissed her good night and headed upstairs to the older girls.

I had to find something to eat.  I found a half a cup of leftover whipped cream from Family Night on Sunday night, so I poured a cup of raspberries into the bowl and ate raspberries and cream.  It was delicious, and I did not get sick from it. 

The older girls were completely engrossed in their movie.  I lasted for an hour.  I locked up the house, kissed them all goodnight, and told them to turn off the lights and open I2's bedroom door when they were done.  They vaguely agreed, so focused were they on the screen.

I fell into bed. 
I think I brushed my teeth first. 
I read 2 chapters of He Knows Your Heart.
Then I fell asleep.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gone To the Trek

I just dropped E14 off at the church for a 3 day pioneer handcart trek.  She had her 5 gallon bucket, sack lunch, and duffel bag in hand.  She was decked out in full 19th century American pioneer clothing--as were the other 100 or so youth with her at the church.

 It's pouring buckets here, but I hope things will be drier and more comfortable in Oklahoma.

She's going to have the best time! 

The first time E14 left for a church camp she was still E12.  I was having serious mother-angst over my baby leaving home for 5 whole days.  The blessing was that she was so wretched to the family for the 2 weeks prior to that camp that I was actually relieved to see her go.  I kissed her goodbye with actual relief and went home to have a happy 5 days with my 10-and-unders who were actually fun to be around!

It made that first separation easier.

Since then I've gotten used to letting go (a little bit!) of my dear ones.  I haven't worried about E14 and this trip.  I've had fun sewing for her and helping her fill her 5 gallon bucket with the items on her packing list.  I've even felt a little wistful at the fact that my own girlhood is over . . . I kind of wish I were going with her.

She's been particularly delightful for the past few days--reading to I2, playing tickling games with H4, styling A7's hair, helping me with chores around the house, giving sweet advice to her bigger little sisters.

She's in good hands.  This camp is well-organized and she's in the best of hands.  I'm glad she's going.

But as I hugged her good bye I realized I'm going to miss her.

Monday, June 9, 2014

June Rain

The kids are dancing in the rain at this very moment.

Today A7 found a butterfly that made friends with her.   She built it a habitat and has spent hours studying it.

H4 and I2 followed A7 out of doors and have tagged happily at her heels.

I took the bigger girls shopping with me for items to complete E14's pioneer trek packing list.  Then I came home and sewed for several hours making adjustments here and there so that her clothes look like the genuine article.

Daddy mowed the lawn--for hours and hours today.

M12 practiced the piano and taught herself a new song on the recorder.  Yesterday she even got to play a hymn on the piano for the children to sing along.  She did a really good job!

S11 and J10 pored over the 21 dessert cookbooks they picked up from the library today.  I'd like to let them do some fun kitchen projects.  Maybe we can cut a deal or two . . .

M12 is taking the little ones up to the field right now.  She promises that she'll bring them home at the first sign of thunder or lightning. I trust her.   I can hear happy screams from here in the kitchen.

I am tired.

I am pregnant--7 weeks tomorrow (by my best calculation).  I think this one might stick because the morning sickness has been virulent.  But I've lost babies before even when I've been quite ill. 

We'll see.

I've been sick enough that I've had to tell the kids in order enlist their help.  They also began to ask, "Why are you lying down again, Mom?"

H4 sat on my lap and studied a pregnancy week-by-week website with me this morning.  She's delighted to discover that the baby is the size of a blueberry.  Next week a raspberry.  A7 asked, "How do they know what fruit to compare it to?"  We had quite the talk about cameras and technology . . . and loss.  Then A7, H4, and I2 cackled with glee when I clicked on the weeks in which they were born.  A7 and H4 were "pumpkins."  But I2 howled with delight over being a "watermelon."

Their hope fuels mine.

And the fact that they're dancing in the rain.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What College? What Plans?

My oldest is 14, and we've been talking about life goals for about a year now.   We agree about the most important essentials-- living the gospel, marriage, children--but there we diverge.  With absolutely no encouragement from me, she's been determined to go to BYU

I graduated from BYU.  It helped me develop in many good ways and I found friends there that are still friends 2+ decades later.  But it is a huge school.  It is so easy to get lost--to be just another face with a student ID.  I got lost there.  It wasn't a terrible sort of getting lost--I didn't lose my morals or standards or testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ (those were strengthened!)--but I did get lost in the system. 

I'm still finding my way.

For this reason I've been encouraging my girl to stay away from BYU.  I've encouraged BYU Idaho and local schools.  I've encouraged going off to live with extended family in another state and I've encouraged looking at alternative schools.  I've encouraged delaying college in favor of work or travel.  I've encouraged trade schools and home study and apprenticeships.

But she's been determined. 

So we've looked at admissions guidelines.  We've mapped out a plan.  We've purchased educational supplies.  They're her goals, and they're laudable goals, even if they are goals I'd rather she didn't make.

I think she will lose herself in the process.
Something essential in her being will be crushed as she tries to make herself fit the mold she thinks she must.

I take heart in the fact that she is still only 14, and I remember that one experienced mother of young adults  (I'm sorry but I do not remember who she is, but I'll happily give her credit if anyone else does)  wrote that children change as much from 14 to 18 as they do from birth to age 4.  That's a great deal of change!  That gives me two hopes:  1. That my girl will grow into her goal and be ready to take on that giant school and thrive there, or  2. That my girl will get to know herself and love her uniqueness and grow comfortable with finding her own path in the world.

Yesterday my girl showed me just how right that mother is; my girl showed me that I need to trust her to know herself. 

We were making dinner together (just hoagie sandwiches and potato salad) when she said, "Mom, I think I might not want to go far away to college.  If I go all the way to BYU then [H4] and [I2] won't really know me as their sister.  I don't want to live at home, but I think I want to go to a school that's close enough for me to be their sister."

In my heart the windows of heaven opened up!  I'd never have imagined such a thought from my I-can't-wait-to-grow-up-and-get-away-from-this-place eldest child.  But it came to her--on her own!  And I can honestly say that she showed more maturity in her thinking than I have in mine because I've always considered it a given that the oldest and youngest siblings in a family are necessarily divided by age and circumstance. 

I praised E14 for her wisdom and listened as she explained what she thought might be good new goals for herself.  I promised to help her do some research.  I tried to leave the conversational door open that we might keep talking and planning. 

I'm proud of my girl.
I'm so grateful to be her mom.
I'm awed to watch her grow up.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homeschool Campout--Spring 2014

I had to take the kids alone to the camp out.  Our daddy had to work.  We didn't stay overnight, because I cannot even imagine how to accomplish what it takes to go camping with 7 children and only 1 adult.  But rather than miss out on all the fun we were day campers.  We packed up our swimsuits and bug repellant, filled the cooler with veggies and sandwich fixings and took off.

Because there was only one of me, I had to say no to some activities.  Kayaking was one of them.  Usually the rules of the families that own the kayaks are:  1.  Wear a life jacket.  2.  Your parent has to watch you.  We absolutely respect those rules.  I told my big kids that I couldn't be in two places at once, so they couldn't kayak because I had to be where the little kids were.

When the kayak owners found out the situation, they volunteered to be the parents on duty in my place.  Other mothers, other fathers gave their time so my kids could go out on the water.

I am so thankful.

My kids LOVE to go out in the kayaks.

I spent several hours at the swimming beach with my little guys (too long it turns out--in spite of faithfully using our favorite sunscreen ever, we got burned!).  We had snacks.  We played in the trees.  We hid under the shelter when a passing raincloud opened itself over us.  We visited.  Every so often I'd see one of my big kids pass by, happily enclosed in a posse of friends.

Then a family of friends to my little guys went down to the kayaks.  My littles wanted to follow.  I took them down with strict instructions that we could not kayak because I could not take one of them out on the water and be on the shore to watch the other two.  I promised we would kayak at the fall camp out when Daddy could come with us.

But my little guys saw their friends and they were tired after so many hours on the beach and in the sun, and their coping skills were almost gone, and they wanted so much to go out on the water.  They did not throw tantrums.  They just pleaded with their tired eyes and their tired voices.

And some moms and dads standing near by said, "We can give them turns when our kids are done."

Again, other mothers, other fathers gave their time so my kids could go out on the water.

H4 went out with a mother-friend of our family.
A7 actually went out with J10, who showed up and said, "Sure I can take her out."

But the moment to remember forever was when a daddy-friend leaned down to I2 and asked, "Do you want to come with me?"  I2 leaned into me and looked uncertain.  I asked, "Do you want to go with (J7's) daddy?  He will take you in the boat if you want to."

I2 nodded his head.

I pulled off his shoes and socks while our friend found a suitable life jacket for I2.  We got properly assembled, and I2 walked happily and squelchily through the mud along the shore to the kayak.  Our daddy-friend lifted him in and settled him, and that's when we all saw I2's face.

He was smiling so hugely that we thought his face would crack in half.  Groans of delight echoed along the shore from all of the parents standing nearby.  And I nearly melted right into the sand.

That was one happy little boy.

I am one happy, grateful mom.

These friends of ours . . . they make our world so very bright.