Climbing Mountains … Avoiding Hills

I posted recently on facebook that my 8-year-old left a note hidden in my purse before she went to school. It told me she’d miss me, that she loved me, to have fun hanging out with Dad (’cause you know, that’s what we do all day when they’re at school — laze around together) … and to run 3 miles.

This, presumably, is because when I pick them up at school, of late, I typically ask how their day was and then I tell them about mine. It goes something like this, Me: “So, how was your day?” Them: “Good.” Me: “How was lunch/recess/gym/whatever?” Them: “Fine.” <pause> Me: “Well, you know what *I* did today?! I ran! My total distance was blah-blah-blah, and, of that, I only walked blah-blah, and ran blah-blah! And that’s 3 tenths of a mile more than I ran on Monday!”

They’re really good encouragers. Not that they I give them much choice, of course … but that’s beside the point. The point really is this. I’ve been “trying to run” for more than two years now. (If you’ve read my blog before you might remember that I chronicled the beginning days.) It’s been a sloooow and not-at-all-steady process. For the longest time, when I ran it was around our little neighborhood. The circumference is 1 mile, which was normally the extent of my run. Sometimes I would loop around a little and go a little farther, but that was it. A mile and a half, tops. I might mention that there are some hills that made it more of a challenge, which made me less likely to expand my horizons, as far as running went. (I hate running on hills.)

Well, then one day as I was driving, I happened to see one of my neighbors running about a mile from our neighborhood. She looked like she’d been going for a while, and was on her way back. This caused a series of thoughts to meander through my 46-year-old brain. Wow. I wonder where Mandie’s been on her run. I wonder how far she runs. Well, she’s a Real Runner, I couldn’t do that. … Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, to run someplace outside of the neighborhood? … Noooooo … I’m not a Real Runner. Only Real Runners do that. … But, I wonder how far I could run if I were to run somewhere ELSE. And wouldn’t it be more interesting to see something other than the same stuff, over and over again, when I run? (Pedantic, isn’t it? But that’s really what you’d have heard if you could’ve listened to the little voice inside my head that day.)

The seed was planted and gradually it grew. Until one day, a week or so after that fateful moment, I actually did it. I ran (and walked) about a mile and a half. It was not the most thrilling route, but the important thing was that I was out of my comfort zone because it was outside of my neighborhood. And that was huge! Since then, I’ve been finding more appealing places to run. Honestly, when I looked at the areas surrounding our house, I found roads and neighborhoods I’d rarely seen. And they’re beautiful. This has made a distinct difference in how I look at running. I still avoid hilly runs as much as I can, and long, straightaways that feel endless. Those kill me. But I’m increasing my stamina almost daily and that feels good.

And this is why Katey is cheering me on. Because she knows it makes my day to go further than I’ve gone before. Maybe they even like hearing me enthuse about the newest mountain I’ve climbed (figuratively speaking, of course). Maybe. Or perhaps they’re just being nice. Either way, it adds up to a win for me. I’m making progress and challenging myself to top that mountain, day by day. And I know my girls are watching and waiting for me to take just a few more steps each time. That’s all I’m looking for.

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A Whole New Thing

Well, yesterday’s post chronicled our change from school-at-home to school-at-, well, school. Today, we’re going to talk a little about what my life looks like these days.

To begin … I had shoulder surgery four days before school began. It was only arthroscopic, so I found myself knocked for a loop by the anesthesia and the delightful prescription meds I got to take in the early days. I can truly and thankfully say that the biggest impact on me was just the medications, and trying to get the anesthesia out of my system! The pain was negligible, really. But the beginning of the school year is something of a blur, truth be told. When you think about it, that’s another good thing about the girls being back in school. I’d have been next to useless in the teaching department in those early days of the school year.

And then there’s the physical therapy, which, for the sake of time and ease, I’ll refer to as PT. I had the surgery on Thursday and had my first PT session on Friday. And from that time on, it’s been three days a week, almost an hour and a half at a shot. Over time I had developed one extremely frozen shoulder. No, that’s actually what it’s called. Meaning that in my case, I’ve had very limited use of my right shoulder and arm for more than two years. There had never been an injury. When my doctor went in he found that there was a protrusion of one of the bones in the joint that was pinching the rotator cuff, causing discomfort, and therefore causing me to use the shoulder less and less. All that to say, it’s of utmost importance if I want to regain the use of my arm that I work it and stretch it multiple times a day.

And so, that’s one of the things that I’m spending time doing for now, PT and recovering. I told some friends that I was going to write a blog post and call it Naps, Narcotics and Netflix — all about my first several weeks of school! But really, there doesn’t seem to be much point. The narcotics induced many lovely naps, during which I slept through several series of coveted British mysteries. (One day, I’m really going to go back and actually watch them again when my brain isn’t sedated and diffused.) Suffice it to say, it was a lovely haze of three weeks or so, which helped immensely in getting me used to having my young sidekicks elsewhere for the school days.

One thing I’ve intended to do now is begin again to run. I’m just not an early morning runner. I’m not much of an early morning anything-er, quite frankly. And by evening, my desire to exercise is not strong enough to get me out of the house. Or even into my running shoes. So, I realized this would be a great opportunity for me to start slowly again. It’s how I began in the first place, running while the girls were at school. And last week I did it. I put on those running shoes and got to it. So, that’s one thing to check off my list. I just have to keep it going. One step at a time.

And of course, the next thing I thought of when initially I wondered how I would spend my time, was that I could get back to writing my blog! That was also something I began when I had afternoons freed by kids in school. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to keep it going, even while knee-deep in home school, but that never really took off, on any kind of regular basis. So, I’m glad to be able to come back to this medium. I enjoy writing about my life and loves.

Aaaaand there’s still that school room/office to finish up. <Sigh>

So, there’s a glimpse into the new thing God is doing in my life. I’m excited about what he has laid in my path, albeit simple stuff. I’m happy to start small. My days still include plenty of mothering — it just looks different now.

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Of School Rooms and Happy Times

Tonight I’m avoiding the completion a task I’ve been putting off for almost a month. Finally tonight I began it, but now I’m out of ideas and I’m tired. And I just want to quit. So … here I sit.

Let’s back up to about the second week of August, when I began suddenly to feel a panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach when I looked ahead to the beginning of our third year of schooling the girls via a cyber-charter school. That was the first inkling I had that God was trying to get my attention. There were a number of things weighing heavily on my mind regarding school. One of them was that I had been pretty much ignoring the art and music curriculum in an attempt to get the other, more important subjects finished, which we did, for the most part, with flying colors. I just could not, for the life of me, figure out how to finish our school day by 3 o’clock-ish and get it all done.

So, after one day of pondering this and praying about it, my 8-year-old came to wake me up and crawled into bed with me. One topic led to another, and before I knew it, she had steered the conversation to talk very specifically — and happily — about many of the art projects she had done when she was in kindergarten in our public school system. I tell you the truth, she had no way of knowing where my mind and prayers had led me, and how I’d been struggling over this very thing — what they’d been missing out on over the past two years at home with me. I took this to be a confirmation from the Lord that he was indeed trying to get my attention and he wanted me to listen.

So, over the next few days I prayed about it, and to be frank, cried about it an awful lot. I just couldn’t escape the feeling that God wanted me to put the girls back into school.

Now, this is not to say that I feel we were wrong to bring them home and teach them for those two years. I truly feel that the Lord led us to do that. I get teary thinking about the times we spent on each of the subjects. I wholeheartedly miss the one-on-two time with two of my favorite people in the world.

And here I come to the point in my story where I explain the job I’ve avoided — cleaning out, rearranging and re-purposing the school room. Now, I do get excited about reorganizing spaces in my house. But, this was going to be a toughie. I chose to tackle it this evening, when everyone was home and happily doing other things. I thought that would be easier than going through all of last years binders and school materials that would need to be boxed up and put into the basement when I had the house to myself. In a way it was. But it was still a rough job. With every book report, or history paper I piled up, I felt as if I was ripping the bandage from a wound that was not even close to being healed. And though my girls have been in school for a number of weeks already, it was as if this, tonight, truly brought the past two (in many ways) glorious years to an official end.

There were many things I loved about teaching my girls. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Nor was it always fun. It was without a doubt the most challenging time I’ve spent since I had two toddlers in the house. But I do miss it.

What I don’t miss is the pressure that I felt, being the one responsible for the completion of each subject. Now I know that there’s an art teacher who’s the one dealing with that whole mess — not me! There’s a classroom teacher getting math, language arts and social studies in order! These are no longer on me. (Don’t talk to me about the science experiments. Just … nope.)

I have friends and family who artfully and dutifully teach their children, year after year, and do a beautiful job! I wonder sometimes why I couldn’t be like those moms, whom I so admire.

But then I’m reminded of the two years we did have! And I’m reminded of the peace I’ve experienced since we decided to put the girls back in school. Despite the times of weeping and regrets, God has been clearly reassuring me that he is directing this. They are, after all, his children even more than they are mine. And he has chosen our path, and I have chosen to follow. And I trust my girls to his care and pray for them and sit with them as they toil over their homework. I listen as they tell me about what went badly in their day and what went well. I pray with them as we drive to school. And I know that God is far more capable than I am of supplying their needs.

If only this erstwhile School Room would finish up on its own! But I suppose that’s what tomorrow is for.

 

Posted in Organizing, Parenting, School | 1 Comment

The Eyes Have It (or Girl Time)

Here I sit. In a t-shirt, shorts, feet bare, hair in my face, having done nothing much to make myself more than casually dressed. Ahhh … but for my eyes.

An 8-year-old I know has been begging me to allow her to put my eye makeup on. On MY eyes. After some stalling, numerous excuses — as women everywhere can surely imagine — I finally ran out of anything resembling defendable reasons and let her at it. She started with a cautiousness that told me she was concerned about my reaction. And so I decided just to let her go. Have at it, kiddo! And so she did. After the initial hesitation, she became bolder and less inhibited. And I became way more made up.

And so, here I sit, pretty much disheveled, but for some breathtaking eyes. (If I do say so, myself.) And I reflect on the changes that motherhood has effected. I care more about my girls than about the incongruous look I now sport. This time spent with my daughter was really something. As my girls mature, our mommy/daughter times will continue, I’m sure, to mutate. Therefore, if, in days to come, you run across a woman who looks a little like me but has a something that looks like a bird’s nest in place of hair, or is wearing dangerously high heels and sweatpants … Well, I’m just giving you a heads up. Don’t say anything. If it is me, I’ll no doubt be in the presence of one or both of my daughters, you can be sure, and I wouldn’t want them to be embarrassed. It’s all in the interest of getting to know my girls in a new way, don’t you know.

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It’s Not My Thing

The other day I was on facebook. I was having a conversation with a friend about where to get little girls’ nails done for not a lot of money. I told her where we occasionally go, and her next comment to me was, “Pam, is it cheap?” However, what I saw was, “Pam is cheap.” I wasn’t in the least offended. I laughed, and then re-read the comment. Ohhhhhhhh! That’s kind of a different meaning right there. Had I not read it again I would have chuckled and walked away. And my friend would have been left wondering how much it cost to taker her daughters to 90’s Nails.

A few days later, we were getting an oil change for our car and were in the waiting area. They have free fountain sodas, popcorn and coffee. (I know! Why do you think we go?)  I was a little perplexed when I looked at the coffee dispensers, however, because it said, right there in big letters, “Slime is free!” Huh? I was a little distracted because our daughters were asking for some popcorn and one was pushing to have some root beer. So, when we’d gotten them all sorted I re-examined that disturbing sign on the coffee pot. But now I saw that what it actually said was, “Smile, it’s free!” Ohhhhhhhh! That made way more sense.

Later that night, while mulling it all over in my tired brain, it occurred to me: this is why I am not a speed reader. When I was a kid I had seen commercials on TV, whilst watching Gilligan’s Island reruns or The Lone Ranger on a Saturday morning. And there were ads for speed reading courses. It showed a person flipping through War and Peace as I would flip through a book looking for my bookmark. I really don’t remember any of the specific claims, but what it promised seemed to be an impossibility. Especially to me, the slowest of the readers in my class. And probably in the surrounding counties.

My husband and his dad used to talk about how one is supposed to skim the pages and get the gist of what’s going on when one is speed reading. Honestly, I’ve tried that. And what I get is not the gist. Utterly confused, that’s what I get. As evidenced by me thinking my friend was calling me cheap and that my garage was giving away free slime.

So, I’ve come to a conclusion, and it is this: Speed reading is not my thing. Everybody’s got a Thing, right? Well, I know that speed reading is not mine. I’m still trying to find what my Thing is, exactly. But I know without a doubt what it isn’t.

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He Gathers His Lambs

I’m watching Jeff and the girls play a game on our new (though pre-owned) xbox. And by watching, I really mean not watching, just sitting nearby, listening more than anything. I’m in a reflective mood tonight.

It’s the beginning of a whole new year. Sometimes I find myself a little scared by that thought, the idea of another year stretching out before me, with no indication of events that are about to unfold. When I wonder what this year will hold I get a little nervous.

I remember a week in May of 2003 when I felt like there was a shoe about to drop. Jeff and I had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary and he was on a week-long business trip to Chicago. I had an odd feeling of foreboding. As it turned out, just days later, though he returned home and all seemed well, we got a phone call at 5:30 in the morning from my older brother telling me that our mom had died of a heart attack in the night. I think of that from time to time, and I wonder what else could be just around the corner — perhaps some life changing disaster that will bring me to my knees and change my life forever. Again.

And that’s when I remember that whether or not I know what’s coming won’t change anything. Knowing, however, that God is in control and is walking with me through whatever comes — that changes everything.

Why, I wonder, do I forget so easily about his sustaining grace? Perhaps it’s to remind me of my weakness and my inability to cope with the sadnesses of life. Maybe, if I didn’t feel panic from time to time, I’d forget that I can rest in his unfailing strength.

Isaiah 40:11  “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

So, be encouraged. And look forward to what God is going to do in this new year, 2014!

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You Say Noise, I Say Cacophony

This post is about noise. Let’s be clear about what I mean when I use that word in this context. There’s Sound. And then there’s Noise. The “noises” my babies made when they were happy, well, we’ll call them Sounds. For this post, Noise is synonymous with loudness and cacophony. Now that we have the ground rules established, let’s move on.

One of the things my husband and I enjoy doing together in the evenings is watching TV. But once we became parents, I wanted the volume turned waaaaay down. This was primarily to avoid waking up the babies. I did not want to share this part of my evening with my sweet little cherubs. Not even a little. As soon as bedtime rolled around, it was my sincere desire to be off duty. Granted, there was always going to be the chance that one or both of them would wake up and I would be back on the clock. But I didn’t want to be in any way responsible for increasing those odds. All this to say, I was happy with the volume turned waaaaay down. My husband, however, was not. He likes to feel as though he’s sitting in a movie theater. Now, I have no problem with that if we’re actually in a theater — with my sleeping offspring several towns away. But, when they’re just upstairs, I get a little uncomfortable with my husband trying to recreate the movie theater experience right there, one floor away from those little threats to my night off. I don’t care how darn cute they are!

That, I always felt, was reasonable. I had a perfectly good reason on those occasions for my Aversion to Noise. But then we come to the next step in this, my descent into frustration. At this point in time, our children are seven and eight years old. They’re not so fragile. They can get themselves back to sleep now all by themselves. (Most of the time.) What I find disruptive to my peace of mind these days is that when commercials come on they’re at least three times as loud as the show we’re watching. What’s with that? If we’re trying to talk about anything more meaningful than, say, “Pass the chips,” I have to ask him to mute the blasted thing. I’m not able to concentrate on what he’s saying. Normal? He says No. Resoundingly.

Today when we were getting lunch, the girls wanted to listen to some Britt Nicole songs. We were getting our sandwiches ready; I was doing simple tasks that I do all the time, but after the third song I had to turn it off. I don’t mind her music. It’s Christian pop, it’s catchy. It’s all good. But I couldn’t think! As soon as I turned it off there was a wonderful feeling of peace. It was … QUIET. And I smiled as I soaked it in. (And I’m pretty sure there were eyes rolling a little off to my right. Seven and eight year old eyes, to be specific. But that’s not important now.) We all know the saying, If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t noooobody happy! Therein lies my point.

Now, my husband can listen to any kind of music while he’s doing just about anything, it seems. He can carry on a conversation just fine even if he’s surrounded by what seems to me to be chaos and disorder. I, on the other hand, can’t. Sadly, it’s really that simple.

So, I have to wonder — have I always been this sensitive to noise? IS it normal for at least females of our species to feel this way? Or am I getting curmudgeonly in my old age? At 45 I start to wonder if I’ll soon be shushing young-uns who are causing such a dadburn ruckus! Holy smokes, I hope not. Maybe I’ll get used to it –all this discordance, and Noise. Perhaps.

But probably not. Sadly, you’ll likely see me in coming years, with a pained, pinched look to my face. Old and, yep, curmudgeonly; grumpy and shushing.

Posted in Aging, Noise, Parenting, Sleeping Children | 4 Comments

For My Girls

I sit here wondering what to say. What do I have to say that is of any importance? Why should I tap out words on the laptop tonight? I have the time, and I have the desire, but I think about what to put down. And I realize that what’s really on my mind tonight, like most nights, is my girls. There are things I’d like them to know, be it now, or in days to come. So, Allyson and Katey, this is for you.

Before you left yesterday, to go to the cabin with Daddy, you each wrote a note for me. You wanted to surprise me, so I told you I wouldn’t watch you. Once you left I went and looked for your notes. Kate, I found yours on the front door, and I found yours, Allyson, tucked beneath the stapler on my desk. They were simple notes, written hurriedly, but the message was clear. I look at them this weekend as I spend time by myself, and I know that somewhere, up north in Sullivan County, are two girls who love me. And, as much as I’m enjoying this time to myself, I cannot wait for you to come home.

When you both are grown and have children of your own, you’ll no doubt begin to understand how nice it is for a mom occasionally to squirrel away time to herself. And something else you’ll find is that, no matter how reviving and renewing that time may be, when it’s done you’ll be happy to see your kids, because once you’re a mom, your life will never be just yours again. I gave away large pieces of my heart when I met you and we began our journey together. So, when you’re somewhere else I wonder how you are and I think about you and hope you’re learning and laughing and growing. It’s a mom-thing.

Earlier this week when we were in the car I asked you what you were looking forward to about being a mom. There was a long pause and one of you said, “… Having kids.” I had to laugh. You must have thought it was an incredibly stupid question. It was my way of beginning a conversation about being a mom. But even before you’re ready for motherhood, I look forward to seeing you become young ladies; learn to drive (though it may cause more than one anxiety attack for your parents); grow in your relationship with Christ; make new friends; discover new things you love to do. There are so many things to look forward to! I can’t wait to see who you’ll each become.

You both are so much fun to be around. I smile often when I overhear your conversations from another room because you’re smart and funny and talented. Sometimes when I listen I’m amazed by the maturity I hear in your voices. Other times I chuckle because you sound just like you did when you were tiny, playing together and being silly. I watch you play with smaller children — friends and cousins — and I know that you’ve been paying attention to the things we’ve told you. You have a gentleness and genuine care for others that thrills me to see. When we pray together I’m often amazed by your understanding. Wasn’t it yesterday that I held you and prayed with you? You couldn’t understand my words but I knew that before long you’d be hearing and learning — learning to pray, and to understand God and his “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

I pray that you will continue to grow and to love and to enjoy life. You are God’s greatest gifts to me and I look forward to watching you grow.

And I look forward to having you home again on Monday!

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The Wide Open Vista Called Summer

I stand here, perched on the very rim of summer, and peer over, wondering what will be. Today we closed the back cover on the book of this school year. I’m a little sad, just knowing it’s a year, a time, that we’ll never have again. But only a little sad, because we’ll suddenly have time to laze and play and read like we haven’t since last summer.

Our school year has been great in many ways. But it surely was intense and I felt the pressure to complete each day, and cover the requisite curriculum in order to turn out young people who aren’t dolts or simpletons — all before it was time to cook dinner. Not an easy task, believe me.

And now that it’s complete, this year of 1st and 2nd grades, I see before us so many possibilities. So many books. So many opportunities for things that had to give way to school in the past ten months. Allyson had asked — pleaded really — for me to begin reading to them The Lord of the Rings. She’s been asking this since we finished The Hobbit when she was in kindergarten. And I told her we might be able to try it this summer when school was done. And tonight she remembered. And I gave in. Almost. I looked for it (I have at least three copies) but couldn’t find The Fellowship of the Ring on any of my bookshelves. It must be in the basement. Odd, because I have every other Tolkien book I own, right there on the shelves. But not that one. And being as it was a good hour and a half past their bedtimes I decided not to traipse to the basement to try to find it. Instead, I began reading to them A Wrinkle In Time. Now, I’m excited to be bringing them into that favorite world of mine. I truly love how Madeleine L’Engle tells her fanciful story, and weaves in such delightfully strong familial relationships and friendships. I know my girls will enjoy these characters that I’ve loved since I was a teen. And I’m hoping this will suffice for now, and that we can leave Middle Earth for a little while yet. I don’t want to bring them in too young and spoil their potential love affair with that wondrous place.

I’m sure I viewed last summer with similar excitement, where literature is concerned. Likely as not, I’ll feel this way for many summers to come.  But I love that the echoes of the last day of school had barely had time to recede before we dove headlong into a new world.

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Oh, Mom … Were You Talking Just Then?

We sometimes play a game around the lunch table, my girls and I. It goes like this. A child is eating a piece of cheese and takes a bite (or three) and holds up what’s left. (This is where the game part happens.) The question is put to whomever is in the room — “What’s this?” And we have to identify what shape we see in the remaining piece of cheese. This can go on, the back-and-forth, asking and guessing/asking and mis-identifying, sometimes for longer than you’d expect, quite honestly. More often than not it turns out to be something like A Mountain, or A Staircase, because, not surprisingly, it’s tough to make a more detailed replica of much else with cheese and incisors.

Well today it was just me and Kate. Which typically makes for a shorter game. And she was excited by what she had created. After I had guessed at least three things (I think I guessed stairs, a tidal wave, and Wisconsin), she must have given up on mom and decided to go ask Allyson. (She was in the basement.) But she explained it to me, as she was leaving me in the dust, which, when you think about it, was quite thoughtful of her. “This looks like a person singing, going ‘Whooooooooo!’ Here’s the hat and here’s the mouth, going ‘Whooooooooooo!’ See?” I didn’t really, but I didn’t say that flat-out. “Oh … Huh! … Neat!” was all I could come up with just then. And I asked her to tell Allyson that her lunch was ready and that she needed to come upstairs. After agreeing, she went downstairs. Very shortly thereafter Katey came back upstairs. “Did you give her the message?” I asked, pretty sure there hadn’t been time for the transmission of both messages. “Yup!” was the happy response. “Just … what message are you talking about?”  — my skepticism, unassuaged. She said,”I told her “This looks like a person going, ‘Whoooooooo!'” (The sub-text here was: What other message could there be? What could compete with cheese shaped like a person going ‘whoooooo’?)

And this is why Allyson’s lunch was just a little colder than it would otherwise have been on this early spring day. This is also why I ask questions such as, “Did you actually know that there were words coming out of my mouth? And they were English, your mother-tongue!” It makes communicating that much more … communicative. Effective, even.

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