Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Like a band of gypsies...

"Seas" the day. Make your lives extraordinary.
Here we go.
The kids and I are piled in the car and loaded down with gear. The 4 of us are driving east, and we aren't stopping until we find the ocean.
I think we will be there soon, don't you? 

Maybe if we don't get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Again.
I can only hope. The chances of another very kind very good-looking doctor who just happens to be on the same stretch of road as me as he travels between hospitals and is willing to help me change my tire and find a service station to fix my flat are pretty slim. Although I could do it on my own, it was sure nice to just stand back and watch.

So let's hope we don't have any more set backs like that.

It has been too long since I've breathed in the salty air and felt the sand between my toes.

Are we there yet?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cute, isn't he?

I'd like to introduce you to somebody. I call him Laszlo. He's pretty amazing.
He is my lesson plans, my meal plans, my weekend plans, and my vacation plans. He is my schedule, my daily routine. He is my to-do lists, my chore charts, and my alarm clock. He is my sense of security and comfort. He is my knowing what I can expect out of each day. He is my attempt to control some tiny part of this life that is spinning over 1,000 miles an hour while hurtling around the sun.

Like I said, he's glorious. There are times I feel like he's the only thing keeping me sane and helping me get through the day.

No matter how much I've tried, it seems I cannot control the earth's rotation. Time continues to march on. I can't fast forward, rewind, or even pause it, much to my chagrin. Some days the mere thought of this is enough to make my heart flutter.

Even more terrifying than the speed at which I am flying around our solar system, are the three tiny tornadoes who live in my house. I cannot control them. I make plans. I make schedules, and lists. I tell them my expectations. It's no use.

There are too many things that can go wrong.

I get set back 30 minutes because somebody wet the bed, and there he is. Laszlo. He's been flushed down the toilet. He's been knocked from his perch on the mantel. He's shattered on the floor.

I'm left trying to pick up the pieces. I'm desperately trying to glue him back together. To get some sort of rhythm to my day.

The funny thing is, the more I try to maintain my grip on him, the more I try to force the pieces to fit back together, the more devoted I am to him, the more I insist that everyone else in the house (let's face it...just plain everyone) bow down to him...

The more my face begins to look like his.

It's not pretty.

You may want to steer clear.

I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and I know it's time to be devoted to something more beautiful. It's time to fix my gaze on the Beautiful One, and hope that I begin to resemble Him instead.
Wish me luck. I've tried to get rid of him before, but the stinker keeps finding his way back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Finding Beauty

Less than a year after her death, I find myself living just 2 hours away from the town where this lady spent her childhood. Where she grew up, learned to be who she was. Where she took us several times a year. Where she and my granny filled our heads with stories of people we never knew, but whose lives had touched theirs. And by this touching, they became a part of us, as well.
It has taken me these few months to prepare myself to go there. I knew the journey was coming, and I knew that I needed it to come. I needed to do more than just drive by this town, catching a glimpse from I-70, and saying to the air, "That was my mom's hometown." I needed to go, to feel, to remember. I needed to listen to the whispers of the past and to say goodbye. I needed to go back in time so that I could move forward.
I wasn't sure where to start. The place is small, though, so there aren't really many choices. The prettiest spot in town is the cemetery. It also happens to overlook the family farm. A fitting place to start listening to voices from the past, I thought. I was the only one there, and as I wandered around looking for the names of people I knew and people I had never known, I was struck by the beauty and the peace. 
We engrave "Rest In Peace" on the headstones of our loved ones, but it is our hearts that are often left searching for that peace, or even, that piece, that is missing in our lives once someone has gone. There is a vacancy where someone once resided in our hearts. It is uncomfortable to be empty. Hungry. Longing for something that we cannot have. Just one more...something...with that person. One more phone call. One more day. One more chance to say, "I love you."
As I walked the hill behind the Old Stone Church, looking at names, I was able to have "one more" with my mother. I listened as she told me again the stories of the people whose names were written there. I shed tears as I remembered. I shed more as I knew there were so many that I failed to remember. I smiled upon seeing people whose names were "Dicey Boot" and "Friend Roy." My heart was full for the family who so lovingly cast their daughter's grave marker...backwards. And I was full of good feeling as I saw the grave of a woman I had never met, but who has a cake named after her. The recipe for "Carrie Butefish Cake" is scrawled in my granny's cookbook, and it was her favorite. It was nice to finally meet you, Carrie.
After several hours of resting there, I was truly able to see the beauty of the place, the day, and the lives that had touched mine, directly and indirectly.
I moved from one cemetery to another, of sorts. The house my granny was a girl in with her brothers sits on the edge of town, a monument to a time that has moved on. I drove down the overgrown lane, climbed out of the car, and trespassed through the weeds to take a look.
I was only in this house once, when I was just a girl, right before it went for auction along with everything in it and the half of the family farm that it sat on. Each time we visited the town, we would shake our heads at the state of decay of the old house, and we would wonder at the lack of care from the new owners of the property. It always made my mother feel sad as she remembered happy times there.
For me, it has always served as a monument to history. It reminds me of the importance of preserving what we can, placing value on things that are otherwise worthless. Teaching our children to do the same. However, it also screams that this world is temporary. Time is marching on relentlessly. We cannot cling to the past. It will decay in our hands. We must look toward tomorrow.
Looking toward the future and feeling more light-hearted, I headed into town. I remembered summers spent visiting here. It was a time of innocence. My brother and I would ride our bikes to the market, money shoved into our sweaty socks, to buy a treat before heading to the playground. Happy memories broke as I saw that the park was much unchanged in the past 30 years. The same shiny metal swings were there, ready to burn the legs of any child desperate enough to swing on a sunny summer afternoon.
Nostalgic, I climbed the ridiculously steep stairs to the top of the slide. The same slide I had gone down again and again. Then I did it. I had to. I burned my butt sliding down that thing. It was worth it, just as it always had been.

Even though I was the only one at the park that day, I swear I heard the laughter of a couple of kids, visiting from out of state. I had found another something beautiful there at the playground.

The last few hours of my day there were spent finding beauty. I found that there is beauty in the harvested wheat fields.
I found that there is beauty in a patch of sunflowers growing in a ditch by the side of the dirt road that leads nowhere you thought it did.

I found that there is beauty in catching a glimpse of the creek in whose waters you waded as a child and upon whose banks your mother and her brothers started their arrowhead collection. There is beauty in the pain. There is beauty in the remembering. There is beauty in the past and in the future.
 "The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs." -Norman Maclean

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's the bomb-diggity

When you homeschool year-round, like we do, there is no ceremonial cleaning out of the desk and locker on the last day of school. There is no saying "goodbye" to a former teacher and eager anticipation of who will be your teacher during the next school year. There is no big revelation of which friends will be in your class, and there is no supply list telling you how many boxes of Kleenex and how many pencils you need to bring on the first day of school. There is no first day of school.

School just is.

It is a part of our day-to-day, breathe in, breathe out routine. Some days we breathe a little more or a little better than others. But it is there. Every day. Supply lists and school shopping are really just trips to the grocery, department, or craft stores.

Surprise! I'm your teacher...and yes, both of your brothers are still in class with you this year. So play nice.

I love this model of education. I love that we can take a day off whenever we need it, but we thrive on our daily routines.

As summer crept on, though, I realized that the boys were sliding into first grade without even knowing it. Without the big shift in teacher, classmates, classroom, and curriculum, without even a big summer break, there was no obvious transition from kindergarten to first grade. In a sense I like the seamlessness of this. I like that there is no artificial stoppage of learning and no major change to interrupt what progress is being made.

However, we live in a society that is full of boxes and labels, and the boys are having to field questions from grocery store clerks about their schooling (have I mentioned that people in Kansas are way too friendly? it gives a whole new meaning to #nofilter...but that's a post for another day). They were being asked what grade they are in, and they were still saying "kindergarten" because we haven't had any sort of last-day-of-school clean up (unless you count moving states).

So, what do you do when you are a homeschooler with no summer vacation and no major curriculum changes and you want to transition from one grade to the next?

We put a sign on the door.
 We gave awards certificates.

We ate cupcakes.

And we launched them down a grassy hill without training wheels.

So now, when they are asked what grade they are in, they can say "FIRST!"

Shorty, who was born right around the cutoff date, could be in kindergarten or pre-k, depending on which state's rules we want to follow. He's sharp as a tack, but doesn't like to follow directions. So, he has chosen to call his grade "cuckoo-kindergarten." It works for me.

They still look puzzled when people ask them how they spent their summer break. Sigh. I need to teach them to answer "year-round schooling is the bomb-diggity."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Less is More, part deux

So we've moved.

Most of the boxes are unpacked, and this place is starting to feel like home.

There is a lot that I miss about our old home, and the green house. I can't deny that moving here didn't excite me. Leaving our friends, family, and church didn't excite me. Kansas didn't excite me. Wichita didn't excite me. The street where we live didn't excite me. The house itself didn't even excite me much, even though it was on the official "approved" list I sent the hubby when he went house hunting.

finding our house is like playing Where's Waldo
I did add this crazy guy to the front stoop for some character (and a "landmark" of sorts)

The old place was full of charms. I loved the old woodwork and leaded glass. I adored soaking in the claw-foot tub. Nothing brought a smile to my face like walking or biking to the grocery store, the bookstore, the custard shop, the children's museum, the neighborhood market, our church, the theater, or any number of stores and restaurants on Main St. There was a bike trail just a block away that was perfect for teaching the boys to ride as well as having a ride myself. We were close enough to the city that we could head downtown any day or night and enjoy all that St. Louis has to offer (and I personally think that is A LOT), but our neighborhood didn't feel like suburbia. I had grown up in one of the neighboring communities, so my life was full of people who had known me all my life as well as new friends. Our lives were full.

Two days ago, the youngest observed, "Mommy, we don't have any friends here, do we?"

We don't have turn-of-the-century details. We don't have a bike trail, a big city, anything within walking or biking distance, easy access to local shops and restaurants. We don't even have backyard neighbors. The view from the back porch is vast and empty.
cloudy sunrise panorama from the back door
But, maybe, less is more.

Maybe not having our days so full of people to hang out with, things to do, and places to go is just what we need right now. Maybe we need to slow down, be still, and know that He is God. That He is Good. That he is Love. That His timing, His plan, His story for my life is better than the one I would choose to tell for myself.

Maybe what I need is to sit on the back porch, sip my morning coffee, listen to the chorus of crickets in the emptiness behind the house, and count the thousands upon thousands of gifts He has given me.
sitting on the back deck

Maybe what I need is to forget about play dates for a while and focus on playing with my boys, truly engaged and enjoying them. Soaking in their laughter as they play with each other, my husband, and me. With me.
two views of "the big room"

Maybe what I need right now is not another girls' night out, but a date night in with the man of my dreams playing games and talking into the wee hours while the crickets chirp and the children snore.
the boys' room

"Less" in this way is hard for me. I am energized by those around me. I love parties and plans and doing doing doing. Every day would be an adventure if it were up to me. This next adventure is going to be one of inward focus, of a slower pace and quieter days. An adventure of allowing the men, big and small, in my life be the ones who energize me.

I am ready.

In response to Shorty's statement regarding our lack of friends, I can answer, "Not many, buddy. Not yet, anyway. But we do have each other, and we are our best friends."
lest you think I have it all together, here is the door to my "office" -- an impassable mess
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