Friday, September 21, 2012

The Back Burner

In the crazy, busy season of our life that we are in, my friendships have often taken a backseat to my "to do" list and to the people that need me the most (k, d, and c, not to name names...) It's not that I don't value my friends, I do!  I am a social, energetic person who loves being around people, but the longer my "to do" list becomes, the less time I spend outside of my little bubble.

We are getting prepared to move away from WI, a place we have to come to regard as "home," to a new city in MN.  As we get ready, I find myself putting off cleaning the fridge to hang out with a friend.  Or not worrying about the laundry, so that I can make it to the bible study on Friday mornings.  Grocery shopping doesn't HAVE to be done on Wednesdays, since a friend happened to be available for a play date that same morning.  I took the kids out on a long walk because I wanted them to enjoy the trail near our house, rather than getting that long workout in....I am more flexible about my schedule, more engaged with the people in my life, and in general, feeling more happy about the relationships.



It's sad when it takes losing a relationship to make you value it. But as the busyness of life grows in it's demands, I continually put people on the back burner, waiting until there's a little more time to fit them in.... telling myself that we'll have them over for dinner when things 'settle down.'  And as I really begin to lean more heavily on God for comfort these days, in my time of need... it dawns on me that I have done the exact same thing with Him.  My own Creator.  Not realizing that eventually, time does run out.

I have set Him aside while I focused on things that "had" to get done... getting ready for school to start, lesson planning, packing lunches, exercising, getting stuff put together for a non profit I am involved with...

Is it easy to put Him first? Obviously not.  Just like it isn't easy to find a balance between relationships and the stuff that ACTUALLY *has* to get done. But I am guessing the joy that I am experiencing, the peace even in the midst of my exhaustion and sadness over leaving.. it's because my priorities are finally re-shifting back into place.

It takes constant discipline to keep things in the forefront of our minds. God tells us many times in the bible  to "seek first the the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33) to "have no other Gods before Me" (Exodus 20:1)  but living it out practically is much harder. I'm finding that the more I read His Word, the better I do. It sounds silly, easy, ridiculously obvious and simple, but REALLY reading His word takes time!  Something most busy moms just can't afford to set aside.  But finally, I have learned, and will likely have to learn again and again and again, that I really cannot afford not to.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Celebrating

When Kaitlyn was first born and diagnosed with Down Syndrome, I had a wonderful doctor come in and encourage me.  He told me that although it felt like my world was ending, it wasn't.  It was really just beginning.

I don't remember a lot from the first few days, but I do remember doubting.

I read a poem that first month, about raising a child with a disability, that likened the feeling to having a dream die.  Suddenly the dream of a certain destination, the "end goal" of raising children seems impossible....

The last 6 1/2 years have been the most eye opening, life changing years of my life. Watching Kaitlyn fight her way to independence has given me hope and faith that I didn't have before her.

I have been so deeply humbled by celebrating each accomplishment with her, accomplishments that I didn't think she was capable of.  And it shifted the way that I see my purpose in life in a way that nothing else could have.

Last night, celebrating Down Syndrome, being a part of an organization that is out in this community showing everyone that we should NEVER underestimate what people with Down Syndrome can do... it reminded me of how far we have come, excited for how far there is left to go...

Knowing that Kait has changed my life, and has continued to prove me wrong every day about what she can accomplish, She is teaching Me that what she can do with her life far exceeds what I can do with my own.  I am so grateful to be along for the ride.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Waiting on Him.

 "Out there things can happen, and frequently do, to people as brainy and footsy as you.  And when things start to happen. Don't worry. Don't Stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening to."

There are days that I wake up, with words in my head, dreams in my heart.... feeling unexpectedly like "myself."  Full of hope for the day, excitement for what could happen, what I could accomplish.  These are the days that I'm reminded of who I used to be.  In my youth, I thought the World was open to me.  I could chase any dream that I wanted to pursue.

As I've been staying at home raising my three little loves, something has shifted though.  These "dreamer" days come much less frequently.  The hope of accomplishment slowly leaking out of a balloon that may or may not have been too full to begin with.

Sometimes it feels like every dream I have has to be sifted through so many filters that there's hardly anything left at the bottom.  The marriage filter, the children filter, the time filter, the money filter....  I'm left with grounds that aren't very appealing by the time I've thought it through rationally.  And then comes the anger, frustration.... and when I'm angry, it's easy to blame how I'm feeling on my husband, my kids, past mistakes I've made.... and Not turn to God for answers.

I see friends and family without children, even some with children, who have pursued their ambitions, and it can make my life feel so insignificant.  So boring.  So accomplish-less.

"Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best, Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.... Except when you don't, Because, sometimes, you won't.  I'm sorry to say so, but sadly it's true.  Bang-ups, and Hang-ups will happen to you.  You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.  And your gang will fly on, You'll be left in a Lurch."

Certainly, I don't need anyone to extol the virtues of being a Mom.  I get it.  I chose to stay home to offset loneliness and a deficit I felt growing up without a parent who was consistently, physically, available.  My dream for my children was to give them this perfect home, this wonderful start to life, that would equip them with all of the things they would need to be wonderful, Christian, smart, compassionate people as adults.

But I have to tell you, I didn't expect being a full time Mom to be so.... well.  Boring.  I know it sounds terrible.  I will not be winning any mom of the year awards with this post.  And I do invest a LOT of energy into making it more fun around here.  Dance parties, science experiments, way-too-complicated-why-did-I-do-this-art projects, literacy and math games, trips to the library....  But still. My brain feels latent.


"You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a slump. And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done."

I've done a lot of God-searching on this. I feel like He has told me (and my husband has told me even more explicitly :-) ) That I should be home, at least for now.  But boy, the attitude adjustment at hearing an answer that I don't want to hear is really tough.

Today, at church, the message was so clear to me.  Like God was speaking directly to my rebellious, frustrated, resentful heart.

God still Loves me.  The same as He loved me a year ago when I was more actively seeking His Will.  He wants me to be filled. He created me with a passion for life for a reason.  but His reason.  Not mine.

And I do believe it will happen.  Maybe just not right when I want it to happen. I have to be able to trust that God hasn't forgotten me, or my heart's desires. That when He chooses to give me the green light to pursue them, it will be for His glory, not Mine.

"So be sure when you step. Step with great care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act." (all quotes from above I owe to the brilliant Dr. Seuss and Oh, the Places You Will Go)

Reading through the bible... this is what my conclusion is to a rather difficult month for me.... His ways are better than Mine.  His Will is Infinitely more Perfect than Mine.  1 Peter 5:6-7  "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all of your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sacrifice

Even before I write this, I know that anyone reading this will realize I'm struggling with decisions, and I know dear friends struggling with even bigger decisions.  But I'm going to write it anyways, and hope that it comes out more clearly than it is currently in my mind.

Sacrifice is a huge part of parenting.  I've written about my thoughts on this before ("Dreams"   "Losing Yourself") but it's something I continually come back to.  How much sacrifice should we make?  

It's easy for me to make this call on the every day decisions.  Sacrificing for one more hug when you really want some personal space.  Sacrificing your 20 minute shower, because your son thinks the death star should be built on the toilet.  Sacrificing your peace of mind because they are begging for just one more game of Simon Says (which actually turns into 20!)  Sacrificing your standard of cleanliness, because they think it will be more fun to paint with their elbows.

But what about the bigger decisions?  Sure, I gave up my love for fancy cars for the really sweet, practical minivan I drive.  That wasn't too painful.  I chose to stay at home, sacrificing my desire for a career, to raise the kids in a way that I think would be best, and allows me to be present for all of the big and little moments at home that I'd hate to miss.

I think most people would agree that sacrifice is necessary to raise emotionally healthy children.  But when do you stop sacrificing?  Or do you not ever stop?  I am not writing this because I have a clear answer coming at the end of this paragraph.  I actually want to know.  When is the sacrifice too great?

Going back to school when your kids still need you at home? Waiting until they are in kindergarten until you start working again, even though they still need you, maybe more than ever, to be fully present in their lives?  I could keep going with even more difficult decisions.... staying in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage for the benefit of the kids?  Staying a single parent, for fear of allowing your attention to divert from your children....Staying in an abusive marriage (and no I am not insinuating that I actually have all of these problems!  just drawing it out down a slippery slope)?


Love is more than a noun -- it is a verb; it is more than a feeling -- it is caring, sharing, helping, sacrificing.
- William Arthur Ward


Friday, February 3, 2012

Art, Learning & Experimenting

The more I teach, the more I am convinced that there is a definitive link between art, science, and learning.

I love the hands on opportunities that art presents.  And although I am not artistically inclined myself, I love losing myself in art.  I love the story art can tell.  I love that for my little preschoolers, art actually DOES tell the story.

Art is a language builder.  It's a fine motor skill to be perfected. It's emotional development, a tool for expressing your emotions.  It's math in one of it's earliest forms: color recognition, color mixing, patterns.... It's science: "Why didn't the waterpaint cover the crayon?"  "I'm going to paint this bear in the arctic because it's a polar bear."

Science is the same way.  Teaching a child to explore concepts for themselves is the single most important thing I can imagine instilling in young minds.

Don't just accept that I've told you red and blue make purple, test it.  Don't believe me that this boat will float.  Maybe it won't.  Try it.  Teaching a child to question things is invaluable.  "Investigating" is a useful skill that translates into more socially responsible citizens, more innovative business thinkers, cutting edge doctors and scientists.

The point is not to fill your children with ABC knowledge, to ensure that they can name all of their colors, or tell you what 1+1 is.  Any four year old can memorize that information.  The point is to teach them to figure out what that MEANS, what the point of it all is, and how to enjoy figuring it all out.... How to explore new things and make it meaningful.  Can they use the letters to build a fun word?  How can they use the colors to paint a picture of their family?  If they want two more cookies, and they already have one, how many will they have?

Today, we set up this experiment in the bathtub:
The white bowl is empty.  The wooden bowl if full of blue cold water.  The dark bowl is full of hot red water.

The question I presented:  What happens when you mix cold and hot water together?
D's response initially:  Maybe the hot water will stay on the edges and the cold water will sit in the middle and then it won't be so hot or so cold. (where did he get this idea from?  I'm not sure?)

Let's see!  "Mom it's turning purple!"

What does the purple water feel like?  Is it hotter or colder than the red water?  Is it hotter or colder than the blue water?

I love to ask questions along the way.  Totally adult-free child play with no questions doesn't always accomplish quite the same thing as when parents & teachers are observing, asking questions, adding elements when their discovery goes deeper/differently than expected :)

"Mom, what happens if we add all of the hot water and the cold water together?"
Well let's see...
"But mom, where did the hot water go?!  There's no hot or cold water anymore, it's like... it's nothing!... Maybe I should climb into the bowl to find it."

Sure... Whatever works to get the point across :-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just for the Fun of It

"What is the point of that?"

It's a reoccurring question that seems to pop up a lot lately with children's activities that I post about.

I'll blog about an activity we've done, or post pictures on facebook of a fun project, or "Pin" ideas for sensory bins and other fun things to do with the kids on Pinterest.  And inevitably I get an email, a comment, a question.... "Why? Why would you make a mess like that?"  "That seems like a lot of work"  "What would you do with those?"

Some are questions by parents who genuinely want to know, others are a little more condescending than that.

So in response to everyone's questions or comments, and those who maybe really are just wondering why? but not asking.... it's for fun.  Just for fun!

Sure, I could write an entire summary of everything gained from something like "Sparkle Mud" (do you want me to? I will! There's fine motor opportunities in manipulating a different texture, there's sensory processing skills that are being developed, opportunity for creative play by bringing people, animals or cars into a mud bin, opportunities for language enrichment as you discuss the different properties of 'mud', besides endless games you can play in it....)

But mostly, I do these things for my kids because they are fun!  My kids are learning to have fun! To enjoy themselves. Isn't that the greatest gift I could give them?  A childhood filled with "Sure, you could use your feet in the shaving cream instead of a brush..."  "Yes, you can try making mud in my kitchen!"   "You want to play water beads outside in 20 degree weather?  Ok!"

Of course, I try to make each activity we do as filled with meaning as I can.  I ask them a lot of questions about what they are doing. I connect different books that we've read to activities we do (for the sparkle mud, we had a fun talk about Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car, a book about a car that gets stuck in the mud, which inevitably brought up the question.... Can we put our CARS in the mud?! ... Yes, I guess you can)

Sometimes I encourage writing letters in the sand, or seeing if we could make our name with the tire marks of a car dipped in mud (yes we could!)  But mostly, I encourage my kids' imagination.  I let them take control of their own play time, and play with them as much as possible.  I love seeing the sparkle in their eye.  I love seeing the smile on their face.  And I especially love the animation at bedtime, when they retell me about "our day".  Hearing them describe how much fun playing in the mud was.  How making ice bricks was "the coolest experiment they've ever done"

Isn't that enough?  I suppose not.  For grown ups, we've lost our sense of wonder along the way.  The freedom to make a mess just because it's fun isn't a good enough reason.  If you've ever given your kids a sensory bin filled with mud, sand, beans, rice with a few bowls and spoons... you know that there doesn't have to be a "purpose" to everything. Sometimes, they just want to have fun!

Sometimes not setting goals makes a project all the more enjoyable.  It's the process of playing that is the goal. The purpose is fun.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Year in the Life

Wow... it's been an entire year of blogging.

I never thought I would stick with something this long.  It's in my nature to quit, to give up, usually before beginning, but almost always before it's finished.

I had set a goal for myself that I would write frequently for an entire year, to help me collect my own thoughts, share the feelings and struggles that I go through as a mom and a wife, and just as a person. Also just to practice accomplishing goals.

I hope that throughout this year I have shared something that has struck a personal chord with someone reading it.  I hope that I haven't come off as overly confident in my mothering, or overly insecure in my mothering. I hope I have shared honestly and genuinely without sounding as if I am preaching, but also not being fearful to be true to myself and to my faith.  I try not to be overly embarrassed of my struggles, or prideful of the accomplishments.

God has shown me a lot of weaknesses in my life this year, He's worked a lot out in me, and He still has a long way to go.  I'm not sure that I'll continue on with the blog, or if the blog will become a preschool, educational tool instead.  I've considered a lot, but for now, I can say this:  I am so grateful that I had a venue to share a little bit of myself with others.  It provided me with a connection to the outside world, when I was frequently "stuck" at home!

An entire year!  I've done it :-)