Monday, October 4, 2010

Who was I before I was a speck?

Setting the scene: Laying down for bed this evening with CB, after a long day of togetherness.  After reading books, she is all set up in her "Sleeping Tent."  (She's been sleeping in this tent for almost 3 weeks.  It's a tent set up on top of her bed that is so tiny it just fits her body and not much else.  It's adorable.  One night, I suggested it as a fun thing to get her excited about bed, and apparently it was a good idea.)

CB: Mom, why do I have a belly button?
Me: Your belly button marks the spot where there was a cord connecting us when you were in my tummy.   
       Remember how H had a cord when he was born and then his belly button formed?
CB: Yes, but what is the cord for?
Me: It's so that the baby can get food while it's in the mommy's tummy?
CB: Well, how did I get into your tummy?
Me: (Oh boy) Mmmm, well you started as a speck and then grew into a baby.
CB: How big was the speck?
Me: (I make a tiny circle with my thumb and pointer) Really small. Tiny, like this.
CB: Well, how did the cord connect to the speck?
Me: When you were a speck you had to grow arms and hands, legs and feet, a head with eyes, nose, and 
       ears.  And we had to grow the cord between us.
CB: What does the speck eat?
Me: The baby eats everything the mama eats.  Like when I ate a hamburger, you got some hamburger. 
       When I ate broccoli, you ate broccoli.  That's why you like it so much!
CB: Oh!
Me: Okay, time for bed now.
       (Which I felt bad about saying, because her expression was so focused
       and curious.  But I kept thinking about my other child who was with my parents, waiting for me  
       to come bring him to bed.)

       Long pause.

CB: Mom, who was I before I was the speck?
Me: (Poking my head under the side of the tent, smiling at her unbearably sweet insighfulness)
       I've wondered that too... I don't know, hon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A True Friend: Loving & Loyal

Today we buried our oldest dog, Nutmeg. 

In the fall of 1994, my family and I went to the humane society to get a cat.  We came back with two puppies, Buddy and Nutmeg.  Since that day, Nutmeg has been woven into the fabric of our lives.  So many notable events and then just plain old everyday life happens in the span of sixteen years, both lasting and ephemeral.

The life of a family dog marks an era.  During the past sixteen years, I've grown up (at least on the outside).  I've gone from the joy of having my mom and dad buy me a puppy to picking out kitties for our daughter.  Nutmeg has seen all of the marry-in spouses be added to the family and entertained the seven grandkids that have joined the scene.  As Nutmeg has aged, I've grappled with trying to figure out life from the inside out, and sometimes from the outside in. 

Letting dogs in and out, feeding them, and filling their water bowl - day in day out, tasks of the pet owner.  These mundane acts so daily and always happening, but mostly little noticed.  On days of remembrance, like today, I feel the weight of time passing and daily life unappreciated.  I notice that I am not always as present as I want to be with letting my dogs in and out, filling their food and water bowls, making dinner, hugging my kids, sharing my life with my spouse.

Sixteen years is more than half of my life.  That Nutmeg's ubiquitous presence that will be missing from our days reminds me off how slowly and quickly time passes.  Thinking of Nutty's life and her sweet personality is another call for me to notice what is simple and lovely. 

Today, we taught our daughter to say goodbye forever and to bury a friend.  When CB was a toddler, she always said that Nutmeg was her favorite.  She was the only dog, of our three, that would let CB crawl up on her bag and lead her around on a leash in the house.  CB might not remember Nutmeg as she grows up, but Nutmeg has forever left an imprint on her heart about how trusting and loving animals can be.  We've been blessed by her time with us.

Goodbye, Nutmeg.  I'll always remember you and your happy love.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Help Me Be the Person My Daughter Thinks I Am

At the end of today, I'm pooped.  It's been a busy week.  Last week, we started some scheduled homeschooling time and had harvesting to do in the garden.  After playing at church early this morning, making Sunday lunch, freezing green beans and corn, and cleaning up that unholy mess, I let my parenting go on auto-pilot this evening.  We let CB watch a movie and I vegged out online for a while and finished a fiction book. Little H just hung out with me for most of the day, blessing me with his sweetness.

I got up early this morning to get ready to go to church.  As I finished getting dressed and putting on some dressy shoes, CB walked in and stared at my shoes.  Right away she asked me, "Why are you wearing those shoes?"  (Now, it must be noted that CB is very intrigued by high heels, jewelry, perfume, and all things accessory.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure how such a fancy girl came to be in this family.)  I explained that I was going to church while she and H stayed home with Dad.

She turned and ran into her room, inspired to start the day with style.  Out she came, in a tank top (her "bra"), skirt, high heels, and necklace.  She asked me to give her the play earrings and to spray her with some perfume.  She was looking pretty good for 7:00 a.m on a Sunday, five minutes out of bed.

On our way up the stairs, CB asked me: "Mom, do you know why I got so dressed up? Because I want to be just like you."  Oh boy...

I've seen the shirts and bumper stickers that say Help Me Be the Person My Dog Thinks I Am.   My mantra is similar.  I've got a tall order to live up to each day.  And apparently, she wants me to do it in heels. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Perfect Day

Last spring, a few weeks into being a two-child parent, I made a list.  I'm really big on making lists to feel like I have some semblance of control over my day, or really over anything at all.  After several days of being frazzled and spinning, spinning, spinning, I got up early in the morning to have a moment to myself.  Sitting at the kitchen table with pen and paper, I boldly wrote the title of my list: "Ingredients for a Satisfying Day."  It didn't take long to think of the things that I wanted to include in my daily experience.  Here is the list: special time with CB, a walk, time in the garden, one load of laundry, time at the piano, and healthy, yummy home-cooked meals.  After starting this blog, I added writing to the list.  Since then, I have at least known what I was aiming for each day as CB, H, and I have been learning to navigate these days together. 

This past weekend, I read Steady Days by the blogger Steady Mom.  It's a book about making motherhood an intentional profession, a career that can be approached with the same sorts of tools and attitudes that one would integrate into regular worklife.  I found myself very inspired to really get going on some of the organizational inklings that I've had over the past few months.  I had developed a daily flow for us but hadn't managed to get the darn thing printed out yet.  We've been using weekly meal plans for ages, but they hadn't beem integrated into our family calendar.  In addition to just regular organization for figuring out what the heck is going on (which is hard enough to for my brain to focus on amidst baby noises and a stream of incessant narration of a three year old), I am challenged to come up with a coherent plan for Clara's homeschool world.

So, I got it all pulled together - the daily/weekly plan for the kids and for me, Clara's Montessori work and B4FIAR time, and our meal plan. Wrote down the recipe.  Mixed it together.  Printed it out.  Hell, yeah.

All of which brings us to today and this post.  If the universe is trying to reward me for all of my intention setting and planning, it's working.

We had a fantastic day today.  It started with a fruitful harvest in the garden, where I again was amazed at the way that the garden always provides for our CSA deliveries.  Then I spent an hour with CB, while H slept, working on some Montessori activities: using the dropper, practicing C,D,P,T, working on the color tablets, and practicing "May I please?" and "Thank You" with a little game.  It was so energizing for me.  Next, it was on to the garden to pick raspberries to make fruit & yogurt popsicles. We went on to make broccoli and spinach quiche.  We hung some laundry out on the line, after modifying the clothesline to include a low line for CB to hang her own clothes up.  Lunch with Grandpa and Dad followed by quiet time, when I got to go through a pile of paperwork that had begun to take on a life of its own.  Clara requested time on the swingset, followed by a very HOT walk/bike ride to the little general store down the road.  Next, yes, there is a next, we went to the pool and ate dinner at the playground with my sis-in-law and her little girl. Wow.

It's great to live it and then to write it. One of the true blessings of the day comes in the reflection and with the flood of gratitude it brings.

I actually feel a wave of good ol' Lutheran guilt after writing all of that out.  It seems almost too good to have enjoyed a day like today.  I'll revel in it anyway.  I think that joy and gratitude are the point, right?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Sunday Reflection

I love when my internal life coincides with an outside event in a way that is reaffirming or inspiring.  Some people call it serendipity, some people call it the Spirit.  I just call it awesome.  I heard words of inspiration today during today's message at church.  To paraphrase: "Helping others free themselves from the things that oppress them is our work as Christians.  When we help lift the burdens of others, we find that we have been equally or more healed of the the particular burdens that oppress us."

One beauty I've found in being headquartered at home much of the time is the ability to look around to see who might need some of what I've got.  I'm not spinning quite as much, which really does wonders for the possibility of being connected with others.  Not that I'm free of spinning, it's just not quite as frequent.  I feel like I can listen a little better and have felt inspired to find ways that I can be a part of lifting the burden.

The pastor's reflection really is true. Looking farther outward and listening more closely to find ways that I can be a piece of the healing puzzle (without trying to figure out how it might be a reflection on myself), has really helped lift my burden.  I am spending less time investing in icky feelings of judgment and self-absorption.  It's liberating.

I want to be a mom that can model that behavior for my kids.  If I want to take the moral and character development part of my parenting job seriously, I better get a head start.

Can I keep it going?  Let's hope so.  I'll look forward to a little divine intervention too :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Goodbye to School, Hello to Time

CB only has two more days left at her Montessori school. It will be a sad week for us as a family as she leaves her friends and teachers. Last month, after we finally made the decision to have CB stay home with me this fall to do Montessori-style homeschooling, I was really in a turmoil of guilt, excitement, and possibility.  I was feeling so guilty about taking her out of such a wonderful school and feeling uncertain that she would receive the same great experience with me at home.  After being inspired by reading some great online homeschooling blogs (Simple Homeschool, Steady Mom, FIMBY), reading some Montessori homeschooling books, and feeling energized by my recent at-home experience with my kids, I think that I have replaced most of the guilt with excitement and gratitude for the opportunity.  

At this time in our family life, I feel blessed by the option to give CB and H time: my time, time to work at their own pace, time to spend together, time to be at home, time to be loved.  When I consider what I truly value in my own life, time rises to the top of the list.  I am grateful to be able to share that precious gift with my kids.

I ordered the guidebook for Before Five in a Row. B4FIAR is a pre-school homeschooling curriculum based on using young children's literature as a touchstone. The premise is that you read a selected book for a week, five days in a row. The repetition of the story allows the parent and child to explore different topics or themes in the book. There are suggested activities that go along with the selected book directed at exploration in math, science, culture, and language. 

I can't wait for the guidebook to arrive and to continue making our Montessori work materials.  I have much reading to do and many things to plan.  A trip to Michael's is in the works (yeah, with my mom!) and a few evenings of some light woodworking and painting. 

This experience is going to require much presence from me in our daily lives.  I am excited by the challenge of it all.  There's nothing like setting something bold and fabulous in motion to make one rise to the occasion.  I think I'm ready.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

God's Hands

A snippet of a conversation that I had with CB a few days ago as we watched my dad leave to go to a funeral wake for his friend:

CB: "Mom, where's Grandpa going?"

Me: "He's going to see a friend of his who died.  After people die, sometimes people visit the body to say good-bye, even though they aren't in the body anymore."

CB: "If his friend isn't in his body anymore, where is he?"

Me: "Well, he's in heaven with God.  He's with other people who have already died and they are all with God."

CB: (Thinking) "....Well, how are God's hands big enough to carry him?"

Me: "God is very big."

CB: "Is God as big as this?" (Stretches her arms as wide as she can.)

Me: "Even bigger.  More like as big as the sky."

CB: "Oh, like the Genie in Aladdin!"

Me: "Yeah, something like that."

CB: "Mom, when will I die?"

Me: (OMG!) "...We don't really know when we'll die but maybe when you are an old lady."

CB: "But if I die, who will be your kid?"

Me: "Even when we die, you and Henry will always be my kids."

(Big hug.)

These conversations about death have become somewhat of a staple in my interactions with CB in the past months.   Often, when presented with the mortality of a creature, she will bring up death.  I'm amazed at how often she distills a nugget of something meaningful or beautiful from these talks.  Her mind is so incisive and her words are sweetly honest. 

I am blessed with her reflections.