Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Life Reflected

"The unreflected life is not worth living"
- Socrates


Hannah finished the Second Grade last Friday. 

Our final few weeks were less rigorous - a winding down of sorts. We enjoyed reading The Trumpet of the Swam; this would make a fantastic summer read aloud for boys and girls alike. I think we both found great satisfaction in finishing... 

...and various other endeavors she took on this year.

In lieu of an official report card I closed out the year with a letter. This exercise  has served us well - bringing greater continuity and a sense of accomplishment on the part of both student and teacher. 



In our home the month of June gifts us with the longer view. We've made it through the moment by moment and now have the chance to step back and see what's taken place.


"...We began our school year with two simple words: diligence and gratitude. On the first day of class you looked these two words up and carefully penned their definitions on a piece of paper. Then we talked about them – what it might feel like to put them into practice in your handwriting lessons, on tired days, during exciting field trips, on mornings at the beach and on your fifteenth day of memorizing math facts. More often than not I witnessed your careful and continued hard work Hannah. I received a feeling of appreciation from you. I’m so grateful for this..."


"...Our chapter books carried us to far off places like Egypt with Lillian Trasher, India and England with Mary Lennox, New Zealand where you met Milly and imagined becoming her friend. We spent time on the deck of the Mayflower with Mary Chilton, traveled all the way to Africa and back to the States with Phillis Wheatley and over to Philadelphia during the Civil War era where we met a young Quaker who happened to share your name. We read The Hundred Dresses, My Father’s Dragon, The Moffatts, and The Trumpetof the Swam – all of which captured our imagination and also made us think..." 


"...Another aspect of school life that I know I really enjoyed this year was the field trips we took. We picked apples, pet donkeys and made apple pie. We explored a replica of an Ancient Roman Villa at the Getty Museum in Malibu. Witnessing a real mummy was amazing (and so was the food we ate at the Bistro that day). We took a trip down south and meandered through the original farmer’s market in Los Angeles, rode on the top deck of the trolley and then ate the best vegan lunch either of us had ever had. We invited friends to join us on an entirely different sort of day at Trader Joes where you found popsicles in the money safe and chilled out in the walk-in freezer for just long enough. We greeted the baby sea lions at the Carp Bluffs with the Thomas family and spent one warm afternoon recording bird songs while hiking the Arroyo Verde trail..."      


Each collection of moments begs reflection. They needn't be fancy - just true. I've found that they tend toward the positive - toward growth and joy...towards what went well. I believe that it is human nature to look past the dramatic sighs, the tears and inevitable bumps that move each and every one of us a bit further down the path of refinement. 

Reflections are in their essence more holistic, more cumulatively forgiving and within this realm rests lots of room for grace. The opportunities to share them with our kids are endless.

birthdays
the end of a sports season 
following a dance recital
another school year coming to a close
right smack in the middle of something that feels hard or near impossible to finish
or simply just because
upon returning from vacation
as they prepare to take on something new

So go and live those moments - collect them, sit among them and then share these written  words with the little (or not so little) people in your life. 

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Simple Gesture



I attended a conference down south this past weekend. The plan was to share a room with some friends the first night and then have a night on my own. Instead, I had to forgo the first half of the plan in order to take Hannah to urgent care. 


When she told me two days prior that her throat felt weird I dismissed it as nothing more than sore muscles from her newly acquired roller skating skills (and falls). When my almost nine year-old curled up and took a nap the day I was supposed to leave I had a hunch that plans were about to change. The final clue came by way of me actually looking inside her mouth - only to find it covered with bright red spots. At that point I awarded myself the lame-mother-of-the-week award and changed course.



Prior to my girls' arrival I simply had no idea just how much two small little lives would change my own. I welcome this change in so many ways. Still, on days like last Thursday I find myself flabbergasted - feeling as though I might suffocate somewhere between the three-hour wait at urgent care and the rapid strep test results.  

I did finally make it down south - shoving guilt aside and graciously accepting Phil's offer to don the parental scrubs for the weekend (Hailey's mouth filled with spots the next morning).

The conference itself was great. I gleaned new and refreshingly candid insights from Susan Wise Bauer, respectfully disagreed with much of what John Rosemond had to say and grew increasingly comfortable with the notion that it is somehow completely normal to walk around convention centers (and even adjoining restaurants and coffee shops) with a rolling suitcase (those of you outside the world of homeschooling will just have to trust me on this one).  

But at the end of the day the most profound piece of advise I walked away with was an incredibly simple one - smile. Yes, you read this right. It turns out that many of us parents (you know...the well-intended, fully-engaged, book-reading, organic-cooking type of parents) are walking around with frowns on our faces!




Yes, this parenting business is serious stuff. And no, we're not intentionally walking around scowling. But when Susan Wise Bauer dared to disclose that her mother looked furious most of the time during her growing up years, it caused me to pause. 

By all accounts, Susan's mother is a wise and loving woman. She was also a mother who felt the weight of parenting and educating and nurturing her children every single dayIn her case (and I would imagine for many of us) this pressure, this ever-changing selfless status with all of its twists and turns too often translates into a frown.  And our kids take note.  

Just in case there was any question as to whether or not I needed to turn my  frown upside down, I had a coffee shop encounter this past week that sealed the deal. It was one of those days. I had one hour to get revisions off to my editor. I entered The Good Cup in hopes of locating a seat near an outlet. As I set up my second-rate option (trusting my battery would hold out) I was approached by one of the shop's regulars. He moved in uncomfortably close and proceeded to tell me through his sparkling grin that he had never seen me smile. 


Unbeknownst to him, his timing was impeccable. Yes it was also random, a bit creepy and lacking regard for personal space but I'm choosing to see past these things in light of the bigger lesson at hand. I'm not a miserable soul - really, I'm not. I am happily married and have two great kids whom I genuinely enjoy being around most of the time.


Still, what I'm coming to understand is that within the intensity and unpredictability of this season I have to remind myself of several things. Expressions are not neutral. Our children (and random coffee shop regulars) are watching us. And in the end, the consistency of a mother's smile brings comfort and reassurance in ways that few things do.  
  

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Learning to Breathe


I have followed Heather's blog for several years now. She remains a favorite of mine because her content is beautifully succinct and full of depth all at once. This coming Monday her 30 Day Vegan course will begin. 

At first I thought the timing for my participation was all wrong. We're weeks away from wrapping up Second Grade. The littlest has decided to exit her second year of life with a bang (or rather a piercing scream). One of my very favorite people on the planet is returning from Argentina in fifteen days after being away for nearly two years; we have a bit of catching up to do. Can you see why throwing 30 Day Vegan into the mix might feel a bit counter intuitive?

But something kept nudging me to register. It occurred to me that maybe placing some of my energy in a direction other than homeschooling and two-year old's would actually be life-giving in this otherwise harried season. And so I did it this afternoon - somewhere between grammar and fractions. It still felt ambitious but also somehow calming. 

And then she invited me in. While the course doesn't actually start until Monday, Heather provided us with the most gracious, rich and encouraging welcome. The recipes look amazing, the tone so hospitable. 

I have little intention of turning my household into vegans in the next 30 days - or really ever for that matter. Instead, I think this course will allow me to breathe in ways I haven't in a while. I'll keep you posted on how things go. 

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Vacation 101


It is slightly embarrassing to admit that after nearly fifteen years of marriage and almost nine years of parenting I'm still learning how to vacation well with my own little tribe. 


We took another crack at it this past week - heading to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. The hope was to enjoy warm weather and some pool time, visit another National Park, read lots of books (we knew this was ambitious) and generally have some restful and fun family time. Easy enough, right?


Instead of taking up lots of space describing where things went a bit off-mission, I thought I'd take a few moments to share a few key insights I'm bringing home right along with our dirty laundry.




Two year-old's can act especially their age when their surroundings and schedules change (the same could be said for three and four year-old's really). 

On one level this little lady can be incredibly flexible. In other ways, rigidity is her middle name. The more we fought to keep things "typical" with regard to eating, sleeping and mere existing the more we heard that two-letter word at painfully high decibels. 


While there are certainly times when you as the parent have to tow the line (no it won't work to forgo sleeping all night long) there is also ample opportunity to accommodate a bit - respecting all that a toddler is up against in this sort of scenario.



Almost nine year-old's have big ideas to pull off in four short days. 

It can feel insatiable, a slight-bit selfish and even irritating at moments. It's simply remarkable how quickly a girl can enter a hotel room after driving for four hours and be changed and ready to hit the pool (it was less than a minute for sure). Meanwhile I'm trying to peel the toddler out of the car seat and begin the process of nesting in our new home for the week. 

When turned on its head, this insatiability is actually childhood at its best - there's passion, excitement, a longing to squeeze in every last drop of fun and take everyone along for the ride. I love this. I really do. I'm just still wrapping my brain around the balancing act of it all. This week it involved more water sliding, boulder climbing and dark chocolate consumption than discipline. And there were also moments where I had to adorn my party pooper hat in hopes of reminding my enthusiastic travel companion that there were four other humans to think about.



Sisterhood is a beautiful, messy, rich, challenging and deeply edifying gift. 

There are times when these two love each other so tangibly and with such care. There are other times when they are in each other's way at every turn. I've never had a sister but I know with deep conviction that this is a relationship so worth fighting for each step of the way. 

We talk about this often - how they will always have each other. I see their bond and affection toward one another. I also see how hard it is to love one another selflessly when you're eight and two year's old. I sometimes feel like I am doing the splits as I work to foster this relationship while also trying to connect with each of them in their own little corners of the world. 


Sometimes the very best thing to do on vacation is the very thing that you would never do at home. 

By Thursday Phil and I were both feeling a bit discouraged. Hailey was refusing to sleep, was eating very little and was generally struggling which left the rest of us in a bit of a bind. 

By mid-day we knew that we needed to switch things up. Instead of working to preserve her nap, we opted to stay at Joshua Tree longer - knowing she'd catch a nap in route and that we could avoid the battle we'd been facing with her sleeping (or not) back at the hotel. We also decided to order dinner in and watch a movie in bed that night. We blew "bedtime" by two-plus hours. In its place we shared lots of laughs watching Curious George and ended up having our best night's sleep (Hailey bunking up with me and Phil sleeping on the couch). 



Sometimes divide and conquer is your best strategy. 

I'm all for doing things together - there are memories to be made for sure. And, there are also times when Phil and I can give each other a nod and set out with one or the other in specific and beautiful form. That happened more than once on this trip and I was grateful for it.


You might be surprised to learn what your kids thought of your vacation! 

In all, I'd say we had a good trip. I would also say that it was grueling at times. When we travel with my mom we look so forward to our evenings - once the littles are tucked in bed. We spend this time chatting, reading, eating and generally enjoying being adults.

This time our evenings were consumed by soothing, cajoling and ultimately becoming utterly flabbergasted by Hailey's lack of willingness to call it a night. I think I read a total of four pages in five days. While at Joshua Tree, we found ourselves on a trail inhospitable to the BOB and its passenger. I lugged the hot, sweaty passenger while Phil carried the BOB. Midway we set into motion our divide and conquer strategy so that Hannah and I could complete the loop and the rest of the group could return to BOB-friendly territory. Not ideal but also so necessary. 

In the end, when we asked Hailey what she thought of our vacation she said that she loved it. When I asked her what she loved, this is what she said:

-Sleeping with Mommy
-Climbing on the big boulders at Joshua Tree
-Swimming in the pool
-Singing in the shower with her sister

When I asked Hannah, she thought our trip was nearly perfect. She loved every minute and seemed to have blocked out the piercing screams and sporadic grumpiness of her little sister entirely. 

And so, I'm left both puzzled and inspired. I'm more and more convinced that vacationing with kids has everything to do with experiencing life together as a family - the good and the bad. I'm also seeing more clearly that moments forgive other moments and that cumulatively the very nature of getting away leaves a lasting and bonding impression on young hearts. 

What are your best tips or insights for making memories while traveling with kids?


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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nightstand


As best as I can tell, I've managed to catch my virtual breath. I wasn't sure whether or not I'd ever come back to Thoughts Interrupted. In the end I felt as though I still had things to say. 

The time away was nice - to stop viewing life's intricacies and moments as potential fodder for this space. To breathe. To reflect and to remember the value as well as the snags of this increasingly complex realm. 

Lately when people have asked me how I'm doing, I've wanted to show them my nightstand and let them decide for themselves. This spring has been especially scattered for me introspectively speaking. Combined, Amazon (used), Paperback Swap and borrowed titles have accommodated my meanderings and enabled me to accrue this nighttime collection. 

I discovered this title by way of FB of all places. A woman I really respect happened to post it one day which peaked my interest enough to add it to my wishlist on PBS. My number came up and this title has kept me company off and on this spring. Interestingly enough the author spent a term teaching at Westmont in their English department; a fun and unexpected connection for me. While I can't claim to be riveted thus far I have remained intrigued enough to allow its prose to sing me to sleep over the past few months on occasion.

Three guesses as to why I'm flipping through these pages? Regardless of how we choose to educate our kids I think we can all agree that the environments in which our children are learning these days are both dynamic and taxing. The bottom two titles are especially applicable across the board while the top title is specifically directed toward the homeschooling crowd.

In our schoolhouse I tend toward order, structure and discipline. There is I believe tremendous value in all three. And I'm sensing that we're all needing added dimension to our learning environment - space and tools that will carry us beyond where we've been and into an all together new territory


Almost three year-olds are fantastic catalysts for bringing about such change. 

Interestingly enough, the more I process all of this I'm fairly certain that the added dimension will come by way of simplifying our outside commitments rather than extending them (more on this another day).

While I'm still not entirely confident that I have the pronunciation of Madeline L'Engle's last name correct, I am certain that this woman's work is worth reading. There is a timelessness to her insights, a frankness so refreshing. She reminds me that in life there are seasons - that not everything can or ought to come together now. Her words help me to breathe and to dream deeply, not sacrificing one for the other. 

Mimosa: A True Story
I have this friend. We had our first babies within days of each other. We met postpartum in a playgroup. She is entirely my opposite - incredibly artistic, go-with-the-flow and a visionary all wrapped up into one colorful person! Blooming wisteria has brought her to tears and the plight of orphans led she and her husband to adopt a fourth child though the foster care system. 


Recently I bumped into her at church. She started talking about this fabulous book group she's in. There was talk of raw food, interesting women, great titles. In the end, she found a place for me in the mix as well - Mimosa is on tap for the first month. 


What this book has come to represent for me in recent days is a recognition that I can't possibly say yes to every (or even most) inspiring opportunities that come along these days. This season is calling me to something smaller, something more specific. I think back to L'Engles insights - to the space I have to  preserve so that the commitments closest to me thrive rather than merely survive. 


And so this week I have to quit the book club I never even started. That feels humbling and like growth all at once.



Your Eight-Year-Old: Lively and Outgoing
Here's how Chapter 2 began:


 "The relationship of child to Mother at Eight is perhaps more complex, intriguing, and intense than at any other age. This must be clearly understood if a mother hopes to get along with her child in everyday life or in any teaching situation where she may be trying to help him."


And with that I knew I must keeping reading. 



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Saturday, February 25, 2012

We'll Call it Lent


I've been dancing an awkward dance with this blog of mine. 


I love this space and think of it often. I have partial posts scribbled down on notebook paper and others tucked away in my mind (not likely to resurface in tact). Still others flit about - bits and pieces ruminating in Word docs filed away for another day. 


This year began with more work than I'm used to. I first welcomed it, was then nearly swallowed by it and ultimately came out the back side understanding that next time I'd have to order and accept projects with greater care. 


And so, mid-month I mentally crafted a post slating February as The New January. It felt clever. It also afforded me the space to dream about the coming year. I sensed that I was on the brink of regaining my footing within the realm of balanced productivity. I fully intended to share this with you.


But I never published it. 


And the ideas kept coming. 


I've been meeting with two women each month who happen to freelance write. The synergy has been incredible (which is why I found myself near drowning in work). I've intended to tell you about this - to encourage you to find your own guild of sorts in hopes of inspiring you to reach  new goals and aspirations. 





February also found me blowing in the wind - emotionally speaking - within the world of homeschooling. Yes, I know that February is the month for slumps, questions, and all sorts of angst within this subculture. And still, my hurdles felt personal and specific. There were late nights, prolific internet searches and lots of prayer. 


The month is nearly over now and I'm thankful to report that I'm once again at peace in this area of our lives. A wise friend of mine graciously floated a single thought my way and it somehow allowed me to breathe deeper and rest well within my small corner of the world. There are some insights tucked within the experience. I think some of you may even be interested to know what they are. I intended to pass them along.


And then I changed my mind.


In our first ten years of marriage we had twelve addresses. We're now nearing our sixth year in the same spot. Amazing. We love our home and are well settled in. But what I've recently discovered is that with time I've lost my edge a bit in the area of organization. 


The longer one stays put the longer one has to put things. And so, part of my February is the New January mantra has involved creating a master list of projects that will leave me feeling as though I could pack things up and head to a new location - with no real intention of doing so. This has involved projects ranging from reordering our herb cabinet in the kitchen to revamping how I maintain my recipe binders and calling into serious question how many vases one actually needs. I have tips I'd love to pass along. 


Then I wonder, does anybody (other than me) really need to know this?


Every single pair of underwear I presently own is somehow linked to my girl friends. Weird, I know. And yet there's a story here - several really. These sorts of reflections are my favorite to get down on paper. 


For some reason I've kept this (mostly) to myself.
     
I just put down Tatoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion and feel somehow awakened in new ways to a world I know so little about. I've since picked up The Idle Parent: Why Laid Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Seeing that I'm neither idle nor laid back this has been an interesting read - certainly something I could write about. I'm also acquainting myself with author Madeleine L'Engle whose prose have stirred and challenged me beyond repair. Each of these works merits a post (or two).


Yet I've watched myself remain quiet.




This particular blog happens to be my third. I'm brave enough to admit that with each burst of electronic creativity I've ultimately turned an emotional corner that has landed me in a realm of questioning ... and in the end I've unplugged. The questions are plentiful - they involve things like:


-Who is listening?
-What is my contribution?
-Is this the best use of my time?
-Am I living authentically?
-Is this the best use of my reader's time?
-Does this enhance my relationships?
-Am I living what I'm admonishing?
-What am I missing while sitting at my keyboard?
-What is my motivation?


Long before Facebook, Blogger and Podcasts author Anne Marrow Lindbergh wrote Gift From the Sea. It is 138 pages of brilliance and beauty. I can't help but think that as she flew above the clouds with her husband Charles that she sensed life's pace on the brink of unalterable change. 


She wrote this work in a time of solitude - where God and His creation alone delivered clarity and calm to her otherwise full existence. No chatter. No bustle. Simply the sea and its rhythm. 




“Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must relearn to be alone.”

And so I step back - in the name of Lent - to relearn to be alone

"We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them. With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers, we attempt sometimes to water a field, not a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives – which tend to throw us off balance.” 


With that I'm signing off - not forever, but for now. I just need to catch my breath. 


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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Month End Favorites


With the month quickly drawing to a close I've found myself to be embarrassingly quiet on this blog of mine. I could list lots of reasons - couldn't we all. 

Instead I am devoting this post to a small collection of things I like, love or simply found to enhance this January. 

I hope you find a thing or two that you might enjoy as well.



IN THE KITCHEN:

My relationship with kale has taken a turn for the better thanks to Heidi and this recipe. My only suggestions would be to go light on the red pepper flakes if you plan on wooing your children with this one.

I've had Chia Seeds in my pantry for a few months now and would occasionally scoop some in our smoothies. My college roommate has since educated me on the countless ways to include them in my daily diet. 

They're now the centerpiece of my lunch wrap (whole wheat olive oil wrap, grated carrots, spinach, lettuce, goat cheese, a tablespoon or two of Chia seeds and Goddess dressing). Hailey is thrilled to eat polka dotted yogurt (yogurt with Chia seeds) and Hannah is game to eat these little wonders however they are served.

Baked Oatmeal
I was given a recipe for this last year. I wasn't sure how I felt about it (and so stuck it in my recipe book and never tried it) until this month. I now know how I feel (basically I'm in love). Zero mush. Incredibly filling and sustaining. Can't say enough really.

I've since tweaked the original a bit. I'm including my latest version here. Typically I make a batch on Sunday night. This lasts the ladies of the house four days. I serve it warm with a touch of Earth Balance and toasted almonds on top. 

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup raw honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups of oats
2 teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of flax meal
1 cup of rice milk

Essentially you mix all of this together and put it in a oiled (coconut) baking dish. It works great to make it on Sunday evening and stick it in the fridge. Come Monday morning, bake it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. 



ON THE SCREEN:

Phil and I love documentaries. This one was no exception. So worth the 84 minutes for all sorts of reasons.


We've also found ourselves captured by Downton Abbey. Our British friend turned us on to this Masterpiece Classic series last year. If you haven't yet tuned in, I'd encourage you to start at the beginning - you can watch them online for free or get them through Netflix. 


Truly, this is the best television has to offer (which I know isn't necessarily saying much). Quite possibly my favorite show ever.




IN THE MEDICINE CABINET:


I'm sure I don't have to tell you that kid sicknesses are in the air and on the shopping carts and just about everywhere else for that matter. In recent years we came upon this product and have had great success in using it. 

It holds both preventive qualities as well as immune boosting attributes that seem to lessen the severity when symptoms do set in. 

While I wouldn't go as far as saying it tastes great, I've found it to be a welcome addition when those viruses and colds hit.


Several years ago we stopped getting flu shots. Instead, we place our winter order for loads of this juice and drink it each day. Again, it boasts preventative qualities and in studies has proven to be an effective remedy when fighting the flu. 

We drink it daily in our house - simply mixing a tablespoon into regular or sparkling water at lunchtime.

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

This past month I read this book. 

In it, Canadian doctors Neufeld and Mate build a strong case for the need to form strong and lasting attachment with our children throughout their young lives. Why? In order that they go on to mature effectively and ultimately find themselves capable of forming their own healthy attachments as adults.

As a homeschooling mother I find myself in precarious territory advocating such a read. Nonetheless, I found this book to be compelling regardless of how we choose to educate our children. 

At times I felt like I was reading a textbook. As with any resource there were moments in which I respectfully disagreed with the direction they headed.

In the end, their research and conclusions challenged my perspective, answered questions I had pondered for years and confirmed decisions we've made in our own household.    


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