"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lucid Dreaming, Joy and Exegesis

I have learned the skill of lucid dreaming, knowing that "this is just a dream" is a useful edge when I am trapped in a nightmare like I was early this morning. I can change elements of the story occasionally and if that doesn't work I can exit the dream on command. I woke myself, eject-button-style, when I realized that the story-line (telling my boys to clear the table, item by item by item while they ran off to other parts of the house after each fork or napkin) was only imaginary and that I didn't actually have to walk through that scenario in my sleep as well as in my waking hours. I woke up and lay there in the dark laughing about what a cheated dreamer I was, my brain having nothing better to conjure up for either dream material (if it was a dream) or scary nightmare fright (if it was a nightmare....which I decided was more likely). How lame!

A listened while I related my silly, exhausting dream, annoyed that I had experienced nothing beyond my hum drum real life. I chuckled at the joke that my own daily living had passed for nightmare material to my brain. Not scary, no....but draining and negative, for sure! And then, A said, "Yeah, you know, I'm struggling with that same attitude of unwilling participation with math with one boy right now, each problem means dragging him back into the task and forcibly directing his attention. I wish I knew what to do to fix it." I mused that I had been studying on that for quite a while myself! How to get  the boys to not only do their work but also to learn to cultivate a good attitude while they do it? Oh, to get them to be self-motivated with desire to complete the things they are given to do, with a love of the feeling of satisfaction, the value of industry and skill to find joy in the simple tasks! I get so endlessly sick of the starry-eyed yearning my boys have for video games and the heel dragging, eye rolling attitude they have about helping the family with any kind of work!

I lay there in the dark in my bed and there was silence for a second and then I added off-hand that despite all my searching, the only technique I had turned up was the super bland, usual "leading-by-example thing." We could improve that....and suddenly I was reeling mentally in deep conviction. How often do my boys hear me complain to my friends about the endless laundry pile or sigh heavily before I start washing the mountain of dishes, put off making my own bed because even the process seems discouraging to me or gripe at the end of the day about my righteously earned feeling of weariness??? Oh dear. So, I have no clever ways to teach loving work (bribes don't work so don't even say that....they only teach love of the bribe) except to learn the lesson myself and demonstrate it to my sons so that see and feel around how it is to love your work, to enjoy your own output and to feel useful in your own mundane place. What if my children never absorbed the lesson until adulthood when they were responsible for reminding themselves to work and only then learned to be cheerful about mowing the lawn, helping with carrying in the groceries and picking up Lego after Lego after Lego? Would it be worth it? Would I put in the effort for that end-goal? Absolutely. One thousand times yes!!!! What if I knew that my boys would never, ever "get it" but my own life would change and I would have the virtue I so badly want them to develop? Is it worth it to work simply for my own improvement and the knowledge that I could live my life with the ability to find warmth and goodness in the things I now claim are the bane of my existence? Yes, if it were a sure thing, I'd do it then too.

Suddenly, my mind flew to my friend who I had been wracking my brain to help. This particular pal had been complaining about the grind of her life, the way everything seemed the same and she had nothing to look forward to. I had been thinking about how to suggest ways for her to add thrills to her existence. Could she paint like I do? Write on the side? Get away for ladies nights out with friends once a month? Maybe she was in the wrong career and taking destiny in her hands and changing jobs no matter the cost and work was the thing! This particular friend is rather taken with scriptural advice so I had been looking through scripture for something to support my intended suggestions. Alas, I had been able to find only instructions to: "work at whatever you do with your whole heart," "render your services with good will, working as to the Lord," have a "cheerful heart [which is] good medicine while a crushed spirit dries up the bones," "enjoy the good of all your labor for it is the gift of God," "commit your work to the Lord and your plans will succeed," "work with enthusiasm as if working for the Lord," "excel in your work because you know your labor is not in vain," know that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" and know that "all hard work brings a profit."
And if you can believe it, I had stopped my exegesis there in a spirit of annoyance at not being able to find anything useful. *head desk*

Here, in the early hours of the morning....the words barely out of my mouth that the only thing I had thought of to help my boys was the boring suggestion to lead by example, and with a litany of scriptural inducements towards humility and joy in mundane work running ticker-tape-style through my mind...I laughed out-loud. Maybe my decision to categorize the dream as a nightmare and my reaction to eject in disgust from the plot were illustrative of something important and maybe it had been given to me as a dream to help me reexamine something I needed to learn. Isn't even teaching and re-teaching unwilling pupils, correcting their work kindly over and over and over....the work I have been given? Why am I complaining about this? Why am I not working to find joy there?

I had intended to teach honesty to my kids and share vulnerably that "Mommy understands your feeling of sloth" and I had accidentally stopped there and not progressed to teaching the vulnerability of Mommy wanting to learn love of industry too, and the authenticity of the fact that sometimes I need to change my own attitude to make things go the way they ought to. There is nothing in any of these things that is actually bad, I'm lucky to have so many dishes to wash, so many clothes to fold, to have all these little boys to teach and to have a husband who humbly asks me to pick up the slack he can't carry instead of doing in all himself or hiring assistance. These are gifts. I need to shoulder my lucky burdens like I'd pile so many presents into the car after a Christmas visit....with gratitude and cheer, showing my sons, my id and my ego the truth of intentional, grateful industry and how it triumphs over the lie of drudgery.


"Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
Ephesians 6:6

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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Pre-Teen Prep Zone


The other day Ru went off for a big boy day in the redwoods with friends, no mama oversight, not even any drop-off....just a handed him a packed lunch and waved as he hopped in the car with friends and took off. Its a wild new phase. I feel the tug of the crazy scheduling stuff yanking on us a little more as he gets older and we start to dip our toes into the world of the pre-teen, more independent zone. I am trying to help him get out on his own a little more and make sure I provide opportunities for stuff to do and space to build his own interests and world but keep the center of our life calm, teach boundaries and continue to help him nurture connection to home and those who love him. He has been texting with one of his grandmas this year, spending time having solo phone conversations a little with his other grandparents and writing private handwritten letters to one of his cousins.

There is also a lot of cozy family stuff still happening here at home to keep us grounded. We have folded Sabbath dinners into our life and moved them around from Saturday to Sunday and finally landed back on the traditional Friday night with our tea party tradition melded with the Sabbath meal. We have been hiking once a week together as a family which is a good practice in being outdoors and free together, learning about our California environment together and practicing understanding both parents and their differing styles of activity and direction. We have also been doing lots of read alouds. We are reading the Harry Potter series now (book 3) and also in the middle of Swallows And Amazons. We just finished The BFG which was really popular. We also try to take afternoon walk together through our neighborhood in the old time slot for quiet hour. As the boys get older I find that I am struggling to find more space for physical activity than for quiet. There seem to be so many times I tell the kids to just be quiet and to occupy themselves and to sit still and listen and to apply themselves and less opportunity to push them towards physical exertion. These are a few of the little home rituals that I am building in to try to keep life sane and warm, and build connection. Special Time with each boy, Family Meetings, outings to make sure that each kid feels celebrated occasionally and date night for Aaron and I are works in progress but are also part of simple routines for connection.


I have been watching Ru get more independent and thinking about all the ways I can support that leap to individual space and yet help him learn to respect advice, work towards closeness and feel understood and valued. I have the following on my reading list:
He has taken over cleaning up the table and the floor under it after our evening meal and I have given him Pom as an apprentice to teach about the job. He decides what needs to be done to clean up and simultaneously gives directions to Pom and works himself. Teaching someone smaller is a good way to learn. He's also learning more and more in school. He's reading pretty fluidly and pleasurably on his own and he has been reading chapter books in his own time and we also have one that he is reading aloud to me (for fun and for the sake of correcting inflection, rhythm and pronunciation on trickier words), A continues to tutor him along in math (I'm impressed....fractions at 10!) and he is writing papers and diagramming sentences this year for the first time in conjunction with our co-op. So much new stuff. This week we added a run around the block every day, and when I told him his new assignment he said "Once? I think three times is better." So three times it was. Here we go racing around this new block in our lives, trying to stay tender to all the learning and then newness and then beauty and let go of my fear, relinquish the worries and open my hands to the strange things I feel intimidated by. 

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Italian Dreams At The Equinox


      Happy First Day of Spring, Friends!!!!
 This past week we had a night when it was truly warm out....the bikes and scooters got hauled out, the shorts got tried on and the shoes got kicked off at the door.  In no time at all, after a little shouting over the fence to each other the neighbor kids and my boys had made themselves into a little pack and were running through our house and yard and then back to the neighbors yard hatching plans for making things out of cardboard while I worked on making a pie for dessert. Yes, they shredded cardboard all over the living room, yes they hurt each other's feelings a couple of times and yes my oldest preferred to play video games instead of playing but it was amazing. They were unbelievably happy and it felt so right listening to their silly ideas and happy banter, watching them help and inspire the little ones in the group together and then hollering over the fence to their grandma and mom when I sent them home at dinner time. What fun! I pray all the time that my house becomes a place that other kids want to come to, a place where people get together and laugh a lot and breath deep, where they can be themselves and feel comfort and scheme up plans together. I hope there are many more days like this ahead of us.





It truly has started to warm up to what feels to me (Californian import alert!) like summer weather. We've had a couple of family dinners on our picnic table under the lemon tree again and I've put on shorts myself once. Yesterday the high was 83 degrees. Pretty amazing! I am sure it will dip back down into the 60's again and we'll have more rain before its truly time for warm weather, this is only a preview. Its pretty delicious to feel the sun again and to feel comfortable kicking off our shoes indoors and out and to even feel hot again. I'm ready. The roses have started to put out their flush of red-tinged new leaves, the winter chanterelles have petered out beneath the oak trees and the plum trees have finished their bloom and dropped their white petals all over the neighborhood. Its time to start scouting out last year's forest fire locations in the mountains to see if I can get in on the legendary spring morel hunts that happen as the hills warm up. And its time to start putting in the garden and figuring out what trellis to get to support jasmine vine on the corner of the garage.

We are going to be taking a trip to Italy this spring....a big, life-dream type drive down the coast of the Mediterranean after a good soaking visit with A's brother and family in the north part of the country. They are creative, homeschooling, free-wheeling, deep-living folks so I forsee late night discussions, amazing early morning coffee on the balcony and cousins running around planning highjinks every minute of the day. The boys talk daily about this part of the trip and are at least as excited as we are about the visiting family together. I think they will also love the chance to see so many ancient and beautiful sights but, they have no concept of that kind of a trip. I have tried to explain a couple of times what an amazing thing it would be to see Da Vinci's work in person or walk around the Colosseum but the boys seem  kind of meh about that whole aspect, but they have no scope and also no experience. It might hit them once we are there....or, (and I must be prepared for this) it might never strike them as particularly cool. This is our trip really, they are along and we hope to draw them into the wonder and joy whenever possible but they have their own adult life and travel futures ahead of them too. Its easy to make your kids the focus and forget that this is your one life and the best thing is sometimes to live your own life with intention and gusto and let them watch.


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