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

Friday, February 16, 2018

Of Broccoli and Book Clubs

All the little trashcans in our house have fluffy teetering piles of tissues in them. We are fighting off a cough, cold, grab-you-by-the-throat, fevered dreams, headache that pounds when you move kind of a bug. I can just feel it trying to grab me in the back of my throat although I successfully evaded it thus far. I slept over 8 hours the last two nights and I still feel draggy. I have a sudden urge to clean the whole house, stock up on blankets, order the groceries delivered and start a pot of chicken soup. We have had a whole week of hunkering down and clearing the schedule. We cancel activities by the day as it is clear we are still fighting ear infections, coughs and fevers. As long as there is the blessed sunshine in the yard (which there is) and we can eat our lunch outdoors at the picnic table, I do not feel cooped up. It actually feels kind of good to be able to hermit legitimately and just be home together. We can take all day to do read-alouds and write letters to the cousins and fold and fold and fold the laundry. 
I have been making some little brave gestures towards connection and establishing a circle to surround myself. Its time to make sure I am putting down roots here, digging in the support and connection I need, not just making do with whatever falls into my lap. The first thing I did was plan and execute a freezer meal making party which was very successful and not nearly as much hard work as I expected. I have been chewing on plans and ideas for one more in the future. There was an expansive and effervescent response when I timidly broached the topic with women I knew. Its so encouraging to know that the things you think up sound not only tolerable to other people but also exciting. I also have started a little bookclub with a friend and we are co-leading. Little stabs into real discussions and built in rhythms which might be all it takes to get the ball rolling again.

I say these are little brave gestures because they are both small, maybe no big deal to lots of people but were both scary and hard for me. I love people once they are in through my walls and there sipping tea with me kindly in my kitchen but in the meantime I am rather cowed by all the rules I know I don't keep without even meaning to, all the marks I miss as a woman, as an upper middle class person, as a Christian and as a mom, and all the ways other people appear impressively pulled together. I don't hate them for it or wish they were a little muddier for my own comfort, I actually find it inspiring to be around but, I do worry that they'll find me distasteful, embarrassing and indecent. A little of that is fine. I do want to be relate-able...one new acquaintance of mine, that I rather like, is absurdly fawning to the point where I can't seem to get through to real connection as two mamas on equal footing. I struggle with the teeter totter between vulnerability and its accompanying humility and poise and the appropriate level of attainment. Sometimes I think I might look a little over-impressive at first blush, in public but be a little bit astonishingly rough in my private reality. I think this is partly because of my love of inspiration. I do want to strive for ideals. I want to speak optimistically and I want to speak in the direction I am hoping to move. I have no problem being humble but I think some people hear my starry eyed inspiration ideas and then my humble confessions and either decide I'm an over fervent freak who needs to just get her life in line or else that I am my aspirations and my confessions are faux transgressions dramatized for the sake of personal color. Who can tell. I can only really say that real connection is the cry of my heart and something I so dearly love and yet its scary too.

The broccoli plants that I put in the ground last spring are still putting out little fairy heads of broccoli and I can't bring myself to tear them out and put in something more substantial. They have big meaty stalks that are hardened and woody like trunks and their output is both speedy and pathetically small. They seem to sprout little branches and bloom out in seedy finality in the space of one or two days. I cannot ever seem to gather together enough for a meal for the family, there is never that much at one time but, I am enjoying the secret pleasure of a few tiny stalks sauteed in butter or quick steamed to lay alongside my belated morning breakfast egg or draped across my plate of leftovers at lunch. There is no end to my enchanted love of the green things growing in the dead of winter here. I plan to never let it grow old. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Head Noticer And Keeper of Field Notes

I have been snatching all the spare moments I can to analyze my children this past week. There's been several things that all have pointed that direction and like many curious projects I find that's clearly where Fate has shoved me suggestively. It started with a retreat I had this fall with girlfriends (a total wonder of thing!) where our 2,000 mph marathon talk sessions had me suddenly wandering into the territory of examining our children. We all as mamas strive to give our kids opportunities, fun, education and friends and when life is busy its so easy to just throw money at the problem and sign them up for a bunch of clubs, groups or activities and call the thing done. But, as we mamas mused together we dug up an idea, like a dusty looking rock that has a crack that shows a glowing center. What if we meditated on who are kids were, studied how they changed and evolved and tried to see them as different from their siblings and then ministered intentionally to who they were, what they loved and what things made their curiosity whoosh into flame? What if, instead of signing everyone up for a museum daytrip club we noticed that our kid was into starfish and combed our home library for applicable books and then put out a feeler to our friends for more books or experience and knowledge on sea stars and the sea? What if we noticed that our kid was a natural dancer yet instead of signing them up for drag-everyone-hither-and-yon, and mortgage-a-different-child-to-afford-it-class at the local dance academy we asked a local teen who is already dancing to come be a dance tutor three times in a row at our home?

The basic idea is a combination of three concepts: 
  • Intentional, careful observation of our actual, individual kids and noticing who they are and how they change 
  • Leveraging the resources we already have in our homes and our own skill-sets as individuals
  • Mining our community for talent and interests, abilities and knowledge that tie in

So instead of just hitting the Children's Museum because you know, they're children....they'll love it....maybe we go to the local horse farm to pet horses because we know one of kids is enamored....who knows, you might run into the farmer and you might purposely slow down and pick up rocks on the lane nearby for the kid who is obsessed with geology. 

So, at first it was an idea that popped up as we mamas talked on our retreat about how to do parenting better, mused on our kids and their issues and funny endearing behaviors. Then we got talking about personality tests and I thought even deeper about customizing education to each kid in light of not only their interests but their style and needs. So cool. We spent some time later that night, journalling lists of topics and talents that came to mind for each of our children.

Then, after I got home from the retreat and was diving into some new podcasts for moms and homeschooling and learning I bumped into one with an unschooler (am only moderately unschooley myself) talking about this topic! She mentioned that customizing her child's education which is the big focus of unschooling philosophy meant that she had to study her kids as separate and dynamic topics. She keeps field note journals that are pocket sized for each child! What a thought! All observations about what makes that kid swoon with pleasure, what they are deeply troubled by and what they are super obsessed with doing all day go into her little book. Quick, jotted Cliffs Notes on her students who also happen to be her field of study. What a fascinating idea! How useful would that resource be for lesson plans, outings, birthday parties, interpersonal problem solving, bedtime discussions or those sudden gift requests from grandparents? Instead of the latest cool toy we could feed who our children were and show them that we see them not just childhood or kiddie stuff land. 

Then, here I find myself at just post-Christmas gift buying time, true....but heading into birthday season at our house and I am doing what I always do and trying to think deeply about each kid and what thrills them and what they are missing and what they dream of. I always do this, gifts are pretty important to me and I love thoughtful giving. This year though, it seems like part of the big picture lesson. One more chapter in the book Fate is drawing me through, "Here's your lesson of the hour...study your children, learn them as they unfold. Be their very best noticer."