“This is my own baby. My baby’s three months.” -Anders to me as he comes up the stairs carrying his baby doll. (He later asked Scotter to help him carry his baby like mommy (in the ERGO) so Scotland stuffed it down his shirt.
I recently became aware of the fact that I’ve never paid much attention to how beds are made. I’ve always made mine the way my Grandmother taught me- fold the sheet down, pull the quilt up over the pillows, do a quick karate chop under the pillows to make a line, smooth things out. Call it a day. I’d noticed the abundance of pillows that most designer beds have. I like the color and character they can add. But I didn’t realize until a few months ago that typically the quilt it not pulled up over the pillows. It’s folded down, revealing the sheets and pillows that are slept on. What?! Who has pillowcases that they actually use to sleep on that are worth showcasing?! Is that normal? Are most people’s sheets in a state worth revealing? Eek.
The fact is NO. Most people don’t have either of those things. It just so happens that the visual minority is misrepresenting the unseen majority. Most are lucky to have a bed to sleep in. (If we’re thinking globally.) My grandmother’s method of making a bed, was orderly, but it didn’t require new bedding be purchased on a regular bases, it didn’t call for an overabundance of pillows, and it certainly didn’t require all parts of the bed to look unworn.
What is it with the mentality that everything look “unworn” “unused.” I sleep in my bed. I drool on my pillow. And maybe because I’ve never spent big bucks on quality linens, but my sheets NEVER look worthy of display. I would never leave my pillow intentionally uncovered. Am I alone here?
I refuse to be pulled into the consumeristic trend to be constantly replacing perfectly usable items in order to maintain “a look.” I recently had this lightbulb moment. I realized that I had fallen prey to this concept, in other areas of my life. I wanted my house to constantly “look” a certain way. And when I was real with myself that “look” was the “un-lived in” look. How absurd of me! This realization has really changed my perspective on my home, my looks, my children. I don’t care that my recently finished floor is resplendent with scratches (though I sure am glad I didn’t stain it!) because each scratch means life was lived on top of my floor. It’s a FLOOR by golly, it was meant to be walked on, danced on, jumped on! I’ve tried to apply the same principle to my body. I’ll admit it’s hard to embrace the “cottage cheese” skin that now adorns my belly. But I certainly have no difficulty embracing the three little loves who caused that state of affairs, and I’m grateful for a body with the transforming potential to give life- despite its scars and changes.
When we focus on looking a certain way, it stifles our ability to live a certain way. I’m less restrictive of my and my children’s activities when we’re wearing our older athletic clothing- “Go ahead and slide down that dirt hill!” When I’m fixated on keeping my house looking perfect I don’t engage with my children in the same way- we don’t lie among the couch cushions on the floor and read stories on our backs- I don’t sit down and paint with them. And yet those are the moments that warm my heart for months even years, when I think back on them. A sparkling house gives me a temporary lift, but it’s fleeting- because well. Dinner must be made.
Anders: “I love my Big Daddy so much!”
The way Anders says “key-oot!” (cute) anytime he seems something small.
Anders trying to say “Interesting” when we went on our science walk today.
The way Ari holds her foot while she’s sleeping in the Ergo.
How Scotland’s eyes glitter when he showed me his LEGO glider this afternoon.
A direct quote from Anders tonight after dinner: “O.K. Let’s use the potty, brush teeth, get the corn, (he had some corn stuck in his teeth from dinner), get a treat, and get my crown.” (This kids loves lists!)
Anders, intensely: “Mom, show me the bow owen.” (Show me how to shoot the bow and arrow.)
Anders:”Mom, baby wants to hold me.” He gives her a hug, and says sweetly into her ear, “I love you, Baby!”
Chiara giggling as I play with her arms and legs.
Chiara raising her eye browns and full body smiling.
Scotland belting out made-up tunes the entirety of his “quiet time.”
Scotland: “Mom can we get peanuts with shells!” (Gotta love Five Guys for popularizing peanuts in shells with my boys. Talk about a great “snack” if you need to feed and entertain your kids at the same time!)
Scotter asked if he too could get a treat and proposed he clear the table to earn it. (He’s noted the inequality of Anders getting potty treats.) I readily agreed, and he did a beautiful job. When I handed him not, two, but a handful of skittles he looked up at me in complete bewilderment. “Why did you give me so many Mom?” “Because, I’ve really appreciated your help today.” (He ate a few and saved the rest.)
Anders realized this week that he can complete dress himself. I still forget and will start helping him wit his pants or shirt and he’ll giggle and smilingly say, “Mom you don’t need help me. I do it myself!”
I spent time this afternoon sketching the various stages of the blooming fuchsia. Scotland sketched a leaf- noting it’s jagged sides, vein structure, and the placement of a certain dark spot. Anders drew a fuchsia flower. (An oval with lines descending from it.) We collected a variety of interesting flowers, rocks, leaves, and eight insects to “study.” The boys were thrilled to use their magnifying glasses to examine and tweezers to gather various specimen. Then we played a rousing couple games of dodge ball and basketball. I’m loving this homeschooling gig!
The chance to take a friend to the Frye art museum today! The exhibit by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi was reverential. His attention to the beauty of simplistic interiors, and his appreciation of gray and mist- was a perfect precursor to the approaching Seattle gray. I love how art helps me see beauty in greater abundance.
Three sleeping children- with no fight before bed!
I first heard the phrase “a mother heart” on a friend’s blog, and later heard it used in this talk. The idea stuck with me. I’ve thanked God for my mother heart at times and prayed for it at others. I’ve been listening to Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad is Fat” over the past month. While in many ways its comforting to realize that there is great commonality in parenting. Everyone’s kids are loud, whiney, messy, forgetful. This morning, I realized that the book hasn’t been good for me. While the book is meant to be sarcastic, and has given me a chuckle form time to time, the negativity has crept into my parental lens, and clouded it. Now to be fair, Gaffigan is certainly not entirely to blame for this shift, but listening to his book has only affirmed feelings of frustration and apathy. I want to return to the days of early motherhood when it was exciting, fulfilling, comical.
Instead of noise- let me hear energy.
Instead of mess- let me see creativity.
Instead of fighting- let me see interaction.
Instead of spills- let me see trying.
Instead of anger- let me see neediness.
Instead of stains- let me see a love of the outdoors.
Let me wonder at the expanse of the human spirit- and teach me how to support it, encourage it, learn from it, instead of stamping it out.
In an effort to convert back to a perspective of positive parenting, I’m going to make a goal to post a few things that I love about my kids each night.
-Last night, as we were tucking Anders in for bed: “I need my phone! I need my keys!”
-Anders: “Baby is my princess.”
-Scotland finding “inner peace” during our sword fighting play. (We just watched Kung Fu Panda 2.)
-Chiara was crying while we were driving home from a friend’s house this evening. Anders started thinking through ways he could help her. “Do we have baby’s passy?” (Nope) “I have a blankie in my pack pack.” (I check and he doesn’t. But find his favorite stuffed animal- Chippers.) “Baby can have my Chippers.”
-Scotland sweetly coming up with a system of turns so his friends could try sliding down the hall on their knees using his tae kwon do pads.
-Doing math with my boys. Building “stairs” with the cuisenaire rods, which turned into building earthquake safe buildings, which turned into watching youtube clips on marshmallow straw structures, which turned into an eager desire to make the same. Too bad we didn’t have any marshmallows!
-Helping Scotland compose a song on the piano.
-Watching Chiara’s long blinks, as she fought sleep.
-Chiara’s combo of wide-mouthed smiles and flapping arms.
-The way Chiara immediately calms and nuzzles into me when I pick her up after she’s been crying.
-Dancing along with the flamingos with Scotland each time he finished a segment on his learning app.
-Marveling at the diversity of animals on this earth as looked through the Animal Encyclopedia Dev and Jess gave us. Anders saying “Look! Cute!”
Too often at the end of the day my mind fixates on the moments of failure- the tantrums, the emotional outbreaks, the defiance (from both my kids and myself.) Those things happen, and heaven knows we’re doing our best to work through them. But when I fixate on them, I tend to escalate the small things, and in so doing- incite further furor.
I’m so grateful I’m homeschooling so far. I feel like I’ve accepted a more demanding position in my line of work, but a position that will bring more fulfillment and joy.
There are just a few weeks of summer left, I’ve been working on a few different projects that have required me to look back through this summer’s pictures. It’s been a beautiful reminder of what a full and delightful one it’s been. It started off in the Olympic National Forest with my brother Devin and his family, parents, and Dantzel. This was a pretty epic trip for me. I now happily refer to it as my Mommy marathon of the summer. Taking a two and a half month old baby camping and hiking alone with her two older brothers was gutsy, and I’m proud of my grit. I have several whole posts in my head about this trip- hopefully I’ll get to actually type them up someday.
And so it begins- Nothing like starting a vacation on a boat! We drove onto the ferry to Kingston so we could drive to Port Angeles. Seattle is such a cool city!
Atop Hurricane Ridge
Salt Creek County Park- first campsite, tide pools
My nephew Keiton came along and it was such a treat to get to know him alone, and for the boys to spend time with just him.
I love that my boys have a “young aunt.” I was the young aunt to my oldest nieces and nephews and I LOVED it. My boys thrill in Dantzel’s attention. Here she is showing Anders, Keiton and I a tiny tide pool- there were multiple creatures swimming in this small shell!
This was the first face Scotland made upon waking up after our first night of camping. The boys were SO excited to sleep in the tent that they literally begged me to let them go to sleep. (I should specify that was the first night. It certainly wasn’t the last.)
Just to prove that Chiara was there.
The only reason I had the guts to go on this trip was because I was going to be with my parents, brother and sister and sister-in-law. In the end bad cell service and a disparity of needs and interests meant that we were together only in the mornings and evenings. None the less it was great to see them, and it’s certainly easier to prepare kids for the day, and get them ready for bed when someone else is holding your baby!
The last day we were there, I kept Keiton so the older half could enjoy some longer hikes (and drives). We had a beach day. The boys had a blast running in the surf at Kalaloch. They both were really taken by the sensation of the waves under their feet. Scotland was certain that the earth was moving under him. That he was standing still and everything else was in motion. Over and over he tried to verbalize how strange and exciting it was. This was the perfect beach to experience the ocean, because it was shallow for a long time and the waves were exciting without being too frightening- at least to the 5 year olds.
After beach number one, we changed into dry clothes and headed to beach two (Ruby Beach). (Where they quickly got wet again.) There was the above lake of sorts on the beach, which fascinated the boys much more than the rocky, driftwood laden beach. I helped them push in this driftwood ‘boat’ and they sailed around on it laughing hysterically. (It was such a jolly sight that multiple other hikers stopped to take pictures of them.) It was all fun and games until Anders, napless, fell apart and started to throw one of his royal tantrums. (The screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs, I-will-not-compromise, dead-weight, sort of tantrum.) He had been slow to join the boys on the driftwood log, so when I told them that it was time to head out shortly after he’d finally worked up the courage, he was IRRATE. I was, unfortunately, unsympathetic, which of course escalated the tantrum. After unsuccessfully trying to console him. I ended up hauling him all the way up the trail as he kicked and screamed (while carrying Chiara in the Ergo) and encouraging the older boys to please hurry and carry the bags, all while hikers gave me varying looks. (“What a horrible Mother!” “What is she doing to that poor boy. “”Oh that poor Mom!” “What a beast of a child.” “She is not equipped to be a mother.” “Somebody should do something!” ) By the time we reached the van I was in a state of emotional duress. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was frustrated that the other part of the group had never shown up at Ruby Beach as was our plan. Surely, they’d be back at the campsite. Well, no. The rest of the evening was rough. Really rough. With four hungry kids (and a hungry Mom) I didn’t do the logical thing and just eat crackers and peanut butter for dinner but insisted on making the tamales and salad I had prepared and brought for my dinner assignment that night. So there I was, Chiara crying in the Ergo, three little boys running around yelling while I tried to encourage them to help me collect firewood. Of course they didn’t, at which point I started to shame them for not helping when it was obvious I needed help- baby screaming at this point. They still didn’t help. And the five other adults still didn’t show up. I can only imagine what the campers around me were thinking. Regardless, I got the fire going, cooked the tamales, prepared the salad, fed the kids, prepped the kids for bed, fed the baby, tried to lull her to sleep, unsuccessfully- while watching three boys in the forest, felt bad that my nephew was chattering with cold since he had no dry clothes (them being in the van with the absent adults), fielded question after question from the sweet cold nephew, tried to force my two defiant boys to stay in their sleeping bags and sleep so I could finally get the screaming baby to sleep, who was shaking with frustration at all the chaos .. I think you get the point. I had lost all emotional control. And in that fragile state I decided to scrap it- and go home. I buckled the boys in their seats. Threw everything in the back of the van, took down the tent- shoved it in, and drove off. The fire still crackling at our campsite. I passed the others in our group at the turn off to our campsite, at 8:30PM. I curtly informed them that I was driving home, jumped out, pulled out Keiton and his stuff, and drove off. I was ashamed, embarrassed. But I couldn’t take anymore. And I knew that driving while the boys and hopefully Chiara slept was a much better plan than driving the following day when she would likely cry most of it (as she had for the majority of the driving the two days previously.) It turns out two near sleepless nights, combined with three days of extensive physical exertion doesn’t bode well on my psyche. I cried much of the way home.
I share this not to point fingers at my totally well-intentioned and apologetic parents and siblings. But to be real. Could I forgo these details (and spare myself the unflattering reveal) and instead tell of the majestic memories we made? Could I give the impression that taking two boys camping with a two and a half month old alone was wonderful, and easy. Sure. And truthfully 90% of the trip was beautiful. But that final 10, was ugly. Downright ugly. I felt so rattled and ashamed I couldn’t pull myself out of it for days. Now, writing about it months later those emotions are still strong, and while the memories of finding sea stars in the tide pools, or having a picnic over a waterfall together, or watching my boys laugh hysterically as they ran through the surf are beautiful and vibrant they are still covered by this hazy film of regret for loosing it in the final round. Ironically, just before writing this post I was studying for a talk I’ll be giving in church in a few weeks on humility and forgiveness. And it occurs to me that there is a way to remove the haze, and that is by humbling myself and seeking God’s grace. I was so proud of my success up to that point. I had so many people stop and comment on how brave I was to take two boys and a new born hiking alone. I had strangers (Chinese) take pictures of me with my three small children in the middle of the rainforest- happily hiking along. I had chosen to go off on my own to prove that I was capable, to impressive others. I didn’t need anyone’s help! So in the end when I came to a crashing halt, I was devastated- my weakness exposed. Forgiveness, isn’t all that’s needful, but repentance. Repentance and humility.
The trip was an emotional marathon. It did what I knew it would do: expose my weaknesses, define my limits, and shed light on my abilities and disabilities. Too often I seek comfort at the expense of meaningful soul-stretching experiences. This was a time when I sought discomfort for the purpose of growth. And I got it- by means of a painful pruning.
I told myself before having Chiara that I wouldn’t judge myself too much until my baby was 4 months old. I knew from my postnatal experiences with Scotland and Anders that it took about that long to start feeling “normal” again- less hormonal/sleep deprived/crazed. I’d say the pattern held true this time too. While I still have days where I feel like my brain must be marinating in hormones, largely I feel like myself, and the thought of taking on projects outside the general care and feeding of my children seems possible. This upsurge of energy resulted in my front flower bed finally being planted. (Taking advantage of a perennial sale at Fred Meyer I went on light around 9:00pm bought 25 perennials, and called it good!) While it will certainly look better when things fill out, I have been loving the color and texture from our large picture windows.
Chiara, as well, has started to break out of her shell and is adding many new vocalisms, expressions, and movements to her repertoire. Just today we were walking around a museum and she would squeal, kick her legs and giggle- a huge grin on her face every time one of her brothers walked by her. I’d never heard her laugh so much!
She’ll often wake up in the morning and lay their in her bed cooing and sighing. She’s “talking” more. Her range of controlled non-crying sounds has really diversified in the last two weeks. She talks the most when its just she and I in a quiet room, but from time to time she’ll “talk” while she’s around the boys and they’ll excited exclaim, “Mom! Chiara just said goo!”
Her arm and hand dexterity is getting smoother and more intentional. She loves to suck on her fingers (and naw on my hands and arms), and can take her passy out of her mouth.
She continues to prefer being upright. She’ll do a stomach crunch if you lay her in a reclined position and hold it for an impressively long time. We got a bumbo chair from my Mom. She prefers it to her deeply reclined bouncy seat, though she’s still not strong enough to sit in it for an extended period of time.
She rolled over from her back to her belly last week, and can do it quickly now. As a result she can work her way around the rug, rolling, scooching, and wiggling.
We had a few weeks about a month back where she was sleeping from 10:00 to 5:00, but now she’s typically wakes a couple of times a night. I was so hopeful that I was going to start getting consistently uninterrupted sleep. How could I be so naive with a third child!
When I’m really tuned into her and keep her on her ideal schedule she is a happy easy baby. Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to live a normal life with two other kids and do so. So some days she cries a lot. (Sunday being the worst!) For some reason its hard for me to admit that she’s a “hard” baby. Some people delight in emphasizing how difficult their babies were, how continually they cried. But I’ve always felt like my babies sent clear enough signals that if I was in tune I could assuage their crying before it got out of hand. With Chiara there are plenty of days where I’m so busy with other things that I’m not following her cues. Or I can’t follow her cues because we’re not in a situation where I can, say, rock her in a quiet room, or lay her in bed, and on those days she cries a lot.
Chiara loves her brothers, but prefers them from a distance. She tends to get fussy if she’s sitting between them reading books on my lap for example. Or if they’re over top of her and she’s lying on the ground. But she’ll squeal and smile if she’s in my arms looking down at them. I suppose their constant movement and volume unnerves her.
She’s still a total Momma’s girl. I love her.
Anders has really increased his awareness and care for Chiara. He’s quick to sing his adorable version of “Trinkle, trinkle wittle star” whenever she cries in the car. He loves to find and give her her passy, and asks several times a day to “hold her.” (Though he only wants to for under 30 seconds.) He’s also taken a renewed interest in our one baby doll. He sleeps with his baby, (As he so often finds me doing with Chiara in the mornings, after her 6:00 feeding.) It’s beyond precious.
Chiara goes by many names, but mostly: Chiara, Baby Jade, Ari, and occasionally Tom calls her Kiki.
I’ve felt a surprising oneness with her femininity. It feels good to have another little lady in the house. I get a kick out of choosing her outfits. Today, at the Viking festival, I found myself asking in depth questions about how this woman was braiding ribbons into a girl’s hair. I’m so curious to see how raising a girl will pan out! I adore her.
In our church there is a tradition of giving new babies a name and blessing in front of the congregation. Similar to how Christ was presented at the temple, but without the animal sacrifice. It’s a lovely tradition and one all look forward to, the family of the child and the congregation. Traditionally, the babies are dressed in white. The name and blessing isn’t essential and isn’t an ordinance or covenant, but for me it is an act of hopeful foreshadowing.
We had a lot of family come out for Chiara’s blessing. Tom’s Dad flew in, and my parents, and two siblings came. It made for a lovely weekend. Wanting to treat them all to some fun Seattle adventures, while also making it kid friendly, we decided to visit one of my favorite local parks for a morning hike. The weather was beautiful. The adults enjoyed the chance to chat amongst gorgeous scenery, while the kids had a blast romping about in the stream that flows through the park. It was one of those times when I felt so proud of where I live. Being able to drive ten minutes and be surrounded by seclusion and so much natural beauty is one of the things I love best about Seattle. I think we’ll be visiting this park a lot this summer!
I was nervous that Stan, being the only attendant from Tom’s side, would feel awkward surrounded by my family. But I needn’t have worried. He showered attention not only upon my boys but my nephew Keiton. He and my Dad shared long conversations. He took as many opportunities as he could to hold Chiara. He cuddled with Scotland, and told the boys bedtime stories.
Furthering the Seattle experience we hit up a Pho place nearby to give many of our guests their first experience with Vietnamese food. The food was tasty, and watching the kids eat noodles with chopsticks was entertainment enough!
Anders adores his Grandma and they have a very sweet relationship. He wasn’t too keen that she often had another baby on her lap, as he’s always been her baby in the past. We got to meet Bria for the first time. She’s such a doll, and Scotter loved how easily he could make her smile. (He’s taken to heart that he’s “good with babies.” and takes every opportunity he can to interact with them.)
My Mom “read” Anders his “Andy book” half a dozen times, and gave Scotland his first crocheting lesson.
Sunday was an awkward day. We have church at 1:00 which left us with a long morning. We fixed a tasty crepe breakfast- and then there was a lot of waiting around for the “event.” Looking back I wish I would have used the morning to photograph Chiara in her dress, and take some family shots. We ended up taking them after church – which meant Chiara wasn’t in the dress she was blessed in (because she soiled it second hour.) And it was a bit rushed, but thanks to Devin and Jessica’s impressive photography skills we still managed to get a lovely photo of the group. I would have liked to have gotten a picture of Chiara and all those who took part in the blessing. As well as one with just her and her brothers, but people needed to head out, and she hadn’t been very accommodating. I’m still hoping to do a photoshoot of Chiara in her actual blessing dress. The one you see here was a backup- it’s a 9-12 month size.
When the time came to go to church, my mom came with me into the dressing room to dress Chiara. Chiara wore the dress my mother made for my sisters and I, a necklace Brigette made for her, and a headband I made for her. (From the same fabric and lace from which my wedding dress was made.) My mom also crocheted her a gorgeous white blanket, but it ended up being too big and cumbersome to use for the actual blessing. She looked beautiful, and I was so proud. It was a sweet moment being in the mothers’ room with my mom, preparing my little girl. It reminded me of when my mother helped me dress in white before I received my endowments in the temple. I look forward to the times in the future when I’ll again help my daughter dress in white, for her baptism and then for her temple endowment, and sealing.
With my thoughts turned to Chiara all morning I hadn’t thought to prime the boys about what was going to happen and how they should act. Or to make a plan to split them up as there was plenty of family to help with them. Scotter ended up being a pill- and kept elbowing Anders which caused him to yell out, which caused me great consternation. (Scotland, unfortunately, has a history of acting out in sacred moments.) I ended up missing the middle section of the blessing because I was separating the two boys, Scotter being particularly naughty. Chiara, as we expected, screamed throughout the entire blessing. The mic went in and out. But Tom forged on and offered a beautiful prayer in her behalf. I was proud of him for continuing with the blessing despite the distractions. It would have been easy to just end it quickly, to spare everyone the distress of hearing her cry for so long. But he knew what was more important, giving his daughter a beautiful blessing to lay the foundation to many more blessings throughout her life. While I missed the middle section, (and had to say a brief prayer of my own to calm my frustration with the boys) I felt the spirit strongly witness to me of the worthiness of my husband. You’d think I would have thought more of my daughter, but my greatest impression was of gratitude for a Priesthood-holding husband, who was willing to call upon the Lord’s power, despite distraction. My heart went out to Chiara who was so distressed by the end of it all that she was shaking. It didn’t take much for me to calm her, she’s such a Momma’s girl. (Barbara Bradford, the grandmother of the ward, came up after and said, “They should just have the mothers hold the babies. Someone should suggest that!”) Knowing how frazzled she gets with others, I really should have asked.
There are few things as gratifying as seeing two people you love, love each other. It always means the world to me when my siblings make the effort to get to know my children.
Our family of five- in case you’re wondering, my legs haven’t been cut off and sewn on the incorrect side, they’re just awkwardly crossed.
If I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed in the way the blessing weekend went. In my attempts to be “relaxed, and chill” about everything, I hadn’t planned things out enough. I’d hoped for a nice celebratory meal after church, but didn’t really consider that doing so would require me to make everything before hand. (Because most didn’t eat lunch and were really hungry after church.) So rather than a nice “formalish” dinner it was a stand around and eat a small bowl of soup in a paper bowl, type of deal. With all my attention placed on getting Chiara ready I didn’t take time before church started to teach my boys about the name and blessing and prepare them for what to expect or how to act. As a result the whole experience was lost on them. As a result, I didn’t get to experience it either. I didn’t ask anyone to take notes on the blessing. Tom’s recollection of what he said is all we have.
The weekend was also a bit stressful because, naturally, everyone wanted to help with Chiara and have their “moment” with her, but she only wanted to be held by me. With the demands of hosting – answer questions, and attending to guests, I wasn’t as quick with responding to her cues. I spent much of the weekend calming her down after some well intentioned guest tried to hold her.
Devin took this last picture of me. I really like it, because it captures me right before we were readying to leave. My mind is turned to the list of things I’ll need for the day: diapers, wipes, activities for the boys, the dress, headband, blanket, a back up dress, spit up cloth, camera, etc. I’m smiling, while balancing a baby, a bag, and stuff for the boys. You can’t see them but I’m surrounded by family, all wanted to help. But no one knows what I need to prepare, no one can hold the baby without her screaming. It’s how I feel often, overwhelmed but unable to delegate.
As I mentioned, Chiara is a momma’s girl. I have cared for her 98% of the time in her near three months of life. Add to that the 9 months of gestation and we have quite a bond. I adore this little girl. I can’t kiss her squishy cheeks often enough. I’ll do anything for her wide-mouth smiles. I love napping with her on my chest. Her feminine coos and grumbles thrill me. But, she’s got a “good set of lungs” (as probably ten people commented after the blessing). And her strident cries completely unhinge me. There have been some incredibly intense moments since her birth when I have become overwhelmed to the point of tears at all that’s being asked of me. But paired with those moments are feelings of complete bliss while I sing her to sleep in my rocking chair, my mothering chair. Times of total joy as I see all three of my childrens’ heads forming a triangle as the boys coos and squeal at their smiling sister. This period of mothering is very physical. I’m exhausted at the end of the day, and sore in the morning. But I find myself often thinking “I’ve got to write this down, I don’t want to ever forget it.” Chiara is changing so quickly and while part of me is itching to start exercising again, teaching more, studying more, doing more, none of these things ever seem as important in the moment as savoring the feel of her breath as she sleeps on my arm, singing her to sleep and then rocking her long after she’s faded off, or waiting for her delayed coos as I ask her questions.
Unfortunately, Chiara’s blessing weekend was a good example of me getting caught up in less important details at the expense of the more important ones. And while I do it far too often, I’m determined not to let the pressures of the high-achieving adult world strip me of the slow sweetness of infancy.
Second year down, who knows how many more to go!
Ava, Noah, Jane, Scotland, Cole, Daniel (and Hazel)
We wrapped up Scotland’s second year of preschool at the end of May. Our final class included a talent show and graduation ceremony. When I asked Scotland what he wanted to do for the talent show he quickly replied “Moves!” And moves he did. He adorned himself in his self-created dress ups, and chose to perform to music from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” his latest obsession. (He’s listened to the audiobook of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” around ten times.) When it was his turn to perform he walked out with confidence, a wide smile on his face. He danced around the stage, doing warrior moves, clearly imagining himself dressed like King Peter from the movie. It made me happy to see him so confident in his creativity.
I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but one of my goals as a parent is to do everything I can to assure my children feels safe and confident in smiling. I’ll never forget watching a primary program and noting that the majority of the kids were trying so hard not to smile. Only a few smiled confidently- as I looked at their parents they had wide grins spread across their faces too- and were the type to wave from the audience at their child. My hope is that as I model smiling, and create an atmosphere of support and joy, I can prevent the trend towards forced seriousness.
The first boy to perform was Noah, one of Scotland’s best friends. You’ll likely remember that hey did Tae Kwon Do together. Noah demonstrated his tae kwon do walking motions, and hand motions will skill and precision. I was impressed. Again I wondered if we should have let Scotland quit at the end of March. I composed several posts about this decision in my head, but they never made it to the keyboard. But it was a hard choice and I want to explore my feelings more here.
Scotland started Taekwondo, excited, enthusiastic, focused and determined. He went twice a week from September through March. But around December his enthusiasm started to wane. Noting his stress his instructors moved him to an easier class. (A joke of a class where they ran around kicking balloons.) Disappointed in the quality of instruction, I asked that he be moved into a more challenging class. He was, and the teachers were strict with him, often calling him out in class for loosing focus, or not following instructions properly. One a few occasions their public rebuke brought him to tears (though both times he wiped them away with a hard face, while continuing his hand motions- determined not to let anyone see.) The first time this happened my eyes moistened and I wanted to run out on the floor and hug him, and tell him it was okay, he was doing great. At the same time I was proud of him for taking it, and moving on, for continuing with the class and trying hard. Used to abundant praise, Scotland took the high standards and intermittent rebukes hard. Slowly his enthusiasm waned and his desire to attend flickered out. He threw a fit every time I told him it was time to get ready for Taekwondo, and towards the end, he looked miserable all through class. With a baby due any day, and our contract at an end, after a much deliberation between Tom and I we decided to stop taking. The decision was really hard on me. When should you make your child tough it out? When should you force them to learn the hard way, that sometimes things aren’t fun, but you do them anyway. Looking back I realize that Scotland was getting a lot of pressure from both me and his instructors. Perhaps if I’d let them be the hard-nosed ones, while I was the encouraging supportive one, he would have enjoyed it more. Wanting him to progress I would give him suggestions and voice observations on the drive home. I encouraged him to practice in between lessons, but he didn’t want to hear it from me.
Scotland signed up for Taekwondo hoping to learn ninja moves, and at first he loved it. He learned to kick, block, punch. But as soon as class consisted mostly of set steps and sequenced moves, he lost interest. He’s very free spirited, and prefers creativity and self expression. In class his moves would lack strength and energy, but when he came home and did his self-created “Utah Taekwondo” his moves were impressive- sharp, strong, and exact. Sometimes I could praise his improvement at home, and pump him up enough for him to demonstrate the same skill in class. As a result, on a few occasions he received open and abundant praise. Even being asked on two occasion to demonstrate for the entire class. He loved “sparring,” but he hated the repetition of the same steps over and over. Obviously memorizing those sequences would have been very good for him. And the process of learning technique before performance is common to most activities. (I think of the percentage of time spent at the barre in my years of ballet.) But I had to wonder how that same technique could have been taught to Scotland, in a way that he would have been receptive to. Then I wonder: is it better to mold instruction to the student, or require the student to conform to the style of the teacher? Is it worth it to force a child to continue with something they hate, or find a way to teach the child the same lessons in a way they enjoy? How much does a child really learn when they are being forced? But some children
This leads me to the other dilemma that has been plaguing my mind of late: whether to send Scotland to a public kindergarten, or homeschool him. The question arose when I learned that half-day kindergarten isn’t available in our district. I hate the idea of sending my five-year-old to school for essentially seven hours a day, with transportation. Not only do I dislike the thought of Scotland being gone that long, but I also hate that that would mean that Anders would be without his best friend for the same amount of time. Then if he does extra curricular activities, that is more time apart. The thought makes my heart sick. Yes, my boys have their fights, and there are days when the thought of separating them permanently seems brilliant. (They are such gems on their own.) But for every one period of strife there are three moments of beautiful kinship and joyful play. Hearing them belly laughing and squealing with delight together is enough to “fill my glass” for a day. I can’t help but worry how their relationship will change if Scotland is gone most of the time. And then to think of all that Scotland will miss in Chiara’s development.
From time to time I let my imagination run wild with the potential of homeschool, and it’s grand. I love the idea of each boy taking their backpack full of magnifying glasses, binoculars, sketch pads and field guides for a day of learning and exploration on the beach, or in the forest. I can imagine days spend creating maps, planning out treasure hunts and setting them up for each other. I want the joy and memories that would accompany this sort of learning environment. I love the idea of child-led projects, of Scotland meeting with people in the community to explore his interests. The potential is great. But I worry, would I really do those things? or would the daily minutiae of caring for three children and a home, win out, and would home-school become mundane workbooks, and a harried mother-son relationship. Would I seek out the sort of diverse and dynamic community I want my children to be raised in, or would our homeschooling be insular and isolating.Would the demands and time needed to homeschool being a boon to Anders and Chiara? Providing them with expanded exposure and experiences, or would it leave them on the sidelines? Realistically it would probably be some of all of these.
Then there’s the weighing of benefits. Do I do the most good with my time by creating learning and bonding experiences for my children, or helping in my community, expanding my vocal studio, or serving at church?
I could go on with these questions all day. One day I’ll be super excited about homeschooling, then the next day I’ll start to feel really anxious about it. So the next day I’ll decide I’m going to send him to public school and just pull him whenever I want. I’ll feel really at peace with that for a few days, but then I’ll start entertaining ideas about homeschooling and I’ll decide to do that again. . . and the cycle continues.
In keeping my options open I’m on the “list” for five different schools! I guess you could call me indecisive. It’s hard! Not only am I making decisions that affect my life, but the life of my children! Whew.
In the end it comes down to this: I want my children to be excellent, joyful, happy, hard-working, curious, creative, kind, faithful and close. I’m just not sure how to accomplish that!