Breastmilk Boo(hoo)

It always catches me off-guard, that moment when the scab is ripped off. I’d completely forgotten about it and then I hear a conversation or read a post and it all comes rushing back to me. And I know that the people who share these words do it out of love. They believe whole-heartedly that breast is best and they want you to believe it, too. And here’s the thing, I agree with them. In other circumstances, I might even be one of them. I might be the one rattling off all the benefits and calling for others to try harder, go longer. But I’m not because I couldn’t be. I couldn’t nurse my babies. And I see them now and I know – I know beyond a shadow of a doubt – that my babies are growing up to be smart, productive (tiny) citizens of society. But still it haunts me, this ache that has lessened with time but never completely goes away. I wanted to breastfeed my babies and I couldn’t. I did it all, tried it all, gave it my all (and then some) and it just.didn’t.work. I don’t think I’ve ever cried more over a single thing in my life. Giving up broke my heart every single time, even after I promised myself I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I always found myself daydreaming of a nursing newborn and how wonderful it would be, but things rarely turn out like they do in our daydreams, I suppose.

Of all the things in my life that I wish had maybekindasorta been a little different, this is what I wish I could change the most. I bottle fed skin-to-skin. I made lots of eye contact. I did everything I could to make bottle feeding as much like breast feeding as I could and yet I still feel like I missed something. And, as illogical as I know it is, I still feel like I did something wrong. That it was my fault. That I didn’t try hard enough. That I gave up too quickly. That I didn’t try more things. Even though I know damn well that’s not what happened. The mind is a funny thing, isn’t it? 

I know this much though: my children are pretty darn smart and imaginative, even without that liquid gold. I mean, what 4 year old asks to be the man in the moon for Halloween? That’s some serious thinking outside the box.
the ivey league halloween 2013

Gratitude (or something like it)

photo (77)

Is there a word for that moment when you feel so overwhelmed with gratitude that you can’t even move? That moment that just socks you in the stomach so hard that you can’t breathe and tears roll down your eyes simply because you’re aware – so veryvery aware – of all the good, all the beautiful, all the wonderful that’s right here in your lap. Surely there is. I may even know the word but my whole body is so absorbed in living and loving this moment that there’s no brain power left to add words. Or maybe there aren’t words. Maybe it’s something that transcends language.

I start to count my blessings and I can’t finish one thought before another crashes into it. Words are too slow, too cumbersome, too human to catch up with what I think, what I feel. And I’m convinced that this is the kind of prayer that brings me closest to God. The kind of prayer that has no words.

Uncomfortable

I read about some inequality or hatred that I’ve never heard about or even thought about before…and I squirm a bit in my seat. Scootching to the side, I leave room for my familiar friend Uncomfortable to join me. I may not like it, but I have to remind myself that Uncomfortable doesn’t always equal Bad. Uncomfortable means that I’ve noticed, that maybe even if I want to look away, my heart-gut is saying, “Listen up…this is important.”

So instead of shying away, I sit with the Uncomfortable. Let it weigh heavy on my chest and really wrestle with it. What does it mean? What does it mean for me? Do I dare to even ask? Maybe…maybe…I’m supposed to do something. Write a letter to the editor. Stand up for someone who might not be so easy to stand up for. Go do that thing that my heart is telling me to do. Or, possibly harder than any of those, change. Change my heart, change my mind. Changing isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of growth.

I think I’m growing now. I walk around with the uncomfortable weighing down my pockets. I hide it there, thinking no one will notice. And it’s not, like it’s been a hundred times before, that I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. Quite the opposite, really. Certainty is the belt holding up my heavy-pocketed pants. But how long can I drag around these stones of hurt and frustration and disconnect before I tire my own self out, like a toddler runningrunningrunning until – all of a sudden – I stop.

I open my head, my heart, my hands…waiting for something, anything.
And, for now, this is all I find:
You must love each other, just as I have loved you.

I think that’s enough to keep me busy for a while.

Simplicity and Slate

“Mama! Is this a real slate like Laura and Mary would have used?”
“Yeah. Kinda like that.”
“Oh my gosh, Carter! Look! It’s a real slate like for learning stuff. Like in the Little House books! Can we get it, Mama? Pleasepleasepleasepleeeeease.”

The girl knows I’m a sucker for books and that this will be an easy sell. (It was).

"Little House Best book ever! I'm reading the fith book!!!!!"

Little House
Best book ever! I’m reading the fith[sic] book!!!!!

We started the Little House series several months ago and we used to take a break between each book to read something else. But the end of book four was so sad and book five begged to be read and so we started it the next night. Every night I read to them. (The little kids get their turn earlier in the day). They are both completely capable of reading these books independently but there’s something about hearing it read aloud that makes it magical. And as long as they will let me read to them, I’ll continue to do so. It’s one of my favorite parts of having children. Seriously.

photo 1

We went on a field trip recently where there were covered wagons and beef jerky and a little log cabin. Her eyes glittered with excitement and happiness as she listened to the guide talk about the tiny house and how Laura’s house would have been much smaller than this one. Whoa! I thought. And I glanced at her and she mouthed the same to me. We were smashed into the tiny cabin with maybe 20 other people, double what it was built to hold. Can you imagine 8-10 people in that tiny little house? There was one small bed and a crib, a fireplace, a table, and a rocking chair. The loft was tiny but aching for little children to visit, but rules are rules and there was no climbing the ladder that day.

Processed with VSCOcam

As I looked around at the simplicity, I wondered where it all went wrong. Hear me out. I’m not glamorizing it. These people lived hard lives and I’m not asking for tradesies (because, for starters, I <3 my A/C).  They endured struggles that I can’t even begin to imagine. But as I read the books I notice that they never seem worried about what made them “happy” or what feels good but what kept them alive and what was the best for the whole family. Were they better for it? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t have an answer, but it’s a question I think about often.

I read a passage tonight about the family traveling to Silver Lake. It describes mile after mile after mile of nothing but a giant sky and blowing grass. My kids can’t even really imagine grass tall enough to blow. And, if I’m being honest, I can’t imagine miles and miles of nothing. We live in a rural area, but not that rural. (Although sometimes I wish we did).

My eyes and my voice are both tired. I stumble over a word or two as my mouth tries to keep up with my brain (ever a problem for me). Her eyes are flicking on and off but she leans in, hearing each word and letting my voice take her on a journey that starts on a bouncy wagon seat and ends with her dreams. Her book of dreams; that’s the book I really wish I could read.

~just write~

Good morning, Mommy

He slipped into our big bed and he didn’t look little any more. He’s nearly as long as I am now. I heard his teeth chattering and asked if he wanted to cuddle. “I was just about to do that,” he mumbled sleepily and slid over. Hooking one arm around my neck, he rested the other on my arm, laid his head down on my cheek, and I wondered just how many times this would ever happen again.

His arms, still scrawny and small, feel stronger than I remember them being. He rubs his fingers gently on my arm for a minute and then stops, takes my hand and places it on his arm. Tap. Tap. He thumps me as if to say “my turn” and I run my fingers up and down. My other hand instinctively moves, too, and I am rubbing his back as well. Remnants of mod podge on my fingers snag on his tee shirt. My jaw starts to ache from where the curve of his head doesn’t fit perfectly against mine, but I dare not move.

One more Back-to-School Post*

My little guy? He loves school. He’s probably the most sociable of my children and he loves to be around lots of people. Last year he was so excited about going to school, I couldn’t even slow him down to get a picture. This year he did let me get pictures before school, but once we got there he was off! No looking back at Mommy. No walking hesitantly. Just go, go, go.
go boy go

Before school:
L2013

And my baaaaybeeee, y’all. She’s old enough for school! And she is so proud about being a big girl going to big girl school.
LJ2013

*I am, after all, a mommyblogger at heart.

Moments into Memories

photo

i.

We walked on the beach where just hours ago we would have been underwater two-fold or maybe three. The sun slid down the sky, rushing to meet the horizon and we paused to watch. It was one of those big-ball-of-fire sunsets that made me wish I had my ‘real’ camera with me; one that dwarfs the clouds and the trees and the world and leaves you feeling a bit like an ant. An awe-inspired and happy ant, but an ant none-the-less. She looked away to splash in the waves and Oops! It was gone. “Maybe tomorrow,” she says. “Maybe…” I say and we still look ahead, afraid to look away lest we miss something else.

ii.

He lost the chance to get a treat last night. It doesn’t matter what he did or what the treat was, really. Just that it happened and that then it was gone. He tried to hide his hurt, to pretend like he didn’t care but as the darkness of bedtime began to wrap around him, I heard the sniffles. Cuddles helped but still he hurt. I know it’s necessary sometimes – this proving your point, following through, teaching consequences – but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Each tear tore at my heart. But I do believe it worked. Because today? Today he was full of kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control. Some days I feel like maybe, just maybe, I’m at least getting a few things right.

iii.

I grab both sides and she grasps tighter. I pull her back and WOOSH she flies. Back and forth. Back and forth. “Adin, Mommy! Adin!”  And I lean in for more. We go like this, over and over, until we both wear out. It’s not often that we find ourselves in this moment with no interruptions, no one else stealing the show or snatching my attention and it’s as neither of us really know how to tie it up and move it from now to memory. She looks up and smiles. Little teeth stretched out into a big smile and I grasp the moment and squeeze it tighter, ready for the back and forth, back and forth that is sure to come.

iv.

I look up just in time to see another adult warn him to be careful. He’s climbed up on top of the slide. Again. He’s been climbing since before he could walk, so I’m not surprised. Nor am I particularly worried about him climbing up there. He’s fallen before (and only been broken once).  But I do suppose that it’s setting a bit of a bad example, so I call to him. “Hey, bud…get down, okay? There are lots of other kids here and we don’t want someone to get hurt.” And even as I say I feel like I’ve caved in to peer pressure. If that dad hadn’t spoken to him, I never would have said a word. I saw him. He was fine, not hurting anyone else. But…but…well, I get it. I do. And I really don’t mind that he said anything. He was genuinely concerned, I could tell. Which makes it even harder to be the parent at the playground who isn’t playing with her kids, who isn’t even watching them very well. And I feel this ridiculous need to make sure that everyone knows that I’ve been with them all day, giving them every ounce of my attention and now? Well, now they’re in an enclosed space created for children and I just need to sit and breathe and read and think and not be rightherewithyouallthetimeMommy. Why is it that no matter which way we choose to do things as parents, we always feel this need to justify our choice? It’s exhausting, really. Why is it that no matter how much we give, it never seems like enough? The push to do more, be more is hard to ignore.

v.

We were the last ones to leave the playground. It was late, even for us. Not all that long ago, had I seen children out so late on a school night I would have rolled my eyes or at least given the disapproving glare. (I have to remind myself of that when I’m the recipient of such looks). But this is the freedom I love about our life as we are living it right now. Memories made in the yellow glow of streetlamps shine brighter than those made in the light of day. I’m not quite sure how that works, but I believe it’s true. These are the things that they’ll remember – the things that stray from the norm, the things we only do on vacation. Piling on the floor to watch a movie that started well after bed time. Ice cream for dinner. Skipping school to enjoy a beautiful day. (And learning even when they don’t realize it). Singing at the top of our lungs to cheesy songs that are, quite frankly, musically awful but full of all the things I want them to know, to believe, to live. I won’t control the radio for much longer. Or the late nights. Or their dinner choices. Or a million other things. So for now, while it’s my choice to make, I’m doing the best that I can (and today it feels like I’m doing just fine).

Why Everyone Should Homeschool

She looks up at me, excited but a little unsure. A smile and a little nod are all it takes. She sounds out the next word and skips down the rest. For a moment – for just a brief moment – her confidence wavers and she depends on me to steady it.

Head tilted, brow furrowed, eyes squinted, mouth agape. He’s running calculations in his head but it’s not adding up. Waiting on me, the one who’s supposed to have the answers. I gulp. “I’ve never been good at math,” I think to myself and then slap my own wrist. Your thoughts eventually become your truth, Bridget. And for the first time in ages (or maybe ever) I respond not with the lilt of a question in my voice but with authority.

I’ve got this. Yeah. I’ve got it under control. (For now.) But it hasn’t always been that way. I’ve had to look up at others and with a smile and a nod, they’ve steadied my confidence. I’ve looked with baffled eyes at people who’ve held my hand and pulled me onward – even if I didn’t get it right the first time or the next time or the time after that. I’m grateful for all the teachers I’ve had, both in school and in life.

In this season of our life, while we are doing school at home, I’ve come to realize just how many teachers children really have. Those little suckers are always learning, everywhere you go. Everyone you meet, every one you see, everyone you hear…they are all teachers. But as a parent it’s my responsibility to be the primary source of learning. And the same is true for you, no matter if your children go to public school or a co-op or if you use Montessori methods or Waldorf standards or if you unschool or whatever path you may be on with your children. Ultimately it’s our responsibility as parents to teach our children the ins and outs of living. Does that frighten you as much as it does me? Sometimes I can’t even handle my own thoughts, my own desires, my own deamons…much less all the ones of four tiny humans!

But here’s a little secret I’ve learned during our homeschool journey: The biggest lessons your children will learn won’t come from books or flashcards or their favorite educational app. It won’t come from that unit you slaved over to prepare or the vocabulary words you drilled into their heads. It’ll come from what they see you do, how they see you respond, the choices you make and how you work through the consequences, both good and bad.

Maybe you figured this out long before I did. If so, why didn’t you tell me? :-) And if not, here…take this tidbit and jot it down. It might come in handy some day.

Teach them to love reading by letting them see you read. Teach them to enjoy music by getting lost in a song. Teach them to cook by cooking with them. Teach them to respect others by being good and kind to all people, even when it’s hard. Teach them thankfulness not only by telling them thank you, but by telling them about the blessings in your life. Teach them to give by letting them see you give to others and by giving to them what they want the most: you. With the timbre of your voice, teach them when to speak up and when to shush. Teach them patience by waiting for them to stutter out the whole sentence without rushing them or by letting them scoop up hundreds of tiny rocks as they walk to the car, even if it’s going to make you late. Teach them gentleness by wrapping them up in your arms, even when they’ve messed up. Teach them faithfulness and self-control when you want to give up, but don’t. Teach them peace when you help them begin to navigate the waters of controversy (and if you have a two year old, you have controversy!). Teach them love not only by surrounding them with hugs and kisses but by giving firm correction when that’s what they need. Teach them joy by smiling at them and laughing with them, by celebrating with others and letting them see you soaking in the little things. And teach them that they are unique and special and wonderful by letting them see you dare to believe those things about yourself.

(Oh, wait. Some of that sounds kinda familiar.)

But there’s more. While I’m giving out tidbits, here’s another one: Teach your children, but also let them teach you. (This is the one that took me the longest to see and even longer to learn). Let a caterpillar inch up and down your arm and be mesmerized at how it moves. Take their offerings of sticks and rocks and treat them as the rarest of treasures. Look for the sparkles hidden in the gravel and the beauty of a little yellow weed. Watch them play with others at the playground – often there’s no us and them, just smiling, sweaty faces whirring round and round on the merry-go-round. Listen to them sing, with nothing holding them back. Watch them dance at the dinner table (and maybe even join them). Laugh at their terrible jokes and teach them better ones. Color – with or without staying in the lines. Swim (without obsessing about what you look like in your suit). Build things and paint things and create things and believe that they are masterpieces.

Be their teacher at home so that when they aren’t with you, your words will guide them.
Be their student so that they know they have something worth sharing; that they are good and helpful and useful.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. ~Deuteronomy 6:5-9{emphasis mine}

 

Looking Back at Back to School

2010:
PK&K

2011:
Aug 10, 2011web-6

2012:
1and2

This year:
2013-2014first day_web

Gazers

I wish I had a picture to show you. The social media experts say that posts with pictures are better, but I don’t always believe that’s true. Like books. Sometimes the movie version is just great, but sometimes what you saw in your mind as you read those words was so grand that no camera could capture it, no actor could do it justice. The movie tries and fails and robs meaning and delight from the words.

Tonight I stretched out on the back deck, seat cushion under head. Frogs croaked and crickets chirped. And I could hear my daughter breathing in and out. My son hummed, not even aware that he was doing so. So faint a sound, I almost wondered if I was imagining things.

Swish! One short streak across the sky.

Falling stars, I always called them. But now we call them meteors. My children know so much more than I did at their age. In some ways that is positive progress, but does all this progress somehow steal the joy of childhood?

Falling star or meteor. No matter which, I made a wish.

Swoosh! A long one stretches out, arcing, pulling my eyes across the sky. “I SAW ONE! I SAW ONE, MOMMY!” she shrieks. And he misses it because he was moving around (yet again). He was the one who was most excited about watching and yet it’s like he has ants in his pants. Sometimes all it takes to get what you want is to watch eagerly and sit patiently. I want to shout, “How hard is that to do????” But if I’m being honest it’s pretty damn hard sometimes, especially when your brain is whizzing and whirring on a loop.

Just be still!

I think maybe I’ve heard that somewhere before.

Be still and know that I am God.

Just like my budding astrophysicist, even when what I want is right before me I struggle to just.be.still. To wait, to watch.

But this…this decree from God isn’t a firm ruling from a harsh leader. It’s a gentle reminder from the One who cares for us more than any other. The One who knows that if we’d just slow down and look around, the things we’ve been looking for may very well be right here.