Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Love Language and the Circus Clown

If you've heard of love languages, you are quite likely in the same boat as I am; adrift. The practical application, especially with multiple people to love correctly, is abstract. Sure there are plenty of ideas on how to do it perfectly well. I don't live in a perfect world.

I live in a world where the very things my children are "needing" to feel loved are often the opposite of what I have to offer in a given moment. For instance:

1) The child that needs to be listened to; 24/7. I don't have 24/7. Do I have more time than currently offered, probably. Does it ever seem to be enough, no.

2) The child that wants to throw sand, mulch, pies, you name it, in my face and have the loving gesture returned. I don't ever like anything thrown in my face.

3) The child that wants to play the invented game for hours on end. I don't have hours on end. Should I? What I do have, isn't ever enough.

You get the point.

I am working on it, I am. But I most often feel like a circus clown; running around trying to please everyone while there is a fire under my feet, water about to dump from a bucket somehow suspended in mid-air always positioned perfectly above my head, and a series of hoops primed with petroleum jelly just waiting for me to jump through. No wonder I have plenty to repent for at the end of each day.

I can think of One who loved perfectly. It seems the formula might just be; be my best self, look for the good in others, genuinely encourage and praise that best part, be responsible and hold to simple truths, and make sure there is time to talk things out rather than hurriedly discipline in order to get on with life.

One thing I have implemented and is working nicely is an hour for each child each week. Depending on the child we may: color while chatting, walk and talk, visit the pet store, have a tea party, play a game, whatever the child wants to do. It's not my time, it's theirs and they get to use it. Their love meter gets pumped up and I get patience and understanding from them when I can't fill the need exactly as they wish exactly when they want.

Life is discipline. Clowns have a tough job. Lots of people make lots of money on self help books. Overload comes in many forms. There is usually one source, whatever you may call it, that centers and grounds. The best is already in each of us.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Perfectly Absurd, or not ...

Around here we start our day with devotional. Its a brief few moments where we can come together and get our bearings before the day rushes in. We love it. The grounding effect it has is crucial to things going as planned. Now that was funny; going as planned.

Yes, in a perfect world our days go as planned. In our world they go as they go. Devotional does ground us and keep us from getting too far off the path. We even have a catchy little jingle to call everyone together. Our 2 year old loves to sing it with me and then dash to the closet to get the hymn books.

We sing a hymn, read a daily scripture, discuss the day's business, have family prayer, and then we're off!

Today looked something like this:

* Children fighting
* Children still in pajamas
* Children fighting
* Wardrobe malfunctions of dramatic proportions that prohibit sane behavior
* Children still fighting
* Mother that wonders if she is still sleeping and having a nightmare
* Children still fighting; bloodshed imminent

I finally gave up trying to micromanage (it never works btw), sang the jingle, and proceeded with the 2 year old. Today's scripture; Psalm 127:3-5

"Lo, Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. "

As I sat listening to the fighting and chaos, I thought, "My quiver runneth over!" And then I saw that there was nothing absurd about the circumstances I found myself in. No, in fact, it was perfect. A perfect reminder to cherish.  

Soon there were beautiful choruses of, "sorry mom" and dressed and happy children ready to participate in our day of learning, study, and growth. Perfectly absurd.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Strong Enough

Grandma graciously gave us some bulbs last fall and we have been anxious to see if they will grow. As spring slowly starts to show its marvelously hope filled head around hear, we are seeing signs that our efforts of digging and planting and hoping are not in vain.

Yesterday my daughter and I were excitedly noticing some little tiny purplish points poking out of the ground. These were part of a new crop that we had forgotten about on a different side of the house than the rest. It was thrilling to discover what was already there. In her exuberance she started pulling back dirt and digging around to see more of the plant coming up and help it grow.

Have you ever made efforts to change and grow as a person only to forget where you planted those efforts. I have. When I find them I am usually in much too much of a hurry to bring them out and show them off. Problem is most of the time they aren't ready for flaunting. I get damaged in the process because I feel failure instead of progress.

I am not suggesting that we don't take our newfound qualities and attributes out for a spin. Or hide them under a bushel. Maybe just that some things are better left protected for a while. Left under that ground just enough to be nourished and grow even stronger and then push up out into the light.

Notice I didn't say fully developed, just strong enough. There are little purplish points in all of us, just under the surface. We can always get better and improve upon what we are. We just need to be kind and nurturing to ourselves before we expose ourselves to the sometimes harsh conditions of this world.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flying High and Going Nowhere

I saw this bird the other day. It was going nowhere but flapping its wings so fast I half expected it to jump into cartoon mode and zip into another galaxy (we get serious wind round these here parts often). That's when it hit me.

Sometimes we aren't supposed to be going anywhere at all. Sometimes it really is about flapping your wings as hard as you can to make the best of the moment you are in.

Maybe even most times.

I am not opposed to goals and dreams. I have noticed that balance between those things and reality is foremost in my pursuit of happiness.

I flap my wings pretty hard most days. I am going nowhere fast and there's not much I can do about it. I sure am finding the wind whipping through my wings quite enjoyable. As long as I choose to feel it  that is.

Guess what the best part is. As long as you are flapping, you actually do get somewhere, as soon as the wind dies down. Even if it is just a few feet forward, or a couple inches for that matter.

Forward progress is often made while you are going nowhere, really fast. Perspective is everything.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rushing River of Change

We have a river in our back yard. It wasn't there before the spring thaw. The change has been most wonderful for the children. In their exuberant exploration they have enlisted the help of the canoe and been to new lands, discovered many wonders of nature and laws of physics, and they have grown.

I don't like the river. Its muddy and messy. Its full of grass clippings and burrs, and living organisms. Its wet and I only have one vent with which to dry boots. Did I mention its wet? Snow pants are a very poor substitute for waders. We don't own waders. I am resistant to change.

I can't ever recall a time when I leapt with joy at the sound of the faint rumblings of change on the horizon. I have always been able to feel it coming. Perhaps it is a blessing to allow me to prepare for the coming discomfort and resistance. Perhaps it is karma coming to call. Perhaps it is life offering me an opportunity. A possibility of better things, however far off in the distance they may be.

When you stretch a rubber band wide enough and long enough, it does increase in size, ever so slightly. It seems that this is the way of change and growth most often. The horrific trial that brings your world tumbling down, only to return almost back to what you were after the dust settles. The ebb and flow of life and stretching does bring us closer to the best end result, but it takes a while. Most often a long while.

The rushing river is magnificent and deceiving in its instant transformation of landscape and life.

I don't like change, but as I grow in spirit and maturity I am learning to approach it differently and allow the stretching. Oh, but I do long for the days of almost back to normal predictability and comfort. I suppose one does not grow that way.

For now, I dry the boots, and snow pants, coats, gloves, hats, and noses. I make warm soup and listen to tales of wonder. For now, I watch and hopefully I learn.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Murphy's Law

Murphy, Murphy, Murphy; why oh why must you be so right.

We live for tax return season. Hubby gets them done as soon as the W-2 is available and we have it earmarked months ahead. We used to be able to do fun things with it, not so much for the past few years. Murphy has been with us for a long, long time now.

This year Murphy has been especially good to us. So good in fact that we finally made up a room for him in order to serve him night and day. There is no choice really. You see, the more you fight this guy, the more power he has over you.

The day after we decided to get a new mattress, after 10 years of sleeping on squeaky brick dude, our washer broke. Yes, I did say washer. Later the same day our vacuum broke. Can you even imagine what life with 5 children is like without a vacuum? STOP! It'll give you nightmares. Did I mention that the microwave had already been down for the count for 2 months. Living without that blessed appliance was a challenge to say the least. Please don't try any of this at home.

As a parent you make choices; bread and milk or a new microwave, underwear and highly beneficial classes or a new microwave. You choose in the moment and then you go crazy when it takes 30-40 minutes to warm up leftovers for lunch and you have starving children at your feet. You pull your hair out when it takes you several hours at the laundromat every couple of days to launder clothing for your family. You begin to believe that things can't really get much worse.

And then you go shopping with your new best friend Mr. Tax Return. Take that Murphy!

The vacuum is duct taped and limping along. The new microwave is busy always. The washer and dryer are beloved. The new mattress is heavenly. I guess the debt will just have to continue sucking our souls until the money tree in the back yard starts producing fruit.

As far as Murphy goes; your bags are packed mister, don't let the door hit you on the way out. It's time for a big time out for you buster! I hope he listens.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Below The Surface

On the surface we are pristine and beautiful. On the surface we chat and laugh and share insignificant details and frustrations. We might even be so lucky as to find like minded individuals that we have occasion to dip a bit below the water spiders with. But then we make ripples in the network. Networks don't like ripples so much, and they detest waves.

Networks: school,work, church, neighborhoods, etc., are great for some light social interaction. A place to feel comfortable and like you belong, until your life starts to look a bit different from the acceptable surface, and then things get interesting. Networks ask us to provide a narrow piece of ourselves and suppress the rest. The network will deliver efficiency in some limited aim. This fragmentation creates diminished humanity.

I get judged, a lot, since the birth of my 5th child. His disease has changed my ability to be what others want from me on the surface. I can't split myself apart well enough to achieve network greatness while remaining whole for myself and family. It's painful to recognize how shallow one's associations sometimes are within the context of a network. Even more painful is the realization that what you thought was a community is really a network. A fabulous network, but a network nonetheless.

Even families fall prey to network superficiality and forgo the true community aspect intended to strengthen and build up the individual. "Good fences make good neighbors" Mending Wall byRobert Frost. It is okay to create a sanctuary wherein we can thrive.

Communities on the other hand are collections of souls who find significant meaning in their associations. They offer opportunity for true growth and development of the whole person. Highest quality of life is promoted through engagement and participation over time and in all human variety, the good the bad and the ugly.

Society is lacking in true community these days. We run around joining groups and social networks hoping to fill a void. Strange isn't it that the void just keeps getting bigger and the problems grow from slight crevasses to chasms, seemingly overnight.

My husband was present for a discussion recently that went like so, Question: "How can we determine each other's spiritual needs?" Answer: "We don't have friends anymore. We don't know each other anymore." A bit later a younger gentleman chimed in telling frustrated tales of he and his wife trying to get to know neighbors and make friends in their new environment. His summation was: "We don't have friends, we have FaceBook! We don't have neighbors, it's awkward."

I get teased for my long voicemail messages and "too personal" and detailed e-mails, blog posts, and conversations. I am desperate for community and I seek it everywhere. Some take the bait and join me in my community of depth. Thank you :)

Dumbing Us Down, John Taylor Gatto

Friday, April 5, 2013

Its All Your Fault

Parents are to blame for everything. I mean everything. There is no hope.

Do you feel like that sometimes? I feel it more often than not. It's a personal challenge to allow my children their own "issues". I am learning it is paramount to their existence that I do not accept the blame. I am excellent at accepting the blame. Blast!

Here is what is working for me; loving them. Seems easy right. I would venture to say that we all think we love our children unconditionally but there are spots, sometimes giant holes, in our ability to do so. Generally those spots have everything to do with us feeling glaring eyeballs from society screaming at us that we must have messed up for them to do that, or, for them not to do this.

Case in point. A big event played up for months. So and so has a royal melt down complete with physical infractions on another's personal space. So and so must stay home. There will not be another "event" such as this in the child's life. It is devastating for parent and child. Although said child sees it as cruel and unusual punishment. Parent struggles and attempts to justify and save child from self because it must somehow be my (woops!) the parent's fault. Ultimately, the responsible things to do is keep the child home.

Upon arrival to big event, "Where is so and so." Speculation abounds when the simple answer, "You can ask him/her if you'd like." Does not suffice. "Are they sick?" "Did they get in trouble?" "What did they do?" Huge amounts of pressure on siblings and parents to explain or justify something that is not theirs to justify.

Maybe you have never dealt with something of this nature. I talk to a lot of people that have. I am one of them. It is difficult for me to love said child when screaming eyeballs and probing questions laden with ulterior motives are worming their way into my psyche.

I have learned that the responsible choice is always the loving choice. I am working really hard at being responsible over being liked and understood by those in my networks.

We live in a society that is steeped in abusive cycles. I am not saying we all run around punching our children. There are forms of abuse, hidden within this lovely word dysfunction, that seriously hinder our ability to love, and their ability to learn to function in healthy and appropriate ways. We have become so desensitized that behaviors are tolerated, medicated, explained away, and simply ignored as normal.

There is hope and it is as simple as unconditional love. Separating love and trust is easier than I thought, and has done wonders for my relationships. Read this book, it will change your life; How To Hug A Porcupine, John C. Lund.

In a way, it is all my fault, but I can do something about me and hopefully inspire others to do something about them. But again, changing others is really not the point.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Getting Ahead

How far behind do we set our children when we strive, with fervor, to get them ahead in life?

Do children really need to play instruments from the time they can walk? Do they need "educational programs" to prepare them for the rigors of Kindergarten? Do they need Kindergarten? Do they need to start their professional sports careers in cutthroat athletic programs? Do they need to dance and sing and make it big at 5 or 8 or 12?

OR do we need pictures for the relatives, and bragging rights, and validation?

I find it valuable to consider the motivation before assuming societal norms are best. It is easy to choose things for our children because it reflects well on us. That's a mighty big mountain to place in the paths of our children.

A society of overachievers looks fabulous on the surface. What's below that surface is alarming.

We push insignificant things on them earlier and earlier. We test them before they have the self confidence to choose learning rather than memorizing to please. We stuff their mind's with images they can't possibly process and then wonder why core values and principles seem to be lacking. We create a mini-me, rather than nurturing individuals.

We "get them ahead" and leave them far behind. They are without essential life skills and values paramount to the pursuance of their own happiness. Their own goals and dreams are lost somewhere in the thick fog of societal, familial, and peer pressures. Worse yet, they don't even know what goals and dreams are; there is no space or time for them to formulate any of that. We do it for them. Just ask school and Google.

We are obsessed with "information". We tweet on twitter, we attempt to validate our lives on Facebook, we blog perfection, we watch YouTube and hold it as a mark of success. We always think we know everybody else's business. We are obsessed with empty "achievement" that brings outward recognition and no inner satisfaction. True success has been hijacked and we now have "in your face awesomeness" running rampant. Abiding satisfaction is lost somewhere between entertainment and meaningless awards.

Children need to play and discover. They need to be exposed to many wonderful and wholesome things so they can be in awe and wonder. They need time. They can survive without "screens" (and so can we). They can learn and grow and be very, very happy. They can thrive. A pleasing and simple childhood can offer a lifetime of stability, come what may.

There is a lot of come what may these days. Do you wish you would have had more demands on your time as a child, or less? Do you wish your family would have spent less time enjoying one another and developing lasting and healthy relationships, or more?

We are not getting anyone ahead. Despite what their "test scores" and "achievements" might say.

Some Excellent Reading:
A Call to Brilliance, Resa Steindel Brown
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, John Taylor Gatto
Deconstructing Penguins, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
How to Hug a Porcupine, John C. Lund
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, Oliver and Rachel DeMille