A blob of jelly for 8 pieces of toast

I am presently spread too thin. My mind is filled with the future. Moving? Staying? Here? There? Nowhere? Each day I’m fluttering through the house doing, and looking for something to do to keep myself busy. I read to the kids because I value a little mind that grows into a big one. I value time spent touching on a couch with an open book and endless questions that hammer away after every single sentence.

“And so the prince…” Mom, why does he wear shoes like a woman?

“He’s not a woman. They use to wear heels back then. The artist formerly known as Prince still does! Shhh… And so the prince…”

Mom! Why his nose so big?

“I don’t know. Because he’s a Jewish prince. Let me read, please…. And so the Prince….”

Mamma! Do you think Darth Vader is Jewish?

“Can I just get through this sentence?”

Then I do laundry. Next bake some bread. Naps, house beautification continues, garden watering and picking of squash that has grown too large. What to do with all this squash? Read a recipe. Go online. My search lists 8000 squash recipes???? Ok, more work to sift through.

I want to exercise so I bring out the yoga mat and do my 30 minutes. This keeps my butt from heading south the way that butts do whence you’ve had children and are over 30. It’s a reality we all try to avoid thanks to Hollywood. I fall under the spell. I’m also committed to health and strength into old age, so yoga it is!

I love my life. Being home is amazing. I am an introvert who is surrounded by extroverts and my time in the home is solitude. Then the phone rings and it’s someone asking me to teach or help watch their kids (a train I am ashamedly NEVER anxious to jump on. I love my kids, but I probably don’t like yours!- I’m growing still), a dinner to host (it’s my turn to cook for 12 people and Matt’s not around to help watch the kids while I labor over homemade noodles in a mushroom sauce!). Now to be with a husband that wants sex, A LOT! Then the kids wake at 6:30 am like clockwork. This is life. Glorious, beautiful, electrifying life! Greased lightening (minus the naughty undertones). Suck it’s marrow out and live off of the juicy insides (again, no naughty undertones implied). I know it to be true.

This phase of life is a strange one in which I have small people in the prime of their development and each month or week brings newness. Today Oliver was at the top of the stairs during nap time and I came up to find him wearing my running shoes with a silly look on his face. I should have laughed because it was amazingly cute. But I frowned at him and said, “Buddy, why aren’t you in bed?” Nothing wrong with capturing him and taking him back to bed. But I’m spread so thin these days that nothing is funny.

Where is the Tracie who made fun of everything and made others laugh regularly because “life isn’t THAT serious”? Where is the foxy girl that took a walk whenever she felt like it and found countless bits of information entertaining and interesting? Is she hidden away in a trunk full of old, broken toys? Maybe she’s in a basket filled with children’s books, or in the laundry basket waiting to be folded. Maybe folded in a sheet that once had a child’s ‘accident’ seeped into it’s Egyptian cotton fibers. Maybe she’s the mattress that holds the husband, or the mattress that holds a sleeping child as he dreams about pumpkins eating the house. She’s the biggest presence and force in this home, I’m sure of that, but I think she’s spread into so many portions of home and life that you can’t totally see her form anymore. It’s not that she is invisible but more that she’s sort of omnipresent yet not really herself right now.

What a frazzling and breathtaking time in my life! I am able to be spread this far and wide without having the urge to drive my car off a precipice while clutching a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. I am beginning to know my limits and my breaking points. I’m saying no to things that take me outside of the home for the first time in a long time because I’d like my days with young children to be a delight.

I know that as soon as you exhale, it’s all over.

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Un-mixed!

Is longing for contentment a slice of irony? Is it an oxymoron? A contradiction?

Inner peace in the middle of a stormy toddler that repeats, “I don’t want to!!!”

Abilitiy to ‘deal’ with rage. Rage comes and goes. She sneaks and crouches waiting to pounce. Rage is something I never knew was hiding deep inside. Then I had children. Now I’m ashamed of the blackness. I know there’s raw light in there somewhere.

Contentment! Love the house, the boy, the man, the neighbors, the heat. Love the smell, the late nights and early mornings. Thankfulness for the mess. At least we have a place to put our mess! A lovely place, it is. Unfinished but becoming more lovely. Oh, the unfinished! More rage!

The path, the journey, this life, our story. It’s all being constructed daily. Nothing is finished. It never will be. Even in eternal bliss and the flight unending.

I’m un-mixed. Something has settled at the bottom and needs to be shaken, dispersed, moved around. The science of mixture creates fluid, not clotting. Then it’s pretty again. There’s movement, life!

I want the life!

Three cups of tea…. for two little kids

I found a treasure amidst the piles of children’s books sitting on the shelves of the library where the tellers know me as the ‘bag lady’. I come with my kids, sometimes several times a week, and fill up at least one bag of books for the ninos. The other day I found a hidden jewel among books with titles like Biscuit Walks To School or The Very Long Legs Of Daddy Longfellow. On the cover of the rectangular book there was drawing of children wearing burkas and it distinctly caught my attention. I’m always interested in cross cultural books for the kids unless, of course, they are just stupid and weird. Let’s face it, there are some children’s books that are poorly written and the story doesn’t go anywhere. I have found myself closing a book mid read and apologizing to the kids because I just couldn’t finish it. It is rare but it does happen. Why continue into the iron maiden of the imagination if you can close the torture devise and read something else? That’s why I say, anyway.

The green and yellow burkas on the children stuck my attention and the title was intriguing; Listen To The Wind. I looked further and found that it’s the story of Three Cups Of Tea, written by Greg Mortenson as he traveled to Pakistan and began to open schools for children in very poor and illiterate mountain regions. I’ve read some of the book but each time I checked it out from the library life got the best of me in terms of busyness and chaos and I had to take it back or risk outrageous fines due to the high demand  this book holds on the wait list.

I am very familiar with the story. This is the type of work I LOVE to hear about. My heart sits in my throat as I imagine the practical gospel being planted in the hearts of young children who are given dignity and honour as they learn to read and write. Education is empowering and motivating and I’m a bit partial to young girls being given an education in Muslim countries. It brings communities a sense of worth and value knowing that they too can read the stories of their own history, read poetry that saciatiates the hunger for words and descriptions,  add, count and barter in the town square; to understand the pull of the moon and how it affects harvest time. I believe Jesus cries tears of delight when communities are upheld in their manifest dignity.

I read the simple, sweet words of a children’s story that is based on these events and my throat closed up while I read to Oliver and Chloe. It was shakey and uneven as my eyes filled with water. I read in sensative amazement as I thought of men and women crossing a bridge that they had to make just to bring supplies across a deadly chasm in order for a learning house to exist. The way the entire community came together to give, build, sweat and, likely at times, doubt in order for this school to come into being was very moving in my opinion. I guess I love when the unnoticed are noticed by someone and that someone pours muscles, sweat, money, sleep and personal demons of fear and insecurity into a project that awakens the human spirit.

My children still have no idea I was crying as I read to them. They don’t understand the depth of sacrifice and the beauty of the cost of a story like this. Someday they will. Someday their hearts will see the injustices and imbalances in the world and they too will ache and hurt as they observe. I hope they are ones who will sweat alongside the dirty and illiterate to learn from them and love like them. Even if they never write the book or they disappear into obscurity; if their love reaches the depths of their own children or the neighbors children and not the vast and rocky mountains in Pakistan. I love for them to hear these stories and ask the questions that follow. We talk about what love and dignity is as we read colorful and creative books from the library. Someday they will understand even more.

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The Cowboys of Cardomom Town

Oliver has fallen asleep while listening to a book on tape. I placed an ipod in his room with little speakers that held downloaded stories of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Berney. We put our TV downstairs a few months back because 1. it was an eye sore sitting like a dunce in the corner of the room. This box had no friends and was unwanted so we sent her into a room where she could sit alone in her shame. And 2. we never used her. She was unloved and we were uninterested in her. We put her on a wooden plank, covered her with a cloth so dust wouldn’t spoil her inner workings and we forgot about her. We don’t miss her at all, except that I can’t see Oprah anymore. I dig Oprah! Unashamedly I can say, “she’s my girl!” That’s another post!

The real reason we put her downstairs was because I was tired of waking up every morning to hear, “Can I watch Sesame St? Can I watch a movie? I want to watch PBS kids”. I think PBS kids is better than most of the base and glamourous television out there but I was kidding myself in thinking because they were watching Word Girl instead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Brats that they were actually learning something. I am someone who goes about the house “doing” things (cleaning, remodeling, gardening, baking) and as my kids get older I see the hunger in them to learn and devour information. They want to hear stories that burst their little imaginations. I have been getting books from the library for Oliver since he was crawling and after he was walking I was hitting the libraray weekly. Lately we go every few days. He’s still not super interested in hearing stories; the TV or computer is much more appealing to him. I have to say that laziness and passivity is much easier than engaging your mind. I know this from personal experience. I grew up on cable TV and wasted my middle school and high school years in front of reruns of Growing Pains or Perfect Strangers and movies that rock like Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. I’m not downplaying entertainment. I/we all need those moments of rest. But the average child watches not 2 or 3 but 7 hours of TV a day. That’s not including the newest addition to the 21st century, social networking!

I don’t know what our children are going to end up like. There are so many variables and we can’t, as parents, make them be who we want them to be. But I have decicede that I will read to my kids! I want them to engage their imaginations (which happens when you speak, read, and verbalize to them in a variety of forms) and to enjoy or welcome silence in our home. The constant of noise is overwhelming. Noise, noise, noise. I long for peace and laughter in our home. We hear and feel it but I want more. I want space, smells, lulling sounds rather than thunderous noise. Calm. Laughter. Singing. Playing. Reading!

I read to my kids all the time. It’s lucious for their brains; candy, honey, warm cider! They devour images, adjectives, stars and moons. As a writer I desire communication in our lives and creativity to come out of who we are. My kids won’t find their niche as they are passively led by a box who screams, “Buy this, indulge in that. Sex me up and cuss me out!” I don’t feel this deeply out of a church backed initiative. I feel pasionately as a mother who loves her kids and wants beauty to fill their minds with words that describe and communicate life in all of it’s splendor, colorfulness, pain and ugliness that real people experience. The actual world is not lived in Friends or Lavern and Shirley (shows I still laugh hardily at)! The real world is lived in Sassafras Spings and The Boys of Baraka. Here is where wonder is free to roam and the imagination is unleashed in the minds of little humans.

Chloe is often playing with her fingers, pretending they are little people. I hear her speaking lines out of stories I’ve read to her and I hear Oliver quoting passages from books he’s heard or making up the same characters from a story I’ve read him. We have many moments of ‘story time’ during the day and Chloe eats it up. Oliver is still balking every time I say, “Ok, let’s hear some stories!” but when I read he’s locked in. We read at night and all through the day. I’m also reading a book about reading to your kids. It’s silly to read a book about reading but it’s super insightful. I’m more convinced that we’re investing into our children by opening pages of new worlds that they can become lost in.

Read to your children!

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Oliver's first library card

Oliver's first library card

C-A-T spells CAT

Home schooling has a culture all it’s own. It’s a lifestyle that envelopes a mother’s world where space and knowledge is shared under the roof, at the table, out in the forest, and throughout the worm filled garden. At one moment I’ve ran towards a new model of education for my kids when all I could see were little people learning to read unashamedly at their pace and thirsting for knowledge without mockery or the dull lulls of an understaffed classroom. Just as soon as my ideals bring imaginary pictures of children hungry to learn and eager to eat up new words and their meanings, I try to implement a new idea and I’m faced with the reality that home schooling is crushing for the perfectionist and disabling for the most impatient of hearts. Then I close the !@#$%^& home schooling resource guide, throw it across the room and go back to letting children play at parks and ride scooters down the street. That’s about all the schooling I can handle.

In theory I so believe in the beauty of a home schooled child. I’ve known some strange home schooled families where all the girls wear long skirts with white socks and running shoes and seem to know how to bake cookies but don’t know any black or Hispanic people in their community. I’ve had a strange view of the home schooled child but I’m speaking more of a structure that teaches children to love learning and prepare them for living in the world.  I think it’s incredibly unfortunate when parents use Christian curriculum with the strict intent of not polluting a child’s mind with propaganda that wreaks of humanism while neglecting the classics like Latin or mythological poetry or black American history. I love the idea of children being introduced to classic education at a young age since they likely won’t receive most of that type of learning in school.

I understand not everyone can or wants to home school. I completely believe that parents can raise incredibly bright, creative, well educated,  loving and compassionate children without ever home schooling so I’m not a purist about it. I’m only writing about my life and what I would like to choose for our family. Again, I love the idea of schooling my kids at home but there have been so many impatient and intense moments where I have doubts about my ability to see this through.

The past few days I have been working with Oliver for 10 minutes at a time to sound out letters and write out three letter words. I never ask him if he wants to do it with me. He’ll always say no. I just tell him what we’re going to do. He has put his head down on the table in frustration a few times already (another perfectionist) and I’ve sighed heavily and put my hands up to my eyes when he just isn’t getting something or I can’t find the words to explain it. But we’ve also had a few moments of victory when he gets it right and his eyes light up as I shout, “Yes! You did it, boy!”

The title of an Anne Lamott book has been influential for me as I race through life trying to live it to the fullest, RIGHT NOW! I’m not a slow walker nor do I stroll confidently through the forest, hands linked behind by back without a care in the world. I race up and down my stairs to quickly get the laundry done. I weed while I’m making a phone call because I don’t like to just stand there on the phone for more than a minute or two and I multi task at every possible opportunity. In her book Anne Lemmot recalls a moment when her brother was young and put off a bird report for a class project. He waited untill the last minute to get started so naturally the panic of a sudden due date was looming. As he sat down to write, overwhelmed by the task ahead his father calmed him by saying, “Just take it bird by bird, one thing at a time until you have your report” (my paraphrase).

I realize that if I am going to do this I can’t be too much of a perfectionist about it. I really don’t even like that word, perfectionist. I prefer saying that I like to master a craft or at least do it very well. Perfectionism implies anal and uptight, which I can be at times. I do enjoy life and I see the beauty in my garden, my house, my kids and my friggin’ handsome husband. There are many things that I admire to bring rest and refreshment into my life and walking through the woods is actually one of them. But embarking on a task is a big deal for me because if I’m going to do it I’m going to fully jump in. If it’s not working out I’d like to try something else or work through it until I master it. This is how I’ve taught myself to garden, to sew, cook, bake, play music, sing (most people don’t know that I am actually quite good) and other crafts that I have learned over the years. I read, research, ask questions and I always observe. Then I try and try some more. This is what Matt admires about me. My tenacity and stick to it attitude. But you really have to take home education one step at a time. Rejoice with the small victories, step back and evaluate to make sure you have been able to teach something to your little humans and also have fun with them. It’s not always easy to do when you get stuck or you’re dealing with another little will that sits at your table wanting to make rocket sounds every time you try to ask how many beans are in the cup.

Today the boy understands that C-A-T spells cat and R-A-T spells rat. For me, today, that is good enough. We are taking home schooling bird by bird.

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