Thursday, March 31, 2011

more grace

In the mornings, she dresses herself and brushes her teeth, washes her face, fixes her hair with little matching barrettes, and makes her bed.  I never tell her to.

She is my busy little helper.  All day long, when I need something she is who I ask because she is so eager to do it.  She runs.

When we read, she is attentive.  If we learn a verse, she learns it fast.  She practices.  She never spills when she paints.  She keeps her brush clean so the watercolors don't mix.  She stays in the lines.  She avoids too much sugar.

She knows the rules and follows them.  She loves to please.

She has grown into the most obedient five year old any parent could hope for and honestly?  That just makes me want to cry.

Occasionally, if our words come out too sharp or she realizes she has failed in some way she will suddenly freeze herself with head tilted back, trying to keep the tears from falling.  She stays standing still, frozen, while I am falling apart inside, choking back tears, pulling her onto my lap and telling her it is all okay.  It is so very, very, much okay.

We see ourselves.
Both firstborns with that firstborn sense of responsibility; rule-following, approval-seeking, perfectionism.  Our guilt.  Our chronic sense of failure.
Nature or nurture?  I don't know.
We fear she got it double.

She's not perfect, of course, and on the days when she is sassy or stubborn, on those rare moments when she makes a mess or breaks the rules or just refuses to do something I find myself thinking Yes! and wanting to hug her, to tell her that she can break every. single. stinking. rule and that we will still love love love her.  No matter what.

I give this one more grace.  I hug her hard.  I let little things and sometimes big things slide.  I try to affirm her heart and spirit more than her performance, to say I love you often, to cheer her on, especially when she is imperfect.

I want to nurture that strong will of hers.  I hope that she will break the rules sometimes.  I want to give her such a solid sense of self, of grace and acceptance, of love and kindness that she will be guided by her heart, even when it leads her outside the lines.  I am going to work hard to teach her that she has permission to say no . . . and other things.

I am going to keep trying to learn this, too.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  Col.1:2

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blink, book review and a link for Lent

I just finished Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell.   It was an interesting and enlightening book.  This is the first book by Gladwell that I have read, and really enjoyed the way that he can tell data and facts in story form that keeps you hooked.

He never calls it intuition, rather Gladwell gives scientific evidence to show that the initial reactions we have in the first two seconds of an experience are often more correct than more thought-through decisions, the reason being that in the first instant our mind gathers only the most important information, leaving us with a "gut" reaction, whereas too much information may pollute our decision-making.  The book is a series of scientific studies and actual events, but told as quickly-moving stories and fun to read.

I was interested in the subject because I think that learning to hear that voice inside you- the still, quiet deep down truth- is one of the most difficult things to learn to trust.  The theory in the book is a little foggy, because there are some examples when the opposite is true and the first reaction is a wrong one, and so I don't think that there is actually a practical methods for decision making, other than to help you to pay closer attention to your gut, and also to show some ways that too much information may be unfair or damaging.

Although I cannot argue with the science, I am curious about the role that intuition plays- the things that you just know that you know, without really knowing why you know it.  I also wondered when you should trust your instinct and when you should rely on logic- this is one conclusion he gives in the afterword, a quote by Freud: "When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons.  In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves.  In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature."

A good link on Lent:

The Season of Lent at Sit a Spell
Until a few years ago, our family had never really thought much about Advent or Lent.  We're Baptist.  To be honest, those things sounded a little cookey to us.  We can be ridiculous that way.  . . . 

We were the first to admit that like Christmas, Easter would sort of land on us.  We'd walk into church, our hearts unprepared, and then try and take in within one church service the complexities and rich beauty of the cross and the resurrection.  Impossible.  We left kind of numb.  Perhaps a tad-bit moved.  But mostly overwhelmed and feeling a little let down.  Just as celebrating Advent completely changed Christmas for us, taking the weeks prior to Easter to really savor the story of Jesus' death and resurrection has been life changing.

(good links here, too)

Monday, March 21, 2011

finding our rhythm

It's taken us a while to find our rhythm,
to feel our days begin to flow
in our new place.

Lately I've been working on a schedule.
I know.
It is time for the Stock family to be on a schedule. 
And I thought I would share it here because,
what the heck,
there isn't much else happening in this space.

I've not even attempted a schedule for the past year.
It is easier, with babies, to just go with the flow
no expectations
that way I'm not frustrated.
But now the baby is one year
she is learning how to sleep (heh).
Life is still full
but it's steadier
more predictable
in our new location.
(Which means we stay home a lot.)
Because let's be honest-
I'm not exactly turning down playdates or anything.
I've thought about stalking chick-fil-a
passing out will you be my friend tracts?
I really like our new pediatrician,
I like to think of her as my friend
(she doesn't know this yet).
This is getting creepy.
And completely off-track.
Besides, I finally met Jo
my first Cleveland friend-
though she feels like an old friend
because I've followed her blog for so long.
And she's just a sweet and smart and fun in person
as she is on her blog.
Go read her blog.
It's way more interesting than what day I clean the bathrooms
which is what I am about to tell you.
I prefer the term Rhythm.
Because we don't follow the clock,
it's less guilt-inducing and
easier for my artist-brain to accept.

So here's our rhythm*:

(I've been tweaking this
and it still doesn't always work-
like today,
the baby only took one nap,
then Annie woke her up
blah blah blah
but anyway when it does work,
it works really well. 
And even when it doesn't work,
at least it gives me a handle on our week
what most needs to be done,
it gives time for everything.
I notice that the kids like the consistency.
I do too, even.

First, the week:
Mondays are for recovering from the weekend.
I do laundry, get the house in order, get us back into a rhythm.
The rest of the days vary:
One day is a cleaning day, when I let the kids watch t.v. and be on the computer more than usual, and my only goal is to clean the house from top to bottom.
One day is our errands day.  We get groceries, go to story time at the library.  If I need to make appointments I make them for this day.
One day is for friends or fun.
One day is a floater, for whatever I need it to be.

Then, my loose plan for the kids:
Monday: arts and crafts or baking
Tuesday: "school"-thematic
Wednesday: story time at the library
Thursday: "school"- writing, letters, numbers, colors
Friday: fun, of course!  Do something big and messy, go somewhere, etc.
*This is just a general plan.  It gives me something to fall back on so that at the spur of the moment I don't have to do a lot of thinking.  I keep a ton of art and preschool ideas bookmarked, if I have the time we may do something organized, or I might just wing it. 

And here is our daily schedule
ahem, Rhythm
in case you care-
and aren't over at Mylestones by now-
which is where you really should be . . .

6:00-ish I get up, have quiet time, start the laundry- ideally, alone
Everybody wakes up, gets lots of hugs and kisses.
(I used to struggle with having a morning quiet time when they get up so darn early,
*I still do*
but I am trying to teach them to begin the day with quiet, too.
So while I have my quiet time they need to be quiet.  
If Josie ever sleeps through the night I will begin to wake up earlier again so that I can have alone time in the morning which I love and is totally worth getting up early for).
8:00 Breakfast, clean-up, everyone get dressed, make beds, laundry
9:30 Baby's morning nap, (see, this already needs revision) big kids play, I work
10:30-ish when kids begin to need me we do something together, based on our weekly plan
12:00 lunch, clean-up, go outside, reading time
2:00 quiet time/naps (IhopeIhopeIhope)
(For quiet time the girls are in separate rooms and allowed to choose something from the "quiet time" closet-- puzzles, beads, etc.)
3:00 kids have t.v. time*, I begin supper prep, listen to fresh air
4:30 clean-up toys, set the table for dinner (everybody helps)
5:30-7:00 Jim home, dinner, nightly news, clean-up, play
7:00 baths, books, cuddle
8:00-8:30 bedtime

*my one rule:
I hardly ever will wake a sleeping baby or interrupt a child who is happily playing,
no matter what time it is.
**I wish there were no t.v. in our days, but because my kids don't nap I let them watch pbs in the afternoon because it's the only way to get them to rest (and me a break).
**Things I'd like to add: regular Godly play and daily art
(If you're still here reading this you deserve a consolation prize: 
go read this- "Go to the Limits of Your Longing". . . it is beautiful.)

I write a weekly "Mom's Life" column for the Sugarcreek newspaper, the Budget, but I don't share it here because it's not online, and who wants to read my 800 word blog post?  Lately however it seems this is the only consistent writing I do so I've thought about sharing portions here.   

Last week I wrote on scheduling, and invoked the help of my friends to tell me their schedules.  I got lots of good ideas, and it really helped me to think through our days and priorities.  Thanks especially Ashley and Kristi for the great suggestions!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book 5 and a half

So 2011 is NOT off to a good start for reading.

The Pillars of the Earth . .. Ok, seriously?  Why didn't anybody warn me that I was about to begin a tome this violent?  I invested 466 pages . . . 466 pages! before I gave up and quit.  The story was really interesting, I just couldn't take one more rape or beheading.

I had to cleanse my brain after that and so I picked up Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani.  It was part of a stack of books someone had given me, and not one that I was all-too eager to read, but I was pleasantly surprised!  What I expected to be cheesy-chick lit was actually a delightful read.

The story takes place in 1950's Manhattan, and Lucia is "the most beautiful girl in Greenwich Village."  She is torn between her career as a seamstress, which she loves, and her many suitors.  I especially loved the visual element in this book, and enjoyed "living" in her warm, lively Italian home and seeing fashion and design through her eyes, as well as the themes of feminism, love, and home.  A really fun book!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shrove Tuesday

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent.

It is not in the tradition I was raised to observe the Liturgical Year, but I have for years found myself drawn to the rhythm, symbolism, and historical roots of the Church seasons, as many in my generation are.

This year I sense a particular readiness to enter into a season of prayer and repentance.  I feel spiritually drained . . . flabby . . . dull.  Although we are called to die daily, a specific season focused on self-denial and confession feels necessary, welcome, even.

I do not have any heroic plans, just to try to live soberly and simply, to give up things like coffee and chocolate and extra sweets, to be especially focused on holiness, prayer and Bible reading.   In addition to the things I am denying there are things I would like to focus on taking up, like generosity and mercy and to be quiet and open to the Spirit.

My plans for our Fat Tuesday dinner were for Jim to pick up Paczki on his way home for work, but he ended up leaving work to join us in the Emergency Room instead.  Josie had a slight fever, which I wasn't really too concerned about, and as I was rocking her to sleep in the afternoon she suddenly stiffened and went into a seizure.  I have never been so frightened.  I called 911, the ambulance arrived and took all four of us to the hospital.  Josie is fine, they think the seizure is related to her fever spiking and probably viral.

Anytime something like this happens I think how thankful I am to live in a country with quality, accessible medical care and what a gift doctors and nurses are.

The girls enjoyed the ride in the ambulance, and I was so proud of them- Sami quickly put shoes and coats on herself and Annie, they both were calm and so reliable all afternoon.

We didn't get Paczki but we indulged on pancakes at IHOP after.