Friday, August 22, 2014

Drinking coffee with a head cold

I've been struck down my a wicked summer cold for the past five days. I sit here sniffling, head aching, trying to get the thoughts that are clogged in my head down on paper before the inspiration is gone. I'm on my second cup of perfectly brewed, fair trade and organic Ethiopian coffee and I can barely taste it. But still, I measure and pour precisely. All the makings are there for the most delicious cup, but I can't taste it because of my summer cold. 

And there it is. My faith is often like drinking coffee with a head cold. 

Each morning I wake and pray, straight away. Right when my eyes open, before looking to the right at the glowing numbers on the clock, before pressing the home button on my phone to see if I have any emails or texts that need attention. My eyes open, I stretch and release the slumber, and start my morning conversation with the Lord. Honestly, it's usually a string of thoughts and blessings and thankfulness and requests and then it's up and out of bed and off to precisely measure and scoop and brew and sip before the children wake up. 

Since I've started seeking a more intimate relationship with the Lord, I have been trying to make sense of my past, trying to understand why I make the decisions that I do. 

Before we moved back to the States from Japan a friend invited me over for a glass of wine. I happily obliged, enjoying the hour of freedom, sitting and chatting with a lovely lady. She mentioned that she was celebrating this weekend because it had been one year since something terrible had happened to her, and instead of wallowing in the remembrance she wanted to celebrate that it was behind her; make that same day, one year later, one that was full of fun and laughter instead of confusion and tears and hurt. 

As she shared her story from one year ago, I found myself nodding, listening and, all of the sudden, remembering. This same thing had happened to me almost 15 years before. It wasn't a repressed memory, just a forgotten one. And I wondered "Why wasn't I outraged when this happened? Why didn't I tell someone other than my 17 year old friends?". I have been praying about this event, asking the Lord to lead me to the lesson I am meant to learn from it. 

That's the thing with stories of hurt. It's hard to tell them without sounding like a victim or without blaming others. This is a story I want to share to show where it eventually lead me. To show how the Lord used this event, used that evening of conversation and wine with a friend, used my morning prayers... to lead me to the answers I was seeking. My 'A-Ha!' moment in prayer. 

But it's hard to tell of a-ha's without telling the story. And so I will share. After 15 years I hope I share facts and not hurt feelings, events and not blame. Because this event was woven with so many others that shaped my spiritual journey, right up to this morning during prayer. And it's a story I want to share, in hopes that I might understand it even more. 

This is a story about how trying to walk with the Lord without trust is like drinking coffee when you have a summer cold. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was my junior year of high school. I had been dating my boyfriend, my FIRST EVER boyfriend, for a few months. It was all fresh love, puppy eyed and idealistic. My beau was away for the weekend on a school trip and I was spending time with one of my best friends from my church youth group.

My parents had been divorced since I was in the seventh grade. I lived with my Dad, but at this point both of my sisters were seeing their now husbands and my Dad was spending most of his waking and sleeping moments with his now wife. I was usually home alone. Always the goodie goodie, it never occurred to me that I could get away with a heck of a whole lot with little to no parental supervision at home. The worst I would usually do was stay out past curfew.

This particular weekend happened to be the Friday before my SAT's. And my friend from youth group invited me over to his buddies house to watch a movie. He went to a different school, where he was popular. He hung out with the cool kids, and I was more than a little intimidated walking into the home of the rock start soccer player. We enter the kitchen and there he was... the fella I had a crush on since my freshman year. He was a year older and very popular. I was pretty sure he didn't know I existed, but here we were, in the same social setting, because of mutual friends from a different high school.

Someone pulled out the lemon vodka and started mixing drinks. Always the goodie goodie, I had never really had much to drink besides a sip here and a sip there. I take the shot of straight vodka that is handed to me (and the ones that followed), not wanting to seem uncool to the soccer playing studs from the other high school, let alone the popular kid from my school whom I had crushed on in a real way for years.

(SIDE NOTE: Who the heck did I think I was drinking vodka for the first time the night before my SATs?! I was enormously hung over and barely made it to the test the next morning. I kept falling asleep mid problem. And then, the fates smiled down on me and SOMEONE CALLED IN A BOMB THREAT. No joke. The test was canceled and rescheduled a few weekends later. I mean, what the heck, y'all. Did that really happen?!)

Anyway, back to the story.

I remember my friend driving me home. I remember not being surprised that no one from my family was home. I remember falling asleep in my light wash Express jeans and aqua colored Roxy shirt with the yellow wave across the front.

And then I remember waking up with someone in my bed. Someone kissing me. Someone's hand down my pants. I remember feeling pain.  I remember seeing the face of the popular kid from my school, the one that I had the crush on for what seemed like and eternity. I remember saying 'If you can tell me my first and last name, you can stay.' I remember watching him walk out of my house.

And the thing that I was most worried about was 'What am I going to tell my boyfriend? What if he gets mad at me because of what happened.'

I never told my parents what happened. I did tell my boyfriend, and he was mad, but not at me. I told my girlfriends, who had to fill me in on why I was probably sore, what his hands were probably doing to me while they were down my pants. I had no idea that people did that. Always a goodie goodie, I was not a very sexually active teen. Hands were for holding.

As my friend from Japan was telling me about her experience, I started to become outraged for her. I was shocked that she did not demand justice and that she did not do everything she could to see that jerk burned at the stake. And then I started to become outraged that I MYSELF didn't do anything when the same exact thing had happened to me when I was still, basically, a child.

Like I said, this was not a repressed memory. It happened, and I dealt with it the way my 17 year old self knew how to deal with it. And since my friend told me her story, which caused me to remember that the same thing had happened to me, it's been on my mind. I think about it almost every day, praying to understand what I am meant to learn from that event almost 15 years ago.

This morning started like all of my other mornings. Wake. Stretch. Release slumber. Pray. The memory of that night started to lurk in my peripheral thought. And then I heard it as if the Lord was laying right next to me, whispering the word.

Trust.

After all that I have been through, I feel the need to protect others from my pain. I don't want sympathy or to be made to feel like a victim. And I don't want to sacrifice the relationships I have now with people who have been the cause of pain in the past. And I don't trust that anyone can really take care of me or my feelings or my past hurts. I want to be strong, and to handle my problems on my own rather than to be let down by others or worse, burden them.

I take things that have happened to me and I hoard them. I tuck the pain away in a little pocket and call it handled. It eventually pokes back out, and I have to quietly shove it back in. Or, sometimes, the hurt and pain stain the pocket that they are tucked away in, leaving a stain on my mood. My character. My overall SELF. Stained from years of pain and hurts stuffed deep inside of me, in a little pocket where the seams are ripping and tattered.

And then I hear the whisper. Trust.

I pray for a deep relationship with the Lord. I yearn for closeness. I read the bible, I read words by people much smarter than me. I perfectly measure and pour and brew, waiting for the perfect cup of coffee.

But as I hoard my pain and my hurt, I am not trusting in the sovereign grace that was granted to me by the Lord.

Trying to walk with the Lord without fully trusting him is like drinking coffee with a head cold. All of the makings are there for a perfect cup of coffee, but you can't taste it. All the makings are there for me to walk side by side with the Lord, he's waiting for me, but if I don't trust him fully and give all of my pain to him, then I am not experiencing the relationship the way that He made me to.

And I see this beautifully woven story before me. How my past met with my present, how it took a new meaning when I looked at it through prayer. And how the Lord gently whispered to me 'If you want to walk with me, you have to trust me. Give me your pain, give me your hurt. Trust.'







Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chronic is as chronic does: How To Survive A Heart Condition


I have explained the story of my heart and I have even been the subject of various articles in medical journals... LOOK! It's my INSIDES!


 Even though I know my medical history front ways, sideways, backwards and forwards... I still find myself living mostly in denial that there is something different about the way heart works. I like my life with my head in the sand about reality. Able to rattle off my medical history as if it were from a book I had just read; a character I can relate to, but events that didn't really happen to ME.

The problem with this approach is that when I have days where I feel really and totally crummy, I can't handle it. It's like I have to re-learn that I have an actual condition which means I might feel an actual symptom or two from time to time. 

I had a pretty good run of feeling great. With my head planted firmly in the sand, I was able to work with a personal trainer, started taking yoga classes on top of what I do on my own at home, and even worked with a Pilates instructor on a reformer. 

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I can't stand up without blacking out. My hearing is the first to go, followed shortly by my vision. But I am a pro at not fainting; I can correct my position so I don't come crashing down. And even though this has happened countless times before, even though I know it's happening because I've gone into some strange heart rhythm, I act surprised. Completely taken aback that I can't go to my Pilates lesson because I can't get off the sofa without fear of playing out the scene from Steel Magnolias; Julia Roberts' character found by her husband, unconscious on the floor, baby crying next to her limp body. 

And so, after two weeks of feeling like my heart is not beating strong enough to power my body, feeling breathless, like there's not enough air in the room, I'm starting to feel better. 

My feet are planted on the ground, head out of the sand, and I'm determined to learn the lesson this time. 

I don't want to hear, let alone preach, the bumper sticker gospel of 'God will only give you what He knows you can handle'. But I do believe that there is a lot to be learned in living with a chronic health condition. I see that I need humility. I need patience. I need grace and understanding of my weaknesses. I pray for all these things.

I don't pray for God to heal me; I pray for the ability to handle my reality. To look it dead in the eye and say 'I've got this'. 

The sand is no place for anyone's head, weather you stuck it there to avoid eye contact with a chronic health condition, a toxic friendship, problems with your marriage... it's suffocating in the sand. The best we can hope for is deep breaths, standing tall, facing whatever it is you think you have to avoid-- with all the grace and strength invested in you by the Holy Spirit. Put that on a bumper sticker.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and he heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I'm not very smart about life, but I'm really smart about muffins

You know what I never considered myself to be? A planner. Or someone who needs order and organization. I take pride in my ability to pack for a vacation the night before we depart (much to the chagrin of dear husband) and my laissez faire approach to life, in general. 

But somewhere along the lines I have gone and done a complete 180. Give me order or give me death. And things are so unorganized in our lives right now that I am grasping at straws to find peace. People.... I started writing things down in a planner. A PLANNER. I am a stay at home mom, for pete's sake. Monday looked like this.

Morning
- Feed Children. (BOOM. Check. I am so organized)

Mid Morning
- Take Noah to swim lessons (No check here. This was my one outing and I failed. Planner, why won't  you motivate me?! Note to self in margin; writing it down does not mean I will do it.)

Afternoon
- Go outside for hours on end. (Done-ski. Check.)

Evening
- Feed Children. (Half check. Reheating leftovers that they refuse to eat does not really count. The zillions of carrot sticks and apples that they ate as a compromise sort of do. Meh.)

When things get wonky, I become crazy obsessive about planning planning and preparing. I meant to write planning twice, because that word does not fully envelop what I do. Saying it twice comes close. But I digress...

You see, we are wonky over in the Ro house. Jeff has been applying and interviewing for a different position in the DoD that would move us back to the US. And there have been interviews! And we are hopeful! But... we are still waiting to hear about the position that he really wants; the location that would put us closer to family. There is an opportunity to move to Hawaii, and we are so grateful that it's even an option. 

But it makes me wonky and plan plan. 

I'm not very smart about life. 

I plan plan for the unknown, which is exhausting. I stop living in the now to plan the perfect tomorrow. I look for houses in any of the cities we could possibly live in online, research neighborhoods, poll my friends who have lived in Hawaii about the pros and the cons. Hours go by and I'm so flustered by my unplanned tomorrow that I forget to do what I planned today. Like take my kid to swim lessons. 

When I get to that point in my planning, the point where my insides feel shaky and uncertain, the point where I look around and realize that my today is a mess and, despite all my planning, my tomorrow is still unknown, I bake. I pray and I bake. 

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

There are two things I am certain will always calm me; the Word and the smell of fresh, sweet muffins cooling on my counter. 

(My very cluttered and unorganized-because-I'm-planning-my-future counter. Ahem.)

I have been day dreaming recipes to replace my go-to fall and winter pumpkin muffins that we love so much. This morning I woke early, determined to get my obsessive web searching over with before the kids rose. Instead, I gathered ingredients and measured and mixed and poured until the batter felt and smelled just right. I took deep yoga breaths with each turn of the spatula in my bowl (never a bad idea when there's sugar and lemon and strawberry involved) and I prayed for patience with the process. Our life process. With this season and all the others. 

I may not be smart about life, but I'm really smart about muffins.


Strawberry Lemon Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour (I used a mix of whole wheat and cashew meal, but any combo would work)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar, divided 
2 eggs
1/2 can coconut milk
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups fresh strawberries (or frozen, defrosted and drained)

Mix your flour, baking soda, salt and 1/4 a cup of the sugar. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat your eggs, then add the coconut milk. Zest and juice your lemon into the coconut mixture. 

In a blender or food processor, puree your strawberries with the last 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir this into the coconut mixture. 

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet. Slowly stir until just combined. Take deep breaths and pray, (be sure to thank the dear, sweet Lord for the smell of sugar and lemon and strawberry. He's genius like that.)

Grease your preferred muffin tins with your preferred greasing agent. Pour batter so tins are 2/3rds full. 

Bake at 350. 15 minutes for mini and 20 for regular. 


I will say that I DO plan on eating these tomorrow. Because they are healthy and heavenly and Jesus would want it that way. But I do not plan on planning planning. Because it's not healthy and heavenly and Jesus would want it that way. 

Top of the muffin to your unplanned tomorrow! 





Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pleasing all the peoples

Noah was standing at the bottom of the slide at the playground, crying. Calling for his friend, his voice quivered and broke under the strain of holding back tears. It was a scene not unlike many others; a kid at the park was being a bully. 

Like other times before with different bullies, the meaner this little guy was the more Noah sought his playful attention. I pull Noah aside and asked him what is going on; his response is almost always the same:

"I just love my friend *insert name here* and want to play with him/her so bad! He/she is my good friend."

With a little help from this (self proclaimed and proud of it) helicopter mama, the kids usually figure it out. Thus far I have managed not to threaten a young child, but holy cow, does a bully make my blood boil. 

The thing that always confuses me is that Noah WANTS to play with these kids that are hurting his feelings. They will be actively saying unkind things, and Noah will still respond with a plea for play. 

After the park, when Noah and Amelia were busy playing at home, I called a girlfriend to vent about the afternoon. After my diatribe and my exasperated, "I just don't understand why he WANTS to play with these children that are so mean!" my friend laughs, saying "Well, gee, I wonder where he gets it from?"

____________________

I am a people pleaser. I have been since I was a little girl. This is a character trait that I have always loved about myself, however, somewhere along the lines it has changed from 'I just want the people around me to be happy' to 'I just want the people around me to accept me'. 

My Noah is a pleaser of the people; he, too, wants those around him to be happy. When there is conflict over play time with a peer, Noah is usually the first to cave; to concede his ideas for playtime to those of his playmate. And I realized that my friend was right... and now I am faced with a whole lot more self evaluation than I was expecting after an afternoon at the park! 

I have never once felt like I have low self esteem. However, as I pray over why I put pleasing the peoples over my own needs and feelings, I was struck with the reality that I often times feel like I am not enough. 

The friend that is inconsistent (at best) and self involved (at worst): I find myself bring fresh baked goodies, while forgiving slights and snubs. All because I need affirmation that I am enough. 

The abusive boyfriend: I forgive the temper, the punched out walls, the projectile picture frames. All because I need affirmation that I am enough. 

When did I start looking to other people for affirmation? When did being a pleaser of the people cross the threshold into being a doormat? 

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

This. This is everything. Remembering that

God

Created 

Me

 gives me strength to stop trying to please the people when it comes with a personal cost. To let go of the people that hurt me. I might not ever be 'enough' in their eyes, but theirs are not the Eyes that matter. 

My prayer for both of my children is that they feel such self confidence and worth through Jesus Christ, that when they hear a kid say "I don't want to play with you!" at the park, they shrug their shoulders and let it go. Don't please the bullies; please God. Please those who see how wonderful you are. Be affirmed in this truth; God created you, fearfully and wonderfully, and that is all the affirmation you need. 





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Seeking

I have spoken before about my faith. It is no secret that I tend to have an open mind about other religions and, certainly, social issues. 

But...

For some time now, there has been a whispering. A fleeting feeling that ignites my nerves, leaving them tingling with anticipation; like the seconds before an embrace with an old friend you haven't seen in a long time. 

And I knew the voice behind the whisper. I knew the warmth from the embrace.  

Psalm 9:10

10 Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you

One of my dearest friends sent me this passage. She didn't know that it was my favorite; one that was highlighted and underlined and prayed over, time and time again, in my beloved and tattered bible when I was in high school. 

Last week another of my dearest friends-- my oldest and my best-- sent me this picture:


It's a flower she picked during a mission trip with our youth group one summer. My flower was being pressed in my old and tattered bible, on the page with the prayed over lines of Psalm 9. That bible has long since been gone; a casualty of an abusive relationship, thrown in the dumpster to hurt me. 

But I still remember the way its thin, dried petals felt between my fingers as I closed my eyes in prayer. I still remember the Wednesday night of that mission trip, where the entire sanctuary was filled with the presence of God. I remember crying to our youth leader, "When I lost God, you helped me find him."

For these remembrances and for the whispering. For the longing for that embrace with an old friend. For the promise made in Psalm 9:10...

I am seeking.


_____________________

The story of my walk with Jesus is still unfolding. The story of how I got to where I am now is one I want to tell. I am praying for the words and my own understanding of the past, but have big plans for a pen and some paper once my story is ready to be told. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bad on paper: A Mom Resume Revolution

This is a call to revolution; a cry to those whose nine to five is more like a five to nine (as in years. Back to back days and hours. Never ending.) 

The stay at home parent. 

I recently started to revamp my resume; a preemptive move for a job search, should we actually ever move back to the United States from Japan.

And it struck me as ridiculous that there is no way to quantify the work I have done for the past five years as a parent into something that would make me a desirable candidate for a professional career. 

It's almost cliche to mention how under appreciated the stay at home parent really is. And I'm not talking about the fact that I have not eaten a full plate ('Mom! I want a bite of YOURS!') of my own meal, that I chose to cook because it's what I wanted; not because it's something I knew my picky eater would consume. Or about the fact that I have not taken a shower in I don't know how long without a little head popping in to ask a question or share a story or  tell me they neeeeeed me rightnowrightnowrightnow. Or that the piles of laundry and dishes and toys and books and craft mess is endless. That's the life of any parent, wheather they work or stay at home. 

This is about the fact that there is no apparent way society values the skills you learn, beyond the domestic, when you are a parent. 

I am considering rewriting my resume to include skills such as,

- can calmly diffuse multiple heated situations (read: tantrums) while maintaining personal integrity, all while working towards accomplishing a common goal. (i.e. living with any number of little humans who have big feelings and opinions. And by personal integrity I mean sanity and by common goals I mean bed time. If this person isn't manager material, I don't know who is)

- keen sense of anticipating a problem and finding a solution before the other party is wise to any issue at hand (read: any parent at any given time while out of the house. Arsenal of distractions and snacks in the diaper/mom bag are optional. If I were ever need to hire a PR rep or an agent, I would hope they could handle themselves as well as a parent on an outing with a five and two year old)

- facilitated negotiations which lead to a satisfactory and desirable outcome for both parties. (i.e. potty training. I feel like if you can get a toddler to poop in the toilet, you should probably just be handed a law degree) 

If during an interview I was asked to describe a difficult work situation/project and how I overcame it, my response NOW would be far different than what it would have been BEFORE I had kids. Also, the response now would be more honest and would involve a whole lot more of my true self than that of my 'before children' self. Of course, a situation/project from work is not likely to mean as much to you as a situation/project with your children. But what you learn about yourself from any situation is what defines you; it is what makes you YOU and what makes YOU the perfect fit for a job. What does it matter if you learned how to manage different types of personalities at the playground rather than a conference room? 

But, as it were, you can not apply these sorts of skills to the professional ranks. And so when asked what your career has been for the past several years, you check the box; stay at home parent. And that's all there is room for. No room for the explanation that in raising children, you yourself were raised above and beyond your former self. You learned how to care and how to do things with meaning. Shouldn't those be the qualities an employer is looking for? 

I find my self worth in so many things, the last thing I 'need' is a fluffy and fancy resume that would be my ticket into the office to sit in front of the desk to answer the interview questions to get the job; I just wish society found stay at home parents just as worthy. 

And so, I am working on my Mom Resume. And, truly and honestly, I will send that bad boy out, cover letter and all, in hopes that someone, somewhere, will find the worth and value in the lady who can simultaneously wipe the rear of one child while breastfeeding the other (all while ordering a pizza over the phone) without loosing her cool. 











Thursday, February 27, 2014

Food in Japan: Attack your snacks.

Ahh, the first post of what I hope will become a regular series:

Food in Japan. 

There are so many beautiful and breathtaking and curious and wonderful things about Japan. Right up there on the list is the food. 

And it's not what you're thinking. 

Sure, I loved a good sushi roll (or ten) over a glass of wine (or ten) with my girlfriends when I was in college. And my naive little self thought that it would be 'awesome-girlfriend-sushi-night!' every day once we moved to Japan. Then I arrived; pregnant with morning sickness that could rival a junkie on day three of meth detox. Nauseous and throwing up all day in a country that smells like fish. 

But I had to be a good gaijin! I had to eat all the fish! Fatty tuna! Fatty Salmon! And... wait a minute... why isn't it rolled up with scallions and and cream cheese and where is the decorative drizzle of that mayonnaise based deliciousness? And does that menu really say 'chicken womb'?!

Don't get me wrong; now that the childbearing time in my life is no more, I will indulge in the authentic (and culinarily supreme) sushi that is sold all over Japan. However, during those first couple of years when I was making and having babies, fish in Japan was not my jam. 

When we lived in Misawa, our neighbor would go fishing on the weekends and bring us back fresh squid. He invited us over and demonstrated how to properly cut the slippery cephalopod and how to use every part of the thing. You eat it all; some raw, some cooked. My legs wobbled, and my mouth watered from fighting the very intense and very real urge to vomit all over their bamboo cutting board. 

It was somewhere between my first experience at a kaiten sushi and watching our neighbor (whose name, ironically, is Misawa) separate the mantle from the funnel of the squid that I became… opinionated.

And I was totally in the closet about it. Jeff would invite me to lunch or dinner with his coworkers and I would go, reluctantly. I would scan the menu, select the safe entree and avoid those that seemed suspect. But all the while I was secretly in anxious agony, completely expecting a my gut to flip flop at any moment. But I would smile and act excited about the wonderful opportunity to eat authentic Japanese cuisine while living in Japan. I couldn't let on that my palate wasn't up to par; how gaijin can you get!?  

One particular evening Jeff and I were invited to a celebratory affair at a very Japanese (as in, usually do not serve Westerners… we were with Jeff's Japanese friends and this was the only reason we were granted entry) establishment; fugu was the main attraction. 

Being a once in a life time opportunity, and not wanting to offend our hosts, I did partake in the fugu gamble. And it was not bad at all. And it didn't kill me. Dinner WIN. 

After almost six years of living in Japan, I can honestly say that I now am one of those people who rave about the food. I have come a long way from the flip flopping tummy; once I got over myself (and my gag reflex) I was able to really appreciate all the wonderfulness around me. 

I didn't go all total emersion; I started small. Baby steps to loving the Japanese-way-of-eating.  

If you want to learn to love a different cultures cuisine, start with the snacks. 

Walk into any connivence store, market, grocer, train station… all over Japan in all the different stores there are all sorts of SNACKS. Just grab a pack, any pack, and give it a try! 


These little corn puffs are snacking perfection. I love every thing about them; texture, flavor and packaging. Although, that peanut man lied to me… there was not a single peanut in that bag. Nonetheless, I am in love with this caramel corn (sweet corn puffs; not popcorn). To the point where, if I could, I would have a third child just to to name him or her Tohato. 

Don't judge me. I am Frito name my imaginary third child after a Japanese snack food if I want.

So, if you find yourself in a foreign land, intimidated by the gastronomic selections… just go for the snacks. You will build confidence in selecting new things, and chips are almost universally delicious. Before you know it, you will be ordering off of a menu written entirely in a different language, asking the waiter to bring you whatever the chef recommends.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

If you're going to make a kid, make them weird

Hands down one of the most unexpected joys of becoming a parent: witnessing your child's developing personality. 

I could talk about how unique every soul is. I could talk about how we are perfectly designed to be the way God intended us to be. And that is all poetic and beautiful and so on and so forth....

However (and take note, parents) now is the time to teach your child how to be the fun and funny sort of human you would choose to spend time with, outside of genetic obligation. 

Kids are impressionable, and if you say 'comin' atcha!' enough times, then one day they will make your heart swell with pride and your eyes swell with tears of laughter when they say just that. 

I'm still working on proper application of the comin' atcha in conjunction with the use of air guns, but I don't want to put too much emphasis on that; they are only 5 and 2.5 years of age. I'm not asking for advanced hilarious weirdos, just above average. 

Honestly, I really am striving to teach my children to think off the beaten path. To ask silly questions and come up with off the wall responses. To see magic in the mundane. 

On a car ride the other day, as Noah was thoughtfully looking out the window, he turned to me and asked 'Mom, are my undies drunk?'.

I love imagining what his thought process was before he asked this ridiculous question. He overheard a conversation I was having with a friend about a drunk driver; and his undies do have cars on them. Could that be it? How would you respond to that question? Do you go into an off the cuff lesson on past and present tenses? Do you talk about responsible alcohol consumption? 

(For the curios, I asked if his undies would like some lemonade. I jokingly explained they would drink the lemonade, they drank the lemonade, and then the lemonade was drunk. This seemed to satisfy is silly question.)

This afternoon, Noah was talking about the Hulk. He was talking a mile a minute when he suddenly slowed, obviously thinking, and said to me 'He is back to Bruce. He calmed down. He must be doing yoga.' This train of thought tickled me pink. 

And when he saw that I enjoyed his little antidote he was so proud. I hope that, in listening to him and expressing my joy in him, he feels comfortable sharing his creative thinking with me and then the world. 

Far too often, people (even adult people, not just child people) fear they will look ridiculous or silly if they show their creative ways of thinking. And maybe that is the case in certain crowds. But if parents teach their children that it is ok to be silly, it's ok to be creative and to think outside of the box... then soon we will have a whole society of little, creative, funny weirdos. And how amazing would that be?

So, for the sake of humanity... if you are going to make a kid, make them weird. 







Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Get your School on... at home. Some call it Homeschooling... whatever.

If you have been reading this blog since its inception (or if we are friends on FaceBook... or in Real Life... heck, even if we just met at the park...) then you likely know the trials  and tribulations we have experienced when it comes to Noah and his speech development. And you likely have heard me celebrate when a milestone is reached or marvel in his accomplishments and sweet, sweet soul. 

Noah has been attending a preschool here on Ikego Base called PSCD (Preschool Child Development) since he was three years old. It is for children, ages three to pre-k, who would benefit from services in one area or another; speech, occupational therapy etc. He has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) based off of his current goals and the areas (speech, social, fine or gross motor)  that he needs to work on. Each year his teachers, other professionals that work with him and myself meet to go over his past goals, talk about his progress, and set new goals for the school year. There are parent/teacher conferences along the way, and, obviously, daily reports. 

Noah has now graduated from speech therapy. He still attends PSCD and very much enjoys going to school and playing with his friends. He is working on a lot of kindergarten prep alongside his sweet classmates, many who have been in the program with him since they were three years old as well. It has been nothing but GOOD for him and I adore and appreciate the teachers and professionals that have helped Noah come out of his shell and not only thrive, but be 'seen'. 

With all that said, however, there is a part of me that feels like Noah is now ready for a bit more of a challenge. Therefore, after much soul searching and evaluating and re-evaluating my reasoning... I have decided to start Homeschooling Noah.

And, wouldn't you know, I have opinions, y'all. 

First of all, I don't plan on taking Noah out of the PSCD program unless I am told to. There are several new three year olds in the program who started after the new year that require a lot of attention from the teachers. And since Noah no longer 'needs' services there is a chance they might tell us he no longer qualifies. 

However, I did not enroll Noah in PSCD just so he could work with a speech therapist. Beyond Noah TALKING, this has also been an invaluable life experience for my little guy. He is around so many different types of personalities at school. So he has learned how to get a long with all sorts of different people. He has seen good behavior and bad behavior and can recognize how bad behavior makes him and others feel... therefore he is mindful towards having good behavior himself. 

And, when next school year does roll around and Noah is ready to start Kindergarten, I am pretty sure that I will still send him to public school. All for the same reasons I mentioned above. I feel like, at least for my little guy, that the social and life skills that are learned from being a part of a group dynamic can not be replicated at home.

So why am I saying that I am Homeschooling?

Really, every mindful parent schools their children at home. You help with homework, you solve problems, you are involved in their education. To think that schooling starts and ends with a bell in a building is foolish and discounts the influence you have on your child as their parent.

So, when I say I am going to start Homeschooling, really I am just using a curriculum created for homeschooling families to supplement what he is already getting from his teachers at school. 

No matter where we are living, what school we are zoned to, what teacher my child is assigned to.... if I feel like they would benefit from a little extra work at home then of course I am going to supplement their education. Also, what a great opportunity to gear a subject 100% toward your child and the way that THEY learn! 

A lot of this sounds completely obvious, right? But, for some reason, I have been completely overwhelmed with a feeling of 'what-am-I-doing?!' and 'who-authorized-ME-to-raise-a-child!?!'. I felt stuck. I knew that should be working with Noah on letter and number recognition and dutifully purchased some Brain Quest workbooks from the book store. But this felt unorganized, forced, and a lot like the information was not sticking because he wasn't enjoying the process. 

So, like any good mother would do, I hopped on the internet and googled 'kindergarten prep homeschooling'. Then, like any good mother would do, I quickly closed my laptop, vowing I could never be one of 'those' mothers. I felt like I did not and COULD not measure up to these other homeschooling moms. And, who am I kidding, I am still sending him to a PUBLIC school, so how dare I call myself a homeschooler? And my craft supply cart is way too sparse to do ALL THE THINGS. And I have no patience. And there is no way he would WANT to learn from ME. 

Then I emailed Ali. 

Ali, you adorable lady, you. She's at the bottom. I am the third one up. I do believe that's a ribbon in my hair. Judge not. This picture was taken in the '90s, y'all! 

I have a lot of friends who Homeschool, and they all do a fantastic job. I have known Ali since I was in High School; she was my Young Life leader. And, glory be, we reconnected over FaceBook. And, thanks to social media, I have gotten to know her children. Pictures of crafts, projects, adventures... you name it. And, for the first time since I started entertaining the idea, I felt like it was something that I could do.

It also didn't hurt that Ali just keeps it real. With each link she sent she would preface 'Now, don't freak out... this woman must not sleep.' She shared with me what worked for her kids and what resources helped her. And I wasn't overwhelmed! I was actually excited!

My online carts were filled with supplies, and the 'place order' button was pushed. And, just like that, the wheels have been put in motion. 

Like it or not... I'm a homeschooler. 

________________________

Next up, what curriculum I have chosen and why. I can not wait to share what we will be working on! My goal is to share our experience with homeschooling/public school combo with other parents who feel the same way I did; who still want to send their children to public school but would like a structured learning environment at home as well. 

Also, please be kind! I know that some people take their decision to keep their children out of public school very seriously, and I very much respect the very personal decision each family makes in this regard. Please respect my decision to keep my son in the school system. I am very new to this and will likely make a lot of mistakes... which will hopefully turn into learning experiences:-) 


Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Mornings

Nearly every one of my mornings start the same; the padding of tiny two year old feet from their resting spot next to mine. 

"Mommy? I want to sit on the sofa. Come on mommy, come on."

These really are some of the sweetest moments with my baby girl. She has my full attention, she's snuggly, her hair is a mop of soft, blond tangles. She rubs her eyes and nuzzles her head into my shoulder. 

If I stayed up too late the night before or failed to do the dishes from dinner. If I let myself become engrossed in online chatter. If I count the hours of sleep I had vs COULD have had. It's fairly easy to allow these early morning wakings to be a nuisance as apposed to a sweet moment with my girl.

And at least once a week, we make muffins. Sometimes she stays put on the sofa, watching her favorite show (Daniel Tiger or the close second for favorite Super Why). Sometimes she carefully drags the stool next to me and helps to measure and scoop and stir. Sometimes, by this point in the morning, Noah has stirred himself awake and joins us, be it in the kitchen or sofa. 

We make these so often that I no longer look at the recipe. I barely have to measure the ingredients. So often that when the water hits me in the shower, I smell of sweet cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg. Not only do they taste amazing, but I feel (dare I say) somewhat virtuous offering these to my children for breakfast and a snack throughout the day. I make these all year round; my go-to muffins. But the flavor profile almost begs for a chilly Fall or Winter morning. 



Pumpkin Muffins

- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup almond meal
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup pumpkin puree 
- 2 eggs, beaten 
- 1/4 cup melted butter (or coconut oil)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

- Preheat oven to 350. Prepare your muffin tins; we like mini muffins!

- In a small bowl, mix together your flours, baking soda, salt and sugar. Set aside.

- In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin and eggs. Next, add the butter and stir until well blended. Then add the water. Finally, add the spices. 

- Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Stir until just combined; about 3 turns of the bowl and 6 stirs. The less you stir, the more moist and tender they will be.

- Scoop about 1 1/2 Tbs into your mini muffin tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes for regular 13-15 for mini.