Friday, November 26, 2010

Homeschooling Hurdles

My 15 year old started kindergarten this year.

We homeschoolers sometimes think we are getting away with the tormenting first day of school with our kids. The dreaded day when we send them off into the cold world with all the necessary tools for survival in their backpack. We watch them go, without Mom there to protect and guide, not knowing what kind of dangers or difficulties await them. Wanting to run through everything we have ever taught them in their entire life in a quick 5 minute window before they disappear from our presence. Well, for most people, that happens when their child is about 5. For me, he's 15.

I hope my friends and family are patient with me and understanding. You see, I know how crazy and silly it must sound hearing me lament about letting my son go off and do things without me at his age. I also know that I can't just throw him into the world on his own at 18 or so, expecting him to successfully adjust and find his way on his own, without some safer field training beforehand. I'm trying to do so without whining and worrying. I've got my feet wet in various ways, like letting him have a summer job that required tearing away the bubble wrap I had him wearing for many years, but he was still very close to home. Now he goes off farther away...out of my codling reach. To Mom, he is still that big, bald, precious baby that I would die protecting. In reality, he is a trustworthy, God honoring, respectable young man whom I need to let experience the world...just him and the Holy Spirit...making their way together.

I know it's a Mom thing, because my husband doesn't struggle with it much at all. Once all the facts are set out and the situation is accessed as acceptable, he sleeps like a baby. His reassurance is vital for me. So is the experience of older moms whose sons are all grown up, parachuting out of airplanes, braving the high seas and backpacking across Europe. It's just plain funny how we homeschoolers think we are "off the hook" by having them home for so long. Unless we want little Johnny living with us at 50 years old, with no family of his own or spiritual muscle, we had better start thinking about when and how the field training will take place. I write this because I really didn't prepare myself for the trauma. I didn't know it would be traumatic. I thought the fact that he is taller than me would make it doesn't. But faith in Jesus and the grace of my son's character does.

This hurdle in our lifestyle choice is being overcome. I will be better prepared for the next boy when he stretches his wings...naa...who am I fooling...kindergarten is kindergarten, no matter how many times you go through it in your mind. The age old "apron string cutting" is inevitable. I'll just rest on prayer and the firm foundation God has allowed us to give them through the bubble wrapped years.

Wading into the icy water, rather than diving in has always been my preference. But you need to make sure they can swim well on their own before expecting the waves not to overcome...and this world is pretty wavy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mr and Mrs Smith Myers

Equilibrium: The condition of a system in which the competing influences are balanced.

Quite unintentionally, my husband and I ended up playing "good cop, bad cop" at Canadian Tire the other night...only I was the bad cop. Usually, my Better Half is the outspoken, the truthful, the one more concerned about fairness than keeping peace with all men. Not this night. We had been in town all afternoon, with both vehicles, 4 kids and a "To Do" list about a foot long. We had both vehicles because one of them needed snow tires put on and would carry the 2 weeks worth of groceries home while the van would carry the kids and the side of pork to be picked up at the butchers on the way home. Yes, we buy our meat in sides...from real farmers, with plaid shirts and toothpicks in their mouths...that's the only way to know for sure that the meat doesn't have hormones, steroids and other fancy chemicals in it. Plus, I am a true New Brunswicker.

This was not a typical trip to town for us, but it just had to be done this particular day. It was about 8:00 pm and Mom was getting pretty worn out. At that time of night I can get a bit grumpy and my self control is not at it's peek, operationally, especially with tired little ones wanting eat, to buy, to ride and to play with. Not the best time to charge us a significant amount more than we were quoted for the installation of the winter tires, and then give us the old "Sorry, there is nothing we can do about it" line. My first reaction was more frustration than anger and a bit of concern as my husband's face showed the early signs of a confrontation with the sales clerk. Actually, his defences had been primed earlier on while I was in the waiting room with the kids.

Apparently, one young, careless sales clerk had pushed his protective button by making some crude remark about me. You see, I was in the waiting room while my Knight was waiting at the sales counter. The young man didn't know we were together and made an age old "locker room" joke about me and at that point, my man made his identity known quite CLEARLY. When I came out to join him, I noticed the tight lips and the redish face on my Sweetheart. That was the beginning of the end.

Something took a crazy twist, however. As we presented our case to the clerk and he continued to push buttons, on the computer this time. I started to get a bit aggressive and my husband calmed. I will not quote my two or three telling off lines because I am not proud of them. Some people think aggressive, smart mouthed women are cool. I don't. We clap after their brilliant comebacks in the movies and high five our fair fellow maidens in the age of feminism, but it's still just plain old pride. I made the poor man's hands shake and felt more like a husky army captain than a true woman. That's not the identity I'm going for. "A gentle and quiet spirit is precious in God's sight" 1 Peter 3:4

My husband stepped in and took control of the situation. He humbly and quietly requested that the clerk help us out, and he did. I apologized to the man for my aggressiveness and he expressed understanding (with a shameful glance at the "locker room" guy). All was calm...all was settled...we are now exchanging Christmas gifts with the sales clerk.

Upon analyzing the situation, I wonder if I was subconciously distracting my husband from tearing someone's limbs off. After all, It's harder to be mad at a tired old woman, with two little punks hanging off of her than a tall, confident man clad in a John Deere jean jacket. On the other hand...I think I just snapped.

As we walked back to our vehicles, my husband looked at me with a bit of bewilderment in his eyes and asked me, "Were you playing 'Good Cop, Bad Cop' ?" I really wasn't...I'm just glad my Good Cop has my back and I have his. We have great equilibrium. Yet another example of how chemistry is vital in a healthy relationship. That's about the only thing we have in common with Brad and Angelina :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Not So Secret Identities

I still marvel at how my life has turned out. I mean, in the sense that I'm really not living the life I imagined I'd be. I'm not sure what I expected, but I don't recall ever desiring certain things to be part of my daily routine, yet here they are. Like chickens....and such busyness...and not wearing makeup...just to name a few. I've always wanted to be a mom and to work from home, but I didn't REALLY know that it would require such energy and be so glamorous! What happened to the perfectly clean and decorated home, the obedient and calming children and the hours in the morning to pamper myself with bubble baths and hair sculpting?? My dream bubble has burst...has bursting?...whatever.

I felt a bit like Wonder Woman the other day. It was chicken processing day, if ya know what I mean, so we were up and at em', bright and early with grunts of readiness for the age old task. It was cold, so on with the worn out parka, the winter hat that no one will wear and armed with the dreaded utensils necessary to bring you Cordon Blue and Kiev. You see, for every high fashion, elegant table of gourmet cuisine there is one scary looking chick on the farm, working hard to bring you such pleasure. Those are the moments when I stand in the mirror, thinking philosophically, wondering who switched the train track on me.

The Wonder Woman part comes when we had to abruptly quit our jobs and get ready for the Remembrance Day service scheduled. We had 15 minutes to get 4 rather icky looking and smelling farmers and two little ones dressed respectfully and loaded in the van. Fortunately, I am past the "hand holding" phase of childhood and the kids are pretty good at taking care of themselves, but we are still 6 people with 2 bathrooms. A little perfume, dangly earings, outfit a la Frenchies and those beloved hats...fashionable hats are a Godsend for me...never mind the hair sculpting, pony tail the hair and throw on a pretty hat. Instant dress up.

I went from Home Home on the Range to Mary Tyler Moore in minutes. One person, at the service, commented on my well put together attire and I smiled graciously while thinking, "If you could have seen me just a few minutes ago!!" That good ole' telephone booth thing, where you transform appearance in an instant, happened that day. Unfortunately, I had to go back in the phone booth and emerge as Farmer Fran again for the rest of the afternoon, but at the end of the day, it was bubble bath, candles and soothing music for this mamma...the rest and relaxation between outfits. There is the farmer Holly, the counsellor Holly, the house-cleaner Holly, the hockey mom Holly and the teacher Holly...all with their appropriate outfit.

Even though glam and ease do not characterize my life, nor that of most people, I'm very happy. Circumstance doesn't determine your contentment. Having all of your ducks (or chickens) in a row will not guarantee joy. We think we know what will make us happy. We plan and "make it happen", masters of our destiny, only to find that we aren't as smart as we thought we were. There is only One who knows you better than you. He plans and designs your life according to His best judgement. We fight for control, like a child wanting candy for breakfast, while God holds out pleasures unimaginable, in Him. People always say, "It is our relationships that matter in life, not our stuff, or what we do", and they are right on...except they aren't usually referring to their relationship with God, but people.

It's freeing and funny to stand in the middle of a "life unexpected" and smile, contently, realizing that doing what I want is not necessary anymore. It isn't the answer. Really knowing this allows you to laugh in the face of Life because it has no real hold on you anymore. I really can "do all things through Christ who strengthens me", and being the loving, affectionate Father he is, he always sends moments of pampering my way, when I need it most.

Today, I am hockey Mom...lined jeans, a cold rink and a van full of smelly gear await. A wonderful multifaceted existence :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Music All Day Long

If music were a color, I think it would have to be a rainbow. I can't imagine a day without it. Whatever mood you are in, whatever issue you may be dealing with, for it there is a song. Music is a huge part of our family. We all love it, share it and make it in various ways. It's interesting to see what musical abilities God has planted in each of our kids and to grab hold of it for tuning.

Our oldest has been tapping, stomping and vocalizing beats from toddlerhood. His first drum set was worn and beaten to death, not suitable for passing on to the next child. His "big boy" drum set is starting to fall apart, but he is now old enough to care for it better. Much to Mom and Dad's joy, he is shopping for an electric drum set that has a VOLUME CONTROL on it...I like. Drum lessons are not an option when you live in Boonyville, so apart from the odd instructional DVD, he has taught himself and does quite well. I actually don't mind the dulled drum beats I hear from his basement bedroom...I have been caught inadvertently dancing around to them.

I've often wondered why God gave our second son such an ENORMOUS MOUTH. I'm not kidding, his mouth/jaw is really a handsome,Val Kilmer kind of way. One friend calls him Mick Jagger. I hesitantly had to agree. He is even just as skinny as Mick. It's a bit of a riddle how I can agree with his likeness to Mick Jagger and still think he is gorgeous. My family will tell you that I have always had a fascination with lips. Some people notice eyes, hair and smiles...I notice mouths. Some day, maybe I will post pictures of all the most handsome men I have had pictured on my teenage bedroom walls, and you will notice one thing in common...the lips. I digress...the God given facial structure of our second son lends itself to his amazing singing ability. He can sing any song he has heard, without music and never miss a note. Harmonize on demand and make up his own silly songs for family entertainment.

The music inclinations of the youngest two have yet to be unveiled, but hints are appearing. I love God's musical design in my kids, but some of it takes some getting used to. Like their love of rap music. Listening to rap music is somewhat like having to endure Chinese water torture, for me. It's continuous, monotone flavor slowly builds in my ears until it brings me to a breaking point. I can take it no more and I need escape. Fortunately, some of the Christian rap they have been listening to is enhanced by some very nice, melodic choruses. These redeeming interludes make the rappy verses tolerable as I look forward to the, usually female, MUSIC interspersed. My kids love the fact that I can share their music appreciation now, and so do I :)

The wonderful thing about the rap music my boys listen to is the content. I was absolutely amazed at the great theology, doctrine and general messages in the lyrics. One of their songs (I think it is called "Rebel") has little snippets of Mark Driscoll and John Piper quoting from their sermons! It was so heartwarming to hear this song where two worlds kids' music with our worldview...a happy moment in my parenting. Another happy moment was when, in the middle of one of my husband's sermons, my oldest turns to me in great excitement after a lightbulb when on in his mind. A lyric (scripture based) he had been listening to, and not understanding was explained by Dad in the middle of the sermon. Good stuff.

Some smart person, one time said, "Give me society's music, and I'll have your child's mind". I couldn't find the actual quote, but the idea is there. Every song has a message and those messages are teaching our kids. We need to oversee that process very carefully. I am learning that the sound of the music is not so important, but the message it contains is.

I still play classical/instrumental music while the kids do their bookwork in the morning. That way, they become familiar with some of the classics and various instrument sounds. I play mostly my own preferences later in the day, but there is lots of room for diversity here. I want my kids to appreciate all kinds of good music, and to be familiar with the "Greats" of musical history. With the addition of reading many of their biographies and encouraging/supporting the kids' own musical abilities, "music class" reveals itself.

We certainly aren't the vonTrapp family. I highly doubt that we are headed to be one of those sweet homeschool families that travel around the globe, wearing matching outfits and sharing their high quality musical talents, but we sure have fun blasting the tunes and singing together in the van. Everything from Steve Camp to Trip Lee to...well, they don't let me play John Tesh in the van, but I understand...that's their version of Chinese water torture.

"You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and go slow." ~Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

So, I survived the dreaded crossing over...from 39, to that other decade. It was really no big deal for me from the beginning, especially when your husband in 6 1/2 years older than you are. That kind of makes you feel forever young. It was a lovely weekend of well wishes, pampering and gifts. Very thoughtful and appreciated gifts. It's not that I like people spending money on me or that I am terribly materialistic, it's just that they were such nice, "feel good" kind of things. I was reminded of how important sisters and moms are.

I grew up in a household of three girls, with a very lovely, feminine, stylish, mom. She always appreciated and enjoyed simple and beautiful flowers, gardens, modest jewelry, homemade bread, hand sewn dresses and classical music. We didn't have hoards and hoards of money, but my mom could make the simplest thing look like a million dollars, and my dad's love and provision for her made us all FEEL like a million dollars. We were very rich in that sense. The three daughters learned to love beautiful and simple things. That's part of being a woman, I think. Allow me to generalize a bit...

I have three sons. Daily, I see rusting bikes and various weaponry...I smell well used hockey gear...I feel bread crumbs under my feet at meals and whiskery kisses... and I hear the sound of battle cries, sword fights and armpit farts, like an Old Spice symphony. Sometimes I forget what beautiful things feel like. Then...I get presents from my sisters and Mom.

A beautiful stone necklace, a pine scented candle, African coffee, gorgeous wine colored flowers, green apple skin cream, chocolate covered dried cherries!!!! I have died and gone to an epicurean heaven!!!!! I remember! I remember that I am female and I LOVE beautiful things! I was drowning in the sea of Jock Boyness and I have been thrown the floral printed lifeline. What a breath of fresh air...literally. I have been basking in these pleasantries for days now and intend on not neglecting my inclinations toward these treasured things ever again. I think my boys kinda like them too, surprisingly. I've heard nice comments about the flowers and they especially appreciate the apple face cream...I've been getting more kisses lately :)

I do have a young daughter who is pink, sparkly and high heeled in full force. She will be my ally and fellow shopper for years to come, I am sure. God knew that I would need reinforcements.

I've been immersed in a girls' world as a child and then transferred to a boys' world as an adult. The temperature change is a bit of a shock, but what a great experience. I love them both and cherish each person who enriches them. I have to say though, those little gifts from "my girls" made my wonderful life even better...things smell and look better, and you have no idea how important that can be on those days of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.

Thank you...from my heart...T, J and Mom.