Saturday, November 19, 2011

Decorating with Fingerprints

Ever feel stuck? Ever feel like you know exactly what you want and how to get there, but someone or something is blocking your way? I've been feeling stuck for a long while my pursuit of a NEAT AND TIDY HOUSE. It's not really very messy most of the time, but it's rarely at the level of order and visual pleasure that I desire...and I have 5 someones blocking my way to Martha Stewart utopia, not to mention the gazillion somethings that prohibit the use of my waking hours shoveling my pathway to that serene place. I dream about it. I plan and scheme to make it happen. Then life interrupts my strategy and I get discouraged.

I will never understand how living, breathing, fully functioning human beings do not notice the feeling of misplaced clothing under their feet (even if they trip on them)... Blueberries, permanently making their mark on the kitchen floor...chunks of rice stuck to the bottom of their socked feet upon leaving the dinner table...important school books and papers laying there, protecting the hardwood floors from, heaven forbid, someone walking on them. The white, porcelain bathroom sink polka dotted with pink and blue toothpaste blobs...that's as far as I'll go in the bathroom for your sake. DVD's, although not nearly as comfortable as throw cushions, scattering the sofa waiting for someone to lounge upon them...and far from finally, our magical lawn growing grass, dandelions, bicycles and swords. Call me hypersensitive, but I just can't help but prefer not to live with these oddities.

I asked the kids the other day at the dinner table, if they could change one thing about me, what would it be. All but one said that I wouldn't be so wound up and snappy about things...especially the neatness of the house. Refraining from the normal, "Oh ya, well if you would just..." response, I gracefully thanked them for their honesty and asked for them to prayer for me in that area of spiritual transformation. With a gentle smile and no expectation of an opportunity for me to "share" my beefs with them, I accepted their assessment. I know I can be snappy. I know I get wound up. I know I want a neat and tidy house REALLY BADLY (did I use "badly" properly?).

I need to want a gentle and quiet spirit more.

I'm not there yet. I just can't seem to let go of my domestic dream. If the place were a constant pig sty, I would feel justified in my expectation, but I don't think it is. I refuse to take the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach, so my battle strategy is to take one territory at a time. Stealthily and well thought out, I will gain control and occupy the entire house, with flowers, fine scents, organized shelf baskets and visible floors. For now, my sites are set on only the main living areas. The living room, kitchen and family room...they will me mine. All the others have doors that I can shut and remove the carnage from my sight. As all good world dictators would be, I shall be charming, calm and patient. I will not show all of my cards. Someday, they will all wake up and realize that this house is mine, it is in fine order and smells great.

Something tells me though, that they will likely be waking up in another bed, in their own disarrayed house when that blessed day arrives.

But I like them in my house. I like them waking up in these beds. I guess I should focus my discontented eyes on the fact they are still here with me. I love that. I love the smell of their cheeks when I kiss them good morning (even the whiskery ones). I love the stick man artwork that clutters the walls. I love the grass stained, hole ridden army pants that tell of my son's joyful activity and the dirty dishes that remind me of the fact that I am nourishing my own children and not someone else. I can even love the dirty fingerprints left on the stairway walls that mark their awesome presence in my life. They are all fingerprints. All marks of their young, emerging personalities. Imperfect, unfinished and God mine.

I wonder how many kids Martha Stewart has? I wouldn't trade mine for all the "Good Housekeeping" cover spreads in the world. Ok then, I like where I'm stuck.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Searching for the Backdoor

Fail. The real "F" word. What a horrible word. The dreaded grading letter that makes a student cringe and a parent's eyebrows furrow. I managed to dodge the unacceptable letter for most of my academic career...until Dr.Mantz. Twelve years of public school under my belt, then in college, it happened. I received and F+++ on a literature paper. My reaction was not expected...I laughed and laughed. Stared at it for awhile until the truth set in, then set on a journey to find out what happened to my stellar academic career.
Truthfully, I met my match with Dr.Mantz. Being more of a science type, I couldn't get my brain around, beside nor in the vicinity of this world of literature. My high school experience somehow missed that class...but passed me anyway. Later on, I was relieved and impressed with Dr.Mantz's final exam. There were 3 essay questions that had to be about 3 pages long each, all of which I had insufficient knowledge. I started to see that "F" appear on the front of my paper again, until I read essay question #4. It read something like this:

"Write 3 pages on anything you know anything about from our classes this semester."

Now that I could do. I wrote and wrote about who knows what and passed the exam with great relief. I never forgot that approach. It became more and more important to me as I studied about education and began homeschooling.
We are so programmed to study and regurgitate information in order to get that checkmark, that we forget what real knowledge is. Sure, we have to be able to write tests to some extent, but intelligence is far more complex than just being a good test taker (which is what I was). I will feel justified in giving the "checkmark" when my kids can narrate to me something they have learned, in their own words, written and orally. Not an easy task. Especially when every third word tends to be "like" or "um", and because for some, a pen in hand means "it's time for a nap".
I don't always decide what they must know, their brains guide me. Their aptitudes and interests give me insight into what God has planned for them. There is no way they can learn everything about everything, so somehow, we teachers have to filter through the endless topics, books and activities to choose each student's course of study. Then focus in and master these things...without letting those other rejected topics seduce us into more brain cramming. I have heard this message so many times now from veteran homeschool Moms and their graduated, successful students. This is really a great relief to me. They don't have to KNOW everything, they just have to able to efficiently and independently LEARN anything they want to. My job is to plant the tools firmly into their hands, not to fill their heads with trivia.

Retaining knowledge is the key, not just being able to memorize and reproduce information only to forget it a year later. My husband never forgets anything. It's highly annoying, but I wish I could be that annoying. That's why he rarely had to study, while I beat my brain to death for exams. One catalyst for this kind of true learning is interest. If you are interested in something, you will burn those memory paths in your brain "real good". So, I set out to major on the subjects of interest and then, find ways to make those undesirable, yet necessary things more interesting and acceptable. If that doesn't work... just do it anyway...that's life...hopefully not most of life, but some of life.

My 10 year old has definite learning issues. His ability to recall is extremely impaired...even the names of people in our church he has known for his whole life can refuse to come to him. He can recognize sufficiently, but names and words do NOT come easily. For this reason, his reading list is very short and he may never be a prolific writer. However, there is a budding scientist or engineer looming behind those chocolate brown eyes. I wish there was a window into his mind because I'm sure the intelligence held within is captivating. It often comes out in his doodling and questions. My job is to provide a door for him to express that knowledge and ability. The usual door is locked, so I am searching for another.

I fear sometimes, that I'm not looking hard enough or in the right places, but I know God will help us. He will show us the way in His perfect timing. For now, we plug along with dedication and dive into what we can. It may require my bathroom becoming a science lab, hundreds of doodle papers strewn about the house and board game pieces arranged into a battle-plan on every table, but we will tolerate the disarray of creativity.

The school system diagnosed Einstein as mentally retarded. Sometimes outward appearances are inaccurate, and we must not be quick to lower our expectations. Although, I think his mom could have done something about his hair.

The science lab:

The "not so mad scientist":

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Untidys

The weekend.
Most people live for the weekend.
Most people look forward to the relaxation and rest from the "workweek".
The 24 or so hours that begin our weekend are...well, let's just say...a change is as good as a rest. It is fun, it is active, it is memorable...but oh, the aftermath!

Friday night is "treatnight" for our kids. Originally meant to be the one night of the week that they get to have sugary, dye filled and chemically laced specialties. Ya right. Life happens when you are busy making plans. BUT, they still insist on cuddling with Coke, movie and several friends until the wee hours of the night, after a fun filled evening at AWANA and Youth Group. For me...that would be about 11:00 pm. I know...I'm a party animal. Dad bunks with the boys downstairs and my princess and I have our own little sleepover in my room, while we watch about 5 minutes of George Strombolopolousseeeee...whatever...if he is interviewing someone interesting. The guest last night was Kermit the Frog, so we pried our eyes open for a few extra minutes.

Cozy and fun...until I wake up and look at the "morning after" mess. I thought, why not share some images with you of what I usually wake up to. Just to keep it real, you know. Saturday morning carnage.

So, this is the bachelor pad.
No Beer cans.
Scented Yankee candle on the end table for "I can't imagine why":

This is where the intense card game (Go Fish) takes place.
Gambling for suckers.
Wild and crazy bunch:

There IS a sink under there somewhere...

Laundry isn't too bad this week...only 3 loads behind!

Fortunately I am a morning person. SO, if I just keep my eyes closed in the evening and only ponder the mess in the's no problem! I just put my SuperMom cape on, wiggle my nose, set Grooveshark on something with a springy beat and dive on in. I actually really like Saturdays. I love cleaning up to the music and not having to think about appositives and algebra for a day. Everyone in my family knows the joy I feel when looking upon a neat and organized house. That is what Saturdays are for. I am pleased to add the disclaimer that these pictures are NOT representative of our Monday to Friday etiquette. I could not function in this kind of mess from day to's just a "let your hair down" kind of episode.

Then, at the end of my Holly Maid day, I peek into my oldest boy's room...and almost started to cry...

Without prompting...without coercion, waterboarding nor withholding food, my 16 year old CLEANED HIS ROOM! EVEN VACUUMED IT!!!!!!!!! I'm not sure why there is a Kid's foam chair in the windowsill...I'm not going to complain though.

I mean, cleaned and organized! Even the coins on his dresser were in order! It might look like WW3 tomorrow, but I don't care, I now know it can be done and I will grab a hold of that light at the end of the tunnel.

These are very special moments in a mom's life.
SIXTEEN years in the making.
My baby boy is growing up.
Tears...happy tears.

I think I may have an ally in my cleanliness's been lonely :)