Monthly Archives: July 2006

Something’s dawning on me…

Current mood: contemplative 

I think I had a mini-revelation.

It came to me a bit ago, as I was folding clothes.

It goes back before “a bit ago,” though.  I have been reflecting on my motherhood a LOT this late spring/early summer, as my oldest approached, then had, his 9th birthday.  It wouldn’t seem like nine would be a monumental birthday, but from my perspective, it was.  It is.  Nine is halfway.  Many kids leave home at age 18, so that means that once my child hits 9yo, their life in our home is potentially half over.  To me, that was a very startling and very sad thought.  Startling because it led me to, “Have I done *half* of what I need to do before my son leaves home?  Have I taught him half, equipped him with half?”  And, sad because I’m not half ready for him to leave home.  I so dearly love my kids, and, for the most part, enjoy their company, and I don’t *want* it to be half over.  I don’t feel half ready.

So, there I was, folding laundry, thinking about this yet *again*, and it comes to me that my job as a parent isn’t really to get them to a place where they’re “done.”  [I don’t know if I can communicate this effectively;  it’s only partially formed in my own mind.]  I mean… here I am, at 33, still growing, still learning, still regretting stuff I’ve said, still recognizing the folly of my actions, still recognizing pride, still not yet conquering patterns & attitudes & thoughts that need, still, to be conquered.  IOW, I’m still not complete.  I’m still not done.  I’ve still not learned all I need to.  I’ve still not applied all I’ve learned to my life.

This makes me think about my own children…  I mean, what, exactly, is the goal of parenthood?  Up until about 15 minutes ago, I thought my goal was (is?) to ready my child for independent life, outside the home, in all the areas of his/her life:  spiritually, academically, emotionally, skill-wise, relationally….  But, now, I’m thinking…  it’s more like what we’re doing here at home is providing a foundation for a continuing growth in all those areas I’ve mentioned, and more, I’m sure, that I’ve forgotten right now at nearly-midnight.

There’s no way I can present my child to the world as a finished product.  Hopefully, all of my kids will have a high level of maturity and readiness for when they leave our home, but it’s just not going to be “done” at age 18, or whenever.  What we do is just the launching board for their adulthood.

There are things I stress about in my kids’ character, especially my oldest.  There are things that we repeat to him daily, but it just isn’t sinking in.  I want him to *get* it.  I want him to grasp what we’re instructing him about, and to be saved from the ravages of … well… the whole thing about reaping what you sow.  [Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that, at age NINE, he doesn’t have adequate perspective to take that whole concept seriously.]

It’s not like I’m just going to abandon him to the winds of Whatever, and let him learn the hard way;  I’m going to continue to teach him, to sow into him, to guide him, to discipline him (and all my other kids, too, but I’m thinking most about E, here, since he’s my oldest).  But, I’m having the revelation that it’s OK if he doesn’t get *all* he needs to get in life, by the time he leaves home.

That’s hard, b/c I like things completed.  I like to finish the job knowing that it is wrapped up and well done.  I don’t like things that are pending.  It gnaws at my thoughts.  I don’t like things piling up at the back of my brain, half-finished.

But, the revelation is that that’s what parenting is about.  At least part of it.  I’m not going to be able to perfect my child.  That’s going to be a work of the Father, between Him and him.

This whole thing is having the strange effect of being half disturbing to me, and half liberating.

Living in a happy, healthy church bubble

 

I have determined that I’m living in a bubble. Am I the only person in America who is happy with her church?  Am I the only person with a sane, wise pastor who is actually interested in *pastoring*?  Well, I guess I’m not the “only person” b/c I know that there are others in my church who are quite happy there. The more I talk w/ others about their church woes, the more grateful I am for where I go (which is here ).  It seems like most churches in America right now are either “led” by milquetoast “pastors” who are afraid of actually leading.  Or, they’re so “seeker sensitive” that it’s all milk and no meat, and one is never challenged, and never grows.  And, there’s this emergent crap, which, while I don’t know a whole lot about, seems to me to be abandoning the “in the world but not of the world” mandate, and beginning to be in AND of the world.  Or, the churches are rife with struggles — political, relational, and spiritual… To me, what’s the point of going to any of those places?  No wonder church attendance is declining.  If the church I’m interested in going to is just going to say, “Do whatever you want;  there’s grace” then what’s the point of going?  I can “do whatever I want” w/o a ‘pastor’ telling me that. I love my church.  I’ve been going there for 12 years.  My dh will be 40 this year, and he’s known our pastor since he was 14, when dh & the pastor’s oldest daughter were in school together.  Dh… well… got lost in the weeds for a number of years, and when he got ‘found’ when he was 24-ish years old, it was at our current church.  I was going to another fine church (VCF North Phx) when dh & I got married, and, of course, switched churches upon returning from the honeymoon. Granted, I wasn’t thrilled w/ the place when I first started going there.  VCFNP’s pastor, Brian, is a teaching pastor, where as my pastor, Dennis, has a lot of “preacher” in him.  I’m an introspective semi-brainiac, so I like teaching, in general, much more than preaching.  It bothered me at first that Dennis is not really an academic. Also, my pastor is very well read, but he pronounces words wrong, which used to bug me a *ton*, but now I know he’s getting his vocab from *reading*, not hearing… so his usage is correct, but pronunciation is shaky, sometimes.  And, my skin used to crawl every time he used the word “corporate.”  I am a solid GenX’er, which is a very independent mindset, and anything that had the essence of Groupness struck a dischord in me…  I was all about Me ‘n God Forever, and who cares about anyone else.  Well… I’ve come to find out that the world is greatly populated by people who aren’t ME, and a great many of them need God, too.  And, I’ve learned that the Body of Christ (and its ensuing “corporateness”) isn’t a bad word, but that we, in fact, all need each other.  Surprise, surprise. When I first started going to my church, I knew that both Martin and me had a pull towards ministry (he was already the worship leader there), and we both felt that, at some point, that was going to take us out of the country.  I just couldn’t *wait* for that to happen, so my attitude was, “When can we LEAVE?”  But, now…  well…. I’m so grateful for what I’ve learned, and the people with whom I serve, and what we *have* at our church, that I just don’t ever want to leave.  Sure, I’ve been to Mexico once and Scotland twice on ministry trips… dh has been to Mexico countless times, and Scotland, too, as well as Northern Ireland, and I look forward to participating in MORE short-term missions (our church works in several countries in Africa — Zambia, SA, and a bit in the Congo, and newly in Tanzania, also in India, South Korea, and a few places in central Europe — LOTS of mission work).  But thinking about leaving “someday” has seriously brought me to tears.  And, like I mentioned, the more I talk to others regarding their unrest over church in general, and churches specifically, the more I feel grateful for what I have. I am, though, starting to feel a little pricking in my spirit about my contentedness, and my bubble-like existence, and my lack of awareness over what is going on in other churches outside of my own church’s walls.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that, yet.  I started praying recently for the state of the American church in general….  I feel like I should read a book or something, but it’s really hard to convince myself to “waste my time” on junk like Brian McLaren drivel just so I can be “educated” to exactly HOW messed up the Church is.  [sigh]  I’ll just have to keep my ears open, so to speak, about where the Spirit wants my heart to be, and what He wants me to do about this, b/c right now, I have no idea — I just know that He doesn’t put stuff on our hearts for *no* reason. I do see, as I write this, that God is taking me from just a focus on my own relationship with the Father —–> to a focus on the importance of my own church ——-> to a focus (or at least a gratefulness) on the wider Body of Christ…… and maybe now He’s drawing my attention even further out, widening my focus, which too often tends to be internalized. LISTENING TO (since MySpace doesn’t have it): Sweetly Broken - Playlist (CD) - Click to enlarge Sweetly Broken

The CO road trip

So… the fam took a trip to Colorado, which M & I had not been to since our teen years — not together — me, since a family reunion there in 1991, and him since… well, I don’t know, but he lived in Grand Junction for less than a year, at some point in his childhood.

Martin’s dad has been ‘threatening’ to buy a house & move to CO, since before M & I were married.  Now that it’s close to 12 years later, we just gave a, “Yeah, right… whenever…” response whenever it was brought up;  we didn’t think it would ever really happen.  Well, whaddya know?  They did it.  They bought a little house on five acres outside of Pagosa Springs.  M’s dad is finishing up building a custom home here in Carefree (right next door to Jessi Colter), and is back & forth between here & there, but his wife, M’s stepmom, is now up there full time.

Historically, Martin doesn’t like driving for more than 5 hours at a stretch, but has been convinced, on occasion (by either me, or by heavy traffic), to drive for 7 hrs.  Well, Pagosa Spgs is 8 hours away, w/ no kids.  We have four, including a 3mo baby.  If we weren’t going to visit his dad, there’s no way M would have agreed to taking it in one stretch.  He’s just not a road trip kinda guy.

Anyways, we left our home right after church on Sun, July 2.  I stayed home that morning w/ Audrey & Wes…  M came home w/ the big boys, we finished loading up, and off we went.

I won’t detail all our stops, but suffice it to say that, overall, it went much more smoothly than M thought it would.  As he prefers, we kept stops to a minimum, including breaking the law once one the way up & once on the way back when I took Audrey out of her carseat to nurse her. 

We took the I-17 to Flagstaff — I can’t believe I used to think the drive from Phx to F’staff was boring.  It’s amazing how many landscape changes occur in those two hours… desert floor to thick forest.  From Flag, we took the 89 north.  89 passes by the EMHE house that Martin worked on (he designed most of it, and on the show, they made it look like the “designers” came up w/ the plan, but that’s another story).  If you know where to look, you can see it, down the hill from the 89.  The 89 drops down again into the high desert of the Painted Desert and the Navajo Indian Reservation.  I know I’ve driven through there before, but didn’t remember its splendor.  At the turnoff for the 160 at Tuba City, it’s VERY ODD to think that the Grand Canyon is just about 15 miles west, as the crow flies, from there.  The landscape around Tuba City just seems very far removed from the GC.  We continued on the 160 through the Kletha Valley and Tsegi Canyon, which I didn’t know how much I loved, until I saw it.  It’s just amazing landscape…


Pics don’t do it justice.

The 160 continues up through Kayenta and the southern edge of Monument Valley…  One expects to see John Wayne loping on a horse over the next ridge…  Then, more Reservation (four hours through the Rez) which really, is just beautiful.  Seeing rainwater pool in the smooth divots of sandstone along the road on the way back was priceless.  And, seeing the hogans of the Navajo, tucked up against the stark landscape… I don’t know… it’s hard to explain.  Such an odd juxtaposition of the richness of God’s created landscape and the poverty of man’s creation.
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The 160 continues up through Four Corners, which we were advised to take a pass on.  It’s like $4/person, and it’s overcrowded, and they hustle you through.  I remember going there as a kid, though, doing the One Limb in Each of Four States thing. 

We contined up into Colorado — but after Cortez, it got dark, so we missed the landscape.

We got to M’s dad’s at about 11 p.m., total time elapsed only 9 hours.

We enjoyed our time there more than I thought we would.  I didn’t realize they were outside of town, and on five acres.  The boys romped around, I spent a lot of time birding, which I adore, but don’t get much time “out” to do…  So many species I’d never seen before, right in the “yard” of Grandpa Herbie’s.

Here’s the view from the front of their house, down their driveway, looking towards Broken-Off Point.
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Here’s Grant in the “back yard”:

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We spent Independence Day in Pagosa.  It’s a small town, so *everybody* comes out for the parade.  For someone who’s worked on Fiesta Bowl floats (me), it was somewhat laughable from the Level of Being Impressed point.  But…. that’s not the point of a small town parade.  People lined the main drag on both sides, and there were LOADS of folks participating in the parade, including M’s stepmom, Carol.  The lady is on the far side of 60, and her figure puts mine to humiliation:
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I was so pleased with this little 4th of July Osh Kosh outfit I’d found on eBay, but Audrey got called a boy FOUR times.  Sheesh.  I do *not* think she looks like a boy!!!  Was it just b/c she was not in pink???? 
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For fireworks later in the night on the 4th, Audrey & I just hung out at home, so she could sleep.  I was fine with that.
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After four nights at M’s dad’s, we retraced our tracks, west on the 160, towards Cortez.  We took the 184 bypass up to Dolores.  That bypass…. Goodness.  It is SO beautiful.  Hesperus Mtn on the right/East (13,232 ft high), a forever valley on the left/West.  Then, we got to Dolores.  What a lovely town.  My atlas says there’s only 845 people living there;  I think it looks bigger.  Still, though, coming from the ignorance of a city girl who hopes to be in the country some day, it looked to be the perfect size, perfect location.

Then, came the 25 mile drive to Circle K ranch.  That drive now holds a spot in my heart of Favorite Drives Ever.  I cannot describe its beauty.  Red rocks, right along a river, aspens, Engelmann and Blue Spruce, little meadows…

We had decided not to camp, since it’s so much work for the Mom anyways, and we had a 3mo on top of that.  I had hoped for a cabin, but couldn’t find one where I wanted, available at the time I wanted, for the price we could afford.  So, we stayed in the little motel that was part of Circle K.  It was fairly rundown;  badly in need of an overhauling update.  But, for a family of six that includes 3 boys, it was perfect.  I didn’t really worry about them tracking in all the mud from the rain, though we *tried* to keep it to a minimum.

Here’s the view from right outside our room:
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Funny thing:  Between myself and that cliff, which you can’t see, is both the Dolores River, and the little Colorado 145 highway.

We had a wonderful time at Circle K.  The boys made lots of friends, Martin got to fish practically nonstop.  I got to bird practically nonstop.  It rained practically nonstop, but coming from the hot, dry desert, no one in our family had a problem with that.  Temps were mostly in the 60s in the day, and again, we were *happy* to be wearing our long sleeves.

The folks who run the place are lovely.  It’s run by an extended family of four couples.  One of the families live up there full time, year round, and they home school.  I had a good conversation w/ the mom about that.  The guy who runs the kitchen knew about celiac disease, so altered meals (did I already blog about this??  It’s sounding familiar.) for Wes & me.

Here are Martin & Ethan in our motel room — they’re NOT smoking;  they’re cramming chips into their mouths:
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Here are Wes & Ethan, standing just outside our motel.  The foliage is so lush, you can’t even see the motel, but it’s behind the trees on the RH side of the pic:
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Here’s a pic I took of a female Broad-Tailed Hummer, right outside our motel rm door:
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Here are a couple attempts at me taking flower pics.  I don’t know what they are.  I understand now that I need a macro lens to take the ultra closeups that I’d like to:
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Here are Grant and Sam-from-Denver, whose family was in the cabin right next to our motel.  They ate most of their meals in the lodge, and my boys played w/ Sam & his two older sibs on the zip line:
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Here are Ethan & Wes w/ DJ, who, with his brother Eli, stay with their grandparents (who work on the Ranch) for the summer:
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Here are Wes & me, playing down by the Dolores River:
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Here’s a pic of the river, just steps from our motel rm door.  It was so lovely, but fast-flowing and cold.  Muddy, too, since it was so rainy, and lots of little creeks flow into the Dolores.  Still, though… it was perfect:
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And… that’s about it!  It took us 8 hrs to get home (at Circle K, we were closer to home than from Pagosa).  We just took the same path back.  I LOVE maps, and I love navigating, and I LOVE to use routes we’ve never used before.  But there were really *NO* alternate routes to use, unless we wanted to spend an additional 2 hrs of driving time to go out of our way.  I might have gone for it, since it would have routed us through the Petrified Forest NP and Winslow.  I really wanted to drive through Winslow, as it is home to the historic La Posada, which M & I will probably stay at for our anniversary later this year.

It was a good trip.
 

Loving the desert….

I made an itinerary for a friend who lives in New England, who would like to visit the desert.  I suggested the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then up to Bryce Canyon NP in Utah, down through Monument Valley (UT/AZ) and the Painted Desert.  I then looked for some pics of Bryce Cnyn NP.  None of the pics do it justice, but I found a blog of a photographer whose site has pics of all the places I mentioned, except for the Painted Desert. 

Monument Valley: 

Monument Valley Arizona, Sunset

North Rim:

Grand Canyon North Rim

Bryce Cnyn, and a good shot, but not one of the hoodoos, which are amazing to behold:
Bryce Canyon

Ah!  The hoodoos, which just don’t translate right, even in photography.  You gotta be there in person:

Bryce Canyon National Park, Sunrise, Utah
Painted Desert, not from the above photographer…  It’s another thing that just doesn’t translate in 2D.  There are the oddest and the most beautiful formations of earth and rock that you stare at… and can’t figure out how they came to be.  It must have been only dreamed up in the imagination of our gloriously creative God.

More thoughts about boys in the suburbs…

Current mood: frustrated

Yet another inward groan as I see (again) that MySpace doesn’t have a Family category, nor one for Outdoors & Nature.  “Travel and Places” are the closest they come to the second.  But, no Family category?  So, we’re all just dropped off down here by ourselves?  Lab-developed test-tube babies?  No parent, no sibs??  And none of us have children???  Ugh.  And with that non-Family, we just like to go Shopping, do Parties, and talk about something Automotive.  Double ugh.  An Automotive category, but no Outdoors???  Gimme a break.

Well.  This is largely gleaned from my posts at SL  about this topic.  But, as my thoughts are a little more together since I posted the Amish entry, I thought I’d update the blog.

This is gleaned from several different posts, so I hope it flows clearly.

I refer several times to a specific argumentative poster.  While I don’t agree w/ him much of the time on either his views of manhood, nor how to raise a boy, AND I think he worships his own intellect, I’m thankful for his thoughts, b/c considering his comments and questions helped me to better form my own.  IOW, I don’t like him, but I do appreciate him.

Some (well, one who stated it) were worried that I was just romanticizing “something quite foreign and removed from [my] context.”  I really don’t think I’m doing that.  I’m actually NOT a romantic nor a dreamer, and I have learned that the grass is very seldom greener on the other, unseen side.  Or the other, unexperienced side, as the case may be, since I’ve never been an Amish cowboy.

There were also a couple others who noted that “muscles do not make the man.”   After giving some thought to that statement, I came to this: What makes a man a man is that he’s living up to his potential in Christ, and being who he was created to be. If the Father created a boy to grow up to be Type A, a muscle-bound, risk-taking, leader type, it would be a shame to his manhood to be anything but that. However, I certainly do not think that all boys are called or created to be Type A men.

I do think, though I didn’t state it on SL, that removing muscles from the image of manhood is emasculating.  Now, I’ve seen enough WWE commercials on USA while watching reruns of House to make me sickened.  It can definetely go too far.  But, as someone else stated, privately:    “I think men that sit in front of computers and pay other people to do everything so they don’t have to get dirty are sissies.”  There’s just an intangible “sissy” factor to completely removing action, adventure, and muscles from manhood.  Can a man be a man w/o them?  Can a man in a wheelchair, for example, still be a man??  OF COURSE.  But, under “normal” circumstances, a flacid, fearful, powerless man is just WRONG.  IMO.

The things that compelled me about Jerry were character issues (and maybe some God-given personality) — not that he was some muscley cowboy.  The description I gave of him [He was very polite, soft-spoken, direct, friendly, humble, funny, smiling, an obvious hard worker, kind & patient & attentive w/ small kids, yet speaking with ease & confidence with adults, looking you in the eye…. He loved his life, was in awe of God’s beauty, carried his Bible (a tiny “Cowboy Bible”) everywhere, was satisfied with his accomplishments, while maintaining humility… basically, everything I’d like my boys to be.] could also be said of a computer guy. And, it could also be said a home-designing worship leader (my own dh ).

My concern is that my boys gain strength of character in an environment where their lives are extremely easy, and the lessons they have learned, so far, are “created” ones given by dh & me — not lessons of necessity, which, in my observation (and from my experience) are ones that stick harder.

Our family just — by the grace of God, and I’m NOT complaining — has such a good life… My boys’ lives are absent of hardship. NOT that I want a hard life, but I think living a hard life can contribute to the growing up process. Living a hard life requires responsibility, whereas, living our relatively easy life in the suburbs means I have to go out of my way (which I *am* willing to do) to teach the value of responsibility, and the lessons that are available to me are much less dramatic than the ones available to those living difficult lives.  I do find the lazy side of myself wishing that parenting was a whole heck of a lot easier than it is. But I don’t think “rustic” life would remove the need for parental discipline (as one thought must surely be my motivation for wanting a more-countrified life); I just think that it naturally provides experiences that I/we in the suburbs, have to “create” substitutes for. But, I am willing to create. I’m not just going to pine away for what I think would be ideal and ignore the life that the Father has given me here, now.

The same shoot-me-downer mentioned above also said that an example of Godly manhood was what was most needed for boys to develop into men of character.  I said, sometimes, just an example of real manhood isn’t enough. It also takes personal life lessons in the lives of each child. We don’t learn just from simple observation, although the models that we live with certainly *do* have an impact, and a positive model is certainly going to have a powerful positive effect.

He also said that instead of trying to influence his children towards his own interests, he specifically went out of his way to push them in a different direction.  I think that’s odd.  However, before my first child was born, it drove me NUTS that everyone kept saying how great it would be that we’d have another worshiper/music lover in our home. I certainly wasn’t going to push him to be something that dh & I are!! Well, I found out that I didn’t have to ‘push.’ Turns out that, for example, my oldest ds is a baseball loving, musical, worshiping, opinionated leader who is too smart for his own britches and loves science and the outdoors!! Sounds like his parents, to me.

There’s a reason that God gave our kids to us to parent. Some of my kids’ interests are genetic, and some from environment, I’m sure, but I’m not going to be *intent* on NOT encouraging my dc to pursue something, just because I’m interested in it! To me, that doesn’t make sense. It’s overcompensating.

A friend posted this:   

I think that when it comes to raising boys in suburbia you have to work much harder at finding ways for them to get that adventure, to get that hard work that creates the man. You have to take them to it rather then have it come to them, kwim? We do live in the country so I can say stack that wood pile here and that gives them the hard work that they need to work out some of those boy issues. It is amazing what hard physical labor does for a boy, trust me. I have said, “go back to the cougars (that is what we call the back part of our property, I know, it doesn’t sound very good but it is true) and build a fort. Don’t come back till it is finished.” They come back with tales of adventure and daring and a pretty neat fort for me to check out.

Dh just bought dirt bikes for the kids. Now, I am scared of dirt bikes, always have been. I have to stand back and smile (and pray) while they have an absolute blast. Dh is teaching them to take risks (he does teach them well ) and yet how to be responsible with machinery.
I *do* think that physical activity, and connectivity to the natural world — which is usually easier to come by in a non-city environment — is instrumental to the making of a healthy child.

Someone in a wheelchair can go on a nature walk, and closely inspect a bug, or sketch the pattern on the back of a leaf. Someone w/o great physical coordination can STILL build a fort, or dig a hole in the ground. They can watch the clouds drift by, pick flowers, jump in a puddle.

And, it’s not just me: research shows that outdoor exposure is vital for the physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual well-being of children. (See the work of Robin C. Moore, Richard Louv, Mike Davis and Edward O. Wilson for starters. Davis’ and Wilson’s work is not specifically kid-related, but all the authors stress the need — on many levels — for people to be able to interact with the natural environment, not just have a book-knowledge of it.)

And, to me, it’s not JUST nature, though that plays a big role.

It’s the fact that our suburban lives are devoid of many of the realities of what much of the rest of the world goes through, and how they live. THANK GOD that my kids will not know the harsh realities of seeing their parents’ marriage dissolve violently (as both dh & I saw). THANK GOD that they will never know poverty (as dh & I did). Just the ugly, harsh things of the world, which we work to protect them from, aren’t the lot of my kids’ lives, and I praise God for that.

Subjecting my kids to hard things IS hard for me. I’m a mother. I want to be tender with their hearts. I want to nurture them and cuddle them. I am SO GLAD I have a husband, who is an excellent model of manhood, and who leads our children with me. There is a HUGE part of me that does not want to subject my kids to hard things, but I’m aware — increasingly aware — that it is necessary, and my parents’ version of Low Impact Parenting is just not going to cut it, and I need to continue to find more and better ways of challenging my kids.

I find it hard to explain that which seems so apparent to me: Life is easier in the suburbs. Life is easier in a happy home. Life is easier in the 21st century, in our culture which works to make things easier and softer.

And an easy life does not a strong child make — witness the heir-lings in the news who consistently make @sses of themselves, unaware of their folly.

The unliked-but-somewhat-appreciated poster stated: 

I don’t know Jerry, but I’d say I’d expect to find places where he is quite soft — math skills for example. Understanding calculus and trigonometry and fourier transforms isn’t work that gives you chiseled pecs, but it’s by no means “soft”. It’s freakin’ hard work!

I replied:  I don’t disagree with you. I weathered engineering calculus in college myself, and it was a slap of academic reality in my ‘soft’ face, because I had, up to that point, found school easy.

I also think it is important for kids to study things that they may not need, later in life. Who knows what they will end up becoming? Who knows in which situation they may find themselves in, needing that trig lesson? I certainly don’t want to unwittingly shut future doors for them by not investing in their minds now.

BUT… I think it would be unwise to say, “Well, my 12yo can do calculus, so I don’t need to physically challenge him.” There are many brainiacs out there who have physical health problems, emotional disturbances, and relational difficulties because they focused only on their IQ and academics, discounting the rest of the hard stuff as unimportant in comparison.

SO!  That’s where I stand on the whole thing.  For now, anyways.

  

Currently reading :
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
By Richard Louv
Release date: By 17 March, 2006

A Rock Wren!

 

Current mood: happy
Category: Pets and Animals

Something that’s cool about birding is that there are always new discoveries.  Also, I agree w/ Annie Dillard’s premise in A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek that we see better when we know what to look for.  (I think Dillard’s language is bloated, and that she augments her experiences for dramatic purposes, but that’s another story.)  It makes me wonder if I’m just better at birding than I used to be, and now I notice more, or if, truly, I’ve just never seen/heard this particular bird before.

I’ve been hearing an odd bird call for the last few days.  I’m *not* good at ID’ing birds based upon their calls, but one that I haven’t heard before will certainly pique my interest.

This morning, I finally saw clearly, and believe I identified a Rock Wren.  I’m not 100% positive, but I am about 95% sure.  Overall, this bird had a wren shape, and the call/song is right, as described in Sibley.  The undertail coverts are right, the shape of the bill is exact, the streaking on the breast is right, the buffy flanks are right.  But, this bird seemed to be a bit bigger than Sibley’s 6″…. maybe 6 1/2″.  Also, the auriculars seemed paler than pictured, and the speckles on the back showed less contrast than pictured.  And, I didn’t see the “distinctive” pale, buffy tips on its tail — just didn’t get a clear view of his back while flying, not that they weren’t there.

But, still… I’m adding one to the list.  Rock Wren — check!

Currently reading :
The Sibley Guide to Birds
By David Allen Sibley
Release date: By 03 October, 2000

“Go get a bug…”

(from my My Space Blog) 

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Current mood: peaceful

So….  I’m reading Last Child in the Woods (only on p. 24), and I’m participating in a conversation on the SL forums about growing men in the suburbs, and I’m more convinced, and more committed than ever about the importance of NATURE in the everyday life of kids.

We do more than the average family, I think, in regards to Nature.  I’m a birder, and point out (or the boys point out) birds wherever we go, and they can often name the species.  I quiz them about the common flora in our area.  I make sure they have outside playtime every day (which gets tricky when the highs are 110*+).  As a family, we usually camp every year.  We hike in the Fall & Spring when the weather is right.  The science that we do for home schooling frequently takes us outdoors…

But, I’m now on the hunt for more and better ways to incorporate Nature and its importance into our everyday lives.  Maybe I’ll get another book on it, after I finish Last Child, but with me… I’m not very inventive, so it’s much easier for me to read an article on Six Easy Steps to Bring Nature into Your Life and then incorporate one or two.  But then, it fades, and I’m back to doin’ what I’ve always done.  So, I’m stretching my brain for ways to do this, on my own, so maybe we’ll OWN it, and it will become more a part of our lives.

After lunch, the boys wanted to play their Star Wars plug & play game, and I told them, “Each of you get a Ziploc sandwich baggie, and find me a bug in the back yard.  You can play Star Wars after everyone finds a bug.” 

Grant:  Why?
Me:  Because it’s good for boys to have Nature in their lives, and to be outside.
Ethan:  But there aren’t any bugs outside, except for bees!

I have already decided, after each boy’s comment, that this Bug in a Bag idea was a good (and needed) one, but that I wouldn’t let them go longer than 20 minutes, bugless.  This is so that they wouldn’t get discouraged, and also because at 1:00, it’s already over 100* out there.

As I’m nursing Audrey on the couch, I direct them to where the baggies are.  After they totally dismantle the baggie/plastic wrap/aluminum foil, etc., drawer, they’re on their way.

Ethan, of “there’s no bugs,” comes back in after less than two minutes, a little beetle triumphantly bagged.  I ask him to tell me about it, trying to get him to look closer, and use his powers of observation.  He tells me a bit, then asks, “Can I go get a magnifying glass?”  Well, of course!  Now, I feel triumphant!

Then, Wes comes in, in tears, saying he can’t find a bug.  I tell him to go back outside and look in the grass.  He goes back outside, convinced he’ll never find a bug.  Ethan comes back with a magnifying glass, and tells me a bit more about the bug.  I tell him that he can dump the beetle out on a white paper plate so he can see him better.  After Ethan spends a few minutes peering at his new bug buddy, I ask him to go help Wes, with suggestions of where to look.

Then, Audrey’s done eating so the two of us head outside, too.  It’s hot, but at least the patio is shady.  She stays in her carseat/carrier, while the boys and I are all sitting on the concrete patio, looking at the crack where it meets the house.  Grant bags a little bug that looks like a miniature earwig.  Then, Ethan spots an inch-long green caterpillar.  His fingers are too big to get it out.  He uses a dry piece of grass to try to dislodge it, but he can’t get the caterpillar out of the crevice.  Wes reaches in, with his smaller hand, and picks up the caterpillar.  I’m encouraging him not to squish it, but Wes is trying to unroll the caterpillar, who has balled-up in a defensive position.  Wes says, “Oh!  He puked!”  We all discuss if it is indeed caterpillar puke, or poop, or juice from the caterpillar being squished.  We’re not sure which it is.  Wes, who doesn’t like bugs, decides to name his new pet “Greenie” and asks me to find a jar for him.  I get a medium sized baby food jar, and all of us gather bits of plant material from around the yard.  I top the jar with 1/4 of a torn Kleenex, secured with a rubber band, and voila!  Greenie has a home.

This entire event, start to finish, took about 25 minutes.  But, when we came inside, we were all chatting happily, and I felt better about letting them spend a bit more time in front of the TV… only 10 minutes each, then off to Mom’s Mandatory Quiet Time (nap time for Wes), those 90 minutes of sanity-saver that is a habit in our home. 

Nature-Deficit Disorder

(from my MySpace blog) 

Friday, July 14, 2006

 

I was recommended a book by another Sonlighter, and just picked it up from the library.  So far, it is *really* intriguing, and seems to confirm a lot of my suspicions about life & childhood & nature.  It’s called Last Child in the Woods:  Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.  The author totally made up “nature-deficit disorder.”  From the inside flap:  “Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition;  it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature…. Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development — physical, emotional, and spiritual.  What’s more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and ADD.  Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and GPAs and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making.” 

When the author talks about “environment-based education,” he’s not referring to knowledge of destruction of rain-forests;  he’s referring to the act of climbing a tree, building a dam in a stream, getting lost in the woods, etc.

I just started the book, but I’ll let y’all know if it turns out to be as insightful (and helpful) as I’m hoping it will be.

And, what???   Yet another serious book title that MySpace doesn’t have available for viewing??  Goodness.

Here is a link to the paperback version of the book on half.com

HOORAY for docs who are pro-homeschooling!!!

(From July 14, 2006 My Space post) 

Current mood: pleased

 

Another post, in my feast-or-famine mode: Yesterday, my son Grant & I had an appointment w/ his developmental pediatrician, who we see about every 3 months. Grant has Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which is somewhat akin to Asperger’s — it leads to social & behavioral immaturities, motor problems, and a unique way of learning & expressing. Anyways… I was just chuckling and grateful after I left, happy to have a doctor who is *pushing* me to homeschool. Not that I was thinking about quitting, but it’s nice to have the encouragement. As we discussed Grant’s ongoing issues, he said, “Just think of what this would be like if he was in a school setting. He’d have *more* problems, chances are that his teachers wouldn’t be able to deal with him as effectively as you, he’d probably be in constant ‘trouble’ from acting out, he’d be labelled, you’d be getting constant phone calls from school authorities, and you’d probably have to medicate him.” He told me that he was just remarking to some colleagues the other day that, in his opinion, if all the kids w/ learning and/or behavioral/emotional problems were homeschooled, a “high percentage” of them, at least 40-50% of them (or more) could be taken off of meds. Now, I know that there are a number of parents here who have dc w/ learning/behavioral/emotional problems, and choose to medicate — I am NOT anti-medication when it is necessary, and I know that sometimes, it really IS necessary — but, I can’t tell you how thrilled and blessed I feel to have a doc who is not pushing me to medicate my son, and who, each time we see him, asks whether or not we’re still hs’ing, if we plan to continue, says how happy he is that I’m hs’ing, tells me I’m doing a good job, etc. He thanked me for hs’ing Grant.

The Amish, hard work, stopping school at 8th Gr, little boy relationships….

Not sure how to title this, but my mind has been turning this situation over & over, and dh & I have had lots of conversations about it, but have resolved nothing.

My 4.5yo son is just a *rascal* at home — very busy, happy, emotional, dynamic, loving, thoughtful — but outside of home, he is practically a mute, talking to virtually no one, not even close friends of ours who have known Wesley for his literal entire life.

Well, we just returned from a trip, the last half of which we spent here, in SW Colorado, at 8200 ft along the Dolores River. It was *lovely*. We went there mostly to fish, but they also have horses, and all the wranglers would hang out at the lodge. There was a particular young man there named Jerry, and when Wesley met him, he started immediately telling Jerry his life story, and climbed up into his lap. They were fast friends ever after, for the duration of our (5 day) stay. Dh and I just shook our heads in wonder, and discussed *many* times what might be causing our son’s attachment to this young man.

Jerry was 17 years old, the oldest of 8 kids in an Amish family from Wisconsin who, two years ago, chose to leave the Amish community (including both sets of grandparents and *all* extended family). Jerry was only schooled through 8th grade, and after that, basically lived life as a man. The two years after finishing school, he built a large house from the ground up (from raw materials) in just under 2 years with one other man. Then, his family left the Amish community, and Jerry basically left home at age 15 to work for a year breaking horses on a 600 head ranch. Then, he spent another year on a dairy farm, milking 600 head of cattle. Now, he’s a wrangler at this place where we stayed, which is basically a dude ranch, and it’s like vacation for him, taking care of only 15 or so horses, and leading riding expeditions.

He was very polite, soft-spoken, direct, friendly, humble, funny, smiling, an obvious hard worker, kind & patient & attentive w/ small kids, yet speaking with ease & confidence with adults, looking you in the eye…. He loved his life, was in awe of God’s beauty, carried his Bible (a tiny “Cowboy Bible”) everywhere, was satisfied with his accomplishments, while maintaining humility… basically, everything I’d like my boys to be.

Yet, he’d only been schooled through 8th grade!

It gave my dh & me food for thought & conversation regarding the life of a young man, and the benefits/drawbacks of “quitting” school early to live life as a man…

Jerry was debating about what to do w/ his life: he had the option of staying through the fall/winter on the Ranch, though he said he’d like to return home in December for Christmas and his birthday with his family…

If you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago if I’d let one of my sons quit school at 13, and leave home at 15, I’d have responded with a shocked, “NO WAY!!!” But now… if the situation was right… dh & I had to admit that it might not be a terrible idea… You know? If my son had the maturity to handle his money well, and to be responsible in how he handled himself… It’s just been a lot to think about, and has nearly completely occupied my mind this last week+.

(comment by countrylivin on SL)  Although I think this works, and works well, for many of those who are born into this lifestyle, I am not sure we can replicate it outside those communities. Just my

This is pretty much what dh & I have come to, in our conversations, as well. You can’t just take a city boy and plunk him down at age 13 and say, “Now, build a house!” Much of who Jerry is, is a product of how he was raised.

But… it has made me think about our education, how I’m schooling the boys, why I’m schooling them, and about different situations in which it would be OK for them to finish school early, not go to college, etc.

It has also made me wonder if it is NOT possible to grow the young men I envision while remaining in the suburbs.  There’s just too much of city life that is easy.  There’s too much time w/ mom, and not w/ dad.  I just don’t think they can get what I think they need here.  Yet, I don’t see us going anywhere, either.  It’s given me lots to think about, including the revelation that — even though I know this, mentally — boys need a whole heck of a lot more than just their mommies.  Even though mommies are good, of course.  They just need *more* — more hard work, more adventure, more challenge, less protection, more… throwing them into the deep end, and watching them swim, which, in myself, I am  *not* willing to do, even though I can see they need this.  So, where are they gonna get it??  I’m not sure yet.  But, I think this whole experience has been part of God preparing my heart to help provide what my boys really NEED, so that they can become Godly men of strong character.

Like Jerry.

Currently listening :
Dulcinea
By Toad the Wet Sprocket
Release date: By 24 May, 1994
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