Monthly Archives: August 2012

An update on Jerry the Amish cowboy

Wesley at age 5.5, reunited with Amish cowboy, Jerry

My two long-time readers may perhaps remember a sort-of series I did, sparked by a young man named Jerry, an ex-Amish cowboy for whom my youngest son fell hard.  Our family met Jerry in the heart of western Colorado, at the Circle K Ranch, which is blessed with one of the most gorgeous settings known to mankind, along the lush and bird-filled banks of the Dolores River.  Jerry is the oldest of eight children and was 17 when we met him;  I’m sure he likely had a younger brother Wesley’s age, at home in Wisconsin.  He gladly gave Wesley time and attention, playing Uno (which Jerry pronounced “You-no”) with Wesley’s made-up rules, and giving Wes a spot on the couch next to him, watching rodeo events on TV during the rainy afternoons.

Wesley is now almost eleven years old, and is still very careful about sharing relationship with anyone;  it takes a special person to really capture his admiration.

The fact that Jerry hadn’t received anything past an eighth grade education also weighed in my heart, prompting a number of thoughts on the subject of the value of education, and… non-traditional ways of approaching life that might be, in the end, much more balanced and healthy.  (One of my first blogs ever was on the subject, here, on July 14, 2006.  I continued the thought about a week later…  I’m kind of embarrassed about my writing style, but the thoughts remain relevant.)

Six years later, those topics are still very close to my heart:  Living close to nature, pursuing a life that’s a good fit for one’s personality, the value of education… and even Jerry himself meanders through my memories quite frequently.  In 2006, very shortly after I met Jerry, I read a book called Last Child in the Woods.  And guess what?  I’m re-reading that right now.

Yesterday, on Facebook, my cousin posted a link to a gorgeous black & white photo essay published in an English newspaper.  It reminded me, yet again, of Jerry.

I decided, on a long shot, to e-mail the good folk at Circle K, to see if they ever hear from Jerry.

To my delight, I received this quick response:

Yes, I remember your family and the fact that your son was praying for
Jerry. :-)
He is working for a horse trainer in Grand Junction Co. We hear from him
every now and then. He loves the work he is doing. If I speak to him, I'll
let him know that you were asking about him.

Wesley is already making plans to visit Grand Junction.

We don’t even know Jerry’s last name!

But, I won’t discourage Wesley’s hopes.

And I’m almost giddy that Jerry is still a cowboy.

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In which I plea too earnestly

Note: If you do a Google image search for a mom talking with a teen, there are LOADS of fabulous mother and daughter pics chatting effortlessly away, but the ones of mothers and teen sons?? Weird. Or scary.

When your children are toddlers, you can write pretty much anything about them in a blog, and they just won’t care.

Not so much when they’re teens.

I had a conversation with my oldest son today — he’s 15 — and I will freely admit that I did about 98% of the talking, so it was more like a talking-to than a conversation.  I don’t want to call it a lecture, because as I told him a number of times, “I’m not mad.  You’re not in trouble.”  Maybe it was more like an admonishment.  I want to call him up.  I long to help bring out in him the potential that exists in him.  I do want him to “man up.”  I do want him to “put away childish things.”  Not that he must be serious all the time, but as he grows into an adult, it’s so important to me that he recognizes potential pitfalls in his own life and has the Godly strength of character to avoid them… not because of the threat of some discipline I might impose, but because he can discern right from wrong and make some of the hard choices for himself.

It all sounds so cliché, I’m sure.

I was thinking though — and told him about — my own teen years.  I really had so little guidance.  My mom, a single mother, worked full-time.  By the time I was a senior in high school, I was working (usually) 30 hours a week, and that was during the school year.  I hardly saw her.  I was the oldest of three children at home at the time.  I actually went to two different churches (my mother’s, and my church of choice), for a total of four times a week, and I was very involved… but I wasn’t really discipled.  It was more like — I received teaching which did my best to apply, but it wasn’t… personal.  It wasn’t one-on-one.  My mom uses the guiding paradigm of, “You’ll learn from your mistakes.”  While that often works, she gave very little guidance, very little input, little correction, virtually no advice, no direction, no admonishment.  I felt like I was just tossed out into the deep end and she didn’t even watch to see if I made it to the side or not.  I’m sure she cared, but I didn’t feel it, and I know that she felt a vast measure of relief when I reached adulthood, like, “Whew!  Glad that’s over!” and that she could step back from directly mothering me, except that perhaps she started three-ish years too early.  Part of that was us just not seeing each other that much.  Plus, I’m sure she was just plain tired.  Our personalities are extremely different.  We almost never fought outright, but we just didn’t share much.  Virtually never.

I was very much my own boss from about age 16 or 17 onward, very much aware that if I stood or if I fell, the results were entirely on my own shoulders.

This wasn’t really a good thing, for a variety of reasons.

The odd thing was, I was probably more mature about my freedom than most 16-year-olds;  I didn’t get into trouble;  it was important for me, even from a very young age, to do the right thing, as best as I understood it.

But, I truly had no one who spoke into my life who said, “You need to trim those weeds in your heart.”

Part of this, too, was due to (unknown at the time) flaws in my character, where I rarely saw fault in myself.  I didn’t know any weeds existed!  I was an excellent student, very responsible…  I was often receiving various awards, commendations, and compliments.  It never really occurred to me that I might have areas — VAST AREAS — in my heart that needed tending, some molding, some shaping, some pruning…

The first person who really did that for me was a friend’s mother, starting about my senior year of high school.  She was probably the first person who truly counseled me, probably because she was worried about my influence on her daughter!!  Honestly, though, that woman cared for me the way no one else had before, and I believe her input radically altered the course of my life, and greatly for the better.

She’s the wife of my pastor.  I’m 39.  I’ve known her since I was 15, and have had good relationship with her since I was 17 or so…

Lordy.

Time flies.

Back to my son…

It seems like the blessing and the curse of motherhood is the “gift” of extrapolation.  I have insight to see, “If this attitude/behavior/viewpoint/sin/whatever continues on a similar path, OH! the damage it could cause!”

I’m never sure how much to step in and bring direction:  “Is it too little?  Too much?  The wrong time?  The wrong way?  Will he understand?  Am I over-reacting?”

I don’t want to bring condemnation on my children, ever.

Yet, I will not just toss him into the deep end and walk away.

I do the best I can, praying for wisdom, praying for the Spirit to impact our conversation, to give me the right words, for the good seed to sink down into the soil of his heart, and the overwrought chaff to drift harmlessly away.

I tend to… earnestly plea.

I wish I was a better encourager, to more potential good and know how, exactly, to bring that out, like Your Mother, the Motivational Speaker, communicating with aplomb, humor, wisdom, and interesting anecdotes.

Instead, I end up talking too long, and pleading too earnestly.

Ugh.

I continue, though, because truly, truly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, I wish that I had known in my teens the million-and-a-half difficult lessons that I had to learn the hard way in my 20s and 30s.  I wish I had had some direction in my teens — especially my mid-teenage years — from someone — my mother, especially — to help identify problematic areas in my character and help me nip them in the bud…

The good news is that, in the end, I checked in, and he did not feel condemned, and didn’t feel like I was angry with him.  But, he did feel discouraged.

I think we both need an injection of encouragement.

(NOT THAT I’M SOLICITING YOURS.  What I mean is that it’s hard to give what one doesn’t own.  On one hand, I’m happy that in my personal life and in my mothering, I have steered clear of feeling and communicating condemnation, and that is GROWTH right there, let me tell you.  But, taking it one step further, to learn how to tend blossoms until the branches are dripping with fruit, filled with hope and expectation and excitement for the future….  I’m not so great at that, neither in my personal life and relationship with God, nor in my mothering.  Not yet.)

 

And now for a word (ALMOST) in favor of (SOMETIMES) baby-training

I’m pretty deep into the natural birthing world.  Most women in that world highly favor “attachment parenting”:  baby-wearing, nursing on demand, never letting a baby “cry it out”, never trying to schedule the baby, co-sleeping, nursing for longer than a year, etc.

I will freely admit that, with each baby — I have had five — I grew closer to the “standards” of attachment parenting.  However, I didn’t start that way.  I know a fair number of bitter ex-schedulers who are wracked with guilt and a powerful distaste — even hatred — for baby scheduling.  Yet, I don’t speak with vitriol against those who raise their babies with the “Ezzo” methods — Babywise, Growing Kids God’s Way, etc.  Again, the longer I have been a mother, the more I find that I disagree with the basic stance of the Ezzos, and have found much more freedom and joy in mothering an infant, the further I “stray” from the Ezzo methods.

It has been my experience and observation that a nurturing, attentive heart is really “God’s way” and training, especially when “crying it out” is involved, goes against the God-given tug of a woman’s heart to shelter and provide for her baby.

But…  here’s a comment I made on the Facebook page of an AP-proponent who was soliciting for some “balanced” reviews on a free Kindle version of a book that espouses baby-training, as all the reviews at the time of the request were four- and five-star, in favor of the book and the method.  (By the way “FTT” refers to “failure to thrive”, which is one of the charges/risks leveled against scheduled babies — I have never read any hard science on that, to know if FTT is a true risk for scheduling or not — if you have some, I’d love to read it!):

One little comment (well, long comment) in almost-favor of sleep-training…

When my first was born, lo these many years ago (15), I had really ZERO support. My husband was awesome, but I had no… community, really. I was fairly new to our church (had married into it), my mother worked full-time, my MIL lived out of town, my sister was out of town, and even though I was 24, almost none of my friends had babies yet, etc. I thought my maternal instincts would kick in and I would magically know what to do and I would be able to provide that for my baby. WOW. Motherhood, instead, was completely humbling to the point of breaking my heart. I had pretty much zero maternal instincts. I could not decipher my baby’s cries. I couldn’t figure him out. On top of that, I was very ill (with what was undiagnosed celiac disease — was dx’ed about five years after my firstborn) and a tendency to depression. I had to figure out SOMETHING or I was going to lose my mind, and I’m not kidding. I ended up doing a Babywise schedule, recommended by the one mother I knew who was supportive of me and available to me. She had an infant almost exactly one year older than mine. She was (and still is) a gloriously wonderful, compassionate, kind-hearted, amazing mother and still an absolute model of beautiful motherhood to me. My idea was, “If it worked for her…” So, I did it. I honestly believe that having a schedule saved my literal sanity and helped me LEARN about my son.

THAT SAID…. I have now five children total, and with each child have gotten further and further from Babywise, et al, and can see the wisdom and blessing in attachment parenting. I’m **WAY** more AP than I was — wore my fifth, co-slept, nursed for nearly two years, only very roughly scheduled — mostly nursed on-demand, etc.

HOWEVER, I still remember how desperate I felt with the undecipherable cries of my firstborn, and how Babywise turned out to be what I needed — at the time, and given my situation. And for that reason, I will never speak out completely against it. Some moms/families need it. Moms like me, who feel very lost and alone in new motherhood, and who lack a community of help, and who desperately need some sort of framework to help them manage that first year.

And… by the way, that baby was not FTT or anywhere close to it. He was 8 lbs 13 oz at birth and was consistently in the 95th – 97th percentile for weight for his whole first year and beyond. He was **CHUBBY** with rolls on the back of his legs and dimpled hands, etc. He’s now 5’9″ and 135 lbs — skinny! And about a year ago, I actually apologized to him for his infancy… for being so stressed out and letting him CIO and training him to sleep, instead of giving him the comfort of my touch and nursing on demand. He forgave me, blessing that he is. And, honestly, HE UNDERSTOOD. Crazy. That was a weight off of my conscience!!

So, what I’m suggesting is that while I believe that CIO/scheduling should not be the GOAL, there are times/women/families who could benefit from it. On occasion.

Sheltered foodies

In some ways, the clichéd accusation is true:  my homeschooled children are sheltered.  Two events happened in the last 24 hours, though, that made me chuckle while thinking, “Being sheltered isn’t such a bad thing.”

  1. Yesterday, I took the five children to the Prescott area, about an hour and a half north of here.  Among other things, we picked up my nephew and went to Costco.  So, I had six children, ages 3 – 16, in the store with me, and everyone was fabulous.  I was so pleased with how smoothly everything was going, and wanted to bless them.  So, I decided that everyone could have a frozen yogurt or a berry smoothie.  Oh, I laughed as my children inadvertently reminded me how infrequently we do this sort of thing — both because of cost, the sugar, and because who knows what’s in “yogurt” at Costco??  I usually avoid that sort of stuff like the plague.  But, this was a special occasion.  “Chocolate, vanilla, or swirl?” I asked each child.  “What’s swirl?” replied two of them — my six-year-old, Audrey, and my 15-year-old, Ethan.  Swirl.  They didn’t know what swirl was.  Adding to Audrey’s confusion was the whole topic of “yogurt.”  She is familiar with plain, whole milk yogurt, which she very often has for/with her breakfast.  “Yogurt can be ice cream??” she marveled.  Once we got it sorted out what swirl and frozen yogurt was, we could proceed.  Ethan and Audrey both decided to try this novelty of an idea:  swirl.  I had chocolate and gave Fiala (my three-year-old, who has almost kicked a systemic, REALLY BAD candida albicans yeast infection) six little bites.  Everyone else chowed down, and by the end, two of my children were saying it was too sweet and they had a stomach ache.  Ha!  It was a learning experience for all of us, and a really good ~$8.50 spent.
  2. Yesterday, we also received a package from Riega Foods for us to review*.  Now, this isn’t the official review, but I had to share:  I wanted to finish cleaning bathrooms before getting lunch ready, and the clock was ticking, especially since I sat down after being 80% done and chatted with my sister for a half-hour on the phone, which I absolutely do not regret.  😀  My oldest, Ethan, was especially interested in the cheese sauce mixes, and asked if he could make some macaroni and cheese for lunch.  I thought this might be a good idea, especially since my dairy-free child is gone at a friend’s house for the day.  Well, we didn’t quite have enough of the right sort of gluten-free noodles to make a whole meal of it, but I decided that he could work on that to be a “lunch snack” while I finished cleaning the bathrooms.  Now, you need to understand something:  Ethan is my sous chef.  He is a great hand at food prep:  washing, chopping, slicing, stirring, flipping, mixing, pretty much anything I need him to do at the cutting board and the stove top.  Very often, I’m the brains behind making a meal, and he’s the brawn, doing a good portion of the actual work.  So, it’s not like he’s inexperienced in the kitchen.  However…  he continued to come to me to ask me a question or two or three about the process of making what is the (almost) natural equivalent of Kraft Mac & Cheese — powdered mix combined with ¼ cup milk and a couple of tablespoons of butter.  I was partly annoyed that he was having difficulty with such a simple kitchen task when it dawned on me, “He has very little experience following the directions on a package!!!”  We make virtually everything from scratch, and I can’t remember the last time a “cheese sauce mix” was in our home!!  He’s more accustomed to, “Slice these ¼-inch thick and sauté them in butter.”  I finally had to stop what I was doing, and go over in great detail how to make boxed pasta.  I also completely abandoned my annoyance, and was amused and rather pleased that, in his fifteen years of life on this planet, he has virtually no experience with “cheese sauce”.

————

*Stay tuned for a whole review and a giveaway!!!!

Thus ends the most French-filled blog post I think I’ve ever written.

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