Wednesday, August 31, 2011

joining the real world

They talked me into it. A little forcefully, if I might add. "You need to be part of the modern age, Mom. This is the 21st century." People look at me like I'm an idiot when I tell them I don't have one. It's kind of embarrassing.

I know, I know. At one time, maybe for a couple months or so, I did own a cell phone. A cheapo Tracfone from Walmart that I always forgot to take with me. Never used up the minutes on my calling card. I was okay that Keith had one that the kids could call when we'd go out. Like for emergencies and stuff.

I guess technology scares me. We were just fine without cell phones for thousands of years.  I just don't see the need. Just call me on my real phone, e-mail me, Facebook me, call Keith--he has one (smile), or just come over and speak to me in real life. Blah blah blah...  Then, there is that unforgettable memory when my car broke down on the freeway one time. With three little kids in tow. I was stranded. I know, it's stupid. I think it's my rebellious streak coming through.

Our teens never had nor have cell phones. Deprived, I know. But now that Jane is in college, of course it's necessary that she has a way to communicate. Gary's had one for a while now. He's hip.

So we went to the T-Mobile store yesterday. Gary, Jane, and I joined a "family plan". (That's the best deal, Mom.) Came home with the cheapest one. Have no idea how the thing works. Overwhelmed with it all. I've never texted in my life. I won't even venture there, I'm telling myself. Gary spent some time programming the thing, and offered encouragement to this technophobic apprehensive mother of his.

"Get over it, Mom."

I think I just might.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

losing things. missing things. locking doors.

I feel restless. An unsettled feeling. A feeling that things are missing. Yesterday's experiences brought it all to the surface.

As I was heading out the door to pick up the kids from school, I realized that my keys were no where to be found. They weren't anywhere. I had left them on the counter by the sink when I came home from church on Sunday.They weren't in my purse, either. I searched in a frenzy. Tore up the house. Tore through the stink of yesterday's garbage, even. Called Keith at work and he saved the day. Called to reassure the kids at school. Apologized to Antonio's mom who would wonder why he was late. Humbly, yet again, I get up on my bed and on my knees and I cry, It's me, Heavenly Father, the one who is always losing her keys and other stuff and turns to You in embarrassed desperation and wondering why it's times like these that make it so easy to have faith and trust and believe that You'll answer.

It dawned on me yesterday, too, that I miss more than my keys. I miss the noise. The quiet of these last few days is surprisingly uncomfortable. And yet, it is something I've always craved and sought. Just give me some peace and quiet, you kids. Now, this silence is deafeningly loud. So loud I have to distract myself from it and the thinking and my own constant internal chatter. I see that I'll need to find ease in this new reality.

And then there's the biggest loss.

I'm missing God. I miss Him the most.

It's becoming more and more clear to me. Why all this unexplainable uneasiness. All emotion crystallized, verbalized in out-loud expression last night to Keith, that He is the One, the most important thing, I've lost. More than keys. More than noise. More than identity. More than kids.

I've created this distancing void, the despairing space between us. I've closed the door to my heart, and hid the key away. This key lost, just like the sybolism of the keys I carry in my purse and now miss so much. (The irony.) Boundary formed so as not to feel the pain of lost hope, of doubting faith. Questioning His role in my life. Questioning the meaning of prayer. Facing unattainable expectations of perfection, from myself and others and the culture. (But not on what God sees, or how He judges. And the deep down forgetting that this is all that matters in the end.) All ugly seeds planted in my heart these past several months, and watered drop by drop with bitterness. With pride. With fear.

And when you've lost something you've cherished, something you can't live without, it hurts. Really bad. It's hard. It takes work to find the thing you've come to always rely on. The thing you've taken for granted. A lot of work and deep, deep searching.

I'll keep looking for my keys. I still haven't found them. I've surrendered. Maybe they'll turn up, maybe I'll never find them, and maybe I'll always keep looking.

Just like a lot of other things in my life.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Daybook for August 29, 2011

Outside my window: A beautiful blue cloudless sky. You wouldn't know it after last night's thunder storm.

I am thankful for: my family, including my parents, all gathered here in our home last night. We were also blessed to have our good friends, the Covington's stop over for a visit before they head back to New York City for the continuation of Niki's classical art studies. Niki was Eliza's beloved art teacher and mentor.  I love it when our house is filled with loved ones. (More on that later.)

I am thinking: that this story is too good to not pass on to you. I've still got the giggles. The other day before Jane moved out, she was waiting on campus for me to pick her up. She was sitting by herself on a bench opposite another empty bench. Probably 15 feet across from each other. Anyway, she noticed a student of the male gender approaching and he sat down across from her. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed him zero-ing in on her. Intently, mind you. Looking away, but still seeing him, Jane saw him discreetly take out a stick of deodorant out of his backpack, glance around, checking to see that no one was watching, and thus proceeding to swipe both armpits. Jane just about died. How could she not take her eyes off him at this point. Noticing her looking at him, he smiled, got up off the bench and started walking toward her bench, intending to sit next to her. (THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE DEODORANT! GET IT?) Unfortunately, at the same time he was on his way over, an older woman walked up and sat down next to Jane.  He lost his chance.

This is classic.

In the kitchen: I knew we'd be having people over yesterday, so I went the extra mile with my cooking duties. Used up a lot of stuff from the garden, too. All of it delicious, I might add.

cranberry juice blend homemade soda
tomato-basil bruschetta
Mediterranean inspired salad of lentil, barley, roasted eggplant and summer squash
baked tofu, kale, and cranberry saute
broiled lemon Tilapia
Basmati rice

and to top it off:

a raw (frozen) berry cheesecake pie 

I am creating: my list of goals, plans, and intentions for fall. (I'll share this with you, soon.)

I am going: to hop in the shower in a minute.

I am hearing: on the very handy on-line Grooveshark, Foster the People's Pumped Up Kicks. My kids think it's weird that I like this.

I am hoping: all my east coast friends have been kept safe with the hurricane going through the area.

Around the house: One of the the things I've wanted to be more consistent in is opening my home up to hospitality. I have lots of happy memories growing up in a family which frequently hosted guests for dinner. As Keith and I have built our own home traditions over the years, I've really enjoyed having people over to visit, to share food, conversation and laughter. I'd really like to commit to having family or friends over at least two times in the month. I have the time, the space, the means, and the desire to do this. I think it's not only important, but fun, too.  It most likely will be Sundays, but maybe Friday or Saturday would work. I already have made it clear to Jane and Gary that their roommates are welcome to join us for dinner. I can see that happening. We love having our family over, too. I'm toying around lots of ideas to show hospitality to lots of different people- maybe extending special invites, or the idea of an open invitation to a shared potluck... I'm looking forward to see how things pan out.

I am reading: Tales of a Female Nomad and Breathe Life Into Your Life Story. Really enjoying this past week's library stack. 

I am wearing: sweaty gray tee and blue running shorts

One of my favorite things: reading and loving and appreciating each of your sweet comments. Thanks for taking the time to be here, friends. And for letting me know it!

A few plans for the rest of the week: starting up piano lessons with Mama (my mom) and Isaac again.  Participating with other women in a "Sister Power Hour", cleaning a very pregnant neighbor's home as she prepares to move. Maybe spend the day at the local storytelling festival. Starting my new hour and a half library volunteer job at the kid's school on Friday, sorting shelves and helping 2nd and 3rd graders find books. Looking forward to a weekend overnighter with Keith.

Friday, August 26, 2011

moving out, moving on

We got 'er done.

At least I think so.

I'm exhausted, still, from yesterday. Couldn't go back to sleep just before 4 o'clock that morning and thought I'd make a batch of granola and baked tofu for my girl to take with her. Good thing we loaded the van the night before.

She had arranged to check into her dorm in the morning. In the meantime, she started her new job and was scheduled to work until 3:00pm. I dropped her off and swung into action. I had all day, so why not? I bet I took twenty trips from that bursting van, arms loaded, sweat running down my face and soaking through my shirt, up the flight of stairs, and into the apartment.

Jane is thrilled to be rooming with my sister Sara's niece (her husband's brother's daughter) Joselyn. We met her for the first time this summer when we were in Wisconsin. We just love Joselyn; she's part of the family after all.

Anyway, I had made arrangements to take Joselyn to Wal Mart. I needed to pick up some more odds and ends for Jane. (Note: college is very expensive in more ways than one.)

After dropping Joselyn off at some Freshman orientation activities, and after yet more unloading lugs up the stairs, I got to work. It was fun to meet some of the other roommates and a few of their mothers who were doing the same stuff as I was.

Organized her food, washed her thrift store dishes, made up the get the idea. Finally, after her after-work- trek across campus, I welcomed Jane into her (1st time through) college dorm.

You should have seen the look on her face when she saw what I had done. She said she felt like crying. She said there would be no way she could have gotten all her stuff put away and organized,  work her 6 hour shift again today, attend all the new student events,  get a cell phone with Gary, get her bearings on campus--- do all that and be emotionally prepared for the first day of school on Monday.

I smiled and reminded her that Moms do things like that. They know.

Dinner time rolled around and we both hadn't had anything to eat all day. We invited Joselyn to go get a bite to eat with us. It was so fun for me to see the girls start to "click".

After that, (the bottoms of my feet almost raw from all the walking that I had to take my sandals off and go barefoot), we finally got her checked in, key in hand.

Back once again in her room, she turned to me and realized that she'd forgotten to pack her alarm clock. (It's essential, she says) "Can I just go home with you and spend the night and be with the kids and hug Isaac again and then have you drop me off in the morning?"

How could I say no.

Here's where I'm at today:

Learning that there's truly no place like home.

Learning that big kids, adult kids, all of us need our moms. 

Learning what it means to love. It's...

The sacrifice of time and energy and money. The never ending service. The feeding. The being there.  The getting stuff. The picking up. The taking there. The listening. The supporting. The trusting. The hugging. The tears.

It's even the letting go.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

yesterday...and a yum breakfast recipe

Yesterday was a hard day, but like always, it had its good points.

I packed good school lunches.
I tucked love notes in, even.
I dropped kids off.
I drove home feeling so empty.
And a little lost.
Don't know what to do with myself.
This is so weird.
I did the breakfast dishes.
I swept the floor.
Spent too much time on the computer.
Poor Keith listened to my little sob story (yes, there was a fair amount of real sobbing along with the talking) when he called me at lunchtime.
I ate my lunch on top of my bed while watching my Chinese movies.
Ate too many cookies.
Loved Isaac's tight hug when he got home.
Fixed a huge bowl of popcorn for the kids for an after school snack.
(I'm trying to be a good mom.)
Got a haircut.
Loving this real short hair.
Snuggled with Jane on my bed later that night.
We talked about important stuff. 
Uncomfortable things that are sometimes hard to talk about but  wasn't really uncomfortable at all. 
And that made me so happy.
She's moves out tomorrow.
 Hasn't started packing.
We're in denial.

Today's a new day.
Made a good breakfast.
Taking pictures of my food makes me happy.
Maybe I'll do that when I grow up.
I think I'll go to the quilt show after I drop off Jane at work.
It's in the same neighborhood, after all.
Maybe I'll treat myself to lunch.
Why do I feel guilty about that?
Gotta keep my mind off stuff, I guess.

Raw Buckwheat Porridge (from the Oh She Glows vegan cooking blog. It's a fave.)

2 cups raw buckwheat grouts, soaked in water for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight)
1 1/4 cup-1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)
2 T. chia seeds
1/4 cup liquid sweetener to taste
pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon

Drain soaked buckwheat. Rinse well in strainer. Place buckwheat grouts in food processor or blender, along with all the other ingredients and process until combined and fairly smooth. Adjust sweetener and cinnamon to taste. Scoop into bowls or parfait glasses and add desired toppings. Serve immediately cold. Place leftovers into fridge and enjoy for the next few days. Makes 4 cups.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

first day

We quietly gather
the night before
that first day
excitement, anticipation
another year
to learn
fresh beginnings
new possibilities
opportunities to

chair from my own childhood
brought forth
each one
to sit
with eyes closed
as a loving father
gently places
strong hands
on each head
pleading the Father
of us all
for blessings
for protection
individual counsel
for each precious
their mother also
not forgotten

this holy tradition
bestowal of peace
tears and hugs
our hearts full
a father's gift
his tender expression
manifested and
with gratitude
and love

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the end of an era, a new chapter beginning

This has been an emotional week for me. I've stayed so very busy, (if you've been following along with me here, I know it's not a surprise to you.) trying to ignore, to not feel the pain, the ache that is my heart. The warm lump that's lately found a home in the pit of  my throat. These eyes frequently are filling with tears. Working in the kitchen yesterday, while listening to Fleetwood Mac's Landslide, I fought the urge to sob when I heard, and felt, these words:

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I'm getting older too...

I knew this day would come. For years, even. I waited, I worried, I agonized, I regretted, I questioned, I anticipated. These changes, any change for that matter, are very difficult for me.

This week will mark the first time in 20 years where I won't have any kids at home. That I'll be alone all day. That my second child, my oldest daughter, is leaving my nest. That the role I played as homeschool mom, the role that I placed so much of my identity on as a person-- is finished. I'm done. I won't be homeschooling my children from now on. 

There were many reasons in the beginning why I wanted to homeschool my children. I loved teaching them, being near them. After trying public schools for a few years, we brought them home full time by the time Gary finished 2nd grade and Jane Kindergarten. I took each year as it came. It felt natural to our growing family of five children. It wasn't easy, but those years when we had so much time together, forging bonds and memories that can never be replaced, well, I can say from the bottom of my heart that they were all worth it. The happiest years of my motherhood. I can honestly say that I gave it my all.

I committed to teaching them full time by the time they finished 6th grade. All who have gone on have adjusted very well. Then, there was the question of little Isaac. He's my caboose. He and Eliza are six years apart. I knew that he would be the only child at home with me all day long. I worried about his happiness, about his need to interact with other children, about the fact that we no longer knew or interacted with any other homeschoolers. Keith and I took the matter to prayer.  We were blessed last year to find an opening in a former homeschool mom's Montessori pre-school. It was a perfect answer and fit for him to attend this school for a couple of hours in the morning, 3 days a week. As this school year got closer, I was impressed with the peaceful reassurance that sending Isaac to the small charter school where the other children have gone for 7th and 8th grade was the answer. In my heart, I knew it was the right thing to do. So, tomorrow school will start. And with it comes a flood of raw, honest feelings, memories, and thoughts. Here's...

...Some things I've learned about homeschooling:

  • No one would ever tell me how rewarding it would be to give the gift of reading to a child. To be able to open up the world to my children in this way.
  • No one will understand how emotionally and physically exhausting it is to homeschool, in addition to a mother's other home duties, until you've experienced it. It takes an enormous amount of diligence, perseverance, and commitment.
  • Burnout is real. Homeschooling gets old after the the initial excitement. The honeymoon doesn't last forever.
  • No one will know the pressure we feel to prove we are doing a good enough job of it.
  • You can't teach it all. No one can.
  • The freedom to homeschool is a beautiful, not to be taken forgranted gift.  
  • Not homeschooling my children doesn't mean I don't love them any less or that I'm not a diligent mother. Others can teach, love, bless, and inspire my children.
  • Most mothers are doing the best they can. Parents are the primary teachers of their children. Some of us truly desire to homeschool and some of us really don't or can't for many justifiable reasons. The educational choices we make for our children are not always a true reflection of how much love we have for them. Judging other's personal decisions can be very harmful and hurtful.
  • Witnessing the inexpressible joy that comes into a child's eyes when the light bulb goes off and he gets it. And you were the one to help make that possible
  • The funnest and happiest years for the children and I were when we met regularly with other homeschoolers. Whether it was through the various co-ops we were part of, the geography club I organized, participating in the university homeschooler P.E. class, the Christmas play we put on... These "extras" were essential.
  • Reading aloud to my kids was one of the best things I've ever done. Period. For me and for them.
  • It's easier when all the kids are homeschooling.
  • Homeschooling is not a magic bullet. It won't and never will solve or meet all the needs for my children. There are problems, inadequacies, positive and negative aspects of any educational institution or experience.

  • Loneliness is real for the homeschooling mom. It's hard when you're the only person on the block crazy enough to have their kids home 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Sometimes you might feel like the "odd" family, in the neighborhood. It's easy to feel like you just don't fit in. Kids feel this way whether we like to admit it or not.
  • Being part of a peer group gets more important as children reach adolescence. Social acceptance and interaction, the sharing of conversation and ideas, meaningful friendship all are so important, crucial even, to a homeschooled teenager's happiness, attitudes, and success.
  • The decision to homeschool takes an enormous leap of faith. It's often difficult to get past the perceptions and judgements "well meaning" family members, neighbors, friends, and others make of your lifestyle decisions.
  • The most important lessons learned aren't always academic. The family is the school of life. The baby IS the lesson.
  • Trust the children. See them as individuals, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, interests, gifts, and God-given talents.

  • I've come to terms that I will always question and wonder if I did enough. If I did my best. If I did right by them. If they learned the most important lessons I wanted to teach them.
  • Homeschooling is a lifestyle. It encompasses everything you do in your family.

  • Values, character, and life skills and are best taught in the home.
  • Parents should and often have the child's best interest at heart.
  • Children fall in love with learning when they see Mom (especially) and Dad model it.
  • Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.

With this door of my life quietly closing, comes an open window of possibilities. What will my life be like now? How does my mothering role change? In the midst of the sniffs, there's part of me that wants to raise my hands above my head and shout (with jubilation) "FREEDOM!!" What will I do with all this time, these empty days?

There will be more time for my own personal interests, hobbies, writing, and study. There will be time to be a better manager of my (somewhat neglected) home duties. There will be time for my aging parents. There will be energy to give my children more emotional support, my full "presence", if you will. I see how vital this is to my teenagers and young adults.There will be space opened up from being so preoccupied and stressed. There will be more time for friends. To go to lunch in the middle of the day! To read all day, to watch movies in the day, to nap, to clean, to shop, to go to museums. All if I want to!

So, I'm excited. 

Here's to the past.
And here's to glorious new beginnings. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011


:: Harvested a cabbage as big as your head. And a whole lot of other stuff. Anybody need a cucumber?

:: Went to the store(s) so's I could fill the fridge.

:: Took the kids to the library and came home with these goodies for me.

:: Went to see Gary's new digs afterwards. Helped him carry some loads over from the old place to the new place. (Almost next door.)

:: Invited Gary to go eat at the Creamery.

:: Came home and watched one of these Chinese foreign films I had in my stack.

:: Heard all about Arches National Park.

:: Ran sweaty both mornings.

:: Wrote an article for the back of tomorrow's (church) Relief Society bulletin entitled "Thinking About School Lunches".

:: Took Jane (I hope for the last time) to Target. Also, more stuff for Sam.

:: Decided to center myself in the kitchen. Want to be all stocked for the coming week. A half gallon of fresh salsa made all from my garden.

:: Fixed up some offerings from my 30 Day Vegan workshop.
Thai Coleslaw

:: Jars of Black Bean Hummus and Hummus (the normal kind) to have at the ready for school lunchbox veggies.

:: Caramel Dipping Sauce made from cashews, dates, and maple syrup, etc. This is so good with sliced fruit.

:: Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yes, these are vegan, too. Really good with a glass of cold almond milk.

:: Getting ready to head out the door with Keith for a night on the town.

Hoping your weekend is a happy one, friend!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jane's Solo Trip With Dad: A "Leaving Home and Going Away to College" Tradition

Keith is such a great dad. Before Gary left for college, he decided to make it a tradition to take him, as well as the rest of the other children when they head off, on a "just with dad", weekend excursion. Their experience together was so enjoyable and memorable, he knew he had to make it a priority for this time to happen for each of our children. It's not very often that kids get to spend all this focused one-on-one time with a loving, attentive father. I'm so glad he's the kind of dad that would do this. 

This is a little glimpse of Jane's trip with her dad. They decided to head down to lovely Moab, Utah, a three and a half hour drive from our house. They had originally wanted to stay for two days, but Jane's new job cut the trip a night shorter. Even though it was shorter than they wanted it to be, it was still such a special experience for both of them. They got home a couple of hours ago, sunburned, smiling, and happy.

They decided to stay in a cozy little cabin located in a campground right in Moab. This morning they thought it would be fun to ride horses together. They both loved that. They both couldn't get over how sweet and gentle those horses were.

Next, they hiked up to nearby Delicate Arch. So cool to see these Native American petroglyphs just off the side of the trail.

Seems like you're on a different planet, doesn't it? Something about this picture reminds me of Star Wars.

Seeing this familiar Utah landmark is such a different experience in real life. So unbelievably awesome.

Jane said she felt like she was in a different country. (a different planet, too!) She and Keith were both amazed at how many foreign visitors there were. Asians, Belgians, Italians, Germans, Dutch, and a very friendly young man from Philadelphia touring all over America. All of them marveling at this strange, yet beautiful terrain. And to think that this amazing variety of nature is actually in our own "backyard". (A note: if any of you ever want to make a trip out to Utah, you will not only be richly rewarded with lots of scenic pleasures, but you may get to meet me and that would be so fun!!)

I'm so glad Jane and her dad got to spend this time together. To share an experience in nature (these settings almost always get planted firmly in our memories, don't you think?), to talk, to plan, to hike and explore, to bond. 

A father's love and undivided, special attention. What a gift.