You've probably heard this quote before. "The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." It's so true, as is the inverse. Knowing that they are nestled safe not just within a loving nuclear family, but within a loving network of extended family, is huge for kids. The other night I came home to the sweetest thing.
It's a tricky thing, isn't it? Raising kids to be aware of the world and the people around them, the sadness and the hard things of life (remember when Sam first discovered homelessness?), finding that balance between righteous outrage and optimism while not totally freaking them out? There are so many things I just don't even want my kids to know about yet. But someday, if they're going to change the world, they're going to need to. I really don't have all the answers, but here are a few things we try to do.
Friday is the first day of summer but it feels like we've been in full swing for at least a month! We've been cramming picnics, farm trips, shorts and tees, lemonade, butterfly catching, gardening and every bit of summer fun we can into every sunny day we've had so far. What have YOU been up these sunshiney days?
I (almost) always listen to my dad; he's full of sage, fatherly wisdom. But tomorrow I'm especially excited to listen to him as he reads his in-progress novel on Maine's community radio station! The novel is based on a real life art fraud (he writes for the Maine Antique Digest, so this is kind of his thing.) He and I trade manuscripts and editorial advice so I've seen several versions of the story, but I'm excited to hear the polished piece he's reading tomorrow. A long time ago he was also a radio DJ for a folk music show; he has a great dramatic voice:) You can listen in here Thursday at 10AM eastern time (the three writers are being interviewed after the local and national specials).
Sam said to me today, while we were talking about how Vivi was born two years ago today, "Isn't it amazing how she's grown?" Ha, I love it when little kids say grown up things. We celebrated at home, just the four of us. I have to say, I think it was one of our most perfect birthdays yet.
Training Huxton has given me occasion to reflect on parenting. Unlike how I raise my kids, I really didn't question how I was going to train Hux. I just jumped in and did what felt right and effective, I worked with him the way I had seen my dad work with our dogs growing up. And I'm happy to say that he's doing awesome! He's not a perfect dog, but I think he's well on his way to becoming a very happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved member of the family. What more could I ask? In fact, that's about what I want for my kids too, and I realized that a lot of what I'm doing with the dog, I could and should be doing with my kids!
We used to call Sam the Bambino, before he was even born. Then Sam and Bambino became Sambino, which got shorted to Bino, and now just Bean. And there are all sorts of fun variations of Bean: bean sprout, beanie boy, string bean... Back when Sam was just a tiny bean sprout and newly born, he had to spend quite a lot of time in the NICU. At some point one of the nurses put this little beanie on him.
Clay and I took the kids to Vertical Diner for a family date. We were a little nervous about how it would all go down, but it was such a blast. We're already planning our next outing. Here are eight things we'll be keeping in mind to make it go smoothly and be as fun and enjoyable as possible for everyone (parents and kids!).
I'm all for it! Not the making iPhones and cheap trinkets kind, I'm talking about the not-playing-video games-all-day or thinking-mom's-a-live-in-maid kind. The kind where kids, even little kids, do actual work. My parents made my brother and me work (me totally more than my brother, I swear) and Sam (who's three) has chores that he's supposed to do every morning (doesn't always happen, I assure you). I even have little chores for Vivi. Do you make your kids work? What sorts of jobs do you give them? Here are my favorite kid-friendly jobs.
My parents flew out for a solid three weeks over the holidays and it was absolutely blissful. My mom couldn't tear herself away and decided to extend her stay a few weeks more, so she's still here! The more time my kids spend with their grandparents, the more ridiculous I think it is that we live so far away from both sets! I noticed some pretty important and wonderful things happening with my kids when my parents were here. There are just some things that grandparents do better...
Sam is on a bike ride with a friend, Vivian is napping, and I'm enjoying the stillness, a little remembering and some day dreaming.The taste of summer in Maine is still lingering; it just might carry me through these winter months. That and some knitting, hot chocolate and a few good novels (any suggestions for a cozy read?).
I've been writing this post for awhile, in my head, at least. I've known from the beginning of the blog that it would have its season and then come to an end; most things are like that. I certainly wasn't anticipating being a blogging granny or anything:) But with my mom in town this spring it just became really clear that the time to move away from the blog is now. Mom's are so great at shedding light on what is true and gently steering you toward it. It wasn't so much what my mom said, but rather how I remembered what sort of a mother she was (and is!), how much she sacrificed and devoted to my brother and I. The thing is, I love connecting with so many amazing people, and I love the emails I get from people saying that the blog has made a difference to them. My favorite was a woman who decided not to go back to work after her second baby because she and her husband were finally in a financial position to do so. Just that one mom's decision would have made the whole endeavor worth it to me. But now I have to think about my own babies. I've tried to blog only at night or during naps, but of course, that means I'm not doing other things (like cleaning! I always find an excuse not to do that...) and that often, when I'm with them in body, I'm creatively drained from pouring so much into this project. And I want to give the best of myself to them!
It's a funny thing about blogging, often only the pretty, the orderly, the sweet, the inspiring gets posted, and readers may begin to feel that that this blogger has somehow figured it all out; they're a master at time-management, they always seem to discipline their kids with love, dinner is always healthy and on the table with fresh flowers and handmade placemats etc. etc. Well, let me tell you, in the past year I have eaten fast food, shopped at Walmart, yelled at my kids, slept in sheets that Viv peed on and ignored Mt. Everests of laundry, blogged (not during nap time) instead of spending time with my kids, thrown recyclables in the garbage because I was feeling lazy, gone to bed angry with my husband when I should have apologized, and forgotten to bring my handmade, cloth grocery bags to the store more times than I can remember! There is sometimes a dark underbelly to blogging where the pretty posts come at the expense of real life lived. I think that perhaps some people just manage it better than I do. But, the truth is, I need all the energy, love, and creativity I can muster to be the very best mom and wife I can be to my beautiful children and husband. You know that I believe there is no job in the world more important, more rewarding, more difficult, or more crucial to the health of our world and the happiness of individuals than that of mothering. I actually have a lot to share on the subject and for a long time have wanted to write a book. That's another reason you won't find me in this space anymore. At night, when the kids have gone to bed and Clay and I are curled up on the couch reading, I'll be researching the topic of motherhood with notebook and pencil in hand. The book is already begun and I plan on letting it take as long as it needs to, no computer (until the very last draft), no taking myself away from the kids (that would rather be missing the point, wouldn't it?) just working on it quietly in the evenings more as a personal exercise than anything. I hope that at some point I have something to share, because there's no subject I feel more strongly about. If so, I will definitely announce it here. If not, I hope I will be all the better for having spent so many evenings pondering the signifigance of motherhood.
I plan to leave the blog up, all the archives will still be available. And I'll still be around; I'm a social creature and I would miss you all too much to just drop off the face of the earth! I hope you'll keep in touch. Friend me on facebook or become a fan of the blog's page (new posts automatically post to my personal wall and anything else blog related I'll post on the Progressive Pioneer wall). If you're a twitterer (I'm not really, but I have an account and new posts automatically post there as well) you can find me @ProPioneer, and if you have a feed reader, make sure you're subscribed. That should about cover it:) I'll post important things like new babies, moves to the country (and a call for neighbors!), books published(!) and anything else I just can't keep to myself:)
Thanks so much for reading these past few years. I've learned so much and made some wonderful friends; what a great adventure it's been! Thank you SO MUCH for your support, advice and for the stories and thoughts you've shared. Please keep in touch!
Have I mentioned that my mom's in town? I'm in Heaven! Seriously, two moms and two kids is just about right for me:) With the both of us reading books, prepping dinner, taking zoo trips etc. this mothering thing just seems like a breeze!
We were so excited about her visit and I spent the week or two prior getting all ready, fluffing pillows, arranging things just so, picking up last minute groceries... We have a guest room downstairs, but I wanted it to feel extra homey. I made the bed with the quilt I made before Vivi was born. Sam and Clay picked out some pretty, potted flowers to set on the window sill.Sam got to use my special water color paints (I actually love it when he uses them; the colors are so vibrant and beautiful!) and painted Grammy some pictures to decorate the walls.
And I handpicked a selection of books from my collection that I thought she might particularly like. I also stocked up on movies at the library, lots of British, Jane Austen-y flicks and old movies. I almost picked up Pollyanna because the family joke is that my dad never wants to let my mom pick movies with the reasoning being, "Oh, you'll just pick something like Pollyanna..."
What do you do to make your house feel like home for guests?
PS Speaking of moms; if they do a sequel I have plenty of material, because I tell my mom EVERYTHING! How about you? Would you be able to fill a book easier with stories you've only told your mom or stories you've never told your mom?
I've been thinking, recently, about motherhood. There was the recent holiday, and the book, of course, and I'm also working on a little project with my mom that I'm excited to show you soon. All of these things have got me thinking about this amazing, exhausting, exhilirating profession of Motherhood.
One of the things that struck when reading all the essays in the book, were just how varied the experiences of mothering or being mothered were, and yet how poignant each one was. There is a depth and power to each and every story, whether a glowing tribute to a mother or a complicated dance of misunderstanding and trying again. That was really the common thread, that motherhood is messy, complicated, hard to define and yet we know it when we see it because something there resonates with us, on a gut level. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with blood and birth, though that is often a part of it. It doesn't necessarily have to do with titles or marriages, though those things certainly factor in. My essay talks about the connection I feel to a mother who hasn't been a part of my life since I was seven, and who yet is inextricably interwined in who I am. It also touches on my relationship with someone who is in most ways even more of a mother to me, my step-mother. Crazy, complicated, beautiful stuff this mothering...
I won't go into too much detail about this project I'm working on with my mom (step-mom, for clarification); I don't want to ruin the surprise! But, can I ask you a question? Or a few? What do you think are some of the most important things for mothers to know? I mean, if you had to sum up a few crucial ideas for a mother-to-be, what would they be? Tips on juggling it all? Reassurance that she can do this? Encouragement to trust her intuition? Advice on keeping teenagers close while giving them their independence? How to keep your kids safe in this crazy, scary world? Or just to relax, it's not that crazy and scary? What do moms really need to know about how to be a mother?
PS Here's a little excerpt from my essay. You can get the entire book for $4.99 and enjoy the whole range of essays. I promise; it's totally worth it!
Breast cancer has its virtues, though few. It doesn’t steal in and snatch away loved ones in the dead of the night. The process is slow; there is time to prepare. My mom, Tinnel, told my step-mother that she thought God had hand-picked her to raise me. And she was right. I can’t count the number of times I have thanked Him for the gift of a loving (step) mother. I’ve told my step-mother everything, even about the time I brushed the dog’s teeth with her toothbrush during a fit of teenage rage. But my biological mother, there are a lot of things I wish I could tell her.
When it became clear that the end of my mom’s life on Earth was near she began to write me a book. It ends abruptly and is composed of mostly blank white pages, an apt metaphor for her unfinished life. She was only 37 when she died. But within the first few pages of her graceful handwriting and watercolor illustrations are as much wisdom and love as she could conjure up in those last few moments.
Of breastfeeding, my mother wrote, “I loved to nurse you. It created the bond we share to this day (the day you’re reading this), and I was sad to give it up even after 2 years.” I would tell her that she was right, that I can feel her in my body and my being, that I am made of her, as my own daughter is built of my very essence, cell by cell. No distance or death can change that initial construction. I have the feeling that those early years when she poured herself into me both literally and emotionally, gave me strength for difficulties ahead.
images from Stock Exchange
This past weekend we...
Ate the traditional birthday cake and drank "fuzzy juice," (as Sam calls it),
Enjoyed an easy, comfortable family celebration and broke open pinatas,
Opened a few presents, put them together,
And generally enjoyed celebrating and marvelling at our boy's three long and short years around the sun. How can he be three already? And how does he manage to be so wise, funny, cheerful, loving and all around fantastic for only being three years old? The four of us snuggled in Sam's bed tonight, (re)reading a new favorite book from Grammie and just feeling full to bursting with the sweet joy that comes from loving your kids to bits.
I'm constantly amazed at the perspective I gain by seeing the world through my children's eyes. Today we went to the Home Depot to get a bunch of tiny cacti for party favors. As we were leaving the parking lot, we had to pause while waiting for traffic. There was a homeless man with his cardboard sign, there on the corner. I felt slightly inconvenienced because I felt awkward not acknowleding him beyond one somewhat warm, though not overly inviting smile. I try to always smile at homeless people and look them in the eyes, rather than pretend I don't see them. But, I also don't want to invite them in too close. It's one of those things that leaves me feeling uneasy, my desire to help tempered by my desire to keep my family safe (Elizabeth Smart, anyone?), a belief in the importance of treating everyone with dignity, complicated by my desire to not be inconvenienced physically or emotionally. And so, it's with those conflicting emotions and motivations that I dole out my semi-friendly smile, but that's it. On this day though, traffic was particularly heavy and so we stayed mere feet from this particular man for quite a few minutes. Without really thinking about it one way or the other I suggested to Sam that he wave to the man, that it would make him happy. So he did, and it did. But it also opened up a whole new topic of conversation and corner of the world for Sam. "Who is that man, mom?" he asked me. I explained about homelessness. He wanted to know why he didn't have a home. I explained that there are a few reasons, and that it was also likely that the man used things that made his body feel good momentarily, but were very bad for his body in the long run. I try to give him real answers, but in terms he can understand and with a level of reality appropriate for his tender age and heart. Sam was very interested in this notion of not having a home, and very concerned about how this man might find a home. We talked about homeless shelters and soup kitchens. He wanted to know if we could bring him home to our house. I couldn't figure out a way to explain why we couldn't. I told him that perhaps we could volunteer at the shelter or soup kitchen and we could help him in that way. Though it squeezed my heart to see his sweet heart so wide open and full of love and being so newly exposed to one of the harsh and sad realities of life on earth, I still felt that the conversation had gone well and that I had answered him in the best way possible, or at least pretty close to it, if there is a best way. Tonight when I went in to kiss Sam goodnight he asked me again about the homeless man. Bedtime is often the time when concerns or just things that have been on his mind come to the surface, and it's a time for us to lay quietly and process them together. We spent about half an hour talking about this man. Sam did most of the talking and I just listened, ocassionally offering explanations or suggestions. By the end of the conversation I had tears in my eyes at the tenderness of Sam's heart and his capacity for compassion. He was worried that the man would be outside in the rain tonight and would have to sleep in the dark. I told him that I hoped he had gone to a shelter tonight. "Does he have a mother at the homeless shelter?" he asked, "He needs a mother to help him find a new home." He wanted to know how he would get to the shelter, he thought a train might be a good way. He worried that he had lost his coat, because he hadn't been wearing a coat when we saw him. "I want Heavenly Father to show him how to get there," he said. "You could ask him that," I suggested. And so he rolled over onto his knees and said, "Dear Heavenly Father, please help the homeless man to find the shelter. He doesn't have a house and I don't want him to die. Please do that. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." It was the most serious and sincere prayer I've heard him say. I don't even know where he got the idea that the man might die. From there he asked me how the man would walk if he died and how he would get back to Heaven. My goodness, such a heavy conversation for a toddler, and for this mama. But, so good to talk about, I think. I don't really know if I handled it right, or if there is a right way. I mean, really, what is the answer? Homelessness, and the myriad other painful, difficult things about the paths we tread, don't have easy answers, they simply are sometimes hard and sad. I think I often shut myself off from them, with the half-friendly smile and then the avoidance, because I just can't immerse myself in the sorrow of all the sadness there is. I can't bleed for each homeless person I encounter; at times I feel too much and just get overwhelmed at all the heartache that exists and the fact that I can't fix it. But, on the other hand, there are babies being born, hundreds, if not thousands of them, in the time it's taken me to write this. Insurmountable joy is coursing through new mothers' bodies, lovers are uniting, friends are lifting each other up, fathers are beaming with pride as they watch their sons become men, and families are spending simple, sweet moments together in the happiness that comes from that familial combination of love and sacrifice. It's a crazy, complicated, rich, and wonderful world we live in. I'm so grateful for the wise, little souls that are sharing my journey. photos from stockexchange.com