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Monday, February 27, 2012

poor thing

 This and....
 This, is the face of a "poor little thing."  I did not know it until the other day.
The other day I found myself in a children's clothing store and while I don't normally discuss my views on television with strangers, sometimes it comes up.  Usually a well meaning adult will ask Austin what his favorite tv character is or what his favorite show is.  I usually just respond, "we chose not to watch tv in our home."  We made this decision long before Austin was born, almost 15 years ago when we first got married.  It has always drawn some curious responses.  Mostly, people are amazed, think we're strange, wonder what we do with all our time, etc.  But since Austin came along, I have gotten even stranger responses.  Some people become angry with me, and demand, "Why" and then in defensiveness say, 'we watched tv, and we (or, our kids) turned out fine.'  The fact that we choose not to watch tv somehow makes them feel judged in their own choices.  This is not my intent.  Ours is a personal conviction.  It is right for our family.  It works for us.

Back to the store, where when I mention our no tv policy, the sales clerk gets the most pityful expression, gazes at my son and says, "you poor little thing" and asks him if he wants a sticker, apparently to somehow make up for the pathetic childhood he suffers through.  I had to stiffle a laugh, for my "poor little thing" who was at the moment being bought an expensive wardrobe, who has always had plenty to eat, more than enough toys, several pets and is completely surrounded by love.  I hadn't realized that the definition of poor had been changed to include a lack of access to Dora the Explorer and "Bob the Builder.  Perhaps Unicef should be alerted to cease humanitarian efforts and focus on getting a television into every home.  It seems that for my husband and I to deny ourselves the benefits of cable is just plain weird, but to deprive an innocent child is nothing short of malicious negligence.  Interesting.  Well, to each his own.

We do keep a small television in storage for when my mom comes to visit, which we set up in her room.  She won't stay with us without it.  And Brian and I do watch some videos on the laptop.  But by and large we are happy not having the constant background noise and distraction that television bring.  And yes, I grew up with television and I think I'm alright.  My friends kids watch and even got their young toddler her own Wii games.  I fully anticipate this child to grow up as functional member of our society.
So what do we do with "all that time?"

To which I would say," I don't know, when I have all that extra time, I'll let you know!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Raising a Reader

 I have always been inordinately fond of books.  I will sit and read a cookbook for fun.  I have more picture books than most school libraries.  You don't want to know how many knitting books I have.  No, honestly, you really don't want to know.  Fortunately, (or unfortunately, considering the lack of space we have) I married the one person who loves books as much as I do.  And then came Austin.
 It started out like this...
 My mother would laugh at me when she saw me reading to a babe only a few days old.  She wasn't sure what to think when Brian would read the entire volumes of Jane Austin to him.  Not in one sitting, I promise.  Things were looking promising.  And then one day, out of the blue, Austin developed a severe case of Bibliophobia.  I am not sure this is a documented diagnosis anywhere but in our home, but I assure you, any time Austin was so much as SHOWN a book, he would begin screaming.  At first it was funny.  You could always elicit a laugh from a friend, by saying, "hey, wanna see something funny?" and then pull out a book and watch the spontaneous crying erupt.   But after the novelty and cruelty wore off, I started to become concerned.  How could such a wee person have such strong feelings about pieces of paper held together with glue?  I honestly could not read one page of any book to him without him crying.  I got funny looks at the library.   Book stores were out. Oh no, I thought, how did this happen?  How could this child who hated books end up with us, in a home stacked wall to wall with books?  Would he be doomed to be illiterate, would I never read "the Very Hungry Caterpillar" again?  This strange phase lasted a few months, and then, like the hungry caterpillar...
 Austin began consuming any reading material we gave him.  First, literally...
 and then actually enjoying the pictures and turning pages
 and lifting the flaps....
 pushing the buttons....

 and dumping out the whole book basket.
 He was hooked.  Now he would sit for long, really long periods of time and study
the pages.  He would grab a stack of books and climb up onto whatever piece of
furniture he could reach and read.

Turns out God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed Austin with us.  Now the question remains, Where will we put all the books now that we have three book lovers?

There is of course one thing Austin has always loved as much as books.....

but that's a blog for another day!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Soaking up the sun

 I feel as if we have been fighting every germ, virus and bacteria out there lately.  Between stomach bugs, sore throats, runny noses and plenty of fatigue, we've had our share of blahs.  So we headed outside for a little of nature's free vitamin D, and look who we found.

 The crocus too, have given up on winter this year and have decided to make an early show of it.  I hadn't even thought to look for them until I almost stepped on a patch of them in the yard.  Austin had fun searching the yard for other small clumps of them, a bit of practice for the upcoming Easter egg hunts.

 We had some trees pruned this past week and there are still a few woody treasures to be found.
 The chickens too, were making the most of the sunshine.

 There were important things to do, like bubble mowers to push...
feathers to collect.... 

 and sun to soak up!
 Afterwards, we headed inside for a little book time

 and a little cuddle time with "baby Jesus". You know baby Jesus must be pretty special to get wrapped in the all important blankie.

It was a busy morning and I'm looking forward to a good nap.....

for both of us!

Wishing you 
a restful

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Day of Grace

We're having a Day of Grace around here today.   A well needed gift I give myself every now and again. Let me explain.

I struggle with anxiety.  Anxiety disorder, if you want to be technical and clinical. I have for probably most of my life.  You may know me and never know it,  because the thing is, we anxiety-types strive for order and control in our lives, so much so, that the thing that give us the most anxiety is the thought that you might notice.  Might see that while we are acting normal, while we are looking you in the face, we are really loosing it inside and wondering how we can escape and get somewhere safe.  Somewhere where we can focus on our raging adrenaline, our racing thoughts and our urgent all consuming fear, whatever that may be at the moment.  It is exhausting and to do all this while appearing normal for your benefit is too much.
Let me assure you, I am not crazy.  I lead a productive, happy and normal life.  I am one of millions of people who deal with anxiety.  My father did.  My dad, the big, strong retired cop.  The man who was feared and admired by many.  He had a presence, an aura of strength and dignity you couldn't help but feel when he was around.  When he was near, I always felt safe, nothing bad could ever happen as long as he was there.  He was self educated.  The man had a vocabulary to rival any university doctorate candidate, although he was pulled our of school at age 9.   He spoke several languages without an accent.  He was strong, stubborn, had a fierce temper but was so gentle that he wouldn't kill an ant or mouse.  Much to my mom's chagrin, he would carefully carry them outside and release them, saying, "They just want to live too." But this giant of a man fought an inner battle which his friends never knew.  A little blip on a little bar on the helix ladder so carefully passed on in our DNA.
In any case, by now I have learned how too keep the big dog on his leash, so to speak.  Most days it sleeps soundly in it's crate occasionally appearing as a chihuahua to annoyingly nip at my heals.  But the last several days I've been sick with a combination of health issues.  My ability to worry allowed that little chihuahua to grow into a fierce rottweiler which barked and growled at me nonstop.   As you can imagine, hand to hand combat with a large dog is exhausting.  So when I finally remember you never win by "fighting" anxiety,  I do what I should have done all along.

I give myself grace.  Grace to be who I am, with all my human frailties.  Grace to just be.  Grace to let go of the expectations I put on myself.  Grace to not be in control.   To admit that sometimes life, health, our bodies throw us a curve ball and we aren't always in control.  Ok, we are never really in control, but we sure like to feel like we are.  
So what does this look like in a day?  Maybe something like this:

Today I am giving myself grace.  I will:

have anxious spells and it is ok.  They will pass if I don't fight them.  I will not beat myself up for being weak.  Everyone has their own battles.  This one is mine.

Clear my schedule of all unnecessary chores, outings, errands.  I will have a slow day, maybe a nap,and a can of soup.

Read my Bible.  A lot.  When I am weak, He is strong.  I will allow God to be strong and stop fighting Him for control.

Read books with Austin, play trains, paint, color.  Learn from him how to be fully present in the moment.  Right here, right now.

Thank God for His grace.  That he already accepts us as we are.

So far it's been a great day.  Days of Grace usually are.  Tomorrow, Austin will get his bath, I will go to the bank, meet a friend, pay some bills.... But for today, I'm enjoying the grace.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

 Sugary cookies made with friends this weekend . We had fun decorating them and eating the sprinkles.  And when we were done, I sent them home with my friend and her girls.  Ok, so maybe that was a sneaky trick to avoid having Austin bouncing off the walls from sugar.  A Mama's gotta do what a mama's gotta do.

 These I love any day, but you especially have to love them on Valentine's day.

 What Austin got for a treat in lieu of the cookies.  Don't feel too sorry for him, there is some chocolate covered goodness inside that envelope with the card.  And what kid wouldn't want his very own toy guitar (ukelele)?  Maybe now I can play my guitar in peace?  Yeah, right.

Hope your Valentine's day was full of sweet surprises.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My First ValentineI

 It's that time of year again when I pull out the doilies and glue sticks, the little pink plastic lights and the heart shaped cookie cutters.  It's Valentine time.  I love Valentine's day.  It may of course be partly due to my love of all things Red and White, but I think it has more to do with the memories of my first Valentine.  The one who taught me what love is and more importantly how to give and show love.  I knew this person loved me although she rarely said it.  Instead she showed me a million times a day.  I always think of her this time of year, my first valentine, my mother.
My mom was never the gushy, affectionate, hugs and kisses kind of mom.  She didn't know how to be. She grew up in a time and place where survival and the search for the next meal trumped any need for warm sentiments and cuddle time.  She never heard the words, "I love you" from her mom as she worked by her side in the fields searching for a forgotten potato or a few dandelion stalks.  But each time they ran to a bomb shelter and the bomber swooped down low with it's load, my Omi would show her love by pushing my mom and her baby brother down to the ground and throwing herself on top of them, willing and hoping to sacrifice herself if it would save her children.    My Omi had six children and outlived four of them.  She would have traded places with any one of them if she could have but I doubt she ever told any of them that she loved them.   In this day and age of free and easy speech, it seems so strange.  We speak of love for pizza, our cars, our favorite sweatshirt and of course for our children.  We hear love all the time. Maybe we overhear and overuse it to the point of cheapening it's meaning.  My mom said, "of course my mom loved us.  She did all she could to take care of us.  Anyone can say, I love you.  It's very easy to say.  It means nothing.  Don't tell me you love me, show me."
But strangely, against this backdrop of anti-sentimentality, came Valentines day.  It wasn't a huge holiday when I was a kid.  Sure, we had a class valentine's box and a little party in school, but I don't remember any commercials on tv weeks in advance or car dealerships promoting special valentine's day sales.  So, why my mom did it, I don't know.  But each year, she would buy me some small gift, maybe a red teddy bear, or a plastic heart pin, some chocolate, etc and a card and before she went to bed, she would set it up on my dresser to find first thing in the morning.  I was always so excited  by the little surprises.  We never had Christmas stockings, so this was the next best thing.  I would run to my mom's bed and hug and kiss her and say thank you.  My mom never got a valentine from my dad and I'm sure she never gave him one either.  It just wasn't them.  But every year I could count on her for a little reminder of her love.  Even during those awful, hard teenage years, when you just know everyone has a boyfriend but you and you are very sure you are ugly and unloved, even then, especially then, my moms little love notes kept coming every February 14.  And so now, every year, I send my mom a valentine, and maybe a little something to go with it, and I always address it, "to my mommy, my first Valentine"  and I tell her I love her, each and every time I talk to her.

My busy little lovebug

Ok, so we talk about our feelings all the time around here and we wear our hearts on our sleeves and the windows.  Here's Austin busy at work.

Could that actually be a little snow out there?  We've hardly seen it all winter.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why I can', won't cut his hair

I was giving Austin a bath the other morning, a very long, play until you look like a prune kind of bath.  It was a slow, not much on the agenda kind of morning, and we were both having a blast with the whole duckie family.
After his bath, with his hair still damp and smelling heavenly, we played trains, of course.  And as I watched the sun shine in through the kitchen window and shine on his little head of curls, I thought again how much I love those curls and how I almost gave them up.

 "Certain" family members give me a good deal of grief over my boys long and flowing locks.  "He's a boy", they say.   (Really, no kidding?  Thanks for telling me, I might have gone my whole life and never known.)  And once, after he had turned one, I gave into pressure and took him for a hair cut.  And as he sat in a big plastic red car, some woman snipped off his beautiful curls.  I was so sad.  And after we left, I was so angry.  First I was angry at the aforementioned family members for making me cut my son's hair against my wishes.  Then I realized, NObody can make me cut Austin's hair, I had done it all by myself.
 I had listened to other peoples comments and had caved into the pressure.  They were just voicing an opinion, I was the one who betrayed myself and silenced my inner voice. It was ME I was mad at.
I decided right then and there to never again let someone, even well meaning someones, pressure me into doing what I (we) feel is right for our child.   There will be many times when what my husband and I feel would be best for Austin may fly in the face of some family member.  (If you don't believe me, just try picking a baby name everyone likes!)  This doesn't mean I shouldn't listen to and consider advice, to refuse to consider another's point of view would be foolish.  What I mean is, I don't want to make decisions just to please other people.  This little hair cut scenario was just the first in what I am sure will be a long list of differing opinions.  Just wait to a certain aunt hears about our plans for homeschooling!   So while I looked at my little boys short hair, I tried to comfort myself with the thought that a few locks of hair was a small price to pay for such an important lesson learned so early on in my parenting career.  

And, although baby curls don't usually grow back once cut, miracle of miracles, his did.  It seemed like an affirmation of my new found resolve.  At some point, my little guys hair will go straight and it will no longer be blond.  I may choose to keep it long or I may not.  And at some point, he himself will have a voice and opinion.  But for now, whenever I see my little Raphael-like angel, I am reminded of how much I love those curls and how good it feels when we are true to ourselves, and not living in the shadow of another's approval.  

All Aboard

Here are a few pics from our train ride to China this weekend
Austin wearing my onion goggles as sunglasses.  It's the latest trend for train engineers, don't  'cha know!
 The Learning Tower doubles as a train engine and alternately as the caboose.  Teddy, Mikey and Jo-Joe come along for the ride.  At different points, Mama and Papa join in for the journey.  Luckily, snacks (wooden fruit) were served and we even were able to catch a quick nap while the train traveled in darkness through a long tunnel.   I'm hoping to travel first class next time though.  I hear the seats are bigger!