end of summer homework 2014 001 end of summer homework 2014 002

So here we are.  The summer has ended and the first week of school is behind us.  This mommy is exhausted.  Every year I say we will get on a schedule before the madness starts.  Every year I SAY it…  The actual doing part has yet to happen.

So we started this past week cold turkey after sleeping in, staying up late–you know–NO schedule.  At least I’m consistent?  And my poor kids have no stories to tell their peers of fun vacations, care free get aways, exotic trips, or even annoying long road trips trapped in the van with their brother.  Poor, poor things.  And to top it off, they even got homework.  Ahhh, the life of teacher’s kids.  But they don’t seem too worse for the wear.  In fact, they seemed to have enjoyed it.  We had a “summer of enlightenment”.  And it was good.  Even when it wasn’t.

This summer was my very first summer “off”, and although it didn’t go quite as I had imagined, it went just as it should.  Marty took a bunch of Drake classes and pretty much nullified the urge for me to ever want to go back to school — like EVER — again.  I’m not sure my brain works in that capacity any longer.  He worked hard — really hard — all summer.  And I worked hard — really hard — to keep the kids quiet — and out of his, um, hair.  Max had baseball till the middle of July.  So we stuck around for that.  He loves it.  He’s no Babe Ruth, cause that’s the extent of my baseball knowledge, but he loves being with his friends and he loves the game.  I missed too many games because I missed the entire month of June due to this shingles business (which I highly recommend you avoid ENTIRELY).  And G, well he was busy being G.  Which takes A LOT of energy.  For EVERYONE.  And then there was this other business of running open gym every Tuesday and Thursday night — which, by the by — is NOT to be confused with free babysitting for the masses.

So as lack luster as it seemed, in retrospect, it was pretty incredible — and I’ve dubbed it our “learning summer” — which doesn’t sound all that incredible — but it was.  Incredible and so very necessary for this girl.  I’m extremely grateful.

Marty’s learning was obvious.  He went back to school and got to be a student — and write lots and lots of papers and sit in class and listen and read (repeat, repeat, and repeat).  Lots of hard work and time put into stretching and building those brain muscles.  I’m very proud of him.  He also passed his motorcycle test — the written and the driving portion — I think that’s pretty awesome too.  I’ll dream of a Harley, but on a teacher’s and paraeducator’s salary, we’ll stick with the scooter.  It’s equally cool.  Um, we have a minivan.  We never had a cool card to claim.

Part of my boy’s “homework” at the end of every summer  is writing up a little report on some things they learned  and drawing a picture of a few of their favorite activities we’ve done as a family (that ‘family’ time was a little scarce–but we got it in there).   They draw, they write, then they give a little presentation and share.  I enjoy it.  It’s fun for me to see what’s important to them.  G still loves it, and Max is sweet enough to tolerate his mother’s banal silliness.  I was very surprised that out of all the things we did as a family that Griff’s favorite adventure was our trip to the Capital building.  Max couldn’t decide, so he picked four things:  Iowa basketball camp, pool time, Adventureland, and time with his tournament baseball team.  Then they asked me to write my report, and I realized indeed, what an incredible summer it has been.  Turns out this girl has learned a lot.   Here’s a few of my ramblings — in no particular order…

Be at peace with yourself.

“We carry within us the wonders we seek around us.” Sir Thomas Browne

I was privileged to be able to spend time with lots of books this summer.  I love to read, and as my boys grow older, I get to do more and more of it.  I got to spend some time with Glennon Doyle Melton, Brene Brown (thanks, Heidi), Anne Lamont, and Thich Nhat Hanh (thank, Erin).  It’s good to get out of my head and into other people’s for awhile.  I found lots of treasures that stretched me beyond myself, beyond my vision of reality, and dared me to be more.  I found courage, I found soul, I found laughter, I found spark.  More over, I found connection to myself and to God.  Fear gets less and less play time when this happens.

And through all this reading, these words, these people, I started to realize something rather unsettling about myself.  Sometimes learning is unsettling…

I believe very strongly in peace–I always have.  It’s something I strive for in my life, my heart, my soul, my relationships with people.  Jesus calls us to be people of peace. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18  But I wasn’t at peace with myself.  Not really.  Not truly.  And I wasn’t okay with this.  And I wasn’t sure how to fix this.  But I knew that real peace — all consuming peace — wasn’t going to happen if I wasn’t at peace with the vessel holding the soul — you know — me.

Because I felt like I was lying to everyone about my okay-ness.  Because I wasn’t okay.  And the shingles thing, and the situation that caused them–that kind of brought it all out for me — so I thank God for that (but really, they are awful things–so gross–avoid, avoid, avoid!!!).  After getting those darn sci-fi pods, I had to do some serious re-evaluation and soul searching.  After thinking I was so “together” and handling things so well, turns out–I really wasn’t.  These crappy life things were going to happen, and me?  Well, being blessed with past baggage that put me in darker places when these “situations” arose — I was going to have to learn how to deal with them much better — because I couldn’t keep doing this to myself and accepting it as “just fine”.  Some people explode.  I implode, internalize, beat myself up, mull, stew, analyze to death, suffocate — then try to breath again.  It was time to talk.  It was time to be free.  It was time to just be me.  So, I did.  It was scary, it was all of awful and wonderful at the same time — and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done.  This girl is free.  This girl is finally at peace. So, I learned something positive from something very unpleasant — because, most often — we always can.

My kids are so much smarter than me.

“And, above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Ronald Dahl

My boys always amaze me.  Daily, if not minute by minute, they completely amaze me.  It is truly my hope that by the end of their incredible lives, I have taught them an ounce of the brilliance they have dazzled into my soul.  Really.  I can’t believe these two beings came from me.  They call me mom, so I must be their mother, but really.  I pinch myself.  They are my everything.  And sometimes I fear I love them too much–and if I love them with this consuming of a love–God might take them away to test me of my love for Him (I can not get through the story of Abraham and Isaac without questioning if I would have had enough faith to be as strong as Abraham — yes, I just admitted that out loud).  But I can’t help it.  I just adore them with every tiny molecule of my body — and all the atoms and if there is anything tinier — all of those too.  And these two marvelous creations are ever so much smarter than their momma.  I’d venture to say most children are.  In fact, I think we grow down — not up at all — in our thinking.  Our minds get smaller, more narrow — we let the wonder out and let less of the awesome in.  We smile less, laugh less, and I am almost one hundred and three percent sure that this shrinks our brains — and most definitely — our hearts and our humanity.  Yes, our children are ever so much smarter than we are and I am so blessed to get to — yes get to — learn from them every single day.  They easily love, easily forgive, that sharing part is sometimes hard — and hygiene can be a little iffy — but they don’t judge, they try their best, they hug, they sing, they dance, and they want you to share in their joy.  SHARE in it!!!  They don’t want to keep it to themselves.  They want to take your hands and bring you TO it! And they always want to help.  Always.  And want absolutely nothing for it.  Way smarter.

And this got me to thinking about something else.

Marty and I, being in the thick of education for so many, many years, have often discussed homeschool.  And I came to this realization this summer.  I wouldn’t homeschool my boys even if Marty and I could afford it — and even if I did excel at math beyond the third grade.  Because my boys so incredibly amaze — now, don’t get me wrong, there are days they make me want to pull my hair out and take my anxiety meds to daring new extremes — but when they shine — oh my hallelujah!  How they shine!  And I am reduced to a praising mess of wonder.  Dear God, how on earth did I get to be their momma? Really?!? No, this world can NOT miss out on this!  And as much as I’d love to keep them from ever getting their hearts broken, their feelings hurt, from hearing or seeing bad things–I don’t want the world to miss out on their holy sparkle.  Because, damn — it’s quite glorious — it’s pure magic — and I’m not saving that for just my eyes.

And they know they can’t really talk about their God at school (they don’t understand why, but they know)–but they sure can SHOW their Jesus — in how they live, how they treat their friends, their teachers — and that?  Well that’s living their church every Sunday — out loud.  And nope, I’m sure as Twinkies not saving that just for me.  That light has got to be shared.

And I know there are going to be people, things, bad stuff that is going to try to dim it — try to snuff it out (because that’s the way of this world) — but this momma also knows her boys — and that stuff?  It may dim it for a bit — it may discourage and it may even reduce the blaze to a spark at times — but it will never completely snuff it out.  In the end it’ll only make their incredible flames burn brighter.  Because the One who is in them?  He’s far greater than anything that this world can throw at them.  They’ve got this.  How do I know this?  I know this because we serve a mighty God who has already overcome the world, yes.  But I also know this because of the advice, love, and wisdom my boys have given me.  Yes, their own momma.  Miracles, they are.  We need to start listening to our kids more.  (And by the by, I think homeschool is great.  I really do.  People that can do that are absolute saints.  Far smarter than this momma.  For so many reasons, but two words come to mind more than anything else — Saxon math.  Really.  Saints.  All of you!)

Some things can never be fixed, and that’s okay.

“However long the night… the dawn will break.”  African proverb

Some things will just stay broken on this earth, and I have to accept that.  I am one of those things.  That’s okay.  Really.  It’s okay.  I’m a fixer.  I don’t want people to hurt.  I don’t want to hurt.  I want everyone to be okay.  I run around trying to fix everyone’s problems (sometimes whether they want me to or not).  Not all things can be talked out, worked out, and tied up neatly.  Not all things can be made pretty.  Because there are these things called dishonesty and evil and greed, narcissism, selfishness, and all kinds of other isms and nesses.  Sometimes the healthiest and most peaceful and most sane thing to do is to walk away and accept forever brokenness — forever earthly brokenness.  You don’t give up.  You keep praying.  But you don’t continue to allow poison into your soul.  Broken is okay.  It’s really okay.  Jesus came to save the broken, not the fixed and not the perfect.  He didn’t ask you to save the world and he certainly didn’t ask you to save yourself.  Rest and walk the best you can broken.

Everyone has their own walk to walk.

The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.” Chinese proverb

We’re all here, on this spinning planet, for a reason.  We all have a purpose.  And we all have our own walk, our own journey, our own means of getting there.  Sometimes I become so fixed on the destination that I become very judgmental of other people’s travel arrangements.  The “to do” list of who we are to be runs through my mind–we are to be honest and fair and kind and good and authentic people–just and compassionate, humane and loving–a litany of beatitudes–and I forget, that we all have a different way of attaining–or evening valuing–or not valuing–these things–and that it’s not for me–not for one second–to judge.  And I was very humbled by this several times this summer.  Brought to my knees humbled.  I need to let people be.  How they treat me, how they treat others — to a small degree it has to do with me, yes — but to a much larger degree it has to do with them.  It’s all them.  So now, I step back, take a deep breath, don’t take it personally, unload my baggage behind me and say, “it’s their walk, it’s their journey”.  And everyone–yes everyone’s–got their stuff.  And if that doesn’t work, I say this little phrase–“not my monkeys, not my circus.”  Because I’ve got quite enough to handle with my own big top.  And it’s a very good thing I like bananas.

I found that this judging place, for me, came from a lack of a firm foundation of understanding of who I was.  And you gotta know you.  Which brings me to

Know yourself.

“Just be who you want to be, not what others want to see.”  Unknown

One thing I have found incredibly interesting while living in this lovely little town it that the people who know me the least are the ones who seem to know the most about me.  But maybe that’s just the way of the world.  This world is a telling place, after all.  Not an asking place–when it comes to who you are.  It doesn’t have time for that.  It doesn’t take the times to ask you who you are or get to know you, but it sure does a bang up job of telling you who you are supposed to be — along with all of the stuff you desperately need to be it.  And for those of us who are constantly trying to guess at what the world wants from us to be “normal” — to be “happy” with us — this is a dangerous relationship.  Shakespeare said in his infamous quote, “To thine own self to true.” I would say the first step to that is knowing yourself — and you don’t have to have it all figured out — but honey, you have got to be firm in the fundamentals and don’t let people mess with those parts of you.  Keep it simple.  Deep down, even under all that stuff I daily have to wade through, I KNOW what’s true.  I have learned that I too often seek validation from a world that is more messed up than I am (I know that may be a stretch for some of you…).  My mirror isn’t other people.  It’s a power far greater.  It’s something so holy, so pure and so beautiful that this world can not touch.  I know that about myself.  No amount of idle chatter or opinion can mess with that.  God’s got this girl.  Tight.

We are not powerless.  Ever.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  Anne Frank

We can make a difference.  Every day.  Every single day.  In how we treat each other.  Smile at each other.  Acknowledge each other.  Look at each other.  We can make a difference.  I wake up each day knowing this.  I teach this to my kids.  My husband believes this.  It’s why we do what we do.  It’s why any of us, I believe, are alive.  In our little corners of the world — no matter how small that corner is — how we treat each other matters.  It does.  I know this.  I see it, I feel it, I hear it, I touch it, I breath it.  Respect, kindness–it matters.  It so matters.  And it’s so easy, it’s so simple.  And we can do this for each other.  And when people feel empowered to be their best selves–well, that my friends– that makes miracles happen — and anything becomes possible.  Because when people feel empowered, they feel confident.  And when people feel confident, they believe in the beauty of their dreams and when we believe in the beauty of our dreams we strive for a better tomorrow — and that makes the whole world beautiful, doesn’t it?  So, let’s not waste any more moments of any more of our days being less than light to each other.  What an amazing girl, Miss Anne was.

Kindness always matters.  Always.

“Three things in human life are important:  the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Henry James

Even when I don’t feel like giving it, kindness matters.  With my kids, with my husband, with everyone past my front door.  It always matters.  My biggest kindness step–in my mind– this summer was learning to pray for my father–a person I thought I would never find peace with unless he died.  I’m not going to say this started easily, or that I’m even valiantly “there” yet.  There are times I don’t even know what to pray in this department–but I do–I just start with a “Dear God, you know my heart and you know I want this bitterness and anger gone…”  and that’s where it begins and that’s where it goes.  And I’ll soldier on with this because I’m free to.  And I pray that one day this man is as free as I am.  Kindness, just like love, isn’t a feeling.  It’s a doing.

And I’ll leave you, at the end of our learning summer, with one of Griffyn’s favorite songs–number 11–as it’s affectionately known on our car rides.  I’d never heard it (they teach me so much) and it quickly became one of my favorites too.  Much love to all of you.  May we continue to have many more learning summers (and a tropical vacation — or just one to Omaha or Kansas City — wouldn’t be so bad either).  We don’t have to be ordinary, loves.  Ever.

Hugs and Namaste, because I see and honor the light of God in all of you.

“We don’t have to be ordinalry, make your best mistakes, we don’t have the time to be sorry, so baby be the life of the party…

Take your shot it might be scary, hearts are gonna break, we don’t have the time to be sorry, so baby be the life of the party…

Don’t let them keep you down, don’t give up…

We don’t have to be ordinary.”

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