Friday, November 19, 2010

Down here in the trenches

big and small. Busy and lazy. Happy and surly. All these are part of my mothering right now.

Right now in my mothering there are so many perplexities. I have children who are big and others who are small. Still with one who is home much of the day and another who is so busy we rarely see her here. New and busy opportunities like football and swimming have fractured my time in the evenings with our children as I leave my beloved dinner night routine to taxi drive instead. Our morning routine is in shambles to say the least. I'm not sure how to remain stable when it feels like the ground beneath me is shifting all the time.

This morning John had to head to work early. Mason missed his ride to school and I missed saying goodbye to Bryn as she caught her ride while I was bus driving Mason. The next two to leave pranced out of the house without lunches; again. They will instead choose from the multiple fattening offerings in the school's cafeteria. Molly's lunch wasn't made when her ride pulled in the driveway; I'll have to deliver it to her carpool mom before her lunch hour arrives.

As things change and children grow I don't know how to match my philosophy to their schedules. It is a quandary that challenges my confidence and makes me wonder where my mothering needs to go now.

I know the answers can come to me if I will stop think and pray. But I kind of lament this moment of my life, when my confidence is challenged and my skills stretched and my weaknesses raw and public.

Mothering isn't about scheduling and it isn't about cleaning or organizing. Mothering is about nurturing; about leading children into adulthood with security, faith and independence. If I work on those three things and leave the extras aside a new routine can emerge. A feeling of confidence, even if not of control, can return. I can feel that my work is worth it.

Off to the thinking and praying I guess.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Napa Valley Road Trip

Probably my favorite photo of the entire road trip. John sits, satisfied, at our table at Mustard's Grill. We have cooked many a meal from this restaurant's cook book, so going here for dinner was like meeting a pen pal for the first time. A place you know you like even though you've never visited.

for me, the drive is half the fun. Having John be a captive audience so we can talk and plan and talk some more. Even the ugly salt flats were a bearable part of the journey because John and I spent the hours chatting and laughing together.

This was my personal favorite: Buchon Bakery. Chef Thomas Keller is owner and operator here. We saw the most beautiful baked goods on this planet, and got to eat some of them too!

63 miles of riding up and down the valley was a fun and long day for both of us. But the beauty of the vineyards and the fun of knowing John has wanted to ride these roads for years and years made the many miles worth it!

We enjoyed much of a day at the Culinary Institute of America. Here, the country's top chefs are trained and tutored to produce the finest in culinary arts. John said to me as we left that he hopes one of this institution's "boot camps" would somehow be in our future.

John and I recently enjoyed a road trip to Napa Valley. This was a dream come true-for John because he has wanted to visit this cooking mecca for many years, and for me because I've always wanted to take him there. John's 40th birthday was the catalyst; I saved pennies and dollars, spare change from the dryer and rebates sent in the mail. All of these dollars and cents added to just enough for the two of us to drive to the valley, enjoy some great food, learn about cooking, and spend some time together. There was one particular restaurant we could not try because we couldn't secure a reservation. But otherwise I'd say the weekend was nearly perfect! Uninteruppted time spent talking in the car. Time spent on our bikes (a lot of time!). Time spent learning together about food and how to make something so necessary into something so special. I'm so glad we could get away together; and I'm especially glad we went away to this unique and interesting valley where food is paramount and beauty is everywhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Reason You Make Your Own Lunches

My mom made my lunch for me. She almost had to, as we were newspaper boys and girls; waking up before the sun to fold, bag and throw the day's happenings onto the porches of our neighbors. Once we were home it was a mad dash to dress, breakfast and deliver ourselves to our classrooms before the tardy bell (in my memory we were late every day...but there were no truency officers at our house so that memory is a clouded one). Mom was awesome to do for us what we weren't getting done for ourselves.

But every day, it was tuna. My back pack smelled like tuna. My books smelled like tuna. My homework smelled like tuna-and sometimes like pickles if the day's sandwich was so embellished.

By Junior High I couldn't stomach tunafish. And I think to this day I have not served a can to any of you at lunchtime.

Each morning you complain and fit throw that you make your lunches before you leave our home. There are some perameters; protein, carbohydrate, fruit, vegatable, drink. Once a week you enjoy your choice of a variety of potato chips. Once a week you take 'dessert'. Once a week your drink is chocolate milk. But you choose the filling of your sandwiches. You choose the flavor of your juice box. You even pick lunchsack, lunchbox or target sack (Mason's favorite) to carry your confections.

Amidst your complaints, I want you to understand. I do not have a paper route to use to teach you the value of learning how to work. Your morning chores; piano, bed making, room straightening and picking up your things; are the ways I can show you that we must labor to be happy and feel satisfied. And the choosing is the reason that I have you make your lunch. Not only do you work a bit, but you have the power of choice. Something my mother could not give me; (tuna was the affordable option; and the family I grew up in had to be concerned with affordability. Bless my mother for all the ways she knew how to stretch a dollar. My parents did so well for us, giving us everything that was most important and sacrificing for our welfare).

I hope when you write the fuzzy memories of your growing up you will have some kind words to say about lunch making. And about morning chores. Maybe as you search out ways to teach your children work you will bless your mornings of bed making and picking up around the house.

And I hope you will appreciate the sweet smelling power of choice that was offered you as you made your lunch each and every morning.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A recent email from me to you...

I just saw you out jumping on the trampoline in the rain. I enjoyed watching you
with a big smile getting wet, jumping into the splits and doing tuck after tuck.
I had heard a noise and a rhythm, I didn't know what it was, but as I watched I
realized it was the sound of your feet splashing on the springy black net of the
tramp, sending you higher and higher.

I loved seeing the joy and satisfaction on your face.

I hope you always make time to do things you love-and that you share those fun
things with your own children some day. They will be so lucky to jump in the
rain with you.

You will be a wonderful mother.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

About Halloween

Madi got to dress up in two costumes this year, playing the part of a darling witch, and also a beautiful princess

That is my 12 year old daughter-she wore the batman costume half a dozen times until it was time to trick or treat, then she chickened out and dressed up as a ballerina fairy...thus showing us the swinging mood shifts of the budding teenage girl...

A witch is never without her loyal black cat...

On their way to the school parade. The "Ute" baseball cap was a satisfactory replacement for a real "Ute" football helmet; thank heaven for small miracles!

Dear Kids,
One of my favorite memories of this month was the costume parade you gave for Dad and me the Sunday before Halloween. You were so excited to get dressed up. Mason reluctantly accepted that he wasn't going to be gifted a costume (you are on your own once you hit Jr. High where the costumes are concerned) so he instead took the camera and gave you a great photo shoot. I realized while you smiled and waved in the den for your adoring fans that even though I had thought I was "finished" gathering supplies for costumes there was still work to be done. I spent hours the day before your school parade finding beautiful princess gloves, some kind of black cat cover up and something that could take the place of an authentic Utah football Helmet (thank you football video games which show professional football players in their pads and a team baseball cap-listening to the coach on the sideline telephone!).

Dad and I loved watching you have fun with each other as you jumped off the bench and showed off your costumes to the camera. It was more fun than the real Halloween, when you all scattered to trick or treat with your friends while I walked the neighborhood with Grandma and the little girls (they wondered out loud "how does mom know who lives in all these houses?" Thank my lucky stars that I've had the chance to learn who our neighbors are...and that we are finally at home in the Spruces). Dad fell asleep on the couch while listening to the Football game and didn't answer the door when our friends came to trick or treat! You all trickled in one by one with stories of how many houses you 'knocked' and how many regular sized candy bars you'd have to barter and trade with next morning.

Just a few days after Halloween and you've all but forgotten about your Halloween candy. Once you'd sorted, traded, sorted, traded, sorted and finally traded it all again you were kind of done with it. By next week I'll have tucked it away in the game night stash or in the garbage can. And Halloween can be behind us again until next year. As much as I love you and all the fun you have during this spooky zainy holiday, I'm relieved when the costumes are back in the dress up bin and the schedule is free of parties and parades and programs. Happy Halloween until next year!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Reflection

I began blogging in July 2006. We were on our way to Vietnam, to bring Lucy into our family. The blog was a way to show our family (especially our other children) what we were experiencing while we were across the world from them. It was also a way for me to write the feelings of my heart, for Lucy to have some day.

After 5 weeks of roller coaster worthy experiences, we came home.

And I kept on writing.

But the writing became less about Lucy and adoption, and more about me and mothering. It became a way for me to write letters to my daughters-the kinds of letters they might read when they were mothers themselves. I wanted them to hear and to see the reasons I did what I did because I was there mother. So someday when they wondered what they should do or how they should proceed with their own child rearing they might refer to me, but to the me that was really "in it" - not the sugar coated "back when you were young..." kind of talk, but straight talk and real photos of messy countertops and tearful sacrifice.

After a while (and a move away from "home"), my writing changed again. It was still a daily letter to my girls, but it became a little bit more. I had met and was associating with many mothers who were just younger than I. Not only were my kids a little older than theirs, but I had more of them (most often, many more). I heard from these great women a smattering of phrases like these;

'I don't know how you do it.'
'I would go crazy if I had more kids.'
'I couldn't do what you are doing.'

I wanted them to change their minds. To see their great potential. It wasn't that I wanted to promote large families. It was that I felt in those phrases I heard a smallness, a lessening of great character. Having a large family had not been my design. John and I were very happy with the idea of 4 children (a large enough crew for my intense desire for tidy kitchens and John's desire for peace and quiet). But promptings came, the heavens spoke. And we decided to listen. We had to change, to grow, to give up. To give ourselves over to the truth that God would make more of us (and would take from us that which was not needed or eternally attractive) if we would be what He asked us to be. Messy kitchens and seizmic noise levels included.

I wanted this to be a "you can do it, if you are asked" kind of space. I thought about monetizing the blog, about networking with other bloggers, about finding an "angle" a "niche" of sorts, to draw more readers to me. I toyed with these thoughts (I sometimes still do) until it was time to decide.

And then I realized something I didn't really like. The blog had become less about any of those things, and lots more about myself. Not that self expression isn't valid-it is. But I wanted people to read what I wrote. I cared that they listened to me. I wanted to be an example, its true. But I also wanted to be, well, liked. I wanted others to want to read the things that I had to say.

An element of pride had entered the process, and so I took a sharp step back.

I'm ready to write again-but for the reasons I began this blog from the start. For it to be a place for the kids to know me, back when I was the mom of their younger selves. And for mothers who worry and wonder if they can become what the whispering voice of heaven suggests that they ought to become-a mother of more than "a few". To help them, and help me, remember that when we give ourselves over to what God asks of us, He can make of us more than we are.

I hope there is something of worth, should you continue to read. I pray I will be true to my design, my intent. And that if I stray from the sincerity I feel now that I will be reminded, and know that its time to put blogging away.