Our Daily Bread

My family now has a new “daily bread”. I’ve been making bread almost daily for close to a year now, but a recent outing to a local Greek restaurant caused me to fall in love with Ciabatta, and true to my normal form, I came straight home and found a recipe online to mess up–er–adapt to our family’s liking.

 Herb Ciabatta is now our family’s bread of choice, and on occasion (like when the band rehearsed here Thursday night) I make it more than once in a day (meaning 8 loaves instead of four). It goes well with potato soup, I can assure you from experience.

Only five minutes from emerging from the oven, tonight’s Ciabatta is starting to permeate the house with its aroma. I’m getting hungrier by the minute. The one little irony in this is the fact that Steve and I are here alone tonight (one teen working and the other at a concert), so we’ll be dipping our lovely fresh-baked bread in olive oil and spices all by our lonesomes. Might even leave some for the kids.

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Hindsight

I grew up wanting to be a teacher. I could feel it in my bones–I was born to teach. I taught my younger friend Robin everything I knew about playing Barbies. I taught the kids in the trailer park how to jump clay hills on their bikes and how not to try crossing a deep ditch on the aforementioned bikes by way of a thin bridge built with two rotting one-by-two boards. I preached from atop our doghouse to congregations of three dirty-faced neighborhood kids, beseeching them to be nice and to forgive and to share their candy. I performed concerts to audiences I had roused from the neighborhood by riding my bike around and around the park yelling that my music would change their lives. It must have seemed a pretty comical notion to most, considering I was all of ten.

I did not go to college after high school to become a teacher, partly because music took over my soul and changed my career path, but more specifically because I got pregnant at 16 and married my fiance earlier than we had planned. I did finish high school, and even walked at graduation with my class when I normally would have, with my mom and my husband looking proudly on and our three-month-old son on my hip in his tiny red tux and my royal blue mortarboard hanging lopsided from silky brown hair and big blue eyes peering from underneath. I had even graduated with a high enough GPA to earn a full scholarship to junior college, but there was to be no college for me with a new baby in my arms and a young husband working long hours and little enough time together even without me trying to take classes.

Motherhood came quickly, but fit like a glove. It seemed as natural as breathing to teach our bright little boy everything he was eager to learn, so it came as no surprise when he was operating his own stereo system at two, and reading children’s books at three and the sports page at four. He went to school for kindergarten and first grade, and then his teacher let us in on a concern she had: she didn’t know what they were going to do with him the following year, because he had finished all of his 1st-grade curriculum during the first semester and had spent the second half tutoring other students. Wow. It would’ve been nice had she let us in on that information a bit earlier on, especially since we were at the school every day dropping him off at his classroom door and picking him up in the same spot.

And so our homeschooling journey began. Twenty-three years and five kids later, I look back over our homeschooling adventure with a perplexing mix of thoughts.

Gratitude
I am grateful beyond words for the blessing it has been to teach our children in our home and in the car and at the museum and the grocery store and everywhere we ever were. I am grateful for the bonds homeschooling created among our family members, siblings who don’t fight but who look out for and fiercely protect one another, a mom and dad who adore each other and provide the foundational relationship for this big amazing family to rest upon. I am grateful for everything homeschooling has taught me–about God, about my children, about myself, about life.

Sadness
It’s been a long, tough, challenging road, but I’m going to deeply miss homeschooling when it’s all over. I can’t even imagine it, really. I’ve been doing this half my life.

Relief
As much as I cringe at the thought of being finished with homeschooling within the next couple of years, I will say there will be some measure of relief, of being able to relax and think about my husband and me, of having time to consider what makes me laugh and what passions I possess outside of my family. Just the notion that there is anything of me “outside” of family really doesn’t even make sense to me. I’m honestly not even sure how to approach the idea, but like it or not I will have time to try.

Uncertainty
Even with all the thankfulness, there is still uncertainty. Did I fail them in any way? Did I focus enough on each of their specific learning styles? Did I meet their individual needs? Did I prepare them well enough? Will they regret homeschooling? Will they resent me one day for things they didn’t get to do? Is there a chance they might have loved our homeschooling life enough to want to homeschool their own?

Resolve
There is a duality that exists within my psyche that I navigate with some effort. In some situations I do not like structure or outline or even closure, but prefer openness and freedom to explore. Such is the case with many of my creative writing endeavors. Looking back over the past 23 years, though, I see that I need some way to quantify, some way to measure what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished–where we were then and where we are now because of our choice to homeschool. I think I need some tangible proof that I–that we–did the right thing by our children and by our family as a whole.

Looking back, I feel a million things at once. But what I feel most is joy. I have loved our learning life together as a family more than any words could begin to capture. It has brought me a deep, permeating joy that I will carry with me always. My sincerest prayer is that our children will carry it, too.

Talks

My daughter and I have been talking a lot lately. Not that it’s anything unusual for us to talk, but it’s been a little bit easier now that I’m not so crazy busy all the time. This is actually what I envisioned (hoped for) when I backed off my other commitments to turn my focus more directly on her and her brother and less on people outside our family.

So in our talking she has been saying she doesn’t really want to go to public school; it was more that she was just wanting more of a social outlet to round out homeschooling. Apparently she needs more than being with her dance team three or four evenings a week and going to sports events at local schools and to the movies and the mall and…well, yeah. :)

Anyway, I’m just glad to hear that she isn’t keen on the whole idea of public school. Heard about another shooting today. I think that’s the third one this week that I’ve heard or read about. One of the incidents was pretty close by, maybe half an hour away from where we live. A kid took a loaded gun to school in his backpack and when he plopped it into a chair, it discharged and shot two students, both of whom were in pretty serious condition at last report.
 
I’ve been posting a lot less on Facebook lately. Seems every status update riles someone or makes people jump to the conclusion that I’m talking about them and then they start defending themselves while I shake my head and wonder why I even bother with it any more. After shaving 456 people off my “friends” list, I’m already streamlining the group of people I regularly interact with. I guess backing off even further won’t hurt me any. I’m spending much more time reading, writing, and blogging lately anyway.

Back to the talks with my daughter. I’ve come to look forward to our near-daily chats about everything from education to careers to internet stalkers (we have people who seem to be obsessed with our family and can’t seem to leave her alone on one of the lesser-known social networking sites) to cooking and learning skills for living on her own to college degrees and how necessary they really are in various career fields. Basically we just chat about whatever comes to mind, and I’m having a lot of fun. I think she is, too.

30 Random Things

We were posting at the Haus lists of 30 Random Things about ourselves. Here’s my list.

1. My favorite car color is cream.
2. I have never dyed my hair, but it probably won’t be long since the silver hairs are starting to make their presence known a bit too often.
3. I love desserts with lots of nuts.
4. I rarely wear shoes other than flip-flops or sandals.
5. It would take more than one hand to count how many times I have been deserted by “best” friends in my life.
6. I fostered a rescued Chihuahua, Ollie for nearly a year.
7. I have to keep a fan blowing on my dinosaur of a desktop computer at all times.
8. I would be cool with owning only GMC/Chevy Suburbans for the rest of my life, and would even be okay if it was the same one I have right now.
9. I still play trumpet pretty well.
10. I collect pens, journals, words, and books.
11. One of my deepest passions is cooking and creating/adapting recipes.
12. My favorite place is home.
13. I cry when I get too cold.
14. In high school I read 3,400 words per minute with 90% comprehension.
15. I hate speed-reading, and prefer to read slowly to savor the words.
16. Nearly every morning phone solicitors call my house phone, and when I answer there’s no one there, just the din of their call center.
17. When we move we will no longer have a house phone.
18. I am honored to be asked to mentor someone, but cringe at the weight of the responsibility.
19. Homeschooling has not always been easy, but it has always been a blessing.
20. I feel like I’m being stabbed in the heart when my babies are hurting.
21. My favorite movie is “The Holiday”.
22. I can get lost in the movie scores of Hans Zimmer and Paul Cardall.
23. I was drugged and narrowly missed being raped at 13.
24. I don’t know what it feels like to be cherished by a grandparent.
25. I wanted to have 12 kids.
26. I have on occasion envisioned myself in the future as a houseparent to troubled kids.
27. I love Victoria’s Secret “Breathless” perfume.
28. If I hear a siren while my family members are out, I have to call them to make sure they are okay.
29. I will always mourn the loss of the seven Barbie ball gowns my mother had made for my Christmas present when I was 10.
30. My favorite song of all time is “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol.

Intentional Mothering

“Purposeful and intentional mothering is no walk in the park, but it is worth every moment, every tear, every awkward conversation, every disappointed sigh, every attack of guilt, every sleepless night, every fear taken to God in prayer, and every ray of hope He whispers in our ears as we mother His children.”

I wrote this as a comment on someone’s Facebook status today in response to a statement made by a mom that she mothers her sons “on purpose and with deliberate intent”. I wholeheartedly agree.

Detail

It is no small task gathering the creativity that happens in my head while I’m going about my daily life and getting it to stick with me when I sit down at my desk to write. It’s like the aura of the computer is some kind of force field within which such creativity cannot exist. It vexes me. It vexes me, and I’m determined to figure out a way to do this. Natalie says to keep pushing, to press through to the real, not to get scared or give up or settle for anything less than the deep, that which eludes me and flees every time I try to word it.

So I push through to snapshots of the real that I’ve seen and noted mentally over the past few days, like last night –or rather this morning at like 1:30am–as I was reading and I noticed how the angle of the reading lamp made my hand look old and wrinkled. It reminded me of my mother’s hand, which isn’t all that unusual since my hands are shaped almost exactly like hers–the only notable difference being that her nails were always rounded and mine are more squared. With each scar I earn (usually burns and cuts from cooking), they look more like Mama’s hands. I don’t mind.

It’s hard to remember snapshots while sitting here chasing them in my mind. I think maybe I should start carrying my journal with me everywhere, even around the house like I do with my phone. Maybe I should make a journal-sized bag with a phone pocket on the side and a long strap to sling over me so I can always have it on no matter where I might be. I’m grinning at the visual, but I really like the idea. A bag like that would be easy enough to make, and I enjoy sewing. I’m going to do it.

I was completely enamored yesterday when I came across a word–elegiac–which I’d never heard before. When I went to look it up, I discovered a whole group of literary terms I either had never heard of, or I’d forgotten since Mama Nich’s high school AP English class. I felt like a kid in a candy store rushing through web pages defining the terms and digging to understand the insides of a Latin poetic form called a dactylic hexameter couplet. I’m still working on it.

Want some cheese with that?

I wonder if I once amused older parents when I was a younger one complaining about things my kids did. Then again, historically I haven’t complained much about my kids because, quite honestly, they haven’t given me much to complain about.

When I see such whines as, “The baby just would not let me sleep last night!” or, “I can’t wait until she gets her days and nights figured out! This is crazy!” I find myself smiling. I’m not making fun of them, mind you, just can’t help but be amused. I do usually manage to control myself enough to refrain from retorting that there will come a day when they will wish with all their being that they could return to these days. Well, most of the time I manage it. Sometimes I actually do say that–as gently as I can.

The truth is, like all the days of our lives, these days of young parenting are fleeting. And like all other important times in our lives, we will one day wish we could relive them. I know I do. Every moment of being a mother has been special to me. Not all have been fun, by any means, but they have all been amazing. Even right now, with my tummy tied up in knots that would flummox a sailor over a difficult time one of my sons is going through, I bless God for every moment He allows me to be called Mama.

Knots

One of the hardest discoveries of motherhood must be that “knots in the stomach” really does feel like knots. Knots being untied and retied and having the frayed ends burned. Repeatedly. Significantly unpleasant. Being a mama means struggling through those knots, though, however often it is necessary. This would be one of those times.

Her heart and mind are in a bizarre spot this morning. She birthed that boy who is nearing manhood, and watching him leave this morning for one of the hardest meetings of his life was no easy thing for his mama’s heart. It hasn’t been easy for any of the family, watching his first and only love become a jolting whiplash injury that is likely to take a long time to see past. She knows one day he will, but the mark this leaves will be profound. She isn’t dismissing God’s ability to turn it all into something that will bless his life in some way; in fact she is counting on that like she’s counted on few things in her life.

She’s having trouble shaking the unfairness. She knows life isn’t supposed to be fair, but he has done everything right. Honor above all, in everything he says and does. Above reproach. Godliness. Strength. Integrity. Complete respectfulness. No one on the planet could or would say differently. And this boy who has given his heart completely for the past two and a half years packed it all up in a box, closed the lid, picked it up, swallowed hard, hugged his mama, and walked out the front door. He doesn’t even know yet what he will do with it when he gets there. If anything remains in the box when he comes back home it will likely be sealed and packed away. It won’t be anything he will want to see for a long time. Maybe ever.

She couldn’t go with him. She’s thinking maybe it’s good that it’ll be a father-son task, at least up to the point of the actual meeting. His dad will be there right afterward to hold him. She hasn’t seen him cry since the night the girl said goodbye. He sobbed in his mother’s arms that night and the world tilted weird and she felt sick in a way she has rarely felt. Fighting tears of her own, she wanted to snatch his world back and return it to him and tell him everything was okay. All she could do was hold him while he cried out the shock and pain and confusion and loss.

He begged just to see the girl, just to hear it from her own lips, the why, the agonizing how in the world things could go from beauty to ashes within weeks. And he doesn’t even know yet how long it’s really been that it was a lie he was living without knowing it. Finally, and only through the aid of a good friend, they will meet this morning, one last time. One last time for the truth told in person, face to face. It’s what he needs. It’s the very least of what he deserves. It’s the only thing that will allow him to break open and feel and then with God’s help to begin to process and heal.

He did everything right. First love, only love. How could he have known.

Processing

My daughter processes things like her father: Stay calm, ponder, think through, pray, assess from different angles, empathize, accept, express gently, move on. I want to be her when I grow up.

Me? I get deeply, profoundly angry–but mostly when someone in my family is being injured by the inconsiderate words and actions of others. I don’t get so upset when it’s me. I can put on my big girl panties and deal. But when it’s my babies…hooboy. That just doesn’t sit well.

We teach our children to always give without expecting anything in return, always do for others, be dependable, be prompt, minimize drama, show integrity, be honest. The idea is that when they do those things, people will honor it. And so they do. Sadly other people very often don’t keep their side of it. I wonder if it’s just because people really don’t understand the meaning of such honoring any more. People just don’t stop to think through the implications of what they do and say, or how it affects other people–other good people who do their best and give of themselves constantly from a cheerful heart, always working hard because it’s the right thing to do. 

I guess I just really hate seeing my children do everything right and be treated like it doesn’t matter.