Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mommy, Come Play! - Part 1

The most frequent thing people say to me when having a conversation  for the first time is, "You homeschool?  Wow, I could never do that!"  The most frequent question or comment I hear when people discover I'm a musician is, "What age should I start my child in music lessons? or "I wish I never stopped playing the piano."  Recently, I've come to see a relationship between all these.

My answers, first.

Regarding the first comment, I'm a second-generation homeschool mom.  What that means is, in the mass of people venturing out into the unknown to try alternative education methods with their children, I'm one who can't say, "Oh, I could never do that!"  That's because I lived through being "homeschooled." I guess you could say I have insider information: teaching your children at home can look exactly like being a mother at home  . . . no special skills required.   I have no excuses.

This is the secret that makes me feel somehow dishonest and quite uncomfortable when taking that. . . compliment? . . . from other women.  You see, I know that it makes about as much sense to tell me, "Oh, I could never do that!" in regards to teaching children at home as it does to use that comment in regards to being a mother in general.

What I mean is:

Mothers, did you know all you needed to know to birth, nurse, feed, potty-train, discipline etc. a child when you got pregnant?  Fathers, did you have all the money, patience, house space, cars, clothes, bikes, insurance, and stored up hours of sleep that you needed before having children? No.  But somehow billions of people continue to thrive and grow and contribute on this planet and they all come from mothers and fathers who began by being totally unprepared and often feel incompetent in their roles as parents.  How does this happen? They make it up as they go. They use resources they find along the way. They get on-the-job training. They fail and learn, fail and learn. Those that don't give up and stay committed, find 18-30 years later that they have succeeded in creating another adult who is usually quite awesome. None of us are ever perfect, or "done" but that's a discussion for another day.

Now, I'm not sitting down to write a post to convince all families to homeschool.  I'm sitting down to write my opinion that the easiest part of being a mother is teaching your children; that you already do teach your children (whether you realize it or not).  So if your intuition or conscience or your "inner guide" has something to say about how your children gain an education and it happens to have something to do with trying options that would entail keeping your child at home for some or all of the day in their early years - maybe you shouldn't feel so crazy to listen.  In fact, I'd have to be one to argue. . .  you could do that.

I've found that, yes, our children become more like us when they continue to be around us most (so if you're "weird" they might be "weird" too).  They become like mirrors, reflecting our weaknesses, strengths and quirks. When looking in that mirror, we see things we feel need to be changed. So - keeping your children mostly at home might become an impetus for you to change some things about yourself. Then they change.

Keeping them out of public school might mean you will have to learn patience; learn how to put relationships above house duties; learn how to teach your children to help you care for the home; learn how to get along with each other; teach them (and yourself) how to spend time wisely etc.  But, wait - isn't that what everyone is learning to do as a family?  Aren't those all skills (and countless others) every family must learn to function properly? That every society must learn to function well?

But maybe you believe you "could never do that" NOT because you're afraid you'd ruin your children, but because you're afraid they'd ruin you. No time for self. Never a clean house. Never a quiet moment. Do you know what I think? Family life is designed to teach us to lose our self. Something inside us never feels quite right with being self-centered.

 Oh yes, "but if you don't fill up your tank first, you'll have nothing to give."  I have a problem with that mentality in two respects.  First, you can fill up someone else's "tank" much faster than you can your own.  Second, doing so invites others to want to fill up your "tank" (which remember they can do faster than you can). This cycle of giving forms healthy relationships and builds better, happier people at the same time. 

I have come to believe that children need you more when you're around them less. I've noticed when I leave for a few days, or when I'm gone from my children for a long period during the day and then come home - those are the times they demand more of me and being a mommy is more intense.   

In other words, children have their tanks, too. I can either spend sixteen hours or six working to fill those tanks. Once they are full, children want to go explore and learn and create (practice filling other people's tanks) on their own.  If that's true, which time period of "filling tanks" would feel more intense? Six, right? Now, take the six-hour intenser version and imagine that same intensity for sixteen hours and you get the "ooh" and "aww" and "I could never do that" comments from people.  But that version rarely exists in my experience.

For example, my first child surprised us by showing up on the scene when she was supposed to wait to come until I was done with my degree (according to our neat little plan).  My devoted mother watched her each day while I was at school and she had all kinds of loving attention, but what she wanted most was her mommy.  My child's solution? She nursed every two hours I was with her for the first two years of her life.  Even at night.  She made up for lost time and at night, I learned how to nurse lying down (and mostly in my sleep).  Whether I could have (or tried) to change that was between me and that "inner guide" of mine, right?  It said not to wean her.  I fought it, but Elise fought harder and I'm glad I eventually listened. From my perspective now, I see how really small that sacrifice was.  It even became a sweet and simple thing. And I can see how such a small and simple thing was huge in its effects on her life.

So I have my children at home all day. Yet, when I want to, I find time to write, do bills, read, email, visit a friend or waste my time in various ways like other moms.  I have hobbies. Take classes. Develop my talents. Believe it or not,  I actually exercise and dress, eat, clean etc. I get things done.  Quite a lot, actually. Yet my kids are home all day long, they get a lot of attention from me, and they are thriving and learning like normal children (whatever that means). For some reason (well, for the reason in bold above), people think that's a miracle.

Lastly, I find it ironic that parents go through the most physically (and sometimes emotionally and spiritually) demanding period of parenthood (and especially motherhood) when their child needs them 24/7 and then as that child (and the parent) begin to blossom, and begins to learn how to care more for their self, our culture teaches us to fear being around them 24/7.  You've made it through the toughest, most demanding beginning of their life and as the curve tends toward increased independence - THEN you waffle?  They're mostly done with the tantrum stage and now you don't think you're up to being around them all day? (BTW, I've found the best remedy for a tantrum is a hug - fill that tank.)

So call me crazy, but I think it's harder to use public school to teach your children in the younger years.  I think if a mother's intuition prompts her that public school is the route for her child when she's still a new mommy trying to learn how to raise a family (which is the case for most mother's I guess), then she has the harder job. Women who make that scenario work are the ones I think perform miracles. I'm the lazy mom. All the things that a family needs to learn if they're going to be happy and enjoy being a family are SO MUCH HARDER TO LEARN when you barely have time to be together as a family.

 This just makes sense, right?  How do you get better at the piano? You have to sit at the piano.  How do you get better, faster?  You sit at the piano longer.  Granted, how you practice, what motivates you, and whether you enjoy piano or not will determine how effective that practice is, but sitting at the piano less isn't going to help those variables.  More time experimenting, finding things that don't work, trying a new approach, experiencing some success (that will motivate you to want to play more) all requires MORE time at the bench. Not less.

Regarding the second comment ("How early should I start my child in music lessons"). . . well. . . I guess you'll just have to wait for part two.  I may still have 2 1/2 hours before my children know mommy's morning time is over and start wanting my help, but who likes (or ever finishes) long blog posts? My mom. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Good Cry

There are good times to cry. More importantly, good times to cry with your children.  I re-learned that this last weekend while spending a Saturday lying low and doing my little routine that keeps encroaching viruses away.

A little background color first. For the second year in a row, we've done Christmas a little differentlyOne Christmas a few years back, my side of the family decided to forgo gifts for adults and instead only get gifts for the children. This had the unexpected result of many more gifts for the kids than usual. Watching my children rip through present after present and not know what to do with it all (and later see many things get forgotten or lost) left a lasting impression. I tried something different the next year.

The change in our tradition has come to be called The Seven Days of Christmas. Basically, we have 7 family nights that we do on random nights in December. They each have a theme (like "Popcorn and Puzzles" "Books and Blankets", "Fleece and a Film" or "Toys and a Treasure hunt") and begin with carols at the piano and/or a Christmas story or message before opening one present per person or for the whole family that has an activity to go with it. The month starts with the more selfish gifts/activities (like opening their toy gift after a treasure hunt) and as Christmas gets closer becomes smaller family gifts or service projects until there is only stockings on Christmas morning. For instance, one of the later activities was when after singing, I brought out fleece that we tied for Primary Children's Hospital while watching It's a Wonderful Life. This is a Kate version of things, mind you, so besides the one day to decide the themes and buy the gifts, I kind of made it up as I went.

I've love it because we get time to cherish each gift that we give to our children; to play, read and sing with them; to slow down the Christmas season and create lasting memories where the focus stays on relationships with each other and with the Savior. 

(I just realized you may be saying to yourself, what happened to Santa!?  Well, that started with my grandma and is too tricky a subject for me to tackle here. Suffice it to say that Santa is like Cupid, St. Patrick or ghosts at Halloween - background images that flash my children at the grocery store or in the media, but have little part in our family traditions. Honestly, my children probably believe in ghosts more from the stories of their father's youth than Santa Clause :).

There were some glitches to my plans of course. I had to be away for the first night so the treasure hunt didn't happen and on the "Books and Blankets" night the kids were so excited about making a tent (hence the "blankets") to read their new books in together that they begged and pleaded until I finally let them make a tent ahead of time. By the time the last book arrived from Amazon so we could do the activity, the tent had been slept in three nights and put away to make room for family events. I told you - I made it up as I went.

That's where last Saturday comes in.  As I lay in bed that morning, circled by my books that I had just begun to study, my only son surprised me by coming in and asking if I'd read The Island of the Blue Dolphins to him.  It was one of the books I'd purchased for the Christmas night that didn't happen. I'd been reading it to the girls in their room and he'd heard a little and wanted more.  I told him sure, if he let the girls know so they could listen, too. 

 As I began to read with my two oldest Daysies gathered on the bed and the younger ones in and out, weaving the story into their pretend play, I thought back on the days I still remember gathered with my siblings around my mother in this very same house - even at times this very room.  Like we did then, my children wouldn't let me stop after a chapter, but begged me on and on. We ended up reading the rest of the book right there.  Also like when I was little, it proved to be an activity that bound us more deeply together.  

Nathan loves being read to, but has yet to learn to love reading himself.  I was grateful, then, for the timing of this experience. Through much of the last 50 pages of the book I was a wreck. At first, Nathan regarded my tears with curiosity - it wasn't a new thing to see mom crying while reading a book, but this time he was involved in the story, too.  We were experiencing it together. Little House on the Prairie and C.S. Lewis Chronicles hadn't explored emotions this deep. Nathan began to snuggle up a little closer. Then to turn toward the window. I was pretty sure the movement coming from his body was a sob or two. When 3/4 of the book was read I had to stop as my voice was too choked with emotion to go on without stopping for a good cry I realized that I was right, Nathan had already joined me and I stroked his back as he shyly tried to muffle his cries in the pillow next to me. Elise comforted us and brought us tissue.  "Books can be powerful things, can't they Naynay?" I said. He replied with a reverent "yes" between quiet sobs. 

I think the power of a book is increased when reading it aloud with people you love.  It would be impossible to describe what happened to us in my room that day or what we shared, but it was nothing like crying over a movie together. 

I felt like my life experiences were woven into the story - not that I am like the young woman the story described, but that my relationships and my experiences all informed the experience of reading that book. It wasn't what I got out of the book, but what it pulled from me. Like a mirror showing me what I contain inside and turning it out for display.  And instead of examining what I found on my own, I got to go on the journey with my children. They got to examine with me and we learned things about each other there are very few ways to learn otherwise.  It was a good book.  It was a good cry.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

How to Keep a Cold Away

I've been so successful at keeping viruses away (or on the down low so that I don't have to spend more than a day resting) for almost two years now that I thought I'd share what's worked.  I'm actually doing these things this very day because I've felt the virus Nathan and Adam had a week ago trying to give me my turn (right before needing to sub for the church organist and perform a musical number tomorrow, of course).

(I've also had friends tell me I had to post about the ways I've learned to deal with tendonitis so look for that post soon.)

To make things easy, I've included links and pictures so you know what to look for at your local grocery and herb stores as most things are available that way.  You can also use the links to order things online if you don't know how to get them nearby.

First, catch it before it catches you!  

While watching my kids do crazy stunts, or when helping them to climb up and down the stairs for the first time, my mom would always gently remind them, "Listen to your body." I find it's a good phrase and applies here. You know the feeling when there's a virus creeping in (unless you don't - in that case - listen to your body better).  Maybe you feel it in your nose, your throat, your neck.  That's when you act.  That minute - not the next hour or the next day.

Next, choose your weapon! 

(To be clear - I'm not a medical professional - ask a doctor, or use these suggestions at your own risk!)

I try to keep the following all on hand because using them at the first sign of sickness is the key - I can't stress that enough. I alternate or mix and match - you begin to get a feel for what remedy works better with different issues (or with kids) and at different times of the day, over time:

Liquid Cayenne - This is for when you REALLY can't take a day off work. I add two drops of this in a neti pot in addition to the saline packet (not kidding).  I suggest using a neti pot normally (or with only one drop) at first so the cayenne isn't your first experience with a nasal rinse :).   I've done a half a dropper before, too, and lived to tell the tale. I do it about once a day, but usually only have to do it once and I go from feeling like a tornado is about to hit to 98% myself a few hours later (or less).

 On Guard Essential Oil.  You can find this hereIt is a blend of wild orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary. My brother is a doctor and has started seeing positive results adding essential oils into his practice.   Can I just say that a doctor who also is open to adding natural healing remedies into the mix of synthetic options is so refreshing?? Anyway,  I have found this blend is a great addition to my prevention routine.  I will either put 2-3 drops under my tongue and then drink 8 oz. of water (make sure to slosh the water around).  Or I'll mix it with a few drops of fractionated coconut oil and rub it on the neck, chest or on my kids feet (this kept my three girls from getting the nasty virus Adam and Nathan had over Christmas break (Elise told me the minute she felt it coming on, Nathan didn't ... Adam worked too long before doing anything).

  • Effervescent drops - One popular brand is Airborne (I like the berry flavor).  You drop it in a half cup of water and drink it after it dissolves.  I'll take this every four hours unless I feel like using one of the following instead.  I split the drink in half for my kids.
  • Zicam Spray  one squirt each on the inside of both cheeks, under tongue and on the roof of the mouth. Hold it there for 15 seconds or more and then swallow.  
  • Echinacea Plus Herbal Tea (I've never had much luck with Echinacea pills). I'll cover a cup of hot water that has a tea bag in it for a couple minutes, then remove the bag and stir with a tablespoon of honey and drink it down (every three or four hours). Don't know if you're suppose to, but I save the bag to use for the next glass three hours later before throwing it away.

Call me silly, but it doesn't feel right to use just one remedy, so I mix them up (like last night I exercised my courage by using the Cayenne in a rinse when I'd rather just crash in bed I felt so terrible all the sudden.  Then in the morning I didn't feel sick, but thought I'd better rest anyway and did Zicam, then three hours later I did the Echinacea tea, then airborne a few hours later, now I'm sipping another cup of Echinacea.  Maybe my combo technic is why it's so successful :). Right now I'm confident I'll be playing the organ for church and then rushing off to another church to sing in a quartet. Yay! It really works (for me, at least).  Go ahead and comment if you find any success with this "magic formula." Maybe no one is as crazy as me to keep all this on hand though haha.

If you don't catch it early, but still want to reduce the mess a virus creates in your body, I've found the following helpful:

  • Throat Coat.  This is SO yummy and is great if you have to sing with a throat that isn't feeling so red hot (or if you have to sing a more than normal and need to give your vocal chords some TLC).  
  • Lemon Essential Oil. Two or three drops in a tablespoon of honey.  It helps sooth the throat.  I used this with Adam recently when he was sick with a nasty head cold and it immediately helped reduce the pain.

  • Melaleuca oil. I actually used Melagel form on Nathan's poor chapped nose from all the constant blowing.  You can apply the oil to the chest for respiratory issues or use in a diffuser 

There you go!  Some of those remedies are only available through buying on membership-type sites like and doTERRA, darn it.  At least doTERRA is nice in that you can buy without a membership (just pay a little more). You can get Melaleuca oil on doTERRA, too, so there's the solution to that problem! Good luck this cold/flu season everyone and don't forget...

"Listen to your body!" 

Thanks for the advice mom :)