Dear Parents,

Dear friends who are parents:

You are rocking it. We live in a society that is hell-bent on telling parents just how wrong they are doing it, how dangerous and harmful every choice they make is, and how the downfall of society lies squarely on the shoulders of the current crop of parents at the helm.

Every time I look around I see parents putting it all on the line for their kids. I see parents who are praying and sitting through the heartache of pain as they fight for their child in some way or another. I see parents doing research into the wee hours of the morning that makes them able to be an expert on their child and to advocate for them with wisdom and clarity.

I see parents making educational choices that are right for their kid whether that’s public school, homeschool, or private school.

And I see parents who are exhausted, tired, frayed around the edges, and just need a break who nevertheless say–It’s all worth it for these little people that I love.

I spent a few minutes this morning reading through one of “Those Facebook Threads” where people come from all angles to shame and berate parents. And I just couldn’t disagree more.

The parents I see every day CARE SO MUCH and TRY SO HARD and do both in a landscape of pressure and few concrete answers.

And for once, I wish that was seen.

So I am seeing it. And saying it. And putting it here today.

We are rocking it. And the people we are raising will change this world for the better because of it.

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Dear Girlie,

Your psychologist says that I can’t hug you or calm you when you are in the middle of an anxiety event or attack.

What I know you don’t understand is that is probably the most counterintuitive thing that could ever be asked of me.

I know that you need to come to know from the inside out that YOU are a formidible foe for your anxiety.  I know you need to know that you have the power within yourself to ride out the storm of OCD and anxiety.

I know that when I hold you and calm you that I complete a feedback loop that reinforces the anxiety meltdown and convinces you that *I* am the only thing that can fix it.

But that’s just the thing.  I desperately WANT TO fix it.  I desperately want you to be ok.  I desperately want to put together the broken pieces for you.  I desperately wish that I could trade places with you and let the storm fling hail and wind and rain down on my back instead of yours.

It is really hard to give the control to you…  even though I know I never really held it in the first place.  I trust you little girl.  I trust you to be able to do this…  But I still want to protect you from it.  I still want to take on the pain for you.

This disease, this terrible disease.  It twists things for all of us.  I was telling my best friend how desperately I hate the thought that by my impulse to take it on for you I am making things worse.  I was telling her that I hate any hint that any of this could be my fault.  That by comforting you…  which is what a Mom is SUPPOSED to do when her child is coming apart was somehow the wrong thing.

And she said–that’s the disease.  It’s NOT the wrong thing to do.  Unless it is feeding the OCD.  Its the disease that’s twisting things.  It is the OCD that is at fault.  Not me…  and certainly not you.

I think it is one of the things I hate most…  The way things are twisted.  The way they must look.  The messages that I worry you get from it.

I don’t ever want you to think that your feelings are unacceptable.  I don’t ever want you to believe that you need to go elsewhere and not be aroud me when you are hurting.

I worry that this road will eventually lead to residential treatment…  And it’s the same sort of terror.  I worry that you will think I am abandoning you when you need me most.  I worry that you will see me walking away and not have any concept of how deeply that will hurt me….  In the end it will be more my pain than yours as it WILL be part of your healing, but it will always be the day I left my baby to a system I coudln’t be part of.

The primary way I try to support the people I love is by simply being with them in their pain…  but instead I’m told not to comfort.  Instead I’m told to go to another room.  I’m told not to reassure.  “Are you mad at me Mommy?”  “That’s the OCD talking, I can’t answer that.”  “Can I have a hug, Mama?” “When you get to the other side of the anxiety wave, I’m here, babe.”

It is growing us both.  It is stretching us both.  We are both learning new ways to show up and do our pieces.

But don’t for a second think, baby girl, that I want to do anything but be right next to you in your pain.  Don’t for a second  think that I don’t accept you–all of you. In your anxiety, in your fear, in your sadness, in your anger, and yes in your joy, your content, and in your victory over challenges.

Don’t for a second think that I am not on your side.  Always.

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

Breath

Five hours of driving.  Hushing the kiddos.  Tired of the drive and the feeling of the road beneath us. Just ready to get there.

The fog is thick when we arrived.  We dropped off our bags, inspected the place where we were staying and then, we headed to the beach.  It’s why we’d come after all.

There is the usual Mama goading as we wander along, and pick our way down the path.

And then we were there.  The sand beneath our feet.  The wind rustling through our hair.  The waves crashing in.

Immediately I noticed it.

I could breathe.  I breathed deeply, in and out.  I breathed and I sighed and something deep inside welled up and overflowed and without knowing exactly why my eyes brimmed with grateful tears.

Deep breaths, deep luxurious breaths.  The tension in my shoulders begins to unwind.  My hands unclench, unfurl.

Four days.

The sea was different each day.  The wind whipped mist off the backsides of the waves one day with the backdrop of a clear, blue sky.  The fog rolled in and out.  The sun shone.  And the last day it was rainy and cold and almost oppressive.

But I could breathe.  I uncoiled.  The lightness was effortless.

The weight was lifted.

I could BE.

OCD

When she was seven she started pulling her hair out.

We went to the doctor and he pulled up some Google images that went with a mouthful of a word–Trichotillomania.  An MRI under sedation to rule out a brain tumor, some therapy sessions, and a lot of worry and prayer later and we found out that was a solid diagnosis.

We started seeing a doctor in Seattle with some experience with kids with Trich.  He happened to also be an OCD specialist:  honestly?  Probably the best in the region.  When he met her he said, “I think I see some symptoms of OCD too.”

Within the span of a year she was diagnosed with a hard to pronounce hair pulling disorder, severe dyslexia, and OCD.

Right now, it’s the OCD that is rocking our world.  We find ourselves back in weekly appointmens with that same specialist and oh, how I thank God for him every day.

When people hear the words OCD they think of memes.  This pisses me off.  They think of Monk.  They think of “As Good as it Gets.”  They think of handwashing and they think of clean rooms and straigthened picture frames.

They don’t think of a child sobbing in her bed at night for hours becuase she is convinced if she leaves her heater on a fire will start and burn her parents to death.  They don’t think about a kid who can’t get dressed in the morning, every morning because her clothes don’t feel right.  They don’t think of her freezing and having panic events all over town.  They don’t think about my kid.  They don’t think about the excruciating reality.

A few weeks ago we sat across from that specialist as he told us that OCD was still a big enough part of our world each day, despite the interventions he was helping us with, that in his professional opinion he believed we should put ourselves on a waiting list for an Intensive Inpatient program that would take our baby over 2000 miles away from us for a minimum of 2 months.

My sweet girl can’t and won’t go to sleep at night unless I sing her a lullabye.  My beautiful daughter’s world is rocked when the door is not opened just the right amount.  She depends on my hugs.

And the truth is?  I depend on hers too.  For this reason we are staying our current course, and hoping, hoping, hoping that we won’t come to the decision that we need to move forward on that waiting list.

Every day I wake up and wonder what will happen?  And my girl…  my brave strong girl is going to battle with her own mind.  Her doctor has made a list of things that cause her anxiety, worry, or fear and each day she spends time with those things.  We have watched hours of videos of fires and of snakes.  We have practiced wearing clothes that are uncomfortable.  We have walked high places.  We have challenged habits and rituals.  We have leaned into the places and things that cause panic and ridden the storms of panic event instead of backing away.

It is excrutiatingly painful to watch.

It is breath-takingly brave to see.

This is our world of OCD.

Some Thoughts on 3-14-18–The Day of the Nationwide Walk-Outs for Parkland, Florida

Idolatry.

Sacrificing children to the altar of Molech.

It is abominable and despicable and unthinkable.

We are far too civilized to even consider such an abomination today.  Thank God we’ve come past that.

Except.

Except…

 

When Black Lives Matter pointed out that White Lives have been elevated over Black Lives to the point that a national movement had to proclaim that Black Lives Matter TOO with their slogan…

After Michael Brown and Philando Castille and Eric Garner and more all lost their lives… and the black community lamented and mourned…  while the white community remained silent.

We  amended it to “All Lives Matter” and tsked about the importance of being color blind.  We found ways to make the police violence “their fault,” and made sure the lines drawn put you either on the side of “Black Lives Matter” or “Backing the Blue.”
When Black Folks began kneeling for the Star Spangled Banner we shamed them for protesting.  “NOT THIS WAY!”

And then we pulled out our favorite false dichotomy: What About the veterans?  What about the soldiers? What about the people who fought and died for that flag?

Never mind that the flag was never supposed to symbolize ONLY the soldiers and the veterans.  Never mind that the flag and the anthem were supposed to be symbols of all of us… And symbols of FREEDOM and LIBERTY and JUSTICE FOR ALL at that.

Never mind that further verses of that song literally reference black slaves upon whose broken and bleeding backs our nation was literally built upon.
Never mind that kneeling was non-violent–a quiet action in a moment that mattered.

Never mind the explanations from those kneeling about how this action had been thoughtfully chosen to show respect for those who serve while publicly stating that they grieved that justice seems to not yet be for ALL.

Again, we said it “just wasn’t civilized.”  

Again we said there were better ways to “send a message.”

 

And then came the shootings.

Shooting after shooting after shooting.

“It’s too early to talk about why it’s happening.  Let the families grieve.”

But in two weeks another would happen.

Men, Women, and Children lost…  Mowed down.

 

And finally–or perhaps more accurately I should say–most recently: Parkland, Florida.

14 CHILDREN and 3 TEACHERS all DEAD.

When we talk about the constitution these days we tend to blow past the first amendment–the one that promises our right to freedom of religion–any religion.  The one that promises our right to a free press.  The one that promises our freedom to peaceably assemble.

We blow right past the first amendment and into the 2nd.
“Don’t take away our right to carry guns.  Any guns. Don’t even limit the ones that we know were designed with one purpose and one purpose only–To take human lives en masse.”

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure…” said Thomas Jefferson.

And I recently heard a conservative friend add, “And sometimes that blood is the blood of innocents.”

Children.  He meant our children.

He meant that it’s ok that 14 children with their entire lives stretched out in front of them–bursting with potential and possibility–were suddenly and viciously massacred.That’s the price we pay, he said….  For the right to bear arms.

And at that moment I remembered Molech.  I remembered the children sacrificed to idols.  Suddenly I understood that one’s mind could become so twisted by the visage of something we purport to support and to stand for…  Of a side, a party line, a color and a symbol… Essentially, something that we worship–that we can believe it is ok for children to be slaughtered in sacrifice to that idol.

Let’s call this what it is:  Idolatry. Our nation is rife with it.  

 

Today I watched kids be villainized, demonized, and made the butt of jokes for standing up, using one of those very rights given to them in the Constitution that so many purport to believe in so strongly.  These were children who took time today to stand in solidarity with other children who are grieving the loss of brothers, sisters, and friends. Children who are grieving the loss of safety and security.

Children who are doing drill after drill huddled under tables and in back rooms attached to their classrooms trying not to make a sound, trying not to even breathe….  Children who see over and over and over again that it’s not safe to be at school. That school may be a place of learning, but it can also be a place where you come to learn, but instead get shot at and die.

People criticized these kids who instead of quaking in terror dared to take time to ask the question, “What can be done so that this terror can stop?!”
We are a people of idolatry.  We are a people who elevate the status of a piece of music and a piece of fabric over the value of black lives.  We are a people who believe that it’s worth the blood of children to protect our “Right” to carry assault rifles.  

 

“But we are Christians!” You tell me. “We love people.  We care!” We are fighting for One Nation Under God! We are fighting to put God back in the schools!  We are fighting for the unborn (and make no mistake, I believe that our inability to confront the horrors of abortion is another Molech like idol that should be laid low)!

Are we hiding behind our self-righteousness?  Are we hiding behind our Pro-life stance in the abortion fight and patting ourselves on the back for protecting the innocent while ignoring other life that matters just as much?

Those children in Florida were innocent too.

They are leading us now.  Leading us with dignity and honor and power.

And a people who would denigrate them and tear them down…  A people who would say hateful things about them… A people who would say in veiled language or plain spoken words that “Sometimes kids gotta die so we can keep our guns,” are a people who are elevating the totems and asherah poles of the Conservative Right over the Sacred.  

How have we forgotten?  LIVES matter more than Anthems.  Babes matter more than bullets.

Let’s call a spade a spade here, friends.  This is idolatry.

This is idolatry that has blinded us.  That has made us call that which is up, down.  That has made us call that which is cruel, righteous.
We must stop sacrificing our children to Molech.  We must start standing for the sanctity and the humanity of ALL life.  By all means, fight for the lives of the unborn, but let us also stand for the life of the refugee, of the black man, the woman, and the children who just want to go to school and learn.

I thought that barbarism of sacrificing our children to an angry and capricious Molech was far in our past…  but perhaps it’s not.

Perhaps we have some idolatry to reckon with.  Perhaps we need to reclaim what is sacred and put down the wooden idols of party lines.

 

Note:  I use the word “we” here because I am a white Christian in the U.S.  I believe I need to reckon with my part in all of these things and to topple my own idols as I do.

 

10 Thoughts on Homeschooling

I spend so much time with homeschool families and around homeschool families that I’m surprised it can still seem so foreign to people. The misconceptions people have can be amusing at times and frustrating at other times.

In light of running into a few of thsoe lately let me just say a few things:

1) My children see plenty of other children. In fact, sometimes they are with friends until 8 p.m or later. They are well-socialized and regularly interact with people from babies and toddlers to older adults whom they love and respect.

2) We don’t spend our days like mole rats, hiding from the light of day with books and pens and paper. We do school at home, a few (for us, just a few) classes at Home Connection, Carolyn has girl scouts and riding lessons. We have tons of appointments. My kids are interacting with people and the world as much as any child, and sometimes maybe even more that some kids. My favorite days are the days when we sprawl out on the grass and read and learn and warm our bones.

3) We LOVE Home Connection But, for the most part for our family, it is a place where my kids take enrichment classes.
They take classes like sewing and art and exploring clay and piano. They get to dive deep with things they are interested, with other kids who share those interests, and with teachers who they love.

BUT those are not the “Real Classes” of their education. I’ve run into a couple of people lately who have made comments that make it clear that they see Home Connection or co-op classes as the REAL education and the stuff at home as “the fringe.” Nope. Not so much. *I* teach reading, and math, and science, and history, and writing, and civics. I LIKE it that way and I WANT it that way.

Even for those whose kids do Core at Home Connection (which is more of the math, literature, English, etc) parents are still co-educators. All the pieces of a kid’s education are “Real.”

4) My kids work together and learn together. They help one another. They aren’t locked in a room with me for their education. They also work with friends. Sometimes they have homework parties. Sometimes they take on extra projects with friends or sisters. Collaborative and cooperative learning happens a lot around here.

5) They aren’t just playing hooky and watching TV every day. They do have more down time than kids who are educated in other ways might. They are learning all the time. And they don’t like it when you ask them to prove that by quizzing them on what they know in conversation.

6) On the flipside, just becuase we homeschool doesn’t mean that I am churning out super geniuses. It is my hope and desire that they will all love to learn and pursue knowledge but they are kids with struggles and challenges and they aren’t super smart just becuase we’ve homeschooled them. (Though seriously, I think all my kids ARE super smart) When things like dyslexia are in the mix, I am especially grateful for the ability to tailor education specifically to my kids and their needs. We don’t focus so much on “grade level” as much as we focus on their individual levels and working them into the next one that comes.

8) I don’t do school at home. I don’t set up desks and give pop quizes and tests. Sometimes we do testing. Sometimes we practice taking tests so they are ready for that when it comes at them in other capacities, but by and large we learn things and find ways to interact with what we’ve learned. It doesn’t look like the way I remember things at public school, but they are learning and engaging a lot more deeply than I remember being able to.

9) I did not get hit over the head by the Patience Fairy’s wand when I decided to teach my kids at home. I am not any more patient than any other parent. I sometimes DO go head to head and toe to toe with my kids on their learning. I am often exasperated. They respond to me as Mom rather than as a neutral educator and that can be very challenging some days. I still do it. We work through it. Homeschooling doesn’t mean we are more virtuous or patient than other families. It often means that we’re always in a pressure cooker together where our flaws and humanness come to the surface constantly. That means we get to love one another through them and figure out how to move forward on the days that the kids just want a quit and Mom is out of patience. It’s messy and it’s tiring and frustrating some days, but it’s also beautiful and a chance for all of us to refine ourselves daily.

10) I love homeschooling my kids and it continues to be the path we choose for many reasons. But it’s not all that we are. They aren’t “just homeschoolers,” and I am not “Just a homeschool Mom.” We all have interests and talents and responsibilities outside of what we do as homeschoolers.

At the end of the day, this is just a choice my family has made because we believe it’s best for *our* family. We love it a lot of days. We feel ambivalent others. But, it continues to feel like the most right choice for us. It’s good stuff. It’s a different way to approach education. It’s a little out of the box and that’s one of the things I like the most about it. So we’ll keep doing it and doing the best we can just like I know all families do in the paths that we choose.

I Might Have Some Things To Say

I wander back here from time to time.  I’ve noticed lately that I have been composing blog posts in my head a lot, and so I’m taking that as a sign that it’s time to get back to writing.

What would I write about?

Well, for starters, I was diagnosed with another hard to pronounce rare disease.  Eosinophilic Esophagitis.  I practiced pronouncing that for about 3 weeks before I got it.  It’s shifted things a good bit in our house if only because we are eating vastly differently.   I’m on an elimination diet and staying away from a big swath of major allergens.  I don’t have it in me to be a food blogger.  I’ve always known this, but thinking about connection to food…  the soul connections of food…  loving with food.  All of that has compelled me to give voice to some thoughts.

I’m also churning over life in the U.S. in this particular bit of history we’re all living in.  I’ve never fit well into categories or boxes.  I still don’t.  So much is happening.  We are so polarized.  I can’t help but think we have settled so far into our polarized answers that we’ve stopped asking good questions.  I continue to want to look for good questions.

Husband is still in the Navy.  There is still a lot to say about that.  Maybe more than there ever was really  This place in his career is mind-bending.

I’m still in the process of mothering three amazing girls.  I want to protect their privacy here–more so as they get older, but I continue to be stymied at…  well how stymied I am by this role.  I assumed I’d grow into it.  And, in many ways, I guess that’s true…  but you don’t get more answers as they get older… only more questions.

Finally…  There are some rumblings in my mind and heart that may need voice one of these days.  I feel new things emerging…  and maybe old things that again need a voice.

I’m not promising to write every day.  It may be months before I come back to this, I don’t know.  But I’ve thought nearly every day about writing here, and I felt like I needed to write a post to pave the way for that.

We’ll see what happens.