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Archive for mother’s heart

letters to my daughter . 060817 Time

Today’s lettering practice is brought to you by two exciting pieces of information…

One, it’s summer. I know that’s old news, but THIS is the week I’m trying to help us settle into some kind of flexible routine with getting client work finished, moving forward with Pond project ideas, achieving a measure of the “lazy, hazy” summer element, AND taking advantage of the blessing of all my kids at home with me for this season. We’ve spent the last two weeks in celebration mode that school is out and spending down time at the farm, and now, we’re home where at least a little bit of routine and intention are needed to keep the balls rolling. This is the second year we’ve chosen not to participate in any kind of summer care-giver program for the kids, and the first year I decided not to fill their time up with various camps. I’ve been feeling through the last semester that they (and I as the mommy/schedule maker/logistics coordinator) needed a break from so  much scheduled and structured activities. I wanted us all to have free time – a concept that seems to be so undervalued in these days of rushing toward achievement after achievement.

So, the big question abounding is time! How do I manage it and capitalize on it all at the same time? Along with feeling like it’s ok to waste it every now and then? I’m still working through those decisions and balancing how and when I focus on work. And when I choose to set it aside. These days are precious. There are only a few years, really, when the concept of “summer vacation” is even possible for all of us in the same way, at the same time, in the same place. And, although I don’t like to think about it, there may be few years when all three of my little ones actually WANT to hang out with Mommy. So, today, I want to be able to say “Yes, I have time.” Even if I feel like I don’t. Even if it means I’m on Illustrator at the crack of dawn or rolling out block printing inks at midnight. When they have time. While we all have this rare and blessed time. I want to say “yes.”

The second bit of excitement sponsoring today’s practice is more of a programming note… my nifty Benks flexible arm iPhone holder arrived this week, and after a squeal of delight, I decided to try it out for overhead videos this morning! I have a small tripod that I sometimes use, but I was looking for something that could get more of a straight-on shot. It clips right onto the desk or table, and you can swivel or position the arm to capture your workspace. I’m still experimenting with making sure the shot is stabilized because I wiggle so much when I’m painting and my work table is showing its age. But, I love how it works, and I see tons of possibilities for this little tool. There it is in my set-up from this morning — cutting open the Amazon box to painting on camera in about 15 minutes (including time for choosing morning tunes!).

 

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To my babies. To all our babies…

Today is hard. It may even be very hard. So hard you are tired of it. Very tired. You may be hurt. Or confused. Or afraid. You may not think there’s an end to what you face. But, there will be. You may not think you can make it. But, you can. You CAN. You may not believe you are strong enough. But, you are. You may not believe you’re worth it. But, you are.  You may not think there’s a shred of hope. But, there is. There IS. Today, you may not believe there’s a way through this struggle in front of you. But we can find one. Together. You may not feel brave. But, a day will come when you are. Another day will come. Give that day a chance. Just a small chance. Today is hard. Very hard. So hard you give up on it. Just, please. Please. Don’t give up on tomorrow.

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Maggie and the Moon

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I’ve had this Jazz standard on my mind today, poking up into that playlist in my brain in between all the residue from a very busy two weeks of client design work. It’s on my mind because of a little activity Baby Girl planned for us last night. Her third grade class is doing a unit on space, and they’re learning about constellations and the phases of the moon. They’ve been documenting the look of the moon so they can understand how the phases work. Each group has certain nights to look at the moon, draw how it looks and write down any other observations. Maggie had already recorded the findings on her night, but decided before school yesterday that it would be fun to do it again that night — along with the whole family.

Now, Maggie has great ideas. She has lots of ideas. And, I’ll admit that sometimes my response to her ideas is to try to simplify, to put her off, to cajole her with practicality. How did I get to be that person? I’m given to getting lost in my own imagination. I’m not usually practical minded. Except when I’m at the end of a long and busy day, coming at the end of a long and busy week, when I tend to want as little fuss as possible.

Last night, I tried to talk Baby Girl out of fuss. It’s true; I tried to encourage her to alter her plans in favor of just walking out and looking up at the moon. But, I could see the disappointment in her eyes. So, I rounded up the boys, and we decided to go for it.

It’s an interesting thing when you take a small thing and make a real “thing” out of it. When you take a have-to and make a celebration out of it. Those transformations are part of what I want to be “normal” in our home. We put a lot of time (and decorations) into celebrating things — even little things. Maggie has learned well. How easy it is to let the little opportunities for celebration get crowded out by busy-ness.

So, at 8:00 last night, the Montgomerys spread a quilt on the front yard, spread out the lanterns Baby Girl brought,  and stretched out on pillows looking up. At first it was a have-to — one of those things big brothers have to do to please their little sisters. One of those things Mommies have to do to keep from disappointing daughters. But, before I knew it I was breathing deeply — the first time all day, I think. I stretched out my arms. Bug snuggled close to me on the pillow. Maggie showed everyone her moon journal. Travis discovered an airplane. Then another. Bug got his glasses to see the stars better. We turned off the lanterns. We counted stars as our eyes slowly adjusted. We watched the clouds move across the half moon.

Time that moments before had been spent with each person gazing into a screen of some kind turned into time spent talking to each other, noticing the world around us, and celebrating the night together. And yes, everyone was ready to go back in and enjoy their own things after a little while. But, for those short moments, we were amazed by the sky and the night. And, everyone decided we should lay out our quilt another night to look at the stars.

For me, it was a treasured moment. A moment when I realized, I’d never see the moon the same way again. Because when I look up tonight or the next, I’ll think about Maggie and her ideas. I’ll think about Elisha scooting closer to me on the pillow and counting stars. I’ll think about Travis wondering out loud if we were seeing light from 500 years ago. I’ll remember that we looked at that same moon together. On this one night. And it was a “thing.” A beautiful thing.

Years ago, when I started my first blog, I wrote a column called “Gift Tags…”

“the tiny messages God continues to include with our gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)”

The series was an exercise in paying attention to those little miraculous things I learn from my children. It was before I had this business. Before Mike died. Before I was tasked with being the sole provider for my family. Before these last few weeks and this season, when I feel like I’ve been so stretched emotionally and creatively to meet the challenges of work and art and parenting. But, the messages are just as poignant. Just as essential. Just as much balm to my soul.

I realized that again in a new way last night. I reminded myself what a treasure they each are. What a treasure time is. And how important it is to take advantage of every moment. Maggie is our living laboratory assignment for the pursuit of beautifully embraced moments. I’m so thankful that she stretches us toward experiencing them.

“I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.”

Programming note: Today is Number 55 in the Letters series, and I’m on a mission to get to 100 this fall. Stay with me!

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The funny thing about growing is that it’s really hard to see from the inside out. I guess we’re so used to our own skin and the sound of our own thoughts that sometimes we don’t notice when they shift a little.

This morning, my oldest and I were talking on the way to school about the schedules for the next few days, and I was trying to encourage him not to feel too stretched with some weekend activities coming up. His young heart puts on a brave face most of the time, but sometimes I see glimpses of the uncertainty coming out. “Mommy, every day I already feel stretched.” It was a small admission of his feelings about how he’s handling a new school year at a new school, being a 6th grader with seven classes instead of four, and several new weekly activities. There’s a lot of new there, and we all have uncertain feelings about change. The thing is, not three minutes before his comments, I was thinking how proud I was of how he was handling the newness and how well I thought he was doing with these changes. He just couldn’t see it for all the fear and concern in his own heart. I was able to remind him of what I see… that he’s growing. That he’s changing. That last year this time and for several more weeks, his struggles were showing a lot more. They were taking over. But this year, he’s learned to press forward and to take little steps to tackle the change. This year, I see more of his strength shining through. I see him growing.

Stronger, braver, taller, funnier, brighter, more curious and compassionate and confident, joyful, creative, and faithful. I see it so clearly every day. Every day I see him growing — and the other two as well. Sometimes we need that reminder of the growth that’s showing through on the outside.

It’s the same for me. It’s been almost four years since Mike died, and life has been moving. Sometimes I see myself as that same scared, newly single mom, overwhelmed by the responsibility and the emotion of all that’s happened. Sometimes I still am that woman. But, if I look carefully and I step outside my own head, sometimes I can also see glimpses of the woman who’s grown stronger and braver, more curious and compassionate. Joyful. I hope these three souls in my care can see me growing too.

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Yeah, carpool. It’s often unpredictable, especially at the beginning of the school year. Plus, it seems to bring out all kinds of stress, frustration and even unkindness in even the most mild-mannered of parents! Our first day of school last week had the typical carpool chaos at Baby Girl’s new school, and even though you know it’s going to be crazy, as a parent, I seem to always underestimate the time needed for those first few days. So, we were late. On the first day. And, Baby Girl got out of the car in tears, which made for a rough first day of school for me as well. Since that day, we’ve been leaving earlier and I’ve been trying my best to keep my attitude light as we navigate the crazy school traffic.

This morning, I couldn’t help but smile as we turned onto School Street for the last crucial lap of Wednesday morning carpool. Baby Girl was practically bouncing, and said, “I wish I was in there right now! I can’t wait to get in there and get started!” School, she meant! [Bravo, Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary staff!] I assured her that we were in “the loop” now and she would be inside in no time. Her response… “It’s really a Rainbow Loop!”

She proceeded to discuss the idiosyncrasies of various circular shapes that resembled the traffic flow on the HWS campus until we made it to her jumping out stop, and determined that “rainbow” was, indeed, the best description of the carpool line.

I love a girl who can see a rainbow in even the most harried of situations. It made me think that maybe seeing rainbows has less to do with light and water, and more to do with joyful hearts and happy attitudes. Thanks for the reminder, Baby Girl. I hope you always see rainbows!

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Today’s the big day. My Bug’s state test in writing… two five paragraph essays back to back, 45 minutes each. He’s cried himself to sleep quite a few times with worry about not finishing. He’s had tummy aches, afraid he’ll “fail.” Because he cares and because he doesn’t do anything — ANYTHING — halfway. His school counselor has given all the high achiever test anxiety coping mechanisms. His teacher has given all the practice tests and the time prompts and the encouragement. So, today’s the day. And when I’m not wanting to punch some Legislator or Department of Education appointee in the nose, I just want to say, “YOU GOT THIS.” Because he’s having trouble remembering that.

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It’s getting harder to concentrate on school for my little ones. We’re about a month away from the end of the year, and it just gets harder. Plus, this is the time of year when they are testing… state tests, reading tests, writing tests, in addition to the regular weekly tests. It sometimes seems like they are in a constant state of evaluation, and that causes a little stress in their hearts. Part of the kids’ tests this year involve writing assignments. I’m amazed at some of the the things they are learning  — writing skills I didn’t learn until I was much older.

In their classes, the kids are learning about “personal narratives,” and ways to express an idea or an opinion with a story. In essence, they’re learning to express themselves. To tell their stories. They’re gaining tools to do that quickly and with the appropriate language and punctuation. And, I’ve had the opportunity to read some of the results. Their stories. Their ways of seeing the world and describing it. Their take on things that happen to us. And the things they feel are important. I hope they learn to tell all their stories.

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I wonder if they need to hear this. I’m certain they do. And I often grieve that I’m the one they hear it from. In these words… “would be.” I stay awake at nights sometimes wondering if they have this sense of void. The unfilled space in their hearts where a Daddy would fill. I wonder how much they remember. And if in their memories, they hear the words. I wonder if my saying them is a poor substitute. Or if it can somehow reach in and touch the gap.

My oldest earned his Arrow of Light in Cub Scouts last night. It’s a two-year process that he’s enjoyed, and worked for. And one that has taken me out of my comfort zone. When he said he wanted to join Cub Scouts, I felt this huge wave of anxiety. I didn’t know how to do that. But, with the help of great leaders, we did it together. I think about those experiences, and know his father would have enjoyed them. And, I wanted him to hear it… “I’m proud of you, son.” I wanted him to hear it in his heart and carry it with him for always. Stored up for those times when he needs to know. When he needs to know the joy he brought to his dad, and the joy he brings to me. Just by breathing.

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Well, it was a perfect April Fool’s Day experience. Only, I fooled myself! This morning was another example of why my children sometimes look at me, shake their heads, and say, “you’re crazy.” My 3rd grade, Bug, has been gearing up for the regional science fair after he won first place in his category at school. We made some additions to his board this week, and arrived at Humphrey Coliseum at 7:30 this morning with board, scientific notebook, and sundry time-killing books in tow. To find that the regional science fair is actually next Thursday. Yep. I overshot it by six days. Bug sunk into disappointment that today would actually be a regular school day instead of a fun science fair and date with Mommy day. Except not a really regular day since he would have to get a tardy slip, after all. Not the end of the world. I hope. And to my attempts at cheering him up with “now, you’ll have book club to look forward to,” and “at least we were early for science fair and not late!” — making lemonade, and all — he promptly replied: “yeah, like we’ve ever been early for anything.” My 9yo. Spot on again.

So, today’s letter is to my son, Bug. With all the appropriate humility, regret, and a bit of giggling thrown in.

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Today’s letter is a big brother edition. My third grader is starting the process of preparing for end-of-year required tests, and it’s producing a lot of worry — a fear he won’t do well. Every now and then this happens, and I try to remind him that there’s never been a challenge he hasn’t met when he’s put his mind to it. “You can do this!” Don’t we all need to hear this sometimes? For all those challenges, big and small. From video game levels to classroom tests to gamete skills. When the worries creep in, I want them to hear this. And, until they have the confidence and experience to say it to themselves, I want them to hear it from me.

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