Enduring

Sometimes the path is hard. It feels hard to put one foot in front of the other. The bushes along the path scratch up your arms and legs. You stumble and trip on the rocks on the path. You fall down and cry. You sit in the middle of the path, sobbing.

You also know that you must go on. You know that the path won’t always be so difficult and you must put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward, even if you don’t progress for a while because you keep backtracking to see what exactly led you to this hard path. In the end, you’ll get there.

-—————————

My planning is done. Everything is tidy. Our first day of school begins today. Grades 1, 4, and 10.

Last night was very hard. Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart. My first reaction is to cancel today and feel angry and sad about my plans being derailed. But I know my other children would be so upset to not begin, they are so looking forward to today. And I don’t want to wear the martyr hat. So, I remember I’m the captain of the boat and I put one foot in front of the other and navigate into unknown territory. I let go of expectations and just jump in and see where it goes.

I’m sure tonight I’ll post plenty of pretty pictures that will make some out there feel less-than or jealous that I have it all together. This is why I’m sharing this blog post. I think sharing our struggles, the truth behind the pretty pictures, is a gift to others. We are all human. We all have our struggles and fall down on our face sometimes. It’s easy to pretend it’s all roses with the internet. But the truth is: life is hard sometimes. Parenting is hard sometimes. Mothering can sometimes makes you feel like your heart has been ripped out. We must endure and push forward. Feel it all, give ourselves a hug and keep putting our feet down for the next step. That’s all there is to do.

A time of reflection

I haven’t blogged in nearly two months. It has been a time of adjustment and reflection. There have been some bumpy days (weeks?) and I’ve had to do lots of inner work and refining my own habits to find a sweet spot again. I’m getting there.

I’ve joked half seriously that I should start a blog called ‘Things My Kids Tell Me’. Not with the purpose of complaining or making jokes, but so that other moms out there don’t feel alone in their struggles. It can feel so isolating and depressing to think to yourself that the (unkind) things your child says couldn’t possibly be said by other kids, because no one you know has ever shared such things. I mean, we don’t really talk about it. Social media is full of the edited happy moments and lots of happy faces. But that’s not real life. And no matter how amazing you are as a mother, it is no insurance against your child saying hurtful things to you. Because what comes out of their mouth is a reflection about what is going on within them. I’ve found again and again how powerful it is to speak up and share with friends what happens within my house. It is sure scary to be vulnerable in that way, but I’ve found again and again that it not only is healing and helpful for me to share but that other mothers then feel less alone. Mothers then open up to me about the things that go on in their homes and how they’ve struggled. Our culture doesn’t do vulnerability very well. So, it takes intention and practice.

In our house, we’ve been in the thick of the 9 year change. I think we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that light is still a far way off yet, truth be told. I’m remembering how absolutely vital the inner work piece is and how making time for mediation and mindfulness and fun are is not optional. It is necessity. I’m reminded again and again that the only thing I can be in control of is how I react. So, I’m in charge of me, and that’s my main job as a parent.

I have taken some photos here and there of our homeschooling and life. Things are moving along nicely and we are settling into a workable rhythm. Lots of grace is given, daily. Grace, flexibility and self-compassion. Those are my tools lately.

Finishing off our first week not-back to school

We had some bumps along the way this week, but finished on a good note today.

Some pictures from our day.

Vegan nectarine cookies that I made with my Kindergartener.

Form drawing review for the third grader.

Daily math practice sheet for the 3rd grader.

The third grader was learning about the Jewish days of the week and months, as part of his block on the Old Testament stories.

Speaking of OT stories, I just got these two gems in the mail today. I’m a huge Roy Wilkinson fan. These are for the parent/teacher to read, not the student.

Our family isn’t religious, though we are spiritual and I’ve done a TON of inner work over the past five years to get though the baggage I used to have around all things Christian. I’m looking forward to this block because I grew up never knowing any of these stories, many of which are woven into the everyday of our cultural references. Who is Cain? Lot? Seth? I grew up in the dark about who these characters were.

This is the block that often turns people away from choosing Waldorf. Many people are very uncomfortable telling the OT stories to their child if they are not Christian or Jewish. And I get that. That would have been me six years ago! I often joke that it’s a good thing that when we started using Waldorf education with my oldest, he wasn’t in third grade (he started in fourth grade) because I would have been turned off and immediately said no and we would have missed out on the education model that is a perfect fit for our family. But when you look at the curriculum as a whole, when you zoom out and see the big picture, it becomes clear that it isn’t about indoctrinating your child. It is about how these stories speak to the child on a soul level, meeting them where they are at developmentally. In first grade, it is fairy tales. In second grade, it is stories of saints (from any religion or tradition you choose). In third grade, it is the OT stories. The third grader is entering a new developmental period, leaving the misty imaginary realm of young childhood and on the brink of adolescence. They are in the thick of the nine year change. This is a time when the stark black and white of the OT stories speaks to the child in a unique level. In fourth grade, it is Norse mythology stories. In fifth grade, Greek mythology stories.

You can approach the OT stories as fact or myth, depending upon your family’s beliefs. For us, they are a story, just like the other mythologies.

What a WEEK

I think I’m feeling the rumblings of summer and the changing of the seasons. I am ready for a BREAK. Ideally, I’d just press pause and take a long out breath. But, life keeps moving.

Every day, I’ve felt like my feet have hit the ground running, from the time I’ve woken up.

We had to bury a hummingbird that flew into our window and broke its neck. (On Mother’s Day, no less).

My glasses broke. I have a backup pair until my new ones arrive. I was ready for something new, anyhow.

My baby has decided that 5:30 am is the best time to wake up and greet the new day. We’ve even had two days this week when he’s woken in the middle of the night to start happily babbling and talking.

I’m wrapping up 2nd grade. We have one more week of lessons for him. And I’m really digging into planning our next year.

On days like these, when I feel like the tasks ahead of me are never ending and overwhelming, I remember a saying from the Tao Te Ching that I learned about from Dr Wayne Dyer. (I was lucky enough to get to attend his talk in person just months before he passed on from this life.)

I’m paraphrasing here: “I do nothing and nothing goes undone.”

This brings me a calm that I can’t even describe. For me, that means I don’t sit and DO nothing, literally. But that I am being swept along this river of life and everything that needs doing will be done, I need only to do what my task at hand is, in this moment.

Stumble and trip

I’ve decided to share some of my personal struggles in the hopes of helping some other mothers out there. We all have our own journeys ahead and behind us and they are all unique. But I have come to know of the power of sharing those journeys with one another.

A few years back, when my third child was a baby (she’ll be 6 this summer), i was struggling in a very real way as a parent. I felt unhappy and resentful and STUCK along with a big dose of martyrdom.

I had recently become a full time stay at home mom and underestimated how difficult that could be. My sense of worth was gone, having been raised in this culture that tells us that we are our occupations and paychecks; I was with my kids pretty much 24/7; I felt my lack of social network strongly now that I no longer saw people through my work; and my ‘job’ of homemaking seemed endless (it is) and unappreciated (it isn’t).

My oldest son was 9, and in the thick of the 9 year change, and were we struggling! I didn’t know how I’d make it through it with him.

I was yelling daily. I was hiding in my room to cry in despair, regularly.

And I felt like the worst mother.

For me, this was a downward spiral. I felt like a horrible parent, and then that feeling would translate into me being even more mean as I felt so horrible about myself. I’d have a day here and there where the weight lifted, but then I was thrown right back into it. I’d often cry in bed at night from the guilt of the things I’d said to my children (mostly, to my oldest), and from the knowledge that I wasn’t being the mother I wanted for my children.

I felt so isolated because who could I talk to about this and not feel fear of being judged? My poor husband couldn’t help me much. He would just tell me that I good mother and to not be so hard on myself. I was certain that none of my mama friends ever felt the way I was feeling. (By the way, this isn’t true!) And I didn’t even know anymore who friends were. Most of my contact with them was through social media and just left me feeling more alone.

Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that turned things around for me. Likely because it was a combination of many changes that helped.

Here is my best recollection of what helped me.

  • Finding Waldorf

This will be a whole blog post of its own, so I won’t tell the whole story of how I found Waldorf education and philosophy here. But this was the first step. This helped lay the foundation of me learning how to run a busy household (which i had no idea how to do even though I’d been a parent for 9 years at that point) and enjoy it, how to enjoy homeschooling again, how to begin getting back in touch with my spirituality, how to enjoy parenting again. Waldorf (specifically Waldorf Essentials/Melisa Nielsen) was a game changer and felt like coming home.

  • Leaving social media

This was a hard one for me. And I was scared to do it because I thought my time on Facebook was my “social” time, since I was a stay at home mom. But after finding the 99 Days of Freedom challenge, I was inspired to just do it. It was life changing. After I got over the hump of the hard work of breaking my addiction, I felt like I had time to breath again. I ended up staying off Facebook for over a year. It was fantastic and life affirming. I read books again, did a ton of crafting and in general, I found so much free time that I didn’t know I had! I did eventually go back because of the usefulness of the groups, but my long break changed the way I view and use Facebook. I see it now as an anti-social time. It is a tool that can be quite handy but i essentially unfollowed all my ‘friends’ and 90% of my time is in groups that are beneficial to my life (local homeschool groups, babywearing groups, Waldorf homeschool support group). Leaving Facebook made me a better mother, for sure. I no longer spent time reading about what other people were doing, feeling inadequate in my own head, a feeling that would often linger long after logging out . Instead, i was fully present with my children and began to remember what it felt like to just BE.

  • Meditation/Mindfulness

Specifically, i found the Mommy Meltdown Cure created by the amazing Sigrid Kjeldsen aka The Joyful Mother. I was lucky enough to be in a small mindfulness coaching group that she led for a year or more, and it was incredible. Life changing! Words don’t suffice to share what it brought to me. Peace. Love. All of that good stuff. She’s now gone on to greater projects, creating a community called Motherhood Rising. She is amazing and I highly recommend her.

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I’ve come a long way in 5 years. But I still trip and stumble. I still fall flat on my face, even. Like a few days ago. But I know how it get myself up when that happens and forgive myself and have self-compassion, apologize to my kids, and remember all we have is NOW.

One of my favorite poems, by Mary Oliver, it brings me right back to the present and grounds me when I read it.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees,  the mountain and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Censorship

Yesterday, I was getting all riled up about Facebook censoring certain video links. I was trying to post a link to this video (go watch it, it’s important info) and FB would not allow me to link it, saying the link had been blocked as containing unsafe information.  Whoa. So, I tried and tried, and nope. No way. If I had any doubts about the truth behind FB truly censoring posts and trying to manipulate information others are trying to share, they are gone. Now, I see the truth.

But, it got me realizing something more personal about censorship. I’m guilty, too. I do it all too often. I haven’t been posting much to this blog because I was feeling vulnerable about sharing my truth. You see, when I set up my blog, I decided to make it so that my posts are automatically shared to my Facebook profile. Well, this led to me filtering what I shared, because all my FB “friends” would be seeing it and my mind imagined all the ways they would judge me.

While I long to share my thoughts and feelings with others, to connect, I also have always been scared to allow the wall to drop and be totally vulnerable and honest. Ironic, since that was the point of this blog: to help me move past that and be raw and honest. I believe we are in an age where being vulnerable and speaking our truth is more needed than ever. Thus, beginning today, here I am. Unfiltered. I’ve disabled my Facebook sharing setting to get me started, though I am building up the courage to share with anyone one day. My blog remains anonymous for now, but that may change in the future as well.

Furthermore, I’ve decided to move my homeschooling talk to my old blog. This blog will be about my journey coming home to love, the one truth. Inner work abounds, mystics’ poetry, realizations and discoveries. If you are reading along, welcome. Otherwise, I’m writing for myself here as I don’t expect to have any readers.

Growing

This week has been full of ups and downs. I took the kids camping alone with some homeschooling friends. It was their first time really camping. Between being on-call for births for 9 years and then being pregnant and having a small baby/toddler, camping just never happened for our family. But, the kids loved it and we’ll be going again very soon. I’m taking them camping for four nights to fiddle camp in a few weeks, and then we’ll be taking a family camping trip in August sometime. (We need a pet sitter, though, so if you are local to me and know someone , let me know!)

The camping was good.

It was the recovery that was hard. Of course, we had the usual mess to put away, laundry to clean, and sleep to catch up on, but it was the meltdowns that were trying. I assumed that my oldest, I., would not have any issues once we got home since he seemed just fine during our trip. How wrong I was…

It may have been the break in his usual rhythm, or the lack of sleep, or something else. I don’t know. Within about an hour of being home, he totally lost it at his brother and then spent the rest of the evening angry at everything and lashing out at everyone.

I spent a good part of the night crying. I know my own thoughts are what cause me the most anguish. Thinking about how he’s 12, and we are still dealing with his lack of control of his words; worrying that it’ll never get better; feeling like I can’t take him anywhere since the meltdown just isn’t worth it; even wondering in what ways have I screwed up so that my 12 year old can’t handle life.

But. But, I have to lift my head out of the vat of those kinds of thoughts. It took a while, though.

When I went to say goodnight and talk about everything, he said something that triggered me all over again. I went to sleep devastated to have heard him say that he can’t change, that this is just how he is.

Thankfully, when I woke the next morning, my head was clearer and I realized something important. He said that because he doesn’t believe he can change, not because he doesn’t want to change. Such a simple shift in how I saw his statement, but it really helped me to have perspective.

Perspective to realize that my job is to hold the space for him, and never waiver from affirming to him that he can change and it will happen. When I told him later that morning that I know he can change, he sadly said, “You think so?”

I know I have to believe in him enough to not give up on him.

This is hard at times. I have three children whom I love desperately. When one is attacking another, even with words, it takes every bit of commitment and effort from me to not lose it at the offender. Because, he’s also still my baby. I can remember holding him when he was seconds old. The desire to protect the other children is so strong, though. And I must protect them. But not at the expense of the offending child. Because I know all too well that when he’s acting like that, it’s because he feels bad inside, and the meaner he is to his siblings, the worse about himself he feels. The last thing he needs is me to tell him (or convey to him without saying it directly) is that he is bad. That is throwing gasoline on a fire.

I don’t always succeed. I’m human. I have my moments, or days, even, when I miss the mark. But this is where self-compassion comes in. And forgiveness. Forgiveness for myself and towards him. That’s where I’m at today. Remembering that in the end, all there is is love and I can return to a place of love anytime. Letting go of thoughts of the past (what he’s done) or worries of the future (what if he never changes?) is the most loving thing I can do.

Be here now. That’s all.

Giving myself a hug

A dear friend brought the teachings of self-compassion to me last year. She introduced me to the work of Dr. Kristin Neff. If you haven’t heard of her before, check out her TED talk. She also has a book, but it was a bit too scholarly for me. Instead, the book on the topic that really spoke to me was by Dr. Christopher Germer. So good.

Self-compassion is what I turn to when I have a child screaming in my face. It is what wraps its arms around me when I lay myself to sleep at 8:45 because I just need the day to be over and am thoroughly exhausted with interacting with a child who has held onto his seething anger at me for over 5 hours.

Sometimes I first fall into self pity, but that is a pit that only makes me feel worse and leads to seeing myself as a martyr. Not a path that leads to much peace and love.

So, I’m so grateful that I’ve learned self-compassion. It is so simple and seems so obvious but it is so far removed from our modern culture.

What does self-compassion look like for me? Talking to myself the way I’d talk to a good friend in my shoes. Sometimes literally giving myself a hug. Having empathy and compassion for myself when I’m in really stressful and challenging situations.

This morning, I’m also thinking about self-appreciation. Kristin Neff has this great article on her website on the topic. Gosh, I needed to read this. Today. This morning at 6am as I am preparing for my day. Focusing on my faults go hand in hand with feeling like a martyr. When my child acts in a way that I can’t understand, shows zero gratitude, and is lashing out at all of us, my mind’s default is to start highlighting all the mistakes I’ve made and all the ways I am not doing a good job as a parent.  Crazy, isn’t it? When I stop reacting to what is happening around me, I can acknowledge that I know that my child is a child. He’s still emotionally immature. His behavior is not a reflection of me. His lack of gratitude for all I do for him isn’t personal and it doesn’t have to be a blow to me. His behavior and attitude is a reflection of his immaturity and the fact that he’s a child!

So, this morning, I’m reflecting on appreciating myself. I don’t need to wait for others to appreciate me, including my child or my husband. As Neff writes in the article,

William James, one of the founding fathers of Western psychology, once wrote that “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Luckily, we can meet this essential need without depending on other people to approve of us. When we treat ourselves with the same kindness with which we treat our good friends, we’ll have the support and care required to help us thrive.

I close with this quote from Dr. Robert Holden. I must remind myself of this daily. How often do we believe it is external circumstances that dictate our happiness? I do, all too often. But happiness is a choice. And it is a choice I want to make.

image

Inspiration

REAL
Today.
Lose a few friends.
Offend a few people.
Say no if you mean no.
Say yes if you mean yes.
Nice little boys and girls
never win mommy’s love anyway.
They only become beggars.
Stop trying to do it right.
Do it real instead.
You don’t have to win love.
Only live it.
Weep. Wail. Laugh like you did when you were young and didn’t care what people thought about you.
Speak your truth without apology.
Let your heart break.
Let your certainties crumble.
Be a blubbering mess on the ground of love.
Life is too short to hold it all together.
You have longed to fall apart.
You will lose ‘safety’
but you will feel
so alive.
– Jeff Foster

If you haven’t heard of Jeff Foster, check him out. He is fantastic.

Homeschool week 10

Monday was busy. Always is. We have a few short hours in the morning to do a slew of chores, breakfast and cleanup, and then get a short bit of homeschool work in for I. He heads off by 11:30 for the rest of the day to his Naturalist class at farm school and we don’t see him again until nearly 6pm. So, as usual, this week our Monday morning was busy. Except that I. woke in a cranky mood and was just upset about everything. So, he spent his morning upset and angry, and we just didn’t get homeschool work in. The struggle to push it didn’t seem worth it that morning.

Tuesday found us up in Portland for dentist appointments for H. and P.  P. had a filling done, and it was done without any anesthesia or gas or anything. She did amazing and just laid there. H. did great, as well. We had lunch out, then headed back home. The day felt spent by then, so I decided it would be a good day to go get hair cuts for the boys. A projected wait of 12 minutes turned into an hour and we were all ready to be home already!

Wednesday and Thursday we got to stay home, and it was glorious. I spent most of Wednesday catching up from being out of the house the day before. I. did lots of math, and practiced his flute, and finished up reading Little Men. I got our March circle time going for H. and P., and that was fun. I love learning the new songs together.

Today, I. is gone all day, from early morning until past dinner time, to farm school again, as he is every Friday. I had planned a quiet day at home, full of preschool and kindergarten activities (circle time, painting, baking) but H. was up almost the entire night, unable to sleep due to a little cold. He’s better today, though mostly just sleeping, since he hardly slept last night. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to stay up almost the entire night, and I am feeling a tad nostalgic about the nights of attending home births, and coming home and having to be on all day, in spite of the exhaustion.  I don’t drink coffee anymore, so I mostly just lean into the tiredness and let it be, and get done what needs to be done.  Feeding P. Making green juice and smoothie. Cleaning dishes. Chopping wood for our hungry wood stove. Sweeping the ever-dirty floor. Making lunch. Doing our daily two loads of laundry.  I can’t quite wrap my head around dinner yet, but it’ll get it figured out.

I was lucky enough to see Dr. Wayne Dyer when he came to Portland last year, just months before he passed away.  And, his voice, quoting the Tao Te Ching, echoes in my head almost daily whenever I feel overwhelmed: “I do nothing, and yet I leave nothing undone.” This is my mantra, and it gives me strength to move forward.