If you are a mom, you are probably familiar with this phrase.  If not, and for those of you who are not moms, I’m not referring to the heart that pumps blood through my body.  My “mother’s heart” is the one in the center of my chest and the pit of my stomach at the same time; the one that aches when your kids hurt, warms when they give you kisses, and smiles when they pick a bunch of dandelions so that you’ll have “pretty flowers”.  It’s also the one that fiercely protects when your kids are in danger, and is on alert for boo-boos, monsters under the bed, or the heartbreak of a first crush, depending on how old your kids may be.  This “heart” never gets a break either, and like the other one, needs it’s life-blood your kids- in order to survive.  When one of them is in any type of predicament- real or imagined- your “mother’s heart” immediately responds.

It’s that “heart” that I am currently doing my best to ignore- yes, I said ignore.  You see, this is one of those “imagined” moments of danger- when I say imagined, I don’t mean that the possibility for hurt does not exist, but that if that hurt should come to pass, it’s one that will ultimately help my child- in this case my oldest son- grow into the responsible man he is quickly becoming.

And it’s such an insignificant thing.

My son is a Junior Firefighter.   That’s one of the things he wants to do with his life.  In a nutshell, he receives the same training as regular firefighters (they are trained by active firefighters) only they don’t train with live fires.  But they do everything else.  Right now, he’s the sergeant of his platoon (the kids are grouped into platoons), but elections are today- he’s running for captain.

Last year, I got really nervous and “mama beary” when he decided to run for sergeant.  Not that I had any real reason to be concerned, as he’s well- liked by his peers and is very dedicated, I knew he’d be upset if he wasn’t elected.  You see, they still vote kids in to positions- understanding that sometimes having to face a defeat will not ruin you for life- in fact, it can help grow you as a person and build resilience and integrity- which stands in contrast to the current trend of “let no child feel any type of disappointment ever” (which, I think, is why as adults they are so unprepared to deal with it).  But, I digress.

He has been nervous about this for over a week, and especially this morning as we traveled to the fire station.  I cold feel his nerves, and my “mother’s heart” ached to tell him not to accept the nomination- for fear that he would be disappointed if he wasn’t chosen.  My mother’s heart knows that he will be very hurt, and very sad, and it can’t stand the thought of him being disappointed.  It wants to shelter him, to protect him from his own ambition and in some cases (gasp!) dreams, because they may be a little too ambitious, or so my mother’s heart thinks.  He might get hurt!!!

Luckily, I have lots of brothers and nephews and a husband who remind me that I’m not raising a little boy, I’m raising a future man- and I remember their words as I listen to him tell me his plans for advancement.  My son has always had a plan for his life- a path he intended to follow.  I’m not surprised, since I’ve been praying for that very thing since before he could roll over.  Every day, almost without fail, sometimes getting back up from bed when I realized I had forgotten, I would place my hands on his head, his back, his feet, and pray “Lord, please show him Your purpose for his life while he is young.  Make it plain to him; give him the boldness to walk into that purpose regardless of who understands or agrees.  Lead him the way that he should go, and help me to do whatever I can to not hinder him, but to help him to become the man you’ve created him to be.”  Everyday.  For YEARS.

So he’s a kid with plans for his life.  Sometimes I guide, and sometimes I stand back in awe.

This is a part of his path, I know.  He may not get chosen, and he might,  Either way, it’s part of the plan- a plan that he’s prepared to take risks for, I might add.  And I try to respect that, even as my “mother’s heart” is shouting at me to “put an end to all this dreaming and goal setting- what if he gets hurt??!!!!”

And I distract myself, and I shush “her” as loudly as I can, because this is something he feels he needs to do.  It’s not inappropriate or weird or anything else most moms of teenagers are concerned about.  And yes, he might get hurt- but if he does, he’ll learn to move past it.  To press on.  He’ll become stronger, and more resolved- that’s how he is.  Either way, he’ll be fine.

I’m proud of my son today, because he’s not afraid to push past his greatest fears to get what he wants.  I wish I had more of that when I was younger.  I wish I had more of it now.  I learn from him, sometimes.  He’s teaching me right now.

And so, as I quiet my “mother’s heart” for the 1,000th time today, I end this post, as it’s almost time to pick him up.  This post was part of my distraction, too.  I wonder how the elections went, wondering whether I’ll be planning a special meal to celebrate, or a special activity to help assuage the hurt.  Either way, he’ll be fine, and so will I- until next time.

Update: Mark is still sergeant; he didn’t get promoted.  He’s not nearly as upset as I am, lol.   He said he got over it really quickly, and now he knows what he needs to do to help ensure his promotion for next year- and he can’t wait to get started.  Another lesson learned (by me).

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I have been homeschooling my oldest two kids for four years now.  Well, one for four years, the other for three and a half.  I pulled my son out of school halfway through 4th grade; my daughter was in 5th grade at the time and wanted to finish the year because of theater group.

Initially, my family was okay with it.  By “family”, I mean extended family- my husband was always  supportive (and one brother has always made his support known as well).  Anyway, since my son had been having a lot of problems in school socially (his early years were spent in Christian school, which is a different environment from public school, and he struggled with the other kid’s behaviors, things they would say, and things they would do), and academically,  it seemed like a great idea.  (They weren’t able to teach him at the level at which they tested and found him competent- at the end of 3rd grade, his reading comprehension was 10th grade, and his reading ability they couldn’t even quantify- during the test of having to read words with an ever- increasing difficulty level, he never reached a level of frustration.  In 4th grade, after many “boredom” struggles, his teacher admitted to me that she knew that they weren’t working at a level which approximated his ability and that she knew he was bored, but that she had 29 other students and couldn’t tailor things to what he needed.  She went on to say that even though it wasn’t on his level, he needed to sit through it anyway, and if he couldn’t do that, perhaps I should consider some type of medication to help him do that.  REALLY?  I should medicate him because he’s bored?  And THAT’S when I pulled him out halfway through the year.)   Now, I also know (because I was a teacher myself) that teachers are not allowed to recommend medication- but she did.  And while part of me felt bad for her (I’d taught classes of 30+ students myself, and it’s no easy task), the other, larger part of me knew that I had to get my son out of that environment before it ruined him.  The academics were a problem, but what all of it was doing to his mind and his self- confidence was worse.  His spirit was breaking.  I pulled him out.

Thing is, my family assumed that I would homeschool him for the rest of that year, then send him back in the fall since he’d have a new teacher.  Not sure where they got that idea from, as that was never my intent nor did I ever express an interest to do that, but there it is.

When he didn’t go back the next year, and my daughter came home, they were all awry.  My daughter struggled with school too, but for opposite reasons- coming from an even more colorful public school environment in the city, she adapted to the county school environment with ease- easily the best behaved child in class and very respectful.  Academically, she was quite behind, and having a very hard time.  By her own admission, she was the “dumb girl” in the class, and spent a lot of time feeling bad about herself.  Her self esteem was suffering, too, and it wasn’t just a matter of trying harder.  Between the lead poisoning she had as a child, and her suspected mild dyslexia (suggested through school testing, although not bad enough to warrant intervention, so they said), learning is just harder for her.  Not that she can’t learn- she can, and she does- but she learns better when not constantly ridiculed for not “getting it” as fast as her peers do.  I felt that bringing her home would be helpful, as she wouldn’t be under the pressure she was under before, and she could work at her own pace.

My family freaked.  They tried so many things to get me to change my mind, all to no avail.  They were convinced I was ruining them, what about socialization?  More importantly, what about PROM???  ( they were 9 and 10 at the time…)

You already know where this is headed, so I’ll skip those details and get to my point which is this:

I totally get that people who love my kids would be concerned about this different educational path we’ve chosen for them.  I get that.  And I appreciate their concern- I’m glad they care enough to risk ruffling my feathers to ensure their well- being.

Fast forward four years, and my kids are doing great- grade levels above their ps counterparts, happy, and very social.  My super- shy son is much more outgoing, so much so that his friends’ parents can’t believe that he ever was shy.  He plays football, is a Junior Firefighter, does archery, and is an equestrian.  My daughter dances- lots and lots, lol.  She’s always been social anyway.

That said, I feel that- since they have not been ruined and are doing well academically- that everyone needs to back off.  I’m still having to justify my choice to people- and I’m so over it!  True, I don’t HAVE to justify ANYTHING, technically that’s a choice I make to keep things hospitable.  But I am so over that.  I feel like if nothing else, the people who know me best know me well enough to know that I don’t jump into anything- I never have.  I’m the research- it- to- death type.  And, not that my level of education is necessary to give my kids a great education (I have a good friend with a GED who successfully homeschooled her 3 girls), I am very educated, and even worked as a teacher for about 10 years prior to homeschooling.  So I have more experience than most, I’d think.

But that doesn’t matter.  Every year, even during the year, with every conversation, there are the inevitable hints about “sending them back to school”.  Sometimes it’s the not so subtle, “So, when are you sending them back to school?”  Other times, it’s comments like “she’s so smart, she outta be in school!”  Uuummmm, hello??  If working with her God- given talent at home has gotten her this far, why would I fix what’s not broken and send her to school?  That doesn’t even make logical sense.  And, like with the breastfeeding thing, these are people who have done absolutely NO research on the subject of homeschooling.   And who really haven’t done any research into school, either.  They just “know”.  Sorry, but that’s not good enough for me (or my kids).

Really, I’m just tired of it (can you tell?).  The bottom line is this- these are MY kids, and it’s my responsibility to raise them the way God is leading ME to.  You don’t have to understand or agree.  And that’s okay, because these are MY kids.  MINE.  You raised YOUR kids the way you thought was best; allow me the same respect.  Keep your comments to yourself- if I change my mind, I’ll let you know- but you’re not gonna talk me out of it, I’m not suddenly gonna hear something you say or see some brainy school kid and think “I’m gonna drop this homeschooling thing and send my kids to school, too!”  NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

We homeschool because we feel that is what God is leading us to do for our kids.  It is not a judgement of you because you chose differently for your own kids, or because you’re choosing differently now.  We’re not anti- school.  Our choice has nothing to do with you at all.  We feel that it’s the best choice and the best place for our kids.  Period, end of discussion.

So, a message to those of you who feel like you still need to “talk some sense into me and get me to see straight”- please stop trying to change my mind!!!  It makes me not want to talk to you at all.   No one wants to feel like they constantly have to justify their decisions to everyone else.  And the reality is, I don’t have to- the only person I have to justify anything to is God, and when I stand before Him, I’ll be confident that I followed His leading in this area.  You may not understand or agree, and you don’t have to.  God is not speaking to you about what I should do with my kids’ lives.  He speaks to me directly, and I have no problem hearing him, thank you very much!  Your opinions are exactly that- your opinions.  Your issues are exactly that- your issues.  I grow weary of feeling like I have to defend my choices because they are different from yours, and I’m not gonna do it anymore.  If you’ve never experienced this version of me, it’ll be a new experience!  One caveat though- you may not like it.

Different…

2011/09/04

… at least, I think I am.  Lifestyle, wise, that is.  Actually, maybe I’d better explain.

I am an African American, homeschooling, slightly crunchy mama.  When I say ‘slightly crunchy’, I mean natural enough to make some sacrifices and unpopular choices, but not so natural that anyone, including myself, is uncomfortable.  When I say ‘unpopular’, I’m referring to things like homeschooling, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, mama- cloth using, cooking my food from scratch, homebirthing- that sort of thing.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with any of these things- I’m not implying that there is- and there are lots of people who totally feel the same way about these things- that they’re natural, normal, and beneficial.  Trouble is, most of the people I know don’t see it this way- I know they think I’m crazy, and they accuse me of trying to be something that I’m not.  But that’s okay- I make crazy look good.

My family thinks that I need to stop nursing (he’s almost two- gasp!), put my kids in daycare/ school and get a job, because we could have/ do more “stuff” if I did, and I’m ruining them by keeping them home.  Any of my family that’s reading this- that’s right, I said it.  I know what you’re all (almost all) thinking, because you’re pretty transparent, and one of you- I won’t say who- tells EVERYTHING. 😉

I have many friends who would agree with my family’s position.  Someone at my church- in leadership- actually told me that I should stop nursing my son so that I could get back to wearing my clergy attire on Sundays.  He was 5 months old at the time.

In my experience, and from what I can see around me, I’m not your typical African American SAHM.  Well, it’s not like that’s a large group anyway, but still.

Thing is, it gets lonely here sometimes, being so very different from what’s expected of you.   So sad that even within our own cultural community we can’t see beyond stereotypes.  I’m confident in my choices because I know that I’m am following God’s will as far as my family and children are concerned, but it would be nice to not have to constantly be on the alert for hidden messages and meanings, or the intent behind some things said to my kids.  I constantly have to justify my choices and decisions (well, I don’t HAVE to, I suppose it’s really that I am CHOOSING to, in an effort to remain hospitable), and that gets really old, really fast.

Anyway, this blog is about my journey through this life, as me, the Krackelbar mama- chocolate, slightly crunchy, and sweet.

Milk, Pweeze!!!!

2011/09/04

Max the Milkman

My youngest son, Maxwell, is still nursing at 23 months old.  There was a time when I would have been appalled by this (with ds #1), because I believed what most people I encounter believe- that nursing should stop by the time a baby is about 6 months old, and definitely not past a year (and that’s pushing it!)  14 years ago, I hadn’t done any research on the benefits for mother or baby, and I was very easily influenced by my family’s beliefs (even though most of them didn’t nurse at all).  That’s probably why it seemed so foreign to them in the first place.

My youngest daughter nursed until she was 14 months old- I think she stopped because I got pregnant with her brother and my milk was just different.  I didn’t encourage her to wean, she just did.  I would have been happy to nurse her for another few months.  At this point I knew more, but not as much as I do now.

Maxie is happily nursing and showing no signs of stopping.  He speaks more clearly than most two year olds I have met and has been for almost 6 months now, so he’s been actually asking for milk for awhile.  He speaks in full sentences, answers questions, holds conversations, and will ask why and answer you with because… and give you an explanation.  And, not only will he ask for milk, he’s specify which boob he wants it from, lol.  To most people, even without considering his size (30lbs), the fact that he can say all that means he’s too old to still be nursing.

I have come to disagree.  Before I was strong enough to admit this however, I went through various stages of “faking it”.  First, I would pretend as though I was unhappy with the situation (Ugh, he’s always nursing!  I never get a break!) Then, I would act as shocked as they did (I know! I can’t believe it either!  He just refuses to stop!)  After that, I would make light of it and immediately change the subject (Yes, he’s still nursing, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be done before he starts college.  So, how about those Ravens?!).  That one actually isn’t a bad response at all, only now I’m at a point where I really don’t care what people think and wish they would keep their counsel.

Honestly, despite what problems other people might have (he’s too big/ too old/ it’s just not right, etc.)- I’ve come to realize that it’s THEIR problem, not mine or his.  WE are fine and happy.  It’s still what’s best for him, still beneficial healthwise for me, too, and we’re both happy.  If it’s an inconvenience, it’s MINE.  If it’s too much work, it’s MY WORK.  If it takes too much time, it’s MY TIME.  If he becomes too clingy (research proves otherwise) then he’ll cling to ME.  If he won’t sleep at night, he’s keeping ME up.  So the only person affected is me- so if I’m fine with it, people should keep their comments to themselves.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind questions, concerns, or comments from people if they actually knew anything at all about breastfeeding.  But have you noticed that the people who have never nursed, or nursed for like a month and quit, have the most to say?  People who’ve never done it, never researched it, never been to a LLLI meeting, never read about it have so many reasons why you should stop.  That is so incongruent- it really irritates me.  At least know what you’re talking about if you’re going to launch a campaign against me.  And mind your own boobs’ business, not mine.

(I should add that I have many friends that bottle feed and support me wholeheartedly.  When it comes to feeding her baby, each woman has to choose what’s right for her, and it’s her right to do so.  I respect the right of women who choose differently from me, and I appreciate those women who support me even though our choices may not have been the same.  I’m not referring to those ladies, or ladies like them, in this post.)

Okay, rant over.