So, just about two years ago, I posted part one of this article.  I never intended to do a part two, mostly because I didn’t think it would be necessary.

And yet, here I am again.

((((SIGH))))

I’m not going to go into lots of detail like I did in part I of this homeschooling rant, I’m just going to say a few things that apparently, need to be repeated/reiterated:

Yes, we are still homeschooling.

No, we are not sending them to school.  Please stop asking.

Yes, I picked up on your subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that you think we should put our kids back in school so they don’t end up weird.  Your message was loud and clear.  I just don’t care what you think, and therefore am not motivated to consider your opinion when it comes to how I should raise MY kids.

Your opinion of me, the fact that we homeschool, and what you think of it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.  If I want to know what you think, I will ask you.  If I don’t ask, assume it’s because I don’t want to know what you think, and keep your opinions TO  YOURSELF.

Stop speaking YOUR OPINION as though it is a FACT.  

Chances are, of the two of us, only one of us has any experience homeschooling or teaching.  It’s not you.

Chances are further that only one of us has ever done any research about homeschooling, or research into the school system where I live.  Again, not you.

Chances are EVEN FURTHER that since I’m the one God gave these kids to, I know what they need better than you and am therefore better equipped to make decisions on their behalf, because they’re MY kids.  Not yours.

My choices are  not a reflection of what I think or how I feel about YOUR choices.  They’re just MY choices- what’s best for our family.  I trust you to know what’s best for your family; please extend the same courtesy to me.

That is all.  For now…

Today, I am reminded of that line from one of the Rugrats movies where one of the twins (the boy) comments on some else’s grumpiness (probably Angelica).  At any rate, he says, “Well somebody got up on the wrong side of the bread this morning”.  That is exactly how I feel today, and I don’t know why.

Of course, I got less sleep than the recommended 8 hours.  Okay, it was more like 6.  But that’s nothing new for me, so I’ve ruled that out.

I do have a lot of mundane things to do around the house, but that’s not new either.

My two homeschooled teens have come down with a bad case of SNMSS- “slow-neuron molasses-synapse syndrome”, meaning the neurons in their brains are working extra slowly and the synapse are filled with molasses (or so it seems).  On days like this, questions like “In what year was the War of 1812?” ellicit a response of “uuummm, uuuhh… can you repeat the question?”

Unfortunately, no I cannot- not today.  I feel so tired, and like I’m in some sort of fog.  Maybe I’m coming down with something?

At any rate, my patience is about as long as a green light when you’re running late for work, and I am just not feeling it.  I just want to crawl back into bed for a few hours, and start over later.  Maybe.

Only Monae has to dance at a Black History Program this evening in the city, and since dh works in the city, he’s just going to hang out after work so he can go straight there.  It is, after all, right down the street from where he works, and at $3.71 a gallon, he’d better not drive all the way home first!

But that means that I have no relief in sight, because by the time the service ends (she’s performing at a church service), it will be bedtime for the kiddies.  I don’t even think I’ll get my walk in today- but I HAVE to figure out how to get that in, because it’s one of my Lenten commitments.  SIGH.

Maisy needs her hair done; so does Monae.  So do I for that matter- right now, I’m rocking something that’s midway between Frederick Douglas and Macy Gray.

I need to recharge.  I’m going to go hide for a little while (well, as much as you can hide with a 4 and 2 year old crawling all over you), give the big kids something they can work on independently, and hopefully pull it together enough to get all this hair done and get to this performance on time.

There’s no place like the Chocolate Spa at the Hotel Hershey!

There’s no place like the Chocolate Spa at the Hotel Hershey!

There’s no place like the Chocolate Spa at the Hotel Hershey!

dang.

Oh well, it was worth a try.

Joy For Beginners

2012/02/24

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but I’m going to try and do better.  ‘Nuff said.

One of the blogs I follow, Cheaper By The Half Dozen, mentioned a book in a post I read a few days ago.  The book, Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister, is February’s book selection on the blog She Reads (also penned in part by the author of Cheaper by the Dozen).  It sounded intriguing, so I snagged a copy from the library.  This is easily the best book I’ve read in a long, long time- not because of the writing or anything like that, but because of the subject and how adeptly it’s handled.  This is the kind of book that touches your soul; the kind that you hold inside of you forever.  I will never forget this book and the lessons I learned from it.  Don’t be surprised to see entire posts stemming from one line or theme from this book!  If you like reading fiction, or even if you don’t, I still recommend that you check this one out.

I’m not sure if I found so many nuggets of wisdom and insight in the book  because they were just there- intended by the author to pierce the heart of each reader, or because I was looking for them.  I’m at a place of openness right now- openness toward my future, and hopes, and dreams.  Openness toward rediscovering the anticipation and expectation of wonderful things happening in my life.  I want to live, really live my life, becoming as grown and mature as I can possibly be, in the most childlike way possible.  Childlike because I want to believe and receive it with no doubts or second guessing based on bad experiences, fear, or whatever it is that other people think.  I want to really embrace the future and the hope that God has for me, knowing with every fiber of my body that He CAN and He WILL give me the desires of my heart if I delight myself in Him, just ‘cuz.

So!  Back to the book.

As a quick summary, there are seven women.  One has battled cancer and won, and at her victory party, the others decide she must do something she’s never done before, something that scares her, to overcome her fear.  For her, they choose white water rafting through the Grand Canyon.  It was initially her daughter’s suggestion, which they get a hold of.  Completing this will cause her to do two things- first, face the direct fear of the rapids.  More importantly, commit to something a year away (the trip is for a year in the future), as she has yet to embrace the fact that she has survived and does, indeed, have a future to look forward to and plan for.

She accepts, but with one condition- she gets to pick something equally challenging for each of them to accomplish.

What a great idea!  I’m totally going to round up some gals and steal it.  Seriously.

I’ll keep you posted on my thoughts about this book, and on my journey to truly get a life this year.  Your job is to get a life, too (if you don’t already have one) and to hold me accountable!!!  With that said, go check out my next post about a statement from the book that holds a lot of meaning- particularly as it pertains to children growing up, and how adults facilitate that.  Go read!

I wanted to post my feeling on this about a week ago, but out of respect for the family and not wanting to share any information before they were ready, I decided to wait.  A little over a week ago, an aquaintance of mine lost his wife.    When I used to teach, I would see him at professional development days and teacher things, and sometimes, I’d see them at church.

A week ago, she had a massive heart attack in her sleep and died.  She was 33.  They have a daughter who’s about 7 or 8.

She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend.  She was young.  She was overweight. She was stressed out.  And she had a heart attack.  And died.  At 33.

I write that because in a lot of ways, she is me.

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend.

While a little older than her (36), I am still young.

And I am overweight.  And I am stressed out.

Do you see where this is going?

That could have just as easily been me.  But for the grace of God go I, and all that.  When I heard about her death I was shocked.  I mean, I know overweight + overstressed = candidate for heart attack, but she was so young I would never have seen it coming.  I doubt she did, either.  So many questions filled my head all that day and night:

Did she wake up the morning before just like every other day?  Was she tired?  Was all that she had to do that day running through her head?  Did she go to the market?  Take her daughter to dance class?  Did she kiss her husband goodbye?

Did she put gas in her car in the cold, and comment to her gas- pumping neighbor on how cold it was?

Was she thinking about all she had to do that week?  Fretting about her ailing mother?  Did she argue with her husband?  Were they on good terms, or barely speaking?

What did she cook for dinner that night, or did they go out?  Was she feeling okay, or unusually tired?  Was her heart racing and did she attribute it to stress?  Did she think she was coming down with something?

Did she read her daughter a bedtime story?  Did she skip pages or rush through it because she was tired?  Did her daughter ask for just one more story?  A glass of water?  One more kiss?

Did she kiss her husband goodnight?  Did they make love?  Sleep with their backs to each other?  What was she thinking about as she drifted off to sleep after a full day?  Did she say her prayers?  Have a quiet time?  Or maybe just crawl into bed, exhausted, deciding that when it came to exercise/ lovemaking/ prayers/ devotions/ reading that bedtime story she’d just do it tomorrow?

All of these questions plagued me, and we’ll never know the answers.  The truth is that a lot of those questions described MY Saturday, and I thought about how much I would regret if that had been me and I could have looked back.  I would have read the extra story, hugged my kids a little tighter, kissed my husband, made time for that last prayer.  Or knowing it was a possibility,  in the days and weeks before I’d have taken more time with my kids, exercised anyway, made better eating choices, been more available for my husband, and worried less about the house/ laundry/ my to- do list.

I’ve decided that I’m going to learn from this wake up call, focus on what matters, change those things that I can for the better, and honor God with the time I have left- however long that may be.  Not just for me, not just for my kids or my husband- but to learn from and honor the life of a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend who left us too soon.

Holiday Giving

2011/12/21

One of the things that I want my kids to develop a heart for (or at least a healthy respect for) is service to others.  I recognize that I can’t make them love it, or even really like doing it- but I can instill in them a respect for the fact that we should be concerned for “the least of these”, and we are responsible for helping them in some way.  It’s not okay to see a need and do nothing- I think God shows us things so that we can act, although “act” to me doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it yourself.  Sometimes the action is doing, but sometimes it’s finding the right person to get it done.

Anyway, on Saturday, I took Monae and Maisy to the Salvation army headquarters here in Baltimore.  Mark was quite ill, so he stayed at grandma’s, and Max would never understand why we weren’t opening the toys for ourselves, so I thought it would be better if he just stayed with daddy, lol.

Monae wasn’t really happy about missing her early dance classes to do this, at least not at first.  I am pleased to report that about halfway through the experience, she asked me if we could volunteer there every year- like a family tradition.    I told her I’d see how it went, and let he know after we were done.  When I explained to Maisy that we were going to pack up toys and clothes for kids who wouldn’t get anything for Christmas, she said, “some kids can’t get anything for Christmas?  Wait- but I’m still getting toys, right?”  It was kinda funny.  Once I reassured her that we weren’t giving away her toys, she was fine.  Maisy didn’t really mind helping at first, but got bored with it quickly.  I think next year she’ll do better, since she’d be able to help out a little more.

After signing in, we were escorted to an aisle and given directions.  In a room about the size of an elementary school gym, there were long tables set up end to end, almost the entire width of the room across, and most of the length to form aisles.  These tables were also stacked on top of each other- so take the layout and stack it on itself to get a mental picture.  On these tables and on the floor were large boxes, side to side.  Around the perimeter of the room on roughly three sides were giant wooden bins with the fronts cut low (so you can reach things inside).  The last wall consisted of a large shelving unit holding boxes labeled with boys and girls sizes, and shelves full of shoes, also sorted by size.

Each box has a sheet with information about the children in a family (they provide gifts for kids 12 and under only).  There are kids’ first names, their gender, age, and whatever they wished to receive as a gift.  There are two gift categories- toys and clothes- and stocking are also added for each child.

Our job was to look at the sheet, go to the bins/ clothing area to find the specific items in the right sizes, and fill the boxes (which contained black trash bags to hold everything).  Monae was shocked by the sheer amount of boxes in the room; we were about halfway down the aisles and we started working on boxes in the 900’s.  There were at least 2000 boxes in that room.  She was even more shocked, and quite sad, when I told her that those boxes didn’t come close to approximating the total number of kids or families that needed help- there were many more who wouldn’t get the help they needed.  It was very sobering.

We worked for three hours, finding stockings (separated by age), searching through toy bins, looking through coats and shoes for the right size.  It was easily one of the simplest volunteer jobs I’ve ever done, but also one of the hardest.  What I found most difficult was looking at the kids’ names and ages and realizing that they were the same ages as MY kids.  Seeing that he or she needed a coat.  Or maybe a pair of shoes that fit.  Maybe the four year old wanted a Barbie, or the tween girl asked for some lipgloss.  Things we take for granted everyday.  I can’t imagine any of my kids not having shoes that fit, or having to put “winter coat” or “gloves and hat” on their Christmas list.  That may sound petty or snobbish, but I’m not trying to be snobby- I’m just saying that it really hit home for me how much we take for granted.  How many things do we take as a given, and not even consider because we just know that they will be taken care of?   You know, those things that never even cross your mind when you’re whining about what you can’t get, or can’t have, or can’t do?  I’m guessing that when you’re having that pity party about how you haven’t been on vacation in three years because you just can’t afford it, things like affording a pair of shoes that fit or a thick coat for the winter never enter your mind.  They don’t for me, at least not at first.

This year when it got cold, I had a moment where I sighed to myself because I’d have to choose between one of my “same old coats” again this year, instead of buying myself a new one.  Not that I can’t, just that since I already have several puffy jackets and several wool coats, it wouldn’t be prudent for me to buy a pretty new camel- colored, cashmere blend car coat.  I thought about that when I was standing in the Salvation Army warehouse.  I felt ashamed and surprised at myself for not seeing how self- absorbed I probably am most of the time.  Not in a selfish way, just in a “me and my little world” kind of way.  My kids can choose what coat to wear, by style and color.  These kids are just happy to get something that will keep them warm.  Again, it was very sobering.

The silver lining in recognizing and acknowledging my selfish nature is that I caught a glimpse of the woman I want to be.  Introspection can be very difficult, as it forces you to take a hard look at yourself and see some things that you’d rather not acknowledge.  Indeed, the very act of seeing makes what you weren’t seeing before crystal clear.  It’s like looking in a highly polished mirror at yourself- seeing everything that you are, and everything you’re not all at the same time.

Along those same lines, I’m reminded that God was at work in me even then.  Not just because He stirred my heart to make volunteering a priority this year, but because during that introspective experience, He shined His light on me, exposing those dark places that I’d prefer to keep hidden- like the selfishness hiding in the shadow of my humility.  Have you ever noticed that when light is shined on some dark places, whatever is in the path of the light comes into focus, but those things on the margins are cast in shadow?  I  have found that when God’s light shines within us to reveal something we need to work on, it has the opposite effect on the outside.   The bright light focuses on the selfishness within me, but in that moment, people on the outside see my humility and compassion in the light; my selfishness is cast in shadow, out of sight, beyond pointing fingers and clucking tongues .

I had the desire to give to those less fortunate this holiday season.  However it really worked out that they gave to me-  a better, clearer picture of myself and the woman that I want to be.

And so, to answer her question:

Yes, Monae- we’ll make this a tradition every year.

The Nutcracker

2011/12/16

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, because life hs been very busy for the Johnson’s as of late.  Keep reading and you’ll find out why.

Monae 2010

One of Monae's costumes from 2010

So, in a previous post (My “Mother’s Heart”, part I) I mentioned that my daughter auditioned for the Nutcracker as performed by the Ballet Theater of Maryland and was offered two roles.  We were very proud.  We are very proud.  Did I mention that it was in Annapolis?  I think I did.  Anywhere, that’s where the BTM is located, so that’s where all the rehearsals have been and all the shows are there, too- at the Maryland Hall.

Did I also mention that I don’t live in Annapolis?  Or even near Annapolis?  Door to door, we’re about a 45 minute drive if there’s no traffic.  If there is traffic, it can take considerably longer.  I think you can see where this is going… “it seemed like a good idea at the time!”

Okay, so I’m still sure it actually was a good idea.  She has developed a lot, not that she realizes it yet.  And the exposure to different teaching styles and other dancers has been really good for her, as has performing with a company in a production.

Nevertheless, the driving is killing me.  I will be SOOOO glad when Monday morning comes- because it means that it will all be over!!!  At first, rehearsals were just on Saturday and Sunday- a minor inconvenience, but no big deal really because they were only about an hour long.  That was in  September and October.

In November, the rehearsal schedule began to increase- some were longer, maybe 3 hours or so, and there was at least one weeknight.  A little inconvenient, yes, but again, not big deal.

Then December came.

We’ve had rehearsal in Annapolis 6 days a week.  Weeknights from 5 or 6pm until 10pm, except for Thursdays-  Thursdays were “mini- show” days, whit a 3 hour rehearsal after the shows.  Those days were from 8:30-4pm.  That’s like a work day!!!  It’s killing me!!!

Did I  mention that my van hasn’t been running since all this started, and we’ve been doing all this driving with our gas guzzling bus Expedition?  Last weekend, between Sunday morning (before we left for rehearsal) and Wednesday morning (before taking my husband to work) we had already put $280 into the gas tank!  And we weren’t even done for the week!  The gas has been killing us, too- there, I said it!  And the driving makes me so tired!  But the end is in sight- she’s off today, has performances Saturday and Sunday, and that’s the end.  She’s pretty spent, too, and I’m sure she’ll be glad when it’s all done.  A little sad, but glad too.

Next year, I’m sure she’ll want to do another Nutcracker.  And we’ll support her, and encourage her to spread her wings… and fly downtown for her auditions instead of 40 miles away, lol.

Who knew I’d be posting a part two so soon?

So, my daughter has a audition tomorrow.  She dances, and she’s a great dancer.  She’s auditioning for two shows- Aladdin and The Nutcracker, as performed by the Ballet Theater of Maryland.  This will be her first audition hosted by people who don’t know and love her.  She auditioned for the pre- professional group that she’s a part of (and must re- audition for each year), but that’s directed by her long time dance teacher.  Not that that ensured her a spot, because it didn’t- but she was a little more comfortable in the presence pf people she’s known for years.  This time it’s different.

She’ll be competing against a roomful of strangers, in front of a panel of strangers, somewhat far from home (auditions are an hour away- the shows aren’t that far, though).  I am nervous for her, and somewhat scared- all those other dancers, whose talent we know nothing about- and her in there, alone with them, being judged on her performance as compared to an unknown quantity.  My “mother’s heart” is not aching just yet- right now it is beating a hundred beats per minute, fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings, in anxiety- laced anticipation.

We just completed her performance resume, and will pick up her headshots tomorrow- they don’t need to be professional.  Good thing, because I forgot until the last minute.  But I have some good shots of her- between the dancing and the modeling in this house, I’m constantly taking headshots of my kids anyway.

Preparing the resume made it more real for both of us, and increased her level of stress so much it was almost tangible.  Once again, I played the cool, collected mom- “it’s no big deal, you’ll do great, you always do.”  Inside, I feel nothing of the sort- I KNOW she has the ability, I’m just afraid that in the presence of these other dancers and judges she’ll get nervous and freeze up.  I hope not, and that’s all I can do, because I’m not allowed to stand by and coach her, or peek in for a thumbs up, or anything- she’ll be in there, away from me, on her own, to stand on her own merits.  I know she can do it, but I’m afraid she’ll choke.  Perhaps I should have more faith, but it’s hard.

Once again, I silence that part of me that screams out to protect her from the possibility of hurt- the part that wants to tell her to just be happy taking dance classes.  And she would be happy to hear that, for as much as she wants to dance professionally, she does NOT want to audition.  Ever.  But auditions are par for the course, and something that she must get used to experiencing.  So I push her- not against her will, because if she honestly didn’t want to I probably wouldn’t force it- but I push her enough to move past the fear and into the next level of her training, even as I inwardly cringe at the thought of what could- and will- eventually happen.  I push her toward the thing that I want to protect her from, because it’s for her own good.

This is her dream, her ambition- all she’s ever really wanted to do.  I have to let her spread her wings, even if she falls the first few times before she flies.

When we wake up in the morning, it will be a whirlwind of activity to get all she needs and get her there on time.  We’ll make it, and thankfully the busyness required will keep my mind off of worrying for her- at least until we arrive.  Hopefully it will keep her from being so nervous, too.

I wonder if we’ll be having a celebratory dinner tomorrow night, or planning a consolation activity for her as well.  Or if we’ll even find out that soon- the waiting would be difficult for us both.  Luckily for me, I have an immediate distraction to help stave off my worrying- The Milkman calleth.  But I’ll keep you posted.

 

Update: Monae was selected for two roles in the Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s performance of the Nutcracker this winter.  Congrats, baby girl!

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).