Thursday, October 19, 2017

When You Feel Like You Don't Like Your Kid

I just wanted to say this to all the mommas out there who may be going through a phase where they...frankly speaking...don't feel like they like their kid as much as they used to.  I mean, we still LOVE our kids and care for them, but there are times and seasons and stages that are just more prickly or exhausting or unattractive. If I think back, I bet I was in that stage in 6th grade...I remember overhearing my mom describe me as "moody" to a friend who asked her if I was still my sunny self. I remember my 6th grade teacher gently but sternly confronting me..."What's going on with you?" and I can think of specific unattractive things I did...yikes, let's not go there. This is my blog, so I call the shots.

A few years ago, I'd say for most of Sam's 4th grade year, I struggled with him. Maybe it was because he wasn't my cute little sidekick with the Charlie Brown head and lispy voice anymore, and the fact that he declared he was totally "over" the whole Disney Cars thing.  Waah!  Here is evidence of the former cuteness:

He got big and addicted to Minecraft and started doing more sneaky things and his own perception of himself was not really based on reality.  He would vacillate dramatically between thinking he could do everything perfectly and then wanting to throw himself in front of a car because he was "the worst kid in the world." I still loved him, you see, and I can definitely think of really fond and proud moments over that time period, but I often struggled with not liking him very much. In actuality, my irritation probably had a lot more to do with the lack of control I felt I had over him now that he was older more than anything he specifically did, but I'm just being honest about the dynamic. Things had changed and I didn't love the new stage we were in.

 We lived with our international roommates that year, and I remember thinking it would be fun to ask them what phrase each of us Lundgrens said the most--like, "If you could imitate each one of us, what would you say?"--and then realizing sadly that mine would probably be "SAMUEL!" (think "ALVIN!" in your mind and that would be kind of what it sounded like). (I actually did ask them later and they said it was me saying "Shhh!" to try to keep the kids from bothering them in the the thing I was doing to try to be polite was actually the thing that was annoying them behind their closed bedroom doors. Lessons learned. Okay, that was a tangent).

But here is the good part of the story. All stages come and go. Kids change and we as moms change. So if you are in an unattractive or particularly challenging phase with one of your kids, I just want to encourage you. I sent this smart, creative, enthusiastic, thankful kid off to school today dressed as a greaser from The Outsiders. It is so much fun being able to talk about books I love with him, and to discuss themes and character development together. He seems finally able to understand that his homework is HIS and that it feels good to do well. He makes really funny jokes and is a great helper around the house. He has friends that are his own and he can ride his bike to football practice and can do way more situps than me (I actually discovered that I can't do a single sit up.  Not even one. I can crunch like a boss but I would fail Illinois P.E.)

And, besides his growing independence, maturity, and responsibility, he still has a child-likeness and fact, I would say that it has grown this last year as he has become more comfortable with himself and able to better empathize with others.  He wants to hold my hand or still have me read to him. He is sweet to Annie and talks in funny voices while pretending to be her toys.  He and Evan...well, that's a work in progress...maybe because Evan is at the stage where Sam used to be when he was more prickly. And maybe because Brothers. They bring me back to the story of Cain and Abel often, like daily.  But Sam and the sweetness--last week, I took the kids to a pumpkin patch with my sister's kids, and Sam pushed the stroller and played with them and seemed to find such joy in being their older cousin. 
"Sam, let's go do the corn maze!" "Aw, okay...but can I play here with Nathan some more, first?" Cue melting heart.
So...I'm just sharing this as an encouragement (and maybe to relieve anyone who was around me during the "SAMUEL!" year) that we made it through. Sam of course still has his rough edges and immaturities--I mean, he has been brushing his teeth in the morning for, oh, 9 years now, and he still acts as if he is being told new information when he has to go back and do it before I'll take him to school (after I reminded him no less than three (3) times before that point). But letting go of the way things used to be and starting to look toward the person he is becoming is a freeing and refreshing stage in which to be. I've realized that I am guilty of hoarding--trying to cling to all the young stages of my kids and the special little things they used to do was making me unable to enjoy and have space for the new ones. I'm trying to do that less. I'm training myself not give in to unhealthy amounts of nostalgia and the temptation to bemoan how fast they are growing up; those frames of mind only steal the new moments I am being given daily.  And remembering how goofy and messed up I was (and still am), and that Sam is his whole own person with his whole own story to tell and his whole own special relationship with the God who made him and is guiding his steps is a comforting frame of mind to settle into.

Here is the pinnacle of Sam's cuteness, for the grandparents and Anyone Else who may be so inclined:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse 2017: Cloudy With a Chance of Burnt Eyeballs

Well, call me stubborn, but when the school district decided that the kids couldn't watch the eclipse at school, I got a little more into it than I might have otherwise.  In an effort to use up ingredients in my kitchen and not have to go to the grocery store, I accidentally made themed dinner the night before the eclipse:

"Look, planet pancakes and sun eggs!  And I didn't even plan it!" (ba dum crash)

 And then when my neighbor across the street asked if we could watch together and share our solar sunglasses (which we got from a teacher who had to cancel her eclipse-viewing plans), I got a little more into it and made little goody bags.

 We took the kids out of school at lunch time and came home for Sun Chips and crescent roll sandwiches.

We watched through cloudy skies and actually saw a lot more of the action than I had thought we would when I saw the weather forecast.  I wasn't sure what I thought about the eclipse glasses, but I was glad that we had them.

But we enjoyed our homemade cardboard box viewer just as much!  I was sad that the heavy cloud cover kept us from seeing the crescent-shaped sun shadows and reduced the effect of the growing darkness (since it was kind of gloomy to start with)...


...but we were amazed by the crickets starting to chirp and night birds starting to sing.  We even think the flowers closed a bit.

Here's the "Proof that I was there also" photo.  I really should not be allowed to take selfies, as I am so horrible at them.
 The cloud cover actually created the perfect filter for us to watch the eclipse with our naked eyes a lot throughout the day (don't tell the authorities that we did that).

Again, I possess a lot of skills but selfie-taking is not one of them.
 After the eclipse had mostly come and gone, my across the street neighbor came out and asked if they had missed it--she had fallen asleep with the baby and her sweet kids let her sleep instead of waking her up!  Thankfully, they were still able to catch the end of the eclipse with the official eclipse glasses and the unfortunate-looking cardboard box.

Even though we weren't in the path of totality, and the weather didn't cooperate, and our driveway party was pretty small, it still was full of wonder.  Nothing compares to hearing things like this:

I think teachers teach in order to hear moments like this.  It's too bad that perceived but manageable risk suppressed wonder and curiosity and memory-making.  Jeremy's words regarding the strange fear that seemed to develop overnight about this natural wonder hit the spot.

"A major part of education for children is learning about and experiencing the world that they live in. It is a world with dangers and wonders. Therefore, it is also a world that should be lived in with wisdom. A solar eclipse is an amazing and rare event. Certainly the temptation to look directly at the sun during an eclipse increases, but students could be instructed and trained about the temptation. They could be educated about how to behave during an eclipse. They could be extended appropriate measures of trust and oversight in order to be outside, under the heavens, during such an awe-inspiring event. Instead, they are being deprived of such a unique experience. They are also being deprived of an opportunity to gain wisdom about how to responsibly foster curiosity and learning during this event.

Regarding the specifics of being outside during a solar eclipse, there is more to experience than simply looking at the sun, something you rightly warn against. However, there is a lot going on outside during an eclipse, a lot of other places for children’s eyes to go. The lighting changes, the other side of the sky darkens, strange shadows and colors emerge, silhouettes of the eclipse can be seen. Yet, our children will be kept inside because of one small spot of danger (which is also the source of all the surrounding beauty). In my opinion, this manner of managing our students during the eclipse fosters fear instead of courage and superstition instead of wisdom."

But more importantly, the true awe and wonder of such a day like today are summed up much better in the Psalms:  "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" and "Praise the Lord! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him all you shining stars!"

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Snapshot

Jeremy said he likes my blog posts.  I've been trying to get up earlier to make better use of my mornings for the physical (running) and spiritual (reading the Bible, listening to sermons/podcasts, music) parts of my life.  I've been following the blog of a lady who challenged herself to blog every day (Preventing Grace --and the podcast by the same name is great, too).  I am giving up Facebook for Lent, a practice I have never really participated in, but feel as though could be humbling and point my thoughts more often to Jesus--the only source of true peace and joy for me in this broken and confused (and often wonderful) world.  So I am sitting down here to write, and hopefully more often.

A snapshot of life right now:  Evan is playing WiiU with a friend downstairs (in our half-basement that's not really a basement...still sad that I am living in the MidWest without an actual basement) after I laid down the law and told them they had to play Legos or something else "real" for the first hour and then they could do electronics for the last 45ish minutes.  And, for the record, they played Legos for 4 extra minutes without realizing their electronics restriction was over, so there.  His friend is sweet, and I love his family, so yay!  Evan has had a slower time really connecting here and finding friends that are easy to have over regularly.  So I am glad. He still does really odd things like starts reading a book or sitting in the bathroom for 20 minutes while his friends awkwardly wander around the house, so I really can't blame them for not coming over all the time.  We're working on it.  He still just really loves his best friend in CA and has a hard time opening his heart fully to the boys here.

Annie is off at a newer friend's house--they actually live pretty close but there is a busy street in-between so that limits their ability to go spontaneously to each other's houses.  This friend loves gymnastics as much as Annie and is really sweet.  Annie has met some great friends, and we have really enjoyed hosting her made-up "Fun Club" on Tuesday afternoons...she and the neighbor girl made flyers and invited some girls to come to a club and it has really taken off.  Those same girls ended up agreeing to put together a song for the school's Talent Show, which was on Friday night.  We did "The Hard Knock Life" from Annie, of course.  They were the cutest little orphans and I loved getting to know all the orphan moms (ironic, I know) in the process.  They got the Vice Principal to play Miss Hannigan and it was really cute.

Sam stayed after middle school to work on a weather a computer?  I don't even know.  I ask about it and he talks about it, but all I hear is "blah blah blah." I really can't comprehend techie stuff.  Sam is not an athlete but is loving band, jazz band, and academic extra-curricular activities.  He is making this weather thing (called a Raspberry Pie) with some other great fun and creative friends he has and I love that he has connected so well.  He got to walk home with one friend afterwards and he will eat dinner there and then they will take the boys to Boy Scouts.  I never thought I would have a Boy Scout, but he got to spend last weekend exploring and camping in a cave, so that's awesome.  Just don't get me started on the popcorn he has to sell.

Jeremy is finishing up class and stuff and whatever it is he does at Wheaton College for the day.  He actually does a lot of reading and writing at home because his study carrel is quite small and shared with another student and home is much more comfortable.  He is currently redoing our terrible pink bathroom and it's been a fun project with rotted wood, mold, carpenter ants and a disasterous DIY epoxy sink nightmare, and tiling, which he has never done before.  All on a low budget.  He asks for a lot of back massages from the kids at the end of the day.  It's looking good.

I subbed today--doing reading with second language learners and then being a one-on-one aide for a boy with some health problems at my own kids' school.  I loved today.  Some days are a little trying (like 5th grade and 8th grade) but I am really enjoying being back in the classroom.  Then, in just a few minutes, we are off to dinner at a Phd family's house, and then on to a prayer time for Wheaton Phd women (spouses and students) at one of the professor's houses.  Tomorrow I will clean the house like a mad woman in order to get ready for the weekly Bible study we host here--during which I feed homemade dinner to half the singles from our church and some brave families as well.

So it's a good life.  And that's what it is.

Until next time!  Paka (bye in Russian, because today I got to work with a boy from Uzbekistan and I loved it)!