Sunday, November 2, 2014

Endings



My husband thought I was nuts, he told me it was going to be "my thing" and he wanted no part. Being me, I did it anyway.

A childhood friend with a huge heart got herself into animal rescue. She put out an SOS on Facebook in need of foster home for kittens. The job description? Love on a couple cute balls of fluff until they are big enough to get fixed and find forever families. This seemed like the perfect gig; all the kitten loves with none of the cat ownership.

I will never forget our first litter. My friend brought us two fluffy balls of orange fur. I am not sure God has ever created anything as heart melting as 4 week old orange kittens. My tough talking husband was smitten, my daughters in love. We loved our month with those babies, and while we were sad to see them go, we felt we had done a good thing for the world in assisting those babies in finding there forever home.

Not all rescue stories are this happy.

The thing about rescue is you don't get to pick. You are the very last chance for most animal coming your way. They greet you malnourished, traumatized, sick and alone. Many have hearts strong enough to bounce back and they become some of the worlds most amazing pets. Like my friends rescue says, the best things in life are rescued, but the stories are not all happy endings.

I have watched many a litter removed from a mama too soon, who just can't seem to thrive on goat milk or kitten formula. They waste away, too tired, too sick, and too weak to fight anymore. Kitten mortality is high with healthy cats, and these are not even granted that gift at birth.

Sometime having to say goodbye comes as a surprise. This was the case with Evie.

I got the call on an afternoon a couple of weeks ago. A small, dark gray kitten needed a second chance or would be put down by that afternoon. Of course, we said yes. She came to us thin and hungry, still not quite big enough to figure out eating from a dish. She was fed warm milk and thinned cat food from a spoon until she mastered the bowl.

Despite being fed several times a day, being loved on, snuggled, and carried around like a furry baby doll, Evie wasn't growing. Her ribs could be felt through her fur, she didn't want to play. We wondered if she missed her litter, and the only way she would eat was with encouragement.

Hoping a few buddies might boost her moral, we took on a rolly polly litter of 4. The difference between the kittens was drastic, they were high energy with round little bellies and LOUD cries if they felt they had gone too long without snuggles. Evie had to be encouraged to drink warm milk,

On Tuesday, Matt held Evie, wrapped in a warm blanket as she took her last breath. Her face and eye were distorted on one side and we will never know what it was she was fighting. We couldn't save this little ball of fluff, her story didn't have a happy ending with a forever family.

Days like that I just want to quit. And then I hear the emphatic meow's coming from downstairs. The other 4 kittens, begging for loves, whos whole bodies vibrate with purrrrrrrr's as you pick them up.

I watched Eliana reading her book with a kitten the other day. The kitten didn't appreciate her divided attention and kept sitting on the pages meowing or trying to bit Elianas nose and lips. He pounced on her long hair and burrowed down her shirt until she finally put the book down and gave him his undivided attention. He purrrred his pleasure and feel promptly asleep in her arms.

I remember the mama cat who liked to hide her litter of kittens in my shoes in the closet. Or the mama who brought her 4 kittens into Matt's lap every morning to nurse them while he drank his coffee. I remember the ones who play chase around the living room and wait at the bottom of the stairs to attack your feet. The ones who sleep in our laps, purr on our shoulders and prefer to eat from our hands.


And I decide it isn't time to quit just yet. I don't choose how these stories end, that is left to Someone far above my pay-grade. I only get to decide on how a single chapter in this story looks, the one where they come in our home. They are loved, held, fed, doctored to the best of our ability and held with open hands.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brain Stuff

I have always been the kid with the messy room. My mother, bless her, did her damnedest to teach me to be neat and tidy, but to no avail. I come from a beautiful home. My mother had not only a knack for decorating, but for home making in general. Our house was clean, lovely, well stocked and a great place to be. Except for my room, which always looked like a closet vomited on the floor and a pissed off bookshelf chucked its contents out of anger. I lost things, didn't turn in home work if I even knew what it was, and generally just squeaked by.

At some point in my adulthood, I realized my brain worked differently than other peoples. Where some people had no problem keeping things like bills, laundry and general life in order, it was was a ton of work for me and I rarely kept things to the standard I had in my head from growing up.

Convinced I just lacked a good "system" I attempted to solve this problem like I attack all things I am faced with; the power of information. I was a hard worker, I just needed to work smarter! I read books, joined web site, made vows and promises, I keep lists, make schedules, hire people.

Several years ago, I realized something else about myself, and THIS explains it better than anything I would be able to write. Given a name for what I struggled with helped, but it didn't change the fact I defined so many aspects of who I am by what I was constantly failing at.

Knowing my brain short circuits is no excuse, it means I have to work harder and smarter at things that come pretty naturally for other people. I HAVE to keep a list. I have developed pretty decent coping skills and now live at a just above hovel, but not fit for company, state most of the time.

Until...

Until my life gets full and things get stressful. My coping skills just can't keep up and pieces start to hit the deck. Projects are half finished, things are neglected, and I become too frazzled for my self talk to convince me that I deserve some grace. Until I had children, these things generally only affected me and sometimes Matt. Post children I watch my inability to cope hurt those I love most in the world.

I generally self-medicate with caffeine. When your brain is wired like mine, caffeine doesn't cause jitters as much as it brings clarity. I drink a ton, to the tune of 8-12 cups in a day. This allows me some ability to focus, stay on task and make it through a day. It also makes my brain have a hard time shutting down for sleep. It can be an ugly cycle.

My sweet hubby asked me to talk to my doc about this (because I was driving him just a little crazy), knowing I wasn't in an awesome place and there are some great drugs out there that are SO much better on my system than a pot of coffee. I scheduled the appointment, told my doc what it was for and was seen in office where she told me that they don't treat ADHD, which she agreed I struggled with, but she would be happy to give me some phone numbers of Psychologists who would. And she charged me $75.

My insurance sucks and no Psychologists are covered so I would be paying cash to the tune of $250 a visit to speak with these people. Oh, and none of them can see me for at least 6 weeks if they are even taking new patients at all.

Back to the coffee pot it is.

So what is the point of this post? I am not sure really. Part venting a broken system, and part a "coming out" as very few people in my life know that I am ADHD. I don't fit what most people think of when they picture a person who struggles with this, I don't fit the picture in my head either.

So here is to coffee and grace, playing the hand you are dealt with as much dignity as you can muster. And to kindness granted to those who seem like they just can't keep their shit together, as you never know the battle someone might be fighting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Anomaly

This is the time of year my facebook feed fills with expressions of "OMG, my children need to go back to school NOW before I kill them!". One of my favorite bloggers, Jen Hatmaker, has a hilarious post to that effect. Everyone seems done with summer.

Except me.

It is strange to be the only one not counting the days until school starts. I mean, I am excited for my kids to start up again, the one day a week that they go, because they LOVE the program that they are a part of and can't wait to see their friends. So I am happy to see them off, but I will miss them.

This makes me wonder why I am such an anomaly. Maybe it is because we have never really done the "leave for school and gone all day" thing. Maybe it is because only 2 of the 4 are even school age, and they are my helpful two, so I am not sure why I would WANT them gone all day.

Earlier this week, Matt caught me on the edge of breakdown. School starts next week and we are headed to sunny California and I had yet to plan our school year. I looked at my "to-do" list and decided it would take an act of God. The sweet man rose to the occasion and took all the kiddos down to his moms for two nights.

The last few day have been the most productive of the year. I did stuff. It stayed done. I cooked for no one, not even me. I h. ave eaten an entire box of cereal, as I have had it for every meal. I made lesson plans that will last me to Christmas (give or take).

And that is when it hit me: I like homeschooling. It is no longer just the option I took because a better one hadn't presented itself. I really enjoy it. I am looking forward to the books we are going to read out loud. I am excited about the science experiments. I like our math curriculum and classroom set up.

So this is why; this is why I am an anomaly. I don't need to be rid of the small people, I really like them most days. I like that I am the one to teach them to read, to explain where Egypt is and work on skip counting. I like the rhythm of our days, both in the care free summer and the scheduled school year. And I get why parents are looking forward to the school year, it feels good to feel good about what you. have in store for your children.

So here is to new pencils, new books and new adventures, be they at home or away. Happy new school year!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dirt and Deep thoughts

Some people hear God at church. Others, while reading the bible and praying. Some meditate. I have a friend who said he heard God best while sky diving. God is cool like that. You don't have to sit in a pew to hear his wisdom. Today, Him and I hung out while I was in the dirt.

We moved into this house at the end of last summer. We busted our hind ends to get painting, carpet, hardwood, etc....all done before we moved in. And then there was school. And a new company. And a new job and new classes to both teach and take. Something had to give and that thing happened to be our yard.

Matt is not a yard work guy. He pretty much hates it. Lucky for us, it was the end of the growing season so we could neglect our landscaping (or lack there of) without too much chaos over-taking anything. As things started to green up this summer, we got to see how truly "in the weeds" we really were.

First I tackled my garden. 3 new garden boxes built, weed cloth, mulch, path stones and a little bit of fencing made my garden something I could be proud of. I planted a few pots of flowers. We ranked. Matt mowed.

And then there were the bushes.

Sadly enough, we couldn't even really tell if they were alive. Now, mid-June, they are green-ish. So today, I tackled the bushes. If it wasn't green, it got cut. If it was green but growing the wrong way, it got cut. If it needed to be thinned, it got cut. I have a huge pile of cuttings in my yard.

As I cut and pulled and shaped and pruned my mind wandered. I can see how gardens are accurate metaphors for life and God and I had a nice little chat.

Take my rose bush. First, there was all the dead stuff that needed to be cut out. It seems obvious we need to remove things that don't grow from our life, but it still hurt to grab the thorny branches to cut them out. And then there was the one branch with a little rose on it, I was tempted to let it be. The problem is it was growing in the wrong direction. It was growing away from the trellis and if I had left it, it would have grown larger and pulled the whole bush the wrong way. Life is like that some time. Things that are "good" are not always "best" and eventually get us moving in a way that isn't healthy. 

The branch also hung close to the swing that my children love. Roses are thorny and could give you quite the scratch if you ran into it. The rose bush has to share its space with a bunch of other things, just like we do. Sometimes the things that are good or easy for us can really cause problems for those we have to live with.

My lilac bush was in just as bad of shape. Full of dead branches underneath that kept it from being able to grow in a healthy way, even though from the outside it looks really green and healthy. We can be like that too, looking like we have it all together on the outside when underneath we have all kinds of things we have not cleared out. Resentment, frustrations at life not going the way we planned, anger, hurt, and pride. All of this makes us stagnant and keeps us from being the beautiful things we could be. 

The top of my bush is very tall, I am going to have to wait for some assistants before I can trim it. That happens in my life, too. Somethings are just to big for me to deal with by myself, I have to ask for help if I really want to be healthy.

I came in from the yard dirty and sweaty, scratched up and tired but somehow my soul just felt refreshed. God is cool with hanging out with us while we are working in the dirt. He is good like that.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

THAT Parent

We live smack dab in the middle of suburbia. Houses close together with yards back to back mean that occasionally we inadvertently get up in other peoples business.

This crosses my mind on those nice evenings when we have all our windows open and I am shouting things like "stop licking your sister!" and "for the love of all things holy, put on some underwear!". Most the time, things are pretty good at our house. Our kids, for the most part, are nice little humans. I am not much of a yell-er when angry and am more prone to getting dangerously quiet. If you asked our neighbors, I am relatively certain we would land somewhere in the "normal" category.

When only hearing snippets of other peoples lives, it is easy to get a little judgey.

Like the time one of our neighbors locked his wife out of the house while yelling things not fit to print. In front of there 3 little kids.

Or like tonight, when I could hear a neighbor screaming at her son that he was an asshole and asking if he was too retarded to do what she had requested.

It would be easy to call these parenting fails, and, well, they are. But we are not immune, we all have our ugly moments that we hope no one notices.

The truth is parenting is hard, relentless, and holds up a magnifying glass to all our character weaknesses. We say things we don't mean, we crush small people who are just learning how to be big, we are unkind and disrespectful.

The open window is such a good reminder for me to think before I act and speak. Not that I am overly concerned about my neighbors impressions of my parenting skills, but because I am very concerned about being a good mom. I WANT to remember to temper my tongue. I WANT to think before my actions or words are reckless and damaging. I want this because my children deserve to have a mom who is giving it her best shot, not that I think I will always be spot on.

So here is to open windows in my house; to speaking with respect to all people, especially the little ones under this roof. My children will grow up to do what they have seen, not just what they have been told, and I want to give them the best shot that I am able.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mini Freak outs



There is a child in my house who has a hell of a time sitting still. Actually, I have a couple of those, it is just that this one is "school age" and therefore is expected to sit nicely on her behind and do...stuff.

I am a bi-polar homeschooler. I have days when I remember that I keep my kids at home because I like them and I have fun teaching them. I remember that I am giving them the gift of a childhood not lived sitting at a desk, the freedom to learn at there own pace and follow their unique gifts and interests. And then I get on Facebook or go to a friends house and see the test scores and worksheets and nicely completed, holiday appropriate crafts on the fridge. I have a mini freak out moment and make my kid-who-hates-sitting glue her butt to a chair and crank out handwriting worksheets.

Today, I read this.

I love when science backs my play.

Reading this reminds me that the reason I love our family's choice to homeschool. I love that I don't have to make Little Miss Wiggle Butt perform to some standard set buy a dude she will never meet and who couldn't give a rip about the things that are important to her. I have the ability to RESPECT my kid, and where she happens to be in this moment, and it is good.

Today was freak out free. We played princess zookeepers and had a great conversation about why the lions and the giraffes needed separate play-dough cages. We discussed herbivore and carnivore and put crowns on playmobil people. Outside we talked about why it isn't cool to chase the chickens or give them too much scratch. We practiced letters on a white board with crayons and did math with cubes on the floor. And we played. Lots.

Part of my brain will always wish that raising my children to be self sustaining, happy adults was a liner process that was chartable with standardized test and check lists. But humans are not that way. We don't all grow up to be the same person and so our paths will never be the same as anyone elses. So today, I managed to live without the lists or mini freak outs, but I make no promises for tomorrow. Or next week.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Almost a Grown-UP!

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who got married at a shockingly young age. It was rough, but it seemed to work. This frightfully young woman went to college and had a job. She taught classes full of small children and was pretty sure she had this kid thing all figured out, after all, she went to school for that. And she had been a nanny. I mean, people PAID her to take care of children, so she must be good at it.

Poor broad, didn't have a clue.

Real life has a way of smacking you on your ass with humility. Mine came in the form of 4 children. I was an amazing parent until I actually had kids. To this date, I am pretty sure I have learned more from my children than I have been able to teach them, which is saying something (not a good something) since we homeschool.

My children are approaching the age where I am no longer required for sustenance twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Although Jamison is no closer to weaning now than he was 6 months ago, we can at least throw a juice box and string cheese in his general direction and hold him off for a bit.

This means that for the first time in 9 years, I might have the opportunity to be a grown-up in a world of grown-ups. I might be able to MAKE some money instead of just spend it.

There is a problem with all this; you see, I am not the same young woman who believes she knows it all. And I am not sure I want to teach kids anymore. All this time spent in the trenches has turned my heart. I now understand that if you want to have amazing children grow up into fabulous adults, then you need to equip parents for success.

So I am packing up my lunch box, throwing my trapper keeper into my backpack and going back to school. I took some classes while we were on the east coast, but I am doing more. In May I will get certified to teach Love and Logic and by the end of the year I hope to finish up the credentials to be a Family Development Educator.

Matt has been awesome about this. He gets that, while my children will always have my heart, occasionally being a stay at home mom makes my brain rot and run out my ears. With full understanding that it will create more work and cost money for me to go back to school, he has been nothing but supportive.

So here is to a new chapter, turning over a new leaf and whatever other cliche seems to fit the moment. I am so thrilled to go on this new adventure, my heart and soul yearn  for a life lived bigger than myself and I feel like I am headed down the first steps of that path.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Something less than Romantic



I suck at romance. I am a bit too much of a pragmatist.

I am into love. Totally. I use it as my guide post for everything in life. I try to make my words loving  my actions love filled and my responses love based. Love is the yardstick by which I measure success.

My long suffering husband gets this. He knows I would much rather have a small box of chocolates that he planed ahead to get me than a massive, 5 lb assortment that he ran out to get the morning of our anniversary. I put "thoughtfulness" way higher on the list than "romance".

Matt brews my coffee most mornings. He brings me breakfast in bed sometimes on the weekend, especially after I have had a long night with the baby. When he really wants me to feel loved, he sweeps and mops the dining room. He plugs in my cell phone so that it doesn't die, something I never seem to be able to remember to do. He does the dishes EVERY NIGHT because he knows floaty things in dish water totally give me the woo. He brings me flowers because he knows how much I love the look of fresh flowers on the table. He gets up early with the kids each morning knowing how I hate the early hours.

And watching him love our kids makes me fall more and more in love with him every day. There is nothing sexier than a good man being an amazing father.

So I guess this great guy will just have to settle with a girl who just can't seem to be romantic, at least not in the candle light and soft music way. Instead, I will make him his favorite dinners, wash his dirty socks and clean up all the trimmings he seems to miss while shaving without complaint. I will put fresh sheets on the bed and make sure his side is how he likes it before I fall asleep, I will bring him lunch when he is too busy to remember and I will do my best to raise our kids to fall in love with or become a man like him.

And, maybe on a good day, I will write some sappy words in a card and get us a nice bottle of wine, just to keep things interesting.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My kids didn't get dressed today until after 10. I am wearing yoga pants and a hoody...which almost doesn't count as getting dressed at all.

So far today, the girls have painted their nail and had a "spa day". Eliana created a party for everyone, complete with making homemade brownies. The girls dressed and packed their dolls to go on an adventure, which to them to the swings in the back yard. There was a puddle and stick that made for some great painting on the back patio. The bunny was released from his cage and the girls fed her various green and growing things trying to figure out her favorite. Then they made her a salad. Jamison has driven his car, thrown the ball, stomped in the mud and fed the bunny a carrot. The weather is awesome, so everyone is currently wandering around the back yard while eating lunch.

I suck at home schooling.

We have done nothing school related all day, and I don't really plan on it. Not a worksheet has been filled out, a text book opened. I am not really sure that I care.

I watched this the other day. My already unschooling bent was affirmed but my traditional/education background freaks out every so often, telling me I am setting up my kids for failure.

But what if...

What if instead of focusing on a precisely measured and plotted line of education, I focused on giving my kids a stellar childhood? What if I said "screw it" to grade expectations and instead focused on life long skills that are often overlooking in traditional schooling? What if I go through each day with my "end game" as my focus?

This begs the question, what exactly IS my end game?

The answer is a bunch of adjective that bounce around my brain failing to line up nicely in a mission statement. I like mission statements, so this is slightly unsettleing for me. The words that come to mind when I ask myself what I want my kids to grow up to be are as follow: happy, loving, kind, intentional, always growing, purposeful, adventurous, brave...

I am not sure how diagramming a sentence or solving algebra equations helps any of this.

So I think I have a new goal. My goal is that my children achieve a "adiquate" education and an amazing childhood

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Buba

Eliana has a formerly yellow bunny that has been her favorite since she was small. Actually, she has 3. When it became apparent that life would not be happily lived without said bunny, we invested in a few more, just to be sure. When she was big enough to have words but still small enough that most of them were hard to decipher, she named said bunny, buba. And hence forth, all loveys in the Crocker household have been called bubas.

Addilyn fell in love with a yellow blanket. Annabelle has a pink blanket and a hippo named Bo.

Worried about starting school? Take buba in the car. Sad because daddy is away for work? Snuggle buba in bed until you feel better. Slow to wake up? Drag buba around until you feel able to face the world. Buba is the answer to most questions of insecurities.

This evening I slipped away for some time alone. Though my sweet hubby encouraged me to call a friend to share a drink with, my soul craved quiet and solitude. The best place for that? A library, or, in this case since the library was closed, a book store was a second best.

I love book stores. Something about them is deeply satisfying to me. I could wander the isles forever, picking up and reading random bist that catch my eye. Tonight I settled on 3 random selections. First was a book of random facts. Second was a book about re-purposing household goods for other tasks (Did you know all the things you could do with vinegar?! But I digress...) And third was a book about the origins of the bible.

As I ordered my coffee and chose my seat, I rolled my eyes at myself and my selections. Not sure they could have been more eclectic or a better representation of myself. My love of facts, my desire to be useful, my spiritual quest...

The other night I spent 3 hours on the computer researching Pro-Mia/Pro-Ana web sights and information. I don't know anyone who struggles with either of these, nor am I aware of any in my circle who struggle with eating disorders at all. So why the research? Because I have daughters and 1 in 5 girls will struggle at some point in their life, and maybe, just maybe, if I know enough I can protect my kids from this kind of life long struggle and pain.

Information is my buba.

When faced with something new or unknown or even the slightest bit interesting, my first response is to read, devour, and become obsessed with information. On some level, I suppose, this is my area of insecurity. It is if I could just fill myself with enough information, then I will be able to not just make a good choice but the very best choice that is within my power to make.

We all have bubas. For some of us it is the way we appear to the world. If we can just come off as having it all together, then maybe we will feel deeply inside that it is true. For others it is control. They feel the need to be in control of every aspect of their life so that nothing bad can happen.

For me it is information.

If I can just know enough, be prepared, then I can help protect and insure outcomes. If I can be the best parent, then my kids will turn out great, sheltered from the pain of poor parenting. If I can be the best teacher, than those I help will be able to be amazing parents who raise great kids.

But that just isn't how life works. Despite the illusion that my safety blanket of knowledge protects me, I am not in control. I can never know enough to keep me safe, I can never have all the right answers to any problem that life might throw at me, I can never prevent my children from making bad choices.

I will always be, deep into the core of who I am, an information junky. And maybe some day I will learn how to hold my life and the lives of those I love with open hands.