7 Quick Takes: Love Really Does Make Everything Better.

This post got really long and eclectic, then I remembered, Ah! I have a format for this! Thanks Jen!

~ ~ 1 ~ ~

I am thankful for how practical a teacher God is.

Even though I have a (theoretical) capacity to understand things just by thinking about them–

Hey, would that count as a super power?

— He usually explains things in a more tangible way.

What do I mean?

Well, in the last week there’s been the reminder of my insufficiency– which I can’t even take full credit for, because I had help noticing that; there was missing my family; there was understanding my Migraines; and there was getting the hull of my emotional boat to stop scraping along the rocky river bottom of confusion.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

I remember almost 5 years ago, when I told the ladies of my Bible study how maxed I was with my Dear Husband gone a month. I was in my exhausted sludge of a first trimester, with two children under the age of three, and attempting function at 15-below (-15 F) while people asked me if I was worried about my husband in Antarctica.

After all, he had to attend the required SURVIVAL classes. Camping outdoors. Alone. At approximately 31-degrees. That would be above zero, folks.

Oh, and that would be while enjoying the gorgeous, non-stop *light* we were missing on our side of the world in November.

When I was afraid this wasn’t making enough of an impression I added that I slept on a bed I couldn’t even change the sheets of.

“I know God’s supposed to be my sufficiency and all that,” I said (in a defensive effort to preempt any platitudes I was afraid were headed my way), “But right now what I really need is someone with skin.”

And to my own humbling, the next morning started with a phone call that resulted in one of those women inviting herself over “to be skin.”

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

Jay and I will have been married 10 years in August.  We have always included talk and questions about “back at the beginning” in our conversations, so it caught me off-guard this week when Jay said, “That was ten years ago. Tell me what makes you feel loved, now.”

And, bless God, enough specific things had happened recently I knew exactly what to say.

It was no small thing to watch Return to Me with Jay a couple nights ago, and see him devastated by the first ten minutes that take away the leading man’s wife. It was a heavy measure of value to me for Jay to bring it back up and use it to emphasize how important I am to him.

So I was already thinking about how nice it was to be taken care of, and I could say specific things. That’s when I understood something.

Feeling loved goes a long way to lifting my emotional boat off the rocks of what’s going on around me.

I was pretty thoroughly marooned a week ago, unraveling with too much stress and unmeetable expectations. And Jay noticed.

I like to imagine I’m an easy read.

Between him and Mom (but mostly him) they took over with the housework and the kids for the next four days.

Loads of water poured in (if you can visualize one of the locks at the Erie canal), but I had felt so dry I was still scraping bottom in a lot of places.

Anyway, I was only supposed to have “off” until dinner time Sunday night, but I didn’t sleep at all Saturday, and so crashed before 6 on Sunday. Monday morning I was supposed to take the kids to a doctor appointment (on my own), but not far into the (perfectly paced) morning, I realized I was having a migraine.

Because we were already going to be on time, Jay met us at the doctor’s office and ran herd while I sat quietly with my head against the wall.

Jay was the one who held the children for their highly-traumatic shots, then took them to choose ice cream and candy mix-ins from the grocery store, making “Cold Stone” style ice cream at home because the shop itself didn’t open before 11am.

Then, because of the migraine went to bed *early* again.

And heard no complaints.

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

Back when my niece was born, almost 14 years ago, a saying began in our family.

Somebody said something about this darling child getting spoiled by being the only baby for 6 adults (give or take a couple teenagers). I think it was my mom who firmly contradicted that spoiling wasn’t healthy for any child; that *our* baby was, simply, Well Taken Care Of.

Jay was not around yet, but because the phrase was established it entered his vocabulary, and my heart swelled the day he picked up our crying firstborn (because I begged, not because he wanted to) and told her seriously, nose-to-nose, “I think you’re Well Taken Care Of.”

~ ~ 5 ~ ~

I now say (frequently) that I’m well taken care of, but– and maybe this is the way babies feel too– I am thankful this is the baseline. Because I need this level of care.

I’m still confused as all get out about some of the stuff that threw me into a tailspin last week, but having a buffer that keeps me off the rocks has made it all a *lot* less threatening.

~ ~6~ ~

The challenge I’m being reminded of now is maintenance.

The word by itself makes me think of *all* the things I’d like to maintain, so I’m trying to narrow my focus.

For highest-functioning health it looks like I need to actively work with my sources (God, my husband, my friends) to make sure I’m maintaining that magical ballance that fills my lock without overloading my introvert wiring.

I’m still figuring out this ratio.

It also makes me look at my kids’ meltdowns in a more blatantly relational context.

Though sleep is a close second: and one of three highly-correlated elements in my migraines.

Eggs is another.

~ ~ 7 ~ ~

I’m having my first massage Friday.

No idea what to expect, other than I hope to come out of it de-tensed in my body.

Back when I made the appointment I wasn’t quite off the rocks yet, and the intangible issues felt overwhelming. All I could think of to ease my load was to get the tension out of my body at least.

Now that I feel better all around I’m looking forward to the massage even more–  thinking, in my improved state of mind, that it should be even more useful.

The Child’s Attention to Schoolwork

This excerpt gave me a new perspective on a frustrating pattern in our homechooling experience.

From the book Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder originates and what you can do about it, p. 126

The nagging hunger for emotional contact explains the oft-observed “paradox” that many children with ADD are capable of focused work in the presence of an adult who is keeping them company and paying attention to them. This is no paradox at all, if we see the opposing roles of anxiety and attachment in influencing attention: attachment promotes attention, anxiety undermines it.

When the child is not concerned with seeking emotional contact, his prefrontal cortex is freed to allocate attention to the task at hand, illustrating that what we call attention deficit disorder is not a fixed, unalterable physiological state; it’s a physiological state, yes, but not fixed and unalterable.

The warmth and satisfaction of positive contact with the adult is often just as good as a psychostimulant in supplying  the child’s prefrontal cortex with dopamine. Greater security means less anxiety and more focused attention. The unseen factor that remains constant in all situations is the child’s unconscious yearning for attachment, dating back to the first years of life.

Where this need is satisfied, ADD problems begin to recede.

Quick! Why are you different than me?

A couple weeks ago I was in a McDonald’s Playland, thankful my children weren’t markedly increasing the decibel level, when one of my girls ran up to me (towing a 3-year-old Korean girl) and introduced her new best friend.

I had been eying the mother, wondering about introducing myself, and very shortly had my opening.

It is my opinion that about a third of parents in such a setting are very eager for conversation. The trick is recognizing which ones they are.  Assuming I, too, am one of that minority on a given day.

The other mother talked about her challenges, what brought her to Alaska, and got around to asking me what school my kids went to.

I’m beginning to think this is the SAHM’s substitute for the generic “what do you do for a living” conversation staple.

When I said I homeschool my children she was genuinely surprised. In a completely non-nasty way she asked, “Why in the world would you do that?”

And I realised I didn’t have an answer for her.

That isn’t to say I don’t have an answer.  I mean I didn’t have an answer for her.

In the 5-10 minutes I’d been talking with her, I had gotten the broad picture of a person battered in her opinion of herself and her ability to best care for her children.  Any meaningful reasons would sound in her ears like the need for her to teach them how to walk on water.

I fell back on my generic “Oh their father and I were both homeschooled. It’s our normal.”

But she was genuine enough that wasn’t enough for her.

“I’ve heard all sorts of scary stories from my [Public School Principal Friend] about former homeschoolers who were utterly unprepared academically.”

Again, this wasn’t at all oppositional.  She’d never been introduced to an alternate line of thinking.

As gently as I could (not wanting to undermine/discredit PSPF), I pointed out that PSPF never would have an opportunity to meet the homeschoolers who were thriving, and weren’t there plenty of stories about non-homeschoolers struggling in the same areas?

She acknowledged this with a look of surprise, but went on, as can be expected, to personal defensiveness.

This was what I had wanted to avoid by focusing on Jay’s and my background. There are lots of reasons to homeschool, and our reasons primarily hinge on things that will make non-homeschoolers very defensive (here’s an example, if you need it), so I try not to quickly go there, since I don’t feel it’s very productive.

She claimed, rightly or not, that her limited English would be a huge preventative to her children learning. In fact, she insisted by way of example, it was because of her that her children had been so slow in learning even to speak.

And I knew sadly I was out of my depth.

I tried to speak some encouraging things about the effectiveness of reading aloud, the success of a Korean homeschooling mother I know. I urged her not to worry about developmental tables, and didn’t even get into sign language as a stop gap for language acquisition, because her eyes were already glazing over.

But by the end of the 45 minutes together, what came to my eye was a tired mom who’d never been encouraged in (or maybe even informed of) her level of influence over her own daughters.  She was tragically resigned to “staying out of the way of the professionals.” And it gave me a new category of public schoolers.

We all categorize.  Some call it stereotyping (I think that’s too narrow a word). It helps us make sense of the world around us.

I’ve been using the phrase “outsourcing parenting” when discussing the choice to stick a child in daycare/preschool/public school, and after meeting this fearful lady, I have a new sub-category.

I will admit I’ve used the phrase somewhat scornfully about “people in general” who just do it because that’s what Americans do, and with more understanding when I actually know the people who make those choices, but with this lady it seemed to be more visceral than either of those options.

It was Frederica Mathewes-Green who made the observation, “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

That’s the sense I got from this mother.  She was sacrificing herself (I might say her self-esteem) on the mistaken assumption that someone else had to do a better job than her.  Because they were someone else.

Someday, when I’m wiser, and I hope not too much older, I pray I will discover my “elevator pitch” for homeschooling. That perfect, 15-30 second soundbite that encapsulates my reasons for this decision.

Then if someone feels the need to argue and/or defend their reason(s) for a different choice, at least I know I’ve said what I should say. Because, really, if they were listening, that’s what they asked me to say.