Monday, August 26, 2013

Once begun is half done

We began school today. I am hoping that old adage is true, once begun is half done. I think it must be so.
It was such a pleasant day. The weather cooperated, and the kids were genuinely excited. The older boys headed off some to the tutorial and others to college. Sarah started her first day of kindergarten. Only one baby left in the preschool range in these here parts by the name of Lo lo. I am also tutoring a small class at our tutorial this year. We began that today as well. Those kids are also all bright eyed and ready to learn. Its a wonderful role to play in their life.

And I really love being in the classroom. It opens new parts of my heart. I discover far more each year about myself and my children, then I ever thought possible. I do teach them some things, but mostly I listen. I listen to all sorts of things- complaints, frustrations, questions, curiosities, new ideas, wonder. We don't have all great days, but mostly they are if I am honest. They work through problems, grow a little taller and wiser, figure out life, and eat some lunch.

I have discovered there are things that never grow old . The ABC song, coloring pages, the intensity of sounding out words for the first time reader, teaching the months of the year poem to the kids, or going through the acronyms for the planets ( and I still don't have the heart to eliminate poor ole Pluto so my kids will clearly be scarred for life. Hey,  I'm okay with that.)

Some things I still haven't figured out; like why I keep buying electric pencil sharpeners year after year. Fred actually warned me against  it while we were shopping in the store, but did I listen? No. I went ahead and bought it anyway. And folks, one day in- I already regret it.

 The tips break off and clog the blade and it takes a steak knife to dig out the piece of lead. I am hoping pencil sharpeners don't operate like toasters.(You know that one must have piece of equipment we all keep despite knowing we are inches away from being electrocuted at any given breakfast-at least in my house- where the handle has long since disappeared and Mom  always has to 'rescue' the bread with a knife) . Since Fred is a hands off homeschooling parent I ignore anything he says about school even when it makes perfect sense. "WE" home-school the same way "WE" build around here. One of us does it, the other takes the credit. But hey, after 20 years lets not fix what ain't broke ( except-for-that-dang-fool-electric-pencil-sharpener-honey-if-you're-reading this-go-fix-that-pretty-please!)

I am sure I'll be ready for the end of school by December. I always am. But I'll push through, and so will the kids. For now Fall is my favorite time of year and its almost here. There is new chalk and construction paper, books that still crack just slightly when you open them up, and even a compass and protractor in our near future, what could be more perfect?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Moments of Gratitude

I have been thinking a lot these last weeks of how good my life actually is. There are so many people struggling and suffering, with crosses I can barely summon the strength to watch, yet they do so. My own life feels so fortunate- almost every single day. So I am trying to cultivate gratitude. To simply remind myself that life is short, and that I can choose to see and count the blessing before me- or not. So here is a list of some of those things I have been grateful for lately. I hope you are all able to add a few of your own, if not please stop by for a cup of tea and I can loan you a few minutes of time and we'll  look together.

1) Freddy. After all I write about him, do I really need to say anything else? He is smart, funny, patient, hard-working, a terrific father, and he loves me despite my obvious flaws. God knew he was my match. Perfection.

2) My kids. Yes its a ton of work. Yes, its a whole mess of fun. P.S. Its way more fun than work.
This is all of my kids and only my kids on the playground.

3) We harvested our potatoes today. Which officially means that just about everything I planted this year, actually grew ( we'll forgive the broccoli for its poor show and hope for better results next year).

4) Chickens! Not only do they give us almost half a dozen eggs a day, but my kids have had hours and hours of fun caring for them. The first things our little girls ask in the morning is if they can let the chickens out for a while.
Sarah and Lolo chicken shepherding

5) My siblings. Who have impressed me each one, so very much, these past months by their absolute devotion to Greg as he battles cancer, and to one another. There are so many of us with so many personalities that navigating it all could be really tricky. But you know what, its also been wonderful.They are the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.

6) Biscoff spread. Nutella, watch out. OK- full confession- I found this in an Aldi aisle. On a whim I decided to purchase it. I opened the jar  today, and took a small scoop out to taste, and found myself transported into the seventh heaven. This stuff is seriously good. You can ask what to spread it on if you'd like, my best answer at this point is... everything. Because its that good. And I already checked on amazon to make sure I could order it in an emergency-and its available. Nirvana!

7) Classroom. My school room took me only  one afternoon to set up entirely.( we officially begin classes on Monday)This was mainly because I wisely prepared last May for this September, but still, it actually worked! Can you say stress free start off?
I actually imagine my classroom to look like this.

8) Friendship. I got to see a few of my favorite friends this week, and chat with  some others. You know, the old faithfuls that add so much to life and yet are as comfortable as a good pair of slippers? Today Josh and the kids came by and spent the afternoon catching up. I don't think I have ever spent time with Josh and not walked away feeling blessed. I mean that.

9) Romantic dinners. It can be hard to sneak away from ten people on a regular basis. So, Fred and I have devised special dinners where the kids eat separately, and we set up a candlelit table by ourselves, and the  two  worlds don't collide for at least a few hours. Tonight was one of them. Snow crab was on the menu.

10) A home I love. After dinner we walked around the yard, and looked at our fruit trees, and blackberry bushes, and raspberry bushes, and talked about the plans we have for the future. God has been so good to us in all of these things. I love where I live.

I know there are a million things on all of our plates to worry and fret and be sad about. But I do find it helpful in my own life to stop and think on these blessings and remind myself how good life really is. In all things, there are silver linings. So, where are yours?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Day in D.C.

Thanks for all the kind calls and emails inquiring about Greg. I left New York on Sunday afternoon and arrived back home Sunday evening. It took me a few days just to catch up on my life from there. Today, Freddy, that wonderful man that I married 20 years ago, decided we needed to do something as a family. He knows that I am, like the rest of my siblings, trapped right now between living and dying. My thoughts naturally turn to my brother and seem to linger there with him, yet I have an entire life that keeps calling at me too. Both need my time and energy. Both are incredibly important. 

So we headed to Washington DC with 8 of the kiddos in tow. Andrew and Peter opted for a day of ice-skating with friends, but the rest of us became tourists an hour from our home. The best part of all this is that these wonderful places are all free to boot.We started with a picnic on the Mall, and followed it by a walk through the sculpture gardens, then the Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery. We made a pit stop at the Good Humor truck and then headed to the Zoo before ending the day with a late dinner of Il Forno Pizzeria outside in the warm breezy air. I'll post some pictures below and you can judge if it was a success. I sure think so. 

picnic lunch -picture perfect
love this sculpture tree!
Natural History Museum
the crew
Our treasures looking at the national treasures
plum-tuckered-out!(  with Adam and Eve in the background!)
outside the national gallery
mission zoo-with things one and thing two!
outside the sea lion exhibit a new set of play fountains

almost ready to spray!

thar she blows!
a shadowy performance

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Precious Time

I am in New York. Greg came home from hospice on Monday. Since my ever generous siblings have already exhausted themselves over the last weeks and months of his care, I figured it was about time I pitched in a bit and gave them a small respite.

Interestingly, if there was a "help wanted" ad for Greg's caregiver currently it would read something like this. Wanted: someone who can do light cooking and cleaning, has basic first aid training, is not accustomed to uninterrupted sleep, needs patience, and can take direction and criticism fairly well."
Hmmmm...since most of these are part of my normal duties as a professional mother, I applied. And as luck would have it- I got the job!

Honestly, these days have been precious. My siblings and nieces and nephews have been helping out daily as well despite full time work and family responsibilities. Truly I have never met a more generous lot and am so proud to call them my family. I won't pretend that its not terribly difficult to watch my brother suffer, or to know how to help him when he does, but there is something unique and special about each of these days too. My brothers personality has softened and sweetened. The rough edges all smoothed away by the constant suffering. He is sorry for his sins. He is grateful for the smallest acts of mercy.

And my brothers and sisters are cherishing each moment too. In order to help me to help Greg, my sister Angela and brother Paul have taken a few of my kids for the week. My other siblings, and cousins, and nieces, and nephews , and aunts and uncles have been in and out with a million kindnesses that have left us all so humbled by the sheer goodness.

Life seems so real these days. All the unimportant distractions have washed away leaving in the wake what matters. Family. Life. Love. Faith.

And though none of us have any diagnosis, I assure you that we have all been stricken by cancer along with our brother. His wounds are carried in his body, the rest of us carry it in our hearts and souls. And so while Greg suffers we suffer too. But like Greg, our spirits are strong and our faith, by the end of this journey, may just be big enough to reach the size of a mustard seed.

And I think, after all, that may be the point.