I'm listening to a fiction book on CD which I am enjoying- Between, Georgia. There are a number of things I like about it, but I'm taken with the complex relationships and the delicate navigation of the characters through those ties. Also, I like southern settings, because it reminds me of my own Georgia roots. And the author reads her own work. I'd rate it R for language, and A for a good book journey.
My life as a mother just returned to something more breathable as the soccer season ended yesterday. Three teams. Four players. Six practices per week. And Saturday games here, there, and yonder. All finished. Sports screeched to a grinding halt with one simple exception- once a week swim practice for all at the same time beginning Thursday. Maybe, just maybe, we'll take time to serve at the animal shelter again and cook meals which take longer than 15 minutes for a change. What else did I hope to put more time into when soccer was finished? I can't remember just now. I'm too exhausted to think.
Back from Ashville. It was just as we expected- great food, laughter, art, shopping, and birthday cake for breakfast to celebrate Helen's fortieth. When I arrived home, my home was clean, children happy, and Buck left quiche for dinner for us before he went off to work. It was a blessing.
Packing my bag for Helen's splendid birthday trip this morning. We'll hit Ashville, N.C. with another friend, Candy. I expect a weekend of laughter, art, great food, and girly mayhem. If you see me, I'll have a wild grin on my face that says, "I'm a forty-one year old homeschooling, pretend farming mother of four who doesn't get this opportunity very often." If you see Buck, it'll be on the fly. He's selling Boyscout popcorn with the boys and soccer game chauffeuring.
Me: So, what do you think of our Nobel Peace Prize Winner this year, Al Gore? Buck: Interesting choice. Scott: Wonder who will be nominated next year? Buck: Maybe George Clooney. Me: Leonardo DiCaprio. Buck: Sheryl Crow. Scott: Brittany Spears. Buck: Oh no, Scott, not Brittany Spears. It's the Nobel Peace prize, and Peace is spelled P-E-A-C-E, silly.
Outside my bedroom window this morning stands a lovely sight. Past the faltering zinna garden, over the freshly graveled driveway, and into the dewed neighbor's field, three black calves are silhouetted by the bright morning sun streaming through the trees. Vapor clouds blow from their little noses as they glance dociley my way. I take in the sublime nature of the cows and look forward to a quiet day.
I've figured something new this week regarding my adopted son, Tater. Again, it's not rocket science, but it's something as plain as the nose on my face, except that I couldn't see it. Until now.
I blogged a few times recently about the struggles over homeschooling I've had with my oldest son, Peace. My relationship with Peace was strained, ubearable even, from the end of July, when we began school, until three weeks or so ago. Finally, I can breathe again with Peace in a place of peace which remains. I am so grateful. Background noise to all that struggle with Peace came in the form escalated relational problems with Tater. Tater's heart seemed to be shutting down.
This week I thought to myself, "Now that things are great with Peace, I can make a concerted effort to truly focus on what is up with Tater."
Here's the magic. I didn't have to. The tension between Peace and I correlated directly with Tater's dissent into anger. With the resolution between Peace and I, I realized Tater had already opened his heart back up to us naturally.
Not rocket science like I said, but Tater responds negatively to difficult situations which don't directly apply to him. I don't think he has fully developed his own person or identity yet, so he's vulnerable to take on others' problems as his own.
Next time something erupts in my family, I can be sure: 1. Tater will probably escalate in anger. 2. When the eruption is resolved, it won't be nearly as difficult to resolve his anger.
A little hope goes a long way for me. Realizations like these carve a hole just large enough to let a little light inside for me to carry to overcome the next obstacle.
What should I give my dear friend Helen for her forteith birthday?
If I were Melinda Gates, I'd open a philanthropic resource center for the arts named after and run by Helen. Or perhaps I'd buy her a Renoir to hang over the buffet in the dining room.
Since I'm not Melinda, I'll have to be more essential.
When I was young, another dear friend's dad got an interesting present. The congregants where he was pastor came and fertilized his front yard with a gigantic 40 which grew green and lush all summer compared to the rest of his pale lawn. This wouldn't exactly work for Helen as she lives in the middle of nowhere and the effect would be completely lost. The only comparable joke I could play would be to scratch the number 40 on the hood of her Lexus, but she might not want to be my friend anymore if I do that.
If you are thinking, "Just buy her a really great book."; that wouldn't work either. Her husband already keeps an amazing library like nobodies business. Clay hands Helen and I fantastic books right and left.
If I buy her any type of gift card, she'll find someone else to spend it on. That's out of the question.
As you might have guessed, she's an artsy girl with great taste. I'm not asking to be silly. I'm perplexed. Any fabulous gift ideas out there in blogland?
More Remedy What has truly worked to answer these two questions of adopted children? 1. Do you still love me if...? 2. Who's got the power?
Last January, February, and March, I cancelled every single activity for myself and for my children and focused on healing. I gave up three of my favorite things, including a get-away with four of the most fabulous women on the planet. With God's help, together my family and I created a complex system to guide us. It helped tremendously, and I discovered the most valuable tool of all in answering the adoption questions- understanding.
When I took the time to figure out the source of every irk or anger episode in my adopted son, he flourished. Together we kept answering the question, "What am I so mad about?". It was not easy, and still is not easy, to get to the bottom of his pain.
The intense focus had to end sometime, and I think he's suffering a bit from my lack of focus. For me, those months amounted to submersion under water and away from many things I love, and I needed air and refreshing at some point. As a result, I am very conscious about the fact that everything I do outside the home- dance group, homeschool support groups, book studies, evenings out with friends, projects, writing, teaching, come with a steep price tag for my son more than anyone else. I do not stop and help him examine his feelings like we did in those months, because I have other things on the forefront of my mind. I seem to always have an agenda which too often gets in the way of guiding him through relationship.
Blogging about it makes me want to become more aware of seeking understanding with Tater again. I have learned to spot the two questions by a quick observation- Tater looks angry or frustrated by a common circumstance. When I'm busy in any other way, I become impatient with his impatience. When I'm focused, I think, "Hey! Another learning moment for the boy!"
Just today, Buck helped Tater through a selfish moment by working for a solution in which everyone would be content. It took some time. Buck was careful and kind with his words even though Tater was not. Buck and I allowed silence to let the boy feel the weight of his self-centered choice, but eventually Tater came up with something satisfying for all concerned.
I think I'll stop here for today, and write continue another time.
Is your home a place of redemption? Does it need to be? Has anyone suffered great loss in daily relationships?
I'd say my home requires me to create a space to heal the broken hearted. Have I? Not well enough. Here's my gauge- the level of peace and unity in my family.
I believe every household has a thermometer- the one who may not look like it on the outside, but is the most sensitive and vulnerable inside. The exterior may read "I don't care", but the actions scream "Someone do something!" My adopted son, Tater, lets us all know when family matters become askew. The second he senses a chasm between my husband and I, he runs to the crack and jumps until Buck and I get on the same page again. Sometimes it takes Buck and I months to work together, and the result of not working together is chaos.
I've come to realize adopted children have two questions they ask over and over again. 1. Will you still love me if...? 2. Whose got the power?
Observations Apparently, I haven't answered those questions correctly yet for my adopted son, because he still continues to ask in so many manipulative ways.
While my birth children exhibit considerable character flaws, they do not have these same questions. They know in their heart of hearts they can trust me to have their best interest in mind.
I notice a lesser emotional connection with Tater. He doesn't take me at my word like the other children. His wounded heart cannot trust me, so most everyday, I'm tested and judged as wanting by him.
So how to build trust? That's where a home of redemption kicks in. Redemption is gentle. Redemption is kind. Redemption doesn't seek revenge, only healing. Redemption is confident. Redemption believes, even if a strategy is not working, one will be revealed which will meet the need. Redemption does not lose hope. Redemption is never angry and does not seek it's own way. Redemption does not struggle for power; it is power.
A Remedy The area I have completely conquered this year is not ever getting physical. I believe aggression only breeds more aggression. If my son defiantly picks up the very object I've asked him not to touch, I don't make any movement to retrieve the object. In the heat of a difficult moment, if I ask him not to go outside, and he heads straight for the doorknob, I do not block his way. If he refuses to stop banging a ruler on the table, I do not make any effort to physically remove the ruler. Spanking is absolutely out of the question.
Abandoning any type of physical control has made a boatload of difference in Tater. A year ago, someone in our family would be "accidentally" hurt by him nearly every day. He'd run into a room like a whirling dervish, knock over his little sister, and wonder what just happened. Over the course of this year, that carelessness has been nearly extinguished. Just considering it now, it's miraculous, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how the change occured. Deeper Remedy Here's the part of redemption I have not yet completely conquered- remaining peaceful in difficult situations. I haven't mastered a neutral or kind tone in conflict. I've made progress, but when push comes to shove, sometimes I don't keep it together. My goal is to lay down my natural responses of anger and even irritation, and respond in an even keeled way. Sound impossible? It is eye opening to think of the times I'm in a snit with my husband or children, and how quickly I am able to answer the phone pleasantly. Why not keep it together with my family, those I love the most, in the best way possible?
Mostly because I'm human. Imperfect. Redemption has a plan for that as well, though it is tricky- forgiveness. When I'm short with someone, I need to ask forgiveness. If the person is not ready to give it, then I wait. Patiently. Redemption always hopes and believes it will work in the end. I'm not always on the side of redemption, because forgiveness requires something I'm not always willing to give- self examination and humility. Buzzing around town taking care of others or making sure I have plenty of "me" time only complicates things. It leaves no room for necessary deep listening for ways to grow in kindness and forgiveness in my home.
Instead of wrapping things up neatly here, I'll stop and post more another time. School is underway and this teacher needs to get back to work.