Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Balance of Life

So much of life seems to be about striking the right balance.  A little of this, some of that, and not too much of either.

Enough sunshine to give you Vitamin D, but not enough to give you a sunburn.

Water in proper disbursements to avoid either flood or drought.

Exercise for the cortex in harmony with a workout for the biceps.

And I'm guessing that never in history has it been so easy to be unbalanced.  We live in a wonderful land of nearly unlimited choices, from the cuisine we swallow (Greek, Chinese, Mexican, or Mennonite) to the creeds we embrace (Hi-tech, Organic, Completely Artificial, or Who Cares).

No matter where we look, there is an expert ready to make us feel guilty.  Thus, we race in circles trying to be all things to all people.  Food Guru, check.  Crafty Mama, check.  Manicured Mabel, check.  Frugal Fanny, check.  Gigantic Headache, check.

Where are the days when choices were simple?  Car--black.  Clothes--on.  Food--whatever your husband shot.

But then it occurs to me that those simple days involved washboards, butchering, and no a/c.

I suppose the point is that every generation, every individual has to strike his own balance.

And therein lies the difficulty.

If there were a rule book to go by, a similar pattern to each life, I wouldn't have to think so hard.

But, perhaps, in the daily struggle to create a balance out of myriad events, perhaps then I exercise the mental muscles of temperance, submission, and faith that would otherwise be left to languish.

I have to figure it out each week.

How do I balance the time I spend tutoring Wade with the time to nurture Randall and Christopher?

What about balanced meals, a clean house, church work, quiet time with God, and space to develop friendships with other families?

In ten years, will I be wishing I had focused somewhere else?

Weeks tick by that feel terribly out of balance.

Times when the necessity of loving others rises above the need to practice word strings with Wade.

Occasions when working on a new business venture eats up the organization of laundry, cleaning and cooking.

Days when you have noisy time with God and hope He understands.

Evenings when you find the man who is your husband and finally complete that sentence you started in the morning.

So what is the answer to staying balanced, especially when my balance may differ greatly from yours?

Well, there may not be a rule book, but I'm gradually learning some universal principles that help me walk the tightrope.

  1. Define important goals.  What really needs to be accomplished, both daily and long-term?
  2. Focus.  I must keep my eyes off Crafty Carla, Entertaining Emily, and even Frugal Fannie.  I can admire and learn from them, but my focus must be on the job God has set before me, not before them.
  3.  Be honest.  Life has its times when I cannot stay on schedule.  Crises arise, both small and large, visitors stop by to be welcomed and enjoyed; garden fruits and vegetables need to be processed in season.  But then I must make sure to get back on track without using the interruptions as a continued  excuse for negligence.  An exception to the rule is just that--an exception, not a lifestyle.
  4. Look at the Big Picture.  Backing off to survey the whole scene helps me sort out the necessary from the trivial.
  5. Develop an eternal perspective.  ”Begin to see yourself as a soul with a body rather than a body with a soul.” --Wayne Dyer      During this period called Time, we have to perform the routine duties of life in order to sustain a healthy, orderly existence.  But it is only as we look through God's eyes that we can properly balance out the routine with the spiritual.
And so in the rhythm that is Life, after we are done with the Exceptions to the Rule, I have a cleaning and laundry marathon with Randall and Christopher and tip the scales once again in the favor of order.

And I resume daily sessions with Wade in which I am surprised at his new vocabulary.  (Where did he learn that?)

And the Imp of Life who is always ready to put things in perspective comes in the form of  Christopher who hears about a man in charge of an orphanage and says reprovingly, "How can it be, Mom, that you are 41 and have only 3 children, and that man is 28 and has 200?  I find that stunning."

And I laugh uncontrollably with the man who is my husband, knowing that, with a little effort, the zigs eventually balance out the zags and, thank God, I'm not even going to try to strike a balance between 3 and 200.

*Disclaimer:  I am not 41, even though my son kindly thinks I am..

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Art of Mothering

Some days Mothering is a Van Gogh:  look too closely and it's a meaningless blur; stand back, and everything makes sense.

Other days Mothering is an Abstract; or you could say, with an Abstract Mother, anything can happen.

And here's the proof:

While I was abstract (existing in thought but not having a physical or concrete existence) Wade quietly ate cookie after cookie--but only the halves with the lemon filling. 

Count them.  Eight lemon-less halves of evidence left. 

So for today, I would like to share this essay on Motherhood written by Barbara Classen (from Prayers and Peanut Butter).


I know absolutely nothing about being a mother --- nothing at all.

--The end

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Not Work If It's Play

Shhh!  Don't tell Wade that Yellow Time with Mommy isn't just a game.

And don't tell him that when he gets a "reward" of drinking yogurt through a coffee straw, it's actually work too.

We've been doing a lot of work with categories: numbers, letters, toys, musical instruments, containers, things to wear, furniture.  Deciding if something was a number or a letter was difficult at first. On the pictures above, he did fine with sorting the magnetic numbers and letters into separate bowls, but needed quite a bit of tutoring on the worksheet.

Buttons have been another difficult item, but he has finally mastered unbuttoning small buttons.  And the reason I know that is because he unbuttoned my dress one day while I was talking to someone and holding him at the same time.  The true sign of a therapy-drenched mother is when she looks down in shock at her unbuttoned dress in public and says, "Yes!!!!!!"  One of life's great moments.

And then sometimes, in order to make an idea stick, you might just have to tattoo it onto your child.  After I labeled Wade's hands and feet with permanent marker, the concept of left and right and the correct fingers on the piano were much easier.  It's just one of those mantras of ordinary parenthood that have been turned upside down.  Instead of telling him not to write on himself with permanent markers, I just do it myself.  Whatever works.

Following a pattern can also be difficult.  He finds it easy to follow patterns in spelling words or in placing the magnetic shapes on a template.  But listening and then remembering a pattern (first red, then yellow, then green) is quite hard, as well as just laying out a row of colored blocks or stringing the right beads in prescribed patterns.

Tracing numbers, shapes and letters has really helped his fine motor skills.  Ziggity Zoom and Activity Village both have some great printable tracing worksheets for letters and numbers that we have done over and over. 

I also am using a set of preschool books from Rod and Staff  to further supplement and reinforce what he has learned. 

Our private school does not offer kindergarten or preschool, so the mothers use this set of books with their children at home in order to ensure that the children will be ready for first grade.  It is an excellent preschool program.  Wade loves the rhymes with the visuals for how to make the numbers.  Saying the rhymes as he draws the numbers helps him to keep a picture in his head of what needs to be done.

A straight line down and then you're done---
This is how to make a one.

Around and back on a railroad track---
Two, two, two!

Around a tree, and around a tree---
This is how to make a three.

Down and over, then down some more---
This is how to make a four.

Down the trunk and around the tree---
Add a branch.  It's five, you see!

Curving down into a loop---
Number six can roll a hoop.

Across the sky and down from heaven---
This is how to make a seven.

Make an S, but do not wait---
Circle back to make an eight.

A loop on top and then a line---
This is how to make a nine.

Make a one and then a zero---
It's easy to make a ten, you know.

Another great source of printables for literacy and math comes from the Learning Program, which is based in Orange County, CA, and was developed by a mom of a child with Down syndrome.  I think you have to register in order to be able to access their materials, but registration is free and the materials are wonderful!  The three pictures above are showing worksheets from the Learning Program.  

A wonderful resource for practicing speaking skills is Mommy Speech Therapy, which is a very informative blog done by a speech therapist.  She has great printable worksheets which focus on the articulation of initial, medial, and final sounds.  There are worksheets targeting specific sounds with single words, sentences, or stories.  It's Word Heaven for Wade!

And then there are the other fun things to practice like cutting.  Wade decided one day that it would be easier to cut right over top of the trash can rather than have to clean up at the end!

He likes to practice acting out words:  here we are doing initial g sounds--grumpy and glad.

And I mustn't forget to leave a tribute to the workers behind the scenes who help me so much every day.

It takes a family, working together to get it all done...

...or undone.

Sometimes I get surprised by a picnic lunch made by Chris!

And sometimes we really don't know whether it's work...

....or play...

God bless 'em!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Wade and Friends

Jesus loves the little children...

Kisses to you....

And Jesus said, " I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes Me."

*Photos courtesy of Coleen Barnhart