Saturday, January 26, 2013

An open letter to my first born son

Here is my birthday tribute to my 10 year old:

Handsome Son,

Ten years my son...ten awesome years!  Now that you have hit a decade on this earth I want to share some bits of insight and dare I say, advice from mom to son.  You are a respectful and obedient son... sometime out of depth of character and sometimes out of the desire of not provoking crazy mom...and no matter the reason I am grateful for your spirit.  Because of who you are becoming, I trust that you can humor me as I babble on for a bit.

My son, you came into this world a bit freaked out.  The bright lights, cold touches, and loud noises of our world totally overwhelmed you and we knew it almost immediately.  Your first years were full of joy and wonder and they were also full of concern and lots of need.  My momma heart ached when your body and soul ached.  All of the tears of pain, panic, and frustration got worked through while you were cradled in arms or in sling.  In retrospect I am so grateful you are my first child for so many reasons.  You needed me on a constant basis and no substitute would suffice.  I am confidant that we have the bond we do today because of the time we got to spend together in the those first two years.  We were together morning, noon, and night.  You went to work with me, you slept with me, and we were never apart for very long.  We worked this way until you were ready, throwing conventional wisdom and lots of unhelpful advice out the window.  It was hard but worth it, because I understand you and that helps me advocate for you as you navigate your life.

This has been your year and I am jumping for joy on your behalf.  This past year has been the year for things to come together for you and it has been awesome to watch you become successful and confident in all areas of your life and development.  So much of your life I have watched you trying to navigate childhood feeling like things weren’t quite fitting for you.  You struggled in your body, you struggled to relate to other kids, and you struggled with functioning easily in a classroom situation.  I have had your back in your struggle for all of these years, finding the help we needed to make life easier for you, establishing routines that would help you thrive, and being available for you with a listening ear and lots of hugs to soften the experience of not quite fitting into the world.

Now you have found a bosom friend at school.  A boy as smart and kind natured as you are and you are safe to be fully who you are in friendship with another boy at school.  That has shifted so much for you with your school experience.  He is in gate and chess club with you and you are in the same class this year.  Your anxiety level has dropped and you seem as if all is well, looking forward to school and not dreading your days.  You have worked out your difficulty in the classroom and have matured so much.  4th grade is a tough year for all kids academically, and you are definitely excelling in academics.  The expectations are now shifting to areas you are naturally gifted in and you get to experience fitting in right where you are.  A job well done my son...your hard work of controlling your behavior and your impulses is paying off!  

You have been training in the art of karate for five years now and for all of that time you have had an amazing sensei that totally understood your spatial issues and your coordination difficulties, while also understanding the way your brain works and the heart and soul you give to your craft.  He has been a great mentor to you all of these years teaching you the basics and trusting that at some point everything would click between you body, heart, and soul.  He has had you compete in tournaments twice a year for all of these years and every time we watched you compete, it was pretty obvious that you knew your steps, but you were not quite at the same place as the other students.  You have never given up though, and your perseverance is finally paying off.  You are now a green belt and the competition is so much more difficult because only the serious students are moving forward.  When you competed as a green belt this past month, your skills have clicked and you did not stick out at all.  You have earned your spot amongst the serious students.  You are mastering your craft and I could see it all over your essence as you demonstrated your form this time.  Your presence on that mat was remarkable!  You had more obstacles to hurdle in order to perform at this level and hurdle those obstacles you have.  Way to go!

So as you move into this new year I want to share a few pieces of wisdom with you:

1.  You live a good portion of your life in your intellectual world of dreaming up cool things.  I love the way your brain works because you are so much further along than most will help solve the dilemmas of this world when you grow up, for that I am sure and I rest easier knowing that you can help advance our human experience.  I want to offer this insight up to you as you travel down your intellectual destiny:  Remember that people always matter more than ideas.  As you soar the clouds of your creative world, remember to stay anchored in our world and in relationship with those you care for most.  Never lose touch with the importance of connection... it was what got you to this place of being able to soar.  Without your years of receiving  constant human contact, you would not have the confidence and strength of character you now have.  Continue to strengthen the right side of your brain with art, and story, and connection to emotion at the very same time you strengthen your left mode development.  An integrated mind is necessary to solve the dilemmas of this world.

2. The world does not revolve around you... you are so important, just no more important than anyone else.  If you love someone, what is important to them needs to have importance to you too.  Look out for you younger sister and especially for your little brother, they love you and I know you love them too.  Always think about those who have less than not feel bad for the gifts you have been given, just share them with those in need.  Grow your compassion and your empathy, you will have more joy and more peace in your life if you do.

I love you my son.  Thank you for being the trailblazer in our family.  Thank you for teaching me the power of connection.  You are a funny, smart, capable boy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 8th Birthday

Birthday posts for my children have been a part of the blog for years now.  I rarely go back and read old posts, but when I do, I reach for the birthday posts first.  This year I have decided to be more intimate with my tributes and share my momma heart with them and with you.  What better way to celebrate life in general and my daughther's life in specific than to press the pause button of life and rest in the poetic stillness of a girl's journey through childhood.  A universal truth no doubt, no matter your age, your gender, or your place of status.  So here you go:

My sweet girl,
You are blossoming before my very eyes and I am one proud momma!  You came into this world with an energy that transformed my life and set our feminine line of familial legacy on a new path forever.  If I was born to break the chains of oppression, then I feel like you were born to embrace and celebrate freedom as a birthright.  I believe you understood your purpose right from the start.  

In the very first moments of your life a picture was snapped that revealed your true essence that I am now beginning to see actualized in your life.  The nurse held your tiny body over a faucet with running water and the look on your face told the opening act of your life story.  You were enjoying the pleasure with reckless abandon allowing peace to wash all over your body and soul.  Every day since that first day, I have beared witness to your many moments of weaving that sort of balance into your childhood and I am blessed by your presence on this earth.

A couple of nights ago I got to sneak a peak of this reality in action and though your eventually knew I was watching, for a few moments I got see what’s developing inside your strong heart.  I got a glimpse of your soul without the masks you are sadly learning to put on, as you learn to navigate the real world without my constant momma bear protection all the time.

You were doing your chores in the kitchen after dinner and had asked to put your music on.  Out of the speakers blasted a worship song that is like breath to you and I saw you lose yourself in the melody.  Even while still working, I saw you twirl around the kitchen not caring about anything else in the world but your creator... an act of worship unlike anything I have ever experienced.  You were fully in yourself and fully in love.  Until my dying day I will hold that visual close to heart and it will most likely be one of the images I carry with me over to the next life.  Thank you sweet girl for teaching me how to love life, love God, and love self.

So on now to some pieces of  motherly advice that you will no doubt roll your eyes to now, but will be seeds planted when you need them some day:

* 8 is a hard year.  Just know that upfront.  You are bridging from young, cute, and innocent into fully elementary age, beautiful, and wiser child.  You have developed your personality and some are beginning to put their baggage onto you...even I catch myself doing that sometimes.  Know this:  When or anyone else, react strongly to who you are, it is more about us than in will ever be about you.  Sometimes when adults see reckless abandon and freedom like you live, it reminds us of the time before our freedom slipped through our hands and we project outwardly our envy to try and stop our own sorrow.  Do not internalize such acts of aggression, for if you do your freedom will slip away.  If you can let it bounce of of you instead you will not have such bitterness later on in your life.

* I am seeing a transformation in you now that you are aware of so much more and I am watching you navigate in the social world.  I have watched you employ deception in order to survive in your life and I am so sad.  Every child employs deception to navigate through all of the have to’s and should’s, some do a self deception where the adults around them have no idea what lies are going unchecked.  Others choose outward deception to avoid consequence and responsibility.  You are naturally bent to choose that second defense and 7 was a year where you were being constantly confronted about that choice.  I have been very tough on this behavior in your life and you are learning and growing in this area.  You have obediently taken my discipline and are rewiring how you respond to things in your life.  It will be a lifetime struggle for you I think and I want to offer this wisdom to you, as I believe it reminds us both of who you are and what your bottom line is.  You did not begin to change your lying behavior until I was guided to use this wisdom with you and then in an instant you understood.  That became the beginning place for you to self evaluate and begin to choose truth over emotional safety.  I mentioned to you that when we choose a lie, we give away a part of our freedom which in turn steals our joy.  That for you was a deal breaker and I celebrate that milestone in your life!

*You have officially hit your first awkward stage and for some reason it seems the world is harder on female awkward stages than male... or maybe awkward stages are harder for females than males.  I don’t yet know which is true or if they are both true...perhaps we can learn that together someday.  I watched your older brother navigate through this stage and he came out on the other side stronger and kinder, so to you I will say this:  Everyone must face these awkward stages of development.  You are completely normal and doing just fine.  I know you feel like your don’t fit quite right in the world right will find that groove after you go through this emotional growth spurt.  In the meantime hold fast to the the reality that you always fit with me and you always fit within living grace, so as the dust settles remember that I still see you, God still sees you and you are an incredible human being.

It is a joy to see you growing into this compassionate, kind natured girl child.  Happy Birthday to my sweet girl!  My dream for you this year is simple:

Soar my baby, Soar!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Doing Advent Again

I was raised in a faith community that practiced the rhythms of the liturgical calendar.  Over the course of centuries the church... small "c" developed a calendar that allowed followers to experience the journey of redemption in a seasonal and yearly way.  I am way too cynical to accept that the development of the liturgical calendar was developed solely for this good reason.  The seasons too closely shadows festivals and feasts that other faith systems celebrate, but that is not the point of my post today.  I simply state this upfront so that I stay accountable to my resolve not to see my faith system through rose colored glasses.  Anyway... let me get off this low road to chat about what I want to chat about today.

This holiday season really got to be a season where I did things my way for the first time in a solid decade.  No one came down on high to grant me such empowerment... it's just that for years I was doing the dance of "don't ruffle any feathers" and so I bound up my own soul and went through the motions of actualizing some sort of celebration that was acceptable to all of the critics that were watching.  Of course that was a fantasy that was entirely self projected...the critics were the negative tapes in my own head, for I am not nearly "important" enough to have an actual peanut gallery following me and commenting on my every move.

So this year I was grateful to find my way back to a rhythm of preparing for the coming of grace.  Advent is the season right after Thanksgiving and lasts through Christmas Eve and in this age it can be an anchor to keep us grounded in the midst of the commercialization of this holiday.  Christmas has become so out of control that the message is being missed in the noise of too much shopping with money we don’t have, over stuffed social calendars, and unrealistic expectations for friends and family that actually makes connection with the most important people in our lives tense and forced.

I wanted something different for my life and for my children.  So to the drawing board I went...or more specifically to Pinterest and MOPS International I went.  The way our advent went this year was so joyful, fairly simple to execute, and prepared all of us for the arrival of the Prince of Peace once more.  Something I was not anticipating this year with some very tense dynamics in my life and family.

Here’s what worked for us:

* A book a day:  I wrapped 25 holiday books and placed them under our tree labeled with numbers.  The kids got to take turns finding and opening the book of the day.  Then I read the book during dinner or before bed time each day.  Some of the books were holiday favorites we love each year and some were new.  Some were about the Christmas story, some were fun non-religious stories.  This was hands down my favorite new family tradition.

(I feel bad I cannot credit the photographer... I found this on Pinterest and the blog has been removed.  Just the same, it is such a gorgeous picture!  To the photographer... thank you for your creativitiy.)

* Advent Calendar:  I love being a Close To My Heart Consultant, because I get help making items that enhance my family life.  I put candies and our advent symbols with corresponding scripture readings in each box.  I found this great resource from MOPS that helped me out this year.  My kids loved going through the story all month.  I did not use the resource below to it's fullest as my kids are a bit older and I found it like 2 days before advent began.  I've had a request from my son to develop my own program next year.  Little did he know that curriculum writing is something I have a knack for, so if I can get myself together in this next year, I will develop something and share it.  I am grateful to the author and her program.  It enhanced our season so much!

Here is the link to the site for the devotion program I used:

And a picture of the box that I made:

And a link to buy it from my website if you so desire:

My daughter asked me to keep the Christmas decorations up until her birthday...which happens to be Epiphany, which is tomorrow.  I am so happy to accommodate her request because I love this season and want to stretch it as long a possible.  This year I got to savor Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas... grace come down!