I've been reflecting on what Monday's post reveals about my evolution as a mother. And not just that I haven't read the Nativity story to my four-year-old often enough.
There was a time when I never would have shared that story with anyone outside of my family, certainly not with other homeschooling mothers. I would have been embarrassed that my almost-five-year-old would have made such a ridiculous statement. Surely, at almost-five, she should know that Jesus was never named Pocahontas, if I'm doing my job and she's capable of learning.
Somewhere along the road of my childhood, I became somewhat performance-driven, and my self-worth was centered more on how well I did what I did than on who I was (or as it should have been, to Whom I belonged). I was a shy and quiet kid but bright enough to play the game of school quite well. My grades earned recognition and gave me an identity to which I clung. I don't think my parents caused this by putting too much emphasis on my performance---it was simply a by-product of the nature of school and competitive ranking.
When I left school and work (paid work) behind and became a mother, there were no longer any As or honor rolls to bolster my ego. There weren't any more positive work reviews or promotions from my social work supervisors. There were just dishes and laundry and a baby. I've written before about how good housekeeping is not exactly my forte...so I depended on the baby to reflect my worth.
And what a baby she was. She was bright and beautiful and absolutely perfect in every way. She was our only child for eight years, and as those years passed, she excelled in pretty much everything she did. We adored her and were oh so happy in our little family. I can honestly say that I have always loved her unconditionally and that my love would have been no less had she been less gifted.
But I also know that I rather enjoyed the compliments I received on her behalf....because I received them as compliments to myself as well. Oh, did she make me look good.
Our good and gracious Lord knew that I needed to get past this nonsense if I were ever to grow in holiness. And so He gave me children who were every bit as bright and beautiful, but a bit lacking in the area of perfection. He also allowed my first daughter's adolescence to show me that, contrary to previous beliefs, she is lacking in that area as well, but not nearly as much as I am.
It has been a slow and somewhat painful process for me---frustrating and so very humbling---this letting go of wanting to look good, of wanting my kids to look good. I remember with shame how quick I was to tell people that Valya and Nastia were newly adopted, lest anyone suspect that I was the one responsible for my daughters' social faux pas. In doing so, I made it quite obvious that I was truly only responsible for my own.
We all face such a temptation (straight from you know who) to compare ourselves and our children to others and want to come out on top, or at least not at the bottom. As mothers who educate our children at home, we are not immune to this. Several years ago when my sister-in-law was struggling to teach her oldest to read, she asked me how it was possible that every other homeschooled child she encountered was advanced in reading, according to his or her mother. I do think we are a bit more honest about it now as a whole.
Maybe I'm mellowing with age or maybe I've been forced to become more accepting through adoption or maybe the gift of being with my children all day every day has opened my heart and eyes a bit more. It's probably a mix of the three and then some, with lots of grace thrown in. But I find myself worrying less about how much my children know and more about how much they are loved. Thanks be to God, I'm focusing more on their beauties and strengths and less on their little (and big) imperfections. Deep down I'm acknowledging that they are not solely a reflection of my success or failure but that I must be a reflection of His Love. Always and in all ways.
And so I can laugh and rejoice in the sweetness of my almost-five-year-old when she calls Jesus by the name of Pocahontas. I can take her precious face in my hands and kiss her on the nose and love her all the more. How I would love to peer into her little head and find the connection that caused the confusion for her. For I know that she knows who Jesus is and how He was born and most importantly, how very much she is loved by Him.
And I'm thankful that I do too.
P.S. In spite of all these nice words I just wrote, I must say that I am slightly uncomfortable that not one single person has commented to say how cute or sweet or funny my Jacinta is. I promise you that I have told her the Nativity story many, many times and that she really does know that the name of Mary and Jofess's baby was Jesus. Honest.
Last Friday, Jim and the kids watched an hour or so of Jesus of Nazareth. We had intended to start it Palm Sunday and then continue it throughout Holy Week, so that they would reach the crucifixion scene on Good Friday. But we forgot our grand intentions and the film until Friday. Such is life around here. Anyway...
Following the viewing, Jacinta, who is almost five and better known as Qiu Qiu (Choo Choo), was very excited to tell me all about it. An unrequested narration---fabulous! I was eager to listen. This is how it began.
J: Mary had a baby, and she was so tired that she had to lay down and take a nap.
Me: And what was the baby's name? (even though I know I'm not supposed to prompt)
Before I could recover with the proper response, Charlie, 3, jumped in to say: No, it's not. The baby is named Jesus.
J: Well, first it was Pocahontas. Then the angel told Jofess to name him Jesus.
Hmm, I admit that I haven't actually watched this version of the life of Jesus in a while, but I definitely don't remember that scene.
On a positive note, she did remember Mary, Jofess, and the angel. And since I know that she has never watched the Disney film, at least something from our reading of D'Aulaire's Pocahontas must have stuck with her.
I've transferred this blog over to Wordpress. From now on, I'll be posting there.
I really like Typepad, and I'm still getting used to Wordpress, but it doesn't seem to make much sense for me to keep paying for a blog, especially when I'm not writing.
I'll be leaving this blog open for two more weeks, until my current monthly subscription expires. After that, any links you may have made to this site will be broken. I'm sorry that I don't have a way to re-direct them. If you want to change the link and need some help finding the new URL to a particular post, just send me an email and I'll find it for you. I still get referrals to some of my past adoption posts, so those might be the links that are the most important to change.
I really hope this is my last move...in more ways than one.
Elena and Jacinta made these masks and put together a last minute Mardi Gras party, complete with a pancake dinner, multi-colored confetti, and dancing. I confess, if we didn't have Miss Sanguine as our oldest child, this family would probably never do anything fun. She renamed us for the party. Up above, you see Lady Cheetah, Lady Feather, Lady Moonlight, Lady Fancy, Lady Gypsy, Lady Mystery (moi), and Lord Chung (wearing Chinese pjs). To the right, you see the one who named himself Lord Irritated (believe me, it fits :).
Just to let you know...I have decided to fast from the Internet for the next ten days. It's been a long time coming, really. God's been knocking...and I keep saying "just a minute." I'm out of minutes. He has a way of letting me know.
I'm not sure where these ten days will take me in regards to the rest of Lent and this computer. I hope to be back...but we'll have to wait and see. As my dear friend Alice wrote so beautifully two days ago, I can let go of writing when I'm called, but the greater sacrifice is not being able to visit with all of you. When I tried to protest that I need my online friends, I clearly heard His voice: Diane, you need Me. And He's right. Again.
Please know that you and your loved ones will be in my prayers as we journey toward the Cross.
Have I mentioned before that I am always late for everything?
I intended to write this post last Friday, but life pulled me elsewhere. Since I plan on fasting from the Internet on Fridays this Lent, I decided to make my first Poetry Friday a Poetry Monday instead. Why conform to the norm anyway?
If the truth be told (and where better to tell it), I am rather, well, ill-versed when it comes to poetry. I learned the common nursery rhymes as a child, was introduced to haiku and limerick in fifth grade, and submitted one very weak poem entitled "Clouds" to Zoom (to my knowledge it was never aired). That's about all I remember of my exposure to poetry during childhood. I'm sure I must have studied some verses in high school, but they certainly left no impression. In my college freshman Comp and Lit course, we studied from an introductory anthology to poetry, and I somehow managed to pull off an A-...but most of the poetry went right over my head.
It's not that I don't like poetry---I love the rhythms, the rich vocabulary and images, the twisted turns of phrase---it's just that I don't get most of it. The hidden meanings and inferences are lost on me. How does one begin to catch up and make up for such a missed education? Well, I am determined not to allow my children to be crippled in this way, and so I am learning with them, starting with the basic lines of Rossetti, Milne, and Stevenson. But it is a slow process. And I am just a bit intimidated by all of you blogging friends who seem so comfortable in the world of poetry.
This is my very long way of explaining why I have never posted a Poetry Friday before. And really, I had no intention of ever doing so, figuring that any gem I could present would be so old-school to most of you. Then I was presented with this poem a couple of weeks ago, and I knew that it had to be shared here.
Reclaiming the Red Keep
Spears clashed, shields rang,
Men died, swords sang
As they swung through the air that day.
And when reinforcement finally came,
It was too late.
The girl they found was unhurt but scared;
Her familyhad not been spared.
A baron took her to raise as his own
The day that the Red Keep was taken.
The years went by, the seasons passed,
The girl was nearly grown when, at last,
There arose a man yet still a boy
To save her honor and retake her home.
He laid his plans and rebuilt its wall,
Then fought against the evil Sauval*.
The dawn was bright, the hour was light
When the girl went forth to help him.
Together they fought, together they slew;
The grass was wet with blood, not dew.
They took the castle, but there still remained
A fight to be fought, a fight betwixt two,
A boy and a man.
The warriors fought that precarious fight
With all of their strength and all of their might.
They battled, thrusted, and parried too,
‘Til finally the youth was victorious.
The young but powerful duke of the land
Decided to take the matters in hand.
He proclaimed that the maiden could not own the keep,
But a husband could hold it for her.
Many men stepped up to fill that post,
But one in particular whom she loved most.
So, the lass and the lad were married
That day, and the castle, through love, was regained.
* The Sauval were a greedy and murderous fiefdom that attacked and took the Red Keep in the first place.
My daughter Elena wrote this as a narration of the historical novel, The Red Keep, by Allen French. I certainly never crafted anything like this in eighth grade...or since. Although I'm impressed by her original use of rhythm and style and her excellent choice of vocabulary, I think the thing that I love most about this poem (besides the fact that I can understand it :) is that it reaffirms our way of learning here in this family. For me, it was a little piece of evidence to support my heartfelt conviction that this method of educating works, even in the midst of my deficiencies.
We have always followed a relaxed, Charlotte Mason-infused style of learning. My educational philosophy centers around providing excellent books and then getting out of the way, allowing the books themselves to be my children's teachers. I am their guide and companion, but they make their own connections. Their enthusiasm for learning is all that I need to reassure myself that this is the best possible way for us. Their minds are being challenged, their hearts are being touched, and they are being formed for life.
Lucky for me (and us all), Melissa Wiley has been writing an edifyingseries of posts on a Charlotte Mason education. She expresses my thoughts and views far more eloquently than I ever could, so I invite you to visit The Lilting House, if you haven't already (and I'm sure most of you have). I guarantee that you will walk away feeling refreshed and encouraged. Lissa's joy in her motherhood is so utterly contagious...she describes a journey that I wish to follow with all my heart.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, they are warm; but how can one be warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
True romance is being swept off your feet by a man who...
...prays to the Blessed Mother for his future wife years before he meets her
...spends the first date with his bride-to-be walking and talking and walking and talking for hours and then ends the night by taking her hand in his and saying, "I can't believe this is happening"
...takes his sweetheart to a beloved spot on their deserted college campus the day after Christmas, bends down on one knee in the falling snow, and asks her to spend the rest of her life with him...after first calling her father to request his permission and seek his blessing
...presents his wife with three new outfits for their first Valentine's Day as a married couple even though he hates the holiday and abhors shopping
...falls madly in love with his first child the moment he sees her and never loses the wonder, pride, and joy of being a daddy
...saves his weekly spending allowance of twenty dollars for years and then surprises his wife by flying her father, siblings, and grandmother from Ohio to California and giving them all a memorable vacation
...never once complains about any meal that is set before him, no matter how awful it is or how many days in a row it has been served
...allows his wife's sisters to live with his family for months at a time, even though he knows it means sacrificing a great deal of her attention
...is completely open to new life and welcomes many children into his heart and home, through both pregnancy and adoption, never counting the costs of bringing them there
...surrenders week nights and Saturdays being a coach for his children on teams that rarely win
...whispers well-worn stories in the dark and sings his little ones to sleep
...takes late night walks, even though it's way past his bedtime and his feet are aching, because he knows that his wife needs the exercise and an open ear
...leaps out of bed half-asleep to care for a crying child and never once wakes his wife to do it for him
...gives the personnel officer his wife's prioritized list of locations for their next assignment instead of his own, placing her desires before his, without debate or explanation
...makes his wife believe that she is beautiful and loved when the battle scars of life and sin have made her feel painfully ugly and unlovable
...honors his promise to hold his wife close all the days of his life.
How incredibly blessed is the woman who has been given the heart of such a man.
After more than twenty years of loving him, he still takes my breath away.
For more inspiring stories of true love, please visit my dear friend Margaret for the Loveliness of Romance.