Two Thumbs Up To My First-Born Son & Escort Through Motherhood.

Wow do my kids inspire me on a regular basis. The way they navigate life, relationships, their strengths and weaknesses, disappointments, desires…Grown-ups would do well to take our cues from them.  This week I had the privilege of watching my oldest son act out of growing courage and confidence in a way that left me with my mouth open, my eyes watery, and my heart stretched.

Eight year old Silas likes to try new things if (A) he can guarantee success and (B) he can guarantee others will be pleased with him. I’m sure you can see how this could be a pitfall. Perfectionism. People-pleasing. Pushing yourself too far or not far enough. Totally scary for me as his mom with similar tendencies and a 37-year long list of how that’s played out. So when he asked his coach if he could play catcher, I was hesitant.  That’s a lie. I was scared.  I had butterflies in my stomach and I was wringing my hands.  Silas is a rookie on the team. Most of his teammates have been playing for years already, and judging by the enthusiasm in the crowd, they come from a rich legacy of ball players. Silas still calls the dugout the ‘little house’ and doesn’t know the field positions. When his coach once told him to get in a particular position, Silas hustled out of the little house with all his might before stopping to ask, “um, exactly where is that?”

But man does he have perseverance. He slept in his uniform- belt and all- the night before is 9 am game.  ‘So I won’t be rushed in the morning’, he explained. And man the persistence. In a big game with a big crowd and a scorching sun, here he is asking for the umpteenth time to play catcher. And the coach kindly said yes. And I promptly kicked into inner panic mode while still trying to maintain a cool as a cucumber persona because, ya know, don’t want to be the crazy sports mom, right?

With heart thumping my mind started racing. Does he know how to put the gear on?  Does he know the plays? It’s so hot in that gear. Is he hydrated enough? Is he gonna get whacked with a bat? Does he know there’s people yelling in his direction?? Does he even know that he just gave the other team a run?? And another one??? What if this is too much for him to handle? Too much pressure? Too risky? silas

As it escalated to a shouting match between adults over something related to ‘the catcher can’t….’ and then one of them getting kicked out of the game, my son stood tall, a little confused and in the crossfire of screaming, and locked eyes with me. And though our gaze was blurred by a face mask, a chain-link fence, and my tears, it was there. The confidence. The courage. The “I’m doing the best I can.”  He smiled and gave me a thumbs up and I realized that, though I very much wanted to be on the giving end of encouragement, I was most definitely on the receiving end.

And it brought me back 91 months to my first night alone with Silas. I was a first-time mom with a husband fighting a war in Iraq while I sat up at 3 am nursing my newborn by candle light. So many questions. Am I doing this right? Is he eating enough? Am I drinking enough? Should I change his diaper now or later? Is his dad safe? Will he come home? How am I ever going to shower with a baby? Will I ever sleep again? I don’t know what I’m doing!!!

And then Silas wrapped his entire hand around my thumb and my mind fell silent. It was just me and him and a candle. We would figure it out together.silas 15

Silas has been escorting me through motherhood from day 1. Ninety-one months to be exact. And I can see how our courage and confidence grows together. Intermingled.  He’s given me lots of new experiences. He introduced me to sleepless nights and teething drool and the horrifying sound of croup at midnight; to scraped knees and snotty noses and projectile vomit; to the joys of little matchbox cars and legos and all the bouncing balls; to homeschooling and learning to read; to first friends and first fights; to first disappointments and first mother-son dates and the first “mom, I don’t need your help with this” and learning to slowly back off and let him blossom.


I’m so very thankful to have him as a son, a companion, an escort through motherhood and an example of growing courage and confidence. I admire you greatly, Silas, and the world is kinder with you in it. You’ve been so gracious as I learn how to be your mom. I’d say we’re doing the very best we can, and THAT is definitely thumbs-up worthy!

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Why I’m Here: My purpose and hope for adding my voice to the vast world of social media.

I started Tommimom at my husband’s prompting and encouragement (recurring theme of my blogging journey!) He said I ‘have a way of communicating’ and others would find it encouraging. So I googled ‘how to write a blog’ while sitting in our dungeony unfinished Philly basement/play area surrounded by my 1, 2 & 3 year olds and 21 bins of kids clothes (and a few mice, I’m sure) and wrote my first entry.

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I didn’t know I was pregnant with #4 at the time, nor did I know where this blogging journey would take me. I still don’t.

But with the recent addition of videos on my Facebook page and a growing social media presence (the other day my husband literally uttered the phrase ‘the Philippines love your blog’ as he reviewed the demographics and I sunk into my chair hoping to disappear) I thought it would help me stay focused if I clarified exactly why I’m here in the social media world.

My goal is to offer authentic glimpses into my parenting and personal journey. No embellishing, no minimizing, no staging pictures or circumstances.  Real Life. I’m not a counselor, I’m not a parenting or marriage expert, I’m not a professional. I’m still very much in-process. Or as an 80-year old woman once told me in a memoir writing class, “Oh honey, you’re still marinating.” And while my family dynamic may differ from yours, our struggles are no doubt similar. And though our strategies may differ, our goals are similar. So my hope is to continue to foster a community of likeminded parents where encouragement, authenticity and effort are valued. Where we can express all our feelings and still stay grounded in God’s truths.  Where we can consider what’s working and what’s not and what we can change in our own lives, and where we can find creative, healthy ways to do all of that.

And if the by-product of all of this is healthier, happier parents raising healthier, happier children in a healthier, happier world where God is God, then that would be just fantastic.

You have encouraged me these past 5 years as I find my voice and learn my lessons and share them with you. Thank you for that gift. I hope we continue to marinate together 🙂amazing_nature_with_road_1680x1050

 

This Man

This man.

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In the 11 years I’ve had the privilege of knowing him, he has only grown stronger and more admirable. He, this salty Marine headed to war, marched into my tidy life as a missionary and made me his wife less than a year later. That should be a foreshadowing of his determination.

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He flew into battle when I was 10 weeks pregnant, the first crew-chief in on the first combat mission in Osprey history, and returned home a decorated combat vet and a new dad.

He earned a degree in Boston while changing diapers and blowing up a birthing tub and playing with his 2 toddler sons and shoveling us out of blizzards and some really dark days.

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That season of life is such a fog, but one memory that remains crisp is of the back of his head lit up by a computer screen every.single.time I was awake nursing a baby. How did we ever survive on so little sleep and so many babies?

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He has packed moving vans and helped me unpack my life’s experiences.

He’s never flinched in the face of my tears, fears, rants, guilt-trips, complaints.

He has stayed and he has loved.

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He has embraced his own growth with a courage and consistency that grows stronger and gentler all at the same time. It is stunning. 13

He has loved me enough to accompany me on Turkey Trots and Jingle Jogs and Tough Mudders…

…and kids costume parties and birthing tubs and counseling sessions and late night cry fests….

…and I’ve loved him enough to accompany him through 2 rounds of schooling, 4 moves, career changes, unemployment, the long hard work of personal growth, and new adventures even today.24

He still opens the door for me, confides in me, and calls me Beautiful in all seasons. 8

He encourages me in my writing when I want to quit. He encourages me in my faith when I really want to quit. He listens to me and laughs with me and brainstorms with me and buys me really cool jewelry. He’s an AMAZING father. He’s humble enough to get down on their level to play or wipe tears or ask forgiveness (sometimes in that order!)

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And selfless enough to read Candy Faries. 10

He never seems to run out of creativity and we look to him to get us out of all sorts of messes.

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like helping us break into our house…

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…or out of a stroller!

He’s been holding babies in his arms for 8 years and counting…

…offering endless entertainment…

 

He’s our chief mechanic…34

musician…

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motivator…

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baby-carrier…

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toddler-wrangler…

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kid-wrestler…

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fort-builder…

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fire-starter…

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…and my best friend.

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And today, he’s another year older and truly another year wiser.

Happy Birthday, Micah.

 

  

 

Remembering Clint

September 1, 2002 was the fist time I watched a loved one slip from this world and into the Next. I had never stood between those two Worlds before.  I was 22 and hiking in North Carolina with a dear group of friends who had become like family through the years. One moment we were standing at the top of a waterfall, the next we were huddled over the broken shell of our brother who had fallen nearly 100 feet to his death. Tears. Shock. 911. EMTs. A stretcher. A long hike back up the mountain. An even longer drive to a cold hospital. Unbearable phone calls to family and loved ones. Disbelief. Grief.21150892_10210132977066360_92405173_n
That was exactly fifteen years ago.

There were so many qualities my college-aged self admired about Clint.
We all did.13407159_10206684427214769_6566097669931271052_n

The way he loved to have fun.
clintThe way he loved to laugh, to sing, to adventure.The way he loved to go barefoot. The way his presence would light up a room and make everyone feel welcomed; included. And the way his character would inspire others to love more fully and more freely.14125072_10207245169832984_3758895876066072724_o I remember watching him swim in the ocean one day, totally alone and totally thrilled and thrashing about in the waves. He loved Creation and he loved it’s Creator. It somehow seems fitting that Clint entered Eternity while enjoying nature. I often dream about the unimaginable marvels he now enjoys in the World that awaits us.

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I remember him now, 15 years later, not as a college student, but as a mother with sons of my own. And somehow, this makes his memory richer, deeper, alive. I could appreciate him through the eyes of a friend, but now I can admire him through the eyes of a mother. And doing so makes his character all the more honorable; his laughter all the fuller; his love of life and people and God all the sweeter. 21171089_10210132982186488_1188776193_oWhen I think of Clint now I smile with gratitude for the privilege of having known someone so remarkable. Someone who truly filled this world with more love and laughter..and less shoes. Someone who helped so many of us experience God and joy and hope and compassion more fully. Even grief. Someone who has made Heaven a little more familiar for me and who no doubt welcomed our dear 5-year old friend last year as a kindred spirit.  I would’ve liked my sons to know Clint. They would’ve had a blast.  I take comfort in knowing one day they will.

A letter from Clint’s mother weeks after his death:

..At fist, I admit, I thought “Lord, I can not do this. You have asked too much. Now either bring him back or take me too. I cannot….no, I will not live on this earth without my precious boy.” The Father is so patient and kind. I could give you so many accounts of personal miracles of faith and healing of my broken heart. It is a process, though. Not a quick fix, not a cure for my grief, and not a journey to a destination, just a journey…in a circle… Round and round we go, journeying to trust, me struggling to obey, living in the moment, finding joy, knowing His unspeakable peace…I often have the image that I am about four years old, full of questions and I am climbing up in my patient Father’s lap…I take His face in my hands and I whine…’But why Daddy, why Daddy, why do I have to give him up?” The amazing part is that God never tires of holding me close in His grip, loving me, comforting me during these times of sorrow…Mostly, He doesn’t say anything, he just loves me and loves me and loves me. 

A message from Clint’s mother today, fifteen years later:

I am living proof of Gods grace… Life isn’t nearly as sweet but my dreams of Heaven are so much better!!! I know I’ll see my sweet boy again. I believe the Lord will look over at him one day and say “Clint, go get your Momma.”

 

This post is lovingly dedicated to Clint’s mother, Carolyn, who nudged me along in this writing and who has set the most beautiful example of motherhood and intermingled grief and hope these past 15 years. 

25 Reasons I love Homeschooling. Or Despise it. Depends on the Day.

I homeschool and I love it.

I home school and I 90% love it. 75% of the time.

I believe homeschooling is the best option for parent and child.

I believe homeschooling might be one of many good options for parent and child.

I’m not in the homeschool gang, believing that ‘you are your child’s best teacher.’ You might be.  You might not be. You might reeeally not be.

So how do you decide? If you’re on the fence, I’m here to offer my personal list of pros and cons from my humble 5 years of homeschooling a growing brood. But because the pros often turn into cons and the cons often turn into pros, I’m simply going to list them objectively, trying not to judge them as necessarily good or bad.  They just ARE. IMG_0084

  1. I Spend lots of time with my children
  2. I learn along side them
  3. We have a flexible schedule both in school and life
  4. We stay up late, sleep in, or whatever else suits our fancy any particular weekimg_5583.jpg
  5. I select their curriculum (Classical Conversations, Math-U-See, Learn to Draw the US, the Bible, The Story of The World, a drop-off science & music co-op, and an absurd amount of library books on history, biology, geography, and whatever else they snag that week.)
  6. I’m learning how each of my children learns (I have no formal background in teaching and am learning latin, ancient world history, world geography and how to diagram sentences while sitting/laying right along side my kids at the table/bed/floor.)
  7. My children are learning how they learn
  8. My children have the freedom to learn material in their own particular fashion (wearing headphones and listening to music, while riding a bike and reciting algebraic formulas, while molding play dough into the shape of the 13 Colonies while wearing pj’s.)

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    Sam taking a unit math test, kneeling, while listening to Johnny Cash and drinking herbal tea, all proctored by his baby brother, of course.

  9. There’s lots of built-in learning as we do our daily life (cooking, house work,  conversations as we drive to the Y, calculating how many plates Mommy needs to put on the bar to press so many pounds, what muscles are used when she does so, weekly trips to the Farmer’s Market learning exotic foods and their prices and what country’s flag is hanging overhead and how much is in the grocery budget and can we still get jelly beans because we did a good job…)market
  10. Vacationing during ‘off season’
  11. Continuing with school moderately through colds and belly aches and poor attitudes.
  12. Or not
  13. I don’t have to pack lunches
  14. I don’t have to buy new Back-To-School Clothes
  15. I don’t have to buy a list of school supplies

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    Pretty much the extend of our school supplies. Not pictured: tape & glue & paper & a bookcase!

  16. Or backpacks
  17. Or lunch boxes or bentoboxes or whatever the cool thing is these days
  18. I don’t have to know what the cool thing is (though as a homeschool family it might help!)
  19. I don’t have to be a part of PTA’s
  20. Or fundraising
  21. I can feed my kids healthy, fresh snacks and meals every day. Every.Single.Day (ok, I can’t. I just can’t be neutral on this one.  There’s so much cooking, I about feel like an eternal Lunch Lady!!!!)IMG_5592
  22. Discipline and correction come from their parents, who know them well.
  23. I witness that moment something burrows into their brain for the first time. Every time. A new word. A new concept. A correct equation. Newton’s Laws played out.
  24. Our school day lasts no more than 3 hours. Three!
  25. The kids have lots of time to play, explore, be bored, argue, eat, do chores, read, play video games, create projects, create business ventures, create noise/music/forts…new-house

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    The Mutt Strut Brothers- a daytime dog walking service

So there it is, my personal list of homeschooling pros and cons. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you understand how a pro can easily turn into a con and vice versa (ex. It’s such a privilege staying home with my kids/ It’s such a drag staying home with my kids.) It just depends on the perspective. Or the day.

Homeschooling, like all of life, moves in seasons. I’m finding them to be micro-seasons, shorter than Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and a bit more unpredictable. But there is a rhythm if you allow yourself to roll with it. Productivity ebbs and flows. Excitement and eagerness rise and fall. Creativity blooms and withers.  And then blossoms again. There are weeks where I feel I am absolutely killing this homeschool thing in the most positive, optimistic, fist-pumping sense possible to convey on a blog. There are others times I sit slumped over my dining room table wondering just how badly I’m destroying my children’s brains and chances at a normal life and successful future. And then I read blogs of other homeschooling families who have it all together and I feel inspired worse about myself. Though I’m happy to report I do that last one less and less and less as I circle my  homeschooling (and life) around this one glorious goal:

~PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION~

Truth is, we might make mistakes.

Truth is, we will make mistakes.

Truth is, they may have disappointments.

Truth is, they will have disappointments. That’s just life.

My goal as a parent-teacher isn’t to pull this thing off perfectly and produce the most perfect spawn with the most perfect education and most perfect futures. No, it’s to grow. To grow with them as they grow. To make progress. As as person. As a parent. As a child. As a family. As we learn to do things God’s way. One day at a time. One challenge at a time.

I’ve never been a parent before. I’ve never been a homeschooling parent before. We’re all figuring this out together. And 90% of the time, I’m glad about that.