Samuel Howard. Happy Birthday, Little Man.

Sammybaby

 

This boy…this one who does everything with ease and with this quiet sense of confidence…this boy is 8 today.

 

Samuel Howard.

He is named after his Great-Great-Grandpa Howard Beacham who was quite a character. A lawman in the prohibition days of Alamogordo, New Mexico who even captured Machine Gun Kelly at one point. He was a lawman, a baker, and an all around character…and Sam seems to have inherited some of that personality.

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He has come into his own, the youngest of three boys.

He is not overshadowed by the strong personalities of Nate and Zach, and yet he does not seem to need the spotlight.

He has inherited his Grandfather’s love of animals, and they seem to know immediately that he is “safe.

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Samhorses

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Happiest outdoors: snowmobiling, climbing trees, jumping on the trampoline, or stopping goals on the soccer field.

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The only one of the children to break a bone yet, it barely slowed him down; he realized he could be a pretty good street hockey goalie with a cast!

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He has moved into the role of “Big Brother” with ease these last few years.

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I cannot believe my “little” boy is 8. The quiet one, who is becoming louder as he finds his voice and his confidence. Tenderhearted, courageous and smart.  Happy Birthday, Samuel Howard…I cannot wait to see what the next year holds!!!

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Boxes of Stickers

I know I am a few days behind writing about Easter, but, well…life has been crazy. Allergies have not helped.

 

A box came yesterday, though, and brought together some of my thoughts.  Do you remember when I spoke of the Power of the Sugar Cookie? Well, this box was similar.

 

Dad has moved into a new house with Mom. They moved from a two story house into a one story, mainly to guard against falls and trips. The result is also that they have to simplify life. Moves will do that.

 

Boxes must be gone through. Years of treasures must be sorted. Mom was a collector. Yes, I’m being kind.

 

I know that this is not an easy process for Dad, because it is taking a giant highlighter and marking the decay that has happened over the last 5 years. She has no connection to these treasures…and she would have considered them just that. She no longer is possessive of them, when she would have been just a few years ago. She would have guarded them even if she couldn’t quite pinpoint why she needed them. Now she lets them go more easily, because there is no connection.

 

I hate that.

 

I received an enormous box of scarves. Another with purses. Another box with white china cups and plates she used when her Bible study ladies came over. Boxes that come with little glimpses of her personality.


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Mom dressed impeccably. She was, and still is really, gorgeous. Tall and stately. Stylish. Her scarves show how she could pull off all kinds of colors and styles.

 

She was bold.

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Her purses? All kinds. She was full of life.

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Now Dad dresses her and always makes sure she looks just right when she goes out. He makes sure she looks how he knows she would have wanted to look.

 

The last box that came, though…it was such a stark reminder of who she was.

 

A box of stickers.  Hundreds of stickers.

 

I remembered them, and anyone who had known my Mom would have remembered them. They were attached to birthday cards and notes and letters. They were bought with purpose and with thought about each person. And I realized how much Maddie would have been loved by her.

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I realized these stickers would have come attached to birthday cards and notes to the little girl who carries her name. Jane. Madeleine Jane. I can almost picture the notes she would have sent, and the delight she would have had in sending little gifts of coloring books and goodies.

 

What does this have to do with Easter?

Everything.

Watching Mom slowly fade before our eyes, watching her personality change from vibrant colors and bold choices, to greys as she loses more and more of herself…leaves me hungry and aching for healing. Aching for home.

 

Easter was a wonderful celebration. Wonderful music. Wonderful fellowship. Fun decorating eggs. If that was all it was, though…there is little hope in the mourning as we watch the brokenness around us. We need more than some pep talk.

 

Buechner:

“For Paul the Resurrection was no metaphor; it was the power of God. And when he spoke of Jesus as raised from the dead, he meant Jesus alive and at large in the world not as some shimmering ideal of human goodness or the achieving power of hopeful thought but as the very power of life itself. If the life that was in Jesus died on the cross; if the love that was in him came to an end when his heart stopped beating; if the truth that he spoke was no more if no less timeless than the great truths of any time; if all that he had in him to give to the world was a little glimmer of light to make bearable the inexorable approach of endless night – then all was despair.”

 

Opening these boxes and finding each new piece as Dad sorts through Mom’s life, it is another statement of her fading. Another statement that she is a little farther from our grasp. She is physically in our midst, but we continue in this strange limbo of her presence without her personality. I know that I am more of a spectator living a thousand miles from home…and I continue to be amazed at how my Dad cares for her with such strength and kindness.

 

Easter tells us there is more, and that the suffering now will seem as only momentary when we reach home. Easter tells us Good Friday has power.

 

It doesn’t make it light and easy, but there is a foundation to stand upon. There is a strength to be held, and we do not despair. We hope.

 

 


I believe in the holy shores of uncreated light 
I believe there is power in the blood 
And all of the death that ever was, 
If you set it next to life 
I believe it would barely fill a cup 
‘Cause I believe there’s power in the blood ”

Andrew Peterson

 

 

Because of that hope, because that life overcomes death, we are able to live with a joy and a wonder even in the midst of grey and suffering. Even in the midst of sorrow. Because of a Savior who conquered death, because of an Easter that is a reality, I can take a box that signifies the decaying of a mind…and turn it into a celebration of life.

 

These things continue to carry her personality, and although they are just things, they are little glimpses of this woman who helped form who I am. And even though she cannot delight in Maddie…I can delight in Maddie for her. Part of that is watching Maddie enjoy these things that were part of Mom’s life. Like having coffee and crackers on white china, and wrapping up that hair in scarves from the 70’s.

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Resurrection life. The reality of Easter…the Power of Easter, gives us the freedom to embrace this life even in its painful moments, because we hold on lightly to this life. Our true home is one where no tear will fall and no mind will decay. 

 

Tests Do Not Tell All…

Next week the boys will go to their umbrella school (the school where we report our grades and attendance) to take part in the standardized testing. They are familiar with the process, especially the older boys who have been through it many times. The boys attended this school until we began home school two years ago, so they know the drill.

 

For the most part they are not intimidated by the testing. We have talked about the need for the testing, but also that we are not defined by these tests. Last year I wrote a bit more about testing, and as I read through the post again this morning I thought it was worth sharing again:

 

The boys are testing this week. Testing to see not only what they know, but how well they have been taught. Those in the schools…well, the teachers are being tested as well. I know in some areas these tests bring stress and anxiety and frustration; there is pressure to do well.

I told the boys not to worry and to have fun. I told them I’m not worried a bit…I know they are bright and I know they are learning, and I know this year will be a bit different since we began homeschool. We are using a different curriculum, and I know that will show, especially in math.

They are relaxed and they are not worried about the results, although they know I expect them to do their best.

Yesterday I saw a video and it has been on my mind since. See, I know there are loads of opinions on education, and I know that not one way is necessarily the correct way for everyone. We’ve chosen homeschool for this season, and we have done so for a number of reasons. I am excited about this venture, and I am hopeful. I truly think this is the best option for us, and I think there are some opportunities in the homeschool arena that simply can’t happen in the classroom.  Opportunities to pause the syllabus and explore.

That is a touchy issue because some people feel judged just by my saying that…my choice for our family can frustrate others who have not made the same choice. Some think that I am making a statement about public education or private education…and I am,  to some degree. Still, because I have found our niche and am celebrating that does not mean that another’s choice is worse. I have friends who have children flourishing in public school and friends with children flourishing in private school.

Here is the real thrust of my thinking, though, and here is where this video comes into the discussion.

My kids, all boys at this point for the discussion of education, get bored easily. They are not avid readers or avid ‘learners’ and there are many days in the classroom or at home where they just want to get through the material so they can get on to something fun.

That bothers me.

I love to learn, and I love education. I know I didn’t always…but I have found that I love learning about people and about places…I love reading and I love learning new things.

I want them to catch that. I want them to see learning as something vital and alive and filled with wonder and imagination and truth…and not drudgery.  It can be drudgery in the classroom, in the home, wherever. The same education can be exciting and grab our attention…in the home or in the classroom.

I am not completely sure how this will play out, but I know that something is stirring in me about how I approach teaching the children. There are still facts they have to learn, and sometimes those facts are drudgery. There will, however, be things that will grab their attention and spark something…and those things need to be given the room to grow and the space to breathe.

When something makes them sit up and makes their eyes sparkle and makes them talk excitedly, I need to pay attention. I need to be listening for that moment, and I need to breathe life into that spark. 

That doesn’t happen in testing. That doesn’t happen in drudgery. That requires attention and the flexibility to give room to that interest. The hope is that as that interest sparks learning, the enjoyment of learning will spread to the other subjects.

There has to be room for imagination and for experiments.

And for failure.

And for play.

Space to find out that actually, I don’t care at all about this subject.

Testing doesn’t make that room.  I am not saying that testing is meaningless; we do need to know that our kids are learning the necessities. I am saying that our kids are so much more than the testing reveals.  I love this video because the young man is obviously bright and intelligent and creative and passionate. He is not saying education is meaningless…he is saying to pay attention to that spark and not just learn because you have to learn a set of facts.

Give room for that love of learning without suffocating it with facts that become drudgery.  

I am not good at this yet…I still make it drudgery sometimes. I can remember my teachers who were able to grab my attention and I can remember when the realization began to take hold that learning is really amazing. This is an amazing world filled with some pretty incredibly stories and people and facts and wonders…that is what I want to convey.

 Here is the real kicker…I can lose sight of that wonder just as easily in the home school setting as the teacher can in the classroom. I need this reminder as we near testing. 

Check out this video, and thanks to my friend Tina Hunter for posting it, and then watch the one after as well. I want my boys to think like this…I want them to think and to challenge and to explore, not just to prepare for tests.

 

Update: I have to add something, as I’ve been thinking about this through the day. I have to add that I have so much respect for my friends who are teachers…who are able to create an atmosphere of creativity and individuality in the classroom. Those teachers who make our children feel special, who truly care about the children they teach…those are some special teachers! I know that there are many who have made an impact on my kids…and on our family as a result. There are many teachers who are simply tired, and many who are restricted and find themselves in a difficult position to try and create a unique environment. So, I wanted to add that I know there are not simple answers to how we inspire our children…and whether we homeschool or have kids in school, we have to continue the learning throughout our family life.

Stop. Listen.

The last month has been a blur.  Lesson plans, teaching through the day with the kids and shuffling off to sports practices in the evenings. This has been our life for the last year, yet for some reason this last month it has felt more demanding.

 

I find that I am just a step behind the laundry and the dishes and the to-do-list. There is always more to be done than there is energy and time.

Always.

 

And yet, I find that the words from my last point carry with me, and there is still an underlying contentment. Is it possible to be content and want change at the same time? To be content and yet to hope for things to expand and for growth to happen? I think so. I think it is okay to say that we hope for, and work for and look forward to change even while we are fully aware of the blessings we enjoy.

 

Still. There are days where I am just flat-out tired. There are days where I wake up tired. My blood pressure has been up and the allergies are flying. The kids are together almost all the time, and they get on each other’s nerves. And mine.

 

We bicker.

 

The house gets messy.

 

Stuff happens.

 

I get irritable.

 

I forget the blessings. I forget the hope for a moment. I forget how incredibly rich this life is. And then….suddenly I realize there is this one constant that has begun to happen. This makes everything stop. Maybe just for a few seconds. Maybe for a minute or two.

 

This forces me to stop. Physically forces me. Looks me in the eye and says I love you.

 

Physically.

 

Every morning, and after every nap…

 

I wake Maddie up, I carry her downstairs and she lays down on the floor.

 

She grabs hold of my neck and bear hugs me.

 

She grabs on and will not let go. I will pull back and tell her I need to go do whatever…and she will look at me with a gleam in her eye and say:

 

“No. I hug you. I love you.”

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And then she will pull me back in to a hug.

 

Another minute.

 

The first time I thought it was cute. The second time I giggled and laughed and told her she was silly.

 

The fifth time I started to think God was trying to get my attention.  This little one is deeper than she lets on.

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Now I don’t fight it. Or giggle.

 

I expect it. I know one of these days she won’t hold on, and I’ll miss it terribly.  This littlest one was sent to stop me in my tracks from time to time.

 

She was sent to remind me…to look me in the eye, to hold on tight and to make sure I was listening.

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“I love you.”

Boy, it changes the tone of the moment.  If we could all hear that. When we are stressed. When we are tired. When we are hopeless. When we are weary.

 

Sometimes, honestly, she hugs so tight that it hurts.

 

Sometimes we need that. We need someone who is willing to stop and look us in the eye and make sure we are paying attention and truly listening…and someone willing to make us stop and hear.

 

We are loved. 

 

Man, it changes the tone of everything when we truly hear it, though. Then we want to hear it again every morning. We look forward to it and we are eager to hear it. There is something incredibly pure in hearing it from a child.

 

God knew what He was doing when He plopped this little one in my midst…and yet I know that there are so many around me that need to hear that as well. I know that there are so many who need to simply know that they are loved, who need to know that they matter. They need to have someone look them in the eye and speak truth to them.

 

Someone to simply care.

 

I know that I spend much of my time lately distracted. Much of my time half-listening. And in these moments when Maddie grabs me and looks at me and speaks I have this larger sense of what it is to be seen. I want to learn to be like that…to listen and to see and to love like a child. What kind of impact could we have?