family


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Is it just me, or is there an unrealistic expectation of excitement out there? Like, life should constantly provide me with EXPERIENCES that challenge and motivate and entertain and occupy me. Especially, maybe, among the children, but increasingly among the rest of us. I wonder if it’s because we are losing our ability to navigate boredom well?

Every kid needs to learn how to be successfully bored. Seriously, boredom is an important skill that must be resurrected.

It’s important to understand that “I’m so bored” is actually code for I am feeling an emptiness that I want you to fill for me. Or, I don’t want to do the work of figuring out how to spend my time so I would like you to allow me to watch television or play with my electronics.

Honestly, I’ve tried to not let my kids get away with the whole I’m so bored thing. The very whine of those words makes my skin shiver in almost exactly the same way it does when I hear people filing their fingernails. I adamantly (usually, almost always, when I’m not too tired) refuse to rescue my children from their boredom. In fact, they rarely say it anymore because they know my response will be…

Good. You’ll be motivated to find something to do. Or,

Good. You’ll have time to think about stuff. Or,

Good. I have some things I could use some help with.

Honestly, boredom has led to some of the most imaginative of days around here. Boredom has initiated all kinds of learning, from how to play a musical instrument to how to build a musical instrument to researching all the things there are to know about the musical styles of said instrument.

Boredom has led to entrepreneurial adventures, book-reading or internet-searching adventures, vacation-planning adventures, and all manner of construction adventures. Boredom has been the beginning of so much that would have been lost had the easy distraction-road of entertainment been taken.

(You guys know that sometimes, because we’re an imperfect little family just doing our best, the easy distraction-road of entertainment has indeed been taken from time to time, right? <smile and nod>)

But mainly, being bored is simply not indulged in these parts, because bored kids who never develop the ability to transition from boredom to self-motivation become bored, unsatisfied adults. I mean, I don’t have any scientific studies or anything, but that’s what I think.

Boredom might just be the most important and undervalued source of motivation for personal development and creativity there is. Don’t deny your kids! Let them be bored and then stand back and watch how they grow.

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I’ve been trying to do some writing about this thing we call “home” and I keep stalling. I’m blaming it on my couch.

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I mean, what right to I have to say anything to anyone about home and beautiful spaces and loveliness when I have the ugliest couch in the world?

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I know it’s not my couch’s fault. Poor couch. It can’t help being ugly and old and worn. It can’t help having been sat on and jumped on and napped on and pee’d on for who-knows-how-many years. It can’t help not being fashionable or fancy or pretty.

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Okay, okay. I get it.

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I need to look beyond the tattered, today. I need to spend some time on my home, and quit fussing about my house.

I need to see the real furnishings, and love them for the gifts they are. I haven’t been doing that very well, lately.

Grace.

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I google map my way to the daycare she’s been living in for the past month, and the women, the ones who’ve been taking care of her, are very sweet. The daycare is clean and friendly and the children are sitting at a table playing with freshly made play doh and it is nice, as far as daycares go. But still, you know, a daycare.

They tell me what they know about her. She’s potty trained, day and night, she’s language-delayed, she’s been on these meds for this problem. She’s so sweet, really, adds the tiny, bird-like worker with the hard-to-understand-accent, just as we are leaving.

My son grabs the small grocery bag half full of clothes they hand us, and she takes my hand like she’s been taking strangers’ hands her whole life, and we leave.

It’s late and we’re all tired and we still have a two-hour drive ahead of us, but the social worker hands me a clothing requisition and it’s obvious she needs some things, so we stop. I peek into her bag, and it’s a jumble this and that. A few summer tees and some shorts and a bunch of boy clothes that are way too big for her. No jammies at all, and one black sock.

It’s as quick a stop as I can manage at that store that has everything and I block out of my mind the questions of where those four-dollar shirts were made and by whom. I do the best I can to eyeball her size and I mentally add the purchases as I fill the cart, and she oohs and aahs over the Minnie Mouse skirt and the Strawberry Shortcake pj’s, and we choose colourful panties and those get squeals of delight, too.

I see them there, hanging on a hook beside the pretty panties. Packages of plain black socks all practical and economical but her eyes wander down the rack to the rainbow striped ones, and she looks at me and I grab two packages. Of course we can get twelve pair of rainbow socks.

I try to find runners but it’s a weird end-of-season time to shop and there is nothing in her size. The sparkly Dora shoes catch her eye and we try them on and I say, sure, and we head to the customer service desk, and the first thing the woman behind the counter says, after I hand her the clothing req and I start piling our purchases on the counter, is, shoes aren’t clothes.

She’s holding the pretty shoes and I must have looked confused because that’s how I look when it’s late and I’m tired and someone tries to tell me that shoes aren’t clothes. So she repeats herself, and I shake my head and smile and say, that’s okay, I’ll buy them separately.

I’ve said no to this little one many times since she took my hand a week ago. I’ve said no to cake for breakfast and I’ve said no to chocolate bars spied from the grocery store checkout line and I’ve said no to the bedtime tantrums, and I’ve found her more practical long-sleeved sweaters and hoodies and rubber boots to wear.

But a little girl who starts out with one black sock should have a pair of pretty shoes, I think.

I’d like some pictures of the boys and me, I say. Because I think it might be nice for there to be a few pictures that actually have the mother in them rather than shooting them.

Mostly, I have pictures of the boys, or the boys and their friends, or the boys and their dad. Or the goats. This is the extent of our family album. Or it would be, if I actually made a family album.

How about, this is the extent of the muddle of photos on my computer?

Anyway, it’s Sunday morning (Mother’s Day) and the sun is shining and the potluck lunch is ready and the kids are ready and no one has a black eye and we have some time before church so I make my suggestion, and I herd them outside and over to the fence.

Make that, I wait at the fence while one boy wanders out in sock feet, another in bare feet, and another spies a chicken on the loose and races off to snag and bag it.

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Meanwhile, the dad decides he has time to do major repair work to his truck (or maybe he was checking the oil?) while the rest of us cheer on the boy who is madly chasing the chicken all over the yard.

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Successful in his capture, we wait for him to return the chicken to the pen while Dad finishes overhauling the engine (or maybe he was adding window wash fluid?) and I decide the old shop might be a nicer background for our photo shoot.

I hand my husband my “camera” and the boys and I line up. Carter is grumbling because the sun is bright and he’s the only one without sunglasses and who cares about taking stupid pictures and we’re ruining his life.

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We jostle and shuffle and finally Tyson leans over and kisses my cheek and miraculously, my husband catches it.

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And then I get a kiss from him.

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And then I get a kiss from him.

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And then the whole thing goes to pot…

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… but I manage to snag my husband and he grabs his gun (?) and my oldest son says smile and I get a kiss from him, too. That’s a lot of kissing for this family.

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So I only raised my voice a couple of times, and I might have said something in the middle of it all like all I want are some nice freaking pictures of us that show how much we love each other!! … and wouldn’t you know it, I got some.

My men and me.

Some things happen quickly. A fast food burger, an internet search, an email. Quick, quick and on to the next thing, and it’s hard to adjust to the things that take their time.

Like a fixing a meal that doesn’t require a can opener, or reading a book instead of a blog post, or raising the kids or planting a garden or making a friend.

Fast has its place. Fast is about getting it done and moving on.

But time-taking, and the personal investment that requires… that’s living.

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Carter’s donkey, Joy, did not arrive in a ready-to-go box. No instant friendship or skipping steps to get to the fun stuff.

This one will take time. That’s a good thing for a boy living in a Hurry Hurry world.

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I’ve been reading/thinking/wondering about joy lately. The people kind, not the donkey kind. And about how joy takes time. Can joy be a habit? Can I deliberately do things to make me a more joyful person? I need to figure this out, because I’m talking about this very thing next weekend, and I’m still not sure.

And if you are wondering, Carter and Joy have spent this past year getting to know each other better. I don’t know if they’d call each other friends, yet. But they’re getting there.

Rest.

But then get up. That’s the hard part. The getting back in the saddle. The returning to the battle. The rising up, taking hold, marching on.

The children would choose the easy sleep in the morning, rather than the harder rise. They’d keep themselves tucked and cozy, if I allowed.

Once in a while, yes, I allow.

But most mornings I don’t. They get up to breakfast and scripture and a few minutes with Dad around the table before he leaves for work. And it’s outside for chores and inside for math and there are beds to make and toilets to clean.

The youngest boy, he’s felt a little beaten up lately. Life has seemed especially hard, with friends moving and a sore throat and the almost-needing-stiches gash above his eye. And he has a cold sore on his lip. He’s been full of heavy sighs and why me’s and this morning, when I call him to the breakfast table, he just… can’t… quite… make… it.

I understand.

So he rests for a bit, right there on the kitchen floor, through the porridge and the scripture and the visiting with Dad.

But he can’t stay there, or his rest will quickly become an obstacle. He’ll be stepped on and frowned at and resented by the other children.

Rest, yes. But then get up.

Do the hard rise, and carry on. Face what must be faced, do what must be done.

Today, don’t let rest become the goal. Instead, let it be the motivation. There are good things waiting out there for the well-rested you and me to be doing.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

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It’s been almost two years since I first published this. I’m needing the reminder this week, when life is pressing and deadlines are looming and much is calling… to do the hard rise and to carry on.

 

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We are in the city for the weekend. A Spring Renewal at a church we love, and it’s already been beautiful. Full and meaningful and dripping with emotion and nostalgia and music and message and love.

We walk into the hall for the Saturday lunch, a fundraising event for a ministry with which we are marginally involved, and there is my cousin Randy, big as life, sitting at one of those long plywood-topped tables. He’s been home for ten months and I’ve known that, but this is the first time I’ve seen him. The last was eighteen years ago, at my grandfather’s funeral, and I was pregnant-like-crazy with my first baby.

That was the last time anyone in the family had seen him. He’s been lost, you see.

He has a story but it’s his to tell, not mine. I can tell you this, though. He was lost, but love found him.

I can tell you this, too. He was my cousin, a boy cute-as-a-button with a smile that could light up your heart and he grew up handsome and strong and charming. Family gatherings brought us together from time to time, and he was sweet and one of the boys, and that was how I knew him.

But he was my husband’s friend.

I see Randy first and my heart fills as I hug him and whisper my happiness at his return, and I cast a look around the room for Lyndon, and I tell Randy how happy Lyndon will be to see him. Then, there he is, and all I can do is stand back and watch the reunion. Holy ground.

I watch as two grown men weep in each others’ arms and I count the seconds as they turn into minutes and that embrace, faces wet and arms tight, is the manliest thing I’ve ever seen.

Are you home? Lyndon asks. Are you really home?

And Randy says, yes.

All weekend my husband leaks joy. Over and over, with wonder in his voice and tears in his eyes, he whispers in my ear, Randy’s home.

This is Spring, I think. This is Renewal.

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Wow, it’s been a year already. Spring Renewal is once more around the corner and this year I play a mini role, teaching a class on joy. It doesn’t get much more joyful than remembering this sweet reunion.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge in nostalgia this week.

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