Friday, September 28, 2012

Things that have helped me along the way.

Now that we have entered this new era of parenting, I've been thinking about some things that really impacted me as a mom.  These are fairly random and come from a variety of sources. I am a parent of one child and that impacts my parenting in many ways
 Parenting has been a tremendous experience of sanctification and blessing for me.  It's not always easy but I will say that I love being a mom.

So, in no special order...

* Pray for your kids.  This seems so obvious but it's so important.  When I was pregnant with Elisabeth, I had a book called "Your Pregnancy Week by Week."  As I would read it I prayed for both her physical and spiritual development.  For example, if the book said that her eyes were developing that week, I would pray for her eyes and then for eyes that would see God.  I prayed that she would be a good sleeper and she was. As she has gotten older, my prayers have been different but very specific.  Pray for your children.

*Have strategies.  When I was a pre-school teacher, I read an article  in a professional journal about having patience with young children.  The gist of the article was that teaching young children requires strategies so that we are not only relying on our patience to make it through the day.  Having patience implies that children are somehow unpleasant and something to be endured.  I am not denying the need for patience with our children.  But having strategies that help them make such a difference.  With little ones, a five minute warning before changing activities, choices where possible, regular routines and bedtimes make a difference.
Part of strategies mean guidelines and consequences.  It makes me sad to see parents be impatient with their children as their children fall apart because they are hungry and overtired.  Get to know your children and find strategies to get their cooperation.

*  Sanctify the will.  When Elisabeth was not quite three, someone told me that I was going to need to "break her will" or we would have trouble with her later.  Fortunately I read a book about strong willed children called You Can't Make Me But I Can Be Persuaded by Cynthia Tobias.
In this book, she talks about molding and shaping the strong willed child and how to get cooperation with out battling them to the mat.  Strong willed people who have sanctified strong wills accomplish great things for the Lord.  This book really helped me to shape, rather than break.

* Time.  Many years ago, I was gifted to hear Wally Yu speak at the Chinese Gospel church retreat.  He told a story about playing pool with his teenage son. He knew his son had something to talk about but it wasn't until they had played many hours and it was late, that his son began to talk.  As a non-late night talker, this really impacted me.  Teenagers tend to talk at night and we need to give them the time to do it.  It's so crucial to have those conversations.

* You can talk about anything.  Really.  Anything.  Gay marriage, poverty, bullies, boys, girls, shopping.  Anything.  Make your home a place where your children can ask any question, respectfully express any opinion.   Allow them to have different opinions that yours. Along those lines, if you want your children to speak respectfully to you, speak respectfully to them.  Sarcasm, cutting remarks and so on are not relationship builders.

* Enjoy the season.  When Elisabeth was a new born, my mom stayed with me for a week.  We were out walking with the stroller and I commented that I looked forward to Elisabeth being a little bit older.  My mom reminded me that this time was very special and you know, it was.  Enjoy the time that your children are in.

*  Finally, don't expect a fall harvest in the Spring.  I also read this in a book about pre-school parenting.  When your children are young, you are in the Spring. Harvests that are forced are not mature harvests.  Keep planting and watering and the harvest will come.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Celebration and Sadness.

If there is anything that I have learned in the past few years, it's that conflicting emotions are normal.  We have felt sadness and joy so many times at the same time.
Taking Elisabeth to college yesterday was one of those times.  We are thrilled for her.  Seattle Pacific is the perfect place for her.  We are excited for the things she will learn and how she will grow.  But there is still an ache in our hearts as we let her go.  We are still family, still parents...just in a different way.
We left fairly early yesterday morning with a pile of 东西。

She actually had more than this but compared to some other girls, she didn't have much!

We took her to this school.  

We piled some of her stuff into her dorm room.  She is on a floor where over five of the girls have grown up in different countries- we are pretty thrilled about that.

We met her adorable roommate who grew up in China. She is half Dutch and half Chinese-the perfect combo!
We had about a day and a half of orientations and meetings. We heard three sample lectures from professors, went to a meeting on university ministries, met the professor that will head up her University Scholars program and went to many other parent information meetings.  One thing that surprised me were the many questions about campus security.  Parents wanted their children escorted to the dorms if they came back to campus late at night...what???  When told that the easiest way to get around Seattle was by bus, one mom asked if they would be given a demonstration on how to buy bus tickets.  Maybe it's because we have just come from overseas but those questions just were odd to me.
The new students were in parallel meetings on different or similar topics.  We didn't catch up at them until the end of the second day.

On the last day, there was an invocation.  The professors came in in their academic regalia (some with jeans and sandals underneath).  They were led in by a bag pipe player.  The President spoke, the pastor of the Free Methodist church that is across from SPU spoke and maybe someone else.  Then we sang the SPU song (Elisabeth and I actually sang the Shenyang International School Song "We are the tigers!"  We sang the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" as the new students went down to the floor.  The professors were down there, circling the students and each student got an SPU pin.  It was supposed to a tissue moment but for me it really wasn't.

See Elisabeth in the crowd getting her pin?  No, I can't see her either.

After the pinning, there was a final dessert. There was a clear message that parents were to say good-bye by 4:45.  I really was okay until Elisabeth's roommate started crying.  Her dad has raised her as a single dad in China and he has just done an awesome job.  He was leaving her to go back to China and it was just so hard.  Seeing her cry made my mama's heart bleed and I started crying.  Then it was time to go and I got myself together.  We were taking another girls mother back to Vancouver with us, so we all walked to the car.  I cried a little then but no public embarrassment, I hope.
We came back to a quiet house.  We really are thrilled for her as we believe she is in the perfect place for her academic and spiritual growth.  But we miss her daily presence in our lives.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On piercings and blue herons.

The Seattle Pacific website reminded me yesterday that we only have 9 days left until we take Elisabeth to college.  I am not working this week so it's a great week to spend time with our daughter and also get to know our new community.
When we lived in Columbia, Missouri, we loved to go to a place called Eagle Bluffs.  It's a wildlife refuge on the Missouri River and a great place to bird watch or look at the river.  Paul also taught Elisabeth to drive there!  
Since we have moved to the Vancouver, WA area, I've been looking for something similar to Eagle Bluffs.  I saw something in the paper about a bird festival that will be held at a place Called Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and so we headed up highway 5 yesterday.
The refuge is a place that you drive around and then stop and walk.  It's mostly wetlands with some great walking trails.  It was really quiet, with a few birders on the trails.  We didn't see that many birds-some blue herons, harriers that we didn't get a picture of and garden variety ducks.  There were plenty of snakes and lots of rustling in the marshes.  It's a place I will definitely go back to visit.

At the beginning of the trail was this charming sign.

Elisabeth in her $6.00 designer sweater  and $10.00 skinny jeans bought at a consignment store.

The new piercing. Hey mom...they were have a piercing sale!

The deep green, the blue skies and the clouds were so lovely.

It's hard to see but there is an otter on that log...there were otters in most of the water.

A blue heron off in the distance...again the beautiful golden light.

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry

Monday, September 3, 2012

Images of weaving

Jessica Goudeau's blog about her life and work with the Hill Country Tribers is one of my favorites.  Here she writes at Rachel Held Evan's blog about one of the remarkable women who weaves for them.   It's an amazing story.  I love the images of weaving beauty through the "mistake" in the pattern.  
Jessica quotes a Rainier Maria Rilke poem in that post and here is the poem in its entirety.

The Unspeaking Center

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth—
it's she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it's you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

When I searched for the poem online,  I also found this poem by Rilke- again with the images of weaving.

Sing, My Heart
Sing, my heart, the gardens you never walked,

like gardens sealed in glass balls, unreachable.

Sing the waters and roses of Isfahan and Shiraz;

praise them, lush beyond compare.

Swear, my heart, that you will never give them up.

That the figs they ripened ripened for you.

That you could tell by its fragrance

each blossoming branch.

Don’t imagine you could ever let them go

once they made the daring choice: to be!

Like a silken thread, you entered the weaving.

whatever image you take within you deeply,

even for a moment in a lifetime of pain,

see how it reveals the whole — the great tapestry.

Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus II, 21

I love the images of the weaving and the ill matched threads and the beauty that comes out of that.  In the second poem, the silk enters the weaving and takes the image of beauty-even if it's a moment in a "lifetime of pain."  Our weaving a new life has pain and beauty.  Our life sometimes feels like a bunch of mismatched threads.  Yet, we weave on...trusting that we will see the tapestry some day.

Here are some of the threads that we are weaving into our lives.

I am just finishing up a three week class at Portland State University.  Still no word on a permanent job.  I have resumes at two junior colleges, Portland State and a private college nearby.  I have interviewed at three schools.  All make decisions around the third week of September, based on enrollment.  Sigh.  In the meantime, I feel fortunate to have this three week teaching gig- sweet students from Japan and working on the beautiful urban campus of Portland State.

Some of my students interviewing an American about their coffee habits.

There is ivy that is woven onto sculptures that are attached to the windows.

We have also started doing some work with the youth at our church.

Friday night worship with a cello, of course!

A fun game of chopsticks and chapstick- the goal was to build a tower of four chapsticks using chopsticks.  No one succeeded and it was really fun.