One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Just Breathe, and Color Outside the Lines

Impatience and frustration rear their proverbial ugly heads in my psyche a little too often these days. Motherhood seems to have breathed life into these nasty twins. With other people's children I can handle a lot of trying situations without bother. When I taught little ones, I found them amusing, gifted, and pleasantly rebellious when they would, say, tell silly jokes instead of work math problems or color outside the lines. I didn't mind if they giggled loudly in the hallways. Even more serious offenses, like not getting their homework done, or lying to save face, didn't ruffle me. I was there to love them, teach them what I could, and model kindness and patience. (Notice I said little ones. My teenage students pushed my buttons!).

So I figured I could keep it up when I had a child of my own.

Well, now, you shake your head and smile.

What is the truth? I tell my son to "Hurry" so often that he has made a game out of making sure I don't quit saying it! "Mommy, say, 'Hurry' " he demands, as he moves like a snail when we should be out the door and in the car already. I get frustrated when he won't stop running around the kitchen long enough for me to wipe the food off of his hands and face. I growl when he splashes around in the sink instead of opening his mouth for me to brush his teeth. I even get a bit mad when he lies and says, "NO POOP!" and there is really quite a lot of it.


It certainly puts me to the test, shows my true colors, brings out the worst in me—any more hackneyed phrases?

But—and probably my husband should get all the credit—somehow, this tiny human I love like crazy who brings out my crazy, oozes a whole lot of empathy and love for his mommy.

Every other day he tells me, "Don't worry, Mommy." Every other day, and sometimes a couple of times a day, he leaps forward and hugs me tight after a particularly bad bout of mommy frustration. Every day he says, "It's OK, I don't mind about it," when I say phrases such as, "Don't get your shoes wet!" and "You'll be cold without your jacket!" and "You'll be hungry later if you don't eat something now."

I mean, this boy, he's up on reading my body language too. He knows when Mommy is stewing.

Recently we were supposed to all leave the house early for a trip. I wasn't quite ready on time, but when I finally was, Luke was upstairs singing and playing guitar. I knew we had to get on the road, especially because he had told me what time we should leave. Luke didn't get frustrated with me, when I missed the time, but boy was I at peak impatient-boiling-into-frustration when he wasn't ready. I didn't say a word, however, trying to be calm and kind, but Geddy sensed it. He looked up at me and said, "Don't worry, Mommy, I'll go get Daddy." He ran upstairs and told Luke we were all ready to go and then—get your Kleenex box—he came back downstairs and hugged me and said it would be OK.

Well. May I remember this daily and keep my priorities straight. It really is all going to be OK. Just breathe. And love. And let go of the little things, because really, wet shoes, skipped dinners, slowpoke little boys, are so not things to lose my cool over. It's all "coloring outside the lines," and we need more of that.

Creative Commons: flickr Sami Ben Gharbia

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dirt's Best Friend

Sometimes, in spite of living in a sprawling old neighborhood with a big park in our backyard, we feel the itching need to escape our little big city and go touch the land. We especially want our son to experience the wide open wild that we knew as children. And we want him to laugh and play and get into mischief with cousins. Fortunately, this time of year dirt and cousins are not too hard to find.

This weekend in the wilds of Eastern Oregon, we watched in amusement as the kids tromped through the corn maze, chased each other around straw bales, and got to pile on for rides on the four-wheeler with their Nana/Great Aunt. But even with so many activities to choose from, the kids also loved just playing in the dirt.

They crawled in the dirt.

They rolled in the dirt.

They made piles of dirt.

They kicked and scuffed their shoes to make trails in the dirt.

They picked up handfuls of dirt and let it sift through their fingers and blow in the wind.

They threw dirt on each other and on their own heads.

They buried their legs in the dirt.

I even saw one tiny cousin cheerfully eating the dirt!

We parents, meanwhile, tried not to think of the mess that would be in the car, the dirt ring that would circle the tub, and the snotty dirt that would be coming out of noses for days. We remembered when dirt was our friend too.

The dirt-clod wars we had.

The dried mud pies we sampled.

The dirt and brush forts we built.

The dirt roads we made with our toy cars.

Every dirt memory surfaced with each cloud of dust the kids displaced. Dirt used to constantly live under our fingernails.

Our country-escape-turned-dirt-reunion ended long after bedtime. As we said Good bye to all the cousins and family and drove off into the dark and the sage brush, our son said: "We're going to get lost! There are no lights!" My husband explained: "This is what's called the country. This is where I lived when I was little like you. I know my way around."

And then I think I heard the dirt whisper, "Take care, old friend, and come again soon."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rabbit Hole

Sometimes I find myself thinking so much that it leads me on a journey to the bookshelf, and I want to suddenly reread all my favorite books or read others again that I hadn't put much thought into before. One idea reminds me of that one part of that one story, and then I wonder if I still have that other book that I held onto for years but probably finally donated to the library. With excitement I relish the idea of revisiting the poignancy of the pages.

This was my Monday, pulling out Franny and Zooey, digging through the boxes in the garage looking for a college text about the New Testament letters, and thinking that my husband had a good idea in rereading Tuesdays with Morrie. Then I found a children's book in French that I forgot I owned, which got me to thinking about pulling out all my French texts to study through, and then I wondered if I read my French Bible would I gain any insight I couldn't get in English.

The pile of books on my desk was growing. I immediately saw the danger of getting overwhelmed by the stack and leaving it there to go and do something far less intellectual than start reading. But where to start? I wanted all the information and brilliant revelations in my head RIGHT AWAY. It took some nudging from my husband, but that evening I chose to begin with Salinger instead of Netflix. Then on Tuesday I spent an hour in the sand pit of the park reading Zooey (having gotten through Franny just barely, the night before, as I tried to stay awake), and found myself transported on my journey back in time to who I was when I first read it. (I didn't stay back there too long because my son kept throwing sand my direction!)

What a strange feeling, though, to read a text and be transported in time to my past self. I can't exactly explain it except to say that I felt at one time all important and intellectual and completely confused and not at all wise. The "wisdom" of my younger self fell dead at the feet of the present me who realizes she knows nothing at all. I was at the same time deliciously nostalgic and sad that I hadn't gotten anywhere.

I suppose these conflicting feelings have a lot to do with what I was reading and why I picked it up to read again. I wanted an answer, that I thought I had found a long time ago, and I wanted to remember it and be all the better for it. Maybe I will still get there—have to finish the book first—but perhaps what I am to learn from this experience, if anything, is that what I needed to know back then is not necessarily what I need to know today. And perhaps feeling less wise is actually being more wise.

In the long run, then, this journey should lead to more self-discovery. Then in ten years I can go back and read these books again and maybe remember where I was at the second (or third or fourth) reading and find that I have learned after all. It makes me wonder what it is like for the authors. They have—presumably—read their books so many times in the rewriting and editing processes that they may be too sick of the stories to read them ever again. But what if they do? Ten or twenty years down the road do they sneakily pick up a copy of one of their books in the library and start reading it? Do they find themselves taken back to that first time the idea popped into their heads for the story? Do they smile with nostalgia and cringe? Do they learn something new and wonder how they could have missed it the first time? Do they wonder how they ever thought they knew anything?

I don't know. But for now I think I'll keep going down this rabbit hole; it's too much fun to stop. I want to know how I will feel when I pick up the next book. What will I think or reconsider? I'm not disenchanted any more.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Ocean Cure

Standing on the beach, staring at the vastness of ocean, I felt calm seep into every pore. Every inch of me breathed peace. The madness, murder, and mayhem of the world did not exist. Neither did laundry, bills, politics, and other grown-up burdens. I couldn't even focus on anxiety. My husband felt it too. He couldn't believe how the tension and stress of life just disappeared.

But how strange. The ocean could swell and pound the sand and make us disappear, if it wanted to. We looked out at the tips of the hidden forest of Neskowin, visible only when the tide was out. Long ago the trees had stood proudly on land before the water rose and consumed them. The ocean is not safe. But, oh, it is good for the soul.

I hardly need to explain; for, anyone who has ever been to the coast must feel the same. Yes, one can surf or fish or go on a cruise, but how many people want ocean-front property just so they can gaze upon the water? Why are we so drawn to it? What power does it have over us?

Why am I not equally drawn to God? Is it because I cannot see him? He's vast; he's everywhere. He's powerful, mighty, and not exactly safe. But he is good. And he is love. He could wipe me out, like erasing a mistake, but he doesn't. When I do take the time to sit with him, I start to feel the calm and the joy and the peace that he desires for me.

The news and the traffic and the Internet get me so muddied up that I stop seeing that God is everywhere. I just want to run back to the ocean where I can forget all that other stuff exists. My sense of sight really does take control. Maybe that's why God said to meet him in private, in a closet, in the quiet. When I've gone to a crowded beach by a big city with lots of shops and noise it is true that I sometimes get distracted. I forget that the ocean is trying to offer me peace, and I busy myself with other pursuits. Then I go home from vacation feeling exhausted and not refreshed.

Maybe I should put a bottle of sand on my desk as a reminder to close my eyes and see the ocean. To meet God on the waves. He will calm the storm.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Little Helper, Big Lessons

"I'm a good helper. Can I help you, please? Please?"

Words from Geddy, more often lately as he matures into his three-year-old self, come sweetly. He, through personal motivation and probably a little Daniel Tiger inspiration, wants to help make dinner, help select grocery items and bag them at the conveyor belt, help dig weeds, and help when Daddy doesn't feel well. I'm learning to let him as much as I can. It's true; he is a good helper and can do so much even though he's still so small and not always very coordinated. (But hey, I've broken numerous dishes in the kitchen over a few short years so I'm not so very coordinated either!). He lights up to discover what he is capable of and how he can bring smiles to his parents.

Today he wanted to help make someone else feel better. I almost didn't include him, but he asked so earnestly and I realized what a great moment for him to use his helpful spirit outside of the family. I've been wondering lately how to model compassion and a giving spirit in ways that he will see without me having to schedule a service opportunity the same way I might sign him up for an art class. In other words, I want to fill his day with meaning without putting something on a list to check off.

This is what I need for me too. I want to act on the nudges from God to be that "good helper" without thinking I need to go out looking for a specific opportunity to do a good deed. The moments are all around for kindness. I need to just let them happen.

I also want my son to learn that joy in seeing someone helped is all the reward we need. I cringe when I recall high school honor society and how we got points for "helping" our community. It felt a little wrong to me at the time, but still I submitted my slips of paper detailing what I had done so I could get those points, earn that letter, wear that collar at graduation. What the hell was that all for? Most of what I did I was going to do anyway. I didn't do it for honor society, but I certainly used it after the fact for my own interests. And who cares which people were in honor society in high school and which weren't? It didn't make any difference for when I applied to college. It didn't help me get a job somewhere. And it shouldn't have anyway. Why should we get real or pretend awards for doing what is right?

I try to let it go, not be bitter about old stuff, not feel guilty for how I acted in high school but learn from it, especially as a parent. I really shy away from rewards of any kind. I'm hesitant to potty train my son by using treats. Yes, I know it works for many, and I really am not mentioning this to judge any one who does this. I have my own personal history I'm battling with. I have no perfect answers on how to raise a child or teach him to poop in the potty and not in his diaper. I just want my motivations to be pure and to pass that spirit on to my son.

He's on the right track, I think, but then he's not perfect. He whines when he doesn't get his own way. He expects, and quite often does get, praise. That's not a lot different sometimes than something tangible. But he and I are a work in progress. And each day is a new day. And he really is a good little helper! He helps me practice patience, learn to let my lists go unchecked for a little while, laugh, and love life even in the hard moments.

("Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" is a children's show on PBS, modeled after the show "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood", which I watched more than religiously as a child.)

If you need your kitchen mowed then Geddy is your guy! 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

How Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Board has Changed My Life

(Guest post from my husband, Luke Hindman. He shares where his hobbies and interests have led him over the past five months and what it means for the coming year in his personal and professional adventures. Check out Adafruit and follow this link to see what the circuit playground board is and how you can get one:

It all started last November as I watched Ladyada walking through the design process of a new board we weren’t supposed to ask any questions about. I tuned in for every session to learn more about the design process. Then there was the prototype build and sessions on how to solder surface mount components by hand. I have loved electronics and programming since a very young age, so I thought this board was a brilliant idea for teaching kids.  

Later on, my wife and I invited a few friends over for New Year’s. My friend Shane, who is faculty at Boise State University, told me about working with a local middle school to start a programming club. Once I learned what he wanted to do, I told him about the circuit playground board and sent him links to the videos. I also showed him several of the wearable projects I had made for a steampunk gala my wife and I attended in 2013.

Shane and I exchanged many excited email messages, and he persuaded me to help him create an engineering club at the middle school. I’d never taught before, but it sounded fun. Instead of just programming in a browser, we decided to teach programming using wearable electronics. After many requests for a possible release date for the circuit playground board from Adafruit Customer Support (great people, but they unfortunately “didn’t know” anything about a circuit playground board), I designed a kit using NeoPixels, Flora and a few small sensors.

The class was 6th, 7th and 8th graders and they were blown away by what they could do. We had them customizing the sample code and playing with color gradients by the end of four weeks. They eventually built their own wearable projects and we taught them how to solder everything together. It was such an incredible experience.

While all this was going on, Shane was trying to persuade me to apply for a faculty position in the Computer Science Department at Boise State University. I told him there was no way. I am an engineer, not a teacher. As the months went by, February became April and I realized that I could in fact see myself as a teacher. After an application, interviews, presentations and an awkward conversation with my employer of seven years I am going to be teaching CompSci Fall 2016!

It is now the end of April and the circuit playground board went on sale this afternoon. I felt it was time to step back and reflect on the past five months. The November 2015 version of myself would not have believed the path that those late nights watching deskofladyada would lead to. All of that education and growth and the board wasn’t even released yet. I can’t wait to see what happens when it arrives next week!  :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wild Indoors

One of our greatest joys as parents is witnessing our son's amazing imaginative play. He morphs from puppy to lion to bird over the course of five minutes and a bowl of Cheerios. Or he transforms carrots, rocks, and washcloths into precious babies that he tucks into the couch where they are "shhhh, sleeping!" and we must turn down the audio on our voices.

Naturally he can't go about having all the fun and drags us into his pretend world with a simple, but persistent, "Pretty, pretty please." Soon we are crawling on the floor or hiding in the closet or opening the back door to boot monsters to the curb.

A recent adventure involved one of Geddy's favorite activities: going to the river to throw rocks in. He had been tossing and splashing and "getting all wet" for a little while when he tugged at Luke, engrossed in his laptop screen, and asked him to come to the river. Luke rose from the dining room table and walked three steps to the living room where he had to catch himself before slipping down the bank and falling into the swift flowing water. Geddy started pointing out the "big ones," so Luke squatted a bit and lifted a large rock to his shoulders and then, shot-put style, heaved it into the river where it made such a splash that even I got wet in the kitchen.

This imagination thing got so intense that as I went upstairs I heard Luke say, in all seriousness, "Geddy, don't throw rocks at me." I turned around and chimed in, "No throwing at people." Luke started laughing. You know you're a little carried away when you start admonishing your child for imaginary rock throwing!

"That very night in Max's room a forest grew" Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak