There's so much I've been wanting to write about lately so I'll just jump on in......
The Good, The Bad and the Just not Fair
Last night, the girls and I went for a walk downtown. Victoria walked and Annalee rode in the stroller, though they played a good many rounds of musical seating. We had library books to return and a beautiful handmade birthday card for Great Grandma Lueck to drop in the mailbox.
It was nearly dusk and that perfect summer evening temperature, with enough of a breeze to rustle the trees and lend another hint of magic to the air. We walked along our tiny, quiet town, sometimes coming to a complete stop when Annalee needed to hop on and off curbs or we found a friendly robin.
As we neared the post office, we heard a helicopter overhead. It's a rare but familiar sound here. We are too far from "the real world" out here for medical emergencies that the small local hospital can't handle, so they send a rescue helicopter and airlift people to the nearest big city, two hours away.
We saw the ambulance silently head towards the hospital, lights flashing. I lifted Annalee to drop our card into the mailbox and watched as the helicopter turned in the sky and came around to drop down. I knelt down next to Victoria and told her that the helicopter was coming to take someone to the hospital. We sat in silence and watched.
As the whirling, black chopper descended, thousands of birds flew from nearby roofs. They rose up as a dark mass and then scattered and flew over us in noisy chaos. The girls and I watched their silhouettes move across the pastel evening sky.
We walked on to the library, towards the hospital, talking about what was going on. We could see a couple of kids with bikes standing on a curb by the hospital, quietly watching the drama.
We reached the library and Victoria got to drop the books into the trap door one by one.
Afterwards, I knelt down next to the girls and asked if they'd like to say a prayer for whoever was in the helicopter, and we did. It's an idea I found in a book once-- whenever you and your kids hear a siren, say a prayer for whoever is hurt or in trouble. That appeals to me.
It was a bittersweet evening, because of more than just the helicopter. Far off in Scotland, a friend of ours is dying. We had been told that she had already died, but then found out she was technically still alive. I had an emotional hangover from crying for Polly, who had a life filled with abuse that eventually was just too much to bear.
Annalee is still too young to understand, but Victoria knows about death. It makes me sad that at three years old, she has had enough experience with it to view it as normal. Both of my parents are dead, along with many other family members. We've lost two beloved cats and even her pet fish. Victoria gingerly takes the butterflies off the grill of our van, knowing that most will be either dead or dying. She carefully puts them in the garden and hopes that some will get better and fly away.
We walked home, talking about hospitals and doctors and why some injuries need special care. Then Annalee announced the arrival of the moon in the still light sky and we all looked. Victoria spotted a star and made a wish, then searched for more to wish on.
I told her you can only wish once a night on stars, that it's the way things are, and she didn't think much of that. I told her you can wish on other things, though, like dandelions and birthday candles.
"And stop signs!" she shouted.
I grinned and asked, "Stop signs, huh?".
"Yeah! And houses..... and baseball players!".
I asked how you wish on baseball players-- whether you make a wish and then tip them over and how many you could wish on and when. She taught me all about it. You can wish on 3 or 4 of them, you see, but only the ones with blue underwear. Plus one with pink underwear. If you don't know what color underwear they're wearing you just look. Silly.
Our little town sometimes seems so ideal to me. I've never heard a siren, other than when one of the officers turns it on for the kids. In reality, though, we can't protect our kids from the harsher parts of life. Death, unhappiness, pain and abuse are in everybody's neighborhoods, everybody's families. The best we can do is talk about it as honestly as we can and admit the things we don't have answers for. When things are hard to take, we can find a way to help make it better for others and take the time to cry.
Here are some things that work for us during hard times
Basically, what helps me deal with bad things is to try to find something to balance it out with good. Some things are so tough that it may seem feeble, but it helps.
If you are sad, do something to help somebody else feel better. No, not at the expense of yourself, but helping others helps ourselves. I really believe that what we send out into the world comes back to us. Nothing snaps you out of melancholy quicker than seeing how others have it and the satisfaction of really helping someone have it a little easier.
If you were abused, help heal yourself by helping, protecting and loving other children.
If a loved one dies, do good deeds in her/his name. Adopt their causes and make the world a better place in their honor. Then think of all the people you're late on loving. This is a wake up call to remember what matters and act on it.
Let your kids feel that they matter. Too often, we feel powerless against bad things. No, we can't stop death or suffering, but we can help the world. Say prayers or wishes for people who need them. Volunteer with your kids. Gather up toys, clothes and presents for families in need. Reach out and be there for neighborhood kids who need someone to care. Send cards to lonely relatives. Visit your grandma. Be there for friends who need you. Goodness is a powerful force. Let your kids grow up feeling a part of it.
This summer has been an emotional one for me, to say the least. I scattered my mother's ashes, found my family on my father's side, lost a friend and dealt with a lot of health problems. I've cried and talked and did my share of whining. ;)
But the thing of it is, when we scattered my mom's ashes I was awestruck by the beauty of the place and the wisdom of my little three year old guru-- Victoria, who stuck her hand in the ashes and gleefully flung them over the valley. At one point, the sun hit it all just right and made a tiny rainbow. Victoria was dusty but I was afraid to touch a thing, so my little girl solemnly told me to hold out my hand and then deposited some gritty, dry ashes on my upturned palm. "Now throw!" she told me, and I did. We got dirty and dusty and I have never felt so much at peace about my mother as I did that day. I know she would have loved the scene. (I've included a photo at the end of the newsletter to share it with you.)
So I'll mourn Polly but I'll also let my girls play with the dolls she sent them, and remind Victoria of when she talked to Polly on the speaker and how lovely her voice sounded. I'll say a prayer for whoever was whisked off to the hospital, but I'll also remember the beauty and drama of a thousand birds taking to a sunset-lit sky.
It's all we can do, really. If you block the pain you block the beauty. And even with all the death and ugliness, the world can be really, really remarkable.
It's a magical place.
And now for something completely different!
Tee hee. I don't know what yet, but we need lots of fluffy stuff after all that! G!
When Mother Reads Aloud (Anonymous)
When mother reads aloud the past
Seems real as every day;
I hear the tramp of armies vast,
I see the spears and lances cast,
I join the thrilling fray;
Brave knights and ladies fair and proud
I meet when mother reads aloud.
When mother reads aloud, far lands
Seem very near and true;
I cross the desert's gleaming sands,
Or hunt the jungle's prowling bands,
Or sail the ocean blue;
Far heights, whose peaks the cold mists shroud,
I scale, when mother reads aloud.
When mother reads aloud I long
For noble deeds to do--
To help the right, redress the wrong,
It seems so easy to be strong, so simple to be true,
O, thick and fast the visions crowd
When mother reads aloud.
You don't drown by falling in water. You drown
by staying there.
— Robert Allen
Do you have preschoolers at home? While Victoria is participating in Head Start (here, they come to your home), she's not attending preschool. She has an active social life with kids her age, Annalee, and lots of older kids and adult friends. We do crafts and learn things non-stop, and frankly we are having too much fun to want to do anything differently. Still, I'm starting to field a lot more preschool questions than I dreamed I would. She's only three! While I think preschools are fabulous too, I know Victoria is blessed to have the life she has and I wish folks would accept it.
There are an increasing number of sites online for families such as ours. This one: http://www.preschoolathome.com/ has links, free worksheets, poems, stories, crafts, and the support of lots of parents who are also teaching and playing with their kids at home.
Want to keep a baby hat or barrette on a baby who thinks otherwise? Try this trick! Put the offending object on baby's head, grab her hands, and do some sort of fun thing for 30 seconds. By then, she may forget it's on her head and go about her business. It worked for us-- for at least a few minutes anyway. ;)
Taking care of YOU.....
Okay, when's the last time you did something really nice for yourself? Are you setting aside some time daily to do something just for you? When you need a break, do you find a way to get it? Do you ask for help?
You know, the number one way to have happy children is to have happy parents! You must make yourself a priority too. Believe me, I know what it's like when you'd pay $100 to sleep in or trade special favors to get a bath all to yourself! But martyrs do not make good mommies! Or daddies. One of the ways you take care of your kids is by taking care of yourself. If you're unhappy, believe me, everybody will know.
Support can come in all different places. Hang out at the park and see if you can find a parent you connect with. Go to children's activities like story time with an eye out for friends for yourself too. Be honest with loved ones if you need more from them, and be appreciative of them when they help so they're likely to do it again.
Sometimes your situation is going to just be tough for a while. Military spouses know what it's like to live places where you don't know a soul, without your partner home to help out. Some parents are single parents or have dolts that are beyond help and might as well be single.
Still, find small ways to take care of yourself. Here are a few ideas.
~ Join an e-mail list or visit bulletin boards for other parents for support.
~ Put aside some time (even ten minutes) for yourself every day. You do have time! You have time for e-mail, TV, chores.... After the kids are asleep, take a bubble bath or paint your toenails or eat ice cream or write poetry. Anything. Just make it real. Computers and TV's are fun but they kill time. Do something that is worthy of those ten minutes!
~ Connect with your child. Tell him if you're sad or bored, and explain you're trying to find a way to feel happier. Ask for suggestions. Model what you'd like him to do when it comes up in his life. He's learning from you!
~ If you need help, get it. If you are seriously depressed, it may be out of your hands. Depression often has medical causes that can be easily treated with proper medication. If you threw up for two months straight you wouldn't say "I can handle it" and just deal with it for the rest of your life! (Other than you poor souls with morning sickness-- I know you have no choice!) A friend of mine who's suffering with depression reminded me of all of this.
~ Have fun. Parenthood shouldn't just be about giving your kids a magical childhood. Ideally, it's about living it with them! Do you clean while they paint? Cook while they play? What kind of lesson is that to teach them? You only have fun as a child? Pfft. More and more around here, we all play together, then we all clean together and we all cook together. Victoria cuts scallions with her safety scissors. Annalee puts dirty clothes in laundry baskets. Mama sits and does crayon rubbings same as everybody. And you know what-- even the tedious tasks are more fun through the eyes of a child.
Make yourself a priority, too. You are a wonderful parent. Believe it. Treat yourself like it.
Take care of you. If you ever want to talk to anybody, feel free to write me. I've been there too. :)
One Minute Magic: Quick ways to make the day special
House a mess? Try the Flylady system. More and more folks are joining and it works! To find out more, go to http://www.flylady.net and sign onto her e-mail list. It's all free, and she's very supportive and encouraging. It doesn't hurt to try! And nope, I don't get a thing for recommending her. I just like how easy she makes housekeeping!
Have a child in your life who lives far away? Write her a letter with a white crayon or candle on white paper. Slip a note in telling her to paint the paper with watercolors to read the letter. Or leave it a mystery and see how she solves it!
Want to help your toddler write a letter even though he can't write yet? Gather up some uncooked alphabet pasta and some clay to use as a handle. Push each word into a block of clay (as a mirror image, so the letters print right). Let him press it in a small amount of paint and "write" his letter. Talk about all of the letters as you make the words and sound them out.
Another craft to do with these that will reinforce early reading ideas is to cut pictures from old magazines and let him paste them onto sheets of paper. Cutting and pasting are great fine motor skills, and kids this age love to do them. Once the pictures are in place, label them by making up word blocks like cat, dog, ball and helping him stamp the right word under the right picture.
Another fun label craft is to get an old coloring book and make up some alphabet stamps for pictures in it. Help your child go through the book stamping BALL on all the balls, BOY on all the boys, etc. You can take it a step further and then circle the round things, put x's on the tallest thing on each page, and so on. Just because a book wasn't fun or educational doesn't mean you can't make it so!
Now, I have a horde of messy people returning home any minute and still haven't done a thing I oughta. Our laundry fairy is absolutely worthless, let me tell you. ;)
I had much more fun talking to you though! Kisses to your kidlets, and be good to yourself.
Till next time,
P.S. I'm including the picture I mentioned about scattering my mother's ashes at the bottom of the page. It's a small one, but I wanted to show you how truly beautiful the scene was. Please let me know if you can't handle photos or they annoy you. <G> I can find a way to include a link to another page instead.
A Magical Childhood
Copyright 2001, Alicia Bayer
A Magical Childhood Newsletter is just something I throw together because I love children and those who love them. To subscribe, send a message to email@example.com. We do not use ads. It's not about money. :)
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