06 August, 2014

Fresh Flowers on the Table

"I changed my mind about flowers today."


"Remember when we were dating and I told you I didn't like receiving flowers unless they were handpicked from a mountain meadow or something like that?"


"Well, I decided I do like them. So if you are out and about sometime and want to buy me a present, then just know that flowers might be a good idea."

04 August, 2014

Washing Windows

Today I washed our windows.

To be honest, this is one of those tasks that I always save for "later". After all, they get dirty again within minutes. Little noses and fingers press against them several times a day, sometimes several times an hour. But when I've procrastinated long enough, I finally get around to it.

KJ recently started coloring on everything. Poor girl just can't resist the temptation of a clean surface. I hadn't realized how much she enjoyed coloring on the windows until I was right there, inches away, furiously scrubbing at the marks. She'd chosen light yellows and peaches for the windows, as if she'd been thinking, "So, Mom. The thing is, I'm going to color on the windows, but I'll make it easy on everyone by using light colors so it's barely noticeable."

While I was scrubbing away the last mark, I started thinking about why we do things like clean windows. Make beds. Wash dishes. They are going to get dirty again. Beds will get slept in. Every night, if we're lucky.

Household chores are like parenthood, aren't they? We do the same things, over and over again, knowing that our efforts will often appear like a complete waste of time.

The thing is, someday Kjel's temptations will be so much more serious than "do I color on this wall or not?" She and Gage and Will and every other child out there will have to choose between kindness and apathy, between courage and cowardice. They'll have to choose between standing alone and compromising their standards. They'll have to choose between loving fully and judging self-righteously.

So holding her hands on my face, and repeating the same phrase, "We don't hit. We love."every day, all day, might seem like something utterly ridiculous. Talking with Gage for half an hour about why we don't say "stupid" might seem, well, stupid. He's going to say it. Kjel is going to hit. It's inevitable. But I believe that the harder and longer I love and the more I try, the easier it will be for them to resist temptation, to seek truth, and to find joy.

Some people believe that the purpose behind all of this - families, homes, children, laundry, etc., is to keep the human species surviving and thriving. Some people think that when we die, we are gone forever. Some people think that all we leave behind is our bloodline.

And while that's important, absolutely, I believe that we are more. I believe that we lived before we came here to earth, and that when we die, it isn't the end.

What I'm trying to say, is that the purpose behind washing windows and wiping noses and reading books way past bedtime is to enjoy our children. It's to teach them joy and that joy isn't some fleeting, distant feeling. Joy is here, it's now. Joy is attainable, peace is attainable. It's within arms reach and only a kiss and a lullaby away, if we choose to accept it.

Once when we lived in Ukraine, I helped a little old Babushka down some icy stairs and I wondered how karma would reward me. But the thought came to me, "Helping her was the reward. You were given the opportunity to help another human. That was your reward."

Someday, I'd love to see my children successful, educated, confidant, true, and in their own happy families. And it's tempting to think that all this window washing, etc., is in preparation for that big reward. The day when it all pays off and I can pat myself on the back for making beds like a champ. But I don't want to wait that long to feel the joy that comes from a job well done. Does that make sense? The reward is in the moment.

As a parent, holding hands is the reward.

Making dinner is the reward.

Unwrapping a band-aid is the reward.

Washing windows is the reward.

29 July, 2014

Say Yes

I met a woman a couple of months ago who completely changed my life.

She told me about how she had nearly died the year before and is the mother of eight children. She lived (obviously), but spent many months sure that she was going to die very soon. She told me that it changed the way she lived in many ways, but mostly in the kind of mother she became.

"When my kids asked if we could have chicken for dinner, I was like, 'Sure!' What's chicken in the overall scheme of things? When my son wanted a cow for his birthday we got him two calves and he was so happy."

She said lots of other things, but the chicken thing stuck out to me. Why say no when I can say yes? I find myself trying to control so much with my kids. Why, though? I mean, really? I think I try to control them so much because I am so afraid of not being respected and seen as a figure to be looked up to and obeyed. But in reality, saying no to so much only makes them sad. And it doesn't glean respect, just fear and annoyance.

Anyway, something clicked in me after that conversation. The one about chicken. And I feel like my whole family is different for the better. I'm more fun. I'm more magical! I want to be a magical mom. Do you know what I mean? I find myself on the floor, crawling around more. I actually keep the kids up later so that I can read to them after a hectic day, rather than hurrying and getting them to bed as quickly as possible. I listen to them and look at them when they talk to me.

Not perfect, they can attest to that. But I'm trying and I'm aware and it's made all the difference.

When I was a little girl, my world was full of magic. No building was just a building. It was a dungeon or a castle or a rocket ship. Gage and KJ are the same way (Will, I'm sure, has no clue what a dungeon is yet, but someday). I have found myself jumping back into that world. Into a place where magic is real. It's insane and beautiful and weird and wonderful. It's like, "Oh hey, everything magical! Did you miss me?"

And when I'm surrounded by the glitter of imagination, all I can think to myself is, "Say yes, Brooke. Keep saying yes."
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