The Giver

This blog has always been a compilation of moments in pregnancy and motherhood that I never want to forget. As parents, we find life is a mix of minutes and days rushing by exactly like the time-flash forward scenes in the movies, and moments when we hold that baby or toddler or ten year old on our lap and force their body close to our own heart and breathe in their essence. Every small moment was possibly preceded by a completely different emotion. We can go from feeling like the bottom-feeder of parents to taking that necessary breath and pause in our own reactivity, leading to the moment your child’s face lights up in pure joy. (I would in fact argue that provoking joy in a child is easier than frustration. Unless they are 3. Then you’re screwed.)

Bringing your child to daycare or preschool may be surrounded by a personal mixture of emotions, including guilt. Guilt at leaving them, guilt at enjoying the adult time away, guilt you can’t even put your finger on. But when you walk into your child’s school room at pick-up time and you watch their face turn toward you and light up with recognition it fills my heart with love and my eyes with tears. You told them you would return after nap to pick them up and you DID. You are a parent to be trusted and you are rewarded by little feet that have a direct route to your arms and wrap themselves around you.

It’s the look on their face and their arms clutching you, but when they cry out, “Mommy!!” in a way that no one else on Earth will every use your name, that is when the moment becomes one of those times to seal away in memory.

One of my favorite all-time books is The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Briefly, it is about a futuristic dystopian society and one of the ways in which this community had evolved was to eliminate strong emotions. In order to take away pain and suffering the society had also found it necessary to eradicate love and joy. The people in the community were content, they weren’t even aware of what they were missing one way or the other. For as long as this society had been established, it was decreed that there would be one person in the community who did experience all of these emotions in the form of memories. This person was a sort of living historian of an ancient time when emotions were uncontrollable, but they were forbidden to share this information with anyone except the next Receiver of the memories, who would carry the burden until being able to transpose them to the next recipient. The living historian was known as The Giver. Beyond many layers and twists to this plot, there are scenes where The Giver places his hands on Jonas, The Receiver, to share a memory. The Giver knows his job is to pass on all of the memories, but dreads having to impart the painful ones, so he follows them with personal favorites: family celebrating Christmas, the contentment of being on a boat in the middle of the ocean, the thrill of sledding followed by delicious hot chocolate.

What if there was someone in your life who wanted to know exactly what it felt like to be a parent and you had the ability to transpose memories and emotions? You could send them a snippet of what true sleep deprivation felt like, or how the cries of your own child actually trigger a biological reaction in your soul because your DNA understands that the baby is trying to communicate with you in the only way they know how…but THEN you could apologize and place your hands on the shaking, petrified friend and let those unpleasantries melt away into the scene where you open the door to your son’s classroom and at first he doesn’t realize you’re there. He’s engaged in a three-year old’s conversation with two of his schoolmates about the toys in front of them on the table. It doesn’t take him but a moment to instinctually look up, though (perhaps the wafting essence of Mommy?). His eyes widen and his mouth cries out with that, “Mommy!!” Compulsive giggles punctuate the running of his feet to tackle whatever part of your body he can make contact with first. He looks at you with so much unabashed love and his arms cling around you while he whispers, “Mommy…Mommy…Mommy,” nuzzling into your neck.

There are things that break your heart in life and then there are the things that strengthen that non-muscular version of the organ. This time you are filled with a healing, glowing, bursting contentment. All is right with the world. This is definitely one of the moments, one of the memories, that I would gladly Give to a friend who wants to feel exactly what it’s like to be a parent.

Click here to be brought to Amazon's listing of The Giver

Click here to be brought to Amazon’s listing of The Giver

Do You Have Magisation?

Mama? I have a question for you,” Liam had been in the bathroom “brushing his teeth.” (A.k.a. playing with the faucet until I go in and help him brush.) Before I could answer him, he continued, “Mama? Do you have magisation?”

“Why yes, Liam, I DO have imagination!”

“Oh good, Mommy! I need ice.”

Disappointed I wasn’t going to hear more about imagination, I got up from the kitchen table and followed him to the freezer, where he was pulling open the door and waiting expectantly for me. Thinking he had bumped a part of his body I asked him what he needed ice for. His body was bouncing up and down and he just kept responding that he needed ice! I popped an ice cube out of the tray and handed it to him. He raced back to the bathroom with it in his bare hands, shouting for me to look. I followed him as he jumped up onto his little step stool, pressed the faucet handle into a full stream of water, and pitched the ice cube into the sink.

“Look!! It floats!!”

A science experiment! He was conducting a science experiment! I am in so much love with my three year old soaking in the world and enjoying learning.

liam ice imagination

I’m sure this could only have come from his school at the JCA. How awesome. Liam’s last day of school is Friday and last week his teachers held a short celebration of their learning. Every student took home a portfolio the teachers had put together, exemplifying their units of study and their growth as small human beings. Incredible. Liam’s favorite “book” to look at is his portfolio these days. He wants me to read the statement about how the project fit into a theme or unit and then he tells me about what’s going on in the pictures.
My youngest brother, Todd, is visiting from the west coast and was spending some quality time with Liam this evening.
“Mommy, can you help me find the book that I got when you came into my school on my birthday and there was a book that I took home?”
“Do you mean your portfolio book that we took home last week at school?” (NOT his birthday, but clearly it was such a special celebration it can be categorized with birthdays.)
“Yes! I want to read it with Uncle Todd!”

Liam and Todd portfolio collage

Hearing Liam talk about his learning and how proud he is of the things that he compiled in his book warms my heart. THANK YOU JANAI, MARIA, and BOBBI-LYN!

Channeling Johnny Cash

On the way to school today, Johnny Cash comes on the radio. I quickly claim my obvious parental duties, turn up the volume and formally introduce Liam to Mr. Cash. Liam clearly understood the importance of such an introduction and told me he wanted to see the singing. I explained this wasn’t a video, it was the radio. Liam continues to insist on “seeing” Johnny Cash sing. I tried to come up with a simplified way to explain the radio. It’s like hearing music on a video, Liam, but we can’t see them…we just hear it…(lame). Why is the kid making me come up with explanation like this in the morning? He’s listened to plenty of music on the radio, from CDs, from the ipod speakers in the living room, and on the ipad. The kid clearly recognized Johnny Cash for all the badass awesome that he is and needed a visual.

“PLEASE, Mommy, can’t we FaceTime with Johnny Cash??”

And that was the best moment of my day.

Do A Mitzvah

We all know that it takes a village to raise a child and most of us have carefully chosen what kind of village influences our children. Who will help them to be the best person they can be?

Since Liam has begun attending the preschool associated with the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine he has been offered the chance to learn about citizenship and community support by “doing a mitzvah.” A mitzvah (as I’ve learned along with other Hebrew terms) means to do a good deed. The students sing a song about “doing a mitzvah” and their own good deeds are recognized aloud by the teachers and through mitzvah awards. Liam is over-the-moon-proud when he earns a mitzvah award. There is reinforcement about behaving in a way that earns one a mitzvah award. How much does that hug your heart?

Another way that Liam has learned about doing a mitzvah is by contributing items to the food pantry that is run out of the same building as the preschool. They can bring in a donation and earn a mitzvah sticker. The food pantry does not limit its resources to Jewish families, it is a place where anyone who has run into some bad luck may apply to receive this assistance. If their application is screened and accepted then the person requesting help can specify their needs and make an appointment to come pick up their items. Refugees from other countries, relocating in our area, are often recipients of these resources. People who had lives and occupations in a place that is no longer safe for them and they are trying to start from the bottom in a place that is honoring to help them do so.  Many families who are living paycheck to paycheck can apply for assistance through the JCA’s food pantry. One particularly high oil bill can sometimes set a family’s budget over the line in a downward spiral that seems overwhelming. I, unfortunately, personally know families that have gone through periods of job loss, in the economy as it is, and have used community-based resources such as the food pantry at the JCA. How phenomenal that these people–who could be any one of us at any time–can turn to a place in their community for help. Liam is having valuable life lessons modeled for him. Lessons that can not be learned through only being told to be good and helpful. He is learning what it means to be a charitable, gracious, and humble citizen of the world in a school that already teaches him so much in the classroom.

{Granted, the children do not actually hand out the donated items; but in contributing items to the food pantry and understanding the mission of the food pantry they learn that their community helps support us all and that is model enough for now.}

In what ways are mitzvahs modeled in your family?


Sharing is Caring at the JCA

Other posts about Liam at the JCA:

Teachers Will Not Be Carrying Weapons

I write to process thoughts and emotions. In the instance of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting I’ve had no words. Or rather, no sentences. Plenty of words that splutter out (senseless, why?, tragic, heartbreaking, why??, horrific, scary, empathy, why???, sympathy, love, fear, WHY) but no way to form them into comprehensible sentences. After obsessively refreshing CNN, NPR, ABC, and Facebook until well after midnight Friday into Saturday I steered clear from new information for a while. I had enough to make my broken heart throb and visions race endlessly through my head. I had enough to keep a constant stream of tears coursing from my eyes, while also drinking in every cell and particle that makes up my own son and daughter. The son and daughter that every parent should have an inalienable right to hug, kiss, and tuck in at night.

I was shocked at the first Facebook status I saw in regards to protecting gun rights. How could anyone let any other thought through their heads except, SIX YEAR OLDS MURDERED? Someone’s world, their hearts, their souls…taken. Then I cried again, that people were so selfish to want to protect the cold piece of metal that was the reason for so many dead.

If you think you have freedom because you can carry a firearm, but you don’t have the freedom to be standing in a mall, movie theater, or school without harm or death; then you have fooled yourself into believing you are free.

The party’s over, pronounced someone close to me that was formerly in the military. Tell every citizen to bring their @#&%ing gun to a local armory by Wednesday. You want to hunt? Fine! Drive over, check out your weapon, hunt, and return it to the armory. No more easy access guns. It’s done. All around me others I would have thought favoring guns surprised me into commenting about the changes that needed to be seen immediately. I don’t judge anyone negatively for hunting or even shooting guns at a shooting range. It’s not something I enjoy as an extracurricular activity, but when practiced responsibly and in a safe place, it’s not a danger to others.

Of course mental health is the driving factor for this and other cases of gun violence. Mentally stable people will not kill someone, unprovoked. Yes, if a person wants to kill someone and they are unable to get a gun they may use another method. It is pessimistic to think that every mentally ill person who thinks about killing people will do so just because they could have the means somehow. Stop it! Maybe they won’t. Maybe without the ease and convenience of, say, opening your mother’s gun cabinet, a sick person will never follow through. Maybe without weapons that have the capability to shoot so many rounds in seconds, less tragedy will bring an entire country to its knees over and over again. Maybe saving even one life, having one less person murdered, is worth it.

Lastly, I’ll dispel illogical statements about having teachers carry weapons. This will never happen. Doing this will create the unsafe environment for students that you are trying to protect them from. Do you know what kind of worlds have everyone armed and trained to kill others? The increasingly popular dystopian society books do. The kind of places that you think, oh that sounds frightening. I would never want to live there.

Mental illness can begin showing signs at an early age. There are elementary teachers who need a safety procedure in place in case a disturbed student puts themself or others in danger. Often times it involves removing everyone else in the classroom and having them be in a safe place while the student rages within the classroom. It is often dangerous for staff and students to attempt to physically remove such a student. The student may be throwing furniture, using language that is abusive for the other small ears to be exposed to, or the child may be in such a black-out fit of anger that they’ll use whatever they can get their hands on as a weapon. I once had an 11 year old student stab another student in the leg with the very sharp, metal point of a math compass. Imagine if such a student knew that I had a gun in the room?

I used to keep a box cutter in my classroom. It was to cut into tennis balls that could then be placed on the legs of the chairs so they didn’t scrape up the floor. I kept the box cutter hidden, covered, in a box, in the back of a high cupboard. And no one knew of its existence. That was the only way I felt safe about it being in the room, because it is irresponsible to have weapons within reach of children. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes kids are pressured or bullied into trying something that crosses boundaries they normally wouldn’t cross. There’s the possibility that even a sane child could accidentally cause harm with a weapon. Classrooms are supposed to be a safe haven of peace. A place children spend the majority of their day. We want children, and adults, to feel loved, nurtured, and safe in schools. Eliminating, not adding, weapons is the answer.

Let’s entertain the teacher-with-gun scenario for a moment. Say the teacher has a weapon “safely” unloaded and locked away from children. Would the teacher be able to reach the gun in time to use it against a person randomly attacking the school? Say the teacher is at the other end of the school and has time to locate and load a weapon. The teacher even shoots the attacker, ending the barrage. Meanwhile, so much time has gone by and the weapon used by the attacker shot hundreds of rounds by the time the teacher got there. Many lives are still lost. And students are still traumatized by gun violence, a shoot-out that now involves their trusted teacher.

Guns offer an impersonal convenience. You can kill someone from a distance. The victim may not even have time to make a noise. Say a mentally ill person tries to attack people in a school with a knife. I think it’s fair to say in most cases the attacker is not going to kill as many people as the in the Sandy Hook Elementary devastation, before being overpowered. Also, I may not have gun training, but I have self-defense training, and it’s possible that I could overpower someone who’s on the same “playing field” as me. Give me a rush of adrenaline and a set of car keys and I promise you that your babies under my care will not have a hair on their heads touched.

People who come into public places and terrorizes others are terrorists. We began a war on terror many years ago, but it will continue until we end the terror that grows within our own country every day.

I pray for peace and healing to every person affected by the Sandy Hook shooting. I weep for the children and adults, beautiful souls leaving this world too soon. I hope that everyone grieving for their lost loves has arms that they are able to cry in. I hope that teachers, students, and parents everywhere will come to a time when they don’t have a nightmare what if vision constantly playing through their mind. That parents will be able to tell their child they love them before dropping them off to school, but because they do-not because they’re terrified the last words uttered to their child would be anything else. I pray that even though there will NEVER be a justifiable reason as to why these innocent people lost their lives there will be repercussions that help to save someone else.

Hammy Downs

We have received a plethora of girl clothes as hand-me-downs (“hammy downs”). Mountains of them. I have bins stuffed full of clothes from ages newborn to 7 years. Not so many after 2T, but some. I hardly understand how there is a market for ALL of the new baby girl clothes in stores. I mean, I understand why people want to buy the adorableness of  baby couture, but the necessity of buying new has been barely justifiable for me. Luckily, I was able to indulge as Nora was low on some seasonal staples, like footie pajamas for 3-6 months. We’re good now.

A Hammy Down hat photo shoot

Meanwhile, I was going to hoard Liam’s clothes in bins in the basement, but key word being hoard here, I had to let go. Of some. Ok, most. I divided it up into a small amount of gender neutral that Nora could wear, a small amount of MUST KEEP items–just in case, and then split the remaining into “giveaway” or “consign.” Then I let a friend rifle through the consign bags.

Have you been [happily] bombarded by hammy downs? What’s your philosophy on previously-loved clothing?