Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Passover

I had a terrible (!) week at work this week and I came home so tired tonight that I really debated just giving up on my plan to do a Messianic Seder with the family and getting pizza but once I got home, I thought that I needed to do something positive to end this crappy week.  I often find that when I try to make up a special celebration, it backfires on me (the harder I work, the less willing to humour me the kids seem to be).  I am so grateful that I kept with the planned Seder.  I followed the outline from Ann Voskamp (clink link here) and it ended up being beautiful and a memory maker for our family.  I will never forget LB's face when he tasted the matzah dipped in horseradish (and I made my own matzah this year - hooray for me!)  Both kids adored being allowed to drink from "real" wine glasses (although Pk did ask several times whether they were real glass or just plastic) and many toasts were done, complete with glasses clinking.  The kids were interested in the story and fascinated by the change to dip the parley, drink from Elijah's cup and taste the charoset.  The lamb Dh grilled was mighty tasty, too!

This will definitely be an annual tradition and was a beautiful way to remind us of what this weekend is all about.  It might be too much to expect that much cooperation two years in a row...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ripping Off a Scab

I don't know whether I have mentioned here that last fall, I lost a friend.  It was a friendship that probably would never have worked anyway - I value my privacy way too much and I get scared of people who see the world in black and white.  This friend was the mom of one of Pk's good friends and for a while, we had fun together, although I sometimes found myself feeling a bit... well.. claustrophobic.  Any of my closest friends will tell you that while I adore them and I love spending time with people who are ideas people and who are wise and fun and who are compassionate, I still need my space and that people who are overpowering, especially those with REALLY strong opinions who don't leave room for other views make me afraid.  I don't know where it comes from but it actually gives me a bit of a nauseous feeling.  On several occasions, this person turned on me (and I never saw it coming) when I held a different view and it shocked me when the attack came.  I AM someone who doesn't need to have my friends agree with me (well, that's not entirely true, compassion, kindness and a willingness to extend mercy are qualities that I need to see in friends but you don't have to share my religion or my politics or my way of parenting) but I do need to have friends who are willing to allow me to have my own opinions and who won't always push me to tell them they are right and I am wrong.  Being a teacher and as a member of a union at times puts me in positions where people feel they can take shots at me and this friend had a tendency to do that.

While I will not get into specifics, last fall, I finally couldn't handle the constant stress and self-doubt anymore.  I had actually stayed out of an angry lashing out she did at another friend of ours and then, out of the blue, two weeks later, I was accused of being disloyal for not immediately coming to her side and soothing her wounds.  At that time, my dad and Dh had pneumonia, my mother was in the throws of what was suspected to be a heart attack and both LB and I were sick.  My daycare situation had blown up (due to nothing to do with me) and I was doing a new job and feeling so much uncertainty.  I wasn't in a good place and I wasn't up to being attacked yet again.  I did something that I have never done before - I took a stand and said that I wasn't up to being the target for her rage anymore and that I needed to back away.  I discovered that I had been unfriended on Facebook and after several very intense emails listing all of my failures, I stated that I would no longer be continuing the conversation, I needed some peace.  I cannot tell you how hard that was for me, conflict-avoiding, insecure little me.  Dh was thrilled (he actually said something about Marty McFly finally punching the bully in Back to the Future) and he said that life would get much easier without that constant stress of a relationship that was evidently harming me more than it was giving to me.

I had no idea how much harder walking away from a friendship would be than I had imagined.  Every time I hear a sermon on forgiveness, I wonder about whether I am a bad person.  I have tried to continue to be kind without actually reinitiating contact.  I still drop off Pk's outgrown clothing for her girls, we delivered Christmas gifts for the girls, we sent a card and I sent a birthday greeting text.  On the few occasions that I have seen her around town, I try to be friendly and to seem as at ease as possible.  I pray for her and her family every single day, hoping that my sincere prayers for their happiness and well-being will take my pain away and help me to disconnect.  Honestly, though, it still really, really, really hurts and brings up all of the old feelings from high school of worrying that it was all my fault, that I was somehow to blame or that I am in sin and need to somehow repair the relationship.  I start feeling that way and then, just the mere thought of having to sit with her in a room terrifies me.  It's amplified because we live in a small town and our girls are roughly the same age and we have several contacts in common.  I start to feel like I have moved on and then, I see her comment on someone's Facebook page or I realise a contact that she has with a friend (in one case, a friend about whom she said TERRIBLE things and it was our first big conflict, when I said that I wasn't comfortable hearing her speak about my friend that way - I would never pass on the things that she said but frankly, I wish the friend somehow knew - I wouldn't want to see the friend hurt and it starts to feel as if the ex-friend is trying to take my friends).  I would like to just forget her and I honestly have come to wish so intensely that I had never met her.  I wish that I could pass her on the street and smile a vague hello and not know her story or feel like my life had been altered by this severed relationship.  I have never had anything like this before because, frankly, I avoid people who I sense are angry for this exact reason.  Conflict is draining and toxic and to me, scary.  I don't know what early life trauma made this so horrid for me but it reduces me to a miserable mess.

My big issue?  Every time I have a renewed contact, I feel a mix of guilt (for possibly being unforgiving and for not initiating full contact to show that I am not harbouring anger), fear about what she might be saying about me to others and this overwhelming worry that perhaps, just perhaps, despite the fact that I tried and tried to get along and that she has a track record of short friendships and hurt feelings around her, that the problem was me - that I am not a good enough friend and that I am the problem.  Every time I see her name, it's like the scab that signified my moving on and starting to heal has been ripped off and I realise that the pain is just below the surface.  It's a hard place to be.

It makes me see why forgiveness is such a constant issue - it's so much easier said that done and while it's easy to see others holding grudges or getting angry about something that seems like nothing to me, when you are the one who was hurt, it's so much harder to let go.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Holy Week

What are your plans for Holy Week?  Yet again, I have been frantically pinning to by Easter board on Pinterest and trying to make plans but sadly, a combination  of a horrid bout of strep throat (is there any other kind) and a general lack of direction on my part have led me, yet again, to having no great plan.  I'd so like to make Holy Week special - for me, anyway, it is at least as significant, if not more so, than Christmas and we do SO much to prepare for Christmas.  I'd like Easter to be the same.  On the other hand, though, as my father raised a few years ago, when a blogger I was reading had suggested that we listen to Easter music  in the period leading up to Easter to prepare, as we do before Christmas, it doesn't seem right to be singing about resurrection when the horrible stuff hasn't happened yet.  Personally, I'd rather experience each part as it comes so that by the time we make it to Easter, the full import of the sacrifice made and the power of the gift given seem so much more real.  Decorating and the joyful Easter music need to wait until Easter Sunday morning in our house.

So, what WILL we do?  Well, we began with Palm Sunday at church today.  It was wonderful and PK has been so excited because they had been told last week that Pastor S was going to call them up and they would get to sing and march around the church.  She couldn't wait!  We got up this morning and watched out kids Bible DVDs to see the triumphal entry and I tried to be sure that the kids had some understanding of what was happening (although, frankly, it's taken me probably most of my 40 years to really develop my own understanding of all of the complexities of the sin offering and what it meant to the Jewish people in their relationship with God).  It was wonderful to see the church so filled with children (and to have my son decide that he was going to be the life of the party, laughing his head off and deciding that while everyone else was going around the outside of the church, he was going to proudly march down the centre aisle, making sure everyone appreciated how cute he was and how exciting this was).  It made my heart sing to see the kids so excited.  I have to admit, it was a Sunday, though, that also made me the tiniest bit sad.  As you know if you have been around here a while, we have been in the process of probably making a church shift (no final decisions have been made but it's feeling like we are where we need to be, at least for now).   Our new church is very contemporary in terms of music and at times like this, I sometimes really miss the old favourites that were such a part of my childhood.  My dad and I have this odd tradition of sobbing through, "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty" when we come to the line about the angels looking down in horror at the sacrifice to come.  I missed that.

So, how are we going to spend the rest of the week?
Here are a few things I have planned:
1.  I found a terrific printable resurrection scene and the kids and I have already starting putting it together.  My mom always did this with us as kids and my own kids are old enough now to enjoy it as well,  Click here to print off your own copy and a huge thank you to Catholic Icing for sharing this wonderful resource.
2.  We will hang our "Names of Jesus" banner which I found several years ago at "The Homespun Heart", which has also become a thing that we treasure each year.
 3.  The kids and I have put together little gift bags for all of their friends for Easter.  If we are sharing little gifts at Christmas, it just seems more appropriate than ever to do so at Easter, a time when we should be sharing the good news.  Pk will take them to school and LB will give them to his friends at daycare.  I wouldn't want my kids to force their faith on others but I think that giving an Easter treat is a nice way to instigate a conversation with someone who is interested.
4.  Pk is singing in the kids choir for Easter Sunday morning and so we have been deep in listening to "When I Survey," "Nothing but the Blood" and "Amazing Grace" for weeks now.  While we aren't going to be able to go to a sunrise service (which I would have loved to do - there is a local Salvation Army core that does it on the shore of a lake and we have gone to that before and loved it!), at least the concert at church will ensure how special it will feel.
5. I am hoping to find a local Maundy Thursday service (this is something from my home church in childhood that was always part of Easter and both the church that we were attending and our new church don't hold a service Thursday night, which makes me sad).
6.  Of course, we will be visiting family a lot and trying to remind the kids that Easter is about much more than the bunny and candy.  We do have the bunny come and we have friends coming to go to an egg hunt with us Saturday but we tell our kids that the bunny is celebrating the resurrection, too.  I know, some people think that's a cop out but I'm fine with being Christians who have fun.  If the time that our Saviour was resurrected isn't time for joy and celebration, what is?

I'd love to hear any suggestions that you have or to see some fun links.  I'd love to add to our repertoire and make this meaningful for my family.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


I don't know about you but for me, this mothering job of mine is somethings extremely hard.  Yes, there is just the daily managing and the busy-ness and the neediness that can be so very draining and there is the fact that sometimes, I feel a bit as if I have ceased to exist as my own being.  That is overwhelming sometimes.  For me, though, there's another side that is even harder - the managing of how my children "should" be.

In theory, I will tell you that I believe that we need to allow children to develop into the humans they were intended or designed to be.  Your child may be gifted academically (I'll write another post someday on how strongly I object to that term).  My child may or may not be a strong student but he or she can be a passionate, kind and loving human being and that is equally of value.  I would tell you that we, as adults, can't impose our own desires on our children (or, as I know I do so often, try to correct flaws in myself by directing my kids).  I have told countless parents over the years that it is about how the child is improving and developing, rather than how he or she compares to others that matters.  I would tell you that on the report card, it's not the grades that matter but the learning skills and the effort that the child is putting forth.  I honestly thought that I believed all that.

I've come to realize that while I would like to believe all that, in practice, it's not how I feel with my own kids.  And it is a hard thing to face in myself.  Very hard.  I am so jealous of the moms I know out there who don't care and who accept their kids for who they are.

Almost the moment my daughter was born, I began to face it - the weight of the expectations and the comparisons.  Is she a "good" baby?  No, she was a horrible baby in the scale of the "good baby/bad baby" spectrum.  She never slept, she had colic, she cried all the time, she wouldn't nap.   Other moms offered advice (particularly on sleep training) and the ones whose babies had come home from the hospital sleeping through the night on their own were the greatest experts.  There were the moms at play groups who would talk about how their babies were starting to talk, rolling over, walking and doing all kinds of amazing things that Pk wasn't doing.  I tried not to let it bother me but honestly, it was overwhelming.  I felt like such a failure.  In my life to that point, I had always been able to control things by working harder.  Now, it didn't seem to matter how hard I worked, it was never good enough and never got me the desired results.  It didn't help that Dh was no help - me, the person who worries about what everyone thinks, is married to the man who really doesn't care what anyone things as long as he feels he has done his best and his constant refrain, when I mentioned my concerns, particularly those based on what other mothers were saying, was, "Well, you know this from teaching - parents lie."  I would argue that he was being unfair and he consistently answered that they might not be intentionally lying but that they were inflating, imagining or didn't really know what they were looking at.  It didn't help and I found that I only had one friend who I could really talk to about this stuff and she would understand and she was far away and trying to manage a schedule as crazy as mine so we didn't connect much.  She's also much saner than me and better able to see through crap than I am.  What a lonely time.

For a while, it got better.  I got back to work, we had LB and life just got so busy that for the most part, I was able to just keep pushing forward and ignoring other people's expectations.  I saw a counsellor who really pushed me to stop, in her words, "buying into everyone's perfect PR".  She said I bought too whole heartedly into what other people put forward as being true, rather than seeing that we all have flaws and that everything comes at the expense of something else.  I thought I had come to terms with trying to please and be good enough.

Then, PK started school.  Ouch, that hurt.  (As an aside, I will say that it has completely changed how I approach things like writing report cards.  I really didn't grasp the impact that that evaluation had on families before - now, I know).  It happens that we have friends whose kids are MENSA candidates, it would seem, and they were always quick to share how brilliantly their children were doing.  Pk did well and her teacher kept telling me that she was bright and doing just fine, but I wasn't hearing the raving praises that these other moms were and they were constantly posting on Facebook and raving about.  I got to the point that I dreaded report card time and all of the comparisons.  I was having a hard time not feeling like everyone thought Pk was a lesser shadow of their own children and I am ashamed to say that I think we put a LOT of pressure on her to achieve.  I was still telling other parents that character mattered more than academics, that straight A's don't necessarily lead to a happy and fulfilled life rich with friendship and love but somehow, yet when it comes to my own children, I have a different set of values.

It just keeps getting harder for me.  Grade 1 is the year that actual letter grades are introduced here and I've been listening to these friends going on about how brilliant their children are.  I go to the church women's group and I hear about how several of the mother's kids are just doing SO WELL and there is always the unspoken idea that other kids are somehow lesser.  I encounter other mothers whose children's report cards were PERFECT (whereas for us, the report card marks were strong, we were a little shocked at the learning skills and discovered that Pk has a major problem with talking non-stop - something that should not have surprised us).  I've been hit hard with the knowledge that Pk is not the dedicated student that I want her to be and then, this past week, her teacher mentioned that she was having trouble with a friend in class because the friend says she is too bossy.  Ouch again.  I really, really want her to be that kid with all the friends who gets the straight A's and is the all-around perfect child.  And she's not.  And it bugs me so much more than it should if I believe what I say I do.  (For the record, I also know that the "perfect" children are not so perfect - I can think of several who definitely have "issues" that their parents aren't willing to see).   I still can't shake the fact that Pk should be more of what she "should" be in my mind.  As a teacher looking at how she's doing, I should be able to see that she is doing very well academically and she is doing well in terms of social-stuff, too but she does have some things to learn because she is only 6.  I can't believe that, though - she's not doing well enough compared to everyone else, is how I am feeling (which upsets me a lot).

It's kind of ironic really - I'm upset with myself because of all of the "shoulds" - Pk "should" be more of the perfect child and yet I believe that I "should" not be so concerned by the "shoulds".  I'm trying and failing to deal with all of the "should-ing" in my life.  I don't really have the answers and it's a hard thing to talk about with people because I feel guilty and like more of a failure for feeling the "shoulds". Part of the "should" as mom is that we "should" accept our kids for who they are and we "should" never compare them to other kids.  I can't seem to help it and I know it's bad for my kids.  I guess that all I can do is to try, as hard as I can manage, to just let go, pray a lot and try to model and support her in being who she is and in developing the character that we believe to be so important.

I know that I should but it's easier said than done.  And it's painful sometimes.