Thursday, October 28, 2010

chiaroscuro, this time with a bit more light and a little less shadow

I feel like I have been rather negative on this blog recently.  It is true that I have been incredibly overwhelmed lately with how things are going in my life and rather underwhelmed at my ability to deal with life's daily stresses.  Some things are, for sure, tough right now. 
Jack is exerting every ounce of power his little three-year-old self can muster.  I am exhausted with the effort of out-maneuvering and overpowering that little boy's strong, strong will.  Today, I have battle scars in the form of teeth marks.  And he probably still tastes the lingering, acidic effect of the vinegar I stuck on his tongue.  There are long, tough days ahead with that little guy.  But that same tough, strong, passionate spirit that exhausts me also delights me.  While he expresses his anger with abandon, so does he also express his love, adoration, and delight. 
Amélie has been tough in a different way.  She doesn't bite or hit or roar, but she does fling herself on the floor in moments of dramatic flair (and flair, mind you, is a nice way to put it).
"Do you really think I can figure out how to put QUOTATION MARKS OUTSIDE OF OTHER PUNCTUATION MARKS?!?!" 
Oh, the horror.  The injustice.
(She has already memorized the poem, by the way, which I knew she would and could.  She learned "Bed in Summer" by Robert Louis Stevenson this week, and next week, we will start a new poem, probably...hopefully...with less panic and drama.)

I see myself in my kids.  I see my own anger, bitten back, swallowed, and then expressed in peeled hangnails, anxiety, depression, and, in my past, through an eating disorder and other various self-destructive behaviors. 

I also see in Jack different flavors of the OCD that haunts me today.  It worries me.  Scares me.  Keeps me up at night with fear and grief.

And in Amélie, I see a mirror-image of the anxiety that plagues me day by day and moment by moment.  How I often greet a new scenario with the desire to fling myself onto the floor, with her exact dramatic flair, and exclaim, "I can't!  I can't!  I just know I CAN'T!!!"

And that's the bad stuff.

But here's the good stuff, and I'm writing it here more for me to remember than for you.  ;)

This week's homeschooling has been great.  Truly great.  Sure, there were the fits about quotation marks and poem memorization.  But honestly, that's been the extent of drama in our homeschooling week, which is pretty much borderline miraculous.  Her attitude has been amazing this week.  She has delighted in learning about how birds incubate eggs.  She has soaked up information on the upcoming Hindu festival of Diwali, and has helped me concoct ways that we can celebrate our own festival of lights.  She has surprised me with the creative, bright color combinations of her rangolis.  She brought me to tears as I saw the empathy and wonder and faith in her eyes as we finished the amazing, adventurous story of the missionary Gladys Aylward .  She has absolutely floored me with her ability to memorize verses and poetry so quickly.  It's been good. 

And I want to remember this good next week, when she doesn't want to do a single blasted thing that is on our school to-do list. 

Several years ago I discovered Leonard Cohen, and some of my favorite lines ever are from his song, "Anthem":
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.

This week, I am thankful for the cracks that have let in some light.  I needed light.  Oh, how I needed light.   Life is such a woven tapestry of chiaroscuro, and I am thankful that this week, I was blessed to spend some time in the light as well as the shadow.  I am thankful that I can celebrate my own Diwali, my own festival of lights, within my soul.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TOS Review--PGKey's SafeKey

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received a PGKey SafeKey in the mail to test and review.  As their website states, "PG Key was created and endorsed by a team that includes internet security specialists, law enforcement, educators, parenting experts and family psychologists to give you the first complete internet safety solution. PG Key gives you everything you need to keep your children and teens safe online and be alerted and informed when dangers do come up – all with one simple, plug in device." 

Their website also clearly explains the tools you will receive when you purchase the PG Key for $49.95, which you can purchase directly from their website, from, or from select retailers.  You can even request a free trial
Access Control
Control computer use by inserting or unplugging PG Key.

Time Allowance
Decide the amount of time the computer can be used daily.

Content Filtering
Eliminate unwanted results from innocent searches.

Site Blocking
Block sites you decide are inappropriate.

Activity Tracking
Review all activity on the PC with a DVD-like interface.

Activity Notifications
Be informed via text message or e-mail of any flagged activity.

Chat and E-mail Logging
See both sides of chat and e-mail conversations.

Computer Configuration
Properly configure all users of the protected PC.

User Name and Password Logging
Keep track of user names and passwords.

Inappropriate Activity Evidence
Use video recording to show obvious or suspected inappropriate activity.

I think that if I suspected that my kids were looking up inappropriate sites on the computer, this device could be very helpful.  It is nice that there are no monthly or annual fees and that all you have to do is plug it in to start protecting your computer (and your kids).  I most appreciated the feature of blocking unwanted results from innocent searches.  I have certainly sat down with my kids to look up a subject we are interested in and been shocked to see what has shown up on the screen!  My fingers' reflexes have certainly been tested to see how quickly they could click away from a picture!  We have not had that problem since inserting the PG Key.

I am not entirely sure how I feel about the chat and email logging and the video recording, however.  Honestly, I don't have kids old enough where I have to worry about what they are typing or chatting.  I would like to think that I won't invade their privacy and check what they are saying online.  It feels like peeking into someone's journal, which feels very wrong to me.  However, some of you with older kids may call me naive, and I may say the same about myself and change my mind when my children are older.  :) 

Because my kids are so young, we did not find this device as useful, I am sure, as families with older kids.  Some of those families with older children did review this product, and you can read what they have to say here

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Monday, October 25, 2010

on falling apart and piecing myself back together again

I can probably count on one hand the number of times Matt has come home from work to find me collapsed someplace crying.  Truthfully, I don't cry that much.  Honestly, I wish I cried more than I did.  I often feel like crying much more frequently than I can actually execute the crying.  Thursday afternoon, however, was an exception.  When Matt walked in the back door, I was crying.  And I couldn't stop. 
I had to stop, though, because I am driven by duty, and I was hosting the mom's group from church for dinner.  So after a few minutes of sympathetic hugging (thankfully, he wasn't intent on fixing the situation at that moment), I turned off the tears and got to work.
I still felt sick to my stomach, though.

Thursday was not a good day. 
Turns out, Friday wasn't really either. 
The thing is, I think I am a bit of a mess at the moment. 

I actually started this post on Friday, and I spelled out the nightmare of the day before.  It wasn't that bad.  It was kid stuff.  Temper tantrums.  Whining.  A feeling of complete and utter helplessness and incompetence in my role as a parent.  The kind of junk we moms and dads deal with all of the time.
But I had absolutely no emotional reserve to handle it.
And that's why I fell apart. 

I have observed, though, in these past few days when I have felt on the brink of losing my mind, the moments when I feel a bit more pieced together again.
The people I have spent time with in the past few days have no idea how just the acts of engaging in adult conversation, receiving a friendly hug, or offering a sympathetic nod have strengthened me, fortified me, and helped me weave the shreds of my soul back together again.

And here's the other thing I realized: I need to read.
Last night the kids played outside a bit and I sat inside on the couch.  One hand was in a popcorn bowl filled with coconut-oil and salt drenched popcorn.  The other hand was turning pages of a book I have connected to in ways I can't quite explain.
The book is called Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris.  I would love to recommend this book to you, but I'm not sure how.  About a week ago I sent an effusively enthusiastic email to someone about this book.  I copied a poignant and inspiring paragraph.  I offered my own insight.  I think the email fell on deaf ears (or blind eyes, or whatever emails fall on). 
And that's OK, because the thing about this book is that I want to burrow down into it.  When I read this book I curl up, hunker down, and let is swallow, nourish, and envelop me. 

You know how sometimes, when you carry a delicious secret around with you for a long time, and you tell someone about it, it somehow loses its deliciousness?
That's how this book is, perhaps.
Except............I'm telling you about it. 
I'm not telling you anything specific, though.  I'm not necessarily recommending it to you.
I'm just saying that this book has been necessary for me.
And that after I finish it, I will probably feel a little lost...but also, I hope, more whole and complete.

Maybe you should read this book.
And if you do, maybe you shouldn't tell me about it.
Maybe you should just let yourself be swallowed, nourished, and enveloped. 

And maybe, just maybe, next time you see me you will find me a little less emotionally shredded and a little more at peace. 

Monday, October 4, 2010