Friday, April 20, 2012

Every Once In Awhile...

Every once in awhile you need to step back and take stock of your life.  Our culture is so competitive, so success oriented, so materialistic and calculating.  We measure ourselves by standards that are almost impossible to live up to, our media puts images before us of "House Beautiful" and "Cosmopolitan", of "Forbes" and "Glamour", and even of "Martha Stewart Living" and "Oprah".  It's enough to make even the most confident, self-assured person look around and question if their life is perfect enough to match what we read about and see every day of our lives.  Of course, we will never live up to the impossible standard, and if we take it too much to heart we begin to lose perspective...it's natural and it's easy to have happen.

This past weekend I also had a dose of "Homeschool SuperMom" as I sat at the homeschool convention and visited with a woman who was thrilled to tell me that her 17 year old son just was accepted to MIT on a full scholarship with perfect SAT and ACT scores, and he also was fluent in Japanese.  She was uncertain how to handle his sibling's dismay because they "only" scored in the 97th percentile on their ACT/SAT.

She then turned to me and asked about our children.

Hmmm....how to respond to that one.

Realizing I was just not going to play that game, not because I couldn't possibly "win" but because I had no interest in participating in the first place, I merely said "Our kids are  behind for a variety of reasons.  But they excel in character and grace."  As the words sprung from my lips, I realized how much truth there was to that statement, and how very little it honestly matters to me if I ever have the "bragging rights" about our kids attending some big name university.  Something dug a little deeper in my soul with that exchange, and I think I was able to see clearly, maybe for the first time, how from the very beginning...from the very first moment I held Matthew in my arms, I was more concerned about the kind of man he would turn out to be than if he would ever graduate as valedictorian.  Dominick and I had a short few minutes to chat this evening, and I asked him in all seriousness "Do you think we have set the bar too low for the kids?  Do you think we are short changing them because we are not pushing them enough to be #1?"  He thought for a moment and then replied "Maybe...maybe so...I don't know...but I think they are happy kids and that's important too."  He's right, thus far our children are not exhibiting a lot of the angst typical of kids their age.  While far from perfect, they are genuinely decent, helpful, very respectful young people who work hard and are kind to others.  And no, none of them will ever be asked to attend MIT.

As I consider all the things they do not succeed at, all the challenges and struggles we have between all of them, it still somehow seems relatively minor when compared to the sorts of very painful, terrible and tragic things others are faced with.  So Matthew may never be able to edit his own writing no matter how hard he tries, that's OK.  So Olesya may need to wear a digital watch the rest of her life because she'll never learn how to tell time with an analog watch, that's OK.  So Josh may have to sleep with his blanket until he is 46 years old, oh well.  So Angela may graduate at 21, at least she'll definitely graduate.  So Kenny will never be able to speak as clearly as he might have, or remember a cotton pickin' thing, or ever be able to read as well as his peers, there are worse things in this world.

Today, this very second as I type, it just doesn't matter.  Who they are is more than enough, who they will become will be enough, and I will be proud for different reasons than those who will be wearing Ivy League sweatshirts from their children's colleges.  If you get what you work for, then what we have is already something to be very, very thankful for...even if it won't mean one day posting perfect SAT scores on Facebook!

We are quirky, we are happy, we are blessed.

These are the things that matter most:

Sweet Olesya with Dummy...Oh, I mean Sunny...you'll understand better why her nickname is what it is when you see the photo further down.

The death of a beloved one eyed mouse, carefully encased in a plastic Glad container, being sent off to Mousie Heaven with loving notes.  Yes, it was Cindy the mouse who passed on :-(

Kenny with Miss Lael and his "hero", theologian Marcus Borg., who kindly encouraged Kenny to remain in contact with him.  


Less than 1 mile from our home is a dairy with over 3000 head of cattle.  This too would not be some people's idea of paradise, but for us it is.

Joshua learning about layers of the earth by using white and wheat bread with a marble stuck between representing a fossil.

Learning at home where we can take the time to explore, research, ask questions, and even get a hug now and then between lessons.  

Tonight was a big night for Matthew, as he was awarded the Wright Brothers Award for a fourth rank advancement in Civil Air Patrol.  Looking sharp as he is dressed for Honor Guard!

Joshie watching as the Cadets parade by.

I need to make him do this at home! Hahaha!

Matt has worked extremely hard to move up in rank.  The Civil Air Patrol curriculum is not "lightweight", and it takes real desire to meet their standards.

And we came home to this...Sunny had somehow gotten up on the counter, knocked a pot onto the floor, and licked it clean of the dregs of the spaghetti sauce.  Then she greeted us at the door with a bright orange smile, as if nothing at all was amiss.
So, we have a dog who is definitely on the oddball side and enjoys sneaking peppermint candies and slurping spaghetti sauce, we have children who will never be "contenders" in the traditional sense, we live far too close to more manure than most folks would ever want to see over the course of their entire lives, and we will probably always have to stretch to make ends meet...or even come within striking distance.

Tell me why, then, do I still have a hard time convincing myself that I don't have my own little slice of heaven right here?

Every once in awhile, you just gotta laugh and realize that maybe...just maybe...this is as good as it gets, and that's pretty darned good.

I found myself cracking up in the car last week as we struck out for Walmart and Target in an attempt to find some summer clothes for the kids.  In our small town, if you don't get seasonal items when they first arrive, all the common sizes disappear in the first 2 weeks and then you are left with nothing to choose from, so we always try to do our shopping early in the season.  So we're yacking and driving along, and Olesya asks "Why do we need to get new clothes? We all have plenty." I explained to her that they didn't have any shorts left from last year that fit as they all have grown, and also that many of their shirts were ruined or looking a bit shabby from our work on the rehab house.  Olesya has stains and paint on 2 or 3 shirts, and I pointed this out to her.  Angela pipes up from the back seat "But mom, we look better than a homeless person, so we don't need anything new!"

Oh my gosh, I totally lost it, hooting and howling with laughter until tears ran down my cheeks.  I realized the simple truth that was uttered by her...the LaJoy standard for just about everything is gratitude that our life is "better than a homeless person". While it struck me as totally hilarious at the moment, Angela had spoken in all sincerity and only later did I recognize that while others might be appalled to have their child say such a thing, I actually found it to be startlingly humble.  What a really wonderful way to view the world, with such gratitude for all that you have that you see only riches where others might see poverty, that you see only blessings where others might be resentful.  Now, truthfully, we live above the poverty line and aren't lacking for much that we ever need. Maybe not able to fill many wants easily or be trendy in our material goods, but for now we have food on the table, a nice roof over our head, and cars that run...well...that's another story for tomorrow :-)  But Angela's comment really made me stop and think about all the wealth I have in my life, in so many areas my cup overflows!  My husband is fabulous and cares deeply about his family, my kids are good and kind hearted, my dog licked the pot clean...what else could I possible ask for in this world? :-)

Yes, every once in awhile, you realize perfect SAT's ain't all they're cracked up to be!  I think I'd rather have a daughter whose standards are such that she walks through this world each day seeing joy and abundance, realizing her life could be much different.

6 comments:

Karon and John said...

Cindy, I can still vividly remember being at a parent teacher confrence with one of my nicest studetns ever. He was though making a C in my biology class and his mother was dismayed. I explained to her that if given the choice of who to higher of all of my students, I would want Tony to work for me. He was not an A student, but his character would be an assett to any enviornment he chose to be in. A's and high scores only matter for a short period of time. I was a 4.0 student in grad school. Guess what, no one ever ask, or cares about my GPA. With our kids we start where they are, and our goal is to raise them up to the next level, then a little higher. This is the progress that counts, not the comparison to others. Your children's "baggage" is what will catupult them to do great things if you chose to show them how to convert evil into real good in this world. All the text books in the world will not inspire a kid to appy their knowledge, compasion, empathy will.

Anonymous said...

Cindy,

There are plenty of kids out there who go to Ivy League schools who are not life successes. A perfect SAT or ACT score does not make a well-adjusted person, trust me. Your kids are good kids, grateful kids, resourceful kids. You teach them more than how to take a test, to jump a high bar because it is what stands between them and some arbitrary academic goal...you teach them to be well-rounded people. That can only be taught at home.

We have spoken of this many times...truly, life is not measured about where you went to school, how well you did on your ACTs and what grades were put on a piece of paper...it is measured in how you raise your family, how you treat others and if you can take joy and peace in living your life. Hugs all around - silly woman!

Kelly

Cindy LaJoy said...

I know Kelly, and that's exaactly what I celebrated in this psot. My slice of heaven is something more worthwhile, and probably longer lasting!

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege yesterday of watching you teach. I used to teach, and I found myself wishing that I had had half the insight, the creativity, the patience, the desire that you showed me in your teaching. Your students--in school, life, family, church--are what most parents desire. Perfect SATs and ACTs may seem to validate a home-schooling or even an ever-vigilant parent, but many thoughtful parents instead set their sights on raising adults who are compassionate, loving, giving to community, self and family supporting, and enjoying life. Your children are already learning that as you and Dominick model those qualities for them. Congratulations to all of you. I'm delighted to be living in a world with Team LaJoy, may we have many more families like you.
Lael

qmiller said...

Cindy: I love that you have managed to take kids, who have such a variety of strengths, and truly given them a love of learning-- certainly the quality that I think is often lacking in the public school arena for our special kids!

My Girls R Angels said...

We join you in your joy of the simple things. I totally get it and applaud your response to the "perfect" mom. Thank you for sharing! :)