Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Growing, Growing

I have realized one certain thing in life.  We never stop learning, unless we choose to.  We can, of course, elect to turn it all off and just coast through, but that is just a sad way to live.  I have had a very introspective past week or two, thinking about hard and unpleasant things, and learning more about myself.  I've also been watching everyone in my entire family grow and learn.  I guess I've had a bit of an awakening, a mini one.

You'd think that after 26 years your spouse would have very little to surprise you with, but Dominick has revealed new layers to himself over the past few weeks.  It is SO much fun to watch your spouse grow in new directions!  He has taken on new roles at church, and shown a lot of restraint and wisdom.  His gifts for dealing with dollars are being utilized as well, and I think he totally missed his calling and should have looked into being an accountant.  Italian guys are not necessarily known for being in touch with their feminine side or their ability to openly share their feelings, but this is another area in which Dominick is surprising me lately, as he has noticed things about the kids or I and voiced his appreciation in areas previously overlooked.  For a brash, burly bear of a guy, he is a totally loyal sweetheart of a man.

Joshua was liturgist at church this Sunday for the first time, and he proved up to the job.  We practiced all week at home, and I typed out his parts in red so it stood out clearly for him. It was hard not to get a little verklempt as he first stepped up to the pulpit, barely able to see over the top, dressed in his favorite burgundy long sleeve dress shirt...with ratty old blue "blankie" draped round his shoulders as if it were a unique stole of some sort.  He handled it all with great aplomb, as if he had already done it several times before.  It was yet another reminder that we are quickly moving further and further from young childhood.  But we still have blankie, so all is not yet lost :-)

This weekend the domestic side of Olesya rose up, and it is easy to see how much she actually loves being in the kitchen and is gaining confidence there.  Although I know it is impossible genetically speaking, she has a little of her Grandma Toni in her.  We bought these enormous 10 pound chubs of ground turkey many months ago.  Don't laugh, but they were bargain basement price so we took advantage of it knowing we'd never find it that cheap again, and we bought 240 pounds of ground turkey!  Yes, the chest freezer was packed to the gills!  I know someone who read this just gasped and had no clue anyone would ever buy that much, but living on a super tight budget, the only way you make it is to never pass up on once-in-a-lifetime type deals.  Anyway, so we cook it up and freeze it, 20 lbs at a time, then we have easy access to quick meals.  Olesya LOVES cooking this up.  Guess what my most despised job is?  You got it.  She slips on that apron and grins widely every time she gets the chance to do this nasty little job.  She also baked bread and dinner rolls this weekend, and wanted to go on to make some cookies before I kicked her out of the kitchen.  This girl has totally found her calling, be it with animals or pots and pans.  I wish I were more able to steer and guide her in her pursuits, but I need to see myself as the facilitator rather than the educator in these areas.  As we talked about our church's involvement with a local homeless shelter and our chance to serve meals there once a month, she begged me to be able to make cupcakes for April's meal.  I love that our girl has found her niche and pursues it with gusto.

Then there is Angela, whose gifts lay in areas that are less obvious or tangible, yet will eventually blossom as she grows into the possibilities that stretch out before her.  I found myself being ministered to by my lovely daughter this weekend as we talked about a wide variety of subjects, and I listened to her astute observations and reminders.  This girl needs just a little more time under her belt, then watch out world!!  She has a passion for social justice that is surprising in a person her age, and she wants to put muscle behind it as well.  Today as we left Sharing Ministries, the local food bank we volunteer at each Monday morning, we learned that they get their big monthly delivery of a semi-truck full of food tomorrow.  Angela was the first one to turn to me and ask if we could go down tomorrow and work to help process the order.  The other kids all agreed they wanted to do it, so I guess school will have to wait, as hungry tummies can't.  Angela has also asked me several times when we can go see what we might be able to do at another local ministry where assistance is provided for homeless folks and lunch is served.  She is the one who talks about the difference various groups make in our community, and she is the one who is willing to stand up for things and open her mouth.  We had a situation with her at work this weekend,when someone made a racist comment to a gentleman who is working for us part-time.  Angela told me about it and said she wanted to say something about how inappropriate and no funny it was, but she feared doing so because it was an adult who made the comment, and she has been taught to respect adults.  I told her that speaking up against racism is never wrong, regardless of her age,and that as long as she was respectful in how she worded it we would always back her up.  We then practiced a variety of approaches she could take to handle such a situation in the future.  There are so many seeds planted in this soul, I think it will be so interesting to see the ways in which she one day strikes out on her own and forges new paths while putting her arms around the shoulders of those she has compassion for.

Kenny has struggled this week, as we are sort of bottoming out from one of those cyclical tough periods he often experiences.  But he too is showing growth as of his own accord he wrote me an apology note for a minor infraction, saying he realized how frustrating it must be at times to work with him, and how grateful he was that I continued to push him to be accountable.  He is beginning to catch his behavior at moments when he starts getting spacey, or allows himself to take the easy way out.  While that has been curbed a lot over the past couple of years, there are times when we have the bad weeks when it flares up, and I find myself banging my head in frustration.  I couldn't ask for a sweeter spirit to work with, but the times when he backslides are so hard.  When things just won't click no matter how many different ways I try to explain it, I tell myself that this too shall pass, but sometimes it is just reteaching and reteaching over and over again...and that can be disheartening unless I pull back and look at the bigger picture to see the overall growth.  He is so smart, but his learning disabilities are complex and require an enormous amount of energy on my part to think about ways to present material so he can hang on to it.  The hardest times are when we hit these rough patches, and I begin to wonder if he'll really be able to hold a job or live fully on his own, because it really is questionable at this time.  But Iam reminded that he is starting to mature and see things that need to be done, and step up to do them without prompting...like walking by the sink and grabbing a sponge to wash a pot sitting there, or cleaning up the living room without being asked.  And hey, he is brushing his teeth every single day now without reminding him,and I consider that a great victory!! We talked just today about how it is time to begin having him carry his wallet with him every day in his pocket.  I loved how he understood what I was getting out without saying it as he looked at me and said, "I think that's a good idea, Mom.  I think it will take me a couple years to get used to having to remember it and train myself to not lose it.  If I do it now when I have no money or ID, it won't matter if I lose it, and eventually I'll get in the habit.  But I think I will screw up a lot at first.  Maybe by the time I am 17 or 18 I will be good at handling that."  Well, that gives us 3 or 4 years to get him capable of remembering his wallet every single day.  We ought to be able to accomplish that by then :-)

Finally, there is Matthew, who had a little chance to shine today.  He is learning how to create slide shows using Movie Maker software, and to add in music.  He created a little 2 minute show to be used during communion in a couple of weeks, and he put in many, many hours learning how to use it, then working on his first project.  This afternoon he presented it for approval to our Worship Team, who enjoyed it and thought it was appropriate for use.  For his first effort, he really surprised me.  He is gradually learning technology and showing an incredible aptitude for it.  He just gets the logic of how it all works.  We ran by church tonight to try a version of it on the big screen there, and then he asked if he could treat me to a shake from McDonald's to "celebrate our first project".  It was so sweet to see him whip out his wallet and casually hand me a $10 bill.  We talked for a bit in the car as we slurped our icy cold treat.  He talked a little about how he enjoyed doing this, and he thanked me for taking the time to teach him new things when there was so much else I had to teach all five kids.

He then said something out of the blue that really made me think a bit.

"You know mom, I need to thank you for homeschooling me.  I mean, I sort of started all this when I was so unhappy in 5th grade.   I never thought when I came home that first day and just knew it was going to be an awful year at school, that you'd ever do something like pull me from school and homeschool me.  I was a little scared at first, but I was also really, really glad. Then you ended up having to homeschool all of us, and I know that it was really hard and sometimes still is."

I told him that I appreciated him saying thanks and he went on, "I also figured out something as I was working on this slide show, and it might sound silly.  I don't think I could have done this if I were still in school."

"Why not?  Do you think you wouldn't have had the time to learn the software?" I asked.

He replied, "Well, yea, that too.  But as I was working on it, I realized that I wouldn't be sensitive enough if I were still in school.  To do things like this, you can't be afraid of letting that side of you show that is softer.  If I were still going to regular school, I think I would be worried about being too cool, or being made fun of for making something creative and kind of emotional.  Maybe not everyone would be that way, 'cuz some kids have more courage.  I don't think I'm one of them.  I'd rather not be picked on or noticed, and I'd just bury it.  I really liked doing this, and I am glad I am not the person I think I would have been, so that I am not embarrassed to do something more sensitive like this."

A moment that totally caught me off guard, as we sat there beneath the bluish light cast from the overhead parking lot lights.  Not only are we learning about technology, but we are learning more about our inner selves.

As for me, well, compared to the growth that surrounds me, I am on the far left of the LaJoy Family Bell Curve.  Nothing is going on with me that reflects the sort of learning that the other 6 members of Team LaJoy are experiencing, but there are a few things I guess.  I am reading a book for church for Lent titled "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander, which has been a challenging read requiring a lot of attention.  I am learning a lot about charter schools and the laws that govern them, as our school begins the arduous process to become a full-fledged charter. I am continuing to learn little tricks with the iPad and various apps, which makes me day more productive. I am not learning about cooking, cake decorating, slide show presentation, public speaking, or governing...and I am glad about that.

I do, however, have a beautiful harp staring back at me from 3 feet away, which I have been spending time with.  I have managed to find time to practice my little beginning skills every single day, for at least 10-15 minutes.  I am working into it gradually, as my fingertips are not calloused and I am not nimble in the slightest, so it is extremely awkward to have my fingers do what I want them to do.  But Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is coming along nicely, and Go Tell Aunt Rhodie is looming on the horizon, calling out to me from page 7.  It will be a long time before I can play anything "for real", but thus far I am enjoying just plucking away, hearing the tone, and trying to make my fingers do the talking :-)

We all keep on growing, and enjoying it very much!  School year's end is drawing close for us, and the next one will bring about a lot of changes as we step it up a notch.  Go Tell Aunt Rhodie is waiting for me!

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