Thoughts for Thursday – Mountain Edition

What am I cooking?

Cheeseburgers are on the menu for Thursday.  I let the children make the menu plan, so it is not our healthiest week, but they are all thrilled to be indulged, and I was sort of out of ideas.

What are my weekend plans?

I am working this weekend.  On Saturday mornings I usually teach an 11 year old boy who is on the autism spectrum, but I haven’t seen him in a few weeks, so I am excited to find out how he is progressing.

On Saturday night we are having dinner with an old acquaintance with whom I have recently reconnected.  We both grew up in Manhattan and came here on the weekends, and now we both have 7 children and homeschool!  I cannot wait to watch these 14 children get to know each other!

My daughters have a race on Saturday morning, and I think my brother is coming up for the weekend, so lots of good things.

Oh, and have you heard that we are going to get a foot or more of snow?  You may be groaning, but I am dreaming of powder days.

What are my prayer intentions for the day? 

My prayers lately have focused a lot on praising God, thanking God for this happy stage in my life, at last.  Honestly, there were times when being the mother of these children, all crammed together, and feeling like I was doing so much of it broke and alone, was really a trial, but right now my family is strong, my marriage is strong, we feel very settled and blessed to be where we are, and thankful for the Church teachings which got us to the this point, because we would not have chosen this path on our own.

At the same time, I ask God to help me remember how hard it was so that I am not too jaded to be a helpful mentor to others, and also that God would let me see where my efforts are needed and not become complacent.

What can my children do instead of  watching TV? 

Draw! My mother gave my son a wonderful car design workshop and he has been tracing, designing and coloring cars all month.  His twin sister often has her art notebook and markers out and sits by him at the table, drawing crazy animals out of her imagination.

What have I done for my marriage this week? 

I just unloaded the dishwasher and did the rest of the dinner dishes.  I would have let them sit until morning, but I know that my husband, who is working at his computer, will not go to bed with the sink full of dishes, and I really don’t want him to do them later.

What am I reading? 

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon.  This book has been fascinating, uplifting in some places and heartbreaking in others.  It is profiles of types of children who are very different from their parents, and how that affects both parent and child.  Solomon is a homosexual who suffers from clinical depression, so those two issues are part of his perspective on differences and understanding, and while he is very liberal I think he is amazingly balanced when it comes to the issue of prenatal testing and abortion, presenting many perspectives including the true difficulties that a parent of a child with a severe disability might face, the true good that the child might bring, the arguments for neurodiversity, and the torture of knowing and having to decide.  I have learned a lot about some of the communities I serve (particularly children and adults with Down Syndrome and Autism).  I have also learned a lot about myself as a daughter and as a parent.  Solomon’s main idea is that there are vertical communities (those we share with our parents and our children) and horizontal ones (those created within our own generation, some by choice and others by circumstance).  This applies outside of the biological complications that Solomon discusses.  For example, think of the different experience of a young man in the military who comes from a military family, versus one who is the first ever in his family to join the Army.  In one case, you are part of  a community that is natural for your parents, they can feel included in it and speak the language, in the other instance you are forging a new identity which, however supportive they may be, is bound to leave them feeling excluded at some times.

As I have read this book I have thought a lot about Nancy French’s effort to learn to style her daughters African hair, and the feedback she has gotten from African American strangers.  Race is usually a vertical identity, but in this case it is a horizontal one, and that brings both new complications and opportunities.

What is one product that made my life easier? 

Snow Tires.  Seriously, this is a life changing investment for us.  We thought that our big van was just always going to swish around in the snow and that we would have trouble until we could somehow split into two four wheel drive cars, but the salty mountain man who drives the bus to my work watched me stuck in the lot after just a few inches of snow had fallen and said “you have to get snow tires.”  When people who don’t have much money tell you something is worth the several hundred dollars it will cost you, you know they must be right.  Our van can go anywhere now, and I don’t have to worry that I will be stuck somewhere, alone, with a van full of kids, trying to throw sand under my tires, or always searching for a space that will let me pull out downhill.

It was an unplanned expense and we choked on the upfront cost a little bit, but we plan to take the tires off in March, and because they will last for many seasons, and extend the life of our regular tires, in the end it won’t be unreasonable, especially for the peace of mind and safety that it will provide while driving up the mountain.

What is challenging me lately?

Some of my kids are bickering a lot.  It turns out, six to eight weeks alone at the mountain with me may not be all of their best situation.  Two of them are absolutely thriving – the one who loves to ski more than anything skis all day and then plays outside all afternoon.  She is a joy to be around, where at home she is often bouncing off the walls.  The one who needs lots of time with me is also thriving, he likes that I am more focused, less apt to check my phone, that I am present, and because of that he is also cool with lots of quiet alone time, so he is reading and totally on top of his school work.  The other five children?  Not so much.  I am sure that in the balance of hours spent together, they are getting along for more time than I realize, but it seems like they could fight about anything, and two in particular are quick to accuse and be affronted, with tears at the ready.  Recently someone asked my children who fights the most.  They had a fight about it.

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  • Juris Mater

    MaryAlice, letting the kids make the menu plan is such a super fun idea! Another approach to February for us this year is doing out-of-the-ordinary things to break up the monotony. We had one of my first grade son’s classmates spend the night on a Tuesday. Walk to Whole Foods to get samples and buy nothing. Bake for no reason. Pizza dinner out on a school night. I’m putting on top of the list for next week to let the kids plan the menu (within reason : )) They’ll go nuts. That will be a week’s worth of fun evenings.

  • MA, I love the image of your kids having a fight about who fights the most – those are the moments as a mom when you wish that you could record your children and then show them how ridiculous they look and sound!
    Snow tires = great investment
    The book sounds very interesting. I hadn’t thought about the idea of vertical vs. horizontal relationships/communities before. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Enjoy the rest of your time in the mountains, and all of those kid-planned meals!

  • Juris Mater

    Bickering kids? Wait, it must be February. Not to totally belabor the February thing, but my kids and I are ALL always at our worst this month, and it makes me wonder every February if I’ve malformed my kids somewhere along the way.

  • JM, you bring up such a good point: Breaking up the monotony is huge for me and for the kids, but for me especially! It’s always good to get ideas from other people on what works. Your list sounds great!

  • Juris Mater

    One more thing, thank you for always sharing your joy when it comes. You’re the pioneer of this group, and you can’t imagine how many long days I take comfort in your assurances that it’s worth it, it gets easier, etc. You’ve always been right about that, and since you continue to discover it in each new phase, I am more confident about what the future holds for us. And well said–thankful for Church teachings that got you to where you wouldn’t have chosen to go! Amen!!

  • Juris Mater

    Kat, and thank you for your wonderful ideas on the other post! I’m keeping a running list.