Old Blue

Let me tell you a story. That is what this space is for, yes? The main character of this story is not one of my children and it’s not my husband and it’s not me. The main character of this story is a member of the family. Sort of. This character was here before there was a Kate & Cort.

Meet Blue. Or Old Girl. Or Old Blue. Or The Blazer.

I met her in August of 2003. It was the same day I was offered my teaching position in Wyoming (that is the school district, not the state). I had had an interesting, long, challenging summer. That is a story for another time. The thing to know is that Cortney was there the whole time–as my friend. The person who made sure I was eating and leaving my house with some regularity. Anyway, he bought The Blazer the day I got my first teaching job.

He let my news overshadow his even though he was thoroughly excited about his truck. He let me gush. He let me celebrate. I also noticed, upon my first ride in her, that Cortney had taken a “K” sticker I had given him earlier in the summer (I have no idea anymore why I gave it to him) that he had in his car and moved it to his new truck. But you know, I didn’t think anything of it.

It is now in a frame by his side of the bed. Aw!

What can I say? Sometimes the rear-view mirror is clearer than the windshield.

Anyway, that was all almost fifteen years ago. Now the Old Girl has been scrubbed and shined up because it’s time. Time for a new home for her. Watching Cort polish her up brought back all the memories.

Shortly (very shortly) after Cortney brought Old Blue home, we started dating. I guess he meant what he said at that concert after all.

The Blazer became our main mode of transportation. We took it whenever we went out together anywhere. When I would see him pull up, the sight of that blue truck with the Pearl Jam Alive guy on the front gave me butterflies because I knew Cortney would be walking through the door. Shoot, it still makes my tummy flop over when I see it on the road.

We were engaged in less than eight months. That summer the Blazer took us to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Rochester, New York. The next summer it took us on our honeymoon to Myrtle Beach. We have driven to Chicago and back countless times in Old Blue. Cortney and I quickly fell in love with road tripping together. He drove, I navigated. We talked. We were quiet. We sang along to the radio. And we laughed. A lot.

Someday I’ll tell the story of those trips because they were great.

Not every trip in Old Blue was happy. She took oncologist appointments for Cortney’s dad, family prayer meetings for Cortney’s dad, and the church for Cortney’s dad’s funeral.

She also took us to that doctor’s appointment in 2007 when I found out I was pregnant. And the one where I found out I wasn’t anymore.

She took us back out to Rochester, NY to visit friends and do a little wine tour of part of the Finger Lakes. Then, in the summer of 2007, she took us out to Montana via North Dakota and home again via South Dakota. It was on that trip that Cortney had his last cigarette. He quit smoking in Old Girl which means he’s been a non-smoker for a decade.

In 2009 she carried us to the hospital as I labored with Eddie. Four days later, she carried Eddie home for the first time. She did the same for Charlie in 2012.

She has taken us camping and canoeing and cottaging. She has taken us to the beach and across bridges and through mountains both literally and figuratively.

She has been part of our marriage longer than we have been part of our marriage.

And now we are saying goodbye.

She is old. She is not as reliable as she once was. She is not big enough for all five of us to ride in at once. It’s a good thing that Cortney got a different vehicle.

But it’s weird to let something that has always been there go.

She was part of our beginning.

It’s a good thing to let those things go because it means we are trucking through this life and getting on and getting by and loving into new years of our marriage. It’s good to get to a point that you have been together longer than the stuff you’ve had.

If that makes sense.

It’s still a strange thing to let part of our beginning go, but that means we are now moving away from beginning. We are in the middle.

I think I like being in the middle.

Eight is Great!

Dear Eddie,

You are eight and eight is GREAT, of course.

Let me tell you all about yourself as you are right now.

You are absolutely, without a doubt, my showman. You love to have people look at and listen to you. Ever since you could toddle around, you have wanted to play with or near me (or your dad). You want to be able to give running commentary on what you are thinking. Just today, you had the entire Lego bin upstairs so you could design and build and talk. Your mind is constantly working; the wheels constantly turning. I know this, because mine is exactly the same.

In fact, Daddy and I laugh sometimes at how we can be talking about one thing, and you start talking about something totally different with no segue or introduction or anything. We often have to stop and say, “wait. What are you talking about?” We laugh because I used to do the exact same thing–all the way until I was in college. Ok I still do it to some degree.

You are such a compassionate, deep thinker. You question everything shamelessly. I admire that about you. A few weeks ago you and I were riding in the car and you said to me, “Mom. Sometimes I find it so strange that I am who I am. Like I am in this body just being a person and seeing things through my eyes. I know, that’s sort of weird and I don’t know how to explain it.” But the thing is, Eddie? I totally knew what you were talking about. When I was your age, I used to just stare out a window and think those sort of thoughts too. Shoot. I still do.

You and I have so much in common. Our brains operate much the same way. This serves us well now; we have a great relationship. We enjoy being with each other because we enjoy the same things: reading, writing, relaxing, talking. Don’t get me wrong. You like a LOT of stuff I honestly don’t care much about: Pokemon, video games, Captain Underpants, and that stupid trout song from Puss in Books on Netflix. Actually we have almost zero in common when it comes to choosing what to watch on Netflix.

But we both like to be silly. We both think a lot. We both believe in being kind. We both want to make people smile. We both believe in standing up for what is just and right.

In fact, your 2nd grade teacher this year told Daddy and me that you were a little activist. Daddy rolled his eyes and said, “I wonder where he got that?” and looked at me. I was smiling hugely, because you and I are the same.

And yet, we are not the same in some key areas. At your age I was not as socially brave as you are. I was afraid to try new things because I was afraid to fail. You are confident and willing to give anything a go. You just want to have fun whether that is in sports or school or scouts. I would not say you are serious or particularly passionate about any one thing just yet. This is apparent when anyone asks you what you want to be when you grow up.

In your mind, the whole world is open to you. You can do whatever you set your heart on. And right now, it is true. But what I want you to know is that is a privilege for you. You live a very privileged life, my son. It’s not because we are rich, because we certainly are not. It is not because you get whatever you want when you want it, because you certainly do not. But by happenstance of birth, you live a very comfortable life. You were born into a white, middle-class family who lives in a nice little subdivision in an area of very low crime. You go to a good, affluent school district. You are male.

The world is yours, so to speak.

What I hope for you is that you recognize that privilege and use it for good:

That you give more than you take.

That you listen more than you speak.

That you stand up more than you stay seated.

That you speak out more than you stay silent.

That you shine the light on those who are often in the shadows more than you hog that light for yourself.

I believe you will do these things because you are already very interested in what is right and just. And honestly, we need you–and others your age–to step up because the grown-ups right now are busy making things a mess. There is still so much racism, sexism, classism, ableism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophia…the list goes on and on. It seems that tolerance and love are buried under a lot of hate and fear.

Eddie, I know that your heart has more acceptance and love in it than anything else.

I know you will help to change the world.

I believe in you, Eddie Bear. I believe you can do what you set out to do. You will fail sometimes, yes. But I think if you are passionate and truly love, you will be successful.

I’m so glad you’re you.

And I am so honored that we are a part of each other.

I love you, my precious son.

Do great things with great love.

Happy 8th birthday.

Love,
Mom

A Dozen Down

 

Hear the sirens.
Hear the sirens.

Hear the sirens,
Hear the circus so profound.
I hear the sirens
More and more in this here town

Let me catch my breath to breathe
And reach across the bed
Just to know we’re safe
I am a grateful man

The slightest bit of light
And I can see you clear
Oh, have to take your hand
And feel your breath for fear this someday will be over

I pull you close, so much to lose knowing that nothing lasts forever
I didn’t care before you were here.
I danced in laughter with the everafter
But all things change
Let this remain

Hear the sirens
Covering distance in the night.
The sound echoing closer.
Will they come for me next time?

For every choice, mistake I’ve made, it’s not my plan
To send you in the arms of another man
And if you choose to stay I’ll wait, I’ll understand

Oh, it’s a fragile thing
This life we lead
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulders

Want you to know that should I go
I always loved you, held you high above, true.
I study your face, and the fear goes away.

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead.
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulder

Want you to know that should I go,
I always loved you, held you high above, true.
I study your face, and the fear goes away,
The fear goes away,
The fear goes away,
The fear goes away.*

*I didn’t have words this year, so I chose Pearl Jam’s “Sirens” lyrics instead.
They say what I feel.
Thank you, Cortney, for holding my hand and making the fear go away.
Every time.
Happy anniversary.

Summer Schedule 2017

One more day. That’s it. After tomorrow the Sluiters will be on the much-anticipated Summer Schedule!

This year it’s a little wonky because the district where I teach went a week longer than usual which puts my last day of school the same as Eddie’s last day. In years past, I always got out a week earlier. That extra time allowed me to do some heavy duty cleaning and organizing to get our Summer Schedule ready for kids to be home. Not so much this year. Starting Monday we are on it!

I have found over the past few summers that having “free-range,” unstructured days in the summer is exponentially related to how much fighting and whining goes on. The Sluiter kids are used to some sort of structure thanks to being in daycare/school since six months old.   Therefore, I try to keep our days to a specific routine that varies slightly each summer due to the ages of the kids.

Generally the boys wake up first and are pretty good at getting themselves settled into watching Netflix without waking me or Alice. This lasts until about 8am when they are allowed to get me up to make breakfast if Alice hasn’t already gotten me up. Since the boys are into shows like Slugterra, I make them choose something more Alice-friendly once she is up. Sometimes she wants PBS, but mostly she is into shows like Pocoyo, Beat Bugs, and Octonauts. Ok, we ALL like Octonauts!

summer schedule

By 10am, we need to be dressed and going somewhere–anywhwere–because the natives will get restless and begin to pick and bicker and it will be a matter of time before all out chaos ensues. Mondays we go to the library, Wednesdays are for the Farmer’s Market, and Fridays we find a park. Tuesdays and Thursdays the kids go to daycare.

After lunch, they can watch a show to settle down before Alice’s nap/boys’ quiet play time. Again, it has to be Alice-friendly.

summer schedule

Then we start the long TV-less afternoon (my favorite part of the day). Alice naps, the boys have to either play downstairs or outside (or rest), and I read, write, or clean something. I’d like to say this part of the day is always nice and peaceful, but Eddie and Charlie are close enough in age where if they are not getting along super great, they are trying to murder each other. There really is no in between. As long as they don’t wake up their sister, I can usually keep my calm.

Just before Alice gets up, they may choose to watch another show. Lately, Eddie has been binge-watching Inspector Gadget since season 3 was just released on Netflix. But he is just as likely to pick Pokemon or something like that too.

Once Alice is up, the boys usually retreat back to the basement or outside and she follows. The TV goes off until bedtime (or until Cortney and I turn on the news). Then I get dinner ready, Cortney comes home from work, and our daily schedule turns into the evening schedule.

I know to some people, I let our kids watch a lot of TV, but I think it’s really all about balance. We also go places, play outside, play with friends, do crafts, and of course read. Letting them veg out in front of some shows they love gives them some down time, and it gives me a break.

What does your summer schedule look like?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. Netflix provides streaming and a device to stream on, but we choose what we watch and give our honest opinions.

Graduation Bird

“Why do you think you got so emotional this time?” Cortney asked me after all the kids were tucked into bed. I had to pause before answering because it was true; three years ago when it was Eddie graduating, I didn’t have any tears at the ceremony. I smiled and laughed. This time I also smiled and laughed, but there were tears in my eyes the entire time. And it surprised me.

To be honest, I get waves of tears thinking about Charlie and school ever since he started, but especially since parent/teacher conferences in the fall. I admit to worrying about how Charlie would do in school. I think so much of it is because I never know if I’m being the mom he needs. He’s so very different than I am, and so very different than his older brother. Eddie and I can talk about anything. Eddie asks me questions and we wonder together and process together. Charlie holds a lot inside and then explodes because he just doesn’t know what to do with it all.

It can be scary, actually.

When I feel like I’ve made a mistake or failed as a mom with Eddie, we talk about it. I tell him what I am feeling and we process together. Charlie doesn’t give me that chance. He rages and throws things and screams and says the most hurtful things. And then turns his back and is silent. Eventually I know he’s forgiven me when he will crawl up next to me in the chair and lay his head on my arm, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t put words to what happened.

In the fall, we asked his teacher, “does he throw fits if he doesn’t get his way? Has he ever screamed?”

She looked a bit shocked and totally confused. “No. We have never seen that side of Charlie. He’s a quiet leader and a friend to everyone.”

I almost started crying right then and there.

He thrived in preschool. His teachers loved him and “got” him. Mrs. Y is so very organized and knows the importance–especially at this age–of routine and knowing what to expect each day. She is calm and patient and loves each kid for who they are. She is awesome at playing up their strengths, asking about things they love, and being their cheerleader. Mrs. Y is exactly the kind of preschool teacher everyone wants for their kids. I graduated from high school with her, and she is still exactly the same wonderful, beautiful, awesome person she was then. She just loves what she does and it shows!

And then there is Mrs. C. This was her first year in preschool. Our family already knew her because her older son is both in Eddie’s class at school and in his cub scout den. Her husband is a fellow cub scout leader. What we didn’t know was that she is probably the reason Charlie has grown so much over this past year. Mrs. Y is an excellent teacher, but Mrs. C “gets” Charlie in a way most people (myself included) don’t. They are “cut from the same cloth” as she said once. He tells me that she is funny and he likes talking to her during playtime. They have conversations about which Batman is the coolest and they play the game “Who Would Win” which pits one ferocious animal against another (Lion vs Python) and they have to defend who they think would win.  She get him.

He has become so confident this year. Ever since he was a baby, he has not wanted to actually do something until he was sure he could do it just right. I worried that he would get frustrated in school, but with the help of his teachers, the opposite has happened. I can see the world opening up to him as he learns all the letters and their sounds. He is suddenly noticing that all the words in his books SAY SOMETHING. He spells by sound and stands up a little taller when he gets it right. I can see the wheels turning in his head and his mouth feeling the sounds before he announces, “D-O-G spells DOG!”

I knew Eddie would be a natural fit for school: he makes friends easily, loves to be around kids, is outgoing and eager to participate, and wants to make the people in his life happy and proud. Charlie is just different. He’s more reserved, prefers the company of adults, can be stubborn (so very stubborn), and is just not very verbal. So the entire experience was different.

But my tears last night still caught me by surprise. I think it, again, boils down to how different my boys are. Three years ago, Eddie was excited to get up on that stage and sing his heart out. He was excited to be the center of attention. He was excited for what Kindergarten would bring.

Charlie, on the other hand, has a really hard time with transitions. For a week or so now, knowing preschool was coming to an end, brought fits and rages at home. Only once did he say to me, “you can’t make me be done with preschool. I will go forever,” but I am pretty sure all the nonverbal fit-throwing has been part of his transition. We saw this when his first daycare mom closed her business and he had to change. We saw it a month before preschool started. And we are seeing it now that preschool is ending. My boy does not like change.

I brought him over to his class last night before the program while Cortney and my parents found us seats. He didn’t sit by his class, rather he hovered in a doorway while I talked to Mrs. Y. When I went to tell him I was going to sit down, he did something very un-Charlie: he grabbed me in a big hug and pleaded with me not to leave him. “I’m scared, Mom Mom.” My boy who never expresses his feelings looked me in the eyes and told me his big feelings and I had to fight back the tears and the urge to sit on that stage with him.

The whole time he was turning my necklace pendant over in his hands. He calls it an egg and loves to hold it when I wear it and feel its smooth surface. It’s removable, so I unclasped it and said, “how about you hold on to this for me in your pocket during the program.” His eyes got big and he said, “So it will be like you will be with me and I will be brave.” Again the wave of tears threatened. He gets so much more than he ever lets on.

“That’s right,” I said and I hugged him again. “I’m going to go sit by Daddy and everyone. I’ll see you out there, Buddy.” He nodded and fingered the pendant in his breast pocket.

He sang all the songs and said all the poems.

When it was time for him to walk and get his “diploma”, my mom bet me five bucks he wouldn’t smile. It was a decent bet. When nervous, Charlie is almost incapable of smiling. But the minute he walked through the door with his little cap on, he had a big grin on his face. My mom said it was the best five bucks she ever lost.

Congratulations, Charlie. We are so SO proud of you and all you have accomplished this school year. We are excited to see what Kindergarten will bring. Way to go, Bird Man!

The Uncomfortable Brightness of Motherhood

Motherhood is weird, right?

We long for a light in the darkness, and yet…

sometimes the sun shines so brightly that we have to squint and shade our eyes and smile through it even though it’s almost painful.

We work so hard for these sunny times that even though they are often blinding, we will take them.

My Eddie with his eyes shielded, looking forward for his mom with his hand on my shoulder.

My Charlie squinting and throwing up rock n roll horns even through the sting of the sun for his mom mom with his other hand on my back.

My Alice closing her eyes and smiling because momma said to and she trusts me completely while gripping my arm tightly.

These kids man.

Not what I expected at all.

Uncomfortable at times.

But Better.

Brighter.

Charlie’s Card he made me in Preschool. My boy knows me so well!

 

 

Inked

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I got another tattoo this weekend.

All tattoos have a story, don’t they? Even the ones that are “I just thought it was cute and wanted one because I was in college and being a rebel.” There is always a reason.

Ten years ago a few things happened: I found out I was pregnant, I lost that pregnancy, I started a blog, and I got a tattoo. I would say it was a busy year, but that is pretty much just how our married life has been. Highs and lows with very little in between.

When I started this blog I called it our Family Website. I was going to post photos and write little blurbs about what was going on in our life. I think in the first couple years of this blog’s life I probably only wrote a handful of things that were real and not just superficial “look at this fun day at the beach;” my tattoo post was one of them.

Contrary to what my mom probably thinks, I don’t take permanently “disfiguring” myself lightly (Cortney’s words in jest, not my mom’s). The first time, I tattooed what my students think is a V on my neck. It’s not a V. It’s two things: it’s the Aries sign and it’s also the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “woman.” You can read that post up there for more details, but basically after getting unexpectedly pregnant when I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted babies, then miscarrying that baby (and feeling like it was my fault), Cortney and I realized we wanted to be parents. Women’s bodies are strong, yo. That tattoo was for womanly strength.

Since then I have been writing.

Before I knew I had an anxiety disorder or depression or OCD or needed medication or therapy, I wrote to get it out of my head.

When I was having intrusive thoughts, I wrote them out of my head and then destroyed the evidence.

When I realized that one of my biggest fears in life was being forgotten and lost in time and space, I wrote out my stories.

When I decided to turn all of my passion for reading and writing and education into a PhD program, I wrote articles and journal pieces and conference proposals.

When I wanted my children to know me as I am in this moment, I wrote letters.

When I acted too impulsively or said things without thinking or made an ass of myself, I wrote to apologize.

When I missed or loved or thought of people, I wrote to them.

When I wanted my students to learn to write, I wrote with them.

Writing has kept me alive for the past ten years.

I’m placing my faith in writing to keep me alive forever.

Write.

It’s a command.

Write.

 

 

 

ps. My mom is not really that upset.

pps. Yes she is.

ppps. I love you, mom. Thanks for loving me despite my disfigurement.

Watch and Learn

“Why do you like this show? It’s sort of weird.”

“I just do, Mom.”

“But why? Why do you pick it?”

“I don’t know. I like the action.  But I also like shows where someone doesn’t change themselves to make people like them.”

I was surprised. I honestly didn’t think he would have such an insightful answer, but it makes sense. His favorite shows are Pokemon, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh. While I think they are pretty strange and the characters act odd, he loves it. I’ve watched with him before and he’s right: the main characters in the shows are all people who are loyal, trustworthy, and kind. And even though they are regularly taunted, they choose to stay true to themselves and their friends.

Everyone knows one of the reasons I am such a big advocate for reading is to build empathy and compassion in my kids’ hearts. It never occurred to me until Eddie said this that media like TV, movies, and games could help instill this as well. We blame TV and movies for a lot of ills–and rightly so. There is a lot of garbage out there that can undo the values we try to instill in our kids. But there are good shows out there too that reinforce the kind of people we want our kids to grow up to be. And let’s be honest: sometimes our kids will listen to what a cool show or movie says more than they will listen to their parent, am I right?

Monday Eddie discovered Happy Feet (which was just released May 1 on Netflix). He was engrossed because he loves music and funny penguins, but I realized that this too was another show where the main character embraces who he is–a penguin that can’t sing, but has mad dance skills.

Another character Eddie identifies with is King Julian. Again, I think it’s maybe the made dance moves and the fact that he, too, likes to “move it, move it.” Eddie is a goofy, positive, happy kid who wants to spread that around to others. He is unapologetic for being who he is. A new series, “All Hail King Julian: Exiled” is coming to Netflix May 12. Ed’s pumped.

We have our share of struggles with Eddie as he approaches age 8, but self-confidence about who he is has never been one of them. In fact, I admire his ability to walk into a room and make friends immediately with anyone. I think it’s no coincidence that he choose shows and movies with protagonists who have the same qualities.

Oh! Before I sign off…The Secret Life of Pets is now on Netflix! I’ll admit, I have NO IDEA if this fits what I’m writing about here, but I can tell you it is on deck for a Sluiter Family Movie Night soon!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Netflix provides the Netflix and a device to watch it on, and my family and I provide the opinions. It’s good times for everyone!

 

 

Searching for Easter

Easter

Sunday was Easter.

I have lovely memories of Easter as a child. They all include family and candy and going to services that had loads of flowers and a big cross.

When Cortney and I got married we became the people who only went to church once in a while and always on Easter. I loved to sing the hymn “Low in the Grave He Lay” because when I belted out “UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!!” I felt my late Grandma Jo in my whole being. I didn’t really connect with the words on a religious level, but it was a spiritual experience and connection with my grandmother. It was the same at Christmas; I loved to sing the hymns she did. Both holidays hold a lot of significance for me because of my Grandmother, but not necessarily because of my faith.

Which is a problem for a Christian since Christmas and Easter are the two most significant days for the Christian Church. They are the bookends of what our faith is about: God sent his Son via immaculate conception to save the world by being crucified on a cross only to rise again three days later. Immaculate Conception and Resurrection from the Dead–the cornerstone beliefs of what makes a Christian a Christian, right?

But there I was on Sunday, sitting all squeezed into the front row (because as usual, The Sluiter family does not count punctuality as their strength–my fault completely) next to a family I didn’t recognize (because it was Easter and everyone comes on Easter), watching some of the people I love most lead worship with joy and excitement for the celebration that Easter is, and I was feeling…nothing.

Regular Sundays are my jam. I feel fed and nourished by the teachings of Jesus and the community that surrounds and loves me and my family. The familiarity of the pattern of worship renews my soul: The Approach, The Greeting, A Worship Hymn, Confession, Prayer, Assurance, The Passing of the Peace, The Children’s Message, Prayer, The Lectionary, The Sermon, Prayer, Communion, Prayer, Offering, Prayer, Announcements, The Sending of the Children to Children in Worship, The Closing Hymn, The Benediction. Our three pastors–all friends who I cherish–deliver their sermons in their own unique voice and help me to see and learn and feel closer to the teaching and love of Jesus.

I believe in the teachings of Jesus. I believe in the love and acceptance he taught. I believe in taking care of each other and being kind and helpful. I believe in sharing what I have with others–especially if they have less. I believe in using my privilege for good and for positive change. I believe in forgiveness, although it’s often hard for me to put into practice.

And I believe Jesus died, because every human dies.

What I struggle with is the Resurrection. I know the Bible says it happened. I know that without the Resurrection Christianity is nothing. The whole idea is that Jesus was made human so he could save us. That by dying on the cross, going to hell, coming back to Earth, and then going to heaven, he saved humanity.

Sitting squished between Cortney and Eddie in that sweaty front row, I couldn’t look my dear friend and pastor in the eye as he preached. I just felt heavy. That this world just doesn’t feel saved.

I don’t read the Old Testament literally. It’s Ok if you do; more power to you. Really. I don’t think that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe Jonah was legit swallowed–and lived in the gut of–a large fish. I read them as allegorical stories. Literature that is meant to teach life lessons and meaning. And I read the New Testament with the idea that the culture it was written in (Greek) and about (Middle East) is very different than our current culture. That not everything is going to align exactly.

Yet as Christians, we are supposed to read the Easter story (and Christmas story) completely literally. THIS STUFF REALLY HAPPENED. Because if it didn’t, what is it all for, right?

So I am wrestling with myself. I want to believe in the Resurrection. I want to believe that because Christ died, we will all live.

Our pastor said Sunday morning that we do not have to fear death. That because of Christ, death loses its power.

I guess that is what my struggle boils down to: I do very much fear death–my own, but also the death of those who I love so deeply. I obsess about it. It’s part of my anxiety disorder. When my intrusive thoughts begin, it always centers on death. I become increasingly agitated and paranoid. I lose sleep. And then I fall into depression.

It always starts with thoughts of death.

Because what if this is it? What if all of this is man-made so we can tell ourselves we are not afraid of death?

I’m ending this post with a picture of Eddie, Charlie, and Alice on Easter morning outside of church. They are still filled with the joy of celebration. It was a special day at church. There were flowers and Alleluias. There was an egg hunt after the services. They wore new clothes (except shoes because I totally forgot they needed shoes). There was excited anticipation for the rest of the day that would be filled with family and candy.

I never want them to be afraid like I am.

Easter

My wonderful friend, The Pastor’s Wife, shared this link with me this week, and I ugly cried when I read it because it was exactly EXACTLY how I felt Sunday morning. If you are also feeling alone with your doubt, I strongly suggest clicking over.

Being a More Faithful Family

I would not say that Cortney and I have been excellent role models of what faithful families should look like. In fact, I recently joked with a few people that it seemed like we had given up church for Lent. We had a string of weekends with sick kids, other plans, or both that kept us from our regular Sunday 10am worship, and in turn kept the kids away from their Sunday morning Children in Worship centers.

We are usually regulars on Sunday, and if I am being truthful, I’ve left most of the “teaching” about our Christian faith to church: our pastors, the Children in Worship leaders, and the children’s message during church. I know that is not enough. That if we truly have this faith we say we have, it isn’t just on Sundays.

While I firmly believe our actions and how we treat the earth and who and what are in it are really the mark of our Christianity, talking about it is important too, especially with our kids so they know why we do what we do. As I do with most things, I turned to a book given to me by a close friend: Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments At Home by Traci Smith.

faithful families

The book is divided into three categories: Traditions, Ceremonies, and Spiritual Practices. I went through the entire book in two sittings and put post-it notes on everything I thought would be a good fit for our family. As you can see above, I used a LOT of post-it notes!

I marked the most practices in the Traditions section because I’m looking for ways to make our faith more a part of our every day lives. I like the way each practice is not just explained with a short narrative, but also is laid out in easy to follow steps. Then in the notes part, suggestions are given for making it more or less complex depending on the age of your children.

One thing we have always struggled with is consistently praying as a family. At dinner the boys are pretty good at leading our family prayers, but at night we tend to read books and then just go to sleep. I didn’t want to start the kids reciting memorized rhymes for prayers because I remember just flying through them as a kid and not really thinking about what they meant. I also tried it with Ed when he was little and he got hung up on the “if I die before I wake” and was freaked out for quite some time.

The first thing practice in the book suggests saying a blessing at bedtime. These can be as long as saying, “Eddie, may the peace of God, which is bigger than anything we understand, fill your heart and your mind, and may you know God’s love always. Amen.”  Or it can be as short and simple as “God Bless Alice. Amen.” It can even be part of the bedtime routine for kids to say “God Bless (family member).”

Practices in the book range from simple like a blessing, to more complex and deep ceremonies for things like pet loss, moving, and traumatic events in the news. There are small and large traditions for holidays such as Lent, Pentecost, Christmas, and even birthdays.

Another practice I want to put in place is to somehow mark the changing of the colors of the church calendar. We talk about this a lot in church and I would like to carry that into our lives as well: green for Common Time, purple for Advent and Lent, white for Christmas and Easter, and red for Pentecost. I could just be a small area–a shelf or table–but I think it would help us remember growing/learning, waiting, and celebrating. That there is a time and season for everything.

faithful families

I am really looking forward to putting some of these suggestions into practice to help our kids know why we give and take care of others–that it’s part of our faith to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That our number one reason for being is to love.

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This is not a sponsored post. The link is not an affiliate one. The book was a gift and I loved it, so I wrote about it.

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