Oct 232009

Here’s a sentence I’m proud to write:

I’m a preschool teacher.

This is my basement, where I spend every Monday and Tuesday morning with the five most brilliant and beautiful children God ever blew breath into.

Yes, I know, yours are lovely, too

I don’t know how to describe my feelings about being trusted with the privilege and responsibility of shaping childrens’ hearts and minds.

I always say that I am passionate about teaching children to read because to me, it’s akin to teaching someone how to take a deep breath. Because it’s like teaching survival. Because reading is what saved me and still saves me every day.

Reading is what taught me to empathize and connect with myself and others.Through books I found myself and discovered that the truth would set me free. Through others’ stories I learned that we are all pretty much the same, and that there’s really not much to be afraid of since we’re in this together. And because through reading I found God.

All that is true, but it hit me this morning, looking at these pictures, that the truest reason I love teaching is a little more selfish. I think it’s because when I’m teaching, I am my favorite version of myself.

I always question my motives out there in the real world. Whenever I do, say, or write anything, altruistic or not, I wonder if I’d have done it if I knew no one would find out. I suspect a lot of what I do publicly is done for attention, acceptance, or praise…from peers, friends, competitors, family.

But when I’m with my three year old preschoolers, just the six of us, and we’re examining a caterpillar, or we’re finger painting a giant E together, or we’re working SO DAMN HARD to make those scissors work, or we’re crying together because somebody took our doll and our little hearts are broken…and I’m on my knees to make eye contact, and I’m trying to love them through their morning…I really, really like myself. I feel patient and kind and wonderful because no grown- ups are watching and I’m still being patient and kind. Which proves to me that down deep inside, there is a part of me that is real and true.

And it also proves something else to me.It’s just me and God down there in the basement on Monday and Tuesday mornings. He’s the only one who will see if I give up, if I snap at a student, if I ignore a struggling writer. And since I don’t, since I keep trying to make Him proud, it proves to me that I believe in Him.Because if I didn’t believe He was watching, I sure as heck wouldn’t try so hard. And I suspect that’s why I love teaching so much. That’s why teaching is so sacred to me. Because being in the classroom, even more than being in a church, proves to me that my faith is real. And that makes me feel safe and whole and important. And close to God. And that is why teaching preschool is the most important thing I do all week.

It may look like I’m rolling out playdoh with my buddies, but what I’m really doing is dancing with God.

It’s been said that character is what you do when noone’s watching, but I think that faith is what you do when noone’s watching. More to the point, faith and character, for me, are inextricably linked.

To the teachers who read this blog -Thank you. Thank you for taking care of our future, of our children, when no one is watching. You do the most challenging and sacred job in the world. I appreciate you.

Ya’ll come back to Momastery for a 3 o’clock cocktale to help you through to the finish line.

Oct 252009

Well, folks, here it is, Hell’s Kitchen.

Just look at it. Yikes. Can you hear the Jaws soundtrack playing in the background?

See the refrigerator, the last appliance standing, trembling in fear due to my presence?

Actually, I don’t want to talk about this room anymore. Too scary.

Let’s turn our attention instead to this section of the kitchen, although it’s equally terrifying to me.

This wall is my attempt to organize my family. It’s where we keep our calendar and reminders and invitations and other horrible things. I call it the Wailing Wall, because having anything at all to do or anywhere to go is very stressful for me. It’s just so much work to leave the house, you know, because of all the finding shoes and brushing hair and matching socks and then trying to get the kids ready, too and just UGH. Lots of wailing.

Most of my friends, when they glance at the Wailing Wall, note that our family calendar looks different than theirs. Ours is…emptier. So I think it’s time for me to share something that might be very hard for youto accept. I’ve revealed a lot of sordid secrets on this blog, but the one that you’re about to read usually causes my friends the most anxiety. So let’s all take a deep breath first, okay? Are you ready?

Even if you look hard, you won’t find anything on our family calendar about soccer or dance or art or scouts or baby music class or whathaveyou. Because… here goes: My kids don’t do any extra- curricular activities. Nothing.No sports, no violin, no ballet, no Future Rocket Scientists Club, no Spanish…Nada.

I could insert the predictable comment here about how instead my children are perfectly content sitting around banging on pots and pans… but….moving right along.

Our decision to remain activitiless is considered child abuse where we live, so my neighborhood friends, who love my kids like their own, seemed concerned for a while. But then they all read this blog and got their priorities straight. Now they worry about our nutrition and general well being instead. And so they invite us to their soccer games sometimes and send over first aid kits and leftovers.

We have always depended on the kindness of neighbors.

So there you have it… my family has no lessons, so sports, no TV, no top sheets, no pans, no buns. Have I mentioned the bun situation?

We have hamburgers and hot dogs twice a week, but I find buns, much like top sheets, to be an extra extravagance for which I do not have the time, space, or patience. So like extra curricular activities, we pretend that buns don’t exist at my house.At my high school reunion picnic last week, Chase and Tish got in line to eat and when they saw the spread, Chase said with shock and VOLUME, “Mom! This party is so fancy! THEY HAVE BUNS!”I looked at him wearily and noticed that Tish was holding an open hot dog bun and licking the inside. Because she thought it was a Twinkie. I considered being mortified, but then I remembered that I’m generally too tired to be mortified. So I just looked to my friend Jennifer for help, because she reads the blog and is therefore sympathetic to our situation. She quietly suggested that maybe we should take some of the leftover buns home with us and talk about them and their many uses.

Kay, I said.

Have a great Monday, friends.

Oct 272009
Here’s our backyard, where we come to take deep breaths.

Below is the place from which we will make our next 911 call and finally receive our set of free steak knives from the ER! Fingers crossed!

This is where the neighborhood kids come to roast marshmallows and sing camp fire songs. Actually, that has never happened, and never will because it seems like a lot of work. But doesn’t it LOOK like that’s what happens here?

Mission accomplished.


I can’t show you the front of my house, because my mom loves my children very much and she’s afraid if you know where I live you will come steal them. After reading some of your emails, I’m actually more afraid you’ll come steal Craig.

So I’ll just tell you that it sort of looks like this. Our driveway fountain is a different shade of yellow, but you get the idea.

Actually, that’s 50 Cent’s house. Our house is relatively small, compared to most in our area. You can’t tell in the pictures, because the camera adds five inches. But it’s little. We step on and over each other a lot. And Amma sleeps in the bathroom because we’ve run out of quiet rooms.

Sometimes I complain about this “space situation” to myself and others, saying “I just need more space” and “we’re growing out of this house,” and “if we only had….” and other stupid, stupid lies.

The truth is that we don’t really have a situation. This is a situation:

Number of children in the world

2.2 billion

Number in poverty

1 billion (every second child)

For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

· 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)

· 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)

· 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)

(Anup Shah, Poverty Facts and Stats, GlobalIssues.org)

And in light of the truth, a baby sleeping in a bathroom is not really a “situation” at all. As a matter of fact, owning a private, warm, functioning bathroom in which to lie your baby down is a luxury for which most of the world’s mothers wouldn’t dare dream.

So when Craig and I hear each other forget the truth and get confused about what we do and don’t have, we remind each other gently to shut the hell up and kiss the ground.

And we square our shoulders and bravely carry on without a jacuzzi tub or his and her walk in closets.

And then I lay my head on Craig’s shoulder and we squint through fresh eyes at our precious little home. Our home that has sheltered us from so many storms and kept our children warm and safe. And we notice that our house reminds us of the Giving Tree, because it recreates itself to meet our family’s every need. Now it’s a newborn hospital wing, now an urgent care for recovering relatives, now a preschool. Our home wraps its arms around us, takes us back in again and again, and adjusts us we change and grow.

As St. Anne says, sometimes heaven is just a different pair of glasses. I don’t know much, but I know that’s the truth.

So we keep those glasses of gratitude firmly in place and we remember to complain right. Instead of “we don’t have enough space for our stuff,” we say “we have too much stuff for our space.”

And then we throw away some of Craig’s stuff.

Because he needs to learn to simplify, people.

Thanks for visiting.

Ya’ll comeback now.

Welcome Morning

Anne Sexton

There is joy

in all:

in the hair I brush each morning,

in the Canon towel, newly washed,

that I rub my body with each morning,

in the chapel of eggs that I cook

each morning.

In the outcry of the kettle

that heats my coffee

each morning,

in the spoon and the chair

that cry “hello there, Anne”

each morning,

in the godhead of the table

that I set my silver, plate, cup upon

each morning.

All this is God,

right here in my pea-green house

each morning

and I mean,

though I often forget,

to give thanks,

to faint down by the kitchen table

in a prayer of rejoicing as the holy birds at the kitchen window

peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,

let me paint a thank-you on my palm

for this God, this laughter in the morning,

lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,

dies young.

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