The Gift of Concentration

Although Athena has not been formally diagnosed, I’m certain she has attention deficit disorder 012like her sister – and practically every child who has been in foster care. Sitting still is not becoming common as it should the older she gets. So we’re using a light weight (bean bag neck warmer) to keep her from jumping around during meals.

The early learning kindergarten program perfectly masks Athena’s lack of concentration. She moves from one activity to another without much investment in anything she does. Next year, I plan to homeschool her. But this year it’s nice to send her off to school on occasion so I can work with Raine.

Still, Athena ends up staying home at least one day a week. The main focus is on concentration. Shortly after she came to me at 20mths of age, the pediatrician said Athena needed to be taught to concentrate. “Put her in a high chair and give her some toys to play with for a little while.” I did. And did things like putting her in the high chair when meals were not quite ready. Athena would have to wait. She also stayed in her high chair when she was done and the rest of the family still ate.

Now, she stays in her room playing Legos each morning while I shower and dress. She’s making necklaces as part of her at home schooling. In addition to concentration, this helps with her fine motor skills which I wonder about sometimes.

I’ve been reading The Believers by Janice Holt Giles. It’s a novel about the early Shaker movement in America. Living communally, each member is given a monthly task – working in the garden, laundry, meal preparations, etc. For a month they devout themselves to this job. Then move on to another posting.

I worry I’m not up to the task of teaching concentration. I bake cookies while doing dishes, watching Dr Phil, and giving instructions on how to create button art (in hopes of occupying the kids for a few minutes). My house is a series of started projects. My room is forever turning into a disaster. I’m not overly organized or great at concentrating.

The Shaker lifestyle is becoming increasingly appealing as I evaluate my own way of doing things. There’s a great deal I disagree with in their theology but I enjoy the concept of being fully devoted to a single task. It’s something I’d like to incorporate into my own life.

Fail as I may, concentration is still a gift I’m working on giving my children and myself.

beading

Remember

remember your creatorRecently, my mom discovered several boxes from my youth and young adult years. Sorting through them, I was reminded of who I used to be.

I grew up in a large, lively church. My teen years were spent mostly at church where I was involved in everything from choir, youth group, weekly Bible studies, to putting on puppet shows for children’s church. When not at church, I would babysit for families from the church and cross stitch.

The boxes contained fabric and patterns that I used to make my own clothes and items for friends. And a great deal of cross stitching equipment. This is how I spent my youth.

I had a wide circle of friends from church. Some stayed on the straight and narrow, many veered off into another world. They drank, did drugs, and other things I dared not try. At the age of 10 I read the Bible from cover to cover. The verse in Ecclesiastes about remembering your Creator stuck with me. I wrote it in notebooks and on scraps of paper I put up around my room. This was the challenge I put before myself, to remember my Creator in everything I did – especially in my youth.

Looking back, I have no regrets. I lived a chaste life that others often ridiculed. I didn’t mind. My eye was set on a prize. I knew remembering my Creator would please Him. That’s what mattered to me.

I had a wide circle of eccentric friends. They were musical and comical. They were at times creative and serious. We laughed together a great deal. It was so much fun. Sadly, it was long before cellphones and social media. I was so busy enjoying myself, I didn’t stop to take pictures.

This is the youth I want for my kids. I realize it’s a different world today. But I think there’s still room for remembering and valuing the Creator.

Life is Fun

Yesterday, as part of Raine’s birthday celebration, we went to see the movie Paddington Bear. Of

at the movies

at the movies

course I was teary over the speech about family not always being created by birth. Near the end there’s a dramatic scene where Paddington is climbing up a chimney trying to escape the woman trying to kill him.

“Why did he want to stay alive?” Raine asked on the drive home.

Born addicted to prescription drugs, Raine fought to stay alive. The details of her early life, some known but most unknown to me, indicate she has a strong desire to live. So the question didn’t worry me.

“Because life is really wonderful,” I answered. “And fun.”

She thought about that for a few moments.

“Why do you want to stay alive?” I inquired.

“Because life is really fun,” Raine replied. She continued to evaluate Paddington Bear’s response to the danger he was in. Mostly approving of the choices he made, Raine resolved to do the same should anyone want to harm her. She committed to climbing up a chimney in search of safety.

“And if you were climbing, I’d be at the top to catch you,” she promised me.

I doubt I’ll be squeezing through any chimneys in my lifetime, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Wait a Minute

After the indulgence of the holiday season, January is typically a time when gym memberships are purchased and resolutions are made to loose all that unwanted weight.

I’ve never been too caught up in body image issues. I am who I am and I’m ok with that. Since becoming a foster mom 6 1/2 yrs ago my hardly slim figure has drifted into a larger category. Partially owing to some ineffective thyroid medication, mostly because stress makes me indulge. I’d not made that correlation until I took on one of the most stressful jobs imaginable – fostering.

I used to go for walks or bike rides to release tension. That isn’t always possible and completely impossible to do without the kids who, so often, are the source of my stress. Life has gotten better this past year. Rarely do I find myself binging on donuts these days. But the weight’s still there.

As a mom of young girls, it’s not a topic of discussion. I’m quick to tell DSC_8049them how lovely I look and how happy I am with who I am. Because me – the real me – doesn’t begin and end with my body. Certainly it would be nice to be thinner. At the moment, for me, that’s right up there with the thought that it would be nice to be a millionaire. I’m unlikely to make a concerted effort right now.

But when I occasionally do something like go for a long walk or ride the vintage exercise bike in my room, I’m quick to tell my daughters it’s because, “I want my body to be stronger.” Never do I mention needing to loose weight.

That’s how I’ve approached things thus far. It’s been careful and intentional. Raine and Athena have enough to process and deal with without prematurely adding in the pressure of body image.

Then the holidays brought a revelation to them. A visiting relative of mine, who is and has always been very thin, explained the concept of weight and that there’s such thing as weighing too much.

“How can I make sure I don’t get fat like you?” Raine asked the other day.

I wanted to go back in time. I should have addressed my well meaning relative, saying, “Wait a minute! My kids don’t need to know about this right now!” This is a concern I’d like Raine to unlearn. But once you know something, it’s difficult to unknow it. So I rattled off a list of treats she’d have to forgo in order to stay thin. That’s all I could come up with on the spot there.

“Oh, then I don’t care about being skinny,” Raine replied.

And that was the end of our discussion on the matter. Still, the revelation is one Raine’s processing. “You know my mom’s really fat,” she informed my friend’s foster children who are visiting this weekend. She’s watching to see how the world around her reacts to this fact. Thankfully, with the relative gone, the reactions Raine’s receiving don’t affirm weight as the primary means of evaluating someone’s worth.

Once I determine the best approach, I will speak with her again. The trouble is, I’m not sure what to say. It’s a fact, I’m not thin. Maybe I should be. Probably I won’t be. I have other concerns. I have other attributes. Now how to convince my 6yr old of that?

 

who I am

typewriter

As a child I was artistic. My interests moved from one expression to another. At one point I began a vast mural on my bedroom wall. Discovering, half way through, I’m not a very good painter. Still I tried things – like cross stitch and scrapbooking.

In the end I’ve pretty much landed on writing. My first great success came in grade 5. I wrote a thrilling mystery that caused my teacher to label me as an excellent writer. The tale was read at every sleepover I attended that year. My friends ate it up.

I lived in a time without computers, blogs, social media, e-publishing, or any thing like that. I wrote on paper with pens. In high school I took typing courses on electric typewriters.

As a young adult, I didn’t always have a computer though they were much more common at that point. I used them when I had them and resorted to typewriters picked up at thrift stores when I didn’t.

In my early 20’s I began calling myself a writer. The only proof I had were stacks of unfinished stories in piles around my room. There was, at that point, no easily accessible showcase for my art.

Then the real digital age hit. Blogging and social media became mainstream. And I was busy being a mom. I’m still busy being a mom.

Writer isn’t a word I use to describe myself these days. Single mom, adoptive mom, foster mom are the titles I hand out when people ask who I am or what I do. Even my book centers around that theme.

where I dream of living….

 

But every once in a while that dream of writing for real slips into the forefront of my imagination. I could have lived a different life. Sometimes I can see myself at the window of a small European apartment – not Paris, somewhere very obscure like Zvolen. I imagine writing all day while overlooking a little courtyard. Then I would eat bread and cheese, drink some wine and read what I’d written before falling asleep. Waking, I’d do it all over again.

Once upon a time, my life did look like this. For a brief period I lived alone. Working in an office Monday to Friday, my weekends and holidays were spent writing and drinking tea. I have a few stories that survived from that period.

Occasionally, I wonder what could have happened if I’d really pursued writing. Yes, I was devoted to my craft as a young adult, but I’ve mostly put it aside now.

Around this time every year either my mom or a friend offer to take the kids overnight. Last night was my annual day off, as I’ve come to think of it. Raine and Athena went to my parents’. I braved the bad weather to see an afternoon matinee on my own.

I wanted a diversion. Big Eyes, the new Tim Burton film, was the only thing that appealed to me. Instead of simply distracting me from the cares of life, the movie reminded me of the artistic lifestyle I once lived. I admired Margaret Keane’s dedication to her craft.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve not been so faithful. Leaving the movie, I went to visit a friend. The evening and following afternoon stretched before me. I considered pulling out a novel I’m nearly done writing.

my pram that sometimes houses a small baby

my pram that sometimes houses a small baby

In the end, I brought my friend’s 3mth old foster baby home with me. I held him and prayed into some situations he’s facing. We watched crime dramas on Netflix. I brought him with me to church then did dishes and laundry while he napped in a vintage pram. Just saying the word pram makes me smile. It was all very lovely.

Then my daughters returned. And everyday life resumed. Maybe I’m not a writer after all – or at least not right now. For the moment, I’m a mom (who occasionally blogs).

heart-typewriter-500x357