Revise and Improvise

Trees

Hi, I’m Stacy.

I am a writer and a certified English and health education teacher, but right now, I’m staying at home and teaching my own brood about a whole bunch of super-important, fundamental, character-building stuff. You know, the crucial kind of stuff that shapes small children and determines what kind of human being they will turn out to be and assures that they will never spend a night in jail or experiment with recreational drugs or use a salad fork to eat an entrée at a fancy restaurant…

I teach my kids to delight in reading. We have baskets of books in all corners of the house. The boys have a four-foot wide forward-facing book shelf as the centerpiece of their bedroom. I heaved it from an alley junk pile into the back of my dad’s Suburban when my local gift shop remodeled and got new furniture. I painstakingly sanded and repainted that thing bright, beautiful glistening white, and stocked the shelves with Caldecott medal winners and books I was sure would foster brilliance in my children. When I was pregnant with my oldest son, Gray, my husband Chad and I took turns reading to him inside my womb. When Reed joined our family, we read aloud nightly to both boys together in our snuggly bean bag nest, and then to each of them individually in their own bedrooms. I can almost guarantee that my third son, Miles, has overheard a handful books, or has at least looked at one or two toy catalogues he hauled out of the mail pile we’ve been stepping over for three weeks.

I teach my kids about the importance of assisting one another with chores and housework. They feed the dog, wash windows, and clear the table of dishes. At 4:45 pm on Tuesday afternoons, when they offer to help me make dinner by dumping sorting Tupperware lids and vigorously agitating in a fashion that results in optimal splattering  stirring the marinara sauce, I am prompt to assist them too, in locating the vast selection of Garfield segments available on Netflix.

I teach my kids about eating whole foods to keep their bodies  healthy and grow big and strong. We make special 90-mile car trips to the grocery store that has the best natural foods department. When we get home, I offer the boys Tootsie Pops so they will sit still while I cut their hair on a stool in the kitchen. Then I curse myself as I scrape a gelatinous mingling of red 40 drool and hair clippings off of a knockoff Toy Story cape.

I teach my kids about organic farming practices. This year, we planted our first organic garden. We spent about two-hundred bucks on all the supplies and plants, and got at least five tomatoes, a head of lettuce, and two strawberries (that the kids wouldn’t eat because they were “tooo-ooo waaaa-aaarm”) out of it. Once, I went to three different grocery stores so I could purchase all the organic foods on my list (we live in a rural area and this whole organic thing is still catching on). Then I had a really intense craving for a burrito, so I swung through the Taco Bell drive-through before heading home to restock the crisper with four-dollar organic bell peppers.

I teach my kids about recycling. We drive our recyclables to the center across town so they can take turns frisbee-ing flattened cracker boxes into the designated dumpster. When my kids aren’t around, I sometimes pound tin cans into the overflowing trash bin with my slippered foot because I don’t have the energy to properly rinse and sort them. Then I throw some coffee grounds on top of the evidence.

I teach my kids about reusing. We repurpose cardboard boxes for spaceships and scraps of paper for collages. The utensil caddy from our old dishwasher has become a perfect tote for markers and colored pencils. We make maracas and drums out of yogurt containers and play dress-up with hats my grandfather wore decades ago. We cloth diapered our first son all the time, our second son most of the time, and our third son point-three, maybe point-four percent of the time.

I teach my kids about exercise. We spend a lot of time outdoors on local trails, riding bikes up and down the block, throwing balls in the backyard, or splashing in the creek behind our friends’ house. “We’re an outdoors family,” we tell the boys if they complain about being pushed out the door. When it’s too cold to get outside, we play beanbag toss in the basement or participate in a kids’ yoga class at our local studio. Several mornings a week, I get up before 5 a.m. to teach, or participate in fitness classes. I tiptoe like a ninja down our creaky wooden stairs, stepping on the right side of step number four, the left side of step number six, and skipping number seven completely. I creep through the living room shadows, avoiding bristle blocks and monster trucks, slip my yoga mat strap over my jacket without so much as a swoosh, and ease the door shut behind me. Because I would really hate to, um, disturb anyone from slumber.

I teach my kids about patience. We take deep breaths when we feel flustered. We remind one another that love is patient; love is kind. When another driver beats me to the best parking spot at Shopko or my favorite chicken wrap comes with mayo (again, dammit!), I always count to ten before calling anyone an idiot or flashing the old What-For hands (the Christian version of the bird).

I teach my kids about Jesus. Our oldest son, Gray, recites Philippians 4:13 before facing a difficult task (like swallowing a half of a freakin teaspoon of medicine).  My youth director husband and I read to the boys from our kids’ storybook Bible before bed every night. When we leave the room and one of them cries that they had a nightmare (before they even fell asleep) or that they heard a gruffalo (thanks, Julia Donaldson) scratching on the wall, or  that their “blanket isn’t in a squaaa-aare,” we gently tuck them back in and pray with them, and then we get on our knees in our own room and earnestly plea for one quickie that isn’t interrupted by Reed standing by our bed clutching Pete the Python and Woody.

Maybe you’re a person too. Maybe you’re a parent or teacher of super important stuff. Maybe you have awesome intentions that don’t always pan out. Maybe you try pretty hard to do mostly good things.

Maybe you revise and improvise a whole lot every single day.

Maybe you want to know that you’re ok — that we’re ok.

If so, this blog is for you.

14 thoughts on “Revise and Improvise

  1. This blog is for me! I can totally relate my dear friend…right down to those damn Garfield cartoons on Netflix! (Liza has probably watched each episode and movie 5 times each!)

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  2. First of all, what is Beth doing posting at 2:44 AM? I’m a little worried about her. I sort of can’t get past it. However, I read this first thing this morning and I am in awe of you, just as I always have been. There are great things in store for you, Stacy. Thanks for taking me back to my little guy days; I felt transported…except for the organic part. I’m too old for that. Love you.

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    1. Thank you, Erin. I still remember the stories from when your guys were little. Who knew I’d have three of my own?

      Don’t worry about the organic stuff — you put Snapple on the map.

      Thanks for pointing out the gold stars in me before I knew they were there. Love you forever.

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  3. Loved it! As we grow, it’s always interesting to reflect on what we thought we’d become, what we hoped we’d become, and what we really have become. Sounds like I’m not the only one finding dissonance among those things.

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    1. Yes, Beth! I chuckle at who I thought I was and who I wanted to be. I’m sure in five years I will do the same about who I am now. I think we’ll be okay as long as we have the courage to examine and expand! Thanks for reading my post and for your insights. I hope to hear from you again!

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I LOVE hearing from you! I wish I didn't have to moderate comments, but you wouldn't believe what people say on the inter-webs these days ;) I promise to update and approve regularly!

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