Words to Lacey about Covid-19 Home School

Every August for the last 12 years in anticipation of a new school year, the same conversations fill our home, the same shopping trips are taken, and the same prayers are prayed.   Conversations that beg the questions- what if there are no friends in our classes, who will we sit with at lunch, or what if the teachers don’t like me?  Shopping trips for the latest trend in lunch boxes, school supplies and backpacks, and of course that perfect first day of school outfit.  An outfit that neither draws too much attention nor allows anyone not to notice you.  The one that suggests to the world “my children wake up like this every day” despite the hours of planning and preparation that goes into that obligatory first day of school picture for Facebook! 

And the prayers- “Lord please let Hallie find her people and let them be good people.  Let Cade’s teachers notice and understand him despite the dozens of other students in his classes that also need to be noticed and understood.  Protect Kori Jane from all the confusing and conflicting voices that she will hear again this year telling her what to love, value, and build her life upon.  And Lord, please protect little Lacey from the voices in her own head that tell her that she is not good enough.”   Lacey- I pray at the start of each year that all my children would grow stronger, shine brighter, think deeper, create more beauty, and love more fully no matter what that new school year may bring. 

With much anticipation, each August we attend Meet the Teacher, Back to School Nights and High School Orientations just before the new school year begins.   This is followed of course by the comparing of class lists and schedules with all the friends. 

This August your three siblings began seventh, ninth and eleventh grade in the usual fashion while you started your third-grade year at home with me as your teacher.  The years of struggling to fit you in the public-school box while you battled debilitating anxiety and relentless tummy troubles ended right about a year ago (halfway through your second-grade year) when we found ourselves on an unexpected home-school journey.   We made the choice to pull you from school and create an environment at home where you could learn and grow despite your struggles.  I realize now just how fortunate we were to be able to make that choice.  Fortunate that we could financially afford for me to not work in order to stay home with you, and that up until then my entire professional career had been working to help children with learning differences and disabilities and their families find success.        Unlike many families in similar situations we had both the knowledge and the resources to make a sudden change when a change needed to be made.

I am also realizing that the whole country is suddenly being thrust into homeschooling tomorrow without being given any choice.   We have suddenly all been faced with the challenge of figuring out how to create an environment at home where all of our children can learn and grow without regard to the availability of financial resources, our social circumstances or the knowledge and education we may or may not have.

So ready or not Lacey, our little Home-school of one has tripled enrollment and we are adding a middle schooler and two high schoolers to the mix beginning tomorrow!  

So while it is not August, we are none the less embarking on the first day at a new school- The COVID-19 Spaulding Home School.   I admit that I am a little worried as I keep thinking about the steep learning curve you and I endured those first few weeks and months as I tried to be the perfect home educator for you.  And a full year later, I am still learning to have grace on myself when most home school days look nothing like I had ever imagined or hoped.  Below you will find a list of ten things that I wish I knew the first time I found myself unexpectedly homeschooling you.  And now as I find myself unexpectedly homeschooling all four of my wonderful children beginning tomorrow, I give you full permission to remind me of these points in hopes that I do not have to make all of the same mistakes this time around.  May these ten realities help to manage all of our expectations, answer as many first day of school questions as possible, and remind us of all the things that matter most.

  1. You’ve already met your teacher. No need to ask if she will like you- she knows all about you and already loves you like only a mother can! Don’t bother comparing schedules or class lists with your friends; your teacher and your classmates are the same people you have already spent the last nine days in quarantine with.
  2. New Subjects to begin immediately. Any school happening at my home includes the long-lost subject of Home Economics including exploring the arts of mopping, cleaning out the refrigerator, laundry, lawn and garden care, and food preparation. There will also be a hands-on class called Communication and Conflict Resolution complete with practical tips for empathy building, non-verbal communication skills and how to assume the best of other people. Other subjects will be added as needed!
  3. No custodian or lunch lady on duty. You will eat lunch with the same people you’ve eaten dinner with most every night of your life. However, unlike dinner there is also the option for you to eat by yourself. Free breakfast and lunch are available daily however there is no printed menu- only a full refrigerator and pantry for you to explore your options. Your grade in Home Economics will in part be based on your ability to navigate mealtime on your own including clean-up.
  4. No dress codes. There is no need for first day outfits as everyone at The Covid-19 Home School already knows what you really wake up looking like. Pajamas are totally fine however you are required to continue showering even if you have nowhere to go. We will add a Self-Care class if necessary.
  5. No tardies to be given. 8:00 AM does not seem to be the hour of the day that our family is at our best, so official school days will not start until everyone’s coffee, medicine, brain waves, etc. have kicked in. This is not going to be the same for each of you as Hallie is often the first one awake, and she tends to accomplish more in the first hour of her day than she will with all the rest of the day’s hours combined. And then Kori Jane and Cade (as you know) tend to be obnoxious zombies for at least their first waking hour, and will therefore be required to spend that first hour alone. Given that the four of you are not only different ages and grades with varying strengths and weaknesses, but that you are also motivated and interested by completely different things, I am assuming that you will each benefit from different start times, schedules, amounts of social interaction, technological interface, and teacher support. We will figure it out as we go!
  6. Sick days are inevitable. For me that is- your teacher will need a sick day occasionally. She will also need a mental health day every so often. Unfortunately there are no substitutes lined up for any of that. It is also safe to assume that you and your siblings will need your fair share of mental health days as we are all processing what it means that there is a worldwide pandemic sweeping through. This means that you will likely be having even more virtual field-trips coming up to places like Arendelle or Camp Kaikawaka than we did last month. And that’s ok!
  7. Hours of operation vary. A typical homeschool day is not 7 hours long followed by several more hours of homework! In fact, all the work we do is technically homework. I have already mentioned that we will not be starting at 8:00 AM every day, but that does not mean that we will finish school any later than usual. In fact, it is likely we will have many more early dismissals than extended days as long as everyone gets their required district/school assigned work completed. I remember when we first started to home-school last year, and I tried to wake you at the same time every day. Then we’d sit down to do back to back lessons from 8:00-3:00. We were both losing our minds, and the tension between us was spiraling. I finally did some basic math to add up all the transition times, busy work, bathroom breaks and special assemblies in a typical school day. That’s when I decided that sitting with you one-on-one for an hour or two doing actual lessons and schoolwork was more than you were likely getting any given day in a typical public-school classroom. I’ve learned that there is simply no set amount of time that learning takes. Sometimes I take two weeks to cover a concept I thought would take a day, and sometimes we spend a whole day getting lost in learning about a period in History that I thought would take us a whole semester to explore. When I finally quit caring more about checking boxes than I cared about watching you grow, and started caring more about following your curiosities than following a schedule- that’s when your anxiety finally started to relent and your mind and imagination were finally unlocked.
  8. Learn to recognize the Fire Drill Alarm and follow procedures. The first time my volume begins to change you might want to look at my facial expression and body language to determine if it is just a warning or an actual fire-drill is in order. In case of a drill quickly and quietly go outside or retreat to your separate bedrooms. I will lock all doors and reopen them once my heartrate, breathing, volume, and mind return to normal.
  9. Peer tutoring is encouraged! If you need help with anything (including staying sane), please feel free to ask a sibling or even face-time a friend just as readily as you seek out help from me. In fact- maybe start with a sibling or friend as a way to help me stay sane! While the rules about no screens in bedrooms and screens turned in at night still apply, I am no longer limiting screen time as long as responsibilities are getting done. And while we are on the subject, no one is allowed to ask me about my own screen time.
  10. Pop Quizzes come in all forms. In a classroom full of students there is really only one way to show you are learning or what you already know, and that is by putting something on paper. At home there are a million ways to show what you are learning or what you already know- debates around the dinner table, conversations after readalouds, writing a song or short-story to share, playing an instrument or preforming a play you’ve created. Drawing a picture or retelling a good book. Going on a nature walk and identifying the flower or the bird you noticed. Helping cook dinner, mow the yard, or fix the car. Flying a kite, doing a puzzle, playing a board game, helping a sibling, playing pretend, or doing a craft. After-all when all is said and done the goal of education really should not be to get a good grade or raise your test scores, but rather to be able to think, to solve problems and to create. And all that with the ultimate goal of knowing our Creator and His creation more fully, while seeing ourselves and our unique purposes on this earth more clearly.
  11. Grace is the key! I know I said only ten things, but we are going to have to be flexible with each other. We are going to have to have grace- lots and lots and lots of grace. Everything keeps changing on a dime and the only thing in the world that is certain today is uncertainty. We all have more questions than answers and we all have no idea what to expect in the days, weeks or even months to come. While in isolation together for this undetermined amount of time, I’m sure there will be days when dad will be irritable, I will lose my temper, Kori will make us all feel stupid with her dirty looks, and Cade will talk too much about something that we don’t understand. Hallie will say things she does not mean and then pretend she never said them, and Lacey your anxiety will get the best of you. We must have grace on ourselves, our neighbors and friends, and especially on each other- even as we have received grace from our Creator.

And Lacey when all else fails, let us remind one another once again that I may now be your teacher for this season, but I am your mother first and forever. 

In anticipation of tomorrow, my prayers are slightly different than previous first day of school prayers- “Lord, thank you that we get to be Hallie’s people and that I get to be her teacher for this season.  Thank you that she has a teacher that loves her more than she could ever know.   I pray that she feels like her home and her family are right where she belongs even as she navigates the internal and external muddy middle school waters.     Lord, thank you that Cade can’t fall through the cracks in this home school- Let him know that he is noticed, understood, and loved, and that he has been fearfully and wonderfully created with a purpose.  Thank you that Kori Jane has a break from the onslaught of all the confusing and conflicting voices telling her what to love, value, and build her life upon.  Thank you for the gift of time you have given me to pour into her even as she is almost grown and ready to fly.   And Lord, take away Lacey’s anxiety, and use this crisis and the extended time we have together as a family to quiet the voices in her head that tell her that she is not good enough.  Let Your voice be louder, clearer, and sweeter than all the other voices around her. 

Thank you Lord for not only the privilege to pray for my children, but that for this season I can watch from up close as they grow stronger, shine brighter, think deeper, create beauty, and love more fully despite all the uncertainty and change that this year has already brought.

Love,

Mom 

Words to Kori Jane about Junior Year

You are 16.  A high school junior.  In fact, you have just started the second semester of your junior year.  We were warned that junior year would be brutal, and that right about now you would be ready to throw in the towel.   You are no doubt just as sleep deprived, over committed, under nourished and overwhelmed as all of your other high school junior friends.  A typical day for you begins at 6:00 AM when you rush off to Chi-Fil-A for an early morning study session before the first bell even rings.  Between classes you continue cramming for an upcoming quiz, or you are busy responding to the never ending stream of texts, emails and social media messages from family, friends and teachers alike.  During lunch you head to the school theater where you either have student directing responsibilities or you are busy rehearsing for an upcoming performance. I hope that you usually find time to swallow a few bites of the lunch I pack for you.  For years I made you pack your own lunch or you’d have to eat from the school cafeteria, but that was before the demands of high school consumed your every waking hour. Nowadays I have no concerns about you not having enough responsibilities, and instead I now worry that you have too many.  I also worry that you are not eating or sleeping enough, nor are you able to really take enough time to think about who you are or what life is all about. The least I can do is throw some food in a bag in hopes that you get enough calories to make it through another day. After school you almost always have additional school commitments- making up a test, a club meeting or most often another theatre commitment.  Once you finally get home you will only take a break from homework long enough to join your family for dinner, however the days of you leading our dinner games or our long heated dinner debates have been replaced by your desperate pleas to be excused within minutes of taking your first bite. While I’ve no doubt that you love your family dearly, you simply have little time to invest in meaningful relationships just as there is just no time for you to invest in your favorite interests and hobbies- no more craft projects for me to clean up, no jewelry making, poetry or short story writing,no reading for pleasure, no more political and ethical debates or family game nights, and no more kitchens covered in flour and eggs from Kori’s gourmet cooking and baking night after night.   And the only singing I regularly hear coming from your room is your stressed out attempts to hit the notes that might guarantee you a role in the next school musical. Afterall, everything depends on being cast and the competition is brutal. I’m not sure when high school extra curricular activities became more intense than most full time adult careers, but here we are. Sometimes I wonder if I am seeing your lifelong theatre passion dissolve into nothing more than overwhelming theatre pressure. Most of your theatre friends have been in private voice lessons, dance classes and have acting coaches on top of their daily tutoring, sessions with their college consultants, and test prep classes. I wonder how other families manage the price tags and time commitments involved, but perhaps the outside help they receive somehow lessens the stress and pressure they are under.  Being that I was a first generation college graduate that started at the local community college, I still struggle to understand everything that goes into college planning and admissions. We’ve dabbled some in SAT Prep and voice lessons for you this year, but I have yet to understand the value they have added to your already stressed out schedule.  

On a good night you will hand me your phone by 11:00, and turn out lights within the hour.  I know you hate turning in your phone each night, but I am so thankful that you are forced to disconnect- even if only for 6 or 7 hours while you attempt to get some good sleep.   Sometimes I wish someone would make me turn in my phone at the end of the day so that I too would disconnect from the onslaught of social media posts displaying your friend’s college visits or college acceptances, the school district texts and emails about the endless upcoming events and reminders, the news stories and blogs that tell me stress and busyness is the key to success, and the online shopping and brainless entertainment that allows my mind to disengage from the stress and pressure of the day. 

Of course while just laying there in your bed trying to doze off you are likely worrying about GPAs, SAT scores, what to wear to an audition or school dance, college applications, future careers and of course cast lists.    A day in the life of a high school junior in 2020 is NUTS!

I realize that I am painting a rather depressing picture of your life, when in reality you are anything but depressed.  You are truly thankful for your quirky family and your large but close knit group of friends. You recognize and regularly express gratitude for the abundant comforts and opportunities you have been given both in and out of school, and you find a deep abiding joy in your faith- even in the day to day chaos.

But today, in the midst of the chaos I noticed something (or someone rather) that woke me from this junior year trance that we are stuck in.  I saw something that took me back to memories of my own high school worries and chaos. Worries about getting a job at 16 to help my parents pay the mortgage, and worries about whether or not Dad would show up sober while often hoping he would not show up at all.  Today I was also flooded with memories of the stories my own mother told me about the worries and chaos of her high school years. Worries not about what she would eat, but rather if she would eat. Worries about whether her family would be relocating forcing her to be the new kid once again, and worries about how she could avoid any one noticing that she was wearing the same outfit for the third time that week.  Then I remembered her brutal junior year when she found herself pregnant and forced to actually throw in the towel, no matter how much she longed for a brighter future.      

Kori, this morning we slept through our alarms, or perhaps in the rush of getting to bed the alarm was never set.  Either way, we woke you up with only minutes to spare, so instead of packing your lunches I rushed around helping to get you and your brother out the door.   As you ran to the car with me chasing after with water bottles, I promised to bring you both lunches to school later in the day.  

In an attempt to supplement the fast food in your diet, I  boiled some eggs, sliced a perfectly ripe avocado and a juicy green pear, and toasted a grilled cheese.   Avocado still green and sandwich still warm, I walked into your high school expecting you to be waiting at the table just next to the front doors like you often are on the days I deliver lunch.  But it was not you sitting at that table. Instead it was a timid (dare I say petrified) looking girl sitting alone picking at her school lunch tray. Due to overcrowding in the cafeteria, students often seek refuge in other corners of the school including the front lobby.  In fact on this muggy January Houston day, the other tables and benches in the lobby were overflowing with groups of students laughing, talking and eating together. I could not help but notice her, and wonder why she was alone and what her story was. As I waited for you, I tried to catch her eyes so I could smile or even say hello but she was determined not to draw any attention in her direction.  There was something tragic about the look in her eyes as she stared at the half eaten chili dog and orange slices on her white styrofoam tray. Something about that look in her eyes caused me pain and made me wonder what her story was. Was it much like my story? Or maybe it was like my mom’s story? Was she new to the school, or had she just not found a place to belong? Would this be her only meal today?  Was she scared to go home or maybe was without a way to get home or even without a home to go to? I tend to think that she was not worried about cast lists or test scores. I wanted to ask her, to tell her that life would not always be the way it is today. I wanted to tell her that junior year will eventually end- that high school is really not the end of our story- that in fact it is barely the beginning.  

And when you had still not shown up to collect your lunch after several minutes, I decided to move a little closer to her table in hopes that our eyes just might meet.  I realized that some old lady’s attempt to cheer her up might be even more humiliating than allowing her to sit alone in silence trying to be invisible. So then I just started hoping that you might notice her when you finally showed up to gather your lunch.  I hoped you might notice her and share a smile or even a brief conversation.

But alas you rushed into the lobby, out of breath from running all the way from the theatre.  You smiled at me with your genuine grateful smile, and profusely thanked me for bringing you lunch.  You were there just long enough to inform me that you were in between practicing scenes and needed to get back to work, but not without first telling me that you loved me.  I love you too Kori- more than you will ever be able to comprehend.  

I hope someone loves that girl the way I love you.  I hope that she finds a place to belong. I hope that she will look up from her tray long enough to notice that there is more to life than whatever she is walking through right now.  This is still only the beginning of her story.

And I hope you know how much I love you.  I hope that you will forever remain thankful for the comforts and opportunities you have that are not common to all of us.  I hope that you will be the one to help others find their place of belonging. And I hope you will look up from your busyness once in a while and notice that there is so much more to life than whatever you are walking through right now.   

It is tempting to believe that life begins and ends in high school- that cast lists and score reports, college acceptances and event invitations determine not only our happiness today but our future success. Rest assured that junior year will end.  Life will not always be the way it is today. High school is not the end of your story, nor does it really determine what tomorrow holds. And as CS Lewis once said “there are far far greater things ahead than any we leave behind.” Believe that, live it and share it with the stressed, the hopeless, the hurting, the broken and the lonely all around you.    Lord knows that I am forever changed because someone looked up long enough to notice a floundering, lost high school girl, and because of that I found hope and a place to belong for all of eternity.

Love,

Mom

Words to Kori Jane about the Rain

Dear Kori Jane,

Twelve years ago almost to the day, you and I  were  heading to a little neighborhood carnival right by our home that we had passed that morning on our way to church.  It was nothing fancy, just some hand painted wooden games set out on card tables and a bounce house or two, but no party no matter how big or small has ever escaped your notice.    It was a couple of weeks before your fourth birthday and you were long overdue some fun quality time with your mom. When you noticed the gathering again on our way home, and through excited squeals begged to go play, I couldn’t say no!    After dropping your Daddy, your baby brother, and your baby sister off at home we headed back to see what exactly all those balloons, tents, and bounce houses were inviting us to. 

I circled some field a few times and ended up parking a good bit further than I wanted, but the joy and anticipation on your face as you bounced towards the crowd told me that nothing was going to ruin this day for you- certainly not a long walk to the entrance. Well almost nothing. Just as we finally crossed the threshold of the carnival (or the fair-never did find out for sure what it was) the first rain drop fell. I looked up and timidly kept walking forward, but when we reached the first booth the skies which had been completely clear just moments before opened up and a torrential down pour began. Within seconds people everywhere were running for cover. Booths, tents and bounce houses were being taken down at record speeds, and without a thought I grabbed your hand intending to start the long trek back to the car but at a much faster speed. You pulled in the opposite direction, and began to adamantly insist that we stay and play. It didn’t take me long to convince you there was no more fun happening as we were both standing in the middle of an ever-thinning crowd completely drenched to the bone- the rain had changed everything- in a moment.

When we finally got to the car, I could not tell where the raindrops ended and where your tears began.  It would not be the biggest heartbreak of your life, but I’m pretty sure it may have been the biggest thus far.  Or at least it is the first big heartbreak I remember, but that could be because I was struggling with processing a heartbreak of my own that day.  Well, as we joined the other cars in a race to get out of the crowded, wet field that had been transformed into a parking lot, your questions began.  You have always been full of questions.  Not the “but why” or the “what happened” questions but the deep, thought provoking, meaning of life kinds of questions.  There has always been a deep hunger in your soul for beauty, truth and meaning.   A passion for life like no other child I have ever known.

Through your tears you asked me “Mommy, why did God let it rain today?  Didn’t he know that we were going to have so much fun?  Didn’t He know that there was so much to do?  Why did He let it rain? Why?”

I tried to give you a little pre-school theology lesson and explain just how much God loved you, and how rain is one of the ways He shows His love and His strength.  I started to quote some bible verses about how He “provides rain for the earth” and how He is “a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm.”   I desperately wanted you to understand that God is good, and that He can be trusted even when the rain messes up our plans. That in fact He is the only thing this side of heaven that can be trusted.  But I quickly realized that you were still too young to understand all that quite yet.  You were not mature enough to see beyond your own little reality, and your ideas and plans for that moment were the only ideas and plans that you could fathom being good.  So I opted instead to let you ask why, while I started making promises of greater joys yet to come- other fairs and carnivals and even a world where all the princesses live that would blow those old bounce houses and wooden bean bag toss games out of the park.  And then we stopped and adopted a baby-doll who needed a new home from our favorite thrift store, followed by sharing a snow cone at the little blue snowball shack that sits in the parking lot of said thrift store.

By the time we got home you were back to your creative, passionate, playful self and ever ready to make up a game or put on a show for any willing audience.  The only hint of sadness left was the sadness you felt for the other baby dolls at Family Thrift who had not yet been adopted.  But for me, it was time for my daily visit with my sister.  Aunt Heather, diagnosed with terminal cancer eighteen months prior, had been moved to a hospice facility near our home.  Because she was so young and otherwise healthy, it took the cancer much longer to destroy her body than any of the doctors expected.  It was an impossible 18 months watching her slowly die, and the last two months were especially difficult as she desperately tried to hang on for dear life.  That day when I got to her bedside, she was in a particularly deep sleep.  When I pulled her beautiful long black hair out of her face and straightened her covers she did not even flinch.  So I sat down in the large arm chair by her bed, looked out the window and ever so quietly whispered the word “Why?” 

“Oh, God, why?”  “Don’t you know how young she is, don’t you know that there is so much fun still to be had?  Don’t you know how busy I am with three kids under the age of 4 that need me- why do I have to be here watching my sister die when she should be helping me teach them how to live?”

“Why cancer? Why suffering? Why sadness? Why death? Why?”

And even as I was still gazing out the window, asking my questions- the pelting rain started again just as suddenly as it had at the fair several hours before.    And with the rain came the reminder that He is “a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm.”   God is good and He can be trusted even when the rain (or the cancer) messes up our plans, and in fact He is the only thing this side of heaven that can be trusted.  And then I knew that like you, I too am not yet able to understand the whys.  I struggle to see beyond my own little reality, my ideas of what is right, and my plans for today.  I knew from my earlier conversation with you that asking why was just part of the grieving, but even in my asking and grieving the Lord too has made promises of greater joys yet to come. 

Two days after the rain ruined our plans, Aunt Heather got to see the promise of greater joy completely fulfilled as she took her last breath on this earth at the age of 31.

When I was a young child I remember thinking that real people don’t die.  People on the news or in movies sure, but not people you know in real life- and especially not people you love.   When I was in the fifth grade, my Uncle Jimmy died, and I remember that was my first funeral and the first time I felt real genuine grief.  Like the tangible grief that you carry around everywhere you go, even though no one else can see it.  By the time you were in fifth grade, you had already grieved the loss of four people that you loved.  Your Aunt Heather, a teacher at your school, and both of your grandmothers.   I do not have to tell you that you had two of the most amazing grandmothers that ever lived.  My mom was more like a second mom to you, and no doubt your favorite person on the planet.  We would laugh because most of your friends mom’s were closer to Nana’s age than mine, and often people thought she actually was your mom.  She was young, beautiful, and never ever lost her child’s heart.   Daddy’s mom was the perfect Grandma- broke all our rules and was the only other human I’ve ever known to have as much energy as you- which meant that she would get on the floor and play with you until we demanded you both go to bed.  She spoiled you rotten and loved you to pieces. 

Nana- age 53- and her four grand babies, two days before she went to Heaven.

Eventually in the midst of all the rain and storms that kept disturbing our family’s plans, you stopped asking questions and started writing journals, poems, and stories instead.  In fact, when you woke to learn the news of Nana’s death you did not ask a single question or shed a single tear.  You went to your room and you wrote a poem.  In the days and weeks that followed, I could not contain my tears and your lack of tears made me wonder if you were even sad at all- that is until I would stumble upon your writing.  I realize now that even at the age of 8, your thoughts were far too deep and your pain far too real for you to express without the help of a paper and a pen. 

Probably by Kori Jane age 8

Probably walking on water.

Probably walking through walls.

Probably laying on clouds.

Probably already bowed to Him.

Probably shaking His hands.

Definitely loving Heaven.

While I am walking on land.

While I am swimming though waters.

If you were me you’d understand- RAIN.

Not the kind of rain that falls from the sky.

It is when tears fly by.

Once again the line between the rain and your tears was blurred.  But your words even then assured me that despite your grief you were trusting in the promises of far greater joys.

There is no doubt that you understand rain.  The way it changes everything in a moment, the way it hurts and heals, the way it grows us and grieves us. How it can be both devastating and beautiful all at the same time.

You have certainly watched as it has changed me.  It’s no wonder that your tears no longer easily flow when you have grown up watching your mother’s tears flow far too easily.  In many ways you’ve had no choice but to grow up quickly. That first Christmas after both of your grandmas died, I was still trying hard to pick myself up off the floor, and figure out how to do holidays as the 32 year old matriarch of our family. But you were determined this would be the best Christmas ever starting with a spectacular lights display in our yard.  With your usual passion and flare you were tearing into the boxes that Daddy had dutifully brought down from the attic which were filled with decorations and lights.  You were handing out jobs to each of your three siblings and both of your parents, ensuring that not a single part of the yard was left bare.  As I was watching the lights go up, it became obvious to me that like usual, your big, bold, bright ideas were being executed without much planning or forethought.  That coupled with Daddy’s lack of designer instincts was stressing me out. The tree he was wrapping ran out of branches, so he decided that he would stretch the lights to a neighboring tree leaving a single strand of lights floating in mid-air between them.    I snapped and I said some unkind things to Daddy. I won’t go into details about the volume or tone of my voice- or the specific unkind words that came out of my mouth as that is not the point of this story!   The point is that you followed me to the wooden bench swing in our side yard and without speaking a word, gently sat down and placed your hand on my knee as I stared out into space allowing my tears to flow freely.   When one your siblings came to ask me a question you would answer for me as I continued to just stare off unable to find words with which to respond.  And when Daddy came over to kindly inquire as to what exactly he had done to upset me so much, you intuitively answered him by saying “Daddy, don’t you remember that Nana always hung the Christmas lights.”   After a while you drug me inside and insisted that we get busy on the Christmas Tree.   You were ten.  Wise and compassionate beyond your years-no doubt a wisdom and compassion that only can grow where there has been a lot of rain.

This month you will be sixteen and last month you went to yet another funeral.  I was so thankful to hear you mumble the question “why” when we told you that Grandpa was so near the end.  I worry sometimes that all the rain will make you angry or cold.  That you watching me through all my years of grief and tears will just be another storm for you to endure on your journey.   But when you asked why you had to loose someone else you loved- why you had to go to another funeral- why you had to be the only teenager you knew without grandparents.  I knew that all the rain had only made you stronger and more alive.  I knew that you did not really need an answer- just time and space to grieve and maybe a reminder that there are promises of greater joys yet to come. 

Thank you Kori Jane for helping me understand rain, for teaching me to dance in the rain, and helping me find the rainbows and flowers that the rain leaves behind.  Flowers which include your profound wisdom, tender compassion, intense passion and gentle strength.

I love you forever!

Mom