Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Supporting Your Kid’s Interests

spell bowlDo you ever have moments where you wonder how your kid can be so different from you?

Recently, I’ve had several friends post pictures on Facebook of their kids reading by choice during their free time. As someone who values books, I indeed find these photos share-worthy. I will admit, when I see them, I have this small, fleeting thought of, “Where did I go wrong?” I have my library science degree, read all of the time, and neither one of my boys could provide me a photo opportunity like this. They are both excellent readers, and my oldest read voraciously until the end of fifth grade, then it came to a halt. He read his tail off all of his fifth grade year to earn an award for a reading program they have at their school called Accelerated Reader. The previous year they had honored the top ten readers at the awards ceremony at the end of the year. They decided not to give that award this particular year, so all of his hard work went unrecognized. He refused to pick up a book all summer long. As a former teacher, I felt horrified that my kid went a whole 8 weeks without reading a single thing, but I worried that forcing the issue would only make him resent it even more.

My husband was an amazing trumpet player. One of our kids plays, but can take it or leave it. It’s not a passion. I didn’t participate in any sports, but my oldest enjoys track. I didn’t love sitting in the cold rain a time or two for meets, but I’m pleased he wants to be a part of a team and do something physical.

Our youngest wants to be on the spell bowl team. This requires studying 25 words a night, every night for about six weeks with no guarantee of making the team. I was a good speller, but never had a chance to do something like this. I may lose my mind quizzing him on the words, but I appreciate his interest and perseverance.

I have a friend whose daughter recently made the cheerleading squad. She confessed that just about everything about cheerleading is unfamiliar/unappealing to her (her sport was swimming), but her daughter loves it, so she is along for the ride.

Sometimes what we envision or hope for our children doesn’t become reality. Sometimes our kids’ interests push us outside of our own comfort zones. What is most important to me, as their mother, is to shape my children into the people God created them to be. And, I suppose one of the reasons I care about this topic is because as a teacher I saw some students forced into activities that they didn’t enjoy or care about because it was their parent’s interest, and not their own.

Admittedly, it is easier to cheer your child on when you share the love of the activity, but don’t let your passions overshadow your child’s. Kids can do amazing things when they are allowed to pursue the things that naturally drive them.

Abandoned

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If you suddenly had to pack up most of your belongings, but you couldn’t take everything, what would the things left behind say about you? The recent hurricanes have me thinking about things like this.

The other day my husband and I had the chance to explore an old, abandoned home. And not just old, but built in 1870. There were so many amazing features, and some not so amazing due to the lack of care for who knows how long.

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The once beautiful stained glass around the front door gave the entry character, as well as this piece inside the home that the camera on my phone doesn’t do justice to. I also loved the double-sided fireplace.

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I loved the entrance to the backyard. I’m even more impressed with how I caught the rays of light filtering down. As you can tell from my photos, I’m clearly not a photographer, but sometimes I fancy myself to be one.

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The ruined garden showed the previous owners possessed a touch of whimsy. They clearly loved nature. There was a composter on the property and even a small greenhouse built on to what I imagine might have been an art studio, but that’s purely conjecture.

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I’ve always wanted a house with little access doors like you see below. They just make my imagination run wild. My cousin had a small door that led into her unusually shaped closet at the top of the house when I was little and I thought that was so amazing. The poet, James Whitcomb Riley, had one like this in his house and he made up poems about it. My gramma used to read this one to me:

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs, His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl, An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all! An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press, An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess; But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you Ef youDon’tWatchOut! –from “Little Orphant Annie”

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As I walked through the house, I tried to piece together my own story of what the owners were like and what they valued and enjoyed. While doing so, it made me wonder what someone would think about me if I suddenly pulled up roots and left pieces of my life behind.

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Hmm…what do you think?

So, I did a little online research, and it turns out that many of my suspicions were accurate. It’s fascinating what just a few items can convey and what a home can say about a person, even when nearly stripped empty.

We love to watch home improvement shows at our house. Recently, we’ve been watching Good Bones which is actually based in Indianapolis. Many of the homes they renovate are historic homes just like this one and often have layers of items left behind. How does that even happen? Do the people die? How can they manage to leave all of their possessions behind? Abandoned homes scream tragedy to me, so I love to watch the people who can bring them back to life.

I’ve always had a big imagination. When I was in third grade I got in trouble because I scared my friend Hope with a story I made up about a house in the woods you could see from our neighborhood. Her mom called my mom because my tales of potential ghouls in the house gave her nightmares. I’m not sure whether to laugh now or be mortified! I think the people in this house were a bit interested in ghouls themselves.

So, here are my final questions. Would your home reflect a person you would be proud of if someone were to piece together the leftover puzzle of your life? Is the person you portray to others the person you actually are? Sometimes who we are and who we desire to be can be vastly different. Let that soak in for a bit. For me, these are sobering questions.

Here’s to more imagination,

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Stretching Yourself


What is something that scares you when it comes to interacting with other people? For me, I can get up in front of hundreds of people with a prepared speech and be nervous, but not feel like I’m going to die. Put me with a small group of even just four people that I don’t know to simply chat about life, and I feel like my heart is going to stop.

This may sound a little dramatic, but I’m only exaggerating a little bit. Sunday evening, our church provided space for a group for international students at IU to host their welcome banquet. A good friend of ours was in charge of planning the event. He invited us to be table hosts for the evening. My husband was game, but me…not so much.

I very reluctantly chose to join him. My heart was thumping out of my chest. “What am I going to say to these people? What if they can’t speak English very well? I don’t even know how to talk to Americans.” All of these were thoughts going through my head. My husband politely kept encouraging me to get a grip. He knew I was ready to jump out of my own skin.

We ended up with two masters students from India who spoke English fluently and a Chinese woman with her daughter who knew a little of the language. We had our boys join us at the table to make the little girl feel more comfortable. The evening consisted of food, door prizes for the student, a dance by some doctoral students from India and an instrumental performance/calligraphy demonstration by students from China.

Here were some of my observations:

1) Sometimes what we build up in our heads to be terrible isn’t that bad in reality.

2) Gathering people from multiple countries is a beautiful thing. Diversity should intrigue us, not frighten us.

3) Culture truly is fascinating in how what can be acceptable in once place can be totally unacceptable in another. I love how dance is such a huge part of India’s culture. It makes me sad that growing up with a conservative Christian background that I got the impression dancing was something to be looked down on.

4) Exposing our kids to people of different cultures is so important! We need to teach them to embrace the beauty of differences. My boys thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

5) Our international guests attending IU are brave! I can’t imagine going to another country to live knowing very little about their culture or language. I’m so glad our church is willing to provide a place to reach out to these individuals and show them that at least some of us in this country are eager to welcome them and help them adjust.

In the span of two hours, we learned so much! I rarely regret pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. My guess is, you wouldn’t either. Take a chance and put yourself in a position to get to know someone different from yourself.

Oh, and that awesome banner in the picture? My husband designed it. #proudwife

What is something you have done for others that you did reluctantly, but were glad you did it later?

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