Friday, December 21, 2007

Dear Anonymous

I haven't posted about parenting issues in SO long. It's just such a sensitive issue, and sometimes I feel like I'm not following my own philosophy well enough to have the right to proselytize it. But I still get new comments on my old spanking posts every once in a while. Like this one from an anonymous reader:

"Your column is making me feel extremely guilty. with 2 naughty boys who are a year apart and the parenting part left to me - spanking has become a way of life. Yes I dread to think of the day when spanking will be ineffective. If we go visiting then they jump on the sofas, tear the flowers in the garden, act as if famished even if they are well fed up to the brim at home. Of course there is the pressure of relatives that your kids are intolerant, indisciplined. HELP" --Anonymous

Oh, dear mama, I do understand! We've all been there. Raising kids is incredibly challenging no matter how you do it. And active children close in age will always make the relatives talk. Plus we have to deal with our own "need" to please other adults, and the inner conflict that comes when the desires of other adults conflict with the desires and needs of our children.

It's not easy to mediate between our children and the world, but we often have to as parents. It's not easy to be patient and creative enough to find a solution that works for everyone in a situation. It's a lot of effort. But it's also worth it.

At some point we have to ask ourselves: What is most important here? What am I teaching my children about the world, themselves, and their mother by how I react in this situation? What do I really believe about my children?

Do I really believe that they are "naughty" boys who need to be corrected and punished? Or do I believe that they are unique individuals worthy of respect and love as they learn how to navigate this complicated world? Can I trust that they have a sense of what they need and are just trying to express it even if it comes out in ways that are inconvenient for the adults around them?

Kids do need to jump, run, explore, and try new things. They want to know what's in Grandma's pantry that they don't have at home. They want to touch the flowers as well as smell them. It doesn't mean they're "naughty." That's how they learn! Some kids respond to "no" because they want to please the parent more than they want to explore what's in front of them. Others want to learn about the world so badly that they're willing to sacrifice pleasing you. That's a matter of both temperament and trust.

So, what to do with children who trust you enough to follow their own hearts and risk displeasing you? First, be glad that they know you love them. Second, be grateful for the strong wills that will serve them well in adulthood. Know that a child with a strong will can survive a lot of parenting mistakes with his True Self still intact.

And trust yourself. No one loves your children more than you do. You will make mistakes. You can learn from them just as your children will learn from theirs. It takes practice, but after awhile it becomes second nature to notice what your kids need in the way of room to be active and noisy, and to find ways to support them.

Find support for yourself, too. Seek out like-minded parents, choose friends who enjoy lively children, check out online support groups such as We all become more like the people we spend the most time with. So make sure you like how those people treat your children.

And then, enjoy your kids! Have fun with them! Learn to laugh and play like they do! It can be difficult for those of us who eventually learned to be "good" to let go and be silly again. I'm still learning. But our kids are worth it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas is almost here!

It just hit me that it's only four more days until Christmas Eve! The last week just zipped by, I guess. My sisters arrive tomorrow night and Saturday, and Scott is meeting his mom at the airport tonight. We'll have his family here for Christmas Eve, and then go to my parents' house for Christmas Day. I still need to wrap about half of the boys presents, and pick up two more things for Scott's family, but it's not too much. We've been baking, decorating, giving and eating cookies all week, but I'll have to keep baking if we want to have any for next week! Cookies don't last long around here.

Scott picked up our second Christmas tree tonight. We got our first on Dec. 2, after I convinced him I could make it last the three weeks before Christmas. It started to stink on Monday. A whole week short. Oops. It's the prettiest little tree, too, high off the ground so Baby Fish won't be too tempted by the ornaments. And actually, it doesn't stink anymore, but it is rather dry. So we'll go ahead and trade it out for the new one tomorrow. Decorating the second time seems a little anti-climactic, but it's a good reason to bake more cookies! (Obviously any earlier dreams of a sugar-free Christmas have been long forgotten.)

P.S. I do have more activity- and photo-laden posts on the boys' blog if you haven't been there lately. Lemme know if you need an invitation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Confessions of an at-home parent with other dreams

Every once in a while I find myself wondering what I've gotten myself into. Like, when I decided I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, was it really because I wanted to spend all my time with my kids, or was it just because I was tired of my job and wanted an excuse to hang out at home, learn to cook and knit, and let my husband support me guilt-free? Or, when I started reading learning theory and thinking about the aspects of school I wanted my kids to miss out on, did I realize that I would have kids at home for the next TWO DECADES?

Sometimes I let neighborhood kids come over for hours at a time just so my kids will have someone else to talk to and will leave me to think my own thoughts uninterrupted for a whole ten minutes. Then when the neighborhood kids start talking to me, I pretend to be deaf. "I'm sorry, did you say something? Maybe you should go home and tell your mother about it, 'cause I can't hear you."

There's nothing like other people's Christmas letters to make you start re-evaluating your life. And when that's too painful, you just start judging how THEY spent their time this year. "Oh, so you took a few days away from your kids this year, did you? Guess you just couldn't handle the full-time parenting gig, huh?" No, no jealousy there. Not a smidge!

For most of my career as a mother I've belonged to the camp convinced that "good" mothers never want to pawn their children off on someone else. Except in special cases. Like doctor appointments. Or the occasional date with your husband. (Movie OR dinner, never both.) And only leaving them with your mother or someone else as trustworthy as yourself. Pity the woman whose mother lives on the opposite coast or who believes Oreos and nonorganic milk are an appropriate snack for children. She'll just have to wait for hubby to come home to take her shower.

In some circles, wanting to have a break from your children means either a) your children are driving you nuts because your discipline techniques are weak, b) your children are driving you nuts because you have inadequate patience and creativity to adequately meet their needs, or c) you shouldn't have had kids in the first place because you're obviously too selfish to be a full-time parent.

While some version of this philosophy insidiously infiltrates every social circle, there isn't a mother alive who's never wanted a few minutes to herself to poop with the door closed. Most of us want a little more.

It's taken me a long time to admit to myself that I do want more. Sure, I want to be the best mom and wife I can be. Sure, I want to enjoy the privilege I've been given to watch my children grow up before my eyes. I want to enjoy what they have to teach me about living in the moment, about creating unbounding joy out of sunshine and sticks, about accepting the waves of emotion that come as life's ups and downs wash over me. I don't want to give up any of that. Not even for the chance to learn how to spin yarn. Or go to the newest Harry Potter film without having to leave halfway through. Or take a yoga class even though it's at dinnertime and my kids will be inhaling corn dogs and tater tots while I exhale my negative chi.

And yet, I do want to do those things. I want to do them guilt-free, trusting that I'm still a good mother even if I desire things that will take me away from my children. Most of my desire has nothing to do with getting away from the people I love and everything to do with going toward something else that interests me. But it shouldn't matter. It should be OK just to want to get away sometimes. It doesn't mean we're inadequate as parents. It doesn't mean our children will suffer. It doesn't mean we're selfish.

At some point, we have to turn off the voices in our heads, ignore the looks and whispers among the playgroup mothers, and give ourselves permission to chase our other dreams. Yes, becoming a mother was a dream of mine. But it wasn't the only one. And while motherhood is a life-long position with never-ending demands, even the most important job on the planet deserves some time off.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pure organizing joy!

Before I do any (very overdue) updating, I have to rave about a little something an online friend of mine created -- no, PERFECTED -- for those of us who need a little organization in our lives to stay sane.

It's called The Plan. And while it is an annual planner, it's NOT just any planner. Julie has thought of everything a homeschooling (or unschooling) mom (or dad) might need. From monthly budgeting pages to a page for makes and model numbers, from kids' milestones to medical visits, you'll find a place for it. If you can find something that's missing, go ahead and let her know, she's taking feedback still. But I think you'll find that she really put a lot of thought and effort into creating a beautifully designed planner that will simplify and inspire your life. She has two versions -- one for homeschooling parents who need extra pages to keep curriculum planning organized, and one for unschooling parents with quotes to inspire us on our learning journeys.

I particularly love the Christmas organizing pages -- so if you're in the middle of your holiday preparations and already feeling overwhelmed, go download The Plan! She's even included the Advent readings to keep us focused on what's most important during this busy season. And it'll make a great Christmas gift, too! It's $16.99 for over 180 pages of pure organizing joy -- and three different colorful covers to choose from. Grab a binder and get printing -- you can print out as many or as few of the pages as you find useful.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I'm so NOT a neat freak. Anymore.

I let the housekeeper go on Monday. It was stressing me out to have to clean for her every two weeks.

She'd either come while I was on my period, too tired and cranky to care about picking up toys, sorting mail and catching up on the laundry and dishes that would be in her way. Or she'd come two days after I'd just cleaned so we could have company over.

She was very nice, but I like having control over my own mess. (If I can call it "control" or "mine" when living with three kids and a husband who's the opposite of a nitnick. Is there a nice synonym for slob?). In any case, sometimes I want to let the clutter pile up for a week or two. And sometimes I sweep the floors three times in one day because I want to go barefoot without stepping on crumbs.

The only thing I'll really miss is not having to clean the bathtub. Which I should have been doing more often than every two weeks anyway considering the amount of dirt my children bring to it nearly every night.

That said, I've been coming to terms with my own variation of anal-retentive slobbishness. You know, that quality of the imperfectionist housewife who "can't" cook unless the kitchen's perfectly clean -- but doesn't really want to clean it either.

Some people would just call it laziness, but anal-retentive slobbishness sounds more like a legitimate medical condition. "Medical" being a loose term, of course.

Don't go writing me a prescription for Paxil just yet. Because every once in a while I come into contact with a breed of people that make me feel incredibly easy-going, even downright emotionally healthy.

My husband was invited to a family bbq at a co-worker's house this afternoon. They have two little kids and one more on the way, and I figured it would be a kid-friendly house and yard with plenty to keep my three happy. If I had nothing to talk about with his co-workers and their spouses, chasing a toddler is always a good way to look busy.

The completely uncluttered living room was my first clue that my assumptions might be wrong. We continued through the family room where the wives were chatting, and I looked around for a good place for the kids to settle. No toys appeared, so we headed out back to meet more people. A huge barbecue sat on the patio, and tables were set up across the lawn. At the end of the yard a faux-rock staircase led to a lovely waterfall.

But there wasn't a single yard toy.

No sandbox or swingset. No trikes. No slide. No balls. Was it possible these people had just moved in that morning and hadn't unpacked the toys yet? They had a nearly-4-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl. They must have at least one grandparent. How could they have gone through three Christmases and five birthdays with no yard toys??

No matter. My boys immediately took to climbing up and down the rock steps to look at the waterfall. Not the baby, but the big boys, who are perfectly capable of climbing stairs safely. Unfortunately, that turned out to be against the house rules.

Eventually we found a toybox hiding in the corner of the living room, and then a few more toys in the boy's bedroom. My sons happily dug out dinosaurs and blocks and scattered them across the floor. Until the 4-year-old suddenly realized that his room was getting "messy" and started putting the toys away so his dad wouldn't see it.

At this point, I was getting scared. Would Child Protective Services consider it abuse to keep a house too neat and clean?

Knowing that both parents work full-time, it's probably reasonable to assume that they don't spend much time at home even on weekends. Or maybe they just spend the weekend cleaning. Because the place was spotless. Spotless, cold, and stiff. Like a corpse carefully prepared for viewing. Unnaturally perfect in a way they never were when alive.

It was not a house I could imagine being a child in.

My house, on the other hand, is often excessively "lived in." And I think I like it that way. Feel free to drop crumbs on my floor if you ever come over and it feels uncomfortably clean.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Checking in.

Just a quick note to say, yes, I'm still alive, just busy and tired.

Fall colds have kept us from sleeping well at night, and made us cranky during the day. A pinworm scare sent us to the doctor, and I had to disinfect the house two days after the housekeeper had been here. After skipping swim lessons and canceling playdates just in case, turns out it was just an itchy bottom that went away without explanation.

Besides that, we've been busy with kung fu lessons, the usual errands, meeting friends at the park, and trying to keep up with messes Baby Fish has been making all over the house! I finally got out the baby gate to put up between the kitchen and dining room after I almost killed myself tripping over a cooking pot that blended into the wood floors. Baby can go where he wants. Pots must stay in the kitchen. Toys must stay OUT of the kitchen.

I'm so harsh, I know.

Next week UberDad is going to a teacher conference for four days, and I'm alone with the kids. My mother's in London for the month, so there's no one to rescue me from the chaos. Don't expect to see me posting here. Although maybe it would be therapeutic. Neglectful, I'm sure, but therapeutic.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yummy apple muffins

We brought home eight pounds of apples and a jug of fresh-pressed cider on Thursday after going apple-picking with a bunch of our friends. It was the most gorgeous day -- despite the forecaster's threats of rain, the sky was bright blue with puffy white clouds, and the temperature was perfect for long sleeves and a morning spent in the sun. The kids had a blast playing tag around the farm where we bought the cider, and then at a nearby park, where we picnicked, played, and nibbled on our apples and goodies.

Now today is baking day! I wanted to make apple muffins for my grandmother who celebrated her birthday this week, but it had to be nut-free and not too high in fiber or sugar. So I made one up. Puffer's compliment to me was, "They taste like you used a recipe even though you didn't!" Hee hee.

Yummy Apple Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 Tbs oil
1 egg
1 cup soymilk (or whatever you have)
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tsp vanilla
1 apple, peeled, cored and shredded

Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients. Mix sugar with butter and oil, then egg. Blend in the other wet ingredients, including apple. Add dry ingredients slowly and mix until just blended. Don't overmix. Pour into a greased or papered muffin tin. Bake for 15 minutes 350. Makes 18 muffins. (Six for us, a dozen for Gramma. :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Socks don't suck.

I will not let iPhoto raise my blood pressure any further. Thanks, John. Just knowing that you, my dear, kind-hearted, soft-spoken friend, could have used the "F" word in regards to that hateful program makes me feel better. Especially since that's what I was yelling when I woke up the baby.

Now, then, what I really wanted to post about was the fact that I finally finished my first pair of knitted socks!

Aren't they cute? My mom brought me home some hand-dyed wool sockyarn (Sockenwolle handgefarbt) from Germany this summer. I don't know if you can tell, but the yarn's in variations of apple green, seafoam, and khaki. They're very campy, and I love them. I didn't make the ankle quite as long as I'd like, but they still work under jeans. (My jeans are hiked up a bit so you can see the cuff. They cover the cuff normally.)

I've also finally finished my cousin's baby gift -- woohoo! Well, okay, I still have to block it, but hopefully I can get to that after my nephew's birthday party tomorrow. Now I have to hurry up and get it in mail, and then start on my other cousin's baby's gift, since her shower's in four weeks.

Darn iPhoto. Again.

Yes, I know it's horribly unfair of me to nag the boys about not being too loud when the baby's sleeping, and then go throw a tantrum myself about this stupid iPhoto program on our new Mac, but I have to tell you, I am SO FRUSTRATED!!! All I want to do is crop a photo, save it where I can find it, and upload it to Blogger. Doesn't sound too hard, does it? Well, I can't figure out how to save the darn thing. iPhoto lets me crop it, but it doesn't have a "save" option anywhere I can see. (I've looked in File, Edit, all over the iPhoto window, done "apple-S, etc.) And it just puts the photo right back to where it started when I click on "done."

Anyone know how to fix this? I'd call Brad, but it's getting late and I know I'll get too loud on the phone and wake up Baby Fish again. Brad? Are you reading?

I'm getting old. That's the problem. I knew how to use Macs way back in the dark ages when the screens were 6 inches wide and in black and white. I even knew how to use them when the screens became big enough for people over 25 to read, but before you could get them in your favorite color. In fact, other reporters used to come ask me for help when they couldn't figure out how to do something. Don't ask me how I knew.

Now. I want things to do what I want them to do. And I don't want to have to relearn how to do things. I'm getting old, stubborn, and crotchety.

Somebody want to trade me their new PC for a new iMac?

Friday, September 14, 2007

The moment you've all been waiting for...

Honestly, I know I overthink things. And take forever to make decisions. But this was really more about the fact that my 15-month-old suddenly needs my attention every waking moment. (Because when I'm NOT paying attention, he unplugs the computer. And that's bad. Very very bad.) He's rather advanced, you know. He doesn't play with toys anymore. He prefers to experiment with knives pulled out of the dishwasher, and containers made of glass. But I'm getting off topic...

SO. Ahem. (Please excuse me, this cold is dragging on forever.) I am excited to present the following Rockin' Girl Blogger Awards to...

Jen at Mama's Magic -- for her commitment to her children and her creative life, and for her efforts to support other creative mamas through weekly profiles on her blog.

Cathryn at Pondering Parenting (formerly Lollymom) -- because she's a fabulous writer, as neurotic about her parenting as I am, and because she REALLY needs something nice to happen after going through THIS.

Girls, you are ROCKIN'!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My first blogging award ever!

I've been named a Rockin' Girl Blogger! I'm so excited! Thanks, bliss -- I'm honored to share the title with you! You TOTALLY rock!

Thanks to Roberta of Blogging Made Devilishly Simple for creating this award! I'll be stopping by her site as I work on some changes around here. (Nothing like positive feedback to inspire reflection and improvement!)

Now I must decide where to share the love...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Snots R Us

Standing up is bad. I tried it. Made my head feel all woozy and faintish. I'm just going to sit here for a few more minutes.

We are all home sick from church this morning. We seem to be making a habit of this. Have too much fun during the week, wake up sick Saturday morning, miss church on Sunday. The Sunday school coordinator is going to think I didn't really want to sign up for the toddler room if we keep this up.

Grouper's nose has been running across his face nonstop since Friday afternoon. His nose and left cheek are a brilliant shade of pink, and he has a lovely cough to go with it. Puffer had a fever yesterday and has the gravely voice, but he seems to be doing the best of all of us today. He tends to fight things off hard and fast.

At least they're in decent moods. Baby Fish looks like Grouper, sounds like Puffer, and has been rather grumpy.

Yesterday the kids finished off a bottle of homeopathic anti-cold pills, and drank nearly half a gallon of orange juice. UberDad and I are taking Zicam and some fancy herbal "Wellness Shots." I'm thinking maybe we should start downing that nasty-looking green juice my friend Sarah used to drink for breakfast every morning. (Do you still do that, Sarah?) Boost our immune systems.

We eat pretty well most of the time -- you know, whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies (okay, not as many as we could). Geez, I didn't even bake cookies on Friday! So, I'm thinking we'd have to do something pretty extreme (read: weird) to make a significant difference in our health.

If I can stand up for longer than it takes to get from the computer to the couch, I'm going to start by disinfecting all the door knobs. That's got to be easier than overhauling our diet. Definitely easier than giving up sugar. (It couldn't possibly be the sugar, could it?!)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back from camp

Some day I'll learn to say no to seconds on dessert. And thirds and fourths. Actually, it probably shouldn't take another lesson. I should know by now.

I'm finally leveling out again after a major blood sugar crash on the way home from our blissful weekend in the mountains. We spent three days with some of our best friends at our church's family camp near Sequoia National Forest.

The boys spent every minute outside, learning archery, hiking to the nearby creek, swimming, playing pingpong, tetherball and basketball, collecting sticks, climbing rocks and making up games with their friends. UberDad and I followed them around half the time, and hung out with our grown-up friends the other half, playing cards (him), knitting (me), chatting, and eating too much.

Too much dessert, mostly. We made s'mores by the campfire every night. Freshly baked chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies were set out every afternoon. Saturday we celebrated our friend Mary's 8th birthday with vegan chocolate cake. Then there was cherry cobbler and chocolate pudding after dinner.

I think I'm going to be sick just thinking about it again. But, boy, was it good while we were there.

Thirty minutes from home I started feeling myself crash. Stuffing graham crackers in my face didn't help much. The cranks were coming, and I couldn't stop them. I managed to make dinner for us and my parents, but afterwards I was a mess, getting frustrated at iPhoto for being impossible to use and blowing up at Scott as though it was his fault. (Well, he did buy the Mac. And he doesn't know how to use iPhoto either.)

I really just needed to sleep it off.


My friend Catherine called right after we got home to share the news of her fourth baby, Ethan Michael, who was born that morning. Hooray! He is beautiful, looks like his sister Eloise, who turns 3 this month.

Tuesday I dragged myself out of bed to go grocery shopping so I could make dinner to take to Catherine's family in exchange for a chance to hold the new baby. When we got home from the store, I had a message from an old high school friend who lives in Seattle but was in the area and wanted to know if she could come by. It was already 1 p.m. by the time I got the baby down for a nap and heard her message, and I still had to bake chicken, make pasta and then take Puffer to kung fu at 3:30, so I asked if we could get together Wednesday instead.

Scott met us at kung fu so I could go home and eat quickly before going to see Catherine. Her hubby was taking their oldest to dance class, so she was home with the three littlest. As I stood on front porch, I could see her through the window -- tiny newborn on one arm, broom in the other, sweeping off the back patio.

Don't ever expect to see me holding a broom two days after giving birth! I'm much too prone to postpartum indulgences such as, oh, I don't know... sleep? But my dear friend now has three children under age 3, which doesn't leave much time for sleep anyhow. And a little bit of order can be an indulgence itself.

If only I'd indulge in housekeeping tasks instead of too many cookies, my kitchen would've looked a whole lot better when my friend Camille came to visit yesterday. Oh well. We took the kids to the park, and ignored the laundry on the couch and dishes in the sink.

After the jump from vacation to frenzied activity, I really needed a day of nothing but catching up. So, of course, this morning we left the house to go shopping for craft supplies.

The one thing Grouper didn't get to do at camp was paint rocks. We forgot to head up to the craft cabin until Monday morning, and by the time we thought of it they'd already locked it up. So, we went to Michael's to stock up on paint and other crafty things. Puffer, who is usually uninterested in crafts, really wanted some Floam, so we grabbed a 3-color pack. They messed around happily with that this afternoon before kung fu. It's basically tiny foam beads mixed into neon-colored flubber. I could probably make a version myself. Maybe I'll post the flubber recipe here when I find it.

I finally tackled dishes tonight. Tomorrow, maybe I'll finish the laundry. Or, maybe we'll go the park and find rocks to paint. And then we'll come home and bake oatmeal chocolate chip cookies -- for Catherine, of course!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One lap, shared.

My 4yo stole a rare moment on my empty lap this evening. He has gotten so tall and lanky he barely resembles the chubby baby that used to ride around in a sling all day long. Now his little brother is the one most often on my hip, but he never seems to resent it. Grouper is more likely to smother Baby Fish with too tight a hug than do anything that expresses jealousy.

No, tonight it was the baby's turn to be jealous.

It took me a minute to realize what he was upset about. UberDad recognized it first. "He doesn't want Grouper sitting on your lap!" my husband laughed, watching the baby scoot over to the sofa from his playmat, dismay in his voice and on his face.

I smiled at him as he came closer, but hugged my middle son tighter, not ready to give up our cuddle. "Your brother is my baby, too!" I said. "But you can come up and join us!"

I pulled him up on the couch, and set him on his brother's lap. We were nestled one on top of another like his stackable wooden boxes, though I wasn't sure that it would be enough. It was -- he was happy to be a part of the cuddle for a moment. Then he slid off to crawl along the sofa and giddily bounce against the cushions.

How lucky am I? He could just as easily have reached out to grab Grouper's face like he does the cat's tail, in an attempt to wrestle his place back. But he didn't.

At some point every mother worries about jealousy between her children. "If I have another baby, will my first child forgive me?" "How will I give them both enough attention and love?" And sometimes we do exactly what we hope we wouldn't -- we choose one over the other, expecting the older children to understand when we put the baby's needs first -- all day long. Or putting the baby off too long because the older child needed our attention. And sometimes it's just a matter of not having enough hands to do everything we're needed for at once.

Maybe it's luck. An undeserved blessing. Maybe I'm figuring some things out and not making those mistakes as often. In any case, I am grateful for having sons who know the value of a brother, and truly love each other.

Toy recalls

I'm a little slow on the news, so forgive me if this is old and you've all heard it already. But just in case, check this list and make sure you don't have any of
these Mattel toys (it includes lots of Polly Pocket playsets).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Freedom to celebrate difference -- shouldn't homeschoolers have it, too?

I'm not sure what woke me and the baby up at 5:30 this morning. (Probably his tummy wanting more milk.) But I do know that the noisy motors of buses filled with children headed back to school kept us from getting back to sleep. Our house is in walking distance of three elementary schools and a high school, and the buses use our wide residential street as a thoroughfare.

My neighbor, a fellow homeschooling mom, stopped by in her robe around 8 to see if we were planning to go to the library this morning, like we often do on Mondays. "Happy Not Back to School Day!" she said. "Aren't you glad you're not sending your kids off to prison?"

"Be careful," warned my mother from her spot on my couch when I expressed the same sentiment 20 minutes later. She was waiting for the boys to put their shoes on so we could go out to breakfast and celebrate her birthday.

My mom doesn't like me getting too excited about the fact that we're not sending our kids to school. At least not around people who do send their kids to school, like she did. I understand her concern for offending people, especially people I know and love. My friends are not all making the same choice as I am, and I respect their reasons and their decision as their own.

But it is nice to be around those who share my perspective and aren't afraid to celebrate our choice to buck the mainstream. We are happy about keeping our kids home with us. Why can't we celebrate that and joke a little? Why does it seem like homeschoolers are the ones who have to protect the feelings of schooling moms, when we're the minority surrounded by a culture that doubts our validity?

I don't normally experience that doubt directly. Somehow I've avoided the kind of conversation my neighbor has with people in line at the grocery store on a weekday morning, her three children in tow. I'm just not as friendly and talkative.

So I hadn't thought much about the conspicuousness of taking two school-age children into a restaurant at 9 a.m. on Back to School Monday. (Instead I'd been remembering how my parents always took my sisters and me out to breakfast on the first day of school, giving us new wristwatches when we each started kindergarten to commemorate the moment.)

Otherwise, I might not have been as caught off guard by all the questioning stares as we entered a cafe full of adults, many of whom had undoubtedly dropped their own kids off at school at hour earlier. Fortunately we didn't get any rude comments. Although it might have been a nice opportunity to educate people, as my neighbor so often does.

If it hadn't been my mother's birthday, we might have been at a Not Back to School Party with our fellow homeschoolers -- eating pancakes and ice cream sundaes, swimming, and celebrating our freedom to do so any day we like.

There's nothing wrong with that.

I know there are moms who miss their kindergarteners terribly after sending them away for the first time. I know this because I know homeschool moms who began as schooling moms, and hated it. But most moms get used to it, even breathing a sigh of relief when summer vacation ends and they have a few hours a day to themselves again.

I admit the possibility occasionally appeals to me, too. Think of all the blogging I could get done!

But then I think about how that would change our family life. How much I would miss them. The struggles and boredom they might face in school unnecessarily. The moments we would miss out on because we simply weren't together to experience them.

And I celebrate our choice to do so. I know I'm lucky to have a husband who feels the same way I do -- even as he headed back to school himself.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Who's Afraid of Harry Potter?

I love this article so much, I wish I'd written it. The author, a fellow unschooling mom, didn't have a current link, but gave me permission to post it here. Thanks, Amy!

Who's Afraid of Harry Potter?

By Amy Hollingsworth

(Published on

I, for one, am not.

“Always use the proper name for things,” once mused a wise headmaster, gazing over his half-moon spectacles. “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” The proper name I’m thinking of in this case is Harry Potter, the kid with the lightning scar who’s become a lightning rod for censors.

By now, everyone has at least heard of Harry Potter. All three books about Harry Potter’s adventures as an ill-treated orphan suddenly transported into a world of wizardry have magically hovered atop the New York Times Best Seller list for months now.

Author J.K. Rowling’s freshman effort has been compared to The Chronicles of Narnia; her imaginative style likened to that of Roald Dahl. Not everyone is celebrating the arrival of her British hero, though. Parents in California, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and South Carolina have taken steps to have the books removed from school libraries. They would be happier if the books, well, vanished into thin air.

So, who’s afraid of Harry Potter? I, for one, am not. Sure, I think Professor Snape is a little creepy and well, Voldemort, he’s so bad no one even refers to him by name. But I’m not afraid of Harry Potter.

Not afraid of him, not afraid of his friends, not afraid of how he’s being educated. I see Harry Potter as a sort of Everyman, or more accurately, Every Kid. He’s not the smartest or the strongest or the richest or the best looking. Maybe he’s a little different because he wears long robes to school, plays sports on a broomstick and has a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, but he is brave and he has a good heart. What’s not to like?

I’m not saying I didn’t have any concerns about my children making Harry’s acquaintance. Like every responsible parent, I’m careful about the company my children keep. Would meeting Harry stir up a desire to delve into the dark side of fantasy? Should my kids be cavorting with wizards, learning to concoct potions, seeing how far evil can triumph?

It’s a legitimate question. For that reason, my children have never even participated in Halloween, except to celebrate a Harvest Party with friends. But I didn’t know enough to make an informed decision.

I asked around, picking the brains of those who had already dared to climb aboard Hogwarts Express. There were mixed reviews, although mostly positive. In the end, I decided the only way to know for sure was to meet Harry myself. Since my library’s 33 copies were all in use, I headed to the bookstore and purchased the first in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It was worth every cent, or Knut, depending on where you bank.

My initial plan was to read the book myself and then if all went well, to read it to my 8-year-old son. (I’m not in the habit - metaphorically speaking - of chewing up my children’s food for them like some mama bird who doesn’t want her babies to choke, but I do like to know what they’re eating.)

My son knew about this conditional status and would sneak into my bedroom to riffle through the pages like they were contraband. Talk about building interest. After I read each chapter, he would ask for a detailed summary. Midway through the book, I stopped giving summaries and we began reading the book together.

These are the reasons why I’m glad I did.

1. The books highlight experiences kids can relate to. Instead of arguing over who’s got the best bike or the coolest video game, Harry’s friends ooh and aah over the Nimbus Two Thousand, the latest and most coveted broomstick model. They collect wizard trading cards. There’s even a bully (aptly named Draco Malfoy) who makes Harry’s life miserable.

J.K. Rowling doesn’t hesitate to point out the unfortunate fact that people are sometimes divided into social classes, with labels like Muggles (nonwizarding types, like you and me), Squibs (nonwizarding types from wizarding families), and Mudbloods (a pejorative for someone with magically-challenged parents). The books provide a safe place for kids to identify with peer pressure, bullies and injustices in a setting that’s pure fantasy.

2. The books allow you to become a part of history. Reading the Harry Potter series, I feel a kinship with those Britons who paged through Bentley’s Miscellany in 1837 eager to read the monthly installments chronicling the adventures of another famous orphan, one by the name of Oliver Twist. I’m not trying to be dramatic here. How often do you and your children get to follow a tale as it’s unfolding, knowing all the while that it’s destined to become a classic? I see the Harry Potter books this way. I don’t have to wait for any historian to tell me these books will be considered among the very best of children’s literature.

3. The books encourage naming the thing you fear. It was Albus Dumbledore, the wise and noble headmaster of Hogwarts School, who spoke the words I quoted earlier. He cautioned Harry to always use the proper name for things because “fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” I think those parents who want to censor Harry Potter, or those who simply refuse to read the books at all, are more fearful of “names” or words than anything else—magic, potions, wizards, witches, spells. But these things are not the central focus of the stories.

The books are not about conjuring up occult powers. The tools of the wizarding trade are merely props, the backdrop for the real drama. And the real drama is the age-old battle between good and evil. The evil, as embodied in Lord Voldemort, is not fictional. The existence of that kind of wickedness in the world is what is to be feared, not Harry’s broomstick. When I read the chilling account of Harry’s encounter with Lord Voldemort to my son (and I must admit here that I did a little editing, just a little), I explained to him that this was evil personified, (im)pure and simple.

Evil is real. It exploits those who give their lives to it and then leaves them for dead (which is what happened to poor Professor Quirrell). That’s what Voldemort represents. What conquers that kind of evil is not a magic wand, but the goodness and bravery Harry is best known for. I’m not really sure why Harry Potter has been singled out. I have a hard time believing that the masses cried foul when C.S. Lewis wrote about a White Witch exploiting a young boy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or when the Queen of the Night took center stage in Mozart’s The Magic Flute or when L. Frank Baum unveiled the Wizard of Oz. Maybe they did. But if I had to answer the question, “Who’s afraid of Harry Potter?,” my guess would be: Mostly those who haven’t bothered to get to know him yet.

Copyright, 2000 Amy Hollingsworth

Writer, Interrupted

I don't mention it here very often, but my friends know that before I was a mom I was a professional writer for a few years. Not long enough to get good at it, but long enough to be published and to identify myself as a writer. Actually, I identified as a writer long before that.

So, it surprised even me when I dropped that identity quickly after becoming a mother. I did attempt to freelance for a few months after my first son was born. But since he knew from the earliest age that when Mommy gets on the phone it's time to really need her, the freelancing didn't last long. And even though we could have used the money, it didn't seem worth it. I'd wanted to become a mom for a long time, and I didn't want anything to prevent me from focusing on my child.

Eventually I discovered blogging, and that helped fill the void. But while blogging kept me from completely giving up the craft, it also let me be lazy. Every once in a while I'd put some effort into it, but most of the time I just spewed my thoughts into a post as I would a journal, not planning or editing much.

Some part of me believed that because I was planning to homeschool, focusing seriously on my writing wouldn't be possible. The kids would need me just as much as when they were babies.

As it turns out, if I could draw myself away from other scattered interests and just make writing a priority, I could do it. My kids will not suffer. They are happy. I can meet their needs AND write in between. There are inspiring moms doing just that everywhere I look -- online and in publications.

I could make this post ridiculously long attempting to explain why this is important to me, but Amy Hollingsworth has already done it in her article here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Can postpartum exhaustion still be my excuse?

Last night I did my first postpartum workout, a mommy & baby yoga/pilates DVD I picked up at the thrift store a month ago.

Does it still count as postpartum if the baby's already 14 months old? Is it still "mommy & baby yoga" if the baby would rather pull all the videos out of the drawer in the media cabinet than help me work my abs by playing airplane?

It felt so good to stretch and use my stiff muscles; I don't know why it took me so long to finally get out the yoga mat again! I was pretty good about getting regular exercise for most of my pregnancy, and it made a huge difference in how I felt. I'm not sure whether I got it into my head that exercise is a "should," which takes the fun out of it, or a "luxury," which makes it feel too indulgent. Either way, for a year my neuroses have convinced me to sit on the couch and knit instead.

Knitting can be meditative, and therefore good for the mind, but it makes for a soggy body if it's your only hobby. And as it turns out, exercise is good for the mind, too, sending blood flow and endorphins to the brain, and reducing stress and depression. We all know this, right? So why do I sit on the couch every time I get a moment to myself?

Beats me. But I'm going to start lying down on the floor instead.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

It's that time of year again...

The air is still be stifling hot outside, but there's no denying the season is changing. It just has nothing to do with the weather.

Back-to-School marketing has been interrupting the kids' favorite shows for weeks already, trying to convince us to get excited about heading to the nearest mega-mart to stock up on writing utensils, binders and backpacks. According to Walmart, KMart and Staples, going back to school has less to do with the routine of bus schedules and homework than with the need to buy new stuff. And it has almost nothing to do with fall, since most schools around the country start the new semester in mid-August while it's still 90-something degrees outside.

Unfortunately, I'm totally falling prey to the propaganda. What is it about new things that make them so appealing? Why is it so easy to believe that getting something new will make us feel better about our lives? Why is buying a cute new pair of shoes so darn exciting?

I admit that as a kid I did NOT like shopping for school shoes. I wore size 11 by fifth grade. Very few shoemakers make shoes for girls in size 11. I remember one summer driving two hours to Los Angeles, then searching three different malls to find a pair of shoes that looked cute on a five-foot-eleven-inch 12-year-old. Maybe that's why it's so exciting to find a pair I like in my size even now.

In any case, since we're unschooling, I obviously don't have a list on the fridge of all the supplies I'd be required to purchase if my sons were heading back to the local elementary school in 10 days. We can buy drawing paper when we want some, when we realize we've run out. I can pick up a notebook for journaling when I've filled my last one, or new crayons when I realize they're all broken again.

But there's still something tempting about all that stuff filling the seasonal section in the back of Target right now. It triggers very old memories; that feeling of excitement that comes when you're preparing for a change, for some new not-wholly-familiar adventure.

I actually liked school as a kid. Maybe not as much as summer freedom, but by the end of each break, I was looking forward to getting back in the routine, seeing friends who didn't live in our neighborhood -- deciding which color backpack and binders to get for the new school year.

Now that I'm a homeschooling mom married to a teacher, the approach of fall has less to do with preparing the kids for school, and more to do with how we're going to survive losing UberDad to the workday again.

Even when he teaches summer school, we have a lot more time together over the summer months. This summer we had almost every day. The boys got used to having a parent available whenever they needed one -- to read a WoW quest, pour another glass of chocolate soy milk, play their favorite card game, kiss an owie, take them out for ice cream cones. If one of us was busy, the other could take care of it.

With UberDad back at school, I'm going to have to meet all those needs by myself during the day -- again. I have to remind myself that this isn't the first time. Last fall I had a newborn to care for! This year should be a cinch!

Part of my problem is that I want to raise the bar for myself. With Baby Fish getting a little more independent, I'll have more time to play with all three boys than I did last year. Because part of the point of being home with my kids, and keeping them home, is to do stuff together. Not just so we can sit at the table and play school. They're not interested in that kind of thing very often. Not just to fill the week with playdates. We'll have plenty, but it's nice to be at home with just each other, too. And not so I can do my own thing while they entertain themselves, even if they do so happily most of the time.

So, sitting at the dinner table tonight, I asked the boys what they'd like to do when Daddy goes back to work. I thought maybe they'd like to do more science projects or help me plant a new vegetable garden. I wondered if there was anything they'd hoped to do that I hadn't gotten around to yet.

Their first answers: "Play World of Warcraft ALL day long!" "Drink lots of chocolate soy milk." "Play BUZZ!" "Eat ice cream."

Hmm, sounds a lot like summer. Maybe I can do this after all. And maybe I'll get started on that vegetable garden and see if they eventually join me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dreams, unfinished.

Crazy Hip Blog Mamas has a collaboration about childhood dreams going on today. I just happened upon it, but since I've been thinking about this lately anyway, I thought I'd join in.

I was a serious daydreamer as a child. While other kids were out on their bikes exploring the neighborhood, I was usually lounging on my bed envisioning the future, writing down name ideas for my future children, designing the interiors of my dream home, or chatting with my friend Andie about all the details of our imaginary adult lives.

I knew wanted to get married and have children from the very beginning. Oh, sure, I also dreamed of being a rock star, of living on my own in New York or Paris for awhile, of being a magazine publisher or successful novelist, of being filthy rich and terribly famous. But mostly I just wanted a house with a garden, four to six kids, and a husband who could pay for a housekeeper so I'd have time to write.

When I was 12, I would spend hours in my room looking through home magazines for facades I liked, then coming up with interior layouts that would fit my imaginary family's lifestyle. Seven bedrooms minimum. A library for all my books, a music room for my baby grand piano, a master suite with my desk by a window overlooking the rose garden. The children would be able to wander into the woods behind the house, creating their own dreams -- since for some reason I don't remember envisioning many toys in the house, or even a swingset in the backyard for all those kids.

Isn't it funny? I now have a house (though it doesn't have a libary, music room or seven bedrooms!). I have three out of four to six kids. I have a huge backyard that still needs a ton of work -- but the potential is there. And, as of two months ago, I even have someone come to clean my house every two weeks -- plus a husband who thinks I deserve it!

I guess it's time to start writing. Or... have another baby? Except that my nerves aren't quite as stable in the face of child-created chaos and noise as I'd imagined. Three seems to be enough for now.

Oh, and the husband says another baby completely out of the question. I guess his vote should count.

Somehow the work of carving out the time and energy to write is a lot harder in real life. I have a million excuses. One of them has been pleading with me to GET OFF the computer and log him onto Webkinz for the last 10 minutes. I guess it's time to post. Forgive me for not proofreading.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gratefulness is everything.

Goodness gracious, I'm tempted to delete that last post! If you've read it already, I'm sorry. I really sounded pitiful, with no reason to be pitied. Thankfully I woke up this morning feeling as though a Horcrux had been lifted from around my neck. I was happy to be alive again, grateful for the abundant blessings I've been given. And I do know how abundant they are, even when I'm in a melancholy funk. I just can't feel it properly in that moment for some reason. But a good night's sleep always helps. Drinking enough water, taking my vitamins, moving even just to take dishes into the kitchen, or just watching my boys play for a little while -- it all helps. Little things, yes, but very important things.

Please, go do me a favor and take care of the little things in your life, too.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Great week, pissy mood. Guess I'm just spoiled.

After deciding that San Francisco was too far for UberDad's aching back to travel in the car, we took off with my mom on Tuesday for Santa Barbara. My sister Lindsay met us there for a few days of lounging by the heated hotel pool and the beach, eating out, shopping, and taking the kids to the zoo. The weather was perfect, as always. Scott and I both finished "The Deathly Hallows" while we were there, taking turns reading and swimming with the boys.

We, sunburned and dreading the 100-degree weather of home, returned Thursday night to find our new iMac set up where the old Dell had been, and the old Dell set up and ready to go in the boys' playroom. Thanks, Brad!! Now I'm just trying to figure out how to use this thing. It's been years since I was Mac-proficient. The learning curve is steeper than I was expecting. But I'm determined. Just give me time. I'm hoping there'll be more of it since the boys are happily occupied on their own computer now. 'Course, I'm still competing with UberDad, who's so thrilled with the improved picture quality of WoW that he seems to have forgotten that he said he was buying me an iMac.

I've been composing an Ode to Harry post in my head all week, because I really do love those books, and had been on a high since finishing them. Except that PMS hit hard this morning, and I've been grumpy ever since. Suddenly the heat is more than I can bear, the breakfast dishes are overwhelming, the backyard is a depressing wasteland of dead perennials, the baby wants to nurse ALL the time, and I don't even want to wear my cute new skirt to the post office drop box because nobody will see me anyway.

Okay, I admit it, I stopped seeing my therapist because I'd rather spend the money on a housekeeper or new shoes. And I really only needed counseling once a month. Well, maybe when I'm ovulating, too -- but not every month. Besides, she's an at-home mom like me, with little kids, what could she know about sanity? I did enjoy getting to let my mouth ramble on and on about my life without having to be interested in anyone else in return. And she could relate only too well to both the mundane and exceedingly important pressures of motherhood.

But so far she hasn't given me any great clues to avoiding the crash of hormones that turns me from Loving Mommy into Hateful Mrs. Hyde once a month -- sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for days. Yes, yes, I know sugar aggravates it. But who doesn't CRAVE chocolate at the moment of highest sensitivity to it? I know getting back to my yoga would help. But it's hard to lie down and relax when I'm completely irritated by stepping on the single tiny crumb left after UberDad swept the floors. So, instead, I sweep toys, laundry and extraneous pillows off the couch, pick up my knitting, and turn on HGTV.

If only there were a Book 8 to read.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Does interest-led learning promote ignorance?

Well, I'm half-way through the book! Would be farther, but it didn't arrive until almost dinner yesterday. Needless to say I didn't end up cooking. And now UberDad wants a turn, so I thought I'd finish a reply to a little comment about unschooling posted the other day. I rarely get questions from random visitors, but they always seem to be inspiring...

Got here by randomness.
I do not mean any offense, I'm genuinely curious and skeptical about this idea.
What do kids show interest in knowing? Does this not promote ignorance in some level?


Hi Alina, thanks for asking. Kids show interest in all kinds of things! From birth, they are interested in learning whatever they need to know to survive and thrive in their environment. They learn to eat, to recognize their parents, to communicate feelings of discomfort and joy. They learn to pick up small objects with their fingers, to throw a ball, to walk... and the most complex of human activities: to use language. They learn all this simply by LIVING with other humans who do all these things and who respond to their child with care and interest themselves. The incentive is mastery, and the curriculum is anything and everything around them!

On the contrary, ignorance is born when children are taught to forget that they are capable of learning. When we tell them over and over again that they will "never learn" if they don't sit still, if they don't listen to the teacher, if they don't work at it... when we tell them that learning is DIFFICULT and has to be SCHEDULED or else they'd never want to do it... when we tell them that they will "amount to nothing" if they don't finish school... we are telling them that they cannot do anything or be anything without somebody else teaching them how, when, and what to learn.

Fortunately, not every child accepts that message. Some escape with their sense of self still somewhat in tact, with their creative potential as an individual not totally squashed. But how much better if they didn't have to suffer and survive? If instead they remained supported as confident learners from the very beginning and thrived?

Because when children are TRUSTED to learn as they do best, and are provided opportunities to freely and safely explore their world WITHOUT strict timelines, rigid expectations, or one-size-fits-all curriculums -- and WITH input from trustworthy, knowledgable sources such as parents and community leaders, then they will continue to do as they have since birth: learn everything they need to know to thrive in their world -- and hopefully make it an even better place.

Only in very special circumstances is external assistance needed to make the learning process go smoothly. Unfortunately, as more is learned to help these children, educators have begun to find power in assuming that the anomoly is the norm, and that all children who don't fit their ideal are on a spectrum of learning disorder. Much like the medical establishment assumes that first-time moms are "high-risk" until they've "proven" that their pelvis is capable of birthing a baby. But I digress...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just a list..

Of what's happening in my life this week...

On the calendar...
Monday: Small group at our house
Wednesday: Pizza and swimming at Carla’s
Thursday: Date with UberDad to see “Order of the Phoenix”
Friday: Playdate at our house

On the menu...
BBQ veggie and turkey burgers, chips and watermelon
Salmon, potatoes and brocolli
Chinese chicken salad

On my knitting needles...
Gryffindor Hip House scarf
Present for my cousin’s baby

Off the bookshelves...
“Have Fun. Learn Stuff. Grow. Homeschooling and the Curriculum of Love” by David Albert
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling

On the to-do list...
Laundry, dishes, etc.
Finish online photo albums from last 7 months

In the garden...
Dry grass
Blackberry bushes fruiting
Trying to keep perennials alive through summer

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Just call me a Potterhead.

I've been having a hard time getting motivated to blog lately. You might have noticed. I don't know why that it is exactly. The males in my house have been getting better about giving me daily a turn on the computer. Mostly I've used it to stay in touch with my mother while she's been in Germany visiting my cousin. She's coming home tonight -- yay!

While she's been gone, I've been knitting up a Hip House Scarf for myself from Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter. I rarely knit for myself, but I'm planning to get this done before UberDad and I go see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Hopefully my mom will watch the boys so we can go on Thursday afternoon. I'm so excited!! I finished the sixth book, HP and the Half-Blood Prince, a couple weeks ago, and rented both the third and fourth movies last week. I'm both sad that there's only one book left, and anxious for it to arrive from Amazon next Saturday! Puffer used his allowance to buy the Harry Potter Wizard's Chess set a couple weeks ago, so he and UberDad have been playing regularly.

Yes, we love Harry.

(Fyi, I have posted at my kids' private unschooling blog recently, even though I've been mostly MIA here. If you want an invitation, just let me know.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm ba-ack.

Well, it seems you just aren't going to let me forget that I have a blog! And, for that, I am grateful. Fortunately, after two months of almost constant World of Warcrafting, the boys are finally interested in doing something OFF the computer. Right now they're currently playing Castella, this cool little castle-building game made out of bamboo that my friend Megan gave them for Christmas.

Okay, so it's not like they've done NOTHING but play computer games. We spent three days at the beach with my parents. We've had friends over. We've gone to the park. We've gone swimming. We've gone to the library. We've read stories. We've played in the backyard. The big boys had their first Vacation Bible School experience, and they liked it. Baby Fish and I missed them, though.

Overall it's been a really wonderful summer. UberDad is off, so we've had lots of plain-ol' family time at home. Getting things done around the house, catching up on Harry Potter before the next movie and book come out in July, hanging out with friends, watching Baby Fish scoot himself around the house on his bum chasing his ball. He turned ONE three weeks ago! I can hardly believe it.

And now... my uninterrupted computer time is over already. Someone wants on Neopets.

Friday, April 20, 2007

We made it!

After weeks of preparing and packing -- and an E.R. visit on Monday that threatened to cancel the whole trip -- were finally at the Life is Good Unschooling Conference! We drove all day Wednesday and yesterday, and checked in to the hotel around 8 last night. Puffer and Grouper were so anxious to get to the hotel, they didnt want to stop for dinner, so we just snacked, and then ordered room service as soon as we got here.

We were all pretty hyper, except Baby Crabcakes, who was exhausted from being out of bed so late. Hes asleep right now, which is why Im on the in-room computer, instead socializing or down with the boys at the pool. My friend Sarah took the kids down while baby catches up on his sleep. We went out to breakfast and he fussed nearly the whole time, I think because he was hungry again even though I nursed him for an hour this morning. Heś still has trouble settling down to nurse with too much commotion around him.

And thereś been plenty of commotion. But Ive met a few people, putting familiar names to new faces, and I think weŕe going to have a great time. The opening talk is in a couple hours, and then thereś a skateboarding funshop that Grouperś been anticipating all week. I got him a new skateboard before we left because it had disappeared. Then tonight is the Pajama Party, which is what Puffer has been most excited about.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's all about Harry this week.

Why haven't I been blogging? Or knitting? Or even checking my e-mail?? Because I'm almost all the way through "Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix" and I DON'T WANT TO PUT IT DOWN! So, imagine my happy surprise to find that Hathor and her brood are doing the same exact thing this week...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Whew! I almost missed it!

Wow! You guys are fabulous! As usual, I opened the door to let everyone in for the party, and then had to disappear into the bedroom to nurse the baby back to sleep. I've been enjoying listening to the conversation through the bedroom door -- seems like I've been back there for days! ;)

But you're still here, and I see you found the coffee and cookies! I'm so glad! Please have some more so I don't finish them off myself! Ah, and baby's calling again. He's getting his top two teeth in right now, and he's been very brave. Maybe I'll get to chat some more later.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Ultimate Blog Party

The Ultimate Blog Party starts today! Head over to 5 Minutes for Mom to add your blog to the list of party locales! I haven't been getting much traffic lately, and I'm ready for some fresh inspiration. In the meantime, I'll join Laura's blogging meme...

Five Reasons Why I Blog...

  1. Because I love to write, and it's always nicer if someone's there to read it.
  2. Because I can't seem to remember anything unless it's written down.
  3. Because I like sharing my faith and what I'm learning with other people.
  4. Because it's fun to meet like-minded moms online.
  5. Because it makes feel like a rock star to know strangers are reading about my life.

Now, go join the party! And don't forget to leave me a comment to let me know you were here. :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Rest, Grace and True Freedom

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Matthew 11:29-30 (MSG)

Friday, February 09, 2007

The meeting

Well, as usual, things didn't turn out quite like I'd expected, but it was good anyway.

Puffer woke up around midnight last night in a lot of pain with a swollen jawbone, so I had to take him in to the doctor this morning when I would have been heading to the La Leche League meeting. UberDad and I thought maybe he'd just been gritting his teeth too hard while playing Bionicle and during kung fu class yesterday, because he does get very focused and tenses up his face when he's concentrating. But the doctor thinks he has an infected salivary gland, so she prescribed antibiotics. He hasn't been on antibiotics since he was a toddler, and we didn't finish that round because they made him sicker than he'd been before taking them. So, hopefully he'll be okay this time.

We got in and out quickly, and made it to the meeting 30 minutes late, but before they'd really gotten started. There were lots of boys in the 2 to 5-year-old range, so mine had a blast. The moms chatted about nursing in public, jaundice in newborns, how to cook and clean while caring for small children, nighttime parenting, and more for a solid two hours before babies started fussing for lunch and naps. Robin and Jenny didn't make it, but I'm sure they'll try again. The bummer about meetings being only once a month is that if you miss one, it's such a long wait until the next one.

I really enjoyed being able to talk about my nursing experiences, and answer questions for some of the new moms. I just hope I didn't talk too much! Sometimes I get a little excited about my favorite subjects and can't shut up. I bit my tongue as much as I could.

So, I still have to figure out where I'm needed most next. Should I start the process of becoming an LLL leader? Should I start a birth-focused support group similar to LLL? Should I teach formal childbirth classes and earn a little money? Should I start a support group/reading club for people who are serious about becoming better parents? Should I stick to knitting and make soakers I can sell in the co-op? Or should I get back to writing and come up with something to submit to a homeschooling or life learning magazine? I'm not feeling as inspired on that last one.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Expanding the Tribe

I've been feeling a surge of social and creative energy the last two weeks that has me feeling all rosy and glowing on the inside despite the nasty gray weather. After the holidays I just needed some down time to chill out at home, and having The Cold Virus That Never Ends certainly helped with that. We took time to finish reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, watched movies, played games, did science experiments, and I finished up some knitting projects. We went to the beach that one weekend, went to Chuck E Cheese with my friend Kate and kids, and hung out with our small group on Monday nights, but besides that, we didn't get out much. Okay, so maybe that was enough for one month. :)

Nonetheless, my mood changed a couple weeks ago, and I've been dreaming up all kinds of new projects -- and meeting new people at the same time! I met another local crunchy mama, Robin, through, and we chatted a bunch online. We're going to meet at a La Leche League meeting on Friday. The group is just getting started again after the last leader left to work in a hospital as a lactation consultant, and it's being held at The Mothers' Cooperative, a new local natural parenting shop that another cool mama opened in September.

I finally went to check it out last week after chatting with Robin, and realized I'd met the owner last spring at a homeschooling park day. We were both six months pregnant at the time! I have talked about opening something like Louise's store for a long time, but didn't have the drive to work that hard. I am SO thrilled that she did! We talked at full-speed for two hours while the boys bounced the birth balls around the classroom in the back of the store. That got me thinking about renewing my childbirth educator certification and figuring out a way to do classes or start up a birth support group. I'm still working on that.

Last week I also decided I wanted to get a Family Fun Night started at church to connect all the young families who tend to disappear as soon as the service is over on Sunday, rushing home to feed hungry kids and get toddlers down for naps. We are blessed to have close friends at church who we've known for a long time, but there really isn't anything to invite new people to. The Purple Flowers' house is pretty packed when we all show up for Wii Knit, and our house isn't much better when it's our turn to host. So, I've got a Movie Night on the calendar for March, and now we just have to get a flyer made and start getting the word out. I'm excited that this is something I can invite everyone to because it'll be in the parish hall, so there's plenty of room!

Then last weekend I found out about the LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference in Oregon. And I actually cried. I'm such a dork. But the thought of having a chance to hang out with not just one or two, but dozens of people who have the same crazy perspective on parenting and life that I do -- and in Oregon, where so many of my happiest childhood memories took place -- was almost too much. So, UberDad said I have to go. Even though it means driving up with the three boys by myself because he can't get time off from school to go with us.

Fortunately, the Purple Flowers want to go, too! That'll make it extra fun, and much easier for me to think about juggling everybody's needs, 'cause I'll have an extra pair or two of hands around when needed. And really, there will be lots of moms with babies, and I know everyone there will be helpful, because they've all been there. I know I won't connect with everybody, and I'm even a little nervous about not measuring up to my own expectations in front of people, but STILL. It's pretty darn exciting.

And I've met ANOTHER semi-local Christian unschooling mom, Jenny, through the conference list! She lives near Kate, so I'll probably stop by on our way to Kate's house next weekend for her son's birthday party. Plus, Jenny's a La Leche League leader, so she's going to try to make the LLL meeting at the Mother's Cooperative on Friday, too!

It's really such a small world. And I'm so glad to finally have the energy to expand my tribe a little. With half of my closest friends either working full-time outside the home or living out of town, it can be hard to stay connected with everyone. But I'm really trying to make time for my nearest and dearest, and also be open to gathering more kindred spirits around me.

I hope there'll be room in that classroom for everybody on Friday, because I swear I'm inviting every breastfeeding mom I know. I even met someone at Trader Joe's today and invited her! She was wearing her baby boy in a beautiful sling, so I had to ask her about it.

I'm so excited about having so many crunchy moms together at one time, I can hardly stand it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Kindness begets kindness

"It's okay to be kind to our children. It's okay to give them a feeling of abundance. Knowing that their own needs and wants are valued will only make them want to help others to meet their needs and wants too. Kindness begets kindness."

Rue Kream,
Parenting a Free Child

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

All the best things in life are noisy and messy.

Think about it... Happy children, really good sex, giving birth (I see a theme forming), dinner parties and potlucks, music and art (when created together) ... are all wonderful things that require a certain tolerance for chaos and imperfection, and without which, life would be terribly, neatly, dull. I could spend a lot of time trying to keep house perfectly, but what would be the point if there were no life in it?

Can you think of some more?

Humble pie...

... is what you eat after you spend 20 minutes ranting at your husband about him not keeping the kids quiet enough in the bathroom while you tried to get the baby to sleep, and how now the baby's tummy is full and he won't nurse anymore, and you don't know how you're going to get him to sleep, but by the time you're done, the other boys will need you for their bedtime routine, and how you haven't sat down since before dinner, and there's still laundry to be put away, and if he'd helped a little after dinner instead of answering the phone that would've been nice....

And then, you go in to check on the baby, and the baby's fallen asleep.

And you come out, and finally notice your husband did the dishes while you were ranting.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sometimes you gotta suck it up and stay in a motel.

I'm not sure why I thought it would be a fun idea to go tent camping in January during a record-setting California freeze, but I insisted on packing up our stuff and the kids and dragging my coughing, congested, miserable husband to the beach last weekend anyhow.

My parents went with their camper a couple days early, and called to warn us how cold it was in Morro Bay. But, well, I'd promised the kids, and already started packing. I'm not really good with last minute changes. And UberDad isn't always good about expressing his needs. So, I made sure we had tons of blankets and lots of clothing layers, and off we went. Only a bit more slowly than that. We left around noon, and got to the campground in time to find the bathrooms, set up the tent, and nurse the baby, and then it was time to start a fire and make dinner.

By the time we'd eaten, the temperature was dropping fast, and baby was tired and cranky. Nursing him to sleep required me to move five layers of clothing out of the way, and then try to find his mouth in the dark under six inches of blankets. After that daunting task was accomplished, I lay listening to my dad help the big boys roast marshmallows for s'mores. They were having a blast already, and hardly noticed the weather -- except for the fact that the chocolate was so cold the marshmallows wouldn't melt it!

When they'd eaten all the s'mores they could eat, the boys and I joined my mom in the camper to get warm and watch E.T. It was one of my very favorites as a kid but I'd forgotten just how cute that movie is. The boys really liked it, too.

While we were watching E.T., UberDad was trying to get warm enough to go to sleep in the tent. It wasn't working. By the time the movie was over, he'd given up, and came in to announce we were going to find a motel to stay in. My parents' camper was warm, but way too tiny for all of us, and he couldn't stop coughing while lying in the tent.

Every couple needs one person who's not too cheap to do what's sensible. In this couple, that person would be UberDad. So, we grabbed our pillows and suitcases out of the tent, put the boys' jackets and hats on over their jammies, and drove down the road to find someplace warmer to sleep. It was five degrees warmer outside just being up the hill away from the beach.

I wouldn't say we got a great night sleep, what with UberDad, Crabcakes and I sharing a double bed, but we were definitely warm enough. Puffer and Grouper slept great, and were just as excited about staying in a motel as they'd been about camping. In the morning, we packed up again and headed back to the campground to hang out with my parents. And then, we had a really fabulous day.

My dad took the big boys on a hike through the Elfin Forest, a trail through the woods by the beach. When they got back, we walked across the road from the campground to the Bayside Cafe and had fish and chips and fish tacos for lunch. Then we drove over to Mantana de Oro to explore the tidepools and caves by the beach. It had warmed up to the mid-60s by then, which was perfect. Grouper took his socks and shoes off to wade through the creek trickling down into the ocean and wasn't too cold. My dad carried Baby Crabcakes all around exploring with the big boys, and he just stared in awe the whole time. After we got back, we ate sandwiches for dinner, and then went back to the Bayside Cafe for their famous blackberry cobbler. Yum!

Despite the fact that we spent more money and stayed a day less than we'd planned, my only regret for the trip is that I didn't have my camera. For some reason, possibly related to the many times it's been dropped, it's not working right now. I think we'll be able to remember our little "camping" trip nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year!

I've been wanting to blog, and now I have a good excuse -- I've been tagged by Tammy! (Hopefully I'll do a real update sometime soon.) Here goes...

I've Been Tagged for Christmas

Name three things:

* that you had hanging on your tree:
Candy canes
Strings of red wooden beads

* that you've eaten / drunk lots of:
Christmas cookies
Flourless chocolate cake

* that you said most often this Christmas
"Where are Brook and Lindsay (my sisters)?"
"I just have a couple more presents to wrap."
"I'm going to my mom's for a little while."

* that you heard most often this Christmas
"Can I have a candy cane?"
"Will it EVER be Christmas?!?"
"I'm just going into the side room for a bit."

* that you'll *never* do again

Eat so many cookies that I'm sick for New Year's.
Forget to wrap Santa's presents in different wrapping paper.

* that you didn't do this year but hope to do next year
Go look at Christmas lights
Go to see the Live Christmas story
Host a Christmas party.

* favourite presents this year

Clothes from Scott and my parents
Framed photos for my living room walls from my mom and Lindsay
New Dar Williams CD from Scott and Loreena McKennitt from Brook

* that you're glad you didn't get for Christmas
The flu
Credit card bills (for the first time EVER!!)

And, since it's already after New Year's, I'm going to let this tag die...
Related Posts with Thumbnails