28 December 2010

Eli being adorable















The walk

One super cold day last week, we decided to walk to the shops to buy some baking materials. The littlies hopped into the wagon, and Nate pulled it almost the whole way there.

Best walk ever.





Look at this happy guy:



And these two lucky little siblings:



Christmas, Part 2: The City Tree Lighting

There were some holiday crafts at the library (reindeer headgear):



Some super cute family moments:



Santa and Mrs. Claus (allegedly):



And a giant living Christmas tree in the park:

Christmas, Part 1: The Tree











07 December 2010

Reading and writing

Nate is reading so much now. It's amazing to me that 6 months ago he was not at all interested in reading, and upon discovery of comic books, he decided he could read.

Writing, though, has been something that he loses patience with very quickly. For awhile (in the pre-reading days) we had him doing workbook stuff to get him used to writing, but he absolutely hated it. I completely dropped it.

Yesterday he was filling in the information on a family tree birthday card that my mom gave him. I commented that he has really neat handwriting (he does). He said, "I just want to practice writing a bit more so that it gets easier. I want to like to write."

Blew my mind. What a smart kid. I'm so glad I laid off.

05 December 2010

24 November 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

I'm really excited about Thanksgiving. A day for being thankful, how awesome is that? I plan to spend the day focused on gratitude. Maybe we'll create some sort of tangible thing - I might steal an idea I heard about making a tree of thankfulness with gratitude leaves. Hmm, that would require some more autumny paper colors... A trip to the store might be in order later.

But first! I am getting the food prep in order. We have a giant turkey in the fridge, just waiting for some brining action. I've never cooked a turkey before in my life, but I'm guessing it will be hard to mess up this fresh pasture raised turkey. Plus, I'll have the help of my mom, who will also be putting together her mom's stuffing recipe in the morning before she comes over.

Today I'm going to make some cranberry sauce from the fresh organic cranberries we picked up at the Beaverton Farmers Market on Saturday. I have a big pumpkin to turn into puree for a pumpkin pie, and I'm going to make my first pecan pie ever. Yum.

Is it crazy that I'm already looking forward to the leftovers? Already looking forward to getting that turkey carcass into my stock pot? But much more than that, I'm looking forward to sharing a day of gratitude with my family and two wonderful friends that I was able to coax into spending the day with us.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

20 November 2010

OMSI

OMSI is awesome.

The whole fam went recently, which is so much easier than me taking the kids on my own, because obviously they all want to go in different directions.

Maya had a lot of fun in the chemistry lab. She's into science, big time.

Here she is discovering that salt water is a great conductor of electricity:



And playing with corn starch slime, which was incredibly awesome:



Nate and Maya, swinging Eli:



The current exhibit is Identity, an Exhibition of You. It was really interesting and very interactive.

Here is Nate inputting his fingerprints to determine his "type":



And facial symmetry, which I find fascinating:

15 November 2010

The problem with altruism

I'm about to say something that you're most likely going to think is incredibly selfish. You ready? Here goes:

Let's all just aim to make ourselves happy. Let's just focus all of our energy on making sure that we are completely fulfilled in life.

What about everyone else? What about charity? What about Altruism? Won't people just loot and riot and rape and pillage? What kind of a monster is this Jen person?!

Here's the thing. People are, by nature, GOOD.

It feels *good* to help an appreciative person. And it feels really good to receive help from someone who is helping out of the pure kindness of their heart and the good feeling it will give them. It does NOT feel good to receive help or charity from someone who feels bound by civic or religious duty. It feels patronizing.

What are we teaching our children when we force them to get involved in "something that matters" by volunteering their time to charity? We are teaching them that HELPING PEOPLE SUCKS. When they decide they want to help, and we help them help, they come to an amazing realization all by themselves: Taking care of other people feels really good.

I can only imagine a world in which people grow up knowing that their own needs are vitally important, and they should make sure they get what they need. I think all of the power-hungry crap that goes on in the world is just major over-compensation for unfulfilled lives. We're trained not to trust happy people. They aren't working hard enough. They're delusional. Unhappiness builds character.

Happy people do really good things. People are, by nature, GOOD. We just need to make sure our own needs are met so that we can be GOOD, HAPPY PEOPLE!

Hey, painters! You should be painting! Writers, you should be writing. Humans, you should be taking leisurely walks in the fresh air, every day. If you're stressed out because you are constantly giving to others, you owe it to the world to carve out some time for yourself. THIS IS NOT SELFISH, IT'S VITAL. Don't have time? Of course you do. Pretend that it is an appointment doing something for somebody else, and you'll find time. I swear.

I want to live in a world full of happy people, where my peers are deeply fulfilled with their lives. There is nothing quite like being around a person who is doing just what they should be doing. There is incredible energy to be shared.

Let's start taking care of ourselves, because we don't want people begrudgingly doing it for us.

13 November 2010

A day in the life

Yesterday in the car, my kids and I had a really excellent conversation. We talked about what we would do or create if we could do or create anything. We talked about time travel and collective consciousness and "the big picture."

I mentioned that difficult experiences and people can serve as our greatest teachers. I said that every experience and person we encounter can be seen as an opportunity to learn. Nate joked, "So Eli is our teacher?" and I said, "Yeah, absolutely! Think about all of the things he teaches us: compassion, patience, tolerance, unconditional love, humor." Nate totally got it. He said, "I feel like my eyes are filling up with tears, and I don't know why!"

That's what life is all about! That feeling of meaning. We may not know why something touches us so much, or even be able to articulate our feelings. But we intuitively know when something is important. I was so happy that Nate got it.

06 November 2010

Synchronicity

You know that feeling when life is just screaming something at you? Like, it just keeps popping up, over and over, saying, "Pay attention to this message!!"

I used to think that this kind of stuff was coincidence. Now I prefer to view it as synchronicity.

My trend has been Peru, and Machu Picchu in particular, for a few years. I have been aware of it, and I have let it sit at the back of my mind, knowing that at some point I would be in the situation to go see it for myself. It's a strange feeling to look at pictures of a place you have never been and feel like you took them. Eek.

Lately, Mexico has been coming up more and more. And the Mayans. And for some reason, butterflies and their migratory patterns (to Mexico) has been the theme of my day.

I don't believe in coincidences anymore, but I'm not exactly sure what I do believe when it comes to this kind of stuff. Is *someone* sending me a message? Or is there a predetermined path for me? Or has it all happened already and I'm just remembering the whole thing? Am I really the only one who exists, and this is all my big elaborate dream? Or is there a chemical in the brain that makes things *seem* familiar or meaningful that actually aren't? In that case, why would it choose specific incidents? Like the migratory patterns of butterflies?

04 November 2010

Race to Nowhere



I went to the screening of Race to Nowhere yesterday. For Americans who went to school, are going to school, and especially who have children, this is a must-see.

Find a screening
near you or pre-order a copy. This is important stuff.

02 November 2010

Halloween



I have always loved Halloween. I love autumn and falling leaves, I love spooky jack-o-lanterns and candles and eeriness. Half of me was looking very much forward to the kids experiencing Halloween, and the other half was unsure of the whole candy issue and how it would play out at our house.

Nate wants me to write that his favorite part was being with his friends, outside, trick or treating. It isn't every day that you can dress up and walk around outside with your friends after dark, knocking on everybody's door and being greeted with excitement and gifts. Pretty exciting stuff.

Vampire Nate and Tinkerbell Maya:



And the little Eli dog too:



The day after Halloween, the kids ate quite a bit of candy (for them; it is, of course, relative). In the evening we had some pretty serious sugar-crash fallout, especially with Maya who was an emotional wreck. The next morning, we offered them the opportunity to trade in their candy for a toy, and Maya was completely down with that. She and Nick took the mile-ish walk to the shops, she spent a long time deliberating and picked out a new toy (Rapunzel Barbie, a completely different kind of evil - but her hair changes color in cold and warm water so she was it). While they were gone, I disappeared her candy. She hasn't looked back.

Nate chose to keep his candy, and he agreed to only eat it when Maya isn't around in order to make it easier on her. We have found, however, that candy gives him a very short attention span, and he quickly forgets these promises.

From a homeschooling perspective, there have been a lot of learning moments. Lots of counting and sorting. Reading of labels. Discussing ingredients. Comparing and contrasting. Bartering and negotiating. And there has been a whole lot of discussion about how different things make us feel. Why do you think that chocolate makes you feel so thirsty? Notice how you feel really sad now, and an hour ago you felt so happy? It has been a pretty interesting experience/experiment.

I'm thinking we'll have to come up with something a bit better next year.

30 October 2010

Guess who forgot to take pictures

My trip was great. I didn't even leave the resort, but that was ok; I only had a very limited time there, and I was more than happy to be able to spend it hanging out with people instead of seeing sights. I would love to go back and see the sights, of course. I am bummed to have missed Chichen Itza and the other Mayan ruins, but I have the rest of my life ahead of me. Yes I do.

I remember every time I'm in a plane that is taxi-ing the runway that I am terrified of the takeoff. Conveniently I forget until then, so I have no dread until we're in motion. Then I'm like, "Oh yeah." And when we're making the final descent, I'm also pretty sure that I'm going to die. Every time. Each way to and from Playa del Carmen, I had three flights - 6 near death experiences. It was stressful. And I'm finding that over time, I am more and more fearful, even though I have spent a whole lot of time in the air. I used to find it all very exhilarating. Now, not so much

Needless to say, I made it alive. I witnessed the sunrise en route to Phoenix, and the sunset en route from Mexico City to Cancun. Long day, but it was pretty ok as I had a book to read and an iPod to listen to. What more could a woman want? I speak enough Spanish to understand where the signs are pointing me and when someone is asking me if I have any bags to check (NOPE!) or any connections, so the layovers were easy and carefree. I enjoyed the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) decorations all around the airport. (I enjoyed them immensely, actually. I could write a whole blog post about how awesome I found them, and how awesome I find the whole idea of Dia de los Muertos.)

Cancun was warm, rainy, and really humid (which turns my hair into crazy frizzy Gene Wilder hair - thanks to Melissa for pointing out the spot-on resemblance). My ride took me past myriad resorts and golf courses, all with impenetrable fortress-like entrances. My resort was 45 minutes away and appeared to be bigger than the sun.

Melissa said she would leave a message at the front desk for me with her room number, but lo and behold, she happened to walk up as I waited at reception to check in. I was given The Bracelet (the color of which determines one's class and therefore where one is permitted to eat and drink). We joined the others at dinner, hugs all around (I love hugs, and I give them away indiscriminately). I was thrilled to meet Melissa's husband-to-be and her brother's awesome girlfriend (I fell a little bit in love with her right away). And it was wonderful to see Melissa's parents who feel a bit like a second set of my own. I've known them for nearly 20 years.

We ate, we drank, we mingled and chatted, and then I went to my room (on the other side of the sun) to drop off my stuff. Walking into the room made me feel profoundly lonely, immediately. You have to remember that I spend a lot of time surrounded by people (especially children), so the big roomy luxury seemed a bit excessive without anyone to share it with. At least it did on that first night, hehe. King sized bed, huge jacuzzi tub, I could have lived there.

Melissa called the next morning while I was in the tub (I could have lived there specifically). We met and headed to breakfast. We spent the whole pre-wedding day together and with the brother, his lovely girlfriend, and the fiance. I do fifth-wheel well - when I'm comfortable I'm enough person to make up two people. We spent a long time in the bathwater ocean (I could have lived there too). The sky to the east, out over the sea, was almost purple with storm clouds. It started to rain as we were walking back to our rooms to get changed. The rain was warm. Incredible.

The wedding was beautiful. It was a casual, beachy thing. The bridesmaids wore purple dresses that made us "feel beautiful" which is perhaps the loveliest thing a bride has ever done for her bridesmaids. We were in a gazebo on the beach and there was a lovely warm wind (hello, Gene Wilder!). Declarations of love were exchanged, tears were shed. Life is good.

Post-wedding we drank, ate, mingled, and drank. At some point after dark we changed into swimwear and headed to the beach and drank some more. A resort security guard guy hung around to make sure we didn't get ourselves into trouble with the ocean and our alcohol. As my Spanish improves immensely when I have had a few drinks, I chatted with Aurelio (said security guard) and tried to convince him that since one of us was a certified lifeguard (or so I was told), we would be ok. He had heard this song and dance before. We negotiated wading up to our rodillos (knees - I had to ask while pointing). The rest of the night was a bit, um, foggy.

Melissa ordered me a wake up call, bless her. I was disappointed to find that I was still inebriated when I received that call, and hardly in a state to pack and travel. The rest of the day was a bit long and awful as I traveled back home. I got to my train station about 21 hours after I woke up, and even though I was wearing the warmest clothes I had taken with me, it was still a late October night in Portland and I was cold.

Eli was so sweet when he woke up and realized I was next to him. He said, "Hi Mommy" about 15 times and just hugged me and stroked my face. When the other two woke up, they ran in and we snuggled and loved eachother. It was great to be home.

21 October 2010

It's getting so close.

I leave for Mexico in less than 48 hours! I am so excited. Looking so forward to temperatures in the high 80s, swimming in the ocean (assuming that part of the Gulf of Mexico is swimmable...), and mostly hanging out with my bestie. Not looking forward missing the kids, and looking forward to missing the kids. If that makes any sense. Four days and three nights of looking after nobody but myself. Putting nobody to bed but me.

I'll be desperately missing my family by the end of it, and that will be pretty great.

But first I get to see Sam Harris, and that's going to be awesome.

17 October 2010

No Makeup Day

So I was on the elliptical, reading a magazine (yeah yeah, I know). There was a section about women accepting and even (gasp!) highlighting their "flaws". Like the chick with glasses getting, you know, really cool funky glasses and wearing lots of sparkly eye shadow. And the one with the curly hair just letting it be curly ("I rarely flat-iron my hair") and finding lots of creams and gels to keep her curls neat and tidy. There was a freckled woman talking about how she likes her freckles, so she rarely wears heavy foundation to cover them up; she mentioned how easy her post-gym routine is - just wash, moisturize, concealer, bit of blush and lip gloss, some mascara, and voila!

I've never been a makeup person. I have dabbled, but I always felt like a little girl playing dress-up, so it isn't something I make a part of my life. I don't even own makeup.

All this being said, I get it. I don't judge people that wear makeup, not at all. Unless they have lived under a rock, they have been sent the message - no, that implies that the "message" is subtle and implied - they have been TOLD that women need makeup to "accentuate features" or "hide flaws and imperfections". (We also need to shave/wax/laser numerous areas of our body to keep them in a permanently hair-free state, but that's a different blog post.)

Dudes? Not so much. I've never heard any guy say that he knows he doesn't *need* makeup, but his eyes just get lost in his face without a bit of eyeliner. He just uses a bit of blush to accentuate his high cheekbones. He knows he doesn't *need* it, but it makes him feel more beautiful. So it's okay, because it's his choice. Nobody is making him do it.

No, none of that. It's a woman thing. And for once, we have nobody to blame but ourselves; the truly diabolical part of the whole makeup affair is the fact that it is perpetuated by WOMEN. It isn't dudes putting together those "Stars Without Makeup!" shockers. It isn't dudes that care whether we are wearing makeup or not. It's women. Women wear makeup because it makes them feel better about themselves, because most of our role models are women who wear makeup!

I decided that I wanted to organize a "No Makeup Day", and found out after posting the idea on Facebook that, of course, it has already been done. There was a Blogging Without Makeup Day last May where bloggers posted pictures of themselves without makeup, which apparently was a huge thing for a lot of people. I have never posted a picture of myself *with* makeup, so I don't really get it. Some people from the Today Show went makeup free on No Makeup Day, and there was a *huge* difference in their appearances. Like UK television where the actors look like, you know, humans. Why can't this be normal?? I just don't understand.

The kids got some school pictures packets from Village Home where they take classes, and I noticed that there is an option to have your child's photos retouched. Just a little bit, to erase blemishes, or a jumbo retouch which whitens the eyes and teeth, removes flyaway hair, and clears the skin. I am completely amazed by this. Is this really where we're at? It is now a normal and acceptable thing to "improve" your *child's* appearance (by whose standards???) so that we will look back on our memories and see things the way they weren't.

What's wrong with looking like humans?

I'd like to change people's ideas of beauty, and that really does start on the inside. Hey, some cliches are cliches for a reason.

Watch this space.

15 October 2010

Today was a good day.

Non-parents (or at least unenlightened people) might not appreciate the goodness of today on paper. But it was awesome. And I'm gonna write about it.

This morning, Nate and I went out to buy a birthday present for his new friend whose party is tomorrow. First of all, I feel totally blessed (you know, in a secular way) to have met this family because not only are the kids wonderful (and coincidentally nearly the same ages as my kids), the mom is really nice and fun to talk to. Great combo. But I digress. We had a birthday present to buy, and the mom mentioned that the birthday boy might like a book of his own as the books in the family tend to be communal. So off to Powell's Books Nate and I went.

Can I make a side-note here about how much I love Powell's? I love Powell's. A lot. I have early Oregonian settlers named Powell going way back in the family history and I have always liked to think there was a connection between my ancestry and the bookstore that I loved and frequented as a kid. Maybe there is. Maybe I should look into that... Anyway, I haven't set foot in a Powell's in years (having lived overseas), so walking in today, even though it was a branch I have never been to before, really brought back memories of reselling my already-read Babysitter's Club and Christopher Pike books so that I could get my fix of new ones. And there was a Chinese food place that sold awesome spring rolls near my childhood Powell's, and my mom would buy us some when we went there. Good times. And then I would read my new books for hours upon hours.

Where was I? So off to Powell's Nate and I went, that's right. On the way we stopped at the coffee shop. I knew that they would have a "pumpkin spice" flavor of some sort, and I knew that Nate would love a Pumpkin Spice Steamer, and I always love a latte, so that was a pretty special and decadent (for us) first stop. Then to Powell's, which was awesome (as always - America really knows how to do a giant bookstore). After some looking, we found what I think will be a great and loved gift. Can't tell you, because the walls have ears.

Back home. Lazy morning. Nick spent awhile looking for jobs while we were gone and had finished his search for the day. We had nothing in particular to do. So we decided to go to the zoo.

I should tell you all that my beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful mother gave us the gift of Oregon Zoo and Portland Children's Museum memberships when we moved here. We have gone to both but not very often because, well, it was summer and they were crowded. No fun. But being a "homeschooling" family, we can visit interesting places during school hours and find them pleasantly deserted. So off to the zoo we went.

It was deceptively gorgeous outside. Clear, blue, still skies. Sunny and beautiful. Having spent the last 6 years in Australia, we under-dressed. In Sydney, if the sun is out, you'll be warm in a t-shirt and jeans (well, an Oregonian would - seasoned Sydney-siders would be wearing heavy coats and scarves). In Portland, not so much. We checked out the Cascade Trail, which was awesome. Black bears, bobcats, bald eagles, salmon, turtles, beavers, river otters, all native stuff. I have never seen that part of the zoo before, and it was really fun. And, unfortunately, cold. We decided to ditch the zoo (hooray for memberships!).

On the way to the car, Maya asked if we could go to the Children's Museum. As it happens to be right on the other side of the parking lot as the zoo, and since we have a membership there as well, why not? It is indoors (and heated), and that was our only real issue with the zoo. It feels really good to say yes. So we spent the next couple of hours at the Children's Museum, and since Nick was there too, we were able to let the kids wander rather than stick together. They had a ball, and there was hardly anyone there! Enough kids to play with, but not so many that they had to wait to do anything they wanted to do. Perfect.

We headed out of there at 3:30 or so. I realllllly wanted Eli to get a haircut. He had the Hasidic Jew curls thing going on at the sides, and I was pretty over it. No offense to any Jewish folk out there that enjoy rocking the curly cues, it just doesn't suit him. So Eli and I hopped out at the local cheap salon while Nick took the others home. He had a haircut (soo cute, should post pictures but I neglected to take any) and we walked home.

This part, I think, was my favorite of the day. For anyone who has taken an 8 block walk with a 2 year old, you can appreciate that you aren't going to get anywhere very fast. I knew this, and I didn't have to be anywhere at any particular time, so I was primed to enjoy the walk for walking's sake. Eli doesn't get a whole lot of opportunity to walk like a 2 year old, being the youngest in the family with two parents and two older siblings that inevitably have somewhere to be. And as much as I *try* to be mindful and present (and as many times as I have read Buddhism For Mothers, trying to absorb some new nugget of inspiration), it is really hard to let Eli go at his own pace unless it's just the two of us, which it rarely is. Today we walked the 8 blocks home, hand in hand, at a 2 year old pace. We jumped on crumpled leaves and compared the crunchiness. We ran across crosswalks like mad people. We talked about people and dogs and bugs and the big fountains at the park. We jumped off of, and then onto, curbs like it was the accomplishment of the century. It was wonderful.

As if all of that wasn't good enough, we got home to find that Nick had prepared all the fixin's for pizza! We go all out with veggies and whole grain lavosh bread for the best pizza ever. Zucchini, red peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes... yum. Delicious pizza and company, warm baths (and clean hair all around!), and exhausted littlies into bed early after a wonderfully busy day.

Nate is heading off to bed now. That leaves me and Nick and a bunch of movies to choose from...

10 October 2010

Money money money money

I use Facebook. Yeah, I know, say what you want. But I do, and it has enabled me to keep in touch with people from the other side of the planet and to become reacquainted with people that I would have otherwise lost touch with forever, and this has been an awesome thing.

So Nick and I went to see The Social Network today. I find "success stories" fascinating. Computer nerds + right place + right time + good idea = BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Crazy money. And the whole "intellectual property" issue is really interesting too.

I use Facebook, but do I think it makes sense for the creator to be worth over $10 billion? I mean, I appreciate that it is well made, it is addictive, it was a great idea, and some people put a whole lot of time and nerdiness into it. But for it to be worth $25 billion as a company? Crazy. I have made the same complaint about sports; one dude who plays basketball or baseball or soccer making millions of dollars in one year is insanity. Nick argues that there is that much money in the industry because people watch sports, so where else should the money go? Isn't it fair that it goes to the players?

Millions of dollars per year? For one person? When so many people have so little? I'm not saying anything new here. Not the first person to have these thoughts, I know. I just wanted to acknowledge the craziness.

I just want enough to live on. I'm not asking for a lot. Tons of people just want enough money to be able to, you know, feed their children. And this Facebook dude (who is like 5 years younger than me) has literally billions of dollars. Billions.

09 October 2010

Penis reading

I just read an awesome blog post called Routine Nose Removal at Authentic Parenting. It highlighted all of the cases that could be made for removing the noses of infants before they can cause any trouble, like "unhappiness and depression due to an ugly nose, and subsequent rhinoplasty" and "congested noses, especially in the small child, this can be a serious pain in the nose, because they are unable to clean or blow their noses". Etc. Made my day.

I know I come across as... I don't know, judgmental? High and mighty? I rarely judge *people*, but I confess that I often judge *choices*, in a big picture kind of way. Like the choice to circumcise one's child. I don't agree with the choice to permanently alter someone else's genitalia, particularly the genitalia of a helpless infant. It doesn't make any sense to me why that is acceptable in any circles. But I can also recognize that I have made some decisions that don't make a lot of sense, because at the time I didn't know any better and, more importantly, I didn't know that I didn't know better.

So hopefully people can see through the high and mighty and look at the actual message.

If you're up in the air about circumcision, or if you're pro-circumcision, or if you have never really thought about it, please just do a little bit of reading. Here are some great resources:

Circumcision Decision from Intact America

Publications from nocirc.org which address any possible question you may have about circumcision, whether male or female

Circumcision slideshow (necessary viewing for anyone who plans on subjecting a human being to this antiquated custom) from International Coalition for Genital Integrity

I recently posted a great article called Seven Ways to Reduce Unwanted and Unnecessary Circumcisions from Code Name Mama on my Facebook page.

So there's some penis reading for you.

06 October 2010

It's he-eeere...



At long (loooooooooooong) last, our stuff has arrived. As multitudes of friends and family have predicted, it was just like Christmas.

Gee we have a lot of kitchen stuff. And we brought all of it with us, not knowing whether or not we would be starting up the baking business again. I have more loaf tins and cake pans than you could shake a stick at (to which one should ponder on the need to shake a stick at any large quantity of anything). Utensils! Our awesome quality, super sharp knives! Big ole wooden cutting boards! Storage containers galore! And since it's all been sitting in boxes since December, it all got washed, and let me tell you, that was a project. I'm so thankful that Nick is a finisher, because I would have lost steam before that project was over. Actually, if we're being honest, I totally lost steam. But it's still done. Yay Nick.

The kids have been loving having a bunch of dress up stuff again, and being so close to Halloween (which they are rapturously excited for since they have heard plenty about it but never participated in) they are busy adjusting their outfits. Endlessly.

I am just thrilled to have my favorite jeans back. It's amusing to me that, while waiting for our stuff to arrive, I bought myself some chocolate brown pants and a charcoal grey t-shirt, only to find that I already owned some chocolate brown pants and a charcoal grey t-shirt that I had completely forgotten about. I guess I have a style. Who knew?

02 October 2010

First Child Neurosis

My pregnant friend recently asked me why it is that oldest children tend to have a higher level of neurotic tendencies than subsequent children. She has noticed a trend, and wisely wants to try to avoid it.

I thought about it. And here's what I came up with.

Our first children usually teach us how to parent. Right? Unless you grew up in a village or tribe of some sort, or into a big, attached, extended family to parents who had grown up in big, attached, extended families, parenting (the way that baby humans have evolved to expect to be parented) is pretty foreign. I spent my first pregnancy reading reading reading, but mostly I was reading about pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding. I figured that parenting would be pretty simple since I was gonna love the crap out of that baby and follow my instincts.

Nate's early days of infancy were spent largely on the couch. I didn't know how to use a sling (or a wrap or a mei tai or a [insert your favorite baby carrier here]), and it was clear that he preferred my arms to a stroller. The Baby Bjorn-type carrier just seemed so big for his little body, so mostly I held him. And he was heavy, so mostly I just held him while sitting down. His view of the world was my loving face and the wall behind the couch. I thought my loving face was all he probably wanted/needed in those early days.

Maya's early days of infancy were much different, because I had a toddler in the house as well. I didn't just sit around and stare at her all day. I put her in the sling and went on with my life. While Nate completely shaped my life, Maya had to fit in. Can you imagine the pressure of having to shape someone's life completely? You enter the world after 9 months spent in a lovely floating world full of movement and muffled noise and stimulation, and all of the sudden everything is still and quiet and everyone is looking at you expectantly. Yikes. That vs. *emerging into* a world full of movement and muffled noise and life. Continuum.

After Maya was born, I read The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, and it was all so clear. I had thought that I had done everything right for Nate and that he was "just one of those fussier babies by nature", but reminiscing on his early days made very clear the point that he had had to go through a huge shift when he was born, from a life of stimulation to, most probably, boredom and yearning for stimulation. I really, truly hadn't given the human infant mind enough credit.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, here is the Wikipedia article on the Continuum Concept:

The continuum concept is an idea relating to human development proposed by Jean Liedloff in her 1975 book The Continuum Concept. According to Liedloff, in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings—especially babies—require the kind of experience to which their species adapted during the long process of their evolution. For infants, these include such experiences as:

* The infant being placed immediately in the mother's arms at birth, and from then on carried constantly in arms or otherwise in contact with someone, usually the mother, and allowed to observe (or nurse, or sleep) while the carrier goes about his or her business—until the infant begins creeping, then crawling on his/her own impulse, usually at six to eight months;
* Co-sleeping in the parents' bed, in constant physical contact, until leaving of their own volition (often about two years);
* Breastfeeding "on cue"—nursing in response to the child's body's signals;
* Having caregivers immediately respond to body signals (squirming, crying, etc.), without judgment, displeasure, or invalidation of the child's needs, yet showing no undue concern nor making the child the constant center of attention;
* Sensing (and fulfilling) elders' expectations that he or she is innately social and cooperative and has strong self-preservation instincts, and that he or she is welcome and worthy.

Liedloff suggests that when certain evolutionary expectations are not met as infants and toddlers, compensation for these needs will be sought, by alternate means, throughout life—resulting in many forms of mental and social disorders.


When Nate was a toddler, he required constant attention and interaction. Maya could play alone happily. Nate's world was all about Nate, while Maya was compassionate and more willing to contribute to the good of the tribe (er, family). Of course there are lots of factors, and I'm definitely not one to draw black and white conclusions. But do I think their early days contributed to these facts of their personalities? Most definitely.

I just plain knew more by the time Maya was born. I knew by then that humans are clean animals that don't want to soil their own clothes (including diapers), so they send plenty of signals to let their caregivers know that they need to relieve themselves. By 4 months old, Maya very rarely (maybe once a month) pooped in a diaper because she made it abundantly clear when she needed to go, and I put her on a potty. Nate's signals, by contrast, were completely unrecognized and therefore ignored, and he became chronically constipated until he was almost 3 years old. Looking back, I can clearly recognize that he was very aware of and tuned into physical sensations (such as sitting, albeit for only very short periods, in his own feces), but he was sent a message that he should ignore those sensations. I just didn't know better at the time.

So. What would I recommend for expectant parents who want to avoid the First Child Neurosis? Read The Continuum Concept. Read up on Elimination Communication (EC) through websites like Diaper Free Baby. But most importantly, be ready to use a sling! Find a babywearing mentor so that you're completely confident, and your baby's safe pocket will have simply relocated from your womb to your pouch.

27 September 2010

Mondays

I love Mondays!

At the totally reasonable hour of 10:00, Maya and Eli have a sibling dance class together, and Nate and I spend that 45 minutes hanging out. Today we read Calvin and Hobbes together for the whole time (except for the many peeks through the window to check up on the littlies' cuteness) which is something that we both thoroughly enjoy.

The weather is absolutely beautiful today. After we got home from dance, we spread out a picnic blanket and had some snacks out front in the shade. The kids did some easel art, rode bikes, ran around, I worked on Maya's scarf (yay for knitting!) and read a bit more Calvin and Hobbes. After a few hours of that, we wandered over to the playground and I pushed Nate on the swing while Eli and Maya ran through the fountains in their undies. It was sooo warm in the sun.

Now we're hanging out at home. Nate is playing a game with Bumma (Nick's mom) on the computer while they chat via Skype's awesomeness, Maya is watching, and Eli is chilling here with me downstairs while we wait for our food to finish cooking.

Maya has ballet at 5:00 which she completely loves. I'll take her while Nick stays home with the boys, and I'll get to finish her scarf and maybe start on Eli's. Then Nate has gymnastics at 7:00 which he completely loves, and Nick will take him while I get the littler ones to bed.

Mondays are great.

Here's my favorite Calvin strip of the day: Mom is in bed and jumps up when she hears Calvin yelling from the other room, "Mom! Wake up! Come quick!" She says, "What's wrong? What's the matter?" and goes into his room. He says, "Do you think love is nothing but a biochemical reaction designed to make sure our genes get passed on?" Mom, frazzled, replies, "Whatever it is, it's all that's keeping me from strangling you right now." Alone in his room, Calvin says, "Mom's midnight reassurances are never very reassuring." I love that kid.

22 September 2010

Northwest Mothers Milk Bank



I am very excited to be participating in Harvest, an event to benefit the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank.

What is a milk bank? From their site:

A milk bank screens, collects, processes and dispenses donated human milk as a community service, providing human milk to babies whose own mothers cannot supply the milk to meet their baby’s needs.

A milk bank is also a resource for health professionals and the general public in the uses and benefits of human milk, the standard in infant feeding.


While we're on the subject, check out this essay which explains why I'll never say, "Breast is best!"
Watch Your Language!
By Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC
(Reprinted from the Journal of Human Lactation, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1996)

21 September 2010

Feeling grateful

Today is a good day. Here is a short list of things that I am thankful for today:

-- My lovely uncle sent Nate a couple of books: On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee, and The Curious Cook - More Kitchen Science and Lore, also by Harold Mcgee. How incredibly interesting. Now we can make some souffles in the new little ramekins I just bought, and we can learn about how and why they work. These are volumes, so they will be references for years and years to come.

-- We discovered this homeschooling life without ever having had to experience the alternative. I am so grateful for that.

-- Kids learn all by themselves when they are interested. It just happens. I was just listening to Maya reading to Nick in the other room. Awesome.

-- We found an awesome community here! Everyone I talk to one-on-one has an incredible story to tell.

-- As Eli and I hung out at the little playground while the bigger two were in their adored classes learning things that they want to learn, there was a little girl running around with blue hair. I looked through a window to see a class full of completely engaged teenagers and a teacher with full arm sleeve tattoos. There are babies and teenagers and nursing mothers and people with disabilities and people who look "normal" and people who most certainly don't. I am so grateful to be able to be around such a variety of people.

-- My best friend is pregnant! Complete awesomeness.

-- I get to go to Mexico next month. What an awesome opportunity.

-- I have a cousin who homeschools her kids, and she is funny and intelligent and full of love, and she wants to have a craft day with us! Hooray.

-- I am learning to knit, and during the knitting club that Maya turned out to be not so interested in, I get to chat with a really cool woman while I work on a knitting project. And the kids are all happily engaged.

-- I truly love my family.

-- After the kids' classes today, they wanted to stay and play for a couple of hours! New friends, great weather, wonderful.

14 September 2010

First day of classes

Today we were all very excited for the first day of classes!

It occurred to me this morning that I hadn't paid any materials fee for the knitting club which must mean that we were supposed to bring materials. Crap. Luckily it wasn't an early start and we had plenty of time to make it to Michael's (craft store) for some knitting needles and yarn.

Maya wasn't quite sure what she wanted to work on - she decided she would just sort of get started and see where it took her. But she very quickly realized that knitting was going to be a lot harder than she had thought, so after a couple of minutes I sat knitting a small blanket for her doll Pearl, and she and Eli were off playing. I was actually quite pleased with that state of affairs. I would love to be an awesome knitter, make hats and scarves and gloves and blankets and stuff. So we'll continue to go and I'll continue to knit while the kids play. Or maybe I should show Maya how to finger crochet. Or maybe giant needles?

Meanwhile, Nate was in his first cooking class. It was an introductory affair, so it was in a classroom instead of the kitchen. They talked about kitchen safety and stuff, and they did some chopping to make a fruit salad to share. I look forward to seeing what else they'll get up to. He absolutely loved it and is so excited for more.

In the afternoon, Nate went to an organic gardening class. It is aimed at people of all ages, Nate's age up to adults. It was very hands on - they harvested some veggies and seeds, cleaned up some garden beds, and did a lot of talking in the classroom as well. He was soil-smeared and happy afterward. He told me all about saving bean seeds to plant the following spring.

During gardening, Maya and Eli had "Animal Junction", a song and storytime thing. The theme was bears, and they read some stories, sang a song, made a puppet, played a game, and went on a "bear hunt" around the campus. Eli was asleep in the Ergo on my back when we got there, but when he woke up he was really excited to join in. They were adorable.

So it was a hit! Tomorrow Nate has chess club and Maya has a science class, and they are looking forward to those. They're looking forward to everything, otherwise I wouldn't have signed them up!

It struck me when we got home just how much time there is in a day when you aren't filling it up with busy work (like school). After their morning classes, they wanted to stop at the playground on the way home (we walk right by it). We had 2 1/2 hours until the next classes, and the only thing we had to do was have lunch at some point in there. Plenty of time for the playground, and we were there for over an hour (and I was able to spend some of that working on Pearl's blanket). They have played for literally hours today (mostly Legos). Now they are watching a DVD. We had a long, leisurely pancake breakfast. We even took a trip to the craft store. There is so much time in a day.

Well, we're off to celebrate a wonderful day by getting some burgers with Grammy!

13 September 2010

Lego table

Check out our new lego table!!



We bought the table at Goodwill for $5.00, and a bunch of legos from eBay. It is very strong and sturdy, as illustrated by my boys:



Maya and I painted it, Nick and I glued the lego base boards to the top, and voila!



They absolutely love it.

12 September 2010

What if

What if all of the people born on this planet were born naturally? Not cut or pulled or vacuumed out, not born drugged to a drugged mother. What if they were given every chance to bond with each other, in love and peace, without the harsh lights and sounds and interventions of the "experts" in the room? What if new mothers were left to trust their own intuition and the knowledge of the women who they trust to support them through the process rather than being undermined at every turn? What if Birth wasn't Big Business?

What if all babies were allowed to consume the food that nature intended for them rather than a synthetic substitute? What if their bodies were made up of what they *should* be made up of? And their brains?

What if society didn't tell us that children were better off stuck in rooms full of other children the same age all day? What if everyone suddenly realized that children learn from their surroundings, and when their surroundings are children with similar life experience they aren't going to learn much? What if it was normal to stay in your community, surrounded by a wide variety of people you love, and know that they want you to be there? And to the same end, what if we actually respected, learned from and integrated the elderly members of our society instead of sending them away to be with other old people?

What if we still lived in villages full of people who genuinely care about each other and see it as their duty to look out for one another?

What if we didn't grow up in a patronizing system of punishments and rewards? What if we were encouraged to trust our own intrinsic sense of "right"? Would people, perhaps, take more responsibility for their actions and their place in society? While we're thinking that society needs to have governance on every aspect of our lives to maintain order, is it possible that that need is only there because we are trained not to be trusted from birth? Mustn't it be confusing to get a reward for a normal bodily function like going to the bathroom? Isn't it strange to turn a trip to the bathroom into a privilege rather than a right?

What if we were all encouraged to follow our talents and dreams, no matter what? Can you imagine how different your life might be? What if the 12+ years of our lives we spend at school were spent living and learning and being free rather than having to switch on and off your interest at the sound of the bell? What if we were encouraged to question everything rather than to blindly accept it? What if we were taught to *think* instead of *obey*?

10 September 2010

I want jeans and chucks.

Our stuff still hasn't arrived from Australia.

When we sent it, the estimate was 10-14 weeks. 14 weeks would have been mid-end July. At the end of July we called the moving company, and they told us that the boat was scheduled to arrive on September 9th.

Now apparently it is supposed to arrive on the 16th. Then it goes through customs. Then it gets sent to the moving company's warehouse to be separated into the different shipments. Then the trucks come and take them to their relevant warehouses. Then they call us to set up a time to deliver our stuff from the warehouse to us. I'm thinking we're not going to have our stuff for a solid 3 more weeks.

I miss my clothes. I know, it sounds silly, but I do. I miss having jeans that fit properly; this $1.50 pair that I bought here has worked well, but they are too baggy and too short, not the most flattering combination. I miss my Converse All-Stars. I miss having a bit of variety - we're still living with the clothes that we chose to travel around Australia with back in December when we packed all of our stuff up, with the addition of a few things we have had to pick up along the way (like neither of us had any long pants except for my eccentric fisherman pants, and mercifully my friend Mary handed me down two belts to hold up my ill-fitting jeans).

We packed for an Aussie summer and then an Oregon one, and now we are heading right into autumn much chillier and wetter than we're used to. I want the kids' gumboots and Nate's raincoat and our umbrella. And shoes that aren't flip-flops or trainers.

I want my stuff.

09 September 2010

My court experience

I may or may not have mentioned that I recently got a $287 ticket for rolling through a stop sign.

I was leaving a friend's house, driving through an area I know like the back of my hand. I approached an intersection, came to a *pause* at the stop sign, saw that there were no cars coming (or pedestrians, or bicyclists, or horse-drawn carriages), and turned right, continuing on my way. I was very surprised to see the flashing lights of a motorcycle cop behind me, even more surprised when he told me that I hadn't come to a complete stop (there was nobody around! Except for him, parked incognito across the street, waiting for someone to make the mistake I had made), and completely shocked when he wrote me a ticket. Then immediately I was angry. He said himself that I hadn't been driving recklessly (THERE WAS NOBODY ELSE AROUND!), so I couldn't understand the point of giving me a ticket. Other than the revenue. And that's why I was mad.

So I opted to go to court. I have a clean driving record after all, and I wanted this infraction off of my record so that it wouldn't affect my insurance rates. Plus I felt that I was acting in the *spirit* (if not to the letter) of the law - I had proceeded safely through the intersection. My brain works quickly enough to see that a street is abandoned without coming to a full 3-second stop. Surely the laws were written to keep people safe, right? Right??

I've never been to court before, so I didn't know what to expect. I checked in at reception and quickly realized that I was one of many people that would be pleading their cases at 4:00. I picked up a "Rights and Responsibilities" handout to read, as directed, and had a seat in the courtroom.

The handout explained that I could plead "Not Guilty" if I thought I wasn't, and this would lead to a hearing at a later date. I could plead "Guilty" if I was admitting guilt, or I could plead "No Contest" if I didn't want to contest the charge or go to hearing on the matter, but the outcome would be the same as a guilty plea. The judge explained to everyone as he entered the courtroom that he only had the power to reduce the fines by up to 25% in most cases, or if we had a clean record he could offer us a traffic class which would have fees of its own, but then the ticket would be dismissed.

On a side note, Nick brought up the excellent point that people with otherwise clean driving records probably aren't the ones that could benefit from a defensive driving class. If I haven't had a ticket in over 10 years, I'm probably doing a pretty decent job. Isn't it the people that get tickets all the time who need to take that class? I mean, if our aim is for safer roads and all?

The judge began calling us up in the order that we had checked in. What's your plea? Do you have anything you want to say? Each matter was over very quickly (except for the poor Vietnamese guy who wasn't sure what he had done wrong, but was happy to just accept the cop's version of events and settle the matter today so he wouldn't have to come back with an official interpreter). Almost everyone that was called before me had a clean record, and so most people happily took the traffic school.

My turn. He read me my charge, Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device. What's your plea? Me: No Contest. He asked me what happened, and I explained that I had rolled through a stop sign, there was nobody else around, and how I was very surprised to have gotten a ticket when the officer himself said that I hadn't been driving recklessly. He said in a somewhat empathetic way, "Yeah, they'll do that. Your record is clean. Do you want traffic school?" The inner me wanted to go off about the fairness of the ticket: Weren't these laws designed to make the roads safer? Does it make sense to punish someone for not following the letter of the law if nobody was put in danger? This is really just a money spinner, isn't it? Who do I talk to about all of *this* stuff?

But instead of saying any of that, I replied, "Well, not particularly, but if that's my best option I'll take it." Snickers from the people behind me. He assured me that it was my best option. And so I thought oh well, I didn't make a point today, I was just part of the machine. I'll pay the maybe $40 for traffic school (that's what Nick had to pay for his "seatbelt class"), my record will be clean, and I'll just shut up and leave. I went to wait in the line for the clerk to give me my traffic school information. She did just that ($40, as expected), and she also gave me an invoice for court fees - $150, to be paid at reception on my way out.

$150. Ah. I see.

And what have I learned from this experience? I have learned to watch my back. I have learned that the officers who are supposedly there to serve and protect are actually making an opportunistic mint off of safe drivers who make mistakes. My focus is no longer solely on the road, the cars around me, and being a safe driver. I am watching the rear view mirror for flashing lights.

Here are some fun facts about traffic tickets that I got from this website:

Every year, 34 million speeding tickets are issued in the US. That's 65 per minute.

These tickets (and this is just *speeding* tickets, not rolling through stop signs or "making an illegal turn" like that Vietnamese dude) generate $5.1 billion in revenue per year.

According to research, a 10% drop in a city's economic growth results in a 6.4% *increase* in tickets issued.

Due to rate increases, insurance companies profit as well, to the tune of $10.2 *billion*.

And why is this ok?

07 September 2010

Albert Einstein

You know what I learned today? Albert Einstein failed the entrance exam to a Polytechnical Institute in Zürich because, despite exceptional marks in physics and math, he didn't score high enough in the language and arts sections. He clearly wasn't well rounded enough. For what? For school. In life, he seemed to do just fine for himself.

05 September 2010

Valedictorian speaks out

A friend posted a link to this valedictorian speech and it is worth watching. And her blog is worth checking out too.



If that doesn't work, here's the link

And here's her blog

Balance

I'm kind of struggling right now with finding a balance between meeting my children's intellectual needs and meeting my own. I am completely aware that my growth is vital for theirs, and that seeing me interested in learning is an important social cue to instill their own interests in learning.

I'm an all-in kind of person. I get slightly obsessive about subjects and people that I find interesting and inspiring. You read my current book list, right? THAT'S what I'm into right now, and I could spend 12 hours today reading and it wouldn't be enough for me. But it would be far too much for my children, and this whole deschooling/unschooling issue is something that I can only share with them to a certain degree. When my passion (which is a much more acceptable word than obsession) was for food (the health issues, the politics, the creative and social implications), that's something I talked about all the time. I shared what I learned, and it benefited them, completely.

And of course I talk about unschooling and why I think it's important and what I think the problems with the institution of school are (not education, but *school* - it's a very important distinction).

The thing is, they aren't schooled. They haven't had their spirits broken. They can't feel the same kind of passion for the subject that I can, because they are coming from a completely different place. So while all of this is so very important for me, it's a non-issue for them. Of course, the fact that I grow from it is invaluable to them, so I need to continue to absorb everything I can.

So while I'm reading and blogging and learning and growing, they are off doing their own thing. Sometimes, a lot of times, that's perfect. I am just trying to find that discipline within myself to be able to stop what I'm doing and completely shift the focus to them when they need me, and not feel like my needs are being blighted.

If only I didn't need sleep.

04 September 2010

Teenaged Me

I so could have just fallen asleep in the sauna at the gym if it weren't for the dripping sweat feeling like bugs crawling all over me.

On the drive home, I considered whether or not Teenaged Me would like the me that I am now.

Teenaged Me was quick to snap-judge, so I'm not so sure she could get past the minivan. She was, however, intrigued by the idea that an extraordinary brain could be hiding inside an otherwise average-seeming person, and I like to think I might have that going for me. She too had a very healthy opinion of herself.

Strangely, I can't remember what Teenaged Me thought she might be doing as an adult, like, for a living. I think she still thought that you just kind of enter the workforce and be a worker bee if that's the class you were born into, unless you experienced some crazy, freak luck. I didn't realize until very recently that there are other ways to survive besides the full-time job that you don't particularly like. I thought that a job was a job. It didn't occur to me that there was an option to actually do what fulfills you. I'm sure Teenaged Me would have been suitably impressed by my baking company in Sydney. It was small, but it was *mine* and I didn't compromise anything.

Teenaged Me didn't really get adults though. She couldn't relate to them. So I'm sure she would have been distant and respectful and not really cared one way or the other.

Book list

I've kind of overdone it with the whole book reservation thing. No biggie though, library books are free. And renewable. And re-check-out-able.

Here's what I've got now:

The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. I started this quite awhile ago, but then I got distracted by The Red Tent and Committed. I read this awesome excerpt this morning:

The way our society is set up now, something's got to prevent visionary experience. Otherwise, ninety percent of the American monoculture would shatter. People who are fully and permanently awakened to the wildness and beauty in and around them make lousy wage-slaves. On the other hand, people who are not distracted by a wellspring of spiritual and sexual yearnings can assemble clock radios or automobiles very quickly, or focus their intellects on monthly sales charts.

Sorry, children of mine, I am not giving you the upbringing you are going to need in order to while your lives away in soul-sucking, mind-numbing jobs.

Here are the other books in my pile:

Instead of Education by John Holt
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
Teach Your Own by Holt and Pat Farenga
How Children Learn by Holt
A Different Kind of Teacher by Gatto

Nate is working through (with help) two of the Calvin and Hobbes books he got from the library. There are eight more waiting to be picked up. Plus Cosmos by Carl Sagan. So much information!

Committed (book review, sort of)

I just finished Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert's follow up to Eat, Pray, Love. I was excited to read it because I recently saw the movie, fell in love with the Brazilian character, and had to find out what happened. So I did. And eh, it was ok. The story was very familiar to me - relationship with foreign-born dude, necessity to marry in order to secure resident visa for said dude. The book is mostly an anthropological study of marriage and the author's attempts to make peace with the institution since she was going to have to go through with it in order to stay with the man she loved. She was reaching for something that would let her give herself permission to marry, but she admitted that she was reaching which made the whole thing bearable.

My favorite part was her "prenuptial informed consent release" - the list of her top 5 character flaws, "just so I would be certain he had been fairly warned." I loved them because I could have written the first two and a half myself if I was, you know, eloquent. Here they are:

1. I think very highly of my own opinion. I generally believe that I know best how everyone in the world should be living their lives- and you, most of all, will be the victim of this.
2. I require an amount of devotional attention that would have made Marie Antoinette blush.
3. I have far more enthusiasm in life than I have actual energy. In my excitement, I routinely take on more than I can physically or emotionally handle, which causes me to break down in quite predictable displays of dramatic exhaustion. You will be the one burdened with the job of mopping me up every time I've overextended myself and then fallen apart. This will be unbelievably tedious. I apologize in advance.
4. I am openly prideful, secretly judgmental, and cowardly in conflict. All these things collude at times and turn me into a big fat liar.
5. And my most dishonorable fault of all: Though it takes me a long while to get to this point, the moment I have decided that somebody is unforgivable, that person will very likely remain unforgiven for life- all too often cut off forever, without fair warning, explanation, or another chance.


While she was highly ashamed of these traits, I find the first two and a half (you know, the ones that apply to me) to be quite charming. Go figure. I do tend to be very forgiving, even of my own "flaws". I am very impressed by the notion of acknowledging and addressing one's flaws. It's admirable stuff.

All in all, it was a decent read. Some of the marriage history stuff was interesting. Near the end, she goes into depth about the fundamentally subversive nature of marriage - the state can never control a relationship based on private intimacy which is why extreme leaderships (cults, communists, slave owners) have historically attacked personal relationships. She found solace in this, the idea that even though she and her partner were more or less being forced by the government to marry, it was by nature a subversive act. In my opinion, all of the justifications are unnecessary. You do what you gotta do, and if what you gotta do involves having your relationship recognized by the state, more power to you.

03 September 2010

¡México!

Thanks to my bestie Melissa for planning her wedding next month in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I'm making my travel arrangements. Mine. My own. I'm going solo. It is so insanely exciting.

My last (and only) solo international flight was in 2002 when I flew home from Australia knocked up. I didn't yet appreciate what a treat it is to make that kind of flight by oneself. Since then I have made 9 round trip overseas flights, all of them with at least one child. One trip to America I even did as a solo parent with three kids, aged 6, 3 and 17 months. Whoever is handing out the awards for superhuman accomplishments missed me on that one.

So the prospect of going to Mexico without children feels so... free. Adult. Independent. I only feel a teeny tiny bit guilty because I'll only be gone for a few days. It will be my first time away from Eli, but I have done the separation thing before; when I came home to help my mom through her chemo, I spent a month away from Nate and Maya - she was only two months older than Eli will be - so three nights doesn't seem like quite such a big deal.

I only just looked at the map this morning to see where Playa Del Carmen is exactly. I had no idea. Depending on who you ask, it is a 40-60 minute drive from Cancún. The closest capital city is Havana, and it is only about 200 miles away from the Belize border. Three hours away is Chichén-Itzá, the spectacular Mayan ruins. I kind of feel like - how can I just go for a few days when there is so much to be explored? I'm thinking I'll have to get to Chichén-Itzá, even if it means spending an extra day. How could I not? I mean, it'll just be me. One backpack, one bottle of water. Nobody else's capacity for hiking or sightseeing longevity to take into consideration.

No checked baggage. No carseats. No games and toys and children's books. No complaining. No boredom. Ahhh, I could get used to that kind of traveling.

Fragile

I had a good run there as a parent. Today I'm struggling though. I just had a tearful "can't we all just get along" breakdown. I'm out-energized today. I feel a severe lack of serenity. I'm surrounded by toys and things and yells and screams and bickering and laughter and energy and I want to be in a dark, quiet hole. All morning I have found myself putting things away, vacuuming, making beds, doing dishes, getting things in order, hoping that the order will penetrate through to my mind. I wonder why sometimes my family and the love that lives in this house is enough for me, and sometimes I feel so lonely, like none of it can find a way through, it can't penetrate this bubble.

And I *know* that my music choices aren't helping. I wonder why I do this to myself. I was the 10 year old kid who made myself depressing mix tapes so that when I was feeling down I could keep myself there, really wallow in it. I like to think that I'm not a particularly dramatic person (outwardly at least) but that is certainly dramatic behavior. Maybe I am supposed to be living in a time full of drama, and since I don't I find myself making my own personal drama. I try to keep it to myself, but I gave my kids a heaping portion this morning.

I am so lucky, though, that my kids get me. They love me anyway. I have created my own peaceful space downstairs this morning, and they are upstairs for the time being. Nate just came down to give me a hug and then went back up. If we were still in that motorhome, I would have had to go walkabout today, but we're in a house with spaces for people to be alone when they need to. I like that.

Okay. Emotions processed. Feeling better. Calmer.

I just read back the first line of this blog post and had to have a bit of a laugh at myself. Dramatic much?

02 September 2010

Writing

I was on a roll there. Now it's gone.

It's funny, I've never been much of a writer. Well that's not true. I've always been a prolific writer, but a very self-critical one. This is why none of my journals from before I moved to Australia still exist - I found them, read them and was so mortified by the complete rubbish they contained that I had to destroy them. Bummer. I'm sure I'd find them all really interesting now.

In high school English classes, I found the writing really hard because I was such a perfectionist. Each reading, I would make multiple insignificant changes and feel such relief, like thank goodness I didn't turn it in in that state, that would have been so embarrassing. Then I'd read through "one last time" and find more changes, and more, and more, and never really got to a point where I felt completely satisfied with my work. And then I'd get an A+ and wonder if I was too pedantic or if my teacher wasn't paying close enough attention.

I'm not sure what changed really. I never would have been able to write a blog back then. I spent a lot of Nate's early years on parenting forums, and in the beginning it would take me a ridiculously long time to write a simple post. I would read and re-read and wonder, does this make me sound smug? permissive? strict? hypocritical? judgmental? Regardless of my efforts, I have still been misunderstood so many times. Maybe I have learned that all of the proof-reading doesn't really help me avoid being seen the way I'm going to be seen. People see what they want to see, or what they need to see to keep their stories flowing.

Really, it's a whole lot easier to just write and not give a fuck what people are going to think. I need to write. I can see me in the future (because there are less distractions in the future), sitting in front of this computer, processing every thought that goes through my head. I feel like the more I write, the more material I have. I swear, people, there's so much atrophied brain in here. Parenting does wonders for the heart and for the soul, but it somehow manages to suck away my intelligence. Definitely my memory has suffered. And my focus. But every time I write, my brain wakes up a little bit.

To writing.

30 August 2010

Ode to the Public Library

I have read lots of bits and blurbs by John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and loads of other unschooly-types, but I have never actually read an unschooling book in its entirety. So I thought I'd give it a shot.

Lo and behold, our library system is even more impressive than I could have imagined. Not only was every John Holt book that I searched for available (along with Gatto and The Teenage Liberation Handbook), I was able to request them for free (the libraries in Australia charged for the priviledge) and I received them within a couple of days. And I did it all online. AND they sent me emails to tell me when they were in!

There's more. Nate has discovered Calvin and Hobbes comics (which are so funny and intelligent and so perfectly illustrate why homeschooling is completely awesome, or would be for poor Calvin - I want to adopt him by the way), and he loves them. Today I was reading some to him, and he said to me, "Can I read this one?" And then he read it out loud to me. Wow.

True story: as I was writing that last paragraph, Nate came into the room saying, "Can you believe we finished all of those Calvin and Hobbes books?" So we reserved 6 more online. Just now. I LOVE the library.

Another tidbit of library awesomeness: the librarians are so awesomely helpful. I stopped in today to grab a few books about the brain and dreams and the subconscious for Nate (this is his newest interest - Why on Earth do we dream? Why does the brain do that? Is it like brain exercise? Or does it all mean something?). I didn't know quite what to search for. Turns out Dewey placed dreams and brains in the same part of the system and they were neighbors. Makes complete sense. Unfortunately, all of the books in the junior section were very elementary and anatomically based, and the ones in the adult non-fiction were more about dream analysis or brain training. He needs something written by a nerdy neurologist. You know, the guy who is so fascinated by the brain that he can't sleep at night wondering how it works. I'll have to do some online searching to find just the right thing. Until then we'll look at cross-sections I guess, which is pretty interesting too.

I'm after unschooling book recommendations! Please comment and let me know your favorites. Don't leave me hanging. I might even do some reviews here!

26 August 2010

Up

I wanted to write this post earlier today but I'm only just getting to it. And now I am decidedly sleepy and fairly grumpy. So it feels a bit hypocritical. But I'm not gonna let that stop me!! Maybe writing it can get me back into that place I was at earlier today. We'll see. Here goes.

Why all the hatin'? Why all the negativity? It seems like the vast majority of people I am aquainted with spend a huge amount of time complaining about their job and their spouse and their kids and their fat arse and office gossip and the stinky smell of mass transit and their lack of and their over-abundance of and and and, ad infinitum.

So you don't like it? Change it. Really. It IS that easy.

Here's what you have going for you (most likely, if you are reading this):

- Unlike 80% of the world's population, you have a solid roof over your head that you can count on to be there, every night.
- You are part of the 33% of people who can read and write. That is a big effing deal.
- You are in the lucky not-quite-half of people that aren't suffering from malnutrition or even starvation. Your food issues are, at worst, that you are overfeeding yourself. You'll live.
- One third of the people that share this planet with you don't have access to a safe water supply.

Can we have a bit of perspective, people? A bit of optimism maybe? A bit of acknowledgment of how blessed we are? Life really isn't that bad.

And if it is, if it really is terrible, change it. If quitting your soul-sucking job means you'll have to sell your house, then love the crap out of your mom's guest bedroom or your friend's couch while you start earning money doing something that actually *fulfills* you. It isn't work if you're doing what you love, and if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing then the money will follow. Ask any of those Law of Attraction gurus.

Afraid of change? I hear you. Maybe don't make any huge changes then. Maybe just work on your own paradigm. Maaaayyyybe just take a teeny tiny bit of responsibility for where you are in your life. Perhaps choose to focus on the good stuff. It really is that easy. Watch. "I just read The Red Tent (again) and the men in those days had multiple wives and they all slept in tents and got water from the well and the women were subservient and there were slaves and when they wanted to eat they had to make everything from scratch so when there was a famine they went hungry. Yikes. What an incredible life I have, sitting here on my red couch, blogging, drinking wine (that I didn't have to make myself), my three beautiful healthy children sound asleep upstairs. I'm safe and warm. I'm loved. I have an extra few pounds to get me through that next famine, hehe. Life Is Good."

This isn't how I envisioned this post at all. I was going to write about all of the qualities I admire, hoping to attract them my way: optimism, passion, compassion, joy, energy, earnestness (my favorite, I wish everyone was just plain earnest all the time), honesty, connection, humor, love, sincerity, drive. I wish that people were more connected to each other, more honest, more willing to share their feelings without awkwardness, without letting their fear of rejection get in the way. Without fear of judgment.

On a side note, I think judgment should have another "e" in it, judgement. The "dgm" combination is just so, I don't know, in your face.

Focus... flagging. Must... go to bed.

That's all. I'm out.