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Tuesday Tidbits: “Bad” Homeschooler’s Lament…

October 2015 052

Draco, Freddy and Bonnie from Five Nights at Freddy’s, plus “Nursing Mama Witch.”

Sort of a mish-mash round-up of posts for this week! Homeschooling has been on my mind a lot since this summer, when several of my friends decided to send their kids to school. Recently, we toyed with idea of sending Alaina to preschool, but after an impassioned discussion during our nightly walk on the veranda, we decided against it. As I’ve learned over and over again, usually our family is pretty happy until I get a bee in my bonnet to start monkeying with our “school” routine and issuing sweeping decrees about what must be done to whip us into shape into More Awesome Homeschooling People. Then…we’re all miserable, including me, even though we’re doing more of the “right” things. What happened this time is that I found this cool-sounding, do-it-yourself, homeschool journal workbook, and decided it would be perfect for my kids (I still think it could be!) to liven up our very stale homeschool routine, which has been pared away to virtually nothing after a busy summer and now a busy fall (it is really easy to keep coming up with endless excuses about why we can’t do school today…or today…or today). Anyway, short story is: tears for all.

A few nights ago, I was making rice crispie treats for the kids and Mark was doggedly laboring over phenomenal homemade costumes for the boys. I was holding the baby, a home-raised-by-us chicken was in the roaster for dinner, Alaina was painting Christmas decoration presents at the table, and the boys were advising Mark on costume fabrication. I noticed that I had a “tape” playing in my head about what a “bad mom” I was and, yes, what “bad parents” we both are. I was feeling bad because I keep not having time (that is also grabbing-baby-hands-free) to sew Alaina a neat felt goddess that she’s been wanting me to sew for her for at least three weeks. This was rolling around as well as homeschooling woes, some snappy moments, and listening/empathetic failures, and a few other miscellaneous woes over the last week. I suddenly thought: hold on. Where are these “bad parents,” of whom I think? I see a mom making rice crispie treats and a dad making costumes. Why am I doing this to myself?!

Anyway, I suspect I am possibly doing the same thing with New Homeschool Plan of Awesomeness. Last week, we took the kids to Magic House in St. Louis (while I was having a mini-mother blessing for a friend who lives there. The Magic House tickets were prizes they earned from the summer reading program at the library). We spent ages on Halloween party prep and enjoyed a fabulous Halloween party extravaganza at my parents’ house. We had some best friends visit from out-of-town and stay overnight, during which we had a cookout on the veranda and brainstormed collaborative business adventures. The boys spent tons of time on the trampoline and also playing computer games. They also read every single day and drew every single day as well as helped me with cooking projects (we’re digging roasted vegetables lately and also Chocolate Covered Katie’s almond butter brownies, except we use peanut butter in them. And, speaking of “digging,” the boys also helped Mark dig up a bunch of potatoes that we grew in our garden!). We finished watching the second Hobbit movie and moved on to enjoying the Worst Cooks in America. Perhaps we’re doing all right after all…

So, all that said, I read this article about what schools are like in Finland:

Once Morning Circle—a communal time of songs and chants—wrapped up, the children disbanded and flocked to the station of their choice: There was one involving fort-making with bed sheets, one for arts and crafts, and one where kids could run a pretend ice-cream shop. “I’ll take two scoops of pear and two scoops of strawberry—in a waffle cone,” I told the two kindergarten girls who had positioned themselves at the ice-cream table; I had a (fake) 10€ bill to spend, courtesy of one of the teachers. As one of the girls served me—using blue tack to stick laminated cutouts of scoops together—I handed the money to her classmate.

Source: The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

I thought about how people devalue caregivers of all kinds:

What’s really going on here is we are discriminating against people who have to care for others, which is a role that society needs people to play. Right now we’re focusing on the problem that, if you’re at the top and take time out to take care of others, you’re knocked off your leadership track. But much more important is that, if you are a woman in the middle class or a low-income woman and you take even a day or two off to care for others, you could lose your job. You get docked pay. You don’t have access to affordable day care.

Source: Nurses, fathers, teachers, mothers. Why do we devalue someone the minute they care for others? – The Washington Post

I laughed about how we’ve been having babies for “too long”:

The maternity clothes you wore during your first pregnancy resemble the ones your mother wore much more closely than they resemble the ones you wore during your most recent pregnancy.

Source: 17 Signs You’ve Been Having Babies For Too Long – So-So Mom

(I didn’t actually identify with that many of these signs, but they were funny! I do identify with having spread out my parenting years quite a bit longer than many people I know!)

I thought about being an extroverted-introvert and how this is a challenging personality type to pair with the relentless “on-ness” of parenting, the constantness of a homeschooling family + home-based business.

4. You find it easy to connect with others and exhibit both introvert and extrovert qualities. You love meeting and interacting with other people and at times can be the life of the party but eventually, you have to go home and recharge.

Source: 13 Signs You’re A Classic INFJ | Thought Catalog

And, I mused about being a mother of sons and how that relates to “funny,” memes of the “hands off my daughter” variety:

The idea of threatening young women to keep their hands off young men is ludicrous, yet when roles are reversed it’s completely accepted and even encouraged. Why? In order to raise a generation of kind and respectful men we have to stop telling our boys they’re inherently bad (but it’s not their fault because hormones.) In order to create a culture of strong and competent women who can save themselves, we must first stop teaching girls that they need to be saved.

Source: Please Don’t Threaten My Son For Dating Your Daughter | Kasey Ferris

And when one family’s offhand joke becomes a viral reinforcement of the old message that a girls’ sexuality is somehow a negotiation between her father and her boyfriend, it’s just not so funny any more.

Source: Stop cheering for the old “Hands off my daughter!” shtick – Salon.com

My new school session began this Monday and runs until almost Christmas. My uncle is visiting from California starting tomorrow, we’ve got our playgroup Halloween party, then Tanner’s first birthday followed by Halloween, my aunt comes to visit from California, and we’re hosting Minecraft Club and then a Pink Tent event (for mothers and daughters) next week. I’d better stop blogging, we’ve got a lot more bad-parenting to pack in before the end of the year!

Look at this “bad mom” (gasp!) having FUN with her kid…

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Happy Earth Day!

April 2015 019This morning Mark was having a Unity programming class with Lann, so I made angel food cupcakes with coconut oil buttercream frosting and took the other kids outside for Earth Day fun having a picnic and building troll houses like I used to do when I was a kid. The trolls had an unfortunate run in with moths recently and are sporting refreshed dos, courtesy of my mom (aka Barbara’s House of Beauty).IMG_4385It took me a while to soften into just sitting in the leaves with the kids, without bringing along a book or a notebook or some project to secretly plan to work on while they played. But, once I did soften into it, I didn’t want to leave. We laid on our backs on the earth and admired the way the tree branches make patterns against the sky. We delighted in tiny flowers, found a magical patch of moss, ate our cupcakes and a few pinches of oxalis, and had a picnic.

This morning I enjoyed reading a lovely post by Jodi Sky Rogers (I also borrowed my closing quote from her e-newsletter):

…mosses are a whole unknown world, in fact, a whole Universe of wisdom. They say that ‘rolling stones don’t gather moss.’ So to drink in great worlds of wisdom we must be still just like ancient rocks and boulders who rest in peaceful presence for eons and then allow the insights that rise from the Universe and from the quiet stirring within us so grow like moss on the moist edges of our consciousness.

via Dreamland and Drifting in Between | Jodi Sky Rogers.

I also enjoyed reading about this simple and powerful Earth Day Ritual from Peg Conway:

Let us bless the source of life that brings forth bread from the earth.

Let us bless the source of life that ripens fruit on the vine.

A beautiful sunset provided a perfect closing rite.

Amen!

via Ritual for Earth Day | Sense of the Faithful.

Yesterday, we planted a buckeye tree and this afternoon we planted lavender, motherwort, white sage, calendula, and evening primrose. Life feels sweet and full of growth.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

~ John Muir

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Moods of Motherhood: Co-Creating at Home

Today’s post is part of the Moods of Motherhood blogging carnival celebrating the launch of the second edition of Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering by Amazon bestselling author, Lucy H. Pearce (published by Womancraft Publishing).

Today over 40 mothers around the world reflect on the internal journey of motherhood: raw, honest and uncut. To see a list of the other contributors and to win your own copy visit Dreaming Aloud.net

Moods of Motherhood_cover_front_300
I work at home in two capacities: I teach online as a faculty member for a college and I co-create Brigid’s Grove with my husband. I also teach outside of the home once a week at a branch of the same college that is located on a military base about 40 minutes away from our house. All my preparation, grading, students emails, etc. for the in-seat class also take place at home. Beginning in July 2013, my husband took a significant leap into being a “free-range human” and now works at home with me. This was a leap because my teaching is on a contract basis and I make 1/3 of the money that he made when he was working full-time, but, I only have to leave the house for seven hours a week, leaving two parents home full-time the rest of the week with our homeschooled kids.

Shortly before Tanner was born, I posted the following on Facebook:

I heard back from the [campus] yesterday and they approved my proposal to teach my January class as a modified hybrid, which means I’ll be able to leave at 8:00 and get out the back gate (saves me 30 minutes drive time!) to get back home to my baby, rather than having to drag him + caregiver to class with me til 10:00 the way I did with Alaina!

(Of course, it also means I’ll have hours of extra online posts/grading about controversial  topics, but I can nurse a baby and diplomatically moderate discussions simultaneously…)

I’d also like to take a minute to be grateful that, even though we’re a bit on the edge financially over the next couple of months, that we have the opportunity and ability to *do this*–have two parents home full-time, except for that one night to the [campus] for me each week! Lucky! (And, with some hearty dashes of good planning and creative other multiple streams of income.)

New Etsy Pictures 217I got a comment that gave me some pause for consideration: “living the dream. We’d love to be able to do what you are doing.” While I want to be thankful that we are in a position to make this choice, I also want to acknowledge that it isn’t always “shiny” or dreamlike! Nor did it come from only “luck,” since I want to be clear that our current household financial structure would be unlikely to work if we lived in a more expensive geographic region OR if we had household debt (Something we avoided, yes, luckily, in thanks to my grandma for a debt-free college and graduate school education, but also thanks to our own financial management and good savings habits that allowed us to pay cash for our land and to build our own home using only money we saved from Mark’s work as a computer programmer, rather than having a loan.)

So…when Lucy Pearce asked for contributions for a blog carnival celebrating the release of her second edition of the book Moods of Motherhood, I knew that I wanted to write about the moods of self-employment and co-creating a business with my husband

The in-the-flow mood: August 2014 025

We light our intention candles (yes, really!) and set up a mini-altar on the floor with items of significance to us. Cups of tea or hot cider are in our hands. Our kids are at my parents’ house, leaving us to have two hours on our own to talk shop and brainstorm ideas. We lay out our Amazing Year planner and many colored markers and review our biz goals for the month, goal-set for the following month, and the ideas start to flow. We feel in perfect synchronicity. Our collective creative energy is humming, our ideas are bubbling forth effortlessly, we are literally on the “same page.” One idea bounces off another, notes fly fast and furiously in our “book of amazing possibilities” (again, yes, really, this is written on the top of the first page of the notebook in which we brainstorm our ideas), and it feels like something alive, this process of co-creation. It feels vibrant. It feels limitless. It feels sacred.

In the pause between note taking and idea flowing, we hold hands and just sit there for a moment enjoying each other’s company. And, at that very moment, our eyes meet in the thrill of hearing the etsy app make its cha-chiiiing sound notifying us of a sale in a way that feels just like the universe is acknowledging and blessing the success of our work together…

The real-life-sucks-sometimes mood:

We accidentally sleep until 9:30. The kids eat Hot Pockets for breakfast. We argue over who gets to take a shower first. I feel dragged down in molasses by the vastly different energy levels we possess—I’m a morning person who immediately wants to hop up and get moving. Mark and our kids are not. Mark claims to be getting ready to pack orders and yet he is really looking at Imgur or sorting through Magic cards. I claim to be starting my grades for the week, but instead I fiddle around on Facebook and then speak snappily with a light dash of martyrdom. I slip into “lecture mode” about what a better job we could be doing with our house, our lives, our parenting. The kids whine and bicker. I suddenly decide that they should do excellent homeschooling work immediately, even though we’d all rather be doing something else. I try to submit my grades for the week, while also having eight other windows and/or documents open on my computer for things I’d also like to work on, while simultaneously attempting to answer questions about their worksheets. The kids bounce from parent-to-parent with their questions while Mark tries to pack up the night’s orders for mailing and Alaina sits on the floor saying, “why is nobody playing with me?” in a plaintive tone.

In my multi-tasking frenzy, I suddenly decide to add our online banking to the open windows on my computer and see, unfortunately, that we are behind $500 in our bank account and I won’t get paid for another three weeks…

Here are some things that make working together from home difficult:

Score-keeping. I was terrible at this when Mark worked full-time and I am still pretty terrible at it. By this I mean mentally keeping track of who has spent more hours doing what, who has had more time alone, who has come up with more ideas for dinner, and who has done more of what with the kids.

Different styles/types/routines/schedules/patterns. Part of this comes from personality, part comes from how we each spent the prior ten years working. I spent the ten years prior to 2013 as the primary at-home parent, with the scattered focus, multitasking, and “mother-sized jobs” that that role requires. I became very used to having to snatch at free moments to work frenziedly, accomplishing a great many tasks in a small window of time, because I don’t know when my next chance is coming.  Mark spent those ten years (as well as many before that in other workplaces and in the public school system) with a structured existence in which starting and ending times for work activities were clearly defined and the impetus for tasks/goal-setting comes from external forces rather than being self-directed by the individual. We continue to approach our days at home together with similar, somewhat discordant, habits.

IMG_9941Different energy levels. Being the “driver.” Related to the above, I have spent my entire life being essentially self-directed and self-motivated. I’m not sure how much of this is personality, birth-order, or environment (me: type-A-ish, oldest child, homeschooled. Mark = laidback, youngest child, public schooled). I have tons of energy pretty much all of the time. I am constantly popping with ideas and bubbling with “steam” for projects. I rarely settle down and relax. Productivity is my middle name and my default mode. I never drink anything caffeinated, I always get at least eight hours of sleep, and I’m always buzzing around doing stuff. I wake up in the morning with one million ideas of things I’d like to do that day and I want to start immediately, if not sooner. I think I exhaust people and I can be wearing and controlling. Mark works in focused spurts of concentration. He is slow to start in the morning and I rarely, if ever, have seen him “buzz” about anything. He takes his time. He stops to rest. He is stable and calm and methodical. He lets ideas percolate and form. He doesn’t need to talk about everything. He watches videos to learn things and after he has let information soak in, he tackles new and complicated tasks with complete focus and usually total success. He is patient and if something fails, he will learn more about it and try again. He is rarely, if ever, critical of himself or of me (I am self-critical enough for both of us, plus). He is also very used to working in environments where he does not have to be particularly self-motivated and, again, whether it be personality-based or environmental/socialization, this often puts me in the position of family “driver.” Sometimes this feels fine, sometimes I am completely sick of the role of household manager and motivator.

Never being “off.” Still related to both of the preceding two points, as someone who is used to working from home around and between my small children, I never feel like I’m off. There is always something more to do. Mark works until he is finished and then stops, even if there is something else that could be done. At home, together, all the time, neither one of us truly ever gets to be off. Kids keep needing things, dinner needs to be fixed, and I keep coming up with one more thing to “finish” before bedtime. When your life and work are entwined so deeply, there is no clear distinction between “work time” and “home time” (or family time). This is something we want to work on differentiating more firmly in the coming year.

Haphazardness. We do not have a clearly structured daily schedule which leads to a feeling of haphazard effort and randomness through the day. (Also on list for coming year.)

Introverted personalities. We are both introverts. When Mark was at work all day, he worked on his own much of the time. When I was at home with kids, I still had two hours a day on my own each day while my kids visit their grandparents. Now, neither one of us actually ever has time alone. I wrote about this in a past post:

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the household navigation of being an introvert mama with now having my also-introvert husband home full-time. Turns out that both parents home doesn’t magically extend the hours in a day actually seems to shorten them and it means both parents end up feeling pretty maxed out by kids and in need of somewhere quiet to recharge! I love having a “free-range” husband and I’m blown away by our joint creativity, which is an energy we’ve never experienced before at this level in our 19 year relationship because he was always at work all week and we had to squeeze everything else in around the edges. I also notice these interesting facts about having us both home all of the time: the house is way messier, we consistently stay up “too late” and sleep “too late,” it seems harder than ever to cook/figure out meals, we have less time to spend on homeschooling !!, we still don’t feel like we have enough time to talk to each other, I seem to have less time to write and focus on writing, I feel like I give my kids less attention than I did when I was the only at-home parent because I now have Mark to pay attention to too and I really like him, it is perhaps harder than ever to get the TWO HOURS I desperately need, I feel as if I have less time to focus on my teaching work, we argue more over household and parental responsibilities, we laugh way more and have more fun with each other and with our kids and we do more spontaneous, relaxed and fun stuff with our kids. It has been an interesting experience!

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Art, Retreat, and Free-Range Husbands | Talk Birth.

IMG_0076Homeschooling. Neither one of us really thrives in the role of homeschooling parent. We homeschool because we can’t really envision another alternative that is good for our kids, not because we uber-love homeschooling and are amazing at it. It often feels like a bit of a competition for who can not be the one to do the homeschooling with the kids that day. I have never felt like I thrived in the role and so sometimes it feels good—or like, “I told you so”—to now share the responsibility (and the failures). It is hard to work with multiple ages of kids at the same time. It is hard to be patient. It is hard to do stuff that is boring because we feel like we should maintain a minimum standard of official “schoolwork” each week. Our kids can be very frustrating, obtuse (perhaps deliberately), and are often extremely distracted and appear to be purposely driving us crazy. Homeschooling also means that working from home must always be done around the edges of family, again making there be no distinction between home time and work time. We often feel only partially present and often feel preoccupied and distracted, since there is never a break! We are also in near constant contact with all members of our family all day every day and this can wear. The total immersion the lives of our kids can be exhausting, diminishes the “cherishment factor,” and leads to a sensation of oversaturation with our kids (and them with us!). Somehow we still never feel like we have enough time with each other though, again because, like our business, our relationship has to fit in the edges around very energetic and noisy children.

Here are some things that make working together from home work:

Goal-setting and regular review. We have a biz meeting a minimum of once a month. This is incredibly important in helping us stay on track and focused.

Looking outward together in same direction. Our motto from the time I was 16 and he was 18. This has been a guidepost in our marriage, lives, and now our business.

August 2014 092Capitalizing on each other’s strengths/having complementary strengths. In addition to the differences I’ve referenced in the list above, we have complementary strengths that make us work extremely well together and in a way that often feels effortless. I am good at communicating with others, with writing, and with keeping up with tasks. I write all of our etsy listings, I answer all emails/messages from customers, and I do all social media work, as well as lots of other tasks. This does not feel like a chore for me, it does not feel “unfair” (nor do I scorekeep over it). Mark does all order fulfillment, packaging, and shipping as well as the hand-finishing of everything we make. He also is the one who learns the new skills we need to move forward—I may make the original sculptures, but they wouldn’t go anywhere without his willingness to handle hot metal, study how to make molds and then go for it, and learn the chemistry of resin-casting. When we wrote our Womanrunes book, I joked that if Mark was in charge of it, it would have had an excellent cover and great images, but no text. If I was in charge of it, it would have been a Word document with good text, but nothing else.

Appreciating one another and enjoying each other’s company. Not much else to say about this one. We like each other a lot. We have been together for 19 years. We have a symbiosis and a relationship that works and works well. 

Shared focus/mutual benefit. In the years that Mark worked outside of the home, there was often a sensation of competing for “free time.” When we are working on projects together, there is no sense of “competition” when project is a shared one. When he goes to pour new goddesses, it feels like working together. When I make new sculptures, it feels like working together.

Self-direction/self-motivation. As referenced, a lot of this still feels like it comes from me, but it does really help our business and our lives move forward.

Financial management skills and mutually compatible simple living goals and strategies. We decided a long time ago (way pre-kids) what is important to us and we naturally and easily continue to make good financial decisions that are in harmony with one another. We drive crappy used cars, have only used furniture, don’t have credit card or other debt, etc. This only works when both people are completely on board with the goals and purposes of living consciously within a fairly frugal simple living framework and spending accordingly.

Grandparents!!!!! A factor beyond personal control, having my generous, loving, connected, supportive parents one mile away cannot be undervalued. Our kids go to visit them for two hours (or a little more) every day except for Thursday. How much of a gift is this? Invaluable. And, lucky. August 2014 071

Kids that like each other. Also a factor beyond personal control, having sons that are best friends with each other and who therefore get to play together all day long and enjoy each other’s company is invaluable in creating a home atmosphere that is conducive to a rewarding, home-based life.

We’ve still got a lot to work on! We also have a lot of amazing goals for 2015 and look forward to carrying them out together.

We’re also still working on this…

I envision a life of seamless integration, where there need not even be a notion of “life/work” balance, because it is all just life and living. A life in which children are welcome in workplaces and in which work can be accomplished while in childspaces. A life in which I can grind my corn with my children nearby and not feel I need apologize for doing so or explain myself to anyone.

via I just want to grind my corn! | Talk Birth.


Somewhat related past posts:

Releasing Our Butterflies

Homeschooling Today Part 2 of 2

Imaginary Future Children

Tuesday Tidbits: Blogging, Busyness, and Life Part 2

Happy Father’s Day!

I just want to grind my corn!

New Etsy Pictures 474

Family Fun Day!

Today was the first big snow of the winter at our home in the Midwest and we spent the day on several family traditions. First, we made snow ice cream! We always did this when I was a kid and my kids love it too. (My own parents moved to Missouri from California, so I don’t think they made snow ice cream during their own childhoods!)

Simple Snow Ice Cream Recipe

  • One can of evaporated milk (or one cup of whole milk or cream or coconut milk or something else milk-like and thick)
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • vanilla to taste

Stir up and spoon over bowls of fresh snow!

After the ice cream, we made grebble. Grebble is a Volga German doughnut-like item that we inherited from one of my great grandmas. There are lots of recipes online, but I just use a basic bread dough recipe. The tradition that evolved in my childhood household was to make grebble for breakfast on the morning of the first snowfall. We usually go over to my mom’s house on this day and she makes grebble for all of us. Today, since we are all snowed in at our respective houses, I made grebble for the first time for my own kids. In the twisting of the dough and the hot oil, I felt myself linked by chains of fires to the kitchens of my ancestresses. 🙂

Simple Grebble Recipe

  • 2 ts yeast
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 c. white flour
  • 1.5 TB sugar
  • 1.5 ts salt

Dissolve yeast into water. Add other ingredients and mix in bread machine on dough cycle until it has risen the first time. Take out, roll into two fairly skinny loaves and slice each (still dough) loaf into rounds. Cut a slit in each round and pull one end of the piece through the hole and back out the other side to form a little twist. Fry in hot oil until golden brown, turning once. Eat dipped in granulated sugar!

After the grebble we made salt dough ornaments. They’re still (slowly, slowly) baking!

Basic Salt Dough Ornament Recipe

  • 1 c. cheap white flour
  • 1 c. sea salt or other salt
  • ~1 c. water (add slowly–may need a little bit more or a little bit less to get dough the right consistency)

Stir up until thick, non-sticky dough is the result. Roll out and cut with cookie cutters or hand-build into small ornaments and sculptures. Bake in oven on low temperature (200 degrees) for around three hours or until totally, totally dry and petrified. Then, paint or otherwise embellish. Yes, we used awesome Star Wars cookie cutters 🙂

 

 

I am a Story Woman

“The greatest gift we can give one another is rapt attention to one another’s existence.” –Sue Ellen quoted in Sacred Circles

“Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of shared story.” –Jean Houston

I am a strong woman, I am a story woman…

I’m busy preparing for a New Year’s Eve ritual on Monday, the first ritual like this for which we will include all family members instead of just women. As I was getting our “family fireside circle” song sheet ready, my husband asked a question about one of the lines in one of the chants…I am a strong woman, I am a story woman…

“I’m not sure about this,” he said, “what is a story woman anyway?” I wasn’t able to give him a solid answer at that moment, but guess what, I am one.

In fact, didn’t I just write earlier this week that story holds the key to the reclamation of power for women? How and why does this work?

Because of these two things:

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.” –Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.” –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard. We need to shift the dialogue of birth and, indeed, most aspects of women’s lives into powerfully positive “what if’s” and courageous explorations of our “negative” stories. When we hear the experiences of other women, of other people, sometimes it lights something in us and we are able to go forward in a way in which we would not have done without that story…

“Once the imagination has been kindled, we begin to see choices that we had never even seen before…but just seeing that we have different options and choices rarely gives us the strength we need to exercise these options. For this we need more than imagination. We need the courage to reach beyond ourselves, extending our hands to one another…” –Robin Deen Carnes and Sally Craig

And, then, this afternoon we had an ugly, sad, overtired, family-wide meltdown about homeschooling. I don’t really want to bother reliving the agony by typing up everything that happened, because we’re all back to normal now, but it was really the same old story. Parent suddenly gets bee in bonnet that kids (who are perfectly happy at the time pursuing their own interests and living robust lives) “should” be doing something different. Kid doesn’t live up to expectations and is, in fact, so unable to perform a very simple, basic task, that questions arise in parents’ minds about kid’s mental capacities. Parents feel personally responsible and like homeschooling parent failures as well as annoyed with kid who should know this already. Brief ranting and raving ensues along with hurt feelings. Sweeping pronouncements are made about what needs to happen to transform all of our lives into properly performing homeschooling bliss.

During this time, I abruptly decided this was IT, I HAVE TO STOP BLOGGING. I cried and cried. I don’t want to quit, but, if I can’t do homeschooling properly I certainly don’t deserve to be a blogger. And, then I remembered these quotes about stories and I especially remembered this one:

“As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles

mollyatparkAnd, also this one:

Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.

–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles

And, just last night, I got a beautiful thank you note for the Mindful Mama essay that I wrote in 2008 and that was updated/published in 2011. My stories, my words, were serving as “medicine” for another woman while I was cooking dinner last night, even though I actually wrote them several years before. That is story power. I am a story woman.

Last month, I had an email chat with a friend about why we write in the first place. She’d written a blog post about her family and as I read it I was reminded of how glad I am I blog and why I don’t want to give it up. Her post was a post like that—one that will bring back a whole collection of memories that have slipped from conscious memory. At the time of our exchange, I’d been looking back at some of my own old posts and found the ones I wrote about Pinterest day and it was so much fun to re-read them, because I’d already forgotten some of the recipes we’d tried. And…that was only after like six months have passed. It will be even more fun in a couple of years 🙂 I can remember having this fear (or whatever) of forgetting even since I was a girl. I write to remember. In fact, I’d actually left a comment on a Literary Mama blog post on the subject:

I write to remember. I write to share. I write to preserve. I write to collect. I write to store. I write for myself. I write for my children. I write for others. I write for perspective. I write to play my life’s music. I write because I just can’t help it. I write to pay attention and to tell about it.

I do feel like I have to have a balance between personal memory stuff and other information/education/advocacy on this blog because I don’t want to overdose readers on the picture of my kids and make people bored. I also have probably 100 ideas for posts before I actually get to write one. If I was only blogging for myself (and my future memory) I’d make more of the shorter, personal, picture-type posts, but I start to worry “who cares” and so I put up something educational! (BUT, as it turns out, the pictures/personal/kids stuff is NOT boring to me in other people’s blogs or in going back to my own.)

As another example, a couple of weeks ago, I came across the post I’d written based on a journal entry about Alaina when she was a one month old (Memories of a One Month Old…). This is exactly why I do it and why I’m not going to stop. Because reading what I wrote that day in my journal brought that one month old treasure of a baby girl back into my arms for a few moments in vivid clarity, rather than just as a hazy, distant recollection. It isn’t that you truly forget without having written it down, but that in the reading of your old story, a powerful, stored, storied memory that you had forgotten how to access fully is reactivated.

Also a couple of weeks ago, I got a little tear in my eye when Alaina came to get me in the bedroom showing me her handful of monkeys from the “monkey jump game.” When Lann was about her age if you asked him if he was a big boy, he would answer: “I not bigger yet, I can’t reach the monkey jump game!” Well, guess what, he reached it for them that day and they were all in the living room playing while I was getting dressed…

November 2012 243

I am a story woman.

And, I’m not quitting.

Other posts about Story:

Story Power

A Blessing…and more…

The Value of Sharing Story

The Of COURSE response…

Musings on Story, Experience, & Choice…

Taking it to the Body, Part 4: Women’s Bodies and Self-Authority

Grand Gulf/Mammoth Spring Mini-Vacation

This post is one of those primarily-for-myself/family members-as-well-as-memory-record/virtual-scrapbook sorts of posts. Will return to more appropriately birthy, womanist posts soon…

My college classes run on 8 week sessions, 5 sessions per year. This means I get five breaks of 2-3 weeks each during the course of the year. We have a family tradition of taking a vacation during my October break. This year, due to multiple weekend commitments (my brother got married! Yay! It was beautiful! Our close friends are building a straw bale house and the big bale-raising is this weekend. More yay! I’m really excited for them!) and due to the fact that Alaina is still too young to be a very awesome care traveler, we planned a mini vacation rather than a full-fledged vacation.

Since long before we had kids I’ve wanted to visit Grand Gulf State Park in Thayer, Missouri right by the Arkansas state line. It is billed as a “little Grand Canyon” and while the real Grand Canyon is also on my bucket list, it doesn’t make any sense to go to the big one when the little one is right in your own two-hours-away back yard! Grand Gulf is a collapsed cave system that collapsed about 10,000 years ago, leaving a true chasm behind. The Gulf is a mile long and 130 feet deep. Water flows underground in the remainder of the cave system and emerges two miles later in Arkansas at Mammoth Spring, where it produces nine million gallons of water an hour and is the tenth largest spring in the world. After driving for about 2.5 hours, we visited Grand Gulf on Sunday afternoon. Then, we continued on for 18 miles to our hotel in Hardy, AR which is a small, historic town with little shops. On Monday, we spent the morning checking out Mammoth Spring and then the afternoon visiting the shops in Hardy. On Tuesday, we ate homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast at the hotel and then headed back home, arriving in plenty of time to take the kids to taekwondo and to get me to my faculty meeting that night.

Here is a gallery of pictures from our three destinations! (if you click on any picture, it will open up a large version and then you can page through all of them like a slideshow)

 

Family mini-vacation officially earns a two-thumbs up from all of us. It was low-key enough of a destination to do everything in the time we had without feeling rushed at all and being able to take leisurely pace with detours as need be. It was close enough to get there in under three hours with three kids, but far enough away to be located in “exotic” Arkansas so we could feel like we actually “went somewhere.” The trip was short enough in duration that we’re not exhausted and struggling to recover and the kids didn’t get overdone in the car. We’ve already thought of some other potential destinations for future class breaks and also discussed drawing a circle on the map with a four-hour radius and see how many places we could go.

Nine is Divine!

So, an interesting new feeling for me as I got ready to write a happy birthday post about my oldest boy this week…I realized I should probably ask his permission before writing things about him to share on the internet! He said it was fine. I do already ask before sharing quotes/pictures on Facebook usually, if I think they’re potentially embarrassing at all.

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See what I mean?! Snaggly teeth and big nose is my default, self-esteem-blow, embarrassment self-concept. Though, actually this picture was taken when I was 11, so perhaps really 9-11 are the awkward years!

I’ve been a mother for nine years now! As I said in my post from this morning, I feel weird about this because I remember being nine. I remember other ages too, of course, but nine is when I first start journaling and so I have more concrete memories and records of that time. I guess it is the age that marks the beginning of my own conscious awareness of myself and the world in a way that still feels familiar today—it was beginning, the dawn, of my adult thought processes. I also remember starting to feel self-conscious for the first time at nine, like my teeth were too big, my knees were too knobby, etc. And, personal remarks made by others about my appearance stuck for life at that age (i.e. the knees thing—a friend of my grandma’s commented to me, “when my daughter was your age, her knees looked just like yours and I too her to the doctor because I thought something was wrong with her.” Gee, thanks.) I also have this thing that I’ve had for a long time in which when I get embarrassed about something or something goes wrong, I say, “I feel like I’m nine again!” Nine was an awkward age for me. Feels weird that it could be Lann’s future self’s embarrassing archetype too!

His birthday always feels like my birth-day too. It is my birth-of-a-mother day, though as I shared last year I felt forged rather than born as a mother. Today, I made sure to put on the necklace I bought for myself as a first-birth-day-present in 2004 (it was my first goddess pendant too–who knew how that collection would evolve!)

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PMC pendant made by a Canadian artist and carefully selected by me as a birth-day gift to myself 8 years ago!

Anyway, so back to my actual kid instead of me, me, me! This year has brought good changes for Lann. As I’ve alluded to previously, our work party relationships have enriched all of our lives. I’ve watched Lann develop tons more self-confidence and create friend relationships that do not have to be encouraged/guided/forced by me. Something that hasn’t changed is that this boy is an artist! He’s recently been thoroughly engaged by needle felting and created lots of awesome monster heads and action figures:
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Both the boys also started taking taekwondo lessons as well as gymnastics and they love them both. Again with the self-confidence—two years ago, Lann would have been too scared to go to something like that without me. Now, I drop them off and he loves it. It is a good reminder to me about waiting until people are ready rather than pushing them. It happens eventually!

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Look at this big kid!

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Birthday cake request was for a chocolate/vanilla swirl. We bought a mix and discovered to our dismay that it had both red and yellow food coloring in it! (We cut food colors our of the boys’ diets early this year and it has been a very good thing.)

So, as I stood there in my pajamas, I had to make a quick re-adjustment in plans and I made a swirl cake from scratch instead even though I’ve never ever made a vanilla cake from scratch before (I used my usual chocolate cake recipe and left out the cocoa. I’m smart like that.)

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Pretty nice, Molly, pretty nice! ;-D

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Blowing out the candles! I almost didn’t find nine of them!

Lann remains very devoted to Minecraft and Baba surprised him with a homemade Enderman toy! (Zander and Alaina both got one too)

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Aren’t they lucky to have such a talented and crafty Baba?!

In addition to TKD and gymnastics, the boys also signed up for homeschool co-op again this year after having taken two years off. They’re taking a mythology/dragons class and also animation. I neglected to take a “first day of school” picture of the boys, but I did take a cute one of Alaina:
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For Lann’s birthday, Mark took the day off and set up a laser tag arena in the field in front of our house. He bought special colored lights and set up obstacles and things to hide behind, etc. We also have five, count ’em five, laser tag guns and a visiting friend brought three more. So, we had spirited nighttime battles with a group of eight at a time—I played too, at first while nursing Alaina (and running in the dark. I rock!). It was super fun. Originally intended as a “money saving” option rather than paying $65 to go to the laser tag arena in town, after we bought the extra guns, and light bulbs, and tarps, and fence posts, I think we “saved” approximately $50 😉

So, having a nine year old is awesome. He’s funny and smart. Pretty responsible (I’m feeling apprehensive about the iPod touch many family members chipped in to buy him this year–sudden he doesn’t seem quite big enough and is kind of slinging it around. He did send his very first email this morning though, with coaching!). He is a good big brother and super helpful with Alaina. He makes movies, he does art. He draws comics. He is more packed with ideas for businesses, products, and money-making plans than any kid I’ve ever known. He is creative and amazing!

Some more pix!

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Make up for movie a little more uncomfortable than bargained for!

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Nice big brother!

Flashback: Playing with Tom! (grandpa)

I found out I was pregnant with Zander right around Lann’s second birthday!

The baby who made us parents and us a family! Look at what a small little family we were! (though, it felt plenty full then. Sometimes I’m amazed that I’ve been able to expand to add more people to it!)

Happy ninth birthday, first baby boy!

Related posts:

Eight is Great!

Lann’s Birth Story–Baba Style!

My First Birth