Thursday, December 4, 2014

White Privilege

I just took the boys to the library. Josh wanted to borrow Apollo 13. We've got a movie night planned tonight. Completely unexpectedly Bug fell asleep on the way. I parked at the entrance and asked Josh if he'd run in to pick up the movie, already at the hold desk, and handed him my library card. Off he ran.
In my rearview mirror, I saw a car park behind me. A black mother proceeded to get her four children out of the car, all boys. My mind flooded with the posts I've been reading about Ferguson, about the heartache of raising a black man in this society. I wanted to turn around and call out to her, tell her I know how hard motherhood is, but I can never know the fear she must feel for her children. I wanted to apologize and tell her how beautiful her family is, but I didn't. I didn't know how something like that would be received.
Then Josh came out of the library and it hit me like a slap in the face- THIS is white privilege. I didn't even think twice about sending him into the library alone. Would the mother behind me ever consider that for her sons? Will her sons ever know that freedom without fear? It brings me to tears.
What can I do? It is not enough to only educate my sons. What else can all of us parents do to protect all of our children?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts While Washing the Dishes

There I am, standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. The boys are running circles through the house playing tag. The noise and energy levels are much higher than I'd like them to be.

A few years ago I probably would have harped at them to calm down and quiet it, but not today. I've come to the realization that, as long as they aren't encroaching on anyone's body or property, they're not doing anything 'wrong'. The noise level is only loud to me because quiet is my preference. Same with the energy level. The house is just as much their place to live freely as it is mine.

I can certainly voice my preferences to them. I try to do so sparingly. I try to keep in mind how often I get to have things the way I like, and how out of control they are about so much in their lives. When I do express my preference for whatever I may want at the time, they almost always honor it. It's amazing how considerate they are.

And so I decide this moment is not one of the moments in which I'll ask them to be quiet. Instead I do my best to focus on their laughter, and when I do I wonder how I could have ever wanted the house to sound any other way.

Fun Quotes Friday

A collection of notable quotes from the week, only I have been terrible about writing them down so there's only one this week.

I'm in bed, reading, nude. Josh (10) comes in to chat and crawls under the covers.

Josh- Mom, are you naked?

Me- Yeah, hope that doesn't bother you.

Josh- Why would it bother me if you were naked? I used to be inside of you.

While Making Mac n Cheese-

Josh- (squeezing cheese pouch into pasta) "Oh no, doctor, what's wrong?! My poo is all yellow! (In doctor voice) That's okay, as long as it goes in this macaroni."

Bug's Mucus Mulling

Bug (3) has had a cough the last couple of days. Yesterday it turned mucusy. We got a terrible night's sleep and everyone was pretty grumpy throughout the day yesterday. The thing I was most clinging to was that Bug would likely fall asleep on our way home from babysitting that evening, and I would be able to go to sleep with him as soon as we got home.

We're driving home. He's eaten and gone to the restroom. Everything is in place for an easy, early bedtime. He nods off in his carseat. Yesssssss. The moment which has been my source of hope for the last 10 hours has finally arrived.

But then... Then he starts coughing. A couple coughs. Bigger coughs. Then just as I'm trapped in between cars at a red light, he coughs up some monstrous amount of mucus, but REFUSES to spit it out! He's gagging. Then he's choking. I'm watching helplessly in the rearview mirror. I'm flailing at Josh to push Bug's head forward. Josh is yelling back that he can't because of the car seat harness. Finally traffic moves and I'm able to quickly turn into a parking lot, jump out, and rip off Bug's seat belt just as he vomits mucus all over his coat.

I pull him out of the car and attempt to wipe him off. I had nothing to clean him up with except a wrap, my beloved Natibaby Oxitocin hemp blend. Ahhh, wrap misuse at it's finest. He coughs up more, and again refuses to spit it out. In a rare moment of encroachment, I shove my wrap covered finger in his mouth to sweep out the contents. Delicious. By the way, it's 29 degrees and windy the whole time we're doing this. Josh is pacing around the car trying to keep himself from being sick. Bug does not want to take off his soiled jacket before getting back in the car.

We all calm down, get back in the car and drive home. Bug does not fall back asleep. It is several hours later after cuddling in bed watching quilting videos on youtube (Bug's choice, he is in love with them as much as I am) that he finally drifts off for the night.

He coughs occasionally in his sleep, still refusing to spit out anything that comes up, and I am left to doze to the sounds of him mulling over his mucus like a cow with her cud. Needless to say, I don't sleep well, but he seems to be doing better this morning.

Josh's Coat Exchange

Josh (10) didn't have a winter coat as of Wednesday. Tuesday night the weather decided to drop (what felt like) 60 degrees overnight. It's freezing here. Literally.

Some back story about Josh- He is always cold. He thinks 95 degrees outside is splendid. He has often said he wants a face mask to wear outside in the cold.

So we leave lunch with my grandma (post below) and head to the coat store. I'm a little emotionally distraught. I wait patiently as he tries on two-thirds of all the coats in his size. He decides he likes this letterman jacket style one. It has no hood. I point that out to him and suggest a bright green, Antarctica ready parka, complete with hood and velcro to close the hood over his face. He declines in favor of the letterman jacket. Okay. We go pay for his new coat. He immediately rips the tags off and wears it out of the store.

Well, almost out of the store. There are those quarter gumball machines at the door and the boys spend far too much time longingly staring at them, asking me over and over again if they have any quarters in my purse (they don't).

I should note here that Bug (3) got a terrible night's sleep and is coming down with a cough. He's all sorts of grumpy at this point. We make our way through the frigid wind to the car, and wait a painstaking amount of time for Bug to navigate his 5-point harness with a coat and gloves on. The instant his last buckle clicks, Josh says, "Wait, this coat doesn't have a hood. Man, I want to go back and exchange it for the green one."


Deep breath, in and out. I contemplate telling him he made his choice and he'll just have to suck it up until next year. But that's not how the real world works and that's not how I want to roll. So in we go to exchange for the green one. He handles the whole transaction and then comes to me with the best, "Thanks, Mom" I ever heard. He knows how much self control and patience it took for me to handle that situation gracefully, and he really appreciated it.

Talking with Grandma About Christmas

So, who's ready to be bombarded with posts?! I'll first share something about me personally, then update you on Josh (TEN NOW!) and Bug (Still 3).

Without getting too much into it, my dad is totally dysfunctional. He is married to his third wife (who is my age), and they and their daughter live across the country. I haven't seen him in years, and the last time we talked on the phone he asked "Do you hate me or something?" and I replied "I'm indifferent toward you." That was in January.

My paternal grandmother and great-grandmother live just a couple of hours away. Last year for Christmas my grandma really wanted to get everyone together, all five generations of us. We were all to drive to her house to celebrate. I reluctantly agreed because I didn't know how to tell anyone I had no interest in being in the same house with my dad. All December I stewed over how to get out of it (because, you know, just coming out and saying it was too difficult). It ended up my dad's family couldn't come at the last minute, so I avoided the awkward conversation. Phew!

Until this year. It started all over again last week during a phone call with my grandma. I mentally resolved to speak up this year. We went to lunch together Wednesday and had a lovely time. Christmas plans never came up. There I was saying goodbye at her car, thinking I may have simultaneously missed my opportunity to stand up for myself and avoided the dreaded conversation for another day, when grandma asked, "So, can we plan a date when we'll all get together? You and us and your dad?"

The look on my face must have given me away, because grandma looked surprised and a little hurt before I even answered. All I managed to get out was, "Grandma, you know they're dysfunction junction over there. I'd really rather not.... I mean, we'll come see you and Granny, but..."

She made a few pleas, and I just kept answering "I'd rather not."

"Well... okay...." she said, looking upset. It pained my heart to see her so disappointed.

After we got home I got a phone call from grandma letting me know she'd gotten home alright. "And about Christmas..." Then she let me know that she was proud of me for standing up for myself. "I can't tell you how many times I just went along with something I didn't want to do because I was afraid to speak up. I'm really, really proud of you."

And some more nice things were said, but that's the take-away.

Mourning the Loss of my Anonymity

I feel like I'm sounding like a broken record over here. It's been a while since I've posted anything.

You may not care to hear ALL of my inner ramblings, but I've come to find out how much it really helps me to dump them all out. And if just one person out there feels something, a connection, like they're not alone, then its worth it to me to share things so publicly.

One thing I've been grappling with for the last while is that I've made in-person friends with people I've met here, and that some already real-life friends have discovered it is indeed me, the lady sitting across from them at the peaceful parenting meet up where they've just shared an intimate story, writing these posts.

Losing my anonymity here is more difficult than I'd expected. The things I share about our family can be very intimate, and occasionally I'll share my thoughts about something I see happening with other people. I want to always be honest in my writing. And honestly, the prospect of looking into the eyes of another mom at a play date and knowing she knows all about the inner struggle I had the night before is terrifying. It's worse than being on stage naked, I've bared my soul. I worry that people who know us may feel differently about the boys because of something I've shared instead of by their own interactions with them.

Also, I don't want any of my friends to feel they can't be comfortable around me in case I may choose to write about a situation I share with them (not that I think this blog is THAT big of a deal, and not that I'd cast anyone I care about in a negative light, but I do care about their feelings).

And so I haven't written. But I find that I'm missing out on something by not recording the moments that move me, so I've decided this is important enough to me to continue and invest more time into. I really appreciate all of you who have been here since I started writing, everyone who has supported me and helped me grow, and I look forward to sharing our journey with you some more.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Today will soon be gone...

I started the day by sending this text to my sister in law-

"Look how big my baby is! Make him stop!"

"For real!!!! He is so big! :("

"I know. :-( He's halfway to twenty! My mind can't handle that!"

I mean, 10 years old. TEN YEARS! My relationship with him is the longest relationship I have ever been in. Our relationship has taught me how to not run away from my problems, and how to stand up for myself, by forcing me to stand up for him first. We've been through a lot together, with me growing up right alongside him at times.

I won't lie, the thought of being less close with him one day already breaks my heart. It can be easy to dwell on the day when he will walk off and leave the home we've shared together to make a life all his own. Just this afternoon he literally tried to walk 25 miles home, sandwich in hand, because he was bored being at work with me. Thankfully I was able to catch him at the exit from the neighborhood and convince him to wait to drive home with me a couple hours later.

I think the fear of the day our children will embark on their own path without us can cloud our parenting judgment. We may worry we haven't prepared them enough, so we make choices based in fear instead of love. We may try to parent for the future instead of parenting in the moment. We may push our children away in an effort to toughen them up or harden our own hearts to make the inevitable separation easier.

But when we do that we rob ourselves, and our children, of a beautiful and needed connection in the moment.

Josh and I spent the evening watching a movie and eating ice cream on the couch. When it was time for bed, he asked to sleep in my room with me. I agreed, and we chit chatted and cuddled for a bit. I did my best to breathe in every moment of it. Right on cue, Josh told me he was too warm cuddling and rolled to the edge of his side of the bed.

No need for me to push him away. No need for me to push him to "grow up" any faster than he already is. There will come a day when he no longer wants to chat and cuddle in bed with me. I don't want to miss the last day he does want to. I don't want to miss the last time he wants to hold my hand while we walk together.

My hope is to keep myself in the now, to appreciate exactly who my sons are each moment, and to parent them for where they are that day, always from a place of love instead of fear. I don't have time for fear. These moments will be gone in the blink of an eye.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Isn't Bedtime Worth Fighting For?

I've been keeping a gratitude journal. I write down one moment each day about each child for which I am grateful. It's helping me retrain my brain to focus on the good moments rather than the struggles of parenting, because throughout the day I am watching for what I will write down and remembering all the positive moments while choosing just one. 

I've noticed a pattern in my journal. Many of the best moments happen during bedtime. Laying in bed with Josh (9y) telling him stories about when Papa and I were dating. Hearing Bug (3y) giggle while we read stories. It really is one of my favorite times. The distractions are gone. There is nowhere to be, nothing to get ready for. We're just relaxing and enjoying each other's company. 

Let me back up a second. It is one of my favorite times, when I surrender myself to a two hour+ ritual of reading stories, snuggling, laughing, and being completely present with my kids. Unfortunately the reality of our situation is that I play a single parent role Monday-Friday while Papa works out of town. I have a house to keep up, 3 dogs to care for, financial responsibilities, part time work out of the house 2-3 times a week to prepare for, and myself to keep sane in addition to my parental responsibilities. 

Sometimes bedtime is my least favorite time of the night. Sometimes it is a fight. But I started looking at it from the boys' perspective yesterday. They are not under the stresses of managing a household, and rightfully so. In their world, it matters much less whether the lunches get packed or the dogs get brushed or the dishes get washed. What matters is that Mom isn't in the bedroom laughing, snuggling, reading to, connecting, and making memories with them. 

Isn't that something worth fighting for? 

I don't have the answers for how to have those extra hours in the evening. I'm sure it would look different for every family. I'm still working on finding what will work for ours. My hope is that next time your kids are fighting with you at bedtime you'll remember this post and be a little more patient, a little more kind, a little more compassionate and remember they're fighting for the things that really matter.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sometimes I'm Uptight About Language

Let's talk about precision of language.

I'll admit, I might be a little too uptight about choosing the right words sometimes. For example, when we are driving down the road and see bovine ruminants grazing in fields, I say, "Kids, look at the cattle." Unless I know they are all female, I try not to say "cows". Josh gave me quite the eye roll when he read me the number two-point-OH-seven, and I gently reminded him it was two-point-ZERO-seven. He shot quite the glare when I said I bet Neil deGrass Tyson says zero. When I misuse a word in a post it really eats at me, but I'm learning to let it go.

Here's my thought process when it comes to speaking precisely around, and to, our children. They are like little sponges, we all know this. They are learning constantly, soaking up every word we say, making connections between words and the world around them. Synapses are firing. Brain cells are connecting. Pathways are forming. Wrinkles are being made. A lot goes into learning language.

But when we make up cutesy words for things, or use incorrect words to describe things, all that work is done and then has to be done AGAIN when our kids finally learn the "real" or correct word for whatever it was.

Think of the last time you realized something you thought you knew was wrong and you had to relearn it. If you're like me, it took a lot of effort to retrain you brain to think about it differently, to use a different word or whatever it was. Microseconds lost; bits of energy expended.

On some level that will be going on in our kids' brains too, if they have to relearn parts of their vocabulary. Tiny bits of effort, little bits of frustration or confusion, all adding up and potentially keeping our kids from learning other things in those moments. Potentially keeping them from making connections a little earlier. Potentially holding them back, even just a little, from reaching their fullest potential.

Yes, perhaps I'm being a bit uptight, but I want to give my kids every advantage I can. Using precise language is such an easy way to empower them in so many areas of life.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Conversation With Josh About Circumcision

I'm going to share a conversation I had with Josh (9y) last week. It involves circumcision. I am not, repeat NOT, trying to start a debate. I am simply sharing a conversation. I feel like some people might find it insightful. I know some people have guilt or regret over decisions they made regarding their sons. I was one of those people, but I'm moving forward and approaching the subject with my boys with open, honest conversation.

Please be respectful in any comments you choose to leave.

Backstory- Josh is circumcised. We were babysitting a little boy and Josh was watching me change his diaper. The little boy is intact.

Josh- Mom, why is his penis all squished at the end?

Me- That's his foreskin. Remember a while ago I talked to you about how you were circumcised as an infant? He wasn't. That is what an intact penis looks like. Your foreskin was cut off, that's why your penis looks differently.

Josh- Will it grow back?

Me- No.

Josh- Can they put it back on?

Me- Well, no, they can't put your skin back on you. But I have heard of a procedure in which men can restore their foreskin.

Josh- Would it hurt?

Me- I imagine so. Are you saying you want to look into it?

Josh- I think I might.

Me- I can certainly help you research that.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Many Elephants Are In This Room?

Had a really fun conversation with Josh (9y) this morning.

He's wearing a shirt that says " i^2 I keep it real " and we got to talking about why i is an imaginary number.

Then he asked me what 1 minus 2 was. I said negative 1. He said, no, negative 2, because there's no such thing as zero. We talked about that for a while and I asked him, "Okay, how many elephants are in this room right now?"

He looked for a minute as if I'd stumped him and forced him to say zero, but then said, "Well how can we know if some dead elephant skin cells haven't floated into this room? Or if the atoms making the things in here weren't once the atoms of an elephant?"

We briefly touched on the questions of what it means to be anything, how many parts of an elephant would need to be in the room before you considered one elephant to be there, and other philosophical things of that nature.

I love having these conversations with him. I especially love that he's willing and able to think about things in a totally unconventional way, and that he's alright with entertaining ideas even if they're a little out there.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Officially Unschooling 2 Years Now

We've officially been unschooling and (doing our best to) parent peacefully for 2 years now. How did I mark the occasion? By making a total ass of myself. 

We were scheduled to head out to visit some family when we walked out to the garage and found one of the car's tires completely flat. As luck would have it, I'd just loaded the trunk up with all sorts of junk to take to the resale shop. Full. And now I had to unpack it all to get to the jack and spare tire. So I was unloading the trunk, feeling stressed out, when Josh (9y) saw a VCR he thought was his. It wasn't. We had words. I told him to either be helpful or get out of the garage, in not so nice a way. He stormed inside to his room yelling, "I'm not going!", slamming doors, and I yelled back, "Good!"

Super mature, right?

I quickly realized I needed to be the bigger person and go apologize, so to his room I went. Apparently I had not given myself enough time to calm down because there was more yelling, legos thrown at the wall, screams of "you can't control me!" and threats of being locked inside the bedroom for all eternity. We were quite angry with each other.

Finally I got myself under control. Josh asked what I would really do if he never came out of his room ever again. I told him I would miss him every moment.
"But you said you'd be happy a minute ago."
I told him I had said things I didn't mean because I was angry. He noted that he had thrown his favorite lego set and broken it because he was angry. We talked about how we both had done things we didn't mean to out of anger, and how we both can work on expressing our feelings in a healthier way. It ended up being a really good conversation.

So the point of my sharing this story is to say (yet again) no matter how long you've been doing something, you're still going to make mistakes. Even if other people find you to be an inspiration, you'll never be perfect. Life always has a new lesson to teach. Everyone has a personal battle to be fought. In moments when you feel yourself slipping, you can stop yourself. When you slip even farther, you can still recover. When times get hard, refocusing on relationships helps me pull it together. Every relationship has its strains, but if at the end of the day your child feels truly loved, you're doing something right.

Some More Thoughts on Praise

We were visiting some folks recently and I noticed something about the way they interacted with Bug (3y). First of all, they were asking him all sorts of quizzical questions (like whether he could recognize letters, colors, shapes, or count) completely out of context with the rest of the conversation. Then when he was about to answer, they'd speak over him. Every time. 

The other thing I noticed was how quick they were to praise even the slightest thing he did, especially if he was able to get a word in edge wise.

I pondered over this for the next few days and took extra notice of how we interact with Bug at home in those respects. I noticed that we do indeed wait for a considerable pause while he gathers his thoughts to respond in conversation, and the wait is well worth it because he comes up with some really clever things to say. I love being able to get his unique perspective on the world. I also think it is so important to model good conversational skills in this way. Too often when discussing with other adults I notice how people tend to speak over each other and respond without actually considering what the other person said.

Tuesday at breakfast I had an interesting thought considering praise. Bug was eating bacon and said, "Buh. Buh. B for bacon." We do our best not to praise, so my response was a simple, "Yes, that's right. Bacon starts with B." He went on to name the starting sounds and letters for everything else on the table. We thought up other words that started with the same sounds, and even changed up the classic "C is for cookie" song to "B is for bacon" and "C is for coffee". It was a meal full of learning. If we had initially praised him and made a big deal about his 'b for bacon' statement, I wonder if he would have continued along that same path or if his thought process would have been derailed. Distracted and refocused on our reaction.

I've written before about how I think praise for normal behavior, like thinking or being kind or courteous, makes the behavior seem abnormal by calling attention to it. I think we need to be especially careful about avoiding praise when it comes to helping our children learn to think.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Responses to Car Post

I'm enjoying reading through the responses to my last post, the one about leaving my kids in the car. I'm shocked (though really I shouldn't be) when subjects like this come up how many responses are rooted in assumptions. 

Assumptions about knowing my children's character better than I (they won't unlock the doors for me when I get back). Assumptions about what kind of transmission my car has (they could accidentally knock the car into gear!). Assumptions about the location in which my car is parked (the brake could come off and they'd roll downhill into traffic!). Assumptions about the other patrons at the post office that day (Car jackers! Human traffickers! Kidnappers! Any of them! All of them!). (To this point in particular I beg you to read statistics on crimes against children. Papa and I are astronomically more likely to cause them harm than a stranger.)

My favorite are the assumptions about my character from one snippet of our story, like this gem- "Stupid selfish bitch poor excuse of a mother disgusting".

If you've taken the time to read through even a dozen of our posts here and come to that opinion of me, that's fine. If you choose to communicate that opinion to me in the manner above, I don't give anything you have to say any merit. None. If you don't bother to read more than the one post before forming your opinion of me, I'm not going to hold your opinion in any regard either.

Let's try to base our opinion on facts, and take the time to research those facts, instead of basing them on assumptions. Ask questions. It's okay to do that. Really, it is. If you're leaving a comment on a facebook page, you likely have the whole of the internet at your fingertips as well. Put it to good use.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Leaving Kids in the Car

Today I left my kids in the car alone. 

We were at the post office. It was 86 degrees outside. I took the post office box key off my chain, left the car running with the air conditioner on, turned to my 9 year old and said, "The phone is right here if there's some crazy emergency. Lock the doors behind me when I get out. Be right back." Then I stepped out leaving him with his 3.5 year old brother to walk inside the glass walled building to the PO box, approximately 25 feet away, from which I could literally see both children in the car.

In the perhaps 90 seconds I was out of the car I wondered if someone was going to call the police. According to Texas state law, it is illegal to leave a child in the car for longer than 5 minutes if a) the child is younger than 7, AND b)not attended by another person of at least age 14. Technically I did nothing illegal. I was not gone more than 5 minutes.

I understand the danger of leaving small children in the car. I do. This post is not about that.

This post is about the culture of fear mongering that is so prevalent today. It honestly pisses me off that I had to expend energy worrying about someone calling the police while I checked our PO box; knowing that someone could have turned our lives upside down with a phone call. I am more than triple the distance from my children, with absolutely no visibility, if I go check the mailbox in the front yard while they stay in the house. Am I to think this is too risky as well? Am I to hover over them as they run around on the playground? Are we to never let our children experience any independence?

It feels to me that this mentality of being hyper-vigilant and over-protective is trying to undermine parents' confidence. If you are even minimally confident in the way you've raised your children, and if you trust them to handle the situations they are in, society is ready and waiting to punish you for not second guessing yourself. Heaven forbid anyone feel confident weighing the risks and benefits of their own situations and making an informed decision.

I don't know what to do to battle this mentality except to say-

Follow your gut. Be confident in your parenting. Trust your children.

Some Tips for Having your Kid's Pictures Taken

Hi Everyone, I know it's been a while. Life is busy. Facebook isn't a priority. What can I say?

I wanted to take the time to post today about having your children's pictures taken. Papa is a children's photographer and there are things he sees all too often that really frustrate him. I wanted to share what I think would be his tips here, and hope he doesn't mind me speaking for him too much. 

#1. Do not force your child into the arms of a stranger.

I feel like that should be obvious, but apparently it's not. If your child/ren are upset or uncomfortable about taking pictures, don't force them. Not only does it go against everything you're (hopefully) teaching them about how they own their body, trusting their instinct especially in regards to other people, etc, but it's going to create fear around the entire process of having pictures done, meaning they will be fearful and anxious the next time you try too.

#2. Don't yell at, threaten, and belittle them in an attempt to get them to smile.

Doesn't work. Should be obvious. I know I don't feel overjoyed when people I love suddenly start barking orders at me while bright lights shine in my face. I'm betting your child won't either. Really, a set of portraits is not worth setting back your relationship with your child. It just isn't. A good photographer should be able to help your child feel relaxed and comfortable, and get them to laugh- capturing a genuine smile. If they don't, find a new one, but at least give them a chance.

#3. Don't talk about how terrible the pictures are in front of your child.

I can't even tell you how many proud children suddenly became heartbroken when their parents nit-picked their pictures. Remember, this is an image of your child. You are talking about THEM. If you don't like them, fine, but either wait until your child isn't around to overhear or choose your words carefully when discussing it with the photographer.

#4. Please don't place any worth on how well your child did for a camera.

The worth of a person comes from a lot of things. Let's teach our kids it comes from how they treat others, the choices they make, how they uphold their values. Not from how the photons bouncing off them flew through a lens to be captured. Again, your relationship with your child is much more important than a set of pictures.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day (late)

When does motherhood begin? At birth? Certainly not. Conception perhaps? I think not. 

I think motherhood begins at the thought of wanting a child. At the preparation for your body to grow another human, or for your home to welcome a child born by another. 

Motherhood is not only sleepless nights and changing diapers, although that is certainly a phase. Motherhood's first phase begins long before that, when space is made in the heart to unconditionally love and support a child through their lifetime, however short or long that may be. 

Happy Mother's Day to every woman in every stage of motherhood. The love you give, the work you do, changes the world.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Josh's Wet Swim Shorts

We recently finished reading How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber in our local peaceful parenting group. I've mentioned this book before. I feel it is a must read, so very helpful, even if you've been parenting peacefully for a while. It's a great refresher. 

Last week we had a situation in which the book especially helped me out. Josh (9y) had gone to the neighbor's house to swim with his friend. He came home, showered, and changed into dry clothes. The next day he mentioned swimming again while we were driving, and I realized I hadn't seen his swim shorts anywhere since the day before. I asked where he'd put them. He said in his closet. I was upset about this, and the thought of sharing how upset I was crossed my mind. Instead the conversation went something like this-

Me- Where exactly in your closet did you leave the shorts?

Josh- On the shelf.

Me- What happens to wooden shelves when they're wet like that?

Josh- They can warp or rot.

Me- So do you think that's an appropriate place to put wet shorts?

Josh- No, probably not.

Me- Can you think of a more appropriate place to leave them?

Josh- I could put them in the laundry.

Me- You could. That would get the other clothes and possibly the hamper all wet too.

Josh- Yeah. I could put it straight into the washing machine.

Me- That would keep other things from getting wet, yes. But then they wouldn't be available to wear again until after they were washed.

Josh- Oh, yeah....

Me- I was thinking you could hang them in the shower to dry.

Josh- Yeah, that's a good idea!

Making him feel badly about leaving wet shorts in the closet would not have made him want to do better in the future, and it doesn't help him understand WHY it isn't a good idea to leave wet clothes in the closet. This way he got to think through the reasons for doing things differently next time, and he got to contribute to finding a solution, in an accepting and respectful way.

At Sci-Tech on May 4th

Because we've lost our minds, we decided to take the boys to the science center today. May 4th. A Sunday...

They are giving all the kids pool noodle light sabers...

Our boys are quietly playing with ferrofluid while nearly every other child is beating the shit out of each other. It's a wild mob. 

Our kids are the anarchists, playing quietly with ferrofluid.

An update to my struggles with raising a 3 year old.

Apparently being 3 is really hard, because lately everything upsets Bug. Everything. Last weekend we had a rough time. Even with Papa home helping, we were both at our wits end. I'm typically parenting alone during the week, and when times get rough I want to just crawl in a corner and cry over a pint of ice cream (which I don't have and would necessitate a trip to the store, which I am too fearful to brave with said 3 year old when times are rough). I thought I'd exhausted all the book tricks. I spent time with him outside. He's eating. I just didn't know what to do to help him through.

For example, he wants 'the last piece of chicken' but he forgot he already ate it. One morning he was pissed that it wasn't snowing and then again pissed that I couldn't make it cold. Josh will say he loves me and Bug yells 'no you don't love her, I love her!' His uncle was dancing and he yells 'he doesn't dance, I dance!'

All. Day. Long.

I want to say, "Dude, chill. For real."

I *know* that it gets better; I have the nine year old to prove it. But I didn't do the whole peaceful approach last time around so this is new territory. I want to be there for him, help him through his feelings and all that, but when he gets upset because the traffic lights turn green I can't help but feel annoyed.

Anywho, recently I was reminded of a section in Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn which talked about the ratio of good interactions to bad interactions between parents and kids. There was a 'golden number', for every bad interaction you should have at least (I'm guessing the number) 12 good interactions (I will continue to look for the actual study).

Looking back at recent weeks I've been trying to get a lot of things done around the house and the yard and running errands. Most everything I was saying to Bug was commands. "You need to put on shoes." "We need to get in the car." Etc. without enough balance.

So the last few days I've consciously talked more with him about what he was up to, snuggled, and played more. It made a huge difference! Much better days.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Nebraska Bullying Flier

I'm sure by now you've all see the bullying flier handed out by a school in Nebraska making the rounds. The list of 'rules' includes such suggestions as "Treat the person who is being mean as if they are trying to help you", "Do not verbally defend yourself", "If you get physically not get angry", and perhaps most disturbing, "Do not tell on bullies." Parents responded with outrage and the school has since issued an apology.

But how are families to respond to bullying in schools? I believe we must first understand that our children's behavior is a reflection of our own, and we must end bullying in the family. A recent study out of SMU found that parents, on average, hit their children 18 times a week. Let that sink in. How can we expect our children not to be bullies themselves or to stand up to other children when bullied if we set the example that physical violence is an acceptable means of resolving conflict?

The school in Nebraska clearly sent the message that they do not want to be bothered with bullying issues among their students. Our children are depending on us to address the issue. We will never be rid of bullies in schools so long as parents are bullies at home.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Being 3 is Hard

If you don't know our backstory, we came to this whole unschooled peaceful parented thing when Josh was 6 years old. Before then he went to daycare, then public school, and we were generally bullies to him. 

That said, Bug is 3 years old and I have never parented a 3 year old peacefully. This is all new territory, and it is hard to navigate. This last week I've been becoming increasingly impatient with him and I've yelled a couple times. On the one hand I'm thankful that he is generally unphased by my yells. He just looks at me like, "What is wrong with you, Mom?" and goes about whatever he was doing. He is not afraid of me, for which I am very thankful. On the other hand it is so frustrating that he is unphased by my yelling because I do need his cooperation throughout the day in order to get certain things done.

I'm glad the yelling doesn't work because it forces me to get my head on right and find other means of working with him. But boy, oh boy, is this stage proving to be very hard for me. I want to share these struggles as a reminder that none of us have it all figured out. We are always growing and learning. And each of our children is their own individual who needs an individualized approach from us

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I'm So Excited For the Future

I love watching our boys explore whatever they choose to explore, to whatever depth they choose to explore it. Josh has been really into all of Neil deGrasse Tyson's films on Hulu and Netflix lately and is intrigued by quarks and spacetime and all that fun. He's looking up the scale of the universe and comparing the different types of quarks. It's amazing.

I get SO excited, like I can't even describe how excited, thinking about what he will be able to accomplish throughout his life, growing up unhindered by someone else's opinion of what he "should" be learning or doing every day.

Then I think of all the other children being raised similarly. This generation of free-thinkers is going to change the world in ways I can only imagine. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lyrid Meteor Shower

Last night we drove out to watch the Lyrid meteor shower. Packed the boys up in the car around 9pm, drove and drove up country roads to get away from light pollution. Bug (3y) fell asleep, not surprisingly. 

We found a nice place to park and Josh (9y) and I laid out on the top of the car chatting while we waited for our eyes to adjust. We explored the constellations, talked about how small we are in the universe, how old the light we saw was. It was really fabulous.

Until a june bug flew into my hair. There was screaming and flailing. Another one hit my arm. It was a full on attack. We left immediately. 

I will endure just about anything for my kids, but not june bugs. *shudder*

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cosmos vs Junk Food

Josh (9y) just came in from playing outside with friends. 

Me- Hey, I was thinking we could...

Josh- Watch the new episode of Cosmos!?! 

Me- I was going to say go get ice cream, actually. Want to pick up ice cream first, then watch Cosmos?

Josh- No way. Cosmos first. Education is way more important than junk food.

Meeting Continued Opposition

When we first withdrew Josh from the public school system, we were met with some opposition from family. Out of love, they were concerned about whether we were doing what was best for him.

Now, 2 years later, we are still met with the same opposition as family members bring up their concerns yet again. I used to feel their concerns were out of love, but now I have trouble not feeling offended. I look at our children and think, what on earth do they see in them which makes them feel like we are making poor choices? They are healthy, happy, polite, respectful, courteous, (what others would deem 'well-behaved'). They speak intelligently. We have great dialogues. We don't have to coerce them into learning. We negotiate our problems. There is nothing which should give them the impression we are not doing right by the kids.

In contrast, when we used to send Josh to school and we would complain, "I got a call from his teacher today, he's acting up in school again. We tried spanking, we've grounded him, taken away his toys.This kid is out of control!" they never questioned our approaches. That was the "normal, acceptable" approach to parenting, so obviously we were doing the best that we could, and it was "normal" to be having such struggles with our son.

Now, seeing how home education works better for us, I think it actually upsets them that we DON'T struggle anymore. They may think- "I see them doing something different, and it works for them. What I did didn't work as well for me. Maybe I made a poor choice. But I don't want to question my choices, because that's too painful. So instead I'm going to question their choices. That's easier for me to deal with in my mind right now." What they express as concern for our choices may actually be masked guilt or regret about their past choices.

This situation is very frustrating for me. Home education has been the most positive life changing choice we have made. I can't force them to see that, but I can be patient toward them as they hopefully work through their issues. After all, I used to think all homeschoolers were weird and look at me now, advocating for home education. We all start somewhere

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Early Reading Skills in the Bathroom

Early Reading Skills Learned in The Bathroom

Bug (3yo)- I wanna turn the light on. 

Notices the letters on the switch...

Bug- O-N spells on! 

Flips the switch...

Bug- O-F-F does not spell on, O-F-F spells off!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

cognitive dissonance

When we first withdrew Josh from the public school system, we were met with some opposition from family. Out of love, they were concerned about whether we were doing what was best for him.

Now, 2 years later, we are still met with the same opposition as family members bring up their concerns yet again. I used to feel their concerns were out of love, but now I have trouble not feeling offended. I look at our children and think, what on earth do they see in them which makes them feel like we are making poor choices? They are healthy, happy, polite, respectful, courteous, (what others would deem 'well-behaved'). The speak intelligently. We have great dialogues. We don't have to coerce them into learning. We negotiate our problems. There is nothing which should give them the impression we are doing something wrong.

In contrast, when we used to send Josh to school and we would complain, "I got a call from his teacher today, he's acting up in school again. We tried spanking, we've grounded him, taken away his toys.This kid is out of control!" they never questioned our approaches. That was the "normal, acceptable" approach to parenting, so obviously we were doing the best that we could, and it was "normal" to be having such struggles with our son.

Now, seeing how home education works better for us, I think it actually upsets them that we DON'T struggle anymore. They may think- "I see them doing something different, and it works for them. What I did didn't work as well for me. Maybe I made a poor choice. But I don't want to question my choices, because that's too painful. So instead I'm going to question their choices. That's easier for me to deal with in my mind right now."

This situation is very frustrating for me. Home education has been the most positive life changing choice we have made. I can't force them to see that, but I can be patient and compassionate toward them as they hopefully work through their issues. After all, I used to think all homeschoolers were weird and look at me now, advocating for home education. We all start somewhere.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Black Hole TShirt Demonstration

Last night Josh (9y) wanted to watch Cosmos, the episode about A Sky Full of Ghosts, again (On Fox! Also on Hulu Plus!). Space Time and Cosmic Speed Limits and Black Holes and Universes within Universes. So much fun.

Afterward we stretched a tshirt between Josh and Papa to represent the fabric of space time, and used bouncy balls and marbles to show how mass warps space time. Then we pretended we had something as massive as a black hole and tried to push the ball through the shirt to the floor, pulling the people holding the shirt toward each other and downward. It was an amazing demonstration of how black holes effect everything around them! Minds blown, thoughts racing everywhere!

At least I thought it was an amazing demonstration. I'm no astrophysicist though.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Evolution of Minecraft Agreements

The evolution of our agreements.

Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their brains around the idea of having a home with no rules. (Except for the NAP- non-aggression principle if you want to look it up. Still not technically a rule.) Our home runs, instead, on agreements. I thought I'd show you what that looks like for us, in regards to Josh (9y) playing Minecraft.

To start, Josh wanted Minecraft. He purchased it with his own money and downloaded it onto my computer. Our original agreement was that he could play as much as he liked so long as I was not using the computer, and that whenever I wanted to use the computer he had 5 minutes in which to wrap things up and get off.

That didn't work out. We were getting frustrated with each other over switching back and forth. So we came to a new agreement. He would have 3 hours of time to play each day. I started noticing issues with this almost immediately. He would spend 3 consecutive hours staring at a screen. It was affecting his mood, meal times, etc. I brought my concerns to him and we came up with a new agreement.

This one was that he could play for 3 hours total each day, but at a maximum of 1.5 hours at a time, with an equal amount of time away from the computer between session. This worked out alright for a while, particularly in the winter when we weren't leaving the house much. We would play with him. Bug learned how to play by watching and Josh even let him play and helped him figure everything out. Good times.

But the 3 hour total time was nagging at my mommy conscience. Especially in the spring when there is so much fun to be had outside. I talked with Josh again about my thoughts and feelings. We came up with a great system. He would get 1 hour of computer time each day, and then he could work for more if he wanted. We made a list of chores he could do around the house and their value- both in Minecraft Time and dollars- from which he could choose to be paid. This was completely voluntary, not at all coerced. He loves the agreement, as do I.

Last night Papa and I were talking about some reading I'd done on Waldorf education (for this week's Education Freedom Report, make sure to check it out), specifically the exclusion of technology and the idea of encouraging children's creativity by not exposing them to stories to imitate. Josh overheard, and later lying in bed he asked us if we could come up with a new agreement. He found value in what we'd been discussing and suggested he didn't use any screens until after 3pm each day. Sounds great to me.

So this "no rules" thing isn't chaotic and hands off. It isn't raising feral children. For us, it is starting at the assumption that full freedom for self-regulation is best, then making adjustments if and when we see issues arise. It is flexible and adaptive. It takes everyone's needs and preferences into account, and changes along with them. It is us helping the kids to notice things about themselves and their behaviors. It is us helping the kids connect the dots between cause and effect. It is us helping them come up with and implement a plan that best serves their development. It is working together respectfully and lovingly.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We All Struggle

Lest anyone should get the impression that our household is always calm and peaceful and wonderful, with the boys spouting off cutesie phrases to me, and me handling every conflict with grace and patience, let me assure you it is not like that. No. It is not like that. 

I, too, fall victim to that internet mommy blog thing where we're really excited to share all the good times, and less excited to share the tough times. Mostly because, well, they're tough and all my energy is being put into dealing with it.

I, too, look at other pages sometimes and think, "Wow, that family really seems to have it all together. Why don't I have it all together like that? Why am I struggling just to throw some food in front of the kids, or change my clothes?"

Sometimes I struggle. Lately I've been short and impatient with Josh (9y) to the point that I'm just being mean sometimes. And he lets me know how he feels about that, and we get into arguments over it.

But the important thing to note is that those arguments are much more civil than they used to be. He is much more effective at communicating for himself, and I am much less of an oppressive jerk. So I (and my amazing friends) remind myself to focus on the positive. We don't have it all together, and we aren't a magically peaceful household, but we're doing better than we used to and we keep trying to do even better than we do now.

Remembering that (and a strong cup of coffee) helps me sit proudly in the yoga pants I've been wearing all week. It's still too early for standing. ;) Hugs and love to you all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sweet Comments Before Bed

Last night I fell asleep hearing the following things murmured from my half asleep kiddos- 

Josh (9y)- I snuggle my blanket when I sleep and sometimes I dream it's you. 

Bug (3y)- Mom, you're my friend. I'll snuggle you. 

Josh- Want a back rub to help you fall asleep? 

Bug- You're my good friend, mom. We're friends together.

Talk about making a mom feel great!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Another Sex Talk on the Way to Get Ice Cream

I was reminded of the "Sex Talk" article I shared last week while we were driving to get milk shakes tonight. Here's the conversation Josh and I had.

Josh (age 9)- So you were 19 when you became a parent, and your mom was 17 when she became a parent. Do you think I will still be in my teens when I become a parent?

Me- I love being your mother and all it has taught me, but I do hope you will be older before you have kids. It was really hard becoming a parent so young. I think it would be easier for you to be sure not to get anyone pregnant.

Josh- Hmm.

Me- Do you know what you could do to prevent getting a girl pregnant?

Josh- I don't think so.

Me- Well, when you put your penis inside a girls vagina and ejaculate, that's when the sperm leaves your body and goes to meet the egg. You could have sex other ways, like use your hands instead, which can be just as fun. Or you could wear a condom. That goes over your penis and keeps the sperm from getting to the egg. Really you should use a condom every time you have sex, because you can get diseases from people without one. When you're married and only having sex with one person for the rest of your life, then you don't have to worry about diseases so much.

Josh- Hmmm. So were you married to my biological father?

Me- I was.

Josh- But then you got divorced.

Me- Yes. Another thing I hope you never have to go through. It was heartbreaking and very hard for everyone. We were young and had no idea what love was about, or what marriage was about.

Josh- So why did you get married if you had no idea what marriage was about?

Me- Oh we THOUGHT we knew. We thought we knew a lot of things. I think that's part of being young, thinking you know a lot more than you really do.

Josh- But then you did and you were like, "WHOA!"

Me- Yeah, we were like, "Whoa! We had no idea! This is not working out like we thought it would."

Josh- Hmmmm.


No need for a "big talk" about the "big" things in life. A series of smaller, relaxed conversations is the better way to go, in my opinion.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Buying Everything for Jupiter Cake

Just bought allthethings to make an epic cake model of Jupiter, a project I am very excited to do with Josh (9y), about which we have been taking all morning. 

As we pulled up to the house, though, Josh asked, "Do you really want me to make the cake with you?" "Uh, yes, of course!" "Okay, I'll do it," he sighed.

"What's up? You sound like you don't want to anymore."

"Well, I kinds of want to go play at my friend's house now."

"Okay, well go do that and we can make the cake later. Anytime, really, now that we have everything."

"Are you sure?"


"Okay, I'll be home by 7."

Not gonna lie, I'm pretty bummed. But I know if his heart isn't in it while we're working on it, he's not going to remember nearly as much as if he does it when he's excited again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Discovering Distortions

We love watching VSauce on youtube, and recently we watched this video on distortion. Like many things we watch, it was interesting at the time, but even more interesting as a bit of information tucked away for later.

Last night before bed we were doing our nightly exercises. Josh (9y) was doing jumping jacks and counting in Spanish. For whatever reason he wanted me to video tape him doing this, so I pulled out my phone and hit record. I noticed there was a delay from his actions to the same action on the screen, and called him over to hold the phone while I (tried and failed) did jumping jacks. "Whoa! It's just like that video on VSauce!"

We spent the next while experimenting with making delays on the camera. Josh discovered it was easier to see when the object was farther away and moving faster than up close and slowly.

Bug (3y) even noticed that the reflection of the fan spinning in the mirror spins the opposite direction.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning Inspired by the Keyboard

Josh (9y) is playing on his electric keyboard. It has all sorts of songs in it's memory bank, and lately he's been fixated on Pachelbel's Canon. The keyboard also simulates all sorts of instruments. His favorite lately is the harpsichord. 

So I pulled up a recording online of Pachelbel's Canon performed by a string quartet. Then he wanted to hear it on a real harpsichord, so of course we did that. Then he wanted to see how a harpsichord worked, how it is different from a piano. Next I explained to him why it was called Canon "In D", and showed him a quick rundown of scales.

Satisfying his curiosity and filling the house with beautiful music- Double win. It isn't always this mess-free and relaxing. ;)

My Interaction with Another Mom at Target

How many times has a stranger out in public made a snide remark about your peacefully parenting? I know it has happened to me and it made me feel so angry and so deflated at the same time. Tears of rage and embarrassment were barely contained long enough to get back to my car. 

Now how often has a stranger out in public said something positive about your peacefully parenting? For me, never. I feel like this has to change. We have to be more supportive of each other, our fellow parents, as we each make this journey.

While I was getting groceries last week I saw a woman with two small girls stopped in the entryway. One of the girls was having a bit of a meltdown, and the mom was kneeling down at her level talking her through it. We passed by, but later happened to walk by them again in the store.

I'm usually pretty shy, but I'm becoming more bold in my peaceful parenting advocacy, so I said, "Hi. Um, Excuse me." She looked over at me. "I just wanted to say it was really refreshing, seeing you being patient with your daughter earlier."

Tears welled up in her eyes. "Thank you. You have no idea how much that means to me. Its just so hard sometimes," she responded. Tears were welling up in my eyes too. "I know. It is SO hard. But it's worth it." She nodded. "Yes, it is." Then we awkwardly parted, not sure whether to hug each other or just say goodbye.

For all the patience, love, support, and understanding we strive to give our children doesn't it just make sense for us to treat our fellow adults the same way? Isn't that how we're hoping our children will still treat each other when they're grown? Let's be a good example for them, and show them kindness is not just for children. It's for everyone.

Dale's Rant on STAAR Testing

This popped up in my newsfeed yesterday-

"I just wanted to say good luck to all the Texas students who are taking the STAAR test tomorrow, and *burn in Hell* to the political bureaucrats who mandated this idiotic test that has taken over our educational system and replaced it will drills to pass a test that in no way measures or improves actual life skills.

I was a great student in school, and I probably would have acted like passing the test should be a given, but now as a parent I realize the error of my childhood views: You will never encounter anything like a test in your career. There will always be resources to refer to during any task, allowing you to make the most of whatever your personal manner of thinking might be.

So yes, go to fiery Hell, Texas Board of Education. You have managed to turn even our best and brightest young minds into ones that despise the educational process. You've replaced their joy of learning with anxiety about a test that only serves the purpose of distributing funding. May your own jobs be challenged yearly by a series of tests that, if you fail, you lose not only your livelihood, but your entire future standing in the job market as well. That's basically what you're doing to our children. Screw you."
-Dale Crawford

Monday, March 31, 2014

How Our Words Become Theirs

Am example of how the words we say to our kids will become the words they use to communicate. 

We were laying in bed last night and I was exhausted. I was laying on my stomach with my face turned away from Bug (3y). He was chattering away and asking me all sorts of questions like, "Does Thomas sleep in Tidmoth Sheds?" to which I'd reply, "uh huh".

After a few minutes of this Bug seemed to be getting frustrated with me. He said, " Mom, will you please use words and talk to me? " 

I was so proud that he was able to express himself so clearly and respectfully.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our First Education Freedom Report

We were listening to this, which features a piece written by yours truly, and Josh (9y) WIGGED OUT that my name was mentioned.

"What if it gets on the radio? What if tv people want to come to our house?! What if we become famous?!?! WE COULD GET FREE ICE CREAM!" 

His excitement was so endearing. 

I hope you'll check out Parents For Liberty and subscribe to the Education Freedom Report. It's an amazing organization run by an amazing family.

Education Freedom Report 03/25/2014 - School Suicides, Parents Opt-out of Star Testing

Heather's Comment on Our Meme

So yesterday I posted a picture of Papa and Bug and a little meme and I got this comment on it- 

"Awwww, it's Brad! I love love love this family. So kind and inspiring! His wife saved my life after my son was born. Would be completely lost without her."

I spent 2 hours with her. 2 hours. Supporting her choices in how to feed her baby. Listening to her. Encouraging her. Reminding her that she could do this, that she had support. I showed her how to wear the baby in a ring sling. I made her a meal and left while she napped. All that almost a year ago. Haven't seen her since that day.

For that interaction to still inspire her to write that comment just shows how much impact our experiences during and after birth have on us for the rest of our lives (and on the life of the child as a consequence). It is one of the most vulnerable times in a woman's life. We must be sure to treat each other with respect and love, always, but especially then.