Thursday, January 30, 2014

Big Feelings For Bug

Bug (3y) is really starting to express his inner thoughts and interact with other people lately. It's a magical peek into who he is.

I love being able to witness him discovering himself, figuring out who he is in the big crazy world. What he likes and doesn't like, what he thinks about things, what inspires his sense of wonder. As an adult, I'm still figuring out who I am, so I imagine he will continually be figuring out who he is for a while. It's a privilege to be able to experience this with him.

Parenting from this perspective really changes things for me. There is no need for me to "make" him into a certain person. He is who he is, something he is figuring out along the way. And there is no need for me to be upset with him when he struggles along that path.

For example, last night he was really upset about something. I never figured out what. Other people might have called his wailing and flailing a tantrum, but I saw a boy who was feeling big feelings and didn't know what to make of them. I likened it to how I used to feel as a teenager when my heart was broken. So when I'd asked all the questions I could think of to try and figure out how to help him and nothing worked, I just sat with him. My heart went out to him. I told him I was here for him and I would help him get through this. And I just waited, letting love and acceptance fill my gaze.

After what seemed like an hour, he threw himself into my arms and held me tight, and then he was better. We went on to eat dinner and enjoy a movie night.

I don't know what was ailing him, but I hope through this he knows that no matter how ugly and dark things might feel, he can get through it. And that Mama will be there to help if he wants it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Children Know Themselves Best

I always get a little frustrated when I read or hear the phrase, "you know your child better than anyone else."

I understand the sentiment, but really, the child knows themselves better than anyone else. We are only outside observers. Sure, we may do more observing than anyone else, but only the child knows what they are thinking and feeling, the true motivations behind their words and actions.

Because of this, I believe we need to be asking more questions (How are you feelings? What do you think? Why did you choose to...?), trusting our children's answers, and working in partnership with them as they learn to navigate life. Their life

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Do Ends Justify Means?

This weekend I was going through our old computers and hard drives, consolidating alllllllllllll our pictures, when I found some papers I had written for my Intro to Philosophy class in college. One in particular caught my eye. The writing prompt was "Does any end justify 'any means necessary'?" 

The following is what I wrote. It is certainly lacking finesse, I'll readily admit that. Keep in mind I wrote this when I was 21, years before I ever heard of the non-aggression principle. I'm pleasantly surprised to see the ideas behind the principle came to me organically. I wish I would have applied this way of thinking to my parenting earlier, but I digress. (I realize I used male pronouns throughout, please replace these in your head with a gender neutral pronoun.)

"If one were able to do the world a great good, at the expense of certain people’s suffering, would it be justified? For example, if the world could be rid of disease but hundreds had to die in the testing and perfection of the cure, should it be done? There is no end, no matter how good it may be, that would justify ill means to be achieved.

The only end which would ever justify any means would be to rid the world of all pain and suffering. However, since pain and suffering are a natural part of human existence, and perhaps even necessary to the growth of the human spirit, it would be inconceivable to rid the world of it. Therefore, since this end is unattainable, any means claiming to be justified because they move toward this end are not only false but also unjustified. 

There are two types of people who would claim to be doing the world a great good at a certain expense. The first are those who want to use this claim as a tool of manipulation for their own gain. The second are those who truly believe they are benefiting the world. While the latter has good intentions, they are both still unjustified. The first is, obviously, because he has no one else’s benefit in mind but his own; the second because he has lost sight of the individuals who will be negatively affected in his quest for the greater good. When considering the amount of damage either of these men could do in the name of the “greater good”, the second is capable of far more than the first. This is because he truly believes he will achieve good through any means, and he is not acting out of selfishness. Because of this, other people will also believe he is justified and aid his cause. 

No one individual’s happiness is more important than another’s. Likewise, causing one individual’s suffering is no more justified than another’s. It is because of this fact, that no end which would bring happiness to one individual by means of another’s suffering can ever be justified. No one enjoys being caused pain by another, and so each person has the responsibility not to cause pain to others. Of course, pain is inevitable in every person’s life, but causing pain intentionally must be avoided. Intentionally causing one person pain for another’s gain must be avoided even more so. 

There are means which would achieve great good for the world, but which unfortunately require some individuals to suffer in order to come to pass. Even though the world would greatly benefit, it is not in anyone’s power to choose who should suffer and who should not. The only way such an end could come about in a justifiable way would be for an individual to choose for himself to suffer for the benefit of others, and not have been manipulated into choosing so. 

Some people believe causing a select few people pain or suffering can truly bring about benefit for the rest of the world, but they are mistaken. When someone is unjustly caused pain by another person, they remember it even after the pain is gone. Harbored with these memories is resentment. When a person has resentment in their heart along with the memory of being unjustly wronged, there can be a motivation to cause harm to others. Therefore when good is achieved through ill means, it is actually creating an equal amount of ill will as good. Being blessed with good fortune is not always a powerful motivator for people to bestow good fortune onto others. On the other hand, being dealt misfortune is a very powerful motivator for people to bestow misfortune onto others, because it makes them feel if they were wronged then they are justified in wronging others. 

Since the desire to deal ill will unto others multiplies itself at a higher rate than the desire to deal good fortune onto others, committing even the slightest wrong against someone in order to create any amount of good will ultimately result in more wrong in the world than any good which came from the wrongdoing in the first place. Therefore the only justifiable way to bring about any end is to do it through good means. If using “any means necessary” involves doing wrong to others, there is not an end in existence which would justify them. "

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Conversation About Anarchy

Yesterday Papa and I had a conversation about anarchy. What does it mean? How would things work? I have a lot more time than he does to read conversations on the internet and think about it. He's out workin' it, makin' bacon.

One thing that came up was how, in any transition period, there are going to be people and families who suffer. What about them?

Well, first of all, people are suffering now. Right now. The status quo is far from utopian. Secondly, if we are to ever enjoy a voluntary society- anarchist, libertarian, whatever you want to call it- we are going to have to bring back community. I see so much emphasis on "do whatever you want so long as you don't encroach on anyone else", but not enough (in my opinion) emphasis on helping each other out. I'm guilty of this in my own life. It's easy to get caught up in looking out for ourselves, being self-sufficient, and all that.

But shit happens to everyone. Yes, even you and me. No matter how much preparation and planning you do, you cannot plan and prepare for everything. And what kind of life would that be anyway? At some point we are all dependent on the skills, resources, or good will of others.

If we truly believe in a voluntary society, if we want to see it happen, we have to be willing to step up and help out. We need to take care of the people in our communities, in our tribes, and know they will be there to take care of us as well. If we hope to win the hearts and minds of others, if we hope to convince anyone that in a voluntary society people will look out for the poor and down-trodden, we have to be willing to be those people now.

I know I am not so eloquently spoken on this subject. It occupies much less of my mind than parenting and education. I'd love to hear Dissenting Opinion's opinion on the subject. But these are my initial reactions and feelings to what I read and hear. Your thoughts?

Love is Attention

The last few days Bug (3y) and I have been having a tough time with each other. He's usually quite capable of expressing himself verbally, but lately has reverted to pointing and grunting at the slightest bit of emotion. Speaking of being emotional, the slightest things seem to set him off. I've been trying to stay patient with him, but it's been really difficult and I've not been completely successful.

Then yesterday I realized something. He's been waking up the last few days during a time when I am in the middle of something. So our first conversation of the day has been going something like-

Me- Good morning!
Bug- Mom, I needa hold you.
Me- Hold on, let me finish this row (knitting).


Me- Good morning!
Bug- Mom, I needa go potty.
Me- Okay, let me put the puppies in their crate. (because I can't yet leave them for even that short amount of time without an accident)

Our first interaction of the day was one of me denying his completely reasonable request. That's enough to put anyone in a cranky mood, especially Bug who is not a morning person to begin with. To add to things, I've noticed now that he's bigger, more capable, and more communicative I make myself a little less available to him. I think he can play in his room without me while I get something done, that sort of thing. More and more often lately.

As all the little "no's" add up throughout the day, certainly he becomes really frustrated with me. Maybe he's even thinking something like, "I've been using my words to try to communicate with Mama, but it's not working! Perhaps going back to how I used to do things (crying, pointing, and grunting) will be more effective."
And it is more effective! I stop what I'm doing and give him my full attention then, which only proves his point.

As soon as I noticed all this yesterday I made a point to say "yes" more, to be more attentive. He's definitely going through some developmental changes, but who isn't, really? It was still a challenging day for us, but much better than the days prior.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happiness is Appreciation

I don't often talk about this here, but I am divorced. My ex-husband is Josh's biological father. We split up when Josh was just a toddler, and Papa adopted him after we got married. Neither Josh nor I have had any contact with my ex or his family for 6 years.

Until yesterday. I received an email from my ex's brother, Josh's uncle. He has children and he would like them to have a relationship with Josh. I could make this post all about how we handled the request, and maybe later on I will, but the conclusion is Josh is uninterested in meeting them. For this post I want to focus on what happened afterward.

For the rest of the day my mind reeled with memories of how things used to be, with my ex and his family, and how things could have been if I'd stayed. Obviously they weren't good memories or thoughts, we split up for a reason. All day my mind was filled with these things.

Then Papa came home from work. Bug jumped up and down excitedly at the door. Josh ran across the house and threw himself into Papa's arms. You'd better believe I appreciated that moment ten times more than I usually do! Later I happened to catch a glimpse when Josh was playing a music box, just staring into space while turning the little dial, looking so young, so innocent, so content, so happy enjoying the song. I drank that moment in for all it was worth. I noticed Bug, in all his innocent, un-oppressed glory, never knowing in his 3 years of life any of the horrors Josh had been exposed to by such age. I kissed Papa a little longer last night. Hugged him a little tighter. Told him how much he means to me once more than usual.

Nothing about my life or my family changed yesterday. Everyone was acting as they always do. What changed was my appreciation of them, and I was more happy.

"Happiness is a discipline. Happiness is a remembrance of everything we're going to lose, and an appreciation of it while we still have it." - Stefan Molyneux

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mom Club

I went out on a date with one of my mom friends last night. Mom Club, if you will.

First rule of Mom Club- no sharing food at Mom Club. We each ordered the same appetizer and enjoyed every last fatty, cheesey, starchy, ranch dipped bite of it, thankyouverymuch.

Second rule of Mom Club- get back home after the kids are in bed, or arrange for someone to be home to help you. 

I totally broke this rule. Papa left for work and I quickly realized a tummy full of food I don't normally eat mixed with a few drinks does not mix well with running around with the kids. To quote my friend, my party animal is definitely not a tiger anymore. Maybe a turtle.

Thankfully the boys rock. Bug (3y) played in the bedroom while I laid down, then crawled into bed with me when he was ready and promptly fell asleep. Josh (9y) came in to check on us a few minutes later, turned off the lamp, and headed to bed himself.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How I Know They're Learning

Two years ago, when we first started home educating, I worried often if I was doing right by the kids. I worried I would not be able to teach them everything they needed to know to be successful. I worried if they would fall desperately behind their schooled peers. And what if home education didn't work out for us? And then they'd go back to school being the dumbest kids there! And people would make fun of them, and *que panic attack*

If you're feeling this way, take a deep breath. In and out. This feeling will pass. You can do this.

I don't worry about such things anymore. Why not? Little things, like Bug (3y) receiving an alphabet toy and spouting off all the letters and their sounds. I've never done anything more than read him stories and play with him. He learned those things without lessons.

Like yesterday when Papa read a new Word of the Day and Josh (9y) asked, "Is it a noun? adjective? verb?...." We've never done grammar worksheets. He learned his parts of speech from conversations.

Like at Thanksgiving, when Josh had a conversation with our dear friends from Parents For Liberty about taking the number 2 from zero to three dimensions. We've never done math worksheets. Heck, we almost never write any of our math down! He learned how to square and cube 2 by playing with Legos.

Like in the car when Josh asked me, "Why is it called 'frustrated'? Why did they pick that word to describe that feeling?" and he used my phone to Google 'etymology of frustrate'. I didn't even know what etymology was until last year! I certainly wasn't learning about it when I was 9!

Life isn't packed full of these moments. There is a lot of play and regular day to day activity in between. If I wasn't careful, sometimes these moments could pass unappreciated. But they are there, reminding me that the kids are curious and driven and learning every moment. Reminding me by home educating, we're doing right by them.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Waking Up Early

Josh (9yo) regularly stays up until midnight and sleeps until anywhere from 10am-12noon.

"But how will he ever learn to wake up for college classes or a job when he's older if you don't make him wake up earlier now?"

To that I say, he will wake up earlier if it is important to him. 

For example- We got two puppies last month. Tiny little things, four pounds fully grown. They usually sleep in a box in the bedroom with Papa, Bug, and I. Last night, instead of sleeping, they were tearing the box to pieces. I moved them out to their crate in the living room while mumbling something about hoping I heard them when they needed to go out. Sometimes they can make it until 7am when I wake up, and sometimes they can't.

Unbeknownst to me, Josh overheard and decided to set him alarm for 4:30am so he could take the pups out.

So imagine me, laying in bed, hearing the back door open and close in the dark of early morning. Then hearing someone sneaking around the living room all quiet like. I nearly had a heart attack. I woke Papa up to go see what was going on while I tried to figure out how a pile of unfolded laundry could be used as a weapon in self defense.

As you already know, it was just Josh. He'd taken the puppies out to potty, gotten them water and put down their breakfast. By the time Papa got out there he was curled up on the chair in a blanket, sleepy eyed, watching the puppies play for a few minutes before they went back in their crate.

He got up early because the pups' well-being was important to him. If he chooses to go to college or get a job, I imagine those things will be important to him as well and he'll wake up when needed.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Setting Limits Together

Me: Hey Josh, I think maybe you need to set a limit on how long you play Minecraft at one time.

Josh (9yo): Hmmm, yeah, maybe.

Me: What's a time limit you'd be comfortable with?

Josh: An hour and a half.

Me: Alright. I'm good with that.

That happened yesterday. This morning he went directly to the computer after waking. Without reminding, he set an alarm to let him know when his 90 minutes were up. He happily logged off the computer and has been playing other things since.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pink Crayons

I just took the boys out for lunch at a sit-down-kids'-menus-with-crayons place. The hostess plopped down a handful of crayons, then said, "Oh, let me swap out this pink one for something else. Maybe red or something."

I said, "No thanks, it's fine."


"Yeah, they like pink too."

Sometimes I Miss Routine

I'd be lying if I said I don't sometimes miss the way life used to be.

Used to every week day I got up at the same time, went to my job for 8 hours, sent Josh to school for 8 hours, came home and did our same evening routine. Monday we always ate spaghetti. Every night we watched Wheel of Fortune while we ate. Thursdays we watched Big Bang Theory. Saturday we always had breakfast at The Waffle House, went out to do something fun, and had sundaes for dessert. Sunday we got groceries, did laundry, and frantically prepared for another week of exactly the same thing.

Exactly. the. same. thing. Week after week. There was something comforting about that routine.

Now of course each day is a new adventure. How late will the kids sleep today? Off to where will the course of curiosity sweep us? And laundry just once a week? Yeah, I wish. Questions like "What is really in this food?" and "How are we going to pay for this new interest on one income?" or "How can I record what we're doing now into school terms IN CASE someone ever comes to audit us?" never used to cross my mind. Nowadays my mind is reeling with questions, constantly. It sometimes feels overwhelming.

I mentioned this all to Papa the other day, how sometimes I wish we could go back to the old days.

"Yeah, but we weren't going anywhere. We weren't growing. And we weren't happy."

Indeed. We were static. Stagnating.

Those words certainly don't describe life now. We are constantly doing, exploring, going, questioning, discovering, wondering and learning. Not just about the world around us, but also about the world inside us. We are becoming the best versions of us we can be, free versions. Every step into uncharted territory helps us grow, makes us a little better, a little happier. Makes our family a little more joyful, and in our own small way, makes the world a little better. When I remember that I don't miss the old days any more.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bug Turns 3

Today, our sweet little Bug is THREE years old!

In some ways it feels like time has flown, but in others it seems like he's been with us an eternity. I only vaguely remember what life was like before he joined our family.

Last night Papa and I were reminiscing about Bug's birth. I'd had moderate contractions every evening for the previous week. On Friday I lost my mucus plug at work, which was shocking and mildly traumatic. Lol! I had hopes when I went to bed Friday night Bug would be joining us soon. Sure enough I was unable to sleep through contractions by 4am. Sometime between 8 and 9am we decided to head to the hospital, as contractions had been every 1-2 minutes for a couple hours.

I made Papa stop and get me chocolate milk and donuts on the way. I couldn't stand sitting in the car so I worked through contractions leaning against a pillar outside the donut shop. I got quite the strange stares from passers by. 

I did end up getting an epidural at the hospital. We relaxed and watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Then at 2:25pm, after 2 pushes Bug was born, accompanied by horrified looks from a very young male intern I'd agreed to let watch the delivery.

Before Bug was born I was ignorant to natural birthing, peaceful parenting, and pretty much everything I am passionate about now. He was the catalyst of our family's major changes, and for him I am eternally grateful.

Thank you Bug. By being yourself, you have taught me to question the status quo, and to bravely embark on a new path. Happy Birthday little man!

Friday, January 10, 2014

50/50 Partners

Last weekend Bug (2y) was running around outside with all the joy and wonder that only a toddler can express while running. Papa and I were standing out there watching him, soaking in the awesome that he is. "We made that, can you believe it?" Papa said.
"Yeah, it's pretty amazing," I responded.

Then I used that line mothers too often use. "Well, mostly I made him. You provided the blueprints." We giggled a bit, but then I got to thinking about how unfair that was for me to say.

I'm not trying to belittle the work it is to be pregnant and birth a child. It is hard work. I've done it twice. I remember the nausea, the aches and pains, the sleepless nights, the jabs to my bladder, the birth, the struggles with nursing. But I also don't want to belittle the work it is to support a pregnant woman.

To say I mostly made Bug is to belittle all the times Papa brought me crackers in bed, massaged my aches, picked up slack in housework, cared for Josh (9y) more while I rested, held me while I cried about whatever set my hormones off that moment. The environment of love and support Papa provided, the reduction of stress because I had a partner I could count on, most definitely had an effect on Bug as he grew in my womb.

Once Bug was born, Papa may not have been struggling to nurse, but he was changing diapers, giving baths, going to work on very little sleep, and playing with the kids when he was home. Even now, he is out busting ass every day to provide all the income we need so I can be home with the kids. That has a significant impact on how our kids turn out.

So yes Honey, WE made that little ball of awesome running around out there. 50/50 Partners. I could not have done my part so well without you.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The First Blank Page of 2014

Dear 9 year old version of Josh,

Yesterday I saw a meme about the new year. It said "Tomorrow is the first blank page in a 365 page book. Write a good one." I want to start my book with a letter to you. You and Papa stayed up last night to ring in the New Year. Right now, at 6am, you're still snoozing away while I type this. Yesterday I learned a valuable lesson. I lost all the videos I had taken from August until now. It was devastating, but I realized I will always have those memories in my heart and mind, even if I can't watch them play out again and again on a screen.

Sifting through videos and pictures, I am taken aback by how much you've grown and changed this year. It must seem like Papa and I grow so slowly to you. I'm talking about personal growth, the kind of growth that makes us better people. We certainly aren't getting any taller, and hopefully not any wider either. The truth is we are slow to grow. I've been working for over 18 months now at being a better mom for you and your brother, but I still see bad habits from the past coming out. I can see that I hurt you when those times happen, and I am very, very sorry. You deserve all the love, respect and attention we talk about during our good times, and I will continually work hard each day to give you all I can.

I know we have talked about my childhood and how my parents raised me. I know you understand, as well as you can with your life experience so far, why it is hard for me to unlearn my bad parenting habits and replace them with better ones. I often talk about being angry with my parents for not doing for me what I'm doing for you, but I also see them as the children they once were with their own experiences shaping how they raised me. Being a parent is hard, and part of me can understand why some people would choose the easy way out when they can. It was easier for them to spank me, ground me, take away my things, send me to school, yell at me, send me away, etc. Those are quick fixes while connected, respectful, unconditionally loving relationships take a lot of time and patience.

When you were younger and Papa and I spanked you, took away your things, yelled at you, and sent you to your room we were taking the easy way out too. It was a quick fix in the moment, but it was not what you needed us to do to help you become the best you possible. We were not teaching you how respectful people act. We were not showing you what unconditional love looks like. We were not teaching you how to civilly resolve conflict. I have apologized for this in the past, and I will again here because I will always feel badly for some of my decisions made during those years. I'm sorry we did not treat you the way you deserved to be treated, especially during your most vulnerable and formative years.

Being a parent is hard enough. Adding the guilt of bad decisions, the struggle of changing habits, the frustration, the screaming alone in the car, the hurt and heartache that I have felt in learning how to be a more peaceful, loving parent makes it sometimes feel unbearable. But the joy and connection that comes from it is absolutely worth it. I do this everyday, struggle to be a better mom than the day before, because I don't want you to have to go through this with your children. I don't want you to miss a single loving moment with them because I didn't provide you with the right tools.

You've been so patient with me while I wade through these waters. You are such a shining example of love, compassion, and generosity. Thank you for being you. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. I'll give you this letter when you wake up. You likely won't fully understand it today, and that's alright. I hope you hold onto it. One day you will fully understand all the emotions I've poured into it, into raising you, and I hope you are overwhelmed with the love I feel for you. I hope it takes your breath away, because you take my breath away. I am blinking away tears as I type this, because I love you so much. Always. Unconditionally.


Bug Makes Betime Perfect

I have an electric blanket on the bed to warm up the sheets on cold nights. It has a yellow, orange, and red indicator lights.

Bug (2y) ran out from the bedroom.

Bug- Mom, you want to come to bed wif me.

Me- I do! Let me put this laundry in the dryer first, then I'll be there.

Bug- Do you like orange, yeyyow, or red?

Me- On the blanket? I like orange.

Bug- *runs off, then comes to find me in the laundry room* Mom! Mom, come to bed. I have it perfect for you!

Yes!!! Toasty warm!