Wednesday, July 29, 2009

fitting in, part two

After all my crabbin' and ventin' about fitting in in yesterday's post, I have to tell you...there's another side to it. Once again the Fairy of Perspective visits and twists my head into thinking maybe, just maybe...there's another way to look at it.

My frustration comes because I've never felt like I fit in (like so many people who have commented here or emailed me about posts I've had on this subject). So then, I don't know if its human nature or what, but a person wants to search for a place they fit in. You think you find it, be it theater or unschooling or art or church or PTA or whatever your thing is. After awhile though, you figure out you don't absolutely fit there either. And the frustration builds, because you think you're supposed to fit. Somewhere. Absolutely. You start to think you don't belong anywhere. You're too different. No one thinks like you. No one is as insanely varied as you are. Right?

Well...after awhile, when looking at it from the tips of the trees that the Fairy of Perspective dragged you off to, you realize that whole mindset is actually feel sorry for me, I'm different, you'll never understand me. Sort of leftover teenage angst rolled up into a ball of adult-martyr-poor-me-hood.

Its not pretty. It's actually kind of whiny. And pathetic.

That darn Fairy of Perspective says, "So you like a lot of different things. So you're different and varied and undefinable. Does that mean you don't fit in anywhere? Or does that maybe mean you fit in a lot of different places."

See the difference?

It's attitude.

I have a cousin who can talk to anyone. I asked her once what her secret was. She said she figures you have something in common with everyone you meet. You just have to figure out what that one thing is, and go from there. In her world, everyone fits together.

The millions of different things I like to do or believe in or have opinions about can either be seen as a reason to not connect or a reason to connect. I can view them as a million reasons to be an outsider, or a million reasons to fit in. Once again, it's perspective.

There are no absolutes. I'm not supposed to exactly fit with any other person. You can only stare at yourself so long in the mirror.

I could put myself out there with blue hair, and the "alternative crowd" could still think I'm a poser. The cheerleaders could still hate my sarcasm. Some unschoolers could still think I'm not unschooling. Some other types of homeschoolers could still call me an unstructured hippy unschooler.

But who cares?
I mean, really. Who the F cares?
If that's what they think, their loss. I guess.

I'll keep doing what I do, and grow my group of friends who do what they do. And even if the things we do aren't the same, we respect each other's freedom to do so.

You all know who you are. Wink. Hug. Grin.

As for the rest, I'm not going to have them draw a black and white outline around me, framing in who I am as a means of figuring out where I fit in.

After all, without an outline, I fit in far more places than I ever realized.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

fitting in, part 1

Watch out for these dudes in about ten years.

Ok, wait. You'd better watch out for them now :)

A couple days ago the boys asked me if I could color their hair.
I smiled.
And said Yes.

(It's just washable markers. Works like a charm, and comes out slick.)

What does this have to do with anything? Namely, the title?

When I was in 10th grade, I colored my hair blue. On a whim. But 15 years ago if you colored your hair blue, you were a freak. Part of the alternative crowd. Now they have cheerleaders...teachers, even, with red and purple streaks. Now its fashionable. Its cool.

Anyway, my blue was totally temporary. (Washable markers, again.) And it was kind of fun...and a little wrap my head around the responses that people gave me regarding my new 'do. One teacher freaked out, seeing as how before that day I was apparently a Barbie Doll, super awesome student. But on this particular day, not so much. Now, I was one of those "alternative kids". I didn't fit the Barbie doll super awesome student mold anymore. (Interesting, since I didn't think I ever really had.)

I was kind of stuck in school, seeing as how the Barbie Doll thing never worked out (cheerleaders weren't too keen on my sarcasm) and the alternative crowd never worked out (they said I was just a poser). So there I was in a suburban mini-city (high school) where people ask "so what crowd do you hang with?" and no answer to give.

People, and their crowds, can be so elitist. Segregating. Rigid. Fenced in.
Fast forward 15 years. Present day.
I'd like to say that things have changed, but I'd be lying.

I've been thinking a lot about the end part of this darling's post, where she talks about having conflicted feelings about unschooling. I've also read (and re-read) the comments that were left. The whole thing gives voice to exact thoughts I've had on the same subject.

I think when you try to define a way of life whose basic belief is freedom, you run into all sorts of problems. How do you put a fence around that? When you start to define it, it becomes less of what it is, sometimes. I mean, if the point of unschooling is that the kids are free to learn, why do we have people snubbing their nose at kids who might want to pick up a workbook one day? Or play a game that (gasp!) might be described as downright edu-mah-cational?

I'm a member of some unschooling groups/lists, and sometimes I don't get it. The way things get picked apart, the somewhat elitist attitude that some seem to carry for subscribing to that way of life...or the you-clearly-haven't-done-your-research-about-unschooling-because-what-you're-doing-is-not-unschooling conversations that go on. Oh really? So if I'm not unschooling, what the F am I doing? I've never really understood how something based in freedom and flexibility can sometimes be so...rigid.

I mean, really. How can you not "fit in" to freedom? Isn't the point that everything fits?

I just get tired of groups. And rules. Boundaries that make no sense. Definitions that change. Trying to fit and knowing you don't. But still wanting a name. Wanting a way to identify yourself, if only to find other people like you. It was the same 15 years ago as it is today. Is it ever ok to do just do what we want? To hop in between groups...and maybe not fit into anyone of them?

Perhaps, when people ask what kind of homeschoolers we are, I should just answer...
"we do what we do".
and smile sweetly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

it rained. we celebrated.

We've had a a decent amount of rain the past week, so the level of the creek has come up a bunch. Nowhere near what it should be, but better, nonetheless.

We will take "better", and use it as an excuse to celebrate!

We built balloon powered boats...

...and raced them.

...drove them ashore catch froggish friends.

The rope swing called to us...

We just have to splash.

And throw giant rocks.

No, Mom. I'm not tired.

Honestly. I could go all day.

I know.
Soak up the fun until you crash.
Because that's what we do.
Isn't life deliciously grand?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

a good morning, indeed

How much better can a morning start out?
Who wouldn't like to see this coming down the stairs as a start to their day?

"Good morning, mom. I brought you breakfast in bed."

Total sweetness. With honey on top.

Friday, July 24, 2009

exactly right

So I added some tunes to my blog, because music is such a huge part of my life. One might accuse me of being downright freakish about it.

I was reading through the post from a couple days ago and Ooky runs to the computer because Amy Steinberg's Exactly is playing. Ooky has just discovered this song and thinks its fantastic.

And silly me, I thought he just liked the tune.

So I'm scrolling through the post, then he takes over scrolling through the post. And he says, "Mom, this song is perfect for your blog."

"Why?" I ask.

"Because it talks about how we need to be exactly where we are. And that we are where we need to be. All these pictures show us being where we need to be. No matter where we are."

Be still my heart.

And there you go. A profound statement from a five year old. On Learn Nothing Day :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

making it fit

We've been having fun the past few days.

Smiling boys are always a treat.

So are smiling mamas.

Isn't it amazing how kids are drawn to water, even when their lips are blue?

Mama, remind me how to shoot an arrow.

I think I remember how to do it.

I forget how this all fits together.
Oh yes.
We were all together.
Having fun.
What a perfect fit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

quick lesson in perspective

Yesterday we attended a get-together of sorts at a local splash park. I ended up running into an older friend I know through church. She's the mama to one of my mom-pals, and works at the post office near our Old House. Here's how the conversation went -

MamaTea: You know, W, I thought of you the other day. The tiger lilies are so lovely at my mom's house and I thought about when...
W: (finishing my sentence) and your boys used to walk up to the post office with bouquets of flowers for me from your garden. Oh, I miss that.
MT: Me too.
W: You know, I just love your boys. They are so full of energy.
MT: (thinking maybe its just one of those polite conversation things, so I roll my eyes in embarrassment.) Hmm. Is that right?
W: No, I'm serious. Your boys are so...special, MT. They aren't afraid to say what's on their mind.
MT: (really embarrassed)Um...yep, I guess.
W: I love it when you bring them to church and Pastor is doing the children's sermon...your boys are right there, telling him exactly what they think.
MT: And I'm usually in the pews, cringing.
W: (laughs) know, sometimes the qualities in children that are most embarrassing to the parents are the most important ones for kids to have. You should be proud that you've got kids who can speak their mind and use that energy. That's a very important thing to be able to do.
MT: (now you've got me thinking...)I suppose you're right.
W: You know, my oldest granddaughter starts kindergarten this year.
MT: Is she excited?
W: Yes, she's really excited to go to school, but I'm a little nervous for her.
MT: How so?
W: Well, she's got lots of fire and energy and isn't afraid to say what she thinks.
MT: And?
W: I'm really afraid that public school will squash that right out of her.
MT: (big lightbulb) Ah.
W: Appreciate your kids' energy, MT.

And there you have it. Perspective. At a splash park. Sometimes my kids intensity drives me insane. But the alternative, having it possibly squashed into a little ball and trashed by someone else because intensity is inconvenient, just doesn't work for me.

Thanks for the reminder, W. The insanity isn't necessarily bad. Once again, its all about perspective :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

wild in the woods

I grew up a tomboy. And if its ok to use that term as a 30 year old woman, I'll still claim it. Don't get me wrong, there are occasions where I like to put on something lovely and doll up, but for the most part, I'm not so glittery. I'm barefoot. Muddy. Probably scratched up a bit. But smiling the whole time.

We've spent a lot of time in the woods lately. Iggy has stepped up his level of concern about the creek to ultra-high. (Actually, as he put it, "Mom. No more messin' around. It's time to get out the big guns.") The creek is ridiculously low. Some parts are flat out dry. The fish are dying. The geese are gone. Iggy requested we get the DNR involved. Apparently, the DNR represents big guns.

We've driven around the area to see that all the water levels in the area are low. But in the 23 years I or my parents have lived in this house, we've never had parts of the creek go dry, even in years much drier than this one. So while I understand that we're in a dry spell (apparently), I don't get why this year is affecting the creek so much more than years past.

So we've spent large chunks of time figuring out what we can do, and if we can or should do anything. The DNR is taking their sweet time in repsonding to us, and since we live on an official "wetland", there are rules about what exactly we can "fix" and how we can fix it. Ah, don't you love rules? It will certainly be sweet if they can contact us before it completely dries up.

We side-tracked from worrying about the creek and directed our attention to the paths in the woods. After all, decided Iggy and Ooky, if someone is going to come out and help us with our creek, it would be nice it the paths were easier to walk on. Its been a couple years since we went out and trimmed the paths. Hubster was in charge of the weed whip and the occasional chainsaw. The boys were happy to be able to use handsaws. We trimmed back the lovely original paths, because as Hubster says, its no fun to be walking in the woods and be fondled by stingweed or thorny branches. :)

Trimming the paths also made a whole host of other lovely things accessible to us. Things we couldn't quite get to before because various pokey greens and browns had grown up around our path. Yesterday, we ate a lot of raspberries. :)

The evening ended just outside of the woods, at the campfire ring where we cooked over the fire and waited for fireflies. More sawing on scrapwood, nails were brought out, creations were constructed. Iggy asked for the three hundredth time when the DNR would contact us. Ooky wondered if they would land a plane in our backyard with equipment to help the creek. :) Ah, to believe in the help of those more powerful than you.

Sweet dreams, my wild woodsmen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

in their head, in my head

My kids like to weave fantastic tales. Yesterday they spent an hour together writing stories. (Ooky is all about the words, Iggy wants to get it into book format, copy it on mom's copy machine, and sell it in a store.)They make me laugh.

They have the freedom to open their mouth and let their stories fall out. All day, if they want to. Weaving the story is just part of what they do. Like breathing.

Gee. I wonder where they get that from.

I came across an old notebook the other day. One of the pages held a list titled “books I will write when the kids are in school”. I smiled when I read that – how nice of my 27 year old self to create a list that my 30 year old self could pick up and take off with. All those ideas, right there. Many I’d forgotten about, and I salivated at the thought of previously fleshed out characters and renewed story lines.You know, the ones I had saved for when I had more time.

Then I smiled again, but a different smile. Kind of half cocked and devious. Kind of a who-woulda-thunk-it sort of grin. Because the last half of that list was, after all, “when the kids are in school.”

They aren’t in school. I don’t know if they ever will be in school. And I’m unbelievably happy about that, thank you very much.

But. What about that list? What about those billion tiny ideas? What about the new half fleshed out people screaming to get out of my head?

This peaceful parenting thing, I’d love to get there. But I fuck it up so badly. I need to be present with my kids. I need to be in the moment. But my head is so fogged up with stringy messes of words that need to be puked out, I can’t see straight.

Take the day for yourself, my husband says. Take your laptop. Spit everything out onto the screen. He’s known me ten years. He knows it works better if I can get it out.

I wish it worked that way. But seriously, the time the words come the fastest is when I. Can’t. Write. Them. Down. We’re in the middle of bocce ball. Hiking in the woods. An explanation of what implosion is.

The kids fall into bed, and I’m ready to spit it all out…but the strings unravel and fall apart and the more I try to reach for them, the breathier they get until they’re hardly a whisper and then they’re silent. And I’m angry. Angry because they are gone. Angry because I can pinpoint the exact moment they will return. When the first plop of soft feet hit the floor from the bunk bed upstairs.

And then….Words. Explosions of phrases.. A million ideas until my brain is fat and fogged up with beautiful messes. Beautiful and yet so very inconvenient.

I need to make peace with this. I am supposed to write. It’s as obvious to me as breathing. But so is being Mom. They don’t need to wage bloody battles against each other.

Do they?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

to the woman who backed out

(I'm a little steamed about something that happened yesterday. So I'm using this blog as a way to vent. Enjoy. - MamaTea)

Dear Woman Who Backed Out,-

Yesterday I had a fundraiser garage sale for a parenting get together type group I am in charge of. We sell everything for a quarter and have a good time watching people walk away with awesome deals. There's nothing like seeing people with several bags full of treasures and paying less for the whole lot than one outfit off the clearance rack at Target. (Or so I hear.)

But you, Woman Who Backed Out, knew that. Because you had committed to picking up all the leftovers. You said you would be there at 2:15. With two trucks and a trailer. With people to help load. This was confirmed more than once. And at 2:15, you weren't there. At 2:30 we called your cell phone (the number you asked us to call) and you didn't answer, so a reminder message was left. This is Me from the garage sale. We have everything all boxed up and are ready to help you load it up... At 2:45, we still hadn't heard so we called your cell phone again.

You answered.
Hi, this is Me. From the garage sale. Are you still planning...
You hung up.

I still wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. Because that's the kind of person I am. Maybe you didn't hang up. Maybe we got disconnected. Maybe you're en route and just running behind. We called and left another message. You didn't answer. You didn't return our call. You never returned our call. You never showed up.

I suppose you and a lot of the world would think so what. But what you (and other people like yourself) fail to understand is the problems that you make for other people. You never look past yourself to see how your actions (or lack thereof) affect everyone else. For now I have a pile of leftovers sitting in the middle of a church (where we held the sale) and its 3:15 on a Saturday. And in order for me to fulfill my responsibilities in cleaning up the church so the congregation can have service there in 16 hours (which I said I would do, and intend to do because I am responsible) I have to rearrange my day and enlist the help of other people. People who might have had things to do after the garage sale, like relieve the babysitters who were with their kids. Or maybe simply wanted to get home at a decent hour to spend time with their families before bedtime.

You'll be glad to know, Woman Who Backed Out, that we got it taken care of. We always do. The moms who were working the sale all stayed late, cleaned out their vehicles (three minivans and an Expedition) and somehow we got everything loaded up. Actually, we stuffed the vehicles so full of garage sale leftovers, it looked like they might pop, but whatever. You weren't there to see it. We then drove the leftovers to the parked semi where all my household goodies/furniture from my Old house are stored and waiting for a New House. We then unloaded the four vehicles. It was hot. We were tired. It wasn't exactly what we had planned to spend the afternoon doing, but we did it. Unlike you, who planned to do something and then didn't do it.

I'm tired of dealing with people like you, Woman Who Backed Out. Would it have been so hard for you to say sorry I changed my mind? Or sorry, its not going to work? We did what we could do on our end of things. You messed up your end of the deal. We had to fix it.

People who mess with me in ways like this really irk me. But what bugs me more than that is all the other people you let down. See when we started looking for people who would take our leftovers, like we do every year, we always get lots of people who want them. People who want the stuff for their own benefit garage sales. Or simply because they're in a situation where they need it. For whatever reason. But we chose you because you were absolutely sure you could commit to being there. So we had to tell everyone else no. That's the real bummer. There tons of other people who could have used it.

And so, now it sits in my semi. I could track down those other people who originally emailed and offered to take it. I could then drive back up to where my semi is parked and let them have all the stuff. But once again, that will be taking time from My Life. But I will do it, because that's who I am.

I've learned something from this experience, Woman Who Backed Out, although they are things I don't really care to be re-taught. You know, those things like no matter what some people say, some people can't be trusted. And you'll forever and always be taking care of the messes they leave behind.

A chick who just tries to help people out and gets kinda pissy when she gets burned

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

kid + coffee = clarity

One of my goals for this summer was to create the opportunity for the boys to spend more one-on-one time with each parent. Since its almost always MamaTeaOokyIggy jumbled up into one ball wherever we go, whatever we do, 24 hours a day, its healthy (I think) to separate and see each other in a less jumbled up scenario. It's also nice, because it gives them some one-on-one time with Hubster instead of everyone in the MamaTeaOokyIggy ball fighting for Hubster's attention when he's able to be with us.

Yesterday I was able to spend a few hours alone with Ooky. It's always fun to see how different the boys act when they aren't involved in the insanity of sibling cattiness. After all, if you're not distracted by pestering that brother who is right there, you might have to actually be YouYourself.

Ooky asked to go to the library. We stayed there for about an hour looking at all sorts of things. We walked out with our usual mountain of books. Then he wanted to go to a coffee shop. We played games on the chalkboard there.

Ooky: (drawing a sort of differently shaped tic tac toe board) Mom, this is Rib Tac Toe. See the shape of the board? It looks like ribs.
MT: Yep, it does.
Ooky: Ok, now you be the O's. Those stand for the hearts.
MT: Ok.
Ooky: And I'll be the X's. Because those stand for the soul.

I spent a lot of time just watching him. Just seeing him for who he is. Not judging him or trying to figure him out. Just seeing Ooky where Ooky stands.And I like when I get to do that. Its nice to step away from the context of the jumbled up ball, to see things without the filter of frustration of what happened yesterday, or who will be mad if a certain someone says a certain something. To just see Him.

Ooky hears stories and music in his head all day. I know, he's told me. In those quiet spaces of life, just he and I, he talks about these things. Ooky is a kissy affectionate kid. He's also easily frustrated. He's intense. He explodes. At the core, he and I are so similar...we just work through different filters.

Ooky: I've been thinking, Mom. About what color Power Ranger I would be if I were really a Power Ranger.
MT: And what did you decide on?
Ooky: Mom, I just don't think there are enough colors in the world to explain the Power Ranger I would be.

I understand you. Totally. I know what you mean.

So while he's trying to invent colors to explain who he is, I'm smiling. Because everyday I realize he is all those parts of Me that I have a hard time figuring out. I'm smiling, because they're all being explained in a little spitfire of a boy who sits in front of me with a dripping ice cream cone and chalk all over his hands.

I don't need a self-help book. My way out is through the simple (yet so complex) ponderings of the Lives I helped to create.

Thanks, Ooky.

Monday, July 6, 2009

reconsidering the records

Its nice to know at 30 years old, when you might think you have a grasp on what you're doing, you wake up once again and realize you're just punting and what you thought you were doing right was just a step in the process of getting to wherever it is you're going to end up.

A little while back, I posted about trying to figure out the legalities of unschooling and recordkeeping. I had found some information and a seemingly simple way to document our learning that would satisfy the state. Its now been a month of that system, and my verdict is in.

Positive: Dang it, it is amazing to look through all that note-taking and remember the bazillions of things we have done in 30 days. Especially amazing because most days, by the time lunch rolls around, I can't remember what I had for breakfast. Or if I even had breakfast. So trying to remember what tidbits the kids might have picked up a week after an amazing revelation took place is practically impossible.

Negative: Seriously? Come on. I am dissecting every single day of our life. Although I was convinced of the fact that learning happens all the time, I went overboard on trying to figure out what exactly that learning was, where it could be categorized, what it fulfilled, etc. You know, trying to prove it to the state. Talk about a headache.

(And yes, I realize that for another year we will still be flying under the radar. So I don't technically even need to be worrying about this at all. But I still feel the need to be prepared in certain areas of life, and making sure I know how to be legal with something that no one else in the family tree is even remotely attempting, is one of those things. Especially since half the family tree works in law enforcement. So I guess I'm supposed to know.)

Neither the strong coffee nor the glass of red wine was doing anything to remedy the headache, so I figured it was time to reassess the whole recordkeeping thing. Figuring I probably needed to be redirected, I found myself a life long MN unschooler(with high school/college aged kids) and asked my questions.

Stop worrying about it, she said.

I should have guessed.

According to Ms. Ultra Experienced MN Unschooler:

1. Its very rare that someone steps in to check on records.
2. There are a great many people unschooling in MN who don't keep any records at all.
3. She did very little recordkeeping when her kids were younger, and when they got to be high school aged, her record keeping was for the sake of creating transcripts to be used for college - not to satisfy the powers that be.
4. If she had ever been called upon by the powers that be, she'd have made an appointment for a couple weeks out, and spent that time on compiling an amazing list of resources they've recently used...and completely overwhelm the aforementioned powers.
5. She suggested a once a month simple journaling of places visited, topics touched on, library books checked out, etc. Nothing tough. Nothing stressful. Because it shouldn't be stressful.
6. If they call on you and want to check your records, she said, call me. I'll help you.

Well, then. There you have it.

So for June's summary I have a list of books/DVDs we've checked out, a few websites we've played around with, the more memorable things we've done the past month, some places we've visited, etc. Way less stressful. And, as i tuck it into the file, its amazing to me, even though I know there are so many things I didn't even mention in the "records", there is still a rich and varied learning thing that's now been documented.

I'm feeling much better. I even did a little thinking on the whole need to prove learning...but that post is for another day.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

the big wide world

Its funny how people can get stuck. Stuck in things they've always done. Driving the same roads they've always driven. Following the exact footsteps laid down the day before, even if they don't mean to.

Its time for something different. Let's go places we haven't been before. Let's find something new.

How about the sculpture park that you've driven by several times but never stop? Let's start there..

And then, how about that state park with the lovely trail you used to hike before you had kids? Why not let them in on that slice of paradise?

And then maybe, with a little research, you might find out there is another state park hidden just a few miles from a place you already drive at least twice a week. How about we stop there?

Yes. Different is good. Refreshing, uplifting, energizing. Just plain good.