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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Looking for Opportunities



“Here, let me do it” has most often been my response.  Or even just my attitude.  It’s so much easier and quicker, in that moment (though it may call me away from whatever other task I’m trying to do) to just get it done.  And easier has always been a very tempting siren call when related to navigating the daily tasks of living with young kids.  Maybe more so with twins.  Of course I don’t know any different, and I’m sure even with one new little life laid suddenly into a couple’s arms (ready, set, go!) the temptation for ease is strong.  But I like to think that maybe I could be forgiven a little for my attitude, given the circumstances.

Mostly this involves little things: helping them get themselves dressed for longer than was really needed, pouring cups of water, tying shoes (or better yet – velcro!), etc.  Those ordinary bits of everyday life and taking care of oneself.  Saying "no, not this time..." to all those little requests for autonomy.

I’ve never been particularly comfortable with this, envying the parents who (seemingly) have endless realms of patience which allow them to let their children try (and fail and try and fail and try) a task until they are able to master it themselves.  I have always admired that, and when I come upon words in parenting and education books reminding me of how much a child stands to learn – not just in skills, but confidence, perseverance and more – they resonate and I resolve that I will dig deeper to find that patience.  But easy sings its song again.

Since we started homeschooling, I have found myself more and more drawn to the idea of allowing G & D freedom.  Freedom to learn and explore, and the desire for them to become sure and grounded in themselves so that they will have the courage and confidence to take advantage of that freedom, and to learn how to try something new even if they might fail for a while.

I’ve also been inspired and bolstered by the writing of Ben Hewitt, as I’ve mentioned before.  He has written probably many times about the idea of “risk and responsibility” and the way we have taken the authentic, meaningful versions of these away from kids.  Maybe it’s the fact that G & D are getting older, maybe I’ve changed and grown a little more confident as a mother, maybe it’s the circumstances that have led us to where we are right now, and this path that we’re walking.  Maybe it’s the freedom to direct our days and the boys’ educations that loosens things up just enough that there is more space to try, to experiment.

Whatever it is, I have been thinking a lot about this idea of actively looking for ways to afford D & G more responsibility and risk so that they can grow into the expanded possibilities and push the boundaries further.  I have been challenging myself to expand the realm of what I believe they can do on their own and then offering them the chance instead of the quick-to-come “here, let me do that.”  (And at the same time learning how I can be ok with them failing at first.)  I have been looking for opportunities to say “yes, you can” – because really, most of the time, why not, other than habit and maybe some slight inconvenience.

I
t is really hard sometimes.  Teeth-clenching, conscious-breathing hard.  But I deeply believe that there will be good – for all of our selves – if I accept the hardness and the slowness and the inevitable tears.  And thankfully there are also deeply affirming moments and shifts of body: bright shining eyes, an almost imperceptible tallness in the back, that tell me I’m on the right track.  And that sweet song begins to rise over the siren’s song of ease.

Monday, October 13, 2014

(Im)Patience


I've been sick for going on two weeks now.  That kind of sick where you're not laid out flat, so you have to just keep plodding through your days trying to keep up as best you can while not overdoing it.  This inevitably results in both not actually keeping up with everything and not getting any real rest. 

But this weekend I had a break.  I sat in front of the fire a lot, with my feet stretched out to the warmth, my shawl tucked around my shoulders, and a book in one hand, cup of tea in the other.  This was great, and I am thankful for the rest.  A big step forward toward hopefully kicking this thing.

What it is, I think, is my usual sinus turned chest crud.  And I've been trying to patiently wait it out, while impatiently wondering if I should just give in and go for the antibiotics.  It's funny how a week or two can seem so much longer than it really is, when you're semi-out of commission.

As I've been moving slowly about my days, and feeling out of sorts (and, truthfully, a bit sorry for myself), I've realized how much of what's happening in and about my days lately falls into this same tippy balance: impatience to see progress and certainty and seeking the patience to wait for time to move in its way and work out questions, obstacles and fogginess.

The good thing to remember is that no matter whether I fight it or not, time and patience will have its way, and will smooth out the wrinkles in their time.  And I will work on more grace, less fight, in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Last Fruits



After the best year in many, our garden is winding down rapidly.  We still have a number of cabbages, and can probably cut a little bit more chard and pull a few more carrots.  But mostly the plants are tired and fading fast in the cool weather and shorter days. 

G wanted to grow watermelons in his garden this year.  One grew and rotted, but a second came along, and we managed to keep it healthy until the vine wilted.  Yesterday G picked it (along with all the remaining tomatoes in his bed: "because who knows when the first frost will come, and they can ripen on the window sill.  Or you could make green tomato preserves!").

He was buzzing and giddy with excitement when ask suggested after dinner that he cut into it.  And it was red inside!  Like a real watermelon!  With seeds that could be saved to grow more next year!  I'm no watermelon connoisseur, but it wasn't bad.  A little watery, but it had some taste, too.  And really that's not what mattered so much to any of us as our hands got sticky wet and we separated seeds from flesh and flesh from rind.  What mattered was the fact of it, this fruit grown in a little (ok, big) boy's garden now yielding its nourishment under his own hands.

There is big talk of next year's garden already in motion.  Because that's how it is with gardens, isn't it?

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Weekend


Our weekends tend to fill up.  I'm not sure how.  Though that's not really fair, or truthful.  They fill up because there are so many things to be done, here and away from here.

This weekend was a little of both.  Saturday was cold and windy.  D conducted the second installment of his "burr program" which consists of leading us to the various burr producing plants (burdock being a popular one) and instructing us on how to remove the burrs.  They are being collected to stop the spread of the weeds, and will be used to make two campfires in the spring: one to cook dinner, and one to cook breakfast.  So he says.

While we were on our burr-collecting mission, it started to snow little ice pellets.  One that landed on the sleeve of G's coat was a perfect little star.  It didn't last long, and the little bits of snowy ice melted quickly, but there it was.  It seems early.  We retreated inside to where our first fire of the season was burning away in the woodstove.  In fact I (at least) did not move too far from it all day.

Sunday we went for a wet and chilly hike through a property nearby that is for sale.  It used to be a girl scout camp, but it's not "productive" enough any more, and so the 300+ acres of woods, lakes, historic buildings and all are up for sale.  There is a campaign in full swing to purchase the property as a town and preserve it as a park of some kind (re: save it from the bulldozers and housing developments).  I hope it succeeds.

The week is starting out slow.  It's another chilly, windy day with more rain in the forecast for the afternoon.  There is no fire in the woodstove yet, but I don't think it will be too much longer.

Monday, September 29, 2014

People-Powered


Today we got where we were going by people-power.  The boys have been lobbying for a while to ride our bikes to a town 6 miles from us, where we do a lot of this and that.  They learned to ride their two-wheelers early this summer and have since been tearing around the yard and woods and riding the long driveway/road across the street from us.

The issue wasn't really a question of whether they'd be up for the ride or not.  They've got reserves of energy that never fail to amaze me.  And it wasn't a lack of interest on Jim's and my part; we thought it was a great idea.  The problem is that we live on a very busy main road with a high speed limit and not much shoulder room for bikes.  And I didn't have a helmet (I can't actually remember the last time I rode a bike?  Maybe before G & D were born?).

But for my birthday I got a helmet!  And we decided we could walk our bikes the half mile or so until we could turn onto a much quieter, slower road.  So we did it.  It took us about 6 times as long to get where we were headed, (twice as long on the -uphill- way back).  But what a great experience!

There were any number of things that we were able to notice that we wouldn't have - or not in the same way - in a car.  It was a beautiful day, and we got to be fully out in it.  Our bodies felt good and strong and alive (and sore...).  We had the time to realize how many people we know who live along the route we took - and to stop to visit some.

And speaking of people - that was maybe the biggest surprise for me of our ride: biking is so much more friendly than riding in a car.  We passed by other folks biking or walking along the road, or folks working in their yards and exchanged greetings.  We noticed the drivers who were kind enough to give us a wide berth and acknowledged them with thanks.

As we were riding back, and being challenged by the hills, D & I were lagging a bit behind, and were talking about how nice it was, and how proud of ourselves we felt - for making it happen in the first place, for keeping on peddling and using our bodies to get us where we needed to go.

I wish that this could be a more regular thing: we live just a mile or two from a grocery store, and within half a dozen miles of pretty much all the basic places we'd need to go.  Unfortunately this road we live on is an obstacle.  At least for the time being.  But obstacles can be maneuvered, now and again, a reminder of the power we have - literally and figuratively - to get us where we need and want to be.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Birthday Chicks


Ok, so they're not really related, but it was this morning, on my birthday, that I got my first glimpse of our little puffballs of chicks.  For some reason they didn't make it all the way to our post office yesterday, so we got a call from the main branch about a half hour away that they had chicks waiting.  So last night Jim headed down to pick them up.  They made it through their first night just fine, 27 surprisingly loud peeping chicks.  It is hard to believe the mammoth meat birds they will come is hidden under that down.

For now they are tucked into the shed, in an unused plastic boat sandbox.  It won't be long until they are bursting at the seams there, and it will be out to a fenced area in the yard.  This is not our favorite endeavor, raising meat birds.  But because we eat meat, we'd rather do the work if we're able, to know it was raised well.  And it is just one more way we can become a part of the cycle, rather than separate from it.  Present, and aware: of the cute chicks that just fill pint-sized hands, the care that is needed, and the work required to provide the meat that will fill our plates and our freezer for the winter to come.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Patience


I'm reading Ben Hewitt's new book, Home Grown and really enjoying it.  Just like his other books, this one is a very enjoyable and quick read, while also being full of good ideas to mull over.

We don't unschool, though I've mentioned before that the more time we spend homeschooling, the more I lean that way.  But one of the reasons I love this choice so much is the freedom it gives our boys to just be boys.  There is no anxious rush to fill them full of facts.  No need to force any skills they're not ready for yet.  Ben Hewitt says it this way:
Which is to say, we wanted them to have less guidance than school would provide; we wanted them to experience a degree of freedom and simple playfulness that is increasingly imperiled in modern America.  In short, we wanted our kids to be kids, to develop and learn at their own pace, and in their own style.
G & D don't read yet.  And they're probably "behind" in math, too.  And that's fine.  There are a whole lot of things they do know how to do, or they do get to do because of this choice we've made.  We get to take our time, and as we do, connections happen, and moments of understanding. 

When I look at the public education system today (the system, not the teachers), I see this big knot of anxious urgency.  Anxiety that our kids will be "behind!" (behind what?).  Urgency to "makeitallbetter!" right away.

People generally and consistently guess the ages of the boys to be younger than they are.  And when they're next to other more "mainstream" kids their age, they do seem younger: more open, more playful, more curious.  That's a total generalization, but I've seen it play out many times.

Today I felt deeply grateful for the gift this path is for us - for me, for G & D - as I read them a story to review some basic math work, as I listened to them completely absorbed in their play, and as I called "'bye" to them as they ran out the door into the fall afternoon.  It is the opposite of that anxious urgency (not that it doesn't come with its own anxieties sometimes).  It is patience, and it is listening, learning to wait and see, and to trust in the process.  To trust in them.