Monday, May 23, 2011


I'd like to think that dealing with distractions is just something that every parent -homeschooling or not- has to deal with. There is just soo much in the world to be distracted by. Even at thirty, I have a hard time staying focused when something else is happening in my vicinity that catches my interest. But distractions are a huge part of our problem over here, not just with school but with anything the children are asked to do or encouraged to help with.

It's difficult when we do not have a dedicated classroom and your classmates are all in different grades doing different things that are obviously more interesting than the assignment you've been given -even if it is ABC's and you've been reading for five years. Then there is the kids that aren't in school, the cat, the dog, the new kitten, oh! Mom's got a phone call, there's someone at the door, potty breaks and hobbit-style eating habits.

I am more of a mindset that unschooling for history, science, geography, music and art is more appropriate for my bunch. Unschooling is not NOT-learning, it's letting the children's interest direct the thing they decide to learn about. It's why my 9 year old declared the other day that he is "pretty sure it's just ant bites, chicken pox is caused by the varicella zoster virus and I'm fairly certain I haven't been exposed to that recently." I had to go look up the name of the virus to see if he was correct because he learns things I don't know about all on his own. and he was right.

But even outside of school, with chores and helping around the house and farm, distractions abound and multiply much like varicella zoster. A main element -or The Main, if you will- of distractions in our house is electronics. Anything and everything that buzzes, beeps, lights up, plays music, has a screen, vibrates or otherwise battery powered that sucks in any and every kid in the general vicinity. If one kid is using the computer for math or reading comp, 10 out of 10 times every other kid will be standing behind them watching the screen even if approved computer use kid has on head phones.

And honestly, I can't tell you the number of times I've asked the older kids to watch the baby while I go outside to get tomatoes from the garden, mail from the box, take a shower or get blackberries and with my 10 to 30 minute chore being done, reenter the house to find half a dozen bananas smashed into the floor from back door to front, the baby coverd in yogurt, the cat food dumped into the washing machine on top of wet, clean clothes, or any number of Max-induced crisis that could have been avoided had the kids actually done what I asked and not gotten distracted by computers or movies. (which were put on to keep the baby occupied to begin with).

Which begins a new religion in our house; no electronics. Nothing, no iPhones, Ipods, Leapsters, TV's, computers, car DVD's, no laptops, library movie rentals, Redbox, video games, or streaming movies. Even battery powered toys are being called into question. We're going off-grid and hopefully on-task.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Boy Turns Nine.

It is absolutely insane to think I am the mother of a nine year old. But regardless of my inability to feel my age, my oldest kid did turn nine yesterday.

It's both easy and hard to remember how difficult he was as an infant. By two weeks old he was diagnosed with reflux (funny how I forgot about the projectile vomiting) and treated with two different medicines once twice and the other three times a day. He slept propped up in his car seat next to our bed or in the swing so that gravity would help the acid stay put.

It was miserable and at times I swore to never have another kid again. (See, this is where the Universe laughs).

He's the kid that broke me into parenthood, spiraled me into a Brooke Shields type of PPD and single handledly amazes me each and every day. Alex is such a wonderful boy, though he has his less-fun moments at times. For his birthday this year he asked for two things; Civilization V (a pc game) and a chocolate cake with mint.

I couldn't refuse either.

The cake is my basic go-to chocolate sheet cake recipe that I have scribbled on a paper so I can't remember where it came from. I don't usually do chocolate frosting so I searched for an easy recipe and found this then added some peppermint extract -real not imitation- to the mix. The Andes got frozen and mashed up with a mortar and pestle.

For someone that doesn't like toothpaste flavored chocolate, I do really like this cake.

We almost had a serious dilemma when the sparkler candles he picked out had melted into a single lump on the kitchen windowsil. Note to self- wax in a hot window = bad. We managed to scrounge nine non-girly candles out of the junk drawer and salvage three of the sparkler candles from the hardened gob.

Now I have a whole year to get used to having a kid in the double digits. I'm so not prepared for pre-pubescence.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Just My Type

The older I get the more I understand the type of person I am. It's hard, realizing things you might not exactly like about yourself. Faults that make you who you are -which ultimately aren't wrong- but that you still consider faults. Realizing that you will never be "that" kind of person. The one that you admire, strive to be and self-depreciate that you are not. Whether it is body type or size, finances, exhuberance, mental capability, optimism, determination, perkiness, wit, organization or what ever else have you.  Someone else seems to have a big house on Easy Street when it comes to the part of you you don't like. You are who you are and sometimes it's a pain in your ass.

I have realized that I am the type of person that has to have their hands in All The Pies. I cook, sew, spin, garden, raise animals, raise kids, write, read, teach, learn, harvest, photograph, preserve, play, nourish, research, collaborate, plan, clean...The list is pretty extensive. I'm sure I forgot a few. And I do just about all of it Every. Single. Day.

The issue I have with being so diverse in my interests -one thing that I sometimes don't like about myself- is that I rarely have the time to do any one things particularly super well. When I dedicate a time to something everything else seems to push and prod for it's own bit of attention until I leave many, many things half-discarded, half-ruined, half-finshed or hurridly done half-assed.

I try and think of what I can cut out. Which project doesn't need to be done or shouldn't be done or could be done easier or just plain out purchased and I get a little sad. Which of these things that make me ME do I cut out? I cannot stop reading. I cannot stop learning. I could stop teaching the kids but really, even if I sent them away for formal education, there are still gaps to be filled and frankly, I dont' want to. I suppose I could give up sewing, crafting, spinning, writing but I have found that when I do not have a creative outlet I get super cranky. I don't have to grow my own food or raise my own animals but clean, fresh food is important to me and to my family. Plus snipping away any of these just makes me feel incomplete. Who wants to live like that?

Sure some things get done and done well but there are times I wish I just didn't take on so, so much. That if I perhaps focused on just the one project or the single hobby my life would be much simpler, easier, more enjoyable. I see friends that are that type, that only enjoy one thing for a period of time either making it a lifelong enjoyment or passing it off a few months or years later to focus on another happy hobby. It seems those lives are better, or fuller maybe because they aren't so damned rushed or over extended. They seem to have that big ol' house on a street I never even walk down.

And then I realize that I am who I am and try to embrace myself and enjoy it. Because sometimes half-assed is still pretty damn perfect.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Me Day

Yesterday was Sunday. It was also Mother's Day, incase you hadn't heard. We spent it cleaning the house, selling one of the new baby rabbits and eating. Quite similar to every other day around here but I also got a couple cards from my kids. One as a beautiful drawing of me inside much skinnier and redhaired than normal, and the other has a food pyramid and a brain on the back. Hallmark, eat your heart out.

I am not a sentimental person. I have saved a few baby things from my kids, mostly for their benefit, really, in boxes under my bed. I save some of their better artworks in a box above the bookcase, the cards will join them. I take lots of photos though with the accumulation of my new digital camera do not print out many if any at all (so who knows what will happen if I lose my computer? whole years will be wiped from memory).

All this non-sentimentality makes celebrations hard for me. I don't like to be gifted "just because". I think cards and mailing of them a complete waste. I've tried to be "good" and sent birthday/anniversary/new baby whatever cards but I just can't find it in me to support something I just don't get. I'd rather a phone call than a sparkly card or better yet see the person *in* person. Though I tend to forget doing that as well. I notice all the plaques, teddy bears, fake floral arrangements, cut flowers and candles propped up in stands on the side of the road and cringe.

Perhaps, that is the practical side of me. The side that dislikes waste and clutter. To me all those trappings that people swerve off the road to consume scream landfills. The market flowers are dying beauties using up land resources that could be better used to grow food or stay on the vines to feed the ever disappearing bees. Gifts of meaning that last beyond the day, that feed my body and soul and not just a need to provide a gift because someone declared it a holiday mean the most to me. But I didn't get any gifts because they're not necessary.

During this day of matriarical celebration I decided (after much debate since we're up to our eyeballs in birthdays right now) to make a cake to share with my family because spending time with them as they helped me bake and consume it was better than anything store bought, any smushy pre-printed card, any plaque that waxed poetic about being a mother. Because being a mother is more about enjoying motherhood all the time than being set on a pedestal a single day. I think we should strive to be kind and cherish each other because we're family all the time not just at birthdays or other pre-disposed times of the year. (Though throwing in a cake now and then doesn't hurt.)

Am I the only non-sentimental mother out there?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Four, glorious Four!

My daughter Amelia turns four today. Last year I wrote her birth story here.

I am still amazed at her. She is smart and witty and though she will laugh and be silly, she's one of the more serious of the bunch.

I think three and four are my favorite ages, even if they have their own challenges. We had a great time yesterday celebrating her birthday. The long road to the next town over is briming with wild flowers so we stopped to take some birthday photos. She had a marvelous time picking the ones that caught her eye.

Then we visisted a friend whos cat had kittens a few months ago and picked one out. It's been a long time since we have had a kitten in the house. 

I made her special request of a "flat cake with yellow frosting with strawberries, sprinkles and four candles" from Smitten Kitchen's Lemon Cake recipe.  It was a wild success.

She passed out in her bed about five minues after lights out. Being four is a lot of work.

Happy Birthday my big girl.