Friday, April 29, 2011

Good Reason

It always seems as though I have such interesting ideas about what I want to write, but never get to the computer in time to get my thoughts down. So frustrating! But really, a clear symptom of scatterbrainess.

I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately about simplicity. The more I think about simplifying, the more I realize how complicated I can make things. Or maybe not complicated, but difficult. Or maybe just tedious. And so easily too! I think part of my issue here is that I always thought I could be and do anything I wanted, so I've just taken on everything that has been presented to me. From a pretty young age, I thought "the only way to get it done right is to do it yourself" and have worked pretty hard to get rid of that mindset. But it is still there, no question, hovering in the back of my mind, waiting for an opportunity to say "see! I told you! You should just do it yourself!". I'm also reticent to pay someone to do things that I can do myself, even though there are clearly times when I just can't do something because there aren't enough hours in a day.

So as projects and tasks come up, my automatic response is to take it on as long as it sounds interesting. Simplicity says no. Decide where you want to spend your time, what your passions are, and say no thanks to everything else. This whole thing is making me really think about my trust that others can do things, as well, and maybe even better (gasp!) than me. Of course I know that is true, but still, it's fun to become proficient at something new. It's fun to know a little about a lot. It's fun to have some random skills and talents. It's fun to imagine that I am the worlds greatest (fill in the blank here). It's fun to dream about new ideas and endeavors. But it's true, it is no fun to have a million things to finish, start, or plan and feel overwhelmed by it all.

I think for me, simplifying needs to be more about narrowing my focus. It seems I have spent a lifetime learning to say no, but I still have to learn how to say yes to myself. I have yet to discover how best to honor my passions and talents that really makes me happy, instead of doing things I know I am "good at". I have yet to truly put my needs first as a mom of two and make sure I am taken care of before thinking about the rest of my family. I think I was on a pretty good path and once I had two kids my whole life shifted. Priorities changed, and down the list I slipped. It feels funny to me sometimes to just take time to myself to take a walk. Maybe that is why I am enjoying working so much - it is a "good reason" to walk away and be an adult who is competent at something. I think I have to learn that I am a "good reason" all on my own.

This Moment - A Friday Ritual - Hike

I'm following along with SouleMama - in her words:

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Rituals

We are celebrating spring. I love to see the new shoots and buds coming up, the birds doing their crazy little mating dances, and just noticing everything being "new". In lieu of focusing on the spring holidays of Passover and Easter (both of which I'd like to loosely celebrate, but have yet to get my act together on that) I've been starting a practice of doing lots of spring related crafts and activities. Our main activity lately has been the garden of course. The kids have their own little garden space as well this year where they have planted some flowers. We built a little teepee that will have bean and morning glory plants all around it by the summer and will be a great little hideaway. We made our nest baskets already as we did last year, and this morning we colored our eggs. As we were coloring the eggs, Peanut and I had a funny conversation about why we were doing this. We talked about what comes from eggs, chicks, crocodiles, bugs, dinosaurs...and somehow came back around to "new baby animals come out of eggs, and we celebrate the new animals being born in the spring". Whew. So we will hide them tomorrow in the yard, even though Pumpkins are already cracked and half peeled as he only knows that eggs are good eats. We are hoping to do a short hike as well and take in the beauty of the season. Happy spring to you. Smell the earth, watch the clouds, and be thankful for it all.

This Moment - A Friday Ritual - OK, yes, it is Saturday...

I'm following along with SouleMama - in her words:

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Found It!

We have an owl we have seen a few times sitting on our back fence. We spied him a while ago - you can see and read about him here. I've been hoping he lives close by so he can take care of any would-be garden predators. The other day, the kids and I went looking for his lair. We went tree by tree around the yard, all of us craning our necks to see to the top. Really, I did not expect to find anything, but there it was! Or at least I think it was! So cool!


One of the Holistic Moms mentioned "Simplicity Parenting" as a possible meeting topic for the fall. That suggestion could not have come at a better time. I'd read Voluntary Simplicity and Your Money or Your Life some time ago, and felt like we had done a decent job decreasing the amount of "stuff" we had (although with kids that is a never ending task) but we never got past that part. So I picked up the book (Simplicity Parenting) at the library and did some searching online for resources.

As I read, much of it was familiar territory. Many suggestions in the book are ones I have given many times over - decrease the toys, limit or remove all of the toys that "work too hard", create routines and spots for kids to release pent up energy... I knew all this. What resonated with me though, were the discussions about schedules and about limiting "adult" conversation.

I listen to NPR in the car most days, and while it often doesn't strike me as being inappropriate for small ears, I have had moments where I was surprised by what Peanut picked up on and some where I clearly needed to turn it off. Beyond that though, the discussions we have in front of the kids about our worries and concerns are liable to make more of an impact than I had really considered, and if you know me at all, you know I have considered that.

The schedule discussion though was what I needed most right now. I have twice visited the most incredible nature based Reggio Emilia inspired school (pre-k through second grade or so) that I have ever seen in my life. My children truly deserve to receive that kind of education. So as I am thinking about this, wanting this for my kids, I found myself considering the ways we can make it happen. It's a 40 minute drive without traffic. The day starts at 8:30am and ends at 3:30. Peanut would need to be enrolled for 4 days a week, full time, and Pumpkin could go half days, but that wouldn't make sense to drive twice a day to pick the kids up at different times so he would go full time four days as well. So two kids, full tuition. I need to go back to work full time then. And I need to be close enough to the school that I am not driving hours to and from school and to and from work. And of course all of this means that we have to rush out the door by 7:30am, when we are currently slowly and leisurely eating breakfast. I'd have tired, dirty kids in the car for another hour in the afternoon, get home in enough time to give them a bath, make and feed them dinner and get them to bed. Yeah, we'd get an hour or so to play, but compare that to what we have now.

Yes. I was actually thinking that this was all doable for about 24 hours, until I thought it through some more and realized all that I would be giving up. I realized how complicated I'd be making everything. I'd be creating chaos every morning, all to go play outside. Yes, the teacher facilitation of activities is second to none at the school, but hell, we can learn to do at least some of that here. And I really don't want to go back to work full time. I love my work, but I love the flexibility it provides me, and giving all of that up seems crazy.

So I am back on the path of simplicity. We are on spring break this week, and all I can think about is how great it will be when preschool is over and all of our weeks can be like this. We took a walk this morning, had our playgroup outside, and made nest baskets for the birds. We'll probably do a little more art, head over to the library, and maybe back out to the garden this afternoon. I'm loving it, and so are the kids.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I want to send my kids to public school. I really really do. I want them to learn from children who have different life experiences from theirs. I want them to learn from teachers with different ways of presenting material than mine. I want them to learn to interact socially, understand and follow directions, develop tools for learning and exploring, and continue to be curious. I want them to ride the bus and go on field trips. I want them to play sports and join a team or club if they want to. I want to have some time for myself. I want to relax and know that while we are all learning together at home, each day they go to expand that knowledge while I have time to regroup and be me. I want to get back to my hobbies and reconnect with pre-kid friends. I want to have the flexibility of going to the grocery store by myself or actually perusing the library shelves without rushing through and picking up a million books to skim at home because both kids are pulling books off the shelf willy nilly. I want to try clothes on in the store before buying something. I want to enjoy a quiet house for a few minutes each day.

I believe in the idea of public education. I’ve worked in the public education system. I understand how it works and it’s goals and requirements. I understand that the system is serving a huge number of children with a tremendous variability of skills and needs. I know that the teachers are doing their best and most have the kids’ education at heart. I know there are classrooms and even whole schools where education has been preserved in the face of the testing hype. I know there is creativity to be found. I understand that managing a class of 30 kids requires some rules and regulations that may otherwise seem overly restrictive. I understand that following a curriculum to the T may not allow much time for experiential learning. I understand that educators may not have the time to read and integrate the latest educational research. I understand that teachers are limited by the size of their class, the caliber of their administrative leadership and support, and their legal requirements. I understand that in our state testing is somehow king. I understand that schools need money and can find creative ways to raise funds that may include marketing to my children. I understand that being active on the PTA does not mean that I have a say about what or how my child is learning or being taught. I understand that fitting it to the social structure of school is not always a good thing.

I understand that I am afraid.

I know that I haven’t got all the information I need to make the right choice for us. I may never have enough. I know that I still have time to consider all of the options. I know that we can always change our minds. I know that how my kids go about their learning and education can be an ongoing conversation with many different questions and answers. I am learning still that perfection and the absolutely correct decision are figments of my imagination. We will all do what is best for each of us and it will all be fine. I am breathing deeply.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This Moment - A Friday Ritual - Truly Free Play

I'm following along with SouleMama - in her words:

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Piece of the Puzzle

I know I've talked about the troubles we have had with group classes and activities for Peanut. We did ballet, soccer, a music class...and it always seemed as though she was going to the guillotine. I'd work my tail off trying to encourage her to participate without pushing (or sometimes maybe with some pushing) and leave frustrated and annoyed that we were spending money on her standing there. She would then come home and do the whole class routine for us, so I knew she was paying attention, and she'd say how much she was enjoying the activity, so we thought it was all just personality. She and I had a few discussions about how it was hard to hear the instructor with all the other noise - I chalked it up to sensory processing after a good deal of being frustrated. Since it was so stressful to me, we decided we would not enroll her in any more classes after last fall's second try at ballet, and that has been working out fine.

Since then, she has continued to lay low in larger groups, especially when there are kids she does not know well. The time it takes for her to warm up is really really long - like an hour or two. I've often noticed that Peanut looks like she wants to engage with other kids she doesn't know well but does not know how. And when other kids approach her to play, she often uses gestures and body language that stop the interaction rather than interacting. When the group is children she has known her whole life, it is all fine and easy. Just one new kids causes her to cling to me, lay on the floor and roll around, hold her doll tightly, and otherwise look like she has gone boneless.

So of course all of this concerns me, but I also know that her personality and temperament is different from mine and that my anxiety about it all is not helpful. So I've worked on relaxing. A few weeks ago, honey and I both noticed that we were having trouble getting Peanut's attention. We'd call her name over and over with no response. I told her that it seemed like she was having trouble using her ears, and asked if she felt that we should see a doctor about it. She said yes, so I took her in to have a look at her ears. After Peanut's ears were deemed "clean and clear" they did a brief hearing screen. Once Peanut figured out the "raise your hand when you hear the sound" thing, she raised over and over on her right side. The nurse switched the left and the hand stayed down. Obviously down. So obviously down that the nurse didn't say anything and the doctor returned with a "well, we need to refer to audiology and ENT". Which of course I had already scheduled.

We are not yet through all the evaluations, but the consensus so far is that she has a high frequency hearing loss. That means she hears people talking but can't make out what they are saying, especially in a loud or echoing room. It's harder to hear higher tones, so ballet teachers, little girls, sweet gentle music...

So, this changes everything. It explains so much. While it is a big deal to discover a hearing loss, I'm glad to have figured this out. I think she is too. I understand so much better my little Peanut; her personality, her time to warm up, her need for clear directions, her taste in music. I have concrete ideas to give to her teachers and to our friends in order to help them help her participate. Speaking with a little girl who you think is shy vs. speaking with a little girl who may not have heard part of what you or her friend said because the music was on is a whole different thing. The strategies to engage her are different than what we had been doing, assuming she was shy. After sharing this story, someone said, "Oh poor baby!" and I got pretty miffed. I don't feel like this is a "poor baby" situation at all. Clearly, this is a part of who Peanut is, and I am grateful to have listened to her and my mama instinct to figure it out. We are on a path to see the specifics and how best to proceed, but I am already feeling more competent as a parent knowing this piece of the puzzle.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Letting Go

A few weeks ago, the kids and I were at Target. Whenever we go there, Peanut (and Pumpkin really) likes to walk through the "girl aisle" to look at the baby dolls. They both hold and look at the dolls, and when they are done we say goodbye to the dolls and put them back with their friends. This time, Peanut says that she would really really like to have a set of baby doll twins that she has been holding. I said, "honey, you have a lot of girls at home. Let's think about it a little more and we can decide later."

So we left the store, and in the car she says, "I know! I will give all of my girls, except my special girl Big, to someone who doesn't have any dolls and then I will get the twins!". So I said "wow, that would be very generous. Let's think about it and the next time we are at Target, if you still want to do that we can." Of course, I love that she is thinking this way, and I love that she is so cheery with her generosity. I'm glad that she sees our example of donating, freecycling, and sharing and wants to emulate that, but I figure she may not really mean it or know what she is doing and she needs to think on it a bit.

So this weekend, I was at a work meeting most of both days (oy) and she went to Target with daddy. By the time I stopped in for lunch, she had a new girl (not the twins) and was packing her old girls in a bag. She told me that she was ready to give them to someone without toys. I almost cried she was so pleased about the whole thing. So now I am looking for a way that we can donate them with her there to see where they will go.

Well, today when I got home from the conference, she was carefully washing Big with a baby wipe. She told me that she was getting Big all cleaned up so she could give her to someone else. Gasp! What? She can't give away Big! So I took a deep breath and said, "gosh, that's a big decision. Do you think you will miss Big?" and she said "no, I don't think so. I only want one girl." So this has yet to be resolved because I realized that I have a fear of letting Big go and I have to deal with that before I can help Peanut figure out the best plan. She has had that doll with her every day and night since she was born. I mean, she could give her away and then freak out one night about it, right?

I think I will just let it sit for a while, wait for her to bring it up again and see what happens in the meantime. I'm so glad to be raising a generous daughter, and one who is clearly teaching me how to let go.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Catching up with the kids

Every picture tells a story, and at the end of a busy busy week, a photo montage will just have to do.

This Moment - A Friday Ritual - Spring!

I'm following along with SouleMama - in her words:

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.


It's one of those days. I woke up with my head still spinning with all of my "to do" list that I fell asleep thinking about. Of course, much of it is related to things I have chosen to do. Some is stuff I have committed to without thinking it through. And some is just stuff that blindsided me. With the way things are going lately and the complete disorganization I am feeling, I just want to throw in the towel. Ever feel like that? Like taking the easy road? Yeah, we take the easy road sometimes, but I am talking about all the time. I woke up wanting to take my kids to a fast food place for breakfast, let them climb in the germ infested tunnels, and get myself some greasy non-food with a really big soda. I want to pour week killer all over my yard. I want to get some majorly toxic bug killer too and dump it all over the garden. I want to be the parent at the mall play area who lets her kids run wild while I play games on my phone. I want to let them play at the train table at the bookstore while I wander off to read something mindless. I want to only shop at big box stores and buy everything in a box you just add water to or pop in the microwave to create a meal. I want to dress the kids head to toe in branded characters, send them to a daycare mill, and go work full time. I want to quit.

The kids wake up, and my mood changes with the very first snuggle and "hi mama". It's not that I want to quit mommying, I want to quit all the nonsense that somehow gets tacked on to mommying. I just want to enjoy my little ones without worrying about it. Without stressing about the small stuff. Without expecting perfection from anyone, especially me. I want to do it all though - I love my work, and I love my kids, and I feel passionately about the way we live and the choices we have made. It's a hard road to take, but I'm taking it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Moment - A Friday Ritual - Love

I'm following along with SouleMama - in her words:

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.