Monday, December 17, 2012

The Beginning of Liv

My daughter, Olivia, is nearly 12, and I have never written her birth story. I have written countless birth stories for other families. But I've not written my own.

My son's birth story I'll save for another day. His story I remember in great detail, and have told and re-told to him with pleasure. Putting Liv's story down, quite honestly feels really scary to remember, and to share. 

Perhaps, it's because I was a very different person then.

Perhaps, it's because what I remember was not at all what I believe birth to be about. Perhaps, it's because what I remember most

is a mish-mash of doctors, nurses, drugs, IV bags, clocks and fear.

I was 19 when I got pregnant. I knew nothing really about pregnancy, and even less about giving birth. Some of my friends had had babies, but now that it was going to be my turn, I felt terrified at the thought of birthing. I was convinced it would be unbearably painful; a belief that was confirmed by many a horror-birth story.

My pregnancy was far bumpier than I had imagined. I had 9 months of morning sickness. I took small doses of gravol the whole 9 months; except of course for the 2 weeks I took a stronger prescription drug! A drug I knew nothing about; all I knew, was that I liked my doctor, and hated feeling so sick.

I didn't think much more of it than this.

This is who I was,

and where I was,

in my mama-growing.

It's Ironic to think I felt SO guilty over not taking pre-natal vitamins; but felt alright about taking these drugs. Almost all I could keep down was gatorade, simple sugars, poutine, and ice cream! Oh, and the meds of course...

I had the routine ultra sound, and it showed something to be concerned about. It was something called a Chorioangioma. I was told it was a growth on the placenta. A growth made up of blood vessels. A growth that would keep on growing. A growth that could steal blood from my baby; it meant that the baby and I could possibly bleed out at birth.
But of course I was also told not to worry.

I saw an OB for some follow up visits; and was sent to many more ultra sounds to track the tumors growth. I was so scared of a poor outcome; I felt like all I could do was pray.  

Pray for a healthy, strong baby.

Pray for healing.

And pray that we would both come out the other side alright.

Secretly, we knew that we were having a girl. I started to call her LIV, meaning "Life" in Scandinavian. In some way, I thought it would keep me focused on giving her Life.

Around the same time, I started having intense pains after I ate. Yet another ultra sound showed that I had developed Gallstones. I was told that often this problem would settle down after the baby was born, but there was a chance I would need surgery after her birth. *sigh* I started needing to take painkillers for the attacks; and was told to avoid all fats. This didn't leave much nutrition-wise, and far more drug-wise than I would have liked; but I knew no other way.

Sometime before 37 weeks, I started having preterm labor and so spent my fair-share of time on bed-rest. At around 38 weeks, there were no signs of labor, and I was now dropping weight. This feels like a big deal when all you've gained is 19 pounds, and you started at only 123 pounds. Our doctor suggested inducing labor and we agreed to it. We had planned on having a natural labor and birth; but at this stage I felt so afraid, and sick, and exhausted.

Somehow, I imagined that the induction would be the only intervention; 
somehow I thought having her now would mean we would be okay.
Our doctor advised us that interventions are usually like a set of dominoes, one leading to the next.
I thought, or at least hoped, we would be the exception.

It's really hard to type this, exactly as it truly was because now I can imagine it happening so many different ways. I can imagine making different decisions at every turn. I can imagine re-writing the story as it could have been. But that wouldn't be the real story. That's not how it happened.

We went into the hospital on a Thursday morning,

and I had the gel to induce labor. I was monitored for a bit and then sent home. When I say "home" what I mean is a friends house. We were staying with friends cause our home was an hour away. Now here's where it gets blurry. I'm pretty sure I got gelled a second time, and sent "home" for a few more hours.... when we returned to the hospital, not much was happening. I had been having contractions; to me they felt painful. Strong isn't the word, just sharp, and spuratic. I was hooked up to an IV for fluids, antibiotics and a pitocin drip. 

I was able to walk around, bathe and shower. 
I think I was managing the pain alright.
I was breathing, and listening to music I had brought with me.
I remember the nurses being refreshed that someone was actually using the cd player!

As I remember it, I had some visitors. My parents, Auntie and some other family. My mom stayed and my friend/doula stayed. The combination of pain, exhaustion and what felt like so much time passing made the nurses drug offerings more welcome. "Inductions are harder," I was told, "no need to be a hero."  Sometime Friday morning, my waters were ruptured by the doctor. I was at 3 cm, after 24 hours. It's probably a good thing I didn't realize that this rupture meant the clock was started; I would have 24 hours to deliver this baby according to hospital policy. I continued right on laboring, as I had been, only now I was SO tired, and not allowed to use the bath tub. Something about "bacteria", I was told. My husband was so wiped, that I remember the nurses bringing HIM heated blankets and telling HIM to rest. **Still makes me smile.**

I had felt really against having an epidural. Even then, I realized that epidurals increased my chances of needing a cesarean; and I didn't fully "buy" that it didn't affect the baby. Sometime around 5am on Saturday morning, our doctor was in to see us again. She was very motherly and kind in the way she spoke to me. She told me that I needed to accept an epidural so that I could get some rest. She feared that when Baby was ready to be born, I would be too tired to birth her. I heard nurses muttering something about "Baby's heart rate" and "cesarean" something, and "24 hour mark."

I remember having to let the drugs wear off while waiting for my epidural.

I remember feeling contractions with only gas to help. I remember that, and my friends eyes and voice, 

"Look at me. Look right here. You are doing so well, and you are so strong. You are so strong." 

I was glued to her eyes, and her breathing;

and it felt like an echo "You are so strong". 

It echoed and I sent the wish inside to Liv

I was telling her "You are SO strong." 

I remember begging to know how long until she would be born; I was convinced everyone knew except me and that they were all keeping it a giant secret! It's funny the things you can believe in labor-land!
The pain I felt at 4 cm was worse than anything I felt with the completely natural birth of my son 5 years later. This pain was coupled with fear and exhaustion. So much fear. Fear that our Baby might not be okay. I think I must have prayed for most of my labor.

Finally, epidural in place, I slept.

Saturday morning, around 10 am, I was fully dilated. The nurses and doctors had been turning down the epidural; I was told that I could start pushing anytime I felt the urge. I felt no urge. I felt... Nothing. Only numbness and anxiety. Again, I heard someone mumbling something about a "c-section" and "too long", and "within the hour." It was as if I had been slapped awake. "C-section...." echoing.
And so with the All-powerful, All-knowing Clock staring me down, I announced "I feel like pushing". I was lying, of course.

I watched the machine to tell me when I was having a contraction and I pushed. And everyone in the room counted to 10. And it repeated this way until our Baby was born, at 11 am. At the time I felt blessed to be spared from the pain of crowning; the pain that I was sure would be unbearable. I was also so grateful to have at least been able to feel the contours of her face as she was born. ***I didn't have the energy or the sense to wonder if I had missed out on anything.***

I got to hold her for only a couple of seconds.

She was early, and not really ready for this world yet. 

She was quite full of mucus, and was hard to suction; her jaw clenched shut. She needed oxygen and help to get breathing. The pediatrician and nurses fussed over her. While I feared for her still. She had that gunk they put in babies' eyes, put in her eyes; and a shot of vitamin K shot into her leg.

I was directed to "cough" out the placenta. When the staff looked over my placenta, it looked fine. It looked like a healthy placenta, and the place where the tumor had been was healed, a calcified lump. No signs or trace of extra blood vessels. This was a phenomena they hadn't seen before. I stared at it for a moment, reflecting that this is what all the fuss had been about.

I thanked Jehovah for healing us,
and allowing Olivia to come safely into this world. 
We had many, many more lessons to learn,
and Olivia has grown me into a Mama I'm proud to be.
I will be forever grateful to Jehovah for her;
and grateful to Olivia for teaching me the meaning of Love, Courage and what it is to be truly Strong...
(among other things...)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Simply Learning

I HAD written a very long, wordy post... I erased it in favor of LESS. We are Simplifying our life style; and finding that LESS is, indeed more. Less stuff. Less mess. Less crazy running around due to a less crazy schedule. And finally Less words...

Above is my son's room, mid-simplifying-sort; as I ditched Anything: broken, age inappropriate, or limiting to the imagination. Check out how many books are on that book shelf!

Boxes and boxes went to the second hand store, 2 big garbage bags went to the trash. Two more boxes of things I thought he might notice were missing, went into storage.

What you see above, is a tub of dress-ups, and a basket of marbles and marble run supplies. Baskets covered with a cloth.

His shelf holds a basket of musical instruments, a basket of cars, and a handful of his favorite books. 

The closet holds a tub of lego and pirate ship set. 

                                     ***Neat, AND easy to keep it that way.***

 This whole Simplifying thing is Waldorf inspired. 
I am amazed and grateful for coming across these resources at exactly the right time for us.

My Daughter got a Simplified version of her room that allowed her to focus on what she loves. Surrounded by dance costumes, her photography, her violin and books...

.........And her new Fish.

For years we have been riding the swinging pendulum of Radical Un-schooling; and the pendulum was always, ALWAYS swinging. I was beginning to feel kinda dizzy! 

It was beginning to feel like Someone's needs were always being left unmet; and often my husband and I felt absolutely exhausted.

Perhaps  Probably, as a reflection of our dizziness and exhaustion, our Littles were so dis-content.

There's no other word for it. I took this as a sign we needed a change.
One of the greatest discoveries about LESS is that it has opened up MORE space for LEARNING!

Letting go of the "box" of the Unschooling label, has opened me up to using some Waldorf curriculum; which by the way, is SO BEAUTIFUL! 
          It is so honoring of Childhood,
                                                                                       Nature and Imagination!

It is astonishing to me to witness my children SO engaged in their learning! Every game, every story, every movement, every art project! (*Still very child-led*)

Above he is learning about pulley systems...

I remember last year, when my son's sole passion was video games, and his mood was miserable. The kind of miserable that comes from not feeling satisfied, valuable, or successful. He would lament that he had no gifts, and that he wasn't good at anything. It broke my heart, as I scrambled around, in vain, trying to find various "things" for him to try. 

*This year he is THRIVING!* Actually, we all are :)*

The things 
I felt so resistant to; routine, curriculum, sharing the daily responsibilities, limiting screen usage; were ALL things that have benefited our family more than I could have imagined!

Simplifying has felt like a Fresh Start.

So it would seem Simplifying has OPENED the space for me to learn some great lessons too!

*Google Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne if your curious to know more.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Slow Roasted Teenagers ~ Yummy ~

** Okay, here's my preface: if you think you're going to feel judged or offended, stop reading now. If you're going to have an open mind, please carry on :)***

I have terrible news: Our children are being slow roasted.

There's an old adage about cooking frogs. If the frogs are dumped into boiling water, they will jump out. However, if they are put in the pot with the cool water and slowly brought up to a boil, the frog won't notice. It doesn't struggle, or jump out. It's cooked.
This is what is happening to our children. And the scary part is, we are allowing it. Defending it. Even supporting it.

We recently had a teen suicide due to "cyber-bullying". As I watched her youtube video, I couldn't help but think this young girl is was no different from so many young girls. She made the kinds of "mistakes" that are common to the teen years. Flashing, fooling around with boys; some poor choices perhaps... But nothing uncommon to growing up.... and LEARNING about life. She was also victimized and taken advantage of by boys. Again, sadly, not uncommon at all. What's new, is that thanks to the internet, thanks to social media, and thanks to cameras on every cell phone, and a cell phone with every teen, her "mistakes" were immortalized online, for all to see. For all to mock, and ostracize. Her "mistakes" were on display to follow her from school to school. And somehow, the children in every school felt entitled, maybe even justified to bully her. As a whole they felt okay about participating in tearing her down.... to the point of finally beating her with a crowd of support. Eventually, leading to her suicide. And sadly, her experience, is not uncommon at all.

It's shameful. I feel heartbroken for her family. And I feel haunted by questions... Where are the parents? Any of the parents? Are people to busy to monitor the online safety and activities of their children? Why were they not acting like people who had learned morals? Empathy? Kindness?
I'm sure a lot of things factor into this... but basically, I believe they've been cooked. And that's not justification. It doesn't make it okay. It makes me wonder, what is wrong with families? Why are we allowing this?!

Talking this story over with people, something interesting happened. Stories of bullying came forward from each person. Bullying from both teachers, and fellow students. Bullying stories that took place 40 some years ago, right up until now. Let's start with the stories of teachers bullying. (Please Understand, this is not meant as an offense to all teachers, surely there are many, many wonderful, positive teachers who keep children save and have a beneficial effect on their students.) The stories I heard were all from elementary school; they included teachers pushing children down stairs; strangling a child against a wall in front of a class; shoving a child to the ground in front of a class; not allowing a child to use the washroom, and having him wet himself in front of the class; and locking a child alone in a classroom for 2 hour detention after school closed up. These stories are multi-generational, and from varying towns and cities. The children in these stories experienced Fear, Hurt, Embarrassment, Shame, Humiliation, and HUGE Injustice and Violation of trust at the hands of people entrusted to care for them. In all of these stories, no significant consequences came to the teachers; and yet the one's telling the stories, tell them like they were yesterday; flushed faces, and shaking voices.

Do you think these kinds of experiences might have an influence on our children's development of empathy? or Kindness? I do. I think it teaches them it's okay to treat people badly. And what's more?.... the parents were told about these situations. The parents rightly complained, and nothing came of it. So what do our kids learn?? What are WE teaching them? We're the teaching them that if you are big, or in power, this kind of behavior is okay. If you're at school, this behavior is okay. If you get caught, even as an adult, you won't be held accountable in any major way. If you are a child, you are power-less. And if you are a parent, you are also power-less to help. The School has the power, the System has the power. And right from elementary school on, the lesson is bullying is okay. Of course we would never say that, however it's true.... although, terribly inconvenient.

In fact, in some schools it is true right from day 1 of Kindergarten. One mom recently told me of her schools new policy that on the first day of school, parents were not allowed to enter the school. Period. She said children were crying, parents were crying; and they were told, "No. No parents in the school. We'll take care of them. This will encourage their independence." And parents accepted that. Oh, I'm sure some protested, or maybe felt inwardly worried; but this mom reported that overall, parents just allowed the school to have that much say! Again, what is the message?! What is the lesson?!
The message is "We, the school, are big and powerful, and even your parents can't help you or even access you here." Intimidating at the very least. And what does this teach (a 5 year old) about empathy? About the importance of feelings, and caring for another's experience? Or the connection of parents to their little ones? The importance of family?.... all secondary to the prerogative of the school.

Yes, into the cooking pot they go.

For 12-13 years, we as parents support our children participating in this system. Slowly roasting. And let's face it. We're busy. We trust that the learning happening in Our school is good, at least mostly good. The problems of drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying, and so on "don't happen at our school"; "it's a private school"; or "we live in a good area of town"; or "we're in such a small town".... "We're trying to earn a living; to make ends meet. We try to have regular family dinners, and enjoy some weekend events together... taxi-ing to and from friends houses, the mall, soccer practice and so on...."

And then, one day they are in high school and these kinds of things happen. It is all too common. And then people around us wonder, and maybe We wonder how these things could possibly happen.... people like myself wonder why these teens have no empathy.... why they are vicious.

They've been cooked. Slow roasted by the school system. By the climate of this world. By Video games about war, stealing cars, hookers, or .... By social media.... By popular male and female performers also teaching anything but positive morals, or good qualities; and often promoting unhealthy views on sex and attitudes that de-value women.... Wow. I'm sounding awfully judgmental; awfully down on a lot of things. What is my point anyways?!

My point is:

I hope that when my children come into contact with the boiling water, they will hop out!!

For our family, this hope is a lot of work. It's meant following a path of natural learning, at home. It's meant making financial choices that support time together over many other things. It's meant being really specific about entertainment. And mostly, it's meant keeping our purpose of a trusting, close relationship foremost; one that models empathy and kindness. A relationship that is protective of their innocence, childhood, and feelings.
It means, (forgive my rudeness) raising them. It means doing our best and hoping. Reading stories like this, reflecting, and hoping.

I hope that as these tragedies happen, some people will go further than saying "What a shame... so sad." I hope that at least some people will start thinking deeper than that. And figuring out how these events are connected to their own families, because they are.  
~We are all connected.~

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Old Dan Tucker... and Other Insanities

WHAT is going on?! 
I have been hearing.... literally, Old Dan Tucker being sung for days..... Sung by my children.
I hear it being serenaded while I'm in the shower;
belted out from the back seat while I'm driving;
chanted while we're walking;
and finally dialed down to a hum when I've begged for a break from the Insanity!!
And of course next thing I know it's stuck in MY head too... and then I'm humming it. Where is this coming from?

Old Dan Tucker is just one example of The Insanity. This year something has shifted. Did I say Shifted? What I meant to say was my world has been Flipped, turned-upside-down. (yes, much like the Will Smith song. lol)

This year while planning our learning year, (as much as one can plan that), I started feeling curious about the Waldorf philosophy; which led me, quite surprisingly to browsing through curriculum. Let me say that again: CURRICULUM. For me this is darn-near Shocking. For anyone who knows me knows, I have felt pretty passionately against curriculum; and certainly against anything that looks like school-at-home. These feelings were re-enforced when Liv and I were struggling our way through Kindergarten curriculum, and later struggling through many other bouts of "teaching" and "learning" how to read. Little did I know, the source of our struggle was undiagnosed Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. All I knew, and still know, is this kind of learning was not worth it, or fun, or successful for us. And yet here I was looking through curriculum.

So why on Earth am I feeling good about this?! ....It still sounds crazy.

My outlook, as I was browsing the "curriculum", is that it could be just one more resource, among many resources, that we may or may not use; depending on where we're at with our learning.... okaaaaay.... To my surprise, I found that the Waldorf ideas of protecting the rites of childhood deeply resonated with me; and the bits of curriculum I was seeing looked so multi-sensory. I was having a very strong feeling that this could be a beautiful fit for us.

The other thing that shifted my outlook is that my daughter, wait for it...... ASKED FOR CURRICULUM!! Workbooks to be specific. 
**still shaking my head in disbelief**

Here I had brainstormed with her all the interests and goals she had for herself for the year.... I'm typing up a plan. One that deliberately looks nothing like formal learning, one that is full of games and activities.... and she says, "mom, did you put some curriculum in that? I mean, you know, some workbooks and stuff? Cause I'm thinking I'm getting older and stuff, and I think I should start getting better at math and my spelling and things." 


So then again, maybe I was browsing curriculum because somewhere inside me, my intuition knew that this is where we were heading; that this is what was next for us. I don't know how many articles, stories and blogs I've read with the same happenings: lots of free, active, spirited life learning and then with age and interest, reading, and math and eventually more formal learning. I just never thought it would happen to us. I really didn't.

I've picked out but, ahem, not yet ordered curriculum. I'm still looking at it as a resource, just another option to use or not. And as usual, I'm following the lead of my little learners.... and they are leading me to playing "school". I'm not even kidding a little. All of my deep-set opposition to "school-at-home" style learning is having to bow to my children telling me that, "NO MOM, This is supposed to be how it looks.... We sit here, and you are there, and you teach us, and we have to put up our hands... and.... and.... and." .....AND truth be told, they are having a ton of fun with it, and we are learning spelling. And while I do have some inner conflict about this style of learning, it's pretty impossible to argue with them about this one. Or argue with myself, as long as this "school" game remains THEIR idea!

See what I mean? Insanity. World. up. side. down.

Know what else?
For the first time in 6 years my daughter is not taking dance. We are still a part of a belly dance group, but she isn't taking dance. Given the option to explore some new interests, Liv chose to take a break from it. She's found herself a fantastic horse riding mentor, and is in love with horses! Which is helping tremendously with her learning challenges and confidence. I'm still in shock. No dance. HUH.

While browsing through the previously mentioned forbidden fruit, I stumbled upon a new book; Simplicity Parenting. Again, something inside me said, "you have to order that book." The blurb about it mentioned the theme is "Too much". As I looked around, I literally saw Too Much. Too much mess, from too much stuff, in every room of our probably Too Much house. I wondered if this is what the book was about.
We had been recovering all summer from the previous year of Too Much screens; we've been trying to create new limits and routines surrounding that. I wondered if that was the Too Much being referred to in the book. Either way Simple sounded pretty inviting.
I received my new book this week, and have been hooked. And it is what I thought. Our Too Much environment. Full of Too much stuff.  Full of Too Much screens. Toys. Clothes. Adult conversation.

Which leads me to my next insanity. Simplifying my house. AKA- pulling up the utility trailer and making repeated trips to the dump and second hand store. All of these changes have me feeling a little overwhelmed, lost, excited, confused, surprised.... very.... just Very. Is that a feeling? Again. World. Up. Side. Down.

And so, fueled by my new book; accompanied by my family singing Old Dan Tucker; and inspired by our recently discovered major addiction to watching Little House, and Longing for a simpler life.... I am taking on the Too Much mess. I might even blog about our progress, and take pictures for accountability! LOL

Alright. Enough with writing. Time. To. Simplify.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mom, why am i here?

My son is always amazing me with his questions, his evidence of deep and serious thinking. He may not know how to read or how to work out math on paper yet, but he is working out some very BIG questions. I  peeked in his room this morning, just as he was waking up....
"Mom, why am i here?"
"What.... do you mean?"
"I mean, why am I here? What is my purpose? What am I doing HERE?"
I wanted time to think about how to answer such a broad question; in classic "mom-manipulation" I invited him to join me for breakfast downstairs, so we could talk about it some more.
This was countered with an invitation to snuggle in bed.
"This is a perfectly good place."
I snuggled in, and asked him what he thought his purpose might be? 
"Why do you think you're here?"
His answer was that he was here because I wanted him, and because I prayed for him. And he is right, that's true. He was looking for something more meaningful to him.
"The answer,"
I told him,
"is different for every person. Every person is unique, and has their own gifts; and their purpose is their own, what do you think yours might be?...."
"....i don't know...."
"I know my purpose."
.... I  could see I had his attention....
"In this life, my purpose is to take care of you and our family;
my purpose is to cook, and care for the house,
to play with you and help you learn important things;
my purpose is to go to work, to earn money to help pay for the things our family needs.
I also get to make pottery, because I love doing that, and I'm good at it.
It's one of the gifts I've been given.
My purpose is to keep learning, to learn from you and anyone else who has something to share with me.
And also, to keep learning about our God Jehovah, and to help you to learn about Him as well."
"That sounds like a lot of work. Actually, that sounds like mostly work." 
He sounded disappointed, and defeated, or perhaps this was just honest observation.
"It is work.Your right.
But I love you, and I love our family, so taking care of us doesn't always feel like work. Sometimes I really enjoy it.
It feels good to see you growing happy and healthy.
And working at the store can be fun too. I'm tired when I get home, but it's fun being there.
I feel good knowing that my going there helps to buy you the things you need.
And making pottery is work too, but it doesn't feel like work;
because it's my gift, it's what I'm good at.
Some people are good at building, so that's what they do.
Jehovah made me good at making bowls, and mugs, and art so that's what I do.
And learning, well, that's just part of being alive.
You see, I love the things I work at, so it doesn't feel like work."
"So what am I good at? What's my gift? My job? WHAT IS MY DESTINY!?"
He was sounding pretty intense here! :D (So dramatic! I suspect there may be some influence from anime here! ;)

I worried about over simplifying.... none the less, I answered.

"Your job is to just be a kid! Your already great at that.
Your job is to play, and have fun, and to learn about the world.
To learn about Jehovah.
And to try things out, until you discover what you really love, and what you're good at.
You will find your gifts, and all you have to do to find them, is to keep being you."

~ Sometimes I really LOVE this Mama-gig ~

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Confessions of an Unschooling Mama

Before I start my confessions, let's put this in context. We consider ourselves Unschoolers... or Natural Learners. (My hubby prefers that term.) We have been Natural Learners for our children's whole lives; even though for a while we didn't know it had a name.
For a quick idea of what unschooling is check out Wiki:

Basically though, Natural Learning trusts that all people learn; that it is our nature to learn our whole lives.
Unschooling lets go of "teaching", curriculum and outcomes.
It trusts that Life is the best teacher.
Unschooling believes that a child (or person) will learn everything they need to learn in life, in the best time and way for themselves, as individuals.

"Radical Unschoolers" take it a step further;
aiming to live a mutually respectful life with their family.

Sometimes this concept is confusing when it comes to "how to". It can sound or look like "no limits" or "no guidance", which is not really the true idea either. At the same time though, Radical Unschooling generally doesn't value limits on activities related to daily living; like bedtime, or screentime, or diet. Living mutually respectful lives is definitely something I value, and in many ways aim for. It also very challenging at times, as you might imagine.

Now for my confessions.
Sometimes I really, really want a clean, and organized house. Sometimes I think this is the impossible dream of the home learning parent! I mean, I want the whole thing clean, all at the same time. I may have even began uttering the word "chore", in the direction of my children, in an involuntary way, on a semi-daily basis. I may have made a list of tasks that need to be done on a daily basis. Yes. Actually I did this. This is a confession, so I will admit it. To clarify though, these are not tasks that HAVE to be done by the kids everyday, rather its a list of stuff that inevitably gets done daily. It is in list-form so they could stop asking for a chore, and I could stop having to search for something helpful they could do.

"What's that?" you say... "they ask for a chore everyday?"

Yes, they do. And the reason for this is my next confession. They need to choose to do a "chore" before watching tv, or playing video games. The horror!! No seriously. This is terrible. This is does not sound like mutually respectful living at all. Or does it? Sometimes it's hard for me to tell.

Wow, what the heck happened to all my ideals?! I'll tell you what.

I had a son who was using screens for 6-8+ hours a day, sometimes video games, sometimes movies. How's that for a confession? Recognize the picture to the right? Mike TV, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.... was looking a little too familiar....

To put this into perspective, a lot of Radical Unschooling parents may not have considered this amount of screen time a problem. Most Radical Unschooling parents would consider the content and learning value of the screen activities. And to be honest, I did give a fair bit of consideration to that; a lot of learning happens using screens. But I also gave careful thought to the tummy aches, trouble sleeping, vocal ticks, and generally miserable spirit after a full-on, intense, screen-filled day. Combine that with a prevailing spirit of un-co-operation from both our little learners when it came to helping out. To satisfy our value of mutually respectful living our family had many a conversation about our concerns. Finally though, we felt we had to do the "parent" thing. UGH.

Together, us with our young ones, we drafted up some new agreements about screen time. Our motto has been to Put the Relationship First. The level of imbalance and the generally unco-operative spirit, when it came to helping out was not contributing to healthy family relationships. It was contributing to frustration, and constant, exhausting negotiations. 

So as a family, sitting very traditionally around the table, we drafted up an agreement that required a "chore" (I hate calling them that, but anyway) before screen activities. This felt terrible to me. It really did. I realize it would probably be all kinds of normal in a lot of families. But not in ours. Actually the new agreement felt pretty yucky to all of us. It was breaking old patterns, it was pushing us beyond Our Normal.

There was a Unified dragging of feet; AND we stuck with it.

We also agreed on a limit of 1.5 hours of screen time daily; then if another "chore" was done, a bonus half hour. Part of the process of drafting this agreement was brainstorming many agreements.

It was remembering the "house rules" of our childhood families.
It was remembering all the excessive responsibilities and requirements set by attending public school.
It was remembering the strained relationship I still have with my folks;
it was remembering that
Mutuality is still the goal.

A couple weeks in, an addendum happened. We realized content was a super important part of the recipe. Calm learning shows like Sesame Street wouldn't count as screen time. This was progress. Some days, learning shows, and calm shows satisfied the needs to chill. Kids were still happy and co-operative after those kinds of shows. Then a neat thing happened. After a couple of weeks of painfully sticking to the new agreement, a balancing occurred! 

It just happened.
Some days we are using screens a lot; other days not so much. 
We aren't watching the clock or setting timers as much.
The kids are asking to help out, and are having willing spirits.
We are still negotiating a lot; AND I think that's a great thing.
I think that means the relationship is alive and well, as is the respect.
Life is flowing.

Next confession. I have slowly, but surely, put us all on a Gluten-free diet. Why?
Because it's not normal to have tummy aches every time you eat. It's not normal to have diarrhea everyday. We're Gluten-free because I have Celiac disease, and it's genetic, and very real. Celiac disease destroys your bowels; and damaged bowels aren't going to absorb the nutrients needed to grow healthy bodies and brains.

Why is this even a confession? ***I ask with a sense of frustration... I think because of the reactions of people; it ranges from support, to shock, to pity, to the belief that my suffering is "all in my head." I've heard "I could never do that".... Not true. You can do it, if you want to; and especially if you need to.
I've heard "awe, your poor kids, don't they miss cake and goodies?" I've even heard "Your going to give your daughter an eating disorder." !! Can you even believe that?!

The truth is we plenty of really yummy food! We have cake, and goodies, pizza and ice cream, burgers and fries.... all the junk Nostalgia dictates is so vital to Childhood. So don't pity us, or worse yet judge us. Our diet is yummy and healthy. Our children aren't missing out on anything. I promise. AND they aren't going to get an eating disorder from our family eating Gluten-free! Remembering we highly value Respectful Living, our diet isn't something being Forced. They have the power to make choices; which is why on occasion they come home with enormous tummy aches.... listening to our bodies is just one more lesson to learn.

Last confessions.... (this list is getting rather long....)
I do worry about outcomes.
I occasionally look at workbooks, and curriculum.
Sometimes I compare our family to other families.
I EVEN mutter "grade-level" in a very quiet voice
when shopping in the "teachers resource" store. 
I feel an almost uncontrollable urge to try to "teach" my children to read as soon as they turn 6, rather than wait for them to be ready. 
I also feel compelled to give some form of instruction every time they pick up the guitar.
There. I think that's all of my secrets.
My husband wants to add Bragging to the list. (Isn't he cute?)
He means the bragging he does when we get a final summary of all the learning from the year.
He brags to the people who care about "report cards".

Monday, August 13, 2012

Unschooling at our Farmers Market

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmer's Markets

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by

Code Name: Mama and


This month our participants have written about something new they've learned about their local farmers.

As some of you know, I'm a potter. I opened up a studio last year... and as a result I have been attending more farmers markets this summer than any other year. (maybe 1-2 times a month) Of course, going as a vendor is a bit of a different experience... And it's been good for our whole family!

I remember the evening before our first market, we had a startling revelation that getting our whole family there was going to be no small feat. You see, we drive an hour and a half to the market!! With 3 very heavy totes full of pottery, 2 display tables, a shelf, and a large shade tent; add our 2 children, food for the day and a very active puppy, and WOW, that is one crazy morning!! We have to leave the house by around 7am, so we have plenty of time to drive over the mountain and around the lake.

So why sign up to doing that with our children?!

Because it's a really, really fun day together :) AND it's a day full of learning, which for us, as Natural Learners is a really big deal!

We have been a part of 3 different markets, but one of them is definitely our favorite. It has a really festive feel! There's live music, and hoopers, and stilts. There's bakers, and farmers, and jewelers, a lady who makes beautiful scarves, photographers and a lady who makes dog treats. It is RICH with things to look at and learn about; and RICH with people to learn from. This market is a major tourist destination; the last time we went, we met people visiting from Germany, Sweden, and Brazil, as well as the locals and some who were visiting from interior BC. Seriously, How cool is that?!

My daughter is an artist too; she couldn't even help it if she tried... she is so full of Creativity and Beauty and Talent, I can't even narrow it down and say "She is a Jeweler" or "She's a Dancer" or "She's a Musician" because she's not. She's an ARTIST! And she amazes me everyday. At markets she sells her jewelry, and she's started belly dancing at them also. She's had to learn about budgeting, and marketing and talking with people. She's gotten pretty comfortable visiting vendors, and asking them all about how they make what they do... she has discovered bartering and trades!

If we have successful day sales-wise, we visit a local who sells fresh caught CRAB!! YUM! We also visit and explore one of the beaches. It makes for a Beautiful day!

One of the other markets was only a 40 minute drive from where we live, but when we got there it was a completely different experience. This was mainly a FOOD market!! Beautiful produce, and soaps, baked goods, home made sauces and cheeses, and organic meat. Did I mention it was dumping down RAIN?! SO much rain.... but the locals were all there, on foot, and on bikes, pushing stollers, and clutching their umbrellas! Many of them brought their own baskets to fill. As I mentioned though, this was mainly a FOOD market, so we didn't do very well sales-wise. In fact, we didn't sell a single thing... I guess, handmade dishes aren't groceries? lol

That day we learned about putting a smile on in the rain, and just being there to meet people, both the shoppers and the vendors. Just enjoying the day, was a great lesson.... oh, and we learned which market to go to when we want some Great FOOD!

Market Days have become something we really look forward to as a family. I've started reflecting on what kinds of memories my children will bring with them into adulthood,
and I think these will be good ones.
Our rag-tag, gypsy family rolling out of bed 
already in our clothes for the day,
loading into the already packed-up van and dreamily trekking over the mountain... open to whatever adventures await us at the Market.

Feel free to check out my goodies at:



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • 10 Simple Ways to Make the Farmer's Market More Fun for Kids — Lorie at Reading Confetti shares ideas and books to help kids get the most from the farmers market experience.
  • 10 Things I Want To Teach My Daughter About The Importance of Shopping at the Farmer’s Market — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares the ten lessons she hopes to impart to her daughter about the importance of shopping at local farmers markets.
  • Charmed by Two Small Town Markets — Shannon at GrowingSlower was charmed by two small-town farmers markets while on vacation.
  • The Olympia Farmer's Market (and a giveaway!) — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes and family took a trip to their state capitol to experience a new market. See what they saw, and enter to win a book written about that very market.
  • — Exploring the farmers market by Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy writing at Natural Parents Network — with a scavenger hunt!
  • Exploring the Market ... Alphabet StyleThat Mama Gretchen is in the midst of creating a learning tool for her toddler and it's all about the market!
  • Unschooling at the Farmers Market — Megz at Aspen Mama loves building memories as a vendor at the Market.
  • Montessori-Inspired Vegetable Unit — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares links to Montessori-inspired vegetable printables and activities to help your family get the most out of a trip to the farmer’s market.
  • Markets — How sustainable mum has fitted a monthly farmers market into a weekly food shop.
  • The Farmers Market In Under An Hour ("Carl Style") — Andrea and family at Tales of Goodness adapt their farmers marketing approach to make everyone happy.
  • Tales Of a Troubled Gardener — Sam at Love Parenting writes about her dream of self-sufficiency and her lack of gardening skills!
  • A Few {Of The Many} Reasons Why I Love Our Farmer’s Market — Even though the experience can sometimes be less than peaceful, MomeeeZen shares why she enjoys taking her family to the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.
  • Experiencing the Farmer's Market from a Different Perspective — Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM had a great time letting her toddler lead the way at the farmer's market...
  • Ask A Farmer's Daughter — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter answers questions about her life growing up on a small family farm in New England.
  • Giving Up the Grocery Store — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her family's summertime challenge to eliminate trips to the grocery store and rely almost exclusively on local, farm-fresh foods.
  • Urban farming and fresh food in the city — Lauren at Hobo Mama takes trips to farms, gardens, and markets within reach of a big city.
  • Market Tip: Get to Know Your Farmers — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finally gets up the guts to talk to her farmers and learns she is among ardent food lovers.
  • New Farmer's Market Find — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is excited to make a new find at her new farmers market.
  • "The Real World" Grassroots Edition — jessica at instead of institution takes some time out to write a love note.
  • 9 Insider Tips for Farmer's Market Newbies — Dionna at Code Name: Mama chatted with a few farmers to bring you some insider information on how to get the most out of your local farmer's market.
  • The Place Where I Can Say "Yes!" — Erica at ChildOrganics gives you a tour of her favorite vendors at her local farmers market and discusses the benefits of creating community through the market.
  • Raw Local Milk — Jorje shares her family's field trip to a local dairy. Learn what you can appreciate from a small town farm at Momma
  • Italian Secret Vegetable Soup Recipe — Alinka at Baby Web convinces an Italian Farmer & Cook to reveal a precious minestrone recipe and shares it with her readers.
  • Where do our eggs come from? A visit to Sucellus Farms. — Carli at One Fit Mom takes her family to meet the chickens that have been providing their daily eggs.
  • Beyond the Farm — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and her family enjoy looking beyond the food at the local farmer's market to see the wares of the over vendors.
  • Magic at the Market — Do you ever take time to really look at the food you eat? Amy at Anktangle enjoys marveling at the beauty (and the utility) of the foods and goods available at the farmers' market.
  • Farmer's Market Discoveries — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen reminisces about the discoveries she's made at the Farmer's Market throughout the years.
  • Are You Getting the Most out of Your Farmers' Market? (My List of Not-So-Common "Musts") — Sheila at A Living Family shares some uncommon ways to squeeze even more joy and connection (and yumminess!) from your local farmers' market experience.
  • Pick Your Own And Eat It — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares their trip to a PYO farm and the journey from picking to eating her favourite food