the harder [we] work, the luckier [we] get

Car trouble rears its head again. Ralph’s had my vehicle for the week so the kids and I have been walking, bumming rides, and riding the bus. Today, two trips on the transit. Lots of drug addicts and alcoholics clearly still in active addiction, some people with problems either tacitly or obliquely advertised. A white man grim and silent and with that hard-eyed look and holding his two year old who stays equally silent. A young woman tiredly and loudly on the phone, begging / nagging the father of their child to assist in raising their child. She gets off at our stop and takes herself and the babe to the domestic violence shelter. My kids walk alongside me making up imaginary games and helping one another carry the big backpack full of books and binoculars and Pokemon accouterments they’ll put to use while I do some volunteer work.

But in general, we like riding the bus. I get a little nauseated, is all. I have to look out the window. The kids lean against me and we jostle gently through the streets I feel I’ve known forever.

On The Bus

Phee took her first “job” and started this week. She’d wanted to rejoin the swim team after a few years’ hiatus. We didn’t have the tuition, so she made a proposal to my mom for a work trade. Weekdays now Phee works at my mother’s here and there when she’s needed, then hits her swim practice. It seems to be a very satisfactory arrangement. Phee is getting that age she really can do quality work, and my mom is often overwhelmed by her home and garden and other responsibilities. I wish them both the best. I have a great deal of faith in my daughter and don’t meddle. Those things are probably related.

This evening as dusk falls Nels stays behind and waits for his father to get home and cook dinner. Phee and I catch an evening bus to get to the Y. My daughter asks, “Are you going to watch me swim?” and I say, “Every time.” She leans against me and kisses me. I decide I will be there no matter what. It’s easy enough to make this happen. It’s just a new thing I get to say Yes to.

On The Bus

In the pool she’s friends with every child and adult. The swim team is huge, three large sessions of kids. We’re in the earliest session of the evening, the beginner kids I think. There’s all that annoying sport parent stuff I won’t detail here. What matters to me is watching my daughter. She is a natural, friendly and walking up and down the lane, encouraging her team members and clapping for them, she knows their names already. She’s the most sportsmanlike child out there this week. I wonder if she’ll stay that way. I’m proud of her.

For a client, another SteamPunk Pika hat. I would make custom wool hats for a living if it could work out. Nels models:

Nels, Model

LOL at my kids in these pictures. Looking all grim and dystopian. Or is that merely my projection, as winter hit us hard all of a sudden?

A Little Gift Tag

Home and sewing and cleaning up and feeding animals. Baking a pie for a friend who celebrates a special milestone. Cold but we’ve heat and food and one another.

felicitations from the shore one last time

Sartorial awesomesauce.

Scrunchy

Nautical / Naughty

Farmer’s Market.

Tomatoes

Pho (from Olympia).

Pho

More horseplay.

Horseplay

Splish Splash

More Hamilton (photo by Phoenix).

Hamilton

Captain Surly.

Li'l Surly

Nels is angry. He couldn’t engage the boat into gear. He had to paddle back to the dock. Then, only a few minutes after this picture, a group of people in a Party Barge motored over to ask us about this boat (it’s a battery-operated duck-hunting boat I remember from the last 25 years – it’s probably from the 50s). They also admired Nels’ competency navigating the craft. So he was pleased as punch. Then a few minutes after THAT, while he motored around the throttle’s knob snapped while ON and he started jetting across the lake – and screaming for his life (I mean – he was quite terrorized). Before we could mount a rescue, he figured out how to disengage the motor, pulled his shit together, then paddled back. After docking he came inside and grabbed some food. When I asked him if he was shaken up by his equipment malfunction, all cocky-like said he would do the whole thing over again.

Packing up, today.

Packing Up

We had a lovely time. And it’s nice to be home, now.

derpy hooves

Swimming. Ralph loses sunglasses in lake, mounts a rescue mission.

Operation Sunglasses

Operation Sunglasses

Operation Sunglasses

Hutch continues to keep his priorities clear (shown with my mom’s dog, Tuck).

Hutch Takes A Break

A benefit of an unschooling life. You vacation any time. No one else is around. You can hang out in your underwear, like Phoenix here, outdoors in the sunlight. Or perhaps you can be a bit NAUGHTY & choose the practical ensemble of STARKERS NAKED with a dangerously oversize life vest (all photos of my children published with their permission, P.S.).

Phoenix Assists, #1

Phoenix Assists, #2

Phoenix Assists, #3

Phoenix Assists, #4

Phoenix Assists, #5

Phoenix Assists, #6

In other news, I still have SuperShero Hair.

Purple. Pimpin'.

at the lake we forget to count the days

Today right before we took our first boat trip two bald eagles flew above, just a few feet away, silent and majestic as shit. The two birds studiously ignored one another, leading me to think they might be fleeing from some kind of awkward liaison.

Out On The Lake

You want to know what I do on vacation? So far, sit on my ass. Inside. Watching movies. And eating pho that my husband so graciously picks up for me in Olympia. Yup, I got up to hardly anything else today.

I am suffering some sort of illness/depression hangover. I ain’t gonna lie. I’m grateful everyone else in the family seems to be doing just beautifully. The kids spent every minute outside, and I mean every minute; they’ve even been eating all their meals outside. And snorkeling, and boating, and fishing, and swimming, and all the things.

Our kitty Hamilton is with us. She was very ill a short time ago and we thought we could better keep an eye on her if we brought her along. She’s made amazing progress. Interestingly she was starving herself by not eating her dry cat food; we have her on wet cat food and raw meat and she’s much better. Please note her skinny haunches and distended stomach. She was looking at death’s door just a few days ago.

Hamilton, Feeling Better

Hutch’s first boat ride, probably ever. He was dismayed at first.

Hutch's First Boat Ride

Getting ready to swim, for the fourteenth time today:

Getting Ready to Swim

Evening. It is so peaceful here. There are very few people here off season. It’s the nicest time to visit.

Brother & Sister

Gloaming

stole my money, & my cigarettes

Before I forget. I wrote a piece about unschooling, and the many comments “skeptics” like to make. I hope you find it helpful.

***

Hot. Friends invited us to the River. Where we hid out. It was excellent.

Wynoochie River With Friends

Wynoochie River With Friends

Wynoochie River With Friends

NELS’ TEETH, I DIE EVERY TIME

A few pictures of a shy guy, my friend S. Whom I adore. My kids love him too. Kids are a good judge of a person.

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

RIVER-DOG

Hutch, GOOD DOG At The River

My mom’s birthday. I made her a custom pincushion and got her flowers; then set up a surprise movie/dinner date complete with SUPER-SURPRISE birthday visit from my brother and his lady. Anyway here are the presents:

Jenny's 63rd Birthday

Jenny's 63rd Birthday

The local florist in Hoquiam is wonderful. Lucky to have some great businesses here.

bodhi / bakery

Today, Phoenix walks into my arms after swimming.

“I reached Enlightenment. Like the Buddha.”

Then a second later she says:

“You’d better watch out.”

!!!

In celebration of Phee’s spiritual milestone I bought her a dozen cupcakes from Bonjour Cupcake in Olympia. Pretty special stuff.

Bonjour Cupcakes

***

So, I’m expanding my horizons a bit. Typically un-shy about unschooling here at this site, and on a Twitter account or two, in real life I keep it mellow. Actually, docile and resigned. But, but, but before you call me a milquetoast, I have my reasons. I swear! The thing is, around here most people hear “unschooling” and it’s their first exposure. And they have opinions and assumptions immediately. I am talking from the SECOND they hear the word. And even those who’ve heard the term or have seen a segment on TV or read an article (ahem), well, they have already made up their mind and diagnosed quite a bit about anything unschooling-related. And usually, when it comes to my family, incorrect or just plain bizarre diagnoses. The point is, I say “unschooling”, the other person starts talking. Blah blah opinion opinion. I’ve responded by shutting down because A. I’ve considered myself un-asked and B. it has been a bit exhausting to hear the same stuff from so many. I have been responding with conversational null and voids like, “Yeah, a lot of people have that concern.”

I thought I was being gentle and kind and open – but I realize, despite positive intentions, I’ve been a bit passive.

Over the last few days I’ve been mulling a few things over (unusual for me, as I usually jump to my own KrazyBrain conclusions pretty quick!). At the Life is Good Unschooling Conference Ralph and I had the pleasure – amongst many pleasures – of listening into to Jeff Sabo’s talk, “In Defense of Unschooling”. The presentation was, essentially, one hour discussing common responses we get from people when we say the “U” word (and yeah, every response?  I was familiar with it), and suggestions for how to deal with these responses, depending on our mood and the situation. I’ve been thinking over Jeff’s suggestions quite a bit.

So, long story short, I’ve decided to be more assertive. More active in the conversation and more “out” as an unschooling family. If someone asks why my kids aren’t in school, I now say “we unschool” (instead of ” we homeschool”). If someone asks what unschooling is, I’ve stopped saying, “Oh, it’s a type of homeschooling.” The reasons I said these things were, mostly, it framed things nicely for the other party. Then I got to listen, or not, to the ‘splaining headed my way.

These days, when asked, I tell them a bit more.

“Unschooling means different things to different people. For us, it’s a parenting practice based on the indisputable truth kids are learning all the time, and the belief they shouldn’t be segregated from normal life. Our kids have better opportunities than sitting most of the day, memorizing and then regurgitating facts for tests. We’re also not interested in forcing them into the many social problems in institutional school environments.”

Or some such.

So based on the kinds of things I do say now, I had a lovely interaction with a homeschooling mom today at the YMCA, while our kids swam. Nothing went tits up and I felt more a part of, and less a lady that sits on the bench and texts and smiles at people and is “polite”. And in case you’re wondering, after I got my little “pitch” up there out of the way, we spent most the conversation talking about her experience and her concerns. She told me she receives a lot of criticism for homeschooling. And I listened to some of that criticism and offered up – what I hope was – supportive feedback.

Tangentially, much later in the evening a friend told me, “I was surprised when I heard that you ‘unschooled’ your kids… because when I got in the car the first time I met them they were using words I hadn’t learned until I was seventeen”. I love hearing stuff like that. And tonight I was thinking, Why? Why do I love hearing that kind of thing?

Yes, part of it is: it’s nice to know your children are thriving in some way. But I no longer need my kids to sound smart for my own vicarious virtue (since first-off “smart” is overrated, and second what other people think of my kids is none of my business). I also no longer need to be constantly self-soothing I’m doing the Best Right Perfect Thing at all times – because today I know I’m flexible and can change strategy if I need to. No, when it comes down to it, I guess hearing my friend’s mind being blown (or at least opening a bit) is pretty cool. Maybe one of the cooler interactions that happen between people, on whatever end of the conversation you find yourself.

And I guess I feel a lot of gratitude and a lot of gladness that my family and I have had such a full and rich life. My kids haven’t had to go through the kind of drudgery I had to. They aren’t learning to be praise-addicted as I did. They are more active participants and authors in their own lives. My children aren’t alien to me, or problems to be managed, or irritations to be herded, or products for me to inject my own hopes and dreams into. They don’t have to waste their time doing what other people want. They can waste their time or spend it wisely as they see fit, unencumbered. They are free to learn. I am truly grateful.

And like, when a friend sees this going down for our family, and sees that it works? He’s all the more free to make that choice for his own children, should the opportunity arise.

Yeah. That’s worth speaking up a bit.

we’ve kept our hoofsies warm at home, time off of work to play

My cold is pretty nasty, as it turns out. Woozy, sore throat, headache, congestion – even nausea! I’m missing the jug of codeine cough syrup I once spent a few months pulling off (it really was necessary, I had this odd cough that didn’t go away for a long time, weird). I’m in a fair amount of physical discomfort, as well as the emotional and mental discomfort of not having my body at Standard Operating Functionality.

Ralph worked hard over the conference and at home, and today was no exception. I think he mowed our lawn and my mom’s, and I know he did laundry and made a wonderful dinner (deep-fried asparagus, fresh fruit salad, and gnocci with lemon, spinach and fresh peas!) while for the middle part of the day I stayed shut in and watched several episodes of “The Vampire Diaries”. Look, it’s no “Teen Wolf” but close. I owe my brother’s lady J. an apology as I believe I scoffed at the concept and here I am eating it up like the gooey handfuls of mental Fiddle Faddle  it is.

I am aching to clean house, and more than that, to sew. I did drag myself to the kids’ swim because I love watching them. After each exercise in the pool Nels would pop out of the water and stick his arm up with the thumbs-up and his smile, with his teeth a hot mess of Adorable. It was fun times.

I am feeling more strengthened than ever in some thoughts and shifts regarding parenting and unschooling. Ralph and I talked about this and we both feel the same. When I feel better, I am going to write a bit about that. It was – inspiring. I’m so used to being around non-unschoolers and it makes a big difference to talk with others who do our weird fringe normalcy.

It’s late and it’s time for bed. Patience, hot tea and hot baths, and hopefully I will feel better soon.

 

“I’m starting to get the hang of this” – Phoenix Fire Hogaboom

#LiG2012 Parking Garage

Yeah, you shouldn’t go to an Unschooling conference. Unless you want your kids to have a wonderful time. You know to the point where my two are getting ready for bed and telling me they’re worried they’ll wake up tomorrow and find this was all a dream.

Phoenix and Nels are owning it LIKE A BOSS. Minecraft, Legos, swimming, playing outside, tag, board games (including made-up rules as the game literature was all in Spanish).  This is all in a few hours. I even got a (small) Recovery meeting. Good stuff!

It's ON at #LiG2012

Phoenix is part of a Fairy Godparent program, in other words she gets. She came up a bit ago sporting the Best Chocolate Bar I’ve ever tasted. We were all peeing our pants a little over it. It was a pretty sweet way to end our evening.

Best Candybar Ever?

And now, some high-quality kid-snuggling and rinsing out the chlorine from my hair. A big day tomorrow!

the seal of melancholy on me from the beginning

Swimming, Lake Aberdeen:

Defiance

Defiance.

Phee

Weasel-belly

Giggles

Freckle-hiding

This evening: off on the bike to the Treatment Center. It was beautiful out and it felt wonderful to bike. I had the most oppressive and dramatic soundtrack in my earbuds. Perfect.

#bike #positiveday

East Campus

Tonight: friends let us borrow a telescope, I’m pretty sure because they knew how much my son is into planets, the solar system, the universe. Exhausted after biking, working, and yoga, I’m inside reading while Ralph fools outside with the scope. Nels finds Mars and with the help of an app they locate Saturn. Ralph tells me you can see the rings on Saturn. The rings? What the fuck. I wrap myself up against the cold and out to the backyard where the telescope is set up. And I look. And I am stunned.

My son even more so. “Mama… it’s my dream. My dream came true. Please no one wake me. The best dream of my life!” My son is in tears.

I look again. I can’t believe it. It is so small yet precise, so incredibly beautiful, clear and crisp. You know we had an eclipse a while back and I knew it was up there and somehow I never looked up once, not all night. I don’t know what was wrong with me then. But tonight I’m crushed flat and I’m amazed and I won’t take things for granted as much as I did before.

a life in the day

Swim Date, Goggles At The Ready

The sun comes out again today but I’m still managing to have a frustrating morning. Things haven’t been going my way just lately, as I mentioned. So now at 11:30 I’m trying to make lunch for the kids. I haven’t eaten yet and I’m going to be late to my meeting. I’m in the middle of shouting instructions to the children (set the table, et cetera) and then my mom walks in my house. Uninvited. I’m terse with her and she leaves, then I snap at my son, who is wailing about something or other not going his way. After I snap at him he really sets up protesting.

I calm down.

I go to the living room, hug my son, apologize. I take a deep breath and call my mom up and she apologizes for walking in, says she knows I don’t like that. She and I talk over some details with some kid-date stuff and I hang up. At this point I’m resigned to being late to my meeting – it’s only a little late, anyway, and I could benefit if I’d get over being tense about this kind of thing, especially as long as I have dependents in the home who have needs too (after ten years you’d think I’d have learned this!). So I relax, set the food out, ask the kids if they want to come with me or stay home. They elect to stay, and while I’m gone they clean up the living room, sweep, put away the dishes, and pack their swim gear. Seriously. What the hell was I tense about?

I make my meeting and sit sipping coffee, grateful for the sunshine and an hour’s respite. Back home I grab a coffee the kids jump in the car, off for swimming after a quick cupcake snack (above). I run my errands and finally get my own lunch before heading back to the pool. Even though they’ve been there a while and I’m worried they’re very hungry, they’re not ready to get out. My daughter thinks I’m making them disembark and she’s sore at me. She lets me take a picture of her.

Swimming. Also, @phoenixhogaboom Is Pissed At Me

So I let the kids be and Ralph brings them home on his way for work. The children are (finally) famished. Grandma buys them a hamburger and they drink the last of the orange soda Emily brought the other day, reading their comics at the dining room table. Then the friends start over, the friends who’d been knocking all afternoon as soon as they were out of school. The kids, finished with dinner, hop up and they’ve grabbed the Flip camera and they’re filming, culminating in a trip to the train tracks to play a version of Bloody Mary. I finish a sewing project and put my feet up as dusk falls. I feel the end-of-day endorphins, or whatever, start to flow through  my body. A long day of yoga, housework, kidcare, writing, a meeting, helping friends, phone calls, haciendo planes, crafting. Now my bones ache for a hot bath and clean pajamas and snuggling up to the kids before bedtime.

Yeah. It ended up being a pretty good day.

Ribbons