Ennui

“‘vagina’ originates from a word meaning sheath for a sword. Ain’t got no vagina.”

Big news. Or if not, it should be. In the latest on the WAR ON WOMEN, Rep Lisa Brown (D Michigan) asks, “If I can’t say the word ‘vagina’, why are we legislating vaginas??” Good question. P.S. if you missed #VaginaMovieLines I feel sorry for you.

Some thoughts on Public School on your Own Terms, from Sandra Dodd’s site

Fun with stock footage, a search authored by my brother’s lady J.

Pictures of a ridiculously cute baby elephant enjoying time at the beach

In more, Kelly-Hogaboom-likes-to-talk-for-her-own-benefit, I wrote a movie review on a classic. If you’ve seen the film recently, I’d love your feedback.

A good video on weight bigotry.

J Smooth & Gwyneth:

 
 
And finally, in light of the abovementioned VAGINA HIJINX, (or #VAGININX as I shall forever hashtag) a favorite scene from a much-enjoyed film:

 
 
A cartoon sent me, from my sister:

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.

 

obligatory drama quotient

Pre-Teen Girl Eats Crepe #LiG2012
Phee enjoys a crepe, and one last park playdate.

We are still debating why things went wrong this morning. My son Nels is convinced it’s because he expressed a desire to give up life in Hoquiam and live in Vancouver – and yes we told him downtown Vancouver is usually NOT full of awesome unschooling kiddos and 100% fun, but he still said, “I have a better life here, and I’m staying.” When things went tits-up a little bit later he really really did believe it was his wish that queered the deal. Poor little guy.

But I thought maybe it was my own hubris. I had taken pride in holding my shit together in a most active and action-packed vacation, the most intense six days I’ve had in some time. I had spent five days eating and resting and doing yoga and Recovery. I’d breathed-deep as much as possible and thought I was behaving like a pretty good wife and mother and human being (MOST of the time). And this morning I prayed for God’s will to be done in my life as I do every morning I remember, even though I was very tired and starting to get sick (some virus from some body). And I thought as the luggage cart nicely packed all our stuff into the car by a courteous and friendly hotel staffer (all the staff were wonderful), and our loving children happily said goodbye to the wonderful time they’d had, with no tears and only good cheer, so anyway I thought: “Wow, things worked out so well. I’m proud of myself and of my family.”

SO less than one half hour after I had this thought we ended up stranded in BFE Sad-Sack Vancouver with a broken-down Prius and a trunk stuffed full of six days worth of our life and, for me, by this time, the largest desire EVER to get home for a variety of reasons (and some anxiety about my friend’s car, as she’s not in a position to have drama either). After a few conversations with our friend and weighing a few options, we elected to tow the vehicle back to Grays Harbor and ride along. If you haven’t read my Twitterfeed (spoiler alert!), go ahead and estimate how much this cost, which was as practical as any alternative, but not cheap. Our friend wants to pay the bill for the car-towing but I think we should split it, given our family is the reason the car was so far afield and she’s gonna have to have it repaired anyway and that just suuuuucks.  I probably shouldn’t think about it too much until I’ve rested and healed.

I am very glad to be home. And I’m grateful to our friend who loaned us the car to save on gas, and have a vacation-car. And you know what, we didn’t save money but in a way the intent came true. The Prius got great gas milage on the back of that big tow truck, and the ride home was fun, even though I was so so tired by then, have I mentioned?

Speaking of. Friendship, that is. The conference is over and we are now home. The conference was for me and my children, a life-changer (perhaps for Ralph too – you’ll have to ask). Now as far as I know, I have thanked each friend who has helped us in getting to this event. My thanks is deep and sincere and I am still swimming in gratitude. But I want to tell you: if you have any affection for my children, know that you did a wonderful, wonderful thing by helping us. This morning Phoenix said, “I can’t thank you enough for getting us to this conference.”

So, thank you. Truly once-in-a-lifetime and truly fabulous.

And now? A hot bath and an attempt at rest, before this throat-tickle turns into something ghastly.

 

rise and shine, sleepyheads!

Our last full day at the conference. Morning:

Another Morning At #LiG2012!

Afternoon:

Tigress #LiG2012

Having just listened to Ronnie Maier’s talk, “Leveling Up: Advancing Your Unschooling”, and then Mary Gold’s closing remarks, Ralph and I picked up coffee right across the street at the (semi-)new Torque (small world, our housesitter knows one of the employees). Now Ralph’s off to do a last bit of laundry and grab a movie for this evening, and I’m about to go to a meeting. Tonight my brother and his girlfriend are coming up to visit and we’re going out to dinner. It’s our last night in the hotel, and tomorrow we have a picnic with the Life is Good attendees remaining.

You know I haven’t taken any pictures that indicate the volume of people, and the level of energy at this thing. A picture couldn’t encompass it anyway. But I’m guessing others have made a few films and those will pop up online and I can link to them later. A few minutes ago I cornered Mary Gold, the conference organizer, and thanked her for a wonderful time. Then we told her we’d tell all our friends about it. I have this wee dream of getting a schooling family to go and check it out. I have another dream to do a double-hustle and raise funds for next year so our family could go, and we could also send another family, preferably one who couldn’t afford to attend otherwise and/or a family of color.

But these plans and shenanigans can wait. For now, it’s time to rest and take care of myself a bit on the last leg of our journey. We’re still having a wonderful time.

to be loved means to be recognized as existing

I gotta talk about something important to me, and that is: my drinking. Or no wait, my non-drinking. My life in sobriety, a life without self-medication. And how it’s important to me and how, even if others don’t understand, it has everything to do with this current challenge: the most sensory-saturated, busiest, most (potentially) frenetic and active vacation my family has ever, ever taken. Hands-down.

I gotta talk it out because it’s how I stay sane and maybe, just maybe, it will help someone else to read.

Look, in my former life this conference would have driven me to drink. Not because it’s bad, but precisely because it’s mostly a whole lotta good. It’s exciting. There are literally a hundred things to do in just a few days. There are kids, mine and others, having a great time but also needing some TLC. There are smiles and laughs and more people to meet than one could possible remember. There are hundreds of things to buy and there’s three meals a day (ish) to find. There’s swimming and park playdates and walks and hot baths and hotel room straightening out and keeping track of clothes and phones and computers et cetera et cetera.

So this is all wonderful. No doubt. And yet there are potentially very dark sides to all this. First, I’m surrounded by people, and in most my life I am very used to having my own space on a daily basis, day in and day out. This is a huge, huge difference from my typical day. Second, I’m meeting new people (some of whom knew me or had internet-acquaintance with me) and this carries all sorts of potential awkwardness or weirdness – the potential for one or the other party to feel snubbed or out of sorts or hurt or betrayed. The potential for me to disappoint those who thought they might like me, but change their mind once they met the real thing. (In fact just tonight I was remembering another IRL meetup from several years ago… one that went in a most socially-disastrous fashion and resulted in more drama than I was able to gracefully handle.)  To my surprise, a handful of people here have known me or known my writings (or in rare occasions, my reputation!) and introduced themselves, and I often am at a disadvantage, given my blog and Twitterfeed (et cetera) all carry my somewhat memorable name. And this isn’t exactly the kind of environment that lends itself to an intimate cup of tea with each one of these individuals. Um, at all.

Now I can tell you in my previous life I would have been a wreck. Yes, had fun – but been a wreck, and by turns. Desirous to be liked, trying to cram everything into this experience. Needing my kids to behave and to therefore “prove” my good parenting (this is not a character trait I’m proud of). I would have been nervous and hoping to make a good impression. I would have been trying to people-please. I would have been judging other parents and children and I would have made sarcastic remarks to my husband, likely in earshot of my children. I would have overthought and over-engineered and stressed over the class I signed up to teach – and likely the class my daughter signed up to teach, too. Another small but significant example: I would have been very embarrassed when I got myself and my daughter and a luggage cart caught in the swanky revolving doors, in front of a few dozen people. Instead it was just funny. Because yes, I am a Dumb-Ass.

Yeah. Another one. I would not have listened to other people very well. I would have tried, but it would have been like static in my ears.

And I would have had a drink in the evenings. Or more than one. Every night. To calm my nerves. To relax. Whatever. In my case: like so many people and like all active alcoholics/addicts, I want what I want when I want it. And for some time before Recovery, I demanded chemical peace of mind. Yeah, sure, I didn’t think of it that way – who would want to? – just as I didn’t think myself a people-pleaser, I thought myself above those kinds of servile traits or supposed weakenesses. Et cetera. Yeah, I was in denial. But I was also ill, and coping the best I could with what I had.

As it is, though, today, I am quite a bit less ill. I am quite a bit happier, sure, but more importantly I have a serenity that passes at least this human being’s understanding. This serenity has carried me through so much in the last year, but especially now, what otherwise would have been an overwhelming experience (more than one grownup has admitted to having a crying jag at this conference).

I am rather tired, so hopefully I can articulate something important to me before I sign off. I could not be where I am today without the help and support of so many people, some who read here now. Financial and emotional support made this conference a reality, and my family is forming memories and learning skills that are going to bless us and help us the rest of our lives. The support and kindnesses of friends and family and those in Recovery have sustained me and grown the good parts of me this last year. Like I’ve joked before, if you like me now, you might not have liked me then. If you don’t like me now, you really wouldn’t have liked me then.

And finally: I don’t need to be liked by anyone in particular, nor to hear my progress report especially, because I like myself and in general my progress is self-evident. Heck, I have no control over how much others like me and I never did, although I used to backwards-somersault myself in order to be liked (with some success, probably). More than increasing my good experiences or the loving people in my life, my hope for my future is that I don’t abandon myself, because if I do I am little help to others. I am unskillful and unkind.

People come and go, but I will live with myself the rest of my life. Still, I never want to stop saying: I am so grateful for friends, family, and the kindness of strangers.

It’s meant a great deal to me.

I AM ENJOYING THE HELL OUTTA THIS DOUGHNUT RIGHT NOW

From VooDoo.

THAT JUST HAPPENED, @cidlough Brings Me A Bacon-Topped Doughnut From VooDoo

Brought to me by a be-Twittered mama here at Life is Good. How awesome is that?!

Just finished teaching people how to sew on a button. I had three and a half students, plus several adorable kids wanting to snatch buttons for this or that. We all had a great time. Now, off to find a Recovery meeting. Then: helping the photographer at the Better-Than-Prom Extravaganza!

Peace out.

the room is spinning, because of all the radsauce

#Awesomesauce At #LiG2012

 One of the many mamas here, being awesome.

Listen. It is SO WEIRD to be in a public space with public kids, where the kids are free to do their thing. I’ts like free-range Hogakids but, EVERYWHERE and LOTS of them. I hardly have words. It’s like a different planet from the one I’ve been used to. Kids go where they need to go and even in a big hotel with tons of rooms, the children, even rather tiny ones, don’t get lost. Everyone is smiling and helping one another and I haven’t seen a fight. Today Ralph overheard a five, fourteen, and sixteen year old talking about whether the term “midget” was offensive (the five year old initiated the discussion because he said it was, and although he could barely pronounce the word “offensive” the conversation proceeded with civility and aplomb). People of all ages getting along doing exactly what they want to do.

I mean I’ve seen some crabby parents speak rudely – one rather terrifyingly so – and I’ve seen some kid meltdowns but, things are entirely different. Just one example. You’ve heard me complain about the #HQX YMCA and the weird pool rules? The hotel pool rules here are not regarded but it’s still a respectful, fun place. More fun than the Y, even though the Y has a larger pool. Kids are doing cannonball jumps and flips and tiny kids get in the hot tub and no one dies. Heck, our family can see the pool across the roof from our room (and our kids average swimming twice a day), and all is smiles until late into the evening.

It’s busy and the normal chaos happens. Some kids (and adults) lose track of their items, but other people find these items and leave them at the Lost & Found Table. Some kids don’t clean up after themselves and don’t have an adult with them to assist, after (Phoenix taught a class today, but she and Ralph and I made sure to clean up – still, not everyone is able or willing to do so, so volunteers do their part). Some parents/carers have small children and are clearly a bit overwhelmed at times, but this is about the most tolerant and loving place for something like that to happen. The sheer amount of NON-GLARING at children for being kids, is incredible!   Babies are breastfed and worn and allowed to toddler around. People are courteous to one another, to a degree I’ve not seen in a public space. It’s really incredible.

It’s not a utopia. People are people, and some are crabby and/or are having a bad day. I know there are shennanigans and I know there’s drama. Besides the meltdowns (which are, again, a lot less than you typically see in a large crowd) there’s the same ol’ darkness that plagues the human race. Today I heard a few moms talk about how much they drank the night before; one of them said her son complained about it. (And speaking of which, yeah I’m finding a Recovery meeting daily while I’m here, kthx!)

But really, it’s incredible. My kids have been swimming and playing and swimming and eating and cleaning up and doing art and teaching classes – all day.

#LiG2012 Various Art Projects

A note for Phee from her “Fairy Godparent”, plus a vajazzled tampon 

Lunch!

Lunch today, Greek. All four of us had a wonderful time.

Phoenix ate a lentil soup and Nels pwned a large chicken gyro.

Good times. Now? Time for bed!

“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!