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Moving Day

Just a quick note to let you know that I have a new blog address.

http://www.thoughtsinterrupted.net

Hope to see you over there!

Revision

Not sure if you ever do this, but when I decide I’m going to revise some facet of my life, I have a really hard time staying focused on the predefined responsiblity in the meantime. In today’s terms, I’ve decided that I’m going to update my blog and give it an address all its own.

The I in this scenario would better be stated as we…seeing that without my better half and his ability to master all things technological, this facelift would not be occurring. I have big and small ideas for my new virtual home, but mostly am just ready for a clean slate. There’s something beautiful about revision. In college I rearranged my dorm furniture about every two months. Is it possible to love revising while also loathing change? It must be.

All that to say, I’ve thought about posting countless times. But then, I stop myself – figuring that each of these virtual contemplations would be better suited for the new blog. And time ticks on. 

 

Plan B

Today we were supposed to head north for the day to take in one of our favorite spots. It’s a magical place for us. There are tide pools filled with sea stars, tall Eucalyptus groves and miles of ocean bluffs to explore.  

Hailey hasn’t been there yet and it seemed as though this holiday was the perfect opportunity. Then, Phil’s throat started feeling funny. Prudence told us to stick to a more basic plan. And so, with a few tears behind us, we loaded up the car with simple snacks and explored a familiar path closer to home.

With kids comes the need to be flexible – to live it ourselves with the hope of modeling it for them. Sometimes this feels incredibly difficult. Other times, the beauty remains in tact. 

 

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The Bookshelf

I put myself on blog restriction a few weeks back; turns out this is a great way to get through paid work efficiently. With a mostly cleared out inbox I’m ready to resurface on the virtual front.  

My nightstand has a fairly neat stack of titles that continue to deplete my Post-It Tabs. It turns out that I’m just not a one-at-a-time book sort of lady. I’m okay with this. At moments I do question my behavior from the standpoint of  personal cohesion. Then I move on (and find something else to read). 

That as the backdrop, here’s some present day favorites.

 

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun  By, Gretchen Rubin

This one caught my attention right away. Rubin is a professional writer, a wife and a mother of two girls whose age span mirrors the H’s. She has no intention of pulling an Eat, Love, Pray on her family (which I appreciate) but also recognizes the merit in searching one’s soul and taking intentional steps towards a happier existence. Some nights my attention has waned, but generally speaking her ideas have challenged my own and left me with some solid takeaways (like committing to a 10:00 bedtime and pursuing the end of designing a new blog). 

One Thousand Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Where You Are  By, Ann Voskamp

Within the first few pages, I found myself taken by Ann’s craft; her transparency borders on unsettling, yet dares to move through the realm of grief and hope in ways I’ve never encountered before.  

National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, 6th Edition

Last month I came up with an idea. It was birthed out of my desire to leverage the lifestyle benefits of teaching the girls from home. Like any decision, it can become easy with homeschooling to focus on what makes that commitment challenging. I don’t want to chose that path.

Enter, the National Parks book. With a bit of research I learned that there’s 58 of them. Here’s my thought – how amazing would it be to see all of them as a family before we send Hannah to college! I figure we can circle back to some favorites with the littlest once her sister is gone.

Phil’s on board with only slight hesitation based on his deep appreciation for his goal-oriented, deadline-driven wife. He did make me promise that the Virgin Islands would be our 58th destination. I agreed.  We’re starting this spring with Yosemite and Sequoia. This summer we’re planning to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I find myself floating somewhere between giddy, sentimental and totally fixated on how we’ll pull this off. 

 

Jayber Crow  By, Wendell Berry

Oh Jayber. This insightful and steady barber feels a bit like an old friend. I’ve found my pace for reading Berry’s novel to match that of his protagonist. Still, its story continues to resonate and challenge me. And so, I keep going. A few weeks back I found a quote that I fully intend to site in my own book someday.

“That grief should come and bring joy with it was not something I felt able, or even called upon, to sort out or understand. I accepted the grief. I accepted the joy. I accepted that they came to me out of the same world.”

 In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed  By, Carl Honore

I haven’t actually started this one. I checked it out from the library on the recommendation of my new friend Ann. Ann and I often find ourselves talking on the patio at church since neither of us have tapped into nursery care. The more I learn about Ann, the more I like her; she’s artistic, deep thinking and incredibly hospitable.  

She and her husband invited us over for dinner last weekend. It was one of those balmy January days where you’re tempted to call your friends who live in Colorado and casually bring up the weather.

They served up a grilled cheese bar on their barbecue. Imagine a nice loaf of sourdough with olive oil on hand to spray each slice of bread. There were various cheeses lining a wooden cutting board along with a plate of possibilities to add including but not limited to pesto, spicy mustard, fresh basil, tomato, avocado and prosciutto.

I kept my eyes out for a staff photographer from Sunset to show up.  Okay, not really. But in all seriousness, it was just such a nice evening as families that teetered harmoniously between comfortablity and class.

While this has very little to do with the book’s content, I’ll leave you with this; how could I not enjoy a read that was recommended from a woman who served kale chips right alongside bacon wrapped dates as appetizers for this fresh evening meal?

Good Memoirs

“Most good memoirs turn out not to be about the memoirist at all. But always, the reader becomes a stand-in for the I, and the life of the I becomes the life of the reader, so no matter who is speaking, the successful true story is always the reader’s story on some level.”

- Bill Roorbach, Writing Life Stories

Field Trip Hangover

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We had a great time at the LA Zoo yesterday with Nana; we spent the better part of four hours exploring the grounds and meeting all sorts of interesting creatures. Although you wouldn’t know it from my pictures, we did see animals far more exotic (although not necessarily cuter) than meerkats and prairie dogs.

The littlest mastered saying “zoo” just in time and proclaimed this three-letter word with great inflection throughout our day. She also fell deeply in love with the paper map and was passionately opposed to her big sister borrowing it for even a moment; thankfully, we had two.

I’ve found that the day after field trips I often have a less than motivated student on my hands. Mostly, I’ve concluded that this is a result of the aforementioned pupil running her legs off the day before. Still, I struggle to not take this behavior personally at times – believing that somehow my seven year-old’s appreciation ought to translate into direct enthusiasm for mastering grammar the following morning.

Regardless, we made it through and as always found happiness in several good books (once the subtraction part was over). My parenting conclusions of the day are as follows:

1. I need to expect that some days Hannah will complain about her school work. While I would love to believe that my child would be forever grateful for all my efforts, that is of course not reality. Accepting this keeps me from being internally shocked and undone when we face one of those days.

Having said this, I’d also add that accepting this doesn’t mean I need to tolerate the heavy sighs, eye rolling or flopping one’s body on the ground. Today she had the opportunity to spend a bit more time on her own, considering whether or not such outward expressions move her any closer to having her work completed.

2. I have a people-pleasing perfectionist on my hands. This poses some interesting challenges within our educational and behavioral environments. This past weekend Phil and I were able to attend a screening of A Race to Nowhere. This only further solidified my desire to help equip Hannah to set realistic standards for herself and to learn how to work through those inevitable bumps she’ll hit along the way. 

Today we spent a fair amount of time talking through the idea that in life we will make mistakes and we will at times intentionally make a bad choice. We talked about there being a fork in this road – how some people choose to let these moments swallow them up. 

Then we talked about another route – the one that involves both remorse and grace. Here one owns up to the mistake or choice and then decidedly moves toward the best resolve possible, because often there is something that can be done to at least partially rectify the situation. I used smaller words of course; I also used Crocs as props to demonstrate the proverbial fork.

There were tears, some fidgeting and several quiet declarations of just how hot she was feeling; that’s all part of these discussions, at least in our house. Still, I think this day – zoo hangover and all – left us a bit more educated not only in the realm of pronouns and word problems but also in the area of  life.

 

We’ve been on the homeschooling path for nearly five months now. We took our winter break last week and are back at it. I intended to write my first term summary last week. Instead I spent my best blogging hours coughing. So now, in no particular order, here are my thoughts for this evening.

1. Color coded spreadsheets designed to order your entire life as a homeschooling family look really, really great! I made one, put it in a sheet protector in my master binder and referred to it for approximately four days.  My littlest rapidly set me straight on this one.

2. Having said this, I would add that a well-defined plan is in fact critical for a person like me. I just have to add a large dose of flexibility to the mix each day as well.

3. As parents our natural inclinations and giftedness lead us in how and what we teach our children. I do best when I lean into this truth and work literature and words into every subject possible. I can also rapidly lose sight of this outlook and panic when I stare down the pages of  third grade math and realize that I will be educating myself as I teach my daughter…at least the first one.

   

4. I have a new love for Friends of the Library bookstores. They are an amazing resource for good quality used books. I’ve procured spotless Usborne titles, some great classics that I’ve identified in my books about books and a good showing of the American Girl series. I’ve never spent more than $2.00 on a single item. This can still add up if you walk off with 18 books. Next time I’ll take a ten-dollar bill and leave my checkbook in the car.

5. Snacks continue to be a very important part of our school day – the fancier the presentation, the happier the child.

6. Like so many aspects of life, the homeschooling crowd can tend to be an internally polarized bunch. It reminds me of my first years of motherhood when I dabbled in the various camps  – the natural vs medicated birth folks, breast-feeding verses bottle feeding ladies, stay-at-home vs working mothers – you get the idea. These topics are difficult and can in their worst moments start feeling like a bad religion. 

Now, enter the land of the proverbial jean jumper connoisseurs. There are those of us who are fiercely opposed to charter programs and others of us who see great value in them. One group thinks it is close to a crime to teach your child to read before they are at least seven or eight. The other side, encourages early exposure and swears by their results. There are those who live by boxed curriculum and others who abhor it. There are those who lead very traditional and conservative lives and others who seem better suited for life in a VW Vanagon.

I’m still finding my place. Another time I plan to explore the seemingly unrelated topic of being a vegetarian who is  coming to terms with the fact that I love bacon. Somehow I think my own journey of  living within such paradoxes could help me to forge positive relationships with the various subsets. We’ll see.

6a. I say all of this and would also immediately add that homeschooling families are incredibly creative, gracious and resourceful people. I have been given invaluable counsel, practical tools and even an inside view into several families’ homes as I put my own school house together. There is tremendous opportunity to collaborate and for that I am incredibly grateful.

7. The littlest is very industrious these days! She continually seeks out jobs and wants so much to be a part of things – big girl things, please! As she continues to nudge her way into the school house by way of exploring math manipulatives, coloring and looking at books, I want to welcome her with thought, patience and grace. While eating the crayons she was just moments ago drawing with or tossing the counting beans across the table feels disruptive and annoying, I am trying to remind myself that she is a real, live toddler – not a seven year-old. 

8. Outsourcing is a fabulous strategy. Most recently, I signed Hannah up for an art class taught by a woman who is herself an artist with a background in the Social Sciences. She is clearly gifted and passionate about what she does. My talents happen to fall in different areas. How thankful I am for these outside opportunities. I’m keeping my eyes out for a fun and brilliant math-inclined individual. The person I have in mind happens to be out of the country for the next four years.

9. It is okay to turn your kids loose on some school work while you attend other matters – like retrieving your toddler from the kitchen island or even grabbing a cup of tea. In our case independent work has built confidence, creativity and internal drive and oftentimes produces work beyond what would have occurred had I been standing over her. 

10. I have fallen in love with children’s chapter books and I’m also pretty sure I could never write one. Recent favorites include Caddie Woodlawn, Sarah Plain and Tall, Addy: American Girl Series,  George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans and Little House on Rocky Ridge.

10. By stepping outside of the norm, I need to accept that I get to explain myself and my daughter a lot. Presently, I’m working on refining my 5 second, 5 minute and more lengthy conversation points for why we decided to do this. On good days I see the encounters with our pastor, the mailman, the Trader Joes clerk, the acupuncturist as opportunities to share one of the many options available to our children. On my not so great days my emotional posture exudes something entirely different. 

11. As I look back over the past five months, I’m mostly encouraged and also pretty tired. I’ve learned a bit more about what I can and can’t do. I’d be toast without grandparents. We’ve relaxed into a flexible routine and our plan is to wrap things up by late June. I’ve come to see the value of taking time off through our not-long-enough winter break. I have since revised our schedule and our content so that we can enjoy a traditionally long summer. We all need it and I see this now. I would have never imagined this is where I’d be and yet it somehow feels entirely right for this season.

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