Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm making my husband come home...

We live in an old house. Built in 1880 in the middle of nowhere. I believe the house down the street is famous for refusing George Washington refuge one night. The cellar here is stone. The floor is amazingly concrete and not dirt. It gets wet down there. The water runs down the walls. If it was red it would look like a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. It's been raining cats and dogs around here. The local rivers are supposed to be up 14 or so feet above normal. Our floor usually gets wet, but nothing to splash in. Moments ago I opened the door and turned on the light. Ack. I start down the steps. Ack! I have to go back upstairs to put on my boots. And of course, I grab my camera. The lighting isn't that good down there, but I can see that the water is starting to come up the sides of the clothes dryer. ACK!!! I call my aunt and uncle. They have water all the time. My uncle tells me I need to get a pump and get the water out now. A C K !!!! I tell him that the husband will be home this afternoon. It's too much time. There's no time! I call the husband, apologize for what I'm about to say, and tell him to get home now...and bring an ark. Yes, that's a pencil floating by. Are you kidding? What's a pencil doing on the basement floor?! Well, all the stuff I never noticed on the floor floated by... it was gross. I guess we really need to get an automatic pump installed. Yay, Spring.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Love Spring, Even in The Rain

I do. I absolutely love Spring. The first signs still make me smile every year. The buds on trees. The first signs of the Crocus and Daffodils in my yard. I love planting seeds and watching them grow. I'm always amazed at how quickly they pop up, or how they never show up at all! I used a little "greenhouse" bought at Home Depot, with the peat discs in them. Eli was amazed at the expansion once the water was poured in. The sunflower seeds he planted began to sprout almost immediately. Well, at day five I had to remove the cover of the greenhouse because they were so large, but then I decided to put them some place else because the rest of the seeds hadn't sprouted yet. On day seven, yesterday, they were even taller. Today, at eight days old, they are 8" tall. It's amazing to me that they are growing so fast. If I don't watch out, I'm going to have full-grown sunflowers indoors! The broccoli, which never sprouted in the garden last year (or did and I just thought it was a weed...) has sprouted, too. They are half the size of the sunflowers. The tomatoes sprouted 2 days ago and are half the size of the broccoli. The peppers, I am sad to say, are still underground. Or, under peat. My fingers are crossed.
My other favorite sign of Spring is the appearance of the tree frogs. Every year they come and hang out on my door. It's a hilarious and lovely surprise. Frogs are attracted to bugs. Bugs are attracted to light...so are the frogs attracted to light in hoping that there may be a bug or two hanging out? I love that the tree frogs have chosen my well-lit glass door to chill out on. Sometimes there will be a tree frog on my door for days in a row. We also have toads, but we don't see them until the Summer, hopping around. Last year the boys caught some baby ones. Oh, and that reminds me of the snakes...garter and milk varieties. Can't wait.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My kids make me laugh

A little while ago, my boys were in the tub making up a language. I'm heard, "Ah-t-us - means I'm cooking them right now." Their bath water is a blue green from the markers they drew on themselves with. Odin covered his face, hands and arms with "tattoos". Eli decided to draw his skeleton. He got down to his underwear and even drew in the ribs. There were only 3 sets, but that's okay. Or maybe it was 3 sets of a six-pack. Either way, it was brilliant.

I noticed today that Silas is beginning to say, "What's that?" He points and makes sounds similar to "wasstha". Good enough. It's beautiful. He also has discovered that if you throw something it lands on the floor and remains there. He thinks this is hysterical, as do I.

My children amaze me almost daily. The things they are enamoured with and the things they couldn't care less about.

The family went to an art show today specifically to watch some drummers. I can't remember the groups name, but they play those bongo-like drums. Maybe they were bongos. I have no idea. The boys were into it for about a minute. After the group was done, it was time for us to join in on the fun and drum with the group. Eli enjoyed it for one song. Odin was done before it even began. I thought they'd be really into it...banging on things and makin' noise.
What they were really into came later...sitting on the couch after their baths in their jammies; Eli "reading" a book to Odin. After the first book, they grabbed another, There's a Wocket in My Pocket, and enjoyed that one, too.
I love those little moments. Sometimes better than the big ones.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sorry it's so long...I have a lot to say...

Most of unschooling has to happen inside the parents. They need to spend some time sorting out what is real from what is construct, and what occurs in nature from what only occurs in school. —Sandra Dodd

This quote appeared on Sandra Dodd's unschooling website today. It greatly related to one of the few things that I had been thinking about all day, well, since I encountered some other mommies today.

"Ugh. I try to plan fun things for her to do, but nothing is ever good enough. She's never happy!", said one mom to another. The other mom responded, "That's being a parent!"

I'm actually tired of hearing this. Yes, I have my days with my boys. Meaning, there are moments I feel under appreciated. Moments where I can't understand why my four-year-old does not understand the value of a dollar and why he can't constantly buy anything and everything he wants. Moments. Fleeting moments. Then I realize, why would he? He is four. I still don't understand why I can't buy anything and everything I want.

To me, as an outsider, it was clear what her all-of-six-year-old daughter wanted - time with her mother. Instead, her mother brought her some place where she could basically ignore her and have her "go play" with other children after being in school half of the day.

This brings me to another thing that got me thinking. Both moms were sitting with another mom while their children played in an indoor playspace. The children were all six and under. While I do not consider myself a "helicopter" parent, I suppose I might be perceived as one. My children are 4 and almost 3. I made sure I was accessible and walked around the structure. There are two separate playspaces. One has slides and nets everywhere. The other is behind that one. It's a Pump n' Play space. While it's completely inflatable, it does have a history of collapsing. It's also loud due to the air generators, so if a child were to get hurt on the Pump n' Play, it would almost be impossible to hear him or her from the sitting area. I don't hover or crawl around with them...I just make sure I can hear them, for the most part. Okay, maybe I am a helicopter parent...

According to Wikipedia, "Helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. The term was originally coined by Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Jim Fay in their 1990 book Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility[1]. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not."
Hmmm...are homeschooling moms automatically helicopter moms because we pay close attention at educational institutions...a.k.a. home? Now I feel like I have to defend myself so I can shake off the label "helicopter mom". I let my kids play outside. Alone. For at least five whole minutes without going to a window. Sometimes longer, if I can hear them. When they are quiet, that's usually what makes me peek. Our yard is partially fenced in and the kids are very adept at unlocking the gates. I let them make mistakes. I guide them through quarrels and all-out punching matches. I do not see myself getting a GPS for my child. Or a phone.
Let's take a look at a new Verizon ad. Lenore at Free Range Kids was the one who brought it my attention. Not personally. Although wouldn't it be nice to open up an e-mail intended just for me? "Hey, Erica, thought you'd love this ad! As if! Your BFF, Lenore." Back to reality. The ad focuses on a mom and her tween/teen daughter at the mall. Her mom is using a tracking device to keep her daughter's movements in sight. Who needs to be a helicopter mom when you have GPS? You can feel great about not being on top of your kid, while being on top of your kid...all metaphorically speaking, of course.

Last, but not least, there was the almost-altercation between me, um, I mean my son and another little boy. Four boys come barreling around the corner, all laughing. They jump on the jumpy thing (you know, with the scary clown face on top and it's a blow up ...cage, essentially). They're chasing one another and laughing. I hear one little boy say, "I'm going to tell my mom!" He calls for his mom, but she's not paying attention. I'm not really sure what's happening and I am paying attention. I hear the boy say to Eli, "Try to get me!" Eli smiles and then runs after the boy. Odin and some other boy are just watching and jumping. The "get me" boy tumbles out of the jumpy thing and tells his mom, "that boy (pointing to Eli) is trying to beat me up!" She looks over and blinks. I had to refrain from yelling, "WHAT?! You just told him to try to get you!" Eli looked a bit confused and concerned and walked away. Odin, on the other hand, decided it was now his job to take out the kid and began throwing punches. I reminded him to have 'nice hands' and the four of them were off running again. "Get me" boy comes back a few minutes later crying because some boy was scaring him. My kids come in sight seconds after. He points to Odin. "That's the one!" On his own, Odin apologized. Get me's mom said, "What? He's half your size!"
Now, I'm not sure what was up with this boys mom. Did she think her son's cry for her attention was simply him being a fresh kid and that she needed to give him tough love?
I found the parent-child relations in the playspace today to be confusing. These parents brought their children there to socialize. Not the children, the moms. I understand needing to socialize with other grown ups. I GET it. But, if your child has been in school all day why bring them some place immediately after in order for them to be away from you some more? I really do not understand that, especially when these children desperately want nothing more than to be with their parent doing anything together.

Lawnmower parent? That's a new one. I thought I'd include it because of its novelty. From Wikipedia - "Some college professors and administrators[who?] are now referring to "Lawnmower parents" to describe mothers and fathers who attempt to smooth out and mow down all obstacles, to the extent that they may even attempt to interfere at their children's workplaces, regarding salaries and promotions, after they have graduated from college and are supposedly living on their own."

And this one..."An extension of the term, "Black Hawk parents," has been coined for those who cross the line from a mere excess of zeal to unethical behavior, such as writing their children's college admission essays."


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another Year in Gardening

It's almost time for tilling the garden again! I plan on calling my father-in-law to come and do it. I could do it by hand, but I would rather not.

My plan is to plan pumpkins out in front - far, far away from my garden. Last year the darned things took over and drowned my watermelon, cantaloupe and pickling cukes. I also plan on placing my zucchini in another area of the yard, too. Nothing seems to want to eat them, so I think they'll be safe. I might put a wire fence around, but nothing too serious. I bought some organic soil, seed starter pots and a soil tester kit. I just this second thought of using an old Rubbermaid trash can to house potatoes. Maybe I'll do that for carrots, too. Hmmm.

I have some thinking to do...I'll be back when I have it all figured out.

My father-in-law tilled and I planted peas!

March 26 - I found my camera! It had fallen between the filing cabinet and wall. I have uploaded some lovely garden pictures...I heart Spring.
My Daffodils are up!

'Dem Bones, 'Dem Bones...

I lost my camera. So, for now all posts are unaccompanied by photographic evidence. You still believe me, right? This picture is from the Spring right after we moved in - a year ago.

We're clearing out a lot of the junk that has been accumulating in our yard. We have this old shed/barn that we're renovating. The goats live in the basement right now. The upstairs is the husband's shop. The shop now smells like goats. All the stuff he's torn out of the shed is outside. It's like Sanford and Son over here.
While clearing out that pile, we have discovered some bones. The husband thinks their cat bones. I have no idea what they are. I found a really interesting site that will let me and the kids sit down and attempt to identify them. Right now, because I worry about weird germs, am cleaning the bones. If you have never cleaned bones before, first, just soak them in water. When all the debris is off - if there's meat or fat left on them, then soak them in hydrogen peroxide. This will whiten them. Do Not bleach them. This is more information about bones that I ever thought I'd know.

This is a perfect opportunity to teach my children about anatomy and physiology. A little archaeology and excavation. It is perfect education.

March 28, 2010 - Here are the pictures of the skull bones we found out back. Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

After the conversations regarding choices and homeschooling, parenting and life, I have had this week alone, I have simply come to the conclusion that I do not want a label...at all. Although, if I had to choose one I’d choose “whole-life learner” or “comprehensive living”…thanks, Adele! I love being a part of a group, but I don’t want to be judged or defined by what that means. I love conversing and learning with such dynamic people as the ones I have surrounded myself, and my children, with. I have chosen this path for my family and I am okay with that. I am more than okay with it. I wish I could crusade for more people to make homeschooling just work. It is such a liberating thing. The husband and I were discussing how much we have learned about ourselves, our children and the world around us in our journey to educate our children. It's been so absolutely amazing.
Unschooling is such a wonderful concept that frees the restrictions that behind-a-desk-five-subjects-a-day education has imposed. Children are free to be themselves. They are free to make choices. They are free to be independent. They are free to be passionate. Maybe it should be called Freeschooling. Ironically enough, to be a part of the unschooling community you have to abide by certain criteria. Individuals have been chastised and ousted because of their non-unschooling thoughts...if only thought or spoken for a moment.
The term "unschooling" also has a negative sound to it, as I discussed with Adele and the husband on separate occasions. There should be more optimism in the name given to the way we have chosen to school, educate or facilitate our children and their choices.

I have to interrupt myself. I just did a search for "freeschool" and there is such a thing...
Link#1 and Link#2. I haven't actually read through the sites, but I will.

I will provide my children with the means to pursue whatever their little, kind and beautiful souls desire. I will encourage their passions with minimum influence. By this, I mean if my son draws me a picture or builds a sandcastle or plays the harmonica, I will refrain from telling him it's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen (that will more than likely be a flat-out lie). I think doing that creates the feeling, to the child, that the activity is pleasing to me, so it should be continued. It's not about what I like...it's about their passions and loves and desires and needs and wants. It's about them.

This whole incredible journey is about them. Their minds, bodies, lives, beings...they are in my hands. I am holding myself accountable for the choices I make regarding their lives. I am making the choice to homeschool. I am making the choice to let them be themselves. If it goes awry...well, maybe a Popsicle will make it all okay again...and then, maybe not.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Disbudding and the truth

We had the goats disbudded two days ago. I fought with it, but ultimately decided that it was the best thing for everyone involved. I offered Eli the chance to come with me. At first he said he would like to come. I described to him what was going to transpire and he was okay with it. He asked to bring some crayons and paper so he could work on his comic book. Sure.
When we got home from a crazy day, I brought up YouTube's search for goat disbudding/dehorning videos. I chose one video and let the kids watch it. Eli looked at me and said, "Are they going to do that to OUR goats?" Yes. "I don't think I want to go, momma." No problem.
I didn't want to hide what we were doing to our children. It is also instinctual for me to want to keep my children safe from the "horrors" of life. However, I think it is important to let Eli, especially, in on what is going on with our animals. We mentioned slaughtering our chickens in a year or so and Eli was a little freaked out. This is a product of him not really understanding where his food comes from. It doesn't come in Styrofoam plastic-wrapped containers naturally, kid. I don't think I really understood where my food came from until middle school. At least that's when I remember being weirded out by it...when a friend's family was serving cow tongue for dinner. That's when I tried squirrel stew, too. Oh, the memories. It was at that same time that I plucked feathers from chickens hanging upside down from a clothes line. I learned a lot from that friend's family life.
As a society we have a tendency to want to shield our children from the realities of life. There are some realities that they should be kept from seeing. Where our food comes from isn't one of them. What happens to to providers of our food in order to better all our lives isn't one of them.
The goats are doing well, by the way. They are spending more time outside - out of their warm indoor pen. They are sneaky little ladies, though...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Heart Freecycle

I came across Freecycle accidentally. I can't recall if I was posting on Craigslist or searching. Either way, an individual I began conversing with mentioned Freecycle. Walah! The introduction was made.

Freecycle is amazing. The premise behind it is to cycle your unwanted treasures to someone else...for free. Recycle, Reuse, Renew! Unfortunately, I found Freecycle after I purged all my unnecessary items from our lives this past Fall. I threw A LOT of stuff away. However, I'm always purging something.

Most recently it's baby stuff. The little one is growing out of stuff...exersaucers, bouncy seats, etc. I tried selling some items to Children's Orchard, but they generally do not accept anything that is older than five years. My mother had a bunch of stuff that she bought when my nephew was born...six years ago. Nothing can be resold. With recalls, expiration dates - on car seats, and such, nothing will go for a price. No biggie.

I have managed to make some lovely women happy by accepting their willingness to reuse what I have no need for. Today, for example, I was able to shutter my house. Someone gave away enough shutters for my entire house. I had planned on buying them...I managed to save my household a TON of cash. I also was able to get a 1/4 cord of wood from another Freecycler. Not only is the practice amazing, but so aren't the people. There are groups for every corner of the continent...just about. The shutter guy, Jim, was a wonderful man who is moving to Pennsylvania. Turns out, he and his wife homeschooled their 17-year-old daughter. He had 2 beautiful hens that should have, um, passed away years ago. He let Eli feed them cherry tomatoes. The wood guy, Dennis, donned a tye-dyed t-shirt. He chose me because of my email address. He thought it was funky.

Dennis said something to me that inspired this post, "it [Freecycle] just hasn't caught on yet!"
It's definitely not as prominent as Craigslist, but it's on its way.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Louder with words...

There are a few blogs that I keep up with. Blogging 'Bout Boys is one that I just love. I have boys. I blog. Jennifer Fink and I are kindred spirits.
Today's blog was in regards to an article by Dylan Lovan in The Associated Press. Lovan's article, entitled "Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin, evolution", stated the obvious...to homeschoolers. However, to the general public, it simply stoked the fire under those who fear homeschoolers to be "those crazies who keep their kid away from the real world because Jesus tells them so." I know many families who homeschool. Some are quite dogmatic, while others are simply spiritual. Some have no relationship with any power or belief system. But we all share one thing...we homeschool because it's what we see as best for our children.

"The textbook delivers a religious ultimatum to young readers and parents, warning in its 'History of Life' chapter that a "Christian worldview ... is the only correct view of reality; anyone who rejects it will not only fail to reach heaven but also fail to see the world as it truly is." The spokesman for [Biology: Third Edition] says that this was an editing error. Does he really believe that people will believe him? That does not even matter. People who are familiar with Bob Jones University Press will believe that statement. Take a look at their website and you'll know what the content is. That is their belief and why should they justify it? Many believers of Christ do not believe in evolution and dinosaurs. That believe should be respected. Just like those who do believe in evolution should be respected by those who do not.

As a homeschooling parent, I understand that there are many of us who are very dogmatic. As a person of mixed race, I understand that there are many people who are racist. As a parent who lets her children take their falls and hits without rushing over and swooping them up, I understand that there are helicopter parents who will hover and call out (even though they are texting and listening to their I-Pods while doing it - no lie - I saw a father do this today). There are so many different versions of life...how can anyone say their path is THE path?

The mom, Susan Mule, should have turned it around and used it as a teaching tool. The differences in publications could simply elaborate on how different everyone is...how different belief systems are and the products of those differences can manifest themselves in biology books!

I do agree with Jennifer Fink in that it was irresponsible for the spokesperson from HSLDA to say, "Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program", without even mentioning what other homeschoolers do...or that there are even different schools of homeschooling. We should all be forming a united front no matter if I believe in Jesus or the blue little guy who talks to me in the kitchen.

P.S. I couldn't help but notice that one last name was Wile and one was Coyne and kept thinking about cartoons...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Things to do with Goat Milk

My mind has been racing...what to do with all the goat's milk I will have. Hmmmm.
I will have fresh, raw goat's milk. Drink it. I've never had it, but I will. Cheese. Oh. My. Goodness. I love goat cheese. I am looking forward to a never ending supply of it. I'm very excited. But, I can only eat so much cheese (or can I???). I've got it...SOAP! Several years ago I tried my hand at soap making. I loved it. My life was a mess and I just couldn't keep up. My life is still a mess...but it's a kid mess, not a crazy single girl mess. I have plans, man, plans. I got rid of all my soap making supplies, but I still can feel the magic in my blood. I'm sure I'll drive the husband insane, but, really, how would that differ from anything that I do now?

Kid Stuff...

No one cares what my kids say. I think they are hilarious, as most parents do of their own children. A friend of mine (Holly) has two girls who would say the most hilarious stuff when they were little. They still do. She always said, "I should write this stuff down!" Well, now I'm going to do that...regarding my own offspring. I'd do it on Facebook, but I don't want to innundate people with random and sometimes inappropriate things my kids say. I'll innundate the world with it though...

Yesterday: "Mommy, what if you had a nipple on your penis?!"

Tom, Jerry and Brownie - week 2

I am officially in week 2 of being the proud owner of two goats and a bunny. I love it. Still not sure where this love of animals is coming from, but does it really matter?

Tom has gotten more comfortable around the house. He approaches people and sniffs at their feet. He sprints across the room, comes to a complete stop, does a spin or a flip and then acts like I'm the crazy one. Last night he discovered that the couch has an underneath space. At least he's safe from the kids. Depending on their mood, they have been known to chase the poor bunny...

Having goats is amazing. They are like little...people? No, not quite. But they do have distinct personalities. Jerry, the Saanen, is the leader. She's Type-A. She's always hungry and ready to leap and bound. Yesterday, the weather was beautiful and I was able to let them out of the barn for a while. I put them in the garden (they've begun to wander off if left in the yard). Jerry began running and soaring into the air. It was the cutest thing. Brownie, the Nubian, is much sweeter. She's quieter and tends to follow Jerry around. She loves to nuzzle. She loves attention. She'd sit and let you hold her forever.

I have always thought it was gross when pet owners let their animals lick their faces or kiss them. However, these goats are my babies. They nibble on my hair and I don't mind the least bit. We rub noses and I get kisses. It's hilarious and beautifully sweet.

Eli's not that into the goats. Odin is another story. He'd spend all day out there with them if I let him.

I'm going to have them disbudded, for our safety and theirs. It's been a difficult decision, but one that is best for our situation. As much as I don't want to witness this, I am making myself. For, if they have to go through it, so do I. It doesn't seem fair to remove myself from the pain I will cause them. Jerry is almost ready to be disbudded. I just have to make the call...

Monday, March 1, 2010

About Me

Hmmm. About me? I'm reverting back to get-to-know-you hour in a college classroom...

Hi, I'm Erica. I'm from Massachusetts. I love reading, writing, starting things only to rarely complete them, multi-tasking (a.k.a. ADD), my family, homeschooling, unschooling, art, craft, and animals. Lots of animals.

I have three beautiful boys and an amazing man who has decided he wants to put up with my insanity for the rest of our lives. How lucky am I?!

I love to cook and try new recipes, but I don't really know that much about it. I love to paint...but I have one style -abstract. I love to sing, but I can't carry a tune. I love to be outside. I love all things natural. I really do see the beauty in much of life...especially in my children.

I have an Associates Degree in Psychology. I've been enrolled in and attended classes at over seven colleges. I love to learn, but really can't decide what I want to do when I grow up. Right now...I'm studying to be a certified doula. It's the perfect obsession for me...I do my thing and then I leave and move on to the next victim...um, I mean...client.

I like hats. I like taking pictures ad nausem. I like the smell of gasoline and fresh cut grass. The black candle from Yankee Candle is my fave. I've driven to Florida. I hate flying, but I love to travel. Costa Rica is my favorite.

Okay, so this should be enough to stalk me or to surprise me with a trip to Costa Rica! Stalking is illegal, or disgustingly annoying. However, all-expense-paid trips for five are wonderfully appreciated. Don't worry, when you hand me the envelope I'll pretend I'm surprised....