Category Archives: Parenting

Can we grill them?

Grace loved her little brown turkey

I just found 5 dead baby hens and a turkey on my living room floor.

I woke up this morning and thought I saw the dog laying by a rather large mouse. We get teeny little field mice in the house and she loves to catch them, but this was HUGE.  When I got closer, I realized it was a little black chick. In my 4am mind-fog, it took me a while to look around the room and see that the floor was covered in lifeless little chicks. I was sad for the birds but mostly sad for my girls. I wanted to wake them up and tell them.  I wanted them to sleep all day so I didn’t have to tell them.

Chicks like crushed corn

They took the news rather well, and started arranging the funeral right away.  A hole was dug. Flowers were picked. Chairs were arranged in rows around the grave. We had to wear black (luckily my pajamas were black). At the service, there was a solemn procession of dead baby chicks, each laid in the ground gently and called by name. There was debate about which song should be played, but in the end Maddy sang a little song of tribute to all the pets we’ve lost over the years (2 dead rabbits, 1 dead duck, 2 dead turkeys, 3 dead dogs, 5 dead chickens, a parakeet, some fish and now…. all these dead chicks….). Evelyn said a few words “I love you and I miss you,” which the kids tell me is her standard funeral speech) and Grace chose not to speak, she just cried and said “I loved my turkey.” I apologized to the birds for not making sure the dog was locked away last night. None of the kids turned to me and said “So it’s your fault.” Continue reading

Flower Wars

Flower wars

Maybe I’m just easily amused, but every single day my kids give me cause to rethink something, or learn more about myself and this world.

On this day, we had friends over for a backyard BBQ. It was an all-day affair to celebrate my husband’s birthday, with a bonfire, marshmallow roasting, a giant wild salmon to grill, hula hooping, hackey sacking, tree climbing, chickens, sprinkler play and all sorts of other treats.

Evelyn chasing Maddy with flowers


Madelyn (7) enlisted the help of our friend’s 14 yr old daughter to collect a wheelbarrel full of flowers to dump on the lawn so she could lay on them. When the “bed of flowers” was finished, she called us over to share her moment. It was really sweet. After a while, the kids began picking up the bunches of flowers and throwing them at one another, like a snowball fight, only with flowers.

My friend and I were calling it a “flower war” and enjoyed watching the kids having so much fun.

 

Evelyn came and sat with us at one point, she’d been enjoying the flower game with the other kids and needed a little break. One of us mentioned the “flower war” and she looked confused. It’s not a war, it’s called “flower catching” and we were struck by the idea that we’d chosen the word “war” whe she was choosing the word “catching.”

My drink caught a flower

To be truthful, when the 14 yr old girl pinned her big brother down and stuffed his mouth with flowers, the word “war” might have been a little more accurate, but it’s all about perception, right?

Please do NOT read to your child for 20 minutes a day

I always thought the “20 minutes a day” guideline was lame. How many books take precisely 20 minutes to read? If a children’s author is pitching their new book, would they have better luck if they wrote it so that it could be read in 20 minutes? Maybe with a built-in timer or something… What’s a parent to do at the end of that 20 minutes, if the book isn’t over? If they decide to finish the book and end up reading for 23 minutes tonight, then do they only need to read for 17 minutes tomorrow?  If reading is such a wonderful thing, why are so many adults “forced” into doing it? What does it teach children to have their teacher at school sending home a tracking form to monitor their parents?

Unschooling reading
Kids can learn to read from books, not from reading lessons

Where did they come up with the 20-minute figure? Maybe it’s because they once did a study of families whose kids were great readers and averaged out the length of time each family spent reading to their kids and decided that a standard of 20 minutes was the bare minimum.  Now, everyone is striving for that minimum.  I’m just guessing, I really don’t know the origin of the 20-minutes-a-day reading guideline.  All I know is that it’s difficult to lose yourself in literature when you’re watching the clock.

I think the root of the issue was originally that families were “too busy” to read to their kids.  How on earth they’d ever get them to bed, I will never know.  Reading to my girls is often just the elixir they need to hold still and relax long enough to drift off to sleep.  I don’t read to them every single day and I’m not sure how long we read because we don’t look at the clock. Ever. I read until I find myself skipping words or spacing out between sentences.  Sometimes, if I’m falling asleep while I read, I’ll accidentally add random words to the story (the kids love this and it’s usually their laughter that wakes me up).  We read until everyone’s story has been read. The younger girls usually get their stories first. If a chapter book is chosen, it’s usually last and we read one chapter before deciding if we want to go further. Sometimes it takes us months to finish one chapter book, sometimes it only takes days. Sometimes we never finish and that’s OK.
Continue reading

Grace Face

Grace is my 4 yr old. She’s the one that was born in the shower. It’s a weird age, being 4. I know there are a lot of in-between ages when you’re a kid, but I’ve always thought that 4 was really a landmark transition. I mentioned before that we’ve never had a problem with terrible two’s, but 4 is an entirely different story.

 

At 4, the desire for independence outweighs so very many things. She wants to do everything herself, everything. But then she’ll show fear or vulnerability in contrast. She insists upon picking out her own clothes and dressing herself completely. On the other hand, she’s afraid to go upstairs alone. She wants to make her own sandwich, but she doesn’t like to be in the kitchen alone. She’s enjoying testing the limitations of her body, seeing how high she can jump and how many marshmallows she can fit into her mouth at once.
She loves Spongebob Squarepants, doesn’t mind being represented by the boy Barbie and still eats jelly sandwiches all the time. She’s grown out of the butter thing, and no longer views it as a snack food. She loves playing games on the computer and she’s a steward of bugs, collecting caterpillars, ladybugs and roly polies. She hates making messes. Whenever she spills something, she cleans it up before anyone else sees it. If people see her spill, she gets upset and wants to cry. She enjoys cursing when no grown-ups are listening. She gets amused when her teenage sisters laugh at her foul-mouthed humor but she won’t repeat it in front of me. She just blushes, throws her hands up and smiles, that Grace Face smile. If she says anything, it’s “What, did you hear me say anything?” She has the most pinchable cheeks in the family. She takes care of her baby sister, holding her hand in public and making sure that she’s not overlooked in the shuffle of our crazy house. She’s particular about the clothes in her dresser. Shirts can’t go in the pants drawer and pajamas can’t go with sweaters. I’m not sure what all of her laundry rules are because she doesn’t let anyone else put her clothes away.

 

 

Grace Face

Grace, protecting Evelyn on the Lion

She hates wearing socks, even with sneakers. She doesn’t enjoy helping in the kitchen as much as Evelyn does, but when she sees Evelyn helping she will jump in to make sure she’s doing it right. She likes to sing. Kanye West’s Heartless is one of her current favorite songs. She claims to not be a fan of Hannah Montana. She enjoys showing off the letters of the alphabet that she can write and recognize. She likes drawing pictures of me and of animals.

grace, painting

Mixed media collage. She drew a caterpillar and now she’s adding glue to stick fabric to it
She takes really good care of her coat and remembers to bring it everywhere we go. Sometimes her easygoing personality makes her overlooked in this crazy house, but she knows how to make herself be heard when necessary.

Freedom from kindergarten

 

Kindergarten is useless

Grace is decorating her journal with gemstones

So the other day I posted an entire entry about my Grace. I’ve been watching her closely because she’s the first of my children to be completely and technically unschooled forever. 

If we were a schooling family, she’d be getting ready for kindergarten, which would begin in a few months. As I watch her, I’m completely blown away by her intelligence, her strong personality, her thirst for knowledge and her pride at displaying the things she’s learned. She’s clever, witty and fun to be around.

I can’t imagine sending her to school, to me that would be a completely foreign territory. None of my kids has left home for kindergarten. But now, after being involved in the usnchooling world for a few years, I can’t even imagine inflicting “lessons” upon her. She so eagerly and readily gobbles up information from the world around her. So isn’t it logical to provide a stimulating world for her, with unlimited opportunities to experience life, rather than subjecting her to my limited perspective and preferences? I don’t know what her world will be like when she’s an adult, why would I presume to limit her learning in that way? How pompous of anyone to suppose to “teach” a 5 yr old anything. They’re already learning, duh.

 

Art supplies

We went a little crazy with the art supplies, Grace likes art

We got a bunch of Magic Schoolbus Science activity kits. They’re supposed to be for older kids, but she likes to help Gabriella (9) and Maddy (7) with the experiments. If I didn’t have to work, I think my kids would do science experiments all day long. Each kit comes with 10-20 experiments and a little guidebook that explains the science behind each one. It amazes me to hear the questions she asks, the conclusions she comes to and her logic process especially when she’s explaining the experiment. “So then glue is a polymer, right, mom?” 

She loves to invent her own magic tricks (which aren’t quite magic, yet) and she’s hugely interested in how her body works. She’s taught herself how to count by 2′s and argued with me when I told her that’s what she was doing. “No, mom, I’m just skipping numbers” as if she invented it.

She likes to eyeball a situation, solve it in her mind and then execute the solution, whether she’s making sure each Barbie has matching shoes, solving a maze, or constructing a Lego Dacta project.

It amazes me that anyone who has spent time with a 4-going-on-5 year old can look at the process of development a child goes through and say- at this age- that they need to start school. I wonder what people expect of a curious, self-directed learner (and that’s what a 4.5 r old is)

I wonder how many people realize that institutionalized education actually destroys the very children it was intended to serve. I wonder how many homeschoolers see that recreating that environment crushes the little souls they’re trying to protect.

Learning- in the real world- isn’t about meeting someone else’s expectations, or reaching someone else’s goals. In the real world we learn because we want to know, we want to experience, we want to DO. Why remove a child from that?

I love that Grace has “school books” that she enjoys. She has a math book she carries around that she plays with in the same way I played with puzzle books as a kid. She turns to any random page and asks me how to do it. If I’m not around to ask, she looks at the numbers and figures out her own way. She once had an addition worksheet and decided to multiply instead. Not that she knew it was called multiplication, she just saw numbers and decided to multiply. She knew each page had roughly the same directions for each problem, so she multiplied each one. She used game pieces as manipulatives and got them all right. I can’t imagine forcing her to spend weeks and weeks adding up one problem after another when she wants to multiply. Multiplication CONTAINS addition, so why do we waste so much time breaking it down?

She likes making lists. Her letters mostly look like H’s, x’s and t’s, with periodic o’s mixed in. She learns new letters by copying words in books. Sometimes she’ll copy a word and bring it to me to ask what it says. She has it memorized for a while and then forgets. She’s putting together patterns in her mind and remembers that the letter M says mmm, the letter S says sss and she instinctively, mentally, breaks down words into phonetic syllables as she pretends to read. She’s proud to be learning to read.

In our garden, she knows that ladybugs eat aphids. She delivers ladybugs to our rosebushes every time she finds them. I need to remind her to bring some to my tomatoes, too. She takes her “job” very seriously. I love that she feels useful and important. I love that she’s empowered and outspoken. I love that she knows what she wants and expects to get it. I love watching her grow, think and explore the world.

THIS is kindergarten.

5 comments to Freedom from kindergarten

  • She sounds like she is as free as I wish all kids were able to be!

  • Great post – love it!

  • Nichol

    Great comfort to read this post. My son is also 4 and I am getting a lot of strange looks and feedback when I explain that I don’t plan to send him to preschool, or kindergarten, or any other school for that matter. Hooray for free 4 year olds :)

  • We’re just starting on this unschooling journey — and I’m glad my kids are NOT going to school. I’ve been collecting stuff for ages and have all the Magic School Bus TV episodes plus a lot of the books… So they’ll be available for when there’s an interest!

    I’ve bookmarked your site and will be back for another read soon!

  • What a great post! This will be my first year completely unschooling…we’ve been unschooly for years, but always with some sort of curriculum around that we poke on. My “kindergartener” loves experiments! It’s so great to see how kids figure things out on their own and not on ours or a school’s timetable. Sometimes it’s hard to step back, but it’s always worth it in the end!

Books Ann Wentworth Wants Banned from her Daughter’s School

A middle school mom, Ann Wentworth of Fon du Lac Wisconsin wants these books banned from her daughter’s school district.

She’s petitioned the school (at the expense of local taxpayers) and lost the first request for censorship. She keeps adding books to her list. I imagine every time she reads one it ends up going on her list.

I’ve read a lot of these books and, she’s right, they suck. But they’re not written for me, a 35 yr old mom. They’re written for adolescent girls.

There’s talk of losing virginity, which is what the mom finds so offensive. Psychologically speaking, the characters are somewhat realistic (no more or less than any other crappy modern fiction) and struggle with the same things other adolescent girls struggle with.

I think this woman must have some kind of weird relationship with her daughter that they can’t just discuss the character’s decisions and move on. She’s become attached apparently to the idea that these books will be the downfall of moral society and must be removed from her daughter’s library.

I can’t imagine how embarrassed that young girl must feel, to have her mother parading around like she’s the literary police and all. I wonder if this ridiculous event will drive an even bigger wedge between her & her daughter.

Perhaps I’m being cynical to question her relationship with her daughter, but this action seems so extreme. ASKING for censorship? It’s just insane.

Maybe I’ll go petition for removal of all books that imply “learning comes from schools” or perhaps let’s petition to get rid of history books that only tell half the story, or perhaps we should petition to censor books that teach about western medicine instead of natural medicine or nutrition programs that include processed foods or maybe the religious should petition for removal of the science books that make fun of creation theories.

Perhaps we should seek removal of all the books that teach kids about college planning, because it’s really NOT all it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps we should remove all the books about vampires because they might play biting games or fall in love with vampires.

For every book on the shelf, there is SOMEONE who isn’t going to like it.

To assume that the readers will develop an unhealthy lifestyle, habit, belief or fixation is really to give the books way more power than is necessary.

If her daughter goes out & has premarital sex, will it be because she read the stupid Sisterhood books? Or will it be because teens are horny, full of hormones and surrounded by people who have told them lies all their life, about everything?

When people are influenced by literature is it because they read the book or is it be because the book spoke to a certain part of themselves, calling forth ideas and thoughts that were already part of the reader?

If this woman would talk to her daughter about these books, instead of talking to the school board, she may find that her daughter thinks they’re stupid, or that her daughter thinks about sex constantly and wants some real guidance, or perhaps her daughter is indifferent. Maybe she’ll finish the entire series simply because she can’t stand to miss the conclusion, and not because she identifies sexually with the characters.

Anyway- these are the books that Ann Wentworth wants banned, enjoy.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies” by Sonya Sones
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares.
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood ” by Ann Brashares.

Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood ” by Ann Brashares.

Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood ” by Ann Brashares.

Get Well Soon” by Julie Halpern.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones.

7 comments to Books Ann Wentworth Wants Banned from her Daughter’s School

  • Ingela

    Haha, that’s funny! I agree, she must have some issues… Maybe she didn’t get to read such books when she grew up and now she’s all bitter about it.. I actually loved the sisterhood books when I read them a few years ago :)

  • The problem is that everyone has a few books they would like to see wiped from the curriculum. If we pander to every special interest, there will be nothing left. Muslims will want to nix anything with a human image, Christians anything about world religions, atheists anything about God, anti-war people anything positive about WWII, and I’d like to see Ten Apples Up On Top gone just because it annoys me. But I prefer letting my kids read anything at their reading level and then discussing it with them. I’m assuming the mom in question thinks her daughter is not aware that losing her virginity in her teens is a popular option, and thinks if she pretends it never happens the girl won’t think of it on her own? Ridiculous.

  • Oy vey! She sounds like she would get along well with my 11yo daughter’s best friend’s mom. Still with me?? :) She forbids several books and then takes their library cards to “renew” their books for them. It’s just code for checking to make sure they haven’t checked out a forbidden book. Right now both of her girls are reading books they aren’t supposed to. This attempt at censorship is just a way to try to control what she is afraid might happen in her child’s life.

  • Lissie

    Fantastic! Thank you for saying what needs to be said – with respect, understanding and humour. I read Judy Blume and listened to Madonna (when she was just a whore with a bare midriff and not a whore who put out a book about, well, sex) yet somehow I managed to save it all up for my husband. “Just another failure who fell through the cracks”, they might say. I call it thinking for myself.

    You’re absolutely right, this is an issue that Mom needs to talk to her kids about but I get the feeling that maybe she doesn’t want to spend any time talking to her daughter? In the time she’s spending compiling her list, checking it twice, sharing her morals with the school board and anyone else who will listen, she could have had quite a few meaningful discussions about “that” with her daughter and perhaps even moved on to drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

    And they call unschoolers scary…

    Thanks for the laugh and brain food.

  • Katie

    Sigh. I know I’m late posting this, but this is one mother who seriously needs to homeschool her child.

    I feel so bad for her daughter, who must be going through some sort of teasing in school for her mother’s behavior.

    It’s hard enough getting teens and pre-teens to read AT ALL without censoring what it is they’re reading. The mom needs to talk to her daughter about the issues in question on a regular basis and MOVE ON.

  • privacydude

    i think the religious would be fine if people made fun of evolution.. perhaps you meant to say creationism?

  • Administrator

    you’re totally right, thank you :)

Love, that’s really all.

A few years ago, when Grace (now 4) was a baby I drove all 5 kids down to California. I was a bit nervous about being 1200 miles from home and not having another adult to share road-trip responsibilities. Think about it; every potty break for 1200 miles involved unbuckling 3 kids in car seats and bringing 6 people into a public bathroom. We had a blast, though. We had a cooler filled with car snacks, we made a CD of the kids’ favorite music and we stayed overnight at a hotel with a swimming pool. I wasn’t even gone one night, though when I started missing my husband.

Valentine's Chocolate for Kids

Valentine’s Chocolate for Kids

 

He was building our second restaurant and spent over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week on construction. My mission in California was to pick up a uhaul trailer, a pizza prep fridge, empty our storage unit (collecting dust for 8 years), spend a week at a beach house in San Diego with my Dad and attend my sister’s wedding.

The trip was a big deal for me, being alone and fully responsible for all 5 kids, missing my husband and visiting family alone was strange. Checking into a hotel as the only adult with 5 kids was strange, renting a uHaul trailer was strange. These were grown-up things that I just had never done before, alone.

The time we spent at the beach was wonderful. My Dad and step mom are amazing, two of my favorite people in the world. When they married, He had two teenage daughters (me & my sister) and she had two teenage sons and a 7 yr old daughter. We’re all grown now, that week at the beach was so much fun, I’d never even met my brothers’ wives before and since then they’ve each had babies.

At my sister’s wedding I was in an odd mood. I was missing my husband and a little annoyed with my sister’s obsessive attention to detail. She wasn’t a bridezilla, but I still wasn’t very tolerant of her that weekend. Somehow dressing and grooming myself plus 5 children seemed a little more worthy-of-whining than whatever she was complaining about. I think I held it together, I kept telling myself “That’s just how she is” and “Her intentions are pure.” She wasn’t trying to stress anyone out, she just wanted things perfect. She’s changed so much since she’s become a mother. I hope now that she rolls with the punches a little better.

 

Valentines for my Kids

Valentines for my Kids

It was wonderful being there with my sister & mother. Before that point, it had been years since I’d seen her and many more years since I’d seen the two of them together. The late nights we spent at my sister’s house that weekend will never be forgotten, we played games, chatted (was there wine?- so much for remembering) and my kids entertained us. Still- the mood was weird; away from home, alone with all the kids, seeing people I hadn’t seen in forever. It was just a weird mood. It felt good to be the only adult in charge, but I kept fearing I’d do something wrong and he’d be upset with me later. I felt… unsupervised in the weirdest way. 

At the reception (which was lovely) my dad made a speech that’s echoed back to me so many times. Perhaps my weird mood made it stick in my mind. Either way, my Dad is a really good speaker.  I wish I’d inherited that trait. He knows how to keep a crowd’s attention, how to tell a story and how to stay on topic. He starts off entertaining and ends with applause, every time. He’s always done well in sales and never had trouble with the ladies.

Dad & Vicki went through 3 different spouses (collectively) until they found one another. His speech (or was it a toast?) mainly said that it’s important to show people how much you love them.

“Every day I try to out-love her and every day she beats me at it. One day I get up to make her breakfast and she’s got my breakfast & coffee on a tray, my computer fired up for work and my favorite towel hanging in the bathroom.” (And my quote may totally be remembered wrong, but that’s close enough)

I knew they were very loving, several years ago I remember her staring into his eyes and saying “I’d eat bees for you, babe” and it was the sweetest thing.

Anyway, that speech and the idea of competitive love-showing has brought me so much joy over the past few years.

I used to think divorce was a sign of failure. I used to think it was awful, giving up like that. In spite of that belief, whenever our marriage was in trouble I’d always be the one who wanted to run away. I think Dad’s speech, and the echo of it playing in my head for 4 years, has made a big difference.

It was such a profound idea, the idea of constantly showing love, that it took him 3 marriages to figure it out. Everything happens for a reason and I think, today, that every spouse and ex-spouse in my parental background is better off, shaped by the people they’ve chosen to love. I’m no longer feeling critical of their “failed” marriages because the things they learned about themselves, about love and about life are successes, by any measure.

I’m also no longer compelled to feel “unloved” by my husband whenever we disagree. It took a lot of fighting for us to come to a place of constant communication, but we’re here. I think. Fighting isn’t failing, it’s just an aggressive attempt to learn how to get along. In every fight, isn’t there a seed of wanting peace? I’m not going to change who he is, and I’ll probably never convince him to understand who I am.  But I can keep loving him in spite of that, right?

Our kids have taught us the value of constantly showing our love, too. Love letters are always being exchanged in our house. A couple months ago I bought a few heart-shaped platters. They were a hit; whenever I serve food on them the kids think it’s special. My mom gifted the children with their own teeny little mailboxes and they’re always sending each other love notes.

This year for Valentine’s day I picked up a sake set covered in hearts for the kids. We’re going to have a tea party (because they love tea parties) I doubt these dishes will ever see real sake, but the kids will love that the cups are teeny and the hearts will remind them that they are loved.

Maybe some day my husband and I will go out for a romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner. There’s plenty of time for that when the kids are grown. Until then, we’re surrounded by love, and the little picture of my sister’s wedding serves as a reminder each time I see it that maybe, if I get up early enough and don’t get caught, I can sneak in more love-showing than anyone in the family. Because that’s how I want to roll.
————————————————————–
Here are a few sample love letters I’m using for my kids. I’ve tried to steer clear of labeling “you’re so ____” and make them expressions of love, rather than pride. Enjoy…

Dear_________,
I love you. I’m having a lot of fun being your mommy. I like the stories you tell me and I’m glad you enjoy your new haircut. I’m looking forward to many more years as your mommy.

Dear________,
Happy Valentine’s Day. I wanted to tell you that I’m glad to be your mommy. I noticed that you enjoy chocolate, so I hope you like this gift. Thank you for being my kid.

Dear _________,
Hello, this is mom. I have a message for you. You are special to me. Every day I am happy to have you in our family. I hope you are happy to be here, too.

Dear________,
I’ve had so much fun watching you grow up. You might think you have a lot to learn, but I am learning so much from you. We can never know what lies ahead, only what lies within and I’ve noticed that within you, you have so many gifts and talents. Watching you use them and share them with the world is truly one of the best things about being a mother.

Dear_______,
Thank you for being you. I know it sounds lame, but sometimes you are exactly who I need to be around. I’m so glad that you share so much of your life and your thoughts with me. I might tease you about talking so much, but to be honest, no day would be complete without your narrative. I love listening to the way you think and your perceptions about the world. Every day, you amaze me with your insights, I’m very lucky to be learning from you.

Valentines for Teens

Valentines for Teens
So what are you doing to show your kids love this Valentine’s Day? I used to be annoyed with Hallmark and retailers for commercializing Valentine’s Day. I used to feel that they “took the meaning away” by including loves other than romantic love. I feel so differently today, though. Love knows no limits, the show of love should also be limitless. Romantic love grows into big family love, if you’re lucky. 

Grace’s 4th birthday pictures

Grace's 4th birthday

Grace’s 4th birthday
Last August when grace turned 4, I don’t know if I posted pictures or anything. Sure, I could go back through the archives, but that always takes so long for me because the “search posts” feature never works like I want it to and I end up rereading a bunch of old memories and saying things like “Oh I can’t believe I didn’t mention…” or “How silly of me to be stressed over…” or even just feeling old because so much has happened since…” So- I’m reposting birthday pictures. And an unsolicited product review at the end.Grace's cupcakes

Grace’s cupcakes

OK- unsolicited product review. These sturdy foil cupcake things. They’re baking cups. You don’t need a cupcake pan, you just need these foil cup things. Sit them on a cookie sheet and pour the batter in. They’re reusable (as long as you don’t spill) We didn’t re-use ours, I wasn’t that smart. I thought the silver was princess-y and so we left it on. later, It dawned on me that they could be re-used. Maybe next time. Here’s a shot of the foil cups. Interestingly, I got them from Wal-mart and these foil cups cost just a teeny bit (like less than $1) more than the paper cupcake things AND they come with paper liners, too. So basically you get your paper liners PLUS these handy dandy foil things for like $2ish.baking cupcakes without a cupcake pan

baking cupcakes without a cupcake pan
Baking Cups

Baking Cups

An open letter to my 13 and 16 yr old daughters

Dear kids

Sorry I suck

Sorry I’m not the sparkly mom who wears makeup and jewelry all the time, even though you’re so good about giving me pretty things, I rarely decorate myself. Sorry about that.

I also wanted to apologize for not being the mom that controls every minute of your day. I was really surprised when you told me that you WANTED me to give you more school assignments. I hope it’s not because you feel that these silly asisignments will improve your life as adults. Maybe it’s because you’re bored. I know in your generation a lot of parents think it’s important to schedule each minute of their kids’ day, and maybe, for them, that’s love. But I also know how fun it is to be busy and how important it is to follow your OWN plan. I guess I was hoping you’d use your own brain to busy yourself. Instead of being spiteful and choosing things you’ll hate in an effort to get you to choose your own things, I will try to choose things you’ll enjoy. I know some people find comfort in having everything planned out for them, and since I was domineering like that when you were smaller, I guess maybe that’s why you need this from me now. Sorry for not noticing earlier. I will be sure to provide you with instructions for how you should spend your days very soon. I still hope you grow up to be able to occupy yourselves. I’m not sure how long I can plan things for you without making chore lists. Like cleaning your room, for example. Can we put THAT on the list?

I also wanted to apologize for not being the kind of mom who obsesses about breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m a grazer, by nature. I munch little things all day long and I have read scientific evidence that this is a healthier way to ingest calories. It prevents morning sickness (when you’re pregnant, that is, and I have been for over 60 months of my life) and it also prevents diabetes. I’d be lying if I said I was thinking about diabetes whenever I put out trays of fruit, homemade bread, cookies, chips & dip or randomly baked things throughout the day. Perhaps I was also wrong to assume that all the meals you prepare throughout the day weren’t to be reduced from the amount of food I am suppossed to prepare. To be very clear, the hundreds of dollars worth of groceries you prepare (deliciously, I might add) are “extra” and not to be subtracted from my parental food-preparation responsibilities, is that what you’re telling me? I will try to do better.

I know you like dance classes, and I wanted to apologize for not being like the other dance moms. I notice them swooning over their daughters and obsessing over stray hairs and I just wanted to apologize for not obsessing over stray hairs. I think you look beautiful and stray hairs are so much prettier than hair-sprayed helmet hair. But it’s clear those mothers are displaying their brand of love, and I just wanted to apologize for not being so publicly loving in regards to your on-stage appearance. I also apologize for not being able to afford over $200 in dancewear for the recital that just passed. I know performing is fun. While I do secretly believe that the dancewear industry is run by kiddie porn freaks who like putting 3 yr olds in Las-Vegas Showgirl costumes, and designed to cater to families who don’t mind dropping $100 for ONE OUTFIT, that’s not why I didn’t get it. I honestly couldn’t afford it. At any thrift shop, I can buy 4-10 name-brand outfits for $100. $55 for one dance skirt makes my head spin. I told you this in advance and suggested you solicit help from grandparents and you chose not to. Stop hating me for it.

I wanted to also apologize for not being “normal.” I don’t plan to try overcoming this one, I’m not going to pretend to enjoy current TV shows or fake an interest in politics or celebrity gossip (is there a difference?). I’m not going to pretend I don’t like your music, I’m not going to go get a job outside the house or force you & your sisters to go to public school. I’m not going to paint our walls white or start eating processed foods. I’m not going to order cable TV service & sit on the couch all evening. I’m sorry, I’m just not. I’m not sure exactly what “normal” people do that’s so attractive to you. I do what I like. If it’s not “normal” then I apologize. I don’t see how it’s affecting you, except perhaps that I’m giving you something to overcome. Maybe when you grow up you’ll be “extra normal” just to spite me.

With regards to politics, I also wanted to apologize for the time I spend doing legal research. I hope you know I’m serious when I tell you that one day when you’re all grown I want to take the bar exam and make a living writing nasty letters and billing people for phone calls. Plus, it’s important to read the law. In the 1700’s that’s what people read. There were no “celebrity politicians” back then. Now, people just read the news. Even journalists. I read research and laws. Sorry, it’s how I am. It’s really time consuming, but I find it gratifying. I try to avoid it, but when I see a crazy news story, it’s in my blood to hunt down the original, official sources (and find out who funds them) to see the truth. I do try to avoid the news, for this reason. But I apologize anyhow, since the time I spend chasing down facts can affect the amount of money I’m making when I’m “working.”

Finally, I wanted to apologize for having your sisters. Sometimes, I agree, the six of you are a bit much. I’m not sure which ones of you I’d return if that were an option, but I wouldn’t push it if I were you. The little ones haven’t given me a list of ways I’ve failed lately, so, for them, there’s still hope.

I’m sure that over the next several years of being your mother, I will fail you in ways you may not even predict today. For that, in advance, I apologize.

Get over it, please. And let’s just enjoy each other’s company, OK.

8 comments to An open letter to my 13 and 16 yr old daughters

  • so… are you going to give them that busy work? heh

  • Administrator

    No kidding, sheesh. I should have them write up a statement about the morality of the Twilight characters, huh. Although if they knew I was trying to find out if their inner guidance was being negatively impacted, they’d probably write something slanted “Twilight teaches me the importance of waiting until marriage…”

  • Nicole

    Aw, chin up. I am a completely different mom than you, yet I know exactly how you feel.Especially with the oldest. [if she rolls her eyes at me one more time I am going to gouge them out][With an ice pick] [or perhaps her headphones]

    It doesn’t matter what we are doing, teenage girls know how to do it better. Your kids are sweet, smart, amazing and well-adjusted. That’s all you, Lisa!

    At least you don’t have the added benefit of bio-mom calling every couple of weeks to critique your housekeeping or interpersonal skills. In your house, you’re the boss. In mine it’s her! :(

    Come play soon!

  • Christy

    Lisa, I must say, I find this funny :>) I only think these things. Look at you. Saying them out loud. Way to go! Did E and M, read this? Miss you!

  • You’re a great mom, and here’s how you can tell: they are talking honestly with you, even when it isn’t such positive feedback. I’m sure you would rather they share these thoughts than lock their true feelings away. It may sound like criticism and complaining, but if you were the mom they think they wish you were, they wouldn’t talk to you except to ask for the charge card.

    It’s a testament to natural parenting, really. Anyway, every kid whines about what you won’t buy them. If you could afford dance costumes, they’d be asking for the latest Coach purse, and the girls with Coach purses really want a Prada or Louis Vuitton. It’s human nature. I think longing is good for kids. It teaches them to do without things they think they need, and it encourages initiative because eventually they decide to go get it themselves. It teaches them to be really joyful when they finally get that heart’s desire.

    I’m interested in the thought that they’ll be ultra-conventional as a reaction. I kind of see that pattern in my own life with my mother. She wasn’t NP, but she is/was a hippie and a serious hardcore feminist.

  • Melissa

    Great blog. I homeschool my 2 young daughters (age 6 and 4) and will be homeschooling my 9 year old daughter next year. It’s great to find another mom who keeps her girls at home. Seems like most homeschooling families have mostly or all boys so it’s a bit harder to relate.

  • Administrator

    Thank you, Melissa. I hope you & your girls have fun. Where we live, my best friend has 4 daughters, so when we get together there are ten girls playing, it’s always so much fun. Thank you so much for the note :)

  • Administrator

    That’s funny, I kind of think of you when I think about that. It seems you took the best of your parent’s influence and built yourself to be awesome. No one would ever know what a weirdo you are (just kidding :)

First Grade, Psychology, Physics, Chemistry and Food

Sometimes when homeschoolers or unschoolers are trying to explain how life and learning are naturally integrated, they use the example of cooking. I tried to intellectualize it in the article Cooking with Kids, but last night’s dinner hour was particularly good example of this “in action.”

All my girls love to cook. In fact, I was telling a friend the other day that sometimes we don’t have official “meals” because there’s someone cooking something all day long. A plate full of crackers with melted cheese, a blender full of fruit smoothies, a recipe someone saw on TV or invented from scratch. With so many people who like to cook, dividing our meals into specific menus really made it more work than is necessary.

Maddy (6) & Gabriella (8) like cook and serve food. When I am in my room working and the older girls are upstairs doing whatever t is older girls do (gossip, watch TV, write stories and song, dance or listen to music…) Maddy & Gabriella like to come around and offer everyone food.

Last night I was making dinner and Maddy came in, saying “I need a pan… the noodle-y kind”

In the past, I may have said “what for?” or otherwise grilled her, and come to the conclusion that since I’m making Dinner, she doesn’t need to cook. Instead, though, I just accepted that she needed a pan and decided to work on dinner alongside her, as equals.

So I opened the dishwasher (they rarely get a chance to cool off and get put away until we need them again) and I showed her all the clean noodle pans, she rejoiced with so much enthusiasm, saying “You are a master.” I thought that was pretty cute, but the conversation just kept getting better.

So we’re cooking together, she told Emilee that she’d make her a Top Ramen (blech) She knew how to prepare it all by herself. I wanted to carry the pan full of water for her, but we settled on having me bring it down from the sink. (me, being a control freak)

So she carried it to the stove, not missing a single drop. (physics in action; water volume, balance, momentum…)

Afterward, I said “Wow Maddy, I underestimated you. You really kept that balanced well” and she said “thank you. I know how to cook things because you showed me. I can just see you doing things and it makes me see that I can do them, too.” (self awareness, love of learning, gratitude, communication, ass-kissing)

I was unloading the dishwasher when she said those words and it was so relaxed and easy just being together. She was so proud, so articulate. (LIFE- kids are wiser than we give them credit for)

We made jello together, too. It was her first time making it. She was surprised that it was made with hot water because when she eats it, it’s cold. We discussed how the hot water melts the crystals and makes them swell up and the refrigeration glues them back together. (chemistry, physics) We measured water (doubling the recipe, that’s math and using the wrong size measuring cups so we had to do a little extra calculating. Four halves is equal to two cups)

Both Maddy and Grace wanted to pour the crystals into the bowl. It takes 2 boxes for our family, so Grace (4) poured the first one and Maddy poured the second one. I pointed out that the pink Jello mix was the same color as their jammies. When we poured water into it, the girls pointed out that the red liquid was the same color as my shirt. We discussed the idea that everything pink turns red when wet and decided that it depends what it is. Pink toys won’t turn red. pink paint won’t turn red and their jammies would just look darker but construction paper is still up for debate (science, math, communication)

When the noodles she was making her sister were ready, I brought them out with a fork and asked “does she like the noodles with a lot of broth or a little? Maddy said a little and we both agreed that she preferred more firm noodles rather than mushy ones. Although Maddy likes them better mushy and I don’t like them very much at all. Maddy said “Everybody likes different things mommy, and that’s OK” (scientific observation, communication, Psychology)

Then she said “nobody would like cabbage and radish and (list of yucky things) in their noodles” so I said “there are some things everyone agrees upon, huh” I reminded her that perhaps in some country, some people eat that every day and it’s their favorite thing (social studies) because maybe that’s what they were raised with and maybe they have never had it another way (psychology, perhaps?)

She carried the soup upstairs to her sister, brought down a dirty dish and said “Mom, I love cooking with you.” (honest and reciprocated. I love cooking with her, too.)

These are the times that I wish more people understood that there’s no need to “make learning fun” because it already is. All we need to do is relax, and share our lives with our children. imagine- trying to pack all of that into a lesson plan for a first grader. Look at the insanity of standardized education. Look at what we would NOT have learned if I had said “I’m making dinner, sweetie. get out of the kitchen.”

————————-
Upstairs, while we were cooking dinner and the three oldest were watching a movie, Emilee asked Gabriella (8) what she should put as her facebook status.

Gabriella’s response:
” follow your heart, your heart will lead you to where you want to go.”

4 comments to First Grade, Psychology, Physics, Chemistry and Food

OK, I am asking you this out of desperation. I have a 3.5 year old who we are planning to homeschool. I’ve tried the sit down, work on your letters thing and it is not his style. He tries so hard to please me, bless his heart, but learning shouldn’t be about pleasing mommy. I am fascinated by the way you teach your girls, but I’m almost too scared to try it. So, here’s my question, how do you teach a preschooler ABC’s, numbers, etc. without a forced sit down “learning time”? I want to just let learning happen but I’m terrified it won’t.

  • Administrator

    Hi Annita. I think the last sentence summed up your perspective a bit. You’re terrified. Terrified is a really extreme amount of fear, right? If we’re rational and take a deep breath and try to find reasons to justify the fear. My guess is because it’s uncharted territory, a new idea for you. Making decisions based upon fear is generally not a good idea. I’m sure that when your son learned to walk and talk you didn’t sit down and have “lessons” right? You looked for signs, you saw him trying and you worked with him, at his own level, right? Same thing with letters, shapes and numbers. They’re everywhere. Alphabet soup, shapes in the clouds, on street signs, and signs all over town. Your son may be pointing things out and you can point things out, too. Some families like to hang up posters in the house, from school supply stores. You can write his name on his jacket tag or his other belongings if you want him to see it more often.

    The point is, that learning really does happen. Do you want to teach him fear or confidence? You can still play all your flashcard games if it makes YOU feel better, but it’s not necessary to test him on it or give him your stress about learning. I remember when I was a kid, I learned more about reading from watching Sesame Street than from preschool. Starfall.com is a good website for kids to play with letters and sounds. Just talking together, singing songs and playing games and just BEing together allows you the opportunity to notice when he IS learning and to help him interpret the world in ways he can use.

    For example- you’re building with blocks and he needs a cube, or you need a cylinder. You must communicate that to one another. The words just come out, without ever discussing dimensions or geometry or coloring in worksheets or anything else.

    ANYTHING worth learning will be represented in real life, and doesn’t need to be faked.

    For me, in the beginning, I needed to immerse myself in the perspectives of families who had a no-stress approach to learning. Dayna Martin and Joyce Fetteroll were the very best for me. I hope that you enjoy them, too.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. What you said makes sense, he is already noticing letters and numbers everywhere and getting excited about what he knows. We sit down at his desk and his eyes glaze over. I’m off to check the sites you suggested, thanks again!

  • Great post. I love what you said about not needing to make learning fun because it is. After about 6 months of unschooling, I’ve stopped trying to turn things into a learning opportunity and am realising that *they already are*!!