Book Bag - no. 13

Bittersweet, the harvesting of squash families, new books. So many good things in this season. Remember Round is a Tortilla? What a delight to find, Green is a Chile Pepper this week. Our family grew chile peppers this summer to concoct some homemade hot sauce. So now I am feeling inspired to begin that process this week. 
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The kids and I escaped to my aunt's house this weekend, in coastal NH, with my sister. It was wonderful to see cousins and yellow leaves and a dinner on the table that I didn't help prepare. My aunt has my mom's beach cruiser in her shed, so my sister and I always take it for a spin around the block to feel sad, yet closer to her at the same time. I was with my mom when she picked it out. She wanted to ride to her store in downtown Exeter on beautiful fall days, like the one we had today. She didn't get to do that hardly at all. Cancer made sure of that.  Sorry to go dark on you all. But where else is there to go these days?  Bittersweet, indeed.


October Lessons

     This past weekend we celebrated my niece, Verity's second birthday. I love October. It is a wonderful month. The blur of adjusting to new routines has melted away and the air is ripe with the anticipation of cozy evenings filled with stories and firelight. And hope is renewed that maybe some projects might actually get accomplished. 
      Verity is a big Steve Light fan, so this gift was a shoe in. The bag, I made from leftover pieces of linen to help her transport small, stuffed friends. Myles stitched one strap into place, so it was really a "team effort."
However, there was a bit of cajoling involved to make that last part happen. 
     Yesterday evening I watched a friend gracefully parent her son.  We were at soccer practice together and something happened on the field that caused this little boy to run over to us in tears looking for comfort. We didn't actually catch what happened, but as my friend dusted him off, it became clear that he had no intention of finishing out the practice. They went back and forth for a minute, but after realizing the banter was going nowhere, she let him run off and smooth his ruffled feathers in his own way. He played on the playground with the sisters, while she continued to read her book in the same spot, still half watching the practice. What she didn't do was pick that battle and force her child into submission like someone else I know would have done. Gulp.
    After reflecting upon that interaction, I realize that there are too few battles that I don't pick.  Many details of our home life, I am willing to fight for.  The small things are important, Gosh Darnett.  So shoot me that I take things pretty seriously. This is so true, that in quiet moments standing around, people will ask me, "Is something wrong? You look like you're really upset." And then I'll realize that my brow is furrowed thinking about some decision that is lying ahead of me, and try and snap out of it for their sake. (It's not that fun watching someone in deep mental labor.) "Oh, no. Im fine," I will say. "Just preoccupied with creating an unrealistic more perfect existence."  This shows up in my parenting, big time.  Sometimes, I will let things go, like the towel on the bathroom floor, or the lunch sack left to ripen in a backpack over the weekend. But typically I feel like I am in constant parent motion. Listening in, picking up, instructing. Blah, Blah, Blahing.
      I have experienced burn out often enough to realize that I want to try to diversify my strategies. This, letting it go thing sounds amazing. It sure looked amazing on my friend.  Talk about taking the pressure off.  
     I am in the middle of listening to this talk about play and its really making me think and consider how well  I am letting my children experience risk and encounter natural boundaries, while discovering their own inclinations for good and creative endeavors.  I hope that forcing myself to relinquish some control, will also support this aspect of their childhood, and make me a more gentle mother. It is certainly worth a try. 



Book Bag - no. 12

It took a great deal of determination to take these pictures today, and even more to be typing these words. I guess one could say that our new routines have felt a little consuming. Free time to write and record and reflect, takes a lot more initiative and planning, and its been hard to carve that space out.  But today, the rain came. And with it brought a calm that had been hard to find up until it's release.
 Contentment eludes me, more often than I wish.  Even when I am living a choice that I had freedom in making, I have the terrible habit of self doubt. I worry that I chose poorly.
Today was a relief from that. Things flowed. Myles listened. Fiona was herself, and most importantly I knew what I was making for dinner.

Some mysteries are worth getting to the bottom of. Blog formatting is not one that I have time for right now, so apologies on the awkward layout.


Book Bag - no. 11

Here are the week's highlights. Mini Grey strikes again with a new hero, Hermelin. She will always be a favorite of mine. And after reading this post on Bomb, we had to give it a try. No review yet, for the title is still giving me the shivers. In terms of a family read-aloud we are floundering a bit. We can't quite land a new title for us all to gather around. I hate that feeling.  We finished the annual fall reading of Little House in the Big Woods, but now we are ready for something deliciously new to us.  While we wait for something to drop from the sky, we are listening to The Hobbit on audio.  Of course, wonderful, but there needs to be snow on the ground for Tolkein, I think. What are you all reading aloud?

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Captain John Smith arrived on time to Cohasset Harbor, and looked appropriately confused to see us all standing there. He read a letter upon coming ashore giving his opinion of the land's nature and qualities. The authenticity of the reenactment would have gone up a couple notches had all of Captain Smith's crew been costumed, or at least removed their sunglasses, but it was a wonderful affair nonetheless.

The Wampanoag Nation was represented as well, and led the children in bread making and dance. A sight that will not be soon forgotten, I am sure.

This Salvation Army purchase made my day!* 

*Not pictured is a three dollar, cozy, Patagonia fleece for Myles, that he refuses to take off. 

I hope everyone enjoys this deeply September week.


Something new

This year we begin something new.  Myles will be attending an alternative community school part-time and the other part of his time he will be learning at home with me. Making this decision was not easy. For the past two years Myles attended our local public school. Some days were good, some days were bad. But most were an uninspiring lukewarm. He certainly wasn't thriving.  I struggled with getting in line at school and taking a number.  Being pressured to accept the status quo and not ask a whole lot of questions. Watching my rambunctious, fidgety son being forced to sit at a desk for long hours, became more and more difficult to stomach. For certain, there were days that I felt that he was learning valuable lessons, socially and academically, but overall it felt like he was losing an interest in learning, atleast in the traditional, non-conversational way. So finally this summer after discovering an affordable alternative school, and getting my mind around what our days at home would look like, we decided to give something new a try. Yes, I have people running up to me, saying, "So, I hear you're homeschooling!" And honestly, I cringe a little bit. I feel like a turn coat to my public school friends and an elitist to the millions of Americans who are reliant upon the public school system for a good education and child care. I have always been haunted by the concept a bit, and the scenario of, if I really, really, really, wanted to do what is best for my child, I could control every detail, every influence, by homeschooling. I hate lines drawn in the sand and the arrogance of labels.

But despite all my ridiculous social misgivings, Our first week was a piece of a dream. Granted I was bracing myself for Armageddon. I was not going to make the mistake of having unrealistic expectations again.  I forbid myself from imagining peaceful fireside discussions about the dreams of men and the Northwest Passage. I wanted to save my hopes for moments of being pleasantly surprised. And I was, pleasantly surprised. Myles was clearly relieved and upbeat about his new situation, and much more attentive to the dog, which I always take as a good sign.

However after a good run, the honeymoon ended this week. So now it is time to really hunker down and create these new days for us.  Lots of resistance, buckets full of, "I'm not doing that." But for every moment of, "No!", there were moments of cooperation and recognition of scalene triangles.

It is difficult to do this in a small town and not feel like there hasn't been a schism formed. We live in a neighborhood where everyone walks to school and we do not live on a farm with a sibling hiding in every cozy corner. We bring Fiona to her first grade class, where she gleefully skips through the door, and then the two of us turn around and make our way home again. It is lovely most days, but also eerily quiet on others.

But I am thankful for the return of my little buddy. I am thankful for our trips to the Asian food market where we come home with things we have never seen before, and ingredients to make dumplings. I am thankful for our history studies that taught us a tad bit more about John Smith, so that we happened upon the news yesterday at the library, that he is said to have come ashore in Cohasset, MA four hundred years ago this late summer. Tomorrow, this town next door will be staging a reenactment of Smith's landing. I am not sure we would have caught this opportunity had we not changed our path, and that feels slightly affirming to me.