31.7.08

Why I Love Homeschooling

Officially we are done with school for the summer. I have filed attendance and grades for the last 4 quarters. I am not keeping records right now. This is the fun time. We can go on trips, we can hang out all day and do nothing if we want and yet, guess what we are doing?

If you guessed school you are correct.

When my son wakes up two days into summer vacation and says, in tones of horror, "Mom, we forgot to do school yesterday. We had better not forget today." Who am I to say, "No. No more learning for you, it's summer vacation."

So we continue with lessons 3 or 4 days a week. We are reading through The Story of the World together, just for fun before we start our ancient history classes in the fall. We are still learning new math stuff. We are still doing piano and theory lessons, and I have added voice. He is reading his way voraciously through everything that I and the local library can provide at his reading level. And attempting some things far beyond it.

Most days right now when it's suddenly too quiet and I go rushing to see what kind of mischief they are getting into I find them all sitting together, heads bent over a book as the Boy makes out the words.

The Girl likes to pretend to read. She points at words she doesn't understand and recites words she has memorized by heart, convinced that she is reading. She is learning to make letters. Monday she woke up and started working through a little exercise book that she has. She sat and did "school" for several hours, and then she got up and helped the Baby put together wood puzzles and thread big wooden beads together.

Yesterday when I came out of the bed room they were all wearing their Indian finery, they have many clothes items from all around the world, and they were playing with the electronic keyboard and experimenting with and dancing to all of the different beats they were making. In their heads they were playing friends and pretending to be Indian princes and princesses at a party. In my mind there was no need to interrupt the play and experimentation with rhythm in order to teach a music lesson.

As I type this, the Boy is sitting at the girl's side at the table helping her make letters. This is what I hear.

Girl: Oh I did know it I did it.

Boy: [laughing excitedly] Yeah, you didn't think you knew how to make an s but then I showed you and you did it.

Girl: Oh look here's another one. Will you help me. I don't really know how to do this one.

Boy: Yes you do. Just do lines across each other just like this see.

It's moments like this that I am really glad we are all taking this journey together.

30.7.08

Once Again I learn to stop trying to control the things that I have no control over

I have been going crazy at bed time around here. Some nights the whole process is so frustrating that I am in tears. The kids mess around. They play with each other. They play chase with the Baby. They smear toothpaste all over the bathroom and break the teeth off of my hair cutting comb. What should take minutes takes at least an hour and then some. I feel like I have to stand over them waving a stick while they slowly inch their tiny frames from one task to the next or they will escape and scatter again and return to the silliness and time frittering that is their regular unsupervised modus operandi. By the time they are in bed I am emotionally exhausted from dealing with the naughtiness, the tears, the sheer mental energy it takes to try and force small independent beings to do something that they don't want to do.

Saturday night was a very low point in our bedtime history. I had to discipline the Girl for going off task several times. The Boy was loud and obnoxious, distracting to everyone else and the Girl was crying into her pillow as I turned out the light and started to sing. I lay down next to her only to have the Baby climb jealously over her and push her way in between us while they both screamed bloody murder. They were restless and fractious as I sang, they bounced around and off the walls during prayers and my voice, body and energy were spent. So I prayed as they listened that I would learn a better way to do things, that they would learn to get ready for bed fast and that our nights would be more peaceful.

The next night, without having really given it much further thought throughout the day I suddenly found myself saying, "It is bed time at 8:00. You have 15 minutes to get yourselves completely ready. That means your pajamas are on, your clothes are put away, your teeth are flossed and brushed and you are laying in your beds by the time it is 8:oo. It is your responsibility. Anyone not ready for bed in time will be disciplined for disobedience, and then every 5 minutes after until they are ready. If you are ready by 8:00 I will read you a story out of that big book that has the long old fashioned stories in it that we don't usually seem to have time to sit and read through together. And...whoever is ready first gets to choose the story."

And then I cleaned up in the kitchen and cleared the table.

The Boy shot through his evening routine faster than I even thought possible. He was lying in bed in less than 5 minutes. The Girl dawdled, and chatted, and went into talk to him while flossing. I bit my lip. I stopped myself 100 times or more in that 15 minute interval from reminding, nagging or cajoling. I did not rescue her from the consequences of her choices, and 8:00 came and she was not ready. And then there were tears. And then she wailed for the whole 5 minutes as she brushed her teeth alone in the bathroom and I read the Boy the story he chose. She got to hear the tale end of it.

They both started up again with the interrupting and talking and moving around during the singing so I told them I would leave the next time either of them started up. I didn't finish singing that night. More tears. I did give hugs before I left though, face wet from rubbing against their salty tears.

We tried it again the next night. The Girl was ready in time, but the Boy still got to choose the story. They were quiet during the singing.

Tonight, we tried it again. The Boy elected to practice a new song on the piano for a few minutes while the Girls ran to finish first tonight. And she did. I stood on the patio chatting with a neighbor. At quarter to eight I checked on them and they were both ready and the Girl was triumphantly choosing her story for me to read. There has been more peace in our house at bed time than there has been for months. And even with the reading they are still getting to sleep earlier.

And once again I remember something that it was very hard for me to learn at one point, and I still tend to forget from day to day. The only one I have control over is myself. The only choice I have is how I will respond to a situation that presents itself. Even, or especially, very small children cannot be compelled to do something without me sacrificing a great deal of my time and energy and essentially doing it for them. That's another option I have, but I didn't realize I was choosing that, and I was resenting the energy it cost me.

In the last few days, as I allow them again the freedom to choose on their own how the evening will go, and I step back and say clearly , "This is what I will, and won't do. Now let the chips fall where they may." There is much more air in our house it seems. There is space to breath again in the evenings because I am not crushing us all with the weight of my expectations, and my vise grip on the way things are done.

I wonder why it took me so long to remember that this is the way people are, and that this is the only really viable approach to our relationships to other people. Then I realize that it was because I have been focused on myself and how I feel about this and it has kept me from seeing the larger picture. It has kept me from seeing my children as little people, rather than burdensome drains on my evening schedule. It has kept me from looking beyond myself for a solution. It has blinded me to my goal as a parent of producing autonomous independent people who can act decisively and independently in their own daily lives. This exclusive self focus has robbed me of the joy that is possible in even the bed time routine and the time that could be spent snuggled with children making happy memories instead of solidifying an image of me with my shrew voice in their little heads.

I only took a little, gentle reminder to get my eyes off of myself and look up and around. To look at what is good. And yet, the change is so dramatic that I shall have to find a way to remember more often.

29.7.08

Blogging Hospitably

I've always been bothered by the idea of bloggers tailoring their blogs for readers. It's a bit irrational I admit. But there it is.

I guess that some of it comes from the fact that I view blogging as so personal. The blogs I read and love have so much of the blogger's personality tied up in them that it seems to change the blog to be what other people want to read is like changing yourself so that other people will like you. And that is where I find it bothersome, because the idea of anyone changing themselves just so that more people will like them bothers me.

Not that I am saying that this is in fact what people who change their blogs a lot are doing. Just like people who change their shirt a lot aren't doing it so that more people will like them either. I'm just trying to explain the personal obstacles I have had in thinking about what the people who read this may like.

And then, I had an epiphany. Meredith, the lovely and gracious host of Like Merchant Ships, which I read every day and keep forgetting to add to my side bar, wrote a little post a month or so back. In it she compared her blog to her home and her readers as guests. And suddenly it all made sense to me.

I usually quite enjoy entertaining. If you, dear reader, were to enter my house I would have made preparations for you. If you were coming to dinner I would have planned the menu a week ago and done all the shopping ahead of time. I would have swept the rugs and made the Boy clean the toilet for you. I would have drinks that I know you enjoy available, and I would offer you one when you came in the door. I'd also offer you a seat.

If you just popped by when I was in the middle of something for an impromptu visit, I'd still offer you some water at least and clear a space for you on my cluttered couch. I'd still be glad that you were here and take some time for conversation.

And so I realized that this blog isn't about me. It's about you lovely people who take time out your day to come and visit me. Sure it's still my blog, just as my house is still my house, it has stuff that I like and care about in it. But it's there in the service of entertaining and providing care and comfort to to the people there. Mostly.

So with that revelation...I don't know that there will be any noticeable change in She Laughs at the Days or not. Perhaps my attitude change won't have any practical implications at all.

But from now on I will be blogging with an eye being more hospitable towards you, the people who keep coming back to visit. Your friendship, even the electronic version, means a great deal to me.

27.7.08

Mommy needs a nap.

So things continue on in pretty much the same vein around here since the decision to move to Thailand. Sure I keep being frustrated in my attempts to download free editing software so that I can upload files from my own computer to our fledgling website. And the kids and I talk about it a lot as they process the impending change. We talk about Thai customs an learning the language. And our new reason for not frivolously spending money on silly whims is that we need to save it so we have enough to buy plane tickets to go to Thailand. The Girl's evening prayers have taken an interesting turn of late.

"Please help Daddy to lots and lots of money so that we can go to Thailand...and to the movie theatre! And please help us to remember when, when, when, we are in Thailand not to touch people's heads...and to keep our feet off the walls. Amen."

************
Then there was yesterday, when I felt like I was caught in a three ring juggling act with no intermission.

It started with the shop that replaced the engine in our car calling to say that it would be ready sometime today, and they would have it towed to our apartment. They could not however be specific about when. My entire plan for the day was to go to a fabric store and get what we needed to make this tutu for a birthday we are attending tomorrow, and to hang out at my MILly's all day and work on this one project. But we needed to be home to sign for the car.

So we decided that they would come to us, and bring the already begun dinner with them, and spend the afternoon swimming with the kids. While I made bread. Add the first project to my to do list. This was not too stressful because we just had company the night before, so the house was still in pretty good shape. No rushing around to clean up on the horizon.

Grandma (Milly) and aunts and uncles all descended upon us after nap time and took ecstatic kids for a swim, except for the boy who needed to cry for 10 minutes or so because neither of his uncles elected to sleep over, and I started the bread.

Then the GH needed to leave and finish his homework someplace more quiet. (He's in the middle of a TESOL course right now.) He called to tell me that I can sign for the vehicle and that the tow truck driver has my number.

The 4 of the swimmers, two of my children and one aunt and one uncle decided to walk up the hill to the big pool where they can dive. (Yes we live in a nice place, it's worth the effort it takes to pack 5 people into less than 900 square feet. Not to mention how full it feels when we have guests.)

I had bread in the oven and waved goodbye as they headed off.

The towing company called. They were lost. The driver would call shortly once he found us so I could let him in.

The three rings are about to converge.

I hear screaming out the window. A second later I realize that it's the Boy just as his uncle runs up to the door holding him in his arms while bloods pours out of his foot and stains the welcome mat. Concerned mommy that I am, I don't want blood on the floor, I tell them to sit outside while I grab a paper towel to soak up the blood. His screaming has drawn the whole neighborhood and Milly from the nearby pool. As I try to get a look at his foot the phone rings.

Of course, I have to answer it because it could be the tow truck driver with our car. SO I run inside the house, leaving Milly holding the Boy's bloody foot. It is the still lost driver and so I give more directions. Turn out he has the wrong address.

I grab the bottle of peroxide and run back outside where we pour it all over his foot. In the meantime the story is emerging from a dozen places at once. Glass, on the path, near the big pool, he stepped in it. Why wasn't anyone wearing shoes to walk up there? Because they were just swimming of course.

I have to check on my bread.

Just in time I take it out of the oven as Milly carries the Boy inside to my bathroom so that the whole neighborhood won't have to hear him scream anymore. AT least there won't be any blood on the carpet now, it's been washed and soaked up some.

I carry the phone into the bathroom with me and hold the Boy's arms so that he will stop attacking his Beema with them while she squeezes and prods to make sure there is no more glass left in the cut. One uncle appears in the bathroom with a paper towel full of turmeric. The next door neighbor, Indian of course, sent it with instructions to press it against the wound. She also sent cookies. We give the Boy the cookies and decide against the turmeric since we've already used peroxide and bleeding has already stopped. Another person appears in my bathroom. An aunt. There are now six of us in this little space. The people in the office want me to come in and sign papers. What? Is the tow truck here? No they just want me to sign something about what just happened, they wanted the 13 year old uncle who carried the Boy back to sign it first and then asked for me when he refused.

I angrily decide that they can wait.

The phone rings. The driver is here.

I send Milly to let him in the gate while I bandage up the cut. The Boy is by this time calm. He stays still while I use tweezers to extract something that looks like garbage from the cut and then we bandage it. Today I realize we probably should have stitched it, or at least used a butterfly to close it up, but it didn't occur to me yesterday.

I sit him in front of a movie, go out to sign for the car, and come in to set the table for dinner. The rest of the evening went almost as planned.

Except for the part when I took out the stress of the day on the GH when we went for a walk after dinner because he didn't stop and wait when the Boy was calling him and wanted to walk with him instead of me. He claims he didn't hear. I was still irritated. And of course thinking that it was that moment that really mattered instead of my need to decompress and feel reassured after that really exciting half hour that he missed out on earlier.

Today I made the tutu, and finished the steamed rice the GH is taking to his TESOL class tomorrow, and baked buns for my neighbor's husband's birthday party tomorrow. (Got that?) And tomorrow is another busy day. Church and Luaus and laundry, OH MY!

Mommy needs a nap.

18.7.08

So that was anti-climactic

Well, I talked to the person from CNN today for all of 30 seconds. That was just long enough for her to tell me that she didn't know exactly what was happening with the piece anymore or where they were taking it but they were "taking it in a different direction" and wouldn't need to interview me any longer. It was such a classic showbiz phrase that I barely resisted the urge to laugh out loud.
Ah well, at least I didn't end up sounding like a total moron after all. :)

I now wish I had asked exactly what other direction they were going with it. Just because I'm curious.

Instead today I hung laundry to dry at my MIL's place. And we had our customary Shabbat meal together. This afternoon my sister's in law and I collectively convinced the Genius Husband to finally join Face Book. I think it was reading all of the banter on my Brother in law's official fan club page that finally sucked him in. Yes, my BIL has a devoted fan site, it's a long story. His fan's have decided he's the new Chuck Norris, and are placing his name in all of the old Chuck Norris jokes. Honest, it's funny if you know him.

And then the GH booked a plane ticket for Thailand next month and spent the next several hours chatting with the brother, of the aforementioned fan club, who is in Korea right now but will be meeting him there next month. They were discussing what he would need to bring in order to go on a hunting trip with a bunch of Lahu tribesman near the Burmese border for a day.

And so I might as well tell you...

We are making plans to move to Thailand at the end of this year. Two days after everything went south with my husband and his career here his brother sent an email telling us about the work that's going on in the jungle in the north. And the work that needs to be done. He had not said anything before because he knew that the GH was committed to law enforcement and would be EXTREMELY conflicted to hear about it. We've wanted to do something like this since before we were married. Our original plan was to go to Thailand within a year of our wedding. We've never wanted to stay in North America. We've always wanted to go and help people who are really in need and to be able to use what blessings we have in a way that impacts the greatest number of people possible. We had kind of given up on all that. It seemed like a dream that would never be realized. It was too hard with small children and we didn't fit with any organizations and why are we going and would it actually help anyone if we did?

Well, it seems that now is the time. We will be working primarily with the Lahu tribes as well as the Karen and Shan. Most of the people we will see are refugees form Burma. For them it's a choice between staying in Burma and being slaves of the Burmese army or killed because they are ethnic minorities or crossing into Thailand and living in refugee camps and villages.
They are subsistence farmers, they are not literate many of them and they are highly motivated to learn better sustainable agriculture techniques, English, (So they are more employable in Thailand), business, and economics. They talk of one day going back to Burma and rebuilding their country so that it is a thriving prosperous place. The reason my BIL wrote us in the first place is because a few of the village leaders collared him one day, just before he left to go to Korea, knowing that he would be returning to the US next year to complete his degree, and practically begged. "Do you know anyone who would come and help us? Please tell people about us. We need help."

This was about a week before everything changed for us here. Doors slam shut, and other doors fling wide open.

We are building a site that explains everything that we will be doing there. It should be up soon. Okay, the GH is building it, I'm kind of not at all good at messing around with code. I like to stick to words. But I will be providing content, and the GH's brother, who has the most colorful use of the English language I've ever run into will be blogging there, and I'll be correcting his egregious spelling errors. :)

I'll provide a link when it's ready.

We're calling it The Charis Project.

Oh, and about me and the kids. We're not actually moving into the jungle to live in a stick house and hunt monkeys. (Some of my family and friends have expressed concern over this.) We'll be living in Chiang Mai, at least at first, which is a modern city where lots of westerners live, close to the Burmese border. We have quite a few people that we know in Thailand and we'll be staying at first with some friends and the GH's other brother (he has 6, confused yet?) who lives in Thailand now and is married to a Karen girl. I will finally get to meet her. The kids will have cousins to play with.

Okay, I lied. I'll tell you a few more things because I'm just so excited I can't help myself.
We are going to be putting an online store into the website to sell the tribal handcrafts, which are gorgeous, especially the bags. All the money is going to go into things like paying teachers and getting clean water to the village and agriculture training and setting up seminars for people to come out and teach business and community development. We will be paying our own way in Thailand with a job teaching English at a school there.

And the last thing, the thing nearest to my heart. My brother in law met a man a few years back who used to be a member of the Shan Resistance Army. (Think the guide in Rambo 4.) They basically tried to protect themselves from the Burmese army who periodically would surround a village with heavy artillery and give them two hours to hand over all of their food, all of their pigs, and all of their women or they would open fire on everyone. This man, Chala, is now on the Thai side of the border. He took my brother in law through the jungle and showed him all of the places where he used to hide. Now he uses his knowledge to find kids in the jungle.

You may be wondering why exactly would he be wandering through the jungle along the border and looking for kids? Because they are there to find. They are usually orphans, they have been running to get away from the Burmese army. They have escaped and often witnessed the deaths of entire villages before they could get away. They head for the Thai border where they know they will be safe. Chala finds them and takes them in. He feeds them and gives them a place to sleep. Right now he has more than 40 kids. He's had to move them several times because he keeps running out of money. He does all this out of his own pocket. I get to figure out how to help him help them.

Right now he's only able to worry about keeping them alive, but there will be more to consider in the coming years. Ultimately they will need school and counseling and job training. They will need someone to help them grow up. They need someone to love them right now. In Thailand it's possible to take up to 7 children into your house to care for them before you need to start a foundation or an NGO. I want to do this with the youngest ones. It will be challenging and there are language barriers and special needs to consider. It will take time to figure out. But that will be my new project once we get there. We want to help Chala take care of these kids.

In a few weeks we'll have the site up and anyone who wants to donate toward helping Chala and those kids will be able to do so. My husband will be meeting him the last week of August and will hand deliver any thing you give to him when he gets there. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, feel free to spread the word.

Well, that's it. That's the big secret. Cat's out of the bag. Now all I hope is that this really happens so I don't have to write a really anticlimactic post 6 or 7 months from now.

17.7.08

The Problem With Most Safe

So the oil change company is accepting full responsibility for the damage done to the GH's car due to their gross negligence. Whooo. We will not be without a functioning car much longer. They are also paying for the rental car while they fix his. Add one more thing to the list of things to be thankful for.

In other news, tomorrow I'm going to be interviewed by someone from CNN. See how I typed in that all casual like, no caps or exclamation points? That's because I want you to think I'm all nonchalant and unperturbed by such an event. Ya know. National news networks call me to ask my opinion all the time, it's no big deal. Hah. I'm such a liar with the typey fingers. I trained them to not betray nervousness during all those years of performing in front people on the piano, they are good at fooling you. My heart on the other end is beating faster just thinking about it and I only hope I don't sound like a TOTAL MORON tomorrow!! There my fingers caught up and started freaking out along with the rest of me.

So, as I have this hope to appear semi-intelligent and lucid in tomorrow's conversation, I thought I would type my thoughts on this subject here first to organize them. You dear people who come often and read already know that you get the things I would say out loud if I could find anyone to listen to me think out loud here in my real life. Lucky for you I'm a little more coherent when I write. And if you are wondering why on earth they called me, my personal theory is that every other blogger in the known universe is at Blogher right now having a fantastic time and partying like mad. I was the only one they could find who is still at home and willing to talk.

So I begin...

How much of what you do as a parent is because you think it's good for your children? And how much of what you do as a parent is because it's what you think other people expect you to do?

There is a little joke that I hear parents make from time to time. Only it's not really a joke is it? Because it could happen, and we're all afraid that it might. I read on some one's blog, "Wouldn't that have been a great moment for someone from CPS to show up?"

We drag our children out of the store as they throw a fit and we keep our reasonable mommy voice firmly in place and inside we are hoping that the people staring at us can see that we aren't bad parents, we are good parents, dealing with a bad moment. At least, that's what we want them to think. That's what we want to believe and hope is true about ourselves.

The truth is, being a parent in this country means always looking over your shoulder. There is always someone watching, and evaluating, and making judgments. And sometimes those lead to phone calls and a social worker shows up at your door.

Yes, I'm back at that story. That's what they want to talk to me about, at CNN. I think. The piece is on Protective Parenting.

But here's the thing. I've always been a devil may care type of girl when it comes to peer pressure, to fitting in, to caring about what other people think. Oh of course, I'm like everyone else. I want the people I like to like me back, I hope they'll speak well of me behind my back. I especially don't want people believing things about me that aren't true. But I've never changed the way I act or who I am for anyone, ever. If anything, I'll do the opposite of what they want me to do.

When it comes to parenting I have been the same way. All of those older ladies that smiled knowingly when I told them I intended to co-sleep with my first baby and said, "Well that's not going to make your hubby very happy is it?"

I could tell they were thinking, "Yah right, like that will work."

I remember at the time responding with, "He's a grownup, he'll be fine while I take care of my infant."

And he was.

There were the people who had a problem with breastfeeding. For which I was completely unapologetic. I don't mean to be rude, but other people's discomfort with me discreetly using my breasts to nourish my child wherever I happened to be when they were hungry is their problem, not mine. It's not my job to respect their discomfort by changing the way I parent, it's their job to change the way they think about the matter and get over it. Even if you are my dad.

The same thing with those uncomfortable with my choices for home births, weaning, diapering, potty training, homeschooling, vaccinating, discipline, etc. You see, I think long and hard about my choices as a parent. I agonize and research and pray and seek wise council. You can rest assured that once I decide on something I'm pretty confident that that choice is the best for my family and my children. There were always people who disagreed with me, and I didn't care. I was fully willing to engage in an intelligent discussion on the matter, and I am always willing to have someone show me a better way if there is one, but I will not and do not feel bad about the way I parent because some old lady on the street tut tutted at me for some reason or some one keeps insisting that I should let my babies cry for a while, it's good for them.

The homeschooling, home birthing, baby wearing, breast feeding, non vaccinating mamas that I had so much in common with were shocked and dismayed to learn that I let my boy play with guns and that I expected my children to come to me when I called, as soon as I called, whether they were distracted by the other kids or not. But it was that expectation and training that freed my children to be more independent outside. I could let them run a little ahead of me on the sidewalk at 2 or 3 because I knew that they would stop at the corner. I would watch people startle and make small jerky motions towards my tiny son as he raced full tilt for the curb, and then relax as they saw him come to a stop just in time and jump up and down in place while waving at me proudly. They often tried to lecture me. "With kids you can never be sure."

Well, I think I know my own child, whom I have been with 24/7 since the moment he was conceived in my body, a whole lot better than you, random stranger who just saw him for the first time 3 seconds ago. I have a pretty good idea of what he will and won't do, and what he's capable of. He's pretty exceptional, if I do say so myself. Don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate their concern for my child, I do. But in the end, I'm the one who has to live with my choices as a parent, not someone else. So I don't take what other people think about me much into consideration when I'm making those choices. Though I'm willing to accept good advice and counsel, and have often. I seek it out actually.

And so it goes. We all make choices. And then a lot of us try to find people who have made similar choices to spend time with, it makes it easier to be around people of like mind. There is less energy spent defending those choices to each other that way. But I've always enjoyed lively debate and controversy. And I by no means think that my choices are the only RIGHT choices, and that everyone should so what I do. They are right for me. Most of the time.

I know that my confidence as a parent isn't something that every one has, and I know lots of moms agonize over these things a good deal more than I do and that random comments can be crushing when they come during vulnerable moments. But blessed/cursed? as I am to have fewer insecurities in this area I have opted to live my life and my choices somewhat more publicly than some people. For starters, this blog. But I also don't pretend to be anything other than what we are. Or at least, I fight the tendency to do that. My kids get dirty. My kids play rough. They climb up to high places. They walk on fences. They ride bikes and scooters. They play outside. They spend hours lost in "unstructured imaginary play time" and I encourage that. I don't always make them change into clean clothes before we go out into public, or wash their face. We don't always have time, and I'd rather they had fun today than that we look perfect when strangers look at us. If people weren't always giving us clothes I often fantasize about how nice it would be if they only had 5 outfits each. Three for play that they can wear again the next day even though they're not pristine, and two for dressing up and going to church or dinner. I fantasize about all the space that would free up, and all the laundry I wouldn't have to do. It will never happen of course. People would assume that we are poor wearing the same thing all the time and give us clothes. or call CPS. And I have girls who love clothes, it's fun for them to dress up all the time.

This way of life however, that we have been quite content with, has it's own set of consequences. What I was unaware of until this year is that what people think about me as a parent matters. But not for reasons I could have imagined. You see, in this country, big brother is watching. An anonymous stranger, they don't even have to know your name, can place a phone call and suddenly you have to justify every choice you have ever made as a parent to a government agent. And it's something similar to the way they control birth in hospitals these days. They don't care about your individual needs as a mother or child, they are interested in the "most safe". One in 1000 babies might have this type of complication, so we will treat every baby that comes through this hospital for this complication.

One in 1000 children playing outside might have something bad happen to them, so it's better to keep them all inside, all the time, and have them grow fat and stupid playing computer games and watching TV. You see, that's the problem with the legal bit of such things and this way of thinking. It's most safe to keep kids from drowning if you don't take them near water at all. It's most safe to keep kids from falling if you never let them climb. It's most safe to keep kids from skinning their knees if they never run, or jump, or ride a bicycle. It's most safe to keep kids from making bad choices if you never allow them any. It's most safe to keep kids from being molested if they never run into any strangers... wait... that's not actually true is it? It's something close to 90% of kids who are molested are molested by someone they already know. Kids who never get to make choices with real consequences turn out to be very poor decision makers as adults.

In the end, the most safe type of life that your children can lead isn't really a life at all. I can't, and won't do that to my child. I will let them have as much freedom as they have shown me they are ready for. I will reward their good decision making with more responsibility. I will let them play outside in front of our house on the grass while I make dinner because they've shown me that they can be trusted to do so without putting themselves in danger. On occasion I let the Baby out too and it's their job to keep the her within the safe boundaries that we have established. Oh don't freak out. The door is wide open, I can see out the window from my desk and the kitchen. Even if she did go onto the road it's a dead end of a parking lot. There's a comfortable, for me, margin of safety beyond the lines I draw for them in case they are ever tempted to cross one. And every minute or so I mentally ask myself, "Where is the baby?" and make sure that everything is still the way it should be on the grass outside my door.

As a result my children are becoming more responsible. They are getting work and play and a level of independence that matches their ability and I am watching them grow up in front of me. And it is good for them. For us.

One thing I experienced in the weeks after CPS paid us a visit before it was resolved was how it feels to worry about what people are thinking about you all the time. It was a new experience for me. A very unpleasant new experience. I began to understand how some of the moms I've met over the years must feel all the time. I can now imagine how difficult it must be to try and make choices as parents when you are so afraid of what other people will think of you. I felt like a hypocrite every time we went outside to play. I felt like there were eyes boring into me form every direction. I felt the fakeness of the way the GH and I were behaving as we wondered which of our neighbors lacked the guts to come up to us and talk to us about our differences of opinion as parents and instead made allegations that our children are neglected because we don't parent the way they think we ought to.

All I can say is that there is something wrong with this whole picture. There is something wrong with a state that believes it often knows what's better for children than parents do, that finds fault with anything less than most safe. There is something wrong with a state where one person, not risking anything of their own life can make a phone call that can devastate another family. There is something wrong when parents need to involve social workers in custody battles, waiting for mistakes and moments of weakness in order to cast doubt on each other. There is something wrong when family members who disagree with the responsible choices of parents can fabricate a story and have those children removed from the home and placed in protective custody and it takes months of legal wrangling to sort the mess out and those children are devastated in the process. (True story, happened to someone we know personally.)

The truth is, someone is watching. The truth is parents have to be careful. And the truth is that those of us who would rather say screw you to everyone who has a problem with our thoughtful and well considered parenting style find ourselves weighing that instinct against the possible harm that those people could do to our family, our children, if we don't appease them. Even if we are able to prove ourselves justified in the end. At what cost? That we have to ask ourselves that kind of question is a problem.

**************

Once more I'll point you in the direction of ParentalRights.org over in my side bar there. An amendment could keep things from getting worse than they are. So I support them.

14.7.08

Mostly Little Things

Yesterday I gave away my mammoth double jogger stroller. I need the space in my storage room more than I need to save it in case I have another child this year. Actually, I'm trying to wait until next year to have another child but that's another story. I'm also packing up what feels like a ton of other stuff that we don't need to give away. I feel a bit like I am drowning in stuff these days and it's time to purge.

But here's the thing. Getting rid of all of these things has me thinking about how well we have been taken care of the past few years. It's a count my blessings type of moment. And I wanted to share some of it with you.

I couldn't have gotten rid of that stroller, which I was able to buy at cost because the store where we bought it was owned by our friends' family, if I hadn't won a brand new stroller last year in the Chico stroller giveaway that Mel hosted. It's just like the stroller we gave away before we left Canada, only prettier, and better in every way. There are upgrades like an umbrella and cup holder. It still folds up into a neat shape for storage, but the locking mechanism is better so it stays shut. Our old one stopped doing that after a while. And it has shocks. And little pad in the back for an older child to stand for a while when they are tired of walking. I love this stroller. Thanks yet again Mel and Chicco for giving it to me. It even fits on the bus.

The Baby's first car seat came from our good friends who's baby out grew it almost immediately. The Baby took a long time to get to 15 pounds so she's loved this seat for over a year. Thanks Emily.

The new big girl car seat came from my mom, and my dad drove it down here when he last visited.

I have not purchased any new clothes for the Baby since she was about 3 months old. Even though I gave all of the Girl's baby clothes away before we left Canada. My dear friend Megan, who has adorable taste in girls clothes, keeps passing to me the clothes her baby has outgrown so that mine can wear them next. The Baby has had the most stylish wardrobe a one year old could ever wish for. Megan has now moved away for a while, just as the Baby is big enough to start wearing the Girls' clothes that I do have saved. It's yet another little thing that adds up to huge blessings for us in the long run. Thanks Megan.

Megan also has passed on tons of other stuff that I've completely lost track of, like swim wear and floaties for the pool, little toys for the kids, and even more that I've forgotten.

The TV that we got for free from the GH's parents died a few months back. It wasn't that big a deal because the kids only watch shows on the weekends anyway, but we did miss it a little. Not enough to buy a new TV though. Last week our new friends across the green, I'm going to start calling it a green because it sounds so much cooler that way, gave us their old TV. They bought a new bigger TV and just gave us their old one. How cool is that?

I guess one of the things that got me thinking about all of this was last Friday. Thursday night the same neighbor, she of the TV, also a professional chef, brought us homemade brownies for dessert. In the morning another neighbor, a friend of the boy's dropped off some school books they thought the kids might like. (My kids get so excited over new school books, it's really funny.) Yet another neighbor walked past and put a brand new hat on the Baby's head and handed me another. "They were on sale at Walmart for $2, I just had to buy them for her. They were too cute." Another neighbor brought over 5 DVD's with kids movies on them. My Indian neighbor next door gave me a big bowl of Pampagi to try. (I have no idea how to spell that.) Oh so good. She fed the GH samosas all the time while I was in Canada too.

It was a glut of generosity from the people we see every day. A palpable reminder that we are blessed, in our friends and in our lives.

Sure things go wrong from time to time. On Friday the service station where the GH took the car in for an oil change FORGOT TO PUT OIL IN BEFORE HE DROVE AWAY! The Engine is shot. We don't know how long it will take to rebuild. It's our only car, without it the GH can't work. It feels like a disaster, but it's not. The guarantee policy at the service center covers car rental while they sort it out. There are things in place here to protect us from things like this so they aren't disasters.

It's easy to focus on the near disasters in when they happen. It's even easier to look ahead and stress out about imagined potential disasters. I find it takes a little bit more discipline on my part to notice the blessings, to count them, to not take them for granted. That's why I named this blog She Laughs at the Days. I need to be reminded every day to notice and think on the things that are praiseworthy. That, and I aspire to be the woman the passage I stole that phrase from describes, "Strength and honor are her clothing, she laughs at the days to come."

When we get worn down, especially as moms, it's usually the little things. A puddle of pee on the floor by itself isn't enough to do it. It's the puddle of pee after 5 other puddles of pee, three middle of the night bedding changes, a sick and sleepless infant and a husband who just put his dirty socks down on the dinner table AGAIN that wear us down. I'm good at listing off the things that pile up and send me to the edge. What's also true, for me anyhow, is that there are dozens of little things that make my life easier too. But how often do I list those? How often do I take the time for gratitude and give thanks?

Today I'm doing just that. Want to join me? Leave me a comment telling me about the little blessings you have received this week. Or let me know if you post it on your own blog by leaving me a link.

11.7.08

18 months


I can't get over how big you are. I don't just mean physically either. Sure you've grown a bit. You are in a new size of shoes and the 9 month dresses you've been wearing for months suddenly don't reach past your bum anymore. But the bigness is mostly in your personality.

When we were in Canada you reacted as I thought you would the first few days. You were shy with strangers, you withdrew into my arms when people you didn't know tried to hold you, and you would bring my shoes when you were done with being in each place. You would put them on my feet and drag me toward the door. You kept trying to go home and couldn't figure out why I wasn't cooperating. And then, something happened.

You opened up, blossomed, accepted everything and became the life of the party. You smiled at people. You charmed them. You started to pose for the camera and smile on cue. You wrapped everyone around your little finger. And, remarkable to me, you accepted the ever changing scenery and places to sleep, the family that you barely knew, and you were a babbling ball of joy.




You slept like a rock on the planes. You slept right through the Calgary airport. You didn't wake up in customs, you didn't wake up when I took you out of the stroller to go through security. You didn't wake up when I put you back in the stroller on the other side of security. You slept right up until the very last minute when we got on the plane. Then you were awake. Which was a lot of work. And you refused to let me hold you when you slept yelling your version of, "I'm a big girl now mom, leave me alone." You were so excited to sit on your own seat on the bus from the airport. And then you fell asleep. You spent the entire train ride home looking out the window and yelling in excitement and then, in my first indication that you were hearing a lot more than I thought, every time I pointed out the window and said "ocean" you would put your finger to your lips and say, "Shh." You recognized the sound and associated it with another one.

It was a lot of fun to go on that trip with you.

And now that we've been home you continue to get bigger every day. There are whole sentences in you babble now.

"There it is!"

"Shoe shoes shoes go outside."

"Food pease pease pease."

"Oh poo. Diapah dere."

Now you sit down in your chair when I start to make dinner and sign and say "Pease pease pease?"


You understand almost everything I say now.

I ask you if you are tired and want to go to bed and you nod your head vigorously and say, "Yesh."

You love how words are helping you communicate. It's so exciting to you to stand at the door and say "Bed?" and have mommy open the door and take you in. So exciting that you do it over and over again, even when you are not tired."

You love to be outside. You take off for strange and foreign places on your little push car. You stand at the next door neighbors open door, thus the foreign as they are East Indian, and wave at them smiling until they offer you cookies. You stop to wave to everyone. And your wave is really a rotation of your wrist, rather than a movement of your hand and it looks like you are practicing to ride in a parade.


There are new tricks of course. You can reach the railing on the stairs nearby and you like to stand inside the frame of it and hang, dangling your feet over the side. You are so strong. And you laugh repeatedly when you do this.

You also like to climb up on things and stand up, like the little rocking chair. You will stand on the seat and hold your hands out to the side, so proud of your ability to balance. What I find remarkable is the way, when you are thrown off balance for a second, you will regain it quickly and then catch my eye and grin as though we share some huge hysterical joke. You aren't scared for a second. I truly think you are calculating the comic effect of the whole thing. Your uncle AJ should be proud. You are already an entertainer.

And you can swim like the bigger kids, sort of. Those water wings that Megan found you that can strap on tight are really paying off. You now float around the pool with just those on. You blow bubbles to keep water out of your nose and your favorite game is to jump off of the steps into the water. I never thought I'd see an 18 month old swimming around like you, but there you are. You love the water. Except when it gets too cold.

You like to run around with the other little girls who live nearby. I really like to watch the 3 of you chasing each other over the grass and laughing. It's fun to watch you be a big kid.



You spend hours trying to get Daddy's attention when he is home. You fix him with a big eyed stare from across the room and shift your weight back and forth, back and forth, until he sees you, and then you run to him and laugh some more.

Oh, and I mustn't forget the dancing. Oh my, dancing. You look like a bull fighter when you dance. Your shoulders are thrown back, your elbows bent, your posture proud and perfect, and you turn your shoulders and your arms back and forth over and over while pivoting your hips in the opposite direction. Really fast. It's hilarious. I Love the way you dance. and then you run in place in time to the music.

Your brother did a good job suggesting that we name you something that means rejoicing. Because that's how you go about your day. We are all much more joyful because you are with us.

I love you,
Your mama.

9.7.08

The Paradox of 4

She wants to help me sort through clothes. We eliminate every thing that the Baby has out grown and then the real fun begins. She wants to go through her old clothes and find things to give to the Baby. There is a denim jumper with pink buttons and kitty cats on the front that fits and she wants to put it on her right now. We negotiate a wait until tomorrow.

This morning while I am in the shower she changes the baby's diaper all by herself, and gets her dressed in the little jumper. They are both so pleased with themselves as we sit down to breakfast.

And then, she dumps the milk from her porridge bowl all over the the Baby's head, wetting the dress as well.

???????????????????

5.7.08

FINALLY!! Pictures

Have you all been waiting with bated breath? Or did you forget about it entirely?

Here at last are rattlesnake pictures. It was a Mohave Green Back BTW. At least, That's what we call them around here.

Here are the kids examining the headless snake. The body was still coiling and striking for a while, even after it lost it's head.


The Genius Husband also knows how to skin and cook a rattlesnake. This is not his first.


Watching Daddy.


And the Girl, zealously eating something that could kill her, And asking for seconds. And thirds.

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