When Homeschool is a Struggle

I feel less self-conscious these days when I share bits of my life (particularly my struggles) online and I’m grateful for that. Struggles keep us humble. Struggles teach us great lessons.

Today, I’ve struggled with homeschooling my daughter. Truly, it’s the feeling of forcing learning (a task that is impossible as achieving perfection). No one can force us to learn anything. We can only be forced to perform.

I try hard to avoid this, but this week, I’ve failed. Maybe it’s the weather. We’ve had rain every day and haven’t been able to get outside like we usually do. Maybe it’s the fact that my son closed on his house and is moving out. Kat has expressed that she doesn’t want him to leave. Maybe it’s too much device time, even though I do limit that.

Maybe it’s me.

I have been so exhausted this week that I’ve failed to get up at 6am for vital quiet time. When I don’t carve out this time for myself, I feel like I’m pulled in a million directions all day and I have little patience.

The reason for my exhaustion is we’ve finally started making our daughter sleep in her own bed. So now, instead of sleeping all night, she comes down in the middle of the night and talks to me. I wish I could say I find it cute, but I don’t. First of all, she has no idea how to whisper. She also wants company to go to the bathroom. Then she wants water and I make her get up and get it herself.

My dog is also terrified of thunderstorms, so I hear him trying to get into our room after the loud clacks of thunder. I open the door to let him in.

My alarm goes off at 6am and I get up, stumble to the living room and click snooze on that fucker.

Maybe I’m too hard on Kat and me. Maybe I need to relax.

You know, I downplay the teacher training I received, but as I was showering this afternoon (to alleviate some major cramps), I remembered that as teachers we were taught not to take anything personally. If the students don’t do well, don’t take it personally. Simply adjust. If a student gets angry, don’t take it personally, we all have bad days and bad moods. Start fresh tomorrow.

As a parent who is helping my daughter learn, it’s hard not to take it personally. Her bad mood doesn’t last a class period, it can last all day. If she doesn’t grasp a concept, I wonder where I’ve gone wrong. It’s not fair to me or to her that I take everything personally.

As a parent who is helping her daughter learn, I don’t have the luxury of a planning period either. I don’t have a built-in break at any point in my week, unless I wake up early. Honestly, I don’t want a break from her. I want to find race in all of it.

I don’t have colleagues to discuss anything with. I’m alone in all of this. Her education is firmly on my two shoulders and my two shoulders alone.

This is something I need to improve on and I’ve started in a small way by posting real talk on Instagram, where there are other homeschooling moms.

What I’ve learned in all of this is:

Don’t take it personally. I know this is hard, but I think it’s vital.

Connect with other homeschool moms. Moms who send their kids to school will not understand your struggle, even though they may try to empathize.

Don’t get too hung up on curriculum. I’ve made that mistake lately and look where it’s gotten us. My daughter and I were both in tears today. I mean, are you kidding me?

Have fun. Play is learning. I keep having to remind myself of this. Play is vital to learning and you don’t have to have an objective. Just have fun.

With that, I’m going to sip peppermint tea and curl up under a blanket, because I’m really feeling terrible and I have chills.

Oh wait, I can’t Kat has just asked for lunch…

Best of luck, mamas.

Xoxo

Quieting the Little Banshee

The more I work in my garden, the clearer my ideas of a happy life become and the less I care what anyone else thinks of how I live my life.

It’s odd, to have come full circle, letting the Little Banshee (my name for my wild-unfettered side) out into the light again. For so long I hid her away like a deformed Victorian child, afraid that she’d say all the wrong things in certain groups – groups I didn’t belong in to begin with. I felt ashamed of her eccentricities and her wildness. I tamed her with formal education, with forced decorum, with mild speech, muffled words, and the right sort of clothing and a safe bob.

She forced her way out a few years ago and I found myself cutting my hair super short, exposing the folded ear I hate. Later, I shaved my head and left the top just long enough to cover it. I longed to wear it in a mohawk, but didn’t have the guts. My guts shivered inside at the thought of the extra attention, even as I took pictures of the mohawk I created one day when I was bored and wished like fuck I really was the gal in the image. She seems confident. She seemed like she didn’t care what others thought of her.

But I cared.

This may all sound crazy and that’s okay. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I am borderline, perhaps I have a touch of multiple-personality disorder (I asked my husband one day as a joke, “You didn’t know you’d be marrying all of us, did you?”) Haha. We laughed. Sometimes I actually do feel like perhaps there are more than one of me inside my mind. Or perhaps each of us is just multifaceted like a perfectly cut diamond and each of our sides harbors a different side of our personalities.

I’m not even sure if it matters anymore. At forty-two, I’m growing tired of analyzing myself, criticizing everything I do, second guessing my actions, my words, my mannerisms – for the love of god, stop fidgeting, woman! I’m at a point where I just want to wake up and be fucking happy to be alive.

canoe3

And that’s how I feel these days: Happy.

I awake eager to start my day. I see my life so clearly and it’s rare for me to have a clear vision of anything, to be honest. Usually I fumble around, check out what others are doing, wonder, Should I try that? Would that make me happy? Would that be cool? I had no sense of self for so long, I couldn’t even answer what I thought was cool anymore. I drifted in the sea, a piece of driftwood with no destination. At night I’d cry, “Please, Goddess. Please guide me.” I’d give thanks and fall into a restless sleep that brought no respite.

These days though, I feel peaceful. I feel less of a need to tell others what I’m doing and I stopped comparing my life to others. I wear whatever the fuck I want. I leave the house without brushing my hair sometimes, because I feel sexy with wild hair. I just told you that! Me, feeling sexy?! It’s true. I leave the house without makeup, not because I’m trying to make a point, but because I don’t want to have to wash it off to get back to work in the yard or to hop in the pool with my daughter. Plus, I like the natural pink color of my cheeks. I do still feel insecure about the old acne scars along my jawline, but I don’t think about it too much. There are worse things.

Many years ago when I was in California, a thought came to me as I sat in my friend’s garage. It was an unusually chilly evening, having dipped into the low-sixties and we were listening to music and chatting. Suddenly, the thought came to me: “You will know who you are when you stop realizing it.” I wrote it down on a torn piece of paper and carried it with me everywhere I went for years. At first, I didn’t understand it and I sort of blew it off, but over time, I began to understand that “realizing who we are” is like putting a label on ourselves. This is who I am. This is what I stand for. This is what I am doing with my life. You see these all over social media in the bios. I have used labels in mine in the past: Pagan. Mother. Wife. Grandma. Gardener. Writer. Bibliophile. Traveler. Former teacher. I felt compelled to label myself constantly. Recently, I have changed it, except for the wife, mom, grandma bit, because I love having those titles. The others, well, what’s the point?

I know what I enjoy doing. That’s all I need to know and that’s all anyone else needs to know. I don’t need to REALIZE who I am and slap a label on it. I am me. Simply. I continue to change and evolve and learn and grow. Who I thought I was five years ago is only part and parcel to who I am now. Who I was as a twenty-something was only a tip of the iceberg of who I am. This is what I’ve learned in my garden, shovel in hand.

Being outside, working the soil, I think a lot about the past as well. As I scooped shovelfuls of soil to backfill the pool, I thought of the men who built the railroads. I imagined them working in the hot sun, sweat dripping onto their brows and into their eyes, burning their vision, just like it did mine. As I sipped cold water from my stainless steel cup, I thought of how they didn’t have such luxuries. Later, as I worked the soil for the herb garden, I thought of the migrant workers who moved from the midwest to California and how they would have wished to have had my tiny space to grow turnips and potatoes to feed their starving children. As I sit on my hill and look to the Ohio River, I think about the slaves that lived in Kentucky and looked across the river to the “free” state of Ohio right there. Right in front of them. I imagine their longing and I imagine the reasons they did not try to escape, even as many of their friends and loved ones did escape.

Working the land has rooted me in a way I cannot explain. It’s brought to my Spirit a peace and serenity I’ve never experienced before. I no longer feel lonely. I no longer feel isolated, even though I am not one to engage socially too often. That said, lately I have gone out more. I am trying to have meaningful connections with people I love, rather than relying on social media. It feels good. It’s genuine and real.

As I work and meditate, I have a clear sense that I am living the life I’m meant to be living and I also feel the tug, a sense that there is more coming my way. I don’t know what it is and honestly, I’m not worried. While in the past I might have begun groping around for an answer, anxiously awaiting the next thing, I’m content to take care of what I’m doing now. I’m content to be present and to keep my heart open to receive whatever the Universe decides to send my way, when the time comes. It’s funny. All that time I spent trying to calm the Little Banshee and all I had to do was drop the facade and be who I was born to be, and she would quiet on her own and lead me in the right direction.

It may sound silly and that’s okay, but it feels like the feeling of coming home. For the first time in my life I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

It feels good to be home.

Xoxo

A Little Change

Waking up early has changed my life. I love my mornings. I began setting my alarm for 630 a few weeks ago and now I find myself waking about fifteen minutes before my alarm goes off. I lie awake wondering, Has my alarm gone off yet? Then lift my head, look out the bedroom windows to the river and survey the light there. Is it time to get up yet? I wonder. I don’t actually get out of bed until either I hear my alarm or I hear my son get up for work.

Once up, I send my son off with a quick “good morning,” He’s not a morning person, so my days of happily greeting him (I am a morning person) are gone and I find myself reining back so as not to annoy him. No one wants to be annoyed first thing in the morning.

I am always greeted by our dog, who is absolutely a morning dog, and has quickly learned that I am actually up and at ’em at 6:30 these days, rather than the days when the alarm went off and I promptly turned it off and slept until nine or ten. He does his I’m-so-happy-to-see-you dance, where he puts his head to the ground and basically wags his entire body at me. So-happy-to-see-you! So-happy-to-see-you! Often, this dance ends with him flipping completely over. It’s quite comical!

Our cat, Drama Mama, who is usually found sleeping under the old mauve chair in the upstairs hallway, rubs my leg to alert me to the dire situation in which she has found herself this morning: One of the food bowls is empty! Starvation is imminent! She rubs the cabinet: The food is in here! If I had thumbs I’d consider doing it myself! I fill the empty bowl. She sniffs it and walks away.

My other cat, Izzy, is usually lying on her back on the rug in the dining area. She acknowledges me with indifference. Like my son, she prefers to be ignored in the morning. I give her head a pat anyway. She’s politely receptive to the attention and then turns her back on me. I hear her purring loudly in spite of herself.

I flip the coffee pot on, it gurgles and sputters to life. Using the counter for balance, I do ten sumo squats and then ten hip-width squats and I think: The thighs are a big muscle group. You’ve got to really burn them out. Knowing I don’t care to burn them out at that hour, I shrug off the pointless information in my head and do a sun salutation and give thanks for anything that comes to mind. Good morning sun. Thank you for this day, Universe. I am thankful for my family, for my healthy strong body, for coffee, for my beautiful home, for my garden, for my friends….. It’s usually something like that.

I’ve noticed some of my limiting beliefs lately so I’ve started saying affirmations to rewrite those as well. They vary, but go something like this: Money is vital. Money comes easily to me. My body is healing and I’m supporting the process with good food, water, exercise, and adequate sleep. I am peaceful. I am connected to others in a meaningful way. 

While my coffee continues to brew, I take the bird seed and mealworms to the yard to fill the feeders. The birds are always waiting for me and when I open the backdoor, my ears fill with the sound of dozens of birds taking flight. They roost in the trees nearby until I finish and then they flock to the feeders. One the garage roof, they politely stand in a line, waiting their turn to peck at the food I’ve provided.

Back inside, I pour a cup of hot coffee and sit at the kitchen table that I’ve adorned with a quilt I made when Kathryn was a baby. This morning, I sit down with my journal and made a list of things I’d like to see manifested in my life. Lately, I’ve stopped trying to manifest and I’ve been simply showing gratitude for everything we have instead. In the last two years since I started working on manifesting and living in gratitude, my husband and I have received everything we’ve asked for. It’s quite miraculous, really.

It’s not magic though and anyone can do it, including you. You just need to focus less on what you want to GET and more on how you want to FEEL. That’s the key to manifesting. When we aren’t tapped into and connected with our emotions, because the world would rather have us distracted with stuff we don’t need, it can be hard to tap into the FEELING we want to have. Meditation can help and that can be sitting quietly, or focusing on your breathing, or working in your garden (my favorite way to meditate), or whatever you prefer. Just work on BEING STILL in your Spirit . I actually prefer the Biblical meaning of being still: LETTING GO. It means really letting go, not just sitting and being physically still, but just letting go. Let go of expectations, let go of “shoulds,” let go of worry and anger and all the negative mumbo-jumbo that may be in your mind, lying to you, holding you back, making you feel like you’re flawed. Be still and believe that what you want is already out there waiting for you to be open to receiving it.

Because it is.

My wants these days turn more toward real life connection with others, especially women and children. I’m not going to discuss it here, but I have a vision and I’m holding onto it, while remaining very open to variations that Universe finds more suitable. I know what I want, but I’m happy to leave the details to Energy better equipped than me.

planning

After my journaling, I begin planning my daughter’s homeschool day. This is always flexible. I hate rigid schedules that do nothing more than make moms feel like they’re constantly behind and stress the children (just my experience, you may have skills I lack). Anyway, I love to plan daily, rather than trying to plan a bunch ahead of time. Lucky for me, the curriculum is laid out so nice that really I just have to plan extensions and make adjustments based on where my daughter is with her progress. She loves math, so I generally start with that, then we read, discuss, and learn words together. After that, she gets free time (no devices though, unless it’s Leap TV). Usually she plays dolls, helps in the garden, or we go on an adventure. Later, we cover science and social studies.

If you were to come to our house, you’d likely end up in the kitchen. Everyone does and it’s been this way with every house I’ve ever lived in. For whatever reason, everyone ends up in the kitchen. I love it. My table is usually a mess of things from pencils to books, to flowers, to toys…whatever. In the corner, you’ll find my desk, also loaded with stuff, including a keyboard, because we haven’t gotten a stand for it and until my son moves into his house, we don’t have the extra room for the keyboard. Whatever, it works. You’ll also find the huge bar with homeschool stuff stacked on the shelves behind it and stuff on top. It sounds like I’m a hoarder, but really, I’m not. We use all of the stuff we have. Not all the time, but it definitely gets used. It’ll all be organized soon and in the meantime, I’m not worried about it.

It’s comfortable.

It’s home.

We live and love here and anyone is welcome to pull up a chair to share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with us. Their children are welcome to play and dance and sing (we have a little karaoke machine in the kitchen too). I want this home to always be a welcoming place, where people leave with a smile, feeling rejuvenated and peaceful.

I didn’t come to this easily. For a while, I wanted nothing to do with anyone. I became a hermit for a while. You know, I think it was necessary. I think I needed a period of isolation for reflection and evaluation. I needed time to consider what was important to me. I needed to sink low, into my own darkness to see the flicker of light in my own Spirit. I needed others’ words, found in many pages of many books. I needed to find my own words and write daily. I needed a period of too little sleep to remind me why it’s so vital to my health. I needed a period of junk food and gluttony to remind myself why nutritious food is critical to my vitality. I needed to be sedentary for a while so that I began to desire movement. It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we feel lethargic and even depressed, but there is always a lesson there. Even if you find yourself there, give thanks and ask for guidance. I often asked, “Please help me to see the lesson here.” It gave me a certain perspective when I basically didn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning.

I won’t lie and say that sometimes I even wished I wouldn’t wake up at all. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t want to live. I was backing away from life, because I wasn’t living the life I wanted. I was going against my Nature. We are each born to be as we are. When we fight that and criticize ourselves, our Spirit light dims. The good news is we have the power to turn brighten that light.

Make a list of things you enjoy. Think about when you feel happy, peaceful, sexy, strong, intelligent, etc…what are you doing? What are you passionate about? What are you wearing? Who are you with?

These things are hints to you living through your true Spirit. Make time to incorporate something you love into your week, every week. Maybe you love wearing heels, but seldom do because you are afraid to be overdressed. Plan a day to wear heels and own it!

Maybe you have been wanting to hike, or camp, or just been nature, but you’ve been working so hard you haven’t had time. Schedule an hour to walk in a park.

It doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor. Start small if you need to, but START. For me, I knew I wanted to have time to write and time to just be alone, so I began setting my alarm for 6:30. That simple change has made a drastic change in my life. I’m more patient with my daughter, I’m happier, I have more energy, I’m more productive, and I’m sleeping better.

Make the changes you feel you need. You’re important. This is YOUR life. Build the life you love.

xoxo

PS…I’d like to leave you with a poem I read with my daughter the other day. It’s beautiful. Be well.

onemotherPoem

Math Match-up Game for Addition & Subtraction and Cumulative Property

Math was never my strong suit. I learned early on that I was “not good at math,” that “math was hard,” that “math was not for girls,” etc. I hated math. I remember sitting in algebra class, completely clueless and having my teacher stand over my shoulder waiting for me to do the next step on an equation and I just steadied my pencil there, terrified to write something, because I knew I’d be wrong.

Math was not my favorite class. I struggled. While I did well in all my other classes, Algebra and Chemistry (with even more math) eluded me and I received my lowest grades of Cs and Ds there. Many years after receiving my GED, I attended community college and had to take remedial math classes and thankfully I had a great teacher who, despite being brilliant when it came to math, seemed open to understanding the difficulties her students were having. I learned so much in her classes and ultimately got through college Algebra. Later, while attending university, I took every class I could to avoid Calculus: so I took Statistics, Symbolic Logic, and Trigonometry. Let me tell you, that was a lot of work to avoid one class! In most of these classes I received average scores. I may have gotten an A in Statistics, but I don’t remember.

Despite taking all of that math, I still believed I was not good at it.

Later, when I decided to unschool/homeschool Kathryn, I picked up a book by John Holt entitled Learning All the Time and in one chapter, I learned more about math than in all those years of classes. There, I learned that the problem for most children is that they are presented with say:

1+2=3      2+2=4     2+3=5     2+4=6      2+5=7     2+6=8       2+7=9      2+8=10

and told to memorize these facts.

Okay fine, but as a child, I found myself asking why?

How do we know this? How is this fact?

Nothing I was learning answered these questions. Of course I went through school in the 1980s and things were different, but not that different. I saw the same method of “teaching” when my sons were in school.

What I learned from John Holt was a method of showing children how the above facts are not just individual, abstract “problems,” but rather a representation of something. It’s hard to show this to a child when they are forced to memorize all of the twos, then all of the threes, etc.

However, let them pick a number, say 5 and you can show them the various ways they can represent that number. Let them start with toys, or legos, or whatever. Let them organize them to show five.

example: (note stars represent toys)

**     ***

*      ****

***      **

****      *

*****

*****

All of these groupings are just different ways to show five. Once they grasp that, you can introduce numbers.

2        3

1        4

3        2

4        1

5        0

0        5

As you do this, as if they notice any similarities? They may recognize that {1    4} looks similar to {4    1}, for example. This is good. If they don’t see this yet, that’s okay. Show them and move on. Children learn at different rates. No big deal.

Now, you can introduce the math facts. I use Saxon Math and love it. It includes fact cards and while the curriculum asks that we use the cards the old fashioned way (look at the “problem” on the front, take a guess, check your answer on the back), I took Holt’s ideas into account and my daughter’s inclination to want to play games, and we changed it up a bit.

 


 

Math Match-Up:

You’ll need:

Cards with the numbers 0-9 (you can easily make your own with yardstick and a Sharpie)

Cards with various addition and subtraction equations. Our kit from BookShark came with these, but you can make your own. Make sure you have several that equal each of the numbers from 0-9. Write the equation on the front and the answer on the back.

How to play:

Take turns drawing a number and flip it face up to the side. You will be finding the equations that equal this number.

The equations are placed in a “pond,” with the answers face up. (later you can do this the opposite as your child gains the skills and knowledge, but let your child lead the way) You and your child take turns finding the number in the bond, then turn them over and read the equation aloud. Place them with the number. As you play, notice the pairs. Example: 0+1=1 AND 1+0=1. Group these. See if your child begins to notice too. This is a great way to teach the cumulative property from the get-go, rather than presenting it alter as another “problem” to solve in the math world.

Play as long as your child is interested. My daughter played for over an hour and I finally had to ask to stop, because I needed to clean up for lunch! You know what? That’s okay!

 


 

I think it’s a good idea to have challenging bits in any lesson, along with review of “easy” things. For one thing, giving a child the opportunity to say, “Hey, that one is easy!” is empowering. The challenging bits are great because if we stick to following a strict curriculum that is “age-level appropriate,” we may actually hold our children back without meaning to.

Here’s an example from just yesterday with my daughter. As I was getting the cards ready for the game, she was completing her math sheet. I considered using 9+9 in the game, but thought perhaps it was too challenging. I noticed that the bottom of her sheet had equations to complete, so as I always do, I gave her the Teddybear Counters, in case she needed help with visualization and counting (they come with the BookShark curriculum). Well, one of the problems happened to be 9+9. She paused in her work, “Mom, what’s 9+9?” I suggested she use her bears if she needed them. “Oh wait,” she said. “18!”

mathsheet

I was kind of amazed. We’d only just talked about this one last week. She moved on to 8+8 and knew it was 16 without using her bears.

You better believe I adjusted my plan for the game to include these equations! Again, the beauty of homeschool is the flexibility and the child-centered instruction.


 

If you try the game I’ve described here, please let me know how it goes!

My advice is this: let it be fun. Don’t stress it! Adjust according to your child’s needs. Contrary to what public school makes it seem, there’s no race when it comes to learning. We all learn at our own pace and that’s a beautiful thing.

Happy learning!

xoxo

 

Mothers Need Connection, Not Suggestions

No mother has her shit together.

I don’t care if she and her beautiful husband are globe-trotting with their toddlers, or living the free life in an RV, or free schooling and letting their children play in the woods each day. None of those mothers have a clue what they’re doing any more than you or I do. Each has shed tears on her pillow, has raised her voice at her children, has questioned whether she even can even do well as a mother, and occasionally thinks about things she would rather be doing.

I’ve been a mother for twenty-three years and I’ve done every one of these things and if I’m honest, the worst time wasn’t with the birth of my first child, but the birth of my third.

This post isn’t meant to bring anyone down. I’m not going to bash motherhood. I love being a mother. Even though I occasionally think of things I’d rather be doing than watching My Little Ponies for the 845,397th time, I honestly love being a mother. My children have gifted me with all of the emotions and I’m more grateful for them than anything else in the world.

That said, motherhood is hard. It brings you to your knees. It exposes your weaknesses. It shows you your strengths. It fills you with fear that you feel in your bones. It also fills you with a love that cannot be explained. My children can do anything and I’ll not love them less. I cannot say that about anyone else on earth. For example, if my husband had a temper trantrum and started kicking and hitting me, I’d divorce him. No questions. Talk to my lawyer. I’m out.

Yet all three of my kids have done that.

We can read all the parenting books. We can talk to parenting “experts.” We can prepare our homes for our new arrivals. We can meditate and take parenting classes, and do all the shit they say to do and when we are handed our babies for the first time, we realize that motherhood is bigger than all that. We know deep within our bosoms that we have no fucking clue what we’re doing, only that we will do it. We caress the tiny, tender fists and stroke the fuzzy heads and know that our lives are small in comparison to this little being in our arms and we will do anything for this person we just met, whatever that means.

The problem with motherhood is this – you may have one child and things go exceedingly well for the first couple of years. Your child responds well to redirection. He learned to use the potty with relative ease. He loves riding in the car. He smiles a lot and enjoys playing alone. With other children, he’s gracious and kind. You feel like you know what you’re doing. Let’s have another baby. You whisper to your husband in bed one night. Let’s have sex, right now is all he really hears. (just kidding). Anyway, you agree you want another baby.

The next baby has a double lip tie, which means latching onto your breast is difficult. She’s not getting enough milk each session and therefore wants to nurse every hour. Your nipples are cracked and bleeding and the thought of nursing her makes your eyes burn with tears. You find yourself glaring at your sleeping husband in the wee hours of morning and you swear that if he mentions how tired he is, you may punch him in the throat. Not only that, the baby hates her carseat. She screams as soon as she hears the straps click and she doesn’t stop until you reach your destination and get her cozy in her carrier. Later, she doesn’t take redirection well and is described as “assertive” by kind people everywhere. Sometimes you’re kind of embarrassed by her loud, raucous behavior and you have no idea what to do.

Occasionally you do the very worst thing a parent can do and you compare her to your children. “Why can’t she be more like him,” you think – shame filling you up, threatening to swallow you whole.

Does this sound like you?

If so, please know you’re not alone.

Every parent has experienced some of this, even those gentle parenting parents, even the so-called “parenting experts.” That phrase always irked me.

How can you be an expert in parenting? What credentials does that person have?

I can see being a parenting expert for one child, but for all children? Surely they sometimes feel the need to be honest and admit, that’s beyond the scope of my knowledge. The fact is, each parent is different and each child is different and all of these variables come in to play. How can anyone be an expert in all of this?

I digress.

It used to be that if a mother had difficulty, she turned to her mother or to a trusted neighbor. Back then, front porches were still social spaces and neighbors knew each other. The children played in the yard while the parents chatted. I know, because I remember this from my childhood.

These days, many homes lack a front porch. Many yards have six-foot privacy fences. Most people have never talked to their neighbors except to exchange the obligatory wave. We live in a very isolated world and this is at the expense of mothers and children.

Because of this isolation, young mothers are turning to books and blogs, and mommy groups, and “experts,” all of which make her seem less equipped to mother effectively. When she finds herself struggling with any part of motherhood, she picks up her book, or reaches out to the mommy group and she’s flooded with solutions and all of these solutions are coming from people who seem to have it all together.

But she doesn’t feel like she has it all together. She feels like a failure. She feels alone.

Motherhood is hard.

And I don’t think the answer is out there somewhere in Internet land, or books or blogs or parenting experts. I think the answer is in friendship. The problem with this is the isolation we’ve given ourselves over to.

Why are we so afraid to connect with each other? Mothers, we need each other. We don’t need the Pinterest-perfect meals, or the filtered reality of your recent vacation (although those are nice for social media). We need coffee together. We need playdates in homes we didn’t have time to clean up and we need friends who don’t care because they aren’t there to see our houses. We need honesty. We need openness. We need to be able to share our fears and concerns (and joys and successes) without feeling judged and even without suggestions.

Sometimes the suggestions hurt just as much as the judgment. It says, “I know better than you do, so try this.” Sometimes, dare I say, most of the time, we need someone to simply sit next to us and listen, to cry with us, to be confused with us and to keep going in spite of it all.

No mother has her shit together. I don’t care how nice her home looks. I don’t care if she’s using a certain product or curriculum, or has her children in the perfect daycare and works a wonderful job making a killer salary. All of us are a mess.

Each of us is trying to navigate waters that are constantly changing and the last thing we need is someone else telling us what to do. What we need is friendship. What we need is love. What we need is a safe place to be the messes we truly are and to know that in our mess, we are still beautiful and our children are healthy and loved and cared for and dammit, we’re doing a great fucking job!

To all the moms out there, I send much love. I understand your struggle. I understand the deep love behind everything you do (including the times when you lose your shit). I get it.

You are not alone.

You are beautiful.

You are doing a great job!

xoxo

Are you there, God? It’s me, the little maniac again.

SheilaWalsh

I awoke at 6:30 this morning for my now normal routine of coffee, stretching, feeding the birds, and reading, and finished In the Middle of the Mess by Sheila Walsh. This book was loaned to me by my mom. We were having a conversation and I was telling her that I didn’t believe in brokenness and that I didn’t need to be fixed, all I needed was to finally embrace who I am and love myself and she said, “You sound just like Sheila Walsh. You should read this book.”

I am not a Christian. I was raised in a Christian home, especially in my teen years when after my parents divorced, both began attending church. Before that, I attended Sunday school with my aunt. I remember singing a song about Zacchaeus, getting gold stars (but never as many as the other kids, which really embarrassed me), and a very kind old man who visited the classrooms and gave out sourdough pretzel nuggets. He kept them in his pants pockets, which now that I think of it, is kind of gross, but as a kid, I found it amazing and always looked forward to his visits. He was a sweet man and I looked forward to Sunday school.

I was baptized when I was around thirteen, I think, in a small country church. At the time, I remember being terrified of going to hell and I really did like Jesus, although to say I loved him then may have been a stretch. Mostly, I wanted to be good, to do good, and to make everyone happy, especially my mother, who found sanctuary in the church community.

I don’t think I ever really believed what the Bible said – or maybe I did. I don’t know. I know that a lot of what I was hearing in the various churches I attended over the years wasn’t what I was reading in the Bible and I found that very confusing and ultimately decided I just didn’t get it. I was an honor student, ended up in the National Society of High School Students, and earned a scholarship to a university, but I didn’t think I could ever really “get” the Bible, despite the fact that I loved the King James Version.

From what I read, Jesus was not the happy-go-lucky, everything will work out guy everyone said he was. He seemed troubled a lot by things. He cried out to God a lot. He prayed a lot. He visited people a lot. He had a few close friends but he spent most of his time with people who were basically outcasts.

As I was constantly being told I “needed to be in church,” I found myself noticing how seldom Jesus himself went to the tabernacle. He went to a mountain. He went to a garden. He prayed right where he was. When he did go to the tabernacle, he flipped tables in anger because men there were making profits. He may have gone other times, but I don’t remember that.

You know, I think we all interpret the Bible based on what we need and that’s really the beauty of it, although I’d never say that to a Christian for fear of being told I’m speaking the “devil’s words.” I have heard that a lot in my life – that my thoughts are from the devil. My words are from the devil. My beliefs are from the devil.

Or, the other view “that’s NOT of God.”

After a while, I gave up. Apparently I was not good enough for this Great Asshole in the Sky. After a long time of hearing how oppressed I was, I turned my back on the idea of Christianity. I found it all ridiculous.

I don’t mean Jesus himself. He’s a pretty rad dude to my mind. I’m not even talking about God, although I despise the phrase “Heavenly Father.” Why? I don’t know, but I do. God is not a man. God is energy and ever pervasive, always present energy of pure love.

Period.

I was talking to my daughter about that pure love and God and I happened to say “He.” She said, “Wait, isn’t God a She?”

Wow.

I have to tell you that I have never talked to my daughter about God. I never talked to my sons about god either really, except when they were really young. I had the notion that they will find their own spiritual path. If God wanted to reveal him/herself to them, it would happen without my help.

I grew up loving Nature. I would pet honeybees in my yard, I coaxed little kittens from beneath trailers to feed them and take care of them. Later, I’d steal irises from old, untended roadside beds and plant them in my yard to watch them grown, I danced in fields and swam and bathed in creeks. I trusted the wildness of Nature over humans.

Nature never purposely hurt me.

I felt closest to God in Nature as well, and never close to him in church, except maybe when we sang the old hymns (I’m not a fan of the new rock churches. Old hymns set my soul on fire). I was also not a fan of tithing money to a church. Too often those tithes were to build new buildings, when we could have helped the homeless. Other times, they were to tear down perfectly good houses for parking lots for the masses of people who felt they had to attend church on Sunday to be close to God.

What a sad notion. To think you can really only be connected to God within the walls of the church. I know not everyone believes that, but a great many MUST if they keep handing money over for “building expenses.” Where’s God in all of that? Where’s God in the coffee shop? Where’s God in the $10,000 murals in the daycare? Seriously, I’ve been in a church that spent $10,000 on murals for the walls of the daycare. I attended once. That’s all I needed.

I sound like I’m judging, but I’m not trying to. I know that churches house people just like me and none of us is perfect. Hell, follow my social media and you can see what a mess I am. I fall on my face a lot and wear the scars to prove it.

I don’t know what the point of my post is today. I had the idea to share the book and talk about how lovely it was to read Walsh’s story – the honest, beautiful, heart-wrenching story that brought tears to my eyes more times than I can count- and then share a new favorite breakfast recipe with you using savory oats. Yet, here I am, spilling all of this out for you to read.

I don’t even know you.

Yet I feel that perhaps someone will come along and read this and maybe a little light will flicker on and they may find something they relate to.

I am not anti-church. I think I need to make that clear. I think if you’re a Christian, it’s important to fellowship with other Christians. I am, however, anti-megaprofits in the name of God. I don’t believe in that at all.

Of course, I’m not a Christian, so you can take all of this with a grain of salt. One person’s opinion isn’t necessarily truth. I think we each have out own truths to live. I have mine, you have yours.

Both are important.

Maybe the key is to embrace that truth and love ourselves, just as we are. I am beginning to think that that’s what God wants as well. I mean, if the Christian God exists in the way they say “He” does, then he already knows me. I see no need for masks to hide my true self. I pray. Sometimes I cuss when I pray. I sometimes feel like I’m stronger in my spirituality now than I ever have been in my life.

Sometimes I even want to go to church. I think of how nice it might be for Kathryn to have Sundays to play with other kids, maybe I could make some friends, and I do miss the songs, although many churches have omitted the good old gospel hymns. Bummer.

But then I think of the gossip and the shame, and the judgment, and the materialism and I think, “Hey, God. That’s not for me, but lead me where you want me to be.”

Remember, I’m talking to that all-pervasive, big-ol’ beautiful pure energy of love out there in the cosmos, not a Heavenly Father..,.but maybe it doesn’t even matter. Maybe it’s all the same damn thing and humans just gum it all up with their nonsense rules.

I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know though: I am enough. You are enough.

And with that, I haven’t anything else to add….except maybe you might actually want that recipe? So, here you go!


Savory Oatmeal with Egg & Sautéed Veggies

1/2 Quaker Quick Oats cooked as directed (I added salt, garlic, and Lighthouse Guacamole Seasoning to mine)

In a skillet, heat 1 TBSP Avocado oil and sauté onion (sliced), kale (washed, trimmed and chopped), and spinach (washed, trimmed and chopped). Sprinkle with guacamole seasoning, salt, pepper and garlic. Sauté until tender. Remove from heat.

Fry two eggs over easy (or as you wish).

In a bowl, add oatmeal and top with veggies and eggs. Enjoy!

SavoryOatmeal


With that, dear readers, I wish you a wonderful day.

xoxo

Soil for the Soul, Homeschool, and Some Fun

Hello and happy Friday!

I’ve not written here in a while because I’ve been busy writing elsewhere (not online) and I’ve been super busy around the house. Not only are we continuing to homeschool, I’ve been undertaking some major projects. I swear, give me some dirt and garden tools and I’m happy. For me, there’s just something about getting my hands in soil and working the land. My Irish and Powhatan roots, perhaps? I don’t know, but at any rate, that’s what I’ve been doing.

This week I spent time leveling the giant dirt pile from our pool installation. I decided that instead of having the dirt hauled off, I’d rather level it for chairs and a fire pit. It took a lot of work and I was totally exhausted afterward, but I’m really pleased so far. I’m also installing stone steps to make the uphill climb easier.

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I still have more to do, but my thoughts turn to planning the design for this area. I am looking forward to creating a lovely space with Spirea, Sage, a lilac, and lilies, with a thyme ground cover. These plants will be easy to grow there, will establish quickly, provide a more intimate space, and be absolutely gorgeous when blooming. The key is to keep the gorgeous river view open from the pool where we will be adding a deck next year.

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Next year we’re adding a deck off the side you can see here.

It’s killing me not to be able to continue the work, but it’s not the right time of year to plant, so for now, my journal is filled with drawings and ideas and I’m okay with that.

I’ve also been busy digging a ditch for the underground electric which will run from our garage to the pool. Thankfully our neighbor is an electrician and is helping my husband with the actual electric work.

ditch

It may not be the most “feminine” work, but this kind of work feeds my soul and helps me stay healthy and strong. when I’m working outdoors, it’s like meditation for me. There really is nothing else I want to be doing when I’m working like this. Is that weird? I guess anything can be considered weird to the right people. To others, it just makes sense. I recall something I once heard, but I can’t remember who said it: That which interests is interesting. To my husband, discussing money and investments is interesting, to me digging in the dirt is. To each his or her own.

It’s not all been all work and no play around here. We’ve had some fun as well.

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Homeschooling year around actually helps us incorporate a lot of the fun things into our week. We don’t have to separate school from life and instead, our BookShark Homeschool Curriculum is like an extension of what she’s learning each day. I just love that this curriculum has wonderful literature, excellent science experiments (like the magnet image in the slideshow, and lots of fun manipulative! It’s also a four-day schedule, so it’s easy-peasy to incorporate it into our lives and let’s face it, life is the best school around and it teaches us more than any worksheet or book ever could.

That said, we’ve also read a lot of books.

Kathryn finished Little House in the Big Woods and Little Pear and is currently on Owls in the Family. She’s also reading I Can Read It! Book 1.

I’ve read several since mid-May and am currently finishing up The Grapes of Wrath, which has quickly become my favorite book. That’s saying a lot, as Frankenstein and Jane Eyre have held the top slots for decades. I’m not a fast reader, but I’m a steady one. I found most of my books at Barnes and Noble, except Ghosted, which was my July book for the Book of the Month Club.

What are you and your children currently reading? I’m always looking for new ones to add to our lists.

Cheers to the remaining days we have of July!

xoxo