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Stretched

May 11, 2009

I never know anymore where to put which photos/posts. Blogging has me so confused. Or maybe it’s just the way I am. I felt just as confused at DSW shoes the other day. I had a gift card (otherwise I wouldn’t have been there) and only a sleeping baby with me and no particular need for a pair of shoes and I was completely overwhelmed. I looked at the flip flops – cheap ( I could walk out of there without spending any money at all) and good for summer, but I already have two good pairs. I looked at dress shoes for work, but I recently bought a pair of nice dress shoes (the first pair I’ve bought in seven years) and they hadn’t really updated the selection. I looked at the sexy sandals and really wanted to buy a knock-out pair of platform sandals with deep brown red patent leather straps, but am I really a sexy sandal kind of gal these days? I don’t know. My dry cracked heals and unkempt toenails tell me not. The converse were really cute, but I don’t have any jeans that fit me right now, and what else would I wear them with? I finally wandered back to the clearance section and found these cute brown and pink Keen-esque sandals by J-41 and wound up buying them – mostly because I had been in the store for more than an hour and when was I ever going to get that kind of time for a shoe store again? Only to get them home and decide that they are a little too big and I have to take them back.

What was my point? oh yeah, I get confused easily and think about things too much. Here I was having an identity crisis in the DSW shoe store. Am I a Keen girl or do I really want the strappy platform sandals? Do I need practical flip-flops I can afford, or do I splurge and get the dressy work shoes? God, I don’t know. And I have no idea what in the hell we’re going to do for school around here next year. Or rather, I’m pretty sure I know what we’re doing and just can’t bring myself to say it out loud. Or in writing. Because how on earth can I mother my young kids, work a part to full time job from home (without any childcare for the baby mind you) and homeschool both older girls? I just can’t do it. Lately I have felt like I am being drawn and quartered and plagued by guilt – when I’m with the kids that I should be working and when I’m working that I should be with the kids. Aaaaaaaarrrghhhh!

On top of all that, we’ve had a really busy schedule anyway. Patrick had a fantastic show at Dulce, we had a lovely visit with first my dad

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… and then Doug

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Scout turned three,

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and there were other birthday parties Twilight obsessions and school field trips and Mother’s Day tea’s and soldering projects and charm swaps and all sorts of other craziness that I felt like I had to fit in. Oh, and we might be buying a new house and moving this summer. Because, you know, things aren’t busy enough.

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and it only took four babies

April 6, 2009

I finally learned how to carry a baby on my back with a sling! Thank you T.

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The ironic thing is that I purchased a really fancy back carrier, a Beco, before elzy was born. It’s not made to use with newborns (at least not using the back carry) and when she finally had enough head control for me to feel comfortable using it, the straps got hooked up together wrong and we had to send it back to the company to fix the problem. They had it for over a month. I finally got it back the very day that T offered to show me how to wear a baby on my back with just a simple bit of cloth. I met her at park day and she showed me two different back carry methods, both with variations.

The next morning I was anxious to carrying elzy on my back, but since I had paid good money for this other carrier, and I didn’t yet feel comfortable getting elzy onto my back in a sling without someone there to spot me, I figured that I would use the Beco carrier instead to go to the grocery store. Only after a full half an hour trying to figure the darn thing out, again, and get elzy comfortable in it, I finally gave up. The cloth wrap is actually easier and a hell of a lot cheaper. If you’re curious about the methods I learned, you can go here. It’s not nearly as glitzy as the Beco site but there is lots of great information.

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

March 12, 2009

A couple of days ago, I tried writing an entry that would explain all the changes we’ve made in the last month – new books, new schedule, new co-op, new friends – but those kinds of posts are excruciatingly boring, both to write and to read. So instead I’ll just say that things are working much better now. It’s like everything just suddenly fell in to place. Only they didn’t of course because there are still a lot of things I’d like to see change, but we’re making slow and steady progress, and that is enough to celebrate.

We were really rockin’ last week. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe it. D was up every morning and at her work by 8:30. She was finished by 10:30 and experienced that rush of relief and freedom that comes when you have crossed off all the things on your to do list and your time is your own. We read poetry and current events, she discovered that math can be fun (!) and that she is capable of figuring a lot of it out on her own, we planned a field trip, went to Excel and to the unschool park day… it was decidedly our most rewarding week so far all year. And all of this while I’m on a sugar fast.

Then everything went to hell with daylight savings. I HATE daylight savings. I sometimes think it must be an evil plot against families with small children, devised by some bitter, barren monster. As if getting kids on a regular sleeping schedule isn’t hard enough without throwing a bi-annual time change into the mix. Without fail, no matter if we’re springing forward or falling back, our kids can’t fall asleep at night, are up throughout the night (even more than usual) and awake at some ungodly our. Except for D who now wants to sleep until noon.

I’m playing with the idea of switching of nights and mornings with P but that idea is pretty impractical right now. My magic thinking now revolves around finding the perfect schedule and sticking to it. If we were all up at the same time, eating breakfast at around the same time, stretching, doing morning chores together and then sitting down to work at the kitchen table, then life would suddenly be perfect. We would get twice as much work done, and we would all whistle while we did our chores, or listen to audio books, our sleep would be regulated and the children wouldn’t fight anymore, and everyone including P will be so impressed with us and come to me for advice… all if I could just make myself wake up at the same every morning. Regardless of how late I was up the night before with the baby or how many times she woke to nurse. Realizing the impracticality of that right now, my magical thinking shifts to the future. “When the baby is weaned,” I tell myself, then we’ll be able to do this homeschooling thing properly. My God, why is it so incredibly difficult for me to just stay in today and to work with what I have?

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Magical Thinking

February 20, 2009

Our old kitchen table finally bit the dust. It had begun to resemble a see-saw more than a table when, with the slightest bit of pressure, one end would droop to 4 o’clock and the other end would shoot up to 10, maybe 10:30. We’ve tried fixing it but the fix never lasts and I’m tired of picking up the loose screws it keeps dropping to the floor like an incontinent pet. It did make some delicious old creaks – the kind of creaks that only a table handed down from your grandparents can make, but I found this “chaulk board” table on Craigslist for fifty bucks and had to have it. It is so cool! And whatever else happens, we’ve got that dinning room table thing taken care of.

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I’m pretty sure it’s going to solve all of our homeschooling problems, too.

It’s stupifying how persistent that kind of thinking is:
“If I just had a study I could close the door on I would get more work done.”
“If we only had a fenced backyard and I could send the girls out to play they wouldn’t fight so much.”
“If I could just find the right filing system then I wouldn’t drown in paperwork.”
And the latest “If I just had a nice dinning room table to sit at and do schoolwork at like T has, then we would sit down and work there every day!”

It’s nice to know I’m not alone. A friend of mine, who is also homeschooling for the first time this year and who has a lot more money to throw at the problem than we do, is on her third curriculum for her daughter. We discussed this as she was on her way to Ikea where I was supposed to meet her only Pete got sick and we couldn’t go, but damn it! I’m sure that we would have found all sorts of homeschooling solutions if we could have gone. Today we are off to Half Price books, the poor man’s solution to switching curriculum.

Seriously, though, things have shifted around here in a big way. Going to the unschooler’s park day two weeks ago was the best thing we’ve done all year (and, go figure, it didn’t involve buying anything at all.) We’re off to another park day today or I would write more about it. At some point I want to come back to
• joining the co-op
• our weekend with T
• my meeting with Jewish Family Services
• thoughts about taking Peach out of school next year and keeping them all home with me
• yes, you read that last one right
Hey! I’ve already thought of a title for that entry. I can call it “More action than you can shake a stick at!” Oh wait… that just sounds wrong.

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Putting things aside

February 14, 2009

I met with T (homeschool consultant) today at her house. I left feeling totally pumped up, excited to implement some of her ideas and to borrow from her experience. This whole thing feels do-able again. I mean, if she can do it? I can do it. This is a woman who leaves her keys in the refrigerator so that she won’t go off to the park and leave the sandwiches in the refrigerator. I can relate to this. And yet, as I reflect on my conversation with her, I wonder if I am ready. This is also a woman who is comfortable owning her own knowledge and who isn’t afraid to appear “together.” Am I ready to let go of my identity as unorganized, overwhelmed and utterly frazzled? I’m pretty sure that that is what is at stake here. What if I don’t have my frazzled appearance to hide behind anymore? What if we can be successful at homeschooling? Can I own it? Can I look into other people’s eyes and tell them the things that are working? Or is it imperative to my comfort with other people that they always have the upper hand?

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One foot in front of the other

February 8, 2009

You can usually tell when things start getting desperate around here because that’s when I start taking long overdue action. We finally made it to the unschooler/homeschooler park day yesterday. I’ve known about it since the summer and yet have never made it one. It seems like something else came up every week. It was especially difficult to make myself go at this late, when the initial excitement of homeschooling has worn off and I am feeling completely at a loss. But I went anyway, even though it was a crazy day, with freelance stuff to do, a meeting, P leaving town for the weekend, all of us getting his cold… but I went anyway. Footwork, right? And of course once we were there we had a really nice time and it was totally worth it.

I was only able to stay for an hour, but I was able to make some good connections. It’s amazing what a small world it is – on of the mothers I met is a yoga instructor at the studio where P has been showing his paintings for 5 or 6 years. She has a daughter close to D’s age, and the two of them hit it off right away. The really cool thing about that connection is that they haven’t been to park day at Cottonwood for more than a year, but had decided they wanted to start going again. Coincidence? Maybe. The other women I met is a great source of information. She’s got four kids and has been doing this for years. She calls herself a homeschool consultant, but as of yet is not charging for her services. Does that sound weird in writing? It sounded awesome in person. She’ll come to our house – talk with us about our schedule, our goals, our lifestyle etc. and help us come up with a homeschooling plan that will work for us, even if it’s just for the next few months.

Those were the only two people I had a chance to talk to, and they both do a nice mix of homeschooling and unschooling (though technically I suppose none of us can really claim to be unschoolers if we’re doing any schooling at all. I guess it could be called relaxed homeschooling or something.) Anyway, the point is that they weren’t all hardcore unschoolers. Maybe some of them were. It was a pretty mixed group. There were a couple of people there who seemed to have their identities wrapped up in being “alternative” and those folks definitely had a holier-than-thou attitude about the group of folks next to us whose kids all go to the same school (RISD had the day off). When Patrick and I got a chance to debrief later in the day he was like “I know why those kids aren’t in school. Because otherwise they would get their asses kicked.” It was interesting to watch Peach ingratiate herself with the group of school kids, even though she didn’t know a singe one of them. She ran off to play all their organized games, like sack races. It was like she instinctively knew which group she belonged to.

I found out about a homeschooling co-op that isn’t too far from here. It looks like it’s too late to register for any of the classes this semester, but we can go and check it out. The prospect is both exciting and overwhelming. I don’t know that I have the energy to become emotionally involved in another co-op right now. But the idea of having some structure for D seems good. That and the involvement with other kids. That amount and that kind of socialization seems ideal (or as ideal as we’re ever going to find or afford). She could use a few friends who have an idea of what she’s going through.

I wish that I had the energy/time to sort out my thoughts about all of things that we have tried this year and why most of them seem like such complete failures. It’s hard not to feel that old familiar shame for having “failed” at this so far. It’s such a bummer to find out that, even when I think I’m detached, it turns out that I have all these expectations. I realize that I keep writing the same post in here over and over, how I feel like a failure and yet how we both have learned a lot about what doesn’t work. It was encouraging to be around other families who are doing this, who have been making it work and so I’m trying to just look forward to the next meeting instead of kicking myself for not having gone sooner.

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Icy

January 30, 2009

The ice storm comes at least once each year. There’s no predicting it; the day before and the day after might be balmy and calm. Once the storm is here, it seems best to hide indoors, but in retrospect I wonder. Could we fling open the doors and embrace the cold? Is the struggle in resisting and wishing it wasn’t so? If we opened our arms wide and engulfed the storm with warmth, would the icicles melt in our outstretched hands? Or do we batten down the hatches and hope that this one passes quickly, without inflicting too much damage?

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