Friends, Cameras, Roadtrips, and Nerdiness.

Yesterday the kids and I drove 13 hours (13!!!!! Hours!!!!!! In the minivan!!!!!! Without chocolate!!!!!!) to get up to Utah on our way to Yellowstone. We have a few days to spend with my best friend and former soap maker, Ashley. We both lived on the same block in Colorado until she left me for the cold and windy winters of Chicago. I miss her every day…not to be too dramatic about it or anything. She just recently moved to Utah, so we’re crashing her party so she and I can hang out and laugh together again.

Before I left West Hollywood, Ash sent me an email asking if any camera shops had a particular kind of Fuji instant camera. When I finally found one, it was 4:30 pm the day before we were scheduled to leave. The store closed at 5 and didn’t open back up for 3 hours after we were scheduled to leave the next day. I didn’t have a car, because hubby had taken it to get cleaned and detailed on the inside. (Incidentally, the dude said it was the dirties car he’d ever seen. I take great pride in that.) The store was 2 miles away. I had on a jean skirt and frilly shirt. I took .2 seconds to panic and think, then put on my running shoes and ran through the streets of West Hollywood like a mad woman. Must. Get. The. Camera.

I would do anything for Ash. She has done everything for me. She’s just the best friend I’ve ever had. One time, we took a roadtrip with our kids and ourselves on a loop from Denver to Durango to Moab and back to Denver. I made a little video about our travels. Somewhere in Moab, Sassy vomited up her last 15 meals all over the car. Fortunately, it was such a massive output, it arced over herself and she didn’t get any on her. Unfortunately, it landed all over Ashley’s jacket and her kids clothes. We pulled in to the motel (klassy!) I gathered everything up in a trash bag and hauled my kids into our room. Sassy kept throwing up, and for some inexplicable reason, I dropped Ashley’s vomit covered clothes off at her door and said, ‘there’s a laundry room downstairs.’ I don’t even know if I gave her laundry money! I let her clean the clothes that my daughter had just thrown up all over. And she did. Maybe she knew the driving had taken it’s toll, and that Sassy’s continuous vomiting was finishing the job. I don’t know, but instead of freaking out and making me deal with my own daughters vomit, she didn’t say a word and took care of it. She’s good people.

So I got to the store in time, all sweaty and out of breath. I picked up her camera and then sold my soul to pick up one for me. I got the cute little puffy white instax, and I call it Marshmallow. Ashley’s in the big black one that reminds me of something Darth Vader would use if he ever used a camera.

Ever since getting here, we’ve been having some fun with them. In fact, we communicate mostly via instant film now. Don’t you think that friendships are built on just how well your nerdiness matches someone elses?

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The Unschooling Path Towards Acceptance.

Do you ever start doing something for one reason, then feel surprised when you turn out to love it for entirely different and bigger reasons?

Like how exercising might start in order to ‘get in shape’, but what you end up loving is the endorphin rush and peace of mind you feel afterwards.

Or maybe eating nutritiously starts because of high blood pressure or cholesterol, but what you end up loving is how you don’t feel tired, cranky, and bloated anymore.

This is the effect I found with unschooling. Hubby and I started it as an educational choice for our highly creative, divergent thinking kids who couldn’t tolerate standardization or any set curriculum. In doing so, I unearthed an entirely different set of perks through it!

To begin unschooling, you toss out all the things you think you ‘should’ be doing or ‘have to do’ and start doing all the things that your child is interested and passionate about and wants to do. The society at large may find this rather indulgent and negligent in lots of ways. That’s because society at large doesn’t trust or respect children. In order to begin to trust and respect, you need to become open and accepting to who your child really is and then work together to build a pathway towards their individual hopes and dreams.

This great article talks about it more:

How do we as parents not push our hopes and dreams onto our children without suffocating them? Simple, do not push what you wanted onto them but rather help them achieve the goals they want for themselves. Our children are our future and as such, we need to respect the goals they set will be met. As children, they grow and develop minds of their own and in doing so they want to decide their own future.

Children want to live their dreams not their parent’s dreams.

Think back to when you were young and starting out on your own. Did you want to follow the path your parents had laid out for you? If you can say no to this question, then why should you expect your child to say yes?

Communication and understanding between parent and child will go along way in helping your son or daughter achieve their own goals in life.

To do this with my own kids, I had to dig deep and figure out what my unrealized hopes and dreams were, which brought up some fears of mine, too. I began to separate my own vision for what my kids would be like and how we’d be as a family from the reality of who my kids were and what they needed from our family life.

To continue to live my life seeing them in my own vision would be to steamroll over their own individuality, never really knowing or accepting who they were and what beauty they could add to my life. When you see your kids as they really are…both the good and the bad…and accept it, then you build a relationship of trust, honesty, and open communication.

Here’s the way another brilliant BRILLIANT article put it:

We would be wise to tune in to our children’s individual interests and temperaments from birth on. That doesn’t mean that children’s tastes may not change; they will evolve — all the more reason to stay tuned in.

Take note that imposing our own dreams on our kids can take the magic out of their personal discovery, creativity, and learning. A child’s enthusiastic focus can’t endure if his parents’ expectations are at odds with his own interests and abilities. I made the mistake of giving my son saxophone lessons, since he was already a good clarinetist and I love jazz. He didn’t want to play the sax, and I risked killing his love of music. Pushing our own passions can compromise the foremost goal that most parents have for our children: Happiness.

The key is to tune in to and accept your child’s uniqueness and enthusiasm. Doing so promises the rewards of a life enriched by the happy pursuit of genuine passions and meaningful accomplishment.

Doing this leads to your child’s happiness and learning in a powerful way. And guess what? It does the same for you. It was only when I accepted Naturalist’s learning differences that I found compassion for my own struggles in school. When I come to grips with my sons insecurities and anxieties without adding my own fears on top of them, then I naturally chill out myself.

We are all individuals. We all thrive on taking charge of our own lives and making them into whatever we can imagine and dream. We all deserve the chance to do it, regardless of if someone else agrees or not. When we can accept the uniqueness of the children around us, then we can start to accept our own quirks and flaws and humanity. Compassion results. Happiness flows. Exploration and learning are quick to follow.

The crew.
Uniquely us!

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7 tips towards accepting your child for who they are.

Articles about how to accept people for who they are:

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Life is Weird. And Surreal. And Sometimes Scary.

Sometimes we arrive at a place in our lives where we look around, we look at ourselves, we look at what we’re doing, and think, “How did I get here?!”

Last week I literally did and thought that, after a day exploring the old, abandoned, freaky L.A. Zoo. The area was used to house animals back in the 30′s, until they relocated to an expanded area at the current site of the L.A. Zoo.

First, you climb into dark caves, behind which you sometimes find steep stairs going up.

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There are different enclosures at the top–I think these were the tiger cages.

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At some parts, you have to bend down and fit under low doors and small cages. Cages!!! And if you get into the cages, then there is all this weird grafitti sprayed all over.

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At this one particularly scary cage…the one with the skeleton face in the background…I stopped and looked around at where I was. I looked down at what I was wearing–a pink boa, blue wig, thrift store glasses and silver boppy headband (thanks to a photo friend who brought dress up props for the kids and us to play around with). I looked at what I was doing–creeping and crawling around dirty, old, abandoned, dark corridors in the middle of L.A. I had this strange surreal feeling, like, I could never have imagined myself in this circumstance, doing what I’m doing and looking how I look. It was a freaky place anyway, made even more so by the circumstances of my appearance.

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It’s not the first time I felt this way, although it is the first time I have with a blue wig and silver boppy’s on my head.

I remember my first day on a college campus, trying to figure out grocery shopping, bill paying, book buying, and course schedules for the first time in my life. I was the adult. Strange!

And then, after I got married and was someone’s wife! Surreal!

Watching my body grow and change when I got pregnant. Weird!!!

Being a mom, moving to a new country/state/home, driving around a minivan instead of a cool car, looking in the backseat and seeing 3 carseats/boosters, realizing I had been dressed in the same worn T-shirt with baby throw up and breast milk all over it for 3 days, losing a baby, standing in an empty house after giving away everything I owned, calling an RV a home, watching relationships shift and change….all these things have left me feeling like life is unpredictable, weird, strange, surreal, and scarily out of my control.

I can get tied up in lots of different emotions about it all…anger, fear, hate, surprise, anxiety, defeat, resolve, or confusion.

But mostly, as with my blue wigged ensemble of ridiculousness, I feel a certain level of absurdity in big cosmic way. I cry, I yell, I shake my fist, I shake my head, I throw up my arms…but after all that, I just have to laugh.

Nietzsche didn’t laugh, though. At least I don’t think he did. Not with quotes like this:

In the consciousness of the truth he has perceived, man now sees everywhere only the awfulness or the absurdity of existence and loathing seizes him.
Friedrich Nietzsche

But I like this attitude:

Even though you can’t expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make that attempt. That’s morality, that’s religion. That’s art. That’s life.
Phil Ochs

At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.
Albert Camus

But the quotes I like most come from a surprising source: Vaclav Havel

Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.
Vaclav Havel

Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.
Vaclav Havel

Life. Weird. Surreal. Unpredictable. Beautifully absurd.

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2e Tuesday::Geography With Puzzles.

Geography in school was really hard for Naturalist. All those lists of State/Country names that she’d then have to either repeat from memory or write down on a sheet of paper. This was difficult for her…her quick mind would get bored from the rote memorization and her visual spatial skills would be unused, leaving the entire learning process dependent on her weaker left brained, sequential self.

When we started unschooling, we left curriculum behind. However, her geography skills haven’t suffered at all. Play is a big part of our learning life, and nothing says play more than puzzles! (OK, actually, lots of things say play more than puzzles, but puzzles are a lot of fun, so go with me on this!)

Here’s what we’ve been puzzling around with for a long time:

There’s Latin America, Middle East, and tons more puzzles from Geopuzzle through this link.

What I love about these puzzles is that each country/state is cut out in it’s own shape, so you really get a feel for the size and shape of it (pun totally intended!). It makes it easy not only to learn each location, but also to place it next to it’s neighbors in a very intuitive way. It makes learning geography very kinesthetic, visual spatial, and right brained fun!

Just one way that fun + play = learning!

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Stickers and bribes and gold stars, oh my!

I was walking through Michaels the other day, and zoomed right past all the reward stickers on the ‘Back To School!’ shelf.

It reminded me of 2007, when I was doing structured curriculum with both Naturalist and Golfer while Sassy was toddling around. I had the most kick ass schedule to accomodate everyone, complete with reward stickers and a little candy jar where they could exchange ‘learning tokens’ for chocolate. Total bribery. But I found that when you are trying to get kids to do something totally uninspiring to them, you gotta give a little in return!

I was reminiscing about those old days, and how fun it was to switch to unschooling and watch them learn on their own accord, without bribes or treats or chocolate as an incentive. Because I grew up on the whole bribery thing (but not chocolate, sadly, it was in the form of grades) I had no idea that kids would actually learn without them. But there I was, watching my kids become so passionate and interested in history/math/science that they couldn’t get enough of it via history channel/library books/videos/classes/internet searches.

I smiled to myself and thought about how great it was that they could feel like knowledge was goal and the special treat, not grades or chocolate or gold stars or tickets.

Then I turned around and Sassy wanted some kind of plastic glow in the dark writing thing. Right above it was a writing desk with templates for letters and numbers. Now, Sassy, at 6, can successfully point out at least 50% of the states around the country thanks to our extensive travels. She can talk about how our bodies work. She can discuss in depth lots of astronomical phenomena. But writing letters and numbers is not her thing. I know this, and part of unschooling trusts that when she needs to know how to write letters and numbers then she’ll learn how to write the stinking letters and numbers.

But the next thing out of my mouth was, “Sassy, first we’ll get this letter and number writing thing.”

She looked at me. “Not that other thing that glows in the dark?”

“No, that’s a treat for when you write your letters and numbers.”

She just looked at me some more. “OK. I guess.”

So I got the totally lame numbers and letters thing. She sat down with it for a few minutes, wrote all her numbers and letters in order, then looked up and said, “This is so freaking boring! I don’t even want the glow in the dark thing anymore!” and walked away.

I blame my temporary lack of trust and insight to all those rows and rows of back to school gold stars I had to walk through, and the fact that even 4 years into unschooling, I’m still deschooling myself.

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On A Walkabout…

Have you all seen the video “How To Be Alone.” ?? It was viral on Facebook a week or so ago, which is where I saw it first. I wish I would have seen it a few months ago, when I started focusing on being alone more!

Now that I’m living in a city, and now that Naturalist is old enough to babysit, and especially because I’m on a quest to find a part of myself that I’ve ignored for a long time…I’ve started going places by myself.

This is not a revolutionary practice for most people I imagine. But for me, it’s kind of a big deal. Being alone, being by myself, being out in the midst of life without anyone else…those were never things I felt comfortable with. Luckily, there are lots of remedies for being alone…friends, family, TV, phone, books, and naps to name a few. I literally shifted from living at home to living with a roommate to living with Hubby without a gap. And then, until Naturalist reached the magical age of babysitting, having kids put an end to alone time for quite a while!

Not to long ago I reached halfway through the book I’m reading: Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice. One of the 7 practices is the “Warrior Practice“, which I’m actually having a lot of fun with!

But the next one that I’m tackling is the “Desert Practice.” As per the website, this means:

“Discovering the source of one’s own strength through the practice of solitude (withdrawal from distractions and self-numbing behavior).”

So, in effect, I take everything I’d normally rely on to keep me from hanging out with myself and withdraw from them for a set amount of time, in order to give myself space to be by myself and learn the source of my own strength.

This feels like walking my childhood self to the end of a pier and throwing my tiny, don’t know how to swim, self into the deep end.

It hasn’t been pretty, this practice. There has been lots of flailing around and panic involved! I feel so vulnerable, being by myself with other people around. Are they judging me? Do they want to harm me? You know, because of all the Stranger Danger!!! What if I need help? What if it turns out I’m really boring and have nothing to say to myself? What if it turns out I don’t really like myself all that much?

I started small first…going to the grocery store by myself. Going on a walk around the block. Heading to the park. It was tough not bringing a book or my iphone with me. Then I took myself out for some appetizers. For a run to Runyon Canyon where I sat on a bench by myself. They also have open communal yoga classes on the lawn there.

I realized there are more people out doing things alone than I thought. I realized that people were too busy with their own lives to judge me. I realized that everyone is looking for a connection, even if it’s a brief smile from a stranger on the metro. I realized that I’m actually not that boring, and when I cut through the nasty inner voice that pops up unbidden, I think I’m a pretty cool chic. The more time I spend by myself, the more comfortable I am with it.

Now, I go all over the place. I can’t wait for my next date with myself. Because the truth of the matter is…when I can cut through the surface fears and self doubts…no one finds me funnier that I do. And no one finds me more charming, witty, and fascinating, either!

My theme song for my excursions is the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Walkabout“, and I hum the tune walking down the street:

“I think I’ll go on a walkabout
And find out what it’s all about – and that ain’t hard
Just me and my own two feet
In the heat I’ve got myself to meet
A detective of perspective I
I need to try and get a bigger eye – open wide
bloodwood flowers in my gaze
walkabout in a sunny daze – do me now
On a walkabout
You could do it in the city
You could do it in a zone
You could do it in a desert
You could do the unknown
On a walkbout
High desert skies are what I spy
So fly – you’ve got to wonder why
The stingrays must be fat this year
Moving slow in my lowest gear
The digirido original man with a dream
I believe the Aborigine
On a walkabout
You could do it with a shuffle
You could do it with a stroll
You could do it with a stride
You could do the unknown
ON A WALKABOUT
A walk could cure most all my blues
bare feet or in my two shoes – 1, 2,
I think I’ll go on a walkabout
Find out what it’s all about – can’t hurt to try
Use your legs to rock it wide
Take a ride to the other side”

13:52 weeks of BAM!

This is my 13th self portrait from the 52 Weeks of BAM! challenge.

Check out what other brilliant, funny, amazing women are doing this week in the challenge through this link!

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And Then He Was 11.

People, I don’t know how it happens. One minute your kid is 4 and snuggling with you:

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the next minute they’re on a basketball court, giving fouls, getting pushed on the floor, and setting up shots:

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One minute they’re 6 and you’re showing them everything you know about golf while they try to learn it:

Jump for golf!

The next minute they’re going on 11 and beating your best score:

Bench Monday::Golf Edition.

It strikes me, watching my second child have a birthday this week, that life is too short not to be actively engaged in trying to enjoy every second of it. I know it’s not all rosy and perfect, I know there are challenges and setbacks, and lord knows that having kids is the biggest challenge of them all…but these little people don’t stay little for long, and the time they spend with us at home is even shorter still. Is it really worth it to get bogged down in the minutae of it…the battle of the wills over eating/sleeping/appearance? How much of what frustrates us with our kids in the day to day battles are actually short term issues that will have a long term effect on what kind of relationship we have with them? It’s worked best for me to give up that need for control to gain peace of mind and a relationship based on equality and respect.

This boy of mine is a gift. Not to me, because I don’t get to keep him, but to the world. All our kids are. But I know him the most, so that’s who I’ll talk about. Having a boy is a big adventure. Not being a boy, I know very little about what makes him tick, so I always have to keep my sensors up for what he needs in his life.

When he was 0-4, he just needed snuggles and to have me near him 24/7. It wasn’t hard…look at this face!

beach bum

From 4-8 he still needed snuggles, but also lots of fun. His sense of humor matches perfectly with mine. Being a sensitive and deep thinking boy, his moods tended to go quiet and dark sometimes. It was important to show him how to be silly and light, because he had that in him too.

delicate arch

And now that he’s 11, bless his heart he still needs snuggles but also competition. Who can run the farthest, pick up the most, have the biggest muscles, shove other people in the pool, wrestle the other person down on the ground first. It’s a riot! It’s keeping me in shape, and so far I’m still the top dog between he and I….but not for long. He’s getting tall and thick, with muscles that weren’t there a year or two ago.

His favorite thing to do is make faces when I’m trying to take a picture. It used to really frustrate me. “You’re ruining my picture! Just smile! Why are you looking like that?!” I’d say. Lately I’ve let it go. I look at those pictures now and see pure boy energy. Trickster magic. An impish charm all his own.

Yeah it kinda disrupts my idea of a picture perfect world, but that’s the beauty of having a boy.

I’m looking forward to seeing what this next year brings!

11's going to be a good year.

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The 14th Year of Naturalist.

Island girl
2004

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2010

Having a teenager in the house is trippy. Not only because it means I’m a mom of a teenager, but also because it brings a totally new and different energy. For a while, when kids are young, it’s like they think I’m the Wizard of Oz and they haven’t pulled back the curtain yet. But now that she’s 14, the curtain isn’t there anymore and she totally sees that the once all powerful, invincible, 100% right, mom is actually just a woman trying to keep all her crap together just like everyone else.

It’s a little humbling when your kids realize you’re not even close to perfect, and then call you out on it. Sometimes I get a bit defensive, like all of a sudden I’ve got a backseat driver trying to call the shots but I’m still the one driving.

But most of the time, it’s fantabulous! She has compassion for my human frailties, and now can pick up on the signs when I’m about to lose my everloving mind and rallies the other kids to give me a break. She is stronger and taller than I am, so unloading groceries and putting them away goes 10 times faster! She knows things that I don’t, and has formed this interesting and unique world view that I love to sit and talk with her about. Like, a real adult conversation! She can cook, using all available sharp utensils and ovens and flame. She babysits the other kids, so I can go grocery shopping/errand running all by myself! She sits in the front passenger seat, so now I have company up there…even if she puts in her earplugs and listens to her own itunes. It’s nice having someone up there with me.

14 is a big milestone–if she were in school it would mean her freshman year of high school! I remember being 14 like it was yesterday. I know she’s ready for it….I’m not so sure I am just yet. The thought of only 4 more years of her awesomeness in the house makes me feel all weepy and verklempt. My only answer to that so far is to start planning lots more trips so we can really live it up!

So, off I go to start making her breakfast in bed (eggs benedict, yum!) so that we can pack up and go to Santa Monica for her birthday run to Michaels (craft/drawing things are all she wants this year!) and then down to Irvine so we can spend the rest of the day with family.

I will not look back at old photos of her and cry. I will not, will not, will not.

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OK, maybe just a little. I’m a mom…it’s what we do!!!

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Math Monday::Plan A Party!!!!

Math, schmath.

What we really like over here are parties!

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This week is a big one for us. Naturalist turns 14 (!!!!), we have a day of rest, and then Golfer turns 11 (!!!!), we have a day of rest, and then Hubby and I have our anniversary.

As much as a party girl as I am, coordinating all that is a bit overwhelming. And a few years ago, Naturalist decided to take over her party, which turned out to be a great big help. And a great big exercise in math!

Take a catalogue like Oriental Trading Company. It is a treasure trove of mathmatical goodness!

Sit down and set a budget with your kid. Decide what you need to get with that budget…purely decorations or gift bags and tableware too. Decide how many people you’ll have at your party to help with the amount of party stuff you’ll need. Once you get the groundwork down, sit back and let them plan away.

A calculator helps keep track of the running total of all the goodies. They quickly learn navigating unit prices vs. bulk prices, staying within a budget, prioritizing, organizing categories, making hard choices between two good things, and calculating sale items to stretch the budget further.

This is our kind of math!

At the end we figure out what the cost per person is, and what happens if we invite more/fewer people to the party.

Now that I’m writing this up, it’s reminding me how genius party planning is for teaching and learning math concepts. We haven’t done it in a while, but I use to have stacks of old Oriental Trading Company catalogues laying around for ‘theoretical’ party planning, and the kids could use it to come up with different theme parties if we ever had one. Sometimes our theoretical budget was large, sometimes it was small. Either way, it was a lot of fun.

This is a perfect holiday activity–forget doing everything yourself…let your kid(s) plan the decorations for Thanksgiving/Halloween/Christmas, and then let them set it up using their awesome mathmatical budgeting/computing/unit pricing/planning skills!

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Supertramp + Emerson = Education Reform

In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s brilliant lecture on Education (yes, do click through and read it! Really!) he speaks about how “we sacrifice the genius of the pupil, the unknown possibilities of his nature, to a neat and safe uniformity” and then end up with a bunch of men with “educated minds in uneducated bodies”…meaning, they might have memorized a lot of facts, but know very little about themselves and the world they live in. I think Emerson would be appalled at the current standardization of our public school system, and cringe over the ‘No Child Left Behind’ fiasco.

Hubby asked me a few days ago about if I’d listened to Supertramp in a while. Which I really hadn’t, even though I did listen to “It’s Raining Again” pretty much every day in 1982. So he played “The Logical Song” for me and said, “I think you’ll hear this in a totally different light now that we’re unschooling” and he was right.

This song completely reminds me of Emerson.

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“When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully watching me.

But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!

At night, when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run so deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am…”
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We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyfull of words and do not know a thing. The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means of education. -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Happily, I am able to present a totally different experience towards learning to my kids. Learning and self awareness go hand in hand…mostly because self awareness drives the learning process. It’s what makes unschooling so beneficial and unique.

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From Head To Toe.

Picnik collage

Number 12 in my 52 weeks of self portraits finds me reexamining myself from head to toe. Not in a physical way…I’m quite familiar with all my bits and pieces, my bulges and sags, my hard and soft places. I can cover myself with clothes and makeup and do my hair just right, but at the end of the day it all comes off and I know what’s there.

I’m not so familiar with my inner workings. Which is ironic, because it’s not my body that’s important in determining who I am, it’s all the stuff going on inside. Without a firm grip on the inner stuff, I can look back and see just how little control I had taken in my life. I was highly reactive to things that happened rather than being proactive in making things happen. I ran from conflict, I shied away from emotional connections, I buried thoughts and feelings deep down to avoid them. Mostly this was due to an inner voice that was judgemental, critical, and angry.

It’s quite a vicious cycle, isn’t it…how our parents treated us was influenced by how their parent’s treated them, which is how we grow up to treat ourselves, which is how we then treat our kids. In some ways, this cycle is great and gives the best of ourselves and our upbringing to our children. But in other ways, like this for me, it’s not so great.

Cycles are only broken or changed by awareness. The last 2 months have been me opening my eyes. I’ve been trying to get my warrior princess working. I’ve shut down all my systems and slowly rebooted myself. I’ve started sticking up for myself and accepting that I am valuable and worthwhile.

All that is great, but doesn’t get me any closer to understanding my inner being unless I’m capable of really seeing myself. My inner bulges and sags, my inner soft and hard places. In order to go in there and do that, I have to be safe from my judgemental, angry, critical voice. I have to be able to show myself compassion, mercy, and acceptance.

Self esteem isn’t about celebrating what is wonderful and lovely about yourself. Or, rather, deep lasting self esteem. You know…it’s not the “Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley” type stuff. (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” lolol)

Self esteem, for me, is bringing compassion and awareness into the dark places of my psyche and just sitting with them. Knowing that all the things about myself that make me feel ashamed, guilty, hurt, embarrassed, afraid, and angry are all a part of me. Sitting with the idea that sometimes I’m not good enough or smart enough, and doggone it some people will never like me. I don’t have to try to fix it, or make up for it, or apologize for it. I just have to understand it and accept it.

This is me. All of me. I make mistakes. I choose poorly. Not everyone likes me. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not perfect. Sometimes my best isn’t good enough.

So what? This is what being human is all about. This is me, perfectly imperfect.

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The Day I Almost Got My Ass In Prime Time News.

*thisclose* people!

Today, I looked out the balcony window and saw that our whole block was lined with all kinds of news vans. I went out for a jog, and when I came back there were even more! So I showered/feed the kids/cleaned up a bit, looked out the window and there was a mob of reporters/police/other people…right below our condo.

What the heck?!

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So I and my intrepid sidekick, a Canon 40D I like to call Bam Bam, went down to investigate.

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Turns out, today scores of gay couples had hoped to get married in the park beside our condo because Proposition 8 was overturned by a federal judge. However, the same judge put the marriages on hold for another week, until the defendants had a chance to refute his ruling.

So, at first, everyone was there to get married. Then, everyone was disappointed with the delay. And finally, the mayor of West Hollywood gave a press conference. While the press conference was going on, I noticed this dude behind me:

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He was taping his segment for the prime time news! And I was right there! So, I slowly shifted over to my left (I was standing on a bench to get the best view) so I would be in the frame. Or, at least, my ass would be. Warhol never specified what, exactly, would have the 15 minutes of fame. So, I stood there until news correspondence dude walked over and asked me to get out of his frame.

I guess they’re used to people trying to ass-boggart their shots.

So, whatever, I didn’t get to be on prime time news.

I did, however, get up close and personal with half of the two couples who filed the federal lawsuit to get Prop 8 overturned…

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Jeff Zarrillo, left, and Paul Katami, who love each other and would really really really like to get married someday soon. They joined the press conference and talked all about it–their hopes and dreams, disappointments and happiness.

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This is the time in our bloggy relationship where I need more from you, dear reader. You know so much about me. And I know so little about you. I can’t bear it anymore. I need more from you…do you hear me?! Not that I want to be pushy, overbearing, or needy. NoooOOooo, not me. I just want to know, in general, something rather controversial. It’s a rather hot button topic. But I am curious about something..so here’s a little 2 answer quiz–I won’t see specifically who answers what, but more like a general trend:

[polldaddy poll=3614025]

And to all those who are genuinely upset I didn’t get any part of me on the news, I have good news. If the ruling stands, then there is going to be a huge media frenzy a week from today at this same exact spot. I guess tons of gay couples are going to meet together right here and get married. The Mayor of WeHo stated they’re deputizing as many people as they can to deal with the demand. So, I have another shot at it! Next time I will prevail.

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The Lesson of The Girly Hair.

I was 23 when I had Naturalist. I was tickled that she was a girl. I would have been tickled if she was a boy, but for entirely different reasons. I loved that she was a girl because I know girls. I am a girl! A girly girl, in lots of girly girl ways. So, I pictured a whole lifetime of girly things…hairbows, cute shoes, clothes shopping, crying at movies, makeup, the art of the flirt, etc., etc.

I know, it’s not politically correct anymore to gender bias like that, but with the exception of all my neighbors I’m meeting in West Hollywood, I’ve never met a guy that enjoyed all that stuff…but plenty of my best girl friends do!

I’ve learned a lot since becoming a mom, but the #1 thing has got to be: Our Kids Are Not Our Selves.

Case in point…Naturalist doesn’t like girly hair. She never did. All those ridiculous baby bows were out of her hair in .3 seconds flat. As her hair grew longer, she’d scream at the sight of a hairband or barrette. But my dream of french braids and ribbons was not to be defeated easily! I held on to the dream for yeeeeeears. I engaged her in long drawn out battles for supremacy of her hair every day. (Her dream of her hair independence was not to be defeated easily either, it would seem!) I braided it, I curled it, I ribboned it and bejeweled it. I got the girly hair that I wanted for my daughter, but neither of us were very happy about it.

I won the battle but lost the war, because the main purpose of doing all that girly stuff was for the basic bonding and happiness it provides me.

Mom Lesson #2: Things That Make Me Happy Don’t Always Make My Kids Happy.

All that girly stuff was making Naturalist miserable. I finally realized I had a choice…continue dragging her down my girly hair path of pain, or let go of my dream and embrace hers.

I let go and embraced.

Turns out, she’s a totally different kind of girl! And she introduced a totally new kind of girly girl world to me!

Mom Lesson #3: Our Kids Have As Much To Teach Us As We Have To Teach Them. Respect It!

thinking spot

Naturalist is a nature girl. No makeup, no frills, no shoes other than the ones she can hike in. She values most the things that can be packed up in a second and taken on an adventure…like her swiss army knife–not a hairbrush or a cute skirt or some ribbons. I let her teach me about what her kind of girl means, and learned a lot of great stuff in the process.

And sometimes, on our joint adventures, she lets me braid her hair. Like when we climbed to the top of Quandary Peak.

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A few weeks ago we went to a barbershop where she asked the hair stylist to cut it short on the sides but leave it longer on top so she could make it into a fauxhawk when she wanted to.

The hairstylist looked at me for approval and started asking me questions about what Naturalist wanted. Not being a mom herself, she didn’t understand rule #1, so I explained it to her. “This is her hair, her body, her look! She’s in charge of it, it’s her choice to cut her hair, not mine!”

Later, the hairstylist drew me aside and exclaimed how cool it was to see someone, at 13, make a choice to look so different from other teenagers with long hair and braids and ribbons and curls. It struck me that in my plan for her, that’s exactly how she’d look. Just like every other shiny haired girl on the planet. The hairstylist went on. “My mom would never have let me do that.”

When I told Naturalist, she looked shocked. We’ve been unschooling long enough–since she was 8–she barely remembers a time when she wasn’t responsible for her own choices and decisions. Then she said, “Mom! Why wouldn’t I be in control of my hair? It’s my hair! How am I supposed to be responsible for myself when I’m an adult if no one’s ever let me be responsible for myself right now?”

And there you have Mom Lesson #4: Encourage Your Kids To Be Responsible And In Charge By Giving Them Responsiblity and Letting Them Actually Be In Charge.

This means they will make their own decisions. These decisions will be different than what you’d choose or what you’d want. That’s OK. Give up some control now to empower your kids. Difficult to pipe down and give up control, yes. Does it fly in the face of current parental advice? Yes. Will they sometimes make wrong choices? Yes. Will they learn much better that way? Yes.

Will you have much more fun along the way? Absolutely. Will you have a better relationship with them? Positively. It will be built on trust and respect. And lots and lots of adventures!

Bye bye, girly hair! There’s a new dream in town, and it’s all about having whatever kind of hair you want!

At the fair

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The Proof Is In The Movie.

Proof that I do, in fact, run about 3 weeks behind everyone else in the world…I finally saw Inception last night.

Proof that the youngest child grows up a lot faster than the first or second kid…Hubby and I took all 3 kids to see it with us. Naturalist was dying to go, Golfer was on board too. And since we had 4 out of 5 going, we brought Sassy along for the ride. She’s an old pro at watching mildly to moderately inappropriate movies…and on a sliding scale of what she’s already seen, I’d rank Inception on the mild side. Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings trilogies were much much worse (violent/scary/long). Her review after watching it…she liked it, but not as much as Kung Fu Panda. Sorry Christopher Nolan, but the movie doesn’t screen well with 6 year olds.

Proof that you shouldn’t watch movies with a plot that centers around lost love and separated families while PMS’ing…I cried a lot.

Proof that Naturalist is an out of the box, right brain, visual spatial thinker…after the movie she wanted to live in the limbo state, a place where your mind has the power to create and destroy things in the world around you.

Proof that you shouldn’t write blog posts while PMS’ing and really really hungry…if I don’t go find some food right now, I’m going to start eating my computer key by key.

Let’s hope the next blog finds me in a well eaten, less PMS’y state…the odds would improve for a better blog if you send chocolate and Advil STAT.

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How To Justify Eating At Restaurants In The Name of Unschooling.

Over at p.s.bohemian, Deb is hosting a Sunday Snapshots fiesta…today is all about food!

Food is something I know a lot about, ever since moving to L.A. Back in Colorado, the closest good restaurant was about 30 minutes away. None of the kids was ever up for the drive there and back, and frankly neither was I.

But here in the bright lights of the big city, good food is just around the corner. And great food is on every block! My ability to cook food has decreased exponentially the closer we are to restaurants, apparently. I like to think of it as part of our ‘unschooling adventure’…sampling different cuisines from different cultures is a valuable thing! So educational! I do it all for the good of my kids, people! It’s all about the learning! Even when my kids aren’t around…I still go out to eat. That’s how dedicated I am!

With the help of some crazy cool homeschooling mamas (who happen to be crazy cool flickr friends, too) I braved the L.A. public transportation and took the metro from Pasadena to downtown.

Photobooth Friday

Say hi to Meg and Staci!

Once there we walked around Olvera Street, a really amazing and historic part of the city with fantastic mexican cuisine. And if there’s one thing I love more than chocolate fondue, it’s mexican food. So, with no further delay, here is my food photo…the biggest vat of guacamole I’ve ever seen. The scale isn’t very good, but I could have fit my whole head into that thing…and almost considered it. Avocado is really good as a hair and beauty mask you know.

Biggest bowl of guacamole ever.

Mmmmmmm!

On an unrelated not, if you visit this blog directly and look for new posts, it would have appeared this past week that I’ve been quiet as a church mouse. Not a lot of blogging going on with all this good food to eat! However, if you get my blog via my facebook page, email subscription or RSS feed, then you will see some more activity through my flickr uploads. Sometimes when I’m too tired to blog I’ll upload a picture or two, write a sentence, and call it good. That shows up in the feed but not on the blog. So if you want some more spice, (totally not a reference to spicy guacamole, even though it could be…) subscribe via feedburner!

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