The Bubble Debate

“You can’t keep them in a bubble and shield them from everything.”

I was on a community Facebook page today, and someone mentioned the music being played around small children at a small town country fair. It included lyrics with adult content. Questionable language and sexually explicit whether direct or innuendo. The comment was made that it was a laughable concern…Because we can’t shield them from everything.

While it may be true that we can’t shield small children from “everything”, why don’t we as a society want our kids, especially our 5 and under crowd, shielded from some things?

Music is not my hill to die on. Music is a form of art and art is meant to shock people or make noise on a subject matter (although I’m hard pressed to see the art through the commercialism of modern pop and hip hop), but it’s brought up a bigger issue: is exposure to adult content at a tender age appropriate? Or let’s be real, is it appropriate at any age?

I do want my children sheltered. At least for a little while. My 5 year old does not need to know yet, what kind of world they’re inheriting. I want them to be the kind of people that make the world better and don’t buy in to a societal status quo. That status quo is not something we are striving for as a family and instilling in a new generation. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” a la Gandhi paraphrased bumper stickers, popular the world over.

It boils down to a parents choice. It’s their choice when they want to discuss sensitive or mature subjects. It’s their choice what type of language they want them exposed to. It’s their right to ask where they can request more appropriate music at an event geared toward children. And we as a society should support that choice. We should protect those children together. We should stand up for that parental choice. You go mom with a voice! Make it heard!

Maybe, just maybe, if we teach our children to support what they have been taught and encouraged to truly believe in, and stand up for what’s right, we will raise a generation with new morals that changes the world. We cannot just tell them what to do. We have to guide them to make choices.

I am not perfect. My children are not perfect. But I’ll keep them “sheltered” just a little while longer.

The Misguided Middle

Sam is our middle child. He’s 8. He’s wonderful. He’s a bit of a shit…

Truth be told he always has been. I can say this because I love him. He came into this world backwards and screaming. He screamed for months. He wouldn’t let anyone else hold him. Once he could move he followed me everywhere and he screamed if I went out of eye line.

Sam pulled my hair. Sam hit me. Sam bit me. Sam hit and bit his sister. He ate all of the time. He was a bit of a shit…

As he grew, it started to become clear that Sam did not get language. He could not understand us and he certainly couldn’t express himself. Super long story short, Sam had sensory issues that interfered with language acquisition. We worked with our local ISD and did a ton of work at home, and eventually he started communicating, but to this day, Sam is not GOOD at expressing himself.

We’ve been working super hard on behavior. We’ve tried all the things. But Sam still hits people when he gets mad or upset or hurt and this happens on the daily. We talk about how we can’t control what other people do, just how we respond to it. He makes lists of other things he can do when he’s upset (count to 10, punch a pillow, walk away and do something else, etc) and he posts them on his wall. But I still worry, that Sam is a bully.

Last week, trying to be funny, he did something so upsetting and disappointing. Renna loves to draw and she even enters contests with her favorite YouTuber Draw with Jazza. The work she’s most proud of, was an updated girl with the pearl earring drawing in her sketch book. She worked so hard on it. Sam “added on” to EVERY page in her sketch book one day…including that one.

Elliott can’t write anything but his name, Sam…get a better alibi…

We had the big talk about how hurtful that was and how disappointed I was. How he had to make amends and he owed Renna something. He also had to apologize both in person and in writing and used his own money to buy her a new book.

Truth be told, Sam is my most helpful kid. When he’s showered in love and attention he’s amazing. He unloads the dishwasher, does laundry, helps with the animals, helps with outside stuff, pulls weeds, cooks breakfast, all the things when I ask. If I can hit him with a preemptive strike to keep him busy and entertained and working, he is a joy of a child. But being in the middle in a family with 4 kids is hard.

He’s not the oldest. He doesn’t have that extra responsibility and the opportunity often to be “in charge”. He’s not the baby and he got a double hit on that one with twin younger siblings. We do our best but undivided attention is sometimes hard to come by.

He’s stuck in the misguided, misunderstood middle. And sometimes that means he’s a bit of a shit… but we’re working on it. And we love his naughty little face off. And maybe someday, with enough guidance, he’ll be able to express himself without violence and vandalism 😉

8 Tiny Eyes

My kids are growing.  They are growing too fast and it’s NOT ok with me.  I mean, I want them to grow up to be strong, happy, successful people some day, I just wish it would take longer.  As they grow, some things have become so much easier.  No more diapers, no bottles, no incessant crying for no reason, no giant diaper bags that can hold a weekend trip for two to some fancy B&B in wine country but is instead full of burp cloths that smell like sour milk and 47 pounds of baby wipes.  All of that is done.  And I can leave them unattended for a short time and they are usually all alive and not bleeding when I come back…usually.

But as they grow, the problems and the situations grow with them.  The questions, the peer pressure, and the desire to be independent.  I think I’m what you would call a free range mom.   But my husband is not a free range dad.  He will openly admit his freedom leash for the kids is very short.  Luckily for them, it’s usually me here 😉  I am not, however, ready to hand them over to social media.

My nearly 10 year old has a phone.  I know some people think that’s crazy, but it’s a tracfone and we had a legitimate emergency where she had to be in charge for a short time while the neighbor was on her way home and I realized that our lack of landlines made this interesting nowadays.  So she got a phone.  It was supposed to be for emergencies.  But she started using it to google things when we had a question we couldn’t answer without help.  Good use of a phone.  Finding pertinent info.  Then she used it to play music to dance too.  Perfectly fine.  She watched her favorite Artist/Vlogger on Youtube.  Fine.  She wanted games her friends play, but after much research I decided she couldn’t have those.  They were too open.  Too public.  She also loves to take beautiful pictures and she asked for an Instagram account.   “…hmm…well…”  I am pretty familiar with the workings of Instagram and the privacy and security.  We had a “talk” about social media safety and I locked her account down like Fort Knox and then I added the friends she was allowed to have.  She had to ask me to add or follow anyone else.

She found some old friends from her first school.  Ok.  I guess.  Which ones?  I checked her account every single day.  Then I started checking into her friends accounts from her phone and I was shocked.  Little girls posting photos they shouldn’t.  Using words they shouldn’t.  Talking about topics they shouldn’t.  And then it happened.  My kid posted something mean to someone else…It was a celebrity, not like a friend they’re picking on, but still NOT OK.  I talked to her.  I asked her to explain.  I yelled I’m sure.  I made her write a paper about responsible social media use and then I disabled her account and deleted her app.  I also took her phone for 7 days.  I do think she gets it, but she’s not getting Instagram back any time soon.

She wanted to be on the phone…like she was an addict in withdrawal and asked daily for it back.  That’s when it dawned on me, that that’s the culture and the generation we are raising.  We are raising kids who think it’s normal to spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone.  Looking at it.  Reading things.  Socializing.  Working.  Watching videos.  Heck even banking and ordering dinner.  On the phone.  Never more than 10 feet away.  Mine is 12 inches to my right as I type this.  I can see it in case it lights up.  In case someone calls (rare) or texts, or sends a Facebook message.  I can pick it up any time and get dopamine hits from the little hearts on Instagram and the Like button on Facebook.  When someone likes your photo or comment your brain releases dopamine and makes you happy.  Your serotonin levels rise.  But it’s a short burst and you need more.

8 tiny eyes are watching us.  Watching us hold on to our phones too much.  Guilty as charged.  It must be wonderful if we’re doing it right?  So they want to do it too.  They want the dopamine hit.  They want the acceptance of their peers.  And the pressure to fit in comes in to play.  8 tiny eyes blinded by blue light.

I’m working on my addiction.  I’m working on it so 8 tiny eyes want to play outside, maintain their creativity and their zest for reading and learning.  I want them to get dirty and scrape their knees.  I want them to build forts and not just on Minecraft.  Real ones.  With like sticks…  8 tiny hands.  Covered in mud.36322606_10105388121782775_2744062426549846016_n

I Left My Heart on the Table

I was yelling at my kids today. I’m not sure why. But there was kind of a lot of yelling. I tried to apologize and then explain to them why I was yelling. I poured my heart out about the “mental load” that many writers and bloggers have been writing on lately, the part of your mind-space reserved everyday for all of things that need to be done and all of the things you need to remind other people to do for the household or for yourself. I started asking them questions, like who knows how to empty the dishwasher? Do you know it needs to be done even if I don’t ask you? Who knows how to brush their teeth without being told? Who knows where their plate goes after breakfast without being reminded to clean it up and where to put it?

The resounding answers were that they all knew, but none of them do it without being asked. They know how to start laundry and they all have an assigned laundry day. Never once has one of them started their laundry without me telling them to start it. And this is where the mental load gets heavy. As primary parents, caregivers, whatever, it’s super exhausting to micromanage everyone’s lives. They are children, so I know I need to know when important things come up, like they’re due for the dentist and make that appointment (note to self for the 12th day in a row, call dentist) and I accept that responsibility. But why do I need to tell them to put clothes on their body every single day? Why do I need to know when they showered last and why don’t they know they need a shower? Can they not see or smell that they are dirty? Why do I need to remind them that when we go to the car for a full day of classes that someone needs to grab the backpack, the lunch, and the piano music bag?

I’d love just a brief glimpse inside their brains and what their mind is filled with on a daily basis. One of my goals as a parent,and particularly a homeschooling parent, is to teach them to be strong, independent adults with life skills. At what age do they just know that things need to be done without being told 9,000,682 times?

So there I sat at the kitchen table pouring my heart out to them. They were receptive. They smiled. They nodded. The little one told me that when I look busy she could say hey it looks like you need help, mama, can I help? And I cried because she was so sweet and she understood!

Then I walked into the other room and within 10 minutes all of that eager helpfulness was gone. Dead on the floor. The mental load was left resting on the dishes still on the table. The juice cups mocking me with sweating koolaid rings. The laundry, left unswitched in the machine. And I yelled some more.

Suddenly, I understood. I NEED A BREAK. And that’s ok. And I am saying it out loud and I’m saying it with purpose. I NEED A BREAK. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. I just need a minute with my own thoughts where I’m not the nag micromanaging everything. I tried to remember the last time I did something without them that wasn’t work, and the only thing I could come up with was the time I met a friend at target two months ago and we walked around drinking Starbucks for 2 hours. It was glorious.

I adore my kids. They’re fun and funny. They’re truly good kids. But I need a minute. Do you?

Memoirs of a Mom who Lost her Mind

It gets easier.  It truly does.  For the most part.  If you’re a mom and your kids are very small, it gets “easier”.  Sure the problems might become larger.  The conversations.  The situations.  As your kids grow, things get more complicated, but in my humble opinion, they do in fact get easier.  I’m going to paint an after birth picture for you.  Not a picture of afterbirth…a picture of life after the birth of a new baby:

You had your bouncing beautiful bundle of joy.  It was traumatic on your body, but you are so blinded by love you don’t even care or take the time to notice.  People come to visit in the hospital.  Your spouse (if you had one) takes a week or two off work.  People hold the baby and tell you how beautiful he/she is.  Sometimes people even bring you a meal!  They offer to hold the baby while you finally catch a shower.

This lasts 5 days…tops.  Suddenly everyone is gone.  Suddenly you live on an island.  It’s the living room rug.  You are trapped on the floor between the couch, the TV, the wall to the south, and the loveseat.  You have baby furniture on your island.  You have a changing blanket where you change the baby on the floor.  You have a boppy pillow.  You leave the island to go to the bathroom and to wash bottles or breast pump parts.  No one comes to the island.  NO ONE.  And at some point you are so ashamed of the island, you are glad people are not dropping by.  There are probably a few diapers that haven’t made it to the pail.  You have forgotten to bathe on the island.  You have forgotten to care enough to change your clothes.  You have a cellphone and it’s used primarily for texting your partner to see when they will be home and asking them to pick something up, ordering food that delivers, and for googling images of baby poop to make sure your baby poop is normal baby poop.

Does it sound familiar or was that just me?  Praying that wasn’t just me…

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My first baby, Renna, was a dream baby.  She’s the kind of baby that makes you think you could have 100 babies and they would all sit with you in restaurants for 3 hours and play with a spoon and smile at strangers and that is normal.  I now know that Renna was not normal.  Sure we had moments where the crying never stopped or where you couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  I was tired from getting up all night, but all in all, she was a doll.

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When Renna was 21 months old, along came Sam…  Sam came screaming into the world.  He was intense.  He cried for unknown reasons constantly and whenever we left the house I had to swing this man-child of a baby (10lbs at birth- 18lbs by 4 months) in a 30lb baby carrier like a swing to get him to sleep or calm down.  As he grew, Sam hit me.  Sam didn’t like anyone else but me, but he took every opportunity to hit me or bite me that came across his upset little path.  Sam didn’t speak until he was almost 3.  He called every adult mama.  He screamed when he wanted something and threw things.  He didn’t point.  He didn’t gesture.  He didn’t understand.  Sam was a difficult baby and toddler, but I survived and I FEEL like I did it with grace…and a little help from our local ISD.

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When Sam was 2 3/4 😉 Along came the TWINS!  Elliott & Lorelei.  And this is truly a story about what happened after the twins.  Right after they were born, I was HIGH.  I was the world’s best super mom.  I had Sam on a visual schedule on the wall so we could communicate.  I had Renna in preschool 4 mornings a week.  We played sensory games together whenever the twins were happy on the floor or in some baby furniture or sleeping.  We cooked together and read books and sang songs.  If you were on the outside looking in, I’m sure you thought I had it all together.  I would put Renna on the bus in the morning and pack up 3 tiny people from the time the twins were 2 weeks old and take them to the ISD for Sam’s speech classes.  I would feed two babies at once on the floor while Sam was playing speech games and sensory games with his group.  Our house was messy but not a disaster zone (yet).  From the outside looking in I was a super hero.

When I was pregnant with the twins, I had all these help offers.  “Oh we will come over and just hold babies for you!  It will be fun.  We want to help!”  Before this goes any further, I did live in this fantasy, but in reality I don’t blame any friends or family for having their own lives and this not really being a thing that can happen.  The intentions are pure…but real life gets in the way.  But after the first two weeks or so, I could count on one hand how many times people actually came over just to help and hold a baby.  Being proud, as we all are, I did not ask for help.  I had this.  I am their mother and it was on me and I hope I’m not screwing them up.

Lewis was working 5 days a week 40+ hours.  In the middle of the night when the twins screamed, sometimes at the same time, sometimes at different times, all night long, I felt like it was my JOB to do that alone.  I felt like it was my role.  I would shake two bottles and sit on the floor and prop them on boppy pillows and feed them both at the same time whenever I could, but DON’T WAKE A SLEEPING BABY!  And if one twin was sleeping I was so reluctant to wake them and make them eat that sometimes I didn’t and I would find myself up all night.  The next morning, all activities in place on our wonderful visual schedule, classes attended, I moved to the island.  They kicked around on the island.  They slept on the island.  They ate on the island.  I played with Sam and Renna on the Island.  The island was getting smaller and smaller by the day.

The first 4 months with four children were, dare I say, EASIER than what followed from 4-6 months.  They needed more.  Elliott and Lorelei were no longer sleepy little premature lumps.  They wanted eye contact and stimulation and to be held for no reason.  They did not care about my schedule.  They did not care that I just worked a double shift, they were still up at night.  And I still worked less than Lewis and later in the day, so I still thought it was MY job.

I spent every single day questioning every decision I made.  I was certain I was going to raise serial killers or Renna would be in therapy someday with some smug psychiatrist telling her about how every issue she has in life is somehow related to her mother.  I thought Sam was on the spectrum, he is not, but he did/does have sensory processing disorder.  I worked with him as much as I could but progress was slow and I always felt like when he had a melt down I was some how failing him in the biggest way.  How much more could we fit on the island?

When the twins were 6 months old, we had a morning that I will never forget and that changed me forever.  We were trying to get ready to go somewhere.  Renna and Sam (now 5 and 3) were supposed to be brushing their teeth.  The twins were both crying on the floor on the island.  Renna and Sam were not brushing.  Renna and Sam were messing around in the bathroom and fighting and pushing.  I stormed into the bathroom, I looked at these tiny cherub faced, adorable little people, and I LOST MY SHIT.  I started screaming incomprehensible things at them.  I was throwing things around the bathroom.  They stared at me in complete and utter disbelief as I let out an inhuman scream and turned and put my foot through the dry wall in the bathroom.  Time froze.  Everything went black.  I sat on the bathroom floor and I cried.  And they cried.  And the twins were still crying and I had no idea what had just happened to me.

I called Lewis at work.  I could not speak.  I could not make a single word.   I can only imagine what he must have thought happened.  He couldn’t decipher a thing I was trying to tell him in my silence and sobs.  He left work and rushed home.  He found us on the island and I tried to explain but I couldn’t even comprehend it so I couldn’t explain it.  I couldn’t put into words what my heart had finally let my brain feel.  This went on for over a week.  Me crying.  Me calling Lewis and him coming home.  Eventually he couldn’t any more and it turned into me calling my mom and telling her nothing with silent sobs and her leaving work.  When someone was there, I was ok.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew when they were there it was ok.  My babies were 6 months old.  That is too late for some sort of post-partum right?  WRONG.

After about two weeks of constant tears and the inability to speak, I looked at that hole in the wall and I took myself to the doctor.  I laughed nervously when I told her about how I put my foot through the wall and how I was sure it wasn’t a big deal but I really wasn’t feeling like myself.  She was kind.  She nodded.  She listened.  She wrote me a prescription.  At first I didn’t want to take it.  It’s like asking for help.  It’s like saying you can’t do it.  It’s like saying you failed.  WRONG.

I started on medication and I did start to feel “better”.  It took the edge off so I could put my feelings in check before they overcame me.  I would spend the next 3 years on this medication.

So why did this happen?  Is it just biology?  Is it mom’s just trying to do too much?  Is it mom’s feeling like we can’t ask for help?  Is it being trapped on the damn Island?  4 walls closing in every single day.  Alone, but never alone.  Needing an adult, but being the only adult there to care for people who need you constantly and trying to be everything to everyone.  We can talk a good game, but what happens when we let ourselves finally feel?  We lose our shit.  We are the mom that yells.  The mom who breaks a plate.  The mom who throws a chair (yes I’ve done that too).  In our efforts to be a super hero, we lose our ability to be honest.  We needed more sleep.  We needed more hands.  We needed more company and we were too proud to ask.  (*disclaimer – I know there are many different, emotional, hormonal, genetic, and environmental reasons for PPD, and everyone’s story and “reasons” are different, but these were mine and I am certain I’m not the only one.)

So I have some advice for moms:

  1.  It does get easier.
  2. You do not have to be perfect, your children just need love.
  3. It’s ok to ask for help.
  4. It’s ok to take a nap when everyone is in a safe place.
  5. You are not alone.

If you’re expecting and this scared you at all, I first apologize 😉 and then I have some amazing things to say and advice for you too:

  1.  Don’t wish it away.  It is all fleeting.  Waking up in the night, diapers, teething…it will all be gone someday and you don’t want to miss it.
  2. Being a mom is the hardest and the most rewarding job on the planet.
  3. When you’re up feeding your baby in the middle of the night, change your perspective on the world.  This is your time.  This is you and them, alone in the world.  No one else in it.  Just the two (or three or four or heaven forbid more) of you.  In the silence you can truly see in their eyes the love and adoration.
  4. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ASK FOR HELP.  It does not make you weak.  It makes you smart.  And people will help.  But if they don’t know and you look like a super hero, they won’t be there because they don’t know.

I am not certain I have ever actually regained my sanity, but if not I feel like I manage it well now.  I think.  And having polled other moms, it’s easy to see that this could very well be any one of us.  After some deep facebook chats, I know at least 88% of us hide where our kids can’t find us and eat treats we don’t want them to know exist in the house.  At least 48% of us pretend we have to go to the bathroom so we can sit alone for a while.  And at least 37% of us lie to our kids about things we don’t want to explain.  And yet, we love them…and we do our best every single day.

 

 

Glued

Once upon a time, I was a creative genius…

Armed with a bin full of feathers, a hot glue gun, and a 2am coffee buzz I would sit at my kitchen table with the madness of a scientist who just used the lightning to create new life where there was none before.  From the outside, I’m sure I just looked straight crazy.  But in my mind’s eye, I was expressing some deep part of my Native American roots and communing with the feathers as they told me what it was they wanted to be.  I realize now, I may have been talented, but I was also extremely sleep deprived and something was missing from my life.

I grew up a creative person.  My old friends, my parents, my teachers, etc. would probably use the words artistic and creative to describe me.  I wrote.  I drew.  I painted.  I sewed. I played piano.  I acted.  I directed.  I did none of these things perfectly.  I was not a protege.  But I did them all and they made up a piece of who I was.  WAS.  W A S.  3 painful little letters making a word that describes something gone, something that no longer IS.

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When I first started making headbands and jewelry from feathers, I was sad.  I felt like I had become a mom (a good one) but nothing more.  I am not belittling being a mom.  It’s the best job I’ve ever had.  It’s by far the most rewarding, and it’s definitely the most challenging.  Somehow, in the challenge and the hustle, I lost my identity.  I lost my ability to be anything but a mom.  At the time, I had 2 children.  I was waitressing.  I was a nanny to my nieces, and I was working opposite shifts of Lewis and doing every day the same.  So I found something that was for me.

I spent money we did not have, and time I could have used sleeping, or cleaning, or doing laundry; curling nagori goose feathers with safety scissors or twisting peacock swords into new unique shapes and images.  I burned my fingers on hot glue and I didn’t even feel it…possibly because it was some serotonin/dopamine induced haze.  I needed to create something that was mine and mine alone.  I needed something to be proud of that was not a tiny human.  ANYTHING.

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As mothers, many of us bury ourselves in our children.  We do for them.  We do because of them.  And we do to benefit THEM.  But who are you?  What do you do or do you have that is uniquely yours?   And if the answer is nothing, how do you survive?  I felt guilty at the time for being tired the next day, or for thinking about things I could make when I should have been reading Hop on Pop and doing puzzles.  I felt like I was taking something away from Renna and Sam.  So even in my joy, my mom brain was able to turn that into guilt and somehow what was entirely about me, became about them in the light of day.  But not at 2am.  At 2am I was alone in the quiet and I was creating something I saw in my head.  Something I hadn’t seen anywhere else before.   At 2am, I was gluing myself back together.  At 2am I felt whole.

I’ve changed directions with my creativity more times than I can count in this life.  And I’m sure I’m not done yet.  I went from feather creations, to hats, to dance clothes, to felted animals, to painting, to sensory toys, to websites, to a masters degree I had no idea what I would do with, to a blog 😉 . But what I do know, is that as time has passed I am able to beat that guilt away (most of the time).  I see in my children a 2am spirit.  They are creative.  They look up to me.  They imitate what I do, and they will stay glued together because of 2am.  I didn’t take anything away from them.  I showed them a spirit.  I showed them what life looks like when you’re feeling more fulfilled and you can create.  And I truly don’t think they’re any worse for the wear…yet.  This is a bit of rambling, but it’s almost 2am, and I’m pretty sure my point is, that when you hold on to those pieces of you, you ARE doing for THEM.  And they will do for themselves some day.

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-Mary

To see my feathers and glue site (down since I found out I was pregnant with the twins 5 YEARS AGO) go here:  www.fancythatfeathers.weebly.com

Also, now you know why I am always wearing hats…well that and for ALL the days I don’t wash my hair…

 

 

 

Why I Chose Home Schooling

At 6:45 the alarm woke us up with it’s horrible bark.  With indignation I would get out of bed, smack it silly, and then head upstairs to wake up Renna and Sam, inevitably waking the twins as well.  I tried to be nice about it, truly I did, but my patience is thin in the morning, and if I have to be up, they better jump up and MOVE.  I yelled at them to get downstairs and brush their teeth.  I yelled at them to get their clothes on.  I yelled at them to get to the table and shove food in their faces while I frantically searched for school appropriate snacks and made lunches.  I yelled at them to get their shoes.  Why are shoes so difficult to find?  Where did you take them off?  Why can you only find one?  Did you take each shoe off individually in separate rooms?  They’re a set.  You should really take them off together!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?  You’re going to be late!  Where is your jacket?  Why is it covered in mud?  Get outside, the bus is coming!

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They would board the bus at 7:30.  They got off the bus at 4:15.  They were exhausted.  I yelled at them to get their homework done.  I yelled at them to get changed for their activities.  When we got home, even more exhausted, I yelled at them to keep them moving and eat their dinner, shower, read, and go to bed.  And we did this…every day.  5 days a week.  But this is what we knew.  This is how it goes, right?  There isn’t another option, right? There are a million things they HAVE TO get done in a day…right?

 

In September of last year, Elliott got sick.  Like really sick.  The doctors kept telling me it was just a tummy bug and there was nothing we could do.   We just had to wait it out.  We were sent home from doctors 3 times.  And let me tell you, we don’t go to doctors unless I think there is something seriously wrong.  I stuck to my mom gut (always trust your gut, you’re their mom for a reason) and finally got some testing done.  My sweet baby, my 3 year old had Salmonella.   But not just salmonella, untreated major salmonella and he was septic.  His renal system was slowly shutting down.  He went to Children’s Hospital of Michigan by ambulance from our 4th visit to a doctor, where he stayed in infectious disease isolation for 5 days.  Hint 1, tomorrow is not promised.

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While Elliott was still in the hospital, I called my dear friend Kelly, to complain…  I was whining about being there and being tired when she gave me a shock.  She was undergoing testing because she had some major back pain and they found a mass.  After Elliott was healed, I went down to visit Kelly in Toledo Hospital, where, on the day we visited, she was diagnosed with Stage IV Primary Mediastinal Lymphoma.  She was 32 and one of my dearest friends.  It was in her chest, her back, her arms, and her legs. Hint 2, you never know what tomorrow may bring.

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Three days after Kelly’s diagnosis, my friend Bob, a part of my history and my adolescence, passed away of a massive heart attack at 41.  He laid down on the couch to take a nap because he didn’t feel quite right and he never got up.  Hint 3, LIFE IS SHORT!

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The next week, I pulled my kids out of school.  This might sound crazy, but we had debated it before and just never would have pulled the trigger.  This series of unfortunate events, spoke to me in such a way that I could not ignore it.  Life is short, you will never know what tomorrow brings, and it is not promised.  So we made a choice.

I cannot speak for Lewis, but I don’t have anything against the public schools.  I think teachers are remarkable people who dedicate their lives to educating children and helping build the future.  I was a public school kid, and I happen to think I’m pretty darn smart, well-rounded, and I have a love of learning.  I had amazing teachers who were able to reach me and helped me find myself.  But this isn’t about the school.  It was about us.  It was about FREEDOM.

I was tired of yelling.  I was tired of my children being gone 9 hours a day, and fighting their exhaustion when they were here.  I was tired of this grind, this mold we stick them into and expect them ALL to fit.  As a mom of 4, I can assure you that all children are created uniquely and none of them fit a one size mold.  I wanted the freedom to explore together.  I wanted the freedom to teach them life skills, and teach them what it meant to serve others and volunteer.  I wanted the freedom to stay up until midnight to learn about the stars, sleep late, and do math in their pajamas, because let’s be real, when I have to do math, I want PJ’s on and a comfy chair to do it.  I wanted to take them to museums, and adventure.  I wanted them to touch the earth and not just read about it.  When they did read, I wanted them to choose books and subjects that interested them and inspired them to learn something new.  I wanted them to make choices.

Here we are, 9 months later, and I think some people might call what we are doing “unschooling”.  I prefer to think of us as some sort of hybrid just finding our way.  We have workbooks and curricula, but we don’t use them all that much.  We do go on adventures, but we also learn life skills, and we work a lot on just discovering what we do and do not like to do.  For instance, I have discovered that I am not a huge fan of geocaching…the mud in the swampy woods ate one of my favorite boots and it never recovered….I’m not sure I’m built for the woods…  But I learned I love science.  And my kids have seen through my eyes and excitement that learning is fun.  Baking is math.  Animals teach you responsibility and biology.  Planting a garden can teach you about the earth, photosynthesis, the life cycle, and patience.  Trips to the library ignite a love for reading and reading opens the door to any education you wish.  Being able to touch things and break them apart and see how and why they work has done more for them this year, than any amount of table work they could have done, in my opinion.  All this said, I do recognize a need in the coming months for a little more structure.  It’s possible we gave ourselves a little too much freedom 🙂  But all in all, we yell a whole lot less.  We aren’t nearly as exhausted.  And we’ve given ourselves the gift of time in a life where tomorrow is not promised, you cannot tell what it holds, and LIFE IS SHORT.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes which I submit to you as my home schooling mission statement:  There are but two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.  One of these is roots, the other, wings.

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-Mary