Monday, June 29, 2015


We have a teenager, and she is wonderful.  She has the sparkle she was born with, and she is warm and curious.  She wants to know you and what you are about and if you've met her once she will greet you with a hug the next time around as if you've known each other forever.  

She arrived early (I know - it was exactly on time, but I was new at the mama gig, and she was early!) and has been ready for the next thing since that moment. 

We travelled to Maine so we could spend her birthday with dear friends, and omigosh, the puppy play that comes with these big kids - the limbs and the wrangles and the laughing! It was awesome. We used to watch Esme's big sisters sprawl across our couches with their friends, legs crossing legs, a jumble of bodies.  We're there.  Maine was exactly the right place for this kid to turn thirteen.

Teenagers generally get a bad rap in the world, but I don't get why.  This feels like the brink of so much possibility and goodness.  The creativity, the life force, the big big love. If I weren't your mama, I'd sure want to know you, Eliza...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

stewing about change

I've been stewing. We've had a rough spell these last two weeks, with unanswered health questions, doctor's appointments, and a little overwhelm.  It's brought me down, and reminded me how little control I have over so much of our lives.  This is also the time of year when we schedule a homeschool evaluation, required by the state we live in, and my mind has been caught up in all we are not doing right now.  Yes, I know, it's summer. Summer! But we take so many breaks throughout the year, for travel, for visitors, to accomodate large projects like Honey for the Heart or performing in a play, that I am reluctant to let go of it all during the summer.  So, I've been wrapped up in anxiety about what we aren't doing right now, fighting with Ani about writing, and feeling myself wind up tighter and tighter.  

Just leave the cheese ball on the counter. it will be delt with thoraly.

I lay in bed last night, during a rain storm, and thought about how great our spring was. The girls were motivated to learn together: we finished up the history we were doing, we made 13 really awesome map drawings, started a series of botany classes that are tying in nicely with our fall tree studies and our general love of identifying plants, and we learned several passages from Midsummer Night's Dream that we enjoy pulling out for each other every now and then.  Life felt juicy, in a more structured way. I could check off some lists, and/but everyone was engaged and thriving.

Call me crazy, but when it's good, I'm not satisfied, I just want more. I feel like I've found the key and I don't want to stop because we might lose it again. So, I've been spiraling downward with the resistance I've been getting to moving ahead with, well, pretty much anything on my list.

new handmade bag love

I am still mooning over my new....well, I don't know what to call him, this beautiful chubby baby, but he's the son of my cousin and I'm still a little obsessed, though it's been two and a half weeks since I came home from welcoming him to earth.  I felt like my visit was mostly a huge gift to me, but I tried to sprinkle around a little wisdom while I was there - you know, the pinkie trick when mama isn't quite ready to nurse (like, maybe she has to pee or something?) and the rooting is fierce, or how most babies, when the diaper is off, will sneak in another pee just for the hell of it once they sense a fresh diaper under their bum, so let them hang out a while or you'll just be starting over from square one with the trifold - but the one piece of experience I felt coming back to me from early days with Eliza was that Things Change. It's all about change.  Especially when you think you've got it down. "It's happened twice - that's a pattern, right?" my cousin would ask me, her huge brown eyes lighting up through the sleepy fog. It's almost like a curse to announce "He's sleeping three hours at a time during the night! It's amazing!" Blam. It's gonna change. Bedtime for us was like that for years.  We had two weeks at most with any successful strategy, and then it would all change.

Maybe even when things are working really well, it does not mean they will always work that way, because things change.  My attempts to define and articulate our homeschool learning life can only describe a moment, because for better or worse, it will change.  

I was so grateful to read Lori Pickert's post this morning (reposted on Simple Homeschool). It reminded me that summer is about freedom.  I'll take that loosely - I think she would agree that kids need freedom a lot of the time.  Freedom to make decisions without checking in.  Freedom to trust their own judgement and solve their own problems.  

It made me look at what is going on with a wider lens:  fort digging behind the school for hours at a time with a neighbor friend...(Dan has seen it - he was called in as a poison ivy consultant - but I've been forbidden, my only involvement being the lending of loppers and a spade)...getting lost in a book, surfacing only to ask "what's a-l-l-e-g-o-r-i-c-a-l?" or "ecclisiastical impedimenta"? The Birmingham sit-down strike?...drawing...dreaming...telling a spy story to yourself for an hour, while pacing, with spy bag, up and down the block...writing a play...sewing a bag...It's an adjustment, but this open time is just as important as the rest of the learning we do.  Maybe I have a problem with transitions (who, me?), and definitely I am a cyclical and slow learner - I grok it a little deeper each time it comes around.  We need both to meet all of our needs - the structured weeks and the open weeks, and just because it's hard to get back into the structure doesn't mean you shouldn't let it go for a while.

There are things I want to do differently this next year. We very rarely have a clear beginning and ending to anything we are doing at home.  Our looking at trees morphed into learning about plant families, which turned into looking at mosses and other non-vascular plants and we're back at trees with the vascular plants and maybe we'll pick that back up in a few weeks when life has settled down a bit. I wonder if it would be nice to know that for all of November we are going to attempt to go full blast at something and then be done? We never have an end-of-the-year tada! We're done! Because, well, we're never done, and I've never wanted to emphasize the start and end of learning time, that's just not how we do it here, but maybe we need clearer breaks from routine, to cleanse the palate as it were. 

We are about to leave on a trip to see friends and celebrate our baby's thirteenth birthday in Maine.  I wouldn't trade our travels for the normal routine right now.  I could feel myself shifting into a different mode yesterday, letting go of my plans for now.  There was a peaceful hour or two where I was experimenting with a sewing project in the kitchen, where I could see Ani outside, pacing up and down the street, telling her story, and Dan and Eliza were on the couch reading To Kill a Mockingbird together, we were listening to Miles Davis and the day felt open and juicy in a way it hadn't for weeks.  I know nothing but my perspective had actually changed, but there it was. A shift.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Summer in this small town is sweet.  It shrinks closer to its townie size of 8,000, and there is parking, and quiet.  It doesn't mean there's nothing going on though.  Why, just this last week we attended a city council meeting!. The girls had entered a contest to design flags for the uptown area that depicted healthy living in our town.  There was a presentation and a general parading of the children (not our favorite kind of event - Eliza played along grudgingly, but Ani hid behind her chair when it came time to publicly show the art on the public access channel. I don't blame her) but the coolest part was seeing the flags up a couple of days later as we made our way uptown to meet Dan for the 100th birthday party of our little independent cinema.

The girls chose their subject matter themselves, and I love how precisely they represent what they really love to spend their time doing.

Eliza made samosas for our picnic during the celebration; after champagne and birthday cake the crowd walked up a block to the campus green to hear a band concert featuring movie music...

...and back to the cinema for a showing of the first movie the Athena ever played, in 1915: Mary Pickford's Cinderella.  We sat in (near) silence for almost an hour, enjoying the movie! (Ani and I couldn't help whispering to each other what the actors might have been saying. Prince Charming: Do you like my crocheted tunic? My mother made it for me. Cinderella: Oh yes, how do you like my netted hat with lampshade top? PC: Very fetching indeed. C: Oh my, is it midnight already?)

Of course there was swimming - at the lake and at the pool - and a modified schedule of learning together (another post perhaps), but my favorite time was an impromptu Sunday evening picnic of spring rolls and strawberries. Complete with grasshoppers and a scarlet tanager (number 52!).

oooh, can you see it?

There was much sighing as we lay around, watching the birds and the ants and the sky, and suggestions that we do this every night.  I know, it wouldn't be as special if it happened all the time, but it's so lovely to be so content that you want that to be The Way It Is.