"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Christian Unschooling, Part 4: That Pesky Word, "Radical"

If you're just getting here, you might want to read 1, 2, and 3 first.


“The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.” ~Mark Twain

I saved this post for last for a few reasons. First, in many ways it's the most important, because it ties everything together and is at the crux of why we do what we do. It's also one of the hardest and most frustrating to write, and the one I've been losing the most sleep over.

I've come to a disheartening realization lately. What I said in part one about feeling like I'm alone in many ways was the truth... too Christian for the unschoolers, too unschooly for the Christians. But the fact is, in some cases that feeling is self-imposed. The unschoolers I know have, as a whole, been extremely welcoming and non-judgmental. As my unschooling circle grows, I'm just more and more thankful for its presence, and proud to be part of it.

Christian homeschoolers are, sadly, not as welcoming. I've read, and received, a lot of harsh words from other Christians who take issue with what I'm doing, from unschooling to discipline to television habits.

The ironic thing though, is that the harshest comments actually tend to come from a segment of other Christian unschoolers, those who are quick to denounce the term "radical". And they don't mess around about it. Seriously. Hell hath no fury like a don't-call-me-radical Christian unschooler scorned.

And frankly, I'm confused. They decry secular unschoolers for being "judgmental" of some of their choices as Christians, while they talk out of the other side of their mouth about how "sinful" radical unschooling is, how "stupid", how it's a "contradiction to the word of God," how those kids will grow up to be wild and rude, with no discipline, no respect, no self-control.

Um. Wait... who's judging who?

Here's the thing:

I call myself a radical unschooler. And the reason I call myself a radical unschooler, as opposed to a garden-variety unschooler, is that I've taken the freedom, the respect, and the trust that I have for my children's education, and extended it to all other areas of our life and our relationship. That does not mean that I'm like every radical unschooler you've ever met or read about. That does not mean that my house, and our life, looks like that of every radical unschooler you've ever met or read about. It seems like this should go without saying, but I've read too many things lately that lead me to believe that people have one - negative - stereotype of radical unschoolers, and they like to toss everyone in together.

We're not all the same.

I feel like I need to make that distinction, because I keep hearing broad, sweeping statements like

"Radical Unschoolers let their children make ALL the decisions"
"Radical Unschoolers let their children be rude, out of control, and show no respect for other people"
"Radical Unschoolers don't set any boundaries"

And then, inevitably, come the scriptures... how we're commanded to "train up" our children. How we're to chastise and discipline, and DEMAND RESPECT. How we're to Train. Up. Our. Children. How to do anything less would be to doom them to a life of failure and a damaged relationship with God.

:::Pausing to take a deep breath:::

I want to be really clear when I say that I'm fully aware of the responsibility I have as not just a parent, but as a Christian parent, and one who is trying to raise children in Jesus's footsteps. And I don't subscribe to radical unschooling philosophies in spite of it..... I do so because of it. Radical unschooling makes me think about how I'm treating my children, makes me think about what I'm modeling, makes me think about what respect means, makes me think about why I make the decisions I make as a parent... whether it's asking my daughter to hold my hand when we cross the busy street, or telling my 6 year old that sure, he can have ice cream before dinner. Jesus had a lot to say about how to treat children. Not so much about bedtimes, time-outs, and required reading.

You're shaking your head again. But, training! But, discipline! But teaching them to respect you!

My three year old recently became enamored with the words, "thank you." She says thank you more than anyone I know. She was never taught to say thank you, but she has learned, because her father and I say thank to her, to her brothers, to each other. We show respect to her, to her brothers, to each other. I think there's a big confusion here between the words "teach" and "learn." We do not have to TEACH kids to have respect and discipline for them to LEARN to have respect and discipline. I do not TEACH my kids about the Bible, and about God and Jesus. But they LEARN because it's a part of our life. We talk about it, we answer questions about it. We live it. We breathe it.

I "train up" my children - if that's a phrase that works for you - by fostering our relationship. By modeling discipleship. By talking to them, by guiding them, by treating them the way I would like to be treated. By treating them the way that Jesus would treat them.

As for the radical unschooling misconceptions I listed above:

No loving, attentive parent truly lets their young children make all their own decisions. My daughter is still very young. She may decide that it's a good idea to play in the middle of the 45 mph street (except she wouldn't, because through modeling and guidance she has learned that it's not safe) But if she did decide to go into that street, I would - as her parent - decide to keep her out of harm's way. What if she decides not to comb her hair? Or decides not to eat her vegetables one night? Or decides to wear cowboy boots, polka dotted tights, and a princess nightgown to the grocery store? Does giving her autonomy in those areas put her in harm's way? Does letting her make those decisions conflict with the word of God? Yes, our children get as many choices as we can possibly give them. And I get choices, and my husband gets choices. A true unschooling family operates as a working, breathing, give-and-take UNIT, not child-centered, and not parent-centered. My needs, my husbands needs, the kids needs: they all factor into the equation.

As to being rude, out of control, and disrespectful... we behave as well as we're treated. And life is full of boundaries, whether we like it or not. There are externally imposed boundaries, and boundaries that we set ourselves without even realizing it. We set boundaries with our tone of voice, with the way we treat ourselves, and the way we treat others.

If a family has kids who are disrespectful, if the kids truly are making ALL the decisions, if there honestly are NO boundaries... maybe it has less to do with radical unschooling and more to do with that *individual* family's choices.

I don't begrudge anyone who isn't a radical unschooler. Or who isn't a homeschooler at all. That's all part of the freedom I spoke about it in Part Two. We are free to raise our children, and educate our children, in the way we are individually led. For me, I am led to be a radical unschooler... to give my children choices and autonomy. To operate as their parent, their partner, their facilitator, and their friend. To support them and guide them as they grow and learn and follow their own paths, not mine. As a Christian, I fully believe that their path is laid out for them by someone who knows FAR better than I. I believe in that, and I trust in it. Radical? You bet. Unscriptural? Not at all.

And finally, I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't point something out. If you're reading this, and you're a Christian who bristles at my using the word, "radical", think about this: If you're going to be more than a follow-the-rules, Sunday morning Christian; if you're going to get out of your comfort zone; if you're going to "walk the walk" and truly ask yourself what Jesus would do in all situations.... you're gonna have to get radical.

Jesus was radical. The Bible is RADICAL.

Being a believer should be radical.





Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Christian Unschooling, Part 3: Humble Yourself Like a Child

Have you read 1 and 2 yet?


"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me."

Jesus had a pretty high opinion of kids. The verse directly before the one above says that "whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." The one before that says, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

I think of these verses every time someone questions whether or not it is biblical to unschool. I think of these before I think of those about freedom. I think of these before I think of those about parenting. I think of these before I think of those about education. Why? Because no matter what else an unschooling journey is, it begins with the children. If it were not for the children, there would be no unschooling.

(I see you shaking your head. But, but... what about the verses about discipline? What about the "training" verses? I'll get to those, in my next - and final - post on the subject. This one is about the kids.)

I think children are wonderful (and it's a good thing, since I have four of them :)) but even I am pretty awed by the weight of the above verses. Not only are we to welcome children in God's name, not only are we to humble ourselves like children, not only are children the greatest in the kingdom of heaven... but we are to actually BECOME like children. Pretty strong words, don't you think?

BECOME like children...

I know a lot of adults who could stand to become more like children. Children naturally have so many beautiful traits that are so often lost as they become adults! I don't ever want my children to lose that certain something... that part that believes in magic, and miracles, and the goodness of others. I don't want them to rush to grow up. I don't want them to lose their spark, or lose their love of life, or lose their love of learning. I don't want them to ever lose their faith.

Children are:

open
passionate
full of wonder
innately curious about the world around them
driven
humble
innocent
imaginative
joyful

They are specifically, and perfectly, and uniquely created, exactly as they are. They are not potential productive members of society... they are productive members of society right now. They are deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. They are not - as many would have you believe - second class citizens.

I have four children. They all have their own personalities, their own interests, their own passions, their own styles of learning. They all have their own unique sense of self. They all have their own paths. I want to honor that, and honor them, the way Jesus honored children. One of the ways I choose to do that is by unschooling. By spending my days with them. By nurturing my relationship with them. By guiding them and helping them and trusting them. By giving them the freedom to live and learn in their own way at their own pace in their own time.

Unschooling (and homeschooling in general) is not right for every family. Absolutely! But I can't help but think that no matter what educational route we choose, as parents we still have the right, and the responsibility, to love our children as fiercely as Jesus did. To respect them, to appreciate them, to honor them, exactly as they are, exactly where they are. To in fact hold them in such high regard that we view them as examples of what we ourselves want to become.

Part 4





Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Christian Unschooling, Part 2: Freedom

*(This is the second part of a series. You can read the intro here if you missed it.)*


"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."

I don't like being told what to do. I'm the person who, when told to do something, will likely want to immediately do the exact opposite, just on general principle. Lots of unnecessary rules make me uneasy. Unsolicited advice makes my skin crawl.

I was never one to march to anyone's drum but my own.

You would think then, that I wouldn't be a person that would subscribe to any one religion. Religions are full of rules right? To an extent you'd be correct. And I have been to churches that have been very rules-focused. There have been times in my life that I've inwardly rebelled against anything even remotely overtly "religious," and to this day I'm very sensitive about feeling like I'm being preached at.

Thankfully, what I've come to realize is that Christianity isn't about the rules. It's about a relationship. It's not about living a life of rigidity. It's about living a life of FREEDOM. Verses like the one above tell us again and again that we've been set free, that we are not under a yoke of slavery.

And freedom is something I can celebrate!

Freedom to raise our children the way we see fit
Freedom to choose - or not - from any number of educational alternatives
Freedom to recognize and foster and appreciate our children's freedoms
Freedom to walk our own paths
Freedom to treat others with kindness, respect, and humility
Freedom to learn from, and with, all the people, places, and experiences in our lives

Does that freedom mean we should just be running all willy-nilly all over the place, with no regard for other's feelings or well-being? Does it mean that there are no consequences, no guidelines, no right and wrong?

Well that's where the relationship comes in. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you've had a fight with someone you love? That gnawing sense of general "ick" that persists until you've made up? That's how I liken the feeling I have when I've strayed from my faith. Not because I'm "breaking rules", not because I'm disappointing someone... but because I love God, and when you love someone you WANT to do right by them. You WANT to listen to what they have to say. You WANT to hear their message. So what's the message, you ask?

The message (at least before all us people and churches and prideful opinions gunked it all up with complexity) is simply to love one another. To focus on the relationships, to focus on the freedom we have in Christ.

People find freedom in all kinds of places, but in my own life, that freedom comes from God. I don't worry about tomorrow because of my faith. I don't worry about the small stuff because of my faith. I welcome and cherish and embrace our God-given freedom, and I know that within the framework of that freedom, I won't go wrong if I focus on the relationships... relationships with God, with my family, with everyone I come into contact with. Do I mess up every other second of every day  occasionally?  Of course!  I'm not perfect, and the person I want to emulate was.  But because of grace, and because of freedom, I can just try harder the next time.

It doesn't make sense to me to let go and fully trust in that freedom unless it's in all areas of my life, including that in which I raise my children.  I believe with all my heart that when we truly let go and have faith (no matter where that faith comes from) that our paths will be laid out for us.  This is where mine has led, and continues to lead, so I trust it.  I believe in it.  And I am so thankful that I have the freedom to live it.

I ultimately chose to unschool for a lot of reasons.   But allowing my kids to also live and learn in complete freedom will always be at the top of the list.

Part 3





Monday, March 28, 2011

Christian Unschooling, Part One


This post is a response. Actually, it's a response to several responses to a response to a response to a call for guest posts. Got all that? Doesn't matter. There were a lot of things said, things that ignited something in me. And because the threads that were ultimately spun off the original spool turned into a mud-slinging fray which I had no interest in joining, I came here... here where I could share my perspective, in a mud-free environment. As the title suggests, this is only part one. There will be more, but first a little background:

A few months ago, I went to a message board that I used to frequent but hadn't posted on for a very long time. I landed there by following an incoming link on my blog's Stats page. It turns out that someone had posted a link to my FAQs, looking for reactions and opinions to this weird thing called unschooling. And people responded.

Now, I am fully aware that what we do is outside of what mainstream considers "normal." And I'm also fully aware that people are going to be curious, and have differing opinions, and have misconceptions. I am completely, 100% fine with that.

But can I just say, it's weird to happen upon a conversation about yourself, one that you haven't been made privy to? It was the first time it had really happened to me, and it was a very strange, unsettling feeling. And it was made worse by the fact that because I hadn't posted in there in so long (and felt very much like an invited guest to the party) I didn't feel right saying anything. I would have loved to be able to say, for instance, "Well, that's not really what I meant. Let me clarify." Or, "I could elaborate on that if you're interested." Or, "I don't think you really heard what I had to say there." Or, "Could I answer your questions to help you better understand?" Alas, like I said, I remained silent. I went about my day, said nothing to anyone, and tried to swallow the fact that maybe I missed an opportunity.

But that's the nature of the internet, for better or worse. There's one camp over here, and another over there, and a zillion and one in the middle. Surely there is some common meeting grounds, some neutral territory as it were, but man... that place is tough to find. I rarely fit in with Christian groups, because I'm an unschooler. I rarely fit in with unschooling groups because I'm a Christian. There is something called Christian Unschooling (for which I am thankful, to be sure), but there are differing camps there too, something I've recently been reminded of. "We're unschoolers, but not RADICAL unschoolers. Don't think we're radical unschoolers!" Because that would be, apparently, unchristian.

A few brave souls have tried to bridge the gap, strove to embrace similarities instead of nit-pick the differences. Their reward? The mudslinging I mentioned earlier. A friend of mine recently posted this Christian Unschooling post as a guest blogger. Someone else posted a (fairly respectful) counter post on her own blog, and then the comments - and the mud slinging - began. Christian unschoolers don't care about their kids! They're doing them a grave disservice!  They're unChristian!  They're not following the bible!   Except they didn't say it like that.  They were, well, mean.  And they were judgmental.   And they weren't listening to each other.  They weren't having a dialogue.  They were blurbing out a whole bunch of preconceived notions, and they were passing judgment based on one blog post.

I'm kind of..... well, I'm flummoxed.  What's a person to do?  We're supposed to get out there and spread the word right?   That yes, you CAN be both a unschooler and a Christian.  We're supposed to be able to have intelligent conversations with mature people, not get stoned at the first sign of dissent.   We're supposed to love one another, to embrace differences, to accept other people.

I'm used to being a lone reed... but I just refuse to believe I'm alone in this.

And so, I'm going to do it... I'm going to blog my own feelings on Christian unschooling, and invite your (respectful) comments, opinions, and questions.  This is where I'll be coming from:

1) I am a Christian.  By Christian, I simply mean someone who loves Jesus and strives to be more like him.

and

2) I'm also a radical unschooler.  By radical unschooler, I mean an unschooler who also has eschewed traditional parenting tenants in favor of a partnership, one in which there are (among other things) no mom-imposed bedtimes, no chore-charts, no time outs.

I'll talk about both of those things in much more detail, including my "WHY's" in Part 2.    Join me.

Part 2






Jill Parkhill Designs Winner


Thanks to all who entered and shared the link, and of course a huge thank you to Jill!

The winner (drawn randomly by randomizer.org) is:

Claudia ·
Planning to redo a bedroom for my two girls to share - a sisters painting would be such a fun, surprise addition!

Congratulations Claudia!  I am so excited for you, and I hope that you'll come back and share with us a picture of what she's created for you. :)   I will put Jill in contact with you soon so you can start planning.

Thanks to all for making this another fun giveaway.  And if you're a mom (or dad) who has your own product/business, and would be interested in doing a giveaway, contact me, and let's talk!





Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ten Things to Learn From Japan

1. THE CALM - Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.

2. THE DIGNITY - Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.

3. THE ABILITY - The incredible architects, ...for instance. Buildings swayed but didn't fall.

4. THE GRACE - People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.

5. THE ORDER - No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.

6. THE SACRIFICE - Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

7. THE TENDERNESS - Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.

8. THE TRAINING - The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.

9. THE MEDIA - They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

10. THE CONSCIENCE - When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly.

From Alain Nu





Friday, March 25, 2011

T is for Tegan

Tegan (3 years old at the time of this writing) is enamored with letters right now. All letters, but especially the letter T. She will find, and excitedly point out, the Ts everywhere we go. "T for Tegan!" And when she can't find one, she'll make one.... crayons, markers, eye liner, dirt, yogurt... she's not choosy about her medium.

Yesterday was the kind of perfect March day that makes all my east coast friends - who are still under snow in many areas - groan with disgust. Low seventies, blue skies, very gentle breeze. A day that just defied you not to be outside. The kids and I have been a little housebound this week, so we got ourselves moving, got ourselves dressed, and headed to the park.

On the way there, we discussed such important topics as iCarly, what it means to write a bad check, jail (and juvenile hall), Corvettes, The Fray, and current trends in fashion. I would have been content with the day even if it had ended there, I so love riding and chatting with the kids.

But an afternoon of fun was waiting at the park:

There was swinging


And sliding.


More swinging


And running.


More swinging


And climbing.


 Hey look, cousins!


And more swinging.


And important meetings in the sand.



Yelling


And oh yes, even more swinging.



And last, but absolutely not least, a much looked up to and admired older cousin..


to help her make a gigantic, larger than life, T for Tegan in the sand.


And the day was complete. 

(Today's post was brought to you by the letter T and the number 3.)





Thursday, March 24, 2011

Co-sleeping, Parenting, and the Passage of Time

I love how her bear is tucked in between them :)
I had to get up early to go to the dentist this morning.  I took a shower, got ready to go, and came back to the bedroom to say goodbye.  Mike and the girl were still sleeping, and looking at them just pulled at my heart ... enough that I had to go get the camera to preserve it.

Every now and then, I get this weird flash of awareness that takes my breath away.  It almost feels like I was plucked from my life as a 19 year old newlywed, and just set down in the future..... 4 kids and 18 years of marriage later... with no recollection of any of the years in between.  It honestly sort of stops me in my tracks.  How can it be that 1) I'm old enough to have been married for 18 years, and 2) I've given birth to four children?  I'm pretty sure that it was just a couple of months ago that I was pregnant with my first child:  Excited, happy, and in so many ways just a kid myself. 

Then we had the next two boys, and I was happy and content with our little family of five. 

And BAM.  I get out of the shower one morning, and there's my three year old daughter blissfully sleeping away in my bed, beside my husband of nearly two decades.  

Yes, it takes my breath away.

And adding to my strange sense of surrealism is the fact that it's a life I never imagined (but in a good way!)  I had a friend in high school who used to talk about how much she dreamed of being married and becoming a mom.  I always wondered if there was something wrong with me, because while I guess I assumed I'd get married and have kids at some point, I never really thought about it.  Never fantasized about it.  Never imagined what kind of parent I'd be.  And if I did imagine it, my future mom-self would have certainly been a little more.... mainstream... than I turned out to be.  :)

But here's this little girl in my bed.  This perfect, beautiful little girl, the fourth child to sleep in my bed.   And it's everything I never knew I always wanted.





Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To Do (Or Not To Do)


Don't you love it how, when you've got something on your mind, you suddenly see it everywhere? It's like God and the universe and all of humanity just get together and throw not just signs, but big, honking HUGE signs in your path until you act on them.

I've blogged over the past few days about how I've been a little bit... lost lately. A little bit overwhelmed. My husbands says I've been in a funk. I say I've been "creatively (and probably mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) blocked." No matter what you call it, I haven't been me lately. And one thing that helps me, one thing that always helps me, is getting more organized. I KNOW this. I know this well. And yet...

I still fight it, tooth and nail, every time.

No, no, no! Screams my inner child. I am a free spirit! I do not need lists, I do not like schedules, I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl! I work well in the chaos. I will not change my ways. I will not, I will not, I will NOT!

I sort of stubbornly cling to the madness instead of admitting I might need a little help. Now, I'm not a big Dr Phil fan, but for better or worse it's his voice I keep hearing in my head..

"How's that working out for you?"

And it's not. I've been spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. And I'm tired. I admit it. But what to do about it?

And this is where God, the universe, and all of humanity come in. Everything I've seen, read, or listened to the past several days has said the same things: I need to make a to-do list. I need to get back to basics. I need to remember what's important. I need to prioritize. I need to take baby steps. I need to make a to-do list.

A list? Come on. A list will not solve my problems. And ordinarily, when I'm thinking clearly, I would tell you that I LOVE lists. Lists are my friend. Lists make me happy.

But now, really? A list? I've been resisting this for days.

This morning, I signed onto Twitter, and the very first tweet I read was from someone who I find almost irritatingly upbeat, positive, and inspiring. It read:

The easiest way to improve time management is to keep a to-do list.


Oh alright already, I'll make a stinking to-do list!

So this morning, I did. And wouldn't you know, I was more productive today than I've been in weeks and weeks, and I felt like I had way more time to spend with the kids. How is that even possible? But somehow, it is. I thought about what was important. I prioritized. I took baby steps. I got back to basics.

I still pushed the 3 year old on the swings. And I watched Dora. And I played Memory. And I played Uno Moo. And I baked. And I connected with my boys. And I went to bed at a decent hour, on freshly washed sheets. Instead of lamenting that I wished I had more hours, I actually felt like I had gained hours. I felt calmer, I felt less frazzled, I felt less scattered.

All because of a to-do list? Well, no. But it was a step. And sometimes that's all it takes.

"Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.





Monday, March 21, 2011

Goals, Plans, and Heavy Equipment


Spencer is fourteen at the time of this writing.

I love having a teenager. What's that you say? What about the sullen, rebellious, eye-rolling teenagers that sitcoms would have you believe are the norm? Not in this house. I like my teen, and find I'm enjoying being around him more than ever. I've so far enjoyed all of my kids' ages, but there's just something really cool about someone who still plays with legos, but can laugh at and appreciate a sophisticated joke that goes over his younger siblings' heads. Or a person who can equally enjoy both Tom and Jerry with his three year old sister, and Law and Order: SVU with his parents.

As he's gotten older, he's naturally started thinking and talking more about the future, and about what he sees himself doing as an adult. For the past few years, (and really, longer than that, since his fascination with construction vehicles began as a toddler) he's been interested in going into the field of construction, and learning to operate heavy machinery. Yesterday, we spent a long time looking online at different schools, training programs, and apprenticeships. We talked about all his different options, and what he needs to do to get there. He is so excited.

One of the questions I get a lot about unschooling is, "How will they get into college?" Now, I can personally think of about 7,492 better ways to spend the tens of thousands of dollars that college costs (especially when you don't want to go into a field that legally requires a certain degree), but that aside, an unschooler gets into college just like anyone else... they find out what's required for their school/s of choice, and they do it! It's no more simple nor complicated than that.

In Spencer's case, he has no interest (or need) for traditional college, but will have to go through a rigorous, and largely on-the-job, training and testing program in order to learn what he needs to know, get certified, and be able to work on his own. First he'll need a driver's license, and a high school diploma or GED. We've been researching that too, and there are more and more high schools that grant diplomas to homeschoolers for life experiences and/or after taking a test.

Most of the programs he's looking at also have an age requirement of 18, which means that he has four years (at a minimum... no one is telling him he can't decide to do it when he's 20. Or 34.) Four years to live, learn, think, plan, and do what he needs to do in order to earn his diploma and meet his own goals. Considering that a motivated and eager person can learn everything that is taught between K through 12 in a matter of months, I'd say he's in darn good shape.





Jill Parkhill Designs Giveaway


I'm very excited to bring you another awesome giveaway! Jill is a fellow May 2004 mom (her little girl is the same age as my Everett), and I've enjoyed getting to know her through our online playgroup. She's a wonderful artist who's been in business for nearly seven years. She started off by painting murals for her own daughter, which grew into painting for family and friends. She started getting more and more requests for her work, and now sells her paintings and murals internationally.

I started working from home when my daughter was born because I couldn't bear the thought of missing all those important stages. Now 6 years later I'm able to still be home with her and continue to paint. I've painted lots of different themes, lots of custom work, and I LOVE seeing client's faces when they see what I've been able to create specially for them.

Jill is offering to give away one custom painted 11 x 14in canvas ($65 value!) to one lucky reader. Your design can be chosen from something she's already done, or can be completely custom, as per the winner's choice.  Awesome, right? She can create something to match your child's room, or give you a unique, one-of-a-kind gift for a new mom and baby. Below are just a few examples of some of her recent works.  Please check out her website, and visit her Facebook page for more.









Thinking about what you'd like to see hanging in your own house?  Then you've gotta enter to win!  Here's what you need to know:

1) Comment on this post to enter once.

2) Share this giveaway on FB or Twitter, come back and comment again, and you're entered twice.

3) Want a third chance to win?  Go to Facebook and "like" Jill's page, and come back to let me know you've done that too.  (If you already like it, that counts too!)

4) I'll keep this open for entries for one week, and will announce the winner - chosen randomly - by the end of the day on Monday, March 28th.

Thanks so much to Jill for such a cool giveaway, and good luck!





Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Lesson Learned

I took Driver's Ed when I was 16. I remember:

~Andrew, the guy I sat beside, flirted with, became friends with, and eventually dated (I would later break up with him because I met my now-husband)

~Lisa, the girl who could turn just about anyone's words into an innuendo, and frequently did so

~The day I sat through class with my faced numbed up and gauze in my mouth because I'd just had four teeth pulled in preparation for braces

~The checklist we had to follow every time we got behind the wheel, which always, always concluded with fastening our seat belt before we even started the car. I didn't always wear my seat belt as a passenger, but I have always worn it as a driver, thanks to getting the habit so ingrained so many years ago in Driver's Ed.

We spent today off-roading in Sedona, and I'm thinking of Driver's Ed not because we were driving in places like this...



but because tonight I was reminded of the importance of a checklist, and of getting into good habits.

I've blogged before about my new camera, and of the fact that I'm still trying to learn to use it (without relying on the automatic mode) I have had moments of extreme frustration, to be sure, but I finally thought I was getting the hang of it, and starting to produce more keepers than not. So tonight, when I uploaded my 200+ pictures from the day onto my laptop, I was devastated to see that with very few exceptions they were all blurry, soft, and various other degrees of "off." After a brief moment of mentally berating myself, I realized that my error was simple... it was on the wrong setting (and I then began berating myself anew) Mike had changed a setting when he was experimenting last night, and he'd never changed it back. And I never checked it when I started snapping today. I'm relieved that I'm not in fact just the worst photographer ever, but I'm oh so frustrated with myself that I made such a stupid mistake. And I'm disappointed that I missed on out some amazing photographs of an amazing place.

Next time - and every time - I will check my settings first.

Fuzzy pictures aside, we had a wonderful day, the kind that makes me glad I'm alive, and glad I live in Arizona. The whole thing was Spencer's idea:


It was a trip he'd been wanting to make for months now. We planned on going on his birthday, but got rained out. We rescheduled for another day, but, alas, we got rained out again. Today was our day, and it didn't disappoint.






We did some good rock-crawling, enjoyed some amazing views, had a picnic in the middle of red rocks, and watched the kids climb, jump and play.







Yup, 'twas a darn good day, made even better by the fact that we capped it off with gelato.

And next time I'll check the settings on my camera.





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