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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yup, I've got Boys

So, Jessica of Bohemian Bowmans told me I should check out the M.O.B. Society (Moms of Boys). Since I generally trust her judgment, I heeded her advice. They are having a blog hop, and since I've never blog hopped before, I thought I just might give it a whirl. So I went, I saw, and I hopped.

Welcome to those who are here from the MOB Society (and to everyone else who is here for the first time!)

I am a mom of boys, three of them in fact.

Me, almost 11 yr old, 7 yr old, and 14 yr old.  They're awesome.
For the first 11 years of my parenting journey, I was a mom to ALL boys. Lots of matchbox cars, legos, and testosterone in this house.  I loved having all boys!! I still love having boys, but I have since been blessed with a beautiful little girl as well:

She's awesome too.
I am a full-time unschooling mom.  Four kids, one husband, 6 chickens and one dog ... plus various other assorted creatures that make their way into our house.  It all keeps me pretty busy, but I've recently become re-acquainted with the concept of "me time."  I became certified in nutritional consulting earlier this year (and I continue to study natural health and fitness), but these days I've been spending all my extra energy on blogging and building my little online community.  I mostly blog about gentle parenting and unschooling, but topics may also include my kids, my adventures, my own quirky views on the world... and cupcakes.  I really like cupcakes.

Finally, to steal verbatim from my 'about' page:

I try really hard to live in the moment and not sweat the small stuff, because I have a million and one little neuroses that make me perfectly imperfect.  I also have 4 things that bring me total, unadulterated joy.  My kids are my heart and my soul.

If you're just here for a visit, I hope you'll stick around!

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Parenting Wild Things Winner

Thanks to all who came out to support the Parenting Wild Things book, and to Jessica for sharing her words of wisdom with the world!

The winner of the free copy is....

Shannan :)

Congratulations! Message me with the email address you'd like me to send it to, and I will get it to you right away.

Wanted to read it but didn't win? Don't fret, you can hop on over here and get yourself a copy for the cost of one of those big Frappucinos from Starbucks. (It goes down just as smoothly, and it won't hurt your waistline)

And stay tuned for another cool giveaway in the semi-near future ;-)

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Parenting Wild Things: Surviving the Rumpus

A few things you need to know about my friend Jessica of Bohemian Bowmans:

1. She is real. She writes with absolutely no pretense. Her words are always a refreshingly honest portrayal of the messy, the noisy, the joyful ups and downs that come with parenting four children. Her writing style is casual, friendly, and never leaves a doubt that what you are reading is 100% authentic.

2. She is funny. I have trouble relating to people who aren't at least a little bit funny. Jessica made me laugh from day one, and has a healthy appreciation for sarcasm. I knew we'd get along after that first night that I discovered her blog (and could not stop reading)

3. She is me, ten years ago. We're not the exact same mothers (because no two people ever are) but we both embarked on the same parenting and unschooling journey, armed with the same goal: to keep our wits about us as we strive for a closer, more peaceful, more harmonious relationship with our kids. She's at the same place I was when I was her age, which is exactly what makes her writings so refreshing and relatable - especially to new and/or younger parents. She's not just writing about it.... she's living it.

In her new ebook (which I read in its entirety instead of cleaning the kitchen :)), Parenting Wild Things, she combines her raw, honest, and at times self-deprecating humor into a beautiful little tome based on her own journey to more mindful, gentle, and grace-filled parenting. It gives real and practical advice that anyone can start implementing right now... not in a preachy way, but in a girlfriends sitting around chatting over a cup of coffee way.

It's filled with powerful analogies ("children are aliens, not criminals"), personal experience, and nuggets of wisdom. She's even included cute Wild Thing photos for those of us who need pictures in our books. It's a must-read for any parent, particularly those who are wanting to move from a traditional, authoritarian mindset to one of partnership and mutual respect.

You can pick up your copy here (it's only $5!) and you can also go join the fun on Facebook.

Want to win a free copy? You know the drill!

1. Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win.

2. Share the link to this post on Facebook.

3. Share the link to this post on Twitter.

4. Like the Parenting Wild Things Facebook page.

Leave a comment letting me know which of the above you have done. Winner will be drawn at random on Friday, July 29th.

Thanks to Jessica and all four of her Wild Things!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Choose "Yes"

When I was in high school, my favorite pair of jeans (ever) were stolen from the locker room during a soccer game.  And once, I lost an earring - one with great sentimental value - never to be found again.   Both were very upsetting to me.  I want my kids to be prepared for upsetting things to happen to them too, so sometimes I take their favorite things and throw them away... because they have to learn about disappointment.

Another time, I ran out of gas.  It was long before cell phones, and I was in a rural area, so I had to walk for help.  I want my kids to be prepared for that too.  So we periodically drive into the middle of nowhere, park the car, and have everyone walk back to civilization.  We don't pack water either, because they might get caught without it one day, and they need to learn what it's like.

The past few years I've had some health issues that have resulted in three different surgeries.  I feel my kids need to learn what that's like too (it could happen to them someday!) so I periodically arrange to get them beds in the local ER, so they can hang out and get the experience first hand.

I once had a verbally abusive boyfriend.  He liked to tell me how ugly I was, how much he hated my hair, and why I needed to lose weight.  I had a mean and angry boss once, too.  She was the kind of person who wasn't content to just be miserable by herself, so she shared her misery with everyone around her.  Both made me feel terrible about myself.  I know my kids could encounter people like this one day too, so I make sure to insult them from time to time so they'll learn how to deal with it. 

Does any of this sound.... illogical... to you?

That is exactly how I feel every time I hear the familiar adage that states that, "kids need to hear the word 'no'."  Experts and parents alike worry that they'll become spoiled and entitled if they're not told no often enough. We shouldn't "give in" to too many of their wishes because life is going to be full of rejection, and they need to get used to it now.

The logic is lost on me.  Purposely doing something unpleasant because they may experience the same unpleasant thing in the future makes no kind of logical sense to me.

I choose to focus on joy.  I choose to say, "YES."  Yes to what, you ask?  Yes to anything and everything I possibly can!

Yes to cupcakes for breakfast.
Yes to jumping in mud puddles.
Yes to wearing pajamas to the store.

I just say yes.  I want their lives to be as rich and as full and as interesting as I can possibly make them.  They didn't ask to be here... I CHOSE to have them.  And now I choose to share with them as abundantly as I possibly can.   I want them to enjoy life, to embrace life, and to know that it is full of possibilities.  I want them to know that they are heard and respected and a valued member of the family.  I want them to know that they can do anything and be anything that they desire.

But come on, you argue, sometimes you have to say no.  Of course: sometimes safety, logistics, or respect for others precludes a "yes."   But all too often a parent's default response is" no" for no good reason.  We're too tired.  It's too messy.  It's inconvenient.  We don't feel like it.  And besides, we reason, it's good for them.  Kids need to hear the word no!   How else will they learn to handle it when they hear it later?  Won't they have a hard time accepting it?

Actually, kids who aren't given arbitrary "nos" tend to be very accepting of the necessary ones.   When I tell my children "no", they know that there's a reason for it, and they respect it.   But my life, and theirs, became infinitely better the day I decided to start saying "yes" more often.   And the more yeses that they hear, the better equipped they are to deal with the occasional nos.

Because I'm not arguing that there won't be some inevitable 'nos' in life:  Of course there are nos, from small to large:  "No, you can't come in the store barefoot."   "No, you didn't get the job as there was someone more qualified."

I would argue that the ones who are best able to deal with it are those that are happy, confident, and fully engaged in life.  Those who realize that life is living, and that it is full of choices.  People who are secure and well-adjusted don't have a problem with a "no shirts, no shoes, no service" rule (or any kind of logical rule for that matter). People who are confident and self-assured don't let one potential employer's rejection stop them from pursuing their dreams. 

I don't give my children arbitrary nos just because I can.  (I also don't steal their things, drop them in the wilderness, take them to the hospital, or treat them unkindly.)  What I do do, is treat them the way that I'd like to be treated.  I treat them in such a way that they are growing up happy, and confident, and self-assured... so that when those inevitable bumps in life do come, they can say, "You know what?  I can handle this."

And it starts with saying yes.

Life is short.  Life is so short!  We're not guaranteed another day with our children.  We're not guaranteed another hour with our children.   I don't know about you, but I don't want to have the regret of not giving enough to my children when I had the chance.... not enough of my time, not enough of my attention, not enough of ME.  This is it.  This is the time we've been given. 

If you're reading this, I want you to do something.  If your child asks you to do something today that you'd normally say no to, if there's no real reason to say no (and there probably isn't), just this once,


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To The Crazy Ones....

Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on my tantrum post, I have many follow-ups in the works... just trying to decide which to start with. In the meantime, here's a little video to watch.

Need something to read? Read this.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Your kids are communicating with you, not manipulating you

"Kids always know how to manipulate their parents."

I heard someone say that just a couple of days ago.  The topic of conversation was tantrums, and it was one that was going on right beside me, but one that I wasn't a part of.  The general gist was this:  Kids have tantrums to play their parents.

I disagree. 

I see a tantrum and I see a child trying to communicate.  (By the way, I really don't like the word "tantrum" but I use it for the sake of this post because it's a common and fairly universal term.  We can all hear the word tantrum and envision essentially the same thing.) 

We just spent three weeks driving across the country and spending time around a lot of different people.  I witnessed many tantrums, by children and adults alike.  The difference is, the adults weren't put into timeout, or held against their will, or punished, or ignored. With other adults, we generally take it for what it is: an expressed moment of frustration. One would hope that adults could always communicate their feelings kindly and patiently, without resorting to what we'd classify as a tantrum. But the fact is, we're human. We get stressed, frustrated, angry, and disappointed. Sometimes the heat of the moment gets the better of us. Sometimes we whine. Sometimes we yell. Sometimes we stomp and we huff and we skulk about. Yes, sometimes we're the adult counterpart of the disappointed and crying toddler who was just told that she couldn't get the doll she wanted in the toy store. Do we know that there are probably more effective ways of dealing with our emotions? Of course! But we're human.

So sometimes, despite our best intentions, we have tantrums. Sometimes it's just plain hard not to. How much harder it must be then for a 3 or a 5 or a 7 year old?  For a child who doesn't have our life experience, or maturity, or language skills? For a child who for some reason is not only expected to behave as well as a grownup, but somehow behave BETTER than a grownup?

Conventional parenting advice would have us believe that children should essentially be seen but not heard.  They should be quiet and docile, obedient and submissive at all times.  If they happen to have a strong emotion, they should suppress it, or at the very least express it only in a way that is convenient and comfortable and pleasing to us as their parents.  They should be less than human.

We hear things like how we need to stop it immediately, to "nip it in the bud" so it doesn't become a bigger problem later on.  To ignore it, and to ignore the child.  We're told we must never give in.  They're trying to manipulate us!   They're playing us!  We must stop it!

I'd like to suggest something else entirely.

A tantrum is a way of communicating.  It's an expression of an emotion, a feeling, or a need.  Your in-the-throes-of-a-tantrum child is not trying to manipulate you.  He is trying to tell you something.  And based on the deliverance, it's most likely something pretty darn important!  When an infant is crying because he has a soiled diaper, we recognize that it is legitimate need, and we attend to it.  When an adult friend is crying because she's had a bitter argument with a family member, we understand that she's having a hard time, and we listen.  Why then, should it be any different for all the ages in between?  Discomfort, sadness, frustration, disappointment, anger.... these are normal, universal, human emotions.   A child having a tantrum may be communicating any or all of the above, and she deserves to be heard.  Many tantrums' root cause is something even more basic:  for example hunger, fatigue, or over-stimulation.  Not only does hushing or punishing or ignoring do nothing to address the problem, but it also takes you further from a mutually respectful, and highly connected relationship... one in which no one feels they need to have a tantrum to get their needs met.

Kids will have tantrums.  Sometimes kids will have lots of tantrums.   And it's not because they're "bad", or "naughty", or "fresh", or “playing” us.... but because they're trying to tell us something.

It's our job as parents to listen.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The One Where I Gush About Vacation

The sky as we crossed the AZ border last night

Now that we're home safe and sound, our trip has officially come to an end, and I can say this without fear of jinxing anything (such a silly feeling isn't it?  But there it is):

I am blown away by how smoothly the past three weeks have gone.  Blown away.  It truly was a dream vacation for us, and I honestly don't even have words for how thankful I am for all of it!

First, the driving (hundreds of hours of driving) went without a hitch.  Hundreds of hours.   Six people.   Without a hitch.  99.8 of the trip, we truly and thoroughly enjoyed our time together in the car.  There were no popped tires, and no busted transmissions.  Even the traffic jams were minimal.

Second, everyone was healthy... the entire time!!  We know first hand the crimp that a nasty cold or - even worse - a stomach bug, can put on a vacation.   This time there was nary a sniffle.

Third, to paraphrase Dr Seuss.. "Oh the places we went!"  How often are we going to get to enjoy the red rocks of Zion, the mountains of Colorado, Niagara Falls, Cape Cod, and Washington DC all in same trip?

Finally, the people.  It was a much needed reconnection for the six of us,  one that I'll be forever grateful that we got the opportunity to experience.  It was also incredible to be able to visit with so many wonderful people, both inside and outside of our family, and I am humbled and thankful to have experienced so much warmth and generosity... from people opening and sharing their homes and their meals and their companionship and their time.   I truly feel an embarrassment of riches right now.

It wasn't a perfect trip, but it was perfect for us.  It was EXHAUSTING at times, without a doubt, but it was worth every hour of lost sleep and every minute on the road.  I had grand plans to use some of the time in the car to work on writing some blogs, to catch up on my reading, to study for my personal training test, to edit my Nano book from last year.   I did none of that.... and that's okay!!  As it turned out, what I needed wasn't more time to do more stuff, but more time to do nothing.  The time in the car was like 3 solid weeks of meditation, and it has refreshed and revitalized me more than I can say. 

I blogged about each day of the trip mainly because I wanted to have it for myself, to remember.  I don't do scrapbooks, only sporadically keep a journal, and am terrible about getting pictures printed.  But I can blog.  So here they all are, if you'd like to read any or all:

Our Great Summer Road Trip:  Day One
Day Two:  Small Town Fun
Day Three:  Driving, Driving, and More Driving
Day Four:  New Friends
Day Five:  I'm Tired
Day Six:  Niagara Falls
Day Seven: And on the 7th day, they rested
Day Eight: Pizza and Waterfalls
Day Nine: The Big Apple
Day Ten:  Grandma
Day Eleven:  Back in Massachusetts
Day Twelve:  Cape Cod
Day Thirteen:  The Beach
Day Fourteen:  Goats and Fishes
Day Fifteen:  Clamming, Piers, and Candy
Day Sixteen:  Long Drives and Good Friends
Day Seventeen:  My Souvenir
Day Eighteen:  Washington, DC
Day Nineteen:  I Told You So
Day Twenty:  Final Days
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Thank you to everyone who helped make our trip so memorable!

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Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Last night we stayed at the most questionable hotel of the entire trip. It smelled like cigarette smoke, the pull-out couch was broken, and the whole room looked like it hadn't been touched since 1982.

But we were exhausted, and only there for four hours, so we made do.

We left promptly at 5:00 this morning. Our final day of driving was - by design - 22 hours long. 22 hours of driving is a long time. We were all feeling pent up, uncomfortable, and otherwise wired by midday. A stop at Walmart for some traveling snacks and new movies, lunch at IHOP, and dinner at our last Man Vs Food destination (where we toasted to our successful trip) revitalized us all.

The hardest part of the drive - which was conversely also the most exciting - was the final 30 miles down into the valley. We'd gone 1160 miles in one day, and rolled into the driveway at 1:00 AM (which was actually 3:00 AM to our bodies since we'd crossed two time zones during the day)

Exhausted and grateful. Extremely, extremely, grateful.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Day Twenty: Final Days

Our last real “vacation” day before we start the 20 hour marathon drive home. This morning we made one last visit, this time to the home of my good friend Mandy (of Ridiculous Chocolate :). Mandy is also a fellow Christian unschooler, and just an all-around really cool person. Spending the morning with her, her husband, and her sweet kids was the perfect way to wrap up our trip.

We followed our visit with another long day on the road, not unlike all the days before it. We had trouble finding a place to eat dinner, and finally got off at an exit with both a TGI Fridays and a Chilis. It was 8:00, and the wait for both was lengthy, so we reluctantly went to a nearby Denny's. As it turned out, we could have been in and out of either of the other restaurants by the time we were done at Denny's. We waited over 45 minutes for our food, and when a waitress (and the rest of the diners in the restaurant) heard Tegan suddenly and loudly blurt out, “I. Want. My. Food. NOW!” followed by an exaggerated and admittedly kind of adorable pout, she brought her a little dish of Goldfish and took $15 off our bill.

Disclaimer: After we stopped laughing, Mike did explain that it's nice not to yell when we're in restaurants. But come on. It was 9:00 at night, she'd been in the car for 9 hours, and she'd already waited close to an hour for her food. She was only verbalizing what all of us were thinking.

We left the restaurant two hours after we'd arrived, then found a quick geocache in the dark.

Tomorrow is our last day of driving. A big part of me could just do this forever.... traveling, seeing the country, visiting friends, spending the whole day with my husband and kids? Heaven. But we're ready to go home too, and I don't think I'll ever be as thankful to see my own bed.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Nineteen: I Told You So


Last night I spent much of the night stressed out and Googling because my nose ring was either bent too tightly or my nose had swollen too much (or both) and my sparkly new souvenir had actually sunken into the piercing and disappeared under my skin. We were leaving Virginia at 5:00 in the morning, so I couldn't go back to the shop where I'd had it done... and they didn't open until noon so I couldn't even call them until we'd been on the road for 7 hours. When I was finally able to call, they advised I get it looked at as soon as possible, so I got a recommendation from my friend at our next stop (Murfreesboro, Tennessee) and called them, praying they could take care of me. How serendipitous was it that if it had to happen, it happened right before meeting up with someone who'd gotten piercings and knew of a local reputable location?

To make a long story short, we made our first unplanned stop of the trip at a tattoo/piercing shop in Murfreesboro, they were able to remove the piercing and replace it with a better fitting stud, and Mike was kind enough not to say “I told you so.” At least not in words.

Moving right along....

Tonight we met another online unschooling friend for the first time, and we shared pizza, wings, and laughs. I'm pretty sure that we could have chatted through most of the night, but we left when the girl started getting sleepy and fading. Just as it was with Alice and her family, it was wonderful to spend time with other real-life unschoolers. I love and appreciate all my friends, but there is just something undeniably uplifting and validating about being around other people who really understand and embrace the same lifestyle. People who get it. It truly feeds the soul, and I am humbled and grateful for my unschooling tribe.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day Eighteen: Washington, DC

Today was very hot, and very, very humid. We don't miss humidity. Despite the steaminess and the stickiness and the sweating (oh the sweating!) we enjoyed a couple more geocaches, a day touring all the major sights in DC, and dinner at another Man Vs Food establishment. The highlight for the kids was riding the metro and spending some time – I wish it could have been longer – in the Museum of Natural History.

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