Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thought for Today

Movement, in any direction, is a good thing.

And today, on a rainy, crummy, miserable, hide-under-the-covers-and-don't-come-out kind of day, that movement took the form of 1) getting out early to visit with friends and 2) cleaning and organizing my house.

What a difference that made! It took every ounce of my willpower to force myself to get moving, but as with most things, the forward momentum, both socially and organizationally, made it easier. I finished the day by teaching my childbirth class and rewarding myself with a nice dinner, a glass of wine, and some quality time with my darling husband after the kids were in bed.

Likewise for martial arts class last night. I showed up, dressed, and sought out my friend. "This is the last place I want to be tonight," I said drearily as I stretched and began warming up. But as always, once I had surrendered to the structure of the class, I was glad to be there, and it was exactly what I had needed. We had dinner out afterward, which was an added bonus I would have missed out on had I stayed home like I had wanted.

I've noticed that, since adopting the above mantra, my periodic tendency to lapse into depression has lessened. Movement - any kind of movement, in any kind of direction - is always preferable when faced with a potential depressive episode. Social anxiety is often best met head-on by forcing myself into social interaction. Lethargy is best dealt with by forcing myself to exercise. Sometimes, just pushing myself to clean the sink (a la Flylady) is the little bit of movement it takes to overcome the inertia.

I'm enjoying my clean house, a full tummy, my sweet husband, and a movie tonight.

Movement is good. Life is good.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Now?

Back to homeschooling, I guess.

Our month of de-schooling Middle is wrapping up. He's read enough novels. Time to get cracking.

Grandma has been teaching Little, and it's time to take back the reins.

I have books, games, kits, science supplies, art supplies, videos... all currently collecting dust. It's time to get them out and figure out where they all fit in.

Time to pick a library day and stick to it. Time to plan some field trips.

I have time to do these things.

It's about time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Courage II

What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn't fail?

Think about it.

Then go do it.

Regardless of the outcome, you'll respect yourself for trying.


Monday, September 27, 2010


I've been taking martial arts classes for a year and three months now.

I get punched. I get kicked. I have my legs swept out from under me. I get thrown onto the mat. I am put into painful wrist locks. I am pinned to the ground by someone bigger and stronger than me, and no matter how much I struggle, I cannot get up. I am expected to leap over obstacles and fall properly, rolling off my shoulder. When I am thrown down, I practice landing in such a way that I protect my most vulnerable parts and avoid injury. I also must punch, kick, sweep, throw, grapple with and pin other people.

For a 40 year old woman who has never played a sport in her life, I think this has taken some courage.

They say that the way you approach martial arts reflects the way you approach life. And, as in my personal life, I am much more comfortable taking a hit than dishing one out. I roll with it, jump up, and come back for more.

But when it's my turn to hit back? I'm reluctant. "You need to be more aggressive," I am told. "This person is trying to hurt you. You need to fight back. It's okay - (s)he can take it. Hit hard."

This is the part I struggle with most. Standing up for myself and refusing to let someone else hurt me. Leaving the situation and staying away when he or she does. I realize that this is something I need to work on, and that I'm not there yet in my journey as a martial artist, nor as a woman.

And, looking back, there have certainly been times that I have been glad that I have had the capacity to jump up and go back in when the situation called for it.

Right now, that's the brand of courage I do have.

I'm still working on the other kind. And it's not going to come together this week.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Ever spent the day thinking hard about someone or something, or wishing or praying for something to happen, something to change, something to materialize...

... and it does?

Does the wishing itself "manifest" the outcome?

Or was the outcome already a certainty and the earlier rumination over it due to a sense that it was about to happen?

One can only speculate - but it does make me wonder sometimes if Larger Forces are not somehow at work.

In any case, I feel better.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Working On It

Cleaning the house.

Dealing with the Teen.

Running Middle to the dojang for his martial arts show.

Cleaning the house.

Grocery shopping.

Cleaning the house.

Attending the (quite spectacular) afternoon martial arts show.

Dinner out with my new friend / neighbor.

DVD movie with husband.




Getting up tomorrow and starting over again.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

The classic stages of grief following a loss, a change, a disappointment.

They are usually presented this way - as stages, as if it were a linear process. First one, then the next, and so on. Something you can quantify and track, as if you were watching the progress of a download on your computer.

What many people don't realize is that there is nothing linear about it. There can be a great deal of jumping back and forth between these stages. You can think that you're solidly in the Acceptance stage - and have been there for weeks - and then you wake up one morning and you're back to Depression. Or Anger. Any of the other stages. And it hits you as hard as it did the first time around.

And you think to yourself: I will never get over this.

Being reminded that this is normal, and that these days will begin to happen less and less often, helps, of course. Having someone who will drop everything to listen and comfort and dispense life wisdom helps too. I've been fortunate in that.

Praying that tomorrow I wake up firmly in a place of Acceptance again.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teaching Again

I didn't want to teach a childbirth class.

Teaching a childbirth class involves making myself available for 2+ hours one night every week, for 12 weeks in a row. Regardless of what other crazy nonsense is going on in my life, which can be... considerable.

Or not.

Depends on the week.

Truthfully, I don't know what I'm doing an hour from now, let alone 10 weeks from now. Such is the Zen of my current lifestyle. Making a commitment to a 12 week series is more structure than I'm used to managing.

This is not to say that my life isn't without structure - I'm at the dojang 4-5 days out of 7 learning all about structure and self-discipline. But if I have a crazy day or something comes up or I don't feel like going, no one's going to miss me there.

It's not like leaving 5 couples sitting there with their pillows and blankets and workbooks wondering where their teacher is.

So I didn't want to do it. But it's good money and I pay dues to stay certified every year, and they really needed a teacher for this class, so I reluctantly said okay.

And of course, I'm glad I did. Sometimes life puts you directly in the circumstances in which you most need to be, and this was one of them.

For one thing, I love this group. I always say that, but this time there are 10 wonderful people I'm getting to know, which is 4-6 more than I usually have the privilege to teach in one class. Over the remaining 10 weeks of class, I will watch them get to know each other too, and will undoubtedly see them at La Leche League meetings with their babies, getting together for walking and playdates, possibly making lasting friendships with each other. A friend recently told me I had a gift for bringing people together, and it made me feel so good to hear that, because it really is something I enjoy so much.

I also love being the first one to introduce these new parents to some of the ideas and methods that might turn out to define their parental identity and their relationship with this baby and any subsequent babies.

I always think back to Debbie, our own Bradley teacher - and how radical she seemed to us at the time. We came to her looking for drug-free childbirth and came away with that, but also with breastfeeding, La Leche League, and indirectly - attachment parenting, co-sleeping, babywearing, extended breastfeeding, and homeschooling. Honestly, we thought she was nuts at the time. But little by little, we began to see the wisdom behind her radical ideas - and the calm, nuturing example she set - and we saw this as something we wanted to emulate in our own family.

Every new couple I can introduce to a new and "radical" idea becomes part of the ripple effect that Debbie started in us - and many of them will embrace and pass these ideas along to their own circles of influence. It's a great feeling to run into a former student and see her still nursing her toddler or studying to become a Bradley teacher or La Leche League Leader herself because she wanted to share her birthing and parenting skills with other new parents and help shape the culture around her.

It feeds a hungry place in my soul, and tonight I'm feeling so grateful for this class, for my family who picks up the slack at home so that I can do it, and to Holly, who twisted my arm.

Holly, who was my yoga teacher, my Bradley student, a La Leche Leage mom, and who now has her own business where she brings natural birthing, attachment parenting, and natural baby care classes and resources to the community. The ripple effect she's putting into motion every day is truly amazing. I am blessed to know her - and thrilled to be teaching again.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Post-Project Letdown

Ever notice how, when you throw yourself into a project and you're working on it every free minute and even when you're not working on it you're thinking about working on it and you can't wait to get it done and then you finally get it done and then.... you're suddenly really depressed?


Not that the entire family room is done, by any means. Just the bottom half of the walls. I still have to pick out a color for the top part, pick out a rug, furniture, art... It could take months.

But I'm not ready to start that part, and the other part is done and put away and now I'm just feeling Lost.

Thankful for my most excellent friends, my family, martial arts classes, and everything else I have to keep me occupied.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The Teen had his first test in a High School Honors class yesterday.

A little background here. This was the kid who brought me to homeschooling. The kid who had the ADHD so bad he couldn't sit still in circle time, the one who threw the blocks instead of building with them, the one who would run over to a group of kids who were playing nicely with a ball... and take the ball.

Eight years and a lot of medication later (and a lot of blood, sweat and tears on my part), we ended his time as a homeschooler and put him in Catholic school. And he's done fine. Well enough to test into this Honors science class - taught by my own High School teacher and mentor, who is still there, tough as ever.

And she remembered me.

She should have. Biology was my Thing. I majored in it in college (at first, anyway) and I studied Developmental Psychobiology during my additional 5 years of graduate school. This was the teacher who turned me on to science in general and biology in particular. I was thrilled that he tested into her class.

But he felt out of place. "Mom, these are the Brainiacs. The top kids from all the feeder schools. I don't belong in this class."

Two words. Gifted underachiever. He's smart, but he refuses to work. (And, to his credit, he hasn't really needed to.) Doesn't want people to know he's smart. Doesn't want the label. More importantly, he doesn't want the expectations that go with the label.

So when it came time to study for this test, he was satisfied with 10 minutes of glancing over his notes and the chapter. "I know it. I'm going to go watch football."

Last year, I would have let him go. Let him make his choices and accept the consequences. But this was his first opportunity to make a good impression. To distinguish himself. And most importantly, to have a taste of what it feels like to really work hard for something and achieve it.

I put my foot down. "You will not leave here until you know this material."

"I know it. Quiz me."

And I did. And he had a sloppy grasp of the main concepts, but no more than that. When we finished, I said, "You could go in with that level of knowledge and get a solid C. If you want an A, you are going to have to put in the time and study for this the right way. There are no shortcuts this time."

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth, but he must have sensed that I really meant business because he sat down with me and I taught him my method. Rewrite the notes, integrating the lecture and the book. Organize. Make notecards. Memorize, use mnemonics. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you know it inside and out, backwards and forwards, including knowing how to spell the vocab words.

It was grueling, but he thanked me when we were done. (Total shock.)

So today, I'm at his soccer game. The game wraps up and I'm walking toward the exit as his team is lining up to shake hands with the other team. I hear him yelling for me as he's running over to line up. "Mom!!! MOM! Wait - don't leave!!!!"

I wait while the teams shake hands and he leaves them and runs back across the field to me. He shows me his wrist. He's written a 98% on it.

"That's what I got on the biology test. I had the highest grade in the class!"

The joy on his face - over a test grade *!* is something I'll never forget. Something I never thought I'd see from this kid who so frequently says, "I don't care about this" when challenged with schoolwork.

I was overwhelmed. It made my day.

I will remember this, and I hope he will too.

It's a great feeling.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Sending the Teen off to school. Getting schoolwork together for the boys to take to Grandma's. Starbucks. Work. Bank. Grocery shopping. Back to Starbucks. Emails. Picking up the boyz. Goal setting with them. Short power nap. Arranging rides for sports and CCD. Kickboxing class. Martial arts class. Sorting out Teen issues with his English teacher, English paper, the English language in general. Luring the cat out of the uncovered family room vent. Tucking in Little. Resisting the urge to neglect Middle, who just wants to sit and watch Lord of the Rings with someone. Painting. Cleaning. Blogging. Bed.

Tomorrow, I am not scheduled to work. The weather will be beautiful and I will take my homeschoolers hiking. We will walk and talk and learn outside.

I will put down my juggling pins and allow myself to enjoy the day, enjoy the kids, enjoy our freedom, enjoy our life.

Sometimes it takes a crazy juggling day like today to put things in perspective.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Transformation II

The paint is coming along, as is Savageman, who actually looked at area rugs and paint chips (for the upper portion of the wall) today. Also a new light fixture for the kitchen. I am indeed blessed.

Reminders of my personal transformation abound as well. I'm noticing that things which might have hurt my feelings a while back don't faze me at all now, and that I can even laugh at them and shrug them off. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. So true.

True for marriages as well. The big hero this summer? Savageman.

Did I mention I'm blessed?

I am.


Saturday, September 18, 2010


Today I tackled a project I've been wanting to tackle since we moved to this house in 2001. I began painting the dark wood that makes up the lower half of the walls, the trim around the windows, and all of the fireplace in our family room.

It took about 8 hours to apply two coats of primer.

Ow. My hand.

Tomorrow I have two more coats of white paint to apply. But the change is already evident.

The fact that, after all the years of fears and doubts regarding taking this step, I was finally able to just go ahead and do it - represents a transformation in myself also.

I'm wrapping up my 40th year - which was in many ways my absolute best, and for a short time seemed like my absolute worst.

Highs and lows aside, it was a year of challenging my own perceived limitations, and this was one of them. I never thought I would have the guts to 1) take this step from which there would be no turning back, and 2) defy Savageman, who has been dead-set against this step every time it has come up for discussion.

This time, I ignored his protests and calmly reassured him that after he saw the results he would ask why we hadn't done this sooner. Which is exactly what he did.

If I'd known that it would be this easy, I would have done it sooner!

There's a quote from the film American Beauty that I will always associate with this year, and now with this room.

"It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do."

Once again, I'm surprised. And pleasantly so.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Social Time

How we need it!

Back in my baby/toddler/LaLecheLeague days, we emphasized this so much to the new moms we worked with. The need to connect with other moms, to find our Tribe, to boost our serotonin and oxytocin levels by "tending and befriending" and nurturing our female friendships - it was essential.

Back then, it was a no-brainer. Most women would go crazy cooped up in the house with no one but a baby or toddler to talk to all day, day after day, especially if they had recently left a full-time career and the social life and sense of accomplishment that had come with it. But being new to the mommy thing, many lacked the resources and connections to find their new MamaTribe.

So we had our monthly meetings, but we also put together play groups, enrichment meetings, tie-dye days, family picnics - anything we could think of - to bring these new moms together. And in helping them, we helped ourselves. We needed it as much as they did, and continued to get together even as our group moms came and left. We kept each other sane through the fevers and rashes, tantrums and tears, fears and doubts - through all the trials and tribulations of early motherhood.

But what about now? Our babies have grown. Most of them are in school all day, and many of us are working at least part-time. But for those of us who are still at home, doing the laundry and avoiding the temptation to check out Daytime TV, the need for adult company hasn't gone away. It may not be as obvious, but these gatherings and friendships are just as important now as they were then.

The conversation has changed, of course. When our children reach a certain age, we begin to regain our identities. We remember that we are more than just Mommy - those other parts of us that had to be pushed aside when little people depended on us for everything begin to creep forward again. We remember that we were once intelligent people with interests and hobbies and areas of expertise - and a sense of humor - and we want to begin sharing those parts of ourselves with others.

We still talk about our kids, certainly, but they are the side dish rather than the main course. Exercise and fitness, what we're eating, what we're reading, how we're nurturing ourselves, whether we need to be working or not and what kind of work we'd like to do - those seem to be the hot topics these days.

It's refreshing.

I was fortunate enough to have received a full dose today - first, a wonderful gathering of 8 fantastic women this morning, complete with coffee and tasty brunch, followed by some one-on-one time with a dear LaLecheLeague friend I've known for over a decade. I sandwiched in some home-time / school-time with the boys and later received a visit from another wonderful LaLecheLeague friend (and a pop in from my equally wonderful neighbor) for dinner. The kids set up a lemonade stand across the street and we talked into the evening and made plans for more.

It's nice to have these opportunities to step out of the trenches and survey the landscape. Nicer still to see that we've still got the things that made us special and interesting and unique before we became Mommy, and that there are people out there who want to know about them and want to share those parts of themselves too.

A good day all around.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making it Great

Go here to see something cool - Microsoft Office is now aiming its marketing at this growing demographic.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Homeschooling

I'm sitting here at the computer, licking delicious homemade German Sweet Chocolate pie filling off a spoon. The two youngest Savages are in the kitchen, spreading the remainder of the filling into a pie crust. After it has chilled, they will sprinkle it with chocolate they have grated themselves, and serve it when we have friends over later today.

They just offered me the bowl to lick. The world is indeed a happy place. It's moments like this that make me grateful to be homeschooling.

This is my ninth year as a homeschooling mom. It amuses me that after all this time I'm still having to explain what we do and why we do it. It's not easy going against the norm. And it is odd for an outsider to see kids learning this way, when it seems like they should be learning a different way - the way they would be learning in school. I recently likened it to letting them eat a turkey sub for breakfast when most people have eggs or cereal. Just because it doesn't look like the school variety of learning doesn't mean that it's any less nourishing. Sometimes it's even better.

Having said that - I'll be the first to say that homeschooling isn't for everyone - just like martial arts or tennis or skydiving or basket weaving isn't for everyone. I have plenty of friends whose kids go to school and they're very happy with that choice and I'm very happy for them. The Teen goes to High School and loves it, and I'm very happy for him. School can be a wonderful, wonderful thing for many people.

But for me, and for my younger kids - nothing beats a day like today.

Here's what a good day looks like in my universe right now.

After seeing the Teen off to school this morning, I enjoyed my morning coffee and the little boys enjoyed some extra sleep. At about 8:45, I heard the rustling of a Navy Blue Blanket Monster sneaking up behind me, waving its navy blue blanket tentacles at me in an adorably threatening manner. The Little Savage was awake.

He immediately asked if we could make crepes. After extracting from him a promise that he would clean up the kitchen afterward, I pulled out the French cookbook and looked up the recipe. He read the recipe, got out and measured all the ingredients, assembled the hand blender, mixed up the batter, and heated the pan. I helped him with the pouring and flipping, noting that he still hasn't mastered this, but that he does pretty well for a 7 year old. While I poured the last few crepes, he washed and re-assembled the hand blender and made fresh whipped cream for filling and topping. Delicious!

When we were done, he unloaded and loaded the dishwasher and washed the pan. Middle Savage stays up late reading and sleeps late in the morning, but he the smell of fresh crepes had lured him out of bed. He hugged his little brother and praised his culinary skills and the two of them took off upstairs - with the cat - to get dressed. It took them a long time, probably because getting dressed also involved building a fort on the lower bunk of Middle's bed and playing with toys and action figures in it. I stood outside the door listening to the wacky stories they were coming up with, and decided not to interrupt the brotherly bonding.

Savageman came home for lunch and we all enjoyed some time together. Our friends called to confirm hiking plans for later in the day. Middle started some laundry and spent a while working on his typing while Little and I got to work on Ancient Rome.

Little is still doing the cyberschool curriculum, and History is the best part of that. We reviewed the geography of Italy, Greece, and the Mediterranean, the Tiber (no, not the Tigris) River, and he colored the map while we heard the story of Romulus and Remus. We were having so much fun, we went on to learn about Horatius, Cincinnatus, the Roman Republic, the consuls and senators, the similarities between this style of government and our own, and the differences between it and that of Ancient Greece.

When we got to the part about how the Romans borrowed ideas from the Greeks, Middle arrived on the scene, eager to review Greek gods and goddesses and hoping to share his vast knowledge on the subject with his little brother. They spent the next 45 minutes or so reading from a book on Ancient Greece together, looking at the pictures and reading about Greek mythology. Little Savage decided to color workbook pictures of battle scenes from the Punic Wars while Middle Savage excused himself to make a chocolate pie.

I sat down to write about how much I was enjoying all of this.

Once the pie was chillin' in the fridge and the Punic War pictures were done (I was especially touched by the creepy red eyes and bloody swords - little boy art at its most gruesome...), they went outside with paint and paper and created some artistic masterpieces using a variety of painting techniques. I heard them discussing what would be cool to try, what would be appropriate names for the colors each one was mixing, making suggestions to each other, complimenting aspects of each other's work.

Soon after, our friends arrived, having finished their own book work for the day. The pie was served with style on the back patio while my friend and I swapped ideas on how to teach pre-writing and organization for paragraphs and essays. We read a sample of the Teen's high school writing and marveled at how far he had come since he struggled with this so many years ago. It was a good reminder of how they are each on their own developmental path, which needs to be respected even as we guide and encourage and find new ways to teach these skills.

When they finished their pie, we packed them up and headed for the Appalachian Trail. We hiked a good 3 miles, showed them some cool stuff, and talked about transfer of energy, photosynthesis, and decomposition, among other things. My friend and I struggled to identify different plants, and I'm sure by next time, one of us will have found a good book on the subject. We adults are constantly learning too - this way of life isn't just about nourishing the kids.

We came back, had a light dinner, heard about the Teen's day at school and soccer, and the friends took Middle with them to martial arts class, where they were putting the final touches on the big show they are performing in next weekend. I stayed behind to help the Teen prepare for the French and Honors Biology tests he has Friday. Little Savage went for a walk with his Grandma, and Savageman and I went out together for a little while before picking up Middle. I went back to studying with the Teen, Middle retired to his room to read, and Little colored more pictures from his History workbook before Savageman took him up for stories and bed.

Looking back over the day, I guess you could say that we didn't do much schoolwork. Neither of them opened a math book today, so I'll have to make that a priority tomorrow. Little didn't do any formal reading or phonics either - other than in the course of making the recipes and during History. Middle probably didn't read any of his American History today - although the refresher on the Greek and Roman governments will come in handy when we discuss the Constitutional Convention in a few weeks. Music was neglected today, and the kids are overdue for their weekly piano instruction - but they guided themselves through a great art lesson on the driveway in the sunshine and created some beautiful pieces. No one did science - unless you count the talks on how plants create matter out of air and water and sunlight, the transfer of the sun's energy through the food chain, the decomposers, the water cycle, where to find stream creatures - okay, there was a lot of science. Our active little boys (and active little girl) got their physical education in the form of that hike and their martial arts class.

Some of the other things they learned today aren't on the school-learning menu at all. The deep nurturing that happens in the context of the brother-relationship, watching and interacting with their parents throughout the day, their contributions to the running of the house - those expectations and the understanding that if one of them doesn't do his chore - the laundry, the dishwasher, whatever - the rest of the family is going to be inconvenienced, the manners and protocol involved in entertaining and sharing a meal, spending unstructured time with their friends and absorbing the caring and support and give-and-take example set by adults who are also friends. If they were in school all day, they might have still had these things after their day at school was over, but I like the fact that it's a natural part of the curriculum here.

I think they like it too.