Stories

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how the stories we tell about ourselves shape who we are, shape our experience. As I listen to people talk, I often can hear “their story”, the same theme over and over again.

“I was left out”.

“It wasn’t fair!”

“Someone took advantage of my kindness”.

“It didn’t live up to my expectations”.

There are as many stories as there are people, of course.

If I can hear others’ stories, I know I must have my own too. I sit and listen to the stories that run through my own mind so I can find where I am stuck, where I need to let go or open up.

I found a couple of lovely quotes in my reading lately that relate to these ideas:

It’s a hard thing, sometimes, to accept that other people feel as strongly about their stories as we feel about ours. A hard thing, but also an essential one. Every so often, it helps to remind myself that a world with only one story might be peaceful. But it’d also be pretty damn boring. (From Ben Hewitt’s blog post Pretty Damn Boring)

What makes us miserable, what causes us to be in conflict with one another, is our insistence on our particular view of things: our view of what we deserve or want, our view of right and wrong, our view of self, our view of other, our view of life, our view of death. But views are just views. They are not ultimate truth. There is no way to eliminate views, nor would we want to. As long as we are alive and aware there will be views. Views are colorful and interesting and life-enhancing—as long as we know they are views. (From Norman Fischer, on tricycle)

And of course, Byron Katie is an author to check out if you want to read and think more about stories.

On pits and poo (SHAMpoo, that is)

I have been running a little experiment this summer. I have always used clinical strength anti-perspirant and STILL been a stinky person. In the shower, just out of the shower, all day long. And I decided if I am stinky anyway, why not try something more natural. What have I got to lose, really?

I interviewed my dear friend, who is very chemically sensitive, on her favorite natural deodorants. She recommended Lafe’s and Desert Essence. So I got both! And I also grabbed some Crystal Deodorant Spray. I figured I would have to hit this hard if I had any hope of succeeding. I tried each alone and then I tried applying the Crystal Spray before applying the Lafe’s or Desert Essence.

When I started the experiment, I thought I was going to have to settle for being stinky, maybe even stinkier than before. I never, ever expected this would work BETTER. It works better. Any of them alone works better, but what works the best for me is using the Crystal Spray and one of the others, either one. I am really completely shocked.

So, with that success under my belt, I am thinking about shampoo.

My kids’ hair has been flaky. I have been finding that none of my expensive and fancy shampoos are working all that great for me lately. Plus, I am someone who needs moisture on my skin, so I find it strange that my hair gets greasy. I am not oily anywhere else. So, just not feeling much love for shampoo anyway right now. Maybe it could go.

I’m only a few days into this experiment. Even after 2+ days of not washing, grease has not been a problem. I have read repeatedly it could be a funky few weeks of transition. No funkiness yet, but I am prepared to ride it out if it happens. Anyway, not much personal experience to offer, but I’ll share some no poo resources for the curious:

http://theartofsimple.net/how-to-clean-your-hair-without-shampoo/

http://babyslime.livejournal.com/174054.html#bad

http://fulfilledhomemaking.com/no-poo-shampoo/

And along the same lines of “What else could go?”, it seems baking soda and vinegar could replace not only my shampoo, but ALL my cleaning solutions. Much less expensive than all the natural cleaning products, eh? I like the idea.

An extraordinary life

Time is flying by and we have been in our new home for about eight months already. In some ways it feels like it has been much longer. In other ways we still feel very new here. The navigation feature on my phone hardly ever gets used these days, so that has to be a sign that I am less of a newcomer.

When we left our hometown, we left because it was clear that it was time for my husband to leave his job. Big changes were being made that would mean an end to the work he enjoys and an end to the place he had helped build and felt love for. It was time to GO. So he opened his heart and mind to going somewhere else, leaving his hometown and even his state if he had to. Once he got his opportunity to go, we left.

As a family, we have been so amazed and thankful that somehow we accidentally landed in a city that is really a very good fit for us all. It has been easy for us to find community and make friends. We love all the opportunities for enjoying the outdoors and that it is possible to enjoy the outdoors so much of the year! We are definitely loving this place!

And yet….something we had so recently felt, we were feeling again: this job is not the right fit. Ug. I don’t think either of us felt ready for that one yet. However, the fact remained that on every single point, it was not the right job. So my husband started watching. And applying. And interviewing. I was ironing pants. And shirts. And ties. And listening, listening, listening.

As I listened, I got to watch my husband come to a place of clarity about what he was looking for. Over and over, I watched him ignore the advice of the recruiters he was dealing with so that he could get the information he needed to find a job that is truly a good fit for him. And that good fit was very dependent on family life, which some employers did not care about. I saw him turn down offers when I knew how anxious he was to leave his current job, but he was not so anxious to go that he was willing to compromise. He said, “I watch you and the kids live an extraordinary life and I have this idea that maybe I can too”. That brought a few tears to my eyes, and I settled in to practice patience.

In a very funny last minute twist to this story, as he was waiting on the offer he had decided to accept, the perfect thing just fell in his lap: the job he was looking for, with people he would enjoy working with, with the flexibility he was looking for and the work/life balance.  It seems to be his opportunity for an extraordinary life.

For us, this part of the story isn’t necessarily a happy ending. Who can know? But it is a place where we get to let out a big sigh and feel hopeful about the next chapter of our lives.

Encouraging movement for tweens

For my younger kids, it has always been pretty effortless to encourage movement. With no video games in the house and no TV in the living room, and lots of encouragement to be outdoors, they played hard all day.

Somewhere around 9 or 10, things changed. They became very project driven. My son became very passionate about building models of military machinery and learning about the related history. My daughter has became passionate about sewing and duct tape crafts. I love this age! It’s all so very awesome to watch them completely on fire about whatever it is they are into! AND they sit a lot. When the little kids ask them to come play, it’s like overnight they forgot how to do it. They don’t want to run around in the yard or play pretend. That almost blows my mind because I remember not so long ago when they could spend hours doing those things. But no longer.

And my 12 year old seems to have made yet another shift. He lives so much in his head that it is sometimes tricky to even get his attention. He’s listening to stories, writing his own stories, and drawing. No movement there.

Now that I am enjoying the benefits of daily exercise, I am looking at my older kids and thinking, “Hmmm…..these two need some movement in their lives!”

I have had all the same thoughts about this dilemma as I had when I tried to find a good way to exercise myself. I looked into sports and other organized forms of exercise. Swim teams are meeting every morning at 6am for practice and on Saturdays at 6am for meets. We lived baseball season for three kids one summer. Literally lived it. It’s all we had time for. Dance or gymnastic tuition x4 kids–yikes! A gym membership for the family–expensive. Really we’d rather be outdoors as much as we possibly can, so we aren’t even likely to use a gym membership for much of the year. With all the information I gathered, I decided that surely we can get started on this without a huge commitment of time or money.

So my husband and I are inviting the big kids to join us in our exercise. My son is taking bike rides with my husband. My son and daughter both are joining me for yoga in the evenings. I’m showing them how to use the hand weights safely and how to do sit ups, push ups, squats, etc. My husband is working with my son on learning to do yard work and including him in building projects.

I continue to look for ways to encourage movement. I want to make some changes in the playroom. My little girls are not really into toys. They are more into BIG movement, like climbing, jumping, running, swinging, biking, skating, etc. So I am looking into gym equipment that we could use in our playroom when outdoor play is not possible. Maybe a climbing rope? A balance beam? Gym mats? Maybe the big kids would also enjoy some of these things too.

I’m still working on this! Any thoughts on how to encourage movement and active play for tweens?

Sunday shares

Can’t call this Reading Goodies because it’s not all reading. I do want to share some of the fun we’ve been having lately:

  • My oldest daughter has been having a blast with duct tape crafts. You can find a couple of her favorite projects here and here.
  • And she is still sewing up a storm. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in line for more fabric. I love how each of my kids challenges me in new ways. This one not only likes to sew, she likes to sew without patterns. Kind of freaking me out. But I worked on this with her yesterday and it actually turned out pretty good. Meesha has many sewing tutorials on youtube and is one of my girl’s favorites to follow. So if you enjoy this project, there is a lot more where that came from!
  • I have been making water kefir. I used to be a yogurt maker, but I can’t have dairy so it was kind of a bummer to do all that work and not get to enjoy the end result. The water kefir it not difficult to make, does not require special equipment, and it is tasty!
  • If I were more tech savvy, I would make a recording of what my home sounds like these days. My son always has his beat box going. Always. I’ve taken to dancing every time I hear it. Then he tells me to stop dancing because it’s annoying. Ahem. Anyway. He shared this video with me, something he finds inspirational.

And now for some true Reading Goodies:

  • You may notice health and body image are on my mind. I enjoyed this funny and true blog post about mama bodies.
  • I am currently reading Health at Every Size, by Linda Bacon. Feeling like it could have saved me a lot of trouble if I had read it years ago.
  • Just finished Little Britches. It was a first time for all of us. Easy to see why this is a classic. What a sweet story!
  • Percy Jackson is making a comeback at our house. Around here, some books are like old friends, and this is one of those.
  • Reading this collection of stories with my littles, which led to an interest in Helen Keller’s life story. We have been taking in everything we can about Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. This is a great little history for kids with some pictures to go along with the text. Helen Keller was one of my very favorite people to learn about when I was growing up too, so it was fun to revisit this topic. I even watched The Miracle Worker again the other day. I am now loving Anne Bancroft and may have to watch more of her movies.

Healthy habits

Lately I am feeling very excited for myself because I am feeling GOOD! I am always looking for THE BEST way to do things, whether it’s homeschooling or diet and exercise. I am finally learning that while it is wonderful to get some good ideas from out there in the world, ultimately I need to just get to know my own dear self and figure out what works best for ME. It has been quite a journey for me, and I am still learning all the time. These are some of my more recent discoveries:

I am not particularly motivated by a goal of weight loss. If I start out on a mission to develop healthier habits telling myself I am trying to lose weight, I will not succeed. It is the surest way for me to fail. Maybe I’m not all that worried about getting back into a bikini, not particularly concerned about appearance, or maybe I have just gotten a little too good at living in the moment to be motivated by such a long-term goal. I don’t know! But what I notice is that I do far better if I pay attention to what is going on this very day. How do I feel today if I eat this food? How do I feel today if I get some exercise? How do these actions affect my body now? What can I do for myself today to feel my very best? Committing to doing my very best for a day sounds completely doable and I reap the rewards immediately.

If I find exercise I truly love to do, I will do it. And if I am told to do something that is good for me, but I do not love it, it isn’t going to happen. I am a quiet, peaceful girl. I don’t like noisy, crowded gyms. I definitely do not want to part with my money in order to exercise. Surely exercise can be free. I don’t want to own a whole lot of special equipment either. I don’t have room for it! So, with all of that in mind, I set out to find exercise that I can love. I have discovered that I love to hike. I love to be in nature with my family. I get excited about exploring new places in this way. I also love to take a morning walk in my neighborhood before the rest of my family is awake. I love to walk around and look at all the flowers, listen to the birds and be alone with my thoughts for a little while. And I love, love, love yoga and pilates. I’m not a big fan of exercise videos typically because I enjoy quiet while I exercise, but I found a book that is truly perfect for me. Yes, I had to spend $.37 to get this book used at Amazon, but I have decided it was worth every penny and then some. So exercise is now fun for me and something I look forward to. I am so excited about this! And I am just beginning to feel more fit and strong, which is exciting too.

Taking care of myself cannot be optional. I cannot put it off until everything else is done. It has to be a priority or it will not happen. Eating healthy and exercise are now my #1 priority. I do both everyday. Not after I have taken care of everyone else first. I can take better care of everyone else if I take care of myself and feel good. In fact, I consider this part of taking care of everyone else. The best way for my kids to understand that healthy habits are important is for me to show them that I consider them to be important by doing it. So, I’m doing it.

Finding balance will help me maintain my good habits. I know how to follow a plan perfectly and I know how to have fun. I would like to bring all that together and learn how to both take good care of myself and have some fun all at the same time. Not too much perfection, not too much fun. Then I will both enjoy the benefits of my good habits and also not get burned out and give up.

Beautiful

As so often happens for me, something has crept into my awareness due to repeated exposure over a short period of time. This something is poking at me and begging me to pay attention, to give it some time and thought.

Lately, over and over I hear the beloved and beautiful people in my life expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies. This dissatisfaction is nearly always about weight. I am most surprised that even women I consider to be quite thin wish they were thinner. The painful piece of this for me is learning that the people I love and KNOW to be beautiful are not feeling beautiful.

And then I found myself in those shoes, saying the very thing that had been driving me wild. I expressed frustration that despite my best efforts at developing good habits, my body is curvier than I would like it to be. My friend was surprised. She didn’t know I felt that way.

I think there is something really sweet there in all of that. I see all the people I love as beautiful. And the people who love me, see me as beautiful too. I suspect that very little of that has anything to do with appearance, and nothing to do with weight. It is really about who we are and how we treat people. It is really love that makes us beautiful.

I think if we can all feel as beautiful as our loved ones know we are, it will be life-changing.

 

Reading goodies

  • I am tempted to take a quote from this article from Teacher Tom and put it great big on my wall. These words are beautiful:

We are, in fact, at our best when we manage to successfully override those urges to help, instruct, or otherwise guide a young person and instead give him the space and time to struggle, to practice, to come to his own conclusions. This, not our superior experience or intellect, is the great gift we have to give to children: to stop, to really see who they are right now, and be with them in appreciation and joy, loving them just as they are.

  • I also like to learn about nutrition and have spent a lot of time reading The Paleo Mom the past couple weeks. A lot of good stuff there!
  • Very long, but worth reading, this article gives parents a lot to think about.
  • Been having fun sewing with my oldest daughter and we got our latest project idea here. We’ve made four of them so far!
  • I am still dreaming of full-time RVing with my family. A nice little summary of the pros and cons of such a life.

Comparison

In my life before the move, which I now refer to as “homeschooling in a vacuum”, I was the only one I knew that was homeschooling the way I homeschool. I felt lonely about being the odd one on many occasions. That was the BIG and only downside to that situation. Now I am seeing that there are some benefits to that situation too. I knew our journey was going to be different from everyone we knew, so there was no reason to compare our lives to others. Because I was not living among other Waldorf homeschoolers or other Unschoolers, I was not trying to follow any particular philosophy perfectly. I was just doing what felt right for my family.

Now that we have landed in a city just full of homeschoolers, a very diverse group (by accident, if you can believe it), I get some first-hand experience with other homeschooling families. When I first got here, I envisioned that this would be HEAVENLY. I am always happier when I keep my expectations much more reasonable than that. Heavenly was reaching a bit high. I have been experiencing overwhelm instead so I have been thinking a lot about that. WHAT is overwhelming about this?

I think comparison is a big piece of it. A new friend and I were sitting in my living room and she was asking me some questions about how I work with my kids and ultimately shared some worry that what she was doing wasn’t as good as what I was doing. And I had to laugh AT MYSELF because I knew that was just what I have been doing. When I look around I only see what other people are doing that I am NOT. I never see that I am doing so many cool things that all those other people are not doing because they are busy doing whatever cool things they are doing.

It is beautiful that we are all doing different cool things, hopefully the exact cool things that our very own precious children need. None of us can be doing ALL the cool things. Moving forward, I want to be inspired by the cool things I see other parents doing and add those ideas to my bag of tricks in case I should ever need those ideas in the future without feeling pressure to do all the cool things all the time. Again, I am always happier when I keep reasonable expectations.

In case you are someone who also has an occasional freak-out and wonders whether you should change everything about the way you homeschool, read Sheila’s article about homeschool doubts and perhaps bookmark it for future freak-outs.

Reading goodies

  • I know I said I wanted to read A Thomas Jefferson Education, and now I can say that I did read it. I love how simple this model is! Early in the book, the author describes different phases of education. I found the description of each of the phases to be completely in line with my experience with my own kids so far. The book gave me some good ideas about working with my 12 year old, as it is clear to me that he is entering a new phase of learning. I am excited about the long list of recommended classics for different age groups! There is also a “Getting Started” section at the very end which recommends that the grown up pick a classic, read it, take notes, write about it, etc. And so…….
  • I am currently reading Wuthering Heights. I got out my notebook to take notes as I went along. I found it completely distracting to try to take notes and read. I guess my mind needs a single focus. The experience reminds me once again that I can get a lot of great ideas from books, but I have to always take into account that we are all individuals and different things work for different people. So I will take what works for me and leave the rest!
  • Enjoyed this excerpt from another book I would like to read. More on learning–of course!
  • I am really lovin’ Zen Pencils! Check this one out!
  • And, wow, THIS! I have had very similar thoughts.