Category: Books

Defined by Hormones

A week ago Rach and I went to the library after her piano practice. She wanted to pick up some old favorite audio books to enjoy while she was drawing. When we got there we found that while working on the teen section of the library they had put all the audio books, all the manga and comic books, and about half the other YA books in storage. All that was available was a smattering of popular and “improving” print books. A whole library of space– room for a huge magazine room for adults, several computer rooms, several open rooms in the basement, a huge new music area, and plenty of other available spots and they had stored away the vast majority of things the young adults actually used instead of finding a place to leave them out while they worked- the project started in April and won’t be done until at least November. Rach was understandably frustrated. I was frustrated and angry at the lack of respect for young people (they had recently done similar work on other sections and never stored any of that away. This is an ongoing issue at this library- if it is for teens then it is easy to push aside.)

What made my blood boil was the response of the librarian we had questioned told Rach, “Just listen to some of the grown-up audio books,” then she looked at me and said, “She is just being a teenager.”

As if Rachel’s righteous frustration at not being able to get to the audio books she wanted because of the thoughtlessness of others was due to her age or hormones. Her genuine irritation at the situation and their treatment of teens was discounted as just being her age.

I want to take a moment and say that our children’s librarian is excellent and genuinely enjoys working with young adults as well as children. He brings in a lot of excellent books, audio books, comics/manga. He has introduced game days and movie nights for the young adults and made the library a natural hangout and friendly place for young people- but he can’t change attitudes. The other librarians as well as the majority of volunteers will quickly sweep aside the concerns of the younger generation, have been known to cancel activities for them for the sake of activities for older adults, and so on. This treatment is reprehensible but it is the comments that irritate the most.

This is something we run into everywhere. Not just at the library, at the store, at the Y, it is everywhere we go. Perfectly ordinary people who have never met either of my daughters automatically discount their very legitimate negative feelings when things go wrong or people treat them poorly as “being a teenager”. Yes, hormones do affect the way we feel- they act like a megaphone for our feelings, especially when we are in the worst of it, but that is just as true during menopause, during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy. I know the majority of the women I know would be very unhappy if their feelings were regularly discounted because of hormones. “Oh, ignore her, she is just pregnant.” “Oh, she is just cranky because of her period.” “Oh, she just is crying because of perimenopause.”

No. In general teenagers are the only part of our population who regularly have their feelings discounted because of the hormonal stuff going on in their bodies. Everyone else gets the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder how this older librarian or any of the other older ladies who have made “teenager” comments recently would feel if I referred to her regularly as middle aged or a “middle ager”. What if I discounted her feelings regularly because she is dealing with perimenopause. “Oh, you aren’t really upset because you are having a bad day and people are treating you like crap. It is just because you are perimenopausal.” I don’t think that would go over well. And if everyone was doing that to her, after a while she would become pretty sensitive to it.

Our society as a whole tends to treat both young adults and children as second class citizens. We push them to do this and that, to grow up as fast as possible, and then refuse to acknowledge their maturity until a single age when suddenly we expect them to be all grown up. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone is different. We all grow and learn and mature at different stages. We need to respect one another, recognizing that everyone, children and young adults included, are dealing with different things. We all have struggles. We all have frustrations. We all have good days and bad. And as our children grow, we can gradually help them work through the rough spots, encourage them in their strengths, and treat them from early on with respect, recognizing them as fellow human beings instead of second class citizens. I think if we did that we would find that the vast majority of what we call “teenager” behavior would be eliminated.

Oh, and we solved the problem with the library- I suggested Rach go ahead and order the audio books from all the other libraries in the system. Sure it will be inconvenient for the librarians. Sure it may take an extra day but maybe next time they will leave them out instead of storing them away.


I have been thinking about strewing a lot, mostly because people keep asking about it. So I thought I would share some examples in our house (way less than usual because we have most stuff packed up and away or gotten rid of.)

Our new "This week's specials" board. This has the main foods available for quick meals and snacks each week.

The chalkboard on the cabinet and the food bins on the shelf and in the fridge are new additions. And yes, they are a type of strewing.   The chalkboard is so when I come home from shopping, instead of making a mealplan, I can quickly note the foods I bought so everyone knows what is available at a glance, and I can remove things if they go bad or get eaten.

Fridge: each person has a bin for the special "just for them" foods. And yes, we are almost out of cheese-- picking some up tomorrow. 🙂 We have two fridges, this one is mostly the stuff people grab during the day, the other is raw milk and backup stuff.

I don’t do meal plans and with everyone having certain foods they don’t like and do and other things they can and cannot eat it helps to have things organized so people can find what they are looking for and know what is there (and hopefully it will help us have less waste.)


We have been searching for a solution that would allow the kids (and hubby) to know which foods I bought just for them and which are someone else’ as well as which things I have set aside for them (things which might otherwise get pushed to the back of the fridge.) This way one person doesn’t eat something that I bought special for someone else, at least not without asking first.

Most of our strewing is now via internet– either Facebook or Google chat or even email.  I took the following pictures while taking the other ones– they serve as a good example of why computer strewing works for us. 🙂

Esther playing Sims.


Esther was getting tired here– she has been going to bed in early evening so she can get up early and work on her book with friends online in other time zones.)  She spent the next hour after this watching our new Animaniacs dvds (which Issac bought with his own money.)

Issac playing online with a friend.

Issac was playing Roblox and talking to a friend in New Jersey as he does most days.

Rachel talking online with a friend while drawing and occasionally playing piano.

Rach was playing piano, drawing (working on illustrations for Esther’s book), and talking with a friend in Arizona.
The strewing photos here include just a few places– mostly living room and bathroom– yes, I strew in the bathroom.

Our coffee table strewn with rocks and game pieces.

I always keep the red painted locally hand-carved wooden  bowls (I adore these bowls) out in the living room out (there are more on the shelves and on the mantle) and fill them with random stuff that is interesting– some always have cool rocks because we all love rocks and love picking them up and messing with them. The other two contain game pieces from a set Rachel got for Christmas from my brother.

Our shelf strewn with games and rocks and vintage wooden boxes for holding more stuff when we aren't getting ready to move.

The board is on the shelf above (ontop of Blockus–which is an awesome game)– this way when they are bored they remember that it is there. I think next to come out will be the gaming dice– a bowl of those will be fun. In the past the bowls have had Christmas bulbs, random baubles, marbles, and fake cut gem stones from Michaels. Under the coffee table is a vintage wooden box with our magic cards, and another full of gaming devices and dvds. In the shelves on the coffee table are books I think the kids will like.

Books on the back of the toilet. Yes, is blurry.

We always keep books in the bathroom, along with writing utensils in case someone wants to do a workbook or crossword.

Shelf in bathroom.

More often I find the books and magazines disappear from the bathroom as once someone starts reading they tend to take it with them.

Unschooling in the House

A random list of unschooly things going on in our household over the last few weeks (partially pulled from my twitter/facebook accounts) and including the learning Shamus and I are doing since it all goes together that way.


Issac is:

  • Spending large quantities of time playing Terraria and Roblox with friends online.  I love that my shy, introverted boy has found friends his age that are interested in the same thing and has found a way of playing that does not overtax his introverted-ness.  When he needs quiet he walks away from the computer (often leaving Skype open… need to work on that).  He has always talked through whatever he is doing and being able to talk to someone actually involved in what he is doing is a blessing.  He is still shy in person to some extent but this has REALLY helped him come around a bend.  He is no longer afraid of playing on the unschool kids Minecraft server (he was afraid people would talk to him and he would have to respond– he prefers building in Minecraft on his own projects.)
  • Issac’s reading and writing skills have grown significantly.  He is still nervous of typing/writing unless he can copy something but he just had me add youtube videos to his growing list of favorite movies to watch (found 3-2-1 Contact and Square One on youtube and he has been loving them.)  He is now confident that he can type in things he has written down, and confident that he can read what I write for him.  In fact, yesterday he pointed out that he is now putting closed captioning on on all the videos on Netflix that has it because he is enjoying reading what they are saying.  He also had me make a food chart/menu plan for him so he is more confident getting his own foods. It is not a legalistic chart, just suggestions so he doesn’t have to make decisions when hungry.  I love that he is confident enough in his reading skills now that he ASKED me to make him a food chart and it didn’t even occur to him to worry about being able to read it.
  • He continues in his fascination with all things science and math though I recently heard him declare that he was “no good at math” which is funny because this is the kid that uses math regularly without thought and has always thought of it as a game.  I think it was him repeating what he had heard both from his sisters (who are the same way– good at it but imitating what they hear and know is expected) and what he has heard on iCarly and on Ned’s Declassified.
  • Recently he has taken to wanting to watch kung fu movies with me (Jackie Chan and Jet Li with the occasional Bruce Li thrown in) which is another testament to his reading since they are mostly the older ones that have subtitles.  He also watches my Korean dramas with me (especially the ones with action) and no longer complains of subtitles there.
  • Doing tons of experiments with bubbles and various bubble solutions– trying to figure out how water tension works and why.
  • He is teaching me how to play Spore Hero– he takes great pleasure in this.
  • He is showing interest in maybe, possibly joining us in Just Dance 2 (took him a year to try Dance Dance Revolution) now that we have Kung Fu Fighting and Mambo No. 5.  He also loves the song Rockafella Skank but thinks the dance is too embarrassing.

Esther is:

Suddenly looking freakily like Uma Thurman.
  • Recording Minecraft lets play videos with friends that she has been posting on Youtube.
  • Designing a dragon from texture pack up in Minecraft so she could hav ea cool desktop background.
  • Spending lots of time learning about the ins and outs of the computer so she can personalize her user account on the shared computer.  This is carrying over into interest in designing websites.  She now wants me to install a wordpress website for her so she can learn to personalize it.
  • Reading, reading, reading.  She was going kind of nuts because she ran out of books– so we downloaded a whole slew of free ones from Amazon plus she borrowed the Eragon series from my brother.
  • Spending a lot of time drawing and painting– often beside me when I am working.  She is growing by leaps and bounds and is very comfortable in her artistic skin.  In fact I just shared this on Facebook:
    • Just saw Essie on chat say confidently “I am an artist.”   And she is. She spends a lot of her time not spent reading and writing and on the computer drawing and painting. She sits by me when I work, asks questions, and experiments.
    • The thing is she is just like I was EXCEPT she has the confidence to call herself an artist and behave accordingly. It took me YEARS to get that confidence (ps all the way, with all free time spent reteaching what supposed to learn in school but basically unschooled all summer). I internalized all the criticism I received in school and at home and despite drawing and painting from the time I was Essie’s age I didn’t “call” myself an artist until I was in my 30’s.
    • If that confidence and comfort with self (and love of the Lord) is all she takes away from our unschooling lifestyle, then it is WELL worth it.
  • Writing a Minecraft fan fiction novel  She read it aloud what she (with a friend who was spell checking it and giving ideas) had written and it was kind of shocking– it sounded like a real novel. Shamus, who is working on his 3rd novel went on and on about how her pacing was perfect, how she had a good solid voice, etc. Not surprising since she reads constantly but it was a huge jump forward from the last story she wrote (about a year ago.)
  • Using tutorials to teach herself Blender (3-d object creator/animator.) This is especially amazing because my husband and I both used Truspace to design avatars for a game years ago and Blender was too much learning curve.


Rachel is:

Essie and Rach voluneered to pull up old tiles and replace them-- because it "looked fun" and apparently it was.
  • Using youtube as a piano instructor for harder songs than learning at class.  Currently learning a relatively simple (compared to the full version) “Moonlight Sonata”.
  • Researching a doll found at the thrift shop in order to sell it on Ebay.  Finding out prices, finding out how much it might be worth, learning to photograph it for ebay, learning how to sell on ebay.
  • Writing a parody of a song for a youtube video.  Practicing singing the song, learning how to record it, as well as learning video editing.
  • Weekly babysitting– voluntary  1 day plus in exchange for piano lessons the other– the Friday one means she gets up, packs a lunch, and gets herself out the door on her own because lately I have been sleeping way later.
  • Taking lots of photos and learning how to take better photos.  She is considering using the money she has been saving to buy a decent camera.
  • Spending time with online friends; chatting, playing Words with Friends, and Tripletown.
  • Doing a lot more around the house on her own.  She is currently sleeping afternoon through evening so  I will wake up to find various jobs around the house done.  Which is really pretty awesome.


Shamus is:

  • Playing a game I am not allowed to talk about because it is still in Alpha and he had to sign an NDA, but I can say he loves it.
  • Working on his next book (which I get to read and LOVE)– a completely different setting from this one.
  • Writing stuff for the Escapist.
  • Recording Spoiler Warning.
  • Redesigning a website.


Oh yeah, I chopped my hair off-- about 10 inches.
  • I am working on illustrations for Shamus’ book.  (You can see them on my Facebook page if interested:
  • Editing the final revision of Shamus ‘ book.
  • Formatting Shamus’ book.
  • Attempting to keep the house in order for showings and fix up what we are able to fix.
  • Feeling like I need to share things more online…so I am trying to do that.
  • Helping Esther with some art questions she has.
  • Helping Rachel figure out how best to record.
  • Helping Issac with computer questions.
  • Reading James A Owen’s Imaginarium Geographica series which is prompting all kinds of thoughts about classical writers.
  • Reading a 1920’s girl detective story I found for free for the Kindle.  Very fun.  Prompting much thought about the changes in language and slang from then to now.


I CUWe have a new weekly meme up at the Christian Unschooling site called I CU.  The following are the statements/questions for everyone to fill in (or if you are feeling really inspired share a photo for each:)):

This week we want to…
honestly I don’t know.  My brain is so tired from trying to get the CU site in order, update the theme, get the groups on Facebook organized (and combined) and just keeping up with everything plus the GAPS diet (which is going fine but which I really need to come up with some meals for) and all the other stuff, well, the kids have been really doing their own thing because I have been busy.  Right now most of the stuff that is happening is external.  My grandmother just moved to an assisted living place not far from us which means I am spending a lot of time running errands for her and visiting (we have always gone once a week because she lived half an hour away now she is only 10 minutes away.)  That combined with the new Facebook groups, several sites I am working on for clients, the CU site, and taking care of the house and food stuff (all learning curves) and I am brain dead.  (Shamus is writing his book again, which is AWESOME but it means I have less help as he needs to focus when writing.

The kids are working on different projects.  Rachel and Esther are working on essays for a contest over at Gaming Angels to win a scholarship to National Computer Camp— both of them desperately want to win.  Rachel has spent the last couple days working on it and we are all pretty excited to see how far she has come with her writing– she actually had 900 words and needs to get it down to 500-600.  Oooo, and Issac has found a series of books he LOVES and is willing to help me read (he reads the first page of the chapter, I read the rest).  It is really adorable (though there have been a few things that I skip– like using God as a swear word.  Sigh.)  But the really awesome thing is not only is he asking me to read aloud to him nightly but he is finally asking for “just one more chapter” which my little engineer never does.  So that is pretty exciting.

I am learning Hebrew, how out of website ideas I am (working on the CU site and my brain is dead), a new technique for sketching out my paintings.  I am also learning how to get regular meals going for the GAPS diet because I keep forgetting due to all the other work I am doing.

I am struggling with change, people, and fears.  In general I like change but sometimes it makes me uncomfortable:

For instance, right now we are dealing with the very real possibility of losing our house but we don’t know and maybe God will step in and provide yet again (as He has throughout this whole time we have been living off what He provides– and He HAS provided, everything but the mortgage.)  And it is really the potential change combined with fear and not knowing that is getting to me.  So, I need to be leaning on Him here instead of trying to solve the problem on my own (which almost never works.)

Sometimes change makes me disappointed:

Like today when I realized my husband was, after a frustrating day of not getting work on his book done due to interruptions, up all night writing which means a new change of rhythm for the household.  Every month or so we have to adjust to a new rhythm and we had just gotten comfortable in this one and had hoped it would last. So I am sad knowing the kids are disappointed (less time with Daddy when he is working all night and sleeping all day) and that their sleep is going to shift so they can get more time with him, not to mention it will ruin potentially plans already made, especially if it shifts anymore (unlike most he finds it impossible to stay up for something and be coherent unless his body is doing the shifting– so more fear as I realize he might miss Rachel’s piano recital after all– which will devastate her.  SO, changing subject before I think of more fears…..

People.  I am currently angry at several people (and not liking them very much) because I feel they have been unreasonable, which makes me want to avoid them.  I am praying about this because first, these people do tend to suck the life out of me and even when we are on good terms I come away drained.  

This week is the first time…. Rachel has written something long and been willing to really go back and edit multiple times so she can get it right.  I am so proud of her.  Keeping in mind that she is severely dyslexic and this is the first time she has willingly submitted to editing and has done multiple drafts.  In fact she was up early , all excited because she wanted her daddy to help her edit.

So, having written all this I realize just how overwhelmed I am and I hadn’t even realized it.  And no wonder, really.  On the other hand, I need to hand all the worries over to God (really) and STOP IT.  Just STOP IT.

Now, its your turn. And when you do I CU on your blog, link up so we can all be in it together.

I’m that Mom

Joining in on an awesome, impromptu blog carnival over here.

(I am deliberately not reading everyone else’s until I have finished writing mine, except for the 2 I saw that made me realize that this is a cool thing that I actually want to join in on because I suspect a lot of us overlap and I want to share who I am without worrying about that it may be a “YEAH, ME TOO.”)

I am that mom who, when the kids ask if we can please go visit our friends 5 hours away tomorrow, says yes, starts packing, and goes.
Rachel and Kayla

I am that mom who upon finding out the the oldest’s best friend (who lives 2 days away) might be able to come stay for a week says YES.

I am that mom who on 4th of July goes fireworks chasing with the kids, driving all over tarnation looking at everyone’s awesome displays,  instead of taking them to sit in a huge crowd and watching one display.


I am that mom who would rather take the kids to the pond to swim or sit and watch hours upon hours of anime, Dr. Who, favorite movies, or As Time Goes By with the crazy, wonderful kids than worry about what the neighbors think of her children’s nearly dead flower/veggie garden and too tall grass.
I am that mom who when the kids decide to build a tent/tree house/whatever in the back yard says nothing or helps them find the needed materials, knowing that again the neighbors will wonder about the people next door ruining the view from their perfect yards.

I am that mom who runs outside with the kids in the pouring rain to look for rainbows.

I am that mom who, when the kids find their long lost roller blades and ask if they can go somewhere to roller blade, suggests they roller blade in the house on our fake hard wood floors and allow them to continue to wear them for everything for the next week.

I am that mom who lets her kids turn her entire kitchen into a restaurant for days at a time and play with their food.
Larry the Cucumber

I am that mom who, when her son asks to take all the blankets from all over the house and use them to jump on, says yes.

I am that mom who takes a camera wherever her kids go and takes pictures of all the awesome things they do.

Super straw

I am that mom who, when her kids want to mow the grass says yes and then says nothing about the stripes of extra tall grass left behind and the odd, rather like a maze, style of cutting grass her oldest prefers.

I am that mom who, when a kid says “come see this cool thing” stops what she is doing to go see (and it always IS really cool!)


I am that mom who realizes that her middle child loves the stage and when she asks signs her up and takes her to a performing arts camp the very next week.

I am that mom who still loses her cool, who still gets frustrated when the kids have totally trashed the place (not a problem) and then don’t clean it up (a problem), who has bad days and does not cope so well when the kids are fighting, again.
Issac room

I am that mom who still has a long way to go but loves where her kids are exactly where they are regardless of the stage they are in, loves being with them, and thinks they are totally awesome and fun.
Alameda Park 2010
Yes, this is an extended version, I got started and kept going (which anyone who knows me in person knows this is VERY typical.)

Getting Back to Normal

The question is what is normal?

Ice Skating

We have had crazy busy stuff since October 12 (Issac’s birthday and the beginning of our holiday season). With Rachel’s birthday over we finally can settle down. The problem is with the ice melted, the snow melting (we will have more, believe me), and no big upcoming events the kids are at a loss for what to do. I haven’t pointed out to them that our wedding anniversary is this weekend (and that they are all going off to visit family so that Shamus and I could have alone time to celebrate 13 years) deliberately. I want a little peace and quiet and boredom. Boredom is good for them, it gets their brains moving, it gets them thinking outside the box (unless we have boxes, then they think inside and all around them.)
At the Science Center

Today is a normal day. Today the kids have spent 5 minutes each working upstairs in their rooms doing some sort of cleaning up, and 5 minutes downstairs, again doing some sort of cleaning project– whatever floats their boat as long as it makes a difference. I am finding that 5 minutes makes all the difference.
Ice Skating

Rach spent 15 minutes doing Wii Fit and the other two have also been asked to do at least 15 minutes of some sort of physical activity (what and when is completely up to them– I only ask because Esther will spend all day reading without moving and then can’t sleep, and Issac will spend most of the day doing quiet sedentary activities only to be bouncing off the walls come bedtime– again, 15 minutes makes all the difference).
A Very birthday tea.

The kids decided that they would like to have boredom buster boxes, just in case they can’t think of something to do or need drawing ideas or book ideas, so they helped me put those together. They are free to fill them with their own ideas (because some days we have too many ideas about what we want to do and others not enough.) In the meantime I put some of their favorite (and forgotten) activities in the boxes in case they need something to do, knowing that they will likely not touch the boxes– just knowing they are there is enough.
At the Science Center

And what are they doing?

Esther reading

Esther is on the 4th Gregor the Underlander book, nearly ready to start the 5th. She is curled up on the couch in the living room, cuddled under a blanket, enjoying the story (and grateful to Penny who suggested the books). She has already spent some time drawing and reading, and will likely spend some time in conversation with her siblings or us (her parents) about what she has read and the thinky thoughts she has developed because of the books. She will also likely spend some more time listening to audio books (she listened during breakfast and lunch and will likely do more later). Earlier she watched the rest of the Bionicles movie her brother rented (for some reason he doesn’t want her to watch with him.) She is also attempting to start an idea journal so she can remember ideas for stories, poems, drawings when she needs them as she constantly has ideas when she is otherwise occupied.
At the Science Center

Issac is in his room building and listening to audio books. The trip to the library yesterday scored some new audio books (boy am I tired of Geronimo Stilton. He is great and all but too much is enough.) Earlier he spent some time cuddling me while Rach and I watched a movie he didn’t want to watch and whining because his sister was in his room. He likes to be in there alone, building and thinking and designing, then later emerging with whatever project that he has been working on for the world to see. He has also been spending time reading Calvin and Hobbes and Francis.
Ice Skating

Rachel is feeling a bit off today (partly just down after such a busy birthday weekend) so she and I have been watching “Tin Man” which we just discovered today and are enjoying thoroughly. She is also coming up with ideas for her brother’s busy box– she loves coming up with activity ideas and this way he doesn’t feel bossed by her. She is also helping me find things to put in the bowls in the living room– because if it is in the bowls Issac will get it out and research it. Right now she is up in her room designing saris though earlier she was blogging on her site. She is reading the American Girl’s Smart Girl’s Guide to Internet Safety which I am thrilled with since she wants to spend more time online and make some internet friends. She made breakfast for her siblings and spent quite a bit of time drawing with the new pastel pencils I picked up. She also spent a lot of time talking– today mostly to her dad about random stuff, asking lots of questions about everything.
Rachel's 12 birthday

You can see the painting in the background.

In the meantime I have been working on painting with acrylics and learning a lot, mostly learning how much I don’t know about working with acrylics but it is getting there and I am learning. Also have been spending time trying to get one of the sites back online, and finally, a week later managed to get in touch with someone who knew what was wrong and fixed it. And now back to the kids– Rach wants to watch the next episode of Tin Man and is being very patient.

A gentle reminder

Where there are no oxen, the crib is empty: but where there is much corn, there the strength of the ox is manifest.
Proverbs 14:4

My desk is a mess– multiple coffee cups, several salad bowls and water glasses, watercolor stuff, paper work and receipts.
The kids rooms are trashed (although the daily service is working and they are slightly better each day). Books are everywhere though at least now they are in piles, most of the clothes have finally made their way to the laundry–clean and dirty alike, paper and writing utensils are everywhere as are all the little girl trappings– stuffies left from plays and other productions, nail polish and hair things set up like a beauty salon..
In the living room sits a box full of Christmas decorations (I finally took down the last bits), Wii motes and yoga mats, blankets and bean bags left out after movie watching, a laptop sitting on, and papers strewn about the midi keyboard.
Issac’s room there are legos and race tracks covering every inch of the room, mixed with books and boxes (used as needed for every building project under the sun. )
The kitchen is covered in dishes left over from meals, cd’s of audio books, and my paints and paintings in progress.
In the bathroom are the results of Rachel’s latest hand cream/epson salt concoction, some dolls and doll clothes left over from a recent doll resort, hair clippers from a recent trim, plus numerous damp towels and clothes on the hooks– left there just in case I need to go out and hubby is sleeping. The laundry room is overflowing with clean and dirty clothes and the back hall is full of snow things hanging to dry.

It is easy to think of these things as mess and clutter. And yet, I am reminded that these are signs of success, of learning, of activity and thought.
Everything left out in the girls’ room has been recently used and is the result of a project. Rachel’s hammer is sitting out because just a little while ago she used an old Chubs box (those plastic lego brick style diaper wipe boxes), a pen, and bits of paper to make a voting box– which entailed hammering a hole in the box for the votes. Books are piled everywhere because Essie always has a book, or her laptop. Audio books also lie strewn because Rachel is always listening to one. Their floor is always covered in paper and pens and other wiriting utensils because the girls are always drawing, designing, writing, or creating something.

Issac’s room is covered because he is constantly in the process of building or designing something new. Today he designed a war game using the weights to build cannons and gaming dice to figure out who wins each round. Race tracks cover his room surrounded by stuffies, Legos, K’Nex– all built precisely to the enclosed directions, and then adapted and added to, surrounded by books and boxes.

The kitchen is cluttered and not so clean because we ate and ran today as right after lunch we headed to the pond to test out the ice and Rachel’s new ice skates. The food we took along got dumped on the table because we had some other project to do when we got home. The audio books are there because we have been listening to classic books while I work on an acrylic painting and the kids either eat or do projects at the table. There is a blue IKEA bag full of snow things on the floor so we can easily take them to the pond tomorrow. A workbook (Issac’s) sits open where he left off coloring and doing activities (because he wants to, for fun, not because it is a rule.)

The bathroom is less than ideal because today Rachel made a special hand cream using various essential oils and Epsom salts to help our hands with the cold dry weather and aches that accompany the RA. This led to a discussion of books that I own with recipes for such things as well as which herbs work best for what, and future plans for me to teach her how to melt bees wax, olive oil, and coconut butter together for creams. She and Esther also had a beach party for their dolls a few days ago and today she had a spa day for the doll that she took skating (she designed skates and clothes adapted from other dolls for her so she could go along but then dropped her in the snow so she needed a bath).

The laundry in the laundry room is a sign that the girls finally remembered to give me their dirty (and some clean) clothes and that I have finally begun to get caught up on washing.

The living room proves that Rach, Essie, and I watched part of Rozencratz and Gildenstern are Dead this morning, which lead to much commentary on Shakespeare and humor and later watched The Golden Boys (a fun and interesting period piece) (both watched on the living room laptop). Issac also spent some time replaying Mario Sunshine, enjoying that he can finally read a lot of what is on the screen, and this morning Rach finally brought me the other Christmas box so I could take down the rest of the decorations. Oh, and several books are strewn about (because they are being read) and the piano music is out because it is being used.

The hall is evidence that there has been much snow play (and ice skating) as are the rather salty spots on the floor where people keep stepping with wet boots no matter how hard they try to avoid it.

The fact that my desk is cluttered is evidence that I have actually gotten some work done recently.

We may not have an immaculate house- though it is much, much cleaner, and staying cleaner now that we have instituted the 5 minutes upstairs 5 minutes downstairs rule. The kids are actually beginning to enjoy cleaning up and going well beyond the 5 min I require. It is never going to be perfect, or even clean to most people (though I do keep clutter to a minimum so that we don’t have so much to fuss about.) However, the mess is evidence of living and life, of time well-spent, of fun had, and mistakes made. More conversations and time together happen because we aren’t fighting over who is supposed to be doing what job and why isn’t everything perfect. Learning is going on at every turn without coercion and fuss. We all have time to pursue our interests without constant nagging and whining. We are greatly blessed.

Projects, in our reading pile, and a free ebook

As you may have noticed I haven’t  been writing much recently.  I have a pile of commission paintings on my desk to get done before Christmas , which is a blessing, plus some other webdesign/server related work that really needs done soon.  The projects are all fun and challenging but are taking up more thinking time than usual because they ARE challenging.  I will post the artwork as soon as I finish and get permission fromthe clients to post.Read More

Where we are and what we have been doing

  • As you already know if you have been reading at all, my mother passed away on July 31 so that has colored our days a lot recently (especially as conflict arose with certain family members due to some emotional issues.)  The amazing thing is watching how the kids have dealt with all of this.  We were blessed to find that they were not at all about the stuff, are mourning naturally, and are, in general dealing with things in a wonderfully healthy manner.
  • Essie playing DS at the funeral home with cousins.
    Essie playing DS at the funeral home with cousins looking on.
  • We have been spending lots of time with family and friends and now that we have a minivan are doing a lot more going and doing.  The kids are thrilled that this includes the library, some small trips to local national parks, and trips to IKEA.  It is exciting to see how their interests have developed since we last were at the library and their excitement about going to the parks and IKEA.
  • The kids have been on a fossil kick (lots of limestone around here), set up a stage in the basement and are planning a talent show of sorts for this Saturday at noon for whoever shows up, have been reading a ton, still programming on Scratch, playing the new Bookworm adventures and Boom Blox, hanging out at the pond with Pappap and Uncle James, and Essie is tweeting regularly.

    James and Issac
    James and Issac down at the pond.
  • Because I picked up a pile of “educational” workbooks, games, and books at the Target $1 bin today they have been working on those and quizzing each other on Wonders of the World.
  • I now have my mother’s sewing machine so the girls are clamouring to be allowed to sew again.  I will have to teach them how to use this machine first but I suspect much sewing will occur in the next few months.
  • Yesterday we discovered a cicada that had just left its nymph form.  It was awesome and the kids immediately had to research so they could remember which type of cicada and what each stage was called.
  • cicadacicada
  • I updated to the new version of Ubuntu yesterday.  It was the simplest upgrade I have ever done–took me less than an hour start to finish and most of that was copying my Home folder over from the backup drive.  The new version is AWESOME.  Just saying.
  • I finished a random painting that has been floating around in my head for a while.  This may be the beginning of a flower series since I am in the middle of one of a butterfly bush now.

    Queen Anne's Lace
    Queen Anne's Lace
  • Issac finally lost the tooth that has spent the last month hanging by a strand.  That same tooth got broken when Essie kicked him while swimming, bled everywhere and STILL didn’t come out.  The next day Rach bumped him in the mouth with a swivel chair and out it came–no blood, nothing.
James and Issac
Issac and James and the missing tooth.

Unschooling Snapshots: library

I had this in my queue 2 weeks ago and forgot about it.  So here it is:

We have also been helping out a little bit with the new homeschool group in the area–the girls read and helped the younger kids with projects at the group at the library last week and afterwards we hung out with some other friends we ran into there.

Rachel reading Apricot ABC" to a group of younger homeschoolers.
Esther reading "Town Mouse and Country Mouse"
Issac showing off the giant tower the kids all built together.