Sixteen

Happy 16th birthday to my baby girl, to the one who made me a mama, to the one who is strong, and brave, and very sure of what she wants, to the want who made us rethink our idea of child-raising and education and healthy living, to my dear sweet guinea pig, adventurer, shopping buddy, traveler, joyful, fun-loving, creative, musical, artistic, amazing oldest daughter.

Rachel Travels

Racheltrip3
Rachel with her Asian Onion bun.

Our oldest is back in Texas for a 3 week visit. Everything fell in place perfectly for her to spend her 16th birthday there at her best friends’ home so we went ahead despite winter’s unpredictable weather.

Rachel with her Asian Onion bun.
Rachel with her Asian Onion bun.

The first day of the trip was awesome despite the bus leaving an hour late and driving straight through due to snow and ice. She made friends with a girl about her age from China who barely spoke English. She helped her  get where she need to be and do what she needed to do. They watched their favorite shows together (Thor  which they watched in English with Chinese subtitles and Heartstrings- a Korean drama which they watched in Korean with English subtitles). They shared Rachel’s food (there was snow and ice and they were running late so they they didn’t stop at any of the normal stops for food). It was amazing and wonderful and Rue was thrilled that God was clearly in this trip.

Racheltrip2
Look at my onion bun!

The second day was HARD. She had a pack of Pocky left for her breakfast and wouldn’t get in till 9:30pm. (I really wish I had bought her a few more buns at the Asian grocery store (I ran in while she waited in line to get check in.) They were running really late still so weren’t making any stops and when they did stop there were only broken machines. At one point the bus broke down. She had a layover in Oklahoma City with no way to get food as the machines were all broken. Finally they got to Amarillo where she missed her transfer and her luggage had gone missing (they think it went to Dallas but so far no one is sure as it hasn’t turned up yet yet.) She ended up stuck in Amarillo, well after the time she was supposed to be in Lubbock, after everything had closed, waiting for our friends to drive an extra hour to come pick her up with no way to get any food and no luggage.

Racheltrip4
Waiting and waiting and waiting. She was standing in line for over an hour and a half.

They took her to eat, took her home, found some clean clothes for her to wear, and they all crashed. Today they are heading into the city to the Greyhound station to see if they can track down her luggage and go thrift shopping for some new clothes to tide her over. A friend is sending a replacement for her Bamboo Tablet (which was in her luggage) and she received another pair of headphones as a late Christmas gift. So the big things that were lost (if the luggage isn’t found) have been replaced. Her brother gave her some money for her birthday and she will receive a little more which will help cover the rest of her loss. Not the most fun way of spending your 16th birthday but being with her best friends will make up for it.

Racheltrip5
Finally getting on the bus!

We are praying that her luggage does show up and soon since we aren’t sure how much to replace and what to wait for. Regardless it will make a great story someday and she still has 2.5 weeks of time with her friends before she gets to deal with Greyhound again.

Racheltrip6
On the bus. Finally.

A letter to a friend about to lose her home

I wrote this in response to a friend who just found out she is about to lose her home, something her husband was keeping from her due to her panic attacks and fear. Their financial situation is much as ours was 4 years ago. They live on what work and finances God provides (which makes it tricky to work with the bank and government agencies), have been struggling for a while, and she was scared. This is now an open letter to those in that position, those who are struggling with crippling fear as they look at a future of change. Frankly it could be a letter to myself 15 years ago. And again at 10 years ago. And 5 years ago.  And possibly a letter to myself again in the future. 

 

You are NOT alone. We have been through it, Ame (one of several friends who  knew all that was going on during and helped me through) has been through it (and held my hand through it, including through the panic attacks), I have been through it, many of us have gone through or are in the process of it.  Many moe will find themselves in that place.

The panic attacks do come but once you let it out a bit (you need to let it out like steam in a pressure cooker or you will fall apart) you choose, you choose to stand firm, to be strong, to support your husband anyway- he was protecting you knowing you panic, knowing you can’t cope. He was trying to protect you. It is your turn to be strong anyway. It is your turn to help him and help your family by choosing not to fall apart. Yes, you will. It happens. But then you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do the next thing. No point in worrying about anything else. You can’t do anything else. All you can do is the very next thing.

I know about the not being able to verify financial info with the bank and government agencies- we tried to keep our house and because of our unusual income sources (how do you explain manna living to a bank?) we never could get anything to happen.

The thing is God is way bigger than that. Bigger than our fear. Bigger than our relationships with people. Bigger than houses and jobs and money and things. WAY bigger.

 

 

I know it is hard.

It is REALLY, REALLY hard.

This is where you get to tell Satan he is a LIAR and choose to ignore all the whispers and shouts he is sending at you.

You get to choose to be strong anyway.

You get to stop telling yourself all the things you can’t do and choose to say “I may not be able to do all that BUT I CAN do this, right here. Right now. I can be grateful for the things we have. I can be grateful that my husband loves me so much he tried to protect me from this knowing how weak I have been. I can support him anyway. I can show my kids how strong I can be and make them proud so they know how to deal with all this stuff that is bound to come at them in the future.”

Be brave, Girl.

You can do it!

You don’t have to do everything right now.

You don’t even have to apply for help if you feel God is not leading you to (we never did- God provided through other means and it was horrible and hard and amazing and miraculous) but you can choose.

You have a choice. Right now.

You can do the very next thing. That is all you have to do.

You don’t know what will happen in 5 years, a year, a month, next week, 2 days, 2 hours, geez- you don’t even really know what will happen in 2 minutes.

All you have is RIGHT NOW.

And that is ALL you have to cope with.

All you have to deal with.

All you have to be strong for is RIGHT NOW. Everything else is gravy.

God is good. He loves you. You are worth it. And He is a very ready help in times of trouble.

Just saw this this morning and it struck me as important:

I Will Go Before You

I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. (Isa. 45:2-3)

God’s imagery of going before us lets us know that he desires us to go on a journey. This is not so frightening. Most of us are aware that the Christian life requires a pilgrimage of some sort. We know we are sojourners. What we have sometimes not given much thought to is what kind of a journey we are to be taking.

Not realizing it is a journey of the heart that is called for, we make a crucial mistake. We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. We know he is calling us to give up the less-wild lovers that have become so much a part of our identity, embrace our nakedness, and trust in his goodness.

As we stand at this intersection of God’s calling, we look down two highways that appear to travel in very different directions. The first highway quickly takes a turn and disappears from our view. We cannot see clearly where it leads, but there are ominous clouds in the near distance. Standing still long enough to look down this road makes us aware of an anxiety inside, an anxiety that threatens to crystallize into unhealed pain and forgotten disappointment. We check our valise and find no up-to-date road map but only the torn and smudged parchment containing the scribbled anecdotes and travelers’ warnings by a few who have traveled the way of the heart before us. They encourage us to follow them, but their rambling journals give no real answers to our queries on how to navigate the highway. – John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance.

Everything in its Season

*I wrote this in my Christian unschooling  group in response to a young mom with a 15 month old wondering if she would ever have time to do all the things she wanted to, to learn all the things she was interested in learning. It occurred to me that she is not alone. I remember being that young mom wondering if I would ever get a full nights sleep let alone  be able to do things I was interested in, things that weren’t just about my family. And how were all these super moms doing it all? 

This is just a season. Everything in its seasons. Pregnancy is a season. New baby is a season. Toddler is a season. There was a season of me stuck at home in a new town with hubby gone all day, pregnant and with a toddler. We had a season of 3 kids under 5- all in diapers at least part of the time. A season where one child was constantly in and out of the hospital. Several seasons where I was too sick to get out of bed. We have also had seasons of going all the time. Of passionately learning new things- I have learned a little of several languages (Not a natural language person so it is more osmosis for me- watching a lot of tv in that language and just exposing myself to it). Learning to cook for food allergies. Learning natural remedies and cheap healthy foods. Learning wild crafting and herbal-ism. Learning how to be a homemaker. Writing a book. Editing and publishing my own and my husband’s books. Marketing books and art. Learning to code html and php. Hosting and maintaining websites for myself and others. Blogging. Reading the Bible through multiple times and really studying it. Researching pretty much everything. Running several websites and Faecbook groups. Learning to fix things myself and then doing it. Working for an antique appraiser. Working as a caretaker for an elderly woman. Taking care of my own grandparents.

 

I have been married 17 years now. I have a nearly 16 yr old, a 14 yr old, and a 12 year old. There have been many many seasons. There are many seasons to come. I have no idea what will come next. Some of the seasons rotate around my children. Others around other friends or family members. Some mostly around myself.

The biggest trick is learning to focus on the here and now- to do the next thing and not worry about the other stuff, but also knowing this IS just a season so you can enjoy it fully. You can keep your goals in mind, you can have a list, the list will change. Your passions will change.

One of the wonderful things about unschooling is that passion for learning in YOU will encourage the passion for learning in your children so when you hit a season where you can you do- you study and research and learn. And when you hit a new season you do what you need to do for that one. And you build on all that stuff that you have learned and are able to learn and grow more and it benefits your kids as you do so.

Review of Morrocco Method hair care products

Just before Rachel’s trip I was contacted by a sales person from https://www.morroccomethod.com/ asking if we would be willing to review some of their hair care products (it caught my attention unlike most of the product review requests I get because the sales person was awesome and bothered to read my site enough to know who we were and write an email full of geek references. She just asked us to review the products she sent and a few days after I ordered we received a package with the full size haircare products. She also contacted us to make sure we received the products, helpe dus choose which would suit our needs most, and told us to contact her if we needed any  other hair help. Excellent customer service.) The products are raw, gluten-free (important for those who are actually really sensitive to gluten- we have friends who are as sensitive to gluten as Shamus is to animal dander), and wild crafted (they are also vegan if that is important to you.) They have a lot of great information on detoxing and growing in hair including how-to videos (would have been helpful when we first tried henna-ing.) Because their ingredients are all simple and up front it was easy to avoid the things Rachel is allergic to when purchasing.

As you likely know we generally stick with no hair care products due to allergies and cost. We also usually keep it super simple and can’t be bothered to fuss with hair except for occasional color. I cut all of our hair and when we need hair care stuff I usually make my own. She wrote at the right time though. Rachel and Es have gone through a phase where they are pretty tired of homemade products and want to try other things. Rachel had also had her hair dyed and the results, though cool looking, were pretty hard on her hair. 

1167439_10200548810264464_351703214_oRachel’s hair was bleached and dyed. When we bleached it a section of it got over-processed and basically had the consistency of straw. It was horrible. She was getting a giant dreadlock in the back of her hair every morning when she woke up.  For a  while she debated whether to just go ahead and dread her hair (until she realized it would mean none of her hats would fit. ) When she took her trip we braided it all over so she wouldn’t have to try to detangle it every morning.  When she got back home our package from Morrocco Method had arrived and she gave it a go. I had ordered Diamond Crystal Mist Conditioner & Moisturizer and Euro Natural Oil Conditioner & Moisturizer for her to try.

“At first my hair was so tangled my brush got caught in it every time I tried to brush my hair.  After I used the oil and the conditioner spray  on it my hair was super soft and I could run my fingers through it easily. It was wonderful.”

The Diamond Crystal Mist Conditioner & Moisturizer is a thin mist so it is super light instead of traditional heavy conditioners. I was surprised how much it actually did. It worked like a detangler but also softened the hair. Rachel pointed out it smells like our local incense shop but the smell is light enough that it isn’t overwhelming. The oil was unscented and works similar to a hot oil treatment but without the heat- just rub in a little and it softens the hair and detangles it.

9918263695_8e10e1c7b8_bEsther’s hair is short and “anime style”.  It is dyed with henna and she specifically asked me to cut it in “anime style”. When we were picking out things from Morrocco Method she asked for some proper styling gel (we had attempted to make our own from aloe gel, which was okay but not awesome.) And of course dragons so we got  Blood of the Dragon styling gel. She loved it. Her hair is naturally curly in places and she just wanted something to  bring that out. It did  just enough without her hair being super stiff.

I had also ordered the Zen Detox Hair and Scalp Therapy for myself. I still do a lot of detox baths/soaks and I know from past experience that I love bentonite powder and green clay for detox but had never used them on my hair and scalp. This stuff was like those but had added minerals and was wonderful. After use my hair was super soft and my scalp, which gets itchy when I get exposed to certain foods or have an allergic reaction to something, felt so much better.

Will we keep ordering from the site? I am not sure. The products are really high quality and we really liked them but they are pretty pricey. I do think that next time we order henna we will get it through them and I am tempted to get more of the Zen Detox. The other products we ordered do get used often but we need so little that I am not sure when and if we will reorder. After regular use both the oil and spray are still pretty full, the hair gel is not used that often because Es seldom leaves the house. If she asks for more we will definitely consider it. I am awfully tempted to order some of the soaps they carry- the oatmeal lavender soap sounds wonderful.

I am pretty impressed with the quality of service and of the products. I would definitely prefer ordering from them than buying off the shelf at the health food store- the ingredients lists are straightforward and made of actual real things instead of chemicals.

 

Just Life

Life has been busy.

Awesome family photos by http://halseymae.com
Awesome family photos by http://halseymae.com

Crazy busy.

Rachel and Esther
I have been working overtime.

3 Christian radical unschooling families together.
3 Christian radical unschooling families together.

We have gotten together with fellow unschooling friends from all over every single week for almost 2 months.

At the zoo with friends.
At the zoo with friends.

Rachel took a 2 week trip to visit her friends in Arizona and Texas.

At the bus station, about to leave.
At the bus station, about to leave.

Shamus is writing a video game- but you knew that.

Shamus and Heather
Shamus and Heather

I have gotten sick enough to have to call off work. Twice. I still have a cough that will not die.

Like I said. Fun photo shoot.
Like I said. Fun photo shoot. And yes, the photo has been double copyrighted- my friend Tina took the photos, which I added a copyright for on Facebook then reused and added a regular for my site and I am too lazy (or too busy) to go back and fix.

The kids are suddenly tall- Issac is the only one NOT taller than me and he is getting there fast. And he is getting a mustache. For real. And a deep voice.And he just turned 12.

Rachel's shoes
Rachel’s shoes

The girls? They are 5’7.5″ and 5’9″.

Kids
Kids

The Christian Unschooling  group I run on Facebook (with a small group of admins) has reached over 1,600 people. I have an awesome group of admins. Really. They are wonderful.

At the zoo with RCU friends
At the zoo with RCU friends

Life is going by in a streak.

With Jennifer of The Path Less Taken (http://jennifermcgrail.com ) and Teresa- a fellow radical unschooler and dear friend from only 3 hrs away. Both mother's of my daughters' closest friends.
With Jennifer of The Path Less Taken (http://jennifermcgrail.com ) and Teresa- a fellow radical unschooler and dear friend from only 3 hrs away. Both mother’s of my daughters’ closest friends.

And it is good.

A Thought about Stress

Think about a time you have been under a lot of stress.

A person you know and respect gets angry and starts yelling at you for reasons you don’t understand.

Your boss berates you for something out of your control.

A close friend is struggling with stress at home and lashes out at you about something trivial.

A bereaved loved one takes their frustrations out on you.

A dear friend misunderstands something you said and refuses to discuss it or listen to what you meant.

A client is angry about a situation you have no control over and takes it out on you.

A bossy family member insists you do things their way when you know it would not be best.

Your spouse had a bad day and lays into you about something unrelated.

You mess up in a big way and feel bad but don’t know how to fix it because you know the person involved won’t take it well.

You screw up and try to fix it but don’t manage to do it right and the other person is furious.

You are trying to learn something new, working really hard at it, and someone teases you for not getting it already.

Someone treats you as a second class citizen because of something you can do nothing about.

Someone blames you for something you didn’t do.

Someone with more experience, expects you to understand why they do what they do but doesn’t attempt to do the same for you.

Someone demands you show them respect when they show you none in return.

Someone belittles you in front of others.

How do you feel?
Does fight or flight kick in?
Do you panic?
Do you fight back?
Do you empathize and realize that person is having a bad day, week, year and stay calm?
Do you belittle the other person?
Do you try to make peace?
Do you take it all on yourself, blame yourself, and accept full responsibility even if it wasn’t your fault?

How does your heart feel?
Do you have anxiety? Stress? Do you just move on as if nothing had happened? Do you internalize it and hold on to it? Does just the thought of the situation make you sick inside?

What if this was a regular occurrence? What if you were dealing with this person on a regular basis? What if their treatment of you was constantly belittling, blaming, or just plain stressful? What would you do? How would you respond?

Would you lash out at them?
Would you respect them?
Would you be timid around them?
Would you avoid them completely?
Would you feel sick all the time at the thought of dealing with them?
Would you willingly tell them everything or avoid speaking to them as much as possible?

This. This is what we do to our children.

This is what we do when we are having a bad day and lash out at them for knocking over their water.

This is what we do to them when we get angry at the mess they left and didn’t notice.

This is what we do when we accuse them of motives they had not even considered.

This is what we do when they don’t know what they did wrong or we misunderstand but don’t listen.

This is what we do to them when they are having a bad day and we belittle their feelings or even get angry at them.

This is what we do when we tease about past mistakes, point out failings, make fun of what they like.

This is what we do when we treat children like second class citizens, demand respect without showing them respect.

If we as adults get sick, stressed, frustrated, try to escape, or place blame when others treat us like this. If we get angry when we feel we have been unjustly accused or when others attribute motives to us that we had never considered. If this is true of us, mature adults who have had plenty of time and experience to learn how to deal with these situations, how much more so for children, who have not yet learned empathy, who are still learning how to navigate the world, and have people they love and should be able to trust treating them this way on a regular basis? No wonder teenagers refuse to share what is upsetting them, refuse to talk about how they feel, prefer to hide what is going on lest they get blamed or berated. By the time these children reach young adulthood they have spent the large majority of their life living with constant stress and dealing with loved ones who treat them with less than respect.

What if, instead, you are treated with gentleness and respect? What if in a misunderstanding the other person regularly gives you the benefit of the doubt, values both your feelings and your opinions? What if the other person, treats you with respect and grace and gentleness rather than blaming and demanding respect?

What about our children? What if they are respected, treated with gentleness and understanding? What if we recognize that they are struggling way more than we see as they learn to navigate this world? What if, instead of assuming they are just doing things to get on our nerves, we recognize that they are having a rough time, they are in pain, struggling to learn something new? What if – instead of rushing them to new things because we are sick of picking the same toy off the floor in their new game – we stick with it, recognizing that they are learning something- that this game is part of their development and that it takes lots of repetition for them to figure it out? What if when they make mistakes as youngsters we try to understand what is going on both what really happened and if there are any struggles we have been missing? What if when they lash out because they are having a rough time we recognize it as just that and look deeper, helping them work through all those emotions? What if, by the time they are teens they have had lots of grace and understanding (real understanding)? What if they really know they are loved and respected because they have had the opportunity to live with love and respect- where their opinions and feelings really matter?

Which young person is going to be healthier and happier? The one who lived with constant stress or the one who lived in a world where he felt valued? Which one is going to make better decisions? The one who is afraid to talk to her parents and so just lies or the one who knows they will really listen and help? Which is going to be more mature and ready to face the real world? The one who has spent most of his life bullied or the one who knows himself well enough to know who he is and what he really wants? Which is going to have the healthiest relationships? The one who has lived in unhealthy relationships or the one who knows her value?

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.

Rethinking and Survivorship Bias

I have been thinking a lot about this:

When I first read this http://youarenotsosmart.com/2013/05/23/survivorship-bias/ I was thinking “oh, I never thought about it that way, I need to redirect my brain”. Then I realized that no, this is how my husband and I see everything. (Caution, very long and wordy article. Good but wordy. The first half is more a history lesson, then a bit that is important to the article, and then the end comes back to that first half full circle. So iuf you are in a hurry skip down to the image of the bomber and read there.)

If it isn’t working for other people then we look for a different way to do things. Instead of looking at the few successes with any given thing (and boy do we hear about those- but it worked for so and so…so what, it didn’t work for 90% of the other people who tried it) we focus on why isn’t it working for all those other people, there has to be something better. Then we search until we find something that is working for us. Thus the radical unschooling, thus the home/unchurching, thus the natural remedies, the gentle parenting and so on. We tend to rethink everything. If it isn’t working then lets do something else- why continue doing something that is damaging us and our relationships even if it IS tradition or the way things have always been.

I remember a while back Jessica Bowman wrote a great post about not worrying about what they aren’t learning and repeated the “This is stupid, so I’m not doing it anymore.” Exactly. (http://www.christianunschooling.com/why-i-stopped-stressing-myself-out-with-classical-homeschooling/) If something isn’t helping us or our family, if it isn’t making our lives better or doing what it is supposed to be doing, then why are we still doing it. “This is stupid. I’m not doing it anymore.”