Winter Feet

The current state of this blog reminds me of an ongoing predicament I have around this time of year, a little something I call Winter FeetWinter Feet are those that go from early morning thermal socks (because it’s cold), to black dress socks (because, black boots), to gym socks (because you can’t exercise barefoot, I don’t think.  Can you?), back to thermal socks (because, cold).  And since WF aren’t regularly viewed by people other than one’s (unfortunate) spouse and oneself, they get neglected.  And by neglected I mean this.

Anyway, the thing about Winter Feet is that, if you pull off your socks and really look at them, they make you feel like something has gone deeply wrong with your self-care.  And while that might be true, it could just mean that you’re working on other things, things that seem more important (although I submit that something needs to change if, when tugging on tights, your heels and/or toenails end up ripping them.  In that case, intervention time).

But about this blog.  I realized the other day that this blog is like WF.  It’s getting neglected in favor of other things because, right now, those things seem more important.  However, like my poor WF, I can’t just keep ignoring it or I’m going to have to deal with ingrown toenails.  Or, you know, something.

So while I will be holidaying my little heart out in the next couple of months, and eating, and writing tons of other things, and sitting too close to the fire, I’m also going to try to keep up around here.  Consider this post as me trimming my toenails so things don’t get gross.

Pressing Through the Middle Years of Homeschooling

I’m a writer who likes fresh beginnings and well-timed endings.  Middles?  Not so much.

When I think about the middle of, say, a novel manuscript, I imagine a hammock creaking under the weight of a couple of lemonade-sipping kids or a dad who really ought to be mowing the lawn.

Creative writing instructors refer to these in-between pages as the dreaded “saggy middle.”

They teach rookies and published authors alike how to push through their own saggy middles with enough energy and forward momentum to keep readers engaged until the end.

- See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/middle-years-homeschooling/#more-35332

Homeschooling as an HSP (and how to survive)

Sometimes homeschooling wears me out, but not for the reasons you might think.  For instance, you might imagine that being responsible for overseeing three kids’ educational journeys would be exhausting–all those math worksheets and field trips.  But those things aren’t that big of a deal, really.  Believe me, we take life slowly around here.  Our mornings creep by no matter when I wake up.  So it’s not the schooly-type things that get me.

It’s everything else.

Today I read an article that describes people like me, people who get tired out by the oddest of things, and offers suggestions for how to navigate your day when you find the act of, say, talking to be annoying.  It’s worth the read–even if Wal-Mart, disco balls, and two or more people conversing at the same time don’t get you down.

The Beautiful Ache

We are back in the swing of things.  Once again we sit at the table and complete math pages.  We make our beds, conjugate verbs, fill up the dog bowls.  The arrhythmia of Fall break has corrected itself and our daily heartbeats are steady now.

My favorite time of the day is something I call Morning Time.  I bummed it off of Cindy Rawlins, who’s done things I haven’t, better things, with more kids.  Morning Time in our house consists of a short Bible reading, followed by discussion, memory work, and prayer.  From there we move on to poetry readings.  I love a good, solid line from a poem about something.  I love it so much that I think I’ve made my kids love it, too.  Or they’re  faking to hurry things along.  It could be that.

After poetry I read to them a chapter from a work of fiction.  Sometimes it’s a collection of short stories (I recently read some of Canterbury Tales to them but left out a few, er, things).  But mostly it’s a novel.  We finished Old Yeller the other day, barely.  I say this because I started choke-crying during the first half of the second-to-last-chapter.  Travis hadn’t even shot his dog yet.  I sat on my bed, blotchy-skinned, hair in pillow clumps, and gagged out story words from behind a balled up fist for fourteen pages.

Even as it happened (because I float above my body and observe myself now and again) I knew it was probably unnerving for my kids to see me crying as if my heart would break, crying like I did when I was twelve and grief was its own sort of pleasure.  Still, I could not stop.

In due time each one of my children began crying, too, including the thirteen-year-old boy.  They wiped their eyes and buried their heads in my bedspread as Travis ended the life of the dog who had saved his.  When it was over we sat in silence.  We were Travis, and we couldn’t believe we’d erased our old friend like he was nothing.

“Are you going to be OK, Mom?” my middle son asked after a while.

“No,” I replied.  “I mean, in the long run, yes.  Short term, no.”

“I feel bad,” he said, “even though I knew how it was going to end.”

“Isn’t that just the way death is?”  I rubbed my right eye with my ring finger so as to not further discourage the skin around it.

“I guess.”

“But, you know what?” I said, straightening, “it was worth it.  That was a beautiful story, well-told.  It truly hurt, and I’m impressed by that.  It’s worth the ache in our chests, isn’t it?” I rested my hand on his bony shoulder.

“Yeah.  I guess you’re right,” he muttered and stood up from his place on my bed.

I watched him leave the room.  I thought about how I meant what I said.  It was worth it.  Is worth it.  I’ve already accumulated a list of regrets in my life, things not done, words spoken in haste.  But sharing these stories with my children, these exquisite labyrinths, is not one of them.  I’ll never regret the fleeting moments when we sobbed and laughed at the written word in the quiet of my bedroom.

I trust they won’t, either.

Feet on the Ground

Today officially kicks off our Fall break.  And, boy, do we love us some breaks around here.  We’re going out of town this weekend to visit family, which is always nice, and feels like a set of pleasant parentheses in our holiday sentence.

I’m doing a little brain dump before getting away from Internetland for a bit.  I was just going to say, you know how parenting keeps you humble?  How kids say ridiculous things that embarrass you and put you in your place?  How you can’t ever know for sure if you’re doing parenting “right”, and you want to say there isn’t a right way, necessarily, so that you feel less pressure, but you don’t actually believe that so you keep trying and hoping that things turn out for your kids, but you can’t force them to?

Ah, me.

Well, it turns out that blogging keeps you humble, too, but in a funnier, less existential angsty way.  Do you know what is the number one search that leads people to this blog?

‘Need help.  Waking up with one eye open and one eye closed.

It turns out that this is a huge, ongoing issue for a lot of people.  Just imagine their disappointment when they land on this blog after looking for solutions to their eye problems.

Imagining their disgust as they skim posts about homeschooling and writing and feelings keeps my feet on the ground.

Happy Fall.

Hans Brinker and the Screen Dam

Ah, screens.  The bane of my (parenting) existence.  Can’t live with ‘em, can-technically-live-without-em-but-not-really-unless-you’re-Amish.

Hm.

I understand the irony of complaining about screens while I blog on a screen.  I didn’t say I wasn’t conflicted and just the slightest bit hypocritical on this issue.  But my kids’ frontal lobes aren’t fully developed, and mine is.  My frontal lobe grew up before screens were everywhere.  And this is why I feel anxious parenting in this screens all the time world.  I worry that my kids might turn out like robots because they have to trust me when I say that once upon a time, there lived a whole world that communicated via paper and mouths.  They think my stories about life without the Internet are quaint, and I hate that.

So, anyways.

I came across this today and it’s true.  Forever.  Just read it, please, if you remember the original 90210 and have kids and feel like Hans Brinker with your finger in the screen dam.  It’s worth it.  At least you’ll know you’re not alone and that’s something.

The Strangers

My son is a terrible perfectionist.  He gets it from me.  He’s also a writer, a good one.  Today the kids and I sat around our table and worked on a writing assignment.  The lesson required that each child write a poem from the viewpoint of the Native Americans who witnessed the arrival of explorers to the New World.  Each of the kids wrote his or her poem and I promised that I’d write one as well.

I’m no poet but I want to set an example for my kids and make them feel that their work is valuable.  So there we were, one big, happy, poetry-writing family.  The kids scribbled away, backs curled, arms protecting their words.

My oldest son was the first to ask if he could read his masterpiece.  He read with authority and smiled at the final sentence.  My daughter read next.  She’d thrown in every colorful verb she could think of, obscuring her meaning with gusto.  She laughed as she read.

My middle son would not read his poem.  Would not.  He growled as he covered his paper with grubby-nailed hands.  I have to tread lightly with this kid.  If I show him that I very much want him to do anything, his general impulse is to double down and refuse just because, why not.  Instead of begging him, I told him I’d read my own hackneyed poem aloud to the group.

He was singularly unimpressed.

Then I told him that I’d blog my poem, exposing it to the world for ridicule and shame.  He pretended not to care but I’m doing it anyway, for the official records:

The Strangers

They glide across our water paths,

hair shining like the sun god’s.

Their eyes pin me to the shore

because they have no soil in them.

Their voices flutter and swim on the wind,

singing fearsome songs I cannot know.

Their legs stomp our sands, giant leather trees

ashamed to wear their own skins.

They remember another world as they spread

out over ours.

There.  He can’t say I didn’t do it.  Here’s to the painful death of perfectionism.

Addendum: He read me his poem.  Booyah.