Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
While we stumbled around and woke up and cursed the too finely ground coffee that clogged up the coffee maker, they played.
Much stuff from the playroom was brought upstairs and the bunkbeds became a 2 storey farm complete with rope pulleys to haul up buckets with.
When we were awake they ate their second breakfast (fried eggs, toast, and left over ham scrabble) with us.
Then we headed off to the Farmer's Market. They got apple juice popsicles and ran off with their friends while I bought organic seeds for the garden from Summer (who is moving in across the street from us!), talked permaculture with Lance, and preschool issues with Zanne, Selena, and our lawyer friend Kelly. It wasn't a deep conversation because all of us had little people pulling at us but we atleast got to connect for a few minutes. Sprout slept in the sling, and Nature Girl and Wild Thing got their traditional face paintings - a rainbow for Nature Girl and crocodile for Wild Thing. Then Nature Girl realized she could have gotten a full face painting and told everyone who would listen how she had squandered her money on a rainbow on her cheek when she could have had a whole rainbow butterfly face. I reminded her that next week was another chance to get it. Wild Thing begged for sushi. Papa Pan got more coffee and a coarser grind, bought our apple cider and talked TM, permaculture, Night Kitchen, and ending his commute with a teaching job closer to home with a bunch of people. We headed home when the eggs and ham wore off and had soup and tomato salad for lunch.
The kids went out to play in the snow and I curled up on the couch in a sunbeam and read the creative family while Papa Pan took Sprout with him while he ran errands (hardware store)
We made ginger carrot and coconut curry soup for dinner and celebrated Earth Hour with shadow puppets and THE BEST RECENT INVENTION ON EARTH - the handcrank flashlight.
The kids went off to bed after declaring we needed to do an Earth Hour every night - we agreed that it needed to be a regular occurance.
Sprout, who had napped frequently during the day stayed up til nearly 11 o'clock and then woke several times between eleven and 3am. At 3am Nature Girl woke up because of an ear ache and Papa Pan and I have been on call as doctor mom and pop since then. The Sprout was fretful until 7am.
We watched a ring neck pheasant strut around the yard as the snow fell early this morning. There was no cursing as the coffee was made, and Nature Girl cried as she told me that the Princess (who lives in her left ear - there are Mermaids in the right) was very frightened by the ear ache.
Wild Thing and Nature Girl watched Baron Munchausen as Nature Girl took to her sick bed and continued to be waited on. Many bananas were eaten. Much apple cider drunk. A pancake was nibbled. Then she fell asleep and I turned off the Baron and the Wild Thing complained heartily.
The Sprout finally woke up at 11am.
We ate waffles for lunch. Papa Pan made a weeks worth to keep in the freezer. They are full to the brim with multigrain goodness and big apple chunks, oh and gouda cheese we need to use up before we go dairy free (boohoo) - yummmm! Nature Girl sleeps on.
We discussed where to put our clothesline in the back yard.
I researched just what is in a disposable diaper and asked the question WHY are they not compostable??? Well it turns out, they really are - the mystery gel is PLANT GEL so even if the municipality won't compost them (human waste and all), I will in our backyard composter. If I haven't been bothered by little boy pee in the garden up til now I don't see what the issue will be. I'm trying to reduce the number we use anyhow.
Wild Thing asked me where I peed from without a penis and I tried to explain it to him. He listed everyone he knew with a penis. I asked him what was the difference between boys and girls and he looked dumbfounded. I asked again, "What do boys have that girls don't" His answer? "Weaponry"
Nature Girl woke up and ate a weeks worth of waffles. One At A Time. From the top of the bunkbeds, where she languishes still.
We put on our family standby - The Indian in the Cupboard, which Wild Thing adores and Nature Girl knows so well she could doze through it. It kept Wild Thing from bouncing on her while she rested.
I did laundry, folded laundry, put away laundry and reorganized Wild Thing's closet so he wouldn't dump out the folded laundy to make play places for his little people. Papa Pan cleaned out the fridge and cooked beets and put a clothing rod in one closet in he basement while I plotted getting rid of other closets in the house.
I lamented my lack of a mudroom then decided to DEAL WITH IT and drew up sketches for my front hall closet transformation.
Spoke with my mom on the phone for a few minutes while I thawed out dinner. Made dinner
Gave Wild Thing a bath and finished cleaning up his room while Nature Girl talked on the phone with her dad, stepmum, and Dark Mirror, then Wild Thing was cajoled into talking on the phone for a couple of minutes.
IMed with DarkMirror
Did more laundry
We did some online banking.
I wrote this while Sprout nursed. And nursed. And nursed.
I was supposed to build an heirloom quality toy wooden kitchen this weekend too. Ummmm...the dog ate my homework...
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Sprout is too young for puddle stompers, next year I promised him, but he will be wearing his stripe-y leggings in solidarity.
Oh and blow this one up to see the TEETH in that mouth!!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I was amongst the first of my circle to have a baby. Those with kids had been teen moms, or lived far away. I found my support in my midwifery practice (and all the other moms I met there were either much older than me, from cultural enclaves that never abandoned homebirth, or were kinda freaky young people). Looking back I was a kinda freaky young person too, but I didn't identify with those I met. So I got my support in Mothering Magazine and in little zines like Compleat Mother. I felt, outside the mainstream, and isolated.
When Dark Mirror was a baby I got online for the first time. First with my local FreeNet and bulletin boards there. I was "aj982" at the Ottawa FreeNet. My brother Techwood set me up with a computer and an account. I still felt outside the mainstream but I met several people from that community bulletin board in real life who had similar birthing and parenting beliefs. They were still kinda freaky people, and I really didn't see myself as a freaky person. I had postpartum depression and my immune system had gone wacko with the pregnancy and I had developed something similar to Graves Disease http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graves-Basedow_disease,but it only affected half my thyroid. My marriage had started falling apart as soon as I got pregnant with Dark Mirror and I felt ashamed of what was going on and avoided old friends because if they knew, I didn't want them talking about it, or advising me to leave, or disapproving when I came back, or hearing everything that had been going on before I left was still going on. I felt, outside the mainstream, and isolated.
Then I discovered the WWW. Oh my goodness, I found all sorts of people who were like me, and almost all of us felt, outside the mainstream, and kind of isolated. We talked together, on line, about our sense of alienation. Combine that with being a stay at home mom and depression issues and it became really easy to use the web in lieu of any real community. The web was an outlet for all my academic feminist essay writing, and it let me discuss parenting in theoretical terms as well as dealing with the day to day stuff. It let me only expose my best self, the good in my marriage, the good in my parenting. I felt supported to hone my skills as a parent, and it took me even further away from the mainstream. Lots of people thought I was a freaky person, but lots understood me too. It was addictive. It took me out of the stream of my real life community all together, and caused even more isolation.
During that time there were several other moms who were way out on the fringes with their parenting. Some got put on a pedestal, others were demonized, all were, what the web thrives on - entertaining. I often think of Mangomama, of Hygeia Halfmoon, of Primalmom, of Nine, of Kashmir, of Earthmoon, of Mamakat, and others and how they became legends instead of moms. That takes you outside the mainstream, and is isolating too.
I broke my web addiction when something absolutely catastrophic happened in my life - I left my marriage for good when I was pregnant with Wild Thing. To survive emotionally I had to abandon some of the things I held sacred in my parenting and I learned to be a lot less rigid. I stayed off line for some time and made a real live community around myself, with people who had similar ideas about birthing and parenting. They had always been out there, I'd been locked away in front of a computer screen unable to find them. I got involved with Papa Pan, who was much more mainstream than me in many ways and a whole lot freakier in other ways. I got to teach him through example, the good in my parenting, and learn from him too. Outside the vacuum of my marriage I also had to address the really dark stuff going on with Dark Mirror and it was...liberating, and scary, and shook me to the core to have someone else say "This is not normal, this is not okay, and we'll get through it, but we need professional help" That support could only come in real life and it turned our lives around. It really saved Dark Mirror, and the rest of us too. We don't always agree on this parenting stuff and that's okay.
So today, as I was doing spring cleaning and preparing to tackle the mountain of laundry and recommitting myself to using our cloth diapers, and cloth wipes instead of toilet paper...I started remembering the discussions about using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper and how today, I don't even think its a big deal. I know several people who do the same for environmental reasons, to avoid rashes, because it makes sense for them. I don't even remember how the topic came up with them...but it wasn't an essay on the web, and it certainly wasn't a hill to die on...and that made me smile.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Dark Mirror was a "Lonely Only" for 7 years before Nature Girl arrived. Giving him a little sister was the best thing we ever did for him. Nature Girl taught him empathy, how to handle teasing, about accepting people's differences, about leaving his shell to be part of something bigger. Being Dark Mirror, he was never really comfortable with the responsibility of being an Oldest, and he quite comfortably abdicated that role to the Angel.
Nature Girl was meant to be a Middle, and at 4 I gave her her greatest wish - a baby. Wild Thing was the wrong sex, not as fun at first as she expected, and not as malleable as she'd like, but she tucked right into the role of big sister and adores her baby brother.
We expected Wild Thing to be our last child. So every milestone he reached was tinged with the slightest amount of sadness and everyone revelled in his babyhood. Really, he could have become a spoiled monster if it wasn't for the Sprout surprising us. Having a baby brother arrive when he was three rocked Wild Thing's world, but for the good. I see the friends they'll be already. Nobody cheers Sprout on in getting mobile more than the Wild Thing, who really wants him to be a playmate instead of a blob of baby.
Then there is the Sprout, who benefits from all these loving big brothers and sister. Who kinda, just kinda, gets taken for granted. He gets passed around easily between family members. We're all used to the special place babies hold in the family and there wasn't a big shift in making him fit in. It is just a nice relaxed fit, and that's the Sprout too, a nice relaxed baby. For me, there's no sadness when he reaches a milestone (he got his first tooth this past weekend) and no comparing to other people's babies either. And. The Sprout holds a special place in this family of bios and steps. He's part of EVERYONE. He's the glue that binds everyone together.
Finally, we have what we call the Conundrum...Dark Mirror, Nature Girl and Wild Thing have another new baby sister with their step mom and bio dad. We'll call her the Twig :-) Only months apart in age, Nature Girl is sure there must be a familial relationship between Sprout and Twig but we're not sure what it is, or how to facilitate it. We all agree it should be special though.
Anyone have any ideas?
Monday, March 24, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
We were blessed with freezing rain and a freezing rain day so everyone is home - including our Arch Angel who arrived for a week!!!
Angel, Nature Girl and Wild Thing went for a walk in the orchard with the dog and brought back lots of mud and lovely branches for "Making Stuff". They startled a partridge, saw a pair of rock doves at the feeder, and watched a crow take raffia from the yard for nest building. Blue Jays chickadees and sparrows were in abundance once the rain stopped
We started our Spring Nature Table today, a mud coloured silk cloth, a chunk of wood, a branch from the apple orchard, and a nest ornament to start. Nature Girl got busy with the watercolour pencils (we need a bigger set of these I think) and made three little drawings to hang by it, a spring flower, a red cardinal, and a budding branch.
For dinner we had Hot and Sour Soup to ward off the illness that has gripped the males in the house and coconut curry (cause it is yummy) and then we played charades (an increasing common after dinner activity) Angel went out and jammed with the boy next door and Papa Pan put together the bunk beds in Wild Thing and Sprout's room. Nature Girl has commandeered the top bunk. We're getting ready for the summer and a potentially very full house with all seven of us AND my mom AND possibly the Angel's bio mom too. I love it!
When Angel got home we went and priced yurts to expand the house a bit!
So it was a great first day of spring...full of possibilities!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
This is what Nature Girl collected on her way home from school today. We haven't had the heart to disturb it and have been stepping over it all evening.
Here's today's rant about schooling versus education. She took an hour after school marvelling at the rocks she found along the way, rocks freed up from under snow by the hot March sun...her knees are red with mud. She arrived at home rosy cheeked, wind swept, and carefully designed this circle with the shale in the middle and the smooth little stream bed rocks around the outside. She chatted with me about all the signs of springs she saw along the way. This is her "Spring Sun Circle"
I then had to cajole her into homework - do a "spring doodle"... but this art won't suffice because the purpose of her art should really be a canvas for the REAL work - she's supposed to write her spelling words three times each ON her "spring doodle".
She had so many children
She knew just what to do.
She fed them all broth and homemade bread
And kissed them and hugged them
And sent them to bed...
I'm so used to many children I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with just ONE child this past week. It was a Sprout week, with my mom, while the older three were visiting their father in Ottawa, and the oldest was revelling in being a TEEN LEFT AT HOME while his mother was in Portugal.
Sprout is 5 and a half months old now and weighs in at a hefty 21 lbs. I carried him and my suitcase in over the snow after the blizzard, in the dark, to mom's house on a little lake in the Gatineau Hills. It was an adventure! I was quite the sloth the rest of the week. I watched a TON of movies, La Haine, An Inconvenient Truth, Why We Fight, Who Killed the Electric Car, the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood...I went shopping for homeopathics and Asian sauces to take home, I may have had to nurse on average 8 times a night, but I got to sleep in with the Sprout in the morning, and I went to a FORMAL charity event - wearing Sorels and with my skirt tucked into my wooly tights waistband. I missed everyone terribly by Saturday. But I really enjoyed being able to have adult conversations without any interruptions and I think I need to schedule more time for those!
Friday, March 7, 2008
My kids don't ask me if we can "do a craft" they refer to it all as art and some of their art is "craft like" - like embroidery
I’m an artist (I have a degree in “experimental arts” and spent the 90’s doing installation art until schlepping TWO kids around city to city and sleeping on floors while I installed and opened and schmoozed got too hard to even contemplate) AND I used to work for the Ontario Crafts Council in their Resource Centre and the Craft Gallery - which highlighted the very best of international craft.. The Crafts Council defined craft partially by materials (fibre, wood, glass and ceramic) and through self identification of the maker. I suppose there is an issue of series production in it as well, and an issue of “usefulness” but I knew craftspeople who never did a production piece in their career, and those who never made anything more useful than something beautiful to look at or touch...oh there's an issue that seldom comes up - art is to look at, craft is meant to be touched, handled, there's no distance between a craft and it's "appreciator".
Several of my art school profs looked down on craft and had similar definitions as Mary Ann Kohl (art is the process, art is imaginative, craft is about the end product, craft is about rules and following a pattern). There’s some territorialism there.
But I’m not sure where the line is, having staddled it my entire career. Are glass blower Laura Donefer’s witchpots static? Are printmakers making something that is all process or is production an issue for them?
I’ve found my own way of approaching this in homeschooling, and in teaching art and creativity courses to other kids, and it has to do with MY intentions.
I use “craft” to teach skills that have nothing to do with the object they make. I look for teachable moments in their interest in craft - math skill development - counting, following patterns, measuring, geometry, etc, social studies - putting it in a historical context, regional geography and culture, reading and writing - practical stuff like reading and following directions, finding high interest reading material for them to encourage reading, motor skill development in doing the craft…I'm an unschooler at heart, but I take some geeky pleasure in categorizing what my kids are learning when they follow an interest and I try to feed those interests as best I can.
I use “art” to expose them to…the idea that imagination is more valuable than any thing I could ever teach them.
I make no assumptions about what they want from art - so I’ll teach them how to take good care of our art tools, I’ll provide lots of different materials, and then I’ll let them come to me with any particular skills they might want to develop - like drawing realistic looking birds for instance, but I won’t assume they want to know how to draw realistic birds.
My art classes are structured to expose kids to other artists and stories about them, "meet" new materials they might not have been exposed to yet, make materials from scratch, do some warm up exercises - games - that reinforce how differently we all approach the same thing, and then lots of time to PLAY with the art materials on their own terms, I'm there for technical support, and if they want to learn something in particular I'll guide them through it.
For myself…art is often about a message I need to get out there, an idea that is eating up my brain and needs out. I have a very wide and varied list of skills I've picked up to get that message out and I learned those skills for specific projects I had in mind. Craft is about the meditative qualities of the process - not the product, I have little attachment to the product. Sort of the opposite of Mary Ann Kohl huh?
Thursday, March 6, 2008
2 bags of plastic/glass/metal/paper recyclables
1 composter bin filled with wet cardboard/greasy paper products (like waxed paper) and compost
1 medium sized bag of garbage - which includes kitty litter and Wild Thing's night time pullups as well as any disposable diapers I use with the Sprout, stytofoam packaging and plastic wrap.
Thats 2 weeks worth of trash for 5-6 people!
Getting the garbage down to *one* bag every two weeks was my goal.
So, give me a new goal!!!!
Pile up in Dark Mirror's bed...
Dark Mirror geeking and eating
Dark Mirror about to raid the fridge with the Sprout.
Dark Mirror eating...he does that a lot.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Where is Dark Mirror? He got picked up at 3 by a minivan load of teens to go play D&D, he'll be back at dinner time.
If you know Dark Mirror, you know how monumental it is that he's navigated friendships ON HIS OWN and is out there doing things with them like a normal kid.
I wish you could see the smile on my face!!!!!
Monday, March 3, 2008
Dark Mirror arrived friday night, and settled right in. It is wonderful how easily we all slipped into our family "places".
Dark Mirror bosses around Nature Girl, and she doesn't listen and they stare daggers at one another. I smooth things out with humour and pushing the little ones out to play in the snow until they're exhausted...Emily Armstrong would have said "to blow the stink off", and yes it really does, they return rosy cheeked and calm and getting along.
Nature Girl doesn't complain that she's missing her weekend in Halifax (invited on a weekend long adventure with a friend) she's just so happy to have her big brother HOME.
Wild Thing absolutely idolizes Dark Mirror and copies everything he does and gets him to play with a Ro-Hawk - which is NOT a robot, it is a spiderman who looks like a robot, but can't be because Spiderman is NOT a robot. They understand one another.
Sprout puts on his best show of giggling and yelling. He smiles at every face Dark Mirror makes, and demands his airtime during the cacophony that is dinnertime here.
We all geek out reading the Darwin Awards book together and laughing altogether too much at other people's misfortune.
Saturday was as usual, the Farmer's Market and hooking up with people for a preschool coop, I love watching Nature Girl run off with friends and taking good care of Wild Thing, him holding her hand, and biding her as she mother hens.
We all went out to the Night Kitchen (community arts night) and my heart was about full to bursting watching Dark Mirror calmly take charge of Wild Thing, getting him to participate when appropriate and sit still when that was what was expected.
And Dark Mirror knows me so well, and gives me huge hugs and wonderful private moment mama and almost grown up son kisses and lets me get my fill of monkey mamaing with combing his hair and measuring him, and cleaning out his ears, and there's no eye rolling, and he loves it too...ohhh good stuff!!!!
He hooked up with the local dungeons and dragon playing boys and tonight is running a game that'll probably fill several evenings. All the boys are NICE boys here, and I love seeing him pick up where they all left off and see them calling him by his nickname right away ...and he's friends with more boys here in a few short days than he's ever had in his life.
Dark Mirror is doing the teen thing - sleeping late, but happily cuddling with the Sprout in his bed while I walk the dog.
And I just feel deeply settled and at PEACE, because my kids are all together - the way it should be.