Friday, December 28, 2007

Chrismas Time

Our Christmas has been filled with lots of family and some really thoughtful and considerate gifts. We've also had the opportunity to spend time around families who live a slightly more extravagant lifestyle than we do, and instead of feeling lacking, my life has felt more real, more happy, and more filled with the things that are truly important to me. I love my life and the choices we have made as a family. I have gained insight this season that has made me more aware of how grateful I am. Now we're off for more traveling and visiting and hanging out at the beach.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Early Christmas

We are going to be at my Mom and Dad's for Christmas this year, so we decided to have a small Christmas morning this morning at our own house. The kids drew names and were each other's secret santa. I totally left the gift buying up to them and did not try to exert my usual control-over-everything-because-I-want-it-all-to-be-perfect. Some of their choices were not what I would have chosen, and in my former state of all-controlling, I probably would have tried to convince them to pick something else. Thank God I am letting go of some of that control. They keep telling each other how much they love their presents and how perfect they were. It was a great morning.

John and I also exchanged gifts. The kids and I got him everything he needs to get started keeping bees for honey. He was so surprised and had no idea. I love surprising people with something totally unexpected. John got me a TomTom GPS navigation system for the car. I could get lost in a paper bag, so this gift was very appropriate. As a matter of fact, last night I was driving home from some shopping, listening and singing to my Amy Steinberg cd, missed my exit and got temporarily lost... in my own town, on the way home from the store. I think I'm going to love my TomTom.

The kids have moved on to creating a photo shoot for something Sophie read about in her American Girl Magazine. Max is the make-up artist, Sophie the hair stylist, Alex the photographer, Ella the model, and Sophie and Max are sharing responsibility as artistic director. In the background Alex is shooting his new cap gun, Max is plaing with his new twirling juggling sticks, Sophie is wearing her new necklace, and Ella is posing with her new webkin panda bear. Life is good.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Amazing Women

I'm feeling the need to write a little bit about some of the women who I have been influenced, inspired and amazed by in the last several years of my life. In this season of gratitude and thankfulness, I am truly honored to know and have known these ladies.

Sandra , Anne ,and Kelly: These three women were instrumental in lighting the path of unschooling for me. In the very beginning of my journey, each of them provided for me a guide into this world of trust, respect, and freedom. Sandra with her directness and willingness to share, ad nauseum, the finer points of giving up control over, and over and over again for those of us who resisted. Anne with her gentleness and true love shining brightly. Anne has helped me to become a much gentler parent, one who actively seeks the shine, even when it's not readily apparent. Kelly, who had the strength and courage to bring us all together, time and again. My life has been changed because forever because of these women.

Elizabeth showed me, through her amazing life and ultimately her death, how to be content and appreciative for all the things and people I am blessed with in my life. She brought meaning to the whole "Don't sweat the small stuff" idea. She showed me how important it was to live fully and with gratitude every single day of my life. To cherish the arguments, the yucky stuff, the inevitable ups and downs because it's all a part of the blessing of life. I remember very clearly her need to know that her life had meant something. Her life did mean something: It meant that every person who shared her life would appreciate and be even a little more grateful for the things and people they had in their lives.

Amy is my former dance partner from what seems like another lifetime ago. Amy brought to my life a remembrance of being silly, talking about nonsense and about the meaning of life...all over Turkish coffee. Amy was my first real adult woman friend. Amy helped me to see life a little less seriously. Man, we had fun. I miss her a lot. I don't know if we'll ever find a way to be to each other what we were. We've both moved on, her to an isolated village in Alaska (yes, the woman has some big cajones!) but I will always cherish that time and she will always hold a very special place in my heart.

I always knew Madeline and I were meant to be friends....even before I met her. When I first moved to GA and started reading the GaUnschoolers list, Madeline stood out as a like minded soul. She writes with such clarity and eloquence, I couldn't wait to finally get to know her. We got to know each other over many shared meals at the Live and Learn conference . I am grateful we live close enough to visit each other and continue our friendship. Madeline's beauty and creativity and passion shine so brightly, I am glad she is a part of my life.

Lastly, my girls, Sophie and Ella. I cannot figure out how I ended up with these amazing people in my life. I feel such gratitude in being their mother. I feel so darn lucky and sometimes just sit back and bask in their incredible glow.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This post turned out to be REALLY LONG!!!!

I did not take any pictures during our incredible Amy Steinburg weekend, so I have delayed posting. I really like anchoring my posts with images that capture the mood, spirit, loveliness of the time. I did grab a couple of pictures at Madeline's.
Our weekend started on Thursday. We traveled to my parent's house to spend Thursday night. As we cruised down the highway, we waved and honked at Madeline's exit. I knew Danielle was there and they were having a blast.

We wanted to get up and leave right after breakfast on Friday so we could get to Columbia and reconnect with everyone. Christine Yablonski and her kids Kimi and Shaun were already there, and my kids were chomping at the bit to see them. As we were getting things packed up, Max came running into the kitchen saying, "Sophie's hurt...really bad!" Oh no! They had been playing on my mom's exercise bike, Sophie's foot got caught between the peddle and the floor, and she was in pain! I took her to the emergency room, we got x-rays, and after 3 hours, we left. She had a bad sprain and could not put any weight on the foot. So, we had lunch, then left for the house concert.

In the meantime, Max had been having trouble with his DS. It was not working properly and he had just saved up to buy Animal Crossing. After several trips to Gamestop, calls to John to find his warranty info, and 2 replacement DS's later, we finally got one that worked. My mom was a bit exasperated by my going to all the trouble and basically was of the impression that Max needed to just suck it up and get over it. My dad was a bit more understanding, and really went out of his way to help Max. I decided to try to explain to my mom why it was so important to get it taken care of to Max's satisfaction. I told her it was like the brand new high def., flat screen tv they JUST bought going on the fritz and not working. I said, "Wouldn't you want to take care of it and get one that worked?" She conceded the point after that.

We finally made it and I tried to check into the wrong hotel, with Christine and co., laughing at us from across the street at the right hotel. Onward to the Lovejoy's and the party was officially underway. Kelly throws an amazing party and we all have so much fun! Ella ended up spraining her ankle on the trampoline Friday evening so I now had 2 injured kids and no husband/daddy to help :(
Saturday was a glorious, Spring-like day. We arrived at Kelly's to find her turning her compost pile. That woman is amazing! We hung out and got things ready for the concert. Duncan was the ultimate kid host, and the kids were having a great time. However, my boys got into it, in a bad way. I guess things had just been brewing for a while and the excitement, lack of sleep, etc. combined to put them over the edge. I intervened when they were on the trampoline, each grabbing the other's hair, refusing to let go. The kids very rarely get physical with each other, and we were all upset. I had the boys come with me and we sequestered ourselves in the van for at least 45 minutes. There were tears and frustration and hurt feelings that eventually led to apologies and true loving feelings emerged. It was hard to sit and be a part of that process, but oh so worth it in the end. They both left with a greater understanding of each other and what they mean to each other. Absolutely glorious outcome...I honestly couldn't believe it. And they had come up with so much of the solution on their own.

Late Saturday afternoon, I left with Christine, Sophie, and Ella to pick up the party coffee urn from Starbucks. They had forgotten about my order, so we were there for almost an hour. Eee-gads! We met a really nice older couple and had a great time chatting with them while we waited.
I was starting to notice a theme this weekend....detours, challenges, etc. kept being thrown at me. I am a person who likes control. I do not like delays. I could have chosen to get really frustrated, angry, etc. For some reason, and I still don't know why, I took everything in stride. I did not get pissed off, I did not lose my shit, I did not get angry and take it out on the people who love me most. It's my usual m.o. to do exactly that... I am so glad I did not revert to old, ineffective, hurtful ways of dealing with adversity. It felt really good. I think I was just waiting to hear Amy and her music. I have been listening to her cd's for the past few days, remembering the concert and my difficulties. I swear she wrote some of those songs to me, just for this weekend. Uncanny. Exactly, Love Me Anyway, I'm So Special, Hope, Keep On....the list goes on and on. I love Amy. She is amazing and I am glad I have been blessed to know her. Check out her lyrics...she is a great lyricist.

The final stop on my journey was to Madeline's. We stayed there Sunday night. I would have never made it all the home on Sunday. I was really worn out. We arrived and Nicolas had made an absolutely perfect squash soup and escarole salad. How did he know what I needed? After a great night of talking, eating, and drinking wine, the girls and I slept in until almost 10:00. Wow! Did I mention it had been a really hard weekend? Granted it was full of insight and growth and jubilation, but sometimes it's really hard to stretch and grow and have fun. Monday was a fabulous day filled with gorgeous crafting, yummy food, and good coffee. We stayed until 9:30pm. I kept delaying leaving because it had been so restorative being there. It took us 2.5 hours to get home. It was a really easy drive home. Very peaceful and quiet. A great end to a rather intense weekend.

My ATC trade with Gillen

The kids playing Clue on the porch

The crafting table

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Like an Online Yard Sale

Alex was looking through the listings on ebay for a pokemon game when he said, "I love ebay. It's like an online yard sale." Alex loves yard sales. I don't yard sale with him nearly enough. I think I will make that one of his Christmas presents this year...the promise of going to 3 yard sales the Saturday mornings of his choice. Come to think of it, I think I'll give all the kids a present of my time doing something they love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Weird Things Tag

Madeline tagged me for this, I guess it's called a meme...I've never heard that word and I don't know what it is, but I'm taking a guess!

I was hesitant, because I don't know anyone in the blogging world that isn't either on that list, related to someone on that list, or been tagged by someone else. I guess I run in the same blogging circles as Madeline. She is the person who drew me into the blogging world, so what's to be expected?!!?

I decided to go ahead and do the 7 things list, but not tag anyone...only because I don't anyone else to tag!

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you. check
2. Post these rules on your blog. check
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself
4. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. uuhh...
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog. uuhh...

Seven Weird Things:
1. I hate to do anything wrong so delayed answering this tag because I didn't have anyone to tag and could not do number 4. I only went ahead with things after reading Abbi's blog and got "permission" to do part of the tag, but not all of it!
2. When I was little I loved triangles. When I was walking on the sidewalk, I would "cut" off the squares at the corner to make triangles.
3. I love being generous, but it's really hard for me sometimes.
4. I love tv.
5. I'm funny about my coffee and my yogurt.
6. When I'm angry or upset, I clean.
7. When I was little, I was fascinated with carbon paper and would do just about anything to get some.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ella's Birth Story

We celebrated Ella's 6th birthday last Friday. It was on the same day of the week as the day she was born...the Friday after Thanksgiving. I did not get the pictures organized, but wanted to go ahead and get her story recorded.

Six years ago, my mom, dad and sister came to Jacksonville, FL to spend Thanksgiving with us. I was due to have my fourth and last baby the next week. My mom and sister had planned on staying for a week to help when the baby came. Everyone arrived late on Thanksgiving Thursday, so we decided to have our big Thanksgiving feast on Friday.

Thursday evening, John and my dad took libations in the form of Bushmills Irish Whisky. This is one of their favorite rituals. I jokingly told John he was going to be sorry if I ended up going into labor that night.

As we went to bed, John and I discussed him getting to Wally World by 5:30am to get the gameboy that was going to be on sale starting at 6:00am for Alex for Christmas. This was our first experience in the crazy world of day-after-Thanksgiving shopping. Never before had it mattered...but this was a $25 gameboy for crying out loud! The alarm went off around 5:00am. John took off at 5:30, and I fell back to sleep. At about 6:15, John walked in the bedroom. I was so excited, I said, "What color did you get?" He burst out laughing and proceeded to tell me that when he arrived, he went to the electronics department and asked a lady standing in line if this was where you get the gameboys. She said yes, but told him the line started back there, and pointed. John looked up to see a line of about 200 people. The lady said she had been there since 2:00am, waiting in line. Needless to say, John did not wait in line, and said he'd rather spend whatever a regularly priced gameboy cost instead of hanging out at Wal-Mart waiting in line.

As I was falling back to sleep, I had a contraction. It surprised me, but I went back to sleep. I had another contraction around 7:30, woke John up and told him I just might be starting labor. We decided not to tell everybody, as it could be preliminary and I might not go into actual hard labor for a couple of days. As the day progressed, we all pitched in to get our feast prepared. We were doing the whole shebang: turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, casserole, pies, etc.

I continued to have contractions throughout the day, but they were very spread out. Some of them were intense, and lasted for a good minute and a half , but they were only happening every 45 minutes to an hour. I continued with my day, hanging out and cooking with everybody. I have one really distinct memory during that day: I remember sitting on Max's little toddler bed in the kids' room talking with Alex. He was having some sort of issue. I had a contraction or two during our discussion and told him what was going on and that I might be otherwise occupied for the rest of the day. He was excited to know the baby would be coming and was able to let go of whatever was bothering him.

This was my mom, dad, and sister's first time ever witnessing a home birth, and we felt the less time they had to worry, the better. We decided not to say anything during the day. At about 5:30pm I realized the baby was going to come. By this time, my contractions were pretty strong and were happening more frequently. We called the midwife. She was in the checkout line at Target, and said she would get to us as soon as she was done.

My dad was in the kitchen. He was organizing the table and getting everything ready for dinner. As I leaned on the table having a pretty strong contraction, I said, "Maybe we should just have a buffet sort of thing instead of a sit-down affair." He looked at me, his eyes got wide, and he said, "Why?" I broke the news that the birth was going to happen and that I had been in labor all day. My dad got a little panicky and wanted to know what to do. I told everybody to eat and enjoy. I had a second helping before I had to leave the table. At this time my dad and John started getting the birthing tub ready. As they tried to get the water from the hot water heater to the tub, we realized there was a problem. They could not get the water out of the heater through the spicket. We had not done a test run, so were unprepared. My dad really needed something to do, so he started trying to heat up water.

While everyone else finished up, I went over and sat in a glider rocker that had really helped me get through Max's birth. I was now in heavy labor. My dad and John were still trying to get the tub organized, but I knew there would not be enough time. Things were pretty hot and heavy. My mom and sister were hanging out with the kids and kept checking up to see how things were going. As I moved into my well-established pushing position, transition hit. I said, rather poignantly, "I didn't think it was going to hurt this much." At that moment, the midwife walked in, put her hand on my shoulder, and Ella came into the world. The midwife held up three fingers and mouthed the words "three minutes" to indicate she had been at the house for exactly three minutes before the baby was born. It was 6:20 in the evening.

As hard as it was, I loved giving birth to Ella. My previous midwife, who was also a dear friend, believed we needed the birth experience and all that comes with it. She felt that in birth, we went into the spirit world to get our babies and bring them to us. I feel that the struggle of birth was necessary for me to walk my path of motherhood. I am very grateful for Ella's incredible birth and everything she has brought to my life.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Decorating Time

The Ornament Table

Alex sorting out the lights

Ella laying out the ornaments

Ella's favorite ornament

Sophie hanging window stickies

The final product

We've had our tree up since Friday. We didn't decorate it yet because we had a big family with little ones staying with us this weekend. We thought it would be better not to have all the decorations out and stuff on the tree. Five minutes after our guests walked out the door, the kids wanted to get out all the stuff and decorate the tree. There were 9 children in the house all weekend with marathon cooking and cleaning, so getting everything out and decorating seemed like a big hassel to me. My initial instinct was to tell them to wait, because I really couldn't be bothered with more stuff to do. John was also none to eager as he had been chopping wood and moving our monstrous wood pile for the past two days. He told the kids to give him some down time just sitting and he would go down to the garage and bring up all the stuff later. This all meant "no" to their ears. They were not having any of it. They said, "We'll get it", and sure enough, they did. They lugged all the decorations and lights up the stairs. They proceeded to get everything out of the boxes and laid it all out on the table. Alex worked on untangling the lights and figuring out which ones worked. John and I just sat back watching and enjoying their excitement. They LOVE opening up all the ornaments. Every year they get an ornament from my mom, John's mom, and John's sister. We mark their names and the date on all of them, so getting out the ornaments is a trip down Christmases past with everyone deciding which ornaments are their favorite, etc. It was so much fun! And to think we were going to make them wait. I am so in love with saying "yes". It's addictive.

To Blog or Not To Blog

I have about 4 drafts of blogs that I was going to post, then didn't get the pictures I wanted, then too much time went by, so I never posted them. Man!

We have been having a great time just being. Maybe that's why I haven't blogged. I have felt like any blog I wrote would just be a running itinerary of our lives. While this would not be terribly interesting reading, it would at least give me a little piece of what our lives were like at this particular moment in time. At first I didn't want to do this, but as time passes I am beginning to think it is important. I want to remember the little things that made up our days together.

One of my never posted blogs was Ella's birth story. I wanted to put up pictures of her as a newborn and of her today. I couldn't get the old pictures to scan, so I decided not to post it. But I really want to have that story recorded. And, as I was looking through the old pictures, I wanted to remember what a day was like then...what the kids were interested in , what we did with our days. I always think I'll remember these things, then I'll see a picture and wish I knew what it felt like on that day.

Long story short, I think I do want a bit of the record-keeping thing. My life right now with my kids will be gone and I'll wish I could remember a piece of it. Although pictures are very important to me, there is something about writing the little experiences down that captures something else. Let the boring blogs begin!